Tacofino Burrito Bar

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Having completed our five stop Gastown cocktail crawl, “Drunken Noms”, “Picky Diner” and I ended the night as how we started: with tacos.

I have only been to “Tacofino” where it originated, in Tofino. So this would be my first taste outside of the surf island life. There are now a few locations available around the lower mainland, but this would be the first of its name with a sit down service area, this nice. However for a quick bite to sober up on we didn’t indulge.

The exterior was all brick with its name painted in white against the red. Their iconic logo of a pair of hands clasped in prayer with a taco between them, was the “x” that marked the spot.

This Gastown location has their restaurant divided into two. One for tacos and one for burritos. The tacos are a sit down affair in Blood Alley; and the burritos, a bar stool and counter top arrangement on Cordova.

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A specific menu and a narrow corridor divided the two, with the furniture being the most noticeable difference. Across both spaces, the entire floor was tiled in uniform hexagons. Green with geometric lines haphazardly intermingled with tiles of white and black. From below our feet they lead and opened up to the formal dining area. I took a peak at tables and chairs with large enough isle ways for servers to navigate between them.

They also have a patio out back. Encased behind a stone fence, it is a walk up to an elevated seating area. Strung with lights and signed with a sandwich board, it was easy to spot walking past the alleyway.

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Back at the quick burrito counter we ordered off the menu printed on the wall. It was a ceiling to floor list of various tacos and burritos with the option to have the former a “walking version”, and the latter in bowl for easier mobility as well. Fish, crispy chicken, chorizo, vegetarians and vegan. Quick and easy.

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“Drunken Noms” swears by their crispy chicken burrito, deeming it a great sober-upper snack. This one was a two hander filled with their breaded and fried chicken, rice, vegetable slaw, and tomatillo salsa. She beast-mode her burrito, making it through mid way before having to stop. She packed the rest to go. I never knew a burrito to travel well as leftovers, but she seemed sure it would.

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Wanting to share, “Picky Diner” and I ordered the only tacos they had: the fish. An order of 3 came at a very reasonable price of $6. Breaded and deep fried fish over flour tortillas, topped with pico de gallo salsa and shredded lettuce. They were refreshing with all the greens, and lightness of the fish with a spritz of lime.

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I insist on ending every meal with something sweet and they had one of my favourite treats here. Their “Diablo cookie” is the bringing together of chocolate and chillies. Sweet and spicy battle. And what you get is a well balanced, not too sweet dessert, with a soothing back of the throat burn.

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We grabbed a seat by the counter, on one of their woven chairs. The seat was a serious of cords intertwining around a metal ring. They looked like dream catchers without the tassels or feathers. The little nook we were in included a mobile of potted plants strung up with rope and wood and a back lit photo of a beach at high tide.

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Their washrooms were labeled with either a taco or burrito decal, I had to ask which I was. Taco. After thinking about it, I can see why.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I would like visit again and maybe hit up all seating areas at once. A burrito at the bar, a taco in the dining area, and maybe some margaritas on the patio with either? Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO BURRITO BAR
15 West Cordova Street
604-899-7907
tacofino.com/gastown-take-out-menu
Tacofino Burrito Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

L’Abattoir

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The last stop on this Gastown cocktail crawl with “Drunken Noms” and “Picky Diner” was at “L’Abattoir”. This was another one that made it on to the “Noms'” must try list. Here, we had great unique cocktail to end our successful crawl on.

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The restaurant is most memorable for its bold tiled flooring and its dance floor worth of space entryway. Here, the lighting was a series of bulbs in mason jars. We were directed under it and up the flight of stairs to the left. Without the need to wait, we were given a seat on their second level. Atop our perch we had a overlooking view of the bar, the additional height allowing us to enjoy the pattern of the flooring all the much more.

“Drunken Noms” was so excited by the house gimlet that she insisted that we each needed one. Sipping and sharing was not advised here. Apparently this is one of the most famous cocktails in Vancouver. Given the health consciousness of our city, our desire to be green, and the love of vegetables; it makes sense.

We didn’t even look at anything else on the menu. This alone spoke to how highly she thought of the cocktail. Because typically, bloggers have the desire to try as much as we can and share everything, in order to maximize spend for variety.

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So here it is, the “avocado gimlet” is prepared with rosemary and olive infused baker’s gin, fresh avocado, apfelkorn schnapps, and lime. This drink had the creaminess of avocado, but not its taste; the scent of Rosemary, but not its floral nature; and the herbaceous of gin, but not its alcohol kick. This was easy to take down as it looked good for you. The colour was the most striking, like a freshly squeezed green vegetable juice.

I have been to the restaurant before and have had a few appetizers, only to leave with stunning photos, a half full stomach, and an empty wallet. So thankfully we were only looking to just snack here. At this point, after five stops, budgets were wearing thin. We actually ended on street food, at our last and only non alcohol stop.

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But here, we went with the “Pan fried veal sweetbreads on toast with sauce gribiche and veal tongue”. Our server warned us about portion size, before allowing us to commit. It would be just one toast topped with the organ meat, we were fine to share. “Sweetbreads” is the culinary name for the thymus or the pancreas of traditionally either calf or lamb. The formal name makes it sound much more appealing, and may even trick a few into trying something new. My first encounter with the delicacy had me imagining glazed bread, woven in a circle. But today in knew I was looking at chewy organ meat. This version was cooked tender with some fattier morsels. The bread gave the dish it’s needed crunch, and the green of the onion gave it some needed colour appeal. All together with the sauce, I found it too salty. This would have been easily rectified with a serving of the sweetbread on the side; and a self serve, self spread station of baguette slices and a butter knife to help yourself with.

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Most impressively, even though we had just the one order to share, with three drinks; we were still treated to a complimentary basket of bread. An assortment of in house made pastries that included anchovy and Parmesan twists, sesame flat bread crisps, and bacon brioche. Our one dish was worth trying just to have this come before it. With all it salty notes, this was a great basket of bread to accompany some drinking. Each decorative knot or bun was serve fresh and still warm, and they were considerate enough to give three of each, for each of us.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I enjoyed the iconic cocktail and would love to bring others here just to try it. And now knowing it is one of Vancouver’s most popular, I will be sure to recommend it much more. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

L’ABATTOIR
217 Carrall Street, Vancouver BC
604-568-1701
labattoir.ca
L'Abattoir Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bauhaus Restaurant

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The fourth stop on this Gastown cocktail tour with “Drunken Noms”, and “Picky Diner” was “Bauhaus”. This was a wild card, our visit was less about the cocktails, and more about “Drunken Noms” loving the place. She insisted on stopping, after the shock she earned; hearing that “Picky Diner” and myself have yet to try it for ourselves. We made this our detour, but still found some cocktails to satisfy our crawling criteria within.

A little background, “Drunken Noms” is one of the most well informed food bloggers that I know. She takes the time to stay abreast of current dining trends. What are the up and coming restaurants, what restaurants have earned what achievements, what is worth ordering from where, and even which well known chef is working in the kitchen. She is so well versed because she hates visiting a place, only to have a bad experience. So she takes the time to do the research, and ensures she is well informed; in order to only have the best. I on the other hand, eat for novelty, and eat to say that I have. I am less concerned about trying the best, and more about trying what others won’t. So today, following her lead, has allowed me to enjoy more than I thought I would. In fact I felt like quite the trendy eater being by her side. So when she told us that this is one of the only restaurants in Vancouver, with a chef that has a Michelin Star, from his previous venture: I was impressed. I was impressed by him, this restaurant; and of her, for knowing. A “Michelin Star” is one of the highest honours bestowed on to a restaurant and/or its chef by the Michelin travel guide. It is to reward a higher quality of cooking. Multiple stars can be given and stars can also be taken away.

So after that bit of education, I went in with higher expectations, and “Bauhaus” did not disappoint. We got the service I had hoped for, paired with the little touches that surprised and delighted. Small talk was achieved well before we were asked to look at our menus. Napkins were unfolded and asked to be laid across our laps. We were even offered an amuse-bouche to start. This was despite only having cocktails and ordering one appetizer to share.

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An “amuse-bouche” is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre. They are not offered on the menu, but are served and selected according to the chef’s prerogative. This sampling was smoked skate wing with a grilled mackerel consume. “Skates” are cartilaginous fish belonging to the ray family. This was this prettiest little bite I have ever been given. The gentle flaky fish sat gently in a clear broth. Together, is was light and fragrant, a subtle fishy taste beautifully constructed. This was a nice surprised and the perfect light start. It certainly spoke to the quality we would be enjoying ahead.

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The restaurant wasn’t an elaborate scene. An industrial meets modern setting: red brick walls reinforced by iron beams. The hardness both created, surrounded and protected the delicate nature of white marble table tops and white leather chairs. One each table, each place setting was set with the necessary accoutrement, and even a wooden trough for utensils to rest.

We were seated within spying distance of their semipermeable kitchen. All glass windows with metal storing shelves lining it. Two men worked in their grey smocks, their hands visible from the pass, with nothing to hide.

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What stood out the most was the piece of art labeled as such. There was no beating around the bush with this piece, you knew its intentions and what the artist hoped to achieve. A large slab signed in various inks and scripts, with bold letters “A-R-T” across it. It was simply propped up, in the centre of an otherwise empty concrete wall. It certainly attracted your attention.

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The same artist looked to played a role in the design of the washrooms. Given the dining area, the facilities weren’t as expected. It was an interesting juxtaposition. Formal dining meets the edginess of spray paint and graffiti. All white stalls dripping with lines of paint and a jumbled mass of scribbles inside and out. And on the adjacent wall, perhaps the artist’s signature stamped like a calling card with accompanying words of wisdom. “To create a work of art, is to create the world”. All this and the stalls were terribly narrow. The kind of narrow that forces you to go out of your way to enter and exit, if you hope to avoid touching the door and walls with your body.

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To drink I went with the “Buttermilch margarita” as I have yet to have much with buttermilk in it, outside of fried chicken and dough; so I was curious how it transitioned into an alcoholic beverage. It was prepared with reposado tequila, agave, buttermilk, lemon and quince jam. You certainly got the promise of buttermilk with its sour and tart taste. It’s an acquired flavour, like expired milk for those unfamiliar. The lemon and quince helped to balance the taste and sweeten the drink.

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The “Diner” went with another horseradish cocktail. The “Schmutz martini” is made using akvavit, horseradish, dry vermouth, and olive mist. You really got the olive essence from this. And with it and the intensity of the horseradish, it reminded you of an oyster, but in liquid form. This is definitely one of those drinks you have once just to try, and order a classic martini to wash it down afterwards.

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Less a creative drink, and more “Nom’s” favourite cocktail: was the “boulevardier”. This version altered the traditional recipe with the use of cinnamon on top of bourbon, sweet vermouth, and campari. She wasn’t sold on the added spice and the extra warmth it brought, but she isn’t one to waste a drop.

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When we asked his opinion on snacks, our friendly server recommend the “meatballs”. Prepared in a caper sauce, with mashed potatoes and green and white asparagus. It was as hearty as it read. When I hear “meatball” I think red sauce and Italian herbs. This was a dressed up meat and potatoes dish befitting of our locale. The balls had the texture of a crumbly and fluffy meat loaf. Though it was clear the sauce was the star of the dish. I would have liked more of it in a cup as is, or as a side with an open faced vegetable sandwich.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Having not tried enough, but enjoying the setting and full heartedly embracing the recommendation; I would like to return to get a better feel of the place. Maybe to enjoy more of their cuisine through the chef’s tasting menu? There also aren’t too many restaurants focused on German cuisine. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BAUHAUS
1 West Cordova Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2J2
604-974-1147
bauhaus-restaurant.com
Bauhaus Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wildebeest

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The third destination on this Gastown cocktail tour with “Drunken Noms”, and “Picky Diner” was “Wildebeest”. It had us back to novelty drinking with the “bone marrow luge”.

