Vancouver Foodster’s Tasting Plates continues to be a great way for cautious diners and those wanting to try something new to do so in a safe and well planned way. Event goers tour a neighbourhood and visit a handful of restaurants, all within walking distance from one another, and all for the set price of one meal. There is no other tour quite like this one, and that is why it continues to grow and expand in to different neighbourhoods. Today I attending the one hosted on South Granville. Admittedly I have worked in the area for years, and here I was visiting 3 out of 6 places, that I have never been prior to.
As for my guest, this was a great way for her, a apprehensive diner to get out of her comfort zone and try something that she might not otherwise get to, or want to. These are restaurants, with their menu items hand picked and pre-approved by the Vancouver Foodster himself, thus taking the guess work out of the equation for you. You walk into this expecting value and a good meal of new, and you get it.
It was already off to a good start when I learned that the check in point, where you grab your map, that doubles as a menu and passport to the event, was at “Jak’s liquor store”. I am already familiar with this privately owned liquor store, it is one of my favourites with its offering of unique beers, its large collection of local wines, and a handful of gift with purchases. In fact I walked out with the latter after my visit.
Here, they were doing a tasting of five wines from white to rose, then ending in red. Giggle Water Prosecco NV, The Hatch B. Yanco 2017, Oliver Leflaive Bourgogne 2015, Mirabeau Classic Rosé 2017, and Page “Preface” Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. What a great way to start a tasting plate, and quite the possibility the first that features alcohol. I could get use to this, and would like to see more of these in subsequent tasting plates!
The following stops are in the order which we visited them, but truth be told, you are able to bounce around from stop to stop as you see fit. Naturally many follow the natural travelling route and/or transition from savoury to sweet. I suggest heading to the destination furthest from the check in point to avoid lines and have ample to enjoy yourself at each stop, although from 6-10pm, 4 hours is plenty of time.
“Fiore restaurant” is a classic Italian restaurant, an intimate space with an extensive wine list.
Here, we had three squares of beets and ricotta filled ravioli, served in a herb berrue blanc with roasted beets. Apparently this won’t ever make it on to their menu, but this was a great way to showcase their ability in a few bites. It was very rich and flavourful, I didn’t taste the beet in the pasta filling, but it was an integral part to the overall dish. The freshness of the chopped up beets helped to balance out the creamy sauce and all the freshly grated salted cheese on top. You definitely tasted the quality in this.
“Le Creuset” was showcasing their new cafe component. The cookware shoppe opened their counter to the hungry and set up patio chairs outside only recently. They prepare coffees and teas to order with beans from Parallel 49. Served with buttery, flakey pastries from the kitchens of “Thierry” delivered daily. Today we would only get to enjoy a cup of their coffee.
Dining in, you enjoy the sensation in one of their beautifully crafted cups and saucers. This is a great way to sell their merchandise: by sampling it and selling the experience of your lips to their “Le Creuset”. To go, you get your coffee or tea in a branded styrofoam cup.
“Meinhardt Fine Foods” really highlighted the bounty of their cooked food bar. They offered diners a sampling of seafood, with a dessert to end on. It was levels above most hot food bars with more than just fries and salads; which we saw in the thoughtful plate they put forth and served us as soon as we sat. They had a dining area kiddy corner from their cash registers, should you decide to visit them in the future for a quick meal.
The white wine steel head trout was delicious and tender. It was a great protein to enjoy with the fuchsia coloured beet risotto. A risotto that was new to their counter, and that I would definitely come back for. I would have liked the spicy tiger prawns to be more crispy, with more flavouring, or a dip to inject some punch into things. Similarly, the mini panko crusted cod cake would have been better with a creamy sauce. A tartar or sweet and sour, both or a variety of each is available behind the counter normally, should you take the time to inquire.
It was great that our full meal came with a dessert. The “Meringue tart” offered a strong palette cleanser, bold lemon that was a little too sweet, but still made a great dessert with the sweet fluffy meringue and the buttery pastry crust.
We visited “The Rise Eatery” and left only to come back again later. The 30 minute plus wait was avoidable by visiting all of the above first.
Here we were treated to a sampling of a few of their more popular dishes. Three tried and true appetizers, that are as popular today, as they were when they first opened over a year ago.
The “Chicken Seoul Good” was Korean-style fried chicken, covered in a wild mushroom cream sauce with truffle oil and grated parmesan. It was crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. I expected a sweet and tangy sauce so was thrown off by the mushroom soup. It was scratch-made, but I couldn’t help but associate it with the canned Campbell’s version.
The “Lo Hay Salad” was a serving of smoked salmon and a julienne mix of cucumber, daikon, carrot, pickled ginger, onion, tomato, taro potato, and pea shoots. All topped with some crispy fried rice vermicelli, toasted sesame, and peanut for crunch. The lot was drizzled in an apricot and beet vinaigrette that gave it its sweet and tangy sour flavour. A refreshing starter or a great side to balance out heavier flavours like the one below.
The “Dynamic Duo” was rice battered brussel sprouts and cauliflower florets dressed in a gochujang buffalo sauce and topped with a blue cheese crumble. This was a much heavier dish, one that you couldn’t eat as a full serving. But made great little treats to chomp down on.
We naturally ended at “Phoscao Cafe” for dessert. This too had us coming then going, only to come back when they were less busy. The cafe was run by a husband and wife team and today they were doing their best to service at least 5 times more traffic than they are use to. The result, some slight confusion between the owner/clerk and her customers. One less than understanding customer shouted across the room that another table got their cups of dessert before she and her husband did and that it wasn’t fair cause they were here first; therefore she would never be coming back. Here, what she and other customers fail to realize is that a few of these spots are self own and run, regular people doing their best to bring extra attention to their dining sport. This is a cafe so this husband and wife team have been working since 5am and were staying open later to host this event. They probably had to stay well after 10pm cleaning up after it, only to return in less than 4 hours to work again. So them serving over 20 at a time, for 4 hours straight (this Granville tasting plate sold out) is overwhelming. So I made sure to commend them on their efforts and apologize to them as mistakes happen and we are all human.
We upgraded for a regular serving of their shaved iced, or more accurately “snowflake” dessert, as the ice is shredded to give it that texture. We split it half mango and half matcha green tea, as to not have to choose between the two bingsoo flavours that they were offering tonight. The base was the same condense milk sweetened snow, with only the toppings setting the two flavours apart.
The mango chunks were fresh, but the syrup masked it with its globs of sugary starch. It didn’t add to the flavour nor did it distract. The green tea was good, but I found I liked the ice as is, without the green tea kit kat or the dollop of whipped cream. The latter definitely felt out of place, where more common is a scoop of ice cream. Although this is a great interpretation of the dessert as it applies to their coffee shoppe business.
It was tasty and something worth ordering, so should you have that particular craving, but it is not something you would expect from a coffee shop, or something you would think available in this neighbourhood. Its offering is definitely playing up the owners background, and them attempting to stay on the pulse of this food trend.
In conclusion this was a great tasting plates. I had a satisfying meal, and got the opportunity to visit three new restaurants/cafes, that I might not otherwise get to. Everyone that served at each stop was so hospitable. Their engagement and smiles spoke to how proud they were to represent their respected establishments, which made the whole self guided tour feel like visiting friends.
To try a tasting plate for yourself, check out Vancouver Foodster’s page and look into their next tasting plate area or theme.