Cassis - Downtown Not-So-Comfortable Comfort Food
There's been a lot of attention on this little restaurant since it opened last year, and Cassis
definitely had the feel of the latest hip, new thing, when we walked into the room on a Wednesday night. Inside me is a natural tendency to shy away from anything too mainstream, so that feel, while highly desirable for a restauranteur, is not exactly what I find welcoming. Stepping in from a chilly, unattractive Pender Street into the room all a-buzz with stylishly dressed, twenty-somethings with excess disposable income wearing lots of black and artsy oval rims was a bit of a surprise for me anyway, as I had only heard that there was French comfort food like coq au vin and daube de boeuf for under $10, and pictured something with a home-y kind of charm. I do have a penchant for modern decor and minimalist lines, and have to admit that their salt and pepper (and white pepper) service was very cute (what can I say? I like tiny spoons), as was all of their china. Anyway, style is great, as long as you have the food to back it up...
Unfortunately, I'm not sure that the food nor the style quite measured up for me. Now, if I was a professional reviewer in a major newspaper, I would be visiting each restaurant at least twice (on an expense account), before settling down on an opinion, and there's a lot to be said for having an understanding about how your particular state of mind is affecting your perception of everything around you. So does a lot of hype before the event. The night that I visited Cassis, I do think I was feeling a bit off. As an example, I ordered a mango daiquiri off their drink menu (yay, girly drinks!) and was anticipating an intense glass of mango puree goodness. I received a beautiful glass garnished very smartly with a paper thin slice of dried pineapple. I was excited because I usually associate that level of style to places that go to as much trouble to get outstanding flavour but when I tasted it, I couldn't taste much at all. In fact, there was so little fruit taste, I thought that the waitress had simply mixed up my order, and brought me a pineapple daiquiri (my clue being the garnish), though it didn't really taste like pineapple either. (They did replace my drink nicely, suggesting I choose the strawberry as they use fruit puree for that, instead of juice). My expectations for this place were so high, that I thought that my taste was dulled - I had my charming foodie dining companion taste and confirm. But later, I was drinking my water (just tap water), and it had an unpleasant overchlorinated taste to it! So for me, the WATER had a stronger taste than their mango daiquiri! Just a side note, I am never that sensitive to the taste of water, and in fact am a big proponent of drinking Vancouver tap water rather than creating more plastic waste in our landfills by drinking bottled water. I normally love tap water. I'm also not one who sends back food comfortably. It takes a lot for me to go to the trouble to do that. And in this case, I would have asked about that drink whether I received it here or at say, White Spot - it was really tasteless. Anyway, the point of all this is to illustrate that my level of expectation was high, based on the visuals and hype, resulting in an overall disappointment with the experience. But that's not to say that anything at this restaurant was ghastly inedible or unpleasant, but just that it doesn't quite make my list of places I'd return to. I still had a great time trying something new, with wonderful company. I've tried to break down the components that I didn't like in some detail, because I know that a lot of people would go to this restaurant and absolutely love it. And that's the great thing about Vancouver - there are so many choices for all of those different tastes out there.
First off, I'm still impressed that servers can remember all their orders without writing anything down. However, if you can't do this, then just go ahead and bring a pad of paper, rather than having to check back and ask again. We started with the goats cheese fondue for two, which was served with grapes and hard, toasted spears of bread. The cheese was fine, but the bread was too dry and not tasty, so I'd have to say it didn't measure up. Any dish that only comprises of three simple ingredients should really have three outstanding choices for it to be a winning dish.
We also had the soup special, a beet and sweet potato soup which was the best part of the meal, and was quite delightful.
I ordered the coq au vin, and it really was quite tasty, with tender chicken and good flavour. It had bits of saltiness in it (pancetta), and a nice rich sauce. It came in a charming French soup bowl on a platter, with a cute spoon of mustard, and some toasted baguettes. Fresh baguette slices were also served with dinner. The thing is, it was charming because it was cutesy, in the same way a toy tea set is cute and charming. But it's a stew! And I found the rim of the bowls got in my way. I wanted to see my food, and dip my bread at the end, and I wanted it to be more...well, just more. I realize that North American serving sizes are bloated and unnecessarily big, and really, this is French cuisine, so it is appropriate that the serving sizes would be closer to that in France, but I just wanted a little more. My companion enjoyed his bouillabaise, but I found it to be a bit "fishy" tasting, and was glad I hadn't ordered it. There is a list of side vegetables and cassoulet, so I guess that one should really order a couple of those as well to make a meal there. I hadn't really noticed them on the menu when we were there. We opted to skip dessert, not because we couldn't fit it in, but because I thought we had a good chance of being able to do it better elsewhere. Maybe I'll come back one day for lunch.
