Friday, January 15, 2010

Retro Nu Needs Renewal

Nu opened in 2005 as the third tentacle of the culinary cephalopod that is Vancouver's Harry Kambolis Restaurnt Group. With C and Raincity Grill doing well in a town that adores seafood and oceanviews, Kambolis took a risk by a) opening a dining establishment forty feet away from C and b) renting a space that is known for its high turnover rather than its apple turnover (or albacore turnover in this instance?). I read about Nu when it opened, and recently heard about Executive Chef Robert Clark's attempt at providing a 100-Mile Menu, so I supported this restaurant's bid in hosting our annual Christmas work dinner.

I have noted in previous reviews that one should always be cautious of restaurants offering amazing views and/or convenient locations, as these draws often result in subpar meals. I should have heeded my own warnings when considering Nu, where it felt like our meals took a backseat to the loungey ambiance, the wonderful waterfront views of False Creek and the borderline gaudy decor. Speaking of seats, Nu has the most uncomfortable seats I have ever parked my rear in. Kambolis went for Saarinenesque cool over lumbar-supporting comfort.

There are some tasteful components to the decor, such as the brass-tiled ceiling and the marble counter tops. There are strong elements to be found in the menu, with its focus on local products and a classic meat n' potatoes format. There are also engaging features found on their website, with its virtual Flash buttons and updated menu specials. BUT...the decor is overdone, the food does not live up to the menu, and the website is choppy and distracting. Nu is like the Ford Pinto of Vancouver restaurants: good parts put together badly.

I did not blow-up whilst dining at Nu, but at least this would have saved me from the crunchy "roasted" seasonal vegetables that were served with my decently prepared bison steak. Other dishes ordered at our table included the duck crepe (tender with a clever presentation), the gnocchi (which disintegrated at the table and were reported to have resembled mashed potatoes rather than Italian dumplings), the beef tenderloin (well cooked and presented but arrived luke warm), the featured frutti de mar (a pleasant but forgettable linguini adorned with mussels, clams and scallops), and the featured poutine appy (which really couldn't hold a fry to any streetside, vendor poutine in Montreal). Everyone seemed content - but not enthralled - with their meals.

Nu is no longer new, and this space may soon be occupied by another ambitious restauranteur who believes he can sail effortlessly and successfully upon the picturesque shores of North False Creek. 

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