L’Abattoir opened up in Gastown over a year ago now, and it’s one of those restaurants that I’d been hearing so much about and kept meaning to pay a visit to right away. That didn’t quite work out as planned, and it ended up taking me many, many months to finally make it there for a nice dinner out. I had high expectations based on the chatter throughout Vancouver, and I was glad to find that they didn’t go unmet.
My mother’s birthday had just passed, and I jumped at the chance to take her to L’Abattoir for a special dinner with our small family a couple weeks ago. I was trying my best to let the conversation flow and not be too intrusive with my picture-taking on this occasion, so I was quick with my iPhone, and thus, all of the pictures are dark and grainy.
When we first arrived, we were seated upstairs at a table and settled in for an evening of mouth-watering treats and friendly service. While we walked in, I took in the bustling crowd (on a Tuesday evening, no less), the brick walls, and the great pendant canning jar lights. It definitely had that great Gastown vibe, and I thought happily about how I had recently moved closer to the neighbourhood and couldn’t wait to try out more restaurants in the area!
We were given a large basket of warm assorted breads right away, including anchovy twists (the saltiness was divine and these won me over very quickly), soft bacon rolls, and crispy flatbread.
Since I was refraining from drinking any alcoholic beverages for the evening (yes, I know it was a bad night for that, based on the cocktails and wine list served there), my mother and I chose to go with a virgin option of whatever the bartender fancied for us. What that turned out being was a passionfruit delight, that took me back to my days in Thailand, drinking the tart fruit smoothies on the beach – they couldn’t have predicted what I would like any better!
My brother had the A Spot of Tea Cocktail, with Beefeater 24 gin, Pimms No.1, English breakfast tea, orange marmalade, Bittermens “Boston Bittahs” and fresh lemon. Someone from Twitter recommended that I try this one out, and so he went for it when I mentioned it. I have to admit that I did have a sip, and really enjoyed the light and refreshing flavours – I could have easily downed a few of them without hesitation, were I partaking in that type of libation that evening. And the presentation! I loved the little teacup, garnished with slices of fresh cucumber.
We all decided to share a few appetizers to start off the meal, and chose three options, followed by our entrees around the table. First of all, we had the Confit of Albacore Tuna, a combination of smoked pork fat, crispy bits, and bread, and of course, tuna. How seductive can you get? Throw in pork (the fat, no less), with a balance of crisp and soft textures and you’ll win me over anytime! This was definitely one of my favourite dishes of the evening – a very promising intro to the rest of the night.
Now for the Pan Fried Veal Sweetbreads on Toast. To be honest, I’m not sure what type of sweetbread this was in particular (from the pancreas or the thymus region), but I did quite enjoy the richness of this dish. Perhaps it was veal tongue, as the current menu suggests (although I’ve heard they do change menu items fairly often). Not for the faint of heart, as one dining companion mentioned. I tend to let my tongue do the thinking when it comes to more interesting items…
The final appy of the evening was the Dungeness Crab and Chickpea Toast, with mayo and topped with chives. Creamy and rich, this dish required a bit of digging in with the forks to divvy up the brioche. Upon first sight, I was expecting it to be a bit over the top, but was pleasantly surprised by the end result.
Now on to our main courses.
My mother and I decided to share the Scallops and Oxtail Dumplings, as we wanted to have room for dessert, and of course I had to try everyone else’s choice as well. I was expecting the dumplings to be larger, and filled with both proteins, but the oxtail alone was within the small crisp shells, with seared scallops taking up the majority of the plate, along with asian pear, baby bok choy, beech mushroom and spiced jus. I wasn’t a huge fan of the dumplings themselves, but enjoyed the seafood and other components of the dish.
My brother went with the Pork Shoulder with turnips, salsa verde, and green broad beans. Beautifully tender, I managed to sneak a few extra bites of the meat and vegetables off his plate.
Our final entree (well, not really ‘our’), was the Roasted Duck with Figs, with beets, croquettes and seared foie gras. I was just about to order this dish myself but decided to change my mind so that we would have the chance to try more variety. I noticed that this isn’t currently on their menu, but it was my favourite mains of the evening, and I hope they bring it back at some point – hopefully next time I return.
Pleasantly satiated, we perused the dessert menu, and picked a couple of items to taste around the table. It was near Canadian Thanksgiving, so it seemed fitting to try the Caramelized Pumpkin Pie, described as a pumpkin spice cake, with caramel and crème fraiche. I thought I would call it more of a tart, based on the texture and appearance, but regardless, none of us were complaining!
Before digging into a couple of decaffeinated apres dinner coffees, we rounded off the meal with another seasonal special that reminded me again of several smoothies I’d had in the past in my travels across Southeast Asia – a Watermelon Mint Fizz. This dessert had a mint sorbet, cubed watermelon in its juices, and garnished with a sprig of mint. Light and refreshing, this would be a great item to bring back in the spring.
Overall, our meal at L’Abattoir was a winner in every way, from the excellent bread assortment, to the fantastic cocktails and wine, and great service from appetizer through to dessert. My mom was quite content with her birthday meal, and we all went home full and satisfied after a fantastic evening. I will definitely be back and suggest that everyone try it. Reservations are recommended, as it does get really busy at prime dinner hours, even during the weekdays.