VieAMaggi.com

Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Hundy & Their There Cafe

I have seen and heard of this cafe by day, burger and beer spot by night restaurant, so was excited to drop by today. My guest was here to visit a relative working within, and I was along for the ride.

First of all, I was impressed by the clever utility of the space. Their There is the cafe from 9-3pm. And Hundy, the dinner spot from 3-9pm. All to maximize the hours of operation with two different dining options, as well as a store to shop from. The latter includes the sales of wine, beer, spirits and mixes; on top of cards, incense and other knick knacks that are giftable. Father’s Day is the next shopping occasion and it looked like their assortment catered to that.

I could have spent my time further indoors, sitting in the dark carved out dining areas, lit with fun neon lights, and an old school arcade game, no longer in service. But instead we choose to take advantage of their new road side patio, which is a sign of the times.

The menu is small and concise with limited sides and no add ons. Making it easy enough to order three out of the five burgers, instead of fries or poutine. We made the right decision.

But first drinks. My guest went a different way with the very herbaceous gose from Six Acres, on tap. I tried the house lager, aptly named the Hundy lager. Fun fact, it is poured out of a neon pink beer handle that was cast out of the owners very own fist. As for how it tastes: a smooth easy chugger, great for seconds, and to pair with their most flavourful burgers.

Between a cheeseburger and one with bacon, always get the one with bacon I say. The bacon cheese burger included bacon, cheese, pickles, lettuce, and their Hundy sauce. It was simple, but done so right. An assortment you’d expect and a flavour you’d crave for when you immediately think bacon cheeseburger. It checked off all the boxes and was my favourite of the three we had, even despite it being on the greasy side, with plenty of oily sauce pooling. Thankfully it was served in an easy to eat out of brown paper pocket, over a tray to catch anything that falls.

The fried chicken sandwich was a large piece of buttermilk fried chicken with lettuce and a jalapeño aioli. We both likened it to a “McChicken” done right. One with quality ingredients and flavours that elevate the burger. I liked the flavour of the sauce and the ratio of lettuce and chicken to sweeter bun. Though the chicken is good enough to stand on its own, and I almost preferred it that way.

For something more spicy and flavourful with your beer, go for the Nashville style hot chicken. A heavily coated saucy piece of fried chicken, drizzled with a cooling buttermilk ranch, and finished off with pickled zucchini. I heard pickles and I was sold. It is on the spicer side, immediate in impact, but not overwhelming. Thankfully the sauce and the pickle helped to balance and have you going back for more. Worth noting is how different the two chicken sandwiches are, and how both are worth trying.

And for dessert, if you are lucky, you can snag one of the in house made doughnuts from There Their; if they have any leftovers from the morning’s rush. From what I have heard that isn’t common, but we lucked out today during our Tuesday 5pm dinner. We snagged one of each of the only two doughnuts left available, and shared.

The mochi donut is like a regular crueller on the outside, but inside it is squishy and chewy thanks to mochi flour. Worth mentioning is this isn’t like the ring of balls mochi doughnuts that you may have seen previously. I prefer the texture of this one over that.

Our second doughnut was a cruller, the breakfast pancake cruller with a maple bacon flavoured “butter square”. I absolutely loved the aesthetic to this. It simulated stacked pancakes, but with a soft cakey meets crispy combination. The only down side was having to ration and spread out the butter square, to evenly distribute it across the doughnut’s surface. Although both my host and I agreed that the doughnut was sweet enough and didn’t really need it.

And before you leave, make sure you grab a couple of hot beverages to go, because the cups are cute and worth collecting.

In short I liked everything. I enjoyed the novelty and even more the taste of everything. Must visit.

Hundy
2042 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1M9
(604) 736-8828
hundy.ca

Zaatar W Zeit

Today I met up with Joyce of @monkeyeatsworld at Zaatar W Zeit. I walked in not knowing what to expect, but immediately being impressed by the expansive restaurant, and their delicious looking menu. A lengthy list that included both premade sides and dips to go, as well as made to order wraps and flatbread, that have become their bread and butter.

I am surprised that I have only now heard of this causal Lebanese chain, with 80 branches in the Middle East. With this being its 81st, and 1st in Canada. Though, truth be told, this popular chain had plans of expansion within the North American market; but they like so many of us, were sent into a tailspin with the world wide pandemic. Nonetheless here we are today with dining -in back on the table (excuse the pun), and their 2nd location in Canada to come: on Vancouver’s Main Street.

