We were staying at the Fairmont Pacific Rim for 9to5 Travel (read our review of the hotel here) and had dinner in its fine dining restaurant, ORU. Nestled in Coal Harbour and beautifully designed, ORU is a sweeping expanse of floor to ceiling windows framing a series of stunning portraits of the state-of-the-art Vancouver Convention Centre (yes, the one with a grass roof), as well as the crowning glory of Vancouver’s landscape, the North Shore Mountain range.
Upon arrival, we were seated at a lovely table by the window and introduced to ORU’s new Executive Chef, Darren Brown. Well-traveled and enthusiastic about locally sourced ingredients, Chef Brown holds an impressive resume: He opened Quattro in Whistler and then went on to Executive Chef positions at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay and the Beverly Hills Hilton. He was also Merv Griffin’s personal chef aboard his mega-yacht, summering in the Mediterranean and wintering in the Caribbean while cooking for Griffin’s celebrity and royal friends. After ten years of globetrotting, the Coquitlam native is back home at the Fairmont Pacific Rim to oversee the hotel’s dining outlets.
Dynamic and passionately-driven, ORU’s dinner menu offers a true culinary journey for the senses by featuring a variety of skillfully prepared dishes of local origin with a twist from the Pacific Rim. Chef Brown personally served all of our dishes during the evening and comprehensively described each dish down to the last detail, including exactly where ingredients were sourced.
Our party commenced the dinner with a few alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages including the tremendously refreshing Zen Garden – cucumber, lime, pineapple, and lychee water. The Gin & Ginger, made with ORU’s fantastic Housemade Ginger Ale (pictured below) is a sweet and tangy concoction with lemon, ginger syrup, and soda.
A few glasses of British Columbian red wine were enjoyed at our table throughout the evening including the Okanagan Valley’s Summerhill Pyramid Merlot and Laughing Stock, ‘Portfolio’ Bordeaux Blend from Naramata.
Warm, freshly baked bread was presented to start the meal, accompanied by a white bean dip. Even though the dip was probably our least favourite item of the evening, as it was thin in consistency and slightly gritty in texture, it was certainly a healthier and more nutritious alternative to butter.
The Dungeness Crab Cakes included fresh dungeness crab in a crispy panko crust with a celery root and pickled ginger “navet salad” and a watercress aioli. These were exceptional – pure crab, no filler, so you could truly taste the sweetness of the crab meat.
Notch Hills Beet Salad with pickled and poached baby Sorrento beets, beet chutney, chimichurri (South American condiment) vinaigrette, topped with crumbled cabrales Spanish style blue cheese. Beautifully vibrant colours were bursting from the plate, and the beets were fresh and sweet.
Qualicum Island Diver Scallops with sesame sweet peas, cauliflower purée, smoked salmon chiar su (Chinese style barbecue pork) lardons, preserved lemon condiment and dried cauliflower. The scallops were perfectly cooked with a gorgeous golden sear. The presentation of this dish was stunning.
Albacore Tuna Carpaccio consisting of togarashi (Japanese chili pepper) spiced albacore, gingered beet and blood orange chutney, foie gras cromesqui. The tuna was very fresh and the chutney paired well with it. The cromesqui was crispy and upon cutting into it, the melted rich foie gras slowly drizzled onto the plate.
Sunchoke Soup oven roasted sunchokes from Notch Hills Farms, pureed with cream and butter, topped with foamed milk and truffle oil. This soup was a all-around crowd-pleaser. Sunchoke is a root vegetable, native to eastern North America. Also called sunroot, earth apple or “tuffle du Canada”, it is often referred to as a Jerusalem artichoke — although no it has no relation to Israel and it is not a type of artichoke — it’s actually a species of sunflower! Exceptionally smooth for a delightful sipping texture. Truffle oil pulls a bit of the earthiness of out the sunchoke, but still allowing the vegetable’s full flavour to shine through. Chef Brown said this was one of the simplest soups to make–yet the flavours tasted so complex.
“Khalua” Pork Belly consisting of Fraser Valley pork belly, oven-dried pineapple, maple-mustard glaze, fried sage, pork cracklings, and lotus root purée. Having just enjoyed authentic kalua pork from an underground oven in Hawaii, we can say that ORU’s version was equally as delicious, if not better. Beautiful layers of fat, meat and crispy skin, made this candied pork quite the treat. The lotus root puree was ORU’s take on poi, which brought some silkiness to help bring out the tones of vanilla. This worked well with the maple flavour (instead of taro, which tends to be quite starchy). The pork belly was brined, then slow cooked, and had a one day confit. The belly is then topped with a maple mustard glaze, and chicheron. ORU makes all of their own bacon on property, (and have an on site butcher that takes care of wild boars, Saltspring Island lamb, etc.).
