Diva at the Met at The Metropolitan Hotel – Tasting Menu

Update! New chef. This menu and post may no longer apply.

Restaurant: Diva at the Met
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest/International/Eclectic/Fine Dining
Last visited: May 10, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson/Downtown)
Address: 645 Howe Street (Inside Metropolitan Hotel)
Transit: Vancouver City Ctr Stn Southbound
Price Range: $30-50+ ($25-35 mains)

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 6 (based on Tasting Menu)
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Executive Chef Hamid Salimian
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Innovative cuisine
  • Modernist techniques
  • Local and exotic ingredients
  • Seasonal ingredients
  • Tasting menus
  • Wine bar/wine pairings
  • Bar/lounge seating
  • Breakfast/bunch/lunch/dinner
  • Complimentary valet if dining at restaurant

**Recommendations: Order the Tasting Menu. (Foie Gras Walnut, Puffed Foie Gras, Beef Tendon Chicharrón, White Salmon Gravlax, Scallop, Razor Clam, Albacore Tuna, Duo of Lamb, Pork Jowl were highlights from tasting menu). See Hamid’s Persian Tasting Menu.

Sometimes I find food that’s so beautiful it looks amazing from every angle…

“I will follow Him. Follow Him wherever He may go”… I now understand the meaning behind the lyrics “I Will Follow Him” from Sister Act. However my interpretation of “Him” refers to the chef. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked “what’s your favourite restaurant?” and my answer is simple: I don’t have one. For me, when all is said and done it comes down to the food, so I follow the chef more so than the restaurant, and in this case I follow Chef Hamid Salimian. This could be my longest post ever but the food and his talent are worth the read, so please grab a snack and Follow Me Foodie to one of my favourite chefs.

I’ll put my biases out there and say that I’ve known chef for a couple years now and I’ve become a huge fan. Not a creepy one, but I’m a full supporter and believer in what he does. I’m probably as passionate about his food as he is making it. I truly believe he is one of the leaders in Vancouver’s culinary industry and I can only hope he has his own restaurant one day.

To be honest, the room is a bit dated and stale and it lacks a sommelier, cocktail program and ambiance that is expected and desired at this level of dining. The food is the undeniable highlight. If you can get a seat at the kitchen bar, you’ll possibly forgive the rest as you become absorbed by the culinary action.

I first experienced Chef Hamid’s food and blogged about my admiration for what he does in my post The Apron in early 2011. Until this very day I haven’t written a post like that for any other chef I’ve come across since I’ve started this blog. It’s one of the most satisfying moments when I come across talent that’s so powerful that it makes me want to improve in what I do. I want to deliver a post that it deserves and credit those who teach me something new. I have lots to learn, but it is experiences like this that make me question the things I think I know and inspire me to learn the things I don’t.

It’s not that I haven’t encountered many great chefs or enjoyed unforgettable dining experiences, but what Hamid does is on another level. He’s up there with the Michelin Star Chefs and whatever “Best of” list you can think of, but his quiet persona and humble personality make him one of the less recognized chef names in the city. He’s no dark horse though, he’s the one training the horses. I mean that too.

Just like many great kitchens, his staff are his secret weapons and are incredibly talented. Any chef training under him that enters a culinary competition is usually a shoe in for a place on the podium. He’s known in the professional culinary world and is the mentor for many chefs competing in worldwide competitions. He has even competed in the qualification rounds for the world’s most prestigious culinary competition the Bocuse d’Or. Even though there is enough staff in the kitchen, the best part is that Hamid is always found in there actually cooking with them.

He may not have that “celebrity chef” status which is why he tends to fly under the radar, but good is good and what he does is rare in Vancouver. He’s really one of the most humble people I’ve met and I’ll stand by every word I said in my posts about him – which are here, here, here, and now here. I’ve written about his works of art on four occasions now (although I have tried it more than 4 times and mentioned his name in numerous articles), and have nonetheless gotten familiar with his style, taste, palate and interpretation of ingredients and beauty.

The food he makes is inspired by the little things in life. It showcases a world that is under appreciated or rarely experienced. Although I am a supporter of local ingredients, there’s just some things that you can’t learn from what is produced by your own home. While there is a use of local West Coast ingredients there is also an incorporation of carefully selected exotic ingredients that are greatly highlighted through his seasonal menus. He makes me want to see the world through his eyes. It’s hard to taste food through another palate that isn’t your own, but it happens to me here.

On the other hand, this is food that is not for everyone and I wouldn’t be surprise if there were diners who probably leave thinking “was that really food?” or “what did I just eat?”. However if you know what to expect coming in, the food is a lot easier to understand. The menu looks like a shopping list of ingredients and you’re basically eating time rehearsed kitchen experiments of a culinary genius and his well trained staff. The dishes are labour intensive and science driven, yet they are delivered with an appreciation for play and art. The dishes are culinary inventions which use traditional techniques applied in new ways and with new ingredients. Every plate on the tasting menu is an artistic expression of a passionate chef and his talented team.

Chef Hamid’s food is competition style food which pushes the boundaries of most Vancouver palates. Each bite tends to be an explosion of flavours achieved by many ingredients, so it’s not for a “salt and pepper” palate or traditionalist. Chef’s Persian background and pride in his culture’s ingredients are subtly showcased yet boldly recognized in terms of flavour. It’s a refreshing change from the “Asian fusion” found all over the city, which I do love, but this is another cultural side of Vancouver we rarely see incorporated in Pacific Northwest cuisine.

The balance with sour and salty are always dominant and currently there is a keen interest in foraging. There is a focus on aromatics, textures, fine details and a very distinct attention to achieving that umami (savoury) taste in every dish. If anything, the sweetness of the dishes are downplayed and the application of culinary experiments can be questionable, although never a novelty since they are well executed.

This style of dining excites me and it is my style of dining. I learn something new when I come here. As a food enthusiast that’s all I want from any dining experience regardless of it being fine dining or not. It comes to a point where it’s not about being good, but about appreciating the technique, skill, creativity and imagination behind a chef and his craft. He takes risks and shows the future of food by stepping outside of the ordinary. The cuisine works to show an emotional connection with the farmer, ingredient, chef, diner, plate and palate. It delivers beyond a satisfied appetite and a pleasant meal. It is when I get a sense of discovery and anticipation to learn that I have a dining experience that becomes unforgettable. I truly value and respect what goes on in this kitchen.

I highly recommend you to order from the Tasting Menu. It’s the only way to eat here. He is an artist and just like Chef Jefferson Alvarez at Fraîche, you can’t tie the hands of an artist. You have to let them do what they do and that’s what makes them so good at what they do. His avante garde style and modernist techniques are along the lines of Chef Rene Redzepi of NOMA, Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea, and Chef Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, each of those are different but they are some of the legendary chefs of modern cuisine. These are the artists that don’t paint with the colours they are given, they take the colours that exist and create new ones we’ve never seen.

**Note: The following is a customized Tasting Menu compliments of Hamid with add ons to his regular Tasting Menu. There are no expectations for the outcome of this post. Tasting menus are seasonally inspired and start at 5 courses for $55 with wine for $95 and 7 courses for $75 with wine for $130. 

On the table:

Complimentary Bread & Butter

  • I always appreciate complimentary bread and at this level of dining I do expect it.
  • There was a pecan bread with I think fennel seeds, a smoked sea salt and onion bread, a rye bread and then poppy seed, cumin and sesame crisps.
  • I’m not sure which were made in house if any, and it’s not stand out bread but I liked the assortment.

The bread was served with butter and brown butter powder. Visually I thought it was tomato powder and I even found it a bit tangy, so there might have been added lemon juice to the brown butter. It looks pretty intense, but it is easy to make and you just need maltodextrin (which I doubt is in everyone’s pantry). It’s a powder made from starches like corn or tapioca.

The Tasting Menus start of with a series of “Diva Snacks”.

“Diva Snacks”

Olive Oil Marshmallow – 3/6 (Good)

  • With olive oil butter, kalamata salt and basil.
  • I was brought back to memories of Hamid’s Foie Gras Marshmallows. Personally I prefer foie to olive oil, but really they were both fun.
  • If the idea throws you off, just think olive oil cake and now it’s just olive oil used to make a marshmallow.
  • The olive oil marshmallows were very soft, airy and light with a slightly crisp exterior and the kalamata salt was where I got most of the olive flavour from.
  • They weren’t really sweet and I can’t say they were strong with olive oil flavour, but it was almost too small of a bite to really tell.
  • The olive oil powder was so light and mildly sweet (likely from the natural maltodextrin flavour), and I almost had to hold onto it in my mouth before it went away.
  • It’s made the same way as the brown butter powder, but it requires more maltodextrin.
  • My first time trying olive oil powder was actually at Laurie Raphaël in Quebec City – see here.
  • I listed Gourmet Marshmallows as one of the “dessert trends” for Vancouver this year too – see Vancouver Dessert Trends 2012.

Northern Divine Caviar – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • With dehydrated brioche, crème fraîche and dill.
  • This is one of my favourite caviar, not that I have caviar all the time, but this one is not only memorable, but also sustainable.
  • I first tried in at a Northern Divine Caviar dinner at C Restaurant.
  • The caviar is very smooth, delicate and mild and it’s not salty.
  • It doesn’t pop because it’s not soaked in borax and it doesn’t have a fishy aftertaste.
  • It was placed on crispy dehydrated buttery brioche with tangy crème fraîche and the hint of dill came at the end.
  • I wouldn’t have minded the dill chopped up or folded in the crème fraîche just because it was quite a big sprig for a small bite.
  • The amuse bouche was excellent because the caviar is excellent, but I actually prefer such high quality ingredients to be served in more traditional methods.
  • I know it’s not the style here and while it was traditional in theory, it was still a bit modern in execution.
  • I would have liked it on a traditional potato blini as opposed to a crunchy and dry dehydrated brioche (which was supposed to imitate a crostini).
  • I find the potato blini showcases the smooth texture of the caviar better.
  • If it was my first time trying Northern Divine Caviar, I’m not sure if this method would have done it justice. It is an exquisite caviar.
  • For interests sake, the Lemon Garden Cafe at The Shangri-La Hotel in Malaysia has a caviar buffet – see here.

