by Andrew Morrison | Scout broke the news that Ensemble Restaurant chef/owner Dale Mackay was opening a new restaurant back in September, but we’ve been sitting on the details of the new joint (name, location, etc) ever since by request. Here’s the skinny we had two months ago:
…the concept sounds like a BBQ and beer-heavy pub that will serve the kind of fare that you’d normally associate with the milieu (nachos, burgers, bangers, pot pies, etc) only elevated to a level where just about everything is made in house from scratch and by hand. It’ll be sports heavy, too, with some fifteen 45″ flat screen TVs. Helming the kitchen will be chef de cuisine Bradley Hendrickson (now at Ensemble), with former DB Bistro sous chefs Alex Amos (recently Mission Hill) and Greg Reid (recently Quail’s Gate) in support. There will be a 40 foot bar of reclaimed wood to tend, and another 80 seats in an expansive dining room (with mezzanine). Running the show will be current Ensemble barman Christopher Cho, with operations back-up from the lovely and talented Ali Maher, formerly the maitre’d at DB Bistro.
The new, short story: it’s called ensemble Tap; a 130 seater in the old Azia location by Earls Paramount (990 Smithe). They’re about to go public with all of that and more, so here’s a draft copy of their first release, which should be hitting the press tomorrow.
Top Chef Canada Winner Dale MacKay, best known for his precision execution and presentation of technical French cuisine, is opening a second restaurant in downtown Vancouver during the first week of December, 2011. As the name implies, ensemble Tap promises icy cold fresh beer on tap – no less than a dozen of the 40+ world titles on the menu. The lunch and dinner food menus are decidedly ‘un-fancy’, but predictably extraordinary and beyond comforting. “I’ve always dreamed of opening a world-class pub-style restaurant where I can go after work or on my day off to watch a game and order a sleeve of extraordinary beer and the best comfort food imaginable,” says Chef MacKay.
Chef MacKay is excited about spreading his culinary wings and showing a side of himself that his culinary career thus far has not encouraged, or in fact permitted. “My Chef de Cuisine at ensemble restaurant and bar, Brad Hendrickson and I have been talking about what constitutes the perfect pub-style restaurant for years,” says MacKay. “My heart and my person will always be at ensemble restaurant, but I’ve always wanted to use what I’ve learned over the years cooking with Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulud, to create ‘ultimate’ timeworn tap-house favourites like chicken wings, meat pies, ribs, fish and chips, burgers and sandwiches. Big, comfortable food that guests can sink into with a fantastic beer or glass of wine. We hope to redefine comfort and pub-style food in much the same way the ensemble restaurant redefined fine dining.”
In assuming the role of Executive Chef of ensemble Tap, Hendrickson leaves the ensemble restaurant kitchen behind. He takes with him, an unflappable, uncompromising diligence that comes from working side by side with Chef MacKay and stepping in as head chef when MacKay was away competing in or doing appearances for Top Chef Canada. “My ideal for the food at Tap is to take classic pub-style fare and comfort food and be as diligent as we would be in a high-end restaurant kitchen. I love comfort food, especially sandwiches, and I believe there is a reason for the sentiment. I have cravings for comfort food and when I find a restaurant that does comfort well, I want everyone to know about it. I really look forward to ensemble Tap because it promises three of my favourite things – great food, great beer, and a modern-rustic atmosphere. That’s me in a nutshell,” says Hendrickson.
More after the jump…
Highlights of the Tap menu are Chicken Wings (Hot, Asian), BBQ Pork Back Ribs (with Dale’s Top Chef Canada challenging winning BBQ spice), and Clams & Chorizo with Grill Bread. The dessert menu includes classic favourites like an old-fashioned Root Beer Float with creamy Vanilla Ice Cream.
Taps’ ‘feature tap’ pours a specially brewed, medium-light bodied ensemble Lager that Dale describes as “crisp, refreshing and light.” Five Canadian craft breweries are featured on tap and in tasters, with a dozen specially selected traditional and non-traditional Ales, Pilsners, Porters, a specialty Cider, and limited edition Seasonals. Another 30 or so bottles from Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Poland, China, Mexico, Spain, the USA and Canada, complete the beer line-up. Finish with a specialty bourbon menu, and excellent wines by the glass or bottle. “We chose breweries and wineries whose craftsmanship and attention to detail parallels how we feel about food. Not surprisingly, the beers and the wines pair beautifully with our menu items.”
Chris Cho (Cho), another MacKay school of diligence alumni, who designed and ran the bar component of ensemble restaurant and bar, will assume the General Manager role at Tap. Replacing Hendrickson as Executive Sous Chef at ensemble will be Ryan Mielty, former Executive Chef at Vancouver’s Pied à Terre restaurant, with ensemble’s Doug King ascending to Sous Chef.
“For me, this apparent departure from fine dining isn’t so drastic as it seems to some people. It’s about two things – being diligent in the kitchen no matter what it is you’re creating. And that means using our technical tool kit in a way that is not obvious like it is at ensemble restaurant. But, you can taste it and you can feel it, which is what matters. And two, it’s about respecting my team and rewarding them for their diligence and allowing them to grow in a way that is creatively and professionally fulfilling,” adds MacKay.
To celebrate his good fortune and to pass some of it forward, Chef MacKay is throwing a sneak-preview grand opening party December 5th, to raise funds and awareness for Vancouver’s Boys Club Network and to provide financial assistance to young men and women pursuing the culinary arts. The $150 ticket price includes cocktail reception, stand-up (menu sampling) dinner, live entertainment and a small but fabulous silent and live auction. For information, or to be put on the invite list, call 604.569.1770, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About ensemble Tap
Located at 990 Smithe, near Burrard in downtown Vancouver – one articulated city block east of ensemble restaurant and bar. ‘Industrial country’ best describes Chef Dale MacKay’s vision for his new restaurant. A 35-foot long, raw-edge bar crafted from two large slabs of reclaimed fir, hide- covered banquettes, galvanized barn lights, corrugated metal surfaces, enameled speckleware, and wide-plank flooring – juxtaposed by 16 flatscreen televisions, sleek amenities and contemporary furnishings – imply comfort and cool at once. A 40-seat mezzanine and private party area above the keg cooler, overlooks the bar and 90-seat main floor dining area. A modern kitchen, retrofit for catering, allows MacKay to fulfill the many private and corporate catering requests that the ensemble restaurant kitchen will always be too intimate to accommodate. Chef/Owner Dale MacKay, Executive Chef Brad Hendrickson.
Service daily from 11am-midnight
40-seat mezzanine for private parties – dinner or reception style.
Offsite catering – residential and corporate.
Capacity: 130 for dinner. 200, reception style.
Walk-in. Reservations for parties of eight or more only.
About Chef Dale MacKay
Chef MacKay’s resume, like his culinary style, is condensed and flavourful. Highlights include time
spent as a private chef in Italy; as Executive Chef at an exclusive BC resort; protégé to Chef Gordon Ramsay at his restaurants in Tokyo, New York, and London; then most recently, as Executive Chef of Lumière, Vancouver’s Five Diamond, Four Star, Relais Gourmand establishment managed by New York Chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group. At the age of 27, MacKay made culinary history as the youngest Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux in the world.
In May of 2011, MacKay opened his own establishment, ensemble restaurant and bar, an 80-seat modern French restaurant on the residential edge of downtown Vancouver’s shopping and entertainment district. In July, 2011, he was voted Canada’s Top Chef, by the judging panel of Food Network Canada’s inaugural season of Top Chef Canada, which aired nationally (MacKay made history once again when the 13-episode series became the highest rated program in network history). In December, 2011 MacKay will open ensemble Tap a 130-seat pub-style restaurant. When Chef MacKay is not in the kitchen or on the floor at ensemble, he and his son Ayden keep busy doing homework, exploring city restaurants, and visiting family and friends. MacKay is committed to passing his good fortune forward, mentoring at-risk youth, and working with aspiring young chefs.
Visit the ensemble Tap webpage to sign up to receive updates and opening news, and also the new ensemble Tap Facebook and Twitter pages.
And there you go. Looking forward to it.