West Vancouver is crushing it on the dining front right now. The city is home to some of the most exciting and consistently excellent restaurants on the Shore (including recently reviewed Swad Indian Kitchen and Rive Gauche) and this week’s review subject, Terroir Kitchen, is at the forefront of the scene.
I am ashamed to admit that the experience described below represented only my second visit back to Terroir following my glowing 2016 dinner review of the restaurant in which I proclaimed it the meal of the year. I am ashamed because this infrequency of patronage makes me complicit in a Vancouver phenomenon I frequently lament: What’s New?-ism. What’s New?-ism is the tendency to always seek out the next best thing and promptly forget about the great offerings that already exist. It’s ironic to use a place like Terroir as a benchmark against which new restaurants are evaluated, but then not support Terroir with my business. Restaurants survive on patronage, not reviews or warm and fuzzy memories. When so many other venues come up short when measured against disciplined, uncompromising restaurants like Terroir, it behooves all of us who consider ourselves informed diners to return to the stalwarts now and then, between our forays to the latest flashy, on-trend hotspots.
I made my way to Terroir on a vehemently rainy recent weeknight with long-time dining buddy Gil. We meandered to dinner, starting downtown at a bustling happy hour spot and stopping at a few venues along the way, eventually turning up at Terroir, without reservations, at around 8 p.m. This is still considered a late night dining experience in West Vancouver, I’m afraid, and the last of the hyper-concentrated dinner rush was shoving off as we were seated. It didn’t matter; we ended up having the run of the place and our server, who had an absolutely impeccable sense of pacing, afforded us the indulgence of some breathing room between courses, between sips of wine, and between bouts of conversation. He had an organic rapport with the kitchen line, manned on our visit by Terroir executive chef and owner Faizal Kassam, firing each course in our predictably comprehensive menu tasting at just the right time to keep our meal casual and comfortable.
It is indeed a benefit whenever the chef of a restaurant cooks your dinner, even more so when that chef owns the place. It typically means that dishes are meticulously executed according the restaurant’s vision and that nothing will leave the line that is not 100 per cent up to standards. Such was the case during our meal, which was comprised of no fewer than seven dishes.
Terroir’s menu is divided into three parts: Small Share Plates (ranging in price from $17 to $24), Bigger Share Plates (priced from $25 to $32, with a six-piece rack of lamb serving as an extreme outlier at $82), and Additions, a selection of side dishes like chilled beets with mascarpone, Brussels sprouts with bacon and soffritto, or crispy fingerling potatoes with smoked paprika, priced between $8 and $11.
We stuck to Small Plates, hoping to leave room for dessert. The first off the line was Charred Octopus with orange and potato salad and Nduja salami, a heady Spanish pork sausage. The octopus, which was tender and delicate in texture, was deeply seared, resulting in a nice smoky caramelization. The citrusy salad was a good match, and the boldly flavoured salami, which seemed to form part of the foundational sauce at the bottom of the plate, added complexity and spice.
Next up was a perfect autumnal dish of fresh pappardelle, wide, wavy noodles topped with chanterelle mushrooms, thyme, garlic, butter, lemon, parsley, and thin shavings of sharp, salty grana Padano. This was a hearty appetizer and a good value at $19; chanterelles are a seasonal culinary treasure and command hefty price tags wherever they are found. Here, the mild flavour of the mushrooms was enhanced but not overwhelmed by the citrusy, herbaceous notes of the other ingredients.
Following the pappardelle was an order of bone marrow, a dish I tried on my first visit and one I am very glad has remained on the menu. A sizeable beef bone is split into halves, each containing generous portions of fatty, deeply roasted marrow, accompanied by a refreshing apple and parsley slaw, Maldon salt, and slices of grilled focaccia. Marrow is not everyone’s bag, I understand, as the fattiness and exceptionally rich, feels-like-you’re-doing-something-wrong decadence of it cannot be escaped.
That said, for me the dish is a rare indulgent treat and one I seek a couple times a year. Gil and I shared a bottle of Karasakiz, a light bodied Turkish red wine from the grape of the same name hailing from the producer Sulva in the Gallipoli Peninsula. The wine is food friendly with a balanced acidic structure that helped cut through the marrow’s innate richness.
A final appetizer of Beef Cheeks, braised for 12 hours in red wine, was melt in the mouth tender and eminently satisfying, lifted by the complex flavours of celeriac, truffle, and grilled radicchio.
Three desserts followed (in for a penny, in for a pound, I guess), including a wedge of incredibly creamy and impossibly lush triple-cream style cheese from Burgundy (Chateau de Bourgogne), served with poached pear; in a perfect world in which I was immune to the health hazards of this sort of indulgence, I would roll out of bed in the morning, grab a spoon, and tuck into a bucket of this cheese, maybe with a baguette in the other hand. A crass fantasy, to be sure, but this is amazing stuff.
A dulce de leche flavoured Pot de Crème was exquisitely tasty as well, the custard revealing a silken texture and deep caramel flavour. A seventh and final dish, truly unnecessary but rewarding, was the Chocolate Pave, a glimmeringly moist cake-like confection overloaded with chocolate and served with toasted hazelnuts and Aperol cream.
Looking over this meal description it is clear that I was making up for lost time. Moving forward, I won’t leave so long between visits to Terroir.
Terroir Kitchen, 2232 Marine Dr., West Vancouver. 604-922-9266. terroirkitchen.com.