This dinner has been a long time coming. We originally wanted to take Polka King out for his birthday more than a month ago; but it always seemed like we had to postpone it. More often than not, it was because Polka King was busy Friday nights due to his "gigs". The reason why he is named as such is because he plays in a German Polka band. Nothing really funny here; other than he's Chinese. Imagine the looks on the elder German folk at the Vancouver Alpen Club when he breaks into song... in German. Yes, he is indeed the Polka King. We deliberated over several places to go and finally I made the choice (it's a dictatorship, they have no say!). The venue of choice was La Quercia, a joint venture by former chefs at Parkside and La Buca, Lucais Syme and Adam Pegg on 4th near Alma.
I originally made my reservation on Opentable for 4 guests; but due to last minute add-ons, I had to call the restaurant on 2 separate occasions to change the reservation. They did so in a professional and cordial manner. I was impressed that they were so flexible with my changes. I picked up Milhouse along the way out to La Quercia. Joining us were Emilicious, Lionel Hutz, Special K and of course Polka King. The restaurant is pretty unassuming from the outside. We almost missed the restaurant altogether. However, upon entering the restaurant, we were impressed at the simple; yet elegant decor complete with a beautiful main lighting fixture and a wall of abstract art. We were greeted warmly at the door and led to our table, right at the window - perfect! Some people from our party were a bit late in arriving due to the fact they were driving a fair distance to the restaurant. But we never felt rushed by the staff. In fact, we were presented with a complimentary appetizer of Melon with Prosciutto. The melon was perfectly ripe and sweet. This classic combination with the salty prosciutto was a great start to our meal.
As a table of 6, we had to dine "alla famiglia" style, which is involves the whole table sharing all the courses. For $40.00 pp, there roughly 5 courses and $59.00 gets you around 11 courses. Both include dessert, however the 11 course meal adds risotto "cooked to order". Believe me, although we had no choice in the matter since we were a table of 6, the alla famiglia dinner was the only thing we had in mind anyways. Our first course was Lattuga al Gorgonzola, which was a beautiful mix of butter lettuce, radish, Gorgonzola dressing, crumbled Gorgonzola and duck fat croutons. Being oh-so rich and crunchy, the croutons were the star of the salad. Rarely do you have people fighting over croutons! The dressing itself was surprisingly not overpowering despite the use of Gorgonzola.
The next course was Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Scallop Mousse. These crispy treats were a contrast in textures from the crunchy exterior to the soft sweet mousse stuffing. Definitely a pleasure to eat. By now I'm not even really keeping track of the courses; rather I'm busily taking pictures and trying to eat in between. As we were just dusting up the zucchini blossoms, the Sformato di Parmiggiano or Parmesan Souffle arrived. Served on the side was a zucchini salad and the plate was finished off with a balsamic reduction. Fluffy with a strong Parmesan flavour, the souffle was a nice, light treat before the heavier courses.
Speaking of the heavier courses, a trio of pastas arrived next. They included Rotini, Agnolotti and Gnocchi. Dressed in a fresh tomato sauce with pancetta and smoked pork cheeks, the al dente rotini exuded both a lightness and heaviness at the same time. The richness of the meats combined with the light tomato sauce acted in perfect balance. Packed with veal and Swiss chard, the agnolotti exhibited an earthiness. The Parmesan added the necessary saltiness to flavour the dish. My favourite of the trio was the gnocchi. Unlike a majority of the gnocchi I have tried, this one was fluffy and almost melted in my mouth. Due to the chantrelles, the dish was earthy, aromatic and downright tasty. Adding both richness and a texture contrast was an abundance of house-made sausage.
At this point Milhouse had thought our meal was over. He was quite satisfied; but to his surprise, we hadn't received our meat course which was a lovely Veal Scallopini. Presented on a long platter, the veal rested on a bed of cauliflower and topped with a demi-glace (?) with capers. A little on the salty side (probably due to the capers), the veal was tender and the cauliflower was perfectly cooked. At this point, we had already reached the end of our reservation; but rather than being rushed, the service continued as usual. We were presented with 3 different cakes for our dessert. It consisted of a Spiced Cake with Coffee Ice Cream (?), Chocolate Mousse and Frangipane. Of the 3, I personally liked the chocolate mousse cake since it was not too sweet and had a rich chocolate taste. According to Emilicious, the cakes were not particularly memorable.
Regardless what everyone thought of dessert, it was a consensus that the meal overall was wonderful. For $40.00 per person, it is not only a fabulous value, it was well-executed. I believe that La Quercia is now a favourite of mine. I can't wait to try the 11 course meal. Lucais Syme and Adam Pegg have successfully merged rustic and modern elegance into a delightful little restaurant.
- Beautifully executed food
- Great value, especially the alla famiglia
- Attentive, unpretentious service
- Restaurant is small, so seating is a bit tight