Metro explores the latest trends emerging on the West Coast of Canada.
Crab Park Chowdery: Chow down on some chowder
Food notes: New San Francisco-style chowdery charms Gastown.
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There’s something innately satisfying about eating anything out of a bread bowl.
I equate it to the same enjoyment you get out of licking the plate, eating the last bite of a waffle cone and the spooning the cocoa sludge at the bottom of a hot chocolate. It’s primal, it’s a bit naughty and you look like an absolute glutton when you’re ripping your soup bowl apart and shoving it in your mouth.
As you can probably deduce, I was pretty happy when I was offered a bowl of New England Clam Chowder in a breadbowl upon visiting Crab Park Chowdery (221 Abbott St.).
Ashton Phillips is the man behind the “chowda” and is a native of San Francisco where chowder shops are abundant. Quick, hearty and affordable food is a little scarce in Gastown, so Phillips saw it as an opportunity to bring a little San Fran to Van.
The soups come in a bread bowl ($11) or cup ($7) served with a side of bread. First up was the flagship soup, the New England Clam Chowder in a bread bowl. Very hearty, filled with chunky potatoes, onions, dill, clams (obviously) and bacon. The bacon overpowered the clams a little, but the soup was thick, creamy and chunky, just the way I like it. The dill really showed up when I tore into the bread bowl, which was fluffy and not too crusty with beautiful fermentation bubbles.
Next up was my personal favourite, the Loaded Baked Potato Soup. It was creamy with a slight grainy texture from the starchy potatoes. The tang of the sour cream contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the green onions and was complemented by the not too smoky bacon. There some surprise tomatoes at the bottom of the tin cup that added a refreshing element. Really good.
Then I switched to the tomato based soups, which were a Vegan Chili and a Smoky Tomato. The Smoky Tomato was nice and thick and a little more on the spicy side, than smoky. Fortunately I like spice, but I did find it a little too acidic. I think with a little tinkering this soup should be awesome.
The Vegan Chili actually had the smoky flavours I was looking for in the Smoky Tomato soup and I thought it was delicious. The hard thing about doing a vegan chili is that you can’t add cheese and sour cream, which really cools down the spice. Fortunately the chili was nicely balanced so it didn’t need the additives. The texture was nice with a thick tomato base, kidney beans for density and yellow pepper for sweetness.