by Andrew Morrison | I’ve known chef/restaurateur Pino Posteraro for many years now, but I knew of him long before we ever met. His reputation as a fiercely exacting leader preceded him, and it still does to this day (as I’m sure most people in the local trade will attest). He worked in the same Toronto neighbourhood that I did in the 1990′s, and was already a legend in Vancouver when I returned home in 2001. We’ve teamed up on several projects since then (Vancouver Cooks 2 cookbook, Spot Prawn Festival, Senza Frontiere, among others) and have judged the Vancouver Gold Medal Plates together, so I’ve seen his dedication from a few different angles. He’s also either personally cooked or helped to shepherd some of the best meals I’ve ever had and remains – hands down – one of my favourite chefs in town.
Which brings me to say that I don’t eat at his Yaletown restaurant, Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill, anywhere nearly enough, and whenever I do I generally eat the same thing. If you’ve ever tried his Fettucini Bolognese, you know why (it’s that good). Pino and I joke about this whenever we see each other, because ordering a Bolognese in his restaurant is kind of like asking a Ferrari to drive you through a school zone during rush hour in 1st gear. It’s a memorable experience, yeah, but without reaching those other gears and letting it loose, you aren’t really getting the full measure of the machine.
So when I popped in the other evening (just to say hi because I had a dinner engagement elsewhere) and he offered to “show me a few new things”, I wasn’t about to say no. A couple of mutual friends of ours landed at stools next to mine at the bar and Pino cooked for them as well. I won’t go into too much detail about what followed, except to highlight the three items shown in the photographs above. The first  was a delicious “last of the spot prawn” tasting plate that included a plump prawn sausage that looked just like a proper banger and had the same texture (but all the prawn flavour – wow!); the second was a little crepe stuffed with eggplant, parmesan and mozzarella cheese and generously topped with a pile of shaved black truffles and a spoon of truffle foam ; and the third was a flawless souffle, the best one to cross my plate in over a decade . Needless to say, I was late for supper.
With a monthly battery of new restaurants to check out, I don’t get to eat out like that very often (granted, more often than most people, but you know what I mean — these days it’s more soup and sandwich than sous vide and sabayon). There are thousands of restaurants in the Lower Mainland, but I can count on both hands – with a few fingers to spare – those kitchens that are in the same rarified league as Cioppino’s, where everything you eat is either new, different, or perfect (oftentimes all three) and the service doesn’t miss a single beat. That isn’t a put down of other restaurants, but rather an observation on how the landscape has changed in this post-Lumiere, post-recession, post-formality city. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pine for any halcyon good old days, because those days evidently haven’t gone (if you know where to look). What I’m trying to say is that every once in a while it’s an awesome, re-affirming thing to get a mouthful of reminders of how good and complete a dining experience can be from entry to exit, and Cioppino’s offers that up every night.
So if you’ve never been before or haven’t been for a while, you should definitely go. It might be expensive (the old joke: “Cioppino’s is where expense accounts go to die”) but the experience and the expertise on display is worth it. It’s like a rite of passage, only in a Ferrari.
Yolk’s Mobile Breakfast has become well known as a brunch-centric food truck; a reliable source of poached eggs on English Muffins with quality hollandaise and an outstanding product called the Truffle-Lemon Hashbrown Skewer (it’s as good as it sounds).
They also do fresh juices, pork belly Croque Madame sandwiches, fruit pancakes, and other goodies besides, but the big draw today was their special Fried Chicken and Waffle lunch made with organic, free range chicken supplied by our friends out at Polderside.
Yolk’s brines the chicken in honey, citrus, salt and fresh herbs and batters it up with panko bread crumbs and buttermilk. The end result is crispy then tender, and not at all greasy with the seasoning held back to allow for the gravy and maple syrup to do their tasty thing.
The waffles, made a la minute Belgian-style with butter and proper vanilla, are well-browned but pillowy soft on the tooth. At $9.50 an order, it’s a delicious steal of a meal, and one that is mercifully only available on Fridays (it would be dangerously tempting if available every day).
Yolk’s can be found parked on the sidewalk by the Beatty & Dunsmuir exit of Chinatown/Stadium skytrain station from Wednesday through to Sunday (and sometimes at Farmer’s Markets – follow them on Twitter to stay abreast).
On Tuesday night, West Hastings’ award-winning Wildebeest hosted a Visa Infinite that was definitely one for the books. Chef Wesley Young was joined in the kitchen by Chef Justin Leboe of Calgary’s famed Model Milk and together they served up six courses of seasonally inspired dishes paired with some ridiculously good cocktails from the likes of Josh Pape of Wildebeest, Shaun Layton of L’Abattoir, Ben de Champlain of Boneta, and Jay Jones of KillJoy. Model Milk also brought along their top bartender – Stephen Phipps – and the whole lot of them worked together with predictably awesome results.
