Vancouver Food Porn: Tuc Craft Kitchen

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“Shhhh…you had me at pork belly,” I wanted to tell our server as he recommended some of the menu items and described some of the dailies. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wasn’t really listening as I spied on a bowl of Tuc Craft Kitchen‘s pork belly cracklings at a table nearby. Like Uncle Jack on Breaking Bad, I had already made up my mind ten minutes ago. (spoilers!)

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Tuc Craft Kitchen (we’re just going to call it Tuc from here on out) is one of the new restaurants that has popped up near Gastown and the Downtown Eastside in the past couple years. The website says that their goal is to create a “place that feels like it has always been here,” and for the most part, I’d say they’ve been rather successful. Tuc has a very Gastown aesthetic: industrial and masculine, featuring details like the distressed woods, the heavy duty chains holding up the bar and what appears to be half a “MARKET” sign hanging in the back. It looks like a restaurant built near a meat-packing district or a train yard (appropriate since there is a train yard a stone’s throw away).

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For a place that looked small from the outside, it has an impressive number of seats and a large upstairs area that would be great for larger groups.

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The menu, printed on recycled paper and cut up into makeshift coasters when they’re worn, is mostly West Coast comfort food with some European (French in particular, it appears) influences. Apart from the lamb, which comes from Washington, Tuc uses all locally-sourced ingredients, including Gelderman Farms pork, fish from Salt Spring Islands and 100 per cent organic bread from Terra Breads.

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We started, obviously, with a bowl of the pork belly cracklings ($6), made with a star anise red wine reduction and some coarse salt. These are amazing. It’s hard to make what’s essentially bacon not taste awesome but wow, you need some of this in your face immediately. The crispy outer crust gives way to a melty, rich inside that just…I hate saying “melt in your mouth,” one of the most overused and cliche phrases in food, but, yeah, they melt in your mouth.

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Oh right, I decided to take my dad out for lunch (you can see him in the spoon) and my dad just loves soup. The soup of the day ($8) comes with a house roquette and radish salad. With all the stuff we had at the table, I honestly can’t remember what soup it was.

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The mussels and clams ($12) comes with a good amount of plump, juicy, fresh seafood along with a few pork cracklings and a handful of croutons in a rich, sweet white wine broth. It’s quite a large starter, great for sharing. The broth is delicious.

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I’ve had a lot of beef dip sandwiches so I was intrigued by the idea of a chicken dip sandwich ($12). Instead of beef jus, you get a small Chinese tea cup of chicken consume to dip the sandwich, made with shredded Fraser Valley free run chicken, house-made ranch and basil pistou on a grilled stecca bun. The sandwich is slightly oily but tasty, with tender chicken and a great fresh kick from the basil. The basil and ranch were enough that I didn’t really need the dip.

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The chicken sandwich comes with parsnip fries, which were light, crispy and with a little bit more texture than regular potato fries. They’re best when they’re piping hot. Unfortunately, Tuc ran out of their house-made toasted coriander ketchup (it was around 1:30pm when we got there), which I’ve heard good things about.

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We also had a beef brisket and pork crackling sandwich ($13), made with Double R Ranch brisket, dijon mustard, assorted pickles and salsa verde on whole wheat French bread. I was worried the brisket would be too dry for the sandwich but don’t let the color fool you, it’s moist and tender and goes great with the crispy pork belly. What makes this sandwich though, is the pickles! They add delicious vinegary tang and sweetness, nicely balanced with the mustard.

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These fries are a little different. The potatos appear to be cooked, then smashed up a bit and…baked? They don’t look that deep fried to me but they’re well-seasoned and tasty.

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Tuc Craft Kitchen is a winner. The service was excellent, the decor is comfortable and interesting and the food…they had me at pork belly. My only criticism is that the food can be a little heavy since they’re not skimping on the flavor (or pork belly). However, for the most part, the food is well thought out, prepared and balanced…all at reasonable prices for Downtown Vancouver.

Tuc Craft Kitchen

Address:
60 West Cordova Street
Vancouver, B.C.

Phone Number:
604-559-8999

Hours:

Monday – Friday
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: 5:00 p.m. to late

Saturday
Brunch: 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: 5:00 p.m. to late

Website: http://tucrestaurant.com/

Tuc Craft Kitchen on Urbanspoon

 

 

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Ed Lau is a contributing writer and photographer for Vancity Buzz. You can check out his other adventures in food, travel and more at EdEats.com or Instagram at @edlauphoto.
@edlau

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