Restaurant: Caché Bistro & Lounge
Last Visited: June 4, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Yaletown/Downtown)
Address: 1269 Hamilton Street
Transit: Yaletown-Roundhouse Stn Southbound
Price Range: $20-30+ ($15-20 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 2.5-3 (based on what I tried)
- Some Asian influenced dishes
- Chinese owned/operated
- Seasonal menus
- Patio seating
- Ribs & Beer Wednesday $18
- Happy Hour Special 3 course $35 menu (5:30-6:30pm)
- Monday – Friday 11am – 2:30pm
- Brunch Saturday, Sunday & Holiday 10:30am – 3pm
- Dinner & Lunge Sunday – Thursday 5:30pm- 10:30pm
- Friday – Saturday 5:30pm – 12:00am
- Chef’s Table (By Reservation Only)
**Recommendations: Ruby Trout with Sundred Tomato Crust, Macadamia Nut Liqueur 1oz taster
It took a very risky spot. It’s in the rather forgotten and secluded part of Yaletown and for years it was Charm Modern Thai. Caché Bistro & Lounge opened only a few months ago and I wasn’t sure what to expect. From the outside it looked like a modern and stylish French bistro, but the inside looked like the same old Charm Modern Thai.
I was actually invited for a media tasting and I heard some mixed “reviews”, but I came in rather neutral with no expectations. On that note, this isn’t really a “review” (nothing I write is) but it’s just my experience with the food and honest thoughts.
It’s a Chinese owned and operated French bistro and a few of the items have Asian influence, but it’s predominantly French. It’s not really “Asian fusion” as much as it was catered for Asian tastes. It’s perhaps traditional French in technique, but not really in style and it was a milder side to authentic French food.
The chef’s formal training is in French cuisine so it is the style he wants to emulate, but often I found the food a bit dated. It wasn’t bad, but the concept for the dishes were exhausted and I was hoping for a fresher take. I wasn’t thinking of a modern take, since French bistros are often traditional, but the style of food just came across as more hotel style than neat neighbourhood restaurant.
It had the standard steak frites, beef tartare, escargot, and steamed mussels, but everything was still a bit old fashioned rather than classic. A couple of the more creative dishes seemed perhaps still in the experimental stages and the others were relying on trends that have passed. Again the food I tried wasn’t bad and it tasted fine, but it comes down to style and just overall delivery which becomes important in downtown. There are so many dining options in Vancouver and it’s a competitive game. My favourite French bistro in downtown at the moment is probably Le Parisien, but each cater to different clientèle and the difference is night and day.
The chef and his wife used to host underground supper clubs so this is their first restaurant and I feel for them. I could see the effort in the dishes and I give the benefit of the doubt that they’re still getting comfortable and reinventing the menu. Underground supper clubs are much different than a restaurant in terms of operation and customer expectations, so personally I felt like the transition was still being made.
On the table:
- I always appreciate complimentary bread and butter and he put some effort in the butters.
- The bread wasn’t house made, but it was baked in house and served warm.
- It wasn’t a traditional French baguette, but more like a soft and fluffy hot dog bun.
- It’s not sweet bread, but it’s white flour bread with likely a bit of added sugar so it’s sweeter.
- It was served with truffle butter, cranberry butter and satay butter.
- The trio of whipped butters was a cute idea, but the truffle butter worked the best and it seemed more intense than just truffle oil.
- The satay butter would be acquired to people familiar with that flavour because it’s pungent with a dried shrimp quality.
- The cranberry almost seemed like strawberry and it wasn’t tart or that sweet, but if anything it was more sweet than tart.
- Frisée, white truffle vinaigrette $10
- I was most excited to try this because it sounded inventive and I’m a fan of foie gras.
- I liked the flavour of this more so than the execution of it, although I give credit to the creative effort.
- Usually very high quality caviar would be presented like this and the egg inside the eggshell would be a very soft and creamy scramble – see Scrambled Egg and Caviar.
- Since the egg mixture was a crème brûlée I found it very difficult to mix while not breaking the shell.
- The last thing you want is to ruin your bite of exquisite foie gras while getting the crunch of an eggshell.
- There was an egg yolk sized piece of foie in there, but having it steamed wasn’t my favourite way of enjoying foie. I prefer a quick pan sear.
- The foie gras and custard almost had the same texture so they too were a bit hard to mix.
- The foie was in one piece so I had to break it up, which isn’t easy to do in such a small egg shell and portion.
- The crème brûlée was very lightly sweetened and the texture was almost like a baked Portuguese custard or silky tofu.
- The buttery foie is naturally oily so the foie oils were melting in the custard with the heat.
- Everything was quite rich in flavour as it should be.
- There was also no brûlée and I missed the crisp caramelized burnt sugar shell which would have been perfect with the foie gras. Foie gras goes so well with sweet things.
