C Restaurant – Lake Babine Salmon Dinner

Restaurant: C Restaurant
Cuisine: Seafood/Fine Dining/West Coast/Pacific Northwest
Last visited: December 7, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: #2 – 1600 Howe Street
Price Range: $50+

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

Food: 3.5 (for this menu)
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 5
Overall: 3.5-4
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: Pumpkin Soup, any Velouté, Spiced Chocolate Pudding, The Pickled Beet Salad is good and also if you enjoy caviar you should check out their Northern Divine Caviar Dinner.

The Lake Babine Salmon is one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world and new to the Vancouver food scene. Being that the Executive Chef at C Restaurant is Robert Clark, one of the biggest advocates for the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, it was no surprise that it would be the star of one of their featured menus. C Restaurant has a new sustainable fishery, supplier or ingredient they support almost every month, and these menus really showcase that.

On this occasion I was invited to the Lake Babine Salmon dinner. The salmon is caught in the interior and raised in natural waters and the flavour and texture is quite different. I guess I have a sensitive palate so maybe it was more noticeable for me, but I could tell the difference between this salmon, a Wild Sockeye Salmon, and my favourite Hawkshaw Salmon, which was once featured at C Restaurant.

The Lake Babine Salmon is not a “bad” different, and it’s still a quality product, but it’s for a particular flavour profile that wasn’t particularly mine. It’s almost like comparing a green apple to a red apple, they’re both apples, but for different people. I prefer my salmon fatty and oily and I don’t mind a strong salmon flavour, but this was almost the opposite of all of that and I found it mild.

To be honest, I was more attached to the story and philosophy behind the Lake Babine Salmon and the company’s actions to preserve and protect the fishery. However if you don’t know the background, you might not appreciate the product as much. I just felt that the salmon needed a lot of the chef’s attention and help from the other ingredients, so I was indifferent about the menu. It was an interesting menu, and it was good, but I just prefer other varieties of salmon.

In regards to C Restaurant I find myself going back and fourth with my feelings about it. I’ve had some okay experiences and some great experiences and I find it overall a bit inconsistent. Sure it depends on what I’m ordering and the style of the chef and food will always be more or less the same, but the execution has varied. Heck, even the complimentary bread varies. I just find it challenging to give a proper recommendation without hesitation here.

Last, but not least, I have to highlight the new sommelier Sarah McCauley. When I heard Kim Cyr was gone I was pretty sad because I loved her wine pairings, but Sarah was just as amazing on this evening. Her flavour profile was really close to mine with a focus on texture and complementing flavours, so every wine she chose suited my tastes and the food. The dinner was a celebration featuring Lake Babine Salmon, so it varies daily according to the chef’s features.

On the table:

Complimentary Bread & Butter

  • I look forward to the bread here, specifically the seaweed bread, but they serve it differently each time.
  • This time it wasn’t served warm, but they still had their three daily varieties.
  • The seaweed bread is standard and also my favourite. It’s always good, but that tastes different each time too.

  • 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 white sesame seeds to give it texture and nutty flavour.
  • It’s almost like cornbread and it’s fine without butter, but even better with it.
  • The smoked sea salt butter adds a savoury factor and this time it was chilled and hard. I prefer when it’s fluffy and whipped like how I’ve had it here before.

Kushi Oyster – 3/6

  • Salmon jerky, ginger soda
  • I feel like it’s chef’s signature to start every menu with a Kushi oyster. It’s my favourite type of oyster, so I’m fine with it, but I can almost predict it now.
  • The oyster was topped with some minced black pepper salmon jerky, shallot and chive vinaigrette, and micro herbs.
  • The salmon added a meaty texture and fishy flavour to the delicate and clean tasting Kushi, so I can’t say I enjoyed the pairing. It was just a bit heavy for the oyster.
  • It was still good, but I just felt that the premium quality, natural flavour and silky smooth texture of the Kushi was taken away.
  • I loved the ginger soda which almost helped open and cleanse the palate.
  • The candied ginger rim was a bit chewy and the soda was almost like a fizzy sweet ginger syrup.
  • I enjoyed the ginger soda alone, and there was a double play on heat with the black pepper from the salmon and the spice of the ginger.
  • I breathed out the heat of ginger and the black pepper spice was the kick.
  • It was an interesting pairing, but I would have preferred either the Kushi with the soda, or the salmon jerky with the soda, but not really everything together.

Joie Farm A Noble Blend, 2010 – This is probably one of my favourite wines. The blend is perfect for me. It’s mostly Gewurztraminer with a good amount of Riesling which gives it a sweetness. There’s a hint of Pinot Gris for acidity and it’s very smooth on the palate. I enjoy each of those wines separately, so this was great.

Pumpkin Soup – 4/6

  • Cold Smoked Salmon, Apple Curry Foam
  • I’m a huge fan of any velouté soup in general, but I do really like them here. I think chef has nailed this type of soup on all occasions I’ve tried it.
  • It’s a very rich and creamy sauce similar to a bechamel sauce, but made into a soup.
  • Usually it’s made with veal stock or meat stock, but this could have been vegetarian, although the flavour was still there.
  • Pumpkin is another favourite of mine, so this was just heavenly for me.
  • The “pumpkin” or butternut squash soup was poured at the table and the fish bowl made for an interesting presentation, especially since salmon was in it…

  • The idea was to let the salmon “cook” slightly with the heat of the soup, but I don’t think the soup was really hot enough to do any of the cooking.
  • The steam maybe helped helped enhance a bit of the salmon flavour though.
  • It had a gorgeous smooth and velvety texture and the soup was nice and sweet with some apples and aromatics of onion and celery which I could taste.
  • There could have been some carrot as well and it gave the soup depth.
  • There was an intense smokiness in the soup that I could breath and taste, and I felt like I was by a campfire.
  • The smokiness wasn’t liquid smoke either, but a genuine smoky aroma that was in your face (for lack of better description).
  • The cold smoked salmon wasn’t too salty or as smoky as the soup, but the soup did bring out its sweetness.
  • The apple curry foam was very light and almost like a bubbly cloud on top of the thick and rich soup so it actually didn’t do that much, but I did enjoy it.
  • There were toasted pumpkin seeds for texture which I loved and also some preserved lemon strips.
  • I did love the sweet, tangy and slightly bitter lemon, but I was hoping it would be a zest or minced up because the strips were few and quite large, so I was only getting them in limited bites with the soup.
  • It was a great flavour combination and I could have licked the bowl.

Wapiti Cellars Viognier 2010 – It’s a very rare grape and a very rare wine and they only make 100 bottles a year, so it’s quite special. It was well balanced with sweet notes and a nice acidity and it had a creaminess without being rich.

Le Vieux Pin Adieu Pinot Noir 2008 – It’s an Okanagan wine and very light for a Pinot Noir. It worked better with the salmon because it was mild, but it still carried earthy notes with a little bit of oak to complement the soy sauce in one of the dishes. That was the intention for it too.

Lake Babine Three Ways4/6

  • Tartare, raw quail egg yolk, nori sauce
  • Smoked Salmon, sunchoke puree, fried egg, truffle
  • Kombu poached, soy poached quail egg
  • I’m a huge fan of small plates and variety, so I loved having a trio showcasing the salmon in three ways.
  • It was not only salmon in three ways, but also quail egg in three ways which was fun and well interpreted.

Tartare, raw quail egg yolk, nori sauce3/6

  • I started with this because it was the most mild.
  • It is the cold dish and you want to eat it quickly before the other two hot dishes get cold.
  • I love tartare, and this was good, but I really noticed the Lake Babine Salmon’s natural tendency to be a bit “plain” in this.

  • The raw quail egg gave it a nice richness after it was mixed in, but I almost didn’t realize I was eating salmon.
  • The tartare had a meaty chew instead of being creamy or buttery, and the texture was almost dry for a tartare.
  • Since it didn’t have a fishy flavour (Lake Babine has less oil content) it almost didn’t taste like salmon.
  • They really tried marinating the tartare with sesame oil and sunflower oil, but it still didn’t replace the natural fish oil I expect in a salmon.
  • There was some watermelon radish, cucumber, and red pepper for crunch and sweetness, but I just wanted more from the salmon.
  • The nori sauce was a bit light as well and I actually didn’t even notice it when it was all mixed in.
  • There was a bit of lemon juice to brighten up the dish and some pumpkin seeds to give nutty flavour and crunch, but this salmon as a tartar isn’t the greatest.
  • I liked the chosen “crostini” which was the complimentary seaweed bread I love so much. It was like a biscotti since the bread is a bit sweeter.

