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With the Fairmont Waterfront’s recent $20 million renovation project came time to renew the hotel’s long-standing Heron’s, now minted ARC Dining. Gone is the bar towards the back, replaced with a very accessible chef’s table.

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Airy, wooden ceiling fixtures now grace ARC, along with a vamped-up, modern menu with branded motto “Life is complicated. Good food shouldn’t be.”

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The name was chosen to define the curved space with high ceilings, allowing for lots of natural light to pour in during the day with a great vantage point of Canada Place, Vancouver Convention Centre, and North shore mountains.

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Executive Chef Alessandro Vianello has created a menu that’s easy for sharing, with a great variety of starters and side attractions leading to the main event (entrees).

ARC Dining Chef Alessandro Vianello

Oceanwise-sanctioned seafood (including the current three-course BC Spot prawn tasting menu at $59) features prominently amongst favourites such as AAA Hanger steak, Yakima Valley lamb, and Pemberton tenderloin.

As with many of our city’s restaurants (and to our great advantage), ARC chooses locally-sourced, fresh ingredients for their dishes.

The room was filled with a mixed clientele on the evening of our visit (a Saturday night, prime time for destination dining); young and old couples alike dined at the booths while groups of guys and assorted friendly gatherings were cozied near the bar. As well, an indoor fireplace near the entrance allows for casual seating. An acoustic guitarist performed for about an hour, and we noticed how easily his range transitioned from Sting to The Beatles. Following his set, lounge and chill music continued into the evening from the speaker system.

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Service is friendly and unhurried. We were there for nearly three hours, but were regularly looked after. The room’s easy-going design and uncomplicated space allow for a slow and satisfying meal to ensue.

Outlet Manager Marc Whitney works closely with chef Vianello and team, offering wine and food-pairing suggestions.

We ordered a couple of glasses of bubbly (Stellar’s Jay Brut), served with cider-marinated scallops with smoked bacon and clams in a tangy hop vinaigrette, as well as a half dozen Lighthouse oysters from Gabriola Island. Another nice touch was bringing us a little sampling of delicately poached BC spot prawns with apple foam and rhubarb puree to get started with.

Cider-marinated scallops with smoked bacon & clams, tangy hop vinaigrette

My husband’s scallops paired nicely with a glass of Mosel Valley Riesling (Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler 2012), while the natural flavours of both the scallops and the clams emerged nicely through thin apple strips, smoked bacon, and tangy hop-based vinaigrette.

The oysters came with a trio of classic condiments, though my seasoning of choice when it comes to oysters on ice is a simple squeeze of lemon.

1/2 dozen Lighthouse oysters, Gabriola Island

The wine poured with my oysters was also remarkable, and for us, a new chardonnay discovery: a Louis Max 2011 Bourgogne Blanc. Starting off lighter than a classic chardonnay, this one allowed the vanilla to finish later on the palate.

Hand-forged cavatelli carbonara, gently smoked Dungeness crab

I stayed with the same wine for an entree of hand-forged cavatelli carbonara served with gently smoked Dungeness crab (comparable to a wicked, high-end mac and cheese). A light topping of Parmesan gave the slight saltiness of the crab a great challenge for the chard, and each bite of the carbonara was enjoyed with this palate-cleansing pleaser.

Spiced AAA Hanger Steak with crisp confit potatoes, grilled mushrooms, mushroom ketchup, steak jus

My husband, on the other hand, went with spiced AAA Hanger steak with crisp confit potatoes, grilled mushrooms, mushroom ketchup and steak jus, the mushroom ‘ketchup’ offering a sweet, delicate mushroom accompaniment to the steak. A glass of 2008 Lopez de Haro Crianza Rioja, peppery at the nose, was an excellent partner to both the meat and grilled mushrooms’ earthiness.

Smoky sunchokes in Meyer lemon butter

Let’s not forget the side attractions. We ordered two: smoky sunchokes in Meyer lemon butter, and poached asparagus with a 63-degree soft poached hen’s egg and truffle hollandaise. At this point, all dishes were mixed and matched for a joyful parade in the mouth.

Poached asparagus with a soft poached hens egg & truffle hollandaise

The asparagus dish also contains peas with the perfect bite, and the gooey, broken egg together with the hollandaise went well with the sunchokes, delicately seasoned with sea salt and just the right amount (hence, not swimming in) of lemon butter.

My hands-down go-to dish here will surely be the cavatelli carbonara with crab (let’s hope the hefty price climb of crab these days halts so that this dish may remain on the menu). I admire a hand-made pasta creation; this one was cooked with the right al dente bite and mixed in with the soft-spoken crab, not too salty, yet decadent enough for pure enjoyment.

Hand-crafted blood orange and vodka sorbet; Maple and hazelnut madness ice cream
[Hand-crafted blood orange and vodka sorbet; maple and hazelnut madness ice cream]

Desserts are fun too (save room!). ARC hand churns a seasonal selection of ice cream and sorbet. While the blood orange and vodka sorbet has a refreshing bite, the maple and hazelnut are just that: hard-core, amazing flavours that melt in your mouth. We highly recommend this one.

A decadent chocolate cake served with caramel corn and vanilla bulleit bourbon ice cream holds court on the Last Call portion of the menu with a bag of doughnuts (“shaken not stirred”), banana crème pie, and hazelnut chocolate cookies (served with a bottle of malted chocolate milk).

ARC offers cocktails (both classic and signature), a selection of international wines by the glass and bottle, spirits, and local BC beers on tap (think Howe Sound High Tide Hemp Ale and Phillips’ Hop Circle IPA) and internationally by the bottle.

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ARC is definitely uncomplicated, yet delicious when it comes to good food and drinks. Find the restaurant (open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) at 900 Canada Place Way in Vancouver. Visit the website for detailed menus and hours.

We were guests of the restaurant for the purpose of experiencing the latest menu with wine pairings.

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