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Friendly service and top-notch fries in the Kitsilano favourite's new room.
If anything, stepping into the neighbouring Linh seems even more Français than Ça Marche. The room is gorgeous, with bistro chairs, on-point curved banquettes and soaring ceilings, all anchored by a beautiful marble bar that one can easily imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald passing out on.
This is the fancy offshoot/new location for Kitsilano’s Linh Café and, if anything, the story—Vietnam native Tai Nguyen emigrates to Vancouver and falls under the tutelage of our great French chefs before finally opening his own French-Asian fusion spot—is more impressive than the decor. But while the West 4th location always played the role of scrappy upstart, this new location is whole new level in price and sophistication, and so far it seems to be seeing really good support from the residents of the tower as well as from students at the attached word jumble that is University Canada West. At first glance the vast majority of people seem to be gravitating toward the pho, which at $17 is one of the lower-priced items on the menu. I think about it, until I spy the shaking beef (it’s since been removed from the menu) and, despite a $29 lunch dish also seeming very Fitzgeraldian, I go for it.
The dish was popularized by Charles Phan of San Francisco’s legendary Slanted Door and consists of cubes of tenderloin seared in a wok (the “shaking”) with fish sauce and garlic. But when my dish arrives, there’s a major disconnect: no cubes, definitely no tenderloin, just thinly shaved beef shreds that one might expect from the Edo Japan in the Pacific Centre food court with an overturned bowl of limp, lifeless rice.
And then, despite my resolve to not be a prickly pain in the ass, the questions start flying: why are we eating with cheap paper napkins at these prices? Why are the glasses from Ikea? Why… I take a breath. The service has been so friendly, my wife’s burger, though small and pre-formed, is tasty and the fries with it are top-notch. Everyone else seems to be having a great time. I fear that our default these days—with buildings, with restaurants, with someone who voted differently than you—is to go nuclear as the first step, go for the cutting sound bite, the clever riposte… but sometimes not putting the boots to something is so much more rewarding.
READ MORE: Reviews of Vancouver House’s Autostrada and Ça Marche