Restaurant: Tapenade Bistro
Cuisine: West Coast/European/Mediterranean/Seafood/Pacific Northwest
Last visited: December 19, 2010
Location: Richmond BC (Steveston Village)
Address: 3711 Bayview Street
Price Range:$30-50, $50+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: solid 5 for appetizers, 4.5-5 based on what I tried overall
- Since January 2003
- West Coast/Pacific Northwest
- Executive Chef Alex Tung
- Casual fine dining
- Seasonal menus
- Innovative cuisine
- Attention to detail
- Lots of seafood options
- Voted “Best in Richmond”
- Boutique wine list
- Ocean Wise
**Recommendations: Beef Striploin Carpaccio, “Chanterelles & Toast”, Dungeness Crab Cakes, House Made Charcuterie, “Coq Au Vin”
If you follow me on Twitter it’s no secret that I tweet back and fourth with Executive Chef Alex Tung at Tapenade Bistro. Our first in person introduction was at the Tourism Richmond Steveston Village Seafood Feast in September this year. Other than that time I also dined at Tapenade Bistro for Mother’s Day brunch and since then I’ve been trying to make a visit back for dinner. On this occasion I came for dinner with my parents, it was rather last minute, but chef knew I was there. He kindly provided complimentary appetizers, but there are no expectations for the outcome of this post. On that note, I will still speak truthfully of the food from this evening, however I will not “rate” the service under the circumstances. Honesty is the best policy and I’m pretty sure Chef Tung would agree, considering he’s the only chef I know that writes his own restaurant blog – see here.
Tapenade Bistro in Steveston Village offers contemporary West Coast and Pacific Northwest cuisine. It’s not categorized as “fine dining”, but the food speaks of fine dining although the ambiance does not. It’s a bit dated and it doesn’t match the food, and in this case you really are paying for the quality of ingredients and intensive preparation behind it. Be expected to pay downtown prices, but it’s worth it, and the seafood is 100% sustainable and Ocean Wise. I would call it casual fine dining and a place fit for foodies and wine enthusiasts.
Chef, Menu & Food
The menu and food is undeniably Chef Alex Tung. I actually got to know his personality better through the dishes I ate rather than through our Twitter encounters. A chef that’s truly passionate about cooking and actually hands on in the kitchen. That makes for major bonus points in my books. From what I tasted I will assume that he has a spot for hearty comfort food, appreciates seafood, but is downright a refined carnivore and lover of rich sauces. He also plays a lot with the savoury and tangy balance more so than the savoury and sweet. The food is rather rich and hearty with many innovative details and components, and impressive culinary techniques that speaks of professional. It probably helps that he has trained under culinary legends like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud and Christian Delouvrier. The menu is seasonal and the plates are artistically presented, but I found most of my favourites in the appetizers more so than the mains or desserts.
In a way, I actually found it comparable to Ebo Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant in Burnaby. When it comes to West Coast casual fine dining in Richmond, the options are limited and Steveston Village is the easy go to answer. However, Tapenade Bistro doesn’t win merely by default because the food is actually very good and at times even gastronomic and tres excellent! I haven’t tried the whole menu, but generally speaking, I find Tapenade Bistro a solid choice especially if you order the right items. Food and taste is personal, but I’m pretty confident that any foodie will be satisfied with my favourites of the night, which are probably Chef’s favourites as well.
On the table:
- I doubt it’s made in house and I didn’t see Chef in this at all. I bet if it were up to him he’d make it in house.
- It would have been better served warm and it’s really soft and fluffy inside with a decently crispy crust. Not a big deal though.
**Beef Striploin Carpaccio – 5/6
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, pickled beech mushrooms, grape tomato, fried capers, herb salad, remoulade sauce, extra virgin olive oil $11
- I don’t order beef carpaccio too often, and I always forget how much I actually like it.
- This one was almost like a beef carpaccio pizza! In concept and size! I did thoroughly enjoy it, but I did feel like I lost some of that natural beef flavour.
- The carpaccio was melt in your mouth tender and it was quite tangy from all the sauces and acidic toppings.
