Cuisine: Pacific Northwest/West Coast
Last visited: April 4, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown/Downtown)
Address: 12 Water Street
Transit: Waterfront Skytrain
Price Range: $30-50+ ($24-29 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Casual fine dining
- Pacific Northwest
- Small plates
- Seasonal menu
- Local ingredients
- Local favourite
- Bar area
- Great wine list
- Custom cocktails
- Dinner only
- Monday-Friday 5:30pm-late
**Recommendations: Duck Liver & Foie Gras Pâté, Aquello Rice Risotto, Steelhead Trout
It’s a great room, open space, lively atmosphere, in a nice hidden location serving good food. It’s one of Gastown’s busiest restaurants that has maintained a loyal clientèle ever since it moved walking distance away from its old location on Carrell and West Cordova. It’s an upscale restaurant serving Pacific Northwest and West Coast cuisine, but on occasion I felt a disconnect in the theme of the restaurant and the approach to the menu.
I was on the Boneta board for the most part, but I wasn’t keen on the new menu set up and I’m not confident in all the dishes, although the custom cocktails and wine pairings can draw in a crowd alone. As for the food I just found there to be more hit and miss dishes than I expected and therefore the value wasn’t as satisfying. It has won multiple awards with Vancouver media and as one of the local favourites since it opened in 2007 I expected a near flawless menu.
The menu features a “Table d’Hote Dinner with 3 Fine Courses for $45”, but none of the prices are listed on the menu, although all items are available a la carte. Around a handful of items require add ons on top of the $45 and by the end you likely end up spending more than you expected and that’s not including drinks. It’s not about the price, but just about managing expectations and I think it’s fair for the customer to know what exactly they’re getting.
The restaurant is casual fine dining, but the set up and decor seems to aim for a neighbourhood atmosphere which in Gastown is quite sophisticated. I actually got a bit confused as to which they were aiming for, but I didn’t see it as fine dining. However with a $45 3 course menu it almost becomes a “special occasion” place rather than an every day place. Some of the cooking techniques and presentation weren’t quite aligned with the price and I felt that the capabilities of the restaurant were stronger than what was being delivered.
At times it felt like it had gotten too comfortable, and other times it felt slightly pretentious. The food was actually quite good if I don’t get into the details, but some dishes were underdeveloped or being put on the menu perhaps too quickly. Personally for the same type of food and similar experience in Gastown, I prefer L’Abattoir, and although I don’t want to compare the two, it’s almost inevitable not to.
The ordering was a bit of a gambling game and although there were more hits than misses, there was nothing really outstanding. I think the menu could use some fine tuning and just a reprint with the prices. An optional $45 3 course rather than an optional a la carte menu just makes more sense. For the most part I did enjoy the food, experience and ambiance and I wouldn’t mind coming back again, but I did expect something better. Outside of the food, the drinks are a highlight here and the sommelier is Kim Cyr who does excellent wine pairings, so if you’re a wine enthusiast then I would recommend exploring the wines along with the notable cocktail list.
On the table:
- $14 a la carte or Table d’Hote Dinner 3 courses for $45
- It was first to catch my eye and first to be ordered. I am a fan of the foie and this was flawless.
- It was a very well executed foie gras pâté with a tried, tested and true recipe that was very traditional French yet creative with its accompaniments.
- It would be nice to have the fennel crostini warmed, but that’s forgiveable and I already appreciated the fennel aspect to it.
- It would have been excellent served with brioche, but again that’s just me.
- The pear salad had a bright and citrusy lemon vinaigrette and it was quite sour and not just tangy which was ideal to balance the richness of the pâté.
- The pâté was creamy smooth from top to bottom and it was almost like silk. The texture was perfect and it spread easily.
- It was buttery, but not oily and the flavour of the foie was apparent and not just of fat.
- There was a good amount of heavy cream so it’s more fluid and not like a stick of butter or a sliced pâté.
- The colour was consistent all the way through and it was well mixed.
- Traditionally it would be served with a Cognac jelly, but the Port Jelly was a nice change and it added a sweetness that was desired especially with the pickled salad.
- I could actually taste the accent of alcohol in the gel and it was wonderfully savoury too. I’m not sure if it was soy sauce or meat renderings, but the savoury factor was spot on.
