PiDGiN Restaurant – Everything you’ve heard is right, and wrong.

PiDGiN, it's more than a video clip on the 6 o'clock news.
PiDGiN, it’s more than a video clip on the 6 o’clock news.

It’s safe to say that most of you have heard of PiDGiN. If you haven’t I’ll assume you are a Quaker who eschews television and the internet. PiDGiN has been the target of anti-gentrification protests since it opened. The thing that I’ve never understood is why PiDGiN was targeted over other places nearby. There are lots of restaurants and bars serving food and drinks that are most likely unattainable to some locals but they’ve been largely left alone. I’m not here to figure it out but I can weigh in on PiDGiN and its menu.

Nikka Yoichi 10 year single malt.
Nikka Yoichi 10 year single malt.

First things first, what’s on the drink menu? I can tell you this, they have an impressive selection of Japanese Whisky and that makes me happy. The cocktail list is long, varied and interesting, and they have wine on tap. My beer nerd pals can choose from a few P49 bottles as well.

Potatoes with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter
Potatoes with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter

The food menu is an east meets west affair with a preference for Japanese style dishes melded seamlessly with classic western techniques. The first dish to arrive was a riff on udon using long shredded potatoes cooked al dente with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter. mix it all together and you have a textural masterpiece. The slightly firm texture of the potato is an unexpected treat. The seaweed butter and spicy cod roe provided a not overly salty backbone with a hint of the ocean.

Shishito peppers with parmesan and pine nuts
Shishito peppers with parmesan and pine nuts

Next to arrive was a bowl of roasted shishito peppers with grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts. 90 percent of these peppers are harmless but one in every 10 has a pretty awesome hit of mouth burning amazingness. Now stay with me hear as I try to describe the flavour. You know the way a movie theatre smells? The scent of popcorn and sweet candy? That’s what this tastes like. I’m being serious. It’s good.

Parisienne gnocchi with radishes, radish green pistou, and buttermilk ricotta
Parisienne gnocchi with radishes, radish green pistou, and buttermilk ricotta

This dish, gnocchi, takes a hard left turn from the east/west love affair, but not in a way that upsets the flow of the menu. The gnocchi are fairly large, fresh, warm, and tender. This a a relatively simple dish constructed in a way that elevates every ingredient. The peppery radish and mild ricotta are a great companion to the gnocchi.

Vitello Tonnato - Veal and Albacore tuna with fried egg emulsion and togarashi
Vitello Tonnato – Veal and Albacore tuna with fried egg emulsion and togarashi

Next up was “Vitello Tonnato”, Veal carpaccio, albacore tuna, fried egg emulsion and togarashi (chilli pepper). Veal is a no go for a lot of folks and I get that. I am not one of those folks, judge me accordingly. The raw albacore and veal were a silky combo with the egg adding richness and flavour. A very nice dish all around. The veal seems slightly unnecessary though. Using a high quality beef that isn’t veal would open this dish up to a wider audience and the dish wouldn’t suffer at all. That’s my 2 cents.

Pan roasted halibut, cauliflower puree, pine nut raisin agrodulce
Pan roasted halibut, cauliflower purée, pine nut raisin agrodulce

Finally I had the Pan roasted halibut with cauliflower purée and pine nut raisin agrodulce. Halibut is a conundrum. It was, until fairly recently, an inexpensive fish but marketing and trends have pushed it to another level. Halibut IS a great fish and this preparation is outstanding. The sear is spot on and the slight sweet/sour character from the agrodulce is a nice touch. Cauliflower purée is the new mashed potato and I’m a big fan.

PiDGiN is the real deal. The protests have seemingly stopped and the place was packed and buzzing with happy customers when I was there. Kudos to owner Brandon Grossuti and his staff for persevering, most business owners would’ve given up long ago. I’ll definitely be back.

Twitter – @pidginvancouver

Instagram – pidginyvr

Web – pidginvancouver.com

Facebook – pidginvancouver

Scott.

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One thought on “PiDGiN Restaurant – Everything you’ve heard is right, and wrong.

  1. Pidgin has been good from the start (though inevitably some dishes miss the mark – less so lately), and business has been good as well. Were the protests a net business negative? That’s not evident – it attracted a lot of press, which is never a bad thing for a new business. It wasn’t necessarily pleasant to walk the gauntlet of protesters, but then it can be a little bit of an obstacle course down there on the best of days. And it didn’t hurt that the protesters didn’t really have, AFAICT, a compelling narrative.
    What’s very charming to me is the sense that the staff forms a strong community, something that may also have been promoted by the early turmoil.
    We dined there yesterday, lured, I confess, by the $1 corkage on Mondays. I agree with all your comments on the dishes we had in common, such as the halibut and gnocchi.
    The tasting menu is a big win – varied, copious, and decently priced.

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