Baked Potato & Chives “Chip”5/6 (Excellent)

  • Baked potato, summer truffles and chive flowers
  • I honestly just wanted a bag of these. It was unlike any “potato chip” I’ve ever seen or had.
  • It was the epitome of a pretentious potato chip!
  • It was paper thin sheets of “baked potato” and they were so delicate, flaky and crisp.
  • They looked so plain and bland, but the potatoes were boiled in a stock so they were infused with flavour and aromatics. There wasn’t a flavour I could pick out, but it was more than jut salt.
  • The potato skins are boiled, dehydrated and then fried and sprinkled with salt.
  • They were a bit oily, but it was almost like the potato version of seaweed.
  • The freshly shaved truffles on top just added to the aromas and delicate texture, but the flavour of the summer truffles were rather mild.
  • The little dollops of crème fraîche, sour cream or aioli was almost like the “dip” to the chip and I think it was used as the “glue” for the truffles to adhere.
  • It really tasted like the most elegant version of a potato chip and dip.
  • Chef Grant Achatz at Alinea makes a raspberry version of this and if you see the process, it can take days so I really appreciate these.

**Foie Gras Walnut6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • With quince purée and melba toast
  • I was so happy to see the black walnut or foie gras walnut.
  • I was first introduced to it at the Taste of Talent Benefit Dinner and it was served with a Smoked Kangaroo Loin – see here.
  • I honestly could have had a tube of this foie gras which was inspired by Joël Robuchon, but reinterpreted by Hamid.
  • The foie gras walnut was incredibly rich and buttery and made with foie gras and what seemed like lots of cream and butter.
  • It looked like a walnut, but I couldn’t actually taste the walnut although it was very buttery in flavour like a walnut naturally is.
  • It was completely smooth in texture and it just melted away in my mouth like liquid silk, but I could taste the foie in the nose and on my palate.
  • It was much thinner than a traditional pâté, but the flavour was rich and intense.
  • It could have been a torchon style foie gras where it’s slowly cooked and almost raw, and I think if anything the black walnut gave it colour.
  • It had that umami flavour that both foie gras and walnuts naturally have, but I’m not sure what else was in it to give it that complex savouriness. It was melting before I could even pick them out.
  • The quince puree was the tangy, sour and sweet fruit component to the foie gras which is always ideal.
  • Quince is one of my favourites and it’s so naturally aromatic and this one was likely reduced with some apple cider vinegar.
  • I really just wanted 100 of these bites.

**Beef Tendon Chicharrón – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • With beef tartare, pickled shallots, smoked aioli
  • After the foie gras walnut, this was my next favourite amuse bouche.
  • This was pretty much a reinterpretation of a traditional French beef tartare served with crostini, but instead it was with chicharrón.
  • It was my first time trying beef tendon chicharrón although some restaurants in the States like Animal have started making it. Chef Michael Voltaggio was perhaps the instigator of this idea.
  • Chicharrón is a popular South American snack and it’s always made with pork rind, so a beef tendon version was incredibly new and innovative to me.
  • If you’ve never tried beef tendons they’re very gelatinous and can be chewy, but when they’re executed well they can be ultra creamy and tender, similar to beef fat.
  • To get beef tendons to puff up like this is sick (I use that term in an urban way, meaning cool). It was almost magical, but I’m sure it required much trial and error.
  • The beef tendon is brined, braised, sliced, and dehydrated before it is deep fried, so the labour is incredibly commendable.
  • To get the tendon so tender and then to dry it to get it puffed is truly a technique I can only admire.
  • The beef tendon puffs come across as Chinese prawn crackers or regular chicharrón and they don’t really have a meaty flavour.
  • They were light and crispy chicharrón cups filled with beef tartare.
  • The beef was hand cut into perfect cubes and slightly larger than the other ingredients so it played a forward role.
  • All the other ingredients in the tartare were finely minced to an equal size which showed attention to detail and created balance and even texture.
  • The buttery tartare was salty and tangy with smashed capers, crunchy pickles and onions.
  • The smoked aioli was underneath so it was a refreshing change from the usual dijon mustard or aioli. This prevented any gloppiness too.
  • I actually liked the aioli not mixed into the tartare so I could taste the natural quality and flavour of the beef.
  • The smokiness of the aioli enhanced the meaty quality of the whole bite and gave it good aromatics.
  • It tasted like a chip with sour cream and onion dip and beef tartare on top. Personally, I just wanted a raw quail’s egg added too.
  • Another creative interpretation for beef tendon was this Candied Beef Tendon Cannoli at Campagnolo Roma.
  • The Manchego Puff at Fraîche was also another interesting concept for a “chicharrón”.

