Level 3 – 1115 Alberni Street
T: 604 696 1115
Brief Description: The first Canadian restaurant for well-known chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Located in the Shangri-La MARKET by Jean-Georges offers mid to high-end dining amongst beautiful surroundings.
I have a reputation amongst my friends of being a total food fanatic. I read about it, blog about, photograph it and talk about it excessively. I am sure that gets annoying but my friends are great and are extremely encouraging. In fact they are so encouraging that for my recent 30th birthday I ended up with gift cards for a few of the restaurants that are on my 2010 Wish List. Ahhh, they are good friends. One of those gift cards was for MARKET by Jean-Georges and, let me tell you, I didn’t waste much time using that card! B and I went with some good friends of ours and indulged in the 3 course lunch special for $29. Personally, I think $29 for a 3 course meal is great value – especially when that meal is served at one of the most talked about restaurants in Vancouver.
It was our first time at MARKET and although we were only there for a weekend lunch we made a bit of an effort to get dressed up as it is quite a classy place (it is in the Shangri La, after all). Although I’m not usually one for the pretentiousness of fine-dining (I feel much more at home in more casual eating establishments), I did allow myself to get caught up in the swankiness of MARKET. From being greeted in a seperate lobby area, to having our coats checked, I felt like we were being spoilt and so I went along with it. Making the effort to capture various customer types, the space is actually divided into four separate dining experiences – a bar, an outdoor terrace (too cold in February!), a casual cafe and the formal fine-dining area, which is where we were seated. The dining area is a beautiful space and, aesthetically speaking, it is one of my favourite restaurants. With a modern style, clean lines, luxurious carpets and linens, and simple but dramatic features, it is obvious that a lot of effort was made with the interior design. It certainly won me over. Service was also impressive and very fluid.
Now on to the most important part of any dining out experience…the food! I will go right out there and say it, straight off the bat, I love, love, loved the food at MARKET!! I was honestly surprised at how good it was considering that it was only lunch. We all chose the Prix Fix menu which in hindsight was a lot of food – I was kept full for the rest of the day after that lunch. I thought that we would be limiting our options by ordering the Prix Fix menu but, unexpectedly, there was a lot to choose from.
Before I had even sat down, I already knew that I would be ordering the Beef Carpaccio Pizza (with mushroom, arugula and parmesan) to start. A friend had told me about it and she had me instantly salivating at the thought of this fantastic concoction. It did not disappoint. The pizza was absolutely splendid. The subtle flavour of the thinly sliced beef, paired with the hint of spiciness from the arugula and the balancing flavour of the parmesan made this a very memorable dish.
B revelled in his order of Crispy Calamari with a side of chilli dip. The delicate chilli dip was bordering on more of a foam than a dip and was perfect for dipping crunchy rings of calamari in to.
Our other friends both ordered the “Black Pepper” Crab Fritter, served with Asian pear and endive. I took a nibble of this and enjoy the crab fritter however I thought the sauce that they were served on top of was a little too over-powering for the delicate flavor of crab. Thankfully, my friends didn’t agree and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
I had a really hard time trying to narrow down what I would have for my entree. The menu is bursting with tantalizing culinary treats; Seared BC Hanger Steak, Slowly Cooked Arctic Char, Black Truffle Fontina Cheese Pizza…as I said, it was extremely difficult.
I ended up selecting the Soy Glazed Short Ribs, paired with apple-jalapeno puree and topped with rosemary crumbs. Reminiscing about the short ribs gets my salivary glands all worked up! The soy glaze was the ideal accompaniment to the tender, fall-apart short ribs. The rosemary crumbs were an interesting, and welcomed, addition and provided a slight crunch and an interesting flavour to each mouthful. Everyone else at the table were also happy with their meals, everyone that is, except for B who ordered the Grilled MARKET Burger.
B is a burger enthusiast but with all of the other tempting meals available I am still perplexed as to why he chose the burger. In my mind, there are good burgers and bad burgers, but rarely are burgers ever extraordinary. He summed it up well by saying “It was just a burger”. On the other hand, the Pacific Sole with Sautéed Spinach and a Sweet Garlic Lemon Broth, and the Red Snapper with a Nut and Seed Crust served in a sweet and sour broth were both visually attractive and extremely tasty.
By now, I was absolutely impressed by what I had eaten up until this point. And then they have to go and serve me a foodgasm in a glass, also known as the chocolate pudding. This chocolate pudding was more of what I would call a mousse but it could be called anything they want and I wouldn’t care – just give me more!!
I was lulled into a trance by the thick, rich chocolate pudding with the chocolate sponge base. The crystallized violets, something that was new to me, took the dessert to whole other level. The Green Apple Crisp with Cinnamon Ice Cream was a warm, comforting dish on a cold winter’s day but, in my opinion, it couldn’t hold its own against the Chocolate Pudding. We finished our meals by sipping on some very strong, dark coffee. Yum!
Final Thoughts: As you can tell, I was extremely impressed by my first visit to MARKET. Normally I like to refrain from giving such glowing reviews about a place that I’ve only been to once but I was so happy with our experience that I am happy to go out on a limb for this one. With the $29 lunch representing such good value, I eagerly await my next visit to MARKET.