Dine Out Vancouver is well underway in this, its twelfth year, with more restaurants participating than ever before. Choosing from amongst a selection of over 200 amazing restaurants is a tad difficult, to say the least.
For this year’s festival, the largest of its kind in all of Canada, I gave myself one rule to abide by: no restaurants I’ve been to before, no matter how much I adore them.
Dining out as much as I do, this cut down the eligible options quite quickly. I decided to stay close to home, further narrowing down the possibilities. An hour later, after much hmm’ing and haw’ing, I opted for The Oakwood Canadian Bistro.
First of all, I am simply at a loss for how I have never walked through this establishment’s doors: inviting to say the least, but let’s get to the food.
Accompanied by my fellow foodie boyfriend, we were able to try nearly everything on the special event menu.
Smoked Cheddar and Cauliflower Soup: bold flavours (the in-season cauliflower has a delicate flavour, but melds perfectly with smoky undertones from the aged, smoky cheddar, which is all highlighted by the sweet, slightly acidic tomato foam, and lemony thyme croutons), decadent, rich, thick, and creamy, with the perfect bite from a sprinkling of crunchy croutons.
Pork Ravioli: The world is a better place because of the pig. It had to be said. With that, this dish was a very unique spin on a classic Italian dish. The pasta was al dente, stuffed to the brim with juicy shredded pork, served with an unexpectedly sweet apple wasabi sauce, crispy pork rinds (seriously, who needs chips?), and earthy radish sprouts. The pork in both its forms was the star of this dish. The sauce, while good, was a bit sweet for my liking and I would have appreciated a bit of heat from the wasabi element. All in all, a good appetizer, but I’d recommend the cauliflower soup.
Sous Vide Lamb Shank: The base of the plate was a tomato nage which tasted like a rich, yet thin in consistency, gravy with sweet notes from roasted tomatoes. This was topped with a generous serving of garlic mashed potatoes, no-need-for-a-knife lamb, sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach, and my favourite element, the bright pickled cabbage, which gave the entrée a crunch, and a tangy bite from the Dijon mustard. Each element on its own was delicious, but when combined, the dish became truly memorable.
Wild Mushroom Risotto: To say it succinctly, this is what a risotto should be. Although served in a personal-sized cast iron skillet, when spooned onto a plate it flowed like lava, a sign of a perfectly prepared risotto. With caramelized onions, it had certain characteristics of a French onion soup, taken up a notch with fragrant truffle oil and a gratine of buttery provolone. Rich, creamy, earthy, buttery, nutty…decadent.
Mason Jar Desserts: The apple crumble vs. the Nanaimo bar custard. The deconstructed Nanaimo Bar wins here, but I would definitely say the savoury menu items are Oakwood’s shining stars. The apple crumble topping was too thick, overwhelming the apples in ratio and flavour. The apples themselves, though, were tart and sweet on their own, and the vanilla bean ice cream was a nice accompaniment. The custard element of the Nanaimo Bar dessert was light, creamy, and speckled with vanilla bean pods. The chocolate and coconut layer was great, but in too high a ratio to the custard in my opinion. Also, this dessert could have possibly benefited from the inclusion of a chocolate graham wafer or biscuit crust that we typically find in Nanaimo’s namesake dessert.
All in all, The Oakwood Canadian Bistro made for a wonderful first Dine Out Vancouver stop. From friendly, quick service and a warm atmosphere, to appetizers and entrees that I hope to one day recreate in my kitchen, it was an evening to remember (hence the blog post).
As always, wishing you a stamp of culinary royalty in all of your dining endeavours! xx