Saturday, 16 July 2016

Hearty Northern Italian Cuisine

The highlight -- 24-hour slow cooked veal shank that was very tender
I'd heard a lot about La Quercia, a northern Italian restaurant on 4th and Alma in Vancouver.

Meat mixed with bone marrow with asparagus
My parents had raved about it and we managed to snag a reservation with a few other friends. The restaurant is best known for its set dinners, as the chef likes to create new menus every day using the freshest ingredients. For the large set menus, large groups can enjoy a meal family style.

Also the dinner times are pretty much set in stone -- 5.30pm or 8pm. We chose the latter and after I watched part of the Gastown Grand Prix, I caught a cab on West Hastings before Victory Square where the Cenotaph is, and managed to get to the restaurant in 15 minutes.

It's a small cozy place that seats 34 people, though it can get quite noisy in there. We picked a fruity red wine with a dry finish to start and settled into the late dinner that was CAD$80 a head.

We started with the veal tonnato, a thin slice of veal that was light pink, with tuna, capers and a grissini. This was followed by bone marrow mixed with meat and then placed back in the bone cut lengthwise.

Ravioli with beetroot and ricotta, poppy seed butter sauce
The meaty mixture was very smooth and easily spread on the toast. It wasn't like any other bone marrow that I'd had before, and was accompanied with some pickled asparagus to cut the richness.

Next came a salad of charred greens with radish slices in a subtle anchovy dressing garnished with Italian parsley leaves that was light and fresh.

We all loved the two pasta dishes that followed. The first featured small delicate ravioli filled with beetroot and ricotta, and had a poppy seed butter sauce. Together the bite-sized combination of textures and flavours was scrumptious.

Next came small and thin sheets of pasta mixed with Parmesan, potato, beans, and pine nuts that was hearty and rustic. Another winner we could have eaten a whole plate of and been sated.

Pasta with beans, potato, pine nuts and Parmesan
Finally our main course arrived -- the place was full and it took time for the kitchen to prepare our dishes -- but this was worth the wait. It was a big hunk of veal shank that was slow cooked for 24 hours and in a mushroom and red wine jus.

As the server cut into it tableside, the meat effortlessly fell off the bone and the tenderness of the meat together with the full flavours made this dish a highlight. It was accompanied with roasted fennel bulbs.

To completely contrast the heavy meat dish, dessert was wonderfully refreshing and creative. It was pineapple and orange "carpaccio" -- thinly sliced in a fruit juice sauce and a small scoop of sorbet on top. Heavenly.

Pineapple and orange "carpaccio" with sorbet to finish
Definitely a memorable meal with good company too! However, it was quite a long wait between courses that tried our patience, but we were most impressed with the pasta and meat courses.

La Quercia
3689 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 676 1007

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