Dine Out Vancouver Festival is Canada’s largest annual celebration of food and drink and it is back for its 18th year with a record breaking 318 restaurants. It attracts more than 100,000 locals and visitors annually and it takes place over 17 jam packed days of culinary events, prix fixe menus and special hotel rates so you can make it a night on the town. The festival promotes s local and regional ingredients, BC VQA wines, and the city’s exceptional culinary talent. This years Dine Out Vancouver Festival 2020 will run from January 17 to February 2.
I had the opportunity to attend their media night which started off with tasting plates from Notch8 Restaurant‘s $45 Dine Out Vancouver menu. In addition to these delicious bites, we were treated to some of BC’s best wines courtesy of Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Singletree Winery.
After whetting our appetites and opening speeches we were divided into different groups and shuttled off to our predetermined locations.
My first stop was at Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge located instead The Wedgewood Hotel & Spa. Bacchus offers Modern French cuisine featuring West Coast ingredients. For the festival they will be offering up a $45 set menu.
For the appetizer portion there will three choices. My personal favourite was the Carrot & Caraway Soup. It looks unassuming but the soup is velvety smooth with a lush carrot flavour. The toasted pumpkin seeds and rye croutons added a lovely crunch to the dish.
The tuna terrine was a work of art. Various cuts of tuna are compressed together to produce a gorgeous stained glass effect. While it was a beautiful dish, the overall flavour was quite ordinary, and the orange did not pack as much of a citrus punch as I had hoped.
The red beet tartare was quite innovative. It was created to resemble a beef tartare and it was quite successful in that aspect. Although it was missing the beef flavour, the overall texture was spot on. The garnishes stood out to me the most – the egg yolk puree was a flavour bomb and the puffed wild rice had a great nutty flavour that complemented the dish.
There are three options for entree. My standout entree was the Smoked Confit Steelhead Salmon. The salmon was perfectly cooked – delicate, moist and tender. All the components worked perfectly together and the sweet potato puree was incredibly smooth and creamy.
The veal breast was fork tender and fell apart easily. The apricot mostarda added a bright fruity note to the heavy dish. This was my first time having gnocchi romaine (the pan fried square), and it tasted like a slightly dry cheese potato pancake.
Generally during Dine Out I refrain from ordering the vegetarian option because I don’t see the value of ordering it, however I was blown away by this dish. The chickpea fritter was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The roasted parsnip and fried cauliflower had a great earthy flavour and the lentils had a nice chew to them. Another winning dish in my book even if you’re not a vegetarian!
Both dessert offerings are chocolate heavy and taste similar. My personal favourite was the Black Forest Cake Bar solely for the sorbet offering – it was bright, punchy and refreshing.
Service was exceptional – our water and wine was constantly being refilled, cutlery and plates were replaced as needed. If you do Dine Out at Bacchus they won’t be skimping out on their service. All diners will receive the full Bacchus experience – bread service, petit four ending and attentive servers. I highly recommend you check them out!
For appetizers there will be three options. My pick would be the seafood chowder. It’s a homey bowl of comfort food chock full of potatoes and seafood. The shrimp cocktail was on the frozen side and the crab cake was dry and mealy. The tartar sauce on top had a nice tang and helped to salvage the crab cake.
You can choose from three different boils for your entree. Each portion is meant to serve two people. We opted to have our seafood served with sauce on the side, but typically the seafood would be covered in sauce. There are various additional supplements and upgrades such as king crab legs, dungeness crab and lobster.
They have a variety of sauces such as original cajun (in various levels of spice), garlic pepper, buter cajun and lemon pepper.
I really enjoyed the potatoes, clams, shrimps and snow crab legs. The corn was incredibly mushy and the crawfish had an overwhelming fishy taste.
To end the meal there is only one dessert option. I did not partake as I’m not a fan of bananas but the table seemed to enjoy the dessert.
After our two stops, we made our way back to Notch8 to end the night with some more drinks and dessert.
Here are my top recommendations from this year’s Dine Out Vancouver restaurants. Some of them are old favourites but others are ones that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time!
Wildebeest – This is one of my favourite restaurants in Gastown and I’ve had their $45 Dine Out Vancouver menu for the past several years. I always leave full and happy and this year’s offering doesn’t deviate much from their past menus. Check out my review from last year, but my picks for this year is – Tuna Tartare, Beretta Farm Flat Iron and Spruce Tip Tart.
Sai Woo – Sai Woo is located in the heart of Chinatown and they serve up some really tasty Asian inspired cuisine. It’s grungier exterior opens way to a gorgeous interior with high ceilings and low lights. They have an excellent cocktail menu that will go perfectly with their $35 Dine Out Vancouver menu. My picks are – Scallop Ceviche, Pan Seared Striploin Steak, Cream Puffs. The cream puff will feature this years trend – salted egg yolk!
Minami Restaurant – This is the only Aburi Restaurant Group restaurant still participating in Dine Out Vancouver. I personally find their execution better than Miku, and I always indulge in their $45 Dine Out Vancouver Lunch Menu. The lunch menu never deviates, so my pick this year is their set course with a set of six seasonal kobachi dishes to start, an aburi sushi and roll sample platter and a dessert.
Hydra – I know that this restaurant has been getting a lot of flack recently, however I am a fan and I think their $45 Dine Out Vancouver menu is worth trying out. My favourite dish at Hydra is their Lobster Pasta and it is an entree offering for the set menu. My picks are – Spread Sampler, Lobster Pasta and Cheesecake.
Pourhouse Restaurant – I’ve only been here for drinks, but after checking out their $45 Dine Out Vancouver menu, I think this time will be as good as any to try out their food offerings. My picks for this year are Tuna Tartare, 5oz Flat Iron Steak and Nutella Tiramisu.
Cactus Club Cafe – I know, you’re thinking a chain restaurant? The Cactus Club $35 Dine Out Vancouver menu is a steal. You’re guaranteed a good meal and you’ll leave full for sure. My picks are – Ravioli + Prawn Duo, Steak Frites and Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bar.
When I choose Dine Out Vancouver restaurants I usually choose the $35 or $45 set menus from restaurants that are on the costlier side. I find it a good opportunity to test the waters a bit before committing to a full dinner service outside of their set menu.
During the festival be prepared for long waits and hurried service. It’s one of the biggest cons of DOVF and part of the reason that I don’t participate in as many restaurants as I used to when it was first introduced. The list is out, so take a look and make your reservations ASAP!