First up, I squeezed in a drink at Alibi Room before heading to Ask for Luigi. I revisited Four Winds Pilsner, but the taste and colour made me doubt that I was actually poured Four Winds Pilsner! Compare the colour of the above photo with this one from a couple days previous:
Even though it says “Occidental Pilsner” on the ticket, the second beer from the left was supposed to be Four Winds Pilsner cuz Occidental was out. Maybe it was Occidental Pilsner after all??
Ironically, I had another pilsner at Ask for Luigi later, and it cemented the idea that there was a beer mix-up at Alibi. It happens.
Ask for Luigi
I started lining up at Ask for Luigi at 5:10pm and there was already a couple ahead of me. By 5:25pm the lineup was 20 deep. The only things I’ve lined up for in Vancouver are ramen and Vij’s. It felt a little funny to be lining up here but it was fun and it helped build anticipation and hunger. It was also a stark reminder that this is the downtown eastside (no matter how they sugarcoat it with words like “railtown”) and that MOST PEOPLE DO NOT EAT THIS WAY.
Le menu part deux. I like how it’s not a sprawling menu. We decided on the Featured Beet Salad, Fried Cauliflower, Luigi’s Meatballs, Tagliatelle & Octopus Puttanesca, Spaghetti & Anchovies and Pappardelle & Duck Ragu.
Feature beet salad.
…with dressing on the side (cough). Salad was good. Sweet beets but a few yellowed arugula leaves :/
Fried cauliflower with crispy chick peas. Masterful. Slightly crispy yet soft but with enough residual firmness. Cheese, aioli and cauliflower are a no-brainer but the addition of mint and basil and textural chick peas brought this dish to the next level. A must-try!
Luigi’s meatballs. I really wanted to try these medium-rare, as noted in Alexandra Gill’s humorous Globe & Mail review, but alas my tablemates weren’t as receptive to raw meat as I am 🙁
The meatballs were fantastic! Excellent texture, not-too-loose, not-too-firm, absolutely NOT rubbery. Seasoning spot-on. Addition of pine nuts gave a nice nuttiness and textural component, and the raisins gave little hits of sweet that worked well with the meatiness. Still juicy even though cooked to (my eyes) well-done. Lovely tangy and fresh-tasting tomato sauce. And that bread! Crispy crust, admirable crumb structure. Another must-try!
They were pouring Victoria’s Moon Under Water Pilsner (Potts Pils) that night. Moon Under Water are probably the most underrated BC brewery right now. Their pilsner is just awesome. So cleeeeeeean with a light body and even lighter finish. They strike that balance between lightness and depth of flavour. The beer that I had just before at Alibi Room was worlds away in taste and colour. Available in bottles at the better private beer & wine stores around town.
All three pastas were noticeably salty…
Tagliatelle & Octopus Puttanesca. We ordered three pastas that night, and all three pastas were noticeably salty. For me, it was a matter of which of the three pastas overcame the saltiness to become enjoyable. This one was my least favourite, and the one that no one finished. The saltiness overwhelmed whatever depth the puttanesca sauce might’ve had. We enjoyed the softness of the fresh pasta though. Very different from the toothsome al dente qualities of dried pasta.
I’m hoping this was just an off night. Prominent taste of salt, to the detriment of all other flavours. We enjoyed the pappardelle with bolognese that we had at brunch better…seemed to meld better and was absolutely not salty. Wicca liked the soft silkiness of the noodles though.
Standout pasta of the night: Spaghetti with Anchovies, Garlic & Chilies. Even though this was fresh pasta, somehow they were able to coax out an enjoyable springy al dente texture in the curly spaghetti noodles. Overtly salty but in this case it worked well enough that it became everyone’s favourite. I loved the crunchy texture of the fried breadcrumbs.
Unfinished tagliatelle to go. Even though it was a bit salty, I wolfed down the leftovers later that night… ^_^”
I truly hope the saltiness was just a transient thing. The cauliflower and meatballs were a knockout and I’d probably be happy just ordering some bread, cauliflower and meatballs. The service was also great. Attentive without being tooooo rushed. They kept tabs on us and kept us updated on our food. But keep in mind that this is a small place and they want to turn over those tables, so if you want to relax and linger, maybe go way later at night…
I’d go back despite the saltiness cuz everything else is so good.
We were trying to get into The Parker for Curtis “behind!behind!behind!” Luk’s desserts but couldn’t justify the 2+ hour wait, so we decided on…
Earnest Ice Cream
Earnest Ice Cream, beside what used to be known as Fray but is now Graze. Fray was an interesting place. A first for Fraser St. with it’s comfort food, board games and wacky nighttime “entertainment”. But I think Fray was a restaurant searching for an identity, throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and seeing if it stuck. I don’t think they had a consistent crew of cooks either.
Anyways, if you don’t think Fraser is becoming the new Main St., just look at the guy with the dog. This is culture, and it’s happening.
Buzzing and busy on a Saturday night. This is great for Fraser Street! I’ve tried Earnest Ice Cream a few times from their cart at the Waldorf (RIP) food cart festival and assorted farmers markets, but this was the first time I checked out their store. I’m happy that they seem to be doing well.
The night’s offerings. London Fog is their earl grey tea flavour. I had a sample and it’s so good. I love teas in ice cream cuz it helps cut the sweetness and lends a slight dryness or astringency.
As Itsuko would say, “True dat.”
Pints to go. They only had salted caramel.
We (Wicca) chose Whiskey Hazelnut and Salted Caramel. You can really taste the high quality milk here, it really comes through. It’s sweet without being too sweet. Big chunks of hazelnut with a whisper of oaky whiskey. I was gonna say perfumey but it’s whiskey so I’ll say “cologney”. The salted caramel is addictive. It’s a flavour that sits in your mind and if salty/sweet is your thing, you’ll crave it.
Big points to the waffle cone too! Crisp, thin and not stale-tasting! I love how they pack the ice cream all the way down to the bottom. As much as I love Bella Gelateria downtown (that freak does an amazing job), real ice cream is a nice change. Recommended.