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This restaurant had a similar feel to the last. The same industrial use of wood and metal, but with more brick and wire. The narrow restaurant had seats running down its length. They were aligned with the red brick wall to your right. Each high top table and metal stool was kept well lit with the light of several bulbs. Each one of these bulbs were strung on cables, suspended by pulleys, and set at various heights. It definitely made the space memorable. The seating was split into two sections between a divider that enclosed their computer ordering system and cash register in a box. The first section, at the first half of the restaurant over looked the bar. A well stocked counter made up of tiers of wood planks and plumbing pipes. The second section, towards the back, gave you a more intimate look into their open kitchen affairs.

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Once again we perched up at a table by the windows, for light. Our setting featured a semi stained wood wall with several small shelves jutting out from it. Each shelf held a trinket or knick knack. Worn glasses with lit tea lights, porcelain pots housing dried plant matter, and a metal “W” in honour of the restaurant’s name. Our table came with a sprig of green to bright up the space, and hooks for bags and jackets under the table to keep it clear.

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The “bone marrow luge” was an add-on shot and appetizer rolled in to one. You begin with their bone marrow served criss crossed and stacked with buttered leeks and oyster mushrooms, in a crimini mushroom vinaigrette. Both are plated with a nub of grilled country bread. The bread traditionally acts as a base and gives the dish more substance. Although I found this end piece a challenge to break into and gnaw off.

Bone marrow is one of those delicacies that you eat because of the novelty. I mean I don’t particularly enjoy its taste or enjoy the need to painstakingly scrape grease from bone. All to eat with bread what is essentially spread with meat oil. Plus it is the sides that it is served with, that end up giving it most of its flavour anyways. And worst is, you don’t actually get full from eating it, even with the heavy on the bread serving.

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Instead, this is the dish you order for the experience. One where you enjoy the journey of eating, its theatrics, and it’s overall exclusively. And that is why, even considering my paragraph above, you will continue to see me enjoying bone marrow. I love eating for novelty.

So here for more novelty and theatrics, and for $3 more, your marrow serves another purpose. Meet the bone marrow luge, where bone becomes serving vessel. However our server didn’t actively mention the add-on when we placed our original order. So without an clear explanation from the menu, or a recommendation from any server, this could be a missed opportunity. Something new and fun for your to try, and $3 add on in sales, per shot, for the restaurant.

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An order comes with two bones and two shots, our server was intuitive enough to mention there only be two bones, but reassured us that we would get a shot each. The promised sherry was served in miniature decanters. They await you to take a grip and pour. You essentially use the bone as a slide down your throat. I found it too difficult to do for myself, on myself. So had insisted that it would be poured in me, my guests followed suit for a more fun and hands-free drinking experience.

When it came time to order more drinks off the menu, it was refreshing how honest our bartender was. He blankly stated how he hasn’t tried most of the drinks listed, and how he was still new and has barely worked. It certainly created some banter between us, and got him out of recommending anything else.

We stayed true to our already established drinking preferences. Me: anything creative, with a unique sounding ingredient line up. “D. Noms”: one that kicked you in the face bourbon; and “P. Diner”: something light and fruity with gin.

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I got the “Fresh Prince” for its loose proximity to 90’s Will Smith, and because it was described as a “slurpee”. It it was spearmint, Cuban rum, apple, and Fernet Brancha. If 7-eleven had these churning in their machines, you would see me there more often. However it reminded me more of a Bellini with the slush and fruity alcohol, but also like a mojito with the citrus and mint notes.

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The “Bombs away” spoke to “Drunken Noms” with its proper rye, Italian vermouth, cynar, and herbal liqueur. It’s solid glass and opaque colour certainly classify it as the “non girly drink”, she goes out of her way to avoid.

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When he couldn’t decided “Picky Diner” went for the “Horseradish sour” with London Dry gin, lemon, horseradish, honey, egg white, and pepper. The cocktail straddled both the savory and sweet side. Savory with pepper and the celery salt we insisted that we tasted mixed in. Sweet with the foamy egg white and honey. Once again he choose an easy to drink gin that I was partial to, too.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I like the setting and my guest were impressed by the chefs that manned its kitchen. So shame we didn’t grab more from it to try. I recommend trying the luge for fun, and for those who love bone marrow. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WILDEBEEST
120 West Hastings St, Vancouver BC
604-687-6880
wildebeest.ca
Wildebeest Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuc Craft Kitchen

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The second destination on this Gastown cocktail tour with “Drunken Noms”, and “Picky Diner” was “Tuc”. I had chosen the place specifically for their “Coffee & Cigarettes”cocktail, just for its name alone; and had dragged the two with me.

Its more demur setting matched our more sophisticated drinks. Gone were the bells and whistles and colours of the last place and instead there were some strong flavours and a consistent monochromatic theme. The visual drinker in me was not as satisfied, but my palette and tongue felt otherwise.

As I mentioned earlier, the decor was toned down. Purposefully worn planks flanked empty wall space. Strung together they looked like the side of a barn, especially with the cast iron lanterns that hung from thick woven rope. The restaurant seating was laid out in three rows. One facing the wall with red cushioned booths, the awkward centre with narrow tables and back to back chairs, and brushed steel stools lining the industrial looking bar.

I was tempted by the latter with its rustic feel, but we opted for a similar stool by the window. This was in order to have our photos be framed with the natural light streaming through the window.