 

Overall, their cuisine is on their healthier side, prepared with lean meats and no oil or preservatives. For example, they offer falafel on their menu, which is typically a chickpea and/or fava bean fritter that is deep fried, but here each patty is baked for a healthy vegan option.

With so many delicious options, we had a hard time choosing, so ended up ordering a bit of something from every category. And hopefully it helps you narrow things down if/when you visit yourself. They are well know for their freshly baked wraps with a twist, so we had to get a couple. Made from all plant based ingredients, which makes for a more lighter dough, is prepared in house and baked to order; which honestly makes a world of difference in both the quality and taste. You can choose from 4 types of dough: Multigrain, Oat, Spinach, and White. All of which were tasty on their own merits, without out having its own taste.

We were recommended the “Spizy chicken”, so started with that in a multigrain wrap. This is prepared with marinated chicken, a melted cheese mix (we skipped this as Joyce has a dairy allergy), bell peppers, onions, spinach, and their popular home-style spizy sauce. It tasted exactly as it expected, delivering on its name with plenty of flavour from the fresh assembly above.

Although I preferred the Chicken Tawouk, which also happens to be their best selling wrap. This one we had with an oat dough, which actually didn’t make much of a difference in terms of taste. Grilled chicken paired with crispy thin cut fries, crunchy pickles, and a garlic sauce. This was such a unique combination of flavours that contrasted, yet worked. The fries was a nice little treat. I would highly recommend this one, and order it again if/when I return.

Now, if you want your dough as a flatbread, you have options here too. The Manousheh is a traditional Lebanese breakfast item. Here, they offer it topped with various ingredients and spices. Though, as this was our first foray into the cuisine we decided to go classic with the Zaatar (which also happens to be their name sake). Ground zaatar (which is a spiced herb mix with antioxidants) mixed with sesame seeds, sumac spice, and oil. What doesn’t look like much was actually full of flavour. Mild yet tasty, nutty yet milky. There is nothing else like this and definitely something worth trying.

And if you are looking for more breakfast options, they do have a breakfast all day section of the menu. It includes more flatbreads, but with eggs, like the Kafta Supreme. It features a ground beef mix with Mediterranean spices, diced onion and parsley, known as “kafta”. Here, it is spread on white flatbread and typically baked with cheese mix (however our version came without due to my host’s dairy allergy). To finish, it is topped with a fried egg, cherry tomatoes, chilli paste, and mayo. Then garnished with arugula and sesame seeds. This was was regular size and it was plenty. The large stretches out more and is crowned with two egg. I like the slight spicy on the meat paired with the fresh pepperiness of the greens. But it is the creaminess of the egg that brings it all together.

Similar, but classified as a pizza, the Mediterranean flatbread is a combination of pesto sauce, mozzarella, zucchini, feta cheese, black olives, hot green pepper, cherry tomatoes, arugula, freshly cut onion, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. The pesto is the feature here, it is mild yet refreshing with a clean taste. Everything else tasted as expected making this a great light snack option.

However, if you don’t have the time to wait for your flatbread to bake, they also have premade sides you can take to go in a jiffy. Although truth be told, fresh is best and although tasty, when compared to the above, our dip and salad just didn’t hit the same caliber for me.

We had the Classic Hummus infused with red beetroot, over a spinach wrap. The hummus was a little runny from the condensation, giving it a chalky congealed feel. The flavour was mild and slightly sweet. Although, as with the green spinach wrap, this pink spread gave me no vegetable flavour, despite its bright hue.

The Quinoa Tabbouleh was a better premade side. This salad is a mix of chopped parsley and quinoa mixed with diced tomato, green onion, and fresh mint. And then drizzled with their zesty tomato lemon dressing to finish. I actually don’t like leafy salads or greens, but I will make an exception for this. It was very refreshing, making it a great palette cleanser as we jumped between bites.

And you must save room for dessert and the “ Kenefeh in the Pan”. This is melted cheese and kenefeh crumbs, served with sugar syrup and sesame bread on the side. It comes to you sizzling in a pan, and is best enjoyed warm; so make sure you order this one after your meal. The salty cheese is the star of this dish, enjoy it atop of their rounds of dough, and further sweetened by their pistachio and rose infused syrup. This is another menu item I have never had before and would recommend and order again.

As for drinks we tried their Lebanese Coffee with the cardamom add on, although couldn’t taste it. This was a bitter unfiltered black coffee made of 100% Arabica beans, and it definitely gets you up and going.

