I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
When nominated for an Academy Award alongside Daniel Day-Lewis, George Clooney immediately conceded. He knew Daniel was as solid as the statue the latter would eventually win. That being said, George had also conceded the weekend box office when his film The Perfect Storm was released against Mel Gibson’s The Patriot, despite the former turning into a worldwide blockbuster. George should know to not throw in the towel before time runs out.
This will make sense.
After reading this review, one might believe that further entries of dinner services—searching for the best restaurant in town—might be as pointless as Mormon pamphlets handed out at a Porn convention. As you might have figured out, it’s going to be difficult concealing my praise for White Goose Bistro, the latest in my stage 2 reviews, but that should’ve been as obvious as the ending of Twilight.
Prince George is odd in that if you drive a specific path through town, it will appear an illuminated and flourishing example of Canadian urban development, predicated by you adorning horse blinders through the journey. Turn your head or make a wrong turn and you’d quickly smack into dilapidated streets and unkempt sidewalks that would make an Iraqi businessman nostalgic. One of these rare exceptional streets is 3rd Avenue, so it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise to find North 54, Nancy O’s, Cimos, and White Goose all within walking distance on this single road. Of them, White Goose features the most unattractive facade—“unattractive” may be a poor choice of words; I’m going to be eventually praising White Goose, so let me change that to “rustic”. It’s not ugly, but the front is slightly overwhelmed by Nancy O’s down the block. With White Goose, this is offset by a pleasant rustic interior—wait, I meant that as actual praise. It doesn’t have the expensive look of Twisted Cork but it’s perfect for intimate dinners of 2-6 people. The kitchen was quiet; the music was inoffensive. I had plenty of elbow room. I even had a place to mount the camera.
Yes, camera. One of the points covered in my CBC radio interview, but one mostly found on the cutting room floor was the possibility of prestige following my entrance, like I had turned into some kind of local presence in the restaurant circuit, like a made man walking into a New Jersey pizza parlor, a hush filling the room like a fart after the bathroom door is opened. I scoffed at such an idea, but also stated that that if my presence warranted some recognition and respect that I would not object to it. If being a food critic merit’s better service, why would one complain? “But Chris,” you’d scoff, “That’s unprofessional. As a food critic, you deserve no special treatment and should conduct yourself anonymously in order to generate an honest, objective review.” My first response would be to correct the last comment; I have never deceived anyone about my propensity to be subjective. Judges should be objective; critics are not. Second, yes I admit that if a critic’s presence is discovered or expected, said critic might and should expect special treatment in order to generate a more positive review. This can almost be seen as bribery. In response, I can offer a perfectly professional and honest answer…in that I am fine with that.
Anyways, despite being tempted by dozens of enticing menus choices, one known to me beforehand instantly hooked me, my mother, and my sister upon viewing, the chef’s menu. However, I need to go on a little rant to people that had called it a tasting menu. It’s not. A tasting menu lists five to seven courses, two or three of which you have choices in, but you know beforehand what to expect. At Gordon Ramsay’s at Claridge’s, we had a fixed Amuse Bouche, a choice of two appetizers, a lobster ravioli, a pallet cleansing sherbet, a choice of mains, and two desserts, one of which was also a choice. The plates were small. Readers may not be aware of what a chef’s table is. You’ll find this in only a few prestigious locations and only in those with confident head chefs willing to put their money where their mouths are. Claridge’s had one, but you were required to book at least six patrons for it. A chefs table is located near the kitchen, or often enough, inside of it, commonly filled with furnishings to make Trump blush. You’re served at the chef’s whim. You eat what he serves when he serves it; there’s no option. The value and praise is almost always earned. I have never had the opportunity to find a chefs table, not even in Vancouver. What White Goose offers is not a tasting menu or a chef’s table but a hybrid. You aren’t assigned special seating but are still served at the chef’s whim. And if this doesn’t sound like a great idea, then you were probably one of the people that sold their Apple stock in the 90’s.