- It had a very feathery texture from the frisee, fresh parsley and deep fried crispy capers. Deep frying them actually takes the salty tangy bite off them, which is good for this dish.
- The flavour is similar to eating beef carpaccio with tartar sauce, and that was due to the combination of remoulade (tartar like sauce), capers and pickled beech mushrooms.
- The pickled beech mushrooms were very sharp, and I wish the remoulade was a garlic or truffle aoili because the creamy tang of the remoulade with the pickled mushrooms was a bit too tangy. The salad was a nice way to lighten things up and I love sauce and toppings, but I couldn’t taste the cheese at all.
- There were 4 tangy ingredients (remoulade, mushroom, tomato, capers) and I could have probably done with one less, or maybe just a little less of all of them to showcase the flavour of the beef more.
**”Chanterelles & Toast” – 6/6
- Roasted Vancouver Island chanterelles, 63 degree egg, fried baguette, baby arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano, marinated grape tomatoes, red wine demi glace $12
- As much as I love the concept of eggs, toast, and mushrooms, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it because I wouldn’t think it would get as good as this. Thank goodness it was on Chef Tung’s selection of appetizers or I would have seriously missed out. This is a must try dish!
- This is the definition of an appetizer that leaves you wanting more. It was like a dinner version of a gourmet eggs benedict.
- How to eat: the concept is to break the egg and mix it all together… Asian style! I get incredibly excited at the thought of a runny egg yolk whether it’s on toast, Pasta Carbonara and of course rice!
3 seconds later… freaking DROOL!
6 seconds later… deliciousness! 30 seconds later… done!
- It was savoury, sweet, crispy and nutty pan-fried Chanterelle mushrooms, creamy egg, tangy juicy fire roasted grape tomatoes, crispy buttery crustless toasted baguette and fresh peppery arugula to “lighten” things up. It was the most perfect balance of everything good.
- The 63 degree egg was the definite highlight! It was actually a sous vide poached egg and it was my first experience with one. It’s like a 2.0 version of a poached egg and it’s incredibly silky smooth with a creamy jelly like texture. The egg white is almost bubbly and soupy like a silky liquefied cloud that melts in your mouth, and it cradles this rare egg yolk that’s actually still warm.
- The egg yolk definitely adds to the richness of the mushroom gravy which is enhanced with some meaty demi glace. However I could have used a bit more demi glace, and although excellent, it wasn’t as flavourful as the one from Ebo Restaurant.
- The toasted baguette acts as a sponge and it gets all soft after the egg yolk is cracked. All I wanted was more toast to soak up the remaining egg yolk drippings on my plate. I used the complimentary bread to wipe down my plate it was so good.
- I would most definitely order this again and highly recommend it.
**Dungeness Crab Cakes – 5.5/6
- BC Dungeness crab, fennel, cucumber, pink onion and tomato relish, tomato jam, rouille $14
- This is something else I would have overlooked because the description doesn’t really explain everything this dish has to offer.
- This appetizer totally brought me back to the special appetizer Chef Tung prepared for us at the Steveston Village media dine around tour. He created a dish called Last of the Season Sardines, and originally I was disappointed that I was being served something that wasn’t offered on the regular menu. However now I understand that it was a play off of the Dungeness Crab Cakes that is on the menu. So now you too can enjoy! All the better and you will enjoy this!
- The crab cakes were a little small, but the flavour was not and the presentation was exceptional.
- Each crab cake was crispy and made of pure juicy chunks of crab rather than finely shredded pieces. I enjoyed the chunks much more because I can taste more of the seafood flavour this way and it retains its juices. There were also some chives and other herbs, but there was no sign of any “fillers”.
- It was savoury crab, yet it still had some buttery and custard like flavours from probably egg which would be used as the binder.
- As many components as there were, all of them went together in any combination I tried. It’s one of those dishes where I was scraping the remains on my plate with the edge of my fork.
- The intricate details of each gourmet home made condiment was the most memorable part. Every sauce had its place and was distinct from the other.
- The herb puree streak on the side was thick, creamy and earthy yet fresh in flavour.
- The red pepper rouille are the dollops in the back that look like Thousand Island dressing. It’s actually a rich sauce that tastes like a spicy chili garlic aioli, in simplest terms it tastes like chili mayo, but refined and more aromatic in flavour.
