Gigi was invited to the opening of Prestons Restaurant in Vancouver, but since she was busily working on assignments and studying for exams (as I should have been), I instead took her place for Prestons grand opening along with my arm-candy friend, Su. Although not too many people were aware of it, Prestons has actually been open since February for the Olympics with chef Alessandro Vianello as the Executive Chef and Dan (sorry, I didn’t catch the full name) as the amazing pastry chef.
Su and I arrived early in the evening and made our first stop by a table showcasing mini sliders and calamari on a bed of baby arugula – all of which, were freshly prepared on the spot with guests watching the chefs. We both tried the char grilled calamari first, done in a garlic and chili marinade and finished with kalamata dressing. The calamari was done perfectly, not too chewy and not too tough, with the marinade and dressing adding a new dimension of flavour to the calamari. This was a simple dish, but it blended all the flavours well without any one flavour too overwhelming. Being char grilled, it’s also much healthier than the battered deep-fried calamari that seems popular around town (don’t get me wrong, I also love the unhealthy version of calamari).
Next, we tried the mini-sliders. The buns were a bit thick for the burgers, and overall, this was a pretty standard burger. Su and I both agreed, the burgers were nothing to write home about.
After the burgers, we tried some of the of the gyozas. The menu reads that they’re seared scallop & sweet prawn gyozas with miso dressing, but on the opening day, I vaguely recall (yes, one too many cocktails may have muddled my recollection) they were simply steamed sans dressing. Su really liked these, but I felt that there are plenty of authentic Japanese restaurants that are a step up from these gyozas. Too many points-of-parity, and too few points-of-differentiation.
I also forgot to mention that we were also offered mussels (which I unfortunately forgot to photograph; again, blame the cocktails). Su, who usually is not a fan of seafood, really enjoyed the mussels. I also enjoyed them, as they were juicy from the chili coconut broth and tasted very fresh.
We also tried the tofu and chicken pad thai, which Su also enjoyed quite a bit. I also ran into a friend and fellow blogger, Raul (@hummingbird604), at the opening who really enjoyed the pad thai. I wasn’t very wowed by my pad thai, but because each batch of pad thai was freshly prepared on the spot in mini Chinese takeout containers, I’m guessing I might have gotten an erred batch, or maybe I’m just too picky. Again, I felt the pad thai was too standard, and comparable with the possibly more flavorable and economical pad thai offerings at authentic Thai restaurants across town. The highlight of my pad thai was probably meeting Joy, from CKNW’s Joy’s Journal, who modeled for me with her pad thai for a photo. The photo is rather unappetizing, but I’m sure it’s plated better at the restaurant than in tangle of noodles in a Chinese takeout container.
The second last savory dish we tried were the crabcakes, which were panko crusted served with a mango chili lime salsa. This was my favorite dish, second to the calamari. I’m a big crabcake fiend, and they’re also my specialty item that I like to cook. And despite the fact that my dollops of homemade basil aioli are sometimes too generous and my crabcakes often erratic in shape and size, my crabcakes are still very delicious. However, I unfortunately have to concede that I enjoyed the ones from Prestons a bit more, which is in reality, surprisingly, a very big compliment. The insides of the crabcakes melded together nicely and held well even after a bite; the crust was done perfectly; and the mango chili lime salsa offered a refreshing touch to the crabcakes. (Excuse the blurry photo!)
The last savory dish was the wild mushroom and goat cheese calzone. I’m usually a fan of wild mushrooms and goat cheese and calzones, but the three together did not do the trick for me. The calzone was perfectly crispy, but I guess I just didn’t appreciate the flavours.
After all the savory foods, we moved on to my favorite – desserts! I must have gone back to fill up my plate at least 7 times at the dessert table. I’m just lucky that pastry chef Dan happened to be more friendly and generous than the free sample ladies manning the tables at Costco. The Prestons pastry team had designed a nice variety of desserts, including a flourless chocolate cake, a cheesecake, and dessert sushi. The dessert sushi comes with it’s own coconut reduction in a soy sauce container; very creative! The cheesecake was probably my least favorite of the lot, which was a rather standard fluffy cheesecake, although still quite good. My second favorite was the flourless chocolate cake, which was topped with a candied orange and orange (I think) foam. My favorite though, was the sushi. Goldfish Kitchen once offered similar dessert sushi, but shortly after opening, the sushi was removed from the menu. Prestons uses the same concept as Goldfish, with sweet coconut rice, but uses in-house custom made mango fruit-rollup to wrap the rice. Tapioca is used to emulate the look of fish eggs in some sushi. My favorite sushis were the ones that involved watermelon (which took on the look of salmon sashimi). The “soy sauce” went very well with the sushi, and definitely added more value than simply decoration.
I’m definitely going to have to come back again soon to try the rest of the menu. Overall, an enjoyable night of good food and good company. My recommendation: although it might not be for everybody, try the dessert sushi with the soy sauce.
1177 Pender Street West, Vancouver, BC
Service: [rating:5] (I hope the excellent service I received lasts even post-grand opening!)