C Restaurant, Vancouver
Posted 20 May 2002 - 06:50 PM
I sampled the following:
(1) C's Taster Box (C$29.00 or approx. US$20)
-- Apple Cured Wild Salmon Belly, apple and celeriac salad, pecans, brown mustard seed emulsion
-- Szechuan Ahi Tuna Tartare, pickled kumquats, daikon sprouts
-- Dungeness crab and sea urchin panacotta, smoked salmon cracker
-- Five-Spice Crusted Fanny Bay Oysters, shrimp and pineapple spring roll, sweet and sour plum sauce, fried ginger threads
The C's Taster Box is a modern-looking, wooden box-like frame that allows the four component dishes above to be displayed at different heights. (The box had different levels) While the presentation was not unattractive, only one of the dishes included was good. That one dish, together with the octupus bacon (described below) and banana/lychee sorbet, was the only appealing food item taken at C. The Apple Curred Wild Salmon Belly was good -- the flesh near the belly offered appealing, more "tension-filled" and denser (in a good way) texture. The curing had been done well, enhancing the tastes of the wild salmon and adding developed connotations of slight (but not simple) sweetness. The color of the salmon pieces was attractive too, having almost burgundy tones. While the chunks of salmon belly were attractive in this dish, the other aspects of it were distracting: (1) a tall-ish inverted pastry shell (not well prepared) on top of which the chunks had been placed and which contained a coleslaw-texture-like mixture of celeriac and green apple julienne, (2) a small amount of quince gelee, which was superfluous in view of the apple connotations inhering in the curing process for the salmon belly, (3) pecans, and (4) an overly aggressive, yellow-colored grainy mustard mixture. This dish was good because of the salmon belly (described as being from Atlantic line-caught salmon), and in spite of the other items gratuitously included in the dish.
The second dish included in the C Taster's Box was the Szechuan ahi tuna tartare. Here, medium-sized cubes of tuna were overwhelmed by a coating of sauce that, to me, contained a bit of hoisin sauce, a bit of sesame oil, orange-colored chili oil, very small bits of red pepper, diced carrots and onions and small juliennes of blackwood ear mushrooms (with a somewhat crunchy texture). Toasted sesame had been sprinkled onto certain parts of the tuna dish. This dish reminded me of a Chinese restaurant's saucier suffering from muscle spasms near the condiments tray. The pickled kumquats introduced further confusion into the dish, although I did find the bitterness of the daikon sprouts to be a neutral aspect. The seasoning for the tuna was very harsh and, in sum, poor tasting.
The third dish in the C's Taster Box was Dungeness crab and sea urchin pannacotta. The pannacotta was bland, although quite beautiful (a blush color). The two small chunks of Dungeness crab atop the pannacotta did not, shall we say, have an appetizing smell. The smoked salmon cracker was a dried, somewhat elastic piece of smoked salmon that did not taste good.
Finally, the Five Spiced Crusted Fanny Bay Oysters had a batter coating that was unappealing dense. The deep frying appeared to have not been done shortly prior to the serving of this dish. The included spring roll of shrimp and pineapple tasted misguided. Not only was the spring roll skin thicker than one would have expected and not reflective of recent deep frying, but the inclusion of pineapple with the shrimp cheapened the dish. Note that, together with the pineapple and shrimp segments inside the spring roll were sliced blackwood ear mushrooms, carrots, onions and additional ingredients. While the sweet and sour plum sauce accompanying this item was appropriately subdued, the rest of this dish was a disaster. Note the inherent quality of the Fanny Bay oysters did not appear poor; the oysters had merely been denigrated by the culinary preparation.
(2) Dungeness Crab and Lemon Myrtle Cake, carrot and snail fondu[e], coconut and candied ginger chutney (C$16.00)
My main course of Dungeness crab cake was poor. First, there was an akward unknown coating surrounding the Dungeness crab that was dry and unappetizing. Second, the Dungeness crab strands and segments of shrimp inside were not sufficiently moist. Third, the lemon myrtle (described as being akin to lemon and pepper in taste) lacked acidity for interest. This manifested itself in the cream-based saucing for the dish, which was nondescript. Fourth, there was an unduly large volume of julienne of carrots that overwhelmed the plate. Note I had already asked that the coconut and candied ginger chutney described on the menu for this dish to be excluded. The fifth reason this dish was poor was the gratuitous use of toasted black sesame next to the crab cake. Overall, a dish of which I took in less than 20%.