- The tomato relish tastes like the freshest and purest form of homemade creamy tomato puree paste.
- The crab cakes were delicious with all the sauces and every component was also excellent alone.
- The salad was very tangy and it had some pickled onions and pickled cucumbers which came off as Japanese Oshinko carrots. I enjoyed the salad more alone.
Feature Soup – Potato & Leek (sample size portion shown) – 3/6
- Daily soup inspired by the season and whimsy of the Tapenade Bistro kitchen $8
- This was a Potato and leek soup with crispy ham, chives and truffle oil essence.
- I was expecting a lot from the soup, but I was slightly underwhelmed.
- I could smell the truffle oil as it was arriving even before it hit the table, but I surprisingly lost that truffle taste after it was all mixed in.
- I actually enjoyed the toppings of the soup more than the broth itself. The toppings included crispy potato, savoury bits of crispy smoky ham, which was almost like bacon, and chives.
- It seemed like a baked potato soup, but the flavour was surprisingly lighter and thinner in texture relative to say a bisque.
- It looks really heavy and rich, but the potato base was a bit thinned out in flavour and texture by the leeks. It was a bit bland and mild if it wasn’t for the toppings and I would have liked it either more savoury or more sweet.
- Not comparable, but the best soups I’ve had are from Redd in Napa Valley and Hastings House Country House Hotel in Salt Spring Island.
This is something I ordered at Mother’s Day brunch this year, but I never got to write about it. This was not complimentary.
**House Made Charcuterie – 5/6
- All charcuterie served with cornichons, filone baguette, olive oil and sea salt crostini. One choice $9 three choices $25.
- I loved the presentation and it is one of the best charcuterie platters I’ve experienced. The house made charcuterie will change seasonally, but it’s always something creative and unique to Tapenade Bistro.
- Duck Rillette
- Traditional shredded duck pâté, grainy mustard, saffron cucumber, rhubarb vanilla confiture.
- This was my favourite, mainly because I love duck pate. I just remember not being able to taste the rhubarb vanilla confiture which I was most excited about.
- Pate de Campagne
- Country style terrine, apricot thyme compote, Cognac Dijon mutsard.
- I’m not a fan of country style terrines, so this was a bit too dense and gelatinous for me. It was quite meaty with lots of herb flavours.
- Chicken Liver Parfait
- Bruleed parfait, Port onion jam, pickled pink onion.
- I loved this one as well. The concept was so creative and memorable with the sweet caramelized sugar brulee crust. I loved the savoury and sweet contrast yet it was still distinct with chicken liver flavour. it was creamy, rich, smooth and indulgent and it was a beautiful spread on crostini.
- Provençal fish stew, fresh fish, prawns, diver scallop, Salt Spring Island mussels, clams, shellfish and tomato broth, rouille $27
- It’s served with a red pepper rouille “crouton” which was a slice of their standard baquette.
- This was a very generous portion of bouillabaisse loaded with fresh sustainable seafood.
- I liked it because there was so much seafood, however as a bouillabaisse it wasn’t my favourite. It was also less exciting than everything else we ordered.
- The broth was light and tangy with a tomato base and I could taste the crustaceans of prawn shells, clams and what tasted like lobster shells – although there is no lobster.
- The saffron flavour was subtle and it wasn’t that rich in seafood nectar flavour for a bouillabaisse, but it was still decent. I wanted more of a fresh fish flavour in the actual broth since Bouillabaisse is traditionally a fish stew.
- The fish was salmon and ling cod were under seasoned but at least not overcooked. The prawns did get a bit overcooked though.
- I would have preferred the fish with skins and bones, but this is not marketable to the clientele unfortunately. That would have given much more flavour though.
- The scallop was jumbo and tender and the mussels and clams were fresh but not as meaty, perhaps due to the season.
- I did like it more than the one from Shore Club, but not as much as the one from dB Moderne, although that one is now off the menu. The best was the one I had in Marseille, France, the origin of Bouillabaisse, but I’m not about to jump on a plane to get one anytime soon.
