As I stated in a previous post, I would return, and here I was again, this time with a large group to try more and to share more. Despite the later dinner on a slower Sunday, a wait for a party of eight was still required. We were given a buzzer and am estimated 15 minute wait time. Instead of grabbing a seat on the large backless couch in the front foyer, we decided to take a stroll around Olympic Village. Luckily the reach of the buzzer extended the scope in which we travelled.
When time, we were escorted to a full length high top that seated our party with plenty of elbow room for eight. We walked past the floor to ceiling high beer vats held behind glass windows. And followed their pipes that snaked to the bar and flowed down through to all their taps. It was all an impressive feat of construction and architecture under vaulted ceilings. I marvel each time that I am in. Originally I wondered why the entrance faced the other direction, away from the Village centre. Only to take a seat and be able to soak in the view from their wall of widows, looking out towards the square and further back at the water and sun. When the patio opens in May, it should be a highly coveted seat.
The menu was the same as the last time I was here. Now early spring, then late fall. Surprisingly no seasonal dishes to indulge in, but some new craft brews to make up for it. The menu was a full sheet the length of my torso, it was rubber banded to a plank of wood. On it, all the bar classics and pub usuals, with unique twists sprinkled in.
Three tastings of their “around the world” themed beer flights. Six glasses presented on a specifically crafted paddle, at other places it’s three or five at most. They already stand out. Their offerings are switched up monthly, but always fall under the category of either local brews or those from around the world. Arranged as the menu lists so you can follow along with what you are drinking.
“Thai lettuce wraps”. Crispy noodles and veggies sautéed with sweet ginger and lemongrass, served with fresh julienne veggies, steamed rice, and a trio of houses made sauces. My pescatarian guest was happy with her lighter appetizer. It had a very gentle taste. The sauces were fresh, each with it’s own flavour that stood alone, yet complimented one other in harmony. The perfectly seared tuna was the clear star of the plate, though as you can see from the picture above, it’s serving was small. Disproportionally small compared to the fillers that you were excepted to eat it with. With all this it really depends what you are in the mood for. Though I personally don’t find such fare complimentary to the bitter hops of beer.
“Poutine” Serving it in the skillet ensures it stays hot and the cheese stays melted. I didn’t use the ketchup given on the side, and kept with just the main three ingredients. When it comes to poutine, after trying so many versions, I have learned to not mess with a good thing. The gravy was just the right amount, often it drowns the fries and eating it becomes a count down. You want to eat it when the fries are still crispy, the gravy is still bubbly, and the cheese is still stringy.
“Wings”, a pound of crispy rossdown farms chicken wings tossed in your choice of house made sauce. I ordered the “Canadian”, bacon and maple syrup; over the hot or beer salt and peppered versions. I didn’t use the tangy dipping sauce on the side. The wings tasted good, I just wish I could taste more of their goodness. Given its description, it needed a thicker, more syrupy sauce. More generous leeway with sticky maple syrup. And more bacon flavour infused into the marinade, and not just as candied bits sprinkled on top. But overall the idea was in the right place and it had me finishing my plate.
“Craft Mac and cheese”. A blend of cheddar, Gouda, mozerella, and fontina cheese tossed with bacon and poblano peppers, topped with parsley and garlic breadcrumbs. There were two orders of this and each guest came to a different conclusion. One declared it the best version of Mac and Cheese she’s ever had while the other was left with a skillet half full and no desire to pack any to go. I will be describing the more detailed account of the later. It was all visually appealing in a heavy cast iron skillet, a vessel that should have been able to hold the heat, keeping the dish warm and the cheese melty. Yet auctions were hotter and others could have used a round in the microwave. There was copious amounts of cheese, yet somehow it lacked flavour. There was a need to taste more of its spicy component, and have some acid to perk things up. Some tomato, more bacon, or a stronger chilli.
“Nacho barrel”, cheddar, tomato, jalapeño, poblano peppers, green onion, sour cream, and fresh salsa. All served on an actual beer barrel lid. An impressive amount for one, that really should be shared amongst three. My guest deemed this to poorly constructed. He found everything under the top layer disappointing, with the presence of cheese being a component less and less seen. Luckily the fresh salsa and house made guacamole were flavourful enough to do without the need of cheese. Though their portions along with the sour cream were stingy considering the heap of chips that were piled to their side. If you are going to get more chips, shouldn’t you also get more dip?