Their Blossom Infusion tea smelled beautiful. It was a traditional Lebanese orange blossom infusion with floral hints amongst the citrus. This was light and refreshing for a caffeine-free hot beverage alternative.

In short, I can’t say enough how impressed I was and how much I enjoyed the experience. They make a great option for fans of Lebanese food, and those who have yet to become ones.

Zaatar W Zeit
531 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6C 1X6
(604) 336-9348
zaatarwzeit.com/ca

Wings and Wizards, A Magical Experience for the Whole Family

This summer, in a move to head back towards life with occasions and going ons, Vancouver’s newest themed event is ready to surprise and delight at B.C. Place. Wings and Wizard, the magic meets technology experience has officially started as of Tuesday June 8th 2021; and I got this sneak peek of what to expect the day before.

For all those who wish they were wizards, and for those who wish to escape this world to one of mysticism and intrigue instead, this one is for you. Show runners have created a magical space and time; where, equipped with wands you and your safety bubble group of 6 at a time, venture through a labyrinth. A darken passage that has you shuffling through various rooms in search for the last dragon’s egg. The course snakes around and over 7,000 square feet inside BC Place. It takes you from a Wizard’s Academy to a banquet hall, then from a potions lab to the Enchanted Forest.

Tickets vary, with each group price including the LED wand upon entry. It is a necessary tool if you are going to get far in your adventure. The experience is a self guided one. A tour with narration and cues to prompt you along. You explore rooms without touching. Photos are strongly recommended, but you are asked to not use your flash.

 

Without spoiling too much, here are some of my favourite photos I took. Photos to give you a taste of what is in store, including fun mini games, interesting dialogue, and some unique backdrops to take a photo in front of. The rest (below) is house keeping information taken from the press release.

Wings and Wizards showcases the meeting point between technology and magic, making use of cutting-edge interactivity, such as motion tracking, proximity-based devices, lights, projections, props, and soundscapes — all to weave a truly spellbinding narrative experience.

Wings and Wizards has been specifically designed with stringent COVID-19 protocols in place, in full accordance with British Columbia’s public health guidelines. Onsite rules and procedures for this contactless experience will include a mask requirement, hygiene stations, a definitive audience flow, and physically distanced, timed, and staggered entry for pods of up to 6 people within the same social bubble.

Event: Wings and Wizards
Dates: June 8* to September, 2021
Venue: BC Place, Gate A, directly off Terry Fox Plaza (Beatty St. at Robson St.)
Hours: Monday to Friday: 1pm to 9:15pm. Saturday & Sunday: 11am to 9:15pm.
Tickets: Prices begin at $65, with duo and family packages starting at $100. Each ticket package comes with 1 wand included. Additional wands may be purchased for $30 each online at the time of ticket purchase. Tickets are available online at www.wingsandwizards.com and Ticketmaster.
Recommended Ages: This is a family-friendly exhibit for all ages. Babes in arms (24-months and under) do not need to purchase a ticket.

Get your tickets here: https://www.wingsandwizards.com/

Nostalgia Wines Zoom Tasting

If you are like me, when visiting your local liquor store for a bottle of wine, you tend to lean towards the one with the most intriguing label. So as a wine enthusiast, but not specialist it is great to be able to attend wine tastings and learn more about what goes into your glass. But sadly with travel restrictions BC’s wine country seems far out of reach. So when wineries such as Nostalgia hosts zoom wine tastings, I am the first to put up my virtual hand up, wanting to attend. Not only did I get to try new bottles and vintages of wines, but I would walk away from this session better and more well informed.

Today’s tasting all coincided with Nostalgia’s 15 year anniversary. Originally Oliver Twist, and now Nostalgia wines, with new labels to commemorate: a splash of metallic against a stark white banner. The vision was to make this new label abstract so that they didn’t assign anything to you or your memories. And therefore you pick up what you find nostalgic from it. The goal, to make your own interpretations. One person said it reminded them of a silver birch tree, another had it invoking the memory of water droplets glistening on hot summer skin. There was sun reflecting off of waves, static on tv, and even diamonds scattered across a table. Not only was this a fun discussion, but a great way to showcase the brand’s maturation, and the evolution of it and the women who own and operate it.

Speaking of which, we would get to learn more about this team, through Gina who manages the vineyard and all its operations, and Sheila who is the general manager of the winery. Gina is a 4th generation farmer from Osoyoos, between her and her family they own several acres where a wide variety of grapes grow. All of which they can pull from, to produce their blends. Nostalgia alone runs across 14 acres with 9-10 varieties of grapes at any given time.

