Tag Archives: Vancouver dining

Medina Café

8 Feb

556 Beatty Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2L3

T: 604 879 3114
www.medinacafe.com

Brief Description: Located in that odd area of town, locally known as Crosstown, Medina Café appeals to the masses with their unique breakfast and lunch offerings. Leave your thoughts of a traditional fry-up at the door.

Medina Café joins Chambar and The Dirty Apron to complete one of Vancouver’s most well-known foodie trifectas. Nico and Karri Schuermans cannot seem to put a foot wrong with their endeavors and Medina Café is no exception. With rave reviews and constant line-ups, it has certainly become a local favourite.

Considering the somewhat gritty location of Medina, the décor comes as an unexpected surprise. Stylishly designed with a slight industrial feel, Medina offers a raw elegance. Brick walls, wooden floors, exposed light bulb fixtures, and teal art features create a funky atmosphere. The front room is quite small, with limited seating and tightly packed tables, but there is another room in the back for when things become too crowded. Service is generally efficient but, due to the constant turn-over, be prepared for less than perfect service.

I have to let you in on a little secret; I honestly don’t know how to define the food at Medina Café except to say that it is good. 🙂 Moroccan, French, and even Belgian influences are all evident but the jury still remains out (and slightly confused). Prices for breakfast are between $12 and $16 and for lunch it is slightly higher at around $14 to $16.

As I said, when you go to Medina check your expectations of what constitutes breakfast at the door. You won’t find pancakes, bagels, or bennies on the menu here. Instead you can select from hearty, exotic dishes such as Tagine (two poached eggs, spicy tomato stew, merguez sausage, sundried black olives and cilantro), the Cassoulet (two fried eggs on baked beans, saussion de Paris, double smoked bacon, and andouille sausage) or the Saumon Fumé (open faced ciabatta sandwich with fried egg, smoked salmon caper cream cheese, avocado, arugula, pepperdew and artichoke salad).

If a sweet breakfast is more your style then look no further than the warm waffles. They are so popular that they almost have a cult following! Try some of their interesting toppings like milk chocolate lavender or raspberry caramel. Aside from the waffles, The Fricassé (two fried eggs, braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, arugula, applewood cheddar and grilled focaccia) also seems to be a Medina must-have.

At noon, the menu changes over to their lunch menu. In addition to the few items from the breakfast menu that carry over, the lunch menu is beefed up by unique salads, some interesting wraps, and daily curry, pasta, and soup offerings. Medina also offers interesting specialty coffees such as raspberry lattes or white chocolate pistachio mochas and, for those that prefer alcohol, they are licensed.

Although I do enjoy Medina for lunch, I have to be honest and say that the breakfasts can be a little heavy for early in the morning and most of the dishes rely quite heavily on meat. Some of the dishes can be made vegetarian but you do need to ask for options.

Medina Café is open during the week from 8am to 4pm, with breakfast being served until noon. The menu then switches over to lunch. On the weekends they are open from 9am to 4pm, with brunch being served all day. Note: they do not take reservations on the weekend so do expect to line up – Medina is extremely popular.

Final Thoughts: Medina Café is a good alternative for those looking for something different to the usual breakfast choices. The quality of the food is high, the ingredients are unique, and the flavours are extremely interesting. Certainly the best place for breakfast in that part of town.

Cafe Medina on Urbanspoon

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Les Faux Bourgeois

9 Nov

663 E. 15th Avenue
Vancouver BC
V5T 2R6

T: 604 873 9733
www.lesfauxbourgeois.com

Brief Description: A charming bistro that dishes up classic French dishes at affordable prices. A great place for a romantic evening or a first date.

Often there are times when I will fall in love with an eating establishment, not necessarily for the food or for the service, but sometimes I’ll fall in love with a place because of how I feel when I am there. That was exactly what happened with Les Faux Bourgeois. From the moment I walked into the quaint restaurant, I was in the midst of a dreamy French love affair. With dim lighting, soothing French music, and the aroma of warm, comfort food in the air, the restaurant felt welcoming and intimate. Whoa-oh. Immediately I fell under its spell and suddenly I felt that I had been whipped out of Vancouver and set down in a romantic bistro in Paris. Ooh la la!

Les Faux Bourgeois is located in an area of Vancouver that isn’t traditionally known for having restaurants, let alone renowned restaurants. In fact, East 15th Avenue at Fraser Street seems like an insane place to open a French restaurant but it would appear that nothing could be further from the truth. They are constantly booked so make sure you plan ahead and make a reservation or you will be sadly disappointed. The price-point is very reasonable for the standard of food and that must be part of the appeal – good quality food at a good price. Service was good – nothing to rave or complain about, although the cute French accents are certainly memorable.

