I’d waited politely, until the food was served to everyone, the introductions were done and the chef had told us exactly what we were about to eat.
I even waited until we’d all taken our pictures.
And then I lifted the bao to my mouth and took a bite. And wow.
I’d seen Bao Down before, but not knowing what kind of food they served and not feeling particularly adventurous that day, I didn’t go in.
I wish I had.
The combination of textures and flavours was incredible. The bao was soft and squishy, just as a steamed bun should be. The chicken was tender and flavourful, the carrot and daikon crispy and tangy. Garlic mayo moistened it all with just the right amount of creaminess. And those tiny bits of fried garlic popped in my mouth. I knew immediately that I would be dreaming of this food for years to come.
I was on the Taste Vancouver Gastown Food Tour, and we were eating our way up and down Water Street. Beginning at the famous Steamworks Brewing Company for a sample (and who doesn’t love a tour that starts with beer?), we made our way slowly through the historic district, stopping along the way for our guide Brent to tell us stories about Gastown and its colourful history.
The tour moved quite quickly, giving us just enough time in each food stop to eat the goodies and get out. But that’s not really a complaint, because less time in each place equals more delicious food stops we can visit! And I probably only felt the time crunch because of my obsessive photo-taking habits.
And shortly after that we were standing outside Peckinpah BBQ watching the manager Connor twirl a plate of pulled pork sandwiches, teasing our tastebuds while regaling us with tales of mouth-watering BBQ techniques. Finally we were able to sample the pulled pork – it was soft and flavourful and combined perfectly with the tangy crunch of the coleslaw topping.
There were lots of stops along the way to learn about Gassy Jack or the great Vancouver fire of 1886, or to look at a building that isn’t really a building and Gastown’s historic steam clock (note: It was built in 1977 so it’s only about as historic as I am!)
Then we arrived at Bao Down. This Asian Fusion restaurant stole my heart with the Bao Chicka Bao Bao we sampled and I WILL be back for more. As I said above, I can’t believe I didn’t try this place when I first saw it, and I can’t wait to go back. I want to try everything on their menu (including kimchi fries…yum)! They’re expanding – to various locations in Vancouver as well as San Francisco! That’s a sure sign of Asian Fusion done well.
Every good meal ends with a spectacular dessert, right? Don’t worry. The Taste Vancouver Gastown tour has that covered.
We started off lightly with soft serve ice cream from Soft Peaks but then dove straight in at Trees Organic Coffee and Roasting House for cheesecake that has been voted Vancouver’s best. It was rich, creamy, and oh so tasty. Even with everything I’d already eaten, I could’ve devoured a whole slice of this cheesecake!
Now, this may surprise you, but despite being Canadian, I’m no maple syrup connoisseur. But I could really taste the difference between the light, medium, and dark samples they gave us. And they were all delicious (not that I’m terribly discriminating when it comes to sweets). Then they passed out a maple cookie to top it all off.
By this time my body was buzzing with all the sugar. I was starting to get jittery and wasn’t sure how much more I could eat but we weren’t done yet! One last stop at Roger’s Chocolates put me over the top with a rather large chocolate truffle. I think some people gave up and saved theirs for later.
And then the guide handed out coupons at the end so we could go back and indulge some more!
For a visiting foodie or a seasoned Vancouverite, this is an excellent way to spend an afternoon. How many times have you looked at a restaurant, thought it looked interesting, but were wary of trying it because you don’t want to waste your hard-earned money on a meal that doesn’t satisfy you? This is a great way to sample a lot of different places quickly, and for a local to find new restaurants to try that they may not have known about. I’ll definitely be returning to a few of them!
I received the Taste Vancouver Gastown Food Tour as a perk of attending the BC Association of Travel Writers Annual Symposium, but all opinions are my own!