I’d been to Teatro a couple times for lunch and knew that I wanted to bring Jason there for dinner. The Big Taste was the perfect opportunity to do so – $65 for 5 courses plus $30 per person for wine pairings with each course. Our reservation was for the first Saturday of The Big Taste and we tried parking in the Telus Convention Centre Parkade as we normally do when we attend a play or eat at the east end of Stephen Ave. According to the numbered signs there were only 4 spots remaining in the whole parkade – 4 of us entered the parkade and made our rounds. We were the unlucky ones and had to find another lot down the road.
We finally made it to Teatro. In my online reservation I had asked for a quiet table; to be honest, I had even forgotten I asked. They mentioned it when we checked in and offered us a quiet table in the alcove area across from Arts Common. It was a great location except we were really shoved in there. We had to move the table for each of us to get in/out of our chairs. But, it was a great place to be able to hold a conversation without having to raise our voices. The main area of the restaurant was packed full and quite busy and loud. I love that they give ladies a purse table here – a treat not to have to hang my expensive purse on the back of my chair or put it on the floor.
Each course of The Big Taste menu was paired with wines from Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver, BC. I thought this was great because I spent my high school years in Oliver (1991 through 1995 – oh, how it seems so long ago!). Although I was happy to leave it behind at the time (it was too bloody hot and very small), Oliver is a great place to visit. The sommelier at Teatro was awesome – he explained each wine as it was served with each course and told us a little information about the winery. He flagged what flavours to look for and talked about the difference between their oaked and unoaked wines.
Anyways, back to the food. For the most part Jason and I chose the opposite menu items so we could try pretty much everything. One of the factors in choosing which restaurants I will attend during The Big Taste is whether or not there are choices on the menu. I really struggle with choosing a restaurant 2 or 3 weeks in advance when there’s only one menu – what if I don’t feel like beef the day I go out for dinner? Choice is good.
We were served a choice of olive bread or rosemary focaccia to start. OMG. Go with the rosemary focaccia. So light and airy, with a perfect saltiness and hint of rosemary, it’s excellent served with a simple olive oil. I ate three pieces!
Jay and I both ordered the Mussel and Roast Tomato Chowder with Focaccia Crouton (instead of salad)… wow. Simple but elegant. We were served 6 mussels each – a decent portion of mussels for an intro dish. The beans were perfectly tender and the base was a simple tomato sauce with plenty of big chunks of chewy bacon lardons. The chowder was filled with homey flavours (Jay suggested it reminded him of wieners and beans without the wieners)… hmmm, I’m not so sure of that… With the chowder we were served the Tinhorn Creek pinot gris. Out of all the wines, this was my least favourite but it was a refreshing start to the evening.
For the second course we were served the un-oaked chardonnay. It was crisp and light – better than the first. The Chestnut Tajarin with Duck Confit, Oyster Mushroom, and Basil was a delicious treat. Jason loved it (although it would have been better if there were chunks of duck in it). The noodles were light but the flavours were complex and hearty. A giant bowl of this dish would be great for lunch or dinner. It tasted way better than it looked!
I had the Salt Cod Risotto with Lemon Preserve, Olive and Pea Shoot. It was a little too salty but it was bloody good. I’d never had a risotto with that much lemon flavour to it but it was delicious. The rice was cooked perfectly – and the texture of the dish was better than any other risotto I’ve ever had before. However, I think in the whole dish I only had one small piece of fish.
For the next course we were served a 2012 Pinot Noir. I’d put this wine on my ‘to buy’ list, with hints of cherries and herbs I found it quite enjoyable. Jay chose the Eggplant Parmigiana for the third course. He absolutely loved the tomato sauce – it was simple and flavourful and he thinks that this sauce should be the tomato sauce on every pizza and on every pasta out there. With the rest of the dish, the sauce contributed to a rich and creamy Italian classic. The portion size served for this dinner was a lot smaller than what you’d get when you order it as a main for lunch or supper.
I had the Olive Oil Poached Ling Cod with Kale and Seared Artichoke. The cod was cooked well, but perhaps because I grew up with ling cod I thought it was just ‘meh’… the kale and artichoke were seasoned simply but well. There was a nice, fresh zing to the veggies that I quite liked.
Next was the main meat course of the night. We were served a Cabernet Franc that I would again put on my ‘to buy’ list. I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron with Parmesan Fondue, Arugula Puree and Red Wine Jus. I realized as I was eating it that I wasn’t asked how I liked my meat… it came rare. The flavours were good, but I found it undercooked and chewy. The fondue, puree and jus kind of melded together as I ate the steak and the prettiness of them disappeared into a brown liquid on my plate.
Jay ordered the Pork Belly with Brown Butter Carrot Puree, Brovada and Shaved Turnip because he wanted to order the opposite of what I ordered. The presentation was beautiful, but it was pretty much a large chunk of fat. Jay scraped away most of the fat and ate the tiny bit of meat that remained. Honestly, I’m not sure why anyone even wants to eat the stuff. Out of the entire evening, the steak and pork belly were both our least favourite dishes of the night.
For dessert we were served a wine from another winery in Oliver, but I couldn’t understand what it was – something Farms? I should call Teatro to find out because it was another really good wine I’d like to add to my ‘to buy’ list.
I chose the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawbery-Rhubarb Compote and Meringue. Wow. Super delicious! It was light and creamy and tasted like a melty, super delicious vanilla ice cream. The rhubarb wasn’t too tart and the little baby meringues provided a welcomed texture in my mouth. If I had to choose again, I’d choose this puppy over and over again!
Jay ordered the Passionfruit & Milk Chocolate Mousse Cake with Passionfruit Caramel and Chantilly Cream. I’m not a huge fan of mixing chocolate and fruit but it was light and fresh, with a tangy twist from the passionfruit.
At the end of the evening I asked Jay what he would rate the place out of 10. He gave it 8/10 but suggested it would be 9/10 had our table not been so squishy and his pork belly not been 90% fat. I’d agree… The meat dishes were our least favourite and our table was super squishy. But, service was excellent and the sommelier was informative and interesting. However, I’m glad I checked the bill… we were charged $50 pp for the wine tasting although the price for The Big Taste was only $30 pp. We would have spent an extra $40 had I not noticed this error!
Teatro is a great place to go for a nice date night before the theatre or even for a quiet business lunch. The fact that it’s right across the street from Arts Common is a bonus. If you have the time you should really try to get in for dinner during The Big Taste!