Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ensemble - Yes, the Dude from Top Chef Canada

Crab Roll
In the last few weeks in Vancouver, D and I had been trying to cover alot of gastric ground.  This is obviously no small feat with our new small feet (bad baby pun intended).  I'll stop now.  We don't have baby sitters for our newborn so we've been visiting alot of the places that have been our long standing 'to go to list' or 'need to have one more time list' during the day or on off peak nights like Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  We even got a photo with the lil dude and Tojo on one of those excursions :).

Well, time was ticking and cousin, H was visiting from Toronto and so I took the opportunity to take her to Ensemble.  She offered to let D and I go while she stayed home with the lil dude but D insisted I take H since she came all this way.  Truth be told, I hadn't really wanted to go.  It was on D's list.  I actually had though the Chef/Owner Dale was a bit of a douche on the first season of Top Chef Canada.  I had been rooting for Connie.  That said, even my good mates K and J who felt the same about him on the show both raved about the food.  What can I say?  I trust my girls. 
We booked on Open Table and were pleasantly surprised how empty it was.  It was a Sunday I guess, which also meant, the chef wouldn't be there.  Too bad, I wanted to get a photo for D.   The concept is the very popular and too often abused small plates.  Why do I say abused?  Because the average price of the small plate means they'll be listed on the 'affordable' scale on most sites but the per person price is a more realistic way of rating which is not on that 'affordable' end of the scale particularly the small plates are just that, quite small.  Often they are smaller than appetisers.  What I also found annoying is that the server here, as they do in similar places, suggest 2 to 3 different dishes each.  This is aggravated by the fact that the menu is very limited.  If you are in a party of 2-3 people, you will have to order every item on the menu to have that many dishes.  There's that Top Chef douche that I so wanted to turn the dial on trying to dictate what I should eat.  Dale was always the contestant who took the stance of "this is my food and this is what I do, take it or leave it".  Lo and behold, he baked that into his restaurant.  As it turns out, if we had done that, we would have been rolling out of there.  I always go 1 less they they try to 'sell' you. 

Yes, J and D, I'm done complaining about Dale now.  On to the food.

The first dish to come out was the Crab Roll.  It was a cigar size rice roll stuffed with Dungeness.  It was very fresh, and surprisingly abundant on fresh picked Crab.  Downsides?  It was a tad bland and I found a big chunk of shell.  I nearly chipped a tooth biting into it.  I pointed it out to the server who's reservedly disdainful reply was 'Oh.'.  Yeah, I carried around a shell just to place it on the plate to complain.  I mean come on, at least apologise.  I clearly ate the rest of it. 

H ordered the Black Cod in Pork Thai broth.  We had taken her to Sha Lin the night before.   A popular chinese hole in the wall with awesome food.  She preferred the similar dish she had at Sha Lin.  Actually, she found something about the combination of the spices and that weak, water broth a bit off putting.  When the server came by to collect her still rather full bowl, she asked how everything was.  H, a very non confrontational person, admitted, quite honestly, it was not very good.  The server looked at her puzzled as if there must be something wrong with her hearing or H's mouth.  Well, it's one of our most popular dishes, she tried to explain.  I did not see how that was relevant to this experience.  I am not surprised by her answer though since that item is advertised as a popular dish in the menu.

Moroccan Black Cod
I had a Moroccan Spiced Black Cod.  I have to admit it was perfectly cooked.  However, it was on the blandside and the dryness of the rub was texturally a tad unpleasant.  The Hummous was very very bland but the Carrots were well cooked.  When I say something is bland, that is something.  I tend to find things too salty. 

Thai Mussels

et Frites
Lastly we shared the Curry Mussels with Fries.  They were lovely.  All the Mussels were perfect as if someone had handpicked the cooked ones.  There wasn't a single empty shell in the bowl and we practically drank the broth in the little dutch oven.  The fries were nice, very crispy but with the big serving of Mussels, we didn't really need them.  This was when I was happy we did not order three each.  In fact, having ordered the Mussels, we needn't have ordered the 1 extra to share.  I would have this again and again.  The Fish dish and the Pork Broth, yeah, I would not recommend those to anyone though.  I'm not sure I'd be clamouring to go back when I'm back in town.  I'd sooner hit Sha Lin, Tojo's or Go Fish if I breezed through.

Cost: $$$-$$$$
Wine list: Decent
Service: odd. cool, smiley yet not willing to please.
Child friendly: Oh gawd no.  The place was empty on a Sunday and I would have felt out of place with lil Dude.
Ambiance: dark and forgettable

(604) 569-1770
Robson Street/West End
850 Thurlow St
Vancouver, BC V6E
Ensemble on Urbanspoon


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