Farmer’s Apprentice

Since I watched Anthony Boudain’s 100th episode of No Reservation, in which he mentioned the modern restaurant scene in Paris, with seasonal menus and farm-to-table concepts, I have been looking for such inspiration in Vancouver.  Would Farmer’s Apprentice, the most talked about restaurant in the city lately,  be the one?   I decided to give them a try.  The food was good, somewhat innovative and fun. I was yet blown away.

First came the farmer sourdough, along with onion butter.  Butter has a consistency of hummas, drenched in a layer of oil, and tastes more subtle than expected. The bread is hearty and flavourful.

beyond bread sourdough, onion butter @ Farmer's Apprentice
beyond bread sourdough, onion butter @ Farmer’s Apprentice

The Smoked Castelvarano Olives were delicious. The subtle smokiness has even impressed Bert even who is never a big fan of olives. The first dish gently aroused our expections.

smoked castelvatrano olives
smoked castelvatrano olives

But from this point, there were hits and misses. It never came to the climax that I was hoping for.

The first dish was the Beach Angel Oysters, served with seaweed, shiso, and radish.  It was interesting enough, and we definitely could smell and taste the west coast beach. But there was so much acidity, which was a little too overpowering. The taste of fresh oysters seemed a little lost.

beach angel oysters, seaweed, shiso, radish
beach angel oysters, seaweed, shiso, radish

The next dish was more successful in the flavour combination, featuring Beetroot, Cured foie gras, Hazelnut, Spruce, and Watercress. A fan of making beet salad myself,  I applauded to the use of cured foie gras here, a brilliant replacement for cheese. The richness of foie was well complemented by the sweetness and acidity from the other ingredients and the dressing. However, the beets were sliced too thin and not treated well enough to hold a substantial texture. Overall, it was a little too crunchy with the hazelnuts and watercress added on top.

beetroot, cured foie gras, hazelnut, spruce, watercress
beetroot, cured foie gras, hazelnut, spruce, watercress

The lamb dish, featuring lamb shoulder, sunchokes, lacinato kale, and chanterelle, was overall tasty and comforting, with great flavours on the lamb and the sauce, earthiness and beautiful aroma on sunchoke and chanterelle. But that kale did not do much for me.

lamb shoulder, sunchokes, lacinato kale, chanterelle
lamb shoulder, sunchokes, lacinato kale, chanterelle

This was another unusual combination: clams, and bone marrow. The marrow was incorporated in the sauce, providing some richness and some bold flavour to the clams. And I did not taste much of the presences of bay leaf cream and sorrel. But the overall it was enjoyable.

clams, bone marrow, croutons, bay leaf cream, sorrel
clams, bone marrow, croutons, bay leaf cream, sorrel

The Sablefish was another great dish. The bagna cauda sauce was hitting the spot. It was made with garlic, anchovy, butter and olive oil,  incredibly flavourful yet very subtle for complementing the fish. The fish was also perfectly cooked: succulent, buttery and very well seasoned.

roasted sablefish, bagna cauda, Yukon gold potatoes
roasted sablefish, bagna cauda, Yukon gold potatoes

The Special of the Night was also impressive. It’s not often to see Beef Cheeks on a restaurant menu in the city. I loved the texture of the beef cheeks,  tender but stilly slightly chewy for the texture. To me, this dish truly feels farm-to-table.

beef cheek on grits.
beef cheek on grits.

We shared the plate of cheeses, chef’s selection, for desert. The selected cheeses were good but the other condiments: confiture, slices of pear, and honey cured nuts, all seemed a little underwhelming in bold flavours.

cheeses, chef’s selection
cheeses, chef’s selection

Overall, we enjoyed our dinner. The chef’s passion for local ingredients shows on the menu and he does a good job showcasing such quality ingredients. But I feel like we are being lab rats tasting the chef’s experiments, a lot of them – the menu is quite big with a lot of dishes. I would love to see a smaller menu that’s more carefully selected and more focused, something that’s more consistent in wowing us with brilliance instead of giving us the roller coaster.   And the better consistency will make us happier to pay the premium price for the work that does the quality local ingredients justice.

Official website:
http://www.farmersapprentice.ca

Map and other reviews:
Farmer's Apprentice on Urbanspoon

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