Lightly Smoked Wild Coho Salmon with shimeji and oyster mushrooms, sweet potato velouté, pickled golden beets, and mushroom dashi broth base. This line caught coho was fresh, moist and flavourful. The skin was nice and crispy, and the salmon was perfectly seared. We loved the dashi broth and the oyster mushrooms.
Filet Mignon Oscar with dungeness crab meat, asparagus, salsify (the vegetable “oyster”), béarnaise sauce, and pommes frites finished with gremolata of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. The filet cut was cooked to a perfect medium rare, with a perfect exterior sear, and was juicy and flavourful. The dungeness crab was flaky and fresh, and the béarnaise sauce rich and creamy. The pommes frites were well seasoned and we really enjoyed them.
Sake Cured Haida Gwaii Sablefish consisting of Alaskan salt cod brandade, butter poached sunchoke, melted leeks, fennel and chorizo with a tomato-mirin broth. Mostly tomato water, slight mirin for sweetness and the big finish, dried parsley and tomato. The sablefish was smooth, rich, velvety and was an excellent complement to the tomato-mirin broth.
Steak and Lobster consisting of an 8 oz lobster tail, braised Angus Reserve short rib, roasted root vegetables, chimichurri whipped potatoes, and chili lime butter. Chef Brown told us ORU previously used a warm water tail but it wasn’t as sweet, so instead they opted for the classic Atlantic lobster. The whole lobster was broken down a cooked perfectly with a nice bounce, and the chili lime butter added an extra touch of richness. The braised short rib fell apart with the poke of our forks. This entree was pure indulgence!
We sipped some tea and coffee while Chef Brown suggested we sample the trio of ORU’s top chocolate desserts, sourced from the best chocolates in the world: French companies Valhrona for dark chocolate and Michel Cluizel for milk chocolate, and Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest chocolate producer (formed out of a merger of the Belgian manufacture Callebaut and the French company Cacao Barry), for white chocolate. [On a side note, anyone from BC or Alberta will remember Canada’s exquisite Bernard Callebaut chocolates (different owners now). However, even though both Callebauts are related (Bernard is Eugenius Callebaut’s great-great-grandson), they were actually separate companies!]
Valhrona “Alpaco Grand Cru”– dark chocolate-ancho chile mousse with banana bread croutons spilling out of the dark chocolate box sprinkled with gold leaf, and topped with muscovado, a rich brown sugar ice cream. This dessert was a joy to eat thanks to its creative presentation.
Michel Cluizel “Mangaro Lait” with bottom hazelnut brownie frangipane, mangaro lait milk chocolate mousse bar, bitter cocoa nib nougatine, and praline ice cream. The ‘Mangaro Lait’ chocolate comes from the northwest plantations in Madagascar, and had a smooth taste that wasn’t too sweet.
Barry Callebaut “Satin Blanc” with brown butter shortcrust cookie down below, white chocolate and coffee panna-cotta, smoked cinnamon ice cream, topped with caramel tuille. The panna-cotta was light and creamy, and the white chocolate and coffee combination was amazing. The smoked cinnamon ice cream was one of our favourites.
ORU will be renovating for their breakfast buffet, and we will soon see a charbroiler front and centre in the middle of the open concept kitchen. Expect to see the wide variety of house cured bacon sauces all on display, market style, various sauces, and eggs benedicts made to order. Chef Brown is taking ORU to another level–keep an eye out here, Vancouver.
Having both previously worked in fine dining restaurants and dined at top restaurants around the world, I guess you could say we have high expectations. However, Oru did not disappoint in the slightest. Service was first-class from start to finish with Fairmont’s famous “above and beyond” hospitality and dishes were of the highest quality, meticulous presentation and exceptional taste. Of course, they did know we were coming but regardless we noticed their staff was exceptional with all tables throughout the evening. You’re going to want to put Oru at the top of your must-experience list in Vancouver.
Many thanks to Judy Leung from Westbank and Darren Brown from Fairmont Pacific Rim for our memorable experience!