So I’ve been an enthusiastic user of Open Table since I found it a few years back. It simplifies making restaurant reservations and saves you from miscommunication and all kinds of good stuff. I have it on my phone now, too, which makes it super easy to find a place to eat while you’re out and about and plans change.
Aside from all that, you get “points” for every reservation you make, so every now and then you get to turn them in and get a cheque which you can use at any restaurant in the system. We ended up with a decent-sized cheque, and decided to go to “Top Chef Canada” Dale MacKay’s Ensemble (we watch a lot of these cooking contest shows, and it’s at least as much my Main Distractor’s fault as mine: he was a much bigger Iron Chef fan than I ever was, when we met).
We went on a Wednesday, hoping for a quiet-ish night, but it wasn’t all that quiet by the time we left. Well, good for him: it’s hard to get bums in seats mid-week in March.
My MD had a Belgian beer and I ploughed right into a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. We both started with seafood: he had a Dungeness/pineapple/daikon dish, and I had the lobster iceberg salad. While both were good (I mean, mine had bacon), he definitely won the course: just fantastic flavour, good presentation…I find I really am not all that crazy about lobster. I keep trying it in case my love develops, but next time I’ll just go with my gut and get the crab. Highly recommended.
For the next plate, I had the Foie Gras Sundae. This is a very light mousse piped like whipped cream on top of a fruit gelée and mascarpone, garnished with hazelnuts and balsamic reduction…I should have taken a picture, but it’s really spectacular. My MD had a very creamy risotto with prawns, and even though he is not a massive foie fan, he thought I won that one. Largely because it came with wedges of warm “brioche waffle.” Two thumbs up
Next up: I had the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw that was served on Top Chef, and the MD has a chicken duo: poached with maitake mushrooms and a red wine reduction, and little bits fried with a dollop of sauce on top. I SO won that course. Hands down. If you are in Vancouver and you want a good sandwich, get thee to Ensemble (or his second restaurant, eTap), and eat this damn sandwich. Great sauce (not too saucy); beautiful slaw (hint of horseradish); and a deep fried pickle that my MD seemed to like even more than the sandwich, which he pronounced as good as any he’d ever had. Cornmeal thin batter or dredge, and I can’t imagine that was a commercial pickle. There was also a bit of pickled daikon that was too sour even for me, and a cube of watermelon with fleur de sel. I am going to have a hard time living up to that sandwich, and my pulled pork ain’t bad.
He had one extra course, roasted cod with Moroccan spice, and he found it perhaps overly subtle. But well cooked, like everything we ate.
For dessert, we shared the apple pie with brown butter ice cream and cider foam and whatnot, and it was delicious. The sugared puff pastry wafer was…well, felt refrigerated. That was the only off note all night, with a whole whack of fussy dishes, so I am not complaining.
Not an every day meal for us, but wow! we will be happy to return when we’re feeling rich, for sure! Service was just right, too: on the ball, helpful. The noise level was a little high for us, but we’re old and cranky like that. It wasn’t horrible, just a bit louder than we like. Dinner with a $70 bottle of wine was $200 before tax/tip, so not insanely expensive (also, good value for money: good portion sizes), but not a cheapie.