On the weekend a large group of us (fifteen to be exact) felt like finding any excuse to go for a dinner together (we officially called it our friend’s ‘going away to India for a month’ outing – yes, that’s right – a month). So after doing a little calling around earlier last week, a friend of mine managed to get us a spot at Pourhouse in Gastown.
This restaurant opened in the fall of last year, and has been on my list of places to get to for awhile now. Known for its great drinks, with well-known Jay Jones serving them up behind the bar, and co-owner and chef Chris Irving heading up the kitchen (from West, the Wickinninish Inn and under Gordon Ramsay at Petrus in London), this cozy and warm venue was somewhere I needed to try.
Once we arrived, we all slowly trickled in for an early dinner (our reservation was for 6:30 PM), and started ordering our drinks. While I looked at the drink menu, I ended up choosing wine instead (although the cocktail menu is small, there are many that can be made – just ask or sit at the bar and see what’s in the works for that day).
I’ve been in the mood for white lately, so I ordered some Pinot Gris and settled in to see what I felt like eating. After a bit of discussion with the group, we all decided to order a full run of appetizers for everyone so we would get a chance to try, well, pretty much everything (except the fish soup)! We put in our orders, and waited until all of the food came before deciding on our main dishes. When looking around me at this point, I noticed that the restaurant was quite full, and the bar was starting to get more and more busy by the minute. That’s when the first round of Jack Daniel’s shots arrived – have I ever mentioned how much I hate that stuff?
Just in time to help rid the awful aftertaste of those shots, our appetizers started to fill the table.
The best part of the Scallops? The crispy small pieces of pork belly served with them, along with the horseradish applesauce. The scallops themselves were alright, but there was nothing especially memorable about them.
The Charcuterie, called The Cure, was delicious. There was one type of meat that was smoky and slightly sweet (the middle one), and that was definitely my favourite. I snuck a couple extra pieces before passing the plate down the line any further. 😉
The Neon Squid was disappointing to me. A few of my friends had been to Pourhouse about a month back, and they had found this to be one of their favourite starters. It’s supposed to be served with garlic and chilies, but I actually didn’t taste much flavour at all, and noted that the pieces I had almost just tasted burnt.
As for the Liver Pate, I did enjoy this a fair bit – it was served with gherkins and a a dollop of dijon mustard, along with a large warm and soft piece of bread. I had more of this than anyone else I think, and found that the taste of the liver wasn’t too overwhelming, as it can be sometimes.
The Cheese Board came with a variety of cheeses, although I couldn’t tell you which ones they were from the picture (and I only tasted one of them). It was also served with thinly sliced apple and what I noticed to be plump, juicy grapes. Somehow, the fruit iss my strongest memory of this dish.
The problem with the Assorted Oysters (not sure what kind they were, but they were quite small in size like Kusshi ones would be), was that the lemon was on top of the salt, so when I squeezed it into mine, I found myself crunching down on large granules when it had already gone in my mouth. Too late to fix that, so the first bite I had just tasted very…well, salty. I did do a second go-around, and I did appreciate it much better that time – I made sure to check that I didn’t get too much salt in the way, and the added some horseradish to the mix. It tasted quite fresh and had I had the chance, I would’ve had more. 🙂
At this point, we were heading down a path of having way too many drinks, so we put in our food orders, and had yet another round of Jack Daniel’s arrive. I couldn’t handle it at that point, and let it sit for awhile, and I luckily(?) accidently knocked it over with my elbow while reaching for some more food. I was so sad when I saw it spill to the floor around me, but got over it quickly. Sigh.
And that’s when our mains arrived.
Let’s start with the Wild Pacific Ling Cod, as that’s what I ordered (although keep in mind we all ended up sharing everything with the three people closest to us). This was served on a bed of lentils, with sauteed spinach and a puree of celery. While the fish itself was just average, and a little bit dry in my opinion, none of us could get enough of the lentils! And they’re lentils people – I didn’t think I’d ever find myself saying that! They were creamy and went well with the spinach, and were just salty enough to be absolutely the best part of my (or any) entree.
Next up is the Halibut. I found that this fish was cooked perfect to my liking, and I almost think that if this replaced the Ling Cod in my dish, it would’ve been an amazing experience. However, this came with sauerkraut, white beans and a dark beer sauce – the combination of which was way too salty for me to have more than a bite or two.
Now somewhere around here, I started to hear murmurs coming from down the table about a drink they were having that was absolutely delicious. They passed it down the line and told me it was a concoction made from ginger beer, vodka, and cardamom (some sort of infused syrup). When I took a a sip of it, I decided I had to have it immediately, and screw the wine! It was definitely refreshing and had a light sweet taste – these would go down very easily and I would have to be careful. I managed to contain myself at three for the evening.
So continuing on with the food, the Campfire Trout was quite a treat as well. It was served in a large piece of tin foil, and it basically overtook the entire plate, besides the large serving of fried and seasoned potatoes. The potatoes didn’t really stand out to me, but I did find the fish to be nice and tender and flavourful.
I also had a couple of bites of the Carpet Bag Steak. The meat was quite tender and rare, which is how I like it. There was also a fried oyster on the plate, but I didn’t have the chance to try it.
Finally, the last of the mains I got a picture of was the Half Chicken Trippled – a roasted breast with wing attached, served with pearl onion and smooth potato. I didn’t have any of this, but I will leave you with a shot of it (there is a limit to how far I will go to eat everyone else’s food at dinner). 😉
At this point, the dessert menu showed up, and because of the consumption overload that had just been taking place over the last while, I thought it would be good to have something light. My girlfriend next to me and I both chose to share a Lemon Tart to make sure we didn’t eat too much at that point. I loved the fresh raspberries, and even the rich vanilla bean cream. The shell was crisp and thick, and we managed to finish off every last bite…
…and keep eating the other Warm Chocolate Cake that our other halves were both eating across from us. Our first try of this was a bit disappointing – my girlfriend’s husband had a serving of the cake, and it was nice and moist, oozing with chocolate from the middle like a lava cake. So when Mike bit into his and couldn’t find melted anything inside, I was sad. Oh so sad. Our other friend was happily eating away (lava cakes are his favourite dessert), and I kept looking over in extreme jealousy. My girlfriend noticed, and even though it wasn’t my dessert, she called the server over and told him my fatal issue. He apologized and offered to comp it right away, but then I spoke up and said, “Can I just have another one?” And so the eating continued. He said it would be about 13 minutes to cook it just right, and after that time (and another cocktail), it showed up at our table, in all it’s melted chocolate delicious glory. At this point, I should also mention that I absolutely loved the ice cream that came with it – was it butterscotch? I’m not entirely sure if it was that or caramel, but I loved everything about it.
Overall, I found that the food wasn’t spectacular, but what made this place great was the drinks, the warm and inviting atmosphere that felt like we were in an old Western movie, and the chocolate cake.
While this whole dinner sounds like it was over in a flash (well, maybe not quite a flash), we actually ended up staying at the restaurant for almost a good five hours. Be it the drinks that just kept coming, or the copious amounts of food that I couldn’t stop eating, I didn’t notice until we were standing outside and deciding what to do next. My stomach got the best of me, and we managed to pull a Houdini and grab a cab home, so I could sit cradling my stomach on the couch, while a lulling headache was already starting to form behind my eyes.