Pacific Ling Cod ribs

the new kid you need to know: quinton bennett

Quadra Island MusselsHawksworth Restaurant has long been of my favorites. It is my go-to in Vancouver when I want a white table cloth meal. They don’t actually have table clothes, but you know what I mean….top notch service, great wine list and high end, ‘grown-up’ food. I’ve never had a bad experience.

quinton and me at hawksI’ve been dying to write about this place for ages. But it has been covered in the Canadian media to death. I could not find a unique angle. It has received accolades and awards since it first opened in 2011. David Hawksworth is the owner, a great personal friend and the youngest chef to be inducted into the BC Restaurant  Hall of Fame. He designs signature dishes for air Canada lounges and international business class flights. He has started a scholarship to help young chefs get started in their careers. Everyone writes about him. Getting a unique scoop was unlikely, still, I wanted a new, different angle on the restaurant.

mussels after the tin is openedLucky for me, back in May  David hired Quinton Bennett as the new Chef du Cuisine. And lucky for visitors to the restaurant. He comes to Vancouver with great international experience. He has cooked all over the world, most notably at Noma in Copenhagen and Northcote in Lancashire. Both should be on everyone’s list.

Though he moved to Vancouver this year, his history with the city goes back 12 years when he came for a visit with his uncle. “Digging for clams!” Quinton replies when I asked him what was most notable about that trip. “We went to Tree Island and noticed many clam shells. We started digging.  There were so many variations! It was pre-foraging but that’s what we were doing. There is so much underutilized food from the sea. I will remember it forever”.

fois gras & poached pearThat and his experience at Northcote where they focused on local ingredients has influenced his cooking at Hawksworth. He tries to keep it simple and let the purest of ingredients speak for themselves. Quinton’s loved discovering all the unique things BC has to offer. He uses unlikely flavors like spruce, pine and toadstool mushrooms.

His tasting menus create a journey through the Province. I had one of his first menus back in June. It was good. I had his 2018 Holiday Menu a couple days ago… it was GREAT! Quinton has found his stride. The dishes were elegant, erudite yet fun. Tender maple (so Canadian) smoked Quadra Island (so BC) mussels were served it a cute little tin, perhaps a nod to BC’s history as a canning center. Though camp in presentation the flavors were extremely sophisticated.  The celeriac royal puree and horseradish juice was creamy and rich yet let the smokiness of the mussels shine through. I loved every dish. A few personal highlights included the Christmas spiced poached Okanagan (BC again!)pear that accompanied the fois gras, the oh so tender slices of Fraser Valley (you got it… BC again) duck breast with a tiny edge of crispy fat and the milk chocolate mousse dome topped with mandarin pearls dessert. If I hadn’t been so full I would have licked the plate.

perfectly cooked duck... so tenderI asked Quinton why he refuses to let people modify the tasting menu dishes. He explains that he is creating a story with each menu. No changes lead to a better experience and maintains the integrity of each dish. There is a cadence and flow to the encounter.  Vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian menus and dishes are available. As is al la carte. But if you have room and time the
Journey Menu is the way to go. At $129 it is great value…. You will leave neither hungry nor disappointed.

Hawks is still Hawks… the lunch burger hasn’t changed, nor have my kid’s favorite eggs benedict. But Quinton has brought new energy, new ideas, new flavors and given me something new to write about. Hawksworth’s remains one of my favorite places to eat!

http://www.hawksworthrestaurant.comchocolate mousse w mandarine pearls... divine!

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