For Dine Out Vancouver 2011, we decided to go to Aqua Riva, simply because they were the only restaurant that could accommodate our group at the time everyone was available. It started out pretty terrible, and stayed that way. Half of us couldn't find the damn place. The address is listed as 200 Granville St, but the restaurant is actually on Howe... This is because it's part of a complex called Granville Square that spans several blocks. For those looking to find the place, it's on Howe right next to Canada Place.
Aqua Riva is usually ridiculously expensive, but the $28 Dine Out menu brings them into affordable territory. The restaurant itself was impressive large, and most impressively, completely packed at 8pm on a weekday. We were lucky enough to be seated window side and had a gorgeous view of Canada Place and Vancouver harbor.
We received the usual complimentary baskets of bread after we made our orders. Instead of your usual sourdough, there was french bread and slices of focaccia. These were served with the usual whipped butter, but also some mild salsa, which complimented the bread very well. The breads themselves were very fresh, with a crisp crust and soft, moist interior. This was a very pleasant start to the meal, but it wouldn't last.
Others in my party had the Manhattan Seafood Chowder with Chorizo Sausage and Saffron. I'm not a fan of soups, but everyone who had the soup enjoyed it. I guess I should have had the soup instead. No one opted for the third appie option, which was Baby Green Salad with Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon and Grilled White and Green Asparagus and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette.
For the main, I choose the Ginger Potato Crusted Wild Salmon with Grilled Asparagus Risotto, Corn and Black Bean Salsa and Basil Butter Sauce. Everyone enjoyed the deliciously crisp potato crust, and found the salmon well-seasoned, but all agreed the filet was a bit dry. The corn and black bean salsa was bland and detracted from the flavorful fish. I could have done without it.
Those that ended up with the Wood Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Cajun Jumbo Fries and Salsa Verde weren't too happy with their meals. Nobody had their steak cooked to the degree they wanted. Medium became medium rare, and medium became a bloody chewy piece of rubber. Nobody sent their steaks back to the kitchen but they really should have. The "cajun jumbo fries" turned out to be greek style baked potatoes, but the cajun spice was so mild they tasted practically like plain baked potatos.
The Orecchiette Pasta with Grilled Prawns, Shiitake Mushrooms, Spinach, Ancho Chilies and Basil Pesto Cream Sauce turned out to be the entree to get, as everyone who had the pasta thoroughly enjoyed their dish. Unfortunately I didn't get an acceptable photo of this dish. As you can see from the blurry pics above, I'm still struggling with my new camera :-(
For dessert, I had the Banana Chocolate Mousse Cake. This was garnished with a fried banana and fruit coulis. Neither the fried banana nor cake was very successful. The banana wasn't fried to a good crispness, and wasn't sweetened. This piece of banana wasn't very naturally sweet either, and this made for a very soft, yet chalky slice of banana. The cake also had a serious lack of sugar. The chocolate ganache had a rough texture and the cake was very dry. The middle layer was just a blended banana paste, and the whole thing felt like a chore to eat. I had McDonald's new baked banana chocolate pie just a few days prior, and enjoyed it much more than this, and that only costs 70 cents. I guess this might be suitable for someone who likes a very mild dessert, but for a guy with a sweet tooth, this was a failure.
Conversely, the folks who had the Apple and Cranberry Crisp complained that it was too sugary. To put it into perspective, one said that you needed to mix the ice cream to drown out the sweetness of the rest of the dish. I ended up taking some apple crisp to sweeten and moisten up my dull, dry cake.
Given the asking price, the food here definitely wasn't worth it. If you're going to be asking $25-30+ for an entree, serving dry fish and undercooked steak isn't acceptable. This Dine Out experience certainly didn't entice us to return for their regular menu. I'm quite surprised that there were such glaring mistakes with each course that was served. Given the price and locale, Aqua Riva seems like a tourist trap, so I guess we'll be leaving it to the tourists.
-great ambiance and view
-attentive, friendly service
-hard to locate
-easily accessible by skytrain
Website and Menu: www.aquariva.com