Tyler’s Burgers – 149 S Indian Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, California

Our first family trip to Palm Springs, retirement capital of California. A definite change in pace from our usual winter vacation to some mountain resort, but after the crazy last few months, the thought of sitting around and doing a whole lot of nothing (except eating of course!) was very appealing.

The owners of the house we were renting recommended a little burger joint called Tyler’s Burgers located in the downtown core of Palm Springs. They hyped it up to be the ‘best burger in town’, so I had understandably high expectations going in. But before we get to the food, a little bit of history. Like any good family-run restaurant, Tyler’s has a cute history behind it. Diana Diamico, the owner, opened Tyler’s in 1996 with the aim to recreate the classic burgers from her childhood memory. Her mother owned and operated a popular burger stand in Venice Beach, CA, so you could say serving up juicy burgers is in her genes. She writes on the restaurant website that her concept is to use only the freshest meat, ground daily, along with high quality ingredients and delicious side dishes.

Tyler's Burgers

Tyler’s Burgers

View from the bar

View from the bar

And my, was she not lying about the side dishes. The waitress recommended the potato salad as the best side on the menu, so I ordered a serving that must have been one the tastiest piles of potato-ey goodness I’ve ever had (and I do love my potato/egg/pasta salads).

Homemade potato salad ~ $4.25

Homemade potato salad ~ $4.25

The potatoes chunks were just the right size for my liking, and not powdery or overcooked like some of the generic salads you get from the supermarket. It had nice tangible chunks of egg mixed in, giving it an almost egg-salad like flavor, which is an angle I liked as well. The small pieces of onion and celery provided the crunchy texture that all good potato salads should have. It was creamy without being overwhelmingly so, and left a fresh tase in my mouth. An appropriate balance of salt, with none of the sourness some potato salads have was just right for me (although those who like the more tangy variety may not agree). All-in-all, an amazing potato salad that my sister and I inhaled.

Side note: I noticed at least two customers do take-out orders of just the potato salad while we were eating. I must not be the only person who loves the stuff!

Next-up, my all-American bacon cheeseburger came within minutes of wolfing down the salad.

Bacon cheeseburger ~ $9.00

Bacon cheeseburger ~ $9.00

A disclaimer: there are two burgers I hold as my gold standards. One, I had at a hotel in LA years ago that was the perfect example of an “American burger”. Bacon, cheddar cheese, a huge, juicy patty seasoned just right, I still remember the simple perfection of it to this day. The second was a much more exotic variety I had (twice in 3 days) in London. It was a fancier burger joint that served up their thick patties along with untraditional ingredients. Mine had mango chutney as it’s highlight, along with other exotic spices, and it was a combination that worked amazingly well in it’s uniqueness.

This burger fit into the first category, and it stacked up quite well. Topped with thick cut bacon, American cheese, and a mixture of raw and grilled onions, what stood out to me was the quality and freshness of the ingredients. The beef, ground daily, was obviously quite lean and high quality, but still managed to be juicy without oozing oil. The size of the patty was large enough to stretch my mouth to slightly uncomfortable proportions, which may be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask (good in my books).

Bacon cheeseburger - a few bites in

Bacon cheeseburger – a few bites in

I liked how they used crispy slabs of iceberg lettuce instead of the limp lettuce shreds of some burgers, and the bun was toasted well with a nice buttery sheen. Overall, it wasn’t the juiciest burger I’ve ever had (the LA one still holds the title for that), but this still ranks high up there because of the clean, fresh, and satisfied feeling I was left with after wolfing it down. Not feeling oily and gross after eating a huge burger is definitely something of note.

Lastly, the milkshakes and malts were highly recommended so I ordered a strawberry one to wash everything down. Plus I wanted to see the old-school milkshake machine in action!

50-year-old milkshake machine

50-year-old milkshake machine

Strawberry milkshake ~$6.50

Strawberry milkshake ~$6.50

The milkshake, while not cheap, was well worth it. They only use real, fresh strawberries mixed in with vanilla ice cream, and the result is a thick and creamy shake that isn’t overly sweet or artificial tasting. Some restaurants use fresh strawberries, but then add in syrup to supplement the flavor; I prefer this all-natural method and the tasty result. My dad however likes a more ‘robust strawberry flavor’ in his words, and found this shake wasn’t as sweet as he would have liked. I also sipped my sister’s chocolate malt which was incredibly thick and tasty, as was my dad’s coffee shake was similarly good.

