Tapenade Bistro – Nichol Vineyard Winery Winemakers Dinner

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
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • 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
  • Brunch/Lunch/Dinner

**Recommendations: Beef Striploin Carpaccio, “Chanterelles & Toast”, Dungeness Crab Cakes, House Made Charcuterie, “Coq Au Vin”

Charm. That’s one thing Tapenade Bistro has that makes it so special. Minus the decor, which I find to be dated, I find everything else quite charming… including the staff! (I can see the grins on Chef Alex and Owner Vince’s faces already). That’s my other bias, I do know the faces of this restaurant and they’re more than pleasant individuals that I respect. Nonetheless my thoughts are always honest and uncork’d, sorry, I had to get a pun in there to suit the theme!

I was pleased to be invited to The Nichol Vineyard Winery Winemakers Dinner at Tapenade Bistro in Steveston Village in Richmond. The Winemakers Dinner is a series of dinners hosted at Tapenade Bistro in celebration of the award winning wines the restaurant carries. It is a ticketed event that is open to the public, and I made it to the second last one of the season.

Tapenade Bistro is considered one of Richmond’s casual fine dining restaurants. It’s definitely a local favourite and provides your “downtown” experience in the context of the ever so charming Steveston Village. The evening began with a series of hors d’oeuvres followed by a multi course dinner created by Chef Alex Tung. Each plate was paired with the wines from the featured winery of the evening. If you’re a wine enthusiast you probably already know that Tapenade Bistro offers a stellar wine list, so this was definitely an event I was looking forward to.

Aaannddd I’m drunk just looking at the picture. I’m not a wine connoisseur, but these boutique wines were fantastic and they’re not easy to find either. Nichol Vineyard Winery is most known for their award winning Syrah, and Syrah or not, I actually found most of their wines on the drier side.

I had the honour to be seated with some of the restaurants biggest supporters and it was just nice to see the love for this restaurant. It’s hard to remain neutral when the diners around you are regulars, but seeing the close knit community ambiance was very quaint and all part of the atmosphere.

For me the event was definitely more wine focused, although the food did not disappoint. Considering the circumstances of having to provide a set meal for a volume of people, I do find that the food was better on a regular night, which isn’t too surprising. On the other hand everything was paired quite well, and it is an event fit for wine lovers. So please plan accordingly and call for a cab, or bring a tent… Steveston Village offers a picturesque landscape and there’s a spacious lawn in front of the restaurant… 😉

On the table:

Hors D’oeuvres

  • The evening starts off with 5-6 appetizers that go around.
  • Wine pairing: 2008 Gewürztraminer
  • There was shrimp salad on cucumber, pork confit on potato chips, goat’s cheese and beet salad, mini crab cakes, and braised short rib with cauliflower hows d’oeuvres.

2008 Gewürztraminer ($16.90) This was the starter wine. It has pear notes, but to me it was very tangy, bright and citrusy. I enjoyed it paired with food more than I did alone and it wasn’t my favourite Gewürztraminer, but it was new for me. It was really dry, but considering the winery is famous for Syrah, I wasn’t too surprised.

Kelowna Morels

  • Roasted morels, 63°C free range egg, filone croutons, crispy ham, roquette, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salsa verde
  • Wine pairing 2009 Pinot Gris
  • This was actually my favourite dish of the evening. I’m generally more impressed with appetizers, and especially Chef Alex’s appetizers.
  • It was a great salad with fresh ingredients, and it had a great balance of strong and mild flavours.
  • It was a bit reminiscent of one of my favourite appetizers at Tapenade Bistro – “Chanterelles & Toast”.

  • It didn’t have much of a dressing besides the salsa verde and the the sous vide egg which gave it the creamy richness to bring the ingredients together.
  • It was a great balance of flavours and textures with juicy bursts of tangy sweet cherry tomatoes, meaty morels, crispy salty smoked prosciutto, salty shavings of Parmesan, crunchy homemade croutons, and then a tang of salsa verde with smoothness of the silky sous vide egg.
  • The salsa verde was an Italian style salsa verde and it was brilliant. It was almost like a pesto, but rather than being nutty it’s saltier and tangier. I could taste the anchovies and capers pureed into it and then the freshness of parsley to break up the sharpness.
  • The sous vide egg was a bit overcooked for me and I would have preferred it more runny and sauce like. It’s incredibly silky, slippery smooth and jelly like, but I wanted the egg to play the role of binder rather than protein.
  • It would have been nice to see the morels as the highlight because they were delicious, but they were a bit overshadowed by the sous vide egg.
  • I love Parmesan, but I think a strong blue cheese would have complemented the Morel flavour better.

