When visiting Latab, Vancouver’s new playfully-decorated snack and wine bar, on a Friday night, expect to hear laughter, atmospheric chatter, and feel-good classics like Hall & Oates’s “You Make My Dreams Come True”. Passersby wander to the floor-to-ceiling windows to spy in on the fun, and to read the ever-changing menus written on the wall’s painted chalkboards; a youthful energy abounds.
“We’re trying to not take ourselves too seriously,” says co-owner Eryn Dorman of Latab’s whimsical air. Yet that’s only as far as the décor is concerned; the food is seriously good. Kris Barnholden, Dorman’s business partner and head chef, has curated a menu that he believes is the “solution to big meal dishes,” an antidote to big portions made up of one or two bland flavours. The small plate menu encourages guests to enjoy many small-portioned, well-textured dishes. There is duck liver served with apple mustard and onion on thick, soft, warm brown bread, cured trout with slow-cooked carrots and sea buckthorn, and a velvety “vegetable egg”—a novel specialty created using the culinary trick of spherification to turn celeriac the consistency of a poached egg, to which Barnholden adds a pumpkin-puree yolk and serves over top zesty pickled chanterelles and cauliflower. Latab’s wine selection is carefully curated and original; Antonio Sasa’s etna rosso is recommended with the 36-hour slow-roasted lamb shoulder dish, a pairing as lively as the ambience itself.