A few weeks ago, I got to spend a blissful two weeks in my hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, smack-dab in the middle of Vancouver’s best time of year: July. It’s sunny and warm and beach-worthy, and the city’s glowing and the Yaletown patios are packed with bellini-chugging waste cases all dressed up with no place to go… Sigh. I love home.
Except Vancouver can be a real fickle bitch, and it ended up raining pretty much the entire time I was there. Even when I was filming in the middle of the woods (that’s that episode of “Supernatural” I told you about– and don’t ask me how hot those guys are in person again or I may barf) which made my hair frizz up like I’d grabbed the business end of a spark plug. But no matter– I’m used to a rainy Vancouver, and the rain’s always the perfect excuse to try a new restaurant or two.
(Alright, when did I ever need an excuse?)
Funny enough, the two newbies I tried are on the same block in Gastown, right down the street from my beloved Boneta, where I may or may not still have an unpaid bar tab. We picked L’Abattoir for a Saturday girls’ night based on a high recommendation from my agent, who in all fairness was probably judging the place based on aesthetics alone rather than the food (she’s under the impression Pinot Grigio is a food group, God bless her). But who doesn’t want to be surrounded by beauty every once in a while? Plus, the menu looked great with delectables like albacore confit with smoked pork fat, sweetbreads on toast, and scallops with oxtail dumplings. And you now how I feel about tails from oxen! (too far?)
L’Abattoir is totally beautiful, elegant and understated with exposed brick walls, tables set close together to ensure you’ll get to know your neighbour, and a gorgeous enclosed back patio with a crazy antler-like modern art piece hanging from the ceiling, ready to impale you at a moment’s notice. It’s an impress-on-the-first-date sort of place, just loud enough to cancel out uncomfortable silences and a hefty cocktail list to induce you into a state of drunken calm. Plus, “abattoir” means slaughterhouse in French! Who’s hungry?!
Because I’m me, that cocktail list was the first item of business to tackle. I had a Gastown Swizzle (mostly ’cause it rhymes with shizzle), a gin and passionfruit concoction with a float of bitters, while the rest of the clan partook in an assortment of dangerous-sounding libations such as fresh banana daiquiris served on the rocks and agave nectar margaritas. But better than the cocktails, and the highlight of my rainy day, was the bread basket that landed on our table. Yes, unicorns exist: I am an actress who enjoys a bread basket, especially a really good one, and this was tops: warm brioche rolls studded with real bacon bits, crispy hot cheesy bread sticks, and freshly baked homemade crackers. Who the heck needs dinner when there’s this thing?!
For the rest of our meal, and since we devoured two of those stupid bread baskets, we decided to do some sharesies so we could sample more stuff. We ordered the Dungeness crab salad with crab custard and chickpeas served with brioche toast for scooping, that lovely albacore tuna confit, a very rich and delicious rabbit cannelloni with a mushroom and bacon sauce, a crispy fillet of salmon on a corn and smoked potato bisque, and a stellar halibut fillet wrapped in bacon and roasted, served over a bed of fluffy pillow-like gnocchi with a pea puree. Maybe my agent was paying attention to the food after all?
For dessert, we opted to share the Earl Grey pot de creme, a luscious and velvety pudding topped off with “whipped milk” and served with a side of lemon shortbread cookies. This was a big wow, and some rather harsh words were exchanged over the last bite. Because we were drunk.
A few nights later, we found ourselves at restaurant #2, called Cork and Fin. It’s a loud little place with a sunken dining room under the stairs, similar in layout to L’Abattoir but less elegant (if L’Abattoir’s a first-date place, then Cork and Fin is an it’s-been-a-year-and-I-don’t-have-to-shave-my-legs-for-you-anymore type of place). After our very confident server informed us that they had “THE best french fries in town”, we opted for an order of those and a few share plates again: dungeness crab sitting atop a passable chilled tomato gazpacho, a rather ordinary roasted chicken with pan gravy, some grilled scallops, a plate of undercooked and under seasoned lamb chops, and a nice piece of grilled sirloin with a red wine demi-glace. Also, those french fries? Not the best in town. (I miss you, Tapastree.) The service was fine and knowledgable, and the bar staff were certainly friendly, judging by the round of free “shots” we got right in the middle of our meal, which was about as classy as a Ke$ha concert. But Cork and Fin strikes me as the kind of place that’s more concerned with how much you’re spending on your bar bill rather than the kind of food they’re turning out.
So the moral of this story? Slaughter houses rule!
Also, you Vancouver. You rule, too.