Stella's on Cambie
I heard Stella's opened up their second location on Cambie last week, so I thought we'd check it out. IN A NUTSHELL: some good, some bad, some kinks. Disclaimer: Stella's on Commercial was always one of those places I'd been meaning to go to but never found the time, so I don't know how this location compares to the original.
We arrived around 6:30. I tried to call earlier in the day, but their recorded message said that they didn't take reservations. When we got there, the place looked quite busy, especially the outside tables. We were greeted and seated quickly, but our table was the sucky table next to the kitchen. If you go there, you'll see it. Jammed up against the wall right beside the entrance to the kitchen. It's a tight squeeze for the waitstaff to manoeuvre around...the staff bumped into our table/chairs a couple times, which was quite amusing.
The interior was really amazing. I felt like I was dining in a fancy ocean liner from the 40s. The bar area looked sleek and cool, but not too cool as to be sterile. It looked like a nice place to saddle up to and shoot the breeze over a glass of premium belgian beer. Wow, the beer! I forgot to take a picture of the menus so I'd have a record, but their list of bottles covers 2 pages, including detailed descriptions and alcohol contents. Their draft selection is not bad...mostly somewhat popular more mainstream type beers, along with some choice taps like Ephemere. A big plus is that they offer Unibroue and Philips bottles at a reasonable price. Another big plus is that they offer beer and cheese pairings! I think that really helps bring beer to the forefront, no longer being merely the drink of sports-loving couch potatoes, but also a drink that has depth and complexity that can be a great match for all kinds of food.
I ordered their white beer with cheese pairing. Can't remember the name of the white beer nor the cheese, but they ran out of the white beer anyways and was substituted with Chimay White. No complaints! It was an awesome match.
For food, I got their fixed price 2-course meal for $22. I got a half-dozen raw oysters and their pork tenderloin. The oysters were fine but the shucking could've been better. I had to manually seperate the oyster from the adducter muscle on all of them before I could eat them. And they forgot to include a spoon for the sauce and a proper oyster fork would've been nice. But I have to remember this place isn't Rodney's or Joe Fortes... ^_^
The pork tenderloin was served very pink in the middle and was not bad. It came with a salsa on top, and the tenderloin slices were on top of corn bread (johnny cake) all on a huge layer of beans. The beans were the best thing in this dish! Very delicious with that baked bean taste with gravy and bacon. Mmmmmm! :P
Stella's Tap & Tapas Bar
3305 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z, CA
We also had the calamari app and mussels with frites. The calamari had panko breading and was ok. They forgot our dip, which was a bit irritating. The portion was very generous though!
We ordered the Madrid style mussels which include chorizo and chilies. The mussels were plump and juicy but a bit on the small side, and my wife had a couple that were on the stinky side.
The frites were very slow to come out, and were so-so. I like mine to be more crisp on the outside, and looking at the leftovers this morning, they could stand to have a bit more colour on them. Most of the fries had a tinge of rawness on the inside. But at the time, with a strong beer half in my belly and half soon to be drank, it didn't matter so much ;)
Oh, one thing about the oysters, I hated how they sprinkled herbs over everything. Oysters definitely don't need that sort of adulteration. And I would've liked a wedge of lemon too cuz I'm not into those sweet tangy sauces they serve with oysters.
And I hated how they gave me this sopping wet glass for my beer. Uggghh. Maybe that's the beer snob in me talking, and something that beer geeks will forever argue about, but I think beer should be served in an air-dried room temperature glass. Do you see wine served in dripping wet stemwear? Hi, I'm gonna add a tablespoon of water to your beer! Enjoy!!
Another peeve is the giant plates! If two people each order apps and mains, and like to eat it all at once like we do, it's gonna be hard fitting them all on the table at once.
I'd come back, but probably just sit at the bar and have a nice beer (in a dry glass please) with a cheese platter. That would probably give me the most enjoyment for my dollar.
I was there last week on an unplanned visit.
I didn't have anything substantial (I already had dinner at home). I just had the cheese plate and the brulee triplet. It was fun pairing those to some beer....especially the desserts.
The atmosphere was a lot more subdued than the Commercial Dr location (maybe I was there on a quiet night - Tuesday). The Commercial Dr location is quite established and has a bunch of regulars who frequent the place...so it seems to be always hopping.
They have a larger kitchen than Commercial Dr (which has a "tapas" kitchen) so they will offer more dishes. The food at Commercial Dr is a bit inconsistent....but generally decent....I have only sent one Steak Frites back (overcooked to my spec).
I said this about the food there a few times...it is good for pub food, nothing spectacular and much better and more varied than most pubs (especially in my hood)...It is really more of a drinking spot for me. Their Moules Frites have never failed me though.
I agree with their heavy-handedness of the accoutrements - too heavy on the herb sprinkles and sauce art embellishments on the plates - it really detracts from presentation (IMO). It ends up looking somewhat amateurish.
On the wet glass - did they cool it down with a waterjet? I appreciate that they use the branded "approved" glasses for the Belgian Beer. I think they actually keep some of them in the fridge.
In any case, I think Stella's is a great spot in my hood to drink and hangout.
In my mass brain dump, I forgot to mention a bit more positives: the place was very busy but the staff seemed to keep on top of things quite well. And although we had to wait for our frites and they forgot our dipping sauce for the calamari, the kitchen seemed to keep up as well. Just some kinks to work out and I think they're running pretty well considering they've only been open for a week.