100 Nights: Comfort Food Reinvented with a Backdrop of Pop Art
350 Davie Street, Yaletown, Vancouver
The pop-up restaurant concept has always intrigued me. Just the notion of something being temporary, ever-changing and evolving is so attractive, interesting and unique. Pop-up restaurants can be anything from an underground dining club, to temporary dining rooms set up to draw in investors or create hype around a new chef or upcoming restaurant. These days, pop-up restaurants get to ride the wave of Twitter, and other social media outlets (yes, this blog included). I thought I had missed my chance to try 100 Days, Vancouver’s pop-up restaurant located in Yaletown. But it’s been well over 100 Days and the restaurant is still open, albeit a new name (now called 100 Nights) and slightly new decor.
One of the cool things about 100 Nights is their temporary art installations, keeping the restaurant fresh and relevant. The current glam rock and faux futuristic installation is the work of contemporary artist, Vince Dumouli. And following the theme of a temporary pop-up dining room, inexpensive and temporary items are featured at 100 Nights, all the chairs are fold-out, plastic chairs, paper lined the tables, the table center pieces are brightly coloured plastic plants and the walls, bar and doors are covered in silver, pink and bright blue spray paint. “100 Nights” is sprawled in an artistic graffiti tag near the front door of the restaurant.
I did love the black place mats at our table, they sported a thick plastic weave that was funky and fitting with the temporary theme.
As we waited for our meal, a couple of appetizers were served to us, compliments from the chef. They were stylish-looking tuna tartare scooped onto a crispy chip. The tartare was pretty tasty, I loved the texture. I had a few big pieces of raw ginger in my bite though and the flavour really overpowered the delicate tuna flavours. The chip was nice and crispy and sturdy enough to hold the scoop of tartare without getting soggy, a big plus.
There were two things that I had to try at 100 Nights: the lobster and Dungeness crab mac and cheese and the skillet chocolate chip cookie. So we ordered those plus the Fraser Valley pork tenderloin medallions with BC mushrooms and creamed potatoes.
I was pretty excited when the lobster and Dungeness crab mac and cheese came to the table with the cheese still bubbling and the white wine mornay sauce nearly spilling over the side of the dish. It’s marked on the menu as one of 100 Nights’ signature dishes. A ramekin of lobster bisque is also served with the mac and cheese, meant to be poured over top of the pasta. What I have never understood about mac and cheese is why anyone needs to put any extra sauce over it, even if it’s lobster bisque. The cheese is the sauce!
I loved that the melted cheese on the top of the mac and cheese was a nice golden crust, and it was so gooey and warm that it stretched into long, stringy mouthwatering threads of goodness as I dug in. The macaroni beneath the top layer was al dente, the sauce was rich and creamy, smooth and really the ultimate comfort food dish. My favourite part, aside from the gooey cheese, was of course the gigantic chunks of crab meat found throughout the dish. There were some pretty substantial and tender pieces in there, smothered in sauce but still retaining the unique crab flavour that I know and love.
I poured a little bit of the bisque into my mac and cheese. The bisque was smoky and salty and very briny, this brought out some of the natural sweetness in the crab meat. But like I said, I don’t think the mac and cheese needed any extra sauce. I know this is probably a total faux pas but I used the lobster bisque to dip my garlic bread, and it was actually quite delicious, mixing the briny bisque with the saltiness in the garlic butter.
Next up was the Fraser Valley pork tenderloin medallions and BC mushrooms. It was great that this entire dish was made up of local ingredients, it was a wonderful homage to the amazing food we have right here in British Columbia.
I always manage to overcook pork tenderloin at home so it was nice to try it in a restaurant where it was cooked properly. The three thick cut medallions looked incredible on the plate, balanced on a bed of greens, two types of mushrooms, and a little creamed potato fence trapping the red wine jus drenched mushrooms.
I was a little bit surprised to see a hint of pink at the centre of the pork tenderloin medallions but now I can understand how I have overcooked this piece of meat so horridly at home. I’d cook it until every hint of pink disappeared, apparently that’s a big no no.
