Tag Archives: East Vancouver

Restaurant Review: The Absinthe Bistro

I live in East Vancouver (BC) and we have a large number of restaurants on the Drive. In the past year or two some of the standbys of many years (or even decades) have disappeared. Latin Quarter, with its lousy food, but good Latino music finally was driven into the ground. Stormcrow, the pub with cheap food for gaming geeks seems to be doing quite well in its place. One of the Italian places disappeared and the Dime Roadhouse, with its $5 food and college crowd atmosphere opened up. An Italian pizzeria moved in where a video store once was so we’re keeping our healthy balance of Italian restaurants in a once predominantly Italian neighborhood. There are Indian, Japanese, continental and Cafe Carthage as well as other types along the Drive.

food, French restaurant, absinthe, scallops, creme brulee

The Absinthe Bistro at 1260 Commercial Dr. lives up to French quaintness.

The other day I was on the Drive and noticed that Turk’s coffee house had disappeared (we have a glut of coffee places) and instead there was Absinthe Bistro. It looked tiny, yet quaint. Two of my friends and I go for “wings” throughout the year but since this is the holiday season we often look for something a little fancier. I suggested trying the bistro.

Run by a Cory and Juliana Pearson, the Absinthe Bistro has room for about 24-30 patrons. Cory trained with famous Parisian chefs for six years and then returned to Vancouver. Along with Juliana, they started the restaurant in August.  It has an open design and you can see right into the kitchen. We went on a Wednesday and the place was never full but had people coming and going. We stayed for about three hours and didn’t feel rushed. Cory and Juliana each had a person helping them in their respective domains.

abinthe, green fairy, alcohol, restaurants, The Abnsinthe Bistro

Ice & water are put in the top and the glass of absinthe, with sugar cube is placed beneath so the water runs over the sugar.

The floor is a raised white matte tile, with smaller black diamond shaped tiles between every four. This was repeated in the bathroom where one friend reported that the design worked well. The bistro had dark, straight-lined chairs and tables. Each table had a small flower bowl with a daisy floating in it. The walls are white with a few gilt framed mirros and posters. A simple elegant interior. There is a dark countered bar with a lovely water decanter used for absinthe. And of course, I had to have one (and I love absinthe). I asked if it was an original or a reproduction. Juliana said they had tried to find antiques but even broken ones were $2,000. The place also sports four impressive chandeliers.

The service was the right amount of attentive, and Juliana was very cordial. The menu features three appetizers, three main course and three desserts. You can mix and match with a fixed menu price of $35 for three courses or $28 for two, or order al a carte. With a small venue and giving attention to each dish, this is a wise choice and means everything is prepared fresh. The menu changes frequently.

For the appetizer, two of us had the tuna tartare with salad. The online menu says seaweed but ousr was a medley of greens. They will change the side dishes and their kitchen warrants. This tartare was amazing and a good sized portion about 3 inches square. My other friend had the soup of the day, which was carrot and cumin and he said it was very good. For dinner, two of us chose the pan-seared scallops with beurre blanc, sauteed spinach and potato puree. You might think that a potato puree is like mashed potatoes and I would have thought so too but I can say that these were the smoothest and tastiest potatoes I’ve ever had. The proportion was generous and I even gave the last two forkfuls to my friend because they were too good to be wasted. One might consider three scallops to be meager but these were good sized and perfectly seared. Considering what they cost (I made cioppino a few weeks ago and scallops are expensive) this turned out to be just the right amount, set with the spinach. The flavors were so well blended that you could taste each aspect individually and married together.

One friend ordered the duck leg confit with the same sides. He declared after he finished the he usually doesn’t like duck. I said, well why did you order it? He thought he’d try it again and he declared it excellent as well. For drinks, one of us doesn’t drink and he stuck with water, my other friend chose beer and I had a couple of glasses of wine after the absinthe. The menu specializes in French wines of course. This is probably the country whose wines I’m least familiar with. I asked Juliana what the La Vielle Ferme Ventoux was like and she described it so well that when I tasted it, it matched her description. This told me she knew her wines.

chocolate, lava cake, French cuisine, Absinthe Bistro

The lava cake is a chocoholic’s fantasy.

