1944 W 4th Ave
In the most recent edition of Bon Appetit, the concept of “farm to table” is referred to as “industry standard.” And though we have certainly seen the emergence of restaurants with a strong, sustainable foundation, I would argue that, in Vancouver, farm to table is actually still an anomaly. Whatever the case may be, there is an undeniable importance to restaurants that are committed to the slow food movement. More than anything, it makes consumers aware and empowers us to know where our food comes from. In the case of Fable on West 4th Avenue, chef and visionary Trevor Bird hopes not only to showcase local products, but also “define Canadian cuisine and deliver great flavours in a fun and non-pretentious setting.”
Foodies will know Trevor from Season 2 of Top Chef Canada, perhaps even remembering highly-anticipated “Restaurant Wars” episode, where Trevor and his team coined their “farm to table” restaurant concept as “Fable.” Upon returning to Vancouver, Trevor made his vision a reality.
I love the atmosphere inside Fable – it is a cozy, rustic retreat from the neighbourly bustle of West 4th Avenue. With an open-kitchen concept, you are immediately drawn to the outgoing chefs, the flawless preparation of ingredients, and the lively, comfortable environment.
I’d been to Fable once for their signature “Boozey Brunch” (the last Sunday of every month). If you caught my “Frugal Foodie in Vancouver” post, you’ll know that I had the best French Toast of my life that day. But I digress. I’d heard so much about the dinner at Fable – especially their canned tuna – that I couldn’t prolong finding out what the hype was all about.
I’m always a proponent for “family-style” eating, but, sometimes this just isn’t the way things work…especially, in Western dining. We are accustomed to ordering individual dishes, and perhaps sharing an appetizer. At Fable, the servers actually recommend sharing plates. Upon looking at the menu, you’ll quickly realize that committing to one entrée alone would leave you curious and envious as to what you could have tasted. So, with a pair of some of my oldest and most sincere foodie friends, we did as we were told, and shared the following:
We started with the Chickpea Fritters and the infamous Canned Tuna…
The Chickpea Fritters, topped with pickled red onion, shoots, and curry mayo, might be best described as a Canadian twist on falafel. The outside was salty and crunchy, a welcomed contrast to the smooth, creamy texture of the blended chickpeas.
Next, the Canned Tuna. Before I tasted it for myself, this confused me, too. Who orders canned tuna at a restaurant? What restaurant serves canned tuna? Fable. Fable does. They can it themselves. It’s smooth, hearty, and has a hint of lemon. Piled on a petite crostini, it transforms into a deceivingly delicious h’orderves!
“P” Gnocchi with Pork Belly. The name still makes me giggle. Peas are ubiquitous here, but we took it up a level by adding two slices of pork belly. I really enjoyed the gnocchi, as the peas made it much less dense than I expected.
Tomato Risotto. Whenever someone on a Food Network competition attempts to make risotto, the judges always mention what a risky business it can be. Without careful execution, it can turn into a mushy, lumpy mess. The risotto was perfect in texture – fluffy but grainy – despite being mixed with the savoury tomato sauce.
Marscapone Cheesecake. I do love a good cheesecake. This one is surprisingly filling for it’s size, but very light in flavour. The real power of the plate comes from the raspberry puree that orbits the cheesecake.
Lemon Meringue Parfait. This was my favourite tasting of the evening. Put together as a “deconstructed lemon meringue pie,” the baked crumble and tart filling are hidden within the glass, crowned by a bruleed meringue swirl. If you’d like the chance to bite a meringue marshmallow from heaven, order this.
There’s something very Canadian about Fable, from its food to its very vibe. Sure, it’s a great way to eat local, and even try some signature Canadian game (they were featuring Elk that night). But, there’s something very homegrown about the menu, a simplicity and sincerity in the food. Dishes are not over-complicated, putting the quality of ingredients into the spotlight. Embedded into the brick walls, the wooden tables, and the rustic décor, is the Canadian hospitality that is jovial, comforting, and friendly. It doesn’t take long to see that Fable is more than just great food; its a patriotic, worthwhile, somewhat humbling, opportunity to experience something truly Canadian.