Monday, March 23, 2009

Au Petit Chavignol, new wine bar in East Van

Au Petit Chavignol tiers of NOM!

Au Petit Chavignol tiers of NOM!

Au Petit Chavignol is a new wine bar brought to us by the lovely women responsible for Les Amis du Fromage. It's been open for less than two weeks, and has been packed with customers since the first moment they opened their doors. The wine bar is nestled beside the new third new branch of Les Amis du Fromage at 843 East Hastings, a particularly blah portion of industrial East Hastings. Across the street is the Al Mozaico Flamenco studio, however, which adds a little colour to the concrete and asphalt surroundings.

We arrived at Au Petit Chavignol at 5:15 on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Only 15 minutes after opening the place was already half full. By 5:45 it was packed and people were waiting at the door. Our server told us they've been slammed every moment of the ten days they've been open so far. Why? Well, this wine bar blows all others in Vancouver out of the water. The wine list isn't huge, but it's carefully chosen, and the food is both stupendous and not nearly as expensive as other wine bars in the city.

Food

As expected, Au Petit Chavignol has a killer cheese list. We weren't in the mood to overindulge in dairy, however, so we picked from the other offerings. The Poor Man's Caviar (an eggplant paté), was tender and flavourful with a gloriously creamy texture.

Au Petit Chauvignol eggplant pate

Fig and chestnut salami from Moccia Italian Meat Market (an East Van treasure) -- a very complex, gentle flavour.

Au Petit Chauvignol fig and chestnut salami

Cucumber salad with crottin de chavignol and a delicate lemon dressing, and a melt-in-your-mouth heirloom prosciutto from La Quercia Artisan Cured Meats in Iowa.

Au Petit Chauvignol cucumber salad and prosciutto

All of these dishes were extremely high quality, very fresh and flavourful. My only complaint is that Au Petit Chauvignol's bread doesn't match up to the quality of the food -- it's a characterless white loaf with little flavour and a soft texture. As a paté delivery system it's fine but I always feel that bread should bring more to a meal.

Beverages

I tried two glasses from their by-the-glass list, first Antech Blanquette de Limoux Grande Réserve 2006 -- full of mandarin orange scents and toasty, earthy almond and orange flavours, off dry but with a dry finish. A beautiful wine which has become an instant favourite. Adore!

Second, I had the Château Pesquié Viognier 2007. I found the nose had some floral elements, but mostly lemon pith scents, and the palate was mostly citrus. A very unusual Viognier, not at all voluptuous -- dry, with restrained perfume and a citrus finish.

My honey had a glass of the R&B Brewing Co. Bohemian lager. More East Van pride, yeah!

Ambiance and service

Au Petit Chauvignol

The service was very personable, friendly and attentive. Decor is tasteful, dark grey and dusky plum walls and huge windows (Scout Magazine has some photos of the space when it was in progress). The room is quite small and narrow with concrete floors and a high ceiling, so pack 45 guests into that space (30 at tables and 15 at the big bar) with a team of servers running their butts off and you've got a very noisy room. This is not a place for intimate conversation.

Au Petit Chauvignol

The Damage

Four dishes, two glasses of wine and one beer set us back $55 before tip. Though not cheap, this is most definitely a bargain compared to other Vancouver wine bars. Will we be back? Oh definitely, and at opening time so we don't have to wait!

Au Petit Chauvignol

More info: reviews by Tim Pawsey, Andrew Morrison, Vancouver Magazine, Vitamin Daily and Martini Boys. The man responsible for wonderful Vancouver food blog Butter on the Endive is working the charcuterie station.

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