Monday, April 26, 2010

Food Bloggers Lunch: Lions Den Cafe (Mount Pleasant, Vancouver BC)

There is a great community of food bloggers here in Vancouver. You can pose a query about the best restaurant for "x" entree, price category, or style of food in a neighbourhood and the community responds.

Lately, however, there have been a couple of "ESP" moments where the likeness are just a touch eerie. Take, for example, Delicias de Alicias, which Kim blogged about here. Foodosophy also blogged about it here; I had also seen Delicias de Alicias replace the prior Fish and Chip shop, and had mentioned to Kim that we should do a simultaneous food blogger dinner / posting around the same time that Kim had added the restaurant to Urbanspoon. I haven't had the chance to try it, but may do so in the near future.

There was also the instance of a small Japanese restaurant in Burnaby, which Sherman had also wanted to complete a post on; after he referenced Urbanspoon and saw my vote, he had suggested visiting together (for more photos and to compare notes). We should be doing that soon...

Finally, there was Lions Den Cafe. On Easter weekend, I had tried going to Ruby Dog's Art House (half a block from Lions Den Cafe) for art paper and some mixed media supplies; however they were closed. Turning around to head back towards the car, I realized that we were close to Le Faux Bourgeois as well as Lions Den Cafe. While Le Faux Bourgeois was also closed that afternoon, Mark and I had shared a small lunch at Lions Den Cafe. I wasn't prepared to eat and take photos, thus I hadn't even brought my camera. But...I still voted on Urbanspoon.

The very next day, Karl, Sherman, and Kim had been planning a lunch at, guess where-Lions Den Cafe. Elaine was also looking to do a group brunch at a restaurant that I had on my wishlist. Since we were already in the planning stages of Lions Den Cafe, we did that instead. Anyways. ESP. Food Bloggers have it. :)

The weather cooperated nicely that day; Lions Den Cafe is probably, at best, a 12-15 capacity eatery. However, as the sun came out the afternoon we congregated at Lions Den, Karl showed up early and snagged a beautiful spot outside.

It was a nice day, but there was still a little bit of a nip in the air! Sherman was still slightly sick (or was he getting sicker?) and showed up shortly, followed by Elaine and finally, Kim. Some remarks were made about the parking preferences (we had considered boxing someone in ourselves, but decided against it...), and the task of ordering got underway.

Karl took the liberty of going inside to order for us since the staff had left us to our own devices (M joked about how the phone number was listed on the sign outside specifically for us).

First up was the large order (3pcs) of jerk chicken. It came with an order of salad, and a side of rice and beans. This is actually what brought M and I back. We had tried it the previous weekend - it was flavourful, tender, and moist. Everyone mostly agreed (although Kim remained quiet...). Luckily, Karl had ordered two orders and thus no food bloggers were harmed in the makings of this post. The salad? The salad was not memorable.

We ordered one goat curry with roti. The previous visit M and I had, the owner, Ken had mentioned that the goat and oxtail stew were sold out. So there was the expectation that this was quite good; similarly, when the roti came, it looked enticing - it was moist and light, and filled with a yellow split pea mixture. Unfortunately, the roti was a little bland. We're not quite educated in Caribbean food, but in our opinion, the roti could have used some spice or even simply salt. The group did not really appreciate the goat curry - it even divided me and M. M thought it was disappointing and lacked flavour; I thought there were the fundamentals of a curry in there - I could taste the cardamom, mace and coriander, but it lacked any spiciness and could have used more body.

The oxtail stew lacked a little flavour as well. It was on the sweet side due to onions and butterbeans, but lacked spice. Eating it reminded me of the book Pigtails n' Breadfruit, by Anthony Joyette. It is a beautiful book including stories from the authors' upbringings and his families' recipes and cooking. In one sense, the oxtail stew conveyed the comfort of eating West Indies cuisine...but in another sense, the foodie in me expected something more. Perhaps another dish lost in translation?

For fun, we ordered the okonomiyaki to sample their "Japaribbean" food. It was a little doughy, and the mayo and okonomiyaki had all squirled into one. Absent was the usual garnishings of green onion and bonito flakes.

I was quite full after the whole meal. We all had different places to go after this late lunch, but I was reminded of how the owner Ken had a story to tell about his cafe. The name? It came from the name of the stuffed "Canadian born lion" pictured below.

The owners, Ken and Junko are especially nice. Ken explains to all newcomers the story of his cafe and how he keeps track of its ten years in operation - all first timers are encouraged to sign his guestbook - a calendar numbered with days in operation.

The menu was very reasonably priced. You can't argue with the price point; many of the meals are priced under $10. The locals seem to love his food and his laid back demeanor; it has been busy both times we have been there. Overall, we like Ken, his story telling, and like to root for the little guy.  But the menu can be a little bit of a hit and miss.

Click through for everyones' photos and commentary:
Karl (Thank you for organizing!)
Lions Den Cafe
651 East 15th Avenue (Fraser & Kingsway)
Vancouver BC
P: 604-873-4555
Lions Den Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. Seriously, we really should of called in a delivery order. Would of been heeelarious!

  2. :D Yes Karl - for the bill as well. I mean, I like being left alone but I could empathasize with your empty stomache syndrome. My family swears that we start getting the shakes and breaking out in sweat if we are starved for too long. :p

  3. Looks like a great time and a great atmosphere. I agree, the Vancouver food blogger network is quite amazing!

  4. Yes Tia, you need to come out next time! :)

  5. Actually Jess, I wanted to eat with Mark only. You were an inconvenience... LOL... ;)

  6. :) The only thing between you and Mark was Kim. haha!

  7. Hey, I am an innocent bystander! :P

  8. hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!


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