For me, I like variety. This is especially true when talking about eats. That probably explains my love for Tapas, Izakaya and Dim Sum. Think of it, smaller portions meant for sharing. This affords us the opportunity to try more items. Now, imagine at least 16 different little bites in a 2-hour period. Better yet, how about all of this in 7 different restaurants? Add at least 7 alcoholic beverages as well! Crazy? Maybe a little. Fun? Oh gawd yes! Ultimately, this is the what a food tour is all about. Get a bunch of people together and migrate from one restaurant to the next sampling their wares. Now if one was to do that by themselves, it would not only cost much more, it probably cannot be done in 2 hours! Michelle Ng, who runs Vancouver Foodie Tours, has taken up the task of coming up with an itinerary of restaurants that are not only good; but are within walking distance of each other. Tonight, I was graciously invited with others to try out the Foodie Tour. The location of this particular tour took us to the rejuvenated Granville Street in Downtown Vancouver. Co-presented by Downtown Vancouver, this was an opportunity to not only sample food from restaurants along Granville, it was a chance to experience this burgeoning entertainment district. Exciting things are happening on Granville, from complete road closures to street entertainment to a number of interactive activities.
The starting point of this particular tour was in front of the Twisted Fork. Within the large crowd, I got to reconnect with some familiar faces such as Mijune, Gigi, Deagan and Crystal. Since our tour started at 4:30pm, there were no customers at the Twisted Fork and we basically had the place to ourselves. I believe that the operating times of the tours are a benefit to the restaurants. During these hours, there are usually not a whole lot of customers around and this is a great way to bring in business to fill the void. Furthermore, it helps showcase the restaurant and attract return customers who want to move further than the little bites during the tour. It's a win-win situation for both the food tour and the restaurant.
We were served 2 little bites at the Twisted Fork starting with the Cured Duck Breast on Brioche Crouton. I believe it was topped with some form of berry compote (lingonberry?). I found the amuse to be decent; yet unspectacular. A pretty standard approach where the duck breast was tender and the sweetness was a good accent. The second bite consisted of Roasted Beet, Grilled Pear, Goat Cheese and Arugula atop a baguette crouton with balsamic reduction. Yet another decent offering, if not a bit ordinary. The flavours at work here were mostly sweet and tart with a slight bitterness from the arugula. Lastly, there was a spoon of Frozen Chocolate Terrine with raspberry sorbet and mint. This was quite rich and not too sweet.
Next up was a visit to the Refinery. We were served a Southwest Kicka** Benny and this was hands-down my favourite item from the tour. Consisting of a fried panko-coated poached egg atop cornbread with Hollandaise, hot sauce and a Jalapeno pepper slice, this was both creative and tasty. Despite being crispy on the outside, the poached egg was perfectly runny on the inside. The extra kick provided by the sauce and Jalapeno really made the normally bland Eggs Benny come alive. Once finished, we made our way across the street to The Edge where we found 4 items waiting for us. First up was the Flatbread with Beef Tenderloin & Blue Cheese. I liked this one, mostly because there was nice piece of fig that amped the flavour of this bite. I wasn't as impressed with the Flatbread with Smoked Salmon & Goat Cheese. Nothing inherently wrong with it; but it was boring with predictable flavours. The Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho was okay. It's a personal thing with gazpacho, I'm not a big fan of it. I didn't get a chance to try the truffles since we were rushed out to the next destination, which was the Granville Room.
I like the style of the place and the drink, Mr. Pink (Belvedere vodka, muddled watermelon, mint syrup & lime juice) was fantastic. Not something I'd normally order though. As for our amuse, Sesame Encrusted Tuna Tataki on a multigrain crisp topped with a tomato & cucumber salsa, it was disappointing. Actually, the fish was perfect; but the crisp was soggy. Chalk that up to sitting around too long until we got there? From there we made our way to Shuraku. I was happy to see items such as the Ebi Chili Harumaki. Essentially an ebi mayo within a spring roll drenched in chili mayo, this was good. Of course a lot crunchier than a regular ebi mayo. I particularly liked the Zuke Aburi, which consisted of a torched piece of tuna with scallions and wasabi on top. Not sure of the actual name of the item since it doesn't really make sense to me; but no matter, it was a nice light bite. The last item, Angus Beef Wrap with mashed potato and corn was alright; but the mashed potato was a bit odd for me.
My last stop (there was one more, but I had to leave) was Culinaria (part of the AI Culinary School). We were served a Crab Ravioli with smoked salmon sauce along side of Duck Confit with Szechuan pepper jus. I found that the ravioli was quite bland. Other than the salmon, I couldn't pick out any other flavours. As for the duck, I thought it was decent being tender. The skin was a bit chewy though. Also, the sauce was more like a demi-glace than Szechuan. Finishing up was a Chocolate Decadence cake. I found it rich, chocolaty and not too sweet; yet curiously dry. I never made it to the last stop (Creme de la Crumb) because my meter was running out. This was definitely a fun experience, if not a bit rushed. However, considering that the regular Granville tour is only $10.00 (it is now $60.00 since the first year was sponsored by Downtown Vancouver), I'd take being rushed any day.
*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*
- A great value considering the amount of food and drinks
- Lots of variety
- A quick sample of many restaurants
- It's a bit rushed