Yolks, 1598 Hastings E, Vancouver
What makes a great place for breakfast?
For some diners, large servings of familiar foods matter much. For others, healthy plates with a variety of unique ingredients rank highest.
Factors that draw crowds of diners are parts of an unpredictable brew. Good food and fine table service are starting points but not sufficient. Comfortable surroundings ought to be imperative but diners fill small and crowded spaces, like Bistro Wagon Rouge on Vancouver’s Powell Street.
Successful restaurants are largely about ambience, uniqueness, quality food and value for money. That first item covers much ground and it may be more about people than physical surroundings. One mysterious aspect is trendiness, which may emerge naturally or as a product of well executed marketing.
Yolks in east Vancouver is trendy and that seems more authentic than manufactured.
Everyday companion and I have passed this place on weekends, but lines of waiting customers had us moving on. Mid-morning Wednesday we secured a table but even then, the restaurant was near capacity.
Popularity is not surprising, because the room is bright, service prompt and good food is well presented.
An eclectic selection of music played in the background and I recognized Cattle Call, released on a 78 RPM record by yodeller Slim Whitman nearly 65 years ago. Is this the music urban millennials have on their smart phones?
Eggs Benedict is a mainstay at Yolks. The dish was allegedly created in New York more than 150 years ago and it is served widely. Versions can be had from Moscow to Delhi, Rome to London and most destinations popular with travelers.
When asked about their own driving skills, people usually rate themselves above average. So too with restaurants serving Eggs Benedict. But, at Yolks, the rating would be deserved.
Gwen ordered the day’s featured Benny: The Beast. Poached eggs, double-smoked bacon, tomato, avocado and green onion on an English muffin. Oh yeah, also that egg yolk, butter and lemon emulsion that Anthony Bourdain warned us about in his book Kitchen Confidential:
Not for me. Bacteria love hollandaise. And nobody I know has ever made hollandaise to order. And how long has that Canadian bacon been festering in the walk-in?
But how can we resist this delight, even if one serving of Eggs Benedict provides an adult’s daily ration of fat, sodium, cholesterol, calories and protein?
My choice was a Benny with bacon, eggs and arugula on a muffin, accompanied by truffle-lemon hashbrowns. I prefer shredded or medium-dice spuds, crisp outside but soft inside. The ones served on the side here were chunks, baked brown and flavoured with lemon, truffle oil and salt. Tasty but not quite worthy of the “party in your mouth” descriptor used by one food writer.
The poached beauties on my plate were perfect, with oozing yolks and softly set whites. Of course, with the restaurant’s name and its reputation, faultless eggs were expected.
Had Tony Bourdain visited Yolks, he would have ordered a Benny topped with aged white cheddar sauce instead of hollandaise. Other parts of the menu might have appealed to him. Perhaps blueberry pancakes, Belgian waffles or French Toast with bananas, candied walnuts, whipped cream and salted caramel.
More healthy minded folks might go for the honey toasted granola with bananas and almond milk accompanied by a dish of fresh fruit with lemon, honey and mint.
The restaurant serves bottomless cups of brewed coffee as well as the usual varieties of premium coffees, hot and cold, interesting distilled drinks, local craft beers, juices and smoothies.
Diners suffering a twinge of guilt about consuming butter and egg yolks might assuage that feeling by asking for a smoothie made with kale, spinach, pear, banana, almond butter & apple juice.
If guilt’s not your thing, try a glass of bacon infused bourbon, fresh orange and lemon juice, smokey BBQ sauce, pickled onion and celery. Maybe even two, because life is short.