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Oct 31, 2008 10:48 PM

La Quercia, Vancouver

So we checked out this newish Italian restaurant in Kitsilano for the SO's birthday on Wednesday. Though I called a week ahead, they were booked until 8:15 but we were seated very promptly and had the table for the rest of the night.

We are lightweights on weeknights so just had a glass of wine each (server recommended Salice for SO which he loved and a moscato for me which server warned was a dessert wine -- so sue me, I like a sweet bubble with my meal!). We dithered a bit before ordering because there are so many good-looking specials but finally decided on a scallop and mushroom (sorry, forgot which kind) app for the SO and a 1/2 order of spaghetti carbonara for me to start. Both were very tasty and well prepared, with the scallops being a standout for the SO.

We followed with a tagliatelli with a veal and pork housemade sausage for the SO from the fresh sheet and the beef cheeks in a pinot noir reduction with rosti for me from the regular menu. The pasta was properly cooked but we both found the sausage a bit underseasoned. The beef cheeks had a lot of flavour but were very fatty which may be just how beef cheeks should be (I've never had them before); not entirely my cup of tea but good to try a new-to-me cut. The rosti was nicely season although it seemed like a patty of mashed potatoes that had been crisped on the outside -- I was expecting something more grated. There were carrots and asparagus as well as a spin on a cabbage roll stuffed with diced seasonal veg that was very nice.

We tried a layered blueberry, vanilla custard and fillo dessert as well as a creme brulee with almonds and a caramel sauce that were both worth being overstuffed for. And we enjoyed two very fine decaf cappuccinos which I sadly did not enquire as to the provenance thereof but we both found them full bodied without being too strong.

The tab all in after taxes? A very modest $105. Although La Buca still wins for both of us on flavour, La Quercia is a close second and a bit easier on the wallet if that is an issue. The ambiance is quite intimate without feeling squeezy and would be suitable for anything from a first date to a table of 6 or 8 friends. And parking is free around the corner on Alma!

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  1. Okay, here goes with a few pictures...the wine after a couple of sips, the two appetizers, and a shot of the room at 10:30 pm which I accidentally left the flash on for (how gauche).

    4 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      And here are the mains... got carried away and forgot to snap the desserts...

      1. re: grayelf

        Pics! Fantastic ;)

        Thanks for the review. I've been meaning to check La Quercia out....but other restaurants kept getting in the way.

        Nice to see food-focused, unfussy plating. You are not the first one who has mentioned or written about underseasoning at La Quercia. Mia Stainsby of the Sun writes:

        "I can see the food is meant to be light but my one criticism is that some of the dishes tread too lightly with flavouring even when beautifully cooked. I wanted more intensity or even seasoning in some."

        I wonder if that is a deliberate aesthetic choice based on the particular region that food is inspired by. Also nice that Vancouver is finally seeing some Regional Italian food (from Trentino-Alto Adige - Northern Italy in this case - bordering on Germany). We are still far behind other cities like San Fransisco or Toronto in that sense. I would love to see Sardinian, Ligurian, and other distinctly regional fare here. The soon to open Campagnolo (from the Fuel folk) will reportedly serve food from Piedmonte and Emiglia-Romagna. We have far too many bad and mediocre pan-regional or North Americanized "Italian" restaurants here.

        Carry your camera everywhere! :)

        1. re: fmed

          Glad you liked 'em. I'll be trying more as I now have the camera in my purse at all times for unexpected photos ops with the little niecey thing (as some of you know I became an aunt in July). Will deffo have it with me in SF next week where I'm going to be trying some of that there Sardinian grub at La Ciccia.

          I think I may have read that Mia S review before we went -- I wonder if it influenced me. Oh but the SO didn't and he found the seasonings a bit underwhamming too.

          Can't wait for Campagnolo -- it is only a few blocks from my brother's place.

          1. re: fmed

            Piedmont is so IN right now. It's almost obnoxious. But I completely agree with you on regionality.

            Spinasse just opened up in Seattle and I had dinner there when I was home for Halloween/Election Day. Menu is Piedmont-inspired. Wine list is Piedmont exclusive. Loved it. Pasta was a touch on the thin side-- but then again, I've never been to Piedmont. Rabbit was superb.

            Sorry, that was slightly tangential. Look forward to Campagnolo.

      2. We had a night out at La Quercia recently which I didn't post about because, well, it was a little disappointing. I had trouble getting over the atmosphere. I wonder if you noticed the lighting? It was very bright and, well, unromantic. Nice art. One thing I've never had happen before was a little odd, as we arrived (8 pm rezzer IIRC) every table was on their coffee/bill stage so within 15 minutes of our arrival the place emptied out and then 15 minutes later filled up again. It was a little uncomfortable AND we couldn't poke our noses (figuratively) into other diners meals. Maybe just a one-off?

        As for the meal, we started with eggplant mousse and grilled stuffed calamari tubes . For the main I had bollito misto because I've always wondered about it and its not something I'd make at home, plus I'm always interested in good broths (hello pho & co.). Husband doesn't actually remember his main (nor do I). Anyway, I was quite underwhelmed with the flavour of it all which I blamed mostly on the fact that I had ordered things that are typically fairly mild anyway and on a major tactical error on my part which was the big container of Chinese pickled cabbage for lunch (funnily enough from the Tachia bakery next to La Buca) which effectively killed my taste buds for the next 24 hours. Well its a theory.

        I also thought there might have been some problems in the kitchen that night as on the way out I noticed someone else's bollito was plated completely differently from the way mine had been.

        All in all we concluded that we had ordered poorly (the pastas looked great) and we would go back if we cared less about the lighting/atmosphere and if La Buca wasn't a stone's throw away. Also, I don't know if a comparison to a French bistro is fair, but the experience a few weeks later at Pied a Terre was a total contrast on all fronts ( despite comparable prices, locations and spaces).

        3 Replies
        1. re: waver

          Interesting, waver. What I noticed about the lighting was that it fluctuated a bit, not enough to be annoying but enough to comment on, throughout the evening. At no point was it ever too bright IMHO so perhaps they have addressed that.

          The suddenly empty thing was mildly disconcerting and we did experience it but not as drastically as you did. We got a chance to ogle some other plates (partly how we came to decide on the two pastas) but most of the resto was finishing up from what appeared to be 7ish resos when we arrived so there was a bit of a mass exodus and not a full refill (bearing in mind this was a Wed night).

          1. re: grayelf

            It sounds like they're conscious of the lighting problems so maybe it will improve, or has already. Hooray. As for the other, I guess we need to rethink our standard reservation time because plate-snooping is half the fun.
            All in all, your comments in this thread are making think we should give it another go. Our expectations were perhaps too high, partly due to their culinary pedigree - partly because of the very intriguing and atmospheric website.

            1. re: waver

              I'd try it again myself, for the value if nothing else. And I must admit, this is the kind of resto I like to support, a proper neighbourhood "tratt" but of course the food must be consistent too!

        2. Thanks for the review! I've been looking for an alternative to La Buca in this part of town, and this looks like it fits the bill.