By Tana Kosiyabong
Last Saturday, I went to an annual event in Vancouver called “The Taste of the City.” The event was held at the PNE Fairgrounds, which meant I had to catch the bus at the stop across the street from the infamous Pigeon Park, where the junkies like to hang out. On my way to the bus stop, a woman threw up about 5 feet from me and walked away like nothing had happened. As she disappeared, so did my appetite. That’s when my bus came.
About fifteen minutes later, I was right smack in the middle of the Taste of the City. There were 18 participating restaurants this year. The event started from noon to eight pm. But just three hours in to it, some restaurants had already run out of food. Visitors had to purchase food tickets to trade for food samples. The tickets were sold in five dollar increments. No refund. My budget was ten dollars or twenty tickets.
When you go to one of these food events, you must first walk around the area and take mental notes. It’s wise to be selective and to stick to your budget. Remind yourself that you are not Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobayashi from the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. After a brief scouting, I had decided on 3 different restaurants: Saffron Indian Cuisine, Zero One Sushi and Jamaican Jerk Pizza – three unique cuisines from different corners of the world.
At Saffron, I ordered a butter chicken with saffron rice (6 tickets) and a vegetable samosa (3 tickets). Both of them looked really appetizing. The portions were very generous. The butter chicken was made of boneless white meat cooked in ginger, garlic and tomato cream sauce. The chicken was tender and its butter sauce was savory. The saffron rice was cooked perfectly and mixed with cooked white basmati rice. Although I hardly noticed the scent of the saffron, the rice looked wonderful on the plate. I also liked the mint sauce a lot, but I was not a big fan of their tamarind sauce. The vegetable samosa was very crispy and sold for just $1.50 a piece. Fantastic deal! At their Burnaby location, they sell two of these babies for $4.50. Do the math. The potato and split pea filling had mild aromas of East Indian spices. I wish it would have been even spicier, but that’s just me.
Saffron understood the concept of this marketing event. The two main objectives were to get as many people as possible to try your food and to make sure they left with good impressions of the restaurant. Well… they got me.
Taste of the City – Saffron’s Butter Chicken: ©©©© ½
Taste of the City – Saffron’s Vegetable Samosa: ©©©© ¼
Then I moved along to Zero One Sushi. I have to admit that I chose it because the line was shorter than most. I didn’t want to stand under the sun for 20 minutes and still be onlyhalfway there. Since I was not a big fan of big chunks of raw fish, I opted for the Inari sushi – a sweet deep fried tofu pocket over sushi rice. For 2 tickets each, I got two of them. They were quite tasty and freshly made. The sweetness of the tofu went well with the sushi rice. Best of all, the price was right.
Taste of the City – Zero One’s Inari sushi: ©©© ½
The last stop was at Jamaican Jerk pizza. I didn’t see any pizza on the menu, not sure why. So I ended up choosing the jerk chicken with rice and coleslaw (7 tickets). Right off the bat, I felt underwhelmed with the portion size. Compared to the butter chicken sample, I sure got jibbed. The jerk chicken sample was about half the size of the butter chicken, yet more expensive. The taste didn’t help much either. The rice was plain and Jamaican coleslaw was horrible. It tasted like it was pickled in dishwater. The chicken was probably good, but it was hard to evaluate from the tiny little piece I had. I wish I could have gotten my money back.
Taste of the City – Jamaican Jerk Pizza’s Jerk chicken with rice and coleslaw. ©¾
At this moment, I had already run out of the tickets, but I still wanted to try the coconut smoothies. For 2 tickets, it was a bargain. So, I went to the ticket booth asking if I could buy only two tickets. “Sorry,” the ticket staff said. “But you could buy it off the other visitors,” she added. It made me wonder if whoever came up with this policy was on drugs and perhaps hanging out at the Pigeon Park. Oh well, no coconut smoothies for me!
Though this Cheap Appetite mission started with delicious East Indian flavors, it ended with a bad aftertaste of a ridiculous policy. I hope this is not a true representation of the taste of my beloved city, Vancouver.