Wendy had heard good things about L’Abattoir, a French/West Coast restaurant so we trekked to Gastown to try it out. It was amazing!
I had planned to take a shot of the signage when we left but forgot so this one’s stolen from the restaurant’s website.
Once inside our jackets were hung and we were led upstairs to a table with a good view of the action at the well-stocked bar. The menus reflected this as the drink menu was lengthy and varied while the food menu was just a single page.
The complimentary bread included a buttery bacon brioche, some twisted parmesan bread with a barely detectable hint of anchovy, and a thin crispy flatbread sprinkled with sesame and cumin seeds. All were interesting and enjoyable.
Wendy had been looking forward to trying a drink named after Donald Draper ($11), Jon Hamm’s character in Mad Men. It was a heady blend of Buffalo Trace bourbon, Cocchi Americano, Abricot de Rouillson, Peychaud’s bitters, and absinthe. While she find’s Don Draper drool-worthy, his namesake drink unfortunately was not. I didn’t try it, but she found it too bitter for her taste and I’m guessing that it’s more of a man’s drink, akin to an extra strength Manhattan. She was definitely feeling the effects after just the one drink, while I opted to stay sober and babysit with a bottle of sparkling water.
I asked our waiter to recommend something sweeter and a bit more girly for her and he pointed out the Clover Club Refashioned ($12) which she had been eyeing up anyway. It was made with gin, fresh raspberries, sweet vermouth, mint, and fresh lemon, and this was more to her liking.
We ordered one appy each from the warm and cold menu. First came the warm: Pan fried veal sweetbreads ($15) on toast with sauce gribiche, a mayo based sauce livened up with small chunks of chopped veal tongue. The sweetbreads were from a calf’s thymus gland (in the neck) breaded and fried. The creamy, mealy texture inside reminded me of oysters, and each bite ended with the metallic iron taste of liver or heart. The bread was a sourdough and worked well with the sauce and meat. The surrounding jus was bursting with flavour and we sopped it up greedily.
Next was the cold: a chopped West Coast Oyster ceviche ($16) made with chunks of sweet tomato, avocado, grapefruit, very thinly sliced jalapeno, and topped with micro greens. I’m guessing that either they used to serve it with whole oysters or they vary the style of the dish, because Wendy and I had seen a photo of the dish with whole ones. I was glad they were chopped however, and the dish was light and refreshing to prepare us for the mains after the heavy veal and bread dish. My only complaint would be that we had to pick out some shell fragments.
I chose the Canadian lamb loin ($31) as my main course. This was the absolute best lamb dish I’ve ever had; two thick loin medallions wrapped in thick, fatty bacon surrounded by jus and little dollops of chopped baby onion, thin sliced green olives, and other “Mediterranean flavours”, topped off with a couple stalks of charred green onions. It came with several pieces of gnocchi as well, which were again the absolute best gnocchi I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. They reminded me of a perfectly done moussaka topping made into bite size portions: lightly crisped on the outside with a custard textured potato-ey center that melts in your mouth. Speaking of melting in your mouth, let’s get back to the star of the show: the meat! It was so amazingly tender you could literally substitute pushing it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue for chewing. The flavour of the lamb was actually quite mild. Needless to say I was really happy with my pick, however I found a couple of bone chunks in here so once again tread cautiously.
Wendy had the Pork shoulder cooked in milk ($26), a thick slab of meat that was also really tender, although not approaching the heights attained by the lamb. Being pork shoulder it was also stringy and a little more dry although cooking it in milk added some juice to the cut. The salsa verde that topped the meat was tart and sour and gave each bite a pleasant accent. Baby onions, thinly sliced turnips, and black kale acted as sides with the kale being the highlight. The meat juices were soaked up by the kale making it extremely appetizing, and while normal kale is full of vitamins I can only imagine the nutritional punch packed by the darker black version. While my dish was the star the pork shoulder was no slouch either.
The service from the knowledgeable staff was friendly and the food exquisite, plus the overall vibe of the place was great. Two thumbs up.