Leboe started the evening off with a beautifully arranged plate of steelhead in buttermilk vichyssoise (Fig. 4) that was paired with “The Honey Badger” by Layton (Fig. 11 – Plymouth gin, Aperol, Parallel 49 saison, amontillado sherry and drinking vinegar). This was followed up by Young with a dish called The Garden (Fig. 1). It saw radishes, baby beets, mascarpone, malt soil, and carrot sorbet next to the smooth “Honey Trap” from De Champlain (Fig. 9 – Genever, Yellow Chartreuse, lovage sorbet, Huilerie Beaujolaise honey vinegar). Next up, Phipps tied his “Bonita Applebaum” (bourbon, apple, sage and smoked chili) to Leboe’s uniquely delicious Rabbit Bologna (Fig. 10). Arriving on its heels was a tidy slab of Wildebeest’s famous short rib (Fig. 3) alongside a porcini mushroom carpaccio (Fig. 5) and a stemmed glass of Pape’s Horseradish Sour. Leboe then presented a tender breast of milk-fed veal to go with Jones’ Desruction of Sennacherib” (Fig. 2), and the evening was finished with Wildebeest cheesecake and a coddling Cognac West from Pape. Get the background on the supper here.
Holy sugar-rush! Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery in Burnaby Heights does a good job at delivering on their name. Highlights of a recent visit included Funky Monkey ice cream (that’s a banana base with fudge brownie pieces and a caramel swirl for $4), a tall chocolate malted ($7) and a chocolate sundae ($5.50). We also made off with a brown bag of candy (fizz, bazooka bubble gum and something called “mallow cup”). Bzzz…
Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery | 4090 Hastings St. | DETAILS
Following a series of successful “soft” opening nights, the Peruvian-themed Chicha restaurant opened up to the public this week at 136 East Broadway Street. They’re plating a substantial and rather diverse menu, so there were plenty of tasty things to take in. Specific wins included the so-simple-but-so-good frites with Peruvian tartar sauce (1), the quinoa salad tower (2), the brightly flavoured – and coloured! – cold mashed potato “Causa Cangre Jo Trio” (3), the skewered “Anticucho Caprese” salad (4), the chicken stew-stuffed empanadas (5), and the chorizo and octopus salad (6). Also of note were the Pisco Sour cocktails and lúcuma fruit cheesecake (they aren’t pictured here because they were gone too fast). The 45 seater – with its emphasis on sharing – comes to us courtesy of Kumiko Umeno and chefs Shelome Bouvette (interview) and Allison Flook. It’s open every day except Monday from 5pm until 1am, and until 2am on weekends. You can read our anticipatory coverage of Chicha here.
Winner Winner debuted at the soft start of the new Chinatown Night Market over the weekend. The new street food vendor serves up just one dish, a pile of delicious Singaporean-style chicken over rice with a ginger chili dipping sauce for just $6 a box. The fun operation was launched by Stanley Yung and Bao Bei’s Chen-Wei Lee (center and right in top photo). Once you get close enough to it, you’ll hear Jonathan Grand Pierre (bottom photo) calling out things like “The sauce is the boss!”, “Winner winner chicken dinner!”, “The rice is the main event!”, among other things (he’s a funny guy). The “official” opening of the Night Market isn’t until June 1st, but Winner Winner will be rolling “soft” again this weekend, so check them out!
Every Fri, Sat, Sun until September 8th | 6pm-11pm | Keefer St. between Main & Columbia.
It was quite by accident that we stumbled upon West 2nd’s Cafe Kitsune the other day after a shopabout on Granville Island. The unassuming counter-service tea/lunch spot opened last year, featuring good steeps and a few really clean, healthy, quick, sushi-less, fiddly Japanese-inspired bowls amped up by super bright flavours. Case in point: these buckwheat soba noodles hidden underneath a tangle of cilantro, sesame, radishes, carrot, drunken chicken, ginger, soy, chili, and lime ($8.50). Mmm.
