Hawksworth Restaurant, located within the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, is Vancouver Magazine’s 2012 Restaurant of the Year. It is a great accolade for a restaurant that has only been around since the summer of 2011, but also not surprising, as its chef and owner, David Hawksworth, is well respected within Vancouver most notably for his previous tenure as the executive chef at West. Under his leadership, West was consistently ranked as Vancouver’s top upscale restaurant across a variety of Canadian culinary publications. Since his departure, the overriding sentiment is that West has taken a turn for the worse.
With such high praise and mostly stellar reviews, we knew we would eventually have to eat at Chef Hawksworth’s restaurant. However, we always like to a give a restaurant some time after it opens to “iron out the kinks”. By December 2012, surely this was more than enough time for Hawkswoth to be a well oiled fine dining machine.
My first impressions of the restaurant were not great. We came in for a Friday dinner and upon entering the revolving doors to the Hotel Georgia lobby, I immediately saw the host’s table preceding the restaurant. After what is by far the longest time I have spent standing in front of three front of house staff chattering amongst themselves, their conversation finally concluded and our presence was finally acknowledged. I let them know we had an 8:15PM reservation and we were then asked to be seated at the hotel lobby as our table was not ready. Having heard stories of prolonged wait times at this restaurant, we were ready to wait. Though luckily, our wait turned out to be less than five minutes.
As we were guided through the dark and modern restaurant I noticed that most people had their coats hanging on the back of their seats. Placing our coats on the back of our seats is really not a big deal, but coat checks should be standard for a restaurant that is in the fine dining realm. Additionally, such as in our case, when you are seated on the intersection of the washroom and the entrance to one of the dining rooms where traffic is high, my coat that inevitably fell to the ground was stepped on. Maybe I have eaten at too many establishments lately where this is the is the norm and my expectations have been set too high (S likes to constantly remind me of my standard of perfection), but even my sister who does not regularly join us when we travel to Michelin-starred restaurants and joined us for dinner this evening, expressed her agreement in my sentiments.
As for the actual meal, we opted to deviate away from the tasting menu as there were three of us ordering multiple dishes which were more than enough to cover the multitude of à la carte offerings and get a sense of what the restaurant had to offer. From reading the menu alone, you can see that Chef Hawksworth tries to play with the culinary offerings of the west coast by accenting it with flavours and ingredients that represent the cultural diversity of Vancouver. From everything we had that evening, the restaurant really delivered on this vision, from the drinks all the way to the dessert.
I started off with a Kalamansi fizz drink as I was not in the mood for alcohol. The kalamansi fruit is a significantly smaller and rounder version of a lime native to Southeast Asia and packs a lot of sourness. In addition to a condiment, the fruit’s juice can be made into a beverage refreshment by adding significant amounts of sugar. When they placed the Kalamansi Fizz before me, I was a bit thrown of by its reddish hue. As the juice of the fruit is usually yellow, I was wondering what drink had lay before me. Perhaps they got my order confused with my sisters? As I drank it, all of my interrogative thoughts went away as I found the drink to really embody the sweetened yet mildly sour Kalamnsi beverage flavour I remember having as a child. After I finished drinking, I began to think about Kalamansi Fizz as a misnomer. Since there was little to no fizz, could it really be called a Kalamansi Fizz?
As a starter I opted for a parsnip velouté accompanied by lobster, vadouvan granola and watercress. The starter was a great representation of Chef’s fusion vision. The velouté itself was thick and salty. Indian spices added a heat element. And the granola brought a textural component that bordered on being too difficult to eat for my liking, having the textural consistency of uncooked rice.
My sister had the Japanese mustard glazed pork belly and S had both the hamachi crudo and the day’s seared foie gras special. Originally served as an entrée special for the day, S requested the foie gras as an appetizer which was easily handled by the kitchen.
I would have ordered the hamachi crudo for myself if I did not order the seared yellowfin tuna as an entrée. The dish was a Hawksworth version of a surf-and-turf as the seared tuna was accompanied by a fried veal croquette, a white anchovy emulsion and a herbed bean salad. The serving size was massive and was only trumped by my fear of mercury poisoning from the amount of tuna on the platter. From the picture below it may seem like there were only three pieces of tuna served, but in reality there were at least five one-and-a-half inch thick pieces on the plate. The veal in the croquette was braised and had the flavour and consistency of the meat in a pulled pork sandwich.
My sister had pacific sablefish, accompanied by lap cheong, soy braised daikon, pickled shiitake and a crispy yam. S had a jalapeño sunflower seed crusted sturgeon, with ham hock, kale and spiced squash broth. Both my siblings were satisfied with the execution and flavours of their orders but had the same sentiments regarding the large portion size of their entrées.
After being handed the dessert menu, our server informed us that if we were inclined towards a certain flavour, we could just let them know and they could make something around it. That would have been an adventure, but unfortunately, we did not go with this option and instead opted for a macaroon sampler. On that very day we had a set of twelve different flavoured macaroons from Bouchon Bakery in our fridge and we were keen to compare the two. Our macaroon sampler at Hawksworth came in a set of six and unless royally screwed up, I don’t think you can ever go wrong with macaroons. They were light, fluffy, chewy, and tasty, just as macaroons should be.
Though our time here did not start off with a bang, as our meal progressed, so did the food and the service. With all the accolades bestowed on this restaurant, however, I wondered if our experience here was the exception and not the norm. But then I thought, if Michael Bublé and his wife sitting across us was the most memorable part of the evening, then surely there is much to be improved on.
To view pictures of our meal in its entirety, click through the photo set below. If you are using a mobile device, please click here for compatibility.
Thanks for reading,
C & S