Saturday, March 13, 2010

Food Bloggers Dinner: NFA (Vancouver, BC)

Myself, along with sidekick M had the opportunity recently to take in a sumptuous six-course dinner at an underground restaurant, NFA. On this such occasion, Chef Steve extended a discount off of the usual $50/pp bill.

Headed by Chef Steve, the two man NFA (which stands for No Fixed Address) show serves up Global cuisine from Steves' modern dining room. We arrived around seven o' clock for a seven-thirty service and brought our own wine, as did other attending food bloggers from La Petite Foodie, VanFoodies, The Best Damn Food Blog There Is, Victoria's Food Secrets, Food and Tell, [eating club] vancouver, Gourmet Fury, and Sherman's Food Adventures.

Once we were buzzed into the building and given slightly cryptic directions (multiple elevators), we found our way to Steves' humble abode - hardwood floors, a long, dark, masculine dining table set for twelve lit with tealights, woven placemats, and contrasting white flowers (mums? zinnias?) in white square vases.

The apartment walls were adorned with art from local artists, presumably for sale. On one wall was a chalkboard dictating the feast ahead of us:
Dinner was served a little later than expected but the wait was worth it. We started with a thai beef salad perched atop a corn fritter cake and highlighted with a squeeze of lime juice (not pictured). As we dived in anxiously, I heard Victoria quietly say, "You know guys, this is the way its supposed to taste." Knowing that she is picky about her Thai food (Thai roots), I was pretty pleased to be tasting hits of cilantro, lime, fish sauce, lemongrass, and beef. The finishing garnishes of fried shallots also added to the dish, and the raw / green papaya was a nice staple to this solid course.

Next up was a trio of scallops:
  • seared scallop with miso dressing, apple and leek atop a square of rye bread and garnished with bacon
  • scallop ceviche
  • scallop with caper raisin emulsion and caramelized cauliflower
I thought the ceviche would be my favourite, but it disappointed in that the finishing dressing overpowered the sweetness of the scallop. A couple nearby diners agreed that the flavour and texture of the scallop was masked by the strong balsamic (?) based vinaigrette. Perhaps a lighter hand (or lightening up) of the dressing would have helped. I expected the scallop with caper raisin emulsion and caramelized cauliflower to be another favourite, but the outcome was lukewarm. If you follow my twitter or hints in this blog, you'll know that I *love* cauliflower. But I guess the way that it was described (caramelized) led way to an expectation that it would be crispy or slightly sweet. It was not - it was slightly soft. Perhaps I did not get the understanding behind Chef Steves' dish, or perhaps we were all too polite in waiting for each diner to get their plates before (taking photos!) and eating. The favourite was, however, the seared scallop with miso dressing, with apple, leek and bacon. The different constituents of this appetizer - salty, sweet, umami, and the different textures were a pleasant combination. Favourited by both M and myself. :)

The next dish was something everyone was looking forward to. Slow cooked fennel pork belly served atop a ribbon of pipped mashed potato, with a side of braised belgian endive with serrano ham and balsamic dressing. This is somewhat of a house specialty of NFA - we later read about raves from previous patrons. While the slow cooking method did not lend itself to a crisp, crackling skin that is characteristic of Chinese or Filipino roast pork, my portion had exuberantly tender, rich, and moist meat. The pork was just done perfectly and had lots of flavour. I daresay that it trumped the Berkshire pork belly that I'd had last year at The Pear Tree! The braised fennel was a nice garnish to echo the flavours in the pork belly, but the braised endive (or was it also fennel?) with serrano ham and dressing was a bit rich to accompany the pork belly.

I suppose for this reason, Chef Steve had a palate cleanser of a grapefruit sorbet, candied ginger and campari (not pictured). It was refreshing. Not what one would usually expect, as it had strong bitter grapefruit notes, but it was fully representative of biting into a grapefruit - without chewing.

After this came the sake marinated sablefish with preserved vegetable sauce (mui choy).

The sablefish was served on a lightly steamed section of baby bok choy and a root vegetable croquette. Chef Steve cautioned that the fish had been marinated too long and thus a softer texture resulted. While the fish was perhaps overmarinated, the fish was also not of the right cut and / or due freshness. The texture was soft and slightly mushy, and there was no sake flavour present. The potential for this dish would have been great; the ingredients just didn't make it happen. On a side note, a cloudy sake, Amazake or even the Kasu paste (lees) from the sake making process would have been fantastic ingredients to this dish. I'd like to taste Chef Steves' sablefish again so that I could see how he intended it to be.

After all this food, we were quite stuffed! However, there was still the sixth course, dessert.

For our last course that evening, we were presented with dark chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis and toasted hazelnuts.

In retrospect, I think the portion (by volume) of mousse was about the same size as the pork belly or the sablefish. After five courses (four, if you don`t count the grapefruit palate cleanser) it was way too much and way too rich. I think a lot of fellow diners agreed that we could have done with a smaller portion of mousse. I would have also liked if the raspberry coulis was strained of seeds and perhaps thinned to a thinner consistency.

Overall, we enjoyed our dinner at NFA. For $50, you are getting a one-of-a-kind intimate dining experience and you get to see your Chef doing his craft. My complaints, if that, were that the combination of dishes was a little heavy; even the salad, which usually is regarded as a "light" course, was made heavier with a corn cake. Chef Steve and his sous chef were very hospitable and friendly. We are glad to have been told about NFA by Jonathan and thankful to be part of the group of bloggers to have attended this dinner. I'd love to try NFA again.

Click through to see other bloggers experience that night:

NFA: No Fixed Address

Address announced in the days leading up to your reservation
Vancouver BC


  1. sounds suspiciously similar to another longer-standing underground restaurant in vancouver, right down to the format, pricing and artwork...just sayin'.

  2. Hey just wondering how long it took for them to reply your email for a reservation?

  3. Hey MFA - sorry it took so long to get back to you.

    It was a matter of hours / days for them to reply to us. Good luck and let us know if / how it went!


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