Restaurant: Burdock & Co. – Part 1/4
Cuisine: Canadian/Organic/West Coast
Last visited: July 11, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Mount Pleasant/Main Street)
Address: 2702 Main St.
Phone: (604) 879-0077
Transit: NB Main St FS E 12 Av
Price Range: $30-50+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Chef/Owner Andrea Carlson
- Seasonal menu/Weekly changes
- Local and sustainable ingredients
- Mostly organic
- Emphasis on seafood & vegetables
- Vegetarian friendly options
- Vegan friendly options
- Gluten free friendly options
- Dairy free friendly options
- Nut free friendly options
- Wine/beer/cocktail list
- No reservations
- Tues. – Sat. dinner only at 5PM ’til Late
- Twitter: @BurdockAndCo
- See my full Burdock & Co. post (Parts 1-4)
The table next to me were already regulars, and after an exchange of recommendations I also learned about their jobs. I was sitting next to a well traveled stunt man/film director, a glam rock stunt woman, a soft spoken film writer, and a washboard musician with a big and bushy foot long grey beard. The beard was not groomed, neatly trimmed, stylized or typical of what you would find in Gastown, but it was an out of control au natural full on beard. It was a Main Street beard; and they were sitting next to a food blogger… someone take a picture.
Burdock & Co. opened in the right place at the right time. Timing and location are a part of the equation, and of course every restaurant needs a good cook or chef. This restaurant was highly anticipated simply because of the chef. If you’re familiar with the name Andrea Carlson, chef and owner of the restaurant, then a visit here will likely come with high expectations. She was previously the chef at one of Vancouver’s few and renowned fine dining establishments, Bishop’s Restaurant (2007-2011), and has now ventured into something uniquely her own.
Discerning and trusted palates I know had visited when it first opened, but they must have hit it up on a rough night, as to why I rarely visit restaurants when they first open. I can understand how it is fair game once a restaurant starts charging, but at the same time a visit during a soft opening risks a dry run. I heard mixed feedback and reviews and I wanted to go in neutral which I more or less did.
I actually know Andrea and have tried her food on a couple event based occasions (at Swallow Tail Secret Supper Soiree and Les Dames d’Escoffier’s Julia in Paris Gala Dinner). She also opened Harvest Community Foods which is more of a specialty foods shop with a convenient eatery attached. I wouldn’t say any of these were really representable of what she can do, but they were good experiences. Although the food was different on each occasion, the style and philosophy remained the same: local, seasonal, simple, rustic and yet refined, very much like the room itself.
Photo from Burdock & Co.
There is Main Street from 10 years ago and Main Street now, which is different. The area was always hip/hippie/hipster (you decide the percentage of each) and it’s getting its second wind. It was never a pretentious area, but it is artsy and eclectic with an independent vibe and community feel. It works in a neighbourhood that is getting a polished makeover. It is still a cozy community restaurant, but it has the charm and characteristics to make it as one of the more “destination worthy” spots on Main Street.
The room still had the exposed brick walls and long wooden community table, typical of many hipster restaurants, but the menu and flavours weren’t contrived and they came together organically – figuratively and literally.
Burdock & Co. is a tapas style restaurant with a focus on local, sustainable, farm to table, seafood and vegetables. I know that all sounds very cliché these days, but the approach felt natural. It didn’t pigeonhole itself as a vegetarian or trendy restaurant, but it was current. I wouldn’t even say it was modern because a lot of things felt nostalgic and classic in style, but the philosophy and execution guiding it was progressive.
The menu was innovative and interesting with a couple comfort food items which are likely well received by the clientele. Everything else was seasonally and locally inspired with some Asian influences. For the size of the menu, which was a good size, there was a nice variety of techniques and options to chose from. It showcased braising, smoking, pickling, dehydrating, deep frying, and more and it was diverse with cooking methods. It was more than one could do and achieve conveniently at home, but still approachable to the (sophisticated) masses.
The dishes were very simple with often less than five components, but each component was well developed. The knife skills were undeniably from the hands of a fine dining chef and the presentation was clean as were the flavours. The food is not necessarily fancy, but it delivered more than the plate presented. What attracted me most was the umami (savoury taste) achieved in many of the sauces which did not rely on meat… or miso (which is almost too easy although delicious).
Burdock & Co. might look like it is following the herd on the surface, but the ingredients are properly considered and cuisine professionally executed. I tried almost the whole menu and although I wasn’t quite blown away, I wasn’t disappointed. It is a bit simple and granola for my tastes, but I would still go back and appreciate it. It is pricey for tapas and an everyday restaurant, but it is nice without being swank or showy. The portions are small and it takes a bit to fill up on (even considering my bigger appetite), so it was reminiscent of The Parker in that sense.
Burdock & Co. doesn’t try hard to set itself apart from what most new restaurants in the recent years have been doing, but it stands out in an area of good, but perhaps tired restaurants. The tastefully done country plates had few elements, but they made statements. She let the ingredients be, but helped them sing without much fuss. Andrea’s eclectic flare and passion for farm fresh ingredients give a new and desired light to Main Street and it effortlessly caters to the crowd it aims to attract and please.
On the table:
To be continued…
… sneak peek…