C’est Si Bon Foodtruck

IMG_4654IMG_4657

A new food truck pulled up for the afternoon and I had to try it. It’s one thing to visit a restaurant, it is another thing to have food come to you. It was well past lunch, but I figured a French food truck listing pastries would have some sweet treats I could snack on. Something to get the blood sugar going and to take home for later.

Driving around town the truck stands out, all white with a thick and volumous moustache on its hood. Turning the corner I was surprised to see that one of the two men working in the truck, had the same full in the centre and pointy at the ends moustache. And they both had the rich French accent to match their wares. I was ever so embarrassed to order in front of them. Was I saying “crepe” right? How was my pronunciation of “croissant”? They didn’t winch and understood what I wanted so that was a win.

IMG_4655IMG_4658

The menu is a listing between sweet and savory. Laminated pieces of paper Velcro-ed on to a wooden rod. This allows them to update regularly and remove options easily when they sell out of something. They had chicken and tuna sandwiches made with their homemade ciabatta buns. The Parisian sandwich was lettuce, ham, and butter on a homemade baguette. Their veggie option with seasonal vegetables was served on a homemade herbed focaccia. And all of the above was also available sandwiched between their in house made butter croissants instead. The same croissants were also offered as is, stored behind a plexi glass on the counter. Or you can have them dressed for dessert with Nutella. Looking for more sweets? They also made crepes on the spot, but unfortunately away from your line of view. And other tarts and pastries are available behind plexi glass.

Truthfully, when looking at the menu I couldn’t decide what to get because nothing jumped out. Nothing seemed any different. Where were the macarons and beautiful petite pastries that I was expecting? Instead these all seemed like things I could get from any cafe or bakery. I wanted to try something that made this truck unique. What made them different than anywhere else I could get a croissant, a crepe, or a premade sandwich at? Luckily I was still open to trying a few things and ended up being pleasantly surprised by them all. Nothing I had disappointed, even after many hours when I got a chance to finish it all. They kept well. Truly, this was a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. I am so caught up in elaborate presentations and the extra bells and whistles that I almost missed something simple and warmly delicious. Shame on me.

IMG_4677IMG_4678

The croissant themselves are something to write about. You can taste all the real butter they use. Flaky and crisp, they almost melted in your mouth. I had mine as part of a “Veggie croissant”, and found it the best croissant sandwich I have had to date. Though honest truth: I don’t eat many croissants, nor do I use many to make sandwiches. None the less, it was the ingredients that set this one apart. Filled with a leaf of fresh lettuce, a juicy tomato slice, roasted red peppers, and their  homemade flavourful pesto. I also paid more to add shredded mozzarella cheese to the mix. I never say no to cheese, especially when it’s freshly shredded from a block. The rich cheese went great with the other lighter ingredients, but it was the nutty pesto paired with the char of the peppers that highlighted this snack. I would go back for more, especially as I found one too small for a meal. Though at $7 each you will be looking at $21 just to be full.

IMG_4679IMG_4681

I ordered a crepe to try. Just a simple one with sugar for $3. My partner often makes crepes from scratch for me, so they aren’t something I am too excited to buy. But the other customer with me, using her hands to eat her crepe off a paper plate seemed happy with what she was having. Even enough to take a photo with the owners of the truck. So I didn’t want to miss out. I have tried other crepes with filling before, but seeing as I enjoy the dough the most, I prefer to have my crepes plain. Made fresh, it was served steaming. I was surprised by the weight of it. Hands down this was the largest and heaviest crepe I have ever had. I have always found the normal ones too little and too light. They weren’t filling, this one was made for me. There was something to sink my teeth in to. It was a chewy eggy batter fold, stuffed with sugar crystals. Each bite into sugar gave crunch and a change in texture, to an the otherwise soggy crepe dripping with melted sugar.

IMG_4683IMG_4684

I have seen a “Mille-feuille” before so thought to try it for the first time now. This was alternating layers of crunchy puff pastry and custard-like pastry cream. The top layer is fondant, a blanket of icing sugar and chocolate swirl. Each bite was better than the last, I instantly fell in love with this dessert. It wasn’t too sweet and had both a crunchy and a smooth texture that I like. It is best eaten with your hands, taking bite after bite like a sandwich. And like a sandwich the filling tends to spill out, but it is difficult to eat with utensils. The top fondant layer is a little stiff and a plastic fork or knife struggles to pierce into it. But that’s okay because it is best when you get a bite full of everything, instead of picking it apart layer by layer.

 

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.
No complaints here. I recommend them for light bites, in between meal snacking, and as a quick on the go morsel. It was a little on the pricy side, when compared to the amount of food I got. But I was paying for quality and given the level of it, I was okay with that. I just wish they also sold macarons. We need a macaron food truck roaming the city. Travelling where early to rise and early to close bakeries can’t. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

C’EST SI BON
cest-si-bon.ca

Bistro 101, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts

IMG_4481 IMG_4480
Molson Canadian Cider launch in BC

Tonight I was at the Pacific Culinary Institute, in celebration of the Molson Canadian cider launch. The cider is already available for the market out East, but this was its first time on select selves in Western Canada.

The venue is home to a very special restaurant, “Bistro 101″, where students enrolled are able to hone their skills, with patrons paying to taste the outcome. Think “Hell’s Kitchen”, but without the yelling. Though similar to the television show you have a charismatic head chef/instructor, and are able to enjoy your dinner within full view of all the cooking action. Soundless you are able to watch young chefs in white smocks with Royal blue detail shuffle around their kitchen. Mixing, stirring, and chopping. A unique dinner with an even more rare show.

IMG_4484IMG_4487

Our table for the evening was elaborately detailed. An apple theme to match the Okanagan apples in the cider. Miniature trees with apples glued on; wooden chargers branded with the “Molson Canadian” logo; and everyone had their own apple place holder, personalized with their names in white. It was a light hearted and equally stunning setting. At the back of each chair an apron was tied. We would later be pulling them over our shoulders to cook our own meal.

IMG_4482IMG_4486

As we waited for all the guests to arrive we were given reign of the bar and dining area, and encouraged to mingle. As we took photos and got refills of our cider, lovely canapés were being offered on trays. These and everything else we had tonight were well conceived, to pair elegantly with our feature beverage of the night.

IMG_4496IMG_4498

Interestingly we were told that the cider we were enjoying included not only the apple juice, but the skin and the pulp of the apples as well. All its flavour comes from only apples. Types of food that would match such a cider are pork tenderloin, sausage, cedar plank salmon, and grilled cheese. Essentially anything that would go well with apple.

IMG_4489

A cucumber slice topped with a goat cheese cream and a cherry tomato half.

IMG_4491

Cheese and mushroom stuffed tortellinis dressed in a tomato sauce, and topped with basil. It was easy to take and slurp from the spoon, but finding the proper place to discard the used spoon proved to be more of a challenge.

 

IMG_4494

Pakoras with a creamy dipping sauce. “Pakoras” are fried fritters originating from India.

IMG_4493

Smoked salmon bruschetta with cucumber and dill. The delicate presentation was like a garden in bloom.

IMG_4508IMG_4506

 

Our first lesson began with spot prawns. We were lucky to be able to have some a day before the start of the actual spot prawn season. Our chef had is ways. Julian Bond was our Chef instructor for the evening. As mentioned he was very charismatic, he used humour to keep the room engaged. We learned that the best way to prepare spot prawns is simply with a good searing in hot broth. In this case, boiled cider. And that you don’t need to de-vein your prawn when they come from clear waters and only feed on natural vegetation. And these prawns were so fresh that a couple of them made attempts to free themselves of their bowl-ed prison.

