As this event was by invitation, all food and drinks were complimentary.
When I was a child, hotel restaurants were only for eating at on vacation or holidays. They were a place where you could get standard, if not particularly exciting food, in a child friendly environment. But if you were looking for high quality innovative food, they were not the place to go. That’s been changing over the past ten years though. Perhaps the best example is e.b.o restaurant in the Delta Hotel and Conference Center in Burnaby. Ever since it first opened a few years ago, it has been consistently reviewed positively, with emphasis placed on the high quality execution of its dishes. Chicken strips have been replaced with sablefish, and burgers with lamb chops.
Another hotel restaurant that’s also hoping to appeal to Vancouver foodies and not just the vacation and holiday crowd is Dockside Restaurant in the Granville Island Hotel. Not only do they offer spectacular views of False Creek in an upscale environment, but they offer gourmet menu items to match. Pair that with the fact that they offer beer from their very own brewery, and you’ve got a hotel restaurant that is definitely trying to set itself apart from the rest. So when I was invited to a tasting of the new Fall and Holiday menu at Dockside Restaurant, I took the opportunity to determine for myself whether they’re really everything that they claim.
Forno Flatbread – $13.00
When we arrived, we were immediately met with a selection of appetizers from their regular lounge menu to help tide us over until they were ready to serve us the Fall menu items. The first of these was the Forno Flatbread featuring a warm Okanagan goat cheese fritter with cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan, balsamic reduction and basil pesto. This was a simple, but tasty item that I would definitely consider ordering if I was looking for a light bite to share with friends over drinks. The crust was on the crisper side, with some chew towards the center, and worked well as a backdrop for the garlicky pesto. Had the menu not stated that the crust was made with goat cheese, I would have had no idea, as the pungent flavour of the cheese was lost in the cooking process. The parmesan provided a sharp saltiness, and the tomatoes a burst of freshness, although I would have liked if there were a few more of them.
Vegetable Spring Rolls – $15.00
Another appetizer was the Vegetable Spring Rolls with ginger papaya mango coulis. Made with wheat flour wrappers, the spring roll were nicely fried where they were crisp, but not overly greasy. The filling within was pretty standard with a mixture of indistinguishable vegetables cooked until soft. The ginger papaya mango coulis worked as a nice sweet dip to contrast the savoury spring rolls. These were fine, but unless I was having a major hankering for spring rolls, I wouldn’t bother going out of my way to order them.
Legendary Chili Squid – $15.00
Our last appetizer from the lounge menu was the Legendary Chili Squid featuring ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and cilantro. I liked how instead of the small rings of squid that you normally get at other restaurants, the squid here was served in large morsels. Perhaps because of this, the meat wasn’t overcooked, being tender with a slight bite. I also appreciated that similar to the spring rolls, the deep fried batter wasn’t too greasy, and adhered well to the squid. Although the lemongrass and cilantro sauces provided additional flavour, the squid was also sprinkled with finely chopped and cooked garlic and ginger. This gave every bite a lot of impact. This was definitely one of the better calamari dishes that I’ve had in recent memory, and I would happily order it again.
Dockside Crab and Shrimp Cake – $17.00
Moving on, we were presented with individual cocktail-sized portions of items from the restaurant’s new Fall and Holiday menu (the pictures shown here are of the full sized dishes though). The first item we tried was the Dockside Crab and Shrimp Cake featuring charred lemon aioli and herb salad. The crab cake sported a crunchy panko crusted exterior that made way to a sweet, fluffy mixture of crab and shrimp with very little filler. Although the parsley and dill provided a certain freshness to the dish, it was the charred lemon aioli that really stood out amongst the other flavours. I personally wasn’t able to taste the charring, but the cirtus flavour was bright, playful and reminiscent of summer. It also gave the dish a flavour profile unique from any crab cake I’ve previously tasted.
Tuna Nicoise – $23.00
If you’re looking for a lighter item, the Tuna Nicoise featuring seared albacore tuna, green beans, hard boiled egg, kalamata olives, and yukon gold potatoes might be for you. Although the tuna was cubed and quite small in the sample sized portion that I tried, I was still able to taste its freshness. The same went for the greens which were vibrant and bright. Despite these lighter items, the salad was actually quite substantial thanks to the tender potatoes, meaty olives, and hard boiled eggs. It was lightly dressed, but still packed a fair amount of flavour from the medley of ingredients.
Roasted Pork Belly – price not available at time of posting
Next up was the Roasted Pork Belly featuring carrot puree and herb salad. This felt a little small for an entree, but would be perfect as an appetizer shared between two people. The roasted pork belly sported a crisp exterior, and super soft interior thanks to the thick layer of fat on the top half. It was overall softer than Chinese pork belly, but the flavours were similar. The carrot puree added a little sweetness to help contrast the saltiness of the meat.
Grilled Beef Tenderloin – $34.00
My favorite dish of the evening wound up being the Grilled Beef Tenderloin featuring creamed spinach, pont-neuf potatoes, bernaise sauce, and market vegetables. This is a standard offering on any menu, and because of that, I wasn’t expecting it to impress me. I was therefore taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed it. Although the beef tenderloin was nicely grilled a medium rare with some good charring and flavour, the element that really took it to the next level was the fabulous bernaise sauce. It was silky, creamy, and buttery, with just the right amount of herb flavour to help complement the dish. It was also heavenly mixed with the creamy spinach. The pont-neuf potatoes were similar to thickly cut french fries, with a super fat-crisped exterior, and decadent softness within. It’s not often that I order steak on a menu, but if I were to return, I would very happily get this.
Roasted Duck Breast – $37.00
Another new entree on their Fall menu is the Roasted Duck Breast featuring white bean cassoulet, duck confit, market vegetables, and red wine jus. As you can clearly see from the photo, the duck breast was cooked a perfect medium rare. It was mostly tender with a slight chew (which I find is normal for duck). The red wine jus contrasted nicely with the natural saltiness of the meat. I normally really like cassoulet, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the version in this dish. The flavour was good thanks to the addition of tender duck confit throughout, but the beans were slightly firmer than I would have preferred. Perhaps this is personal preference though? I enjoy my pasta al dente, but not my beans.
Braised Lamb Osso Bucco – $37.00
The last entree presented to us was the Braised Lamb Osso Bucco featuring pearl barley risotto, market vegetables, and sauce braisage. This was also up there as one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The braised lamb had a slightly crisp, almost caramelized skin, while the meat within was slightly fatty and fork tender. The barley risotto naturally had a stronger chew than risotto made with arborio rice, but I enjoyed the textural contrast to the soft lamb. It was mostly flavoured by the sauce braisage, which tasted of red wine and lamb. The vegetables were also nicely cooked where they still retained a bite.
Although I only sampled appetizer-sized portions of each of the dishes, I was definitely impressed with the overall quality of the food. The execution was good, and the flavours were delicious. None of the dishes were particularly innovative – the restaurant seems to focus on the traditional – but all the food we tried was well thought out and well made. If you visit, do be prepared for some high prices though. Having said that, the restaurant is located on Granville Island, so you’re paying for the location. I will definitely be returning.