C Restaurant – Northern Divine Caviar Dinner (Sustainable caviar)

Restaurant: C Restaurant – Northern Divine Caviar Dinner
Cuisine: Seafood/Fine Dining/West Coast/Pacific Northwest
Last visited: June 28, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: #2 – 1600 Howe Street
Price Range: $50+ ($235 for Caviar dinner)

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

Food: 5 (for Caviar dinner)
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 5
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • Kambolis Restaurant Group
  • Fine dining
  • West Coast/Pacific Northwest cuisine
  • Seasonal menus
  • Local ingredients
  • Award winning
  • Leader in sustainable seafood
  • Specializes in seafood
  • Executive Chef Robert Clark
  • Oceanfront view
  • Heated patio
  • Award winning wine list
  • Ocean Wise
  • Weekend brunch – see here
  • Dinner Daily from 5pm

**Recommendations: n/a

Caviar. It even sounds pretentious. Considered a delicacy around the world, it is known to be one of the highest forms of edible luxury. Often considered a guilty indulgence, I’m proud to announce that “caviar returns, with a conscience”. After removing it from the menu for years, C Restaurant is now offering a five course caviar dinner featuring Northern Divine caviar – The Canadian Caviar that is 100% sustainable and Ocean Wise. This is their first launch at any restaurant in Canada.

Caviar comes from either salmon or sturgeon, and the most exquisite will come from sturgeon, also known as black caviar. Northern Divine is Canada’s only producer of farmed white sturgeon and it’s not only what they’re offering, but what they’re practicing that is revolutionary.

The fish are raised on the Sunshine Coast in fresh and clean water tanks with water that derives from a small creek and wells on the land. They’re fed a low fat feed diet and even the waste they produce go towards local compost and their staff vegetable gardens. Their initiatives are admirable and the product produced is nothing short of Divine, literally and figuratively.
The caviar produced is distinctly different to what I’ve tried in the past. For black caviar it’s a bit larger in size and the eggs are plump, and the texture is smooth, and just slightly creamy in flavour and mouthfeel. They don’t carry a crunch or a pop since they’re not soaked in borax, which is a preservative used in some French and Iranian caviars. Besides acting as a preservative it’s apparently supposed to lend itself to enhancing caviar flavours too. Borax is illegal in the US, and this caviar is clear of it.

Northern Divine Caviar is very delicate in flavour because they use less salt in the curing process. This also means the shelf life is likely shorter and the price likely higher. As a result the flavour is very natural, isn’t as salty, and much milder with a fresh and clean finish on the palate. There is no fishy taste at all, which is actually desired in a caviar of this kind. It’s likely due to the highly controlled environment and natural food production process required to keep it sustainable.

This is a bit of a princess post and I feel incredibly fortunate to be invited to this exquisite caviar dinner at C Restaurant prepared by Chef de Cuisine Lee Humphries. The last time I indulged in this much caviar was at the caviar buffet at the Lemon Garden Cafe at The Shangri-La Hotel in Malaysia – see here. When I say “indulge” it doesn’t mean I ate bowls of it, as caviar is something that needs to be enjoyed in pearl shell teaspoons at a time.

This five course caviar dinner revolves around Northern Divine Caviar and it’s $235 without wine pairings… and I think I just heard a pin drop. Yes, it is caviar, and it’s sustainable, which also means it comes with a price. However with such a beautiful product in the hands of a fine dining seafood restaurant, there is an expectation that the experience will rise above the price.

The value is likely going to cross anyone’s mind, and especially if you’re considering on trying it, so let me help put things into perspective. For 30g of Northern Divine Caviar it’s $104 and 250g it is $850. So is it expensive? Most definitely! But, this is considered one of the creme de la cremes of white sturgeon caviar, and if you’re a caviar connoisseur you probably won’t be surprised at the numbers.
The dinner really is all about the caviar and it does come with an appropriate and acceptable amount in relation to the value of the menu. It’s showcased somewhat simply, as you kind of want it to be, but there are a couple surprises that I didn’t expect. It was undeniably delicious and what it lacks in volume it definitely makes up in flavour. It’s one of those dinners where every course is almost as rich as the last and it will satisfy your caviar cravings in more forms than one. A true caviar connoisseur will notice the distinct qualities of Northern Divine caviar which is as unforgettable as the dinner. But for $235 you’re likely not to forget it anyways.

Note: The professional photos with the white frame are courtesy of Hamid Attie.

On the table:

Complimentary Bread & Butter

  • I really love their house made breads here, and they’re different every time.
  • It was served warm (not all the time) with three daily varieties (all the time). This time it was a white baguette, multi-grain baguette, and my favourite seaweed bread.
  • The seaweed bread is my favourite, but they make it different each time. Always good though.
  • It’s a buttery seaweed bread that’s somewhat sweeter and more like a loaf. It’s super tender, soft, crumbly and moist with chewy bits of seaweed throughout and lots of white sesame seeds to give it texture and nutty flavour. I’m pretty sure it used to have walnuts, but they changed it now.
  • It’s almost like cornbread and last time I said butter isn’t necessary, but I changed my mind.
  • It was fantastic with the creamy whipped smoked sea salt butter, which gives it the savoury factor it needs. Sometimes the butter is chilled and harder though.