- The pâté was not mousey or fluffy with air and it was less thick than a creme brûlée and all I needed was a spoon and about 10 more orders.
- The only part I lost was the fig which would have been good baked into the crostini, but other than that I was tempted to use my finger to wipe down the sides of the jar.
- $14 a la carte or Table d’Hote Dinner 3 courses for $45
- I hesitate ordering anything Asian at a non-Asian restaurant, but it came recommended and I’ve been proven wrong before – see Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio at Hawksworth.
- The description sounded more Asian than it tasted and I couldn’t see or taste the cilantro or ginger.
- The tuna was shaved very thin and it was a very fatty tuna and almost like tuna belly, but it wasn’t belly.
- The buttery slices melted in my mouth and it was super creamy and oily, but it was dressed a bit too heavily and the sauce just kept absorbing into the tuna.
- It was a soy based sauce which had a subtle spice, but it wasn’t spicy. I would have preferred a vinaigrette over a soy and maybe a bit of sesame oil on the salad.
- There was no acid in the sauce and the acid came from the pickled mushrooms.
- It was nice and light with good texture, and although enjoyable it’s not something I would have to necessarily order again.
- It’s apples and oranges, but personally I prefer the more Japanese style and the Tuna Carpaccio at Kingyo is worth checking out.
- $16 a la carte or Table d’Hote Dinner 3 courses for $45 +$3
- Sweetbreads was the second item to catch my eye.
- If you’ve never had them before, they’re very delicate and mild in flavour with a creamy, tender and soft texture.
- I love sweetbreads, but it’s so under appreciated in Vancouver yet it’s everywhere in Montreal or Europe.
- This was a “big plate, small portion” item and I felt it was trying to be too fine dining for this style of restaurant.
- It was a very light and delicate interpretation for sweetbreads and I prefer something richer for sweetbreads, or even just more flavourful.
- Apples go well with crab, but everything just felt very separate and hard to enjoy together.
- It was generally quite bland and the strongest flavour on the plate was actually the tart apple purée.
- The apple sauce was mealy though and a quince purée would be a nice substitution.
- The crab salad tasted very average, but it was flaky and juicy. However it wasn’t well cleaned and there were a few shells in it.
- The crab salad wasn’t spicy or tangy with lemon and I almost wanted to dress it with Kimchi like the Kimchi Snow Crab with Crispy Rice Cake at Le Bremner.
- I think half the battle was having crispy sweetbreads, but those weren’t crispy either.
- The sweetbreads were very lightly battered and well seasoned with salt and maybe even 5 spice powder because they almost tasted a bit Asian to me.
- Ideally they would be sous vide, but I think they were poached before being deep fried.
- They were creamy and pillowy, but also a bit stringy from a few remaining membranes and the batter at times powdery.
- It was +$3 with the $45, but $16 a la carte so the $3 seemed unreasonable since the foie gras and tuna carpaccio were both $14 a la carte.
- I actually really enjoy the sweetbreads at L’Abattoir – see Pan Fried Veal Sweetbreads on Toast – and a couple of the best I’ve ever had was at Le St-Urbain – see Coffee Glazed Sweetbread or at Peasant – see Animelle Con Funghi.
- $24 a la carte or Table d’Hote Dinner 3 courses for $45
- It was the only vegetarian main on the menu.
- It’s not something I would order a la carte, but part of the 3 course menu I would definitely order it again as a second course.
- At first sight it looked almost congealed or solidified, but it was actually encapsulated with a complete layer of cheese perfectly melted over the top.
- The cheese insulated the heat and could have caused the risotto to overcook a bit, but the rice still had a firmness and a bite.
- For me this was a dish that got better with each bite and I actually liked it more thinking back about it.
- The rice was Acquerello Rice which is the creme de la creme of rice. It’s not sticky so the risotto won’t risk being gluey and it retains its shape.
- It was a very creamy and rich risotto and there were a ton of aromatics going on and each bite offered something new and exciting.
- There were small slivers of spring garlic or garlic ramps that seemed marinated in a sweet and pickled brine which had the flavour of raisins.
- There were also slivers of preserved lemon and some mint so the beautiful aromas just lifted off the plate and contrasted the richness of the cream and cheese.
- It was salty, sweet and tangy and just full of flavour without being too much of anything.
