Throughout my week-long stay in British Columbia, certain restaurants came up repeatedly. One of them was Chambar. While my itinerary (and bonus stops) never resulted in a meal at the Belgian restaurant from chef Nico Schuermans, I did end up at his sister establishment, Cafe Medina which opened four years ago, specializes in “Coffee & Waffles” and carries the seemingly mysterious saying “Marque Déposéé,” French for trademark. Schuermans apparently has a sense of humor, since he named his restaurant for Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina,” though if you prefer to stay serious, Medina is also a western Saudi city, called the “City of the Prophet,” thus the north African flavors that pervade the menu.
Let’s step back for a second. Cafe Medina originally started with just coffee and waffles, but Schuermans and chef de cuisine Jason Lee have expanded their repertoire in the dining room, which features exposed wood beams, banquette seating and a four-stool counter.
The Tagine ($14) had some pretty aggressive flavors for breakfast, which was fine by me, somebody who routinely eats leftover Middle Eastern food for breakfast. The cazuela hosted spicy tomato stew topped with a pair of poached eggs, red peppers, onions, garbanzo beans, black Moroccan olives and spicy links of Oyama Meats merguez, made locally on Granville Island. To cool things down, they served the tagine with soft slabs of grilled focaccia and a cooling dish of creamy hummus topped with tangy raita.
Paella ($12) was another unusual breakfast item, with a skillet of orzo graced with a baked egg, tomato, creamy avocado, corn, zucchini, red pepper, crispy quarter-sized cuts of chorizo, sharp Grana Padano and crisp, scattered watercress leaves.
It’s hard to beat hot Belgian waffles, but Cafe Medina’s Waffle ($3.15) wasn’t cooked to order and lost some of its essence on the metal rack. The toppings – raspberry caramel sauce and mixed berry compote – were pretty good and cost only $1 apiece, though I could have done without the dusting of powdered sugar.
All espresso drinks emanate from a deluxe La Marzocco machine. No drip or pourover coffee is available. Local favorite 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters provides all the beans, and the pastry chef makes several syrups for lattes, including raspberry caramel, lavender and vanilla. My espresso ($2.75) wasn’t quite harmonious, arriving on the acidic side, but it was certainly above average.
The owners also have a place down the street called The Dirty Apron, a cooking school with 22 red chairs, a dining room and DIY prep, and a deli with plentiful sandwiches, baked goods and ingredients, including great looking muffins and more. And yes, the logo is a pig in an apron. That fact alone will get me to return to Beatty Street on my next trip north.
Note: My meal at Café Medina was complimentary, as part of a tour hosted by Tourism Vancouver.