Complaints? Not much to complain about. Food and drinks are a little on the pricey side for a burger joint, but well worth it.

Overall impressions? Fast and friendly service, and I loved the sitting at the bar and watching the cooks working furiously putting together their delicious burgers. Everything I tried was fresh, tasty, and constructed with care. A true family owned and run joint that I would return to anytime. Especially for more of that heavenly potato salad.

H’s verdict – 4.5/5

Restaurant website: http://tylersburgers.com/

Tyler's Burgers on Urbanspoon

Joe Fortes Seafood and Chophouse – 777 Thurlow St., Vancouver BC

The rooftop bar

The rooftop bar

Joe Fortes seafood and chophouse is one of the few local restaurants that can rightfully claim to be a Vancouver institution. Opened and thriving since 1985, Joe Fortes takes its name from a legendary character  in our city’s history. Joe was a sailor who first landed on Vancouver’s shores in 1885, setting himself up in a cottage by English Bay. He spent much of his free time patrolling the beach and teaching children to swim (all free of charge), and was eventually appointed the city’s first official lifeguard in 1900. He was adored by the citizens of Vancouver for his warm and welcoming personality, and immortalized over the years with his name gracing a library, a fountain, and most recently, a stamp released by Canada Post on February 1st, 2013, celebrating Black History Month. The fountain that bears his name in Alexandra Park is inscribed with the quote “Little children loved him.”

You can read more about Joe’s life at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Fortes

Joe Fortes stamp designed by Lara Minja of Victoria

Joe Fortes stamp designed by Lara Minja of Victoria

One of the reasons Joe Fortes seafood and chophouse has maintained its popularity over the years is that the staff of the restaurant emulate Joe’s demeanor with their top-notch service and hospitality. I haven’t stressed it much in past posts, but I’m of the belief that good service is such an important part of the dining experience. Quality food is memorable on its own, don’t get me wrong, but a wait staff that is prompt, attentive, knowledgeable, friendly, and even witty at times can make a fine dinner into a real experience. I’ve been to Joe Fortes twice now, and every interaction with their staff from the busboys to their valets has oozed easy professionalism. Not the stuffy and robotic service that unfortunately plagues some high-end restaurants, but more like what you would get if George Clooney went to butler school. Also, some of the wait staff wear lab coats which is just plain cool.

Loving the lab coats

Loving the lab coats

So now that I’ve finished fan-boying over how great the service at Joe Fortes is, let’s get on to how the food was. We went on a Sunday morning to take advantage of the “Benny Bonanza” promotion they had going on at the time, which offered a selection of five Benny’s for the great price of $9.95.

We were started off with a cute pair of orange and chocolate scones, which were a brilliant brunch substitute for your generic bread basket.

Orange and chocolate scones ~ complimentary

Orange and chocolate scones ~ complimentary

These tasty morsels were crumbly with a touch of sweetness in the icing drizzled over top of the scones. I usually like my scones all buttered up, but these didn’t need any additional flavoring. The orange zest was subtle and a classic counterpoint to the dark chocolate chunks. My only complaint was that they were room temperature; pastries are just that much better warm, am I right?

Joe's Signature Benedict - wild mushrooms, crisp proscuitto, truffle sage hollandaise ~ 15.95

Joe’s Signature Benedict – wild mushrooms, crisp proscuitto, truffle sage hollandaise ~ 15.95

The Benedict’s arrived promptly, hot and fresh. The eggs were poached just right, slightly runny, with spot-on hollandaise sauce slathered all over. The standard English muffin bases (house made) were cut nice and thick, not of the soggy or limp variety you sometimes see. Harrison ordered Joe’s Signature Benedict with wild mushrooms, crisp prosciutto, and truffle sage hollandaise. The hollandaise was light with a hint of truffle, and avoided overwhelming all the other flavors, while still managing to taste rich. With each bite you got a hit of the crisp prosciutto and that natural mushroom flavor cutting through the creaminess of the eggs and hollandaise sauce.

Crab and Shrimp Benedict - snow crab, shrimp, guacamole, hollandaise ~ 19.95

Crab and Shrimp Benedict – snow crab, shrimp, guacamole, hollandaise ~ 9.95

Lucy’s crab and shrimp Benedict came loaded with ample portions of the seafood, that paired perfectly with the guacamole. The seafood flavors were more subtle than the prosciutto and mushrooms, but were still able to cut through that light hollandaise sauce. The only complaint? The eggs were slightly on the dry side, and she wished they had layered on the guacamole a bit thicker.

The hash browns accompanying our Benedict’s were crisp on the outside, cooked in oil that tasted clean and fresh. They were lightly seasoned and mixed with some grilled onions, hitting the right spot on the saltiness scale. A minor complaint I have with some hash browns is that they are cut too thick for my liking; these were sliced perfectly so each bite had just the right amount of potato to it.

Complaints? Lucy’s poached eggs were a tinge on the dry side.

 Overall impressions: The food was excellent and a great value, the ambience classy without being stuffy, and did I mention the service was not too shabby? We’d come back for brunch any day of the week.

H’s Verdict — 4.5/5 stars.

L’s Verdict —4.5/5 stars.

Restaurant website: http://www.joefortes.ca/

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House on Urbanspoon

Beaver Hall – 1073 Côte du Beaver Hall, Montreal, QC

Beaver Hall is located in the heart of downtown Montreal, just a few blocks away from the Hilton Bonaventure. We were looking for a place that served quality French cuisine in the 20-30$ entrée range, and our concierge recommended this eatery. I had a list of highly recommended restaurants from friends and family who spent time in Montreal, but none of them could accommodate a large group of students on such short notice. So we crossed our fingers that with a name like “Beaver Hall”, it didn’t turn out to be a Canadian sports pub.

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Luckily, the clientele appeared to be business people and young professionals. The décor was nothing out of the ordinary, standard looking but warm and clean. When I think of a “French bistro”, this is the image that pops into my head.

On an unusual note, one of my friends noted that the booth where we sat had practically vertical back supports; good for our posture, but not the most comfortable seat I’ve been in. Our waiter was knowledgeable and helpful, translating the partially French menu and recommending dishes.

White mackerel, celery, and green apple ~ complementary

White mackerel, celery, and green apple ~ complementary

Our first bite was a sampler of white mackerel, celery, and green apple. The fish was lightly salted and tasty along with the crispy sweetness of the apple and celery. This little palate cleanser may have been my favorite part of the meal.

Crusted calamari ~ $10.50

Crusted calamari ~ $10.50

Next up was a trio of appetizers. The calamari had such promise, super fresh and one of the most tender I’ve ever had. It came with two sauces, a spicy cocktail sauce, and a light tartar sauce. Unfortunately, the calamari was coated in oil that tasted old and burnt, spoiling what could have been a really great dish.

Beef carpaccio, arugula, portobello mushrooms ~ $9.50

Beef carpaccio, arugula, portobello mushrooms ~ $9.50

We also ordered the beef carpaccio, which was decent but didn’t stand out as a memorable dish. It had a good flavor profile with arugula salad, parmesan, and portobello mushrooms topped with a light vinagrette. The beef itself was a tad on the chewy side, contributing to the mediocrity of the dish.

Salmon tartare, lime and wakame, mullet roe, and soya reduction ~ $9.50

Salmon tartare, lime and wakame, mullet roe, and soya reduction ~ $9.50

The last appetizer was a salmon tartate with lime and wakame, mullet roe, and soya reduction. It was constructed like a “bagel lox” with the salmon topped with a delicate biscuit and cream cheese. The fish itself was fresh, and went well texturally with the cracker and cream cheese, but like the carpaccio, it didn’t pop with anything special. The wakame and roe were difficult to distinguish as well. Also, the garnish of capers, radish, and red onions felt like unnecessary additions that didn’t add to the dish.

