I always seek out farm to table restaurants both in Vancouver and along my travels, so the opening of Top Chef Canada contestant Trevor Bird’s new restaurant, Fable, in the former Refuel space in Kits made me a bit giddy! I finally got the chance to check it out with some friends on Saturday night and, despite the numerous reviews of the restaurant by true food connoisseurs, decided that a review from neighbour who digs good food was also worth writing.
The restaurant gets its name from a play on the words farm and table and boasts a rotating menu based on seasonality and availability, but there isn’t much discussion about the origin of the food or its producer. Most farm to table restaurants I have visited make it their mission to connect people to the food they are being served. With the whole farm to table concept getting a little played out lately, I actually appreciate that Bird seems to simply take it for granted.
First, the most important part of a restaurant review, the food. After reading at least half a dozen great reviews, I have to admit that I had high expectations for Fable. When it comes to the food, Bird’s crew didn’t disappoint (I don’t think he was there).
Simply put, the food was great – simple, yet creative and perfectly executed despite a packed house. Since a ton of reviews have already been written about the food, I will leave it at that. With starters priced at $8-$12 and mains at $16-$28, the portion size, food quality and skill level for that price point is bound to impress you.
Next, the ambiance. The restaurant hasn’t had a drastic makeover, but it does feel more inviting and warmer than the former Refuel space. I went for dinner on a Saturday night and the place was packed and filled with energy. The buzz in the restaurant was contagious but the tightly packed tables and open kitchen made it really, really loud. This kind of environment can be really fun sometimes, but it’s not for everyone. I won’t be taking my folks there anytime soon but do have a few friends who would love the vibe.
Finally, the service. Unfortunately, the service was not so good. I was meeting three other friends for dinner and while exchanging the usual pleasantries for a few minutes when you haven’t seen each other for a while, I was stunned when the server asked us to place our cocktail order three times in less than about five minutes. Throughout the evening, it was clear they were busy and wanted us to hurry up. The server even requested we promptly review the menu and order all of our food at once so things could move along faster. She explained that they had a table of nine take longer than expected, so now they were behind and essentially needed us to move things along.
We could feel her hovering around our table, anxious to whip away our plate the second the last piece of food entered our mouth, which she did. In fact, they actually brought my main to the table and exchanged it with my appetizer plate while I was still chewing!
The upselling techniques were also overkill. With two overt attempts to upsell us from tap water to sparkling, a plead to add another appetizer or drink more wine and a sneaky attempt to sell us house bread upon arrival, the entire thing was very off-putting. To be honest, the service sort of killed the whole night for us. The server made one of our friends feel so anxious she barely touched her meal.
Being well aware that they wanted to free up our table and with the desire to linger over more wine, we actually skipped out on dessert at Fable and headed down to Kitsilano Daily Kitchen on a whim for more wine, coffee, desert and phenomenal service. Our still hungry dining companion even decided to dig into some delicious lobster risotto that was priced at $17 for a generous portion and whipped up in the kitchen without hesitation despite our very late arrival.
All that said, it was a great night with friends in the neighbourhood. Overall, I liked Fable and will be back, just not on a Saturday night at 8pm. The food really was excellent and I am just hoping that Bird is still ironing out the kinks when it comes to service standards. I loved Kitsilano Daily Kitchen, and can’t wait to enjoy dinner there again soon.
Saturday night at Fable left me in a bind. With service like that, what do you tip (if at all)?
Fable, 1944 West Fourth Ave., 604-732-1322, Fablekitchen.ca
Kitsilano Daily Kitchen, 1809 West 1st Avenue, 604-569-2741, Kitsdaily.com
Photo credit: Fable