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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Wild Rice goes to the dogs

Puttin' on the dog: Wild Rice co-owner Andrew Wong (l) and chef Stuart Irving put their barbecue menu to the test. Photo by Tim Pawsey
No stranger to the world of culinary convergence, Wild Rice launched the city's first Chinese "bistro" when it landed on Gastown's gritty edge five years ago.
In those heady, post-fusion days, the very notion of cross-over cuisine seemed risqu?. Now we take such things in our stride, as Hapa's and Guu's rule and, conversely, Asian ingredients pop up on once staunchly continental menus all over town.
No surprise, then, that chef Stuart Irving has launched a summer menu with a more Westernized twist. Irving and his conspirators at the corner of Pender and Abbott have rolled out their take on a Chinese hot dog-just in time for that hot spell, which we all know is just around the corner. The "Dog Days of Summer BBQ Menu" started out as "a riff on barbecued duck," says co-owner Andrew Wong, referring to the restaurant's open-faced duck burger, which has leg meat minced in with pork for added texture and flavour, served with grilled pineapple and a sweet maple soy glaze.
Irving's "dog" comes to heel in the form of a flattened and elongated steamed bun, wrapped half way around a rich, finely ground wild boar frankfurter, with relish of marinated Asian cucumber, caramelized shallots-dutifully drizzled with hot Chinese mustard. It wasn't as successful as the duck burger. The bun was a bit on the heavy side, but still fun and flavourful.
The other treats come from cheeky sides that play happily with texture and spice. Mixed yam, lotus root and tarot chips are perfect for dipping into a mild roasted garlic ginseng aioli. "Forbidden City" nugget potato salad rewards with crunchy daikon relish and double-smoked bacon. Fries come spicy szechuan- style-perfect with a glass of Whistler Brewing's clean and bodacious Export Lager. The cucumber dong gua salad is also tough to pass up, with pea shoots and a little heat from chilli, topped with strips of crystallized ginger that had us looking for some Gewurz or Gruner.
Kudos for a fun menu for the Dog Days: bring 'em on. And soon. (117 W. Pender, 604-642-2882.)
On a somewhat more elevated note, Five Sails executive chef Ernst Dorfler has just unleashed his take on summer. Vancouver's most noteworthy view room is another culinary cross dresser, though perhaps somewhat more demure and with broader tastes that marry Canadian ingredients with deft, French classicism.
One pan-Asian nod in the new line-up includes a superb Malaysian spice crusted roast lamb rack with pur?ed broccoli rapini, while intricate, oven roasted Fraser Valley duck breast is perfectly wrapped in assertive hickory smoked bacon, stuffed with Asian pear and chestnuts, served with celeriac pur?e and huckleberry sauce. On the seafood side, the choices get even tougher, between grilled Atlantic scallops served with white asparagus and nutty tasting spring morels, and a dense sea bream filet, grilled just through served on heirloom tomato "carpaccio" and teased with vanilla-scented sea salt. No shortage of adventure here, though less is definitely more, as the emphasis is on quality ingredients with an artfully restrained progressive touch.
One more highlight: to finish, a refreshing parfait that plays the quiet savoury of rosemary off the gentle sweetness of mango, with Tahitian vanilla bean sauce. (999 Canada Place, 604-891-2892.)
With the World Cup in full play, you may have lost sight of the fact that June is Portuguese Heritage Month. One good spot to get into the spirit is Senova, the city's newest and taste-worthy Portuguese haunt.
It presents singer Suzana Da Camara (along with a special menu) June 28. All that and sardine fillets, too. (1864 West 57th Ave., 604-266-8643.)
We've also got an archive of Tim Pawsey's columns from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 for you.
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