I have written about the Vancouver “underground restaurant” scene a while back. Since that experience was quite positive, our food bloggers group decided to try another such restaurant. This one is called Swallow Tail Supper Club – supper club is probably more appropriate than “underground restaurant”. Joyce and I went to this dinner. To our knowledge, there are in total 4 underground restaurants in Vancouver, and it’s our intention to try them all. You can probably consider this as part 2 of a 4-part mini-series.
Swallow Tail is situated in a quiet neighbourhood in Vancouver. Upon arrival, we were first led to the backyard, where we were served the amuse bouche. It’s not the prettiest backyard, but it was nice sitting in the sun and chatting with friends.
Shortly following the amuse bouche, we were led to the basement for our dinner. I have to say being relatively tall, I don’t do very well with low ceilings. The room was overly dim and feels somewhat crammed. Otherwise, the background music of Charles Trenet and Edith Piaf and the wine rack worked well to create a welcoming environment. With respect to alcohol, the arrangement was to bring your own wine (no corkage either). Robin, the chef/operator of Swallow Tail, sent out a list of suggested wine pairings beforehand. The dinner menu (including the amuse bouche) is here:
Amuse – Farmhouse BC Gruyere & sour apple tart on handmade puff pastry with apple reduction
Course 1 – Hand harvested stinging nettle soup with arugula & sweet peas with garden rosemary and BC stout bread cubes (radicchio/cream garnish)
Course 2 – Cedar smoked romaine with pecorino/parmesan, Portuguese olive oil vinaigrette and garlic croutons
Course 3 – Baked live Dungeness crab with Averill Creek BC pinot gris, garlic and crab butter with red pepper and star fruit
Course 4 – BC bison tenderloin with red onion jam (braised in noble ridge meritage), creamed parsnips with garden rhubarb, sauteed leeks with cattails in BC chardonnay, cleavers and chive flowers
Course 5 – Beer battered crepe blintz with (Limbert Mountain Farm) cream Earl Grey tea creme anglais, apples & huckleberries, Amontillado Sherry reduction(pepper, lemon rind, vanilla bean)
Tea – Limbert Mountain Farm, cream Earl Grey
As you can see above, the menu features predominantly local ingredients. For some of the ingredients, I hadn’t either heard of or tried before. Stinging nettle, cattail, cleavers, etc were all completely new flavours to me. The most memorable course was definitely the dungeness crabs – so succulent, fresh, and sweet. The crab butter was really good… I actually drank that thing. The bison tenderloin was also cooked just right – perfect medium rare. Lastly, the Early Grey tea at the end was quite good, with a hint of vanilla, which reminded me of rooibos tea.
(Joyce: For me, the highlights were the romaine salad and the bison tenderloin. The generous portion of charred lettuce gave me a new perspective on boring green salad. And the salad dressing was just excellent – Portuguese sure knows how to make good olive oil! The bison…it’s tender and moist, and the red onion jam brought out the best of the meat. I only wish there’s one more slice of the meat, just one more slice.)
In general, the food was excellent though the portion was on the smaller side. I applaud Robin’s use of local (even wild) ingredients wherever possible. In comparison to NFA, this menu is more BC-centric (NFA: Asian-inspired); the courses more refined; the ingredients more unusual and exciting. However, the dining room is crying for more light and a face lift in general. For $50, it was an excellent deal, especially in the brave new world of HST.