Three of the North Shore’s best restaurants, which have all at one time or another enjoyed favourable reviews in these pages and continued patronage by me and those in my immediate sphere of influence, have recently updated their menus.
I hold my breath involuntarily whenever I learn of a new menu at a favourite venue, as there is always the remote possibility that the new dishes, those that usurped my personal favourites, won’t resonate with me as strongly. However, if the hands in the kitchen belong to culinary masters, trepidation is most often soon quelled, as it was for me on my trio of recent visits for this week’s column.
I began my new menu explorations at Swad Indian Kitchen, which topped my Year in Review selections in 2015 and seems to have gained a loyal following since, if midweek volume in the restaurant was any indication. I was a huge fan of Swad’s pan-Indian approach that showcased both classic and contemporary creations drawn from regional influences spanning the entire sub-continent, as well as the restaurant’s warm and refined interior design.
Their new menu, as lengthy and ambitious as the original, retains a few of the dishes that I have grown to love here, including the Bengali Curry featuring seasoned fish in mustard and coconut cream and Swad Palak Kofta, spinach and gram flour dumplings with fresh spinach and cream, but otherwise it is a complete overhaul. New to the menu is the stunning Swad E Lamb, a thick and exceptionally rich curry with a generous portion of boneless, moist, fall-apart-tender chunks of lamb in coconut, curry leaf and toasted spice gravy. The dish was pure magic, elegant but hearty, its sauce the perfect consistency to be mopped up by naan.
Also sampled from the new menu was a fantastic preparation of Gobhi Butter Masala. Florets of the vegetable were battered and cooked until slightly crispy on the outside, then topped with a creamy, spicy tomato and onion sauce. I ordered the Kofta again out of habit and was pleased to find it is still an extraordinary vegetarian dish, an explosion of rousing textures and tastes. Mains at Swad are around $18, on average.
The restaurant is located on Marine Drive near 17th Street in West Vancouver. swadindiankitchen.ca
Next up was a visit to Tour de Feast, that charming, if sometimes contradictory, diminutive room at the bottom of Mountain Highway between Rupert and Bond streets. Tour de Feast is contradictory in the sense that its modest, unassuming interior, with its bright orange plastic chairs, Formica table tops, paper napkins and home printer menus, does not betray the amazing, elevated contemporary French-influenced West Coast cuisine that issues from its kitchen courtesy of chef and co-owner Dhruv Jhanjee.
Jhanjee clearly has deep knowledge of classic European flavour combinations, a creative streak that shines through in subtle, thoughtful ways (but that he seems to temper in order to allow traditional recipes to shine), and an obvious gift for plating (every dish is immaculately presented). Tour de Feast’s menu actually changes weekly, but you’ll notice that certain preferred fresh and seasonal ingredients appear regularly in any given month.
On my visit, there were four appetizers and four mains from which to choose. I kicked things off with a seafood salad featuring a light and crispy fritter of crab and octopus, crostini with succulent morsels of rare albacore tuna, organic greens in a fresh and tangy vinaigrette, and various avocado “textures,” including puree. As expected, the salad was carefully presented, with ingredients tucked to one side of the plate and slivers of orange pepper, rings of fennel and halves of black olives adding striking colour and artistry.
The fritter was delicious, a nice update to the ubiquitous crab cake that still populates menus across the province, and the tuna was perfectly seasoned and had a lovely pink hue in the centre. My main course, called Market Meat, was truly great and, at $30, was outrageously good value given the quality and size of the dish. A hefty portion of sliced, AAA organic bison flat iron steak was nestled beside a tasty hash of braised venison (the portion of which could have easily been an entrée on its own), little golden ricotta gnocchi, and mushrooms in a creamy peppercorn jus; I hope to see this inspired creation again on Jhanjee’s constantly evolving menu.
As an aside, while it is nice to see Tour de Feast offer a selection of beers from nearby neighbour Bridge Brewing, I feel the restaurant’s wine list needs some guidance and does not, in its current incarnation, befit the calibre of Jhanjee’s food. I appreciate Tour’s devotion to local wines, but there are many other better, more food-friendly, value-priced B.C. bottles than those currently offered here. tourdefeast.com
Finally, it has become a tradition for me to visit celebrated chef-owner Scott Kidd’s Canyon Restaurant in Edgemont Village at the outset of every new season as his menu changes along with them. This time, I stopped in for a quick appetizer, enjoying Clams and Chorizo with Fennel, White Wine and Garlic Butter, a classic combination prepared here with halved grape tomatoes, yielding a lovely, fragrant, briny broth to spoon up after eating the bivalves.
Paired with a glass of ripe and buttery, but still mineral-rich, Buehler Chardonnay, the dish worked a treat. Chef Kidd’s winter menu, nicely suited to this chilly season, features creative, stick-to-your ribs fare like Braised Rabbit Ragu with Lemon and Parmesan Polenta, Peppered Venison Loin with Bacon Braised Lentils, and Scallop Risotto with Artichoke and Crispy Prosciutto. Appetizers average about $15, while mains range from $16 to $39. thecanyon.ca
Chris Dagenais served as a manager for several restaurants downtown and on the North Shore. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. North Shore News dining reviews are conducted anonymously and all meals are paid for by the newspaper.