Champagne Delamotte – Champagne is quite a popular pairing for caviar and it kept the flavours light, fresh and crisp, just like the caviar.

Kumamoto Oyster and Cucumber with Northern Divine Caviar – 6/6

  • With olive oil and cucumber sorbet and micro Dijon.
  • It felt more like an amuse bouche than a course, although the value of ingredients is probably equivalent to 2 appetizers a la carte.
  • This initial course dallied with my taste buds and prepared me for this exceptional caviar dinner.
  • The sorbet was an incredible match and it was sweet and fruity in the initial notes, followed by refreshing cucumber and then the salty brine of the oyster and richness of the caviar.
  • It was light, cold and crisp especially with the champagne and I was left with an equally crisp finish from the cucumber aroma.
  • It was subtly salty, initially and predominantly sweet, and I’d be satisfied having it as an amuse bouche or a last course. Simply amazing.

Heidi Schrock Weissburgunder – This was my favourite pairing of the night. It’s a pinot blanc with a nice acidity, but it was also quite rich and it rounded up all the flavours of the buttery egg spread perfectly without overpowering it.

Scrambled Egg 6/6

  • Smoked Hawkshaw salmon, Northern Divine Caviar, Brioche
  • This was breakfast for dinner and for royalty. The only thing that could make it better would be having it in bed… or a cloud.
  • The brioche was no regular brioche, but it was deep fried in duck fat, so it was brioche confit. He also offers this duck confit brioche for brunch – see House Special Eggs Benedict.
  • This was a do it yourself “eggs on toast”.
  • Caviar with eggs is also a tradition that never gets old.

  • The eggs were scrambled with lots of butter and the texture was so creamy and almost smooth that it tasted like creamy mashed egg puree with a nice fluidity.
  • The scrambled egg spread was lightly seasoned and the caviar played its role as the salt.
  • The caviar is mildly salty and together with the egg it had a melt in your mouth creamy consistency.
  • The smoked salmon gave it a desired fishiness and faint smokiness that didn’t overpower the caviar.
  • There was also some smoked sea salt on the side, which I did find helped to bring out the natural yet subtle saltiness in the caviar.

  • The spread was quite rich, but what made it richer was the decadent brioche it was served with.
  • It was a crispy bite with creamy spread mixed with pearls of caviar that rolled nicely on the tongue.
  • The aroma of duck fat enhanced the ingredients beautifully making it richer and stronger in flavour than it already was.
  • The duck fat aroma was strong and equally as important as the seafood flavours.
  • It had great textures and I could taste every ingredient used. Bravo to this course!

Saint Aubin “Cuvee Thomas” Latour-Labille – This was a rich and intense chardonnay that carried quite the spice in the end notes.

Pan Seared Sablefish with Pomme Fondant5/6

  • Creamed leeks, caviar-lobster hollandaise
  • This was incredibly rich and it easily could have been the main course, and I actually would have preferred it as the main.
  • Both components were very rich and heavy in flavours and I wanted a pickled or tangy component on the side just to balance the course out.
  • It was a very small piece of airy, light, and lightly battered lobster tempura, and it did come a bit unnoticed or secondary with everything else going on around it.
  • The pomme fondant was lightly pan fried and infused with buttery flavour throughout. The texture was fluffy, yet creamy but I wish the exterior was pan fried crispier.
  • It sat on a bed of creamed leeks and onions which were the sweet component, but this was quite buttery and rich so as a whole it was pretty much equally as rich as the pan seared sablefish.
  • Personally I’d rather have the lobster not deep fried, and a lemony infused potato rather than a buttery one especially if it was going to be served over creamed leeks.
  • I also wouldn’t mind swamping the sauces since the caviar-lobster hollandaise was almost overpowering for the sablefish.

  • Sable fish is one of my favourites fish even though it’s incredibly easy to execute due to its naturally oily and fatty content.
  • It was a decent piece of sable fish with crispy skin which I love.
  • It flaked away easily and was incredibly juicy and moist and its natural oils were oozing on my plate before I even started.
  • It was topped with an incredibly rich, thick, creamy, and indulgent hollandaise sauce made with egg yolks, butter, lemon and lobster tomalley. There was also some chili and Worcestershire sauce, but both came unnoticed and it wasn’t spicy, but wonderfully savoury and zesty.
  • The hollandaise was quite tangy and it carried a seafood flavour, but it wasn’t as distinct in lobster flavour. It didn’t have a lobster crustacean flavour, but it still celebrated its aroma.
  • This was honestly the richest hollandaise sauce I’ve ever had. The only way it could be heavier is if it was drizzled with duck fat.
  • The caviar gave it great texture, but the flavour of it was quite lost so I felt it was a bit wasted.
  • The caviar was supposed to be the star of the show, but the lobster hollandaise ended up sharing the stage and it even sang louder in the duet.
  • I kind of felt bad for eating all of this cholesterol heavy sauce, but then I reached for the bread and wiped my plate clean with it. It was too good to waste.
  • Although very enjoyable, I could have really used a palate cleanser or a nap after this.

