The cocktail du jour is a beachy elixir of fresh watermelon, pastis and gin with a hint of cherry liqueur. It’s also the perfect way to slide into a meal of rustic yet polished cuisine that geolocates us somewhere between the St. Lawrence River and the Seine.
Well-established in Vancouver with Italian stalwart Ask for Luigi, Quebec-born chef J.C. Poirier uses his open kitchen here to plate favourites from his home province, like cretons and goat-cheese-flecked steak tartare. Seafoam-green and teal-blue walls offset throwback burgundy banquettes, custom millwork inspired by a vintage Québécois armoire and some of the chef’s old family photographs and cookbooks. A fat slice of ham-studded terrine, straight out of la cuisine de grand-mère, arrives prettily topped with a pork consommé and Calvados gelée and framed in pastry, resting on custom-made stoneware plates monogrammed with “STL” and emblazoned with the fleur-de-lys.
A packet of tender parchment-paper-cooked Pacific lingcod is cut open at the table and given a generous pour from a pitcher of herbed butter sauce. To match, we opt for Les Mireilles white Bordeaux, a sauv blanc/semillon blend with the scent of lychees and the taste of wet stones. After sweetbreads with morels and mashed potatoes, as rich and comforting as a bear hug, we’re ready to cry uncle. But there’s that intensely maple-y tarte au sucre calling out to us. So we dig in, as does a Chinese family at a nearby table, while Québécois fiddle music streams through this Japantown former grocery store. Here, comfort food is the lingua franca.