Chambar National Belgium Day – 8 Bird Feast in 13 Ways (Recap)

Follow Me Foodie to National Belgium Day at Chambar!

A recap of the hands-on feast of 8 birds in 13 ways at Chambar.

Turducken what?! Forget the 3 birds and give me 8. Turduckens are impressive in their own right, but they had nothing on this dinner. Besides the hipster infatuation with them, this is the first time I’ve experienced such a celebration of birds in Vancouver, BC. The nose to tail dinner is great and I am a huge fan of pork, but this was a refreshing change. Give me Tweety Bird, Big Bird, and the Road Runner on a plate and my Sunday was as entertaining as any morning cartoon.

Multiple bird roasts were common in the Roman Ages, but multiple bird dinners not so much. The Turducken was invented centuries ago, but rediscovered and celebrated by chefs and homecooks over the last 10 years or so. I could always appreciate the effort to create a Russian doll-like roast made from various birds, but in the end it’s more of a novelty and you can’t even taste all the birds. This though, this was much better. It was an edible edition of the National Geographic for bird lovers.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (3)On Sunday July 21, Chambar celebrated National Belgium Day with a hands-on feast of 8 birds in 13 ways crafted by Executive Chef and Owner, Nico Schuermans and his team. It was a medieval theme with no cutlery or vegetarian options since neither were orthodox in 1831. I was game and so were some of the featured birds.

If I could eat every meal with my hands, I would. It felt barbaric and savage doing it with haute cuisine, but it was fun and part of the experience. And how often do you get to lick your fingers at an upscale restaurant while looking around and realizing others are doing the same?

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (2)I was invited to this one-off event which happens annually, but the theme changes. This year they also re-launched their Chambar Ale, and kudos to the table above for being the loudest and rowdiest table. For that, they scored themselves at least 3 meter long rounds of this beer which is only $6 a bottle at the restaurant.

I’m usually not as enthusiastic about banquet dinners and family style platters because the food tends to suffer when it is being more or less mass produced, but they killed it here. The food was prepared simply but skillfully and the flavours stayed interesting, which is classic at Chambar. It is one of the few restaurants in Vancouver cooking eclectic cuisine that isn’t Asian inspired. Sure there were some Asian influences here and there, but for the most part – they’re doing their own thing. The flavours draw from various cuisines, but North African, Belgian and European is still something many restaurants haven’t been able to bring together and do well.

There was obviously a good variety of meat and some different cooking methods so it kept me engaged and enthusiastic for the next course. The selection of feathered friends were all familiar to me and I missed the guinea fowl and some exotic birds, but I still loved the idea and execution. Many edible birds of the past are now protected species or just challenging to source as well. I would have loved some chicken hearts, duck hearts and sweetbreads, but offal wasn’t the style for this dinner… or they could be saving those parts for staff meals. Jealous.

At $80 for 13 courses it was excellent value and debauchery I would want to relive all over again. The chicken wasn’t boring, the turkey wasn’t dry, food was served at the right temperature and everyone ate like kings. It did National Beligum Day justice and made it an occasion that should be celebrated like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Angry birds and happy Mijune, what a night!

Note: Due to the nature of the event I’m not going into too much detail with the food. This may or may not be representable of Chambar on a regular night, however if this is a taste of what their events are like, then it’s a restaurant newsletter you don’t want to overlook.

A Follow Me Foodie recap of the 8 birds in 13 ways at Chambar on National Belgium Day!

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (1)Artichokes – What?! I read “bird”, not bird food. I agree, I was thrown off with the first course already, but I can appreciate a whole roasted artichoke which not many people do in Vancouver. I don’t think it has any significant meaning to the occasion, but I guess it looked like feathers and plucking away at the artichoke leaves felt a bit symbolic.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (5)It was served with a spicy dill and caper dip which tasted yogurt and perhaps mayo based.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (6)Ostrich Tartare

  • Pickles, pickled pearl onions, and micro herbs on crostini.
  • I still remember the first time I tried ostrich and it was in Asia – go figure. It was in Hong Kong and I loved it.
  • Ostrich tastes just like beef, but the meat is much leaner and it is low in fat.
  • This tasted like beef, elk or bison tartar and there was a thick lemony and savoury aioli dollop on top too.
  • The tartare was pureed instead of hand chopped which I can understand for the context of the event.
  • It tasted pureed with paprika or espelette dried pepper flakes, so it was a bit spicy, but very mildly.
  • It was also mixed with red pepper aioli (?) or a tangy tomato paste aioli (?) and some shallots.
  • It was well seasoned and tangy with some lemon juice, but I could still taste the ostrich flavour.
  • The crostini was a bit over baked, hard and crunchy, but the bite was still delicious.
  • I loved that they served an exotic bird which was likely a first for many.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (12)Honey Roasted Squab

