Archive for August, 2011
As a child, my parents would often bring my brother and I here for lunch over the summer, on warm sunny days when it was a treat to sit outside and marvel at the beautiful view of the water and mountains. It seems that all of The Boathouse restaurants have lovely views, and that’s probably one of the things that draws people to the restaurant. I have to admit that, being influenced by the sunny weather and clear blue sky one day, I suggested to Emme that we visit The Boathouse in Horseshoe Bay… simply because I wanted to bask in the sunshine and enjoy the setting. We had tried to go to it on a different day and been turned away, with words from the waitress telling us of a two-hour. However, on this occasion, Emme and I went early enough that we avoided any lines and were given a table right away by the window.
The first and probably most obvious feature worth mentioning about the Boathouse is that it has a spectacular setting. You have a clear view of Horseshoe Bay and the beautiful mountain scenery – and everything lights up and is coloured a lovely orange hue at sunset. It really is quite a stunning view. The main reason I wanted to go, as I mentioned before, was just for the setting. I suppose it can be more or less of a draw, depending on how much you choose to be influenced by the weather. In any case, we were glad to have the setting we wanted… although we both noticed that many people in the dining room that night had less-than-acceptable table manners.
Out waiter was friendly enough and fairly knowledgeable about the menu. Just when I had decided on getting one of the specials of the day – which I actually can’t recall exactly anymore – he returned to our table informing us that they couldn’t serve it. Both Emme and I were kind of in disbelief… You don’t have your own special of the day? What do you mean?! Why is it even listed as a special then, or listed on the menu at all, if you can’t serve it? He said they didn’t have the fish for it. Riiight… That did not really start off the dining experience well, but I chose something else and Emme was lucky enough to get served exactly what she asked for.
The Maple Roasted Chicken that Emme picked ended up being quite a good choice. The mashed potatoes, she claimed, were really the highlight of the meal, what with a wonderful fluffy texture and pleasing, but not over-powering, garlicky aroma. The chicken itself was very good; succulent and sweet from the maple, with some fresh and dried herbs adding new dimensions of flavour. This dish was a hit.
I wish I could say the same for my dish. The Seafood Grill that I ended up getting instead of the special of the day was, despite a light sprinkling of dried herbs (chives?), very bland overall. The seafood chunks (shrimp, salmon, and scallops) looked like they had been marinated… but upon tasting there was no hint of the sauce. The salmon was tough and chewy, and the shrimp a bit rubbery. The scallops were the best part, what with their subtle sweetness. Thankfully they escaped the perils of overcooking that the shrimp and the salmon suffered. The spaghetti squash upon which the skewers rested was… well, okay I suppose. It didn’t taste like anything, which is really the problem. Any sort of additional sauce probably would have done wonders to enhance some of the flavours of the dish.
At the end of the meal, Emme and I were waiting for our evening tea to arrive… and the waiter, rushing crazily towards our table with two boiling hot teapots and two teacups precariously perched in the crook of one elbow, ended up actually spilling a good deal of hot water on my bag (which I hung from the side of my chair), the table, and actually a bit on my [napkin covered] lap, too. I tried to brush it off, just being grateful that I wasn’t scalded by the hot water, but Emme was quite taken aback… and probably with good reason. After spilling and splashing hot water everywhere, the waiter didn’t apologise or come back to clean up the spills. He gave a light-hearted “Whoops!”, dropped the pots and cups to the table, and took off again, not to be seen for another twenty minutes. Even before this incident, though, the service throughout our meal had been… nonexistent. Perhaps this would have been more forgivable if it had been busy, but the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t. At all.
On our way out, we also noticed that a lot of the food was not truly “fresh”… or, should I say, not “cooked to order”. A huge amount of dishes were already cooked and being hot-held under the hoods of grills in the kitchen. Also, there were a couple of buckets of condiments by the pick-up area where servers grab dishes (for toppings like chives, or cheese, etc.) and we saw – repeatedly – servers just grabbing condiments with their bare hands to throw on dishes. Maybe I shouldn’t have been as bothered by that, but… how often do servers wash their hands? It just didn’t seem very sanitary. At the very least, the chefs should be putting those final touches on dishes – not the servers.
