Holy good goddam, jerk chicken! It sucks that Meat & Bread only makes the Caribbean staple at their new location in Victoria, but life goes on. They start with their signature bun, smear it with a tang-mellowed cilantro-lime aioli, and then load it up with jicama napa cabbage slaw, pickled red onions, roasted Rossdown chicken thigh meat that’s been jerked both on the bone and off. Great taste peppered throughout. Take a look at the new digs below (and ask them to bring it to Cambie):
$9 | Meat & Bread (Victoria) | 721 Yates Street | www.meatandbread.ca
by Andrew Morrison | Readers who follow Scout’s Instagram account might recognise this monster of a breakfast sandwich from Tofino’s recently opened Wolf In The Fog. The toasted bun came layered with egg, cabbage, and a pork sausage disc – all soaked in a salty country-style gravy.
It was scarfed down just a few days ago alongside some over-sized, perfectly seasoned and super crispy tater tots. The plate might seem a little pedestrian for a chef of Nick Nutting’s high caliber (he’s the biggest food nerd of his generation on the Island), but pedigrees are moot on rainy mornings in Tofino. It’s big, hot, delicious, and worth every cent of $12.
Check the place out the next time you make it over to Tofino. It’s got a casual but capable vibe that makes for a fairly accurate embodiment of the town’s hardy and house proud spirit. If I were to try to pin down a comparison in ambience, I’d liken it to the excellent Pointe Restaurant at the nearby Wickaninnish Inn (where several of the owners were once employed), only a few weeks after it had been taken over and remodelled by a renegade group of leather-loving surfers who preferred long hair and the hallucinogenic twang of The Allah-Las to staff uniforms and the piped-in sounds of the ocean (yes, they actually do that at The Pointe, and it’s pretty awesome).
I haven’t given the complete dinner menu a good going over yet (I walked in on their first service of a new menu), but everything I tasted was totally on point, including bartender Hailey Pasemko’s evocative Cedar Sour cocktail, which tasted like a really good west coast memory of a campfire gone by. Take a look at some of shots I took of the space below (taken before service).
by Andrew Morrison | According to a poll that’s been running on our Gastown and Commercial Drive pages (included below), Scout readers are currently tipping Campagnolo Upstairs‘ so-called “Dirty Burger” as the best burger in the city; that is to say better than the celebrated ones available at Hawksworth, Pourhouse, Cannibal Cafe, The Oakwood, and Mamie Taylor’s. It has actually garnered 25% of all votes at the time of writing, so it’s clear that they’re doing something right.
But what, exactly?
It starts with an irregularly-shaped, housemade scotch bap bun. It’s a butt-ugly thing. There are no sesame seeds or buttery topside sheen, and it looks like it’s been splayed open by palsied chimp armed only with a rusty can opener. And yet, griddled as it is with a sexy lard/butter combination (its evenly crisped nethers then seasoned with salt and pepper), it’s enough to make any British fried bread fetishist blush. And lathered with an impactfully sweet-salty house sauce (secret) and stacked with crisp iceberg lettuce, two tomato slices from Kelowna’s Stoney Paradise farms, and whisper thin coins of housemade pickles, no one will ever care that beauty was a test the bun never thought to take.
The patty is equally unprepossessing. Vaguely circular, it appears to have landed on the bun having been dropped from an enormous height. It’s also downright puny at a mere 4oz, but size considerations are a fool’s quibble; it’s the quality that counts, and in this case it’s wholly indisputable. The patties are made from 40 day dry-aged prime beef neck that’s seam butchered and ground fresh every day. And the buck stops with owner/chef Robert Belcham, who is to meat what Rob Clark is to fish, which is to say oddly – though professionally – preoccupied. I don’t think Belcham could make a bad burger if he tried.
Each visually unassuming, misshapen, diamond-in-the-rough patty is fried to order on high heat in a cast iron pan laced with lard. Diced onions are smashed into the disc as it sizzles and browns on one side, and then blanketed with bright American cheese after it’s flipped to the other side. Its orange glisten mesmerizes.
There’s also a secret menu of add-ons to the burger, but I’ve been asked not to publish these. “You can always bribe the bartender to find out what they are,” Belcham chirps.
Altogether, the thing is entirely manageable in the hand; the bun and the sauce get along well enough to postpone disintegration, and the flavours and textures of the fixings meld with the superbly delicious taste of the cheese-draped meat. I like to think of it as the Willem Dafoe of burgers. It might be a little creepy looking and small, but man…is it ever talented (and it was something of a petty crime that his dope-smoking, morally-centred Sgt. Elias in Platoon lost the Best Supporting Actor nod to Michael Caine at the Academy Awards in 1986. I mean, Hannah & Her Sisters? WTF…)
Give it a try yourself, but be sure to go early. There is a high demand for the thing among those who are aware of it, and a frustratingly meagre supply (maybe 20 a night). Indeed, the only truly dirty thing about the Dirty Burger is that you might arrive to find that there are none to be had. It’s happened to me before, and it’s an awful thing indeed.
1020 Main St. (door on the right) | Vancouver, BC | 604-484-6018 | 6pm-late, Mon-Sat
Together with a sparse handful of precious pizzerias around town, Via Tevere in East Van follows a long list of strict Neapolitan pizza-preparation rules that has landed the eatery the much-prized “Vera Pizza Napoletana” certification. This, for starters, means they employ a wood-burning oven – and a lovely, light blue-tiled one at that – baking at around 800 degrees. They also use all the proper ingredients, everything from “00″ flour and San Marzano tomatoes to fresh basil, bufala mozzarella, and Fior di Latte cheese. The results are uniformly delicious; raised-edged pies with only the slightest of fire-blasted char. They easily “libretto” (fold, like a book), and famously suck at traveling (no VPN joint that we know of would ever dare to deliver). Pictured above is a beautifully char-pimpled sausage and rapini pizza; the polpetta della Nonna (meatballs in tomato sauce); a tiramisu slab, and a pizzaiolo working his magic.
1190 Victoria Drive | Vancouver, BC | 604.336.1803 | www.viateverepizzeria.com
Those who follow us on Instagram might remember this shot from last weekend. Taken at Bestie’s first ever brunch service, it shows a “Bennywurst” (sliced pork thuringer sausage with poached egg, and a mess of first-rate hollandaise on golden hashbrowns) above a special plate of asparagus with fried egg and ham. And yes, they were both as delicious as they look. Bonus: hot Elysian coffee!
Brunch service: 11am-3pm on Sat & Sun | 105 East Pender St. | 604-620-1175 | bestie.ca
We ate the living daylights out of this dreamily-textured asparagus-stuffed omelette last Saturday at The Oakwood in Kitsilano. It came mounted with a healthy dollop of truffled creme fraiche and next to a pile of crispy fried brussels sprouts (halved). Everything lay in a shallow pool of impactful tomato sauce, the acidic zip of which had been tempered by a smoky char. The whole thing was flawless – as good an edible start to the day as can be had in Vancouver. Be sure to pair it with one of their gently spiced Micheladas. If you’re going to hit them up for brunch this weekend, be wise and book ahead because their queues – between 10am and 2:45pm on Saturday and Sunday - are starting to get rather Medina-esque.
Asparagus Omelette | $14 | The Oakwood | 2741 W. 4th Ave. | 604-558-1965
The “Rangeland Game Burger” ($16) at Robson’s Forage comes layered with caramelized onion preserve, gooey gouda, and house-cured bacon on a spongy, responsive poppyseed bun. The patty – a mix of bison, elk, and venison - is thick, dense, juicy, and so flavourful that it’s pronounced above the onion’s sweetness and the mustard’s pungency.
Unfortunately, it’s too late for it to be included in the “Best Burger in Vancouver” poll that we recently posted, but it deserves to be counted among the better ones. Good fries, too!
Forage | 1300 Robson Street | Vancouver, BC | 604.661.1400 | foragevancouver.com
Chef Jimmy Stewart and his kitchen team at Gastown’s good-looking Blacktail Florist share a knack for playful, tweezery presentations, but the high premium they put on light-hearted aesthetic exactitude never comes at the expense of taste. There are many dishes of evidence (ahem, pop rock-sprinkled salmon belly in dilly endive), but the one that tripped us out the most deliciously was a dessert: cedar campfire-flavoured cream and condensed sweet potato puffs that spread out over a landscape of decadent malted milk crumbs littered from on high with smoked salt, cranberries and (what looked to be) cornflowers. It was a combination of combinations that we never knew combined, and in doing so superbly it closed a meal that killed from the first bite.
