Desserts fit for Royalty! – The Apron at The Westin Hotel

Update! New chef as of August 5, 11.

Previous Executive Chef Hamid Salimian has returned back to Diva at the Met, therefore this menu and post no longer applies. See my post for Diva at the Met here.

Restaurant: The Apron
Cuisine: West Coast/Pacific Northwest/Fusion/International/Eclectic/Fine Dining
Last visited: April 27, 2011
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 3099 Corvette Way (Inside Westin Hotel)
Price Range: $30-50, $50+

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

Food: 6
Service:
n/a
Ambiance:
4
Overall:
6
Additional comments:

  • Executive Chef Hamid Salimian
  • Multi-award winning chef
  • Causal fine dining
  • West Coast/Pacific Northwest
  • Contemporary cuisine
  • Culinary competition food
  • Specializes in gastronomy
  • Hidden gem
  • Local ingredients
  • Seasonal menu
  • Intricate details
  • Exceptional presentation
  • Tasting course available
  • Cocktails/Wine bar
  • Complimentary parking
  • Mon-Sun 6:30am – 10:30pm
  • Mon-Sun Lounge: 11am – 12am
  • The Apron – Review/Visit 1
  • The Apron – Persian New Years dinner

**Recommendations: A must try. I highly recommend a 5 ($50), 7 ($70), or 9 ($90) course tasting menu. Only a tasting menu can show the brilliance. But if ordering a la carte I would recommend North Arm Farm Sunchoke Soup, Side Stripe Prawn, Puffed Quebec Foie Gras & Queen Charlotte Sablefish. For dessert, the Shattered Baklava & Glow Haven Cawston Peaches, 24 Hour Baked Apple Tart or The Apron Chocolate Bar. From the new dessert menu the Lindt Single Farm Chocolate & Soil and Shattered Baklava.

The timing for this post could not be more perfect! Obviously inspired by William and Kate’s Royal Wedding, I decided to continue the theme. I’m guessing they didn’t serve their guests “Chocolate and Soil”, and too bad too because they really missed out! I’m no princess, but I sure felt like one as I indulged in these impeccable desserts fit for royalty.

It’s not a secret that I love this restaurant. I’ve been here about five times now in the last couple months and my passion for it only grows stronger with each visit. The Apron is one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets housing one of the greatest chefs I’ve had the honour to come across.

Executive Chef Hamid Salimian is a culinary genius. I feel and taste his passion through every bite and that’s what separates my excellent dinners from my extraordinary ones. What goes on at The Apron is nothing short of extraordinary and it’s a rewarding experience I truly cherish. For my full thoughts on chef and the restaurant please read my first post for The Apron here.

On this occasion I was invited by Tourism Richmond to dine around some of Richmond’s hotels and I just knew The Apron would be on the itinerary. It just had to be.

Don’t even think about stereotyping it as a “hotel restaurant” with “hotel food” because it’s far from. It’s quite evident that hotel restaurants are really stepping up and creating a real identity for themselves separate from the hotel they represent. I don’t want to generalize and say this is a fact for all hotel restaurants, but it’s definitely the fact at The Apron.

The Apron has its own unique style that soars beyond being “that convenient restaurant located inside the hotel”. Instead, I like to say that it is a destination restaurant that can take you further than your passport will allow.

Additional note: The following photos are sample sized portions of their new dessert menu which starts May 14, 2011.

On the table:

North Arm Sunflower Ice Cream – 4/6

  • Freeze dried apple, sunflower seeds, candied sunchoke $10
  • Stunning presentation and an interpretation of the sunflower seed in three ways.
  • This is an acquired dessert and it will be new and unfamiliar to most palates.
  • It is savoury and sweet, non-traditional, well textured and intense with flavour. It almost reminded me of his North Arm Farm Sunchoke Soup, but in dessert form.
  • The sunflower ice cream was savoury, ultra thick, extremely creamy and nutty. It had a very deep and matted flavour that was almost oily like an olive oil ice cream, but of course nutty in the notes.
  • I can’t say the colour was too appetizing, but in a way it has to be expected because of the raw ingredient.
  • The oils of the sunflower seed almost extracted its way out of the cream rather than infusing into it. The shiny gloss was a sign of its intense flavour and richness.
  • The candied sunflower seeds was the sweet component to the dessert, which tricked me nicely. I assumed the ice cream would be sweet and the sunflower seeds salty if anything.
  • The sweetness and crunchy texture of the seeds lightened up the richness of the ice cream and it was more enjoyable together.
  • The freeze dried apples added a nice sweet and tart aspect which also helped round out the flavours.
  • The piece on the left I assume was dehydrated sunflower bread, which again added texture as well as showcasing the sunflower in another light.

**Lindt Single Farm – 6/6

  • Chocolate and soil $10
  • Best. Dirt. Ever. If dirt tasted this good… my dining expenses would be significantly less.
  • It was one of those things that I see on a menu and I don’t even question whether or not it will be good because I trust the chef so much. He understands the palate so well that the more unusual it sounds the more excited I get.
  • Calling it “soil” already makes it sound unappetizing and on top of that he serves it in a clay saucer for flower pots and makes it actually look like dirt. How he manages to get people excited about this… I have no idea. Not only that, but he makes dirt, or I guess “soil”, sophisticated. Truly talented.
  • This was all sorts of wonderful and one of my favourites of the night. It’s one of those desserts where every bite is one you want to savour.

