Like a lot of seasoned foodies, I might sound a little jaded when it comes to Dine Out Vancouver Festival. The promotional prices might seem attractive, but the food on the set menus might not live up to the highest quality and standard at a lot of the participating restaurants, especially the pricier ones. But there are always exceptions. When my friends asked for my suggestions for Dine Out, I would always tell them to check out the new restaurants, as they are more willing to put a better value on the menu.
The past year, the most anticipated new restaurants in Vancouver had included the ones at Parq Vancouver, one of the biggest local real estate projects in the last decade, a Vegas-style resort consisting of a large casino, 2 luxury hotels, and also 8 restaurants that could seat 800+ diners all at once. Among these restaurants – 1886, The Victor, Honey Salt, and BC Kitchen are participating Dine Out this year. After a quick look at the menus, I set my eyes on the offering at their Chinese fine dining room, 1886. Their Dine Out Menu is almost the same with their $78 4-course tasting menu, minus the first appetizer course. And for almost half of the price ($40), I thought it would be worth a try. So I took my mom there.
The restaurant bar is outside of the main dining room, and it’s convenient for casual drinks.
A dining den is right behind the front entrance and connects to the main dining room. Featuring long marble-topped tables and tall chairs with olive green velvet, the seating arrangement might look a bit canteen-ish to you but the dark wood and the decorative jade kirins offer a glimpse of the polished design.
And here is the main dining room, dark, elegant, and highlighted with glowing faux-abalone-shell embedded indark wood panels. A row of private dining rooms is behind the brass-and-glass screens.
Drinks were served. The Chrysanthemum Tea ($6) was served in a shining glass teapot, and it was warm and soothing. I thought I tasted rosemary or lavender leaves in the tea but that could be just the specific type of chrysanthemum blossom.
For a pre-dinner cocktail, I tried the Je Suis Cooler ($14), mixed with Bombay gin, Lillet, and absinthe. I was astonished by how smooth it was, as the mix was shaken and chilled to an absolutely perfect temperature. The aroma of absinthe was subtle, slowing massaging my sensses. It was beautiful and I was simply touched. It’s the best cocktail I have had so far in 2018.
The first course choices were the Seafood Hot and Sour Soup, and the Peking Duck Salad, and we ordered them both.
The hot and spicy level of the soup was fine-tuned, so that people who love spicy food could taste its strong presence, and people who don’t eat spicy food, such as my mom, could also accept it as well.
I like the salad dressing of the Peking Duck Salad, and I enjoying eating each component of the salad, including the crispy duck skin and the tender duck meat. However, as a whole dish, it needs some refinement visually. To be honest, looking at this dish, it’s hard to relate it to the whole Peking Duck image in everyone’s head.
For the main, my Sweet and Sour Iberico Pork didn’t taste any better or different than any other versions of sweet and pork that I had tasted. The breading was a little too thick for my liking. Compared to the one I had at Hoitong, this really isn’t screaming Chinese fine dining to me.
My mom’s Sichuan Chili Prawns was much more impressive. The 3 jumbo prawns were as big as a baby’s fist, and they were perfectly cooked. The snappy texture and the sweet flavour were complimented fabulously by a glossy sweet and spicy sauce, with a tinkling sensation of Sichuan peppercorn in the back of your tongue.
The sweet finish was the Coconut Ice Cream with Tropical Fruits in Mango Sago Sauce. It was good but then, it was something you could find in most dessert shops in Richmond.
The service was impeccable. We were constantly taken care by several attentive servers, who check on us and the hot water in the teapot constantly. Our main server Julie was adequate in engaging conversation and she was thoughtful and informative.
The bottom line is, we enjoyed the dinner at the Dine Out Vancouver Price, which is $40/person, but I’m not sure if I would come back for the similar $78 tasting menu after the promotion. The fine moments of the dining experience came because of the service and the restaurant ambiance. However, the food had a decent quality but the taste was not exactly spectacular. The most enjoyable thing of the evening for me was the cocktail, “Je Suis Cooler”, something absolutely divine and worth coming back for. The restaurant has posted a winter tasting menu ($78/person), but it’s still too similar to the fall tasting menu, which is only one appetizer course more than the Dine Out menu that we’ve tried. But for folks live glamorously and are still seeking their first Chinese dining experience, 1886 is the right place.
A side note: for the coming up Chinese New Year, they will run a luxury Chinese buffet here available for lunch ($58/person) and dinner ($138/person). I think my mom is tempted to treat me and take me back here. Thanks, mom!
1886, at Parq Vancouver
39 Smithe St, Vancouver
(778) 370-8500 or parqvancouver.com/restaurants/1886-2/