The Apron – Persian New Years Dinner

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/Fusion/International/Eclectic/Fine Dining
Last visited: February 28, 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:

  • The Apron – Visit 1
  • 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 – Dessert Menu (Summer dessert menu)
  • See Hamid’s Persian Tasting Menu at Diva at the Met.

**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.

“It was food that told a story. Food that showed where it came from, why it was there, and where it was heading. Food that led me to cultures I love, while bringing me to ones I never knew existed. Food that showed an appreciation for the past, yet exemplified an excitement for the future. It was food that was led by science yet expressed a celebration of art. It not only stimulated my mind, but it changed my palate and captured my heart with every bite. It was an experience that left me emotionally touched and inspired.” – Me, from The Apron 4.11.11

I know I just made a post on The Apron a couple days ago, and for how I really feel about it please read my introduction here. I’ve actually been to The Apron four times in the last two months and I already hold it close to my heart. The food here is not about being good, but about what it represents and it’s appreciated for reasons beyond flavour. It’s truly a place that deserves all the attention it can get.

I talked about Executive Chef Hamid Salimian as a culinary genius and he certainly has the world renowned recognition in the industry. Now it’s only a matter of people actually experiencing this restaurant since it is considered a hidden gem in Richmond despite housing one of Vancouver’s greatest and best chefs.

I know that I’m also a little bit late with this post since Persian New Years is now over, but it doesn’t mean the food shouldn’t be celebrated. I mentioned that Chef Hamid is Persian and that he tends to honour his roots through the dishes he creates. So when Chef notified me that his Persian New Years tasting menu was being featured I was honoured to be invited to the cultural celebration. I made it on the last day the menu was being offered and it’s really unfortunate that I wasn’t able to post this before it ended. However The Apron’s regular menu does offer variations of some of the dishes I tried from the Persian New Year’s menu so you can still get a similar experience.

I can’t say I’m too familiar with Persian cuisine, although I have tried a few restaurants and home cooked meals. The Apron is not a Persian restaurant, but there’s a lot of Middle Eastern influences already on the regular menu. The Persian tasting menu used authentic flavours with French technique, modern execution and molecular gastronomy while paying tribute to the traditional dishes. It was all very Hamid in style and presentation and my friend said it best when she told him “your grandmother would be proud”. And to be honest, my grandmother would be proud and I don’t even think she knows what Persian food is!

Despite this menu being no longer available they do offer excellent daily tasting menus at 5 courses $50, 7 courses for $70, and 9 courses for $90 – see here for my in depth post on one. I would highly recommend any of them and it’s the only way to get an idea of what they can really do. I personally feel they are incredibly worth it.

On the table:

Tasting Menu – 9 courses $70

Abedogh Kiar5/6

  • Yogurt, cucumber, mint, wild flower
  • This was a teaser and terrific palate cleanser to begin a Persian tasting menu.
  • I thought it was a poached egg at first, but it was actually yogurt with liquid nitrogen poured over top so it was a frozen hard shell with a hollow inside. I’ve never seen anything like it.
  • It was a frozen yogurt igloo shell placed on top of compressed cucumbers, dehydrated mint leaves and a salad of rehydrated raisins and preserved walnuts.
  • This was amazing, aromatic yet subtle in flavours, light, refreshing, cooling and just beautiful in presentation and concept.
  • It was almost like eating a mojito meets coarsely chopped frozen chutney salad.
  • The compressed cucumbers were concentrated with fresh cucumber juice and their sweetness was enhanced by plump juicy raisins.
  • The preserved walnuts were wet and somewhat chewy adding a moist nuttiness and protein to the whole dish.
  • The dressing was the tangy frozen yogurt igloo that was much like sorbet and combined with the mint leaves it was simply refreshing.
  • At times the igloo was a bit bitter and I feel like there was a hint of champagne in it because it was fizzy as it melted away on the tongue and the bubbles just awoke my palate.

Gaote6/6

  • Pita, preserved walnut, basil, feta
  • Every Persian meal starts with some cheese and bread with lots of herbs, and this was Chef’s interpretation of that tradition.
  • It was very delicate and feathery light, with limited amounts of strong flavours, so it was all very earthy, fresh and well textured.
  • It was salty and sweet, crumbly, yet moist and almost like crumbling a cheese and bread platter and making it into a salad like dish.
  • A traditional Persian bread is called Sangak and I had it at Commune Cafe. On this plate the Sangak was interpreted in 2 ways.
  • The first Sangak was paper thin baked sheets which were similar to phyllo sheets, but made with whole wheat flour so it was nuttier rather than buttery.

  • The second was more like a stuffing. The Sangak pita tasted like a nutty turkey stuffing with sweet raisins, salty bites of Feta and I think a hint of mushroom consomme to keep the pita moist and bound together. It had a great savoury and sweet balance and the fresh herbs kept it light.
  • The plate was drizzled with some honey drops and a sweet and sticky Mehjool date on the side which was the perfect compliment to the stuffing.

Salad-E-Olivieh 5.5/6

  • Poached chicken, fingerling potatoes, green olives
  • This is actually an interpretation of a Russian salad and I’ve had the pleasure of trying home made ones from a talented Ukrainian friend.
  • The poached chicken comes really unnoticed and there’s a slight hindrance of its dark meat flavour, but it’s definitely not the prominent flavour in the dish.
  • It’s a very tangy salad and it tasted the best all mixed together, although each part was great separately.
  • It was almost like a potato and egg salad with pickled cucumbers, freeze dried peas, popcorn powder and potato chips on top which gave it the crispy texture to break up all the creaminess.

  • It was all types of creamy, crispy, crunchy and feathery and the flavours were mainly tangy withe a mustard, lemon and tarragon mayo which held all the ingredients together.
  • The green olives was the dehydrated frozen brown powder in the centre. It was chilled and turned into liquid which melted away on the tongue. It tasted like an intense salty tapenade and it left quite an impression on the palate. It was incredibly unique.
  • I loved all the dry textures going on in powdered form, freeze fried form and dehydrated form.
  • I think the red powder was a paprika and it added a slight smokiness, but no spice.
  • Nothing was overpowering and just incredibly well played especially when mixed together.

Kookoo Sabzi5/6

  • Salmon, seville orange, sunchoke
  • This was delicious, but I couldn’t find the flow in components and it almost felt like it was two dishes.
  • The salmon, seville orange, sunchoke puree and mixed herb puree were a lovely medley, but the kookoo sabzi seemed out of place, and it was the main focus.
  • I enjoyed the kookoo sabzi better on its own because I found it overwhelmed the salmon.
  • The kookoo sabzi was the black mound of rolled paste that looked like a meatball, but it’s a Persian herb frittata made with mixed herbs and egg.
  • The texture was of shredded meat, but the flavour was sharp and very tangy and it was almost like eating stewed and pickled herbs compacted into a paste. It seemed like very broken down and wilted scallions, dill and cilantro.
  • There was lots of tangy Barberries (similar to dried cranberries) and walnut crumbs in the kookoo sabzi, but it was predominantly quite sour, smoky and slightly bitter from the charred herbs, which was intentional.
  • The salmon was buttery and made sous vide and tasted like it was confit. It melted away and the salmon skin was lightly battered and fried into crispy salmon skin twigs which were delicious.
  • The seville orange foam was the most intense orange foam I’ve tried and the orange segments and zest were infused throughout. It just brightened up the salmon and was almost a sweet citrus palate cleanser.
  • I loved how the fresh mixed herb puree and the kookoo sabzi were contradicting components that seemed to show the use of fresh herbs from Western and Eastern perspectives.

