Sherman's Food Adventures: October 2021


There are many fine dining destinations in the Lower Mainland that cover a fairly wide gamut of cuisines.  Sure, some are more represented than others, but that is another story for another day.  In terms of location, the majority of these spots are, not surprisingly, located in the Downtown core.  So when we have spot opening up in Richmond at the new Versante Hotel, it is a relatively big thing. Ophilia and I ended up checking the place out recently.  This post will encompassed 2 visits as the first was marred by inattentive service, so we were invited back with a few comped items.

So the food will be a bit out-of-order (mix of meal 1 and 2) since I want to do a natural progression rather than jumping around.  Whether one is order a-la-carte or doing the Bruno Experience (tasting menu), it is recommended that you try the Scroll Loaf with foie gras butter.  This round "croissant" was crispy on the outside while soft and buttery on the inside.  It was spiked with rosemary and pecorino which made it tasty on its own.  However, the side of bruleed foie gras butter made this a decadent starter.  It was sweet, creamy and complimented the loaf well.

Finished off tableside, the Oysters on the half shell were sauced with a motoyaki and topped with ikura marinated in sake and yuzu.  As you can see in the picture, the oysters were torched, where the ikura were charred.  So beyond the buttery and briny oyster, it was complimented by the classic Japanese flavours of a motoyaki.  It was creamy and slightly tangy with spice as well as smokiness.

Now Crispy Brussels Sprouts aren't a new thing as they have been a menu staple for quite some time.  However, the version here at Bruno was very good.  Not only was every sprout indeed crispy, the seasoning was on point.  Beyond the saltiness of the parm, there was a noted spiciness from the calabrian chili crunch.  However, it wasn't just one note, rather there was a smokiness to the flavour profile as well.

One of my favourite dishes was believe it or not, the Truffle Potatoes.  These were a study in texture as the outside was crispy while the inside was creamy and moist.  Beyond that, the flavours really popped consisting of garlic truffle butter, parmesan herbs, green peppercorn aioli.  So the first 2 flavours to hit were the salty and nuttiness of the parm then giving way to the aromatics of the truffle butter.  Finishing off was the subtle pepperiness of the aioli.

Normally, pork belly can be hit and miss.  Sometimes, it is so fatty, it is a bit cumbersome to eat.  Other times, it can be too dry where it defeats the purpose of eating the dish.  For this version, we found Kurobuta Pork Belly with black garlic balsamic glazed peppercorn lime aioli.  The belly itself was mostly meaty with some buttery fat on the top layer.  Moist and melt-in-our-mouths soft, the meat portion of the belly was perfect.  Loved the fermented and rich salty flavours of the black garlic.  The balsamic and lime helped cut through the heaviness.

Onto some bigger plates, we thoroughly enjoyed the Dungeness Crab Croquettes with Iberico Ham, baby green artichoke hearts, marinated sicilian olives and nduja sausage remoulade.  First and foremost, these were large and stuffed with fluffy crab.  There was very little filler, if at all.  The fact they kept the filling from drying out while the outside was crunchy showed good precision.  There was plenty of complimentary flavours here including the umaminess of the savoury remoulade.  Added the necessary flavour without taking away from the delicate crab.

One dish that was a little hit and miss was the Halibut Uni King Crab Risotto with ikura, burrata cheese, uni cream and lemon zest.  On one hand, it was beautiful to the eye and indeed the halibut was perfectly cooked.  It was flaky and buttery, indicating that it was also fresh.  Flavours were on point with the creamy seafoodiness of the uni accented by the further creaminess of the burrata.  Nice balance provided by the lemon zest.  However, the actual risotto itself was undercooked.  It wasn't by a little bit either, the aborio rice was hard.  Too bad really.

Now both times, we ordered the Truffle Wild Mushroom Gnocchi because it was so darn good.  Loved the soft pillowy gnocchi that also had a certain appealing chewiness.  This was perfectly contrasted by the fried sunchoke crunch on top as well as the bottarga.  Again, the truffle was restrained where the other ingredients did get to announce themselves.  Mushrooms were tender and of course provided another hit of earthiness.

