I've dined at Maison Boulud in Beijing's former Legation Quarter, just off of Tiananmen Square many times, and am overall very impressed by the food, service and atmosphere.
And in December 2008, celeb chef Daniel Boulud expanded his stable of eateries by opening DB Bistro in Vancouver.
However, he took over the space previously occupied by Iron Chef Rob Feenie, a Vancouverite and the founder of Lumiere and Feenie's. But he lost the majority of his shares in the restaurants in 2005 and was forced out by the owners two years later.
They invited Boulud to come and set up shop in the same space, though changing Feenie's to DB Bistro, and Lumiere, the higher end restaurant kept its name.
So I was keen to try out DB Bistro, as a comparison to Maison Boulud.
But my first encounter with the restaurant over the phone left a bad taste in my mouth.
When I called several days earlier to make a reservation, I was promptly asked not only for my phone number, name, time and the number of people in my party, but also my credit card number and email address.
The woman explained it was because of the Olympic period that people made reservations and didn't show up and so a credit card number was needed. If I didn't show up for my reservation, she said, then $80 would be charged on my credit card.
"Don't worry I'll be there," I said, annoyed by this new temporary policy. I explained that I lived in Beijing and went to Maison Boulud; I was specifically coming to DB Bistro to try the food.
She was very excited to hear this and made of note of this in the reservation.
However, when we got there at the appointed time, the restaurant was empty at 6pm with a few people sitting at the bar watching the Canadian men's hockey team battling it out against Russia, ultimately defeating them 7-3.
With the jubilant mood, we perused the menu specifically created for the Olympic period.
At first glance it's very French with coq au vin, pate, and seafood bouillabaise, but also uses many local ingredients, like Quadra Island mussels, wild mushrooms and greens.
After our orders were taken by a very tall Scottish-sounding waiter, he brought us some lukewarm bread and also an amuse bouche of a lamb tortellini, a deep-fried square ravioli that was warm and delicious.
For starters, I had the special of a pate terrine that had dried figs in the middle. Accompanied with dark brown toast, the foie gras pate was as expected: rich, sinful and smooth. While it was definitely artery-clogging, it was a divine occasional treat.
The celery and chestnut soup was also rich too, a cream-based soup that had a roasted chestnut flavour.
Soon after our appetizer courses a waiter brought out an oval plate with a whole seabass that was covered in a thick coat of salt and herbs and baked. The salt crust keeps the fish meat moist. The fish went back into the kitchen to be deboned and served with chunks of potatoes and vegetables.
The meat was very soft and moist, hardly flaky. It wasn't very salty either which was a nice surprise.
I had the roasted black cod, two chunks of the perfectly cooked fish, on a bed of chick pea panisse, cooked with julienne peppers and tomatoes. There was also hummus but shaped into cubes for an interesting presentation.
The blanquette of veal with herbs and lemon was cooked with carrots, turnips, pearl onions, mushrooms, crispy sweetbreads and a side of basmati rice.
By the time we finished our mains, we were quite full, but not without a taste of dessert.
A week earlier the restaurant served passionfruit souffle, but not tonight. Instead we had a lemon tart which was a nice finish that wasn't too sweet and the long rectangular slice was just the right portion. It was a surprise to find that the warm madeleines that are usually served gratis in Beijing are $8 here.
While the meal was great, service was cordial, and constantly asking how the food was. Eventually three or four other tables were filled and settling into dinner.
The bill? A bit over the top with a 20 percent service charge already built into the tab, considering the going rate is 15 percent.
For three people, the bill was just over $200, including coffee and a bottle of sparking water.
While it was a wonderful dinner, the extra charges didn't materialize into making guests feel extra special which you can't put a price on.
DB Bistro Moderne
2551 West Broadway
604 739 7115