As I mentioned in my last post, I recently visited Vancouver and – of course – got to eat out at so many wonderful places (with wonderful people). I thought I’d post my two cents on several of them, for those of you who live in Greater Vancouver or who plan to visit 🙂 Also, because I didn’t take pictures of the below-listed places, I thought I’d put them all together in one post. I know, BORING, but sometimes you just don’t want to ruin the moment by pulling out your iPhone … know what I mean?
(1) Mamie Taylors (Chinatown, Vancouver):
My dear friends Shirin and Meredith arranged for us to meet for drinks and food on a Friday night. When Mere said it was in Chinatown, I pictured an Asian-fusion type joint. I was totally surprised when we pulled up and parked in a quiet part of East Georgia, literally in the throws of Chinatown (and with no real night-life to speak of – amidst closed shops and dark alley ways). You can’t even see the sign as the over-hang is black without any lettering on it to identify the place, until you get closer. There’s a chalkboard outside that had some quirky quote on it and then you see the “Mamie Taylor’s” written out. We got inside, and I was surprised by how long and narrow, spacious and FULL of people this place was! The ambience is very cozy, and rustic. Brick walls, interesting lighting, wooden tables and lots of taxidermy (which may bother some people; I myself am fine with it as long as the meat of the animal wasn’t wasted. Who knows, in this case, but – this is a restaurant/food review not an ethics rant). Anyways … It is pretty hipster in terms of the whole “feel” but service was friendly and up to par, and the patrons seemed to be enjoying themselves.
We ended up having different kinds of beer and Shirin got a unique mixed drink; can’t recall what it involved though … Sorry! The menu is small but full of options. I had the Tuna Melt, which was a really interesting rendition and only $5 (more appy sized) and Shirin had the Shrimp & Grits (I’d definitely get that next time; a modern and interesting version of an otherwise fairly basic dish). It is basically grilled shrimp, spicy tomato, roasted okra, chorizo, grits and some veggies. Mere got the Pozole Blanco, which is crispy pork belly, avocado, radish, hominy grits, in a broth of chicken consomme. It was quite delicious, and very unique.
Someone beside me ordered the fried chicken and someone else ordered the pork-chop. Both were plentiful and looked absolutely delicious. The burgers also looked (and smelled) divine. I’d definitely recommend trying this place. It’s a really interesting “diamond in the ruff” type of venue and the food/drinks as well as the service and ambience, really make the experience unique. Also – it’s reasonable! Check out their website (mamietaylors.ca).
(2) Salt Tasting Room (Gastown, Vancouver):
My darling schwester treated me to a very special dinner in Gastown, having picked the place after she went on a pub crawl with her boyfriend a few months ago and tried it out. I’d heard of Salt and in fact, my twin brother and I had planned to have our birthday there a few years ago when we were both still living in Van … but I think it was too busy or they weren’t able to accommodate the reservation (we have SO many friends … I can’t blame them. Kidding. It’s clearly just a popular place). Basically, it’s in Blood Alley and you wouldn’t see it if you were just wandering around Gastown from the main streets. You literally have to walk up an alley behind apartment buildings and then you happen upon a few places. Being a Vancouverite, I have to say it was exciting to explore a new little nook. Especially in the wonderful company of my darling sister. Once inside, you will notice the design is very simple, clean, and there isn’t a lot going on (no paintings, photos, from my recollection. But who needs art when you are sitting across from a gorgeous and funny young woman?)
So the idea here is to get a flight of wine and then mix and match cheeses, meats and “condiments” (which I have put into quotations because they are way fancier than the condiments you might be imagining). What I would say is this: it’s not a lot of food, but you get bread basket after bread basket (we went through two I think) along with your choice, and really – as it isn’t exorbitantly costly, you can afford to order something else if still hungry. The flight of wine cost $16 for three 2oz glasses (no, not dirt cheap, but not bad for Vancouver). Everything was tasty! Micha and I both chose our meats/cheeses/condiments and asked them to pair the wines to go with our selections. I would highly recommend the following cheeses: Lamb Chopper and Midnight Moon (both firmer and tasted, to me, like a blend of Chevre and a saltier variety). I also fell in love with Castelverano olives… I mean, I like olives enough but they aren’t my absolute favorite snack by any means. However, these olives were …. buttery?? I don’t know how else to describe them. So frickin’ amazing! The other condiments (e.g. quince, chutneys, pickled onions, honey) were also delightful. One take-home culinary thing (for lack of better words) I learned after tonight was just how well honey and cheese go together. I’m not talking store-bought honey and cheddar cheese triangles, I’m talking the real deal – gourmet/aged cheese and an organic/thick honey. Ohhhh my word. Thinking about the grilled cheese sandwiches that my future potentially holds makes me tremble (and salivate) with excitement.
I would definitely recommend trying this place for a unique experience, where you truly get to focus on combinations of flavours in an elegant yet simplistic way.
