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Category: wine bar Page 1 of 2

Grapes & Soda

I have been meaning to check this bar out, so when looking for an after dinner drinking spot, in the South Granville area, we headed down to “Grapes and Soda”. And to our delight, their head bartender, 2018 best bartender of the year, as voted by “Vancouver Magazine”, was behind the counter mixing tonight.

With its patterned vinyl on the all windowed exterior, you can’t really tell what’s within, if not for the bottle cap logo on the sandwich board, and the flag hanging off the side of the building.

Inside, the little space is a lot more intricate. It has a similar vibe to all the other dark and intimate bars I am familiar with, in the Chinatown area. It leads with a well stocked shelves, 3.5 rows of bottles packed in together tight, and a collection of botanicals and bitters on the counter to speak to their mixing program. The restaurant is spooky and dark, with cozy space saving pockets, and parchment wrapped lights, offering a little illumination. Seating runs down the length of the room, across from the actual bar that continued into their kitchen. Our group of 5 shimmied into the booth by the door.

Interestingly, on the back of the menu was a message, making note of the drawers under each table. Guests were encourage to use these as a place to house their cellphones, a place to put them away securely, and to not be tempted to pull them out for the duration of your stay. However, the fear would be then forgetting them there.

When it came time to order I went for one of their soda cocktails, considering this was their specialty and name sake. Today’s special was a red coloured soda with umeshu, gin, lime, whey, and shiso. They are premixed and pre bottled, served with a glass of ice and bottle opener. It was a easy drink with hints of plum and lime. I didn’t get any of the distinctive shiso flavour though, not that I wanted any.

I liked the look of the wide and short coupe that the “Tempest” cocktail came in. Blackberry, mezcal, coffee, lime, egg white, and a chilli tincture.

The “Lassi legal” drank like a creamy dessert. Kaffir lime, cachaca, kefir, coconut, cucumber, mint, and cilantro.

They can also mix up any of your favourite classic cocktails like this “Spanish gin & tonic”. Basically, anything but a highball, as they don’t carry grocery store sodas like coke or sprite.

We didn’t order any food, but for those looking for a light snack to accompany their drinks they do small plates. Bread and charcuterie boards, vegetable heavy seasonal dishes like cauliflower, peas, and zucchini; and fruit forward desserts like Mille feuille and strawberries and rhubarb with ice cream.

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? – Yes.
A fun place for some creative cocktails in the South Granville area, and out of downtown Vancouver. I would love to frequent here if not for the need to travel via skytrain and bus to and from, if I plan to drink multiple glasses. Don’t deny your cravings.

GRAPES & SODA
1537 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver BC 6J
604-336-2456
grapesandsoda.ca

The Vancouver International Wine Festival 2019, preview

British Columbia is well know for its wine country, located in the Okanagan Valley. So it is no surprise that every year Vancouver hosts its very own wine festival. A way to celebrate the bounty of our province, showcase our local wineries, and to be able to bring together other wineries and wine enthusiasts from all around the world.

This year, “Canada’s premier wine show” will run from February 23 to March 3, 2019. Tickets to all public events went on sale January 8th, and I was invited to this preview, the evening of, in celebration. This was a launch party of sorts, highlighting what we can expect from the show to come. An evening of wine tasting at “Blue Water Cafe’s Oceans Room”.

Here, in this private room, a collection of wines from around the world were offered up across several tables. Each, a self serve “bar”. A couple of bottles and a label for the state or country that they represented. You bop around to each table, reading labels and the tag that was tied around the neck of each. It lists information about the wine, including the social media links and hashtags, along with where each bottle of wine will be featured during the festival week. This is so that if we tasted something we liked, we got a chance to visit it again, or even purchase it for ourself later.

This was just a small collection, a mere sampling of the 725 wines that will be available at the actual event; each representing the 160 participating wineries. This collection also includes bottles and vintages you can’t get locally from your neighbourhood liquor store. So I swirled, tasted, and swallowed my way from one end of the room to the another.

As a whole, “The Vancouver International Wine Festival” is an eight-day celebration of wine and food that features 54 events, including dinners, the Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction, lunches, minglers, wine and food parties, and educational seminars”. You can pick and choose that which you want to attend, and purchase your ticket as of today. But be warned, this festival is very popular, hosting wine enthusiasts from around the world, so get your tickets quick. Many take the time off and travel here to enjoy a week’s worth of wine themed going ons.

“This year, the spotlight is on California, highlighting wines from the Golden State through special events and the theme section of the Tasting Room”. If you can only afford one event or want to attend only one, it is the aforementioned “Tasting Room”. In weeks to come it will be the “home to all 160 participating wineries, as well as Regional Tasting Stations from Australia, California, Napa Valley, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, South Africa, Spain and Washington State”.

For details and how you can get your tickets, upgrade your experience with VIP offers, or maybe book a hotel so that you don’t have to worry about getting home later, visit the link below.

How to Buy Tickets

As for the rest of our evening. There was also an assortment of appetizers being passed around the room. Mostly light bites and seafood, perfect for pairing with the sparkling and whites I found myself gravitating towards this night.

Duck prosciutto in a wonton crisp with red beets. This was too tangy with the pickling of the beets. I would have preferred simply seasoned beets or better yet, a creamy sauce base instead; a more complimentary pairing to better highlight the luscious meat above. But honestly how can you not love this? With their use of gold flake as garnish on red meat.

The onion tart with red peppers was sweet, a little dense with the amount of onions, causing the pastry base to go soggy.

The salted cod fritter was a little too salty for my tastes. Here, I would have liked some of the beets from above to help balance the deep fried crust.

The spicy tuna roll I adored. Fresh fish meets chewy rice, topped with a dollop of spicy aioli that gave you the nostril burn of wasabi, in a minut concentration.

And the salmon nigiri was well done, no soy needed. You popped it into your mouth and it was wonderful.

In short, a wonderful evening and the perfect teaser to have me counting down to the Vancouver International Wine Festival!

