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Locanda dell’Orso

Vancouver has a new Italian restaurant and we were invited to check things out a day before they opened to the public on May 14th, 2024.

Located at the lobby of the historic Victorian Hotel, this new Italian concept is boasting dishes traditionally found in Northern and Coastal Italy. They have cultivated a modern decor that welcomes you into their home with bold black and red paints and prints.

Their name means “Inn of the Bear”, and was inspired by the old legend of the Innkeeper and the Bear.

We had the restaurant to ourselves, an intimate private dinner where we met and heard from the owner and the chef. Their goal to make their restaurant as hospitable as possible, in which they were successful. What we would be having tonight are what they predict to quickly become staple menu items. Dishes that are also the most approachable and easy to digest figuratively and literally. Each prepared using ingredients from as many local farms as possible.

As guests trickled in we were welcomed with the classic Aperol Spritz, which was one of the more refined takes of this iconic Italian beverage that I have ever had.

For those who wanted to double down on their Aperol Spritz, I suggest the Campari Shakerato. A shaken version with Campari, Italian grapefruit Malfy gin, and orange zest. This was a bolder version of the above, more thick and viscous with a more pronounced herbaceous and almost liquorice accent.

It is worth noting that they have a fairly extensive signature cocktail menu. Not just Spritz and wine, but a collection that reads Italian, but is also unique on to them.

The Orso Martini is their version of the Vodka-tini with saffron-Infused vodka and Antica Formula Vermouth, served with olives. You don’t often see un-pitted black olives in a cocktail like this. As a fan of olives I didn’t mind it, and found that its stringent acidity did well to cut into an otherwise abrasive martini. If I wasn’t driving today this would be the one I ordered. Boozy, its savoury notes made it the most complimentary to the food to come.

The Milano Sour is Kentucky straight bourbon shaken with fresh squeezed lemon, simple syrup, egg white and grapefruit bitters. The added Lambrusco strengthening vial made it a whimsical and interactive cocktail. You uncork and pour the sparkling red wine straight into the glass. It bleeds into the cloud of sweetening egg white foam, looking like blood. The lot of it on the sour side.

The Moka Espresso Martini was mixed up in a metal coffee carafe and poured into a chilled glass, table side. Spiced rum, Kahlua, fair trade 100% Madagascar vanilla syrup, and 100% Colombian arabica single origin coffee from Estratto Coffee. I loved the scent, but found the coffee cocktail too sweet and on the watery side, thin on the lips.

We sat in the booth as a table of four, and as such had the ability to try and share all the available options food options across appetizers, entrees, and dessert.

The Hallmark Farm Chicken Liver Mousse was lovely. Preserves and carta di musica, served with fruit and nut seeded crisp. I liked the fragrant chicken liver, but found the crisps too thin to carry such a rich spread. Although having a bite with the dried fruit crackers did offer a nice pop of natural sweetness to highlight the liver spread in contrast.

The Carne Cruda was a classic beef tartare dressed with capers, dion, pickled shallot, horseradish aioli, and egg. A fresh mix that was mustard forward, spread onto a hard crostini that scraped the roof of your mouth.

The Crostini Trio gave you the most value as three unique bites in one. Whipped ricotta, agrodolce chicories, brown butter and chili. This was my favourite of the three. Salty cheese and sweet honey is such a tasty combo.

The White anchovies with dragoncello and soft boiled egg was as heavily salted as you’d expect from the distinct small fish. I oddly also got liquorice from this one. A little much on its own, but better with a sip of cocktail before and after.

The Nduja with braised fennel, guanciale, and caciocavallo was unexpected. Another one you wash down with a drink. You need a little bit of everything for an even bite, tempering the zesty spice with the braised vegetable.

Out of all the appetizers the room was at a consensus that the Burrata di Puglia was the favourite and the one to order. Quality melty and gooey cheese served with seasonal accompaniments; which was a roasted red pepper and a pesto oil today. Simply lovely.

In between courses we were treated with a considerate palate cleaner. A basil and lime sorbetto with a fresh herbaceous-ness that did as intended.

For entrees there were two pasta options. The Canestri with Caponata, Calabrian Chili, basil, and ricotta salata. This was the plate I preferred, even with the pasta being slightly undercooked and on the hard side. Its elbow and ridges helped to capture the gentle tangy flavour of the vegetarian tomato sauce.

Looking for a meatier pasta, they steer towards the Agnolotti, little pockets stuffed with chicken & beef dressed in rosemary, red wine, and jus. These were beefy and buttery nuggets, each perfectly folded and gingerly placed on the plate for a delicate presentation and eating experience.

The most filling option was the Risotto dell’Orso. Another vegetarian option with Acquerello Carnaroli Rice, peas, stinging nettle pistou, and pecorino romano. You definitely don’t miss the nettle, it gave the familiar a bitter kick. Here, I would have liked some lemon to balance it out with acidity. I was excited when I saw the peas, but found them undercooked and chalky. A hardened texture that distracted from the otherwise softened mass risotto. Shame, as this would have been my favourite dish of the course otherwise.

The BC Halibut al Cartoccio was some deliciously prepared fish. Although I could have done without the accompany Cropthorne beans. With it alongside the swiss chard, peppers, soft herbs, and charred lemon it felt like a cassoulet, although the beans were not stewed enough to be considered as such. The perfectly tender fish was the star of the dish. Gently seasoned, well salted, it practically melt. Best by itself, as to not have to share centre stage. Here, I would an orzo instead,,for a more fulsome and complimentary starchy accompaniment.

And for dessert we had the classic Tiramisu with Marsala, espresso, and dark chocolate. The table agreed it was a great rendition with well soaked through lady fingers. A mushy mouthful that melted in your mouth.

They also had Gelato from della Casa, rotating flavours which happened to be Stracciatella tonight. This has fine bits of chocolate throughout, which result in a smooth texture with just the slightest crunch in every bite.

And for something plant-based and dairy-free they also have rotating flavours of sorbetto from Passione Gelato Artigianale for LdO. Tonight that was a lip puckering Rhubarb.

In summary, we nice new Italian restaurant with modern dishes and elevated plates, that are also comforting. I liked the expanded drink menu and the ambiance of the restaurant, and can recommend them for a lovely evening.

Locanda dell’Orso
350 W Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1T1

1 thought on “Locanda dell’Orso”

  1. The review of Locanda dell’Orso highlights its modern Italian cuisine and inviting atmosphere. It praises the expanded drink menu, cocktails like the Aperol Spritz variations, and standout dishes such as the Burrata di Puglia and Tiramisu. However, some dishes like the Risotto dell’Orso received mixed reviews. Overall, the restaurant is recommended for a lovely dining experience in Vancouver.

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