Today we were visiting the newest location of “Medina Cafe”. They were clever enough to have signs on the corner of Richards on the busy street of Robson, directing you to walk down Richards to visit them. Otherwise I wouldn’t have know they were now in the neighbourhood.
You wait by the door, you can only be seated if your full party is present. So like its main location, there is a scramble to call your co-diners over quick, if you are the first to arrive. I left my name on the wait list. I waited hungry. An awkward place between the door and the cabinet that functioned as their hostess booth. No seats, and no place to stand out of the way. You constantly feel like you are hindering the revolving traffic. One of the patrons awkwardly waiting with me urged the host to give him a table, mentioning that the other half of his pair would be here in a matter of seconds. I was in the same boat, it didn’t make a difference. Though the host took the time to assure everyone that the turn around rate was high and that he was doubtful that there will be a wait when our guests would finally join us.
The space was almost double the size of the original, even with its who shops merged into one structure. It was necessary given the popularity of the place. It also felt busier because at the other location their large space was divided into two halves and the wall down the middle created some much needed privacy. Here, the open room with its closely spaced tables took that option away from you. And on this Wednesday for lunch, the place was busy and the crowd was at a roar.
The hostess booth was a cabinet with drawers. Its whole set up looked like it belonged in den or study. On the top rested a typewriter, it welcomed guests with its paper fed, its message in mid type. Out of place in our modern world, but it matched well the other antiques adjacent. A stack of dusty encyclopedia-like tomes and a rusty desk lamp. It was the cordless phone and the pad of paper and pen that stood in contrast. It was also here where the white and teal titled foyer floor transitioned to a matte hardwood floor. As you can tell my wait gave me a lot of time to write.
Their well known waffles were in a showcase, within view area of the front door. Strategic, I feel. After seeing these you wouldn’t think to avoid the wait and go somewhere else. A multi-tier stand tantalizing you from the waiting area. Sadly our full meal and my full belly did not allow me to have any, though considering they are pre-made, I technically could have taken some to go. It’s not like they serve them fresh or warm, or at least that is what I can recall from memory. But, here you are able to dress your liege-style waffles up with a whole slew of different and unique toppings, unlike any at any other waffle shop. You add each one at the cost of $1. Chocolate, Milk Chocolate Lavender, White Chocolate Pistachio Rosewater, Salted Caramel, Raspberry Caramel, Peach & Bourbon Butterscotch, Fig Orange Marmalade, Mixed Berry Compote, Quince Compote, Maple Syrup or Yoghurt. And for $2 you can have Earnest Cardamom Ice Cream with Bittered Sling Plum + Rootbeer Bitters. Some fancy waffles.
As I mentioned earlier, we were seated between two other very narrow and very closely spaced tables. I felt like I was in a constant shrug with my shoulders tense, to give others around me some personal bubble space. Maybe Belgium has a different definition of personal space. In front of me was their bar. Wood finished shelves sitting in a brick alcove, numerous bottles lines each one. Above it, a handsomely done copy of their logo; it had a worn wall, faded tee shirt look and print to it. To my right was the kitchen where I couldn’t make out much past their counter window.
The cuisine was Belgian. Bold flavours, with a warming heat. It is sometimes said that Belgian food is served in the quantity of German cuisine but with the quality of French food. Belgium is best known for its chocolate, waffles, fries and beer, we didn’t get any of those things. Most of the menu felt foreign to me, a lot of it I wanted to try. The house sodas in particular were interesting. House sodas were nonalcoholic drinks with unique ingredients, think a virgin craft cocktail. I had the “Bergamot and buttermilk cream soda”, with Madagascar vanilla, bergamot citrus, buttermilk, and chocolate bitters. There was also the option to add in cardamon infused cachaca for extra. This was the fanciest drink I have ever had. It was seasoned with Indian spices and had a strong resemblance to chai. Fragrant. You got the yoghurt’s colour and its creaminess. And the syrup used offered the beverage some sweetness. I didn’t plan it, but it went well with my un-expectedly spicy brunch. Like milk, it helped to dull the burning heat of my meal below.
I will have to come back to try the “Rose Hip + Jaffa Orange Crush” with Honey, Eucalyptus, Rosewater, Rose Hip, Jaffa Oranges, Cranberry Bitters and the “Hawayij Root Beer Float” with Barley malt, Blackstrap Molasses, Vanilla, Cardamom Ice Cream, Plum + Rootbeer Bitters. Both had the potential to become boozy beverages with the addition of gin or bourbon. The perfect set of drinks to transition from day to night.
“Paella” with One fried egg, orzo, spicy chorizo, seasonal vegetables, grana padano, avocado, and spicy charred tomato salsa. Orzo is short-cut pasta, shaped like a large grain of rice. It as if you were eating a hybrid of pasta and rice. You get the starchy chew of pasta with the ease of eating from smaller grains of rice. The pasta was cooked tenderly and its texture was enjoyable. The pot was like a vegetable soup stew, with mashed bits of tomato.
“Tagine”, two poached eggs, spicy merguez sausage; and seasonal vegetables in stew of chickpeas, black olives, and preserved lemon. Served with a side of grilled focaccia for dipping or use with the side of dip included. The creaminess of the sauce was also helpful in cooling off my tongue. It was a little too spicy for my taste. I find chilli sauce distracts me from tasting the food, and enjoying the moment of eating because I am so caught up on how my mouth feels when l it is on fire. I wasn’t sold on the poached egg, or having its runny yolk spill over my already very watery dish. I was like the traditional egg and sausage breakfast, but instead of hash browns there were chickpeas and beans to make things feel more hearty. Overall, as good as it was, I also don’t know how I feel about having this first thing in the day. A lot of spices and flavours to wake up to. Pow! Goodmorning! In your face! Plus given the warmth of the day, maybe something to heat you inside out isn’t a good idea. My guest reminded me that lamb meat is often served in winter for that very reason, it’s ability to heat one from the inside out. It was the reason I got this instead of the “Les Boulettes” with spicy Moroccan Lamb Meatballs.