Follow Me Foodie to Cook Hall!
Vancouver Welcomes Cook Hall at MARKET by Jean-Georges
From October 18 – 31, Vancouver welcomes Executive Chef David Gross from Cook Hall in Atlanta at MARKET by Jean-Georges. Cook Hall is an American gastro-pub with a bar snack and cocktail themed menu. Don’t expect chicken wings and nachos, this is more sophisticated. It’s still finger food, well for the most part, but once in a while you might still reach for the beautiful silverware and cloth napkin.
Cook Hall takes form of a pop-up restaurant and it won’t be here for long.
It is supposed to be a casual and fun concept for any day of the week. The menu features Cook Hall favourites made for sharing and do-it-yourself cocktail kits. The menu is seasonally inspired with Atlanta’s southeastern influence and mostly local produce from BC. The a la carte Cook Hall menu will be available in the dining room and the bar along with a reduced MARKET a la carte menu with Jean-Georges signature items until the end of October.
I was invited to try out the menu which delivered on the “fun” concept. Most of it was pretty simple and expected, but there were a few dishes I would want to go back for. If I had time, I would, but the least I can do is relive the experience by sharing it with you. As always, all opinions are my own.
**Note: Due to the nature of the event (media tasting), the portion sizes are not representable of what is usually served. Therefore I will leave comments to a minimum.
Restaurant: Cook Hall at MARKET by Jean-Georges
Cuisine: Gastro Pub/American
Last visited: October 16, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson/West End/Downtown)
Address: 1128 W Georgia St (Inside Shangri-La Hotel)
Transit: Vancouver City Ctr Stn Southbound
Phone: (604) 695-1115
Price range: $30-50
**Recommendations: Butterscotch Pudding
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
On the table:
Lavender Gin Fizz – Bombay Sapphire Gin, Lavender, Fresh Lemon and soda $14 – Mint, gin, and lime are three peas in a pod, but they changed this up with lavender and lemon. This was refreshing, light, floral without being soapy and not too sweet. While Bombay Sapphire is a good quality gin, I think for $14 they could have featured an even higher quality gin especially since there were not many components to the recipe. It was a good drink though.
Jalisco Flip – Cazadores Bianco Tequila, Orange Liqueur, and Pomegranate $14 – This was another fun switch up. It was inspired by the Singapore Sling, but instead of gin they used Tequila, and I’m not sure if they used Cointreau as the orange liqueur, but it’s quite possible. Instead of Cherry Heering they used pomegranate which gave it a similar colour and the garnish was a fancy gold dusted blackberry (edible, but a bit bitter in the aftertaste). I also enjoyed this drink, and it seemed to have more effort than the prior, although I would prefer starting with a gin drink. If you don’t like tequila, relax, this is not in your face and it’s a good quality tequila.
This was the “do-it-yourself” cocktail kit which is a major feature at Cook Hall. I found it more of a novelty (which is expected) and I much rather have the talented bartenders at MARKET create their unique cocktails.
The Kit includes a spirit of your choice, bar syrup, soda, a selection of fresh herbs, and an assortment of bitters and tinctures. The ice, barware, tools and a recipe book are provided so you can get make your own cocktail at the table ($3.00 per person, recommended for sharing). Their featured cocktail kit is the Bai Blanc & Bianco with your choice of Vodka, Gin or Tequila. Spirit selections range from $8-16.
It was a bit like “decorate your own cupcakes”, but the booze version. It was a fun concept and interactive experience so I guess it depends what you’re looking for.
COOK HALL FEATURED BAR SNACKS
West Coast Oyster – Cucumber Mignonette – 3/6 (Good)
- It was as good as raw oysters can get. I love them, but this isn’t something you would necessarily have to order here unless you were craving it.
- I prefer my oysters naked, so the cucumber mignonette wouldn’t sway me.
- I’m glad there weren’t an overwhelming amount of sauces because with oysters I am a purist.
- I just don’t like the briny sweet meat to be overpowered by sauce.
Deviled Eggs, Dungeness Crab – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- $12 (Regular portion comes with I think 2-3 eggs or 4-6 halves)
- I’m feeling a Devilled Egg comeback in Vancouver. We actually don’t have many options for this throwback appetizer, but I love Devilled Eggs.
- It’s something you can make at home, but again, if you’re craving it, you’re craving it.
- They were stuffed with quite a bit of dungeness crab, mayo, and sprinkled with a bit of paprika.
- They had mild heat and they weren’t spicy, but good.
- I would have loved some crispy onions and a drizzle of lobster oil to enhance the seafood flavour.
Crispy Duck Tacos – 3/6 (Good)
- Chipotle Coleslaw $9 (Regular portion comes with 3 tacos)
- People seemed to really like this and I thought they were good, but a bit under seasoned.
- The corn tortilla tacos were stuffed with smoky confit duck, chipotle sauce and crunchy shredded cabbage.
- Someone said there was lemongrass and cilantro in the slaw marinade, but I didn’t even notice it or taste it.
- It needed a bit more salt and the squeeze of lime helped.
