Scarlet Tapas Lounge. Downtown Vancouver. Granville.
Found? On-line search. Effective website. Hundreds of other restaurants nearby but a tapas bar seemed like a good choice. A variety of foods. A variety of flavours. Not too expensive. A chance to try a few new dishes.
I was excited.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked in. It was a long, narrow space, most high-seated tables across from the expansive bar, a reddish glow to the lighting and an old movie playing on the bar TVs and projected onto the plaster walls. A retro look. I almost expected to see a cloud of cigarette smoke hanging from the ceiling and Don Draper sitting at a table, lost in thought over his latest account or a busty red hair leaning on the bar, looking for a light.
But it was nearly empty of people. The good news, I was seated right away.
The menu was simple and uncluttered. Gord Ramsey would have approved. A good selection of appys, a few entrees and salads, and a couple of desert choices.
I ended up sampling 4 appy dishes. Now, being tapas, they arrived when they arrived. I had no problems with this, especially since the waitress warned me ahead of time. So, in no particular order…
Chilean Crab Cakes with roasted corn salsa, avocado crème fresh and chili oil drizzle. Very tasty. The salsa added a lovely sweetness to them and the chili oil a little bit of heat. Nothing too naughty.
Spicy Green Beans with chili soy sesame glaze and red pepper. My healthy choice. A huge plate-o-beans. Crisp. Fresh. Easy to wave around if you’re trying to make a point. Very green. Very yummy.
Tuna Sliders, seared tuna on a toasted bun, wasabi aioli and daikon. This was definitely and delightfully out of my comfort zone. Now, tuna I knew. A toasted bun I have eaten but wasabi aioli, that could blow my head off if they weren’t careful and wtf is daikon? (Well apparently it’s a radish the Japanese love to use in their cooking.) Again the dish was well presented, the tuna fantastic and the wasabi aioli and daikon made it mildly hot but nowhere near deadly. Surprisingly good. Not something I’d make at home.
The meal, due to the 2-1 appy prices and no drinks, was $25. A great price for that food. No, seriously, that’s Denny’s prices for 2 to eat and this was a far niftier little experience. The food was good, the presentation lovely, and I got to try some new things. As well, it was quiet and I could chat with my companion without yelling. Hell, I could even make eye contact with the waiter or bartender anytime I wanted.
However, here’s the thing. A place like this, it shouldn’t be quiet. This should be a loud, happening place with people talking to each other, drinks in hand, laughing, smiling, joking, the room filled with noise and energy and hustle and bustle. The food was decent and the price excellent but none of the appys were OMGYHTTT (Oh My God You Have To Try This!) The atmosphere, while watching Marilyn Monroe on the plaster beside my table was different, it wasn’t amazing. Compare this to a friend of mine who emailed me about a dish and said, “It was the best thing I’ve ever put into my mouth.” I couldn’t email back and say the same thing.
A good meal for the price. I really believe that. But I think they need to be brilliant at something. The experience, the thing you would phone a friend about, is missing. I think the market they are shooting for, the young, hip drinking crowd was lined up across the street.
It makes me sad to think that a place that served good food for a good price would be so empty but I guess it shows you, in a market like downtown Vancouver with a hundred restaurants nearby, you have to be special in some way.
Thanks to Anita who joined me on this adventure.