Mosaic Grille & Bar Restaurant (The Hyatt Regency Vancouver) – Italian Chefs Tasting Menu – Part 2/2

Restaurant: Mosaic Grille & Bar – Part 2/2
Cuisine: International/Pacific Northwest
Last visited: September 6, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 655 Burrard St (Inside Hyatt Hotel Vancouver)
Transit: Burrard Skytrain
Phone: (604) 639-4770
Price range: $30-50+ (Mains $18-25)

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

Food: 3-3.5 (based on 5 course Chef’s Tasting Menu of Italy)
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 3
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • Chef Thomas Heinrich
  • Upscale dining
  • Monthly Chef’s Tasting Menus
  • Seasonal menus
  • Healthy options
  • Vegetarian options
  • Family friendly
  • Breakfast Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (buffet until 10:00 a.m.)
  • Saturday, Sunday and Holidays, 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., daily
  • Dinner 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., daily
  • Mosaic Bar 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m., daily
  • Twitter: @HyattVancouver

**Recommendations: Ask about the monthly Chef’s Tasting Menu

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (1)I’ve passed by Mosaic Grill & Bar for many years and I’ve always known about it, but it flies under the radar. It’s located on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, BC and as a local, hotel restaurants aren’t the first to come to mind; although Vancouver has some stellar ones.

I’ve come to the Hyatt for banquets and special events and noticed the restaurant, but was quite passive about it. It wasn’t until recently I started hearing more about Mosaic, and specifically Chef Thomas Heinrich. Maybe it was due to their marketing and social media push, but regardless it worked. It started hype and built curiosity around a restaurant that was rarely talked about.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (3)I came on a Friday night and it was my first time dining at the actual restaurant, although I’ve tried their banquet food on a dozen occasions. The restaurant was large so it might feel a bit empty even if there are people. The bar and lounge was recently renovated, but only minor updates were made to the main dining room. The spacious room felt like a typical “hotel restaurant”, and the atmosphere suggested a restaurant catered for business lunches and guests of the hotel.

Being part of the Hyatt brand there are corporate regulations for everything, so it was more or less expected. It was still nice, being a 4-star rated hotel, but a bit dated. However I was told there would be an eventual upgrade in the dining room to match the modern lounge area.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (2)The ceiling to floor windows were the highlight of the room and although it doesn’t face the mountains and beaches of Vancouver, it shows the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan city. It isn’t noisy and it’s good for people watching, but the lounge feels a bit more lively and youthful.

I started following Executive Chef Heinrich’s work since last year and I liked the look of his food. I didn’t want to get my hopes up so I tried going with somewhat neutral expectations, although perhaps still on the high side due to friend recommendations. He has been at the restaurant for almost two years, but with the Hyatt company in Chicago prior. Originally from Sydney, Australia he has worked internationally, and much of his career has been at hotel restaurants including the Four Seasons in New York and Chicago.

On this occasion I was invited to dinner by chef to try his 5 course Chef’s Tasting Menu. He is currently running a series of Chef’s Tasting Menus for a limited time which features a new country and their cuisine. I really hesitate with these style of menus because “stick to what you know” usually comes to mind, although I can appreciate the creative exploration of global cuisine in my hometown. Menus like these allow chefs to experiment and play, but I often find the result a muddle of “kitchen experiments” since the menus are short-term and do not seem as committed. Nonetheless sometimes there is a pleasant surprise of a well-rehearsed menu, but often there are hit and miss dishes.

From August 15 – September 12, Chef Heinrich is featuring his 5 course Tasting Menu of Italy. I came for the tail end but it gave me an idea of his cooking style. The a la carte menu is much safer with a “create your own” main by picking your own starch and protein, which I am not the clientele for. It doesn’t do chef’s talent justice and the Chef’s Tasting Menu is a better representation of who he is.

The menu started out strong (mind you with dishes not on the menu), but lost a bit of polish and detail half way through. I appreciated his attention to textures, plating, colour, and enthusiasm for exotic ingredients, but sometimes the ideas were better in theory. The execution wasn’t always there, but I could sense his passion and love for his work. He is internationally inspired and experimental with modernist techniques, but it’s not modernist food despite a modernist intention and style of plating.

The Tasting Menu does not come across as typical “hotel food” and I’d actually come back for the Tasting Menu before the bird’s eye view of the city. He took risks which didn’t always work, but it had current inspiration and commendable effort.

While some chefs and menus play it safe by staying comfortable, Chef Heinrich keeps things fresh and inventive with some pleasant surprises. He’s a humble chef, but proud of his work and team and I look forward to his next Chef’s Tasting Menu which features France. Being trained in classical French cooking, the menu should be promising.

