When duck meets gnocchi: Chambar
562 Beatty Street, Vancouver
If a slice of heaven fell out of the sky, it would taste like the Canard et chevre, the roasted duck breast at Chambar in Vancouver’s Crosstown. There’s nothing I love more than duck, and Chambar really does it right. Famous for putting a modern spin on classic French and Belgian dishes, the duck entree has been through many incarnations at Chambar. This one has got to be the best one yet: a roasted duck breast surrounded by a tasty make-shift fence of goat cheese and tarragon gnocchi and smothered in a rich and creamy, hazelnut gastrique.
Admittedly, I am not a fine dining regular so I’m not even going to pretend that I know what gastrique is. I googled it when I got home, and found that it is a thick sauce made by reducing wine and a sweet ingredient, commonly fruit. The hazelnut used in Chambar’s gastrique definitely gave the sauce a sweetness but also added a deep richness that stood up to and complimented the robust taste of the roasted duck. The duck was superb, succulent, moist and juicy on the inside with a thin crust of seared flavour on the outside.
The little chewy morsels of gnocchi were also extremely delicious. The goat cheese and tarragon gnocchi was a perfect little side that didn’t upstage the duck but rounded out the dish, giving me a secure feeling of comfort food with the warm, mild, accessible and pleasant goat cheese flavour.
Another dish that Chambar is famous for is their mussels. Prepared in all different ways, we decided to go with the Coquotte, mussels cooked in white wine cream with smoked bacon lardons and a generous sprinkling of spring onions. I wasn’t sure what lardons were until we spooned them out of the bottom of the pot of mussels- lardons are heavenly, thick strips of fatty bacon. And boy, did they ever add a deliciously smoky and salty flavour to the plumb mussels. The broth that these mussels were swimming in was also packed with flavour- salty but crisp with the slightest hint of sweetness from the onions. Served with a side of crispy fries, the Coquotte is definitely a dish large enough to share but also so scrumptious that you might not want to share.
Now, I usually don’t rave about bread at a restaurant but that was until I tasted the bread roll at Chambar. Served pipping hot with a triangle of paprika butter, this unsuspecting little bread roll was thick, dense but soft, chewy, and amazingly moist on the inside, and crispy and crusty on the outside. It’s the type of bread you might find in fairy tales.
I’ve always been in love with the ambiance of Chambar. I’ve sat in the back room overlooking GM Place twice, once for brunch when the restaurant was opened during the day as Cafe Medina (same owners) and the second time was during this dinner. The room is cozy and intimate and wonderful for a dinner for two but it would also serve as a great space for holiday parties too.