The Comedy Mix

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Live comedy, a form of entertainment I don’t take advantage of enough. And thankfully I couldn’t say no to some complimentary passes that came my way. Located in the basement of “Century Plaza Hotel”.

Wednesday’s are their “showcase” nights and Thursday’s their “marquee”. Both shows start at 8:30pm, the only difference between the two days, the $5 extra for Thursday. A steeper fee to visit on a more popular evening. The same goes when they have a more visible comedian in to headline. Though at $10 and $15 for regular evenings the cost is fair, especially as it is about the same price you pay for a movie in theatres. Friday and Saturdays have back to back shows 2.5 hours apart, 8pm and 10:30pm. We were here on a Tuesday. Tuesday’s are their “ProAm” days, where amateur and professional comedians take the stage for 10 minute intervals. Though if you ask most comedians, it is difficult to make a living just on jokes. Most use this fact as a punch line.

Tuesday’s are when the most performers take the stage on any night. We saw over six comedians. Some I found extremely funny, others I respected them for being up there. It must take a lot of nerve to be on centre stage, putting yourself out there for strangers to judge. I know I never could do it myself.

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Tonight’s evening show started at 8:30pm, they start seating 30 minutes before. Bouncers, managers, and a receptionist. This was a very organized affair. The process reminded me that at a night club. You pay, you get your hand stamped, then wait to be I.D. at the door. All in the yellow light of an underground hall.

By the time we entered the room it was pitch black, majority of the seats were filled, and the stage was well lit. We were one of the lasts to enter, and as a result got saddled with two chairs facing the stage most left. Our view also included the staff walking in shadows to and from the kitchen, and the yellow of the buttered popcorn glowing in the corner.

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In the dark room with several tables and chairs, each seat faces the stage and gives you a clear view of who is on it. Be aware of the front row, it is known that this area gives you free rein to be ridiculed. Here the comedians can see you, and they often engage in you, the audience. Depending on their ability to make light of your life, you become a running joke, a part of the act by chance.

Before the show starts wait staff offer the crowd drinks and snacks for a cost and tips. Tips are so important that the host even reminds you to tip well before you leave. I suspect this is how they make most of their money. Here their prices are steeper, a similar markup to the concession at a movie theatre. It might not be the best food, but given they don’t allow outside food and drink you don’t have much of a choice. You get what they have if you like to munch or sip while watching a show. Most items are ones you eat with your hands, it allows for ease in the dark: popcorn, nachos, etc. And to drink, various cocktails with daily specials. The menu is difficult to read in the dark, as it is difficult to attract the attention of a server once the show has begun. I strongly suggest eating and drinking before, like we did, or order one of their drink buckets for enough bottled Coronas sitting in ice to last you the night.

In the almost complete darkness, this definitely isn’t the place where taking photos of your food is appropriate, especially with the need for flash. The food wasn’t anything special anyways, nor were the drinks for that matter. But you are not here to eat, you are here to enjoy some live talent. To be entertained by those with the skill to bring delight through words, and laughter through motion. Once again, it takes courage to do what they do, to put themselves out their like that. I consider the whole thing suspenseful. I am pretty good at putting myself in someone else’s shoes, so the fear I imagine they feel, I feel. How is the audience going to take me? How am I going to do? Will I forget my set?

As for the entertainment factor, a lot of the material is susceptible. Humour varies from person to person. What one chuckles at, another may find offensive. But when one visits a comedy club they should expect to be serenaded with off the cuff quips and plenty of offensive language. Almost nothing is off limits when searching for laughs. Although, sadly I have visited often enough that some of the host’s material was familiar to me. Considering that it must be hard to come up with new material, it is completely understandable. I have only ever seen two different hosts across my several years visiting.

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.
The only down side on an event like this is the time. You never get into the act and then it ends, or you get enthralled with one comedian and the bulb blinks red to tell them their time is done. I never leave satisfied. I never am laughed out.

COMEDY MIX
1015 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V67 1Y5
604-684-5050
thecomedymix.com

C-Prime Modern Italian Steak & Wine

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I only find myself at “Century Plaza Hotel” when I attend a comedy show, but I always find myself at their restaurant when I do.

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The name is new, but the feel and the decor of the place is very similar to its last reincarnation. A true hotel lobby bar/lounge feel. A large space, dark with dim lights, coupled with the feeling of regality. I guess the restaurant has to reflect the hotel. After all, you don’t have a country style family restaurant at a 4.5 star establishment in the middle of downtown. You best believe the restaurant has to be 4.5 star to be in a 4.5 star hotel. And so far, setting wise, they were giving us just that. Dark glossy wood furnishings, supple booths, deep seated recliners, and opulent chandeliers. Only what was necessary was present, but each you could be sure was done up with finesse.

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We told our server that we were here to catch the comedy show downstairs, so throughout our meal she kept track of the time for us. She gave us countdown warnings and brought us the bill without asking, all to get us out in time. This is the first time I found a server bringing out the bill, without first asking the guest, a good thing.

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Our meal began with complementary bread and seasonings. It looked more impressive than it actually was. The bread was hard, it’s texture an unenjoyable crumbliness. No matter how hard I tried and how hungry I was, I couldn’t enjoy it. The oil did help to soften the chew, but not enough to do it any good. As for the salt, it just seemed unnecessary. I hope what was left unused doesn’t get tossed out. They gave us a lot of flavoured salt to eat with the focaccia. Do most people dip their bread in oil and salt?

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My guest got the “8oz Snake river wagyu California cut rib eye”. We both expect it marbleized given wagyu’s reputation. “Wagyu” literally means “Japanese cow” and it includes several breeds of cattle. The most desired of these bovine are the ones genetically predisposed to intense marbling and increase of fat. The meat from such wagyu cattle is known for its quality, and commands a high price for it. We were paying quite a bit for our prized steak so was sad to have it turn out the way it did. The flavour was good, it had a great rub that allowed the beef’s natural flavour to shine through. But where was the fat? The morsels did not melt in our mouth. It was worst at the ends, dry and over cooked. Truly we should have sent it back, but we were on a time crunch and that is something I always feel guilty about doing. Though reality is, if you pay for something you expect to get your money’s worth and we did not here.

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As is the case with most steak places, side are separate, at a separate cost. My guest choose the “Truffle French fries”. You could smell the truffle oil and only slightly taste it. Something about truffles that can make the simple fry a worthy companion to the mighty steak. Humously, my guest felt bad asking for a side of ketchup to this side.

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I played it safe with the “Duck breast, wild mushroom and garlic mash with pan jus” and was not disappointed. The duck breast was cooked perfectly, both the pieces were tender and each bite juice. I wish I had more. The taste of duck is so distinct, and you really got it here. “Luscious” is the word we used to perfectly describe it. The meat was as velvety as the whipped smooth potatoes to its side. I would come back just for this.

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? – Yes.
I liked the setting, a modern steak house. Simple, elegant, sleek. Shame that we only found 50 percent of the food that we paid for any good. I wouldn’t be a posed to giving dinner another shot, and doing so with time for dessert. Neither like or dislike at this point. Don’t deny your cravings.

C-PRIME
Century Plaza Hotel & Spa
1015 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC
604-684-3474
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Takumi Japanese Restaurant

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This month our sushi group decided to go for something more authentic. We came to “Takumi Sushi” for their “Japanese fine dining”. With our eight person party we were able to try most of the menu, and even went back for doubles of what we liked the most.

