Pictures courtesy of I’m Only Here for the Food!
Restaurant: Brioche Urban Baking and Catering – Panini review
Last visited: December 17, 09
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown/Downtown)
Address: 401 W Cordova St
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 4 (based on Panini only)
- Located in Gastown
- Catering /Restaurant/Bakery
- Authentic Italians meets West Coast
- Quality meats & cheese, fresh ingredients
- Large menu: soup/salad/sandwiches/pastas
- Large selection of pastries
- Healthy/Vegetarian/Carnivore options
- Casual gourmet café type foods (does that make sense?)
- On site bakery
- Freshly baked daily bread/pastries
- Cozy/Casual/Eclectic atmosphere/clientele
- Good for breakfast/lunch/coffee breaks
- Very decent prices for what you’re getting
- Open until 7pm M-F 6pm on weekends
- Eat in/Take-out
**Recommendations: Chorizo Sausage Panini, Ham, Portobello & Brie Panini. The popular Panini sandwiches are: NY Steak & Mushroom Sauce Panini and the Prosciutto, Bocconcini & Tomato Panini – but I haven’t tried the NY Steak & Mushroom one
The reason why I didn’t rate Brioche Urban Baking & Catering on their service, ambiance or overall is because my friend Kim had gotten take-out for me and Anita so I wasn’t physically there for the entire experience. I also only tried their Panini sandwiches so this review focuses strictly on those. I tried 3 out of 10 Panini sandwiches so I think that’s enough to get a general idea…although I will be back for the NY Steak and Mushroom Sauce one. I didn’t know that this was a popular item until afterward.
Brioche is a pretty small operation nestled in Gastown. It’s a humble location that’s a local favourite. For the size of it, I’m really surprised with how much they do. They offer plenty of breakfast, lunch and pastry options and it’s hard to believe that they can afford to bake everything daily. It offers casual dining, but gourmet style café-like foods. For me it was very simple recipes, made with high quality ingredients and a focus on fresh. The menu is kind of big and they offer everything from Vegetarian dishes, low-fat, to hearty game options.
Since I wasn’t actually there to ask my usual questions, I actually ended up calling Brioche and speaking with their chef to get some answers. Yes – I take my blogging that seriously now…I just want to give a thorough review. This won’t affect my overall review because again my notes were written before speaking to them. They don’t know who I am anyways and it’s already been a week since trying them.
What I did discover is that the chef, Eduardo lived in Sicily for 20 years so he does incorporate authentic Italian flavors into his recipes. The menu really is Italian meets West Coast. I feel like it’s a battle for him to focus on the healthy (West-coast) yet be able to incorporate those heavy Italian flavours people love.
The Brioche Urban Baking & Catering Panini:
Brioche serves a really West Coast version of a Panini sandwich. It was more like a toasted baguette sandwich. A Panini is an Italian sandwich and a traditional one is usually served on a small bread roll. (However small in Italy is never that small). These Panini sandwiches weren’t reminiscent of the ones I had in Italy although it’s not to say that they weren’t good – just different and not authentic Italian.
The authentic part was the focus on quality meats and fresh cheese. The non-authentic part was the bread. I do love how it’s baked fresh daily however the ‘baguette’ they use is more like a Ciabatta style baguette. They’re rustic, dense baguettes with a hard exterior and chewy centre. They’re the thick ones, not the thinner French baguettes. They make them well, but an authentic Italian Panini roll is supposed to use undercooked bread. It should be a smooth undercooked roll and not a Ciabatta because Ciabatta’s bake up too hard during the Panini grilling process. The bread is supposed to be undercooked and finish cooking on the grill.
The choice of bread may be part of the West Coast influence, I’m not sure. Yes, the bread is good, but for their Panini I think something thinner and softer would showcase their high quality meats and fresh cheeses better.
On the table:
**Chorizo Sausage Panini – 4.5/6
- Specialty Panini: Chorizo sausage, lettuce, tomato, avocado & Bocconcini $8.95.
- The avocado and Bocconcini is an option they have for their specialty Panini – I really recommend it.
- I’m not even a big chorizo or sausage fan, but this one really impressed me. The quality of the chorizo was really high and it had a spicy kick to it too. It was a bit oily, but I guess it usually is; they were really generous with it too.
- The avocado part is definitely the West Coast influence to a tradition Italian sandwich.
- It was semi-mashed avocado and I wish they were more generous with this part. It ended up being overpowered by the chorizo, although it was the perfect amount of meat. They just didn’t give enough avocado.
- The bread was ok for me. I think this was a whole wheat bread we ordered it with. Order this Panini with a sliced bread rather than a baguette/ciabatta because a sliced bread absorbs the flavours of the chorizo, whereas the baguette wouldn’t have done that as well. It also wasn’t grilled long enough. It wasn’t even really grilled – it was more lightly toasted.
Prosciutto, Bocconcini & Tomato Panini – 3.5/6
- Premium Panini: Prosciutto, Bocconcini, tomato & lettuce $6.75.
- We had this on a baguette, and I think the Focaccia would have been a better mach. The baguette was toasted, but not long enough and it grilled up a bit unevenly. I do love the fact that they drizzled olive oil on the baguette before toasting it. They don’t use butter here.
- They were very generous with the prosciutto which was great.
- The Bocconcini was good, but too mild for this sandwich. I think I would have preferred it with a goat’s feta or something a bit stronger to compliment the Prosciutto.
- I had a couple flavours of savoury going on. But I wanted either a tang or a sweet note. I would have liked it with a drizzle of balsamic glaze or with something sweet like honey, or both. For the sweet, some cantaloupe slices would have been nice…but this is just me getting creative now.
- It would have been great with some freshly chopped basil leaves too. Brighten the flavours up a bit and give it another dimension of flavour. Or they could have sprinkled some dried oregano on the bread before toasting it. Dundarave Olive Company in West Vancouver makes olive oils that would be a perfect match.
**Ham, Portobello & Brie Panini – 4.5/6
- Ham, Portobello, Brie, lettuce and tomato $6.75.
- The Ciabatta worked well with this sandwich. I know the picture shows the bread looking a bit thick, but the fat from the brie melted into the Ciabatta which made it softer and absorb the creaminess.
- They gave a nice amount of meat and cheese for this. A perfect ratio.
- There was not enough mushrooms though. We all shared and I think I had one slice of mushroom in my 1/3 of the sandwich.
- I really liked this one because it had salty brie, salty black forest ham, and then what should have been sweet and juicy plump mushrooms…too bad I only had a bite of that.
- I want to try ordering this one with chicken instead of ham…I think that would be a great combo. Chicken, brie and mushrooms…and then a nap afterward…