The appetizer menu screams of classic French dishes; escargots de Bourgogne (snails in parsley and garlic butter), pate de champagne (country style pork pate), les tartes flambés (two types of puff pastry tarts), and fromage plates (cheese plates). The soup a l’oignon gratinée (caramelized onion soup, smoked bacon, Gruyére and mozzarella) is much revered on the foodie scene and so I started my meal with a bowl of it.

Before I could begin, I had to break through a glorious layer of baked cheese to get to the slightly sweet soup below which was full of onions and chunky cubes of salty bacon. So cheesy was it that I had to use my teeth to scrap the cheese off the spoon! A nicely rounded introduction to the meal but when I return I will likely order the snails in parsley and garlic butter instead. The blend of garlic with butter can turn any ingredient into a gastronomical superstar, even slimy little snails. The dish was heavy on the garlic – just perfect!

There are at least three salads on the current menu, however, I’m not inclined to use valuable calories that I’ve allocated for a restaurant meal on salad so I gave them a quick glimpse and moved on. If salads do tickle your fancy you will find fausse nicoise, and salade de chevre chaud (roasted goat cheese crostini, walnuts, seasonal greens, beets, raspberry vinaigrette) amongst those available.

Traditional entrées such as cassoulet (white bean stew with pork, duck and Toulouse sausage) and canard confit (duck confit) sit alongside saumon poelé (pan roasted salmon) and filet de boeuf grillé (beef tenderloin with a choice of toppings). Le steak frites (hanger steak with fries) seems to be extremely popular but I chose the only vegetarian dish on the menu; the Portobello parmentier – garlic roasted Portobello mushroom and seasonal mushroom sauté, with a parmesan and Gruyére gratinee potato purée, finished with seasonal greens.

I found this to be extremely substantial for a vegetarian meal and it was a pleasing alternative to the usual vegetarian pasta/burger option found in most establishments. I would definitely order this again. B ordered and enjoyed the delicate pan roasted lamb sirloin, which was served with vegetable ratatouille and horseradish cream.

The dessert menu is simple and classically French; crème brûlee, milk chocolate mousse, lemon cream tart, and a nut-crusted chocolate silk cake, all of which are around the $6 to $7 range.

Truthfully, dessert was a little under-whelming. I went with my one of my all-time favourites, chocolate mousse, but I was left desperately searching for something in this dessert to make it stand-out. Unfortunately, it was quite unremarkable.

Final Thoughts: Just like any great love affair, the haze has since worn off and I can now see Les Faux Bourgeois for what it is – another good addition to the already-great French restaurant line-up in Vancouver. Overall, my experience was a good one. The food was delicious, but worth the constant praise? Hmmm, not so for me but it was an enjoyable evening and I liked feeling as though I had spent the evening at a small bistro somewhere in France. Even if it was only for a few hours.

Les Faux Bourgeois on Urbanspoon

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company

31 Jan

1876 W 1st Avenue
Vancouver, BC
V6J 1G5

T: 604 730 0321
www.rockymountainflatbread.ca

Brief Description: With two Vancouver locations, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company offers diners tasty wood-fired pizza, pasta, sandwiches and salads made from wholesome, organic, local ingredients.

On paper, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company has all the ingredients to be the best pizza place in Vancouver. They stand loud and proud of their beliefs, of which they have quite a few, and so I have summarized them below:

1/ They aim to use organic, local produce. (Yay!!)

2/ They cook food naturally. Meaning that there are no nasties =  no additives, no transfats and no GMO’s.

3/ They are commited to lessening their impact on the environment by using sustainable seafood, composting all of their food waste and bio-degradable packaging, and they promote awareness of selected conservation efforts. 

4/ They are commited to the community by providing financial support to local schools and clubs.

These are all beliefs that I personally also feel very strongly about and so I feel good when I tuck into their pizza (and who can generally say that about eating pizza?!).

There are two locations in Vancouver, one is in North Vancouver and the other is in Kitsilano and that is the one that I frequent. The space is large and is seperated in to two rooms; one has a bar and numerous long tables (great for families or groups) and the other room contains the clay wood fired oven and more seating. There is also a decent sized patio which is great for summer visits. Staying true to their environmental beliefs they have used recycled woods in their decor and they even have environmentally friendly toilets. Unfortunately, I don’t particularly like the decor. It feels a little too impersonal, too sparce and not very welcoming. The floor is cold bare concrete and the furniture is wooden so it is uncomfortable to sit on for a long period of time. However, that said, I don’t think that most people go there to critique the furnishings. 

