Broken Rice

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We were here on the recommendation of one of my guests, having had the food once before, he deemed it worth a second round. The name “Broken Rice” was pretty catchy. I believe it spoke to the texture and type of rice served; I guess we would soon find out.

The decor was unlike any other Vietnamese restaurant I have been too. The restaurant was dressed modern and kept very tidy. From the exterior stone veneer and outdoor seating, to the crisp white table cloths paired with their gloss black chairs. Wooden chairs so hard that we left our meal with flattened bottoms and aching backs.

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The French influences on the Vietnamese culture was evident here through the table linens and oil painted art work. A Parisian night in the city, framed in gold and hanging gingerly against an otherwise stark white wall.

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The nods to the Vietnamese culture came from traditional artifacts and specific design elements. A row of teapots lined the top of an antique looking curio. The former used ornamentally and the latter used practically. The robust cabinet was home to extra dish ware and spare utensils. Towards the back, in an alcove above was a gathering of goods: what looked like a strum-able musical instrument and a heavy cast iron kettle. Beneath it a powered off flat screen television. And to its right was a stone chisel statue that looked to be standing on guard. Behind a draped curtain that gathered on the ground was their single stalled washrooms for men and women.

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A thatched roof crafted of straw and bamboo stood right at the door way. You walked under and past this gazebo in order to enter. Similarly there was a wood tiled roof above the bar hidden at the back. It distinguished both areas as something separate from the dining room. Just to sidetrack: It just dawned on me that the majority of North American influenced establishments lead with their bar as a place to dine and drink. An optimal place to see and be seen. Whereas others have it tucked away at the back, as a place to prepare alcoholic beverages and an option for the single and lonely.

Overall the restaurant was an enjoyable place to dine in in our group of six. Our three small tables butted together gave us ample elbow room, we were comfortably able to pass and share appetizers. Though on this hot day we wished for a dial up on the air conditioning. Given the meal of hot broth and steaming noodles to come we found the heat hard to eat through. In temperatures too temperate I find my appetite decreased and I am less likely to order more or even finish my request of a smaller portion.

Their menu was as fusion as their decor felt. Written in English it was clear where their variations on the traditional Vietnamese cuisine lay. Arranged by small plates, noodle bowls, salads, and mains. The familiar pho noodle soup, vermicelli, lemon grass, and fish sauce were all present. Though partnered with the less common frog legs, salmon ceviche, shank stewed in Cabernet, and turmeric and rice flour crepes. Together this was my kind of food.

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“Cassava fries”, crispy cassava wedges seasoned with paprika and served with a jalapeño garlic mayo. As a potato alternative you cannot bite in expecting the same texture. These were thick cuts of starch. I found their gritty and chalk texture made them less enjoyable to eat. An acquired texture for sure. Something that could have been helped with thinner strips, a deeper fry, and a lot more sauce to coat each stick.

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“Duck confit sliders”. Listed as a “Broken Rice” favourite, and what my guest had to come back for. This was a steamed white flour bun filled with duck confit, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, onions, and cilantro; dressed in hoisin sauce. The sauce was dominating, its salty nature overwhelming; there wasn’t enough dough to balance out the flavour. And I found the pickled vegetables and the pulled duck lost under a spicy heat.

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“Phnom Penh roll”. A salad roll filled with Chinese sausage, egg, carrot, Jicama, basil, lettuce, and peanuts; wrapped in rice paper and served along side a sweet peanut sauce. These were rolled carefully to display its full range of ingredients, a real visual treat. The surprise of the fried onions was enjoyed the most, along with the crisp lettuce it gave things a nice crunchy texture. Though as fresh as each bite was, it was a tasteless assembly without the sauce. I find you never get all the sauce that you need, my preferred ratio is 2:1 sauce to roll. So by me taking the last portion it meant I got to go to town with whatever that was left. A greedy scoop that didn’t have me considering the others I was dining with. Perfection.

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“Spring rolls”. A combination of minced pork, carrot, taro root, mushroom, and onions hand wrapped in rice paper and deep fried; served with a fish sauce for dipping. It looked and tasted average, not too oily. And as is the case with most fried dishes it wasn’t very good when cooled down.

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“Spicy hue lemongrass noodle soup”, round rice noodles with Vietnamese ham and beef in a spicy lemon grass broth. Surprisingly there were more ingredients than noodles in the bowl, a rarity at other noodle places that use the noodle as an inexpensive filler. The freshness of the ingredients added to the rich broth. It tasted authentic, just the right blend of sour and spicy.

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“Pork three ways on rice”. Pork chops, shredded pork, and minced pork loaf on rice; served with a side salad. My guest found this nothing special, nothing that couldn’t be made at home. The loaf was most interesting, a spring roll filling reconstructed to this cake-like patty.

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“Reconstructed pho”. Highly recommend by our server, his voice became enthusiastic as he wrote the order down. It was beef carpaccio laid over sautéed rice noodles in a ginger pho reduction, topped with deep fried crispy rice noodles, sawtooth herbs, pickled onions, and a hoisin drizzle. The obvious difference: this was dry pho, no broth, but the noodles tasted like they have been soaking in it. Of all the dishes this was definitely the most unique and the best presented.

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“Lemongrass chicken and egg on rice”. Grill lemon grass marinated chicken and a fried egg on broken rice, served with a side of greens. Tender skewered pieces of chicken grilled with a good char. The egg broke releasing runny yolk to coat and soften the grains of chunky rice underneath. A standard, but well done entree.

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I played it safe with what I knew I would like: the “House vermicelli”. Vermicelli with grilled chicken, pork brochette, and a spring roll. All elements were presented on a bed of greens and served with a decent portion of fish sauce. The chicken was not cooked consistently; there were more pieces that were dry and over cooked than there were tender and juicy.

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“Beef stew noodles”. Slowly simmered beef noodle stewed with carrots, onions, and cilantro. The meat was similar to the taste and texture of beef brisket, chewy bites as hearty and as savoury as the broth it sat in.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I really enjoy this type of cuisine. Traditional dishes I know and love made all the better with special twists and unique variations. Good food in a clean and inviting environment. Located conveniently in my neighbourhood with ample meter and free parking if you look long enough, there is no reason why I wouldn’t return. Don’t deny your cravings.

BROKEN RICE
4088 E Hastings Street, Burnaby BC, V5C2J3
604-558-3838
brokenrice.ca
Broken Rice on Urbanspoon

American Girl Bistro

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For those of you who don’t already know the sensation that is “American Girl”, let me explain. The company started off as a publisher. A way to get little girls interested in history through their line of historical dolls and books that told an accurate but fictitious story of those long long ago and far far away. From there the brand has sprung boarded. Growing their name with dolls that look like you and stories of girls that went through life’s issues just like you. Lessons on bullying, a developing body, and saying no to drugs. Life made easy with manuals that read like a story. Mothers and daughters agree the dolls are a hit, a girl’s best friend personified.

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After visiting the American Girl Boutique at Chapters Robson and wanting to learn more about this experience and phonemon, it was time for a field trip to the states. Our destination, the American Girl store in Lynnwood. We went as a group of doll enthusiast ready to have eyes wide open and jaws dropped. Here we would reflect on our childhood and the absence of these wonderful dolls in them.

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The cafe is located with in their store, another service along side the hair salon, the ability to pierce your doll’s ears and to craft her her own tee shirt to match yours.