Though from where I sat, I still got a good look at the bar. Its shelves gave the illusion of being suspended by thick, blackened bicycle chains. Chains looped like suspenders to hold up metal and wood. Rusted sheets of metal were used to craft makeshift wine racks. It looked fitting of a pantry, with the collection of empty wood boxes and glass jugs lining the top. Together, it all jibed well with the farmhouse-kitchen theme that they had going on.

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The “Coffee & Cigarettes” cocktail was better than I had hoped, given its name. I liked neither of its two name sake tastes, but luckily and delightfully, what I got was a smooth glass of mocha. A drink made with Laphroaig quarter cask, Amaro Montenegro, espresso, and xocolatl mole bitters. Bitter chocolate and strong coffee, hiding all traces of the would be sharp alcohol. I would make this my signature drink, and at the very least have this again when I return. This was definitely my favourite of the night, the perfect after dinner cocktail to end on a sweet note with.

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Tempted by a twist on an old fashion, my guest with the refined drinking palette got the “Frida kahlo old fashion” with Hornitos reprosado tequila, Pierre Ferrand dry curacao, cardamom, and orange foam. Like all foamy drinks, this too promised and delivered on a sweeter sip. Easy to take down with a whisper of sweet Mandarin. The drink had a nice bourbon kick, that she liked; and I found the swiveling ice ball a nice grown-up touch.

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Looking for another light drink “Picky Diner” got the “Flowers for Algernon” made with Odd Society Wallflower gin, St Germaine, grapefruit, and lavender. It was a very refreshing citrus cocktail with hints of floral, and the easy drinkability of gin. My aesthetic eye appreciated the actual flowers afloat, it made the name all the more accurate to the drink.

We originally weren’t planning to eat, but Ms. Drunken Noms interjected. This was after hearing that I have been here before, and have yet to try either of the two dishes that they are known for, and that in her opinion, was worth having again.

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Their must-have side snack was the “crispy bacon and egg”, and I can see why. An airy tempura breading engulfing a soft boiled egg, with the perfect golden runny yolk. The perfect melding of crispy and chewy, but it could have used more pepper for taste. Deep fried foods are always good with beer, but this was good with any drink, and just as good on its own. I could eat a carton of these.

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Their must-try appetizer was the “Orange-glazed lamb ribs”. Australian lamb marinaded with jalapeño pepper and an orange glaze. It was meat so tender that it fell off the bone, and easily into our mouths. Her recommendation was amazing with hearty lamb, refreshing mint, and the zing of orange. My only gripe would be that this was an appetizer portion, when something this tasty could be flushed out with sides and offered as a full entree.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A causal place for an upscale drink, there were no regrets. I will be back for the coffee cocktail and maybe have three whole eggs while I am at it. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TUC
60 West Cordova Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1C9
604-559-8999
tuccraftkitchen.com
Tuc Craft Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cycling Croissant

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All the best innovations stem for people’s desire for the easy way out. A short cut to do less work and to gain the maximum output. And that is exactly what those working at “The Cycling Croissant” do. They make your breakfast pastry even more accessible by delivering it to your work place or classroom. So long as it is either in the downtown Vancouver, Kitsilano, Fairview or Mount-pleasant area. There is a $15 minimum order fee, but delivery is always free.

You start my placing your order online, then choose the time of day you want your breakfast to be delivered at. Order by 5pm to secure your meal for the next day. They cater to companies and work place offices looking to feed their employees during a morning meeting. Though parents at home, or individuals looking for a nice breakfast can certainly take advantage of their accessibility as well.

They avoid waste by producing the exact quantities of each request, so last minute orders or add ons maybe difficult, or out of the question.

My order was slightly larger then usual, a warning the owner of the company gave, when he himself made the delivery. The batch blossomed and I was able to take advantage of more food per square inch.

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Your croissant options include the below. A regular was $3 and anything with a topping or filling was 50 cent more.

The regular croissant was the perfect texture. One of the best I have had, if not the best. Absolutely fresh with that great tender and chewy texture you expect from a great buttery, flaky pastry.

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The “pain au chocolate” had the same perfect dough. But was lacking in the chocolate department. I would have liked more, not just cause the pastries were over sized, but because chocolate filling is best when it globs and oozes out. Here the nibs were tiny and they kept in their lumps, unmelted.

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The “raisin Danish” was my favourite. It was like raisin bread, but with a sugary glaze and a crisp edge.

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The almond croissant ran at $1 more and I could see why. Toasted almond slivers and a heavy dusting of powdered sugar. Plenty on top to flavour the bite through and through. This was my second favourite.

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The “mini viennoiserie” are baked goods made from a yeast-leavened dough or from puff pastry. The addition of eggs, butter, milk, cream and sugar gives it a richer, sweeter profile. These were very crispy two bites. My least favourite, just because you can’t compare a soft texture to a hard one that snapped like twigs. But this is indicative of the pastry, and by no fault of the bakers who prepared it to spec.

They also offered apple turnovers, and a croissant with a chocolate filling and an almond and powdered sugar topping.

 

Disclaimer: media tasting.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A box of 10 went far between me and my colleagues. Cut into quarters, the larger than usual size, that was their mistake, was certainly a gain for me. Once again this was some of the best pastries I have every had. Fresher, tastier, and cheaper than at any chain bakery; or from your local, convenient coffee, morning stop. All brought right to me by friendly staff, on eco friendly bikes. This is the perfect option for the consumer like me: one part lazy, one part practical, and all parts in love with sweet breakfast pastries. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CYCLING CROISSANT
thecyclingcroissant.com
The Cycling Croissant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BETA5 Chocolates

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A couple of weeks left before Beta 5 switched their menu to summer 2016, and I had yet to try one of their more photo worthy cream puffs, of their Spring 2016, in Bloom collection.

With so many seasonal items to try we made our choices count. One of each of the three new cream puffs. And one of their ice cream sundaes, only available during the hotter weather.

