Cafe Medina – UPDATED post!

Restaurant: Cafe Medina
Cuisine: Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch/Cafe/Eclectic
Last visited: September 23, 2010
Last updated: October 8, 2010 (Added 2 items)
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown/Downtown)
Address: 556 Beatty Street
Price Range: $1020

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

Food: 5
Service: 2.5 (friendly, but slow)
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • 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
  • See – My post on Chambar Restaurant

Hours

  • 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 Rosewa

Cafe Medina is perhaps the most popular local favourite for breakfast and brunch in downtown Vancouver, BC. It’s one of mine for sure. The quaint cafe is constantly packed serving only breakfast, brunch and lunch. As for dinner you’ll have to go next door to its 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 is no doubt that I would enjoy the food at both places. (Chow is also pastry chef for Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie).

Cafe Medina is well known for their home made Belgian waffles, however the batter comes from Damien’s Belgian Waffles in Richmond, BC.

I’ve been to Cafe Medina a few times and the food hasn’t been disappointing. 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 eclectic, creative and sophisticated with mainly French dishes influenced by Middle Eastern, Spanish, West Coast, Italian, Indian, Hungarian, Moroccan, Persian, Lebanese and of course West Coast flavours. It may sound all over the place, but it’s not and they make it work. It is 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 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 sits 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 a go-to for an impressive brunch.

On the table:

**Lavender Latte 4/6

  • 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 is creamy and frothy and aromatic, but I could smell more lavender than I could taste.
  • I could still taste it, but it was a bit subtle.
  • 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, but I always prefer lavender flowers to syrup.
  • The espresso base is sourced from 49th Parallel which is one of my favourites in the city. They have excellent coffee.
  • 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.

White Chocolate Pistachio Mocha3/6

  • 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 chocolate.
  • Again, the espresso base is sourced from 49th Parallel who makes excellent coffee.

**Fricassé (served all day) – 6/6

  • 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 goodness!
  • 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 likely made with red wine. It’s so rich, intense and flavorful.
  • It’s almost a creamy beef stew and it’s quite rich and fatty with perhaps some butter in the jus.
  • 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 cubes of Applewood Cheddar.
  • It’s a smart and also cost saving move, but it worked.
  • Cheddar and apples are a match made in heaven, but the apple could be cooked longer because it was still crunchy and tart.

  • 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 were disappointing.
  • They were quite wrinkly, overcooked, dry and starchy and I prefer red potatoes for a creamy buttery waxy texture.

Paella4/6

  • 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 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 spices were unevenly distributed with some bites having noticeably more smoky cumin 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 tasted flavourless and there wasn’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 waited too long under the heat lamp before it was served and overcooked in the skillet.
  • I also know they use brown eggs because mine included a bit of the shell…
  • This would have been way better if the egg yolk 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 was a bit one dimensional and I got bored of it quick.

**Salmon Fumé5.5/6

  • 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 prefer the Fricasse still. It is apples and oranges though.
  • 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 were generous slices of ripe creamy avocado which was unexpected, but much appreciated.
  • The smoked salmon was roughly pureed right into the cream cheese and I actually didn’t mind too much that I didn’t get the slices of smoked salmon.
  • Pureed smoked salmon saves on costs, but it actually tasted good so I wasn’t too bothered.
  • The capers were larger ones and they were mixed in whole so I got nice salty bites.
  • There was a generous amount of spread and a lot of avocado for one slice of bread.

  • I loved the arugula pepperdew and artichoke salad lightly dressed in olive oil, 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.
  • They tasted like a cherry tomato, but 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 loved how they had a generous amount of salmon spread on the other half of bread as well.

  • I saw some people eating this with a knife and fork, but I say eat it like it was meant to be… a sandwich! You need some of everything in each bite.
  • It tastes like a panini and I loved 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 was 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, ingredients and component of the dish.

Les Merguez 4/6

  • Flat bread wrapped roasted merguez sausage, baba ganoush, haloumi cheese, grilled eggplant, tabbouleh $15
  • 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 can be too aggressive. One bite of this and I knew it was a lamb sausage.
  • I’ll still always try it in hopes to find one that I’ll like. If you like lamb or merguez than this will be excellent for you, but beware it is gamey.
  • 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 flavour, 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 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 which came from the tangy tomatoes.
  • The tabbouleh was fantastic on the other hand.  It was fresh parsley, red onions and some tomatoes.
  • I had to eat the wrap with this because it lightened the meaty flavour and took the gamey edge off.
  • 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.


Waffle with Milk Chocolate Lavender – 3.5/6

  • $3.15 waffle + $1 per topping
  • Try the waffles because they’re famous here, but they’re not my favourite in the city although still good.
  • They’re also small and a bit overpriced and the batter comes from Damien’s Belgian Waffle Factory in Richmond, so they’re not really made in house.
  • If they were amazing I don’t mind paying the price, but there is better.
  • Try the authentic Belgian Leige waffles at Patisserie Lebeau.
  • Besides in Belgium, one of the best Belgian waffles I’ve had was actually in Korea at Didi’s Gaufres (owner from Vancouver!).


Waffle3.5/6

  • I really wish the waffles were made upon order. They really should be if they’re so well known for them.
  • They are made in house in the morning and are popped in the toaster before being served.
  • It has a semi crispy exterior, but only from the toasting rather than the caramelizing of the pearl sugar crystals.
  • Sugar crystals, also known as “pearl sugar”, is what Patisserie Lebeau imports from Belgium to use in theirs.
  • 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 in one waffle, but I think it was my imagination.
  • Again, the batter is from Damien’s Belgian Waffle Factory so not really their recipe.
  • 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. 3 waffles could be a meal.

Milk Chocolate Lavender Topping3/6

  • 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 was decent quality chocolate and it was quite sweet with a slight lavender taste, but slightly underwhelming.


**Waffle with White Chocolate Pistachio Rose Water4.5/6

  • $3.15 waffle + $1 per topping
  • The white chocolate pistachio rose water topping is better than the milk chocolate lavender topping.
  • It was just much more dynamic in flavours without having too much going on.
  • It was made from White Belgian chocolates and it was a thinner texture than the milk chocolate.
  • It was 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.

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