Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Irish Heather - Long Table Series

I attended my first Long Table dinner at Gastown's Irish Heather a few weeks ago. Affordably priced at $16 per meal (which includes a pint of local craft beer), these events reflect owner Sean Heather's nostalgic affinity for the traditional and communal "sunday dinners" of yore. In an Occidental world of conveyor-belt sushi, take out suppers, and latchkey kids, it is refreshing to find a business that is promoting casual, communal dinners...with a fine dining twist.

I have always liked Gastown's Irish Heather, but their regular menu is fairly average with its focus on British pub fare. The Long Table menu features a rotating selection of meals - independent from the standard Irish Heather menu - which include roast suckling pig with rosemary apple sauce, leg of lamb with turnips and kale, and braised pork hocks with homemade sauerkraut. There are about four Long Table events every week, and the ever-changing menu items are posted the Irish Heather's Long Table blog

We booked places for the turkey dinner, and were impressed with the speedy service and generous portions. Upon making our reservation, I pictured a single chef removing several cumbersome birds from a giant oven and slowly carving each carcass while forty hungry patrons waited impatiently at the (long) table, making awkward chit-chat to distract themselves from their grumbling tummies. This was not how it went down. After downing a few pints of Blue Buck in the Irish Heather, we were summoned to the long table in the adjoining room and were immediately served a pint a of beer. The turkey, with the customary stuffing and mashed potatoes, arrived but a few minutes later, a crew of four chefs having plated the fowl as us diners took our first sips of the hoppy Riptide Pale Ale (from Lighthouse Brewing) placed before us. It was a great meal and a fun night out, although I didn't really make new friends within this communal setting. I hope I didn't let Sean down.    

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Omakase at Tojo's

I am experiencing a deep feeling of satisfaction right now. I finally dined at Tojo's, as one of the final meals I had with my co-workers at Lattimer Gallery. I have really wanted to eat at this Vancouver institution for over three years, but have never found an excuse to shell out $25 per uramaki. Tojo did, however, invent the California roll! 

We went all-out and ordered the omakase, or chef's menu, which included: tuna tataki with ponzu, various rolls, octopus salad, seared coho with Spring vegetables, a rustic stewed bluefin dish, and Tojo's signature suntan tuna. It was outstanding. I am not sure, however, that I would order omakase again now that I know the menu and have been at the delightful mercy of Tojo himself. While all of the dishes that we tried were unique and interesting, I don't think that I would order them myself if they were individual items on a menu (I'm talking to you, stewed bluefin). As ridiculous and frivolous as it sounds, I now feel like I can die a happy man. Actually...I do still want to have kids and climb Mount Kilimanjaro, so it is more appropriate for me to say that I can now die a "moderately content" man.

Keywords: "Tojo's Vancouver", "Alex Dawkins", "Best Japanese Vancouver"