Lion’s Den Cafe
Obviously, the one word that sums up the Greater Vancouver food scene is, “diverse”. The vast range of ethnic food in these parts is simply staggering. An especially cool aspect of all that ethnicity is when multiple cuisines converge in one restaurant. At the Lion’s Den Cafe, the Jamaican-born owner and his Japanese wife have created Vancouver’s first “Japaribbean” restaurant.
The menu is primarily Caribbean fare and breakfast sprinkled with a few Japanese items. There’s even a Jerk & Teriyaki combo so both cuisines can reside harmoniously on one plate.
Along for this Japaribbean cruise were Kim from I’m Only Here Fore The Food, Jessica and Mark from Yum-O-Rama, Sherman from Sherman’s Food Adventures and Elaine from parkerpages. Sherman, the stalwart that he is, joined us even though battling a seemingly never-ending bout with the flu. Looks like seventeen hockey games a week and eating at every restaurant he drives by finally caught up with him.
This Sunday lunch-feast took place on an exceptionally beautiful spring day. So nice, in fact, that I grabbed the big table on the sidewalk. Kind of a no-brainer as the small restaurant was completely full.
After everyone was settled in and menu items were decided upon we waited for our server. Then we waited a bit more. Hey! Aren’t the people who take our orders supposed to do the waiting? After some more waiting I went inside and placed our order.
This is a salad.
Luckily, it was a really nice day and no one was in a big hurry. As my breakfast consisted of coffee, I was a wee bit peckish. I managed to stave off my hunger with a bottle of ginger beer. After a good half-hour the plates started to roll in.
Having visited here a week earlier, Jessica and Mark made sure we ordered two plates of the excellent Jerk Chicken. Good call, folks!
This is amazingly tender, falling-off-the-bone chicken. Not as hot as I had expected but absolutely bursting with a load of great flavor.
The Curry Goat, on the other hand lacked the range of flavors I’d anticipated. Very tender, a bit bony and quite mild. A few splashes of hot sauce helped things along nicely.
The Roti Shell here was massive…way more than I’d anticipated when I ordered up two of them. Interestingly, inside there are crushed yellow split peas. Whenever a piece was torn off, the crushed peas would fall away.
The Oxtail Stew was much like the Curry Goat…surprisingly bland. When it arrived I thought “Ooh, look at all that garlic!”. To my dismay they turned out to be butter beans. Again, like the goat, I hoped these dishes would be nicely hopped up with Scotch Bonnets.
The highlights today were the Jerk Chicken and this Okonomiyaki. This version is basically a Japanese omelet with peppers, scallions, onions and hidden underneath, big chunks of crispy, fried pork, slathered in a really tasty sauce. It’s too bad I’d already stuffed myself. I would love to come back just for this dish.
After the meal, Ken, the owner gathered us around to tell the tale of the stuffed lion perched in the rafters.
As it is quite a lengthy tale, I won’t attempt to re-create it. It’s one of those things you really need to go and experience yourself.
Aside from the waiting times and a couple of mediocre dishes, the Lion’s Den Cafe is one of those comfy-cozy hideouts I’d recommend everyone to check out. It’s a friendly, warm and unique spot that makes Vancouver so very special.