Frozen Ice Belvedere – Instead I got special edition Belvedere. I guess it could play a role as a palate cleanser, but what I needed was probably that olive oil and cucumber sorbet from the first course. Ice cold vodka is the traditional Russian pairing for caviar and it couldn’t have suited the next course better. It was simple, clean, and didn’t get in the way of any flavours.

Northern Divine Caviar with Potato Blini5/6

  • Traditional Garnish
  • This is the most traditional way of enjoying caviar, and it should be a required course for any caviar dinner.
  • It’s one bite wonders of divine decadence in its purest form. It’s the best way to enjoy caviar for many.
  • This was a very simple course, and although I could appreciate it, I do wish it came before the sablefish and I would have preferred more creative garnishes.
  • This was the main course and although it looks small in volume, it makes up in rich flavours and ingredients. I still found the sablefish richer though.

Top row (left to right): Red onion, hard boiled egg whites, hard boiled egg yolks
Middle row (left to right): Green onions, lemons, smashed fresh caper berries
Bottom row (left to right): Lemonade foam, creme fraiche, pickles

  • I do enjoy traditional caviar garnishes, but since this was a method of enjoying caviar at home, I was hoping for something a bit more creative for fine dining.
  • There were 9 selections and I would have preferred fewer selections of unique house made garnishes, perhaps more along the lines of the lemonade foam, which was the most exciting for me.
  • Many would snoot at my idea, but for me, a lemonade foam, champagne foam, grapefruit foam, tarragon foam, and creme fraiche (which I think is a must), would be an exquisite way to enjoy this.
  • It’s not that I love foam, but it doesn’t bother me and it isn’t something I’d attempt at home, and it worked incredibly well with the caviar.

This is when I tasted the purity of Northern Divine Caviar the most. Always served in a glass (or crystal) and always with a pearl spoon.

  • The traditional Russian way of enjoying them is with potato blini, which are mini potato pancakes. They were soft and fluffy with little bits of diced potato throughout.
  • The combination of garnishes I personally liked the best was creme fraiche with the lemonade foam.
  • The creme fraiche gave it a creamy rich base and the lemonade foam gave the savoury caviar a sweet and citrusy accent while allowing it to shine.

This was a bit of a surprise. Chef  brought out a New Brunswick caviar they had on stock for comparisons sake. I almost feel like this was an initiative that should have been made in the beginning because it really showed a distinct contrast and made you appreciate the wonders of the Northern Divine caviar even more. This caviar was distinctly fishy and almost muddy in flavour and the texture was quite creamy and I really wasn’t feeling it after the Northern Divine caviar.

Banyuls – This dessert wine was a deep red colour and it was full of dark chocolatey flavours, plum notes, and a bit of a bitterness.

Chocolate Tasting 3.5/6

  • The chocolate used in all components actually tasted the same, so it wasn’t much of a “chocolate tasting” as much as it was chocolate interpreted in three ways or textures.
  • Chocolate Mousse
    • The chocolate mousse was very decadent, rich and creamy and it was much thicker than I expected. It was sweeter and it wasn’t completely smooth.
    • There were little bits of soft chocolate throughout and I’m not sure if it was intentional.
    • It was dense rather than fluffy and I personally prefer it to be lighter so I can build up towards the richer chocolate truffle at the end.
    • The gels were orange caviar and they were a bit chewy and pasty and I was hoping for a fresh flavour. They’re interpreted with molecular gastronomy and I’ve never been a huge fan of them. If they were using molecular gastronomy I wish they were interpreted as gel liquids, which are bubbles that carry a burst of juicy liquid.
  • Chocolate Brownie
    • The brownie was the least sweet of the three. It was bittersweet and topped with bittersweet cocoa powder and the texture was a bit dry and crumbly for me.
    • It would have been delicious if this was a chocolate bar with a crispy hazelnut wafer crust.

  • Chocolate Truffle
    • This was incredibly decadent, thick, rich, and creamy as well.
    • The chocolate truffle was soft and rolled in sugar and I personally hoped it was going to be filled with Kalamansi… Im referring to the Kalamansi Explosion. I really needed something citrusy to break up the richness.
    • It sat on a rich layer of chocolate ganache pate on a tender shortbread cookie crust which made for nice texture.
    • The ganache was served with a very tangy and very sweet caramelized orange sauce which I’m not really keen on, but it did give me the tang I needed.
  • This plate was made for chocoholics, and as much as I love chocolate, I could have finished this caviar dinner with three more of those Kumamoto Oysters with Olive oil and Cucumber Sorbet from the first course. As a dessert, with or without the caviar, but of course life is always better with it.

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