For the past few years, a few of my friends and I meet up for a "Dine Out Vancouver" dinner. I have mixed feelings about Dine Out Vancouver based on my experiences and posts and articles that I've read about others experiences.
What I like: Usually it encourages me to try somewhere new. With two to three options for each course, I find its usually pretty easy to decide. DOV is usually the ONLY time I'll ever go out for a meal and get an appetizer, entree, and dessert all to myself.
What I don't like: I don't think it is usually the big value that they hype it up to be (unless you go really high end). Sometimes, the items on the a la carte/regular menu look way better!
With my DOV crowd, there are some picky eaters and some scheduling issues so usually we have to make a few email rounds to narrow down restaurant choices and available dates. This year, after much deliberation- we ended up agreeing on Prestons in Coal Harbour, a restaurant that calls itself west coast, asian, and mediteranean fusion and offered a $28 set DOV menu.
The restaurant is located inside the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel- it was a bit jarring entering off the streets into an overly-bright, almost sterile lobby/ staircase area. We had to poke around a bit to find the restaurant. Once we did, I actually really liked the dark, lounge-y feel of the place. It was well spaced out and I really liked some of their decor details (they had a wall installation with bright red bowls mounted on the wall). Service was a bit slow to get things started, but once the server took our orders, I was quite impressed at the timing and delivery of the dishes and how on top of water refills and beverage service our server was.
For my appetizer, I ordered the Chicken Karaage - Garlic Sake Marinated Chicken, Flash Fried, served with Spicy Sambal Lime Aioli and Miso Cabbage Slaw. This dish was really delicious. The chicken was very moist and they used boneless chicken thighs instead of wings. The batter was light and crispy. The spicy sauce was creamy, tasty, but as always, I would have preferred spicier. The miso cabbage slaw was light, delicious, and freshing as it balanced out the heaviness of the deep-fried chicken. 4 out of 5 at our table ordered this appy.
The other option was a Tomato Bocconcini Salad with Baby Arugula, Grilled Artichoke, Basil Pesto, Olive Oil and Balsamic Dressing. The diner who ordered this enjoyed it and said it tasted really fresh and bright.
For my entree, I ordered the Wild BC Salmon- Seared Salmon Marinated with Soy and Ginger, Server with steamed Jasmine rice and miso vinaigrette. This was a nice dish. The salmon was well cooked and had a buttery, creamy taste and texture. The miso vinaigrette was salty, rich, and was a nice compliment with the plain rice and side of steamed broccolini. It was nothing mind-blowing, but a nice well-balanced, well-executed dish with fairly mellow flavours.
The other option that three diners at our table ordered was the Half Rack of Baby Back Ribs- Sweet Hoisin and Ginger Glazed Pork Ribs with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Crunchy Coleslaw. They all said they liked the dish but weren't blown away and all said that they've had better ribs elsewhere. It was also noted that there was disappointment at the repetition (Karage and Ribs) of coleslaw as a side.....perhaps a bit of a boring, cheap option.
For dessert, we were all drooling with anticipation over the Warm Banana Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream. I LOVE a good dish of bread pudding. But sadly, I was disappointed with Preston's Bread Pudding. I'm afraid that I've been spoiled by the amazingness of the Bread and Butter Pudding at The Three Lions Cafe in Mount Pleasant. In fact, linking that post is making me swoon a bit. This was decent, but doesn't even compare. It was more like a warm piece of banana bread with yummy caramel sauce. The bread itself was quite bland but the sauce and ice cream kicked it up.
Overall, the food at Preston's was good- but not great. Everyone was satisfied and enjoyed their meal but no one was blown away or overly impressed. The service was great and the vibe and decor inside were quite nice BUT it was actually pretty awful that you had to leave the dark, cool lounge feel of the restaurant to venture into the overly stark, bright lobby of the Coast Hotel to use the hotel lobby washrooms. Also, if you can, take transit down there....street parking is expensive! We all ended up paying around $10 extra in meter parking!