Update! New chef. This menu and post may no longer apply.
Restaurant: House Guest
Cuisine: West Coast/Pacific Northwest/Eclectic/Brunch
Last visited: January 12, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown/Downtown)
Address: 200 – 332 Water Street
Train: Waterfront Skytrain
Price range: $20-30 ($15-20 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 3.5 – 4 (for brunch)
Overall: 3.5 (for brunch and dinner)
- West Coast cuisine
- Eclectic comfort food
- Seasonal menu
- Moderately priced
- Hipster/hip vibe
- Late night hot spot
- Good for groups
- Cocktail/wine list
- Reservations recommended
- Thurs. 5pm – Late
- Fri. 5pm – Late
- Sat. 5pm – Late
- Sunday Brunch
- House Guest – My dinner post
It was a return to House Guest, but this time it was for brunch instead of dinner (see my dinner post here). It was one of the most talked about restaurants and maybe it still is, but not always for good reason. Its reputation for poor service is publicly known and when bad news spreads as fast as good news, it’s an uphill battle.
On this occasion I was invited by their chef Kayla Dhaliwall to try their brunch menu. That being said, there were no expectations for the outcome of this post. I can’t comment on where the level of service is now, but from general feedback and comments I sure hope it has improved.
It’s actually quite disappointing because a dining experience is just that, an experience. If you experience bad service it’s likely to leave a bitter taste that will translate further onto the food. Naturally, you’ll be more inclined to find more things to complain about that you might have possibly forgiven, or even overlooked, if everything had started out on the right foot to begin with. That one experience could turn you off from ever wanting to revisit, and that’s what I perceive happening at House Guest.
I recently wrote a post called 10 Characteristics of a Hipster Restaurant and I featured House Guest as one of the examples. I get that this “non-chalent” “too cool” attitude is part of the vibe, but it’ll only work short-term and with a crowd that understands. But once you open your doors to the public and start charging people, then it’s a different ball game and attentive service is part of the equation for most returning customers.
The brunch was all quite rich without necessarily being hearty, and many dishes were reminiscent of Southwestern classics, but presented in a West Coast style. At times the dishes seemed a bit repetitive with poached eggs and hollandaise like sauces, but everything was home made and there was care in the presentation. I found there to be less “slip ups” in the brunch compared to the dinner, but the dinner was also more inventive and diverse.
If you’ve had a bad experience, and second chances are in your books, then the brunch is worth a shot and the atmosphere is still hip, but not as “night club” like as it can tend to feel during some evenings. The brunch is also reasonably priced so it’s not a huge investment to check out if you’re still curious.
On the table:
- Special K granola, fruit & yogurt $5
- It was beautifully presented with a generous amount of fresh berries, but I was slightly bothered that they were non-seasonal.
- Although the restaurant doesn’t emphasize “seasonal ingredients”, it would be appreciated.
- The berries just weren’t as sweet. Citrus fruits, dried fruits, or house preserved fruits (which this one would be impossible for them to have since they just opened in the fall) or nuts might be an appropraite alternative.
- The Special K granola kind of trumped me as well because granola is so easy to make and if everything else more complicated is being made in house, then why not this? **Correction: Apparently “Special K” refers to the chef’s ‘special’, but is also made with “Special K”.
- The granola had raisins in it, but they were a bit hard and chewy so I wasn’t quite the fan even though I like raisins.
- I did like the whole toasted pecans and the yogurt was a thin yogurt rather than a high milk fat thick yogurt.
- There was a drizzle of pomegranate balsamic reduction over top for some tang and I liked the concept, but just think it could have been better with the right ingredients.
- Basil & goats cheese bechamel, fried egg, copa, tomato, hash cake, gruyere crust $10
- Unfortunately this was a sample size portion, so I can’t “rate” the actual dish even though it happened to be my favourite item for brunch. I thought it was excellent.
- It was a Southwestern twist to a classic French dish.
- It was a sweet, soft and moist, very lightly toasted blue cornbread topped with melted gruyere cheese, a fresh slice of tomato, copa (cured meat), a fried egg and basil oil.
- It was a delicious “ham and cheese” and the salty copa and sweet cornbread was a great contrast and balance.
- It was all quite soft, buttery, creamy and rich and the single bite was almost too good that you wanted to hold the flavours in your mouth for as long as possible.
- There was also a little bit of jalapeño giving it a mild heat and it could have been in the cornbread.
- I was hoping for fresh basil leaves and I couldn’t taste the goat’s cheese, but I still enjoyed it as is.
- The creamy sauces and ooey gooey gruyere were almost all melting together with the egg yolk so it was quite hard to decipher what everything was, but it didn’t even matter as a single bite.
- I can only hope that the regular size is as good as this sample version.
- 1 poached egg, blue corn tortilla, white bean & bacon chilli, avocado pico, valentina crema $11
- This was a very fancy version of a classic Mexican breakfast.
- The blue corn tortilla was a bit over fried and crunchy for me, but everything else was quite well done.
- The guacamole was the same in the Prawn Guac served during dinner, but without the prawns. I found it quite ordinary with just mashed avocado and chopped tomato.
- Instead of the traditional refried beans and tomato chili sauce it was a bean chili and valentina crema.
