This long standing restaurant is a Main Street staple. For over 21 years it has been run by the same owner, serving their community dutifully.
“Locus” is better known for its eccentric decor. Artsy with oil painted portraits and a series of sculpted branches twisted above booths.
Even the washroom has a touch of their dark and rustic art aesthetic. Painted like a cave wall, this single stall depicts a drawn savannah setting with birds in flight and hoofed animals grazing on the plains.
Today we were invited down for a reintroduction and a taste of what the kitchen has been churning out most recently. A kitchen helmed by the same head chef for the last 5 years; who features plenty of seafood on his menu, drawing inspiration from protein and produce sourced from local organic farms. His offerings include a weekly revolving fresh sheet that at times can get adventurous with camel, crocodile and even giant octopus. Sadly, this was not one of those weeks.
The following is what we had, we ordered all that peaked our interest, or what we saw as something different and unique to the restaurant.
To start, we sipped on some chilled cocktails to beat the heat. With blinds up, our seats by the windows took in a lot of sun, and things got fairly warm. “The railbird” came highly recommended by our server and bartender. Bourbon, ginger beer, peach preserve, honey syrup, and fresh lemon. It was light on the ginger and strong on the alcohol. A great one to beat the heat with and still get the sting of alcohol that you are looking for in a double. (All their cocktails are made with 2oz).
The “War of the roses” is Pimm’s no. 1 gin, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, fresh pineapple, and cranberry. It was like a spiked ice tea with a strong hint of mint. I got some tang from the pineapple, but missed the cranberry completely. Here, it would have been nice to have either of the two fruits as a garnish. The drinks are tasty enough, but given that this was a Lounge I wanted things elevated, with more thought on the presentation. But at $10 for a double, I can’t complain.
“The Flirtini” was fun and filled full in a large martini glass. Stoli raspberry vodka, Cointreau, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, fresh lime, and sparkling wine. This was a good time in a glass, a great drink to sip on all night long, and get into trouble from well after.
As for our meal, we had a complimentary basket of bread brought out to us to start. Their potato wheat bread is baked daily by their Main Street neighbour, “Cobs Bread”. But the potatoes that are needed and the recipe that is used is all “Locus”. Said potatoes are first boiled in house, then walked across the street and transformed into the fluffy and airy slices of bread that now sat before us. You got the starchiness of the potatoes, but not their dense nature. Great as is, but better with either their spicy or sweet butter. The latter is a cinnamon and brown sugar spread served in the morning with their cinnamon raisin bread.
We were here just in time for happy hour cut off so ordered their “Crispy Brussels sprouts” as a starter. I am a fan of fried Brussels sprouts, so can confidently say that this is one of the better renditions. There was plenty of flavour and taste without extra grease or oil. Simple and clean greens salted with hard cheese and seasoned with cracked pepper for $7. It is worth noting that their happy hour runs from 3-6pm and 10pm to close Sunday to Thursday.
The “Cyprus Halloumi skewer” is not actually served on skewer, but simply prepared on one. Grilled Cyprus sheep’s milk cheese, basil-arugula pesto, toasted pine nuts, sun dried tomato, charred artichokes, kalamata olives, arugula, citrus olive oil, and cilantro sprigs. Altogether the assembly tasted great. Though the halloumi didn’t stand out like you would expect it to, given the name of the dish. I enjoyed its firm texture, but didn’t get much taste from it or any of its blackened char. As a whole this dish would have been great over pasta, flatbread, or salad. Tasty as is, but I left like it was missing a base.
From this week’s dinner feature menu we tried their land and vegetarian offering. If you were expecting dressed up dishes with contrasting flavour profiles, this isn’t them. The following are rustic offering in large servings. Sensible flavours and familiar pairings for hearty and comforting plates.
The “Surf n turf steak and frites” was pan roasted AAA Alberta beef strip loin in a demi-glace with grilled garlic black tiger prawns, Parmesan black truffle pomme frites, smoked paprika aioli, wild and cultivated mushrooms, and a seasonal salad with French red radishes. This was a good amount of food, small servings of everything for a balanced meal. We ordered the steak in a medium rare, but it came more like well, with very little pink. At least it was cooked tender and sliced for easy sharing. But it was the large and juicy prawns that were the stand out, along with the crispy fries. There was only a little truffle essence on the latter, but the paprika aioli gave each stick more than enough kick.
