Dineout at forage – a Review

Dineout is a kind of food festival every year that takes place in Vancouver where diners get to visit participating restaurants and have a nice 3-course meal for a set price of C$18, 28 or 38. One of the more memorable Dineout venues this year was at forage. This restaurant is located at the ground floor of the Listel Hotel located near the west-end of Robson Street which is also the main shopping avenue in downtown Vancouver.

The Dineout menu at forage this year was as follow:

APPETIZER
Forage Award Winning Seafood Chowder
Smoked Chicharon, Soft Quail’s Egg
BC VQA Wine Pairing:2011 Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay
or

Spruce Tip Smoked Bison Carpaccio
black pepper cranberry jelly, crisp parsnip, house made pickles, Charred leek and bone marrow aioli
BC VQA Wine Pairing:2009 Burrowing Owl Vineyards Merlot
or

Grilled Kale Salad
Roasted Agassiz Hazelnuts, Golden Ears Brie and Honey Dressing, dried pears
BC VQA Wine Pairing: 2010 Tantalus Vineyards Riesling

ENTREE
Roasted Gelderman Farm Pork Belly with Crackling
Alpine juniper braised cabbage, Celeriac Potato Puree, Okanagan Apple Chutney
or

Pacific Provider Spring Salmon
Potato and Smoked onion “hash”, Leek Fondue, celery root remoulade
BC VQA Wine Pairing: 2011 Joie Farm Rose
or

Roasted Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms
Squash and Sage Gnocchi, Winter Kale

DESSERT
Crumb crusted maple rye “french toast”
tonka bean drinking chocolate, Forty Creek Cream whipped marshmallow
or

Blueberry hazelnut financier
membrillo creme, pulled hazelnut praline, quince jelly
BC VQA Wine Pairing: 2010 Arrowleaf Vidal SSLH

Beverages, tax and gratuity are extra.

I was there with my siblings and made my reservation at the restaurant via Opentable on my iPhone so it was convenient and as we went there quite late, there was parking space available on the street side. Even though we arrived early for dinner, the friendly server helped us to get a seat and we had a seat at the corner. The restaurant has a huge bar located at the center with all of its seating revolving around the bar. The best seats in the restaurant would be the ones beside the bar by the window. Ambience inside the restaurant is pretty simple and not noisy even with the open bar area.

Salt and Pepper
Salt and pepper on the table

The restaurant prides itself on being green and sustainable, which are 2 essential keywords to be associated with the city of Vancouver and serves mainly Canadian cuisine that has a distinct Pacific Northwest flavour. Even though there was 3 of us dining, we only trued 2 of the appetizers and 2 of the main courses. My brother and sister had the same starter of chowder while I had the bison carpaccio.

The carpaccio was a very colourful dish and I liked it better than the chowder. The dish has a lot of flavour and the addition of crisp parsnip gave it a crunchy and fresh texture. This was one of the best carpaccio I had and the use of bison added some specialty to it and I thought it added a special taste.

Bison Carpaccio
Spruce tip smoked bison carpaccio with black pepper cranberry jelly, crisp parsnip, house made pickles, charred leek and bone marrow aioli

On the other hand the chowder was still good and I had the perfect soft-boiled quail’s egg from my brother who does not like soft-boiled eggs. The chef placed a fried fish maw to the chowder giving the presentation some dash of dimension while adding a new chewy texture to the soup. Again it deserves a mention by being quite unique even though the taste was like any normal chowder.

Seafood Chowder
Forage award winning seafood chowder with smoked chicharon, soft quail’s egg

For the entree, my brother and I had the roasted pork belly and this was an interesting dish since roast pork belly is usually a dish found in Chinese restaurants and finding it in a western restaurant was kind of special. The pork belly was served atop a potato mash and served with braised cabbage and apple chutney. The braised cabbage is not too sour which is good, but still gave a freshness to the dish. What made it outstanding was the apple chutney on the top. The thin slices of apples gave a sweeteness to the really crispy pork belly to complete the dish. The meat of the pork belly was also tender enough so it was a perfectly roasted piece of meat.

Pork Belly with Braised Cabbage and Apple Chutney
Roasted Gelderman farm pork belly with crackling alpine juniper braised cabbage, celeriac potato puree, Okanagan apple chutney

My sister on the other hand picked the salmon and the fish was also perfectly cooked in that the salmon meat was not dry at all. Though I do not know if the sauce was the best accompaniment. While it gave the dish a contrast of colours and gave it a ‘spring’ look, I have had better salmon dish. Still, this salmon was perfectly fine dish.

Pacific Provider Spring Salmon
Pacific provider spring salmon potato and smoked onion “hash”, leek fondue, celery root remoulade

We also ordered a side dish of kale and apple chips but I think the order did not come through and I had to prompt them about it in the middle of my entree before it was served. Even then, I actually do like their apple chips. Kale is a dish commonly found in the US/Canada and is somewhat like seaweed. It is also sold as a snack in grocery stores. The apple chips were made of cored apples that were sliced thinly and it made for a good snack during the meal as well.

Kale and Apple Chips
Kale and apple chips

For dessert, I had the hazelnut financier like my sister, while my brother ordered the special “french toast”. The hazelnut financier was a nice soft cake and had the perfect blend of hazelnut and nutty flavour. Though both of us did not really enjoy the paste around the bowl. However the cream on top of the cake was a nice combination when eaten together.

Blueberry Hazelnut Financier for Dessert
Blueberry hazelnut financier with membrillo creme, pulled hazelnut praline, quince jelly

My brother did not really finish his dessert as the chocolate sauce that came with it has a particular strong flavour that neither of us liked. The ‘french toast’ that was the main highlight was more like mini-donuts and it was nicely done. The whipped marshmallow and the popcorn as the garnish was also very nice thus the dessert would be better if they used pure chocolate instead. However one note here is that neither dessert was too sweet and was perfect in terms of balance of flavours which was one thing I enjoyed.

Crumb crusted maple rye "french toast"
Crumb crusted maple rye “french toast”, tonka bean drinking chocolate, Forty Creek Cream whipped marshmallow

The portions in this restaurant are not too big though it was perfect for me since I do not eat much. For a price of $28, I rate it as good value for money and the menu presented for the Dineout was certainly special and reflects the kind of cuisine that is unique to Vancouver. The Dineout event also gave me the opportunity to try a new restaurant and ‘forage’ has definitely made it into my list of restaurants I would re-visit.

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