IMG_4515IMG_4516

The finished product was cider poached BC spot prawn over an micro kale and apple salad, with a citrus caviar. We learned how to make easy vinaigrette. And that the stem of a leaf is its butt, and you should never have the butt stick out when considering presentation.  After we each had our own appetizers were tied on our aprons and in to the kitchen we filed.

IMG_4520

Though we filled up on some bread first.

 

IMG_4524IMG_4534

We were split into two kitchens, where we were further divided into pairs to tackle our own projects.

IMG_4525IMG_4529IMG_4545

My partner and I were on pasta patrol. After a tutorial we rolled the dough and made our noodles from scratch, using a pasta machine. I have always wanted to try this.

 

IMG_4535IMG_4542

The seasoning and sautéing of the halibut cheeks.

IMG_4547IMG_4546

The sautéing of the halibut cheeks.

IMG_4533IMG_4559

The stirring and boiling down of the cider reduction.

IMG_4548IMG_4552

The apple fritter mixing.

IMG_4557IMG_4556

The apple fritter deep frying.

Sadly our lack of cooking ability had our dinner delayed. With only a little of everything being completed by all of us. At the end it was the culinary students who fixed and finished off our plates. We only had ourselves to blame if we didn’t like what we made. Everything was amazing.

IMG_4564IMG_4565

Sautéed halibut cheeks over tagliatelle in a cider reduction, with a side of ancho chilli and sweet pea. The fish was flaky and moist. The chewy noodles were cut thick, they made an excellent platform. The peas added freshness and sweetness; and its shoots gave the plate some flavour symmetry.

 

IMG_4571IMG_4575

Rhubarb and apple fritter injected with cider and vanilla custard, served with a lemon creme. The self injection using an eye dropper made the dish interactive and dynamic. Deep fried it was crispy on the outside and spongy on the inside. With double the cream stuffed into the fritter’s centre and more smeared on the plate, it guaranteed you had some in every doughy bite.

IMG_4576IMG_4578

And to end our meal on a high note, we shared a platter of chocolate truffles, fruit jellies, and dried fruit and nut nougat. This was made by the real chefs.

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.
Understandably, my next visit would not include dawning an apron and making my own dinner, though I think the experience would be just as memorable. And if the recipes prepared to compliment cider, made by tipsy amateurs was this good, I can only imagine how delicious their regular menu is. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BISTRO 101
Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts
1505 W 2nd Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J1H2
604-734-0101
picachef.com/bistro-101-restaurant
Bistro 101 on Urbanspoon

Small Victory Bakery

IMG_4452IMG_4453

I was here today meeting with a manager of Zamato. And what better  place to meet a fellow food lover than at a place serving artisan drinks and gourmet pastries. My guest boasted how this was her favourite bakery and how she is here multiple times a week, or even multiple times within the same day. And even as one who doesn’t like sweets, she did like what they served. She wasn’t kidding about her being here a lot. The staff recognized her and a few even stopped to highlight that fact. A few asked her, her name and many made small talk. If this was any indication of the level of service, I would say they were successful at delivering.

IMG_4459IMG_4458

The bakery is simple inside and out. No flashy signs, no bold colours. Not even a sandwich board on the sidewalk in front. Just a white veneer and gold type face on the windows. You could definitely miss it, if it weren’t for the hoards of patrons lining up and the rotating of bodies in and out of tables.

IMG_4460IMG_4477

Vaulted ceilings, birch wood floors and cabinets, white walls, and their name in gold script at the back. What was most striking was the abstract wall art by the seating area. Geometric shapes constructed out of metal rods, spray painted in gold. They jutted out of the wall in a three dimensional fashion. Their shine matched that of the golden tap at the help yourself utensil, condiment, and water counter adjacent. There aren’t many small tables and there isn’t much room by the counter, but we managed to wrangle a seat after ordering.

IMG_4456IMG_4461

You start by the window, where their glass counter showcasing all their cakes and pastries was on display. Savoury croissants and cheesy scones. For something sweet: slices of double chocolate, layered coconut, and assorted cheesecakes were available by the slice. For something more compact they also had miniature desserts to try. Salted caramel cheesecake, pistachio and  pecan cake, lemon tarts, and hazelnut espresso bars. And something more filling sandwiches, salads, and pot pies are available for ordering. Something not easily advertised, but instead, self read off a written menu by the till. They also sold loaves of in house made bread that their sandwiches are served on.

IMG_4455

You ordering at the register. If your order is to go you pick it up at the counter when they call your name. If it is for here they deliver everything to your table on a hexagon shaped board, carved with their cafe’s name.  Clever, from a social media stand point. You take a photo and post it, whether you geotag or say where it is from, your picture shows their bakery’s name.

IMG_4464IMG_4465

The truth is I don’t blog about many cafés and coffee shops because I don’t actually drink coffee. The fine roasts and the expensive brews with their nutty under tone is lost on me. So today I opted for a “Matcha latte”. The presentation was similar to that of a coffee. A warm cup with some foam and milk art on top. It was a nice touch using a Japanese style tea cup. The drink itself was warming. Not sweet like I imagined, but instead a deep matcha powder flavour mixed with milk.

IMG_4470IMG_4471

I grabbed the last “sweet and salty, peanut butter pretzel bar”, believing if it is the last of something it is a good sign of its popularity. With the nuts it was both filling like a meal and sweet like a dessert. The chocolate in this was more an after note, peanut butter and salt were the stars of this bar. I love my peanut butter chunky so appreciated the extra crushed peanuts in top to give it that similar texture. Overall it was good, but U would have preferred the peanut butter paired with the more traditional sweet jam then the salty coating of a pretzel. I was also missing more crunch. Perhaps a graham cracker layer, something to sink your teeth into and to hold the bar together. With the amount of oil present this easily fell apart.

IMG_4474IMG_4475

The “salted caramel cheesecake” is a fan favourite. A popular twist on the classic New York style cheesecake. The sticky caramel heightened by salt is defiantly the star of the dish, it is what differentiates it from any other cheesecake. And the reason why I ordered this.

IMG_4467IMG_4468

The “s’more cookie” was a little disappointing. With its name I was hoping to liken it more to a campfire s’more. Crisp graham cracker wafers, melted chocolate, and gooey oozy marshmallow. Instead this was a hard oatmeal-like cookie with a crumbly texture and a chewy marshmallow centre. I guess it was an interesting remix of a classic. And you even got the campfire charcoal blackening on it. A decent interpretation on familiar flavours made for a grown palette. Though I still wanted it more gooey s’more.

IMG_4472IMG_4473

The “Lemon tart” was like a miniature lemon merging pie, especially with the twirl of toasted meringue on top. As the balance of sweet to the natural tartness of lemons, it was my favourite part of the dessert. I wanted more than just a dollop. The crust was equally good, so buttery that it crumbled apart under the pressure of a fork, it was almost flaky. Overall I naturally gravitate to a good lemon desert, this one in particular made for a nice break from the chocolate and cream above, and offered itself as an easy palate cleanser. Such a dessert will often be designated as my last bite, the bite to end my meal on.

 

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.
I wouldn’t mind returning, though given the area, the travel traffic, and the more challenging parking situation it won’t be any time soon. This was a nice addition to the area. The local’s coffee shop. The spot to grab a good beverage at and some fine treats from. Though given its popularity, not the ideal place to study at. More the place to meet your friend for coffee and a catch up session at. Don’t deny your cravings.

