New favourites at Vancouver's Bells and Whistles
New spot brings high-end, low-brow food to love.
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The Kensington area, more colloquially known as Fraserhood, has seen a renaissance of late.
Once a dead zone for cool places you want to hang out at, the neighbourhood is now boasting some of my favourite places to eat, Los Cuevos, Matchstick, Savio Volpe and Batard. Bells and Whistles is the latest edition and fills a gap in the neighbourhood – a bigger pub.
The space is separated into three rooms, one with high tables and a large U-shaped bar, the second with communal picnic tables and the third is more of a corner where you can shoot hoops. (What new casual dining place exists without arcade games?) The walls are decorated with a craft beer list that changes regularly and offers some brews not publicly available.
The menu is the creation Alessandro Vianello of Wildebeest and offers such basic options as wedge salad, burgers and popcorn shrimp.
I started with the popcorn shrimp ($12), which was lightly battered and served with dill, lemon and a green goddess dip. The shrimp were plump and juicy cooked to perfection with a thin crust of batter complemented nicely with the herbey goddess dip.
Next up was the Fat Stevens ($16), with roasted chicken, gravy, mayo and crispy fried onion. I usually dislike restaurant gravy due to it usually being oversalted. This gravy added to the tender chicken, rather than took away from it and was there, but not overpowering. The crispy onions were a little lost in the gravy, but I really enjoyed the bun heavily crusted with sesame and toasted. It was a sandwich for those in need of a little soul food and would make even the most miserable of us feel a wee bit better.
The Fat Stevens was served with these decadent parmesan, garlic, truffle fries that I won’t go into, but I recommend trying. Do it.
Next up was the Caeser Salad ($18) served with romaine, kale, olives, chicken, croutons and I added a grilled avocado. While chomping away at this classic (as it should be) salad I was baffled by the smokey flavour coming through. The General Manager, Ogi Radoicic, explain the lengthy process it takes to smoke the olives in house and I have to say, it was worth it. The smoke cut through the anchovies in the salad, making it rich and complex in flavour. Very satisfying.
Last, I enjoyed the Vanilla and the Coco Crisp soft serve ($6.50). The vanilla was classic, but the Coco Crisp was a satisfying explosion of chocolate, peanut butter, pretzel and skor bar. The crunch with the soft texture of the soft serve made for such a satisfying treat.
Whenever I review a restaurant I ask myself what were they trying to do? And, did they accomplish it? It takes my preferences out of the equation and affords me some objectivity.
What Bells and Whistles set out to do was incredibly simple, but complex. Familiar food made with a high level of thought, care and flavour in mind. Did they accomplish what they set out to do? Absolutely.