Restaurant: Hawksworth Restaurant
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest/West Coast/Pacific Rim/Euro-Asian/Fine Dining
Last Visited: March 25, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 801 West Georgia Street (Inside Rosewood Hotel Georgia)
Transit: Vancouver City Ctr Stn Southbound
Phone: (604) 673-7000
Price Range: $50+ ($30-50 dinner mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 5 (based on this menu)
Service: 4.5 (over collective visits)
- Owner/Chef David Hawksworth
- Euro-Asian meets Canadian
- Seasonal menus
- Business casual
- Private dining
- Cocktail program
- Excellent wine selection
- Dinner 5:00pm – late, 7 Days a week
Late night bar menu available until midnight
Lunch 11:30am – 2:00pm, Monday to Friday
Lunch is served on weekdays only
Breakfast 6:30am – 10:30am, Monday to Friday
Breakfast 7:00am – 10:30am Saturday & Sunday
Brunch 10:30am – 2:00pm, Saturday & Sunday
- Hawksworth Dinner – Visit 1
- Hawksworth Cocktail dinner
- Hawksworth Lunch
**Recommendations: Seared yellowfin tuna crispy pig ear ‘fried rice’. Bar snacks: Crispy Vietnamese chicken wings, Spicy yellowfin tuna crunchy rice.
So did you do it? Did you get excited? Every time I mention “Hawksworth Restaurant” in Vancouver it usually emotes some type of positive excitement. There are “ooh’s and ahh’s” and it is often associated with a special occasion. Although there are no white tablecloths, this is considered a fine dining restaurant in the context of Vancouver. Vancouver doesn’t have much fine dining to begin with, so the definition of fine dining is more appreciated as “upscale” dining here. Whatever you call it, Hawksworth is a nice place, and “nice” is an understatement.
It only opened in 2011, but it has quickly risen to the top as “Vancouver’s Best Restaurant”. It was even deemed Canada’s Best Restaurant as it was named Restaurant Of The Year by Maclean’s Magazine last year. I could add to the list of awards: Canada’s Best New Restaurant, Best Upscale Restaurant, Chef of the Year, Sommelier of the Year, and honestly the list goes on and on. It has won the local public and media vote as “#1” and “Best” countless times. It might not be on the internationally recognized map yet (unfortunately, few Canadian restaurants are), but it has a loyal following and local support.
The pressure to be #1. It’s tough enough to get that spot and even harder to stay there. Everyone wants to be #1, so whoever gets it, gets all the glory, but also all the scrutiny.
The restaurant has experienced so much positive media and hype that there are only two ways it can be experienced. Either you go in and think it lives up to the hype, or are disappointed and think it’s overrated. There is really nothing in between unless you are completely unaware of its many awards and accolades.
I have sympathy for those who hold the #1 spot because it is hard to stay there and it is not exactly a forgiving spot. Every detail gets picked on to the death. Nobody is perfect, but you expect highly acclaimed and special occasion places like this to be.
I admit, every time I go into Hawksworth I go with the highest expectations. It is not exactly fair, but I’ve had fantastic meals here and I know what they are capable of, so I expect nothing less. That’s why I was so disappointed when I came for an event and the meal was shockingly below par. It was not representative of the restaurant and after providing honest feedback privately I was invited back. It shows a lot for service because service should not end when the meal is finished. Most importantly is they treated everyone who had the same feedback as me with the same respect. That was something I will not forget and it makes for the full Hawksworth experience.
Professional service aside, I came here fore a Chef’s Tasting Menu featuring some of his new spring dishes. The Pacific Northwest menu is seasonal and not much has changed since the restaurant opened, except for the prices. It started off as an affordable fine dining restaurant but now it is just a fine dining restaurant. Again, this is fine dining in Vancouver which is different than other food Meccas on a global scale. In Vancouver it is considered pricey, but on a global scale perhaps still affordable.
Price is one thing, but food, delivery and value is another. While there is play, local and global inspiration, and culinary innovation, I do sense a bit of corporate structure and it doesn’t have the personal qualities of a smaller seat fine dining restaurant. The food is excellent and approachable, but it is not necessarily a “gastronomical experience”. It is more about the full restaurant experience. Nonetheless, the quality of ingredients, execution, attention to texture, and presentation at Hawksworth has stayed consistent which is the key to success.
