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Sep 4, 2009 12:11 PM

Is Cambie our new Pied a Terre? (Vancouver)

We realized yesterday afty that it was our 9th anniversary so I scrambled for a reso. Luckily Pied a Terre came through for us, and we had an excellent meal.

We were served with a whimsically presented stack of tasty parbaked-finished-in-house Terra baguette which in retrospect I shouldn't have eaten to conserve room. I ordered an aperitif (I love that word) of lillet ($6) which I had not tried before and enjoyed very much as I am a fan of fortified wines. My starter was the carrot soup du jour ($7.50), which came served in a deep bowl (yay!) and was very rich and delicious if slightly oversalted. I opted for the beef bourgignon special (listed at $25 but came out at $23 on the bill) made with short ribs which was meltingly tender and meaty without that whiff of game you sometimes get in short ribs. The addition of generous amounts of lardon was gilding the lily but in a good way. The veg in the stew were delightful and the potato puree suitably light and fluffy if again oversalted. My only regret: this is such a generous portion that I had no room to try any of their desserts. FYI this NEVER happens to me -- I can really eat and still have room in my dessert stomach but not after that dish. I actually considered getting one of the three pieces to take home...

The SO went for a glass of pinot noir ($10) which I think was the Louis de Vinière Viells Vignes 2006, Loire which he pronounced light and right for his palate. His hors d'oeuvres was the seared scallops with potato, bacon, watercress and parmesan ($12) which he devoured, noting only that he didn't feel the roasted baby spuds added much to the already rockin' party of lardons, greens and cheese. I can't eat scallops but my taste of the rest confirmed his assessment. He followed with the Berkshire pork belly, mustard and cider sauce, savory apple tart and celeriac purée (charged at $19 but more I thought on the menu -- Google is not cooperating). This dish was an order-again success despite some odd spicing on the "apple tart" which as far as I could tell was a sliced up baked apple -- we weren't sure but it seemed like someone had gotten carried away with the nutmeg. The pork, as the SO rightly noted, was the star of the show, and it was delectable, with a slightly hammy taste to it and much leaner than the pork bellies I've been eating lately. This plate was smaller than mine but the SO was stuffed also so I think it's safe to say that you will find value both for quality and quantity here. I should add that the service was stellar with only two wait staff in the room, contrary to a recent poster's experience. In fact, apart from the oversalting which didn't bother me because I am a salt fiend, we experienced none of the blips described in comments about PAT elsewhere -- though the room was all but full the noise level wasn't an issue and though the tables are quite close together I didn't feel hemmed in. The bill came to $77.50 before tax and tip. Highly recommended for an elegant but relaxed bistro.

We were so full that we had to take a walk afterward and noticed a new (two weeks old) resto across the street at 3250 Cambie called Shanghai Village (604) 872-3618. I was excited to see a Shanghai style place so close to home and had to investigate. The staff person who came over was most helpful and apologized about not having take out menus yet. Instead she offered me their lunch and dinner menus to peruse along with a cup of tea which I declined (even a beverage would have done me in a this point!). She noted that they actually specialize in Nanjing food from a city outside Shanghai, so that is cool. The menu looks amazing with lots of items I've never heard of plus more familiar fare such as XLB (one of their specialties she said and was pleasantly surprised by my apparently not entirely mangled pronunciation of the dish which is listed as something else), and the resto was still half full at 9:15 on a Thursday with nary a gwei lo in sight. We will be back very soon to sample the wares.

As we walked back up Cambie, I pointed out the Mt Pleasant Cheese Co 3432 Cambie 604-875-6363 to the SO who had not been in and my gesticulating caught the attention of a fellow working late inside. He unlocked the door, asked if we were hungry and appeared genuinely disappointed that we were not (which again shows you how much food was on my plate at dinner -- I DO NOT pass up free cheese, ever). He asked if we had the cheese plate at PAT (apparently he supplies them) and told us he just took over the place. I think he said his name was Peter but my memory fails me. He is in the midst of adding a 24-seat table for cheese and charcuterie tastings, and he will be having seafood as well. Details forthcoming in the newsletter which he plans to start up again after the transition to new ownership is complete. So we may have another version of the Salt/Gudrun style eatery in Cambie Village very soon.

All in all, looks like it's time to start frequenting this area again after a long absence caused by Canada Line craziness.

