Dining Review: AnnaLena – Vancouver, Canada
When I found AnnaLena doing my Vancouver food research, I knew this was a must try for us. AnnaLena is extremely well rated for the modern twist on Canadian cooking using local and in season ingredients. One things that stood out was how consistent the accolades were for AnnaLena over the years. This spot features a rotating tasting menu as “chapters” that last around six to eight weeks – our visit was the last day of Chapter 56. AnnaLena is conveniently located in the Kitsilano neighborhood which is nearby so many major attractions in Vancouver and for us, was very easy to get to via public transit.
I had a difficult time getting a spot in AnnaLena so I added myself to waitlists and luckily, one opened up on the day we wanted for seats at the bar. We have really enjoyed bar seating as it has a more personal feel interacting with the servers right at the bar. You also get a built in show watching them craft all the intricate cocktails – I would like to learn one day how to whip these up.
The inside is very fun – at first it looks very pointed and fancy but upon looking a bit closer, the details are infused with 80s and 90s pop culture. The flowers at our section of the bar were in a GameBoy. There were model cars, Michael Jordan paraphernalia, and much more.
In speaking with the server, it was clear these guys knew what they were doing in the wine department so we did not look much further and opted for the wine pairings. With that selection our meal was ready to begin.
Wine: Benedict & Stephane Tissot ‘Indigene’ Cremant du Jura Extra Brut NV
If this Amuse Bouche was any indicator, the meal we had ahead was going to be wonderful. The Amuse Bouche was super flavorful – a fried dough ball topped with a tartar and an aioli on the bottom. I know, no the best description from me but we were so loving it that it was hard to remember the details while enjoying it!
Now the wine I do remember and this is because it was a brut that I actually liked! I do not drink carbonated beverages so champagne is not on my favorite list. In fact, I almost had the courage to ask for an alternative but as our server began to pour, his tasting notes were far too intriguing not to give it a try. Made my second generation wine makers in the Cotes du Jura region of France, they use Chardonnay to create their Brut from their organic and biodynamic vineyards. This wine had a farm earthiness to it that while I am sure most people identify as nuttiness but this was straight up farm and I loved it – so unique! The color of the wine even looked like golden hay. Luckily the bubbles were super tiny and no aggressive that I was really able to enjoy Brut for the first time.
Sungold tomato, herb and parmesan emulsion, gem lettuce, fried shallots
Wine: Benedict & Stephane Tissot ‘Indigene’ Cremant du Jura Extra Brut NV
Beautiful green lettuce – veggies are always welcomed during these meals and this was delicious. The gem lettuce was dressed in a herb and parmesan emulsion that was also incorporated into a tomato salad underneath the lettuce. It was so light without compromising on flavor. The favorite ingredient for me was the fried shallots – it perfectly added the crunch factor in a creative way. The dish was fresh, light, and a creative spin on a traditional salad.
Ham hack vin blanc, chipotle apple mostarda, torn bread
Wine: Synchromesh Long’s View Vineyard Riesling Naramata Bench BC
When the server brought this dish out, after describing the ingredients he stated to use the bread as the vehicle to eat the each – to tear it and enjoy the dish that way. This dish was pretty spectacular. The bread was very airy and light with a bit of sweetness like a brioche. And as the server said, it absorbed the sauce beautifully. The ham reminded us of a corned beef so it brought a savory, smokiness, and saltiness to the dish. And the sauce was rich, creamy, and finger licking good. Honestly we were scooping every last bit we could with a spoon at the end cause we ran out of bread. Given the description, I was nervous about the chipotle apple mostarda but I was able to avoid the mustard seed looking portion of the plate and thoroughly enjoyed every bite.
The wine pairing here was a perfectly selected Riesling. This dish needed some acid and cleansing qualities so the Riesling was able cut the rich and salty characteristics. We love Riesling as it is and to learn that British Columbia had such beautiful wine had me looking up how to visit the wine regions. on future trips.
Scallop tortellini, confit lobster, clams, aerated bisque
Wine: Jolie Laide 2021 California Pinot Gris
This dish looked like a piece of art – like every single item was placed intentionally and done with those fancy tweezers. We did not even want to eat it but we knew this was going to be a delicious dish. And as soon as we started to eat, it. was gone just as fast. These handmade tortellini were filled with scallops and each was so succulent. The sauce these tortellini were swimming in was an aerated seafood bisque which was super creamy. Then there were lobster and clams throughout to bring together this beautiful seafood pasta dish. We were so happy to have experienced this dish on the last day it was being offered! I think Kevin and I both agreed this was the favorite of the night.
Speaking of looking like a piece of art, the label on this bottle was certainly a piece of art. The color of the wine certainly threw me off as it has a bit of a pink hue to it which is due to the extended whole cluster soak of grape seed contact. This Pinot Gris had more fruit qualities of melon and stone fruit which complimented the seafood very well. What a wonderful bottle!
Aged duck breast with corn panisse, roasted plum jus, black truffle, charred corn
Wine: Domaine Jean Foillard Morgon Cote du Py
The only decision point of the meal was choosing an entree of duck or fish so we did as we always do and go with one of each and split them. Fortunately, they both came with the same accompaniments so the only difference really was the meat.
The duck was perfectly prepared and I loved that they kept the skin on – how lucky was I to get an end for more skin. The duck was delicious and a great portion size for an entree dish in a tasting menu. The side dish of roasted plum jus, black truffle, and charred corn was outstanding and I wish there was far more of it just because it was that good. The addition of the corn panisse was like a corn bread – so tasty! I feel like corn was really isolated to BBQs growing up and we had seen quite a resurgence of corn in creative ways this summer.
This wine was so elegant! Beaujolais was a great choice for the duck to offer a light bodied, fruitiness to the dish. In fact, it really touched on that roasted plum! You know how some duck dishes are paired with a fruit jam of sorts? Well this wine was that fruit jam. Another great wine pairing.
Halibut cheek with corn panisse, roasted plum jus, black truffle, charred corn
Wine: Domaine Michel Briday Bouzeron Cuvee Axelle Cote Chalonnaise
The halibut cheek was so light but had great depth of flavor. Simply prepared by pan frying, the halibut cheek reminded us of scallops more than it did fish for texture and a buttery and sweet quality.
The wine was another French bottle but this one played more into the buttery characteristic of the halibut. With a bit of citrus to cut through the dish, this wine had some oak of it to compliment the buttery fish. We certainly did not complain about all these wonder white wines we got to try during this tasting menu.
Peanut butter mousse, banana ice cream, cherry, waffle crisp
Wine: Domaine Petri-Geraud Banylus Cuvee Mediterranee Languedoc-Roussillon
The dessert we have been waiting for – a peanut butter delight. The peanut butter mousse sat under the wafer and it was so delicious. I was practically doing cartwheels over the banana ice cream and I got to have it twice as Kevin handed over his scoop. The cherries worked surprisingly well in combination with the other elements of the dish.
This dessert wine had another beautiful wine label. I was glad this was not a hearty after dinner drink but rather a fortified wine where you could actually taste the flavors instead of just burning alcohol. The dessert wine featured warm flavors of caramel and raisin, quite delicious.
Wow, what a fantastic dining experience! The portion sizes of each dish was perfect and each course was very different from the next. All the wines were fantastic both on their own and as a pairing with the course. They must have such a wonderful wine program to have access to so many different bottles. The dishes and wines were all well thought out and intentional. The staff were so fun, relaxed, and welcoming. The service was seamless and the meal was paced very well for a tasting menu – not too fast and not too lagging. What a wonderful gem in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood to have access to – we would be here all the time! Highly recommend AnnaLena when visiting Vancouver!