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“Hugs and Fishes” and Bishop’s

17 Feb

2183 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
V6K 1N7

T: 604 738 2025
www.bishopsonline.com

Brief Description: A local high-end favourite, Bishop’s has been in business for 25 years doing what they do best; local, (mostly) organic food with a definite West Coast influence. John Bishop was one of the first chefs in Vancouver to emphasize the importance of local organic food. Prices are high but you are paying for quality.

Yes, yes…I know that I had said Valentine’s Day was over-rated so you probably think that I’m a traitor for talking about my romantic dinner at Bishop’s around Valentine’s Day…but I can explain! For months I had been looking forward to the “Hugs and Fishes” surprise that I had planned for B. It was a couples-only event at the Aquarium where we got to do fun things like make sushi, partake in a behind-the-scenes tour, stuff our faces at the cheese and chocolate buffet, fall asleep to belugas floating past the window, and in the morning, we enjoyed a hot breakfast surrounded by tropical fish. Even though it was classified as a Valentine’s Day event, I wanted to do it anyway because, seriously, how often do you get to sleep at the Aquarium?! To make the night even more memorable, we planned to start our Saturday night (see it wasn’t really even V Day!) with dinner at Bishop’s.

We were the first to arrive at Bishop’s for the 5.30pm seating and this meant that we were able to really take a good look at the dining room. There is one dining room but it is split into two spaces; an upper and lower room, separated by some stairs. It is small and intimate but, thankfully, the tables are not squished together so you can retain some privacy. The room is definitely geared towards more mature tastes and the reason for this became more obvious as other guests started arriving – we were certainly the youngest guests in there by quite a bit! Service was as efficient and friendly as last time and, once again, John Bishop popped out and welcomed all the guests (a small gesture that earns big brownie points with me). Keep in mind that Bishop’s menu is heavily influenced by the season, which means that it changes regularly, so what we ordered may not necessarily be available when you go.

Considering that we were using a gift voucher that we got as a wedding gift, we decided to splurge…big time! Vodka martinis and 6 Kusshi oysters started our meal and the oysters were fresh, chilled and the accompanying dressings escalated the clean flavour of the oysters.

The appetizers currently range from $14 to $19 and offerings include a Butternut Squash Soup, a Winter Bibb and Endive Salad, as well as a Baby Beet and White Anchovy Salad. I ordered the “Outlaw Meats” Lamb and Mushroom Tortellini ($19) which was served on a parsley root puree, with browned butter and sea asparagus, and finished with crispy sage. B opted for the Sloping Hill Pork Terrine ($18) which came with garlic confit and smoked prosciutto bianco, whole wheat brioche and pickles. We both thoroughly enjoyed our appetizers.

Just so that you are prepared, entrees are not cheap at Bishop’s. Prices start at $36 and climb to $41 for the most expensive dish. With only 5 entrées available, choices are limited but each dish is a different protein so there should be something that appeals to every carnivore. There was duck breast, beef tenderloin, and sablefish, in addition to the venison (which I ordered) and the tuna (which is what B ordered). The Sidney Island Venison ($37) was perfectly tender and bathed in a cider jus. The accompanying rye berry risotto complimented the meat by providing some texture and crunch. The Prosciutto Wrapped Albacore Tuna ($36) was impressive with its delicate flavour and Asian-influenced sides.

The dessert menu had a lot of tempting offerings for a dessert traditionalist like me. There was Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée, as well as an Apple Galette, but in the end we both ordered the same thing; Mini Chocolate Soufflé Cake ($14) which was paired with vanilla ice cream and raspberry beet coulis. The soufflé was, of course, perfect. It was light and airy but with an intense chocolate flavour. The candied beet was a highlight.

Final Thoughts: Overall, our Bishop’s experience left a good impression on us. I use the term “experience” because at a place like Bishop’s you are getting more than just a meal at a restaurant; it is about the whole experience. You usually go to these places to celebrate a big occasion or to splurge, so it should not only be about the food but also about how you feel when you are there. However, with that said, a friend asked me that if I had to pay for it myself would I think it was worth it? And my answer was “No”.

