Malaysian Hut Restaurant

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Hailing from South East Asian and having been back on several occasions I find myself craving the cuisine I grew up on and the foods my parents indulged me in. So as a family we drove out to Surrey to try “Malaysian Hut”. This is our second go at the place, the first was on a Monday, only to find out they were closed. The website and the menu listed is really what had us wanting to go in the first place. The food looked authentic and the descriptions sounded delicious, triggering fond memories.

It is a small family run business open since 1998, specializing in East Malaysian style cooking. They go so far as to import most of their ingredients straight from their hometown of Miri, Sarawak. Their claim of offering traditional Malaysian dishes that you cannot find anywhere else in the city is accurate. Believe me, I have been on the constant search. No other places I have been to offer Pulut Pangang (sweet glutinous rice with shrimp paste wrapped in banana leaf), Rojak (traditional Malaysian salad), Loh Mee (egg noodles with a minced meat sauce), Kuching Curry Laksa (noodle in soup) and Kuih Dadar (crepe infused with pandan leaves and wrapped with finely shredded coconut and palm sugar).

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The restaurant was hard to see from the road. We missed it several times rounding the block in our car. The dark of the night and their unlit awning made the restaurant’s name impossible to read. And the small neon “open” sign wasn’t even visible. It also didn’t help that a row of thin pines fenced them and their parking lot away from the street. Because of this we suspect they do most of their business during lunch, when its bright out their restaurant is visible and the surrounding establishments are also open for business.

Looking in we were intimated by the empty restaurant before us. Though found it oddly comforting to have a couple come in as we were about to leave. We had called ahead so one table was prepared with cutlery. We walked in and were greeted warmly. Family members came and went during our stay. We assumed the mother was the one to welcomed us, and had just finished her shift. It was her daughter that was taking over, she would be the one to serve us. As is the case with many small family run restaurants it is cash only, a fact we were observant enough to read on the sign taped by the cash desk.

The restaurant was dressed like a home. A well themed living room with orange walls, wicker chairs, and curtains of beige and white. It was more quaint and cozy then other small restaurants offering similar cuisine. Decorations consisted of artwork and artifacts, a lot of which we couldn’t place. Framed medallions, panel carvings, straw hats, stone statues, and a wooden paddle. It was the country music that threw me off the most, it is not what I imagine hearing at a hole in the wall Malaysian restaurant. It really didn’t match the cuisine.

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We appreciated the design of the menu. A lengthly laminated sheet with pictures and descriptions for every item offered. Though it only looked longer than it actually was. There were a few items that were only slight variations on the same thing. For example both the flat rice noodles and the egg noodles started off with their intended noodles, bean sprouts, and eggs. What had them differing and earning their own title was the secondary ingredients used: barbecue pork, shredded chicken, or grilled shrimp, to name a few.

As the only ones dining our food was made to order and came in a speedy fashion. There is comfort in being able to hear your food being made in the kitchen. The scrape of the wok with metal spatula, and the sizzle of fresh ingredients hitting oil.

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“Roti Canai”, this one is a must order for my mother. Crispy pancakes with curry sauce. Despite what the menu suggested this wasn’t a traditional curry. The sauce had a flavour we couldn’t put our finger on. It was warm and spicy enough, but so heavy that it didn’t pair as well with the light and sweet roti. Each piece of pancake was light with an enjoyable elastic-like texture. Not at all greasy, it was best enjoyed with bare hands dipping dough into sauce.

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“Pulut Panggang”, sweet glutinous rice filled with spicy sun dried shrimp & shredded coconut. We choose this based on the photo advertised. In the menu it was shown as sticky rice packaged in a wrap of banana leaves. So we were undoubtedly disappointed to see the brick of yellow rice presented before us. The original intent was to have the rice grilled in the leaf, giving it a nice char. A smokey smell and a toasted taste. The rice was fragrant and neon yellow from the turmeric used. The pairing of the sweet rice and the spicy filling were a nice play. The side of shredded purple cabbage and carrot was a needed element to fresh up the plate.

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“Nonya Mee Hoon Goreng”. Vermicelli stir fried with sambal sauce, bean sprouts, sun dried shrimps, and prawns. According to my mother “Nonya” referred to an ethnicity of Chinese people mixed with the locals of Malaysia. Apparently they are known for their quality of food. If that is indeed the case, given the great flavours of this noodle dish, the name was aptly chosen. The pan fried noodles were some of the most tastiest I have ever had, flavoured with a strong shrimp paste. Layers of spices created evolving flavours that kept the whole dish interesting from start to finish. I was however disappointed that we were only given two grilled prawns for all the noodles. Carefully laid on top, the shrimp served as more of a decoration than a main ingredient.

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“Nasi Lemak”, coconut steam rice served with curry chicken, fried eggs, chilli seasoned anchovies, fresh cucumber, and salted peanuts. This was a complete meal with plenty of sides. Lots of elements kept the plate interesting, but it isn’t necessarily a combination for everyone. When was the last time you had a breaded and deep fried hard boiled egg, that was then covered in tiny salted fish? Not for everyone. The chicken curry was dominating in heat and spice. It easily overpowered everything, which the cucumber aided by offering a descent palette cleanser. The peanuts in this dish are usually fried, these were not. The frying process would have had them more fragrant, but as is they still added a nice crunchy texture.

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“Char Kway Teow”, the “regular” version of rice noodles with bean sprouts and BBQ pork. The taste was a little different than what I am familiar with, possibly some black bean sauce in the mix? I found it a little salty with not enough noodles to BBQ pork ratio. Overall average and a little disappointing.

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“Fish Ball Soup”. Hand rolled fish balls with vermicelli or glass noodles. We choose the latter, as it’s the noodle more commonly used. It tasted like something my aunt would and could make, feel good home cooking. The soup was seasoned with sesame oil and onion from the flakes of fried onion sprinkled on top. Served last, the soup was unfortunately bland when compared to everything else before. Though it is meant to be a lighter clear broth. The fish balls tasted fresh, you could tell they were mostly made from real fish paste. Each round was spongy and firm in texture, bursting with fishy goodness.

Only after we asked for the bill did we see the sign advertising their daily special of “low sue fen”. This is a special type of noodle named after it “mouse” like appearance. A noodle I love and a noodle I have yet to see offered at any restaurant. I wish we knew about this before we ordered. Had I known this would have been ordered instead of the “Char Kway Teow”. I was disappointed to have missed it. It would have been nice to be told of specials as we went through our menu.

The washroom showed the age of the building which the main dining room was able to hide with its yellow lights and distracting decorations. The one room unisex stall hummed from a blinking florescent light. Erie, it was a scene I could imagine from a horror movie gas station. The washroom itself was grungy. Decorated with dried and fake flowers and odd nick knacks. It looked like a collection of items that the family no longer wanted, but didn’t want to waste my throwing out, so put them on display here. A bouquet of rainbow dyed and now dried flowers? and decorative soaps festively shaped and protected in cellophane.

