Chef David Hawksworth is a big name in the culinary world of Vancouver. His signature restaurant, Hawksworth, housed inside the Rosewood Hotel Georgia with a view of the Vancouver Art Gallery across West Georgia St., is widely considered the best restaurant in the city. We haven’t had a burning urge to try it because it seemed stuffy from the outside, but we figured we might as well check it off the list. So, we celebrated Valentine’s Day early by dining at Hawksworth last Saturday.
A note about attire: There’s no strict dress code here, but everyone dresses up. If you’re in casual clothing, though, no worries; you won’t raise eyebrows.
Another tip: This is a highly popular restaurant, so book reservations at least a few days ahead.
We arrived for the first seating of the evening at 5 p.m., so we got to see the servers getting ready for the night, setting the tables and putting the finishing touches on things. We ordered cocktails at the bar (a Sazerac and a champagne cocktail) and were well seated at a corner table.
Our waiter was friendly and ready to answer questions (I always like to ask about ingredients and prep if I really like a dish). We started off with appetizers of beef neck raviolo and foie gras, both of which were excellent. The raviolo was relatively small in size but stuffed with shredded beef neck and a bit of bone marrow. I loved the foie gras; it’s been so long since I’ve had it, and I relished its unctuousness. Foie gras isn’t a common item on upscale menus in Vancouver, and it was a treat to have it here. It has the flavor and texture of a hardier bone marrow, and it was served on a type of French toast that was soaked in milk or cream, so the textures and flavors of the foie gras and the toast played off each other beautifully.
For the mains, we had the sturgeon and the lamb saddle. The sturgeon was prepared with a Vietnamese lemongrass treatment and served with slices of cucumber. I’ve never had sturgeon before, and it was a new texture for me; quite toothsome for a fish yet still tender, kind of like lobster or perfectly cooked squid. The lamb saddle literally looked like a saddle; a creative, playful dish. The lamb was served as rolled medallions with a thin layer of (I’m guessing here) ground peppercorns inside. The potato side to the lamb was clever, with thin layers of potato rolled up together–a technique playing off the lamb saddle concept, perhaps–and packed with butter for lots of flavor.
We didn’t order dessert–we were looking forward to blondies topped with ice cream at home–but the waiter did give us a little goodie bag of mini chocolate loaf treats as a parting gift.
The verdict: I now understand the fuss. Hawksworth demonstrates technical mastery, inventiveness and beauty. The prices may be high, but it’s worth trying if you’re willing to splurge.