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Vivace, Taylor Swift Dance Party

Tonight I was at Vivace on Commercial Drive to try their poutine, as one of the competitors in this year’s Vancouver Foodster #poutinechallengeyvr.

And as luck would have it, my pre-planed visit would coincide with their Taylor Swift Dance Party. Not advertised, I stumbled upon it, only after searching to see what their happy hour was like.

We were deciding if we should have dinner there and not just the poutine. And it turns out that Vivace has an amazing happy hour program worth reviewing. They open at 5pm so their Happy Hour is the only one that I know of that runs from 5-7pm. So you can easily have dinner for less or use their discounted beverage and food program to have more. And further more, on Thursdays (the day of our visit) it is all night happy hour and we were sure to take advantage of this, along with it being a themed event night.

Already known for their live, local music nights, a Taylor Swift Dance Party doesn’t seem too out of their wheelhouse. Their backstage was littered with purple and yellow balloons and the projector was broadcasting Taylor Shift’s music videos, while playing the corresponding songs overhead. A DJ was at the ready should the crowd be present and wanted to dance to her hits. Sadly this did not happen from 7-9pm, and the event was advertised running until 10pm.

The evening was in partnership with Empress Gin, a highly photogenic brand that fits well with the would-be Taylor Swift fan base. Matching the hue of the decor and the featured spirit in two Taylor Swift inspired cocktail.

It was just such a shame that this event was not better advertised. I saw no posters in the restaurant promoting it, no social media mention, and nothing outside the restaurant to lure walk-by traffic on the night of. So much untapped potential considering the Empress 1908 reps were in to meet customers and speak to the brand as well. We were given a commemorative pin and keychain for our attendance.

We still enjoyed the evening, coming dressed in our Taylor Shift inspired outfits of sequins and hats. I was inspired by her “a lot going on at the moment” tee and outfit.

Each reasonable $15 entry ticket included two cocktails. One was the “lavender haze” for its flavour and hint of lavender. The other “midnight” which was a classic French 75 with Empress gin and sparkling wine. Truthfully I am not a fan of Taylor’s music, so can only assumed both were named after her discography.

As for food we started with the main, but not only reason why we were here. This is the Il Piatto Vincitore poutine of crispy medium cut Kennebec fries topped with feta for cheese, and seafood bisque in place of gravy. And to it add beer battered scallops and bonito flakes. It speaks to the chef’s love of seafood and sustainability, using ingredients already found in his kitchen to diminish food waste.

I found this more like soup with fries in place of crackers, and as a result almost unnecessarily gourmet. It added in flourishes that didn’t necessarily compliment the base, which is actually the soup. A soup that already has such a fulsome flavour profile it doesn’t need more. At most cream to thicken and spring onions for freshness. The feta was too much, battling for supremacy with the distinct fishiness of the fried flakes. And the battered scallops were just there, not adding any value, but a separate dish all its own, piled on top. Battered as they were I wanted a sauce to dip them into, and I guess this is where the bisque comes in.

And seeing we were here between 5-7pm for happy hour and happy hour is all night on Thursdays, we ordered everything off their specials menu. All of which were actually just $2 dollars off. The real savings come from the drinks with $5 sleeves of beer and $8 negronis and margaritas. But the one to indulge in is the $1 an ounce wine deal. I have yet to see wine so inexpensive anywhere else. I asked, and the largest serving they were able to pour at once is a 12oz full personalized decanter. We would have 2 of these which equates to a full bottle of wine, and at a restaurant $24 for a bottle of wine is unheard of.

The house Pinot gris was especially great at balancing out all the punchy flavours of our spectrum of dishes below. It was more refreshing than sweet, with mild hints of apricot and grapefruit.

Ordering all the happy hour dishes had us saving $8, not much on paper but a whole happy hour drink in theory.

They have an extensive bruschetta offering so we ordered a couple of orders. Each with three pieces. I do advise ordering the following combos to get a good variety. Three of any one type is too daunting, as each slice is large and can grow monotonous for one. At $16-22 a plate of three, I would like to see smaller portions for less, using a smaller slice of baguette to be able to provide a two bite serving instead of enough to feed 4. Thus leaving less food and more savouring. As is we took our two bites each and were too overwhelmed to finish the rest.

The Seafood Trio was a combination of the mare, oceano, and acqua bruschetta. The Mare was my second favourite, and the only one with its bread left un-toasted and spongy. Topped with ricotta as a spread and smoked salmon. The addition of the fish roe was a nice little indulgence. Otherwise it was the classic cream cheese and salmon-like pairing that was all too familiar.

The Oceano was breaded white fish and tartar sauce, that basically read fish and chips over toast. Although not practical, as the rounds of fish were easy to roll off the bread without anything adhering it in place. Here, the bruschetta toast was an extra filler, where as the fish and tartar would have been better on their own.

The Acqua was prawns and garlic with plenty of butter coating each shellfish. Much like escargot in butter and herbs, where the bread is used as a dip for the excess melted butter.

The Chef’s Trio was anatra, pollo, and funghi bruschetta. The latter was generous on the mushroom, piled high with plenty of similarly umami cheese. Here, the toast helped to balance out the overwhelming and one-toned mushroom flavour.

My favourite was the Pollo, sourdough spread thinly with a liver spread and topped with fig halves. I liked the combination so much that I wish there was an even sweet fruit to rich pate ratio for the ideal harmonious bite.

And the Anatra was duck leg and ravigot. The duck was on the dry side, but given a minty freshness in a savoury herbal way. Here, the bread base soaked up much of the excess fatty mouth-feel, a similar greasiness to marrow. Although I was not a fan of either.

The Duck Wings were intriguing on paper, but fairly tough to gnaw through in reality. Although tasty with orange, dashi, and furikake, this was not something I enjoyed eating. I found myself working hard to pry jerky-like meat from large bone. At least we got $2 off of it for happy hour.

The Arancini of the day is the chef’s choice, and today it was squid ink in a large crispy ball with a soft risotto centre. Hot and still steaming at its centre, I would use this as a base for a lot of the bruschetta toppings above, discarding the bread that didn’t offer much for many of them and opting for this as rice instead. This was one of the items I liked the most during our Happy Hour dinner.

Not on the happy hour menu, but one I had to order was the Brussel sprouts, as a fan of this vegetable and something I always order when I see it. These however, were not fried crispy as expected, but steamed soft with almond and chilli. I was not a fan of how soggy it was at its outer layer, but still hard at its core. I would not order this again.

The Mezzi Gnocchi is a must order, this is the small plate version of their entree serving with leek, ricotta, and grana padano. I loved how pillowy soft and melty the initial bite down was. I just wished there were smaller pieces for a daintier bite to savour. Once again, without a protein, this too made for a great base to have with the excess bruschetta toppings.

In conclusion, we made the best out of our impromptu girl’s night and would-have-been dance party. I would like to see their events better flushed out in the future. And the food more refined and finger-food-like to match their live music and lounge theme. I would return for the cheap wine.

Vivace on The Drive
1728 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5N 4A3
(604) 253-0888

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