The restaurant is simple inside and out. The black awning with its matching sandwich board didn’t have it standing out. No posters pinned, no menu pages taped on the windows, just their logo frosted on the front glass. But like its cuisine, it didn’t need the extras bells and whistles, they had delicious food that stood on its own. Their attentive staff didn’t hurt either. The manager even took care to present our dishes in the best light so that I could take the perfect photo. Everyone was very attentive and extremely accommodating. Exactly as I remembered the locals of Tokyo to be when I visited last February.

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Stepping in, the room was fairly dim, each table was spot lit with its own hanging bulb. The focused light against the white tables made for ideal photographic food shots; so long as you go went at it from the right angle, to avoid your own shadow. The room was not over done. A green and white floral pattern dressed a few booth cushions. Evenly spaced out traditional Japanese paintings centred the right hand wall. Majority were of these white faces geishas, with dark black hair, and red ruby lips. And a set of antique wooden fishing poles crossed one another in fitting theme.

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The drink bar at the front of the restaurant was left unused. Though I am sure most would prefer to sit by the sushi bar towards the back. There a chef dressed in traditional uniform stood at the ready. Surrounded by showcases of chilled and fresh ingredients he made dishes to order.

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The following dishes are in order of when they were served, I am not bothering with the duplicated. We started with miso soup for some. The traditional bowls of miso came with chunks of tofu, seafood, and green onion. Their specialty miso was the “Nameko” miso soup. It’s name came from the miniature nameko mushrooms used.

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When there are vegetarians in your party, “Agadashi tofu” is always a safe bet. Vegetarian or not, there is something delicious about these blocks with their well fried crispy coat. Their flavour mostly comes from the light sauce they sit in. So unanimously popular that we had three servings in total.

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“Beef tongue robata”, slices of tongue grilled on the barbecue. Cut into halves, you couldn’t tell it was tongue meat if you didn’t already know. Sliced fairly thin, each portion was chewy and easy to eat. The delicious seasoning definitely helped you get over the fact that you were using your tongue to eat another tongue.

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The “Tuna Tataki” was really fresh, I could have personally eaten two servings worth myself. Thinly sliced sheets of raw tuna served in a light sauce, and flavoured with garlic.

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“Yaki-Nasu”. Fried Japanese eggplant served with ginger and topped with bonito flakes. Our server recommend us to dip each piece in soya sauce, and then enjoy it with a pinch of ground ginger. Japanese eggplant is a little less mushy than the regular variety, I found its texture similar to eating squash.

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The “Fusion style tempura” made quite the entrance, being served in a martini glass. These were bites of shrimp, battered then coated with the chef’s special sauce. Being this creamy, I am sure mayo was present in the mix. Each bundle was a bite of cheesy and melty, sweet and tangy all in one. Another dish I would like more of.

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This was their “Sushi a la carte” platter, assorted six kinds of nigiri. Here it was presented on the same plate as the extra tuna roll we ordered. Each piece was fresh. Our group of eight did our best to share the plate. It is quite the sight to observe someone attempting to split a nigiri in half with one chopstick. Especially as nigiri is meant to be taken in, in one bite.

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“Yaki udon”, pan fried udon with pork and vegetable. Sadly, my shared portion had more large pieces of onion than vegetable or noodle. The noodles served as a good filler. Salty noodles that were fun to slurp.

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A customized nigiri platter including two pieces of toro (tuna belly), two of Hamachi (yellow tail), two salmon (wild sockeye), two Saba (mackerel), and a Negi-toro roll. (Chopped toro and green onion roll).

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Negi-toro roll, chopped toro and green onion.

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I called this the customized unagi (fresh water eel) plate. “Unagi battera”, pressed sushi with fresh water eel, and “unagi nigiri”. The eel and the rice on both were seasoned the same, the presentation and the cuts was where they differed. Smokey barbecue eel slathered in a sweet sauce.

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With a visual name like “Rainbow roll”, this roll did not disappoint. An avocado, cucumber, imitation crab, and mayo filled roll, wrapped with assorted seafood. You choose a colour and it adds a new flavour component.

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The manager really sold us on this one so we got two order of the “Gyoza”. Their pan fried pork and vegetable dumplings were made in house, and you could tell. Severed piping hot. A chewy shell hiding moist bundles of meat.

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I have never met a short rib I didn’t like. “Short rib” marinated rib sauce. Smokey from the grill, with a sweet honey-like flavour.

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“Takumi house roll”. I expect a lot from a house roll, especially one that takes one the restaurant’s name. This had plenty, but as a stand out deserving of the brand, maybe not. Salmon, tuna, imitation crab, tamago (scrambled chicken egg), avocado, and mayo; with tobiko (fish eggs).

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“Mackerel robata”. Another well grilled barbecue dish. Lightly seasoned, the emphasis was on the fish.

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“Abalone nigiri” Not the most appealing looking, or the most filling, but certainly it was worth ordering for its one of a kind taste.

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This one our sushi novice guest made up. A custom roll ordered because she likes salmon and likes things spicy. Normally chilli spices are reserved for raw tuna; however this spicy salmon roll, created on a whim, was surprisingly good. They mashed up salmon and seasoned it with their chilli sauce mixture. Then they deep fried the rice at the bottom, to give the sushi the crunch the top half, with salmon, lacked. Packed full of flavour, was like eating a well seasoned salmon on rice or a crisp cracker.

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The manager over heard us contemplating dessert. Should we have some here or move the party else where? While we were still humming and ha-ing, as a surprise, they courteously brought us one of each of their three top best selling desserts. Each, simple in display, but all bold in their unique flavours. The “Coffee jelly” was my favourite. Even as a non coffee drinker, or one that doesn’t normally like the taste of coffee, I found this dessert delicious. It had the deep rich taste and aroma of coffee, but without its bitter accompaniment. And with the vanilla ice cream on top, it was like having your coffee with cream.

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The “Custard pudding” was served warm. The scoop of vanilla ice cream and the cold berry compote on top quickly melted and melded with the freshly baked dessert. A smooth, lick your spoon kind of dessert.

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“Black sesame ice cream” made in house. Despite it looking like wet cement, this was some of the best black sesame ice cream I have ever had. So fresh and fragrant, yet rich and bold. I would like to see it on top of a dessert or beside a complimentary cake.

 

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.
They closed at 9:30pm, but so concerned with our enjoyment, they allowed us to stay without pressure. We never once reminded us of the time, nor they did assumptiously present us with the bill. Heck, they presented us with complimentary desserts to have us staying a little after 10pm. The only questionable negative I had was the need to pay 75 cents for each cup of tea, where other like places don’t charge for tea. Something we were not aware of until after we got the bill. However, I made sure to get my money’s worth and drink every last drop out of my very last cup. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TAKUMI
4422 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver BC
604-730-0330
takumisushi.com
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Belgard Kitchen

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We had a work function and I was tasked with choosing the would be destination for dinner. A task I don’t take lightly, and one I definitely considered a tall order. What I choose would determine the outcome of the evening. A bad restaurant and it is my fault that everyone had a bad time. And as a food blogger I took the search for the perfect place very seriously. I wanted to go with a place I had already been to, and hopefully one that everyone else hadn’t. Located in the still expanding area of Railtown, I deduced “Belgard Kitchen” was my best bet. I consider this a hidden gem, only available for those in the know. The required drive to it and the lack of transit in the area gives it this exclusivity. “Belgard” not only had great small share plates to bond over, but a great setting to linger within.

The restaurant is located within the Settlement building. It still reminded me of a church with its tall white walls, large framed windows, and double heavy doors. You almost expect to look up and see a steeple and cross. Portion of the building is dedicated to their in house brewery and winery. Postmark Brewery and Vancouver Urban Winery lives here. I would like to look into the possibility of them doing guided tours in such a unique space. 

