One place that I have always enjoyed dining at (but haven’t been to in ages), is Chambar in Gastown. Chef Nico Scheurmann and his wife Karri opened the restaurant several years ago with the philosophy of having a “commitment to fresh, innovative and incredible food that is presented without pretention.” They are currently in the process of moving to become a Carbon Neutral business, and also own Dirty Apron Cooking School and Cafe Medina next door.
Two weeks ago, a group of four of us decided to head to Chambar for an early dinner before taking in the evening show of Cirque du Soleil later that evening. We arrived for our 5:30 reservation and were seated near the back window of the dining room as my excitement grew with the memories of all of the good food I’d eaten there before.
We started off with a round of drinks, starting with a couple Blue Fig martinis that both my brother and I ordered. Served with a side of Danish blue cheese, this drink is made up of oven roasted figs, steeped in gin and frozen. Absolutely delicious (even though I’ve taken on a slight aversion to gin after too many of them in university), I was very happy with the beginning of our dinner.
One of the other drinks imbibed included the Oi-Ling, with jasmine-infused gin, elderberry flower, grapefruit liqueur, and cointreau, balanced with passion fruit and citrus juices. In my books, this was definitely another winner, although it is slightly more on the sweet side of things.
Finally, I tried the Fruli Fruit Beer, with a fresh strawberry nose, lightly hopped, and a champagne like effervescence. The last of my beer drinking days ended in high school, but I would have to say I could easily drink a couple of these any day of the week.
At this point, we were all still trying to figure out what to eat, and decided to start with the Moules Congolaise, amongst the four of us. This is definitely a classic Chambar dish that many people rave about, and I was more than content to have this that night. The mussels are cooked with a tomato coconut cream, smoked chili & lime, and fresh cilantro, and it comes with a side of crispy fries with a chili aioli, if I recall correctly. There were plenty of morsels to go around, and we seemed to all agree that we didn’t need all that much more food after our group appetizer was gone.
Alas, we had already decided on our entrees, and none of us were about to tell our server that we had changed our minds. So we settled in with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and waited a few more moments for our mains to arrive.
I had ordered the Canard et chevre, or roasted duck breast, with goat cheese and tarragon gnocchi, sauteed scallions, and hazelnut gastrique. This did anything but disappoint, and everyone enjoyed the gnocchi with the pieces of hazelnut and the tenderness of the meat. Although we had to make a group effort of it, the entire dish was gone by the end of our sitting.
My brother went with his usual, the Tajine d’aziz à l’agneau. This is braised lamb shank with honey, figs, cinnamon & cilantro, served with a side of couscous and zalouk, along with some harissa and raita for a little extra cost. The only problem I had with this dish was its size, and how our table top became overly cluttered when it was served. The meat itself was perfectly tender and moist.
We also worked on a delicious appetizer that was eaten as a main – Le mini méchoui – a Moroccan rubbed, slow roasted lamb loin, israeli couscous tabouleh, tahini yogurt, and grilled flat bread. As you can tell, we were far from vegetarians at this table.
Last of all, we had the Entrecôte grillée, a grilled 10 ounce Angus ribeye steak, with root vegetables, chimichurri, plenty of sauteed chanterelles and watercress. Cooked to a medium rare, I couldn’t get enough of this eaten with the mushrooms served on top.
At this point, instead of just taking off perfectly satiated with our meals, we decided to all push ourselves that little extra and share a dessert. After reviewing the sweets, we chose to have the Pot de Crème au Chocolat – a milk chocolate lavender pot de crème with ganache filled biscuits and orange scented tuiles. Now I know I’ve mentioned several times that I’m not a huge chocolate fan after a large meal, but this dessert felt light enough to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of the lavender latte that you can find at breakfast over at Cafe Medina.
After our whirlwind meal, condensed to a faster than usual hour and a half (fast for me), we took off for the evening for a great showing of Cirque. It was a wonderful night all around, and as you can probably tell, I will be returning to Chambar again and again.
If you haven’t been there yet, please be sure to pay it a visit soon.