I’ll admit it, I am a bona fide Food Network geek. I was quite excited to see local chef Dale Mackay take home the coveted Top Chef Canada award earlier this year, ousting Calgary’s Connie DeSousa and Toronto’s Rob Rossi. Just prior to claiming victory to one of our nation’s top culinary prizes, Dale opened Ensemble, his first restaurant. I was eager to visit Ensemble to see for myself how legitimate the judging of this television competition really is.
At Ensemble, Dale has created a unique dinning experience – semi-traditional French cooking meets modern Westcoast dinning. The menu does not flow from first to final course, instead diners are encouraged to order freely from the menu and construct their own meal. Of course the serving staff are more than happy to make recomndations on what might be an appropriate appetizer or main, but in the end the decision remains in the eater’s hands. The food is tasty, well priced and foodie friendly.
Clearly on a role, Dale opened a more casual beer focused eatery in December, Ensemble Tap (eTap). Boasting an impressive bottle and tap selection, I was eager to visit this new creation. The menu is a mix of burgers, sandwiches and hearty entrées. The food displays a level of refinement that a non-traditional fine dinning chef brings to a modern gastropub, I get a sense this menu reflects the food that the chef likes to eat at home.
Although I was a bit disappointed that they chose to cook their burgers through, the food is delicious. Dale is a gifted chef who can seamlessly incorporate spices and global flavours into food he prepares his way. The popcorn prawns with tempura sea asparagus and Thai spice mayo was the highlight of the menu. All of the food pairs well with the long list of local and international craft beer.
It is is exciting to see that eTap has recently announced a number of beer pairing events and paired menus. eTap is a unique contribution to Vancouver’s growing beer culture.