FOOD

Some restau­rants give din­ers the chance to watch as dishes are pre­pared

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By Gail John­son

Great restau­rants have spe­cial dishes pre­pared ta­ble­side with charm and a flour­ish. Here are four.

Dur­ing his vic­to­ri­ous ap­pear­ance on the in­au­gu­ral sea­son of Iron Chef Canada, Boule­vard Kitchen and Oys­ter Bar chef Alex Chen pre­pared a salmon dish that wowed: he wrapped the fish in fig leaves and then clay, which hard­ened as it baked.

When some­one or­ders this item at the restau­rant now, it’s served ta­ble­side, with a waiter break­ing open the dish’s terra-cotta-coloured ex­te­rior with a wooden mal­let, then peel­ing back the steam­ing leaves to re­veal the juicy, wild fish as mouth­wa­ter­ing scents waft into the air.

It’s a dra­matic din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and just the lat­est ad­di­tion to the ros­ter of dishes you can find in Metro Van­cou­ver that are pre­pared or plated right in front of your eyes. Here are a few places to go when you’re look­ing for a din­ner with a ta­ble­side show.

AT­LAS STEAK AND FISH

(4331 Do­min­ion Street, Burn­aby) This Delta Ho­tels Burn­aby restau­rant (which re­cently cel­e­brated its first an­niver­sary) serves sev­eral dishes at the ta­ble, in­clud­ing cae­sar salad (bar­ring oc­ca­sions when ro­maine let­tuce is off the menu due to na­tion­wide health con­cerns), with the dress­ing made from scratch, all creamy, gar­licky, and lemony and fin­ished with cracked pep­per. An­other salad is spinach: work­ing over an in­di­vid­ual gas burner, a server heats up the dress­ing, set­ting it aflame with a splash of brandy, the warm sauce hit­ting cold, crisp spinach leaves along with mush­rooms, sun-dried toma­toes, and egg for a tex­tu­ral starter that fills the room with head-turn­ing scents.

Then there’s the restau­rant’s best­selling dessert: baked Alaska. The meringue gets a spritz of caramel liqueur that’s lit on fire, giv­ing the top its char­ac­ter­is­tic golden tips. Sea­son­ally, cher­ries ju­bilee gets a sim­i­lar treat­ment. “If you want to make peo­ple happy when you’re en­ter­tain­ing them, flambé some good fruit, pour it over ice cream, and you’re go­ing to have a quiet room with just the sound of spoons hit­ting bowls,” said Richard Goo­d­ine, Delta Ho­tels Burn­aby’s food and bev­er­age se­nior op­er­a­tions man­ager. “I think the sin­gle great­est thing that ta­ble­side ser­vice does is in­crease en­gage­ment with the ta­ble, and the heart of great ser­vice is en­gage­ment.” BOULE­VARD KITCHEN AND OYS­TER BAR

(845 Bur­rard Street)

Chef Roger Ma cre­ated the Iron Chef– win­ning clay-baked salmon dish in homage to his men­tor, Daniel Boulud. The wild Pa­cific salmon is cooked medium-rare and served with mil­let risotto in the clay-break­ing pre­sen­ta­tion that he de­scribes as fun and the­atri­cal. It’s not the only dish that Boule­vard serves at the ta­ble, how­ever.

Glazed veal shank is an­other. Af­ter the meat is cooked with herbs sous-vide at a low heat for 36 hours so it’s lux­u­ri­ously ten­der, a server pulls it apart at the ta­ble and serves it with but­ter-sherry vine­gar and veg­eta­bles. From there, the bone goes back to the kitchen, where chefs knock out the mar­row, sea­son it, and scoop it onto grilled sour­dough.

Boule­vard also of­fers hay-smoked strip loin, made with roasted prime Hol­stein. To fin­ish the cook­ing process, hay gets added and lit on fire. Af­ter a few min­utes, the hay at­taches to the out­side of the meat, suf­fus­ing it with flavour. A cov­ered pot is brought to the ta­ble, the lid is lifted, and smoke bil­lows out; a server then carves the meat.

HY’S STEAKHOUSE AND COCK­TAIL BAR

(637 Hornby Street)

Ta­ble­side ser­vice is part of Hy’s his­tory. Staff mem­bers go through in­ten­sive train­ing to serve cae­sar salad, spinach salad (with flam­béed dress­ing), steak tartare (cubes of beef served with cros­tini), clas­sic Chateaubriand (the fat end of the fil­let roasted, then brought out to the ta­ble in an oval cop­per pan), and steak Diane, named af­ter the Ro­man god­dess of the hunt. The meat is seared on a grill and cooks quickly while the server pre­pares a mush­roomshal­lot cream sauce.

“A lot of these dishes create a cer­tain con­ta­gion in the restau­rant; when you’re cook­ing, ev­ery­one’s won­der­ing what the de­li­cious smell is,” said Hy’s gen­eral man­ager Chris Lan­gridge. “Mak­ing food for each other is in­ti­mate, and when it’s be­ing pre­pared in front of you with grace and charm, it adds an­other el­e­ment.”

MOTT 32

(1161 West Ge­or­gia Street) Pre­par­ing Pek­ing duck is a time- and labour-in­ten­sive process. At Mott 32, the bird is air-dried, brine-rinsed, dried again, then, on the day of ap­ple­wood roast­ing in a spe­cial oven, fan­dried so that the skin puffs up and sep­a­rates from the breast. At the ta­ble, the skin is served first, to be dipped in red su­gar; the breast and back meat come next, for din­ers to wrap in the restau­rant’s sig­na­ture pa­per-thin pan­cakes with sauces, scal­lions, cu­cum­ber, and other in­gre­di­ents.

Whole fish maw is a highly prized del­i­cacy in Chi­nese cui­sine that comes in a clay pot and is served ta­ble­side. There’s also mi­mosa ta­ble­side ser­vice here, while sum­mer­time calls for the restau­rant’s rosé rick­shaw.

Clock­wise from left: Mott 32; At­las Steak and Fish; Hy’s Steakhouse and Cock­tail Bar.

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