By driving down Gastown’s cobblestone streets, the vast array of restaurants will immediately become evident. But…take a stroll through some side streets and even alleys, and this eclectic neighbourhood will reveal a few stunning culinary secrets.
The Salt Tasting Room is just one of these hidden treasures.
Tucked away from the main drag, the only point of entry here is by walking down Blood Alley (in between four streets: Water, West Cordova, Carrall, and Abbott). It is rather difficult to find, but once you do, lock that route into your mental GPS; you will want to return.
During Dine Out Vancouver 2012, this Gastown mainstay is offering up a three-course feature menu. To start, diners have the option of a curried root vegetable soup with sour cream and apple compote, or a watercress and celery root salad with garlic, olives, and fennel. For the mains, three plates were offered: a butcher plate, a cheese plate, and pork rillette. Finally, the chefs came up with two desserts to choose from, entirely different from one another in both texture and flavour: a light lemon sponge cake with a butterscotch sauce and a fudgey chocolate terrine with chantilly cream.
To get the most out of Dine Out at the Salt Tasting Room, I suggest inviting a few friends along (that way, you can taste test the whole menu). I tried everything aside from the salad and the pork rillette.
I enjoyed everything with the exception of two condiments served with the cheese and charcuterie plates. The large, round green olives that accompanied the cheese on the right side of the plate had a rather mealy texture, and lacked the salt that I love to associate with olives. The mostarda, served alongside the lemon fennel sausage, didn’t resonate with me; while it is a very popular condiment, the candied fruit element did not sit well with the dry heat and rather intense spice from the mustard powder.
With that noted, my overall favourite dishes of the evening were the curried root vegetable soup, the cheese plate, and the lemon cake. The soup was creamy, smooth, and the perfect blend of squash and curry. The cheese plate, with the exception of the olives I mentioned earlier, was delicious; in particular, the oka cheese served with hazelnuts was an inspired combination (the hazelnuts added an earthy and nutty profile to the creamy cheese). The lemon cake was the ideal way to end the meal; inside the jar, the cake was light as air, tart and tangy, and the butterscotch sauce on the plate gave the dessert the sweetness it needed.
For Dine Out Vancouver, at $18 per person ($15 additional if you opt for three paired wines) the experience and food were well worth it. For a regular evening out, though, I would hesitate to pay the regular menu prices, as the portions don’t equate to a meal if you go in on an empty stomach.
As always, wishing you a stamp of culinary royalty in all of your dining endeavours! xx
[For more information on Dine Out Vancouver, full feature menus, and to make your reservations, check out http://www.tourismvancouver.com/dine/dine-out-vancouver-2012/]