Seeing Michelin Stars in Vancouver: Dinner at Market

Photo Credit: knightbefore_99 on Flickr

They’re not all like Gordon Ramsay.  Celebrity chefs, partly due to the success of Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, have earned a reputation as incendiary, dictatorial and ego-crazed.  Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who runs the three-Michelin-starred Jean Georges in Manhattan, the Vong franchise and a host of other acclaimed restaurants, is none of those things.  He is demure, self-effacing and polite almost to a fault.  He also happens to be among the planet’s preeminent living chefs, less pop-culture icon – all bark and no bite – than true culinary powerhouse.

I had a chance to eat recently at Market, one of Jean-Georges’ newest ventures.  Located on the second floor of Vancouver’s year-old Shangri-La hotel, Market straddles a difficult line between minimalist chic and traditional elegance.  The gracious service, the crisp white tablecloths and the sumptuous chairs all reflect an Old World charm.  But mix in the chill music playing ever so softly in the background and the gentle cosmopolitan hum of Vancouver banter – an exotic mélange of Chinese, Farsi, English, etc – and you get something decidedly more contemporary and original.

Dinner at Market lives up to its billing.  The menu is West Coast and, in classic Vancouver fashion, eclectic.  Fresh, local ingredients – seafood, meats and produce – form the foundation.  Overlaid is an Asian spicing and sensibility, a nod to the hotel’s roots and to Vancouver’s sizable immigrant population.  Spicy crab fritters, fried but still delicate, are complemented with Asian pear and endive.  My sablefish, a Vancouver favorite, is unforgettable, served in a sweet and sour broth and crusted with a blend of exotic nuts.

Photo Credit: Sifu Renka on Flickr

After dinner, I head to the nearby Yaletown neighborhood.  Once a warehouse district, Yaletown has been revisioned as an edgy urban playground, packed with clubs, restaurants and boutiques.

I end up at Society: part bar, part dining lounge, part conspiratorial den for illicit rendezvous and late-night misdeeds.  Inside, the atmosphere is sensual, scandalous and more than a bit tongue in cheek.  A glowing pink chandelier drips from the ceiling.  Drinks include cocktails garnished with cotton candy and R-rated milkshakes spiked with Jim Beam.  No Vancouver glitterati here tonight (Vince Vaughn and Bono have imbibed here in recent months).  But the drinks, the DJs and the crush of finely dressed bodies conspire to make for a late night out in Vancouver.

Any one else tried Jean-Georges’ creations at Market?  Any favorites?

Remy Scalza

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