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Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category

Icelandic Braveheart

Top left to right: dried fish, Brennivín, hákarl

On our recent trip to Iceland, one delicacy I wanted to try was Hákarl, or fermented Greenland Shark.  In Reykjavik, the capital, we found Café Loki, which serves traditional Icelandic dishes including hákarl.  We ordered it as part of a couple of taster plates, the Icelandic Plate II and Icelandic Braveheart.  Both dishes included some combination of rye and flatbreads, dried fish, mashed fish and smoked lamb (all very tasty).  The Braveheart was accompanied by a shot of caraway-flavoured Icelandic schnapps, called Brennivín.  The innocent-looking hákarl looked like three small cubes of slightly shiny cheese on toothpicks.  We took a whiff.  A strong ammonia smell burned our nostrils, and we should’ve ended it right there, but we hoped it tasted better than it smelled, like some strong cheese.

Well, sad to say, it didn’t.  It has got to be the most vile, disgusting thing I have ever eaten that was supposed to be food.  The first bite was not as horrible as we imagined, with a slightly rubbery texture, but by the time we got to the third, the smell and taste of ammonia was overpowering our palates.  Thank goodness for the Brennivín to wash it down.  On the up side, we didn’t get sick afterward, although we fully expected to.

Icelandic Plate II

Clockwise, from top right: smoked trout, smoked lamb, mashed fish, dried fish and in the middle, hákarl

Hákarl is prepared by beheading and gutting the shark and letting it ferment in a pit full of sand and then hanging it to dry, the entire process taking several months.  This is done so that the poisonous trimethylamine oxide and urea in the flesh are converted into ammonia… infinitely more palatable, right?

And so the question is, why would anybody want to eat something that smells and tastes like household cleaner?  We asked several Icelanders during our trip if they liked it, and none of them did.  But they dutifully ate it once a year, during the midwinter festival called Þorrablót which is a celebration of their heritage.

Those Icelanders sure are tough!

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We went for an early Valentine’s Day dinner to C Restaurant on February 12, 2011, wanting to use our Groupons for the 6-course tasting menu, which normally goes for $84 a person.

Walla Walla Onion Veloute

We arrived for our 5:30 seating and as the restaurant had just opened, were seated promptly in the lower level with a view, as requested when we made our reservation.  On perusing the menu we were a little mystified as we saw the Chef’s Grand Tasting Menu for $175 a person which I believe was 9 courses.  We finally asked the waiter and he said the 6-course was indeed available, which was the 9-course minus the foie gras, lobster and cheese plate.  I was quite relieved we were not getting the foie gras, more on that later.  We were not sure why the 6-course was not on the menu; it was not available for Valentine’s Day but he assured us it was for this weekend preceding… a little strange, since if you didn’t know it was there, you obviously couldn’t order it!  The website is not much better, as it lists the 6-course but only has 3 courses, with an additional two available as a supplement.  The suggested wine pairings ran $55 a person but we decided to order a glass of Napa Valley chardonnay each, instead.

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

C restaurant is noted for its adherence to sustainability practices.  All its seafood meets the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise guidelines and they promote the usage of local ingredients.  So we had to ask our waiter about the foie gras on the menu, as we know that the geese from which it comes are commonly force-fed to promote the development of a massive, fatty liver.  He didn’t miss a beat and said that the geese are not force-fed and live “happy lives.”  It is produced in Quebec, so not exactly local, but at least it is from within the country.

Pressed Veal with Pickled "Crones"

Our first course was the Walla Walla onion Veloute.  The bowl contained a 2-hour poached egg, a piece of Dungeness crab and some greens, and the waiter brought the soup in a little pot with a spout, gently pouring it into the bowl while explaining the ingredients, a nice little touch.  The veloute lived up to its name (it means “velvety” in French) with a sweet onion flavour.

The second course was the beet salad, with Saltspring Island goat cheese.  As this is a tasting menu the portion was quite small but packed with flavour.  The goat cheese was milder than most, with a very creamy texture which complemented the lightly pickled beets.

Trout on Risotto

Next, the pressed veal with pickled crones.  It was another salad with greens, slivers of lemon peel and a light dressing.  Yes, it says “crones” on the menu but further research reveals the true name of “crosnes,” a.k.a. Chinese artichoke or knotroot.  It is the tuber that we eat and it has a pleasant nutty flavour with a satisfying crunch.  The veal was somewhat like corned beef but we couldn’t help but wonder if the calves had led “happy lives” as well.

The main course was a piece of trout on risotto, topped with calamari and lemon slivers.  Some people may not like their fish with skin, but I found it crispy and tasty.  All the flavours complemented each other well.

Scallops on Pork Belly

After the trout came the bay scallops on pork belly, with breaded deep-fried crabapples.  The scallops were lightly seared and cooked to perfection so that they melted on the tongue.  The pork belly, on the other hand, seemed just like a hunk of fat.  My hubby thought they went well together but I just left the pork and had the scallops with the crabapple.

Dessert was a lemon mousse with slices of saffron-poached pear.  It was served with a runcible spoon, prompting me to recite lines from Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat.”  The lightness of the dish was a welcome finish to the meal.

Lemon Mousse, served with a Runcible Spoon

The service throughout the meal was fine, with each dish explained to us in detail.  We have always found the waiters here are knowledgeable and able to answer any questions we may have.  The only complaint we had was that my husband ordered absinthe as an aperitif and as such, it should have come before dinner, as it clashed with the onion veloute.  All of the dishes were presented elegantly and brought with appropriate gaps in between.  Our seating on the main floor of the restaurant was ideal, as the upper floor seems a little cramped.  On summer days, the patio is a wonderful way to take in the atmosphere of the seawall.

Pros: Meets Ocean Wise guidelines, good service, knowledgeable wait staff, great patio in summer, good deal with Groupon

Cons: Menu not clear, upstairs seating cramped and lacks view, can be pricey

C Restaurant is located at 2-1600 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC

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The u is pronounced like the u in “pull.”  For those who don’t know, this Japanese dish is sea urchin, or specifically, the sea urchin gonads.  Sounds gross, and we have to admit, we never liked it before we went to Japan, but that was because we had the more commonly found previously frozen ones.  The “live” ones are the way to go, no comparison.   These are soft in texture, almost like a pudding, and sweet.  The presentation is impressive, all nestled in the shell and perhaps on a bed of shredded daikon and shiso leaves, as shown here.  And yes, it’s raw, so it’s considered sashimi.

uni

Live Uni

You can dip it in soy sauce with a bit of wasabi if you like, but I prefer its pure, unadulterated taste.  Here in Vancouver, this is a seasonal dish between September and April.  If you get it, make sure it is “live.”  If you have tried the previously frozen and not liked it (I still think it’s gross), give the live one a try.  Added bonus – it is harvested sustainably here on the west coast of Canada, and earns a “best choice” rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

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