Thursday, June 2, 2011

Weekend in the Okanagan: The Food!

Hillside Estate Winery & Bistro

Located in Naramata, Hillside Estate Bistro was our first stop for lunch.  After wine tasting, we weren't as impressed by the wine as much as their tasty rustic dishes made with fresh ingredients.  There, we enjoyed a very complete meal along with attentive, friendly service.  See the menu here.  

Spiced carrot and local apple soup $7 topped with fennel seed profiteroles and sour cream was the first to arrive.  I knew it was "spiced" but even for us Thai folks, the soup was a tad too spicy!  I normally expect this type of soup to be more mild, but it was still too spicy even it was mixed with sour cream. I couldn't really taste the apple, just a slight sweetness.  It was still a hearty, comforting dish, nonetheless.

The special of the day, seared quail with balsamic reduction $19 proved to be a scrumptious choice! The quail was cripsy outside, tender inside.  The "stuffing" that came with it was also very tasty.  We finished the dish in a short amount of time.
Grilled flatbreads with cured ham and mushroom tapenade $16 would be an ideal choice for a picnic.  On its own, it was pretty much a filler.
Swiss chard and kale caesar salad $12 was also a meal of its own.  Though I know it's not for everyone, I was happy to see quite a few white anchovies laying around in the salad.  They were not as fishy as the normal brown anchovies.  The swiss chard was fresh and crisp with grated parmesan and jumbo pieces of crispy croutons.  The lemon olive oil dressing was creamy with a tangy, zesty twist and helped us keep on munching.

No doubt, I was already stuffed after 4 dishes.  Nonetheless, I saved a teeny tiny space for dessert.  Since  we were sharing, the choices were torn between the chocolate and olive oil cake with rosemary ice cream, or the lemon cream shortcake with basil syrup (both $9).  Our waitress highly recommended the latter, "It's to die for".  Sold. We chose that option and I'm glad we listened to her! I loved everything about it.  The presentation was very impressive, fluffy lemon cream short cake topped with whipped cream and fresh basil, drizzled with basil syrup and vibrant arrangement of mixed berries.  The taste? just as fantastic as it looked.  The lemon cream cake was fluffy, velvety.  The lemony taste was enhanced by the basil.  I was pleasantly puzzled.  What a refreshing, palette cleansing and wakening dessert!  I had no idea basil would go so well in the dessert.

Bravo. I would definitely come back again.
Hillside Estate Winery & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Amante Bistro
My sister raved about a fantastic dining experience she had last year at Amante Bistro.  Thus, she drove us all the way to Penticton in hopes of having more of their delicious food.  Unfortunately, they have recently brought on a new chef on board and, as a result, the food had changed and we were not that impressed by our dining experience.  The restaurant was extremely quiet at 6 pm on a Saturday night, which would've been the first warning sign for us.

We sampled one of their tapas, grilled quail with herbs.  I just had to compare the quail to the one we had the previous day at Hillside, (or even the ones at Yaohan food court) and it couldn't even compare.  The meat was tough and it didn't taste like it was marinaded through and through.

Next up was the lobster bisque, which was the most bizarre version I had ever encountered.  The sourdough was dry and the soup, it was...well, sour.  Why would the lobster bisque have a sour taste? We asked the waiter, who came back after inquiring with the chef told us that it was due to the "Brandy cream".  Although it sounded luxurious, the taste was quite far from it.  It tasted quite off (not like how a lobster bisque should taste) and definitely not tasty.  Even when I had asked him again if it is supposed to be this sour, he nodded "Brandy? Oh Yea!" as though it was the best thing ever.  I strongly disagree and was utterly annoyed.  Despite huge bits of lobster meat, I would never try this Brandy creamed lobster bisque again.  
We also didn't enjoy our used cutleries being placed straight on the dining table to be reused again (I usually don't eat food off the table in restaurants).  Nor having to hear about the servers' conversations regarding their spouse separations from across the restaurant -__-''
The first entree was the lamb duo with herb crusted lamb rack and stewed lamb shanks.  The dish was actually not bad.  The mashed sweet potato was quite fluffy with a natural sweetness and was delicious.  The lamb rack, although quite small, were tender.  The lamb shank, on the other hand, had certain parts that were too tough and rubbery.
Last but not least, the seafood risotto with tiger prawns and scallops was actually really tasty.  The seafood were quite big and nicely seared while the risotto was creamy and not too starchy.  Nothing to complain about this dish at all.

In conclusion, although the last 2 dishes had passing marks, they were still not enough to pull me back for another visit in the near future. 
Amante Bistro on Urbanspoon

Burrowing Owl
On the last day of our trip, we stopped by Burrowing Owl for wine tasting and luncheon.  The restaurant offers an amazing view of the serene resort and vineyard.  It had an exotic, European feel to it.  I didn't quite feel like I was in Canada.  A perfect place for lunch on a sunny afternoon.  Another good news is that the food is also as great as the view.

The daily soup happened to be prawn bisque ($9). I ordered it in hopes of erasing the bad memories of the previous dreadful lobster bisque experience.  It was an excellent choice.  The prawn bisque had a rich, creamy shellfish flavour. Drizzled with basil oil, the soup was elegant and quite scrumptious.

As an appetizer, the Manila clam fritters $14 were great for sharing.  Served with heirloom tomato broth, chorizo sausage and lemon aioli, the fritters offered a variety of flavours from acidic, smoky to creamy.  The dough was crispy outside, fluffy inside with chewy clam textures.  Yet, they were a bit too salty on their own.
Braised lamb parpadelle $17 proved to be another good choice.  The pasta noodles were cooked al dante which I quite enjoyed.  The tender braised lamb, tangy tomato ragout with big pieces of mushrooms, and organic olive tapenade made this rustic dish very hearty and tasty.  

That was the last meal from our weekend getaway and I'm so glad it was a great experience.
The Sonora Room (seasonal) on Urbanspoon


  1. Great reviews on these restaurants. I have not been to Amante since the new owner took over. The previous owner was great. I fail to see why brandy should taste sour either but I suspect it was the cream portion that gave the sour taste. You also hit on the point about the cutleries which drives me crazy to no end (just ask my wife.) I fail to see why restaurants do not provide their customers new cutleries after every course (even a buffet)instead of lay down the dirty cutleries on the table. It is like the restaurant policy is to only provide one set of cutleries to each customer. Poor service training by the management IMHO.

    1. Thanks for the comment! How was the old Amante? I heard it was way better than what it is now?