(3) Fable (Kitsilano, Vancouver):
For my dad’s belated birthday and mom’s forthcoming birthday, I decided to treat the family (minus Matt) to a dinner out during my visit. We initially booked at Bistro 101 (which is at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts) but timing was such that a later dinner worked best and we could only get 630pm there. So instead we reserved at a place called “Fable” which derives it’s name from “farm to table” (pretty cool, eh?). The atmosphere was warm, and on a snowy Monday evening we were shocked to see that the restaurant was packed – and there was even a wait at the door around 9pm! Good sign! While the tables are very close together, it somehow isn’t a terrible thing. The service wasn’t pretentious at all. The staff were all wearing regular clothing – not fancy, nor grungy. Kind of what you’d expect someone to wear if they had you over for dinner. It wasn’t really hipster at all, either. Just relaxed. And check out the chandelier when you are there. SO COOL!
Something else we noticed fairly quickly was that there were A LOT of staff (both kitchen and floor). This, it turns out, is in large part why things are running so smoothly. Everyone was doing something and we weren’t ever feeling suffocated (e.g. having someone ask if you want more water 1,000 times) but were also never waiting for anything or trying to locate a staff member. The employees really seemed relaxed, and appeared to like being there – whether it was the dishwasher, hostess, or busser … everyone seemed to be enjoying his/herself. You know how sometimes you get the sense people are working for money only, when the server is either completely disinterested OR gives the impression he/she is above you (snobby) and doesn’t really care about your experience. Not here. Our waitress was lovely. She knew a lot about the menu, could tell us where things came from and how they were prepared, but not in an annoying or over-bearing manner. We asked, she seemed keen to answer! I also noticed that the bartender was very intensely focused on mixing his drinks and someone who appeared to be the manager was providing tastes of various wines to the staff when they had a moment free (which I thought was great – keep them happy, AND well educated).
Ok, now that I have talked your ear off about everything BUT the food. Here goes: The food was IMPECCABLE. My dad, who is not one to rave, said he thought it was better than at Pidgin (rated in the top 10 new restaurants across Canada – and both he and my mom went on about how good it was. So the comparison is a testament to Fable’s food). Apparently the chef was trained in various parts of Canada and you can see there is a real European influence in the food (perhaps from the Quebec region) as opposed to asian influences (as you will find in so many restaurants these days). The other thing, which we found out at the end of our meal, is that they smoke and cure their own meat, make their own cheeses, bake their own bread, and have herbs on the roof in the summer. HOW COOL IS THAT?
We tried the garlic bread appetizer (not on the regular menu), which is fresh bread dough balls in a small skillet, baked with garlic butter and a hint of citrus … it is served hot and you eat the fresh buns with a knife and fork so you can dip back into the garlic butter. The most unique “garlic bread” I’ve ever had.
– Steelhead Trout (my order): Beautifully served, and slow-cooked to perfection. The fish was presented atop a bed of kale, mushrooms and a side of carrot puree. They also deep fry the skin and serve it on the side. Which is obviously SO delicious. It was a very good dish and I’d order it again for sure.
– Weathervane Scallops (my mom’s): Perfectly cooked – crispy outside and tender inside. They were served with cauliflower & mornay, house bacon, apples, almonds, and thick cut (home-smoked) bacon (which we all agreed was just about the best bacon ever). Generous portion, super tasty.
– Duck breast (my dad’s): Presented beautifully with crispy skin, and served with home-made cheese perogies, creamed cabbage and preserved berries. I personally love duck and thought this dish was superb.
– “Steak Frites” (my sister’s): I can’t say what cut of steak this was but it was cooked to absolute perfection. Seared on the outside, red and juicy (but not raw) on the inside. It was not a filet mignon based on how much flavour it boasted. They served the meat with triple cooked fries, mushrooms, broccolini and a balsamic reduction. My mom and sister felt this was the best dish of them all … But it’s hard to say; they were all so good (and the duck as well as scallops are much harder to nail at home, in my (humble) opinion).
– Home-made blueberry and caramel macaroons: Fresh, soft, and delightful! I thought the caramel was more authentic-tasting, but both were good.
– “S’mores” in jar: This was very cool, and chock-full of goodies! At the bottom of the jar were chunks of brownies and cookies crumbled up, next was creamy and fresh ice-cream, and on top of that were marshmellows that had been blow-torched (presumably) to golden perfection. While I am not a big dessert person, this was something that would appeal to almost anyone given all the variety packed into a single jar.
While we didn’t try the following, these two are said to be the most popular appetizers: “Canned tuna” and “Chickpea fritters.”
Overall, the place was reasonable given the quality and freshness of the food, and the impeccable service. The portions were also plentiful. It was like a fancy restaurant without all the stuffy people and tiny portions. For reference, our bill came to just over $200 for 3 drinks, a bottle of wine, the garlic bread, 4 entrees and 2 desserts. Not bad, and I’d honestly pay quite a bit more to re-live the experience. Five stars ….. FOR SURE.
Well … That’s it for now!! Haha, nice and succinct as per usual. 😉