Sherman's Food Adventures: Royal Dinette

Royal Dinette

Revisits to restaurants can often yield very different experiences due to a variety of factors.  These can include many things, such as the one thing that has the most impact - the chef.  Regardless of cuisine, price point and location, the head chef shapes the menu and ultimately (if they cook on the line), can greatly affect the final product.  This was definitely at the forefront when I recently revisited Royal Dinette with Mijune.  It wasn't that long ago that I had dined there (2 years ago), but things have definitely changed with Chef Eva Chin.

To get a sense of the seasonal menu, we got the Family Style Menu for $65.00.  Since Mijune can eat like horse, we also added nearly everything else.  Our 3 hours of gluttony began with Qualicum Bay Oysters topped by a cucumber emulsion.  On the surface, literally and figuratively, we were skeptical if this would taste good.  Well, it did taste good with natural sweetness and brininess from the meaty oyster complimented by the refreshing emulsion.  It had an impactful amount of cucumber-flavour while being properly seasoned as well.  Also light and refreshing, the Scallop Crudo with tuna, gooseberries, kinilaw sauce, chili, coconut vinegar, coriander and spiced tomato water gelee was full of flavour while maintaining its inherent sweetness and taste of the sea.  I loved how they didn't hold back with the acidity as it gave the dish life.  On top, the sea asparagus added the necessary crunch.

Up next, we were presented with the Charred Cucumber with black garlic puree, blood orange ponzu and mustard seeds.  When the dish hit the table, the green leaf on top was described at Thai basil, but it tasted more like spearmint for some reason.  Whatever the case, it didn't really go in my opinion.  However, the cucumbers were crunchy and exuded a smoky depth.  The umaminess from the black garlic was intoxicating while the mustard seeds provided a tangy bitter pop.  Visually-appealing, the Local Amethyst Radishes sat in a tonnato with albacore tuna belly, dried dill pickle and was finished off with grated pistachios.  Hitting our palates like a Mack truck, the tonnato was super potent and concentrated.  There was a bit hit of tuna as well as an appealing amount of saltiness.  The pistachio was lost in this flavour explosion, yet the Earthiness of the radish (especially the tips) was evident.

We both agreed that the Charred Asparagus with straciatella, beer soft boiled egg and garlic crouton was a stellar dish.  The perfectly grilled asparagus had a nice bite while being cooked through.  When combined with the stringy cheese, there was a good mix of smokiness and umaminess.  Silky and thick, the egg yolk couldn't be prepared any more perfectly.  With all of the ingredients combined, there was an array of textures and complimentary flavours.  Another hit was the Morels with Riopelle de I'Isle triple cream cheese, tarragon, shiso, mustard greens and poppy seed cracker.  I know it is pretty lame to describe something as delicious (as it doesn't really say anything specific), but it was just that.  The appealing squishy texture of the morels as well as their umaminess were complimented well by the creamy and musty (in a good way) cheese.  Underneath, there was some green apple mustard that brightened things up. Simple but yummy.

When the Peppered Conchiglie Pasta hit the table, all we saw was green and more green.  No, it wasn't the sexiest dish to look at nor did it look all that promising.  However, we couldn't be more wrong.  Aromatic, lightly salty, peppery and smoky, the smoked ham broth was comforting.  It was really hearty with fresh peas, smoked marcona almonds and legumes.  I can see this as somewhat of a polarizing dish as some might consider it too rustic.  But for us, it exemplified a willingness to make something simple and homey without any excuses.  On the top of not sexy, the Sprouted Rye Sourdough with local farmhouse butter with honeycomb looked like your usual table bread.  Well, it kinda was, but the side of butter was what set it apart.  It was creamy, light and the little nuggets of honeycomb were bursts of crunchy sweetness.  Really good.

Onto the bigger dishes, I sampled the Sungold, Farms Lamb Rack with fava beans, English peas and green garbanzo hummus.  If this looked like a few repeats in terms of ingredients, you are correct.  With a seasonal menu, you will often find multiple uses of fresh ingredients.  Now that being said, I wasn't feeling this combo though.  As much as the sous-vide lamb was succulent and perfectly prepared, the garden-like compliments seemed like it belonged with another protein (like a fish perhaps?).  On the topic of fish, the BC Ling Cod was seared perfectly.  It was flaky and moist in an almost pollack-type texture.  I found it was a bit oversalted though.  It sat in an aromatic brown butter dashi with kimchi choy and pea tips.  I thought this was a composed and well-thought out dish, it just needed less salt.

The best item by far (for the bigger dishes) was the Twice-Cooked Half Spring Chicken with spruce honey glaze.  Impactfully smoky with completely rendered skin, this was beyond delicious.  Honestly, I don't think chicken could be executed more expertly than this.  The meat was succulent and tender (even the breast).  Flavours had penetrated the meat and then add in the sweet smokiness of the crispy skin, it was pure enjoyment.  Our last protein was the Blue Goose Ranch Beef Short Rib with angelica root glaze, sunflower and turnips.  As you can clearly see, the short rib was fatty and completely marbled.  It appeared to be sous-vide, then finished off with good crust on top.  Hence it was buttery soft and tender.  Personally, I would've liked to see the fats activated a bit more, but it was still really good.

As if we needed dessert after all this food (for 2 people!), but when with Mijune...  So we had both the Strawberries with fresh cream and wild herbs as well as the Rhubarb with sweet buttermilk and elderflower.   Yep, no attempt at pastries here, but no problem as these were the perfect end to so much food!  The glazed strawberries were fresh and sweet which were naturally complimented by the lightly sweet cream.  As much as the rhubarb looked even more simple, I kept picking at it.  Something about the combination of tangy and sweet rubarb with the frosting-like buttermilk cream.  It just went well together.  Kudos to the chef, as you can clearly see, there was some risks taken here.  The creativity and use of fresh ingredients amounted to unique dishes with interesting flavours.  Boring this is not.

The Good:
- Seasonal menu means everything is fresh
- On point execution of proteins
- Unique dishes

The Bad:
- With seasonal ingredients, some repetition occurs
- Desserts are pretty simple (but still tasty)

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