I Call Fowl

Look, I’m the first person to shake my lady-like fist at anybody who uses the internet to put people down, be it in the name of I Hate So-and-So Clubs, “complaint threads” for actors you can’t stand simply for playing a character they had nothing to do with writing, mean and nasty blogs and reviews that just spread more negativity throughout the universe, ugly gossip and hurtful judgements on people we haven’t the faintest pleasure of knowing… It seems like such a waste of energy to me, and although diedrkellerdie.com has a great ring to it, I believe the internet should be used for more positive purposes.  Like googling pictures of Ryan Reynolds. Or mapping out the quickest way to get to the Bloomingdale’s sample sale. Or finding the “cheapest hotel I could find in that area, I swear” for that trip to Paris with your boyfriend.  We can all agree the internet is an amazing thing, and I’d like to use it for the greater good.

Having said that, my idea of the greater good happens to be warning the shit out of you when I eat a bad meal at a restaurant.  And also having a wee friendly gripe about this whole fancy food craze that’s just gone way out of control.

I adore and appreciate food in all its conformities, shapes, and sizes. I have as much respect for a perfectly buttery, puffy morsel of mashed potato at L’Atelier Joel Robuchon as I do a fried egg sandwich. I am the least elitist, anti-snob foodie you will ever meet, but I also appreciate the wondrous accomplishment at an incredible restaurant that goes into a five-star meal I know I could never recreate at home, and because of that I’m more than happy to pay for it. But the most important thing we should all agree on, regardless of price or personal taste, from Chef Thomas Keller to Chef Ronald Mc Donald, is that food better well taste good.  No matter the palate, we expect our appetite to be satiated, our cravings to be curbed, and most of all, we want the experience to be a rewarding one.  When anybody asks you what you feel like for dinner, isn’t the answer always, “Something good”?  When have we ever been craving “something mediocre”?  Or, worse, “something that looks like art but tastes like dust and makes me fork out half my pay check to pay for it”?  In this world full of ridiculously outstanding restaurant riches, I know it’s imperative to stand out from the crowd, but can we please go back to the fundamental home-spun value that food should taste great above all else?

So there’s this new restaurant in Vancouver called Pidgin.  Cute name, even cuter bartenders, a warm room with lots of white and sexy steel light fixtures, classy clientele, basically what looked to be a great addition to the ever-growing Gastown restaurant scene.  The menu sounds crazy delicious with things like in-house made sweet and salty nuts, beef tataki with black garlic and gruyere cheese, scallops and fried polenta, potatoes with seaweed butter and cod roe… Sounds like a win, right?  Thing is, they’ve jazzed up these creations to the point of the bizarre, the lackluster, and the simply unappetizing.  Is anybody in the kitchen tasting this food?  Is the whole point of this place to dazzle our eyes enough that our tongues won’t notice the misbalance of flavors, the total lack of respect for the ingredients, and the absence of finesse in these dishes?  A lot of the time I’d excuse a place for having an off-night, but I don’t think that’s what was going on here.  More mystifying, who on earth would ever be craving this type of food at any given point enough to go back?  Isn’t that the whole point of a restaurant, to impress a patron enough that they become a returning customer?  Have I asked enough questions in this paragraph?  As long as I’m on a roll, whatever happened to Jonathan Taylor Thomas?

Some of what we ordered:

This is their idea of a wedge salad, with tofu dressing and shredded nori sprinkled on the top. Looks and tastes like a watery salty mess.
This is their idea of a wedge salad, with tofu dressing and shredded nori sprinkled on the top. Why, yes, I would love a watery salty mess for $8!
cured steelhead with pear and ginger, which was the most appetizing thing of the night.
Cured steelhead with pear and ginger, which I forgot about until I saw this picture.
Their beef tataki, which I'm pretty sure means seared beef, but this was not only raw but thickly sliced and tough
Their beef tataki, which I’m pretty sure means seared beef. This was not only raw but thickly sliced and super tough. Nothing says romance like chewing on the same piece of raw beef in front of your date for ten minutes.
I dunno what this is. Could have been the yakiudon-inspired calamari but it's anybody's guess.
I dunno what this is. Could be the yakiudon-inspired calamari, could be the ghost from that movie Mama
And finally, the thing that made me want to tear out my hair, those delicious-sounding potatoes that were served pretty much raw, cold, and had a filmy and unpleasant aftertaste.
And finally, the thing that made me want to tear out my hair and trash some strangers on the internet: those delicious-sounding potatoes served pretty much raw, cold, and bland, with a bonus filmy weird aftertaste.


