Lolo fits right in to the Lonsdale locale as the cool new neighbourhood hangout

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Great food, great wine, better prices

Joanne Sasvari

Owner Michael Moller with some of the fare at Lolo restaurant in North Vancouver. Photograph by: Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun, Special to The Sun

Dining at Lolo is a bit like hanging out at a good friend’s place. Things aren’t always perfect, but the mood is so friendly and the food so good that the slight hiccups just don’t matter much.

Besides, at these prices, you can always just order another glass of wine. And that always makes everything seem a lot better.

“Lolo,” for those readers who don’t live on the North Shore, is the nickname for Lower Lonsdale, that trendy area of sleek condos and funky restaurants just up from Lonsdale Quay.

Lolo, the restaurant at the corner of Lonsdale Avenue and Second Street, fits right in as the cool new neighbourhood hangout, a minimalist-chic wine bar that specializes in charcuterie and small plates, with live piano music most nights.

“Probably the most common comment we’ve been getting is North Vancouver needs a place like this, because of the price point and the casual nature of the operation,” says manager Michael Moller.

“When it comes to food, a lot of people scratched their heads at first, but now they get it, the cheese and the charcuterie.”

For a restaurant without a full kitchen, serving cured meats was a logical choice. It helps that Lolo has sourced its charcuterie from popular local sausage-makers TN & Z and Mocchia Meats, and plans to add products from Oyama soon.

The choices are interesting and at times daring — it’s not often you see spicy head loaf on a menu — and include such highlights as the black truffle-studded dry-cured pork sausage and a mild, beautifully balanced Serbian salami, as well as Mocchia’s exotic, clove-and-cinnamon-spiced Toscano.

It’s an evolving selection, too: Moller hopes to add several beef products soon, as well as patés and terrines, which will be made in-house by chef Oscar Zaragoza.

Meanwhile, Zaragoza is whipping up exceptional house-made condiments, such as the sweet carrot mustard, tangy tamarind chutney and tart pickled beets that arrive chopped into a pretty confetti alongside a generous heap of sliced meat or cheese.

Lolo also offers savoury flatbreads such as the popular “Zola,” its tender crust topped with gorgonzola and figs, or the rich “Tarti,” a crisp, buttery base slathered in a mash of potatoes, bacon lardons and melted cheese.

Then there are the spreads, such as the addictively creamy white bean and artichoke, enlivened with garlic and lemon, or the fresh-flavoured Moorish Fava Bean and Mint.

Best of all, for diners on a budget, almost every menu item is under $10. You can eat quite well here without spending a lot of money, especially as all this fun-to-share food is partnered with a nicely edited international wine list, much of which is, happily, under $40 a bottle, with several selections $30 and under.

Like the food, all the wines by-the-glass are under $10, and offer plenty of interesting options, ranging from a sparkly Prosecco to lush sherries and ports, as well as food-friendly aromatic whites and light, crisp reds.

“The guiding philosophy is three things,” Moller says. “First is how well it goes with the menu. Then price point is very important to me. Thirdly, quality. I look for very good value.”

It’s such a good deal on such good wine, it seems almost churlish to quibble about what it comes in, but unfortunately the thick, heavy, too-small glasses at Lolo do the wines absolutely no favours at all.

Then again, Moller points out that nice new wine glasses are on the way.

Also in the works is a much-needed update to the slightly barren decor: “We are looking to inject more colour and more life as well,” Moller says. Meanwhile, the warmth of the staff may well make up for the chilly décor. True, service can be hit and miss, but everyone here is just so darn nice and genuine that it’s easy to forgive pretty much anything.

You know, just like at a good friend’s house, especially if your friend’s name is Lolo.

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