Hakkasan Bistro Cafe

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“Hakkasan” is a little bistro offering authentic Hakka-inspired soul food and Cantonese dishes prepared the “Wok Hay” style. They are a family-run establishment: a mother and her two daughters. They are best known from their multi-course tasting menus.

Having family ties to the Hakka people and growing up hearing my relatives speak the dialect, I was highly curious to try the cuisine for myself. I am sure I have had some Hakka dishes growing up, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you this from that. I wanted to learn more and I wanted to start with food from “Hakkasan”.

Hakka cuisine is the cooking style of the Hakka people. Their name refers to them being nomads, China’s gypsies that roam the land. They mostly originate from the southeastern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangxi. But the Hakka people can also be traced back to other parts of China and in countries with significant overseas Chinese communities. For instance, my Hakka family members all come from Brunei.

“Wok Hay” is a Cantonese expression used to describe the essence of wok cooking and the flavours and taste imparted from the process of stir frying within a wok. When prepared in a wok, dishes often come out fiery and very flavourful.

Nestled in East Richmond’s industrial area, the restaurant was established in 2007 by the original owner of Richmond’s “Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine”. They were named “the world’s greatest Chinese restaurant outside of China” by NY Times journalist and food critic, Jennifer Lee in her book “The Fortune Cookies Chronicle”. They have also won Diner’s Choice for “Best Service” in the Chinese Restaurant Awards 2015. All of which was displayed proudly within the restaurant, as framed awards hung by the entrance with care. With all their accolades I went in with high hopes. Most were delivered.

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The bistro has recently undergone a makeover. Given the blasé exterior with white washing and brown trim, the new and improved setting was a pleasant surprise. (Not that I know how they looked before.) Stone walls towards the back, tiled floors under foot, black shades over the front facing windows, monochromatic art along the walls, and dainty iron lighting fixtures overhead. It was all very modern, simple clean. It only got cluttered by the bar, where mismatching bottles were displayed on a rack, and painted canvases were decoration matching their vino theme. With polished flatware, neatly folded cloth napkins, and wine glasses this was one of the nicest looking Chinese restaurants I have ever been too. They didn’t do gaudy or ostentatious, they went with chic and modern on a budget, and they were successful in this. It all had me feeling more assured of the meal to come.

Given some of their more flamboyant menu options, they classify themselves as a “fine dining” Chinese restaurant. Their prices match this thought, being a little on the steeper side. However given the quality and quantity of food for the prices set, I would say they are reasonable and worth it. I instead would define them more as a casual restaurant in the league of more familiar casual chains like earls and cactus. They welcome anyone and deliver great service indiscriminately.

They clearly know that the modern diner expects food, service, and the setting to all be on par. You don’t enjoy good food as much in a room that is cramped and dingy, and you enjoy it even less if the service accompanying it is rotten. They didn’t have any of the above as problems. We were greeted by Yvonne at the door. She was one of the daughters, clearly proud of their family’s achievements. She was upbeat and happy and it rubbed off on her staff. The three women who worked the room, catering to us, all did so with the utmost care and professionalism. I can see why they won an award for service, especially as most Chinese restaurants bogart service in lieu of abrupt speed. We were well taken care of tonight. The tea pots were filled often, empty dishes were bussed regularly, the whole table was even wiped down before dessert.

As I mentioned earlier they are best known for their tasting menu. It was the perfect way to try a dish and not have to commit to a full portion of it. Ideal if you are unfamiliar with Chinese food and new to Hakka cuisine. They had four different tasting menus pre-laid out.

Their signature tasting “A” included seven dishes from starter to dessert. It was $75 per person, and included some pretty fancy ingredients like: foie gras, whelk clam, “sharp fin”, scallop, free range chicken, and lobster. Not just Chinese delicacies, but some international ones as well. At the other end of the expense spectrum was their “prestige tasting”, a $188 per person set menu. It included all the above, but with the addition for abalone, pork belly, Chilean sea bass, fried rice and custard with “birds nest”. Some real delicacies at some decent prices when you do the math. And these weren’t small portions these were hearty servings.

Edible “bird’s nests” are created by swiftlets (type of bird) using solidified saliva. Yes it is bird spit that is harvested for human consumption. They are prized in Chinese culture due to their rarity, and supposedly high nutritional value and exquisite flavour. In reality they have no taste, another thing Chinese people eat for the sake of prestige and status.

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To accompany the restaurant’s facelift they have also made improvements to this menu. They now also offered an A La Carte Menu for family style dining. It included many popular Hakka country style comfort dishes. They even pack some of their more popular ones to go as part of their “grab and go” program. The concept is ready-to-eat rice & noodle bowls in microwave-safe containers, the perfect solution for lunch on the run or a dinner at home without cooking.

This and other items were on display at coffee bar. We were here later so eggplant was all they had left. But their refrigerated counter still had several individual sized cakes and macarons for dessert. On the counter was a special packaged tea that improves metabolism and home made chilli oil without preservatives.

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They also offered single serve desserts like individual sized cakes and macarons.

They have separate lunch and dinner menus, they vary from one another by quantity included and price asked. Lunch specials include set meals and $11.95 deals that came with drinks, sides, and a sweet treat after. The a la carte dinner menu was sectioned options divided by starters, soup, seafood, vegetables, specialities, meat, rice and noodles, and the chef’s signatures. The latter is exclusive specialities that require a phone call ahead of time to reserve it. “Young coconut chicken soup”, “ancient style baked chicken”, “honey roasted pork cheeks”, and “braised pork hock”. We would have all three. Naturally these jumped in price based on ingredients used and technically know-how required.

As is the case with most Chinese menus, they have so much to offer that it is hard to choose. And without photos and just menu names that dual functioned as dish descriptions, I relied on my mother to navigate me through the menu and this cuisine.

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The cold appetizer platter included “Jasmine tea smoked mushroom beancurd crepes”, “Balsamic cloud ear mushroom”, and “Honey roasted BBQ pork cheeks”. I appreciated their English translations, it made everything so colourful. With the beancurd crepes you got the intended smokiness, but not the jasmine tea taste. The mushrooms offered a rubbery and chewy texture but none of the acid found in balsamic. And the pork was the highlight of the dish. It was similar to the Chinese style barbecue pork, but a lighter version. It was delicious, I could have eaten a whole baby pig’s worth.

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The “Double boiled whole young coconut soup” with pork meat and white fungus was one of their specialities. The room silenced when these came out. Their fragrance quickly filled the space in a most enjoyable way, tropical. It was quite the presentation for all the senses. The soup was still hot, it’s flavour rich yet light. It was a hearty broth that was warming and filling, perfect on this rainy day. Although charming, the presentation did make eating a task. It was hard to get the cumbersome porcelain spoon though the small opening of the young coconut. Though they were later traded out for metal spoons instead. They were especially helpful in scraping the edible coconut flesh off the coconut husks. Who knew coconut meat would be so good in savoury soup? The coconut added a tinge of sweetness, but had mostly been flavoured by the soup. It’s taste was within the broth and in turn the broth was infused into the coconut flesh. The pork meat was tender, but bland. It needed the spicy soya sauce to give it some flavour. This was definitely the crowd favourite. I would agree, but found it to be too much soup for one serving. I would have liked to share it, but that would take away from the presentation.

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The “odourless garlic lobster on jasmine rice” was an interesting one. Reading the description I was curious to test out the “odourless” part. It was still fragrant with garlic and it still tasted like garlic, but it wasn’t suppose to fowl up your breath? How did they manage that? The garlic seemed to be squeezed into oil and the rice was coated in it. The rice was still plain on its own, as was the lobster. They needed one another to make a fulsome bite, lobster and rice as one. The subtly of the rice married well with the gentle lobster flavour. But sadly the lobster itself was a little old and its meat prepared a little dry.

