Nook

Restaurant: Nook
Cuisine: Italian/Pizza
Last visited: May 8, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (West End/Downtown)
Address: 781 Denman Street
Price Range: $10-20, 20-30

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

Food: 3.5
Service: 2.5
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Small, local, hidden restaurant
  • Pizza/Pasta/Antipasto
  • Gas oven baked pizza
  • Fresh ingredients
  • Casual/cozy
  • Simple menu/food
  • Affordable
  • Neighbourhood gem
  • Very relaxed service/ambiance
  • Busy/line ups
  • All Italian wine list
  • Daily specials
  • No reservations
  • Dinner only
  • Daily 5pm-late

**Recommendations: Burrata Duo Antipasto, White Beans Crostini, Ricotta Crostini (The lady next to me ordered the gnocchi and made it a point to tell me it was overcooked and bland… so I think that might be a pass, but I haven’t tried it)

Nook. I couldn’t have named it better myself, and that’s why I didn’t. This little neighbourhood gem located in the West End of downtown Vancouver, BC was opened up by the same owners as the formerly known Tapastree, now called Tavola. Literally just around the corner, Tapastree was actually of my favourite restaurants. I haven’t tried Tavola, but the menu almost looks like a pricier version of Nook, except it offers a few bigger plates instead of pizzas. Nonetheless I’ve always been curious to check out Nook since it’s almost always packed with a line up at the door. They don’t take reservations so it can be challenging to get a spot.

It seats maybe about thirty and its narrow, quaint and cozy atmosphere reminds me exactly of the casual local bistros tucked away in alleys in Europe. Everything about Nook is quite simple and care free, from the chalkboard wait list, to the laid back service, and no fuss food. The ambiance is surprisingly relaxed despite the occasional line up of hungry patrons waiting for your table.

The food and menu is incredibly simple. With few descriptions and a handful of appetizers, pastas and pizzas, the recipes and flavours are easy to prepare and somewhat enjoy. It’s very affordable, the portions are good, and everything was fairly decent, but I just felt like there was a lack of care in the food. I’m not sure if Nook started off this way, or if it just become all too routine, but more attention to detail and execution is something I would have appreciated.

It doesn’t claim to be authentic Italian, and it’s not even compared to others in Vancouver, but it does cater towards that style. I wouldn’t mind coming back to try more pastas, but there was nothing that really excited me, or that I couldn’t find better elsewhere. I was expecting a lot more from Nook since it seems like such a local favourite. The ingredients were fresh and everything was made upon order, but in a city swarmed with new Italian hot spots popping up every month, I feel like Nook was literally and figuratively a bit last year… or few years ago now.

On the table:

Peroni Nastro Azzurro – They have an all Italian beer and wine list. It was pale and light with a hint of sweetness and a very crisp and clean aftertaste.

**Burrata Duo Antipasto Platter (Daily special) – 5/6

  • $20 (Californian Burrata on the left and Italian Burrata on the right)
  • It’s 5/6 almost by default because Burrata cheese is simply amazing!
  • It was a cost effective thing by showcasing the two types of Burrata cheese, but I didn’t mind at all. It was nice to have the side by side comparison.
  • Burrata cheese is hitting the Vancouver food scene hard and it started early last year. My first time trying it was at Trattoria Italian Kitchen where I gave it a 6/6, and now I’d give it a 4/6 since I’ve been exposed to even more qualities of Burrata since then.
  • The platter was done quite well, and it was a fair amount of Burrata, but as a platter it was a bit bare and it could have used some simple olives or even more crostini for $20.
  • The Burrata was topped on prosciutto and crostini, which was more like a toasted baguette, drizzled with fruity local olive oil, and sprinkled with coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • If you’re not really a “foodie”, you might not notice the difference. But, if you are, you’ll notice a lot.

  • The Californian Burrata was similar to the one I had from Trattoria Italian Kitchen. It was still delicious, but not an authentic Burrata. I won’t really hesitate to use the word “authentic” in this case because it was a side by side comparison.
  • Added note: It’s pretty much impossible to get authentic authentic Burrata if you’re not in Italy because it expires almost after 2 days of making it.
  • The Californian Burrata was one texture and it didn’t have the creamy filling, so even for a Californian Burrata it was an okay brand.
  • It was the texture of a creamy, stringy, stretchy melt in your mouth poached egg white. It was buttery and smooth and the flavour of mozzarella, but it could be cow’s mozzarella instead of Buffalo.
  • It was still delicious on top of the salty prosciutto and crunchy crostini.

