I found myself on my own in Vancouver for my birthday and on a friend's recommendation decided to try a new restaurant, Revel.
Revel is part of the new scene of Vancouver restaurants that is sprouting up in Gastown and some of the other shady areas around there. As the Woodward re-development carries on apace it will not be long before the shadiness of this area will be gone and Revel will have situated itself nicely in the vicinity of what is bound to be an area filled with young, adventurous sorts with money -- an endless blessing for any restaurant.
Revel is a 'small plates' type of restaurant. This is a type of dining that fills me with a certain degree of apprehension. Small plates have become something of a new trend these days and as with many trends there is some real danger that the focus can end up on the trend rather than the food. This is particularly risky in the context of small plates since in order for the idea of small plates to work the emphasis has to be all about the food -- there is little in the way of showmanship in the presentation of small plates and one cannot look at a plate and say 'well two out of three things on that plate are good.' Either the plate works or it does not.
Happily Revel has pulled off the trick -- the room is cool (I sat at a theoretically terrible table because I wanted to be able to see the main floor and had a good time without being run over by the wait staff) but offers different environments. The main floor has more of a bar feeling while there is a second floor that can serve those wanting to focus on more intimate dining. The food was excellent. I had a beef tenderloin with a delicious jus and which was done to perfection. A plate of asparagus was served with a spicy (but not overwhelming) flavouring and with obvious care for the asparagus itself -- it was not limp but prepared and cooked so as to leave no woodiness. Finally there was an interesting fried rice dish which did not evoke thoughts of chicken balls with red sauce.
The atmosphere was great -- for a place that had only been open for six days there was a steady stream of customers, many of whom where clearly not there on their first business. The owners and staff were friendly and attentive without besetting the table. It made for a good birthday evening in Vancouver.