(3) 1/2 Order of Seared Scallops, octopus bacon, yukon gold potato and mushroom cake, cognac and dark veal stock reduction, grilled asparagus (C$25.00 for full portion; supplement of C$15.00 for inclusion of seared Quebec foie gras, which was not ordered)
I was surprised by the restaurant's response to my request that I sample the octupus bacon standalone as a side. The restaurant presented a 1/2 order (including scallops), and charged me for it, without consulting me in advance. Ordinarily, when one requests an item, is told specifically that the restaurant would be happy to offer it to be sampled, and then receives additional items, one does not expect to be charged for the additional items.
Leaving aside the unhappy service issues associated with the octupus bacon, the bacon standalone was interesting. It had a slightly smokey flavor, and yet was tender and had the elasticity of octupus. The restaurant described the octupus bacon as having been prepared by (1) brining whole octupus legs, (2) cutting them into strips, (3) smoking them using maple chips, and (4) preparing a confit with chicken fat. The inspiration for the octupus bacon wrapping for the scallops was described as having been bacon wrapping for filet mignon.
Alas, the rest of the dish did not fare as well. The large scallop around which the octupus bacon was wrapped was "mushy". The cognac and veal stock reduction was unduly harsh and unappetizing. The reduction likely contained a bit of oyster sauce. Its temperature was also a bit "off", for a thin film had formed on top of it when the dish first arrived at the table. The mushroom cake contained decent mushrooms (the type commonly found in Chinese cuisine -- matsutake, sic) in julienne, but was a supporting player in the dish. The asparagus were overcooked to the point of being a weird shrivelled mass. Another depressing dish.
(4) Passion Fruit Souffle, Banana & Lychee Sorbet
The passion fruit souffle was a bit too sweet, but the banana and lychee sorbet was expressive of the flavors of the featured fruit. It is sad that sorbet, the cured salmon belly included in the appetizer and the octupus bacon were the only three items in a lengthy meal that were not affirmatively poor.
-- Other Depressing Aspects of the Meal
There were a number of other problems with my lunch at C. First, I had ordered a 1998 Pouilly Fusse, Drouhin (1/2 bottle) (C$50) from the fairly good wine list. It turned out that the bottle I received was a 1999 version of the same wine. When I brought this to the attention of the waitress half-way into the meal (when I noticed the discrepancy in years -- I did not verbally articulate this, but pointed to the wine list entry and the different year on the cork, as an adjacent table included the restaurant's sommelier seeking to obtain an allocation from a certain relatively well-known Alsatian producer), she thanked me quietly, but took no action. The mistake was not a big deal for me, and nothing was noted, except that I verbalized to the waitress at the end of the meal that the wrong wine had been brought (due to the absence of response to my previous, very innucuous actions). This brought the maitre d' to my table. He asked me, in a relatively confrontational and unapologetic tone, whether I had noticed the discrepany in years when the wine was first presented to me for sampling. I politely responded that I had not noticed until half-way through the meal. I felt the maitre d' might have been implying I was partially responsible for not having noticed the mistaken serving of a bottle of the wrong year. The maitre d', surprisingly, then asked whether there was a difference in taste between the actually sampled 1999 and the ordered 1998. I noted that it was not a question of whether there was a difference in taste, but whether the restaurant's approach to wine service was appropriate. At this point, the maitre d' finally provided the apology that was called for, realizing that the Alsatian producer at the next table was focusing on the described exchange. I had tried not to make a fuss and to register my dissatisfaction non-verbally, but the absence of any response (let alone a satisfactory response) to my first communication on the wine led me to a verbal communication that was, unfortunately, rather embarassing for the restaurant. Of course, I paid for the wine and received no concessions from the restaurant. C is generally considered to have a good wine list, and I do not disagree with that assessment. There were some interesting bottles (e.g., Laville Haut-Brion white burgundy 1980 at C$250, an expensive range of sake by the bottle). In my case, the service received was crude (including with respect to temperature, which was significantly above the range appropriate).
Second, I was literally the only paying diner during the lunch in question. While I generally like dining alone, being the only paying diner in an entire restaurant does alter the restaurant experience a bit. I can't say that the effects were positive or negative, though.