- There was a decent amount of shredded duck leg, but they weren’t quite crispy.
- There was a mild heat, and being dark meat it was moist.
- These were pretty expected for pub food, but I think they could bring more to it for gastropub food. They had more potential.
House Made Ricotta – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Local Honey, Olive Oil Flatbread $10
- It was fluffy, mild, and light ricotta and it tasted unsalted.
- There was a drizzle of local honey and then some candied lemon confit for texture and flavour.
- I love the sweetness to the ricotta, but I also wanted some saltiness for balance.
- The flatbread was crispy and I would have loved some salted nuts on the side.
- I appreciate the house made ricotta aspect and it was a simple appetizer, but enjoyable.
Kale Caesar Salad, Crispy Egg, Parmesan – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- $12 (Regular portion comes with 1 egg)
- I would have loved a whole anchovy on top of this, but I understand the majority wouldn’t like that.
- On the other hand, the dressing was too salty and I have a high tolerance for salt.
- The dressing actually didn’t taste too much like a Caesar dressing and I missed the anchovies, although it was salty enough.
- Anchovies and salt are different kinds of saltiness though. I prefer anchovy salt in a Caesar.
- There were also some lemon rinds and nutty parmesan crisps for texture and flavour.
- The kale was White Russian Kale which is a variety that doesn’t come up as often in the summer.
- Kale can survive the winter, so it’s a nice seasonal vegetable to use in a salad right now.
- The flavour was a bit sweet and it has a very tender leaf and structure like arugula, but it’s not peppery.
The panko egg was the highlight. Being that I have an obsession with eggs, it would be – see my runny egg yolk series. It was almost like a scotch egg, but without the meat. It had a thin and crisp golden brown panko crumb and then a beautiful orange egg yolk. It was the dressing to my salad.
Popcorn Shrimp, Ranch Dressing – 2/6 (Okay)
- This was served as finger food, but since it was already drizzled with sauce, it was a bit odd to eat.
- The popcorn got stale and soggy and the deep fried baby shrimp were under seasoned.
- It was a light flour batter which I liked, and then it was slightly spicy from a sprinkle of paprika (which was showing up on many dishes – southeastern influence).
- The popcorn was also under seasoned so overall it was missing flavour.
- The ranch dressing tasted like dill dressing and I would have loved it served on the side.
- A house made jalapeño or blue cheese seasoning powder on the popcorn would have been great to complement the ranch dressing which was better on just the shrimp.
- The popcorn with popcorn concept is fun so it has appeal, but the execution wasn’t ideal.
Pork Belly Pizza, Organic Arugula, Aged Cheddar – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- This was quite standard, but I actually liked it the most out of the bar food.
- It was the only bar snack I found properly seasoned and I loved the salty, sweet and smoky flavours.
- It was reminiscent of a BBQ pizza and the pork belly was scarce, but the pieces I had were very tender and creamy.
- It was thin crust and meaty in flavour even when I didn’t get cubes of pork belly.
- It was not a Neapolitan style of pizza, so I enjoyed it differently.
- I would pay extra to get the duck confit from the tacos as a topping. Heck, add the panko fried egg on this too!
COOK HALL PRIX FIXE LUNCH
Choice of an Appetizer, a Main and a Dessert $29
Deviled Eggs with Dungeness Crab
House Made Ricotta, Grilled Bread
Kale Caesar Salad with Crispy Egg and Parmesan
Popcorn Shrimp with Ranch Dressing
Ricotta Cavatelli, Spicy Tomato Cream
Grilled Steelhead, Sweet Sour Carrot Sauce, Collard Greens
Crispy Duck Tacos, Chipotle Coleslaw
Grilled Hanger Steak, Parsnip Purée
Warm Nutella Tart, Toasted Hazelnuts Whipped Cream
Butterscotch Pudding, Sea Salt, Caramel, Whipped Cream
Fried Apple Pie, Vanilla Ice Cream
Ice Cream and Sorbet
I would order the Kale Caesar Salad, but ask for the dressing to be less salty, or the Devilled Eggs. The Ricotta flies under the radar, but I actually really enjoyed it. For the mains I would go for the Hanger Steak or Steelhead, which was actually Sea Bream (I liked the mains more than the appies). If I didn’t try the menu I would have went for the Steelhead or Duck Tacos. For dessert they were all pretty impressive (didn’t try the tart), but the Butterscotch Pudding I would come back for alone.
Grilled Sea Bream (Steelhead), Sweet Sour Carrot Sauce, Collard Greens – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Regular portion may be different. They served it with local and sustainable sea bream instead of steelhead.
- Steelhead is also local and sustainable, so I’m not sure why they featured sea bream.
- It was sweet, sour, salty and smoky and it was reminiscent of Chinese sweet and sour sauce, which is what they were going for.
- The sauce tasted a bit Ketchupy and I doubt they used it, but it had a similar flavour profile.
- The sweetness came from carrots rather than sugar and it wasn’t too sweet. I think the sour was from rice wine vinegar.
