I had dinner at db bistro in Vancouver the other night, and it was fantastic! better than I expected!
I’ll admit, when db bistro first opened its doors in Vancouver I was curious, but not quite chomping at the bit to try it out. I’d already been to the db brasserie in Las Vegas, which was good, but not great. I expected much of the same in Vancouver.
In fact, I went to db bistro shortly after it opened for lunch on a Wednesday in December 2008. The food was fine, but the service was downright awful. Forgotten cutlery, missed drinks, mixed-up orders, and a constant need to flag down our server (even though there were only 3 tables in the entire place) plagued the whole meal. I chalked it up to new-opening jitters, but man was it ever disappointing.
(For the record: I had planned to write an email to the restaurant shortly after my visit tell them about my experience, but snowmageddon happened and I got distracted.)
So when I saw the usual cadre of local food bloggers and journalists pumping up its perfection a week or two later, I figured the restaurant was on its best behavior and had brought in a few service ringers to ensure things would go smoothly for the media. Meanwhile, I’d decided to wait awhile for my next visit. Hopefully by the time I returned, they’d have ironed things out enough that the hoi palloy would have a good time too.
My second visit happened to be a couple nights ago, and it was much, much better!
We wandered down to the restaurant at about 7:30pm on a whim, without a reservation. It was about 75% full and we were seated promptly. Our server was just the right mix of attentive and friendly (without being aloof or too familiar). Now that the service experience was sorted out, the food absolutely shone. We started with the shared charcuterie plate, which was perfect. For mains, Neil had the infamous db burger and I had the night’s special, which was a broiled skate wing over spring vegetables and new potatoes in a white wine & butter sauce. It was heavenly. Dessert was the apple tart for Neil and the raspberry napoleon for me.
We thoroughly enjoyed the food and the experience. And when we left, despite being “nobodys” on the local food scene – just a couple of neighbourhood locals who popped in for a late Tuesday dinner – we were given a fond sendoff that made me want to plan my next return.
Except, I have this day-after sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about what’s on the menu.
Looking at the Seafood Watch guide, Atlantic Skate are on the “avoid” list. I was told this was a Pacific Skate, but information on them is really sparse. Despite the well-reported and much hailed opening of the local spot prawn season, the May menu at db bistro features a Nova Scotia Lobster Salad. And while my dessert was indeed delicious, raspberries aren’t growing anywhere in the northern hemisphere at this time of year.
I am also highly skeptical of the whole concept of the “May 2009 Menu” considering it’s almost identical to the “December 2008 Menu” from when I dined there last. I have no problem with keeping signature dishes and specialties on a static restaurant menu, but I’d like to see more of a demarcation and highlight on the true features and seasonal dishes – both so I don’t miss them, and so I get a better feel for what will be there next time and what’s a special treat that may not stick around for long.
I know these things aren’t important to everyone, and they in no way detract from the deliciousness of the food we had – it takes quality ingredients and a dedication to good cooking to produce a quality meal – but it is something that’s important to me.
db bistro and its sister restaurant lumiere live the birthplace of the 100-mile diet, where decades old restaurants like Bishop’s (and later Raincity Grill) started, grew up, and continue to flourish because of their commitment to local, sustainable products, and where our farmer’s markets regularly land in continental and international top 10 lists.
It’s pretty obvious that while Chefs Boulud and Istel are already doing a fantastic job, they could be doing much better on the local and sustainable front. And it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to seeing them rise to!