- Pan seared, eggplant puree, eggplant caponata, eggplant “frites”, roasted pepper relish, caper raisin emulsion $28
- Beautiful presentation.
- I’ve been on a mission to find the best scallops, and these ones have always appealed to me on the menu, especially since I love eggplant. However I found it sounded better on the menu although I appreciate the creativity behind it.
- The eggplant in 3 forms reminded me of a scallop dish I had at C Restaurant with pea shoot in multiple textures – see here.
- The scallops were JUMBO! And I’m so happy that they seared the scallops on both sides! It really bothers me when it’s only on one side. The scallops had a nutty crust, but I could have used a bit more salt and pepper to enhance the flavour.
- The sauce for the scallops was an eggplant puree, but it tasted like an eggplant mayo and heavier on the mayo flavour than the eggplant. It was just a bit too rich and creamy with mayo and I wanted a more savoury eggplant taste or even a thinner eggplant puree sauce. It just needed something else in it because the flavour wasn’t there yet. I have the same problem when I make eggplant dips and I found I have to use Parmesan cheese to make it work.
- The eggplant “frites” was the best form of the eggplant. It had the most eggplant flavour, but I wish it had a panko crust because they weren’t that crispy. It was more like strips of tender pan-fried eggplant rather than “frites”.
- The eggplant caponata was almost like an eggplant relish or antipasto. I didn’t mind that it was so tangy with onions, capers, and mushrooms, but then I really didn’t want the eggplant puree to also be tangy and compete with it. One tangy, the other more savoury, or even savoury and sweet, and that would create a better balance.
- I’m not sure where the caper raisin emulsion was but that would have been GREAT with the eggplant puree. That would have done it I think! The roasted red pepper relish was also MIA.
- The dish was very good, but I just thought it sounded better and I was expecting more from it.
- The scallop dish to beat is still the Caramelized Diver Scallops from Redd.
- Bradner Farm Cornish hen, roasted breast, bacon wrapped leg, fleur de Dijon spaetzle, ragout of double smoked bacon, mushroom, peas and pearl onions, Burgundy jus $26
- This is one of the famous dishes, and for excellent reason too! I haven’t had another “Coq Au Vin” in Vancouver yet, but my standard is now set and it’s going to be tough to beat.
- The hen was served in 2 potions and I thoroughly enjoyed each one. The breast was as flavourful as the leg, and it wasn’t dry at all.
- The leg was crispy with smoky bacon and the meat was incredibly tender and juicy.
- The breast seemed like it was also wrapped in crispy bacon as well and I would have thought it was sous vide for sure! It was flattened and coated with a strong lemony and herby Thyme mixture before it was rolled, wrapped and oven roasted. It was the most juicy and tender “chicken breast” with tons of flavour and delicious coating of savoury red wine reduction. At times the skin was a bit fatty and chewy and I wasn’t a fan of that part… but that’s the only part.
- The red wine reduction was incredibly strong and the wine wasn’t cooked out all the way, but it worked well and I think it was intended. It was syrupy, thick, sweet an tangy and made for the perfect glaze on this beautiful hen.
- Spatzel is pretty much a doughy noodle and this one was crispy and well seasoned. It was savoury and nutty and an exciting side that went well with the mushroom, peas and tangy pearl onions. I feel really lucky when I get a main with either spatzel or gnocchi as the side.
- The other side was a cauliflower puree and it reminded me of pommes puree but it was less rich, thinner and almost like a creamy grainy sauce. It’s the texture of apple sauce and the flavour of almost turnip meets cauliflower puree.
- I love pommes puree, but this cauliflower puree did a duly job at absorbing the sauces. It was nice to have something lighter anyways considering the protein was so rich with the heavier sauce and there was already a starch in place too.
I have a feeling Chef Tung isn’t a dessert person, I appreciate that they’re all made in house though. He seems super rich and indulgent with his savoury dishes, but when it comes to sweets he plays the concept up, but the flavours down. The desserts weren’t really sweet at all and he experiments with the savoury and sweet combination. I was a fan of the idea more so than the actual desserts.
