Given my hectic schedule of late, my recent dinners have consisted of take-out, delivery, and the occasional home-cooked meal. Not that I’m complaining. Sometimes, baked chicken wings and double quarter pounders with cheese are a welcome change of pace. But until the day Fondy starts making Toulouse sausage-stuffed game hen on a regular basis, or McDonald starts serving up McFoieGras, I’m afraid my heart will always belong to Vancouver’s dynamic restaurant scene. So when Martin Gero suggested we check out Chow on Granville, I jumped at the opportunity to get out of the house, check out one of the area’s most talked-about newcomers, and hopefully get around to writing a review.
We arrived at a little after 6:00 p.m. to a half-filled room. As we perused the menu – divvied into Fish & Shellfish, Market Vegetables, and Meat & Poultry rather than the traditional Appetizer and Entrée sections – we checked out the décor: Dark brown and white, very clean, one might even argue a little austere, with a slick, separate bar area and atypical basement kitchen. We were informed that the restaurant was still in the process of selecting artwork for the place, something that would go a long way toward helping the establishment’s cavern-like acoustics.
Our waiter, Claude, kicked things off by explaining how the chef’s cooking philosophy was reflected in the ever-changing menu – his use of fresh, local ingredients shaping the evening’s selections. For instance, tonight, the Sloping Hills Farm organic pork dish would feature loin rather than the usual belly. I wondered if that was actually a good thing but, on Claude’s recommendation, ordered the pork nevertheless – along with some eight other plates. We were three after all.
Fondy started with an asparagus soup that, like the surrounding décor, proved straightforward and clean if not altogether exciting. The beef carpaccio, served with baby arugula, horseradish salsa verde, grana padano cheese and a quail egg was very good – the inclusion of cipollini onion rings was a nice touch. The house-made country style terrine was excellent, coarse and hearty, accompanied by pistachio and sourdough baguette and a complimentary pear moutarde. The “Creamy Carnoli” risotto was another winner – fresh herbs, sautéed wild mushrooms, parmesan, a caramelized onion froth and, oh yes, the addition of the optional pulled pork making it a truly unique dish.
Following a brief interlude, we were served the second half of our meal. The home-made ricotta ravioli with roasted trumpet royal mushrooms served in fava bean and madras curry froth picked up where the risotto left off – even winning over the ricotta-loathing Martin. As I feared, the organic pork dish was a bit of a letdown, the loin a little too lean and lacking in flavor despite some terrific accompanying sweet onion puree, shimeji mushrooms, and deliciously inventive nutmeg gnocchi. I can only imagine how good the originally conceived pork belly version must be. We also enjoyed a generous piece of foie gras, pan-fried and served with a rhubarb compote, and fine ahi tuna dish. Sides included addictive sweet and spicy almonds, and what I referred to as Jenga Fries – thick, bronzed slices of meaty potato assembled to form a standing structure.
For dessert, we opted to go with four choices. The chocolate bread pudding with banana cooked in dark rum and chocolate ice cream came deconstructed, which made for a beautiful presentation but a relatively awkward assembly for anyone looking to enjoy a combination of all three flavors. In the end, the lay-out actually did a disservice to the chocolate bread pudding portion of the dish which, left to its own devices, proved rather plain and fairly devoid of chocolate. The accompanying banana was very good; the chocolate ice cream wonderfully rich. A pistachio frozen nougat “sandwich” with caramelized bosc pear and cinnamon syrup came highly recommended, and didn’t disappoint. The affogato, warm espresso over vanilla ice cream, offered up a nice bitter-sweet contrast in flavors. An intrigued Martin also went with the cheese plate, actually a mini grilled cheese sandwich: 3 year old Comte and toasted brioche. A nice try, but not my idea of an ideal way to end a meal.
Since Martin was in a drinking mood (no doubt because he was in mid-script mode), he ordered a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne for the table. I’m not a big champagne man, preferring the sweeter muscats, but had no trouble helping Martin polish off the bottle. “It’s the champagne for people who hate champagne!”he enthused.
