The holiday season is definitely in full gear! Since I haven’t been leaving my apartment all that much during the daytime while getting caught up in work and prepping for my upcoming stint in Thailand, I sometimes completely forget that it’s the festive time of year until Christmas parties and other social events pop up in my calendar.
This past weekend, I went to a company holiday party for dinner at ensemble Tap, the new restaurant opened in Vancouver just last week by Top Canada Chef winner, Dale MacKay, a few blocks away from his other successful restaurant that was opened a mere 6 months ago, ensemble. Located where Azia used to be, in the Scotiabank Theatre building at 990 Smithe Street, this gastropub is Chef MacKay’s take on casual dining with Canadian and European fresh beer, including 15 micro-brews on tap, and 25 bottled varieties.
The two-level, spacious 138-seat restaurant includes a large mezzanine upstairs, which is great for private parties, along with a 40 foot live bar, and of course the main dining room on the ground level. There are 14 flat screen televisions located throughout Tap, which is great for watching Canucks games or UFC while enjoying some food or a pint (or two).
Since I managed to try a lot of dishes as this was already my second time dining in at Tap, I’ve got quite a number of pictures of many of the menu items. You’ll notice a lot of inconsistency from one to the next as they range in terms of camera and also who took the picture. And let’s face it, on both of my visits here, I was drinking dirty vodka martinis, so I might’ve gotten a little sloppy along the way, too.
Let’s start off with the appetizers.
There are two varieties of chicken wings available by the pound as a starter – either the Hot Wings, served with fresh pickles and Ranch sauce, or Thai wings, served with a lighter Thai dipping sauce. Super crispy and with a fantastic bite, I will definitely be enjoying these frequently on my jaunts over to Tap.
Next up is the Sausage Platter, which is made up of a selection of three house made Sausages (Barbecue, Thai, and Caraway ,in this instance), plus a fresh Pretzel and mustard. My favourite was again the Thai version (is anyone else sensing a pattern, here)?
The Nachos were loaded up with Mexican pulled pork, corn, red onions, cilantro, spicy jalapenos, sour cream, and cheese sauce (but much better than the movie theatre kind). I really dislike it when restaurants skimp on the toppings for their nachos, and this was definitely not the case with these ones.
The water glass has kind of gotten in the way of this shot of the Popcorn Prawns, which was one of my very favourite appetizers of the evening. These are battered and deep-friend along with tempura sea asparagus with spicy mayo. I am a long-standing lover of kaffir lime, and this definitely jumps right off of the plate in this dish.
The Jalapeno Poppers were served piping hot and were crisp, spicy and delicious.
I really enjoyed the Fried Calamari, which were herb crusted (there was definitely some cumin in there), red bell pepper sauce, olives, and red onions.
The last appetizer we tried that evening was the Seared Albacore Tuna, served with orange, enoki mushrooms, watercress, and an Asian vinaigrette.
The Fish N’ Chips were made from beer-battered ling cod, with nice and crisp ensemble fries and a cucumber side salad.
The 9oz AAA NY Strip Loin comes with roasted potato, mushrooms, peppercorn sauce, and is topped with sauteed onions, along with a side green salad. It was cooked to order at a perfect medium rare.
One really great menu item, which is something I wouldn’t normally order, is the Tap Chicken Burger. I don’t order chicken generally when going out to restaurants (or even when cooking at home, lately, it seems), but this was really great, with bacon, avocado, romaine, focaccia, smoked paprika mayo, and a side of fries. And of course, who can resist the sliced pickle!
I also had a really great Clam and Chorizo entree, with grilled bread to dip in the garlicky sauce. Somehow I missed taking a picture of that, as by this point I’d had a couple bevvies. But it was also one of the highlights of the night for me.
Now on to dessert – although I didn’t try a few of these so didn’t rate them below, I’ve got pictures of everything that we ordered at our table.
The traditional Banana Split is a fun menu item, with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream, sprinkles and chopped nuts, and it’s one of General Manager Chris Cho’s favourite desserts.
The Key Lime Pie is apparently quite tart, with chantilly, toasted coconut and lime zest.
The Apple Crumble is served with a side of vanilla ice cream with bourbon raisins.
And last but not least, there’s the Root Beer Float, with vanilla ice cream, a root beer rim and Dad’s Root Beer, which brought me back to my childhood days when I used to make myself this treat at home.
Ensemble Tap’s Executive Chef Brad Hendrickson and General Manager Chris Cho are both from ensemble and Lumiere, prior to that. The restaurant is open from 11am to midnight, daily.
The website is still in progress at the time of writing, but you can check out the Tap menu on the ensemble website for now.