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Big Night 2012 showcases top chefs in Vancouver

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Another favorite of mine was Vikram Vij’s goat curry on saffron rice. The goat was cooked to perfection and sat in a thick, fantastically spiced curry. Vij is renowned for having the best Indian food in Vancouver and this dish was a good representation of such. As I stood in line for (yet another) serving of the dish my only complaint was that the serving wasn’t bigger. And by bigger I mean a full sized dish. Slightly embarrassed to be in line again I explained to Vij, “I swear this one is for a friend…” with him and I both knowing very well that it was for me. Flattered I’m sure he even posed for a photo with me as we chatted about the dish and even cracking a joke, “He (the goat) had a wonderful life and one bad day.” Not only is he a wonderful chef, with striking blue eyes, but he has a down to earth personality as well. And it wasn’t just me that loved his cooking as I overheard Pied-a-terre’s chef Andrey Durbach tell him that it was wonderful. It’s nice to see respect and appreciation between chefs in an industry that is so competitive.  

Rob Feeney and his team from Cactus Club, offered incredible hospitality and within seconds of arriving at their table I had a glass of rich Chardonnay and a plate of rabbit confit with applewood smoked bacon, brown butter, carrot puree and soy truffle vinaigrette. Collectively a great dish but the confit in a bite of its own held very little flavor. Winner of best casual chain, there’s no doubt though that it stands high above many of the other casual chains in its caliber in Vancouver.

La Quercia, winner of Restaurant of the Year, served a venison tartare topped with sea urchin, a juniper and rosemary sauce and accompanied with a crostini. This dish was a treat to look at, with so many shapes, sizes and colors. It had a thick, buttery texture that could be cut in smoothly with the crisp crostini and the sea urchin was more decorative than flavorful as it couldn’t combat with the heavy tartare. It was served appropriately with the Best of Show light red, the Dominque Piron Brouilly Domaine Combiaty 2009.

Nu Greek, which won the Green award, prepared a fresh baked wild salmon souvlaki with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, pita and a large dollop of tzatziki on top. This dish was a nice change to the other dishes as it felt very fresh and light compared to some of the other heavier plates that were being served. Their sparkling wine to accompany it was a Caves de Bailly-LaPierre Bailly Réservé Crémant de Bourgogne.

Bao Bei won Best New Restaurant this year and served a chilled braised beef tendon with apple, cilantro, celery and scallion salad topped with apple juice jelly. I felt the dish’s texture didn’t work with my palate but based upon the expression of everyone surrounding the table it may have just been my personal taste that it didn’t work with. The wine to accompany was a rosé, the Boutinot Chat-en-Oeuf 2010.

Blue Water Café chef, Frank Pabst, offered Sawmill Bay Mussels in a mild madras curry sauce with leeks, celeriac, and green apples. The flavors in this dish were incredible from the mussels themselves to the salad sitting beneath; it was sweet, spicy and savory all at once. Not only that but every plate was presented with such meticulous care and so systematically they were like a machine that could not be broken yet still offered a smile here and there to the patient guests.

Stepping out of the wide-swinging doors of the Vancouver Club, I forgot that I was on Hastings Street in the middle of winter. I was sad to leave such an event, but content with a wonderful experience and a unique opportunity to share a room and taste the dishes of the most acclaimed chefs in Vancouver.

For more pics check out my gallery on Flikr. 

Big Night 2012 Restaurants:

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