We were out for drinks after work and needed a place to eat, but there are so many restaurants downtown it can be tough choosing. Luckily I remembered Cibo, which we've been meaning to try based on recommendations from other restaurant staff who described it as the current best in Vancouver. After our visit, it's certainly at the top of our list.
To start, we shared a buffalo mozzarella bruschetta, which was excellent and had our mouths watering for the primi. Cheryl had the risotto, containing ramp which is only available for 3 weeks a year, while I had the tagliatelle. The risotto was excellent but the tagliatelle was inspired, reminding me of the wild boar tagliatelle that made Cafe Zoe popular in Seattle (I'd choose Cibo's).
Our mains were spring lamb and the pork belly special. I've never had mint sauce since tasting some of the dreadful concoctions from the grocery, but will reconsider if I can ever find a made-from-scratch sauce such as this. It truly complemented the perfectly-fired lamp chops (at least the portion I managed to "share"). My own plate contained a pretty large pork belly, crispy on the one side and melt-in-your-mouth soft within. This was served with white beans prepared excellently (I am not a veggie guy but this was delicious, especially complemented with a 12 year old balsamic vinegar. Even writing about it brings back the excellent flavour.
I definitely didn't need dessert but the choco nemesis (a dark dark chocolate wedge with a large dollop of cream on the side) was too good to pass up and it was a great choice.
The ambience was certainly European, taking us back to wonderful meals in France and Italy where dining out is such an experience. The serving staff share in the duties seamlessly; our main helper was Tomas, an enthusiastic and very professional French server who clearly has a love of food and a desire to make your experience memorable. We received an excellent description of the wine we'd chosen along with a recommended alternative (Fenocchio dolcet, same price) from the sommelier (which we chose and were very happy with it). Tomas clearly loves the food and after much discussion throughout the evening arranged and offered us a chance to visit the kitchen.
You can tell a lot from a kitchen and even more from the chef and other staff. The Executive Chef, Neil Taylor, is from London and clearly knows his art and how to inspire his sous-chefs. One asked me how I'd liked the tagliatelle, so was clearly interested in feedback on his work (he should rightfully be proud of that). The menu holds about 25 items but they adjust it almost daily and have a repertoire of 60 dishes or more at any one time. So you never have to worry about going back and having a boring choice.
It was interesting as this restaurant wasn't overcrowded. I chalk that up to their unfortunate location between Yaletown and Granville, which just doesn't have the traffic that streets like Hamilton, Denman and Davie do. That's unfortunate because so many are missing the chance for an excellent meal. It's not cheap but you will have a dining experience you will remember and I'm sure you will return (we definitely will).