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The “Ancient style Hakka salt baked chicken” was another dish with an impressive presentation. A crockpot with salt was presented at our table. The lid was removed and the parchment was cut open to revel a perfectly golden brown whole chicken.

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Despite it bathing in salt, because of the parchment layer it wasn’t too salty. It was seasoned in ten different spices and only picked up hints of salt. The chicken was tender, it was easily to pry meat from bone. This was favourite dish of the night, especially when taken with the rice above, there was plenty of it after all the lobster parts had been claimed.

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The “Braised pork hock” was a huge chunk of meat, the size of a smaller dodge ball. The fatty cut was cooked thoroughly to the perfect tenderness. It was presented at the table as a whole, then later cut down to size for ease of eating. The meat peeled strands by strand at most parts, but at some sections it did come out drier. Sadly I found the dish too salty, I couldn’t eat much of it. Tasty but salty. I had some with the rice from earlier and they recommend dipping the buns below into its sauce.

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The “Steamed mini flour rolls” were plain white flour buns. They were fresh and fluffy like bread. They did go great with the sauce above.

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“Hakka home style steamed egg, pork, and duck yolk”. Despite it’s simple look it’s smooth texture is actually hard to achieve. Egg is temperamental, you have to cook it at the right temperature at just the right time to get this texture. The dish was like a savoury pudding with jello consistency and ground pork bits for chew.

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“Mui choy stirfry” with seasonal Chinese greens. Chinese lettuce with preserved vegetables. This is the first time seeing this lettuce paired with vegetable, usually it is paired with meat. The vegetable was fresh, and would be considered tender. Though it was still stringy with lots of chewing involved, but this is the nature of the vegetable. We ended up spitting out the parts we could not breakdown and swallow. The dish would be considered good if you like that sort of thing, but I am not a fan of leafy green vegetables so passed on this.

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“Country style fish filet with pickled vegetables”. It didn’t look like fish, nor did it taste like it. The dish had flashes of sweet and sour pork with the texture of the fish, its sauce and the pickled vegetables used. It was surprisingly really good. The nuggets of battered fish was easy to eat and light. The crisp vegetable offered some crunch and a needed layer of dimension. The dish was not as acidic, surprisingly considering the vegetable used.

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“Steamed milk custard”. I was very pleased that it wasn’t something decadent, I couldn’t stomach any more after such a rich meal of eight courses. Milk, egg white, and lots of sugar. Like its savoury cousin above, this egg based dessert required heat and timing to be just so. Eggs can be easily over cooked, these whites were done right. This was such a pretty and delicate dish with its pure white colouring. Sweet and creamy it tasted like something that would be found in a Chinese cocktail bun. The perfect way to end such a meal and cleanse the palette.

 

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.
If you have never heard of the cuisine, I suggest experiencing it here first. Be warned given the location their hours are limited. Tuesday to Sunday for lunch until 3pm and dinner until 9:30pm. Fancy Chinese food at reasonable prices, the drive to is all you have to worry about. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HAKKASAN
Unit 110 – 2188 No. 5 Road, Richmond BC, V6X 2T1
604-273-9191
hakkasan.ca
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The Keg, “summer lobster” menu

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We came specifically to “The Keg” for their summer lobster menu, only available until the end of August. I choose this location as I like it the most. Not only because is it close to home, but because it is also out of downtown. Tucked away, it tends to be less busy and less seated. I have never had to make a reservation or to take a seat in wait. However this Thursday evening, the lot was filled and there were a few couples waiting in their spacious lobby.

I joined my guest on the patio. The weather was warm, and seeing as we have little nights left to enjoy a meal outdoors, we took full advantage of a dinner outdoors at dusk. I have dined at and written about this location before, but this was my first time on their patio. It was a semi covered seating area facing the parking lot. The potted plants, lit candles, and spot lights actually gave the area the feeling of being indoors. It kept the higher standards of “The Keg” with stone pillars and a matching stone fireplace. Although the tables and chairs were made of wicker, their pale grey colouring with metal and glass accents did give each piece of furniture a dressier feel.

As I mentioned earlier we came in with the sole intention of having lobster, so didn’t even look at the rest of the menu. We focused our attention at their “Lobster Summer” menu. My first literally went “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” and we got the first five things off the menu. We ordered all the share sized appies, what remained was an entree sized surf and turf and a whole Atlantic lobster, or just its tail. Our server was taken a back by our brazen-ness and chuckled as she wrote down each dish’s actual name. She exclaimed that we were the first to do this, this season. It felt like a victory for us.

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Our meal began with a loaf of complimentary bread and butter. Crispy on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside. The buttery was whipped smooth like cream. We saved most of the bread to be used with the dish below.

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“Lobster Gratinée” is oven-baked lobster with garlic, herbs, and melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses. The lobster chunks were sawed off and sectioned into a porcelain escargot plate. This plate was a handled dish that came with several dimples. Each dimple allowed a chunk of lobster to sit soaking in oil. But was well hidden under a blanket of gooey melted cheese. Cheese, lobster, and bread together can do no wrong. The cheese was salty, the buns were sweet, the herbs savoury, and the lobster pieces buttery. We used the bread as a good base for all the grease, it was great for dipping with.

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I found the “Szechwan Lobster” just so-so. Though I am probably biased seeing as I grew up having similarly prepared Asian style whole lobsters during family dinners at Chinese restaurants. Those lobsters were prepared fresh, often allowing you to choose your own crustaceans from the tank. This plate seemed like an attempt at what was described above. Golden fried lobster and shrimp, tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce with a mix of chilli peppers, red peppers and asparagus. Each piece of seafood was battered crispy. It’s flavour reminded me faintly of North American style sweet and sour. Not my favourite, but not bad. Sadly the intensity of this dressing hid the mild flavour of lobster, it actually all went better with the pieces of shrimp. The vegetables were equally heavily sauced, and as a result only offered a break in texture not taste. Together it was all very flavourful, but the dipping sauce on the side gave you options. It had a vinegar sour tang to it, better used as brine for pickling than a sauce for dipping.

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The “Crispy lobster tacos” had “golden fried lobster pieces tossed in crispy rice, and served on warm tortillas with a cabbage slaw and cilantro. The tacos was one of my favourite dishes tonight. The lobster was prepared similar to to the Asian style above, but was better company to the chilled slaw and the warm flour tortilla. It was still battered and fried with a crispy exterior and a chewy centre. There was lots of flavour from it to the creamy pickled slaw, and the grilled to a char corn kernels. It truly came together as a taco with the self added cheese sauce. It was a cheesy dill flavoured ranch-like sauce. So good that we also used it with the fries below.

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“The Keg’s” version of a lobster roll included both shrimp and lobster, to me it just seemed like a way to cut costs. The mix of lobster and shrimp in mayonnaise was sandwiched between a butter-brushed brioche roll, and served with a side of cabbage slaw and fries. I found the sweetness of the bun distracted from assumed savoury taste of the would be roll. This could have been remedied with the addition of more salt and a sprinkle of pepper, or maybe just the use of a crusty bun. At least the lobster and shrimp mix had a good amount of cream to it, and it wasn’t watery like I have had with other lobster rolls in the past. They also used large chunks of lobster, I made out a full claw; shame it had to share the lime light with shrimp. The coleslaw side was the same as in the taco, but was not so great on its own. It needed dressing, some extra kick to have it stand on its own.

