As this event was by invitation, all food and drinks were complimentary.
I’m always looking for new pubs and bars to visit with friends after work. And now that I’m working downtown for the first time in my life, an entire new world of establishments have opened up to me. But despite the plethora of options, I immediately noticed a sharp divide in the types of restaurants around my work building. On the one side are the fancy, higher end places, such as the Georgia Hotel or Royal Dinette, where you know you’ll be getting excellent service and fantastic cocktails for a hefty price, and on the other side are dated or divey bars where half the menu is made from frozen food and you’re best to stick to beer. Both serve their purpose, but I was missing a middle ground.
So you can imagine my intrigue when I was invited to a media tasting at the St. Regis Bar and Grill, and informed that their new chef has completely overhauled the kitchen, ensuring that all their sauces and dishes were now made from scratch. This includes burgers being ground in house, chickens being butchered in house, and all doughs and patties being made in house as well. And all in a pub setting, and for a reasonable price. It was as if my prayers had been answered!
Potato Skins – $12
Starting with appetizers, the first item we tried was the Potato Skins topped with cheddar and jack cheese, smoked bacon, green onion, and sour cream. I’m probably the only person in the entire world that doesn’t much care for potato skins (I want some crunch, dammit!), so these didn’t do much for me. Everyone else was raving about them though. They did sport a generous amount of cheese and green onions, and there was plenty of sour cream presented on the side for dipping. I would have preferred if a little more bacon had been used, but that’s probably because I was looking for that crunch. If you’re looking to order some potato skins, then you’ll likely enjoy them just fine.
Calamari – $14.50
Next up was the Calamari featuring lemon pepper aioli, fresh herbs, and lime. If you’re avoiding gluten, have no fear, because the breading on this appetizer is gluten free. You wouldn’t know it though, as the texture of the breading was no different than that of its wheat-based counterpart. It also adhered to the squid, and wasn’t particularly greasy. Furthermore, I enjoyed the departure from the traditional lemon and tzatziki accompaniments to the brighter lemon pepper aioli and lime. It was a bold, fresh change.
Truffle Hummus Plate – $11
If you’re looking for something a little healthier to share among friends, the Truffle Hummus Plate might be for you. Consisting of pita, pickled carrots and cauliflower, smoked olives, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and celery, this was definitely the lightest of appetizers that we previewed. The truffle hummus was creamy and smooth, with noticeable, but not overwhelming, notes of truffle. There was still a little garlic and sesame flavour present, but the truffle was definitely the main event. It paired well with both the fresh vegetables and the soft pita bread. My absolute favorite thing on the plate were the smoked olives though. Green and on the unripe side (just the way I like them), they were meaty, salty, and had a gorgeous smokiness to them. I would happily order a bowl of these on their own.
Pork Belly – $14.50
The last of the appetizers was also the most high end. The Pork Belly featured char sui pork, onion gastrique, house kimchi, and frizzled onions, and was surprisingly well done. The meat was juicy and fatty, and of the ‘melt in your mouth’ consistency that I always hope for with pork belly. The online menu describes the item as “Crispy Pork Belly”, but I never noticed any crunch from the skin when I ate my piece – the entire thing was tender. Not that big of a deal, but something to keep in mind in case you’re hoping for something akin to Chinese pork belly. As for the other ingredients, they didn’t do much for me, so I mostly ignored them. The reason to get this dish is for the meat itself.
Chicken Fingers – $13
Moving onto entrees, we were presented with the Chicken Fingers featuring chicken breast, herbs and spices, plum sauce, and skinny fries. Actually, this is found on the appetizer section of the menu, but considering that it comes with fries, I’m grouping it with the entrees. Either way, these were a hit with the group. The chicken was surprisingly tender and moist considering that breast meat was used, and the breading was crunchy and well seasoned (the chef was apparently attempting to recreate the 11 secret herbs and spices used in KFCs recipe). I’m a honey mustard kinda girl, so I would have preferred if there were more options for dips, but the plum sauce did its job.
And let’s not forget about the skinny fries, because they were awesome. You know when someone claims that a restaurant has fries that taste exactly like McDonalds fries, and when you finally try them you’re like, “Um, you’re crazy”. Well honest to God, these tasted like McDonalds fries. The texture, the taste, even that quintessential flavour that all McDonalds products mysteriously have – these fries have it too. If you don’t believe me, try them for yourself.
The Regis Burger – $14 with fries
Another item that really blew me away was the Regis Burger featuring house ground beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic aioli on a brioche bun. The chef boasted that this is the best burger in Vancouver that doesn’t feature a medium rare patty, and I was skeptical to say the least. Fortunately, I was converted after only one bite. Although cooked well done, the fresh patty was incredibly juicy with plenty of natural beef flavour (and little, if any, filler). Add in a light, soft brioche bun, enough garlic aioli to give some additional flavour, and some fresh veggies, and this was a simple, but really, really well executed burger. The next time I visit the restaurant, I will 100% be ordering this burger with a side of skinny fries.
