Bruno is a new restaurant inside the Versante Hotel in Richmond, BC. The Chef, Will Lew, came from Notch 8 at the Hotel Vancouver Fairmont. I remember his food from Notch 8. It brought a touch of creativity to the dining scene in Vancouver mainly through the decorative plating. Most of the times, they were well done and well executed. However, other times, the dishes needed more refinement, cohesion with one theme and portion control. I dug up some old photos of a meal from Notch 8 so you can see an example of the former, followed by two examples of the later.
Anyway, for our meal at Bruno, I could see elements from the chef in each dish from his days at Notch 8. We started with the signature cocktail which was the An Torran – gin, prosecco, tea and some other ingredients. The drink was not good and basically tasted like watered down Kool Aid with some off the shelf liquor. Not well balanced at all. Also, for a nice restaurant, whoever made the drink, did not bother to wipe it before sending it out. It dripped all over the table. This is a place where people will dress up to eat so it could potentially spill on your clothes. Not great attention to detail.
Things started to look up when our server came by. He was amazing all evening. Very pleasant, and any request was handled quickly. We decided to go for the tasting menu which they call the “Bruno Board Experience” (they also have a la carte). We wanted to add some dishes to the tasting menu and our server kindly advised us that it would be too much food. Even when we said we were fine to take it home, he dissuaded us which was nice.
The first course were oysters. One raw one was the chef’s take on motoyaki. It was just OK. The raw was not chilled enough and the motoyaki was not well executed. I should also point out that the oysters come with three sauces but there is only one to use it on. They can cut some food cost by leaving this part out. Also, the person helping our server deliver food, and at times the server himself, did not know what many of the stuff on the plate was. I had to ask about the motoyaki sauce on the oysters, and they had to run to the kitchen to find out. This happened a few times throughout the night.
I should note that there were LONG pauses between dishes and at this point, I was not feeling Bruno. The dining room had a kind of like a mid-level Bonvoy property breakfast space feeling to it. Things picked up after the next two dishes arrived.
First, the presentation was beautiful and something I would expect to see in a Michelin starred place. The saffron cream mussels (with clams and scallops) were delicious. The broth incredible. I wish they brought the bread out with it that we ordered. On the a la carte menu, it says it comes with torched bread, but we ordered a separate scroll bread anyway. The second dish, the kurobuta pork belly, was also absolutely delicious. It had a balsamic garlic glaze. It was sweet, perfectly tender, and with great crunch/texture from the peppercorn aioli.
These two dishes completely turned the evening around for me and I forgot about all the earlier mishaps. After another long pause, they brought out our bread and a burrata summer orchard salad. One server took our broth from the previous dish we had been saving to dip the bread in away, and they prompt brought us a new one.
First the salad – very fresh and all around good. The bread was really good. It came with a foie gras butter brulee. The outside was flaky, the interior soft, warm and buttery. I alternated pieces dipped in the saffron broth and foie. So good.
After another long pause our main platter came out. All this food would be enough for 4+ people. Huge portions.
Ribeye – cooked well but a bit tough; good with the chimichurri and jus
Duck – this was good
Brussel Sprouts – good
Smashed potatoes – good but a bit cold, probably sitting a while before sent out
Ham and Crab Croquettes – good
Another hiccup for the night – it was so much food we wanted it to go and they ran out of containers. Luckily, as mentioned, our server was awesome and he was able to wrap everything in foil and kept smiling the whole time. Next, dessert:
Stone Fruit Pavlova – good but huge portion
Bruno Lavender Honey Soft Serve – BEST soft serve I have ever had! Each bite was perfectly balanced with crunch from the pistachio brittle, creaminess, sweetness from the honey, the perfect hint of lavender and white chocolate to finish off the perfect bite. I would go here again just for this.
Overall, despite the shortfalls, the food and friendly service more than make up for it. There are so many other things on the menu I want to try like pasta, uni crab risotto, fried fish and lobster….. the list goes on. Congrats to the chef and I will be back for that ice cream for sure.