Restaurant: Burdock & Co. – Part 2/4
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)
**Recommendations: Rosemary Smoked Mussels, Halibut & Braised Radish, Heritage Pork and Burdock Sausage
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:
- Garlic Scape Salsa Verde, Fennel and Buckwheat Shoots $12
- This came recommended or I might have overlooked it and it was my favourite dish of the night.
- It sounded too simple, and they were very simple, but they were delicious.
- It was a nice change from steamed mussels in a white wine garlic cream broth with frites.
- I like that bistro version too, but there is something to be said about mussels enjoyed not swimming in broth.
- Besides, it is summer time so a hot broth isn’t as appealing.
- The mussels didn’t have the smoky aroma of a smoker and the rosemary was subtle, but they were lightly smoked and fragrant.
- I wouldn’t mind a bit more infused smoky flavour and aroma, but I liked that it didn’t mask the natural flavour of the mussels.
- The mussels were small, but they were plump, juicy, fresh, sweet and savoury.
- The meat was almost extra briney and they tasted marinated or sauced, but they weren’t.
- The garlic scape salsa verde was Canadian inspired.
- It was not a traditional Italian salsa verde, but more like a salad dressing with a similar texture.
- It was basically a vinaigrette and it tasted like Italian dressing, but with no olive oil flavour.
- It was very acidic, but there was a nice umami to it.
- It was made with pickled garlic ramps and red wine vinegar for the acidity and a little went a long way.
- The garlic ramps were more exciting than plain garlic which most people would use.
- There was a focus on the garlic and local ramps more so than the herbs typical in salsa verde.
- It had a ton of flavour from possibly the natural juices of the mussels mixed in.
- Since it was not pureed, it isolated the garlic ramps and made me appreciate them more.
- It had no capers, lime or anchovies, but it was surprisingly savoury.
- The plating made it hard to eat the sauce with the mussels, so I wouldn’t mind more salsa verde.
- At the same time I’m glad it wasn’t dressed on the mussels because the vinegar could have been too sharp and it wasn’t smoky enough to need a lot.
- It was a bit odd to have a shaved fennel ribbon and buckwheat shoot salad on top of mussels, but I liked the freshness.
- I would have liked the “salad” under the mussels acting as a bed so it would absorb the salsa verde too and not look like a garnish.
- The acid and savoury notes were so well balanced and it appreciated mussels for just being mussels.
- Dandelion and Potato Salad $12
- I would have overlooked this dish as well and it sounded too “meat and potatoes” (it was), but again it was recommended.
- It was a sophisticated “Bangers and No-Mash”.
- The sausage was housemade and it was filled in a pork casing, but it wasn’t snappy and I love that snappy skin.
- I would have liked it more char grilled and crispy on the exterior, but the inside was delicious!
- It was quite soft, but not mushy or spreadable and it held together with a smooth consistency.
- It was a plump and fatty, tender, moist and juicy sausage.
- I almost thought it was chicken or turkey because it was so white, but it wasn’t nearly as lean although not oily either.
- The sausage was pureed with shallots, garlic, thyme and burdock, but it wasn’t strong with apparent spices or herbs.
- I could really taste natural pork flavour and it was very savoury and not just salty.
- The sausage had tiny little black bits in it and I’m not sure if that was the burdock root, but it tasted almost like olives or mushrooms.
- I’m not too familiar with burdock root, but it is often used steeped in teas or to make beer.
- I think the sausages could have been braised in a burdock beer, or burdock and beer, and it gave it umami.
- The potato salad was not a traditional potato salad, but just boiled and diced potatoes with mayo dolloped on the side.
- They were buttery with a waxy flesh and not starchy.
- I would have loved if half were crispy for a textural contrast.
- They were very simple, but tender and perhaps quickly sauteed in lemon and butter.
- The lemon was subtle if used at all so I wouldn’t mind more acidity to cut the rich sausage and mayo.
- They were simple, but still fine dining potatoes.
- The dollops of whole grain mustard mayo was house made and super thick and fatty.
- It was creamy and garlicky, but a bit bland and I could use way more mustard because it had no kick.
- I could feel the mustard seeds, but I couldn’t taste much mustard flavour. A touch of dijon mustard would be nice too.
- I’m not used to seeing dandelion greens draped on sausage, but dandelion and burdock beer is something I read about here, so maybe that’s what it was going for.
- The dandelion greens were bitter so they helped cut the fattiness of the sausage. They’re good for digestion as well.
- I would have liked more of a veggie component, or some fried sauerkraut patties or crispy pretzels to dip into the mayo, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
- If Martha Stewart made Bangers and Mash, it might come out like this.
- Crispy Skin, Charred Chili Vinegar $14
- I’m going to get so much hate for this…
- I saw at least 8 orders of this come out if not more and I doubt it will ever come off the menu since it is so popular, but I didn’t get it.
- It wasn’t a bad fried chicken and pickles, but just an unexpected fried chicken and pickles and not what I look for in a fried chicken.
- When I crave fried chicken, I want dirty Southern fried chicken, and this was Vancouver fried chicken. It was too pretty.
- I’ve had fried chicken at nicer places before too (see versions here and here) and I wasn’t expecting KFC, but I wasn’t expecting this either.
- This reminded me of a Japanese Tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet), but instead of pork it was chicken.
- Chicken Katsu is popular in Japan and usually served with rice, curry, Tonkatsu sauce or in a sandwich.
- The chicken was very moist and tender, but if I ate this with my eyes closed I wouldn’t be able to tell if it was chicken or pork.
- It was breaded in panko and very crispy and crunchy, but I couldn’t taste the chicken flavour because it was compressed and thin like a schnitzel.
- The chicken was miso marinated, but I couldn’t taste the miso unless I looked for it and it was very subtle. (Oh! I just realized there was a use of miso in her menu, but she didn’t rely on it – see my intro.)
- Miso Chicken Katsu exists in Nagoya, Japan, but usually it would have the miso sauce drizzled over top.
- It just reminded me of chicken fingers and I prefer fried chicken on the bone for more flavour.
- My favourite part was the lime mayo which also tasted savoury.
- The lime mayo mixed together with the charred chili vinaigrette was a burst of savoury and tangy flavours.
- The vinaigrette had a nice kick and it was mildly spicy, but very sour and acidic so I had to mix it with the mayo to balance it out.
- I didn’t really understand the point of the crispy chicken skin (dehyrated and baked) since the fried chicken was already crispy, but I appreciate not wasting.
- It would have been a great garnish on another dish too… perhaps on the farm egg salad although that makes it non-vegetarian.
- It reminded me of the Chicken Bacon or Joojeh Kabab I had at Diva at the Met and it was a similar technique.
- It was a bit thick though so it was crunchy and brittle rather than thin and crisp.
- I loved her interpretation of pickles which was Korean inspired.
- She made kimchi marinated pickles and the veggies were rhubarb, kohlrabi (German turnip), beets and radish.
- It didn’t taste like authentic kimchi, but I could taste Korean flavours (Korean chili powder, garlic, ginger) and they were more sour than sweet.
- The veggies were very acidic and it was a nice contrast with each strip of chicken and I liked how they were cut to match.
- It was certainly an Asian inspired “Chicken & Pickles”, being half Japanese and half Korean… and randomly Latin.
- The idea was experimental, but the execution of the fried chicken was quite regular.
- If you’re a fried chicken fanatic or familiar with chicken katsu, you might feel the same.
- If it was a Korean Fried Chicken that would have been great! See my fried chicken post here.
To be continued…
… sneak peek…