Rosé All Day at The Wine Bar

Vancouver is well known for its craft beer scene, and all the bars that serve them in barrels, batches, growlers, pints and flights. There are more and more small breweries popping up every month, with more and more bars to offer them to you. So I was ecstatic to discover that our fair city now has a wine bar to cater to those who prefer grapes over hops; offering just as much variety in wine as your local bar would beer. Introducing “The Wine Bar” the literal name, that gets right to the point, as well as delivers on the promise of wine by the glass, as well as bottle.

And if that isn’t reason enough to visit them, they have recently launched their rosé program, making “Rosé all day” a reality, and not just a slogan reserved for graphic tees.

On this night I was invited to the #Rosé launch party, allowing thirsty guests the ability to sample their collection of pinks. They have more than 40 different rosé wines available by the glass, and even more options if you are willing to order by the bottle. This assembly even included a 4 litre bottle for over $1,500, which was quick to sell, at 25% off. Every Sunday, “TWB” invites guests down to their water side bar for 25% off any rosé (bottle or glass)

But tonight we were able to taste as many of the pinks as we could, whilst mingling with the vendors that represented and distributed the various labels. They too were enjoying the wines and the space, as they gave guests a little more in depth information on the brand they represented. Around the quick to fill room enthusiasts were seen swirling and swishing, trying with a spit. And there was myself, downing each taster like a champ, with my face turning a shade to match my quick to empty glass.

I wish I was able to be a bit more discerning of each sip that I took. But truth be told, I cannot recall the notes between sweet and/or dry, just that I enjoyed them all; and half the fun is try as many as you can. Hence the appeal of the wine bar in the first place, as it is what sets them apart from others. They allow you to try something new, or be more adventurous, without the commitment of a full bottle.

As we drank in deep, a rotation of handheld snacks kept me in check. A selection to showcase the kitchen’s ability in small bites, just as what is offered on their regular food menu. A menu that has similarities to their sister restaurant, “Provence Marinaside”, next door. The only difference is here, they have cultivated a more casual setting to spend your time at. Truly laid back and easy, like your favourite bar, but with wine and the air of sophistication it always brings.

Your option of seating includes cushy benches indoors, and a patio up front with a water side view. The latter was the perfect setting to people watch, and be seen at, behind a flower lined fence. But the actual place to be is right at the entrance, in front of the fully stocked wine bar. Bottles corked and left to chill, and taps with slender nozzles to admire. But on this occasion it became our standing bar, and the perfect platform to highlight their new French and American rosés; as well as a collection of pink sparkling.

For nibbles we enjoyed a self serve, auto replenishing platter of raw oysters on ice with caviar, because fresh oysters and wine seem like a natural conclusion.

Jumbo shrimp served chilled with a tangy dip. Self explanatory and always a crowd pleaser.

I liked the mildness of the juicy sausage, a sharp contrast to the soggy cheese and vegetable with quinoa on bread bite.

I much more prefer the perfectly round pastry puff topped with a veggie ratatouille-like zesty mix.

Although I had a great time, given the amount of attendees and the tone of the gathering, I wasn’t able to fully take-in or enjoy “The Wine Bar”; so decided to come back for a more “normal” night shortly after. Doing so with a friend who drinks wine like others drink water. Although sadly she must have been overwhelmed with all the options, as she decided that we should share a bottle of bubbles from Italy. This was the easy choice, instead of picking and choosing by the glass, visiting the world through its wine in the process. Guess that gives me the excuse to return once again.

Because “The Wine Bar” has over 200 different wines available by the glass, and over 400 by the bottle. 400 different wines to choose from, in a dining scene where no other restaurant or bar can boast the same.

During our stay we would nibble on their small plates, taking advantage of the Southern French fare that “Provence Marinaside” is known for. Naturally, the menu helped you pair the perfect glass to go with your dish of choice; but for us, our bottle was plenty.

First we had some garlic marinated “frog wings”, because: when in “Provence”. They were dressed in your choice of sea salt, Jim bean bourbon, or espelette Pepper. We went for just some salt to flavour and exemplify the garlic. With the simple dressing the flavour of the well seasoned wings came through lough and clear. The little, one-bite drums had the frog meat falling off its bone. You put the whole thing in your mouth and with a twist of our tongue you removed the meat. These were so great that I could have eaten a half dozen more.

Next we had some “crispy calamari” with lemon and a garlic aioli, for a similar crunch. Well breaded and chewy, but unmemorable when served along side the frog wings above.

We would start our meal and time in the small dining, waiting for a table to free up on the patio. When it did we moved our set up, and indulged in our next course of tapas plates with fresh air and a cool breeze.

Having drank to the point where you want carbs to balance yourself out internally, I immediately eyed the “Gnocchi du jour”. Today the chef’s creations was their house made gnocchi in a light cream sauce with morels and kale. They had the perfect texture and were the exact taste I was craving for at the time. Chewy and buttery, the mushrooms added some earthiness and depth, with the kale brightening up the plate with its change in texture.

Off the dessert menu, we also enjoyed their “Artisanal BC cheese plate” with gluten free crisps, olives, and fruit compotes. Wine with cheese just seems to fit best at a French style restaurant, and even better when it highlight’s BC’s dairy farmer’s contribution to the cheese game.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As, I mentioned above there isn’t another place quite like this in Vancouver, and none with a view like they do. A great spot for those who enjoy wine and would like to get acquainted with an extensive list of wines from around the globe. Here you can try them by the tap, glass, or bottle at reasonable prices. They not only have the largest by-the-glass wine program in Vancouver, but in all of Western Canada as well! Come for 400 plus wines, but be sure to start with a visit on Sunday for 25% off bottles and glasses of rosé. “Each ready to drink by itself or pair well with our food menu.” – Josh, Wine Director at TWB. “Don’t deny your cravings” – Magmei

 

TWB
1167 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver BC, V6Z2V4
604-681-4144
thewinebar.ca
The Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2017

Vancouver International Wine Festival

This year’s Vancouver international wine festival ran from February 11 to the 19th, 2017. My guest and I bought our tickets early for the “Trans Canada Tasting”, a good thing considering tickets were sold out well before the day.