Chef’s Tasting Menu of France preview: Rougie Quebec Foie Gras Parfait, Apple,  Escargot, Lobster Thermidor, Roast Duck L’Orange, Mille-feuille

On the table:

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (4)Complimentary Bread & Butter

  • I always write about it because it can say something about the restaurant.
  • They are not made in house, but from a local bakery.
  • They were buttery bacon smoked salt scones served warm and they smelled and tasted like bacon.
  • However I could also taste and smell fridge aroma, but otherwise they would have been very good.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (5)Pan Seared Puff Mushroom (Daily special) – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • With grilled baby bell pepper, charcoal seasoning and mushroom essence.
  • I thought it was foie gras and I got really excited, so it was a bit of a let down when I heard it was a Puff Mushroom.
  • On the other hand I’ve never tried a Puff Mushroom so I was excited again.
  • The Puff Mushroom or “Puffball Mushroom” tasted like most wild mushrooms.
  • It was almost a hybrid of creminis and portobellos (same family), but without gills.
  • I considered this the vegetarian version of foie gras and it was a new ingredient he was playing with.
  • I liked the pineapple cut on the top of the mushroom which helped with aesthetics but also maximized caramelization.
  • It was tender, soft and smooth yet still meaty, just like foie, and pan seared on high heat.
  • It was maybe steamed or sous vide before and it kept its shape and bite without being raw.
  • It sat on a crispy charcoal seasoning which tasted like MSG and I loved it.
  • I think it was dehydrated and pulverized mushrooms made into a powder.
  • It didn’t taste bitter or very ashy, but just earthy.
  • It was very salty with a bit of sugar for sweetness and incredibly savoury with intense umami.
  • I have a high tolerance for salt so I didn’t mind the saltiness.
  • There was umami all over the plate and in almost every component especially after adding the mushroom essence.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (7)

  • The mushroom essence was a warm mushroom consommé and he put it in an eye dropper bottle.
  • It might look gimmicky, but it wasn’t. It served a purpose and it was logistical.
  • To put the essence on before would make the charcoal seasoning like paste and it would lose the crispy texture.
  • It was a rich bite and the mushroom consommé was very mushroom forward, but it also carried flavours of a beefy French onion stock.
  • It was truffle like with the umami of dashi and tasted like intense mushroom extract.
  • If mushrooms had bones it tastes like it was made with roasted mushroom bones.
  • I actually drank it straight from the bottle… I know, classy.
  • If this was on the menu, I would order it again.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (9)Chanterelle Raviolini (Daily Special) – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • With roasted chanterelles, mushroom foam, Italian summer truffles and cauliflower mushroom
  • It was a mushroom dish followed by another mushroom dish. The concept and flavours were different though.
  • I love mushrooms so I didn’t mind the repeat and both were chef’s specials.
  • The mushroom foam was a bit watery and thin so it lost its texture and it was almost white in colour.
  • I prefer a thicker, creamier brown foam with more mushroom reduction and this one was a bit too bubbly and airy.
  • I loved the textures of the mushrooms though and all the varieties used.
  • On the other hand I couldn’t taste the unique flavours of each species.
  • It was a very rich course with lots of expected umami (being mushrooms).

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (10)

  • The raviolinis were very small and delicate with thin skins. They lost a bit of their bite, but I still liked them.
  • They were filled with a bitty mushroom and herb filling and the texture was of a fine mushroom mince rather than puree.
  • I’m not sure where the cauliflower mushroom was, but I remember trying it for the first time at Commander’s Palace.
  • The green smear on the edge of the plate was I think a herb puree, but it was secondary in the course and I didn’t even notice it too much.
  • It was an oily dish with the foam, buttery sauce, roasted chanterelles and crispy fried woody mushroom stems (?), but the flavours were there.

5 Course Chef’s Tasting Menu of Italy

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (8)Beniamino Maschio, Grappa Di Moscato, Fruili, Italy – Traditionally grappa is served as a digestif, but here it was served as an apéritif. It was a bit sweet and I prefer grappa after dinner, but I’m also not a grappa enthusiast yet.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (11)Panzanella Insalata 4/6 (Very good)

