Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Vancouver Foodster Presents: Tasting Plates Central Richmond (July 9, 2014)

At my second TastingPlatesYVR experience, and I'm super stoked! Last time was in Gastown, this one is located in Central Richmond-- so I'm thinking... with a Chinese flare? No! It was located at many of the hotel restaurants, and my taste buds were about to be tantalized! Many thanks to my blog photographer and nomming buddy Adorables for the great shots =D *Long post warning!*

Registration was at Harold's Bistro and Bar and we dined in a reserved outdoor patio area (which was beautiful) as the the chefs prepared our meals.

We were first served their Tasting Cup which was a Somersby Cider. Neither Adorables or I could tolerate alcohol well, so this was sadly just a pretty cup of liquid. I took a little sip though, light and a bit sweet, I liked it =)

Their Tasting Plate included (1) Five-Spice Rubbed Tuna Tataki with Papaya Relish, (2) Pulled Pork Sliders, and (3) Italian Meatball topped with Asiago. Presentation is nice, neat, and the portions were surprisingly generous (I'm comparing this to the last tasting plates I went to).

I sunk my teeth into the Pulled Pork Slider first and it was delicious. The bun was chewy and moist plus it balanced out the salty and sweet pulled pork. The smokey flavor really pulled through in the pork as the tender bits melted in my mouth. I found the pulled pork to be a bit too salty afterwards, but enjoyed the slider.

Then I dug into the  Italian Meatball topped with Asiago. This was one massive meatball (at least 2 inches in diameter) which packed a lot of flavor. I liked their pairing of herbs and the perfect amount of tomato sauce that was on it-- mm mm GOOD! However, to be fair, the meatball in itself was just a slightly above-average meatball, nothing crazy about it =P

Last on this plate was the Five-Spice Rubbed Tuna Tataki with Papaya Relish. Three beautiful slices lay before me and it melted in my mouth. The tuna wasn't overpowered by the spices, worked in a nice harmony. I couldn't quite taste the papaya even when I just tried the relish, however this was a well-thought out and delicate plating that I appreciated a lot.

Right next door was American Grille, offering a non-alcoholic option to their Tasting Cup, a Peach Breeze. This was nice and fruity (couldn't put my finger on what fruit it was exactly) and the fruit skewer added fanciness to it.

This was one of the self-serve restaurants where the chefs prepared the plates on a large table and we grabbed our own when we were told it was ready =) (kinda confusing because they never said anything)

They offered a (1) House Cured Gravlax of Salmon, (2) Poached Anjou Pear on a Stilton Crumble Savory Tart, and (3) Roasted BC Halibut, Spaetzle, Corn Succotash and Green Pea Puree. I couldn't quite see the poached pear, perhaps it was sitting under my salmon? (Adorables' plate looked like it had no salmon) The salmon was like smoked salmon, chewy and a bit fishy. Not bad. Inside I believe was the pear (tasted like some Boursin cheese) and the tart. The tart itself was very generic, kinda disappointing that it was a bit harder and less melty in the mouth than expected. Then there was the Roasted Halibut, which was tender and moist. Delicious. Mines was a bit undercooked (probably because Adorables got me the biggest piece he saw), but I'm still alive. Mixed in the green pea puree with the spaetzle and corn succotash-- very bland and under seasoned. Spaetzle had a good texture to it though, chewy and moist.

Next we hurried over to CAVU Kitchen Bar. We were warmly greeted by servers and brought to reserved tables while nibbling on a blueberry ice panna cotta (complimentary) "palate cleanser". We were introduced to the setup of the restaurant: where drinks were located, what they offered, and where we could sit.

All the drinks offered were alcoholic, so we asked if there were any virgin options, and were brought a yummy Shirley Temple! After some stirring it wasn't the pretty sunset color anymore... it turned so bloody x.x Adorables found it too sweet, but I really liked it.

Some people were served their food, but being impatient, I sent Adorables to fetch us some grub. Plating I must say, was beautiful. With the center card describing the food, this was so exciting for me. They presented (1) Chicken Chorizo with Malagueta, Country Relish, Yucca, Honey Glaze and (2) Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Coconut and Mango Gels, Dulce du Leche, Crispy Pearls, Fruit Bark, and a Macaroon.

Super excited to dig in, I went for dessert first! The macaron was AMAZIIIINNNG! Chewy but melted in my mouth, not too sweet either! Now the coconut and mango gels were disappointing, rather bland and hard to pick up with a fork (really soft) but when I ate them with the crispy pearls, it was better balanced out. Pineapple upside down cake had pineapple on top and a dulce du leche themed bottom. A bit on the sweet side, the cake was light and fluffy (didn't really touch the pineapple though-- allergies ><")

Onto the Chicken and Chorizo, the chorizo was a bit spicy and packed full of herby goodness with the ground pork (?). My chicken was dry but seasoned well. The yuuca chip on top was something new to me, I liked the crispiness of it, no feeling of oiliness here =) Relish was just enough with the chicken, not overpowering and not too tart.

I must say here, CAVU was the winner of the evening, with their service and presentation. A well-rounded experience with delicious food and drinks! I just wish they leaked where they got those tasty macarons *-*

We drove to the next location, as it was getting farther down the road, Thai House. A rather empty restaurant but with a cute waitress who was dressed in traditional Thai-wear. Very cute. Anyways, the dishes here are (1) Chicken Satay, (2) Shrimp Cake, and (3) Beef Lettuce Wrap. Having come from an amazing CAVU experience, this was very un-satay-sfying. Served on styrofoam plates and with plastic forks, the food here was cold and looked realllly sketch. Anyways, they also offered drink specials (for $2.00). We got a Lychee Coconut milk drink, it was really tasty! The lychee was hard to decipher at first but then it came through and added some ZING to the coconut milk. Not picture-worthy for Adorables though.

So I tried the chicken satay first, whcih was smothered in peanut sauce and a vinaigrette sauce. Chicken didn't taste too fresh, and I prefer my satays to be hot =( Flavors were authentic though!

Then there was the shrimp cake which also wasn't very fresh (starting to go bad). It was cold and not crispy buuuuut it did have the right amount of spring in its texture. Sauce was generic sweet-spicy sauce... covered up the "garbage" taste as I swallowed the entire piece (which I kinda regretted after, but I survived). The beef lettuce wrap was quite tasty, but again, cold. I only tried the beef, was too scared to have the lettuce and others, a bit on the salty side.

Moving on, we arrived at a drink stop, Fresh Press Coffee. The owner and her daughter were super friendly and told us they had just opened recently. They made us fresh coffee and there was an overall great vibe there. We got to try their (1) Affogato, (2) London Fog, (3) Pour Over Coffee, and (4) Almond Croissant.

I especially enjoyed the croissant, it was flaky and moist with the almond being prominent in the piece. Affogato was my favorite out of the three drinks as the ice cream was delicious with that hint of espresso. London fog was a bit cold when we tried it (wandered around the store so much it got cold), but it was nicely sugared, not too sweet. I only watched them make the pour over coffee but it smelled really nice and legit =3

Onto our last stop, The Apron! It was quite a ways away and hard to find parking, but just caught the sunset's last rays here =) Didn't realize it was such a small establishment, so I just sat down after listening to and watching the chef assemble our Tasting Plate. Here they had (1) Tamarind Seared Scallop, Honeydew & Calamansi Gazpacho and (2) Sous Vide Pork Belly, Parsnip, White Chocolate, Cider Jus.

After listening to how fancy the dish was and all the time and effort behind the dish, I was rather disappointed at the pork. The main item tasted like BBQ pork from a Chinese place but was dry, tough, and unevenly fat-layered. The rind which he had made himself that day... was like something you could buy from a store in a package. Crunchy but average. Now, the parsnip and white chocolate puree was quite a beautiful pairing. The white chocolate made the parsnip sweeter and creamier-- great! Onto the scallop, which was disappointing as it was just a scallop on a skewer. I mean it was cooked and seasoned well but nothing wow about it. The honeydew and calamansi gazpacho was the highlight of the meal-- light and refreshing, packing in some tangyness and sweetness. I ended up drinking Adorables' half cup too heh.

Afterthoughts:

Pros
- Fast, efficient registration process
- Portion sizes were generous
- Dishes were beautifully portrayed
- Six locations paired with Tasting cup made it easier to get to all locations within allotted time

Cons
- Some restaurants only offered alcoholic options for Tasting Cup
- Locations were more spaced out and required alternate mode of transportation (couldn't possibly walk there in a reasonable amount of time)
- Plates and service was a bit confusing (some were self-serve, some had service, but neither was specified) and it was sometimes rather slow

Overall, this was a great event. I love the class this one brought, I probably wouldn't have had the chance to try all these places with my poor student budget, but this was great! Got to go to fancy restaurants without breaking my bank =D I felt this one was better organized than the other TastingPlatesYVR (Gastown) event I went to; it's reassuring to see them improving consistently!