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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Feb. 29, 2024

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A taste of the future at the new AC Hotel’s lounge at the Vancouver waterfront

Restaurant serves up pretty plates in a pretty setting

8 Photos
The AC Lounge on Vancouver's Waterfront has a modern vibe.
The AC Lounge on Vancouver's Waterfront has a modern vibe. (Rachel Pinsky) Photo Gallery

Entering the new AC Hotel on the Vancouver Waterfront feels like a visit to a bright, shiny future. Floor-to-ceiling windows face the Columbia River, bathing the lobby’s high ceilings and clean lines in natural light. AC Hotels have sprung up in Tokyo, Stockholm, New York and Madrid. The sleek modern hotel fits with the Vancouver Waterfront because it doesn’t feel like Vancouver. It represents an aspirational vision of this city.

The hotel sits at the far end of the waterfront close to the Interstate 5 Bridge. Given construction in this area, entering requires circling. The doors to the lobby sit on Columbia Way. To get to the lounge, walk past the hotel check-in desks and the bar area. At the end near a wall of windows facing the Columbia River, you’ll find it. Doors lead to an outdoor patio with overhead heaters and small fire features on the tables for the cooler months.

On a recent visit at noon on a weekday, only a few other people were in the lounge. A man dressed in business casual rested on plush couches near a flat-screen TV mounted to the wall. Two women in skirt suits perched on barstools at a high-top table and shared stories about their lives elsewhere. My friend and I chose a seat at a marble-topped table at the window. The plush seats and air conditioning were a nice change from the searing heat outside.

My friend Googled the AC Hotel and found that this part of the hotel chain was designed to be a Marriott for millennials.

Dining out guide: AC Lounge

Where: 333 W. Columbia Way, Vancouver

Hours: 3-11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 3 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday

Contact: 360-993-8895; www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/pdxac-ac-hotel-vancouver-waterfront/dining; reservations through Open Table

Health score: AC Lounge had yet to receive an initial inspection at press time. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.

“It is very hip in here,” she said.

Our server was polite and attentive. We didn’t feel like day drinking, so we moved onto the food menu with toasts ($8-$10), salads ($12-$14, an additional $7-$15 for protein add-ons), small plates ($6-$18), large plates ($13-$28) and sweets ($8-$14). We ordered the shrimp and pesto toast ($10), melon salad ($14), cheesy arancini ($8), fried chicken and broccolini Parmesan sandwich ($18), and a fromage (i.e. cheese) and meat board ($18).

As we waited for our food, we caught up while gazing out at the river and cars crossing the bridge. We watched passersby — joggers in skimpy running gear, a guy with a thick beard on a cell phone, and a young woman on old-school roller skates.

All of the food arrived around the same time, filling the table with a lovely buffet. The plates weren’t the tweezer art and dabs of sauce associated with fine dining. Each dish had a seemingly effortless yet sculpted disarray — a messy-bun approach to plating dishes.

The melon salad, shrimp and pesto toast, and fried chicken sandwich were all stellar. They tasted fresh and gave a seasonal vibe with their use of summer produce like melons and broccolini, as well as fresh mint and basil.

The melon salad sat in a triangular lavender ceramic bowl that visually complemented the green honeydew, light orange cantaloupe, bright strips of mint and red bits of crispy prosciutto. The mix of fresh fruit, tangy and creamy chevre, crispy and salty prosciutto, and preserved lemon-mint vinaigrette gave a well-balanced mix of flavors and textures.

Later, after my visit, I asked executive chef Tanner Genck how he came up with the salad.

“I wanted to create a green-less, refreshing salad and was inspired by a watermelon salad I made in the past with a fermented honey beet vinaigrette. For our menu, I wanted to give it a new spin and created a preserved lemon melon salad,” Genck replied in an email.

The shrimp and cilantro pesto toast arrived with tender chunks of grilled, chilled shrimp and marinated cherry tomatoes tossed with cilantro pesto and roasted garlic on house-baked ciabatta bread. Another well-executed dish.

Fried chicken and broccolini Parmesan came as a sandwich — panko-coated chicken breast topped with marinara and fresh mozzarella on a bed of tender broccolini placed between two pieces of crusty bread. Melon salad came on the side.

The sandwich represents a nod to Genck’s New York roots with a European twist.

“Chicken Parmesan is a New York staple where I grew up, and my team and I thought about how we could add our take to the dish. We wanted to add texture and thought using the garlic-sauteed broccolini would be a delicious way to accomplish that. It’s often used in European sandwiches, but we had never seen it with chicken Parmesan, and it worked out well in the dish,” he said.

Swirls of prosciutto, slices of a paprika-infused sausage, golden pickled cauliflower, mixed olives, slices of cheddar cheese, toast points and a ramekin of grainy mustard filled the fromage and meat platter. Meat was well represented (and high quality, sourced from Olympic Provisions), but this dish could use a bit more interesting and varied cheese. The sliced triangles of cheddar had a decent flavor, but their appearance was underwhelming. Also, serving only one type of cheese makes the platter seem like it’s missing something. A creamy cheese or an aged cheese with more complex flavor would be a nice addition. (Genck told me that the platter will change to reflect available ingredients.)

The other false note was the cheesy arancini. The palm-sized rounds of saffron-flecked risotto coated in panko and placed over a shallow pool of harissa yogurt and cilantro pesto had the right mix of creamy and crunchy textures but lacked a bit of salt and acid to offset the richness of the dish.

Nonetheless, Genck’s food impressed me. This chef has 24 years of experience in restaurants nationwide, most recently as executive chef at Beaches Restaurant & Bar. He’s been at the AC Hotel lounge for less than a month. He intends to change the menu with the seasons. I look forward to watching his menu evolve as we head into fall and winter.

I also would like to return in the evening to sample the AC’s take on classic cocktails, like the smoked Manhattan with Maker’s Mark, the Bacardi Gran Serva 8 with Martini Lustau Vermut and Angostura bitters ($17), or the ACGT with Bombay Sapphire East Gin and AC small-batch tonic ($16). The AC also serves wine (white, red and sparkling) in 6-ounce ($9-$18), 9-ounce ($12-$24) and bottle ($10-$132) servings. A short list of beer and cider on tap ($8-$9) includes Pfriem pilsner and Boneyard IPA.

Rachel Pinsky: couveeats@gmail.com