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Truffles take centre stage

HERE'S a tip: go check out West Vancouver's new Truffle House Café. Here's another: don't do it on Sunday at lunchtime.

HERE'S a tip: go check out West Vancouver's new Truffle House Café.

Here's another: don't do it on Sunday at lunchtime.

The sunny little brunch and lunch spot in Dundarave is clearly a hit on the weekends, but the system for seating is among the more disorganized I've seen.

When I arrived at 12: 30 I was told it would be at least half an hour for a table. Which was fine, I was prepared to wait.

So . . . was there a list? No.

"But give me your name," said the server who had met us at the door. "And if you're back here in half an hour, and if there's a table free, I'll set it up for you. There are no guarantees though," she added. "I can't say for sure when people will leave."

I was irritated by this solution, and I'll tell you why. The issue is not about when people will leave; it is about when they arrive. The message to me was essentially "Go away. Perhaps you will have better luck when you come back. Then again, maybe not."

I understand the thinking: "We're small, we're busy and we're full. No further action is needed."

Long-term though, that thinking is flawed. When the restaurant hits its sophomore slump, it will have a hard time winning back customers put off by the aimless, inefficient seating system. Which is a shame, because all it needed in the first place was a list: a piece of paper and pen for taking names. As tables become available they are given to parties in the same order they arrived in. If a party is absent when their name is called, the table is given to the next on the list. Easy peasy.

As for me, I returned 15 minutes earlier than advised, just in time to see another party - who had just arrived - be seated ahead of me.

Eventually though, we managed to score a sunny table in the window, and my mood quickly improved.

The Truffle House and Café takes its name from the prized aromatic fungus that grows underground, mainly in Europe. Sought after in kitchens around the world, both the black and white varieties add a decadent, mushroomy flavour and aroma shaved into dishes like pasta, pizza, salads, or omelets.

Truffles are among the most expensive natural foods in the world, selling for hundreds or thousands of U.S. dollars per pound.

They appear judiciously on the menu at The Truffle House and Café, probably in part because of the cost, and because they have a limited role in dishes like French toast and sweet crêpes.

Nor do they show up in the Swiss rosti breakfast, any of the bennies or the Truffle House Breakfast (two eggs, home-fried potatoes, choice of ham, turkey sausage or bacon, plus toast).

They did, however, generously flavour my wild mushroom truffle omelette, a thick wedge of folded egg, layered luxuriously with mixed mushrooms, black truffle cream and white truffle oil.

Though it wasn't a massive serving, it was super rich and together with the potatoes, sausage and toast, it more than satisfied my craving. Other truffle-friendly options include a savoury crêpe, truffle and celery root quiche, a panini sandwich made with truffle cheese, and a risotto.

None of those options appealed to my dining companions, aged eight and five. Instead, they were thrilled by the sweet crêpes; both the Nutella-and caramelfilled options disappeared from their respective plates in a flash. I like how they are priced individually ($5.50 and $4.90), though $1.25 to add whipped cream to a single, whisper-thin pancake is steep.

Prices in general lean to the high side, but the quality is evident - the menu was created by former Beach House executive chef James Hodgins.

Our bill, which also included a latté, added up to $29.85, including HST.

The Truffle House and Café is located at 2452 Marine Dr., West Vancouver; 604-922-4222; www. trufflehousecafe.com.

dlancaster@nsnews.com