350 Davie St Vancouver, BC V6B 5Z6
Tastiness Factor: 4.25/5
Locavore Approved? Kinda (seasonal menu, good use of seasonal veg, appreciate the "nose-to-tail" approach, but this is not the focus here- lots of imported ingredients)
My husband and I have enjoyed two wonderful meals at Quercia over the last few year. The small, intimate space is perfect for a special night out and the food is a step above most Italian restaurants in the city.
One of the only unfortunate parts of La Quercia is that going there requires a good deal of planning and foresight, as you must book at least a month in advance to snag a table between 6-9pm on a weekend and even some weekdays. This is one reason that I was very excited to hear that Quercia was welcoming a addition to the family- a new sister restaurant opened in the Opus Hotel.
Like La Quercia, La Pentola serves great Nothern Italian food but that is just about where the similarities end. The atmosphere is almost the polar opposite of La Quercia. It located in trendy and bustling Yaletown, occupies a space that is about 5 times the size of La Quercia and has a much more casual feel. I found it to be a very pleasant place to go for a nice, low-key meal with my hubby on a Saturday night. There is also quite a large bar at the back to grab a drink before dinner if you have to wait for a table. And, unlike Quercia, you could just walk into Pentola and have a good chance of getting a table. I made a reservation on Open Table the day before and could get a table at any time I wanted.
Just like the atmosphere, service is also a little more casual and perhaps a little less attentive here which is to be expected considering the difference in size as compared to Quercia. Overall though, I thought the service was quite good and I really liked our waiter, who was extremely friendly and helpful. When a large, noisy group came to occupy a table beside us, he came right over and offered to have us moved. With the restaurant being rather new, I was impressed with how good the service was.
Most diners at La Quercia choose to eat family style as per their recommendation. While the menu at La Pentola is set up in a way that also encourages sharing, it seems as if more diners here are not as much on board with the family style trend and order their own dishes. Either works just fine and our server was able to give us good options for both. We eventually decided on doing a little of both so that my hubby could enjoy some meat and I could enjoy more vegetables. Here were our selections:
Cauliflower and endive salad- This was a very unique dish, made with endive and cauliflower (think they were running out, only had a few small pieces), dressed with a bagna cauda sauce. The base for this sauce is anchovies and if you are not a fan of this taste, I would pass on this dish because the taste is pretty strong. I would suggest sharing this salad as it can get a bit sickening if you eat the whole thing (like I did). Also, a few herbs on the top would do wonders for the presentation (not much color). I do, however, give the points for originality and for using vegetables that are in season which, in the winter, can be challenging here in Canada!
Selection of meats- My husband was intrigued by the "Stuzzichini" section of the menu, which is basically shaved meats and other finger foods. He was not sure what to order and asked the server if he could suggest a nice mixed plate of meats. The server kindly offered to speak with the chef for his top picks, but he may have forgot to pass along the message that it was only meant for 1 person since he appeared a few moments later with three plates full of meats! The server realized the error and offered to not charge us for what my husband could not eat (much appreciated!), but I get my husband was hungry since he polished off almost all of it!
Eggplant, tomato, pine nuts and parmigiana- I happily polished off this whole contorni (side dish) while my husband devoured his half of a pig (see above). I LOVE eggplant and this was perfectly cooked with just enough parmigiano to give it a bit of richness. Could have definitely ate several.
Kale and ricotta pansotti in walnut sauce- This was the star of the meal for me. The pansotti (a triangular ravioli) was perfectly al dente and filled with a mild kale filling. It was the walnut sauce, however, that really stole the show- creamy yet light with a wonderful walnut flavour. This was a unique dish, perfect for winter. Be sure to order this one!!!
Mushroom risotto- I could not go to a Nothern Italian restaurant with risotto on the menu and not order it. This version is cooked very al dente (even more than you might expect) but I really liked the texture. There was a nice variety of mushrooms. I highly recommend sharing this dish as we did, since a whole plate of it might get a little rich. We did not leave a bite:)