Guys, I’m kind of on the fence.
So there’s this lovely restaurant here in Vancouver called Forage, celebrating and relentlessly committed to sustainable food and drink. I like a sustainable restaurant. I think it’s important to try our best to eat local, and it’s just plain old better for you to stay away from food sprayed to all hell with pesticides and grown in controlled environments with god knows what so we can have a tomato when we feel like it, whether it’s in season or not. Food is too often engineered and packaged up and shoved on planes to satisfy the masses without a thought to what it does to our environment and carbon footprint. And why not stick to seasonal eating? Food just tastes better when it’s harvested when it should be, like a piece of halibut caught and grilled in late spring, or a summery tomato that still has some of that vine fuzz on it, or a cheeseburger picked off a cheeseburger tree on hangover Sunday. So I get it with the sustainable and seasonal. I really do. And from what I’d heard, Forage had that in spades.
Forage is in the new and improved Listel Hotel on Robson street, which is also touted as being an environmentally friendly, virtually zero-waste hotel set on lowering its carbon footprint as much as possible. It’s hip, it’s modern, and it’s pretty popular, apparently. Upon arriving just before the rush of dinner service, our party of two was seated in a cramped little table in the hallway, one step up from being seated in the handicap stall in the john. Also bizarre was our view of an astroturfed lawn out the window with what appeared to be ceramic crouching red monks ready to pounce on us and our locavore meal at any moment. When we asked to move, we were informed that the restaurant was fully booked, and the other (empty) tables for two would have to be reserved for other parties “in case they wanted to combine tables”. What, now? Okay fine.
Next we were greeted by our rather surly host to “explain the menu”. I’d arrived after my lovely dining partner, and while standing at our hallway table fumbling with my coat and scarf and cardigan (it was damn cold that night), he decided to give us the menu schpeel right then and there before I even sat down. Now, let me digress: one of my gripes about restaurants, as we all know, is when they take it upon themselves to explain how to read a menu, thus treating the customer like the only restaurant they’ve ever seen the inside of is a Denny’s (I love you, moons over my hammy). They often go to lengths to explain that appetizers are smaller portions, main dishes are a little larger, and both can be shared if one so desires! Forage likes to encourage you to share, which is usually what we’re after anyway, since that means trying everything. But I don’t know if I needed it explained at much length, let alone when I was still standing and taking my coat off. Darling, let the lady put down the Prada before treating her like a homebody imbecile.
I gotta say, though, the menu at Forage is insane. Fresh-to-death oysters, cheddar pan bread with spicy honey, meyer lemon-poached albacore tuna, wild mushrooms with goat cheese from the Okanagan valley (wine country!) on rye, popcorn and pork cracklin’, gnocchi with squash and brown butter.. I wanted everything, twice. After our sweet server tried to explain the menu once again (“NO PLEASE, NO THANKS, DRINKS PLEASE”), we started with the kale salad, lightly grilled which I wish everyone would bloody do with kale and topped with crushed hazelnuts from BC in a blue cheese and honey dressing: total perfection. Next were perogies filled with roasted squash in a cheddar fondue sauce and topped with smoked onions: are you kidding me?! On to the chicken confit flatbread with melted brie, more squash, and a drizzle of sage cream sauce: yes, please. The last two dishes weren’t a strong finish, a pleasant but teeny bit fishy salmon collar with pickled vegetables, and a very heavy and rich braised bison cheek with a side of egg fettuccine and topped with a soft poached egg and bone marrow croutons. The problem is always ordering too much, and if you’re going to end the meal with a saucy and eggy meat and pasta dish, chances are you’re going to be sent over the edge into a sustainable food coma. Prices are pretty nifty too, which also explains the over-ordering, so would I go back to try the game burger and that lovely-sounding chicken liver parfait? Minus the menu tutorial and the second class steerage treatment with zen master hallway accommodations, probably.
Do give it a try if only for that crazy-ass cheese fondue sauce (sorry, once again are you kidding me??). And maybe once they’ve gotten rid of their newbie status they’ll chill out on the menu tutorial. It’s definitely worth another shot. If only for that cheese fondue okay I’m sorry I’ll stop. Bonus points on an awesome local wine and beer list, too, plus it’s in a hotel, people, so you can even sleep in a sustainable bed after all that meat if you want to!