Great food, excellent service and, from what I hear, the bathrooms are pretty impressive as well.
It’s nice to get out every once in a while.
Pics: Food, Fondy, and Marty G. doing his imitation of Jim Carey’s rendition of Count Olaf.
Questions, questions, questions…
Haliyah writes: “How do you get an agent?”
Answer: Get someone to recommend you. If that’s not possible, then seek one out (they used to publish something called The Writer’s Market that offered up lists and contact numbers). Find one and send them a polite query letter, telling them a bit about yourself and whether they’d be interested in reading your work. Then – blow their socks off with your writing samples.
Allison writes: “When do you think Paul will begin shooting?”
Answer: That’s still to be decided.
CmS1977 writes: “Sci-Fi has announced “Ani-Monday”, where they’ll be running a block of anime which they’re calling “original programming.” Any thoughts?”
Answer: I doubt it will be original programming. Still, it might be very interesting depending on what they get. Maybe some Cowboy Bebop and Planetes?
Anonymous #1 writes: “Any chance of seeing Jack in Atlantis next season?”
Answer: It’s possible but, at the moment, unlikely.
Rossy writes: “Joe, have you ever tried an affrogato with pistachio ice cream?”
Answer: I had one with vanilla ice cream. Check out the pic accompanying today’s review.
Kristine writes: “Really? What cheese did you try? Was is a goat cheese? Was it white or brown?”
Answer: Brown. It was great with scrambled eggs. I believe it was called Gjetost.
Joshua Meyers writes: “Have you been to Invermere B.C.?”
Answer: Never been.
A.A. writes: “About the ratings; I do not want to sound too negative, but which are the chances for renewal with 1.2/1.3?”
Answer: Alas, I don’t know the answer to that. Still, while the ratings are low, the numbers for cable are down across the board and, from what I heard, Atlantis beat a couple of networks among males 18-45.
Sheppard’s Delight writes: “Do you already know what is going to be happening in the season finale or does it depend on whether you get a s5?”
Answer: We have an idea where we’re going to go before we get word.
Anonymous #2 writes: “Gee Joe, after reading some of the comments here I’m so glad I’m not in your shoes, a)they wouldn’t fit and b)I don’t like high heels.”
Answer: Try my pumps. They’re much more comfortable for lounging around the office.
IB writes: “Have you ever tried the Austrian Sacher cake??”
Answer: My sister used to make Sacher Torte. Does that count?
SMB_Books writes: “ Are those large cloves of garlic or baby onions?”
Answer: Garlic gloves in the roast and caramelized baby onions in the pot.
Anonymous #3 writes: “You mentioned that there’s a ‘subtle’ clue in one of the latter S3 episodes. After they all air, will you tell us which episode it’s in?”
Answer: I will say it hasn’t aired on SciFi yet.
Teknikal writes: “In your opinion do you think its harder to write stuff for sci-fi shows than some of the main stream shows??”
Answer: In my opinion, they’re equally challenging to write for.
Apm4cb writes: “When you were 18 what did you want to do career wise? Were you the kind of person that was totally focused on their career, or did it just sorta happen to work out the way it has? Does working on atlantis live up to your expectations (at 18) or are there more things you would have liked to achieve by now? Also what would you like to have achieved work wise/personally by the time you retire?”
Answer: I’ve wanted to write professionally since I was in elementary. In the end, I’m very happy with the way things have worked out and I owe it all to 25 skill, 25% determination, 25% connections, and 25% pure luck. Before I retire, it would be nice to write a novel.
Angie writes: “Doesn’t all the criticism and complaining drive you crazy?”
Alana writes: “ What kind of music do you listen to?”
Answer: Whatever happens to be on the radio as I’m driving in. I do like that new Nine Inch Nails song.
Cheeky Lil Devil writes: “Should I continue with my quest or should I just give up now and save myself the heartache of just having Shep… *tries to bring herself to say the words*… Clothed.”
Answer: If it’s something you really have your heart set on, then don’t let me stop you.