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L'Altro Buca the result of a perfect transformation

It used to be called Parkside and was a haven of high-end, prix fixedining. Then the economy decided to utter a few death threats, andsuddenly fine dining restaurants were having trouble filling seats.

L’Altro Buca
1906 Haro St.
Vancouver
604.683.6912

altrobuca.ca

Open for Dinner: Daily from 5 p.m.

Signature Drink: Blood Orange Negroni
Signature Dish: Gnocchi al tartufo

Rating: *****
Dinner & drinks for two: $90

It used to be called Parkside and was a haven of high-end, prix fixe dining. Then the economy decided to utter a few death threats, and suddenly fine dining restaurants were having trouble filling seats. Some closed, many more began offering lower-priced prix fixe options, and a select few imitated the caterpillar and morphed into something even better.

Something old, something new, something borrowed and nothing blue is the well-sung mantra for chef Andrey Durbach and his business partner Chris Stewart. Which is why when the economy started to sing those apocalyptic blues, Durbach & Co instead went with Que sera, sera. In the blink of an eye, their high end Parkside restaurant became L’Altro Buca—an almost mirror image of their Kits trattoria, but with an ambiance and attention to detail reminiscent of its former incarnation.

Happily, the price points and portions are pure, rustic Italian. Fabulous quartinos of wine (think two very-well-filled glasses or three healthy tastings) average at $14, mains hover around the early 20s, and the sirloin Fiorentina (a special) was $26 for almost a pound of perfectly cooked and parmigiano-coated meat, topped with crisp onion rings and wild arugula.

The portions sizes are so hearty, in fact, that I was warned by my dining companions—both named Ryan—that it was not advisable to go for the traditional four-course Italian meal of appetizer, pasta, main and dessert. We compromised and after a starter each, shared two pastas and a main between the three of us, and only two desserts. Yes, we really stinted.

Standouts included perfectly plump, lightly fried and truffled gnocchi ($18.50) with a heavy helping of braised chicken cacciatore, and a delicate scallop carpaccio ($11.50) with grilled bacon and radish salad. Bresaola ($10.50) was house-cured, air dried beef, with more of that tasty arugula and parmigiano.

Another main, of bucatini pasta with salsiccia (fennel sausage), tomato sauce and mozzarella ($17.50), was signature Durbach—simply prepared and utterly delicious. Ryan loved the fried rabbit over salad ($13) so much he ordered it two nights in a row. The tiramisu ($6.95) completely converted me from my former “no-coffee-flavoured-desserts” stance, and the Italian fried “doughnuts” were cinnamon and fraîche-topped wonders.

It may not be the newest menu in town, but it definitely ranks as one of the best and I think West End residents just found another reason to celebrate. Grazie mille, maestro.

Wine Fest Top Picks, Part 1

It was a busy week of tastings, winery dinners and flat-out boozing, but certain bottles, both local and international, rose to the top of the barrel. Stay tuned for more picks in the coming weeks. This week, we start with a Riesling icewine from local winery Inniskillin. It’s a luscious, sweet quaff of peach and honey flavours with a nose of apricot, honey and more peach. Serve chilled with a creamy dessert. BCLS $35.02 for 200 ml.

Top Shelf

The French Connection

Starting April 20, Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks takes their spring Social Club on a six-part journey through France, including an intimate dinner with chef Michel Roux and an Alsatian evening at Le Crocodile. $795 includes all meals, French wine pairings and books. Call 604-688-6755 or visit bookstocooks.com

Dining Out

Culinary Journeys

Yew Restaurant & Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver is now offering a different three-course menu for $35 each month, showcasing various Four Season properties around the world. This month focuses on Japan’s Four Seasons Chinzan. Includes king crab soup and black cod asparagus. Visit fourseasons.com/vancouver for details.

Mother’s Day Specials

Fuel Restaurant (1944 West 4 Ave) is offering a special one-day brunch for mothers on Sunday, May 10, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Options include double-smoked bacon and egg sandwich, brioche French toast and rib eye steak and eggs. Call 604-288-7905 or visit fuelrestaurant.ca.

Food in Brief

Resto-Morphosis

In a few short weeks, Gastropod Restaurant (1938 West 4 Ave) will close and almost immediately re-open as Maenam, an authentic Thai establishment. Don’t worry, chef/owner Angus An is still at the helm.

The Sequoia Grill in Stanley Park will soon be going back to its old moniker of The Teahouse as of next month. No word yet on menu changes, but with chef Carol Chow on board, things are looking up.

 
 
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