Post image for Cru Restaurant (Wine Bar)

Restaurant: Cru Restaurant + Wine Bar
Cuisine: Small Plates/International/Pacific Northwest/West Coast
Last visited: October 24, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Fairview)
Address: 1459 West Broadway
Price Range: $30-50, 50+

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5
Service: 5
Ambiance: 5
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Since 2003
  • Executive Chef Alana Peckham
  • Small plates
  • “Best small plates in Vancouver”
  • “World’s Top Restaurants 2010″
  • Elegant/intimate/sophisticated
  • Non-pretentious staff
  • Local favourite/gem
  • Moderately priced
  • Seasonal menus
  • Famous for food and wine pairings
  • Award winning wine bar
  • Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm
  • Dinner Mon-Sun 5:30pm-10pm

**Recommendations:Syrah-Braised Beef Short Rib, Crispy Duck Confit, Organic Squash Carnaroli Risotto, Sorbet & Ice Creams

Cru is an elegant and sophisticated, yet casual fine dining restaurant in Vancouver, BC. It specializes in Pacific Northwest small plates with some Asian and European influences. Cru is actually most famous for their food and wine pairings and it’s named “Vancouver’s Best” by Vancouver Media as well as “World’s Top Restaurants 2010″ by Zagat. The restaurant ambiance and location is understated although it carries award winning cuisine and an award winning wine bar.

Executive Chef Alana Peckham actually worked at the old Feenie’s and Lumière before joining Cru. At times her style reminded me of Chef Alex Tung from Tapenade Bistro. The menu is relatively small, and surprisingly simple, yet I felt there was enough variety. The food is made in small batches since the restaurant is quite small and for some reason you can feel the care that went into it, although not always the taste. The food and restaurant is humble and the quality of ingredients speak for themselves. I found the prices very reasonable for fine dining, the service unpretentious, and I saw value in the whole experience.

I’m really a fan of small plates because I like trying a lot of dishes. I’m usually more impressed with appetizers and desserts than I am with the main course, but this was not the case at Cru. The mains or big plates were actually more impressive in taste and presentation with the duck confit and braised short ribs being on the menu since the restaurant opened. I asked for recommendations before ordering my pre-determined list and I pretty much nailed the right items which I was very pleased about. The portion sizes were generally larger than expected and I was actually more satisfied with the overall experience more so than the food, although the food is still good. For this type of cuisine I actually enjoyed the recently closed Tapastree better, however I would definitely come back to Cru for some of their signature items and seasonal menus.

On the table:

“Cellar Door” Caesar – 4/6

  • Grilled with garlic butter croutons and shredded asiago $11
  • A popular item and it’s know for the garlic croutons.
  • It didn’t have much dressing, and I expected it to be bolder if it was made in house with perhaps more black pepper too.
  • The intense amount of Asiago cheese acts as a replacement for the dressing, so it was quite creamy from the cheese, but a Caesar is not a Caesar without the Caesar dressing.
  • The highlight was the garlic bread croutons, without these it would have been very ordinary. They weren’t amazing, but it’s a unique idea and the plating is fun. They could be a tad smaller and cut to the same size though. It was crunchy throughout but quite oily and buttery and when you chew on them the oil actually squishes out with the bigger pieces. The smaller squares were perfect and almost like crostini, but chewier.
  • It would be good if they were brioche garlic croutons with actual minced garlic on them.

Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio – 3.5/6

  • With caperberries, truffle aioli, shaved parmesan and crostini $12
  • It was a very simple recipe with simple execution, however I wasn’t impressed with the plating.
  • The slices of beef tenderloin were so tender and soft and almost like slices of creamy butter.
  • All the ingredients were high quality, but overall the dish was not amazing or that big of a deal for this type of restaurant.
  • I could taste the truffle aioli and the fresh caper berries are not as salty as tiny capers.
  • It was meaty, creamy, flavourful and juicy from the berries with a salty bite of Parmesan and a hint of truffle from beginning to end. It was a great balance of flavours.

Cured and Smoked Sablefish – 2.5/6

  • Baby bok choy and coconut green curry $14
  • Sablefish is near impossible to mess up, but I still love it.
  • The sablefish was pretty small, but it was moist with a smoky flavour. The curry sauce didn’t hold onto the fish and I would have preferred the skin on, but that’s just me.
  • I wasn’t a fan of the coconut curry sauce because it was sweet and too tangy and almost tastes like it was made with pineapple juice with a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk. I would have liked more of a savoury and sweet taste to balance it out. The green curry paste used seems premade rather than made in house and I didn’t see any fresh herbs or spices used. I would have liked lemongrass, garlic, ginger, lime leaves or Thai basil leaves in the sauce.
  • The bak choy was regular and the dish was missing ingredients even if it was aiming for simplicity.
  • It wasn’t visually or tastefully very appetizing. Overall the flavours didn’t work for me and the presentation and execution could have been better.