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A miniature “Surf and turf” platter with two tender mini filet medallions and a three ounce Canadian Atlantic lobster tail. This was served with a different cabbage slaw and some steamed asparagus. The steak-ed portions were cooked to a perfect medium rare, snd were as great as the lobster tail they were paired with. Tender beef and juicy seafood, the ultimate best of the land meets the best of the sea plate. The beef was peppery with large cracks of peppercorn. And the tail was the purest form of lobster we had tonight, perfectly poached and dressed with melted butter. It was clever to stack the tail on top of the asparagus rods, to coat both in butter at the same time. This coleslaw was dressed in a brown sauce, it had a familiar Szechwan taste to it. Too salty on its own, better when partnered with a cut of steak. It was very clever how they used similar ingredients to create this many dishes. I mean they used the base coleslaw three different ways.

Our server was attentive, she checked in often and hovered in case she was needed. Though I wouldn’t expect anything less from “The Keg”, it is one of the higher end causal chains, with higher standards at a higher cost. My only compliant had nothing to do with the restaurant. There were plenty of fruit flies buzzing around, but that’s what happens when you choose to dine outdoors. I was stunned that they were bold enough to land and stay on a plate, even when we were swatting them left and right.

 

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.
This was lobster-palooza! We covered all the main lobster flavours during this extravagant meal: creamy lobster, lobster with cheese, butter on lobster, and even lobster prepared Asian style. Having a little bit of everything is a great way to eat, and we were fully satisfied with amount of lobster we got. Shame, we would have to wait a year to have any more. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE KEG
4510 Still Creek Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5C 0B5
604-294-4626
kegsteakhouse.com
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Nice Vice

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Today we drove all the way to the Mcarthur Glen outlet for vegan ice cream. Most places have vegan ice cream options using coconut milk, however this was the first soley vegan ice cream shop in town. We would later learn that despite it being vegan, it wasn’t emphasized as such. We were able to connect with the owner, who told us that they purposely pitched the product as being “lactose free” ice cream as it is a friendlier message. Sometimes the word “vegan” can and does scare people away.
This critique will be written in my perspective, as a non vegan having vegan ice cream for the first time. Having had milk and cream based ice creams I had a comparison point. On the flip side, having similar non dairy ice creams all her life, my vegan guest enjoyed what she had and definitely wanted more.

As the ice creams were plant based, I naturally missed the creaminess that milk brings out in. But even though I didn’t appreciate it as much, there was definitely a market for “Nice Vice’s” ice creams. They were busy. Guest after guest, a line through the door after us. I guest their “lactose-free” marketing worked. I can only imagine living without being able to enjoy ice cream. Ice cream is my favourite dessert. I know a few individuals who are lactose in tolerate, and they often brave the consequences their bowels have to face, in order to have a taste of regular milk based ice creams. And they often tell me it’s worth it past gripping yet satisfying stomach pains. So here was a shoppe offering pain free ice cream consumption, so naturally they would do well. As with all successful businesses they identified a need and gave it to the people. And the people in turn really did want their product.

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For once my vegan guest could actually sample everything on the menu. She was delighted and even asked if there was limit to all the samples one can try. To see her so excited, who could deny her? For the first time in her all vegan life she sampled all the ice cream in an ice cream shop. Each taste was served on the end of a wooden spoon. Each taste made her decision harder.

Their flavours vary daily. Today there was watermelon, lemon head, chocoholics anonymous, blue berry, tripped out tropical, banana fudge, peach, and strawberry. The menu was wooden tabs on metallic line. Under it was their cooler filled with ice cream. To its right was a cone dispenser and a stack of recycled cardboard cups. That and a cash register is all they really needed.

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However the space was very large. It looked undone, like they just moved it, and were a few diy projects short. Which made sense considering they were a pop up and only here for the summer season. So in wait for that time, the excess space was used as a gift shop and a pit stop of sorts. A hovering shelf of ice cream themed books to browse through as you lick your treat. A pastel potted plant garden to bring life to the space. “Nice Vice” branded baseball tees and logo embroidered ball caps for sale. And they even hung up framed photos to make the place more homey.

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Two scoops of avocado and buzz’d coffee. Their names delivered a lighter version of their flavour promise.

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The coconut vanilla tasted like coconut milk, it was very refreshing. Great for those who don’t enjoy a sweet ice cream, but still want to keep it dessert-like.

 

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.
Overall I found they all weren’t creamy enough for me, which would make sense since I was comparing them to regular ice cream. The flavours were spot on to their names, I just couldn’t get past the fact that they tasted like churned flavoured water, to actually enjoy them. I would recommend them, but I personally would not go back to have them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NICE VICE
Pop up shop at the McAuthor Glen Outlet
1000-7899 Templeton Station Road, Richmond BC, V7B 0B7
nicevicecream.com

Loving Hut Express Foodtruck

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A vegan food truck review as written by a meat loving omnivore.

I only know one vegan, so when we were hanging out for the day I decided to follow in her foodie footsteps and be vegan for a day. I was going in to uncharted territory. A scary place that was void of cheese, and one that would deny me most candies. How would my taste buds cope with the lack of flavour, I feared. Judging without even trying, shame on me. But I have had a vegan dish or two that I have hated. Disliked for its its lack of smooth textures and grimaced at for its flat raw flavour. Let’s say I have had more bad vegan meals than good. I wanted more bells and maybe even some whistles, and I certainly got it here.

This is the only vegan express food truck on the streets of Vanvouver. They park in Yaletown, a constant fixture by the Roundhouse community centre. Fun fact, you can board an actual locomotive train, by donation in the community centre. There was a line to order and to be served, I explored.

The golden-yellow hue of the food truck was eye catching, that and it was the only thing parked on the sidewalk.

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I feel being vegan is like being in an exclusive club. They have their own food and drinks, their own shops and stores. The community is tight, my vegan guest even knew the cart operator, the man behind our meals today. On the food truck, they list some of their their more famous members, and encourage you to join the ranks of vegan, with a free membership. They even listed reasons why you’d want to join. Albert Einstein, Ellen Degeneres, and Maggie Q did. And if you did, you too can get plenty of protein from seeds, nuts, and grains. And changing your diet to vegan is not only compassionate, but it is also economic and healthy. All good points, but I think I will be sticking to my “eat all the things” foodie diet.

It was hot, the sun was out, but we weren’t the only ones braving the need to squint for some of their all plant based burgers. A steady line was growing and only one employee behind the counter was working hard to shorten it. With all things considering, he did a good job, especially having to making our three burgers all at once. He takes a order and finishes it before accepting another customer. It guarantees that if you have to walk away, you can, without the need to ask for a refund. Though no one budged, you could even hear the crowd mention to one another how good they heard the food was. Definitely worth waiting for.

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The menu is a photographic listing of five different burgers and sides. Each had a beef or chicken patty and depicted cheese running down its sides. If you didn’t read the fine print, you couldn’t tell that there was no actual meat pictured. Heck they even had vegan bacon, a burger made with teriyaki sauce and grilled pineapple; and one topped with onion rings. These were your “regular”, not fast food, but sit down and eat pub burgers.

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My vegan guest suggested I try their “Crispy Chick’n Burger”, their most popular item and their best seller. The ingredients were listed as a “crispy gardein patty, chipotle mayo, guacamole, jalapeño relish, tomato, red onion, and lettuce”. The faux chicken patty delivered on its promise of being “crispy”, the breaded “Chick’n” even flaked off like a meat. As far as I was concerned this was a chicken burger, and one of the best I have had. Juicy and flavourful to the last bite.

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The “Bacon cheese burger” looked spot on with its “Beef-less party, crispy fake bacon, cheese sauce, mayo, tomato, red onion, and lettuce”. The fake bacon had that ham quality in both texture and taste. Crispy on the sides and salty all the way around. The zesty mustard complimented the bacon, and together they helped back each bite as fulsome one. Another “I can’t believe it’s not meat” moment. It looked and tasted like a “regular” cheese burger.

