Restaurant: Burdock & Co. – Part 3/4
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.
- Warba Potato and Peas, Goat Curd, Nasturtium Juice $18
- I really liked the components of the dish and it came together pretty well, but I found the portion really small and pricey for a tapas.
- It was another recommended dish and the nasturtium juice I found really interesting.
- Cream cheese and salmon is common and Andrea seems to be fond of using creamy dips and sauces.
- So far the Burdock Sausage, Fried Chicken and now this came with a creamy component.
- The goat curd was a switch up from typical crème fraîche and the nasturtium juice was a nice change from pea puree.
- I find most chefs pairing salmon and peas would have done some sort of pea puree.
- The nasturtium juice (made from edible leaves and flowers) was vibrant green and beautiful.
- The broth was fresh and cleansing, earthy and floral and almost like cucumber juice, but sweeter and not as watery.
- It was a nice and light plant based broth and it was really sweet and almost syrupy. Not everyone will like this, but I did.
- I’m not sure if there was added sugar (I doubt it), and I love sweet and savoury, but this was more sweet and I like more balance.
- It wasn’t savoury, sour or acidic and I couldn’t taste much olive oil and it was better after I mixed it with the goat curd for saltiness.
- I haven’t come across this being done in Vancouver yet although fine dining chefs have been embracing nasturtiums as garnishes for years.
- I liked that the nasturtium flowers and leaves were used both as a garnish and as a prime component.
- The salmon wasn’t that seasoned and as always I missed the salmon skin.
- I know I am in the minority, but I would have loved it baked and crispy on top like she did for the Fried Chicken.
- Unfortunately the salmon was overcooked for my tastes.
- I prefer salmon under cooked and rare to medium rare, but the majority would think this is perfectly cooked.
- I like my salmon to be custardy in the centre rather than flaky throughout, or it comes across as dry like this.
- It sat on a bed of tender potatoes which were more starchy than the waxy ones served with the Burdock Sausage, but they could have been the same.
- The potatoes were mixed with sliced sugar snap peas and the knife skills were looking good.
- The side was really simple and homestyle and besides the sauces it came across a bit too ordinary especially for the price.
- The nasturtium juice probably cost more than the salmon to make and it was the most inspiring part of the dish, but I just wanted more and it felt unfinished.
- It didn’t really need another component, but perhaps more seasoning, and it didn’t have the umami all the other dishes had.
- Artichoke and Fava, Goat Camembert Cream (V) $11
- This came compliments of Andrea and it was a vegetarian option on the menu.
- It was a bit more for breakfast considering it was waffles, but I have no problems with breakfast for dinner. I could have breakfast all day.
- I have my feelings on gluten free, but I haven’t been convinced and I don’t want to jump on any trendy bandwagon.
- I’ll keep trying it until I like it because good is good and I’ve had a few good gluten free things, but I don’t necessarily need it.
- The waffles were cakey and fluffy Belgian Liège waffles similar to the ones from Cafe Medina (who sources them from Damien’s Belgian Waffles in Richmond), but without the pearl sugar.
- There were two mini waffles, one stacked on the other like a sandwich, and the waffles were savoury and not sweet.
- The waffles had diced potatoes throughout, but it wasn’t like a hashbrown.
- The potatoes were the same tender potatoes used as a side in previous dishes, but here they were mixed into the waffle batter.
- I think it was a potato flour waffle and with so many components and goat’s cream in between I couldn’t even tell it was gluten free.
- The middle was filled with a whipped goat Camembert cream and it seemed aerated so it was light and frothy and foam like.
- I would have liked more body to it, and it was reminiscent of the goat curd served with the spring salmon, but much lighter.
- It wasn’t a gamey goat’s cheese and it was buttery, but not as salty or cheesey.
- I lost the cheesy flavour since it was diluted with cream to create a whipped cream.
- It kind of reminded me of potato bellinis and crème fraîche and I was starting to crave caviar.
- I know it is vegetarian, but it would have been excellent with steelhead salmon roe too.
- I liked the fresh fava beans, sweet peas and Jerusalem artichoke hearts underneath and it was good eaten all together.
- The Jerusalem artichokes also seemed pickled and they have a similar carb content to a potato, so with the waffle it felt like a carb heavy tapas.
- The shaved fennel and buckwheat shoots were the same garnish used on the mussels, but I was okay with the repeat.
- I would have liked some sweet beets, toasted pecans or hazelnuts to give it some texture and break things up.
- This gluten free waffle and the fried chicken would make a nice “Chicken n’ Waffles” sandwich too.
- French Breakfast Radish, Pea Tips, Apple and Verbena Sorbet, Kasu Emulsion $15
- It was a refreshing and light plate that would make a great starter.
- It came with 3 local Sawmill Bay Oysters, but I’m not sure which variety.
- The oysters were plump, creamy smooth, rich, and very briney with an intense umami, full flavour and mineral note.
- I actually prefer oysters served in their shell because I like to see and slurp the oyster juice floating on top.
- I find it part of the oyster and part of my enjoyment.
- One of the oysters had a tiny bit of sediment, but they were freshly shucked upon order.
- They were topped with finger lime caviar which contrasted the meaty rich oysters.
- It is one of my favourite luxury condiments for oysters after caviar.
- I usually like nothing on my raw oysters, but maybe a squeeze of lemon to brighten things up, but these I could appreciate.
- It was a very pure dish and I liked how she dolloped the kasu emulsion on the side.
- Kasu or Sake Kasu are the leftover lees (fermented yeast and deposits etc.) from producing sake.
