Barely six weeks after signing the lease on his lofty new restaurant space at 990 Smithe, just off Burrard in Vancouver, Chef Dale MacKay will open his second urban eatery. ensemble Tap, as the name implies, 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 the 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. Tap’ssmoked 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 – 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 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.”
Chef MacKay invites guests to:
ensemble restaurant & bar
Modern French cuisine. A casually elegant, 80-seat restaurant and bar on the residential edge of downtown Vancouver’s shopping and entertainment district. Combining the classic French techniques and precision execution that earned Dale his Five Diamond reputation, with the casual, cosmopolitan vibe of Vancouver – ensemble promises an extraordinary culinary experience in a fun and approachable environment. Tasting size plates, contemporary cocktails, and an extensive wine list.
Resident Executive Chef/Owner Dale MacKay, Executive Sous Chef Ryan Mielty, General Manager Kevin Van Hullebush. Open Tuesday thru Sunday for 5pm-11pm dinner service at 850 Thurlow street, one block west of Burrard, at Smithe. Reservations recommended but walk-ins welcome. For information call 604.569.1770 or visit www.ensemblerestaurant.com. Twitter: ensemblevan Facebook: ensemblevan
ensemble Tap restaurant
Modern Comfort cuisine and fresh beer on tap. A casual, neighborhood taphouse style restaurant featuring simple comfort foods designed for modern urban diners, and an extensive blend of 40 Canadian and Euro microbrews on tap (15) and in bottles. A 60-seat mezzanine for private parties, 40’ live-edge eat-or-drink-at bar with18 high-back stools, a 60-seat main dining room that opens onto a summer sidewalk patio, and 14 flatscreens on two levels.
Chef/Owner Dale MacKay, Executive Chef Brad Hendrickson, General Manager Chris Cho. Open from 11-midnight daily for lunch and dinner service at 990 Smithe, just east of Burrard next to the Scotia Theatre. Walk-in. No reservation required for parties of less than eight. Street and lot parking nearby. For information call 604.566.9770 or visit *www.ensembletap.com. Twitter: ensembletap Facebook: ensembletap *website in development, but sign-up for ensemble news at ensembletap.com
Operating from the ensemble Tap kitchen, ensemble catering offers a variety of favourite and ethnic sandwiches on classic and specialty breads; plus green, potato and pasta salads; pie and cookies; and a build-your-own-sandwich platter. Free delivery to the downtown core on $100 minimum order, or pick-up with no minimum. Chefs request at 4pm cut-off for next-day delivery. For information call 604.566.9770 or visit *www.ensembletap.com. Twitter: ensembletap Facebook: ensembletap