With all due respect and not to knock anyone down, but I appreciate dining at Hawksworth more when I don’t think of it as “The Best Restaurant in Canada”. I don’t like saying anything is “the best” because it’s all relative and tastes are too personal.
Come here for a fine meal, a ritzy ambiance and an excellent wine and cocktail list. It has all the components of an upscale restaurant with legs and a long life span, and when I come with reasonable expectations I am delivered a ball.
On the table:
- So it wasn’t complimentary, which I think is rare for this sort of establishment. It’s the principle, not the price.
- I just don’t know many upscale restaurants in Vancouver charging for bread baskets anymore.
- I think it would be nice to have it offered complimentary as part of the service.
- I always comment on bread and butter because I think it can say something about a restaurant.
- Their bread basket is served with butter and extra virgin olive oil.
- The butter was mixed with brown butter bread crumbs so it had a grainy texture and it wasn’t very salty.
- It was almost neutral in flavour and it was served room temperature.
- I prefer the one at Diva at the Met which is similar – see their bread and butter with brown butter powder.
- The extra virgin olive oil was fruity and potent and not spicy.
- That peppery spice is usually a sign of really high quality olive oil with high antioxidants.
- The bread basket was served warm and it had 3 types of breads as well as some sesame crisps that I didn’t see until later.
- The first bread seemed like a standard whole wheat white bread and the crust was a bit tough.
- The second bread was a standard French baguette which I found on the chewy side and again a bit tough.
- The third bread was a Kalamata olive sourdough bread which was also chewy, and the olives were on the bitter side rather than salty.
- Finally there were crunchy sesame and sea salt crisps which tasted like thick tortilla chips and I found those a bit addicting.
- It was a mix of breads with no particular theme, and I think the variety changes on occasion.
2011 Terredora di Paolo Falanghina Campania IGT, Campania, Italy – It was a nice starter wine and it would go well with many things. It was citrusy with lemon, with good acidity from pineapple, and it had a clean finish. I’m not sure if I would remember it, but it paired really nicely with the next course and the Meyer lemon purée in it.
- Meyer lemon, fennel, horseradish, soy truffle vinaigrette ($20 a la carte)
- I would be curious to re-order this a la carte (as a full sized portion) to see if the hamachi was sliced thicker or if there were more components.
- As a starter course to a Chef’s Tasting Menu it was excellent, but as an appetizer it was very good.
- I would have loved the hamachi to be sliced thicker.
- It was sliced like carpaccio and it fell secondary to the excellent Meyer lemon purée.
- The hamachi had a sprinkle of maldon salt, and it didn’t necessarily need it, but it was okay.
- The Meyer lemon purée was a highlight and I thought about it even after all the other courses.
- Its vibrant yellow colour could have attracted a honey bee.
- Meyer lemon is a sweeter lemon and also a fall lemon, but being a citrus fruit I don’t mind it being showcased throughout the year.
- It was thick, creamy and fresh and a nice change from expected avocado purée, something typically done with sashimi on the West Coast.
- It started sweet and then tangy and the after taste was slightly bitter, but it was balanced.
- I think it was just Meyer lemon peel,
olive oil(butter upon confirmation), simple syrup, and maybe grapefruit or orange, but it was fragrant and beautifully rich in flavour and texture.
- It was the richest component on the plate and you wouldn’t expect it to be since it was lemon.
- The thinly shaved strips of fennel salad were like noodles.
- It was a nice change from daikon which is rather bland.
- It was fresh, marinated quite lightly, and tossed with some dill and vibrant orange tobiko.
- It was simple in flavour and the soy truffle vinaigrette pearls were the dressing.
- I liked how the vinaigrette was contained in pearls because I could control the salt on my salad.
- The pearls were acidic and salty and I think there was citrusy ponzu in it too.
- The citrus from the ponzu played into the Meyer lemon purée and it complemented the hamachi as well.
- Fennel and orange are classic pairings, but it was nice to have it with the Meyer lemon instead of orange.
- The shavings of horseradish got lost in the dish so I wouldn’t have minded more of that.
- It was the “wasabi” in the dish and fresh wasabi would have been even better, but I could appreciate horseradish.
- It was a simple, light, fresh, creamy and crunchy salad and it was very well done.
2011 Jorge Ordonez & Co. ‘Botani’ Moscatel Seco, Sierras de Malaga, Spain – I’ve never even had wine from this region of Spain and this Muscat was very unfamiliar. It was much fruitier than the previous wine and it was a bit sweet too. It was very fragrant, floral, fruity and tropical and it had a very strong aroma. It was bright and citrusy with mandarin and it wasn’t my favourite, but it paired nicely with the Asian inspired Dungeness Crab course.
