1180 Howe Street, Vancouver
I was invited by Julia Watts of Gala Events to attend the grand opening of new restaurant called The Helm on last Friday. The restaurant is very much a causal but hip social dining lounge that focus tapas style dishes. Chef Toby Nemeth's idea is to create dishes that uses local food and all made from scratch. I personally think this is a great idea, who better to support than the locals.The restaurant is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of crazy downtown area, but yet still very much accessible. The decor here is along the line of modern chic with purple being the central theme color. Because on their opening day, The Food Network’s The Opener with host David Adjey was being filmed on site, thus the restaurant was rather brightly lite, usually it would be much more intimate. Upon arrival, we were given a complimentary glass of champagne with a raspberry preserve on the bottom. Later, R ordered a Heart of Darkness - Champagne and Chilled Guinness ($9). Because the drink is not mixed, I could only detect the champagne initially, it is only towards the end, I get the taste of the Guinness.
The food served on the opening night is exactly what's printed on the menu. This was a excellent idea, as this is a exact representation maybe minimal difference in plating. The Crostinis with Almond Pate ($4) was good, and the value is excellent. The almond pate smooth, but not as rich as other pate. I much preferred this one, as it wasn't overly creamy.
After a few appetizer, we decided to sit down with Kevin (604foodtography) for a proper meal. R picked the first dish: The Turkey Confit Gravy with Huckleberries & Savoury Bread Pudding ($12). The turkey was slow cooked and extremely soft. R mentioned that the bread pudding was much like a quiche. Although the overall taste of the dish worked, but we all found the broth to be too salty
This would be Smoked Albacore Tuna with Fennel and Shiso ($13). The tuna had a nice smoked flavor. Shiso is a type of Japanese basil, but to me it didn't really have any flavor.
I was drawn toward the Smoked Sloping Hills Pork Shoulder with Housemade Peanut-Chili Sauce ($12). The pork was tender and the peanut chili sauce was mild, but totally worked by not overpowering the pork.
Kevin picked the Moroccan Lamb Stew w/ Minty Yogurt & Couscous ($14). This was another slow cooked dish with tender/soft lamb with great flavor. The one thing I did like was that there wasn't any detectable gaminess at all.
I love risotto, so when notice that there is a 'risotto' dish on the menu, we had to order it. Unfortunately the BC Wild Mushroom “Risotto” with Orzo & Breadcrumbs ($12) did not work for me. The 'risotto' was actually pasta, thus it lacked that creaminess/stickness of regular risotto. The Pemberton Potatoes with Pimenton Aioli ($5) was really good, I especially like the aioli.For the dessert, we got the Wildflower Honey Pot de Creme with Sour Cherries & Walnuts ($7). This was very much like a custard except much more fluid.For the second dessert, we ordered the Nostrala Cheesecake w/ Blackberry Puree ($7). Now this was a definitely a star. I asked the waiter was is Nostrala, apparently it's a locally made fresh artisan cheese from Kootenay BC. The cheesecake was sweet, creamy and slightly nutty. The texture was not your typical NY style, it was rather airy and light. I would totally recommend this.
The one interesting fact that I did learn from Julia was that owners (total 4 of them) are all 26 and under, I must say I am impressed, they are all quite ambitious. Also the service that night was superb, as all the waiters/waitresses were very attentive. Overall, I think their food do really show the best of BC. However, also because of this, that means their menu is seasonal, but it's probably a good thing, as it will always keep the menu interesting.