Willem’s on Main

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Smoked brisket, AKA the dish that gave Nik his foodie awakening.

The only reason we went out today was that Nik got a cool job and our tax returns finally came in. Woo! To celebrate we went and hung out in Downtown Vancouver, which is really adorable and reminds me a lot of SLO. Lot’s of cute vintage shops and local businesses! I knew of Willem’s on Main from many Google searches and yelp reviews, but what I did not know was that I could sample their gourmet menu for a fraction of the cost at lunch! When I saw the menu we had to eat there.
The interior is much more casual than I expected, with really cool sunrooms for seating. We ended up sitting at the very end of the restaurant in a table surrounded by windows looking out onto the sunny sidewalk. It was so quaint! The tables were preserved solid tree trunk slabs, and I thought it was such a cool way to jazz up a classy restaurant such as this. The atmosphere really was conducive to conversation and fun!

The so called "Bruschetta"
The so called “Bruschetta”

Most experience I’ve had with bruschetta includes diced tomatoes and mozzarella. The bruschetta at Willem’s boasts mascarpone, roast New York strip steak, and truffle cheese. The mascarpone, which is a soft and delicate cheese similar to cream cheese, offered the perfect rich and buttery bed for the perfectly cooked strip, and the truffle cheese took me to heaven. The dish was so decadent, and the perfectly crispy bread really held all the velvety flavors together. What an awesome starter!
In other news, Nik got as excited about food today as I am today, and it was a great breakthrough. The dish that did it was a smoked brisket served on a potato cake with caramelized onion gravy (pictured at the top.) The flavors of this dish were so complex and the way they played together was incredible. It might be the best meat I’ve ever eaten. The tenderness and sweet smokiness of the brisket reminded me of pork belly, and the fattiness was cut by the crispy potato cake, which was almost like an oversized hash-brown in texture. The onion gravy was what really did it. So savory and I believe with a touch of Worcestershire. The caramelized onions really brought the sweet element of the dish to a full circle. He basically licked his plate, but gave me the last bite (something I would never do with a dish this incredible!)

Speatzle. One of my least favorite words to say out loud.
Speatzle. One of my least favorite words to say out loud.

I ordered the speatzle with roasted butternut squash, hazelnuts, and garlic in a white wine cream sauce. On the online menu this dish says it comes with a fried egg on top, but either they had taken that off of the physical menu and I didn’t notice or I somehow missed the fried egg in my dish. I didn’t really notice until afterward, because I was distracted by how delicious the speatzle was! I would have liked a fried egg though to add some protein to the meal. I like fried eggs on things.
The butternut squash was cooked perfectly and the texture was the perfect counterpoint to the speatzle. I don’t believe I’ve had speatzle before, so in no way do I claim to know what proper speatzle should be like, but these were absolutely perfect to me. The hazelnuts reminded me of the often used walnut when making butternut squash ravioli. The crunch was perfect for the very soft texture of the dish overall, and the hazelnut flavor classed it up a little bit more! The cream sauce was just perfect. Comfort food to the max!
The prices at dinner here are a little steep and we will definitely be going there for a special occasion soon! For a more casual meal, come by at lunchtime. Our appetizer was $5 and our brisket and speatzle were $10 and $9, respectively. Not bad for such a top tier meal. This place is the real deal!

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