Restaurant: La Belle Auberge
Cuisine: French/Fine Dining
Last visited: June 23, 2011
Location: Delta, BC (Ladner)
Address: 4856 48 Ave
Price Range: $50+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 5.5 – 6
- Award winning
- Authentic French
- World Champion Chef Bruno G. Marti
- Executive Chef Tobias MacDonald
- Fine dining
- Hidden gem
- 4 star restaurant
- Top Rated Zagat Restaurant
- Cooking classes
- Tues-Sat from 6 pm
- La Belle Auberge – Review/Visit 1
**Recommendations: Global Chef’s Menu, Seared Foie Gras with Apple Tart Tatin, Do It Yourself Spring Roll, Wenzel Farms Roasted Duck Breast & Panko Crusted Duck Confit, Slow Cooked Lamb Sirloin marinated with Dijon, Kalamansi Explosion
It was a long time waiting, but after three months of postponing with the girls from Tourism Richmond, our dinner date finally arrived. It was a trek out into the real suburbs of Vancouver and it’s not even in the “downtown” area of the suburb, but in the residential area. It was a return to La Belle Auberge and a return to greatness – see my first visit here.
Charming is probably an understatement for this thirty year old hidden gem in Ladner, BC. Just to refresh the memory La Belle Auberge is the top rated Zagat Restaurant in Metro Vancouver, one of four Mobil Exxon 4-stars in Vancouver, and led by culinary world masters chef and owner Bruno Marti and Executive Chef Tobias MacDonald. It is a world renowned and multiple award winning restaurant, and as much as it’s a “best kept secret” it really shouldn’t be as it has much to show off. It is in a class and even area of its own.
It’s located in a 100 year old Victorian style heritage home. Pulling up to the driveway and stepping into the homey atmosphere reminded me of restaurants like Le Gavroche, Lupo Restaurant + Vinoteca, Old Surrey Restaurant, The Hart House Restaurant and Mis Trucos. It’s very intimate and cozy with an Old English feel and it serves classic French cuisine made with traditional French techniques. There’s also a few courses with West Coast and Pacific Northwest influences, but it is generally French throughout.
I felt like Belle from Beauty and the Beast and the last time that happened was at my visit to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Las Vegas – see here. Well since I was walking through a secret garden instead of corridors I actually felt more like Alice from Alice in Wonderland.
I walked into the doll house and then I felt like Rory Gilmore from the Gilmore Girls visiting Grandma at the mansion. With prestigious culinary awards decorating each corner, “don’t touch” memorabilia, and the music of a symphony orchestra playing in the background, I immediately straightened up my posture. It is no place for a Mad Hatter.
Whether you deem this atmosphere as quaint or pretentious, it’s worth the visit and drive if you value the talent of culinary legends. I must add that I did not expect to see Bruno Marti this evening and when he popped out of nowhere to greet each table, I almost fainted. It was an honour.
My timing could not have been better. My eyes lit up with excitement as I noticed that the featured tasting course was Chef Tobias MacDonald’s award winning Global Chef’s Menu. It’s a 4 course menu for $100 and only offered for a limited of time. It is quite pricey, but it also includes a grand amuse bouche, palate cleanser and foie gras for an additional $10. So it’s almost a 7 course for $100 (without the foie… but get the foie).
This menu made my heart weak, figuratively and literally. I felt like eating a bar of soap to reduce my size at the end (Alice in Wonderland reference), but it was so incredibly worth it. I’m so in love with this menu and I could barely pick out the flavours in anything because it was so complex, yet presented rather simply and elegantly. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the components of the food, and I was in awe in how developed all the flavours were.
Honestly I’m a bit intimidated talking about this menu. It has already won Gold in the WACS Global Chef’s Challenge and Tobias is already going to be representing the continental Americas at the World Championship in May 2012 in Daejon, Korea.
So where does a foodie like me stand in all this? Well easy, I don’t. And that’s why I took a seat, closed my eyes and let my senses guide me through a gastronomical experience around the globe. I now present to you the award winning Global Chef’s menu from Chef Tobias MacDonald himself.
Before I get there though, one more note! Chef Tobias has actually been on the same team with Chef Hamid Salimian as they represented Canada in world culinary competitions. Chef Hamid is the Executive Chef at one of my favourite restaurants The Apron. It’s no surprise to see some aspects of their cooking styles cross over. They have trained with culinary masters and also train up and coming young chefs in Vancouver.
On the table:
The wine list in not extensive, but they keep a few selections that generally go well with the style of food they serve. We ended up taking the 2009 J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay ($45) which was bright, crisp and citrusy and great for the warmer weather. It was balanced with acidity and sweetness and it wasn’t too dry, but it played well as a starter wine and went best with the Halibut wrapped with Side Striped Shrimp.
- It’s not the rustic, chewy, crusty, traditional French baguette one might expect.
- It’s served warm with a creamy whipped butter and the middle of the baguette is soft and fluffy.
- If this is any indication of what their Braised Shortrib with Potato Foam & Tomato Confit appetizer is like, I would very likely order it a la carte as well.
- This was amazing! It was a mini pot of diced braised beef short rib with little bits of tender bacon and juicy mushrooms. It’s covered with gravy, topped with an indulgent, rich, and creamy smooth layer of potato foam, and drizzled with herb infused oil.
- This one had no tomato confit, but it was two bites of what seemed like the most amazing Shepherd’s Pie.
- The beef was melt in your mouth tender and graced with this potato foam that was more like a buttery pommes puree. It’s almost like a creamy rich melted potato sauce.
- It was absolutely decadent with little pieces of juicy sweet mushrooms and a natural beef au jus gravy reduced with some red wine so it was almost stew like.
- This was only the beginning too!
- Goat Cheese Terrine with Apple and Blackberry Gelée, Cured Smoked Salmon, Potato Wrapped Prawn, Seared Scallop, Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
- The amuse bouche was quite grand and the plating of the platter gradually increased in heavier proteins and flavours.
- Goat Cheese Terrine with Apple and Blackberry Gelée - 6/6 – This was my personal favourite on the platter. It was a creamy, rich goat cheese mousse and it wasn’t too gamey, but well balanced with a tangy and sweet fresh fruit gelée. I could taste each layer and the cheese was whipped lightly, but the flavours were distinct and almost dessert like. It was a fruit and cheese platter in one decadent bite.
- Cured Smoked Salmon – 3/6 - The salmon wasn’t actually that salty or smoky, and it was cured with a hint of grainy mustard. Since it was so mild, it was actually lovely eaten with the goat cheese terrine too.
- Potato Wrapped Prawn – 4.5/6 – This was delicious and I wish they made ebi mayo like this. It was a prawn wrapped in a shoe string potato chip and it was crunchier than any Panko, breaded, or flour batter. It was served with a tangy aioli that looked like mustard, but the flavour was lemony.
- Seared Scallop with Avocado – 4/6 – It was a tender and buttery scallop that was seared crispy on both sides. It sat on a bed of minced avocado and I actually found the flavours quite mild and simple. It was generous to see a scallop served as an amuse bouche.
- Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin – 5/6 - The pork was tender (perhaps sous vide) and there was a crunch of sauteed apple underneath to give it some sweet and tangy flavour. The bacon came rather unnoticed but there was also a layer of pork and herb pate on top. I could even taste some mint and lime infused into one of the components and it was much more complex than it seemed.
- Pastry crusted halibut with brown butter sauce, golden beet with red curry lobster oil, build your own pork belly summer spring roll.
- I was ecstatic to see the spring roll since it was one of my favourites from last time – see Do It Yourself Spring Roll.
- It does catch me off guard to have an item that requires hands at a fine dining restaurant though.
- This was an Euro-Asian inspired plate and it kept tricking me into looking for Asian seasonings even though they may not have been in every component.
- The only thing that didn’t taste like it had an Asian aspect to it was the Halibut wrapped with Side Striped Shrimp.
- This is one of the few times Asian fusion or “modern Asian” has been done exceptionally well for me.
- Pastry crusted halibut with brown butter sauce – 5/6
- It was a tender piece of halibut topped with a pastry crisp made of shredded deep fried phyllo strands. It was almost like a crispy potato chip.
- It sat on a bed of garlic sauteed spinach surrounded with a brown butter sauce that was wonderfully savoury and even nutty. It reminded me of the Japanese goma-ae.
- It was a creamy brown butter gravy like sauce. It was nutty from being browned, but I don’t think there was sesame sauce in it.
- It was incredibly reduced and perhaps thickened with cream and it’s one of the best “brown butter” sauces I’ve had.
- Halibut wrapped with Side Striped Prawn – 4/6
- It wasn’t the actual halibut and side striped prawn I enjoyed alone, but it was the whole thing together and if you got a bite of everything at once, it was delicious!
- The seafood didn’t carry much flavour or pizazz, but the crunch of green beans and tender sweet spaghetti squash on the side gave it amazing flavour and texture. I was hoping for more of them.
- It was crunchy and tender with compressed juicy prawns and tender halibut. The flavours were natural and I’m assuming the whole thing was sous vide.
- At first I thought it was lacking in flavour, but when I had it with the creamy sweetened caramelized eggplant strands it sat on, the flavours came alive.
- The syrupy eggplant was almost the sauce and I appreciated it much more with it.
- The wine (2009 J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay) really helped with this dish in particular.
- Golden beet with red curry lobster oil – 6/6
- I thought I was saving the best for last (spring roll), but this was actually the best! This is one of the most memorable parts of the menu!
- This was amazing! I tend to love gel liquid bubbles of sauce executed with molecular gastronomy though.
- I popped the whole thing in my mouth, broke the skin of the gel and out burst this juicy, thick, creamy, rich river of smooth coconut Thai curry sauce with the essence of lobster aroma. It was a magical moment.
- There was quite the spicy heat and the sweet and tender compacted golden beet underneath balanced out the spice.
- I tasted more red curry sauce than I did lobster, but it was one of the most delicious bites I’ve had regardless.
- I almost wanted a couple salmon roe on top just to bring a little savouriness and a double pop of flavour and texture.
- Other things that have been executed like this that I love are the Mango Ravioli from The YEW, “Tomato Sauce” (Inflated cherry tomato) from Central City Brewing, the soya gel liquids from the Ahi Tuna at Ebo Restaurant, and the Rose Water syrup bubbles from the Shattered Baklava at The Apron.
- Build your own pork belly summer spring roll – 5.5/6
- This is a modern twist to a Vietnamese salad roll.
- I had something similar last time, but it was called the “Do It Yourself Spring Roll” and the filling was curry chicken and mushroom. It was my favourite dish and I think I preferred that one to this pork belly version, but I’d gladly have either on any day.
- It wasn’t a roasted suckling pork’s belly, but it was pieces of braised pork belly.
- It was a saucy soy marinated, tender, and melt in your mouth pork belly and it seemed to have the skin removed.
- It was less fatty than I’m used to and a couple times the meat was a bit dry.
- The rice wrapper is home made and very soft, thin and tender with added texture from thinly sliced Shiitake mushrooms and some edible flowers and herbs.
- You top the roll with with green onions, deep fried garlic chips, compressed cucumber, toasted peanuts, and fresh lime segments.
- It was crispy from the garlic, crunchy from the peanuts, nutty, and aromatic with sudden bursts of fresh lime juice and refreshing cucumber that balanced out the rich pork belly.
- Despite it being pork belly, it was a rather light and summery roll that was not only beautiful to look at, but very enjoyable to eat.
