Restaurant: Cafe Medina
Last visited: September 23, 2010
Last updated: October 8, 2010 (Added 2 items)
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown/Downtown)
Address: 556 Beatty Street
Price Range: $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Service: 2.5 (friendly, but slow)
- Co-owner and chef, Nico Schuermans
- Sister to Chambar Restaurant
- Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch only
- Contemporary bistro cafe
- Eclectic/innovative menu
- International/fusion food
- Gourmet style
- Fresh ingredients
- Made in house
- Known for Belgian waffles
- Coffee bar/Specialty coffees
- Imported beers/cocktails
- Local favourite/gem
- Busy at all hours/line ups
- Moderately priced
- Meter parking
- Chambar Restaurant – dinner post
- Chambar Restaurant – dessert post
- Mon-Fri 8am-4pm
- Breakfast 9am-12pm
- Brunch 9am-3pm
- Lunch 12-3pm Weekends 9am-4pm
- Weekday reservations for parties of 6+
- No weekend reservations
**Recommendations: Fricassé, Salmon Fumé, Lavender Latte, Waffle with White Chocolate Pistachio Rosewater
Cafe Medina is perhaps the most popular local favourite for breakfast and brunch in downtown Vancouver, BC. It’s one of mine for sure. It’s a constantly packed quaint cafe and local gem serving only breakfast, brunch and lunch. As for dinner you’ll have to go next door to it’s parent restaurant Chambar Restaurant, also one of my favourite restaurants in Vancouver. Co-owner and chef, Nico Schuermans operates the kitchen with pastry chef Eleanor Chow for both restaurants, so it’s no doubt that I would enjoy the food at both places. (Chow is also pastry chef for Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie)
Cafe Medina is also famous for their home made Belgian waffles that you can sometimes watch them make at the waffle station showcased in the display window facing the street. However the batter comes from Damien’s Belgian Waffles in Richmond, BC. (Creme de la Crumb also uses this window concept and has a very similar feel to Cafe Medina… they also offer waffles and lavender lattes)
I’ve been to Cafe Medina a few times and the food never disappoints me. Sure there are dishes that are better than others, but on the whole it’s delicious. Everything is made in house and the ingredients are fresh. The food is very eclectic, creative and gourmet with mainly French dishes influenced by Middle Eastern, Spanish, West Coast, Italian, Indian, Hungarian, Moroccan, Persian, Lebanese and of coarse West Coast flavours. It may sound all over the place, but it’s not. It’s very chic and contemporary food that’s generally well thought out and executed.
I may be a bit biased because this type of innovative cuisine is right up my alley. It’s not an everyday place (but I wish it was) as the prices are a bit steep for brunch, but I think it’s well worth it.
The only thing that bothers me is that the service tends to be slow and it’s understaffed for how busy the place is. This means that the food tends to take longer and sit longer before it’s served. It’s also a tiny dining room that’s quite narrow so it feels a bit cramped especially when all the tables are constantly full. Other than that, it’s everything good under one roof and it’s one of my favourites in the city.
On the table:
- 8oz. $3.60 12oz. $4.00 16oz. $4.40 Latte flavours: Lavender, vanilla, spiced or raspberry
- This is one of their most popular drinks.
- It creamy and frothy and it’s very aromatic, but I could smell more lavender than I could taste. I could still taste it, but it was a bit subtle. I think it’s because they used a lavender infused syrup rather than actual lavender leaves which also made it a bit sweeter.
- It’s not too sweet and still strong with a slight chocolaty taste.
- The old Chocoatl in Yaletown, that’s now Eataly (but same owners) does an excellent lavender hot chocolate and Creme de la Crumb is also offering lavender lattes.
- 8oz. $3.60 12oz. $4.25 16oz. $4.60 Mocha flavours: Dark chocolate, milk chocolate lavender, white chocolate pistachio, rosewater
- This was sweeter and creamier than the lavender latte.
- I could taste white chocolate, but not the pistachio. I was looking for that nutty taste but couldn’t find it and I think it got overpowered by the espresso.
- It was very creamy and chocolaty and made with real Belgian chocolates. I would have liked it frothier as well.
- 2 fried eggs, braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, arugula, applewood cheddar. Grilled foccacia $16
- It’s served all day for a reason, and thank god! This is one of my favourite brunch dishes ever. A must try and it’s their most popular item.