- It was heavy, but delicate with ingredients and just very well balanced with the pop of peas that would have been even better if they were fresh, sweet and in season.
- The Mascarpone was very faint and added a bit in texture more so than flavour, but the layer of melted Manchego on top made up for extra cheesiness.
- Lemon, mint, garlic, butter, white wine, cream, cheese, and peas… how can you go wrong? As a risotto it could have easily, but it didn’t!
- Side dish – $12
- I found this overpriced for what it ended up being and the execution wasn’t of a traditional gnocchi so it was unexpected.
- It was very simple and the gnocchis were very tiny and not dense or fluffy. They tasted more like spaetzle or egg noodles.
- I could taste the potato, but they were more doughy and the hope for fork ridges or even consistent sizes I already let go.
- The sauce tasted like brown butter and olive oil and it was a bit creamy, but it wasn’t cream.
- I think they used the potato starch water used to boil the gnocchi as a thickening agent because the sauce was emulsified.
- There were maybe a few shavings of cheese on top, but otherwise it wasn’t cheesy and I could have used more herbs like thyme or even a drizzle of good quality basil oil.
- For a more traditional style Italian gnocchi I would also recommend trying the Potato Gnocchi with Lucanica Sausage Ragu at La Quercia.
- $25 a la carte or Table d’Hote Dinner 3 courses for $45
- I can’t help but to draw the comparison, but this reminded me very slightly of the Steelhead I had at L’Abattoir – see Pan Fried Filet of Steelhead.
- The fish was beautiful with a perfectly even and crispy well seasoned skin. It actually came across as salmon instead of trout, and it’s a buttery and sustainable fish.
- The fish flaked nicely and was moist and tender and it sat on a bed of farro which is a type of grain or wheat.
- The farro was executed like a risotto and it was creamy and naturally very earthy and nutty in flavour.
- The farro was well flavoured and almost meaty and it tasted like it was sautéed with bacon although I couldn’t bite into pieces of bacon. It was subtle, but I could taste meatiness.
- I think it was cooked in a meat stock which infused throughout the kernel and it was an interesting starch to use and a nice way to give it savoury flavour.
- The arugula purée had lots of fruity olive oil and a bit of lemon juice and it was cold and I wish it was warm.
- It was bit bitter so it just enhanced the earthiness of the dish especially with the farro.
- I probably would have preferred an herb purée or a green pea purée for some sweetness because I wasn’t digging the arugula purée or it just needed more flavour or dynamics.
- The warm beet salad was nice and thankfully the beets had no “dirt” taste otherwise it might be an extra “earthy” dish overall.
- I love beets and they were the sweetness to the dish, but the few shavings of beets would have been even better baked or fried crispy.
- The beets were dressed in lemon so they were bright in flavour and they were topped with duck cracklings which were pretty much the croutons, but better.
- I’m not sure where the crackling came from because there’s no duck on the menu, so I wonder what happened to the rest of it.
- I’m curious if the beets were confit, but the lemon on them made it hard to tell.
- The orange beurre blanc was ideal with the duck, although there were only a few cracklings so it didn’t really make for a proper pairing.
- The sauce was very rich and obviously buttery, but the orange zest and flavour was strong with a desired bitterness that played well with the overall dish and fish.
- $25 a la carte or Table d’Hote Dinner 3 courses for $45 +$6
- I didn’t know the a la carte prices until after and I didn’t like that it was +$6 for the 3 course, but only $25 a la carte. The lamb (below) wasn’t extra and a la carte it was $29 which is more than the halibut, so the menu really doesn’t make sense to me.
- Since it’s halibut season, I had to order the halibut.
- The Morel mushroom sauce tasted like porcini to me and it was almost like a mushroom cream soup.
- The sauce wasn’t really aerated, but it was light. It had a powdery texture so I think they used dehydrated mushroom powder to make it.
- There were some Beech mushrooms and a couple morels along with a couple roasted artichokes and firm fava beans as the side. It was very simple and straight forward.
- The fish had a nice and crispy top which was seared in butter, but it cooked quite unevenly although you can’t tell from the photo.
- It was really odd because the outside was very, juicy and moist, and then the middle of the fish was a bit overcooked.
- I wouldn’t say it was dry, but just not as moist and usually it would be the other way around.
- The halibut was well seasoned and it seemed previously brined in some lemon, although it didn’t penetrate to the centre.
