Dale Durant has an unabashed love for a modern cooking method many people have never heard of - and aren't likely using at home.
The hospitality industry veteran and former flight attendant says once he learned how to cook using "sous vide" he hasn't looked back, and when he set to work to make his dream of owning a restaurant come true, he built his concept, called Laboratory Sous Vide Cuisine, around the technique.
Sous vide translates from the French to "under vacuum," which sounds perhaps a little more clinical than culinary. However, the technique is basically just that: food is vacuum-sealed and then that packet is set in water to circulate at a steady temperature, delivering a slow, even cooking. And for Durant, it's the perfect method.
Considering the benefits of foods prepared sous vide does land you in the science side of the culinary arts; the ability to control and hold the temperature takes much of the guesswork out of cooking, and with many ingredients and cuts of meat the result is a tender, juicy portion that can be swiftly finished on a grill or in a pan and dressed up with other components.
Another perk of sous vide includes the use of less fat, i.e. oil or butter, which may appeal to diners in search of a meal out that lands in the more "healthy" zone. Additionally, as what Durant sees as a clear boon for his downtown Vancouver restaurant, foods prepared sous vide can come out quickly from the vacuum pouch and be finished swiftly when the order ticket comes in, which means diners can enjoy a high-end but quick meal, perfect for busy lunchtimes or pre-show eats.
Durant's passion for the restaurant industry began several years ago when he worked in some high-profile Toronto spots; though he did end up changing careers, his love for the food business carried on, and a couple of years ago he became enamoured with the work of U.S. chef Rich Rosendale. Rosendale teaches culinary workshops online and in person; Durant keenly attended one of his sous vide courses in Los Angeles and found himself amidst professional restaurant chefs looking to up their game.
Setting up his Laboratory in a prime downtown location
Soon after, at home in Vancouver, as Durant's home kitchen slowly became his own sous vide "laboratory," the idea for a restaurant project took root. After an extensive location search, Durant landed on Georgia Street at Seymour in downtown Vancouver and took over the former Nosherie space at the end of March 2021.
Over the course of the next several months, Durant worked to get Laboratory off the ground and assemble a team; with staffing shortages and some tumultuous early days the restaurant officially opened its doors in October.
The restaurant's menu was created by Durant, who ultimately envisions a highly collaborative kitchen environment where emerging chefs can hone their talents and dishes can be created and executed team-style.
The opening menu showcases the flavours of fall, and features dishes like a comforting plant-based lentil soup, a bao sandwiching an impeccably tender piece of pork belly, and a silken steak served with a surprising pairing of fresh fig.
Even the desserts make use of sous vide. You won't want to miss out on tasting what the cooking technique brings to the table when it comes to the silken texture of the custard and the fully-realized tea flavour in the Earl Grey creme brulee, or how fantastically supple a vanilla ice cream the method helps create.
With a goal of having a menu that changes often to reflect seasonality and ingredient availability Laboratory is also where Durant hopes to raise the profile of fellow small business owners and creators. He is already featuring locally-made craft sodas from a company called Not Too Sweet and would love to see the work of local artists shown on screens inside the dining area.
Laboratory is currently open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is located at 575 West Georgia Street. They are on Instagram @laboratorysousvidecuisine.