THERE was a time when eating in a hotel restaurant meant a breakfast of tough, three-day-old croissants, stale Corn Flakes and insipid coffee for breakfast.
Actually, that's still what it often means.
These days though, there is a new breed of hotel restaurant where ingredients and flavour reign; where the dining experience is at least as important as the overnight stay, and you don't have to be a guest at the hotel to get it.
Oru at Fairmont Pacific Rim is just such a place.
When it opened during the Olympics in 2010, the sleek room had ambitious plans to elevate traditional Asian street food, both in quality and in price. The scheme didn't stick - there are too many excellent eateries offering the same dishes for less cash.
This spring, Oru has revamped and relaunched its menu, this time offering an abundance of flavours ranging from those of our own coast, of the French Polynesian Islands, of South America, and yes, of Asia too.
Like any chef worth his (sea) salt, exec chef Darren Brown - who stepped into the role last fall - says he believes in using the best product at the best time and letting it speak for itself.
The strategy is paying off, if the meal dished up during a recent media dinner is any indication.
Sunchoke soup, blessedly creamy, was made with Jerusalem artichokes from Notch Hill Organic Farm in Sorrento, B.C. and topped with a lick of truffle-foamed milk.
Notch Hill also provided the beets that landed on the table next: pickled, poached and made into chutney, drizzled with chimichurri vinaigrette and studded with pungent Cabrales blue cheese.
Asian flavours made their return on an elegant plate of Qualicum Island diver scallops nestled with lardons of salmon smoked in house, sesame sweet peas, cauliflower purée and a tart nudge of preserved lemon.
JoieFarm 2010 unoaked Chardonnay was well matched with all three starters, but hit exactly the right note with the soup, balancing its body with its own, brighter richness.
Pork belly got a tropical treatment with sweet, oven-dried pineapple, maple-mustard glaze, fried sage, pork cracklings, and lotus root purée.
Saké-cured Haida Gwaii sablefish was a standout - succulent as a peach and served with Alaskan salt cod brandade, roasted sunchoke, melted and diced leeks, fennel, and chorizo, and a drizzle of tomato-marin broth.
The elegant, cherried 2009 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir from Oregon played nicely against both.
We finished with a sampling of pastry chef Jason Pitschke's chocolate work: in milk chocolate, Michel Cluizel's Mangaro Lait; and in dark, Valhrona's Alpaco Grand Cru.
The meal added up to an impressive showing from a team not long out of the gate.
There wasn't time or appetite to sample the new Skybar menu (featuring three poutines - short rib, chicken and chorizo or B.C. spot prawn), but I'll put it on the list for my next visit.
Oru is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, and features a separate kids' menu. It's in the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel at 1038 Canada Place, Vancouver; call 604-695-5500 or visit orucuisine.com for information.