Milestones restaurants have been a Lower Mainland favorite for at least 20 years now. The Canada-wide chain is known for a great Bellini and spinach & artichoke dip – two items that have been part of almost every meal I’ve had there. Last year, Executive Chef Jason Rosso joined the team and wanted to freshen things up, so the call went out to his kitchens across Canada for their input and innovative dish ideas. The result is a changing seasonal Chef’s Menu that feature dishes inspired by the freshness of summer. Eating in Vancouver was invited along with some of Vancouver’s other top bloggers for a private tasting of the new additions to the menu along with some great wine pairings by Constellation Wines, the supplier of wines to Milestones Canada.
We started with Crispy Quinoa Shrimp Chimichurri Aioli and Vegetable Slaw. Using raw, uncooked quinoa as a crust was something new for Chef Rosso and I must say it’s also something new to me as a diner – I had no idea it could be used in this manner. The plump shrimp were nicely cooked and not over done but the star of the plate really was the quinoa. It had an intense crunch to it along with a deep toasted flavor that kind of took away from the shrimp. To break up the flavor of the quinoa, the chimichurri aioli along with the vegetable slaw made for a herbaceous crunchy finish. Paired with this dish was the See Ya Later Pinot Gris VQA 2011.
Next up was a West Coast favorite, Panko Blue Crab Cakes with fennel, arugula salad and chipotle aioli. These crab cakes were 100% crab with no filler and it really showed when I took my first bite – the light, sweet crab with the panko crust was a great way to show off the crab. For some spice, the chipotle aioli was lovely and it did pack quite the punch, while the fennel and arugula salad mellowed things out with its mandarin vinaigrette. Paired with this dish was the Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay, Marlborough 2012 from New Zealand.
Moving on to some more of the mains on the menu, the Spicy Thai Basil Stir Fry was a smaller size for tasting purposes. This was a dish that wasn’t so successful for a couple of reasons – soggy noodles and lack of spice. If I didn’t see the term stir fry, I would have thought this was a curry noodle dish meant for a bowl. Paired with this is dish was the Nk’Mip Winemaker’s Series Riesling 2011.
Moving on to something that put a huge smile on my face, the Grilled Japanese Tuna Tataki Asparagus and Fennel Salad. The Ahi tuna was marinated for 24 hours then lightly cooked, leaving it perfectly raw in the middle. The fish was really clean tasting with a light hint of sesame and soy. The salad on the plate was bursting with flavor because the mandarin orange scallion dressing really made the ingredients pop. Paired with this dish was the Mark West Pinot Noir 2011.
The next dish was something right up my alley and was a favorite with everyone at our table: The “Surf and Turf” was a duo of grilled flat-iron steak and lobster fricassee served on lobster mashed potatoes. With the richness of the lobster and nice grilled steak, this was a winner. But for me, the icing on the cake was the buttery sauce and lobster mashed potatoes. One thing that didn’t work for me was the onion ring on top as it was lacking color and was slightly on the greasy side. Paired with this dish was the Dreaming Tree Crush from 2009, it’s a blend of Merlot, Syrah, Zin and a slight amount of Petite Syrah and Malbec.
For dessert we all enjoyed an Avocado and Lime Tart with brown sugar chantilly and candied pecans, served with a glass of Inniskillin Okanagan Riesling Ice wine. The avocado filling was not overly sweet, with the avocado adding a richness without being heavy. Combining another level of sweetness, the brown sugar whipped cream was perfect.
Overall the new additions to the menu and Jason Rosso’s reworking of it really does show Milestones’ commitment to keeping things fresh for their diners. Some of the dishes might not have entirely worked for me but I encourage you to be the judge. If you’re looking to experience your own Chef’s Menu Tasting, you can add a Chef’s Menu Starter and Dessert to your Chef’s Menu Entrée order for $15 extra.
Chef Jason Rosso via Sherman’s Food Adventures