I know this isn’t exactly Saveur magazine, and I probably have very little idea of how much work went into making these dishes. But it doesn’t matter, and that’s my point.  They should be delicious.  They deserve to be delicious.  This city has access to some of the most amazing, freshest ingredients available, and why should’t they shine in all their glory?  Meaning, there’s no excuse for a damn raw potato!  I don’t care if they do it in France and it’s fancy and makes you look cool and worldly!  Please dear God cook my potatoes!

Word is starting to spread fast amongst us culinary amateur foodies in this city, and the word is, this place may be for the birds.

OMG did you see what Nicki Minaj was wearing on Perez Hilton today?!





40 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    Next time I’m in BC I’ll bear that in mind, thanks for the (un)tip!


  2. Courtney says:

    Oh Jewel I could only love you more if you were a cute puppy that I could carry around in a handbag (which I would never do because I find the practice ludicrous but I digress).

    Now to be fair I live in Australia and will probably never eat at any of the restaurants that you blog about but I read all of them because you’re bloody hilarious and all kinds of fantastic.

    Keep writing and thanks for making my day that much brighter 🙂

  3. Gromulin says:

    That looks like something a drunken, stoned, college kid assembled from the leftovers in the community fridge. How do you screw up Japanese food? Add hipsters and call it Fusion.

  4. Carol says:

    Well I was in Vancouver last week and fortunately had 2 lovely meals that brought no complaints…not everyone’s favourites I’m sure but our meal out on Monday at Le Crocodile was beautiful and the next night’s offering at Oru @ the Pacific Rim equally tasty..and yes, as you told me in London last year, the P Rim serves up the deadliest and most wonderful Martini 🙂 🙂

  5. Kate A says:

    “…but can we please go back to the fundamental home-spun value that food should taste great above all else?”

    Yes! Yes! And a thousand times, YES! It’s fun when the presentation is pretty. It’s a bonus if the surroundings are eye catching. But it’s always horrible when the edibles are blearghhh. How does any restaurant lose the plot to such an extent that it forgets it’s a purveyor of tasty food?

  6. Mike says:

    OK, so in my not-so-expert experience, the best food has always been served at the little hole in the wall restaurants tucked back in the middle of nowhere. These people put love into the food, not worried about how the pile of peas throws off the Fun shay of the plate. I know that some gourmet chefs are truly remarkable and are innovators in their field. Nothing is as satisfying to me though as a good plate of comfort food. Just my two cents worth!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think writing a negative review falls into the same category as the ‘bash-a-celeb’ blog clubs. So this seems fair. Also this reminded me how much I love your blog and how I still haven’t gotten around to staging a wine tasting night in your (and your friends’) honor. Gotta get on that.

  8. Marchelle says:

    Is it wrong that I want you to film something here in Minneapolis just so I can show you all the unexpected culinary delights that the Twin Cities hold?

  9. Chris Chung says:

    I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience at that restaurant. The sad thing is that the dishes for the most part look good. It seems that the execution is what is lacking. I’ve personally sold dishes similar to all of those in restaurants to rave reviews. The beef looks like it was seared correctly, but sliced the wrong direction and way to thickly. The potatoes probably would have been better with a little more acid and a soak in water to remove some starch before plating. I actually enjoy a good raw potato salad. It is crisp and refreshing and paired with a nice soy-nori vinaigrette, it is simply delicious.

    It’s sad that a place which can obviously afford such nice ingredients didn’t take the time to learn or train their staff to handle said ingredients correctly.
    Though my current position doesn’t reflect it, I absolutely love Pan-Asian fusion cuisine and hope to get back into it soon here in Seattle.

