Cafe Medina

I don’t remember when Cynthia and I talked about going to Medina for brunch, but it was certainly a while ago– probably sometime back in January. Anyways, for some reason or another (craziness of school, craziness of work, craziness of life in general), we had to keep postponing our date– but with the end of finals in April, and a lighter course load in the summer, we were finally able to meet up for some much-needed catch up time.

Of course, a brunch trip would be incomplete without Darek; if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have met Cynthia in the first place (ah, the joys [?] of math tutor…). So we drove over to the Gastown restaurant (kind of misleading to me, since it’s actually right by Stadium Station and nowhere near the Steam Clock) on a Friday morning, parked at the meter (which promptly stole Darek’s toonie), and put our name down for a table for 3.

I was worried that we would have to wait a long time for a table, since there were at least 3 other groups ahead of us, and the storefront looked quite small (and full). Silly me, I didn’t realize that there was more seating in the back of the building, which was spacious and bright, with high ceilings and big windows. After a wait of about 15 minutes, a waitress brought us to our table, where we eagerly perused the menu.

We ordered our drinks first: for Darek, an Americano; for Cynthia, a Chai; and for myself, a large Hot Chocolate. The Americano was “good”– the perfect pick-me-up for Darek, who honestly looked pretty dead when we were waiting outside. The coffee smelled and tasted really pleasant, and we liked that the half-and-half was served on the side. Cynthia’s Chai was presented with a foam leaf on top; this was so pretty, she barely wanted to drink from it, and insisted (jokingly) that we could only drink from the stem. Her cup of tea was cinnamony and flavourful, and is certainly just as good as, if not better than, the chai I had at Aphrodite’s Cafe. Her only qualm was that it was smaller than what she wanted– our waiter didn’t confirm the size she wanted with her. I was surprised that my Hot Chocolate came with a foam leaf as well– it was nice to see that they put the effort into all their drinks. My cup was appropriately hot and sweet, and I felt that the price I paid ($3.25) wasn’t too unreasonable.

And now, onto the food! Darek, being a meat-lover, ordered the Fricassé— applewood smoked cheddar melted over a mix of braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, watercress, caramelized onions, finished off with two sunny-side-up eggs and julienned granny smith apples. In general, Darek thought that the ingredients weren’t anything special when eaten separately– for example, the green apple slices were too sour, and the short ribs were a little on the dry side (perhaps they were overcooked?); meanwhile, the eggs and potatoes, while good, were fairly standard. It was when he took a balanced mouthful that all the flavours worked together– the tartness was balanced by sweetness from the onions and saltiness from the short ribs and sauce, and the crispness of the watercress complemented the runny eggs, the crunch of the apples and the softness of the potatoes. With the exception of the cheese, which he could have done without, Darek ended up really enjoying his dish– so much so that he was using the small piece of foccacia to mop up all the sauce on the plate!

Cynthia’s Saumon Fume, served on an open-faced ciabatta bun, was quite different from what I expected. I thought that there would be slices of the usual cedar plank smoked salmon you could find at the supermarkets, with salad served on the side– I couldn’t be any more wrong! Instead, the salmon was actually flaked and mixed with a creamy, lemon-dill sauce, making it look somewhat like a less-pungent tuna fish sandwich. The salad of arugula, cherry tomatoes and a strong and tart vinaigrette was placed on top of one of the pieces of bread, and not in a side dish; meanwhile, a sliced avocado half and a fried egg sat atop the other. Since it was so beautifully presented, Cynthia ate this sandwich using a knife and fork (how ladylike!), so that the ingredients wouldn’t fall out of the sandwich. This way too, she was able to grab a little bit of everything– a sliver of egg, a square of avocado, some greens along with the bread and salmon– so that each bite was jam-packed with flavour. While the portion looked a little small at first, Cynthia found that it was actually the perfect size, and by the end of the meal was quite full– not a bad deal for $12! Her only problem with her meal was that her knife wasn’t nearly sharp enough to cut through the bread, so it did get a little messy. Maybe we’ll ask for a steak knife next time…

For myself, I had the Paella, which was a curried orzo dish mixed with corn niblets, pieces of zucchini, tomatoes, Hungarian chorizo sausage, red peppers and grana padano cheese. This pasta-y mixture was then finished off with a spicy tomato stew, a baked egg, some pieces of avocado and a ton of watercress. Having never had raw bunches of raw watercress before (I’ve had it in tea sandwiches, but in that case the cucumber tends to overpower the other ingredients), I was very pleased with the taste– it definitely wasn’t as bitter as I thought it would be. Besides that, the mingling of the curry and tomato stew along with the lemony avocado (I’m guessing to keep them from browning? But it tasted really good) made for a very delicious dish– and a very filling one too. I really struggled to finish my portion, and I was pretty hungry that day too.

Unfortunately, we were all too full to try out their liege waffles– but maybe that’s a good thing, since it meant that we got our money’s worth! For about $15 each, there was a ton of great food, and while it may have been a little on the pricey side for lunch after our drinks, tax and tip (I usually spend less than $10… but then most of my lunches are eaten at school), I would certainly return in the future. In general, I found that while the staff was a little aloof at times, the atmosphere and food more than made up for it, so that my experience was on the whole a great one. Thanks for the recommendation, Cynthia!

Cafe Medina
556 Beatty Street
Vancouver, BC

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