Wild mushroom cannelloni with asparagus and ricotta ~$16.50

Wild mushroom cannelloni with asparagus and ricotta ~$16.50

Jason ordered the wild mushroom cannelloni with asparagus and ricotta as his main course. The cannelloni was perfectly al dante and stuffed with a variety of mushrooms (portobello and crimini amongst others), all slathered in a sauce reminiscent of an upgraded Campbell’s mushroom soup. The sauce wasn’t too heavy, and didn’t overwhelm the natural flavor of the mushrooms. The two stalks of asparagus were tender and nicely cooked, the dish overall surprisingly filling considering it was just one tube of pasta.

Beaver Hall cassoulet ~ $23.50

Beaver Hall cassoulet ~ $23.50

I ordered the Beaver Hall cassoulet, which is the Southern French version  of a rich, slow-cooked casserole of meat and beans. It was an incredibly hearty dish to say the least. There were three types of meat: a hunk of pork belly with more fat than I would normally eat (but did anyways), a piece of duck confit with fall-off-the-bone meat, and a section of pork sausage. The meat flavors were mild and blended in with the mellow tomatoes and beans, with everything topped with a dusting of bread crumbs. There weren’t any distinct flavors that stuck out, but that worked for this dish. Overall, a very warm and rustic dish that hit the spot on a cold day in Montreal.

Classic vanilla creme brule ~ $5.50

Classic vanilla creme brule ~ $5.50

For dessert we ordered the classic vanilla creme brule, which was an absolute steal at $5.50. The picture doesn’t do the brule justice, it was such a large portion that four of us had no problems sharing it (one person would have a tough time polishing off this by himself). Quality-wise, it would rank a solid 7.5/10, with a nice crispy top and balanced innards. The better creme brules deftly balance sweetness with a smooth texture, and this one hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t the best tasting creme brule I’ve ever had, but certainly the best value.

Flambeed crepe suzette ~ $8.50

Flambeed crepe suzette ~ $8.50

Last but not least, we shared an order of the flambeed crepe suzette which they prepared table-side. The crepes were soft and flavorful with a clean and tangy orange flavor, and just a hint of liquer. It had a natural orange flavor that didn’t taste artificial at all and had a good level of sweetness. My one complaint was that the crepes were a little soggy for my liking, but my friends didn’t have an issue with it. $8.50

Overall impressions: The service was friendly, helpful, and attentive, and the value of our food was unquestionable. However, the food quality and preparation was a miss for a few of the dishes, with the calamari in particular coming to mind. Some of the dishes were spot on, like the hearty cassoulet, the canneloni, and the creme brule, while some of the others were merely average. I’d recommend some of the dishes, but I feel that inconsistency prevents Beaver Hall from being in that top echelon of restaurants.

H’s Verdict – 3.5/5 stars

Restaurant website: http://www.beaverhall.ca/

Bistro le Beaver Hall on Urbanspoon

MARKET by Jean-Georges – 1115 Alberni Street, Vancouver, BC

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I was introduced to MARKET on my birthday last year, and I loved it instantly. When Dine Out Vancouver 2013 started, this restaurant was high on my list of must-visit restaurants, and I convinced my hometown friend (Calgary, AB) Brandon to join me. Although the usual price point is out of my range for a meal (medical students don’t make ANY money unfortunately), the $38 dine out set menu was a great deal. Located in the Shangri-La Hotel, this restaurant focuses on “seasonal, regional ingredients, with particular emphasis on fresh, local seafood.” The 4 different dining areas each had their own distinct theme; the room I was seated in was cozy yet luxurious with wood furniture and panelling, and upholstered benches with matching throw cushions. The atmosphere is softly lit giving it an almost intimate feeling.

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The restaurant was busier than the last time I went, but the host seated us promptly and asked for our drink preferences. They had a  couple of drink specials on, and we decided to get one of each that they were offering. The pink drink on the right was the $8 Lychee Raspberry Bellini, a yummy sparkling wine drink that I had previously ordered the last time I was here (for $12 – yay specials!). It was fizzy, sweet and tart, tasting mostly of raspberry and not lychee. The Ginger Martini (also $8) reminded me of a lime ginger ale, and was so mild that it didn’t taste of alcohol. A server also brought us a teapot of hot water, and some lemons. They even asked if we would like honey – it’s as if they could read my mind.

