On a recent Saturday afternoon, I tried out The Sedgwick with a friend.
The restaurant’s owners, Tim and Melissa McCusker, also own Feast At 316 in Camas. They renovated this downtown Vancouver space formerly occupied by Tommy O’s.
The plush furnishings in muted blue colors give a swanky, Old West vibe. The restaurant is named for Dr. Alice Isabel Sedgwick, who owned the building in the early 1900s and used it to house a sanitarium and other businesses.
The menu doesn’t wed itself to a particular time or place. The salads, plates and bites are the expression of chef Tim McCusker’s culinary whims, global travels and childhood in Ireland.
At this restaurant, the McCuskers provide an open invitation to the adventurous. Diners who desire an easy-to-understand menu filled with dull slabs of protein or predictable pastas would be better served elsewhere. This place rewards the curious diner.
We arrived when the restaurant opened at 4 p.m. The Sedgwick doesn’t currently take reservations, and we wanted to make sure we got a seat. As we ate, the space began to fill with other patrons.
A harissa roasted cauliflower salad ($8.50) started our meal. This dish is prepared by covering cauliflower florets in coconut milk, turmeric, curry paste and housemade harissa, and then oven roasting. Dragon fruit, candied blood orange and kumquats are sprinkled on top. To the side sits a cooling made-to-order dip of smashed avocados with peas, mint and garlic confit.
Next came the duck fat fries ($9.50) and falafel scotch egg ($7.50). The fries are twice cooked in duck fat, then topped with shredded melted manchego cheese and bits of fresh chives with a side of thick duck fennel peppercorn gravy. They were a bit dry on their own. The gravy moistened them and added some heat thanks to the peppercorns.
The scotch egg rested on a circle of yogurt lemon-oil sauce with a whiff of smoked tomato. The dish was cut in half to reveal the hard-boiled egg encased in falafel, an unusual but successful pairing. The egg’s creamy center provided a nice contrast to the crispy exterior, flavored by cumin, fennel and coriander. A salad of grape, cucumber, radish, mint and cilantro topped the egg and brought color and freshness to the dish.
For our entrees, we ordered the crispy whole trout and the Delmonico steak ($36). The perfectly rare steak arrived in a coffee and coriander crust on a sizzling platter with a trio of sauces: pistachio chimichurri, calabrese romesco and a pine nut mustard puree. The steak is served on a hot stone so that diners can cook it more if desired. I tasted each of the sauces and decided to eat this fine piece of seasoned and seared meat without them.
The crispy whole trout was nicely prepared, but my friend and I agreed that the tom yum sauce tasted a bit off. It had an odd mix of flavors that didn’t pair well with the fish.
From the yakitori menu, we chose rib-eye ($5). It arrived, like the Delmonico, perfectly rare. The four generous slices of meat on metal skewers came with The Sedgwick’s own Japanese ketchup, a mix of sake, soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, ketchup and an ingredient that Tim McCusker is keeping a secret.
Each dish came on special dishware that paired with the colors in the food. The dishes range from sea blue to slate gray, from oblong to rectangle. Tim McCusker spent six months searching online for each piece, sourced from 14 different companies.
Dessert choices included an apple napoleon and espresso pot de creme. We chose s’mores ($12), which arrived on a platter with a small flaming pot, sauces, chocolate chips, graham crackers and berries. This DIY dessert provided a playful end to an intriguing meal.
Tim McCusker could do a lot less and the food would be good. His dishes suggest that he believes too much is never enough. Maybe the duck fat fries would be fine without their covering of melted manchego. Maybe the Delmonico steak didn’t require so many sauces. Then again, Liberace could have just appeared in a drab suit and played the piano without a single jeweled ring on his fingers, but it was the over-the-top nature of his performances that we remember, not just the piano playing.
As we discovered over the past couple of years eating meals from boxes on our couches, dining out isn’t just about the food. It’s about creating an experience. When walking through the door of a restaurant, diners want to feel like they’ve arrived somewhere special. That sentiment should last until the end of the meal. The McCuskers get this.
Tim McCusker and his kitchen staff don’t have to sweat it out in the kitchen every night like it’s the final round of “Top Chef,” but I appreciate that they do. They don’t always get it right, but the few misses are worth getting to the out-of-the-ordinary dishes that work.
Given that The Sedgwick recently opened in the middle of a pandemic, the kinks will likely get worked out with time.
Rachel Pinsky: firstname.lastname@example.org