The bill came with some fruit candies, it was a nice touch and much needed given the about of spice we left with in our mouths. The tea helped but was not enough of a palette cleanser. Even the candy wasn’t enough. I looked forward to going home and brushing my teeth.

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 only say no to returning because of the distance we had to travel. I cannot justify driving three cities over and spending almost an hour in the car just for Malaysian food, despite how good it is. We enjoyed what we had though found the cuisine to be more Chinese style Malaysian, than true authentic Malaysian. An therefore a few flavours we expected were lacking. I was also somewhat sadden that our meal wasn’t served on plastic plates like you would get from outdoor hawker stands in Southeast Asia, something I oddly miss. My mother found the food good, but the flavours over the top. Being familiar with the recipes and having made a handful of them herself she feel restaurant style cooking is exaggerated. She declared it was like they over compensate to ensure flavour. Smart, given food and opinion is subjective. Hedge your bets by jam packing dishes with spices and herbs, and wish for the best. Once again I enjoyed what we had, but cannot declare it the best or even the most authentic. Good, but I will not be back for more because of distance. Though if you are in the area or live in proximity I suggest stopping by for some rice and noodles. Where it’s cash only, the prices are decent, and the serving sizes are average. Don’t deny your cravings.

MALAYSIAN HUT RESTAURANT
14727 108 Ave Suite 108, Surrey BC, V3R1V8
604-588-1718
malaysianhutrestaurant.com
Malaysian Hut Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Afterglow Lounge

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The name suited the place and our purpose. We were here for drinks after an event. Walking in it felt like we were coming in from the back, empty and dark with no one to greet us. We moved towards the light, a corridor betwixt us and a busy dining room. Doing so to hail a server and to acknowledge that we will be staying.

One side, our side was “Afterglow”, on the other “Glowbal”. One location, one menu, two names, two restaurants. Cleverly designed with one entrance on Hamilton Street and the other on Mainland. You almost get double the customers from this unique set up. Two restaurants for the location of one.

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We were clearly on the lounge end of things, the lights were dimmed, the curtains were drawn, and candles were lit to create a more romantic ambience. The room was walled with cushions it made for a comfortable seating arrangement. The sort of seating that allowed for closeness and an extended stay. Sitting side by side was necessary as the music was on the louder side and shouting to be heard was inevitable. The music was a blend of jazz and techno, upbeat melodies that set the stage for a more grown up evening. This wasn’t your top 40 in a club sort of music. Despite our distance from the other tables and no staff members currently assigned to work the area were in, we were still well taken cafe of. A rotation of staff stopped by to ensure that we were enjoying our meal and had everything we wanted. And their help was always ready at hand.

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Espresso with a biscotti bite.

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They specialize in “satay”, a term derived from Southeast Asia that refers to seasoned, skewered and grilled meat, traditionally served with a peanut sauce. Here they used the word to encompass anything on a stick. The choices not only included meat, but seafood, vegetables and pasta shaped into balls as well. Not everything was grilled, some items were baked, others fried. And the sauces varied depending on the ingredients on the stick. The albacore tuna came with a cilantro ponzu sauce, the lamb sausage with mustard, the meatball with marinara, the chicken with lemon grass, and the short rib with a truffled aioli. All very westernized to better suit the demographic. Each dish crafted with the consideration of pairing food with cocktails and beers.

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We tried the “Mushroom tempura” for my vegetarian guest. Served with coleslaw and a ginger white soy sauce. This was the only option offering a spicy peanut sauce. Visually the plate wasn’t very appealing. Large irregular shaped rounds with a thick batter coating. The mushrooms were of the button variety, not common in Asian cuisine, which proves my statement of it being westernized. It was good, but really needed the sauce and the coleslaw in each bite to add more flavour. There was also not enough peanut sauce for my liking.

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“Beet… Salad” prepared with crushed pistachios, arugula, and goat cheese in a sherry vinaigrette. It was more beets than anything else. I wanted more of the nuts, more of the greens, and much more cheese to accent the root vegetable. The nuts gave an earthy crunch, the cheese a salty smoothness, and the greens a pop of freshness, all wrapped up in the tang of the vinaigrette. As a result when the toppings ran out we stopped eating, leaving little less than half the serving of beets untouched.

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“Creme brûlée trio”. We were enticed my the thought of triple the number of creme brûlées. If one was good three should be amazing. Hazelnut, white chocolate, and vanilla. The one topped with a single blueberry was the vanilla and the white chocolate one had the raspberry. Each of the creme brûlées tasted pre-made, not fresh. Overly sweeten the texture was off as well. It wasn’t soft and loose like traditional creme brûlée. Instead it was dense like custard, whereas we were expecting to bite into a fluffy-like mousse. On top of the above each flavour was too strong, it overwhelmed the intended lightness of the dessert. The white chocolate was the worst of the lot, whereas the vanilla the most pleasing in its mildness. When asked I told our server what we really thought of the creme brûlée. I am often truth first without thinking. After mid explanation I tried to withdraw my statement, changing my answer to “never mind, it was fine”. None-the-less our server took it upon himself to surprise and delight. He presented the bill without the dessert being charged to us. He declared that he knew he didn’t have to, but wanted to. What a way to guarantee happy guests. I was impressed.

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I was enamoured by the washroom floors, they were done in a leopard print pattern using multiple little squared tiles. Just thinking of the work and planning put into this was impressive. It sure was eye catching. You don’t need decorations when the floor looks like this.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I appreciated the solitude that the slow night gave us. The settling was comfortable and the music was pleasing, it is one I wouldn’t mind enjoying again. The staff were accommodating and seem to genuinely care. I felt welcomed and want to return from the check ins to the gesture with our unsatisfactory dessert. My opinion of the restaurant being only okay changed to amazing just because of the service. My next visit will be to the “Glowbal” side, to sample the full extent of their diverse menu. Flat breads, pastas, meats, and fish; including share style platters that allow you to try a little bit of everything. Don’t deny your cravings.

AFTERGLOW
1082 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC
604-602-0835
glowbalgroup.com/glowbalgrill
Afterglow Lounge on Urbanspoon

Hapa Izakaya

IMG_1415IMG_1416I I would argue that this is one of the most popular Japanese tapas destinations in Vancouver. With numerous locations in various popular entertainment areas around the city, it certainly has all the right things going for it. Best known for its simple exterior, it certainly stands out because of it. All black with clean lines; no signs, no decorations. Just a strip of light to brighten up the restaurant’s name in small block font.

I was here for a friend’s birthday. Given their ability to host large group gatherings it was certainly a good choice. You are definitely limited in your choices when you have to accommodate so many bodies. The group spanned four tables. Tucked in our own corner, it allowed bodies to stand and move about to mingle. Because of the size, we were definitely the ones most contributing to the loud noise level, though the rest of the restaurant was pretty rowdy this Friday night. The overall vibe was a causal one, a setting ideal for raising your voice along with your glass. One where you are allowed to linger long after dinner is done, and where the drinks keep coming.

