Instead of revelling with the Halloween merry makers and hell raisers, I chose a different tactic entirely. I completely avoided the costumes and crowds, and went for dinner last night at Lucy Mae Brown instead. Hot damn was that a good decision!
Fifty years ago, an American widow named Lucy Mae Brown ran a bordello and opium den in Vancouver. Today, it’s the city’s most decadent dining destination, pairing a French restaurant with the Opium Den, a late-night lower-level lounge.
Despite lavish local praise, and the distinction of being rated one of Conde Nast’s “50 best tables in the world” the place was quite literally deserted when we walked in, and stayed that way until our dessert course arrived. A hidden gem indeed.
The upstairs dining room is cozy with red lights glowing over the midnight blue velvet booths. Exposed brickwork and natural wood floors bring in warming textures without seeming too busy and taking away from the sleek look of the place. The staff were knowledgeable and professional, and despite the fact that they didn’t have a whole lot else to do, weren’t overly attentive and left us mostly to ourselves.
Executive Chef Remi DuBois has put together a fabulous French-inspired menu with lots of fresh West Coast ingredients. As is the rage these days, most dishes are perfect for sharing, and they’ve gone as far as to set two price points for the main courses – half and full orders – which opens up your dining experience to try a few different dishes in one setting. Personally, I LOVE this. Many small courses is my favourite way to dine, and I’m glad Lucy Mae Brown has adopted this and suited it so well to their menu.
My date and I started off sharing the Russel Cream Ale Steamed Mussels. While I do enjoy a good mussel or two, he’s the enthusiast. But I couldn’t help but devour at least a dozen of the tasty shell-dewllers. Steamed in a beer & garlic broth, and topped with a tuft of shredded, fried onions the flavours were distinct, but subtle enough to let the flavour and texture of the incredibly fresh mussels shine through.
The mussels were followed by a Tart Flambe with Caramelized onions, bacon & herbs and boursin cheese. This was comfort food on a platter. A Phyllo pastry base, topped with creamy cheese, diced tomatoes, fresh herbs and bacon crumbles. I’ll definitely be returning for that!
For our main courses, my date had the Braised Veal with Crispy Sweetbreads. The flavours were incredible, and the dish was tossed with handmade herbed pappardelle, baby onions, celery root, asparagus, chestnuts and wild mushrooms. It looked and smelled phenomenal – and he maintained that it tasted even better than it looked.
I was too full by that point to focus on anything but my own dinner, which was the Seared Diver Scallops. It was an odd choice for me, since I tend to steer away from scallops (unless they’ve been wrapped in bacon) – but something about these ones called to me. I’m glad they did! I didn’t ask where the chef was sourcing his shellfish, but it may be worth finding out. The scallops were fresh and dense, without that characteristically chewy, fishy experience that turns most people off of the wee delectables. Seared and perched gently upon fried rissoto cakes, then surrounded by some fresh fall vegetables, the half-order was the perfect size to round out my meal.
Anyone who knows me well will know that I feel the dessert course will make or break a good meal. Thankfully Lucy Mae Brown delivered! We shared Lucy’s Chocolate Tasting. Mmmmm. It’s like a build-your-own smores plate! Sipping/Dipping chocolate (similar to the Starbucks Chantico beverage) accompanied by dense, moist double chocolate chip cookies, and homemade marshmallows. This dish is not for the faint of heart, or the diabetic among us. So much sugar I think I felt my heart palpatate with each bite. Totally worth it though!
While the restaurant has a fine wine list, and a nicely stocked bar when it comes to both cocktails and an after-dinner port & scotch selection, I didn’t manage to venture much further than a Vodka Martini and some Mint tea after dinner. Everything was served with the careful consideration that a discriminating diner would appreciate. Right down to the tea actually being served with a bone porcalin teacup, rather than the typical industrial restaurant grade mug. And they serve Mighty Leaf teas, which have a pretty incredible flavour.
Overall, I give Lucy Mae Brown three out of three enthusiastic thumbs up. I’ll be back for sure.
862 Richards St. Open 5:30pm – 2:00am nightly.