This was the final tasting of the festival, and one with a Canadian theme. It is unique in that it brought Canadian wines, wine professionals, wine lovers, and journalists together for discussion. It was definitely a great way to celebrate Canada’s 150th. A note that was not lost on the room as we cheers to Canada at start of the event.

This showcase included a panel of wine experts across Canada, and one from the foreign wine market, for perspective. With two moderators hosting each topic. One of which was the first Canadian woman to claim the Master of Wine (MW) title in 2004, and a local to Vancouver. And the other, Canada’s first Master Sommelier. With them they also invited leading viticulturalists and winemakers from Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia to present some of their regions’ benchmark wines.

It was an informative night, but not quite what my guest and I envision when we dressed up for our Saturday night downtown. There was leather and lace, when the crowd wore denim and flannel. We were gathered into a large room with green carpet, florescent lights, and beige walls. The room was set cool, I suspect for the sake of the wine, and not the people drinking it. Not the most romantic scene that I associate with wine on a Saturday night, but once again, this was more an educational work shop than wine tasting with a girlfriend.

We picked our own seats across many white clothed tables. Each table included a styrofoam bucket for those we choose to taste their wine and spit out their sip. And each setting had 12 glasses over a map of Canada, a bottle of water, and some crackers to nibble on, in order to refresh the palette.

You drank as the panelists discussed. They went into detail about how the best wines are grown at certain degrees above and below the equator. And how the land and climate affects the grapes during their growing season. What are the core varieties in each region, including the top preforming grapes within. Canada specifically had a smaller acreage for wine grapes, across lots of land. Tonight we would get to try wines from Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and of course British Columbia.

I am sure my interpretation of wine is off, but below are what we tasted and what I thought of each. We went through the tasting province by province, working our way from east to west. In the audience they had representatives from each of the wineries represented in this tasting. One by one they were given the mike, and we were given a behind the scenes look at what went into the making of that particular wine.

From Nova Scotia we had 4 whites.

I was smelled coconut and tasted pickles and pepper from the “Blomidon Estate Winery” 2014 Chardonnay at $33.26 a bottle. This wine spent 10 months in barrel, unfined, and particle filtered; giving it an alcohol percentage of 12.8%.

The “Benjamin Bride” was a Methode Classique sparkling wine at $35.99 a bottle. I smelled white peach and tasted apple amongst its tiny bubbles. It is aged 5 years in the lees on average, with an alcohol percentage of 11.5%.

From “Jost” is Tidal Bay 2015 for $19.99. This is the first and only appellation style wine in Canada. It is a hybrid blend. For me it smelled like lychee and florals with a hint of the former’s flavour, amongst other tropical fruits. It came at 11%.

From “Gasperrau Vineyard” we had a Riesling 2015 for $19.99 a bottle. I smelled orange and tasted sweeter sharp citrus notes from it.

The next four were from Ontario.

“Hidden bench vineyard and winery” had an Estate Riesling 2014 for $29 a bottle. It had a subtle clean scent with the flavour of lemon.

From “Closson chase” there was a south clos Chardonnay 2014 for $39.99. The smelled faintly like coconut and I got some of its creaminess in the taste, finished off with some black pepper. 12.5% alcohol content.

“Flat rock cellars” had a 2014 Pinot noir for $24.95. It was a lighter red that was easy to drink. It smelled like berries and flowers and tasted like it.

From “Chateau des charmes” we tried a Cabernet franc St. David’s bench vineyard 2014 at $27.95. This had an alcohol content of 13.3%. It smelled like cherries with a deeper flavour than the other red above.

From BC there were four options, three of which were from the Okanagan valley and the fourth Victoria.

“Wild goose vineyards” had a Stoney slope Riesling 2015 for $17.99. I smelled floral and citrus and tasted orange in its easy to drink smoothness. 12.2% alcohol content.

“Quails’ Gate winery” had a 2014 Rosemary’s block Chardonnay for $40.00. At this point I am starting to not trust my senses, after drinking so much, because yet again this was another white wine that smelled and tasted like coconut. 13.5% alcohol content

The “Averil creek vineyard” is on Vancouver Island, this is their 2013 Pinot noir for $30.49. Here I smelled strawberry and tasted pepper, it definitely had some spice to it. The alcohol content here was 13.7%.

And lastly was “Burrowing estate winery’s” 2013 Syrah for $39.04. This was my guest’s favourite, a full bodied red in scent and taste. I smelled a mix of red fruit. 14.5% alcohol content.

I proudly did not do any spitting, finishing off each glass and swallowed each mouthful with gusto. The bottle of water and buttery crackers helped for balance and to cleanse the pallet. With all that we had (especially compared to restaurant prices per glass) we certainly got our money’s worth, for our $60 per person ticket.

 

For me, this was a great way to justify drinking this much wine. But it was definitely geared towards those who wanted a much deeper understanding of wine, those who aspire to get a masters in wine themselves. Given the in depth conversation on soil and climate, and the use of terms that they did not take the time to explain for the wine novices like myself. However if the international wine festival returns to Vancouver I would like to return to check out one of their other events. Like perhaps the ones that paired wine with food. Don’t deny your cravings

 

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL
vanwinefest.ca

Salt Tasting Room

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We were at the “Salt Tasting Room” for their “San Sebastian experience”. From September 8th to October 11th they have partnered up with “Bosa Foods” to create a special tasting menu to partner with their wines. I believe it is a take on their happy hour, as it is only available between 3-6pm.

“Salt” specializes in artisanal cheese, small batch cured meats, and a wide variety of beers, wines, and sherries. Thus making them the perfect place for in between meal snacking, the ideal destination for an after dinner drink, and a good option for a first date where you don’t want to commit to with a full meal. It is located in “Blood Alley”, a back street in Gastown. This alley earned its name from the butcher shops that use to flank it. Today there was no blood, just the smell of urine. Though that inevitably aside, I still appreciate the unique layout and charm of this area. And by far, this is the nicest alley downtown.

As you would expect from the side of the building facing said alley, it wasn’t very ornate. An all black building with a concrete base, flagged by a banner. On the banner, their logo: an upside down salt shaker. Though that didn’t say much. Facing the restaurant head on, there is no sandwich board, no awning, no lit sign. You barely make out the tiny script, “salt”. It was like they weren’t tying to earn walk in customers, that those who know, just knew to come. And looking into the window, you got even less, it just looked like the patrons inside were in a fish bowl.