- Beef tartare with avocado and quail’s egg, carpaccio with parmesan and pickled gala apple, medium rare beef with sauteed fennel
- Following the seafood plate was the beef course, which eased nicely into the main course.
- The line up for this plate was interesting and it was a progressive build up to the beef flavour.
- It went from aromatic beef, to sweet and tangy beef, to savoury beef.
- I thought the steak would be executed in 3 ways, but it was almost 2 since the carpaccio came sliced from the medium rare beef.
- This one didn’t look as Asian inspired as the previous course, but it actually was.
- Beef tartare with avocado and quail’s egg – 4/6
- This was an Euro-Asian inspired beef tartare.
- I personally would have liked the quail’s egg raw or less cooked. This one was more like a creamy soft egg yolk and it didn’t ooze, but was almost like a soft buttery paste. It could have used a touch of Maldon salt too.
- The beef tartare tower was creamy and rich with the aroma of ginger, but not really the flavour.
- I could taste some salty bits of smashed capers and some grainy mustard and perhaps a touch of freshly grated wasabi for a kick at the end.
- It was a bit nutty from maybe sesame oil and I was hoping for a tang to brighten up the flavours more.
- Compared to many Asian styles of beef tartare, the flavours were rather subtle.
- I was also hoping for a crispy or crunchy texture either from a garnish or some type of crostini too.
- Carpaccio with parmesan and pickled gala apple – 5/6
- This was more flavourful than the tartare, although less rich and it actually tasted very Vietnamese.
- Apple and parm go together and parm and beef go together, but all three at once was a first time for me, and it worked!
- It’s sweet and savoury and it helped that everything was sliced so thinly so that nothing was overpowering. The flavours layered very nicely.
- It was finding the perfect balance of each ingredient in one solid bite and it helped that it was all deconstructed.
- It was paper thin slices of beef marinated with Vietnamese nuom choc sauce. It is a tangy, savoury and sweet orange vinaigrette made from fish sauce, sugar, and vinegar.
- The salty bits of Parmesan was an interesting match to the sweet and tangy gala apples, but the apples brightened the dish up giving it a juicy sweetness.
- I loved the contrast of textures and flavours with the buttery melt in your mouth beef and refreshing crunch of preserved apple that was tender, but not soggy.
- It sat on a bed of watercress which gave it more of an Asian twist.
- There was some freshly grated wasabi mayo on the side that acted as a binder to the carpaccio and it gave it a nice creaminess and kick.
- Medium rare beef with sauteed fennel - 4.5/6
- This was the most basic and savoury of the trio and it carried the heavier flavours.
- It was incredibly tender beef topped with sea salt served with sauteed fennel that came off as radish, and it didn’t have much licorice fennel flavour.
- There was also some sauteed apple in the mix to give it sweetness and it was covered in a savoury beef au jus.
- It wasn’t necessarily juicy, but still tender and there was no crust, heavy seasonings, herbs or spices.
- It was the more predictable of the three, but still excellent and well executed.
- +$10 supplement with Global Chef’s Menu (I think $25 a la carte)
- This is probably the best foie gras I’ve ever had. Mind you, I try not to order foie gras unless it’s recommended. This one was highly recommended as their most prized dish, and I am highly recommending it.
- Oh god… this is glorious. I’m melting just thinking about it. This could have been a meal in itself!
- This was the highlight of the whole dinner, and definitely a highlight of the food I’ve had this year.
- This is incredibly rich, very traditional French, and a must try.
- It was a lovely piece of buttery, melt in your mouth, pan seared foie gras. It had a slightly crispy exterior and the rest just melted like butter on a hot pan.
- The foie was swimming in a pool of port wine sauce and sat on an apple tart tatin.
- It was bursting with sweet and tart flavours, but definitely more sweet than tart.
- The whole thing was ultra saucy and incredibly syrupy and like a sweet and savoury dessert.
- The apple tart tatin was composed of pieces of soft apples and pieces of buttery soft and tender old fashioned pastry dough mixed together.
