Effort & Talent
Pretty, Inventive dishes
Latab is so Fab.
When it comes to supporting local business, I’m biased as I grew up in a neighbourhood (The Heights in North Burnaby) where there are local butchers, bakeries, grocers, and even a place that makes doggie birthday cakes to buy from. When I can, I support these mom and pop shops and I’m often rewarded with one of a kind finds.
I believe a lot of Vancouverites feel the same way and have no issues voicing their support and spending their money at these local establishments.
However when it comes to local small unique restaurants, the same support doesn’t seem to be there; demonstrated by the recent Georgia Straight Gold Plates where chain restaurants appeared more frequently than one would think possible. I understand almost all these chains started here, but in my mind they are the restaurant equivalent of Wal-Mart.
Both have their spot in the marketplace, offering a wide range of items that sometimes are suspect in quality in a massive generic space. However the key difference is that Wal-Mart is often the cheapest place to buy a thing but the same cannot be said about the prices at chain restaurants.
This is what amuses me about this particular Vancouver dining trend – if you are willing to spend 40, 50, 60 dollars on a meal at a chain restaurant, why not go to a local eatery for the same price for something more interesting and unique?
For $50 you can eat the entire dinner menu at Latab. Unfortunately, I did not participate in the “Whole Shebang” promotion but in hindsight I wish we had.
The first starter to arrive was the Duck Heart Pate which look more like head cheese to me. To complete the bite the fowl offal was dressed with sea buckthorn berry, mustard and fennel sprigs. I found the appy too bitter for my liking. Although I will concede my beer might have messed up my palate as after drinking some water, I found the duck heart pate less bitter and the sea buckthorn tangy.
The next starter was the one I really wanted to try because of the uni bottarga. This special bottarga is made in house by the chef by salting the sea urchin for 12 hours and then drying for 2 months! The harden shaved uni is salty while retaining an ocean brininess that the fresh sea urchin taste like. If I was not with company, I really would have considered licking the plate.
Other than the preserved uni, the raw bread bite had a creaminess from a mayo and a crunchiness from the radish and sprouts. It was simple but had different flavours and textures to enjoy.
The first small plate to arrive was the vegetable egg. The veggie egg used celeriac and pine mushroom to form the whites, while a roasted pumpkin gel replicated the yolk. Although it didn’t taste like a soft poached egg, it certainly mimicked the texture, including the running yolk. This creation was wonderful.
Overall the dish was delicious with contrasting textures of the soft onion puree and the hard porcini granola. Unfortunately, due to the wonderful conversation with my dining companions, I didn’t take note of what the chunks of root vegetables were but they served an important role in bridging together the velvety onions and the crunchy mushroom.
The next dish took everyday pedestrian ingredients of chicken, squash, Brussels Sprouts, mushrooms, and potatoes, and created a very memorable plate of food. The white meat chicken is cooked using the sous vide technique, creating meat that is ultra tender with a concentrated flavour.
The white dollops are potatoes turned into foam. The texture of the potatoes, in combination with the yellow sauce created something that felt and tasted like a soft cheese to me. I was utterly blown away.
The bits and bites of vegatables added their own texture and flavours to further enhance the complexity of the dish. As much as the veggie egg was an amazing and entertaining parlour trick, I am more impressed and appreciative of this buttermilk chicken small plate. With expertise and creativity, the chef created an entrée that I would pay top dollar for dining out on the weekend, with items I would use for a simple home cook meal on Tuesday.
It’s easier to create amazing dishes with luxury ingredients like foie gras and Kobe beef, but when one can elevate everyday groceries into something fancy, it really showcases the talents of a chef.
To conclude our meal sweetly, we ordered the chamomile cream. The cream was silky smooth and only slightly sweetened with honey. Continuing the chef’s preference of have varying textures, crisp buckwheat was added, providing a nice contrast.
Chef Kris Barnholden is truly talented. I was thoroughly impressed with my experience at Latab. The food was thoughtful, inventive and utterly out of the box.
Why eat food that is more or less the same at the various chain restaurants, when for $50 one can eat the entire creative menu at Latab?
983 Helmcken St,
Vancouver, BC V6Z 2S5