EASY DOES IT

Two rooms—one clas­sic, one new—want to be your neigh­bour­hood go-to spot.

Vancouver Magazine - - Taste - Anicka Quin and Neal McLen­nan by Christin Gil­bert pho­to­graphs by

The Thing abouT abreak­fast place is that it’s pretty dif­fi­cult to screw up the ba­sics. Eggs, toast, ba­con and home­fries—with some vari­a­tion on the lat­ter— are the at­trac­tion (and low bar) to many agreasy spoon that brings in the week­end crowd.

And when Mi­tra Ameri first took over the Red Um­brella café in the West End four years ago, it had been just such ago­ing, if mid­dling, con­cern for years. But then Ameri did what’s near im­pos­si­ble in Van­cou­ver these days—she el­e­vated the room to a true neigh­bour­hood joint that feels as though it’s been there for decades un­der her care­ful watch. She’s in the kitchen seven days a week, crank­ing out sour­dough breads, brais­ing the 12-hour pulled pork for the Cuban sand­wich and bak­ing the date squares and lemon slices that line the front counter.

The clas­sic break­fast (two eggs, meat, toast, home fries) is straight­for­ward, though a has­sel­backed and grilled Bavar­ian sausage—and home­made bread for the toast, of course—let you know there’s a chef in the kitchen. Bene­dicts are served atop a but­tery home­made bis­cuit in­stead of the clas­sic English muf­fin—bet­ter to soak up rich hol­landaise, but sturdy enough for pil­ing on grilled mush­rooms, toma­toes, zuc­chini, avo­cado and just-runny eggs. A veg­e­tar­ian break­fast is art­fully pre­sented around a heap­ing mound of grilled spinach sur­rounded by a fan of avo­cado slices, toma­toes and hash browns, and made-to­order eggs.

The brunch wheel isn’t rein­vented here—you won’t find tagines or par­tic­u­larly cre­ative omelette com­bi­na­tions—but the food is warmly made and pre­sented, in a quirky and crowded space of wooden ta­bles and faux Eames Eif­fel chairs that feels like an ex­ten­sion of Ameri’s home kitchen. Just what you’d hope for—if rarely achieved— in those early, pre-caf­feinated hours of the morn­ing.

How can you not have a soft spot for ahus­band-and-wife restau­rant with a web­site that says: “Food does not take sides and I wish to ex­press this story through cre­at­ing a place out of the sim­i­lar­i­ties in the Mid­dle East rather than fo­cus­ing on the dif­fer­ences.” In the face of such love, what sort of shal­low jerk would point out that his $8 side of po­ta­toes came out afull five min­utes af­ter he had al­ready fin­ished his $15 hal­loumi grilled cheese, with­out so much as a “sorry about that?” Or point out that hal­loumi, acheese that doesn’t melt, maybe isn’t the ideal choice for amelted cheese sand­wich? Or re­count a story from a fel­low pa­tron who, upon point­ing out that her pan­cakes weren’t cooked all the way through, was told they like to serve them “juicy?”

Not me, that’s for sure. I’m the mag­nan­i­mous sort who’d rather fo­cus on how great that costly bowl of po­ta­toes was—su­per-crispy, with a beau­ti­fully light tahini and what tasted like fresh-grilled pep­pers, all served in agor­geous lapis-hued bowl. Or the type to no­tice that the hal­loumi had been thought­fully pre-fried be­fore be­ing grilled in the sand­wich in an ef­fort to get it to­ward an ap­pro­pri­ate level of gooi­ness. Or to en­joy a light, airy space so cute and rough-hewn that I as­sume they’re vi­o­lat­ing some civic or­di­nance by not sell­ing copies of Kin­folk. If you’re a sweet­heart like me, then Aleph will leave you happy.

But if you’re like that afore­men­tioned jerk in the first para­graph, you’re prob­a­bly best to skip it. You’ll be too busy grip­ing about the lack of park­ing to feel the love any­way.

The hal­loumi had been thought­fully pre-fried be­fore be­ing grilled.

A Per­fect Ben­nie

Clas­sic Break­fast

Owner Mi­tra Ameri

Hal­loumi Grilled Cheese

Pricey Po­ta­toes

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