  • The Italian Burrata was amazing!
  • It’s noticeably creamier, richer and more indulgent. It actually had the fresh buffalo mozzarella shell and the inside was an ultra thick buttery creamy filling. That’s what authentic Burrata is supposed to be like.
  • The cream was incredibly fresh and almost like cream cheese, but with the flavour of fresh Mozzarella. Simply incredible.
  • It has more density and more texture than the Californian Burrata.
  • Burrata is one of my all time favourite cheeses and I usually love the harder saltier nuttier cheeses.

**White Beans Crostini 4.5/6

  • White beans with olive tapenade $6
  • I really enjoyed this! The crostini was a freshly grilled baguette, so it wasn’t oven baked and crisp, but it was thicker, chewier and crunchier.
  • The white beans were creamy smooth with I think Dijon(?) mustard for some depth in flavour.
  • The salty tangy bite of olive sun-dried tomato tapenade was the perfect awakening call to the bean puree.
  • There was lots of pureed parsley, a hint of lemon and a little chili flake in the bean puree so it had this herby aromatic lemony scent. It had a nice heat to follow but it wasn’t spicy.
  • The fruity olive oil drizzle added moisture to the beans and brought out the parsley flavour. The olive oil is from a local producer which was a bit surprising, but it was stellar.

**Ricotta Crostini4.5/6

  • Ricotta, grilled radicchio, pistachio, firewood honey $6
  • I actually liked this one better because I love nuts, however the pistachio flavour did not come through and they could have just used peanuts.
  • I was very impressed with the amount of pistachio they used though!
  • The pistachios were coated with honey, but not quite candied, but syrupy. They weren’t that sweet and incredibly nutty since they were a bit burnt and the charred flavour just overpowered the buttery pistachio.
  • I loved the crunch of crostini with the creamy fluffy ricotta, caramelized radicchio and nutty crunch of sweet pistachio, but the pistachio flavour was just MIA.
  • The firewood honey just tasted like regular honey and any smokiness it may have had was overpowered by the burnt pistachios.
  • As a side note, if you like this, you should also try the Radicchio Bocconcini from Q4.

Spaghetti Puttanesca3.5/6

  • $15
  • “Whore’s Spaghetti”… not a nice name for it, but it’s a pretty nice spaghetti. A good portion with simple ingredients.
  • The spaghetti was dry pasta which I think works better for this anyways, but it was overcooked although not completely soft. The noodles itself weren’t salted very well, but perhaps because the sauce was a bit saltier already. If the noodles weren’t overcooked it would be a solid 4/6.
  • It was enough sauce just to coat the noodles which is great and the flavour was there, but I wouldn’t have minded an even bolder punch.
  • The sauce was tangy and savoury with bites of salty olives and some fresh and tangy sun dried tomato, but I couldn’t taste the anchovies or capers that are supposed to be in there. The sauce almost tasted like their olive tapenade they used on the white bean crostini.
  • It was well flavoured with good fruity olive oil, chili flakes, garlic and some toasted fennel seed so it had a hint of licorice aroma, depth, and spicy kick that was well rounded.
  • It was sprinkled with fresh parsley and what tasted like toasted bread crumbs which was a bit unexpected.
  • It was all quite delicious, but I just wanted the ingredients a little more whole rather then having them all smashed up to the point of it tasting like they were skimping on them.

The first pizza I ordered was cooked really unevenly and half the bottom was burnt, but the other half was okay. They kindly ended up bringing me a new one though.

Smoked Provolone & Pancetta Pizza (Daily special) – 2.5/6

  • Smoked Provolone, pancetta, roasted garlic, caramelized onions $18
  • The pizza was a bit disappointing. Had it been 1-2 years ago, it would be a solid option, but now with places like Nicli Antica Pizzeria, The BiBo and Campagnolo, things are changing and pizza is making a stronger comeback than ever before.

