Today Canada’s top chef Dale MacKay is ready to open up his second restaurant, his second in less than a year. As I walked by the new Ensemble Tap (located on Smithe/Burrard in the Scotia Bank Theatre building) today, staff was getting ready for what looks like a lunch time opening. Sports fans and casual dining fans will definitely enjoy this place.
After the announcement of the location it only took six weeks after signing the lease on his lofty new restaurant space at 990 Smithe, just off Burrard in Vancouver to be ready. Ensemble Tap offers casual dining with the added attraction of fresh and fabulous beer on tap.
During three private preview seatings this weekend, friends and family sampled ‘modern comfort’ food from the new Tap menu, and enjoyed a pull or two of the 15 icy-cold micro-brews on tap, or one of 25 more in bottles. Chef/Owner Dale MacKay and Executive Chef Brad Hendrickson captained Taps’ newly renovated catering-size kitchen through full-house dinner and lunch services, but the culinary language spoken was foreign to MacKay’s five-star, fine-dining reputation: “Tap Burger, Thai Chicken Wings, Bangers and Spaetzle, and Brisket Sandwich on 19. Barbeque Ribs, Popcorn Prawns, two Chorizo & Clams on six.” The execution and delivery however, were completely familiar – sophisticated global flavour profiles, precise technique, and artful presentation.
In spite of his many professional accomplishments at the top of the food chain, MacKay covets so-called comfort food in his off time. He credits his mother and Canadian prairie up-bringing for an embedded love of simple, classic dishes. Taps’ smoked centre-cut, bone-on pork rack chop with sauerkraut pays homage to Dale’s childhood favourite meal of pork chops with sauerkraut, but this version takes an eight-hour aromatic brine bath before being cold-smoked, grilled and crusted with herbed bread crumbs, and presents with glazed baby carrots and charcuterie mustard. As with all of MacKay’s new ‘modern comfort’ creations, the Smoked Pork Chop on the menu belies the culinary back story – as does the very comfortable $19 price tag. Portions are generous and satisfying, erring on the side of abundance.
Other Modern Comforts include Slow-Braised Pulled Pork Nachos with Housemade Aged Cheddar Cheese Sauce and Sweet Corn, Jalapeno Peppers and Cilantro; Dry Thai Chicken Wings with Kaffir Lime and Chili Oil, served with an exotic and otherworldly Dipping Sauce; Full Rack of BBQ Pork Back Ribs braised in Dale’s signature BBQ Sauce and Beer until falling-of-the-bone-tender, then grilled and served with Honey-buttered Cornbread and Crunchy Apple, Cabbage and Carrot Slaw. Dale’s much-loved and Top Chef Canada Challenge-Winning Pulled Pork Sandwich – so popular on the ensemble restaurant and bar menu – appears on the ensemble Tap menu also – growing proportionately and adopting a side of Baked Beans and a cup of trademark ensemble Kennebec Fries.
“It’s been massive fun to create and open ensemble Tap. Inasmuch as my niche is fine dining and I thrive on the enforced perfection of technique and execution of that discipline, I am a super competitive person and I really wanted to use everything I know about food and have learned working with chefs Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulud in Europe, Asia and New York, to perfect simple food, and let people know that there is more to me and to my culinary team, than what they may have seen so far,” says MacKay. “ensemble Tap restaurant is open from 11am thru to midnight, daily starting tomorrow. Come see us for lunch or dinner, or just pull up a seat at the bar.”
Source: Press Release