Like most communities, the North Shore has numerous restaurants struggling for positions in the marketplace. There seems no end of places without distinction, many struggling to survive from day to day. Numerous corporate chains offer their predictable sameness but for consumers seeking a marriage of quality, creativity and affordability, delivered with a touch of panache, the choices narrow.
Gwen and I enjoyed a fine meal at West Vancouver's Beachside Forno a while back. On that Friday evening, only one other couple was present while we dined. Service was fine and the food was terrific. So where were the customers? That room had successful times years ago under owner Janet McGuire and Chef Carol Chow but seems to have struggled endlessly since, despite various marketing plans, chefs and food styles.
We enjoyed the Edge Bistro, a comfortable room in Edgemont Village, a couple of times but found its doors suddenly closed a few months back. Numerous restaurants open and disappear in relatively short order, proving the industry, although attractive to many, is a place to make a small fortune, provided you start with a large one.
Nevertheless, our search continues for unique dining places that don't break the bank. One visit is insufficient for complete judgement but The Portly Chef on Lonsdale offers promise. It's a small but attractive room with an open kitchen. It opened in mid-2012 but, if the full room Friday evening was typical, it has attracted a following.
I started with smoked tomato soup with roasted corn, chipotle, fresh cilantro and tortilla crumble. Whimsical presentation and unusual additions elevated this dish to a surprising level of taste. My partner enjoyed a Caesar salad served atop whole Romaine leaves; classic flavours augmented slightly with cherry tomatoes and large flakes of Grana Padano.
My entree, fresh sockeye salmon, with a scallop and salmon mousse, forest mushroom and chicken liver duxelle, puff pastry, wilted spinach, brussels sprouts, pea shoots and tarragon citrus cream had too much going on. Overall, a little restraint was needed; more is not always better when combining flavours. The puff pastry had been warmed in the deep fryer, leaving it with slightly off tasting oiliness. However, the dish was still close to excellent.
The other entree at our table was red wine poached pear and toasted walnut stuffed ravioli with gorgonzola cream and fresh cut herbs. Superb.
A short list of creative cocktails and a reasonably priced wine list were presented. We chose a Gehringer Brothers Riesling, product of an Oliver winery that I've always enjoyed. At $30, this good value wine suits a wide range of foods.
Dessert selections of The Portly Chef were limited but, with appropriately modest portions, were worthy of attention and completed a thoroughly enjoyable meal. We'll return soon.