Culinaria is the restaurant run by the students of International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Vancouver, specializing in Pacific Northwest cuisine.
Well, we checked out Culinaria last week and I'd have to say it was disappointing. I am fully aware the kitchen is made up of students trying to be cooks/chefs so the food was not up to restaurant standard but it was not even up to a cafeteria standard. My fish and chips were served lukewarm and the yam fries were soggy. I commented that they should try crispy sweet potato fries next time. The fish were tiny strips of fish and not the regular sized I am familiar with, so they were kinda like fish sticks. My dining partner's sandwich was decent, then again, how can one screw up a sandwich. Pricing is cheap for a downtown place but there are tons of better places to spend my $10 in downtown Vancouver.
Christmas time is the time for lots of food, and as such, my secretary and I decided to try out Culinaria for our Christmas lunch. I've been to JJ's and PICA (Bistro101) multiple times, and was excited to give another student-run restaurant a try as JJ's and PICA were very good.
As it was around the Christmas season, they had a Christmas lunch buffet for $24. Quite a deal for downtown eats. They only had specified seating times, and no reservation meant no food, as the place is quite small, and very busy. Luckily we had a reservation, so we were promptly seated, had our drink orders taken, and shown to the wide array of food.
There was quite the spread of food from salads, to pate's, smoked meats, marinated salmon, prime rib, turkey with stuffing, venison stew, soup, and more. We were quite impressed with the selection.
We filled our plates and sat down to give it a try. When we sat down one oddity was the drinks hadn't arrived yet. Given how long we were gone, we would expect them to be waiting for us. No matter, we started to eat anyways. The food was good, but certainly not on par with JJ's or PICA. Certain elements like the salads and prime rib were delicious. The pate's were very good as well. Other items like the smoked meats were very chewy and almost inedible. The venison stew was the biggest let down, as I expected fall apart moist pieces of meat, but got a hard lump of meat that was very dry and totally inedible.
We moved onto the desserts and there was a selection of pastries, mouses, and tiramisu. We sampled a couple and found them quite delicious.
The venue for the restaurant is certainly what makes the place. The view of people walking around the downtown streets, and the modern design of the restaurant make for a pleasant dining establishment.
Overall, the experience was mixed. Service was mediocre, food was somewhat hit and miss, but the price was right, and the venue was nice. I doubt I will be returning though, as there are many better places to try.
I'm not usually one to write reviews, but after my recent experience at Culinaria, thought I had to make an exception.
I went to Culinaria for lunch with friends. We had a selection of mains from the seasonal menu (I understand from the server that the students have input into the menus at the start of each school term). We had everything from halibut, to steak to a vegetable tart, and it was all cooked perfectly and tasted wonderful. Given the quality of the food, the value was great. The servers were very attentive and friendly and the ambience was comfortable - it was nice to go out for a meal and actually hear each other talk!
I will definitely be returning and will go for dinner some time too.
I have been here a few times now for lunch and have enjoyed every meal that I have tried - prices are very reasonable considering the ingredients used (salmon burgers with salmon fillets etc.). Worth giving it a try!