The first time I tasted David Gunawan’s food at West it was like a light bulb went off in my head. This guy could seriously cook. Big natural flavors amplified by precise technique and smart cooking.
So while there have been a number of new restaurants and cheffy side projects in Vancouver – it was the opening of Wildebeest that I was most excited about. I usually don’t go to restaurants so quickly after their opening, but curiosity got the better of me and I elbowed my way to a seat at the bar on a weeknight (hoping that it would be less busy – ha! – joke was on me).
So, how was the food? In a word – Spectacular.
Here is a kitchen team that has an ambitious vision of what food should be, and the grounding in classic skills to pull it off. The clarity and brightness of flavors are startling. Purity and seeming simplicity that belies the incredible amount of hard work to it do well.^ Sorrel gazpacho, sheep milk curd, apple-infused lemon cucumber – a marriage of lush dairy and bright lemon herbalness ^ The chawanamhushi is a dashi infused egg foam, enveloping a salad of local crab. A smart modern take on the classic Japanese custard ^ The cochetino is flecked with lemon (I am guessing preserved lemons – but I could be wrong) which brings a lightness to a traditionally rich dish. The flagoelet beans were just at that point of melting tenderness ^ Roasted sweet breads are counter pointed with a bright verjus gastrique. Absolutely delicous ^ The alpine strawberries were what you dream of strawberries should taste like. The floral candied fragrance is spectacular.
The confidence on the plates is amazing. No smoke and mirrors sauces or culinary tricks. Even this early on – you sense no shakiness or second guessing in the cooking. Ingredients are allowed to be themselves, elevated yet not over fussed with. The guerilla PH5 Dinners that Chef Gunawan put together earlier in the year have clearly paid off.
It’s exciting to have a restaurant like Wildebeest in Vancouver, crackling with verve and energy. I look forward to dining on Chef Gunawan’s food for many years to come.
120 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC
604 687 6880
Canucklehead pays for his own food – and tries not to be recognized. His Asian Accountant disguise works particularly well.