As the destination of a double birthday, for two landmark ages, the restaurant did not meet the expectations we had set forth. Our hosts selected the place based on the menus, a section that definitely fell short. Based on the prices and descriptions I expected a nice meal at a sit down fine dining restaurant. Instead it felt like we were eating in a night club. Eating while everyone around us were either dancing or standing with a drink in had. I felt out of place dressed down and completely sober.
Located right beside “Yaletown Destillery” they share the same red and white stripped awning, the same general space, and the same kitchen and bar. We felt foolish being carded at the entrance of the Destillery; thinking we were at the wrong door, we walked all the way around to Paulie’s entrance. This only lead us to be seated at a table a few feet away from our original point of attempted entry. Guess we found a loop hole to not getting carded. We weren’t made to show ID at the second entrance nor asked for any while ordering our drinks at the Destillery side of things. Though we do look older than 18, but surely not over 35. Wait what is legal drinking age again? It’s been so long since I had to know this.
The entire bar/restaurant was kept fairly dark, so quickly walking past everything allowed nothing to jump out nor give much to see. Though the location of our reserved table did allow for a tour of the place as we trekked through passages, and past by the open kitchen that sandwiched between the two dining areas. I suspect, seeing as it was a Saturday and the place was packed, seating on Paulie’s side was filled; so therefore we were given one where available, at the Destillery.
Our table was located at the end of a row of others. It gave a look forward at the bar, heavily trafficked by bodies who choose to stand and linger with drinks in hand and conversation in mouth. Past their shadows, moving continuously to the loud dance music, I could just make out their impressive bar. It was the width of the wall, kept well stocked and heavily decorated with full bottles rows on rows. Backed with mirrors and lit with LEDs, it was hard to miss even seated feet away with an obstructed view. And the grandiose chandelier hanging with crystals above, was just as eye catching. In conclusion hovering by the bar was definitely the place to be. To see and be seen. Overall the vibe and the room allowed for a lot of mingling. Tables were available for parties to stay engaged in one another, and bars and benches without chairs allowed for the constant moving needed to meet new people and make new friends. Had I been here just to drink and dance my opinion of the place would have been much more different. Instead I was hungry, I wanted to eat and catch up with my friends. Though unfortunately the less than satisfying food and the more than loud music forced my hand other wise. All dishes heard complaints that were yelled across the table. I understand the need for loud music, as it drowns out other chatter and forces people to get much closer to speak, very intimate. Though for the prices I was asked to pay I had hope the food would have been better and in setting in which I got to eat in it more enjoyable.
Moscow Mule in its own custom brass drinking vessel. Vodka soda. The mint was a nice visual touch.
The Caesar was a salty mess. I passed on their habenaro and jalapeño versions, feeling they might be too spicy. After a sip I was turned off, with only two tiny olives and no salted rim I couldn’t understand where the over salting came from. I asked for some additional tomato juice in order to water it down, and ideally make it passable. After that didn’t work I asked for it to be taken away. Our server made no apologizes and made no mention of having it taken off the bill, nor was there an offer to make me a new Caesar or a different cocktail all together. Instead she just picked up the glass and left without a word. Busy or not we are still paying customers and deserved to be treated as if our patronage was worth something. Little did we know gratuity is included for a party of six and regardless of how we were taken care of she would get her 15%. The only silver lining, I later discovered the failed drink was indeed removed from my charges.
The food came fast, but only because we are the only ones ordering any. “Calamari fritti”. Being hungry and wanting a safe bet I choose the calamari. Everyone makes it, so how hard can it be. Here is where I am starting to think the kitchen doesn’t audit its food before it’s ushered to tables. The batter on the squid tasted as burnt as it looked, and it was as unappealingly salty, as everything else. I understand that majority of bar food is over salted to encourage more drinking, but at this level it was too much salt and too expensive. Ironically the salty sauce that came with it was helpfully in balancing everything out. And lucky it was after 9pm, and having had no dinner before, we were hungry enough to push through the finishing of our meal.
A small “Ceasar salad”. Another dish common to many menus that was too salty. The lettuce to sauce ratio was off. The leaves quickly became soggily drenched in dressing, and the cheese aside from adding some much needed dimension to the plate, only made things even more saltier. We craved a thick soup after this to wash our palettes clean, but feared it too would be saturated in salt.