  • Bread Affair ciabatta, heirloom tomato, bone marrow saltimbocca
  • It was a modern take on a Panzanella and I really enjoyed this.
  • Panzanella is a rustic Italian salad made from stale bread and tomatoes dressed in olive oil and vinegar.
  • Saltimbocca is veal scalopini lined or topped with prosciutto and sage and sometimes fried capers.
  • This was a hybrid of a Panzanella and deconstructed Saltimbocca and it worked beautifully.
  • The bone marrow Saltimbocca was a highlight, but also because it’s bone marrow which is always good.
  • The fatty and rich bone marrow had a nice crispy, salty and nutty gratin crust with some bright lemon flavours to ease the fat.
  • The prosciutto slices were meaty and thick and dry cured in sea salt, but it wasn’t too salty.
  • The heirloom tomatoes were fresh, ripe and juicy, but secondary to the bone marrow.
  • The choice of bread was a Ciabatta from a local bakery in Langley, BC and it was cut in cubes and toasted like croutons.
  • They were crisp and a bit chewy and they didn’t overwhelm the plate.
  • There were maybe 5 bite sized cubes and an equal amount of tomatoes to match.
  • The bed of crispy garlicky breadcrumbs tasted like they were mixed with garlic powder. It was another highlight.
  • The breadcrumbs was almost like a seasoning salt (not as salty), but I could have used a bit more of an olive oil drizzle since they were obviously dry.
  • As much as I loved the crumbs there should be either less on the plate so you’re not eating just crumbs, or just more olive oil.
  • The croutons helped soak up the rich bone marrow and it was quite a fatty salad which I liked.
  • The crispy fried capers were nice for texture, and capers can be found in both Panzanella and Saltimbocca.
  • The garnish was just chopped basil and I don’t think there was any sage. Colour and texture both delivered.
  • Chef made a poor man’s salad worth paying for.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (14)Danzante Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie, Italy, 2011 – It’s the “dancing” wine hence the label and name. I liked that they stayed with an Italian wine for their menu, but I wasn’t too passionate about this Italian pinot grigio. It was topical and crisp and contrasted the rich and buttery risotto.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (15)Vialone Nano Truffle Risotto3/6 (Good)

  • Truffle dwarf peaches, parmesan foam
  • The art of risotto starts with the rice and here’s a chef who understands that.
  • He used Vialone Nano rice which is a premium quality of risotto rice preferred by Italian chefs in the Veneto region.
  • Carnaroli is the “Ferrari of rice” in other regions of Italy, but both are superior to Aborio rice and allow for a creamier risotto.
  • The Vialone Nano truffle risotto was garnished with truffles, but it didn’t taste like truffles.
  • The risotto was overcooked and borderline gummy, but the flavour of the risotto was very good.
  • I could taste lots of Parmesan, a good amount of butter, and some sauteed minced onions or shallots for aromatics.
  • It tasted like it was made with patience and it had a lot of potential if it was just cooked al dente.
  • There was a sous vide 64 degree egg yolk in the centre which made the dish even richer with its custard like texture, but it was served a bit cold.
  • Since the dish was so rich there were slices of truffle dwarf peaches (mini pickled peaches) to cut it.
  • They tasted like hard pickled fruity olives, not like peaches, and they were a bit crunchy.
  • It was definitely a contrast to the plate and I found their sourness a bit too aggressive and sharp for the risotto.
  • I liked the introduction to a new ingredient, but I think I would enjoy it more on a charcuterie platter.
  • It was nice with the cheesiness of the risotto more so than the risotto itself, or perhaps it needed to be cut smaller.
  • The parmesan foam I found a bit distracting due to the technique and type of foam made.
  • I have no issues with foams, but this one was too watered down and thin, similar to the mushroom foam from the second course.
  • I couldn’t taste the parmesan and it was much stronger in the risotto itself.
  • Next to the risotto the foam almost tasted bitter and even more bland.
  • I prefer more body to foams and this one was just a bit bubbly and airy.
  • I mentioned watery foams in my list of 10 Food Trends I Want to See Die in 2013, so it is a pet peeve of mine.
  • I appreciated the effort to make a parmesan foam and do something different, but classic parmesan shavings might have been better although more “boring”.
  • The dish was still good despite the execution on some components, and as simple as it was, it was still a new take on risotto.
  • Vialone Nano rice is also called Dwarf Vialone, and then there was Truffle dwarf peaches and truffles, so it was playful in thought.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (17)Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, 2010 – There were two BC wine pairings for this Italian menu. I was hoping to try all Italian wines to match the Italian themed menu, but I also like Quails’ Gate’s pinot noir. It is their flagship wine, but my favourite from this winery is their Chenin Blanc.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (18)Hand Rolled Pasta3/6 (Good)

