What is it about the past that intrigues the present? One often hears that without history, there is no future. If we take time to move in a linear progression, then this statement could be accepted directly at face value. If the moment you spent reading this statement didn’t happen, then the moment in which you read this subsequent statement also wouldn’t happen. What else, then, is so significant about events that have already transpired that causes us to cling on to them? Were those occurrences simply implanted all those years ago to sneak their tendrils of influence into the present? Like a classical enzymatic anabolic pathway, does a precursor form an unstable intermediate necessary for the ultimate creation of a product? Whatever the case, there’s no denying one’s history. I find it just so easy to be completely enthralled in our memories; to live in the past, potentially when we considered things to be “better.” Perhaps that is the driving force behind restoration movements that have gripped neighbourhoods like Gastown for the past decade. Vintage is always in, but how does one know which period of time is now particularly relevant? It may just be easier to look past these considerations and just eat in a timeless setting, like L’Abattoir.
L’Abattoir could mainly be described to serve French cuisine with a bit of a quirky, West Coast twist. Their menu can be quite eclectic and adventurous. Fun fact: you will be dining in what was once a jail, although I’m sure dropping the soap will have less consequences in this setting.
Brick walls and large paintings give the establishment a modern atmosphere without becoming too pretentious. One would certainly not need to don their Sunday’s best here, as skinny jeans, plaid and a pair of Sperrys should do the trick. I do hope Stephy, Debbie and I looked the part (we probably didn’t).
I had heard word that L’Abattoir produced some very fine alcoholic concoctions, so of course we had to order some for the sake of… knowledge. Yes. I ordered the El Calmino ($11), a blend of watermelon-infused tequila (!), Aperol, fresh lime, agave nectar, grapefruit pop, and adorned with salt rim. An interesting fact about me is that I will often end up with the girliest drink. If one were to keep a tab of man-points based on what I tend to order at restaurants, I would be well within the negatives as a result of the red, pink and purple things I tend to guzzle down. Nonetheless, watermelons are my choice fruit of consumption when the weather is warm, and as such, I was driven to order this cocktail that intrigued me so. The cocktail certainly had an intriguing taste that was pleasantly subtle in sweet watermelon flavour with a significant yet underlying ethanol kick. The menu advertised that you can’t have just one,” and I would certainly agree. #icwudt
Debby ordered the Gastown Swizzle ($10), a mix of Plymouth gin, Aperol, passionfruit, fresh lime and topped with a Fernet drizzle. The cocktail was appealing in both aesthetics and base flavour, although it packed more of a punch from the alcohol.
Stephy got Tommy’s Margarita ($11). It included Blanco Tequila, fresh lime and agave nectar. Perhaps it was the reduced amount of other constituents in the drink, but this cocktail definitely hit the hardest out of the three. Even with its reduced volume, Stephy was hardly able to down the entire drink; to her, it was akin to tequila on the rocks (Asians). I think the general rule here is to go hard or go home; these certainly aren’t for the weak of alcohol dehydrogenase.
As for entrees, I ordered the scallops and oxtail dumplings ($26), which came with Beech mushroom, Asian pear and spiced jus. The scallops were cooked well. They were juicy and tender and easily absorbed the flavours of the surrounding “jus” with only a hint of that characteristic scallop taste. The dumplings resembled spring rolls more than potstickers, although the flavour and quality of meat certainly surpassed your typical deep-fried Vietnamese staple. As a whole, this dish clearly had some Asian influence, a direct exemplification of the quirky nature of the dishes prepared here. While the portion size isn’t expansive (what do you expect?), the quality of ingredients and overall taste were certainly rewarding.
Debby ordered the roast leg of lamb and stewed shank ($26), which also included mint pistou and potato fritters. She seemed to enjoy this dish. The meat certainly looks like it was prepared well, particularly in regards to the lamb. I was definitely eyeing this choice from the menu before she decided to order it. Ha.
Finally, the always health-conscious Stephy ordered the fillet of Pacific spring salmon ($26), which was accompanied by vegetables cooked en cocotte, tomato and basil. The foam certainly surprised us, but I suppose this is yet another innovative twist one might encounter here. The salmon certainly looked well seared, and I am sure it was more than enjoyable.
In the end, this was quite the palatable meal. I’ll admit that a pink drink put me quite into a stupor for a good portion of the evening, but I definitely wouldn’t complain about that. The service was knowledgeable and attentive, although we saw less of her as the evening passed on. I would be willing to return, although I do go to school in Montreal with a plethora of other French restaurants waiting for me. Fair warning: if you’re going to park in the area, don’t pull out all your change at once.