****LA QUERCIA WINS FOR BEST CASUAL ITALIAN AT VAN MAG AWARDS****
by Lauren Mote
La Quercia, that friendly neighbourhood spot everyone’s trying to get into, totally blew our minds last night. After the Prohibition Party down at Metro last night (part of the Playhouse Wine Festival), Johnny decided it was high-time to take his lady (me) to dinner. We blasted down 4th to La Quercia in hopes that they would have space available for people like us – the ones that never make reservations. In the past, a consistent lack reservation-making has caused Johnny and I to crave one thing, and then 30 minutes of driving around and calling places, we always end up at either Boneta or IGA – both are great, just the opposite of what we have in mind right at that moment.
Happily, when we arrived, Carine (wife of Adam, one of the owners) took my business card and would call if something became available in the next 30 minutes. Defeated and hungry, we left. We got to about Burrard and 4th when the phone rang – “I can take you NOW!!!!”. Done.
When we got there, we were delighted to learn that our server, Angela (called AWOL) is Myra Maston’s best friend, previous roommate and retired chef. Leave it to Johnny and I to think that 2 courses each “isn’t enough”. Upon the Angela’s recommendation though, we thought it fitting to do a 10 course tasting menu (as share plates – extremely common in Italy). The only thing missing were name tags that said “porco” across the front – one for each of us – I mean, who really orders 10 courses at 8:30p on a weeknight?
Owners Adam Pegg and Lucais Syme, both proteges of Chef Andrey Durbach (La Buca) and Italy, swear by the philosophy of bright, clean, simplistic flavours, and sharing.
Wine: Rus Mon Ferrato DOC Casalone Azienda (blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Barbera – a masterful blend for this style of cooking)
Course 1 – goat cheese, warm asparagus, and roasted cauliflower – a perfect balance of salt and acid – lemon oil, parsley and garlic didn’t hurt the dish either!
Course 2 – thinly sliced veal roast, served cold with tunafish sauce and capers – ok, for whatever reason, the combination of flavours in this dish reminded me of the fist sip of a good quality, oaky chardonnay – perhaps in part from the balance of weight and acidity in the dish, the citrusy character of the capers, not sure though – I got Johnny to try it too, he agreed, but like me had zero explanation. Delicious nonetheless.
Course 3 – Baccala – salt cod, and potato cooked in milk, with arugula, red pepper salsa – I would eat this as a little bar snack with a beer!
Course 4 – olive oil poached monkfish sitting on a hill of La Quercia’s signature saffron risotto – wow! The weight of the fish matched perfectly the richness of the risotto – I love when pairings work this well.
Course 5 -housemade pasta with pork cheeks, onions, tomatoes, and ricotta
Course 6 – housemade agnoloti with veal, ricotta, parmesan and swiss chard – like little bitty bites. Each one was savory, light and delicious.
I am almost to the point of explosion I am so full – but often we eat for sport! Ok, only 3 or 4 courses to go… I feel like that girl from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory that ate the “gum” when she shouldn’t have – grew to the size of a house and the Umpaloompas has to roll her away – John’ll have to roll me home tonight.
Course 7 -homemade polenta and ricotta gnocchi, with wild mushrooms on one side of the dish, and on the other housemade tagliatelli with pancetta and chicken livers, in a rich cream sauce
Course 8 – porcetta of the loin and belly – made by removing bones, rolling the pigs body into a tight roll with aromatics, and roasting – I heard the staff meal earlier today was porcetta with pork crackling – no crackling for us though, just the straight piggy. It was served on a simple bed of swiss chard.
Course 9 – flatiron steak, perfectly cooked, thinkly sliced on a light salad of arugula, pine nuts, and olive oil.
Course 10 -super moist almond & olive oil cake with poached pears
Weren’t we supposed to stop at 10????? Again, as I digress, this is the Vancouver industry – 10 never means 10, even if it says so on the menu.
Course 11 – chocolate and ricotta cannoli (hhhhhuuuy can’t breathe… Johnny’s fine though, eating like it’s going out of style)
Are you kidding me? Wooow.
Course 12 – a big bowl of tangy lemon curd, with a lip puckering raspberry sauce! This was devine. Worth dying for. :)
Adam, Lucais and Johnny may not have worked directly together, but they worked for the same guys – Chris Stewart and Andrey Durbach.
No if you’ll excuse me, I have to go directly to sleeeeeeep, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.
3689 West 4th Ave Vancouver, BC