- The halibut could have benefited from some sort of crust whether it was from spices or even a smoked mushroom finishing salt.
- The sauce and vegetables were just savoury (with the vegetables being actually a bit under seasoned) so I missed having something tangy, sweet, spicy or aromatic and it fell a bit flat, although not bland.
- The dish was good, but I didn’t find worth the extra $6.
- $29 a la carte or Table d’Hote Dinner 3 courses for $45
- This came highly recommended and it looked really good and perfectly medium rare, but it was really tough to cut through and quite chewy.
- It was seared and then roasted and I think it would have been great sous vide, although the flavour of lamb can change using that technique.
- The lamb was quite gamey, but not overbearing and it was mostly the toughness I couldn’t get over.
- There was a lot of mint aioli which was very garlicky and lemony and I would have preferred less aioli and more of the demi glace or jus (?) that was drizzled around the plate.
- It was a very reduced and syrupy sweet jus that I could almost lift off the plate as a sheet, but the lamb did taste better with more of it.
- The spaetzle was pan fried and crispy which I liked and it was well seasoned too.
- I couldn’t tell the spaetzle was made with buttermilk, but it was kind of the saving grace to the dish and I was really hoping for the lamb to pull through since it looked amazing.
I don’t know how else to say it, but the dessert menu needs work. There’s no pastry chef which is quite common of many restaurants in Vancouver (even at this standard), but I would have settled for out sourced desserts or even just an initial pastry chef consultation. Sure it might not be a place to order desserts, but that’s not really an excuse and it was below Boneta standards. It just wasn’t an inspiring dessert menu and it didn’t match the main menu and the items were made for easy assembly and presentation. I don’t really have an issue with that, but for a restaurant like this, it was a bit of a disappointment.
- $9 a la carte
- It was a very small dessert, but the chocolate mascarpone cheesecake tasted like a rolled chocolate truffle.
- I couldn’t taste the mascarpone and it was very light and not creamy, but almost like a dry truffle chocolate and it was one texture.
- There were some crispy chocolate covered espresso bean crumbs sprinkled on top, but that was about it.
- It wasn’t that sweet and the chocolate was more like cocoa powder and I wouldn’t call it a cake let alone a cheesecake.
- The raspberry sorbet was bursting with strawberry seeds and that was fine as long as you like the fact that it has a lot of seeds.
- The thyme sable cookie was actually quite good and I liked the lemony thyme aspect to it.
- $9 a la carte
- It was a bit odd to have a panna cotta served in a bowl and usually you would dip the bowl in hot water and flip the panna cotta out of the bowl to be presented on a plate.
- This was almost like a pot de creme, but the panna cotta had too much gelatin and it was really stiff and dense so the spoon didn’t dig in easily.
- There was a strong vanilla bean flavour and real vanilla bean seeds and that’s the part I could appreciate.
- $8 a la carte
- They were good house made chocolates, but I just don’t think it’s appropriate as a dessert for this style of restaurant.
- I doubt they’re being made by a chocolatier, but the quality of chocolate isn’t bad, but it’s not artisan either.
- The golf ball sized dark chocolate truffles were very soft and almost squish-able as I picked them up. They were creamy and almost doughy, but not with flour and just in texture. They were actually quite good and I could taste a hint of rum in them too, but it was subtle and not a “rum ball” which I’m not a fan of.
- There were also some mint chocolates and dark chocolate ganache truffles that didn’t have much ganache and were quite uneven, but I didn’t expect chocolatier standards.
- $8 a la carte
- Again, they were good house made cookies, but I just don’t think it’s appropriate as a dessert for this style of restaurant.
- There was a double chocolate chip and sour cherry cookie, pecan sandies, cranberry and white chocolate biscotti, fennel seed sugar cookies and milk chocolate chip cookies.
- The best one was the pecan sandies which pretty much melted in my mouth like a sandcastle as soon as I bit into it. I think they were supposed to be sable cookies, but they looked like shortbread.
- The fennel seed sugar cookie was another highlight and I love the aromatics of it. It felt like being in an Indian restaurant and getting the candied fennel seeds at the end.
- The cookies had a nice selection and if I got them as a gift I would appreciate them, but as a plated dessert for dinner it just seemed not as appropriate.