I first heard about Wildebeest in the Metro newspaper since the end of last summer, and was pretty set on taking a friend for a surprise date there. Five months later, I found myself still in good company and visiting Wildebeest for the first time for my second dine out this year. The three of us ordered 2 dine out courses and some items from the regular a la carte so we would get a variety. Located in Gastown, the ambience at Wildebeest would attract hipsters from all walks of life (but mostly with dough). It's a nice combination of Old World industrial design and a cozy, warm, and rustic feel. The atmosphere is quite lively and energetic, reminding me of some bistro in East Village in New York.
The back part of the restaurant has several long tables, which means you could get cozy and comfortable with strangers cafeteria-style. They had a lengthy selection of house specialty cocktails, so I ordered myself the East Side Smash which consisted of Cuban rum, citrus, watermelon, and rosemary. It was rather a refreshing drink and it made me miss summer even more.
There were so many intriguing selections to choose from from the condensed regular menu. Between the bone marrow vs. crispy pork and polenta croquette with tomato jam, we decided on the latter. The croquettes deep fried to golden crisp on the outside, and tender and meaty on the inside. There was plenty of pork in there, and the texture was somewhat similar to pulled pork. It balanced nicely with the acidic tomato jam which livened up the dish nicely.
First appetizer from the dine out menu, smoked salmon roulade was presented like a floral arrangement. Raw, thin, slices of pumpkin were infused with sweet oranges was very crisp and refreshing. The smoked salmon roulade was smooth and rich, was made even richer by the creme-fraiche.
The other appetizer from the dine out menu was poached egg with heritage onions, sourdough bread, alpine gold cheddar and some kale. I was surprised to see how the egg was served; the white and the yolk was cooked almost to the same consistency (with the white being a little less cooked than the yolk, but neither was runny). This egg wasn't poached regularly and I had to ask. My suspicion was confirmed, the egg had been cooked sous-vide.
I was really looking forward to trying the albacore tuna tempura from the dine out menu. Wrapped with nori swimming in dashi broth with enoki, shiitake mushrooms, and radish, I really liked the construction of the dish. The nori wrapping was light and crispy, while the tuna was perfectly seared and fresh. The concept was similar to eating agedashi tofu with the tuna tempura sitting in dashi broth, which was not too salty.
The second main, also from the dine out menu, was natural angus beef short rib. Although I did wish there was more jus to accompany it, the short rib was really the star of the show; tender pieces of medium rare short rib and charred edges. Rutabaga (a cross between cabbage and turnip) was juicy and reminiscent of an Asian style stewed vegetable dish.
From the regular menu, pork jowl with oatmeal and bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup was one of our favourite dishes that night. I never thought pork, oatmeal, and maple syrup would make a combination, but, they all worked very well together. The pork jowl had that melt-in-your-mouth fatty texture, mixed with mushy, mild-flavoured oatmeal and sweet maple syrup packing more depth and punches. That was quite a treat, and no, it wasn't gross at all.
To finish our dine out courses, we selected lemon cake with parsnip and white chocolate mousse, and stout-infused tapioca. The cake was quite dense, while the mousse was not overly sweet and quite fluffy. I actually thought I was eating whipped cream. I couldn't really detect stout flavour, but the tapioca was good. What made it better was eating the lemon cake with the cheesecake foam.
I was the first to veto the cheesecake as I was never a fan of the dessert. Fortunately, no one listened and we ordered it under the recommendation from our server. This was no ordinary cheesecake, but one which was actually in a form a fluffy, creamy foam with crumble bits and very tart blackberry sorbet. It was so tasty on so many levels.
Wildebeest won me over for creativity in the way the ingredients are brought in together. I would definitely go back and try out more of their regular menu.