The main attraction, without a doubt, would have to be the flatbreads, which is basically pizza but with a thin, non-doughy base. The flatbreads start out by being handcrafted with 100% organic ingredients. They are then covered in wholesome, tasty toppings and are then transferred to a wood fired oven to be baked. The result? A fresh, tasty and somewhat healthy pizza. My only fault with the flatbreads is that sometimes the flavour can be lacking. My favourite is the spicy pepperoni because it is has some kick to it due to the mild spiciness of the pepperoni. Some of the other flavours, however, have left me scratching my head and wondering where the flavour is. Many of the flatbread choices are vegetarian but there are three meatier versions for carnivores that can’t live without their meat. Prices are fair – $9.95 for the serving size below. I believe that it goes up to $14.95 for a bigger size. For those with food allergies, there is also an interesting gluten/lactose free flatbread so these guys really do cater to almost everyone.

Other menu items include limited pasta options, soups, antipasto plates, dips and flatbreads, and substantial, tasty salads (the fresh basil and blackberry salad tastes like summer!). Disappointingly, I have also found the pasta to be lacking in flavour on occasion. The lack of flavour for both the flatbread and the pasta are the only reasons why I don’t scream rave reviews for Rocky Mountain. As I said earlier, on paper they would be the best pizza place in town, however in execution there is just something lacking. Something that I can’t put my finger on. With that said, I still feel that Rocky Mountain is worth a visit but I don’t think that it is necessarily worth going out of your way for.

Service is decent, sometimes a little forgetful. For those with kids you should make an effort to visit with your little one. They have pizza making parties where the kids can make their own pizzas – even I’d be down for that!

Final Thoughts: I really want to like Rocky Mountain more than I do. Mainly because I want to support them and other companies like them who are willing to put the environment and healthy eating before profits. If you are in the area and are looking for somewhere good to eat, then pop in. The food is good but for me it isn’t a destination food spot. As I mentioned, I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there. Nook still retains its #1 spot for pizza in Vancouver!!

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company on Urbanspoon

Phnom Pehn

7 Sep

244 East Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1Z7

T: 604 682 5777
No website

Brief Description: An extremely popular, no-frills restaurant that prides itself on offering authentic Cambodian and Vietnamese food. Located in a somewhat questionable part of Chinatown (in my opinion).

This post is about chicken wings and a chicken. And that chicken would be me. Although I have wanted to visit Phnom Penh for quite some time, I have just never felt that safe venturing into Chinatown by myself, or even with my sister – just call me “chicken”! Hence why I have been dragging my feet on making the trip to Phnom Penh. But after recently reading even more rave reviews, I just had to go. So, under the watchful eye of the burly B, I made my first visit a few Saturdays ago for lunch.

If you are a foodie in Vancouver then I am sure that you are well aware of this extremely popular Cambodian/Vietnamese restaurant. If you aren’t, you should note that it is very well-known and appears to have a lot of regulars. We visited on a Saturday for lunch and the restaurant was already bursting at the seams and there was still a constant line of hungry hopefuls out the door, desperate for a table. That’s pretty impressive in a city that is generously sprinkled with good Asian restaurants.

The restaurant itself is a fairly decent size and the tables are laid out in three rows, which kind of gives it the feel of a cafeteria. The decor is simple and fairly unremarkable. Prices are quite reasonable. I had heard some complaints from other foodies that the prices were slightly higher than you’d expect to pay; however, I didn’t feel that the difference was that noticeable. Our bill was still fairly cheap considering what we ordered so I wasn’t about to complain. Service was very prompt and efficient. There was no small-talk but that didn’t really bother us too much. You could tell that the staff were extremely busy making sure that customers were seated and that the food was served quickly.

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Indisputably, the main attraction for a trip to Phnom Penh is the Deep Fried Chicken Wings. All of the reviews that I had read prior to my visit had practically glowed with admiration for these finger-licking inducing delights. Of course, I had to order them. And damn, they were really good (thanks for the tip, Vancouver foodies!). The skin was crunchy with a winning combination of saltiness and flavour and some of the bites were punctuated with small pieces of fried garlic or green onions – yum!! The wings were fresh out of the deep fryer so the flesh was still hot and the pepper/lemon sauce that accompanied the wings added even more “oomph”. The serving size was very impressive. We ordered a small, which I believe was around the $8 mark and that was more than enough. I was happily chomping my way through them for most of the meal, in-between bites of my other dishes.