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You had a choice of their in house made ice cream as is, as part of sundae, or in between two slices for an ice cream sandwich. This would be my first time having one of their ice cream treats, only trying the bakery as whole, for the first time last winter. My interest in them only grew when I visited Toronto, and the owner of a local bakery mentioned his appreciation of “Beta 5”. This was after I mentioned that I was from Vancouver.

Every Saturday they hold their weekly event called the “ice cream social”. Attending this was the only way you could indulge in their seasonal ice cream. We were here on a Friday, but were more than content with selecting something from their regular ice cream menu. The flavours were a 66% dark chocolate, raspberry ripple, raspberry sorbet, and a cherry straciatella.

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We got the latter as a sundae. I excepted each sundae to be topped differently based on the ice cream that was its base. Instead you choose your flavour and wished it matched their chocolate on chocolate toppings. Each sundae includes chocolate sauce, cocoa nib chantilly, milk and dark chocolate aerated rocks, milk and dark chocolate almonds, and chunks of fresh brownie. Although considering that the cherry straciatella included shards of chocolate, along with whole cherries; this may have been overboard on the chocolate. The most complimentary of the toppings was the peanuts, that flowed with our cherries. The aerated rock was the most interesting. It’s bubbly texture looked like coral and tasted like Aero chocolate bars. And the brownie pieces were perfect little bites of gooey and chewy. In hind sight we should gave taken the clerk’s suggestion of ordering a double scoop to share. At the end there was more topping than ice cream to enjoy it with. The ice cream was okay and I am glad to have tried it, but this wouldn’t be my first stop for ice cream again. I will stick to their chocolates or puffs.

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Each cream puff was work of art. Skillfully piped and delicately assembled, so that no two flavour are alike. Each was a spongy puff hiding a luscious cream filling and topped with flavoured whipped.

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The “almond lavender” cream puff was a stunner. It embodies spring and new life with a nest, flowers, and a robin’s egg. Filled with almond mousse and honey lavender. Topped with a whipped ganache, kataifi nest, and almond butter chocolate egg. “Kataifi” is a special type of pastry that resembles angel hair pasta. It made the perfect texture for a light nest. The filling was delicate and pretty, neither lavender or almond, but a different flavour created by bringing the two together. The egg on top was similar to one of those candy coated chocolate eggs you guy at the grocery store during Easter, but better. You could taste the quality that went into making it.

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The “milk chocolate praline” was not as overpowering as it looked. With a line up that included a milk chocolate and hazelnut praline mousse, chocolate financier, and a milk chocolate and hazelnut whipped ganache; it surprisingly wasn’t too sweet. A “financier” is light and moist cake, similar to sponge. The mousse was rich with a hint of bitterness from the chocolate.

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The “strawberry and rhubarb” cream puff was strawberry mousse, rhubarb compote, vanilla whipped ganache, and a miniature strawberry-rhubarb pie crust. Each looked like a mini pie with its sugar topped an oven baked pastry topper. They even gave the cap a crust and a cut out with a bit of red showing through to add to the accuracy. With the inclusion of fruit, this was the most fresh of all three and the sweetest. That is why having it a day after took away from its intended flavour.

I wish we had more room and more funds to explore the rest of the spring menu. Not only the mint ice cream sandwich, but the chocolates, eclairs, and the candies too.

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The Spring 2016 Chocolate Collection had new and award-winning flavours that promised to remind you of spring. “With fresh flavours and colours to bring on the happiness of the season in bloom”. I mostly appreciated the paint job of the rainbow coloured chocolate domes done with paintbrush strokes. Shame they weren’t going to be around for pride. Though “Beta 5” does a great job of being that seasonal stop. They typically offer limited edition treats to celebrate such occasions.

The flavours included a “strawberry and olive oil” in white chocolate. The “Sparkling Praline” was filled with hazelnut and almond, then enrobed in chocolate with pop rocks. The “dark chocolate and mint” was a familiar flavour, best when sharp. The “Carrot Cake”‘was a roasted carrot caramel paired with spiced walnut. “Almond and Lavender came with local honey and fresh lavender. And the “Rhubarb Oatmeal” was a tart rhubarb jelly paired with a toasted oatmeal. If you liked the flavours in the cream puffs, you could easily take them to go as these one bite pieces of chocolate.

The eclair had the same base and filling of the cream puffs, but in a different presentation. Their version is more like lady fingers, with their slender widths. Available in strawberry and olive oil, dark chocolate and mint, and lemon poppyseed. A little bit more embellishment at $1 more than the larger sized cream puffs.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This is definitely one to visit when stopping in or living in Vancouver. If not to bring home some tasty souvenirs, but to marvel at their showmanship season after season. And given how they were able to build up their brand and the excitement that follows the launch of each new collection, I will most definitely be back. I tend to wait until the buzz subsides before visiting myself, but always make sure I get to see and try each of their buzz worthy flavours myself. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BETA 5
413 Industrial Avenue, Vancouver BC
604-669-3336
shop.beta5chocolates.com
BETA5 Chocolates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gringo

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When looking for a starting point for our afternoon cocktail crawl, I couldn’t think of a more fun launching point.

The bloggers of “Picky Diner”, “Drunken Noms”, and I were brought together with our love of the drink. We came to the realization that there aren’t many food bloggers out there that review drinks or like to drink, as we did. So we sought a night out revolving around some of the unique cocktails that the Gastown restaurant scene had to offer.

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Happy hour began here, because, as their neon sign reminded drinkers, it’s “5:00 somewhere”.

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I have passed by this sidewalk bar a few times, like the rest of Blood Alley, it wasn’t the most colourful thing. A yellow grill shielding a row of bums on seats. The sat stools were black and yellow splashed with colour. The bold neon of pink, blue, and green dripping down tall legs. At night it must be quite the sight, with the strings of coloured bulbs lighting your way. We grabbed a seat here, with our backs towards the sidewalk for the full experience. The perch provided a great view of their colourful bar inside, and a nice breeze against our backs from the outside.

