I first heard about the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (1505 2nd Avenue West , Vancouver, BC V6H 3Y4) while watching Rachael Ray’s $40.00 a day show on The Food Network’s channel back in 2006. Rachael was tasked to buy Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for under $40.00. This particular show had her searching the city of Vancouver for those elusive restaurant deals and P.I.C.A. was one of her choices. My daughter and I were planning a trip there because we had frequent flier miles to redeem and we were fortunate enough to get a crazy deal for a great hotel on Priceline. So, we thought it might be a good idea to check it out. Besides, P.I.C.A. is located right outside the entrance to Granville Island which was convenient since that was another stop on our itinerary.
Founded in 1996, P.I.C.A.’s cooks are actually students who are training to become chefs of fancy restaurants that I will never be able to afford. Seriously, Bistro 101 is a teaching restaurant that provides real world experience for up and coming culinary masters. Students work in every position of the restaurant: from the cook to the host to the server to the bus boy…..they get to experience all aspects of running a restaurant.
Upon our arrival in Vancouver, we decided to visit the restaurant the next day since we had plans to go to Granville Island. We didn’t stay as long as we had thought we would at Granville, so we ended up having a very early lunch at 11 am. Luckily, they were open and we were ushered to our table. It’s a very unassuming place. There were no fancy accouterments, just a clean and simple dining room that was set up buffet style. On the table closest to the door, there were an array of delectable desserts like chocolate mousse, strawberry shortcake cupcakes, cheesecake, and truffles.
Immediately past our table was a lone buffet table with ‘starters’ that consisted of cured salmon, apple and cured herring salad, escargot bourgeon, asparagus, prawns, seared tuna, eggs Benedict, mussels, Israeli couscous, peach and papaya relish.
After we had a few minutes to handle the business end of this buffet, we were each presented with our main meal (that we were allowed to order as we nibbled on our buffet largess) which was a plate of Pork loin medallions w/peach chutney sauce, prawns, grilled salmon and our sides were yams, rice cakes w/ red peppers and asparagus.
We thought that we had died and gone to heaven. The price for this ridiculous amount of truly delicious food? $25.00 pp! We were fortunate to have a BOGO coupon from the Vancouver City Passport coupon book. I think the discount is only 25% off now, which is still pretty decent but 2011 books won’t be available until May 2011. Also, tipping was not allowed.
Now, of course, this was over four years ago….things have to be a little different, right? Sorta! It appears that the buffet is served only on Friday during lunch ($20.00) and again for dinner ($30.00). From Monday to Thursday, they serve a Prix fixe menu which is nothing to sneeze at. Check out a sample of their 3 course lunch menu for $18.00 pp (drinks are extra). Their dinner menu sample is equally impressive at 24.00 pp. Again, the drinks are extra and the menu changes daily.
Every Wednesday, they offer their wine list at a 50% discount. Also, they highly recommend reservations these days….I’m going to guess it’s because everybody and their grandma have found out about this gem of a restaurant. You can give them a call at +1-604-734-0101 or make an online reservation.
There is also something new that they have now that didn’t exist when we were there that I think is really cool. They host “A Plugged-In Walking Tour & Taste of Granville Island Market“. Here, one of the chefs leads a one and a half hour guided tour of Granville Island, where the participants are introduced to local artisans, food vendors and farmers who bring their wares to market on a daily basis. Upon completion of the tour, the guests return to P.I.C.A. for a three course luncheon and are gifted with a titular canvas tote, coffee and fresh pastry from their bakery. Sounds like fun to me! Bon Apetit!