The other dishes that we feasted on were Pork Salad Roll, Vietnamese Steam Roll, Phnom Penh Egg Noodle in Soup (for me) and Squid Ball Noodle Soup (for B).

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The Pork Salad Roll was ok but not rave-worthy. I probably wouldn’t order it again as it was pretty uneventful – there was no party in my mouth. Although I did like the dipping sauce that it came with.

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The Vietnamese Steam Roll was delicious. There was a lot of flavour in this seemingly simple dish.

I don’t think that either of us was blown-away by our soups but they were decent enough.

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My Phnom Penh Egg Noodle in Soup was a tad dull. There really wasn’t much flavour happening, however, I’m not that well-versed on how Cambodian soups are meant to be so perhaps this is standard.

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We finished our meal with Vietnamese coffees, which is coffee that is slow-dripped into individual cups with condensed milk at the bottom. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these!! Sweet, strong and fresh iced-coffee was a fantastic way to finish the meal.

Final Thoughts: I liked it, particularly the Deep Fried Chicken Wings, however I wasn’t overly impressed. I would go back to see what other dishes they could “Wow!” me with.

Phnom Penh on Urbanspoon

Campagnolo

14 Mar

1020 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 2W1

T: 604 484 6018
www.campagnolorestaurant.ca

Brief Description: A casual, rustic restaurant that focuses on affordable seasonal cuisine from the Piedmont and Emigila-Romagna regions of Italy.

Campagnolo - ExteriorA true diamond in the rough. Campagnolo is located in the not-so-great area of Main Street but don’t let that put you off. If you make the journey you will be rewarded as this is not your typical Italian restaurant. You will not find red and white checkered table cloths or the obligatory spaghetti bologanise and greasy pizza. Yes, there is pizza and pasta on the menu but it’s not what you think…

Campagnolo is the second “child” of the owners who run the very successful Fuel in Kitsilano. It really is the odd duck out in that part of Main Street. With a huge inviting window in the front you can’t help but be drawn to the fact that the restaurant is, well, different from it’s surroundings. Walk inside and you’ll find that the decor is minimalistic with a modern urban feel. The use of old growth fir wood as a feature works well to bring a slight softness to the space.

Elements of the decor are mirrored in the food. Comfortably understated and simple, the menu is unpretentious and trys to remain loyal to its well-researched Northern Italian roots with a strong focus on pastas, pizzas, and characuterie plates (“the ‘Cure”). You may, however, need to ask your server for an explanation of some of the dishes as the menu can be slightly difficult to understand.  The drinks list has been carefully selected to only represent Italian or BC beers and wines.

Although B frequently visits Campagnolo, I have only managed to make it there twice so far. On the day that we went for our second visit together, I managed to convince him to share the Albacore Tuna Crudo with white bean, oregano and garlic bread crumb for an appetizer. The delicate pieces of sushi grade tuna initially seemed out of place with the earthy white beans, oregano and garlic bread crumbs but the first bite proved me wrong. The flavours actually worked surprisingly well together. I’m not really sure how prominent albacore tuna is in Northern Italian cooking but it was so good that I won’t question it.

Albacore Tuna Crudo

B continues to rave about the Tagliarini pork ragú with basil and pecorino and, so far, has not ordered anything else but this dish on the many occasions that he has been there. It must be the tender shredded pieces of pork that sit proudly atop the fresh home-made ribbons of pasta that keep him coming back for more. I thoroughly enjoyed the Tagliarini the time that I ordered it and the only thing that stopped me from getting it again was because I wanted to try something new.

Tagliarini pork ragú

The Carnaroli Risotto made with anise, black olive and tarragon was a pleasant surprise and thankfully, the quality was on par with the Tagliarini. I wasn’t expecting it to be as creamy as it was but the black olives added a certain amount of punctuation to the dish, in just the right places.

Carnaroli Risotto

I have yet to try any of the actual desserts, mainly because I have no room left after eating their entrees. Although, being that we were in an Italian restaurant, I just couldn’t say no to ending our meal with a coffee and the house-made biscotti and meringues. A perfect ending to a lazy Saturday lunch.

Final Thoughts: A breath of fresh air to the Italian restaurant scene in Vancouver. The food is delightful in it’s simplicity and is thoughtfully selected and prepared.

Campagnolo on Urbanspoon