Sherman's Food Adventures: Hart House

Hart House

With all the new restaurants available for us to dine at in the GVRD, it is easy to forget about some of the oldies.  Literally and figuratively, the Hart House is one of the oldest restaurants still standing in the Lower Mainland.  Housed in a Tudor-style mansion overlooking Deer Lake, the place is quaint and the setting is beautiful.  I recently came back for brunch and it was pretty good, especially at its reasonable price point.  Hence, my mom picked the place for her birthday dinner.

Looking over the menu, there wasn't a huge selection of appies we could share.  We normally do not order Charcuterie at restaurants because we eat all the time at home, but we got it this time.  It featured sopressata, capicola and salami with manchego and goat cheese brie.  This was a nice selection of meats and cheeses that also included cornichons, crostini and warm olives.

Staying with meat and cheese, we had the Prosciutto & Burrata as well.  There was a generous amount of creamy burrata drizzled with lemon & chili honey vinaigrette atop white asparagus.  That vinaigrette had a nice balance of sweet, spice and acidity.  Other than the parcels of buttery and purposefully salty prosciutto, we also found asparagus ribbons and fresh dill.

Now to some items that required cooking, we had the Seared Diver Scallops with wild garlic puree, pickled ramps, tobiko and garlic & Parm chips. Aesthetically-pleasing, this dish was equal to the task when it came to overall execution.  The scallops were beautifully seared maintaining a rare centre.  They were properly seasoned and buttery soft in texture.  The brightness of the garlic puree was welcomed while the crunch from the chips broke up the softness of the dish.

Our last appie was the Grilled Humboldt Squid which actually belonged to the Chef's Menu (Taste of the Middle East).  This was a fairly simple dish, but prepared expertly.  The grilled squid was super tender while still having a bite.  Underneath, we found a tabbouleh salad made with quinoa instead of bulgur.  Flavourwise, it was bright and mildly acidic.  A small amount of yogurt on top added creamy tang to the dish.

As part of the tasting menu, the main dish was the Ras el Hanout Braised Lamb Shank.  This was a generous portion of lamb, couscous with Turkish apricots, capers and olives as well as toasted almonds and carrots.  The lamb shank was perfectly cooked as it fell off the bone being moist and gelatinous. I found the flavours to be a bit muted though.  As for the couscous, it was texturally on point with the sweetness of apricots and tangy saltiness of the olives and capers.

My mom decided on the 6oz AAA Beef Tenderloin with braised short rib crepinette, shiitake marmalade, baby carrots, gruyere pomme puree and red wine jus.  She asked for it to be prepared rare and it was exactly that.  Nice sear on the outside of the steak too.  That short rib crepinette was tender and meaty while the pomme puree was smooth with a balanced cheesiness.  Loved the jus, but wish there was more of it (maybe serve some on the side?).

Viv went for the Blackened Lois Lake Steelhead with broccolini, roasted fingerling potatoes, smoked steelhead mousse, cherry tomatoes, trout roe, lemon beurre blanc and herb oil.  Sporting a slightly crispy charred exterior, the steelhead was moist on the inside.  It was well-seasoned with a smoky savouriness.  Veggies were perfectly cooked while the beurre blanc had good acidity.

My dad got the other fish entree in the Pan-Seared Halibut with cherry tomatoes, baby chard, pesto fregola and sauce vierge.  The large piece of halibut was expertly prepared where it was flaky and moist.  The sauce was tangy and aromatic from the herbs.  This was further amped up by the al dente pasta tossed in pesto.  The addition of tomatoes added more brightness as well as acidity.

My daughter loves duck and it was no surprise to anyone she went for the Seared Duck Breast.  It sat atop porcini polenta, pea puree, morels, grilled asparagus and cherry jus.  Prepared medium, the duck was tender and moist.  The skin was semi-rendered while slightly crispy.  Jus was sweet and complimented the duck beautifully.  Loved the morels as it added both earthiness and texture.
My son went for the Hart House Burger featuring an AAA beef brisket patty, garlic mayo, smoked caciocavalla cheese, pickles, tomatoes and arugula.  The last time we were here, I had the exact same burger.  Therefore, it was no surprise that it was good.  Well-charred, the beef patty was moist and juicy.  Lots of beef flavour and nicely complimented by the cheese.  Those truffle frites were super crispy with plenty of earthiness and saltiness.

As part of the chef's menu, the dessert was the Baklava with walnuts, candied pistachio and pistachio ice cream.  Normally, I'm not a huge fan of this because it is so sweet.  However, this was just sweet enough so I could actually have more than one bite.  The layers of phyllo were crispy on top while the sweetness of the honey was restrained.  Side of pistachio ice cream added a creamy coolness to the dessert.

Even though we were sharing the desserts, my daughter essentially ate Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Trifle with lavender roasted white chocolate all by herself.  This featured discernible layers of sweet and bitter chocolate intermingled with the tanginess of the raspberries.  It was purposefully sweet and nicely balanced.  It was topped with meringue, chocolate shavings and fresh raspberries.

Our last dessert was the Basque Country Cheesecake with vanilla Chantilly & blueberry compote.  This is very different than a classic NY cheesecake where it was, of course, burnt on the top and also lighter and more custardy than cheesecake-like.  I liked how the cheese flavour still came through, but the texture was a bit more eggy than other versions I've had.  Still loved the texture and the blueberry sauce was mild enough to not add too much sweetness.  Overall, it was a good dinner at The Hart House.  Nothing mind-blowing, but solid and predictable.  A classic experience in a heritage Tudor-style house.

The Good:
- Classic place, classic setting
- Solid food
- Excellent service

The Bad:
- Traditional and safe, so don't expect too many risks here


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