Monday, October 21, 2013

The farmer's apprentice

The first time I visited the Farmer’s Apprentice there was a slight problem with the ventilation and wood smoke wafted from the kitchen into the adjoining dining room. This set a perfect tone for the restaurant, a tiny 30-seater set up like a large farmhouse kitchen. Coming from a chilly and wet October evening into this warm, slightly smoky and cozy room was very comforting. We were seated at an end table that is separated from the rest of the room by a wooden divider that has an old-fashioned window set into it, giving intimate peek-a-boo views into the rest of the room.

The chef, David Gunawan, has a solid Vancouver pedigree running kitchens at West and Wildebeest. West is pure classic fine Pacific Northwest, Wildebeest is unapologetically meat focused. The food at Farmer’s Apprentice is an evolution of the two. Buttery smooth smoked sole is served on the bone with a vanilla cream sauce. A braised beef cheek is adorned with small roasted turnips, served on a bed of steel-cut oats with a rich espresso demi that has an impossibly deep fruit flavor. Bread is served with onion jam and olive oil and a chicken liver parfait is like whipped cream studded with bits of pear and frisée lettuce. Food is served family style and comes when ready. The result is a casual yet uniquely innovative experience without pretense and priced like a neighborhood eatery. This means service is appropriately casual and unobtrusive, the wine list is short enough to make decisions easy and there are about five cocktails on offer. The thyme-infused tequila and chartreuse blend I tried was a great aperitif.

This restaurant has been carefully crafted by an expert chef who is unabashed with his food yet keeps things down to earth. After having eaten at Farmer’s Apprentice a couple of times now I can honestly say this is a unique experience that any restaurant and food enthusiast should try for themselves.