  • Cerignola Olive broth, Bottarga
  • I loved the idea of this, but I just wish it wasn’t made with angel hair because it overcooked.
  • Angel hair is such a delicate pasta it almost always overcooks, so I would prefer a different noodle, but I loved the look and colour.
  • The Cerignola Olive broth gave a lasting impression, but the initial sips were acquired because it had a woodiness.
  • Usually these olives are stuffed, but here it was made into a broth.
  • It was a light olive broth infused with parsley and garlic and it had an earthy woody flavour reminiscent of hay.
  • It was surprisingly not that salty or fruity and quite mild, and I wouldn’t have minded a more briney olive.
  • There were 2 shavings of Bottarga (Italian cured fish roe) which I also love, but I wish it was grated.
  • It was a small bite of pasta and bottaga is quite salty, so grating it might have been better.
  • It was garnished with chili threads which weren’t very spicy, but it gave a mild heat to the dish overall.
  • The chili threads were nicer than typical chili flakes and I really like chef’s use of rare ingredients.
  • It was a simple dish and the star of the show was supposed to be the olive broth, which it was.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (24)Ca’ Bianca, Chersi, Barbera D’Asti Superiore, Piedmont, Italy, 2008 – It was quite acidic with some spices and flavours of black plums and raspberries. I would have preferred this with a tomato sauce.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (22)Branzino2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • Polenta, fennel, squid ink
  • I was looking forward to this course because of the squid ink which is rarely used in Vancouver.
  • Branzino is a European sea bass common in Northern Italy.
  • In an “eat local” movement, it was rather refreshing to see a new fish.
  • I’m not against sourcing locally, but I have my thoughts on it here.
  • Chef stayed true to his theme by carefully selecting Italian ingredients and I respect that.
  • I loved the crispy skin on the Branzino and the fish was my favourite part of this course.
  • This soft-fleshed fish is best served with the skin, although I prefer a crispy skin served with all my fish.
  • The meat is white, soft, tender, flaky and moist with a very mild and delicate flavour.
  • There were alternating layers of polenta with the fish, but the polenta had gotten cold so it lost its creaminess and was breaking up.
  • The flavour of the polenta I liked and I could taste a lot of savoury parmesan cheese melted in it.
  • I loved that he didn’t hold back with the squid ink, but unfortunately the squid ink was my least favourite of the night.
  • It was a caramelized fennel and squid ink broth and it was unexpectedly tangy from vinegar.
  • The texture was a bit slimy and thick which squid ink tends to be, but it isn’t always either and doesn’t have to be.
  • It was sweet and then tangy, and I could taste notes of licorice from the fennel.
  • There was a lot of broth/sauce for the amount of fish too.
  • The sauce didn’t work for me and I didn’t find it savoury or salty enough, however the concept had potential.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (25)Gehringer Bros “Ice Wine”, Cabernet Franc, Okanagan Valley, 2011 – It was a Canadian ice wine from BC and I would have liked an Italian dessert wine, but I actually really liked this wine. It was an unique red ice wine and the grapes were picked at -10 C or colder. It was very fruity and sweet, but not syrupy either and there was some acidity to balance. It was almost like a port, but with lots more fruit flavours. It was a beautiful dessert wine.

Mosaic Grille & Bar Italian Menu (23)Tiramisu2/6 (Okay)

  • House Made Lady fingers, Disaronno soaked cherries (Photo from Alvin Lee Photography)
  • They don’t have a pastry chef in house which I was surprised by considering the restaurant.
  • It was admirable to see house made lady fingers since it’s only $1 for 20 cookies, but these ones were very thick and crunchy.
  • The large cubes of lady fingers were half dipped in espresso and rum, but they were still too dry and the soaked parts were still hard as well.
  • They were more like crunchy biscotti than lady fingers and they might have worked if they were cut rectangular, thinner and smaller.
  • It might also work as a lady finger flavoured microwaved sponge if they were going down the modern and deconstructed route.
  • The mascarpone whip was a bit over whipped so it separated and was the texture of ricotta.
  • I also couldn’t taste much mascarpone so I wouldn’t have minded a bit more.
  • My favourite part was actually the Disaronno soaked cherries and Disaronno cherry gel.
  • Disaronno is an Italian amaretto fruit brandy with almond flavours.
  • The Disaronno cherry gel was floral and sweet with notes of vanilla and almond and I loved it.
  • The Disaronno soaked cherries were quite boozy for me, but still good.
  • I prefer Tiramisu as a single layered unit since all the flavours are best after absorbing into each other, however this was a new take.
  • For a non-pastry chef this was a good and creative effort, but it didn’t work as well on a Tiramisu.
  • I don’t mind modern takes on traditional desserts, so long as it’s even better than the original, albeit apples and oranges to compare.

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