Satisfying sampling at North Vancouver's LoLo
The only thing better than witnessing a fierce thunderstorm is watching the rain pummel the road while you sip red wine, munch on tapenade and fresh baguette, and sit next to a fireplace and a loved one. It’s enough to make you wish the tempest would rage on.
So it was on a recent dark and windy night at LoLo, which takes its name from Lower Lonsdale, the neighbourhood the restaurant calls home. The corner spot specializes in artisan cheeses and charcuterie, as well as flatbreads and spreads. The emphasis is on small plates meant for sharing paired with wine and craft beers.
Gastown’s Salt Tasting Room was one of the first to see the potential for meat, cheese, and wine sampling to catch on in Metro Vancouver, but LoLo owner and veteran sommelier Michael Moller says he was inspired by his Hungarian grandmother, who routinely served up a range of spicy sausages, cured salamis, and pungent cheeses to snack on.
If the style of dining has a European flair, the unpretentious restaurant a few blocks from the Lonsdale Quay SeaBus terminal also stays firmly focused on the local. The menu proudly highlights suppliers such as Moccia’s Italian Meat Market, J N & Z Deli, Oyama Sausage Company, and Mike Vitow (who’s become famous for his corned beef, which he sells at Granville Island).
Walking into the small space from the gale was welcoming, sort of; the cube-shaped gas fireplace beckoned, but the entrance itself is spare, set off from the rest of the room only by a tall plant that barely conceals a piano for the nights when there’s live music. Waiting to be greeted can leave you with that awkward feeling of standing in the middle of a room, mainly because you are. But a window table next to the hearth proved ideal for the unhurried, varied, and mostly satisfying meal that followed.
Selection is abundant here, almost overwhelming, particularly with the daily meat and cheese rosters to choose from in addition to the regular menu. This visit had a Quebec and a B.C. blue cheese on offer, two Danish goat cheeses, and a 12-month-old Manchego. Then there was Norway’s Nokkel, spikily alive with caraway, cloves, and cumin seeds; Quebec’s garlicky, earthy 1608 de Charlevoix; and the impossible-to-resist Comox Brie from Natural Pastures Cheese Company. Cheese plates designed by chef Oscar Zaragoza range from $12 to $15, or you can pick three cheeses yourself for around the same price.
All of the meats go for $9 with the exception of Moccia’s fennel dry-cured salami ($8). Among the choices facing us were Oyama’s Pastis-flavoured Berkshire saucisson sec and the air-dried, gently spiced Bresaola di Valtellina.