Blacktail Florist | 200-332 Water Street | Vancouver, BC | 604-699-0249 | blacktailflorist.ca
Shika Provisions is a new, tiny take-away restaurant housed in an adorably shingled shack at the edge of the Marina Pier in Snug Cove on Bowen Island. The space was a taco joint until Mitsumi Kawai took it over in mid-May. She quickly drew up a tasty Japanese-influenced menu, applied some clean, modern branding (a Shika is species of wild deer in Japan – and Bowen, as you might be well aware, is practically overrun by wild deer), and threw open the doors for the summer season.
If it looks, tastes, and feels reminiscent of East Hastings’ Basho Cafe, it might be because Mitsumi is the daughter of Miju and Hiroshi Kawai and sister to Moeno Kawai — Basho’s owners. And if her name sounds familiar, it’s probably because she’s part of the Scout team. We’re very proud of what she’s accomplished in a short time. Great style and a love of good food runs in her family!
The Veggie Rice Bowl ($9) is loaded with fresh/roasted vegetables and comes finished with a cilantro pesto or miso tofu gravy (both are delicious). The Taco Bowl sees teriyaki pulled pork over rice with guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and cheese ($10), while the tuna bowl includes a healthy serving of sliced sashimi-grade albacore tuna with truffle vinaigrette and a side of avocado ($12).
Grilled rice balls are exactly what they say they are: grilled balls of rice with cheese, pork, or sesame/seaweed centres. They are fantastic take-away snacks and only $3 a pop. Shika also offers ice cream, cold drinks, and little gluten free, vegan matcha muffins.
Exploring beaches and forests on Bowen is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. There’s no need for a car. If you catch the 11am boat from Horseshoe Bay as a walk-on passenger you will arrive at the Marina Pier just about the same time Shika opens. Fill up on a rice bowl and then hit the nearby trails for a hike before landing back at the dock for the 3:10pm departure. Hours are Thursday-Saturday 11am-8pm, Sunday 11am-6pm, and Monday 11am-6pm.
Shika Provisions | Marina Pier (400 Bowen Island Trunk Rd) | Bowen Island | www.Shika.ca
by Andrew Morrison | Mamie Taylor’s, located at 251 East Georgia in Chinatown, recently launched their version of a Southern-style brunch service. It runs every Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm, and fair warning: it’s not for those who brunch lightly.
If chef Tobias Grignon and owners Simon Kaulback and Ron Oliver had an ideal customer breed in mind, it might be people who seldom give many fucks about anything save for their own personal satisfaction, which they take very seriously indeed. That is to say that there aren’t any regenerating smoothies or typical bowls of “good health” on offer here. Rather, this brunch menu can be interpreted as – depending on your point of view – either a minefield of artery-impregnating sons of bitches or a beautifully engraved invitation to sup from a deep fried, extra buttery smorgasbord of sweet and salty excess. There is a salad, to be sure, only it’s of the Cobb ilk, arriving loaded with stilton cheese and pork belly.
It all plays for par, for one doesn’t go to Mamie’s to cleanse; one attends for the Faustian exchange of days shaved off the lifespan for feverish moments immersed in chicken fried steak soaked in bacon gravy (pictured above) or engrossed in the half hour it takes to properly navigate the sticky pleasures of a Kentucky Hot Brown. (For those unschooled in regular pulmonary bullying, a Kentucky Hot Brown is French toast – or “Freedom Toast” as they call it at Mamie’s – mounted with smoked confit turkey, tomato and bacon, all smothered in a thick Mornay sauce.)
The menu also includes the restaurant’s decadent fontina cheeseburger (one of the best in the city), fried chicken and waffles with pickled chilies and bourbon honey, and two kinds of eggs benedict – one with pork belly and the other with poblano chilies and goat’s cheese — both of which can be found breathing heavily under hot domes of thick Hollandaise. Cocktails are equally indulgent, none more rewardingly so than the Tequila Caesar, which comes doubly capped by a devilled egg and a thick shard of hot chorizo. Why? Because you’re going to die, that’s why.
