Kitscrawl 2013! Great Food, Great People, Great Fun!

Kitscrawl 2013! Great Food, Great People, Great Fun!

Q and I were invited to the latest Dishcrawl event in Kitsilano (#kitscrawl!). I wrote a brief post here on what Dishcrawl is all about. About 48 hours before the event, our helpful Dishcrawl rep, Jennifer, sent us an email that told us the first restaurant of the night – Tractor.

First Stop - Tractor!

First Stop – Tractor!

Tractor was a fantastic choice for the Dishcrawl because neither Q or I have been to it but is on my to-eat list. When we arrived, we knew there would be a pretty big group of people – an entire row of seats were reserved for us. Dishcrawl managed to get 24 guests coming in!

Arrived at Dishcrawl!

Arrived at Dishcrawl!

Tractor is pretty unique in that their focus is to provide everyday healthy and fresh food in a cafeteria-style service. The restaurant looks way more modern and aesthetically pleasing than any cafeteria I’ve been in!

Tractor's Decor

Tractor’s Decor

The menu for the night was laid out for us on the table.

Tractor's Menu for Dishcrawl!

Tractor’s Menu for Dishcrawl!

Before we were served the salad, Tractor’s executive chef, Ryan Mah, came out to greet us and tell us a bit about Tractor.  (Q: of all the restaurant, Tractor was the only restaurant to have the chef introduce the restaurant and the food.  I think that was quite a nice touch!  I do appreciate the executive chef’s greeting!)

Executive Chef of Tractor, Ryan Mah

Executive Chef of Tractor, Ryan Mah

Our first dish was the Kale and Granny Smith Apple Salad. It was served on large dishes and was meant to be shared communally.

Kale and Granny Smith Apple Salad with Radicchio and White Basalmic Dressing

Kale and Granny Smith Apple Salad with Radicchio and White Basalmic Dressing

The salad was really fresh and delicious. Crisp and succulent kale paired with equally crisp granny smith apples and dressed with radicchio and white balsamic dressing. With the light balsamic flavouring and the hint of radicchio, Tractor’s salad easily knocked the socks off of many other salads I’ve tried before. It still doesn’t beat the salad I had at Culver City Salads, but that salad was more of an entree salad and this is more of an appetizer salad.  (Q: the salad was definitely memorable!  All the ingredients were so fresh!  I love that the salad isn’t overly dressed and overwhelm the taste of the fresh ingredients.  I can’t stand wilted greens in a salad and it wasn’t the case for Tractor!  The white balsamic and radicchio paired so well with the apple.  It was quite an enjoyable salad and everybody cleared their plates!)

Our second option allowed us to get a sense of what it was like to grab a meal at Tractor. We were to choose between their Lean Turkey Chili or their Curried Butternut Squash Soup and order at the till.

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Getting up to order food

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Order here!

Tractor's cafeteria-style serving

Tractor’s cafeteria-style serving

Bowls prepped for Dishcrawl guests!

Bowls prepped for Dishcrawl guests!

Since both Q and I were both there, naturally we got one of each so that we could try both out!

Q was pretty hungry so she was the first in line to order! (Q: hey, with a big group and nobody know each other and what to do, someone’s got to start and take lead!  After I got up, everyone started getting up to order their food!) She got the Lean Turkey Chili – it had a nice dollop of sour cream on top!

Lean Turkey Chili with Coriander and Sour Cream

Lean Turkey Chili with Coriander and Sour Cream

The flavours of the chili was excellent. It wasn’t just pure heat, the turkey chili had layers of complexity brought about partially by the coriander and turkey. There was a lot of meat and filling to the chili, but Q was pretty disappointed that it wasn’t a thick umphy chili.  (Q: it wasn’t as satisfying/comforting despite there was a lot of meat and beans.  I felt like it is too much separation of the liquid and solid.   The chili was like a thin soup with more ingredients than the soup.  The soup came with a few pieces of heavily salted, toasted, thin bread which were great to dip into the chili to eat….AH!  That’s what it was!  The chili needed more salt!) I thought it was pretty good, but it was indeed a little on the soup-y side.

I got the Curried Butternut Squash Soup, which also had a nice dollop of sour cream (which sank into the soup).

Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Yogurt and Green Onion

Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Yogurt and Green Onion

You can really taste the curry seasoning in the squash soup. Like the chili, it wasn’t really as thick as I had hoped. On the taste, Tractor’s squash soup is pretty spot on. (Q: the taste is quite bland…again, need a bit more salt…The chili is the better of the 2 soups!)

Moving on to dessert, we were provided with a tray of Double Chocolate and Pistachio Cookies.

Double Chocolate and Pistachio Cookies

Double Chocolate and Pistachio Cookies

These cookies were rich! Double chocolate indeed!

Like a cookie-shaped energy bar!

Like a cookie-shaped energy bar!

They were chewy, but had a bit of crunch (from the pistachio) that made them really delicious to eat. They’re pretty sweet, so even though the package contains two cookies each, I only had one and saved the other one for later.  (Q: the cookies were delicious!  I think they are flourless cookies.  Tasted like crushed pistachio (and walnuts) were mixed into a thick chocolate mixture then baked.  Loved them!  C and I were quite full at this point.)

(Q: the atmosphere and fresh food have prompted me for a return to try other food.  The other patrons were so relaxed and enjoying their company over wine, food and conversation.  Feel like I shouldn’t judge too hastily based on just their soups.)

After we finished up, we hurriedly moved on to our next location! The fun part about this was that we had no clue where we were going next. Jennifer’s helpful assistant, Vince, guided us to our next (and apparently very close) stop – Vibes!

Stop Number 2! Vibes Japanese BBQ and Sushi

Stop Number 2! Vibes Japanese BBQ and Sushi

Another restaurant that Q and I have not been to! Vibes Japanese BBQ and Sushi Restaurant is apparently fairly new to the area. I remember walking by the restaurant the last few times we were around the area but we were never too intrigued by it. It’s nice that we get to check it out here rather than order a full on meal.

Dishcrawl Kitsilano

Vibes is an AYCE (all you can eat) Japanese restaurant. I was a bit surprised that an AYCE restaurant would take part in something like Dishcrawl, as AYCE restaurants are usually not well known for quality. Like Shabusen and other similar BBQ places, we get to cook our own meat on grills that are embedded into the table. Our first dish was their beef.  (Q: sigh…I was thinking oh no!  My clothes will smell like BBQ…)

Beef shortribs

Beef shortribs

The beef short ribs were pretty decent. The marinade was nothing special, but it was pretty yummy when paired with their home-made sauce.  (Q: the waitress was so soft spoken we could not make out what is the sauce and what was used in the marinate)

While our ribs were cooking, we got to sample their Alaskan Crab Roll.

Dishcrawl Kitsilano

Shabusen-style cooking!

Alaskan Crab Roll

Alaskan Crab Roll

Visually it is pretty nice. When eating it, I didn’t find anything too extraordinary. I couldn’t really taste the crab, but they were pretty generous with the avocado.  (Q: I loved it!  Everything was fresh and tasted well together with all the ingredients!)

While we were all pretty engrossed in conversation, the staff brought us some more beef slices and chicken. Just to note, the staff here provide some good service but their English is not very strong.  (Q: all the meat dishes were marinated well and didn’t need any additional sauce to add on flavours.)

Lean Beef Slices

Lean Beef Slices

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Chicken

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Finishing up the last of our meat, we moved forward to our third restaurant! It was a bit more of a trek this time, as we ended up yet another restaurant we have not tried (but have heard of and intended to try!) – August Jack!

The August Jack is another fairly new addition to the Kits area that serves up tapas and beers. They have an excellent selection of local craft beers and they boast amazing pairings of their tapas with these craft beers.

Third stop! The August Jack

Third stop! The August Jack

Great pub decor

Great pub decor

We also got to check out their regular tapas menu – unfortunately we only got to try out three of their items: Truffle Popcorn, Rosemary Polenta Fries (or in our case, fry), and the Leek & Barley Risotto.

The August Jack's Beer Menu

The August Jack’s Beer Menu

The August Jack's Tapas Menu

The August Jack’s Tapas Menu

Being at a pub-of-sorts, I had to order a beer to compliment my meal (costs extra!). I had a 10oz Deschutes River Ale, as the main beer pairing to go with the risotto only came in big bottles – I was already getting way too full and there was no way I’d fit in a large bottle of beer!