At the end I noticed that they were projecting some images on one of the walls up high, and it just gave me the feeling that they were just trying to too hard to be arty. Perhaps this is the equivalent of the Westernized Chinese food phenomenon. Uninitiated North Americans often expect Chinese restaurants to be casual, and French restaurants to be fancy, while in actuality, Chinese food can reach a high level of sophistication, and French food can be rustic and comfortable. I'm waiting for a hole-in-the-wall French restaurant. In the mean time, here are a couple of recommendations that are completely different concepts, but are both equally successful in what they are trying to do. L'Emotion
in North Vancouver is a lovely, fancy dinner type place with French cuisine, and a French country charm. The food, however, is elegant and impressive, as is the service. Burgoo
, in Kitsilano, is the epitomy of rustic charm. Almost everything there is big - big chairs, big tables, big bowls of stew, big fondues. Except their flavours. Not so big, not so strong, and to be fair, the Cassis coq au vin was much more complex in flavour. But the stews are still tasty enough, and the place is warm and consistantly satisfying on many levels.
El Caravan Lunch Buffet - Downtown Comfort Food
El Caravan El Caravan
(809 Seymour, at Robson) is an amazing downtown lunch find, thanks to my close friend and longtime fellow foodie, Bacon-Eating Baker Girl (otherwise known as Bac'n Girl, for short). Remember this place if you're walking around downtown between 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, especially if it's raining and you're looking for warmth and sustenance. For $8.95, we had unlimited access to their tasty array of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. The highlight for me, oddly enough, was their yummy pita chips, which I dipped in their red "secret recipe spicy dip", and hummus. But there were all sorts of goodies like vegetarian moussaka, oven-roasted chicken, a lamb stew with lots of peas, a tasty lentil soup (I didn't even think I liked lentil soup, but apparently I do), couscous, Lebanese-style plain rice, various salads (Greek, potato, bean), oranges, and pickles. This all made for a very satisfying lunch in a quiet, pleasant room. The a la carte menu is available as well, but the lunch buffet is really worthwhile. I like their sign above the bar that says that everything they make is made with love. In my book, this is definitely comfort food.
Made With Love
Buffet - Salads
Wolf and Hound, on Broadway near Alma
The Wolf and Hound
is warm and friendly! This is the kind of place I wish was two blocks away from my home, so that I could make it my neighbourhood watering hole. There were two guys with guitars in the corner doing a great job of covers that night (I loved their "folkified" Purple Rain!), lots of couches and padded benches, cleanliness, low ceilings, all creating a great inviting pub atmosphere for me. Also, a beer list, a nice plate of nachos, and a list of specialty coffees made me happy. I went on a Thursday night, and it was perfectly full - enough people to create a good vibe, but not too many that anyone couldn't get a nice table right away. The crowd was pleasantly mixed (I like it when there's other old people around), though there were plenty of the UBC student types that I was expecting. There's even a resident dog that briefly walked through. Note that this recommendation is coming from someone who doesn't go to pubs in Vancouver very often, and I rarely like them as much as I liked this one. I do love the idea of pubs, and used to live in a town where the bars and pubs were a huge part of the culture, and there were plenty of fun places to sit and have a beer and a good conversation. I know, saying this will probably unleash a wild pack of barking pub-recommending comments. Tell me your favourite Vancouver pubs. Oh, that reminds me, my Dad said that he heard there was going to be a dog restaurant opening up locally. I assume he meant a restaurant that you can bring your dog, and the dog gets served too (not where they, um, SERVE dog). Anyone know more?
Naturally, foodies tend to like cool kitchen equipment, so here's a look at some fun toasters.
Here's a slide through toaster
for people like me who are always tempted to jam a metal butter knife into the toaster to fish out stuck toast.
A variety of fancy toasters
. My pick is the Mickey Mouse musical toasters
which play the Mickey Mouse Club March when your toast pops up.
