A “C” of Disappointment – Vancouver’s “C” Restaurant Experience

This past Saturday, Kelly and I headed down to “C” Restaurant in Vancouver for an evening fo Fine Dining. What we got wasn’t quite to standard. Kelly had some very strong opinions so I let her write this one…

Welcome to C! We might not come back!

After experiencing the culinary delights of WEST and the unmatched service of Lumiere, I had high expectations for my first visit to “C” Restaurant in Vancouver. “C” has been known as that “third place” restaurant for a few years now despite their Chef winning Chef of the Year in 2006. I was really hoping that because of that, this restaurant would start to rise above my two benchmarks: WEST for their food and Lumiere for their service.Making the reservation online, I encountered my first surprise. “C” made you sign a waiver agreeing that in respect for the other guests, during Dine Out Vancouver, you will limit your stay to 1.5 hours. They also made you authorize payment on your credit card in case of a no show. Realizing how busy a high end restaurant can get, I didn’t think too much of it and happily signed the waiver. I was looking forward to my feast.

We went to “C” this past Saturday evening. I even got all dressed up and was filled with very high expectations. When we arrived at the restaurant, Steve drove the car up to the Valet area. A sign reading $7.00 to park was there for “C” patrons. At WEST and Lumiere, parking is free. Last time, when we used the valet at Lumiere, the guy couldn’t even drive Steve’s car and even worse, couldn’t even figure out how to turn it back on to drive it back to us. Steve and I had to walk down to the parkade with the valet. For $7.00, this guy better know how to drive his car!

As we entered the elegant restaurant, I got my second surprise. The seating area was filled with stools that I was too short for. The stand-up stools in the waiting area were just too tall for my 5’3”. I think they’d be better off sticking to couches rather than offend us little people.

As the staff checked on our table, we were provided with a drink menu to look at while we waited. I must say it was more of a drink book than a menu: 20+pages of martinis, cocktails, sakes and wines to choose from. You know when a drink menu includes a table of contents at the beginning that they are not short on selection. Steve ordered a Ginger Sake Martini and I got the Wall Martini: both Martinis ranked among the best I have tasted.

After placing our drink orders, it was time to sit down. We were quickly whisked up to our table and were provided with the Dine-Out Vancouver Tasting Menus. Although the Dine-Out Vancouver Menus were $35 for a three course meal, they gave you two options for the Appetizer, Entrée and Desert within the $35. There was even an alternate lobster feast for $45.

The Appetizer and the Entrée had yet another two options at additional cost. For example, while Foie Gras and scallops were included as an appetizer on West’s Dine-Out Vancouver Menu, Steve had to pay an additional $14.95 to have Foie Gras as his appetizer at “C”. The Scallops were an additional $8.95, but we didn’t order those. We then paid an additional $4.95 to have the Short Ribs option with our Main Course. I think that if “C” is going to participate in Dine-Out Vancouver, they should do it whole heartedly and offer 3-4 choices for each course within the $35 set price. I really felt that the additional costs for alternate choices was really quite cheesy and “low end”.

VOSS - The Best Water!
My mood improved after they served us our water. “C” clearly has the best water! They served VOSS and they even brought lime wedges on a stone slab. A nice touch I must admit.The bread girl wasn’t as impressive as the bread boy at Lumiere. At Lumiere, the bread boy carried a remarkably large selection of breads and kept it coming. The bread lady at “C” came around maybe twice in the hour we were there and had a substantially smaller basket. To their credit, the sourdough bread was amazing, but it was a shame that it ran out after the first round. You were left with a choice of seaweed scone and a whole wheat bread tasted like normal sandwich bread. I can get that at home thanks.

Foie Gras is good grub!

Salmon…not so good…
Our appetizers arrived quickly and while Steve instantly fell in love with his Foie Gras, my Shaved Wild Skeena River Smoked Sockeye Salmon with the crème fraiche, fennel and crab salad with maple herbed breadcrumbs was merely alright. It left me wanting a little more flavour despite all the ingredients. It really wasn’t that impressive when you tasted it. Steve also ordered the wine pairing with his meal. At $18, it wasn’t the most expensive wine pairing, but it was severely cheapened when the pairing for the main course was served with cork floating in it. Yum…They did replace my glass quickly, and even topped it up a bit more, but still. A high end restaurant should have more pride in their wine. Cork in wine is never a good sign.

Good Meat…but cold cold cold!
This was all quickly followed by our main courses. Steve got the Grilled AAA Beef Striploin with parmesan gold potato gratin, butter braised Swiss chard, and merlot jus. His striploin was grilled to perfection and a true medium rare: just a little blood and not overdone.

Starchy and Cold… Not good…
I got the Side Stripe Shrimp Risotto with preserved stoney paradise tomatoes, spinach, and double smoked bacon sauce. It was cold and a little too pasty for my liking, as if someone didn’t quite cook it long enough or tried to save time by “Pre-Cooking” it. The extra we paid to have the short ribs with Steve’s meal was also a disappointment. They came cold like the risotto.

More icing sugar than macaroon.

Custard Tart Thing…
Shortly after we finished the main courses, our desserts arrived. Steve had the custard tart while I had the macaroons. My macaroons tasted more like icing sugar than anything else. We didn’t end up finishing it. Even Steve couldn’t stomach it. His custard tart was pretty darn tasty, but not the best dessert by any stretch.So despite the efficient service, amazing martinis and added touches such as world class VOSS water with Lime Wedges served on a stone slab, the food was not all that impressive. It was not even close to West or even Lumiere quality. The servers did not go above and beyond either causing my “C” dining experience to fall far short of expectations. The service wasn’t bad, but was fairly ordinary. For a high end restaurant, ordinary is a killer.

We recently hit the Boathouse restaurant at the Westminster Quay, and even that was a cut above “C”. The service was excellent, and the food was really good. They aren’t even supposed to be up in the the high end dining category! I guess that makes Boathouse a “C” grade compared to WEST and Lumiere, giving a “D” grade to “C” in my books. Considering the price you pay to dine at “C”, it does not rate high on my value scale and I don’t think I will be giving it another chance for quite some time. The only redeeming quality at the very end of the evening was the fact that valet did manage to start Steve’s car and drive it over to us while the valet at Lumiere struggled and Steve had to drive his own car out of the parkade during that visit.

So in the end WEST is still best, Lumiere is a close second, and “C” is a very distant “C” Grade at best…

Stay tuned for more dining adventures as we hit the Irish Heather Gastro Pub in Vancouver tomorrow night.