The vegetarian “Mac and cheese” was not as expected. When you read mac and cheese you expected a gooey cheese sauce over tender pasta. This was noodle and vegetable topped with cheese. Serpentini pasta, carrot, grilled asparagus, curly red kale, blistered heirloom tomatoes, basil arugula pesto, arugula, pine nuts, and micro greens. All the vegetables above were prepared individually then mixed together with the cooked noodles, and after the whole lot is topped with soft ripened Quebec cheese. It was a light pasta serving, not creamy or cheesy, more like a pasta salad in a non-tangy vinaigrette. It had a similar flavour as the halloumi appetizer above, but less punchy. A dish I would make myself when wanting to eat better, but not one that I would order again from a restaurant.
Our second pasta dish was a lot more satisfying. Pan seared wild spruce tip, chèvre (cheese made with goat cheese) gnocchi” with crumbled chè·vre, arugula pesto, grilled summer squash, asparagus, fresh strawberries, and a balsamic reduction. We ordered this one out of curiosity and was pleasantly surprised by how much we all liked it. It had a similar pesto and vegetable flavour to the appetizer and other pasta dish above, but enhanced with the other ingredients. Ingredients that you wouldn’t think would work together, but just does. All brought together by the large, chewy balls of gnocchi deep fried for a crispy and doughy chew. Each irregularly shaped ball was great on its own, but best as a base for the crunchy and gritty pine nuts, the bitter squash chunks, the sweet strawberry slices, the grilled acrid asparagus spears, and the pops of salty goat cheese every now and then. And what originally seemed like a dish constructed as an afterthought was really a well conceived and very interesting entree. It is no surprise that this was the first dish we fully finished, leaving not even a single pine nut behind.
Our third pasta dish too felt flat by comparison, it too tasted like everything else; with similar seasonings, pesto, and like vegetables. Here, I wished we would have been given a warning of all the similar flavours, and that our server would have steered us toward dishes with their own unique flavours. “Seafood Spätzle”. “Spätzle” is a type of pasta that looks like lumps or threads, made from a batter poured through a coarse colander into boiling water. The texture of these noodle drippings were great, but with all the vegetable and seafood to sort through, it got lost. I would have liked a more simple dish, maybe just three vegetables or simply mushrooms and spätzle. Less to better highlight the feature ingredient and its texture, that you don’t find on too many menus. Fried sage and orange spätzle with Atlantic lobster, rock crab, Manila clams, jumbo tiger prawns, sockeye salmon, capers, caramelized fennel, snap peas, blistered tomatoes, curly endives, and mustards greens; all in a citrus herb oil.
I liked the simple beauty of the “Haida Gwaii BC halibut”. A pan roasted local halibut filet served with a torch Provençal lemon herb butter, grilled summer squash, roasted bell peppers, caramelized fennel, organic fingerling potatoes, spinach, and a Chardonnay halibut fumet. It tasted just like how you would expected it to with buttery smooth white fish and its crispy buttery skin.
To be honest, we were considering dessert, eyeing their blood orange cheesecake or Anjou pear featured strudel and bread pudding; however it was just so hot in the restaurant that I had to get out. I was boiling, and fanning myself with my cloth napkin wasn’t helping. Therefore our stay was cut short. So I guess that gives me a reason to return, and hopefully I can coincide my next visit with some adventures game meat. I have never had camel and didn’t know it was even an option in Vancouver. But trying this requires a keen eye on their website when their fresh sheet updated weekly, on my part.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Their dinner menu was okay, but where they shine is their happy hour specials and offerings. Interesting small bites that I wish I got to take better advantage of. A handful of small plates partnered with their tasty cocktails, overlooking Main Streets sounds like summer time fun. $4.50 beers, $5.50 wines and cocktails, more Brussel sprouts, a miso poutine, halloumi fries; and nachos with charred corn, black beans and a pineapple salsa. Don’t deny your cravings.
121 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P6