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The bar was a series of metal square shelves, each wallpapered in a block of bright colour. Amongst the alcohol bottles and the take out containers were their own merchandise in logo tees and branded trucker hats, strings of metallic Mardi Gras beads, spooky figurines of skeletons at leisure, and pink plastic flamingos. The flamingos also migrated their way against the left wall, all on one leg.

Like the splashy decor and the kitschy charm, the vibe here was fun. It was as fun as it was casual. Where the menus had 80’s and 90’s pop culture icons gracing the cover in “Gringo” trucker hats, where the occasional bartender climbs the counter to access the bottles at the very top shelf, not figuratively; and where drinks were taken out of plastic pails with shovels acting as stir sticks.

The drinks were the reason why I made this our destination. We each had our own pail for the novelty of it. Choosing from a drink list that was brutally honest. They weren’t shy in saying that their tequila options came in “crap” or “ok”, and that the bourbon was either “cheap-ass” or “top shelf”. This easy to navigate menu was for the layman, and it catered to the budget conscious.

Our choices for the “Thai buckets” were any of their sugary cocktails available, they too came in a single or double; but the bucket, it would be a triple. Our buckets came with a purely ornamental sand rake. You could at least drink out of a shovel, but I guess the thick bubble tea straw include did just the same. Overall these weren’t the best drinks, although we weren’t expecting them to be. Really more for the presentation, where the flavour seemed inconsequential.

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I went with the “pink flamingo” with tequila, pink grapefruit, lager, and sour gummy worms. I ordered it solely for the garnishing of a boozy cocktail with sour gummy candy. The colourful worms found its way in my straw and nestled at the bottom of the drink. They disgusted my guest with her more refined palette, she doesn’t go with the moniker “drunken noms” without good reason.

Describing herself as one who likes a stiff highball and goes for the sharpness of bourbon over a “girly drink”; she went for the “bourbarita” served in a pink bucket. It was made with bourbon, lemon juice, and watermelon. There was no refreshing watermelon, more just a watered down bourbon. Like a champ she finished her bucket first and ended helping us with ours.

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The “Picky Diner” went with a safer bet, and was rewarded with the best one, I my opinion. His chosen “beera colada” came in a green bucket; it was made with rum, lime, coconut, and pale ale. It was the easiest to take down, like a misty topical fruit punch.

The place smelled like taco meat, so that was a good enough of a reason as any to order a few. And when we couldn’t decide which ones, we simply ordered one of each. They were great alone, but better in a set. Each with its own ingredients, coming together for an overall complimentary meal.

I was very impressed with the server/bartender. Despite the casual island vibe that “Gringos” threw down, he was most professional. He took the time to introduce himself, shaking each of our hands and asking us our names. He gave a knowledgeable and honest description of things when we asked. And he delivered us our meal, he educated us on their caddy of hot sauces at the table, even differing us to the collection behind the bar if we wanted something much spicier. As flavourful as their tacos were, we ended up passing on the condiments all together.

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Each see taco filling was available between either warm and soft or the hard corn tortilla kind. You choose your protein and if what was listed with it was not enough, for extra you could have extra. 50 cents more got you any of the following tex-mex favourites: shredded cheddar, bacon, sour cream, avocado cream, or hot queso.

We didn’t read the find print and weren’t offered a choice between hard or soft when we ordered. Just as well, as we planned on sharing all the tacos, taking turns taking bites; and a crumbly hard taco would have been just impossible to share via equal bites. And unfortunately due to only having a bite of each, it was harder for me to flush out the flavour profile of each. Though I know I favourited the beef ones as they had the most taste, the vegetarian was surprisingly flavourful, and the pickles on the “Wilbur” with braised pork was a welcomed zing.

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The chuck was their house seasoned ground beef paired with salsa and green onion. This is the classic line up when I think of a North American taco. It was a little dry, but familiar with childhood flavours.

The “Austin” was their “almost award winning saucy brisket” with fried onions and slaw. I would have liked more crunch to the deep frying and more creamy mayo to the slaw. Both would have then better balanced out the sweet tanginess of the beef.

The “enchino’s” hand pulled roasted chicken was a little bland. The ranch and salsa accompaniments helped, but the white sauce tasted more like sour cream, than ranch dressing.

The “Wilbur” was matzalan braised pork, chillies, vinegar, and pickled onions.

The “pink” was poached white fish, chimmichurri, slaw, and tomatillo sauce. Mild flavours in harmony. There was a crunch to the slaw, but I would have rathered it in a batter of a fried white fish.

And the “mugroso” was chilli vegetables, rice, roasted corn, zucchini, and tomatillo. Filling with a smokey roasted flavour.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The drinks may not bring me back, but the tacos will, and the experience of having them with Thai bucket, in such a colourful setting, in such a monochromatic neighbourhood will. A must try vibe.
Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GRINGO
27 Blood Alley Square, Vancouver BC, V6B 0C4
604-721-0607
gringogastown.com
Gringo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Grille Restaurant

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The Grille Restaurant, at Country Meadows Golf Course

This was a burger so good that we drove all the way to Richmond for it. A burger so good that my parents have been here three times in the last month and a half.

You wouldn’t expect such a find on a golf course, in Richmond, but here we were. Many of the diners in play the course and are given a discount to dine here after. Though they welcome anyone and serve all. But looking around they definitely saw a more mature clientele. My mother liked the fact that the dining area was spacious, and it easily accommodated my grandmother with her walker. It certainly looked like the other large families dining felt this way too.

Driving past the “Meadows”, without any billboards or sign posts, it is definitely a those in the know, know kind of situation. You definitely wouldn’t think to stop at a whim for food otherwise. Though with its large lot and plenty of free parking, it was certainly easy to do.

