Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Good value for good eats at Vancouver FanClub

Vancouver Fanclub on UrbanspoonFor an unspecified limited time, the very recently opened Vancouver FanClub is offering a 2-for-1 deal on its menu -- anything except drinks. And it's apparently grouped by category, so if your party orders 2 burgers and one pecan pie dessert, you pay for the pricier burger, get the other burger free, and pay for the comparatively cheap dessert -- instead of getting the cheap dessert free and paying for the two burgers.

After our meal, the manager explained that the 2-for-1 promotion, which is valid every day from Noon till 6pm, is a "loss leader" strategy aimed at selling their bourbons and other liquor. The idea is to draw people in with cheap (good) pub food, and hope they buy alcohol too.
At this point I got the distinct impression that he'd been disappointed by our showing because we hadn't ordered any drinks. My friend was going back to work in less than an hour, and I'm a non-drinker. Which also bring up the issue of a weekday 12-6 time slot for getting people to buy drinks -- isn't it a flawed strategy to be tempting people to drink during working hours? I mean, who wants to go back to the office drunk? (Oh wait -- uh, don't answer that).

Other than the workers still doing sometimes very noisy construction in the back of the restaurant, my friend and I were the only ones there for lunch at noon on Tuesday. The very quiet pace allowed us to ask the server about the decor, and the chef came out to get our opinion on our meal (and apparently had done so on opening night as well). If you're curious about the restaurant and food, now is definitely the time to go to snap pictures and interrogate the kitchen about their cuisine.

The description of the restaurant sounded to me more posh and interesting that it turned out to be (maybe it looks better at night). Interesting highlights include imported wooden doors from New Orleans used as panelling for the bar and above the doors. Otherwise, the "New Orleans" look is in the black ironwork and the light fixtures. The server described the aim as being more "New Orleans meets West Coast" than simply New Orleans.
This said, the menu itself doesn't really smell like New Orleans, not like Ouisi Bistro, for example.

There is actually very little seating and it's much more a pub and music venue than a restaurant. It's pretty much not a restaurant. They boast having the best sound system in BC, taken from BC Stadium, and hope to draw DJs who had until now given Vancouver a pass because we didn't have up-to-snuff hardware.
  • Slow Roasted Smoked Chicken Sandwich ($11) One of these in your mouth is worth a flock of birds in the bush. Smoked, roasted chicken, seared mushrooms, and smoked Provolone, topped with roasted peach and fig relish on a toasted bun.
    • Looks like pulled chicken, but it's not the salty wet stuff stewed in pan drippings like, say, the burger from La Brasserie food cart.
    • The chicken is a tad dry in some places, but if you don't pick out such bits, this is a moist burger made extra-interesting with the sweet relish. If you need extra kick, try the orange + chili sauce available at the table. Sweet and fruity, yet with a (not-too-hot) bite from the chili.
  • Quinoa Black Bean Burger ($12, vegan) Hey vegetarian, welcome to the Promised Land. Quinoa and black bean patty; topped with mango papaya salsa, avocado, arugula, and seared heirloom tomatoes; sandwiched between two seared Portobello mushroom caps. *gluten free.
    • This is so not a "burger". There's no "patty" to speak of, really. It's more like a quinoa salad badly tossed (the stuff in it is quite separate), put between two mushroom caps.
    • It's actually quite tasty, and you can jazz it up and experiment with the various condiments at the table. There's the usual chili sauce, but also a foursome of intriguing sauces (one sour, one spicy-hot, on spicy-but-not-hot, one fruity-and-hot) from South China Seas Trading Company.
    • If you're sharing, instead of cutting it down the middle, just give your dining buddy one of the mushroom caps and scoop over half the quinoa filling.
    • This really could use a spoon!
    • The chef described how careful they were in the preparation to not touch anything that had been used to prepare dishes containing meat, in order to strictly preserve the "vegetarian" aspect of it. This was also behind the decision to not make an actual patty, because that would have necessitated using the same kitchenware used for other (meat) patties. Therefore, although the menu doesn't actually say it at the moment, this item counts as vegan.
  • Fries and house-made potato chips (choose one of fries, chips, or salad free with sandwiches and burgers)
    • Both very nicely done. Fries fresh and crispy on the outside. Thinner cut and a good portion.
    • Fries we salted but only lightly. Came with tomato sauce which you might ask to hold (or just ask for the bottle) in case you don't want any and instead want to experiment with the various sauces at the table -- this latter I highly recommend.
    • Chips looked infused with oil but didn't come across as greasy. Generously tossed in reddish (BBQ flavoured) spice. This is the less-filling but more tasty option over the fries and recommended if you don't want a too heavy meal.
  • Bourbon Pecan Pie ($5) Fact: There can never be too much whiskey. Or pie. Rich filling and flaky crust, drizzled with caramel sauce.
    • Sadly, I never saw this. My friend had already gone overtime on her lunch hour and we made a hasty exit. Didn't even do the 2-for-1 deal on this. I got it to go and gave her the whole thing. She described the portion as being very big. Even a slightly undersized portion would have been good value at a mere $5 when other places are now charging $6-$12 for dessert.
From what little we tried today, the food here is between good and very good thanks to interestingness. Plus the regular price weighs in at reasonable to a bit on the cheap side compared to what you get and the portions you get, so even without the 2-for-1 promotion, if the prices hold, then Vancouver FanClub is a safe choice for good eats beginning at lunchtime. At their current prices, I highly recommend you check them out.

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