SMALL VICTORY
1088 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2W9
604-899-8892
smallvictory.ca
Small Victory Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tacofino in Tofino

IMG_4372IMG_4379

I couldn’t leave Tofino without trying “Tacofino”. Having “Tacofino” in Tofino just seems right, they did originate from here after all.

The truck felt like a tourist attraction itself, instead of just a stationary truck to feed tourists with. It was permanently parked at one of the busiest squares in Tofino. It lived amongst surf shops, apparel stores, and other food stalls. Like most places in Tofino, the area too provided free parking. You stopped between one of the many stall lines and travel on gravel and stone towards the back of the complex. It was raining and no one paid any mind. The line was growing and customers were patient in waiting for their turn. The truck opens at 11am everyday, and at 12:30pm we were here at peak time. Everyone gravitated towards the orange and metal food truck. Most were dressed in shorts and sandals for the sun that the weather reports promised, the sun that the clouds refused to deliver. The sounds of condiment bottles squirting and the hot grill sizzling, coupled with the smell of hot oil cooking was enough reason to stay in line. Once again the cold was no deterrent on fresh local tacos.

IMG_3967IMG_4381

The seating area was similarly coloured like the truck. Long share style tables paired with orange chairs gave patrons the option to stay and eat outside. However with the trickling of rain and the gathering precipitation on top of the well waxed tables, most opted to eat in their cars, like us.

IMG_4375IMG_4374

When in the line you can only begin to decide on what you want, when you get close enough to the chalkboard menu to do so. Your choices are between burritos, tacos, gringas, and fresh fruit beverages. The burritos gave you the most options for filling: chicken, pork, beef, fish, breakfast, Vegetarian, vegan, and crispy chicken. For tacos you were limited to fish, tuna, beef, and black bean. Gringas were stuffed tortillas; flavours available included chicken, pork, black bean, just cheese, and even pork and kimchi. Under the menu was a FAQ board explaining what each of the above was. Useful for those not in the know of their Latin food terms.

IMG_4373IMG_4377

You order with the man working out of the passenger side window. It was a tight fit and an awkward strain for him, but he made it work. Next to him hung their Vancouver magazine award in recognition. He passed all orders to the three chefs working out the back end of the truck. After the line to order and pay, we now waited in a second line to claim our food.

The man working at the front pleasant and patient, especially given that he must get the same questions to answer day in and day out; as their clientele shifts with the rotation of tourists season to season. His demeanour is a point I need to note, given how in contrast the kitchen staff communicated. I understand those in the kitchen are frantic, they are forced to turn out food in top speeds, while being trapped in a hot sweat box. However the career they have chosen is in the service sector, where the customer comes first and patrons expect a certain level of courtesy. While trying to claim our meal I made an attempt to talk with the gentleman calling out completed orders. He made no attempt to bend down so that he could hear me, and I could not stand any higher on my tippy toes, yet very impatiently he announced he couldn’t hear me so simply walked away. I was left dumbstruck. Not a big deal, but you could tell he honestly didn’t care about me, knowing there would be more customers if I choose to never return because of this encounter. Sadly I reflected on a similar experience I had with their Vancouver food truck. Where the staff preferred engaging on their phones than with their potential repeat customers. Service aside, at least the food was good.

IMG_4382IMG_4384

Given where we were, I went for the tuna taco. Surrounded by water, eat what is from the water. Seared sesame and soy albacore tuna, with wasabi mayo, shredded cabbage, salsa fresca, and seaweed salad. Served on a fire roasted 6 inch flour tortilla. The taco was a mess from the start. They did a disservice to it by serving it with the toasted gringas below. As a result the heat from the gringas caused condensation on the tuna and it’s other juice filled ingredients. At the end they were both forced to sit in a pile of pickled juices. The tuna was tasty, it was seared to perfection and still a little raw in the middle. It’s accompanying ingredients gave it an zesty Asian feel. You got different textures and complimentary flavours.

IMG_4385IMG_4386

“Gringas” are 6 inch flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, meat, or beans; fresh salsa, and sour cream. Then grilled to “gooey perfection”. They were recommend for kids, but as delicious for all ages. We ordered the pork and were only disappointed that we didn’t order three. Once again, given that it was sitting in a pool of the liquid mentioned above, we thought it best to eat this one first. By doing so, each bite was still crispy and light, with hot melted cheese oozing from the centre. I likened it to a very grown up version of cheese and crackers. So much cheese that it looks like the tortilla is made of just melted cheese.

IMG_4389IMG_4391

My partner still speaks of their “Chicken burrito”. A tortilla filled with rice, beans, cheese, and slaw.  It was a heavy hearty snack both in weight and substance. It was packed full, like a meal wrapped up to go. Rich in flavour thanks to sauce, but you could still make out the subtle char off the grilled meat. Not recommended for those with a small stomach.

IMG_4400IMG_4398

Their “Chocolate diablo cookie” was served right away. Handed to me in a brown bag stamped with their truck’s logo: hands clasped in prayer  between a hard taco. This was a savory dessert that made for a good palette cleanser. The cookie was baked moist and chewy cookie. The globs of melted chocolate gave certain bites am extra pop of sweetness. The coarse salt was used to heightened the cookie’s over all flavour. However it was too salty if you bite into a large crystal. The most unique feature was being able to taste the hot sauce as an lingering spicy after note. It warms your throat, belly, and soul.

IMG_4378IMG_4388

Today it was too cold for drinks other wise their “freshies” would have been tempting. Lime and mint, watermelon and basil, and pink lemonade. Perfect for the sun and after a day of surf. For soda, you pay for the bottled beverages and pull your choice from an indented troth. It’s by honour system with a common use bottle opener at the ready.

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.
From the masses of people and the merchandise they sold, you could tell they were doing well for themselves. It is probably why they were able to easily expand into Vancouver. The Vancouverites who travel to Tofino for surf, discover and fall in love with “Tacofino” during their stay. So when the first “Tacofino” food truck popped up in Vancouver, we were excited to try them for the first time all over again. This was the best thing we had this weekend, though sadly they do not offer the same menu items in any of their location in Vancouver. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO
outside break plaza
1184 Pacific Rim Hwy, Tofino BC
250-726-8288
Tacofino Cantina on Urbanspoon

Big Daddy’s Fish Fry

IMG_4150IMG_4128

According to our host, this may be the best place for fish and chips in town. I was here to find out.

One thing I love about a small town is the parking. Locals tend to walk or bike everywhere so parking is abundant, and often without a fee. Even in the core of the town, like we were today, there were no meters and no need to pay. There was hidden parking stalls in the back, specifically labelled for the restaurant, but there wasn’t a need for them. There were plenty of available parking even closer to the entrance. We pulled over at the adjacent park.

IMG_4140IMG_4141

I always think, a place must do well for themselves if they are able to sell their own apparel to a willing market. Not only do they make a profit, they now have people advertising for them. Walking billboards. The cashier was wearing their branded bandana. And around her hanging off the counter were their similarly branded toques, hoodies, wind breakers, and anything else you would need in the varying climate of Tofino. Each with their name and some with their logo stitched on. There logo was an animated fish skeleton flexing his well defined bicep.

IMG_4138IMG_4133

As is the case with many smaller restaurants here, “Big Daddy’s” only offered outdoor seating. We ate on the patio, choosing between a covered area with picnic benches or an uncovered few tables with an umbrella for shade. I wonder how well they fared during the rainy and colder days? Did the lack of indoor seating hurt their business?