  • It was really simple, but I remembered it at the very end and it was in my top 5 favourites. 
  • A crispy skin would be nice, but the meat was tender and it was medium well which I prefer for squab.
  • Squab (also known as pigeon) is often served at Chinese restaurants, but they tend to cook them well done which is still good, but different.
  • It was sweet and savoury with a nice honey glaze and it was rubbed with Chinese 5 spice powder which tasted house ground.
  • I could also taste some cardamom which is not typical of Chinese 5 spice, but I loved it.
  • The squab tasted better than it looked and it packed a lot of flavour and aromatics.
  • The side was roasted asparagus with Asiago cheese on top.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (13)Pheasant and Pistachio Terrine

  • With so many things to prepare, a jellied meatloaf is expected.
  • Traditionally terrines are made with leftover pork, but if made with a game bird it is usually made with partridge, which is in the same family as pheasant.
  • Pheasants are larger, but they both have chicken like meat that can be really dry if overcooked.
  • This terrine was made really well and the meat was savoury and well infused with herbs and spices that were not aggressive.
  • It was roughly chopped pheasant and the chunks were well compressed.
  • It was likely made days in advance and the flavours had time to absorb.
  • I think there were some cherries mixed in and a bit of real truffle shavings and truffle oil.
  • It was peppery and savoury in flavour, tender, moist, and sweet with a tangy drizzle of balsamic reduction on top.
  • I loved the use of crunchy Sicilian pistachios too and it had good texture.
  • The flavoured gel on the edges was savoury and I could have used more reduction, but I’m not complaining.  

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (14)Belgian Endive Salad

  • Belgian endive leaves, pickled golden beets, grapefruit, lingonberries, picked greens, burnt bread, buttermilk honey & citrus vinaigrette. 
  • This was the lighter and citrusy salad to balance the richer terrine and it is also available on their regular a la carte menu.
  • Belgian endive leaves added to the Belgian theme and it was definitely more of a tangy and acidic salad.
  • The burnt bread was supposed to be croutons, but they were soft and slightly stale due to the context of the event.
  • They tasted burnt and not just toasted and the bitterness played into the endive leaves.
  • The bread would have absorbed the dressing nicely since they were soft, but the gas grill flavour was hard to overlook, so the grill might have needed a cleaning.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (17)Since the honey buttermilk dressing was quite liquidy they served it with a knife and spoon… which I refused to use. All or nothing, and Belgian endive leaves are spoons to me.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (18)Espelette Pepper Wings

  • These were no ordinary buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese dressing, this was reinterpreted with Chambar flavour and style. 
  • I don’t even know many restaurants using espelette peppers and it is a pepper with Mexican origin, but cultivated by the French.
  • The chicken wings were moist and tender and the meat just melted from the bone.
  • They were savoury and well brined and marinated with harissa (hot chili sauce), paprika and/or pepper spice.
  • They had a nice pop of flavour, zing of spice and gradual heat.
  • The heat was zesty and spicy, but not hot and I could taste some cardamom in this too, unless it was spices left on my fingers from a previous plate.
  • The dip tasted like nachos and cheese and I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t spicy since the wings were already spicy.
  • It tasted like sour cream, but I was told it was chili crème fraîche. It’s almost the same, but crème fraîche has higher butterfat.
  • The crème fraîche seemed thinned out and it was cheesy in flavour with a nice taco seasoning spice. I loved it even alone.
  • Another take on “buffalo chicken wings” with veggies and dip I really liked was at Longman & Eagle – see Buffalo Sweetbreads.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (19)Tea Smoked Duck

  • Spiced rubbed duck breast on crispy black kale chips, Okanagan herb goat cheese, roasted hazelnuts, and sauce bigarade.
  • This was a top 3 favourite and it was probably the most refined bird course of the 13. 
  • It tasted like a smoked and sous vide duck breast and each piece was even, moist, very soft and tender.
  • I prefer duck leg to breast, but sous vide duck breast does no wrong and it was cooked medium.
  • Tea smoked duck is originally Chinese and I couldn’t taste the tea or much smokiness, but the meat was delicious regardless.
  • It was rubbed with spices which I didn’t pay too much attention to and the sauce was stronger anyway.
  • The bigarade sauce was made from bitter orange rind, lingonberries, lemon juice and a caramelized honey and it was very tangy, sweet, savoury, and aromatic
  • It was syrupy, fruity, and reduced with perhaps some red wine and/or duck jus from the sous vide liquid. It had complex flavours and depth.
  • Bigarade is a classic sauce for duck and this one also had green peppercorns and ligonberries so it was a modern take.
  • The side was an herb spiced goat cheese with a toasted hazelnut which was a great dipping sauce.
  • Duck with orange, tart fruit, balsamic vinegar, nuts and cheese is quite a classic combination and a version of this is on their regular a la carte menu.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (21)Belgian Poutine

  • Belgian poutine and fries at a Belgian party is a must and they do a version of this on their a la carte menu too.
  • They were crispy shoestring potato chips (pomme paille) and the cheese was melted and solidifed by the time it arrived.
  • The cheese were not curds, but it was a salty and nutty cheese.
  • There was a little bit of tangy reduction, but I couldn’t really taste it.
  • This was the side dish to the smoked duck and one of the few starch/carb dishes of the evening.
  • This would have been great with a fried egg on top too.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (24)BBQ Quail