Nostalgia was actually introduced in 2013, a side project Gina was working on once she obtained ownership of Oliver Twist. Using her art background she introduced their fun pinup series and reimagined their space with historic themes and hallmarks. Old vintage cars, well worn furniture from a time long ago, and music from the 50’s and 60’s to accompany it all. They lovingly describe their theme as a “hug from the past”.

Where Gina works behind the scenes, Sheila takes centre stage as the well versed and enthusiastic brand ambassador. Together they run their small team producing 5000 cases a year. They have recently added an assistant wine maker, and today we would be sampling from the vintage he played a part in lovingly crafting.

Our tasting included a back story of each bottle, the intended flavour profile, and a free flow exchange of comments and questions from those participating. The following is the order in which we poured and sipped.

Our hosts jokingly stated that the best thing to come out of 2020 was the grapes, thanks to warmer temperatures and blue skies that remained until late September. And today their collection certainly spoke to that.

The 2020 Pinot Gris was a great refreshing start, given that the alcohol levels weren’t too high; thanks to 13% being the target. The white had a bright acidity. It was well balanced and fruity, without having much sugar. Then ending dry for a nice crispness.

The 2020 Kerner was described as “sunshine in a glass”, and I concurred. This one was great for a day at the beach, and I can speak to that fact first had. This rare varietal is only 1% or the total vineyard space. A white grape that is a member of the Riesling family. With its finishing spice, it is a great pairing with aromatics and herbs. Most notable: Indian food, and fish dishes with lime.

From there we moved onto rose, to eventually transition into red. Here, we were given a quick crash course on rose and the two ways in which they are prepared. For their 2020 Rose they adopted the saignee method. Using their top grapes they bled the red grapes until the desired colour, before removing the liquid. Here a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc was used. A selection collected from all over the Okanagan. The result, a pretty in pink drink, perfect for summer with delicate florals. I can’t describe it, but you can almost taste the colour.

Their 2018 Merlot is the most recent of their Merlot, the last was produced was in 2014. Both years age well and drinks well now. Though for this one our hosts suggest letting it breathe for a day, or decanting it and swirling it as a minimum. It gets better with age as its dark cherry and chocolate notes adds spice on the nose.

The Meritage is their family collection, it features grapes grown in their vineyard and is classified as a higher tier of wine. It focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, a selection from their barrel program. They have all the best barrels to choose from and can therefore garner all the best flavours. Naturally this varies year by year, with 2018 being the one we tasted as a deep red.

We would end our session with their sparking “Chantilly Lace” and a cheers. Part of Nostalgia’s pin up series, it was a nice palette refresher featuring Kerner grapes. And as you recall from earlier, Kerner is a unique grape, so making a sparkling out of it only adds to its rarity. It drank similar to the Kerner above, but with a splash of Chardonnay for acidity, and some bubbles to end on a high note.

One of the most interesting thing I learned from this session was the utility of screw caps. When asked why they mostly utilized a screw cap over a cork, the answer was actually quite technical. There is more than a twist that goes into screwing on the cap. Based on type of wine and when you want to open it, you can select the pressure in which the cap is applied. A minor detail for many, but a detail our owner/hosts loved experimenting with. This just shows how much thought and care they put into their wines. Work I now respected and could taste with each sip.

In short, this hour long session not only introduced me to their wines, but made me a fan of Nostalgia as well. I will definitely want to visit their location in Osoyoos in the near future. I visit the Okanagan every year and have added Nostalgia to my list. And by the time I do visit they will have had completed their current landscaping project, adding a new picnic area to their lot. A space which will be well utilize with them partnering with Crave food truck to serve food to pair with their wines!

Say Mercy! Jesus Take the Wheel menu

It’s been just a little under 2 months since indoor dining was banned, and a little over 2 months since my visit to Say Mercy! So take this with a grain of salt. I just didn’t feel comfortable or right posting it when the province wasn’t dining and all my photos show that I was/had been. So to avoid confusion, here is my retroactive review on Say Mercy!

I visited with my good friend David from @pickydiner, at the time this was an up and coming hot spot. It comes from the minds behind The McKenzie Room, taking up residence on Fraser Street, in the former home of the short lived themed bar: Dark Manor. And having visited the latter it was like day and night with the decor. The space now brighter and lighter to match the Latin and Southern BBQ theme. More merry and happy compared to a gothic dressed mansion.

