Ensemble: A New Vancouver Gem

Food, What's New — By Natasha John on May 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Robson and Thurlow’s got a new kid on the block that’s open for business and ensemble is easily making new friends by serving impeccable plates and refreshing drinks that are washed down with charming service. When you walk into ensemble, you’re greeted by a sleek design of black glass, pops of red and some familiar furniture. No, not those chairs from the the previous restaurant that used the space. Everything was executed perfectly during our dinner and it’s not surprising when you see the team who’s running the show.

Chef Dale Mackay has an impressive background and has worked with Gordon Ramsay in New York, Tokyo and London. Vancouverites will likely recognize him from Daniel Boulud’s Lumière, while the rest of Canada may recognize him from this season’s Top Chef on the Food Network. If you’ve been to Lumière or db Bistro, you may also recognize the 20 staff members that have stuck with him and it definitely says something when your staff stick around and join in new adventures. In the kitchen is also Sous Chef Brad Hendrickson, while Bar Manager Christopher Cho mixes mean drinks. Pull up a seat at the bar and try the In Fashion, Ginger Gimlet or just have a One Night Stand. Cheeky, yes.

They’re “combining classic French techniques with modern influences and flavour profiles from around the world” and that combination is a recipe for delicious. Using ingredients of quality, the dishes range from $8-$24 and are perfect for ordering a few and sharing. After all, sharing is caring.

When it came time to order, we were torn because there were so many things that sounded like they would tickle our tummies. The Kusshi oysters definitely caught our eye and if you’ve never had oysters, try a Kusshi because they’re small and have a delicately clean taste. Winning!

However, we wanted to see what else Chef had up his sleeves and started with the Foie Gras Sundae. The smell of the freshly made brioche waffles triggered the old salivary glands before we slipped our spoons into the indulgent sundae. The unsweetened apricot puree complimented the foie mousse that was drizzled with a red wine reduction and each spoonful was better than the last. A must try!

We couldn't resist and dug right in.

It’s currently Spot Prawn season here and any time those little suckers are on a menu, they will make it to the table. If you’re not sure what the hype is about Spot Prawns, think about what would happen if the sweetest lobster made babies with a succulent prawn and then that met a crayfish. Or, “mudbug” as we call them down in Arkansas. The result is the most tender and sweet prawn your tastebuds will meet. We ordered the Warm Spot Prawn Cocktail (Romaine, Lemon, Avocado) for our second item and we didn’t regret it one bit. Any visions that you have of cold, wet, previously frozen prawns on a plastic tray with cocktail sauce out of a jar, can be tossed to the side. Feast your eyes on this baby!

What would I do without my iPhone?

Our next order of business was the Vancouver Island Mussels. They were flavoured with curry and cilantro and served with perfectly crispy fritz. The mussels were delicate and the ideal size. The curry broth was flavorful and if spice scares you, don’t be afraid to order this mild dish. For our final order, we asked for a surprise. Secretly, we were hoping to try the Beef Shin and Fritz and Chef must have read our minds because that’s exactly what came out. The beef was like a tender pile of amazing, perched on a celeriac puree with some watercress that was a welcome freshness to the dish.

Often you can have a fantastic meal, but the service can leave a sour taste in your mouth when you leave. This is not the case here. Everyone from Chef Dale, who came out to check on things, to the servers and Mr. Cho behind the bar, were attentive, gracious and on the ball. Which, considering it was only their second night, is pretty awesome.

If you’re visiting Vancouver, the location is also ideal and just off of Robson Street, one of the city’s main shopping strips and close to most hotels.

Twitter: @EnsembleVan