The Vancouver Olympics were awesome. I won't even say that we, as a country, got a wee bit carried away with our fervour. Who am I to judge. I was the first person I knew to run out and purchase those maple leaf mittens (and I lost one, curses, last autumn when it fell out of the car). Because of the YVR Olympiad, I heard about Gold Medal Plates, which is a nation-wide culinary competition that also raises money for Canadian Olympic athletes. The entire event is an impressive display of skill. I attended in 2010; Blackhawk Golf Course's Andrew Fung handily snagged the evening's top honours.
Fung is finally - finally - at the helm of his own restaurant. Nineteen, whose name is a sly reference to the so-called "19th" hole that golfers frequent following their game, is a fair trek down in the far reaches of the southwest, but presents an exciting and well-crafted addition to the Capital City's culinary scene.
I am fortunate to attend a sneak preview of Nineteen's menu. A statuesque room greets diners with uncluttered light fixtures and warm wood hues. Duck Sliders open the meal with a wondrous combination of rich duck, unexpected blueberries and pleasantly subtle chipotle aioli. Ahi Tuna Twists are a delightful tangle of chili-kissed Thai noodles, citrusy cilantro and supple, rosy tuna.
Miso-marinated Atlantic Salmon is butter-soft and perfumed with savoury miso. Thai Mussel and Onion Beignets are great fun; these crunchy-soft paradoxes are yang to the salmon's yin. The crispy onion crown provides textural contrast but could be omitted without compromising the dish.
Ahi Tuna and Scallop Ceviche resembles a tropical bird in flight and presents a duality of mild scallop and assertive tuna crowned with a delightful cap of wasabi pea foam. Understated and orange-scented ponzu sauce is a welcome dressing.
Japanese Baby Back Ribs require no fork (and very little chewing). A sake-soy glaze coaxes out the pork's inherent sweetness. A sidecar of greens is a bit too sweet to act as a proper foil; bitter arugula would better fill this niche.
Confit Chicken Waffle is the evening's dark horse. Ludicrously tender chicken is laced with sweet peppers and sits atop a crisp quinoa-potato waffle that compliments the poultry but does not steal its thunder. A snowcap of rich brie is a crowning touch.
A Proscuitto-Wrapped Scallop is a wee bit anachronistic - in the best possible of ways - and harkens back to the plethora of bacon-wrapped scallops that dominated decades past. Proscuitto nicely updates this dish. A truffle perogy is nicely crisp on the outside and a miniature hillock of crunchy cauliflower with grainy mustard rounds out this plate.
A trio of pork features sublimely unctuous pork belly, a crisp pancetta chip, and aromatic roasted pork tenderloin. A vaguely alien king oyster mushroom is peculiar to the eye but wondrous to the palate.
Grainy Dijon-Crusted Halibut is a bit smothered by its companions, which include Manila clams and linguini with French curry sauce. The noodles and sauce alone dance with exotic spices but overwhelm the halibut's gentle essence. A stronger fish would better suit this dish.
Dessert features an elfin Caramel Eclair that delivers just the right amount of sweetness after such an extensive meal. Chef Andrew Fung easily delivers everything that his noble space promises and I look forward to Nineteen's ascension within the ranks of YEG-town eateries.