Smoked Salmon, sunchoke puree, fried egg, truffle5/6

  • This was easily my favourite. It was perhaps the most rich of the three with the strongest flavours too.
  • It would be nice if the fried quail’s egg was a bit less cooked and the yolk not broken, but being a small quail’s egg and it being a group dinner, it’s understandable.
  • The smoked salmon sat on top of a lightly toasted and soft mini baguette slice which tasted and looked like a mini English muffin. It would be nice to see this as bannock.
  • For me, the salmon works the best smoked and I find it has the most flavour this way.
  • In this context it was shredded and almost like a duck confit or salmon rillette. It was creamy and I could taste the sweetness of maple.
  • The smokiness was prominent and again “in your face” smoky, but the sweetness was equal so it just had intense flavour overall.
  • It was almost like a mini breakfast sandwich and it was best if you had everything in one bite.
  • It was creamy from the puree, crunchy and aromatic from the truffle chips and very smoky and sweet from the salmon.
  • It was the only occasion I really felt like the salmon was buttery and rich. I loved it!
  • Truffle and sunchoke always play so well together and a fried egg is like the icing on a cake for me.

Kombu poached, soy poached quail egg4/6

  • This was the Japanese interpretation of the salmon.
  • It was my second favourite of the trio and it carried a lot of flavour, but all the flavours were coming from all the components that weren’t the salmon.
  • Since the Lake Babine salmon doesn’t have much fat or oil, I found it a bit plain when poached.
  • It was also skinless so it even had less flavour, so everything else had to make up for it.
  • I asked why it was skinless and apparently the Lake Babine salmon skin was challenging to cook and make taste good. Fair enough.
  • The wasabi pea powder was supposed to add a kick and some texture, and it was just like the roasted wasabi pea snacks I had growing up.
  • I do like wasabi peas in general, but it did cheapen the quality of the salmon a bit.
  • I thought it was going to be dehydrated house made wasabi pea powder and I wish it was a finer crumb.
  • Wasabi rice puffs or grated fresh wasabi might have been better.
  • The soy broth wasn’t too salty and the kombu (dried seaweed) flavours were infused into it to build depth and flavour.
  • They were going for a traditional dashi (Japanese soup stock), but I almost wanted it soupier with more broth, or more reduced so it was more like a sauce.
  • The broth/sauce added a seafood flavour back into the salmon, but I could have had it even a bit fisher with more bonito flakes or clam flavour.
  • The clam was a bit random and chewy and I wish it was served in the shell, but I could see where it was going with the seafood soup theme.
  • The soy poached quail egg reminded me of a Chinese soy sauce tea leaf egg so that interpretation was quite cute and smart.
  • The soy poached sweet radish had more flavour than the salmon and it soaked up the broth beautifully and that was my favourite part of the dish.
  • To have a radish hold more flavour than salmon just shows how mild the Lake Babine Salmon flavour really is.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose – I never really pair champagnes with food, and it’s not that I don’t like it, but I just usually have it as a starter with raw seafood. On this occasion it came with the main and I’m not keen on rose either, but this convinced me otherwise. I liked it! It had a bit of chardonnay, which I really like, and then some pinot noir so there was depth. It was fruity, sweet with berries, sparkling, yet still velvety and great with the salmon.

Seared Lake Babine Salmon4/6

  • Roasted North Arm Farms vegetables, creamed leeks, caviar-lobster hollandaise $35
  • This is a dish where you had to have some of everything in one bite. It’s not meant to be enjoyed separately and it only worked as a unit.
  • Again I was surprised there was no salmon skin, but when I asked why, it was forgivable.
  • It was because the Lake Babine salmon skin is hard to cook and make taste good.
  • In order to replace the fish skin they actually used a piece of cold smoked salmon, pounded it flat, coated it in tapioca flour and deep fried it! I say bravo to that! It was a smart idea if they couldn’t use the actual skin.
  • I still missed the skin, but under the circumstances, I credit the creativity.
  • The dish was really familiar and that’s because I’ve kind of had it at C before – see Pan-Seared Sablefish with Pomme Fondant, creamed leeks, caviar lobster hollandaise.
  • It was a bit of a “repeat recipe”, but it wasn’t that “no no” because at least it was a good recipe.

  • I could taste the natural flavour of the salmon the most with this dish.
  • It was almost rare and I was surprised on how it flaked! It looked like cod instead of salmon! It was nice and smooth, but the flavour was subtle.
  • The flavour of the Lake Babine is again very mild as a salmon and it doesn’t have much fat and oil content so it was very different.
  • The sweet creamed leeks and decadent buttery hollandaise was much needed for the fish because it needed richness. I almost wanted more hollandaise to finish the salmon.
  • The juicy salty pops of fishy caviar helped enhance that desired salmon flavour I missed. It was almost like bursts of salmon oil too, which I also missed.
  • The salmon crisp ended up being a bit chewy like jerky, but I appreciated the texture it brought.
  • This was good, but I had to eat everything together or the salmon was almost bland. I might have liked it for all the other components.
  • One of the most beautiful salmons I’ve had is actually the Seared Hawkshaw Salmon I once had at C, and that type of salmon is more for my palate.
  • I kept thinking what this would taste like with another kind of salmon, but this dish really showed the flavour of the Lake Babine Salmon most.