 The space had a back yard feel to it. Its perimeter was gated up with a wall separating it from the home on its right. On this fence were fake portholes, like that on the hull of a ship. Instead of a pane of glass the circular wood and metal bits surrounded a mirror. Christmas lights, colourful reflective glass, and Canadian flags also decorated the scene. Amongst all this music from an old radio, crackled. It reminded me what you would hear at a hut on the beaches of California on a hot dry day, or anywhere equally warm and even a bit more tropical. The country twang and classic rock ballads, reflected the slower paced life. It set the tone, even though the cloud and sun on this less sunny day wouldn’t.

 IMG_4129IMG_4137

You approach the hut, walking along a planked path, to order. This isn’t the place to come for those who don’t like seafood. A body length menu listed all the various fish they fry up and how they are able to serve it to you. Cod, halibut, salmon, and tuna. Fried on platters, fried in burgers, and fried and cut up in tacos. Of course the classic fish and chip combo was ever present, giving you choices between pieces and type of fish, but in addition offering oysters and prawns in various preparation as well. From butterfly to coconut crusted, and in popcorn sized bites. If you are looking for something more heartier, you can have your deep fried fish in tacos or sandwiches, or in between burger buns with various condiments. But the regular veggie, beef, and chicken fillings were also available for your chosen platform as well. They even have a surf and turf burger with beef and tempura shrimp for those who wanted their burgers with a twist. For snacks they have sides like French fries, deep fried pickles, and onion rings; and their take on poutine is called “messy fries” with the same cheese and gravy recipe, except the gravy is on the side. Something I noticed off another diner’s plate.

 

IMG_4134IMG_4136

You help yourself to a bevy of condiments on the side or grab any bottle from the tool box caddy at each table.

 

 IMG_4147IMG_4149

My partner was forced to have a hot dog with ketchup and mayo as he doesn’t eat seafood and has been having burgers for his last few meals.  It was pretty standard. Tried and true. They cut the wiener in half to get an even cook on each side.

 IMG_4144IMG_4142

I had the one piece cod fish with chips. It came with a bonus deep fry pickle chunk. From the temperature and the need to blow on your food before eating it, you cold tell this entire basket was fried to order. I was most impressed by my piece of cod bring severed as a singular long rod. There was a lot here, more value than what I was expecting. I can only imagine how it was dipped into the deep fryer with a slow ease. I had plenty of time to admire its impressiveness. It was so hot that I had to wait to eat, or else burn my tongue. For one piece they were generous with the tartar sauce, which in my opinion is what makes a good fish and chips dish. But I somehow still ran out. The fish was crisp with its light batter, and only slightly oily. The grease was well tempered by the chunky and tangy tartar. You could easily make out the pleasant picking in it. The chewy chips were less fried, they offered a nice break from the moist and crunchy fish. The deep fried pickle segment was battered in the same herbed crust as the fish. It was hot and juicy at its centre, but I found it too briny for my liking. Too much pickle to batter ratio.

 

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.
It was good. The fish was fresh and the novelty of having seafood caught by those living and working in town, from just off coast is a unique experience. It made things all the more enjoyable. I enjoyed what I had, and would not be opposed to returning to try their other catches deep fried and dipped into tartar. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BIG DADDY’S
411 Campbell Street, Tofino BC
250-725-4415
Big Daddy's Fish Fry on Urbanspoon

Tofino BC, 2015

IMG_4152IMG_4126
Our latest trip took us to Vancouver Island. We stayed in Tofino with the Pacific Rim as our weekend backdrop. Here are some of the things we learned, the photos we took, and the experiences we earned. May they inspire you to explore all that British Columbia has to offer. They don’t add a “beautiful” in front of it for nothing.
 IMG_3922
Enroute to Tofino we stopped at Cathedral Grove National Park. Most of the trees here are either cedar or Douglas fir. Douglas firs are one of Canada’s largest growing trees.
 IMG_3936IMG_3932

This is the largest tree, it is over 800 years old and taller than the leaning tower of pisa.

IMG_3907IMG_3921

Unfortunately many of these great giants have fallen due to root and stem diseases like butt rot, which are a growth that look like portobello mushroom caps. None-the-less these trees are still quite the sight to see, even in their horizontal state.

IMG_3947

Our first stop was at Wickaninnish beach. With the sun out this afternoon, it felt like summer already. Water as far as the eye can see.

IMG_3951IMG_3958

You need to pay for admittance to the beaches. It is more a parking pass. Seniors, kids, adults and families had their own price. A one day pass that opens all the beaches to you, you just need a vehicle to travel between them.
IMG_4228IMG_4402
Rain or shine, Tofino is about the surf. The Pacific Rim with its underwater dips and valleys creates the large waves needed. I can’t believe we have surf country in our backyard. #beautifulbritishcolumbia
 IMG_3962IMG_4156

The bluish-purple lumps in the sand are dead jelly fish. Their presence is a phonomenon that started happening many years ago.

IMG_4160IMG_4161

They are called velella velella, “sail jellyfish” or “by-the-wind sailors.” They start out jelly and royal blue, but eventually dry out and become rice paper thin. They can’t actually swim, so are washed out of the water by the waves, and end up on beach to die.

IMG_4009IMG_3998

The wild life here is unlike anything in Vancouver. Colourful birds and vibrant sea life. This little blue bird and his friend joined us for lunch. It helped that we shared out fries with them.

IMG_4172

Even the daisies are more animated here. Look how large they grow with the vibrant sun and the fresh air. They even seem to have more petals.

IMG_4083

The first night’s sunset was the one to see. A few clouds didn’t matter, it couldn’t hide the intensity of the light and the neon of the sky. The hardest part was choosing what background we wanted. Islands, mountains, trees or rocks? Here are a few we liked. The sun sets at 8pm, so begins the walk across the beach to find the best place to watch it all happen. Out here, facing the Pacific Rim you get a clearer view of the sun setting behind the world. In the city sun sets are obstructed by buildings and mountains. Here you can see it disappear and tell that the world is round.

IMG_4024IMG_4055

The streaks in the sky really add that feeling of life. You imagine the plane that once flew past the horizon.
 IMG_4064IMG_4086
And once the sun ducks into the water, the sky becomes a gradient of colour, as if in celebration. In elementary school when you had to paint those sun sets and sun rises paintings, mine looked nothing like this. #canadiankids
 IMG_4371IMG_4089
Our accommodations for the weekend was a flat within walking distance to the beach. We could even see it in the distance from the patio. Stella Maris is the home of a local shop owner. She rents it out for the weekend and we scooped up the chance. The flat is in Rosie Bay, one suite in a town house complex. We later found out that everyone staying this weekend was from out of town too.
 IMG_4092IMG_4093

She dressed her home like a hotel with embroidered pillows: “Stella Maris”, miniature bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and the fluffiest of towels.

IMG_4105IMG_4107

When it came to it, we were too lazy from the drive up, to dress up, and set up for campfire s’mores: so improvised. I have done this on the stove before, but never over a stove like this.

IMG_4119

We then started to get creative. Candied some bacon to make breakfast s’mores, since it was closer to 5am then 12am.

 

Sadly our second day proved to be a cloudy one. The shadow they cast made the air feel crisp. A little too cold for us to try our hand at surfing. We agreed to come back and have our first time during summer.

IMG_4211IMG_4174

We visited Ucluelet, the southern most point of Vancouver Island. It was a quick drive from Tofino. It seems more like a fishing town when compared to the surf town of Tofino.