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His and Her’s cocktails – a Ginger Martini and a Lychee Raspberry Bellini ($8 each)

The appies came SO FAST… likely because they only have three dishes to prepare for (well not exactly, but most people ordered off the Dine Out menu). We both ordered the tuna tartare. The fish was fresh (zero fishy aftertaste), sweet, and lightly seasoned with some sort of herb. It sat on a bed of creamy avocado puree with minced onions (or green onions?). It was topped with fresh sliced radish and drizzled chili oil (that wasn’t spicy at all). The ginger sauce on the bottom of the plate looked like a soup, and didn’t visually do it for me. However, it turned out to be the highlight of the dish, really giving the creamy avocado and light tuna combo a huge kick of flavour. Without it, the dish would be quite standard, but the asian-inspired sweet/sour/slightly spicy sauce was so delicious, that I ate ALL of it! Plus all the tuna/avocado too…overall, such a delish dish!!

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Tuna tartare with sliced radish and avocado, in a sweet and sour ginger sauce (reg. price $16)

The sourdough and whole wheat rolls came right when the appies came, so I took a break from devouring my appetizer to enjoy some nice warm bread. I really like carbs, and have a high standard for judging them. These rolls were pretty average. For our entrees, Brandon ordered the grilled Berkshire Pork, and I ordered the Steelhead trout. The entrees also quickly rolled out of the kitchen thankfully, as I was starving.

Steelhead trout on a bed of mashed potatoes, topped with brussel sprouts (reg. price $26)

Steelhead trout on a bed of mashed potatoes, topped with brussel sprouts chiffonade (reg. price $26)

First, I’d like to comment on how pretty the dish was, as well as the gorgeous color on the sprouts and fish! I don’t usually order fish at a restaurant, but since MARKET prides itself on seafood, I just had to. The trout was so moist and tender, just done perfectly. It wasn’t as salty as I would’ve preferred, but had lots of black pepper to keep it interesting. It was slowly baked (according to our server who didn’t seem too happy I was asking so many questions), and had truffle vinaigrette drizzled concentrically around. I could have smothered the ENTIRE dish in that vinaigrette, it was just amazing. I am a huge truffle fan, but can understand why some people don’t like its pungent flavor. I was saddened by the unfortunately small amount that was plated, especially because I couldn’t taste the truffle in the mashed potatoes (which should’ve been quite obvious since it was marketed as truffle mash potato), but it was still very light, moist, and creamy. The brussel sprouts were sliced thinly julienned? chiffonaded?, and seemingly sauteed…with some garlic? (shoot, I didn’t get to ask about this!!). So yummy! I’m so used to seeing/eating it whole, but I will be attempting this method in my own kitchen soon.

Pork with Chef Jean-George's own take on XO sauce, on bed of mushrooms (no pricing info)

Berkshire pork with Chef Jean-George’s own take on XO sauce, on bed of mushrooms (no pricing info)

As I have no idea what it takes to be a Berkshire pork chop, I went to Wikipedia (a truly credible source =P): “Berkshire pork, prized for juiciness, flavour and tenderness, is pink-hued and heavily marbled. Its high fat content makes it suitable for long cooking and high-temperature cooking.” The pork chop was as dense as a ham would be, wonderfully moist, and had a seared skin that contained most of the salt/seasoning. I would’ve needed to add salt to the meat if eaten without the XO sauce (Brandon didn’t seem to mind). Asian XO sauce usually contains salty dried shrimps and scallops, and chili to make it a tad spicy. This XO sauce was re-invented by the chef, and had a chunky/shredded meat (scallop meat? fish meat?) consistency to it. It wasn’t spicy at all, but brought a lot of savory umami taste to the pork. The steamed mushrooms were quite ‘meh’ for me, even though I am a huge mushroom fan (I pretty much love all food really).

L’s verdict (considering what the regular price of the meal would be): 3.5/5 stars for value, 4.5/5 for taste. Mostly because the tuna was amazing.

Restaurant website: http://www.shangri-la.com/vancouver/shangrila/dining/restaurants/market-by-jean-georges/

Market by Jean-Georges (Shangri-La Hotel) on Urbanspoon

La Banquise – 994 Rue Rachel Est, Montreal, Quebec

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Eating the poutine served at la Banquise with three of my pharmacy classmates has inspired us to open up a Vancouver version of this poutine shop. We walked in at 2:00 pm on a work day and the place was still jam-packed with people (my friend Jason figured the shoulder-to-shoulder tables had to be a fire hazard).