For dessert, two of us ordered the molten chocolate lava cake with house made vanilla bean ice cream, and I had the classic French vanilla creme brulee. My brulee looked huge but this dish was shallow so there was a large surface of crackle, which made each spoonful a smooth taste of creamy and crunchy. I tasted the lava cake and it had that bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate paired with the sweetness of the ice cream. They warned us at the beginning that they needed extra time to bake the cakes so they were fresh and hot, with oozing centers.

We stayed after eating and had another drink. Not one of us felt like we needed any more to eat. In fact I couldn’t finish the brulee. There wasn’t any portion of the evening that we didn’t enjoy. All three of us declared each dish as excellent. Juliana said their weekends have been very busy but the weekdays have not yet been full. I can say that this is the best food I’ve had on the Drive, or in any other parts of the city, in a long time and the Absinthe Bistro rates up there with the other five-star restaurants. I suggest not waiting to taste the wonders in this bistro because once everyone knows about it reservations will fill up fast. Congratulations to the Pearson on having a perfect blend.


Filed under Culture, entertainment, food

From Police to Police State

You would think with the eye on the RCMP over the Dziekanski inquiry, that both RCMP and city police would be on better behavior in Greater Vancouver. Note that some municipalities use a local police force while others use the RCMP.

Now, granted there have been a helluva lot of gang shootings to date, with at least 18 dead so far, so probably the police are a little jumpy. And we already know based on testimony by the four very fit RCMP officers who taser Robert Dziekanski to death that they’ll take raised hands or a desk stapler as a threat of deadly force and use it in kind. Oh and that they didn’t panic. These guys might have looked better if they said they had panicked but that they were cool and calculating about taking down an unarmed man and tasering him four more times while he writhed in pain is even more scary.

So, just maybe everyone wants to use caution more. Police once upon a time used to be trained in ways to take a person down using just their hands. And if the criminal was carrying a dangerous weapon, well disarm them. Shoot to kill was the last resort. However, that’s now changed and shoot to kill, ask questions later is the order of the day.

In March a homeless man was approached by police for stealing from a car. Later it turns out he wasn’t the thief but he supposedly advanced on them wielding an X-acto knife. Now it could be the police havexacto1 misnamed it but many X-acto knives are tiny, with a wedge-shaped blade of about an inch. They are very sharp and potentially lethal at close range. You’d have to get very close and personal to inflict damage. This image of a range of X-acto blades was taken from www.dickblick.com with the most common being the triangular shape.

So the police shot the guy in the stomach and killed him. Sure it was two women police officers and maybe they were scared. But they could have backed up, I think. And why couldn’t they shoot the guy in the arm or the leg, thereby giving him a lot of pain and disabling him from advancing? There was no need to shoot him in the stomach. Were they bad aims. Or was the X-acto blade much larger and being hurled at them?

On April 5th the police shot a guy in a Ford F350 truck who was allegedly stealing it. It seems that when they tried to block the truck the guy gunned it at the police car. The police shot at him, one shot, and wounded him. The car thief is expected to recover. In this case most people agree the police had a right to shoot. I doubt they had time to react with more than that with the truck coming at them. And it’s pretty hard to shoot to disable when someone is sitting in a vehicle with tinted glass. They could have tried to shoot out the tires but at that point it was probably not obvious what the guy had planned. I should note here that in Vancouver, up until recently it’s extremely rare that a police officer would shoot anyone. Once a year is more often than normal.

So we’ve had two shootings in four months. Not to mention the three off-duty cops that beat up and robbed a delivery driver. Sure, they’re the exception and yahoos from three different cities. But what this all points to is that there is a perceived image that the police forces (municipal and RCMP) are out of control. Police departments need to take a proactive stance and see if their training is adequate. As well, training needs to start with immobilizing a threat in the safest way possible to everyone. That means trying to take down a person with minimal physical violence, moving from  hands to taser to guns only when lives are threatened. That means not a perceived threat as the RCMP somehow saw in an office stapler. A deadly threat means being shot at or run down.

These departments also need to look at who they’re hiring. Bigoted, snobby and racist police will be more likely to prejudice a situation with their perspectives. What suitability tests are run on these candidates to ensure they stay calm, level-headed, use reasoning to assess a situation and don’t let prejudices get in their way. (I won’t do more than mention the many women of the downtown East side who disappeared over the years withouth the police doing anything because the women were drug addicts and prostitutes.) They need to have some basic psychology and counselling courses and learn how to verbally diffuse a situation as well.