I wish I could say better things about the Boathouse – and this one in particular, since I’ve got good childhood memories involving the place – but this one dining experience was a flop. The Maple Roasted Chicken was great, but the seafood dish – which should have been the Boathouse’s strong point, in terms of food – was overcooked and underseasoned. The ambiance suffered only because of the type of other diners around, but is otherwise fantastic on a sunny day or warm summer evening when you can sit on the patio. The service was… questionable, to say the least. Definitely not the best. And value? Well, the Boathouse is classed as one of those supposedly “upscale” restaurants (like Joey restaurants, Moxie’s. or Earl’s type restaurants are supposed to be) so it wasn’t cheap. For a less than satisfying meal, I can’t say that I got the most bang out of my buck. Emme’s dish, on the other hand, was a better deal… But other choices on the menu also seemed a bit overpriced for what they were offering. Portion sizes are skimpy, and if you finish hungry like both Emme and I did, you’re probably better off going somewhere else for a more filling meal.
It was just over two years ago when Emme first came to know about Takumi. Checking out The Georgia Straight one week to see what was going on around Vancouver, she found a review in the dining section for a classy Japanese restaurant in a far flung location in West Vancouver. Whoever the author was, they bestowed Takumi with the highest praises and called them one of the best – if not the best – places to grab quality Japanese fare in Vancouver, what with their selection of imported seafood and crew of experienced chefs in the kitchen. Seeing as it was so far, however, Emme and I never paid a visit. The prices certainly did not provide any motivation to go and give the place a try. However two years later, we “stumbled” back across it on a trip back from Horseshoe Bay. After not being able to get into The Boathouse for a bite to eat, our empty stomachs prompted us to stop in and finally put Takumi to the test.
The restaurant was empty when we entered, so we picked our table of preference and sat by the window. The hostess was brusque, almost to the point of being rude, which surprised us as usually service at authentic Japanese restaurants is absolutely top-of-the-line in terms of friendliness and speed. It didn’t put us off, in any case (well, we were hungry and not really willing to wait until we reached Ambleside or Dundarave to seek out more restaurants…), and luckily our actual waitress was much friendlier… although not Japanese. No matter; we knew the chefs were experienced Japanese masters – at least, according to The Georgia Straight’s review from two years ago.
The ambiance of the restaurant is really quite nice, which makes sense since it’s in quite an isolated spot and is well-lit by natural light streaming in through some large windows at one end of the dining area. The music was turned down low, which we appreciated, and provided only some gentle background noise – enough to break the silence. The décor feels very high class, with seemingly expensive chairs and tables, quality cloth napkins instead of your standard tissue/paper ones, and a tastefully done interior. If not for the chopsticks on the table, you might not be able to guess that it was a Japanese restaurant.
I kicked off dinner with some Japanese Assorted Pickles, or known as oshinko moriawase in other Japanese restaurants. An easy dish; difficult, if not impossible, to mess up, right? That’s what I thought. Where can you go wrong? Use store bought pickles that have that weird synthetic taste to them. Also, it was definitely clear that they serve more “fusion”-type Japanese, even as early on in the meal as this. I’ve never been served pickled lettuce as a part of a set of Japanese pickles… Also, the actual pickles (i.e. the pickled cucumber) tasted funny, as though it wasn’t actually cucumber. The takuan tasted okay, although the neon yellow hue was off-putting. I was happy to have lots of katsuobushi to mask some of the funky pickled cucumber taste, in the end.
