Despite the expected, typical hits & misses during Dine Out, I tend to use this period to try out new restaurants and assess the potential return in the future. If a restaurant could impress me during this time, it would probably be even better when visiting post Dine-Out. This year I continue this tradition, and first up, Black + Blue, the latest addition to the Glowbal Restaurant Group empire.
Frankly I didn’t know what to expect from this restaurant because I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, in fact mostly negative both from regular diners online and my coworkers. Keeping an open mind, I gave it a try.
We tried everything but one of the entrees. The two appetizers were pretty good. Bacon ‘n’ Eggs upgrades your everyday breakfast by using a super thick cut bacon and duck egg. The bacon was actually more like a piece of braised pork belly, super fatty, with perhaps only 20% meat (maybe not even that), rich and quite flavourful. I was expecting the egg to be a fried, sunny-side up or over-easy egg, but it was scrambled. It was cooked perfectly, creamy and all, but it could’ve been a chicken egg and it wouldn’t make a difference.
Tuna Carpaccio was a very delicate dish. The fish was thinly sliced, sprinkled with some sea salt and plated with pickled golden beets and truffle aioli. Not only did the sea salt brought out the flavour of the fish, it also added a crunch to the texture so it’s not all mushy. As soon as the dish was served I could smell the truffle in the aioli, but I personally found the truffle aioli a bit rich and over-powering.
For entree, given that Black + Blue is a steakhouse, I chose the Angus Tenderloin. The portion was relatively small, the steak was about 6oz with a few pieces of roasted root vegetables on the side. The snow crab béarnaise sauce was a bit too thick that you can’t really see the crab meat, and perhaps unnecessarily since it’s now hiding the natural flavour of the steak. The tenderloin itself was pretty well cooked; meat was juicy and tender. My dad and I both ordered the tenderloin, but one wanted medium and another medium rare. Black + Blue indicated the meat doneness by sticking a wooden stick into the meat. However, both of our steaks had a stick marked “Medium”. So, we weren’t sure whether they didn’t have a stick for medium rare, or they mixed up our order and made both medium. Turns out it was neither. Both pieces of meat were cooked medium rare. In this case it wasn’t too bad because I’m okay with steaks done medium rare, but it may not be acceptable for other customers who really wanted it medium. Or the pinkness in the meat is actually their standard for medium? I didn’t investigate any further.
Also tried a small bite of the Roasted Sablefish, because really, I felt bad taking too much away from my mom. That plate was just tiny with a few slices of sablefish. Was there even 4 oz of protein? The taste was pretty good, the portion size could just be a little bit bigger.
There was no choices for dessert. Everyone gets a Creme Caramel, which in my opinion, was a bit boring. I’m guessing dessert is not their strong suit, and creme caramel is probably the safest for quality control compared to everything that’s on its regular dessert menu (how I wish they would serve a souffle!). It was a standard affair, although the pudding is on the dense side. The highlight was probably the biscotti. I’m never a biscotti fan, because ones I’ve had are usually very hard and dry. This one wasn’t too hard but definitely crunchy. I couldn’t really taste the orange flavour, but the almond flavour surprisingly reminded me of the almond cookies you find in a Chinese bakery. I quite liked it.
I wasn’t sure how to interpret its service quality. As soon as we got to the restaurant, before we even set food inside the building, we were greeted by a host who was speaking Cantonese to us. Even my mom, who isn’t fluent in English, was taken aback by that. I was puzzled because 1) why would you specifically hire someone who can speak Cantonese and instruct that person to greet people at the door in Cantonese (when appropriate)? 2) what made you assume that we wanted to be addressed in Cantonese? and 3) why the “special treatment” to Canton speakers? Honestly I was a little bit turned off, because it feels like we were discriminated and we were called out to be addressed in our language. Yes, we understand English and we can speak English, and we don’t need special treatment. And the host wasn’t even that fluent in Cantonese. When we left the restaurant she said thank you to us in Cantonese, but in the way that she’s thanking us for our help, instead of thanking us for our business.
On the other hand, the service we received inside the restaurant was decent. Speedy service, though, since we finished our dinner in just over an hour. They were very efficient because even though there’s a dedicated server for each area, there were a number of helpers who would offer assistance throughout the floor. They would serve dishes, clear the plates and set the tables for next service. We also noticed something strange, that they had a number of security-guard-looking guys who wander around the restaurant. They also act as a host, taking you to your table, or stop by your table to check on your dinner. Our server told us that they were extra help they hire on the weekends when the restaurant is busier. Translation: they are security guards trained to be a restaurant staff.
Going to Black + Blue also takes me to its famous meat locker – a huge showcase of meat that is in different stages of the aging process. The wall of the room is Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and the meat locker is sure eye-catching since it sits right in the middle of the restaurant. Fancy, I must say, but also gimmicky.
I guess the mixed reviews had set a lower expectation for this restaurant, so it turned out to be rather pleasant. There was no huge complaints about the food, other than the small portion size. My dad was looking for a second meal after we left the restaurant (in fact, he was tempted to order some Prime Rib at Black + Blue but decided against it). Looking at its regular menu and the food is actually affordable. Prime Rib is only $27 for 10oz – even The Keg would cost you this much for prime rib. Not a bad location downtown for a nice piece of steak. The restaurant is dressed like a classy, high-end steakhouse, but once you are inside, the bustling bar and loud music just confirms that you’re in one of Glowbal’s hip restaurants.
Black + Blue
1032 Alberni Street, Vancouver