One of the great advantages to living in Vancouver’s Chinatown is that it’s almost as cheap to eat out, if you know where you’re going, than to cook for yourself, and if you cook like I do this is a DISTINCT advantage. None the less, there are so many restaurants in the neighborhood that nobody can get to all of them, and if you do happen to blunder into a bad one, you feel quite moronic for having wasted the opportunity to go somewhere you already know is good.
So when Richard Wolack announced that his latest Tasting Plates tour was headed to my neighborhood, I signed up right away. This is a cooperative event with one ticket price, entitling the attendees to a small serving of some set item at each participating restaurant or food shop. A piece of the ticket price goes to support a local charity. For this Tasting Plates round, the charity was Project Limelight, which provides Downtown Eastside youth with support for artistic endeavours and community.
We started with salted caramels, eggnog rounds, and hot chocolate you made yourself by dipping a hunk of solid white, milk, or dark chocolate on a stick into hot milk. Crazy fattening, but rich and a lot more fun than that ordinary stuff. Definitely first-class skating party material. That was all done by Beta 5, an ultra-modern dessert shop in the industrial flats between Terminal and Great Northern Way.
When that’s your first course, the second is naturally pizza. Ours came from Pazzarella pizza truck, which has the city’s only truck-mounted wood-fired pizza oven. I don’t think they were quite ready to be so slammed so quickly, as the line was long and everyone, EVERYONE wanted to try the maple bacon pizza. It smelled good, but they were out of it when I got up to the front, so I had a more mundane, but still tasty, mushroom pizza.
Then it was a trundle northward to Electric Owl, which as anyone who’s gone past it knows is a very hopping night spot, though it is yet very new. The food there was seemingly endless, and all of it was very, very good. Like, foodie quality, which is surprising, because from the crowd I’d always assumed the kitchen would not be a priority. Sliders, pulled pork with coleslaw, skewers of all kinds of tasty things, delicious egg rolls, and pudding in Chinese porcelain spoons. One may have indulged a bit too much, because we practically waddled en route to the rest of the stops.
In Chinatown proper we went first to Harvest, a very hipster/new urban gourmet deli where we had a paper cup double handful-sized of handmade ramen noodles with pork, preserved vegetables, and half an egg. Honestly, it was as much as I eat for dinner some nights all by itself, and the quality of the noodles was simply the best I’ve ever had. Noodles with flavour: what a concept!
In need of respite, we rolled our overstuffed selves to Treasure Green Tea, where staff was pouring their Seasons tea, a blend of black and green teas with a medium body, smoky aroma, and, surprisingly for a tea with that much flavour, no tannic bite whatsoever. It was good enough that I went back later and bought a half-pound for myself. The only thing that can compensate for my lack of fire place in the long, rainy winters is a big pot of steaming, smoky tea. Well, Viggo could try. I dare him.
From there, and feeling mightily stuffed, I huffed and puffed my way up the hill to Oyster Express, where I explained that to me, a perfect payday dinner is savory, salty, fresh oysters and gin Martinis and nothing else. At that point, I bailed on the tour for the sake of my figure (yes, I know, about two years too late). Cheers!
Here’s video coverage from the intrepid Alyssa Dawson for CityLights tv. She actually toughed it out and hit all the venues, believe it or not. I should call her trainer.