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Inside, the restaurant was set with a brick wall on the left and flanked by their bar on the right. The red brick and mortar ran the length of the restaurant. On it were black boards written with white chalk. One listed their online presence, another gave out the wifi password, and the rest engaged guests to try their salt series. Multiple glasses of wine meets multiple servings of cheese and meats. A more fulsome listing of each was charted on the back wall, more chalk written on a larger black board.

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The preparation portion of the bar was boxed off with glass. Behind it was a refrigerator, a meat slicer, boxes of fine cheeses, and all the plates you would need to serve on. On top of the glass counter was a row of piggy banks in different styles and different colours. Some pigs were polka dotted, others had pointed ears, one was speckled in paisley, another stood up right. I didn’t get their significance and didn’t bother to ask. But was it pig for pork and ham they specialized in. Another more realistic pig, sat high above the black board wall, at the back of the room. But they were pretty much the only element here that served no other function outside of decoration.

Looking in and down towards the rest of the restaurant there wasn’t much to it. Their theme was definitely minimalistic. Not that you needed more outside of plenty of wine, fine Cuban music, and one other’s company. On either sides of the room were rows of single bulbs dangling from wire illuminating the scene below. Metal stools set apart, framed a long banquet table for share. They had family style seating where everyone surrounds one table; and if it is full, you are forced to connect with your neighbour. Not necessarily a bad thing if you are looking to make a friend or run out of topics in which to discuss with your current friend. There were also two person tables for those wanting more intimacy, but all those were already taken. Therefore our group of three was seated in the middle of the long banquet table, having both ends already sat. Given the lack of patrons currently in, we were allowed clearance between us an our neighbours to the right. Though were not separated far enough that I couldn’t lean over to see what they were having. I used their dishes as a way to be able to make a more informed decision on what I would order.

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For the “San Sebastian experience” you order a drink and you get a tasting size dish for free. You make your choice between nine different dishes. The more drinks you get the more dishes you get. For one glass of wine you get on choice. Each flight of three you get, earns you the choice of two dishes, and for any bottle of wine you get to pick six plates. We did the math and found the flights were the best deal, seeing as we couldn’t commit to finishing a whole bottle at this time. Plus one of my guests never had a wine flight, so we wanted to make this her first.

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For the flights you can choose any three wines from a predetermined list off the menu. Most of it were wines local to the Okanagan. My guest, who was the wine expert amongst us, did the ordering for us. She specifically choose as many international wines as she could, giving us a good balance of red, white, and sherries for each flight. Our orders were written on pieces of paper that would later be used to set each glass.

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For every wine flight we ordered we had our choice of two Spanish tapas, though most came with twos servings on one plate, which was complicated to share when in a group of three.

The “Manchego and chorizo potato croquettes” sounded like the best out of the nine choices, or at least the most heartiest. And when we learned that they were sold out of “Smoked paprika devilled free run eggs”, we double our order of the croquettes. I believe the group to our right got the last egg. So I saw that it was just one egg, cut into half, with its yolk removed and seasoned, then scooped back in, and finally dressed with a cornichon. Though if you are trying to consider more bang for your buck when ordering, the “Salchichon Iberico with quince paste” would do it at $6 a portion. Otherwise most of the other servings were $4 each, including the croquettes. The other exception was the ham below at $8, and it was well worth its price tag.

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“Manchego and chorizo potato croquettes” with an aioli of roasted red peppers and smoked tomato. My Cuban guest informed us that when eating Spanish food you have to have chorizo, so as a vegetarian, she was willing to eat around the cubes of chorizo just to try the croquettes. Coming out of an even deep fry, I suggested eating these earlier on. Though warm or room temperature, they melted in your mouth. Once you break through the gold brown and crisp crust, you hit fluffy and smooth potato whip. It is what I imagine clouds to be like: cheesy. The chunks of chewy chorizo gave the bites salt and some texture. Looking at it you would think they would be spicy or that the sauce would have more zing. Though in reality, we found each bundle lacked flavour. It just tasted like potato and cheese, like a fresh tater tot, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. More of them, paired with a sirarcha mayo would make for a good late night snack.

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“Sliced off the bone, 20 month old Serrano ham”. Just by looking at it, it seemed disappointing. Irregular cuts of meat barely speckling a plate. It didn’t look like it would be worth or should cost $8, luckily I got past it because it was technically “free”. Though tasting the ham painted a very different story. Based on its uneven jags you could tell these cuts were with a knife. It would have been better as an even slice using the precision of a meat cutting machine. Though each irregular piece of ham surprisingly had the perfect amount of fat on it. The gentle gum of fat gave each bite a nice chewy texture, to go along with its smokey nature. I have never had ham this good. It would be a waste to build this into a sandwich, or to pair it with anything else. It is best enjoyed alone, to pick out all its great flavours; especially after a sip of red wine. And apparently you can tell that this was authentic Serrano because it was listed as being 20 months old. That’s how long it takes pork persevered with salt to taste this good.

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“Medjool dates stuffed with 12 month old Mahon cheese”. The sweetness of dates and the saltiness of cheese is a tried and true winning combination. A popular choice to have with wine. Though with these I got more sweet than I wanted, and missed a sharp and creamy cheese. They were stingy on the latter.

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“Tomato tapenade bruschetta”. I suggest eating this one first and fast. The bread based got very soggy from all the excess juice off the tomatoes. Luckily the bread’s edges managed to remain crisp, giving it some needed crunch. The lack of seasonings really allowed for the highlighting of the freshness of the tomato. Though I would have preferred it to have more olive oil, some salt and pepper, and perhaps a drizzle of aged balsamic, just for a kick that matched that of the wines.

