Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday at West with Wolowidnyk

David Wolowidnyk comes from a geneology of fine palates. I fondly remember his mother's beet leaves stuffed with rice, his grandmother's amazing pastry, and his great grandmother's (my grandmother) great borscht. But the bar manager at West restaurant is taking the long family history of palate pleasure to a new level. His winning the World's Most Imaginative Bartender award a couple of weeks ago is no surprise to me and the rest of his fans from that restaurant.
Fumiyo, Steph and I had seen the news segment about the award on the morning news and wanted to try his award winning drink, the Beldi. I unfortunately didn't make reservations so we had to wait, but didn't mind because he brought us the cocktails to drink while we waited. I felt Crosby, Stills and Nash serenading my taste buds as they went on their own Marrakesh Express. Maybe Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart would do a scene from Casablanca next. Certainly the Hope and Crosby flick Road to Morocco would come to life between sips. I felt I was in Morocco, where I have never been and am unlikely to ever go.
We also had other drinks. Steph had the KAFFIR FLING
BANFF ICE VODKA, KAFFIR LIME LEAF, GINGER, FRESH LIME
ORGEAT (ALMOND SYRUP) + EGG WHITE
pictured above. I had only a sip and will be back for a full cocktail soon. As someone whose last name is Ishikawa, it was only fitting that I had one of David's Japan-inspired cocktails, KAKKOII
G’VINE FLORAISON GIN, UME PLUM WINE, CINNAMON SYRUP
FRESH LEMON. 
Kakkoii means "cool" in Japanese. At this time of year, Japan is the last place you want to be unless you like living in a sauna. This drink was so cooling, it was almost an antidote to a Japanese summer, which needs as many antidotes as it can get. I finished my trio of cocktails with the Jolie Coure, no longer on the menu but David will be happy to make one for you as it won him his last Bartender of the Year award a few years back. When I first had it, it tasted like a sublime lemonade. This time the white grape flavour was more dominant.
I've been reading Micahel Ruhlman's The Reach of a Chef, which I mentioned getting out of the library the day I dined at Boneta. Quoting Krishnendu Ray from that book, "And so cooking turns magical. And then for magic to happen you need magicians to claim that it is magic."  Jose Andres tries to make magical food and cocktails, at least at Minibar and "e." But Jose's concoctions are more about "magical" technique, not very often, taste.My cousin is certainly crafting accessible (for those of us in Vancouver) elixers to rival any, but the magic is made in the mind of the sipper. The sophistication is in the flavour, not the culinary oddity. Lucky us!
What I learned from the food I ordered was NOT to order the Tuna. The Gnocchi and Pea Croquettes Fumiyo and Steph ordered were quite good and the mushrooms in paper offered the most useful lesson to me: mushrooms taste much better in paper than in foil (I've had mushrooms, and other goodies cooked in foil at some local Japanese restaurants). What we all learned from our Wednesday excursion to West is to go back there again. To quote Bing and Bob, "Just like Webster's Dictionary, we're Morocco bound." 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpSMcKLFd_k&feature=plcp
 

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