I was invited out to the grand opening of TASTE Restaurant and Lounge, located beside FIVESIXTY, a club that resides in the former downtown flagship location of A&B Sound on September 19th, 2012. While I am invited out to grand openings and media events a lot now, I am declining to put up actual posts on this blog, in the interest of offering factual information and experience instead of generally positive comments that come from grand openings.
I understand it’s beneficial for both me, the restaurant and the PR firm that invited me out for exposure, but it’s simply not how I want to run this blog. I’m more than willing to upload my pictures to Flickr for all to view and make their own judgement and call it a night.
Knowing this, I was offered to come taste TASTE (I know, punny) the menu and see what they’re about. I was allowed to pick any 3 items from the menu and a cocktail, and although I kind of had an idea of how I wanted my meal to go in terms of balance and flow, I entertained the thoughts of the staff and went with what they thought would taste best and showcase what TASTE is about. Luckily, it basically coincided with what I had in mind!
I had multiple recommendations to try the Hand Crafted Bacon Chutney, Pear and Brie Stack $14, served with fig compote, sticky onion marmalade and chimmichurri, and so I did. It’s an entire wheel of brie, cut in half, smothered with savvoury bacon and then topped off with sweet pear (jam?), and it had a nice balance of flavours and texture. A modern twist on the traditional method of baking an entire wheel of brie topped with items.
The Lamb Pops $18, served on top of yam fritters with gherkin aioli & fig compote, was one that caught my eye as well. Simply cooked lamb pops with the fatty bit kept on, resting on a shredded yam fritter and served with a bit of pickled cucumber (aka gherkin) aioli. Easy enough, but the price makes me balk just slightly. It’s basically $6 .. a pop! Sorry for all the play on words today.
For the final item, we had the Grande Charcuterie plate $28, house smoked BC duck, merguez, capicollo, salt spring and local artisanal cheeses, drunken mushrooms, sweet pickled beets, sticky onion marmalade. We also added the Venison Tartare. Favourite item of this plate? The house smoked BC duck, absolutely great. I also liked the drunken mushrooms and the goat cheese (bottom right), topped with some spicy pepper salsa on top. If possible, you’ll want to ask for extra crostinis to finish all the items.
Of note, I should mention that all the food comes out from the open kitchen in the back, which is ridiculously tiny. There’s a small induction range for cooking, an oven, and I think a small fry machine. That’s it! A lot of the menu items are smoked, raw or can be served at room temperature, so that’s not really a big hurdle for them. Still, it shows creativity to be able to manage a decent menu with limited resources.
Finally, I tried a cocktail because I could. I enjoy rum and cointreau, so I went with the Island tale $12, which is 3-Year Havana Rum, Cointreau, Red peppercorn syrup, House-made bitters. A rim of sugar and a simple lemon zest adorned the cocktail, and it packed a punch. If there’s one thing I wished for more, it would be for a spicier red peppercorn syrup taste.
Typically a restaurant owned and located beside a nightclub is not exactly the place you would go to for fancy food, but this is not the case here. They historically also don’t fare quite well business wise, one can look no further than the multiple name changes and revisions of the restaurant beside Caprice on Granville street. This place could do well though, the night I patroned there was a large party in the back for a birthday, and the food is honestly good, just higher on the price spectrum.