Heirloom, Vancouver.

June 2016.

Putting on a farewell dinner for a research colleague who seems to have every food intolerance ever invented, we opted for this strictly vegetarian eatery occupying the 12th Avenue off-Granville former location of Primo Villanueva’s Mexican restaurant, a Vancouver standard for a generation. Anyone familiar with my attitude to healthy, trendy–really pretty well all non-traditional — eating will appreciate my scepticism about what our experience was going be like. But I was pleasantly surprised.

There was a certain amount of mildly attitude-laden back and forth over the reservation, consisting of a table for ten, but eventually we got it straight and were seated at 7 PM, the place packed on a Tuesday night. It’s certainly cataclysmically noisy, the 15-foot ceiling rebounding every decibel of chatter and clatter back down onto our heads. But visually it’s a bright cheery space filled with wooden tables of all sizes and attended by attractive smiling servers.

We waited to be allowed to order wine, eventually snaring one of the passing young ladies, and thus were introduced to the service here which while very cheerful and polite is as it were a new interpretation of the concept of Slow Food. Everything took about 2.5 times as long as expected. At one point I caught my friend across the table starting to nibble on his shirt cuff.

The menu is printed on two sides, one vegetarian, the other vegan. The choices appear appetizing and (when they finally arrived) everything was quite delicious. A vegetarian curry was a nicely-smelling and -flavoured south-Asian cumin/turmeric soft boiled vegetable feast, salads and grain mélanges were seasoned with care and good taste. My veggie burger came with a sour mayo-style sauce that, once I spread it over the nut-laden patty, took off in the direction of the White Spot classic (my the gold standard), although somehow for me there’s no substitute for the gristle and fat of the real thing. The yam fries (a terrible idea usually: why take something as wonderful as potato chips and ruin it?) were fearlessly deep-fried to crisp, and quite tasty dipped in what was left of the sauce.

Wine selections were slim, a local white blend from Summerhill called “Alive” being the favourite. The bill was around $650 for 10 people, including a legislated 18% gratuity.

So overall a chiaroscura impression. Food 8.2, service 8.0 for kindness 5.3 for cadence, ambience 8.1 visually, value probably about 7, peace and quiet 3.0.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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