Swallow Tail Supper Club: Pop-up Tiki Restaurant
Pop-up Restaurant at Bloedel Floral Conservatory, Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver
Rick invited me to my first Supper Club. I’ve always wanted to go, something about underground supper clubs in secret locales makes dining out more exciting. Swallow Tail Supper Club hosts a number of different events in different locations. You can join their mailing list to stay posted on events and purchase tickets online. Their events showcase budding culinary star chefs and local caterers. It’s a great way to learn about local food and experience unique culinary creations. The location of the event is made known only a couple of days beforehand. It kind of gives the affair a bit of prohibition glamour like Boardwalk Empire meets The Great Gatsby.
Last Friday’s dinner was held at the Bloedel Floral Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park with a backdrop of picturesque cherry blossoms against Vancouver’s magnificent skyline. The theme was tiki; ‘wear something tropical,’ the email stated. I haven’t been to the Bloedel Floral Conservatory since my 5th grade field trip so I was actually kind of excited to dine amongst tropical plants and birds. There wasn’t a coat check at this event so the dash from the car to venue in semi-beach wear was a little chilly. It was toasty and tropical when we got inside the Bloedel Floral Conservatory though! It was so humid, I’m pretty sure my camera lens started fogging up.
We were handed some refreshing coolers as soon as we entered. The cash counter at the front of the Bloedel Floral Conservatory had been converted into a bar complete with paper lanterns, tropical fruits and flowers.
The format of the dinner was cocktail party style, each vendor had a booth somewhere in the Conservatory, it was pretty interactive. I wasn’t crazy about all the lineups at the more popular vendors but it did gave us a chance to snap lots of pictures of the birds, plants and food. I really liked the venue, the intimate atmosphere, and the chirping birds and exotic plants (even though some of them were dripping, thank goodness for waterproof makeup). Some areas of the Conservatory could have used a tad more lighting, only for klutzy guests like myself.
There were five vendors at the event, the first one we visited was Woodland Smokehouse, set up in a back corner. We were attracted to the giant roast pig on display right away. Woodland Smokehouse was serving pulled pork sliders on the most amazingly fluffy steamed buns I’ve ever eaten. It was like eating a pillow, with moist pulled pork sandwiched in between and topped with crunchy and fresh coleslaw. I wish there was more seating at the Conservatory though. This is a hard sandwich to eat gracefully while standing up. Thank goodness the slider was served on a thick and sturdy banana leaf, which Rick thought was unnecessary but really, I can use as many dining surfaces as I can get. I’m clumsy.
Our next slider was a Chef Owen Lightly creation from Butter on the Endive: a pork belly slider served on a precious little brioche sesame bun. The pork belly just melted in my mouth, it was moist, rich and dramatically tender. So much so that I didn’t even have to chew it. The thing that I hate about sliders are that they’re so small. I could have eaten 5 more of these little guys.
Our favourite of the night was easily Curious Oyster Catering’s oysters on the half shell. Curious Oyster Catering served up Marina’s Top Drawer oysters and Black Pearl oysters, shucked fresh right before our eyes by two guys dressed like they really were from an episode of Boardwalk Empire. Curious Oyster had the fanciest (and most organized and efficient) station, our oysters were shucked then passed off to be dressed meticulously by a server before being handed off to us.
The oyster dressings included a pineapple mint mignonette with crispy ginger on the Top Drawer oysters and a tangy blood orange passion fruit mignonette with cilantro dressing on the Black Pearl oysters. I found it difficult to eat these silky little guys without a seafood fork but like I said, I’m clumsy. Everyone else seemed to be slurping up these tasty oysters with ease and glee!
A Vancouver party is never complete without sushi. The sushi vendor for Swallow Tail was Sea Monstr Sushi, serving up a selection of rolls for the night. Rick ordered the spicy tuna and I got the ebi roll. Turns out the spicy tuna wasn’t even that spicy, it was more sweet than anything. For rolls that were assembled to order, I was impressed that they didn’t crumble in our chopsticks. The rice was also al dente and the fillings were plentiful.
I really liked my ebi roll, there really was a giant prawn inside with big chunks of buttery avocado and lots of fish roe.
Our last stop was Soho Road. They were serving up butter chicken and curried tofu on fluffy naan bread. This was one of the vendors with the longest line-up and also the most charming chefs (next to the Curious Oysters guys). The triangles of naan bread heaped with curried goodies were so delicious (and thankfully not very spicy) but impossible to eat without dropping. I really need eating etiquette classes.
I was just amazed and how tender the large chunks of chicken were in the butter chicken.
All in all, I had a great time at Swallow Tail’s pop-up restaurant. It was such a creative venue with so many interactive elements! It would have been nice if more of the birds were awake though, and also if there were more trash cans throughout the venue for napkins and such.
I would totally attend another Swallow Tail event, hopefully oysters will still be involved next time!