  10. Arcanum says:

    I admit that food presentation is generally not a big deal to me. I don’t typically get excited by elaborate or stylish arrangements, nor am I typically put off by a less-than-attractive appearance.

    That said…the food in some of those pictures doesn’t look good at all. In fact, some of it looks rather like the dog got into something he shouldn’t and promptly threw up on a plate. Which is a real problem when the food doesn’t even taste all that good.

    Make it tasty, or don’t make it.

  11. I think the picture of the potatoes sealed the deal for me. Not that I’d be looking for anything other than a Buffalo Wild Wings, but I’ll most certainly steer clear…thanks! …:)

  12. Jayden says:

    I only make it back to BC once a year to visit the family over Christmas. My birthday is on the 27th and I’ve made a point of dining out with friends every year at the same place: The Steamworks Pub.

    I would LOVE the try the food at the amazing restaurants Vancouver has but experiences like this above keep me from risking the one night a year I’m out on the town. Consistency and quality beats out artsy anyday.

  13. JF Owen says:

    You’re the only food critic I know who can use the word “shit” in a review and not only get away with it, but also make me believe that if it wasn’t there the review wouldn’t be complete. I guess that’s why I love reading your posts. I think you missed your calling!

  14. Stacy says:

    I know they don’t pay you to blog (or do they?) but should you decide to give up acting (or -gasp- not land any more roles), you can do this full time. You’re freaking hilarious and I only hope that one day I can meet you in person — maybe at a convention!

  15. cuckoo says:

    I live in the area and am disappointed to hear that.

    After all the controversy over picketing and what not with the restaurant, you’d think they would spend a little more time on winning customers over with food that actually looks and tastes good.

  16. Lowell says:

    I was at the end of a bad day, Stumbled across your blog link on Facebook and you made me smile. Thank you so much I needed that. 🙂 Sorry your meal was a let down, but Thank you for your pleasant wit.

  17. Mendel says:


    you’re adorable.

    the place sounds very unfortunate. it’s always disappointing to try out a new place that seems to have such promise and to have the food be so wretched. But at least in my experience this is rare and worth always trying new things. 🙂

  18. Barry says:

    You are a fantastic and hilarious writer. I really enjoy reading all of your posts. The food at this restaurant looks atrocious. As much as I enjoy chewing on raw beef and eating vomit on a plate, I think I’ll avoid it when I travel to Vancouver. I also appreciate great food in all of its forms, as long as it tastes good. Presentation isn’t as important, although it appears this place failed in both taste and appearance. Thank you for being awesome!

  19. Shadowcat says:

    Ugh. Tataki should be seared, then roasted, then marinated, (yes, after cooking) then refrigerated and served cold, sliced paper thin. Chewing shouldn’t be an issue, it should practically dissolve on the tongue.

  20. Nannig says:

    Wopopopop there’s no excuse for a raw potato in France either, a potato deserves to be cooked perfectly.
    That blog entry is awesomely written once again though!

  21. James. says:

    You really do need a show on the Food Network. It would be fun and funny. 🙂

  22. Mike H says:

    I used to pop into Vancouver once or twice a year for a random computer contract. Great food – mostly. You were right about internet trash talk. You should not form an opinion about someone just because of blog comments. For example, Jewel – you are a pretty good actress but I don’t like your liberal political views. Doesn’t make you a bad person – just different. I really enjoy your food reviews. They always take me back to a simpler time when I had an expense account. LOL

  23. Josh says:

    You know, Jewel, I’ve been told I’m a pretty good cook. I’d be glad to make you something if you came over for dinner…

  24. Dan says:

    Raw beef looks nasty. When are you going to be a judge on Iron Chef? People in the twitter-verse should send a few hundred million tweets to AB to get this to happen.

  25. Dan says:

    Browncoat for life. Stay Shiny!

  26. joanna says:

    i wonder, could you tell if other patrons having the same experience that night? it doesn’t seem like a person can truly pretend to like bad food. you can eat almost anything if you’re that hungry, or you can push your food around on your plate and look like you’re into it, if you love the chef or something. but there’s always some sort of telling grimace or shudder. except if you’re an actor, maybe it’s easier to fake it? 😉
    sorry for your unhappy opu experience! still made for good readin’.

    ps – jtt was on an episode of veronica mars. last time i saw him.

  27. Ben says:

    wow that looked terrible. pidgin seems to get more press from being a lightning rod from all the anti-gentrification protesters in it’s neighborhood than the actual food they serve… now we know.

  28. Apoetlaureate says:

    Notice how almost all the dishes are constructed the same…..Julienne’d messy….Way too busy and not set up where you can eat bites of each ingredient apart as well as combined, a very rare diatribe of negativism from the Jewel, but seems appropriate in this case. Come on Jewel, tell the truth….You dined sober this evening!

  29. Anonymous says:

    Pidgin…hmmm We all know what Pidgeons do when they fly above you….This place must serve it! My sincere condolences for your affronted palate.

  30. Tamara Plimmer says:

    I love the part where you mention homespun food. I bake my son’s birthday cake (and all cakes I make) from scratch. Not a mix, even. A couple of years I bought a store bought cake and another year a cake from someone who bakes wedding cakes. The cakes were really cool to look at, but mainly tasted like cardboard. Real, fresh, honest ingredients, time and attention are what make a great meal. If you love those you’re preparing it for, even better. I also agree with your statement about happily paying for a meal that is something I can’t make at home. I also expect it to be fabulous. Whether you’re a famous actress or just a nurse, we all work hard for our money and going out to eat is meant to be one of life’s little treats…not a disappointment!

  31. Just Another Browncoat says:

    Wow, that food looks as bad as you said it tasted. If it were me, I would’ve complained. Of course, when you complain they have a tendency to spit in your food afterward, but if it’s so disgusting that I have no intention of ever going back again, then I complain, and I demand my money back. (Or, I just tell them it’s disgusting and I’m not paying for it, then I leave.) If they get mouthy, then I start talking loudly about how that is the biggest damn cockroach I have ever seen, you didn’t tell me this place had bugs, I’m not eating in a place that has bugs the size of Mini Coopers running around the dining room! You get the picture.
    Anyways, stay Shiny.

  32. Jason says:

    Ugh. When I first saw the photo, I thought the potatoes were a pasta dish! I think the only thing worse than a raw potato is an unripe plantain!

  33. Tony says:

    I have to tell you this. You are a graceful humourous writer. I love the way you write. I doubt I will ever be in Vancouver to eat at this restaurant, but I love the way you describe the dishes. Reading your postings I feel if I’m in a one way conversation with you. If that makes any sense.

    Looking forward to your next posting

  34. Julie says:

    I got distracted when you mentioned Jonathan Taylor Thomas, so I looked him up. Apparently according to an interview with People he is back in Hollywood
    here you go

    That meal sounded like you needed to drink two bottles of wine just to get the taste out your mouth

  35. Stephen says:

    Please tell us you didn’t eat any of those dishes! I’ve never seen anything quite like them…and hope I never do!

  36. I only recently discovered you had a blog (I’m a bad fan), and it’s all I’ve been reading lately. You really are wonderful!

  37. David says:

    Ha ha, this is pretty funny. I tend to avoid fancy restaurants, although that’s probably because I can’t afford to eat there.

  38. There are fancy restaurants that are to die for. (not literally of course who would do a silly thing like that) and there are fancy restaurants that remind us of the importance to stand up and shout “The Emperor has no clothes!”

  39. Marshall says:

    En francais, potatoes are called “pomme de terre” which means apple of the earth. This is because the french were feeling snippy when potatoes were introduced to them by the Spanish and English 400 years ago and they refused to use the word. They still make fun of it. This leads to them being bad at using them in general, and why you were served Raw Potatoes. See “A Good Year” for examples in modern media.

    Not that they’re incapable of fixing their cuisine at this french restaurant. Or that they were having a bad night, as you suggested. Perhaps in the last 2 months they’ve fired that chef, hired a new one, and learned not to serve Raw Potatoes to customers with camera phones and blogs about food.

    Have you eaten somewhere better since then? And will you post about it?

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