If you’re an eater in Vancouver, then you’ve probably already heard of (or dined at) Bar Susu. From the team behind Published on Main, Bar Susu opened in March to rave reviews. And we can see why: Chef Ashley Kurtz helms the kitchen with a menu that’s as innovative as it is delicious. Shared plates are the name of the game here with a killer wine menu to pair with. It’s both the perfect date night spot and a primo location for a low key fête with friends. All of this is to say, the food, drinks, atmosphere and service are top notch.  

On my first visit, we tried the new pre-fixe menu. Called “The Don's Menu," this is when the chef himself chooses your meal (with an incredibly reasonable $55 price tag). But pre-food, we started off our meal with a bottle of wine—this is a wine bar after all. The 2019 Domaine de’Ecu Trinity ($68) hails from the Rhone Valley and being 80-percent grenache and 20-percent cinsault, it was medium-bodied with notes of strawberry and red current alongside hints of allspice.

We were warned by the server that it would be served slightly chilled—but on a warm summer evening it felt refreshing and crisp.  

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Our dining experience began with the duck liver parfait. Served on a warm honey cruller with a hidden quince centre, this is the doughnut that dreams are made of. On texture alone, the cruller gave my favourite Saturday-morning haunts a run of their money. I walked into Bar Susu duck liver gal, but this parfait changed the way I think about offal. Light as a cloud yet still rich, with a burst of acidity that immediately cut through any perceived heaviness with ease. A sprinkle of caramelized nuts added crunch without ever taking away from the dreamy base. I’m pretty sure I audibly groaned in delight as I finished it. Apologies to the table next to me.

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Next up: the famed hashbrowns with mc’chicken sauce. If you’ve heard about Bar Susu—then this dish is on your radar. I’m a hashbrown vet: they’re a staple of my brunch game and I ate my fair share of its cousin, the latke, growing up. These rock a hashbrown shape and exterior, but the centre reminded me more of latke-country. A little denser and reminiscent of mashed potato, they’re elevated by the sauce, which, let’s be honest, is the main selling point here. To answer the question you’re all thinking: yes, it does taste like the McChicken sauce we all know (and love). It’s one of the coolest versions of reverse engineering, precisely because it’s not thrown on a fried chicken sandwich.

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The next dish is the best thing I’ve eaten all year. Full stop. The mussels escabeche tartine is hands-down one of the most creative ways I’ve enjoyed a bivalve. Hailing from the Mediterranean, escabeche is a method of vinegar marination that leaves the product (in this case mussels) bright and tenderized. The mussels escabeche I’ve had in the past are mostly of the Spanish, canned variety and can swing a little too sharp on the vinegar-scale. But here, Kurtz and her crew got the balance exactly right.

Served with a creamy-yet-smoky Nantes sauce that blasted through the escabeche’s brightness and a pile of herbaceous parsley—all atop a piece of thick-cut toast—the combination created a texturally intriguing superstar where each bite felt revolutionary.

“This is one of my favourite things I’ve ever eaten,” my partner exclaimed about two bites in. “If I wasn’t in public, I’d lick the plate clean.”

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The mussels were a hard dish to follow, but the smoked lamb belly was up to the task. A crisp, caramelized exterior made the tender centre only that much more delightful; it was funky, in the way only lamb can be, with a fattiness that served to elevate that exterior crunch. Minted grains acted as a playful take on the classic lamb and mint jelly. Chicories were paired with a labneh so garlic-forward, it reminded me of toum; the combo added a touch of bitterness and creamy spice.

Arriving at the same time as the lamb was the aptly named Glorious Organics salad: a bowl of greens that felt light-as-air thanks to a lovely elderflower vinaigrette, edible flowers and what appeared to be puffed kamut. The ideal counterpart to the lamb’s innate richness, this is the type of salad I imagine nymphs eat after frolicking in lush fields.

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Dessert was two-fold: a pavlova swimming in a pool of chicory-root crème anglaise and filled with rhubarb jam and a chocolate mousse cake with sea buckthorn centre. I spent a lot of my childhood in New Zealand, so I’m no stranger to pavlovas—this one has just the right amount of crunch while remaining mashmallow-y inside. Rhubarb cut through the meringue’s sugar-laden structure with zippy tang, while the crème anglaise mellowed it all out with chicory root’s unique toastiness.

The mousse cake arrived surrounded by a dense chocolate sauce that felt like a more bitter (in a good way) version of my childhood BFF Nesquik. Ever so lightly salted and still ice-cold, the mousse itself was balanced and not too sweet with a sharply sour burst thanks to the superfood centre.

For $55 dollars a person and the sheer number of creative dishes served, Bar Susu’s Don's Menu is a complete steal. These are some of the most memorable (and delicious) plates I have had since I moved to Vancouver. I will absolutely be come back to Bar Susu — in fact, while finishing our meal my partner and I were hatching plans to bring friends as soon as possible.

Until then, I’m left dreaming of mussel tartines and cloud-like meringue.

Bar Susu
Website: thisisbarsusu.com
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 5PM-11PM; Thursday & Sunday 5PM-12AM; Friday & Saturday 2PM-1AM
Address: 209 6th Ave East