Third, the sommelier was pitching to the Alsatian producer at the adjacent table in not-too-subtle terms. What was said by the sommelier, who was eating with the members of the producer's team, can be called laughable. For example, the sommelier indicated that (1) the chef at C is considered by many the best chef in Canada (pl--ease), (2) he had asked another Alsatian producer to change the color of the foil on similar, but different, bottles to avoid future occurrences of his staff's having served two superior bottles to clients that had ordered other bottles (I wonder whose fault that might be?) -- appropriately, the producer had laughed at him, (3) the chef at C voyages significantly to France and to the US (when asked by the Alsatian producer which chef the chef at C knew well, no specifics were available), and (4) the chef likes to utilize unusual presentations (e.g., silver-colored ice cream and gold leaf -- in my personal assessment, these gimmicks are generally a negative sign). It was a form of "noise" to listen to the presumptuous statements emanating from the sommelier at C Restaurant. Also funny was the very obvious gurgling sound made by the sommelier with almost every gulp of wine. While some sound is typically generated by certain methods of tasting wine, this individual's sound could be heard from half a room away, I would imagine, and was quite exaggerated. After over 45 minutes of unavoidably listening to the sommlier's pitche, I felt glad to leave the restaurant.
In sum, C is a restaurant with an overly-complex and distressed cuisine. Flavors that are unduly stark; too many ingredients in a dish; the masking of incompetence with attempted use of Asian spices. C seeks to position itself as a "contemporary fish restaurant" that pushes the envelope, at least in the context of Vancouver. The only direction in which C is heading, in my book, is downwards.
-- Location and Decor
C is located near Howe and Beach, on the downtown side of Vancouver, but adjacent to the water. It looks out onto a beautiful stretch of water, yachts, a certain part of Granville Island properties, and the Granville and Burrard bridges. A wonderful view that is not put to use, in view of the depressing cuisine.
The decor is modern and attractive. The floor is tiled, and the tables are a darker wood. The chairs have a burgundy color for the wood of certain parts of it, with black-colored wood for legs and a textured, medium grey fabric covering the back and certain portions of the arms.
-- Items Not Sampled From Lunch Menu
(1) Business Menu -- A business lunch at C$35 was available, and consisted, on the day of visit, of: Apple cured wild salmon belly, lobster bisque, baked halibut and a dessert taster.
(2) Specialties Section
Iranian Caviar with warm buckwheat tree cake, red onions, sour cream, citron granite (sevruga at C$85/30g to beluga at C$135/30g)
Iranian Caviar Tasting (30 grams of each of three types of caviar, accompaniments same as above except that granite would be flavored with absolut citron vodka and quail eggs and 24K gold leaf would be included) C$275
Nova Scotia Lobster Tail Sashimi, remy martin cognac bath, lobster claw miso soup with tofu, wakimi, green onions 29
Seared Quebec Foie Gras, quince jelly, anna potato, dried cherries 25 (with a 70 supplement for a 1.5 ounce glass of 1994 D'Yquem)
Shucked Oysters (C$2.75-3.25 each); can be served with tobiko or wasabi infused salmon caviar (supp of $1.50 each) or with caspain caviar, creme fraiche and gold leaf (supp $5.00 each)
Appled Cured Wild Salmon Belly 10.00
Albacore Tuna Sashimi 10.50
Spring Lettuce Salad, asparagus, goat cheese crouton, fig and orange emulsion (11.00)
Five Spice Crusted Fanny Bay Oysters 12.00
Lobster Bisque, asparagus and seafood terrine, tarragon fromage blanc 13.00
Ahi Tuna To Power of Three (grilled ultra-rare; salmon salted tofu; dashi broth) 14.50
Spot Prawn and Shucked Oyster Cocktail, iced cucumber sunomono, ponzu jellies, wasabi infused salmon roe 15.50
(4) Main Courses
Grilled Vegetable Panini, asparagus, arugula, roasted peppers, monnstruck organic brie, artichoke pesto, spring lettuce salad 14.00 (with 3.50 supp for roasted chicken and 6.50 supp for grilled prawns)
Seared Beef and Shitake Mushroom Stir Fry, blackwood ear mushrooms, soba noodles, chinatown greens, bell peppers, birds eye chilli and garlic sauce 15.00
Pan Roasted Wild Salmon, artichokes, capers, fennel, arugula, gnocchi, tomato saffron broth 17.00
Baked Halibut, sweet pea puree, walnut and gorgonzola gratin, smoked salmon chip 18.00
Grilled Chicken Breast, chickpea and roasted bell pepper salad, "eleni" extra virgin olive oil, 12 yr old balsamic, sundried olives 19.50
Grilled Mahi Mahi, multigrain risotto, spring onions, braised pork hock glaze 21.00
Warm Lobster Salad, fingerling potatoes, truffles, pistachio nuts, port wine reduction 23.50
Posted 20 May 2002 - 11:23 PM
I like it when you go negative, so I'm going to provoke you further: As I'm sure you're aware, C is considered by just about everybody in the Vancouver food media to be one of the top three restaurants in the city and is routinely rated on par with Lumiere and Ouest. I bet you find that annoying, huh?