Mirza Ghasemi 6/6

  • Sablefish, octopus, eggplant, tomato
  • This was my favourite of the mains and that’s because I love sablefish and I especially love the sablefish here. See the sablefish on the regular menu here.
  • It seemed like a very Mediterranean dish, but the eggplant and tomato stew is very Persian.
  • The sablefish is moist and flaky, but it’s not necessarily the juiciest or most moist I’ve ever had, but the top is what it amazing.
  • It has this thin fish and chip like batter and it imitates the skin of the sable fish and it’s so light it almost just pops. I did love the sable fish on the regular menu better though – see here.
  • The octopus was made confit and incredibly soft, tender, yet meaty with the seafood squid-like flavour still remaining. It was a bite of beautiful.

  • The eggplant was interpreted in 2 ways: the deep fried crisp and then the charcoal puree or paste.
  • The charcoal puree had a lovely burnt flavour that was addicting and it was wonderfully smokey and creamy with a slightly bitter after taste that was pleasant.
  • The eggplant was also incorporated with tomatos into a stew with onions and it was similar to a ratatouille. It was tangy and sweet and all very Mediterranean.
  • There was a fantastic fennel salad on the side as a palate cleanser to the smokey flavours and it had a subtle licorice flavour that complemented the dish well.

Fesenjan 5/6

  • Slow cooked duck leg, orange, pomegranate
  • This was another Persian take on the duck confit offered on the regular menu – see here.
  • It was very similar in style, but the walnut, pomegranate, orange, cinnamon and cardamom puree sauce didn’t seem as salty this time which is good.
  • It’s incredibly aromatic and the sharp tang of the pomegranate and warm scent of the cinnamon hit your nose immediately.
  • The crispy sheets of buckwheat on top and crumbs of buckwheat powder and Rye crumble led a nutty texture and crispy accent.
  • The Rye crumble tasted like Rye bread crumbs and mini rice cereal balls mixed with warm spices such as cinnamon and I think 5 spice powder, cumin, ground ginger, and cloves. It was generously sprinkled on top giving the duck a crispy and powdery texture and smoky and earthy warm flavour.
  • Duck and cinnamon is a wonderful combination since duck is already quite sweet and there was enough tang to contrast all the sweetness.
  • The sauce isn’t as nutty as you would think and it would be near impossible to guess what it was made of it you didn’t know. It was almost like a thick and creamy molasses with cinnamon, but it was predominantly sour with pomegranate, vinegar and slightly sweet pureed Mehjool dates.
  • The duck leg was confit and extra crispy with a very thin layer of creamy buttery fat that was just enough to not be overindulgent. The skin was almost like fish and chip batter meets roasted sucking pig and it was delicious. The meat shred incredibly easily and it was nice and savoury and almost flakey and nicely cured.
  • The duck breast was tender and sous vide, but it could have been juicier.
  • I found the pomegranate sauce a bit overwhelming for the duck, but I did enjoy the two together if you found the right balance of each.
  • I loved the powdered crumbs of buckwheat and the Rye crumble. The texture it gave the duck was so unique and the buckwheat crisps almost played their role as crispy skin for the duck breast.

Ghormeh Sabzi 4/6

  • Lamb, red bean, parsley, stone dry lime, basmati rice
  • This dish is available on the regular menu (see here) and it’s Chef’s pride and joy as it represents his culture. It can be considered a national dish of Iran.
  • This is perhaps one of the most typical and traditional Persian stews and I’ve actually tried it on a couple occasions prior to this.
  • It was an honest representation of what it was, although presented completely unique and different.
  • This was a deconstructed Ghormeh Sabzi so when the stew is made at home all the ingredients you see and incorporated together. Therefore it’s almost best to mix this dish.
  • The dish is a bit acquired and suitable to people who can tolerate sour flavours that can come across as quite mucky.
  • The lamb neck was braised and compressed into a terrine and it was incredibly juicy and buttery with layers of melt in your mouth tendons that are slightly gelatinous, but not chewy or distracting. I think it was sous vide for 12 hours (no joke).
  • Lamb neck is very difficult to get this tender, and one of my favourites was the Chef’s Special Lobster & Gnocchi with Lamb Neck from Ebo Restaurant.
  • The lamb neck was topped with stone dry lime, which is usually made together in a stew, but the tartness and saltiness of the stone dry lime was a bit overpowering for the lamb.
  • The thin slices of lamb tenderloin were also sous vide and medium rare, but it was a bit chewy. I’m glad it wasn’t gamey though, but the chewiness kind of caught me off guard.
  • The stone dry lime is acquired and it’s a very sour, smoky and earthy Persian stew made with limes and mixed herbs with a slight bitterness in the aftertaste. It’s purse your lips sour and it’s supposed to be like that.
  • It’s an creamy yet airy puree of strong flavours coming from spinach, dill, parsley, cilantro and herbs with lots of lemon/lime juice, and usually the meat is stewed into it.
  • I have to note that if any chef can get me to love red bean, it’s this one. This isn’t the Chinese red bean though.