Chicharrón (Deep Fried Pork Rinds)4/6 (Very good)

  • With Tobasco mayo and Tabasco powder
  • This is the traditional chicharrón that I’m used to eating.
  • Usually it takes on the shape of crispy foam like the Beef Tendon Chicharrón above, but in this case they were more like “Cheezies”. Actually that would be good! A “Cheezie Chicharrón!
  • Anyway, they were light and crispy and served with a house made Tobasco mayo which was comparable to a chipotle mayo.
  • It was a garlicky mayo that was sweet initially so I felt like it was made with sweet Japanese mayo.
  • The heat and spice of the mayo was gradual and picked up progressively.
  • They could sell this sauce in a bottle and I’d enjoy it happily with fries or a burger.
  • The Tobasco powder was sweet and smoky and spicy at the end, but the spice wasn’t sharp and quite well rounded.
  • It was made with perhaps sweet and smoky paprika, cayenne pepper and other spices.
  • I could have had a bowl of these too and I wouldn’t be surprised if they offered it as a bar snack at the lounge.

Cotton Candy Pizza – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Sausage, tomato pizza powder, olive oil powder and parmesan cheese
  • This was a bit of a novelty, but it still tasted good and was packed with flavour for a single bite.
  • The bottom was a crispy pizza crust like shell that tasted like a rice cracker.
  • It was filled with tomato paste, a piece of crispy sausage and then topped with cotton candy, pizza powder, olive oil powder and parmesan cheese shavings.
  • The cotton candy was a bit compacted for a cleaner bite.
  • There was a balanced salty and sweet contrast with good acidity from the tomato paste.
  • The tomato paste was quite sharp and pungent and it tasted like it was puréed with either anchovies or olives.
  • I’m not sure if the cotton candy did anything, but it was a neat idea.
  • The bite was reminiscent of a pizza, but it was just nothing like a real pizza. It almost reminded me of those mini bagel pizza bites.
  • Another interesting savoury cotton candy was the foie gras cotton candy served with the Foie Gras Parfait at Hawksworth.

**White Salmon Gravlax5/6 (Excellent)

  • With nitro egg yolk and crispy salmon skin
  • I loved these, and again I could have eaten 100.
  • Crispy fish skin is one of my favourites and it was deep fried like salty chips.
  • I actually prefer fish skin to chicharrón although that is comparing apples to oranges.
  • The fish skin puffs were filled with pieces of cured salmon gravlax and the aftertaste was clean and not fishy.
  • There was some sort of ice or flaked sorbet sprinkled on top with the nitro egg yolk and that gave the dish a refreshing touch.
  • The nitro egg yolks really brought the flavours all together and gave it a richness.
  • The bite was creamy and crunchy and reminiscent of smoked salmon cream cheese on chips although there was no smokiness.

Elderflower Ice

  • This was the palate cleanser before the formal courses.
  • Details like this really matter to me and it’s often forgotten at many fine dining restaurants in Metro Vancouver, so I was pleased to see it remembered here.
  • This was almost like Mini Melts, but much icier and made with liquid nitrogen.
  • It’s almost like instant sorbet and I’ve tried it from Hamid before.
  • The Elderflower Ice had the flavour of Sprite and it was quite aromatic and lightly sweetened with perhaps added rose water.
  • It was floral, but not perfume like and there may have been some calamansi juice in it too.
  • It was quite tart and I could have even used some mint, but otherwise it was an ideal palate cleanser.

The Tasting Menu

Green Almond – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Radish, heart of palm, yogurt vinaigrette
  • Wine pairing: Stag’s Hollow, Sauvignon Blanc, ’10, Okanagan Falls, BC
  • I know! Pretty huh?! Not a sign of spinach, arugula, romaine, lettuce, frisée, “mixed greens” or “spring greens” and it was still a salad.
  • I was so happy to make it just in time before the season ended for green almonds.
  • Green almonds are a delicacy and they are highly prized because they’re only around for a short time. I think these are from Mikuni Wild.
  • I had them in a dessert at La Belle Auberge see here, but here they were served in their natural state.
  • The raw green almonds were sliced (they look like olives) and they have a fuzzy exterior like a peach.
  • They are crunchy and taste like almonds if almonds were a fruit.
  • They are not nutty or juicy, but they’re firm and sour and almost like eating a green papaya, but with the texture of a very unripe peach or nectarine.
  • It was also served with sour plum which tasted like unripe raw and crunchy plums.
  • The slices of plum were still juicy though and they looked like sliced green grapes, but they have a slightly bitter skin.
  • The pickled cucumbers were actually the sweetest ingredients on the plate and it was perhaps juiciest too.
  • It would have been nice to have some sweet kiwi in here to give it more of an obvious fruitiness since everything was so tart.

  • It was a very refreshing salad which showcased many crunchy textures.
  • The salad carried a lot of acidity and it was quite sour and cooling in ingredients.
  • The yogurt vinaigrette was more like a light broth and it was poured over top upon serving.
  • It was made with buttermilk, cucumber vinegar and yogurt, but it was mild enough that I could have drank it.
  • The vinaigrette wasn’t creamy though and it was very light, but still on the acidic side although not super sour.
  • It seemed thicker from the olive oil than the dairy and I would have preferred it a bit sweeter since the ingredients were so tart.
  • The tapioca pearls were infused with cucumber juice and I think it was more for texture and presentation. Basil seeds would have also been nice.
  • There was a lot of crunchy textures and different amounts of juice coming from each ingredient.
  • Most of the ingredients were in their pure state which I liked since they were rather unfamiliar. The vinaigrette was the creative part.
  • I appreciated the salad more because it showcased so many exotic ingredients, but it’s not something I would really crave.

