ChowDown Vancouver with a French flourish

Post by Michelle Pereira in ,

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Belgian Waffles in all their glory. Photo:
Belgian Waffles in all their glory. Photo:

Belgium, one of Europe’s smallest nations, sits at the cross-roads between France, Germany and Holland. The culinary influence from all three is clear, but recently the large influx of immigrants from Northern Africa (and particularly Morocco) has resulted in an intriguing fusion of flavours. Whether it’s a late-morning brunch or an elegant dinner, you’ll find Belgium cuisine in Vancouver ready for all palettes and pocket-books.

Patisserie Le Beau is a Vancouver institution when it comes to Belgian Waffles. Their small store has eager clients arriving early morning, ready to awaken their taste buds to these delectable treats. The waffles are made in-house and include the light and crispy Brussels' waffle, the denser Liege waffle and various fruit filled and savory stuffed waffles. My favorites are two stuffed waffles: the creamy rice pudding and the ham and cheese. Other specialty Belgian pastries are also available. Go early for the best selection.

Patisserie Le Beau, 1728 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver B.C.; 604-731-3528; Tues – Sat: 7:30am to 4:00pm, Sun and Mon: closed. Breakfast: $6. Close to all Granville Island venues.

A tempting alternative is Café Medina.  Here, the waffles are of the Liege variety and can be ordered with toppings that include chocolate and a mixed berry compote.  The cafe serves a great breakfast/brunch/lunch with specialties such as the Tagine (poached eggs, spicy tomato stew, red pepper, merguez sausage, moroccan olives and cilantro) or the Poulet ( a tortilla wrapped chipotle chicken, with parmesan, cheese, avocado and tomato).

Cafe Medina, 556 Beatty Street, Vancouver BC, 604-879-3114; Mon-Fri: Breakfast 9:00am – Noon, Lunch Noon - 3:00pm, Weekend brunch 9:00am - 3:00pm. Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch: $16/person. Close to all downtown venues.

The big brother to Cafe Medina is Chambar, sitting just next door. When it first opened in 2004, Vancouverites knew they were in for a treat. You can't go wrong when a three star Michelin trained chef, Nico Schuermans, is designing your food. The menu is constantly evolving but a few classics have stood the test of time. The moules frites (Mussels with fries) is a staple in Belgian gastro pubs. But Nico has kicked it up a notch with the Congolaise (mussels in a tomato coconut cream, smoked chili and lime and fresh cilantro).

The accompanying fries are perfectly cooked and served with the requisite aioli mayo. You’ll be delighted with any of the small plate but standouts include Foie de canard ‘Villa Lorraine’ (spiced Foie gras terrine with Port reduction, Kriek granita & truffled brioche french toast) and the Wild Boar Shepherd's Pie (with a slice of melt-in-your-mouth wild boar belly). For mains, the Tajine d’aziz a l’agneau (braised lamb shank with honey, figs, cinnamon & cilantro, served with cous cous and zalouk) is a must. Unfortunately, Chambar is completely booked over the Olympics. But here’s a secret – Café Medina will serve the same menu as Chambar in the evenings and it’ll be walk-ins only. Just don’t tell anyone else.

Chambar Restaurant, 562 Beatty Street, Vancouver BC; 604 879 7119; daily 5:00pm – midnight. Dinner: $50/person. Close to all downtown venues.

- post by Michelle Pereira

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