- It was topped with caviar which was the typical sushi caviar, but it added crunchy pops of saltiness to the dish and I did enjoy it.
- The frisée was naturally bitter and it acted as the palate cleanser, but it was nice to have in between bites to cut the richness of the foie gras.
- The truffle vinaigrette was strong with truffle oil which was good too.
- The dish tasted good, but my expectations for it were different and I still question the execution and a ramekin dish might have worked better.
- Baby arugula, candied walnut, white wine soaked raisin, lemon vinaigrette, onion jam $12
- I’m stereotyping, but Chinese tend to do duck well and it was done well here, I only wish the skin was crispy.
- The 2 hour smoked duck breast was really moist and very tender and sliced nice and thin and even.
- I liked that the fat was well rendered and most of it wasn’t chewy, but some of it still was. I’m sensitive to chewy fat.
- I loved the infused black tea smoked flavour and it gave the duck a lot of depth.
- I could taste it right away and it was aromatic, but not bitter.
- The salad probably should have been more plentiful, but it wasn’t anything particularly new in terms of combination of ingredients.
- The raisins were plump and juicy and the candied walnuts crunchy and sweet, but I could have used more of the walnuts.
- The lemon vinaigrette would have been even better as an orange vinaigrette since duck and orange go so well together. Orange and tea also go well together like Earl Grey.
- Overall the salad was a bit hotel style, but it was made well.
- Kennebec potato pavé, grilled seasonal vegetables $16
- The concept was a bit old fashioned, but it tasted fine.
- I wasn’t as keen on the bacon and quail quality, but it was prepared very carefully and wrapped quite perfectly.
- The quail was a bit fatty which is natural, but it was a bit too fatty.
- It kind of reminded me of thanksgiving with the juicy cranberries stuffed inside, but the cranberries lost their flavour and tartness and I couldn’t taste them.
- The quail was moist and tender, but the bacon wasn’t crispy however the whole thing was well seasoned.
- The vegetables were simply grilled and well seasoned with salt and black pepper.
- Tasting menu special/Market price
- This was my highlight.
- It wasn’t really anything new and the panko crusted fish is quite typical, but it was the presentation and getting the full thing that impressed me.
- I loved getting the whole fillet rather than a small potion of it and I loved that they included the skin.
- I really wish the skin was crispy, but I still ate it.
- The fish I wouldn’t mind a bit less cooked, but it wasn’t dry and still moist and flaky.
- They missed maybe 2 bones, but it was otherwise boneless.
- It had a nice crispy top and I could taste a thin layer of lemony mayo just to give added richness to the trout and also to help the panko crumb adhere.
- The panko crumb had some sundried tomato bits and dill and perhaps sun dried tomato salt, but sun dried tomato is quite 80’s…
- I think there was a bit of chili flakes because there was some heat, but it wasn’t spicy.
- The fish was well seasoned and even though it’s something you could prepare at home, I enjoyed it… despite my food snobbery “80’s” comment.
- The green beans I wish were Haricots verts, the thinner longer French green beans, but they were very well seasoned.
- I actually really liked the seasoning salt used on the beans and they were nice and garlicky too.
- I wasn’t a fan of the grilled tomatoes though and they had a watery flavour so a change in supplier for those might help.
- I’m not crazy about chocolate mousse, but this one was made quite well.
- It was fluffy and light and the texture was even and consistent.
- It seemed more like milk chocolate than dark chocolate, but I liked that it wasn’t too sweet.
- It didn’t have the bitterness of dark chocolate either though which I like.
- There was a mango coulis or nectar underneath and I wasn’t really feeling the concept since it just made the mousse a bit thin and watery.
- The mango was sweet and not tart, but it wasn’t particularly for me and I like chocolate and I like mango.
- I doubt it was fresh mango, but that might have made a difference and some texture if real pieces were included.
- It looked pretty good, but I really wish it wasn’t strawberries since strawberries aren’t in season right now.
- The strawberries were Californian and they weren’t as tart as normal, but they still weren’t good strawberries.
- I loved the hibiscus cream which was very lightly sweetened and the basil leaves were a great touch and made for nice aromatics.
- The pavlova cookies were crunchy and a bit dry and over baked so they didn’t have the marshmallow like creamy soft centres.
- The tower made it hard to eat so the stacks had to be removed because you couldn’t cut it without the layers falling apart and the cream oozing out.
- There is no pastry chef in house, so it wasn’t bad, but could still use some work.
- This was my favourite dessert.
- The bottom glass is just hot water.
- I’ve never had it served like this, but the steam really opened up the flavours in the macadamia nut liqueur and made it so palatable.
- It was almost like amaretto and had notes of nuts, marzipan and vanilla and it was sweet, but not ice wine sweet.