“Bacon and blue cheese burger”. An 8oz burger stuffed with blue cheese, topped with bacon, caramelized onions, mayo, house made mustard, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. You could actually see substantial amounts of blue cheese baked right into the well charred beef patty. And for lovers of blue cheese, you could actually taste the sharpness of it in each bite. Just as impressive was the generous amount of bacon topping the burger. It was such a juicy patty with the onions, tomato, and sauces that the addition of lettuce had it wilted and tasting soggy.
I got this during my first visit, so knew better than to have it today. Though this guest wanted a challenge. The “20 napkin burger”, two 8oz burger patties, 4oz of brisket, crispy bacon, and beer infused cheese; garnished with a mini burger. The name came from the thought that a napkin was designated for every ounce of meat given. Though we were not presented with 20 napkins upon its delivery, and my guest devouring this required the asking of additional sheets. The mini burger was merely for show, it was not sauced and was left unseasoned. I guess the thought was that you would never get that far to be hungry enough to finish it. His attic was to devour it by quarters. The first two were easily sailing, but the one note taste eventually grows ragged. He left feeling bad about himself and wished he had shared instead. There was still so much meat left in the quarter he couldn’t finish, that he jokingly announced his intention of repurposing the leftovers into a stir fry.
“Brooklyn Steak sandwich”. 6oz certified angus beef sirloin steak cooked to your liking on a grilled baguette with chipotle aioli and Ginsberg with crispy onion petals. My guest ordered his in a medium rare and had the house soup as his side. Compared to the other plates around him, this was disappointing in look. It wasn’t piled high or over flowing. Though after its consumption, was declared just the right amount of food, with really great flavours. Though this could hardly be deemed a sandwich, an average steak and a slice of garlic toast. Maybe a sandwich deconstructed. Their take on onion rings weren’t crispy enough, it’s breading not the familiar kind associated with the ring version. The use of “petals” had more onion than batter, and more onion that I wanted.
“Craft house soup”, cheddar, jalapeño and their village house ale. The soup was rich and creamy, heated to a comforting temperature. Hot so you felt it going down, but not so much that you would burn yourself as it did. Delicious, but a better accompaniment for a entree less flavourful.
“Dieu du ciel”. Described as an aphrodisiaque stout. A dessert-like black ale with flavours of vanilla, dark chocolate and roasted malt. It was mildy hoppy, and buttery with cocoa.
“S’more bomb”, house made marshmallow and graham crackers with dark chocolate. From reading its description we were expecting something a wee more decadent and overflowing in presentation. What we got were these delicate bite size morsels piled in a martini glass. To its side, toasted marshmallow slices on skewers. They reminded me of traditional campfire marshmallows, the ones made melted and gooey over an open flame. Overall things tasted as expected with solid milk chocolate rounds, marshmallow oozing with every bite, and not enough graham cracker to hold it all in.
“Dark chocolate brownie”, served with two scoops of Earnest vanilla ice cream, and almond praline. The brownie tasted like your regular run-of-the-mill grocery variety, if not one made from prepackage boxed ingredients. Dry and hard, they were left half eaten. The ice cream was amazing, nothing short of the name and popularity of “Earnest”. The peanut brittle was very chewy, a texture that stuck to your teeth and stood in contrasted to the creamy iced cream and dense cake.
“House made ice cream sandwich”, Earnest salted caramel ice cream sandwiched between house made chocolate chip cookies. The cookies were hard, they required much strength to bite through, yet holding them down to do so caused all the cream ooze out. It was not easy to get an even ice cream to cookie ratio. I also wished for a chewier cookie, one that would better match the softer ice cream.
Our night only ended because they were closing early for a staff meeting.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I like the location, I like the atmosphere, I like the food, and I like the company that I came here with tonight. A good time was had by all. Plenty of taps to satisfy the pickiest of drinkers and a diverse menu to satisfy the pickiest of diners. Don’t deny your cravings.
CRAFT BEER MARKET
85 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5Y3K8