La Quercia Italian surprises served family style

La Quercia
3689 West 4 Avenue, V6R 1P2
604.676.1007

Blink and you might miss this small nook on the corner of Alma and West 4th.  The modern appointed restaurant has you sitting elbow to elbow with strangers and yet you won’t even realize they are there.  The a la carte menu looks delicious but we ordered Alla Famiglia which was five generous and splendid courses.  To my delight they were flexible to food requirements and brought us dishes with pork.  A lovely rabbit pate, a salad with hazel nuts, and a selection of three delicious pastas were fabulous.  Beef carpacio was delicate to bite, and strong on flavour.  The gnocchi was tender and very fresh in a rabbit sauce, which lets be honest tasted like chicken.  By the time the main course came I couldn’t believe there was still more to eat.  After a lovely veal scallopi the meal finished with a selection of three lovely desserts.  The house wine, although I don’t remember the name (do I ever) was delicious.  I was treated for my birthday – what a wonderful treat thanks to my Kili tent mate (and Italian food expert)!  I’m giving it a very good, and I’m looking forward to going again.  The price point on the family style meal is great value for what you get at 45$ per person.  Make a reservation though, I’ve been trying for months to get here.  It has a dedicated following and only a few seatings a night so it books up.  If my first visit was any indication you won’t be disappointed.

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Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
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Just Ok BBQ in Yaletown

DIX Barbecue & Brewery
871 Beatty St, Vancouver, BC V6Z‎ – (604) 682-2739

 

In Yaletown this ‎Mircobrewery is a part of the Mark James Group of restaurants and you’ll realize it the moment you walk in the door.  The feeling there is very similar to the Yaletown Brewing Co.  Open space, big wooden tables, and rustic/casual décor.  When I went on a Friday afternoon for lunch the place was dead quiet.  But I was craving BBQ and figured if I could find good BBQ near me that’d be awesome.  However, I’m not giving it an awesome, instead I’ll give it a Just Ok (I think that is my first Just Ok in a long time).  I had the beef rib sandwich, which was good, but not great.  The meat was quite good, although a touch too much smokiness (it is a delicate balance perfected by few).  The mayo on the sandwich was the best part, and I don’t think the dill pickle was a good flavor match.  The soup with corn and chicken was only so-so, and the corn was definitely frozen, but I’m actually thinking maybe the soup had been frozen too.  The okra in the soup was flavorless and quite mushy…okra should not be mushy…or rather doesn’t taste good mushy.  I’ll keep looking for my BBQ joint in Vancouver, and I would maybe suggest going here if you have a really big rowdy crowd.

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lo·cus – noun {plural} pronounced /lo-kəs/ loh-kuhs /

Locus Café
4121 Main Street, Vancouver BC Canada V5V 3P6
604.708.4121

 

So I had picked Grub because I really wanted to try it, but they were unexpectedly closed so Lisa saved the day by suggesting Locus on Main. It has a great atmosphere that I won’t do justice by describing, but it is a bit edgy with unique lighting, intriguing artwork, and interesting installations around the ceilings and walls. The brunch/lunch menu has lots of great options, but we both picked the blackened snapper sandwich. Before our sandwiches arrived they brought some lovely bread to the table with an assortment of spreads – the simplest and most delicious of which was butter with cinnamon and sugar in it – brilliant! The snapper sandwiches were solidly good and the service was equally good. Price point is good, and it offers variety from the breakfast usual suspects.  Thanks Lisa for saving the day with this find!

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Trifecta of sports: Frisbee Golf – Golf – Tennis (well kinda tennis)

Rugby Beach Club Grille
#201 – 950 West Broadway, Vancouver
604.736.2438

 

