The media loves corruption, wrongdoing and flat-out failure. Headlines such as the Vancouver Sun’s “Ethnic vote report finds serious misuse of B.C. government resources” engage the reader much more than, say, this: “Top five things federal government got right.” (Okay, so I made that last one up, but you get the picture.)
The same principles apply when writing a restaurant review. Failure writes itself. A tasty morsel of food in a relaxing environment requires a bit more wordplay. I’m not complaining, though. I enjoyed an excellent lunch at Relish Food & Coffee. So what if this article took a few extra minutes to write?
Open only for breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Saturdays, the limited hours create a sense of exclusivity. The petite menu, with a mere five entrées and four sandwiches, written solely on a chalkboard above the counter, strengthens the trendy vibe. Haven’t you heard? Only the latest and greatest restaurants offer chalkboard menus, and this one is ever-changing, so you might not find the same dishes or ingredients as I did.
I enjoyed the porchetta sandwich, a house-made focaccia bun filled with slow-roasted pork belly and shoulder, apple slaw and salsa verde ($9), with a cup of carrot ginger soup ($4.50). My friend ordered the crispy smoked chicken, served in a rice bowl with roasted cauliflower, cilantro, cucumber and pickled carrot and fennel ($12.50).
The sandwich can hardly be called just a sandwich — more a vessel for the moistest pork I’ve eaten recently. The slaw harmonized with the protein thanks to hints of sweetness, and the salsa made each bite slightly citrusy. I’m smitten and would devour it again. Freshly grated ginger elevated the lowly carrot to an epicurean level. If only licking the bowl were socially acceptable.
The smoked chicken went over well at our table and at most others. I noticed the vast majority of plates leaving the kitchen were this dish. One possible reason? EAT Magazine recently awarded Relish “Dish of the Year” for the restaurant’s smoked chicken. A well-deserved win, I’d say.
The smoke is noticeable, but never overwhelms. A light vinaigrette with notes of chili and rice wine vinegar unite the bird with the warm rice and vegetables. I have a feeling even non-cauliflower eaters would fare well with the dish.
The decor is a somewhat typical offering for #yyj. Not one, but two brick walls, local art and a clear view into the kitchen. I tip my hat to the music, a playlist of my favourite artists, including Ben Gibbard and Tennis.
Overall, Relish is a must-visit. Sorry, no negative headlines this week. I’ll leave those to the politicians.
P.S. The orange hazelnut brownie ($4) is perfect for sharing — think ganache icing, whole roasted hazelnuts and dense, dark chocolate batter without the sugar rush.