**Organic Squash Carnaroli Risotto – 5/6

  • Shaved parmesan, sage brown butter $13
  • Delicious. It was creamy, velvety smooth and decadent with lots of brown butter sauce and probably cream. It’s a sweeter dish yet it has salty bites of Parmesan cheese to balance it out.
  • The risotto was perfectly cooked to al dente and still held it’s shape and texture. It tastes “time-consuming” like it was made for one person and upon order. I’m 99% sure it is.
  • There’s cubes of tender butternut squash that add the perfect texture and yet keeps it’s shape too.
  • There’s a bit of nutmeg (I think) on top and I could have used more of that because there wasn’t enough to make a difference, yet enough for me to notice it was there in a couple bites.
  • A touch of sage oil, hazelnut oil, or truffle oil, or even some pine nuts would have brought it to the next level.

**Crispy Duck Confit – 5.5/6

  • Bacon vinaigrette, spätzle goat cheese hash $16
  • I love duck confit, and if it’s on the menu it’s usually guaranteed on my table.
  • This was a big plate item and it’s actually fairly large.
  • This one was very tender and juicy and the meat shredded easily from the bone. The skin was quite crispy although it could have been crispier. The most tender duck confit I’ve had is the one from Le Gavroche though.
  • I’m used to a sweet and savoury duck confit, but this one was actually quite tangy because of the bacon balsamic reduction. The bacon pieces were very tender and melt in your mouth delicious, but the balsamic reduction was a bit overwhelming for the already well flavoured duck.
  • The spätzle was great and it’s almost like pasta, but more chewy and doughy. I really like spätzle and it’s a special side that I appreciate, but I would have preferred a starch that soaks up the sauce a bit more, like a polenta or potato.

**Syrah-Braised Beef Short Rib – 6/6

  • With macaroni and cheese $18
  • I’m usually more impressed with my appetizers than I am with my mains, but not at Cru.
  • This was hearty again large for a big plate item and pretty much could be eaten alone as a full meal.
  • The quality of the beef short rib is excellent with the perfect amount of tender fat around the edges. Even the tendon part around the bone was tender and perfect. The meat pretty much fell of the bone and it required only a fork to shred apart. It was so tender I could twirl the meat around my fork like pasta.
  • The short rib was browned perfectly with a great crust to enhance the flavours. It was then drenched in a rich and bold sweet and savoury intensely flavoured red wine demi glace reduction. As good as it was, the best short rib I’ve had was from C Restaurant which was juicy and required no sauce. This one was tender, but not necessarily always juicy (unless you got a fatty piece) and it needed sauce. Well the middle part without the crust was the only part that really needed sauce, the rest was still okay, but just better with the reduction.
  • This would have been fantastic with wine.

Macaroni and Cheese – 3/6

  • The mac ‘n cheese was a very tiny portion and probably enough for one spoonful for 2 people. It wasn’t the star of the show so I could overlook it, but the fact that’s it’s advertised as the side, I would expect a bit more.
  • It was pretty ordinary mac and cheese made with White Cheddar cheese. It was nice and creamy rather than stringy and I liked the breadcrumb crust. It could have been better and I just know they’re capable of it.
  • Overall though, the dish was stellar and the winner of the night.

Desserts

Chef Alana Peckham is also a pastry chef so the desserts are not to be missed although nothing seemed really appealing to me. I tried what I wanted to except for the Warm Apple Spice Cake. The sour cream mousse is what appealed to me from that dessert. However when I asked for recommendations it wasn’t suggested so I just passed.

**Grand Cru Chocolate Torte – 3/6

  • With dulche de leche ice cream, nut tuille $8
  • This was almost like a giant chocolate truffle and it was executed with lots of cocoa powder throughout the torte as well as on top.
  • It was very rich, decadent and indulgent and it’s for real chocolate lovers that love creamy rich dark chocolates. It’s very soft like a home made chocolate truffle and there’s no crust so I missed some texture. I actually couldn’t finish the whole thing without more dulche de leche ice cream because otherwise it was too sweet for me. It’s actually more bittersweet than sweet, but chocolate is so rich I don’t want so much at one time.
  • The dulche de leche ice cream was almost like caramel and it was sweet, but not too sweet and it was a great balance with the torte. It was very creamy and almost like gelato, however I would have preferred a hazelnut flavour. The chocolate torte was a bit overwhelming for the dulche de leche and you couldn’t really taste the ice cream flavour unless you ate it alone.
  • Overall the chocolate torte reminded me of a typical banquet dessert a nice hotel would serve. It was well done, but just too much of one thing.