White Pepper Panna Cotta – 2.5/6
- Red wine poached pear, pear and red wine consommé, walnut strusel, chervil $7.50
- This is not for everybody and it’s not for anyone with a major sweet tooth. I have a sweet tooth, but I also have an appreciation for creative desserts and admire chefs who attempt to take on the challenge of using savoury ingredients in them. It was no question I was going to order this.
- It’s not the best sweet and savoury combination I’ve had, but it’s not a failed attempt either.
- It was a very light and refreshing dessert, but it needed to be accented with something stronger.
- Panna Cotta is a cooked cream and here it’s served in a pool of cooling red wine pear consomme that’s not that sweet at all. It’s actually incredibly mild, lighter than pear juice and not syrupy. The red wine is fully cooked out, yet decently absorbed in the diced pear pieces.
- The Panna Cotta was a bit dense and jelly like rather than creamy and the chill needed to come off before you could enjoy it and really taste the aromatic white pepper. It’s not spicy, but not really that sweet either.
- I’m indifferent about the walnut strusel topping. I love the concept, but not necessarily the execution of it and it wasn’t that sweet either. It was a simple flour coating, which would have worked better for a traditional oven baked dessert, but I would have preferred them candied here.
- Another ssavoury sweet Panna Cotta is the Douglas Fir Panna Cotta from Incanto.
- Spiced date cake, frozen vanilla chantilly, Ambrosia apple and lemon compote, toffee sauce $7.50
- This dessert is a seasonal special.
- I love sticky toffee pudding, but I would prefer this with traditional vanilla ice cream rather than the vanilla chantilly (which is basically frozen whipped cream).
- The spiced date cake could have used more dates, but it was moist and warm and decently sweetened. It was almost like a carrot cake in flavour. The texture was more like a muffin and although it was moist, it wasn’t pudding like and I wouldn’t call it a bread pudding as much as I would call it a bundt cake.
- I liked the tangy crunchy apples which were well coated with a tangy sweet lemon compote. This fruit combination went really well with the spiced cake and reminded me of a pannetone. Most of the sweetness came from the toffee sauce and overall it was quite suitable for Christmas/Winter season.
I think the salad on top of the carpaccio is superfluous. Alex’s food is very nicely presented . I am not a real fan of crab cakes because I also dislike shredded crab , however using Dungeness chunks is very nice. The bouillabaisse lacks depth ‘cos he’s appealing to a North American palate…the broth have more depth if small rockfish, bones and all, head on, were used(debone later), take out the salmon ‘cos the taste of salmon can dominate a broth(could you really taste the olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes and saffron ?). Scallops lack flavour, add eel and snapper. However all caveats aside, the food looks great and Steveston has a fining diningspot(can’t stand those tourist traps which sell fish and chips and burgers).
@Bow – thanks Bow!! Really great comment! I agree with the Boillabaisse and I think using the head would have done it! i though just skin and bones, but the head does carry a lot of flavour. Hmmm I actually didn’t taste salmon in the broth. I could taste the garlic and tomatoes and crustaceans of other shellfish, but not too much saffron. i just couldn’t taste saffron and the fish flavour. Nice suggestion on the scallops too… I didn’t know that one. I don’t even think I’ve tried that before… suggestions where I can?
Yup! I’m not a fan of those mediocre fish and chips in that area either. Some of them are good, but most are overrated. I have to try them all before I can confirm though.
Thanks for doing this post, I was actually just looking for some reviews on Tapenade as I wanted to check it out again; perfect timing! NOw for sure i will go, everything looked so good!
@vivian – Awesome!!! I love it when I get the post up just in time for someone who’s been looking to go! Since the menu is seasonal it makes me feel like my post isn’t wasted when someone goes during the time I write about it! So yay! Hope you enjoy! Remember “Chanterelles & Toast” and “Coq Au Vin” 😉
Tapenade is one place I always visit when I go back to Vancouver! Love the excellent food without being pretentious.
That egg dish is some serious food porn…I think we Asians have some kind of fetish with egg yolks+carbs ahaha.
@Rachelle – funny that you say that!! I’ve been having the biggest conversations about how Asian LOVE runny egg yolks!! I’m going to make a post dedicated to it 😉 Stay tuned in the year year! Thanks for the comment!!