Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No HST at PCOV

Portuguese Club of Vancouver on Urbanspoon My friend who lives near Commercial Drive raved about it. He said it was good food, big portions, and no HST! Something about the Portuguese Club of Vancouver (PCOV) being a private club meant it didn't have to charge HST. And it was true -- no HST. Sadly, this was probably one of the best parts of our meal there.

On my friend's recommendation (I'll never believe him again!) I organized a little outing for the Culture Sponges, hoping to get some interesting Portuguese food that wasn't Nando's.

When I got there shortly before 7pm on Saturday evening, half the restaurant was full with two long tables on the left side. It turned out there were two large parties that night, and organized into two long tables. The rest of  the club was empty except for a few idlers watching hockey on the big screen TV. It took maybe 10 minutes before anyone who looked like staff approached me.

If I hadn't had a reservation and weren't waiting for friends to arrive, I would probably have left by now. I mean, no staff? Really? Whether you want to excuse PCOV for being a club instead of a restaurant, you will have to deal with the fact that they aren't really a restaurant.

Yup. NOT. A. RESTAURANT.

It's a club. It's run for club members. You're probably allowed in because it makes them money to serve non-club-members. And don't expect club members to be all friendly and what not.

There were two waitresses for the front end of the restaurant. Everyone else was presumably in the back pumping out the set menu for the two parties. Only one of the waitresses was smiling. Swell. Fortunately, she did seem genuinely friendly and she was our server for the evening. Neither of them were in any sort of uniform, so they could well have been just a couple of club member kids dragged in to run the restaurant for the evening. Hard to say. However, our lovely and friendly server did seem very at ease as a waitress, so she may have been a professional instead of a volunteer.

I was there at around 20 minutes to 7pm, and was told that because of the large parties, they were serving them first, and the rest of the restaurant wasn't therefore open per se, until maybe 7pm. I was, however, invited to sit and asked if I wanted a drink. I went with water for the moment as my fellow Meetup members were due soon.

Around 7pm, the server came by to give us the scoop. Because of the large parties, the menu was chopped down to just soup and one of three set plates with either basa fillets, roast chicken and gravy, or roast beef. For dessert, there were two choices: Tuxedo cake, and rice pudding.

I really wished they could have told me this because our Culture Sponges group generally aimed to order a bunch of ethnic dishes to share. Basa fillets with rice and salad didn't really qualify. Neither did roast chicken with steamed veggies and roasted potatoes with tomato sauce. No one ordered the beef so we didn't see what was on that plate.
On the other hand, I think they didn't take my phone number when I made the reservation, so they couldn't have told me. I'm willing to accept a fraction of the blame here since I didn't think to volunteer my phone number either.
Anyway, we were told the regular menu would be available after the two parties were done, but the waitress couldn't guarantee a time (and it turned out the regular menu didn't become available till closer to 9pm).
It was very possible that the kitchen just wasn't all that big, and their usual number of patrons isn't very large; and if they hadn't limited the menu, it would take forever to fill all the orders for the two large parties that night.

Oh, and no water was brought to the table. I can't remember if we were asked if we wanted any beverages, but possibly not since no one got anything till much later. However, they did bring us a large plate of (bitter) green olives which I suspected were "recycled" -- that is, whatever was left over ended up on the next table. (It was a lot of olives. I didn't think they'd throw all the excess away.) We also got a basket of Portuguese rolls which I didn't touch because we hadn't ordered yet.

After some debate, our small group generously forgave me and sort-of agreed that they were equally there for the company as for a food adventure. So we went with the "specials". Soup was extra. One person just got a salad. We had two orders of basa fillets, two orders of chicken, a pint of beer, a half-litre of house (white) wine, and one order of Tuxedo Cake.

Salad - $5.50

  • I didn't see too much of this. Looked like lots of lettuce and maybe some tomato. $5.50? Really?

1/2 Litre House Wine - $13.00

  • I'm not a drinker, so I'll have to go with the opinion of the ladies who tried this -- They said they were pleasantly surprised and that it was "crisp".

Beer - $4.75

"Specials" - $12.95

  • Boring food here, sadly.  The food isn't "bad" per se, but it's sort of very plain, like what you could just do up at home.
    • The basa fillets were small but you got several pieces, so it worked out. Fried to a nice golden brown, but it hit your plate soft, which suggests quite a bit of preparation instead of being made reasonably fresh. Came with rice and salad.
    • The chopped up chicken had a goodly amount of gravy and mine was okay, but the other plate had a large chunk of dry white meat. Came with roasted potatoes with some sort of tomato sauce; and steamed veggies (broccoli and baby carrots).
  • You do get a full plate for your money. Each plate comes with either potatoes or rice, and add to this one big Portuguese bun about the size of two tennis balls and you've got a really full meal. For sheer mass of food, $12.95 isn't bad. Whether you'll be satisfied with the quality and interestingness of what you get is a different story. My personal feeling is that for $12.95, you should be able to find something more interesting and tasty if you look hard enough (Little Nest if brunch or lunch; maybe Bandidas Tacqueria if dinner).
Tuxedo Cake - $4.50
  • You got one slice of two layers of chocolate cake with white cream in between; plus about 5 mm of chocolate cream on top, and tiny spheres of crunchy chocolate wafer or biscuit. It approximates to about the same volume as two 16-piece packs of Dentyne stacked together.
  • Hard to say if it were made in house, and after the lacklustre dinner I'm inclined to think not. In any case, what's important here is that it was moist and delicious. Still a bit on the pricey side for $4.50, though.
The moral here is to check first if you will end up with a limited menu at PCOV. And definitely check if they will limit you to their "specials" or some sort of set menu if your party is more than 6 persons. If you're looking for Portuguese fare, the specials will be anything but. Go on a less busy day to get a proper chance of genuine Portuguese cooking.


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