Chambar restaurant…

hadn’t changed much appearance wise following my first visit in 2008. It is located on a “character strip” of Beatty Street, Crosstown which is between Yaletown and Gastown. The interior has a stylish industrial feel of exposed brick and piping juxtaposed by the elegance of chic lighting, splashes of red and chocolate leather seating with wooden tables.

This time around I was delighted to learn that Chambar became a carbon neutral restaurant in 2011. The menu is an ‘Ocean Wise’ restaurant (as recommended by the Vancouver Aquarium as an ocean-friendly seafood choice) too. Established for nine years, Chambar is a socially and environmentally responsible restaurant and are leaders in sustainability.

Just for a diversion from my usual posts, I am going to provide my first critique of a restaurant experience I’ve had in Vancouver.

On both occasions, I was greeted warmly on arrival and without fuss seated at our table. To commence the celebrations, a cocktail or two was in order and I promptly ordered a ‘Hogarth’s Mistake’. The name didn’t thrill me, however I have a penchant for gin and this was an earl grey infused gin complemented by Chambar’s house made cinnamon lemon syrup and orange zest. It was beautiful, served in a martini glass and the balance of flavours created a smooth and silky finish. It was an aperitif I could equally enjoy curled up on the sofa watching a favourite foreign film.  I also sampled the ‘Veloso’ which was a perfect sip into summer with cachaca, passionfruit, plum and citrus. It was refreshing without the wow factor but still a great way to kick off the evening.

Now on to the service, overall I felt it was just a bit lacklustre. I couldn’t put my finger on it  but the sparkle and magic was definitely missing compared to my last visit. It was almost like we were invisible despite being seated right opposite a waiter’s station and the kitchen. Eventually staff noticed our requests and took our orders and refreshingly the kitchen restored the balance with prompt delivery of fresh and tasty food.

As a starter, I preferred to choose a seafood dish. The Tartare de thon rouge was delicately presented on plate and the vibrant colour of the wasabi gazpacho was inviting. It was a sizzling refresher should I say and stimulated my palette to move straight to the petite crackers with tuna tartare. This was complemented by a crisp dry floral ‘arneis’ white wine from Langhe, Italy.

On the previous visit, we had chosen the signature Moules Frites and also a duck main which is often a preferred option as I have a weakness for duck and other gamey meats.

This particular evening, I had mentioned to one of our friends at the table that there had been an absence of our premium ‘Aussie lamb’ from my diet since we had arrived. When I sighted the Tajine d’aziza à l’agneau on the menu and discovered it was sourced from Australia, the desire to fight this choice was too strong.

It was suitability impressive, with this highly fragrant lamb falling away piece by piece from the bone. The comforting pairing of honey, fig and cinnamon flavours put a smile on my face. A bowl of zalouk was served on the side; this is a delicious cooked salad generally made with eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spices. This addition ensured that this exotic dish remained savoury and not too sweet, finished off with a garnish of zesty cilantro/coriander.

I always need to order some greens at the table and chose the asparagus, vincotto and parmesan side as well as the pommes frites. These as an accompaniment were a little disappointing and felt both could have been firmer and crunchier. The pommes frites tasted like they needed a little less cooking fat to achieve this.

After drinking a powerful red Van Zellers ’06 from Douro, Portugal I needed something adequately refreshing with a bit of punch. I shared a Tarte au Citron with my husband, which presented as a beautiful composition of a frozen lemon soufflé, coconut daquoise, toasted meringue and pie crust ice-cream. It had a good balance of textures, a luscious creaminess while still retaining a wonderful tang in this dessert.

All in all I would recommend this restaurant to anyone wanting a fun night out with a satisfying choice and eclectic variety on the food and wine menu. I respect and admire a restaurant that is true to it’s philosophy of ‘non-pretentious fine dining’.