1616 Alberni St, Vancouver
This stunning french restaurant is nestled along Alberni’s condo buildings in a cozy refurbished Victorian. After 30 years on the scene, Le Gavroche has fought its way to the top of …well, the food chain. And it deserves the great reputation. Though the prices and quality are upscale the vibe is warm and relaxed creating an inviting mixture. Let me explain. I was worried it would be uptight and boring — but the host was wearing a funny little sweater-vest (like a high school librarian) and there was a warm glow coming from the fireplace. All my preconceived worries vanished because everything was lovely and comfortable.
Le Gavroche puts a heavy emphasis on the importance of wines and their pairings are usually spot on. If you don’t know much about wines, trust them — you won’t be led astray. If you know a fair deal, then have fun with their listing of over 500 wines ranging in price from $30-7500/bottle. Seriously, they do have something for everyone on their wine list.
The flavor combos created by the chef here are avant garde in their deliciousness. My best example is the flavoring that accompanied my seared albacore — tequila, chilies, lime, roe, and an avocado remoulade. This dish swam across my taste buds like some sort of wild mirage. Dare I say, this must be how it feels to ride a unicorn.
The beef carpaccio topped with pecorino is so fine, it’s almost sweet. The pork tenderloin was stuffed with wild rice and foie gras and came with a delightful cherry sauce that set my mouth watering. The shrimp in the salad was perhaps the freshest I’ve ever tasted and the smoked salmon was like a dream — nothing like that cheap hotdog taste you must endure with mediocre salmon sushi.
And everything else on the menu looked so good I had a hard time deciding. Seared diver scallops with black truffles, endive salad with pears and stilton, venison with strawberry ketchup and chocolate fig sauce, grilled lobster with lavender cream, vegetable napoleon….dear god! My husband practically had to rip the menu from my sweaty hands and wipe the drool from my lips. The menu changes frequently and is divided nicely into two sections: classic and creation. The Classic section has the usual divine french dishes such as baked onion soup and beef bourguignon. The Creation section has delicious specialties such as lamb with mint gnocchi and beef tenderloin. Both sides of the menu are amazing ad it’s fun to mix and match.
The only down point was the desserts – which I found to be a striking disappointment given that the restaurant is french. We tried the creme caramel and the apple strudel. First of all, why is a french restaurant serving apple strudel? They shouldn’t be; particularly since they have no idea how to make one. It was dry, and not flakey dry , but more like: we forgot to butter and bake it – cold, old dry. Maybe instead of the Austro-hungarian variety they were trying for ‘the official pastry of Texas’ variation. As for the creme caramel and star anise – who wants runny egg creme with licorice sauce? Not me.
Now, I don’t think I’m being unfair – the desserts were not good and it was such a blow after everything else being so stunning in its deliciousness. Le sigh. I guess you can’t win ’em all – just because Le Gavroche has a chef who is a genius, doesn’t mean their pastry chef is top of the line.
Ahhh, I don’t really care that out meals came to roughly $80 a person — because it was worth every damn penny. I would go there again in a heartbeat….well, sure I have to eat kraft dinner for the next week to balance things out — but the next time I get married I am having the dinner at Le Gavroche. 100% thumbs up – no question about it. But maybe instead of ordering an actual dessert — next time I’ll just stick to selecting a dessert wine.
Open: until 2.30 for lunch, dinner begins at 5.30
End note: Make a reservation! This place is popular and it ain’t no freakin’ McDonald’s.
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