Sherman's Food Adventures: Le Crocodile

Le Crocodile

Here we are continuing on with my series of re-visiting some of the finest restaurants (and in most cases, most long-standing) in the city.  This time around, the food adventure brought me to one of the classics in Le Crocodile (which has been in business for over 30 years).  It was about time I returned as my last visit was nearly 10 years ago!  Coinciding with my birthday, we decided this would be the place I would celebrate my increasing age.  Unlike many of the new glitzier spots in Downtown, Le Crocodile still maintains an elegance that is evident from the decor to the service.  This is something to keep in mind as we often are enticed by the newest restaurants in town.

Prior to our appies, we were served an amuse bouche consisting of a Mushroom Risotto Arancini.  Yes, this was not a French dish, but they do offer up French food with Westcoast influences (yes, I know this is Italian, but they also have pastas on the menu too...).  This was executed beautifully where the exterior featured a thin crumb coating that was firmly crispy and not greasy at all.  Inside, the risotto was somewhat tightly packed featuring rice that was still slightly chewy.  Plenty of mushroomy earthiness to go with some cheesiness as well.  Onto one of the featured appies of the night, we had the Octopus Salad featuring .  The octopus itself was tender while still being firm with an appealing chewiness.  Loved the combination of acidity and spice to the dish as it wasn't bland in the least.  There was varied textures including the crunch of the veggies which helped not only brighten the dish, it 

One our favourite appies was the Duo of Foie Gras Tasting featuring a foie gras terrine, foie gras créme brulée, ice wine gelée and toast.  On the surface, this looked simple, but that also meant that there was nowhere to hide if it wasn't executed properly.  This certainly was the case where the terrine was rich, dense and buttery smooth.  It was mild-tasting on its own, but when we added the gelée, all the flavours were activated where the sweetness of the ice wine brought out the natural sweetness of the terrine.  As for the créme brulée, it was airy like a mousse where the crunchy burnt sugar topping added a big hit of sweetness combined with smokiness.  We had yet another one of their daily features in the Crab Cake atop a spinach and garlic cream.  Crispy on the outside and full of fluffy crab on the inside, the crab cake was so delicate and cooked just enough.  That meant the crab was not overdone and kept the texture light.  Ever-so-subtle, the spinach and garlic cream underneath were aromatic and did not interfere with the crab.

The daily appetizers seemed so tasty by description, we got one more in the Truffled Pasta with lobster tail.  Once again, this looked to be ever-so-simple and indeed it was.  This was essentially tagliatelle tossed in olive oil and topped with shaved black truffle.  Just like I mentioned above, there is nowhere to hide with a dish like this.  With this being said, there wasn't any need for hiding as this was our favourite appie of the bunch where the flavours were focused and apparent.  The woodsiness of the truffle was definitely highlighted and the pasta was perfectly al dente.  Even the small lobster tail was expertly prepared being buttery, bouncy and sweet.  Our last starter was the Beef Tenderloin Steak Tartare.  Although the colour of the tartare was a little darker than I would've like to see, it ate better than it appeared.  I wouldn't say the meat was "buttery" as it was more robust than that, yet at the same time, it was definitely tender.  

With our larger dishes, my son predictably went for the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with peppercorn sauce.   He asked for it to be prepared medium-rare and it came out as such with even cooking on all sides and since it was properly rested, there was very little juice leaking out when cut.  The meat itself was beautiful as it was buttery soft with appealing meatiness.  As for the sauce, it was creamy with a nice balance between the brandy and bite from the peppercorns.  The side of veggies were perfectly prepared as they still had plenty of natural texture while cooked through.  My dad decided on the Grilled Sablefish with sweet pea velouté and quinoa râgout.  Even though sablefish can be very forgiving, it still is an achievement to cook it optimally.   This was achieved here as it was cooked through while being delicate, buttery and flaky.  Smooth and bright, the velouté was a good mild compliment to the sablefish.

For myself, I went for one of the featured dishes in the Beef Wellington with a side of asparagus topped by béarnaise.  Although the puff pastry on the outside was a little on the doughier side (forgivable since it needs to be prepared ahead of time), the exterior portion was crispy and light.  Inside, the beef tenderloin was exquisite.  I literally didn't chew more than 2 or 3 times as it was so buttery soft.  With that in mind, the meat still retained its natural texture so it wasn't mushy either.  There was a good amount of mushroom duxelle to add the usual rich woodsiness.  Unlike her usual MO, my daughter didn't go for fish and had the Roasted Fraser Valley Duck Breast with pan-seared foie gras and apple cider reduction.  As much as this didn't look like much in portion size, it actually was quite a bit of meat.  The duck breast was tender and appealingly gamy with rendered skin.  Loved the sweetness of the reduction in addition to the bits of apple.  Lastly, the seared foie was buttery and sported a light crispy sear on the outside.

Viv went the pasta route and ordered the Fresh Fettuccine with lobster and grilled tiger prawns, brunoise of vegetables, olive oil and fresh basil.  Attractively green, the dish was surprisingly flavourful and impactful.  If we had to describe the flavours, it would be that the dish tasted like the colour - fresh, bright and herbaceous.  The pasta itself was a touch thick, but plenty chewy (in a good way).  Meaty with a firm snap, the tiger prawns were perfect as well as the fluffy and moist chunks of lobster meat.  My mom stayed on a similar note and had the Grilled Tiger Prawns and Sea Scallops served over angel hair pasta with fresh mussel “velouté”.  Once again, the prawns were beautifully prepared, but the scallops were even better being buttery and sweet with a caramelized sear on the outside.  We found the velouté to be creamy and rich with a kiss from the sea.  The angel hair was a great compliment to the ingredients as it was light where it was completely coated by the sauce.

Of course we cannot forget the classic Shoestring Frites that are served at every meal (complimentary) at Le Croc.  As seen in the picture, we were given 2 of these plates and that was a good thing.  You see, the kids devoured one of them while my mom ate the second.  We were able to scrounge some and they were crispy and light as they have always been.  Prior to our desserts, we had a palate cleanser in the form of Pear Sorbet drizzled with pear brandy.  Don't worry, the kiddos didn't get any of the brandy!  As for the sorbet itself, it was just sweet enough and had the unmistakable aroma of pear.  It was smooth and creamy despite the lack of any dairy products.  We actually preferred the non-boozy version, but with that being said, it did add a real kick.

We weren't really going to have many desserts since we had a cake at home to cut, but we went ahead with 4 of them anyways starting with the Sun Burnt Lemon Tart with passion fruit sorbet.  Impactfully tangy, the lemon tart wasn't as smooth as we would've liked, but that didn't detract from the flavour.   Firm, but with some give, the tart shell was buttery and tasty on its own.  As if the lemon curd wasn't tangy enough on its own, the passion fruit sorbet added some refreshing tartness as well.  With the same flavour profile, we had one of the featured desserts in the Passion Fruit Créme Brulée.  Creamy and appealingly tart, the passion fruit really came through.  Perfectly caramelized on the top, the bits of sugar added bursts of sweetness to balance the tang.

Our last 2 desserts had a chocolate theme going on (and yes, we didn't order the souffle, but no one wanted it either).  My son basically devoured the Profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream topped with hot Belgian chocolate.  As you can clearly see, there was a significant amount of creamy smooth dark chocolate on top.  It didn't eat very sweet, where it let the smooth ice cream do the heavy lifting.  The choux pastry was airy and light with firm enough exterior to hold up to the chocolate and ice cream.  My favourite of the bunch was the Warm Soft Chocolate Cake with orange reduction & nougatine ice cream.  With an almost lava cake texture, the chocolate cake was moist without being liquidy.  It was semi-sweet and the orange reduction underneath wasn't too strong.  I loved the crunch from the ice cream on top as it provided some texture to the dish.

Now we couldn't end the meal without another Le Croc classic!  Yes, we did get the Chocolate Crocodiles in both dark and milk. Interestingly and not surprisingly, the kiddies went straight for the dark chocolate because they prefer it being not as sweet with a bitter finish.  Hmm...  I think their palates are becoming more refined...  Anyways, this was an excellent finish to a beautiful meal.  Professional service within a classy dining room.  Le Crocodile continues to excel as one of the premier dining destinations in Vancouver.

The Good:
- Professional service
- Consistent preparation
- Adequate portions

The Bad:
- Pricey
- May not be sexy compared to the newer spots (but I personally do not care)

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