Menu features South American flavours tinged with a taste of the Mediterranean
What Larry Nicolay wants is sacrilege. I wanted to shriek out: “No!”
Nicolay and his wife Lisa Henderson recently opened Latitude, the newest comer on Main Street, a smart, affordable restaurant. The bling-iest part of the room is the bar of white Carrera marble on the counter and sides.
While I’m fretting about marble’s delicate nature, Nicolay’s saying he can’t wait until it’s stained and worn, and he’s not worried about its pristine beauty.
“I want patina. I want this place to age like those places in France. Someone, please stain it with red wine,” he said. Someone, please! Slap 20 coats of sealer on it, I say.
Another item of visual interest is the back wall, interesting enough to draw you in for a close-up.
It’s a mosaic of Douglas fir tiles, each with a circle of red wine stain (stamped on with a wine glass). So what’s up with Latitude and red wine stains anyway?
Henderson and Nicolay returned to Vancouver after running Rainforest Cafe in Tofino for about 10 years, a place that brightened my visits to the town.
(It’s now called Spotted Bear Bistro, operated by Vincent Fraissange, most recently the sous chef at Vancouver’s dearly departed Chow restaurant.)
Latitude brings the couple closer to family; in fact, Nicolay’s brother and sister are part of Cascade Room and Habit (still in recovery mode from a fire), also on Main Street.
Henderson is in charge of the kitchen at Latitude and Nicolay manages the front.
The menu reflects their love of South American flavours but takes detours to the Mediterranean as well.
Similar to their outlook at Raincoast Cafe, the menu tries hard to stick to sustainable, organic foods.
Under starters, soccas (chickpea crepes) and chickpea fries (very much like panisse) take us to sunny Nice; a large serving of ceviche and an avocado and mango salad with spiced pepitas (pumpkin seeds) zips us across the Atlantic to Latin America.
The lamb shank, slow-braised in a Malbec sauce, is fall-apart tender and very tasty.
The paella, with tomato arborio rice and a lovely bunch of seafood — spot prawns, mussels, halibut — as well as house-made chorizo, was very hearty and the seafood, very fresh.
We expected flank steak (with chimichurri sauce) to be hearty as well, but it was a modest serving, too small really for a main dish; however, it was tender, delicious, organic and local.
Halibut with avocado crema, a quinoa fritter and butter roasted radishes was also delicious.
I wondered if Henderson would have South American arepas (cornmeal flatbread), which I love, and they’re coming. She’s tweaking the recipe.
Henderson‘s menu is earthy and served bistro-style with the sort of quality lost on Main Street when Aurora closed last year. Appetizers are $8 to $15; mains are in the tight budget range at $16 to $20.
The wine list backs up the food with a nice selection of well-priced Pacific Coast and South American wines as well as hard-to-find B.C. wines, like the Twisted Tree Tempranillo, Pentage Cabernet Franc, Seven Stones “Speaking Rock” Pinot Noir, Averill Creek Pinot Gris and Orofino Vineyards Gewurztraminer.
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