As per all my outings with @pickydiner, we began with drinks. All drinks are pre-made by the head bartender, mixing before hand to ensure consistent drinks, even when he isn’t behind the bar. So for those who are, they only need to shake to order. A most sanitary and efficient way during these times.

The Carolina Gold featured Bearface Whisky, Apple Brandy, Sherry, Maple, Walnut, and Saline. This was a cinnamon scented martini, centred by a salty and acidic olive for balance. This was the boozier of the two drinks, but you didn’t feel it.

The Church Tea utilized Ampersand Gin, Odd Society Bittersweet Vermouth, and Woods Aged Amaro. You didn’t miss the gin in this. This was a boozy forward creation that left me wanting more of the hints of orange and tea that I was already getting.

This was followed by the Say Sbagliato, which had me doing a double take wondering if there was a mistake or did we order the same drink again. But this one had Prosecco, Amaro Montenegro, and Esquimalt Rosso Vermouth. It was another strong sipper that gave me bursts of orange note, just this time with a more herbaceous pairing.

For food we decided to take them up on their chef’s menu, named “Jesus Take The Wheel”. A 5 course meal for $55 per guest, with a minimum of 2 guests required, as it is served family style for sharing. What we thought at the moment was a great deal for a chefs menu was just a collection of what they offer regularly at potentially smaller portions as they are shared between two for about the same price. All with the negative, that you might not like all the predetermined dishes. Instead, this would have been well worth it if it was only made available today with fresh ingredients the chef purchased and was inspired by. At least these were advertised as the Chef’s favourite dishes, but this had me thinking, if the drinks are premixed what else is? None the less this is what we had, and if it is still available on the menu two months later, this is what you will get, in the order you get it.

We began with the Dorado Crudo with a Smoked Carrot Vinaigrette, Pickled Kohlrabi, Chicory, and Serrano Chili Oil. Its tangy sharpness made this a great aperitif. And with a little bit of each element per bite, this was a well balanced dish. Crispy kohlrabi, a gummy textured fish, a sweeter dressing, and smoky sauce. All of which were out shined by the puffed of rice that looked like worms. A visual I couldn’t replace or get out of my head.

Next came four pieces of Buttermilk Sweetbreads served with a Quince Agrodolce and Pickles. For those who don’t know, Sweetbread is a culinary name for the thymus or pancreas, typically from calf and lamb. (As taken from Wikipedia). The breading was nice, with an even coating. Overall, this was a great try, but one that you don’t see often and in turn don’t need a lot of. Accordingly to @pickydiner, it is courageous to prepare sweetbreads like this. It is left raw and not rendered like it would be French cuisine, thus no where as good (As per David). As for tastes it came across as smoky, a heavily gamey flavour that the sweet and sour quiche sauce and pickled vegetables easily cut into. As a whole, the dish was better in the a second piece; after learning what to expect and appreciating all the intricate work that went with it.

Next, we went into the BBQ and smoked pork butt with Bucatini, Pancetta, and Grana Padano. This was a fun take of spaghetti meets barbecue, with the traditional bolognese in their barbecue sauce bridging the gap. I have nothing else like this to do. No other savoury pasta dishes that ate this sweet. It reminded me of the rib sauce you lick off your fingers, after a fall off the bone rack. Tasty.

Paired with our spaghetti we were treated to their Parker house rolls and focaccia at a piece each. They were warm and soft, fresh and light; all things bread ought to be.

The featured entree was a showstopper of a platter. A full glazed pork hock seasoned in a Spiced Sorghum Glaze; served with Dirty Farro, Cabbage Slaw, and Pork Rinds. The pork was impressively brined for 3 days, then roasted for about 16 hours. The result: plenty of fall off the bone meat. However, I expected the skin to be crispier, especially considering how dry and harder to chew the meat was on the exterior. Thankfully it got tender and more succulent closer to the bone. Each piece finished off with a lingering spice that tickled the back of your throat.

The meat I liked, the sides I felt like were a little too much, and trying too hard to overpower the star of the dish. The dirty rice was too hearty, with too much contrasting texture and flavours. The the ham and pickles were especially dominating and distracting. Although I did appreciate the use of the more exotic chicken heart, mortadella, and pickled pablano, with barley. I wanted the slaw creamy and cooling to refresh as a neutral base, but instead it ate just as impactful as everything else. Overall great to look at and experience, but not for my tastes.

