Dine Out Vancouver, which just finished its tenth year, is an annual culinary celebration when Vancouverites get to, well, dine out. The deal is: you order from a three-course set menu for a set price. It’s incredibly good value and lets you try out higher-priced restaurants you might not get to otherwise. And the restaurants that participate benefit as well: they are booked solid for 17 days in the dead of winter.
This year, my friend and I decided to head down to L’Abattoir, rated by enRoute magazine as Canada’s third-best new restaurant of 2011.
L’Abattoir’s French name means “slaughterhouse.” The name is not in reference to its menu, however, but to Vancouver’s original meat-packing district. The restaurant is located in Gastown, just around the corner from Blood Alley, and the building itself stands on the site of Vancouver’s first jail.
The setting is more bistro than fine dining, but don’t let the decor fool you ― there is nothing casual about the food at L’Abattoir. Chef Lee Cooper’s menu is French-influenced West Coast ― a description heard frequently about Vancouver’s best restaurants.
I ordered a starter of poached egg over potato gnocchi with a leek, mushroom, and pecorino sabayan. The combination of egg and gnocchi was unique and a nice surprise upon first bite, although I would have preferred it if the yolk had been slightly softer. The sabayan was light and airy and not too cheesy. I really enjoyed the dish. To be honest, the country-style pork patê on toast ordered by my friend looked a bit dull in comparison.
Next was a spicy chorizo–crusted Pacific cod over white beans cooked in red wine. The cod was perfectly moist and the texture and flavor of the chorizo crust added a nice kick to the fish. My friend enjoyed her roast tenderloin with ravioli stuffed with braised lamb shoulder; the combination of red meats worked really well.
Each course was paired with an Okanagan wine ― a crisp cold Tantalus Riesling for the starter and the 2008 “Adieu,” a pinot noir from Le Vieux Pin, with the entrées. We both ordered the chocolate caramel bar with banana ice cream and chocolate yogurt ― the most popular dessert on the menu, according to our server.
Innovative décor + good wine + excellent food + impeccable service = a delightful evening. I’ll be back.
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