For our splurge dinner in Vancouver, we went to Chambar, a sort of Belgian/small plates kind of place on Beatty Street. I had heard nice things about it, but only had a vague idea of what it would be like.
When we walked in and the waitress led us into the back, I became gradually more and more appalled. This place is huge! We began to think that we were too un-trendy for the restaurant and were being stuffed into a dark corner where nobody would be bothered by us. That certainly may have been true, but our table turned out to be quite nice: a corner spot overlooking the room with a window out to several high rises and GM Place, with fog misting about between the buildings. The room was dark but the high ceiling and big windows gave it a comfortable open feeling.
After securing drinks, we got an order of the beef carpaccio. It was an architectural sort of presentation: the beef slices formed the foundation, there was a pile of salad in the center, framed with walls of salty cheese, adorned with white anchovies and crowned with fresh fried potato chips. It sounds unlikely, but the flavors were excellent together, and the textures splendid. We also asked for bread, which arrived warm, soft and crusty with paprika butter.
The waiter advised us on the wine list. We ended up with a Château de Chamirey pinot noir, which was beautiful with all but one of our remaining dishes. I don’t always love pinot noir, but I have to admit it really shines with the right food. This was a lovely one.
The first dish that arrived after the wine was poured was, unfortunately, grilled octopus with lime. After one taste from our glasses, we set them aside and drank water, because it was a desperately poor match with the food. The octopus was small, perfectly tender with little crispy edges, and beautifully flavored with lime and chile. It came with dehydrated lime chips and a pool of avocado-lime-cilantro puree, and it was simply incredible. Possibly the best octopus I’ve ever eaten.
Once the octopus was out of the way, we got back to our wine, and from there on it was smooth sailing. Our mains arrived: duck with gnocchi for me, arctic char with lentils for Jon. My duck was served very rare and lightly flavored with 5 spice, and it was delicious – but it also came with a little glop of what tasted like goat cheese butter, and a small tower of ricotta gnocchi pressed together with chunks of roasted beet and apple. It was supposed to have butternut squash in there, but maybe they ran out?
Jon seemed to enjoy his char. It was perched on a dark pool of lentils strongly flavored with za’atar, which also provided an interesting crunch.
This was dessert: a sour cherry tart with fresh thyme, buttermilk ice cream and black pepper creme anglaise. I liked it quite a lot, although I admit I’m a sucker for buttermilk ice cream.
By the time we finished, the room had completely filled up with Canucks fans eating moules frites. We made our escape through the crowd, feeling very well taken care of.