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The menu included all the familiars: “ebi mayo”, “edamame”, “Agedashi tofu”, “yaki udon”, and “beef short ribs”. All dishes you expect from Japanese small plates, plus some creative variations: “Pork belly lettuce wraps”, “polenta fries”, minced pork Gyoza made into tempura, and tacos with tempura halibut and shoe string potatoes. Some real fun and well presented shareables. Having been here before, and having tried most of it, we stuck to the feature sheet. A menu scrawled on with sharpie and stamped in red to highlight their exclusive dishes.

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“Karaage”, deep fried boneless chicken with a soy ginger sauce. The picture is with the plate partially eaten from. The chicken nuggets were average, slightly dry, and tough at the ends. I have had better.

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“Tako wasabi”. A mix of seasoned octopus sashimi, wasabi, and cucumber. It is self served on roasted seaweed sheets. The gentle taste of octopus was hidden by the strong musk of wasabi, so strong it cleared my nasal passages. The octopus was more for the texture anyways. When paired with the seaweed it was an assembly of strong flavours coming together, that all worked together.

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When asked for recommendations our server suggested the “Cheese tofu”. Described as a light cheese appetizer with honey and strawberries. More dessert than appetizer, it tasted like a watered down cheesecake. Creamy, fluffy, light and sweet. I found it similar to Brie and honey. It was interesting and worth trying, thought I wished we were not given this as one of our dishes to start. I instead would have preferred to end with it like a cheese course.

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“Steak bites”, sautéed cubes of Alberta flank steak. Served with a scalloped potato quiche, fried lotus root chips, and a Japanese spicy pepper sauce for dipping. The beef could have been more rare. I understood that it was chopped to allow for easy eating and better sharing. But it would have been better if the steak was cooked whole then sliced to show pink. The lotus chips gave the plate a nice crunchy texture, though did little for its flavour. And the block of egg and potato did not taste as good as it looked. The texture of the potatoes were almost raw, and along with the egg binding, lacked seasoning. I wished for some melted cheddar and some rosemary to perk them up.

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“Mentaiko udon”, udon noodles seasoned in a spicy cod roe sauce. It was all very fishy thanks to the fish roe. The sauce was very grainy, I did not get the smoothness that I expected from a creamy udon. The sand like granules were very off putting, but luckily the noodles were thick, and only looked like this was a large plate. We were able to finish it in the name of not wasting food.

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“Torched salmon press” sushi made with chopped sockeye salmon and sliced avocado, then topped with a red miso mayonnaise. The roll was assembled, but brought to our table to be torched. Our server did it skillfully with a handheld blow torch; though you couldn’t really see the colouring of the torched fish hidden under the thick sauce. The colour of the sauce was nothing I have ever seen, it had a smokey tang to it that highlighted the salmon well. The side of tempura chips and chopped green onions offered texture and freshness. It had the sushi hitting all intended texture and flavour points, though as a whole it wasn’t without its flaws. The sushi was warmed by the flame, and as a result the rice no longer adhered to its intended boxy shape. It quickly broke apart between crossed chopsticks.

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“Spicy pork ishi-yaki”. We ordered this one last as an add on. Wanting more food and still feeling hungry we opted for a more filling rice bowl. Out of all the options, we went with our server’s suggestion for this. She declared the pork to be the most flavourful. A combination of rice, minced pork, garlic sprouts, egg, tomato, lettuce, and spicy miso. The rice and all its toppings were presented in a heated stone bowl, then mixed at our table. The residual heat from the bowl cooked the egg and crisped the rice to a fried rice-like texture. Our server’s rapid two spoon stirring then flattening, mixed the rice well and cooked it thoroughly. We allowed it to sit further to have the rice at its crispiest without being burnt.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I deem this a good place for a rowdier get together with a large group of friends. Small bites and drink specials, all the beginnings of a fun night. But due to the higher volume of people and all the boisterous noise as a result, I would not recommend “Hapa” for date night. Not the best place for romance. The food is best in large quantities, ideal for snacking on with a few drinks anyway. And the waitresses were hired for their appeal and their embodiment of the night life and party atmosphere. Whatever your reason to visit, don’t deny your cravings.

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On a previous visit I enjoyed the “Tuna avocado salsa dip”. Made with chopped ahi tuna, avocado, and tomatoes; and served with crispy fried plantain chips as a dipping base. Refreshing and light with fresh vegetables. I enjoyed the twist in using plantains instead of tortilla chips, it added a whole new taste element, salty with a hint of sweet.

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“Ika”, grilled whole squid served with a sake soy garlic marinated. Visually this was impressive. The squid was as expected, chewy with a smokey char.

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A seasonal salmon pressed sushi with salmon and avocado. Like the one we had today, but without the miso sauce and the flare of a table side fire show.

HAPA IZAKAYA
1479 Robson Street, Vancouver BC
604-689-4272
hapaizakaya.com
Hapa Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Rajio Japanese Public House

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Its about four months since my original visit. I said I would be back and with the recent popularity of the place, it ended up being sooner than later. We missed out on horse meat sashimi last time so today marked it on the agenda. We built up the suspense only to learn it was a seasonal item, and it along with the season trotted out of our grasp.

To read my original visit post click here.

Arriving early I took the opportunity to park at a distance for no cost. It required a walk from a block away, instead of paying at one the multiple street meters just outside the restaurant. Despite the full restaurant only one car was parked in front. Did I miss a lot in the back? Walking in you are greeted in unison by the staff, done in a very typical Japanese fashion. A miscommunication of our 7pm reservations resulted in a delay before seating. We were eventually given a large table up front. It came dressed with additional plates and utensils, and had an add on table in order to turn this four top into a six. My only complaint, the cold. The days were chiller the sun settled sooner and the draft tickling my back meant I had to eat in my restraining jacket, and the uncovered tops of my feet would remain shivering. How a couple managed to dine outside on the patio is unknown to me. I guess it beats waiting for a table inside, and if you are accustomed to Vancouver weather it isn’t even an issue. However the heavy street traffic and the sounds of wheels sloshing through muddy puddles must not be ideal.

The room was still as I remembered it, dark with blackened walls. The colour choice did well to highlight the rows of masks. Masks of Japanese cartoon characters meant to be worn by children: Hello Kitty, Megaman, Doraemon, Pikachu, Mickey and Minnie, and the lesser known others. Each was illuminated with light bulbs, making them some of the most creative lamps I have ever seen. Japanese elements were also seen in the paper lanterns lining the awning outside, the tiles hanging over the bar, and print on the curtains leading to the washroom. It was all very culturally festive.

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I wondered about the grey scale photos of “DJ Katuya”. A gentleman with his image posterized and duplicated across the walls and doors of the restaurant. The flyer called him a “legend”. We didn’t ask, assumed he was a base ball player because of his ball cap, and that he also disc jockeyed based on his stage name. But after some sleuthing on the menu, we learned we were wrong. He was the head chief, Katuya. He had his own features on the daily menu, definitely making some creative interpretations. I guess he mixed dishes like a DJ mixes songs.