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Within the foyer they had a new feature to your left. A counter run by an employee advertising “Grower’s craft beer”, she was assisting two patrons in their sampling of said beer. We were late for our reservation otherwise I would have stop to inquire about to go cups? Or does the beer get bottled from one of their taps even ordered.

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The room opened up with vaulted ceilings, you feel small in such a space. I was still in awe, even with it being my second time here. With the natural day light illuminating the room I was able to make out a lot more details that I missed hidden in shadow of candles the first time around. The decor, as before, was eye catching in its simplicity. They made industrial, chic. Calligraphy was the font of choice on the chalkboard menu that hug above the silver bar taps, waxed wine barrels arranged on a wire rack functioned as a makeshift room separator; and everything else was matte wood. All the walls, the ceilings, the support beams, the hard floors, and majority of the eating and seating furniture was made from wood. It is amazing what they have done to make this factory new again. To make it restaurant comfortable using raw material and hard pieces. There was a crane hook hanging in the centre of the room, and it still seemed to be in good working condition. I am glad they left that up as a conversation started and as a memory of the building that it was once was. 

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It was cozy and warm when I first visited last fall, but now it was stuffy and humid in late spring. Almost unbearably so. I found myself using my reusable white and blue gingham napkin to pat myself dry on occasion, doing so, instead of its intended purpose. All the windows were opened and all the doors propped, I prayed for a cool breeze, but none came. We later deduced that the group table we were given in this alcove lack ventilated air. So it was just us sweating, and the rest of the building actually remained temperate. If you have never experienced it, it is awful to eat when you are so heated. Eating causes chemical reactions, it occurs when your body breaks down your meal. These reactions create heat as a byproduct. You are now being cooked inside and out with heat. It truly takes away from your dining experience. Only plus side, you eat less, because your appetite decreases in such conditions. You eat until you are full and do feel the need to have more. Sadly, no one thought to ask the waitstaff for any relief.

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But I guess, what better a temperature than this to enjoy refreshing cold beers in? And what better a way to enjoy beers than as flights on a paddle. The best way for un-committal people to sample beer. Try a little, finish what you like, then order more. Obviously the lighter the shade, the easier it goes down. 

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For starters we had all three of their spreads. The “mushroom and bacon pate” was made with pickled mushrooms and smoked bacon, served over assorted cuts bread. The spread’s taste and its creamy texture reminded me of Campbell’s mushroom soup, but as a condiment. Taken chilled, it was nice to be able to cool down with it.

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The “Ruby red beet dip” in contrast was intense. Made with goat cheese and topped with toasted almonds, its taste was as bold as its neon colour. Served alongside fresh veggies and warm flat bread the dip was certainly the star of each bite. It was a whipped smooth spread that complimented all of the above. This too was served chilled, and therefore came to the table fast. 

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“Burrata with egg caponata” served with grilled sourdough, toasted almonds, and a goat cheese coulis. Made with tomatoes, it was like salsa in look, texture, and taste. The burrata was a creamy and the binding between spread and its toast. 

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“Shrimp spaghetti Nero”. Postmark IPA seasoned chorizo, jalapeño pesto, squid ink noodles, and herbed bread crumbs. The squid ink’s black was just for show. Instead the dish’s flavour came from the zesty chorizo, the spicy pesto, and the juicy shrimp. It had a numbing heat that only made the temperature in the room worse. 

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“Yam gnocchi with lamb ragu in brown sage butter”. Tender pieces of lamb intermingling with soften bundles of potato dough. I love gnocchi, but always feel like there is not enough dumplings per plate. I am always left hungry wanting a whole second portion. 

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“Belgard meatballs”. Quality beef served with fresh mozzarella in a San marzano tomato sauce. This was the heartiest plate. When all assembled over toasts, it was like a deconstructed meatball sub. 

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The “scallop and shrimp risotto” was served with spring peas, and their sky harvest pea shoot salad, dressed with Meyer lemon. Given the heat, maybe not the best dish, but it was just so darn good. Creamy and smooth, it was like porridge but with enough texture to have you chewing. 

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“Flank steak with chimichurri”. The steak was season in an Argentinian spice rub, served with pickled beets and a Malbec molasses. Each slice of beef was tender with a pink centre, and rub on each was very tasty, it had been developed with layers of flavour. This spice paired well with the sweet molasses and the herbaceous sauce drizzled over and speared on the side. 

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For dessert we tried one of each of what they had. They all sounded interesting and each came well presented. “Chocolate and espresso budino” made with creme fraiche, flavoured with kosher salt, and topped with sponge toffee. Like a fancy chocolate mousse. The sponge toffee and the milk chocolate had me thinking of “Crunchie” bar. 

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“Baked pistachio yogurt with a pomegranate ginger syrup, chocolate, a pistachio crumb, and preserved lemon”. Its texture was like a cross between cheesecake and mousse, cakey yet creamy. Overall it was a very refreshing dessert with a deep warmth for the stronger ginger note. 

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“Strawberry rhubarb crumble”, amaretto semi freddo, oats, a brown sugar crumble, and salted caramel. It was light and sweet with lemon, and the crumble gave it a nice toasty texture. Each dessert was amazing, each different from the others, and all worth a second serving of.

 

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.
The fact that the location is out of the way was one of its many charms. Not located in, but it had that Gastown/Yaletown vibe everyone is feeling as of late. A restaurant like no other in an area that not many gets chance to visit. Come for the ambience and stay for the great food and awesome drinks. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BELGARD KITCHEN
55 Dunlevy Avenue, Vancouver BC
604-699-1989
belgardkitchen.com
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Personas, Grand Villa Casino

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I never think to visit a casino for dinner, but if you consider the vibe they attempt to create and the guests they wish to attract, a casino for dinner makes perfect sense. Especially a dinner where drinking was a requirement and we were planning to do plenty of it in the comfort of a nice lounge. The added bonus on choosing the “Grand Villa” casino and hotel, was that the taxi ride home wouldn’t be more than $20 seeing as we both reside in Burnaby.

My cab dropped me of at the exterior entrance of the restaurant. I trekked past a private event on the patio, with its own security, to enter the indoor lounge area. My guest took the main entrance route, it travelled through the casino, and required much more walking. A path up stairs and past the hotel lobby with its own Starbucks kiosk. Pass the casino floor with its bright lights and jingling slot machines. The sights and sounds definitely made for an exciting stroll. A baby Vegas. The restaurant is located by their buffet dining area, and their cafe with the food court style seating. The array of dining option transitioned from casual to formal, and its appearance as such was obvious.

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As a disclaimer, I know you can’t take photos in any casino, but I was unsure about taking photos of a restaurant in a Casino. So all the photos in this post are the fruits of my laborious risk. Photos I took by pushing my shutter down quick.

The sun was up and it was only 7pm, but the restaurant was brimming with bodies. It was my first time here, so I don’t know what I was expecting. But I guess considering it was Burnaby, I thought it wouldn’t be this busy, especially so early on a Friday night.

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From the view on the casino floor, the bar fronted the restaurant. A blue wall with rows of empty bottles marked “Personas” like “X” marks the spot. Here lone patrons sat around the “U” shaped bar”. Their eyes set to the predetermined sporting matches broadcasting on the television screens above them, their backs facing the casino floor. They were most contently drinking their pilsners and picking at their appetizers in place of a meal. I figured they were taking a break from their string of inconclusive luck. 

