Tapastree

Sorry! Restaurant is now CLOSED. (I’m incredibly upset too!)

Restaurant: Tapastree
Cuisine: International/West Coast/Tapas
Last visited: May 4, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (West End/Robson/Downtown)
Address: 1829 Robson Street
Price Range: $20-30

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4.5
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Opened July 1997
  • Casual fine dining
  • Chef Mike Jeffs and Partner Nicole Welsh
  • Daily specials/features
  • International & West Coast tapas
  • French fusion/Euro-Asian cuisine
  • Best with groups of 4 – small plates for sharing
  • Attention to detail for food
  • 12 year old menu
  • Consistent
  • Wine bar
  • Local gem, local favourite
  • Cozy and intimate atmosphere
  • Attracts 30-50
  • Moderately priced

**Recommendations: Seared scallops, spicy tuna tartar, prawns, duck, chicken livers, any of their daily specials are good.

Tapastree is the definition of a local gem restaurant in Vancouver. It’s tucked away in a secret, but also not so secret location in the West End in downtown Vancouver. It’s definitely a local favourite with a warm and cozy atmosphere and the menu hasn’t changed too much in over 12 years. They do offer new and creative daily specials though.

Tapastree is casual fine dining and they serve small plates that are meant to be shared. It’s a great place to try if you want to sample Vancouver because it offers West Coast and Asian flavours with traditional European techniques.

The prices are slightly steeper so it’s not an everyday dinner kind of place and more for special occasions. It adds up quite quickly, but at least the food is very good. They keep a loyal clientele with their consistency, solid menu, and daily features that are usually always good.

On the table:

Complimentary Bread – 3.5/6

  • Served warm.
  • It was a nice crusty baguette with a sun-dried tomato butter.
  • This is complimentary so I can’t really complain, but I do like the baguette from Bistrot Bistro better – except that one is an actual menu item.

Roasted Beet Salad – 4/6

  • Roasted beet salad with Chevre, orange and hazelnuts $14
  • It seems pretty steep for a salad, but with the amount of Chevre they give you I can somewhat justify it. Still a pricey salad though especially since it’s pretty small overall. It was nice to try, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.
  • Chevre is an ultra creamy goat’s cheese from France. It almost tastes like cream cheese but it’s much more pungent and strong in flavour. It has a very gamey taste.
  • The salad was tangy, nutty, sweet from the yellow and red beets and very well balanced in flavours and textures.
  • There actually wasn’t much of a dressing, but it didn’t need one because the ingredients used had distinct enough flavours on their own – they also complemented each other well.

Japanese Eggplant – 3/6

  • Japanese Eggplant with pesto & goat cheese on spicy tomato sauce $10
  • It was 2 big pieces of charred tender eggplant with a smokey flavour from the grilling.
  • It was a very simple Italian inspired dish and something I felt like I could make at home. Therefore I thought it was overpriced. I think $8 would have been fair.
  • It was quite light and had a strong herb flavour, but I found the goat’s cheese overpowering. Some pine nuts or even fresh Parmesan would have done the trick.
  • The tomato sauce wasn’t that spicy and it just tasted like stewed tomatoes.

**Spicy Tuna Tartar – 5.5/6

  • Spicy tuna tartar $12
  • It was tuna tartar piled on top of a small very crispy and buttery crostini.
  • The tuna tartar was slightly spicy and really creamy in texture. It was very flavourful with sesame oil and topped with sesame seeds and a green onion.
  • I loved how much tuna they gave you and the mini crostini added the perfect crunch. A great single bite appetizer!

**Scallops4.5/6

  • Scallops, seared with caponata vinaigrette $13
  • It was 4 perfectly seared scallops that were very juicy and tender.
  • The caponata was made of rich salty olives and some shallots. It was nice and salty and almost like an olive sauce.
  • The squeeze of lemon just brightens up the flavours and makes the scallop flavour stand out more.
  • I actually would have liked this caponanta with the grilled eggplant dish.

