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Photo Visit – Ask for Luigi – March 2015

15 Mar

305 Alexander Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1C4

T: 604 428 2544
www.askforluigi.com

I normally don’t pay too much attention to the Georgia Straight’s Golden Plates Awards, as my opinion is often very different from other voters so the results usually just leave me irritated. This year, however, I actually agreed with some of the winners. One of my favourite restaurants, Ask for Luigi, won this year’s “Best New Restaurant” award and they beat Cioppino’s (!!) to take out top spot in the “Best Italian” category. I’ve been loving what they’ve been doing ever since they opened so I am thrilled for them (although this win will make it even harder to get a table now).

When I’m asked what I like about Ask for Luigi, I give the same answer that I give about Nook (one of my other favourites); it is unpretentious, relaxed, and provides great food and wine at affordable prices. These are the places that you want to go to after a busy week at work, or to catch-up with friends or your significant other, where you know you will leave feeling happy that you got value for money, but more importantly, that the food was of a high standard. Plus, I love a place that remembers their regular visitors and treats you like a friend when you return.

I went for a late lunch a few weeks ago with a friend and we ended up having a long, boozy lunch (isn’t that how all Italian meals should go?) that consisted of the following dishes:

Brussels & crispy pork belly agro dolce– $10

Gnocchi, squash, sage & whipped ricotta – $15

Bucatini all’amatriciana – $15

Olive Oil Cake – $8

Chocolate budino – $8

Although we enjoyed the whole meal, there were a few dishes that stood apart from the others.

1/ The brussels, with crispy pork belly and crunchy hazelnuts, were a great introduction to the meal. I loved the texture of this dish (lots of crunch from the nuts and pork, but a softness from the brussels).

2/ The gnocci was incredibly light and soft, with a hint of earthiness from the sage. A must order.

3/ We both battled spoons over the subtle olive oil cake. We should have ordered two.

If you’ve not been, I recommend a visit to Ask for Luigi to see what all the fuss is about. If you need further persuading (really?!), check out their Instagram feed for some tantalizing food pics.

Brunch at Burdock & Co

8 Feb

2702 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V5T 3E8

T: 604 879 0077
www.burdockandco.com

It is no secret that I enjoy eating brunch out whenever I can. As a creature of comfort, I tend to return to my favourite spots (Nook Kitsilano, Au Comptoir, L’Abattoir, West, Ask For Luigi) over and over again, but occasionally I will branch out and try other spots. You know, sometimes you just gotta switch it up.

Burdock and Co is a small restaurant, with a relaxed vibe, that is focused on farm-to-table, organic ingredients. The brunch menu at Burdock isn’t your traditional “bacon and eggs” brunch menu. Yes, you can get a benny (on a gluten-free scone), or you could mix it up and try the chili fried eggs on toast with avocado, poached eggs on salt cod polenta, or fried eggs with smokey tomato, black beans, and corn tortillas. If you want something other than eggs for breakfast, the heirloom squash dumplings with chestnut browned butter sauce, or the winter fruit clafoutis, offer an alternative, as does the smoked chili broth ramen or the spicy fried chicken.

Smoked Chili Broth Ramen, Crispy Pig Face, Sprouts – $14

B.F.C. Spicy Burdock Fried Chicken, Kimchi – $16

Grilled Maple Fennel Bacon – $6

German Butter Potatoes with Pickled Garlic and Marjoram – $6

Weekend brunch runs from 10:30AM to 2PM. It appears that they do now accept reservations (I don’t believe that this has always been the case). You’d be best to phone ahead as this place does get busy (and also a little noisy).

Brunch at L’Abattoir

1 Feb

217 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2J2

T: 604 568 1701
www.labattoir.ca

Brief Description: A chic, unpretentious Gastown restaurant that dishes up French-meets-West Coast cuisine.

One of my favourite restaurants in the city, L’Abattoir, launched their brunch service in December and I have been making regular visits ever since. Brunch at L’Abattoir delivers the same high standards of food and service that I’ve come to expect from this team. Some of my favourite brunch items are the decadent smoked pork belly and eggs with cheddar sabayon, the currant scone with jam and clotted cream (!!), and the breakfast burger.

