Teahouse in Stanley Park

ChowtimesNoWord32x32Disclosure:
Suanne and I were invited by the Teahouse Restaurant to a personal tasting prepared by François Gagnon, the new executive chief. This meal is complimentary from the Teahouse Restaurant. However, it is written based on 100% of our own opinion and experience. Teahouse was ready for any questions we had but at no time provided us any additional info for the purposes of this review.

I think the disclosure above means a lot to our readers. Going forward Suanne and I will make sure we provide clear indication in case we have any freebies provided. We might not be able to go back to all our previous 1,500 posts to put in the disclosure statement but we will do so for every such post forward. With that out of the way …

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When we were invited to Teahouse Restaurant, the first thing that came to my mind is to go take a picture of the Olympics ring from Brockton Point. It was totally dark and yet when we got there, we found that there were a few other photographers taking pictures from the same spot. The picture above is my HDR shot. It was hard to get this image made because of the long exposure time needed and that the barge where the Olympic rings are were not totally stationary.

Vancouver is simply stunning don’t you think?

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We had been to the Teahouse before. We even blogged about it when it was then known as the Sequoia Grill at The Teahouse. They had dropped the Sequoia Grill name and reverted back to the name it was first opened over 30 years ago.

The Teahouse is located at the western end of the Stanley Park where it has a great view of the Burrard Inlet and West Vancouver. It is a perfect setting for spending a romantic time. Particularly during summer months, it is great to have a walk along the beach and see the sun set. It was too cold that night we were there three weeks ago.

The Teahouse used to be a military garrison during the World War II — believe it or not.

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This picture of the Conservatory was taken from our old post

The Teahouse is divided into three sections known as the Tea Room, the Drawing Room and the Conservatory. The most spectacular room has to be all glass the Conservatory. On brighter days, it is quite awe-inspiring being surrounded by majestic trees on one side and the ocean on the other.

We were greeted at the door and they offered to take our coats. Not many places does this and it just gives us that feeling of impeccable service and exclusivity. What Suanne and I appreciated a lot during this meal is that they gave us the space to enjoy ourselves (he he he, without coming by every minute to make a pitch to us!). This restaurant has class and let the experience speak for itself.

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We were very pleased with the table given to us. Scoping around the filled up dining room, it seems like this is the perfect table. It’s close to the fireplace and we had the best view of the ocean. On a better time, I am sure it would have been spectacular watching the sun set from this table.

We did not get wine although it would have been wonderful. Truth be told, we were unsure and so we stayed with just sparkling water, S. Pellegrino.

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We were served baguette with butter. It was served warm but it was just a few slices — we like bread and so we asked for more bread throughout the meal. While the bread was crusty and unexpectedly light, it does not really shout out as great. It was just … well … good.

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This we did not order. Our waiter, John who had been phenomenal that night, brought this amuse-bouche. He said that it is to get our taste bud going. We don;t know what this is called but as far as we can see, this is some spiced squid on sour creamy sauce and some grainy side.

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For appetizers, I asked for the small portion ($9) Salt Spring Islang Mussels but John insisted that they are so good, I must have the full portion ($16).

This was every bit I expect it to be. The mussels were big. I just like them big and succulent.

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The sauce was a tad bit too salty but tasty. It is made with white wine, basil and olive oil. Not wanting to waste perfectly great sauce, we asked for … more bread to soak up every single drop of the sauce.

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Suanne’s appy is the Celery Soup ($9.50). It is light which reminded us of the “foams” we had in the upscale restaurants in Spain. It was that kind of foamy but it was light and flavourful. The escargot (snails) lends a chewy texture to soup.

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Coming on to the mains, I went for something that is not on the menu. John told us that they have a lobster special. Oh man, it was awesome.

It has lobster claws poached in rich butter. It makes my mouth water writing about this now. The shells were removed and make eating this effortless. You see the dark tortellini at the bottom of the picture above? It is the made with ink squid which makes it black. That tasted kind of unusual.