**Grilled Prawns – 5/6

  • Prawns, grilled with pesto $12
  • It was 6 grilled prawns on a skewer. They were done really nicely, very tender and juicy.
  • They say it’s served on pesto, but I strongly believe it was creamy aioli. It was almost like a mayo and you can see in the photo that it’s yellow and not green like pesto should be. I honestly didn’t even taste the pesto, but it was delicious the way they made it here.

Sablefish – 3/6

  • Sablefish marinated in a miso vinaigrette $13
  • You can’t screw up sablefish, so I always rate it a bit harder because if you can’t screw it up then you have to make it really good by what you do with it.
  • For one, I like it better at Japanese restaurants. It did have a nice crispy skin and it was very tender and quite a big piece.
  • I couldn’t taste much miso flavor, especially compared to Kingyo’s Saikyo Miso.
  • The miso vinaigrette just didn’t work well here because the miso didn’t mix into the citrus juices well. You can see how the sauce was just separating.

Salmon – 4/6

  • Salmon, baked with a dijon mustard crust $12
  • This was good, but I wanted more of a crispy crust since the menu said “crust”.
  • I also wanted better presentation because it came off as another “fancy dinner at mom’s” kind of thing.
  • The crispy crust would have added great texture and when I see the word ‘baked’ I look forward to something slightly crispy.

  • The salmon was perfectly cooked though. It was really juicy and even though it was a thick and big piece they didn’t overcook it at all.
  • It was perfectly pink with a creamy mustard sauce. I could have used more of a kick in the mustard though – perhaps a grainier mustard with whole mustard seed or even a touch of horseradish would work. It was so simple, but still tasted great.

**Duck Confit6/6

  • Duck Confit on greens with cranberry compote $12
  • This is delicious! If it’s your first time having duck confit you’ll love it – but if you’ve had it in France or Quebec before then this one isn’t THE best, but it’s still tres excellent in my books and for Tapastree.
  • Duck confit is more or less a preserved duck that is traditionally served from a can. It’s made by preserving the duck by salt curing the meat and then the duck is poached in it’s own fat until cooked. It’s famous for being loaded with flavour and to have a very crispy skin.
  • The skin on this one is very crispy, like cracking on roast pig. It wasn’t too salty and it’s surprisingly not dry, fatty or oily.
  • The cranberry compote was thick with whole cranberries and it was quite tart. I liked it with the salty duck though. Alone the duck was still perfect.

Wild Mushrooms – 5/6

  • Sautéed Wild Mushrooms on toast with goat cheese $12
  • The mushrooms are layered on 3 slices of baguette that are grilled until it becomes almost like crostini. The baguette used is the same baguette they serve you in the beginning.
  • They really give you a lot of mushrooms and the sauce is quite tangy and made with balsamic vinegar and cream. It was almost like a tangy gravy but it wasn’t overpowering. I could have used a little truffle oil.
  • My only problem is that the baguette got really soggy. It was a bit random and I think it was almost used as a filler. I think it could have been $10.

**Chicken Livers5/6

  • Chicken Livers, pan-fried with lemon, tomatoes, brandy & black pepper $12
  • This is the heaviest dish hands down. It kind of comes out of nowhere because everything else was quite light.
  • It’s one of those traditional items where they’ve really perfected the recipe. It’s been on the menu since the beginning of time.
  • It’s really rich, creamy and almost curry like. The gravy is very thick and it’s very nutty. It’s tangy from the lemon, bold and aromatic with the black pepper and the tomatoes cut through beautifully.
  • I felt like there was 10 chicken livers in there so the portion and price are very reasonable.
  • Chicken liver is very tender. It’s almost crumbly, but it’s not dry. It’s very soft almost like firm tofu and there’s no gamey flavour.
  • This was so saucy I wanted to eat it with mashed potatoes or rice or even naan bread.