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, firstname.lastname@example.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)
Posted 21 May 2002 - 02:45 AM
It seems part of this rising trend in food nowadays to place odd ingredients together indiscriminately. Have you heard of argan oil? Here it is! Taste. What could be more decadent than eating gold leaf with caviar? Nothing, taste!
I understand the need to bring new and obscure ingredients to light, but please, some restraint! Being baffled as to what one is eating does not necessarily make fine dining.
I am eagerly awaiting your notes on Ouest, Cabrales. I recall it as a restaurant aiming for clarity of flavors and am curious to hear how it stands up to your other recent Vancouver experiences, especially Lumiere.
Posted 21 May 2002 - 12:07 PM
Steven -- I liked both Lumiere (two meals taken at the bar area) and Ouest far better than any other restaurant I have sampled in Vancouver (incl. Bishop's, Star Anise, Chartwell). Note the current trip is not my first to the city; it is my first trip since I became a member of eGullet.
As I'm sure you're aware, C is considered by just about everybody in the Vancouver food media to be one of the top three restaurants in the city and is routinely rated on par with Lumiere and Ouest. I bet you find that annoying, huh?
I find it very surprising that C is generally compared to Ouest and Lumiere. C offers cuisine that not only is starkingly inferior to that of the other two, but also was, with respect to certain dishes, rather unappetizing-tasting. What I find interesting is that C is often cited for its excellent utilization of local ingredients. With the saucing and dish design at C, the tastes of local ingredients could generally become masked or adulterated.
In my view, the top three restaurants in Vancouver, based on sampling to date, are Lumiere, Ouest and Kirin (the one on Cambie).
The following are the awards won by C per Vancouver Magazine's 13th Annual Restaurant Awards (April 2002 edition):
-- Restaurant of the Year, Silver (after Lumiere and in front of Ouest; I would accord the Silver to Ouest)
-- Best Contemporary/Regional, Gold (in front of Ouest and Bishop's; I would accord the Gold to Ouest)
-- Best Seafood, Gold (in front of Blue Water Cafe and Sun Sui Wah; I am still considering which restaurant deserves this award)
-- Best Use of Regional Ingredients, Gold (in front of Bishop's and Raincity Grill; the latter is somehow a sibling of C; Lumiere and Diva at the Met came 4th and 5th; I would accord the Gold to Lumiere or Ouest)
Based on my one meal (likely to remain that way) at C, the restaurant is very grossly overrated. However, Ouest and Lumiere are deserving (write-ups of meals to come).
Posted 21 May 2002 - 01:24 PM
Posted 21 May 2002 - 10:56 PM
Posted 21 May 2002 - 11:25 PM
I would be interested in knowing who is the best "chef " in the country ?
Secondly, cabrales have/did you eat at any of the hotel restaurants in Vancouver ? Diva at the Met, 900 West, Bacchus, or Showcase ?
Posted 22 May 2002 - 12:08 AM
junior (hope you're comfortable with my referring to your username) -- Welcome to eGullet
Secondly, cabrales have/did you eat at any of the hotel restaurants in Vancouver ? Diva at the Met, 900 West, Bacchus, or Showcase ?
I haven't sampled enough Canadian cuisine to address the question of who may be the best chef in the country. I shudder at the thought that some may believe C's chef should claim that accolade. :confused:
On the hotel restaurants, I have not eaten at any of the restaurants listed. I did sample Chartwell's cuisine in the Four Seasons on this visit (see relevant thread -- not linked), and had previously sampled Fish & Co in the Hyatt (nothing special). I was considering having brunch at Diva at the Met recently, but many of the dishes described appeared to be breakfast-type offerings.
I would be particularly interested in your or other members' experiences with Diva at the Met and Bacchus, to the extent you have visited and recollect the meal. Also, any input on Shijo (sic) would be appreciated.