Last night, Akemi and I met up with Simon and Sean for dinner at a restaurant I’ve been eager to check out for quite some time: Wildebeest. According to the restaurant’s website, its focus is on “Meat-centric, off-cut farmhouse fare simply prepared with immaculate ingredients and thoughtful creativity”, reminiscent of L.A.’s Animal and Toronto’s Black Hoof, two other places I’ve been dying to try.
the recent snowfall Vancouver’s inept drivers we gave ourselves plenty of time, leaving the house one full hour ahead of our 6:00 p.m. reservation and arriving fifteen minutes early. Surprisingly, Simon also erred the side of caution and showed up at the same time. Sean, unfortunately, ended up stuck in traffic and didn’t get there until 6:30 – so we went ahead and made the executive dinner decisions.
To be honest, I wanted to try pretty much everything on the menu. As Akemi put it, it would have been far simpler to just tell our waiter what we DIDN’T want from the listed items. In the end, we decided to go with a few starters, a few mains, and a few sides. This is how our meal broke down:
Pork schnitzel with Wildebeest mustard
The pork was perfectly prepared, crisp and succulent, and the Wildebeest mustard (honey dijon) made for a great dipping accompaniment. Simon, however, wasn’t totally sold on the coating.
Bacon-wrapped country pate with pistachio, seasonal jam, and pickled vegetables.
Wonderfully rustic, studded with pistachio and hazelnuts. Akemi, with a taste for the slightly sour, polished off the pickled veggies.
Popcorn chicken hearts, crispy shallot dust, caper relish.
One of the more intriguing plates of the night. I liked it but didn’t love it. Hearts are tricky at the best of times, predisposed to being a little tough, and deep-frying them renders them that much chewier.
Grilled beef tongue, wild mushroom consomme, toasted grains, mustard greens.
While Akemi prefers her tongue crispier and thinly sliced, Simon and I marveled over its mouth-meltingly tender texture here. The broth was outstanding.
Roasted sweetbreads, caramelized buttermilk, wild mushrooms, porcini vinaigrette.
I’ll got ahead and call this my favorite dish of the night. A nice contrast of tastes and textures – crisp, tender, sweet and savory. Probably the best preparation of the sweetbreads I’ve ever had.
Pork jowl, long pepper-scented oats, bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup.
I know you’d think I’d be a belly guy but, in truth, my favorite part of the pig is the jowl (with the temple coming in a close second). You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more tender cut and Wildebeest’s take does it full justice.
Sunchokes and brussel sprouts.
An addition to the regular menu. I liked the preparation but found the sunchokes underdone.
Slow-cooked natural Angus beef short rib, smoked salt, hay-infused jus.
Heavily marbled but deliciously smokey.
Poutine, roasted foie gras.
I’m used to the Au Pied de Cochon version which is a lot heavier on the foie, but this one was a consensus winner – surprisingly, less so for the foie than for the crunchy yet meaty golden fries.
Foie gras torchon, Earl Grey tea, orange blossom bread.
This one was a late addition. As much as I enjoy a good pate or a pan-seared preparation, nothing beats a good torchon. And Wildebeest does a damn good one.
We decided to run the table on dessert, ordering all four on the menu…
Pink Lady apple sorbet, vanilla grapefruit creme anglaise, granola, 63C egg yolk.
This was the dessert I was most looking forward to, less so for the fruit elements (of course) than for the inclusion of the 63 degree egg yolk. In the end, I didn’t love it – although Akemi did.
Cardamom & goat’s milk cheesecake, quince sorbet, crumble.
This one was the hands down winner. The cheesecake is almost a foam – light, airy, very tasty. I was not a fan of the quince sorbet, its fizzy tartness reminiscent for me of slightly turned apple juice, but Akemi loved it.
Single origin Malumi chocolate cake, tonka bean ice cream, candied beets.
I was dubious about the candied beets when I saw them on the menu and, quite honestly, in the end, they failed to convince me. Still, they fell somewhere in between the tonka ice cream (great) and the cake itself (disappointingly dry).
Composed cheese – baked farmhouse brie, seasonal fruit jam, buttermilk ice cream.
Well, I’ll give them points for trying. Brie with buttermilk ice cream? At first blush it sounds a little off-putting but, after giving it some thought, it sounds like it may work. It didn’t for me.
The kitchen at work
A few minor quibbles with our savory courses but there were at least three or four standout dishes I would recommend to a friend or look forward to on my return visit. The desserts, on the other hand, while interesting failed to impress.
The atmosphere is laid back; comfortably casual. The service was terrific, friendly and informative. And the price point was a surprise, roughly half what you’d expect to pay elsewhere for a similar meal in the city!
Overall, an excellent dinner. I look forward to coming back to try that roasted bone marrow luge with almond butter and tomato jam.
This was a farewell feast for Simon who heads of to greener – and no doubt tastier – international culinary pastures.
Bon Voyage and Bon Appetit!
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