Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Staying True to Tradition at Bishops

2183 W 4th Ave  Vancouver, BC V6K 1N7
(604) 738-2025
Tastiness Factor: 4/5
Atmosphere: 4.5/5
Service: 4/5
Locavore approved? YES (locally sourced seafood and meets, seasonal produce, extensive seleciton of local wines.  It would be nice if the menu changed a bit more frequently though as this current one has been the same for several months).
Bishop's gets a lot of hype in Vancouver.  It is known as a local establishment, and one of "THE" place for fine dining.  It has been around for years, and is a favorite for special occasions.  On the online reviews (Trip Advisor, Yelp, Urbanspoon), it consistently gets 5/5 stars and touted as "the best restaurant in Vancouver".  So, as a foodie living in Vancouver for over 2 years, I felt that a trip to Bishops for Valentine's Day was long overdue.
The room itself is intimate and reasonably quiet, perfect for a special occasion. Some may say it is a bit dated, but I personally do not think there is anything wrong with tradition from time to time. 
In terms of service, it would be impossible to pinpoint exactly who our server was as it seemed as though we had a different server for every course, with two or three other runners who brought our food.  For a small restaurant, there seemed to be an incredible amount of staff milling around- I sometimes wondered if there were more servers than customers!  While this made for quite attentive service, I found many of the servers to be a bit "stuffy", with some that were even a bit impatient.  Also, I had heard that John Bishops was very friendly to his customers, but on this particular night, he spent all of his time with one table and all we got was a little wave out the door.  
The menu is exactly as it appears online- about 5-6 each of appetizers, entrees and desserts. There were also a few "feature dishes" of the evening that were described to us by our server. They have quite an extensive wine selection, with several pages devoted just to BC wines.  Here were our selections:
Liver pate (amuse)- To me, this was a poor choice for an amuse, especially in a city with so many pescatarians and vegetarians.  Perhaps it would have been kind to at least ask us if either of those titles applied to us. At least my hubby was happy- he got to eat both his and mine, and he really enjoyed both the flavour and texture.

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Bread- I do not usually mention bread in my reviews, mostly because I usually pass on it since it fills me up too much before my meal (my husband, the carb addict, usually eats the whole basket!). On this particular night, however, I was pretty hungry and had to skip the amuse, so I tried a piece of the chive cornbread.  This was quite a unique cornbread, very light as it should be before a meal. The chive flavour was subtle and just enough to perpare the palette for the meal to come.
Butternut squash soup- This dish was by far the highlight of the meal for me.  The flavours of the seasonal squash really shone here, and were complemented by spiced buttermilk to make it creamy.  It was rich, without being too heavy.  On top, was a line of crunchy wild rice that looks beautifully rustic and provided a nice textural contrast.  I could have made my whole meal out of a few bowls of this.

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Oysters- These were a dish feature of the evening and my husband, being totally unable to say "no" to an oyster, decided that he needed to order this as a "pre-appetizer" (he was hungry!).  The oysters were from Vancouver Island, and very fresh as per my husband (I just cannot do oysters).  The accompaniments were quite unique- a citrus sorbet for sweet and sea asparagus for salt.  Very nice.

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Elk carpaccio- My husband chose this as his appetizer and he enjoyed it.  The sides of celeriac and bannocks made it a little more substantial than your average carpaccio and there was a nice, subtle truffle flavour to the dressing.  He cleared his plate easily, although he did not rave about it-  he has certanly had better carpaccio elsewhere in the city.

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Pan-roasted ling cod- This looked a little boring on paper, but I ordered it against my better judgement.  It was also the only dish on the menu that did not contain meat, as even the other fish dish contained bacon.  Strange for a place that is said to specialize in West Coast cuisine.  And I was right about the boring part.  While I will give then the fact that the fish was well-cooked, the rest of the dish fell flat.  The root vegetables (mostly turnip and parsnip) were a little bland, as was the color they gave to the dish.  The worst part for me though was the farfelle.  It was just plain, dry pasta which, in my opinion, was a total throw-away.  Had there been a better side dish, this dish may have held a bit more promise.  I must say, I was dissapointed.

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Lamb rack- Luckily, my husband's entree was more of a success than mine. The lamb was beautifully medium-rare, and served with a giant ravioli filled with lamb shank (unlike my farfelle, this looked homeade).  The side of roasted sunchokes were a unique and seasonal side, and were roasted to bring out their sweetness.  The dish was finished off by a nice madeira sauce.

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Pot-de-creme-  Although we do not usually get dessert, my husband felt it was justified on Valentine's Day so he chose this "feature dessert".  The pot de creme was like a fine chocolate pudding- very creamy and very "chocolaty".  It was adorned by a nice dark cholocate and a few little cholocate cookies.   With all of this chocolate, it was suprisingly light and made a nice end to the meal (of course I was given a spoon too!).

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Overall, I had a lovely evening with my honey on Valentine's Day.  But I must admit that, with all of the hype around Bishops, I was expecting more.  The food was good, but it was far from the best meal I have had in this awesome food city.  For me, it was a little too plain and I could not get overly excited.  While it is clear that they have a lot of experience on the Vancouver food scene, there is a need to change with times in order to compete with all the "new kids on the block".  If not, I fear that Bishops will find itself getting lost in the shuffle.

Bishop's on Urbanspoon

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