- Dashi custard, yuzu, cashew, long pepper (from tasting menu)
- I tried this during Vancouver Magazine’s Big Night event (catered), so I knew what to expect, although it was better at the restaurant.
- It was Hawksworth’s take on a traditional Japanese chawan-mushi (savoury seafood egg custard), which is one of my favourites.
- For a Western reference it was similar to a savoury crème caramel.
- Chawan-mushi is comfort food and it is typically made at home.
- Traditionally the seafood is cooked with the custard and found underneath it, but in this case it was reversed.
- It was an upside down chawan-mushi, so the dungeness crab was showcased even better.
- I liked having the dungeness crab on top because then it wasn’t masked.
- The crab was flaky and moist and I think gently poached. It wasn’t oily, buttery or seasoned, but just natural and good.
- The top of the dashi custard was supposed to be a yuzu gel, but the gel turned into liquid because it melted from the hot custard underneath.
- The yuzu gel was very acidic with citrus flavours.
- Alone it was too acidic, so it was meant to be eaten with the custard which was expected.
- The dashi custard was so rich it needed acidity, so that is where the yuzu gel played a major role.
- The custard was very comparable to a savoury crème caramel.
- It was less thick than a crème brulée with whole eggs and not just egg yolks. It was silky like tofu.
- In a traditional Chawan-mushi, after you get past the top half, it becomes almost like liquid with dashi soup underneath.
- This version had no liquid broth and was cooked all the way.
- I could taste smoked bonito fish in the dashi and perhaps some kelp, and it was good dashi.
- I would have liked more crab to balance the custard, but as a tasting course it was fine.
- The compressed cashews weren’t my favourite because they were very soft and I was missing crunch and texture in this dish.
- Chawan-mushi doesn’t have a crunchy aspect, but I expected this modern take on it to have it.
- The compressed cashews reminded me of boiled Chinese peanuts which I’ve never been too keen on.
- Chinese boiled peanuts are soft and almost starchy.
- They get boiled in soy sauce, sugar, salt, star anise and cloves and these cashews tasted along those lines.
- I only had two pieces in this so it didn’t play much of a role, but I would have preferred them marinated in soy sauce and dry roasted with 5 spice powder instead.
2011 Acustic Celler Blanc, Montsant, Spain – Continuing the European themed wine pairings was another lemony and floral wine with hints of mineral. I was a bit too focused on the food with this course and I failed to notice the pairing. There was so much flavour on the plate.
- Crispy pig ear, ‘fried rice’, sweet & sour brussel sprout, kabayaki, peanut $36
- !! I really loved this dish. I was still thinking about it a few days later so it wasn’t just in the moment.
- It was “surf and turf”, but with tuna and pig’s ear… I can dig that. A couple sous vide quail’s eggs and I would have cried.
- It had so many flavours, although not overwhelming.
- I also like sweet, savoury, salty and spicy all in one bite and this had all of that and it was balanced.
- It was light, but still rich with flavour and it was enough to be substantial as a main.
- The only thing is the sauces could be too salty for some, although I have a high tolerance for salt so it was fine for me.
- The plate was on the cold side (being seared tuna), but I wish the components around it were hot unless they were meant to be served room temperature.
- I’m very much a texture person and this had many textures, so I was loving it.
- The crispy pig ear was very Chinese and I would have liked something more delicate like lotus root chips, but I appreciate the more adventurous choice.
- It was likely cured, brined, sous vide, braised etc. etc. before it was deep fried and it was extremely crunchy and not gelatinous at all.
- The thicker parts were a bit chewy and hard so I had to gnaw a bit at them, but I prefer this texture over the authentic Chinese version of pig’s ear.
- The Chinese version is more like chewy crunchy jelly and it’s acquired, but this is appreciated by many.
- I don’t know if I was tasting hints of 5 spice seasoning, or if I just wanted it to have 5 spice seasoning, but it could have used some.
- The tuna was lightly seared without a crust or apparent grill marks.
- It looked a bit plain, but there was enough seasoning around it.
- There was a sprinkle of salt, but that’s it.
- Kabayaki sauce is a traditional Japanese sauce typically brushed on unagi (eel) before it is grilled.
- The sauce is made from reduced Japanese soy sauce, sweet mirin and sugar.
