My sister-in-law and her new boyfriend were in town for the week and part of my duties as their host included supplying them with clean towels, operating the complicated home theater remote, and ensuring they were well fed. My expertise, of course, extends to all three areas but it’s the latter at which I truly excel (clean towel supply comes in a close second) and so, over the course of their stay, I made it a point to introduce Grace and Jason to Vancouver’s varied culinary offerings. We did some pho, a little dim sum, a bit of barbecue, then capped the week off with the heavy hitters…
Thursday night: Yuji’s. Vancouver’s premiere Japanese tapas restaurant was, I thought, the perfect place to introduce Jason to the wonderful world of sushi. He was admittedly leery about the prospect of eating raw fish but, by meal’s end, he was an enthusiastic convert. But we didn’t limit ourselves to just the sushi. Hell, we didn’t limit ourselves at all. Highlights included many of Yuji’s signature plates – the maguro avocado crepe, Yuji’s California salad roll, and the deep-fried tuna roll – and a couple of cooked dishes like the spicy curry kalamari and the always impressive Aburi Negi Miso Kobe Beef that is served thinly sliced and blowtorch-seared at your table. Jason was so impressed by the quality and creativity of the individual plates that he was certain his dinner at Yuji’s could not be topped. Well, given the quality of the sushi in Montreal, I’m sure that might hold true for any Japanese restaurant he may visit any time in the near future, but I had something else in mind for their last night in Vancouver…
Friday night: Fuel: If Yuji’s was the dizzying left uppercut, then Fuel was the finishing right hook that put him down for the count. We opted for the Chef’s six-course menu and I requested one of the courses include the confit Polderside duck confit. Jason, a picky eater, had his own request: no duck. He wasn’t a fan. So we all started off with the chilled organic English pea soup with frozen yogurt, side stripe shrimp, crisp garlic. I used to consider soups and salads akin to necessary evils, but Chef Rob Belcham’s creations have forced me to seriously reassess my opinion of the once-innocuous starters. This version of English pea soup was nothing short of marvelous. Velvety, rich, and incredibly satisfying, it comes in a close second to my favorite soup of all time, another Rob Belcham creation, his labor-intensive but so-good-it-pains-you-to-stop-eating-it corn soup that brought me back to Fuel for four nights straight last year. According to Rob, he has visited the corn fields and it looks like that particular soup is only one month away from returning to the menu.
Next up, Jason enjoyed a seared and tartare of Qualicum Bay Scallop while Grace and I shared the decadent foie gras terrine. Despite his initial uncertainty about eating duck liver, Jason tried a bit. Then a bit more. And the next thing I knew, he was battling it out with Grace over the last of the silky-sweet foie.
We followed with the Carnaroli Risotto for Jason, and two off-menu pasta creations for Grace and I: agnolotti stuffed with a fava bean whip so creamy I assumed it had been lightened with ricotta, and a magnificent tagliatelle.
We enjoyed a perfectly cooked salmon, crispy-skinned yet moist and tender, then moved onto the main course – that confit Polerside duck for Grace and I, and a wonderful pork shoulder/pork sausage/pork belly trio for Jason. Alas, Grace was so stuffed by this point that she couldn’t even manage a bite of her duck. But Jason (the presumed duck hater) did. And then another. And another. He ended up finishing both his main AND hers, thoroughly blown away by the duck. “This is the best meat I’ve ever had!”he declared (If I had a nickel for every time one of my fellow Fuel diners spoke those words…). And then: “When you die and go to heaven, this is the food they serve.” I kid you not.
Finally – Just a reminder that I’ll be taking questions for Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok until midnight tonight (PST). After that, you’re just going to have to ask him personally.