The Oakwood Canadian Bistro

Restaurant: The Oakwood Canadian Bistro
Cuisine: West Coast/Pacific Northwest/Global
Last visited: October 23, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Kitsilano)
Address: 2741 West 4th Avenue
Price Range: $10-20+

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

Food: 4-4.5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • Opened Summer 2011
  • Pacific Northwest cuisine
  • Fresh, local ingredients
  • Creative/modern menu
  • Organic meats
  • Sustainable seafood
  • Hand made pasta
  • House made sauce/breads
  • $10 brunch
  • Neighbourhood favourite
  • Couple TV’s
  • Cocktails/limited wine
  • Artisan/bottled beers
  • Tues-Thurs 5pm-1am
  • Friday 5pm-2am
  • Sunday 5pm-1am
  • Brunch: Sat-Sun 10am-3pm

**Recommendations: Brunch, Burger, Beet and Carrot Cake

It’s not often I visit a restaurant twice in one day. This is the second time I’ve done it and the first time was for Anatolia’s Gate – see my post here. I came once for The Oakwood brunch menu, which I didn’t even know they offered, and later for their dinner. Why? It was all because of their burger. I came specifically to try it and at that time it wasn’t being offered on their brunch menu yet, and now it is, so thank goodness!

It’s another farm to table, West Coast and Pacific Northwest restaurant. So what sets this one apart? Nothing really. It’s fresh, local, home made food and the meats are organic and the seafood is Ocean Wise. How very Vancouver. I actually really like this style of dining, but it does need to bring something new to the table or it gets really “been there, done that” quickly.

It’s self proclaimed “unpretentious food”, but I actually find it pretty gourmet. I mean you can make reservations for it on Opentable. It’s like how locals in North Vancouver consider themselves a casual, laid back suburb, when those living outside of it know that’s not true… unless you live in West Vancouver (I say that with a sense of humour). I think I confused you, but I just consider this more of a “Vancouver Bistro” than a “Canadian Bistro”.

The menu isn’t Canadian with bannock, smoked salmon, and maple syrup, but it’s just very Vancouver, and I did love the style and set up of it. It has $5, $10, $15, and $20 categories, and I find the prices, portions and value quite reasonable. The brunch is definitely worth checking out and it delivers beyond what $10 can get you at most other places. Yes, all the items on the brunch menu are only $10! I haven’t checked out brunch at Café Régalade across the street yet, but apparently that also has a solid brunch.

If I compare The Oakwood Canadian Bistro to other options nearby, I’d say it’s fresher and younger than Trafalgars Bistro, less formal and “less Canadian” than Pair Bistro, and more global than Café Régalade (which is actually mostly French anyways). For the area and atmosphere, it’s quite exciting to have and I would go back to try more things, or even repeat a couple dishes… which is very rare, unless I really like them, just because there’s so many other things I want to explore in the city.

On the table:

Albacore Tuna Nicoise Benedict4/6

  • Poached egg, green bean salad, hollandaise, and corn muffin $10
  • Even if it wasn’t the greatest version of an albacore tuna eggs benedict, for $10 it does the job fine.
  • “Tuna Nicoise” didn’t come to mind when I had it, but the albacore tuna was different from the usual smoked salmon.
  • The green bean and frisee salad was lightly dressed in an Asian chili-ginger vinaigrette (?) and I loved the spice it brought to the dish. The dressing was great!
  • The hash browns were creamy, tender Kennebec potatoes that were well seasoned with herbs, but not crispy. It would have been great with deep fried capers since it’s inspired by a Nicoise salad anyways.

  • It came with perfectly poached eggs and 4 mini squares of seared tuna on each piece of cornbread.
  • There wasn’t enough tuna to actually carry a flavour in the benedict though.
  • The tuna wasn’t overcooked, marinated or crusted, but it might have helped if it was because it didn’t stand out unless I ate it alone.
  • The cornbread caught me off guard, and it brought me back to the Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict I had at The Well, which I think worked out much better.
  • The cornbread was so rich, sweet, thick and substantial that it just overwhelmed the tuna. Thinner cornbread with more tuna would be better.
  • It was grilled, but not crispy so it was all really soft, buttery and moist, and there wasn’t much distinction from the texture of the tuna.
  • There was no actual corn in it, but it had some herbs and it was great alone, but quite sweet.
  • Instead of cornbread or hash browns, a crispy potato pancake would be a nice alternative. It would give the benedict texture and the potato is part of a Nicoise salad anyways.
  • I could have used a tangier hollandaise because this one was home made, buttery and creamy, but needed more lemon to contrast the sweet cornbread.
  • It’s not that rich or indulgent for a hollandaise though and it was kind of foamy.
  • The benedict did melt in you mouth, but more so because there was no texture.
  • I could have used some red onions or tomato in between the cornbread and tuna for texture and to make it more like a Tuna Nicoise inspired benedict.