When you’ve just finished a trifecta of sports or a day at the beach Rugby’s is a logical stop! The atmosphere is trendier than a Red Lobster (with an ocean theme but for the younger crowd), but not as ‘hip’ as say Trattoria Kitchen. The restaurant was packed on a Saturday night (woo hoo Saturday!), and with such reasonably priced cocktails and moderately priced mains it is no wonder. I’m not sure why I didn’t order the fish (which I will do next time I’m back)…but we both ordered beef…yes risky I know (that’s how I roll), beef in Vancouver. We had the Top Filet with westcoast rub and the Top Filet with blue cheese and bacon. My steak was solid but since I don’t eat pork I will simply relay that the top filet with bacon was ‘c’est pas bon’ (read: not good). I’ve been informed that they formerly had a Filet Mignon which disappointingly has been replaced by steak placed on top of a strip of bacon – looks more like a breakfast dish. So if you have any connections at Rugby’s suggestion is: bring back the steak wrapped in bacon rather than placed atop bacon.  Our app’ies, crab cakes and some kind of chicken something, were ok to good preference to the chicken. They have a great selection of sides from which I choose Petite baked potatoes (with caviar – weird), and skillet seared baby mushrooms (yum). I’m giving Rugby’s a Very Ok, but suggest if you’re looking for something casual and fun for a bunch of friends in Vancouver that it gets a Very Good.

 

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Happy Birthday Beautiful

Bears Den
254028 Bearspaw Road NW, Calgary
403.241.7611

 

This year my birthday was celebrated in style (finally finishing the bday posts :) . It seemed like when I’d finish one party there was another. From Mexican Martini throw downs, to golf extravaganzas, to an evening in the Bear Den. The Bears Den evening was my actual legit birthday evening and it was an experience to remember. After driving, and driving, and driving from downtown Calgary you drive through the gated parking lot to see a restaurant that while in view of the mountains has surprisingly no windows, not a one. Two beautiful women on their own could not have been more out of place in this dark restaurant with high ceilings and oversized furniture. Reminiscent of a hunting club this place was designed with 50 year old men that smoke cigars in mind. It was a Sunday evening and the restaurant was almost empty. The menu appeals to the locavores with an assortment of Alberta’s finest local game and meat. We started with the Alberta bison & elk crispy spring rolls with organic jalapeño aioli and the bison tartar. Both quite good, but not rock your world style. For our mains filet minion (obviously not mine) and the Alberta Game Trio. Word has it the filet was just so so, but I looved my Alberta game trio. Bison yummy, elk ok, venison yummy… Spätzel okay…but what a taste adventure! To be clear I had a really good main, and I loved the experience here, but against a very competitive bar of restaurants and all factors in including the price point (mains are $35 – $70) I’m going to give Bears Den a Very Ok.

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What’s the line up all about?

Stepho’s Souvlaki Greek Taverna
1124 Davie Street, Vancouver
604.683.2555

 

Usually the line up outside this place is outrageous…which leaves the passer by wondering what delights are inside. A couple of weeks ago at lunch we were passing by and there was no line up so wandered in. There is nothing really fancy about it, but it has a quaint atmosphere with a Mediterranean flare. The service is prompt and the prices are great! We enjoyed chicken souvlaki, but to be honest, didn’t blow me away. The meat was tender and delicious but everything else (fries, salad, tzatziki) was just Very Ok.

 

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Happy birthday to you…happy birthday to you!

Lift Bar and Grill
333 Menchions Mews, Vancouver
604.689.5438

 

You know what they say…”location, location, location”. In my restaurants with a view tour of Vancouver I was treated to an evening at Lift after some leisurely sea kayaking. The perfect stop to enjoy a glass of wine (or a pint depending on your fancy), have a bite of the sea, celebrate a milestone birthday, and take in the sights. I have long said (based on a lifetime of waterside experience) that often restaurants with a view compromise on food quality, and sometimes that compromise is worth it and other times it isn’t. When you think of some of Vancouver’s finest dining establishments you’ll realize they don’t have views – West, Fuel, Tojo’s, Bishops, Cioppinos (and more). However, I would put Lift in the worth the compromise category, and even say they managed to deliver on the food. I enjoyed my ” Slash n Burn Halibut’ with saffron rice, and the stilton cheesecake was a delight for the senses(if you like stilton, which I do!). I’m not convinced my host was as pleased with their meal, but was equally enamored with the view. The atmosphere is the hallmark of this restaurant with crisp linens, clean lines, and excellent cutlery and glassware. Modern, a bit edgy, strangely (must be a Vancouver phenomenon) has TV’s in the bar. But fortunately said TV posed no distraction for the evening’s conversation that barely went uninterrupted for hourswhich brings me to – the service, was attentive. The patio was closed when we were there, but I have it on good authority it is a great patio for drinks in the summer. All in all I’m giving Lift a Very Good, and I will definitely come back again.

