Cardero’s confirms my theory that you can’t go wrong with a restaurant that’s on stilts. This Restaurant & Marine Pub is upscale yet chill, with a tasty selection of dishes that are high quality yet reasonably affordable. It’s perched on the aforementioned stilts over the waters of Coal Harbour, nestled in the marina next to all the gorgeous yachts and glistening condos.The funky architecture of this cool looking restaurant definitely stands out.
Cardero’s basically has three main areas: 1) the patio (my favourite), 2) the restaurant, and 3) the pub. The pub is more casual and has live music (Sundays through Thursdays, from 9pm). If you have to wait for a table, they’ve got a pretty original system going. Forget handheld buzzers that light up. Every time a table opens up, they ring a bell by the pub. You then look up into the high ceilings at the flag that has been hoisted, and check its design to see if matches the one that you were assigned as you walked in. Fun times – probably increasingly more fun depending on how many drinks you’ve consumed at the bar while waiting for your table :) And yes, as usual, I love the high ceilings – both inside and out.
The restaurant area is spacious and open with a laidback, rustic elegance. You get fantastic views of the North Shore mountains, the water, yachts, and Coal Harbour. For me, it’s the patio that defines Cardero’s – nothing like dining al fresco, with panoramic views and the ocean breeze. There are plenty of heaters to make it enjoyable even on a cold day (and blankets to boot), a fireplace, and of course a roof to shield you from the rain. You can’t reserve for the patio, but the wait for it was, surprisingly, shorter than for the restaurant.
The ambiance is great – lots of energy. I’ve eaten here a few times, and the service is consistently great – prompt, efficient, and very friendly and helpful. There’s definitely nothing pretentious about this place.
The menu is very seafood heavy, but they do have other options as well. This time I went with my parents (who are, I’m proud to say, also paleo/primal). My dad ordered the 8 oz rib eye steak which comes with local potatoes and market vegetables. He also ordered a side of sautéed mushrooms. The steak was delicious – tender and perfectly medium rare. But I gotta, say the mushrooms stole the show. These weren’t your basic fried up button mushrooms. Instead, there was a medley of wild mushrooms including oyster, shitake and I believe enoki as well, among others. I don’t know if I’ve ever had such a yummy variety of wild mushrooms before!
My mom and I shared the Coal Harbour Burger (with aged white cheddar) with more mushrooms and the Cajun Chicken Burger (with bourbon BBQ sauce and coleslaw), with a side of mixed greens each. Both burgers were great – juicy and tender. The chicken burger was especially good.
Now, for dessert, I’m used to not having very many gluten and grain-free options. I’m usually content to see the obligatory crème brulee on the menu. But this is where Cardero’s really stood out. In addition to the crème brulee, a trio of sorbettos, and a cheese plate, there was the Torta Milano: milk & dark chocolate mascarpone mousse. This was no ordinary mousse. It was a chocolate mousse cake, with an almond crust***, chocolate mouse filling, and 2 large blobs of mascarpone cream. It was light, fluffy, definitely on the less-sweet side (in a good way), and simply phenomenal. The raspberry sauce complemented in perfectly. I was blown away. I would will come back just for the torta milano.
Overall, we had a fantastic dining experience on all fronts. I would highly recommend Cardero’s – whether for a full meal, or just for drinks and dessert, definitely check it out.
***UPDATE*** Sadly, Cardero’s has changed the recipe for the Torta Milano, and it now includes a graham and some other cracker crust. Technically, if you’re not worried about cross-contamination, you can still eat it and just not touch the crust, as the crust is very thin… but that kind of takes away from the whole enjoyment of being able to eat it care-free. Not sure why they went from almond to cracker, but there is a possibility it will change back in the future since a lot of their menu is being revamped to include gluten-free options. So, next time you’re at Cardero’s, ask – or you can always call ahead to find out.