Let’s go back to the clotted cream for a moment, shall we? If you’ve not had it before, I highly recommend trying clotted cream – it is a rich, thick cream that has the consistency of butter. This Huffington Post article accurately describes it as “basically what you’d have if butter were to get together with whipped cream.”

Currant scone with jam and clotted cream – $7

Minute steak and two eggs, with rösti, toast, and brown sauce – $18

Two poached eggs, smoked pork belly, and cheddar sabayon on home-made English muffin – $17

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Potato rösti with crème fraiche and chives – $6

Besides the brunch dishes that I’ve mentioned, there are also house-made pastries (which vary depending on the day), a classic full breakfast with sausage and pork and beans, as well as lighter options, such as the Dungeness crab cakes with eggs, or the quiche with smoked steelhead, leeks and dill. Price-wise, it is a little on the expensive side but all dishes, besides the full breakfast, come in at under $20.

I highly recommend brunch at L’Abattoir if you are looking for a more upscale brunch, if you are wanting to impress someone (Mother’s Day, for example), or for an indulgent brunch with your girlfriends, or significant other. Brunch runs on the weekend only, from 10:30am to 2pm.

Photo Visit – Au Comptoir – November 2014

30 Nov

2278 West 4th Ave
Vancouver, BC
V6K 1N8

T: 604 569 2278
www.aucomptoir.ca

So, it is official. I am smitten with Au Comptoir. I am completely taken with this cute, Parisian-inspired café. B and I have been visiting regularly for brunch (a great option if you are in the Kitsilano area) but it was only recently that we had dinner there. The atmosphere makes this a perfect little spot for a date night, particularly on a cold fall night. We warmed up over some glasses of French sparkling wine before placing our orders. Highlights of the evening were the delicate and creamy foie gras torchon (I had to look up what torchon is, and basically the foie gras is wrapped tight in a cloth to keep it all together and then cooked). The confit leek tart was also a stand-out, as were the desserts (not surprising really as the pastry chef last worked at Blue Water Cafe).

I had mentioned in my previous post that the service is very reminiscent of Parisian service (less hand-holding than North American service) and I had a message from a reader saying that they had been ignored and experience rude service at Au Comptoir. After visiting numerous times since they opened, this has not been my experience at all. If you are looking for overly attentive service, keep in mind that this isn’t the service on offer at Au Comptoir. You will get everything you need but my understanding is that their intention is to allow diners to linger – if you need your bill, ask for it. Simple.

Foie gras torchon with brioche – $19Confit leek tart, buttermilk ricotta, potato crisps – $12

Unilateral salmon, tagliatelle, tarragon beurre blanc – $24

Chanterelle and celeriac risotto – $21

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Lava Cake

Having Au Comptoir in the neighbourhood has made me very happy. If I’m in the mood for French, I go to Au Comptoir, if I am in the mood for Italian, I trot down to Nook. The Kits neighbourhood has certainly been improved with this recent addition to the food scene.

Photo Visit – Au Comptoir – October 2014

26 Oct

2278 West 4th Ave
Vancouver, BC
V6K 1N8

T: 604 569 2278
www.aucomptoir.ca

Having recently completed a short wine course, where I was introduced to French wines that I hadn’t had the opportunity to sample before, I have been spending a lot of time lately daydreaming about a food and wine trip to France. To make matters worse, I’ve also been watching a lot of food and wine documentaries that have showcased the passion that the French have for the finer things in life. All of this has inspired me to want to pack my bags and run off to explore wineries, intimate bistros, and inviting cafés, in Paris, Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, and Lyon. Unfortunately, I’m not likely to get away any time soon and so I will need to come up with other ways to satisfy my yearning for everything French. Thankfully, a little Parisian-inspired café, Au Comptoir, has just opened up a few blocks from my place which will help scratch the itch for a while. Merveilleux!

Although today was my first, and only, visit to Au Comptoir, I am smitten. The décor, the service, and the food, were all very reminiscent of the times that I have travelled in France. All of the well-dressed servers spoke French amongst themselves (but English to patrons), the décor was charming (complete with an authentic tin bar made in France), and the food was rich, heavy, and very French.

