Cork and Fin (Dine Out Vancouver 2013)Posted: 02/13/2013
For Samson’s birthday, we originally planned to go to Catch-122, which was also the restaurant we went to for my birthday a few months back. However, In Hye’s review of their Dine Out menu didn’t seem too appealing, and even though we were excited to try rabbit, we decided to go somewhere else. Looking for another restaurant wasn’t too hard, as I had made my annual Dine Out wishlist already, and Cork & Fin was an obvious choice for a nice evening out.
After a brisk walk from Waterfront Station, we were seated on the main floor of the restaurant, and were promptly asked for drink requests and handed menus. We denied drinks for the moment (only asking for water, since I had a horrible sore throat), because we were actually intent on trying out the wine pairings that accompanied the menu.
One thing that made Cork and Fin an easy choice was that they not only had a plethora of choices, but the price, at $28 for the 3-course Dine Out menu, and $42 for their own 4-course prix-fixe menu (essentially the same menu, but with an added pasta mid-course), was very reasonable considering the sophistication of the dishes offered. We decided on one of each set menu, intending to share all our dishes anyways. We also opted for the $18 House Wine Pairing (they also had a BC VQA Pairing) and, because I wanted something fruity that wasn’t wine or alcoholic, decided on the $9 mocktail pairing, sore throat be damned.
We started off with the Oysters ($17/half dz) and Winter Salad ($9). I don’t think I’ve had raw oysters in recent memory– the last time I had any was probably when I was 10, too young to appreciate the flavour and not get squeamish about the squooshiness. I didn’t have any of Samson’s this meal either (I promise to go have some sometime soon!), but he did tell me that they were flavourful, juicy and delicate, all in one. The champagne mignonette with shallots complemented the shellfish nicely, and I actually stole some for my salad. The Winter Salad consisted of crispy kale, cubed squash and king oyster mushrooms tossed in a walnut vinaigrette. I was surprised that this wasn’t too sweet– the honeyed flavour of the vinaigrette was just right, balancing the kale’s seasoning. The mushrooms were, well, shroomy, and the squash was blander, but it was alright considering the kale’s slight saltiness. This was a solid dish, but I don’t know if I would be ordering this if I went another time.
Our first course was paired with champagne and a tumbler of an almondy, fizzy concoction– I didn’t catch the names of the drinks, and I didn’t manage to get pictures of them. The champagne was a nice touch (we definitely weren’t expecting that at all), whereas my drink was a little too sweet and almondy for my taste; again, I’m more of a fruity-drink kind of girl.
The second course, of Skuna Salmon Carpaccio ($11) and Lobster Bisque ($11) arrived shortly afterwards, along with our next set of drinks– a glass of white wine for Samson, and a agave-guava-cucumber soda for me. The carpaccio was thinly sliced, and topped with green papaya (which I thought was julienned cucumber at first), some sprouts and breadcrumbs, a rather interesting add. The fish tasted fresh, and all the toppings complemented it nicely. I’ve never actually had salmon carpaccio before
(it’s basically thinly sliced sashimi marketed a different way, yes?), so this was a great first experience of the dish. The breadcrumbs introduced a crunchy, grainy texture that we both liked, and the few veggies on top were fresh. My lobster bisque came out hot and steaming, and was chock-full of flaky fish, and small bits of lobster and shrimp. I liked that there were so many ingredients, as sometimes, I feel like Dine Out isn’t quite representative of the care you’d get normally. However, the bisque was too salty, so I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.
The mid-course of Saffron Spaghetti ($15) our server set down smelled heavenly from the get-go, and with the aroma of butter and garlic wafting up from the dish, we just had to dig in. The spaghetti was actually a lot thinner than what I had imagined (not that we minded at all, it was just a surprise), and was cooked al dente. Topped with breadcrumbs and chunks of sweet, fluffy dungeness crab, this was an amazing dish– I would go to Gastown just to order this, even if it was out of the way for me. I liked all the textures that came together in this dish, and of course, we couldn’t say no to anything with garlic and butter in it. This was simply superb, and I found myself wanting another one even after I finished my entree…
Lastly, our waitress brought out our final course of the evening, accompanied by a glass of pinot and a grapefruit-elderflower concoction for me. Samson’s Braised Pork Shoulder was actually a pretty hefty piece, bigger than I expected, and was nicely braised, being tender. The layer of fat on it helped with the flavouring and juiciness, of course, but for some reason we thought of “tong ja”, which is the term for the meat/veggies that are cooked in Chinese soups, where the pork is typically dryer. Nevertheless, this was a pretty solid offering, and combined with the really sweet- sweet potatoes and the tempura’d oyster (very light and crispy), made for a very filling meal. My Local Petrale Sole was on the simpler side, being pan-fried with a nice golden crust. I appreciated that it didn’t disintegrate as I started eating it, even when I started picking at it with my fork, and that each piece of fish was flaky and moist. The sole also came with cauliflower, 3 mussels, cooked to juicy perfection, as well as 3 pieces of chorizo, which provided a nice spice to the meal. I wasn’t quite sure what sauce was on the plate, but it did have nice buttery and garlic notes (and of course I loved it).
We had very nice evening out at Cork & Fin: our waitress was very competent and knowledgable, explaining the rather complex menu for us (their Dine Out menu was a bit of a road-map), and refilled our waters promptly throughout the evening. Meanwhile, our food showed that the chefs put a lot of care and effort into making our meal, and I mostly enjoyed it. I have heard from several friends that their food tends to be quite salty, but from what I experienced, only the bisque needed some work. I would recommend this restaurant, and would definitely return someday myself.
221 Carrall Street