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I came for the food, but the cocktails were next level. Make this your next Vancouver happy hour destination.
I have to be honest, on my first trip to Five Sails I was already expecting really good food. I mean, there’s a reason it’s one of the Van Mag 2022 Restaurant Awards Finalists. And while the food was genuinely delicious, innovative, and exceptionally beautiful… the thing I want to talk about is the cocktail program.
READ MORE: Announcing The Van Mag 2022 Restaurant Awards Finalists
See, I’m not often blown away by cocktails. My partner regularly whips up creative, mind-bending concoctions of his own. That is to say: I’m truly spoiled in the cocktail department. But the drinks at Five Sails paired with the best harbour view in the city makes for a really special evening.
First thing’s first: some of the coolest news to me is that they’re doing high-end Champagne by the glass. Obviously, when I heard this, my first thought was “How? Won’t the bubbles go flat?”—but apparently a Coravin re-sealer repressurizes the bottle with CO2 and a lockable cap, which essentially simulates the original closed cork, prolonging the life of the bottle for weeks (or months, even). This means you can splurge on a special occasion glass of Dom without having to buy the whole bottle. As someone who can’t really drink more than a glass or two of bubbly, but still loves it for a birthday or anniversary celebration, this was a big deal.
But back to the cocktails. First I had the Enigma75, made with (my personal fave) Botanist gin, elderflower liqueur, lime, thyme simple syrup and prosecco—this was easy drinking. But the most special part of it was the foam on top. Now, I’m no stranger to cocktail foams—heck, we keep a carton of egg whites in the fridge for that purpose alone—but this foam was magical. Made with those trusty egg whites but with the addition of fresh grapefruit juice, agar-agar (for stabilization) and reduced champagne, the whole thing is then charged in an iSi whip (commonly known as a whipped cream canister) until it’s the texture of whip cream but with the flavour of summer.
The second cocktail was a clarified milk punch, which if you haven’t had it before is when milk and acid (in this case, lemon juice) are added to the cocktail mix until it curdles. Those curds are then swept away and you’re left with a clear beverage that has all the depth and mouthfeel of something creamy. It’s really just culinary science, but in the glass and for your taste buds, it feels remarkable. Especially in the case of Five Sails’ Punch Obscura which is made with Bumbu craft rum, Hennessey VSOP, vanilla chai tea, pineapple juice, lemon juice, sugar, coriander, cinnamon, vanilla pods and cloves. It tasted like Christmas, but with the lightness necessary for warm summer months.
The last drink I had was probably the most interesting to taste but unassuming in the glass. I’m going to go out on a limb and out myself as a non-Canadian by speaking my truth: I don’t like ice wine. I find it sickly sweet and mostly unpalatable. But, Five Sails changed my mind—if only in this singular instance. By using an infusion system (a.k.a. a big ol’ contraption that feels part steampunk, part jazz-age) and adding mint, strawberries, grapefruit peel and dehydrated lemon, the ice wine was transformed into something dimensional and fresh: a summer sipper that would feel equally at home at a fancy garden party as it does while watching seaplanes land in the harbour.
While my focus here is clearly cocktail-driven, I don’t want to gate-keep the food. So, see below for pics and descriptions of the tasty eats I enjoyed.
Seared foie gras with sweetbreads topped with a tangy apple crunch. Foie might not be for everyone, but I’m a fan and this one captured its rich nature but paired with acidic apple so that it never felt overpowering.
This was one of my favourites! Duck rillettes and foie parfait with fresh strawberry, stone fruit puree and celery leaves. Every bite managed to capture all the flavor profiles: sweet from the puree, tangy from the strawberries, umami from the duck, savoury from the foie and a salty herbaceousness from the celery. Texture-wise the dish soared with pieces of crisp baguette and chewy gelee.
Perfectly seared scallops served with apple puree, butter crumble, apple and endive. Thee dish was fresh and impossibly light.
Halibut topped with an herb mantle that both brightened and grounded the fish and served with tomato fondue, summer succotash and Mission Hill chardonnay steamed mussels and clams.
Duo of rabbit (rack and ballantine) served with paella risotto balls, chorizo and prawns. The paella risotto balls were absolutely incredible and I would eat them literally every day if I could. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and not a pairing I have ever had with rabbit—but it worked particularly well as both match in their delicate textures but compliment each other flavour-wise.
Grilled lamb striploin and and tenderloin mosaic (that is—multiple pieces rolled together) served alongside a vibrant caponata and grilled summer salad. The caponata is topped with one of my favourite but rarely seen ingredients: sweety drop peppers!
Five Sails’ famous apple dessert—and I truly understand why—this is a marvel of temperature control and precision. Made with a sable Breton base, vanilla mousse and filled with fresh apple—all sitting in a pool of luscious crème anglaise.
The interior of the apple which has the perfect radio of pie-style apples to mousse. The exterior chocolate shell is so evenly thin that it shatters with almost no effort.
A perfectly-risen chocolate souffle topped with gold decoration, and served alongside sorbet made with passion fruit, kiwi, banana and pineapple sitting on a mound of chocolate crumble. Whether you’re a corner-brownie person or a centre-brownie fan—this souffle captures all of the decadence and crunch you’re looking for with a dreamy centre.
This coconut dessert tasted like vacation—coconut water granita, passion fruit and rum compote with coconut mousse (frozen and shaped like a coconut) and fresh mango.
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