I really want an Amityville Toaster
! See if you want one too. But if you get one, listen to Foamy, the squirrel, and don't try waffles...
Or maybe this is even creepier - burn an image of Hello Kitty
onto your toast.
Maybe the first toasters ever were the coolest of them all. Check out this toaster museum site for the history of the toaster
Okada Sushi, Downtown
I've heard that there are about 400 sushi places in Greater Vancouver. I don't know if this is an accurate or current number, but suffice it to say there are plenty. Obviously, some (sadly, only a small proportion) will be better than others, and I think I've found another of the really good ones. Okada Sushi
(M101 - 888 Nelson St, at Hornby) is on the third level of this building, above Relish, and next to a really cool multi-level fountain. Because it's up high, it's easy to miss this one walking past it. I found it through a post on VanEats
(a great Vancouver food website) about a worldwide sushi listing
. At this first visit, I only tried a few simple items, but from those, I definitely decided that this restaurant is a keeper. I had the chirashi sushi ($13.50), which was a beautiful assortment of sashimi served on rice with some little extra bits like mushroom and lotus root. We also had some wonderfully fresh salmon sashimi ($11.95, 8 pieces), and the very nicely executed agedashidofu ($3.95). The room is pleasant, small, quiet, and it felt like it was filled with people who know their Japanese food. We didn't have any trouble snagging a table for two without a reservation though, even on a Saturday night. They have tanks of live lobsters and crabs, and have a daily special sheet, so although we chose some basic items this time for a quick meal, I could see that this would be a fun place to splurge, and really have a grand meal. Service was quick and hospitable, but I always seem to find the service in Japanese restaurants hospitable. I'm not sure what it would take to get a (Vancouver sushi restaurant) Japanese waitress to be snarky to a customer, if it's even possible. The sushi here was better than Kitto, on Granville, which is another Japanese restaurant close by, that I like for a cheap, quick bite. The atmosphere at Okada allows for a nice, relaxing conversation over dinner.
I was given the fun gift of cooking class certificates from the Cookshop
a while back. When I take the classes, I'll blog them of course! In the meantime, anyone ever taken classes there? Any recommendations for particular classes/presenters?
Salad of Duck Confit, Endive, Roasted Beets, Walnuts, and Roquefort
Fillet of Halibut Wrapped in Parma Ham, Wild Mushrooms, Spring Vegetables, Roast Chicken Jus
Proscuitto di Parma, Arugula, and Fennel Salad, Blood Oranges, Pietra Pinta Olive Oil
Seared Alaskan Scallops, Shrimp, Spinach and Corn Risottto, Tomato and Garlic Butter Jus
Caramel Trio of Dulce de Leche, Honeycomb Parfait, and Crème Caramel
I was completely charmed by this restaurant. The whole restaurant has this great tucked-away feeling (being in a quiet residential area in the West End near Stanley Park, hence “Parkside
”). Just perfect for an intimate dinner to talk the night away, the room is elegantly casual, and the service was special. It was fairly empty when we went, on a Monday night, but I get the feeling that their service is always up to snuff. There were nice touches to the service, like when we ordered coffee and tea with dessert, they automatically brought both cream for the coffee as well as milk for the tea. I should say that I went in wanting to love this place since we went for a birthday dinner, and chose from a big list of nice restaurants that we have both wanted to try. I was not disappointed. I think the menu
is priced very reasonably for this level of dining, with the three course dinner for $40. Dishes can be ordered a la carte as well ($10 first course, $24 main course, $8 dessert), with additional cost for cheese course and for the rack of lamb main.
The cooking is described as classically grounded, using fresh local ingredients. The menu included traditional dishes from various countries, so that when I quickly browsed the internet for these dishes, it was like taking a mini culinary class on international foods. Again, I find that absolutely charming. I learned about vitello tonnato
(thinly sliced veal with a tuna “mayonnaise” on top, from Italy), pithivier
(puff pastry dessert traditionally filled with an almond cream, named for the town of Pithiviers, from France), and dulce de leche
(“milk jam” from Argentina, a dessert or spread made from caramelizing sugar in milk).
We started with a couple of very pleasing cocktails from their fun list
, the El Cid, and the Dark and Stormy. For the first course, I chose the salad of duck confit, endive, roasted beets, and walnuts. My dining companion chose Roquefort and Prosciutto di Parma, arugula and fennel salad, with blood oranges, Pietra Pinto olive oil. Both combinations worked wonderfully, and made for a very satisfying start to the meal. The poppy seed bread they served that night was wonderful too.
