Vancouver is no longer just a destination for nature lovers and winter athletes. The city is quickly gaining a reputation for being a culinary mecca where the diversity of cuisine ranges from Japanese hot dogs and chic wine bars to innovative Belgian fare and traditional French dining. With more internationally acclaimed chefs opening restaurants and cafes, the dining scene in Vancouver is rapidly evolving. Jean-Georges Vongerichten has a successful Canadian outpost called Market, bringing his sophisticated style of cuisine to the west coast. A stiff competitor to this world renowned chef is another award winning Michelin star French chef Daniel Boulud, most famous for his namesake restaurant Daniel in New York which is considered one of the best restaurants in the world.
Like Jean-Georges, Daniel Boulud has his feet firmly planted in New York where he runs Daniel, DBGB Kitchen and Bar, Café Boulud, db Bistro Moderne and Bar Boulud while spreading his talents abroad in cities like Palm Beach, London, Beijing and Las Vegas (Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas just closed a few months ago). He is the author of several cookbooks, a successful restaurateur and a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, an honor granted to him by the French government for his contribution to the culinary arts. There is no stopping this power house, who now boasts 2 Canadian outposts to his résumé.
In December of 2008, Boulud opened 2 restaurants on West Broadway in the trendy upscale neighborhood of Kitsilano- db Bistro Moderne, the casual sister restaurant to its Manhattan original, and Lumière, a Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux restaurant that offers upscale fine dining. Rather than to sit through a long dinner at Lumière, which I would love to do on another trip, we opted to try db Bistro Moderne for a casual relaxed lunch that would comply with our busy itinerary. Chef de Cuisine Nathan Guggenheimer oversees the kitchen here where French bistro food is given a Pacific Northwest twist with fresh local seafood and seasonal produce.
Prix fixe lunches are one way to go, where country pork terrine, coq au vin and rhubarb sundae can be had for a reasonable price, but I wanted a db burger and one of their tarte flambées, their specialités de la maison. We started our à la carte lunch with the spring greens salad, a mixture of radishes, carrots and mesclun tossed in creamy hazelnut dressing over yellow beet carpaccio.
Wild mushroom and barley soup, topped with an earthy mushroom foam, was filled with generous juicy chunks of porcini, morel and crimini mushrooms. It was the perfect medium for dipping their various breads, especially the airy focaccia and buttery baguettes.
The highlight of the lunch was the BC spot prawn plate, succulent sweet local crustaceans at the peak of their short season. The prawns, served with shaved fennel, garlic and parsley, were so fresh that we spent our time carefully sucking out all of the savory innards from each prawn head. Table manners weren’t an issue, as all of the adjacent tables were enjoying the sweet prawns with equally loud slurping noises.
db Bistro Moderne offered 4 types of tarte flambées, crispy Alsatian flatbreads, for lunch- wild mushrooms, smoked bacon & onion, smoked bacon & Gruyere, and smoked bacon & snails. We couldn’t resist ordering the snail flatbread, which was delicate in presentation yet full of wonderful flavors. The thin flatbread was sensationally crisp and light, with the meaty escargot dancing in a sensuous tango with the smokey bacon.
As much as I love burgers and the New York dining scene, I was still a DB Burger virgin, uninitiated to the famous mound of juicy meat and decadent ingredients that has become somewhat of a legend. I was hoping for the full monty, the couture version with foie gras in the center, but the ‘original DB Burger’ offered here at the Vancouver outpost came sans foie. A juicy patty of sirloin filled with red wine braised short ribs and black truffle served on a parmesan and poppy seed bun with oven roasted tomato confit, red onions, horseradish, fresh tomatoes and frisée fell short of my expectations, but the crispy pommes frites were superb.
db Bistro Moderne is a great place for a casual yet delicious meal that will please Kitsilano shoppers, business lunchers, romantic dates and hungry gourmands alike. It may be wise to forego the burger in lieu of their crispy flatbreads and anything that features fresh catches from the local waters, but you really can’t go wrong with any dish at this respected establishment. The beautiful dining room is especially inviting during the day when the bright afternoon sun shines through their large windows. For the ultimate splurge and special occasion, Lumière next door is the culinary jewel where you will find world class fine dining and exceptional service.
2551 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC V6K 2E9, Canada
Random trivia: Did you know that 98% of barley grown in the United States will never make it into your soup? Almost half of the entire crop is used for brewing beer, and the majority of the remaining crop is used for feeding livestock.