Black and Blue and well fed all over

Glowbal's high-end steakhouse gets chic with its meat

Sitting in the swank, newly hatched Black and Blue Steakhouse (1032 Alberni St., 604637-0777), I realized it hadn't been that long since Glowbal owner Emad Yacoub confided there'd be no more new restaurants after Coast... at least for a while. After all, the Glowbal Collection of restaurants already included Glowbal Grill, Sanafir, Italian Kitchen, Trattoria and Society.

But when the space that previously housed Saltlik and another brief venture became available, Yacoub couldn't resist stepping in to build his dream steakhouse. It takes courage to open another high-end steakhouse in the current economy, but if anyone could pull if off, it's Yacoub.

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Black and Blue is a stunner that combines prime beef and killer cocktails in a luxurious setting with serious buzz. Its three tiers of booths, tucked away tables and state of the art private rooms are clubby without being too masculine. In fact, it's downright sexy, while a long, oval central bar anchors the soaring atrium.

All three levels are visually linked by terrific giant chandelier bling, and served by a voyeuristic glass-walled elevator. But play your cards right and you can find some tucked away tables, if you're not from the see-and-be-seen crowd.

Yes it's showy, but on the plate this is the best Glowbal restaurant yet, with no effort spared to deliver the best dryaged beef (28 to 45 days), kept in the restaurant's Himalayan salt-lined meat locker.

One the menu, uber cuts range from P.E.I. Blue Ribbon and Canadian Angus to USDA RR Ranch and Wagyu, each grilled to taste and offered with a range of sauces, from standards such as peppercorn, Cabernet and Bearnaise to more edgy chimichurri. Another smart move: there's no shortage of thoughtful seafood, including crab cake fondue and tuna carpaccio.

First tastes suggest Black and Blue more than makes the grade. Beef Wellington came pink and tender, wrapped in puff pastry, with rich foie gras mousse and red wine jus. We'll be back for that, as well as wild mushroom risotto, not to mention the caramel sauced butter cake.

As you might expect, it's not cheap. But if you're watching your wallet, lunch is worth a visit.

Best deal? Check out the Dine Out Vancouver menu that includes three courses for $38, with options such as the tuna carpaccio with truffle aioli, Angus tenderloin with Bearnaise and snow crab leg, and creme caramel orange biscotti.

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If all this wet and wild weather is getting to you, there's plenty of time to get in on CityFood's Hot Chocolate Festival, which runs until Valentine's Day. Grab yourself a festival passport from any of 15 participants including Thomas Haas and Terra Breads Café in the former Olympic Village. We also like that sales from the festival's feature benefit the food program of the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre. Full details at cityfood.com.

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If you're planning a weekend Robbie Burns celebration, here's a tasty brew to chase all that whisky and haggis. Fraoch Heather Ale, based on a 2,000-year-old recipe is intriguing, as flowering heather is added to the brew, which is later cooled on a bed of fresh flowers. Floral, though not as much as you might think, it's actually more herbed and a touch spicy. We're thinking they might have tweaked the recipe just a tad since the Celts. ($4.30 for a 500-ml bottle at B.C. Liquor Stores.)

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