“Let food speak for itself; give it love and treat the products with respect, and you’ll have beautiful dishes. Simple.” – Chef Jason Harris
I’ve read many favourable reviews about Fraiche in West Vancouver so when Karl Kliparchuk (@mywinepal) and I were invited to preview Beachside Forno’s new fall menu, I was more than a little elated as Beachside Forno (both Fraiche and Beachside Forno are owned by Barbara Inglis and Paul Chalmers) is described as being the “fun, casual” counterpart of Fraiche.
I’m sorry, but when you use the word “casual” I’m thinking this definition encompasses substantial, hearty fare that although it may be considered tasty, would never stretch the culinary imagination. So I was unprepared for the quality of food that was served to us by Chef Jason Harris, who I would dub a culinary genius.
At the young age of 29, Executive Chef Jason Harris has already had the opportunity to compete as an assistant to David Wong in the Canadian tryouts for the prestigious Bocuse d Or and joined David Wong’s Bocuse d Or team in Europe in 2008 where he become inspired by his exposure to European cuisine. Just before becoming the Executive Chef at Beachside Forno, his former position was working alongside his mentor David Wong as the restaurant chef of Oru.
The first menu item of Seared Scallops and Cauliflower is apparently not a new item, but one which is so popular with regular diners that it’s been continued on the fall menu. Even at a glance, this lovely salad of endive greens plus assorted unusual ingredients looked like a something out of the cover of Bon Appetite magazine.
Seared Scallops and Cauliflower: peanuts, sweet peas, candied bacon, orange-bacon vinaigrette
This is a plate of culinary sensory experiences of ingredients that complement and contrast each other so exquisitely from the crunchy peanuts, delightful sweet candied bacon that makes you think bacon does work as candy; cream green pea purée of goodness; endive that adds a bitter taste contrast to the sweet highlights; to the light orange bacon vinaigrette that doesn’t overpower each individual ingredient’s unique taste palate. The scallops were cooked perfectly being seared ever so lightly. This unique combination of flavours and textures plus overall presentation is nothing short of the same quality of food I’ve had at Hawksworth or the Pear Tree.
Paired with La Stella Unoaked Chardonnay – light and full of fruit. On my first sip, I could taste pear, but there was a strong bitterness I couldn’t place until I cheated and read the wine notes and discovered it was grapefruit. Very light and refreshing and didn’t overpower the salad.
When I first bit into this, I had a flashback of the first time I had authentic Italian pizza sitting at a café across the street of the Coliseum in Rome. What is authentic Italian pizza? It’s a thin crust, more like flatbread, with fresh tomato sauce, oregano and spices with a few toppings and cheese. Typical North American pizzas are dough intensive covered with 5+ ingredients and 2 pounds of cheese. I always tell my friends that a really good pizza can stand on its own without the cheese. And because I’m allergic to dairy, I’m always on the lookout for exemplary “cheeseless” pizza.
When I took my first bite, I’m thinking, why are the tomatoes so unusually sweet? They’re roasted to emphasize the sweetness of the tomatoes which is the perfect contrast to the spicy ground chorizo. The Italian sausage contained anise or a similar herb, but I’m not sure as having a cold does hinder one’s ability to taste. The bocconcini was melted randomly between the ingredients and was easy for me to avoid. Karl said it didn’t really have a strong flavour presence, but added a creamy texture.
But the thing that impressed me was the presentation of the bacon in this flatbread. Chef Harris doesn’t just fry the bacon and then dice it up into small pieces. No, he renders the bacon exactly the way you would find pork belly at any authentic Chinese home. Which made me suspicious as to Chef Harris’ origin which is half Australian and half Chinese. Another bonus point, our dinner plates were heated so to keep our flatbread slices nice and warm.
Paired with Badiola Mazzei Sangiovese Merlot: Merlot is typically the choice of wine to pair with red meats and this one was plump and full of juicy black cherries, plums and violets. It went down all too well.
I absolutely adore the taste of pumpkin with its usual posse of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. So I couldn’t resist having just a teaspoon of the pumpkin ice cream which went so divine with the mousse. Karl wasn’t too sad to have to eat both desserts.
Paired with Elephant Island Apricot Dessert Wine. Every wine I’ve had from this winery has been nothing short of tasty so no surprises here that the apricot wine is chock full of apricot and had just the right amount of sweetness.
Although I live in Richmond, I work and play in downtown but now I’m thinking should I be eating in West Vancouver? Beachside Forno makes crossing the formidable Lion’s Gate Bridge worthwhile for those of us who become who too comfortable on the other side of the bridge. My only question now is – when will we see Chef Jason Harris compete to be the Top Chef of Canada?
Here’s a sneak preview of some new Fall menu items coming out the second week of Octoer that I’m dying to try:
Crispy Veal Sweetbread
mushroom ravioli, apples, pumpkin, hazelnuts, brown butter vinaigrette
Flatbread – Citrus Duck Confit
brie, pears, candied pecans, pickled shallots, arugula
House Made Wagyu Beef Burger
caramelized onions, pancetta, white cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes
choice of house-cut fries or wild green salad
Grilled Albacore Tuna and Octopus
chickpea, roasted kale, hazelnuts, chorizo vinaigrette
Maple Roasted Pork Tenderloin
potato gnocchi, squash puree, roasted sprouts, house made bacon, tomato relish
Grilled Peace Country Lamb Loin and Merguez Sausage
white bean cassoulet, mushrooms, eggplant, chimichurri sauce