I like sports, and I like bars, but what I don’t like is your typical downtown Vancouver sports bar with greasy pre-made food and waitresses that wear more make-up than all the girls in my office combined. So I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled into Ensemble Tap on Friday night with a friend before heading to see the new show at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I know it’s a bit odd to go to a sports bar before going to look at art, but since I knew this place was recently opened by Top Chef Canada winner Dale McKay I was super keen to give it a try. I haven’t gotten around to trying Dale’s first restaurant, Ensemble yet but I hear it’s fantastic and will be stopping in for dinner soon!
Ensemble Tap is in the old Azia space at the Scotiabank movie theatre (Burrard and Smithe). I was a bit put off by the UFC posters in the windows the first time I walked by, but once inside it feels like a classy joint. The decor is male friendly and a bit industrial, and the bar is very inviting. The only thingI would recommend would be a swap of the low dining area tables for high tops. Sports bar = high top tables in my mind!
We had great service, and they had sparkling wine on special for $5 a glass (again, it’s a sports bar, so it was a nice treat I wasn’t expecting!). I had the steamed buns from the appetizer menu and loved them (sorry no photo). They’re ‘tacos’ made from Chinese steamed buns stuffed with kimchi and seared tuna. There was a sea asparagus salad on the side that was nice too. I would totally order it again, and for $14 it was a good sized portion. My friend had the calamari which was not quite as big a win as the steamed buns. It was green to start with, seasoned with some sort of chipotle pepper and other herbs, and served with green olives on a bed of red pepper puree. I get that it’s a non-traditional calamari, but it just wasn’t good and it didn’t look overly appetizing either.
But, bad calamari aside, Ensemble Tap is a great place for a drink and a bite. The burgers looked delicious and I love that Dale’s Top Chef winning pulled pork sandwich is on the menu. With lots of TV’s scattered throughout it’s a great place to watch the game (or the fight, depending on what you’re into) and I’m sure it’ll do well in my hood. Congrats to Dale for opening another great restaurant in Vancouver, I’ll be returning for sure!