  • The second pizza was fine, but somewhat undercooked and it didn’t have a crispy texture or charred flavour from any leoparding.
  • I’m just not a fan of the gas oven, which doesn’t help for flavour or texture, but that’s also me being a bit picky. However for $18 pizza I think it’s okay to be a bit picky.
  • The crust was really thin which was nice, but the dough was very basic, soft and chewy. It just tasted like ordinary pizza dough.
  • The toppings were very minimal even if they were taking the traditional root. Everything was just so bitty and I couldn’t taste any Pancetta at all. The ingredients were all very scraggly so none of them stood out except for the cheese. Therefore it almost reminded me of American thin crust pizza, but with a fresh crushed tomato sauce.
  • After this one, I feel like I need to move my ranking for The BiBo pizza to a 5/6 – see my post for them here.

Tiramisu 2/6

  • $6
  • There was barely any Mascarpone in this.
  • It tasted like two layers of lady finger sponge cake. The lady fingers were well soaked and not too wet, but it wasn’t a creamy tiramisu at all.
  • I could taste the Rum and espresso, and it’s not too sweet, but the Mascarpone layer was so thin that I couldn’t taste it.
  • It was topped with a chocolate powder that didn’t taste like bittersweet cocoa powder either.
  • It tasted fine, but I can barely call it a Tiramisu without the Mascarpone cheese.

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Nook on Urbanspoon

12 Comments

  • Linda says:

    tapastree! my good fried alejandra has been working at tapastree aka tavola for the longest time – she says the owners are such great ppl and the clientele there is solid! i haven’t been to tapastree in ages!

    mmm burrata ๐Ÿ™‚ i had it first at trattoria as well! i guess everyone is finally catching on to how amazing this cheese is – totally reminds me of fresh mozzarella when you first look at it but the texture on the inside is so decadent.. making my mouth water just thinking about it lol

    i love white bean crustini – such simple ingredients that really pack a punch! i love everything with “toast” to be honest and i’ve always joked that i can survive without rice but i can’t without bread!

    boo for the inconsistencies on the pizza and for the fact that the undercooked one looked uber oily! what a shame too – the ingredients had potential but with a mediocre dough, it really ruins it for the rest of the dish ๐Ÿ™

  • john says:

    Wow we just finished 9 days of VCBW and as I read the post I see a bottle of Peroni with your meal! Nice! As you said before that your still more of a wine type than beer. This is a good start lol.

    I love the rustic looking dishes, keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for itself. The Burrata Duo Antipasto Platter is right up my alley. I agree maybe some olives would be nice or even some pickled white anchovies.

    And then there’s the pizza. IMO cooking pizza with gas oven you need to have a pizza stone. It just cooks the pizza more evenly.

    Reading your post always makes me hungry. THANKS ALOT!!

  • Marvin says:

    Hi Mijune,

    We met a few weeks back at Bella with my sister. I feel like for the first time, I need to post a comment in defense of Nookโ€”I really think that it’s the best pizza joint in the city. I’ve had some of the best, and most consistently good pizzas there. Their owners are also very solid restauranteursโ€”as it apparent by their Urbanspoon rating. What’s weird about the things in your review is that those are things that have never happened to me! So, it’s odd to read about them happening in a place like Nook. Rregarding the service and ambiance, I routinely have nights in there where Brad, one of their owners, will chat with me about stuff the whole time. So, it’s a real neighbourhood feel in there, where the staff isn’t a bunch of eighteen year olds that ask if you need change for a $60 bill if you’ve put a $100 bill in there. It was even weird to read a bad review on their tiramisu since it’s always been well done. I hope you’ll revisit it sometime, because I know that your visit has got to be some kind of outlier in the data.

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – Oh so you’re a bread lover? You’re like my mom! I love toast too.. and crostini.. toppings on crunchy bread… drool ๐Ÿ™‚ too bad you’ll never be able to check out the Tapastree now!! ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a gem!

    @john – I know!! Aren’t you proud of me? i sure couldn’t finish the Peroni, but it was a nice start. Mmm pickled white anchovies!! would have loved that!! Good call on the pizza stone! i know there aren’t many brick wood ovens around, but the pizza stone would help!

