If you’re a Vancouver eater, then you’ve probably heard of (or dined at) Susu bar. From the team behind Posted on Main, Bar Susu opened in March to rave reviews. And we understand why: chef Ashley Kurtz is in charge with a menu as innovative as it is delicious. Shared plates are the name of the game here with a wine list that kills to pair. It is both the ideal place for a romantic date and a privileged place for a discreet party with friends. All this to say that the food, drink, ambiance and service are top notch.
On my first visit we tried the new pre-fix menu. Called “The Don’s Menu”, this is when the chef chooses your meal himself (with an incredibly reasonable price of $55). But before the food, we started our meal with a bottle of wine – it is a wine bar after all. The 2019 Domaine de’Ecu Trinity ($68) hails from the Rhône Valley and is made from 80% Grenache and 20% Cinsault, it was medium-bodied with notes of strawberry and cassis alongside hints of chilli from Jamaica.
We were warned by the waiter that it would be served slightly chilled, but on a hot summer evening it was refreshing and crisp.
Our culinary experience began with the duck liver parfait. Served on warm honey breadcrumbs with a hidden quince center, this is the donut dreams are made of. On texture alone, the cruller gave my favorite Saturday morning haunts money. I entered the duck liver gal from Bar Susu, but this parfait changed the way I think about offal. Light as a cloud but still rich, with a hint of acidity that immediately cuts through any perceived heaviness with ease. A sprinkle of caramelized nuts added crunch without ever taking away the dreamy base. I’m pretty sure I audibly moaned with delight as I finished it. Apologies at the table next to me.
Next step: the famous hash browns with mc’chicken sauce. If you’ve heard of Bar Susu, then this dish is on your radar. I’m a hash brown vet: it’s a staple in my brunch game and I ate my fair share of its cousin, the latke, growing up. These have a hashbrown shape and exterior, but the center reminded me more of latke country. A little denser and reminiscent of mashed potato, they are enhanced by the sauce, which, let’s be honest, is the main selling point here. To answer the question you’re all thinking about: yes, it tastes like the McChicken sauce we all know (and love). It’s one of the coolest versions of reverse engineering, precisely because it’s not thrown on a fried chicken sandwich.
The next dish is the best thing I’ve eaten all year. Full stop. The toast of mussels with escabeche is undoubtedly one of the most creative ways to appreciate a bivalve. Originating in the Mediterranean, escabèche is a method of pickling with vinegar that leaves the product (in this case mussels) shiny and tender. The mussel escabeches I’ve had in the past are mostly the canned Spanish variety and can swing a bit too high on the vinegar scale. But here, Kurtz and his crew have struck the right balance.
Served with a creamy yet smoky Nantes sauce that exploded through the brightness of the escabeche and a heap of herbaceous parsley – all on a piece of thick toast – the combination created an intriguingly textured superstar where every bite was revolutionary.
“This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever eaten,” my partner exclaimed after two bites. “If I wasn’t in public, I’d be licking the plate.”
The mussels were a difficult dish to follow, but the smoked lamb belly lived up to it. A crunchy, caramelized exterior made the tender center even more delicious; it was great, as only lamb can be, with a fat that served to elevate that exterior crunch. The mint grains acted as a playful version of the classic lamb and mint jelly. The chicory was accompanied by such an edgy garlicky labneh, it reminded me of toum; the combo added a hint of bitterness and creamy spice.
Arriving alongside the lamb was the aptly named Glorious Organics salad: a bowl of greens that felt light as air thanks to a lovely elderflower vinaigrette, edible flowers and what looked like puffed kamut . The perfect counterpart to lamb’s innate richness, it’s the type of salad I imagine nymphs eat after frolicking through lush fields.
The dessert was twofold: a pavlova swimming in a pool of chicory root custard filled with rhubarb jam and a chocolate mousse cake with a sea buckthorn centre. I spent much of my childhood in New Zealand, so I’m no stranger to pavlovas – this one has just the right amount of crunch while staying inside. The rhubarb cut through the sugar-laden structure of the meringue with a zesty flavor, while the custard sweetened it all up with the unique toasty taste of chicory root.
The mousse cake arrived surrounded by a dense chocolate sauce that tasted like a more bitter (in a good way) version of my childhood BFF Nesquik. Slightly salty and still glazed, the mousse itself was balanced and not too sweet with a hint of acidity thanks to the superfood center.
For $55 per person and the sheer number of creative dishes served, Bar Susu’s Don’s menu is a steal. These are some of the most memorable (and delicious) plates I’ve had since moving to Vancouver. I will absolutely return to Bar Susu – in fact, as we finish our meal, my partner and I plan to bring some friends as soon as possible.
Until then, I’m dreaming of cloud-shaped mussels and meringue sandwiches.