  • A mother and her babies… they looked so peaceful.
  • It was another Old World bird and I liked how they simply roasted it. It was a purist take and a fun one to eat with hands.
  • The skin was decently crispy and it was well seasoned and marinated, but nothing particularly memorable in terms of flavour.
  • The soft boiled quail eggs were as is and well made with a runny yolk. It is hard to get the cooking temperature right on these, but they got it.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (26)Flambleed Foie Gras

  • A course I would have preferred earlier on, but I’m not going to say no to it later on. They were being very generous with this course. 
  • It was 2 large pieces enough for 6 people and I got to split it between 4.
  • I had very nice dining companions, but I didn’t mind that 2 left early… I’m calling dibs on their portion.
  • They were flambleed with lots of pickled apricots which were plump, juicy and super tart and sour.
  • The apricots and foie were cooked so they shared a very similar texture.
  • The foie just kept slowly melting in the hot iron skillet forming an indulgent gravy,
  • They were sauteed with green peppercorns and it came with a skillet full of sauce and some toasted brioche for dipping.
  • The brioche was more like white bread with a tighter crumb and not as buttery, but it was a great sponge for the sauce.
  • It wasn’t boozy and the liquor had cooked off and it was sizzling hot.
  • The lobes of foie were simply pan seared which is my favourite way of eating it. It’s beautiful as is.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (27)Turkey Kofta 

  • Turkey is so often dry, but I liked that it was made into a meatball in this case and it wasn’t dry. 
  • It didn’t seem like 100% ground turkey and if it was I would be impressed because they didn’t taste that lean.
  • It was just like Chambar’s lamb kebabs and meatballs, but with turkey instead… healthier, so I can eat more.
  • The koftas were seasoned with Ras El Hanout spices (North African spice blend) and perhaps harissa (hot pepper paste).
  • They were aromatic and mildly spicy with a nutty, cooling and tangy tahini yogurt sauce underneath.
  • The outside was crispy and fried and there were so many flavours, but it wasn’t confusing and components weren’t lost.
  • It was topped with a lightly dressed pickled radish, cucumber and carrot salad with mint which reminded me of the veggies in a banh mi.
  • There were dried cherries on the side which I thought were dried olives and they were more savoury than sweet.
  • They should make a turkey kofta banh mi for their Dirty Apron Delicatessen sandwich store next door.
  • They offer Turkish lamb dumplings with tahini yogurt on their regular menu which could be similar.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (32)Fried Chicken

  • This Southern inspired dish deviated from the theme of the menu, but it was still very interesting in flavours.
  • It was an excellent fried chicken and one of my top 5 favourite bird courses of the night. 
  • I rarely order chicken when I’m out since it is usually boring, but not here.
  • It was crispy and coated in perhaps potato startch and rice flour for a light and nutty crust. It reminded me of batter used at Taiwanese restaurants.
  • The sauce was a cilantro mint pesto which was very tangy and exactly like a chimichurri sauce with lots of vinegar. The recipe was legit.
  • The chicken was actually boneless white meat and it was brined, very tender, succulent, moist and juicy. I was shocked for being white meat.
  • The chicken breast seemed like it was from small chickens and the meat was more tender.
  • The wings we ate earlier on so I’m glad there was no wasting, although chicken tails are tasty in their own right too.
  • It was actually barely Southern inspired besides the fact that it was called “Fried Chicken” which makes you think of the Southern one first.
  • It is hard being the last bird featured when people are pretty full, but it held its part in the play.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (31)The side was a crunchy and refreshing cole slaw which was dairy free and a bit Asian in style. It was tossed with a sesame oil vinaigrette and it was nice and light to contrast the fried chicken goodness.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (30)Corn on the Cob like your mother/grandmother/father or whoever never made them. I ate two of these. They were topped with a parmesan bechamel cream sauce so it was almost like a deconstructed cream of corn. The bechamel sauce tasted like creamy rich mayo and cheese and it was savoury and reminiscent of the sauce on a baked oyster motoyaki. I am actually inspired to remake this at home and it was excellent topped with the chimichurri sauce from the fried chicken as well.

Chambar Belgium National Day Bird Feast (34)Swan Lake

  • These reminded me of the garnish on every Chinese fruit cake I saw growing up at birthdays and anniversaries. 
  • It’s not Iron Chef so there was no bird in the dessert, but it would be cool if they took on the challenge. Crispy chicken skin is the new bacon.
  • The swans were cute though and it was Belgian chocolate mousse in a choux pastry.
  • The beak was a sunflower seed.
  • The lake water was dyed with Blue Curaçao which is a great substitution for blue food colouring which doesn’t sound as sophisticated.
  • The “dirt” was graham cracker crumbs which tasted like they were more for decoration.
  • There was also a bowl of local picked cherries for dessert.
  • I honestly could have had more desserts for my second dessert stomach, but Belgian chocolate swans were a playful ending to an epic Belgian bird themed feast.

1 Comment

  • Bow says:

    Terrines are a misunderstood food product here…in France quite common and I guess some Vancouverites hate the umami sensation of cold jelly and fat on the tongue; not me ! Nice looking salad but better without all that bread. All the poultry looks great. You had a nice meal.

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