Monday, August 19, 2013

50% off at Don Francesco Ristorante

Don Francesco on Urbanspoon
If you've avoided Don Francesco Ristorante / Francesco Ristorante Italia because of the price, now is a great time to use the 50th anniversary half-price-off coupon to try it (look in the Georgia Straight or Metro -- the offer is for the summer and will probably end soon). It works only for the items listed under "The Art of Pasta", but 50% off is a big deal. Sunday dinner only.

It's actually a pretty big restaurant, so while a packed patio might make it look full, chances are they will be able to squeeze you in somehow. There is lots of seating, and generous room to move around as well. Inside there are garishly coloured abstract paintings and lots of flowers.
The lovely hostess is an opera singer and there's a chance you'll get a opera-ish Happy Birthday sung at your table if you book a birthday event there.

Service is professional and reserved. The male waiters do their thing and then disappear, leaving your party alone. No getting-to-know-you chit-chat, which is probably more old school than being unfriendly. Basically, they leave your party alone rather than make themselves part of your dinner party. If you're used to chattier waiters (and there are some that are too chatty sometimes), this will be a different experience.
I did, however, get a vibe that this is an upscale place that expects upscale clientele, so if you show up casual dress or with a coupon, I don't think they'll take you quite as seriously.
When I asked for recommendations on what was the most interesting item, I was told that everything was good. Only reluctantly did they recommend anything, and when they did, it was the lobster lasagne, which maybe was only incidentally the most expensive item on the menu. No real reason provided.

They still adhere to the tradition of fresh bread (buns) at the table after you have placed your order. The buns are very warm, and they aren't stingy about the number of buns they give you, either. You might need them, though...

Escargots-Italian Style ($19) puff pastry, white wine, capers, herbs, porcini mushrooms, olive oil, garlic
  • Not sure what the puff pastry is all about here since they just give you a generous amount of the medly of snails, mushrooms, and other stuff. The single piece of puff pastry in the middle (about the size of half a dinner roll) is reduced to mush by the sauce anyway.
  • Salty! Good thing there are extra buns at the table.
  • Not clear how much is snail and how much is mushroom, but the saltiness pretty much flattens all the flavours anyway.
Lobster Lasagna ($29) emmenthal cheese, shallots, dry white vermouth, light cream, seasonings, lobster meat (picture)
  • This is a SMALL portion. The actual amount of lasagne is about the size of two decks of playing cards. Save some of those free warm pre-dinner buns for this order.
  • Every little bite is packed with strong lobster flavour and lobster meat. You also get the meat from one half lobster claw on top of it.
  • Tasty? Yes. Pricey? Yes. You can decide whether the price matches maybe two lobster claws or one lobster tail.
  • On the online menu, this doesn't show up for lunch. You need to click the link for the dinner menu, which looks so much like the lunch menu that you might be inclined to think they were the same.
Veal Canneloni - spinach, riccota cheese, parmesan, covered in rich tomato sauce with meatballs (picture)
  • This was my friend's order and she gave me a nibble of it. There is a LOT of tomato sauce here. Go easy on it or you won't taste anything else.
  • Came with meatballs that were rather strongly spiced, enough that the meat isn't the main thing you taste.
  • Overall, nothing too special here.
Pan Di Spagna ($12) (picture)
  • On the separate dessert menu, this is translated as "orange cake". It looks like a sponge cake with layers of cream. There is clear orange flavour but it is not overpowering. Dusted with roasted coconut.
  • The portion is what you might expect from a cake sliced into 8. The price, though, is up there. At $12, I expect either a generous sharing portion or an exquisite dessert. It's a fairly tasty cake, but pricey for what you get.
Tiramisu (picture)
  • My other friend's other. I just had a nibble and one nibble is enough for a non-drinker. Whatever liquor they used, they weren't stingy with it. There was so much it came out bitter. Good if you like your tiramisu to be soaked in alcohol, I guess.

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