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“Warm salad of Spanish artichoke hearts, piquillo peppers, and mixed Mediterranean olives”. Not what you think of when you hear the work salad. This was not chilled, fresh, or leafy. This was warm, preserved, and salty. I have never had warm olives before, it was okay, but I couldn’t pass my focus from the distinct briny flavour that is most familiar cold. I did appreciate that each component was soften to the same texture and enjoyable to take in as little nibbles. Though we could have used a separate bowl for pits. Spitting them out onto the table, in front of your guests, hardly seem dining out appropriate.

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As a unique little feature, our bill was presented to us in this cute little cheese box. And even the smallest of details can make an experience memorable.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I am the type of person who likes to take advantage of free things. Whether I like or need it, if it’s free I want it. So I was definitely excited to pay for my drink and get some small bites to nibble on with it for free. Though I made the mistake of anticipating appetizers, instead of tasters to highlight our drinks. And as a result, I was disappointed by the selection and smaller portion. Though considering what it is and what the restaurant hopes to achieve, they do a good job. Once again this is the perfect place for in between meal snacking, the ideal destination for an after dinner drink, and a good option for a first date where you don’t want to commit to with a full meal. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SALT
45 Blood Alley, Vancouver BC
604-633-1912
salttastingroom.com
Salt Tasting Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stable House

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It’s been a while since my original visit, when they first opened. Since then, the neighbourhood has made them their local bar and they have reintroduced their menu. An easy going setting with fairly formal dishes. Good enough reasons as any to have me revisit and eventually amend my initial assessment.

After over a year, things don’t seem much different decor wise. The exterior is still draped with patio lights leading from awning to tree, it creates an archway of illuminated light. Today their small outdoor patio is left unseated, though I have often walked by to observe couples drinking and enjoying each other’s company, long into the darkness of the night. Though given the lack of view, I prefer the interior with its dim romantic lighting and its back supporting booths.

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Their breakfast nook by the front window was unfortunately taken. It was an elevated platform holding a spacious booth, that provided the diner with natural lighting. Food always looks better in natural lighting, and I enjoying consuming with my eyes before I dine with my tongue. I remembered wanting to claim the best seat in the house during my first visit too. But like before, we were directed to the seats in the back. The cushioned booth that ran against the wall was still surrounded by tile, cork, and wood paneling on its three sides. I even recalled the odd sight of tiles with horses on it and the irregular light fixture crafted from black narrow pipes.

We ordered off the chalkboard wine list posted on the wall. They offered more options on red, white, rose, and bubbles than they did in food. Though the menu does offer more variety now. I remember during my first visit most of the entrees were savoury tarts.

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Though the “Mushroom & Gruyere tart” with onion purée, puff pastry, and a green side salad was still being offered. It was the only clear option for the vegetarian of our group. The tart was built on a hearty, yet flaky pastry. The buttery crust paired well with the earthy mushrooms and the bold cheese. Though I would have preferred the whole assemble on herbed flatbread instead. The Gruyere was definitely the highlight of the dish, so we were disappointed to not have more grated on top.

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The only down side to the “Braised pork belly” with corn risotto, celery, and red onions was that there was not more of it. They definitely earned bonus points for this presentation. An over turn ceramic basket strategically placed, just for show. The pork was prepared extremely tender. It had just the right amount of fat on each piece, to literally melt in your mouth. And its overall saltiness went well with the sweetness of the corn. Though from a textural standpoint I could have used some crunch, maybe a slaw or some pickled vegetable to add a crunch and offer a change in palate.

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The “Seared albacore tuna loin” with fennel, warm barley, red cabbage, and almonds; use  to be a feature, but was so popular that they made it a regular menu item. With so many elements this dish delivered on all that I was expecting visually, textural, and flavour wise. I have never had barely prepared like this. It reminded me of dirty rice, gritty with various textures thanks to the various sized grains and nut slivers. It was definitely filling. The celery and pickled beets gave it some crispness. And the tuna was seared a perfect pink and presented to highlight it on the dish. The pickled fennel offered that tartness I wanted in the pork dish before. Together it all felt very healthy. A dish I consumed with no regrets.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Given that there is nothing else like it in the area it will continue to do well. That Gastown vibe at a slower pace, located on South Granville. The food was good, but for the price we paid, it is not for everyday dining. I recommended here more for drinks and causal conversation. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

STABLE HOUSE
1520 West 13th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6H 1P1
604-736-1520
thestablehouse.ca

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Belgard Kitchen

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We had a work function and I was tasked with choosing the would be destination for dinner. A task I don’t take lightly, and one I definitely considered a tall order. What I choose would determine the outcome of the evening. A bad restaurant and it is my fault that everyone had a bad time. And as a food blogger I took the search for the perfect place very seriously. I wanted to go with a place I had already been to, and hopefully one that everyone else hadn’t. Located in the still expanding area of Railtown, I deduced “Belgard Kitchen” was my best bet. I consider this a hidden gem, only available for those in the know. The required drive to it and the lack of transit in the area gives it this exclusivity. “Belgard” not only had great small share plates to bond over, but a great setting to linger within.

The restaurant is located within the Settlement building. It still reminded me of a church with its tall white walls, large framed windows, and double heavy doors. You almost expect to look up and see a steeple and cross. Portion of the building is dedicated to their in house brewery and winery. Postmark Brewery and Vancouver Urban Winery lives here. I would like to look into the possibility of them doing guided tours in such a unique space. 

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Within the foyer they had a new feature to your left. A counter run by an employee advertising “Grower’s craft beer”, she was assisting two patrons in their sampling of said beer. We were late for our reservation otherwise I would have stop to inquire about to go cups? Or does the beer get bottled from one of their taps even ordered.

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The room opened up with vaulted ceilings, you feel small in such a space. I was still in awe, even with it being my second time here. With the natural day light illuminating the room I was able to make out a lot more details that I missed hidden in shadow of candles the first time around. The decor, as before, was eye catching in its simplicity. They made industrial, chic. Calligraphy was the font of choice on the chalkboard menu that hug above the silver bar taps, waxed wine barrels arranged on a wire rack functioned as a makeshift room separator; and everything else was matte wood. All the walls, the ceilings, the support beams, the hard floors, and majority of the eating and seating furniture was made from wood. It is amazing what they have done to make this factory new again. To make it restaurant comfortable using raw material and hard pieces. There was a crane hook hanging in the centre of the room, and it still seemed to be in good working condition. I am glad they left that up as a conversation started and as a memory of the building that it was once was. 

