Monday, 8 April 2013

Casual French Done Right at Pied-a-Terre

3369 Cambie St  Vancouver, BC V5Z 2W6 2W6
(604) 873-3131

Overall Ratings:

Tastiness Factor- 9/10

Ambience- 4.5/5

Service- 4/5

Locavore Approved?- Maybe a little- however fine products are more of a priority (ie. good French wine, shrimp important from Argentina).  They do offer nightly specials that feature seasonal ingredients (see my Spring Salad below). 

Pied-a Terre is a small French restaurant located on Cambie St., away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Vancouver, Kits or Gastown.  It is not a place that you are likely to walk past for any reason, and even if you did, you may not notice its inconspicuous storefront.  So it is not big surprise that the little gem has kept a relatively low profile on the Vancouver food scene, despite it being awarded "Best Casual French" by Vancouver Magazine for 5 years in a row.  

We were also late getting on the Pied-a-Terre bandwagon, and it took them having one of their chefs (Caitlin Hall) being a Top Chef Canada contestant for us to make our first visit.  

I absolutely love the ambience at Pied-a-Terre.  The room is quite small, with one row of tables along along either wall.  When it is full, as it was on the Saturday night that we visited, the room has a very pleasant "buzz", with people chatting, laughing and having a good time.  This gives it a very friendly and welcoming vibe like every neighborhood restaurant aspires to have.  

This friendliness also translates into the service at Pied-a -Terre. Our server was very attentive, asking us multiple times if we had any questions about the menu, regularly topping up our water and wine and checking in on throughout the meal to ensure that we were satisfied with the food.  At the same time, service was relaxed and unpretentious, and they treated us as if we were regulars instead of first-timers.

The menu is fairly small, divided up into about 5 each of appetizers, mains and desserts.  True to french form, there are quite a few aperitifs listed on the main menu.  The wine list is composed of mostly French wines.  Diners have the option of ordering a la carte, choosing a three-course menu for $39/person or opting for a three-course dinner for two with a half-liter of wine and coffee for $99.  After eating at Pied-a-Terre, you will recognize what a steal these prices are.

My husband and I were not really feeling like dessert, so we went for the a la carte option for appies and mains.  Here were our choices for the evening:

Bread- My husband, the carb lover, was a huge fan of this french baguette and it disappeared within minutes of it arriving on the table.  I liked the playful presentation.

Blini with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and caviar (canape)-  This little bite cought my eye at the top of the menu.  It is the only canape offered, and it was right up my alley.  Since we were not getting dessert, we decided that we would "splurge" on the blini and we were very glad we did.  It was larger than I thought it would be (much larger than the amuse-bouche size I was expecting) and it was full of flavor.  A generous mound of salmon sat a top the crisp blini, and then the whole thing was bathed in creamy creme fraiche.  What a way to start.      

Spring vegetable salad with goat cheese panna cotta- This appetizer was one of the evening specials and I immediately knew I had to have it (I am Little Miss Locavore after all!).  The vegetables included radish, green beans, radish, asparagus, artichoke and cherry tomato, all simply tossed with olive oil so that you could really appreciate the veggies.  In the middle of the plate was an astoundingly creamy and light goat cheese "panna cotta"  that brought the whole dish together.  A simple and very well executed dish.   

Alsatian onion pie with tomato, bacon & watercress salad- On the recommendation of our server, my husband ordered the onion pie.  It was a very unique appetizer, with the "meat" of the pie made out of sliced onions.  Despite the sizable portion, it was surprisingly light.  The small slab of bacon was a nice touch, adding a bit of smokiness and the little salad added a punch of color. 

Wild Argentine shrimp with arroz verde and anchovy butter- I must admit that, at first, I was a bit disappointed that this was the only non-meat or poultry dish on the menu (note no vegetarian options) as I am usually not the hugest shellfish fan.  Fortunately though, this dish far surpassed my expectations.  The shrimp were cooked perfectly (not the least bit rubbery) and were covered in the most wonderful anchovy-butter sauce (soooo delicious, could have eaten it by the spoonfuls).  Alongside was a very handsome rice (used to soak up every last bit of butter!) and some green beans and asparagus.  A very well-constructed dish that was enough to make a shellfish lover out of me!. 

Short ribs braised in tomato, wine & herbs, garlic pomme purée- If you come to Pied-a-Terre hungry ad are a carnivore, this dish is for you!  The very generous portion of short ribs (very tender) sat atop a mound of creamy mashed potatoes.  There were also some winter veggies including .  carrots, parsnip and greens.  Every "meat and potato" person's dream come true!

As you can likely guess from my review, I was very impressed with Pied-a-Terre and regret not discovering it earlier.  I plan to make amends for my past mistakes, however, by going to one of its sister restaurants, Sardine Can, this coming Friday.  So stay tuned!  Hope to have more good news to deliver!

Pied-à-Terre on Urbanspoon

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