Submitted Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - 1:01am [Dine in]
A friend invited me down for lunch to check out this new Gastown locale and when we walked in we were very impressed with the gorgeous atmopshere and tasteful room they've created.
Service was good, but with such a beautiful room (complete with crisp white table linens and napkins), the servers' attire seemed in stark opposition to the room: sloppy and overly casual. I know it's only lunch, but yoga-ware (or what looks like yoga-ware) is not something most people want to see when dining out. And I don't care how beautiful a server's hair is, I really did not appreciate seeing a wall of hair grazing the food as the server leant over to put it down.
The pate we ordered as our shared starter had amazing flavours but the menu implied the accompanying brioche had been wrapped in bacon (it clearly hadn't) and at a hefty $14, perhaps sending out two slices of brioche toast would have been more generous than one; we ran out of brioche well before we ran out of pate. What a waste! We'd have happily paid for extra had it been offered.
Sandwiches were good but pretty standard fare. My friend called his Sloppy Joe, 'unremarkable'. And my Tuna Salad was disappointing with, again, another menu oddity: the menu listed its ingredients, '...sweet peppers, grapes', and from that, we assumed there would be grapes in the sandwich (the sole reason I ordered it). Instead, a grape-less sandwich appeared with a small cluster of grapes at its side. We both agreed the side of house-roasted tomato soup was the best part of our meals.
The cocktail list was exceptionally small and, sadly, nothing appealed. We were told as we were leaving that 'anything can be made for the customers'. This would have been nice to hear when we arrived. Or when we were greeted by our server. Or when we ordered. Instead, we opted for beer and tried the Brooklyn lager which was tasty but not particularly cold. When the bill came, we felt like we'd been robbed: $8 for a 16 oz pour. Ouch.
I'm not sure whether or not I'd give dinner a try here (it is early days after all), but it's likely I won't. Despite the hype surrounding this place, this experience was mediocre at best.
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We finally had night off to visit this highly anticipated Cambie Street addition. We're so glad it's finally here. The room, very hip and inviting, has two sides: a bar side and a dining room side and both are very different styles but it works. The artwork is very cool with the exception of the dour and mad ugly painting of a disproportionate woman..."Wait is that Madonna? On a swing?"...on the dining side. It really detracts from the ambiance.
After we chose a couple of beers from their extensive beer list (I opted for draft over Belgian and tried the Philips' Chocolate Porter which is surprisingly un-heavy and is now my new favourite beer), we decided to sample a few different menu items. Tapas highlights included the shrimp and corn fritters which come in a bath of delicious mustardy dipping sauce, and the braised beef taquitos which were, honestly, a little bit of heaven and will prove seriously addictive to my husband. The pork tenderloin entree with its delicious twist of a side (Chocolate Porter baked beans!) was perfectly cooked and seasoned. A true standout was the halibut filet with a creamy pancetta and pea risotto - it might just be the best thing I have ever eaten. Being chocoholics, we tried both chocolate desserts for our sweet. The bimony cake with cherries and nuts was scrumptious but it was the chocolate torte that did it for me. Creamy, uber chocolaty, and uniquely spiced, this dessert will be my must-have.
Our server was very good - friendly, unobtrusive, and attentive despite how busy it was - and it was really busy.
We're so happy to have Stella's just down our street.
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