Both of your writers went to L’Altro Buca with some friends for a supposed celebration of three birthdays. It was a warm, sunny Friday evening. Dinning in the courtyard… you can’t beat that.
Behind this restaurant are the stories about the ups and downs of the restaurant business and the palpable economic downturn. This restaurant was recently relaunched under its current name and menu. It was originally called Parkside, a well-received fine-dining French Restaurant. I dined there a year ago and was pleased with their dishes. It was seen as romantic and a place for a quiet dinner.
While our party of seven trickles in from different ends of the city, we gathered at the bar for a drink while chatting with the friendly bartender and maître d’. From them, we learned the fall of Parkside. People thought it was too expensive. Too expensive… I almost gasped with disbelief. I thought the four-course menu was fairly priced at $65. Then, Parkside lowered its prices and switched to an a la carte menu. Still, that, coupled with the unfortunate economic conditions, was not enough to tempt more patrons and prevent the owners from changing the whole concept of the restaurant. Speaking of the owners, they also have two other restaurants: La Buca in Kerrisdale and Pied-à-Terre on south Cambie Street. La Buca has also been well received by diners and critics, but that’s a review for another time. Back to the story of Parkside/L’Altro Buca… the failure, I think, was also due partly to its location. Being tugged away in the residential area at the west end of Haro Street doesn’t necessarily give you the publicity that sometimes makes a restaurant.
So comes the turn from fine-dining French to casual Italian. Right, FOOD. We had a couple of antipasto platters to start, which consisted of grilled zucchini and eggplant, grilled tuna, white bean salad, tapenade, etc. It was a good way to wet our taste buds and get ready for the more serious stuff. That was followed by the main course, and I ordered the fish of the day (or Pesce del giorno if you have to). It was a pan-seared Halibut fillet, with fingerling potato, vegetables, prawns, and salsa verde. The fish was a little dry for my liking, but the pairing of salsa verde and the fish and prawns was a nice touch. I also tried a bite of the Guance di vitello (Veal cheeks braised overnight and served with mushroom risotto), which was incredibly tender and flavourful. The mushroom risotto was well prepared. Though it was only a taste, that was really the highlight of that meal. Somewhat regrettably, we skipped the desserts.
The wine list seems well thought out, capturing the fine wines from various regions of Italy. SERVICE was decent. Our waitress was rather patient with us as we took longer than usual to decide on the dishes. One thing to note, is that for a group of 8 you will have to have a surprise set-menu from the kitchen at a price of $55 per person. It however consists of four courses – antipasto, pasta, meat/seafood, and dessert. Everything would be served family style.
Overall, I think the restaurant deserves another chance to do over. It earns a rating of 8.5 out of 10 among the casual Italian eateries.
In addition, this restaurant was touted by Vancouver Magazine in a recent article as one of the better places to dine for pasta dishes.
Cuisine: Casual Italian
Price: $20 – $30
Location : 1906 Haro Street, Vancouver
Phone: (604) 683-6912