10oz Deschutes River Ale

10oz Deschutes River Ale

We got the Rosemary Polenta Fry first. I’ve never had fries made out of polentas before, so I was surprised to find that I quite liked it.  (Q: hm…I swear we had polenta fry before!  Really it is just polenta deep fried.  Either way, it was delicious!)

Rosemary Polenta Fries with Basil, Nasturtium Aioli, and Basalmic Reduction

Rosemary Polenta Fries with Basil, Nasturtium Aioli, and Basalmic Reduction

The fry was crispy on the outside and more dense on the inside (Q: well….because it is polenta dear!). It had that nice corny polenta taste to it. Combined with their aioli and basalmic reduction, it was quite a unique pairing. Overall it was a tad on the salty side, but I found that this made it really really good with beer!  (Q: I think the fry taste better on its own.  I wasn’t a fan of both sauces.  The balsamic reduction is very concentrated making it very spicy to taste and hence could not taste the aioli sauce.)

Shortly after we got the Polenta Fries, we were brought bowls of their Truffle Popcorn. It had truffle infused butter and shaved Grana Padano.

Truffle Popcorn with Truffled Infused Butter and Shaved Grana Padano

Truffle Popcorn with Truffled Infused Butter and Shaved Grana Padano

The popcorn was about as good as popcorn gets. Like the Polenta Fries, they’re a bit on the salty side – again, this makes it a fantastic pairing with a nice ale or lager. I found that both the truffle flavour and the Grana Padano flavour were pretty subtle. (Q: the popcorn was tasty but I wouldn’t pay $6 for popcorn.  Too bad we didn’t have enough time, everybody has a lot of popcorn left over!)

 

Finally, our last dish at August Jack was the Leek and Barley Risotto. This was the controversial dish of the night!

Leek and Barley Risotto with Smoked Cheddar, Carmelized Leeks, Truffle Oil, and Red Amaranth Garnishes

Leek and Barley Risotto with Smoked Cheddar, Carmelized Leeks, Truffle Oil, and Red Amaranth Garnishes

It’s pretty small in portions, but it is certainly a complex offering. It is a leek and barley risotto made with smoked cheddar, carmelized leeks, truffle oil, and red amaranth garnishes.

This risotto was nothing like any risotto I’ve had before. The barley grains are much larger than typical rice grains; my first impression would be something like couscous. (Q: before we all realize that it is barley, everyone was surprised with the texture of the risotto!  It definitely wasn’t mushy like the risotto I am used to.  You can taste the individual grain which is kind of neat.  Initially, it reminded me of tapioca!)  Also different from a typical risotto, this one isn’t very creamy. There was a spicy kick to each bite (Q: it is the balsamic reduction again…) until I got to the area with the truffle oil. Spiciness melded into a smoother aromatic truffle flavour.  (Q: I think the risotto would be better off without the drizzle of balsamic reduction.)  Again, I can see how this dish fits in with beer pairings!

The main controversy with this dish was the fact that the entire group seemed pretty mixed – some people loved it and some people thought it was weird and not that great. I liked it!  (Q: I liked it too!  Barley seems to be the healthier option than rice!)

 

Throughout the first three locations, there was a good amount of mingling. Alas, we were off to our final destination – the final one is usually a dessert place! I was thinking that it would be Scoop! yogurt, but surprisingly it was O5Tea Bar!

Final stop of the night - O5Tea Bar!

Final stop of the night – O5Tea Bar!

Q and I have been to O5Tea before and we really enjoyed our experience there – so we didn’t mind that our final destination would be one that we’ve previously visited. The excellent thing about this visit is that we were served dessert and a tea pairing!

Love the zen decor here

Love the zen decor here

A lot of people were looking around and checking out the tea – it was a bit cramped so I’m glad no one knocked down any of Pedro’s fancy tea gear!

Lovely teas and tea brewing gear

Lovely tea brewing gear

There was one person by the bar serving us some tea. Laid out on the table were three different types of desserts for us to sample!

O5Tea staff passing out some Hibiscus tea

O5Tea staff passing out some Hibiscus tea

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crumble was the first that Q and I managed to squeeze our way through to grab.