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It was cozy and warm when I first visited last fall, but now it was stuffy and humid in late spring. Almost unbearably so. I found myself using my reusable white and blue gingham napkin to pat myself dry on occasion, doing so, instead of its intended purpose. All the windows were opened and all the doors propped, I prayed for a cool breeze, but none came. We later deduced that the group table we were given in this alcove lack ventilated air. So it was just us sweating, and the rest of the building actually remained temperate. If you have never experienced it, it is awful to eat when you are so heated. Eating causes chemical reactions, it occurs when your body breaks down your meal. These reactions create heat as a byproduct. You are now being cooked inside and out with heat. It truly takes away from your dining experience. Only plus side, you eat less, because your appetite decreases in such conditions. You eat until you are full and do feel the need to have more. Sadly, no one thought to ask the waitstaff for any relief.

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But I guess, what better a temperature than this to enjoy refreshing cold beers in? And what better a way to enjoy beers than as flights on a paddle. The best way for un-committal people to sample beer. Try a little, finish what you like, then order more. Obviously the lighter the shade, the easier it goes down. 

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For starters we had all three of their spreads. The “mushroom and bacon pate” was made with pickled mushrooms and smoked bacon, served over assorted cuts bread. The spread’s taste and its creamy texture reminded me of Campbell’s mushroom soup, but as a condiment. Taken chilled, it was nice to be able to cool down with it.

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The “Ruby red beet dip” in contrast was intense. Made with goat cheese and topped with toasted almonds, its taste was as bold as its neon colour. Served alongside fresh veggies and warm flat bread the dip was certainly the star of each bite. It was a whipped smooth spread that complimented all of the above. This too was served chilled, and therefore came to the table fast. 

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“Burrata with egg caponata” served with grilled sourdough, toasted almonds, and a goat cheese coulis. Made with tomatoes, it was like salsa in look, texture, and taste. The burrata was a creamy and the binding between spread and its toast. 

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“Shrimp spaghetti Nero”. Postmark IPA seasoned chorizo, jalapeño pesto, squid ink noodles, and herbed bread crumbs. The squid ink’s black was just for show. Instead the dish’s flavour came from the zesty chorizo, the spicy pesto, and the juicy shrimp. It had a numbing heat that only made the temperature in the room worse. 

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“Yam gnocchi with lamb ragu in brown sage butter”. Tender pieces of lamb intermingling with soften bundles of potato dough. I love gnocchi, but always feel like there is not enough dumplings per plate. I am always left hungry wanting a whole second portion. 

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“Belgard meatballs”. Quality beef served with fresh mozzarella in a San marzano tomato sauce. This was the heartiest plate. When all assembled over toasts, it was like a deconstructed meatball sub. 

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The “scallop and shrimp risotto” was served with spring peas, and their sky harvest pea shoot salad, dressed with Meyer lemon. Given the heat, maybe not the best dish, but it was just so darn good. Creamy and smooth, it was like porridge but with enough texture to have you chewing. 

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“Flank steak with chimichurri”. The steak was season in an Argentinian spice rub, served with pickled beets and a Malbec molasses. Each slice of beef was tender with a pink centre, and rub on each was very tasty, it had been developed with layers of flavour. This spice paired well with the sweet molasses and the herbaceous sauce drizzled over and speared on the side. 

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For dessert we tried one of each of what they had. They all sounded interesting and each came well presented. “Chocolate and espresso budino” made with creme fraiche, flavoured with kosher salt, and topped with sponge toffee. Like a fancy chocolate mousse. The sponge toffee and the milk chocolate had me thinking of “Crunchie” bar. 

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“Baked pistachio yogurt with a pomegranate ginger syrup, chocolate, a pistachio crumb, and preserved lemon”. Its texture was like a cross between cheesecake and mousse, cakey yet creamy. Overall it was a very refreshing dessert with a deep warmth for the stronger ginger note. 

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“Strawberry rhubarb crumble”, amaretto semi freddo, oats, a brown sugar crumble, and salted caramel. It was light and sweet with lemon, and the crumble gave it a nice toasty texture. Each dessert was amazing, each different from the others, and all worth a second serving of.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The fact that the location is out of the way was one of its many charms. Not located in, but it had that Gastown/Yaletown vibe everyone is feeling as of late. A restaurant like no other in an area that not many gets chance to visit. Come for the ambience and stay for the great food and awesome drinks. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BELGARD KITCHEN
55 Dunlevy Avenue, Vancouver BC
604-699-1989
belgardkitchen.com
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Clough Club

I am always too embarrassed to snap photos of the decor in darken lounges, I rather not hit flash in candle lit rooms. The bright pulse of light would cause a scene and it definitely affects the intended vibe of such a place. As this was the case here, there will be no photos of the interior. Instead you’ll have to take my word for the atmosphere.

A failed attempt at entering the club next door led us to “Clough”. We were unwilling to wait in a line to mix with a more rowdy crowd, nor were we willing to pay $12.50 towards cover. $12.50 that could have been better spent on a cocktail here, and their cocktails were certainly worth it. Little details and special toppings made each one I tried an adventure worth documenting.

The Saturday night crowd was in full swing. The room was crowded with bodies both standing and sitting. With a centre table meant for congregating around, the space was built for mingling. Even the single gender washroom stalls allowed guests to converse as they waited one after another. We were allowed to seat ourselves so should a place present itself. Despite the talents of the live performer and the celebratory nature of the crowd, we were able to claim one of the tables by the wall. A booth that stretched the wall partnered with side table and arm chair. The wall above was decorated with sculpted animal busts, it matched the darken intent of the decorator.

I was most amazed at the bartender and lone server’s ability to effectively serve the room without falter. They checked in enough and got everyone drinks speedily. I especially appreciated the bartenders witty nature. He had this ability where he insisted you have a second drink, even without your full consent, and you okay with it.

