House Guest: Fresh Daily Menus and Cucumber Water
#200 332 Water Street, Gastown, Vancouver
Tucked deep into the magasin shops in Gastown is House Guest. The entrance is just marked with a sandwich board and a discreet black sign beside the door with a symbol consisting of two keys fashioned in the shape of a “X.”
The decor is a cross between gothic and hipster. On the way downstairs to the washroom, I encountered a jolting wall of golden skulls. It was pretty spooky.
The staff is super friendly and when I chatted with our server, she told me about their daily menu and the intimate and casual focus groups that the chef has with the servers to gather input and inspiration for the daily dishes. Ingredients are also bought fresh daily.
To drink, I ordered a crisp white wine. The guys ordered the spiciest caesars I’ve ever tasted. My tongue was on fire from just one small sip. Thank goodness for the cucumber water on-hand. The social media manager at House Guest is totally on the ball too. I quickly tweeted that I tasted a refreshing hint of cucumber in the water and I was immediately tweeted back with a confirmation that sliced cucumbers were soaked in each pitcher of water.
The menus at House Guest are sheets of paper clipped to giant cutting boards. As unique as that seems to be, the menus were clumsy to maneuver. They were also kind of a safety hazard: big chunks of wood so near the open candlelight flame.
For an appetizer, we ordered crispy mac and cheese balls. The little balls were lightly crunchy on the outside and totally gooey and cheesy on the inside. The perfect, hot little bites to whet our appetite for more.
Our surf and turf sliders were actually bigger than I had expected. But I was more interested in the cross hatch chips that came in a small bucket with the burgers. The chips were crispy and crunchy and seasoned with the tastiest salt and spices. The sliders were a little messy to eat, but the meat was tender and also as well seasoned as the chips.
One of our friends ordered a deconstructed salad, which I didn’t try. I’ll admit it looked pretty and the colours were appetizing. But I have a theory about deconstructed food: as much of a trend as it was a few years ago, I think certain dishes like salads are constructed together for a reason, and to take apart all those elements that make up a dish is pretty much like ripping up a book and asking a reader to read it.
I wish I had ordered the duck donair though. It looked so delicious in its fluffy naan bread wrap and the huge serving of tender duck meat was just spilling out of the top of the wrap. I tried a little bite, and the meat really was as flavourful as it looked and smelled.
A dish that my friend and I shared was the trifecta of quail off the daily menu: it featured handmade canelloni filled with quail, quail egg ravioli with pesto and a leg of quail meatball served on linguine with natural jus.
At first I thought that one single ravioli was a little stingy but boy, were the flavours ever intense. The little quail egg punching through the buttery pasta and pesto sauce. The canelloni was also one of my favourites of the night. The quail meat tender and sweet.
Who would have guessed that a tiny quail’s meat could make a meatball so tender and moist too.
Plated most artistically was the beef in transition (it looked like a 3-D painting!): grilled ribeye steak, short rib ravioli and marrow potato with a confit of mirepoix. Even the name of this dish is a tad on the liberal, artsy side.
The single ravioli in this dish was gigantic, stuffed to the max with tender and amazingly soft short rib meat. I loved it.
We were disappointed that the grilled rib eye was sliced. Yes, we were actually expecting a huge slab of meat on this delicate plate. The intricate plating left no room for manly slabs of meat. The pink slices of steak still retained their moisture though and I loved the flavour and texture.
The potatoes, although served in wedges had a creaminess about them in the middle.
I admit to not even knowing what a mirepoix is and had to google it after I got home. Turns out it’s just a boring mix of celery, carrot and onion. Funny that the most ordinary thing on the plate has the fanciest name.
I was not expecting such fancy cuisine when I stepped into House Guest but I admit I had a great evening and thoroughly enjoyed the food!