Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eight 1/2 Restaurant & Lounge

Restaurant: Eight 1/2 Restaurant & Lounge
Cuisine: Contemporary/Pacific Rim/West coast/Pacific Northwest
Last visited: August 19, 09
Area: Vancouver, BC (East Vancouver)
151 East 8th Ave
Price Range: $20-30 (average bill per person)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3
Service: 2
Ambiance: 2
Overall: 3
Additional comments:
  • Focus on local produce
  • Hidden location in a 100 year old house
  • No deep fryer, no microwave
  • Called Eight 1/2 because of location
  • Attracts late night crowd, quiet for dinner
  • Familiar to people in the area
  • Pub-like feel rather than lounge-like feel after 8pm
  • Great for tapas and drinks more so than dinner
  • Most menu items sound better than they taste
  • Service a bit slow - feels like there is only one person in the kitchen
  • Some seasonal features
  • Patio available
**Recommendation: Four Cheese Macaroni, Goat Cheese Plate

I just happened to discover this place while I was looking for parking around the area. I checked out their menu and it seemed like it as worth a shot. It looks a bit shady because it's quite hidden and you wouldn't really know about it unless you live around the area, frequent Main Street, or was given a recommendation. They call it a lounge, but it felt more like a pub because they had a sports game playing on the TV and it got really loud. The decor may be more lounge like, but the atmosphere is not.

I do appreciate the fact that they emphasize on local ingredients and traditional ways of cooking though - no deep dryer or microwave. However everything was very up and down; the food was either really good or not so good and the service was the same. The kitchen is pretty slow and I feel like they have one guy cooking everything. They don't have much dinner business and the staff seems like they're still getting familiar with the dishes...because a couple times our dish would be missing something and unless I pointed it out they didn't even notice. I feel like this restaurant is still experimenting...I wish them the best of luck doing it, because this location requires word of mouth.

On the table:
  • **Four Cheese Macaroni 6/6
    • Made with Marscapone, Brie, Parmesan, Brocconcini
    • Every time I see mac n' cheese on the menu I will order it. I'm curious to see how they can change up an old classic...everyone has their own version of this all time favourite American comfort food.
    • I've tried a bunch of mac n' cheeses (some gourmet, some traditional) in Vancouver and this is one of the best ones I've had. I thought it wouldn't be cheesy enough, because the choice of cheeses they used aren't too strong - but it was actually enough. The Marscapone gave it this creaminess, the Brie gave it the richness, the Parmesan made the salty crust, and the Brocconcini gave it that stringiness. Home cooked gourmet taste - you can taste the quality in ingredients and when you take the first bite you just know that time went into making it.
    • The put a nice Parmesan crust on top and baked it so its nice and gooey. Very very nicely done.
  • Baked Brie 3/6
    • Filo wrapped brie, local buckwheat honey, sweet chili, candied apple slices
    • This sounds better than it tastes - mind you they forgot our candied apple slices so we were missing a component. Actually come to think of it, it was served with champagne grapes...? These grapes were delicious and great with the brie, but it tasted a little off with the sweet chili...I would have preferred the apples.
    • The brie was served in one big wedge wrapped in filo (which was floury instead of flaky) and some crostini. I didn't even notice the buckwheat honey, and for all I know they could have forgotten that too. It tasted like a block of brie wrapped in filo and drizzled with a little sweet chili sauce - you know the classic sweet chili sauce you find everywhere? That's what it tasted like. This is a dish you could easily prepare at home, so it sounds more gourmet than it was.
  • **Goat Cheese Plate 5/6
    • Pistachio encrusted goat cheese with lobster infused olive oil and roasted garlic
    • What made this dish was the lobster infused olive oil. You can really taste the lobster in it, a little goes a long way - this shouldn't be missed. It's not made in house though, they buy it - I want to find the supplier and buy some. The olive oil deserved a 6/6.
    • They could have been more generous with the goat's cheese though. The goat's cheese wasn't too pungent either, which is good becuase than you could really taste the lobster olive oil - which is the star. They gave us one ball of goat's cheese - I think they should have give us 3 smaller balls and that way the proportion of cheese to pistachio crust would have been better as well. The pistachio didn't add texture or flavour because the proportion was off.
    • The roasted garlic was good though, they give you a whole bulb so you really taste the freshness and quality.
    • How to eat: Take a crostini spread with goat's cheese, spread a piece of garlic on top, and drizzle with the lobster olive oil.
  • Tofino Tuna Tataki - 2/6
    • Seared Oceanwise Albacore tuna and avocado wedges with soy and wasabi aioli
    • They shouldn't serve this. I just think if you can't make it well don't bother keeping it on the menu. It was Save-On making sushi - ok not that bad...but basically they had the right ingredients but didn't know how to use them. It lacked a lot in flavour. You get nice pieces of tuna and avocado, but the flavour just wasn't there. They don't give you enough wasabi aioli either or soy for that matter.
  • Steak bites - 1/6
    • Sweet chili rub roasted to medium rare steak bites with Parmesan dip
    • They were NOT medium rare - almost well done. So they were dry and not very tender. The portion was small and presentation was weak. Bad pub food.
    • I bet the Parmesan dip (which they forgot and I had to ask for) is from a bottle too.
  • Cedar Plank Halibut - 3/6
    • Line caught halibut topped with fresh mango salsa with a side of spinach risotto
    • This was just good. A nice piece of halibut, that wasn't overcooked. However there was not enough mango salsa at all. Halibut is such a sturdy fish it needs stronger flavours to stand up to it - whether it's a bold dry rub, or flavourful sauce/dressing/salsa - it needs something to support it.
    • The risotto was ok - lacked in flavour. They skimped out on the Parmesan cheese though so it was missing that salty bite. It's not bad for a place that doesn't specialize in Italian food - I'm glad it was a side because I wouldn't have enjoyed a full order.
  • Banana Bread Pudding 3/6
    • Pretty big portion, but it took forever to come out
    • It was pieces of banana rather than banana throughout the batter. It wasn't exceptionally moist, but it wasn't dry either. They should have put a tad more liquid in the recipe though so that your fork would sink into it a bit more.
  • Watermelon Mojito
  • Very light and refreshing...barely taste the alcohol though. I think this is seasonal.

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