Adesso Bistro @ 1906 Haro Street
Nestled away in a quiet corner of Vancouver’s downtown west end is one of the most pleasant little bistro patios you’re going to find in Vancouver. You’d almost miss it if you were just having a stroll through the neighborhood. It’s the only restaurant in the entire west end, which is otherwise all cute houses and high-rise apartments, given away only by an inconspicuous portico.
I happen to live just a block away and it’s the nearest restaurant to my place, but I don’t go there very often. Adesso is a newcomer to the space, which up until a year or so ago was occupied by Parkside, a slightly higher-end bistro with a rotating seasonally-based menu. Adesso is basic generic Italian place serving “Modern Italian Cuisine”, its inflated pricing seemingly based purely on rent rather than food quality.
We had a fairly good experience at Parkside before it closed down, so I was disappointed to hear that it had been replaced by an Italian restaurant. One more poor little high-end restaurant fallen victim of the recessionary flu infecting its would be clientele.
Keepo and I ate at Adesso last night for the first time, and found the experience predictably disappointing.
Service was weak. We watched our beer sitting on the bar ten feet away for five minutes before the waitress appeared out of nowhere and brought it over. She proceeded to unceremoniously dump it into the glass rather than pouring it on the side, generating a massive head. Somebody forgot to let her in on the secret that you’re supposed to pour beer down the side to minimize foaming. When I told her my order, she asked if I wanted an opener. I said I didn’t want an opener. She seemed bewildered. When it came time to dessert, instead of asking “Would you like dessert?” like a normal person, her question was: “What would you like for dessert?” Apparently at Adesso customers who don’t order a drink and an appetizer and dessert are cheapskates deserving thinly veiled contempt and ridicule from their server in the form of huckster-like goading that would offend even a child. Very lacking in professionalism.
It’s a shame because this place has the most amazing patio ever, and dining on the patio here on a warm summer evening makes for an amazing experience that almost trumps whatever annoyances the service might throw at you. Unfortunately we arrived too late and the patio was full, so we had to eat inside. The interior is “cosy” in a dank basement kind of way, bedecked with zealous abandon with the most Italianate paintings imaginable. If you decide to brave the perils of the west end to penetrate the bowels of Adesso, make sure that there is room on the patio when you do come, or make a reservation ahead of time.
As for the food, I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry, or at least not enough inspired by the menu to order a lot, so I decided only to get a main. So only Kweepo ordered a starter – she ordered the following:
I had no idea what it was she had ordered. I expected a plate of risotto. Instead out came two cojones de toro, complete with bloodstain. Packed into the crunchy exterior was risotto cooked with mozzarella cheese. While fairly good, it was lacking in spark and could have been so much more, squarely setting the tone for the remainder of the evening. The MO appears to be to go just far enough to be passable, and not a step further. The little bed of red capsicum sauce you see at the bottom was flavorless and its presence served mainly to anchor the two balls so they wouldn’t wobble around the plate.
For our mains we got the following:
As you can see, the presentation of each dish is very basic and straightforward, contrasting starkly the aesthetically pleasing, meticulous and tasteful layout of each dish at Chambar (in which each of the most disparate elements serve a clearly defined purpose).