Hilton: Carmichael's

We originally planned to have dinner at The American Grille, but surprisingly they were fully booked on a Sunday night. So we turned to Carmichael's just around the corner. Carmichael's is the only dining facility in the Hilton Vancouver Airport hotel and it features West Coast cuisine. Though the name of the hotel contains the words "Vancouver Airport", the actual location is on Minoru Blvd and Elmbridge Way in Richmond. The restaurant was relatively empty when we arrived, and it was right around dinner time too.

Service was impeccable from the moment we were seated. Our waiter promptly served us hot water and patiently introduced the daily special, and he repeated the process again when one of us showed up late. Bread and butter arrived shortly after we placed our orders. The bread was soft on the inside with a slightly chewy crust. It was dotted with specks of olive that offered a rich and savoury flavour. I normally dislike the taste of olive, so I was surprised that I enjoyed the bread so much. Our waiter asked if we wanted more bread upon noticing our quickly emptied dish, but we gently declined in anticipation of the meal to come.

I was wary about getting butter chicken ($16) at a restaurant that serves West Coast cuisine, but nothing else caught my eye on the menu. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Though I'm not an expert in Indian cuisine, the pappadam seemed very authentic with its light crispy texture and just a hint of saltiness. The butter chicken was richly flavoured as well with an abundance of creamy sauce. And the mango chutney! I couldn't stop raving about it during the meal. I was torn between keeping it all for myself and making everyone try it because it was so good. It actually didn't have a strong mango flavour, but it was a combination of delicious sweetness and refreshing sourness embellished with juicy golden raisins. The rice and naan were not up to par though. The rice was clumpy and hard in places, while the naan should have been referred to as pita bread instead. The pita was served soft and warm, so it was pretty nice, but it wasn't the real thing. The dish overall was great value for the price; though I think they should have offered a salad and a choice of either rice or naan instead of both, because there was too much starch in the dish and almost no vegetables.

The beef short rib sandwich ($16) came with a side of salad, which was a good thing since there was a lot of meat in the sandwich. The beef had a tender pulled meat texture with a sweet-savoury BBQ dressing. Apparently there was melted provolone as well, but the cheesiness wasn't very prominent. The bun was warm and slightly toasted with a soft and pillowy texture. I loved the sandwich, but I would have preferred a little less meat and perhaps a couple slices of tomato and some lettuce instead.

The chicken burger ($13) was similar to the beef short rib sandwich except the meat was less flavourful. The dish was also served with a side of salad and the bun was also warm and toasted. The grilled chicken was by no means bland, but the flavour was a lot weaker than the pulled beef because there was no BBQ sauce here. However, there were the lettuce and tomatoes I had hoped for, as well as melted havarti atop the meat. This dish is definitely a good choice if you're looking for something a bit more balanced.

Because of the wonderful entrees, I was hoping to try dessert as well. Unfortunately I found out the desserts were not made in-house, so I didn't go for it. Our waiter told us they used to have a pastry chef, but there wasn't enough demand. It's not surprising that business is slow though, despite the high quality of food and service. The menu is very limited, and honestly I don't know what else I'd be interested in trying if I were to dine here again. But I will definitely come back the next time I have a craving for butter chicken.

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