**Scallop – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Taramasalata, black radish, cilantro
  • Wine pairing: Stag’s Hollow,Sauvignon Blanc, ’10, Okanagan Falls, BC
  • I know! I want to cry. Those purple-blue flowers… I almost wanted to put them in my pocket and take them home.
  • It was a BC Qualicum Bay scallop tartare dressed in a creamy cod roe mayo dip called Taramasalata.
  • I order Taramasalata at Greek restaurants, but I think this is the first time I’ve had it outside of a Greek restaurant.
  • I didn’t even recognize it because it’s usually pink or orange in colour so this cod roe was a bit different and not as salty or fishy tasting.
  • The scallops were naturally sweet and creamy and there were nice crunchy cubes of olive oil croutons sprinkled on top.
  • The tartare had crunchy bits of finely minced jalapeño which added in texture and gave some back palate heat.
  • The jalapeño helped build heat without spice as opposed to an obvious pepper like chilies, which could have overpowered the scallops.
  • There was a good squeeze of lime to brighten up the seafood flavours and keep it fresh too.
  • The dressing had an umami flavour and the combination of scallops and the type of cod roe used almost made it taste like a seafood version of foie gras.
  • As a side note, the foie gras of the sea is actually monk fish liver (see here), but this was even better.
  • I really loved the texture and flavours of this tartare and I found it incredibly well balanced as well as beautiful.

**Razor Clam5/6 (Excellent)

  • Sunchoke, hon shimeji, tarragon
  • Wine Pairing: Blue Mountain, Pinot Gris, ’10, Okanagan, BC
  • Wow. It’s so rare to see razor clams in Vancouver! I only get them when I’m in Asia and I’ve had them on occasion in the States too. I was so happy to see them!
  • It was topped with a Parmesan lace which was probably the nicest one I’ve seen to date.
  • Usually the parmesan crisps are so thick and crunchy, but this one was so delicate, thin and flaky and made with super fine shavings of grated parmesan.
  • The parmesan crisp wasn’t there to only look nice, but it gave the dish another layer of texture and nutty salty flavour.
  • There were also some pencil thin young Spring asparagus which was good for colour since the mustardy colour of the broth wasn’t as appetizing.

  • When it comes to playing with textures, I’m always blown away by Hamid’s attention to it.
  • He used three ingredients with similar textures, but different flavours and it was quite a unique medley.
  • The pieces of razor clams were sautéed with gnocchi and hon shimeji which is a Japanese Beech mushroom.
  • Everything was cut to the same size and sautéed just to the right time that I almost couldn’t tell what was what.
  • The 3 ingredients blended right in together in texture and colour.
  • The razor clams are comparable to geoduck in texture and flavour and they weren’t chewy at all.
  • It has a firm texture, but only becomes rubbery when overcooked and they were cooked perfectly here.
  • The Beech mushrooms are slippery, but mild in flavour and I almost forgot about them. I guess they’re similar to Enoki, but bigger and meatier.
  • The gnocchi was eggy and more like spaetzle (German egg noodle) and I had it once with his Atlantic Lobster Globe at The Apron (this dish is still available at Diva at the Met).
  • It’s not my idea of gnocchi, but I liked it in this context because it just played right into the texture of the razor clams.
  • The tarragon clam sauce was incredible although the colour was a bit of a turn off.
  • It was on the salty side, but I did enjoy it. I would say it is a bit acquired though.
  • The sauce was pungent and potent and it tasted like the briney ocean.
  • It was made with clam nectar and the tomalley (brains and mussels) of the clam and that was the dominant flavour.
  • Naturally, the tomalley is where all the flavour is and it was used to build the intensity of the sauce.
  • The fresh and mild licorice flavour of the tarragon really brightened it up.
  • It was a bit acidic as well from perhaps wine and or lemon juice.
  • There was some undetectable pork lardo, but it could have lent itself nicely to build the savoury complexity and umami achieved in the sauce.

BC Spot Prawns – 4/6 (Very good)

  • Grilled spot prawns, Kookoo Sabzi, sunchokes, garlic flowers, seville orange and dill water broth.
  • Wine Pairing: Paul Zinck, Pinot Blanc, ’09, Alsace, France
  • I was brought back to his Persian New Years menu he once served at The Apron – see Kookoo Sabzi.
  • Being that it’s BC Spot Prawn season it was no surprise to have this as a course.
  • For me, the only thing missing was the BC Spot Prawn shells and the head. It never feels like eating Spot Prawns without them.
  • I’m a huge fan of the whole thing and I also eat the whole thing so I was a bit sad not to see them.
  • On the bright side they use the head and shells for other things so it doesn’t go to waste.
  • The prawns were smoky and on the rare side and almost like sashimi, but that didn’t bother me.
  • I wouldn’t have minded them more grilled on the exterior, but I don’t think the grill was hot enough to sear them.
  • The fried sunchoke chips made for crunchy texture since the prawns had no shells.

