This little hideaway calls itself Ligurian, and the cuisine is I’m sure representative of the little band of coastline one encounters driving from the south of France through Genoa to Tuscany. It’s a short walk from our West End apartment, and I’m sure we’ve been here 10 times over the years.
It’s actually two restaurants, the interior (ideal for winter rain and cold) and the patio which is a delightful quiet garden sanctuary on an out-of-the-way pedestrian street near Stanley Park. The indoor dining room is a low-ceilinged cozy spot with dark wood tables and a warm carpet. This early September evening the patio is open with no need for artificial heat.
Service is brisk, knowledgeable, humorous and unassuming. The lady server understands Italian wine, happily makes recommendations, and professionally provides advice.
We had an asparagus salad with rocket lettuce and pecorino, lightly dressed with balsamic. The asparagus was a bit burnt but the overall effect was light and pleasant. The frito misto has been a favorite of ours and consists of lightly battered deep-fried fish and shellfish with artichoke hearts. Crunchy and delicious. The main was a Ligurian fish stew, fragrant with fresh tomatoes and saffron.
Arneis Langhe DaMilano is an uncomplicated fragrant white wine from Piedmont which went well with this fishy dinner.
Almost exactly $100 pre-tip with a $46 bottle of wine.
The food here is simple, but like the service and atmosphere it is exactly as-advertised and completely satisfactory. There is a breathtaking welcome and unusual absence of arrogance, affectation, and noise. The fragrant patio is a delight. 7.6 food/8.2 service/8.4 ambience/8.6 overall value.
Here this time with two friends who know food, and it wasn’t the same quality of experience. It was a weeknight, cold and raining out, and we were seated at a small table in the cozy low-ceilinged indoor dining room. The room was ultimately about 40% full.
Our waiter was a bluff fiftyish European guy with little pretense to knowledge or familiarity with wine, and more of a passing understanding of the various dishes. Possibly somebody new…
The menu remains simple,with a dozen starters and seven each of pasta and “specialities”. We started with calamari salad and our old favourite frito misto di mare. They were both competently deep-fried and laced with garlic and oil and some lemon. Quite satisfactorily fresh and flavorful.
The main course menu this night was different from the one online, and we had a panfried whitefish, rack of lamb chops, and (two of us) beef short ribs. The fish was simple with underdone vegetables, and unfortunately (but all-to-commonly) overcooked and a bit dry. My lamb done popsicle-style was overcooked and just straightforward grilled meat, again served up with pretty indifferent vegetables. The short ribs must have been a fat-deficient cut, because they presented stringy and dry. Short rib flavour was pleasant enough with a background of garlic and wine.
We had a white and red wine, the red a nebbiolo that tasted more like chianti. The cost was reasonable at around $55 each.
Cook’s night off? Ordered the wrong thing (maybe the pasta would’ve been good)? Getting fussy in our collective old age? Not sure. I’m inclined to give this place another try when the weather warms up because the patio is charming and it’s near where we live. But one repeat of tonight’s performance and it’ll be off the list. Food 7.6, service 7.2, ambience 8.1, value 7.8, peace and quiet 8.0.