American Express exclusive dinner at AnnaLena – Recap

snapseed-168A recap of the American Express exclusive dinner at one of Canada’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants, AnnaLena, as determined by Air Canada’s enRoute Magazine.

I’ve been to AnnaLena a few times before, but this was a special occasion. As Vancouver’s only restaurant to make the top 10 list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants as determined by Air Canada enRoute Magazine, I was excited for a specially curated experience from American Express. What was even better was that I got to share it with my best friend, Susan.

You’d think I’d get to dine with her all the time, but it’s actually the complete opposite. With my traveling and work schedule it’s hard to find eating opportunities, so when it happens we want it to be good; and it was!

For the first time ever, American Express opened its doors to all Canadians by giving them the chance to experience the many benefits of being a Cardmember. Canadians had the chance to  access exclusive experiences like, dining, theatre and music– including an advance screening of Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 earlier this year and advanced presale tickets to Rihanna’s Anti World Tour in April.


The exclusive dining experiences took place at three of Canada’s Best New Restaurants as determined by Air Canada enRoute Magazine. In Toronto it will be at Bar Raval (tonight!), in Calgary it was at Pigeonhole, and in Vancouver it was at AnnaLena. Here’s how the one in my hometown went down!

The cuisine at AnnaLena is Pacific Northwest or “New Canadian”, a term I use to describe modern Canadian food with “farm-to-table” elements, cultural influences, sexy plating, and creative and fresh flavours. For this exclusive Amex dinner, chef and owner, Mikey Robbins, and his team made an excellent five course dinner with wine pairings.

Since this was a one-off-event, I’m keeping comments on the dishes to a minimum, however it’s a good representation of what AnnaLena serves on a regular night.

On the table: 

AnnaLena AMEX 05Trio Amuse

Fried Chicken, Chicken Liver Parfait, Pickled Shallots

  • They have the fried chicken on the la carte menu, but the accompaniments are different. Order it.
  • Also chicken Liver Parfait as the dipping sauce makes it hard to go back to anything else ever again.

Cured Salmon, Creme Fraiche, Smoked Char Roe, Brioche, Lemon Gel 

  • A simple and clean bite.

Oyster, Compressed Apple, Shaved Foie Gras

  • This is a must order on the a la carte menu. I could have a dozen.

Wine pairing: Bella, “Blanc De Blanc”, 2013, Similkameen Valley, BC

AnnaLena AMEX 09Confit Lobster Tail

  • Vichyssoise, shaved white truffle, confit leeks, burrata cheese
  • Wine pairing: Badenhorst, “Secateurs”, Chenin Blanc, 2014, Swartland, South Africa
  • Butter poached (sous vide) lobster? Yes, please. A Thomas Keller “invention” that has been well received by chefs and diners.
  • I actually haven’t had this combination of ingredients, but it was good.
  • There is lobster baked with cheese and lobster mac n’ cheese, but lobster with burrata was interesting.
  • Marea in New York did a lobster and burrata combination before too.
  • It was good, but I can be a purist when it comes to good quality burrata.
  • It was a room temperature dish and I’m not sure if that was the intention, so it ate almost like a salad.

AnnaLena AMEX 1212 Hour Smoked Sablefish

  • Fried eggplant, daikon noodle, miso mushroom broth, chicken skin
  • Wine pairing: Planeta Chardonnay, 2013, Sicily, Italy
  • This was my favourite course of the night. I hope it goes on the menu.
  • Miso mushroom broth? Instant umami bomb.
  • Miso sablefish isn’t anything new, especially in Vancouver, but smoked sablefish we don’t get as often.
  • It’s a near impossible fish to mess up because it’s so oily, so it’s almost always good.
  • I actually really love the smoked sablefish at The Fish Counter, and my favourite to date was the one from The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, but this was done nicely too.
  • There were so many textures and all types of crispiness and crunchiness.
  • A very well executed dish.

AnnaLena AMEX 1748 Hour Boneless Wagyu Short Rib 

  • Butter poached king crab, ricotta ravioli, charred onion, brussel sprouts, red wine jus
  • Wine pairing: Altesio, “Brunello di Montalcino”, 2010, Montalcino, Italy
  • There is a version of this wagyu short rib (the exact same one) on their a la carte menu, so you can still try this!
  • It’s from Snake River Farms which is one of my favourite beef suppliers in North America.
  • Look at the marbling! It’s fatty and thus flavourful, so it doesn’t require much sauce.
  • The ricotta ravioli was rich and creamy with an al dente pasta skin and there was a good amount of lemon zest and mint to keep it fresh.
  • The crispy brussel sprouts were nice and the red wine jus well reduced.
  • The charred onion was crunchy and it held a pool of beurre blanc sauce which was also dressed on top of the ravioli.
  • It was a really rich dish, yet I still wanted the bone from the short rib… heck I’ll take some bone marrow croquettes too.

IMG_20151202_211351Campfire S’mores

  • Coffee ice cream, graham cracker crumbs, swiss meringue, chocolate custard, smoke essence
  • Wine pairing: Reposado Tequila, cynar, fernet, mescal, walnut bitters
  • They ended the dinner up in smoke! And holy smokes they sure set a benchmark for s’mores in Vancouver.
  • It was an interactive last course and very AnnaLena in style.
  • I could see some being turned off by the intense smokiness especially if you’re sensitive to butane, you might get a hint of that, but I really loved this dessert.
  • It was bittersweet, smoky sweet, and rich without being too sweet.
  • The swiss meringue was a soft, creamy, light and fluffy elegant “marshmallow” cream.
  • Served for a smaller group there probably would have been more temperature contrast, but it was solid nonetheless.

From exclusive dining experiences to concert tickets and advanced screenings, visit Amex Invites for more information.

Thank you American Express for having me as your guest.

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