Restaurant: Commune Cafe
Cuisine: American/Pacific Northwest/Organic/West Coast/Desserts/Cafe
Last visited: February 16, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC
Address: 1002 Seymour St
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Casual dining
- Cafe/”Yaletown diner”
- Freshly baked goods
- Home cooked comfort food
- Free range eggs
- Organic options
- Gluten free options
- Great for appies/drinks
- Great for Coffee/Tea/Wine/Beer
- Daily specials
- Quick/affordable/budget friendly
- Open late
- Heated patio
- Free wi-fi
- Ocean Wise
- Brunch Sat-Sun 10am-3pm
- Dinner 5pm-close
- Mon-Fri 7:30am-close
- Sat-Sun 9am-close
- Sun.days $24 – 4 course dinner
**Recommendations: Warm Chicken Waldorf, Seared Salmon Risotto, Braised Beef, Mussels
I pass by Commune Cafe often, but it never really sparked my curiosity. From the outside it seemed like a typical coffee shop, but little did I know it actually serves more than your morning coffee and muffin. On this occasion I was invited to a media dinner at Commune Cafe. I would actually never have considered it as a dinner spot, but to my surprise they do offer home style dinners. It reminded me a little of Argo Cafe, but not in ambiance and less random. To me it’s a “Yaletown diner” in the most stereotypical sense, except it’s not overpriced. I had the great pleasure to sit across from Sherman who also lent me his photos for this post (well the nice ones are his, trust me, you’ll be able to tell).
Since this was an arranged media dinner, the items I tried were not necessarily items I would order. They’re definitely orders I would try, but it’s not what I would have selected from their menu. The menu looks exciting, but also a bit confusing since it’s a bit scattered. From frittatas to sandwiches, to meat and cheese, hummus, mussels, and pork belly, I didn’t really grasp the philosophy behind the food. Well that’s the “foodie” in me talking, but if I’m coming from a “does it taste good” perspective than yes, the majority of it does taste good and I would go back to try other things that perhaps sounded more appealing to me.
Commune Cafe is affordable, local and a place that is appropriate for daily dining. There’s nothing really pretentious about it and it’s pretty much what you see it what you get. I mean the items offered for dinner were a lot fancier than I was expecting, but when you break it all down it was actually quite easy to prepare. It’s easy to follow recipes, a few simple twists to keep things interesting and a fair price with a decent portion. It’s a casual place that won’t break your wallet so trying it out at least once is harmless.
There’s definitely a focus on local, organic, and sustainable ingredients so it speaks to the right Yaletown yoga loving crowd. On the other hand a few of the dishes are incredibly indulgent, so again the theme is a bit confusing. It reminds me of a “Yaletown campus cafeteria”, or a place where “Yaletown kids” might go for a “home cooked” meal and an affordable glass of wine after watching the Bachelor on a Monday night.
On the table:
- Daily selection of cheeses (They offer a $12 “Cheese & Butcher Board”, but this was a custom cheese plate so it is not on the menu.)
- Stilton – It was nice and sharp, thick, nutty and yet creamy.
- Goat’s Brie – This was ultra creamy, almost more creamy than an ordinary Brie. The goat flavour was there, but it was quite light. I’m not a fan of super gamey goat’s cheeses, so this one was not bad.
- Sharp White Cheddar Cheese – this was quite standard for an aged sharp white cheddar.
- It came with a nice variety of crunchy crostini, walnuts, celery, sesame crisps, pickled grapes and an apple and raisin chutney.
- The sesame crisps are like nutty, dry, flaky crackers, but in a good way.
- The pickled grapes were quite a surprise because I expected them to be sweet and didn’t know they were pickled. They were quite sour with vinegar, but still juicy and well suited with cheese.
- The apple and raisin chutney was sweet and tangy and it had a very strong licorice flavour from Star Anise in it. I liked it, but if you’re not a fan of licorice or too many flavours going on, then it might not be for you.
Hummus & Sangak –
4/6 (Please see comments)
- I love hummus. This one was a very textured hummus with almost coarsely pureed chick peas. It wasn’t pureed completely smooth to the point of being creamy, but I still liked it.
- It had lots of flavour, a nice smokiness and some great olive oil. It wasn’t that garlicky or heavily spiced at all.
- The Sangak is a traditional Persian bread. It’s not made in house, but it’s served warm upon order.
- The Sangak tastes like a tougher and thinner pita since it’s made with whole wheat flour. It’s somewhat crispy, quite chewy, but not fluffy, stretchy or soft.
- This was almost like a whole wheat thin crust Margarita pizza with pesto sauce.
- The ingredients were fresh and it wasn’t oily, which was what made it good.
- It had juicy plump tomatoes, melted fresh mozzarella, tangy fresh tomato sauce and freshly pureed basil sauce. I would have preferred fresh basil leaves, but this was a cost effective alternative. I would have loved this with pine nuts as well and a pesto like drizzle would have been great, but that’s another story I guess.
