Our little party has brought a touch of disruption to this room filled with Frette linens, buttery leather and monogrammed plates. Next to a glass-enclosed wine room where B.C.-heavy bottlings float like rare instruments, we’re trading dishes and drinks clockwise, slurping appreciatively and talking over each other with a million questions.
Our server – a tango dancer formerly of Vancouver’s Hawksworth – compliments us on our deft passing. Service is polished, even diplomatic, at this elegant spot, steps from the Inner Harbour. Chef Sam Harris was lured away from celebrated French restaurant Agrius by The Courtney Room’s new owners, who told him they wanted “a killer meat program and seafood.” So he’s pulled a haute take on surf ’n’ turf: sweet, crispy-edged candied sablefish collar and savoury aged duck breast from his high-tech Italian dry-aging chamber; beef tenderloin Oscar with Dungeness crab and Béarnaise.
The Kelp Stout from Tofino Brewing intrigues, but we’ve bypassed the enticing list of B.C. beers on tap for bartender Clayton Thornber’s soigné cocktails. He’s found his star-making vehicle with Le Grand Vert, a bracing and balanced elixir of aquavit, Cointreau, black pepper and basil. Towers of seafood glide by, accompanied by huge ears of fried pork rind. Sommelier Anna Romeyn gets into the sharing spirit, plying us with three different glasses for each course. The bright acidity of rockfish meunière with sauce gribiche softens against a dry Okanagan crémant pinot blanc from Fitzpatrick.
That nine-day-aged duck comes nestled among Tokyo turnips and braised daikon, and leans into a plummy, light and unfiltered Lock & Worth merlot. When a side of Potatoes Courtney arrives – super-crispy, addictive cubes that the staff has nicknamed “adult tater tots” – it’s hard to put a lid on our enthusiasm. That’s okay: This polished team knows how to run with a little disruption.