Braised Shortrib4/6

  • Fried eggs, marinated tomato, potato pancake $10
  • Again, for $10, it does the job fine.
  • The only thing was that the fried eggs were completely well done. They didn’t ask how I wanted them, so I’m not sure if that’s just how they always come, if not I’d request soft and runny yolks next time.
  • There was a dollop of crème fraîche right on top which I loved, especially with the pancake, but there wasn’t enough of it to finish the dish.
  • I loved seeing fresh vegetables at brunch, but I didn’t even notice the marinade on these tomatoes. They were good though.

  • The shortrib doesn’t look like a big portion, but for $10 it’s fair and it ended up being enough for brunch.
  • It was very tender and well marbleized with fat, so it was moist, but not really juicy.
  • It was likely braised in some tomato marinade because it was slightly acidic, but not heavily sauced or seasoned.
  • I could have used more sauce or beef drippings especially since I had no egg yolk to use for dipping.
  • If you didn’t have the shortrib immediately, it did end up getting a bit dry and that’s why I wanted more sauce or crème fraîche as well.

  • The potato pancake was almost like latkes.
  • The pancake was pretty much black and I thought it was burnt (which it was a bit), and I’m not sure if they were meant to be like that. It could have been made with purple potatoes as well, which gave it that colour.
  • They were deep fried with a very crunchy exterior, but the inside was still moist and tender. It’s not my favourite execution of a potato pancake or latkes.
  • I did wonder how this would have went with their tuna Nicoise benedict instead of the cornbread.
  • It was great serving them with crème fraîche, but it was supposed to be a black pepper crème fraîche, but I thought it was just regular crème fraîche.
  • The dish could have used a sweet aspect and apples actually go hand in hand with potato pancakes in many Eastern European cultures or Jewish traditions.
  • Apple sauce or some apple component would have been a nice addition, but for $10 it’s not a big deal.

Dinner

Dungeness Crab Tortellini4/6

  • Apple, fennel, brown butter emulsion $15
  • I liked the sound of the dish and it pretty much delivered as promised, but it’s not something I would crave or care to order again even though I liked it.
  • The portion was fair considering was dungeness crab, but it was definitely appetizer sized for 2.
  • The tortellini skins were made in house which was very impressive and appreciated. They were a bit thick, but they’re nice and firm and cooked until al dente.
  • The brown butter emulsion reminded me of their hollandiase sauce and the butter didn’t taste browned yet so it came off as a butter emulsion. It lacked that rich nutty flavour of browned butter and was almost like gourmet popcorn butter.
  • The deep fried capers were a great touch and I loved the apple, fennel and parsley salad on top to cut the richness of the butter.
  • The salad gave it a freshness, crisp texture and tangy aspect which worked.
  • There was also some chili flakes in the salad so it carried a bit of a spice, but it’s not spicy.

  • The tortellini was well stuffed with fresh, moist, and flaky crab meat.
  • Foamy buttery juices leaked out of the tortellini as I cut it and there was no filler in the crab.
  • They must have pieces of butter stuffed in the tortellini, but it’s not overdone.
  • The crab was marinated in lemon juice and strong with fresh thyme. It was on the salty side, but it was better when eaten with the salad together.
  • Brown butter crab tortellini is kind of a bore and that’s why I liked the unique salad so much.

**Burger 5.5/6

  • Sesame bun, buttermilk fried onion, smoked cheddar. Served with fries or salad. $15
  • Yes! Come to mama! This is the signature dish here.
  • The fries are cut short with the skins on and I’m pretty sure they’re Kennebec potatoes.
  • They’re semi-crispy, but they are very well seasoned with perhaps maldon salt.
  • They’re not stand out fries, but they’re good.