For dessert it was a Banana Pudding Cannoil each, finished with Chocolate and Honeycomb. I am not a fan of sweets, but even I found this one not sugary enough for dessert. You mostly got an oily taste and texture, as it lingered on your fingers as grease. Whereas I wanted more banana and a certain freshness from the fruit. Instead, it ate like a dessert spring roll with a slight acrid taste to end on, and it wasn’t even all that crispy. Sadly, another one that was not for me, took one bite and then put the rest down.

In conclusion this was a great experience, something new and different to wrap my head around, but not a restaurant that I would frequent or even go back to for the same dishes.

Say Mercy!
4298 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5V 4G2
(604) 423-3624
saymercy.ca

Healthy Jar, healthy vending machine

I was excited to learn that there are healthy vending machines located in select locations of Anytime Fitness. I have yet to see or try one, so went downtown to check it out for myself.

It is a refrigerated unit housing smoothies, salads, and snacks for those who need something on the go, and are health conscious. The machine is restocked every other day with fresh food, plus canned beverages and bottles of water. You make your selection on the touch screen and your chosen item is dispensed accordingly.

I tried their Choc-PB-Banana Protein Smoothie and was pleasantly surprised by how well this premade, bottled version held up. It was and drank more like a treat than something good for you. Great as a meal replacement with bananas, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, cocoa powder, chocolate whey protein, peanut butter, and flax seeds.

I also got the Blueberry Kiwi Chia Pudding. I never had chia seeds before so didn’t know what to expect, given its look. The texture was like jelly with edible seeds, I imagine this is what tadpoles feel like in your mouth (disclaimer, not actually tadpoles). Organic chia seeds, coconut milk, organic honey, kiwi, and blueberry. It is only slightly sweetened by the coconut milk, you get that flavour as an after note. The fruit is what keeps you coming back, but sadly there isn’t enough of it for a 1:1 ratio with the chia seeds that fills you like an oatmeal would. Eventually I did get tired of the texture of the chia and found myself dissuaded from finish it without the fruit.

Looking for more healthy food, but something more fulsome. Healthy Jar also does meal prep that you can order online.

I tried the Baked Tilapia with baby potatoes and veggies. I was skeptical, but this was delicious and well prepared. It filled me without making me full. Seasoned Tilapia with oven roasted baby potatoes and steamed veggies, served with signature Tartar sauce. The sauce was definitely the star of the dish. I wish another serving of it made it on to the salmon entree below.

Sadly the Baked Salmon fillet with baby potatoes and seasonal vegetables was bland by comparison. It lacked flavour and seasoning. A little salt helped, but another sauce to homogeneously coat everything would have been ideal for this serving too. In hindsight I should have only ordered one fish dish and tried a different protein instead. Something completely in contrast like their Shrimp Pasta with Light Alfredo Sauce, the Korean style beef with brown rice and steamed veggies, or their Whole grain pasta with beef and veggies.

For those interested they have a full assortment of melas and snacks to choose from. And to tempt you into supporting a newer and local business, use the promo code “FIRSTORDER” to receive 25% off your very first taste.

Healthy Jar
https://www.healthyjar.ca/

Dami Sushi & Korean Restaurant

My parents stopped by place to visit with Korean takeout. They have been eyeing a restaurant in their area, and decided to use this as an opportunity to try it out.

My parents aren’t very adventurous diners, and the last time we had Korean was for Chinese New Year about 5 years back. So they excitedly ordered online with 10% off everything, and picked up to bring to my place for dinner. The following is what my mother thought was interesting and worth trying.

When unpacking, they were perplexed by the little sauce container of sides that came with the order. They weren’t sure what went with what and were alarmed by the lack of designation for each. Luckily, I was there to explain the Korean tradition of complimentary sides, and walk them through their first experience of it. It included soften sweet potato one (my favourite), a saucy tofu, stands of pickled daikon, and a scoop of kimchi, which they got. They quickly learned what good palate refreshers these small portion made for our varying meal ahead.

The japache, Korean stir fried glass noodles was exactly as I expected it. Lightly dressed in soy with the added texture of crispy vegetable, tougher chewy beef, and slimy onions (that I don’t like the texture of). Pretty standard here.

The spicy squid rice bowl was a little bland. One note with one heat, but a nice break and balancer for all the other more flavourful dishes we had with it. I also sadly found the squid over cooked and tough.

I preferred the beef teriyaki as a rice dish. Here, it was more tender than what came with the noodles above. It was mild in seasoning, but with the side of liquidy teriyaki sauce, you could pick and choose how much flavour you got. Here, the complimentary sides above offered a nice change of taste and texture, in an otherwise one note entree.

