PICA Bistro 101

It’s been quite a while since I blogged because my house is getting turned upside down due to cleaning and decluttering. But on a spur of the moment, my family and I decided to go out and celebrate (reason will be revealed later!) Because it was on a whim, we had some trouble getting reservations at Fable. I am determined to go to Fable someday, but needs better planning.

Instead, we headed over to Bistro 101, the restaurant run out of the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island.  All of the chefs and servers are students at PICA, and you can watch them preparing all the food on a widescreen TV.  Their menu changes seasonally but is quite reasonably priced – $30 for a 3 course prix fixe menu.

The food came out relatively quickly with only a few minor glitches.  Service was not perfect, but keeping in mind that it was our server’s first day, he made a good effort.  But how was the food?

Amuse-bouche

Curry lentils with tomato salsa and pea shoot garnish

This came with the bread.  I’m assuming it changes regularly.  The salsa was fresh and a nice burst of flavor, but something about cold curry lentils doesn’t sit right with me.  It also didn’t really fit in with the rest of the meal.

I don’t have a photo of their bread basket before it got devoured but it was very impressive.  Unlike most modern restaurants, it had a wide range of different breads including brioche, baguette, sesame seed rolls, and cheese puffs.  We all really liked the cheese puffs.

Appetizers

Scallops with sweet potato (?) puree and side salad

The appetizer of the day was seared scallops.  DONE.  I liked the scallops a lot, but they were a tiny bit salty with the addition of the pesto on top.  But, they were perfectly seared; crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The puree I don’t honestly remember what it was, apart from it was vaguely sweet and tasted heavily of nutmeg.  I think that was the one thing that didn’t belong on the plate.  Salad is salad – nothing terrible but nothing to write home about either.

We also ordered a fish taco and a salad.  The fish taco was a surprise to all.  Instead of the usual battered deep fried fish, we got smoked trout instead.  My sister said it was okay but a bit dry for her taste.  Perhaps some salsa would have helped?

Mains

Sablefish in lobster sauce, pea risotto, grilled vegetables

This was the special of the day. I ordered this because 1) it’s sablefish and 2) it’s sablefish in LOBSTER SAUCE.

The lobster sauce was really rich and actually went well with the fish. I liked the risotto too; the peas added a freshness to it.  The fish skin was nice and crispy, even under that sauce.  And needless to say, the fish was perfectly cooked and tender.

However, I think the downfall of this dish is TOO MUCH. Too much richness overall.  The texture of risotto was just a little too sticky for my liking.  Sablefish + sauce + risotto made for a very heavy meal.  The grilled vegetables were disappointing, because they tasted like gasoline.  Something did not go right with the grilling.  Ditto with the fish skin.  I probably should have sent back the dish but I was pretty hungry.

My sister had the halibut, which was a much lighter preparation. I think I would have liked that dish better.

BC Brome Lake Duck, Berry Gastrique, Gratin Dauphinoise

Dad got this, because he wanted to see how it would compare to the duck that my brother in law makes.  It’s very different from a whole roasted duck.  I was glad to see that the duck fat was properly rendered, but slightly disappointed that the duck skin was not crispy.  However, the duck breast was prepared well and had good flavor.  The gratin dauphinoise impressed us all, partly because of the perfect layering.  It held together well too even after cutting.

Vegetarian option

Mom’s a vegetarian but we noticed there wasn’t a vegetarian option on the menu.  We asked them if they could make something vegetarian for Mom and they assured us that they could.

What happened when they first started bringing out mains was they brought 2 sablefish dishes out, until we reminded them that Mom’s dish was supposed to be vegetarian.  They had already placed my sablefish in front of me so I guess they couldn’t very well take it back.  A couple of minutes later, they served this.

I gotta admit I’m more than a little disappointed.  It looks suspiciously like they heated up the lentils from the amuse bouche, dumped it on a bed of rice, steamed an entire stick of broccolini (or rapini, I can’t tell) and stuck it on a plate.  The broccolini/rapini was really difficult to eat.  Plus, it’s summertime and there are more than enough vegetables in the kitchen that they could have at least come up with a stir fry.

Very not impressed.

Mom liked the curry though so it wasn’t a complete disaster.

Desserts

Dessert is usually the make-or-break part of a meal for me, as I have a huge sweet tooth. Luckily, it was definitely the saving grace of the night. We ended up getting one of each dessert so we could share.

Gluten Free Chocolate Sampler (Fudge, Brownie, Maple Pecan Ice Cream)

My sister claimed this one since she was in the mood for chocolate. I really liked the flourless cake – it was dense and very rich, almost more like a mousse than a cake. The fudge was a pleasant surprise too because it melted in the mouth like a truffle. No stray sugar granules there! Dad ended up stealing all of the ice cream.

Summer Fruit Mousse with Fresh Fruit and Coulis

Dad picked this one. The mousse was almost more like a pudding than an airy mousse. I really liked the coconut though and the fruit inside. Dad also said the coulis was intense and very delicious.

Tiramisu with Bailey’s Sabayon

This was mine. Tiramisu and Bailey’s, how could you go wrong? The Bailey’s Sabayon was delicious and I could probably have eaten a whole bowl of the stuff myself. It was perfectly smooth and not too sweet or eggy. Now if only I had the patience to make sabayon at home…

The tiramisu was pretty tasty too. I like mine to have a little more alcohol and a little more espresso in it, but it was still well balanced and not too sweet or too bitter. I’m not sure if they used ladyfingers or sponge cake, but it was soft and moist without being mushy.

The macaron was unflavored with a bitter dark chocolate ganache inside, which cut through the sweetness of the macaron shells.

Dessert of the day: Warm Pear Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Mom took this but gave me the ice cream. The salted caramel ice cream was one of the better ones I’ve had, with a good balance in saltiness and sweetness. The pastry crust on that pear tart was also amazing. Perfectly cooked, crispy and slightly crumbly. I remember the crust more than the filling actually! The pear filling was delicious as well.

Major kudos to the pastry chefs for blowing us away with dessert. Overall the desserts were well balanced and perfectly executed. I might be back in the daytime to visit Bakery 101 specifically for their cakes!

Overall rating? 7/10
Cost: $30 per person

Bistro 101 on Urbanspoon

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