  • Upon serving they poured a luke warm seville orange and dill water broth over top. It was the essence of the dish.
  • I loved that it was served warm because the fragrant aromas just lifted off the plate and hit my nose.
  • If the broth was hot it would have cooked the prawns and the flavours were so delicate that warm was best.
  • The broth was made with vinegar and herb oil and it was more sour than sweet.
  • It was still well rounded with the scent of seville orange or perhaps orange blossom water and the intensity of the dill was strong and well infused throughout the oil.
  • I could have drank the broth alone so it wasn’t that sour or sweet, but just beautiful and bright in flavours.
  • It was almost reminiscent of a warm sunomono broth for an easy Japanese food reference.
  • The Kookoo Sabzi was the black mound of rolled paste that looked like a meatball.
  • It’s a Persian herb frittata made with lots of puréed herbs and it was sharp and very tangy.
  • It was almost like eating stewed and pickled herbs compacted into a paste and it’s made with scallions, dill and cilantro.
  • The Kookoo Sabzi sat on top of sunchoke purée which was the sweetness to the dish and it kept the Kookoo Sabzi in place.
  • The Kookoo Sabzi was nice when it melted into the broth and overall it was probably the most fragrant and aromatic dish of the night.

Halibut – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Chermoula, squid noodle, fava beans, burnt wild ramps
  • Wine pairing: Joie Farm Rose (Pinot Noir/Gamay), ’10, Okanagan Valley, B.C.
  • This was a work of art and I wanted to cry tears of joy at the presentation.
  • It was another soupy dish which was unexpected but thoroughly enjoyed.
  • It was again very fragrant and aromatic, but it was on the bolder side compared to the Spot Prawns.
  • He was working up towards stronger flavours as the Tasting Menu progressed.
  • This reminded me of his Mirza Ghasemi I once had from his Persian New Years Menu at The Apron. It was a reinterpretation of the dish, but it was similar in flavours.
  • The fava beans underneath the fish were firm and not starchy and they were almost like sweet peas in texture.
  • They put fava beans in a whole new light for me and I already liked them to begin with.
  • I did miss the skin on the smoked halibut, but it was cooked perfectly.
  • The halibut was juicy, moist and flaking apart with the touch of a fork.
  • It seemed almost poached which is how I prefer halibut since overcooking it tends to be riskier with other methods.
  • The halibut was under seasoned though so I was thankful that there were so many other flavours, sauces and broths in the bowl to make up for the blander fish.
  • The brush of paste around the bowl was chermoula paste which is a Morccocan marinade for fish and it was very potent in flavour.
  • Usually chermoula would be rubbed on the fish, so this was different.
  • The paste was sour from perhaps added pomegranate paste, lemon juice, vinegar and/or perhaps tomato paste.
  • As sour as it was, it was equally salty for balance and a bit smoky from cumin, paprika and cayenne for a bit of heat.
  • It tasted like a sundried tomato paste but with more ground spices, cilantro flavour and a pleasant bitterness from the spices at the end.

  • Upon serving there was a warm tomato based roasted halibut broth poured on top.
  • I think the broth was made with added chermoula, but the fish flavour was masked by the paste.
  • There may have been spot prawn shells used for this broth, but it was subtle if I didn’t pay attention and again the paste was stronger.
  • I think the addition of Chinese dried shrimps or scallops would have done wonders to stand up to the paste.
  • The flavours of the Moroccan style broth were very sweet and sour and reminiscent of tamarind juice or paste.
  • I could taste saffron in it and the whole dish just reminded me of a Middle Eastern or African bouillabaisse.
  • The broth had a million ingredients and some of them included ginger, preserved lemon, smoked paprika, kaffir lime, cumin, red pepper and tomato and the flavours were so complex and intense that I couldn’t pick anything out.
  • The flavours were all really strong, smoky and bold and the charcoal scent of the burnt garlic ramps just added to the aromatics.
  • The squid noodles were crispy and puffed, but obviously got soft and “noodle” like once they hit the broth.
  • There was a good play with the sweet and sour and I’m not sure how I felt about the squid noodles but they were interesting and added texture.
  • I really would be happy ordering this for lunch with vermicelli noodles though… a Persian noodle shop hasn’t hit Vancouver yet right?