DSC_0116DSC_0106

We approached the dock by the Ucluelet aquarium. It was here we got a good look at friendly sea lions. At the neighbouring Ucluelet seafood factory, fishermen were being hounded by three barking sea lions and a flock of birds, including a baby bald eagle. They all wanted access to the fish that manage to wiggle themselves free from the nets. We captured this photo of a sea lion under the dock. He was on his way to join the others.
 IMG_4201

Jelly fish in their natural habitat.

IMG_4213

I missed the first day’s sun. Wishing it would feel more like summer, I added a popsicle to the mix. What screams summer more than fresh watermelon slices?

IMG_4249IMG_4265

Maple beer grilling sauce, how very Canadian. We were adding it to our steaks on the barbecue. One of the ingredients we purchased at the local grocery store, “Co-op”, for dinner.
IMG_4251

Dinner ready, we ate out on the patio  with our view of the beach in the distance.

IMG_4268IMG_4274

Despite the lack of sun to see set, we headed to the beach to enjoy what little light was left. The blue skies and rippling waves were still worth admiring. Even the mountain tops hidden behind fluffy white clouds were a wonder.

IMG_4294IMG_4288

We finally built a camp fire on our last night. Or rather my partner built the fire as I sat and drank wine. The sun set at 8:45pm and things got dark quick. Luckily we had gathered all our dry branches and the wood we would need well before. This was a roaring fire helped along by toilet paper. It didn’t help that the sand was wet and the branches were damp. Both had to dry before they could burn freely in our fire. When the sun has gone out and the world goes dark, it is a whole other world. You cannot see much, but clearly hear the fire crackle and the waves roar in the background. Here in pitch black darkness we huddled. So dark that we couldn’t even see the fingertips on our extended arms.

IMG_4321

We got hungry so started cooking over our camp fire. A stick was sharpened, and we speared a cheese stuffed wiener with it. The hot dogs cooked over fire, when almost done they popped from the heat. The cheese squirts on to the fire and it hisses. We both have never had a wiener so good.
 IMG_4318

For dessert we had marshmallows. My partner perfected the process. With a slow rotation he got an even burn on all sides. The perfect crisp shell and the perfect melted gooey centre. It stuck to our fingers and clung to our teeth.

IMG_4302IMG_4301

And what wine pairs well with campfire s’mores? I recommend this one.

IMG_4348IMG_4354

I love a good campfire. The sights and the sounds, it smells so good. But the scent of smoke never leaves you. For me, a soak in the tub helps. They didn’t have a hot tub so I improvised.

 

Last day, heading home. Gas was 122.9. We filled up at the “co-op” gas station, which is the same name as their largest grocery store. Here cables on the ground signify that a car has approached the pump. It calls attendants over to help. They squeegeed the splattered bugs off both the front and back windshields, while we went in to pay for the gas that we were to pump. He did a thorough job. We were ready to go. Cautiously we headed back home. Two of our tires’ exterior had ripped driving down here. We suspected it was due in part to the winding roads of Vancouver island and the speed in which we were barreling down them. My partner is an amazing driver, he was practicing his touge and hugging every curve, While other drivers attempted to maintain their speed, but ended up steering straight. The red of their break lights were all we saw. Therefore a pain point for me is when slower drivers refuse to pull over to the side or over on to the shoulder, to allows those traveling faster to go ahead. Not doing so slows everyone down and inevitably results in risky drivers doing stupid things. Some drive on the other side of the road when it is a double line, others cutting some off in order to get ahead. Other than that I love driving on and being passenger on a longer road trip. Frequent gas station stops, winding roads, and a great scenic view, and this trip had it all. White topped mountains, glistening bodies of water, and green as far as the eye can see. West coast nature I love you. For those who don’t  do so enough, please go out and explore all our province has to offer!

 

Wildside Grill

IMG_3971IMG_3975
Rain or shine, summer or winter, surfing happens here all year round in Tofino.

The woman’s home we were renting for the weekend owns the “Live to Surf” shop in the area. Upon our arrivals we went straight there to meet her. So after checking in, we explored the area to find a suitable dinner solution. We followed the bodies and found out sieves at “Wildside Grill”.

IMG_3979IMG_3982

Tucked in the corner like a hut in the woods, it was their seating area that caught my eye first. Seating is available in front of and to the side of the ordering hut. Red wooden picnic tables out in the open, and plastic chairs paired with repurposed cuts of wood for tables under cover. A makeshift shelter crafted from sanded down drift wood, planks, and Christmas lights. I was most amazed by the wooden fish skeleton gracing its roof, it certainly demanded your attention with its spiny bones.
The place was busy, no much else in the area still open so people were willing to line up, pay first, and then wait ten minutes for their order. The area had a youthful energy to it, school aged children playing hide and seek, young families taking their time on vacation, and teenagers loitering with a relaxed attitude. We stood out with our impatient demeanour and or faces glued to our phone screens. We were from the city and it showed.

IMG_3972IMG_3974

As you wait in line you are able to look through their menus. A list of tacos, burger, bowls, and sides. Below the counter were three additional white boards advertising their specials. Considering they had “grill” in their name we made sure to order items that were prepare using that feature. Sadly my partner does not eat seafood, so despite being surrounded by water and the abundance of fresh seafood from it, he shied away from the fresh salmon or cod offered grilled and battered.
 IMG_3985IMG_3993
Instead he had the “Chicken burger” with grilled chicken breast, bacon, cheese, smoked relish, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. However it was one of the better chicken patties we both have ever had. Juicy white breast meat, moist with flavour. The bacon was smokey, almost sweet; it paired well with the tang of the homemade relish. The crisp lettuce and luscious tomato offered each bite a light freshness to it. The fries were the crisp on the outside and full of chewy potato goodness on the inside. It was good, but truly nothing special when compared to tacos below.
 IMG_3986IMG_3992
“Squid taco” made with pacific humbolt squid seared in their house made guajillo Chimichurri marinade. Served with cabbage, avotillo, fresh salsa, and a lime. I couldn’t commit to 3 for $12 so got one for $5. The squid was the best kind of chewy, a distinctive texture that was both enjoyable to eat and easy to bite through. You could taste how fresh the anthropoid was, and how long it sat on the grill to earn its smokey char quality. It also had a hint of curry to it, a warming musky spice that used the juicy tomatoes to balance out its particular heaviness. If you don’t like cilantro you can’t avoid it here, it is mixed in to the fresh salsa. Though it isn’t very obvious, in fact, here is one of the few times I found its herbaceous quality helpful in adding zest; as appose to being overwhelmingly distracting, as I usually find it. The single taco was packed full, I expected as much for $5. I lost most of the filling on my first bite, and needed a fork to finish it off. The first swallow was the best, and one taste of one taco was the perfect serving. I personally would have found three of this particular flavour to be too much. Whereas the pork ones below, I could go back for more of, luckily you get three to an order.

IMG_3989IMG_3994

Because once again, but my partner doesn’t enjoy seafood, despite it being incredible here, so I just had the squid to taste and we shared three “Taco Carnitas”. Each is made with braised pork, salsa roja, cheese, avotillo, and fresh salsa; and served on 100% corn tortillas, topped with cilantro and green onion. These were one of the most exciting and flavourful tacos we have ever had. A squeeze of the lime added some needed zest to things. Tender pulled pork thoroughly coated in a juicy sauce, slightly spicy and well seasoned. I advise eating this fast, for as soon as the tortilla absorbs too much BBQ sauce it falls apart, and your taco becomes a meat salad to be finished with a fork.

IMG_3983

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.

