I admit I am not the biggest fan of Daniel Boulud and refuse to 'worship' him like so many other people seem to be doing as his food and restaurants have been beyond disappointing to date. Further more I am disappointed that his New York restaurant 'Daniel' seems to be climbing higher on the 'Worlds 50 Best Restaurants' list because my visit a few months ago was quite disappointing. With this in mind, I still find it hard to resist a visit to one of Vancouvers top restaurants Lumiere, where native Canadian Chef Dale MacKay heads up the kitchen. No stranger to the London restaurant scene, MacKay has worked at the jewel in the Gordon Ramsay restaurant empire, 'Restaurant Gordon Ramsay' at Royal Hospital Road, as well as Maze and Claridges; so this is most definitely a Chef who has worked hard at his craft. Anyone who serves time under Ramsay deserves a medal and, in some cases, the chance to run his own kitchen and so I grew more eager to try Lumiere for myself.
The restaurant is an intimate dining room offering no more than 40 covers; tastefully decorated with bronze alligator patterned banquette seating and ornate light fixtures that drop from the ceiling. Having learned my lesson from my gastro-tour of New York, I steer clear of 7 and 9 course menus and instead opt for a comparably sensible 5 course menu for my meal. An amuse bouch of clear gelee of tomato essence with an avocado cream and piquillo pepper puree cleanses my palate with a gentle hit of acidity and it is followed by the first course of Watermelon and Dungeoness Crab Salad with a Horchata Sorbet and Shiso Cress. Whilst I love both crab and watermelon, I didn't feel the two worked particularly well together. The watermelon proved to be too sweet for the delicate crab meat and in my opinion overpowered it somewhat; a little acidity courtesy of some lime juice would have improved it greatly for my palate. The 'Horchata' sorbet made me chuckle. 'Horchata' is a Mexican rice milk drink flavoured with cinnamon and it's presence in this particular dish baffled me somewhat but luckily its flavour was rather more subtle than usual.
Roasted Qualicum Bay Scallops with Fennel, Avocado and Black Garlic Jus is another interesting combination. Fearing that the fennel may overpower the delicate white flesh of the scallop, I take my first bite and instantly my fear is unfounded as each mouthful is a true pleasure; the juicy sweetness of the scallop with just a hint of aniseed from the wafer thin shavings of acidulated fennel compliment each other perfectly and the black garlic jus make for a deliciously sticky sauce that is perfect with the scallop and fennel combination.
A 'surprise' course arrives and I am told it is a dish that has literally just been perfected and that they wanted me to try (I love this kind of stuff) A ravioli of locally grown Pemberton sweetcorn with Girolle mushrooms; Not knowing what to expect, I take a bite and a creamy, sweet puree or corn bursts in my mouth, delivering the fragrant and sweet pungency of wonderfully ripe corn. I cannot tell you how delicious these little raviolo are; I would literally be happy to eat this dish by itself because it is sheer perfection and the ultimate comfort food. Its simplicity is staggering and the filling delivers such a concentrated flavour of the sweetest corn that it is quite simply mind-blowing, especially when corn is such a humble ingredient.
Next comes a herb-crusted halibut served with black trumpet mushrooms, white asparagus, cherry tomatoes and lobster jus with a little nugget of lobster meat. The plate is a little busy and there are slightly too many flavours for me but the brilliantly white halibut flesh is a visually-pleasing contrast to the bright green crust that adorns it and the fish is cooked to melting perfection. Admittedly fish isnt always my favourite course and sadly this is no exception as I felt it lacked the lustre of its former courses, but it was nice enough and didn't offend my palate in any way.
A duo of AAA Prime Beef with Red Wine Braised Short Rib, Potato Fondant, Seared Rib Eye and Romaine Parcel follows the Halbut and by this time I am already beginning to get incredibly full but the boneless rib of beef is cooked to perfection and topped with a stripe of fiery black pepper that does much to 'awaken' my senses. The red wine braised short rib was incredibly rich and delicious but a tad too rich when you have had so much to eat (the pasta may have tipped me over the edge) and I found the potato fondant to be just ok but I was not a fan of the Romaine lettuce parcel which had managed to somehow become rather bitter and unpleasant in all its wilted glory.
Dessert soon followed and the last thing I would crave after such a rich meal would be chocolate and sure enough that is exactly what arrived. A rich Chocolate Fondant
with Caramel and Hazelnut Nougatine Ice Cream extravagantly topped with 24 karat gold leaf. In all fairness it was probably one of the best fondants I have ever had. The melted centre came pouring out like a BP oil spill in a thick, unctuous slick of chocolate but I found the caramel ice cream to be one step too far on the 'sweet scale'; perhaps it was because I was stuffed or maybe just because I find caramel too sickly for my taste and I would have preferred something less sweet like a simple vanilla. Luckily I had a rather nice locally produced Riesling dessert wine to wash it all down with, giving me the desired acidity that I had so been longing for.
Just when I thought I couldn't possibly manage another bite, Boulud's traditional petit fours and mignardises arrive... Which I could have almost refused were it not for the most featherlight 'Madeleines' I had ever tasted in my entire life, which luckily are made to the same exacting recipe and have been the one consistently good item at all the Boulud establishments I have dined at.
Overall, I was extremely impressed when truthfully I didn't think I would be. The food was fantastic and although for my personal taste, some courses were a tad more 'miss' than 'hit', the majority were really very good and the scallops and the sweetcorn ravioli really stood out to me at the true stars of the meal. So it's not all bad at Boulud... Now if only Chef Dale MacKay would transport his his restaurant and team to London, I could die a happy girl because the meal I had here in Vancouver was a truly memorable one and I'm sad that I have to fly 10 hours if I ever want to experience it again. Lumiere is a beacon of light in an otherwise dark restaurant group that lacks any major spark... If you are ever in Vancouver, I would highly recommend you add it to your list of culinary destinations.
Lumiere - 2551 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC
Tel: 001 (604) 739 8185