When my friend Gil* phoned to see if we needed a reservation to dine at West Vancouver’s Feast Restaurant on a recent Sunday evening, he was told not to worry as there were lots of tables available. The hostess took his name down anyway, just in case.
When we arrived just after 7 p.m. there was precisely one table left and we were able to take our seats amidst the bustle and din of a rollicking meal service. Feast was getting positively pummeled, a scant three-person front-of-house team (including the aforementioned hostess) coping with a sudden, unexpected dinner rush. I can just imagine the breakneck pace that was required of the kitchen to keep up.
Being a guest caught in the middle of a manic dinner rush is not innately a problem, but the quality of the experience will invariably boil down to one thing: how does the restaurant cope? In Feast’s case, the answer was: exceptionally well. In fact, if Feast’s owner, Geoffroy Roulleau (who took the restaurant over from its original operators at the beginning of 2017 and has taken it to greater heights since then) is reading this column, you should know, Sir, that you had the Dream Team on shift that night.
You see, I have no problem settling in for a longer than expected dinner experience provided the service remains attentive. For Gil and me, a few extra minutes for an appetizer or a water refill is not a big deal if communication from the service team remains diligent.
And diligent it was. Immediately after being seated we were approached by the manager, who relayed the night’s specials and took our cocktail order. A moment later, our server (who turned out to be the bartender, too) came by to offer water and discuss the wine list. Another moment later the hostess brought bread and amuse-bouches. There was strong, intuitive professionalism at play here, establishing an attentive tone early on; at no point during our nearly three-hour dinner did we feel neglected or wanting.
As I initially reviewed the menu, I sipped a White Negroni ($12), a nice twist on one of my favourite drinks, made here with vanilla-infused gin, citrusy and aromatic Luxardo bitter bianco liqueur, and white vermouth. Gil tried the Fizzy Feast ($9), made with pisco, elderflower liqueur, and fresh lemon, all topped off with Cava. While refreshing, his drink was a touch too perfumed for my taste, though Gil enjoyed it.
First to arrive from the kitchen were amuse-bouches of four cheese and sausage tartlets, which looked like miniature pies. The bite-sized pastry shell had a distinct sweetness that added an unusual dimension to the otherwise savoury creation. From there, we opted to share a couple of appetizers, beginning with a well-made classic, Beef Carpaccio ($18). Brilliantly red rounds of thinly shaved, lean smoked beef were topped with a rich drizzle of lemon and Dijon aioli, salty fried capers, and fresh arugula. The beef was melt-in-the-mouth buttery in texture and boasted considerable depth of flavour, its smokiness pronounced but not overwhelming. The capers were a smart and necessary element, adding just the right hit of salt on the back palate when taken with each bite.
Next up was a textural trip of a dish, grilled garlic bread with a house-made ball of burrata ($18) that was at once softly oozing and whimsically elastic. I couldn’t help but think my youngest would have enjoyed playing with it and I must confess to having fought back my own urge to pick up and squish the non-Newtonian appetizer between my fingers. Alas, decorum prevailed and I instead enjoyed the ultra fresh cheese smeared atop dense, nicely charred sourdough bread.
For main courses we committed a cardinal sin of restaurant reviewing by both ordering the same thing, the far-too-tempting Bison Tenderloin, an outstanding and, as it happens, highly recommended dish of smoky charcoal rubbed, lean bison steak (supplied by Feast’s next door neighbour Sebastian & Co. Fine Meats) served with potato gnocchi, a ribbon of silken celeriac puree, and a deeply flavoured demi-glace. Not mentioned in the menu description but representing great additions to the dish, were mushrooms and a mound of delicious wilted kale that to my palate seemed to be gently flavoured with maple.
The medium rare bison’s natural flavour was subtle, so the charcoal rub was a clever innovation, adding complexity and depth to the dish, while the pillowy gnocchi provided a good counterpoint to the succulent meat. While still an investment by most dining standards, the $32 bison dish was generously portioned and, relative to so many local restaurants where today signature steak dishes are priced well north of $40, Feast’s striking dish represented good value, in my opinion. I also feel like the dish fits thematically with the Feast esthetic, the self-dubbed Neighbourhood Table restaurant dripping with rustic charm, its reclaimed wooden panel wall, knotted communal table, and worn metal light fixtures evoking a sort of farmhouse warmness and approachable authenticity.
We enjoyed the heavy hitting Fortissimo red blend from South Okanagan producer La Stella with our steaks. The wine is a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, and reveals a solid backbone of tannin and acidity balanced by ripe stone fruit and integrated oak.
We finished our meal with an outstanding, rich and rewarding Espresso and Chocolate Pot de Crème ($6) and a fairly straightforward Vanilla Crème Brulee ($10.50).
Feast Restaurant, 2423 Marine Drive, Dundarave. Feastdining.ca. 604-922-1155.
(*Gil’s real name will continue to be protected for the sake of reservation-making anonymity. I have assigned him this pseudonym as it is a shortened version of Gilbaka, a type of fish that features in his native Guyanese cuisine, to which I am periodically treated by his mom, who operates under the impression that I am a good boy deserving of such consideration).