The Observatory at Grouse Mountain
Generally speaking, I don’t go up Grouse Mountain unless I have something exciting to do. Doing the Grouse Grind is something I do once a year just because I have to. I am, after all, a Vancouverite. And it’s a strenuous hike. So, when I go up Grouse Mountain it’s usually for something fun. I had told JT I wanted to try The Observatory (I had eaten at Altitudes Bistro before, but never at The Observatory) for my birthday. Gentleman that he is, he wanted to fulfill my birthday wish, so he made reservations for the evening of my birthday at The Observatory in Grouse Mountain.
First off, you DO want to make reservations. We saved $70 just on the lift tickets to get us up the mountain. I was somewhat shocked at the price, but after all, it’s a nice ride up.
Your Grouse Mountain Admission is complimentary with advance dinner reservations and includes admission to the Skyride and mountaintop activities such as Ranger Talks at the Wildlife Refuge, Scenic Chairlift Ride, and the Theatre in the Sky.
We arrived too late to take in any of the Theatre in the Sky shows, but it was a really beautiful chairlift ride (plus, it’s always about the company, and JT and I always enjoy each other’s company). Besides, we both already knew much about Grouse Mountain (he hikes it regularly, I certainly don’t). The view is simply spectacular from inside the restaurant, and even from outside.
We could have chosen off the menu between a Prix Fixe ($125 with all the pairings, a 5-courses meal much like the ones I’ve had at Chefs Across The Water in Salt Spring Island, Parksville Uncorked in Parksville or Tastes of April Point in Quadra Island) or choosing A La Carte. We chose the latter because (a) JT doesn’t drink and (b) I wasn’t about to do a 5 courses meal for a dinner on a Monday when the next day I have to wake up early for work. It’s a really good value for your money, though, so if you have a chance, you should try the Prix Fixe.
We started with an Appetizer ($16 price point, which is on the higher-scale of Vancouver’s restaurants, from my experience). Having had good experiences with cold soups (I’m a die-hard fan of Spanish gazpacho), I ordered a Squash Velouté with brown butter croutons, pumpkin seed purée and burnt sugar gastrique. JT ordered Vancouver Island Venison Loin with walnut gnocchi, apple, celery root purée, licorice jus. Admittedly, I had just about everything I expected in the squash velouté: a cold mini-soup that was refreshing, sweet and cleansed my palate for a solid main dish. Just as an aside, I did not expect a large portion as velouté‘s tend to be sauces rather than main dishes, but it was interesting having it as a first course.
What annoyed me the most was the lighting, and after that, a screaming baby. As for the lighting, I know it’s lovely for a romantic dinner, and it really enhances the mood, but it made my photos look pretty crappy, even with the Macro setting. Oh well. It was all about the company, and the meal itself. And it was my birthday, so that was what made it all great. On the crying baby note, I did not appreciate having a little baby screaming in the same room, and I’m pretty sure my parental audience will not appreciate me posting this comment. Unfortunately it’s true. I totally understand going out for dinner as a family, and I get it, but it really did detract from my experience. It was, at points, impossible to talk with JT without getting distracted with the little baby screaming at the top of his/her lungs. Luckily it only lasted about 20-30 minutes.
For my main dish, I ordered a Pacific salmon (Ocean Wise, as The Observatory is certified) with 2 types of beans with a bacon reduction (this dish is not available on the website’s menu). Had I had the menu that is posted on the website, I would not have chosen the salmon and would have gone for Mission Trout with carrot ravioli, salmon roe, rose petal sabayon or the Albacore Tuna with bonito onigiri, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, shiso leek emulsion. Hands down. While the salmon was really good (and who can go wrong with bacon), at a $39 per main dish price point, I expected a lot more in regards to presentation/assembly. The green beans’ texture didn’t really go well with a delicate dish like the salmon.
Also, while I totally get why servers recommend a particular type of cooking style (e.g. for my salmon he advised me that it would come medium rare and I asked him to ask the chef to bring it up to medium well), it’s my dinner and it’s my food, so I do not appreciate being told what style my food should come (he did mention JT what he thought was the right cooking point for his dinner. Fine, that’s alright – not me). For his main dish, JT ordered Fraser Valley Duck Breast that was presented with ravioli and a greens salad (not the herb spätzle, cauliflower, hazelnut velouté that I expected from the online menu).
While from my write-up it may sound as though I didn’t have a good experience, that’s not the case at all. I did love The Observatory. The food is great, the service is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC (one of the servers took several photos of JT and me until we were satisfied with the outcome and how beautiful the evening showed on the photo), and the view is bar-none. That I am picky (sometimes annoyingly so) and that I like my food a certain way and an environment where I can eat without being disturbed, it’s also true. But I am pretty sure that having a baby that little and that was screaming to the top of their lungs is such a rare occurrence, it’s just unfortunate it happened on my birthday.
Verdict: Would I recommend eating at The Observatory at the top of Grouse Mountain? Absolutely. It’s an experience you must have at least once in your lifetime. And I’ll definitely be back, particularly when I see a different menu that I might want to try out.
I do love the fact that The Observatory is so focused on sustainability.
Sustainable Dining: We are dedicated to sourcing the finest and freshest regional ingredients available, creating memorable dining experiences.
Ocean Wise & Green Table-Certified: We are proud to be a member of Ocean Wise, a conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Look for our ocean-friendly options highlighted on our menus. All the restaurants at Grouse Mountain are also certified by the Green Table Network, which puts sustainability on the menu through innovative solutions that measurably reduce the impact we have on our environment.
And the view is simply spectacular. My photos don’t do justice to how beautiful Vancouver looks from the top of Grouse Mountain. Dining out at The Observatory in Grouse Mountain is something you must try, definitely. I’m glad I did, and I’m glad JT took me there for my birthday.
Disclosure: JT paid for both of our dinners on his own dime, as he was taking me out for my birthday. Grouse Mountain did not know that we were coming for dinner so I’m sure we did not get any special treatment. As always, I retain editorial control at all times of anything published on my blog.