- It is on the sweet side, but this one was equally savoury and also a bit tangy. A little bit went a long way.
- This one had a Worcestershire like kick to it which I liked too.
- Authentically it is used as a glaze for cooked fish, so this was a different application for it, but it worked.
- He drizzled and dotted just enough on the plate for all of it to be used.
- It is a syrupy sauce so I liked the control with it and it didn’t take away from the delicacy of the dish.
- I would be curious to see how the Kabayaki sauce would work as a glazed crust on the seared tuna because its flavours caramelize and intensify as it cooks.
- The “fried rice” was literally fried rice. It was panko crusted plain sushi rice deep fried until crisp.
- It looked like a tater tot and it was another crispy component to the plate which I’ll always welcome.
- The inside was a bit dry and I wouldn’t mind the rice a bit more seasoned, but I liked it with the Kabayaki sauce and aioli.
- The smoked yuzu aioli delivered to exact description and it wasn’t a major component, but I used it all.
- It was creamy, smoky and citrusy with good acidity and I could taste the garlic as well.
- I wouldn’t mind some Japanese mustard in the aioli (which there may have been), although it was already a great sauce.
- The crispy pig’s ears and “fried rice” served with the aioli would make for an excellent bar snack at an izakaya place.
- Alongside each cube of tuna was a bed of sweet and sour roasted brussel sprouts, turnips and a couple crisp snap pea halves.
- They were very saucy and well seasoned brussel sprouts and they seemed sauteed in a zesty Asian cilantro pesto sauce with chili flakes.
- I could see the cilantro, but it wasn’t strong in flavour and more dominant with salty and lime juice flavours.
- I could taste some Vietnamese Nuoc Cham sauce and that savoury umami coming from fish sauce.
- It was a bit like sweet Thai chili sauce, but more like a vinaigrette than a thick sauce.
- The crunchy toasted peanuts also enhanced that Thai and South East Asian quality of the dish.
- Some of the brussel sprout leaves had gotten a bit too charred and bitter, so I would have like those crispy, but it was still good.
- Brussel sprouts isn’t Asian at all, but they worked with this dish and it was a nice West Coast influence.
- The baby turnips were whole and quite firm and I couldn’t cut them because they kept rolling around on my plate.
- I would prefer the turnips cut in half so they could sit steady on the plate. Trying to poke them failed, so I resorted to stabbing.
- I was scared they were going to end up on my neighbour’s lap.
- The turnips were good though and just lightly pickled or sous vide (?) and slightly tangy, but not sour.
- I wouldn’t mind them a bit more tender, but they were good and I could still taste the turnip flavour and not just the pickling brine.
- There were so many components on this plate, but each one could hold their own, but together it was even more satisfying.
- This dish reminded me of their Spicy Yellowfin Tuna & Crunchy Rice “bar bites”, which is similar to Jean-Georges crispy nigiri bites, but presented as a main course.
- I really like the bar bites version, but this was enjoyed on a much grander scale.
2010 Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo di Langhe, Piedmont, Italy – It was a medium bodied wine served in the right (pinot noir) glass and it was a bit tart with raspberries and juicy with cherries. It was peppery, but not spicy and it picked up on the dill and fennel components of the next course with hints of licorice and mint.
- Red cabbage, horseradish, beet, dill, rye (from tasting menu)
- This was almost like a deconstructed borscht. It deviated from the Asian inspired theme, but it was interesting.
- I rarely order steak dishes unless I’m at a steakhouse, but I liked that this featured two cuts and it was different.
- I was more interested in the beef shin than I was in the striploin, even though the shin is the less expensive cut.
- The beef shin was expectedly rich and gelatinous and it was licked with a syrupy well reduced demi glace likely made from the braising liquid and red wine.
- It was sous vide and/or braised, so it was very moist and tender, but it wasn’t served hot enough to melt the ‘butter’.
- I interpreted “the butter” as the quenelle of dill crème fraîche served on the top right corner of the board.
- It was almost like how steaks are served with butter or blue cheese, so I thought of this as the same.
- The crème fraîche was almost the sour cream traditionally served with borscht as well, so I’m not sure which was chef’s intention.
- The beef shin had shavings of freshly grated horseradish, but there wasn’t quite enough so I could have used more.
- The striploin also wasn’t served very hot, but it was well seared.
- It was a beautiful medium rare and good quality so there was a nice flavour that wasn’t reliant on much sauce, although it still needed some.
