Sure, plenty of people missed Martin Gero when he left Vancouver for the Big Apple, but I’m willing to bet that none missed him as passionately as the gang at Fuel. When he was in town, we used to frequent the place at least once a week, dropping in and leaving ourselves to the mercies of Chef’s Rob and Ted and whatever incredible culinary creations they‘d come up with. Alas, since he left, my Fuel visits have been infrequent – to the point where owner Tom asked whether they’d done something to offend me. No, nothing quite so dramatic. The truth is, after some 9+ years of dining out almost every night, I’ve taken to cooking at home. Roasted pork belly, pan-seared salmon, broiled kurobata chops – nothing outrageously imaginative, but tasty nevertheless. And there’s the sense of accomplishment that goes with not cooking the crap out of that sea bass.
Well, with my culinary wingman back in town, I alerted the gang at Fuel. They had days to prepare and, suffice it to say, they didn’t let us down, preparing a special six course dinner for the occasion and even going so far as to give the menu a special name: “Joe and Marty: Reunited And It Feels So Good”. Following the customary “locking us out” gag, we were greeted by owner Tom, Chef Ted, and the rest of the kitchen crew. Chef Rob wasn’t in as he was overseeing the action at sister restaurant Campagnolo, but we promised to go pay him a visit before Martin ships out to L.A. on Wednesday. Despite Rob’s absence, Tom assured us that both he and Ted had collaborated on the evening’s menu. And, boy, were they excited.
As we settled in at our table, we were served an amuse bouche – a crisp, translucent chicken skin stuffed with line caught ling cod, soy, and charred leek. It was a tiny bite that packed some BIG flavor in addition to offering a delightful textural composition, simultaneously crunchy and creamy.
Martin, as usual, went with the wine accompaniment while I limited myself to two glasses. The first was a Riesling (Hey, what can I say. I like my wine like Das likes her fictional characters: sweet and pale.); the last was a red from Tom’s own vineyard, Montagu Cellars.
When the first course arrived, my first thought was “Damn! Is Fondy going to be sorry she missed this!” – Fried spot prawn heads with crackling and tomato spice served with a dipping sauce comprised of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and jalapeno peppers. As much as I enjoyed the dipping sauce, the prawn heads were just as good on their own – savory and surprisingly delicate. Fantastic.
Our second course was an English cucumber soup with frozen yogurt and poivron rouge. It was a gorgeous bright green and bursting with intense cucumber flavor. Very refreshing, a terrific follow-up to the prawn dish.
Next up, Tom presented us with a mason jar contaiing a whole, brodo-cooked foie-gras stuffed deboned squab.
After a quick presentation informing us what we were in for, he whisked the jar away and moments later, returned with our third course: the same brodo-cooked foie-grass stuffed deboned squab sliced and served with Bing cherries, brioche, exotic salt, and a tiny dollop of what I believe was a vividly sweet cherry balsamic. The squab and foie were perfect together – meaty, rich, sweet, and savory.
Our next dish was the fish course, often the least interesting entry so far as I’m concerned, but this one turned out to be one of my favorites in no small part due to the poaching process that renders the spotlight salmon incredibly moist and tender. Given the choice, this is how I’d have all of my fish prepared. The Nass River salmon was served with a wonderful little sauce of brown butter and lemon vinegar and accompanied by Saltspring Island white asparagus.
The final savory course was the kicker (roundhouse directly to our livers): Porchetta di Testa with English peas & cream, and lemon spaeztle. What, pray tell, is porchetta di testa? I’m glad you asked. It’s a crown roast. And what is a crown roast? Well, it‘s a crispy-skinned roast comprised of the incredibly well-marbled meat of the pork head.
Lip-smackingly deliciously. I think DeNiro ate all of this in order to achieve the look of that older, heavier Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull.
Martin had an Albion strawberry tart – that he loved.
They, of course, knew better than to serve me something with fruit in it, so I got the Manjari Chocolate Terrine – which I loved.
A huge thank you to Tom, Chef Rob, Chef Ted, and the rest of the gang at Fuel for one of the tastiest – not to mention the most imaginative – meal I’ve had in recent memory. It was just like old times!
Next stop: Campagnolo!