Sherman's Food Adventures: The Botanist

The Botanist

For all of the great restaurants we have in Vancouver, it might comes as a surprise one of the very best is located in the Fairmont Pacific Rim.  Yes, hotel restaurants have come a long way and many have become destinations for fine dining.  I've been to The Botanist before and came away impressed with the creativity and unique plating of their dishes.  So when it came time for my parents to celebrate their wedding anniversary, I gave them a few ideas including The Botanist.  It is a testament to how popular it is because we had a hard time getting a reservation!

We finally did get one and we started off strong with 2 orders of the Pan-Seared Scallops (only 3 per dish).  These were cooked to perfection sporting uniform caramelization that gave way to a buttery and sweet tender centre.  The addition of XO sauce provided even more brininess as well as spice.  With different preparations of sunchoke (puree, fried, roasted and braised), the dish was not devoid of texture.  Providing some luxuriousness, we found a thin layer of lardo as well.  Light and refreshing, the Snow Crab Salad featured sliced Nashi pear and kohlrabi, puffed sturgeon and yuzu.  The subtle flavours and crunch of the pear and kohlrabi did not interfere with the delicate sweet snow crab.  There was actually a good amount of it underneath.  Also, the yuzu was the perfect compliment as it added brightness to the dish.

Other than the scallops, the other table favourite was the Hand-Cut Tagliatelle with foraged mushroom, mushroom soil and crispy piave.  From the visuals, the dish didn't look like much, but this was a dinner portion size that could've fed a lighter appetite.  Other than the al dente noodles, there was a good amount of mushrooms including texturally-appealing morels.  The addition of mushroom soil created an almost black truffle effect.  Although creamy, the pasta didn't eat as heavy as it appeared.  Our final small dish was the Bison Tongue with celeriac, mojo de ajo and kohlrabi.  First off, the thick-sliced tongue was tender while still meaty and rich.  Due to the fat content of tongue (and also the section of the tongue), it was buttery and aromatic being uniformly seared.  The mojo was garlicky, spicy and smooth while the kohlrabi was refreshing.  Loved the little celeriac balls underneath.

With the bigger plates, I decided on a dish I've had before in the Pan-Roasted Lamb Saddle.  However, this was prepared very differently than last time with hominy, carrots, black pepper jam and lamb belly.  The 2 thick-sliced medium-rare pieces of lamb were tender (although a touch chewy in spots) and mildly gamy.  Loved how the black pepper jam added just the right amount of umaminess and spice.  As much as I thought the hominy was too crunchy, I kept eating it and found that I liked it more as I ate it.  The little bonus piece of lamb belly was tender and meaty while sporting a kick.  My son went for his standby being the Dry-Aged Striploin with wild mushrooms, swiss chard, potato pavĂ© and foie jus.  Also prepared perfectly medium-rare, the steak was tender, but not as tender as one might expect.  The star of the plate was the potato as it exhibited a beautiful balance of texture in between firm and delicate.  With a bevy of morels on the side, this was a simple but delicious dish.

My daughter went straight for the Olive Oil Poached Halibut.  In terms of presentation, they did their best with white-on-white by adding some kombu and micro-greens, but in my opinion, it needed something more (however, there was legumes and turnips underneath before the foam was served table side).  It ate almost like cod, which is a testament to the freshness and preparation of the fish.  Flavours were very mild with only a touch of acidity from the foam while the fish was allowed to stand on its own.  Good dish texturally, but lacking a bit of impact.  On the other hand, the Seared Sablefish was amazing.  Stunningly browned, the sablefish was flaky and fatty while seasoned just enough.  It was served with a bright asparagus sauce that remained in the background to the fish.  On the side, there was shaved asparagus with clams and buckwheat. 

My mom went all out and decided on the Butter Poached Lobster with shishito peppers, green mole and epazote.  She remarked that the shelled lobster almost looked like it was swimming in the mole, which seemed about right.  The lobster was beautifully textured with a light bounce and plenty of natural sweetness.  I wasn't completely convinced with the green mole combination as it didn't seem like right compliment to the delicate lobster.  It was good on its own though with umaminess and earthiness.  Viv mirrored my approach and ordered the 20-Day Dry-Aged Duck Breast.  Unlike the last time we had the duck here, this one was completely different.  Although it didn't look particularly moist nor tender, the duck breast was exactly that with crispy skin.  We felt it could've been rendered a bit more, but then again, the meat was beginning to cook through on the top.  Completing the dish was brown butter jus, wild mushrooms and seasonal vegetables.

Onto dessert, we shared 3 items including the Chocolate Porter Cake with barley crunch, root beer chantilly, chocolate ice cream and malt ganache.  Neatly plated, the dessert was not as sweet as it appeared.  The moist cake was chocolatey and complimented by the melty ice cream and the barley crunch.  As much as root beef chantilly sounded syrupy, it was rather light and only mildly sweet.  On the flipside, the Meyer Lemon Cake was actually sweeter despite sounding lighter.  There was more than enough tang within the moist cake for impact while the blueberry meringue was light and flavourful.  The best part of the plate was the charred corn ice cream as it was sweet and nutty.  It was further amped by the corn pop sand on the side.

I personally thought the Esmeralda Cremeaux was the best looking and tasting dessert.  It consisted of apricot sorbet, cocoa tuile, nib brittle and pistachio sponge.  Lots going on here, but the 2 things that stood out were the sweet sorbet and the crunchy brittle.  Add in the fluffy and nutty sponge cake and there was textures galore.  Now I couldn't forget about the awesome house-baked Fougasse Bread right (this was served at the start of the meal)?  Full of seeds and shaped like a leaf, the attention to detail at The Botanist even trickles down to their complimentary bread with whipped butter.  This time around, it was baked a bit past what we would've liked, but it was still nutty and delicious.  As you can ascertain, the meal as a whole was delicious complete with stunning plating.  Unlike our first visit, there were a few issues here and there, but they were slammed due to a few large parties.  I know it isn't an excuse, but that needs to be acknowledged.

The Good:
- Stunning plating
- On point execution of proteins
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Meats not as tender as expected
- Long waits between courses (but the restaurant was at capacity on Friday night)

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