St Lawrence swept up again at this year’s Vancouver Restaurant Awards, taking home “Chef of the Year”, “Restaurant of the Year“, and “Best French“. Nationally, the restaurant’s ranking has jumped to No.5 from last year’s debut at No.20 in Canada’s Best 100, claiming the No.1 spot among all Vancouver restaurants for the very first time.
When it opened less than two years ago, St Lawrence was getting all the buzz, with the Chef-owner Jean-Christophe Poirier already well known for his great success at Ask For Luigi, Pourhouse, and Pizzeria Farina. But this time, it is all about the type of cooking that is closest to the heart, inspired by the chef’s childhood memories in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, and perfected with classic French techniques along the way. It is worth mentioning that Poirier came to Vancouver in 2004 and started at Rob Feenie’s Lumière, a 7-time “Restaurant of Year” winner. And now, it’s Poirier’s own era, with achieving the same title back to back in 2018 and 2019.
The leurs-de-lys filled dining room was chic and cozy as always, and the serving crew tended to the tables in the usual warm and attentive manner. We were assigned to the best seats in the house, the open-kitchen counter. It was truly amazing to watch Chef Poirier working his craftsman movements, demonstrating his precise execution, which is what French cooking all about, regardless of how defined or rustic the dish looks.
To warm up the appetite, the chef offered us an amuse-bouche of the Cretons, a pork spread warmly spiced with clove, nutmeg and cinnamon, complemented by seeded mustard and sweet sourdough country bread. This is the chef’s hometown version of pâté with the right amount of fat and flavours. Cocktails here go well with the starters, especially when the menu emphasizes in French cognac, especially for a rich and savoury serving of the Terrine Du Jour ($18). Both cocktails of the day were brilliant – the La Replique ($15) is great for negroni lovers and the Le the creole ($14) is slightly sweeter and refreshing with the tea aroma. For gin drinkers, the La Feesee ($15) is also a great choice if they enjoy a bit of the herbal aroma from Chartreuse. The list of digestifs and French wines is also extensive. The not-to-be-missed starter here is the Oreilles de Crisse ($12), or the famous pork rinds served in a maple syrup can. It tasted even better today, as the mild spices and the maple flavours were perfectly balanced.
The special of the day, simply called the Pied de Cochon ($40), literally “pig foot” in French, was an enthralling treat for a foodie like me. The amount effort on the dish was incredible, with the pork trotter deboned and partial meat removed, transformed into a terrine-like filing, stuffed back to the trotter, and slow-roasted. The skin was intact but simply fell apart when being cut into it with a fork, what I call a luscious collagen fix. Since it was the only main shared by 2 of us, a piece of Foie Gras ($24) seared to perfection was added to the decadent meat dish. There is so much soul in this dish – the warmth, the richness, and the flavours – simply one of the best French dishes I have ever had.
Sitting by the chef’s counter often helps to discover interesting dishes, especially the visually stunning or the most popular one. The Asperges ($18) is not just gorgeous to look at but also delightfully tasty. I did not regret to end the dinner with it instead of a dessert dish. The dish features in-season asparagus wrapped and cooked in bacon, with half of a soft boiled egg lightly breaded and fried to golden on the side. The other half of the egg is broken and turned into a chunky but soft layer of “mayonnaise”, a brilliant sauce to bind all the savoury flavours together.
There are only a few places in Vancouver I would like to visit regularly or recommend to visitors. St Lawrence is at the top of this list. Sitting at the chef’s counter and Watching chef Poirier helming the kitchen adds a lot of fun to the exquisite dining experience. Don’t forget to call in advance because seats here are booked up fast.
269 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1G3
(604) 620-3800 or stlawrencerestaurant.com