Last week, during our day of gastronomy, “Godfather” and I decided to have dinner at La Brasserie. [1091 Davie Street, Vancouver, (604) 568-6499] “Boomer” and “Fat Joel” had been raving about this place for the past few months, so I definitely wanted to check it out. “Monk” and I, up until last year, lived 5 minutes from the restaurant and though I passed by quite frequently, I never pulled the trigger and dined there.
On this particular night, we were already quite satiated after our day of dining. After all that Parmigiano-Reggiano at Italy House, we went on a leisurely stroll up Davie Street to build up an appetite. We took our time and finally committed to having dinner. When we walked in, every table except one was occupied and they were resetting our table upon our arrival. I recognized an acquaintance at the bar, a server from my Wedgewood days and chatted with him for a few minutes. He informed me that the guys in the kitchen were also ex-Wedgewood guys, though they were after my time and I didn’t know them. We took our seats and were quickly offered drinks as we perused the menu. The menu is small, but very much in the German/French brasserie style. The decor of the restaurant is charming, with a bright open kitchen highlighting the room. The restaurant appears well-kept, though I must have been a little pooped by this point, because I was not really being as observant as usual.
My glass of Bordeaux and “Godfather’s” Konig Ludwig arrived momentarily and we decided to share a steak tartare, (very unusual for us to share an appetizer) followed by the lamb cheeks for me and roasted suckling pig for “Godfather.” After taking our order, they brought two types of bread along with butter and a pork and chicken rillette. There are very few foods that I dislike (dill, black licorice candy, overly spicy things, natto, durian) and caraway seeds are one of them. I don’t know if I was traumatized by the rye bread with caraway seeds, I used to eat as a child, but I probably haven’t eaten a caraway seed in 10 years. Surprisingly, I ate the caraway seed bread, did not mind it and look forward to trying caraway seeds in the near future. The rillette was alright, though I thought it was pedestrian in every way. The texture was mealy, it was under-seasoned and lacked the fatty unctousness that rillette usually showcases. Within a few minutes, the tartare arrived and we immediately tucked in. I know ‘Godfather” must have been full, because his gluttonous spirit was nowhere to be found. The tartare was very simple, tasty and well executed. I thought that it was a touch on the bland side and could benefit from a lift of acid or dijon mustard or spice. The beef itself lacked flavor and the dish was a little under-seasoned, but overall was very good. The crostini that were served with it were perfectly seasoned and crisp and was an excellent
counterpoint to the texture of the steak tartare. After finishing our appy, the mains arrived in about 15 minutes. The aroma of the lamb cheeks was very inviting and the plate of food was again very simple and true to its brasserie roots. The lamb cheek dish was fantastic. The cheeks were cooked very nicely, perfectly tender, yet holding it’s shape and the accompanying vegetables were also very nice. The celeriac puree was very smooth and tasty and the root vegetables were all cooked nicely. The crispy chips were a nice garnish and apart from the spelling mistake(a pet peeve of mine) on the menu, I thought the dish was excellent. In fact, I ordered in some pork cheeks and lamb cheeks this week to play with because I was inspired by this dish. The suckling pig dish not as successful, though still very tasty in my opinion. The skin on the pig was not as crisp as I
would have liked and for me that is the biggest part of a well done suckling pig. Also, “Godfather” found the meat to be rather chewy. Suckling pig and chewy are two words that should never be used in the same sentence, but that was in fact the case. I didn’t mind so much, because I enjoy the chew of meat, if there is good flavor, but though this might sound funny, the suckling pig lacked a bright pork flavor. There was a stuffing in the pig as well, but I didn’t taste too much of it. I thought the accompanying saurkraut was too acidic and of a single note. “Fat Joel” made a batch of saurkraut in the fall, which we lovingly fermented and took care of for the past 4 months. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I know good saurkraut/choucroute and the depth and layers of flavor in La Brasserie’s was lacking. I’m not sure if they made there own, but it was definitely not exciting. The suckling pig was also served with some German dumplings called schupfnudel and I thought they were rather lack lustre. Not crispy, a little gummy, a little tepid, a little underseasoned and not really up my alley. I love spaetzle and I love gnocchi and these dumpling were sort of a so-so hybrid of the two. Overall, I thought the suckling pig dish had great potential, but unfortunately did not deliver. After we were cleared, we were too full to have dessert, so we finished our drinks, thanked them for a lovely evening and got on our merry way.
Issues and concerns; I think that La Brasserie is a very good restaurant and a great addition to the Davie Street neighborhood. Overall, I think the food is very good and the guys seem to have a very clear vision of what they are trying to accomplish. Apart from the slight lack of polish in regards to the food, I have little to complain about. The service was extremely friendly, I liked the buzz of the room, I think the food is a good value, I wish them the best of luck and look forward to my next visit. I don’t think I’ll go out of my way and drive into the city for dinner at La Brasserie, but if I’m in the neighborhood and want a well-cooked meal, with decent ingredients, for a fair price, I know where to go.
On my chef’s night out scale, La Brasserie receives 3/5 SOB (slices of bacon).