Garden Burger – $14 with fries
For those vegetarians out there, the restaurant also offers up a Garden Burger featuring a homemade chickpea, couscous, and roasted hazelnut patty, with jack cheese, lettuce, onion gastrique, salsa, and grainy dijon mayonnaise on an onion bun. It’s rare that I like vegetarian burgers, but this one truly was pretty good. The chickpea, couscous, and roasted hazelnut patty was like no other patty I’d ever had before. Since it was mostly couscous held together by mashed chickpeas, the texture was crumblier than a regular vegetarian patty. Although this put off Maggie, I actually enjoyed additional texture it provided. More importantly, the patty was moist and nicely seasoned with herbs. I would have preferred if only one or two of the onion gastrique, salsa, or grainy dijon were used (they were three very strong, different flavours), but that would be an easy fix when ordering.
Quinoa Salad – $12
Moving onto an even healthier entree, the Quinoa Salad features mint, cranberry, cherry tomatoes, roasted roots, greens, feta cheese, and citrus vinaigrette. This may not look like much in the photo, but every bite was an explosion of flavours. There was the brightness of the mint, the sweetness of the cranberries and sweet potato, and the saltiness of the feta. It also had plenty of texture to keep things interesting thanks to the quinoa, yams, and giant crouton, which I crumbled into smaller pieces and sprinkled overtop of the salad. A more interesting salad than most.
Ham and Pineapple, Margerita, Italia, and Fungi Pizzas – $15-17.50
As if we weren’t already full at this point, we were then presented with all four of the Pizzas that the restaurant has to offer. These included the Ham and Pineapple, Margerita, Italia, and Fungi, all of which can be made gluten-free upon request. All the pizzas sported a thin crust that was more crispy than chewy. Although some may disagree, I liked that on most of the pizzas only a minimal amount of cheese was used. This allowed the sweet tomato sauce to really come through. Because of this, my favorite pizza was the margerita. Having said that, the pizzas weren’t particularly special overall, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to order them again.
Quarter Chicken Plate – $16
Next up was the Quarter Chicken Plate featuring BBQ chicken, coleslaw, skinny fries, and gravy. The chicken was nice and moist, but I found the marinade on the skin too tangy and sweet for my tastes. It reminded me a lot of Swiss Chalet sauce. I also felt it paired strangely with the gravy. Personally I’m not into mixing the flavours of BBQ sauce and gravy, but maybe that’s just me. On the bright side, there were plenty of the tasty fries, and I happily ate them with the gravy as a dipping sauce.
Spicy Noodle Bowl – $13
Moving onto the bowls section of the menu, we were presented with the Spicy Noodle Bowl featuring sauteed teriyaki chicken, mixed vegetables, and green onion. This was indeed moderately spicy. Enough so, that Nosh and Nibbles had to bow out after a single bite, although the rest of us at the table happily dug in. Despite the menu description of the chicken being terriyaki, the spicy flavours of the bowl completely overwhelmed any taste of terriyaki sauce that may have been present. I was fine with this though, as the spicy flavours of the bowl were still to my liking. Furthermore, both the noodles and vegetables still retained a nice bite, making every chew texturally interesting. The only things I would have liked to have changed, were small portion size and the the excess liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
Chicken and Mushroom Penne – $17
Surprisingly, the Chicken and Mushroom Penne featuring broccolini, shallots, thyme butter, and lemon was one of the more expensive dishes that we tried. The pasta was cooked al dente, and the dish wasn’t too heavy, as some butter-based pasta dishes tend to be. I found that the flavour of the bright lemon was more pronounced than that of the thyme, but it was really the mushrooms that added the most flavour. This was definitely a good pasta dish, but I’m not sure I would pay $17 for it considering the small size and lack of meat.
Short Ribs – $21
The very last entree was the Short Ribs featuring garlic mashed potatoes, shallot confit, steamed spinach, red wine jus, and frizzled onions. This was a classic rendition of the dish, that would be perfect to eat on a cold winters day. The generous portion of short rib was quite literally fall-off-the-bone tender, with just the right amount of fat to provide plenty of meaty flavour. The red wine just was savoury and complex, and I only wish that there had been more of the creamy mashed potatoes provided to help sop it all up.
Warm Cookie Skillet – $10
Laslty, we were presented with a Warm Cookie Skillet featuring a white chocolate chip cookie, shaved dark chocolate, chocolate sauce, and vanilla bean ice cream. Apparently the chef scaled up his mother’s own chocolate chip cookie recipe to create this dessert. This was a hit all around. I loved that the dessert featured both white and dark chocolate, which is a combination that doesn’t happen as often as it should. But my favorite part was the cookie itself, which was super crispy on the outside thanks to being baked in a skillet, and super warm and gooey on the inside. Combined with the cold vanilla bean ice cream, this was heaven. I definitely suggest that you eat the dessert right away though, as the cookie began to harden and overcook the longer it was left in the hot skillet.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the new menu items that I sampled at the St. Regis Bar and Grill. Although the restaurant has more of a pub feel, they convinced me that they can do more than just your typical pub food (although they do that pretty well too). Considering their mostly reasonable prices and the neighbourhood they’re found in, I would definitely return after work for some food and drinks. I can taste the fries already…