OK, I got a note from someone saying that for someone who writes about food, I don’t know a lot of basic stuff about food. The truth is I don’t! I don’t have formal training in creative writing or in the food industry or in photography. Heck, my grammar is unpolished and I rush through my writing too. Dear Suanne cleans up my grammar after me when she has the time.  Anyway, English is my THIRD language just so you know. I am just a geeky project manager. And geeky PMs ask dumb questions … so please bear with me, OK? LOL!

The question I have is … which part of the lobster is better and more prized? The claw or the tail … and why? I see that both parts are meaty but I also thought that the tail, having more shell and “folds”, captures the flavour in cooking better.

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Suanne’s main was the Beef Short Rib Bourguignon ($29). The serving was much larger than Suanne expected. The beef was extremely tender and falls off the bone so easily, all you need is a fork to eat this. The meat just melts in your mouth. With the sauce, there are mushrooms, pearl onions and double smoked bacon.

The sauce was rich … very rich … extremely rich as a matter of fact. So this is another candidate dish where the bread came into play. Frankly, other than the amazingly tender short rib, the rest was underwhelming.

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This one we did not order. John the waiter said that the chef wanted us to try this. It is the Arctic Char ($24) with squid perogi, pearl onion and saffron sauce. Even though we were already quite full having done an appy and a main already, they gave us each a dish of this.

Of everything we tried that night, this is the one perfect dish. John said that the arctic char is in season now. The artic char has an amazingly crispy skin and yet underneath that skin is a very tender and moist meat. If there is such a description, I would say it the meat was “medium rare”. To add to that nice piece of fish, the saffron sauce blends very well without overwhelming the fish.

The other interesting part is the squid ink perogi. It seems like squid ink is used a lot in the chef’s cooking. The perogi is filled with smoked potato and bacon. It was nice.

Here is another dumb question … bear with me again, OK?

(A) Fork FACE UP and knife on the left
(A) Fork FACE UP and knife on the left
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(B) Fork FACE DOWN with knife on the right
(C) Fork and spoon crossed at the tip
(C) Fork and spoon crossed at the tip
(D) Fork and knife together in the middle
(D) Fork and knife together in the middle

 

Between A, B, C and D … which is the right way to place your cutlery to signal you’re done?

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We had too much food already. Suanne declared she had enough and will not have dessert … yet again. But it does not require a lot to get her to get dessert despite her saying she is full. All John had to do is simply to just describe that they had on the menu and she’ll change her mind … yet again. And she will always blame me for getting dessert and always had to say that I am forcing her to get it. And she will attach a condition that I have to share it with her.

I know how much she likes desserts and so as usual, I took the blame and promised to help her finish it. I only had to say I will help her finish dessert and pretend to take a couple of bites … she will always find room somewhere in her stomach to fit the dessert.

The dessert we she had was the Molten Chocolate. John said they needed 10 minutes to prepare. It was nice and warm when they served it. The richness of the molten chocolate was nicely balanced with the vanilla ice cream.

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It was a really nice dinner with a romantic setting. We had a great time and we were, as expected, treated well. I am just glad that the Teahouse had given us a lot of privacy to enjoy the evening without them coming by making a pitch at every dish.

We did not meet the Executive Chef Francois Gagnon although we were informed that he personally prepared the food for us. Chef Gagnon had started helming the kitchen of the Teahouse the past 3 months. Since coming on board he had introduced an entirely new menu with a French classic bistro feel while keeping some of the traditional classics that the Teahouse had been known for throughout the past 30 years.

Here is the menu of The Teahouse:

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The Teahouse on Urbanspoon

After dinner, Suanne and I went to the English Bay to take more HDR pictures. Here they are … enjoy!

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  1. The meal looks really lovely, as do the lights and Olympic touches in the park.

    For the silverware, it is different in a bowl like this. For one, you have no food left so your server will guess you are done! I’d put mine face up with the handles off to the right. Definitely together, not separated.

    On a plate, I would put them together with the tips of the utensils at 11:00 and the handles at 3:00 (as on a clock face).

    I really like the fact that you are not a foodie. I’m not a foodie either, so I appreciate your comments about taste and texture. Foodies seem to be more fashion driven than taste driven — right now duck confit and pork belly are “in”. But does everything really taste better with a layer of duck or bacon fat on it?