- The bottom of the skillet is covered with braised beef short ribs and it’s absolutely delicious! The gravy is savoury and tangy and I bet made with red wine. It’s so rich and intense in flavorful. It’s almost a creamy beef stew, but I don’t think they used any cream… just lots of fat and butter!
- The braised beef is so tender and juicy and just falling apart delicious and they give quite a bit.
- Traditionally the sauce in a fricassee is a white sauce and it would be made in a separate pan without the beef juices, but in this case it wasn’t. I don’t care though because it was freaking awesome as it, with the beef juices in the sauce.
- They started using cubes of raw Granny Smith apples to replace the cost of the cubes of Applewood Cheddar lol. It’s a smart move because Cheddar and apples are a match made in heaven, but the apple could be cooked a bit to take the crunchy tart edge off.
- Foodgasm! Oh god… this photo would convince a vegetarian… and yes it tastes as good as it looks!
- The eggs are nice and runny and it just oozes all over the meat and mixes in with the gravy making the dish so much richer and ever better!
- It’s savoury from the eggs and short ribs, sweet and tart with crunchy apples, creamy from the semi melted applewood cheese cubes and peppery from the fresh arugula that gets slightly cooked in the hot skillet. It’s a combination of freaking delicious! AND they give you a perfectly grilled soft and fluffy yet crispy focaccia bread to soak up all the sauciness!
- I literally can’t talk to anyone while I eat this hearty dish.
- The only thing is that the roast potatoes suck. They were so wrinkly and overcooked, dry and starchy. They should use red potatoes for a creamy buttery texture.
- One baked egg, curried orzo, hungarian chorizo, zucchini, red pepper, roast corn, grano padano, avocado and tomato salad $12
- This was good, but not my favourite here and it’s best shared. It’s a creative twist on a Spanish paella and I could appreciate the idea, but not really the execution because everything overcooked but the veggies.
- It had tons of fresh veggies and it was quite tangy from the tomatoes with a slight spiciness from the chorizo and creamy sweetness from the avocado.
- The seasonings were unevenly distributed with some bites having noticeably more smoky cumin seasonings than others. It would be better with more grano padano cheese as well because I couldn’t taste that much.
- I also wish the corn was sweet, but it tastes old and flavourless and there isn’t much of it… canned corn would have even been better.
- I’m not sure if the poached egg in the centre was supposed to be cooked this much. My guess is that it too long while waiting to be served and it overcooked in the skillet. I also know they use brown eggs because mine included a bit of the shell… maybe it’s the Asian in me, but this would have been way better if the egg was runny.
- Orzo (pasta) has a quick cooking time as is, and since it was served in the hot skillet it was easily overcooked and too soft. The curry wasn’t obvious and I just wanted more flavour in the orzo because it’s a bit one dimensional and I didn’t want to finish eating it.
- Open faced ciabatta sandwich. Fried egg, smoked salmon caper cream cheese, sliced avocado, arugula pepperdew and artichoke salad $12 (Served all day)
- I had so many people recommend this to me, so I had to order it on my next visit. It was indeed delicious, but I still think the Fricasse is better.
- It’s about the size of a sunny side up egg and it may seem a bit small, but the quality is there and it’s just enough for lunch without going into food coma.
- There’s generous slices of ripe creamy avocado.
- The salmon is roughly pureed right into the cream cheese and it was actually even better than having the whole slices. The capers are larger ones and they’re mixed in whole so you get nice salty bites. They give you a generous amount of this spread too.
- I loved the lightly dressed in olive oil arugula pepperdew and artichoke salad, although I’m not sure how I feel about the pepperdew.
- Pepperdew or peppadew are the things that look like cherry tomatoes and that’s what I thought they were. It tastes like a cherry tomato, but it’s sweeter rather than tangy and almost like a roasted red pepper with a floral taste at the end. It has a very unique flavour I’ve never experienced before.
- I loved how they had a generous amount of salmon spread on this half as well.
- I saw some people eating this with a knife and fork, but I say eat it like it’s meant to be… a sandwich! You need some of everything in every bite.
- It tastes like a panini and I loves how thin and crispy the Ciabatta bread was. The ingredients really stood out.
