If you’re looking for a fairly unique dining experience, Vancouver is a good city to visit. After all, we have sushi restaurants on just about every corner (I probably wouldn’t recommend Tomakazu though), as well as a huge range of ethnic cuisine capturing just about every corner of the globe. There are places for west coast cuisine, Italian, African, East Indian, Afghani… you name it, there’s probably a restaurant in Vancouver that serves it. For my latest dining out experience, we headed out to Stonegrill, located on the north side of False Creek, just underneath the Granville Street Bridge, down the block from the Buster’s towyard. It doesn’t seem like the sexiest location on Earth, but also bear in mind that it’s only a stone’s throw away from the uber trendy Yaletown area. This is the same neighbourhood where you’d find C Restaurant, Chilli House Thai Bistro, and other fine establishments.

What makes Stonegrill special is that you cook your own food on a blazing hot granite slab. The vegetables and potatoes arrive cooked, but the main part of your entree — the meat — comes completely raw, allowing you to slowly cook it to your liking on the 400-degree rock. This thing is freaking hot, so you do have to be pretty careful with it. It’s unique, but it’s not cheap, especially considering that you have to cook your own dinner, and the fumes fly up into your face pretty much the whole time. It is probably a little more health conscious, however, as there is no oil or anything of that sort being used to cook the food. Just a really hot rock lightly rubbed with sea salt. The steak, chicken, seafood, lamb, or whatever you happen to select cooks in its own juices. The splatter can be a little painful, as you’d imagine.

On with the pictures:

This was the Italian Wedding soup that Susanne had as her starter. It wasn’t hot at all, only slightly above lukewarm. I also found that it was kind of salty, and the presentation was lacking. At $5.95, I think I’d rather just get a bowl of soup from the greasy spoon on the corner. Not impressed at all.

Here’s my main. The rack of lamb ($33) came as two sets of bones, essentially, and as I expected, there wasn’t all that much meat to enjoy. That’s fine, so long as the meat is decent quality. I found cutting out appropriate sized pieces to cook a little cumbersome with the large protruding bones, and because the meat was somewhat fatty and sinew-y, there was a substantial amount of splatter from the hot rock. The meat didn’t taste “prepared” at all. They say that they don’t use any marinades, but I would have appreciate more of a spice rub. The vegetables were bland and the potatoes were far from numerous. The plum sauce on the side was quite nice though. Overall, I’d say it was “okay.”

Susanne had the Super Prime steak ($34.95). It was a very large piece of meat and in tasting it, I feel it was better than my rack of lamb. The sides (vegetables and potatoes) were identical to my dish, except she got “au jus” instead of my plum sauce. I think they pair these sauces with the meat, because the table next to us had salmon, and they got a thicker, creamier kind of dipping sauce.

Remember how I told you there was splatter? Well, here’s the evidence of it. The cloth napkin I had on my lap was equally affected, making me think that my sweater suffered the same fate. Don’t wear your nicest clothes to Stonegrill (or anything lightly-colored for that matter), because you’ll walk away smelling like you just got off work at The Keg.

Overall, I’d say that Stonegrill is one of those kind of places that you have to experience for yourself to really know what everyone’s talking about. At the same time, I can’t imagine myself ever going back, at least at regular price. Luckily, I had a coupoon from the Entertainment Book that got us 2-for-1 entrees. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have gone. If you are interested in Stonegrill, however, something I should note is that you can tack on an extra $14 to any entree to make it into a full meal, with an appetizer (soup or salad), a sorbet to cleanse the palette, coffee or tea, and your choice of dessert to cap it off.

Stonegrill wins in terms of the view and the unique dining experience, and the meat is of acceptable quality (the steak stayed tender and warm the whole time, which is quite nice). On the downside, you do have to cook your own food, the splatter can get annoying, and it’s not exactly high society because you’ll smell when you leave. It was also too brightly lit for my tastes, but I guess it had to be brighter in order for you to actually see your food cooking.

I give Stonegrill a 7/10.

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