by Lauren Mote
I will be the first one to admit that breakfast and brunch are my favourite parts of dining out, and naturally this is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I am a brilliant morning/early afternoon cook (I like to see how others pull it off); perhaps my previous guests can attest to this fact. Secondly, as an avid diner/food enthusiast, it would generally be an ill-decision on my part to pick up the cheque for a $500 2-person dinner during a recession. Before outright admitting that I am a cheap person by nature, I thought at one point my dining party would catch a glimpse of my sweaty palms gripping my credit cards tightly. This has happened on several occasions, however I still like to treat people, I just have to be smart about it. The simple fact is that I would rather spend $63 on brunch at DB Bistro, then the predictable “Lauren’s getting carried away” $500 dinner.
Let’s get some perspective here; my expectations of DB’s brunch were through the roof. Chef Boulud, who has many critically acclaimed restaurants all over North America, has taken that famously decadent “bust the gut” bistro dinner, and really just morphed into something you would crave with one eye open slapping the alarm clock. Granted, some of us crave fruit in the morning, or sometimes nothing at all, but I will eat the pizza left out over night if I could – I wake up starving for savoury. DB (the old Feenie’s) is completely decked out. I smiled as soon as I saw the zinc bar in the foyer; a zinc bar, it is said, shows the true likeness to an authentic bistro, and I know this concept well as I spent 2 years marveling top to bottom at Toronto’s Le Select Bistro (zinc bar and tin ceiling). The room itself was comfortable and gleaming with new fixtures.
Johnny and I were entertaining our good friend Diana, and her boyfriend Alfredo, who is here from Rimini, Italy for 2 months. The kicker is this – Diana knows exactly what to expect from DB, and Vancouver restaurants in general, but Alfredo’s lifestyle is heavily submerged into food and culture and he expects the very best although simplicity often rules in his hometown. Needless to say, we are eager to please and impress him, if not through our own cooking and entertainment, through the cooking and entertainment of a worthy establishment.
After several minutes of staring at the menu, I convinced Alfredo join me in a Negroni using the most severed of Italian language that I remember from university.
“Diana, come se dice ‘gin’ in Italiano?”
“Alfredo, campari, GIN, cinzano rosso, eh? Eh?”
“Si, due (two).”
My series of broken italian words and sentences continued, but was quickly exploited by Diana taking over to translate the menu items to Alfredo. I had no clue what I was even attempting to say. The “a la carte” menu is a strange concept for Alfredo. He was explaining through Diana that restaurants and cafes in Italy expect you to tell the server what you feel like having, and the menu just serves as a guideline.
Alfredo has white wine steamed mussels, and shares a smoked salmon club sandwich with Diana; Johnny had the scrambled eggs, sausage and homefries; and I had the lobster florentine with spinach, poached eggs, hollandaise and salad. In the centre, a duck confit lyonnaise poutine to share.
Ok, so the food arrives, and we manga manga.
Immediately Johnny can tell that Alfredo is completely unimpressed. The food we had for brunch was so over the top that he couldn’t really fall in love with anything. I think for the rest of us the expectation of the style of food was ok, but everything was extremely rich, to the point where I couldn’t even finish my dish. The poutine was really, really sweet, and I expected frites but got potato wedges instead. Oh well.
The craziest part of this whole brunch experience was not the rich food (because we knew it would be) it was the complete lack of attention and service from the 6 or 7 staff plus 1 manager working (with only 6 tables in the restaurant). Many attempts at making the table “summon” service were left unanswered. Finally, on the server’s fourth lap of the dining room, Diana said something while the plates were piling up in front of her, possibly to prove a point that she had no room. Granted, we are cheeky people and expect the world, but if I am going to pay $16 for a poutine you had better believe that I expect great service. In fact I would have been happy with “service” in general, and later adding an appropriate adjective when the “service” warranted something special.
Meh, times are tough, I will give the poor girls a break. A coffee usually satisfies my sadness.
“Espresso” says Alfredo with a smirk, “… grazie”
“Americano” says Diana.
“Americano” says Johnny.
“…cappuccino…?” I say, and then the laughter pours in.
“Lauren, Alfredo is making fun of you because it’s such a ‘western’ thing to have a coffee with so much milk after 9:00am, let alone after a meal. I am with you though, people in Italy made fun of me when I just wanted a
“Ouu, latte, ouuu…” as Alfredo sasses Diana.
The coffees arrive, Alfredo’s to come last, but then sent back to the bar for a remake. Apparently they are having major problems with their espresso machine. These coffees were like low quality drip coffees in cuter cups. Yechhk. Alfredo’s espresso comes for the second time, and the server embarrassingly places it in front of him.
“Thank – you.”
“No crema? No crema.” says Johnny.
Not one of us choke down the coffees and thankfully they are removed from the bill as well.
As we leave the building, we realize that the conversations were so amazing that we almost forgot about the food, the service and the fact we were at DB. Perhaps dinner is a better bet, but like I said before, with tax and tip, I only spent $63 on Johnny and I, and that’s more attractive then $500. However, if properly motivated, I could’ve had Diana and Alfredo to our place for an epic brunch… for under $20.
DB Bistro Moderne
2551 West Broadway St.