The house made ketchup is great! It was smoky and almost like barbeque sauce meets ketchup. It was thick, salty and tangy with a Worcestershire kick and I could taste the puree of pungent tomato paste and perhaps roasted tomatoes. It was more salty and tangy than sweet and the seasoning reminded me of Red Robbin’s seasoning salt (I know, I’m being specific).

  • The burger wasn’t huge, but it’s a good size and the best part is that it comes medium rare. Almost any burger that comes medium rare is a 4/6.
  • I admit, I wasn’t crazy about the bun.
  • I’m a fan of light, fluffy brioche buns with glossy tops like the ones from Romer’s Burger Bar, or StackHouse Burger Bar (which aren’t as great). The best one I’ve had yet are from Belle’s on Thirty Two Restaurant.
  • The bun was lightly toasted, but you couldn’t tell by texture, and it was super soft and sweeter than a normal sesame bun and I did find it a bit thick.
  • The best part was the beef patty which was thick, juicy, tender and incredibly moist and well flavoured with lots of minced garlic.
  • It was also a bit sweet, but the garlic was quite apparent although not spicy.
  • As soon as I cut it, the juices, not grease, leaked out and absorbed into the bun, however a lot of the juices still remained locked inside the patty and every bite was a drippy mess! Loved that.
  • It had a slab of good quality melted smoky cheddar cheese and I would have added mushrooms and bacon if I could, but it didn’t even need it.
  • I did miss texture though and I couldn’t taste any crispy fried onions, which were much desired. I saw some, but they were all soggy since they were under the patty.
  • The alfalfa spouts were a nice change from regular lettuce or arugula, and it gave a naturally grassy flavour.
  • There was a fresh home made relish which gave it a subtle tang and I almost thought it was just minced cucumber because it wasn’t that pickled.
  • There was perhaps a bit of mayo and there wasn’t an obvious burger sauce since most of the flavour was coming from the natural beef juices which I loved.
  • Overall, I’d say it’s a must order item if you’re going to come here, but the crispy fried onions were missed and the brioche bun was desired for me.
  • As a side note, another burger in this price range worth trying is from Capital Grille – see here.

**Beet and Carrot Cake6/6 (See **)

  • Blue cheese cream, candy walnut $5
  • A+ for creativity! This dessert was right up my alley! I was inspired to recreate it.
  • I’ve made beet and chocolate lava cakes at home, and I’ve heard of beet muffins at Café Régalade, and I’ve even had chicken wing cupcakes with blue cheese icing, but this was still new to me!
  • Mother. Oh mother. Please turn around as I lick the plate.
  • If you saw me eat this, you would have thought it was my first meal in a week. I devoured it. Happily. Very happily.
  • It wasn’t the particular components, but just how it all came together that made it so memorable.
  • The carrot cake was great, but it was in the end just a carrot cake with shredded carrots and lots of walnuts. It was moist, rich, tender, and sweet but not hard to make.
  • It was two mini slices of carrot cake sandwiched with blue cheese cream and topped with a generous dollop of it too.
  • The blue cheese cream was so much better than a traditional cream cheese icing on a carrot cake and not nearly as sweet.
  • At first I thought the blue cheese cream was ice cream. Blue cheese ice cream or sour cream ice cream would have been phenomenal, but this was still amazing.
  • The blue cheese cream tasted like crème fraîche and it was very rich, thick, and creamy with a great tang and very mild blue cheese flavour. If you didn’t know it was in there you might not be able to taste it. It’s not like cheesecake either.
  • I could have used more blue cheese, but for the average diner I think the amount they used was enough to ease non-adventurous diners into this idea of sweet and savoury.
  • The big pieces of candied walnuts were fantastic! They were well glazed, nice and sweet, and I loved that it was also in the cake! It made for crunch and overall texture since the cake was so soft.
  • The red beet wasn’t in the cake but it was the syrup around it. It was a very syrupy red beet juice and it was either reduced quite well or had some added sugar because it was thicker than just being beet juice.
  • This was a fabulous dessert.
  • Don’t let the description turn you off… it’s definitely more sinfully sweet with a tang than savoury, and certainly not healthy despite the vegetables.
  • It’s a very easy dessert to warm up to despite the unusual pairing of ingredients, and for $5 it was even better. I’d come back for this.
  • **I went back to try this Nov. 19 and the blue cheese was really strong and the cake a bit dry. I wasn’t as keen about it, so I’m not sure if it was changed or just inconsistent.

