Location: 425 W. Georgia St., Vancouver
Web site: acquafarina.com
Costs: Tasting menu, $135; pizza, $30 to $100; antipasti, $21 to $49; pasta and most important programs, $35 to $109
Extra data: Reservations important ($50 deposit per particular person via exploretock.com); bar seating obtainable for walk-ins; winterized patio; no supply; costume code; no cellphones or cameras.
I suppose I ought to apologize prematurely.
The reality is, I can’t let you know a lot concerning the tasting menu I loved on my first go to to Acquafarina, a swanky new Sicilian restaurant that may probably alienate as many individuals as it should attraction. (Take into account me smitten.)
The venison tartare was garnished with a purple shiso flower – a element I vividly keep in mind as a result of it was the primary of many Japanese influences, which I initially discovered odd.
Amberjack crudo was sliced thick with razor-sharp precision and properly aged.
Champagne risotto was infused with a shiny medley of truffles (Italian winter truffle within the base, white alba truffle for the acidulated butter emulsification, Umbrian summer time truffle grated over prime and Sardinian truffle pecorino to complete.)
Pink beet rigatoni folded in silky uni sauce was completely complemented by the earthy-briny complexity of an Alta Mora Etna Rosso, grown on an energetic volcano overlooking the Ionian Sea.
Braised veal cheeks had been curiously dry and bland.
It was not essentially the most memorable meal I’ve ever eaten. (My second go to left a deeper impression.) However the general expertise is one I’ll always remember.
Why? For a similar blissful motive my notes are a muddled mess – Acquafarina has courageously prohibited using cellphones and cameras in its eating room.
It’s been almost a decade since I’ve reviewed a full-service restaurant with out these crutches and my photographic recall isn’t what it was.
I did convey an previous micro-recorder, however hid it beneath the tablecloth. Our voices had been muffled by a stellar sound system that envelops every desk in a comfortable curtain of Italian tenors.
When making an attempt to transcribe the recordsdata, all I might hear was: “Con te partiro…” (Andrea Bocelli); splash, clink, swoosh; “That picket Pinocchio free-falling over the entrance door is basically fairly phallic!” (my good friend Jessica).
I can let you know that we, and everybody else, regarded fabulous. Acquafarina additionally has a costume code. Hats, shorts and sneakers are verboten. Hallelujah.
The primary room, intricately original from wooden, copper and seafoam-green tile contained in the hovering glass pavilion of the previous BMO financial institution on West Georgia Avenue, is warmly grandiose.
Service is as polished as one would anticipate from a hand-recruited A-team.
I used to be frankly shocked by the calibre of recognizable ground expertise and couldn’t instantly inform who the overall supervisor was – as a result of they’ve nearly all been managers in prime eating places.
The costs, which embody a $50 pay as you go deposit for every particular person, are comparatively (but fairly) costly. The $100 pizza, in case you’re questioning, is smothered in carabinero prawns, burrata and caviar.
And within the large postpandemic image, one which I predict will polarize the subsequent technology of eating places between easy, soul-nourishing delicacies and indulgent escapes, Acquafarina provides a uncommon twin expertise: the sensation of being calmly disconnected whereas on the similar time having arrived.
The maestro behind the scenes is a soft-spoken fellow named Fabrizio Foz. He additionally owns Per se Social Nook and that is his twenty sixth restaurant (the others had been largely in Italy and the Dominican Republic).
You’ve most likely by no means heard of him. He shuns the highlight, hates having his photograph taken and doles out tantalizing tidbits about his exceedingly achieved life – realtor, two-time licensed pizzaiolo, co-founder of Twisted Productions Inc., raced for Ducati, presently writing a guide impressed by Eckhart Tolle – that makes you surprise if he was the inspiration for Bradley Cooper’s character in Limitless.
Mr. Foz had a hand in each element of the design and says he constructed Acquafarina as a tribute to his Nonna, who raised him with out many means.
Acquafarina was initially conceived as Water & Flour, a way more informal pizza idea. However the pandemic made him notice that he needed to pivot larger within the sit-down restaurant phase to hedge in opposition to the uncertainty of workplace employees returning to their cubicles.
Although ostensibly open to everybody, Acquafarina has the trimmings of a personal membership. In the principle eating room, a floor-to-ceiling wall of paned-glass packing containers is being bought off for undisclosed sums to members.
Members are entitled to purchase (and retailer) bottles of liquor from the restaurant at retail costs and are given unique entry to the non-public mezzanine eating room.
Of the 550 packing containers, 217 have already been bought. And proper now, the wall seems like an enormous billboard for Louis XIII Cognac by Rémy Martin.
When different restaurant teams laid off their star front-of-house workers, Mr. Foz scooped them up and gave them salaried jobs.
He hasn’t had as a lot luck with cooks. There are solely 4 cooks within the kitchen, none in an government place, two straight out of culinary faculty and one sushi grasp – which explains the Japanese-inflected tasting menu.
Mr. Foz says he plans to convey some large names from Italy for transient stints this winter. However regardless of how a lot the reckonings of the previous few years have knocked the sails out of the ego-driven movie star chef, a strong kitchen staff requires long-lasting management, not the flick of a swap.
That stated, the meals retains getting higher.
On my second go to, after I dined there virtually straight off the airplane from a vacation in Sicily, I ordered from the brand new à la carte menu.
Carabinero prawns, albeit from Spain, had the identical swampy depth of the smaller purple prawns I had simply been savouring. At Acquafarina, they had been served as a fragile tartare dotted with buratta, caviar and nasturtium leaves.
Pasta alla Norma was elevated from chunky eggplant ragu into stuffed paccheri, dressed tableside with a salted ricotta cream punched up with parmesan, pecorino and shavings of Center Jap jameed.
Mediterranean branzino was served entire, darkly charred and crammed with lemons, walnuts and olives. On the aspect, there was a terrine of scalloped potatoes infused between each whisper-thin layer with porcini puree.
This most likely isn’t meals Mr. Foz’s Nonna would acknowledge. However it should probably promote a number of Louis XIII.
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