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Tasting Plates Gastown Review
If you close your eyes and count to ten, by the time you reach the last number, ten restaurants in Gastown will have disappeared. With money hungry landlords demanding outrageous rents for Vancouver premises, more than half of the new restaurants featured on Tasting Plates Gastown each year are new establishments who think that they have what it takes to maintain a successful business with Vancouver’s unaffordable rents. So here’s my Tasting Plates Gastown Review for this year’s featured new Gastown establishments and two establishments that seem to have the formula for success. If you want to know which ones, read the following Tasting Plates Gastown Review.
36 Powell Street, Vancouver
Registration for Tasting Plates Gastown was at Milano Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop that’s been at this Gastown location for quite some time, which doesn’t surprise me as it offers excellent coffee. It’s not a franchise (owned by Linda and Brian Turko and Barry and Colleen Henry), and has seven locations (three in Vancouver) that utilize their own 70% certified organic coffee beans in each of their blends. Our Tasting Plates consisted of Espresso Franks whose aroma was just as bold and robust as its flavour, while the Pumpkin Spice Latte didn’t have any of the artificial flavouring of other pumpkin lattes I’ve consumed. It was simply pure unadulterated taste pumpkin, delivered straight from the Great Pumpkin Patch. The latte is also available with almond or coconut milk which makes me wish that one of their four Vancouver locations (West 8th, Gastown, Denman Street, Commercial Drive) was close to my work place as it truly is a place for people who want to wake up to smell the aroma of high quality coffees.
If you can’t make it to a Milano location, you can also order their coffee beans online. Some of the beans I think sound enticing are:
- Lucky 13 as 13 distinctive single origins gives you a complex combination of body, flavour, aroma and acidity, fruits, flowers, spices, nuts and cocoa
- The Chubby Rain has tonnes of tons of caramel favour with a bold and a little roasty flavour
- Bourbon has 8 different single orgins and has notes of Buttered toast and whiskey, with low acidity which would make it an amazing espresso for milk based drinks
197 Keefer Pl, Vancouver
Our second stop was at Charisma Cafe which was located conveniently by the Stadium Skytrain Station. If you’re ever looking for a place to eat tasty but inexpensive food, head here unless you have a money tree in your backyard and love to eat $15 hot dogs and $10 popcorn when you’re attending events at BC Place or Rogers Arena. Our Tasting Plates consisted of hot and tasty soup choices of Apple Butternut Squash Soup (vegan), Chicken Noodle Soup or Potato Bacon Chowder which are offered for the insanely low price of $5.00. I opted for the Apple Squash which was thick and you could smell the fragrant spices, one of which I suspect was cloves. My friend had the Potato Bacon Chowder which she said was creamy with a pronounced bacon flavour.
At the Tasting Plates event, we received a pamphlet which contained their menu and a coupon for a free bubble tea. Besides soup, Charisima Cafe also offers and cheesecake, bubble tea (100+ choices), sandwiches, ice cream and Belgian Waffles. All ice cream is made in-house and they have a variety of interesting flavours ranging from Matcha, Banana Whiskey and Thai Milk Tea, most of which would pair quite nicely with their signature Apple Cheesecake. You can also sign up for a a member reward program with special promotions such as happy hour specials for members, and birthday drinks.
Balila Taste Kitchen
47 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
The world is my hummus, at least it appears to be so as so many hummus-inspired establishments are popping up faster than I can eat chocolates and that’s pretty darn fast. I use Nuba, Chick Pea and Saj and Co as the standard for good hummus. So how did Balila Hummus rate to the aforementioned three establishments whose hummus makes me hum in the night? Well, to be honest, there was a lot of issues getting the Tasting Plates at Balila probably due to the fact that this is a small establishment which wasn’t organized to serve so many hangry people at once. We waited for over half an hour for lukewarm Chick Pea Soup and bland Hummus (did they not have time to put a few spices in it?) Sorry, Balila but first impressions will either cause people to come back or to simply stay away and you only get one chance to impress. I’m wondering if their other location at Helmeken might be better as their menu does sound interesting with hummus flavours such as Beetroot, Kale, Pesto or Rainbow (all the hummus items rolled into one if you can’t decide). I’m wondering if the the The Balila Hummus house specialty with walnuts, onions, garlic, sweet pepper, dill pepper and spices can convince me not to put Balila . on the “never coming back and you can’t make me” list. But for now, Balila Hummus gets a C- on my Tasting Plates Gastown Review.