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The cafe is a barrage of cute and pink, swirled together in varying shades to become every little girl’s dream room, her favourite place to host high tea. Pink walls, pink tops, pink flowers in a miniature watering cans on each pink table, and pink menus divided into desserts and entrees. Each seat was set with napkins folded and tied off with a pink bow. A hair tie you then get to take home to use in your own hair or that of your doll’s The booths were striped in pink, brown and green; and the chairs done with brown backs and a polka dotted cushion.

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Most impressive was the ceiling feature, designed to look like a giant flower blooming from above. It’s centre a swirl of lights, wires, and bulbs. And surrounding it, more lighting in the form of orbs made of intertwined wire.

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Seeing as we didn’t have any dolls of our own we were able to enjoy our snack with dolls that the bistro loaned out. Dolls sitting on shelves waiting to dine with you right at your table, and best part you can choose which one you wanted. Each doll came dressed in her trademark pink top, grey skirt, and brown boots. With them we were given a special pink seat. The miniature chair easily slid into place between the table’s edge. Positioned beside you on the kitty corner, your doll and her seat didn’t take up any extra space. Our group of three each choose a doll with hair and eyes that best matched our own. I named mine Ivy for the day. This concept is such a smart event. What little girl doesn’t enjoy eating with her doll? If she brings her’s to the dinner table at home imagine the joy of bringing her to an actual restaurant? And if any girl comes without her doll or with a friend who doesn’t have a doll, they don’t have to miss out on the experience by dining with the dolls on loan.

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The servers wore pink aprons over their black and white dress code. Like the rest of the staff they were all female and all well trained to speak to younger girls and their older accompanying associates. After all this was all about letting these girls be girls in a safe space. Our server greeted us like a long lost friend. Inviting and friendly, she wore it on her face as a smile and spoke it through her kind words. As this was our first time she went through the adventure with us, setting down a little pink box when she was done. These were table top conversation starters. Random questions to propose to your group and stir some friendly comparisons or gentle debate.

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When in Rome… Apparently the thing to get here is their “pink lemonade”. A neon drink that best represents the pink of the place in liquid form. And as we were given our glasses each of our dolls got her own cup and saucer too. Little extras that we would be able to take home, as another great souvenir of today’s events.

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We were here focusing on their menu of desserts. Broken up between “frozen treats” and “one of a kind creations”, we passed on the every day milk shakes, smoothies, and sundaes; opting instead for that which we couldn’t find else where.

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“Chocolate mousse flowerpot”. Light and fluffy chocolate mousse topped with crumbled cookies, and served with a mini cookie on the side. Each serving arrives in their signature green flowerpot with a cheerful daisy planted in. What a cute idea, a visual feast before you actually feasted. The cookies were moist, clearly baked on the day. The mousse was whipped until smooth and best paired with the crunch of the ground up cookie crumb “dirt”.

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A “Trio of mini ice cream cones” in vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. Each ball of ice cream is dipped in colourful candy sprinkles. They tasted like your standard Neapolitan flavours in your regular cones made of butter, flour, and sugar. It is more about the novelty of having three ice creams instead of one, and having three flavours instead of committing to one.

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“Biggest brownie sundae ever”. The suggested sharing was between 4-6 people. Our group of three women was up to the challenge. Eight alternating scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, smothered with rich brownie crumbles and topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, and bright red cherries. At $21 this would be the most I have ever spent on ice cream. But wow you get a lot. Assembled for the most impact on a long dish, you can’t help but to to stare with awe in your eyes while grinning with delight on your lips. The ice cream and toppings were out of your childhood dreams. Though the cookie crumbs were hard and almost stale; I wanted more chewiness from them like what we had with our heart shaped brownie pieces at each end.

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This whole experience is replicated for every little girl that enters on any day of the week. Be it a Sunday high tea service with an actual three layered tray and tea pot, an everyday lunch of sandwiches or pasta, or a once a year birthday party with all her closest friends. The back is equipped with a full kitchen and a band of talented chefs. Their goal to put out the perfect plates to keep these little faces smiling. With advance notice the staff are also able prepare a special room to host any party. But for a birthday each girl and doll get their own crowns to wear in celebration of the occasion. And to take home a goodie bag with birthday themed tee and red American Girl balloon for each doll.

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.
Maybe not the first place in mind for a meal with your grown up friends, but truly one of the best places for a little girl and her doll. I only wish I had this growing up and can share this now with all the little girls I know. A restaurant that is not only about the food, but has equal emphasis put into the setting and the service, then the experience of everything all together. For an hour I was allowed to be a kid again, to play make believe and order whatever I wanted without thought of consequence. For me this is a memory I will cherish, as I know, no doubt the other girls in the cafe would too. Don’t deny your cravings.

AMERICAN GIRL BISTRO
3000 184th Street, Southwest Lynnwood WA, 9803
877-247-5223
American Girl on Urbanspoon

Sushi Mori

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We came on a recommendation from one of my guests. Decor alone he knew this would be a restaurant that I would enjoy writing about if not sitting in. On the exterior the restaurant looks pretty unspectacular, its name like any other. Though it came with high hopes promising us a “taste of true Japan” on the awning.

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The first steps inside was the real treat. Walking in was like walking out. The feeling of being outdoors, with artificial cherry trees erected and their branches stretching out across the ceiling. The foliage covered the full length of the dining room.

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And on this late afternoon with the setting sun peaking just right through the half drawn windows. Beams of sun streaked in to highlight branches and cause petals to shine. A scene almost reminiscent of that which you could find in nature, well replicated for an indoor visual display. Artificial cherry blossoms deserving of all the photos I took, well crafted plastic and fabric duplicated. There was even a giant gnarled truck mounted firm on the hard wood floor. Standing tall amongst the seating benches and the other more slender tree trunks. You can’t help but freeze in the foyer, doing a double take, breathing in the amazement of such a clever idea. Whether the food was good or bad I felt I had already won with such an experience, and I was neither greeted at the door way or had yet been given a menu to flip through.

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After you take in the visual of the trees you need only to look down to be furthered amazed. A showcase of pre-prepared dishes, plated perfectly then sealed under tightly stretched Saran Wrap. A sample of wonderfully presented plates, an example of potential dishes to come. And judging by the gaps, an interactive display you were also available to shop from as take out. Though I question its freshness, sitting out unrefrigerated; especially a seafood based portion in this summer heat. Their “Volcano roll” made with salmon, tuna, and mayonnaise; “ebi mayo” with quick to become soggy battered tempura sitting on a bed of wilted green; and the “Super crispy tempura roll” which wouldn’t be too crispy sitting for longer than five minutes under plastic.

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We were directed to a cabana like room made up of three walls, one of the many others that outlined the restaurant. Each helped to separate gatherings from other groups with a barrier of wood and plastic in between. The cubicle was decorated with a tarp, on it charcoal sketches of pointed shells and steaming tea. It overlooked our shiny lacquered wood table and our benches for seats. Without pillows it was a hard sit I couldn’t imagine you would want to do for long. The room gave us ample elbow room and some needed privacy, though I was a little disappointed to not be dining under the trees tonight. But our private room did give us a great view to look out at it from.

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Our complimentary tea came in a very traditional looking cast iron teapot. Its metal helped to keep the tea warmer for longer, and its weight helped make things feel more official. The menu, its pages, and all the side plates and dish ware matched the decor: cherry blossoms in full bloom.