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Tonight without reservations (because once again, I did not believe a casino in Burnaby would be this busy, this early; lesson learned), our only choices were to either sit at the bar out in the casino, or to grab a couch and a side table in their lounge. If we had been smart enough to reserve a table, along with the “reserved” sign they set the seat with complimentary pink cotton candy and pink popcorn. We ended up choosing the latter as we wanted the lounge vibe, and because my guest felt it would be too easy to be approached with unwanted attention at a bar. To her credit, she owns that ability and it has happened to her more than once. 

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Our seats were family style, a lengthy couch that spanned across three seating spaces. Each separate space was punctuated by an irregularly built chair, with a horribly uncomfortable looking low back; and a knee height table with an awkward square stump that went from wide to narrow at its bottom. One look I was worried. We would be eating plenty, and I didn’t look forward to having to hunch over a table to do so. My mom enforced me with the belief that you bring your food to you and not the other way around. So, I was worried about this that I took the time to flag down the hostess, and convey to tonight’s server that we wanted the next available table that opened up. A plea that unfortunately would go unanswered. We watched large reserved tables go unseated all night and its popcorn and cotton candy eventually get taken away. Large tables that remained empty, only to be later divided into smaller units towards the end of the night. When we no longer needed a chest height eating surface. Mid way through our meal there was an uproar. A couple that came later and who were seated beside us for shorter, got moved to a booth. To which my complaint that was explained away by group numbers. Because they were two to a party of four and priority goes to groups.

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There was live music tonight, the “YVR band” performed covers of new and old songs off the top 40 list. From “Journey” to “Lady Gaga”, they had their audience singing along. The crowd loved it and the band fed off their energy. The lead singer really knew how to engage the crowd. She used the entire stage, she strutted her stuff, along with stretching her amazing vocals. The fans and the patrons tonight were of a mature crowd. They all had no fear. No fear of dancing alone, no fear of dancing at all. No one judged, instead everyone found their own place and did their own thing. Even despite any predetermined or designated space for doing so. And after enough prodding from my guest, we too join this brew. The only down side to loud live music is that it is not ideal when trying to catch up with a girl friend. We couldn’t hear one another and I lost my voice from trying. Such places are best for when you want someone’s company, but don’tc necessary want to hear what they have to say. 

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First come the drinks. My guest was content with their “Skinnytinni”, a martini she admittedly choose for its name. I think she had 6-7, they were that good. Each was made with Ciroc red berry vodka, triple sec, and lemon juice. I figured out the origin of its name after just a taste, aspartame. 

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The “Champagne sangria” was made with bubbles, Alize and ciroc peach, pineapple juice, and fresh tropical fruit pieces. The array of fruits weren’t all tropical, but it was a healthy mix, honey dew, strawberry, lemon, watermelon, and pineapple. 

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“Blackberry smash”. Captain morgan dark rum, limoncello, blackberry purée, lemon and lime juice, simple syrup, and mint.

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“Cotton candy Cosmo”. Smirnoff sorbet raspberry pomegranate vodka, Cointreau, cranberry, lime, and a puff of cotton candy. Truly, I wanted this for the promise of cotton candy. Though after a few pulls from the giant wad, I had enough of feeling strands of sugar melt on my tongue, so drowned the rest to sweeten the drink. 

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“Tiki torch”. Level one vodka, soho lychee, cranberry, lime juice, and club soda. Got the lychee flavour, though at this point all alcohol starts tasting the same. 

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“California Sushi Tacos”. Clearly I was lured in by the name of this one. I had to see what the merger of sushi and taco would be. It was glorious. I love a good fusion done right, especially one with such an elegant presentation. Though given the effort put in to it, they could have used an actual bowl instead of the plastic sauce dish. This was crab, avocado, nori (dried seaweed), cucumber, togarashi mayo, wasabi, and sushi rice; all bundled in a gyoza taco shell. The shell was deep fried light, its texture and crunch reminded me of that of a rice cracker. Four was perfect in one sitting, and I wouldn’t be apposed to another four in the near future. 

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“Wok Fried Squid”. Lightly breaded and fried golden squid, tossed in the wok with garlic, sambal oelek, and cilantro. The squid was tender and easy to chew through, I have never had a piece of squid so buttery. The breading gave it some crispness and the spices, it’s kick. 

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“South Beach Salad”. Yes, my guest who ordered the skinny drinks, ordered the salad at a lounge. Though it had a lot of good things going in to it. Mixed greens, grilled chicken, corn, black beans, dates, red onion, red pepper, avocado, and feta; all in a fresh cilantro lime dressing. 

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Instead of going for my usual, the most weird and the whackiest (technically already did that for the appetizers), I went for what sounded like the best pairing of ingredients. The “Grilled Brie & Blackberry Sandwich”. Fresh sourdough, double creamed brie, bacon, arugula, organic black berry jam, and garlic aioli; all grilled to together for melted perfection. Definitely a two handed job, a grown up sandwich with a mature flavour profile. Though despite the promise and the delivery of complimentary flavours, the aioli made each bite extremely oil. The oil had the sourdough soaked to a soggy mess. That and the buttered bread was over kill. Luckily there were some greens present to help cut through the grease. Although unevenly distributed, the middle bulked with green leaves, and the edges went without. Each sandwiches came with fries, salad, or cooked to order kettle chips. Or you could substitute breaded onion rings, yam fries or a Caesar salad for a $2.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
There were so many twists on familiar classics I wanted to try. How can I be restricted to just one or two plates. I will have to plan a party here, where multiple diners and myself can try a whole bunch of dishes by sharing across the table. Back to try their signature “Coca-Cola” sauce with chicken wings. Back for more “California sushi tacos”, a California roll wrapped up in a starchy Gyoza shell. Even the names of serval of their dishes were enough of a reason to order them: “MacDaddy Sliders”, “Knife & Fork Caesar Salad”, and “Pretentious Corn Dogs”. It only gets better: and then there were the desserts. A flaming créme brulee, deep fried Oreos, and caramel popcorn balls frozen in liquid nitrogen. Or even all of the above and then some, on a four person dessert share platter. I don’t often get this excited about a menu, especially one this long and covers everything from pub fare to expensive cuts of steak. But lest we forget, this restaurant had to represent its hotel and casino host, and I feel it did a fine good job dong so. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PERSONAS
Grand Villa Casino
4331 Dominion Street, Burnaby BC
604-453-0811
mypersonas.ca
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Chaser’s Fresh Juice and Deli

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Since I am still on this juicing kick, I thought I would check out another option, besides my neighbourhood go to. What better way to try juices than to stock up with enough for the week?

“Chasers” is one of two options for juice in Yaletown. Their juices, salads, and sandwiches come premade in plastic containers stored in a refrigerated unit; or made to order behind their service counter. With plenty of food and drink choices, the shop easily functions as a quick stop for healthier dining solutions. The perfect destination for a working lunch. Though with an inset glass door hidden amongst red brick it is easy to miss. But the image of fruit catches your eye and you walk into the sandwich board out front.

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Inside the walls were postered with visuals advertising the benefits of doing the cleanse, thinking green, and following the raw food pyramid. I learned that a cleanse benefits the skin, lungs, lymph, colon, liver, and kidneys.

