Eight 1/2
151 East 8 Ave.

Open for Dinner: Monday to Saturday; 5 p.m. to late

Signature Drink: Watch Your Melon

Signature Dish: Okanagan Stuffed Chicken

Rating: *** 1/2 (out of 5)

Dinner & drinks for 2: $75

Just to satiate your curiosity up front, the name refers to the restaurant’s location on East 8 Avenue, half way between Main and Quebec streets. Or it could be as a tribute to Fellini’s movie of the same name—it plays constantly on the screen behind the bar.

It’s a quiet, little neighbourhood spot—open just a few months—and has a friendly, unpretentious vibe. The menu is very reasonable, with starters all under the $10 mark and mains between $12 and $18 (plus the half, of course). Glasses of wines such as Dr. Loosen hover around $5 to $7, and beers around $4.

Halibut, tuna and shrimp ceviche ($8.50) was fresh, tangy, with cilantro and all things nice, including a lovely apple-mango salad and cheesy tortilla crisps. The phyllo-wrapped baked brie ($8.50) was drizzled with lobster-infused olive oil and sided with soft slices of baked apple. Large, warm and gooey—it’s what cheese was meant for. A goat cheese and roasted garlic dish ($8.50) was simple and well presented, albeit a little small.

Mains were slightly less spectacular. Margherita pizza ($8.50) was too bready—a thinner crust would have been appreciated here. Toppings were fine, but slightly over-baked. The stuffed free-run chicken ($17.50) was a bit confusing. The apple-smoked cheddar stuffing didn’t make a strong appearance on the buds, one just felt the heavy presence of cream and mash, minus enough salt. As for the tubers—mash’em or smash’em, but stick to one or another. Lumpy mash is neither here nor there.

Dessert of banana-bread pudding with ice cream ($5.50) was the redeemer. A classic crème brulée ($5.50) needed a smoother consistency in the cream and a thicker crust to achieve the right contrast.

It’s a comfortable menu, that, with a few tweaks, could score more than eight and a half. I am hoping that it does.

Masi Tupungato’s Double Step
Like the famous dance for which it is named, the Passo Doble does a two-step all its own. This 70% Malbec-30% Corvina blend takes the Malbec on a double fermentation in stainless steel, before blending with semi-dried Corvina grapes. Makes for a deep, dark quaff of red fruit and spice, with hints of cherry on the nose. Try with winged game, strong cheeses or roasted red meats. BCLS $15.90.

The Passion is Back
On September 20 at 6 p.m., the 6th Annual Passions Benefit for the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation is back. Taste the artistry of 19 top chefs, be submerged in the steady flow of wine, and raise money for the cause. Tickets $200. Call 604-331-3452 after July 15 or visit www.drpeter.org.

Dining Out
Bishop’s (2183 West 4 Ave) will be cooking “out of the box” this summer. Catch their early bird $38 three-course menu based on fresh harvest deliveries from community-supported farm producers. Available nightly between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in July and August. Call 604-738-2025 for reservations.

Campagnolo (1020 Main St) has launched a weekend brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Try pancetta frittata with spinach goat cheese, braised pork belly crespelle with mushrooms and cream, panettone budino and more. Call 604-484-6018 for more info.

Food in Brief
Going Glowbal
The new Coast location at 1054 Alberni Street will officially open on July 10, along with the Glowbal empire’s newest addition, O Lounge, located next door. The old Coast location at 1257 Hamilton Street will become a new Glowbal location called Society, due to open closer to the fall.

On the web
Chew more on Anya’s blog at www.metronews.ca/vancouver/blog/136310.