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Grapes and Soda, Will Travel For Food Series


Recently, I attended the newest instalment of the Will Travel for Food Series: Japan to India, hosted by Sam of @thedessertclub.

This is a series that invites ticket holders to “travel” without leaving Vancouver, and even includes collectable passports. A dinner service with preset cuisines types based on popular travel destinations, where several courses are severed with and on airline cutlery and plates, to really add to the theme. Sam himself has spent majority of his quarantine time rummaging through thrift shops and garage sales for these vintage pieces. The Singapore Airline spoon made with feel nostalgic, and the Air Canada knife gave me hope of travel in the future.

Upon purchasing your ticket, diners pre-choose their set meal. For many, they dine with one other, to be able to try both options. That was our case with the vegan menu below.

Each themed event has Sam collaborating with another local Chef. Tonight it was Chef Tomoko of @Tomokotahara. Their origin story began with Sam messaging her to collaborate because she was cooking interesting things on her Instagram page. Tomoko often forages and preserves her own ingredients. And as a result her food varies day by day, which was the case today, as she made amendments to her menu based on her most recent excursion into the wilderness. So take the following description with a grain of salt. As I recall the original menu items as advertised, seeing as I was unable to follow all the small tweaks listed.

Whereas Sam’s menu took us to India. He had previously resided in South India for 10 years, getting well acquainted with their vegetarian cuisine.

But first cocktails to match the theme, from our hosting restaurant: Grapes & Soda.

Each guest has the ability to pick a cocktail as part of their set, and any additional glasses would be at a charge. With our group of three we got one of each.

I liked the Black Sancho Gimlet for its stronger spirits. Sancho infused gin, sake, shiso, yuzu vinegar, lemon, and charcoal. Black and mysterious, but refreshingly light with the dominant lemon flavour.

The Apple oolong soda with fermented apple syrup, oolong tea syrup, calvados brandy, sake, lemon, and soda was an easy sipper that drank like a fizzy punch. Served classic Grapes and Soda style, a premixed and pre-bottled cocktail that you pop cap release and pour at your table.

The Roasted banana coconut lassi was a creative one. Made with fermented roasted banana syrup, coconut milk, dark rum, amazake, smokey mezcal, ginger syrup, lime, cilantro, and mint. It reminded me of a very tropical piña colada, but heavier with a boozier finish.

As for the food, based on presentation and quantity Indian was the way to go. And after trying both, I can say the same for the way they tasted (based on my own preferences for bold and contrasting flavours). I found the Japan was timidly seasoned, and a little too lean to have you feeling full and satisfied. Whereas India was loud with rich flavours and varying textures. A collection that went well together, yet each element was able to have its own moment.

Starting with the Japan set menu, as listed from the original menu (does not list last minutes changes as spoken by Tomoko).

Citrus sunomono with shio-koji and smokey kelp marinated seasonal citrus, charcoal oil, shichimi, and daikon. This ate more like a dessert with the sweet fruit, than an appetizer to warm up the appetite. It set my palate up with a false start.

Mochi soup with a clear dashi stock, herb oil, mochi, seasonal greens, and wakame seaweed. I liked the texture of the mochi, but didn’t find that it flowed all that well with the clean, yet slightly oily broth it attempted to absorb.

Flavoured rice bento box with maitake mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, and forage blackberry shoots.

Gisei tofu. Nettle flavoured tofu pate sign seasonal vegetables, pistachio, cashew nuts, yuzu sauce, and wasabi. Served cold it had a paste like texture.

Stuffed shiitake mushrooms with a lentil based stuffing, sea asparagus furikake, chilli threads, and a ginger glaze. The mushroom patty was the most flavourful of the savoury items. But ate a lot like the tofu paste above.

Matcha snowball cookies with a knot shaped mixed fruits gummy candy. The cookie crumbled in your mouth, almost like it melts. This I liked, but could have used more of the matcha essence it tried to capture. Similarly, I liked the texture of the gummy, wished you got more than one piece. The first is to learn of what you are having, the second is to actually enjoy it.

For Sam’s Indian menu we started with Kitchari with rice, moong dahl and vegetable with a tamarind sauce and fried cashews. You pour the latter into the former to provide extra flavour and crunch.

Being familiar with these fried vegetable dumplings, I liked the hot and doughy mixed vegetable pakoras with its flavour enhancing tamarind and date sauce.

Pineapple churumuri with puffed rice, peanuts, cucumber, tomato, onion, mints lemon and a tamarind chutney was like a fun textured fruit and nought salad. The pineapple was the highlight with plenty of crunchy and juicy elements to sort though.

The Carrot dhal salad was bright. A side to offer freshness to the set with coconut, curry leaves, pomegranate and crispy moong dahl.

Beetroot salad with coconut, onion, curry leaves, and rose offered a reference break in between bites.

But the star of the evening was definitely the Soan papdi with jackfruit sorbet and pistachios. I am already a fan of jackfruit. And given that you don’t often see it tasting like itself on a menu, this was a treat. This was my first time having Soan papdi and it was a mind blow. It looks like and has the texture of shredded chicken, but is sweet with herbaceous floral note, and melts in your mouth like threads. It sweetened the dessert and the pistachio added some crunch.

In conclusion, this was another successful theme and flight. A chance to make believe we are on a flight to somewhere far away, through food. Already keeping my eyes open for the next one.

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