Place links not working but here's a few pix of PAT -- the lillet, the bread "stick", the scallop app and the carrot soup:

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  1. And four more: the pork, the beef and two pix from the ladies' loo: a poster and the tiled wall, just because I liked them :-).

    1. Great review as usual. I felt like I was dining along with you...I liked the look of the pork dish. P.S. Happy Anniversary!

      22 Replies
      1. re: ck1234

        Thanks, ck :-). I wish my photos were better because the pork was really beautiful, nicely rolled with a pink colour to it like a perfectly done ham. They also have a table d'hote for $42.50 which seems like a great deal:

        soup du jour | salad verte | special starter
        plat du jour | fish special | shortrib
        cheese | dessert


        which I very nearly ordered but then I got sucked in by the bourgignon...

        1. re: ck1234

 much great detail on the meal. Sounds fantastic and happy anniversary to you and J!

          PS...I have to check out Shanghai Village.

          1. re: fmed

            Just ate at Shanghai Village. Lots of cool Nanjing dishes that nobody is ordering (crypto-Nanjing restaurant, to use fmed's lingo-- a family from Nanjing running a Shanghai [or Jiangnan, if you read the sign in Chinese] restaurant, but with a quietly menu'd selection of Nanjing classics (ie. brined duck). Mostly Cantonese-speaking clientele.

            And, let me drop a truth bomb on y'all. This place has the best soup dumplings (all right, call them xiaolongbao) in the city. (And you get six of them free if you spend more than twenty bucks).

            And--is it new?-- the restaurant has a daily soup, boiled in its own individual pot. They offer four kinds everyday and sell them until they're gone. I got lotus root/pork ribs/goji.

            Cool place.

            1. re: DylanLK

              I have checked it out but once...


              Not nearly enough to form a solid opinion. I definitely did enjoy the XLB and the tofu "sheets" soup for sure.

              I'm glad you confirmed our suspicions that this is more than a "mere" Shanghai restaurant. Nanjing cuisine...people need to know about this. It has been open for a year-ish(?).

              1. re: fmed

                Nanjing cuisine isn't really something I adore, for the most part.

                I lived there, though, and I have some attachment to a couple dishes. It was cool reminiscing with everyone there about dope Nanjing street food, too.

                1. re: DylanLK

                  Nanjing cuisine is often described as mild in flavour and soft in texture. It is known for duck dishes as well. And for the sake of the 8TCC project - it is a sub-cuisine of Jiansu. (Some texts describe Shanghai cuisine as a sub-set of Jiansu which is confusing since I had always thought of Shanghai cuisine as a meta-cuisine that draws from Jiangsu, Zhejiang and surround regions).

                  What would recommend to have there? (Now I wish I took a pic of the menu...I recall they had an all-Chinese "other menu" as well.) What were your favourite Nanjing snacks from your days in China? (I'm in for a mini-down BTW).

                  PS Shanghai Village won Gold for most Innovative Dish at the CRA 2010 for their Stir-fried Fish Noodle with Enoki Mushroom.

                  1. re: fmed

                    I can't believe it's been so many months and we still haven't gone -- we tried twice and they were booked up and then it kind of fell off the radar. Mini-down sounds like the way to overcome this :-), especially based on Dylan's attractive description of the XLBs below -- I hate the cavern too, dude!

                    1. re: fmed

                      I need to go back to get a closer look at the menu. Didn't notice a Chinese-only menu, though.

                      I'd probably just ask what dishes they'd recommend. It seems like everyone there was happy that someone was interested in eating some Nanjing food.

                      I like eating in Nanjing. Homecooked meals and food on the street, especially.

                      I love all the crazy stuff they get out of the rivers. In the summer, they have boiled crayfish all over the place, boiled snails, crabs. Freshwater eels, too. It's all cooked very simply.

                      I love salty duck.

                      I love duck blood soup 鸭血粉丝 yāxuè fěnsī, with soup dumplings 汤包 tāngbāo.

                      I love the roasted duck heads.

                      I love dìguō jī 地锅鸡, chicken and vegetables cooked in an iron pot, and near the end, stretched pieces of flatbread are pressed around the top of the pan (is this a northern Jiangsu dish, though?)

                      The flavor profile of most Nanjing food is pretty plain. Lots of fish and meat served with limited dressing up. Salty, sweet.

                      If anyone from Nanjing read this next sentence, they'd probably be horrified but I'll say it anyways. The food in northern Jiangsu is a whole other deal, and it's so much better.

