Great cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

It may be located in an airport hotel, but [email protected] has a lot going for it

Michelle Hopkins

Diners enjoy lunch at [email protected] in Richmond, a restaurant that attracts more than just air travellers and hotel guests, despite its location. Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun

[email protected]

Fairmont Vancouver Airport


Reservations: 604-248-3281

Website: htm


Breakfast: 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Breakfast Buffet: 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Mondays to Fridays, 6 a.m. to noon Saturdays and Sundays

Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Dinner: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m

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My partner was heading to Egypt for three weeks. The night before his departure, I wanted to enjoy a memorable dinner in a restaurant that offered unparallel cuisine, stunning views and amazing service, yet also offered a relaxing atmosphere. A tall order, you might think.

Not if you have ever set foot in the [email protected] in the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel. I had been there a few years ago and remembered just how fabulous it was.

On a chilly but clear Monday evening, we were instantly warmed by the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace that takes centrestage in this contemporary and oh so chic restaurant.

Considering the economy, I was somewhat surprised to see how busy it was. It’s not just businessmen, travellers or hotel guests who eat there; it attracts Vancouverites who enjoy exceptional cuisine and stellar service. In fact, a family of four from Vancouver seated opposite us told us it’s one of their favourite fine dining establishments in the Lower Mainland.

Our server, Myra Mahoney, greeted us warmly and soon came back to offer a few suggestions and a basket of freshly baked bread. A word of caution: The artisan breads are so delicious, you might just fill up on them.

I started with the soup of the day, a mouthwatering apple and parsnip purée with Brie crouton garnish. Dennis went for the restaurant’s signature seared, diver-caught scallops with parsnip purée and citrus vinaigrette (one of many designated Ocean Wise seafood choices available).

For our main courses, I had the Quebec maple-glazed fillet of chinook salmon, accompanied by crushed potatoes with grainy mustard and shallot with a maple jus drizzle. Dennis enjoyed the tender northern B.C. rack of lamb with herb anise.

The restaurant creates imaginative plates with names that tantalize the taste buds before they even arrive on your table. Mahoney says the tenderloin and any of the seafood specials are favourites among loyal clientele.

A bottle of Napa Valley Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon complemented each dish quite nicely.

The restaurant recently brought on board executive chef Kamal Silva. The award-winning chef — who led the Fairmont culinary team at the prestigious 2007 Emirates International Salon Culinaire Competition to 17 wins, including Chef of the Year — came from the Fairmont Dubai, where he introduced a number of signature dishes. The Sri Lankan-born Silva is now putting his stamp on the prestigious [email protected] menu. Silva prides himself on sourcing some of the freshest locally grown and caught fare he and his team can find.

[email protected] offers a smartly chosen selection of old world and new world wines, including a healthy assortment of Okanagan VQA wines such as Burrowing Owl and the award-winning Inniskillin Dark Horse Vidal ice wine.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, savouring the repast we had just enjoyed. However, Mahoney soon enticed us with the dessert menu.

We indulged by sharing a Molten Chocolate Cake, a delicious rich cake with a liquid centre of buttery nut sauce. Silva told me the restaurant is also known for its Saltspring Island Chevre Cheesecake.

Meanwhile, I can only say the spectacular view of Vancouver‘s North Shore mountains — from the floor-to-ceiling windows — is only surpassed by the innovative Pacific Northwest cuisine.

The sophisticated restaurant seats 165.

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