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crumble

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crumble

It was a very very creamy cheesecake. There was no crust, but the crumble added a good bite to it. I really liked the pumpkin spice combination with the cream cheese and gingersnap!  (Q: it was a good balance of everything!  Not overly sweet with a good pumpkin flavor.  Truly a pumpkin pie in bite size!  My favourite dessert of the night)

We also managed to eventually get a glass of their spiced Hibiscus tea! They had added cinnamon and some other nice spices when brewing it – the tea had a sort of mulled flavor and it was really warming!  (Q: I had the cheesecake before trying out the tea.  My first reaction was that the tea is very sour but that’s because of the dessert I had first…Otherwise after a while, I really enjoyed it!  Like C said, it is like a mulled wine but with more of a floral flavor.  Loved it!)

Spiced Hibiscus Tea

Spiced Hibiscus Tea

After waiting for the crowd to disperse a bit, Q and I grabbed a sample of their Candied Hibiscus Flower. In addition to being candied, it had sprinkles of rich white chocolate flakes!

Dishcrawl Kitsilano

Candied Hibiscus Flower Sprinkled with Rich White Chocolate Flakes

Candied Hibiscus Flower Sprinkled with Rich White Chocolate Flakes

This was a really pretty dessert! I’ve never had hibiscus before, but I was expecting a light fragrant flavour profile. Surprisingly, it was tart and sweet! I can see the rational behind pairing it with chocolate. (Q: I really liked it!  the texture of the hibiscus was similar to eating craisin?  The chocolate flakes went so nicely with the flower.  It is definitely a unique dessert and experience!)  I almost wished that it was also put with a cheesecake as well, as the excellent tartness would have gone so well with the cheese!  (Q: I have to disagree….the mushy texture of the hibiscus would not pair well with the soft cream cheese.)

And finally, our last bite of the night – the Candied Organic Ginger.

Dishcrawl Kitsilano

This one is really more of an acquired taste (I loooooved it).  (Q: I HATE IT…I didn’t even bother trying.)

Candied Organic Ginger Rolled in Raw Cane and Dark Chocolate

Candied Organic Ginger Rolled in Raw Cane and Dark Chocolate

The ginger is very potent, which means that there was a nice strong ginger flavour!  I’ve had a Chinese version of candied ginger as a snack and it is much stronger. I liked that version, but I found that O5Tea’s version added a really nice crunchiness and sweetness to it (Q: I believe they used RAW ginger and then candied it hence it was quite strong.  C ate that and drank a bit of tea.  I took a sip of the tea and the ginger flavor lingered…that’s how strong the ginger was). I asked one of the staff if they were planning on selling it, and they might be packaging some for Christmas!

 

 

All in all, it was a fantastic night. We enjoyed most of the food from all four restaurants that took part in the Kitscrawl and we met a lot of really interesting people. The main question at the end of the night though is: was it worth it? I would have to answer that it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re a hardcore foodie that has frequented the area a lot, this type of Dishcrawl event probably isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a social gathering where you can check out an area of Vancouver you haven’t frequented a lot and try out some new and unique dishes, I think you’ll find the price tag of $60 per person (with potential discount codes!) just about right. Would I do it again? Heck yes!
(Q: If I weren’t a blogger, I probably would not do it again.  If you are not a foodie or food blogger, which some of the guests that night weren’t, you might be shocked or startled by how many cameras or flashes there were as soon as food came out.  Some people might be peeved that they can’t eat unless the pictures were taken first.  In addition, you have to keep in mind that this is an event and there bound to be socializing.  I am an introvert, although I have no problem chit-chatting and mingling, I would prefer not to.  Good thing C was the more sociable person and he carried majority of the conversation.
Jenny and Vincent were great hosts and made sure everyone is comfortable and engaged people in conversation.  It was great to taste out different restaurant and tried out different types of food at the same time.  It was a bit rush in ordered to make it to each place on time.  For $60, I prefer to sit down and really enjoy the food at my own leisure.

If you are adventurous, love socializing and experimenting different food, DishCrawl is for you!)

 

 

Tractor Foods on Urbanspoon Vibes Japanese BBQ & Sushi Restaurant on Urbanspoon The August Jack on Urbanspoon O5 Rare Tea Bar on Urbanspoon