Sherman's Food Adventures: Indishpensable


What happens when you want to cook at home, but have absolutely no ingredients to do so? Well, the people at Indishpensable think that they have your solution. In addition to being a restaurant, they specialize in packaging fully prepped ingredients for you to cook at home. Exact quantities and detailed instructions should make it easy for even the worst of cooks (in theory that is). This would be a great way for anyone to fool dinner guests into thinking they were a gourmet chef. For this post, I was challenged by Indishpensable to try one of their pre-packaged take and make meals. After that, I needed to purchase all of the ingredients for that meal and make it again. The challenge was to make it for less than the meal would have cost at Indishpensable. Of course, the first meal was complimentary and the second meal was covered up to $50.00. Although I did get a freebie of sorts here, I was assured that I could say whatever I wanted about the product and the resulting challenge.

When I went to pick up my package, I was greeted by Brent, one of the co-owners of Indishpensable. He explained that all of the items are freshly prepared and packaged for each customer. Best thing to do is to call ahead, so the package is ready for pickup when you arrive. For the really busy or lazy person, there is also delivery (using a cooler bag) available as well. I was given a choice of 4 dinners for two and decided on the Oven-roasted Halibut & Rosemary wrapped in Prosciutto, smashed new potatoes with dill & truffle oil, confit of tomato, zucchini & capers. Upon inspecting the ingredients at the store, it was noted that they used local ingredients and the halibut was Ocean-Wise. Furthermore, the meal came with a coupon for 10% off a paired bottle of wine from Kitsilano Wine Cellar.

Upon getting home, I hastily started cooking because daylight was becoming scarce (for the pictures!). Following the instructions, I first started boiling the potatoes while preheating the oven. While that was going, I started on the tomato confit. As both things were happily cooking, Viv got home from work and helped me wrap the halibut and rosemary in the prosciutto. She stuck that in the oven and I continued cooking the confit. While that was finishing off, I drained the potatoes and added the prepackaged ingredients and proceeded to smash them. By then, the halibut was done and I merely plated it as per the instructions. What impressed me here was the accurate timing and organization of the cooking. Obviously, everything has been thought out thoroughly and made as easy as possible for the end user. That's a good thing, because some customers are probably not used to cooking.

As you can see in the picture, the dish looks pretty tasty. In fact, it was pretty good. Despite the large quantity of herbs used in this dish, they did not overpower any of the ingredients. The herbs added flavour without copious amount of salt. Presentation- wise, there was quite a bit of green on the plate though. I really liked the use of anchovies in the tomato confit because it gives a saltiness that is more complex than plain salt. The use of truffle oil added a subtle earthiness to the potatoes and the prosciutto helped flavour the halibut. However, I think a bit more seasoning was needed for the fish. Since you are cooking it, you can adjust the seasoning as you wish.

Now this meal for 2 purchased at Indishpensable would normally cost $38.00. The second part of the challenge saw me go out and purchase many of the ingredients to recreate the meal. Since some of the items would not be found in a regular grocery store, I chose to shop at Urban Fare. Wait a minute Sherman, you might be yelling out right now. Isn't Urban Fare expensive??? You are correct, but if I were to find truffle oil, there ain't any at Stupidstore! Moreover, if I went to different stores trying to find each item at it's cheapest, I'd waste more gas than any savings I would incur. The only other place I had in mind was Granville Island and it probably would have been a little bit cheaper.

Anyways, I bought most of the items at Urban Fare other than the white wine, rosemary, basil, dill, oregano, garlic, butter, and olive oil. The reason for this is that I had these items already. This is valid because for some people, they would have existing items on hand. The total bill at Urban Fare came to roughly $60.00. If you factor in the other ingredients, it would be well over $90.00 for this meal. Now, of course some of the items would not be completely consumed by this one meal such as the truffle oil, white wine, olive oil and herbs. But you get the gist of it though, there is absolutely no way that someone, purchasing through a retail outlet, could do this meal for $38.00. The only way you can do this meal for remotely the same price is to have most of the items on hand already. But if you did, you'd probably not be Indishpensable's target market. Mind you, if you were short on time, this still could be a dinner solution. Furthermore, you must remember that everything is prepped and cut. Ultimately, for those who want to cook a gourmet meal; but either do not have the know-how or a pantry/fridge stocked with ingredients, Indishpensable is their saviour.

The Good:
- Everything is pre-cut and ready to cook
- Very good portions of food
- It's fresh and everything is thought out carefully
- Can impress girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband

The Bad:
- Some people who have a stocked pantry and can really cook may not go for this
- Although there is delivery available, more locations would be handy (if they continue to be successful, I guess this won't be an issue)

Indishpensable on Urbanspoon


KimHo said...

Earlier this year, I was a (self) guinea pig for a similar (now defunct) shop called Sliced Tomatoes and the conclusion was that this type of shop is not for me, i.e., people who can cook. Also, as we talked about, a lot of these ingredients aren't ingredients we would normally use and then there is the economy of scale. But, then again, there is this question: at $38 for meal for two, won't you instead just go out fo dinner? Hey, no dishes to wash! ;)

Sherman Chan said...

That's true Kim. It also comes down to how much is service and someone cooking it for you is worth. I can definitely see that some people might try it out for curiosity, the occasional meal or an emergency meal. I think the bulk of their customers are those who do not cook on the fly. Moreover, those who only have the basic condiments at home or those who are too lazy to shop.

Anson said...


I'm guessing most of these types of shops/stores are out in the west side? I can't imagine them targetting people other than yuppies. Are there any others (stores) that you know of?

Sherman Chan said...

Anson, it is on the westside and yes, it caters to a specific market with the possibility of occasional out-of-market potential. Other than the place Kim mentioned, I'm not sure if there is many more places like this.

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