Every January, the people of Vancouver are invited to indulge in some culinary adventures by way of the Dine Out Vancouver festival. Dozens of restaurants across the city offer three-course meals at a discounted price, making it easier for diners to eat out where they may not have otherwise. The 2016 edition just ended this past Sunday, but before it did, I went out with some friends to Brix and Mortar in Yaletown.
You might recall that our only Dine Out Vancouver experience last year was at Cork and Fin in Gastown. This year, we visited two restaurants (review of the second to follow), which is still far below our usual number. Having a baby around tends to have an impact on your lifestyle choices… but we still like to eat!
With Brix and Mortar, the menu and the atmosphere reflect an upscale casual vibe that’s both traditional and contemporary. The restaurant actually consists of two separate rooms. When we arrived at the main entrance on Homer Street, we were told by the doorman that there was a wedding function and that we would need to walk all the way around the block to the other side of the building on Hamilton Street. A minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless. Calling ahead to clarify might be a good idea for next time.
The rest of our party arrived a couple minutes before we did and the hostess informed us that they were seated “in the back by the fireplace.” What she really meant was they were seated in the back of the room next to the flat panel TV playing a video of a fireplace on endless loop. Who said you can only do that during the holidays?
Pickled Pineapple & Pork Belly
Crispy Adobe Style Gelderman Farms pork belly, jicama, cilantro, spiced peanuts, serrano chili
Shown at the top of this post, the pickled pineapple and pork belly was one of the two appetizer options for Dine Out Vancouver, the other being a butternut squash puree. I really enjoyed the pronounced saltiness and “punch” of the pork belly chunks. The pineapple and radish provided a nice balance, both in flavor and texture, though the pickling of the pineapple wasn’t particularly pronounced. The mild heat added depth and complexity to an already satisfying dish.
Brome Lake Duck Breast
Maple-honey glaze, duck leg confit, braised brussel sprout succotash, spiced pepper gelée
One of the two main dishes on offer, the sliced duck breast arrived at a medium-rare to medium temperature. Each succulent piece was nice and tender with just enough fat beneath the skin. I found the accompanying hash to be a touch too sweet for my tastes and more of the spiced pepper gelee would helped as well.
Grilled Wild BC Salmon
Warm potato salad with fresh dungeness crab, jalapeños & corn, roast garlic aioli, salsa verde
For my main, I opted for the wild salmon. The skin had a great crispness to it while the flesh was juicy and moist. While I couldn’t really find any of the “fresh dungeness crab” in my warm potato salad, I did enjoy the slight dash of heat that the japalenos and salsa verde provided.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
Varietal fruit compote
Unlike the panna cotta we had at The Oakwood Canadian Bistro, the one served at Brix and Mortar didn’t disintegrate into a soupy mess. The consistency of the panna cotta itself was spot-on, even if the distribution of the fruit compote wasn’t consistent across portions. Some people got almost twice as much fruit as others. Either way, this was a light and refreshing way to end our meal.
All said, the ambiance and food at Brix and Mortar were both commendable. Service was not as attentive as it could have been, getting slower as the night on. For people who seek a more relaxed pace to dinner, you’ll appreciate not feeling rushed. Parents who are anxious to get home because a cranky baby is out past her bedtime, well, that’s another matter altogether.
Dinner for two, including a flight of BC white wine, taxes and gratuity, came to just over $110.