r.tl regional tasting lounge (web site, map, 1130 Mainland Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, phone: 604-638-1550) is a recent (and notable!) addition to the upscale Yaletown restaurant and shopping district of downtown Vancouver.
Late on a Saturday night, a friend and I were wandering the misty streets of this former warehouse district, and poked our heads into a bunch of nice looking restaurants such as Capones Jazz Club (which has live jazz every night), George Lounge (a cocktail bar), and Milestones (a chain restaurant with upscale decor). After a glass of wine and a chicken salad at Milestones, we were looking to go some place “cooler” and chill out the rest of the evening.
We meandered over to Mainland Street and were intrigued by the mysterious looking sign that simply said “r.tl”, like some kind of secret code for a fabulous New York hideaway that only a few locals know about. This may be closer to reality than one may think – Vancouver’s food scene is getting to be well known on the international stage, offering some dining experiences that are as every bit exciting and substantial as the most prized eateries in New York and Paris.
While making trips around the world to try new restaurants may be a pastime of the privileged few, r.tl has a new concept that lets the ingredients, recipes, and traditions of fine regional cuisines of the world appear in the easily accessed (and perhaps more affordable) realm of its sleek, laid-back dining room. r.tl is called a “regional tasting lounge” for a reason, as the restaurant rotates its menu every quarter through different culinary locales, choosing two complimentary world regions to accompany the local fare of Coastal British Columbia.
Currently r.tl is featuring Portugal and France along with the BC region. My friend and I were really amazed by the taste of the Pacific mussels we ordered, which were served in a kind of corn-chowder sauce with some chorizo sausage (around $11). The drinks list at r.tl is extensive, including a selection of hand-picked, rare wines and cocktails from around the world.
I was fortunate to visit another time to try some of their Canapes (pictured below) which are miniature versions of some of their larger dishes.
I made a visit to Cassis Bistro (map, web site, visitor reviews, 420 West Pender St. Vancouver, BC, Canada, phone: 604-605-0420) and was really impressed. Cassis Bistro is a French tapas bistro hidden away in a somewhat seedier area of downtown Vancouver on the edge of Gastown (about two blocks from the Granville Skytrain station).
Ron Brill of Martiniboys (click here to read review) writes of “…elegantly simple, modern tapas fare…alluring French flavours…” and I concur. Cassis Bistro is definitely deserving of the positive buzz it has been getting recently.
Pictured below are some of the items we ordered. First was the complimentary amuse bouche, which was olives and antipasto served with French bread. The olives and antipasto were served in an interesting narrow tray and whetted the appetite perfectly. For an appetizer, we ordered a crepe with Brie cheese (around $10), which tasted great. Looking at the photo brings back fond memories! For the main course I orderedthe Duck a l’Orange ($17.50). The menu describes this item as:
Duck and oranges: a combination popular in many countries. This dish consists of Muscovy duck braised with oranges.
Let me say, the Duck a l’Orange was fantastic (or should I say merveilleux “en Francais”). I am a huge fan of orange juice and oranges in general, and duck is always a special treat for me since I don’t cook it at home. So this was a match made in heaven.
We also ordered a side dish of some vegetables: beets and zucchini (also pictured below, around $5). This went very well with a side of bechamel sauce.
Amuse bouche (olives and antipasto) with French bread at Cassis Bistro in downtown Vancouver.
Crepe with Brie Cheese from Cassis French Bistro restaurant in Downtown Vancouver BC Canada.
Duck a l'orange (Duck and Oranges), $17.50 from Cassis Bistro, a French restaurant in downtown Vancouver BC Canada.
Side order of market fresh vegetables from Cassis Bistro in Vancouver (beets and zucchini) - around $5.00.
Cafe Crepe (map, 796 Granville St, Vancouver, BC, Canada, phone: 604-806-0834) is a restaurant that serves freshly made French style crepes, sandwiches, and Foot Long hot dogs.
The crepes are made in front of you, by smartly dressed chefs, at round grills at the restaurant’s front window. They are made sweet (try chocolate, or apple and cinnamon) or savory (pick from ham, cheese, or a bunch of other ingredients such as mushroom or spinach). Crepes (such as the ones pictured below) cost in the range of $5 to $8 depending on the ingredients. I really like the rich Emmenthal cheese and spongy crepe batter. For the Foot Long hot dog (pictured below, around $5) be sure to try their French mustard and maybe even mayo if you’re a fan.
There are two locations of Cafe Crepe very near to each other on Granville Street downtown. The smaller one (796 Granville, Cafe Crepe “express”) is located next to Future Shop just north of Granville and Robson. The larger one, further down Granville near the Commodore Ballroom (map, 874 Granville St, Vancouver, BC, Canada, phone: 604-806-084), has more sit-down tables and even a private room for parties in the back.
Sometimes they get pretty busy and there might be a bit of a wait, especially if you want to eat-in. Take out orders are usually quite fast.
The other locations of Cafe Crepe in Vancouver are:
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Please note that prices may change without notice and restaurant information may be out of date. It is a good idea to phone the restaurant before visiting, to avoid disappointment. Please leave comments regarding corrections or updates.