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The first fixture by the door was their “Chaser’s fresh juice… Bottled “fresh”” display. Fruit based juices, greens and nut milk, and pure greens row after row. Depending on type of juice they were bottled at 8oz, 16oz, and 1 litre. Their prices vary from $7-12, depending on the size and the amount of ingredients used. As I was stocking up, I gathered all my juices to go from here. The next unit held their meal options. Salads, wraps, and rice rolls. Neatly stacked clear plastic filled with luscious green leaves and a rainbow of colours in kernels, slices, and sticks. The last free standing fixture held all the dry snacks like granola bars and commercial bags of dried fruit.

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Towards the back of the room was a double counter than spanned the width of the place. Behind its glass was a bevy of fresh fruits and vegetables. All the ingredients were chopped up, shredded, and diced. Then sorted into metal containers for easy access. All varieties of bell peppers, red and yellow onions, black olives, cucumber slices, alfalfa sprouts, spinach leaves, tomato wedges, and jalapeño rings, etc;

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The “make your own sandwich” option, off of one of their over hanging menus, included different breads, the choice of a wrap, to have it panini style, or to leave it untoasted. After you select the exterior of your “sandwich”, you then pick out your base. What is your desired protein? Turkey, roast beef, Black Forest ham, egg salad, tuna, and Montreal smoke meat. Or would you rather have no protein and make it a vegetarian sandwich or wrap instead? From there, it is all pointing. You see and make requests of the various cheeses, the bins of spreads, and the cooler filled with the vegetables above. They called this showcase their “grab and go case”. From here you also can “choose your own salad”. With chicken breast, tuna salad, shrimp, avocado and hummus as add ons for extra. They even do combos with a side of soup or smoothie.

They also served coffee and other hot beverages. I feel that every establishment that serves food needs to serve coffee because it is expected. Like magazines at grocery store line ups. You may not need it and you may never order it, though you want it to be there in case you need it. So that the next time you are in the area and are in desperate need of coffee this would be one place out of numerous restaurants and cafes not focusing on coffee that offers coffee, that you could get coffee at.

For dessert they offered banana bread, lemon and pecan tarts, regular and gluten free muffins and cookies, a fruit cocktail, and quinoa bars. Wrapped in Saran all of the above were ready to be grabbed and taken on the go.

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Now to the actual juice. I liked a few of their juice and smoothie names. They had fun names that described what each was made of: “Mango Mad”, “Green Goddess”, and “The Juice Man”. Or they named their drinks after the properties they hoped would be bestowed to the drinker: “Immune booster”, “high protein”. Though they also took care to list all the ingredients to the side of each juice’s name. There were so many options to choose from with so many exotic fruits like lychee and cactus pear to consider. All the below are 16oz bottles to go, but once again, you can have your juice to go in a plastic cup, or in 8oz, and 1 litre jugs.

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As I drink juice in lieu of eating my vegetables, I made sure to select the ones with leafy greens. I actually cannot stomach the texture of any leafy green vegetable. With one look I reflect back to my childhood. It has given me a crippling fear of eating leafy greens and having the wilted mash of fibres get lodged in my throat. Then me having to pull it out again, only to eventually eat and keep it down, as I had to finish all my vegetables. Horrify then, mortifying as an adult. That is why you don’t see me reviewing many salads. That and I feel I can make a salad so it is not the most bang for my buck. Though truthfully, every salad entree I have tried I have liked, and I would never thought to bring together such an assembly of ingredients. Paying for a salad is paying for the work to craft the perfect one, and to source out all its necessary elements. You are not paying for the labour required to make it.

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The greens.

“Pure Greens”. “No Fruit” delivered on its name. With celery, cucumber, kale, spinach, mint, and ginger as its only ingredients. It sounded heavy, like something I would grimace at, when I took sip in. In reality the drink was surprisingly light. The cucumber was the strong note in this with highlights of celery. And in contrast the kale and spinach were well hidden. It tasted as healthy and as natural as it looked. You just have to get past the pulp if that is not your thing, a bit of chewing required with your liquid. Though overall tolerable until you get to the last bit, at the bottom of the bottle. There it became hard to drink, there I forced it down.

“Mighty kale”. Kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, ginger, and apples. Thankfully the sweetness of the apple came through on this. Though it ended on bitter, as my last sip. Out of fear of the above, I caught myself constantly shaking my juice before I drank and as it sat. All not to have the grit settle and be left with pulp at the end, again.

“Taking care of business”. Spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, ginger, and apples. I assumed this helped with bowel movements based on the name. And I can now confirm it to be true.

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The yellows to orange.

“Golden greens”. Pear, pineapple, kale, cucumber, parsley, and turmeric. By far this was the best of the lot. Easy to drink with the bitterness of kale and the herbaceous-ness of parsley completely hidden behind the strength and sweetness of pineapple. This is the only one I would purchase again.

“Dr. Oz’s swimsuit slim”. Orange juice, pineapple, apple cider vinegar, and honey. I absolutely purchased this based on its promise to have me looking “swimsuit slim”. And as expected it tasted just like a fancy tropical punch, most parts orange. Good for an early morning. The sweet honey hid any taste of vinegar. And the best part, no pulp to sift through. Though really there was nothing special about this juice, outside its catchy name.

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The reds and the black.

“Happy Beet”. Carrots, beets, apple, spinach, strawberry, and blueberry. I remember using this to chase down one of the greens above. It had a manageable sandy texture, but a one dimensional taste. You really got the beets, and just the beets. So I quickly grew tired of the taste. Shame, as the list of ingredients were quite alluring, and it started off being like eating a beet salad.

The “Cleanse cocktail” was made with kale, carrots, beets, wheat grass, and apple. The beets were the most prominent, something I should have guessed based on its deep maroon hue; a hue similar to very beet-full juice above. Except this one had an almost fizzy tang quality to it, like orange soda had been a secret ingredient. As a result, this one tasted better than my last beet bottle. And this one definitely lived up to its descriptive name. It helped me to literally flush my system, if you can catch my drift. This can be a dangerous one if you are unable to be near a toilet all day.

I got the “Charcoal lemonade” because it was black and I wanted to see how black liquid could get, and how charcoal would taste. Plus, I heard charcoal is helpful in soothing stomach aches and I might have indigestion after drinking all these concoctions. Made with lemon, organic activated charcoal, and agave. The lemon gave it flavour, the agave palatable sweetness, and the charcoal benefits to your health. Though it tasted just like regular lemonade and I feared drinking it would stain my lips and teeth. A fear only worsened when in unscrewed the cap and was surprised by the blackness of the drink, even with it being a clear bottle.

 

 

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 like their variety in juice. There were enough flavours to have you coming back for days. But I did not like the amount of pulp in each bottle. Especially as I normally get my juice silky and pulp free. I wouldn’t mind grabbing a custom made sandwich in the future. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CHASER’S
2-1026 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC
604-428-4088
chasersjuice.com
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Sweet Bake Shop

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I have been meaning to check this bakery out for some time now, but each time I am in Yaletown it has been on a Monday, and they are closed on Mondays. However this Friday, the sun was out and their shop front was open and inviting. In an area filled with various restaurants and one of a kind boutiques this cutesy bakery fits in right at home. 

Their make shift patio included matching pink tables and chairs. Metal moulded in to curls and points, delicate and feminine like their brand. The same shade of pink was painted over both their doors. To enter from your left and to leave to your right. No sandwich boards, no awning; just their name and logo stencilled on their window front. It indicated who they were and that you were where you wanted to be for high tea and sweet treats. 

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Inside, by the same front window was additional seating. White pedestal tables partnered with clear plastic chairs. The miniature chandelier, crafted out of metal and crystal above, set the tone for something elegant. This was definitely a female focused and friendly environment. I can only describe this theme as “princess-y” with soft colours and pretty patterns. Though that did not stop men from coming in and taking their treats to go, during my visit. 

