For those that have kindly pointed out our relative lack of inactivity in 2012, we assure you that we too were aware of the lack of restaurant reviews, and can only offer this as our best explanation: we didn’t really care.
Or, to be more specific, we did really care. It ate at us that we couldn’t deliver at least one review per month, much less one review per week, checking in only enough to feign some interest. It’s not that we didn’t eat this past year, and certainly not that we didn’t eat out: it’s just that we didn’t care enough to write about it. 2012 was our year of disinterest, not of you, but of us.
What exactly that has to do with Fable, the no-longer-new-ish restaurant from Trevor Bird, may not be readily apparent.
We first took note of Bird (and his co-conspirator, Curtis Luk), when Top Chef Canada, Season Two aired, a show which, as proud Vancouverites, we feel a duty to watch, and as proud television junkies we feel an ever greater duty to trash. We cheered him on as our hometown boy, and enjoyed that he took second prize (first would have been even better, though it apparently means nothing in this town, for good or for bad.) And our interest piqued when shortly afterward, he took over the space on West 4th vacated by Refuel.
Since it opened, we’ve visited Fable on more than a few occasions. Despite the usual opening kinks, it has only improved since those early days. The service is pleasant, the food is consistent, and the overall experience more than acceptable. (Those lightboxes at the back still bewilder me somewhat, and the room still feels packed in: all opinions that are highly subjective but obviously assholish.)
By our second visit, there was little doubt in our mind that Fable would not go uncovered. At the time it seemed ridiculous for us not to follow suit, but we wanted to do so in a different way. This, in part, was because of our disinterest: in us, in this format, as food blogs multiply and proliferate into a constant noise, a static fading increasingly into a background din that becomes easily ignored. “Food” as a subject seemed inescapable in 2012, one that more and more people had an opinion about, at a rate that increased as quickly as the rate at which we decreasingly valued our own.
So we decided to focus on one dish in particular: get the backstory, and chart it from concept to realization. We’d start a new feature on the creative process, exploring – pushing – that idea of ‘chef as artist,’ feed into the hype machine and elevate it past the typical blog review, to give our site that appearance of grandeur that would make amends for all the months of neglect that preceded it.
We had their canned tuna ($12): it is a charming start, familiar but not overwrought, just clever enough to make one take note, and one of the few dishes we repeatedly order. We have had their seasonal iterations of other fish (Bird cooks a mean Arctic char), beef (the black pepper jam sticks out a bit more), and otherwise. We generally agreed that Luk may be a bit of a show stealer with his desserts, particularly with the daily sweet bites (generally meringues of varying sorts and macarons). But it was their first duck breast dish that caught our attention.
At the time, Fable served their duck breast with a scallion perogy, atop a puree, a gastrique, that taken altogether hit the same flavour profiles as a Peking duck dish (at least to us; they have since altered the dish given the season). Was this Bird’s nod to Vancouver’s strong Chinese community? Was this the doing of Curtis Luk and his Asian heritage? Here was an ‘angle’ – however strained – that presented itself to us, one we hoped would reinvigorate our increasingly chore of a site.
Days after we posed those questions to the restaurant, Fable (not Bird, not Luk) responded:
“Trevor wanted a duck dish on the menu and told Curtis to come up with a duck dish. He was working with beautiful duck breasts from Yarrow Valley. Curtis wanted to accompany the dish with what was in season and originally we had fiddle heads. Curtis loves perogies so he started working on the perogy and wanted to lighten it up and came up with a scallion perogy. He also wanted to have a little colour in the perogy as well so green was the perfect match with the scallion puree perogies. Curtis then worked with Trevor with the sauce to accompany the dish and they wanted a little gastric to accompany the dish and add a little contrast. Voila duck breast.”
It was not the sort of response that generated much excitement, a bit of a disappointment, the sort of matter-of-fact answer that had us abandon the idea as quickly as it came.
But, months after digestion, it is the sort of response that encapsulates Fable in a better way than any post we could muster. It is earnest. It is straight forward. There is not too much fancypants-ing to report. It is about the cooking, and not the show. It is about the craft.
And for that reason, we chose to wrap up 2012 with a post about Fable. It was the year we lost our sense of earnestness, a year that we lost focus of – and actively questioned – our own craft. It was the year that we didn’t care. Thank God someone else did.
Now let’s see what happens in 2013.
1944 West 4th Avenue
(604) 732 1322