OK, so Lumiere. Once per trip, Mr. Gateau and I try to treat ourselves to a really special evening out, and often that means we go to the lovely and thoughtful Bishop's in Kits. However, Mr. Gateau had often spoked glowingly of the vegetarian tasting menu he'd eaten years before at Lumiere, which as far as I can tell, is basically the French Laundry of Vancouver.
Even fine dining in Vancouver tends to the west coast casual, though Lumiere is the tiniest bit more dressed up in atmosphere. Still, you would not feel out of place in jeans, and there is not a whiff of pretentiousness, even though everyone there knows that Rob Feenie can cook the pants off of most anyone.
They offer an a la carte menu, a seven-course chef's or vegetarian menu, and the total decadence overload of the ten-course "signature" menu. At $180 a person, plus the fact that we thought we might explode if we attempted it, we decided to go for the more than enticing chef's menu, and wisely skipped cocktails and went right for the wine, a local Chardonnay. While we were kicking these important issues around, we were served a dish of lovely gougeres. I will note for the record that of the six on the plate, Mr. Gateau "forgot" that he was only entitled to three, and took one of mine.
Then we began. Because a mere seven courses plus gougeres might leave us starving to death, we first were served an amuse-bouche of heirloom tomato soup, which was more or less the best cup of tomato juice you ever ate. Then our first official course arrived: scallop tartare with a tiny amount of fresh jalapeno and caviar. We both agreed that this was utterly divine, even though Mr. Gateau is not a huge shellfish fan.
Next up was a ravioli stuffed with luscious short rib of beef, in a wild mushroom and truffle consomme. You'd think this would be a little heavy for midsummer, but it was just meaty enough, while remaining light in texture and tasted of the woods. Phenomenal.
The fish course was a knockout -- pan seared Arctic char with grainy mustard risotto, peas, morels, and a red wine reduction. The skin on the fish was incredibly crispy and the risotto is something I now dream of (I'm going to attempt it tonight, though what I really need to do is buy Rob Feenie's cookbook in the hope the recipe is in there).
Instead of duck or red meat in the meat course (both duck and lamb were on the signature menu, and that was what really tempted me about it), this menu has a combination of butter-poached lobster and Redbro chicken breast cooked two ways, with parsnip puree, caramelized cauliflower, candied walnuts, and truffles. I wasn't that excited about this, and still don't quite see how the lobster and chicken work together, but every element on that plate was perfectly prepared. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a piece of chicken so much.
By then we could see our limits in sight, but next up was cheese. Each of us was given a little form with the available cheeses listed, with short descriptions, and told to pick three each. We decided to pool resources, and I think we did a great job, especially as we tend to go for the more pungent offerings, but we tried for a good range of styles. That was served with paper-thin chewy slices of fruit-studded bread.
For dessert, the menu offered a chocolate and beet fondant with pepper ice cream, aged balsamic-macerated strawberries, and beet raspberry coulis. That was ideal for the chocolate fiend Mr. Gateau, but I had my eye on one of the signature menu offerings, and they had no problem making the substitution for me: apricot and lavender millefeuille with vanilla poached apricots, almond pastry, manjari chocolate and lavender parfait. That was killer. Those flavors came together just perfectly for me. That, and an espresso capped it.
But wait! God forbid we stop eating, a two-tiered display of creative, beautiful, and delicious candies and petit fours were presented. So we did our best, but sadly we had to leave some over. Human beings have their limits. I can't imagine how anyone completes the signature menu, but I aim to find out some day.