A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend four days in Vancouver, BC. Although the vibrant, metropolitan city is only a short ferry ride from where I live, I don’t often make the trip. It was nice to trade the slow, islander pace of Victoria for the bustle of the mainland. I love spending time in bigger cities – it’s a great change from my daily life.
Being a foodie in a big city does have its advantages and disadvantages, however. I don’t know if any of you do this, but on holiday (even a mini holiday such as this one) we tend to plan our days around the meals we’re going to eat. For instance, while enjoying breakfast we will oftentimes be Yelping places to check out for lunch and dinner. It’s a terrible habit, but it’s something we always tend to do. Does anyone else have this problem?
In any case, we did manage to find a few excellent places to eat in downtown Vancouver. One of the first restaurants we dined at was Chill Winston in Gastown. First off, I have to say that the building itself is absolutely gorgeous. It has an early twentieth century vibe to it with a huge, open outdoor patio area complete with hanging lights. The interior of the building has a similar atmosphere. Chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, illuminating dozens of books plastered to the wall. A huge bar takes up the centre of the indoor dining area and an open kitchen can be viewed from every table. The seating is somewhat haphazard; high tables with bar stools adorn the outer edge of the restaurant while the centre space is consumed with low tables and sofas with plush cushions. The mood is very comforting – I felt as if I had taken a seat in my great-grandfather’s living room.
Chill Winston serves a seasonal menu with very obscure dishes. If you’re not an adventurous eater, you’ll likely want to dine elsewhere as their dishes are not for the faint of stomach. The menu boasts such things as a simple tuna tartare or a smoked bison salad to such eccentricities as bouillabaisse and even pig’s head! (I have to admit that even though I’m pretty open to eating crazy things, dining on a pig’s head has never been on my to-do list.)
I began the evening by ordering a Sacred Narrative ($13.25), which is a biting combination of gin, rosewater, pomegranate, cardamom, and orange. Personally, I wasn’t fond of this cocktail. While I am a fan of strong gin drinks, I also like the other flavours to be present. The gin and the orange completely overpowered the cocktail and suffocated the other flavours. It tasted more like I was drinking straight orange liqueur.
Since most of the dishes at Chill Winston are designed to share, we ordered the Ploughman’s Plank ($16.50) as an appetizer. I was delighted with the quality of hors d’oeuvres that arrived; everything on the platter complemented each other. The pork and fennel sausage terrine was fantastic, especially when paired with the hot mustard. My boyfriend loved the smoked cheddar and the crunchy, sharp dill pickles, while our friend appreciated the lightness of the smoked mackerel rillette. It was a fantastic start to the evening.
I didn’t want something too far out of the box for my main meal, so I ordered the Bison Burger and a side of fries ($18.75). Chill Winston’s fries are excellently seasoned and very crisp. The burger itself was pretty good. The meat wasn’t overworked and was wonderfully juicy. However, the two components that really sent this burger over the top were the tomato-bacon jam and the brioche bun. The jam is unreal; I could have ordered a separate bowl of it just to dip my fries in. Their brioche bun is fantastic as well. It’s amazingly soft, sweet, and everything I want from a burger bun. I love how Chill Winston can elevate the standard burger from take-away fare to fine-dining quality.
My boyfriend’s choice for the evening was the Tri-Tip Salad ($17), which was a magnificent combination of smoked bison meat, mixed greens, cherry tomato, cashews, goat cheese, and apple with a sesame vinaigrette. Although he’s a meat-and-potatoes man through and through, he was astounded by this salad and claimed it was one of the best meals he’d had in Canada. It had a good salad-to-dressing ratio, and the bison was delicious, albeit a tad over salted.
Our friend ordered one of the specials, the Daily Pizza ($16.50). On the day we went it happened to feature bison meat, cheese, and various vegetables. He appreciated the thin, crisp crust, and the mildness of the cheese against the strong flavour of the bison. It was a well-balanced dish.
I highly recommend this restaurant if you have a bit of extra cash for a nice dinner and good service or if you’re feeling adventurous. We stayed at Chill Winston well into the evening, chatting and basking in the antique décor and the wonderful meals.