There was never a restaurant which I enjoyed so much that I had to book the next visit right the way, well, not until I had my first meal at St Lawrence.
I am sitting with Sherman and Maggi, who are among the most active food bloggers, as well as Kristina, who has retired from writing but definitely still has quite the opinions for food. We are excited. This is the most participated restaurant of the year, a clean sweep of every critic’s best new restaurant in the city, and the biggest winner at the Vancouver Restaurant Awards in 2018, including “Best New Restaurant”, “Best French” (2nd place), and “Restaurant of the Year”.
The menu here is created by chef Jean-Christophe Poirier, who has turned his childhood memories of home cooking from the small French Canadian town, into the comforting dishes in a more refined manner. This is a very well-respected chef and restaurateur who also owns Ask for Luigi, Pourhouse, Di Beppe, Pizzeria Farina, and Joe Pizza. It certainly means a lot when he has announced to settle down on the cuisine he loves the most before he retires from professional cooking.
We are warned about the amount of rich meat sauce, pastry, butter, and cream used in the cooking. This is quite the gutsy move in a city where there is so much Asian Pacific influence in the restaurant scene. Yes, you might find Albacore Crudo with Dashi at L’Abbatoire or Lobster Tempura at Le Crocodile, but there is no compromise here at St Lawrence. The concept is entirely Quebecois or French.
As usual, I start with a cocktail. The Le Bijoux ($15) is one of the two gin cocktails on the menu, which I enjoyed for the balance and complexity. The cocktail menu also features a few cognac-based cocktails with the option of using Remy VSOP.
The Cretons arrives first as the complimentary amuse-bouche provided at every table. The fatty pork spread is served with seeded mustard and hearty country sourdough bread. I taste various spices in the spread such as nutmeg and cinnamon. Quite the quirky flavours to start a meal!
The Oreilles de Crisse is one of the most talked about dishes here. The fried pork rinds with maple syrup & spice are served in a maple syrup can. The amount of savory seasoning is perfectly balanced with the hint of maple syrup on the crunchy bits. This is dangerously addictive!
With not a lot of fish or seafood dishes on the menu, the Quenelle de Poisson stands out as a lighter first-course dish with an egg-shaped fish ball served in a creamy lobster veloute, with a fluffy biscuit and a few buttery shrimps on the side. For appetizers, we also shared the Beef Tartare and the Terrine du Jour (with chicken and duck) – both French bistro classics, with the chef’s own fun twists, such as the truffle flavor in the tartare and the pistachio in the terrine. The terrine is one of the best I have tasted over the years.
Onto the main plates, this amazing journey of French Candian soul food brought us down the chef’s memory lane. Imagine the best memories of family cooking from his childhood combining the years of accumulated knowledge and experience, comfort food has never been prepared at such a refined level.
The daily feature, the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads, is prepared with red wine & truffle sauce, and stacked with onion ring, chanterelles, and corn, offering easily the best piece sweetbread that I have eaten with that incredible crispy golden exterior. The popular and formidable Côte de Porc is perfectly cooked through whilst juicy and succulent, complemented with a decadent bed of pomme puree with fromage Oka & the sauce charcutière, the essence from reducing the jus and red wine and whipping in the gosh-knows-how-much amount of luscious butter. The Tourtière de Ville au Cerf highlights the French Canadian pride – the venison meat pie showcased how luxurious it is to consume bold flavour wild game though an incredibly flaky pastry crust, along with house made ketchup on the side. If you still don’t feel enough of the comfort, the Steak St. Lawrence comes to the feast, wowing you with the medium-rare hanger steak, with bone marrow, sauce aux poivres and frites on the side.
If you feel guilty having indulged yourself with too much meat, you could consider getting the Ratatouille. There are no visual tricks in this dish like the how they show in the Disney movie. It is all good old roasted veggies with a lovely amount of herbs and spices like how they do it in the French Canadian countryside.
I was pretty full when the desserts came. I found the Riz au Lait Façon L’ami Jean, rice pudding with salted caramel, and the Tarte au Sucre, sugar pie & vanilla cream, far from the petite slices of typical sexy French sweets, although interesting, way too heavy after such a rich and comforting meal. But I wound my love in the cute cocktail of day garnished with watermelon.
2nd visit within one week
It was such an incredible meal for us, and I didn’t hesitate to book another table for the welcoming dinner for my friend Will visiting from San Francisco. It was the same company who tried to show Will “the best restaurant” and we ended going to Hawksworth. But I was pretty sure this time that St Lawrence would make an excellent choice to represent the best of the city this time.
And I am back!
My friends and my guest were all impressed by the food and the ambiance of the restaurant. This time we tried the Langue de Bison, slices of bison tongue served creamy potatoes, the Truite Amandine, fillet of trout served with haricots verts and beurre noisette, the Agneau, braised Lamb on a small bed of vegetables and classic French beans. They are actually on the light side among the list of comfort food dishes because of all the fresh vibrant vegetables on the side.
But Will and I decided to go for the Daily Special, the Cournouaille, stuffed Cornish hen with sweet bread, served with gnocchi and morels. This is where all the money is on, folks. Every single component on this dish is perfectly prepared and incredibly flavourful, and somehow it woke up my fun memories cooking The French Laundry Cookbook.
For me, St Lawrence represent the the best of Vancouver at the moment – the food, the ambiance, and the service, all together as the perfect dining experience. When Vancouver is known as West Coast cooking with farm-to-table ingredients and the Asian pacific influence, a meat-and-butter centric concept is rather refreshing. As I mentioned before, it is always great to be trendy and innovative, keeping the eyes busy and the intellect boosted, but the classics will always be around, as reaching to he heart is far more important when it comes down to great food. The dishes at St. Lawrence, at many level, have touched many hearts with the impeccable flavours and comfort.
269 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1G3
(604) 620-3800 or stlawrencerestaurant.com