Eating essentially two brunches earlier in the day (cc: T. Pot and Beltliner), the word "full" was an understatement. Thus, it was appropriate to burn off all those calories with shopping, and more shopping. After consecutive trips to the CORE and Chinook, we finally settled in for a late-ish dinner at Chefbar.
Chefbar is the brand new baby and brainchild of chef/owner Shaun Desaulniers. Reading his little autobiographical blurb on the restaurant's website, he's certainly accomplished and a veteran of the industry. Having been opened for just four short months, the restaurant is small and intimate, with an outdoor patio spilling out on 11th avenue. We had a little trouble finding the place since it doesn't exactly stand out against the building it shares with various other businesses. Their signage is small, so just look out for the Gerry Thomas Gallery awning and you're golden.
Menus are strapped to wooden boards and features only a small sampling of dishes. Less items = better quality? Let's hope.
Before we decided on what to order, the waiter let us know that all the plates on the menu are meant to be shared, and recommended that we split two mains and a side between the 3 of us. We heeded his advice, although I took on a main by myself (albeit a lighter one) and SC and EC shared a side and a main.
Chefbar also has a sizable drinks menu, consisting of diverse cocktails, beers, and wines. SC and EC started with the Perfect Margarita ($12.00) which was a blend of El Jimador Blanco tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, mint, and orange juice. I don't drink so I passed on trying a sip, but SC and EC really enjoyed it.
The waiter didn't know that we weren't sharing everything, so all the dishes came out in a haphazard fashion.
First to arrive on the table was the roasted cauliflower steak ($8.00) flavoured with smoked paprika oil, capers, and flat leaf parsley. A really simple dish but quite flavourful.
For my dinner, I chose the salmon belly & lobster cake ($19.00) which featured two small salmon and lobster cakes, topped with arugula, fennel, and apple in a lemon dressing. A smear of sriracha aioli and a grilled half lemon completes the dish. The cakes were borderline burnt, but I do prefer them having a crispy crust than nothing at all, even if it meant that the innards were slightly dry. The srirachi aioli had a really nice flavour, but the salmon and lobster cakes themselves were suuuper salty. A lighter touch with the seasoning and the dish would have been a winner for me.
To end off the dinner, SC and EC shared the braised short ribs ($24.00?) which came on top of a mushroom shallot risotto, with roasted carrots, and natural jus (see first photo). Apparently they took it off their menu because I can no longer find it on the website. When the dish first came out, we all had a try of the risotto and collectively agreed that it seemed a little undercooked as the rice was a bit hard. When the waiter came by to check on us, SC mentioned it to him and he told us that risotto is traditionally served "al dente." Sure, I can understand al dente, but the rice wasn't tender and really was too hard for it to be enjoyable. No matter, he took the dish back asking if we wanted the rice cooked longer or the dish substituted with another item on the menu.
Not wanting to make any more unnecessary fuss, SC and EC asked that the risotto just be cooked longer, although I assume the restaurant made a fresh batch as it took quite a while for the plate to come back. By this time, I was already done eating and excused myself to the washroom (which is really teeny tiny by the way) and wasn't there when the waiter brought the dish back out. Apparently he had mentioned (again!) that "risotto should be cooked al dente" and "understand that what we had now was overcooked." Overcooked or not, SC and EC had no problems with the new plate.
I'm sure it wasn't his intention, but the waiter's comment left us with a bad taste in our mouths. Go ahead, defend your philosophy and vision, but you don't have to do it in a derogatory way by insinuating what the customer prefers is actually wrong since the dish is now "overcooked." I'm not usually one to make negative comments about service (if you know me, I'm not a confrontational person -- like, at all), and for the most part, service was friendly and fine, but it's not our first rodeo, so get off your high horse.