There’s something a little Las Vegas about Vancouver’s new Glowbal restaurant flagship–at least as far as what meets the eye. Situated under the striking glassy “swoosh” of architectural embellishment at the Georgia and Seymour side of the new Telus Garden building, Glowbal beckons diners with blatant hints of opulence; the exterior seating area is flanked with by circular seating areas resembling enormous birdcages, and double-sided glass fireplaces glimmer.
The two-level restaurant–a big move from Glowbal’s original digs in Yaletown–is a paean to bigger is better, and the finer things in life. The open kitchen is bustling and busily bright, the fireplaces shimmer on the inside walls, and, perhaps beyond the naked eye, the space holds an impressive wine room and private dining areas.
And then there’s the meat, under glass and on marble pedestals like pricey jewels, just beyond the hostess’ stand. You’re in for a show.
As far as what meets the mouth, however, Glowbal does tend to reach a little too far in effort. There’s a lot of dazzle and showmanship in the food, and even simple dishes seem to come with a side of spectacle. Robata skewers on a large platter are ideal for sharing, though perhaps offer a bit more finger-licking casualness than the pricing and the atmosphere suggest.
There are a few trompe l’oeil ringers on the menu, but none as annoying as the Lobster Falafel Salad, which should perhaps be renamed “Falafel Salad with some token flakes of Lobster.” I bonded with someone who was also seduced by the menu description and disappointed with what was served up following both our first visits to Glowbal.
Successful lighter fare includes the Chimichurri Steak Salad, which is testament to Glowbal’s adeptness at handling meat. They do well in the app category with cold items like a tuna carpaccio, and with the bubbling gooey deliciousness that is their Queso Fundido. Dishes like the latter, which allow head chef Pedro Gonzalez to tap into his roots, are well-achieved and break the expectedness of a stalwart restaurant like Glowbal. With melted Oaxacan cheese surrounded by a ring of pillowy Navajo fry bread for dipping, this dish is a conversation starter and one for which the taste is a payoff of the presentation.
Entrees–aside from the salads–tend to be hearty, and pasta dishes and steaks remain Glowbal’s calling card. Their Short Rib Pappardelle is rich and pleasing, though not exactly revolutionary. The restaurant has a wine list that bravely mixes up affordable BC options with imports, and they do a good job of suggesting pairings. The steak salad and pasta were beautifully accented by a California Zinfandel’s robust cherry and spice notes.
Glowbal, as one might imagine, has sunk a lot into their tenancy at Telus Garden (they run the neighbouring casual Nosh cafe and have plans to add a speakeasy-style alley bar soon), and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they will hold their own. It’s a reliable brand with a lot of appeal, and will fit the bill for many a diner’s criteria for a power lunch or dinner date spot. While they probably aren’t going to tone down the Vegas-like decor anytime soon, if they focus on substance over style with the overall menu, Glowbal’s appeal will surely broaden.
Address: 590 West Georgia Street