 

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Is field hockey really a sport?? Lucky number four

Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant
555 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
604.669.2220

 

If you’re as lucky as me you’ll be treated to a landmark quiz of Vancouver from the Top of Vancouver Restaurant at 553 feet. A bird’s eye view into the life and times of a local and the meaningful landmarks a new resident should know. The restaurant is a bit dated with neon lights over the bar and dining room furniture circa 1985. The menu is slightly more up to date, but not significantly, with classic pasta and fish that are fairly over priced. However that being said I actually thought my spring salmon was good. Although I’m not trading my dinner here for anything in the world (more about the view and company) my suggestion is to go for drinks instead of dinner. In our two full rotations of the Vancouver skyline and landmark highlights included GM place (I knew that one!), Victory Square, Andy Livingston Park, Bentall 5 tower and more! So in short it is a great stop for new resident to gain their citizen button (or in my case celebrate my first vote in a BC election), good for visitors to the city (aka tourists) and despite the granny furniture the view does make it romantic.  And if you are looking for something  to do afterwards a great choice is to walk over the Railway Club to listen to some live bands and enjoy the people watching!

 

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Race weekend…carbing up for prospect point!

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
1129/1133 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
604.688.7466

When I left a message for a reservation at award winning Cioppino’s I was surprised when the chef himself called back, and even more surprised when eating there we saw him several times throughout the dinner. This personal touch makes you feel as though you are a special guest in Pino’s kitchen, rather than a patron in his restaurant. We were seated in the wine room which had such a great ambiance, but unfortunately with our race the next day we weren’t able to indulge. Instead we focused our efforts on the food. OO had the risotto seafood special, LA…with the braised wild boar shoulder, and LA!! with the “Scalopine ai funghi”…OO…LA…LA!! We all shared the potato gnocchi, which was the best gnocchi I’ve ever had…it was divine. Our appetizers were also delicious with the warm goat cheese salad taking the prize. My veal was good, but not great, however based on the combined pleasure around the table we are giving Cioppino’s a “Great” and a “We’d like to come back when we can have a bottle or two of wine!”. The service staff got a bit too casual with us for my liking, but they were very attentive, and helped us make some good choices. So if you are looking to celebrate a special occasion with friends or share a romantic evening this is a great place!

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kiss and run…jedi mind tricks and other adventures

Abigail’s Party
1685 Yew Street, Vancouver
604.739.4677

 

Who doesn’t like a party?! And Abigail throws a great one. Her party was just the first stop of the evening, but a great start. I loved my Moroccan Chicken, a bit of gamble in west coast restaurant, but the portion was great, the serving style was a refreshing twist on the richer saucier traditional Moroccan dishes, but had all the right flavors and the presentation was beautiful. The couscous was a lovely accompaniment with a mix of sweet, savory, and a nutty crunch. My host thoroughly enjoyed the Qualicom Beach Scallops and a bit of my couscous as well. A good selection of beer and wine, in particular I really enjoyed the house Chardonnay which is the Bonterra Organic Chardonnay (California). The desserts looked tempting and the waiter even suggested they help one connect with their inner child…which is cool…but we were stuffed and needed to move on to part two of the planned event – Yuk Yuks, so no time to search out our inner child. Abigail’s boasts a local, organic, and sustainable food ethic, which although is very trendy I’ve come to appreciate it. It is a small, long, and narrow restaurant appointed with dark tones with warm lighting and a buzz with good ambiance. I had heard a couple of mixed things about the restaurant, but I really enjoyed my time there. There was a certain je ne sais quoi added to the experience that I credit to my dinner companion that you may not be able to replicate on your visit…so my advice in general is if you’re not sure that you’ll love a restaurant, at least make sure to go with someone who makes you laugh so you enjoy the evening. Like all things Kitsilano parking is near impossible to find, but overall for Abigail’s Party I’d say the service was great, the food was excellent, and atmosphere was enjoyable.

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