Okay – so I found probably the closest thing to a “local” that I have right now. Every guy needs their bar – it doesn’t have to be local (but it should be within stumbling distance from home), it doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to even serve good drinks or food – it just has to feel comfortable, have friendly or at least agreeable service, and serve booze so you can drown your sorrows or just unwind after a long day at the keyboard.
This place actually has really fine service (fast, pleasant, friendly but not intrusive), pretty darn decent food, kind of cool decor, and it’s got fabulous drinks. The only drawback to the Cascade room is that it’s missing the dingy, close-quartered atmosphere that adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the perfect ‘local’. In Toronto, it was Smokeless Joe’s. In Vancouver, it will have to wait until I get some more experience in drinking and sorrow-drowning.
Anyway – I dropped by here with M for a post-run beer and bite of food on Wednesday evening. He’s originally from England, and this place has some kind of British theme to it with the pictures of Queen Victoria on the lightshades, the WWII-era “Keep Calm and Carry On” signage – so I thought maybe it would bring him back to the good old BBC-watching Days.
Arriving, we were seated in less than a minute near one of the large open windows in the front with a great view of Main Street. Given menus immediately, a waiter came and took our drink order within the next 2 minutes. We had 2 Pimm’s, and in no time arrived two large glasses full of the delectable Pimm’s cup mixture, complete with lemon, lime, mint, and the rarely-sighted cucumber. Delicious – the perfect cure to a parched throat on a hot summer’s night. Even in the white, old-timey, British kind of town that Vancouver is, it’s not your everyday place that serves a perfect Pimm’s. In fact, damn few places in this town would even know what one is.
A quick glance at the menus – this place is definitely veg-friendly, with pizzas, risotto, salads and sides all good for the vegetarian guest in your crowd. They’re not ashamed to haul out the meat either as our previous dinner here we had the lamb pizza. Anyway, while dining with a vegetarian ex-Britisher, I tried to oblige his earth-friendly beliefs and he had the veg pizza while I had the Green Risotto.
I didn’t try his pizza – he said it was great – you can see the thin crust, basil, pine nuts, and roasted red peppers above – it certainly looks like it tasted great. As for the green risotto – I give it an enthusiastic “I’d order this again”. I don’t expect much for veg risottos – first off, they tend to be made with vegetable stock, which doesn’t add the unique flavour that only animal stocks tend to impart to risottos. In addition, they tend to be either so full of mushrooms they taste like the forest or so subtly flavoured that you’re basically eating rice mixed with vegetable soup. Not this risotto – it was full of veggies (not mushrooms), and very, very full of flavour. It had peas, asparagus, garlic, onions, and came in a delicious, thick vegetable broth. The rice was almost perfectly cooked (I’m not sure what rice they used, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t arborio or canaroli) and overall, this dish just worked.
For dessert, I decided on a daquiri and M had another Pimms. I was considering a beer, but knowing how spectacular their mixed drinks are, I wanted to try this often-made but often-failed mixed drink that is a heck of a lot harder to make than simply opening up a can of Frozen Bacardi mixer.
This was a spectacular drink. It boasted home-made falernum (I don’t have wifi as I write this, so I have no idea what it is), but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to track some of this falernum down and start putting it in my cereal in the morning. Whatever secret ingredient they put in this drink, it was light, refreshing, tart, sweet, delicious, and had the perfect balance of alcohol and fruit. This is why Hemingway used to put these things back like they were water when he was in the Keys.
As you can see from the picture above, this bartender knows his drinks. It comes in a simple cocktail glass – an ethereal, yellow/white liquid, garnished with only a slice of lime peel. While the Pimms might (incorrectly) be accused of Trader Vic’s over-garnishing – the cucumber, lemon & lime are actually required to give it it’s unique flavour – they’re not garnish. But here, the single, small piece of lime rind is just small enough to bring out the hint of lime oil in the rind and give you something to chase around the glass with your eyes as you focus on the conversation.
Anyway, I digress. This was a short casual dinner – probably my 4th time here. But it was great food, fantastic drink, a comfortable spot, and for now anyway, will be my clean and well-lit place.
The Cascade Room
2616 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V5T 3E6, Canada