120 West Hastings
T: 604 687 6880
Brief Description: A recent addition to the Gastown food scene, it should be quite obvious from the name of the restaurant as to what Wildebeest specializes in but in case you need more clarity, think meat, bones, and tongues. It is certainly not a place for the squeamish, or vegetarian.
Although I’ve been to Wildebeest many times for brunch, due to its popularity, I’ve not had dinner there until just recently. It was even busy the night we visited, a Tuesday night in early January, which I wrongly assumed would be a quiet night. Unsurprisingly to me, the clientele on the evening we were there appeared to be mostly men in suits, looking for a meat fix. If you are planning a visit to Wildebeest, be sure to phone ahead or book online.
I’ve written about the the interior of Wildebeest before, and whilst it isn’t anything particularly adventurous, the space has an unforced charm that I like. The dining room is long and open with an open concept kitchen so that, from certain seats in the house, you can watch the kitchen at work. The unique decor pieces that the owners have sourced themselves, such as the rustic wooden wine rack, and the bold lighting feature that includes bare light bulbs in a pulley system, add to the personality of a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’d prefer just drinks and snacks, try a seat at the bar or the wine bar downstairs.
Wildebeest is not for the picky eater. If you are visiting Wildebeest then I’m assuming you are OK with a menu full of rich, meaty items, including bone marrow, giblets, sweetbreads, and foie gras. Do not bother bringing a vegetarian guest with you to Wildebeest, that would not only be cruel to the vegetarian but also pointless, as the menu is centered around animal products. The dishes are intended to be served family-style so guests should be prepared to share.
Food-wise, I can’t stop thinking about the Smoked Castelvetrano Olives ($5) that we started our meal with. With an addictive smoky, oily flavour we had to order two bowls as I was eating them so voraciously! I highly recommend you start with some of these whilst deciding on the rest of your order.
Crispy pork & polenta croquettes, housemade tomato jam – $6 Kuri squash salad, miso-cured egg yolk, smoked organic duck breast, orange – $9 Roasted sweetbreads, caramelized buttermilk, wild mushrooms, porcini vinaigrette – $15 Poutine with roasted foie gras – $16 Slow-cooked natural Angus beef short rib, smoked salt, hay jus – $17 Pumpkin budino, salted caramel ice cream, malt tuile – $9 Pink Lady apple sorbet, vanilla grapefruit crème anglaise, granola, 63C egg yolk – $8
For me the most notable dish of the evening was easily the roasted sweetbreads. I’m not a particularly brave eater so choosing sweetbreads would not be my first choice yet I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious this dish was. I just tried not to think about what it was. The smoked olives were obviously a favourite, as were the croquettes and the poutine.
The Kiru squash and duck breast salad fell flat for me, and I found the short rib to be incredibly fatty, although the flavour was good. The desserts were incredibly interesting – no traditional, old-fashioned desserts here. I found the pumpkin budino and salted caramel ice-cream to be more my thing than the Pink Lady apple sorbet dessert – egg yolk in a dish just doesn’t sit well with me.
Final Thoughts: Menu-wise, Wildebeest is certainly interesting and innovative, and the service is friendly and welcoming. Overall, I found the prices a little high for the serving sizes. If you are ordering for the table, then you are recommended to order about six dishes, which makes the cost add up fast. You’d also need to add a salad if you wanted any greens with your meat dishes as they typically do not come with any sides. Be prepared for a rich, meat-focused meal.