- It was a nice change to have it on the Sangak, but since it’s made with whole wheat flour, it gives it a tougher chewier quality.
- Anything with this much bacon is sure to be a favourite. Classic combination of ingredients so you can’t really go wrong.
- The caramelized onions could have been further caramelized and the process was a bit rushed. They were soft, but their sugars didn’t release yet so it wasn’t that sweet.
- I could taste the smokiness and salty bites of bacon but their wasn’t a dramatic enough contrast with sweet and tangy flavours since the onions weren’t as sweet.
- It was supposed to be a bechamel sauce drizzled on top, but it seemed like the texture of creme fraiche and it didn’t have much of a flavour and it came unnoticed.
- I liked that the bacon was whole strips which were crispy, not shriveled or crumbled on top.
- Again it was nice and crispy and somewhat chewy from the whole wheat Sangak bread crust. It’s not very oily either.
- Salad of fennel, crispy shallots, arugula, horse radish, creme fraiche $8
- You have to eat it all at once or the salmon is too salty and the salad is too tangy and bland.
- I wanted to enjoy this because I love salmon, but it just fell short.
- The salmon was nicely cured and firm, but salty. The salad was fresh and crunchy with a mild but tangy lemon like dressing which took away the natural licorice flavour of the fennel. Eaten alone it wasn’t very exciting, but it might have made a difference with even some freshly cracked black pepper or some dill.
- I was looking forward to the horse radish but it was completely unnoticed and the dollops tasted like plain creme fraiche, or sour cream.
- I found the dish a bit too far on the tangy side since the salad was tangy and the beets were pickled and quite sour as well.
- Together it wasn’t bad, but I also wouldn’t really order it again.
- Heritage farm leg, celery salad, pickled grapes, candied walnuts $8
- You have to eat everything together again. It’s the only way it works.
- The chicken will taste dry if you eat it alone and the side of “stuffing” will taste too sweet and tangy by itself.
- This totally reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner. It’s also a dish that is very “my style” with the ingredients involved.
- I loved the savoury shredded chicken rillette with the nutty crunchy of sweet walnuts, tangy juicy grapes, fresh crunch of celery and sweet pieces of apples and raisins.
- The pickled grapes and apple and raisin chutney were also part of the condiments for the cheese plate, so it was a smart switch up.
- It was savoury, sweet, and tangy with the perfect amount of natural juices coming from all the ingredients. Great flavour and texture, but must be eaten all together.
- For dark meat chicken the rillette is surprisingly dry and almost like turkey, that’s why the bursts of pickled grape juice and sweet fruits and walnuts really helped.
- It was a perfect balance of all ingredients and the celery leaves made it taste more aromatic and even brought out more Thanksgiving like qualities to this dish.
- 1lb Mussels $9
- This was a 1/2 portion of mussels and usually it comes double for $9 which is a great Wednesday special.
- They were very good, but also as good as your basic mussels in white wine with shallots and cream sauce can get. It was simple and well executed, but no real surprise.
- Did I drink the soup? Sure I did! Did I soak some up with the soft and crunchy bread? Of course! But was it memorable? It’s as memorable as the one’s next door…
- The mussels were very fresh, plump, juicy, sweet and perfectly cooked though.
- The broth was savoury, not really sweet for the amount of shallots used, and it also had a subtle tang and a slight seafood flavour from the mussel shells. It’s a bit thin and it could use some herbs. I’d still order this again.
- Broccoli florets, confit cherry tomatoes, almonds, sage butter $12
- I wanted to love this, but the execution wasn’t great. It looks good and sounds fabulous to me, but it was a bit bland.
- The gnocchi was quite soft and deflated. It was creamy and sweet, but not fluffy. It was pan fried first, but they were soggy and not crispy and almost wilted.
- They need more sage butter sauce because I couldn’t taste or really see any and it was under seasoned. I wish there were more Parmesan and almonds too.
- It was a good side to a main maybe, but I didn’t really see its value especially because it was all spread out as well so there wasn’t that much of it either.
- It has a lot of potential with some improvements though.
- Smoked bacon, garden peas, preserved lemon $14
- I’m very nervous ordering salmon because I fear it being overcooked, they cooked it perfectly here, but considering the circumstances I’m not surprised. I cross my fingers this is representable of a regular day.
- The fish was a big piece and it was moist, juicy and tender although the skin could have been crispier. It looks very crispy, but it wasn’t.
- Everything was quite traditional but what made the difference was the preserved lemon. It was very obvious, but not overpowering and it just brought a brightness out in the dish. It made the risotto lighter and more interesting and added a nice aromatic punch to the salty smoky bacon and fish.
- The risotto was quite good, but a bit rushed. It was very creamy and not gummy, but the rice needed a bit longer to cook so it was borderline hard still.
- Peas and bacon are a pretty classic combination and I could taste a decent amount of Parmesan cheese as well.
