Friday, February 4, 2011

White Man's Dim Sum

1314 17 Ave SW
I went out for dinner with some friends this week to celebrate an early birthday, a belated birthday and a 'it was your birthday three weeks ago?'. As the self appointed restaurant chooser of the group, I decided we should check out JAROblue for some tapas. Located on the trendy 17th ave, JAROblue is a comfy tapas lounge with a cute little patio that would be great to people watch on a friday afternoon in the summertime. Unfortunately for us, it was a Monday in the middle of winter. And as such, we opted to push some tables together in the lounge for our fine gathering. A soft velvety couch and coffee table was available but after a heated discussion, we decided the tables would better facilitate the shoveling of food into our mouths. The interior featured several large photographs of horses. I'm not sure if there's a special meaning behind it but it was really cool.

The menu featured a variety of mouth watering small plates for us to savor. From vegetarian friendly spicy bok choy to not-so-vegetarian-friendly roast pork tenderloin, there was something for everyone. They even had frog legs for the slightly more adventurous people. There were so many choices that we were having a tough time deciding what we wanted to try so we went with the sharing platter. 
The sharing platter consisted of three to four courses of whatever the talented chef in the back felt like making with whatever ingredients he could scour in the kitchen. Every sharing platter is unique and varied between tables, making the experience more exclusive. 
The first course consisted of a variety of appetizers. Thinly sliced memory foam-esque rye bread and crispy banana bread chips piled on a rectangular plate, while tuna tataki, salmon tartar, roasted nuts and olives each took up a quadrant of another. The salmon tartar was very light and complimented the rye bread really well. My favourite was the banana bread chips. They weren't super sweet but I really liked how they were prepared. A refreshing twist to the classic loaf style variety. Out of our group of six, Steve was the only person that didn't look at the medley of marinated olives with disgust and thus designated the olives eater. 

The second course, which I've dubbed the 'appetizers that didn't fit on the first plate', arrived shorty after we devoured everything. Everything except the olives. This course consisted of flat bread, deep fried broccolini and carpaccio topped with goat cheese. It came with a blueberry mustard emulsion and a red coloured dip not called ketchup. The broccolini were deep fried similar to that of tempura. It was super tasty, especially with the blueberry mustard emulsion. The highlight of this course for me was the carpaccio. Biting into the mushy raw meat made me feel like a man's man. It felt like I just slaughtered the poor cow at the farm with my bare hands and I'm taking a giant bite out of it's tender thighs or something. Steve agrees. I'm sure all the vegetarian readers out there just vomited. Don't hate till you try it.

Course number three was ravioli. And... more ravioli. Ravioli one consisted of crab meat filling. It is served with a cream sauce and topped with fennel. Ravioli two was stuffed with a filling made with strawberries and topped with a butternut squash puree and finished off with shrimp chips. The flavour was a little sweeter than the first one. They were both delicious but I liked the crab meat ravioli better. The dough was silky smooth. At first, I thought it was maybe the sauce but upon closer inspection, it was definitely the dough. So good!

Course number four was not for vegetarians. The final course offered a generous helping (For a tapas lounge anyway) of pork couscous; Lamb chops with purple pear and wild rice; Arctic char with endive salad and baby back ribs. The ribs were so tender and the meat separated from the bone with ease. The lamb chops were also pretty amazing. The meat was very flavourful and didn't have a gamey taste to it. The purple pear and wild rice that accompanied the lamb complimented the dish really well. That was probably one of my favourite dish of the night. 

I was initially skeptical about the portions of the tapas and doubted myself as to whether it will be enough food. But to my surprise, the portions were significant enough that we were all full at the end. In fact, there were still leftovers. In the form of olives. The sharing platter did not include dessert, but after being informed what the feature burlee was, I decided that I could squeeze a little bit more in my ever expanding stomach. The feature burlee was apple flavoured with a side of sugar cookies. A layer of sugar was caramelized over the apple flavoured custard with a blowtorch. Sooooooo good, despite of this, I shared my dessert with the rest of my friends so that I didn't feel like such a pig.

It is interesting to note that JAROblue does not take reservations but apparently Monday nights are the slowest (It was very quiet, we were the only table there for the longest time). So if you are concerned about getting a table or comfy couch, then Monday night is where it's at. Maybe I shouldn't be sharing this information over the internet... It could go viral and everybody be going on Mondays and making youtube videos out of it. Fo' real.

Anyway, here's my arbitrary ranking in 5 randomly chosen categories -

Atmosphere: 9 out of 10. Beautiful interiors. The oversized monochromatic photographs of the horses were random but pretty neat. My favourite was the one where it only showed the top of the horses. Reminds me of a lost cat flyer.
Food: 9 out of 10. Food was pretty amazing. Lots of variety. You could tell that a lot of thought was put into each plate; What went well with what. I highly recommend getting the sharing platter.
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Presentation could have been better.
Price: 8.5 out of 10. I thought it was a decent deal for all the food that we got.
Service: 10 out of 10. Amazing service. Our server explained what everything was, tables were cleaned after every course and drinks were consistently topped up. It could be because we were the only ones there for a majority of the night. 
Overall: 9 out of 10. Really amazing overall. The coolest thing about tapas is that you can try a billion things and people wouldn't look at you all weird. Great for groups.

JAROBlue on Urbanspoon

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