After years of development, Strathcona in Vancouver is starting to increase its density. What this means is a better attractor for restaurants and eateries to set up shop knowing that the locals will sometimes want to go out to eat somewhere close to their lobby. VV Tapas Lounge is one of these establishments and it's differentiating itself through its wine and sherry programming on its menu. A few weeks ago, I snagged myself a table to have the full VV experience.
Disclosure: This was a complimentary tasting provided in exchange for an honest overview and no monetary compensation.
Food and Drink:
Team Tastic came here for a Thursday evening dinner and I had a great taste of the following:
- Sparkling Unicorn Alcohol-Free Cocktail ($7)
- Beautiful British Columbia Wine Flight ($22, 2oz each)
- Amuse Bouche: Butter-Dipped Radish ($6)
- Deviled Duck Egg ($6)
- Warm Cauliflower and Cashew Dip ($11)
- Leek and Herb Risotto ($20)
- Quinoa Salad ($11)
- Lamb Scrapple ($15)
- Sherry Flight (~$38)
- Charcuterie (4-piece) ($23)
This was quite the journey, so I'll separate this overview into what I consider different "phases" of the meal: getting started, full-on tapas, and the charcuterie finale.
Settling yourself in at a wine bar is not a hurried experience. It's a meticulous perusal of the drink list and finding something right for you. We didn't need the sommelier's help at this point because we knew what sounded interested to us, but it's nice to know you always have the option.
The sparkling unicorn alcohol-free cocktail was the ideal choice for the other half of Team Tastic. She's into natural colour and the whimsy nature of butterfly pea (i.e. a tea with colour-changing properties). This citrusy drink came in two parts. We were instructed to dump the fresh lemon into the drink and stir. It's hard to see from the photo, but there was actual glitter in the cocktail, making this extra fun to drink.
For my half of Team Tastic, I'm a big fan of local so the beautiful British Columbia wine flight was right up my alley. Specifically:
- 2016 MacIntyre Astra Chardonnay (Naramata, BC)
- 2018 Artakama Pinot Noir (Oliver, BC)
- 2012 Pentage (Skaha, BC)
I was pleased that the whole strip of the Okanagan Valley was represented in this flight as opposed to just the famous Golden Mile Bench. This flight was also arranged in increasing body (my favourite wine term), implying that it was meant to be enjoyed as your meal progresses. I'll note which wine best paired with the food for my palate as we continue.
To cleanse up our palate for the meal, a small amuse bouche of butter-dipped radish was served. I would have been fine with a raw radish but I am of the belief that butter makes everything better (sorry vegans). The chardonnay was the wine flight choice pairing here.
Our first food was the deviled duck egg which was served with a white bean paste, croutons, and a hint of crispy andouille sausage. These were made to be popped into your mouth to slowly savour and the sausage was pretty light to make way for enjoying the white bean paste. I started moving towards the pinot noir to pair with this item.
At this point, the velocity of tapas coming out was in full throttle and they began filling up the table.
The warm cauliflower and cashew dip was a massive dish for the price of $11. Featuring bread from local bakery Bench Bakehouse (one of my favourites for almond croissants) and olives, everything here was meant to be enjoyed with a spoonful of cauliflower cashew dip. The dip was silky as I lathered it over the sourdough spelt and there was enough of it that I didn't have to be frugal in its application. I found this best paired with the chardonnay.
The star tapa of the night was the leek and herb risotto. Served with a scallop tartare, this risotto was full of flavour and savouriness. As much as I like a plain risotto with sage butter, this risotto felt like an evolution. At $20 this is also a steal when compared to relative risottos in this echelon of dining. This went best with the Pentage blended red wine.
The quinoa salad was served with organic greens, frozen coronation grapes, champagne vinaigrette and pine nuts. In some quinoa salads, you end up with an 80% quinoa base with something blended in, but in VV's case, it was quite the opposite. The quinoa served as a complement to everything else happening in the bowl. Of particular note is the adherence to wine-related items in the grapes and champagne vinaigrette. You think you've had a quinoa salad, but then you come to VV, see a totally different take, and it turns out to be an item you're glad you ordered. This was great with the pinot noir thanks in part to the earthy pine nuts.
