By Sherman Chan,
Special to The Post
Melody Fury has made a name for herself in our city as the purveyor of the original Vancouver food tour. For years I have wanted to experience her culinary expeditions, but I've never had the opportunity until recently, when I joined the Modern Chinatown Tasting Tour. The food scene in Chinatown has changed rapidly recently. Call it gentrification or the relocation of Chinese shops to Richmond, the choice of cuisine in this historic neighbourhood has never been more diverse than now.
I began the tour by meeting other guests in front of the Sun Yat-Sen Gardens. We were given some brief information about the history of the area while walking over to our first stop, Calabash Bistro. Here we began with the Calabash Dark and Stormy, which is their take on Bermuda's national drink, consisting of ginger-infused Goslings Black Seal with homemade ginger beer, Angostura bitters, and house-made ginger syrup. This was one refreshing gingery drink with a definite bite. Next, we were presented with a large platter that included three types of patties, including veggie, chicken and beef. There were also jerk chicken skewers and plantain chips. The patties were soft and doughy rather than flaky, but that didn't mean they weren't good. I found them warm and pillowy with a purposefully spiced filling. I liked the beef one the best as it was moist and had a nice depth-of-flavour. As for the jerk chicken, it was moist, especially for white meat. The jerk sauce was tangy with a touch of spice and sweetness.
Next, we sauntered over to Mamie Taylors. As if one cocktail wasn't enough, we were treated to the Mamie Taylor made of scotch, fresh lime juice, ginger beer and angostura bitters. Somewhat similar to the dark n' stormy at Calabash, it was lighter with less bite and a touch more acidity, making for a refreshing drink. They also served us a glass of wine. For food, we were presented with Pimento cheese stuffed in a paper-thin cannoli on top of celery salad and espelette. I enjoyed the cannoli itself because it was light and crispy. Inside, the pimento cheese was moderately chunky and smooth, with big hits of salt and a touch of spice.
The food didn't end there. We were then served two more dishes, starting with the Turducken Scotch Egg and Smoked Albacore Tuna. The scotch egg sat on top of a tomatillo dressed with garlic mayo and scallions. I've had this dish before and it didn't disappoint this time around. The egg was not overcooked, and the sausage was moist and meaty with lots of depth. It was encased in a lightly crisp exterior which completed the range of textures. The bright and zippy tomatillo sauce brought the dish alive.
Consisting of raw albacore tuna, spicy eggplant, black-eyed pea puree and cornbread, the tuna was a composed dish. It was buttery soft with a nice smoke flavour. The crispy and firm cornbread added some body while the eggplant ensured there was some heat.
Our last stop was The Emerald. It opened a few months back and features eclectic decor, live music and extended hours, having the potential to be a late-night dessert spot. We started with another cocktail, the Gin Basil Smash. It was refreshing with a zip of lemon, the lightness of gin and of course the herbal basil. To end things off for the tour, we were served a trio of desserts including chocolate mousse, coconut gelato and banana cheesecake spring roll with raspberry coulis. I found the mousse was light and not overly sweet, but it could have had a stronger chocolate flavour. The gelato was smooth and creamy with aromatic coconut. As for the spring roll, it was crispy with a sweet banana cheesecake. There was a bit too much coulis though.
In sum, we had three full-sized cocktails, one glass of wine, and a total of nine food items. We were both full and potentially intoxicated (I held back because I had to drive). Compared to all the other food tours in Vancouver, this tour had the best combination of drinks, real portions of food, and quality establishments.
VANCOUVER FOOD TOUR
• Lots of full-sized cocktails
• Plenty of real dishes of food that makes sense
• Engaging and knowledgeable tour guide
• Costs the most, but for good reason