  • This red bean was savoury and tangy with olives and coriander pureed into the mixture. Red beans are usually added whole into the lime stew, but in this modern version it was almost like a pommes puree.
  • It was velvety smooth and creamy and delicious as a side or a sauce. For me, it played it’s roll controlling the sourness from the stone dry lime puree next to it, which could get very overwhelming and overly sour.
  • Mixing the two sauces together and dipping the lamb into it was the perfect balance of tang from the lime, savoury from the meat and sweet from the beans.
  • The starch of the beans also helped round all the flavour up and almost bind it all together.
  • Besides the lamb neck one of the most memorable parts was the caramelized and roasted young garlic and pearl onion.
  • The young garlic was so sweet and juicy like a smokey caramelized green onion that still had a slight crunchy and flaky charred exterior. It was surprisingly very memorable, for being so simple.
  • The pearl onion just popped in my mouth and it was like a burst of honey liquid. I could have eaten these like popcorn.
  • The toasted cous cous was good and nutty with some preserved lemon parsley.
  • The rice was good and nutty, but I love the traditional Persian rice which almost has a crispy crust, but in this modern version I can’t expect that.
  • It’s very sour in flavours, honest to Persian flavours and the national dish, but a modern take.

Faloodeh 5/6

  • Lime, rice noodle, rose water
  • This is a very typical Persian dessert or street snack, that I’ve tried once before.
  • It was almost like a Japanese sunomono in citrus and dessert form.
  • It’s very refreshing, cooling and a perfect palate cleanser after all the strong and robust flavours.
  • It’s usually eaten in the summer to cool off in Indian and Middle Eastern countries.
  • It almost brings you back to the first dish so a full circle was made with a revisit of where it all began.
  • It was like eating light and frozen airy icy clouds with a subtle infusion of aromatic rose water.
  • This was complemented with lime sorbet which was refreshing and combined with the rose water it was almost like a floral zest. The rose water was used very subtly.
  • The clear vermicelli noodles I’ve had in Indian desserts and it doesn’t add any flavour to dish, but it gives interesting texture.
  • There was also a citrus caviar sprinkled on top which were frozen individual segments of orange, lime, grapefruit and possibly lemon. This all just enhanced the aromatic and refreshing quality of the dish and added that fruity sweetness to complement the rose.
  • It was sprinkled with some shaved pistachio flakes and I would have loved actually pistachios in here too for something crunchy.

Bagh-lava with Akbar Mashdi Ice Cream6/6

  • Almond mousse, chickpea crumble, house preserved okanagan apricots
  • This was very similar to his Shattered Baklava & Glow Haven Cawston Peaches, which I loved just as much on the regular menu. I think it’s replaced with this one now, but they’re very similar.
  • It’s a very delicate, light and lightly sweetened dessert.
  • It has flaky crispy sheets of phyllo like pastry, juicy bursts of honey apricot syrup gels (keeps phyllo from getting soggy), almond mousse, frozen saffron Pistachio ice cream, sweet ground tea cookies, and then a lovely apricot puree that was almost stringy and creamy.

  • 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, 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 to eat with my apricot puree.
  • 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 was the perfect ending to a Persian New Year menu.

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