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A classic “Bourbon Sour” with cherries and the “Kermit cocktail”, which certainly delivered on its expected colour. A green to rival Kermit’s own natural skin tone. Made with beefeater gin, yellow chartreuse, lillet blanc, kiwi, lime, celery bitters, and salt. It surprisingly tasted like a healthy vegetable and fruit juice. Something you blend in your kitchen to start your day off with. Needless to say it went down easy and made me thirsty for more. Had I not want to catalog a few different cocktails, I could have had three more of these.

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“Apiary” with maker’s mark bourbon, honey syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, fee brothers black walnut bitters, and bourbon barrel stave smoked glass. I was most impressed by its presentation. The honey comb certainly spoke to its name. An added sweetness to this already light and summery drink. Yum.

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“Sorry, not sorry” made with Woodford reserve, cyber, sweet vermouth, strawberry syrup, lemon juice, and peychaud’s bitters. This was a much stronger drink, with a woodsy, at the back of your throat kick.

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“Teq-erac”. Lot 40 Canadian whiskey, casamigos, reposado tequila, peychaud’s bitters, Pernod, sugar, and lemon zest. By this point my ability to discern notes in drinks was losing its potency. But I remember the lemon being a zesty addition to a strong cocktail.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I enjoyed all their unique cocktails, their setting was intimate and comfortable, and the music was good. No complaints all around. Great place to drink lots and talk loud at. Bring money as the cocktails do add up. $12-15 per. Don’t deny your cravings.

CLOUGH
212 Abbott Street, Vancouver BC
604-558-1581
donnellygroup.ca/clough-club
Clough Club on Urbanspoon

Prohibition

The “Prohibition Bar” is the newly renovated hotel bar at Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Its name and themed garnered from a time where drinking meant more than just a wild night out. The prohibition era had diverse peoples coming together in celebration of the drink. And here they invited you to do just that. Take a trip back to this time, the 20’s, to the age of speakeasies. To a place where there were no barriers, just decadence and glamour for all. They immolated the Roaring Twenties with live musical entertainment, sleek interiors, and a sophisticated ambiance. Though unfortunately we would not get to see any of it. Seated close to the entrance, behind a pillar, squinting into a darken room our view was limited.

I was surprised that there was a line at the door, though without one I don’t think I would have known where to go. My instinct was to enter through the lobby via the hotel. Though the stanchioned line, after an unmarked double door, guarded by a larger gentleman was a good indication of the bar just behind. A line and a wait at 7:30pm on a Friday night had me preparing myself for a club vibe. Loud and rowdy instead of the mellow lounge feel I had hoped for, and was lead to believe, having reading their online description. My guest had attempted a visit on a previous night, however her companion came dressed in jeans and as a result both were turned away for not adhering to dress code. Odd as I spotted several men in denim and printed tees tonight. None-the-less she made sure I was dressed to impress and that we would not be turned away again.

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After an ID check, without the need to inspect our bags, pay for cover or check our coats in, we were directed to the hostess booth. We opted for whatever was open in order to grab a seat and avoid waiting any further. This gave us our first seats: high top stools by a counter, adjacent to the stage and hidden behind a column. From where we sat we could see large sectionals for group seating, high tops lining the bar that stretched well into the dark of the room, and bodies gathering in a common space. By the looks of things, we were one of the only individuals in for food along with our drinks tonight, so didn’t mind hiding ourselves away as we ate. But as soon as the seats next to us opened up, we decided to upgrade and move down. However our waitress was unable to confirm if this was something we would be able to do, so differed it to the hostess to handle. After catching her attention, not only did she give us the green light, but she thanked us for asking before actioning. In hind sight I was surprised by their ability to accommodate our request on a peak night, and their willingness to let us move knowing that it would throw their seating arrangement off. We were just happy to be able to move two chairs to the right. Our new position not only gave us front row seats to the live band, but allowed us a better view, to take in the expanse of the bar. Oddly situated here, we felt more connected to room; being able to see everything and having everyone be able to see us. Not that we mingled or were seeking any additional attention. But when you go to places like this: where the music is blaring, and you communicate through two word shouts, you can’t help but expect a certain vibe. This need to want to be seen. I felt it here.

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As I mentioned, there was a live band playing and we where within spitting distance of then. Normally I do not enjoy dining close to live performers, as I feel the need to constantly acknowledge them, as they become part of my dining space. However these performers, on this slightly elevated stage, facing one another allowed me the freedom to enjoy their talents my way. They played sets of upbeat jazz taking breaks in between. Their breaks were our moments to converse. The music added to the sounds of a good night: continuous chatter, high pitched laugher, and the ping-ing of glass on glass in celebratory cheers.

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Before our drinks came we were served a candy of hand held snacks. Savory salted pretzel sticks and mixed nuts. Ideal for taking in one at a time as you sipped your beverage.

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They specialize in artisan cocktails and I was going to make sure I tried a few of the more interesting ones.
The “Morning Glory Fizz” was a light cocktail. A good start and build up to some of our heavier spirits to come. Made with scotch, fresh lemon juice, egg white, La Fee absinthe, and charged water. The menu also listed that this cocktail originated circa 1882.
The “Flapper Flip” was also light, it was creamy and went down smooth. It had a feel and taste similar to a watered down chai tea, without all the spices. Made with gin, tawny port, pimento dram, whole egg, bitters, and absinthe.

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I have actually had the Hotel Georgia’s signature cocktail with the same name, previously. It is also available at their roof top restaurant. Another cocktail with egg white foam made just as smooth and just as easy to drink. This was a mix of beefeater gin, fresh lemon, orgeat, orange blossom water, egg white, and nutmeg.
The “Port Authority” by comparison had a strong punch to it. Made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, tawny port, house made chocolate liquor, and maraschino.

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My guest loves her “Old Fashion”, so could not miss trying their take on it here. I matched her and got one of my favourite classics, a “Bourbon Sour”. My choice continued to keep on with my theme, and to keep up with my preference for cocktails prepared with egg whites.

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When in doubt go for the poutine. “Smoked duck poutine” made with fingerling potatoes and duck confit. No where near your typical poutine, let alone your typical bar fare. Tender potatoes thoroughly coated in a light yet luscious gravy with fresh herbs. The duck was plentiful and each piece tender, together they made for a satisfying twist on a Canadian classic.