- Overall it was very good and I saw the value especially with such a big piece of fish. I would also top this with some toasted almonds.
- Confit belly, braised red cabbage, baby baked potato, apple sauce $13
- A delicious item that probably won’t do well in Yaletown.
- People that like pork belly, will definitely like this and there was a nice balance of sides.
- A very simple dish, but the apple sauce was unique and the twist to something very home style.
- The pork belly had a wonderfully sweet and crispy skin and then the layers of fat were quite melt in your mouth tender.
- The pork was juicy and the fat was not gelatinous at all, but just creamy and very well layered with the lean meat parts.
- It wasn’t too salty, but still savoury and the homemade apple sauce was a thick and sweet accompaniment that suited it perfectly.
- The apple sauce was a silky smooth puree and it brought the sweetness out in the caramelized skin. Apples and pork are also a classic combination so it was great.
- The braised cabbage was required to take the richness off a bit. It was warm tangy and sweet with a natural flavour. I think there could have been some apple cider vinegar aand some red wine used in the braising of it.
- I was going to say the baby baked potato needed bacon bits, but then I started topping it with pieces of pork belly and it was even better than bacon bits!
- Very simple, but if you’re craving pork belly and don’t want to make it at home (and really who does?) then this will settle your craving.
- Creamy mashed potatoes, winter vegetables, rich red wine jus $15
- The sauce didn’t look reduced enough and it was very thin in texture, however the flavour was there and it didn’t taste thin at all. In fact it was thick, sweet, syrupy and natural au jus, but it did have a slight bitterness in the end notes. The red wine used to reduce it probably wasn’t great and it didn’t add much body to the jus, but for $15 I’ll let that go.
- This was pretty amazing braised beef! It was melt in your mouth tender and required no knife. It was so well executed and the cut was so well marbleized. It was falling apart tender and you could have shred away at the meat with a spoon. AMAZING.
- The mashed potatoes were simple and creamy, but also powdery and starchy in texture. I think it was a Russet potato mash and those were pretty mediocre.
- The cubes of carrots and potato were actually almost raw and I couldn’t even bite into them so it was a bit of a waste.
- Regardless of the weak sides, I would still order it again just for the knock your socks off beef.
Oh what?! There’s more?! Yes. There is more. You do not leave Commune Cafe without checking out their selection of freshly baked goods. They change daily, with a few favourites that stay on the menu. It’s a popular place for baked goods, and they’re pretty good, but not spectacular. It would settle my craving for X for a short term until I find something more satisfying. This was a custom dessert platter for the occasion, but everything can be ordered separately.
- It’s served cold and I wish it was served room temperature as it should be.
- It was like a candied caramel syrup that had hardened from being cold instead of a real creme brulee burnt sugar crust. It was too thick and crunchy instead of crispy and it’s more like candy.
- The custard itself was quite good though. The right texture and flavour and completely smooth, thick and creamy.
- It wasn’t too sweet, but still sweet, and the portion is decent since the dish is shallow.
- Since it came from the fridge it had dried out around the edges and the crust was very hard and crunchy.
- It was a bittersweet chocolate tort that was almost all ganache so it was very rich and indulgent with a cocoa dusting on top.
- It’s fit for chocolate lovers, but it had a very “mass produced” hotel-like quality to it.
- Homemade rich chocolate brownie $4
- This is a very moist and fudgey brownie. It’s not that sweet although it sure looks sweet.
- It was covered with a fudgey creamy frosting, but it was only okay for me.
- It’s actually not that dense although it had double the fudge. I like my brownies with some crust and crunch though so it wasn’t my favourite interpretation of a brownie.
- $5 (It usually comes in a mini loaf)
- It was a good carrot cake, but not something I would think of if someone asked me “where’s the best carrot cake?”
- It was very nutty, crumbly and grainy which gave it a drier texture, but it wasn’t dry or very moist for that matter.
- It’s packed with ingredients and I tasted more nuts and texture of coconut and almost oats before I did carrots. It seems quite healthy tasting besides the icing.
- It’s not overly sweet or spiced, but very crumbly almost like packed cereal. I could get lots of coconut texture, but not flavour.
- The icing was thin, very creamy, grainy and sugary and way too sweet and I wanted more of a cream cheese tang.
- The cookies aren’t that big, but they’re rather thick. It would make a perfect pazookie (see what that is here), but I find it actually quite pricey for a cookie from a cafe.
- They’re not greasy cookies and they’re soft and chewy with quite a bit of ingredients listed in each cookie.
- It taste like what it was, and it was very good, but I did lose the orange flavour a bit.
- It was over baked and hard, but let’s hope it was only this time.
- It was extremely crunchy and I couldn’t get the sweetness of the dates, but I could get the flavour of the walnuts.
- It’s definitely a biscotti that requires tea for soaking.
- What else is there to say? It was fresh, and I had no room let… actually that’s a lie. I still ate the berries… and some leftover dessert on my way home.