Prohibition

The “Prohibition Bar” is the newly renovated hotel bar at Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Its name and themed garnered from a time where drinking meant more than just a wild night out. The prohibition era had diverse peoples coming together in celebration of the drink. And here they invited you to do just that. Take a trip back to this time, the 20’s, to the age of speakeasies. To a place where there were no barriers, just decadence and glamour for all. They immolated the Roaring Twenties with live musical entertainment, sleek interiors, and a sophisticated ambiance. Though unfortunately we would not get to see any of it. Seated close to the entrance, behind a pillar, squinting into a darken room our view was limited.

I was surprised that there was a line at the door, though without one I don’t think I would have known where to go. My instinct was to enter through the lobby via the hotel. Though the stanchioned line, after an unmarked double door, guarded by a larger gentleman was a good indication of the bar just behind. A line and a wait at 7:30pm on a Friday night had me preparing myself for a club vibe. Loud and rowdy instead of the mellow lounge feel I had hoped for, and was lead to believe, having reading their online description. My guest had attempted a visit on a previous night, however her companion came dressed in jeans and as a result both were turned away for not adhering to dress code. Odd as I spotted several men in denim and printed tees tonight. None-the-less she made sure I was dressed to impress and that we would not be turned away again.

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After an ID check, without the need to inspect our bags, pay for cover or check our coats in, we were directed to the hostess booth. We opted for whatever was open in order to grab a seat and avoid waiting any further. This gave us our first seats: high top stools by a counter, adjacent to the stage and hidden behind a column. From where we sat we could see large sectionals for group seating, high tops lining the bar that stretched well into the dark of the room, and bodies gathering in a common space. By the looks of things, we were one of the only individuals in for food along with our drinks tonight, so didn’t mind hiding ourselves away as we ate. But as soon as the seats next to us opened up, we decided to upgrade and move down. However our waitress was unable to confirm if this was something we would be able to do, so differed it to the hostess to handle. After catching her attention, not only did she give us the green light, but she thanked us for asking before actioning. In hind sight I was surprised by their ability to accommodate our request on a peak night, and their willingness to let us move knowing that it would throw their seating arrangement off. We were just happy to be able to move two chairs to the right. Our new position not only gave us front row seats to the live band, but allowed us a better view, to take in the expanse of the bar. Oddly situated here, we felt more connected to room; being able to see everything and having everyone be able to see us. Not that we mingled or were seeking any additional attention. But when you go to places like this: where the music is blaring, and you communicate through two word shouts, you can’t help but expect a certain vibe. This need to want to be seen. I felt it here.

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As I mentioned, there was a live band playing and we where within spitting distance of then. Normally I do not enjoy dining close to live performers, as I feel the need to constantly acknowledge them, as they become part of my dining space. However these performers, on this slightly elevated stage, facing one another allowed me the freedom to enjoy their talents my way. They played sets of upbeat jazz taking breaks in between. Their breaks were our moments to converse. The music added to the sounds of a good night: continuous chatter, high pitched laugher, and the ping-ing of glass on glass in celebratory cheers.

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Before our drinks came we were served a candy of hand held snacks. Savory salted pretzel sticks and mixed nuts. Ideal for taking in one at a time as you sipped your beverage.

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They specialize in artisan cocktails and I was going to make sure I tried a few of the more interesting ones.
The “Morning Glory Fizz” was a light cocktail. A good start and build up to some of our heavier spirits to come. Made with scotch, fresh lemon juice, egg white, La Fee absinthe, and charged water. The menu also listed that this cocktail originated circa 1882.
The “Flapper Flip” was also light, it was creamy and went down smooth. It had a feel and taste similar to a watered down chai tea, without all the spices. Made with gin, tawny port, pimento dram, whole egg, bitters, and absinthe.

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I have actually had the Hotel Georgia’s signature cocktail with the same name, previously. It is also available at their roof top restaurant. Another cocktail with egg white foam made just as smooth and just as easy to drink. This was a mix of beefeater gin, fresh lemon, orgeat, orange blossom water, egg white, and nutmeg.
The “Port Authority” by comparison had a strong punch to it. Made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, tawny port, house made chocolate liquor, and maraschino.

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My guest loves her “Old Fashion”, so could not miss trying their take on it here. I matched her and got one of my favourite classics, a “Bourbon Sour”. My choice continued to keep on with my theme, and to keep up with my preference for cocktails prepared with egg whites.

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When in doubt go for the poutine. “Smoked duck poutine” made with fingerling potatoes and duck confit. No where near your typical poutine, let alone your typical bar fare. Tender potatoes thoroughly coated in a light yet luscious gravy with fresh herbs. The duck was plentiful and each piece tender, together they made for a satisfying twist on a Canadian classic.

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We figured the “Pickled albacore tuna” with sweet pickles and chips, in its airiness would pair well with our sweeter cocktails. The tuna was hard, I wished it came more raw like how I imagined it would be. More ahi tuna and less flaked tuna. The pickles added a nice sour tang to the naturally seasoned fish. And both would have faired better partnered with a harder and crunchier chip. It would at least have made a better literal platform to carry the dense fish on.

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The “Black truffled pate” isn’t something I’d expect to order at a bar, nor did I expect it to be something I’d enjoy this much. Served with sauterene gelée, corichons, and baguette slices this was my favourite dish of the night. The pate was rich and creamy, and full of flavour. I never knew a meat paste could taste this good. The pickles and gel were a nice break in taste and texture. It all together made for an interesting top on chewy bread. I would come back just for this.

Even the washrooms were deserving of the Hotel Georgia name. A row of individual stalls, a room all their own. Furnished with faux marble counters, heavy rich doors, and patterned paper towels. The lighting allowed me to enjoy the elegance, that I imagined the rest of the bar to be.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I appreciated the work they put into creating this setting. From the refinement in the drinks and food to the mature crowd that filled the room. A level of casual sophistication that you don’t find at other bars playing top 40. If you are going do this, you do it right. Leave the car at home and be prepared to drink to your heart’s content. Don’t deny your cravings.

PROHIBITION
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
801 W Georgia Street, Vancouver BC, V6C3G1
604-673-7088
prohibitionrhg.com
Prohibition on Urbanspoon

Little Sheep Mongolian Hotpot

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The newest location of a Fatty Sheep hot pot was definitely a step above the original. The one we usually visit is located across from Metrotown. We immediately took note of how the decor was dressed here, how the dish set provided looked more refined, and how the ambience carried more class; even despite the and more rambunctious crowd in tonight. Large groups of rowdy men were here to eat and drink to their heart’s content. All you can eat for $20.98.

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The decor was an improvement, even though it may not have been the best themed. We didn’t quite under stand the restaurant’s intended cabin feel. How the walls were intermittently laid with 70’s style wood paneling in alternating wooden tones. And how on each panel hung a framed oil painting of the country side in summer.

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As per its original location, all condiments are a help yourself affair. Luckily we knew to look for it from previous visits, as we were not given any directions, nor was anything signed. The cart itself was hidden at the side of their cash desk too. We observed the room and followed the crowd. There a trolley cart by the cash desk laid it all before you. On it, metal tubs filled with various sauces and oils, with scoops swimming in them. Given its shopped through nature it wasn’t the most appealing set up, but sauce is sauce and you needed a good sauce for hot pot. Soy sauce, peanut sauce, hoisin sauce, chilli sauce, and chilli oil.

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Your meal begins by checking off of a list, we as a table of three. The ingredients are all you can eat, but the soup base in which you need to cook it in comes at a cost, $9.98. The original house special mix, a spicy version, or a mix of both. Both broths ar no additional cost seemed like the best value. The pot is one, split into two halves by a welded on centre divide. Obviously something custom, as this pot seems like it would be a hassle in everyday cooking. The built in table coil heats up the broth, it is slow going. At this point you are hungry and anxious and waiting is no fun. Above each coil is a vent to suck up smoke, and a sprinkler if anything should catch on fire.

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Through out the meal, when your broth or broths run low a server is able to top you off with a pitcher of soup. The same soup base goes into every pot, regardless of it being spicy or not. Though the spicy broth didn’t taste any spicer. I suspect it garnered its name from the abundance of chillies floating in the mix, though we only found them a hassle. We tediously fished each one out out. The spicy in the “house special spicy” referred to the use of chillis. Chillies that would make a mouthful spicy if you bit into one.

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As for what goes into the soup, you
chose what you want through a series of numbers. Each item has its own serving and you number how many of each you want. Meats, seafood, meatballs, mushroom & fungus, wonton & dumplings, vegetable, tofu & gluten, and noodles. Everything to be cooked belonged to either one of these categories. With cooked items, additional condiments, and beverages listed as an additional cost. The grilled meat and seafood on skewers were $1.50 each, but the cold Korean appetizers came at no cost. In the future I may splurge on additional condiments like sesame oil, persevered bean curd, fresh chives, and garlic for only $1. Especially garlic, given how much my guests enjoyed eating the whole cloves that came as one of the many ingredients floating in the “house special broth”.

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We have a strategy when it comes to all your can eat hot pot. It starts with a small order of the expensive stuff. You max the first round on the pricier items.This guarantees it won’t be forgotten or missed on purpose. And better yet, you enjoy it more on an empty stomach. The second round check off are the more familiar meets and vegetables. I am always disappointed at how much we are able to eat. We go in planning multiple rounds, only to barely complete two, then cooking down what we cannot finish in the pot. It’s like burning the evidence of being greedy. I doubt they reuse ingredients guests don’t finish, or at least I hope they don’t. And we are lucky that they don’t charge you extra for it. I dislike that policy. How do you know how much you can eat if you don’t try to eat all that you can?

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We were given two scoops to share between three people. Ladles to fish out our desired ingredients. One with holes to only catch boiled food and drain out broth. And the second to scoop up everything in one fell swoop. I often hear the argument that hot pot is paying to cook for yourself. To them I say, it more about the experience than the actual meal. The need to choose ingredients as a group, and to negotiate what to put in brings a party together. It is bonding through food. Then when it comes time to scoop, you are able to be picky and just take what you want. And don’t forget, once the cooking is done you are left with a hearty soup, as all your chosen ingredients have added its flavour to the broth. Though drink it fast after you turn off the heat. Once it congeals it is not much to look at.

The staff were pretty hands off, a younger group that congregated around the cash desk. They chatted amongst themselves and waited for you to hail them. There was no conversation between each drop off, no check in to see if you were liking what you were having. Though technically ordering your desired items and having to cook it all yourself means, if you don’t like anything you only have yourself to blame. We were also not given any utensils to drop raw seafood and meats into the boiling pot. No communal use utensils. Though instead of attempting to a server’s attention and waiting for what I wanted, I felt I was better off stretching past our table’s barricade, to grab a few wrapped disposable chopsticks off the set table beside ours.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This is one of our preferred hot pot place for its extensive menu and its multiple sauces. Which include some interesting ingredients like squid tube, dried pork rinds, gluten, pork blood curd and bung, mutton balls, and kelp knots. Where often, hot pot becomes a one note flavour that grows tired on the palette. But here with its multiple offerings, you only stop eating because the meat sweats have begun. My tip don’t fill up on the noodles and eat your weight in meat. Don’t deny your cravings.

LITTLE SHEEP
101-1788 W. Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J3J3
604-563-4868
Little Sheep Mongolian Hotpot on Urbanspoon

Empire Seafood Restaurant 帝苑皇宴海鮮酒家

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This review is a little different. The scene and theme was that of a wedding. So the decor was different and the expectations for service higher. None the less we were still here to eat and I still wanted to catalogue the evening, this would be my first wedding reception review. And I was not the slightest bit disappointed.

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This was the fanciest Chinese restaurant I have ever seen. The accent lighting along the ceiling’s alcove filtered the room in a cool tone. The silk sheets covering each chair, the crisp white linens over each round table, the blue and white floral arrangements, and the embossed chargers specifically for the wedding helped to propel it all to the next level. Not to mention the bride’s chosen royal blue and pearl white theme dusted the place in a regal opulence. They well matched the room’s originally occurring framed cushion panels. All very luxe.

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I will skip the ceremonies, the games, and our photo ops, and dive right into the food. Conveniently a menu in both Chinese characters and English letters graced the table. It spoke of what was to come. As this was a wedding, each dish was served as a family style share platter, with individual portions doled out tables side. I managed to slow the process by demanding photos of the plates in their entirety before our server got to work.

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As per custom, our meal began with a cold appetizer, specifically a “roasted pig appetizer platter”, among other things. The roasted pig itself was slow cooked tender, juicy bordering melt in your mouth. The crispy skin with a crackle was a crunchy difference from pocket of fat that lay just under it. The slices of barbecue pork, were lean and sweetened. The fresh surf clam was a bite more for texture than its fishy taste. The smoke salmon was rolled into flower buds and left unseasoned. The jellyfish was my favourite, a one of a kind texture lightly coated in sesame oil. The deep fried imitation crab wrapped in seaweed was a new twist on this familiar offering. It snapped with a bite and ended in a good chew.

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“Deep fried prawn paste on crab pincer”. When I grew tired of taking fork and knife to this ball, I used its pincher as a way to bring prawn to mouth. Crispy on the outside and spongy on the inside. It was a one note flavour that was rejuvenated by a splash of the vinegar-based sauce provide. The shredded vegetable in the centre was just for decoration. Though it would have been better pickled and served as a side to help break up prawn and crab meat fritter with some tang.

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“Braised conpoy with Chinese mushroom with vegetables”. The soften mushrooms were very tender, though I still suggest sawing it down to size using a fork and knife and taking it bite by bite. The scallops were more fibrous than they looked, it broke into harder strands instead of sinking beneath teeth. I avoided the soggy lettuce soaked in gravy, I don’t prefer its wilted texture. Though the crispy peanuts sprinkled on top did help to give the plate some crunch.

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“Braised 5-head abalone with vegetable”. It was nice that this dish came already divided for individual consumption. Each diner had their own whole abalone over a bed of greens. I am not partial to abalone for its off putting look and it’s often painstaking chewy nature. This however was far better than every other time I dared to try it. Its texture was like eating a large shiitake mushroom. Juicy, chewy, meaty. And yet again I passed on the wilted greens, opting for more of the luscious gravy instead.

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“Sautéed live lobsters”, I was genuinely impressed to see two lobster heads staring back at the helm of the plate for our table of ten to share. Their purpose, to declare the entire lobster was being used on both occasions. The crustacean was hacked into smaller segments that made it easy to pry meat from shell, especially when using the tiny two pronged forks provided.

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The “Crispy chicken” was by far the best dish and my new favourite way to have chicken. I have never had chicken this tasty, this juicy, this perfect. Tender pieces of succulent chicken topped with a thin sheet of lightly toasted skin. A crisp that went great with the fried prawn chips also included.

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The “Steamed live grouper” was served whole, and carved to single serve scoop-able portions at the table. The slicing was done with fork and spoon, a few jabs and some slices and the fish was inside out with its spine to its right. The tender fish was slightly sweeten in a smooth soy sauce broth, its larger bones easy to avoid. At this point our server no longer doled out portions, or made any attempt to clear plates by suggesting that one table occupant take the last piece or bite. At this point most of us were full and pacing ourselves, so were left to our own discretion.

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The “Assorted seafood fried rice” came drenched in two sauces. The colours of white and red were meant to blend in harmony, speaking to the marriage we were here to celebrate. It’s intended presentation was to be a ying yang. Though the bleeding of the two lost that affect by the time it reached our table. None-the-less it was much better mixed into one sauce anyways. Luscious with a butter cream and sweet with the watered down tomato sauce. The moisten rice made for nice bites when paired with the crunchy vegetables.

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The “Stewed E-Fu noodle” was the ending to the savoury portion of our meal. Its presence was to ensure everyone would leave the dinner full. Its length meant to represent longevity and a long life of happiness for the bride and groom. The noodles itself were easy to eat. Only lightly sauced it was eaten more enjoyed for its chewy texture than is savoury flavour.

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Dessert was true to Chinese dinner form. Chinese desserts are not your delicate ice cream Parfaits or your decadent chocolate cakes. They aren’t rich or elaborately adorned. You don’t often look forward to them, but instead just accept that they are there. Chinese dessert are typically an assortment of gently sweetened bites and sugary soups. Often used as a palate cleanser, a much needed break from the heavily salted meal before it. The entrees are the main affair, these are an afterthought.

The “Chinese petit fours” were fried sesame balls filled with a yellow bean paste and buttery fluff pastry stuffed with a date paste. The balls were crispy and its filling creamy. I enjoyed the texture most across two bites. The pastries flaked off in light leaves. A sandy texture that could have used a more lusciousness from the date paste.

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“Sweeten red bean soup with lotus seed”, the most commonly seen Chinese meal ender. You start with a soup and end with a soup. This version was unlike the others, where you usually get the red beans over cooked into a pulp, here they came in whole rounds. Though over all the serving tasted the same, a sand-like texture flavoured in zesty orange. I liked the taste, but couldn’t get past the texture to finish.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Ye.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As the best Chinese meal I ever had I am giving this one high marks. Though take what I have written with a grain of salt: this was a wedding reception, the entire restaurant was rented out, there was heavy drinking throughout the night, and the staff brought their A-game. I cannot predict whether a non ceremonious visit would result in the same rating, or the am as high quality of food; what I can declare is that this was the best Chinese restaurant I have been to to date, and I want to go back for seconds of it all. Don’t deny your cravings.

EMPIRE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Unit 200, 5951 No.3 Road, Richmond BC, V6X2E3
604-249-0080
empirerestaurant.ca
Empire Seafood Restaurant 帝苑皇宴海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar

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The pairing of pizza and wine was one I have never seen advertised before, but it made sense. Both go well with one another, each with their full bodied flavour. And both can be enjoyed in either a casual or more formal setting. The latter was what we would be entertaining tonight. The restaurant was a larger space with wood floors and concrete walls, casual with an attempt at formality. Romantic with dim lighting and red bulbs, the bluesy sounds of a trumpet performing to jazz stilled the room, and the clang of knife and fork cutting into slices of pizza on a plate echoed from table to table.

The room smelled of pizza sauce, fresh marinara and zesty herbs. From the open kitchen you could see their process. Chefs in white cloaks and black caps stood in a line. The only thing separating them was a jagged piece of decorative glass and the cherry red glow of heat lamps. The obstructive light matched well the red tiles of the pizza oven, that anchored the kitchen.

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I made mention that we were here for a birthday party, and the hostess was kind enough to offer what she thought was a “nicer” table, one by the window. Not soon after I was seated did our server arrive. I was here early and she suggested a smooth wine to sip as I waited for the others. I took her suggestion gladly. This followed attentive check-ins to ensure my wait was comfortable and that the wine she suggested was being enjoyed. It was.

The main menu included a fresh sheet add on. It advertised their participation in the “Best Pizza Challenge” between March 5-28. The list not only included a speck pizza (speck is smoked prosciutto) but polenta fries, antipasti, risotto, and a pasta option. They clearly offered more than just pizza. We made sure to try two dishes from this limited time release.

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The “Polenta fries” were made with parmigiano reggiano and came with a spicy marinara sauce for dipping. The fries were crumbly, a natural property of polenta. But more so with the gritty but crispy breading that crusted each stick. Its flavour was light, bordering on plain. Although the dipping sauce was available for some additional flavour, seasoning the actual fries could have helped. The marinara would have been better served warm, you didn’t get any of the promised spicy heat, yet couldn’t escape its after taste. This was disappointing, it didn’t taste as good as it looked. Unsatisfying.

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“Pizza Con Burrrata E Speck” with San marzano tomato, DOP speck, allepo pepper, baby heirloom pomodori, vincotto pearls, and basil oil. All their Neapolitan pizzas are made with centuries old techniques. They import ingredients and age the dough for 48 hours, to allow it to develop its own rich flavours. Each pie is shaped by hand and topped with quality ingredients. It is then cooked in a wood burning oven at 900 degrees. This effort and authenticity came through within my first bite. This was an amazing pizza from its one of a kind presentation to its equally unique taste. It was too heavy to eat with hands, loaded with too many ingredients a fork and knife were the best tools for the job. It was creamy with cheese, with just enough salt from the thinly sliced speck, and spicy from the chilli peppers hidden throughout.

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For those wanting more spice, a shaker of chilli flakes and a jar of chilli oil were available to add some kick. It gave each dish another layer of flavour, and not just blinding heat.

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The mushroom pizza was listed as a “Novo favourite”. It was made with truffled mushrooms, fontina, and chives. Naturally the earthy flavour of mushroom was most prominent note. Second to it was the light scent of the truffle oil. Together they sang in harmony, nothing was over powering. The thin crust was my favourite part.

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“Spaghetti aglio e olio” with garlic, olive oil, and chilli flakes. The grilled shrimp was incredibly fragrant, you could smell its sweetness and taste the char as soon as the plate landed. The sauce was herbaceous, light, yet still creamy. A simple blend made with really good olive oil, and you could tell.

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“Toasted hazelnut creme brûlée” made with frangelico ganache, served with rosemary and pine nut cookies, and a blood orange granita. My friend swore by this and it did not disappoint. Frangelico is hazelnut flavoured liquor. Its use along side the creamy burlee tasted like a high end Nutella mix, creamier and more velvety that any pudding I have ever had. I was hooked. The herb filled cookies were baked crisp to crumbs. They severed as a completely different flavour to run along side the rich custard. In opposition the grapefruit granita added a burst of citrus zest. Served chilled, it was bursting with sweetness and just a bit of tang. Refreshing like a slurpee or slush. Together this was a dessert to remember and one worth going back to relive.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This isn’t necessary a place I would think to visit for a romantic occasion, but rather for a meal between coworkers or a dinner with friends. A good pizza and pasta at a reasonable price. And all pizzas are not made equal, “Novo” is a good reminder of that. I enjoyed everything we had and would certainly plan a trip back in order to try more. Don’t deny your cravings.

NOVO
2118 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V6J3H6
604-736-2220
novopizzeria.com
Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Air Canada Flight, Japan to Vancouver

Air Canada Flight, Japan to Vancouver

Needless to say the return trip on Air Canada was just as great as my flight to. Once again we were late to departure. Last minute planning and miscalculations had us sprinting to the gate with an hour to our flight. After a stressful train ride and the possibility of sleeping in the airport becoming a possible reality. We made it, just in time. Just in time to get a stern finger wagging. Luckily we weren’t the only ones begging our way on to the flight. Here Air Canada proved that they take of their Canadians, and they certainly go out of their way. The clerk rushed us and another party of three through the whole experience. Running us through bag check in, luggage x-ray, boarder check in, and immigration clearance. She was quick in heels. We got to the gate in time to see the other passengers board and to join in at the end.

All that rushing, only to be boarded, seated, strapped in; and told there would be a delay in our flight. That we do not have communication with a tower, so a new flight path would have to be planned out. It will be a longer path, we will have to avoid volcanic activity. We will arrive in YVR later, 1 hour and 30 minutes later. And all I could do is feel bad for my ride, hopefully they knew to check the flight number and that it would reflect the new arrival time. I just wished that we still had access to wifi, so that when we were made aware of this we could make arrangements accordingly.

Once again the meals to come were listed on the touch screen television sets in front of you. A tap of a button and you could anticipate your entree. Dinner has you choosing between beef or chicken. And now reunited and heading home with my partner I could see, taste, and blog about both. Basically it was two different proteins done in two different cuisines. North American meat and vegetables and a light Japanese dinner with familiar Japanese vegetables.

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Braised beef and red kidney beans in a wine sauce. Served with a side of mashed potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and sautéed mushrooms. A very hearty meal, cooked more like a stew with everything tender, and kidney beans to fill. I appreciated the rounding of the potatoes. They definitely tried to dress this one up, mimicking a steak dinner.

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Roasted chicken with Japanese radish, soya sauce, eringi mushroom, carrot, konnyaku, snow peas, and steamed rice. I really liked how the rice, topped with black sesame seeds, was separated from the meat and veggies in their own liners, just like in a bento box. I didn’t know what most of the listed elements were, but I would soon learn. I was sure there were no snow peas and that I was missing the radish. The green things resembled celery, but with a taste and texture more similar to squash. Was this Japanese celery? And the purple looking cube was a mystery. I couldn’t identify it through taste, but I liked its texture enough to finish it in two bites. It was like a stiff jello.

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We were however most excited by the round buns that sat fluffy in a basket. Golden brown atop of the airline push carts. Bread is just not the same in Japan as it is in Canada. And these were not the same cold, hard ones I got coming on the plane from Vancouver. My partner cleverly melted the butter that was kept cold, by resting the container over the hot entree. It worked. We had spreadable butter.

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For salad it was listed as a bean and Japanese vermicelli salad. I didn’t see or taste bean, but there was shredded carrot and seaweed with all the clear strands of noodles. Tangy, salty, with a slippery texture, and not much else. But I learned last time, you eat it all because you don’t get more in between set meals, unless you want cookies for snack. It almost feels like you are being rationed. I eat a lot more than my partner, out of the fear of being hungry with nothing to eat, so I cleaned both his and my trays.

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Dessert was a chocolate mousse cake. Gold flecks decorated the top of the square, making it pretty fancy for an airline. The cake was four layers, a sponge at the bottom, two types of mouse in the middle, and glossy chocolate on the top. I am not a big fan of mousse, but once again I saw the need to clean my plate. Overall it was too sweet and needed something crunchy to balance the smooth creamy textures.

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Complimentary beer and wine on a plane? When did this happen? In a plastic bottle of course. It made for a nice after meal drink to accompany my after dinner movie.

To our delight the pre-arrival meal was breakfast. And same as before the screen listed two options, one very North American in style, the other more suited to Japanese tastes.

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A plain omelette served with tomato sauce, potatoes wedges, and buttered broccoli. The presence of broccoli was a new one for me, but considering that the omelette was essentially a mound of plain egg, I ate the broccoli and it together. Beautifully presented but nothing worth writing home about. Ironic, as I am recording it here. The whole entree was bland. I usually don’t add salt or pepper to anything, but this needed all of both. I emptied both my little packets. There was hardly enough ketchup to split between egg and potatoes. It was more like a tomato paste anyways. The potatoes, which should have been the best part were disappointing, gritty and sandy, they were just empty carbs. Orange or apple juice served with sliced seasonal fruit, and bread with butter and jam. All the above was served cold and tasted as expected. A mix of kiwi, apple, and orange; and a round bun, not unlike the one from dinner.

The Japanese style rice congee with sticky egg sautéed takana mustard and white sesame wasn’t even an option. Looking at us we got the egg without pause. I was too timid to inquire. Plus I was more keen on the omelette after reading the two descriptions anyways.

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The last post to round out my amazing trip. Until my next adventure.

Vancouver Olive Oil Company

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Walking the neighbourhood we stumbled on this shoppe selling olive oils made right here in Vancouver BC. And even more exciting they advertised themselves as an olive oil tasting room. Having never seen one, or knowing such a thing existed, we had to walk in for an impromptu visit. I like wine and beer tastings, so an olive oil one should be just as fun.

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The shop was empty at the time so we had the place to ourselves. An open room with specialty shelves lining the walls. It allowed for the display and storage of multiple bottles in different sizes for sale. At the very top of these shelves were metal vats, each containing its own unique flavour of olive oil or balsamic vinegar. Each with its own flavour profile for you to taste and try before you buy. A small place card under each one spelled out its name and spoke to its ingredients. And before it, a small dish rested at the bottom of each tap to catch any run off. They all remained untouched. You grab a small disposable spoon from one of the bowls nearby. With a gingerly twist you control the flow of oil and allow just enough to saturate the curvature of your scoop. Its name promised a flavour and each taste delivered. If it was blood orange you tasted its sweetness, and made out the zestiness of the actual citrus.

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Each grouping was arranged between fused and infused flavoured olive oils, white balsamics, dark balsamics, and vinegars.

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The fused and infused flavoured olive oils included Baklouti Green Chili, Basil, Blood Orange, Butter, Chipolte, Cilantro & Roasted Onion, Eureka Lemon, Garlic, Herb de Provence, Milanese Gremolata, Persian Lime, Tuscan Herb, Wild Fernleaf Dill, and Wild Mushroom & Sage. The list of white balsamics was Alfoos Mango, Blenheim Apricot, Cara Cara Orange-Vanilla, Cinnamon-Pear, Coconut, Cranberry-Pear, Grapefruit, Honey-Ginger, Lemongrass-Mint, Peach, Pineapple, Pomegranate-Quince, and Sicilian Lemon. And the dark balsamics had their flavourings from Blackberry-Ginger, Black Cherry, Black Currant, Blueberry, Dark Chocolate, Dark Espresso, Fig, Juniper Berry, Maple, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Strawberry, and Tangerine. Already pretty impressed by the massive line up above, the clerk then blew my mind when she mixed oil with vinegar, and handed me a taste of this blend as a shot. More reason to buy a bottle of oil and vinegar together.

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You would think someone would take advantage of their premise and sample all their wears. One at a time, using all their plastic spoons, and making a inky, oily mess. With row after row of vats and nozzle after nozzle to spout from, there was just too many flavours to try it all. And honesty you can only take so many shots of oil and sip so many spoons of balsamic before calling it quits. This isn’t ice cream, you just can’t sample enough to satisfy.

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After trying a handful ourselves we were compelled to purchase. Not only because they were that good, but because I felt I had taken advantage of the shoppe if I didn’t. Each oil was available in three different sizes. $12 for 200ml, $20 for 375ml, and 750ml for $32. Upon purchase the name of the oil or balsamic is written at the back of the bottle in white ink. Luckily the place is well organized or else they wouldn’t be able to identify one black bottle from the other. My guest took home a bottle of traditional olive oil. I went for the first sip I sampled, their chocolate balsamic. I did so knowing I could pair it with both vegetables and fruit, and use it for savoury breads and sweet desserts.

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My first use for it was in this heirloom tomato platter, with bocconcini slices, and fresh basil; along side extra virgin olive oil. It was delicious.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes
With nothing else like it, and nothing to compare it to, I am scoring this one very highly. What a great idea and a fun way to present it. Olive oil tasting, the first in the city? I am always trying to look for that perfect unique item to gift older friends, or acquaintances I don’t really know but wish to impress. Vancouver made olive oil in fun flavours is just the ticket. Not to mention a creative souvenir for those visiting our fair city, who aren’t necessarily partial to maple syrup. Don’t deny your cravings

VANCOUVER OLIVE OIL COMPANY
2571 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6K2E9
604-737-7171
vooc.ca
Vancouver Olive Oil Company on Urbanspoon

Donburi (丼)

Donburi literally means “bowl”, it categorizes any Japanese rice dish consisting of seafood, meat, or vegetables; served in a bowl.

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Sukiya, Shinjuku

It was 11pm and we were hungry. There isn’t much around our little neighbourhood of Yoyogi Hachiman, that is if you are looking for more than convenient store eats. So a train ride to the larger train station of Shinjuku was are best bet for late night eats. We were running against the clock, looking for what we wanted at places that were actually open, with the last train home leaving at 12:55pm. Our criteria: warm food, at a descent price, serving something “safe”. We would be taking a plane ride back to Vancouver tomorrow, and the last thing we needed were upset stomachs. So with our list of “needs” cutting our options in half, the hunt began. Sadly majority of the places we considered were closing their doors or had past their last call. That is until we stumbled on this 24 hour style diner, the first restaurant opened for 24 hours that I have seen, since I arrived two weeks ago.

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The setting was a bar surrounding a work station manned by one employee. Looking around it wasn’t the cleanest of conditions, but given that things were running non stop, it was sort of accounted for. Though I couldn’t help but think of the hidden kitchen in the back, how did that fare? Though I had to push that thought out of my head, in order to be able to enjoy my meal.

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The menu resembled those of other diners that we have visited in the past: the usual bowls of rice and noodles with an assortment if meat and sides. I was most drawn in by the individual hot pot served over a flame, only to learn that it was only available until early evening.

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So instead I went with a visually appealing chicken and mayo rice dish. With the option of having it with or without an egg. When a choice is given, I always go for egg when it accompanies mayonnaise. A runny egg yolk and creamy mayo are always a winning combination, when served over rice.

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My meal came with two extra parts that I did not expect. A whole egg in a bowl and a metal contraption over another bowl. Common sense and a reflective look over the menu stated that I was to crack the egg over the metal scoop to separate yolk from white, then pour yolk over my chicken dish, as it was in the photo. In hind sight I could have used an explanation and a wet wipe during this cracking process. It was messy and I felt clumsy about it. Though I did like having an interactive element with my meal. Given the deep yellow to orange of the yolk and the thickness of it, I don’t think this was just an ordinary egg. Unless Japanese chicken lay such eggs. Either way it was a great addition to the shredded seaweed on rice. The egg gave the rice extra moisture, and together with the mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce it made for a sweet and creamy bite. The chicken was tender, but I wished for more, for a better meat to rice ratio. There was also a yolky after taste that lingered.

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My partner got the pork bowl set meal with miso soup and a corn and lettuce salad.

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The miso soup came with more than one shred of seaweed (like it often does in Vancouver) and plenty of dried tofu chunks. Other than that it was pretty standard.

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The corn salad was filler, nutrition- less cabbage and corn kernels from a tin. We ended up adding the corn to rice and discarding the rest.

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The pork was cut into large sheets, it made eating a task that required teeth and jaw to shred into smaller bites. Other than that it was a pretty standard dish. Hard to mess up stewed teriyaki pork over steamed rice.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This one was pretty simple and straightforward. A good, every day kind of meal, open and available at the times that work for you. You get your food quick, you eat quick, pay quick, then leave to continue on with your day quick. Don’t deny your cravings.

Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates & Patisserie

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I have passed their cafe on occasion, but never been early enough for a visit. With pre planing and a google search, I made a point to stop in before they closed at 5:30p daily. I also took advantage of their complimentary underground parking at the back. On previous visits I paid for spots by meters not knowing such a service existed.

The day was fairly warm, the sun was out and the covered patio was well seated. I walked in to a shaded room, the blinds were drawn to shield eyes and avoid the blooming of chocolate from the exposure to heat. As explained by Wikipedia, Chocolate bloom is a whitish coating that can appear on the surface of chocolate. Either fat bloom, arising from changes in the fat in the chocolate; or sugar bloom, formed by the action of moisture on the sugar ingredients. Chocolate that has “bloomed” is still safe to eat, but may have an unappetizing appearance and surface texture.

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Chocolate was the central theme to this cafe. Its presence was not only pronounced in the desserts offered, but it played a heavy hand in the decor as well. The colour of chocolate was pronounce in the dark brown serving counters, the round tables for dining on, and on the chairs that matched the cocoa that they sold. The ceiling was patterned in honey combs with light bulbs hidden in every odd one. The same hexagonal combs also appeared in a pattern that resemble a string of DNA. They seemed to be the cafe’s trademark design, along with a pencil sketch of a wasp-like orchid. Both made several appearances on the walls in decoration, along the sides of their dish wear in elegance, and again on several of their packaging for trademark.

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As for the actual edibles, chocolate was covered across is various platforms: from centre pieces to bars, to chocolate in cakes and chocolate in cookies, chocolate topping pastries and chocolate flavoured macarons. Danishes, strudels, muffins, croissants, and even puddings were also on the menu. And for those looking for something more filling: salted pastries and savoury sandwiches were available with a cup of artisan coffee or tea. Freshly made bread sandwiching gourmet ingredients make a perfect in between meal snack, followed by a square of chocolate of course.

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As for myself, there was just too much for me choose from, I wanted it all and was overwhelmed by my options. How can you just have one? But before I could even decide on my “just one”, I had to battle the debate over savory or sweet, small bites or small cakes. Do I pick what sounds the best, looks the best, or maybe even the one I thought tasted the best? With suggestions from the gentleman working behind the counter my decision was made.

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The “Berry cheesecake” was deemed as one of their more popular, individual sized cakes. It was a striking round of whipped fluffy cheesy cream, over a buttery crumb crust, under a very berry and vanilla flavoured gel, all encased in a thin coating of soft coconut flakes. The perfect layers of purple, yellow, and brown were a visual treat. And it all tasted as good as it looked. We were most surprised that the blueberry, raspberry, and gooseberry fruit that topped this cake was as fresh as it was, especially considering they were out of season. And the shard of patterned white chocolate was the cherry on this cake, an homage to their brand and nod to their skills in chocolatier-ing.

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The “Sour cherry pistachio tart” was a unique combination of ingredients that you figured wouldn’t be this complimentary to one another. But together they covered all the flavours and gave you all the textures you would want in a cake. Shortbread crust, pistachio cream, sour and cognac cherries, and light kirsch chantilly. A chewy tart cherry centre with a couple of whole cherries; a light and airy, sweet pistachio cream, blanketing the crisp and crumbly salted crust. This was definitely our favourite of the day, something so special that it is worth going back for.

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The “Parfait special” was best described as “unique” by the host. It was enough to have me choosing it over my original plan of creme burlee. It was certainly interesting and something I have never tried, nor would I need to again. Not your traditional desert, or what you would think to find at a French style cafe. From several tastes I discerned that this was a black sesame and tapioca parfait flavoured in either lychee or rambutan fruit. Both sweet and juicy seeded fruits found in South East Asian. The shot glass portion is topped with a single raspberry, some pineapple pulp, and a crisp fluff of dried black sesame breading. This was an Asian inspired desert with its tropical flavour, that wasn’t very sweet. A light desert that would be wonderful followed by a heavy Chinese meal with its multiple courses and use of oil.

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My guest took a “pear almond tart” home. It was packaged in box boasting their trademark colours of deep red and darker brown. The package was as artistically conceived as the tart it carried. Shortbread crust, tender poached pears, almond cream and a hint of cinnamon. The tart was sweet enough without actually tasting sweet. Each bite produced a satisfying mouthful of texture. The crust was soft and moist enough that it held together well. And the filling was dense with a solid amount of pear slices and pear jam filling.

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I took a six pack of macarons home. How could I not when I was given a full lemon macron to try as I waited for my guest, and they brought out a plate of other flavours cut in half for everyone to sample. Both were very generous gestures considering the average price of one macaron is $2. Though at the same time it was a clever strategy, they would soon be closing and macarons are not the same a day after. Trying one is enough for you to want several, and in my case several did come home with me.

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Their current flavours included chocolate, coffee, lemon, passionfruit, pistachio, mango coconut, mocha, earl grey, caramel, and their seasonal offering that included tangerine this month. The macarons were fresh, with that tell tale snap on first bite. My partner (who I brought them home for) loved them so much that he deemed them his new favourite place for macarons. I was sent back a few days later for more, only to discover they keep their doors closed on Sunday and Monday.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I will have to be back for more macarons, but in general they have so much to offer that several visits are necessary to try most of it. On top of a rotating list of confectionaries, they also create seasonal pieces. Solid chocolate fixtures beautiful enough for display and deliciously built to be eaten. Our visit was in February and they had heart shaped structures painted in pinks and reds for valentines, edible black and white sheep with chocolate oranges and gold foiled coins for Chinese lunar new year; and pastel coloured chicks and spotted eggs on a bed of edible grass for Easter. They also have an impressive and equally delicious line of tea flavoured chocolate bars. Your favourite teas like matcha and rooibos redone to mildly sweetened chocolate bars. Have your tea with chocolate in an on the go bite. Don’t deny your cravings.

THOMAS HAAS
2539 West Broadway Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6K2E9
604-736-1848
Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates & Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Karaage (唐揚げ)

Karaage is a Japanese cooking technique in which various foods, but most often chicken is deep fried. The process begins with the meat or vegetable being marinated in a mix of soy sauce, garlic, and/or ginger. Once saturated, it is then lightly coated with a mix of seasoned wheat flour or potato starch. The battered piece is then deep fried in a light oil. The preparation is very similar to the that of tempura.

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Gaburichicken, Takadonobaba

My partner had visited once before. He came with a group of friends, so guaranteed the food was good and that there would be stuff that he would actually eat.

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I knew I liked the atmosphere as soon as we walked in. Not only did my partner’s friend open the door to invite us in, but the rest of the staff were as excited to host us as well. This was a busy restaurant filled with happy people, flowing drinks, and the smell of delicious chicken.

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I liked their quirky cartoon chicken logo. He dawned their awning and made an appearance on every menu’s front. He was a plucky character with a black and white hood and a red tie to match his red crown. He had with him other chicken, each dressed as comical. One was in a turban, another had flames shooting out of its mouth and an Elvis inspired hairstyle, one wore a leaf on his head, another cosplayed a tomato, and the last as a block of cheese. I think they were meant to represent different nationalities. India with the turban and lamp in hand; and Italian with the green, white and red bow tie drinking a glass of red wine?

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The uplifting environment was the perfect setting for a night out. A night of dinner, drinking, and laughter. A true bar setting with smoking and loud talking, even on this Tuesday night. The place was decorated with large novelty sized beer bottles and filled with rowdy business men on the prowl. A few surrounded us. Tonight they were letting loose by yelling loudly and cheersing several rounds. One such man even had to be led out by his friend hand in hand.

Then there were the breaks in eating to engage in jovial shouting, done to celebrate the arrival of a new mug to drink out of. The staff would chant, the customers would cheer, then with wide smiles the one getting the drink would chug. Our friend offered us the option to have such a chant preformed for us, to encourage our drinking, but I was too embarrassed to and didn’t want to attract the extra attention as a foreigner. Though it was later offered again, so that I could film it, this I accepted and did. Check out my Instagram @magmei to see the video, it’s quite the experience, and especially enjoyable a few drinks in.

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Your comfort and convenience was considered here. Our miniature booth had an outlet to charge your phones at, hangers and hooks to drape your coat on, and comfy cushiony seats for prolonged sitting. Even the washrooms was well stocked, all the hygiene essentials needed; including the usual mouthwash and tooth picks, and bandaids and female hygiene napkins as well. And thankfully there was a descent ventilation system in place to help clear the smoke from those who were smoking indoors. A commonplace sight at many restaurants in Japan, smoking in doors. Something Canada abolished many years ago. I wonder if employees get hazard pay in Japan, for having to breath in second hand smoke all day?

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Positive terms are shouted out for ordering this, their largest mug of beer. A heavy stein, that required two hands to start. For men you are deemed handsome and manly, and for women beautiful and awesome inside and out. I was game.

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The meal begins with a complimentary bowl of hard lettuce dressed in a sweet sesame oil vinaigrette. By itself there wasn’t much flavour, it was even on the plain side, but as a side with all the fried chicken to come, it was a great asset. It offered palette cleansing and allowed me to keep on eating.

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Sweet potato fries, mentioned on the menu with honey mayonnaise, but we choose just to have it salted over the curry or a spicy seasoning. The fries were not the orange yam we anticipated, but regular potato ones dust with chives. Maybe there was confusion on the order? They were crispy on the outside and especially at the ends, and starchy and chewy in the middle. Once again, these too proved to be a helpful break from bites of fried chicken.

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“Karaage”, Japanese fried chicken with your choice of parts: thigh with or without bone, gizzards, soft chicken bone, wing tip, neck. Or you can try a bit of each with the sampler pack of three. Not that any is needed, but available topping choices included an impressive ten. Some with leeks, others with tomato chilli powder, yuzu pepper, and even a peanut dressing, just to name a few. We let our friend host us, trusting in his judgment to bring back the best three. Given his proficiency in English he was able to return with a full order and to explain it all to us in detail. What parts each was and how they would taste. And then the sauces they came with for added flavour by discretion. Meat from the back of the neck, the thigh, and some with cartilage. As mentioned they already came heavily seasoned but if you should wish additional bottles of sauces were available for self use. Chili powder, a mild sweet soya sauce, a salt and pepper mix, and Japanese mayonnaise. I used the latter with fries and some over my battered chicken.

But if you didn’t want your chicken fried you can have it baked instead. Though not that any less oil would be used. This is called, “Honetsukidori”, baked chicken thigh with bone. We had the “hinadori”, baked “succulent” chicken which uses a younger bird; instead of the “oyadori”, a baked “tender”chicken that uses an older fowl. It was brought to our table whole, in bone, but we were given the option of having it cut into bite sized, sharable pieces. Our server did this at the bar with towel in one hand and kitchen scissors in the other. Like the fried chicken the baked too came with add ons for additional and unnecessary flavour. Black pepper paste, curry powder, cheese, chilli and tomato powder, and a super spicy powder. And once again we forfeited the use of any.

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“Succulent” was the right term used for this chicken. (We were given the English menu.) This tender and dripping with juice chicken leg was peppery and loaded with a roasted garlic flavour. Our host offered us rice balls with this dish. To do it like the locals, you keep the chicken dripping and use it to dip rice or a rice ball into. As delicious as this sounded and as great as rice would have been with this dish, I couldn’t fit any more into my growing belly after the big beer and all the fried chicken before. Shame cause that sauce was amazing and it was now going to waste. I would have loved to bottle it up as a dressing for future meals. It was very greasy though, but the flavour was unreal.

Definitely need a side to break the oil overload of both the fried and baked chicken. As mentioned both our salad and the potato helped. But if you need more of a palate changer go for one of their many sides, with just as much variety. Edamame, sliced onion and tomato, potato salad, fried spaghetti, mixed or celery pickles, cream cheese as is, or cream cheese over toasted French bread with a maple dip. Just to name a few. And if you need a base with your chicken try the rice balls, curry and rice, ramen, or just some simple soup. But for something more filling look to their “oven-roasted” section. Under it was deep fried tofu, fluffy omelet, baked smoked cheese, ground sausage, and vegetarian steak with yam and tofu, etc. And finally, not that you would have room for it, but there is even dessert. A cooling sherbet or cold ice cream, and even a frozen cheese cake. The temperature choice made sense after all the hot fried foods and how warm the restaurant was kept.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Who doesn’t like fried chicken? It’s an internationally known and world wide appreciated food type. And this isn’t your colonel’s secret recipe chicken, if possible this was some of the fanciest fried chicken I have ever had, with a taste incomparable to any another. We left bellies full and smelling like fried chicken, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I will have to figure out what kind of oil they cool with. With all that we ate and all the oil we ingested, I am surprised that I don’t feel more weighed down and guilt ridden. In fact only minutes after finishing we stopping at a vending machine for miniature drinks. And if that isn’t a good enough reason to visit, “Gaburichicken” in Takadonobaba is also the favourite hang out of all the time attack race car drivers in Japan. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

Milestones Grill and Bar

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The last time I was here was years ago. We came when they just rolled out their girls night package. You and three friends enjoy a night of drinks and appetizers at a set cost. Bellinis topped with decorative little red heels and your choice of two appetizers for sharing. I recall it during the time of one of my break up, so we ended the night indulging in their break up pint. Vanilla ice cream with chocolate and cookie chunks packaged in a black, white, and pink striped tub. It was a good night. And tonight we were hoping for a repeat with a happier reason for meeting up.

Plenty of parking was available underground in a shared lot. The signs were very specific to state that “Milestones do not validate parking”. So it was $6 for anytime more than an hour and a half. Inside the restaurant the layout and set up was no different than any casual chain. A large space divided between bar and dining room. Secluded nooks, sectioned off crannies, and booths separated by a barrier to create privacy. Our group found ourselves divided between two booths a four seater and one that sat eight with a squeeze. The only option on a Saturday night with a last minute addition to the dinner.

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“Watermelon and strawberry mojito” by the pitcher. A light and refreshing beverage for those who want to drink, but want to avoid the burn. So good that you would want more than one glass, so why not save yourself the time and cost by ordering a pitcher to share. Drink fast though, as once the ice melts the drink dilutes.

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“Tropical mimosa.” Take a regular mimosa with sparkling wine and chilled orange juice, then add peach and melon liquor, with a splash of pineapple juice. This one is a double. As above, this too was an easy to down drink.

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The “Ultimate Bellini” was a regular Bellini, accompanied by an extra flavoured shot of vodka. A frozen blend of premium white rum, peach liqueur, and sparkling white wine topped with Boone’s sangria. What I didn’t realize was the extra shot came separate, outside of the actual drink. I was recommended the white grape vodka shot, and glad I took it for it very accurate and very flavourful grape flavour. So good that I wished I had asked the brand so that I could have purchased a bottle for myself. It was suggested that I take a sip of this shot then follow it with one of frozen slush. I ended up enjoying both separate. I don’t see the need to have a regular Bellini and this version when the only difference is the latter is a drink with a side drink.

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“Calamari strips” with tartar and marinara sauce. Your standard deep fried and heavily battered chewy pieces of squid, perfect for sharing. They were peppery and played well with either of the two sauces provided. I preferred the white tartar as the more traditional pairing. Though it was nice to have two dipping sauces, to keep the palate interested.

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“Ahi tuna tacos” made with seared pepper crusted ahi tuna, cilantro lime slaw, avocado cream, and crispy avocado. This was the most decorated plate of the night. All the necessary ingredients needed to craft your perfect two bite hand held. These tacos were meant to be light and refreshing. Not the usual ones coated heavily in sauce and dripping with oil. The plate offered different tastes and textures between the fresh herbed tuna, the zesty slaw, the whipped avocado, and its fried crisp counter part. The only down side was its portion size. It was listed as entree, but given the ability to only craft two full tacos from two small flour tortillas, it left you hungry looking for more food.

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I appreciate a restaurant’s ability to split an order and their foresight to do so between two plates, if they know you will be sharing. They did just that with our “portobello mushroom chicken” prepared with basil, roasted garlic cream sauce, vermicelli noodles, and seasonal vegetables. Despite its bland colouring it was actually very flavourful. The noodles were a perfect el dente, offering a great base to be take with the herbaceous chicken and smokey roasted Vegetables.

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The “Stacked burger” was just that, a mouthful with meats piled one on top of another. Prime rib, Montreal smoked meat, double smoked bacon, mushrooms, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, and horseradish cream. The burger was a juicy mess. Bite after bite lead to juices dropping off your chin and sauces in between fingers, in a good way. The first bite is aways the best, when the bun is still toasty, the lettuce is still crisp, and you can still still make out the quality of beef being used. Towards the centre of the burger the meat became drier and each oily bite harder to get past.

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The order comes with fries that I substituted for the soup of the day, a red pepper bisque. What arrived was a murky green pool topped with sliced tortilla chips and soften cheese. The taste was decent, but I didn’t like the texture much, between the soup’s graininess and the soggy chips, it had me regretting the need to pay extra for something I didn’t like.

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“For the love of chocolate cake” was a aptly named dessert. I am not a big fan of chocolate, but this one won be over. It me going back for luxurious bite after glorious bite. Four layers of opulent chocolate cake divided by decadent chocolate fudge icing, drizzled with salted caramel and topped with a scoop of chocolate crunch ice cream. The cake’s layers were spongy and evenly coated with thick fudge. Together with the creamy ice cream and the sticky caramel you had a perfect spoonful. I was surprised that this was as not sweet as it looked, instead it was simply chocolatey. Dare I say the best chocolate cake I have ever had. Though the number of ones I have tried isn’t too large. Definitely worth the wait we endured, over 20 minutes for a pre-made dessert with only some assembly required. Even the kitchen noticed the time they were taking, they sent the manager to deliver it and the following explanation. Apparently they weren’t able to type the order into computer and therefore it held up the preparation process. I question why they couldn’t just deliver the order first and place the purchase in the system after the fact. And what was meant to be any apology turned into an uncomfortable come on, as my guest was being cheeky and the manager was being pushy. Long story short the cake was compensated and the manager even put in the effort to check back with us before he left for the evening.

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“Peanut butter & jelly cheesecake with toasted marshmallow ice cream”. For those who like peanut better this one is a must try. The nostalgic flavours of peanut butter and grape jelly in a decadent cheesecake with a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce. Sadly it wasn’t as large of a portion as the chocolate cake, but very rich and satisfying in its compact portion none the less. The crunchy peanut butter cookie chunks and smooth jelly syrup went well with the creamy cheesecake and its buttery graham cracker crust. The ice cream didn’t quite taste like its promise of marshmallow toasted on a flame, or otherwise. However it was still very good and just as inventive as the dessert it was set to compete against. It was a delicious blend of sweetness enrobed in velvety cream. I could finish a pint of it as is.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Out of all of the modern casual chains, “Milestones” is one I like the most. Perhaps with fewer locations I still find newness in their fresh sheets, and creativity in their menu. Either way it is a solid destination for a larger group gathering with a minimal wait. Don’t deny your cravings.

MILESTONES
2425 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V5Z4M5
604-678-8488
milestonesrestaurants.com
Milestones Grill and Bar on Urbanspoon