Of particular interest to me was the lamb scrapple. Being a first-time scrappler, I had to look it up on Wikipedia, which described "scrapple" as a mush of meat scraps combined with some sort of flour and spices. What was presented at VV was a much more beautiful slab of meat mush. If you take a look, the top of the scrapple was carefully torched to produce a little more texture and produce the famous Maillard reaction. This one would definitely be something to write home about. I leaned in to the Pentage blended red wine for this pairing.
At this point, I was finished with my wine flight, but our charcuterie was still queued in the pipe. VV's in-house sommelier recommended to me a flight of sherry (fortified wine prepared in Spain) for pairing with the charcuterie. I ended up with the following:
- Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla
- Gonzalez Byass Apostoles 30 year Palo Cortado
- Gonzalez Byass Noe 30 year Pedro Ximenez
The sherries all had their own distinct characteristics. The sweetness topped out at the 30 year Pedro Ximenez, and at the other end, a completely different character in the Manzanilla which was pretty dry with an almondy flavour. The 30 year Palo Cortado naturally played the balance between the two which I most preferred. I love a sweet moscato wine in regular practice but will concede that the Pedro Ximenez was basically drinking reduced Coca-Cola.
Now, to pair with all the sherry, we had a massive board of charcuterie with the following choices of meats and cheese:
- soria chorizo (pork loin in smoked paprika and sherry)
- schinkenspeck (prosciutto style and heavily smoked)
- bra duro (firm and delicate cow cheese)
- claddagh bo (grass-fed Irish cheddar cow cheese)
The charcuterie program here is something to write home about. At most restaurants, you just order "the charcuterie board", but at VV, you can choose a smorgasbord of meats (sourced from Two Rivers Meats in North Vancouver) and cheeses that will be served with house-pickled vegetables, mustard, nuts, orange blackberry marmalade, olives, and bread (again, from the local Bench Bakehouse).
The level of customization available is large and is similar to something you'd find at Salt Tasting Room but at a much better value (see size below). Unsure of what some meats or cheese are? The in-house staff all have superior product knowledge and are ready to share with you all the tasting notes.
I loved the pickles on this plate. I love pickles in general. When I learned that the vegetables were pickled in-house, I was in even more love. Onions, red onions, celery, radish, and more were all available on the plate. Charcuterie is served last at VV so that the diners can slowly nosh on finger food until they're ready to wrap up their night at VV.
At this point, we were pretty full, so we did not finish the charcuterie board. We got a to-go box to house most of the bread and some pickles.
VV Tapas Lounge is a drink-first type of establishment that proudly shares how much the business loves wine and sherry. The main bar inside, with a wine barrel embedded into it, has a beautiful pattern display of cork that's lit with the intention of showing off the various wine labels that went into all the residual corks (hundreds of bottles!). Behind the counter is another masterpiece – a massive barrel-shaped bar holding the harder liquors. Towards the bathrooms are hanging terrariums, and within the bathrooms are another pattern of vinyl records plastered across the ceilings. There's a lot to discover at VV Tapas Lounge, which seats around 50 guests in bars, tables, and benches, and it's certainly an experience worth visiting for.
Fun fact: VV Tapas Lounge doesn't have a traditional full chef's kitchen with a fume hood or grill, so they've had to be pretty inventive with their food menu to produce restaurant-worthy dishes like the risotto.
For those who must know, there is no true meaning behind "VV" other than the fact that it's a cool name (and good for Google Adwords, if you're in the SEO business). There was a suggestion thrown out that VV could translate to "vinho verde", which refers to green wine from Portugal, so there are indeed some applications of the name in the world of wine.
One-liner: A cozy, experience-first tapas lounge that's got a surprisingly great food menu that pulls in local vendors wherever possible and supports the Vancouver love of wine and (hopefully now) sherry
Highlight: Leek and Herb Risotto
Price per person: $30-70 (depending on how fancy you get with the wine or sherry)
Would I go back? Yes (they have brunch now!).