Cafe Kitsune | 1538 West 2nd Avenue | 604-336-3436 | 11:00am – 4:00pm
by Andrew Morrison | The thought of an ice cold chocolate malted shake in a tall fountain glass doesn’t pop into my head nearly as often as it used to. My Mom and sometimes my Grandparents would buy them for my brother and I with burgers and fries at old school lunch counters. They were awarded for our patience after whole afternoons spent listless and yawning on shopping trips for lady bits at Eaton’s or The Bay. Malted shakes are therefore a halcyon thing. I order one – together with a monster steak burger with bacon and swiss next to a big plate extra crispy fries – whenever I visit Moderne Burger at 2507 West Broadway. It’s the shortest, tastiest route that I know of back to being 10 years old.
by Andrew Morrison | Damn, that was good! One can always depend on the cauliflower, falafel, chicken shish tawook, mjadra, hummus, haloumi, and jalapeno sauce at any of the four Nuba locations around town, but the one at 3116 West Broadway is straight up the best. Why? Because of the ambiance. The old Greek icon (it used to be the legendary Orestes) is now Lebanese, and still its wooden banisters and labyrinthine collection of rooms and landing make it one of Vancouver’s coolest addresses, heavy with the patina of good times past and the promise of more afoot. It reminds me of some of the restaurants I went to as a kid (more Kozmas than Il Giardino); besotted by singers, belly dancers and amazed at the evident effects of alcohol on many of the grown-ups. And the light! Such memorable light. You don’t leave without it.
You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when it rains for several days in a row, your windshield wipers put you to sleep, and moss starts to overwhelm the marrow inside your bones? Of course you do. It’s an actual medical condition called Marchsuxicitis, and it runs rampant in these parts (other symptoms include: feelings of empathy towards crows, bewilderment at bright lights, listening to The Smiths, and loitering around tanning salons for the smell). Anyway, I found a cure this week. Take a friend over to La Buca, the tiny Italian restaurant deep in the West Side, and split a couple of pastas after munching on bread sticks and sipping a Negroni. You’ll feel right as…er…rain. We recommend the Vongole (top) and the Carbonara (bottom right). We were walk-ins before the dinner rush, but it’s wiser to make a reservation.
by Andrew Morrison | You know those urban myth horror stories that you sometimes hear about gigantic snakes swallowing entire pigs in one go? I happily joined their ranks over the weekend, eating my weight in pork and lobster at Yew in the Four Seasons. It was a special Visa Infinite supper, a course by course duel pitting Yew chef Ned Bell against John Jackson and Connie DeSousa of Calgary’s meaty Charcut. Greasing the rails were some outstanding local wines from Sumac Ridge, Meyer, Tinhorn, Le Vieux Pin, Painted Rock, and Orofino, with all being bookended by a couple of original Yew cocktails (one included a lobster claw and the other a strip of candied bacon). Personal highlights included the lobster bisque accented by vanilla and pineapple from Ned Bell (it sounds weird but it totally worked) and the savage, family-style delivery of ham hocks, Hunter sausages, and hominy from DeSousa and Jackson, two of the most enthusiastically pork-loving, burst-worthy chefs I’ve ever had the pleasure to blame for a morning of physical immobility. Take a closer look in the shots below…
After a solid and successful morning Tsawwassen hunt on the weekend we hit up Wildebeest for brunch. Do people even know the popular West Hastings eatery also does brunch? Well, they do, and it easily rivals nearby league-leading Cafe Medina for best in show. We really enjoyed the snacky pork and polenta croquette and the granola with housemade yogurt lightened with fruit and honey, but the ass-kicker was the eponymous “Wildebeest Brunch”. That’s three scrambled eggs (fried by default), a few slices of Angus steak wet with peppercorn sauce, a smoked cheddar bierwurst cut down the middle to expose its sparkly sausaginess, a couple of slabs of thick cut bacon, a bowl of “thrice cooked” potatoes (amazing), and a pair of toasts. A daunting feast, to be sure, and pricey at $23, but it felt worth it, and it was made all the better by a couple of well-seasoned Caesar cocktails (Vancouver most capable and schooled brunch service bar by far). Equally good, half as much (in both price and size) and twice as decadent was the cranberry bread French toast topped with a spoon of fresh ricotta, many roasted apple wedges, and some vanilla chantilly — a pretty pile of sweetened awesome if ever there was one.
If you’ve yet to give Wildebeest a whirl in the daytime, now’s the time before word gets out and a line up starts to crystallize. Brunch is served from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and reservations are (for the time being) recommended but not essential. Book online or call 604-687-6880 for peace of mind. Supertip: the best fourtop in the house is Table 41.
Marc Lepine, chef at Ottawa’s famed Atelier and the current Canadian Culinary Champion, cooked an amazing meal for judges, Canadian Olympians (that’s Jamie Salé with all those black truffles) and special guests up on Big White last night. Seeing as the competitions start tonight, it was billed as his “last supper”. We weren’t disappointed. Lepine cooked a great many things, among them kusshi oysters sexed up with horseradish foam and foie gras croquettes floating in chanterelle soup, but the meat course was my favourite: insanely marbled wagyu beef striploin on hot and buttery corn juice with shavings of black truffle and dollops of truffle sour cream. It was as good as it looks, ending his reign on the highest of notes.