Glowbal wows with worldly menu and décor

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      You’d think that the Glowbal Restaurant Group would have things figured out by now. With Glowbal, located at Telus Garden, you’d be right. The gorgeous spot, which opened at the end of August, is the latest and greatest in the group’s collection of Vancouver restaurants.

      The wow factor hits well before you even walk in the front doors, with the magnificent skeletal wood-and-glass awning. Look up and you might think you’re in the belly of an orca. On the expansive patio, soon to be enclosed for year-round use, are striking “birdcage” tables that would make Tweety happy. Once inside, check out the Tiffany-inspired “jewel boxes”—four glass display cases mounted atop Spanish marble pillars—that hold Japanese Wagyu beef, USDA prime strip loin, Canadian prime tenderloin, and a tin of Northern Divine organic, sustainable Canadian caviar.

      The interior is sophisticated and cozy: more of that Spanish marble, along with elegant copper light fixtures that resemble unfurled ribbon, white tablecloths, and elongated glass-encased fireplaces. You certainly don’t feel like you’re in a two-level, 17,000-square-foot space, several smaller sections making it feel much more intimate. If you’re looking to add a little more drama to your surroundings, order a bottle of wine and you may get one of the fantastically shaped glass decanters: made by Riedel, ours looked like a giant Nike swoosh. Others are in the forms of boa constrictors and snails.

      It’s a lot of eye candy, but Glowbal is hardly all show. Under the direction of executive chef Pedro Gonzalez (and, ultimately, the group’s corporate chef, Ryan Gauthier), the offerings are diverse, the flavours full. There’s nothing not to like.

      A distinguishing feature of the menu is the robata section, which is dedicated to skewers of all sorts cooked on the gas-fired Japanese-style grill. Custom-made for the restaurant, the beast sits centre-stage in the open kitchen and is more than 12 feet long. You’ve got your pick of halloumi cheese, beef tongue, Kurobuta pork cheek, Wagyu, Japanese eggplant, and more, each with its own dipping sauce. Tsukune chicken meatballs are accompanied by a cured organic egg yolk afloat in soy sauce; wild mushrooms get dipped in dashi thyme consommé; and bacon-wrapped okra comes with spicy aioli. You can avoid decision-making altogether and opt for a platter of the chef’s selections ($39).

      Elsewhere, the Apple Chopped Salad is a crisp, refreshing starter, the Fujis finely sliced, then mixed with medjool dates, pumpkin seeds, and blue cheese in a light sherry vinaigrette. Pretty pieces of ahi tuna carpaccio come with pickled horseradish, a dash of leek oil, black and white sesame seeds, and a smidge of chili for a potent hit. If you’re a fan of bisque but haven’t ordered a bowl in a while because of too many bad experiences with the stuff, do have the prawn-and-pumpkin version here. Velvety and rich but not overpowering, the flavour of the sea is tempered by fennel slices and saffron rouille. It’s crowned with a perfect tiger prawn tempura. Marinated for at least 24 hours in miso, flaky sablefish comes with crispy kale in a shiitake consommé that’s poured tableside as well as a scallion-studded soba noodle salad on the side—love the combination of cool and hot, crunchy and soft.

      Comfort comes in the form of casarecce, the short, scroll-shaped noodles tumbling with double-smoked bacon, enoki mushrooms, and a dashi beurre blanc. Bison short ribs are ultra-tender, served with a rum-chimichurri sauce, avocado purée, and the tastiest mashed potatoes whipped with turmeric.

      There’s something here for everyone, not just tastewise but budgetwise too: if you want to drop a wad of cash, go for the Wagyu strip loin, priced at $19 per ounce (that’s $152 for an eight-ounce steak) or have a surf ’n’ turf platter for $39 per person. But you can dial it down by sharing standbys like Brussels sprouts (deep-fried and tossed with lemon, Parmesan, and capers), crispy calamari, burrata and beet salad, and the resto’s signature meatballs and truffled spaghetti (which range from $9 to $25).

      The cocktail menu is 50 percent off daily from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Weekend brunch is on offer too, with prices ranging from $12 to $25 (for a lobster omelette).

      The Glowbal Restaurant Group—which also owns Trattoria, Coast, and Black+Blue, among others—has got it figured out, all right. Its new Glowbal is a dining destination where you simply can’t go wrong.

      Follow Gail Johnson on Twitter @gailjohnsonwork.