Selection of Sorbet and Ice Cream- 4.5/6

  • $8
  • They’re made in house and the flavours of the day were Jasmine ice cream, plum sorbet and passion fruit and raspberry sorbet. It’s served with a hazelnut biscotti.
  • I decided to try a scoop of each flavour. They did a great job however they were a bit icy in texture so I’m not sure how often they get rotated.
  • The Jasmine ice cream 4.5/6 - sparked my interest most and it tastes exactly like Jasmine tea with a slight bitterness. It was quite creamy with the perfect amount of sweetness and Jasmine infused into the milk. It tastes more like gelato than ice cream, but it still has some icy parts. I felt like I was sipping tea at dim sum and I liked it!
  • The plum sorbet 2/6 - tastes like a frozen puree of those Del Monte preserved peach fruit cups or apricots. I wasn’t a fan of the flavour if it was supposed to be plum. It’s a bit mushy and thick in flavour and it was too icy and just broke apart rather than keeping it’s creamy texture.
  • The passion fruit raspberry sorbet 4.5/6 – is the perfect balance of each fruit. It’s creamy sweet and tangy and very refreshing. It would be great if they infused some mint leaves in it as well.
  • The hazelnut biscotti was quite good with lots of toasted hazelnuts and it wasn’t very sweet. It was hard on the outside and soft once you bite into it so it was very fresh. They also double baked it so it was made perfectly without drying out or becoming too hard.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Miriam Martin November 21, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Hey, thanks for this review! I met the chef back when she first opened up and I worked for a wholesaler that supplied both Lumiere and her new restaurant – Cru. For some reason I’ve been hesitant to try it out – afraid to pay a lot and be disappointed. But if you thought the duck confit was 5.5/6, then this is definitely a restaurant for me! :)

2 Jayda Home November 22, 2010 at 12:21 am

Hi Mijune….. my husband and I just discovered a wonderful patisserie today in Steveston. It is located where Sugar Art used to be on Chatham. I forget the name but they really have some amazing cakes. The macaroons are pretty great too. Two bonuses are: pricing is reasonable and they are open on Sundays. They have only been open 2 weeks, but I think you’d appreciate them more then some of the male bloggers…… for some reason males don’t seem to appreciate dessert as much as women do (except my husband, but he’s French!).

3 Mijune November 22, 2010 at 3:59 am

@Mariam – lol! Aw thanks for the comment! Now the pressure is on me to hope that you enjoy the duck just a much as I did! If you don’t, I’ll have to pick your brain to where you’ve had better :) The portion and price is actually incredibly reasonable for a place like this so I’m quite confident you’ll love the duck confit! Please keep me posted.

@Jayda Home – Oh no! Did Sugar Art close!? I liked that place. Hmm but another dessert place?! I’m there! :) Thanks for the heads up!

Oh and I know!! I don’t get it either! I think males just don’t want to admit they like dessert. They almost will always like apple pie, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies though. Overall I do find most of them do prefer bacon as their dessert :S

4 Bow November 22, 2010 at 9:56 am

I see that you tackled your favs: duck confit and ribs. Gotta love a girl that loves fat. I agree the duck doesn’t need a bacon balsamic reduction. The classic carpaccio is still one of the best, raw beef slices pounded paper thin, drizzled with an excellent Xtra virgin(Duoro from Portugal, intense flavour), some coarse sea salt(Maldron is excellent), some capers, optional squeeze of lemon, yum. Am surprised you thought the desserts were middling…

5 Mijune November 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

@Bow LOL! I think those are my ultimate savoury guilty pleasures – duck confit, ribs, and mac n’ cheese! Oh my gosh!! You just mentions my ALL TIME FAVOURITE olive oil! I have been raving about Portuguese olive oil for years!!! It’s the best out there! Have you been to Cru? I assume you liked it?

6 Elaine November 25, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Wow $18 for the short rib is a really good price…must try…

7 Mijune November 25, 2010 at 10:50 pm

@Elaine – I thought so as well! The portion was huge too. I’d order it again for sure!

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