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Fuel Restaurant – Whole Hog Dinner Vancouver, BC

October 17th, 2007 · No Comments

T: So, coming home on the bus a few weeks ago I was reading some commuter newspaper and this note caught my eye: “Fuel Restaurant is proud to announce a great celebration of the bounty of fall with the first annual ‘Whole Hog’ dinner. The 5 course menu will incorporate pork in each and every dish…”

Say no more, say no more! I knew that we had to go. Rang up the brother and his missus and they agreed to go ‘whole hog’ with us.

So on October 17, on one of the rainiest nights in memory, we made our way to eat pig and be merry – but much more was in store for us. Truly, this was a memorable and stomach-testing experience for us, one that forced us to look deep into our souls, and to ask ourselves, “Is eating brain going too far?”

Well, perhaps it wasn’t that soul-testing. Turns out brain can be pretty delicious.

Anyway, here’s the menu:

I’ve got to say that it was probably our best meal since coming to Vancouver. We were hugely impressed with Fuel’s atmosphere, service and most importantly, their food.

First off – looks. Fuel is definitely a nice restaurant. It’s not going to shock your mother if you take her there – it’s just a normal sized room, white/brown walls, simple table settings on white linen, lighting that’s perfect for an intimate meal, and the kitchen is at the front of restaurant, surrounded by a large bar for those who want to watch their food being prepared.

Secondly – service. They paid attention here – our server was extremely, nice, laughed at all of our jokes, and didn’t make a single mix-up the entire meal. Also appreciated was that she gave us good recommendations on how to go about the meal (if 3/4 are going whole hog, then the last person should go it as well – otherwise the meal’s timing will be off). All courses were served simultaneously, the courses were served just perfectly timed apart from each other, nobody had their plates taken away before finishing, and she even brought one course by in its beautiful ‘as-cooked’ state in a copper pot to show us how it was prepared.

Thirdly – the food. Just fantastic. It was one of those meals where every course, every item just seemed to be jumping off the plate with flavour. (below: stuffed ear, left; brain, right)

But you want details, not just airy praise. Where to start about a dinner that was especially devoted to eating some of the more rarely-appreciated parts of the pig? I think we should start by saying that every course was delicious – and only one course (the stuffed ear) had anything in it that we had a bit of a hard time with (the ear’s cartilaginous consistency). Let’s just go over some highlights:

Charcuterie – just great. There’s really nothing not to like about charcuterie. Animals + plants preserved and ready to eat whenever you are? Sign me up. The plate came with four types of charcuterie – two types of paté, lardo, and thinly-sliced chorizo. Nothing to disappoint in any of them – one paté had a whipped, smooth consistency and the other was chunky. Both were savory, salty, and superb. The lardo was new to me – it’s basically cured pork fat – it was salty, smoky, and sweet and a very nice treat when so thinly shaved and eaten by itself. The chorizo was subtle – it wasn’t a ‘hit you over the head with flavour’ sausage, nor was it overly hot – it was just a nice, savory snack. The whole plate was served with pickled ramp (Allium Tricoccum), a member of the onion/garlic family – and these brought the wet/sour/sweet of vinegar to the palate that combined perfectly with the charcuterie on bread to get the appetite going for the rest of the meal.
Stuffed ear with tail consommé – the stuffing was made from other organ meats and spices, and after one taste of this savory snack, we all just dug into the stuffing like crazy. It was chunky and chewy, savory like stuffing out of a turkey but cold and easy to eat. No nasty flavors in it (kidney is always a toss of the dice) but rather just a pork-y treat like another type of paté. We all tried a few bites of the ear, but found it a bit too crunchy/chewy for our liking – we were wondering if it would not have been better off breaded and fried (really, what isn’t?), but put that behind us after trying the tail consommé. A small cup of a clear soup at the perfect temperature which cleansed the palate after the full-bodied spice of the stuffing and with some interesting earthy flavors and a light touch of pork flavour.
Breaded and fried brain, served on a crostini served on top of a dungeness crab salad. Definitely this was the conversation piece of the meal – how often does one eat brain (well, the same time everyone eats a hotdog, but I mean how often does one just eat a good-sized chunk of an animal’s brain? Perhaps some of us more often than others, but it was a new one for both of us. While I’ve wanted to try cervello fritto (google it) for some time now, it still took some work to get it down. Overall, it was delicious. If you had told me it was foie gras, I would have eaten all of it in less than a minute. It was breaded and fried, crunchy on the outside and extremely soft on the inside. The taste? Hard to describe – mainly it tasted of fried pork fat (never a bad thing) – with a saltiness and another flavour (let’s call it brain) that was hard to place. The brain fritter was hot out of the pan, and with the crostini cold crab salad underneath it, you got hot/cold/chewy/oily/salty all in one and the overall effect was easy to eat and just a giant mouthful of flavour.
Braised crown bacon & Roasted saddle – these were two hunks of meat, perfectly cooked, perfectly served – just getting the most flavour out of the pig itself. Meat that fell apart as you put it in your mouth – so tender and so delicious. The saddle was served with nicely prepared slices of boudin blanc – a crispy/soft accompaniment to the warm fattiness of the saddle that was like mashed potatoes are to turkey.
Dessert – a birch syrup chocolate pie sprinkled with candied bacon…what can I say? Delicious is really all I can say. This was basically like a chocolate pudding/syrup pie (except light and not gelatinous) and the candied bacon brought a smoky/saltiness to it that paired perfectly with the birch syrup. Suuuuchhhh a nice way to end the meal. Oh – I can’t forget it – the apple sorbet that accompanied it – tasted like if you were eating snow made out of applesauce. No, really, it did. And the dessert was paired almost perfectly with a glass of port – sigh…the meal ended too soon.

(above: braised crown bacon on left, seared saddle on right)

The serving sizes were small (and look that way) but at the end of the meal, you had eaten quite a bit of food – every bit you ate was great-tasting, and overall you had just eaten a very substantial dinner. Please accept my apologies for all this effusive praise, but really, the dinner was that good. I wish I could say more about the wine – but I don’t know anything about wine. The pairings were all very nice (what wine isn’t that nice?…wait, don’t answer that) and probably the wine star of the night was a 2005 (I think) Jakoby-Mathy Kinheimer Rosenberg Reisling Kabinett.

All in all – a superb dinner. Great company, great
service, grea
t atmosphere, great food.
Rating: 5/5 moustaches

Fuel Restaurant
1944 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC 604-288-7905

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