- In this case she made it into another aioli (common in many of her dishes), but it was interesting.
- It definitely tasted strong with sake flavour, but it wasn’t overpowering with booze.
- The dollop plating was retro, but dollops are making a comeback in the current style of upscale plating. She was on it.
- The kasu emulsion would have been great with panko fried oysters in an Asian inspiried Po’ Bo as well!
- The apple and verbena sorbet in the centre I could have used more of because there wasn’t enough to eat with each oyster.
- I was brought back to memories of the Kumamoto Oyster with olive oil and cucumber sorbet and caviar I enjoyed so much.
- This was a less luxurious version of that, but nonetheless still luxurious.
- It was refreshing and acidic, but still sweet and also floral from the verbena which is a flowering plant.
- The verbena was interesting and while most progressive chefs might have used thyme or mint with apple, she stepped it up once again.
- The plating for the French Breakfast Radish was adorable.
- She had them plated two ways: fanned out and then stacked up.
- They were presented au natural, but they were farm fresh and appreciated for what they were.
- They are crisp and milder than typical radish, but still slightly spicy and also sweet.
- I didn’t see any pea tips so I don’t know what I missed out on, but it was fine without them too.
- I am not sure how the dish was meant to be eaten and I tried various combinations of everything, but in the end I had a lot of radish leftover.
- I would have liked more kasu emulsion to finish them off with.
- It was a very simplistic plate, but the kasu emulsion kept me interested although it never overshadowed the oysters topped with lime caviar and sorbet which deserved credit.
- It was a bit pricey, but it was still a good dish I’m glad I tried, although I’m not sure I would have to order it again.
- Braised Radish and Pine Mushroom and Burdock Tea, Fried Burdock, Hop Salt $17
- I liked this halibut plate better than the spring salmon plate, but the fish again was overcooked and a bit dry.
- It was not obvious with seasoning, but it had absorbed some savoury flavours.
- It had a nice crispy crust which I liked and it was enhanced with crispy fried burdock root for texture.
- The crispy burdock root was a nice change from crispy onions and it tasted like crispy potatoes.
- Underneath were tender braised radishes which were the same sweet and mildly spicy French Breakfast Radish from the oyster dish.
- The pine mushroom and burdock tea was the highlight and it was a nice change from expected sake soy, dashi, or miso broth.
- I missed the actual pine mushrooms and wished some were served with the plate, but I still loved the broth.
- The broth tasted Asian inspired and it had a ginseng or herbal quality to it thanks to the the burdock root steeped in the tea.
- It was mildly bitter and a bit slimy in texture (for the lack of a better word) from the mushrooms perhaps.
- It was savoury and intense with umami which the mushrooms naturally have.
- The flavour is acquired because of the undeniable herbal notes, but I enjoyed it and found it a nice change.
- It was very good, but again I found it pricey for a tapas and the portion was small. $15 I think would be fair.
- Candied Bacon, Nori, Fried Egg $12
- Without this I don’t think I would have gotten full and I would not normally order ramen outside of a Japanese restaurant.
- It was a full sized portion for a single diner so I didn’t even consider it a tapas, but it was substantial and I needed that.
- I already tried this at Harvest Community Foods and I found it good, but it wasn’t the style I look for in ramen.
- I prefer authentic Japanese versions of ramen and this was more Westernized, but not bad. It is comparing apples and oranges.
- This pretty much reminded me exactly of the Ramen with Pork Shoulder bowl I had at Harvest, so I’m just going to repeat it here.
- If you like Ramen Santouka, Motomachi Shokudo, Kintaro Ramen and the more traditional and authentic Japanese ramen shops, then this is not really for you.
- This is catered for a West Coast/Western palate who appreciates a lighter and healthier take on ramen.
- I like my ramen soup medium rich (not overly fatty rich), milky and made from pork bones. I like an intensely flavoured pork bone stock.
- This wasn’t really bland, but there was no depth in the broth and it seemed like it was made that day so the flavours didn’t have time to develop.
- It was a very clear broth and unexpectedly very peppery, but not necessarily spicy.
- It was a house made pork broth, but the soup base was very mild and not as intense with pork flavour compared to the ones I mentioned above.
- The toppings were good quality, local and non-traditional, besides the nori.
- It was really made for a single diner with the one strip of bacon and relatively small piece of pork belly, but it was enough.
- The pork belly was my favourite part, partially because it was pork belly, but also because it was well made.
- The skin was crisp and not chewy and it was well seasoned and savoury without being too salty.
- The fat was well rendered and it was more meat to fat which I prefer.
- It needs some fat for flavour, which there was, and the fat was very tender and creamy and the pork melted in my mouth.
- The cut was not that fatty to start and it was incredibly moist as pork belly usually is.
- The Harvest Community pork shoulder ramen came with a slice of pork shoulder which is more traditional, but with Andrea’s style I prefer her pork belly.
- The paper thin candied bacon was from Two Rivers Meats (local) and that was crisp and barely sweet for being candied, but good (as bacon usually is).
- The egg was fried instead of soft boiled, so this was not authentic either and I do prefer a soft boiled egg in ramen.
- I broke the fried egg with a runny yolk and mixed it in the noodles.
- I used to eat it at home like this when I was a kid too, so it was a bit nostalgic.
- The noodles were from local supplier Toko Foods and they were actually firm and quite good.
- I wouldn’t mind the broth hotter in temperature, but it was still a good ramen bowl if I’m not comparing to traditional ramen.
To be continued…
… sneak peek…