Maxine’s, Vancouver.

December 2021

This relatively unassuming place has been on Burrard Street just uphill on the downtown side of the bridge for less than a year, braving the murderous consequences of the pandemic which have closed a lot of places with more history. We are told it’s owned by Wentworth Hospitality Group backed by a bigger corporation, so survival might not be entirely based on spectacular food and service. But my experience was positive for both and the ambience is about perfectly pitched for a local spot targeting the whole city. But bring earplugs.

Phoning for a reservation wasn’t as difficult as expected around Christmas and we sat on their “patio” (actually a side section of the restaurant separated by glass) which we thought would moderate any noise but might be chilly (wrong on both counts). We brought a terrific Paso Robles Rhône-style 2014 l’Aventure which helped keep the price reasonable with their $25 corkage.

After the obligatory vaccine check we were seated and ordered drinks. A glass of white wine off the menu which was just fine and a straight up boulevardier with Campariwas rich and aromatic with a slice of orange peel. Our server was a pleasantly friendly girl with a completely unaffected sexy style (we were two men) and a refreshingly wacky sense of humour. I believe it was the manager Alain Canuel who brought the drinks and poured the wine, and he was chatty, relaxed, made us feel welcome, and accepted our invitation to taste the wine.

All my numerous regular readers will know that I’m no fan of excessive vegetables, but we started with three shared non-meat dishes: a cauliflower gratin, an onion tart, and three crisp sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes). These were all delicious and this carnivore was happy to enjoy as much of them as I could get in competition with my friend. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared, and varied in flavour and aroma. We are told the chef is Bobby Milheron lately of now-defunct West restaurant on South Granville where I’ve had some pretty high-class food. It looks like he continues to create delicious treats in a bit less pretentious style and setting.

Maincourse was the special black cod for my friend, smooth and packed with the famous moist oily flavour, along with succulent vegetables. Mine was their bone-in pork chop, served in a cast-iron pan with Brussels sprouts, baked apple, and a sharp and exotic seed-mustard sauce that was unusual but terrific with the moist slightly pink meat nicely presented as one-cm slices. No missed steps with any of the food here.

Tragically and as everyone knows nearly unavoidably the noise even in the patio was monstrous and grew from tolerable to inner-ear-coagulating. We were out the door for about 100 bucks each pretip, which would’ve been quite a bit more with a comparable bottle of wine from their list. I would go back next chance I get but consider their inviting-looking brunch or lunch in hopes of being able to hear myself think while eating.

Food 8.9 service 9.2 ambience 8.8 value 8.4 peace and quiet 2.0

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 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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