I love it when I unexpectedly stumble upon a great restaurant. Mind you, it doesn't happen that often, but last week after work, I found one that I think is stellar. I've only been once so far, and they mentioned that they were planning on changing their entire menu the next day, so I plan to return and I'll add comments to this post if I find that they took some wrong turns. This restaurant is Italian Garden just a few blocks west of W. Broadway and Macdonald St., between Trutch and Balaclava. As far as I can tell, it's only been open for about four months (could be wrong about this), and they have a nice little patio out front, but I think I've been initially put off by their sign and the name, that is remniscent of Olive Garden. These two things mean that I would never have guessed that this was a fine dining establishment with this caliber of service and chef (and bartender apparently - I will have to try some drinks another time...I think the drinks menu even invited ingredients brought in so that something special could be mixed up). My guess is that the new menu will be aimed at a lower price point for the casual Kits clientele. However, on the day I went, the sandwich board proclaimed simply "Ribeye $12" (and a drink special) to get people in. Didn't seem like it could be true. Ribeye is my favourite, and the menu listed a ribeye main for around $24-28 (can't remember exactly). The waiter (possibly owner) managed my expectations by telling it was a small piece, served with mashed potato and a little salad (love that both servers had Italian accents).
Another good sign of the service is that when I walked in, and asked for a spot for one, the server just said anywhere you like, and indicated the entire empty restaurant. I chose the patio, and realized most of the tables were best for drinks, and spotted a nice big table in the corner, which could have sat 3 or 4, and he had no problem with me taking that perfect spot. On one of the last warm, sunny evenings in Vancouver before the wet and cold fall and winter, it was the best table in the house. Lately, as I've been dining solo at various casual Korean and Japanese spots, I've been directed away from larger tables that I would have prefered, so this was quite refreshing.
The tiramisu was delicioius, and the way I prefer it - with a generous amount of coffee flavour. And after that, I still wanted a little something, but knew that coffee would keep me up too late (and I couldn't drink any more alcohol), so I ordered a cup of tea. Now this place was authentically Italian, so I should have known that was a mistake, but did not think about it. I asked if they had Earl Grey and they did not, which was fine (tea wasn't even on the drink menu, so I was just glad to get some tea). Well, what came out was really lovely. They had the tea brewing properly in a separate teapot, and then they had included several things for me to choose from - a bunch of large mint leaves, several lemon slices, sugar and even a bowl of ice should I want to ice it. The server (possibly owner) came out later to check on me, and noticed that I used the mint and said that he thought I would like it! Authentically charming. I used the mint and the lemon and didn't miss my Earl Grey at all, of course.
I also never felt rushed, and was offered more water at the end as well (and by this time the restaurant was quite busy).
The younger server mentioned that on Wednesdays they have 50% off bottles of wine. I don't know if this will still be true since they are switching menus, and I was unable to find their website (perhaps they are working on it), but I want to check this out. Their wine list was very nicely done too - they laid out all sorts of tasting notes for all the wines. It looks like many people have found this place before me, but the restaurant was probably just finding their footing in their first few months of opening. From my standpoint, I think they are striding along very well now, and wish them much success.