Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gentrification is Tasty

Over the past couple years there has been a trend in the Vancouver dining scene. New restaurants are popping up in the less desireable parts of town to benefit from cheaper buy/lease rates. Younger restauranteurs are now able to open their doors and have a much better opportunity to make a go of it. The dining public benefits with new exciting places, and the neighbourhoods in question benefit from a new economy.

The first example that pops into my mind is Chambar, which opened up almost 4 years ago in the Crosstown district. There's also Salt, which opened in Gastown's Blood Alley, and just around the corner is Boneta at the corner of Carrall and Cordova. Now you can add Campagnolo which just opened on Main Street, right beside the Ivanhoe Pub.

Campagnolo is the brainchild of Tom Doughty and Robert Belcham, who also own Fuel in Kits. Campagnolo is "affordable, casual Italian dining in a warm and welcoming space" ... as long as you find bare wood and bricks "warm and welcoming." The food however, hit the nail on the head in that respect.

They've just started serving lunch, which is when I visited them. A word of warning at lunch ... parking is scarce. Have a look on Station Street.

We started with the Crispy Ceci ... deep fried chick peas served with rocket and a lemon vinnaigrette ... and the Barlotti & Smoked Ham Hock soup. The Ceci were terrific! These guys would make the perfect beer snack. Seriously a nicely executed dish.

The soup was equally well done. A generous portion made it a perfect lunch for a cold snowy day. I would have been happy with just this, a nice loaf of bread and a glass of wine.

Our mains were the Tagliarini with Pork Ragu and the Porchetta Piadine. The pasta ... very nice. Toothsome (did I just use that word??) and with the perfect amount of sauce. Maybe a bit salty, but that's a personal preference I think.

I wish somebody told the Piadine was meant to be folded! True, I never asked. But it's somewhat like going into a restaurant in a foreign culture, and not wanting to make a cultural faux pas. So, I'm telling you ... fold it and pick it up!

The porchetta is quite unlike what I had a Salumi, in that it wasn't soft and gooey and laden with onions. Rather, the porchetta still had a little chew left in it, and was covered in shaved fennel. I LOVE fennel, so this was good. There was also some farmer's cheese and olive oil in the mix.

The dinner menu is quite similar, and there's also a lounge at the back! Chef Belcham is also curing his own charcuterie on site, so the lounge will likely be seeing more of me.

1020 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
604 484-6018

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where Did All the Sango?

"I'm craving sushi"

The text came across my phone from my eldest son. Normally I like to eat at his school when I go to visit on Wednesday, but cravings can't be ignored. Especially when the chef (my son) tells me that the lamb shanks are dry.

The best sushi in Pitt Meadows is at Sango, which is located in the Meadowtown Mall (just east of Harris Road on the Lougheed Highway). My experience here is that most people in the area order the ubiquitous California Roll and Teka Maki. However, if you take the time to venture into some of their more creative dishes, some real gems can be found.

Kimchi Tofu is easily our favorite dish at Sango. Exactly as it sounds, it's tofu served with house-made kimchi ... woth some bacon thrown in for good measure. Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't confess to a little bit of guilty pleasure here. I mean, bacon and tofu? Not only a hilarious juxtaposition, but a delicious combination as well!  Regardless, I think the 3 of us could easily tackle an order of this each.

The latest addition to the "try-it" list was Oden.  Essntially it's a dashi stock with chunks of fish cake, tofu and various other cake-like substances cut into large building block shapes.  But the oddest ingredient was something called kojacu.  There a piece of it on the right hand side of the bowl.  Think mauve Jello-O twisted in a prtezel like shape. 

Oden was not a big hit with the kids.  I'm thinking it was a textural thing.  But I will definitely keep an eye out for this dish again.  On a cold and rainy Januray night in the Pitt, this was a welcome bowl of comfort from some very unfamiliar tastes.  

Sango Japanese Restaurant
#350 19800 Lougheed Hwy (near the Taco del Mar) 
Pitt Meadows
Tel: 604-465-4650 
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