2009 Pinot Gris ($19.90) – This was my second favourite wine of the night. It was a gorgeous peach colour with peach being the dominant flavour and then lots of tangy citrus notes. It was another dry wine, but I could still taste a hint of sweetness. It was definitely a way to welcome Spring.

Frederick Island Spring Salmon

  • Pan roasted, spaetzle, ragout of smoked bacon, mushrooms, peas & pearl onions, salmon caviar, pinot noir reduction
  • 2008 Pinot Noir
  • The salmon skin was delicious and wonderfully smoky and charred. The only thing is that the salmon was slightly overcooked for me and a bit under seasoned.
  • Actually the salt for the whole dish was pretty much coming from the salmon roe on top, but it wasn’t that much and the pinot noir reduction wasn’t strong enough either.
  • The pinot noir reduction tastes like the natural mushroom juices with a pinto noir to deglaze, but it was still a bit mild that it didn’t quite hold up to the flavours of everything else.
  • I did love the contrast of sweet green peas and juicy salty bursts of salmon roe with chewy and crispy pan fried spaetzle, but the roe was gone before it could be fully enjoyed.
  • The peas were a bit wrinkly and overcooked, but they were much appreciated in the dish. I would have enjoyed it as a puree as well and that would be great with the salmon.
  • There were two plump and juicy sweet pearl onions and some oyster and crimini mushroom sautee with smoked bacon, which is all very Alex and it was good, but I just needed more seasoning. Some herbs in the spaetzle or whole grain mustard might have done it as well.

2008 Pinot Noir ($26.90) – It’s aroma was a lot stronger than it actually was. It smelled quite sweet to me, but it tasted dry and it actually wasn’t that strong. That’s also why it suited the salmon quite well. I think it would have been great if the salmon dish had been seasoned better because otherwise it overpowered the food at times.

Sidney Island Venison

  • Sous vide leg, pommes puree, braised red cabbage, caramelized brussel sprout leaves, syrah, venison and juniper berry jus
  • Wine pairing: 2008 Syrah
  • This was gorgeous and it really showed an appreciation for the contrast of sweetness and bitterness on a plate.
  • I don’t want to know how much butter is in the pommes puree, but it was delicious. It was silky smooth and creamy and almost like liquid.
  • The venison was a bit tough and we were cutting it with a regular dinner knife, but I needed a steak knife.
  • For being sous vide I was a bit disappointed, because I did question if it really was at times. It had wonderful flavour though and I could taste the infusion of Rosemary as well as perhaps a little Star Anise.
  • The herbs and spices were removed, but their essence were built in the background of the meat and it added great aromatics and dimension the venison flavour.
  • The braised red cabbage was sweet and tangy and I almost thought they were braised beets. It was honey like in flavour with a nice tang and it was a great contrast to the heavier ingredients around it.
  • The caramelized brussel sprout leaves added that crispy texture and they were quite bitter alone, but incredibly sweet with the braised cabbage. The combination of flavours worked like magic and I loved it. The sweet, bitter and tangy aspects just played incredibly well together.

2008 Syrah ($29.90) – Oh god… how do I say emphasize the word “mmmm”. My favourite wine of the night. The Syrah is what they’re known for and it’s obvious as to why. It was a brilliant pairing with the venison with rich and bold flavours that were strong enough to hold up. I got the cherry flavour and almost the bitter skins of the plums and I found the pepper more in the nose than in the actual flavour. I didn’t think it was too spicy, and it was just really rich in flavour. Delicious.

Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co. Nostrala

  • Apricot and thyme compote, saffron cucumber, herb garden puree
  • 2008 Cabernet Franc
  • Maybe it’s just me but I would have enjoyed this with their 2009 Pinot Gris.
  • The cheese is chewy, medium hard and mildy salty.
  • The apricot and thyme compote was lovely and so well infused with lemony thyme and the herb puree went great with it.
  • The saffron cucumber was a bit too pickled for me and I lost the cucumber taste
  • I had it at The Hart House Restaurant paired with a Hillside Estate 2009 Gewürztraminer  – see here, and I think that worked better for me.