Let’s just be glad that it’s all only a weekend affair, for if this sort of immoderation was tabled 7 days a week, hell would be paid early and often. Take a closer look below if you dare…
Mamie Taylors | 251 East Georgia | 604.620.8818 | mamietaylors.ca
Have you heard? It’s supposed to be a pretty gloomy week. Not to worry, though, because France. Yup, for us, crap forecasts tend to conjure visions of (and desires for) restorative, old school French bistro fare. The last time it rained we fell for it hard in the form of properly gooey onion soup gratinee (the gruyere cap amplified by mozzarella); Alsatian tart flambee with crispy lardons and fat dollops of creme fraiche; and flavourful hanger steak (done to the rare side of medium-rare) prostrate in a deep puddle of green peppercorn cream next to a pile of salted frites. It was all washed down at Les Faux Bourgeois in the heart of The Fraserhood (where summer is for the weak and patios fear to tread) with winter-generous pours of 2011 Brumont Tannat-Merlot.
Les Faux Bourgeois | 663 East 15th Ave | Vancouver, BC | 604-873-9733
by Andrew Morrison | I was raised, so to speak, on “Spag Pomo”, the ubiquitous Neapolitan bowl of pasta with tomato sauce. My mom co-founded an Italian delicatessen that made fresh pasta for restaurants (my first job), and in my late teens (and again in my 20′s) I worked in a well known Toronto eatery where the kitchen was run by (now) celebrity chef Massimo Capra – he of the immaculate moustache. Spaghetti Pomodoro wasn’t on the menu, but Massimo would table massive hotel pans of the stuff for our staff meal, which was served alla famiglia at the end of the night. Those late suppers with the staff – one third Bengali, one third Italian, one third “mangiacake” (that’s me) – remain my favourite memories of working in the restaurant business. We’d talk shit/shop about the night’s customers, pool a percentage of our tips to buy/share bottles of wine, and refuel the hell out of our exhausted selves with this very particular pasta. It’s the most nostalgic food I know of.
There’s just something so simple and straight-forward about the satisfaction it provides. The balance of sweetness and salt underpinned by licks of spice (chili flakes); the evocative, garden-fresh fragrance of the hand-torn basil; the al dente texture of the noodles; the sharpness of the cheese…I would happily trade a whole lobe of foie gras for one perfect serving of it. And the weird thing is that – despite its seemingly simple assemblage of ingredients – it’s hard to find a good one in Vancouver. A lot of places do a version, but the ones that best approximate the bowls of my dreams are at Lupo in Yaletown and Campagnolo on Main Street.
Chef Julio Gonzalez-Perini and I used to work together many years ago (before he opened Lupo), and he was kind enough to make me Spag Pomo for my staff meals. Unfortunately, you won’t find it on the current menu at Lupo, but sometimes it’s there (if you ask nicely, maybe he’ll make a bowl for you). It’s a guarantee at Campagnolo, where it’s been one of their signature items since they opened back in 2009. Their version is as close to Capra’s (and my own) as I can find. They don’t spice the sauce, but they do provide a little side plate with lines of oregano, dried chili flakes, and parmesan to help yourself with. Use all the cheese, incorporate a pinch of the flakes, and forget the oregano, which would only upset the basil. And buon appetito!
$15 | Campagnolo | 1020 Main St. | 604-484-6018 | CampagnoloRestaurant.ca
Delivered piping hot in an impervious molcajete bowl (made from volcanic stone bowl), the queso fundido with chorizo at La Mezcaleria on Commercial Drive is a delicate but delicious operation. If you bring children to it, they will require assistance. The best way to eat it, according to managing partner Ignacio Arrieta, is to fork it out in coalesced globules (that might burn a hole through lesser metals) and smear it onto the provided tortillas which you then mount with guacamole and squirt with chile de arbol salsa. Pair yours with either a Michelada or a Margarita, and have yourself a very swell evening.
1220 Commercial Drive | Vancouver, BC | 604-559-8226 | www.lamezcaleria.ca
You know when the weather starts to change and you get confirmation of it in a restaurant? You can get yours now at The Parker with roasted turnips, house-made cheese, crispy bread, radishes, and generous spoons of parsley puree ($12) – so simple, strikingly pretty, delicious, and seasonally suggestive. As is the case with so many other dishes currently on the menu at the Strathcona/Chinatown eatery right now (pretty much the entire menu), it was like eating a sunny day in Spring. More plates and a cocktail or two of similar impact below…
237 Union Street | Strathcona/Chinatown | Vancouver, BC | 604-779-3804 | theparkervancouver.com