Yes, the service was flawless, the food was great, and the evening was incredibly romantic, but the prices are high. Our meal came to about $250, not including tip, so I do have a hard time trying to justify those prices. If money is no concern to you (Hello!! Can we be friends, please?) then your money certainly isn’t wasted at Bishop’s. But for those that value good food and don’t have an unlimited bank account, perhaps just stick to two courses, rather than three.

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Bishop’s

28 Feb

2183 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
V6K 1N7

T: 604 738 2025
www.bishopsonline.com

Brief Description: A local high-end favourite, Bishop’s has been in business for a long time doing what they do best; local, organic food with a definite West Coast influence. John Bishop was one of the first chef’s in Vancouver to emphasize the importance of local organic food. Prices are high but you are paying for quality.

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, B and I got engaged recently (YAY!!). One of the many great things about getting engaged is that people want to celebrate with you and so my parents offered to pay for us to go for dinner to celebrate (thanks Mum and Dad!). Wanting somewhere romantic, and with my 2010 list fresh in my mind, we didn’t have to think twice about choosing Bishop’s. Bishop’s has been on my “To Do” list since I moved to Vancouver. How could it not be? With 25 years in the business and always one of the most popular restaurants on any foodie’s lips, I have only heard exceptional things about Bishop’s. Unfortunately, the price tags at Bishop’s have always had me opting to take my taste buds (and my wallet) to dinner elsewhere. So yes, first things first, it is expensive. Appetizer’s start at $14 and entrees are around the $35 to $40 mark, meaning that they fall into my “Ouch…” category. But John Bishop has nothing to worry about – the prices don’t seem to deter Vancouver’s more cashed-up diners that are in search of one of the best, local, mostly organic meals in town. There is a reason that Bishop’s has been in business for as long as it has and the formula is quite simple – provide quality food, made from local, organic ingredients and serve it up with a touch of class and top service.

Exuding warm hospitality you could easily be mistaken for thinking that you have stumbled into someone’s house when you walk into Bishop’s. With decor that is heavily influenced by the West Coast, the restaurant is split over two levels and both of the spaces are small and intimate. Personally, I found that Bishop’s was decorated with more mature tastes in mind. That’s my subtle way of saying that it was classy but not overly modern (think comfortable rather than chic).

Service was flawless and, in fact, they went above and beyond what we could have asked for. When I made the reservation I had mentioned that we were having our engagement dinner and upon our arrival, John Bishop (the owner) came over to congratulate us. For two foodie nerds this was pretty exciting! John also served us our appetizers and later on, when dessert was served, the pastry chef had added a pastry “Congratulations” to our plate. All were small gestures but all were noted and it really did add to our experience.

The food itself was good – I would have been livid if it hadn’t been – unfortunately, I was left slightly underwhelmed. I started my meal with potato soup with garlic croutons. The garlic croutons were really good and had a lot of flavour. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for the soup. Don’t get me wrong – it was still good soup but for $14 for a bowl of soup I had expected my socks to be well and truly knocked off but alas, my socks remained on.

Moving on to entrees and I chose the Qualicum Bay Scallops to dine on and they were absolutely melt-in-your-mouth fantastic. The buttery, tender scallops were served with a light and delicate mash and a small portion of savoy cabbage. B went with the other dish that I, too, had been considering, the Seared Lamb Loin and Braised Lamb Shoulder. The loin wasn’t much to get excited about but the braised lamb shoulder was worthy of some taste bud dancing. For dessert we shared a delicious chocolate trio plate.

Final Thoughts: Overall, our experience at Bishop’s was a good one. It was romantic, comfortable and, most importantly, the food was enjoyable. My only complaint is that I don’t think the food was necessarily worth the price. The prices are amongst some of the highest in town and although I didn’t leave with a bad experience, I also didn’t leave amazed. Perhaps my expectations were too high as I often feel let down by the more revered, high-end restaurants (Le Crocodile and Cioppino’s also let me down). I often find that I am more impressed by cheaper (but not cheap) restaurants that offer better value for money (La Brasserie, Nook and Pair are some that spring to mind). With that said, if you can afford it, and you are looking for somewhere to splurge where high standards of food and service are offered then look no further than Bishop’s. It is a long-time local favourite for a reason.

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