Crowbar is not just a bar with a cheeky name and fabulous cocktails, but it’s also known for the chef who runs the entire kitchen and has created one of the most innovative restaurant menus in the city. And I’m glad to share this highly-anticipated tasting experience with my fellow foodie friends, Maggi, Kristina, Sherman and Hanson. Based on the availability of organic ingredients from several local farms and producers, the menu items change from time to time. There are options of tasting menus at $40 and $60. Without any hesitation, everyone took the $60 one. We were all in for the adventure.
Let’s start with the drink menu. It’s such a pity for Dennis the Foodie to overlook the list of original cocktails it in his post. Right, he only drinks beer and he’s only interested to mention the only 3 beers on the tap. But the cocktail here are too fabulous to be ignored. From the refreshing Happy Hour Sbagliato ($8), a light version of Negroni using sparkling wine instead of gin, to the smoky Walter Sobchak ($15), for the love of the combination of mezel, aperol, rhubarb, lemon, and ginger, I was satisfied. If you are amused by the cocktail named after Walter Sobchek from The Big Lebowski, there are also the Cher Horowwitz (Clueless)and the Robby Hart (The Wedding Singer) to have you and your palate entertained.
To celebrate a special occasion for one of us, I also ordered a bottle of Summerhill Cipes Brut ($56). This has become my strategy when I go for a tasting menu – a great sparkly wine goes with almost any dish!
The Farro Honey Bread came with shallot oil and black vinegar. The hearty bread has a crunchy exterior but is soft and fluffy underneath. I would almost want to compare shallot oil to scallion oil but its aroma is more subtle and elegant, a nice contrast to the tangy vinegar, making it a great combined effort for complementing the beautiful bread.
Some of us might find the Roasted Beets with cuttlefish ink and guajillo look rather simple, but we all agreed that it was delicious. It’s brilliant to coat something sweet and earthy with a layer seafood umami. And for me, I thought the presentation was visually impressive for a minimalist concept.
The next two were both brilliant and among my favourites of the evening. Smoked and Braised Pork Tendon in hot and sour broth also came with confit potatoes and celtuce, and was surprisingly, delicate with mildly tangy flavour, and just a hint of spiciness. I often eat beef tendon, and find the pork tendon tenderer. Potato and celtuce were also in their most delicate form. This is one of the most elegant ways to enjoy a “meat and potato” dish. And the Milk Braised Beef Tongue, served with gigande beans and turnip greens in a beef fat vinaigrette has become one of the favourite “meat and beans” dish. The beef tongue was cooked beautifully and the texture was perfect for me.
The Heirloom Tomato Salad was featuring cannellini beans, wild boar nduja, Domenica Fiore olive oil, burrata and herbs. The quality of the tomatoes was just impeccable, and so was the burrata. The seasoning was just just on point of bring out the incredible flavours of the components.
One of the must-have on the menu is Dealer’s Choice Pasta, and we were glad to see it on the tasting menu. Today we were having the Cheese Tajarin. The house-made egg pasta, has an incredible flavour from the hight quality local organic eggs. Another amazing dish that’s so simple but is extremely elegant and delicious.
Ready for some meat?
If size matters to your, the Smoked Bone-In 18 oz Pork Belly is going to rock your world. Glazed in Korean hyssop and squid ink, the pork belly has a smokiness that’s counter balanced with the sweet and tangy coating. Although never everyone at the table agreed with me liking the sauce, we all enjoyed how well the pork cooked with a tender texture.
Okay the next dish gets even bigger!
They wow’d us with the Whole Roast Duck, which was absolutely gorgeous. The duck was dark soy-brined and aged, giving it a beautiful colour. And it has slightly smokey flavour, which might due to the dark soy reacting to the high heat. The meat was succulent and skin was perfectly crispy. This requires immaculate technique of precision. The duck also came with Duck Heart Sticky Rice, which has a luscious appearance but is subtly flavoured. For a condiment, the rice served its purpose.
The restaurant is also known for their off-menu burger. So just had to add this 67-Day Aged Burger on top of our tasting menu. The burger was good, but I think at the point, when we only could finish half of the duck, our fullness might affect our assessment of it. The beef patty was thick, meaty and slightly crunchy due to the leaner beef used. Despite of having blue cheese incorporated to the patty, and having the taleggio and beef fat mayo on the buns, somehow it seemed to need more fat and richness to complete a juicy burger.
Even the desserts keep the surprising use of the ingredient coming here. I would never know the cooked blood in the Blood Almond Nougat if I was never told. Served with whipped sea salt espresso the nougat has a perfect level of sweetness to please. firmly crunchy nuts and the chewy nougat. The Caramelized Rice Panna Cotta with Sylvia’s lavender, olive oil, cashew, roasted melon and herbs made a delicate, creamy and subtly sweet conclusion to our dinner at Crowbar.
I was impressed with the food, especially knowing that this is all done in a one-man show in the kitchen. The chef is like a mad scientist in cooking. Dish by dish, despite the rustic concept, the minimalist presentation looks almost too sleek to me, and hit me with surprise after surprise of sophisticated flavours. It is no easy task to keep a group of bloggers like us pleased throughout the entire tasting menu. The $60 tasting menu here is a heck of the deal! For a person who has tasted the farm-to-table menu at Michelin starred restaurants, the cooking here is definitely Michelin quality. The drink menu has been carefully curated as well. From beautifully crafted cocktails to charming wines, ciders, and beers picked from a wide range of regions.
Although I adored all the dishes I tried, I would encourage you to be more adventurous for the dishes like the Milk Braised Beef Tongue, the Smoked and Braised Pork Tendon, and the Smoked Bone-in 18oz Pork Belly. And Don’t get intimidated by the $120 Whole Roast Duck. If you have a company of 4 or more, it is totally worth it as it tastes nothing like any roast duck you have tasted before.
*** Note: the menu at Crowbar changes due to the seasonal ingredients from local farms. Please look at their website for the current menu.
$$ – $$$
646 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5T 3K4
(604) 336-2769 or crowbareastvan.com