This was comfort eating. Fill your belly with simple food made with the freshest and best ingredients. Things were a little pricy for everyday dining, but the cost was definitely related to the quality. A great representation of the area and the community. After all, it was on the food network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WILDSIDE GRILL
1180 Pacific Rim Hwy, Tofino BC
250-725-9453
wildsidegrill.com
Wildside Grill on Urbanspoon

Horseshoe Bay Ferry

IMG_3867IMG_3880

Park and ride on the “Queen of Coquitlam”.

It was my partner’s birthday, I decided to take him away for the weekend. With the itch to travel, a limited budget, and only three days off we decided a road trip was the best option. So from Vancouver we were Tofino bound.

IMG_3870IMG_3871IMG_3875

We woke early and headed towards the ferries at Horseshoe Bay. We intended to make the first sailing at 8:30am, but the call of sleep was too strong and we ended up sleeping in to catch the 10:30am sailing. It is Vancouver, so there was no surprise to see traffic going in the opposite direction of rush hour. Slow moving cars away from the city’s core.

IMG_3841IMG_3845

When we finally approached the terminal, we followed the signs and stayed in the right lanes. Workers in visibility vests greeted us at the threshold. They directed us to the appropriate lane. Are you going to the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver island, or Bowen island? Do you have reservations? For about $20 more reservations ensure you get on the sailing of your choosing. Without it you risk two hour or more waits if the ferry you were aiming for is full. We didn’t realize there was such an option, so never called ahead to make one.
 IMG_3847IMG_3852

The next check point is a booth to pay at. You are charged per person, per car, per way. $80.55 with a $1 fuel rebate and a 30 cent port fee. It is a similar wait and process to that of the border crossing, but without the need to show your passport and explain why you are leaving the country.

IMG_3854IMG_3855

After our money was taken we were warned of a possible wait. There was  no guarantee that we would be on the latest ferry, without reservations. However after 10:30am the ferry comes every hour so the wait would be tolerable. And if you have to wait, at least you have the view of the Horseshoe Bay village to stare at in from afar. Tall mountains with flecks of snow, still blue waters, and a forest of evergreens as far as the distance extends. Though you are bound to a wait in your car. Once in this designated area there is no leaving. Your wait is confined. Though facilities are available to relieve yourself at. A row of cars stretches out in one lane, you can see the white of the ferry from far away. Most drivers get out and walk about to kill time. We were at the end of the line, in the shade, we weren’t going anywhere. Time to lean back and get comfortable.
 IMG_3860IMG_3893
After the cars traveling from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay unload off the ferry, we, amongst others loaded on. We prayed for us to fit, for us to get on to this ferry, for us to not have to wait anymore. And we made it. Under the ramp and into the hull, we joined the already formed row of cars separated by painted lines. We parked with the aid of attends, they regulating the distance between us and the vehicle in front and behind, for maximum hold. E-break up, it was time to head up to the deck. It required a ride up the elevator or a climb up stairs. We were closer to the former, so opted to wait. 5 decks listed, the passenger one was right on top, the only deck worth visiting.

IMG_3879IMG_3878

The level had plenty of seating across various platforms. Majority of which were already sat when we got there. Many passengers walked on without their car, and now they needed a place to rest their legs and parcels at. Though with enough walking around you can find your perfect seat: a secluded corner to nap in, a desk with an outlet and three walls for undisturbed privacy, or a high top by the window to watch the waves ripple by. The only thing we were missing were lounging chairs to recline in. I know this was a resort ship, but we were tired and could have used the space to spread out and rest. In the end we headed back to the car early to catch ourselves a cat nap.
The layout was a circular maze, though with plenty of signs and markers we did alright. Several area and doors were coded with paintings. One area was designated with a starfish, another a sea lion, and where we parked was near a killer whale.
 IMG_3890IMG_3885

In the dining area was a steadily growing for breakfast at the “Coast Cafe”. They served burgers and entrees from “White Spot” and “Bread Garden”. Many deemed it worth the wait. Many small families filled the tables and ate from pirate packs. For those who just needed coffee, a smaller line and a quicker wait at “Coast Cafe Express” was the ticket. They offered expressos and cups of joe, and light snacks in form of prepackaged and premade cold foods. Pastries and sandwiches, fruits and salads. For the travellers, the gift shop offered an opportunity to find souvenirs. And if you missed it the announcement over the PA’s had you considering the above.

IMG_3862IMG_3865

As most tourists do, we sought to get out and up to enjoy the view. Today the “Sun deck” was aptly name. We were travelling with warm weather, it felt like summer. A covered area provided benches and the crisp air, without the glare and wind. We found a place at the stern of the ship (the back), where we were able to lean against the side. There we took some time to enjoy the heat, while gazing out to where we once were. Cloudless skies, hot sun, and boundless waves; with the background of the city and mountains disappearing in the distance. But sadly no marine life, and believe me, camera ready, I looked. You just needed to tune out the children crying, the friends chatting, and the rumbles of the ship to fully enjoy the open sea. Though as I mentioned above our time here was short lived. Both my partner and I are night owls so the 8am rise was difficult for us and we were only know feeling the fatigue of it. So back down we travelled to catch up on sleep and be ready for the day of adventuring before us. 1.5 hour ferry ride to Tofino.

IMG_3887

Though sadly our fatigue cost us the opportunity to see a pod of killer whales travelling to the left of the ferry. An announcement was made over the speakers, by the captain, to call attention to the feat. It was ten minutes after we reclined our chairs and settled into our seats. We were already cozy in the car, so this would be an opportunity missed.

IMG_3884IMG_3895

We were later awoken by the PA again. This time asking all patrons to return to their cars as we would be docking soon. Welcome to Nanaimo.

IMG_4410

On the way back home, taking the Nanaimo ferry to Horseshoe Bay, we raced down the mountain to catch the 5pm sailing. We rushed only to be informed by an electric sign that the sailing was full and the 7pm sailing was already at 53% capacity. It was only 4:30pm. The race  continued until we finally reached the gate and paid the toll. We felt relieved to wait in line 22 for 2.5 hours for the 7pm sail time. At least we weren’t waiting another two hours on top of that for the 9pm sailing. The weekend was over and people were heading home.

IMG_4408IMG_4416

Time was killed at their market place,  an option not offered at the Horseshoe Bay dock. Here patrons boarding by foot and car mingled over snacks. A miniature food court offered pizza, sandwiches, pop, and chocolate. My partner grabbed a bottle of water and a magazine to pass the time. I gravitated to the “Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory”. There they had caramel apples, fudge, chocolate bon bons shaped like minions, and ice cream. I challenged myself to eating their chocolate and peanut coated frozen banana as lady-like as possible. It was frozen on a wooden stick like a popsicle, and not easy to eat. I didn’t consider how embarrassing eating this in public would be. The nuts constantly falling down my dress, for starters.

IMG_3888

At 7pm we started driving into the “Queen of Cowichan” ferry. This time around we decided to stay in the car for the 1.5 hour ride home. The weather wasn’t as nice as on our ride here. There would be no view past the clouds and no warmth on the top deck. So once again reclined our seats and fell asleep. Wake up, hello home.

 

Turkish Donair

IMG_3710IMG_3718

I don’t know much about the Turkish culture, but wanted to find out what made these donairs different from all the others. Today we were at “Turkish Donair” for a quick bite, the only shoppe serving donairs in this area of North Burnaby. My partner has been before and decided it would be as adequate of a place as any other to have lunch at.

I try not to judge a book by its cover or a restaurant by its exterior, but it is hard not to when the place looks run down. The awning was caked with grime. What was once a black covering with yellow font was now stained a mossy green mess. Though considering that this didn’t deter anyone else from entering, why should it me? I would soon find out.

