Sherman's Food Adventures: Ubuntu Canteen

Ubuntu Canteen

Typically, when I see a whole roast chicken on any restaurant menu, it inevitably elicits comparisons with Costco chicken.  Okay, put away the pitchforks.  I know Costco cannot be placed in the same stratosphere as the swanky Elisa Steakhouse.  From decor to service, they are completely 2 different animals.  Let's not even get into Homer Street Cafe as I've gone over this before in that post.  So here we go again with newly opened Ubuntu Canteen on Fraser as they offer up their version of whole roast chicken.  I recently went to check that out as well as most of their other offerings on the menu.

Since they don't take resos, we had to wait for a table in the small dining room (used to be Bows X Arrows).  After that, we were hangry and proceeded to order nearly the whole menu beginning with a dozen Oysters.  These were sweet and briny served with a mignonette, lemon and horseradish.  We also asked for Tabasco as well.  They were shucked well except for 2 of them that had shell fragments.  From there, we moved onto the fantastic Burrata with salsa macha, gem lettuce and toasted bread.  Although the burrata was a bit on the firmer side, the fabulous salsa macha added a nutty rich spiciness that brought the flavours alive.  When spread onto the crusty bread, there was a good combination of textures.

Onto 2 vegetable forward offerings the Roasted Turnips were really good.  Firm with a crunch while retaining aggressively roasted tops, the turnips were delicious on their own.  A bit earthy, the turnips went well with the nutty and peppery Romesco sauce.  The rest of the dish featured Walla Walla onions and arugula.  Next, we had the Young Asparagus with kohlrabi, orange segments, honey labneh and dukkah.  Normally, asparagus is all about the texture (when prepared properly and this one was good with an appealing crunch), so I really enjoyed the honey labneh underneath as it provided a creamy sweet tang.  The thinly sliced kohlrabi was crunchy and bright, but just a bit too salty.  An extra burst of fresh sweetness was provided by the perfectly segmented orange.  To literally top it all off, the dukka provided a nutty crunch.

From here, we moved onto some pasta including the Tagliatelle with lardo, pickled onions, lovage, bread crumbs and pecorino.  This was really good featuring firmly al dente tagliatelle that was lovingly caressed by the silky lardo.  As rich as this was, the pickled onions provided a nice acidity to cut through the literal fat.  The brightness of lovage all helped in this regard.  Adding a textural contrast the crunch from the bread crumbs helped deviate from soft-on-soft.  The only thing that could've been better was the temperature as the pasta was luke-warm.  The other pasta was the Cavatelli with leek, sugar snap peas and black pepper.  Simple, bright and tangy with a background sweetness and pepperiness, the lack of meat didn't take away from the dish.  We found the cavatelli to be perfectly chewy and a good match for the sauce.

Our first meat dish was the Pork Loin with rhubarb chutney and collard greens.  It featured 2 large slices which were fatty and tender.  One was thicker than the other which meant it was also more moist as well.  I felt the pork was seasoned well enough to stand on its own, but the tangy and sweet rhubarb did pair well with the loin.  Alas, we made it to the Whole Rotisserie Chicken with French lentils and Mizuna Caesar salad.  The thing was massive where one half of the breast was big enough to feed one person.  Skin was fairly well-rendered and the meat was moist (even the white meat).  I thought the chicken could be more seasoned (or even brined), but the flavourful lentils did make up for that.  However, for $1.00 more, the whole chicken at Elisa is better in my opinion and costing less is the one from Homer Street Cafe (different types of restaurant, I know).  I won't compare to Costco, because we can't group restaurants with a grocery store, but overall, I thought the chicken wasn't the star of the show here.  The rest of the eats were pretty solid and thoughtfully created.  Nice use of the small space as well.

The Good:
- Fresh tasting and well-executed
- Bright, airy and casual vibe
- Nice people

The Bad:
- A bit pricey for what you get
- Chicken is good, but for the same price, other places do it better

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