I was shocked to see Café Regalade on Groupon. They’ve been on my radar for some time, have great reviews, and I thought they were doing quite well. Perhaps it’s due to the recent construction along 4th Ave., which is probably hurting all of the businesses in that area? I don’t know, but obviously I jumped at the chance to eat there at a discount.
Café Regalade is a little French bistro in Kitsilano, sister restaurant to West Vancouver’s La Regalade. It is operated by Steeve Rayé, son of Alain Rayé, two-time Michelin star winner, and owner of the West Van location.
The interior is styled much like a quaint French bistro, with red tabletops and curtains, chalkboards listing the day’s specials, and plenty of pig décor throughout.
We were immediately off to a good start. The server noticed me fumbling for my Groupon as I sat down and told me not to worry about it, to just use it as I would a gift certificate. How refreshing to not be made to feel unwanted for using a Groupon. Plus, other than it only being good for dinner, and only before 6:30pm on Saturdays, there were no restrictions.
Service, when there, was terrific – knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. But they were severely understaffed, with only one server for the entire bistro, which meant that service was much too slow. Also, just an observation: when a staff member is visibly sick (coughing, etc.), it’d probably be better if they didn’t interact with customers.
To start, I ordered a kir, a traditional French aperitif of white wine with crème de cassis liqueur. I loved it – bright, acidic wine, punctuated by a slightly sweet yet tart fruity flavour.
For an appetizer, I ordered the smoked herring with potato salad. The presentation was very cute, with the herring served in a sardine can. I’ve never had smoked herring like this before – it reminded me very much of smoked salmon, but more fishy – it was very tasty. I was surprised that the potato salad was served warm! It was delicious with tons of finely minced shallot.
My friend had the French onion soup, which I had to sample even though it wasn’t gluten-free. It was okay, but a little bland. It definitely needed some more seasoning. Also, I believe there was some tomato in there, which isn’t traditional, and I didn’t particularly like. I loved how that gooey, melted Swiss cheese covered the entire soup though.
For the main, I had the gigot, a 7 hour lamb. It was fatty and tender, but the flavours didn’t blow me away.
Same with my friend’s beef bourguignon. It tasted strongly of red wine, but not much else in terms of flavour. I wasn’t impressed by the sauces of either dish.
We both liked the gratin dauphinois, which accompanied both dishes. It was very garlicky, and nicely flavoured with ginger and nutmeg.
For dessert, we shared the floating islands (îles flottantes), soft-poached meringue floating on crème anglaise and drizzled with caramel. The texture of the meringue was awesome – light and fluffy. The sauce was also very good, although with the addition of the caramel (as it’s traditionally served), the dessert was a little too much on the sweet side for me.
The food at Café Regalade was very good, but didn’t exceed my expectations. My appetizer was the highlight of my meal. Service was good – as good as can be, considering they were understaffed. I think I would’ve been more satisfied with the experience if prices were lower – in my opinion, those dishes shouldn’t have crossed over the $20 mark, which starts to exceed the “café” price point. The Groupon obviously helped in that regard.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Café Regalade, but I am still on the hunt for that perfect French bistro experience in Vancouver.