For every Dine Out, in addition to the new restaurants that pop up throughout the year, my family and I also have a wishlist of restaurants that we would look for. It has been a few years since we wanted to go to The Observatory on Grouse Mountain, but every time the menu just wasn’t very interesting to us. Finally this year’s menu seemed to have something for everyone so we booked it as part of our Chinese New Year celebration.
I should give a caveat that The Observatory isn’t a typical Westcoast restaurant. There are elements of molecular gastronomy that you will see below. But before I even talk about the actual menu, I must compliment on the Epi French Bread (Pain d’Epi) that they offer each table. First of all, it’s free; secondly, it’s of generous amount; and thirdly, it’s hot and tastes good. It came with a compound butter with some smokey and apricot flavours topped with some sea salt. It was some really good-tasting bread, crunchy but not jaw-breaking, and we finished it rather quickly.
Because there were 3 of us, we got all three appetizers. The Duck Confit wasn’t a whole duck leg; it was shredded duck meat in a ring mold along with some micro green salad. The grapefruit gel was basically the dressing, adding a bit of sweetness, bitterness and tartness to the salad.
The Roasted Heirloom Beets was just too pretty to eat. The two preparations (crispy and soft roasted) really showcased the beets and its natural sweetness was very pronounced. The ricotta cheese cake replaced the usual goat cheese but still brought in some creaminess to the salad.
The Black Cod Brandade was quite good (what is brandade?). The texture was quite creamy and worked quite well with the rye bread crisp. It’s a bit fishy for my liking but the acidity in the tomato vinaigrette helped cut through it. In some recipes, you may add a poached egg to the brandade, but the egg fudge here had a much harder texture that just didn’t work for me.
For entree, the Butter Poached Steelhead was nicely done. The skin was fried separately from the fish filet, and it was just so crispy. It reminds me of the crispy fish skin that you can get at HK style congee places and was a good texture contrast to the soft, buttery trout filet.
For some reason, the Braised Beef Shortrib, while tender, had a much denser texture than most other beef shortribs that I’ve had in the past. The mocha crumble featured the flavours of coffee and chocolate, which often go well with beef. It’s quite interesting that they changed the colour of the pomme puree to green to make the plate more visually appealing.
The Herb Gnocchi was crispy outside and pillowy inside, but I thought it’s a bit too soft in texture and was not as well done as what I tried at Forage. The sauce was also a bit too salty for my liking.
We only ordered two of the desserts. I quite enjoyed the Tart Tatin. The walnut ice cream was nutty and the apple was poached to perfect softness. The maple bacon dust was interesting; it’s basically crystallized maple syrup mixed with fine bacon bits. I thought the additional caramel sauce just brought the dessert to over-the-top sweetness.
The Dark Chocolate Ganache was just a guilty indulgence. It was creamy, it was rich, but not very sweet. The sour cherries balanced it out and the meringue was almost like a new take on whipped cream. Great end to a meal!
Service & The View
In order to get to the restaurant, you must take a gondola ride. This is free with an advance reservation. Note that you can’t be there too early for the gondola ride but also don’t leave it to the last time as you will be sharing the ride with skiers/snowboarders/tourists/other diners. The ride itself takes about 6 minutes plus wait time. The restaurant is located in the chalet immediately to your right as you get out of the gondola station.
As for service, I thought it was decent and not interrupting. They didn’t time the courses very well, though. Our first course basically showed up just as the server brought us the wine and we haven’t even had a chance to touch the bread. At that moment we felt a bit rushed, but then there was a rather long wait till we got our 2nd course. Only wish it was spread out better so we could get into a rhythm with each course.
And of course, we came to the restaurant partly for the view. It was gorgeous! Looking over Vancouver and Burnaby, the cities were adorned by rows and rows of lights. We didn’t get to sit by the window but we still caught a glimpse of the view.
What a tasty way to celebrate Chinese New Year! All the dishes were quite good, and its presentation was the best among all the Dine Out dinners I’ve had this year, creative with vibrant colours. I thought coming to The Observatory for dinner is a good option to experience the gondola ride and some of the mountaintop activities because the ride itself costs $39.95 per person. Definitely a good destination for special occasion.
6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver