Sherman's Food Adventures: L'abattoir

L'abattoir

Similar to our recent visit to Cin Cin, I am continuing my series on revisiting some of the best restaurants in the city.  It is true many of them have been around for awhile and aren't necessarily the sexiest or newest additions to the culinary scene.  However, the reason they continue to thrive is that they are good at what they do.  Up on deck is L'abattoir and their finely crafted French cuisine.  We ended up here to celebrate Viv's birthday with Costanza and Elaine.  Like we always do when we get together, we shared 4 appies and 4 entrees.  Unfortunately we had no room for dessert, but I made up for that with a return visit with Mijune shortly afterwards.

Now onto the appies, we were all in with the Terrine of Duck Foie Gras with quince segments, wine jelly and toasted brioche.  Generous in portion size, the terrine was rich, silky and smooth.  By itself, the luxuriousness of the foie went well with the toasted firm brioche.  However, things got rolling when we added the quince and wine jelly to the mix.  This cut through the heaviness (although that was actually appealing in this case) with acidity and tang.  A fulfilling bite to start off the meal.  Equally delicious was the Wagyu Beef Tartare with sauerkraut, quinoa and Avonlea cheddar.  The greatest compliment I could give this dish was the fact Elaine ate the tartare without issue.  Normally, she isn't into raw beef but the texture and flavour were exquisite.  Cut into little morsels, the buttery beef didn't require any effort to eat and was seasoned enough without the meat being completely overwhelmed.  We got the silkiness of the egg yolk with hits of tanginess.

My favourite small plate of the night had to be the Pan-Fried Veal Sweetbreads on Toast.  Although the toast was a bit too firm, it was necessary to hold up to the wet ingredients (which it did successfully).  On top, the sauce gribiche was creamy, tangy and bright.  This helped balance out the richness of the tender sweetbreads.  Topping it all off literally and figuratively, the pickled shallots provided another shot of acidity.  If one person ate this, it would be rather filling by itself.  Next, the Glazed Veal Brisket looked rather unassuming on the plate next to kohlrabi and green beans dressed with whole grain mustard.  Not as majestic as the previous dish, yet still very well-executed and tasty.  This was super tender with enough meatiness for effect.  It also had depth with the sharpness of the mustard coming through while balanced with equal sweetness.

On my revisit with Mijune, we were started off with the amuse bouche version of the Sliced Raw Albacore Tuna with Meyer lemon, snap peas and horseradish.  Although it was difficult to actually see the tuna underneath the other ingredients, it was definitely there with a "fresh from the sea" essence.  The horseradish was beautifully restrained where it was apparent without being overpowering.  Lots of greenery aroma was provided by the snap peas while the lemon (and rind) added acidity and bitterness.  Of course we can't forget about the complimentary Bread which included bacon brioche, parmesan twist and sesame flatbread.  That alone was the price of admission both times (and previous visits too!).  Excellent for snacking on and also sopping up any sauces left on the plate.  I also had their signature cocktail in the Avocado Gimlet with Mediterranean-style gin, fresh avocado, apple liqueur and lime.  Smooth and refreshing, this had an appealing bitter finish.  I could see myself having lots of these since it went down so easily.

Back to the food, we moved onto the Fillet of Pacific Ling Cod cooked in sake with sauce of sturgeon caviar, fine herbs and bunches of tatsol.  OMG.  The cod couldn't have been prepared any better.  It was tender flaky and ever-so-slightly rare in the middle.  Hence it ate with texture, yet at the same time, melted-in-our-mouths.  What really brought it all together was the creamy and briny sauce with a bevy of sturgeon caviar.  Not forgetting the tatsol bunches, it provided a mild earthiness that tasted like the garden.  Normally, I'm not overly excited about greens, but the Winter Endive Salad was so robust and hearty while at the same time, not heavy.  It also included Comte cheese, shaved black truffle and a fried egg. Naturally, the bitter crunch of the endive was front and centre.  However, the silkiness of the egg added luxuriousness and body.  The plethora of shaved black truffle did its earthy magic and brought the whole thing together.

