Sol Sun Belt Cookery is located at the foot of Denman St., right at the water’s edge in Coal Harbour. That particular spot has been home to several restaurants that ended up shuttering. It’s actually a really lovely spot, at the entrance to Stanley Park, with a nice patio overlooking the boats. But it seems that most of the foot traffic in that area walks right past it. I think the owners would do well to put up some signs on the seawall with specials to drive people in – just my two cents.
I’ve been wanting to try this spot, and I wasn’t too surprised to see it on Living Social (similar to Groupon). A three course dinner for two for $40? Yes, please…
First of all, the service was great. Everyone from the host to the chef who visited the tables (he had a broken arm, so he was spending most of his time out of the kitchen), and all the servers in between – it was clear everyone cared and was making an effort to make sure the customers were happy. Our server was always nearby, keeping an eye on the tables in case someone needed something. His understanding of gluten was questionable, but he did go to the kitchen to check. I was surprised that the guy who was bringing out the dishes never knew whose was whose, but his pleasant demeanor made up for it. Also, there weren’t any restrictions on the coupon, so that was well done.
My friend ordered a glass of the Le Vieux Pin Viognier, which was good, and I had the Winter Solstice (dark spiced rum, Malbec, cane syrup, lime, egg white). The wine cocktail was enjoyable – I don’t see them on menus very often.
For our appetizers, I chose the Merguez Sausages (North African spiced Angus beef short rib sausages with house made harissa). They were okay. But I was expecting them to be much more flavorful – I found them rather bland. They were also a little dry and could’ve benefitted from some sort of dipping sauce. The sauce on the plate was just for decoration – there was so little of it, it had simply dried onto the plate. Also, the presentation of the sausages was a little unappealing.
My friend was pretty disappointed with the Scallops & Prawn Ceviche and Cured Sockeye Salmon (pickled mushrooms, shallots, cucumber and radishes, green apple & prosecco). The portion size was miniscule, and the sauce had a strange sweetness to it.
We also shared an order of the Sweet Potato Spaghetti Fries, which were simply shoestring yam fries. They were very good and we both liked the balsamic reduction drizzled on top.
For the main, I ordered the Grilled Marinated Beef Loin (chervil golden cauliflower, Cerignola olives, feta and micro greens). When it was brought out, the guy referred to it as hanger steak. I did a bit of a double take and told him I had ordered the loin. He assured me that it’s the same thing, they just had it on the previous menu as hanger steak, and he keeps calling it that out of habit. Sure enough, the online menu, not yet updated, refers to it as hanger steak. I left the topic alone. But obviously I take issue with this. Not that there’s anything wrong with hanger steak, but I simply would not have chosen to order it on this occasion. That, and if I did, then my expectation of what I’m about to eat would be different. It’s my understanding that hanger steak is a rather inexpensive cut of beef rom the “plate” section of the steer (mid-lower region). The loin, however, is a more premium cut from the sirloin section (upper part of the steer, just past the mid-section, before the hind). So, one of two things must’ve happened. I was either served hanger steak passed off as loin. Or, I was served loin, and the guy doesn’t understand the difference. It was hard to judge from the plate. But it could very well have been hanger, as it was rather tough and chewy. Either way, an unfortunate occurrence. I was surprised at how the meat was very well-done on the outside edges and medium-well on the inside. First of all, I had requested medium-rare. But what I’m getting at is that the colouring of the cooked meat seemed off. The last time I experienced this was at Les Faux Bourgeois, where I suspected that the meat had not been made to order, and had sat on a hot plate for too long. My friend had the same issue with the lamb. Other than that, I did enjoy the rustic presentation of the plate. And I really enjoyed both the olives and the cauliflower. I thought all of the components of the dish complemented each other well.
My friend had the New Zealand Spring Lamb (pan seared with grilled asparagus, shoe string potatoes, Argan oil and fennel pollen). Same issue with the cooking as my beef. And the lamb was quite chewy and not tender enough. It also wasn’t very flavorful. The shoestring potatoes were tasty, and the asparagus was nicely cooked. But the overall dish felt heavy and lacked refinement.
For dessert, we both ordered the cheesecake, which was cheesecake whipped into a mousse and served in a honey glazed almond cup with a fruit compote. Mine was served in a bowl since the cup wasn’t gluten-free. My friend liked the dessert, but I was unimpressed. Again, it lacked sophistication and depth of flavour, and the presentation was boring.
Even though I was underwhelmed by most of the food, I can’t say I disliked Sol Sun Belt Cookery. Service (minus Hangergate) was great – it’s nice to see people really making an effort to please. The view is pretty (although it’s more of a harbour view than a water view). The food could use some refinement and perhaps a slight price reduction on the appetizers.
My favourite part of the meal was the combination of ingredients on my plate of beef. I kept staring at the chicken drumettes that the couple next to us had ordered – they looked awesome. So, perhaps I’d come back for a drink and that chicken. Or, maybe for brunch as their brunch menu appeals to me. We shall see. Overall, an enjoyable evening, with definite room for improvement.