Monday, February 27, 2017

Fez Café Bistro on Robson

I found delicious North African food in a cosy environment with great hospitality right on Robson St. (at Jervis Street) downtown.  I don't know much about Algerian food, but I loved basically all the dishes that I tried here in two recent visits.  When you walk in, everything about Fez Café Bistro is cozy and comforting - the room has big cushioned benches along the side, North African patterns everywhere, tajines and other decorations, and wonderful multi-coloured lights hanging from the ceiling.  You are also greeted with warmth and a little taste of mint tea right away.  It's been chilly and wet outside for both of my visits, and this was a perfect retreat from the weather.

I don't usually go for vegetarian food, but they had a vegan four-course meal (the appetizer course also included several different items - stuffed grape leaves, salad, three dips) that was really delicious, satifying and to me, a great value at about $30.  I'd gladly take vegetarian friends here.

This was a very nice, vegetable soup.

There is a choice of veggie couscous or veggie tagine in this set meal, and I had the couscous.  I was really taken by how buttery and delicious the vegetables were, even though there wouldn't have been any butter in the dish since it's vegan.  You can have a similar set meal with a choice of a number of meat dishes too (listed in the menu for two people or more), or just order à la carte.

This extra sauce is to add to your couscous dish as you go along.  The toppings are already served on top of your couscous so it is nice to be able to add extra sauce to your liking if you don't like your couscous too soggy.  When you order a tajine instead of couscous, you get a side dish of rice separately and the tajine (clay conical vessel, but also the name for the stew) holds your sauce.  I didn't get a good picture, but they bring the tajine with the conical lid to your table, and then take away the top.  

I was even given a choice of dessert at the end, and more tea with the table d'hôte meal.

On my second recent visit, I tried the bouraka beef and it was delicious and quite substantial.

This chicken tajine was ordered by someone else.  I had a taste, but much preferred my choice, shown below, the couscous royale for more flavour and variety.

The couscous is topped with plenty of veggies and chickpeas, a skewer each of beef, chicken, and two merguez sausages ($24).  I think there may have been another skewer of lamb as well, but I can't remember exactly. At any rate, it was a lot of food (I had some for lunch the next day) and all very tasty.  They give you a gravy boat of more tasty vegetable broth/sauce to add as you go along also.

Our large group got these wonderful tiny baklawa (I think) treats compliments of the house. Dates stuffed with marzipan, and beautiful little date and nut cakes with filo pastry layers on the bottom.

This Fez chocolate date cake was really nice, and was my favourite dessert aside from the baklava. 

I have noticed that it's been somewhat quiet on my visits, especially compared to the ramen shop next door which is super busy all the time.  I do enjoy that type of atmosphere because I find quiet restaurants relaxing, but I really hope that they do well enough to survive.  I think a lot of people around this area downtown aren't as familiar with the food of North African countries, but this place makes it really accessible and it's delightful to try something different.  This particular neighbourhood  of downtown is overrun with bustling ramen shops, so I welcome this unique gem.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

El Camino's on Main St. (at 16th Ave.)

A good Tres Leches cake in Vancouver is hard to find.  This one was delicious and the whole restaurant charmed me when I went to their Oscars viewing party.  They have all sorts of Latin American dishes, lots of tequila, and great servers.  Check out their website.