I advise you to run, not walk, to try BLVD Bistro’s newly launched dinner service. The 19+ meal service is most certainly destined to enjoy the same fate as its all-ages daytime counterpart, with fierce competition for tables marking nearly every no-reservations-taken experience.
Queensbury Avenue’s BLVD Bistro is a well-established, wildly popular breakfast and brunch spot that has been turning out excellent and creative fare since its launch back in 2015. In summer of last year, the bistro took over the neighbouring space previously occupied by 4 Cats Arts Studio and renovated, merging the two rooms. Even with more than double the original space, the restaurant still swells to capacity with eager diners.
A solo dinner at the bar on a recent sunny Saturday may have been both the first and last time I saunter into the joint with a reasonable expectation of an immediate seat. BLVD’s dinnertime popularity will have been fairly and legitimately earned, just like it was for the morning menu. Chef and owner Erik Smith’s subtly Latin American inspired menu is full of gems with multi-sensory appeal. A plate of deep golden fried Navajo Fry Bread, for example, with its drizzle of caramelized agave nectar, had a rustic visual appeal, an enticing, almost doughnut-like aroma, and on the palate presented a sophisticated interplay of sweetness and fiery heat from an ancho chili rub and impossibly delicate strands of chilies that resembled saffron in their colour intensity.
Chef Smith was on hand throughout my meal, working the room, engaging with diners about their meals and discussing the finer points of the menu. I overheard him tell a neighbouring table that he was happy with the volume of first–time dinner patrons as he had deliberately launched the new meal service quietly so as to take his time to perfect the details. My apologies, Chef, for letting the cat of the bag so publicly, but I suspect with or without my words, news of your outstanding dinner menu would have drawn crowds soon enough anyway.
The BLVD dinner menu is not broken down into traditional categories like Appetizers and Mains. Rather, it takes the form of a single column with dishes of varying prices ($7 to $22), encouraging diners to sample an assortment of flavours in one sitting. And sample I did. I sipped a pitch-perfect Paloma cocktail (tequila, grapefruit, lime, simple syrup, soda) as I reviewed the menu, settling first on Erik’s Game Terrine, a specialty of the chef consisting of elk, bison, venison, and pork, wrapped and cooked in caul fat, and presented on a board with grainy mustard, cornichons, caramelized onion compote, a handful of greens in a simple vinaigrette, and rounds of toast. The coarsely textured terrine was studded with wild blueberries, adding a fragrant lift to the boldly flavoured meat. The terrine is very much my kind of dish; the intensity of the flavour makes it absolutely clear you’re eating wild game, but there is still a complex sophistication to it all, the first punch on the palate yielding to second and even third tiers of nuanced flavours. I paired the dish with a pint of juicy and hop-forward, deliberately cloudy IPA from Squamish’s Backcountry Brewing.
Next up was a dish of Tuna Tataki featuring eight medallions of bright pink tuna with lightly seared edges set atop mayo infused with semi-spicy togarashi. Dollops of lightly foamed citrus soy butter emulsion flanked the tuna on three sides while a small salad of micro greens provided an anchor at the far end of the plate. Puffed rice and crispy rounds of fried garlic added some additional texture, but the tuna was undoubtedly the star here, its buttery mouthful and pristine freshness exemplifying the very best of this popular Pacific fish. While this dish was the most expensive of my tasting at $18, it was still very reasonably priced relative to its size and exceptional quality.
As I clearly know no shame, I went for a fourth and final dish, one that I enviously watched transported to various other tables throughout my visit. The Pork Belly Al Pastor is cooked sous-vide, allowing the meat to retain its moisture while its fibres break down, leaving an absurdly tender piece of meat. The pork belly is then seared over high heat to give the skin its signature Al Pastor crispiness and colour. A wonderful pickled pineapple and jalapeno salsa-like sauce surrounded the pork, along with acidulated red onions, potent strands of micro cilantro, and a brick-coloured Ranchero sauce with big, brash notes of garlic, chillies, and reduced tomatoes. An earthy, medium bodied Pinot Noir from See Ya Later Ranch was a winning complement to the dish. The Pork Belly is a masterful dish and one I suspect will emerge as the dinner menu’s signature in short order.
Speaking of short order, it is clear that this kitchen hails from a breakfast tradition: you will not wait more than a couple of minutes between dishes. My pacing was leisurely throughout my meal because I was eating slowly and enjoying my libation, but once a plate was cleared, tada! The next plate was right behind it.
I have extolled the virtues of sitting at the bar as a solo diner many times in these pages. It is one of my favourite ways to take in the vibe of a place from a privileged vantage point. In this case, I need to offer an extra special thank you to BLVD’s beverage director (calling her a bartender feels inadequate), Sonja Stewart, who offered exceptional hospitality while tending bar for an endless roll of chits from the printer. We waxed nostalgic over some of Vancouver’s lost jewels (RIP Brass Monkey, Bin 941, Delilah’s, and Crime Lab) and I was steered in the right direction with menu choices and ideal beverage pairings. Do not hesitate to grab a seat at the bar on a busy evening at BLVD for a thoroughly engaged experience.
Dinner is currently served Thursday to Sunday.
BLVD Bistro, 636 Queensbury Avenue, North Vancouver. BLVDBistro.ca. 604-971-5559.