- The chili was a rather “light” chili with a simple white bean and bacon combo and I treated it more like a sauce than I did a chili.
- A firmer white bean would have been nice and perhaps more meat or veggies for a fuller chili wouldn’t hurt.
- I think the valentina crema was the sauce underneath the wedge of lime and it was almost like a Thousand Island meets a sour cream.
- One of the poached eggs had a medium yolk, but the other one was nice and runny (shown above).
- The tangy hollandaise sauce with chili oil just made the dish that much richer, but there was so much going on I didn’t even pay attention to how good the hollandaise was.
- There was more sauce than the tortillas could handle and overall it was about a medium spicy for most.
- There were so many sauces and they were all pretty good, but it could be overwhelming if you’re not into sauces.
- The squeeze of lime really helped break up all the flavours.
- Red wine sausage, goats cheese, tomato bruschetta, chipotle hollandaise $13
- It was only half a biscuit and I was hoping to see at least two.
- It was a lightly toasted, flaky, moist and rich buttery biscuit topped with nice slices of fatty juicy sausage that were slightly spicy, but I couldn’t taste the red wine.
- It was good sausage, but it doesn’t come across as home made butchery style sausage.
- The poached eggs were perfectly soft and runny and the mild-medium spicy chipotle hollandaise sauce was buttery smooth and made from scratch.
- I loved the salty crumbles of fluffy goat’s cheese and the tomato bruschetta gave the dish some acidity to ease the richness.
- I could have used more balsamic in the bruschetta and more fresh basil because it didn’t really stand out.
- I probably would have appreciated something green on this plate besides the chives too.
- I think it was supposed to be a hash brown cake, but it was a bit mushy and not crispy.
- It kind of seemed like mashed potatoes made into cakes, but they were a bit dense, slightly dry and not creamy.
- I was hoping for either amazing mashed potatoes or actual minced potatoes to form the cakes.
- I’m not sure if a Panko crumb would have helped and they weren’t bland, but they just didn’t really work for me.
- Lobster & crab cake, tomato bruschetta, bearnaise $15
- This almost seemed like the Gypsy Benedict and it started to feel a bit repetitive with the poached eggs and hollandaise, or Béarnaise sauce which is very similar.
- Since it was a “benedict” I can understand the similarities, but it more less felt like a “mix and match” and I think it could have gotten more creative.
- The English muffins or biscuits were replaced with one single lobster and crab cake.
- I kind of missed having a starch to wipe up all the egg yolks and sauce with though.
- The crab and lobster cake was a fair size and it was crispy, predominantly crab, with a few chunks of lobster and a bit of red pepper.
- The crab was flaky and moist with a bit of heat, but it wasn’t particularly memorable.
- Personally I like the Dungeness Crab Cakes at Crave on Main.
- Bacon & pecan waffles, yogurt fried chicken, cream cheese maple syrup $12
- This is a tough one. I love chicken and waffles, but it was a half miss and a half hit in this case.
- I had the Lobster & Waffles on their dinner menu, and this was better, but it still didn’t come together as well as I had hoped.
- The chicken was sous vide before being battered and deep fried, but for some reason the meat was really mealy and dry which is extremely unusual for being sous vide.
- The outside was nice and crunchy, but the chicken itself was disappointing.
- The waffles were better than the ones at dinner and they were still thin rather than being fluffy and thick.
- The cream cheese maple syrup sauce was very dessert like and almost to the point of being ready for red velvet cupcakes, so I wouldn’t mind it a little less sweet and less like icing.
- The bacon was incorporated in the waffle batter, but the pecans were presented separately and I was hoping for some in the batter and some outside.
- I love the whole sweet and savoury combo, but the sweet, sour and salty combination was off in this dish although it had potential.
- I’m not sure if serving the sauce separatly would be better because they worked with the waffles, but not so much with the chicken. To work with the chicken it just needed a better balance.
- Choose any 3 desserts for $12
- The presentation was impressive and unexpected.
- Berry Shortcake – 2/6 (Okay)
- The shortcake was more like a crispy biscuit, but unfortunately it had no flavour and was not buttery or sweet.
- I liked the presentation of it though and the berries were fresh despite them being non-seasonal.
- Red Velvet Gelato – 3/6 (Good)
- It’s a bit melted in the photo, but that was my fault and I still enjoyed it.
- There was a hint of coffee and then the cocoa was still apparent. It was creamy and rich and not too sweet.
- I’m pretty sure the base of this was made with the same red velvet sauce served with their churros – see here.
- Cheesecake – 4/6 (Very good)
- Kaffir lime cheesecake, coconut crumb crust, brown butter whip
- I’m not even a huge fan of cheesecake and I loved this one.
- It wasn’t dense, but almost like a semi frozen whipped cheesecake meets a mousse.
- It was rich and creamy with aromatic lime zest.
- I could have used more citrus and zing, but it was still delicious and reminiscent of a key lime pie meets a coconut pie.
- It was not too sweet and had good texture being on a nutty graham cracker crumb and coconut crumble.
- I’m not sure where the brown butter was and I think it was just whipped into the cheesecake, but it was all delicious.
- I would definitely order this dessert again.