High-end Metro offers elegant dining, great view

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

New eatery’s ambitious menu features Canadian grown and produced food but some dishes need work to warrant the price

Mia Stainsby

Diners can enjoy a cut-to-order plaate of venison (from left), pork tenderloin or sable fish while taking in a view of the North Shore mountains and Coal Harbour on the patio at Metro


Overall: 3 12

Food: 3 12

Service: 4

Ambience: 4

Price: $$/$$$

200 Burrard St. (Waterfront Centre building)

604-662-3463, www.metrodining.ca

Open daily for lunch and dinner

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone. Restaurants are rated out of five stars.

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The city must be flush! Regardez la parade of new restaurant openings this summer. This week, I give you Metro, smack in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

The patio is a grabber and if you’re seated facing north like I was, beware Canadiana hypnosis. Across the street, Canada Place sports a giant video with a continuous loop of Canadian scenes and trivia — nothing profound, but despite my husband’s attempts to deprogram me, I was entranced.

The baseball glove and zipper — Canadian inventions! Standard time — Canadian! (Alas, poutine, Wonderbra, the retractable beer carton handle, snowblower and The Abdominizer — other Canadian contributions, didn’t make the cut.)

In the kitchen chef/co-owner Brian Fowke says Metro’s food is all about Canadian content, too — which means it’s about using everything and anything that’s grown or produced here.

Fowke took over the space with partner Tim Keller a few weeks ago. The two lock-stepped their way from Joe Fortes, where they both worked, to opening Rare, their high-end restaurant on Hornby, to this newest venture in corporate and tourist heartland. The low-key modern interior trumpets the beautiful-Vancouver view beyond. The diner’s elegance quotient goes up by simply stepping into the room, whether they’re in cruise ship pastel or Windsor-knotted corporate attire. Servers glide about confidently, in full hospitality mode.

The menu is ambitious and, on paper, a droolfest. Fowke sources local, high-quality materials to work with, which is a must for any serious restaurant today. The lineup of small plates and main dishes and “cut-to-order” dishes sounds wonderful but my meals weren’t without irritations and disappointments for the prices.

In some cases, flavours that should have shone, given the ingredients, didn’t; grilling and sauteeing left some dishes somewhat oily; and most noticeable, a savoury tart’s crust was mushy.

The menu was saliva-inducing but didn’t all follow through in a delicious way. Okay, I visited a couple weeks after its soft opening and they were still tweaking but I think it needs a lot of work to earn a double thumbs up.

One dish that could have been outstanding — the Tuesday special — a shellfish bouillabaisse (which contained non-shellfish seafood as well), arrived in a too-small bowl with contents filled to the brim. The server stepped gingerly delivering it but upon tasting, I found seafood and the lobster broth was delicious. Trio of wild salmon graavilohi (Finnish style salted salmon) was buttery; the Berkshire pork tenderloin with lentils, sauteed fennel and birch vinaigrette were lovely pieces of meat — the vinaigrette was perhaps too delicate and light for the meat, though.

One section of the menu, “Cut To Order” allows the diner to order proteins by the ounce, or in the case of the spot prawns I tried, by the piece. On it, the Nicola Valley venison with lingot bean, taro root sticks and cherry preserves was superb. The meat was juicy and flavourful, although the cherry preserves suffered from an interfering acid ingredient. I would have preferred the seasonal and beautiful spot prawns almost untouched, but it was oily from a heavy-handed sautee.

With other dishes, there were problems. The “Rooster Drops” — chicken drummettes with gremolata marinade and a hot chili tomato sauce — wasn’t cooked through and I recoiled at the blood. An onion tart with dried grapes, cheese and Dijon mustard, as mentioned earlier, had crust fatigue.

Presentation didn’t help matters in some cases — the food looked good but dividers on the plate separated out elements of a dish when often the whole is greater than its parts. And one more glitch that needs to be addressed: the tap water tasted of chlorine. I don’t know if the fix is as simple as a Britta filter, but chlorine taste is not a palate cleanser.

The wine list is categorized by characteristics (light and vibrant, full and rich, etc.) to make it user friendly and covers a lot of territory but with an emphasis on B.C. and the U.S. West Coast.

So! Lovely restaurant. Ambitious menu. Needs attention to warrant the price points.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007


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