Baked Apple Dumpling4.5/6

  • Vanilla ice cream $5
  • This is probably the most popular dessert here, and I’m sure most people would highly recommend it.
  • I’d say it’s definitely visually exciting! It reminded me of the apple dumpling at the Cheesecake Factory.
  • I’m a fan of any hot and cold dessert and anything served with ice cream, so this was naturally appealing.
  • The flavours and recipe taste simple, but the presentation looked complex.

  • The dumpling was piping hot and stuffed with chunks of apples with the skins on.
  • The apples were still a bit crunchy since they were such big pieces.
  • I do like biting into actual apples, but I prefer a bit softer and more caramelized with more of a sauce rather than only chunks.
  • The pastry shell was tender and flaky with a slight crispness on the exterior, but it’s not fillo pastry.
  • It was a traditional pie crust dough and I’m sure they deep fried it before serving.
  • There was a hint of cinnamon and it wasn’t that sweet, but the apples were sweetened with some brown sugar.
  • The presentation was probably more memorable than the flavour, which is likely something you’ve had before.
  • I really wasn’t a fan of the ice cream because the quality wasn’t great and it didn’t have vanilla bean seeds. It doesn’t have to have vanilla beans, but the texture and flavour was a bit too “grocery store brand”.
  • I’m a bit of an ice cream snob I guess, but I do appreciate good quality ice cream.

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15 Comments

  • Bow says:

    Alright, let’s get right to dessert(Mijune’s fav part of any meal)…that’s a very nice beet and carrot cake ! Good enuff reason to go to the Oakwood just for that. Those burger buns are too much bread for me…love rare burgers though. Mijune, the inclusion of a Google map at the end of yer review, is a great addition to the review. The prices are right, the food is good, what’s not to like ?

  • Lidna says:

    haha just like bow and you, those buns are waaaaay too bun-y for me… when the bun is bigger than the burger, there’s a problem!

    i went here a couple of months ago and opted not to get the burger, BIG MISTAKE! we thought that since it was just a burger, it couldn’t be THAT good but seeing all the reviews from everyone, we were totally wrong lol

    the tuna benedict with the corn bread reminded me of the ‘hicks benny’ at bandidas taqueria, another restaurant i HAD to visit because of your review.. the corn bread in that menu item worked well too! probably because it had salsa verde and guacamole on top 🙂

    i don’t know if i’d go to the oakwood again, maybe one more time just to get the burger and the beet and carrot cake but i found it to be sort of an unmemorable food experience – the food is ok but not outstanding

  • Linda says:

    oops, that comment up there is mine hahaha overly fast typing changes Linda to Lidna lol

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – I honestly thought of you when I was here!!! i was like I bet Bow would dig this place! nice food, unpretentious, quality, and decent prices for portions…. and there’s beer! Ha! Yes.. that dessert was remarkable.

    @Linda – yup if only the bun wasn’t so big! but otherwise.. it’s yum! yes!!! good call on Bandidas lol!! You’re so cute!!! hahah I noticed the name, but no worries I could guess 😉

    Yes the food here.. the brunch for $10 I can’t complain and I can see that I probably need to try more menu items if you didn’t have outstanding experience. Good to hear though.. I think I just ordered well lol

  • Mijune says:

    @bow – yes the maps!! i decided to include those and I’m so happy you like!!

  • Loxy says:

    We tied the carrot-beet-cake two weeks ago when there and had your second experience. The cake was fine, but quite dry and despite both my boyfriend and I liking blue cheese, got a disaster of an icing. It was so strong that it overwhelmed everything. It didn’t even have a sweetness.

    Everything had been really good until that. But the dessert killed the experience.

  • Mijune says:

    @Loxy – I know right?!?! I don’t know what happened, but the first time I had it it was amazing.. I’m really sad… the break I had between my first experience and second experience makes me nervous that ppl tried it and thought huh? if they got the rec from my blog. Thanks for commenting back because it’s nice to hear the experience of others!

  • erin says:

    going to visit this on saturday for brunch (finally) and had to see what your thoughts were first. great review, again, x

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