Author: Shirley & Mike Wong
“My story got told.”
-Lukas Graham (from “7 Years”)
At the new Baker & Table Café, it could have something to do with that rose-hued holiday. Meaning, despite all reasons to be cynical in this world, there is something heartfelt about this place.
If you have doubts, consider owner and baker supreme Hitomi Syvertsen’s sincerely penned confession to her customers in a modern-day diary.
That is, on Facebook, she writes that, she gets emotional when she realizes that her dream is no longer about opening café. Now, it’s about making this opportunity a success and making her customers happy.
So on Stop 106 on our Search for Vancouver’s Best Coffee, we curiously head to Fraser St. in South Hill. Here’s a busy and eclectic neighbourhood that interestingly has an East Van spirit, but is not your obvious coffee destination.
On foot, we catch the smell of ripening produce at an open air grocery. A young mom pushes past us, tightly clutching a child’s hand in each arm, racing against the pedestrian light.
To my right, a barber shop, a window looking straight into a modern Asian bakery, and Punjabi restaurants further down the block. The soundtrack to this morning’s film: an elderly man with his harmonica, perched on a plastic milk crate.
In the same way, Baker & Table, is not your conventional bakery café. Yes, Syvertsen has the chops for this. As early as 2009, she won 3rd place in the Quady Dessert Competition, beating out pastry chefs across B.C. (Check out her medal, which proudly hangs in a corner or her café.)
There’s a homey and eclectic – yet modern – spin here that surprises. Instead of falling into the trap of a traditional Asian bakery – do we really need more birthday cake places in this city? – she comes up with some highly edible creations that have a healthy slant.
This means, whatever your appetite or dietary whim, you’ll get GF (strawberry shortcake, cookies, waffles, macarons); vegan (chili, banana bread, cookies); and local, organic or grass fed (their sandwich meat comes from a supplier in Maple Ridge).
By the way, if you head here, you’ll find in their shop an Organic Chocolate Banana Loaf ($1.75/slice). There’s a few good reasons you should try it.
One, it’s vegan, organic, gluten free and sugar free. Two, a friend of Syvertsen’s gave her the recipe, and you know recipes passed around are the best ones. Three, her friend’s dream is to support Cambodian kids; so Baker & Table will donate all the profits coming from this loaf to support her friend’s passion.
As we enter, we see a small room with high ceiling, walls painted white. To the right is an oversized drawing of the aproned owner, carrying two trays, one with steaming drinks, the other with baked goods. Trotting closely behind, a smiling pooch, following with complete admiration.
We can relate: Mike comments it reminds him of our own dog staring at me with unwavering devotion, as I prepare his dinner. I recognize that look which says, You possess the most important and skilled job in the world. (Which of course, I do.)
To our left, two staffers behind the counter greet us. We see two crockpots (one of vegan chili and the other of minestrone soup). There’s also a display of well-priced baked goods that range from macarons ($1.50) to some fluffy twists ($3) that look like a cross between muffins and cinnamon buns.
I don’t know their official name, but it’s nice to see they come in multiple flavours: blueberry balsamic, belgian chocolate banana, potato salad green onion, lemon poppyseed white chocolate and brandy apple.
Right away, we order a brandy apple. We also decide to each order a sandwich. They look fresh and generously st, and healthy in a colourful way. generously stuffed. And prices are competitive ($4 to $8). We order the grilled cheese (cheddar havarti swiss for $4) and bourbon coffee brown sugar pulled pork ($8), asking for them to be heated.
Organic is a philosophy that extends to their coffee. Behind the counter, we see bags of Langley’s Republica Coffee. We’re a fan of this reputable local roaster which has an enormous selection of profiles. Although they do offer single origin, they’re most known for their signature beans, which are some remarkable blends. If you haven’t tried, we recommend them if you enjoy low acidity and an easy-to-drink factor.
They serve drip and espresso. We’re surprised to see a choice of beans explore, with a short description of origin beans on their clipboard menus. Credit them for attention to detail to their coffee; you won’t find this in most bakery cafés that are primarily food-focused.
For drip, you have the option of medium roast (Tres Estella Pan America Blend – Mexico, Colombia, Brazil) or dark roast (The Perfect Storm – Brazil, Sumatra and Ethiopia). Mike orders an Americano ($2.50, 12 oz) and I have a latte ($4.25, 12 oz) : a clipboard says all espresso uses Diabolique Premium European Espresso (Brazil, Colombia, PNG, Sumatra).
We’d also recommend trying their non-coffee beverages. There’s house made Belgian hot chocolate ($4.50, 12 oz). And I’d like to explore their handful of organic tea blends, which are local and by Tea Lani. Just in time for Valentines, there’s one even called Love ($2.75, 12 oz) made of rooiboos, rose, juniperberry, lemongrass, marigold.
One staffer takes our order and the other one tells us he’ll be making our drinks. They have a separate counter at the back of the room, with an espresso machine and panini press. We’re asked to take a seat and they’ll bring us our order.
Our drinks come first, in paper cups. Maybe real cups will come later, which would be a big plus. If people are paying for quality coffees and teas, having them in proper cups makes that experience complete. Not to mention, it doesn’t feel good to create garbage.
Mike says his Americano is good, and comments on how you can’t go wrong with Republica. Their blends tend to be bold and a darker roast, but they never taste bitter. My latte uses the same bean, but I like how it’s has a very mellow flavour, with no harshness.
Our brandy apple “twist” arrives, as do the grilled sandwiches, on plates with plastic cutlery. The pastry is fluffy, soft and sticky to a shiny glaze on top. It’s good, stuffed with pieces of apple throughout the dough, and has a nice buttery flavour.
They make their own bread – it looks like rye – which we agree is the highlight of the experience. It’s neat how each thin slice is a perfect square, freckled with currants. If you like fresh raisin bread, it’s similar.
We also like how you get a lot of ingredients, more than average, in their sandwiches – even if it makes eating a bit messy. The pulled pork sandwich is stuffed to capacity with tender shredded meat, vegetables and swiss cheese. Mike finds the meat slightly cold inside, but says the meat sauce is very good.
Our favourite is the grilled cheese. Vegetarians should enjoy it because it’s actually crammed with colourful vegetables like sliced bell peppers, avocado, red onion and tomato. It’s delicious and tastes fresh.
A few times during our stay, we see the owner come out of the kitchen. She’s carrying out a tray of her latest creation. And just like that drawing, it’s come to life, she’s smiling.
VANCOUVER BARISTA REVIEW
Name of coffee: Republica Coffee Roasters’ Diabolique Premium European Espresso
Origin: Brazil, Colombia, PNG, Sumatra
Location of roaster: Langley, B.C.
Price: $2.50 (12 oz)
Brewing method: Americano
Roaster’s tasting notes: “Combined to create an elegant, complex blend that oozes crema, with enough brightness to shine through milk. Look for flavours of buttery caramel, dark Belgian chocolate and candied fruit.”
Mike’s comments: Dark chocolate, nutty and caramel flavours, very low acidity. If you like a dark roast coffee, this is very easy to drink.
- Attentive service, from greeting us as we entered, to clearing our table.
- Use of a quality local roaster and choice of beans to try. You’ll find strong coffee that’s easy to drink.
- Gluten-free, handmade food at competitive prices. The Japanese slant makes this place a unique option.
- Drinks served in non-disposable cups and saucers and food using real cutlery would raise the experience up a notch.
Seating availability: 4/5
OVERALL RATING by VANCOUVER BARISTA: 4.31/5
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6414 Fraser St.
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