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The menu was an expansive page turner. Groupings of common Japanese restaurant fare found anywhere and some dynamic rolls and appetizers all their own. They had two pages just dedicated to their home spun specialty rolls. With intriguing names like, “Oceans 11″, “Tarantula”, “Barbie Doll”, “Crazy Boy”, and “Hula-Hula”, they really didn’t speak to the ingredients inside or on top, but they did their job to peak my interest and have me reading the fine print. But with a menu this size how can one be sure that they get the best the restaurant has to offer? We didn’t have the time to read it all, there was no list of specials or symbols to show what most popular to make it easy on us. And when we asked our server for her suggestion, she wasn’t much help, she instead offered a menu with photos. At least she was passionately friendly, providing us with common courtesies and polite answers to our other many questions that she was able to answer. There was just so much to go through on the menu and much more to inquire about. And despite the dinner-ing hour our food came relatively quick.

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“Killer tuna taco”, four crunchy taco shells filled with seared tuna and fresh vegetable. These weren’t your traditional yellow corn flour tortilla shells. Airy and light they better accentuated the simplicity of Japanese cuisine. They also helped to give this otherwise soft dish its needed crunch factor. The tuna was perfectly seared, though with such a beautiful red colour it should have it centred on the plate. The focal image instead of the pile of loose leafy vegetables it was covered by. The ponzu sauce was the best part, giving the dish it’s distinct taste, similar to a light soya sauce but fairly mild and gently sweeten. Though don’t let the tacos sit in it for too long. The bottoms of ours soaked up the liquid of the sauce causing it to get soggy and the bottom fell out. I don’t know how authentic tacos are in Japanese cuisine, but this was creative and definitely all their own.

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“Pork Gyoza”, well seasoned meat stuffed in pockets of rubbery dough. Pretty standard, these tasted as good as I expected with a sauce served to enhance its already solid flavours.

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“Assorted tempura: 3 pieces of prawn and 3 of vegetable”. Despite requesting for and being charged for the smaller assorted tempura, I am pretty sure we were accidentally given the “Deluxe Assorted tempura”, a fact we clued into only after having difficultly finishing our requested portion. Piled high these lightly battered seafood and root vegetables came piping hot from the fryer. Thanks to their blotting nothing came overly oily.

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“Fried California roll”. Just as it sounds, served hot and fresh out of the deep fryer. This too was well blotted and came to us crisp without any excess oil. So excited by this, I had to do the thing where you pop a whole piece into your mouth, only to find out the hard way that it is too hot. So you then proceed to try to blow in and have it cool down while still whole, balancing on your tongue, in your gaping mouth. This event transpired even after we were given a warning of its higher temperature by our server. Worth it. Soft mayonnaise crab and crispy tempura batter make for a complimentary combination.

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“Crunch spicy tuna roll”, a tuna roll made crunchy through the use of tempura batter fried into flakes. A messy dish with loose crumbs, it was easier to pick up each piece with your hands, that eat you ensured nothing fell off. The spice level was primary with an equal amount of sweet to heat.

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I always have to get the weirdest thing on the menu, despite it being logical or not. As a food blogger I feel the need to try it and document that which might turn others off. In this case it was a cheesy dish. Cheese at a Japanese restaurant and it isn’t over a baked oyster? Cheese with BBQ skewers? – Why not. The “Kingdom skewer”
is two large skewers pierced through an assortment of vegetables and meat. Deep fried tuna, prawn, scallop, AAA beef, chicken, mushroom, broccoli, red pepper, and onion. Each rod sits on top of a bed of mozzarella cheese made melty and oily from the heat of the meat. Then generously covered in crunchy tempura flakes. With all that was already going on on the skewers the extras were over kill, excessive. The meat was already well seasoned by the teriyaki sauce and the char from the barbecue. Though other than the flakes and some of the seasonings use none of this was Japanese. My biggest gripe about this order was the inconsistency from skewer to skewer and protein to protein. Over cooked salmon, chewy beef, raw peppers. They would have been better off cooking each element separately and as needed before stringing them all together.

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“Green dragon”, prawn, cream cheese, and cucumber, topped with avocado and green tobiko. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t come looking like a dragon, but did appreciate and notice the attempt made at making the roll curve like a serpent. Creamy and sweet it was more avocado in flavour than anything else.

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“Bliss roll”, crab meat, avocado, cucumber, spicy tuna, prawn, ebi, tuna, tobiko, and green onion. This was a mouthful. It tasted as all the ingredients rolled up in it. Although good, the fish dish it came it was most memorable. It is almost a novelty now to have as many rolls as possible with the most ingredients possible. A slight variation from one to a other deserves a new name. Are we out of new ideas yet? And all this is a far walk away from the traditional fresh fish on white rice sushi of true Japanese cuisine.

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The washrooms were consistent with their theme. A branch of cherry blossoms over the vanity and painted fish swimming along the four walls. A very thoughtful tray of toiletries were provided by the sink. Perfume and mouthwash for general use, for those feeling less than fresh after their meal.

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.
After the meal I still stand by the fact that the decor was the best part of our experience. The food was good and priced fairly of its value. Not everything was necessarily authentic, as the sign outside suggest, but with this much going on you are bound to find something you like. Our meal came quick and we left happy and full so we have nothing to complain about. We even had complimentary candies with our bill of $25 per person. Don’t deny your cravings.

SUSHI MORI
2565 Barnet Hwy, Coquitlam BC
604-468-7253
Sushi Mori on Urbanspoon

P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro

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When travelling to the states and craving Chinese food, what is one to do? We found ourselves at “P.F. Chang’s” for quintessential Chinese-American fast food. Holding a prime location within Lynnwood Mall, its exterior and sign were visible from the street driving up. Though if you manage to miss it the bridled and saddled horse made a statue in white is hard to ignore.

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Inside, the restaurant was dressed very modern with touches of traditional Chinese. Set in amber tones with splashes of red, it felt very warm and inviting. Mosaic tiled columns and artificial stone fixtures. Lengthly space filling mirrors above the booths that lined the far right wall. Large circles of light covering the ceilings, speckling it like polkadots. Half drawn shades in yellow over frosted glass of orange.

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An iron-esque statue of a Chinese warrior clad in armour. Asian lanterns hung over the bar, crafted from wood and paper with tassels dangling. And of course a lucky cat with its paw up ushering good fortune. Most striking was their full length wall mural. Posted above the kitchen it depicted traditional life in China through watercolour and pastel paints. A picnic in the woods. Packaged dishes, a minstrel strumming, and cloaked citizens gathered in conversation and play.

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A wall of curiosities stood on the left. Various ornamental vases some painted blue, others topped with lids; iron kettles and porcelain pots, stone towers and wooden trays, and a heron statute standing proud on one leg. Given the spacing, it was almost like the stone veneer was crafted just to house these pieces. All in all enough enough Asian artifacts to give it some authenticity. I appreciated being able to read their mission statement and their values, having it reassure my experience to come. There transparency was comforting, as it was framed on the wall for too see.

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The expansive kitchen could be seen spanning almost half the length of the restaurant. Its glass windows gave you a look at their large scale operations, a peak at the dishes coming up to the counter. I could even make out a row of rice cookers from my seat. Everything was definitely made to order, no mass produced dishes cooling in troths and nothing sweating under heat lamp.

The servers in black tops and blue jeans moved just as quick as those in white in the kitchen. The former were all friendly, our server in particular even took the time to ask if we have been to a “P.F. Chang’s” before. Then taking the time to point out their larger portion sizes, suggesting lunch servings if we weren’t planning on sharing.

I recognized majority of what was on menu. A few Chinese classics broken down with North American familiarities, and Japanese tapas’ offered with less than traditional ingredients. Asian favourites watered down for beginners to stomach, yet with enough originality to keep those familiar interested. The pineapple and avocado pairing on the cover was an appropriate example of this. Surprisingly there was a lack of chopsticks, instead we got two forks and a knife. One fork was specifically for salad, when was the last time you had salad at a Chinese restaurant?

