CONTRARY to what some might think, it is not easy or fun to write a review that includes criticism.
It will be followed by emails from those who disagree with my opinion; from those who think I should say nothing if I can't say something nice; and from some who would attack my integrity. (For the record, if you do the latter, I am unlikely to respond.)
But it matters that I tell the truth. If I'm not honest when a meal is less than great, how will you know to trust me when I say it's top notch? And my meal last week at Blue Eyed Marys in West Vancouver was just that: excellent.
After a successful 13-year run on Bowen Island, the eatery's husband-and-wife owners moved operations to West Vancouver. Why did they do it?
"West Vancouver has something Bowen doesn't," joked co-owner Stephen Biddiscombe when we asked him during our dinner service. "More people." So far, the move has proved fortuitous - the neighbours have been packing into the place. My first attempt to visit was thwarted by a lack of available tables, but when we finally landed one it was worth the wait.
Between the stone floors and the unfinished ceiling, the space (formerly Coco Loco Panini Café) is all new. These days, most cafés and restaurants seem to be fitted with sleek wood, glass, and minimalist furniture, so Blue Eyed Marys stands out. The space is posh and pretty: painted eggshell blue, with wallpapered columns, chandeliers, antique furniture and white table linens, it feels straight out of a neighbourhood on Paris's Right Bank.
The menu, created by chef and co-owner Carol Wallace, along with chef Kindy Riley, is focused and thoughtful. Dishes change depending on the season and what ingredients are available.
During our meal, there were just three starters to choose from ($9-$12): squash and apple soup with whisky cream, greens in an apple cider vinaigrette, and a goat cheese tart. The greens - a mix of crisp butter, red and green leaf lettuces - were just coated in the-sweet-tart vinaigrette, studded with creamy blue cheese, and dressed with an addictive walnut blue cheese shortbread. The tart's airy pastry came layered with goat cheese, roasted beets and watercress.
Mains ($22-$28) ran from a vegetarian option of eggplant fritters with almond pilaf, to sablefish and bison steak. There were just five of them, and it suited me fine. I would much rather see a tight menu of well-executed dishes than a long, haphazard list of meals that fall short. My slow-roasted pork was like autumn on a plate: a tone-perfect arrangement of beautifully juicy pork, roasted root vegetables and grapes drizzled in jus.
Bison flat iron steak was a revelation - deeply flavoured and tender, sided by a horseradish-pancetta griddle cake and laced with a shallot reduction. The wine list is similarly concise, with unique bottles from around B.C., including the Herder Meritage from the Similkameen Valley we tried with our meal.
Though we hardly had room for it, we finished with a real find: a luscious apple tart that vaulted beyond ordinary with cheddar ice cream and gewurztraminer treacle. Sound like a strange flavour combination? Not at all, said Biddiscombe: "Apple pie without cheese is like a hug without the squeeze."
Indeed. And it was a perfect way to wrap up a delicious meal. Our dinner for two, which included two glasses of wine and an Americano, added up to $119.28, including HST.
Blue Eyed Marys, 1735 Marine Dr., West Vancouver, is open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Call 604921-2583 for reservations, or visit blueeyedmarys.com.