Test Kitchen Tuesdays at Two Chefs and a Table
Two Chefs and a Table, known for their workplace catering and their quaint bistro in Gastown, is now bringing to the table a new kind of dining - Test Kitchen Tuesdays.
In an unconventional manner guests will dine for a fixed $28 price unaware of what they will be served. (Note: Allergies can be accommodated and there is a three-course minimum.)
This past Tuesday I was a guest at the restaurant with Richard Wolak aka Vancouver Foodster. I was eager to taste what ever was thrown my way over the course of the night and was only given a slight hint of what was to come when deciding what to drink. I ended up choosing the Bramble, a gin cocktail with blackberry liquor, lime juice and crushed ice, best suited for someone who really enjoys gin, as it is definitely the dominant flavour.
I preferred my second drink, the St Germain, which tasted strongly of the elderflower liqueur with a dash of soda and a hint of lemon. Neither of them really paired well with my dishes but they were refreshing, decently priced, and a nice palate cleanser in a sense. Their cocktails are inspired by the pre-prohibition era and classic bartending craftmanship but if you're not a hard liquor fan they also have a nice selection of wine and craft beer. In addition, on Tuesdays they are waiving their regular corkage fee so guests are welcome to bring in their own bottle of wine to enjoy with their meal.
The first course of the night was a warm chickpea salad with lardon, scallions, and roasted red pepper.
This was a nice light dish and a great way to start our culinary adventure. The lardon brought the saltiness and the crispiness to round out the otherwise semi-soft dish. I enjoyed that it was a warmed chickpea salad as often they are served cold in restaurants.
Our second course was their take on the Shrimp Louis with Louis Dressing, Avocado Cream, Two Jumbo Shrimps, a Hard Boiled Egg and Asparagus on Endive.
My approach to this dish was to combine the accompanying flavours all in to one bite. Realizing this could get messy I paired the plump shrimp with a little Loius dressing and a piece of asparagus. The dressing was tangy (think, thousand island) and paired well with the other ingredients. The avocado cream was fantastic with the hard boiled eggs and a bite of tomato. The deconstructed Shrimp Louis salad was fun to eat as you could choose which flavours to pair on your own while also looking very presentable when served.
Our third course, our entree, was a plate of Kansas-style barbeque brisket sliders with fresh slaw, apple BBQ sauce, and bread butter pickles with cajun spiced fries.
This was a phenomenal dish, overloaded with flavour. The combination of the rub and the apple bbq sauce created the perfect balance of sweet and spicy while the meat was cooked to perfection. The pickles were a nice touch that also added sweetness, while the slaw added texture and creaminess to tone down the other flavours while adding its own. The ratio of bun to beef was spot on. The cajun fries were well done but paled in comparison to the sliders so the ten on my plate almost went unnoticed, especially with the plain mayo dip they were served with.
The beef is cured overnight with paprika, garlic and montreal steak spice then smoked for three hours, sliced, and roasted for an additional hour. This passion and time spent perfecting the meat is a prime example of why Big Lou's is an award-winning butchery. Chef Karl mentioned that they are leaning towards more of a Southern influence in some of their new dishes after spending some time chowing down in Asheville. After tasting this dish I don't doubt that they will be creating more of the same breed as they aced the brisket.
To finish off the meal we had a papaya sorbet made in-house with papaya jam and candied orange.
Not a papaya fan, I wasn't thrilled by the idea of a papaya sorbet. Fortunately, the orange influence was strong in this dish and it reminded me of a chilled, slightly sweeter marmalade. The candied orange was a nice touch, adding the textural component the dish needed.
Test Kitchen Tuesdays provide an opportunity for Chef Karl Gregg, Chef Allan Bosomworth and Big Lou's culinary team to test out new recipes while having a night to "play in the kitchen together". While this acts as a bonding experience for the team at Two Chefs and a Table, it is also a chance to bring the public in to the new menu and product development process by offering a preview on what may be to come. The Chefs will be on hand to present and explain the dishes, field questions and, of course, solicit feedback.
While I enjoyed the food at the restaurant and the idea that by sitting at the bar I could not only watch the drinks being made but have a birds-eye view on the dishes being prepared, it was the decor that I liked the most. Simple, but elegant, the restaurant offers a venue with innovative, fine dining in a bistro style setting. Simple tables, a tree painting on the unfinished looking wall and hanging chandelier-esque lights make it hard to believe that just outside the door you seem to be in the middle of nowhere and very close to the notorious East Hastings. From the outside the restaurant appears to be the size of a house, which it is, making the inside of the restaurant feel cozy, albeit being a little chilly due to the massive windows spanning each wall.
For more information on the restaurant or catering check out their site: http://www.twochefsandatable.com/ To make a reservation for an upcoming Test Kitchen Tuesday call 778-233-1303.
For more pictures check out my Test Kitchen set on Flickr.