The building was impressive from the outside. A giant club house with a column supported entry way. Black tile roofs, white stone walls, a banister outlining the property. You were ask to keep of the patch of grass out front, and a cast iron bull, posing mid stride, made sure of that.

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I wished the interior matched the grandiose of the exterior. Instead it was aged with pieces that dated itself and others that could use replacing due to years of wear and tear. These small details were passable, but they and the dust, did take away from the prestige. Though with grand staircase at the foyer and the vaulted ceiling opening up before you, you could imagine it in its full regality. I could see it being pretty impressive when they first opened. When the varnished wood floors shined, where they were now scuffed. When the leather of each booth and upholstered chair was still supple, where they now was cracked and sagging. When the chandelier that centred the room was pearl white instead of its current earl grey. And when the staff were excited to be working in such a elaborate setting, instead of the group that didn’t seem very customer centric today.

The employees were polite enough, but appeared to spend more time socializing in the corner with the bartender, than tending to table. We had a difficult time hailing our server and when we were actually able to make eye contact with anyone else, we were immediately redirected to her. It was to the point that I stole pre wrapped cutlery off an empty table in order to get more napkins.

And when my mother accidentally dropped her metal fork on the hardwood floor not one server flinch. Even the one standing a few feet away from us stood still. It was clearly audible, yet she didn’t turn around, no one asked if we were okay or needed another utensil. It was the not-my-table-not-my-problem mentality. So once again I got up to pinch a set from another table.

And later when I was kept waiting for my burger because they only brought out two for three people, there was no explain or apology. Our server mentioned not knowing what happened and that I would have to wait for them to make me one. This after seeing a burger being served to a table that sat almost 15 minutes after we did. Given the slightly more luxurious air to the place, I assumed that we would get a discount on my forgotten serving, if not having it comped on the bill. But I would be wrong, once again, we weren’t even offered an apology. In the end I was forced to quickly wolf down my meal as to not keep my family waiting. I had insisted that they start eating first, so that their food wouldn’t cool down. A cold and soggy burger with fries and/or salad is no fun.

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My parents wanted to sit inside the restaurant for fear of it being cold outdoors. I rathered the cobbled patio with wicker chairs, marble table tops, and golf umbrellas to shade you from all the elements. Though with the flies buzzing around inside, and the need to shoo them off our plates, it certainly felt like we were outdoors. At least we were treated to an obstructed view from our window side booth.

The scenery gave you a bit of water with your rolling green. A miniature water feature with streams pooling into a mossy pond, a cycling water wheel, and a knee height babbling waterfall. There was a white bridge that allowed you safe passage over the water, but it was easy enough to walk around. On the side of said bridge and along the water’s edge, last year’s Christmas light up icings were still dangling from wires. It must be quite the scene covered in frost, under the shade of their giant weeping willow, glowing with the gentle orange of LED bulbs. But not now in summer.

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In the distance it was green grass meets a patchwork of blue sky and white cloud. The tiny moving specs were players engaged a leisurely game. Only those golfing were allow on the course. I noticed a couple approach the bar indoors for a few pints, of which they brought out with them, to a couple of additional patio tables on the green.

Their menu was fairly extensive with lots of international flavours, but it was a typical listing like many other North American casual dining restaurants. Pastas with Italian influences, stir fry and wonton soup noodles, butter chicken, pad Thai, and red Thai curry. They also offer a full array of classic pub flavours for those less adventurous. Chicken fingers, potato skins, nachos, calamari, and sliders; just to name a few.

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I was hesitant on a menu this diverse. And given that I haven’t heard too much about this place, I decided to follow my mother’s lead and also grab burger. Given the endorsement and the fact that both my parents ordered the same burger, I had to, too. Beside parents don’t like sharing their entrees.

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The fully loaded meadows burger is a grilled ‘AAA’ pure prime rib beef burger, topped with smoked bacon, Canadian cheddar cheese and sautéed mushrooms. All their burgers are topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles; and served with either fries, salad, or the possibility to substitute in sweet potato fries, soup or Caesar salad for $1.50 more. We each got a different side.

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My mother’s boasting was not exaggeration. This was a tasty burger, certainly memorable in how good it was. It didn’t need the tangy orange mayo sauce to carry it, but it added a nice zing. The mushroom were charred with a smoky flavour, the cheddar was sharp with salty, and the was bacon crisp yet chewy; together with the fresh veggies, all the flavour and textural profiles were covered. But the star of the dish was definitely the all beef patty. It was well seasoned with plenty of juice, each bite had oil and grease oozing out over fingers. My parents ate with knife and fork to avoid the same fate. I would later come to that when the elements within the bun no longer lined up, and it was time to pick at what I wanted to finish from bits of bread as lettuce.

And both my parents were also equally excited about their coffee. It was apparently good coffee and it came with unlimited refills. I would have to take their word for it, as I don’t drink the stuff.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I found the burger good, but don’t know enough about the rest of the menu to suggest anything else. The view and the novelty of dining at a golf course is certainly worth mentioning, but the experience was soured by un-passionate staff. I wouldn’t mind giving this another go, but don’t know if I would dare to try something else. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE GRILLE RESTAURANT
8400 No. 6 Road, Richmond BC, V6W 1E2
604-241-4652
countrymeadowsgolfcourse.ca
The Grille Restaurant - Country Meadows Golf Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Little India Restaurant

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My time in Toronto was coming to a close. I had tried the many cuisines that this multicultural city had to offer, so thought tonight was as good as any for some Indian food. The night was cold and the wind was sharp, I wanted something within walking distance of my hotel. And apparently there isn’t much available after 7pm on Sunday. So I was in luck to be able to walk in and get a table right away, while a few others waited. Many were in the same position I was, out of options, and just happy that this was available. Especially after learning that this was one of the best voted Indian restaurants downtown Toronto. And given the amount of people they kept coming in well after 9pm, and all the take out orders that went through the exit, I guess it is safe to assume this to be true.