Prepared beautifully, the Grilled Wagyu Flank Steak was accompanied by tomato, avocado, grapes, shishito peppers micro herbs, rustic bread and chimichurri.  Being a flank steak, we weren't expecting any melt-in-our-mouths texture.  Although it wasn't, the tenderness of the meat was still apparent.  Furthermore, the natural fats in the meat afforded a intoxicating aroma.  It also helped that the meat was well-seasoned too.  As for the peppers, they could've been cooked through more and the bread was a bit too chewy.  Loved the grapes and tomatoes though - kissed with just enough heat but not overdone.

Now we loved the gnocchi, but the Ndjua Tagliatelle was equally good.  To begin, the pasta was firmly al dente while bathed in Cortez Island basil pesto, smoked bacon, heirloom tomato, fennel, grana padano and calabrian chili crunch.   There was a quite a bit going on here and ultimately, there was plenty of impact from the ingredients.  There was a nice spiciness to go with the smoky meatiness.  Brightness occurred in the form of the pesto and tomatoes as well as the shaved fennel on top.

Served with a good amount of forno bread, the Saffron Cream Mussels were money.  What the description does not say is that in addition to the mussels, we found clams and wild pink scallops as well.  These were all open and cooked just enough so that they were still buttery and delicate.  The saffron cream was balanced with an aromatic essence.  Dipping the well-seasoned (maybe a bit salty) bread into the broth was enjoyable.

Now getting to the much bigger plates, we had the Truffle Lavender Duck with foie gras, flambe apricots, confit duck croquettes, candied hazelnut crumb, summer figs and duck glace. Don't let the picture fool you.  Each slice of duck was huge, easily enough protein for 2 people on this place.  It was prepared medium-rare where it was juicy and tender.  Loved the glace as it was silky, gelatinous and full of depth.  The apricots and figs were a nice sweet compliment to the duck.  I found the croquettes to be crispy, but the duck confit was a little dry.  I didn't really get the lavender and that is possibly a good thing as it can be too floral if over-used.

Something even bigger was the 52oz Bone-In Ribeye with gorgonzola horseradish butter, chimichurri and red wine jus. This was massive piece of meat that was thick and still prepared perfectly medium-rare.  However, despite the promise of sharp flavours, the meat was rather bland.  Now don't get me wrong, it was tender and moist, but just lacking seasoning.  With that being said, the chimichurri and red wine jus did help the cause, but there needed to be much more of it.

Onto dessert, we had the Stone Fruit Pavlova, Rustic Tiramisu and also the Bruno Honey Lavender Soft Serve.  I thought the pavolva was pretty good with plenty of fresh fruit.  Definitely fruity and refreshing.  Only thing is that the whole thing was a bit too sweet.  The same could be said about the tiramisu, but ultimately, the flavours were apparent and the ladyfingers were properly soaked.  Soft serve was creamy and also sweet, but it did taste good with the crunch from the pistachio brittle and freshness from the preserved berries.  So as you can see, we had nearly everything on the menu save for some salads, flatbread and 2 of the bigger share platters.  From this, we were pretty sure the food was quite good at Bruno.  Nice to see something of this caliber in Richmond.

*2nd visit had 4 dishes comped as well as dessert*

The Good:
- Proteins were properly prepared
- Very few issues with the food
- Nice dining space

The Bad:
- Service the first time was aloof, but second was much better (albeit they knew we were there)
- Self-parking is a bit troublesome with only one pay station far away from the actual level you need to park

Published on Main

Sometimes, people will ask me what is my favourite restaurant in Vancouver.  More often than not, I come back with some questions of my own because that is far too general of inquiry.  However, it has become apparent to me that I do have an answer to that question now, regardless of price, cuisine or neighbourhood.  If one was to spend money eating out, I would point them in the direction of Published on Main.  Honestly, this place has some of the prettiest plates and the most consistent food.  No pretentious attitude here, just good food.   Recently re-visited the place to do a "Mijune-style" meal.

Starting with the seemingly simple Chips & Dip, we found house potato chips served with sour cream and onion dip with smoked fish.  This was so addictive where the chips were crunchy yet light at the same time.  Lightly salted, they were good on their own, yet the dip was addictively creamy, tangy and smoky (due to the fish).  Those little morsels of fish added more texture as well as the crunch from the onions.  Loved the dill garnish as it afforded some brightness.

Now that was a good start and while I was munching on the chips, the beautifully-plated Side Stripe Prawns arrived.  This featured cooked and chilled side stripe prawns with cucumber, apple and horseradish.  Those buttery prawns were delicate with a mild rebound texture.  They were sweet and lightly seafoody.  The freshness of cucumber and apple provided a non-conflicting compliment to the sweet prawns.  Horseradish was restrained.