- The apple tart was almost like a diced and sauteed apple pie and it was soaking in a very sweet and syrupy caramel syrup.
- I thought it was sauteed in bacon because there were little crispy bits which were actually crystallized caramel. With the savoury and sweet port wine sauce it came across as little crumbs of caramelized bacon.
- Everything just melted in my mouth and I was so happy to have some peas to give it some textural contrast.
- The sweet green peas gave it a nice pop of fresh flavour and it was also served with preserved white and red berries that were so tart that it striped your saliva away.
- The berries were required to cut the richness of the foie gras, but I definitely wanted to end my last bite with the foie gras. The flavours just lingered long after it was gone.
- Foie gras is one of my guilty indulgences. No, it’s not because it’s basically eating pure fat, but it’s the ethical stuff behind it. Of coarse I love it, but I just try not to initiate ordering it unless it’s highly recommended or stated “sustainable”. You pick and choose your battles as a “foodie”.
- This was the palate cleanser.
- The white peach sorbet was incredibly fresh, naturally sweet, a bit icy and it tasted like pure frozen white peach pulp. It was topped with a caramelized sugar crisp.
- The Kalamansi Explosion is a house signature. It was actually one of the items we featured on the Vancouver Foodie Feast menu, a fundraiser for the Vancouver Food Bank.
- You pop the whole Kalamnsi Explosion in your mouth at once and keep your lips closed.
- It’s a thin and hard white chocolate shell filled with very tangy and slightly sweetened kalamansi juice (Filipino orange that tastes like a lime).
- The Kalamnsi Explosion just wakes up your palate and literally cleanses your tongue with a burst of citrusy liquid.
- With Dijon mustard jus, roasted new potatoes, anise scented carrots
- This was the main course to the Global Menu and it was the most ordinary and predictable, although still delicious.
- Almost everything had Asian influence up until this point, so I missed having the flow of theme and flavours.
- It was very traditional French in execution and the lamb wasn’t heavily crusted with any spices, herbs or many noticeably distinct flavours.
- The lamb was likely sous vide and it was closer to medium for me although it was as melt in your mouth tender and as buttery as medium rare.
- It had a very subtle game flavour that was enjoyable, and it was well balanced with the sweeter sauce. I’m not a fan of very strong game flavour and this wasn’t.
- It was tender, but not juicy and the au jus was syrupy and sweet and well reduced, but the Dijon mustard was very muted.
- The sauce wasn’t really anything you haven’t had before at a fine dining establishment.
- It was served with a side of sweet, plump, juicy and meaty morels that just soaked up the sauce like absorbent sponges.
- There was some very sweet shredded braised red beets, crunchy green beans, buttery lemon and herb roasted new potatoes, and then some anise scented carrots, which tasted more like honey glazed carrots.
- The beets and carrots had an enhanced sweetness and the side of vegetables were topped with a potato crisp.
- Parfait Grand Marnier, strawberry coulis and compressed pineapple
- This was the final course to the award winning Global Chef’s Menu.
- The components were well balanced and it was served with a slice of semi-freddo that tasted like a creamy rich hazelnut liquer infused frozen custard.
- The chocolate dacquoise & hazelnut cream was sweeter than expected and there was a layer of crispy hazelnut wafer crunch at the bottom to give it textural contrast.
- It was bitter sweet chocolate and it was quite rich and there were layers of rich chocolaty hazelnut cream in between. It was similar to Nutella and I could also taste a bit of salt to bring out all the flavours.
- I couldn’t taste much Grand Marnier, which I’m not really a fan of anyways in chocolate, so I didn’t mind.
- The compressed pineapple gave it some tang and the presentation and use of them reminded me of the Pan Roasted Scallop dish from The Apron.
- It was a good balance of tart and sweet, but I wasn’t as wow’d with this dessert as I was with everything else, although still very good.