- There was a borscht purée which had a meaty flavour and it tasted like it was made with bacon, smoky cured ham or beef stock.
- The purée had umami and it was almost like a Ketchupy barbeque sauce. I haven’t had anything really like it, but I liked it a lot.
- The veggies included pickled turnips and a simple beet baton which was a nice change from a potato.
- The pickled turnips gave some acidity to cut the richness of the shin, and I liked that they weren’t sour but just tart.
- The large rye croutons or fried bread dumplings seemed a bit out of place for fine cuisine, but I understood them for texture.
- They were just very big and tricky to eat in this sort of establishment.
- It was a bit English to put fried bread with a rich dish and normally it’s something done with breakfast. The bread soaks up the fat.
- I also know beef shins are sometimes served with fry bread in Latin cultures, but there wasn’t enough sauce or drippings to soak up.
- They were savoury ‘doughnuts’, but not salty and they could have used a sprinkle of salt.
- The bread had a batter that seemed aerated and it was a very light, flaky and feathery batter.
- They were super crunchy all the way through and a bit overfried for me (unless that was the point) so there was no fluffy or soft interior.
- There wasn’t much of a sponge texture so it didn’t absorb any sauces or components.
- I could taste some fennel seeds in the bread, but they were super oily overall and I could taste the oil which I wasn’t keen on.
- I just don’t know how they contributed to the plate besides giving texture.
- There was almost an equal amount of fry bread dumplings to meat, so they were treated as a primary component too.
- I was a bit surprised to see such a large dill fern as a garnish, but it was maybe done intentionally for Canadian charm, or for the novel of foraging.
- The beef shin and borscht purée were my favourite components on the plate, but there are other dishes I would revisit before this.
- Orange, hazelnut $10
- This is one of Pastry Chef Wayne’s signature desserts.
- It is not the most creative thing he has done and he is capable of more, but this is the classic no-fail dessert most people would love, and they do.
- It’s chocolate. How can you go wrong? Well there are lots of ways, but he does no wrong here.
- I’m very sensitive to orange and chocolate or citrus and chocolate combinations.
- The citrus can battle with the sweetness of the chocolate, or sometimes the bitter orange pith and/or bitter chocolate is too aggressive.
- It has to be the real fruit, high quality chocolate, and it has to be perfectly balanced.
- It is a classic pairing, but one that is often poorly executed. This was not and I wouldn’t want it to change ever.
- I fully appreciated the attention to flavour, balance, presentation and texture.
- The chocolate fondant was executed as a chocolate bar and it was rich, creamy, silky smooth and perhaps 60-65% chocolate.
- On top of the fondant was a thin layer of Valrhona praline paste (?) which I like, but I think he could make an even better one from scratch.
- It tastes almost like a caramel hazelnut paste and if it is the Valrhona one it is made from 50% hazelnuts and also some almonds, but it is buttery smooth in texture.
- The bottom of the bar was my favourite part and it always is because it’s crispy and crunchy.
- It was a crispy nutty feuillantine layer which I absolutely love with any cake or dessert.
- It is almost like a wafer, but better. It was mixed with hazelnut crumbs too.
- If you like Nutella you would love this dessert. It is the grown up version.
- It was expectedly quite sweet, but not hurt your teeth sweet and it does coat your mouth with chocolate.
- I expected the chocolate flavour to last a bit longer after the bite was gone, but the flavour was of chocolate and nuts and not just sugar.
- I wouldn’t have minded a bit more salt to one of the layers of the chocolate bar just to enhance some flavour, but it was still enjoyed as is.
- The mandarin orange sorbet was a nice contrast to the chocolate fondant.
- It was almost the light and refreshing palate cleanser and it helped ease the richness of the sweet chocolate.
- It was lemony, orangey, and tart, but not sour and it wasn’t icy in texture.
- To hold the sorbet in place there was a sprinkle of plain feuillantine underneath.
- I would have liked a hazelnut praline crumble to serve the same purpose just because it has more flavour, but this still worked.
- There were also two fresh wedges of mandarin, mint, and very mild lemon gel on the plate.
- There were two meringue garnishes which gave a crispy component and I would have loved those to be macaron shells, but wishful thinking.
- I considered it a more traditional dessert, but there were enough components and textures on the plate that it never got boring.
- It is easy to see why this dessert is likely a permanent feature on the menu and it would work with many palates.