Wednesday 14 September 2022

Meet Me In Gastown + Dinner at Monarca

Vancouver does not have much in the way of evening fun, in fact, some would argue Vancouver is completely devoid of nightlife. It is not every day a fun community event is organized and when I heard it was in Gastown, I knew I needed to attend. 

With its bricked walkways and roads, heritage buildings and gorgeous cast iron lamp posts, Gastown is simply magical in the evenings. Meet Me In Gastown took place on Thursday, August 25th and was a community celebration featuring the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra + Light Show in collaboration with Gastown Thursday Nights. The festivities took place at the corner of Water Street and Alexander Street and the streets were alive with people. 

Honestly, nothing beats dining outdoors on a warm summer's evening. Monarca Cocina Mexicana set up picnic benches in the courtyard and served a special Meet Me In Gastown Menu. Other restaurants in the area had similar setups. This was my first time dining at Monarca. The menu is upscale Mexican and the interior of the restaurant is edgy yet still chic.

 The food was divine and I wish I had the words to describe the depth of flavour that the chef built with the use of spices and chillies. 

Los De Cochinita: three corn tortillas with achiote braised pork, marinated habanero and red onions, and fresh lime. The three tacos sit in the rich braising liquid which allows the corn tortillas to soak up even more of the flavour. 

Enchiladas Gratinadas: is layered milpa tortilla, braised chicken, refried beans, salsa verde and a oaxaca cheese gratin. I appreciate how generous the chef was with the chicken and the refired beans were definitely house-made since there was a lot of texture. The best part of the entire dish was the salsa verde. Dotted throughout the salsa verde were whole chilli seeds and the sauce was spicy and had a wonderful fresh lime flavour. 

Churros: Three freshly fried churros dusted in cinnamon sugar are served with a luscious dulce de leche. The dipping sauce is actually a tequila-infused dulce de leche sauce. It had a rich thickness that perfectly coated the warm churros making for an addicting finish to a great dinner. 

We sipped on the Monarca Margharita (Cuervo tradicional, House curacao, Valencia orange, lime) and an Orange Jarritos Paloma. When it comes to cocktails, I like them on the sweeter side to mask the alcohol. So I am hardly a cocktail expert, but for some reason, these cocktails lacked flavour and were oddly bland. 

Music filled the air courtesy of the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra which was set up across the street. I wish the restaurants had turned off their speakers because it drowned out the beautiful live music. After we finished our dinner, we made our way into the crowd to take in the music. Loved seeing all of the musicians with their instruments. I am partial to the woodwinds as I used to play Clarinet in my high school orchestra. 

All evening the conductor had been teasing us about the light show, so I had high expectations. One of the Heritage Buildings in Gastown acted as the backdrop for the projections. The execution though was not the greatest because the Orchestra music hardly matched the visuals. Also, the graphics were not special and I can only speculate that a generic video that looped. I wish they customized the light show to match the Orchestra music because the idea is really cool if done well. I would pick more lively upbeat music too versus the sombre music that was chosen to keep the evening fun and exciting. 

What really amused me that evening was Water Street remained open. People filled the sidewalks and courtyards almost on the verge of spilling over into the narrow wobbly bricked Water Street as traffic continuously passed through. I am talking massive Translink busses, trucks, Ubers, cars and sedans. It was chaotic and I thoroughly enjoyed watching traffic navigate the people spilling into the road. 

Gastown should definitely bring this back for next year. With a few minor changes, Meet Me In Gastown could become the place to be on a summer's evening. A more exciting choice of music for the Orchestra to play, have the restaurants not blare music over their speakers and customize the light show to match the music score. 


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