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Chef Dale MacKay shows he’s worthy of his Top Chef Canada win with a stellar lineup of pub fare and craft beers at his newest venture ensemble Tap
Vancouver’s Dale MacKay, winner of the Food Network’s first Top Chef Canada, opened Ensemble Tap in December 2011
I’d walked past ensemble Tap (or eTap if you’re in the know) on my way to a movie at the Scotiabank theatre, just two doors down, a number of times before finally stopping in.
I’d heard great things and especially wanted to try the chicken burger that my friend Erin recommended. I was also intrigued by its menu of more than 45 craft beers from around the world.
My eTap experience got a whole lot more awesome when I found out they had flights of beer for just $8.75 and 15 picks on tap. I love flights. It’s awesome to be able to try a variety of beverages without having to drink from someone else’s glass (yuck).
My husband is a huge wing fan and general manager Chris Cho told us they were awesome so we got a half pound of hot wings and a half pound of Thai wings to start (pictured below).
They were awesome, I mean really awesome. The hot wings were the perfect amount of hot – just a hint of the tingles and sweats but no pain – and they were unique and flavourful, nothing generic or boring about them. The Thai wings were so good that, when no one was looking, I dipped my fingers in the remaining sauce and licked them clean.
If you want to try eTap’s wings I suggest you go on a Monday night when they’re 50 percent off, only $6 a pound.
There are daily deals all week and Tuesday’s special is a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans, Kennebeck fries and a sleeve of Red Truck Ale for $15 (pictured at top).
I have to admit that I’ve never watched the Food Network (why watch people cook food and then eat it when you could do so yourself?) so I missed chef MacKay’s big win on the inaugural season of Top Chef Canada, and his challenge-winning pulled pork sandwich, the very same one you see on eTap’s menu.
We gave him top marks for the sandwich too – the meat was tasty and juicy but not drippy, and topped with a delicious apple-horseradish slaw – and the accompanying homemade beans and fries were fantastic too.
Next we tried the housemade sausage platter (pictured above), $17, which comes with a selection of three housemade sausages and a fresh pretzel. That day they were offering caraway, Thai and BBQ sausages. They were all great but the Thai sausage won my heart with its fresh lemongrass notes. And I ate more than my fair share of the chewy pretzels – extras are $3 each.
Then it was time for the crispy chicken burger (pictured above), $14. It comes in a focaccia bun stuffed with crunchy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside chicken breast, bacon, avocado mousse, shredded Romaine, and smoked paprika mayo, and those same delicious Kennebeck fries. Golly it was good.
While I ate my burger my husband had the 9-ounce Kettle Ridge hanger steak (pictured above), $22, with Michelle’s chimmichurri sauce (named after executive chef Brad Hendrickson’s wife), roasted fingerling potatoes, crispy shallots, and charred tomatoes. The steak was tender and a perfect medium-rare, and the vegetables were the perfect accompaniments. The uber-garlicky chimmichurri sauce was right up my alley but a little too intense for my husband.
Even though our pants were busting at their seams, I couldn’t leave without trying the apple crumble, $7.50, with Bourbon raisins and vanilla ice cream. I’m a sucker for any kind of apple dessert and this one had me at Bourbon.
In addition to their daily specials (like Thursday’s New York strip loin and Carolus Belgium ale pairing for $35), eTap has special events like multi-course beer-paired dinners happening one Monday each month. It’s also open at 11 am for brunch on weekends.
For more information on eTap’s menu, special offers and events, visit its website.