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“Rajio’s” popularity has grown since our last visit. The restaurant has now settled and since gained plenty of momentum. A fact seen by their branded napkins, professional matte coloured menus, and daily fresh sheets printed in colour. The menu was pretty descriptive, detailing ingredients and recalling flavours with the use of a thesaurus. It certainly painted a picture when the actual menu was void of any. The editor was quite flowery in their descriptions, adjectives used to lure your into ordering more. Overall they worked, but a few fell short in its biased account. You would get a “kick” out of their “raw Tako wasabi”. The white miso used in the “imaginative twist on an Italian classic” came from an “ancient imperial palace in Kyoto”. The balsamic vinegar in the “black sweet and sour pork rib” was said to add a “complex tangy sweetness to this classic crowd pleaser”. And the spice in their fried chicken was titled “heavenly”. How were we to choose through all these glowing recommendations? Luckily our host was Japanese, specifically from Osaka, where the restaurant takes most of their influences from. He led us on our journey, but made the mistake of assuming the staff were of Japanese descent too. So speaking to them in his native language didn’t last long. Four servers working the room, none dedicated to any table, each willing to help out as needed. As a result we were well taken care of, our glasses were kept full, our dining needs were met, and we felt appreciated as clients.

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Like last time, our meal began with a complimentary metal bowl of cabbage dressed in a salty daikon sauce to start. And like last time this was familiar to my Japanese host. He informed us that this is most commonly taken with beer. A less flavourful snack that marries well with the bitterness of beer.

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“Hibiscus Pink lemonade”, a sweet juice made with hibiscus flowers and sweet goji berries. Described as being “refreshing in lemon, steeped with “good for you stuff” for the best flavour”. The beverage was premade for the night and stored in a jug for easy serving.

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Green Tea. Goes well with salty and greasy foods.

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“Y’s Mommy’s assorted oden. So good the first time that we ordered it again tonight. Though it was not as exciting for me the second time around. Our host assured it was just as good this time and still tasted like something his mother would prepare for him. Ingredients long simmered in one pot to bring out their flavour in a rich broth. Assorted vegetables, meat, fish cakes, and a half boiled eggs in a kelp and clam based broth. The menu was more accurate in its description detailing the flavour as being “exquisite” as the ingredients slowly get absorbed to make for a good oden broth, a process taking many hours to achieve. Best enjoyed hot as a starter, thanks to its milder flavour when compared to the other dishes we enjoyed.

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“*Y* Ebimayo”, a Japanese classic. Their version, cilantro tempura battered tiger prawns served drizzled with a chilli mayo. Prepared with a side of deep fried prawn crackers for crunch. It was good, but not “revolutionary” like the menu suggested, more average. My guest choose this unashamedly for the mayo and his love of mayo. So much that we ordered a second side serving of mayo just for him. One of the servers was happy to comply.

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“Aburi toro avocado battera”. Lightly seared then pressed Canadian albacore tuna toro sushi, made with a thin layer of avocado, shiso herb, and their original black sauce. The sushi was a mess. The creamy avocado and mushy rice needed to be colder. As a result of its warmer temperature, they fell apart with each grab you made for them. However their taste still held up. The shiso accent in the sauce was delicious, it brought together well the fish and rice.

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“If you ain’t flying, you might as well be fried!” That is the actual name of their battered, super juicy pork tenderloin tempura with ponzu mayo sauce. This one was on October 8th’s fresh sheet. Like the dish itself, the name was quite a mouthful. The batter was well seasoned, and thoroughly breaded over the pork chop. I am not use to eating pork that isn’t bacon, but my guests assured me it wasn’t as dry as I thought it to be and that it was actually good for what it was.

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“Sea urchin and Ikura carbonara udon”. Like the menu said the “unique and creamy essence of sea urchin and Ikura make this ordinary udon special”. Then further persuaded you by asking and adding, “Love sea urchin? Salmon roe? Must try!” When is a creamy pasta too creamy? This was so rich from the heavy cream and sea urchin that we were glad to be sharing. Far too decadent to have a full portion yourself.

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“Bang! Bang! Chicken”, juicy tender steamed chicken with a “crunchy” jellyfish dressed in an “appetizing” Bang! Bang! Sesame sauce. This was more of a summer dish, kept chilled for the sake of the jellyfish, and eaten cool. Interestingly, picking through the pile we thought we spotted some fake shark fin in the mix. The dish was light, it felt like it was missing something; a starch, a heavier base, something to have this dish looking and feeling more substantial. Some bread, a cracker, a wrap, rice, a platform for what was essentially a shredded chicken salad. It would have also helped with the crunch needed from a harder texture.

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“Kushikatsu”, was the special of the restaurant. Homemade bite sized skewers featuring fresh ingredients. Each breaded with panko, then deep fried to a crisp. The menu mentioned it originating in the neighbourhood taverns of Osaka, and being enjoyed with their original secret dipping sauce and beers. Here you pay per skewer with no minimum order, or enjoy the pre-chosen, “premium skewer set” on the fresh sheet. With the latter you get skewers of bacon and asparagus, stuffed shiitake, prosciutto with broccoli, and tomato with basil. This compared to the everyday options of eggplant, onion, chicken, pork, beef, octopus, scallop, shrimp, etc.

With the trays of skewers lined in a row, came a tall jar of sauce for dipping and a container for storing used skewers. It was thoroughly emphasized that the sauce included a rule, a restriction to have only one dip per stick. A feature illustrated on the menu, a notion mentioned by each staff member, and a reminder repeated on the glass itself, “one dip, one life”. This they called the “friendly Osaka dipping style”. We hypothesized the need for this restriction: reusing the sauce. The only real need for high sanitation. My Japanese guest suggested that each dunk will also add layers of flavour into the sauce, dip after dip, ingredient after ingredient.

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As for the skewers themselves I found the pork overcooked and dry as a result. Grey in colour and saw dust in texture. The lack of moisture couldn’t easily be remedied by a mere dunk into a vat of sauce. The sauce itself was too saturated at the tip, with none to coat the last bite, closest to your hand. And because it is just one dip, you get what you get.

The panko breaded rice cake soaked up sauce like a sponge. Out of all the skewers, we deemed this the most enjoyable in taste and texture.

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I also enjoyed the lotus root, remembering how good it was the first time around, and wanting more now. However the fibrous nature of the plant threw the others off. I guess the chalk like stringiness of the root is an acquired taste that I grew up with.

The shiitake mushroom ones I liked the least. I don’t like the fungus normally, finding it too large and to chewy to get through. So found that everything about this tasted off, which made eating through it all the harder.

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The dessert menu was creatively written on a Japanese style hand held fan. Though we passed on any as none of the options seemed exciting enough. Cake, brulee, and tofu.

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.
My original assessment of the restaurant has not changed. The food is still good, I was just not as excited about it the second time around. It was no longer experiencing new flavours, just reliving ones tried previously. I will still come back and still recommend it because of its authenticity. I find them more traditional when compared to similar Japanese tapas places. The decor is just as cute and just as comfortable the second time around; though I now remember why I don’t come more often, the distance. Don’t deny your cravings.

RAJIO
3763 W. 10th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6R2G7
604-558-1679
rajiopublichouse.com
Rajio Japanese Public House on Urbanspoon

Pourhouse

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This is my third visit to date and it has yet to disappoint. Definitely one of my go to’s when in Gastown. Great food and large portions at decent prices. The dining trifecta. To read my original review first click here.

We came here for more food, having met with disappointment from our first stop. We couldn’t believe that we missed it our first time around. As I have pointed out in the past, the exterior isn’t very prominent, nor is it trying to be memorable. A muted glass entrance looking into a foyer of grey concrete, soften with a vase full of flowers and a wooden bench. As before the sandwich board at knee height did little to stop us, even with us actively looking for places to eat.

The restaurant was relatively empty at 4pm. We claimed a spacious booth, the only ones on the upper dining area, with a waitress all our own. A few bodies made themselves comfortable at the bar, being served by the very dapper looking bartender.

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After being seated we were inundated with menus, four menus to gaze over. Their regular “bill of fare” had a list of snacks, starters, mains, and sides. The leather covered drinks list include seasonal specials, classic cocktails, and a handsome collection of wines and spirits, as reflected by their expansive bar. We were in time to catch the tail end of lunch so were offered this menu as well. It highlighted their $14 deal: your choice of gourmet sandwiches with a side or either soup, salad, or fries. Then finished off with a craft beer. And lastly we were also eligible to order off their Happy Hour menu from 2-5pm. The “aperitivo hour” menu described the term, a pre dinner drink, a beverage meant to help open up your meal. It offered wine and cocktails on special together with thoughtfully paired snacks for cheap. For example, “Oyster rockafeller” for $4!

Looking for something savoury before our sweet, and considering we had already eaten before, we kept it light with vegetarian friendly options. This was also in considering the dietary choices for my vegetarian guest.

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Under the mains we choose the “Crispy chickpea croquette”, served with ratatouille and an herb salad. My Cuban guest declared that the best croquettes in the world are Spanish, and therefore when enjoying a croquettes it needs to be paired with a Spanish wine. This entree was beautifully presented. An evenly brown square sturdily balanced on of mound of soften vegetables. The colours and textures were soggy, but made cheerful with the lightness of frisée. The croquettes were crispy on the outside and silken soft like tofu on the inside. They surprised you with whole chickpeas embedded in its centre. Though as good as it was, we both would have preferred the large square as bites, four smaller pieces served on a long dish. One bite appetizer sized morsels, meant a more even breading to croquette ratio. As an entree it was a lot to go through and we quickly grew tired of the one note taste. Luckily the tangy ratatouille with cucumber, tomato, and eggplant helped to create some diversity in flavour. It was hearty like a stew, but on the drier side. Overall I would have preferred it better with a thicker broth. Another remedy to keep the flavour of the chickpea patty more engaging would be to have include with it a creamy dipping sauce. The croquette’s texture reminded me of fried fish, like cod deep fried as a part of fish and chips; so maybe a tartar-like sour cream sauce?

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The side of “Roasted beets”, was a larger portion than expected. As a starter sized plate this was more than enough for two. As a side it was meant to be taken with something else, good but the taste worn on and out quick. The hazelnuts and Swiss chard, in addition to the beets provided dining interest. The nuts offered a crunchy and earthy texture, and the greens gave the plate some needed freshness. The beets were almost caramelized, they had a sweeten tone to them. And their softer texture almost melted when pressed against teeth and tongue. When vegetarian dishes are done at their best, as a omnivore, you don’t miss the meat.

What made their dessert options so special was the listed drink pairings. Under each dessert option were suitable spirits and wines offered. A selection carefully chosen to accentuate your dessert. And in some cases it was as simple as a shot of milk to go with your “freshly baked chocolate chip cookies”. I didn’t try it, but the thought of fresh, right out of the oven baked cookies was tempting.

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Classics are classic for a reason. You can’t go wrong with a creamy “vanilla creme burlee”. My guest partnered this with a serving of “Angostura 1919 rum”, prepared neat. She was excited to learn it was a dark rum from Trinidad and Tobago. Having had the creme burlee before I knew it would be as good as the portion was generous. With a shallow dish there was more surface area for torched sugar. The first crack into the plane of sugar is always my favourite part of this dessert.

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Wanting something more fresh I choose the “Blueberry shortcake” for it fruit component. Smaller blueberries littered the cake, swimming in a sea of luscious cream. Although it looked decadent the dessert was not too sweet, it would have been great with a cup of earl grey that the menu suggested. The layers of cake hidden under smooth cream was dense. Heave and part like a scone, and just as dry. The moisture from the cream and the juice from the berries certainly helped to break each block of yellow cake apart. Delicious, but filing, I was unable to finish the portion

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.
My third time back and I don’t see why I wouldn’t return for a fourth. The area is convenient, the setting is sophisticated, the music is hip, and the decor is stylish. The servers are friendly, the drinks are festive, the cuisine is classic, and the food is consistently delicious. If I didn’t always need to try different places in order to have more material to blog about, I could see myself here several times a week. And given the number of menus, I am sure to find something I am in the mood for. Don’t deny your cravings.

POURHOUSE
162 Water Street, Vancouver BC, V6B1B2
604-568-7022
pourhousevancouver.com
Pourhouse Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Catch 122 Cafe Bistro

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How to turn a meal where you got a bug on your plate into a good thing? Proof that good service can savage any would be bad experience.

This has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. So when we passed by looking for a lunching spot, this had to be the one. The room was wall to wall brick, very rustic, very causal, very gas town. The hostess booth used a barrel as its platform, a chandelier hung crafted from recycled wine bottles, and a repurposed door frame refitted with mirrored panes made for dynamic decor.

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The open space gave way to very spacious seating. The focus was on comfort and personability, and not how many extra seats they could cramp in tight. Tables lined up an arm’s length away from one another, booths with high wooden barrier to give privacy, and bar stools that actually considered elbow room. A sign requests you wait to be seated. Given the time of day and the fact we were the only other guests in, we had the pick of the place. We moved towards the only windows seats. Settling comfortably into our wooden table paired with iron chairs. A four top for two, always a must when you plan to order multiple dishes and drinks to share. Shame it never came to that.

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Coming in at 2:30pm we were keen on a heartier meal, maybe something for supper? Instead we were greeted by brunch and its breakfast-like offerings. And all we wanted was linner. All our choices were presented on a very distinctive menu. A menu purposely stained to give it a a look of age and heavy use. It well matched the restaurant’s industrial feel. Creases from regular handling and colour from artificial stains gave it character and made it memorable. Red wine, black coffee, and brown sauce drippings. The way they used the French language present in the menu to connect French culture with their food was misleading. We expected a more casual French cuisine from the use of “pommes frites”, “confit”, “Dijonnaise”, and “bontanique”. We found it made the authenticity debatable.

Disappointingly there was no more to choose from than egg Benedicts and light sandwiches. We even tried to order some of their snacks from the bar menu, only to find out they were not available. Those were limited to happy hour which started at 4pm, an hour and a half later. We missed out on the mushroom pate and the salmon tartare. A fact we only found out after we placed the order and our server had walked away. None-the-less we were disappointed when he came back to relay the bad news. With no other appetizers to share and still no desire to have a breakfast of toast or eggs and bacon we passed on it altogether. Though I question the possibility of having it prepared an hour and a half earlier and us being charged full price for our special request.

