Cloverdale, a small suburb of Vancouver, is home to two culinary gems. When it comes to a food scene, city suburbs tend to lack the creatively and diversity that one finds in a major urban center such as Vancouver. This observation has always struck me as somewhat odd seeing that Vancouver’s outlying neighborhoods are home to pristine farmland where a good portion of the city’s food supply is produced, or at least should be produced. Great restaurants are few and far between in the Fraser Valley, but there are some incredibly talented chefs, restaurateurs, and brewers spread out over Vancouver’s local bread basket that are making a difference. The Vault Restaurant and Boonies BBQ & Soul Food, both located in Cloverdale, are two great examples of what Suburbanites are cable of.
My wife and I enjoyed an evening out at the Vault Restaurant tonight, and were treated to a spectacular and flavorful meal. Visiting the Vault in March has become somewhat of a tradition – the restaurant offers $25.00 off during the month of your birthday, but only once a visitor card has been filled in, which is only available to previous customers. It is a great way to get repeat customers.
The beer menu at the Vault is reasonably impressive, offering a good draught beer selection of pseudo-craft brew and surprisingly, Blanche de Chambly. To clarify, pseudo-craft brew is the category that Okanagan Springs Brewery and Sleeman Brewing fit into; their beer is far more flavourful than a generic lager, but also not as creative as a beer brewed by a small microbrewery. A selection of import beer was also available in bottles, but that was not the real highlight. Budweiser, Canadian and Coors were nowhere to be found on draught, or maybe I have learned to tune out these brewing giants. Aside from polishing off a half priced martini with a tandoori chicken appetizer, I enjoyed a slightly light-struck Newcastle Brown Ale with my meal. Clear bottles are such a terrible invention.
I was served the most succulent braised beef short ribs I have ever had the pleasure of eating. These short ribs were slow braised in ale and finished with a bourbon barbecue sauce reduction – this was clearly the work of a master chef. Beef short ribs are one of the most flavourful parts of a cow, but flavour often means high amounts of fat and connective tissue, and connective tissue is usually found in tougher cuts of meat. Braising is a great way to break down the tough connective tissue in a short rib allowing the fat to slowly render away keeping the meat moist and delicious. Often times, I speak from my own cooking experience here, the braising process is rushed which results in a tender piece of meat but without allowing the fat to render out – the meat is tender but huge pieces of unpleasant fat are left to be removed by the eater. The other disaster that can occur, and again I speak from experience, is the meat can simple be braised or stewed in too much liquid, resulting in a watery unpleasant meat-mush. This particular short rib was braised to perfection – it was tender but not mushy, incredibly rich but not fatty and moist without being watery. I was in heaven.
The other great restaurant is found in the Cloverdale Curling Arena. Boonies BBQ & Soul Food is a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant operating as a soulful curling rink cafeteria. Because Boonies is essentially a glorified “cafeteria”, beer is not found on the menu, but don’t be too downhearted, it could be worse. I just found out that many counties in the Southern States have yet to repeal prohibition and are still dry- egads! Boonies offers authentic southern home cookin’ and BBQ – a rare find. Their prices are ineradicably reasonable and the portions are southern sized. Although the atmosphere is somewhat lacking, the idea of eating authentic Southern soul food in Canada while watching curlers throw rocks down a sheet of ice is quite comical.
For any of you who have yet to enjoy what these two fantastic establishments have to offer, please do so. A trip into the city can be a great culinary experience, but the Fraser Valley is home to some great restaurants that should not be taken for granted.