Monday, 5 January 2015

Italian Neighbourhood Delights

One of the appetizers on the blackboard is the scallop carpaccio
Last night my parents took me to a neighbourhood Italian restaurant called La Buca on the west side of Vancouver. It is located in a small strip mall that includes a relatively new neighbour, The Ridge Garden Restaurant, a Chinese eatery that had to move following the demise of The Ridge Theatre and bowling alley that made way for a condo development on Arbutus and 16th.

Enjoyed the roasted beets with burrata and salad greens
When we made reservations at La Buca we were told we could come at 6pm, but return the table by 7.30pm. No problem. So we arrived and I was pleasantly surprised to find an unpretentious, cozy place with a kitchen at the back and specials written on the blackboard. The blast of air from the vents were alternately cold and hot, but that didn't deter us from our meal.

After we settled in, we were hooked in by the specials, described in mouth-watering detail by the waiter. Although we were there at 6pm, there were already people finishing their meals. Clearly this place is a favourite among locals.

For starters we had the scallop carpaccio (CAD$16) dressed with deep-fried shallots to contrast the smooth texture of the raw scallops, and garnished with orange segments, Italian parsley and a light sauce. Another appetizer was the roasted beet and burrata salad (CAD$16), featuring chunks of tasty beet and creamy burrata, complemented with greens like arugula, frisee and red cabbage dressed with a subtle vinaigrette.

Beautifully cooked Wagyu beef from Idaho with chanterelles
The zuppa di pesce with fregola sardo (CAD$13.50) was a tomato-based broth featuring slices of fish, lots of celery and carrots julienne, but sadly only one clam despite the appearance of three clam shells in the soup.

Nevertheless, mains did not disappoint. The special of wagyu beef cooked medium rare with chanterelle mushrooms (CAD$45.50) was a winner, very juicy and tender, cooked perfectly and was an ideal hearty wintery feast.

The whole branzino (CAD$41.50) or seabass stuffed with herbs and capers and baked was flawless. The succulent fish meat was delicious, though the area around the head was strangely undercooked. Nevertheless, diners at the next table missed out on savouring this dish as they were turned off by having to watch out for bones.

Whole branzino (seabass) with lots of chard and potatoes
La Buca is known for its homemade pasta, and the ravioli of Dungeness crab with bits of lobster (CAD$26.50) on a bed of green pea puree was memorable too. The pasta was thin and elastic, and the light crab meat went well with the tanginess of the green peas.

If that wasn't enough, desserts were tempting too and we couldn't resist trying the aptly named Nemesis (CAD$8), a dark chocolate flourless cake that looked dense, but was in fact light and fluffy and addictive. It was accompanied with a generous dollop of cream and honeycombs to balance the slight bitterness of the chocolate. The dessert was devoured in no time.

Flourless chocolate cake with caramel, cream and honeycomb
Overall it was definitely one of my better meals in Vancouver!

La Buca
4025 Macdonald Street
604 730 6988

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