Brunch has become such a competitive aspect of dining out in Vancouver in the last couple of years. There are far too many places trying to open up earlier to bring in that early morning crowd while staying fresh and creative with their menus. It used to be so much easier to choose where to go, simply because the ‘meal’ itself would almost always follow the same basic brunch guidelines. But now there is so much choice and every restaurant in town wants to do something different, while not losing the ‘brunch’ feel. The Oakwood stands out the most amongst all of the restaurants I have had the pleasure to experience in the past year of dining.
We planned a small double date with some friends for brunch before one of them goes away for a few months. I knew that Oakwood was a much talked about spot for their brunch, so I thought I would try to make a reservation for the weekend. I called in only to find out that they only do walk-ins on the weekend for brunch. Hearing this I expected it to be a lengthy wait when we arrived, but to our surprise, we were seated immediately. Being my first time in the Oakwood, I of course needed time to really take in the environment and get comfortable in the space. The way their dining room was designed really speaks to their name and what their brand is. It’s like a warm, cozy lodge meets an upscale lounge in the hippest place in town. It really has a welcoming feel to every demographic, and we saw this during our visit too. We were sat in one of the booths by the fire place. There are few places that I have been for brunch where I felt so at home but at the same time like I was at a gourmet bistro. The mood is perfected with the best possible arrangement of seating, mixed with the appropriate lighting to make for a warm and memorable setting.
We started with a couple of drinks from the bar. Jenny ordered a classic Mimosa with orange juice and prosecco, and I went for the Okanagan Coffee. This is made with Mclouchlin & Steel whiskey, maple syrup, coffee and hand whipped cream. The coffee was one of the best alcoholic ones I’ve ever tried. The whiskey really warms it up and then the syrup levels it out. The whipped cream was also just perfection, you can really taste the difference when made fresh. The one concern I had about this drink was that there was orange rinds in the coffee as well, probably added for more balance in flavour, but I found that they were very long and hard to swallow. I found myself chewing through them or trying too hard to avoid drinking them. Otherwise this was a delightful drink to start a weekend morning.
For brunch, Oakwood Executive Chef Mike Robbins has come up with a very unique menu by combining some timeless cooking techniques with traditional Canadian brunch dishes. The whole concept of his food comes from the rich diversity in Vancouver, but instead of having food from each culture, he will integrate an aspect of their food into a western dish. For example, instead of serving the usual bacon and eggs breakfast platter, Mike uses a Maple confit pork belly instead. Some restaurants make salmon or crab benedicts, Oakwood makes a tuna confit benedict. These are just a few of the small things that really distinguish their food from any others. One of the other key concepts at the Oakwood, and many other industry leading restaurants nowadays, is sourcing their ingredients locally. Making sure they are supporting local producers, as well as thinking of long term impacts are some of their primary drivers.
We tried three items off their brunch menu, but I will have to go back soon for more, as they are all very tempting to try! We had the confit pork belly, which I have to mention was one of the softest, most silky pork belly I have had the pleasure of eating. It’s just such a refreshing change from having normal bacon and eggs. The pork is salty and crispy on the outside, but just falls apart in your mouth and has an amazing contrast in texture. One very cool thing I found as well was that all the sauces are made in house, right down to the ketchup, which is rich and tangy, without the sugary taste that the store-bought counterpart would have.
The next dish we tried was the tuna confit benedict. This was a really beautiful, rich and delicate tuna topped with a dill hollandaise sauce and served with a fennel salad.
I personally went for the somewhat healthier option, the asparagus omelette. This was the most original omelette I have ever indulged in. It is a perfectly cooked omelette, filled with sautéed asparagus and topped with a dollop of truffle crème fraîche. The omelette is plated on top of a rich charred tomato sauce, and paired with perfectly fried brussel sprouts. I found it incredible that every component of this dish was so well thought out and was completely new to me. The truffle crème fraîche really added a touch of luxury to the dish which otherwise would have still been amazing on its own.
A few things that I really wanted to try were the sous vide eggs that come with the short rib dish. Also the popular open faced corn beef sandwich. They even had a sous vide machine sitting right in the pass filled with eggs so that everyone could see this culinary marvel. For those of you that don’t know, sous vide cooking is method of cooking at a regulated temperature for an extended amount of time. The idea behind it being that food will cook more evenly and never overcook.
Overall we had a fantastic dining experience at The Oakwood Bistro. Jeff Parr, the General Manager, spent some time with me sharing some of the history behind the restaurant and the way it evolved over the three years since it’s been open. His staff are all warm and welcoming to the guests and their attire and energy transcends the brand which is the Oakwood. I was very pleased to dine here and will definitely be returning in the near future for more of their innovative food and the warm atmosphere.
Quality – 5 of 5
Ingenuity – 5 of 5
Atmosphere – 5 of 5
Service – 5 of 5
Value – 4 of 5
Overall – 4.8 of 5