 Fried Duck Wings

 Veal Sweetbreads

Foie Gras Burger

Raspberry Mille-Feuille

We perched at the bar and sipped French sparkling wine whilst we lingered over our meal. Most offerings on the concise wine menu were French, except one red and one white from BC. The dishes that we ate were well-executed and worthy of re-order. As someone who doesn’t like chicken wings, the fried duck wings were a surprising highlight, as was the dessert.

Au Comptoir’s hours are 8am to 10pm daily (except possibly Tuesdays) meaning that you can join them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Reservations aren’t accepted and, with as busy as they were today, I suspect that there will be long waits at peak times. I, for one, will be happy to line up for the experience of feeling as though I’ve been transported to Paris. I say, bring on the cold winter evenings!, as I will be cozied up inside Au Comptoir, enjoying a touch of France.

Au Comptoir on Urbanspoon

Photo Visit – L’Abattoir – May 2014

1 May

217 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2J2

T: 604 568 1701
www.labattoir.ca

Brief Description: A chic, unpretentious Gastown restaurant that dishes up French-meets-West Coast cuisine.

I have just gotten back from another wonderful dinner at L’Abattoir and I felt I had to share what a remarkable experience it was…again. Is it just me, or is this place underrated? Although there is a slight buzz about it, I expect to hear a lot more about a restaurant that is producing such impressive food and cocktails. For all the details on L’Abattoir you can read my post from a few years ago. This post is more to show you the beauty of the food (look at that presentation!) and to mention (again) how truly great it was.

Gastown Swizzle – $11

Complimentary bread basket

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Ceps (porcini) with pork belly and jus gras – $30

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Roast filet of Pacific Halibut with pasta of Dungeness crab and pork, asparagus – $33

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Steak Diane with charred onions, potato fondant, peppercorn – $33

Brown butter clafoutis with poached rhubarb and rhubarb sorbet – $9

The appetizer special was unbelievably good, with succulent, firm ceps (porcini mushrooms) and tender pork belly finished with a luscious foie gras jus. Both mains were plated beautifully with flavours that were perfectly balanced. The dessert was also a treat, although by this stage, we were too full to fully appreciate (but my god, is it beautiful!).

I have to ask myself why I don’t go there more often and the only valid reason I could think of is the cost. The prices are on the high-side (although, the value is there) so it is more of a once-in-awhile kinda place, or a special occasion place for me and my budget.

Photo Visit – Ask For Luigi – April 2014

26 Apr

305 Alexander Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1C4

T: 604 428 2544
www.askforluigi.com

I have only been to Ask for Luigi twice but it is fast climbing up my list of favourite restaurants in the city. Ask For Luigi is brought to us by the same folks that run Pourhouse and Pizzeria Farina (another favourite of mine). Ask for Luigi is Italian all the way, with a focus on house-made, fresh pasta dishes. Sharing is recommended and the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. The space is a cute one with an open concept kitchen and a small and intimate dining room.

In the same way that my other local favourite Nook impresses, Luigi delivers simple, well-prepared food at a reasonable price. Dishes on the dinner menu are all under $20 and for lunch and brunch, all dishes are under $16. The coffee is impressive too, which makes it a rarity (good food paired with good coffee). If you’d prefer alcohol beer, wine, and prosecco (yes!) is offered by the glass for $6, or choose wine by the bottle.

With good food and limited seating, Ask for Luigi is busy. Be aware that it is unlikely that you will be seated immediately. On the two occasions that we’ve been during the day we have been fortunate to get a table immediately but that doesn’t seem to be the norm. I’ve been on a Wednesday night at 8pm and have been told the wait is over 45 minutes, so be prepared. But once you are in, sit back, and enjoy the experience.

Exterior
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Pork belly with a fried egg, salsa verde and creamy polenta – $15

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Tagliatelle alla carbonara with a poached egg – $16

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Fingerling potatoes cooked in duck fat – $4

Risotto with pancetta, peas, and asparagus – $15

Ask for Luigi on Urbanspoon

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