Vancouverites are notorious for not crossing bridges, which may be one reason why I don’t get to West Vancouver’s La Regalade more often. Four of us made it there the other night, to be rewarded by a wealth of rustic flavours, ample portions, good service and overall great conviviality.
Our table was right across from the kitchen, so I had a good chance to take in all the action. As usual, owner-chef Alain Raye was in the kitchen—although that’s a somewhat grandiose name for it. Somehow, everything here (the main menu runs to a couple of dozen items) is cooked right behind the counter. It’s an impossibly small space shared by some seven or eight people at any given time—including the dishwashers.
La Regalade is so popular there’s barely room for the servers to get around. But they do, with nary a spill or a frown. Someone’s decided that book menus are a waste of space and paper (which they are). Instead you get a substantial chalkboard (smaller for desserts) right at your table, that’s extensive, and always up to date. Maneuvering these is another exercise in skillful choreography. Somehow, though, I don’t think you’ll ever see iPad menus here…
I’d go back in a flash for the Salade Régalade, a protein packed compendium of warm prawns, whole (tender) calamari and bacon that will have you wondering how you’re going to eat your entrée. But you will. In my case it was perfectly cooked lamb sirloin (just-pink in parts) slathered in Chanterelles and roasted garlic cloves, with mildly addictive scallop potatoes in a mini skillet on one side.
Other popular picks of the night: prawn ravioli swimming in shellfish rich lobster bisque, intensely flavoured, fork tender boeuf Bourgignon, served in its own substantial tureen, filet of sole, and the legendary La Regalade 7-hour slow roasted leg of lamb.
Wines span the French spectrum, with a respectable reserve list, as well as a good choice of mid-range bottles, plus a few better BC labels. Our mouth-filling, anise toned and gently peppery Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras 2010 ($60) fit the bill perfectly.
The mood is classic bistro buzz. And it really is all about the food, which is unswervingly French and very fairly priced. I watched Alain Raye working non-stop for a good couple of hours, as he coordinated everything, cooking and checking each plate before it went out. The plates aren’t fussy or fancy. They’re honest, flavour packed and doggedly authentic. Desserts, from an extensive list are tough to resist. In short, it’s exactly what bistro food should be.
Given West Van’s well known aversion to pubs, bars, dance halls or other ‘dens of iniquity,’ there’s not a lot to do here beyond dining out. All of which means that the feeding window tends to be very concentrated. Translation: it can be quite manic between 6.30 and 8.30, so you might be wise to book early or later, especially on a weekend.
Most of the time La Regalade’s clientele understands that, somehow, the staff need to get around. But I did wonder about the couple who were spoon-feeding their baby, in a carrier on a chair, making it almost impossible for anyone to get by.
As for those substantial portions: there’s no grief if you want to have what you can’t finish packed up to take home. And a lot of folks do just that.
My next visit could be for a lingering lunch (La Regalade is open daily except Monday from 11.30 a.m.), for which the menu is equally as tempting and well-priced. And, as far as driving across those bridges is concerned, after a couple of glasses of wine, I may well take the bus from door to door.
La Régalade, 2232 Marine Dr, West Vancouver, 604-921-2228