For three hours, we ate, and drank, and communed with each other and the staff. The waitress was also the host, with more experience and composure, relating tales of dishes and dinners worthy of record, than a Wall Street lobbyist. We took note of the little touches, the careful pouring of water to ensure no ice fell into glasses, the removal of our cutlery at the end of every plating, to know exactly when to leave us to our meal and when to remain and chat about the intricate details of every dish, which she always knew. Even outside of the quality of the meal, this is service to remember, the kind that warrants patronage upon returning, where you know their name and ask for it.
There was food to.
Without a menu reference, it was difficult to specify the individual ingredients. There was duck, chicken, and lamb. We had pasta, potatoes, and pastry. There were nuts. There was chocolate. There was port reduction and caramel sauce. Right from the initial plate, I noticed my knife was duller than cardboard, but when it sliced though the pastry like a hot katana through ninja, I knew I was in for something special. Pastry so often has a tough base, as the bottom is overcooked compared to the rest. I knew there was some culinary voodoo going on there.
About the only dish I could criticize was the “salad”, a word I accent because of irony. With a side of green, the dish was dominated by a tender leg of duck. Yes, duck, the culinary litmus test I had mentioned earlier, and here is where White Goose slightly disappointed, though my sister and mother stressed their disagreement with my view, I don’t like eating meat off bones generally and the idea of extracting tiny ones from my mouth ,which I did, was not particularly appealing. This was redeemed with the follow-up pasta, which was as large as a half order at Cimos. The women started to feel the pressure and were unable to finish the two middle two plates, rationing room for dessert while I mowed down all the dishes undaunted. I could offer a critique about the portions, assuming I had an issue with their impressive size. Maybe I do, perhaps they could have been a bit smaller, but conceding this as criticism is like saying Gary Oldman is too good an actor.
Three hours later, I had eaten enough to pass a small Fiat. It was revolutionary experience for such a small town, nailing a coffin in the accusation that restaurants in Prince George cannot be and should not be critiqued on the same grounds as those in Vancouver and that local restaurants can never hope to achieve the echelon of quality boasted by the likes of celebrity chefs and Michelin star establishments in larger cities. If you still claim to preach that gospel, then you sir will never appreciate such fine cuisine given the number of limp dicks in your mouth.
I could have gone tasteful with that last comment; I didn’t have to go there, but I honestly got annoyed with an argument I had with someone claiming, using his decade’s experience as a restaurant owner as proof, that restaurants in PG could never compete with those in the south. My counter at the time was that no matter how much you polished such a statement, running a McDonald’s in downtown Vancouver does not grant you the authority to dismiss my claim. It’s an insult to people like Ryan Cyre and his family to have a supervisor of hamburger flippers, still required to sport a name tag, declaring like a booming voice from Mount Franchise that a local restaurant can never hope to compete with the quality of Vancouver. I don’t want that individual to ever go to White Goose. Leave it to those that can distinguish ground beef from green slime, to those that consider good service to mean something other than two packets of ketchup instead of one. White Goose does not cater to those with prostates the size of canned hams, the heartbeats of hummingbird with more butter in their veins than the plumbing at an adult movie theater.
I’ll let that last one sit for a minute.
To everyone else, White Goose Bistro throws down the gauntlet like I had never seen before, easily matching the best of Vancouver. As good as Chambar? Close, perhaps Chambar’s plating edged a little bit and their duck was orgasmic, but even they could learn a thing or two from White Goose. The best in town? I’m not allowed to say yet, and to be honest some places are designed to attract a more casual atmosphere. I won’t expect this kind of food from Sliders or Nancy Os, but that doesn’t mean they don’t earn your support as well. Like I mentioned with North 54, White Goose is where you go to take a date you wish to impress. Its intimate atmosphere should be a guaranteed score…At least I would hope so. I’ve never tried it.
OVERALL: 8.9 out of 10
And to those that still think my review is skewed because of my discovery as a food critic, knock the down score by 1, and you’ll still have the best food in town.
Check out the photos at my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PrinceGastronome