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The “Grilled mushroom cheese burger” is more what you expect from a traditional vegetarian burger. The beef-less patty had a nice charred grilled taste to it, it matched the earthy mushrooms, that were tender and done well. The mushrooms were clearly the focus of this burger, they out weighed the patty in quality and quantity, as the most dominate note. The cheese sauce, mayo, mustard, tomato, red onion, and lettuce finished things off.

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A side order of cheese fries was $1 off, with the purchase of any burger. And what is a burger without fries? The cheese sauce was more a cheesy gravy. It was thick and delicious, like the type you get out of a pump at any concession stand for nachos. Shame it was wasted coating frozen fries. Fresh cut and fried potato would have made a world of difference. There was also not enough cheese, the fries left at the bottom of the cardboard dish remain undressed.

As this was food from a truck, we ate on the steps of a nearby park. The only hazard, the wind blowing away our paper towels.

 

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 the only vegan food truck in Vancouver, it is definitely worth making the effort down for. Vegan or not the food is delicious. As a omnivore, it was like eating “real”, “regular” burgers. I would definitely go back for more, heck if this was in my neighbourhood I could and would eat guilt free burgers every day. Shame they aren’t actually mobile, but more a tethered to and fro sort of truck. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LOVING HUT
Pacific Blvd & Davie Street, Vancouver BC
604-780-1029
lovinghutvancouver.ca
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Meet on Main

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This one is for those too timid to try a new vegetarian restaurant. If you are like me, you fear that any vegetarian meal won’t satisfy, that you will be left feeling like something was missing… meat perhaps, Though this restaurant would be the one to bring you in. This was vegetarian cuisine for the carnivores. And let’s just say, they have made advances in the meat faking department. Faux meat so good that I forgot I was having an all vegetarian meal, and that some of it was even vegan.

Let’s start with the name, it is catchy and fun, and oh so inviting with a pun. The double use of “Meet” and the implied “meat” is wonderful, especially as the take on “meat” is one worth “meeting” for.

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The exterior of the restaurant is as eye catching. From the rotating sign at the very top of the building to the miniature garden growing out of planters in the front window. The use of various wood and metal materials to line the shop front was an interesting choice, it was as curious as the rotating sign. The dual sided sign read “EAT” on one side and “good food” on the other. It was stitched in embroidery and a offered an interesting contrast to the rusted metal sign holder, holding it in place. As the sun set and the glare streamed in, the blinds were drawn to protect those wishing to eat without sunglasses. For those who enjoyed the natural bright lights, tables set out side offered that possibility.

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A hand written sign abruptly greets you at the door, it asks that you wait to be seated. You are lead to an available table, but cannot help but to pivot your head around, to take in the room. Lots of wood giving the place a natural feel. Towards the back, a shower curtain drawn and used for wallpaper.

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And all around: various works art, made across various platforms lining the walls. With the use of heavily contrasting colours and neon paints paired with a black boarder, it is like all the pictures were drawn in bold. Intense. Black cats, sad girls, spiky tailed mermaids, a monochromatic James Dean, and a gothic Snow White.

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The restaurant’s theme is that of a causal hang out. The vibe is mellow and the time seems to slow. It was one of those places where you could continue to sit after you finished eating, and where you would want to. They were very conscious of space and allowed a good distance between seating assignment. A must, if you want to encourage lingering. In the past I have left meals in a hurry because it felt too awkward. Once, after the third time our conversation was interrupted by our neighbours’ opinion on our matter.

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Looking at the menu, I was immediately impressed by all that they served. I didn’t know vegetarian dishes could be taken so far. A full menu with a full dessert and cocktail list to match. You actually had options here, not just rice and vegetables or a mixed salad; but saucy wings, hearty chilli, decadent topped fries, and over six different types of burgers. And towards the end of the room, by the kitchen, was their specials board. A well drawn chalk board listing rotating dishes like “tofu Thai”, “borsche and “deep fried banana”. So much to choose from.

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This was also the first time I had Kombucha. “Kombucha” refers to any variety of fermented, sweetened black or green tea. It is coveted for their unsubstantiated health benefits. It tasted like an alcoholic tea and beer mix. I was sad that it came from a bottle, and simply poured out at our table. I could have done that and purchased it else where for cheaper.

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The “Hot chiggin’ things” sounded interesting, so therefore became a natural must order. Even the menu recommend them. The imitation chicken was tossed in their house-made Buffalo sauce and served with a creamy dip. As far as texture, it was spot on. It was believable chicken, with crispy skin and juicy “flesh”. Even the cross section cut looked like meat. And strong flavours hid well the fact that this was not chicken meat. Though after the second piece it became too salty, too bold, too much. The vegetables accompanying did helped cut though some of this one note tone.

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The “sweet-chilli cauliflower” was made in house. Each floret was beer-battered with their tamarind chilli-ginger glaze. They were tangy with a moderately crunchy texture. They were enjoyable to eat, but fell prey to the same over salted, one note tone as above, but with a little extra chilli spice.

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The fries are apparently some of the best according to my guest. And these weren’t your ordinary fries, they were served with house made vegan chilli, melted cheese, and their cashew sour cream. You even had choice of vegetarian or vegan cheese, a Daiya or the house-made queso. The fries themselves were moist and chewy in the middle. They made the perfect base for the chunky chilli. Like a chip and dip relationship. This was a straight forward dish, but that didn’t make it any less delicious. Though in hind sight, I think we should have paid a little more of the garlic fries, instead of just regular fries. This would have helped to change the taste and to add another layer of flavour.

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Right after we ordered with our server, I made a point to ask her if the flavours we were requesting were complimentary or too similar. I didn’t want several dishes with the same taste. But that is exactly what we got, this bowl had a very similar taste to the fries above. And sadly, as a result, both weren’t very exciting. “The picnic” was descriptively named, it was “a picnic in a bowl!” Typical chilled outdoor sides paired with fritters: potato salad, coleslaw, house chili, and a whisky BBQ sauce drizzle. The corn kernels that showed up in the mix was a nice surprise. The chilli looked and tasted like it had ground beef in it. And the mayo coated potato salad truly was the highlight. The fritters however were disappointing, they were over cooked on the sides and hard like wheat husks. Given the sides it would have been nice to get a butter biscuit or a cheese scone instead. Overall the dish didn’t have as much flavour and it just didn’t measure up to what I had envisioned when reading its description.

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The “chocolate chip cookie dough balls with vanilla cashew ganache dip”, were $2 a piece. It tasted like cooked cookie dough, but with that still raw, chalky quality. I didn’t like the texture and felt something was missing from the taste.

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The “salted caramel and chocolate coconut ice cream” was more up my alley. This was very complimentary to the cookie balls above. They gave the balls some moisture and the cream found the cookie balls as a nice base. As for the flavours themselves they were very pronounced, you tasted fresh coconut milk and clearly made out the salt with the caramel. Who knew these two profiles would go so well together? So creamy that I couldn’t tell that there was no milk in either scoops.

 

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.
If you want to go meet free Monday’s, but can’t fully commit to a meal without meat, cheat yourself here. From chicken wings, to burgers and sandwiches; there was a lot of meat-free alternatives to choose from, and most probably as satisfying as what we had here. Regardless of the causal setting the food tasted gourmet. You got a fair portion of food for what you were paying for it. After a meal here, gone is the belief that you don’t feel satisfied if there is no meat. This was some of the better vegetarian food for vegetarians and non vegetarians alike. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MEET ON MAIN
4288 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-877-1292
meetonmain.com
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Nicki Minaj at Rogers Arena

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Previously, I was never one to pay for a concert. I never saw the appeal of seeing someone perform live. I never idolized a musician enough or thought the amount of money was worth the couple of hours I had to give up to watch them. Though this blog and everything I write on is a good example of: you don’t know, if you don’t try.