    @Marvin – Welcome! I remember! You went to Regalade? Hi! I definitely don’t want this post to come across as “bad”, because it’s certainly not a bad place. I just felt it a bit underwhelming for what I was expecting.

    Have you tried the pizza at Campagnolo or The BiBo? It might be nice just for comparisons sake. I totally respect your opinion and I’m sure the owners are solid restauranteurs considering the success of what they have opened. I don’t think they were here on my night.

    I’m sure the pizza was a one off thing, and i’m sure they rarely burn it, but the oven is still a bit inconsistent with the temperatures IMO. The tiramisu was really lacking in Mascarpone though.. that I can confirm since the photo kind of shows it. It was ok, but if you order it next time you may notice the lack of cheese now because at first bite it wasn’t noticeable to me either.

    No worries Marvin, I will certainly give this place another try because really my experience wasn’t bad. I love the passion you have for places you love and thank you for sharing your own experience. If you have any recommendations for what I should order, I’m all ears. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sandi says:

    I think you should give Nook another try too. Looks like you went on an “off” night. We’ve had nothing but good experiences there. I prefer their pizza to Bibo’s, for sure. The owners are terrifically friendly and welcoming – a feeling I didn’t get at Bibo. And tiramisu without enough mascarpone is a trajedy! Next time try afogatto for dessert – a shot of really good espresso poured over vanilla ice cream. Sounds simple, right? But the espresso has to be of really high quality and HOT, poured over good ice cream the moment before serving….blows me away every time.

  • Mijune says:

    @Sandi – noted! Looks like I did have an off night and I will take yours and Marvin’s word for it. I know what you mean by the service at The BiBo though… despite me going on different circumstances I observed the service and it looked a bit inattentive. the owners at Nook weren’t here on my night,but I give the benefit of the doubt that it’s usually really good from the comments I’ve head. I love afogato too! however I’m super picky about gelato… but in this case I guess they use ice cream? I’ll try it out nonetheless. Thanks Sandi!

  • Marvin says:

    Hey Mijune,

    Get their prosciutto pizza, sit at the bar, talk to Brad about the food. The prosciutto pizza is made with La Quercia prosciutto (not the restaurant, ask Brad about where it’s from).

    I haven’t been to BiBo yet, but a friend of mine that has been to Campagnolo a couple times, told me that Nook had the best pizza she’s had, especially their prosciutto pizza. Mijune, let me tell you why I agree: the last time I was there I had a special pizza with pancetta, roasted garlic and an egg cracked on top. It was possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had. I also had the Escarole salad which is a basic salad, but the combination of walnuts and this great cheese, is really refreshing. I also agree with Sandi regarding the affogato.

    One thing to note: some people feel like Nook’s service is indifferent or something. But, being privy to some owner opinions around town, I also think that Vancouverites are becoming increasingly snobby or entitled when it comes to restaurants.

  • Mijune says:

    @Marvin – Ok well try the pizza at The BiBo and Camapagnolo first and then let me know what you think. If we’re going to compare “best pizzas” then they’re all worth a try right? However in the end we all have our personal preferences of what we look for in a great pizza.

    I will definitely go try Nook again so not to worry. I do love those egg pizzas and have had that many times ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t doubt their salad are good here since the Burrata platter gave me an idea on their style.

    Thanks for all your tips Marvin! I definitely don’t want to think I’m “entitled” to any extra service besides the standard (whatever that may be for each of us), but from my personal experience I just felt like it was laid back. Now I know to sit at the bar and perhaps I’ll experience something difference next time ๐Ÿ™‚ I see your passion for Nook, and I think it’s great you stand by your neighbourhood favourite. I just wanted to point out other places you may want to consider trying pizzas at… you never know unless you try ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dilara says:

    Damn shouldn’t have read this post so late at night… now I’m craving burrata like crazy!! It’s funny to see that it’s finally catching on here in Vancouver cuz I grew up eating the stuff! Lucky me, I know =)

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – I know!! And we can’t even get the FRESHEST burrata here! I’m so jealous!! Where do you like Italian food by the way? If it’s not fine dining.

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