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Wining & Dining at the Ocean Club

The art of wine and food pairing, Vancouver-style.

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Story by Daenna Van Mulligen

Vancouverites are social creatures. We love to dine out, socialize with friends, sip our wine and savour our food in inspiring surroundings. We don’t wait for a special occasion (or the weekend) to revel in the West Coast lifestyle. We love to check out the new, hang out at the hip and relax at the bar of a neighbourhood haunt. We are as enchanted by the mystery of the bottle and the fermented grape juice inside as we are with the city’s trendiest restaurant and dish du jour.

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Ocean Club’s Ahi Tuna

Rare tuna slices with crispy potato, a warm salad and a sundried olive salsa.

145g Ahi or Albacore tuna Salt and Pepper to taste
15ml   Olive oil
25g     Fresh arugula
40g    Cannellini beans
5tips  Asparagus
4        Cloves Garlic Confit
3        Cherry tomatoes
1        Rustic Potato Cake

Rustic Potato Cake Method: Peel and shred one potato. Melt 10 grams of butter and toss with potato and seasoning. Heat nonstick pan. Using a ring mold or your hands, form the shredded potato into a disk. Sear both sides and finish in a 325° F. degree oven for 5 minutes or until crisp. Let potato cake cool and set aside until presentation of the final dish.

Sundried Olive Salsa
100g Sundried black olives
2g Fresh basil
20ml Red wine vinegar
10ml Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chop sundried olives and basil. Whisk vinegar and oil and add to olives. Season to taste.

Cannellini Beans
Presoak dried beans 10 hours before cooking by covering them with cold water.
Once beans are soaked, cook them in simmering water until tender. Drain and cool.
Note: Many grocery and Italian specialty stores carry jars of pre-cooked cannellini beans.

Garlic Confit Method: Cover garlic cloves in oil. Place pan on medium heat and let simmer until garlic softens. Remove garlic and refrigerate flavoured oil for another use, such as in a salad dressing.

Method of presentation: In a frying pan on medium-high heat, place a small amount of the 15mL of olive oil. Season tuna; sear until rare. Set aside. Note: The preferred doneness for Ahi is rare and no more than medium-rare. In a separate pan, heat the remaining olive oil and toss in the argula, beans, asparagus and garlic confit. Cook until arugula wilts; add cherry tomatoes just before plating. The arugula should be just wilted. Season vegetables to taste. Place warm salad on the plate and use as the base for the tuna (reserve olive oil in the pan). Slice tuna into four equal slices. Lay two on salad, place rustic potato cake on top and then lay the remaining tuna on top. Place sundried olive salsa on top of tuna. Drizzle remaining olive oil from the pan around salad and serve. Makes 1 serving.

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Unfortunately, the anticipation of pairing the wine to the dish can make even a grape nut sweat. We know what wine we like, we know what food we like, but how do we put them together? Fortunately there is no secret password, no club to join and no absolutes. Remember this balance is everything. Two very basic examples of balance in wine/food pairing? A salad, which is fresh, crisp and light, should be matched with similar style of wine.

A steak, on the other hand, is dense, hearty and savoury, and it requires a wine of equal heartiness. These are overly simplistic examples but these days do we really eat such minimalist fare? Rarely. To confuse the pairing process we add cheese, shrimp or chicken to our salads, cream, barbecue or mushroom sauce to our steaks. But don’t let pairing intimidate you. Enjoy the process and remember, it’s not about white or red, it’s about balance. Don’t let the weight of the wine overpower the food or the weight of the food overpower the wine.

Trust me; it’s really fun to experiment with wine/food pairings. And nothing is more fun than to experiment while indulging in your favourite social sport — relaxing at a great restaurant. A restaurant like Ocean Club offers a mouth-watering menu, intelligent wine list and unpretentious service. Toss in a wine-savvy owner and chef who truly understand the wine/food connection and you have a recipe for success. Ocean Club is Miami Beach glamour and West Coast warmth all wrapped up in one sexy package. The room is large without being cavernous.

Three distinctly thoughtful sections dining; lounging and bar all feature creamy white details, earthy stone and warm wood. The new West Vancouver restaurant’s user-friendly wine list (with plenty of selections by the glass) and honest, flavourful food are well-suited to the relaxed ambience here. For instance, on a recent visit we sat down and shared a diverse selection of small plates with some of Ocean Club’s by-the-glass wines.

Not only was it simple, but it was fun! We started with the creamy Acorn Squash Tortellini with Manchego Cheese ($12) and loved how the buttery and spicy characteristics of the Sumac Ridge White Meritage ($9 glass) performed. Next we moved onto the fresh and light Grilled Pacific Squid Salad ($11). We found that the dry and fruity, rubyhued Joie Rosé ($10) was a perfect pairing with the more intense flavour of the grilled squid.

Because they are so addictive (I dare you to eat just one) we ordered a side of the Cinnamon Yam Fries ($6) and were amazed at how well the ripe, spiced fruitiness of Yalumba ‘Y’ Series Viognier ($9) worked with the sweet, cinnamon-y wedges. We were having such a good time playing with the food and wine selections that we decided to continue ordering. Chef Doug Scott suggested the Ahi Tuna ($17).

This was an interesting dish to pair with wine. A rich fish prepared rare and served with salty olive salsa and earthy white beans, it called out for a unique wine. The fresh, delicate and rustic Masi ‘Serego Aligheri’ Valpolicella ($9) from Italy was just what the dish required. Managing partner André Thomas insisted we try the signature ‘OC’ Burger. This fabulously meaty prime rib burger with molasses-braised short ribs and caramelized onions ($15) needed a big, ripe wine to stand up to it. The intense, fruit-forward and structured Pirramimma Petit Verdot ($14) from Australia was perfect

“Ocean Club is Miami Beach glamour and West Coast warmth all wrapped up in one sexy package.”

Well-fed and extremely pleased with our selections, we relaxed in the the lounge and discussed how un-intimidating wine and food pairing could be if you were prepared to experiment and try something new. And remember, it’s all about balance. Daenna Van Mulligen is a sommelier, wine writer and educator based in Vancouver. She is best known for her tongue-in-cheek website and is co-founder of Juiced Wine Group Inc., a casual, fun and deviously educational wine-tasting club.

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