The pork tenderloin medallions were pretty tender, succulent, extremely moist, and well-flavoured with a nicely seared crust on the sides. One of the many great things about pork is that the meat picks up flavour like a sponge, and the red wine jus along with the earthy mushroom flavours definitely seeped into the pork, enhancing the meat’s natural sweetness.
Normally, I don’t like creamed potatoes but the creamed potatoes in this dish turned out more on the rustic side, still retaining some gritty potato texture and the potatoes were still firm enough to stick to my fork as I was eating them as opposed to slipping right off like light, whipped potatoes. And I liked that, I like potatoes with texture.
The red wine jus poured over the mushrooms was almost too delicious for words, there were so many little elements about it, salty at first then followed by notes of deep sweetness and finishing with a bit of tang in the back of my throat. The fat from the pork definitely dripped down to the red wine jus, potatoes and greens to round out the dish in richness.
The mushrooms were so tender and flavourful after having swam in that delicious red wine jus that I couldn’t get enough of them. The sauce really toned down the earthy aftertaste of the mushrooms.
In general, the pork tenderloin medallion dish may have offered a more well-balanced meal than the lobster and Dungeness crab mac and cheese. After all, there was protein, carbs and greens on that plate whereas the mac and cheese offered a lot of cheese, cream, carbs and a rich lobster bisque. But I still would have chosen the lobster and Dungeness crab mac and cheese over the pork tenderloin even though they were both amazingly delicious.
Now for the next dish that I was most excited for: the giant cookie baked in a skillet. It was ‘baked to order’ so the chef literally presses the cookie dough into the mini skillet and bakes it when it’s ordered.
It smelled so marvelous when it came to the table, I could hardly wait for my first bite. Still smoking hot, the huge cookie was steaming and I was afraid the round scoop of ice cream would melt before I got a chance to dig in so I slowly started working my way in from the sides. You literally have to eat this cookie with a spoon, there’s no other way to scoop the gigantic thing out. I was only on the edges but as soon as my teaspoon dug in, the crispy outer crust gave way, and sunk deliciously into the soft, ooey, gooey, chocolate centre. I am a sucker for gooey cookies and creme brulee and this giant cookie was the cookie version of a creme brulee, crispy top and side crust, creamy, gooey insides and seductively sweet and rich chocolate chips throughout. The ice cream took ages to melt because it was frozen rock solid. This was perfect because the cookie was so hot that I had to blow on each spoonful of it to keep from burning my tongue right off. The whole while, the vanilla ice cream slowly melted, leaking cold, sweet cream into the already sticky and sweet cookie centre. The vanilla ice cream was very tasty, and yes, they use real vanilla bean, note the specks of the vanilla bean seeds in my photos.
I was also so in love with the mini skillet at the end that I wanted my own. Imagine all the perfectly round pancakes or mini frittatas I could make in this little thing!
I really should have tried the torched lemon meringue pie before digging into that incredible cookie because the pie paled in comparison. You wouldn’t think a simple cookie would be any competition for a lemon meringue pie but somehow in the world of pop-up restaurants, it was. I ordered this pie because the concept of it being ‘torched’ was just so interesting to me. I hadn’t expected the pie to feature so much crust though. I already don’t like graham cracker crust, I can handle it if it’s a thin layer at the bottom but the lemon meringue pie at 100 Nights features a sort of cup fashioned out of the graham cracker crust, it’s filled with lemon curd and of course a generous swirl of meringue lightly torched to create the trademark golden burnt shade. The actual texture of the meringue was not as fluffy as I’m used to. The lemon curd was creamy and light but I thought it could have used a tad more sweet citrus tang.
The little cubes of raspberry gelee were soft and sweet and quite juicy, adding a fun, playful texture to the dish.
I had a great time at 100 Nights, our server was attentive and helpful and that skillet cookie was everything that I was hoping for and more.