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“Tuna tataki”, sliced sushi grade ahi tuna seared rare, topped with garlic chips, daikon sprouts, jalapeño and coated in ponzu sauce. Served with a chilled seaweed salad. Why did I order Japanese at an Chinese fast food chain? It was most unsatisfactory. The tuna was cooked the appropriate rare, but what should be a light sear was overcooked and cracked edges. Hard and dry the crust was difficult to swallow, in hind sight I should have discarded them and instead focus on the soft middle. They definitely looked better than they tasted. The potency of the jalapeño overpowered the mild tuna taste. This was the first time that my tuna tataki was chilli pepper spicy. The distinctive seaweed salad helped to balance everything. Overall the dish was over salted and a side of rice was needed.

Each lunch time combo came with either brown or white rice, the fried variety was available for an extra $1. Your order also comes with a choice between soup or side salad. Definitely the perfect lunch size for one, you left fully satisfied.

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“Hot and sour soup”. A soup this layered and this intricate, I am sure was prepared as a batch at the start of service. Delivered piping hot there was the need to wait for it to cool. Thick with a syrup like consistency, the bits and pieces added some good chew to the mix. Carrot shreds, tofu chunks, and black fungus. It had some good spice, a burn that sits on on your tongue tingling. As a whole it came across more sweet than anything else.

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The “Green salad” was pretty unspectacular. Your standard grocery bag salad, a bowl of shredded lettuce and no other vegetables. Dressed lightly with a lemon based vinaigrette it was pretty bland. Definitely just a filler.

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“Ginger chicken with broccoli”. Sliced chicken breast tossed with ginger, green onions and fresh broccoli. The chicken was overcooked and lacked flavour. Though the zesty sauce made up for some of it. They certainly weren’t stingy with it, plenty to fully coat the undressed rice.

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“Beef with broccoli”. Sliced flank steal seared with fresh ginger, green onions and garlic. The beef was better prepared compared to the chicken, done with a highly gingery note. Unlike the fried rice that was beyond bland. I think the rice was literally just fried. Regular white rice fried for texture and not necessarily taste. Strange, as usually a fried rice comes with more ingredients tossed in. This was definitely not worth $1 more.

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“Chang’s Kung pao with chicken”, spicy Sichuan chili sauce, peanuts, celery, scallions, and red chilli peppers. There was lots of spice in this, you absolutely got the “pao” in the “Kung pao”. Though like the other dishes before the portion was uneven, more rice than meat and veggies.

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Sadly our server forgot to give us our end of meal fortune cookies, honestly they are the best part of the meal. We were left eying the basket that just happened to be by our booth. We did eventually ask, after pondering whether or not we should just help ourselves.

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? – Yes.
The restaurant was not a bistro as advertised. When you read “bistro” you imagine a smaller space set up more intimately. This was banquet sized hall with additional seating at the bar or outdoor on the patio. Large enough to host a wedding and spacious enough for a family reunion. Though I don’t recommend doing either here. As for the cuisine I am probably biased, I grew up eating Chinese food and visiting Chinese restaurants on special occasions. So I don’t find this kind of food especially appealing, I guess that is the reason why I had trouble ordering and went with a Japanese option for lunch. The food is average at best and overly salty at worst. There was a need to chug glasses of water that couldn’t be refilled fast enough, just to get the salt off your palette. Overall this isn’t the best representation of American style Chinese food, but it is definitely a step up from the food court variety, and that of its main competition, “Panda Express”. Here, although salty, the ingredients are fresher and the meat is of a higher quality. Not for me, but I can see value in it for those less adventurous when it comes to dining. Don’t deny your cravings.

P.F. CHANG’S
3000 184th Street, SW Lynnwood WA, 98037
425-921-2100
pfchangs.com
P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

All Star Wings and Ribs

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Ever since I heard their grand opening broadcasted on our local radio channel, I bookmarked this one as one to visit. Right in the hub of Robson Street, with convenient and inexpensive parking underground and an elevator ride that brings you right to the door way. Located where causal dining chain “Moxie’s” once hosted, it has been a while since this arena was open and made public for dinner.

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The sports bar theme was prevalent from the moment you step into the doorway. The floor, painted and waxed to look like centre ice. Tripled up television flat screens and red cushioned benches made the need to wait tolerable. Though with ample seating available, across three defined spaces, waiting long for a table shouldn’t be an issue. That and judging by the traffic on a Friday night, the restaurant really hasn’t picked up much momentum yet.

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The bar is made sportier with framed memorabilia and signed collector’s items. Jerseys pressed, equipment used, and photos captured in history making moments. Most notable was their own Winter Olympic 2010 torch enclosed and protected behind glass. A television visible from every seat and built in to each booth in the lounge ensured you got as much live action sports as you needed. We grabbed such a spacious booth, one of eight. Each divided with high backed cushions and a plexiglass lit with black light. It allowed for some unique and easily edited effects. Quotes, occasions, and cheers looked three dimensional as if they were glowing.

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The waitresses were just as sporty, dawning their own uniforms. Capped sleeved baseball-like jerseys for the hostess and tight logo-ed tanks for the waitresses. Each with the restaurant’s name in blue and white. I didn’t see any male staff members on shift tonight, a point I feel was maybe intentional given the direction of their bar? Clearly they were catering to a specific clientele.

The menu deemed that they were “The King Of The Wing”, promising “excellence, quality, and service”, to us, their values guests. With a page dedicated to listing their 200 wing flavours and their two rib options on another shared page. Why the focus on wings and lack there of on ribs? Yet both are equally named in their title. Though they don’t just serve either, they are also well stocked on all your other classic bar favourites. Familiar appetizers like onion rings, in five varieties and five flavours; chicken tenders, nachos, calamari, garlic bread, fish and chips, and sliders. The potato choices are labelled, “Way to go Idaho”. Fries done French, tex-mexed, russets left in skins, and dressed from tzatziki to tomato, with gravy to pulled pork. This trend continued to other common bar entrees like salads, sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs; all just as decorated as their potatoes, similar flavours repeated on different platforms. The new one to the bar scene is their selection of “gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches”, made with artisan sourdough bread and served with a side of fries. Like the others, this too falls under the comfort food category. Your cheese and bread partnered with combinations like bacon and pineapple, guacamole and cherry tomatoes; or filled with crushed tortillas, amongst other things. I was most intrigued by the Brie cheese, cranberries, pecans, and maple syrup combo. Though with a description like that, it isn’t anything I can’t duplicate for myself, at home. I can go on and on on what they had, what I didn’t try, but there is a lot more to cover and a lot more I would have liked to try, and I haven’t even covered the 200 wings.

In theory is great to have so many flavours, it certainly is its own attraction. But realistically you get pretty overwhelmed with it all. 200 flavours of wings and no description for any. You really had to rely on your server for guidance and be prepared to ask for details if not samples. Is “choc full of bees” with honey and/or with chocolate? Is the “Alfredo the crazy Italian” an Italian herbed wing covered in Alfredo sauce? Does “Caesar does Jamaica” have a greater Greek influence than it is jerked? “Bloody caesar”, marinated in a Bloody Caesar cocktail? “Col. Mustard’s honey”, mustard and honey right? Well that was an easy one. Pineapple curry, plum, ranch, creole BBQ; a few were givens. Though more were left unknown, ones I couldn’t even begin to guess at. “Where’s the beef”, weren’t these all suppose to be chicken? “Mild”, mild what? “Montizuma’s revenge”, isn’t that slang for diarrhea? Why would I want that? “Homocide”, now we are getting scary. “Raptor”, “the buds”, You pucker”, “M-Che-D”, “midnight express”, “tsunami”, “oceano”, “dragon kiss” “ocean spray”, and “Kelly man”? I could go on and on… each told me nothing. The more I read, the more I wondered, the more I wondered, the more I wanted the decision making to stop.