  • It played with all sort of textures which he’s always good at achieving.
  • It was rich, but crumbly, and easy to eat.
  • It was the perfect balance of sweet and bittersweet with a sprinkle of salt and some tartness coming from the freeze fried blueberries and strawberries.
  • There were chunks of ultra soft and creamy Lindt truffle pieces mixed with bittersweet dark chocolate cookie crumbs finished with Maldon salt.
  • You could let it melt while being gladly entertained with the interaction of these crispy cookie crumbs.
  • These aren’t your standard cookie crumbs. It looks like the Dairy Queen ice cream cake chocolate cookie crust, but it tastes nothing like it. It was a gourmet version of that and my guess is that the cookies were Parisian Sable cookies.
  • The cookie crumbs had a very tender and delicate crumb, but the crumbs were crispy which was perhaps coming from the Maldon salt. The salt just opened my palate to enjoy the depth of the variety of chocolates being used.
  • Mixed into the soil were mini white and chocolate crispy balls that I usually put on sundaes. They’re delicious, but I was actually very surprised to see chef use them. They almost seem too easy and I would think he would use cocoa nibs instead.
  • There was a sprinkle of white chocolate powder over top which had a muted flavour unless you ate it alone. It was very finely ground and almost like icing sugar, but not nearly as sweet. It added more for texture rather than flavour and it kept the rest of the ingredients dry.
  • The only moist aspect besides the creamy chunks of Lindt chocolate truffle was also a dollop of whipped cream underneath.
  • I loved the theme of the dish and it had this natural earthy feel which made the fruit components ideal.

Jasmine Rice Pudding 4/6

  • Kalamansi, cilantro, pineapple $10
  • This was very enjoyable, but more of a palate cleanser than a dessert.
  • It was a deconstructed rice pudding and the rice pudding was actually the layer underneath the kalamansi cloud which was almost like an aerated fluffy sorbet.
  • It was a light, pillowy, refreshing sorbet foam with quite the tang from the kalamansi, which is a Filipino orange that tastes similar to a lime. There was also a desired bitterness at the end which was offset by any of the other components.
  • It was topped with a minced pineapple icy sorbet compote (?) and the rice pudding tasted like liquid nitrogen was poured over top so that it almost had a frozen texture, but it wasn’t hard like uncooked rice either.
  • It was very interesting and the combination with the creamy coconut milk it sat in reminded me of a chilled coconut tapioca soup from a Chinese restaurant. The Jasmine flavour was a bit overpowered though and I don’t even recall tasting it very much.
  • Again I loved the attention to textures and the cilantro sugar was wet and moist without being syrupy and sticky. It added the bit of crispy aromatic sweetness which was easily controlled by the person eating it.
  • It was a very Asian inspired dessert with lots of tropical flavours. It’s suitable for people who like tangy refreshing desserts or mild desserts.
  • I would have loved crystallized mint leaves on this, but it was great as is.

**Shattered Baklava – 6/6

  • Chickpea crumble, Babe’s Honey and Rosewater bubble $10
  • This is Chef Hamid’s signature pride and joy dessert. Those are my words, but I’ve had it about five times now with slight variations and it really represents his culture and who he is as a chef. It’s the Iranian version of the baklava.
  • This was very similar to his Shattered Baklava & Glow Haven Cawston Peaches or the Bagh-lava with Akbar Mashdi Ice Cream which I loved just as much.
  • It’s a very delicate, light, aromatic, and lightly sweetened dessert.
  • It has flaky crispy sheets of phyllo like pastry, juicy bursts of aromatic Rosewater bubble gels (keeps phyllo from getting soggy), almond mousse, frozen saffron Pistachio ice cream, sweet ground tea cookies, and then lovely poached apricots that were melt in your mouth creamy.
  • The flavours rosewater, cardamom, and saffron are all very strong, but he uses each ingredient so mildly that it remains balanced, yet still apparent.

  • The almond mousse was very lightly sweetened with a hint of cinnamon and it was in between a mousse and a foam. It wasn’t as rich and creamy as a traditional mousse and with the creme anglaise at the bottom it was a perfect combination for a sauce.
  • The akbar mashdi is a traditional Persian flavour for ice cream and it’s made with rose water, pistachio, saffron, and cardamom. It was aromatic yet refreshing and I only wanted more of it and it was almost like having a frozen spiced ice cream with crunchy pistachios to eat with my poached apricot.
  • The chick pea crumble was amazing. It’s a traditional Persian cookie made with chick peas.
  • The cookies are made in house and it’s completely dry, very nutty like ground almonds, but melts away quite instantly with no real crunch, except for those coming from the sugar granules. It reminded me exactly of the famous Chinese almond cookies from Macau.
  • All the flavours in this dish are very strong, but he uses such a limited amount of each that it ends up being a perfect balance in a dessert.
  • Every texture imaginable was accomplished with this dessert and it will take your taste buds on a tour of the Middle East.

Foie Gras Marshmallows – 5/6

  • Topped with toasted almond powder and quince gelée
  • These were a special treat and I couldn’t help but to eat only one… so I ended up eating 3! Perhaps an acquired taste, but I obviously loved it.
  • This is the most gourmet marshmallow I’ve ever had.
  • It’s not a waste of foie gras, but just an expression of creativity.
  • It reminded me of the sweet version of his savoury Puffed Quebec Foie Gras, which is a must try.
  • They were tender, soft, light and fluffy, yet buttery and creamy melt in your mouth marshmallows.
  • It was home made savoury marshmallows with a hinder of foie gras flavour that you could taste and enjoy through the nose.
  • The hint of quince gelée gave it a nice contrasting tang that made it more like a dessert and the almond powder gave it a nice sweet and powdered texture without making it taste like a Turkish Delight or cheap candy.
  • It was a savoury and sweet balance and I’d like to toast it and eat it along side fresh figs and a drizzle of Babe’s honey.
  • Light in texture, but rich in flavour. I think even the Queen would approve!

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