Vista D’oro Farms 2007 – This is one of my favourite ports. The dinner started with one of my favourite wines, the Joie, and then ended with one of my favourite dessert wines. It was perfect. I tried it almost 3 years ago at C Restaurant and since then I’ve loved it. This port is actually from a small vineyard in Langley and it’s less sweet than most ports. It’s a fortified walnut wine so it has a nice butteriness and it just feels amazing in your mouth. Kitchening with Carly is using it to make her holiday macarons right now too!

**Spiced Chocolate Pudding 6/6

  • Oh god. This is definitely the best dessert I’ve had at C so far and it helps that there’s a somewhat new pastry chef!
  • I pretty much cringe when I hear “chocolate and orange” because all I think about are those Smashing Terry’s Chocolate Orange balls… I’m not a fan.
  • However, this was the best chocolate and orange dessert I’ve had to date! It was brilliant! It would convert any “I’m not a fan of fruit and chocolate lover”.
  • It was definitely an orange and chocolate dessert, but incredibly well executed with the perfect components, sweetness and tartness.
  • The chocolate pudding tasted like a mild chocolate gingerbread pudding.
  • It had nice warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and a hint of vanilla bean seeds.
  • It was creamy and smooth and not too sweet and the crunchy caramelized puffed rice on top gave it great texture. It would have been great as pecans too.
  • The orange wedge was probably one of the most unique things ever.
  • The white pith of the orange was removed so it wasn’t bitter. It would have been neat to replace it with a frozen white chocolate mousse, so together it would be like a gourmet creamsicle. (I’m not a fan of orange creamsicles, but this would be fresh, made with quality ingredients and just way better.)
  • It was filled with an icy orange sorbet and the orange “seeds” were pine nuts!
  • The whole orange was frozen so the skin was almost like a popsicle and the whole thing was edible.
  • The skin was a bold punch of orange zest and with the refreshing and sweet sorbet and added crunch of buttery pine nuts… I could have had 10 slices.
  • The sorbet was a bit on the icy side though, which made it more like a palate cleanser and I would like it a bit more creamy.
  • There was also a shortbread crumble for crispy texture too.
  • The orange “caviar” were gels and I wish they were bigger like capsules with liquid, but they were solid throughout.
  • The whipped cream didn’t do anything, but it would be nice as an orange blossom scented mousse if the gels needed a bed.
  • Overall this dessert had the whole table making sounds… major foodgasm alert.

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8 Comments

  • Linda says:

    i haven’t been to C before but only because I heard the service there isn’t that great – i hear that they often rush you while you’re eating and try to get you out before the next table arrives, have you ever experienced that before? i feel bad if that’s the case only because robert clark seems like such a nice guy!

    the dishes here look lovely.. and i love that C is part of the ocean wise group of restaurants.. i love how the salmon tartare looks, definitely reminds me of steak tartare lol the seared salmon looks absolutely delicious! do you know if they’re offering these items on the regular menu?

  • Bow says:

    So much salmon and so little flavour…as a lake raised fish it doesn’t have a hard life and lives in warmer waters. Wild fish are more muscular and contain more oil, they don’t taste flabby.
    I like Sancerre with oysters or a Muscadet, however I realize that C is promoting BC wines. Too bad C didn’t make a salmon crudo: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/24629/salmon+crudo+with+dill+and+capers
    The wines look nice.

  • Bow says:

    @Mijune, I remembered that you mentioned that Lake Babine salmon was a sustainable fish and not farmed…my error, however I can’t understand it’s blandness.

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – I know some dishes are being offered on regular menu, but not sure which ones so you should call to ask. However the service I’ve heard about before too. I think it could be hit and miss. I know you don’t really want to experience “hit and miss” when you’re fine dining though. Maybe go for brunch which is more affordable and just scope it out before committing to a dinner?

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – The fish has little fat/oil so that’s why it’s a bit more bland… it’s just naturally the qualities of the product so it’s hard to “complain” about it. Actually only 30% (I think) of the wine list is BC… apparently there’s not enough BC wine for al the restaurants so they have a very limited supply. I did like the ones we had though. Mmmm Muscadet with oysters sounds fantastic! Salmon Crudo I love!

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