Staying with things from the sea, we had the roasted Pacific Squid with bacon vinaigrette, castelvetrano olives and brown butter crumb.  One bite and there was an impactful fermented flavour from the olives that complimented the tangy and saltiness of the vinaigrette.  Texturally, the squid was tender, yet exhibiting a mild chew (in a good way).  To contrast, the crumb on top did its crunchy thing with the usual nuttiness of brown butter.

Now one might not consider the Black Garlic Caesar a must order with so many other great choices on the menu.  However, don't go sleeping on this salad as it was really good.  There was just enough dressing which was creamy, earthy and surprisingly bright.  The combination of romaine hearts and kale afforded 2 different textures.  An ample amount of pecorino and crunch on top meant we had plenty of tang and nuttiness.

One of the must order dishes in our opinion was the Wagyu carpaccio with pickled elderflower, ginger miso and malted barley cracker.  This did not disappoint as the beef was tender and full-flavoured.  It wasn't sliced as thin as one would expect, yet it still didn't require much chewing.  There was a bit more texture than thinner sliced versions, but that was a good thing.  On top, the combination of ingredients added acidity, fermented saltiness and crunch from the cracker.

Before we ordered, we were deciding between the smoked steelhead and Pickerel.  As you can see, the pickerel won with its potato and mushroom pinwheel, kelp and lemon sauce.  This was one of our favourite dishes where the fish was flaky and moist while the skin was crispy.  It was well-seasoned on its own, but that sauce was fantastic.  It had an appetizing acidity combined with the umaminess of the kelp.  Loved that soft potato in the middle.  It was earthy from the mushrooms while nicely caramelized.

Another veggie item of our meal was the roasted Winter Squash with koji butter sauce, candied pepita & currant.  The camamelized squash was definitely the star of the show (as it should be).  Richly sweet, the squash was tender while not mushy.  It was a touch smoky as well.  That koji butter was creamy, yet not heavy due to the balancing amount of tanginess.  Keeping with the fall/winter theme, the candied pepita provided some crunch.

One of the most appealing choices on the current menu is the Chanterelles with smoked celeriac, poached egg and fried bread.  Even though it was another veggie dish, it ate so decadent and meaty, we hardly noticed.  The beautiful flavour and texture of the mushroom was on full display.  Definitely buttery and properly seasoned.  The cafe au lait sauce was rich, yet slightly watered-down by the poached egg.  Underneath, the creamy smoked celeriac provided more depth.

We didn't stop with the beef carpaccio as we also had the Wagyu Bavette for good measure.  This was beautifully medium-rare with all of the fat activated.  As such, the meat was buttery tender while still meaty due to the cut.  Plenty of natural umaminess, but the roasted chanterelles and smoked potato dauphine added even more comforting flavours.  That potato was smoky and creamy.  There was also a side of spicy condiment, but it really wasn't that spicy.

Our last savoury item was an add-on (so that is why it seems out-of-order).  The Herbed Ricotta Manti also featured chanterelles (we weren't complaining) and a herb shallot cream sauce.  Thin and al dente, the manti were filled with a creamy and tangy ricotta filling. The herbs really came through in the form of dill and tarragon.  Cream sauce was aromatic and bordering on salty, hence it was flavourful and impactful.

Onto dessert, we had the
aerated Hay custard with green apple and chamomile.  This appeared to be a very large portion until we dug into it.  Pillowy light and fluffy, the hay custard was on semi-sweet and slightly earthy.  The combination of apple and chamomile was naturally complimentary adding sweetness and a refreshing tang.

Ending everything off, the Creamsicle featured
vanilla ice cream with mandarin granita and milk meringue.  Another refreshing dessert, this was up my alley.  Loved the fruitiness of the granita and the sourness of the raspberries.  The granita itself wasn't very sweet, but the ice cream did all the heavy lifting in that department.  Now as I post this the menu has already changed a bit with 4 new dishes replacing some of these ones.  That only means I have to go back - it won't be hard to convince me

The Good:
- Beautiful plates
- Consistent
- Good use of acidity

The Bad:
- Portion size is modest, so you'll have to order lots (upping the cost, but also more variety)


To say that the Mexican-food scene in Vancouver is lacking would be an understatement.  Now I'm not implying there isn't Mexican cuisine to be found, it just isn't well represented and sometimes, it is not very good.  However, I've had some decents ones in the Lower Mainland and am always excited to see new ones open up.  That was the case with Alimentaria located in the former Edible Canada space on Granville Island.  Originally, Nancy and I went during their soft-opening when their menu was limited.  Before I could even write the post for that, both of us were invited to their media night.

