Saturday, 6 January 2018

Gastown Dining

A highlight dish -- crispy Pacific octopus under the ribbons of kohlrabi
Last night friends took me out to two restaurants last night across from each other on Carrall Street in Vancouver's Gastown, just east of the downtown core.

We met at Blarney Stone, an Irish pub at 4.30pm for a drink before heading across the street to L'Abattoir, a very hot restaurant that's been around for a few years but I've never tried until now.

The funky-looking bar set up at L'Abattoir
For Happy Hour, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm at the bar, all of the appetizers are 50 percent off, except for the spiced foie gras and baked oysters.

Almost everything looked great on the menu and we decided to try four dishes to whet our appetites because one of my friends had a brain wave to try another restaurant nearby afterwards.

The dishes came in pairs. First out of the gate was the confit Albacore tuna (CAD$19/$9.50). It was light and refreshing with guanciale, a cured meat, with turnip, mustard and tonnato sauce.

But things were even better with the crispy Pacific octopus (CAD$20/$10) that wasn't too chewy, with good flavours from the lemongrass and fermented chilli and topped with long ribbons of kohlrabi.

Delicious pan-fried veal sweetbreads on toast
After a short break came the other two dishes. First came the popular dish of pan-fried veal sweetbreads on toast (CAD$17/$8.50). Admittedly the sweetbreads don't have much taste, but it's the garnish that's interesting, like pickled shallots, sauce gribiche, a kind of mayonnaise, and some veal tongue.

The last plate was veal tartare (CAD$21/$10.50), a beautifully presented dish with bits of crunchy bacon, grilled cabbage, horseradish and rye. It was light, but didn't have much taste.

Afterwards we headed back across the street again and next to Blarney Stone is Tempranillo. I heard it used to be Japanese izakaya and then last year was turned into a Spanish tapas bar.

Chorizo sausages braised in Basque cider
The place was empty when we walked in -- owner Bill Robitaille blamed it on people having thin wallets after the New Year, or trying to keep up their New Year's resolutions in the first few days of 2018.

No matter, we had the restaurant to ourselves for practically the entire evening. I got free rein of the menu choices.

First off was the sardines that were stored in oil and then topped with a tomato sauce. It went well with crusty bread that was heated up.

Next came chorizo sausages braised in Basque cider with garlic and shallots. Now that was delicious and perfect for a cold day. It was hearty and warm with lots of flavour.

Wet rice dish featuring duck confit, pear and walnuts
The main dish was the highlight of the evening -- a wet rice dish featuring pieces of duck confit with chunks of pears and walnuts that was absolutely divine with the flavours and textures, and again ideal for the weather we were having.

Very memorable, both in terms of the food and company.

L'Abattoir
217 Carrall Street
Vancouver
(604) 568 1701

Tempranillo
280 Carrall Street
Vancouver
(604) 720 3145



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