The other night, I had the pleasure of putting down a couple bucks (okay, I hit the magical ‘buy’ button on my phone) and grabbed some tix for Vancouver Foodster’s latest Tasting Plates crawl: East Van Edition (Actually, six of the seven participating restaurants were all on Commercial Drive (the one exception being Via Tevere Pizzeria on Victoria). We had already been to most of the restaurants participating, but looking at the tasting menu involved, we thought this would be a good chance to check out some of the dishes we weren’t familiar with. Here is my very quick, brief, and poorly photographed version of the events that followed:
Prado Cafe: This was the meeting place to pick up the our Tasting Plate stamp card. As you can probably see by the pic above, it got a little rough by the end. The folks taking our tickets and giving out the cards were quick and friendly. Good start so far. As part of the event, Prado was offering some iced drinks and snacks. We decided to leave this till last.
Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen So, yeah….. the room was packed as soon as we walked in. We got in a line to the bar in the back and eventually given a little styrofoam plate and ushered off. Now, according to Aloo Tiki and a ‘Surprise Item’. Well, the Aloo Tiki was a cool, dense little pattie. The ‘Surprise Item’ was apparently chicken, as my vegetarian girlfriend found out. A dry little bit of chicken. We’ve been to Siddhartha’s quite a few times in the last year or so, back even when it was the Tandoori Grill. The food is normally excellent and plentiful. There’s been several times where the server would bring by little free samples to try. I like the restaurant a lot, and that’s what made it double disappointing to get what we did. It’s probably the best Indian food on the Drive, but you wouldn’t know it by that night. Anyways. Not good.
La Mezcaleria: Stood in line outside for about 5 minutes. Were told by people ahead of us that we were supposed to go inside and put our names down. The hostess would then come out and call our names when ready. These same folks have apparently already been waiting for about 15 minutes. We decided to come back later…
Pasture to Plate: I’ve bought some of their meat and have had some of their excellent sandwiches in the past. The meat is expensive, but worth it. The sandwiches are reasonably priced and excellent. We were ushered inside and served quickly. They had their system down. Card was stamped and plate was served. And what a nice little plate it was. Carpaccio on a little crustini, some sausage on a stick, a little porchetta, and a little pastry with some onion jam and bacon. Good god. It was all my favourite things. I could have kept on eating those until saddness would eventually ensue. Pasture to Plate people: you are the awesome sauce.
And on we went…
Five Elements Cafe: They’ve only been around for a few months now, I believe, but I’ve gotten a little addicted to their Bahn Mi’s. Nice little grilled pork sandwiches for 4 bucks every day. They also got some pretty good frozen yogurt going on there too. The place was packed. Every table was filled with
Tasting Plate participants (what the hell can we be called? Tasters? Sure, Tasters. Why not?) Tasters. The servers were working like crazy trying to get every body fed. Their menu was pretty ambitious for a night like this. From the menu that was included, we had a choice of two tasting plates (A: Crispy Spring Roll, Green Papaya & Shrimp Salad, Shrimp on Sugar Cane, Creamy Pumpkin Coconut Soup or the Vegan option B)Crispy Spring Roll, Green Papaya & Tofu Salad, Coconut Curry, Tom Yum Thai Hot & Sour Soup) or a couple different combinations of Pho. That’s a lot of different little plates and bowls of soup to be juggling around. We went with the two tasting plates. And I gotta say, it was all pretty damn good. The spring rolls were nice and crispy. The salad was refreshing a nd light. The stand out for me though was that Pumpkin Coconut Soup. I could eat a whole lot more of that. And probably will. Five Elements is a really nice addition to Commercial Drive. Every time I go there, I get pretty happy.
Via Tevere Pizzeria I’m a little ashamed I’ve never been here before. They had all of their indoor seating dedicated to regular customers, but they had their covered patio out back filled with Tasters (yeah, I don’t know how much I like ‘Tasters’. That doesn’t really sound right either). All of the pizza was coming from their food truck WITH A WOOD BURNING STOVE parked out back. Seriously. That truck is pretty awesome. We got ushered in pretty quickly, and were given the option to stand and eat or wait for a seat. We waited for a seat, but two opened up pretty quickly. With our stamp, we got a slice each of their Capricciosa and Margherita pizzas. Really, really tasty. Loved the light and chewy crust. I would like to go back and eat more please. Jesus, god. I’m getting stuffed by this point….
Gelateria Dolce Amore Look: I don’t know much about gelato or ice cream, or what have you. I’m not a big sweets guy. That being said, the scoops of Milk Strawberry and Hazlenut were really lovely. And the staff were very nice as well. One of them was doing an excellent job greeting customers into the shop and also entertaining a customer’s kid. Nice people and good gelato. Y’know, if you’re into that kind of thing.
And on and on….
La Mezcaleria Revisited Longer line this time. Wandered inside and put our name on the list. “At least a 30 minute wait…” I was told.
A quick refreshment at Prado Cafe: We were fed iced tea, a Macchiato, and a couple raspberry and fig bars. They were lovely. We drank our tea and coffee and discussed whether or not to hit La Mezcaleria. It was already past nine. Emboldened by caffiene, we thought “Fuck it. We will not be beaten by lines.”
La Mezcaleria: Revisited. Again. Checked back in with the hostess. Still another 15 minutes or so wait. We went back out into the line. Hostess comes out and calls out the names of the next in line. We hear two folks who were standing in line for the last 20-30 minutes who just realized that they had to give their names to get in. Pushed to the back of the line. Signage probably would have been helpful. Finally, we get in. Looks like half the room is regular customers and the other half is Tasters (Yeah, I’m starting to hate that name). So, pretty much what they did was keep most of the paying participants out in the rain for an average of 30 minutes while they continued to take regular customers at the same time. So, they kinda like, I don’t know, double booked seats. The restaurant already has the money from us Tasting Plate people. And since we already paid, we’re going to wait around… or just leave. Interesting way to roll… Anyways, we get our plate. Apparently, they ran out of the ceviche that was originally on the tasting menu, so we got chicken instead.
Yup. It’s a shame. I like Le Taqueria a lot. La Mezcaleria… eh. Maybe I’ll give it another try in the future. In the meantime, I think I’ll go to the always excellent (albeit vegetarian) Bandidas Taqueria down the street for my taco needs.
Note: I’ve since been back to La Mezcal. They may have just had an off night or maybe I was just in a shit mood, but l’ve been back there a few times and the food and service were both excellent. And I finally got to try the ceviche. So, y’know. Yay me.
Still love Bandidas though.
And there we go… three hours of Tasting Plates boiled quickly down to probably too many words. Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves. Food was good and all of the restaurants participating (for the most part) were super friendly and tasty. For our first Tasting Plate tour, I’d say it was a pretty dang nice experience.