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Jan 31, 2014 11:57 PM

Bistro Wagon Rouge rolling out some fine casual French in Vancouver

I didn't see a thread on this related-by-chef-to-the-Red-Wagon bistro on Powell near Victoria. It's where Docker's Diner used to be. I liked the remodel with the bar-centric setup. The food is superior to any other similar I've tried in town, including Faux Bo.

Look for the specials, which on this day included a well-executed, decadent sweetbreads with pan-fried spaetzele and shimeji mushrooms. I was kinda done after that but ordered up the cassoulet anyway when I found out it featured the pork belly from Red Wagon. Cassoulet is better for lunch the next day anyway, right? :-)

I managed to try enough to ascertain that it was spot on, with a lovely confit duck leg, some tasty sausage and of course the pork belly over a savoury mélange of lentils. It can even be made gluten-free if that's your thing (there is a skiff of breadcrumbs on top in the regular version).

They seem very open to catering to dietary needs, with at least one off-menu vegetarian option nightly (that evening it was carrot risotto).

Another neat thing was that they had an amuse bouche that was available by the piece. It was sort of an arancini with a snail in the middle. Very nice.

My dining companion gave me a medallion of his boeuf bourgignon to try. It was made that evening with shanks rather than the listed cheeks and it was ridiculously tender and flavourful, studded with lardons and generally droolworthy.

We lost our minds and ordered dessert which for me was the one misstep. The lemon tart was not terribly lemony and the crust was too thin on the bottom (soggy) and too thick on the edges (hard). I didn't get a chance to try my DC's mousse so I take it as read that it was good.

They also had one of my favourite beers, Duchesse de Bourgogne, a Flanders red ale, in bottles for $8. I've not seen it here and am happy to.

Everything was more than fairly priced, especially for the quality. 2 beer, 1 amuse, 2 very hearty apps that could have been mains, 2 mains, 2 desserts, a tea and a house made lavender lemonade set us back by just over $100 after tax and before tip.

Only down side I can see: it's pretty small and they don't take reservations so if you arrive after 6:30, expect a wait, even on a weekday. I'll be back the very next time I'm looking for a dinner on the early side.

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  1. Thanks for the report GE!

    I can confirm about the waits as my friends and I had to go else where a few times after being told it would be 1 hour wait.

    Guess I have to keep on trying.

    1. Great review, GE !

      Read the article in the Straight about BWR. Love the name ! They could have also called it Bistro Chariot Rouge ;-)

      It's been eons since I've even been to RW. This bloody climatic frigidness could be tempered with some pork belly me thinks :-)

      Were the lardons in the cassoulet from RW's pork belly too ?

      1 Reply
      1. re: LotusRapper

        Not sure about the lardons. All I know is they were GOOOOD.

      2. Great report, I really need to make it over there. Im glad Brad has gotten back to his French cuisine since his departure from Bistro Patis. Awesome to see both the diner and bistro doing so well with quality affordable food.

        2 Replies
        1. re: FAM04

          Found myself at BWR again tonight, after deciding we needed a festive but not splurgy or fussy early dinner out with the bro, SIL and small niece. We bagged the last table in the house at 6:30 and tucked into pork rillettes, a small cheese plate (Morbier, Pont L'eveque, candied pecans, sliced apples, apple mustard compote and honey), frites with mayo (2 sides, very good), beef heart tartare, deux boeuf bourgignon (possibly even better with cheeks), cassoulet and potatoes pavee. Bro pointed out that the rillettes was like the best burger ever, somehow, and he was right -- meaty, charry goodness. Tartare was outstanding also, and different that typical steak version, it had a horseradish cream, arugula and three of the most perfectly fried and seasoned kale chips ever. They should serve these as a snack in a big ol' basked! Desserts were tiptop this time, financiers and butterscotch pot de crème. Excellent gin cocktail with French name that je forget, a couple of Powell Street stouts, a nice glass of white and a generous French press rounded out the meal. And, tax and tip in, $186. Very very pleased. If only they took resos, I'd be there weekly.

          1. re: grayelf

            A Gill reviews BWR, only available online which is kinda funny since it was "teased" in the paper version on Sat. I haven't tried either the octopus or the tongue yet, and disagree about the braise needing acid after three tries of the boeuf: