Local ingredients get a taste of the Pacific Rim at Oru

After two years and a change of hands in the kitchen, Oru restaurant at the Fairmont Pacific Rim (1038 Canada Place) has a new menu that casts a wide net of flavours using locally sourced ingredients.

Oru executive chef Darren Brown.

I was invited to a media dinner Wednesday (April 11) to sample some of executive chef Darren Brown’s new dinner items. Chef Brown, who was born in Coquitlam and travelled the world before starting at Oru in the fall 2011, assembled a new kitchen team, which includes chef Mark Greenfield and pastry chef Jason Pitschke, before revitalizing Oru’s pan-Asian dishes. While the new menu still features flavours from the Pacific Rim, dishes are more focused on highlighting cuisine of the Pacific Northwest and sourcing ingredients as locally and sustainably as possible.

To start, I sampled the sunchoke soup, Notch Hills beet salad, Qualicum island diver scallops, and “kalua” pork belly ($12 to $18). If the term "sunchoke" has you scratching your head, they're are also called Jerusalem artichokes and are a type of sunflower species. Raw sunchokes are gnarly and brown on the outside, resembling ginger roots, but inside, the consistency is similar to that of other tubers. The sunchoke soup, which is sourced from Sorrento, B.C., is a cheery canary colour, rich and creamy in texture, and is topped with a wisp of truffle foamed milk.

The Notch Hills beet salad.

The beet salad also features pickled and poached varieties from Sorrento, and is presented like a colourful work of art alongside red beet chutney, green chimichurri vinaigrette, and flecks of Spanish cabrales blue cheese. Meanwhile, the diver scallops are paired with smoked salmon (smoked in-house) done up in char siu—traditional Chinese barbeque—style. The smoky flavours of the salmon are tempered by the mild sweetness of cauliflower purée, crispness of sesame sweet peas, and zest from preserved lemon condiment. Finally if “kalua” has you thinking about the milky, coffee-flavoured liqueur, think again; this one refers to the traditional Hawaiian cooking method that uses an underground oven. Here, the chefs at Oru do their best to emulate the luau favourite by using Fraser Valley pork belly (I was told the restaurant typically goes through 40 bellies a week!), oven-dried pineapple, maple-mustard glaze, fried sage, pork cracklings, and lotus root purée. If that doesn’t transport you to the sundrenched beaches of Hawaii, not much else will—besides actually purchasing a plane ticket, but the “kalua” pork belly gets you pretty close.

For an entrée, I had the sake-cured Haida Gwaii sablefish ($36), which was slightly crispy on top with a silky smooth texture inside. The sablefish balances atop a butter-poached sunchoke and is served with Alaskan salt cod brandade, melted and diced leeks, fennel, and chorizo, and a small pool of tomato-marin broth.

Oru’s dark Valrhona “alpaco grand cru”.

Chocolate lovers will undoubtedly want to save room for dessert—or simply pay a visit to Oru just for the desserts. To say that pastry chef Jason Pitschke has a passion for chocolate would be an understatement. On the dessert menu, he features a taste of white, milk, and dark varieties ($12 each) in ways that bring out the uniqueness of each bean. If you try the dark Valrhona “alpaco grand cru”, don’t be worried that the chocolate would be overly bitter (as some dark chocolates are). Pitschke’s creation is paired with dark chocolate-ancho chile mousse, a smattering of crisp banana-bread croutons, and muscovado ice cream.

Oru is open for breakfast, lunch, and, dinner every day, and features a separate kids’ menu and new Skybar menu of casual favourites, like sliders and poutine, for the recently renovated space overlooking the hotel lounge.

You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.

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