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Salmon belly with pop rocks at the Blacktail Florist a Nordic-style West Coast restaurant in downtown Vancouver, B.C. on July 16, 2014.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

2 out of 4 stars

Blacktail Florist
332 Water St., Vancouver, British Columbia
Bites, $3 to $14; vegetables/fish/meat, $9 to $17
Nordic-style West Coast
Additional Info
Dinner Wed. to Sun., 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Brunch Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What's with the name?

No, it's not a flower shop. But the restaurant does use wild flowers on deconstructed plates that pay tribute to the "edible wilderness of British Columbia." A blacktail is a common deer. They obviously didn't want to get too girly.


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Executive chef Jimmy Stewart, a former Top Chef Canada contestant, has rebranded the restaurant that he and co-owners Matthew Schmidt and Justin Devlin previously ran as House Guest. Before that, Mr. Stewart worked at the Bearfoot Bistro, Cin Cin and Lumière.


The menu is "an exploration of culture applied to produce and process" inspired by the Pacific North West. Translated from pretentious restaurant gibberish, that means you can expect lots of edible soil, charred sour cream, infused pop rocks, smoked milk and other sleights of culinary sorcery borrowed from the trendiest chefs in Scandinavia and beyond. Composed with local ingredients, naturally.


Craig Stanghetta (who designed Bao Bei, Homer Street, and Ask For Luigi, among others) has brightened up the former House Guest to take advantage of the heritage building's solid architectural bones, which include original art deco window frames with built-in vitrines and vintage mosaic-tiled floors. The walls are lined in minimalist plywood and adorned with elk hide dream catchers.


Cocktail-style hors d'oeuvres taste better than they sound for the most part. Okanagan pear purée with a twist of cured ham on crispy seaweed is a textural mouthful that hits complementary points of sweet, salty and umami. The pork hock "knuckle sandwich" is a smooth terrine grilled cheese with smoked cheddar. Although the imbedded pop rocks fizzle, silky salmon belly served in an endive boat is fired up with zesty dill. Mushroom caps stuffed with grilled kale are soggy remnants from the seventies. Nugget potatoes with sour cream, chive flours and aged cheddar are cold and chewy.

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A deconstructed spring vegetable salad needs to be mixed well before eating. If not, the mushroom elements – recomposed as cream and crunchy soil – taste overwhelming earthy. Buttered peas get a tasty twist with lavender and walnuts.


Roast scallops and pan-seared ling cod both use grains, which the kitchen seems to cherish, but are as different as night and day. The former is served on a lemony bed of pearl barley risotto. Fresh and bright, with sunflower shoots and tons of clams, it's a lovely summer dish. The latter is a heavy wintry dish with smoked pork lentils, cabbage hearts and green beans that would really hit the spot in rainy December.


In sharp contrast to the ling cod, perfectly seared duck breast on tart swirls of rhubarb purée is surprisingly light and refreshing. Braised lamb shoulder rolled in cabbage with wild rice and goat curd needs more than a spike of mint to lift it into the summer season.

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A short and sweet all-B.C. wine list is supplemented with local craft beer from 33 Acres and experimental smoked-cedar cocktails.


Hit and miss. While trying to snare every trend in the culinary wilderness, the kitchen has failed to see the forest for the trees.

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About the Author
Vancouver restaurant critic

Alexandra Gill has been The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver restaurant critic since 2005. She joined the paper as a summer intern in 1997 and was hired full-time as an entertainment columnist the following year. In 2001, she moved to Vancouver as the Western Arts Correspondent, a position she held until 2007. More


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