This is the second time that I’ve had the pleasure of dining at this fantastic French restaurant, and it did not disappoint. I think it’s easily the top spot in Vancouver for fine French Food, and it’s been around for over 25 years. I’ve found French cuisine to be rather primal/paleo friendly.
The ambiance was great – fine dining without being stuffy; the website describes it well as understated. It’s packed on the weekends – definitely book ahead. The service was great – what you would expect of a place of this caliber. What’s unexpected is the little extras, like the couple of amuse-bouche they brought out (in this case, a meat tart and French fries), and a nice little treat at the end of the meal (I won’t spoil your surprise).
The menu has a terrific assortment of options – old school French style cooking at its best. Unfortunately, grains are incorporated into many of the meals. You can try substitutes, or asking them to leave stuff off, which is what I did. But I didn’t specify no gluten, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some snuck in (for example, sauces often contain flour). I typically do my best to avoid gluten, but on rare special outings I do what I can and not worry about the rest.
For the appetizer, I went with the pan-fried goat cheese served over curly endive salad. The goat cheese is typically rolled in grains, but they left those off for me, so I’m pretty sure my salad was gluten-free. It was absolutely delicious, especially the enormous round of gooey goat cheese. I also tried snails (escargots) for the first time in my life – they have been on my to try list for quite some time. I figured if I’m ever going to try snails, a fancy French restaurant is the place to do it. These were baked in pastry shells, but I just picked out a couple of the actual snails, cooked in garlic butter. They were okay. The second one was better than the first. Very distinct chewy texture. I’m glad I tried them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat them again. Last time around I had the bone marrow (delicious, but you may want to check if it’s possible to leave off the bread crumbs). My friend thoroughly enjoyed his lobster tempura and grilled scallops. Other interesting appetizer menu items: steak tartar, duck liver terrine, veal sweetbreads and frogs’ legs (next time!).
For the main, I had the slow-braised lamb shanks (Provençale-style, roasted sweet garlic, glazed shallots and tomato fondue). I didn’t know it would come with a side of gnocchi, which I traded my friend for his side of vegetables. The lamb shanks were very tender. But I wish I had what my friend ordered: grilled caribou tenderloin with lobster – except it came with couscous. The caribou was yummy – very tender, grilled to a medium-rare perfection. Other interesting mains on the menu: prime rib, double-cut veal chops, and rack of lamb.
For dessert, I opted for the crème caramel, which was lovely and not overly sweet. My friend had the tiramisu, which he thought was fantastic. It looked divine.
Overall, dining at Le Crocodile was a wonderful experience. The service was impeccable, the food delicious and beautiful, and the servings generous. As much as I love exploring the Vancouver food scene, I would happily return to Le Crocodile. If you’re looking for completely gluten free, I’d recommend calling ahead to see if it’s doable, it may very well be, as they were very accommodating with my questions and substitutions.