I’m lucky enough to live in Vancouver for many reasons, not least of which is the incredible culinary culture. It’s no secret that I like food and the diversity of my city allows for a seemingly unending variety when it comes to dining choices.
A few weeks ago a friend and I decided to try Fable Kitchen, a reasonably new farm to table experience on W4th Avenue in Kitsilano. While competing on Top Chef Canada, Trevor Bird created Fable as a concept for the infamous “restaurant wars” week and upon returning home to Vancouver started the process of bringing his vision to life. Sourcing local fare from Vancouver’s vast resources, Bird and front of house partner Ron MacGillivray set about building a dining experience they could be proud of.
Fable has embraced modern culture and as such encourages reservations on their social media outlets. Having struck out trying to get a reservation by phone I reached out on Twitter and was soon promised my friend and I had seats at the chef’s table (a bar-like experience at the front of the restaurant overlooking the busy, open-plan kitchen). However, on arrival there was no record of our reservation and, as apologetic and friendly as the front-of-house staff were, we ended up walking away a little disappointed to an alternative dining option.
Here’s the thing; mistakes happen. Everyone is human, things get away from us and errors are made. The way I gauge these situations is by how they are handled and I can honestly say I don’t know if I’ve ever been more impressed by an organization. Upon a DM expressing my disappointment I was immediately contacted by owner/manager Kathy Schleyer, taking ownership of the error – she had booked us in for the wrong day – and apologizing profusely, expressing her embarrassment over the error. She invited us to please consider returning and she would make the reservation herself. We were excited to eat at Fable so my friend and I made plans to meet there this past Friday and this time our table was booked!
You couldn’t be blamed if you walked past Fable on first attempt to find it. A small store front with an unassuming awning, the restaurant’s lack of pretentiousness starts from the minute you step inside. It was a busy Friday night but the hostess was doing everything she could to accommodate the walk-in patrons and was cheerful and upbeat despite the line-ups. We were led to our table towards the back of the tiny dining area and immediately felt embraced by the homey comfort of the thick wooden tables, exposed brick walls and metal wine racks. I usually struggle to make a choice from a menu but with a limited number of items I assumed my decision would be easy to make. Not so. My friend even tried the age-old method of closing her eyes and pointing at an item for me!
Our server, I wish I had gotten his name, was incredible. Adding to the casual atmosphere, the servers were dressed in button-downs and jeans and our server welcomed us with such enthusiasm he made us feel like we were visiting with a friend. He expertly explained the specials, obviously proud of the concept of the restaurant, and even helped us pick our cocktails. (Side note: I thoroughly recommend the Vercingetorix cocktail. Tough to pronounce but named after an historical figure who surrendered to Julius Caesar we dubbed it the loser cocktail!)
We started with the fresh made sourdough bread and black pepper butter – I could have probably eaten a whole meal of this and been completely happy. Due to the mix-up we were then gifted an appetizer to share and the chickpea fritters with curry aioli and pea shoots were absolutely out of this world. For my main I chose the halibut dish. Served on a delicious bed of stinging nettle oat risotto, the fish was cooked to perfection, just flaking off with my fork. A fennel salad on top of the fish added a slight sweetness to the peppery bite of the risotto, a crispy piece of duck skin added a wonderful contrast of texture and the salt on the dish was provided by a thick slab of bacon.
The piece de resistance for us though was the dessert we decided to share. Noted on the specials board our milk chocolate panna cotta served in a mason jar was quite possibly one of the best desserts I’ve had. The panna cotta itself was incredibly smooth and not overly sweet. Fresh summer berries and a salty Oreo cookie crumble added texture and the whole thing was topped with a perfectly tart summer berries gel. For us, the most impressive part of service was when we were asked if we wanted to have our dessert right away or if we wanted to hang out for a bit longer before they brought it out. Such a thoughtful offer and it all added up to convince us we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted.
I don’t know when I last had such a wonderful experience at a restaurant, start-to-finish. It’s obvious that every staff member is proud to be involved in the organization and I would have likely missed out on this if the initial mix-up hadn’t been handled with such grace and respect. I’ve worked in customer service my whole career and I tend to be overly critical of the experiences I have. Keep doing what you’re doing, Fable; you’ve got all parts of the equation nailed and I will be back.