Monday, March 7, 2011

Lumiere, One Last Time

As you may have read in our very first blog post, back in August we had what ended up being the best meal of our lives at Lumiere.  When we heard the news that it, along with its sister restaurant DB Bistro were closing, we were extremely saddened at the prospect of never being able to dine there again.  We immediately made reservations to have one last dinner there to see if we could recapture our experience.  The verdict: not quite.  But I don't know if that first meal will ever be topped.  

Food-wise, this actually may have been better overall than last time, but it was busier, and so they were a bit less attentive.  Our first time there, we had the amazing Sommelier Drew Walker check up on us several times.  He was one of the key ingredients to making that such an unparalleled experience.  I have never met anyone in the food service industry that was so pleasant, friendly, and knowledgeable.  As we did not order any wine, we did not really get to chat with him this time, and that was detrimental to our experience. It's pretty incredible that one person could make that much of a difference, but when it comes to Mr. Walker, that is indeed the case.  

One last time

Just like last time, we went with the intention of ordering either the three or five course offerings in order to keep the price down.  Then we started debating on whether or not to add the wine pairings, as I was interested to experience how their selections would enhance their already amazing food.  Neither of us are big drinkers, however, so in the end, we opted to get the seven course menu and skip the wine pairings to make up for the expense.

The first thing they put in front of us was a plate of butter for their excellent breads.

There was multi-grain, sourdough, and green olive bread to choose from.  I had a slice of multi-grain, and Flowerbunny tried the sourdough.  Both were excellent and very fresh.

We started with an amuse-bouche:

Mini-Pacific Oyster
Sturgeon caviar and lemongrass velouté

I'm not a raw oyster fan, but this wasn't half bad.  The lemongrass velouté had a very nice flavour to it.  The plate was really interesting to look at with the bed of rock salt and peppercorns making the presentation very eye-catching.
Next up was our first appetizer course:

Citrus Cured Hamachi
Finger lime, tofu, beets, white sturgeon caviar

This was a really nice delicate dish.  The hamachi was very fresh and melted in your mouth.  The tofu was almost like cream and the beets had a slight vinegary taste that brought everything together.  The little bits of orange added a welcome burst of citrus whenever you bit into one.

Our second appetizer course was:

Quebec Fois Gras Mousse
Celery root, apricot, hazelnut, brioche

This was made to look like a chocolate sundae and in that, they succeeded immeasurably.  However, I had a bit of trouble eating this dish.  The flavours were actually quite nice, and the waffle brioche was amazingly delicious, but I couldn't quite get over the fact that I was eating this meat cream.  It looked so much like a sundae that whenever I took a bite I expected to taste chocolate and that was not the case.  My girlfriend had no such compunctions about eating this and quite enjoyed how the different layers meshed together (you can see the celery root as the white layer on the bottom, and an apricot gelée above that).

Our first main course of the night was:

Four Spice Marinated BC Black Cod
Smoked hen of the woods, cashew, pork rillon

This was finished table side with five spice pork jus. The fish was super delicate and moist and was complemented excellently by everything else on the plate.  I love love love hen of the woods mushrooms and was very happy to eat these again, as they added a nice smoked flavour.  The pork rillon did the same, but somehow in a different way.  The small pear cubes added a nice bit of sweetness to it.

Next up was:

Spice Glazed Fraser Valley Duck
Du Puy lentils, apple duck jus

This was actually better than last time.  In fact, I think this is the best duck I've ever eaten.  The meat was absolutely gorgeous, and melt in your mouth tender.  It was perfectly salted, and the apple and lentils added a ton of flavour.  There were also pieces of seared fois gras, which, when combined with the duck breast itself, created something truly remarkable.

For our savoury mains, Flowerbunny had:

Duo Of Opal Valley Lamb
Shiitake, bulgur wheat, radish

Once again, the two cuts of lamb in this dish were shoulder and rack.  The rack was seared beautifully and was extremely tender and delicious.  The shoulder was roasted perfectly and just fell apart in your mouth.  They finished it table-side with a spiced lamb-jus.  The bulgur was an interesting choice and complemented the lamb well.

Instead of the lamb, I substituted a dish I had last time:

Duo Of AAA Prime Beef
Red wine braised short rib, potato fondant, seared rib eye, romaine parcel.

Yes I had this last time, but I couldn't resist eating it again as it was my favourite dish.

Once again this did not disappoint.  The short rib fell apart in your mouth and was mouth-wateringly delicious.

The potato was cooked perfectly and the shallot and milk filling gave it another appreciated dimension of flavour.

The seared rib eye was actually done better this time.  It was seasoned a bit more and cooked slightly more rare, and the result was an incredibly tender piece of beef.

The romaine wrapped in butter lettuce was an unusual but excellent side.  I love how all of the components of this dish are squared off; it makes the presentation so interesting to look at.

In the middle is another hen of the woods mushroom which I was happy to devour again.

Our first dessert course was:

Pink Lady Apple Pavé
Ginger cinnamon, panna cotta, speculoos

This was an unbelievably tasty dessert.  The apple filling was like the best apple pie filling you've ever eaten.  The ginger cookie on the bottom was a bit hard to cut through but added great taste and texture.  The green apples on top added a nice burst of tartness, and the panna cotta was subtle but delicious all the same.

We then received our decaf cappuccinos which were as good as last time, light and frothy.

Our final dessert course was:

Hot And Cold Tiramisu Sundae
Chocolate creameux, mascarpone mousse, ladyfingers, coffee ice cream

We were very excited to see that this was still on the menu, as it is such a decadent way to finish our meal (there's even a bit of edible gold on top!). The chocolate sauce is amazing, so delicious and yet not too rich.  At table side, they pour the hot chocolate sauce over the disc of chocolate that covers the ice cream and lady fingers and you get to watch as it melts and falls into all of the other heavenly delicacies below.  This was as delicious as last time and a fitting finale to our experience here.

Like before, as a little bonus they give you a plate of:

Petite Fours 
(From the top, clockwise, and all obviously miniature versions) Creme Brulee, toffee cake, lemon meringue pie, grapefruit jelly, citrus pound cake, and chocolate with a cream-like filling inside.
All were really fun to eat and very tasty.
They also give you a small basket of:

Citrus Madeleines

These were super light and fluffy and delicious, a perfect accompaniment to our cappuccinos.   

Once again, this entire evening was a great experience.  We sat down at 6:45pm, and didn't leave until 10:00pm.  While it wasn't quite as amazing as our first time there, that may never be topped, and this experience was nearly as good.

We found out that Chef McKay is going to be opening up his one restaurant soon, one a bit more casual.  Both of us can't wait to try his food again and look forward to dining in his new establishment.  Sadly we also found out that Sommelier Drew Walker will not be joining him.  I hope to find out where he is going as well, as I would love to experience his brand of unparalleled service once more.

Overall Impressions:  What can I say?  The best food, and the best service I've ever experienced.  We are really going to miss this place.  It is a tragedy for Vancouver cuisine that Lumière is closing down, and a shame that fine dining like this is disappearing in this city in favour of Yaletown/Downtown more casual fare like Glowbal Group's offerings.  As good as they are, there's really no comparison, and given the amount that Vancouverites seem to like to spend on our real estate, I find it hard to believe that there aren't enough people that could afford a meal here on a semi regular basis.  That's the way business goes though, and we can't wait to see what Chef McKay does next.  Vancouver's flagship restaurant was worth every penny we spent there.

Lumière Restaurant
2551 West Broadway
Vancouver BC
Lumière on Urbanspoon

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