We’d been looking to this one for a long time. All. Week. For two reasons:
- We love French food.
- Absinthe Bistro is one of the best places to eat French in Vancouver.
Owned and run by a (Canadian) husband and (Colombian) wife who met in France, Absinthe Bistro features a small menu that changes with the seasons. It’s updated online by 1pm every day and you can choose from three appetizers, three entrées, and three desserts. The nice thing about having a small menu is that you don’t have to agonize over what to choose (which happens often with us) and usually it means that the kitchen can execute every option flawlessly.
Summer is fleeting in Vancouver, so we opted for the patio.
Grace had a long day at work—so she started with a cocktail that she hoped would remind her of Paris. Unfortunately, given that she was too young to drink in Paris the last time she was there, this was sort of stupid. It didn’t taste as good as Grace had hoped either, but she also didn’t realize that gin and dry vermouth probably wouldn’t have produced the sweetest tasting cocktail. Genius.
And of course, since the restaurant has “absinthe” in its name… yeah you know how it goes.
M: That’s good… That’s yum.
G: Even for 68% alcohol?!
M: Yup. Try it.
G: … Wow. I’d get really drunk off of that. Really fast.
Absinthe is usually served mixed with water and some sugar to take the edge off and bring out the subtleties of its natural aroma. This one was our favourite drink of the night; it was a bit minty, and just sweet enough. And then the first course arrived. HELLO.
En croûte means “baked in a pastry crust.” How French. Neither of us had had food prepared this way before so it was a pleasant surprise. It’s also quite a generous portion; the pâté and bread (which they gladly replenished) really fill you up. It was so good that Grace was reduced to stunted one-word sentences.
G: Oh. My. God. So ducking good. Mind. Cannot. Process. Just the right amount of duck fat, and the duck meat has texture but isn’t too tough. Really like the contrast between the crunchy, almost cookie-like crust and the soft duck inside.
M: [laughs] Your face!
G: WHATEVER I CAN’T HELP IT IT’S SO GOOD.
There are three different types of absinthe on the menu. At about this point we decided that we’d be trying all three.
The Czech absinthe (Green Tree: 70%) is a tad stronger than the previous French one, and taste-wise there wasn’t much sweetness. The liquorice flavour was more subdued. So, naturally, we preferred the absinthe from France.
G: Fuck. That is delicious. They’re perfectly seared. Good size, really subtly flavoured so that the taste of the scallops gets the starring role, and the potato puree is so soft and smooth. AGHHHHHH.
Just the right amount of browning on the edges, firm outside but still tender inside, these couldn’t have been done any better. As a seafood lover, Grace really appreciates being able to taste seafood’s natural flavours, so this dish was basically heaven. Just sublime.
M: This is clearly one of those times where being a vegetarian gets put on the back-burner. The farthest possible back-burner.* My goodness, it’s delicious. The meat is so very tender and the onions are cooked to perfection. I can’t even with the sauce. It’s smooth and rich and everything you’d hope for and more with a rack of lamb. The turnip puree is an ideal texture and pairs perfectly with the whole ensemble.
*Back story: I’ve never ordered a hunk of meat before. In. My. Life. I thought nothing of it until this masterpiece was placed on the table before me. (It’s quite daunting!) The picture above does not even begin to show how beautifully crafted and tasting this entree is; I can’t take my eyes off it!
G: No love for chicken. (Chicken was the third entrée option on the menu.) If the scallops weren’t so good I would’ve really regretted not getting this lamb… Can’t go wrong with that red wine sauce. Classic.
Our third and final destination on the absinthe globe trot: Canada. This is a local spirit from the Okanagan that unfortunately let us down ever so slightly. It was our least favourite because it wasn’t as smooth as the other two and there was a rather unpleasant alcohol aftertaste that was thankfully absent in the others. We didn’t think it belonged in the same category as the other two—but obviously it didn’t stop us from draining the last drop.
M: I’m rather grateful I opted for dessert instead of the appetizer. Rather bloody delighted, in fact. The presentation alone. Oh my word. They have “Absinthe” written in chocolate dusting! How…
[inaudible gasps of excitement between bites of cake for 10 minutes]
Not to mention the fact that it’s (obviously) so good beyond any molten lava cake from a chain restaurant. This is the real deal, people.
G: I’m just gonna… have a bite. A tiny bite. I swear.
By this point we weren’t even surprised by the flawless execution anymore, but we still marvelled at how perfectly warm and smooth the chocolate inside the cake was. When Juliana, the lovely co-owner of Absinthe, came over to ask us how everything was, we had to be classy with our praise (even though we were losing our fucking minds), given she’s running a classy establishment.
This was one of our favourite dining experiences so far in Vancouver. Between the excellent service, quaint atmosphere, and jaw-dropping, delectable food… one cannot go wrong. We recommend this bistro to the couple celebrating an anniversary, the group of friends who are feeling nostalgic about their trip to France—or any person of any age who finds genuine pleasure in a fine dining experience. Truly, enchanté!