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There were 3 taxis parked outside, even though la Banquise is located a distance away from the downtown core. Basically, business was booming, and we could easily see how a restaurant like this would be a huge hit in Vancouver. What made the poutine so damn good? Pictures really do tell a thousand words.

We were originally going to order one poutine each, but after seeing the massive, steaming bowls coming out of the kitchen, we did the smart thing and decided to split two large portions. “La T-Rex” was an easy choice, loaded with four kinds of meat. We took pity on our arteries and ordered “La Taquise”, topped with guacamole, sour cream, and tomatoes as the second serving.

When it comes to poutine, most people aren’t looking for super fancy ingredients or extravagant toppings that may take away from the straightforward enjoyment of having fries, cheese curds, and gravy together in a bowl. The way la Banquise does it’s poutine is spot on in my book: a great base of fries, smooth cheese curds, and perfect tasting gravy supplemented by an absolute load of simple, but well cooked toppings.

La T-Rex; topped with ground beef, pepperoni, bacon, and hot dog sausage ~ $9.10/13.95

La T-Rex; topped with ground beef, pepperoni, bacon, and hot dog sausage ~ $9.10/13.95

La T-Rex turned out to be aptly named. We couldn’t even see the fries or cheese under the mountain of meat heaped on top. The meats were very tasty and salted just enough to not overwhelm the rest of the bowl. There was a perfect ratio of meat, to cheese, to fries so that literally every bite would have just the right amount of all three. It was nice to not have to fork-fight over scarce toppings.

A nearly empty bowl of poutine is a sad sight

A nearly empty bowl of poutine is a sad sight

La Taquise: sour cream, guacamole, and tomatoes ~  $8.95/13.60

La Taquise: sour cream, guacamole, and tomatoes ~ $8.95/13.60

La Taquise turned out to be very tasty in its own right, and a refreshing break from the greasy goodness of the meat poutine. Large dollops of guacamole and cream cheese lay atop a pile of fresh tomatoes, which was a surprisingly good complement to cheese curds and fries. Again, the quality of these simple ingredients shone through and helped to elevate a potentially average poutine to a great one.

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Both poutines evaporated in what seemed like minutes, leaving all four of us full and satisfied. The icing on the cake was the value we got out of sharing two large portions: the bill came to about 8.50$ each after tip, which was amazing value considering the amount of food we ate. I can’t think of any restaurant or food cart in Vancouver that could come close to that bargain.

I loved the eclectic decor, and the crowded, busy feel of the place seemed appropriate for a restaurant that specializes in poutine. More standard fare like hamburgers and pasta were also on the menu, but I didn’t notice a single diner eating anything other than poutine. And for good reason; they serve poutine that’s good enough to have taxis permanently parked outside to shuttle hungry customers to and from this wonderful little joint.

Oh, and it’s open 24h a day. So you can feed that poutine craving at 4:00 in the morning.

Complaints? None at all with the food and value, but the wait staff was somewhat hard to flag down for service.

Overall impressions: If you’re in the mood for poutine, I can’t think of any other place I’d recommend. Next time I’m in Montreal I’m having a full size T-rex all on my own.

H’s Verdict — 4.5/5 stars.

Restaurant website: http://www.labanquise.com/

Resto la Banquise on Urbanspoon

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro – 2741 West 4th Avenue Vancouver, BC

Decor

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro has been a popular destination since opening in June 2011, so Lucy and I decided to see what the hype was about. First impressions were good: the decor is warm and inviting in a way that really feels “Canadian”. This is the kind of place you’d run in to for warmth on a cold wintery day in Vancouver, and it just happens to serve amazing food! The seasonal, west coast cuisine is made with attention to detail and sizeable portions. And yes, they serve poutine =)

3 types of beets, pickled, shaved, and baby; candied walnuts, vanilla smoked goat cheese ~ $11

3 types of beets: pickled, shaved, and baby; candied walnuts, smoked vanilla goat cheese ~ $11

As a carnivore who only orders salads when forced to (usually by my mom), I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish. The beets popped with sweetness, and was complemented by the jalapeno basil emulsion dressing. The walnuts added a nice crunch, as did the watercress (which was so fresh “it could have jumped off the plate!” -Lucy). I’m not the biggest fan of goat cheese, but this rendition was smoky and light with a hint of vanilla. A mouthful of all the components together was a marriage of sweet, sour, creamy, and deliciousness. Lucy wanted a second order after we devoured the dish, and I almost caved.

