Story by Adrian Brijbassi
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Who knows Canada better than the nation’s leading chefs? They travel the country, sourcing local cuisine, learning about palates and cultures, discovering communities and what makes their economies pulse. And when they collaborate, the rest of us are rewarded.
Two of Canada’s most talented chefs teamed up on the west coast last week as West, the venerable restaurant in Vancouver‘s South Granville neighbourhood, hosted the latest in its fall Chef Series dinners.
Martin Juneau of Pastaga in Montreal travelled out to partner with Quang Dang, West’s bright young executive chef. Earlier this year, Juneau began a celebration of Canadian chefs at his restaurant that ranked No. 13 in the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide. Atelier‘s Marc Lepine, Raymonds‘ Jeremy Charles, and Dang were among the star chefs who took turns on Monday nights in the kitchen of Pastaga, a favourite on bustling Saint-Laurent Boulevard.
“A lot of times, restaurants in Montreal only see what they are doing, or what Montreal is doing. I wanted to recognize what is happening in other parts of the country,” said Juneau, who won the Canadian Gold Medal Plates top prize in 2011. “It’s good to be able to collaborate and to give the diners a chance to experience the food from some of these other chefs.”
Kitchen Collaboration Showcases Canada’s Finest
Juneau was inspired by West, which has been running collaborative nights for years. Dang says it is a way to surprise regulars during the slower fall months.
“The restaurant has been doing these for years, since before I was the chef here,” says the 33-year-old who took the helm of the kitchen three years ago. He is the latest in a line of star chefs at West, which has previously been led by David Hawksworth.
Tremendously calm and knowledgeable, Dang has cooked across the country and, like many of us who’ve dined from coast to coast, marvels at the range of flavours and bounty of products within Canada’s borders.
“The country is so big, I don’t think the rest of the world realizes it. Other nations, like France and Italy, they have developed their terroir for centuries and centuries. We’re a young nation and being so broad and so multicultural, it’s difficult to define Canadian cuisine. On a regional level, it’s still hard but it’s a little easier to do,” he says. “You can cook halibut in Newfoundland and it’s so different than what we cook here, both in the flavours of the fish and in the way it’s prepared. That’s why seeing what other chefs are doing and bringing some of them here makes for a really special night.”
With Juneau, Dang teamed up on a diverse nine-course menu that included a mind-blowing Pan-Seared Foie Gras with Quince Bread Pudding, paired with Neige ice cider, brought from Quebec by Juneau. Likewise, Haida Gwaii Octopus tasted light and surprisingly delicate, complemented by Quebec field peas. The Piglet Belly and 48-Hour Braised Beef Short Ribs were a savoury finale during an evening that showed these collaborative dinners work best when the chefs combine ingredients from their regions as well as their culinary imaginations.
“We have a lot of talented people working in the kitchens of the country,” Juneau says. “It’s good to see what we’re all doing.”
MORE ABOUT WEST RESTAURANT’S CHEF SERIES
Location: 2881 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC (see map below)
Website: www.westrestaurant.com. Twitter: @WestRestaurant
Remaining Dates: November 4, 2013, 6:30 pm — Chef Daniel Patterson of COI in San Francisco, California
Cost: $160 per person for five-course dinner and a copy of Patterson’s cookbook
Reservations: 1-604 738 8938 or book online at the restaurant’s website
Menu Price Range: When not dining at a Chef Series dinner or another special event, dinner entrees range from $29.50-$49. A three-course Pre-Theatre dinner costs $46, with seatings prior to 6 pm
You Must Order: Albacore Tuna with octopus chorizo and black olives ($29.50)
MORE ABOUT PASTAGA
Location: 6389 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Montreal, QC
Website: www.pastaga.ca. Cuisine: Quebecois, Modern French
Telephone: 438-381-6389. Twitter: @martin_juneau
2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Rank: No. 13
Menu Price Range: $13-$16.50
You Must Order: Laurentian beef with chorizo sausage and “bubble and squeak” ($16.50).
Need to Know … from Judge Dustin Gilman of Food Guy Montreal: Pastaga plays on the small dishes platform from chef Martin Juneau. I love tasting so many wonderful flavours in the perfect amount of bites. Also, Pastaga offers one of the most carefully selected and incredible natural wines in Montreal.
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