For my main, I had the fillet of halibut, wrapped in Parma ham, wild mushrooms, spring vegetables, and roast chicken jus. The vegetables, sitting in roast chicken jus, were beautiful, including morels, baby asparagus, pearl onions, root vegetable cubes, baby carrots, and other wild mushrooms. I definitely enjoyed the dish. However, I probably wouldn’t choose this one next time. I think I gravitated to this dish because I hadn’t ever had halibut wrapped in Parma ham and served with chicken jus before, but in the end, I found the combination to be a little too much for the fish, and a bit too salty for my taste. I think my companion’s dish of seared Alaskan scallops, shrimp, spinach and corn risotto, tomato and garlic butter jus worked better. That tomato and garlic butter sauce was lovely.
The desserts were beautiful. I chose the absolutely adorable caramel trio of dulce de leche, honeycomb parfait, and crème caramel. I could have had a big bowl of that honeycomb parfait, with its smooth creaminess and bits of crunch. I loved the smooth textures of all three, and enjoyed the beautiful presentation and garnishing (like the macerated raisins on the crème caramel). The chocolate pithiviers, espresso cream, Viarhona chocolate ice cream made me change my mind about puff pastry (which I tended to shy away from in the past, thinking of dry versions that are like eating a paperback). The dessert has a warm gooey chocolately centre, wrapped in a nice dome of pastry. Even the little biscotti served with the coffee and tea were really tasty and charming. I almost feel like I should put a spoiler alert in these posts for things like that, because those little extra touches, like serving a biscotti with your coffee, are best as surprises, that show off the restaurant’s particular attention to detail, and that make the meal feel extra special.
My only regret is that I didn’t take a peek at their patio, which is supposed to be really nice in the summer. I guess I’ll just have to go back when the weather warms up!
Confessions of a Chinese Canadian Foodie
Since I feel so close to all you Nancylanders out there, I think it's time to get something off my chest. I just realized that I've been regularly eating sweet and sour pork! With chicken chow mein, even! This confession is for all of you white guys (friends, as well as strangers) that I've made fun of in the past, when ordering or eating sweet and sour pork instead of ordering something more "authentic" at a Chinese restaurant. That's right. I've started a sweet and sour habit. And I'm not proud of it. There's this great old-time, hole-in-the-wall diner in New Westminster (634 Columbia St. a few blocks east of the Quay) called the Royal City Cafe
that I go to regularly (one of the waitresses is always trying to anticipate what I'm going to order). They do all sorts of diner-type food reliably - burgers, fries, sandwiches, etc. and they also do Chinese food. It's tasty and consistant. They don't have a huge variety of Chinese dishes available, and so the sweet and sour pork as one of the lunch combo choices is ever so tempting. At least I haven't gone as far as ordering chicken balls, but then again, that may be just because it's not on their menu. I'm Chinese, I swear! Go ahead, someone shoot me if I start absent-mindedly pouring soy sauce all over my rice...
Ha Gow (naked) pencil sketch
I found this interesting discussion
of the role of a critic and a reviewer. Based on their use of the terminology, I guess I am endeavoring to be a restaurant reviewer, rather than a critic - I have little formal training in food, and don't believe that this is important to producing articles of interest to other people who just want to hear about others experiences before deciding to spend their money at a particular establishment. I've always believed a passion in any topic (and therefore the motivation to research and explore a field on one's one) is of utmost value. Another thing the article talks about is the power of a negative review on a restaurant. I am actually a fan of scathing, sarcastic reviews - they're fun! - but I'm generally inclined to be more excited about a good restaurant discovery, and promoting something that I want to last. The bad ones, in the Vancouver market, should crumble soon enough all on their own.