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“Craft beer flight paddle”. Driftwood farmhand saison, driftwood fat tug IPA, Russell blood alley esb, Russell eastern promises pilsner. I appreciated the laminated sheet that came with a description of each beer. All local with homegrown ingredients. It made drinking each a learning opportunity.

We kept to what we both thought sounded like the best out of the menu, “Fried Chicken”. A buttermilk chicken breast, fennel, arugula, radish, and Sriracha mayo on a kaiser roll. Luckily today wasn’t a weekend or a holiday or else these, like the “moules frites” would not be available. Your choice of sides include salad, fries, and/or soup. I wanted the soup, but was disappointed again that it too was not available. By 3pm they had sold out of soup, this announced after the fact they were out of the pull pork Benedict, and before we were told we had to wait an hour more to be able to order their happy hour snacks. Not a great start, and unfortunately it got worse.

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Just as I was about to pick up a fry I spotted a small black beetle climbing out from the middle of the pile of fries. Its speed had me jumping back. I couldn’t wait to hail our server over, so presented it with the plate and all to the top of the empty bar. I hate bugs, they terrify me. It was immediately brought to the attention of the head chef. Before our server came back, I poked my head into the open kitchen to announce that I would rather not have a replacement burger be made. Instead I preferred to just share my guest’s burger and head out. They complied. Though now cautious, we shuffled the contents around on her plate, in search of other things, just in case. Our search yielded a foreign round black object. Upon investigation by the kitchen staff, it was concluded to be a fried baked bean, burnt to a blacken cinder. They offer such beans as a side in the “dirty breakfast”. We had the green light to continue eating.

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By looks alone the burger didn’t seem all that impressive. A half empty plate with a handful of fries, hiding a quarter cut dill pickle, overshadowing an unimpressive bun. Most burger combos have more fries that burger. So much fries that you can never finish it all, often leaving a few unfinished on the plate. As for the burger I look to see more filling than dough from my burgers. In the visual department this fell short. But as we all know, you don’t judge a book by its cover; and you can’t judge a burger without taking a bite. In reality this was one of the best tasting chicken burgers I have ever had. I could take two right now. The quality and taste of the chicken sold me. It had a delicious crispy skin with just enough breading, and its wasn’t at all greasy despite the thorough dip in the deep fryer. Inside the chicken breast was tender and juicy, almost buttery. You could taste the freshness and the quality of the poultry. The spices in the sriracha mayo married well with the natural cool creaminess of mayonnaise. The shreds of green gave the sandwich colour and a note of freshness, this was an all encompassing bite. And the fries were just as delicious, a crispy shell coating chewy potato. Stick after stick, perfect. We wanted more. We were offered the option of either hot sauce or ketchup with our fries. I had the latter and my guess wanted the former. Therefore things got confusing when two clear bottles filled with similar shades of red were presented to us. As my guest pointed out. it would have been nice to been told what was what and not have to taste test it for ourselves.

In the end the actions taken by our server and the restaurant team was the best possible. We could not have asked for a better resolution. Not only did our server apologize on behalf of the whole restaurant, but he revisited on several occasions to assure us this doesn’t happen often, or at it. That this was a one of a kind case, as outlined in his probable scenario. The greens used in the burgers come fresh from a neighbourhood garden, there they are hand picked and then hand delivered to their door step. In fact we saw a man enter and do just that today. The explanation was they were unwashed greens and the bug had traveled on them to get to my plate. Once again we believed that this doesn’t ever happen, and that this was the first time. He then outlined the changes in the processes they would action to ensure nothing like the would happen to anyone else. How professional and responsible. Our server’s final visit had him declaring our entire meal would be comped: my guest’s glass wine, my beer flight, and our shared chicken sandwich. Their move to ensure a return visit from us was a good one. From this gesture alone I have decided I would be back for dinner. They cared enough about us as individuals to put in all that work. You don’t see that often from more casual establishments. Commendable.

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.
As I touched on earlier, things can and will go wrong, some of it out of your control. It is how the aftermath is handled that makes all the difference. What started off rocky, peaked at being a bad experience, actually ended with this glowing review. The staff certainly cared about our experience and made it essential to retain our business, reigniting the possibility of a return. One good experience might lead to one or two good referrals, one bad experience will lead to at least ten negative stories hindering at least ten would be customers. What we had was good, and the service was better. I will definitely be back to try more of what they have to offer. Don’t deny your cravings.

CATCH 122
122 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B1G8
604-731-3474
catch122.ca
Catch 122 Cafe Bistro on Urbanspoon

The New Concession Stands at Rogers Arena

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I am lucky to have a friend who writes for the Canucks on contract. And am lucky to have him generously offer me the chance to attend the last pre season game as his guest. I was already pretty excited about taking my blue and green jersey out, and shaking the dust off for the new season. But today I was more excited to try the advertised new concession offerings at Rogers Arena. Not just hotdogs and popcorn anymore.

When the Canucks announced their new slogan: “change is coming” they were referring to more than just the team. In this post I will be exploring the changes in the foods offered at a few of their new concession stands. Snacks not just for intermission, but food good enough for pre game meals. Not post game because everything shits down after second intermission.

I got myself further pumped for the occasion by reading October 2014’s edition of “Vancouver” magazine. In it it spoke of the new hospitality options throughout the stadium. They hired a VP solely in charge of hospitality and a head chef with extensive experience in fine dining and arena cuisine. Their goal, to create good food deserving of the sport we love and the team we adore. Their new tools to achieve this: an in house pastry shop, a full onsite butchery, and a legion of chefs able to fully utilize them fully.

I took notes on all the creative concoctions the article listed. Perogy dogs, miniature perogies on top of a hot dog. The west coast salmon roll, smoked salmon on a lightly buttered kaiser. A prime rib sandwich on a brioche bun and Porchetta on ciabatta with salsa verde. This is my kind of fusion street food eats. The type of food that both looks and tastes good, but is portable. Though I only managed to try half the list and spotted no pastries that might have been made in their in house pastry shop. Though it might just be an exclusive perk for season ticket holders and owners of boxed seats.

Most of what we had was located between sections 118 and 120, I appreciated not having to travel around the arena in search for these new high end eats. As my guest best put it, “You are here anyways, you might as well get good food”. Fresh food over stale popcorn, warm food over wrapped chocolate, and unique ingredients over greasy pizza please. We missed the first few minutes of the game to avoid lines and came out a few minutes before intermission to avoid more. Unfortunate as two goals for the Canucks were scored within the first three minutes of the first period. Thankfully live streaming televisions everywhere meant we missed nothing.