It wasn’t until my first concert did I see the value and knew the excitement of attending one. It is not just about the artist on display, the songs that they play, or the pageantry performed. It is also about the experience and atmosphere: the sights, the sounds, and the sensations. This night I was paying a higher dollar to be entertained by someone highly sought after. Though not all concerts feature A-listers. The prices aren’t set, they are based not only on the performer, but the venue chosen as well. There was an over head and as the consumer, we was paying for it.

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My first concert was Janet Jackson live, and I was hooked. I didn’t know all her songs, and even today I can’t tell you one of her singles. But when the music came on and the crowd got going I was right there with the rest of them bouncing around and attempting to sing lyrics I have never heard. You just get caught up in the warming sensation of being together. Together with others in like harmony. Together in this heavily filled building. You never felt like you belonged anywhere more. And that is why I go to concerts.

Since I’ve met my partner, I have been trying to give him the same eye opening experience I got from Janet so many years ago. I want to offer him the ability to enjoy this form of entertainment as well. His first concert was Jay-Z and JT. He is a big fan of both, so it was enough reason to go. And even with $40 nose bleed tickets he enjoyed himself. Tonight was only our second concert together, after Kayne cancelled twice on Vancouver. (Don’t even get me started on that one). So any chance a decently large hip hop or rap artist comes to town I am determined to bring him so he can enjoy and regale in their talent. But having been to a concert before, he understood and now wanted to pay more for closer seats. Being surrounded by people as apposed to the corner of a sea of people makes a huge difference. Everyone is singing, everyone is jumping, everyone is dancing. There is no judging, just pure enjoyment.

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But first, the hunt for tickets. I am a plan ahead of time and know exactly what is going to happen person. I leave nothing to chance. My partner is the complete opposite, he is go with the flow and come what may kind of person. He believes in buying tickets last minute in hopes of getting a better deal. He is willing to put in the leg work to search for the right ones, on the right Craig’s List ad. I couldn’t be bothered with the time it takes, and the amount of distrust you have to go in with, when purchasing from someone you just met online. However he delivered. He founded three tickets in the lower bowl for under $125, he even bartered and got an additional $20 knocked off. The most difficult part was trusting the seller. Especially if they meet you up in a beat up car and a worn out tank. He assured us that these were authentic tickets, that we would not be refused entry when they got scanned. He cemented trust by showing us his driver’s licence and leaving us his business card. Though realistically, if he did scam us, how much could or would the police do to help us get $320 back? Apparently the story was that he was just helping a friend resell them, because they couldn’t attended. Do people actually buy tickets from official sellers to flip them at a profit? Can someone actually make a living from that? I know you see hawkers shouting from corners, offering tickets or upgrades as you walk up to the venue. What is their story?

Stadium drinks are expensive. We made a point to pre-drink at home, to save the bulge in our pockets. I cut myself off when the Asian glow kicked it. I was no where near buzzed, but the thought of being turned away for looking intoxicated (cherry red) was not a gamble I wanted to take. Not if I wanted to enjoy the show I paid over $100 per ticket for. Sadly not everyone had the same thought, even before the show started we saw patrons getting kicked out. Most of it was for drunken behaviour. We saw a girl get into a fist fight with two security officers, another one collapse, one guy got taken out strapped to a stretcher, and many more escorted out for being belligerent. Sadly most of this was even before the headliner got on stage. They would miss the show and not even know it. It is here I came up with a new reality show, “the morning after”. Catching up with people who got horribly drunk the night before. Watching their friends tell them what they did and close ups of them reacting to photos taken and video shot of their disorderly behaviour. For those who liked “the jersey shore” this one is for you.

The usual concession stands were open with plenty of beer, wine, and coolers being served. Being at a concert is like being at a club, you enter expecting to drink. One of the few occasions where you are able to drink in public with the lights on. But better than being in a club, their is air conditioning, so you aren’t sweating and having to dry your brow and bangs in the washroom. And there are plenty of washroom stalls so although there are still lines for them, there is less waiting in them involved. And the best part of being at a concert is that there is designated seating. So you aren’t jabbing someone in the side, looking for some personal space. And you have the ability to sit down and rest when your heeled feet hurt. Based on my logical thinking, you can probably assess that I am much older and have cast away my clubbing days.

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I will not be reviewing the concert or the performers. Instead I am just documenting the concert experience from my perspective.

The Pinkprint Tour is the third concert tour by Nicki Minaj in support of her third studio album, “Pinkprint”. Here in Vancouver, she was on her second North American leg of the tour. With her she brought Meek Mill, Rae Sremmurd, Tinashe, and Dej Loaf to open.

The night began with Tinashe performing her first single, then Rae Sremmurd performing a few of theirs.

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Next, Meek Mills came on to sing the choruses and rap the verses of his several radio played tracks. This was before hyping the crowd up for his fiancé. The mostly women audience loved the way he talked her up and later gushed when he and Nicki took the stage together.

Then with DJ loaf on the stage it truly felt like a club. He was playing hip hop top 40 and it got everyone to their feet to dance. It pumped us all up for our headliner to come.

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Nicki Minaj played a few tracks from her new album, but made sure to give us her more popular tracks from past years too. The set list showed how much she was involved in and how many artists she had collaborated with. Though the tracks go fast when you are only playing the chorus and performing your lines. And as a result the show went by quick.

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Most disappointing was the fact that she didn’t perform “pour some more” with Rae Sremmurd, when they took the stage in the middle of her set. Instead you heard her singing the chorus from a prerecorded track as they did their thing live. Isn’t the point of having artists on tour with you, to be able to perform with them?

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Well this time was actually used as an intermission, to give her the time needed to change into her next elaborate costume. This would be the duet time for her and Meek. There was a close up of their engagement ring, and after their us verses them duets, there was a kiss. The girls screamed, a few must have seen their own dreams in that moment.

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The concert ended with the up beat message that “Starships were meant to fly” and that “The night is still young”, and everyone belting along.

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And like a club, after a night of hard drinking and excessive moving, what do you do? Eat! My choice for after drinking, late night eating is poutine. We had a regular with ketchup and the “Honey chicken bacon poutine”.

 

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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 to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
All and all this was easy and enjoyable concert. They didn’t take themselves too seriously, things were kept light hearted and we all had fun. I got some video footage for memory sake, but was not about filming the whole thing, then watching it again. It would never be as good as seeing it live with my two eyes. I will definitely be back for more upcoming concert events in the near future.

 

ROGERS ARENA
800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver BC, V6B 6G1
604-899-7400
rogersarena.com

Prata-Man Singapore Cuisine

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Often when I crave Malaysian cuisine I invite my parents out for lunch. They typically know of places I have never heard of and been to restaurants that I would not think of. In reality we were here at “Prata” after our original planned Malaysian destination was a bust, and seeing as Singaporean food is fairly similar we were more than content with our last minute choice. My parents explained that Singaporean cuisine is a combination of Malaysian and Chinese cooking styles and flavours. The food is differentiated from all others as “nonya”, it is well known as being some of the best.

Located in Richmond in a little lot, it is well hidden at the back, behind more larger and more busier restaurants. Though this is not to say that “Prata” didn’t have its own following. It is one of those places that is popular by word of mouth. After all it’s very explanatory exterior really doesn’t compel many walk ins, other than those interested to learn what Singaporean cuisine is.

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The interior is just as direct. Not frills, no bells, just functionality. The best example of this is, right as you enter there are shelves of cleaning supplies and other restaurant necessities. It reminded of that closet where your mom stores all the supplies she hoards up on when it’s on sale or when she has coupons, but doesn’t necessarily need or use right away. Paper towels, tissue boxes, boxes of garbage bag, and stacked up plastic containers.

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The furniture, the counter, the cupboards, and the floor was all worn. Mismatching dish ware ironically matched mismatching tables and chairs. Though walking in you know their emphasis wasn’t on aesthetics, but rather food and prices, and both were well done.

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The wall decor mirrored this emphasis. Posters in the form of menu options covered the walls. One listed all their most popular dishes and their photos, others had two dishes in focus, and other were just a written listing in both Chinese script and English alphabet. Most of it was redundant, but it did ensure you got the point: order these because they are delicious.

Surprisingly we were given just as many menus, even with all the advertisements surrounding us on all four walls. Though the coloured photos on the menus were helpful in ordering, if you didn’t know the dishes by name, especially the curries who’s title spoke little to its taste.

We were really excited about the “Combos for two for $21”, thinking we were three so could order a combo and simply add on another dish and save. Sadly both combos were only available Tuesday or Thursday, eat in only. It was Monday.

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Roti is always a must have for me. “Roti Prata with curry sauce”. Two pieces of pull apart bread served with spicy curry. Even at the inexpensive price, the small serving was disappointing. Roti is one of those snack food that you tend to want to go for more, and two pieces is just not enough, especially in proportion to the serving of sauce provided. The roti was limp, heavy from all the butter used, you could taste it. It didn’t necessary compliment the lumpy curry provided for dipping. We would later learn that the curry was excess from another dish we ordered. Over all we expected better because the item was featured and named after the restaurant: “Roti Prata”.

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“Tahu goreng”, deep fried tofu with peanut sauce. The raw bean sprouts topping the dish took away from it. It’s kept chilled temperature threw the rest of the dish off. Given that the fried chunks of tofu were warm and the peanut sauce was too, it would have been nice to keep it all cohesive, instead of having one to cool the others down. I liked the texture of the tofu’s crispy skin partnered with its softened centre. But once again the bean sprouts distracted from this and made the bites soggier than they ought to be. And finally the peanut sauce could have been more flavourful, especially as it was expected to carry the flavour of bland tofu.

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A “half order of chicken Satay” just to try. Meat on sticks, also available in beef. The chicken was all white breast, meaty chunks cooked tender. Here the same peanut sauce as above was used, but here it was a better compliment. It added a sweetness to the spicy seasoned and grilled skewers, and the chicken brought its own taste to the mix.

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“Curry fish maw and fish balls”. It was similar to the ones I get from night market. Boiled balls swimming in a watery curry that stains them yellow. There was a heating spice and a warming note, and definitely got that sea food essence.

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Their “Hainanese Chicken Rice” surely must be their specialty given its repetition across three different signs, begging you to order it. As one of my favourite dishes, I was sure to have myself a serving. This is a single person serving of the “Hainanese chicken with rice and soup”. Though you can also order half the chicken, of a whole chicken to share. As expected the salted meat was served extremely tender, a little more watery than what I am use to though. The chilli sauce and green onion mix helped to perk up the flavour when it was needed. Though the rice that accompanied was no slouch either, it was fragrant with oil and garlic.

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“Nasi Rendang”, Malaysian style beef on rice. Basically meat and potatoes in curry. The curry sauce here was the same as the one offered with the roti above. The dish was meaty and hearty, with each chunk of beef cut to perfect one bite morsels.

Our waitress was shy, she made no eye contact, and found herself over apologizing. My parents pointed out that she was not raised in Malaysia or Singapore because she was unable to differentiate one dish from another, or go into further detail when my they probed. I thought she didn’t necessarily have to know the above, but from a service standpoint, it would have been nice. It would have been nice if she knew the menu(s) better and could articulate what is it that she was delivering to 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? – No.
Not the most convenient lunch from where I live. But for all that we had at under $42, it is very reasonable and worth returning for. The food is best enjoyed family share style. Home style plates at home style prices. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PRATA-MAN
9020-Capstan Way, Richmond BC, V6X 1R4
604-278-1348
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Barking Parrot

Customer service resolution, what does it look like to you? What do you expect after you have been wronged?

This lake side bar use to be a must stop for us every time we visited the Okanagan. A tradition, something we looked forward to and enjoyed. However this post shows how one night, one bad service experience can change it all. I will not be returning and have been holding my breath waiting for a reply from the either hotel, bar, or security manager.

What happens when you get bad service and ask to speak to the manager and nothing comes of it? You make an attempt to address their supervisor. This is not the first time I have had to do this, but this was definitely been the worst out of all the time.

Instead of spending anymore time to review this restaurant I will simply post the very letter of complaint I sent to the hotel manager, that was later sent to the restaurant and security manager with no reply. I am very disappointed and will definitely not be returning. It is sad that they couldn’t even take the time to address me, instead I was ignored completely.

Note, a few names and specifics have been removed to protect privacy and anonymity.

 
 

Hello xxxxxx

My name is Maggi, my partner and I are visiting from out of town. We traveled from Vancouver to enjoy the city of Penticton. Your hotel is one we visit every time we are here, it has been 5 years running and we still look forward to enjoying the space, the casino, and all the amenities. However today we were given poor customer service and I wanted to direct it to your attention.

I work in the service industry and know the importance of customer service and treating guests who choose to spent money with us with respect. We got neither of the two at the “Barking Parrot” tonight. I understand you are not immediately not responsible for them, however them being in your hotel reflects poorly on the hotel’s brand and the resort itself. I am not only seeking compensation for my hard earned money spent, but reassurance that no one is subjected to same ill treatment that we were. We are good people, a polite, quite couple. Tonight we were treated like criminals, like low lives, all because we wanted my scarf back.

We were here for the weekend in celebration of a milestone birthday for myself. My partner had just gifted me the scarf I was forced to leave behind. Obviously I had sentimental value towards it, and am very upset that I was unable to retrieve it.

The gentleman, xxx who was running your front desk tonight, gave me your card and suggested that I call you after 9am regarding my concerns. He reassured me that you are “fantastic” and would address my situation accordingly. As I am very upset by the experience I endured, I wanted to email you right away to ask that you help rectify the situation as soon as possible.

We visited your hotel on Saturday August 8th and decided to get some drinks at the “Barking Parrot”. Given that it is Peachfest we saw the need for security, a stanchion-ed line, and a $9 cover. We waited in line, had our IDs scanned, our photos taken, and paid the $9 fee as listed by the sign posted at the entry way. And on our way in we got stamped with a red smiley face stamper. It is the general understanding that such a stamp allows you re-entry. So if you choose to leave, you can come back in. This was especially our interpretation because we had witnessed first hand, many female customers bypass the line to re-enter with ease. At this point I wonder, we were too old, we were not attractive enough to allow re-entry?

My reason for leaving the “Barking Parrot” is as follows. Instead of forcing myself to use the urine drenched, unkept women’s washroom in the “Barking Parrot” I thought it clever to use the hotel’s women’s washroom right outside the bar instead. It was clean, there was toilet paper, I was happy. (Because it was clearly too busy to ask an employee to restock the washrooms in the “Barking Parrot”.) After using the well kept facilities of your hotel, I attempted to head back inside to the “Barking Parrot”. To rejoin my partner who was waiting for me. He had two fresh cocktails and a paid for game of air hockey. I was denied entry and told to wait in line. I showed the bouncer my stamp, reassured him I had paid, and was just in there so wanted to get back in. I was directed to the back of the line, behind a long row of customers waiting to pay and come in for the first time. I didn’t understand this.

