Red Card steps up its game - Metro US

Red Card steps up its game

Red Card Sports Bar
900 Seymour St.

Rating: *** 1/2
Dinner & drinks for two: $65
Signature Dish: Margherita pizza
Signature Drink: R&B Raven Cream Ale

Sports bars aren’t normally on my radar for gastronomically-interesting fare, but I reasoned that any place that opens up in the Moda Hotel and has Uva Wine Bar and Cibo Trattoria as its neighbours, must be bringing something a little extra to the table. Certainly, the room, with its glossy black surfaces, deep red leather wing chairs, and mirrored walls—not to mention the profusion of widescreens—is in keeping with the overall décor of the building. The service, under GM Annette Rawlinson, is easy and fluid, and the sound levels—despite this being a sports bar open during the Word Cup build-up—are more than bearable.

As with most bars, beer plays a starring role on the drinks line-up. Over 15 drafts, plus eight Canadian, a dozen U.S., and over two dozen international craft selections round out the offerings. There are also some very reasonable reds and whites available by the glass, as well as a great selection of bottles—especially on the B.C. front. Names like Therapy Vineyards and Laughing Stock are a welcome sight, and even California’s Camus gets a showing.

One thing that is a little off-putting was the non-alcoholic selection. This seems to be a growing trend on drinks lists across town, with places like C Restaurant and Market joining the fray. The selection at Red Card, however, looks like it’s designed to appeal to the six-year-old set, what with all the pureed strawberry and raspberry concoctions, not to mention the peach, passionfruit, etc—and I don’t see many six-year-olds frequenting this establishment. Something a little more refreshing would make a nice addition here, along the lines of elderflower water, hibiscus ice tea or even some of that oh-so-prolific Pellegrino Aranciata. As for the food…

On my first visit, I found the name of this glossy new pad a little ironic, because that was just what I wanted to do—give it a red card and remove it from the playing field—permanently. This was especially disappointing, given the recent addition of Andrea Wechselberger (formerly of Cin Cin and Oyama Sausage Company) as EC.

Unfortunately, despite the much-touted Marana Forni pizza oven—an expensive, authentic red brick Italian import—my four-cheese pizza ($14) arrived overcooked and over-salted, with unbalanced flavours. A starter of deep-fried mozzarella balls ($7) was more palatable, although the marinara sauce tasted canned.

Surprisingly, the one item I really enjoyed on that first visit was the dessert, a pistachio and ricotta-stuffed cannoli ($6) that was both sweet and tart, with excellent pastry. It wasn’t enough to make me enthusiastic about a return visit, but, in this case, it turned out to be a good thing that I always check out a place at least twice, if not more.

My second visit saw me trying the arancini ($8), perfectly deep-fried risotto balls that were moist inside and stuffed with mozza, prosciutto, and peas. The house burger ($15) was another winner, served with rosemary-crusted fries. A simple salad of baby lettuce and tomato, dressed in limoncello ($9) was an interesting and refreshing palate cleanser.

It was the third visit, however, that really impressed. Margherita pizza ($14)—a combination of fresh mozza, tomato sauce, and basil—is so simple that it’s equally simple to screw up. Red Card’s version, however, was perfect. The tomatoes were authentic San Marzano, the cheese was very fresh and it also helped that they have now switched to using traditional Caputo Tipo “00” flour, rather than your typical Robin Hood variety. The crust was thin, with the right amount of bubbling, the ideal crispness around the edges, and enough flexibility that you could—and possibly should—roll it up like a sausage, to prevent the slippery-slidey cheese from ending up on your shirt front. A simple plate of housemade tortelloni ($16) was also a good buy, stuffed with padano, ricotta and sage, and lightly tossed with chopped parsley and an excellent soffritto (diced and pan-fried carrots, onion and celery).

Despite its rocky start, Red Card now seems to have its head in the game, and the ambition to stay the distance. As for me, I will definitely be back for the pizza and cannoli—and maybe even a few games during Cup season.

Wine Fest: Australia’s Undiscovered Country
The Grampians regions of Western Victoria is situated between two enormous mountain ranges, making for a uniquely elevated, yet cool climate—ideal for growing Shiraz. Mount Langi Ghiran uses 80 to 100-year-old vines to produce their Billi Billi 2005 Shiraz. A mature tannic structure is balanced by the fruit-forward palate, and lush mouthfeel. $16.99 at Everything Wine and BCLS.

Top Shelf

In honour of Asian Heritage Month in May, Wild Rice has created a family-style sharing menu of both traditional and innovative dishes. Visit www.wildricevancouver.com for details.

Dining Out

Smoking Dog Bistro (1889 West 1 Ave) is offering a special Mother’s Day brunch, as well as a three-course set menu for dinner. For details call 604-732-8811 or visit www.thesmokingdog.com.

Red Card Sports Bar is holding a World Cup Kickoff event tonight from 7pm to 8pm. Guests include Osvaldo Ardilles, former member of the Argentinean World Cup team. No reservations needed, and entry is free, but space is limited. www.redcardsportsbar.ca

Food in Brief

Anndrey Durbach and Crhsi Stewart, owners of La Buca and Pied-a-Terre, have sold their L’Altro Buca location. In its place will be Adesso Bistro, featuring Ligurian cuisine.

Meanwhile, Durbach and Stewart have taken over the Ping’s space on Main, with no confirmed details yet on the menu or name. Stay tuned…

On the Web

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

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