Thousand Year Old Egg - A Fear Factor Challenge I Can Do
I was flipping channels (all four of them), and I just saw someone on Fear Factor be forced to eat a "hundred year old egg"! Also known as Thousand Year Old Egg and Century Egg...but it's just a name. It's preserved duck egg, and it doesn't take a hundred years, just a hundred days, max! Um...hello, people...Chinese people eat them because we LIKE them. It's in my favourite congee, with julienned pork. It's not that big a deal! This is the quote: "That was disgusting! You can really taste it all when you're chewing it up!" The guy looked like he was going to puke. Bah, stupid show. They're good! And I've even once converted a Caucasian guy - he was initially repulsed by them (probably to do with knowing that it used to be a normal egg, that has turned a very dark green colour with weird gelatinous parts
) and now he loves them (in congee). So if you don't like it at first, perhaps give it another try. Go to a Hon's
, and order the congee for a nice, warm lunch item on a cold day. (Please note that this post is not an endorsement of the Fear Factor show in any way. I tend not to watch it because it often promotes cruelty to bugs).
Best Blog Post in the World! ...About Cheesecake...In Vancouver...Written Tonight
I love walking through the city on a clear day, discovering shops and cafes. So I was walking through downtown after work, when I saw a white sandwich board with big, black, blocky letters simply proclaiming "Best Cheesecake in Vancouver
." I was sucked in with one of the oldest and most annoying marketing tricks around. Not so much by being fooled into thinking that this here is indeed the best cheesecake in town, since it says so (literally) in black and white right in front. No...it's more of a "geez, they have some gall to say that outright. I bet they're wrong. I'm going to try some, and prove them wrong, and then blab (blog) it all over the place!" kind of thought. Still, I admit it, I was sucked in. So whatever way you look at it, that sandwich board is effective. This sign was in front of Trees Organic Coffee
(450 Granville at Hastings), a place well-known amongst those seeking free WiFi internet and coffee downtown. This was my first time though, and I like the idea of organic and fair trade coffee. It also looks quite nice and cozy, as well as having a nice little patio area out front. I ordered a banana cheesecake, and I mentally prepared myself for disappointment.
Just so you understand where I'm coming from, I love cheesecake. I go to Cheesecake, etc.
fairly often, and have generally considered that to be the best I can get in Vancouver, aside from my own homemade ones of course (for example, I do a blueberry-lemon
one during blueberry season that I think about fondly the rest of the year). Cheesecake, Etc. (on South Granville, near the bridge to downtown) does these wonderfully fluffy, cloud-like cheesecakes, that are only slightly less than ideal (in my opinion) because of the lack of crust. I really like a graham cracker crust. Anyway, back to Trees' banana cheesecake - it was really very nice, at least to start with. It was a very generous slice that really should have been shared with another person, so by the time I got near the end, I was getting a bit of a C.O.D (cheesecake overdose). It was smooth and creamy, and nicely banana-y. My second favourite type of pie is banana cream pie (love that banana goo) and this was like the offspring of a banana cream pie and plain cheesecake cross. AND it had a graham cracker crust. I didn't wind up finishing the slice, and it was VERY sweet, so it might not be for everyone, but it did make a nice first impression on me. At least enough for me to relinquish any plans to vandalize their sandwich board...but then again, food usually appeases my destructive tendencies. In the end though, I'm more likely to urge you to have a slice at Cheesecake, etc. if you haven't had one before. Plus, it's a late-night kind of place, which is usually when my cheesecake needs arise. But I can definitely see myself stopping into Trees for coffee if I'm in the area in the daytime. Tonight they closed at 8 pm. Other desserts, as well as blueberry, raspberry and chocolate cheesecake were available too.
By the way, here's another fun discovery I made this evening: I found food-related novelty items (I won't specify, in case you know me, and get presents from me) in a cute, kitschy, little store called Funhauser Decor
, in Chinatown (35 East Pender St., across and down a block from Tinseltown) a couple of doors away from a big Ming Wo (also fun to browse).
One last note about Cheesecake, etc.: it's a lovely place for a first date with someone who likes cheesecake (that's important to find out, btw. For goodness sakes, do NOT bring someone who can't eat or doesn't like cheesecake to a place called Cheesecake, etc.), since it's nice and dark, candle-lit (read: flattering lighting), and you can hang around and talk for a long while if things are going well, because you generally get ignored by the staff anyway, or you can bolt right away if things aren't since there's nothing there but beverages and cheesecake (and because you generally get ignored by the staff anyway... so it actually takes an effort to get another drink). Plus, even if it doesn't go well, at least you get to eat some nice cheesecake!
Kikkoman Soy Sauce Rocks!
Or at least their advertising does! A friend send me this fantastic ad
. By the way, if people who love all things about the U.K. are anglophiles, is there an equivalent term for people like me who love Japanese culture?