49 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
Cuisine: Candy store
If you look at the photo above, the first thing that comes to mind is hard candy. But surprisingly enough, caramel started off as hardened sugar and it was only after 1650 when someone in America added milk which resulted in the chewy caramel that we all equate as “caramel”. So to sum it up, Wishing Treats are natural artisan caramel treats which are not artificially flavoured and are created with pictures or text and comes in various flavours such as Tropical Mix, Tutti-fruitti, Rootbeer, Grapefruit, Kiwi, etc. These types of caramels with artwork have been quite popular in Asia for a while now and Wishing Treats is the first company to bring this candy trend to North America. Our Tasting Plates contained a surprise selection, so I’m only guessing that we received Kiwi, Citrus and Blueberry flavours, all of which were very flavourful and oh so addicting. This candy would be great for gifts or showers as there are special candy mixes for Congrats, It’s a Boy, It’s a Girl or Love Mix. But I’m thinking that I’d like to make a “I Hate You Mix” for ex-boyfriends with pictures of daggers, gravestones and dead rats. And I bet it would be their best seller, just saying.
Burrata Bruschetta, Yuzu Ponzu Pork Belly and West Coast Crab Cake
Water Street Cafe
300 Water St, Vancouver
Cuisine: Italian, westcoast and seafood
Our Tasting Plates at the Water Street Cafe was truly a trio of succulent and savoury bites as the Yuzu Ponzu Pork Belly was really crispy, exactly the way Asians like their pork belly. The West Coast Crab Cakes was chock full of crab and shrimp and moist while the Burrata Brushetta was very flavourful, even without the burrata which I kicked off my plate due to my allergy, with garden fresh heirloom tomatoes and salsa verde.
Although the owners (Eli Brennan, GM from the Teahouse Restaurant, Cardero’s and Alan Tse: Executive Chef from the Teahouse Restaurant) have only owned the Water Street Cafe, since November 2017, the Water Street Cafe is actually celebrating 30 years of business this month (October 2018) as it’s been around since 1988, which in and of itself is a miracle in the Vancouver restaurant industry. The Water Street Cafe has been featured in past Vancouver Foodster events but since the change in ownership, I’ve noticed a remarkable improvement in the quality of the food which doesn’t surprise me as I have always had good experiences when I’ve eaten at the Teahouse. But unlike the Teahouse in Stanley Park, the Water Street Cafe has a few great promotions which allows you to enjoy great food at reduced prices:
- On Sundays, come for a 3 course dinner for $35
- Happy hour is daily 3pm-5pm with $5 wine, $5 beer, $8 cocktails and 1/2 off appetizers
- On Wine Mondays, all bottles of wine are 40% off
Dreamsicle and Midnight Chocolate vegan ice cream on activated charcoal cone
1055 Canada Place, Vancouver
Whenever I end the night on a happy ending, it means I’m eating dessert, so get your mind out of the gutter. And Uno Gelato marks the return of Maestro James Coleridge who opened Bella Gelateria but due to a breakup with his wife/partner, James has once again arisen from the melted ice cream scoops and opened not one, but three new gelato shops – Uno Gelato, proving that you can smack a good man with an ice cream bucket, but sooner or later, he’ll rise up and fill up that bucket with even better ice cream goodness. As I’ve always been a fan of Bella Gelateria and I’ve already been to the Kitsilano location of Uno Gelato, so I already knew what to expect at the Stamps Landing location (the third location is at Burrard Landing).
At the Tasting Plates Gastown I tried the vegan flavours of Midnight Chocolate and Dreamsicle on an Activated Charcoal Cone. Sounds weird? Well the Activated Charcoal Cone just tasted similar to licorice and paired quite nicely with the creamy Midnight Chocolate, which to me tasted like it was triple chocolate (I think my eyeballs actually went back in my head). There wasn’t quite enough orange flavour in the Dreamsicle, and it wasn’t as creamy as the Midnight Chocolate. Otherwise, no complaints. Each location of Uno Gelato offers 12 choices of gelatos made with organic ingredients and flavours vary from Akba Mashti, Chocolate Brownie, Salted Caramel, Strawberry and Balsamic Glaze.
About Tasting Plates
Each month Richard Wolak organizes one or two different Tasting Plates event focused on a specific neighbourhood or food theme. There are usually four or fives restaurants on the tour. This is a self-guided tour which you are given about four hours to visit each location. You begin at a common registration point where you receive your Tasting Plates ticket which will list the tasting plates at each establishment. The price of this ticket varies as the earlier you buy your ticket, the lower the price will be. You should subscribe to the Tasting Plates newsletter to learn about new Tasting Plates events. My ticket is complimentary as I promote this event and write reviews and I tweet and instagram photos.