The front window and sandwich board helped to convey everything they offered in clear photos and precise words. Pitas wrapping either Halal meats or the vegetarian falafel. “Halal” refers to any object or action that is permissible to use or engage in according to Islamic law. The term covers and designates not only food and drink but also all matters of daily Islamic life. “Falafel” is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. It is a traditional Middle Eastern food.

The restaurant held a narrow space. On one side the counter to order and prepare food behind, and across from it several mirrors mounted on the wall. The mirrors helped to give the room the illusion of depth and breath. The black counter was manned by the lone shop’s owner/only employee. It was decorated with spray painted vegetables: tomatoes, lettuce, olives, cucumber, and rings of raw onions. What followed was a picture of a completed donair with all the ingredients above, tucked neatly in to a warm pita. Above it was a half empty chip rack and to its side a fully empty refrigerated display case. I don’t know if the barren fixtures were because it was Sunday in the early afternoon and they would be closing soon. But I do know it made it seem like the shoppe was going out of business. An empty display case dressed with clean dishes and tongs and cake trays with lids holding nothing but air. At least the can and bottled beverage fridge was well stocked. The above could also be probable because they use to sell more sides and snacks, but those sides and snacks were never very popular. So they ended up being more cost than profit to make; to have available, and to not sell. Therefore they were discontinued. Though if that was the case they should just clear it all out and make room for some more appropriate seating.

IMG_3715IMG_3720

The less functional portion of the restaurant was a very ethnic attempt at interior decorating. I will not be able to call specific items by their names, but can none-the-less describe what I saw and how it all made me feel. Towards the back, a set of side tables and chairs stood. They differed from the ones used for dining closer to the door. The arrangement felt like it belonged in someone’s home. It seemed like the space was designated more for the owner’s friends to come and hang out in, then for actual restaurant seating. Side tables to rest drinks on and chairs with armrest for extended periods of sitting. Two small television sets sat in opposite corners. One was tuned to Arabic news, it offered the only noise in the otherwise quite restaurant. Artificial potted plants, assorted frames commemorating various photos, and antique looking clocks and wall pieces in wood and metal crowded the area. Most curious was the wall mounted wire wine rack, it carried a plastic bottle of Brisk ice tea instead of its intended glass bottle of wine. One table had a printed fabric laid over it, a leather piece decorated with a multitude if watercolour. We weren’t comfortable dining in this portion of the room and only considered the bar by the window or the two top tables across from the counter. The thought of hunching over and eating off of tables at knee height was not too appealing. Nor were we very comfortable with dripping juices on to the fabric table covering above.

IMG_3714IMG_3717

You order from the three menus above the counter. The first menu divided the chicken, lamb, and beef donair options from one another. Essentially it was the same array of ingredients across the board, but you change up the protein in each. Six donair flavours influenced by four different cuisine types. The secondary menus offer the same flavours as a platter or as a combo. A deconstructed donair: meat over rice with a side of salad and pita. Or a fully filled and wrapped pita with a side of rice or salad. Essentially they increase their menu listing by offering the same ingredients in different applications. Clever, though at the same time less can be more for such a business. I recommend that they bring it down to one menu and simply do six dishes the best they can. Maybe then I would have actually enjoyed what I had.

IMG_3716

Because there was only just the owner working the front counter, a few guests left, being put off by the minimal wait. It ended up being better for us as our position in line moved up. He was very friendly. With a smile on his face he informed us they were out of chicken. We were disappointed. How could that be? At 2pm, and with chicken being one of the most popular proteins. Though considering they were also out of toilet paper for the whole restaurant, I guess it wasn’t really that big of a surprise.

IMG_3726IMG_3725

The difference between a large and a small donair was pretty obvious upon comparison. I had the small, as after describing what I saw I was not to optimistic about the food.

IMG_3721IMG_3732

I chose the “Lebanese Beef”, deciding that it would be the most flavourful given its use of sauces and spreads like tabaulah, hommous, and tzatziki; along with tomatoes, onions, and lettuce. The “Greek” with olive, feta, and tzatziki would have been my second choice. The wax bag wrapped and twisted at the bottom of the falafel was a food idea. Not only did it save my fingers from the inevitability of juice running down them, but it held the wrap together until I got to the bottom. The beef had a spongy texture and wasn’t as good as I had hoped. It would have been better with a shredded texture. It was definitely not fresh, but that was probably because it was reheated in the microwave. You could hear the beep to set it, the closing of the plastic door, and the ding-ing of the bell to indicate it was done. I immediately thought, isn’t the point of such places to have the meat cook on the spit, and for the fragrance to waft in the air and attract customers in? I guess they just weren’t busy enough or a large enough operation for fresh food made to order. In my wrap, I missed the hommous and didn’t get enough tzatziki for taste. At this point I could have used a dish of each for dipping in to. The creamy hommous paste, would have not only given things more flavour, but it would have made this wrap more filling. When eating it, I was missing that hearty substance feeling. A void the unripened slices of tomato and excessive amount of lettuce stem was unable to fill. There was a lot more lettuce than necessary, so much so that we ended up digging most out as we ate our way down.

IMG_3724IMG_3733

My parter ordered the “Maritimer Beef”, not being able to have chicken. He liked the sweetness of the sauce included, but decided it was not complimentary to the spicy beef. Like my falafel above it too came with pale tomatoes and too much lettuce. He had passed on hot sauce, which was a mistake. It needed more flavour, another layer, another element to give it some kick. Crispy fried onions or a tangy slaw. Though both really wouldn’t be very Turkish. I would have been nice to have some tzatziki in this one too, a mix of sweet and tangy, it surely needed something else as it tasted incomplete.

When the crowd had filtered out and all orders had been made, the owner sat behind the bar to watch television. Something that isn’t too professional, but for a small shop like this I don’t mind. However he decided to turn the volume up to combat against the already loud buzzing of the refrigeration equipment. It made our conversations difficult, the need to talk over the voices coming from the television. That and we felt like we had to be quiet so that he could watch his tv in peace. This was definitely not the greatest of eating environments. However we were here to eat and go so tried to pay no mind.

As I made mention to earlier, my attempt to use the single stall washroom was foiled without the presence of toilet paper. I search through all the cupboards before asking, but he had indeed run out. Guess they don’t have many female patrons using their facilities or anyone using it at all. The owner had offered to run and get some, but I rather not have waited. The experience was mildly salvaged by his kind demeanour and friendly nature.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If I was just ranking service, this review would be different. Despite the intention for an easy grab and go snack, our meal was unsatisfying. I rather not return as I can find far better donairs else where. Or simply choose something else in the neighbourhood. Sadly I have had much better an will travel much farther for it before coming back here. I say “sadly” because the owner was so nice and he made up from the greviences above. I would consider coming back just to support him if it wasn’t for the pungent lingering taste I had in my mouth after I finished eating. I craved a palette cleanser all the way to the nearest gas station to use the washroom. Don’t deny your cravings.

TURKISH DONAIR
4066 Hastings Street, Burnaby BC, V5C2J3
778-371-0371
Turkish Donair on Urbanspoon

QQ Sushi

IMG_3439

I have written in the past that this sushi shop fills a need in the neighbourhood. That fact still holds true today. For me it is a quick and easy stop for cheap eats. I am most often here close to pay day, buying their 19 piece sushi special with miso soup for $6.50. You can’t get  much for that price, let alone all this. Though sadly during my latest visit I had to add in this insert to my post. The price of my go to combo has now increased, the chef blamed inflation without actually saying those words. The special was now $6.95. And even though the 50 cents isn’t much more, it just doesn’t feel like the same valuable combo any more. Now that I have had it at $6.50 how can I go back? What was worse was I called ahead, as I always do, to have my order ready for pick up, but it had not even been started.

