Friday, 5 October 2012

Culinary Finesse

Stone fruit panzanella was a good start to the meal
One of Vancouver's top restaurants is Hawksworth in the Hotel Georgia complex downtown.

The Parma hame came with burrata cheese and tomatoes
Previously in the kitchen at West in South Granville, David Hawksworth has refined his cooking style and blossomed with the opening of his own restaurant over a year ago.

And then he met Hong Kong socialite and restaurateur Bonnie Gokson, who brought him to Hong Kong to show off his culinary chops at SEVVA this past spring.

He impressed many diners there including myself with his playful combination of flavours artfully decorated on the plate.

Yellowfin tuna ceviche was a delightful appetizer
Most memorable was the vivid green pea risotto and truffle, and the roasted sablefish with dungeness crab and pea tendrils.

So when I was back in Vancouver I had to try his dishes in his own place.

The restaurant is very sophisticated, but not snobbish, lots of smartly-dressed waiters walking briskly through the dining areas. We liked the chandelier in the middle of the room we were in, and impressed by the large walk-in cellar filled with the brim with bottles.

Before our meal began we were not given a bread basket, but an amuse bouche of heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, parma ham and cubes of crispy polenta. It was a pretty hearty portion and could have been an appetiser in itself.

The Yarrow Meadows duck breast accompanied with figs
Then came our starters, the stone fruit panzanella ($14) was a beautiful mix of greens in a light vinaigrette. The dish had a kick thanks to the thin slices of jalapeno mixed with the greens, minted pea, charred fennel and piave.

Another favourite was the yellowfin tuna ceviche ($17) that was very refreshing and came with avocado, crispy amaranth, pecans and cilantro. The chunks of tuna were smooth sleek pieces that practically melted in the mouth.

Finally the cioppino ($17) or fish stew was a hearty soup that included such ingredients as dungeness crab, Manila clams and crispy bread for texture.

As we waited for our mains we watched the atmosphere of the other tables around us. Some were vacated and then replaced by new diners, a table of women laughed gregariously enjoying their Friday evening.

A main course of slow cooked rack of pork
The mains were more culinary pieces of art. A new addition to the menu is the Yarrow Meadows duck breast ($38) with endives, figs and jus. The layer of fat between the skin and meat was practically negligible, very tender and juicy. However the accompanying celeriac duck confit press seemed out of place and too salty.

Meanwhile the slow cooked rack of pork ($34) was also delicious, accompanied by a bed of polenta, fennel sausage and charred apricots, a good complement to the meat.

Finally the grilled sturgeon ($32) was a lighter fare, hidden beneath wedges of summer squash, puffed saffron and mint.

Grilled sturgeon with summer squash, puffed saffron and mint
Practically sated already, we also decided to try the chocolate fondant ($10) for dessert that looked like a gourmet chocolate bar with a crumble base and a silky smooth intensely-flavoured chocolate mousse on top. It came with some light meringue chips, orange sorbet and hazelnuts.

Service for the most part was fantastic, our server not too far away from us at all times and as soon as any diner got up, the wait staff always assumed (correctly) he or she needed guidance to the washrooms. It's this anticipation and the knowledgeable staff that makes the entire dining experience so memorable and enjoyable.

Hawksworth is definitely doing some good things here and hopefully he'll be doing this for a long time yet.

Chocolate fondant with orange sorbet, meringue and hazelnuts
801 West Georgia Street
(604) 673 7000

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