Saturday, 31 August 2013

Cafe Medina

Cafe Medina, probably the most popular and well known brunch restaurant in Greater Vancouver. I've been wanting to try their food for the longest time and finally had the chance to this summer. All the hype and praise for Cafe Medina energized me to get up early on a summer weekday and ride the Skytrain with my brother to get a hefty breakfast. But where my expectations too high? Let me expand...

The line up at Cafe Medina
To begin, Cafe Medina is extremely accessible by public transit. It is around the corner from the Stadium-Chinatown skytrain station, no exaggeration used. Just follow the signs and exit to Beatty Street and turn right. I'm very glad we had no troubles trying to locate the restaurant because that area can be kind of sketchy.

Another indicator that assured us we were at the right place was the mass of people standing around on the sidewalk. Cafe Medina is known for long line ups. Just earlier that Sunday, my best friend's mom was going to take us there for brunch but we were told over the phone that there was a 1 hour and 45 minute wait... So we went to Phnom Penh instead, you should check that uber popular restaurant out too! 

The first thing to do when arriving at a busy restaurant is to put yourself on the waitlist as soon as possible. Those one or two tables that wrote their names down two seconds before you did will make a big difference when growling stomach syndrome begins. The waitlist is on a very narrow clipboard that is hung on the doorframe inside the restaurant. There should be a pencil on the counter next to it.

We arrived at 10am on a Friday and waited 45 minutes. It was a very long 45 minutes as I got hangry beginning at 10 minutes into my wait time. I understand that the restaurant is small, very small. There were many groups of two (like us) waiting so I suppose that was part of the reason for the long wait. A lot of people bought a latte to drink while waiting and some people come just to get a latte to-go. Many tourists also visit Cafe Medina, that's how famous it is.

Cafe Medina Brunch Menu

When we finally got seated, we were given ice water and a menu. Even though it was a Friday, a brunch menu was given to us. Maybe since it's summer, brunch is served on extra days? Twisted Fork Bistro is doing so. I already knew I was going to get the Paella but my brother was rather ambivalent. He said he wanted something 'heavy' so I suggested the Les Boulettes, spicy lamb and beef meatballs with two poached eggs. One thing I didn't expect, was that the prices were more expensive than listed on their website. About a dollar more for each entree item. Not a lot, just something I noticed.

Waffles ready to be served

Their waffles are very famous, but as I was waiting, I noticed they were not made to order and therefore, probably served room temperature. I read on Follow Me Foodie that the waffle batter is from Damien's Belgian Waffles in Richmond. That kind of takes the 'special-ness' out of the waffles. So, I saved my waffle quota for later in the day to spend at Nero Belgian Waffle Bar (posts here and here).

Lavender Latte (8 oz. for $3.85)
I got a Lavender Latte to sip on while our food was being prepared. A little splurge for myself for waiting patiently (psht, what an excuse :P). Lavender is the most popular flavour so I figured I couldn't go wrong choosing that one. The 8 ounce cup looked larger than I expected and was more than enough. The latte was very smooth and had a mild lavender flavour. Not bitter at all (as I'm not a regular caffeine drinker). Although I can't say I'll be dreaming of this latte, it was very good and worth trying. Swirling the foam with the cute tiny spoon is how I passed time. The whole cup was cleared well before the food arrived.

Top: Paella, Bottom: Les Boulettes
Paella - I haven't tried a traditional Spanish paella before, so this fusion one is my first dish labeled with the name paella. I expected the dish to be served baked in a mini cast iron skillet like in other people's photos, but it was in the same dish as my brother's. It was quite a large portion (for one person at least) of curried orzo, mixed with vegetables and chorizo, topped with fresh herbs, avocado, and a single poached egg (our server asked if we wanted fried, but poached is healthier). This dish was very rich and extremely filling since the orzo expands in my stomach with all that latte I just downed. The avocado must have been drizzled with lemon juice because it had that tang to it. The chorizo was sliced very thinly and after being baked, resembled Chinese sausage. Didn't really enjoy the dry sausage, or the saltiness from that. The egg was poached perfectly, but that's probably the only highlight. Overall, it was a good meal but just weighed me down for the following hours. Not a dish I'd be running back for but sparked my interest in trying more paella.

Les Boulettes - Three large meatballs floating on a large serving of thick tomato stew. My brother said it was more like sauce than stew, as it was quite thick. A side of hummus was also included. Whether the grilled foccacia was for dipping into the stew or spreading hummus on, I'm not sure. The potent flavours of every element of the entree kept my brother from finishing it. The stew (or sauce) was so packed with spices it wasn't possible to eat by the spoonful (not that they provided you with a spoon). Nor can you eat hummus by the spoon... The meatballs were juicy and also very flavourful, but after a few bites the inside of our mouths were just lingering with spices so it was rather difficult to pinpoint what the tatse was. My brother said that it this dish was tasty but the spices were so powerful he got tired of it quickly.

Would I recommend this restaurant? Not reeeeally. (gasp!) Majority of people probably would, giving Cafe Medina's food rave reviews, but the it didn't blow me away. There are other restaurants I would recommend before this one. The common con from myself and the brother was that the flavours were too strong, it made our mouths call for water to dilute it a bit. Prices are very reasonable and portions are plenty, but the food was just not worth our nearly one hour wait. I felt like a simple breakfast sandwich from Yolk's a few steps away would have left a better impression.

Cafe Medina on Urbanspoon

Love from Coconut Crumpet's Corner ♡

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