Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ensemble Tap

For Flowerbunny's birthday, we decided to check out Dale McKay's new pub style restaurant, Ensemble Tap!  Located in the spot where Azia used to be, near the Scotiabank Theatre, Ensemble Tap is a lot bigger than his other restaurant, Ensemble.  There are two levels, and plenty of TVs, so this would be a good spot to watch the game at.

We had reservations and were seated immediately in the upstairs section.  Our waitress was super friendly, and did a great job throughout our entire meal there.

After perusing our menus, we all put in our orders.  There were a bunch of us at this meal, so we decided to split some appetizers.

First up though, we wanted to try one of Ensemble Tap's 45 different beers.  I had the Russell Brewery Black Death Porter.  It was super malty - a bit too malty for my tastes, but I'm not generally a big beer fan.  I did like that it did not taste hop-y which I really don't like.  Flowerbunny had the Howe Sound Nut Brown Ale.  She liked it, and said it tasted like chocolate.  One of our friends had the Tree Vertical Winter Ale.  This was also really good, and kind of tasted like cookies.

Our first appy was the Fried Calamari.  This had olives, red onions, and a red bell pepper sauce.  The squid pieces were really small, smaller than I'm used to with fried calamari, but they tasted amazing.  There was a super thin layer of breading with herbs on the outside that gave it a ton of flavour, and the squid itself was super tender and not chewy.

Next up was the Popcorn Prawn.  This came with tempura sea asparagus and spicy mayo.  The batter was nice and light, yet it still gave everything a bit of crunch.  I personally liked the sea asparagus better than the prawns, as I'm not a big fan of prawns, but they were still good.

Our third appy was the Sausage Platter.  This comes with three house made sausages, a fresh pretzel, and mustard.  Each of the sausages was super juicy and had a distinct delicious flavour.  There was a caraway sausage, a BBQ sausage and a Thai sausage.  I think the Thai sausage was my favourite, as you could taste the 'Thai-ness' in the first bite, but they were all very good.  The pretzel was OK, nothing special, but the mustard complemented it very nicely.  At $17, this is a bit expensive for an appy, but it is tasty.

Our final appy was the Heart Attack Bread.  We had to ask the waitress what this was and she described it as twice baked garlic bread with cheese.  This was good, but I didn't find it really heart attack-y.  For a bread with that name, I'd expect lots more cheese and butter.

On to the entrees!  One of our friends got Dale's famous Pulled Pork Sandwich.  This is the same one that you can get at Ensemble, except bigger. 

Another friend got the Bangers and Spaetzle.  This looked amazing and I definitely want to try this next time I'm there.

Another friend got the Crispy Chicken Burger.  While I didn't get to try this either, all of our friends really enjoyed their food.  Actually I think I want to try this next time.  Decisions, decisions...

I had the Tap Burger which has mushrooms, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and fresh horseradish.  This was a really tasty burger.  The patty was super meaty and full of beefy goodness.  The bun held everything together nicely, and wasn't soggy, and the horseradish wasn't overpowering.  The cheese, onions, and mushrooms were excellent toppings, though some pancetta or bacon would've put this over the top I think.  Overall, a great burger for the price, and much more satisfying than the nearby Stackhouse Burger Bar.  As for the fries, they were delicious as well, and reminded me of the DB Bistro fries, which wasn't surprising.  They were nice and crispy, and well salted.  I also added the Tap Sauce which paired really well with the fries.  It's a mixture of ketchup, Dijon, mayo, and cayenne which adds a nice little kick.

The birthday girl went with one of her favourites, the Mussels and Fries.  Unfortunately, some of the mussels weren't properly cleaned and had a bit of sand in them, which of course, made them crunchy.  This kind of ruined the dish for her, though she thought the broth was really tasty.

We were full after all of that, but a couple friends decided to split a Banana Split.  They all enjoyed it, and it looked delicious.  Next time!
Overall Impressions:  Ensemble Tap offers great value for the quality of food produced.  I actually was more satisfied with the overall experience here than at Dale's main restaurant, Ensemble, as I feel the portions there are too small for what you pay.  At Tap, the portions are large, and the food is delicious.  The only real miss was the sandy mussels.  The service we received was excellent as well.  Be warned though, that they do add 18% to your bill for gratuity for parties larger than six which we were not told about before we showed up.  We were happy to pay it though, as our waitress did a really good job.  I can't wait to go back to try more of their food!
Ensemble Tap
990 Smithe St.
Vancouver, BC
ensemble Tap on Urbanspoon

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