**Albacore Tuna6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Salsa romesco, artichokes, eggplant, smoked quail egg
  • Wine pairing: Blasted Church, Hatfield’s Fuse (Gew,Pg,Pb,Chrd,Er), ’10, Ok Valley BC
  • It looked like edible nature and there were so many components and textures to play with and eat around.
  • It was garnished with potato hearts, dill, clove flowers and chicory. This dish showcased the love for foraging best.
  • I couldn’t even tell this was albacore tuna. The black coloured tuna didn’t exactly look pretty, but it was delicious!
  • The albacore tuna came across as sashimi or Ahi Tuna.
  • I couldn’t even tell if the outside was seared because it was rubbed in a black kalamata olive glaze and it was really potent in flavour and more like a paste.
  • I wish there was a crust on the tuna though because it was kind of lacking in texture.
  • The rub was salty, sour and tangy with a charcoal flavour, but it wasn’t bitter or burnt in a bad way.
  • It was a very original interpretation for albacore tuna in Vancouver.
  • For once, there was nothing Asian about this and instead it was very Spanish, Persian and Mediterranean in flavours.
  • The flavour profile was quite similar to the Halibut Stew above, but this wasn’t as acidic.
  • The salsa romesco was the Spanish component.
  • It’s a sauce that’s made with puréed almonds, tomatoes, red peppers, garlic and chillies.
  • It was very thick, creamy, nutty, tangy and salty and it carried a mild spiciness and flavours of smoky paprika. It would taste great with the BC Spot Prawns too.
  • The creamy eggplant rouille was like an eggplant mayo, but it’s made with charred eggplant, bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic and chili.
  • It was slightly bitter since it was likely made from charred eggplant with the skins on, but it played well with the tuna as a condiment.
  • There was a pickled artichoke heart on the side, but I would have liked a pickled eggplant to match just because it could have used another vegetable.
  • The smoked quail’s egg was soft boiled with a runny yolk and it had an infused smokiness that complemented all the other smoky flavours in the dish.
  • The creamy runny yolk added a richness to the albacore tuna and I just wanted 10 of them to enjoy with every bite of tuna.
  • For a sashimi style plate it was certainly different with a lot of rich flavours and creamy textures, but the dish itself was not rich.
  • I probably could have used some pickled fennel, ginger or preserved lemon as a condiment on the side to break up the smoky flavours.
  • I didn’t get to taste the natural flavour of the Albacore tuna too much, but I would still order this again.

**Pork Jowl5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Chickpea dumpling, cauliflower, saffron
  • Wine pairing: Chateau Ste Michelle, Riesling, ’10, Columbia Valley, Washington St
  • The dish had two main components: a chickpea dumpling and a nice fatty piece of pork jowl.
  • The chickpea dumpling was more like a patty and it tasted like a gourmet falafel.
  • The dumpling was soft and I wish it was crispy on the outside, but it tasted amazing!
  • The dumpling was made from chick peas (made from their dry state) and ground chicken and it was a bit mealy in texture, but not in a bad way.
  • It was quite meaty yet crumbly from the chickpeas and it was like a hybrid of a falafel meets chicken sausage and a meaty polenta.
  • The dumpling was nice and moist and full of savoury flavours and spices, but it wasn’t spicy or apparent with an obvious spice.
  • It was topped with semi crispy and nutty cauliflower cous cous and I just wish it was crispier for more texture.
  • I would have loved the cous cous with deep fried chick peas for an obvious crunch.

The photo looks the same, but this was after the saffron jus was poured over top.

  • Upon serving they poured an onion gastrique and saffron jus on top.
  • It made the cauliflower cous cous a bit soggy and it was already soft.
  • The sauce was sweet, sour, and savoury and almost like a syrupy demi glace or fragrant caramel.
  • It had the aromas and scent of saffron, but it wasn’t overpowering and there was a nice vinegar tang to keep it balanced.
  • The piece of pork jowl next to the chickpea dumpling was small, but that’s really all I needed.
  • Pork jowl (cheek) is as good as pork belly and it’s a cheap cut of meat, but when it’s executed well they are guilty indulgences.
  • It actually had an unexpected thin skin on the outside, but it was only slightly crispy.
  • There is usually a little meat on the jowl, but this one was almost all white and all fat and it was incredibly tender, soft and buttery.
  • It was likely braised or sous vide, or maybe both and it melted in my mouth like cream.

**Duo of Lamb – 5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Slow cooked neck, sirloin, smoked lentils, carrot, bluefoot mushrooms, balsamic jus and sorrel leaves.
  • Wine pairing: Truchard, Cabernet Sauvignon, ’07, Napa Valley, California
  • Oh I feel so spoiled when I get Bluefoot Mushrooms let alone caviar and foie gras at a dinner! There were so many delicacies to be savoured.
  • Bluefoot Mushrooms are grown in the wild and they are highly prized mushrooms. I thought it was too early for them, but I wasn’t going to complain.
  • It has a woody, rich, earthy and meaty flavour and texture.
  • It’s almost like a Potobello mushroom meets a Porcini mushroom with the texture of a chanterelle.
  • The roasted baby carrots were good quality and they had a natural sweetness.
  • The sauce brushed on the plate was I think a lamb jus and maybe tomato paste and it was very salty and sour again. It had those Persian flavours that were introduced earlier.

