French-Inspired Cooking and a Seafood Boil: A Preview of Dine Out Vancouver Festival 2020

Hot smoked hon shimeji mushroom and lentil cassoulet at Bacchus Restaurant

With Dine Out Vancouver Festival (DOVF) set to start on Friday (January 17, 2020), it’s time to get booking restaurants in order to experience amazing prix-fixe menus. With options for breakfast/brunch, lunch, dinner, a range of price points ($15, $25, $35, $45), as well as an impressive diversity of types of establishments and cuisines, there is certainly no shortage of options.

I had the chance to try two different restaurant menus for DOVF. Here’s a sneak peek at what you can expect.

Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge

Located in the Wedgewood Hotel, Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge (845 Hornby Street) is one of the most romantic spots in the city, with its velvet upholstered seating, dim mood lighting, and pianist playing wistful tunes. Any meal feels immediately sumptuous with such an inviting setting. The restaurant prides itself on its impeccable service, as well as its refined French-inspired cooking.

The menu consists of a seductive three courses ($45), beginning with a choice between carrot and caraway soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and rye croutons; red beet tartare with baby kale, puffed wild rice, dill remoulade, and egg yolk purée; and a tuna terrine with mandarin orange, compressed fennel, shaved turnips and radishes, and kalamata chili tapenade. I would particularly recommend the velvety soup, as well as the tartare with its lovely play with textures alongside the intensity of the beet flavour. It’s a clever vegetarian reinvention of traditional beef tartare.

For mains, the choice is not easy with three excellent options that are all ideal for a cozy meal on a wintry night: tender white wine braised veal cheek with gnocchi romaine, charred broccolini, and apricot mostarda; a hot smoked hon shimeji mushroom and vegetarian lentil cassoulet with chickpea fritter, roasted parsnip, fried cauliflower, and romesco sauce; and smoked confit steelhead with roasted carrots and brussels sprouts, sweet potato purée, and maple orange syrup. The latter dish really showcases the delicate quality of the fish, alongside a seasonal use of vegetables. It’s a meeting of sea and earth.

Save room for a choice between two indulgent dessert creations: a black forest cake bar with aerated chocolate, Chantilly cream, cherry compote, and chocolate soil; and truffle tiramisu with espresso anglaise and crisp meringue. The tiramisu with its hint of truffle makes for intriguing forkfuls. If you go with a dining partner or a group, make sure to choose different last courses so you can sample both (who doesn’t want dessert variety?).

Black Forest Bar

The Holy Crab

For a completely different DOVF experience, head to The Holy Crab (1588 Robson Street), which specializes in Louisiana-style dining. The concept is simple yet plenty of fun. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves, don a bib, and dig into a seafood boil. This is wonderfully messy eating as you make use of your bare hands, only occasionally resorting to a lobster/crab cracker and a seafood fork to help you with the feasting process.

The seafood gorging begins with seafood chowder, a crab cake, or shrimp cocktail. Go with the hearty, creamy soup, which will immediately warm the hungry belly.

Next, pick one of the seafood combos: snow crab legs with shrimp, potatoes, and corn; crawfish with shrimp, clams, potatoes, and corn; or shrimp with clams, mussels, deep fried calamari, potatoes, and corn. There are a variety of substitutions that can be made for an additional price (e.g. Dungeness crab instead of the snow crab legs for an additional $35 for the first combo). You also get to choose the sauce for your seafood. I’m particularly partial to the signature Cajun sauce, which comes at a variety of heat levels and has spicy, savoury, sweet, and umami flavour notes, making it a wicked combination on the palate.

Dessert is a classic banana foster, which will certainly ensure that you leave the restaurant nicely sated.

More info on DOVF and the many other restaurants participating can be found on-line.

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