    I also appreciate your honesty, and that you let your own preferences come through. As a regular reader, I knew Suanne would end up having that dessert. How could she not?

    Thanks for sharing a part of your life.

    1. Quite true. There is a certain element of “in style” ingredients when it comes to fine dining and cooking at high levels. I mean, it’s very evident when you watch something like Top Chef. In S4, nearly everything had edamame in it. In the most reason S6, damn well everything was prepared sous vide or confit.

      However, I sort of disagree about pork belly. Bacon is always in.

      1. Bacon — always great! But right now the foodies are calling it “pork belly” like that is something new and different. Hey — home cooks have always known that anything tastes better with a little bacon fat. Try a teaspoon of leftover bacon fat, I mean Pork Belly, on steamed or sauteed fresh green beans. My mom taught me that one.

        1. A teaspoon of fat on a family size serving of beans, you know, a pound or two — if you’re not a foodie, that is! They would put on a lot more.

          1. I also watched Top Chef and noticed how common those techniques were — sous vide / confit / ceviche almost every time. Who in their right mind would serve a seafood ceviche on a ranch? In the summertime?

            In Seattle they now have food safety standards for sous vide. I guess cooking food at a low temp for a long time can invite bacterial culture. I had never heard of it before watching TC this season.

  2. Very pretty pictures Ben, glad to hear you enjoyed yourselves.

  3. for the utensils, what i usually do is put them together and place it on the right side on the plate to let the waiters/waitress’ know that im done 🙂

  4. wow, beautiful pictures. the lobster looks amazing. from what i know, the tail is the more expensive and tastier part. personally i prefer dungeness crab.

    and btw, your grammar is perfectly fine. i love your style of writing.

  5. I also appreciate that you have a down-to-earth approach about food and I hope you don’t lose it! I find your posts to strike the right balance of photos, description, and background of the restaurant.

    I’m expected to be an expert about lobsters since I’m from the Maritimes and can address that question. Generally speaking, the lobster tail is far, far more prized. The whole lobster is sold for $8-10/lb. while if you buy lobster tails alone, I just checked and it was $38/lb! The lobster can be like a “steak” and does absorb butter and flavours really well but the claws had a texture and flavour one can come to enjoy. When McDonald’s sells their lobster roll, I recall it is quite heavy on the cheaper claw meat. It kind of all tastes the same when it’s shredded in a sandwich.

  6. Wow, that all looks amazing. I really enjoy the food at Teahouse and the Conservatory. I love that you were full and yet you look like you finished the arctic char dish anyways.

    …and I place my utensils off to the left when I’m done. However, we’re not in Victorian England so I’m sure it doesn’t matter even in fine dining establishments nowadays. Maybe if you were going for a black tie event but even then…I’m sure no one will mind such a small breach of etiquette.

  7. Great setting for a lovely meal! BTW, what other languages do you speak?

    1. Born a Fujian, grew up in a Cantonese city with family whose social circle (church) speaks Mandarin. I studied in Malay school and grew up in English speaking church. While I speak Chinese dialects well, I can only read 13 characters … the numbers 1 to 10 and my Chinese name.
      Ben

      1. Lol you are hilarious, reading 13 characters. 😛

        1. I bet the 13 characters are food related too!

  8. I *think* technically that “D” is the closest…BUT… with the fork flipped over (normal side up, not back side up).

    That said, as a long-time server, just putting your knife and fork together at any o’clock on the plate is usually a sign that you are done. While in this day and age, it’s not all that important, it is good to be able to signal your server. I hate nothing more than when a server tries to take my plate away when it’s half full and my cutlery is often scattered and hanging off my plate, as I am not finished….

  9. PS – Being a “food expert” is not a requirement of someone who enjoys food and likes to share their experience with others. Anyone who says otherwise takes themselves WAY too seriously!! 🙂

  10. Dear Ben,

    In answer to your question, oddly enough, the best part of the lobster the elbow! It may take a bit more work to get at the meat, but it is the most tender part; my favourite part. Followed by the claw, and lastly the tail, which can be a little chewier.

    It was a pleasure to have you at the Teahouse!

    Chef Francois Gagnon

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