Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Portugese popular art, Mission restaurant

My favourite place in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology, is hosting an exhibition of Portuguese popular art this summer. Subversive ceramics and such. Reminded me of the comic strip art at the subway station they built for the World's Fair in Lisbon. Portugal seems to share with Japan, not only a lot of cuisine (borrowed by the Japanese) but a youthful, fun culture, though the Portuguese tends to be far less cloying than the Japanese immersion in cuteness.
After the museum, I had a reservation at the new restaurant Mission I had read a loving review of in our entertainment weekly, The Georgia Straight. The review said it was as good as Bauhaus, where I recently had perhaps the best meal I've ever had in Vancouver. And far cheaper. Ok, that was enough to convince me. And it was on my home from the Museum. How convenient.
There seems to be a goat theme happening at Mission. A large image of a goat greets you from the wall, little goats appear symbolically on the menu (they indicate a lighter meal) and the waitress tells me of plans to have someone dressed in a goat suit stand outside the restaurant and invite patrons in. Is goat cheese to be as prominent an ingredient here as for example, pears are at the Pear Tree restaurant? My amuse bouche certainly makes fine use of goat cheese, combined with fava beans, caramelized onions and herbs. I order a mocktail (I had asked about them on my reservation phone call), and was delighted with a beverage my mixologist later tells me he made from passion fruit puree, grapefruit juice and a citrus soda. It provided superb accompaniment to the food.
I normally avoid bread offerings, but the small sage roll looked manageable, and combined with Mission's mushroom jelly, it became an even more amusing bouche than the superb fava bean thingie.
As a child I remember eating, what were then called dollar pancakes. Larger than an actual silver dollar but smaller than regular size pancakes and meant to be consumed in volume. Apparently they're called blinis. At least on this menu. I look up the word and discover it is a Russian crepe. Doesn't taste like a crepe at all. Salmon with crepes makes sense, with pancakes it is, shall we say, novel. I'm told the blinis are infused with shrimp, but they just taste like ordinary dollar pancakes to me. The roe creme fraiche is refreshing. I would never have imagined salmon pancakes, and when I tell Fumiyo about them, she is just as skeptical. But the dish works! That's why I go to restaurants!.

Next up, a zucchini flower stuffed with ground pork, eggplant, puffed rice and herbs. It is a wonder. The only time I've had a stuffed zucchini flower  was at a restaurant in Florence when Fumiyo and I spent the fall in Europe in 2002. Bathed in egg whites and then deep fried, it reminded me of a ground pork and eggplant dish Fumiyo makes, but the puffed rice, as odd as the salmon sitting atop the pancakes, was a revelation.

Next up, cauliflower porridge with broccoli and brassicas. Hmm. I thought cauliflower and broccoli were already brassicas. Perhaps there are additional greens. I love broccoli and eat it often. Cauliflower is one of my favourite foods. Nonetheless, this combination did not work. It was far too bitter. Even the wonderful mocktail couldn't save it.
Last item was roasted potatoes and foraged mushrooms in walnut creme. Flavourful, particularly in contrast to the previous unpleasantness, but a bit too starchy, and far from revelatory.
2 for 4 isn't bad and the mocktail was a delight. The meal cost about half what I paid for an equal portion of food at Bauhaus, but not in the same galaxy in terms of flavour. You get what you pay for. Mission shows promise.