Sometimes as time goes by, the memory of a restaurant becomes better than the actual restaurant. It’s always a little bit of a risk to recommend a place to someone when you haven’t been there in forever or to prioritize a visit to a place when maybe it’s changed. B and I have eaten at Joe Forte’s on two other occasions while in Vancouver, B.C. Our first visit was just a few weeks before I moved to Seattle from Albuquerque in October 2006. We chose it somewhat randomly off a list of suggestions from our hotel concierge and totally fell in love from the first taste. Never mind that B spotted Jessica Alba at the next table or that they introduced him to Woodford Reserve (and if you know B, you know that’s a huge deal). It was all around an amazing experience.
We returned to Joe Forte’s for a second visit in May 2008 and it was every bit as good. In many ways, it feels a lot like The Met here in Seattle. It has the very same feeling of eating in a very different time. Though the Met has about 34 years on Joe Forte’s, both places are striking in their classic steakhouse vibe, a throwback to a time when food service was truly an art.
For this particular visit, we finally planned far enough ahead to make a reservation a couple weeks beforehand. We got exactly the time we wanted. We arrived a few minutes early and were able to sit down right away. Everything about Joe Forte’s is inviting and charming. From the live pianist on the staircase to the wonderfully off-kilter chandeliers, I knew immediately that nothing had changed since our last visit… and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.
We’ve always had great service at Joe Forte’s. I’ve never had a bad word to say about it, and in fact, I’ve had many great words to say. This time, though, our server, Tim, really stood out. He was fantastic. Not only was he really, really good at his job, we also thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. He wasn’t intrusive in the least, though admittedly it would take a lot for us to call an affable server intrusive since B and I both enjoy chatting with the awesome people we meet on our food adventures. I hope we encounter Tim again in the future.
As for dinner, well, there isn’t much to say except… wow. It was amazing as usual. B and I both had a bowl of their New England clam chowder to start, alongside the warm bread with lobster oil and balsamic syrup. I pretty much could have finished the lobster oil on its own. B kept reminding me to lay off the bread, but that was a tall order in this case. Delicious chowder as well… and it’s one of our compass foods, so we can be a bit critical in the chowder department.
Right after our clam chowder, Tim arrived at our table with a very generous amuse bouche of Salmon Tartare. I had to test it first since tartare is often not B’s thing, but he ate and enjoyed his portion. It was a really wonderful treat.
For dinner, I waffled between steak and the halibut cheeks up until I actually ordered. B chose the New York Strip (truffle parmesan frites, roasted carrots, cabernet jus). I eventually chose the Halibut Cheeks (tomato, leeks, herbs, butter, fingerling potatoes). Steakhouses are the exception to my preference of having a rotating, seasonal menu. When the goal is classic, comfort food, consistency is key.
I saw B’s steak before I saw my halibut, and I admit, I instantly regretted my decision. What was I thinking? Not eat steak one of my top 3 favorite steakhouses? Surely temporary insanity was to blame. One bite of my halibut, though, and all was right with the world again. I suppose I’d just forgotten how much I love halibut cheeks… especially these halibut cheeks.
In the end, B and I shared a few bites back and forth until we simply couldn’t eat any more (without risking dessert, of course). Another friendly server stopped by our table and joked that B had the look of a man who might need to rest for a minute before eating any more. Little did he know that was the look B gets when he’s surrendered.
After Tim gave us a little bit of a break, we ordered two glasses of Port and a Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brûlée to share. It doesn’t look all that large in the photo, but it was huge. We rarely leave much dessert on the plate, but we couldn’t finish it. Not that it could have had something to do with the rest of the feast we’d just consumed. Nope, not at all.
Joe Forte’s remains a favorite for us, and that is a relief. I would have been really sad if anything had changed. I know Vancouver has other amazing restaurant options (we’ve explored a few as well) and maybe we’re being a bit narrow by always returning to Joe Forte’s, but I just can’t see making the drive across the border and not taking time out for a visit. Eat at Joe Forte’s. Seriously.