Come to think of it, this idea of having food products for the head of superheroes has always appealed to me. My favourite super hero of all time is Ampan Man
, whose head is a sweet bean paste-stuffed pastry. I saw one episode in Japan where there was a little boy standing outside crying. Ampan Man swooped down (he flies), and asked what was wrong. The boy was hungry! Ampan Man bent down, and offered his head. The boy bit into it. And Ampan Man can regenerate his pastry head! His evil villain is a mold or bacillus (which should strike fear in any bread product), and he has other baked-good-head friends.
Perhaps this is an influence for Too Much Coffee Man
and one of his sidekicks, White Chocolate Almond Bark Woman, who has to deal with her crime-fighting companions begging to eat a bit of her when they are looking for a snack. I'm sure that Ampan Man is an influence on my Ha Gow character. He will probably have more dim sum friends too, but I'm still working on making the braised chicken foot character cute...
Tasty Tune - John Lee Supertaster
Sorry folks, experiencing technical difficulties with the song link in the previous post. The song is from They Might Be Giant's
all ages album, "No!"
. (small clip of the song is available on this website). This song is about a superhero with what I think is a fantastic superpower. Hope to get the link working soon, but in the meantime, here are the lyrics:
John Lee Supertaster
Nothing tastes the same to a Supertaster!
When he tastes a pear it's like a hundred pears!
He's got superpowers!
He is a Supertaster!
Every flavor explodes!
Explodes and explodes!
John Lee Supertaster tastes more than we do
Everything has a flavor some flavors are too much
Can't shut his mouth 'cause he's a Supertaster!
Though he looks like a man he is a Supertaster!
Can't drink coffee or beer 'cause he's a Supertaster!
He loves ice cream and pie!
He is a Supertaster!
John Lee Supertaster tastes more than we know
Everything has a flavor some flavors must go
Citizens of Nancyland, Unite!
The two comments on my Chinese buffet post about wanting to check out Urban Buffet soon got me thinking that maybe I should organize a meet in the near future, to cultivate the Nancyland community (while the site is still circulating around mainly friends and friends of friends...y'know, before the whole world domination thing...or at least before creepy people find my site). That then got me thinking, what should we call ourselves? Nancylandites? Nancylandians? I looked up Icelandic people, and they are Icelanders. So to follow suit, the correct term might be Nancylanders. My main influence for the site name was Disneyland (Nancyland is the happiest place on virtual earth), but no one actually lives there, except for all the characters, of course. Walt was rumoured to have an apartment in the castle, or somewhere else on site, but I don't think even he ever lived there. So that doesn't help. If you have any ideas about that (I'm personally leaning towards Nancylanders), or if you think a meet at Urban Buffet is something you'd go to, comment away! Caveat: I don't actually think THAT highly of the food at Urban Buffet (so don't go in expecting greatness, people). But it is a really convenient meeting place for a large group due to the serve-yourself nature of the food (so we wouldn't even need to wait for everyone before eating), the large open space with plenty of tables that can easily be pushed together at the last moment (they always seem to have lots of tables available), the downtown location, and the fact that everyone just pays for themselves at the cash register before they leave. If we had a meet, it would be by informal RSVP (you email me with a "I might be there" or "I will probably be there") and I would wear something distinctive so that everyone can find me, and maybe we'd have some sort of secret dress code item so that we could recognize each other (something everyone can find easily, like a string tied around our wrists?). Hmmmm, it's starting to sound like a cult, isn't it?... Maybe this whole web"master" thing is going to my head...(mwha ha hahahahahaha). Should I design a flag for Nancyland too? What do you think should be on it?
Lunch at Lupo
Veggie Panino with Cream of Mushroom Soup
Here's another blurry photo of food. I had quite a nice lunch special ($8.95) at the Lupo Cafe at the corner of Georgia at Burrard, which replaced Cichetti. Everything here is very attractive - the room, the food (notice the cute sauce garnish on my mushroom soup, and the little paper doilies), the flower arrangements, the big coffee cups, the people at my table (sorry, we probably won't be there when you go, but check out those nice coffee cups). I just found out too that it's run by the Villa del Lupo people. Nice service, too - they misunderstood which dessert I ordered, and very graciously replaced it (after having gone to the trouble of heating it up and all). And yes, that soup was not only stylish, it was tasty too.
Chocolate & Zucchini