I’m not saying all police are bad and they have a tough job. Some are probably nervous with all the shootings. But I do think a reassessment of training procedures is in order. We’d like to know that the next time we lift up a piece of paper or even give a cop the finger that we won’t be shot for it. Otherwise, we’ll probably all tow the line as we move into a police state of mind.

An addendum to yesterday’s post: With all three incidences mentioned above, the police have confiscated video or film taken at the scene. At the shooting of the homeless man, the police went through the guy’s phone and he said they erased the footage of the shooting. We all know what happened with the footage from the Dziekanski tasering. With this last one, they manhandled and threatened to arrest a newspaper photographer if he didn’t relinguish his camera. There is a disturbing trend towards the erosion of our civil liberties and the police taking, tampering or trying to hide evidence of questionable investigations. Even if they haven’t tampered they are giving the impression by confiscating materials in such a way. And if we don’t have freedom of the press, we don’t have checks and balances. Again, retraining seems to be needed here.

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Filed under crime, Culture, drugs, history, life, news, people, security

The Price of Vancouver: Car Crime Capital

Vancouver’s car crime status may have slipped recently but it was once car crime capital. More cars were stolen in the area and more cars broken into than most places in North America. Why? Well, being a port city perhaps those cars were shipped to parts unknown. Perhaps pirates came in to strip them of useful parts. Perhaps we have enough gangs of various persuasions who can resell them. I can’t speak to the car thefts per se, and haven’t done research but it was bad enough the police set up bait cars in various areas.

I do know that anyone who lived along routes in and out of the city often had their cars stolen (and one woman I talked to said her car had been stolen five times). That one is easy. Our inadequate public transportation system stops before the bars close. Anyone who comes in from any of the outlying areas: Surrey, Mission, Coquitlam, Whalley, etc., needs to find a way home afterwards. Bus and SkyTrain have stopped, taxis are too expensive, so let’s steal a car.

Break-ins on cars are easy to figure out too. Vancouver has the poorest postal code in Canada, which coincides with the Downtown East Side and the worst drug problems. Drugs=addicts=car break-ins. Pretty simple.

I once had a Honda Civic, the most stolen car in BC at the time, partly because it was the car to hot-rod for the young guys. My car was never stolen but it was broken into 15 times. In truth that included the stolen sunroof from the Nissan Sentra.

Here’s a list of some of the things stolen from that car:

  • half a tire jack
  • gear shift knob
  • prescription sunglasses
  • ashtray with coins
  • teeny tiny first aid kit
  • cassette tapes
  • car insurance
  • license plate
  • sunroof
  • stopwatch

If you add that up you’ll see it doesn’t equal 15, and many of those were stolen at the same time. My window was broken once and each of two door locks gouged out at different times. The door was left open after several of the break-ins (Civics were notoriously easy to get into) and I had to replace the car battery.

I lived in different areas and break-in had happened downtown, on the west side, central and East Vancouver, where I live now. But most of the vandalism happened because of my neighbour. Though we could never prove it, he broke in to numerous cars and houses. He foreclosed on his mortgage because it went up his nose or into his arm and the people who bought the house had ample evidence of drug use in the syringes and spoons left all over.

The crime rate went down when the neighbour disappeared. I also resorted to putting huge signs in my car window that said: STOP! This is East Van. You are thief # 14 15. There are no keys, money, drugs, CDs, jewels, condoms or children in this car. I don’t leave anything in the car these days but my window was broken two weeks back after about four years of no vandalism (except my place). I had one CD in the car, visible. That was a mistake and cost me $200 deductible to get the glass and moulding replaced. There are still enough drug addicts in the city and they’ll take anything any way they can to fuel their habits. And the federal government wants to close the one safe injection site.

The government really needs to weigh the cost to home and car owners in what they lose and have to replace from thefts, plus the cost of policing and investigating against the cost of a safe-injection site. I have a very strong feeling that the cost of one site is a lot less. And what does that site do? It takes the people off the street, keeps them from dying, gives them a chance to get their lives in control and maybe get off drugs, and it saves us a lot of crime. If an addict can hold down a regular job and not have to resort to crime and prostitution then they have a better chance of becoming a viable part of society and not a money sink. Until then, Vancouver will continue to have high break-in and vandalism rates and the poorest postal code.


Filed under cars, consumer affairs, crime, Culture, drugs, life, Writing