We were invited to attend Dishcrawl Vancouver’s Main Street dinner circuit in May. Each month, a different neighbourhood in Vancouver is selected, featuring a few of the established restaurants within blocks of one another. Each restaurant gets to serve their best dishes to a community of food lovers.
The portions of each dish are adjusted so guests are able to enjoy food from all of the participating dining venues. While the first restaurant is disclosed to you before the night of the dinner, they reveal each one the night of just before leaving the restaurant. A ticket to a Dishcrawl event includes a seat at each of the restaurants and the cost of the featured dishes including tips. Beverages aside from water are billed separately.
Cottage Bistro was our meeting spot, and the first restaurant that we dined at. Located in Riley Park, it provides patrons with a comfortable atmosphere, and offers live band performances throughout the week. We were informed that the power was out on the entire block, so there was a slight delay with getting the food out. The server did a good job offering us something to drink while we waited. Eugene introduced us to each of his three dishes:
- Jazzy potatoes (right): herb-flavoured mashed potato, bacon jam with Jack Daniel’s and mustard seeds, and sunflower seeds. I wasn’t able to taste much of the herbs, so I wondered if they used dried or fresh ingredients. The bacon jam, however, was flavourful with the combination of the whisky and mustard seeds, which helped perfume the mashed potato.
- Mao gua (melon) maki (centre): melon wrapped with Chinese mushrooms and greens, seasoned with miso aioli. The miso aioli provides plenty of seasoning for the melon, as melons are usually light in taste. It was nicely presented as the middle of the melon is dug out and filled with veggies, which slightly resemble a piece of nori wrapped sushi (hence the word “maki”).
- Spicy eggplant tartini (left): double cooked eggplant blended with artichoke, olive and banana pepper. The texture of the eggplant was fluffy, and the consistency was airy, which was different from any other experience I had with eggplant. Although it was unique, I found it to be a bit too moist for me. The banana peppers were quite spicy, and the chip was nice and heavy to balance out the lightness of the eggplant.
Our next stop was just down the street at Spice Up Indian Cuisine, an authentic Indian restaurant located on the west side of Main Street. The power was on on this block, so we were relieved. Taught by his mother, Prodeep shared his passion for cooking homestyle Indian dishes without using any additives or colouring. Spices are grounded up and mixed in their kitchen. At this restaurant, we were offered 5 different dish samples:
- Vegetable samosa: Stuffed fried triangle pastry with savoury vegetable filling.
- 9 bean salad: 9 types of beans soaked and mixed together with tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, and house special spices. This dish was not yet on their menu, so we had the privilege of sampling it before it was available to the general public.
- Eggplant bharta: Flame roasted eggplants cooked with ginger and garlic, tomatoes, green chillies, and peas.
- Parantha: Whole wheat unleavened multilayered flat bread pan-baked with ghee.
- Butter chicken: Marinated chicken breast, roasted, with a creamy tomato curry finish.
The third restaurant we walked to was Itadakimasu Restaurant & Sake Bar. Up until now, we’ve had a taste of West Coast and Indian cuisines, so the restaurants chosen were of a good variety. Having been open since last August, Andy brought his experience back from Japan, and offered the following dishes:
- Tuna tataki taco (bottom left): Seared tuna in a deep fried taco with yuzu pepper mayo and shichimi (Japanese seven spices seasoning), and Asian coleslaw. The lightness of the coleslaw balanced out the heaviness of the taco, allowing the flavours of the tuna to shine through.
- Pork belly bao buns (bottom right): Tender crispy pork belly with teriyaki sauce, kewpie mayo, pickled daikon, and cilantro. The pork belly was sweet but was slightly on the dry side. The pickled daikon and the cilantro help to brighten up this dish.
- Pari Pari ebi mayo (centre): Prawns deep fried in tapioca flakes served with sweet chili mayo. I’ve ordered this dish before at my previous visit (click here for the review), and I was fascinated by the green batter that encased the shrimp. This time, it was slightly oilier than I recalled, which made it heavier in taste. Keep in mind that they were feeding roughly 20 of us who sampled the same dishes at the same time, so I’m sure this was a tough task.
The last place we visited was East is East Chai Lounge, a restaurant that focuses on food and delicacies from the ancient Silk Road, from Mongolia through Tibet, India, Persia, all the way to Instanbul. The interior captures the spirit of eateries from these countries, with fantastic live performances in the back corner. If you’ve never been there, take the time to drop by, even just for a nice cup of chai tea. We were offered the following items:
1) Chai accompanied with a Gulab Jaman dessert (left)– traditional Indian cake topped with pistachio and rose water. These two were my top favourites. The chai is creamy and fragrant, balancing out the sweetness from the Gulab Jaman.
2) Vegan chocolate pudding (right). This is a great option for those who can’t have dairy products. Fortunately, I’m not lactose intolerant, and I can say that the difference in taste is very minimal.
3) Persian style rice pudding (right). This was a nice, light dessert which could go well with the sweet Gulab Jaman. In fact, some of these itmes above were part of a dessert called Eastern Ecstacy, which is great for sharing.
It’s amazing how food can bring complete strangers together. We started the evening off knowing just one other person, but quickly ended up meeting several new people who shared our interests in food. We had a fun time guessing the next eatery we’d end up going to. If you’re a food adventurist, and embrace the element of surprise, then check out Dishcrawl Vancouver. Not many people can say they’ve eaten at 4 restaurants in one evening! The next Dishcrawl happens on June 19th, in downtown Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood.