Location: 1505 W 2nd Ave, Vancouver, BC (Fairview Area)
Phone: (604) 734-0101 | Hours: Lunch 11:30AM – 2:00PM, Dinner 6:00PM – 9:00PM
For those who are unfamiliar with Bistro 101, often known as the “Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts”, this is a one of a kind experience in Vancouver, just steps away from Granville Island. This restaurant is run by students at this culinary school. And it’s more for them to get practical experience running a restaurant than anything else. This place serves wine pairings with your food, as well as, a west coast buffet dinner is served every Friday night.
So, my girlfriend and I decided to come on our one-and-a-half years anniversary. We’ve heard mixed reviews of the buffet before we went. But, we still went to find out for ourselves. Only 2 of the 3-course meals were buffet style, the entree was a set course.
We made reservations at 7PM and arrived on-time. There is free parking after 6PM at the back of the restaurant/school. There is no hostess at the front, but we were greeted by our waiter almost immediately after walking in. It was rather a quiet night, only a few tables were occupied when we went in. We were seated with 2 sets of wine/drink menu. Then, our server left. We were left a bit confused as to what was the special of the night, there was no food menu (we were not notified of the buffet, until the waiter came back the second time). Our server, Matt, seemed to be a bit nervous when talking to us, but other than that, he was very polite. One thing that I did catch on through out the night was that he was overly polite and finished with “is there anything I could help you with?” every time he came to talk to us. And that felt a little pushy.
There were quite a few selections at the Appetizer Buffet, ranging from a wide variety. Let’s walk around the table, shall we?
When I first picked up the bread, it was hard as a rock. But after I took the first bite, it was not too bad.
The pasta salad was one of the stars tonight, my girlfriend and I both came to consensus that this was one great dish. The pasta was firm and the taste of this was just heavenly. It was a simple dish done right.
The grilled prawns were perfectly fresh, it was served with a polenta (cornmeal). I didn’t like the polenta, but prawns were done perfect.
One thing I did regret was they didn’t come out with anymore banana squash soup for the remainder of the evening. I would have loved to try it. The crab wontons weren’t bad. But what was extraordinary was the Veal Spring rolls!
It was my first time having veal spring rolls, the flavours were great. It was crunchy! The spicy sauce that came with it just made this the perfect appetizer. It was very firm on the inside. I filled my stomach with 4 or 5 of these.
If you ever had a Vietnamese Spring roll, this one is no different. I didn’t notice anything special with this one.
I tried a spoonful of this, just to try out this salad. It was unlike the normal Greek salad you have at the restaurant. Quinoa is a grain-like crop, it’s very closely related to beets. The salad was not bad, but I’m not a major fan of beets, so a spoonful was a good portion. There wasn’t much taste to it either.
There were a variety of Antipasti, ranging from salami, sausage, ham, and cheese.
I’m not sure where this originated from, but I also had a spoonful of this salad. It’s basically a cucumber salad, very refreshing and light. It would have been a great salad in the summer time, not so much in the cold weather.
This was also another prime time, it’s grilled vegetables. The juice of all the vegetables were just brought out from the grill. It was grilled nearly to perfection. Nothing was really burnt, just grilled right.
I tried the Roasted Apple Vinaigrette with dried cranberries. It was a perfect match, the sourness of the vinaigrette was offset by the sweet dried cranberries.
The pink scallops were served on the half shell with scallions and I don’t quite remember what was on it. This wasn’t bad until I have tried this other plate…
This was a raw scallop marinated with citrus and topped with some sort of fish roe. It was refreshing and sweet.
The entree this evening was a mixed grill with the choice of chicken; lamb; pork; beef, and prawns. It was served with seasonal vegetables (cauliflower and carrots) and mashed potatoes on the side. I got the chicken, pork and lamb. The chicken didn’t have much taste to it, but well cooked. The pork was surprisingly under-cooked and had to go back to the kitchen. And the lamb was made perfect. It would have been a really great deal with having lamb as all 3 choices, but we wanted to give everything else a try as well. The hunter sauce that was smothered with the meats and vegetables was really good. The sauce gave the meat that much more juice.
My girlfriend had the prawns, beef, and lamb. The prawns tasted identical to the grilled prawns at the appetizer bar. But, the beef was really tender and juicy. It tasted really good, as they used short ribs beef.
Although the meats were generally well done, I found the cauliflower to be very mushy.
I would have liked to see more varieties on the dessert menu, because I’m a dessert fan. However, there were quite a few selections available.
I tried the chocolate cupcake, it wasn’t very sweet (Just like how I wanted it to taste).
In my opinion, the truffles didn’t taste all that great.
My girlfriend tried one of these, and they were overly sweet.
The opera cake was fairly good, just a bit on the sweet side. But it tasted very much like the Opera cake I had before.
I didn’t try the fruit tart, but the cheesecake was very cheesy! It was one of the best desserts that evening.
The restaurant is very spacious and you don’t feel squished at all. All the tables are evenly spaced apart. The one interesting feature I noticed was that there are sections in this restaurant. Each section could be divided into different rooms making it easy to have private parties. (There’s actually a private party behind those curtains at the end of the hall.)
This space at the front of the restaurant is for those who wants to grab a quick lunch, tea or coffee.
More interestingly, there are huge windows into the kitchen area. This is one thing you won’t find in most restaurants.
Overall, we thought the dining experience was pretty good. The flavours of the food were brought out quite well with the exception of my main being undercooked. We also wanted to see more hot food at the appetizer table and the temperature of the food could be more adjusted to the warmer side. For some reason, the tongs at the buffet became less each time we re-visited the table. We consistently had to borrow tongs from other plates to grab food. Our server could have showed more confidence in himself, but knowing it’s a culinary school, this was understandable. The ambiance of the restaurant was great, very clean and bright throughout. It would have been an excellent dining experience with the sunset as it over looks the harbour. We will be back to taste their normal menu.
P.S. West Coast Buffet is only served on Friday evenings and is $30 per person.