Location: 1505 W 2nd Ave
This is our second time at Bistro 101. The first time was with our family and we had gone on a Friday night without a reservation. Friday nights are buffet, while Monday-Thursday have a set course dinner. Each month has a different menu,
Tonight was a great way to finish off our trip to Vancouver. Though wait times are bit longer for dishes to be served because Bistro 101 is a place for culinary arts students to practice, the price is a little cheaper, but they are by no means less delicious. With three choices on the menu and four of us, we were pretty much able to try everything on the menu. The only person who ordered a drink was my friend Julia and she got a Carbonated Rose Lemonade. We all placed our order and I was surprised when our server Shelton brought out a complementary amuse bouche. It was cream cheese wrapped in salmon topped with capers and lemon zest served on a fried wonton wrapper. Other than being on the salty side, it was actually really good! They also provide complementary bread with whipped butter. There was so much variety, but my favourite was the muffin looking one that reminded me of the biscuits at Red Lobster and the other looked like a small loaf with really chewy crust (if you haven’t noticed, I love food with a chewy texture, hence Korean crystal noodles and al dente pasta). Since there were four of us, we had to double up on one of the appetizers. Two of us got the prawn bisque, one got the chickpea fritters and the other got the calamari. The calamari was well seasoned, I had no problems with anything on the plate being over salted. There were only four piece of calamari arranged around a mound of cooked greens. The presentation was a bit lacking, but what it lacked in appearance it made up for in taste.The greens were like salad greens but cooked and I thought that I wouldn’t like it but with the garlic based Asian sauce made a huge difference. They were so delicious! However, I did have a problem with the oiliness of the dish as a whole. If there had being something tart, the dish may not have come off as being so heavy. The prawn bisque was creamy and the addition of the chili oil “really made the dish man” to quote my sister’s friend, Vi. Or more eloquently put, the chili oil added added a new level of depth to the dish. My sister, Valerie, however, wishes that the prawns were a little smaller as they were hard to cut through and made it difficult to eat and still look decent. The chickpea fritters were well crisped on the outside, but had a very smooth consistency within. The chickpea fritter was topped with some sort of aioli and lemon zest., served with grilled eggplant roses on a bed mixed greens. According to Julia, “the lemon zest was very fresh~~~~.” Personally, I would have liked to have seen the eggplant seasoned a little more aggressively. Of the three dishes, this had to be the most beautiful one. Overall, appetizers were small portions that did what they were made to do, stimulate our appetite for the meal to come while holding us for a bit longer until the mains came.
We were so immersed in the view and our conversation we didn’t even notice that it took longer than usual for our mains to come. I only knew that it had taken longer than usual because Shelton apologized for the delay. There were three options for mains, but we only chose two of the three. Vi and I ordered the Grilled Salmon, while Julia and Valerie ordered the Pork Tenderloin. Both entrees turned out a little different from what was described on the menu, which was good and bad in some ways. Instead of fresh pasta, the salmon came with potato patties. As the patties were fried, there was a lot of oil for this dish too. In someways the fresh pasta would have been so much better because that would have given the chef the choice to go with a light, citrus or fresh herb sauce. The addition of capers to the asparagus was the only only saving grace to this dish. The inherent tartness of the capers helped to counterbalance the potatoes. However, that was nullified by the fact that the asparagus and capers were drowned in a sauce that was in and of itself quite oily. The star of the dish, the salmon, was really the star. The meat was light and came apart easily, the seasoning was not so overpowering that it destroyed the tender salmon’s taste. The tenderloin was succulent and started out pink, but as the meal went on the pork continued to cook so that in the end it was completely cooked through. It was lightly seasoned, but still flavourful. The pork was served on a bed of white beans that were a little undercooked for Valerie’s liking and also lightly seasoned. Instead of swiss chard and rhubarb, the pork was served with one floret of broccolini and grilled bell peppers. The broccolini wasn’t bitter as is often the case and the bell peppers were unseasoned, but this allowed for its naturally sweet flavour to shine.
Last was dessert. Four people, four desserts. Valerie had the Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Poached Peaches in a Hibiscus Syrup, Vi had the Caramel Semifreddo, Julia had the Red Velvet Mousse Cake with Mint Chocolate Ice cream which was the dessert of the day, and I had the Neapolitan. The Panna Cotta was by far the most beautiful. Valerie’s favourite part of the dish was the candied nuts in the house made granola. I thought the caramelized sugar twill was pretty cool, it would have added more aesthetic appeal if it had been made into a longer, more graceful shape. The hibiscus syrup was light and not overly sweet and eaten as a whole was a truly amazing finish to an already amazing meal. Vi ate the Caramel Semifreddo so fast I didn’t even see what had happened. The next thing I knew she was asking the waiter if it’d be okay to order a second dessert. The semifreddo was served on top of a pistachio financiers and garnished with an apricot Earl Grey coulis. I didn’t get much feedback on this one, but based on what I know about each individual element, it would have been a pretty good dish. The Red Velvet cake, though it got a big reaction from everyone wasn’t really that special. What was special was how beautiful it looked. The colours on this plate were more vibrant than anything we ordered all night. I loved my Neapolitan so much so that I strayed from the original plan to share and try out everyone else’s desserts; I was not sharing this with anybody! The balance in this dish was perfect, better than anything else I had ordered all night (not a sweet person, usually I’d be the one raving about the savoury, but not tonight). The Neapolitan comprised of strawberry vanilla mousse cake, strawberry gelée, chocolate ice cream garnished with a strawberry, white chocolate chip on top of each slice of cake. A great twist on a classic.
Bistro 101 was one of the higher class restaurants we’d been to on this trip. It’s always been a great experience here and for the price you pay, this place is without compare. I would come here time and time again for the friendly service and amazing food. I will come back again the next time I’m in Vancouver. My rating for this place is 4.75/5.