They boasted the use of 100% pure canola oil, making their wings trans fat and cholesterol free. I knew the traditional honey garlic would be a must have and something proven good on any occasion, but was forced to rely on our server’s discretion for my second choice. I couldn’t make much sense of the page, even if the wings were arranged with a legend that indicated level of spiciness using easy to decider baseball analogies and clear visuals. For example the pacifier, was for those like myself, ones who can’t take the heat. One baseball for the “tame” minor leagues, two balls for the “medium” juniors, three fireballs for the “hot” farm team, then major leagues, and hard hitters after it. The fireballs become five bombs to symbolize their 5 alarm heat. And the “A-Bombs” and the “H-bombs” signal that you are getting into excruciating pain territory. With “E.L.E”, “extinction level event” warning you that it’s the hottest available, requiring your signature on a waiver before you can order it. All wings also come with a choice of having them “dry”, without their usual breading, also known as “Lord of the wing”. And your choice of sauce in either dill, blue cheese, or ranch. Their “King of the wing” option was having your wings grilled on their own in house BBQ with olive oil and lemon. Prices are based on amount of wings and how many flavours in each order. Each order of wings comes with a large metal bucket for the bones.

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“Honey garlic” wings. A staple, good and true. The thick breading made for meatier bites. Sticky and sweet, as l expected and the best dish of the night.

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“Cleopatra”, our server’s recommendation for the most popular wing. Like the wing before, and as I requested this was a saucy wing. A wing fully dressed in a garlic and Parmesan sauce. I always say you know it’s good when it messes up your breath. Creamy and salty the first two were the best. Though I soon grew weary of the taste, I found it needed another layer to its one dimensional profile. A taste I couldn’t remedy with a dip in dressing, or else it would have been too dressed too creamy. Honey would have been ideal. Towards the bottom of the basket I was attempting to wipe excess sauce off on to the wax paper. It was here that I was thankful for our sides. A way to cleanse the palette in between decadent bites. Over all interesting, a taste that grows on you. But not as a full order.

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1/2 order of “true baby back”, described as “mouth watering and triple glazed”. We choose this one over the only other rib option, the “Bronto beef ribs. Odd that there are only two varieties of ribs at a wings and ribs place. The meat was fall off the bone tender, but the seasonings could have used more work. More spice, more flavour, a little more kick for such juicy pieces. The easiest solution would be to provide a tangy barbecue sauce to dip in to. We choose a side of mashed potatoes and coleslaw instead of fries or their loaded baked potato. I enjoyed the semi mashed potatoes with chunks of peel and loads of butter.

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This is the first restaurant I have seen with sponsors. I suppose it falls in line with their sports analogy. After all what is a franchise without sponsors and advertisements? Coca Cola supplied them with red plastic branded drinking cups. LG helped with all the mounted flat screens. And Molson Canadian and McCain offered their beverage on the menu.

During my walk to the washroom I passed by the second seating area. A space with less booths and more free standing tables. It included a private room surrounded by glass, its windows etched with generic athletes playing the sports they love. A secluded room, ideal for large groups and rowdier gatherings. I was intimated to take any pictures as this empty section was where all the waitresses gathered in their leisure. They stood around chatting with one another in between bussing orders and checking in on their guests. I understood the need to pause, but saw it a little unprofessional. Especially as there was a group seated a few feet away. Five women leaning on fixtures, looking at those passing by, and discussing the events of their day.

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.
Already a bustling franchise several locations strong, based out Toronto; I can see this restaurant’s migration West being a success. A new wings centred bar for Vancouverites, and a new sports focused destination for a eager hockey fans. With its only direct competition being “Wings”, it’s all about location, location, location; and they had a good one. In a highly visible street corner, with a strong theme and a solid menu, this is a no brainer. I liked everything they were offering and would definitely go back for more. I just won’t return hungry, we were kept waiting 30 minutes for our meal. Don’t deny your cravings.

ALLSTAR WINGS & RIBS
808 Bute Street, 2nd Floor
Vancouver BC, V6E 1Y4
604-563-4477
allstarwingsandribs.com
Allstar Wings & Ribs on Urbanspoon

Forty Ninth Parallel Café & Lucky’s Doughnuts

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If the Food Network’s “Donut Showdown” is any sign of trends, doughnuts are definitely coming up in a big way. Just look at the list of new doughnut shoppes that have opened and others that have gain traction. “Parallel 49″ is one such cafe with their gourmet fried rings of dough. With two locations we were at the one on Main and 13th. I was lucky enough to pull into one of four metered parking spots, just beside their outdoor patio.

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With its popularity I was not surprised to walk in and face a line. The cafe has a modern warehouse feel to it. With red brick walls, planked rafters, mental low hanging lamps, and waxed wood everything else.

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The room is staggered with various seating arrangements. Large high tops and counters by windows make the perfect shareable surface. They save space with communal sitting, and make an ideal solution for students and writers to come in and have a space to work from. There was a handful of those in today. Two tops and four seaters gave families and friends the possibility to sit and chat together. There is even a lounging area with couches by a brick fire place. The lighting here was more romantic: a lit up sign quality “49″; and dim bulbs dripping from cords.

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And on a hot day like today you can enjoy the direct sun above your head on their side walk patio, just as we did.

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With their popularity growing “Parallel 49″ offers their own line of coffee and coffee accessories for sale. Gathered for show across the right wall, it makes for a fairly handsome display. For those who love it so much that they want to take it home, you can even buy one of their t-shirts. Various fair trade coffee beans, their signature teal coloured cup and saucer in regular and miniature espresso sizes, metal creamers, and glass cups.

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Your choice of doughnuts are displayed elegantly behind glass. Laid out in specially designed drawers, crafted with built in cooling racks for bottoms. With no menu you rely on ordering based on looks alone. Through each type of doughnut was given its own name card to help. Arranged in no particular order, though the feature doughnut stood out, being extra colourful and up front and first.

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The “Blueberry cake” would be the first that your eyes gazed at. “Cake”, being the correct description for this treat. Dense, thick, and decadent it was a more vigorous chew. Striking with its deep plum coloured icing drizzled across and its bold blue coloured middle. With a caramelized cinnamon and sugar topping that gave it a crispy outer shell, and whole blueberry bits folded right into the dough, giving it pops of juice. Though despite its vibrant colour, it was no reflection on taste. I was hardly able to make out any of the promised blueberry flavour.

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“Long john”, a classic redone with vanilla bean infused custard cream. Cream filled end to end to ensure every bite in came filling oozing out. The chocolatey layer on top was semi sweet, so despite its looks it really wasn’t so sweet that it would overwhelm everything else. I enjoyed most the consideration taken to create the decorative uniform pattern on top. They certainly took this doughnut staple to the next level.

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“Peanut butter and jelly”, had I know it was this good I would have ordered more. Peanut butter on top, filled with jam inside. Raspberry jam pipped at two points for more even distribution. This creation brings together the best of PB&J into one portable bite. Its crunchy and chunky honey-like butter and its sticky sweet jam accent. I prefer a 3:1 ratio when it comes to peanut butter and jam and this was pretty close. With fluffy baked batter this was better than any peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A more grown up taste for the kid in you.

