claudia kwan/for metro vancouver
So.cial at Le Magasin
332 Water (and Cambie), Gastown
Open daily for lunch and dinner
Lunch for one, including tax and tip: $35
*** 1/2 (out of 5)
On my first visit to So.cial I received the worst service I’ve had in almost two years of restaurant reviewing. It included being made to feel like a cheapskate when I asked for some water while I decided on what to order and having to tell the server to not take my plate because I was only half done my meal. The really quite decent butter lettuce salad and scallop risotto from chef/co-owner Sean Cousins couldn’t save the experience, and I walked out feeling like I never wanted to go back.
The thing is, there’s so much to like at So.cial. Mosaic tile floors and beautiful circa 1911 pressed-tin ceilings revealed through an extensive renovation adorn the dining room. The interior is cleverly split on two levels into oyster bar and dining room and it offers an expansive view of tourists walking on Water Street. All that before you even get to the creative menu or for those who are into that kind of thing, the prospect of spotting hockey stars dropping in to visit co-owners and former Canucks Kirk McLean and Bob McCammon. McCammon’s wife, Maureen Fleming, is a gracious host as the operating partner and this ownership quartet knows the score of operating a successful restaurant through Oceans 6 Seventeen.
With every restaurant start-up there’s a good chance there will be some staff who simply don’t make the grade and, after acknowledging there was nothing to lose, I ventured forth for a second visit. I found one of the best charcuterie plates in town served up with much more charm and care.
A silky smooth pork terrine is presented as two immense slabs, to be slathered over skinny rectangles of flatbread (although sturdy bread might be better suited as a hand-to-mouth transfer method.) For $12, a mound of luscious pork rillette and a hefty slice of pancetta under herbed jelly round out the trio of porcine goodness, and the accompanying roasted tomatoes, pickled beets, cornichons, and fruit compote provide enough mix-and-match combinations to satisfy the most scientific of palates. It’s a meal in itself, rendering a following crab pasta dish pretty much unnecessary.
You can tell Cousins is having fun transmogrifying raw ingredients into the daily charcuterie specials and condiments. There are plans for him to open up a custom butcher shop and deli nearby soon.
It just goes to show taking another shot can really pay off big.