Review: Air Canada Flight 156
3211 Grant McConachie Way
Richmond, BC

As reviewed on Yelp

I’m always on the lookout for intriguing new dining opportunities, especially those off the beaten track — a gem waiting to be uncovered, far from the Robson Street / Gastown foodie crowd.

I wish I could report that Air Canada Flight 156 was such a discovery, but alas: despite the restaurant’s whimsical moniker, such was not to be. The seating was cramped, my fellow diners were uninterested in conversation, the lighting completely spoiled the atmosphere… and all of that pales in comparison to the food. It was banal at best, with a price tag well into the hundreds of dollars — and that, for a truly mediocre meal that I would have sent back to the kitchen at even a modest sports bar or pub.

One expects when one pays this much that the cuisine will show some kind of flare, some uniquely memorable feature that will inspire cravings in the palate for months to come. But such was not the case with the unevenly heated chicken caesar wrap, with its uninspired poultry cubes and a dressing that suggested a dangerously disgruntled chef.

Asking to see the sommelier to discuss a suitable wine pairing elicited only blank stares; it turned out the wine list was exactly two lines long, consisting of the words “red” and “white”. My disbelief and insistence on visiting the cellar were received with equal degrees of dismissal.

Nor were the appetizers or intermezzi any more appealing. One example: not to be mercenary, but when one is paying this much for a meal and sees “Pringles” on the menu, one expects the result to be a light, delicious amuse-bouche that references the mass-produced snack food in some witty way, but that in no way conjures the library-paste-and-spackle sensation one associates with the real thing.

Sadly, while I have to give Air Canada props for cleverness in serving this dish in what to all appearances is an authentic Pringles container, the “chips” are indistinguishable from the desiccated potato discs themselves. That holds true right down to their oddly addictive unpleasantness, which had me ordering five additional cans over the course of the meal.

In fairness, though, that choice had at least as much to do with the miserly portions served for all of the dishes. And it provided at least some distraction from the execrable atmosphere, poor ventilation and downright hysterical reaction from the front-of-house staff when I attempted to open a window, and again when I attempted to step outside for a breath of fresh air.

Several times have I been ushered unceremoniously from a table because my party had lingered too long; I can accept this. But never in my many years as a food blogger have I been prevented from leaving an establishment by physical force. As I warned the staff while they zip-tied me to my seat, this cost them a star.

One final note: plan your parking carefully. When I was finally permitted to leave the restaurant, I discovered the exit was more than 3,300 kilometers from where I’d entered. This proved to be a most unwelcome inconvenience, and one would at least expect some form of valet service.