To write for the blog, Mr. and I eat out quite a bit. So when it comes to special occasions/celebrations, it’s extra difficult to come up with unique ideas. For my birthday, Mr. surprised me by taking me to Kitsilano Daily Kitchen. As suggested by its name, the restaurant crafts its menu on a daily basis, depending on the ingredients owner/executive chef Brian Fowke finds in grocery stores, local markets, etc. We had no idea what we would be eating until we arrived at the restaurant and looked at the menu. Little did we know, we still had no clue what we were having until the very moment the dishes were served.
After perusing the menu, we were tempted by the idea of the “Culinary Adventure”. According to our server, it’s a 6-course tasting menu that may or may not incorporate some of the dishes listed on the daily menu. Feeling a bit adventurous on that day, I convinced Mr. to try it with me.
While we were waiting for our food, we received a serving of home-made Potato Bread. It was moist and fluffy. And the poppy seeds added a bit of a crunch. Interestingly, it was not only served with the ordinary olive oil and vinegar, but also some sea salt, a few pieces of kimchi and green olives & sausages. The savoury and spicy taste of these ingredients worked pretty well with the bread. You may find it strange, but the combo of kimchi and potato bread was quite good.
The tasting menu turned out to be quite an adventure. We saw components of various regular menu items in our dinner, however, they were presented differently that allowed us to see them in a different light. Let’s talk about it course by course. Compare our dinner to the regular menu above, and you’ll know what I mean.
Salt-cured Coho Salmon, Spicy Couscous and Charcoal Aioli
A light start. The cured salmon was buttery and flavourful. A bit salty at certain bite but it was fine if combining with the couscous. The charcoal aioli was a surprise. It really did have the char taste to it, as if you were eating something burnt pretty badly. I wasn’t sure about the raw bean sprout leaves there thought. It added a bit of colour but I thought other greens, like arugula, would do a better job, taste wise.
Baja Scallops with Crispy Paella
I was a bit taken aback when I saw paella as the second course. But the seasoning was light enough that it made sense after a few bites. Scallops were done right (you’d be surprised how many people overcook baja scallops) but I found the paella a bit oily (and you can tell just by looking at the picture) and chorizo sausages salty. I liked the kick from the chili threads and appreciated the refreshing taste and the crunch of the raw bean sprout.
White Truffle and Tomato Poached Octopus
This would be considered the soup course. The white truffle was very fragrant and you could smell it as soon as the dish got to our table. In my book, the octopus was quite tender; Mr. found it chewy but I think you need that bite or else it would be mushy and taste nothing like octopus. The pasta didn’t do much for me. I would rather have some more vegetables and made it more like a soup.
Duck Confit with Mushrooms and Beet Aioli
This was pretty good. Duck confit with crispy skin and the sweet beet aioli and mushrooms added some earthiness to it. Some quality assurance issue, though, because my plate had just two slices of duck and it looked kind of sloppy, compared to the drumstick as seen below. I wish they would portion it properly so all plates for the same table would look more consistent. However, I still enjoyed the dish a lot.
Timbale of Bison with Foie Gras, Bacon and Quail Egg
Just when we were quite impressed by the duck confit and were wondering how the chef would top that one, we were served the 5th and final savoury course. We were blown away. Timbale is a cooking technique that layers a variety of ingredients; in this case, bison meat, spinach and mushrooms. It tasted like stewed meat. It was tender and flavourful. Now imagine that topped with pan-seared foie gras then crispy bacon and fried quail egg. Mr. called this “a heart attack in a bite” but this is just heaven for meat lovers (ahem). This, was very rich, and while I really enjoyed eating it, I was pushing it a little at the end trying to finish it.
French Chocolate Mocha Tart
Lastly, a dessert course, and probably the least interesting course. It was a safe dessert item and it was not bad. It wasn’t inspiring but it wasn’t a flop either. It’s creamy and I liked that they used fresh fruit for garnish. I probably would’ve preferred the tart shell to be flakier.
To go with my dessert, I ordered a regular coffee, which turned out to be a personalized press coffee. It was bold and I liked the crema-like foam against the rim of the cup.
The restaurant wasn’t super busy on a Saturday evening in December, but that worked to our advantage since we received more attentive service. Because the tasting menu was not written anywhere, it required the careful explanation from our server for us to find out and understand the various components of the dish. When we first inquired about the tasting menu, she did mention that it would be up to the chef to put it together but if we had any special request, we could bring it up and see if they could accommodate it. Well, we wanted to try the pricey abalone dish on the regular menu, too, so we asked about incorporating it. Of course, we got shot down because it’s not financially feasible for the restaurant to include it in the tasting menu that is at a rather affordable price. But hey, it’s worth a try
I like the surprise element (not knowing what’s featured on the menu until you get there) of the restaurant concept in general, but I especially like the idea of the “Culinary Adventure” tasting menu. At $65 we were treated to 6 innovative, tasty dishes that you wouldn’t be able to get any other day. (Ordering an appy and entree from the regular menu would cost you somewhere between $40 and $60.) You might be served a super rich dish as your 5th course but if you look at the tasting menu as a whole, the progression completely made sense. And it may not look like a lot of food but I was stuffed (!!) at the end. I enjoyed this dinner a lot and would go back for another surprise dinner.
Kitsilano Daily Kitchen
1809 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver