Today’s Special: Sweet and sour eggplant, Ensemble
I know I’m not alone when I say that Dale was not my favourite contestant on Top Chef Canada. My Alberta roots were fond of Connie and my Eastern sensibilities bet on Rob to win. But, Dale won, and we all moved on. Dale moved on by opening up the restaurant Ensemble, and word has it, he’s got a sports bar in the works (where his winnings are going?). My lack of love for him meant it’s taken me a while to give him a chance and try a restaurant that people seem to be liking. The room and service are much less stuffy than I expected and despite the care and artistry that goes into the food, Ensemble has a strong neighbourhood-haunt vibe. Hooray! There is no better place than the West End for neighbourhood-ness. In addition to some fancy cocktails worth their price tag, I had the winning pulled pork and the precious pavlova, and both were delicious enough to leave me wanting a repeat visit. The star of the show though was the sweet and sour eggplant, recently and rightly listed as one of the best things to eat in Vancouver. Almost too pretty to eat, this dish will erase all memories of any watery or rubbery eggplant you’ve ever had to suffer through. Smooth and rich, these little stumps are nestled in baba ghanoush and topped with cool yogurt and sweet tomato. Very precious, Dale, but very perfect.

Smithe & Thurlow, Vancouver

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