Dark, knotty wood; planters full of creeping vines; wool-wrapped light fixtures that look like lumpy edamame pods; reupholstered sage-green cafeteria chairs. In a smart, laid-back room that updates Vancouver’s meat-and-potato 1970s, chef Brian Skinner brings a strong point of view to his menu of comforting plates that are generous on flavour and whimsy. That the food is meatless is almost beside the point unless you’re a foodie vegetarian who’s long hankered for a compromise-free night on the town.
Thankfully, the menu at the Acorn isn’t a polemic. It’s just full of really, really tasty dishes that Skinner and the many vegetarians on his staff can eat every bite of. (Our coquettish waitress confides, “Don’t tell chef Brian, but I’ll indulge in a nice piece of sustainably caught fish from time to time.” Don’t tell her, but so will chef Brian!) The best part of an excellent kale Caesar salad (silken tofu and dulse instead of egg yolk and anchovy) is the cubed tempeh, braised in miso and fried.
A truffle mac ’n’ cheese is even more illustrative. Never tempted to burden this rich-enough-on-its-own dish with bacon or foie gras or lobster, Skinner goes the other direction by topping the tiny skillet with crisp spears of asparagus and edible flowers. “I’m supposed to be on a diet, but I spent all day gardening,” says the well-dressed, omnivorous older woman sitting next to us when we implore her to order the dish. “Oh, why not. I deserve a treat.”
At the end, I tap my spoon against the crust of the Acorn’s lavender- and-honey version of the classic French crème brûlée. The torched sugar cracks like thin ice on a frozen river. Of course, there’s no meat in the dish. But I hunt to the very bottom anyway.
- BUTTER PLUS: Adding fat to butter? Whether duck fat (Supply and Demand) or barbecue drippings (Electric Mud BBQ), we say the more, the merrier.
- FOOD-FRIENDLY REDS: Versatile, high-acid, low-tannin red grapes, like zweigelt, lacrima, frappato and gamay, have moved to the top of the sommelier’s speed-dial list. Don’t call us, cab sauv, we’ll call you.
- LAMB BELLY: The new pork belly.
- SMALL PLATES, SMALLER TABLES: If you’re going to ask us to order four dishes per person to share, you’d better have a plan for where to put them. Yes, we are still working on all of these.
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