Commercial Drive’s most romantic bar/restaurant has something special in store for Valentine’s Day: a one day only menu available for those booking reservations on February 14th, 2024.
We decided to visit a week either to see if we could get a teaser of this, but the chef and staff are fairly tight lipped on what you can expect from this set menu. Although, less so with their Valentine’s Day drink menu, available now February 4th to the 14th. So we would start there.
The restaurant has blossomed, literally, since my last visit when they first opened. A dark gothic romance with wax dripped candles, dried botanicals in crystal vases, and a lush floral display suspended over the foyer. The bar is just as memorable, stretching the extent of the room, spooky with various bottles like an apothecary. We would grab one of their cozy two person booths, where I noted the once great photography lighting has now become dull yellow bulbs, to better foster the dim and moody scene.
We would work our way through their entire four drink list and take note of their special wine by the bottle options. Once again, only available from February 4th to the 14th, 2024.
The Sanguine is cazadores reposado, montenegro amaro, lime, and blood orange & bay leaf syrup; finished with campari & blood orange foam. At its base it drinks like a cross between an ice tea and a Paloma, refreshing and deeply grapefruit forward. What elevates this is the wisp of citrus foam and the topping of sugar dusted dried orange peel. If you are lucky to get both in a sip, it layers on flavours of sweet and slightly bitter into the mix.
The Cherry Black Manhattan was my favourite out of the lot, as a take on a Manhattan that mimicked the decor. The Cherry Black Manhattan is bourbon, cinzano sweet vermouth, elixir cherry liqueur, black cherry syrup, nocino, and black walnut bitters. The essence of the black cherry came out through and through. In the liquor soaked cherry garnish and within the mixed cocktail itself. Like a Black Forest cake without all the sugar and sponge.
The Corso Cosmo was skky vodka, cointreau, lime, and hibiscus & rose syrup. A pretty in pink cocktail that was as easy on the palate as it is on the eyes. Not a bubblegum pink sugary drink, but more closer to a mellowed out pink lemonade.
The “Classic” Prosecco Cocktail is the bar’s rift on the traditional cocktail, much like a French75, but fruity and light with the orange-licorice flavour of the Aperol. Prosecco, sugar cube, bitters, aperol float, and lemon twist. The only change I would make is to serve this in a long stemmed glass instead. Something so delicate ought to feel more dainty in your hand, as the bubbles pop on your lips.
We would enjoy the above across our starter, but then switched to Lambrusco for our mains. You don’t often see sparkling red wine on a menu, so if I do take note of it, I am sure to indulge. They don’t have a large selection, but a couple of bottles for purchase and at least one available as a by the glass pour. Today, it was the Medici Ermete Concerto, a deep cherry and berry red with an effervescent fizz.
As for the food, the meal began with their in house made fresh sourdough focaccia. A bread I have raved about and will continue to recommend. Tasty as is, dipped into a dish of quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We would order more for the soup below, and try it toasted with the bone marrow to follow.
After not being able to get hints on what would be on their Valentines Day set menu, we decided try some of their new dishes instead. Like the single serving of oysters, presented fully in shell, with the top half acting like a lid you remove to expose the actual Local Oyster, dressed in Prosciutto Fat and Citrus Caviar. The salt from the fat was just enough to bring out the natural brine of the shellfish. Very lovely, served one at a time, I suggest you order yourself two.
I am a fan of Endives, as I prefer their texture over lettuce, and find that their shape makes them a great vessel. Much like the oyster, these were served on a bed of coarse sea salt. However, where as the salt didn’t effect the taste of the oyster, the grains here latched on to the leaf vegetable, and what is already a fairly salty filling from the Anchovy Foam and Chicken Skin was made more so with the salt crystals. Nonetheless was such a satisfying bite of air, savoury with chicken seasoning. So different, I just would have liked the bites smaller and to have a more even Belgium endive to anchovy mousse ratio, for a more solid base.
The Brodo came highly recommended by our server, with a caution that the kitchen is in talks of changing it. I was not expecting a Parmesan Broth with Confit Chanterelle and Chive. This was drinking a cheesy bone broth. I loved the umami flavour from the liquid logged mushrooms and the zestiness of the chive oil splattered like art on the surface. Although as tasty as this was, as is it felt incomplete and I was in search of something more substantial. To be honest, reading the menu, I didn’t know we were ordering soup and may not have otherwise. This is where we asked for more bread, but crackers would have been nice for an added crunch, as well.
We saved some bread for the Roasted Bone Marrow as well. Served in a stunning presentation with, Pickled Chanterelle, Rutabaga Remoulade, and toasted blackened Focaccia. The oleaginous marrow was made more rich with the copious amounts of cheese toasted overtop. The bread offered a receptacle to soak up the oily marrow, and the shredded root vegetable were spicy pickled strands that helped to cut into the grease.
Their new pasta option is the Agnalotti filled with Braised AAA Canadian beef & Caciocavallo Filling, Chicken Jus, and Fried Sage. Subject to availability. Simple and clean, the plate didn’t need more. The perfect combination of silky meat and cheese whipped into a paste to fill a firm pasta shell. Each pocket had a wonderful mouth-feel, made all the more memorable with the crispy sage. I would recommend and order this one again.
And when we thought the meal could not get any more decadent and rich, then came the Dry Aged Roasted Pork Belly with Cranberry Mostarda. Another tasty dish, that once again felt in complete. Thick slabs of pork with superbly crispy skin, a little too much gristle for my tastes, but familiar and comforting. A gourmet version of the Chinese style bbq roasted pork, but less salty and made with a higher end pieces of pork belly with good marbling. Tasty, but it needed a base of rice to enjoy it fully The cranberry and mustard did little to offer breaks from all the unctuous-ness. It would have also been pickled acidity to cut through the richness. Although it would not be Italian cuisine otherwise, nor would it pair with the pasta above.
Noting that there is no Valentines specific dessert available during our visit, we opted for something more traditional to end our meal on. Grappa, is basically Italian moonshine. It is made by fermenting discarded wine mash, and is often served with espresso post dinner. And here at Bar Corso, they had quite the extensive collection. And the best way to explore this is through one of their flights. No specific listing, but three half ounce pours customized by the bar staff.
Each served in delicate and different antique glasses, which made the strength of the 40% ABV+ grappa charming, as the open vessel allowed the spirit to aerate.
Our first sip had an herbaceous sting. Closer to vodka, this is one to shoot. The second grappa was a lot more smoother as it was aged further. From this we got a little apple and pear, followed by some dude, subdued, subdued where are mellow orchard fruits with caramel on the nose. And working our way up to the final, most aged grappa meant we found this the most smooth and refined one out of the lot. Sampling in this order made it easy to compare to the other and pick out the one that you liked.
Both my guest and I raved over the cuisine. There is nothing else like this on The Drive. A warm and rustic neigbourhood bar that you would not expect such an elegant, smaller portioned plates from. And this is enough to have me consigning returning back to try the top secret Valentine’s Day tasting menu.
1566 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC V5L 3Y2