                2. re: DylanLK

                  Dude, was that just tonight you were there ? I walked by around 7:20pm on my evening stroll. Area is my home turf.

                  1. re: LotusRapper

                    Yeah, it was tonight. Sat down at about quarter to six.

                    1. re: DylanLK

                      Best XLB in town? Them's fightin' words for some :-). But since I'd rather eat than fight, please to elaborate. Are they paper thin and oozing delicious broth? I suspect you prefer your dumpling skins a tad "heartier" based on other posts. Would that be the case here?

                      1. re: grayelf


                        They are very, very thin. I haven't really had soup dumplings anywhere else in Vancouver, except from that one place in Crystal, which is supposed to be good. The skins here are thinner, better made (great pleat), and the soup is way better (not as sweet, no MSG).

                        Also, the filling doesn't do that thing where you've got an empty cavern, with a meatball inside. I hate that.

                        1. re: grayelf

                          I do rate Shanghai Village XLB near the top for sure. Al least within the top 4 or five (which includes Long's - my new favourite).

                          1. re: fmed

                            did someone say mini chow down???? :-D please say it is so. ....

                              1. re: fmed

                                I'm in :-). I wonder if they are open for lunch... this could be a good lunch 'down option too.

                                  1. re: LotusRapper

                                    Guys, have mercy on us downtown workers and pick a weekend date for this!

                                      1. re: fmed

                                        There doesn't seem to be a thread devoted to Shanghai Village, so I'll just add on here. Did finally make it to SV several times earlier in the spring with mixed results. Some of their dishes are outstanding, others duds. Fmed and I had a truly awful dessert thing with coloured sprinkles on it (don't ask) back in May. But when I went with some food bloggers in August, the four of us had an excellent meal (with leftovers), except for one item. The savoury standouts were the chive boxes and the deep fried lotus root burgers (the only other place I've had them was 9 Dishes, which still wins but these were great). The two desserts were also superb, the Shanghai sweet pastry and the milk spring roll. I happen to love both longtime but they are very good here and I believe the latter is new, part of their expanded lunch "snacks" menu that bears further exploration.

                                        The XLB (complementary because we ordered more than $30), rice cakes with winter veg and wonton soup (only 99 cents!) were all better than average. The only bust was the beef roll, which was so bad that every one of my table mates took one bite and then left the rest severely alone. This was by far the worst beef roll I've ever had: flaccid, fatty, cool meat that managed to be mushy and chewy at the same time, listless dough with no crunch, way oversauced -- altogether horrid.

                                        Avoid the beef roll, order lots of the snacks and you can have a great lunch at SV.

                                        Shanghai Village
                                        3250 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2W4, CA

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          I've never ordered the beef roll or any sort of green onion pancake from them, so my experience of their lunch snack offerings was solid, with some items better than average. Great to see they have lotus burgers: definitely ordering that next time.

                                          And that Yangtze wonton soup: at 99 cents on special, it's like they're daring you NOT to order it! I was actually surprised at the delicateness of the wonton wrappers: at 99 cents, I didn't expect much and was pleasantly surprised.

                                          1. re: _js_

                                            Agree 100% re the wonton soup. We already had more food than we needed but we just had to try it.

              2. Oooh lala, I'm feeling a little let down about the lack of dessert review: last time we were there my table decided "we" were too full for dessert while I was in the washroom. Grrr. I was hoping to live vicariously through your otherwise awesome observations : )

                What if you had to choose La Buca vs PAT????

                Pleased to hear Cambie is back in biz post skytrain. I'll have to take #1 lunch-date (littlest son) to Shanghai Village one of these days (what do they list xlb as then?) and wander about.

                Thanks for the review/heads-up.

                1 Reply
                1. re: waver

                  Thanks, fmed -- let us know if you need auxiliary stomachs for your trip to Shanghai Village :-).

                  Waver, it broke my heart not to try the sweets -- thank goodness they didn't have anything with lemon on offer or I might have gone ahead regardless of full tummy with Mr Creosote consequences!

                  Choosing between La Buca and PAT would be tough -- ambiance and service are on a par, food quality is equal, so I'd say if I had to decide, the pastas at LB would give it a slight edge, just because I love Chef Durbach's pastas so much. Luckily, we don't have to choose as both are nearby and affordable for us...

                  I didn't write down the name but it was something like Shanghai steamed buns (sorry, bad memory again) -- at any rate, I spotted it immediately and I'm sure you will too. Plus the staff are keen to help if you don't find it.