A La Carte Menu
- It was what it was. This was a very simple, but perfectly executed heirloom tomato garden salad.
- There’s not much room to be creative, but it showcased the introduction to summer and the salty pieces of goat’s cheese added a bit of richness to what was quite light.
- The tomatoes were well seasoned, juicy, plump and sweet, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
- The row of seasoning on the side was almost like the Japanese pepper spice and it did have an aspect of ground chili in it to give it some heat.
- With poached lobster ball & crab $15
- This wasn’t my order, although I did try a spoonful of the bisque, so I can’t speak for the dish as a whole.
- I was immediately brought back to the Atlantic Lobster Globe I had at The Apron, and I’m curious to who inspired the idea. (Both chefs are friends and compete together in culinary competitions).
- This lobster bisque was intense with rich lobster flavour and I could taste the crustaceans infused throughout.
- It wasn’t a thick and creamy bisque, and to be honest I wouldn’t have minded it a bit thicker to give that silky smoothness and coat your throat texture.
- Poached in saffron tomato soup served with seasonal vegetables $25
- This was also not my dish, but I did try it.
- I found the portion as an entree to be incredibly small though, and it’s a “need a dinner #2″ dish. I just wish it had more components and it wasn’t particularly exciting.
- The salmon was sous vide and incredibly moist, tender and almost buttery. It was medium rare to rare and the execution was something that put me in awe. It was perfect.
- The soup was very strong with saffron flavour and the tomatoes brought it some acidity which was nice, but it was a bit simple with few ingredients for me.
- There was a crispy potato or phyllo chip on top and overall I didn’t find it worth it, although still delicious.
- Served with Morels seasonal vegetables $34
- This was not my dish, but I did try a slice, but it’s not representable enough to “rate”.
- When I have veal, it’s mainly Italian, but this was very traditional French.
- It was incredibly tender and well made, but the veal came across as almost pork tenderloin and it didn’t taste like veal.
- It was very similar to my Slow Cooked Lamb Sirloin, but I preferred the lamb to this.
- Again it wasn’t heavily crusted with herbs or much seasoning, but the sauce was terrific.
- The sauce was a savoury and sweet creamy buttery gravy with a hint of grainy mustard and sauteed morels.
- The sauce was bolder and thicker than the Dijon mustard au jus from the lamb, but they were quite similar.
- The portion for this dish was quite large and the side vegetables were the same as the ones from the lamb entree.
- I was hoping for a more creative side, or at least more difference in the offered side dishes.
- The entrees here are a bit steep, even for fine dining, but if you consider the generous amuse bouche it balances out somewhat.
- I found their desserts to be quite pricey and this one wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was good.
- It wasn’t that sweet and it’s very light, but I didn’t find it anything particularly special or exciting.
- It was a bit simple and I thought the fruits (kiwi, pineapple, strawberry) would be more thinly sliced to create more layers for a “Fresh Fruit Mille Feuille”.
- It was alternating with fresh fruit, a few thin sheets of phyllo and a dollop of pastry cream in between each layer. It’s served with fresh strawberry coulis and kiwi coulis.
- I thought it would have more flavours of a napoleon with many more intricate layers, more pastry cream, and even more sheets of thin flaky phyllo in between.
- It was only a few thin sheets of phyllo and I missed the nuttiness it can bring. I missed the almonds it can sometimes have too.
- It wasn’t a traditional French Mille Feuille and the execution just wasn’t as detailed or exotic as I was hoping for.
- It’s a home made chocolate bar with crispy hazelnut wafer crust and sea salt.
- It tastes like Nutella ganache or the creamy hazelnut filling in a Ferrero Rocher.
- It’s decadent, rich, sweet and nutty with the perfect amount of sea salt on top to give it a savoury accent.
- Better than any mint or fortune cookie is a home made chocolate bar.
- Very similar to this is The Chocolate Bar at The Apron and another fun homemade chocolate bar is the Mis Trucos Chocolate Bar.