Carve & Catch
Section 118

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Our first stop was at “Carve” and “Catch”. A stand flagged by a red lobster and several pictures profiling a cow divided into its cuts. One concession, two names, two items on menu. Both titled accurately described their offerings. Meat and seafood, “Carve” and “Catch”. No salmon or Porchetta today as the article above mentioned. Maybe they were only on rotation or available only during a specific season? Instead there was a lobster roll and a roast beef sandwich. We got one of each. As promised by the article they also served more than just Budweiser on tap. A rotation of three beers including Alexander Keith’s were made available. Take note, this is one of the few stands that accepted debit. Credit and cash everywhere, with ATMs available if needed.

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At the counter four staff members served in blue and black uniforms with matching ball caps. They took orders and relayed requests through shouts to the team of chefs at the back. The four chefs in white uniforms too worked out in the open. Intentionally visible so we, the diners could see them. Gratifyingly watching our food being made fresh to order, or at least complied to order.

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“Lobster roll”, lobster, shallots, and mayo on a brioche bun. Served with butter pickles and kettle cooked potato chips. You can’t go wrong with lobster, it is good on a bad day, and this was no exception. It sure looked like and tasted like real lobster, but without a clear view of the prep area I can’t be too sure. Though I think the creamy lobster mixture was premade ahead of time anyways. It was evenly mixed and served chilled from a metal container. The actual lobster meat was plentiful, left in whole visible chunks for the diner to reveal in. Juicy and flaky, with just a little bit of sweetness. Wonderfully coated in the creamy mayo sauce, the shallots provided freshness and the celery offered a nice crunch. The side of pickles gave the possibility of some acid, a sour tang to those who like it. And the chips a way to cleanse the pallet and a give a firmer texture in an otherwise soft sub. I was tempted to crunch some over top as I do with other sandwiches. But the lobster mixture was just too good to mess with. One of those things you could have 2-3 of in one sitting.

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“Carve sandwich”, sliced roast beef seasoned in Montreal steak spiced and its natural jus. Served with dill pickle and kettle cooked chip. The sandwich was plain. Good for the purists who like their meat to taste like meat. But we felt it needed some sauce. Butter, mayo, or barbecue; something to lubricate the otherwise dry bun. Preferably a jus to dip into, something to add moisture and give additional flavour. We ended up just eating the meat as was, forgoing the bun, deeming it as an excessive filler. The meat was carved to order, a piece sliced from a larger slab, and kept warn under a heat lamp. I saw pinker middles and juicier drippings from other orders, so I guest we just got a piece closer to the end of the roast. The chips we finished, good, but judging by the bags of “Ms. Vicky’s” regular behind the counter they were nothing special.

Steamers
Section 120

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Our second stop was at “Steamers”, a concession named after former Canucks captain. Stan Smyl. “Steamer” was his nick name and therefore his likeness graced their logo. His smile and hidden mullet fortified the claim that this stand and their hot dogs were “Canucks Certified”.

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Your choices of specialty dogs are listed on the monitor above the cash register. Their premise, take regular hot dogs and add in pub favourites like poutine, pulled pork, and coleslaw. A vegetarian friendly option offered mixed beans and fresh vegetables. And things got fancy with the “Croque dog” made with ham, gruyere cheese, Dijon, strawberry jam, and chives.

All prices listed included taxes. They don’t take debit, only cash and credit. Your order and name is written on a box, boxed bowls designed to house a single dog, there would be no sides. It gets passed along to the chefs, and your name is called when your dog is ready at the end of the procession.

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Like the stall before, image is a big part of it. Behind the sneeze glass worked five chefs in clean white smocks, they were an impressive sight. An image useful in placing value, to be able to see your food made to order. Though here, the reality is all elements were prepared earlier. The need for speed is considered in order to put the fast in fast food. I appreciated being able to see the wieners spin on the heated racks, the metal containers filled with hearty ingredients, and each hotdog brought together by skillful hands.

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Each hot dog was centered around a “Nathan’s dog”. According to Wikipedia, Nathan’s hot dogs have gained worldwide recognition for their unequaled quality and the taste of their products. I unfortunately
did not like the taste of these particular dogs and ended up eating around them. I have said it before, I prefer street style hot dogs, grilled smokies made on a char laden BBQ. But with these dogs it is all about the toppings anyways. They are what made each one special. “Poutine dog” with gravy, cheese curds, fried potatoes, and hickory sticks. A “southwest dog” with pulled pork, coleslaw, and barbecue sauce.

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We got the “Glendon hotdog”, the perogy one that the magazine mentioned. As expected it was three mini perogies, sour cream, chives, diced onions, and sauerkraut over a Nathan’s hot dog. I preferred the perogies as is and found them in combination with the hot dog and bun too heavy, too much. The perogies were stuffed with potato and cheese, when paired with the light sour cream and tangy sauerkraut they were a delicious bite. Why couldn’t these be offered as a cupful or deep fried as finger foods?

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My guest was intrigued by the “Maui fire dog” made with spicy mayo, teriyaki sauce, hot banana peppers, fresh pineapple, and cilantro. Like the dog before too much bun to topping and wiener ratio. But unlike the dog before this was a refreshing bite. Tangy from the teriyaki that picked up the sweetness from the cubed pineapples. The hit of spice from the peppers created some heat that paralleled well with the overall light and refreshing nature of this dog. Not to mention it was fun and creative, and almost a healthier option.

With arms loaded you either take your treats to your stadium seat, or like us find a free table nearby facing a television screen. The thought of squeezing between knees and railing with arms full and no hands free worries me. Minding your “excuse me’s” to faces you feel bad to have bothered. While having to navigate with your eyes always looking down, looking at your own two feet. Lest we trip or spill someone’s beer. (Side note: All seats need cup holders!) When you get to your chair, with no free digits and the unwillingness to ask a neighbour for help, you use the edge of your bum to urge your seat down. If you are like me, unblessed with a flatter bottom, this takes a few tries. Then its a scramble to assert yourself into the seat before it flips back up. The struggle is real. And now finally you are left awkwardly balancing your now cold meal on your uneven lap. This is how spills and stains happen.

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So avoid all that because between both concession stands are a series of high top tables. Each spread out enough to guarantee a clear view of one of the many screens broadcasting a live feed of the game. We stood over one such high table, its top painted to mimic the ice and the centre line. I really appreciated the detail in this. Here, we took an intermission from food to talk Canucks and their chances this season. Given that my guest’s profession is to critique and relay stats through writing, I thought he would be a good person to ask. He insisted on the need to be positive, joking that he has to say they are going to do well because they pay him to.

Cin City Donuts
Section 110

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Looking for dessert and something sweet, your choices are limited to grocery store Haagen Daz ice cream bars, cotton candy, convenient store chocolate bars, and movie style popcorn and bags of candy. Nothing really matching the calibre and quality of the meal before us. I was in the mood for deep fried chocolate bars, a powered sugar funnel cake, a cinnamon bun, or a soft service ice cream in cone. If you are going to elevate dinner why not dessert? There are so many possibilities that fit in the realm of carnival-like food truck eats.

So the best of the lot were mini donuts. And they did well to satisfy my sweet tooth indulgence. There were multiple carts scattered around the arena with the same name, but only one “Cin City Donuts” that offered two flavour options, more than just sugar. This is the one located at Section 110, around the corner of Gate 3.

