Join us for Mother's day brunch or dinner. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner from 5 p.m. Reservations highly recommended.
Vancouver Sun Restaurant Review
Suburban gem worth the trip
By Tracey Tufnail, Vancouver Sun May 1, 2013
Although it's on Dewdney Trunk Road in the heart of Maple Ridge's shopping district, Lava Dining and Lounge is a little hidden.
"It's no such thing as a drive-by or drop-in place. We are a destination," says Robert Klaus, who has owned the business for three years. "Because I live here in the community and am involved in all sorts of social activities here, it's really important to me to get to know people ... to create regular guests."
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce thinks Klaus is doing something right; last month Lava was commended for its attention to customer service.
"This is where, I think, my European training comes in," says Klaus, who is Austrian. "I don't treat people as customers, I treat them as guests. I really try to create an atmosphere where people... can say 'this is my restaurant, where I am treated like an individual'."
Lava might be in the suburbs, but quality is important to Klaus, and he uses the same suppliers as top restaurants in Vancouver.
"The only difference is the price point," says Klaus. "I pay the same price for my steelhead from Lake Lois (B.C.) and my duck from Brome Lake in Quebec, but I cannot charge nearly as much for it. I have to find a balance, because we are seen as fine dining. Personally I don't see myself as fine dining, I just would like to call myself a restaurant if possible, casual dining.
"The menu is small. I just can't afford to bring in large quantities of food," adds Klaus, before flashing his trademark good humour: "I can't afford to have 15 chefs on the line at one time with three of them spending 30 minutes with tweezers putting the garnish on the plate."
Klaus's executive chef Graham Kuebler does just fine without 15 line chefs, and our weeknight meal was delightful. The "small" menu is more than adequate, with a good variety of choices.
Complimentary warm crusty baguette with an oil balsamic dip (whatever happened to this free bread tradition in restaurants?) and a potato crusted stuffed cherry tomato kept our mouths amused as we waited for our first course.
A bisque with fresh Dungeness crab and crème fraîche ($11) was rich and rosy with chunks of crab. It was all the better with the addition of a little salt at the table - no slight to the chef intended, salt is a very personal thing - but it was nice to see salt shakers that actually work; sometimes it's all in the details.
I was instantly jealous of my companion's fish cake starter ($11) after stealing a bite - two light-as-air piles of flaky, flavoursome steelhead and shallots, crispy on the outside, moist on the inside served up with a lemon aioli and tomato jam. I plan to return and order this as a main because double could only be twice as good.
I could have chosen a seductive sounding Cioppino, the wild mushroom crusted ahi tuna or honey, lemon and thyme braised lamb shank but I fell for the pan-seared duck breast ($26), which was served with cubes of buttery polenta and a bing cherry sauce; it was seared to golden perfection.
My companion's 7oz butler steak ($25) was dressed up with a creamy blue cheese crust and served with a potato gratin with fresh herbs sandwiched between its wafer-thin layers. Both were generous servings and came with assorted roasted seasonal vegetables, although we only nibbled at the undercooked carrots.
Desserts vary nightly and we were offered a cheesecake (S'mores), bread pudding (apple and berry) and mousse (chocolate), but abandoned all our diet control plans to share the deep-fried vanilla ice-cream ball ($8). Coated in crispy cornflakes and glistening with straw-coloured honey, it was worth every sticky, crunchy, cool and creamy bite.
The menu changes seasonally (look out for halibut soon) and the wine list is also updated constantly. We were happy to find a selection of B.C. half litres on offer as we had to make a return trip across the Golden Ears Bridge to Surrey, but there are plenty of old and new world offerings, too, at all price points.
Our service was friendly and impeccable, and provided by Klaus himself the night we ate.
A favourite among locals is the Tuesday schnitzel nights ($12.99).
"The schnitzel doesn't really reflect the concept of the restaurant," admits Klaus. "It's just me being selfish, Austrian. I have to see a schnitzel once a week, or I freak out. I call it a meat blanket because it covers the entire plate."
And what's with the Lava name? Klaus is quick to explain he finds it as meaningless as anyone and it will soon be on the way out.
"I bought the name when I bought the business. I have a room full of lava lamps downstairs, if you want one," he quips.
Klaus is renovating and renaming later this year. He is envisioning the addition of a small plates menu (not tapas, that word is so over-used?) to serve in the lounge area, as well as a new-look dining room.
It might be a little hidden, but Lava Dining and Lounge is a gem, whatever it ends up being named (Robert's?), Klaus will make sure of that. email@example.com
Copyright © 2010 Lava Room Dining & Lounge Corp. Designed & Hosted by Paradox Web Hosting.