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“Strawberry rhubarb”. Powdered jelly doughnuts are usually my favourite so I had to try this one. Looking at the cross section, visually this was not a lot of jelly. Once again filling each doughnut at two points allowed for a bolder jelly presence; but this picture is fairly accurate. With such a large doughnut 1/4 of it failed to see jam, and as a result was discarded. I willingly allowed the thick dough go to waste, there wasn’t much taste without the filling.

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The “Lemon Bismarck” was similar to the above, but with a more fair jelly to dough ratio. The lemon was tart, sweeten by the sprinkling of sugar on top. Similar to a lemon meringue pie, but it could have used some meringue. Though this granulated sugar coating was preferred over a drippy glaze.

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“Apple maple bacon fritter”. Once a rarity, bacon and maple are no longer strangers to the dessert or sweet snack scene. Though no longer the edgy mash up that it was there years ago, now you almost expect a successful doughnut place to feature a bacon anything one time or another. With this one you immediately get the distinctive char quality from the salty bacon shards sprinkled on top. A nice texture against the spongy dough, crispy ends and chewy edges. The bacon’s salty nature is balanced out by the sticky syrup glaze and the sweetened apple chunks. Opposites that definitely attracted in this savoury and salty mix up. Such a generous coating of all the above has the ingredients tasting like they were braided within the dough itself.

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“Chocolate croissant”. A light croissant baked golden brown with chunks of chocolate embedded within its layers. This was best slightly heated so that the pockets of chocolate melted and creeped into each pore of flaky pastry.

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The “Beignets” were by request only, only good served hot and fresh they needed 10 minutes to prepare. And with the work involved from skilled chefs they were only available between 11-7pm. These were traditional New Orleans style doughnuts dusted with icing sugar and served with creme anglais, chocolate caramel, and a sour cherry compote. This were air light pillows of dough. Spongy and fluffy on the inside, but nice and crispy on the outside. Though compared to the treats before these seemed to lack a flavour all their own, a generous scooping of the sauces was an easy remedy, though strangely we were given two spoons for the three sauces.

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“Espresso milkshake”, a double shot blended with vanilla ice cream. Although I am not a big fan of strong coffee, I do enjoy its essence when partnered with ice cream. And this was made better with the sprinkling of espresso chips on top.

I eat my doughnuts with a fork and knife, something I grew up watching my dad do and have kept doing as I appreciate having my hands clean and syrup free. Yet with no place, for those like me, to grab cutlery you need ask the clerks behind the counter. Something that much be common as eating with your hands then typing on laptops and texting on hand held devices must be a nuisance.

When it was time to leave, with no signs visible and no trays in sight I brought our used dishes to the back of the counter. I was hoping to help the staff in cleaning up my own mess. My aid was received with annoyance, how dare I interrupt the personal conversation of three men in between doling out orders for paying customers. The food was good, but yet again I regret tipping the average 15% for no services rendered. The taking of my money, the boxing of my doughnuts, the word I was given for assuming that the wooded numbered block the cashier gave me meant my drink and our beignets would be brought to our table.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The doughnuts are pretty original, I prefer their soft melty textures over other more dense gourmet doughnuts I have had elsewhere. With an ever rotating line up, chances are you will always find something new to try. Though as your standard coffee shop setting, I prefer taking my order out to enjoy elsewhere. Though they aren’t cheap, be prepared to pay the price of opulence for decadence. Don’t deny your cravings.

PARALLEL 49
2902 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T3G3
604-872-4901
luckysdoughnuts.com
Forty Ninth Parallel Café & Lucky's Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Acme Cafe

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Hearing that their cakes and pies are amazing, Miss Vancouver Piggy and I came in for an eventful dessert.

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Painted matte black on its exterior, a contrast to the bright white inside. With vaulted ceilings and whirling fans, the space opened up like a breath of fresh air.

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Yet its structure created nooks and crannies, adding options for privacy. Booths secluded in corners, counter top dining in front of windows, and a rounded bar facing the open kitchen. For decoration a few photos hung in groupings, scattered around the room. Stretches of highways and aerials of rural buildings.

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A sign right at the door asks that you wait to be seated. This gives you time to gander at their selection of freshly baked desserts and snacks, prepared fresh daily. Behind the sneeze guarded glass was a gathering of cakes, pies, cookies, bars, and pastries. With no official dessert menu this was the best way to order done sweets. We bee lined here and choose what wanted by pointing through the window. Butter tarts, a melted looking strawberry and peach Danish, Sailor Jerry’s individual sized pecan pie, red velvet cake, and mis-shapened loafs, just to name a few.

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As soon as I head it I knew I wanted the “Orange creamsicle pie”. Described as the orange equivalent of a lemon mergine or key lime pie. The creamy orange filling was very sweet, it could have used more of the traditional orange citrus tang. The crust soggy from the weight of the heavy cream, had me craving for a crunchy component to this dish.

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My more indecisive dining companion had a harder time committing to just one choice. Sensing her indecision the clerk gave her samples to aid in the process. A scoop of their bread pudding made fluffy and flaky with croissants. Raspberry and rhubarb pie that was sharp and tangy. And the saucy blueberry pie she eventually settled on. This slice was oozing after its trip to the microwave. Though over heated, cooking the blueberry syrup more and burning the crust of the pie. The house made whip cream help to balance the bury taste and chewy texture.

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With our dessert we had another dessert to drink. Having shared a vanilla milkshake at our destination before, we yet again opted to do the same. Served in the classic milkshake glass and topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. This portion came with an refill in the metal cup it was mixed in. Comparing it to the shake before, this was more bland. A watered down ice cream, or more milk than cream? Either way it wasn’t as enjoyable as the other drink.

During our stay a distressed gentleman, seeing us from the window, walked in and proceeded to take what was left of my orange pie. Stunned, I stood by as he grabbed it off my plate with his bare hands, cream and all. Almost immediately the “Acme” staff jumped into action. They excused the man, standing between he and I, protecting me. They apologized for his actions and expressed the need for him to exit. Before he was successfully escorted out he dropped the pie on the floor, wiped his hands with napkins and dropped them too to the ground. As his finks last stand he complained and shouted profanities at the staff. I only bring this up because I was immensely impressed by the staff’s reaction. Not only did they make me feel safe at all times, but they managed to act professional and stay calm in what would be a stressful situation. They assured us this doesn’t happen often. Then invited us to return again, giving us two chocolate chip cookies to take away, just to seal the deal. It worked. That little gesture had us leaving on a high note.

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.
The area is heritage, congregated by an interesting mixed crowd. Easy enough to get to and convenient enough to park at. Not having a full meal here I cannot speak to the food and experience as a whole, but from what we did have and what we did see, I say the place definitely deserves a return visit to get a better assessment. The desserts are definitely a highlight, classics done fun. Pastel smarties in bars and rainbow sprinkles on cookies. Don’t deny your cravings.

ACME CAFE
51 W Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B1G4
604-569-1022
acmecafe.ca
Acme Cafe on Urbanspoon

Nectar, Modern Nourishment

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I am not a big fan of juicing diets. My tag line is “Don’t deny your cravings”, and being on an all juice cleanse requires you to deny yourself the solid food that your body craves. The feeling of chewing and crunching that your mouth sometimes wants. But on a hot day like today, when it is too humid to chew and you rather chug, juices like theses help. They grant you the nutrients you need while simultaneously helping you beat the heat.