My guest was interested in the “Kitchen leftover salad for two”. A catchy name, who would have thought it would be so literal. Reading it and its request to ask servers for clarification, you’d imagine this more like the salad of the day. What ingredients were left after service would be used to craft a speciality salad. Instead they literally tossed together scraps to make the most misaligned salad I have ever seen or tasted. Served in a large punch bowl the mix sat listless at the bottom. When we originally inquired, our server mentioned there would be chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, and peppers. This made it sound like it would be a descent salad. What we got was a salad trying too hard to be a pizza with pepperoni, olives, and diced onions. The leaves were over saturated with a herby dressing that was like everything else, too salty.
“Vongole forno flatbread” made with calms, sausage, garlic, broccoli raab, and perino. This was the anomaly. The opposite of salty this was very bland. A colourless presentation paralleled with flavourless taste. The dough was misshapen with what appeared to be no attempt at rounding the corners. The ingredients were not evenly spread around and bites were left being overwhelming with calms or underwhelming with just vegetable stalks. The bread was the best part. It is sad when the only good thing about a dish is the base in which all the ingredients sit on.
“Veal Parmigiana”. The two guests that shared this sandwich with a side of fries declared their meal good. With not description other than this would be a hero served with fries it was nice to see other ingredients nestled between the crunchy bun. I am glad one of the birthday hosts had a good meal and that the kitchen was able to at make her a sandwich she liked.
“Orecchiette with broccoli raab, cherry tomatoes, garlic, chili, anchovy, toasted garlic breadcrumbs, and pecorino”. I regret not selecting the option to pass on the anchovies . Especially considering the saltiness of every thing else, the last thing I needed was the essence of a salty fish on my plate. But I wanted to take the opportunity to try anchovy for the first time. The name of the dish was just listing everything that would be in it. As one could guess this was salty, though pretty good when compared to the other dishes. Still hungry I ate this quick, trying not to focus on the taste, but instead on the two glasses of water I had to accompany this with. Of note I usually don’t drink liquids when I eat.
We hardly saw our server as dishes ordered from her were brought out by others. Though when we were wrapping up, here she was hovering around. Our dishes and drinks were taken without consent and our table was bussed prematurely. Even to the point of rushing the work and stepping on feet. We were made to feel like we had to go. Yet when we made an attempt at getting the bill she was no where to be found. We had to hunt someone else down through the sea of people, only to not know her name and have to point to our seats instead. She did however generously bring us forks and plates for the cupcakes we brought in place of a birthday cake. None were needed as we wanted no fuss and no muss, but the thought was appreciated.
I did find their share style washroom unique. This was an open room with sealed stalls, surrounding a double sided sink and mirror combo. Although the doors were symboled with either man or woman in stick figures, no one made an effort to do as it suggested.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
On the bases of food and dining experience, I would deem my visit an unsatisfactory one. The food didn’t agree with us, we left to either have a second dinner or to use the washroom. Looking around earlier, we noted that we were the only ones eating. We should have known better than to order food at a busy bar like this. It was too dark to read menu, and too loud to speak to order from it. With the music this cranked it should be meant for dancing, not eating. And even then the food should be left to quick and salty bar fare, not full pastas dishes. So with the absence of a dance floor, patrons were left shuffling side to side and bobbing up and down between tables. Our host informed us that they were in the midst of rebranding. Something certainly needed after this experience. A confusing dinner with no cohesive theme or direction. They had some winning points, but many more souring ones that needed to be addressed. Overall for the meal that we had, I don’t feel they have the right to be charging three dollar signs for their food, or adding automatic gratuity for a table of six, especially as two girls shared one entree. Though lesson learned, you don’t come to a bar for fine dining. Though looking back we were eating off the Destillery menu and ordering from their kitchen and bar. Yet these are the same dishes mentioned on the Paulie’s website menu. I guess we should have looked into the actual restaurant some more and done more research when choosing this place. So I conclude with the fact that everything was far too salty to finish, it was a good thing I was hungry enough to be able to lower my standards. Don’t deny your cravings.