It was our department’s Christmas dinner and I was pleasantly surprised that it was going to be at the well known old guard Il Giardino. This is the type of place where BMWers and Bentleys get rockstar parking or at least the valet would get it for you. The character home like restaurant, located in the West End of Vancouver, is beautiful with an elegant Tuscan style decor. It’s owned by the renowned Umberto so I was expecting great things.
Since we were a large group of nearly 30, we sat a communal table and served the set menu. At first glance, it looked like they were trying to follow the traditional hearty 4-5 course Italian menu of antipasto, primo, secondi and etc. When I was in Italy, the wait staff would look at my friend and I if we were aliens when we ask if we could share a multi-course meal. Apparently, the average local could stomach 4-5 large dishes in one seating. Thus I was expecting a belt busting traditional Italian dinner at Il Giardino. Instead, they served the kind of meal that has given Dine Out Vancouver a bad name.
As an attempt to whet our appetites, a few platters of anti-pasto were served which had the basics of mini buffalo mozzarella pieces, salumi, olives, and marinated vegetables.
Our primi was the Penne Arrabiata Tomato Basil with chili tomato and fresh basil sauce. The ‘insalata’ was the mixed salad del Giardino.
The penne was done within three bites but before I decided to put my fork in it, my initial thought was ‘oh come on!?’. For a classy restaurant, we were served boxed dry pasta? And with the salad, it looked like they made a trip to Costco to grab some more greens for our dinner.
For my Secondi, aka Main, I decided on the Ossobucco Milanese con Risotto al Zafferano. With that name, I was expecting Da Vinci to have created my dish
It was braised veal shank with mixed vegetables, white wine and served with saffron risotto. I think it was the more traditional Ossobucco Milanese which is cooked without tomatoes. The veal shank was cooked ok but I wish it was more tender. The gremolata topping, which is just a mix of garlic, lemon zest, and parsley, was almost non existent.
And for my dolci, I ordered the Creme Brulee.
The dessert was decent but forgettable.
I was disappointed with our food experience at this acclaimed restaurant. My coworkers who ordered the chicken-Tuscan style were not too impressed with their meal either. For the most part, the service was professional and friendly but not as attentive as I would have liked. If they came by more often, we would have thrown more money at them in the form of beer and wine.
Even though it’s for a large party, I wished they had put more time, effort, and quality into the food. The cookie-cutter set menu selection was underwhelming. The only reason I would try Il Giardino again would be because I purchased a Groupon and have to use it sooner or later. I just hope their actual menu is better.
382 Hornby Street