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
This good looking Makoto Ono starter dish currently on the menu at Pidgin on the DTES is a wee delicacy of delicacies: exquisite mushrooms, fresh snap peas, ooze-suspended ramen eggs – all set off in the mouth by a soy yuzu brown butter that just doesn’t quit. | $12
350 Carrall St. | Vancouver, BC | 604-620-9400 | www.pidginvancouver.com
It’s not on the “it” list of sushi eateries in town, but as you can see above, the wee little Raw Bar attached to the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Lobby Lounge plates some awesome stuff. Aim for the oysters, the yellowfin tuna tataki, and the Northern Divine caviar served on tamago nigiri. Our visit came on the heels of the hotel’s recent boast that resident sushi chef “Taka” Omi was now only using sustainable, Ocean Wise-approved seafoods. Did that fact make everything taste better? Doubtful, but it’s also hard to imagine how any of the delicious plates could have been improved. Omi and his crew are wizards with knives, and they get to play with some very fine fish. Pay them a proper visit when your wallet’s fat and your appetite is ready.
Fairmont Pacific Rim | 1038 Canada Place | 604-695-5300 | Website
by Andrew Morrison | Oh, it’s very close. This sublime fellow is a fat bastard of ground tenderloin, ribeye, and chuck flavoured with onion, garlic, and long peppercorns. It’s mounted with double smoked bacon, aged Canadian cheddar, a perfect onion ring, crisp lettuce, and fresh tomato. The sesame seed bun sustains quite a bit of squeezing and juice, and it comes generously smeared with an incredibly tasty ketchup-based house sauce that includes licks of sweet smoked paprika, ancho chilies, herbs de provence, Worchestershire sauce, brown sugar. With a side of hot and crisp-edged frites served with mayo, it weighs in at a hefty $19 and is absolutely in contention despite the high price tag (for a burger). Also in the running for the totally subjective title are the burgers of currency at Pourhouse, Mamie Taylor’s, The Oakwood (the new one), Cannibal Cafe, and Campagnolo Upstairs. Not in the running are the ghost burgers of gluttonies past at Feenie’s, DB Bistro Moderne, Au Petit Chavignol, and Fray. If basic is your bag, try Save On Meats or the internet hype machine known as Hamburger $2.85.
Hawksworth | 801 West Georgia | Vancouver, BC | 604-673-7000 | hawksworthrestaurant.com
A visit to the brand new Basho Japanese cafe at 2007 East Hastings St. today saw a Veggie Lunch Set that blew our socks off. It included a cup of thick yam soup; a delicious, lightly dressed (tofu?) green salad with walnuts; a pickled vegetable, broccoli, cucumber, carrot, and avocado rice bowl; a steaming cup of light and simple green tea; and an assortment of matcha cookies. Not bad for for $10.50! If this is the first time you’ve heard of this place, take a click here or browse through the gallery below.
Basho | 2007 East Hastings | 604-428-6276 | www.bashocafe.com
When a local brewery starts serving waffles with Earl Grey tea-flavoured butter and either Earnest Ice Cream or bacon and eggs, you kind of have to wonder exactly how good we have it right now in Vancouver. Remember where this city’s food and drinkscape was just a few years ago? No food trucks. No distilleries. Very few breweries. Dumb liquor laws. In retrospect, it was a stunted shadow of its current self. We’ve come a very long way.
We scarfed everything above – including the sausage board by Bestie – at Mount Pleasant’s 33 Acres last Saturday, and it felt completely civilized to eschew coffee in favour of a beer sampler served in tidy triplicate (though they do serve some very good coffee from Victoria’s excellent Bows & Arrows). The good-looking brewery is always fiddling around with their snacks. Today, for example, the special item is ice cream sandwiches made with beer waffles. Read that again. To have something close to what we had (ie. something more substantial), you have to visit them on Saturday (11am to 3pm) or Sunday (12pm to 3pm).
15 West 8th Avenue | Vancouver, BC | 604.620.4589 | 33acresbrewing.com
We think it’s safe to say that just about everyone who knew about the coming of The Fish Counter on Main St. were expecting it to serve the very best fish and chips in town when it opened last month. We also think it’s safe to say that that is exactly what everyone has been getting. Salmon, halibut, ling cod, pacific cod, oysters — every one of the options hums in the deep fryer and sings in the mouth with dollops of pickly tartar sauce and generous squirts of lemon juice. The side saddle fries are excellent, too, especially when tarred with malt vinegar and feathered with salt. It’s all Ocean Wise, of course, as the two owners – Rob Clark and McDermid (the straight-faced chef and knife-wielding biologist pictured above) – are the sustainable seafood program’s two founders. Go score a two-piece and be golden!
The Fish Counter | 3825 Main Street | Vancouver, BC | 604-876-3474 | www.thefishcounter.com