Monday, January 28, 2013

Gross Dessert at The Reef (Dine Out Vancouver 2013)

The Reef on UrbanspoonThis year, for Dine Out Vancouver, I was determined to look for $18 options. I'd been eating out a lot in Yaletown and all sorts of high-end-ish places that I'd started to forget about value for money. Sure, I appreciate artistry and decor and location, but I wanted to focus on the food for a change.

The Reef is a Caribbean restaurant decorated almost like a stereotyped Caribbean vacation spot. It's busy. And when the DJ is on, the music is very loud. The food is okay. Value for price is quite good -- would be better if the food were tastier, I think.

While we were waiting for our third dining companion before making our dinner order, I asked for the Tasting Platter for two. What came was a huge plate that had us daunted about being able to finish dinner! For $16, you got about a half dozen wings, two fat prawns, a large bowl's worth of chickpea stew, and a lot of plantain chips. It's a big meal all on its own, and a light meal for two persons. For $16.

For $18, you could have instead gotten a small bowl of complex and tasty pasta at Secret Location. I don't want to say that one is better than another, but if you're looking for tasty enough + filling + good price, then places like The Reef and Fray are good choices. Once you start looking for interesting + gourmet, you're looking at smaller portions and a certain amount of hit-or-miss. What The Reef offers is a sort of comfort food that has a wider general appeal.

As far as Caribbean offerings go, their $18 Dine Out Vancouver menu is... weird. Pulled beef brisket sliders? Really?
Appetizer
Plantain chips with Jerk Mayo
OR
Curried Pear & ginger soup
Main
Jerk chicken or tofu with rice n' peas & colelsaw
OR
Pulled beef brisket sliders with crisp fried onions , yam fries & jerk mayo
OR
Pan Seared snapper with Sauce Chien on coconut rice with seasonal vegetables
Dessert
Warm chocolate, coconut rice pudding
OR
Fried bananas with mango ice cream & rum caramel
Here's how dinner turned out:

Tasting Platter (for 2 persons; $16; not part of the $18 Dine Out Vancouver menu) - Chana (warm garam masala curried chickpea salad with organic greens, roti & dahi), plantain chips, jerk wings and coco prawns (rolled in toasted coconut and served with a minted avocado yogurt)
  • "Organic greeens" is a token salad, no dressing (or hardly any).
  • The chickpea "salad" is more like chickpeas in a sort of stew or paste. Get a spoon. What is it with restaurants and not handing out spoons?
  • The roti is quite thick, about 3 millimeters. Not very useful for scooping up the chickpeas. I recommend you just take bites or tears off it and ask for a spoon for the chickpeas.
  • Curried chickpeas tasted more South Asian than anything.
  • About a dozen wings. Fall-off-the-bone tender meat. Not spicy-hot at all.
  • Two fat prawns. Not smallish in-between-a-shrimp-and-a-prawn sized prawns, but respectably sized crustaceans.
  • Overall, a sort of "meh" plate. But good portions and easy to share. Makes a light appy for 4 persons, but you'd have to fight over the two prawns.
Curried Pear & ginger soup (vegan, dairy free, gluten free)
  • Barely any bite of ginger. Pervasive sweetness from the pear. Really tasty and interesting. Probably the best item from the entire Dine Out menu, and vegan too!
  • Sadly, you cannot get this off the menu or separately. It is apparently just for Dine Out Vancouver.
Pulled Beef Brisket Sliders - Braised Dominica beef brisket with Salsa Verde & crisp fried onion on Brioche mini buns. Served with thin cut yam fries & jerk mayo
  • This item is presently on their January feature menu.
  • Pretty basic and tasty but nothing too special.
  • Moist beef. Not a huge amount of it, but enough.
  • Generous amount of yam fries. Crispy on the outside, very creamy texture on the inside.
Pan Seared snapper with Sauce Chien on coconut rice with seasonal vegetables
  • This seemed rather boring to me. Tasted like fish with a lime zing to it (from the "dog sauce", which you may or may not be pleased to hear contains no parts of any dog).
  • The coconut rice was fragrant and tasty.
Fried bananas with mango ice cream & rum caramel
  • This looked soooo gross. The single fried banana looked vaguely like:
    • A turd.
    • A giant dead worm.
    • Some sort of rotted organ ripped out of some...creature.
  • Not a lot of rum flavour coming through here from anything. Maybe I needed to get more of the sauce onto each spoonful.
  • Mango ice cream could have used more mango flavour.
Warm chocolate, coconut rice pudding
  • Coconut rice pudding with chocolate mixed in. Strangely not a exciting as it sounds, even with the chocolate, which is typically a safe dessert choice.
Overall, I thought it was a pretty boring entry for Dine Out Vancouver. The one interesting thing was the soup, but sadly it's not separately available so you have to drag along a friend to eat the rest of the Dine Out menu for you.

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