The sushi was more like the fusion kind you get at most Asian sushi restaurants. This is the Red Dragon Roll: an imitation crabmeat, tempura shrimp, and avocado roll topped with salmon; then slathered in a spicy mayo, and topped with roe. It is a tasty roll that didn’t need soy, but at the same time I feel like other such restaurants have something similar, if not the same. It would have also been nice to see it presented as intended, instead of squished in a the plastic container, as such.

The DAMI sushi pizza was a fun one, but once again it didn’t reinvent the wheel. This is basically a sushi roll presented in a different format. It is great for those sheepish about actually having sushi, it being easier and more familiar for them to eat. A formed round of sushi rice slightly fried for a crispy shell, while still being chewy at its centre. Topped with imitation crab, avocado slices, and pieces of torched salmon. Generously and haphazardly drizzled with Japanese mayo, spicy aioli, and the classic tangy unagi sauce. Like the roll above, this was better fresh, a fun and tasty take on sushi.

Overall this was nothing new, but something different for the area. If craving flavourful fusion fare when nearby, they are a good go-to as the only stop for Korean food and Japanese style sushi.

Dami Sushi & Korean Restaurant
3280 E 22nd Ave, Vancouver, BC V5M 2Y9
(604) 431-8887
damisushikorean.ca

The Roost

My guest and I were downtown and in need of dinner. And seeing as we found parking nearby and are always down for fried chicken, we decided to try The Roost. There is plenty of patio seating on the sidewalk and on the roadway. However, only the former has heaters to warm and the latter came with the hazard of the leaves (more accurately those “helicopter” things that spin as they fall) from the trees above. This was such a common occurrence that our neighbouring diners had to pick some out of their beers, and the lone server took it upon herself to offer everyone plastic lids to put over their cups, when we weren’t drinking.

Honestly, it didn’t bother me much, but I rather be seated indoors, given how unique the interior was. It gave me 70’s vibes with the yellow acrylic decorators, metal dome light fixtures, and mustard yellow chairs. Not to mention the impressively well stocked bar that basically ran the depth of the restaurant.

But here we were abiding by the dining restrictions outside, fanning helicopters away from our faces and tiny bugs from our food.

My guest was eyeing their burgers. But I insisted that we try their chicken pure, as is, to be able to gauge it comparatively to all the others we have had previously. And seeing the options for levels of heat, I knew I had to try at least a couple.

We started off with the first two levels, given our server’s warning of the heat from her own experience. All their chicken is prepared to order so expect a 15-18 minute wait. Although I must say it is well worth it. This was some of the juiciest and freshest tasting chicken I have had to date. The quality came through. You didn’t get the taste of oil, just flavour and spice. It was so good and we handled the first two levels well enough, that we decided to order the last two levels shortly after. Afraid of another 18 minute wait, our server offered us a solution. 7-8mins for boneless dark meat, which simply turned out to be the patties they would have used if we had ordered burgers.

As for how they tasted, here they are from 1-4, but first the side of onion rings we paired with them. The Cajun-O-Rings were exceptionally crispy, you didn’t get any grease, just a gently herbed batter over thick onion slices. Its hard crunch balanced by the creamy mayo dip it came with. The latter also served as a cooling agent for the heat below.

Level 1 was aptly named the “Jalapeño Mild”. Its gentle heat came from the green sauce that was poured over the chicken. This was a tangy flavour that could have been missed, if you weren’t out looking for it. Although I’ve did find it spicer than level 2.

Level 2 was the “Roost Rub”. You noticed the heavy hand of black pepper spice used immediately, it carries through as a slight tingle which allows you to go back for more. It is worth noting that we mostly got white meat pieces, which we both aren’t typically fans of, but the breast was so tender and juicy we didn’t mind, even when we noticed.

Level 3 was the “Habanero Glaze”. A sweeter heat that transitions from a back of the throat burn to a heat that travels up through to your eyebrows. You felt this one and missed most of the flavour the sauce because of it.

In contrast, level 4: “Ghost-Pepper Tropicana”, was extremely spicy, but the tropical sweet flavours of citrus and pineapple had you wanting to go back for additional morsels. However, if you are like me, you can’t muster the courage to relive a heat that slaps you in places you should sweat. In fact, it got so hot with one bite that I had to take my jacket off on a colder day. We both found this, a heat so hot that you can’t fully enjoy. I cried for 8 minutes trying to relieve myself.