2008 Cabernet Franc ($26.90) – It was quite vibrant, but I can’t say the flavour was too memorable to me. After the 2008 Syrah almost nothing else came up to that degree so it made it harder to appreciate.

Callebaut Chocolate Pot De Crème

  • Crème chantilly, cocoa nibs, Malson sea salt, double chocolate sable cookie
  • 2007 Cabernet Franc Syrah
  • To be honest, I was really nervous about pairing a non-dessert wine with dessert. The wine was a Syrah too, so I can’t say I was looking forward to the duo. It’s not my kind of pairing but I know they wanted to feature this wine.
  • I would have perhaps choose another dessert for it, although chocolate may be the best bet.
  • There’s no pastry chef here, but this was pretty good. Simple, but well put together.
  • The chocolate pot de creme was great, but the top 1/3 layer was a bit stiff. The bottom was perfect though and wonderfully creamy.
  • It’s very rich and indulgent, but it’s actually not that sweet. I questioned if there was a hint of espresso in the background, because the flavour was dynamic.
  • The sable cookie was thin and crispy, but not as tender and it was more like a ginger snap. It should be more like shortbread with a tender delicate crumb and almost crumbly texture. Paul Croteau Confections actually makes a very good Chocolate Sable Cookie – see here.
  • I love the play on salt and chocolate and since salt could destroy the wine, chef had to present it as a side to give the diner more control.
  • If it wasn’t for the wine I would suggest sprinkling the chocolate sable cookie with salt before baking.

2007 Cabernet Franc Syrah ($28.90) – The wine was sweet, but just not sweet enough to hold up to the chocolate. The chocolate was already not that sweet but I still couldn’t find the right match to enjoy them together. Maybe a poached pear in this wine served with some chocolate fondue for dipping would work. I know the bitter cocao nibs went well, but that’s the only flavour that really worked for me.

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4 Comments

  • Bow says:

    Not into the shrimp on cuke ‘cos, the ying(cool, mild, bland) taste of both aren’t enough of a contrast to highlight the shrimp; I would’ve used hot shrimp ravioli(using wonton wrappers and a sauce of yoghurt, tobiko, orange rind and orange juice…cooked in a lemon grass broth), drizzled with a very good Xtra virgin olive oil; or if I didn’t want to cook, mix some shrimp with ripe avocado, chives and drizzled with an olive Xtra virgin oil(cooked w. lemon grass, lime leaves, ginger, thai chiles, and fresh orange juice). I know it was probably a question of time, however my hors d’oeuvres can be prepped in advance.
    Caveats aside, the meal looks very nice, and seems worthy of the night. The Cab/Franc/Syrah wasn’t up to the Pot de Creme…you don’t need a vibrant wine, you need power. Traditionally, a Banyuls from France or a Pedero Ximenez Sherry from Spain. An Amarone or Barolo can work; a port is a good pairing…might even try a good Malbec.The Malbec, sherry, and port are affordable.

  • Linda says:

    oo i’ve missed you mijune! 🙂 i know you guys had a lot of last minute things to do before the big foodie fest tonight – hope everything is going great! i went to bella gelateria last night and wished james good luck too 🙂

    mmm tapenade bistro… ever since i joined twitter, chef alex tung and tapenade bistro was all i heard about it – he is one popular chef and his restaurant is even more popular – i definitely need to check this place out the next time i’m in steveston 🙂 i must say, all the dishes look gorgeous – literally makes me drool lol

    i can see why you love the morel dish the best – i’ve actually never had a sous vide egg before but i was thinking about making one at work one day lol like you, i do like to have my eggs done more on the soft side because eating a warmed runny egg yolk is just divine lol the salmon looks really yummy too – i like that the skin was cooked crispy – alot of restaurants can’t seem to do this right – either because their pan wasn’t hot enough when the fish went in or they were too hasty and flipped the fish too early.. and i really like that chef alex incorporated speatzle into the dish – i love it! 🙂

    i think i’ve only had venison once and i fell in love with it right away – and the brussel sprouts on this dish looks so great – so many ppl just don’t know how to cook those right.. it’s no wonder so many kids don’t like eating it 🙂

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