If you're reading this, you need to know a couple things. One, I've never been formally trained as a chef, a cook or anything remotely close to that. Two, I don't do this full-time for a living - I simply write because I like to have a voice. You can choose to listen or not, it's just my voice and my opinion only. It may not be worth much to you but that's the beauty of the Internet.
Having said that, I also know what I like and generally consider myself as having a relatively decent palette. I can tell when something is bursting with flavor while another dish can be equally exciting through its subtlety. I may not use all the perfect words that all the other official food critics do, but I can at least give my opinion - and have the right to - as a paying customer. No different than a Yelp review.
Also know that I am always going into each experience with great anticipation. I love food and when I hear of a new establishment trying to give it a go in this city - a city of some pretty damn good restaurants - I get very excited and hope they can make it. When things don’t work out - as inevitably it happens, more often than I’d like it to - it’s disappointing. I’m passionate about what I love - and don’t - so I feel it’s only fair to give the same amount of criticism that I would of praise.
Ok - moving on...
This past weekend, I decided to visit Stable House Bistro, South Granville's latest addition to the pseudo-European and west coast bistro set serving everything from crepes and charcuterie to sous-vide eggs. Hungry and somewhat excited to go there for brunch (as I saw some pretty high ratings (4.5 out of 5 stars on Google), I unfortunately set my expectations too high for the food. More on that in a moment.
The restaurant, set in half a block off the South Granville strip on West 13th, is easy to miss unless you’re a type of person like me who observes everything about the neighbourhood she walks around in. Wrapping twinkle lights around a tree outside the restaurant is a charming (and smart) way to capture the eye of pedestrian traffic that’s buzzing further away. I’d been walking and driving on Granville past West 13th and noticed Stable-House Bistro on the way home, several times a week as I live in Kitsilano.
The space’s interiors are modern and airy, with enough natural light in the front half of the restaurant while the cozy back makes for a great afterwork happy hour atmosphere. The bar is beautifully designed, accompanied by simple, brush-metal stools comfortable enough while working through a couple of cocktails. Like its moniker, the interiors are reflective of a modern stable house - evoking both a modern and rustic flair, with a splash of industrial touches in its light fixtures and beadboard panelling. Corkboard panelling on the far back wall adds to the sense of casualness to the place.
For brunch, I ordered the smoked salmon crepe - standard bistro fare in a city where smoked salmon is the norm. It arrived on my plate in a pair, rolled up and accompanied by a winter green salad. It had a curious amount of aioli dressed on top of the crepe in a zig-zag fashion that - let’s face it - is a little unexpected, unless you’re in a cafeteria. Let’s start with the good stuff. The salad was a delightfully refreshing side dish; lightly dressed, sprinkled with cranberries and sunflower seeds, while topped with fried garlic slices that gave it a quick punch of flavour and crispy texture. Perhaps I should have eaten that first but was anxious to get to the salmon crepe, which was quite disappointing. Overly salty, the salmon was overpowered by too many capers and pickled red onions - not only adding salt over salt, but also competing with the delicate flavours of the fish. Meanwhile, you’ve also got aioli dressing adding to the mix outside of the crepe. While my mind was trying to process which part of my bite was the fish, I was also heavily distracted by the amount of pea shoots in my mouth. They were so packed into that one crepe tube that it was too overwhelming to digest - literally and figuratively. The salmon should always be the star and in this case, it seemed that the intention was to pack in as many elements to ‘accompany’ the fish as possible, rather than a simple sprinkling to allow the salmon to stand alone.
While my entree was disappointing, the staff was fun and friendly. Our waitress had a fantastic, warm attitude both on the phone and in person when we arrived. Bubbly and cheeky, I could picture myself being a regular at this place for after-work drinks (as they have a pretty interesting happy hour menu and decent selection of wines by the glass) for pretty reasonable prices. At the end of the day, it’s the staff who will have me potentially returning for a second go-around, but maybe only for drinks and charcuterie.
Food - 5/10
Service - 9/10
Atmosphere/Interiors - 9/10
1520 West 13th Avenue, Vancouver