I noted previously that the restaurant setting was not the greatest. All together I find things fairly disheveled. It is an open space, it does not separate kitchen from dining room. Where being able to watch the chef prepare my meal isn’t necessarily a good thing or something I want to see. I instead highly recommend taking out. To eat the food that I want for the decent price I paid for it, in a setting I actually enjoy. The dining area was worn and in need of a refurbishing and that the kitchen seem cluttered and less then clean. Though I have yet to get sick so continue to consume their goods.

But once again instead of my combo being ready after I paid, I was told to wait, that they will start making it now. I couldn’t wait so asked for a refund. To save the sale another chef, who was actually on break jumped in to help. I often take out around 2:30pm when all the staff assemble and have lunch together in the dining room. This happens every day. One ceases each time a guest enters or their service is needed by someone already dining in the room. This is a very common practice for Chinese restaurants, and at this Chinese run Japanese sushi shop it is no different. Not that I mind them taking a break, I just find it unprofessional the way they go about it. You don’t see this practice at a “Joey’s” or even at an “McDonalds”. And if those employees are eating in the dining area they are doing so one at a time, incognito, out of uniform. As the customer you almost feel bad for giving them business. To take a man away from his meal for $7.50 after tax. None the less it is what it is if you want to eat here. And I still prefer this, interrupting the chef during lunch over the curt woman they employ. She is an employee scheduled to work the register during their lunch rushes. She uses the busy traffic as an excuse to rush through the service portion of customer service. She doesn’t say “please” or “thank you”, she speaks with an impatient tone, and genuinely seems to not care about your patronage. I honestly don’t know why I go back to them and essentially condone her actions each time I give then business. Maybe after today I will think twice. There is actually a newer sushi place a block away. However they do charge more, though the great service may be worth the dollar or two more you have to pay.

IMG_3665IMG_3667

I digress, back to my “sushi special combo” now at $6.95. Together two chefs boxed everything in 2 minutes, which made me skeptical of what I would actually be getting. The rolls were from the fridge. I paid 50 cent more for something not made to order? Truthfully this, I think this was now enough to have me taking a break from “QQ”. The special comes with the most popular of rolls from the vegetarian and non vegetation side of things. California and dynamite roll paired with yam tempura and cucumber rolls. Truthfully they all were descent and filling, though none was good to stand out on its own. Creamy crab, crunchy prawn tempura, starchy yams, and crispy cucumber wedges. Standard for North American sushi.

IMG_3446

Below are a few other dishes I have had previous to the above episode. The next five are Japanese dim sum. I call it that because their origins is Japanese, but some how during the preparation process they come out completely different than expected. Something reminiscent of Taiwanese bubble tea shop snacks or Chinese small plates. Japanese dishes made in a Chinese tradition.

IMG_3440IMG_3448

The “Takoyaki” tasted like fish balls, and were just as dense. The kind you have during hot pot. Though they weren’t actually shaped like balls, more domes with flat bottoms. And they were smaller and less dressed than what you would expect from Takoyaki. Not a lot of mayo, hardly any dried herbs or any bonito flakes. There was section of octopus tentacle in the centre but it offered nothing but its rubbery texture. Not worth trying again.

IMG_3442IMG_3449

The “Agedashi tofu” was even more disappointing. This was officially the worst rendition I have ever had. Even with the sauce served separately the squares of tofu were mushy. In no way were they ever crisp from their tempura battered deep fry. And even with a healthy soak in the tempura sauce provided each block of bean curd remained bland. It needed seasoning. The tofu needed salt, and the batter that coated it needed some flavour.
 IMG_3444

The “seaweed salad” was pretty standard. I am sure they buy a lot of it premade to serve like this. I knew what I would be getting with this one and was not disappointed. It offered something light and fresh to accompany all the other deep fried appetizers.

IMG_3441IMG_3452

The “spring rolls” were lacking in colour, though their pasty complexion was not a reflection on their crunchy exterior. With more flaky shell then chopped up ingredients, it could have used and taken triple with filling. Though like this they kept their standard fast food spring roll flavour, especially after a dip into the sweet and spicy sauce. Pretty uninspired.

IMG_3443IMG_3451

I could not be certain if the pork “Gyozas” were homemade, but given the above and how delicious these were by comparison, I would think not. Each dumpling was chewy with slightly crisp skin from a thorough pan frying. It was filled edge to edge with well seasoned pork meat. Best enjoyed with the salty dark sauce provided, but not dependant on it. Clearly the Gyozas and the spring rolls were made by two different people.

IMG_3498IMG_3497

The “vegetarian sushi combo”.
I actually prefer vegetarian sushi, I know I am essentially eating vegetables and rice in a travel ready format and that soy sauce over raw vegetables aren’t really that good. But it’s something about them all together that works for me.

The kappa roll was your standard starter roll, a bite of cucumber and rice. The yam tempura roll is best eaten warm, with its filling fresh out of the deep fryer. Then you still get than crisp with all that chewy rice. Leaving it for too long has it going mushy. The vegetable roll was surprisingly very tasty, especially considering that the roll is just raw vegetables wrapped in seaweed and rice. This large bite was filled with avocado, cucumber, carrot, lettuce, and sweet tofu. The sweet and salty sauce finishes it off well.

IMG_3438

The “chicken don” was pretty good. A descent amount of chicken coated in a sweet teriyaki sauce, served over crisp bean sprouts and moist rice. Though not enough chicken when considering the amount of rice you get. At least the rice too is coated in teriyaki sauce, making it easy to consume without a bite of chicken. The chunk of carrot and the floret of broccoli were left on the rawer side. They were tough to get teeth into and hardly worth the effort.  More visual interest than edible element, they gave an other wise brown dish a pop of colour and some appeal. Digging around I did find a silver of carrot and one of zucchini. They made a fine additional to the bowl and I wished for more.

IMG_3499IMG_3501

The “beef don”, like the chicken one before was fairly standard. Served in the same fashion and the same sauce. Thin cuts of beef coated in teriyaki sauce over crisp bean sprouts and moist rice. This was pretty much the blue print for their other rice bowl dishes too. You choose a protein or tofu, it gets coated in teriyaki sauce and is served with everything else. This order could have use more sauce to make up for the dryness of the curls of meat. If possible finish this all in one go, having to reheat it turns the meat even tougher with an unappetizing grey colour to match.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I don’t come here expecting the best sushi I have ever had, or anything all that good in fact. It just beats spending $10 for a meal every day. Though eventually I do grow tired of their special combo and do mix things up. Never the special rolls though, I have learned my lesson, they are not all that good for the extra dollars you shell out. Also keeping it simple with minimal ingredients in a roll proves to be a solid game plan for any North American style sushi shop.
Once again the food isn’t the best, the setting isn’t the nicest, and the staff are not the most courteous, but there is just something about this place. Like they have figured out the magical formula where their quality of food is precisely equivalent to the amount they offer it at. Nothing has been amazing, yet nothing is bad enough to bring to the attention of a staff member or to deter future visits. There is good value and for that alone I will continue to take out with them, but just maybe less frequently.
Don’t deny your cravings.

QQ SUSHI
1640 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-568-9018
qqsushirestaurant.ca
Q Q Sushi on Urbanspoon