Adventures in Vancouver dining: Wildebeest

If there’s one restaurant that people are talking about a lot these days, it’s Wildebeest; a Gastown-borders, nose-to-tail eating joint with a bold agenda for ‘unabashed adventurous cuisine.’ I’m no fan of buzz as a rule. Buzz is for the bees and is usually as insubstantial as a soap bubble, but after a second trip to see the ‘Beest-y Boys’ in action, I think I’ll be adding my shouts of praise to the throng.

Let’s start off with the basics: I love an atmospheric room to eat in – especially one with an open kitchen where I can watch the crew perform their gastro-ballet and synchronised plating. Wildebeest has all kinds of extra details that catch the eye too — quotes from writers on the wall, vintage light fixtures and a rather lovely solid wood door that’s been repurposed as a bottle rack by the bar.

Downstairs in the wine bar…

I was torn the first time I ate here; half the dishes I loved — just adored to the point of wondering if I could get away with some sneaky plate-licking — but a few left me cold. A porridge-y side served with pork bewildered me; each on their own were fine, but together? And then there was a take on chicharon which seriously misfired; I was left with gummy fried pork adhered to my mouth. Yes. My life is *that* glamorous. But the custard-y, foamy Chawanmushi, with Dungeness Crab I could have happily eaten in a bucket, it was incredible and the shortribs, hands down the best I’ve ever tasted.

Seriously hard for me not to just… lick the screen. Best. Shortribs. EVER.
Credit – Peter Bagi

I went back at the weekend and I’m so glad I did. The incredibly-adhesive chicharon is gone. As is the pork-y porridge. This can only be a good thing. In their place, wonderful stuff… I tried an octopus dish with light, peppery olive oil hollandaise (is this a ‘thing’ in this town? First at Fable, now here?) and my new favourite thing, a Fiore Farm chicken duo, with a positively whipped-it-was-so-creamy polenta and the most delicious flavour-dense jus. Adored it.

This is the first time I’ve seen ‘dining’ cocktails too. I tried a Fitty Fitty, a blend of Nasturtium-infused gin, vermouth and salt that made me wince when I tried it at the bar – but with food – it became the perfect foil. Loved that.

Spread on that toast – oh! Heaven.
Credit – Peter Bagi

It’s a menu made for excitingly high-stakes dining. No scaredy-cat, fussy eaters here – the bone marrow is gelatinously meaty and just made to luge sherry with, chicken hearts and duck liver dance alongside sweetbreads and schnitzel. It’s the kind of dinner that you want to take a date to —  just to see how down and daring they get with the food. Bold eaters are terribly attractive, everyone knows that, right?  So, buzz aside, the hype, for once, is real. I will be back. And you should absolutely go there too.

I ate here as a guest of Tourism Vancouver/Wildebeest. My views are 100% my own.

Find out more at Tourism Vancouver 

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