This new restaurant has received many accolades since its opening. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to check it out, but the food was worth the wait. My friend Theresa was in town for work so I picked Foreign Concept, hoping to give her a great experience. The restaurant is quite large, with plenty of tables and lots of open space and lots of windows. Unfortunately, we were seated at a small table for two (why do they even make tables that small when the expectation is to share many dishes at once?), up against a wall. The first thing I did was pull the table away from the wall…
Initial service was slow – too slow. It took a long time for someone to fill our water glasses, and she wasn’t even our server. When our server finally came we ordered wine but we should have ordered our food too. Our wine came out pretty quickly, delivered by someone else. It took a long time for our server to come back and take our food order. Once the order was placed, the wait was acceptable. I think the restaurant has a lot of things happening behind the scenes; different people brought out our dishes when they were ready, ensuring food was flowing and never sitting.
We were told that 3-4 small plates and 2 large plates would work well for the two of us to share. We were looking for a foodie experience that we could not do at home so we steered away from the half chicken and hanger steak. We started with the Vietnamese style Scotch egg ($11), with green onion and chili threads – something that I’ve always imagined the flavour of but don’t think I’ve ever had (sad, eh?). It was delicious. I wish I had more than half of one! It was a salty, crispy, little piece of heaven. The sauce and the pickled something-a-rather on the plate were awesome accompaniments – don’t forget them!
We figured that tofu would be a safe bet at a place like this, so we gave it a shot. For $10 we had shitake mushroom and tofu, with chili lemongrass and soy dashi. There was too much onion flavour for my liking, and it was my least favourite dish of the evening; I wouldn’t order it again.
The 7K Beef striploin tataki, with Asian pear soy vinaigrette and horseradish ($16) was delicious! The meat was super tender, with a subtle sweetness and little random crunchy bits. The brightness of the creme fresh was an excellent touch. I would highly recommend.
For one of the large plates we chose the wild gulf prawns with zucchini, eggplants, satay panang lotus root, and black oil ($25). The 4 huge, smoky prawns, were served in a delicious sweet coconut milk based sauce with thinly sliced veggies, chewy mushrooms and crispy fried lotus root. This dish was full of texture and flavour, and it really was a foodie experience in itself.
The other large plate we chose was the char sui pork & foie gras steamed bun with fragrant herbs and nutty samjang ($29). I didn’t expect the pork to be pork belly. I usually stay away from pork belly because it’s just so much fat! I also expected the steamed bun to come already stuffed, but instead they came as little taco shells for you to stuff yourself. So, overall, this dish held a whole lot of surprises! Even though the lady who delivered it described what each of the items on the plate was, I really have no idea what some of them were… I think the centre bowl was the foie gras with an oil on top. The small housemade pickles were delicious. The red condiment was super tasty, with layers of flavour and a final wicked kick of heat. I piled everything in the steamed bun (not sure if I was supposed to?) and took a giant bite. There were so many flavours and many different textures. It was definitely a taste experience I’d never had before. There were 5 steamed buns so I asked for an extra one. Our server ‘pulled some strings’ for us and brought us one more. It’s hard to fight over 5 of anything when there are 2 of you.
Chef and Owner Duncan Ly made his rounds throughout the evening, saying hi to his guests and making sure everything was OK. It was nice to see the man in action since I’d only ever read about him and seen his photo on the web.
We were pleasantly fed after our meal, but couldn’t resist dessert ($8 each). I went for the Vietnamese coffee parfait with espresso, dark chocolate, and condensed milk. Yum! If you love Italian tiramisu, this is very much like that, but more complex. The dark chocolate is obviously good quality because it stands out in the dessert. The creamy layers were super smooth and delicious. My only gripe is that the square dish, although looking pretty, makes it too hard to scrape every little bit of the dessert from the corners!
Theresa had the passion fruit pavlova with tapioca and coconut. The meringue on top was actually hard for her to break through – she was holding the glass and using her spoon like an axe, but afraid to fling it everywhere! Once the meringue was broken it was easy to eat and quite enjoyable. She said the tapioca pudding wasn’t too heavy, so it was nice after a big supper.
I’m looking forward to returning with Jay to try out more of the menu items. It will take quite a few trips to try everything on the menu, even with eating 5 or 6 at a time.