Lupo Restaurant + Vinoteca

Restaurant: Lupo Restaurant + Vinoteca
Cuisine: Italian/Pacific Northwest/Casual fine dining
Last visited: January 16, 2010
Area: Vancouver, BC (Yaletown/Downtown)
Address: 869 Hamilton Street
Price range: $20-30 (for entrΓ©e)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3.5
Service: 5
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Located in historical Victorian house
  • Executive chef Julio Gonzalez Perini
  • Italian chef
  • Specializes in Italian
  • Italian with West Coast influence
  • Extensive wine list
  • Casual fine dining
  • Clean menu, nice selection
  • Home made desserts
  • Great presentation on the whole
  • Very friendly service
  • Cozy, intimate atmosphere
  • Great for parties, private rooms available
  • Dinner from 5pm
  • 5-6:15pm 3 course set menus $28/$38 available

Recommendation: Hard to say – I liked parts of each dish. Ideally it would be braised pork cheeks on soft mascarpone polenta… which is a combination of 2 entrees. I’ll have to recommend the braised beef short ribs, and the lamb shank ossobucco is popular too. I’m very curious about the chicken; it’s supposed to be amazing. For dessert: Panettone Bread Pudding, Tiramisu

Lupo Restaurant + Vinoteca recently reopened. The restaurant was originally Villa Del Lupo Restaurant but they went through some new owner and also had to reinvent themselves. Rather than catering to the $50+ clientele they are targeting to a $30-40 crowd and hoping for a more casual atmosphere. As much as they’re trying to revamp themselves it still feels intimate, cozy and slightly pretentious, although the service is not at all. Good thing! It’s almost impossible to leave this “cozy/intimate” atmosphere because the restaurant is in a historical Victorian house from 1905. I felt like I was walking into someone’s house for dinner, it reminds me of Mis Trucos on Davie, but more upscale.

It’s supposed to be serving traditional Italian food (what I was told), but the menu looks more West Coast Italian to me. The main ingredient in each dish is Italian, but there’s still some creativity and small global influences to it. I was more impressed with the service and presentation than I was with the food. The food was good, but it sounded better and I don’t think any of it reached its full potential. Everything was missing a note and parts of every dish had something going for it, but no dish on the whole was outstanding – it was quite good though. I would come again, but I also wouldn’t chose to come again.

On the table

Ricotta Gnocchi4/6

  • Braised pork cheeks and porcini mushroom “sugo” $14/19 (14 appetizer size, but quite big)
  • The pork cheeks were the tenderest meat out of lamb shank ossobucco and braised beef short ribs. It was really juicy tender and soft which just a thin layer of fat around the edges. Even as an appetizer it came with 2 cheeks which was a great surprise.
  • The sauce was “sugo” almost like a ragout made with stewed tomatoes and mushrooms. The sauce was very simple in flavour and tasted mainly like tomatoes so it was quite tangy and one dimensional in flavour. I wanted to taste some red wine and some meaty flavour like beef stock.
  • The mushrooms were very slippery and very soft. I didn’t feel like the mushroom flavour cooked into the sauce though.

  • The gnocchi wasn’t a traditional gnocchi. The concept was there and I was really excited about it, but it sounds better than it was. I couldn’t taste the potato, and if I paid close attention I could taste the ricotta, but if I didn’t I could have forgotten it was in there. The ricotta made the texture a little more mushy and soft than typical gnocchi is. They also put some minced flat leaf Italian parsley and minced carrot into the ricotta potato mixture. It was quite flavourful, but I didn’t warm up to the texture.

  • This may be getting a bit picky, but the gnocchi was inconsistent in terms of size. They were very oddly shaped and it might be because the ricotta made for an overly soft dough.
  • They were also missing the fork indents so it’s didn’t pick the sauce up as well as it could have.

Risotto3/6

  • Seasonal wild mushrooms and garlic confit $16/20
  • The biggest issue with this was the size and plating. The ricotta gnocchi as an appetizer looked the same size and was probably more filling than the mushroom risotto as a main dish size.
  • It was served on a plate and I think it should have been served in a deeper dish. I wasn’t too impressed with the plating which is unfortunate because everything else was plated well.
  • This wasn’t my dish, but I did get to try it. Based on my sample I wasn’t too impressed. I’d be really disappointed if I ordered it because at $20 it was really small and I’d still be hungry. Not just me too, anyone would.
  • The price comes from the fact that this dish is loaded with mushrooms. The mushrooms are great, juicy and plentiful, but the rice is still hard. The texture could have been creamier and I felt like it was rushed.
  • It also needed some truffle oil, which would have enhanced everything.

Lamb Shank Ossobucco3.5/6

  • Lamb shank ossobucco with lemon saffron risotto $20
  • This has been an item on the menu for 20+ years. It’s the only item that has carried on from the old menu and it’s one of their most popular entrees.
  • The presentation is lovely with mini scoops of zucchini and carrots – talk about fine details to plating.
  • The lamb was coated with a simple tangy tomato sauce and it was tender but it could have been tenderer. It wasn’t falling off the bone and it still required some kni fe and fork action. The lamb also had a slight gamey taste at the end, it’s wasn’t too strong, but I’m really sensitive to that taste and I could taste it.

  • The lemon saffron risotto was creamy but the rice was still hard again. It tasted like exactly what it sounds like so the recipe was quite simple. It was tangy and I could taste both ingredients, but not much of anything else. I could have used more parmesan cheese to give it more flavour. It maybe could have used some peas too, to give it some texture.

Braised Beef Short Ribs4/6

  • Braised beef short ribs with soft mascarpone polenta $24
  • It was really good, but could have been better. The au jus was the problem for me.
  • The braised beef was boneless and very lean with little bits of juicy fat around the edges. It wasn’t chewy either.
  • The meat was very tender but not necessarily juicy (except for the fatty parts) because there weren’t many spices or seasonings if any.
  • The braised beef had more fat than the pork cheeks yet the pork cheeks were most tender out of the 3 meat entrees. The braised beef still shred away with a fork, but still not as easily as the pork cheek.
  • The mascarpone polenta had a great texture and I loved the ultra creaminess. It’s creamier than the risotto. The problem was I couldn’t taste the mascarpone – even keeping in mind mascarpone has a very mild flavour. It was almost like mashed potatoes, but less starchy and it has a mealy (like polenta is) in texture. I really liked it though – just missing the cheese factor.

  • The gravy they served it with also wasn’t very reduced. It was actually very salty and tasted like over salted beef au jus. At first I did not like the runny texture of the gravy, however with the polenta as the starch it worked well. If you let the polenta absorb the au jus then the mascarpone flavour completely disappears even more than it did before. The sauce was very overpowering and didn’t enhance the dish.
  • On top of the short rib was a crispy piece of pancetta. I think it’s deep fried, but I didn’t like it. It was salty, and it looks nice, but it has the texture of egg shells.
  • If the gravy is going to be like this then they need to serve it in a deeper dish so that the polenta can absorb the sauce. They should have served it like my Roasted Duck Leg at The Irish Heather.
  • Again it had nice presentation, but hard for me to capture.

I didn’t forget the dessert… Yes there is always room…;)

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