It's been ages since I've written a dining review on this site but felt compelled to do so after dining last night at the fabulous Absinthe Bistro on Commercial Drive. The place was great, start to finish, and as the food was the best I've had in both recent and long-term memory, it deserves a little praise.
First, some things to consider: the bistro is small with only a 22-seat dining capacity, so if you are thinking of trying it, be sure to book in advance. I called to reserve about a week in advance for a table of two. The woman who answered the phone, and who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, the chef, is welcoming and sweet. The menu is small with just three starters, three mains, and three desserts. The price point is excellent, however, as you can order starter, main & dessert for $35 or choose two courses for $28. The drinks menu covers the bases with a reasonable selection of cocktails and beer. Cocktails are $10 across the board. There is also a good wine menu and bottles are priced mostly at $46. They have a small 'specials' board on the wall which seems to be strictly for drinks. We chose a $45 Beaujolais from it and were suitably impressed!
If you want selection, this place probably isn't for you, but I can assure you that while my husband and I tried five of the nine items between the two of us, we did see all the dishes coming out and everything looked equally exquisite. We each decided on the three-course menu. We both had the braised beef with pearl onions, carrots, and potato puree for our mains. This dish was to die for, especially the sauce. I had the goat cheese terrine with walnuts and beets to start and my husband had the creamy mushroom soup which he raved about. For dessert, I had the apple tart with house made vanilla bean ice cream (again, amazing), and my husband had the creme brulee, so good it's basically become a kind of house staple.
As for ambiance, the restaurant feels cozy and definitely has some character. There is tiled flooring throughout and dark wood tables, high ceilings with some exposed pipes. The service was friendly and attentive. The only slight hiccup was the service died off a bit towards the end of the meal and we had to request the bill twice from two different people. This detail was minor, however, as overall the experience was excellent. For two three course menus and one bottle of wine, our meal came to $150 after tax and tip. We will definitely go back!