I managed to attract my partner’s attention from the bar’s window. He walked out of the bar to retrieve me, only to have to succumb to the same treatment as I was in minutes before. Ours stamps mean nothing if we have to wait in line to enter an event we already paid to enter. My partner would have never left my scarf and our drinks unattended if he knew we would not be allowed back in quick.

In the end my partner decided that we would just claim my scarf and leave, to not have to wait another 30 minutes in line for drinks that were left unattended and a game of air hockey that had probably already been claimed. However we were not allowed back in just to get what was ours. We offered to have just one of us enter to quickly retrieve our property so we can head home. We were denied. The security men stated that it was because they are over capacity as it is, so we had to wait for a few people to leave before we can head back in. (I am sure that is illegal, though they followed this statement up by stating that the police were in earlier and had okayed the situation.) So we then suggested that one of the security members assist us in reclaiming our property as we were not allowed back in. We were denied. They said very condescendingly that they would not help us grab my scarf, as if they were above it all.

At this point we asked to speak to the manager so that maybe he could help us get our belongings. We were denied. The security team members refused to even request the general manger’s presence to speak to us. Instead of attempting to seek out the general manager the security staff attempted to prove it would be no point to talk to him. They said the manger would laugh at us. (I find that hard to believe and deplorable if that was indeed the case.) They stated that the guy at the door was one of their bosses, and yes he is “mean”, but their boss was worse, “he is a dick”. (This was the actual adjective used to describe their boss). On top of their rude treatment they chose to use curse words when addressing us and the situation. I did not find this very professional. Nor do I want to be sworn at by employees of an establishment I am paying to visit. And when we decided to not waste our time speaking with them and instead address you and your hotel, they laughed at us. We walked away hearing them mock us to other customers waiting in line. I found that very insulting.

I assure you I am not intoxicated in any way. I am very aware of the events that transpired. After all, we paid a cover fee only to have our evening punctuated only 30 minutes in. Here, I would also like to point out that I did not appreciate xxx’s (at the hotel’s front desk) accusatory attitude when he asked if I was the one to “cause trouble”. And his reply that “it’s a bar”, as if I should know better to expect to be treated well at a bar. I had one drink, I was perfectly coherent and spoke to him clearly and eloquently. Not every one who visits a bar plans to get inebriated to the point of not understanding or remembering.

Needless to say my experience was a less than pleasant one. At work I am held accountable to great customer service, I train employees on it, I hold staff accountable to it, I practice it myself. In my personal life I blog about experiences and review services within them. I would like to think I know what is expected. My expectations are not high, my self worth is, and I was definitely not given the respect I deserved tonight. Not as anyone important, but as a person.

I thank you for taking the time to read my detailed grievance. We are in Penticton until Monday, August 10th. I do not expect an apology, but do expect some compensation, some satisfaction, an acknowledgement of what we were forced to face. And of course I would like my scarf back. It is a grey fleece scarf with tassels and a white, grey, and blue stripped pattern. As I had mention it has a lot of sentimental value for me.

Once again, thank you for your time Xxxxxxx. I look forward to discussing this situation with you in further detail.

– Maggi

 
 

Would I come back? – No.
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 work in customer service. I know what good service looks like. I am not shy to call out what is beyond acceptable. However, I guess the security men who dealt with us were right to laugh at us. To laugh at our naivety and belief that we would should be treated with dignity and have some resemblance of good customer service. They were right, that their businesses would not care, and that there was no point in writing the letter above. There was no outcome, nothing happened, their inaction shows they do not care for me or my patronage. Very disappointing for a business in the service industry and a city dependant on tourists in summer.

BARKING PARROT
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Kelowna Mountain Bridges

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My partner is quite the explorer and has quite the eye sight. High above he scans the distance for the roads less taken. He searches for new streets and less publicized paths in which he plans to drive on. Using his great sense of direction and minimal assistance from the GPS he gets us there.

It is from such a tangent that we discovered this semi-operational park. We have been coming to the Okanagan and stopping in Kelowna since 2011. We have driven on many roads and read up on many sights, yet this was the first we have ever seen or heard of this place; and it was only by chance.

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“Kelowna Mountain” was a big resort dream that never saw completion. Red tape and shady dealings saw to this. (My partner also likes to do research, so told me this much). I guess that is why we have never heard of the place and why there was no tourist advertisements on it. Such a shame as this was the highlight of our trip, and a place I would deem a “must not miss”.

On route, the horrible gravel road and the fallen “Kelowna Mountain” sign really has you questioning where it is you are actually going, and if you are even allowed to be here. But seeing the suspension bridges lacing between hills in the background has you googling for more information. You want to go. What is this place? Can I go there? How much does it cost? Luckily their website is more functional than they are in person.

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The entrance is technically through the building fronted by a water fountain, though for the sneaky adventurer you can walk around it to enter the “park” grounds. It was $20 for entry and the ability to cross the bridges, their website posted $25. But with an hour before closing at 5pm, they don’t allow anyone on the bridges after 4pm. Sensing our disappointment the young clerk at the front desk waved us past and suggested that we check things out back.

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So we began walking around, taking photos and exploring the sights. Behind the building that resembled a cathedral were white wicker chairs and matching white tables row on row. It looked like there would be a wedding here tonight. An hour later, when guests started trickling in, we knew that was exactly the case. Can you imagine your wedding here? No one will ever forget it for the view alone. Though the drive to Kelowna from the lower mainland is a painstakingly long one, especially in the wrong mode of transportation.

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We continue to move forward until we met up with the first bridge. Although their was several covered areas with chairs that seemed to function as check-in stations, there were no employees working past the front desk. No one to monitor the grounds, no one to check on patrons, and no one to usher access. So we crossed. And soon we found ourselves repeating: bridge after bridge we passed, until we were on the longest suspension bridge in North American. We walked back and forth on them all, only to later learn each has technically never been inspected, and each is not legally sound. But worry not, I am alive to write this, so have survived.

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They had such great plans for the place, as this towering stone cross sign shows. Vineyards, gift shop, snack shack, ski hill, and amphitheatre. Now it looks like a place and space lost in time, with no one to love it. It doesn’t even look like there was ever a first grape harvest. A little sad. You can’t help but appreciate the irony it casts over what could have be a multimillion dollar resort, in the perfect location of all places.

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It has all the staples of a tourist trap. Like photo opportunities that aren’t necessary with a natural back drop like this. Yet we were still suckered into taking photos with the “Kelowna Mountain” sign and others of us sprawled out on the couch. Why was there a dimpled velvet couch in the middle of the path anyways? It was obviously set up for photo shoots. They have definitely transformed the place and steered it in the direction of the perfect wedding locale.

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The “Sun Bridge” was the second bridge. It was built in 2009 and spans 500 feet. It is suspended 100 feet over what should have been there ice wine vineyard. The bridges feel steady, but the wind does get your adrenaline going.

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The third bridge is the one that you come to see. The “Water Bridge” is named in relation to the nearby waters of their 100-foot waterfall. There was no waterfall, another promise left unfulfilled. Though as the longest bridge in North America, it is still impressive. And the view is insane. Something about being this high and taking in this much, all while swaying is unreal.

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Their sundial is another tourist attraction. It is the largest sundial in British Columbia. I wasn’t aware that they were still making sundials and that there many in our province. A sundial uses the position of the sun in relation to the earth to derive time. It existed before mechanical devices and batteries.

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Utilizing Mother Nature, ancient Egyptians were able to invent the world’s first shadow operated clock. The shadow cast from the angled rod on to the dictated surface marked the hours of the day. The rod is called a “gnomon”. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow’s edge aligns with different columns from 7am to 7pm. From afar the feature has a Romanesque look to it. What a wonderful place to sit and let time pass.