- The char grilled sea bream was smoky with a nice crisp skin which I always like. The meat is tender, flaky and mild tasting.
- There was a gradual heat, but it wasn’t too spicy and the sauce was more like a broth than a sauce.
- The collard greens were braised with smoky local chewy bacon and it was good quality bacon.
- As a main, it was missing a starch or one more component and it felt unfinished, but I was more impressed with this than the bar snacks.
Grilled Hanger Steak, Parsnip Purée – 4/6 (Very good)
- Regular portion may be different.
- It was a classic hanger steak, but it was executed well and I liked the accompaniments.
- The parsnip puree was excellent, as it usually is at places using a high speed blender while adding lots of butter and lots of cream.
- It was smooth, creamy and well seasoned and I loved the contrasting crispy parsnip chips.
- The steak was medium rare and it was tender and good quality.
- Again, I would have loved some carrots on the side or one other component like a jus to finish it off.
- Meat with jus is always ideal even if the meat is moist.
- I don’t want meat to rely on sauce to make it moist or give it flavour, but jus shouldn’t be overlooked and it’s a labour of love to make a quality one.
Chocolate Stout Sundae, Salted Pretzels – 4/6 (Very good)
- It was a salty sweet sundae which I love and it had a lot of texture.
- The chocolate meringues were okay, but I liked the salted pretzels.
- The whipped cream was also okay, but it could be better in texture and flavour.
- The chocolate stout sundae wasn’t that rich in chocolate and it wasn’t that noticeable with stout either.
- The stout was subtle and I liked the “beer and pretzel” concept.
- I’m a sucker for ice cream (my palate cleanser) so I tend to like anything with ice cream, but I’m also very picky with ice cream.
Fried Apple Pie, Vanilla Ice Cream – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Regular portion may be different.
- This was an apple pie dumping meets a churro.
- The fried dumpling dough was more like a doughnut than a pie crust and it was quite heavy, bread and chewy.
- It was sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and reminiscent of a churro.
- There was almost equal amount of dough to apple filling.
- The caramelized apple filling was minced with a bit of lemon for zing.
- The ice cream had a nice firm chew and it was creamy and smooth, although it could have used vanilla bean.
- It sat on a shortbread cookie crumb to hold it in place, but I needed more ice cream to pie and I’m not sure how many pies the normal portion comes with.
- The raisin puree was very sweet so I used it in limited amounts.
**Butterscotch Pudding, Sea Salt, Caramel, Whipped Cream – 5.5/6 (Excellent!)
- To be honest, I’m spending my Saturday night writing this post all for this dessert. I highly recommend it.
- Actually the whole post was mainly because I wanted to talk about this one item and I couldn’t wait to get to it. I loved it so much!
- I’m not even crazy for butterscotch or pudding, let alone butterscotch pudding, but I like it and this was fantastic! This would convince haters.
- I expected this to be very sweet especially with caramel and butterscotch, but it wasn’t that sweet.
- I like pudding, but this one just brought it to another level.
- Salted caramel and desserts in jars are so overdone, but when it’s done well, like this was, it’s unforgettable!
- The only butterscotch pudding I’ve had even better was the one from La Petite Grocery in New Orleans – see here. I almost want to cry thinking about it.
- It was a cross between a pudding, a mousse and a creme brûlée.
- It was super rich and decadent, but addicting. It was the perfect size and was all too easy to finish alone. It was small, but enough.
- It was a bit chilled and the texture was smooth, buttery, creamy and whipped.
- The sugar was well caramelized and dissolved and it tasted like butterscotch and not just sugar.
- Although it was buttery smooth, I think it might have been a bit over whipped and it was separating slightly in the mouthfeel. It was subtle, but I noticed.
- The salt was in the salted caramel sauce rather than the butterscotch pudding and there was some vanilla bean in it too which gave it another layer of flavour.
- The whipped cream on top made it even less sweet and it was a great balance.
- I liked this whipped cream better than the one on the sundae. It was thicker with body and almost like a mascarpone.
- I would have loved some texture like honey comb or nuts, but I can appreciate it as a smooth pudding which doesn’t need texture.
- It was very simple, yet it delivered beyond expectations and tasted even better than it looked and sounded. It was a pleasant surprise.
- The menu ends October 31, so you don’t have much time to try it! This is worth at least a 20 minute trip! It was worth my Saturday night, so go get it!
Interesting concept, however I don’t find the menu very exciting and $3/oyster is a joke….you mean I’m paying $72 for a dozen oysters for myself and a date ! Joe Fortes charges $1/oyster.
I would expect more duck in the tacos.I think they have to re-think this bar-snack menu. Yeah, the kale caesar needs anchovies. Chinese style shrimp, deep fried and battered on salt and pepper and garnished with thin sliced serrano chiles and some fine chopped onion tastes better.How about a mille feu Napolean of smoked salmon; stuffed quail with kasha and a farcemeat with sun-dried tomatoes ? Pickled dai kon, carrots, kale and prawns in a mirin/vietnames fish sauce/good soy sauce vinagre with some fine chopped Thai chiles ?