Five Sails Restaurant flies again: new food to match the heavenly views
Feast or famine is the wisest way to approach life if you genuinely like food. When you've got money, spend. When you hit a rocky patch, eat well but cheaply, using centuries of peasants as examples.
Take eggs. Even if you buy the $5-per-dozen kind laid by chickens so free-ranging they should carry passports, they're still a bargain. Three eggs make a fat omelette for one, which you can fill with chopped and sautéed vegetables.
Canny cash-strapped people know that, as with yard sales, the best deals at produce stores are below eye level: dollar bags of peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, which, individually or together, you take home, cook immediately before they sprout wings or fur, and keep in the fridge for impromptu use over pasta, in soups, or, as noted earlier, inside an omelette.
Another steal is a good big chicken, which, once you become proficient at the fine art of dismembering, can feed a couple for the better part of a week. The legs make one meal, two if you're meagre; each breast is a stir-fry waiting to happen; and, simmered in water, the bones plus wings and carcass provide stock for soup and risotto. (Italian risotto rice, Italian parsley, and Italian Parmesan are three of the biggest bargains going in terms of what they deliver.) Do that for a few weeks and then you take the money you've saved not having frozen dinners, five-buck coffees, and bottled salad dressing, and really go out on the town. Linen napkins, flowers, elegant waitstaff - the lot.
For a dinner that grabs every one of your senses, I'd pick the Five Sails at the very tip of Canada Place. Some excellent restaurants have a view, but this place has the view, the one on the postcards. It's the spot you take the cousins to show off Vancouver. Time it right and you get pink skies over the mountains to knock their Fair Isle socks off.
This isn't the old Five Sails that was around forever; it's Five Sails redux, under new owner-operators, the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel's former executive chef, Ernst Dorfler, and his wife, Gerry Sayers. He cooks, she maí®tre d's; they took over the restaurant last March, did a reno, and reopened in May.
In its original incarnation, the room was overly formal, but they've transformed it. They've done away with the big glass-cube sculpture just inside the doorway and some panelling, so that if you turn away from the view, you can now see out beyond to that huge, airy atrium. Additions include eco-smart Australian-designed fire features that look like incendiary Kleenex boxes, and sheer curtains to soften frosted windows.
There are banquettes, too, where you can try the small-plates menu (the appetizers and about six other dishes), or you can sit at the bar: smart, modern, and now backlit lavender the night we were there–with the same LED lighting effect framing the doorway. The dining chairs are less corporate-boardroom as well. It feels like a different room.
Dorfler is a European working with West Coast ingredients, and he cooks with grace, finesse, and intelligence. He'd run out of the foie gras torchon the night we were there. So he pan-seared slices instead, tossing fresh peaches in a pan to caramelize the outsides, creating that fruity sweetness that's in the classic match of foie gras and Sauternes. In the summer, he also makes (and don't try ordering this after a glass of anything) schlutzkrapfen, the ravioli he grew up with in Austria, filled with herbs, spinach, and ricotta, with roasted pine nuts swimming around them in a lavish amount of butter. The winter version is red kurri squash and goat cheese ravioli.
He keeps his mains simple. Lamb loin was exemplary, sablefish like butter on the tongue, two generous pieces (restaurants are sometimes stingy with this expensive fish) on a pool of ratatouille purée, with a herb oil drizzled around of almost neon greenness and a crispy potato beignet playing up the silkiness of the fish. Dazzling on the plate and the palate. Outside, the lights glimmer across the water, sequins and velvet”¦ Just stick it on the credit card and don't think about it.
Five Sails Restaurant, 410-999 Canada Place, 604-844-2855. Open daily, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Link: The Five Sails