For those who know me and have followed my nightlife career, you will know that Vancouver, BC is my home away from home. Over the years, if I needed to get away from the bore of the Seattle scene, I would turn to Vancouver to uplift my spirits and rejuvenate my soul. There hasn’t been a city I’ve encountered quite like it.
Despite my many trips to Van City, there was one thing I haven’t gotten around to: Tackling the food scene! Sure, I’ve been to all the street food shops and tried various pizza joints or had some Greek food delivered to my hotel room (If you haven’t done this, DO IT!). Hell, I have even had great poutine at 3am after a night of dancing my ass off. But, all things considered, none of that compares to having a great culinary experience. So after a considerably rough week, I decided to pay my friends to the north a much overdue visit and set off on a culinary journey.
The Vancouver food scene has exploded over recent years and it’s a damn shame that I haven’t explored it till now. It didn’t take long for me to decide to dine at L’Abattoir. This French gem is nestled in the heart of Vancouver’s historic Gastown district, ironically near places where I’ve spent many of my nightlife years soaking in great music.
As I stepped into the bustling restaurant, I found it to be misleadingly quaint in terms of space, with a bar area just paces away from the front door downstairs, and an upstairs dining area. In the center of the room is an amazingly bright kitchen where you can see the chefs working away for various diners. However, as we were lead to our table, I was pleasantly surprised to see how big L’Abattoir actually is.
As you head downstairs, you’ll come upon a small corridor filled with various bottles of wine that leads to an atrium dining area with amazing French tile work on the floor and a stylish wood overhang above that provides the lighting for the tables. It immediately set the mood for my culinary mission.
My grand plan for the evening, soak in every element of L’Abattoir in a starter, a main, and a dessert while pairing each course with a delicious wine or cocktail. Peering over the menu, I instantly noticed that the menu is keenly focused on cold & warm starters and a sensuous selection of main dishes.
While deciding on which road I wanted to travel on my culinary expedition, the waiter brought a nice selection of freshly baked breads to enjoy. Now, I know what you’re already thinking, “Don’t fill up on bread before a meal you dummy!” But who could resist the smell of freshly prepared bread?!
It took me awhile to decide on what I wanted to start with because I was in the mood for everything. There was venison tartare, crispy pork and herring salad, asparagus cooked over charcoal. I was even considering the freaking grilled octopus, a creature I just loath eating, but it sounded so intriguing.
However, after much debating, I led off the evening with the poached steelhead and crunchy potato salad with ramps, horseradish, and dill while pairing it with the Racine 2013 Picpoul De Pinet (Languedoc, France). The dish was a symphony on the palate of fresh and flavorful steelhead with the added crunchy potato salad which had a nice herbaceous accompaniment. The 2013 Racine was lovely selection that had a great balance of pear, lemon, tart apple, and citrus fruit with subtle floral notes and medium acidity that paired well with my starter. Definitely a great start to the evening.
The main course of lightly smoked duck breast with crisp confit leg meat, beetroot, and cabbage took me to place I never wanted to leave. The smokiness of the duck reminded me of the smoked meats you’ll usually find from my southern roots. Not only did the char on the duck have a deep element of smokiness and seasoning, but it was present throughout the meat. If that wasn’t enough, the dish included a confit of duck leg meat stuffed into a crispy spring roll that added another element of crunch and flavor to the dish. Matching the smoky flavors was the Toretti’s Family Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley, California). I gotta tell ya, for a boutique winery that is relatively unknown, I’m shocked that this bottle made its way to Canada! The wine had nice floral notes with cinnamon, cherry, pepper, spice and a subtle note of smokiness that bridged every element of food on my plate.
With all this great food, you would think I would’ve called it a night. However, a meal just isn’t complete without a nice dessert to wrap up the evening.
I decided to finish the meal with the vanilla and yogurt panna cotta with green apple sorbet, honey thyme granola, and butterscotch. But, I wanted to issue a little challenge to my waiter for the evening. I wanted him to pair my dessert with a beverage, just to see if he could read my palate and my mood. He eagerly accepted the challenge and asked one simple question: Are you looking for something sweet or a digestifs? I figured a dessert wine would be too easy for him, so I went with the digestif. What my waiter didn’t know was that I already knew which digestif I wanted. What I really wanted to see was if he would match my selection or challenge me with something else. When my waiter returned with my dessert, he brought a glass of Distilleria Gualco “Grappa di Dolcetto” (Piedmont, Italy) which happened to match my selection. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Grappa is an alcoholic beverage which is based on grapes. When made well, it can be a beautifully fragrant drink. The panna cotta was prepared beautifully and had just the right notes of acidity and sweetness. The crunchy honey thyme granola added an element to the dessert that was very pleasing to the palate that leaves you wishing for another bowl full. The Grappa tied in the floral elements of the dessert while providing that added kick to send you off into the night a happy person.
I have to hand it to Chef Lee Cooper, Sommelier Robert Herman and the team at L’Abattoir. They’ve taken French culinary cuisine and added a nice modern flair to the dishes while sourcing beautiful wines from around the world. Fresh, high quality local food, great wine, and cocktails makes L’Abattoir a “must visit” restaurant in Vancouver, BC.