- It was a messy sandwich and I enjoyed every bit of it. It’s creamy, cheesy, sweet and floral from the peppadew, salty from the capers, tangy from the artichokes and slightly peppery from the fresh arugula. I could taste every layer of ingredients.
- Flat bread wrapped roasted merguez sausage, baba ganoush, haloumi cheese, grilled eggplant, tabbouleh $15
- Yes, I kind of wish I asked was “merguez” was before I ordered it. On the other hand, if I knew I don’t think I would have ordered it.
- Merguez is a sausage made from a mix of ground lamb and beef and it’s supposed to be stuffed in a lamb intestine casing.
- The thing is I’m not a fan of lamb because the game taste bothers me. One bite of this and I knew it was a lamb sausage. I’ll still always try it if it’s there in hopes to find one that I’ll like. If you like lamb or merguez than this will be excellent for you.
- It’s a very clean and easy to eat wrap with lots of freshly grilled ingredients, spices and Middle Eastern flavours.
- It has a very strong lamb taste and it’s a very meaty wrap. The meat is all pureed so it’s very soft and tender with a very soft and thin casing. It was a bit oily for me though.
- The merguez is full of flavour with garlic, smoky cumin and I think some fennel seeds with a slight licorice taste. It was also slightly spicy with a kick at the end. It seems small for $15, but it’s filling with 2 large homemade gourmet sausages which is pretty much where the cost is along with the cheese.
- There is so much sausage, gamey lamb taste and with the added spiciness it just overpowered everything else for me.I was most excited for the cheese and eggplant too.
- The Haloumi cheese is a firm cheese and it’s mild and tastes like mozzarella. They fry it first but it’s doesn’t melt so the wrap doesn’t really have much of a sauce. I could see more cheese than I could taste. I couldn’t taste any baba gamoush (eggplant spread) either and the sauce came from the tangy tomatoes.
- The tabbouleh was fantastic on the other hand. I had to eat the wrap with this because it lightened the meaty flavour and took the gamey edge off. It was fresh parsley, red onions and some tomatoes.
- I also loved the home made flat bread. It was very soft and thin with lots of smoky flavour from cumin seeds. It wasn’t dry at all and it was the perfect amount.
- $3.15 waffle + $1 per topping
- Try the waffles because they’re famous here, but they’re not the best in the city (in my opinion), although still good. They’re also small and a bit overpriced. If they were amazing I don’t mind, but there is better.
- Try the real authentic Belgian Leige waffle at Patisserie Lebeau. Besides in Belgium, the best Belgian waffle I’ve had was actually in Korea at Didi’s Gaufres (owner from Vancouver!)
- I really wish the waffles were made upon order. They really should be if they’re so well known for them. However they’re made in house in the morning and are popped in the toaster before being served.
- Therefore it has a semi crispy exterior, but only from the toasting rather than the caramelizing of the sugar crystals.
- Sugar crystals. Also known as “pearl sugar” which Patisserie Lebeau imports from Belgium! Pearl sugar are little clumps of natural sugar that are supposed to be found throughout the waffle… but these ones didn’t have them. Maybe I hit 1-2 of them, but I think it was my imagination.
- It wasn’t that fluffy, but at least it wasn’t dry and it’s better than the waffles from Michi Waffle & Espresso Bar.
- They are more eggy in flavour and not that sweet so it could be enjoyed as a meal rather than a dessert. You need at least 3 as a meal though.
- Sexy photo. The milk chocolate lavender topping was served cold and it was pretty thick. It was made from melted Belgian milk chocolate and lavender syrup. It’s good quality chocolate and it’s quite sweet with a slight lavender taste, but slightly underwhelming.
- $3.15 waffle + $1 per topping
- The white chocolate pistachio rose water topping is better than the milk chocolate lavender topping. It’s just much more dynamic in flavours without having too much going on.
- It’s made from White Belgian chocolates and it’s a thinner texture than the milk chocolate. It’s sweet, nutty and aromatic and I could taste an equal balance of the chocolate, pistachio and rose water.
- It was served cold again and I think it would be even better warm and with pistachio crumbs in it… or at least to dip into afterward.
- Pastry Chef Eleanor Chow is really one of my favourite pastry chefs in Vancouver so I just have high standards for her stuff and knows it can be better than this.