Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chambar 3: Third time lucky

When Frank suggested we go to Chambar, the memory of the spiced food I had there the last time bubbled up into consciousness like lethal indigestion. However, upon perusing the online menu it seemed there were items that looked well worth exploring. They still had the best beer (no, make that best bottled liquid) in the world, but then so does the West Van liquor store next door to my parents' place. Maybe I'd discover some other wondrous Belgian beers this time, and the appetizers sure looked good.
Chambar is what they would call in New Orleans, a shot gun building. Looks so small when you go in, but down the narrow path it goes on and on. This was my first time in the back room. Very pleasent. Jst as the first time I visited Chambar, I started with what sounded like an intriguing cocktail. The Bazil Zayjax, billed as "a real drink named after a real man,"- well The Guillotine was named after a real man too. I wasn't so lucky with the rosemary cocktail I ordered at the fancy hotel restaurant on Salt Spring Island over the summer, but basil was also a key ingredient in the crab ravioli I coveted. The Zayjax is comprised of "fresh basil muddled with chunks of orange, shaken with pomegranate syrup and crisp white rum (how does a rum become crisp? Does Quentin drink it?) Served collins style with a dash of soda and a sprig of mint." OK, the sprig of rosemary at the Salt Spring restuarant was the most flavourful part of the drink. This time the basil segued perfectly with the fruit and the booze. It also went perfectly with this magnificent appetiser:

Lemon crab ravioli with basil & absinthe butter and fenel salad. Don't think I've ever had absinthe. Will this turn me into Toulouse Latrec. Sure is good. Is this really legal?
Frank orders The Chimay Red beer, with its own glass, perfectly beery for him, along with the maple-seared scallops, walnut oil tossed lentils, pancetta with sweet potato crips.



I had thought about ordering the scallops, but I think I had them here before. Also considered the ostriche. However, Frank and I both agreed to slaughtered bovine for our next course. Or as the menu would define it, Filet Mignon a la Bernaise. Seared beef tenderloin, potato fingerling, taragon salad, smoked tomato Bernaise.






This was so good I never wanted to stop eating it. Actually the beef was a bit too rare, and I had foolishly consumed most of a slice of mushroom pizza in a great pizza joint in the libary about 3 hours before this feast, so after a mouthful of this divine sacrificial cow, I found myself rivetted to the floor. Turned to statue. A Hindu curse? Or just my usual inability to eat large quantities of food. The Tripple Karmeliet beer I ordered, billed as the King of Trippels in the menu, made me crave a homer, or at least a double in its place. Where was Lyle Overbay when we need him? The extravagantly deceitful menu calls it a "wonderful drinking experience." Sounds like Cheyney talking about waterboarding. I had to send the beer back, and ordered a Schaarbeek Kriek, "a nod to the birthplace of Belgian chery lambics, dark rum infused with granny smith apples, cinnamon and organic honey shaken with cherry nectar and a dash of citrus. Served martini sytle with a sun dried mixed berry nougat." Intensely delicious. I slowly attempted to chew another gram of great beef. Blessed with stomache largesse just when needed, Frank ordered the roast squash and apple soup with apple and cardoman fritter. I knew better than to fritter away further coins ordering further food, but I did get a seriously cherry Bellevue Kreik beer after my cherry influenced cocktail. Its a beer I drink at home occasionally. Goes well with cherrys. Alas, the devine Duchesse du Bourgougne beer is only on the online menu, no longer in the restaurant. The cocktails were festive and complemented the food superbly. Must come back and try the ostriche and see if the scallops are as I remember them. The meals were a bit larger than I care for in an appetiser, but then I eat less than most humans. Frank was able to appreciate the menu better. His 2nd beer, a Duvel, he found too fruity. I remembered buying a couple of bottles of Duvel in a brand new department store accross the street from the english school I was teaching at in the city of Hamamatsu, Japan in Halloween, 1971. Will I remember this meal as distantly in the future? There is a distinct possibility. Its four days since the meal and its citrussy resonances still echo in my taste buds like the 3 Stooges suddenly discovering bopping.


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