Poised in front of the Vancouver North Shore Mountains, in the heart of downtown, lies the elegant Shangri-La Hotel. A sophisticated urban-sanctuary renowned for luxury, world-class service, and decadence, this Vancouver venue is most famous for, and perhaps most importantly – its delicious food. It is within this hotel that one can find Market by Jean-Georges, the three-star Michelin chef more formally known as Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Being one of the very few Michelin star acclaimed chef-run venues in British Columbia, it is no surprise that Market by Jean-Georges delivers an exceptional experience quite unlike any other in this province.
With a heated outdoor terrace offering attractive city views, an opulent bar, three private dining rooms and an elegant main dining room with intimate booths, this is a restaurant redolent of London or New York. Open 7 days a week from breakfast to dinner, bustling and busy yet elegant and refined, this restaurant knows what it is doing. The cuisine is both casual yet refined, focussed on seasonal, regional Pacific North West ingredients with a global, Michelin-star edge. You can expect dishes like Grilled Pacific Squid (local, of course), with Smoked Cod Brandade, Salt Spring Island Mussels sourced from a local Gulf island, with Confit Tomato Emulsion, Seared Foie Gras with Textures of Strawberry, Basil, and Croissant Toast (an elegant, European touch), and Korean Braised Wagyu Cheeks, a nod to Vancouver’s Asian influence, served with Singo Pear, Bone-Marrow Glaze, and Yukon Gold Potato Puree (more of the Canadian). This menu is a true fusion of both Canadian and international, local and regional.
Perhaps this is a nod to Executive Chef, Ken Nanako’s own heritage. Raised in a traditional Japanese household in Vancouver, he would tend to the family’s garden and forage on camping trips for local, home-grown Canadian delicacies. Increasingly familiar with the seasons, Nanako grew to appreciate nature’s bounty in his own backyard whilst learning about the methodologies, practices, and work of local farmers and producers.
It is no surprise, then, that the stellar feature of the menu is called ‘Rooted in Nature’, a dinner tasting menu that is both a feast for the eyes and body. Comforting, nourishing, and beautiful, this is a menu that showcases the best of the Canadian coast. There are Chanterelle Mushrooms, British Columbian born and grazed beef, First Nations produced Salmon, and local tomatoes. Everything is sustainably sourced, freshly picked, and meticulously made – values at the heart of Market by Jean-Georges. This is a menu we were genuinely excited to try.
My guest and I arrived on a Friday evening to the bar, where we began our night with, what was meant to be one but through no fault of our own turned into two, cocktails. The amicable maestro behind the bar walked us through the menu, explaining the emphasis on celebrating the Shangri-La, before recommended two for us to try. I had the Lost Horizon, their 10 year anniversary cocktail served as a fantastic blend of O5 Time Traveler tea infused SOV vodka, Kopan Masala syrup, clarified orange juice and MARKET citrus wine. Presented in the appearance of a tiny mountain top with an airplane flying above it, this was an aesthetic delight – and delicious. My guest had the Butterfly Effect, a mix of O5 Dream blend (mint, lavender and butterfly pea), SOV Vodka and Maraschino liqueur. Another eye-pleaser, this was poured at the table for the butterfly effect – a changing of colour as the spirits made contact.
Our second round of cocktails, because they were really that good, included the Romantic Getaway for me, a combination of Summerhill Cipes sparkling wine with Monashee Ethos Gin, melissa hydrosol, rhubarb & elderflower cordial and Maraschino liqueur. Topped with O5 hibiscus dust, I felt like I was celebrating Valentines Day. My guest had the more fruity Pineapple Express, a rendition of a Whiskey Sour with pineapple infused Lot 40, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white shaken vigorously and topped up with Backcountry Widowmaker IPA. Delicious. We could have stayed at that bar. But at 9pm, it was time to eat.
Our table was an intimate booth, and our server was a brilliant Brit that made us feel straight at home with an explanation of the menu, recommendation of a few starters, nod to the Rooted in Nature menu, and of course, fresh bread and butter. To drink, we started with the 2016 Les Bêtes Curieuses ‘La Perdrix de l’année’ Muscadet Loire Valley, France. This is a serious winemaker in France that focuses on showcasing the most complex and sophisticated Muscadet wines. By using old, head-trained vines that are over 50 years old, organic farming, and minimal intervention winemaking, their wines are complex, elegant and refined. Surprisingly, the wines stood up to the buttery bread and displayed a creamy lees finish that worked well. This was a foreshadowing of the unexpected drinks pairings to come.
The tasting menu began, nonetheless, with an excellent first dish of Northern Divine Caviar Bacon Crème Fraîche, served with Salt Cured Egg Yolk. This was the official pairing with the Muscadet, and came as an elegant dish of thin circles of toast topped with black caviar, fresh crème fraiche and dill. Crunchy yet creamy, savoury yet slightly sweet, this made an interesting start to the meal that we weren’t able to figure out. Delicious and all too easy to finish, we were left curious, wondering what would come next.
For the second starter, we had an excellent Halibut Ceviche with Finger Lime, Rhubarb, Avocado, and Potato, served with a 2017 Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc Adelaide Hills, Australia. This was divine, the halibut tender yet firm, served on a green avocado ceviche sauce and topped with shavings off fried potato. The wine was a classic Sauvignon Blanc, zesty and fruity, the acidity cutting through the richness of the avocado and Halibut beautifully.
The third starter was the visual showstopper, though. A work of art, with splatterings of deep green, clear crystals, mounds of rich red and the gentle pink of prawns, the Seared Scallops and Pork Belly were beautiful. Served with BC Tomato, Lillooet Honey, and fresh Thyme, the local ingredients ensured that the taste was on par with the appearance. This dish was probably my favourite. Served with 2015 Domaine Eblin-Fuchs ‘Zellenberg’ Riesling Alsace, France, a slightly sweet yet dry Riesling that went well with both the prawns and pork belly.
For the main, we had the B.C. Salmon served with Asparagus, Orzo, and Nori Crust. This came with the delicious 2016 Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Okanagan Valley, Canada, positing an interesting decision to combine a fish dish with a New World Pinot Noir. The combination worked brilliantly, and the Salmon was delectable, as was the creamy sauce accompanying it.
Dessert was another bit of eye-candy, a meticulously presented Opalys White Chocolate Petit Gateau served, in what we could see was now typical Shangri-La fashion, with local Okanagan Cherries, and Juniper Berry. To drink we had an interesting beer pairing – the first time we finished a meal with a beer and dessert – that somehow worked too. It’s in this spirit of unexpected deliciousness that we can summarise the tasting menu at Market by Jean-Georges. Deceptively traditional dishes (Halibut, Salmon, Chocolate cake), but paired with unexpected delights – whether the beverage combination or the local ingredients accompanying them. Rooted in nature with its focus on Canada’s local, nature-driven ingredients, yet oddly perturbing with their unexpected combinations, this is an experience well worth trying.
Market by Jean-Georges
1115 Alberni Street
BC V6E 0A8