EASY DOES IT
Two rooms—one classic, one new—want to be your neighbourhood go-to spot.
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
Owner Mitra Ameri
Halloumi Grilled Cheese