There are so many restaurants in Vancouver that it’s hard to decide which ones are worth going to. Instead of wasting time making a decision, take the easy way out and let the ambassadors at Dishcrawl do the work for you.
I recently went on their Gastown tour, led be Julia Cobban, where 39 of us explored four different restaurants together. The group consisted of about six singles, thirteen pairs and one group of seven. It was a diverse group, but despite differences there was one thing we all had in common — a love for food.
At each restaurant we had roughly half an hour to order a drink (not included in the ticket price), mingle, eyeball the space and chow down on three miniature versions of their menu items. Some restaurants offered bigger portions than others, but at the end of the night we were neither too full nor famished.
As we journeyed from restaurant to restaurant many were keen on guessing what place was next on our list. Because there is no theme to their restaurant selections, it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be; the only connection between them was the neighbourhood that they were situated in.
“We try to mix it up as much as we can, a different concept and style of food at each place when possible. We also try to include at least one restaurant that is new on the scene, like Catch 122 Bistro, this go-around.”
Catch 122 is where we met, received our name tags and started our culinary adventure. Owner Brent Kyle was there to greet those on the tour while Chef Sean Jackson was busy in the kitchen preparing our plates. The end result was a small portion of free-range Rossdown Farms chicken breast wrapped in smoked bacon and drizzled with gorgonzola bleu cheese sauce, a ramekin of portobello wild mushroom risotto with parmesan cheese and a ramekin of beef bourguignon with heritage angus beef chuck roll braised in red wine and veal stock, bacon, onions, mushrooms and Yukon potatoes.
Chicken cordon bleu, beef bourguignon and wild mushroom risotto
The cordon bleu was my favorite dish, albeit being slightly overcooked. The way I see it, if you wrap anything in bacon you win a lot of hearts over instantly. As far as drinks go, the Whisky Sour was a mistake, partially due to ingredients, partially due to lack of bar-tending skills. Next time I’ll opt for my favorite, the espresso martini, which is made with the delicious Intelligentsia coffee.
Our second stop was Terracotta Modern Chinese where we moseyed downstairs to a modern, dimly lit lounge. They had a drink on on special ($6) that consisted of Aloe water, Grey Goose and a natural zest of orange so I ordered one of those while I waited for the food and enjoyed the somewhat sultry atmosphere and socialized.
Vegetarian spring roll, Crispy battered green beans, Prawn wonton soup
Everything was prepared exquisitely by Chef Zhau and presented to us by co-owner Mark Lee and Terracotta’s friendly staff. I enjoyed the “cleansing” feeling the soup gave me contrasting the greasy (but delicious) deep-fried items. I particularly loved how big the spring roll was as it was twice the size that you see at most restaurants which means twice the deliciousness inside.
Third stop of the night was at Brioche Urban Baking and Catering where I instantly felt at home. Owner and Chef Eduardo Bilardello greeted us with a smile while we anxiously waited to see what he was cooking up.
Tortellini w/ Italian sausage, Pesto fusilli w/ seafood, Penne w/ wild porcini mushroom sauce
I loved all three of these pastas, favoring the meaty tortellini but loving the sauce on them all, and the fact that he highlighted a complete range from zesty tomato-based sauce to hearty cream sauce. Despite already being given a full plate it was hard to resist Eduardo’s offer when he asked if we wanted more. I’ll be back for some Limoncello and to sample some more of the dishes for a nice lunch date.
Our sweet finish was at Nuba, where they’re famous for their savory Lebanese dishes. Although it seemed that Chef Slone Romano wanted to offer us some Baba Ghanooj, Lamb Hushwie, or Najib’s Special, he still presented us with some tasty and unique desserts. On our plate was a whipped rosemary scented mascarpone, dusted with sumac and pink peppercorn dust and served on a kalamata olive cookie with red wine reduction, a decadent, gluten-free chocolate quinoa cake served warm with caramel sauce and Pistachio Mamoul, a traditional Lebanese shortbread-style cookie, stuffed with figs and coated with pistachios.
Rosemary Mascarpone Mousse, Chocolate Quinoa Cake, Pistachio Mamoul
Presentation was A+ on these mini desserts and I loved the three completely different flavours. My insatiable sweet tooth was fired up after finishing this plate and I was yearning for more despite being completely satisfied with my night of eating out on the town. Nuba Owners Victor Bouzide and Ernesto Gomez have a great space at the Nuba in Gastown and I can imagine the low-ceiling, underground venue opening up in the evening for a private party, complete with a DJ, dancing, and plenty of libations.
We were lucky on this tour because we had a nice clear sky as we toured around Gastown from restaurant to restaurant. Rain would certainly put a damper on the experience but would it be a game-stopper? Since Vancouverites should be used to the rain I would hope they would be able to handle the short walk between venues or come equipped with an umbrella rather than copping out and being a homebody. But we won’t know for sure until the day comes where weather conflicts with the tour. Knock on wood.
Dishcrawl, a bay area start-up founded on the premise that communities can be brought together through good food and good company expanded to Vancouver in January. Their mission is to give Vancouverites the opportunity to expand their food horizons and meet others with the same love of food, while at the same time supporting local restaurants. It introduces food lovers not only to restaurants’ signature dishes, but also to the chefs and owners behind those dishes. The catch? Participating restaurants are kept secret until two days before the event, at which time the first location is revealed to ticket holders.
Check out their next tasting adventure on February 12th as they tour around Kitsilano.