Sherman's Food Adventures: Black Walnut

Black Walnut

The Cambie Street corridor is somewhat under the radar when it comes to being a destination for good eats.  Sure we have Vij's and a collection of various other restaurants, but rarely do we have anything that resembles near-fine dining.  Now we have something a bit different in the Black Walnut, located in the former location of U & I Thai.  The spot has been completely renovated where it has a classy vibe while still being modern.  They took out some walls and the dining space has an open feel to it.  We were recently invited to try out their menu as well as some cocktails.

We started things off with those aforementioned cocktails including The Empress, The Fresh, The Animal and Smoked Penicillin.  These were all Instagram-worthy with bright colours.  In terms of taste, I really enjoyed the animal with its sweet and spicy thing going on.  The smokiness of the smoked penicillin was apparent while the empress was light and floral.

Onto the food, we were able to see the construction of the Salmon Tartare where I had a front row seat.  This turned out to be very good with aged and buttery fish that was well-marinated with garlic, chilis, lemon juice and salt.  This sat atop some clean and fresh-tasting tomato water. Beyond that, the puffed wild rice on the top added a crunchy nuttiness.  Very nice start to the meal.

Next, we had the Crispy Fried Oysters with chive aioli, smoked trout roe and creamed celeriac.  This was majestically presented in their shell atop some rocks.  I thought the oysters were super fresh and buttery with an appealing brininess.  They were indeed crispy, yet not crunchy (which was a good thing as to not obscure the delicate texture of the oyster).  I thought the flavours were complimentary with smoky brininess and brightness.

Another solid entry was the Octopus tentacle that was braised, then deep-fried.  Hence, the texture was a beautiful contrast between the soft octopus and crispy exterior.  It was seasoned enough on its own, but the accompanying potato foam, pickled celery and kimchi gel added creaminess, tanginess and a touch of tangy spice.  They helped bring the otherwise mild dish alive.

Peaking through the mound of crispy thin potato chips, the Bison Tongue was perfectly-prepared.  It was tender, yet still retained a chewiness that gave the entire dish texture.  There was a good grill to it and it was seasoned properly.  The addition of a very bright salsa verde helped keep things from getting too heavy.  Some pickled onion and added even more acidity to the dish while the crunchy radish provided an extra shot of contrast.

So the Black Walnut Burger looked rather unassuming at first, but believe me, it was legit.  The thick and fresh beef patty was juicy and cooked just right.  It had plenty of meatiness while charred enough on the outside.  It was complimented by water buffalo cheddar, chive aioli, smoked bacon, pickles and rhubarb chili ketchup.  Hence, you got brightness, smokiness and a sweet tang.  This hit all of the notes.

Our next dish was the Dry Aged Black Cod with chanterelles, smoked bacon, white beans and butter.  The cook on the fish was perfect as it was flaky and super buttery.  Due to the aging, there was much more fish flavour.  Well-seasoned from the pan-fry, the fish also benefitted from the salty and smoky bacon as well as the creamy butter.  The white beans were tender while the chanterelles were their usual delicious self.

Saving the most epic dish for last - we had the Tomahawk Steak for 2.  This also came with a plate of veggies and potato wedges.  The steak itself was prepared perfectly medium-rare with a beautiful sear on the outside.  It was seasoned well and quite juicy.  It was not as tender as I would've imagined, but it was far from chewy.  This was definitely a sight to behold.

Onto dessert, we had the nicely-plated Banana Dome Ice Cream.  Normally, I'm not a fan of any type of banana desserts, but this one was quite good.  I found the ice cream to be creamy and aromatic.  The bruleed banana slices were sweet and caramelized.  Some crunch was provided by the meringue while the addition of caramel sauce ensured we had enough sweetness.

The banana dessert was good, but the Pear Tart was even better in my opinion.  This featured a firm tart shell that encased pear compote and pastry cream that was just sweet enough and nicely-textured.  This was further enhanced by the ice cream on top.  I thought this was a very composed dessert with all of the elements expertly-prepared.  This wouldn't look out-of-place at a patisserie.

The last dessert was also good in the Corn Cheesecake.  This was literally a sponge cake with whipped cream cheese in between.  Hence, this was super light with the essence of sweet corn.  I couldn't stop eating this due to its airy texture and aromatic corn sweetness.  So we had a good amount of food at the Black Walnut and we came away impressed with how the food was executed.  Definitely a good option on Cambie Street if you want something more refined.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this post*

The Good:
- Solid execution on the dishes
- Some unique dishes
- Delicious cocktails

The Bad:
- Aged fish provided beautiful textures and more pronounced fish flavours, however, it might not be for everyone


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