My Dine Out Vancouver 2010 kicked off with a location that I’ve been wanting to go for a few years: Il Giardino, part of the Umberto Group. I couldn’t wait to try it such that I had to book it for the first day of the event! (OK, a little bit exaggerating but there’s some truth to it!)
The advantage of doing DOV with 2 or more people is that you are more likely to try everything on the menu, as restaurants usually offer 3 options for each of the 3 courses. In this case, my parents and I did just that – we ordered one of everything, vegetarian dishes included.
Overall I was quite happy with the quality of the dishes. I personally had the Antipasto + Black Cod + White Chocolate Ganache Cake. The Antipasto Misto was of a generous portion and captured the essence of an antipasto plate you’d find in an Italian restaurant. I have to confess, though, I still haven’t learned to appreciate olives. Alaskan Black Cod was not bad; I liked that it had a crust that added texture to the soft, flaky meat. I also appreciated that they put a lot of vegetables on the side, a good balance to a heavy meal. Raspberry White Chocolate Ganache Cake was probably my favourite of the 3 desserts. Although it’s white chocolate, it’s not too sweet. And it’s very creamy. I wish the cake part was slightly thicker; now it’s so thin that it’s barely there.
As for other dishes, Oyster Soup was like chowder with fresh oyster chunks, as opposed to tiny, smoked oyster pieces. Agnolotti was cooked al dente; Braised Lamb Shank was a little disappointing because the meat wasn’t tender and didn’t fall right off the bone like it’s supposed to be. Eggplant Parmigiano was good, but rather rich as slices of eggplant were stuffed with mozzarella. Chocolate Espresso Creme Brulee was smooth with a hint of espresso (more coffee flavour than chocolate); and Apple Crumble was, well, apple crumble.
After tasting all the dishes, my favourite combo would be Antipasto + Eggplant Parmigiano (Black Cod is a close second) + Raspberry White Chocolate Ganache Cake. Yes, there’s a lot of vegetables in my combination, for a meat eater like me. So you know that these dishes are good. Too good to say no to.
Walking out of the restaurant, my parents and I were all shocked that the dinner only took 1.5 hours. While it’s standard for DOV, it’s not unusual that dinner at restaurants like Il Giardino would end up taking at least 2 hours of your time. And where we sat – the lounge area – wasn’t even full! However, I didn’t felt rushed throughout dinner. It’s paced pretty well. Perhaps we are really fast eaters, and/or their service is very efficient.
I really like the interior of the restaurant. It’s country-house like, a warm, cozy environment for a great dinner out. Keep in mind that the acoustics is in a way that all sound is trapped inside the dining room so the noise level could be quite high when everyone is having a good time.
I had become skeptical about Dine Out Vancouver since last year, worried that restaurants would only do a half-ass job during the event. Il Giardino brought me hopes again, as I had a wonderful time there – a great start to DOV 2010!
Il Giardino Restaurant
1382 Hornby Street, Vancouver