Our wonderful time here was cut short with the impending 5pm closing. And the thought that we would be labeled as wedding crashers or forced to mingle on our way to our car. We ended up dodging the front by sneaking around the building.

 

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.
I never plan on marrying, but if I this would be the venue to consider. Out of the way, not well advertised, a one of a kind destination not too far from home. We will be going back next year and every year, the view is just that amazing. No amount of photos or minutes of videography can capture a fraction of its majesty. It’s a see it to believe it feeling, with or without all the intended bells and whistles. I mean the owner paid 8 million for the land when it was a deal and put in more money to be able to share it with everyone now. Please go see this for yourself. Be warned, there are no food carts, no seating areas, and now public washrooms. It is a fine blend of raw nature and modern comfort.

 

KELOWNA MOUNTAIN BRIDGES
5755 Gillard Forestry Road, Upper Mission, Kelowna BC
250-300-3456
kelownamountainbridges.com

Okanagan Trip 2015, part 2 – Kelowna

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This is part two of my all scenery trip to the Okanagan. An annual trip we have been make since 2011, yet it surprises me how much more there is still left to see.

It was here that we began to, what I deemed as, “chasing view points”. It is the inspiration of this blog post and more like it to come. Outside of dining out I enjoy seeing and experiencing new things. My partner, and I, wish to travel more, to be able to collect scenery, and earn an internal bank of sights seen and things done. Our end goal is to experience as much as we can on our limited budget, in our limited time.

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On this half of the trip we went on rocky drives and drove up snaking roads, in order to climb the highest peaks. There, we enjoyed the local wildlife, saw nature at its fullest, and admired unlimited views of the entire Okanagan valley.

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The valley with its surrounding mountains is quite different from our city of sky scrapers and bright lights back in Vancouver. Basically any photo you take towards the view is a good one. And if you include the full expanse of sun in your frame, your photos are figuratively and literally golden. Like these where the sun framed in shadow.

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Or these where the sun setting behind mountains. Does it really matter where I was when I took them? – No. They are all beautiful. There is no bad view.

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Our drive to Kelowna from Penticton began because they had an Arby’s there, and my partner wanted curly fries. Every drive around the lake is a scenic one. Blue skies and white clouds, rocky Mountains and still waters. The green fields and smooth roads binds it all together. For those with sport vehicles and for those who enjoy a good cruise, this route is one I recommend.

The city of Kelowna is a lot larger than Penticton, it is more familiar as it resembles a bustle metropolis in vehicles and venues. Including Arby’s.

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It is here we had lunch at our favourite barbecue place. With summer and sun you think barbecue. And “Memphis Blues” continues to be one of our favourite go-to’s. Though as a chain consistency is an issue. All the meat is prepared ahead of time so it is hit or miss when it comes to your meal. Today was a miss. We had the two meat combo with our choice of barbecue. We went with our usual, pull pork and beef brisket, and it came with the standard sides: seasoned fries, corn bread, coleslaw, refried beans, and barbecue sauce. The pulled pork was very dry, there was not much improvement when slopping it with sauce. The beef was better, but there was more burnt gristle than actual tender cuts of meat. I didn’t get much. The highlight: I really appreciated the fact that each table is set with a whole roll of paper towel along with the usual condiments.

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We took some time to walk along the downtown marina. There, we admired all the boats docked, and imagined the ones in our future. The ones that we would one day have to pay a docking fee for. The marina is the waterfront gateway to Kelowna. It offers temporary moorage in the heart of the city and rental for use on the Okanagan Lake.

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The are stories about the Ogopogo lurking in these waters. It is a snake like water dragon, the Canadian version of the Loch Ness monster. This creature has been allegedly seen by the First Nations people since the 19th century. The most common description of the Ogopogo is a 40 to 50-foot-long sea serpent. This popular sculpture commemorates it.

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As a part of positive thinking: we put out what we want, in order to get back what we feel we deserve. “The secret”. (It’s a good read, check it out) Therefore we like looking at property. We drive out far to visit the ones with the best view. The further from the city the larger the house and the most they ask for them. We speak as if the ones we like are already ours, we strategize on where we would like summer homes and what features each would need. Yes I said “homes”, we are ambitious. This thinking inspires us to search out more and more beautiful property with equally stunning views. Something the expanding Okanagan valley has plenty of. You can’t help but look out and think, “someday..”

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One such area is the “Kuipers trail system” & “The ponds”. The nearby housing area will soon be getting their own park, which includes several bodies of water and several hiking trains. The view is expansive and there is still more room to expand out further.

With the hot summer sun, the lack of rain, and the dryness of the earth; there is a risk of burning. The history of roaring forest fires is evident from the scorched earth in the distance. Blackened stumps and charred saplings mark the area like tombstones. A sad thought, but the reality of such hot conditions. Though on the bright side, nothing good comes without a cost, and technically there are natural hazards no matter where you live.

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I lied, we did stop at one winery this year: Summerhill Pyramid Winery, to use their facilities. We did consider resting at their “Sunset organic bistro” with a glass of house wine, though the long line and unorganized staff triggered my impatience.

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They are have “pyramid” in their title to call attention to the actual white pyramid located on the premises. According to their website this pyramid is a cellar, where all their wined are finished off in. It is “built with precision Sacred Geometry and aligned to the stars to create a structure of stillness and harmony”.

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Established in 1986 by the Cipes family, it is the most visited winery in British Columbia. It was the first winery to be certified an Organic Winery by the Pacific Agricultural Certification Society of Vernon.

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But like most wineries they too have decorations and activities for the sake of novelty and to cater to tourists. A fountain set with a large wine bottle pouring into a goblet, a sphere painted like the world welcoming all those from around it, and labelled benches for visitors to sit and rest on. There are also informative tours, a look in their fermenting operation, a gift shop, a restaurant serving lunch and dinner, and play places for children with no interest in wine or weddings. They were also hosting an outdoor wedding this weekend. Such places must make a lucrative living dabbling in everything.

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Passing by, we stopped at the “Scandia” amusement park for a round of outdoor mini golf. Their park also offers indoor black lit mini golf, batting cages, their own raceway for go karting, and a pretty happening arcade. I haven’t stepped foot in the latter for a long time, but from I remembered the ones in my day were not this cool. Hidden within the sea of flashing machines and amongst the sounds of fake shots being fired, they also have a jungle themed restaurant. I secretly wanted to do and try it all, but being the only couple amongst families tonight I felt out of place. So we stuck to golf.

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The golf course theme was of a town. It included castles and cottages, a saloon and a church. There were running water foundations, still pools, spinning wind mills, and lit up paths. It was well maintained and actually pretty scenic for what it was. We are sore losers and not good at golf, but had fun.

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We also stumbled across at the “Kelowna Mountains” resort. There was so much to see there, that I have featured it on a separate blog post.

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We travelled on the Coquihalla Highway on our way home, just to pass by Merit. There at their tourist information stop is a little snack shop. According to my partner they sell the best samosas. The clerk was not very friendly looking, her scowl almost drove you away. The friendly girl at the neighbouring ice cream place was doing more business for obvious reasons.

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What a weird place to enjoy a ethnic savory deep fried meat pocket. I had a veggie samosa with potatoes and peas, and a chicken for $2.50 each. They came with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. It was good, I don’t know if it was worth the travel to, but I finished each and was happy to have tried them.

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The drive home was cloudy and cold, we were tired and hungry. Four hours left like eight. A vacation is restful until you have to head home.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This will not be the last time we visit the Okanagan and Kelowna. The valley gets more and more beautiful with each reoccurring trip. And we grow more and more in love with the place. It still amazes me how much more there is to see with each return trip. With places like this in our BC backyard, we ought to make a point to visit them more.