**Special – Short Ribs5.5/6

  • Braised short ribs on scalloped potatoes $16
  • You really can’t go wrong with any of their specials here.
  • This was really worth it for $16 because they loaded it up with short ribs.
  • The short ribs could have been more tender but they were very generous with it. I still needed to use a knife and it didn’t just melt in your mouth but the flavour was definitely there.
  • The potato was done nicely with nice thin slices and it was very creamy as well.
  • I could have used a more reduced gravy, but it still had a lot of flavour so I didn’t mind. It was also topped with a freshly chopped herb salsa with lots of parsley and some tomato.
  • I really liked the execution and presentation of this. The beef was cut thin and so were the potatoes so the flavour was just so well absorbed in everything.

I was really full at this point… but I always have room for… c’mon you knew that was coming 😉

Dessert

Special – Rhubarb, Strawberry & Blueberry Pie3.5/6

  • Rhubarb, Strawberry & Blueberry Pie with homemade vanilla ice cream $8
  • The server kept saying “only one piece of pie left” “almost sold out” … so needless to say I was sold… but that doesn’t take a lot when it comes to dessert.
  • The homemade ice cream was better than the pie. It almost tasted like mango ice cream and it was very yellow and almost floral in flavour. I couldn’t see any vanilla bean seeds in it but it was so good I actually didn’t even care.
  • The pie had a thin crust and was loaded with fresh fruit which they actually didn’t sweeten too much.
  • The crust got very soggy though because it was swimming in caramel sauce. The sauce was very sweet and a bit too thin, but at least the pie fruit filling was tart so they balanced okay.
  • It was a good pie, but I’m dreaming of the ice cream more than I am the pie.

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9 Comments

  • KimHo says:

    I will have to ask this: Is this technically a tapas place or those are appetizer size portions? Since they come without any sides, I would assume it is either one or the other. If that is the case, it is darn bloody expensive! Six shrimp for $12???

    You got me when you said “liver”. It is one of those things that, if prepared correctly, it is great. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of skill to prepare it correctly (not to mention procure it, as it is really perishable). Overcook it a little bit and you might as well throw them away.

  • Bow W. Liu says:

    Mijune,
    Back from your travels, eh ? and still being a fresser!!! I hear your liver talkin’…oh, perrier and spring greens, congee…no rich sauces, no desserts. Just kiddin’, eat yer heart out…the pics are great. Although I’m not a fan of miso on rich fish(simply bake the sablefish at 400 Farenheit for 10 mins.; on the stove top, in a saucepan,heat 2 tbps of Xtra Virigin, Duoro from Portugal is great; fry 4 slicesof ginger, cut into a julienne, cook slightly take off heat and squeeze the juice of 2 oranges into oil, mix and pour over cooked sablefish).The palate isn’t jaded, eh ?

  • Mijune says:

    KimHo – yes it is pricier…casual fine dining. But I agree with you and that’s why I had to mention the price on some of the dishes and how they should be a little bit lower. The short ribs and liver I think was worth the price AND had the flavour near perfect! Tartar and duck is somewhat understandable for price too.

    Bow – You have great recipes that I really need to try! Thank you! Yes, I’ve actually been back from Asia for a month now but I ate SO MUCH food there I am still posting about it 🙂 LOL yes this was a “light” meal that ended up being heavy….this meal was only shared between 3 ppl!

  • 4SlicesofCheese says:

    Hi Mijune now that Tapastree is closed 🙁 I was wondering have you tried Tavola, which apparently took its place?

  • Mijune says:

    @4SliceofCheese – I know I’m so sad! I’ve herad GREAT things about Tavola, but I’m not too much of a “meat and cheese” girl, just because I find I can make it at home if I find a good supplier… but I heard it is good. I have been to their sister restaurant Nook around the corner and have a post for that though! http://www.followmefoodie.com/2011/05/nook/

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