AnnaLena, Vancouer

January 2018 (see also March 2018)

This was our first time at this Kits bistro and we were very impressed with the cuisine. It’s a space that used to be called Kits Daily, on West 2nd just off Burrard, and looking much the same as the previous restaurant which was also quite nice. It was a family birthday so we had to go during the Dine Out Vancouver Festival, guaranteeing a crowded restaurant, fixed-price menu, and relatively good value.

The place was packed with a noisy young crowd as expected. We were six and seated about 10 minutes after our reservation. The servers were polite and fun, and the wine guy knowledgeable. The physical space is unremarkable white minimalist.

Of the three starters I had the chicken rillette and duck liver pate with a crispy sourdough crostini, and also tasted the squid with accompanying condiments. The chicken item was just lovely, the thin crostini perfectly deep-fried and the elongated rectangle of chicken and duck moist and full of great poultry taste. There was an accompanying sour gel and this contrast of flavours and texture seems to be a theme here, and a very welcome one. The squid was delicious and fishy with contrasting aïoli in a crisp light deep-fry.

Nearly all of us had the lamb with lentils and cauliflower yogurt, pickles, and spiced chickpea as our main. This was a really delicious thing, reminding me of the chicken dish I had at the much more upscale Madera in Menlo Park last year. Beautifully roasted sirloin meat rare and tender on a background of lentils with the cauliflower, but the spiced chickpea (I think it was) crunchy in the mouth as a sharp texture contrast, and then the very sour pickle framing the mellow meat and legume flavour. The Madera item was a chicken roulade with if I recall lentils also, but similarly contrasted with pickled stone fruit. This was really good and again had that creative and satisfying texture and taste contrast. The eggplant which I tasted was roasted and topped with a porcini mushroom foam, again a nice pair of perfectly clear identifiable flavours.

The desert was a dark chocolate fudge with grey meringue tiles, soft/crunchy and delicious.

We drank a couple of wines I remembered from the past, a Planeta white from Sicily that was okay but harboured a sort of concord grape flavour. The red was a teroldelgo,  a grape varietal I remember being served in the now-gone Sirenella in Charlottetown a few years ago which is from mid-northern Italy east of Piedmont. It was a bit better but still nothing especially thrilling although it opened up, served in a decanter. $74 and $78 respectively. The six of us were out the door for around $500 including a 20% tip.

I think the food here is really unusually creative and skilfully-prepared for a bistro-level restaurant. We will definitely go back once the Dine Out thing is over and taste it even more carefully.

Food 9.3, service 9.0, ambience 8.0, value 8.2, peace and quiet 6.6.

March 2018

Second visit to this restaurant, and it’s even better. We were just two on this occasion, and if anything more satisfied than in January. It’s a new high in town.

The staff were cheery, intelligent, colloquial, cute. We were seated next to the outside window and there was a necessary heater right beside us. Arriving before six, things were quiet but the inevitable shrieking and clatter developed over the next hour. No escape.

We had a couple of little oysters with apple mignonette and a strange shaved fois gras. Just a delicious bite each, particularly the sour but mellow mignonette. The foie gras got past me I think.

It’s shared plates here, and next came a very crispy, possibly overly crispy fried chicken in a very sour mustard sauce with a lot of marinated thinly-sliced sour cucumbers. In spite of the necessity to bite hard through the batter-fry, this was a delicious flavour contrast with the wonderfully sour mustard sauce standing up to the bland but nicely-cooked chicken. Love it when chefs are not afraid of lots of sour, sweet, rich or salty.

Next were mussels shelled and nicely steamed in a lovely lightly creamy sour sauce with tiny circles of savoury fat floating. Accompanying this was an amazing brioche which we understand had been baked, then torn apart, put back together again, and the re-baked in fat so it was brown and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Dipped in the sauce, this was a dynamite way to enjoy these succulent mussels, although we thought it needed a little bit of salt.

Finally we went for a pork belly which had been sousvided for 16 hours and then seared, set in a savoury sauce along with tasty small leafy vegetables. The meat was terrific and accompaniment gentle and rich without being greasy or fatty at all.

We drank a reasonably-priced ($73) Sicilian white from Planeta, unassuming but more than adequate for what it was and a great accompaniment to this lovely meal. $168 pre-tip.

Suddenly, we have a new favourite in town. Why would anybody eat anywhere else when the food is this good, price is reasonable, staff delightful, and the space and the noise no worse than pretty well everywhere these days. I gather they’ve been going in this location for about three years, and although I had heard of them several times, finally we have caught up. Delicious, not to be missed.

Food 9.4, service 9.2, ambience 8.2, value 9.1, peace and quiet 6.6

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 40 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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