The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy, or disorder, of the universe is always increasing, regardless of what we do. As such, I always tell others that the best things in life are often stumbled upon when one least expects it. I find this to hold particularly true for relationships and restaurants. If you try to force something, you will often raise the bar so high that falling from it will occur relatively easily. Thus, by lowering your expectations and keeping an open mind, the chances of being dissatisfied will generally be reduced. Stemming from this, the opposite is also true: the likelihood of actually finding something (or someone) that you like will also be increased. This was precisely the situation for The Oakwood Canadian Bistro, and, well, other areas of my life. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I just happened to stumble upon something rather favourable.
The Oakwood touts itself as a Canadian bistro. According to their menu, they pride themselves on the fact that their fare does not include animals fed on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or affected by antibiotics or synthetics. The farm-to-table factor is also present. The interior, which obviously uses a significant amount of wood, has an inherently Kitsilano feel that somewhat fulfills the Canadian stereotype of lumberjacks. The large, wooden communal table in the middle is apparently ideal for larger parties.
My first and second visits to this establishment were made with Tam Tam. We first broke our Oakwood virginities together by ordering the albacore tuna duo ($12), seared and confit tuna served with Japanese aioli, jicama, and frisee salad. I generally enjoy seared tuna, and this was definitely no exception. Cooked ever so slightly, the large pieces of tuna were wonderfully soft and was delicious with the dash of Japanese aioli. If you’re wondering what jicama is, I believe it is a Mexican turnip of sorts and is present as the yellow bed underneath the seared tuna. It was refreshing in taste and had the consistency of yam.
The frisee salad, made out of a distinctive type of chicory leaf, hid in the back and was mushed together with the confit tuna. This version of the fish also tasted quite fresh and went well with the large crisps that adorned it. For an appetizer, the eclectic range of food and preparation made it well worth the price.
For his main, Tam Tam ordered the seared scallops ($22), pork-stuffed potato pasta, corn puree, and beat garnish salad. I had initially been eying this dish, but alas, food blogger problems prevented me from ordering it. In retrospect, Tam Tam stated that this photograph made him feel “horny,” which exemplifies the extent to which he found his meal to be favourable. For one, the presentation was very interesting, with everything being served in a row on a long, rectangular plate. The scallops were apparently cooked well, being soft yet still somewhat firm. The potato pasta was also quite exciting, having a crispy exterior with a delectably soft interior of pork. In addition, the corn puree and beet garnish were delightful and innovative complements to the many cylinders scattered across the plate.
I ended up ordering the ricotta spinach ravioli ($18), which was served on a foundation of stewed mushrooms and tomatoes and accompanied by a brioche with arugula and olive cream cheese. The side provided some extra carbs, and who doesn’t appreciate arugula, olives, and brioche?
As for the ravioli itself, it was chocked full of spinach and ricotta. The latter had a slightly more subtle taste than cheese and complemented the spinach well. The majority of the more noticeable flavour was provided the tomatoes underneath, yet it did not overpower the more delicate flavours of the distinctive green vegetable. I initially had my concessions on how full I would be after this dish, but the waitress assured me that I would be adequately satiated. Thankfully, I did indeed reach such a state, although I was envious of the seared scallops for the duration of the meal.
Since we couldn’t resist and were slightly curious from the name, we also ordered the baked apple dumpling ($6), which was served with vanilla ice cream. This was essentially an apple pie that was formed to somewhat resemble an extremely crispy, deep-fried dumpling.
Upon dissecting the dumpling, the apples inside were incredibly fresh. They were also not as overly syrup-laden as your standard apple pies, which truly allowed the fruit to shine. Consumed with dashes of the vanilla ice cream, which tasted like it was made in house, this was definitely a delectable dessert to finish with.
Since Tam Tam enjoyed the Oakwood so much, we ended up returning for brunch before embarking on the Grouse Grind one day. We ended up scoring a seat on the patio, which was quite pleasant and was an extension of the wooden theme in terms of decor. I ordered a coffee to start; it was relatively standard. I’m probably the only one crazy enough to partake in caffeine before a hike, but I definitely require the boost in energy.
Once again, Tam Tam ended up ordering the dish that I desired. This time, it was the albacore tuna nicoise benedict ($11), which featured poached egg, hash browns, green bean salad, Hollandoise sauce, and a corn muffin. The albacore tuna was reminiscent of that which was served in the corresponding appetizer, although it was seared to a greater extent. The sauce was passable, although relatively mild in flavour. In contrast, the salad was somewhat overdressed, but adequate as greens. Side note – does nicoise remind anyone else of the 2001 movie White Chicks?
Since I’m so much more masc, I ended up ordering the Lumberjack ($11). It consisted of scrambled eggs, house breakfast sausage, smoked bacon, hash browns, salted cucumber, and toast. The eggs were scrambled well, being soft and fluffy with a bit of a milky consistency. The salted cucumber was drenched in a similar way to the green bean salad and seemed a little neglected in terms of preparation. The bacon was crispy and gratefully not too oily. On the other hand, the potatoes were on the oilier side, although they were seasoned well. As for the sausage, it had a remarkably interesting gritty texture that can be attributed to its preparation in-house; unfortunately, it was a bit too salty. This was contrasted by the toast, which was served alone and provided some extra carbs.
On yet another occasion, Janice, Diana, and I returned to the Oakwood at 10pm on a Sunday night for growlers. The large jugs are filled with 64oz of local craft beer and are on special during that time-frame. We opted for the Red Truck Lager growler ($15). Interestingly enough, the waitress returned momentarily to inform us that the tap was somehow being uncooperative and foaming too much to properly fill the growler before giving it to us. The beer still tasted fine; I’d have to say that I’m a bit predisposed towards Red Truck after the Brewmaster’s Dinner last summer. Plus, it’s always a novelty to consume beer out of this jug and brainstorm ways in which we could bring home the empty container with us, since we couldn’t keep it.
Since beer always tastes best with even more carbs, we also ordered the All Canadian Poutine ($10). I was initially opposed to the idea of poutine in Vancouver before heading back to Montreal, but this mix of fries, gravy, curds, and smoked brisket was fun nonetheless. The gravy was rich without being too salty, and the cheese curds, while not squeaky, did not melt instantaneously. I particularly enjoyed the brisket, which was prepared well and had a pleasant, sweet undertone to it.
In the end, I enjoyed my various experiences at Oakwood. While dinner and drinks were altogether favourable, the brunch did not succeed in stuffing me full enough for the fun that is the Grouse Grind. In terms of value, the innovation and freshness of the ingredients definitely justify the reasonable price range that the Oakwood dictates. All in all, it’s easy to ascertain why this has become Tam Tam’s choice restaurant in Vancouver, particularly since that Richmond dweller hardly ever leaves his flat island.
Conclusion: Andy ate a lot.
The Oakwood Canadian Bistro
2741 West 4th Ave.
Growler/poutine photo credit: Food and Co.