Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Gold Standard

Lumiere is the kind of restaurant I read about and say, one day I'd like to go there. That's like saying, one day I'd like to " ". Fill in the blank with some totally unrealistic event. But a new deck, a new season, and a new gardener all fill me with reasons to explore what can be done with things I can grow in my garden so off to Lumiere we went.
Chauncette the Gardener is a vegetarian, and a veg. menu was produced for her. Unfortunately it was after the meal was served. The server suggested I go with the seafood menu, and that is the direction I was already headed. Ok, Vancouver' s Top Restaurant year after year after Iron Liver Feeny commercials for the aptly named White Spot after the Feeny Restaurant micro-orderve at the Taste of the City event after all the raves my food worshipping friends have lavished on the place, after a delightful travelogue of the history of the buildings we inched by on the Broadway Bus- is it too abject a bow to the lords of irony to take a bus to a place where a meal costs as much as rent for most gardeners; we disembarked, whole Minutes before our 645 appointment. The fact that it's the actual day of my birth after a week of celebrating it and the date of escrow closure for the Palace of Ancient Dust. A good reason to eat real good. Memories of dust, Be Gone!
First up, some bread puffs, "grejer?" I think the server pronounced it. My gardener is allergic to its blue cheese interior. Thankully we are warned in advance. As a prelimary appetiser, I was brought a clam, a mussel and a mini-scallop all in shells, on top of a bed of rock salt. The mussel, a sea food I avoid, was actually almost edible. I love clams, but this one, stewed in its clamness, reeked too much of the sea for me. My gardener pointed out I was consuming a radish sprout, which went well with the microvegies. The scallop, one of my favourite things to eat on this planet, looked like it had a disease. Perhaps it was a disease. It did taste good though. I ended up licking it out of its shell, as if I were a real cat. I had begun the meal with a glass of champagne, which went poorly with these micro-seafood things. The wine which should have accompanied them should have appeared with better timing. Chauncette is drinking sparkling water and I try some, but it's not icy enough for me. I wanted to cleanse my pallette and that requires maximum coldness.
The gardener enjoyed the bread in general and when I had one of her cheese sticks, it reminded me of cheese cake from distant youth, graham crackers and a hint of tobacco. Butternut squash raviolis with tiny baby mushrooms (which really made the meal). and parmesan shavings delighted both of us, and I got a bigger scalop than the previous appetiser. What the gardener first thought was arugula, turned out to be a medley of greens, particularly watercress that was amazing in the Hamachi Tuna and Crab salad, with shrimp, watercress, crushed peanuts and nuc-cham dressing. The dressing was the star here. I couldn't eat the raw tuna. Its wine pairing didnt help at all. It failed to complement all the rich flavours and once more, wasn't cold enough. My gardener enjoyed her poached hen's egg with watercress coulis and herb vinagrette. My sous-vide wild salmon with sauteed root vegetables and preserved lemon foam was high art. It felt like beauty being born in my mouth. My gardener was served a risotto topped with gold foil. I thought I was at the banquet table of King Midas, or King Tut. Good as the salmon was, its vegies were even better with the lemon foam. The gardener found her risotto a bit too salty but suitably saffroned. A tiny bit of curry came with French fresh lentils, beans and veggies galore for her. My halibut casserole, braised with mediterranean spices, coconut froth and kaffir leaf broth was far too small didn't taste like halibut, but was amazingly good. Somewhere in there was a bit of potato that is what potato would taste like if it were the solution to an Einstein equation. My pan seared Alaskan scallop tasted like the ending of Hard Day's Night. We are given a cheese menu. Never seen such a thing before. I think a bit of cheese between courses is a good idea. I get a glass of tawny port to go with the belgian beer cheese, the goat cheese and a cheddar. The cheddar is as good as cheddar is gonna get, and I've been in search of the ultimate cheddar for at least half a century. The Belgian beer cheese went wonderfully with the port. I am reminded of the taste of a life saver I savoured during the Kennedy administration. The lychee sorbet has a wonderful oriental flavour to it. Eating it is like being appointed emperor. The wine pairing magnified the desert's sweetness, which was not welcome. Both of us enjoyed the pavlova with passionfruit cream, orange chiboust and tropical exotic fruit. A very good use of dragon fruit. At some point, I imagine I'm eating very comfortable pyjamas. Flannel pyjamas with pictures of fruit on them. The gardener didn't have the cheese plate but did enjoy the cranberry bread. She had to send back her Riesling chocolate rain desert. What part of "no alcohol" didn't they understand, she wondered. I ordered a B52 coffee and it tasted too much of coffee, so it was replaced with another more sodden with liquers. All in all, a memorable meal.


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