Always the seaweed lover – and usually the only one at the table – I also got the Mozuku Kelp, or mozuku-su. The menu describes it as having a “sweet vinaigrette sauce”. I expected a mixture of sweet and sour, as one would expect with a vinaigrette (sour from the vinegar and sweet from whatever else was added to it), but this vinaigrette was just… plain… sweet. My first mozuku-su, over a year ago, was far too vinegary and made me wince from the sourness. This one made me wince from the tooth-aching sweetness. However, I will say that the presentation was gorgeous and the small bits of kiwi and ginger were very nice garnishes. I imagine the kiwi would have worked really well to offset sourness one would usually get from a vinaigrette, so I’m guessing that was the intention. It certainly would have been the case if the dressing hadn’t been so sweet itself! The freshly grated ginger gave a nice kick to the dish, though.
Deviating from her typical order of beef teriyaki, Emme instead opted for Chicken Teriyaki – probably because it was ten dollars cheaper than the only available beef teriyaki on the menu! (They offer wagyu beef teriyaki, but no “standard beef” teriyaki.) Although we were the only ones in the restaurant, our main dishes took a really long time to come out. I think we waited about twenty minutes after I had finished my appetizers to actually take the first bites of our main courses.
Anyway… To be blunt, the chicken teriyaki was not good. The chicken had most obviously not been trimmed, as unappetizing globs of fat were aplenty in the chicken and the chicken was actually lukewarm instead of hot. There was also a lot of rubbery skin. Yes, roasted chicken skin can be delicious. This was not. Also, although I’m sure the sauce is house-made or something, it did not have a particularly good texture or have nice “mouth-feel” to it. There was a strange, synthetic after-taste as well. The veggies and fried piece of unidentified matter on the side? The veggies were obviously not fresh. They were mushy and gross. They seemed like they had been pre-frozen and them steamed to death… And the potatoes, Emme claimed, were the worst she’d had in years. I don’t know whether or not they actually came from a real potato, since I refused to try any after hearing Emme confidently state that the potatoes had come from one of those instant-side-of-mashed-potatoes-type packages you can find in grocery stores, next to “Hamburger Helpers” or whatever. I’ve never had reconstituted potatoes (and hadn’t heard of them up until that point… My mother always cooked food from scratch when I was young) but Emme seemed 100% sure of her statement… Perhaps we will never know the truth. As for the fried thingy: Emme couldn’t tell what it was, either. The breading was extremely thick and the inside was flavourless.
Unlike Emme’s dish, my Yosenabe came out steaming hot and initially inedible due to the incredible heat. After the tiny appetizers and an already long wait, this kind of annoyed me… but I can’t blame the restaurant. It’s supposed to be hot, and it most certainly was. More disappointing than that, however, was that some of the seafood pieces in it seemed to come out as being already overcooked. Since I was hungry and couldn’t eat the broth right away, I decided to fish out the seafood first. The salmon came out chewy and rather unappetizing, since it had lost a good deal of flavour, and the shrimp suffered a similar fate. The rest were not so bad, though – I think there were some crab and squid pieces as well – and the veggies were good. Not too hard to mess up veggies boiled in broth, though, I suppose. Despite my disappointment with the salmon chunks, overall I liked the dish. I would give it a “satisfactory” or “good” rating. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Emme’s meal.
Perhaps we were biased since we went in expecting fantastic food and outstanding hospitality as the review we saw two years ago promised. Perhaps the food and service is better some nights than others, as other recent reviewers of Takumi have said good things about it. Also, neither Emme nor I tried the sushi (we were looking more for satiety that night, and were not willing to dole out loads of cash to get a appetite-satisfying amount of sushi) so I definitely cannot make claims about that. It may very well be that Takumi is more of a place to enjoy traditional and fusion sushi, albeit very pricey. However on this night, we left feeling rather disappointed and agreed that we would probably stick to our standard go-to, “tested and true” Japanese restaurants (e.g. Hitoe Sushi, Hachibei, Kibune Sushi…). In the meantime, maybe someone can clarify to me whether or not we were picking all the wrong dishes and whether we should have only been shooting for the sushi…