Review and interior and food photos by Mabel Luong
“I made a reservation for a restaurant for Friday. It’s called Pip,” I told my fiancé, Daniel.
“What do they have?” he asked me.
“The little blurb on Google says ‘salads, sandwiches and hearty comfort fare plus cocktails and wine.’” Vague, but we would find out later.
“Okay,” he responded, with little enthusiasm. In hindsight, that was probably some foreshadowing on his part.
Pip is a restaurant situated near Whyte Ave, on 104 Street. Having done a Google search of restaurants, I was drawn by how cozy the place looked in pictures. It didn’t look very large, with mostly a bar, a few seats near the windows, and most of the wooden tables are only large enough for two. It’s up to you whether you want to sit in the uncomfortable wooden chair or the comfier booth seat.
I was intrigued when I saw the minimalistic exterior with its dark colour theme. It looked sophisticated, with little outside aside from a chalkboard sign, the name of the place on the door, and their little pineapple logo wrought in gold above. The little pineapple was also in the centre of the little windows on either side of the door. My fiancé held the door for me, and we stepped into the dimly lit restaurant.
Three lamps hung above the little wooden bar, behind which was an entire selection of liquor, as well as row upon row of glasses that sparkled faintly under the rows of small lights that that ran across the ceiling and lined the windows. Aside from a few small, framed, abstract minimalist prints of clouds and sailboats on the walls, there were no decorations. I found it to be quite pleasant in its simplicity.
The tables each had a candle in the centre and were close enough that one could reach out and touch the adjacent table. It took little to no effort to listen in on the conversations of other patrons if one wanted to. Though I couldn’t hear the music playing above the sound of voices in mingled conversations, I didn’t mind. It added to the coziness of the small restaurant.
At the door, we were greeted by a friendly server, who offered us two menus to peruse as we waited for a table. The menu was short—everything fit on one side—and the dinner menu is different from the brunch menu. There was one soup option—the House Soup, which is tomato basil with grilled cheese croutons—available in two sizes, the smaller being $8 and the larger $12. For the salads, there was the House Salad—butter lettuce, bocconcini, tomato, red onion and herb parmesan vinaigrette—for $10 or $16, and the Arugula, Kale, and Fried Cheese Salad with tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, and caper vinaigrette, for $12 or $18.
They have a range of appetizers as well, the cheapest being house-marinated olives for $6, and Meatballs 2.0 in tomato basil sauce and stuffed with fontina cheese for $15.
The drink menu is extensive, with twelve cocktail options ($9-$13), two types of draught ($7), nine types of bottled drinks ($7-$12)—ale, cider, IPA, lager, etc.—and nine non-alcoholic options ($3-$6)—tea, coffee, pop, and peach kombucha. They also have many wine options available in three sizes—5 ounces, 8 ounces, and by the bottle. They have a sparkling red Lambrusco ($12, $17, $50), a sparkling white Prosecco, one rosé, four types of white wine, and nine types of red wine.
For the entrees, they had multiple pasta options, like the Beef Ragu ($23), Macaroni 2.0 ($16)—mac and cheese with multiple kinds of cheese—Mushroom Orzo ($18), and Gnocchi ($18). They also have multiple meat options, which come with some version of starch—mostly potatoes, except for the tofu dish—and veggies. Those options include Roasted Chicken ($27), Pork Tenderloin ($28), Braised Beef ($30), Tiger Prawns ($27), and Crispy Tofu ($24). There is also the dinner feature, which happened to be the steak frites that night.
Daniel ordered the steak frites while I ordered the Beef Ragu and a 5-ounce glass of Lambrusco, which was a little tart but deliciously fruity with light bubbles and glittered like a garnet in the light of the candle.
It took twenty minutes for the food to come, but the wait was pleasant, what with the conversation of surrounding tables blending into barely noticeable background noise. Daniel and I were able to hear each other while speaking at a normal volume, which I appreciated. Given the dim restaurant lighting and the candle in front of me, I was reminded of warm winter evenings by a fire, with the comfort of being close to other people. And when the food came, I thought it was well worth it.
There was a mound of pappardelle—pasta cut into strips—in the middle, mixed with tomato basil sauce, with shredded parmesan on top, and a sprinkle of fresh basil. I could smell the sauce, with a hint of cheese and the beef. My mouth immediately started watering, and I could hardly wait long enough to take a picture before tearing into the food. The pasta had a nice chewiness—not too soft and not too chewy—the sauce was delightful, a perfect balance of tomato and refreshing basil. The shredded beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender, seasoned with just a bit of salt and pepper, and had absorbed the sauce, and the parmesan was a perfect companion to the rest of the dish. Overall, the dish was very simple, but each component was taken care of so skillfully and it all went together so nicely that it was very satisfying.
My fiancé, on the other hand, had a different experience. He ordered the steak with polenta fries, and complained that it was tasteless and tough, and the fries were weird. Initially, it looked quite nice—a thick, red and juicy steak with fries on the side and some greens. When I chewed the morsel that he offered me, I could see what he meant. The meat was oddly tough for a rare steak, and I had to chew for a while before I could swallow, but it didn’t feel rewarding because it was bland. The fries were also strange—they tasted exactly like the boiled cornmeal they were made of and didn’t have salt to season them.
As we ate, our server would frequently come to refill our glasses of water and asked us how we were doing and how the food was. Every time he came by, he was smiling, and he genuinely cared to know what we thought. I felt like we mattered, and I loved it.
When we paid the bill, the total for both entrees and a small glass of wine came to $60, which Daniel said was “too expensive for such a disappointing steak”. I couldn’t blame him, but I loved the atmosphere, excellent service, and the food, so whether he will come with me or not, I want to go back.
Address: 10403 83 Ave NW
Phone: (780) 760-4747