Chambar serves Belgian styled cuisine out of a stylishly furnished brick loft on Beatty.
Being the first time I’ve tried Belgian food and having heard only good things about the place, my hopes were high for their menu of fancy sounding french names, multi-sentence descriptions, and appetite suppressing prices. Keep in mind that I do fine dining maybe twice a year, and am completely content with hard liquor and wings for dinner, so my expertise with any entrees over $20 is limited.
Our group of 4 were seated in the middle of their back section a little too close to the tables beside us. The back of my fiance’s chair was up against the next table and I had to move the whole table before sitting down. We really wanted to get a good taste of what Belgian food is like, and the girls took to studying the menu online before arriving. We were set on the 3 course set menu, but found out from the waiter that it wasn’t actually an option for parties under 12. Oh well.
The beer selection was great, with specialty Belgian beers that contain twice the alcohol content, and rich, distinct, aromatic flavors. I can immediately see myself returning just for the drinks alone.
We started with some appys, names of which I’ll just copy and paste from the online menu:
$15 Tartare brasserie
Beef tartare, roasted pinenut & tete de moine curls, potato gaufrette.
I’m not a big fan of this one, though the first few bites were tasty with the fried potato bits, and the beef was freshly prepared. The combination of the meat, pine nuts, cheese, veggie, and potato complimented each other very well (and hey its got something from all 4 basic food groups). Though I soon found that the chips look to be drenched with some sort of grease, most likely lard, to keep the stack from tipping over. I couldn’t eat another piece after that, and when you take the starch out of the equation, the whole thing falls somewhat flat.
$13 Coquilles St.-Jacques
Maple seared scallops, walnut oil tossed lentils & pancetta. Sweet potato crisps.
We were fully expecting the sweet potato crisps to be some variation of yam fries. But it turns out it was just a light dusting of yam splinters. The seared scallops were wonderful though. Btw, the picture is actual size. Minaturization has its price even when it comes to grub.
Almost every table had a bucket of these, and highly recommended by others:
Mussels cooked in a white wine cream. Smoked bacon lardons, spring onions.
On to the entrees:
$27 Le canard aux epices
Five spice rubbed duck breast, butternut squash & ricotta gnocchi. Quince gastrique.
The plate was too long on this one for me to get a decent shot, but I do love the symetry in the presentation on this one. I’ve never had duck prepared like this, and if no one told me what it was, I’d have though its just really tender filet mingon that’s been rubbed with pepper, marinated over night, and lightly grilled. It was fantastic. The bits in the middle added to the geometric presentation, but little to the overall flavor of things. I didn’t eat more than a few bites of these mystery bits.
Another heavy hitting entree when it comes to presentation:
$27 Veau Provencal
Seared veal tenderloin, warm crisp green vegetable bocconcini salad, piment d’espelette vinaigrette, sauteed fingerling potatoes
Its like the chef was painting a scenery with the veggies as an ode to lackadaisicaly prancing young cattles among the pastures. But now that young cattle is on your plate. Placed elegantly in a tall spiraling stack.
Not half bad, but this veal just didn’t taste that adolescent after being slightly overcooked. It was supposed to be medium rare, but came back pretty much done.
Most expensive entree on the menu:
$29 Steak Bourguignon
Grilled AAA ribeye steak, pommes frites, roasted king oyster mushrooms, fried shallots, Bourguignon sauce.
Again overcooked, and in fact charred to a crisp at the edges (was ordered as medium). I’ve had better steak at the neighborhood Keg for less. Maybe they should read this post. So for that I give this dish the disgrace of a small picture:
Aside from the beer and duck, the diner was forgettable, and the bill for 4 came to $160. If I went again I’d trade the appetizers for beers, the mussels for more beers, and the steak for a real dinner somewhere else.
Chambar does seem to have a long running history of being a favorite in Vancouver. Vaneats has a review posted 3 years ago here. It is the #1 most reviewed restaurant on dinehere.ca, and older reviews reveals that the menu and favorites hasn’t changed much over the years other than higher prices. Tinybites also has a honest review of their dine out Vancouver experience here. Maybe I should’ve stayed for dessert. Belgian cuisine is known for their great beer, and chocolate after all.
The best part of the evening? We went to watch Wall-e after dinner. I highly recommend it.
Food: 7/10 Value:4/10 Ambiance: 9/10
All in all, its a hip place to visit. Have a drink. Have two.