In short, this is a place for both great chicken and spice to test your limits on. Worth trying, if you haven’t already. Especially when they release Level 5, which features the world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper!

The Roost
1037 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2M4
(604) 722-9331
the-roost.ca

McDonald’s x BTS Collaboration

I just so happened to be at Metrotown, meeting an acquaintance by the McDonald’s therein. We stopped and chatted, and she brought up that the new highly advertised and anticipated McDonalds x BTS Collaboration dropped today. So seeing as the stars aligned, I joined the line of a young females waiting to get my own taste.

I didn’t know what to expect, so the following is my first blush impressions. My thoughts and comments without influence or interruptions. For the more candid look you can also visit my Instagram page @magmei to check out my purchase and taste test experience, now saved in my stories titled “BTSxMcD”.

I was so excited to take advantage of my location and timing, that I didn’t think about my plans for the late afternoon. Therefore, I didn’t get into my order until 2 hours later and one greasy bag after. So don’t let the photo mislead you.

The McDonalds x BTS Collaboration is a limited time only meal, which is basically a 10 piece chicken mcnugget box with fries and your choice of drink. The BTS influence is in the two limited edition sauces that it can come in. Although you can also go with any of their regular dip assortment. Heck you can get one for each nugget, at an extra cost.

The meal comes in a specially printed bag patterned in the McDonald’s Golden Arches and BTS’ purple logo. Similarly the nugget box was purple and had the same logo pattern featured on one of its panels. These are details that I only noted after. After complaining that even as a non-fan I didn’t get enough BTS from this meal. No photos of them, no collector’s card, no quote saying how grateful they are of their fans, no flirty message, or even remixed items that are renamed in their image or from their song catalog. I mean they could have put their likeness on a cup. (Not pictured).

Instead, just two sauce containers sealed in pastel pink or purple, with a foiled flame or chilli pepper (according to the flavour) and Korean characters in translation. Apparently the 7 man Korean boy band had a say in the dip’s creation and vetted the flavour themselves.

The Cajun sauce was a creamy pale yellow. It reminded me more of a honey mustard than anything Cajun. I only got a slight smokiness from what would be Cajun seasonings. Though overall liked it for the honey sweetness it gave me.

The Sweet Chili was a lot more unique. This was a dip like no other with notes of tangy ketchup, hickory barbecue, and tangy Asian sweet chilli sauce.

Overall, this was a fun idea and a way to give fans BTS in a new way. Though I expected much more from an international offering, and especially one representing popular artists with such a large following. So large that their fans are called “The Army”. Nonetheless McDonald’s will be making money on this (they got mine), and you can’t fault anything limited edition or x BTS during their current popularity high.

The Bench Wine Bar

Seeing as we were already in Langley, we decided to swing by Fort Langley for a visit and to grab some dinner. Our consideration, something unique to the area with a patio as only outdoor dining is allowed.

We spotted The Bench with its expanded side walk patio, and made it our choice after my guest David of @pickydiner fame remembered it getting good reviews.

They offer a smaller, more concise menu with double the amount of drink to food options. I would start with their featured wine flight because you don’t see many of those often. David went for what he wanted in a rose.

For food it was a harder choice. We would lean on our server who spoke honestly in his personal preference and recommendations. We would take his heed.

We started with the Crab dip with rock crab, fontina, ricotta cheese, fresh herbs, shallots, and potato crisps. It was solid and delicious. The chips were crunchy and flavourful on their own, the perfect base to the thick whipped dip.

The Lemon Linguini sounded different on paper, especially with our server’s recommendation to have it with smoked salmon, (as he does). And given that salmon goes brilliantly with citrus, this was a sound idea. Preserved lemon, cream, Parmesan foam, chilli flakes and cracked pepper. You definitely didn’t miss the lemon here. It tasted clean and fresh, but came across as a little too safe for my adventurous palette. I expected bigger flavour and more creaminess, but at least the texture and temperature hit the mark. This one I would recommend for those with more cautious appetites.

Overall, that is my takeaway from The Bench. Everything was made from quality, leaving you feeling light and fresh. You walked away not hating yourself from over eating or eating too much starch and carbs. However, nothing stood out. There was nothing exclusive to them, that would have be driving all the way back for, but great as the neighbourhood wine bar!

The Bench
9124 Glover Rd #3a, Langley City, BC V1M 2S3
(604) 371-4567
thebenchwinebar.ca

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