West End’s Blind Sparrow takes off

Craft beer and cross-cultural fare attracts a crowd

First there was the venerable Café de Paris, which morphed into Le Parisien and then fizzled as Left Bank — a tasty haunt that never figured out its identity. However, it became apparent that West Enders were chomping at the bit for a casual spot with good food and well-priced drinks. Enter the Blind Sparrow (751 Denman St.), which loftily bills itself as a “gastro tavern” — and delivers.

Arrive mid-evening any night and chances are you’ll wind up sitting at the bar — or in the back, near the glass-wrapped keg room. Actually it’s a great spot to take in all the action at this laid back and lively spot, which has built a steady and appreciative clientele since opening a few months ago.

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There’s a wealth of share plates, starting with the tri-cooked fries and red curry coconut dip ($6). Also on our hit list are the Korean-style, chili-braised boar ribs and slaw ($16), spicy prawn tacos with cilantro sour cream ($10) and the spicy, crunchy, sriracha buttermilk-fried chicken nuggets. ($10). The menu makes for an appealing cross-cultural statement, with West Coast meats and seafood (seared tuna or mussels and fries with IPA broth) and plenty of Asian twists. It’s been a while since I’ve seen kimchi on a menu (as a side) — a lure for the blossoming Korean population of lower Robson.

That keg room gets a serious workout most nights, thanks to a dozen good, rotating local brews, fairly priced and smartly served. Most sleeves are around $4.50 while a 20-ounce pint runs around $6.50. Wines by the glass are also smartly chosen and priced, such as Syncromesh Riesling (also on tap) for $9.

The Blind Sparrow is also home to the West End’s (so far) only laneway patio, which is hopping now that the warm weather is here.

Overall, the mood is warm and welcoming, with a good buzz in the room and live (but not too overpowering) entertainment most nights. Service is savvy and friendly — although nobody could tell us the real inspiration for the name. We think it might have something to do with a mural. Details at blindsparrow.ca.

Raise a glass
You don’t have to look far to find wines by the glass these days. By the glass — and keg wines — are standard fare for any self-respecting resto these days but no more so than at the Wine Bar at Provence Marinaside, which now pours no less than 145 wines by the glass, including several from an impressive battery of 48 taps. Best kept secret? The “perfect pairings,” where customers can sample small bites paired with three different tastes under the guidance of sommelier Rachelle Goudreau every other Thursday for $14. Reservations a must.  More information at thewinebar.ca.

Through the grapevine
B.C.’s grapevine lit up last week with the news that pioneering Harry McWatters has sold his Sundial portion of the iconic Black Sage Vineyard, and winery under construction, for an undisclosed sum. The Asian buyer plans to make premium Bordeaux blends. The vineyard was home to the first Okanagan planting (at the time the largest in Canada) of Cab. Sauv, Merlot and others.

Belly’s Best

50th Parallel Pinot Noir Rosé 2015
Here come the 2015 rosés: Melon and red fruit on the nose, followed by strawberry, grapefruit and pomegranate with a dry, crisp finish. Think grilled salmon or chicken. $18, 90 pts.

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