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You enter and can’t help but to dart your eyes around, there is so much to take in. Between the dessert themed prints filling otherwise empty wall space, to tables and shelves decorated with bake ware and high tea necessities for sale. “Donuts make life a little sweeter”. “Let us eat cake”. Patterned cupcake liners and flags for toppers, heart shaped silicone cake moulds, multicoloured rubber spatulas, tea towers and tea pots, with beautifully packaged loose leaf tea to match. They even had the cutest pink and white frilled apron draped over a mannequin, a baking fashionista’s dream. 

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Though I was immediately drawn in to the pastel coloured goodies behind their perfectly arranged glass counter. Groups of cupcakes, organized by flavour, each with their own pedestal tray. Vanilla and chocolate bases with multicoloured frosting. Red velvet, chocolate caramel and cotton candy vanilla. I had to indulge in a few. 

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I really liked the care they put into the packaging. It was all in the details.

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The “Vanilla cupcake” looked perfect, though taste wise, it was nothing special. Nothing I couldn’t bake myself, or pour out of a box. It was a simple cake base, with all the flavour in the icing that topped it. The vanilla bean icing not only gave the cupcake its flavour but the sweetness it needed, and that you would use to associate it with a dessert. Wonderful for photos, but not necessarily something I would make my way back for. 

Their “Donut Delight cupcake” was in time for “national donut day”, so that was reason enough for me to get one. Cupcake base wise their chocolate was as simple as the vanilla above, but with the taste of cocoa slightly punctuating each spongy bite. Once again the cake was the base and the frosting was the flavour. The white cream frosting just tasted sweet, like sugar. Sadly what I though would be the highlight of the treat, fell short. The doughnut that sat on top was not a real deep fried doughnut. It was dough shaped into a ring, the same dough used in the vanilla cupcake base above. And therefore the frosting to cake ratio was off. After the second cupcake, I can honestly say that I prefer grocery store one bite cupcakes over these. Those for their moist centres and inexpensive prices. I didn’t feel I got my value’s worth here. 

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They also have various cookies lining rectangular plates. I suspect this selection is on rotation. The classic chocolate chip was present, a rainbow dotted “confetti sprinkle” cookie, and two peanut butter cookies sandwiching cream. The rainbow sprinkles were tempting, and at one left I thought, these must be popular. I was tempted to try one of their new ice cream sandwiches, as the sign listed. Though I wasn’t planning on eating everything right away, and the car ride would have melted my treat quick. Plus the flavours available were only chocolate and vanilla. 

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If you are looking for something more gift-able and travel friendly? They have prepared treats bundled in plastic and tied off with a branded pink bow. Flavoured shortbread like earl grey, lavender, and vanilla bean. Pastel coloured meringue cookies in pink and white. 

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And my favourite, individually wrapped treats decorated for visual adorable-ness. Today there was an iced sugar cookie in the form of a dog and this Vanilla caterpillar macaron. I also saw online that they also do a toast shaped macarons with moustaches. I am sad I missed that one. Although unique and one of a kind, this caterpillar shaped macaron looked better than it tasted. Like all the other macarons below, the colours here did not reflect the tended flavours, I assume they are just dyed for presentation purposes. And as a whole all the macarons tasted sort of similar, just a simple tooth aching sweetness. And this coming for my partner with an unsatisfiable sweet tooth. Each round had a sugary taste with a smidgen of their intended flavour. Sadly too sweet to eat in one sitting and even more sadly, they didn’t keep well.

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I am on the constant search for the best macarons in the city, according to my partner. I introduced the Parisian treat to him a few years ago and since then he has liked them more than I and has craved them more than I. Even to the point that when he sees one he needs to try it. So I consider him somewhat of a connoisseur on the topic, especially as it applies to vanilla and caramel flavoured macarons. With his particular tastes, usually not all the various flavours are to his liking. However here, with all their line up of flavours he was keen on every one. I would call his tastes simple and child-like, similarly were these fun flavoured macarons.

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The “cookie dough” was a teal blue with rainbow sprinkles. It was filled with actual cookie dough. A paste-like sweet dough, that made the whole macaron taste more like a cake than an actual macaron. Both the shell and its centre was sweet, too sweet to finish. And as our first taste we actually had to take a pause from trying more. Maybe each would be able to get away with its level sweetness if they weren’t this large. Though from a value perspective, their size is amazing. Typically a macaron is $2 these were $1.25 each. 

The “caramel delight” had a pastel purple shell with a white cream filling. It tasted more like vanilla than caramel. I could have used actual caramel in the centre, a similar concept to the cookie dough macaron above. 

The “pink champagne” was a baby pink shell with pastel pink cream. It almost smelled like champagne, with a floral essence to it. My favourite if I had to pick, but mostly because of its name. 

The “strawberry cheesecake” was a similar, but lighter pink compared to the “pink champagne”. It is easily differentiated by its white cream filling with white round sprinkles to match. The flavour reminded me of strawberry “Pocky”. But sadly I didn’t get the cheesecake cream cheese flavour that I was hoping from the filling. Or any natural strawberry flavour. 

The “sweet tart” one was the most intriguing. With one half of its shell was in blue and the other in pink, together they sandwiched a bright yellow cream. A very creative flavour choice, though I did not get the tangy taste of sweet tarts candy. Instead I got the same generic sweetness as the other macarons. Though it’s concept was enough to keep me happy. 

The “chocolate toffee” was a bold red with a light brown filling. It resembled red velvet more than its intended flavour, though at least I made out the toffee cream taste in this. This was the most pronounced flavour of the bunch. 

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The girl behind the counter servicing me was so nice. She gave me enough time and enough space to survey the options, before making my final choice. And when I asked if I could take photos of their shop, she was kind enough to literally duck behind the counter, just to avoid being in my shot. She only bounced back up when new customers approached the counter to order. My shot was of the back of house operations. The cafe was an open space with a view of continuous baking. Two young women in aprons rolling dough, piping icing, setting baking pans, and airing fresh out of the oven goods.

Would I come back? – No.
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 really wanted everything to be earth shattering good, as good as they took the time to make everything look. But sadly everything tasted just so-so, nothing stood out, and nothing would warrant a return trip. For my photo’s sake everything was amazing, and for any celebration everything they served would be impressive. But we can’t just judge a cupcake by its icing, it must taste as good as it looks. And here nothing did. Not bad, just generic. Don’t deny your cravings.

SWEET BAKE SHOP
1141 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B5P2
604-424-8800
sweetbakeshop.com
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The Galley

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More sun means more patio time. This particular patio is further than where most would travel, though the view is certainly worth visiting. Though shame that the weather didn’t agree with us today.

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Located by Jericho beach, the drive is far, and the parking lot fee is pricy. So we took advantage of the decent weather and decided to park further away, enjoying our stroll to the Jericho Sailing Centre. We approached hesitantly. The exclusivity of the building, with it being a club with member only restrictions, and its chain gates doesn’t help the restaurant earn walk-in traffic.

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Since 1990, The Galley Patio and Grill has been one of Vancouver’s best beach front casual dining destinations. With their unique view, encompassing the downtown skyline, Stanley Park, the Northshore Mountains, Bowen Island, and the Straight of Georgia; they are a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

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You enter through the side entrance of the sailing centre, travelling past the boats docked, up a flight of winding stairs, down an empty hall, and past bulletin boards with notices. You know you are at the restaurant from the looks of the snapped surfboard repurposed to a sign above red framed doors. This is not your usual route towards any restaurant, but this isn’t your typical restaurant. The restaurant and the it community centre it was built in comes with a rich story. It was going to be torn down in 1972, but sailors begged the city to save this historic building, so here it stands today, a community centre on the water. A momentum of an old military operation from World War 2, rebuilt to this sailing centre in 1900.

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The restaurant was your typical food court set up. You order at one of two counters and grab any available seat. The tables and chairs are simple in and out doors, though it is really the view on the patio you come for. A 140 person patio, with a members only side and another open to the public. Though if you like the space, but want a settling less casual, they do rent their rooms out for events. And with a table cloth and some natural elements they become a unique place for a larger birthday gathering or for an impressive work function.

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The service counter closest to the door was for your dressed up fast food, deep fried, lunch fair. Soups and salads, appetizers, sandwiches, and burgers listed on menus over head. Highlighted in red with white and blue stripes, it had a consistent sailor theme to it. To the right of this was the secondary counter serving more cafe friendly items. Instead of beer and wine it had coffee and tea. Muffins, croissants, and other baked goods sat ready behind glass. Though if you are in it for dessert you can choose from 12 classic flavours of neon bright ice cream. Bubble gum or tiger tail anyone? The ice cream was your classic scoop and serve from white buckets set up. Not that ice cream goes bad, but they didn’t looked all that appealing sitting at the very bottom of the bucket.

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You may be wondering how well they do without the sun and the great patio weather. They do well because of their food. They have recently hired a new chef to revitalize their menu, to improve the dinner program, and to have fun with their cuisine. After all you need a reason to bring them in, and a better one to have them coming back. Though even with the clump of clouds, the view is definitely worth the trip out. Today the sun was trying, and we still took in the scene before us with much delight. The thought of walking straight off the beach, up to this patio, with sand still in between your toes is an alluring one. And I can imagine even more so with the heat from a full sun shining against your shoulders.

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“Kettle chips & queso”. House fried kettle chips dusted in sea salt, served with their signature cheese sauce and jalapeños. I never had a chip so good. Fresh, crunchy, and light. I could haven eaten a bag of these with or without the creamy warm cheesy dip. Freshly fried really makes the difference.

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“Grilled sausage & kraut”. Pork sausage, sauerkraut, and hot mustard. The juicy and spicy sausage paired well with the fresh sour pickle. And the hearty mustard added some depth.

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“Wild BC salmon salad”. Grilled sockeye, green beans, olives, and a free-run egg; coated in a mango vinaigrette. This was a simple salad, only lightly dressed. I couldn’t make out the mango in the dressing, but was able to enjoy the freshness of the greens. The green beans were a nice addition, my first having them in a salad. Their crunchy snap was a nice contrast to the leafy greens. The boiled egg was stiff by comparison, I found the yolk over cooked. And the salmon was definitely the highlight of the dish, tender and flaky with a peppery seasoning.

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“Jamaican jerk chicken burger” with a mango salsa. The chicken breast was cooked perfectly, a moist centre with a slight char from the grill. The rub was evenly coated, it had a naturally smokey and spicy tone to it, it went down with a slight burn. I would go back just for this burger.

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“Grilled haloumi & avacado” flatbread with grilled zucchini and roasted red pepper, topped with crema. I liked this the most, and surprisingly so given its look, especially compared to the other more visually friendly appetizers. I liked it enough to google what “haloumi” was: “hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, and sometimes also cow’s milk.” It has a higher melting point, therefore you are able to boil or grill this cheese. It was like the most flavourful vegetarian taco that have ever had.

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“Sockeye salmon roll” with BC salmon, celery, onion, celery, and aioli, wrapped up in butter grilled roll. The salmon was a little on the dryer side. I could have used some mayo to moisten the mix. The celery and greens really helped to freshen up each bite.

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They call their nachos, “Vancouver’s best nachos”, made with “South of the border” taco meat, handmade salsa, onions, guacamole, roasted corn, black beans, and lots of nacho cheese. The size of the serving was most impressive. A dish fit for four with plenty of condiments to go around. In humour they called their toned down version of this, without the meat and corn: “Vancouver’s 3rd best nachos”. The greatness of a good nacho platter is in its size and elaborate dressing. Plenty of ingredients evenly sprinkled, served with fresh dips. This had it all.

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“Oceanside charcuterie”. Oyama select meats, Quebec cheeses, smoked salmon, olives, and bread. Pretty standard, you can’t go wrong with a good build your own bite of m meat and cheese.

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“Chilerio pulled pork”. Sinaloa Mexico pulled pork, cheddar, and jalapeño on a griddled sourdough bread.

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“All ‘Merica burger” made with jalapeños, ‘Mercian yellow cheese, red hot onions, and a chipotle mayo.

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“Baja fish sandwich” with beer battered cod, chipotle slaw, and salsa.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This is your old fashion beach style restaurant, serving light summertime classics that any one can find delight in. Dishes enjoyed best on their beach side patio with ice cold beers. They service the beach with their dressed up fast food. Not just hot dogs and onion rings, but chicken burgers and homemade kettle chips. All you do is walk up from the beach, and sit down to enjoy their view: English Bay, Vancouver, and beyond. Don’t deny your cravings.

THE GALLEY
Jericho Sailing Centre
1300 Discovery Street, Vancouver BC
604-222-1331
thegalley.ca
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West Oak

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I love a good Happy hour: great food and drink deals, enjoyed in a more peaceful restaurant setting. The perfect setting for catching up with a girl friend between 3-6pm. Today we were in Yaletown and stopped at “West Oak” for their half price appetizers and their $5 pints of beers and $6 glasses of wine.

Sadly, with the gentle rain falling their patio was sealed off in plastic. Although open and heated with lamps, we preferred the warmth of their well lit indoors, and the view of a well dressed dining area. After all there is not much to enjoy in a plastic wrap patio void of sun.

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Inside, the dining area was at the forefront, the kitchen towards the very back, and the bar on the right before the patio entrance. The entire open room was kept simple: white walls opposing one of red brick, wood floors under foot and single bulged lights dangling above. Bathe in golden light, the soft wooden tables and matching chairs, gave the dining area a more refine looked. Though the recycled logo-ed paper placemats partnered with white cloth napkins were a bit of a miss.

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We grabbed a tall booth facing the bar. It was a small bar, but one that was well stocked: various jiggers and bottles on shelves, glasses stacked in pyramids, and rows of copper cups on top of rows of copper mugs. From where we sat, with a good squint you can make out the kitchen, to observe the chefs in their white smocks moving about their pristinely kept work area. I like the nothing to hide approach of an open kitchen.

The restaurant was fairly new, only a year ago it was a Chinese restaurant, and as a homage to them, the current restaurant kept a variation of their popular prawn dish on the menu. “Chinois Prawn” seasoned with house made spicy aioli, and topped with candied walnuts. Clearly the name and its description was done with a strong North American influence. Given the feel of the place, and the contemporary menu that sat before us, we choose dishes more fitting of our fruity cocktails.

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When asked if there were any cocktails on special for happy hour, we were told all their cocktails are always on special, all doubles mixed in house squeezed fresh juices, when applicable. “The Bramble” Bombay sapphire gin, fresh lemon, raspberry liqueur, soda, and fresh blackberry.

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“The cotton tail”. Russian standard vodka, fresh watermelon, mint, and fresh lime.

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“West oak green salad” made with organic green, beets, radish, their signature seed mix, and crumbled feta; coated in their smoked tomato vinaigrette. I was only able to make out the sunflower and the black and white sesame seeds in their “signature seed mix”. They, spotted each bite of leafy lettuce and softened beets with a crumbly texture and a nutty note. I enjoyed the golden beets the most, they hungrily soaked up the smoke from the earthy vinaigrette and gave the dish some sweetness.

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A “Burrata and prosciutto” themed charcuterie board featuring various colours of olives, a spreadable fig jam, some grainy mustard, and cuts of grilled bread to eat them all with. A handsome array of salty meats and creamy cheeses, to enjoy with sweet jams and briny olives. They were best taken all together, in one bite, evenly smeared over each buttery and crunchy piece of toast.

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“Vancouver island mussels and fries” prepared with white wine, shallots, lemon zest, sun dried tomato, and pesto. Served with a side of triple cooked house made fries. The thick cut fries were crisp on the outside, with a similar texture to mashed potatoes in its centre. The tomato sauce/broth that sat at the bottom of the pot was zesty and only a tad spicy. With the bread already dunked in, it made a decent stew or chunky soup. The chunks of tomato add in offered a change of texture. Its tart taste balanced well the natural fishy flavour of the mussels. And to our delight, each open shell had a steamed mollusk in it.

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“Sautéed calamari”. Humboldt squid, with cherry tomatoes, olives, and cilantro; in a tequila broth. You definitely got the sour sting of tequila first, a taste made more sour with the use of whole olives and the very distinct cilantro. Then to end things, there was a deep burn from the jalapeños slices hidden. Cut long, each piece of squid was cumbersome to consume. And although cooked tender, it was still difficult to bite in half for more manageable mouthful. I ended up folding each tube into my mouth, and chewing it down like a cow working on cud. Am I the only one who reads “calamari” and automatically think battered and deep fried squid? Even though “calamari” means “squid” in Italian, it has come define deep fried squid in my mind.

 

Our bartender/server was very attentive in the beginning. He checked on us often and made attempts to converse us in small talk. Though as our meal drew long, he eventually stopped checking in and our empty dishes started to pile up, while our thirst grew and our glasses continue to remain empty. With the lack of space on our own table, and the inability to stack used dishes on the adjacent tables, we were forced to pile them one on top of another, and eat awkwardly from a raised platform. Despite the lack of patrons and the fact that only two other tables were being seated, we were unable to have any of our dishes temporarily live on the adjacent table or on the divide to the right of me. When we tried to, with a scrabble, our bartender helped to arrange our plates. Apparently the manager would be upset if we were allowed to temporarily occupy two tables, or so he stated. I found that odd. Seriously no one else was here.

 

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 liked the food enough and the setting was nice enough, though there was nothing unique about the place to have me hungry for a quick return or eager to share its existence with any one else. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WEST OAK
1035 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC
604-629-8808
westoakrestaurant.com
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Rain or Shine Ice cream

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The newest location of popular, local, small batch ice creamery: “Rain or Shine” is on west Cambie. And there is no surprise to see that they are just as busy as their original shop on West 4th. Though with its larger space here, and all its additional seating, the wait doesn’t look so long and the room doesn’t feel so cramped. Good thing, as I don’t like walking and eating ice cream, and we were able to grab seats at one of their share style tables. After all having to walk while eating from a cone or cup takes away from your cool treat.

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Like their West 4th location, here on Cambie, they too had an iconic purple cow’s bust mounted on the wall. Its claim to fame: the fact it sports an upside down ice cream cone on its forehead. The cow stared contently at an equally decorative and equally eye catching sun, mounted across the room. Maybe it was the reason why the ice cream on the cow’s head was melting? The points of the sun were carefully arranged cones sans ice cream; and its centre, a grassy clump rimmed by yellow.

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Towards the front of the shop is a section of wall, papered in raining ice cream cones. Wallpaper only an ice cream shop can pull off. And just above it, a make shift chandelier, shining light through several over turned glass milk bottles. And above the check out counter was an arrangement of filled and empty honey combs purely for decor purposes. It seems they are very committed to their all natural milk and honey theme.

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The line grew out the door this balmy evening. From the end you have to squint to see the menu behind the counter. A menu of labels pinned. The permanent listing was printed in “times news roman” and their “seasonal flings” we’re written in purple washable marker. “The keepers” included chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel, coffee toffee, London fog, balsamic blueberry, peanut butter, and cracked mint. For spring they had rhubarb ginger streusel, rosemary olive oil with candied pine nuts, malted milk chocolate honey comb, and Powell street brewery dive bomb porter. For the vegans there was a coconut chocolate chunk and a cucumber lime sorbet. Similar to their original location, they too offer ice cream flights: 4 flavours for $9; and they too celebrate taco Tuesdays: where the traditional waffle cone is moulded in to the shape of a taco shell then filled with ice cream, whipped cream, and toppings. Such toppings include hot fudge sauce, warm caramel sauce, buckwheat honey, seasonal berry compote, toffee brittle, seasonal olive oil, balsamic reduction, and candied hazelnuts. Half the fun is reading all their ice cream, sundae, and milkshake options and going back and forth on what you want.

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You are able to ask for samples. Trying potential flavour choices or ones you would never otherwise order. They use each wooden scoop to its fullest potential, doling out two different flavours on each of its flat ends. I feel too greedy to ever try more than two. After making your choice you head over to the register on the left. If you ordered a cone and need both hands to pay, they have you covered. Rest your pointed treat in their wooden block a while. This is a very clever idea born out of necessity.

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I sampled a few of the seasonal options, and although I appreciated their complexity of flavours, not enough so for a full serving. I find it all too sweet and instead resorted to getting “London Fog”, my usual fall back. Where you get the light creamy tea taste without the texture of its leaves.

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I was however excited to be dessert-ing with my favourite vegan today, to see how she weighed their dairy free options. Having never had real ice cream made with cow’s milk, I wondered how she would deem this simulation made with coconut milk. She had the “Vegan yumaste”, their vegan sundae option. Two scoops of coconut chocolate chunk ice cream, with their seasonal berry compote and candied hazelnut. No whipped cream, but plenty of chocolate, no sprinkles but fresh berries and crunchy nuts were just as good. As an expert on coconut based ice cream, she found her first taste of any sundae good. Though did find m the salty and sweet nuts took away from the lighter cream. She also didn’t like their crunch, founding each nut too large and too distracting from the creamy churned coconut milk. If her scooping the cup clean is any indication, I think it is fair to say their vegan ice cream is delicious.

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My other guest was excited to have their “Malted milk chocolate honey comb”, a naturally sweetened ice cream littered with chocolate and honey comb candy chunks and bits. Its tastes reminded me a lot of “Malteasers”, those chocolate balls with milk chocolate shells and malt honeycomb centres. Though I don’t think they used actual “Malteasers”, it just tasted like they did.

 

Sadly my cone was the only one to taste burnt. But we all made the mistake of getting cones tonight. Cones that we were forced to finish under the gun, due to leaky bottoms. We were forced to alternate from licking ice cream from the top and sucking melted cream from the hole at the bottom. Sticky fingers and many crumpled pieces of tissue later, a few of us finished our edible containers. I instead, sucked all the ice cream out and toss the rest of cone out. I like the thought of being able to eat everything and having some crunch to your iced cream. Though not at the loss of being a mess and not enjoying a treat meant to be savoured.

 

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.
All natural ice cream in unique flavours, what is there not to like? Though truthfully I haven’t met an ice cream I didn’t like and one I couldn’t finish. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAIN OR SHINE
3382 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V5Z2W5
604-876-9986
rainorshineicecream.com
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