We were started off with 2 tostadas including the Smoked Salmon Tostada on a crispy corn tortilla topped with locally smoked chum salmon, cucumber-cream, pickle red onions and capers.  Loved the combination of Westcoast ingredients in a Mexican dish.  The salmon was buttery with a balanced smoke complimented by the classic accompaniments.  Flavours were familiar, yet presented differently on a beautifully crisp tortilla.

The second one was the Chorizo Verde Tostada with crispy corn tostada, topped with a grilled house-made sausage nearby Oyama with refried beans, charred cabbage & feta.  Completely different than the first one, this tostada ate more hearty with meaty and tender sausage.  Add in the refried beans and this was a meal in itself.  There was some smoky sweetness from the cabbage and cooling creaminess from the cheese.

From these, we moved onto the made-to-order Guacamole.  Once again, there was a Westcoast twist where it was topped with  feta, pumpkin seeds & pea shoots.  So the creamy guac ate well with the side of fresh crunchy corn tortilla chip.  With a squeeze of the lime wedge, the whole thing was pretty bright.  Once again, the creaminess of the feta added more luxuriousness to the already creamy guac.  I found the pumpkin seeds to be an interesting texture that contrasted the avocado.

One of the favourite items was the Albacore Tuna Ceviche with sashimi grade albacore, lime, tomato, cilantro, onion and cucumber.  Not overly complex but well-executed, the fish was delicate and sweet.  There was enough acidity to "cook" the fish while not being too overwhelming.  The whole thing was fresh, bright and appetizing.  I also thought the restraint with the cilantro ensured that the whole thing wasn't dominated by one flavour.

Now my actual favourite dish of the night was the Duck Flautas filled with braised duck and roasted squash topped with pickled red onion, cabbage and recado negro.  Beyond the firmly crunchy fried tortillas, the shredded duck was super moist and full-flavoured from the spices.  I've had duck flautas before and these were by far the best.  To bring down the heaviness, there was a refreshing slaw and pickled onions.  It also added crunch and tanginess.

One of the most striking dishes was the Halloumi and Grilled Cactus.  With its attractive sear, the cheese was aromatic, nutty and squishy.  Underneath, the grilled cactus was beautifully prepared where it was not slimy at all.  In fact, it still had a bite which was appealing. All of this sat in a charred tomatillo salsa verde with pickled red onion.  Bright with a touch of smokiness, the salsa verde provided good balance to the hearty halloumi.

Another solid offering was the Birria Tacos with slow cooked beef braised in dried chilies with onions, cilantro & limes.  Loved the tortillas as they were thin and lightly crispy.  They were nutty and aromatic.  Inside, the braised beef was tender with plenty of punch.  As promised in the description, there was some spice, sweetness and overall depth.  We could customize it to our personal tastes not only with the side of accompaniments, but also the hot sauces provided as well.

The most grandiose dish was served last in the Sopes with Bone Marrow.  The roasted bone marrow was topped with gremolata and sat atop a corn sopes and refried heirloom beans.  Yes, this was not a light dish by any means but really, it wasn't meant to be.  There was an overload of buttery and fatty bone marrow that overflowed off the sopes.  A sprinkle of fleur de sel and oh man, it was sinful to eat.  Yet as the same time, it was delicious.  At least the brightness of the gremolata helped cut the fat a touch.

We ended things off with the House-Made Churros in classic cinnamon sugar and a side of dulce de leche.  Loved how these were relatively thin and lightly crispy.  Inside, it was delicate while the sweetness was amped by the caramel-flavoured dulce de leche.  This was a fine end to a delicious meal.  It is nice to see a new Mexican spot that serves a variety of dishes where some are influenced by local ingredients.  I'll definitely be back.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- A good variety of Mexican dishes that might not be what you normally see locally
- Well-executed
- Those duck flautas!

The Bad:
- When Nancy and I visited on our own the first time, there was quite the wait. Be sure to make a rez
- Parking can be tricky on weekends  

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