4444 Main St.
Signature Drink: Pimm’s Cup
Signature Dish: Slow Roast Sandwich
Dinner & drinks for two: $80
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I’m not big on the religious stuff, but isn’t there some kind of commandment that speaks to honouring your mom and pop? I honour my good old dad by taking him for the occasional dinner. Since I inherited most of my food-obsessed genes from him, it seems apropos that he should get to tag along every once in a while on my gastro-prowls. And I am always excited when a restaurant opens up within a stone’s throw of my ‘hood.
Lucky me, I live near Main Street and am close to all kinds of good eats. Chaise Lounge as a restaurant moniker gave me some small misgivings, but the fact that the owners were of the Burgoo vintage spoke in its favour -- or so I assumed. Sorry, Dad. It just goes to show…never assume.
The room was the first hint that all was not right in Loungeville. An odd mix of brick, blue and purple velvet, metal and wood -- not to mention some really bizarre graffiti -- had me confused as to whether I was in an upscale establishment that had fallen on hard times, or a dive that stopped its upgrade mid-reno. The lounge concept comes across well enough, I suppose, but the strongest impression was of the type of place that I used to get taken to on dates by long-winded, pontificating, pseudo-intellectuals during my university days. Thank goodness for big windows so you can stare outside and rest your eyes.
The service, on the other hand, was nothing to sniff at—friendly, but not too friendly, prompt and well-executed. Drinks showed up almost faster than I could order them, and the table was kept clean and cleared without our server becoming intrusive. The bartender also seemed to be in top form. My Pimm’s cocktail ($6) was fresh, breezy and lip-smacking good with appropriately large slices of cucumber and good quality gin. The wine list was simple and well-priced -- my dad had a decent glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle Cab-Sauv from Washington for $12. The food, on the other hand…
We started out well enough with a bowl of candied macadamia nuts ($6). Despite the menu listing cinnamon, star anise and chili as the coating for the nuts, what came across most was the salt. Not to say they weren’t tasty, just a bit confusing. Welsh rarebit ($7) made a glum following. Pale ale and cheddar cheese “fondue” was alright, if undecided between clumpy and gooey, but the “house made toasts” weren’t toasty by a long fork, and a very odd aftertaste—something akin to sour mayo—had me avoiding the bread altogether. And this had me right peeved. I mean, really, there’s no excuse for screwing up melted cheese on toast.
Dungeness crab croquettes ($8) seemed more promising, at least until they arrived. The crab was all but drowned in the potato filler and the mozzarella and chives seemed to be hiding as well. The accompanying “sweet chili jam” was salsa with less depth that effectively masked whatever hint of crab may still have been discernible. The occasional string of meat at least allowed us to discern a difference in texture from the tubers, if not in flavour.
My dad ordered the meatloaf wrapped in double-smoked bacon ($16) for his entrée. It was an improvement over the previous dishes, but not enough to make either of us come back. Wrap anything in enough bacon and it will taste good. Speaking of which, the restaurant seems to use a lot of free-range and local meats—a point in their favour—but a little more flavour and balance wouldn’t hurt either.
My slow roast sandwich ($18) was anything but. Labelled “THE Slow Roast Sandwich” and highlighting Fraser Valley prime rib, I was expecting pull-apart-with-your-fingers and disintegrate-on-the-tongue meat. What I got was a large piece of seared rare chargrill that required the use of a large steak knife to dismantle. Sure, it was a fairly tasty piece of meat, but since when have “seared” and "slow-roasted” been interchangeable terms? Maybe there was a problem with the ovens that night, but if so, nobody mentioned it to me when I ordered. Did they think that the average diner wouldn’t know the difference?
I suppose we were holding out hope that dessert would redeem things. The ‘rent and I share a strong sweet tooth, so the daily tasting platter ($6.50) seemed a good choice. Little bites of cherry pie, shortbread with whipped cream, and chocolate fudge were on the list. The pie was nice, with a light, thin crust, but the whipped cream tasted canned and the fudge was more caramel than chocolate.
Once can hope for better things, but this restaurant has a long way to go before I would think about going back and there are too many better options on this strip of Main Street for me to tempt fate again anytime soon.
Summer’s End calls for Pimm’s
Talk about your heritage cocktails. The Pimm’s Cup goes all the way back to mid-1800s London, when a certain James Pimm created an herb-and fruit-infused gin at his oyster bar, and it’s now the favoured drink at Wimbledon. Mix some Pimm’s No.1 Cup with fresh cucumbers, lemon, herbs and apple slices, then top with Sprite or 7-Up. To get closer to the original U.K. version, swap the Sprite for a lemony soda, like San Pellegrino’s Limonata. Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, $24.25 at BCLS.
The Ultimate Wandering Gourmet Harvest Festival
On Sept. 13, join Farm Folk/City Folk for Feast of Fields at UBC Farm. With wine glass in hand, wander and sample from dozens of chefs, artisan producers and growers. Tickets $85. Visit www.feastoffields.com for tickets and info.
Road 13 gets Salty
On Sept. 8, Salt Tasting Room (Blood Alley) will be hosting the last of their Summer Wine Series dinner. This time, Road 13 Vineyards will be matched with handcrafted charcuterie from J, N & Z Deli, Moccia’s and Oyama Sausage Company, along with artisan cheeses and breads. Tickets $65. Call 604-633-1912.
Provence Goes South
Provence Marinaside (1177 Marinaside Crescent) is featuring the south of France until the end of the month. Steamed honey mussels, halibut, ahi tuna, tapenades, spicy fennel sausage with herbed couscous and more. Chef’s menu is $42 per person. Call 604-681-4144.
Food in Brief
The Cannery’s Swan Song
It’s official: at the end of March 2010, the Cannery Restaurant will be closing its doors after 38 years of service. The Port of Vancouver’s new security measures, coupled with a lack of new premises, mean you may want to go enjoy the food—and the lobster oil—while you still can.