All Canadian poutine, brisket, fries, curds, gravy ~ $9

All Canadian poutine: brisket, fries, curds, gravy ~ $9

I’ve had my fair share of poutine being a born and bred Vancouverite, but this one was something special. Not because they used outlandish ingredients or served monstrous proportions, but because they took traditional ingredients and treated them with love and thoughtfulness. The Quebec cheese curds were creamy, soft, and gooey. The “10-days cured, 5-hour smoked” beef brisket was fall-apart tender in your mouth tender and slathered with a light and smoky gravy. The fries themselves were nice and chunky, but a few were a bit over-crisped for our liking. Overall, a great bowl of poutine that made me feel Canadian just eating it.

*See their website for a much better/more appetizing photo of the burger

Burger: smoked cheddar, relish, buttermilk onions, alfalfa sprouts ~ $15

This is not your father’s back-yard barbeque burger. The bun is made in-house (just like all their breads, pastas, and sauces) fresh and thick; it holds up well under the onslaught of squeezing and sauces. The all-beef patty was done medium (you can request it however you like!)and was amazingly juicy. The smoked cheddar was sharp and strong, with battered onions adding a crispy textural component. The alfalfa was an interesting substitution for generic lettuce, but the relish and sauce are the stars that stood out in this dish. Sweet pickle-y goodness under the patty was a perfect counterpoint to the garlic aioli on top and pulled everything together. Lucy – a HUGE tomato lover – asked for ketchup to go on the burger. They brought out their made-in-house ketchup, and it was delicious! Lightly spiced, but made from fresh tomatoes, this ketchup did not come from a bottle.

Duck duo: sliced duck breast and duck confit (wrapped in gnocchi dough), miso ginger foam, carrot truffle sauce, warm mixed salad ~ $22

Duck duo: sliced duck breast and duck confit (wrapped in gnocchi dough), miso ginger foam, carrot truffle sauce, warm mixed salad ~ $22

This was Lucy’s favorite dish, being the duck-lover she is. The breast was prepared well, with a nice crispy sear on the skin. The duck wrapped with gnocchi was a tad on the salty side, but was tempered nicely when eaten with the mixed vegetable saute or sauces. The truffle sauce was a bit prominent for my liking, but Lucy didn’t mind it. The miso ginger foam was artful and tasty at the same time, and went well with the duck. The saute with onions, spinach, corn, and mushrooms was a highlight for me and had an Asian flavoring to it. A wonderful dish for anyone fond of duck.

And last but not least... Strawberry rhubarb crumble, Bavarian vanilla ice cream ~ $6

And last but not least… Strawberry rhubarb crumble, bavarian cream ~ $6

I love a good crumble in all its crunchy, fruity goodness, and this one did not let me down. I often find myself wishing there was more granola in these cobbler-type dishes, but this one had a crispy layer on the top AND bottom. The rhubarb was nice and tart, pairing nicely with the mellow frozen bavarian cream (spiced with vanilla bean). It was slightly hard to cut through, but resisted melting in a way that I’ve never seen before; there was no soupy mess in this crumble cup. My one beef with this dessert was the portion size of the bavarian cream puck: we rationed it like it was going out of style, but still had a third of our crumble left by the time we were out. But overall, a great value for 6$.

Complaints? None, except for very minor details with the food itself.

Overall impressions: Great food, warm atmosphere, excellent value and wonderful attentive service combined for a memorable experience. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this restaurant to others and will likely return in the near future.

H’s Verdict — 4.5/5 stars.

L’s Verdict —5/5 stars. A generous rating, but well deserved.

Restaurant website: http://www.theoakwood.ca/

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro on Urbanspoon

*We know the photo quality is terrible, will be investing in a DSLR in the near future.