Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Go West, Old Man

Vancouver was abuzz last year about the review a newish Vancouver restaurant called West got in a British magazine: one of the ten best restaurants in the world. Take that, Toronto! OK, so the dish that inspired this rating was Wagyu Beef, which just means Japanese beef and there must be thousands of restaurants in Japan that have the national cow slices better than you can get when you leave Japan, but it was worth checking out for my first birthday as an official old man.
First we were told the restaurant was fully booked on Sunday, then West called me and said it had magically opened on Sunday, but I had to be there at 6, then one of my friends noticed on the online menu that a fixed price dinner could be had for small sums, but only BEFORE 6, so at the most undinnerly hour of 545 we sat down to eat in a decidedly empty but utterly beautiful restaurant in the mid-Granville area we had previously enjoyed fine fusiony Japanese food at En. West was supposed to be French, but that could mean anything in Vancouver these days. The restroom could have just escaped Versailles if that French palace had been designed by The Jetsons. Everywhere in the empy restaurant, the eye met delight. While contemplating what to order, we were gifted with a toy cup of leek soup. The truffle oil may have a French pedigree, but the taste suggested that I'd just entered a new world. With its warmth and vegetable familiarity, it reminds me of something my Eastern European ancestors would have cooked, or at least provided ingredients for the royal owners.
Sampling my co-diners' nibbles, the ravioli appetiser is supposed to be full of artichoke. Perhaps more of the idea of artichoke. Sure is good. The duck thing sends my tongue on a meat merry-go-round, reminiscent of all the animals I've eaten in my lifetime. It does have a strong after-taste so I indulge in a tiny bit of bread to neutralize it. As usual, I order the scallops and they are in a fine sauce. By the 4th scallop, they are sufficiently soaked, as are their accompanying vegetables and both go splendidly with the reccommended wine. Unfortunately I had to wait until the 4th scallop to rave about it.
The tuna tataki with yuzu dressing is like entering a forest full of all the enchanting things you'd expect to encounter in a library of forest-sodden folk tales. Every movie about a forest, every National Geographic Forest Fantasia, every great dream of a forest, there they all are, on your tongue. Every verdant thing growing and smelling and reeking of foresty goodness. Like being washed back into the primordial ooze. You feel yourself sucked back into all the sediments that have ever built up, all the chemicals that have evolved to turn into life, and there it is. Are you going back in time, or forward, you don't know.
I was planning on ordering the beef on the menu, but today's special was a Kobe-style beef dish so both Steph and I went for that. Would it score 82 points on my tongue? When it arrived, it proved surprisingly chewey. My teeth turned into Sumo wrestlers pummeling the Kobe into suculence, but perhaps an earthquake or two would have done a better job. The mustard does kick it into another level and as usual the wine does it's job. I'm in the middle of a volcano eruption of flavour as filmed by National Geographic. I'm getting all the highlights. The best photographers in the world with the best cameras are describing the lava pouring out of this volcano which is the earth, becoming a pasture which nourishes this beef.
Thankfully no birthday cake appeared. My lack of fondness for sweets is legendary, in my small circles. Instead West presented me with the above birthday greeting and chocolates my friends were more than happy to consume. I asked if West had a signature specialty coffee, which has become my "desert' of choice in good restaurants. They did not, but said they'd concoct one for me. They asked what I liked and I said fruit, and citrus fruit in particularly. They presented me with a coffee full of citrussy goodness. All in all, a splendid meal.


At 7:32 PM, Blogger Elayne said...

Happy birthday, Cat!!


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