Ubuntu Canteen – Excellent 9 Course Tasting Menu in the Most Unexpected of Places

From the name, Ubuntu Canteen, and website, I would not of expected this place to deliver one of the best tasting menus in Vancouver. The website projects the place as a deli/cafe. The breads are good, but the food is too. Ubuntu comes from South Africa and means “a quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity”. Here was my experience, with their 9 course tasting menu (6 courses is also available).

The menu.

The first “snack” was an oyster with grape. Fresh and clean.

Next, came a pork tortellini in chicken broth, just like I remembered from my trip to Bologna last year. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the broth had a nice delicate flavor.

Next was the kohlrabi and apple with EVOO and vinegar. It was refreshing and simple.

This was followed by a root vegetable tartar and gorgonzola cream. The cream was well executed and delicious.

Next, one of the stand out dishes of the night, a chawanmushi with squash and parm. Very delicious.

This was followed by some house made bread and EVOO from Spain (and horseradish butter).

The next dish was a perfectly smoked black cod and some beans. Very good.

For the “pasta” course, they served a baked in salt crust potato with cacio e pepe sauce. This is one of the best things I have eaten this year. The amount of effort and creativity that went into this is commendable. The potato is baked in the crust for 3 hours. The sauce is delicious. The combination is heavenly.

The final savory dish of the night was a smoked quail with corn polenta. The quail was cooked perfectly and I appreciate the thought and effort that went into aging the quail. Very delicious.

There is an optional cheese course which we skipped. The first dessert was a grape sorbet cheesecake. The cheese cake is actually more like a foam that tastes like cheesecake. Very good use of textures. Portion was very generous at this point in the meal.

The final dessert was an outstanding parsnip pie with melon/ginger ice cream.

Finally, they also brought us some petit fours and a LOAF of their sesame bread to bring home.

I cannot say enough good things about this place and I hope you go experience it for yourself. For $80, you will get incredible value. This standard of meal in any other city would cost over $100 easily. Lets refresh the highlights and effort put in by the kitchen staff:

  • diverse influences in the dishes from Italy to Japan
  • diverse culinary techniques
  • lots of creativity in the menu
  • tons of effort from aging the quail to making two types of ice cream
  • sometimes, tasting menus will start strong and fade; this was excellent throughout
  • sometimes, places will put a lot of effort into the savory portions of a meal, and take shortcuts on dessert; this place followed through to the end! Parsnip pie was delicious, creative and shows a lot of thought went into the menu

Keep in mind, the kitchen is doing all the above and having to deal with a pandemic. Truly amazing.

Overall, service was good. A bit slow sometimes but very good nonetheless. I would love to go back when the menu changes. They also have a vegetarian tasting menu which is extra commendable, considering it doubles the work of the kitchen.

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