Recently Reviewed: Restaurants with Charm
June 3, 2013
Burdock & Co.
2702 Main St., 604-879-0077. Burdockandco.com
Newly pruned cherry blossoms jumbled in a Mason jar sit on the bar that lines the open kitchen at Main Street's Burdock & Co. Like the menu (family-style plates starring local, seasonal produce) and the shabby-chic décor (courtesy of Glasfurd & Walker-Bao Bei, Meat and Bread, the Dirty Apron), they announce that this room is seriously of the moment. Reclaimed barn boards line the walls, an antique pharmacist's cabinet houses the mismatched vintage glassware and tinctures by Vancouver-based Bittered Sling (which inform the short cocktail program), but what of the food? Chef/owner Andrea Carlson has been well schooled in celebrating our provincial larder (first at Sooke Harbour House and Raincity Grill, but making her mark at Bishop's, where the kitchen still mourns her loss), and the prettily constructed dishes that emerge from the kitchen are embellished with lots of "heritage" and "heirloom" greens. Fresh oysters ($15) were a runaway favourite, the briny bursts enhanced with (never overwhelmed by) apple and verbena sorbet, kasu emulsion, and finger lime caviar ($15). The panko-crusted fried chicken ($12)-more like chicken katsu than bone-in, southern-style-is underwhelming, but the pickles served alongside (our selection included carrots and golden beets) were bright and boldly astringent. Meat aside, a pilaf of fire-roasted farro wheat tasting of ash and smoke went supernova with a smear of black garlic-a balsamicky jam made from cloves entombed in vinegar for a year, then dug up and served with salt. The room is similarly warm and inviting, the service genial, and the food smart if earnest. This is a place that'll be happily enjoyed by keen foodies and mum-and-daughter dates. Five hungry guys? Move along.
1961 W. Fourth Ave., 604-732-0004. Lacigalebistro.ca
How you feel about La Cigale, the new French bistro from Brigitte Rayé and her son Kevin, will depend on how enchanted you are by charm. There's a portable chalkboard with the daily specials-en français, naturally. The waiters have that casual Montparnasse charm (even though ours was from Nîmes), and tap water in an old-timey carafe is served without a spiel about its origin. Utterly charming. But can charm overcome sitting over dirty plates for 20 minutes? It depends if you're the type to tap your watch and grumble about putting more time on the meter or the type to relish continuing to discuss Camus. The truth is Cigale may be the most authentic of the city's bistros: the menu is all French save for when it's Algerian-French, and the dishes well executed if under-seasoned. The exception was duck confit with potatoes that was a model of its kind. The wine list is likewise all-French, and it's a hair overpriced-especially for a bistro-but there are bargains lurking. (The Latour chardonnay and a wonderful Chemin des Olivettes from Languedoc are both steals.) If you watched Midnight in Paris and longed for a pastis after dinner then you'll love Cigale. If you found that old whinger totally insufferable, maybe not.
3135 Edgemont Blvd., North Van, 604-987-8812. Thecanyon.ca
The Edge, an Italian joint in Edgemont Village that showed a fondness for carved vegetables and vertical stacking of ingredients, is barely visible in noted local chef Scott Kidd's reboot. Where the walls were pastel, the tables clothed, and the sauces goosed with wine (or worse, vodka), today's incarnation is clean, modern, and simple. "I like four-word descriptors on the menu," says Kidd (Sooke Harbour House, William Tell, Le Gavroche), words like "stuff," as in cheese and stuff for afters. Lunch is chicken pot pie, or bangers and mash. Dinner sees a good trade in fall-off-the-bone short-ribs and Ocean Wise fish; a lunch special of ruby trout showed minimal saucing on the fish, and kumquat-ponzu dressing on the salad. The wines, like the food, nod to B.C. but aren't afraid to head into quirky (like that sparkling strawberry wine from Fressita). It's simple food, all about the pleasure of noble ingredients.