They advertised themselves and a fine dining Indian restaurant. Having sampled several Indian restaurants in Vancouver, I would consider their cuisine regular Indian food, good but certainly not the small portion and curated plates you think of when you think fine dining. I consider Vancouver’s “Vij’s”, and “East is East” more fine dining than this place, and they themselves classify their establishments as being on the casual side. It was especially the case here with their buffet line towards the back of the room. Metal troughs meant to keep cooked food warm. They weren’t in use now for dinner service, but I imagine them a quick and easy lunch option for those in the area.

Maybe the fine dining was in reference to the decor. It was a dimly lit space with white table cloths, red cloth placemats, and reusable cloth napkins. They also served water in goblets from a copper jug, and the staff were well dressed in vests and slacks. In comparison I underdressed in literally everything I packed with me. I planned for sun and Toronto heat, so when it was colder than I expected, I bundled up with layers and everything I had with me. This included a hoodie and sweatpants. But they served me and treated me with much consideration just the same. I really appreciated the conversation the server provided, going into more than just if everything was okay. He really wanted detail as to how the food was. There was care and pride of work in this young man.

I would be going vegetarian for this one. After eating so much over the last few days, I needed a vegetable cleanse, even if most of it was deep fried and covered in sauce. I ordered more than I could finish, and found much value in what I had. It was an impressive assembly that was not only tasty alone, but complimentary all together. I had things that looked mushy, turn out to be delicious with a creamy texture; and things I expected to be soft and tender, to be crunchy like raw carrots. The surprise was an adventure and I enjoyed it all.

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The meal began with a complimentary serving of sweet pickled vegetable with crispy thin rice crackers. This complimentary basket was definitely inline with fine dining. It was semi raw carrot cubes in a pickling syrup, eaten with the wafer thin cracker; not for taste, but for the airy crisp texture it provided.

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I started with an appetizer of “Vegetable pakora”. “Pakoras” are a variety of vegetables deep fried in a chickpea batter. It is a fritter shaped like a patty, with a crispy texture. It was spicy and savoury alone, and then more so with sweet and also spicy dipping sauce provided. The sauce was a neon red similar to the Chinese sweet chilli sauce in colour and in taste.

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The “Vegetable thali” is a platter sampling various starters. A combination of four different vegetable dishes, served with salad and plain paratha, Pulao rice, raita, and the chef’s special dessert. This was a lot of food and I recommend sharing it with three others, leaving room for some much needed palette cleansing desserts.

Everything was served in sample size portions, on a sectional metal tray. With various shapes and specific sizes I assume it was designed specifically for such a course. From the dips in mental for soups and sauces, to the small dents meant for a smear of plum paste.

I wasn’t certain how to incorporate the dollop of salted plum at the centre of the platter. But I assumed its sharp flavour was helpful in refreshing the palette in between flavourful bites.

The salad was a simple shredded lettuce in a tangy vinaigrette. It felt like it didn’t belong and was more of a place holder.

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“Paratha” is unleavened whole wheat flatbread. They are made by baking the dough before frying it. Parathas are more thicker and more doughier than their cousin the roti. They can be layered and stuffed, but this one was served plain like a side of bread. They made a great base for the other dishes, similar use to the rice below.

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The rice was flavoured basmati. I would have liked more of it for the starch amongst the vegetable stews below.

“Raita” is an Indian side dish made with dahi together with raw or cooked vegetables. It is milky in colour with the consistency of a melted cream and the tang of yogurt. It reminded me of a watery tzazki dip; without its thickness, but with its pickling. It gave the serving a great cooling element to layer on to your bites.

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The “Eggplant bharta” wasn’t much to look at, but it was at least tasty. Smokey grilled eggplant, mashed with tomatoes and onions, and seasoned with various spices. It made a great dip for the flatbread. Like a chunkier and lighter hummus, if we are keeping with the Mediterranean similes.

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“Palak paneer” is fresh spinach cooked with cottage cheese. A literal puréed spinach, spinach dip. I avoided this one as it looked like regurgitated greens to me and the visual eater in me wasn’t having any of that.

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“Chana masala” is chickpeas cooked in a spicy ginger tomato sauce. The peas were grainy, and therefore not my favour texture, but the taste certainly made up for it in my eyes. Plus it offered the platter some more chewing opportunities, where most of its neighbours were spreads and sauces.

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The “Vegetable jalfrezi” came on its own separate plate. It was nice that I got all this from one order, but I couldn’t have done without this bowl, especially as it was just a collection of frozen vegetables (You could tell by the grating pattern on the carrots). Mixed vegetables cooked with garlic, ginger, tomato, and spices.

By the end of the meal my mouth was burning with the slow accumulation of spice. I couldn’t pin point where it came from, but the dessert that followed certainly helped to soothe some of it.

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Tonight’s chef special dessert was the a milk-solids-based sweet “Gulab jamun”. It is basically a spongy cake ball that soaks up all the sugar syrup that it sits in. It was nice to have something sweet to end on, but after the initial bite, I found it too sweet. And sadly it wasn’t any better after my attempt at squeezing each ball, to rid it of any excess syrup. I am also not a fan of the soggy texture. Given the spice above, I would have preferred a creamed milk or better yet some chai flavoured ice cream, but I guess neither would be very authentic.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Indian food is hard for me to describe, I don’t have many point of references, I just know what tastes good in my mouth. Here everything smelled great and was so different from everything else. Not the most aesthetic dishes I have had in Toronto, but definitely some of the most tastiest. The only down side is, having such pungent food means you wear it with you, as your clothes absorb the scents and spices, and follows you back to your hotel. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LITTLE INDIA
255 Queen Street West, Toronto ON, M5V 1Z4
416-205-9836
littleindia.ca
Little India Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato