A Look at Saveur’s Latest

Saveur restaurant on Herald Street has always flown a little under the radar, in my opinion. Its location isn’t high profile (aren’t those the best, though?) but the food is highly impressive and genuinely shouldn’t be missed.

Owner and chef Robert Cassels has received high accolades, but once again, has never been flaunty about it. He is humble. And extremely talented.

Recently, we held a little editorial meeting at Saveur, to make plans for upcoming issues and review past ones, while enjoying Robert’s most recent tasting menu and the room’s subtle yet effective facelift. (For photos of this epic culinary adventure, see @eatmag on Instagram and find the experience in the story highlights).

I liken Robert’s tasting menu to the dramatic rising to the crescendo in a beautiful composition. A soft, easy start, followed by a series of upbeat tempos rising in drama and volume until it reaches the top, the peak, the crescendo, before it comes back down to a slower, more mellow finish.

We start with a delightful amuse-bouche of buckwheat soba noodles twisted around chopsticks. A simple, single bite to whet the appetite. Next came a gorgeous Sunwing tomato salad, with fresh and smoked tomatoes, walnut goat cheese, miner’s lettuce and fermented maple blossom. These bites went well with a beautifully complex yet light bourbon cocktail. The volume rises a bit.

The most perfectly seared sea scallop with crispy sea asparagus, compressed cucumber, tarragon oil and an oyster emulsion came next. This dish was served to us in a rock. Yes. A rock. It had been partially hollowed and filled with a hard, smooth resin that created the surface that the dish was presented on, making it a work of art in its own right.
Our attention is captured. The music gets a bit louder.

Next, we are served a dish of spot prawn stuffed morel mushrooms with pea risotto, prawn emulsion and turnip. Things are getting dramatic. It is everything you might imagine in a pure west coast dish. Our minds are blown a bit, and we can feel the rhythm vibrating in our bones.

Up next, a perfectly seared Haida Gwaii halibut, Guite’s Farm asparagus, cured duck yolk, pickled mustard seed. You know when you are eating something hard to describe because it’s so good, but you can’t stop looking at each other across the table with mouths full and eyes wide with wonder? This was that. We were excited to see what was coming next because things just kept getting better and better.

First, we need a moment to take a breath and to take in the new surroundings. Saveur’s room is long, with seating along one side and a bar along the other. Their latest additions include custom-made tables with beautiful and comfortable red upholstered chairs, new wooden accents throughout and beautiful wallpaper on one wall that shimmered and changed hue with the descending sunlight. Our service was excellent, which is something that can be lacking in our laid-back city at times, with a good knowledge of wine (try the entire menu paired if you like) and just enough attention to be effective, but not so much as to be disruptive. The music was enough to add ambiance but not distracting.

Ok. Back to our crescendo.

While we took our breather, the volume dipped to a comfortable, slow beat, but rapidly rose again with a duo of beef: a braised short rib that honestly melted in the mouth, plus a seared tenderloin, mustard greens, kohlrabi and celery root puree. This brought to the evening a deep, earthy tone that moved us to the very top of the melody. It rung out long and loud and made us shake our heads with the pleasure of it all. It would have been the perfect ending to an incredible meal except for one thing.

There was still dessert.

We exhaled. Our heartbeats returned to normal. We were presented with Michell’s Farm Rhubarb with orange panna cotta, rhubarb sabayon, and little crispy strips of tart rhubarb on top. That was it. We were done. Fully satisfied and smiling from the experience, I’m pretty sure we really didn’t get much work done at all. I highly recommend Saveur for any gathering, business or otherwise.

Note: Since we were there, Saveur was named the Best Restaurant of the Year by Yam Magazine. Congratulations on a well-deserved honour.

Written By:

Having lived on the West Coast all her life, Rebecca made the move from Vancouver to Vancouver Island in 2004 to pursue her love of fine food and expressive portraiture. A food and lifestyle photographer, her work can be defined ...

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