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We figured the “Pickled albacore tuna” with sweet pickles and chips, in its airiness would pair well with our sweeter cocktails. The tuna was hard, I wished it came more raw like how I imagined it would be. More ahi tuna and less flaked tuna. The pickles added a nice sour tang to the naturally seasoned fish. And both would have faired better partnered with a harder and crunchier chip. It would at least have made a better literal platform to carry the dense fish on.

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The “Black truffled pate” isn’t something I’d expect to order at a bar, nor did I expect it to be something I’d enjoy this much. Served with sauterene gelée, corichons, and baguette slices this was my favourite dish of the night. The pate was rich and creamy, and full of flavour. I never knew a meat paste could taste this good. The pickles and gel were a nice break in taste and texture. It all together made for an interesting top on chewy bread. I would come back just for this.

Even the washrooms were deserving of the Hotel Georgia name. A row of individual stalls, a room all their own. Furnished with faux marble counters, heavy rich doors, and patterned paper towels. The lighting allowed me to enjoy the elegance, that I imagined the rest of the bar to be.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I appreciated the work they put into creating this setting. From the refinement in the drinks and food to the mature crowd that filled the room. A level of casual sophistication that you don’t find at other bars playing top 40. If you are going do this, you do it right. Leave the car at home and be prepared to drink to your heart’s content. Don’t deny your cravings.

PROHIBITION
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
801 W Georgia Street, Vancouver BC, V6C3G1
604-673-7088
prohibitionrhg.com
Prohibition on Urbanspoon

Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar

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The pairing of pizza and wine was one I have never seen advertised before, but it made sense. Both go well with one another, each with their full bodied flavour. And both can be enjoyed in either a casual or more formal setting. The latter was what we would be entertaining tonight. The restaurant was a larger space with wood floors and concrete walls, casual with an attempt at formality. Romantic with dim lighting and red bulbs, the bluesy sounds of a trumpet performing to jazz stilled the room, and the clang of knife and fork cutting into slices of pizza on a plate echoed from table to table.

The room smelled of pizza sauce, fresh marinara and zesty herbs. From the open kitchen you could see their process. Chefs in white cloaks and black caps stood in a line. The only thing separating them was a jagged piece of decorative glass and the cherry red glow of heat lamps. The obstructive light matched well the red tiles of the pizza oven, that anchored the kitchen.

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I made mention that we were here for a birthday party, and the hostess was kind enough to offer what she thought was a “nicer” table, one by the window. Not soon after I was seated did our server arrive. I was here early and she suggested a smooth wine to sip as I waited for the others. I took her suggestion gladly. This followed attentive check-ins to ensure my wait was comfortable and that the wine she suggested was being enjoyed. It was.

The main menu included a fresh sheet add on. It advertised their participation in the “Best Pizza Challenge” between March 5-28. The list not only included a speck pizza (speck is smoked prosciutto) but polenta fries, antipasti, risotto, and a pasta option. They clearly offered more than just pizza. We made sure to try two dishes from this limited time release.

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The “Polenta fries” were made with parmigiano reggiano and came with a spicy marinara sauce for dipping. The fries were crumbly, a natural property of polenta. But more so with the gritty but crispy breading that crusted each stick. Its flavour was light, bordering on plain. Although the dipping sauce was available for some additional flavour, seasoning the actual fries could have helped. The marinara would have been better served warm, you didn’t get any of the promised spicy heat, yet couldn’t escape its after taste. This was disappointing, it didn’t taste as good as it looked. Unsatisfying.

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“Pizza Con Burrrata E Speck” with San marzano tomato, DOP speck, allepo pepper, baby heirloom pomodori, vincotto pearls, and basil oil. All their Neapolitan pizzas are made with centuries old techniques. They import ingredients and age the dough for 48 hours, to allow it to develop its own rich flavours. Each pie is shaped by hand and topped with quality ingredients. It is then cooked in a wood burning oven at 900 degrees. This effort and authenticity came through within my first bite. This was an amazing pizza from its one of a kind presentation to its equally unique taste. It was too heavy to eat with hands, loaded with too many ingredients a fork and knife were the best tools for the job. It was creamy with cheese, with just enough salt from the thinly sliced speck, and spicy from the chilli peppers hidden throughout.

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For those wanting more spice, a shaker of chilli flakes and a jar of chilli oil were available to add some kick. It gave each dish another layer of flavour, and not just blinding heat.

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The mushroom pizza was listed as a “Novo favourite”. It was made with truffled mushrooms, fontina, and chives. Naturally the earthy flavour of mushroom was most prominent note. Second to it was the light scent of the truffle oil. Together they sang in harmony, nothing was over powering. The thin crust was my favourite part.

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“Spaghetti aglio e olio” with garlic, olive oil, and chilli flakes. The grilled shrimp was incredibly fragrant, you could smell its sweetness and taste the char as soon as the plate landed. The sauce was herbaceous, light, yet still creamy. A simple blend made with really good olive oil, and you could tell.

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“Toasted hazelnut creme brûlée” made with frangelico ganache, served with rosemary and pine nut cookies, and a blood orange granita. My friend swore by this and it did not disappoint. Frangelico is hazelnut flavoured liquor. Its use along side the creamy burlee tasted like a high end Nutella mix, creamier and more velvety that any pudding I have ever had. I was hooked. The herb filled cookies were baked crisp to crumbs. They severed as a completely different flavour to run along side the rich custard. In opposition the grapefruit granita added a burst of citrus zest. Served chilled, it was bursting with sweetness and just a bit of tang. Refreshing like a slurpee or slush. Together this was a dessert to remember and one worth going back to relive.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This isn’t necessary a place I would think to visit for a romantic occasion, but rather for a meal between coworkers or a dinner with friends. A good pizza and pasta at a reasonable price. And all pizzas are not made equal, “Novo” is a good reminder of that. I enjoyed everything we had and would certainly plan a trip back in order to try more. Don’t deny your cravings.

NOVO
2118 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V6J3H6
604-736-2220
novopizzeria.com
Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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