These juices are “100% organic, cold pressed, unpasteurized, and formulaic”. Sold at a pop up shop on the pathway between “Holt Renfrew” and the rest of Pacific Centre Mall. This is my current favourite place to pass by, to discover new and upcoming Vancouver based food vendors. I had passed by this stall once before, but towards the end of the night their normally well stocked fridge was completely empty. Not a surprise, they had sold through their stock. Given the heat wave it made sense. So I was back this afternoon to try someone of their fine fruit juices.

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A lone clerk stood behind the simple booth. With a pointed top it was their little house within the mall. A home decorated with wispy plants and hanging bulbs. A look as simple and as clean as their beverages. Your curiosity is peaked with the change in scenery: a new stall, a new face, and a new product. You approach and edge closer with the prospect of free samples. Who can say no to free? Three bottles on three trays, ready to dole out three tiny cup sized portions. Each sip comes with a very informative and very convincing speak. It had me purchasing three of their four flavours.

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Their miniature refrigerator was filled with glass bottles, each a different colour depending on the brew within. Each named after their dominant property. I am a sucker for foods or products that have certain benefits, ones that help you and your body in a shortcut sort of way. Here you are able choose that which best applies to you from their four choices below.

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The green “Chlorophyll Aid” is made with mineralized alkaline water, lemon, raw honey, chlorophyll, blue green algae, and Himalayan rock salt. It’s benefits when consumed: an increase in energy, help with hydration, and anti inflammatory properties.
The peachy coloured “Mellow” helps calm the nervous, as its name suggests. It also helps to purify the body and boost electrolytes. This is their seasonal blend described as being fresh and sweet. Made with watermelon, basil, lime, and Himalayan rock salt.
The deep reddish purple coloured “Glow” promises great skin; described as sweet and earthy it helps with skin purifying, kidney cleansing, and cell protection. A cocktail made with beets, orange, lemon, ginger, and sage.
Similar in colour is “Strength” meant to help jolt you awake with a boost of natural energy. I forget what the clerk said about it, and without a description from their board I am unable to reference to it here.

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.
At $10 a pop it certainly is an indulgence, but with its amazing taste and sleek presentation you can’t help but feel chic and on trend when sipping from these glass bottles. Naturally sweetened and light like water they are easy to chug down. And all natural and perfectly organic, they help to give you your vitamins and nutrients in one go. As one who doesn’t own a juicer and one who can’t be bothered getting one or even juicing daily, this is the ideal solution for me. After all fruit juices are a fine choice, preferred over iced coffee drinks, or fizzy soda pop. Don’t deny your cravings.

NECTAR
604-336-3006
nectarjuicery.com

O Sushi

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When I am craving sushi at work this is my best bet. Inexpensive and quick it doesn’t give me much to complain about. I usually do take out, but today I was going to see what it was like to eat in. Direct and to the point on the outside, with colourful signs introducing their wares to the passing foot traffic. Dressed up rolls all blown up, meant to stop a pedestrian and entice them in. These posters did a better job of welcoming us than the staff did.

Functioning like an enclosed fast food sushi stall, but with a set up that didn’t best support this theme. The free standing tables and the booths that lined each opposing wall fronted the place. A hindrance considering the first step to your meal was to approach the counter to order. A counter situated in the centre of the room, stretching to the back. A counter that would be at the end of a maze should the tables and booths in between it and the front door be filled with patrons. An inconvenient setup for those wanting to pick up and take out, or for those just wanting a better look at the place. Ideally the seating area would be behind the counter, allowing patrons to search out a chair after they have been processed.

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Painted yellow and red the restaurant was reminiscent of any classic fast food joint. They say food is art on beautiful plates, here it was literal on canvas and their posters as well. A grouping of fresh vegetables hung in decoration and more photos of rolls lined the wall across from the counter. With no menus and an incomplete list of options over the counter, the take out pamphlets and the before mentioned posters aided in my ordering process.

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The experience here was truly like dining at any other fast food establishment. You line up at the counter to place your order. You pay, then wait for it to be made to the side. The difference is a buzzer, it vibrates and lights up to announce the completion of your order. This gives you the opportunity to find a seat and rest before your order is up. When ready you need to walk back to the counter at the “pick up” area to exchange the buzzer for your trays. The trays are dressier than plastic, but you can’t help but to correlate the experience of using trays to the plastic ones found at food courts. The servers never once leave their enclosed counter. They call out your order and ask you to clean up after yourself. A sign requests that you bus your own tables dropping off plates in plastic bins by the exit. Upon realization of this I immediately regretted tipping. I believe tips are for service rendered. Where staff inputted my order, it was I who did all the leg work. Looking around this was not the case for everyone, there were trays and empty dishes left on counters and at tables. Yet none of the three staff member congregated behind the counter came out to tidy, this despite the visibility of those eating and leaving.

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The standard serving of miso soup.

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As per my usual I go for the more inventive rolls. “Killer roll” with cream cheese, ginger, cucumber, and salmon both cooked and smoked. Topped with masago and a spicy mayo, honey mustard sauce. The presence of mustard on sushi was new to me, a concept completely foreign anywhere else; therefore, worth a try. The zing of the mustard dominated the roll, taking away the gentle flavours of the slightly seasoned fish and raw vegetable. None of the rice on any of the rolls adhered. Tacky in texture, they stuck to each other, but failed to remain in place when being grappled by chopsticks. Overall this one I would not order again.

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“Tuna tataki roll” with prawn tempura, cucumber, and lettuce. Topped with lemon, tuna tataki, and a lemon sauce. Lemon overload, the sauce was good, but the thin slices were overkill. More for aesthetics I removed all excess lemon once my food photography session was completed. Like the roll before there was enough flavour in the sauces that came with it that I found no use for the soy sauce. As with the above now that I have tried it, I wouldn’t again want to pay more for it. On average I was paying $5 more for this compared to more classic rolls.

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My vegetarian guest ordered the yam tempura roll and the vegetable roll. Tempura was only available in rolls or as a side in a bento. I didn’t understand why that was. How hard would it be to fry some up for a individual order? Yet they were firm. The yam roll came fairly crisp with smooth avocado as a suitable partner.

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The vegetable roll too included avocado and cucumber, lettuce, and sweet “picle” (I am sure that was just a typo on the menu). As the list of ingredients suggested, this was a fairly plain roll. The pickle gave some sweetness to it, though it was the soy sauce and the wasabi on the side that offered up their flavours.

Although I plan to continue doing so, calling for pick up isn’t better. Especially when conversing with a clerk who is half distracted by physical customers, who is failing at talking over the volume of a busy restaurant. She was also fiercely adamant that I be there on time. Repeating that my order will be done in ten minutes, so I should be here by then too. I guess not everyone claims their pick up?

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My sushi order was packed tight into a plastic container. A sheet of artificial “grass” separated the rolls from the side of wasabi and ginger. They were generous with their chopsticks, napkins, and packets of soy sauce. Whereas other places I have been to count one of the above per person. Here I got two sets of chopsticks and two napkins for an order I didn’t specify was just for me. And four packets of soy, two for each of the two containers I got to pour them into.

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As with all previous visits the rice didn’t adhere to roll. Grains of rice kept sticky at the ends of my wooden sticks. Warm to the touch, maybe they needed some more time to cool, before being rolled and pressed. It is not fun to eat mangled rolls that fall apart in the distance from dish to mouth. The filling itself was a boring avocado and tofu and a yam tempura and avocado. I actually enjoy vegetarian sushi, though let it be known I know it isn’t considered real sushi. I also find their practice of sprinkling sesame seeds between the cracks of two pieces of sushi odd. It looks visually off and really doesn’t leave any of the seeds distributed evenly.

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The side of seaweed salad that I had requested was pretty standard; despite the picture, the portion given actually wasn’t that much. At the bottom were mixed greens, an easy way to prop up the seaweed and give the illusion of there being more than there really was.

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.
During my first dine in experience, the food and service were not as I expected. Even their pricier and fancier specialty rolls fell short. This truly was the definition of fast food sushi. Had I known I wouldn’t be getting any real service, I wouldn’t have tipped or at least tipped so generously. Why was I tipping? You don’t tip at McDonald’s, and that was pretty much what the experience here was. Though despite all these tiny offenses, and the fact their food is pretty unspectacular, it won’t stop me from coming back. With no other sushi places around at this competitive price point, the convenience of it to where I work is enough of a reason for me to continue supporting their establishment. Quick and easy sushi. Though lesson learned I will only stick with the basics. Don’t deny your cravings.

O SUSHI
742 Granville Street, Vancouver BC
604-681-3338
O Sushi on Urbanspoon

Save on Meats

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After seeing this on a repeat episode of “Diner, Drive-Ins, and Dives” it has been on my list of places to try. Though I had only watched the intro to catch it being mentioned, but not actually its segment. So during our latest blogger date Miss Vancouver Piggy and I took on the restaurant to judge for ourselves if this was a diner or a dive.

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As a historical building that was built in 1891, with its butcher shop operational since 1957; I was surprised to learn it also served as a restaurant. A tidbit I wouldn’t have otherwise known about had it not been for Guy Fieri. As per tradition he tagged the wall with spray paint and a stencil of his face, signature, and Food Network logo. A fancy way to say “Guy was here”. The restaurant is highly visible thanks to its giant neon sign. Two cartoon pigs hold it up with their hooves for hand. They do so holding firm grasp of their gold coin. The word “MEATS” spins, calling additional eyes to its existence. Certainly a visual display deemed worthy to capture on “film”. With a large roof the entrance is covered by tin and metal. There is a need for more neon lights. They guide you to the entrance of the butcher shoppe by way of red arrows. The arrows blink giving the illusion of movement as it steers you. Without going in we got a good peak at the place through the door’s window. White walls, red seats.

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A take out corner sits sandwiched between the butcher shop and the diner. Fully stocked, but unmanned I wondered how practical this set up was. Considering the kitchen is at the other end of the restaurant, at the furthest point from this booth. The travel from kitchen to take out doesn’t make their brand of fast food any faster. And I assume the purpose of such a window is to ensure orders are done and customers got their food fast, to go; without the need to step food in the actual restaurant.

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Walking in we immediately waited to be seated, unnecessarily considering the causal nature of the restaurant and the low key reputation of area. The foyer gave way to a booth, allowing guests to sit should there be a wait. Possible considering its notoriety and the four servers that were staffed this Thursday mid afternoon in preparation. I enjoyed the opposing nature of the old timey jukebox neighbouring the very modern ATM. On the brick wall adjacent hung framed accomplishments. Awards once won and stories once told in print.

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The bar inside was crafted from the same brushed steel as the exterior. Above it cartooned menu items were written in words and displayed in image. The worlds “build your own burger” sandwiched between two burger buns. The “soup of the day” written inside and outside of a bowl of soup. And a coffee pot pouring its contents out to look like the word, “coffee”.

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The opposing wall was red brick. Decorated with a collection themed around burgers, meat, pigs, and the city we all lived in.

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The menu was a compilation of country classics. The stuff your mom made or what you would get at grandma’s house. Nothing fancy, just fill your belly and get you going hearty meals. Breakfasts of eggs, bacon, and hash browns; omelettes, Benedicts, and French toast. For lunch, a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers. Dinner saw fried chicken, shepard’s pie, spaghetti and meatballs, pot roasts, and perogies. Sides and add ons included chilli, fries, mashed potatoes, gravy, and onion rings; to name a few. All that is missing is pizza, Mac and cheese, and lasagna to round out the all time favourites list.

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Vanilla milkshake made with real ice cream. Shaken not blended. They were intuitive enough to split our shared portioned between two separate glasses. The drink was more like eating ice cream, though not thick enough to warrant two straws.

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The “Build your burger” option came as a separate sheet, a check list meant to be checked off. The pen to do so came separate. You choose your burger base, the minimum a double all beef patty, with the option to add on additional patties or make a vegetable one at varying costs. The regular burger vegetables and sauces come at no extra cost. The former allows you to choose four in their list of six, and the latter felt no limit. From here things can get pretty crazy depending on your appetite. Luckily for me I am such a diner, the more on, the better. And this was a choose your own adventure in burger crafting. Each luxury item didn’t come cheap. From a $5.49 burger the cost of my my creation ballooned to almost $16. Cheeses from American to blue, from real cheddar to goat. The usual bacon and avocado, sautéed onions and onions in rings, coleslaw, fried eggs, and even perogies. I most enjoyed being able to check things off like at an all you can eat hot pot place.

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I built my burger bad ass! Checking off the regular two beef patties to start, then mayo, ketchup, their house smear (described as a ketchup, mayo, and a relish mix( similar to the Triple O’s sauce), lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pickles, bacon, a fried egg, real cheddar geese, avocado, perogies, and onion rings. When the burger arrived it wasn’t as magnificent as I had hoped or imagined. Not piled high with difficulty balancing. Instead the two buns where open faced with a division of toppings on each. Immediately I noticed all my free toppings were not included and didn’t bother to dissect things to see what sauce was left off as well. I suppose I was ambitious and the chef used some discretion. Either way I wasn’t complaining with what I had. A two handed beast this was as fun to eat as it was to make. Though the first bite is always the best, that before the bun falls apart and you some how end up with the bottom bun being smaller than the top. The beef was moist, meaty with double the char and double the flavour, thanks to double the patties. The perogies were crisp, the onion rings freshly fried, and Miss Vancouver Piggy thought the real cheddar we were willing to pay 50 cents more for was artificial. And was curious enough to ask. All in all good, but not worth it for what I had to pay for each additional ingredient. It was about $5 to bring them all together, something I could easily dome after a trip to the grocery store.

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I also one up-ed this beast by adding on a side of poutine for extra. The most pricy all the sides, beating the onion rings, fries, Caesar salad, and coleslaw. This wasn’t the traditional poutine though, I was impressed by the presence of real cheese curds. A gravy made more peppery with the large chunks of pepper flakes shaken over the thick cut fries.

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Miss Vancouver Piggy however went more cautious. Starting with the standard double patty she added bacon, real cheddar, and a fried egg. She got her checked off complimentary vegetables because her burger would be too plain otherwise. Though they forgot the egg on hers and she battled with whether she wanted it after the fact or not. Fearing the wait would cause her burger to cool and forcing her to eat the egg separately. It came fast enough for her to add it on after the fact.

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.
The visit was more about the history and the decor than it was about the food. A fulfilling visit, met with the novelty of it being on television. Miss Vancouver Piggy felt like we didn’t order anything that we were suppose to. She pointed out all the signs lining the bar again, suggesting we should have gotten them instead. Though the “build a burger” was part of it. Although satisfactory, the food is nothing to drive out of the way for. Regular joe cuisine, good food for cheap. Don’t deny your cravings.

To read Miss Vancouver Piggy’s review of our same experience click here.

SAVE ON MEATS
43 W Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B1G4
604-569-3568
saveonmeats.ca
Save On Meats on Urbanspoon