  • Upon serving they poured a 10 year old balsamic and lamb jus reduction on top.
  • I’m actually not even sure it needed the sauce, or maybe it didn’t need so much of it.
  • I love sauces, but this already had the sauce on the bottom which was quite strong.
  • The 10 year old balsamic and lamb jus reduction was slightly over reduced though so it ended up being a bit too thick, but the flavour was incredible.
  • It was extremely syrupy and sweet with a strong acidity and the flavour was just sticking to all my taste buds and the roof of my mouth.
  • I’ve actually been lucky enough to get this lamb dish on a few occasions now.
  • I consider it one of his signature dishes, but each time it’s interpreted slightly different.
  • I tried his Lamb Duo once on the regular menu at The Apron – see Lamb Duo and then another time on his Persian New Years Menu – see Ghormeh Sabzi.
  • So far the dish will always feature 2 parts of the lamb: the neck and the sirloin.
  • The lamb neck is the part I like more and it was executed like a chunky terrine.
  • It was presented in a solid rectangular piece which was pan seared on both sides.
  • The neck is salt cured and cooked in orange, thyme, cumin and shallots and the flavours are really built throughout the piece of meat.
  • The neck was all shredded and mixed with half meat and half fat.
  • It was incredibly tender, a bit gelatinous, not chewy at all, moist and full of flavour with a mild gaminess at the end.
  • The neck was topped with a roasted cipollini onion and draped with a sheet of celeraic, but I’m not sure if it had a purpose beyond looking interesting. It looked like a shaving of melted cheese.
  • The celeraic wasn’t obvious in flavour until the after taste kicked in and it was creamy, but also slightly random. I’m not sure what it was supposed to complement.
  • Chef Grant Achatz does something similar with a paper thin slice of Wagyu beef draped over a cipollini onion too.
  • The lamb sirloin was moist and medium rare, but it wasn’t as special as the lamb neck which was original.
  • The best part of the sirloin was the bed of smoky bacon and rye bread lentils it sat on.
  • The lentils were firm and al dente and sauteed with carrots and onions for aromatics.
  • There were crispy cubes of  toasted rye bread croutons for texture and the smoky bacon just enhanced that umami taste.
  • I’m not sure if the lentils were braised in lamb jus or if they were just covered with the reduction, but they were sweet, tangy and salty and I could have eaten a whole bowl of them.

Avocado Marquise4/6 (Very good)

  • Coconut, calamansi, black sesame
  • Wine pairing: Prospect Point Lost Bar Viral Ice Wine, Ok Valley BC
  • This was so interesting and I loved the concept of it, but I also wanted it to feel more like a dessert and it seemed like a dessert teaser.
  • It looked exactly like an avocado, but I wish there was actual avocado on the plate too. The avocado flavour was very mild.
  • Avocado works wonderfully in desserts and it can act as a substitution for butter in brownies (takes some adjusting). It’s a perfect match with cocoa and chocolate too. I’m serious.
  • Gorilla Food makes an incredible Avocado Pie as well – see here.
  • I ended up eating this deconstruced dessert avocado in two components.

  • Instead of a traditional Chocolate Marquis, this was an Avocado Marquis.
  • Chocolate Marquis is made with heavy cream, egg yolks, chocolate and butter and it’s quite rich, heavy, decadent and creamy; but in this case it was with avocado and white chocolate.
  • For a marquis I found it very light and the avocado was very faint in flavour and I just wanted more of it.
  • The avocado was mixed with white chocolate and it wasn’t that sweet, but actually slightly tart from added lime or calamansi juice. It likely stopped the avocado from browning.
  • It was creamy, fluffy and moussey and it looked like a Swiss roll or a roulade, but there was no sponge cake and it was only cream.
  • The middle was I think a calamansi gelée and it just made the avocado marquis more acidic and citrusy, but it wasn’t even that sweet to begin with.
  • The outside looked like it was coated with chocolate sponge cake powder and I thought it would be easier to use cocoa powder, but this was no short cut.
  • I actually tried remaking this at home with actual pieces of avocado. I crusted them in candied pistachio nuts and made it more like a parfait for ease.
  • I think I just really wanted to taste avocado since it was in the title of the dessert, but I could see most people not being keen on that.

  • The second component was the “avocado pit”, which looked exactly like a real avocado pit.
  • There were dollops of calamansi gel and coconut gel on the plate and those sauces worked perfectly in this dessert.
  • The coconut gels weren’t really gels, but more like dollops of coconut cream and they tasted like pina coladas.
  • They were perfect accents to the dessert and it was the only part I really got coconut flavour.
  • The lime gels seemed more like a sauce than gels as well, but they were also quite nice. 
  • I felt like there was enough lime going on in all the other components, so another flavoured gel other than lime would not be bad.

  • The “avocado pit” was a chocolate dipped calamansi sorbet ball and it was perfect!
  • It’s so hard to get a chocolate shell so thin and even like that, but it was even all around.
  • The inside of the “pit” was filled with a carbonated calamansi sorbet.
  • It was a bit too sour for me and it made my salivary glands go quite instantly, but it was still good and refreshing.
  • My favourite part to this component was the black sesame powder underneath. That was delicious, but the lime was an unusual match.
  • The powder was nutty with a good amount of ground black sesame, light and airy and disappeared on the tongue.
  • The flavours were very Asian and familiar to me and I enjoyed it alone.
  • The white pieces were egg white meringues and they were the crispy components to the dish.
  • The avocado pit was reminiscent of the famous Kalamansi Explosions at La Belle Auberge, but instead of a liquid calamansi juice it was a refreshing sorbet, which I liked even more.
  • I had this last and it worked nicely as the after meal palate cleanser.

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