Onto some bigger plates from my original visit with Elaine and Costanza, we had the classic Steak Diane with smoked potato, marrow and onion.  L'abattoir is well-known for its high quality execution and this was absolutely spot-on.  The steak was prepared medium-rare and well-rested.  The pan sauce was really silky and full of depth from the bone marrow.  Good hits of tanginess as well.  One of the more filling dishes (most were though), the Honey Glazed Duck featured Brussels sprouts, pear and jus gras.  Loved the duck as it was tender and meaty while cooked to medium.  The skin was crispy and fairly well-rendered.  It is all about the sauces here at L'abattoir where the jus gras was sinfully rich from the duck fat but still sported a slight pick-me-up with background acidity.

Continuing with the same visit, we had the Barbeque Venison Loin with salsify, yellowroot and chestnut.  Since the meat was lean, it had to be prepared more rare than the steak.  That it was and therefore, the texture was perfectly tender and moist.  It was slightly gamy, but not terribly so.  Although the sauce looked similar to the one of the steak, it was appreciably different with a noticeable tanginess to go with the silky meatiness.  Featuring beautifully crisped skin, the Roasted Striped Bass was again, perfectly executed.  It was accompanied by clams, fregola and kale.  If there was a perfect example of expertly prepared fish skin, this would be it.  It was firmly crispy while not burnt nor over-browned.  It was well-seasoned and did not affect the moist texture of the bass.  Loved the brininess of the fresh clams on the side.

Circling back to the visit with Mijune, we had probably the best plate of the bunch in the Slow-Cooked Fillet of Ocean Trout.  Oh wow, if I thought the sea bass was perfect, this trout was beyond perfect (if that is possible, like "Infinity and beyond"?).   It practically melted-in-my-mouth with a buttery delicate texture.  Normally, lobster sauce is merely cooked down shells and some cream and/or butter.  Well this one actually had big chunks of lobster which only further enhanced the aroma and flavour.  Completing the dish was white asparagus and interestingly pink grapefruit.  Finally moving onto what we were really here for - dessert!  We began with the Rice Pudding sporting chai spice pudding, mandarin orange crémeux and sorbet, milk jam, milk foam and brown sugar crumble.  Lots going on here where the rice pudding was on point.  Great texture and aromatically sweet.  I could've done without the sorbet as the whole thing was too cold.

Of course we needed to try more desserts in the awesome Smoked Honey Flan with salted honey, whipped crème fraîche, toasted buckwheat tuile, and armagnac prunes.  L'abattoir is also know for its desserts and the flan was a good indication why.  It was smooth and silky with no air bubbles.  The smokiness really came through while the sweetness was measured.  The perfect amount of salt helped elevate the rich caramel flavours even more so. Also quite good was the Dark Chocolate Ganache with sesame chocolate praline base, earl grey syrup, yuzu banana sorbet, caramelized banana, black sesame crumb and sugar glass.  Again, there was a lot going on here, but they seemed to work well with each other.  Rich with an appealing bitter finish, the ganache benefited from the nutty crunch of the base.  Normally I'm not  a huge fan of banana desserts, but the sorbet was a good mild accompaniment to the ganache.

One last dessert because we wanted it was the Rum Cake with white chocolate crémeux, rum raisin crémeux, horchata crumble and soaked sultana raisins.  This was a close 2nd behind the fabulous flan.  At first, I thought the rum cake was dry and too mild, but that was by design.  The side of cremeux added all the necessary moisture and flavours to compliment the cake.  If the cake was any more moist, the whole thing would've been too wet.  So if I didn't know this before, these 2 revisits reinforced that the notion that L'abattoir continues to be one of the premier dining destinations in Vancouver.

*On the second visit, some items were discounted*

The Good:
- Expertly prepared food and desserts
- Attentive service that isn't pretentious
- Good cocktails

The Bad:
- Not inexpensive, but worth it IMO
- Not the easiest area to find parking


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