The cart is centered around a machine churning out fresh donuts non stop. Batter gets poured in, then piped out into rounds. It drops in a sea of oil where it bobs along. Mid way through its swim a worker flips it over, allowing both sides to have the trademark golden brown colouring. Each donut travels up a conveyer belt and begins to dry off from its grease bath. Their journey ends when the belt ends and they drop into a metal basin waiting at the bottom. There they air dry further and are dusted heavily with granulated sugar. For those who like them regular they are then bagged up by the dozen to go.

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Regular mini donuts. The wax paper bag did little to soak up extra oil and keep the donuts warm. And we all know that these donuts are best when devoured fresh from their fry bath. Having had numerous variations at various fairs and many outdoor events I know my way around a miniature donut. These were some of the best. The dough buttery and the flavour better than others I have had. And best of all, a quick nuke in the microwave had a room temperature bag near its peak of perfection again.

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They also made a variation on this classic by coating them in maple syrup and topping them with a heavy sprinkling of candied bacon; they called it “The Canadian”. These donuts went for 50 cents more at $6.50. Served in a cup with a fork, to accommodate a soggy maple soaked donut and shards of bacon hard to pick up with fingers. Bacon and maple syrup is always a win, the popular combination of salty and sweet. They melted in your mouth, so moist with syrup. Not swimming, just enough to infuse each circle of dough. I liked the flavour of the bacon, but wanted just a hint of it, so left its actual pieces at the bottom of the plastic cup.

On top of these new boutique-like food stands, with their fancy signs and unique offers, there were multiple new snack stops. Each located around every other turn, they offered grab and go bags of popcorn and candy, and allowed you to by pass lengthy lines in doing so.

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.
If you are here for a sporting match or a performance you might as well enjoy the best of what Rogers Arena has to offer. Why have a regular sandwich when you can have one with lobster or a fine cut of beef? Ketchup or mustard on that hotdog? Why not go the extra mile and have some hickory sticks and strawberry jam instead? The only thing missing was some fancier desserts to pair with this higher end food. What we had built us up so much that a grocery store ice cream bar wouldn’t cut it.

As the regular hockey season has just started I know I will be back. And instead of waiting in the long lines at the Costco nearby, I will instead come a little early, and spend a little more, to go a little more gourmet in my arena fare. I know we missed the grill cheese and real nacho stand, but maybe more? And that’s a good enough reason to return. Grilled cheese and soup with more than just cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses being used, and proper nachos made with diced vegetables and black olives over restaurant quality tortilla chips. Even though the team might not always be winning, your stomach can. Don’t deny your cravings.

Rogers Arena
800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver BC, V6B 6G1
604-899-7400

Cin City Donuts at Rogers Arena

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Looking for dessert and something sweet in Rogers Arena, your choices are limited to grocery store Haagen Daz ice cream bars, cotton candy, convenient store chocolate bars, and movie style popcorn and bags of candy. Nothing really matching the calibre and quality of the meal before us. I was in the mood for deep fried chocolate bars, a powered sugar funnel cake, a cinnamon bun, or a soft service ice cream in cone. If you are going to elevate dinner why not dessert? There are so many possibilities that fit in the realm of carnival-like food truck eats.

So the best of the lot were mini donuts. Admittedly they did well to satisfy my sweet tooth. There were multiple carts scattered around the arena with the same name, but only one “Cin City Donuts” that offered two flavour options. More than just dough abd sugar. This is the one located at Section 110, around the corner of Gate 3.

The cart is centred around a machine churning out fresh donuts non stop. Batter gets poured in, then piped out into rounds. It drops in a sea of oil where it bobs along. Mid way through its swim a worker flips it over, allowing both sides to have the trademark golden brown colouring. Each donut travels up a conveyer belt and begins to dry off from its grease bath. Their journey ends when the belt ends and they drop into a metal basin waiting at the bottom. There they air dry further and are dusted heavily with granulated sugar. For those who like them regular they are then bagged up by the dozen to go.

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Regular mini donuts. The wax paper bag did little to soak up extra oil and keep the donuts warm. And we all know that these donuts are best when devoured fresh from their fry bath. Having had numerous variations at various fairs and many outdoor events I know my way around a miniature donut. These were some of the best. The dough buttery and the flavour better than others I have had. And best of all, a quick nuke in the microwave had a room temperature bag near its peak of perfection again.

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They also made a variation on this classic by coating them in maple syrup and a topping them with a heavy sprinkling of candied bacon, they called it “The Canadian”. These donuts went for 50 cents more at $6.50. Served in a cup with a fork, to accommodate a soggy maple soaked donut and shards of bacon hard to pick up with fingers. Bacon and maple syrup is always a win, the popular combination of salty and sweet. They melted in your mouth, so moist with syrup. Not swimming, just enough to infuse each circle of dough. I liked the flavour of the bacon, but wanted just a hint of it, so left its actual pieces at the bottom of the plastic cup.

On top of these new boutique-like food stands, with their fancy signs and unique offers, there were multiple new snack stops. Each located around every other turn, they offered grab and go bags of popcorn and candy, and allowed you to by pass lengthly lines in doing so.

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.
If you are here for a sporting match or a performance you might as well enjoy the best of what Rogers Arena has to offer. As the regular hockey season has just started I know I will be back. And instead of waiting in the long lines at the Costco nearby, I will instead come a little early, and spend a little more, to go a little more gourmet in my arena fare. Even though the team might not always be winning, your stomach can. Don’t deny your cravings.

CIN CITY DONUTS at Rogers Arena
800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver BC, V6B 6G1
604-899-7400
Cin City Donuts on Urbanspoon

Steamers at Rogers Arena

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Located at Section 120 of Rogers Arena was their new hot dog stand, “Steamers”, a concession named after former Canucks captain. Stan Smyl. “Steamer” was his nick name and therefore his likeness graced their logo. His smile and hidden mullet fortified the claim that this stand and their hot dogs were “Canucks Certified”.

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Your choices of specialty dogs are listed on the monitor above the cash register. Their premise, take regular hot dogs and add in pub favourites like poutine, pulled pork, and coleslaw. A vegetarian friendly option offered mixed beans and fresh vegetables. And things got fancy with the “Croque dog” made with ham, gruyere cheese, Dijon, strawberry jam, and chives.

All prices listed included taxes. They don’t take debit, only cash and credit. Your order and name is written on a box, boxed bowls designed to house a single dog, there would be no sides. It gets passed along to the chefs, and your name is called when your dog is ready at the end of the procession.

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Like the stall before, image is a big part of it. Behind the sneeze glass worked five chefs in clean white smocks, they were an impressive sight. An imagine useful in placing value, to be able to see your food made to order. Though here, the reality is all elements were prepared earlier. The need for speed is considered in order to put the fast in fast food. I appreciated being able to see the wieners spin on the heated racks, the metal containers filled with hearty ingredients, and each hotdog brought together by skillful hands.

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Each hot dog was centred around a “Nathan’s dog”. According to Wikipedia Nathan’s hot dogs have gained worldwide recognition for their unequaled quality and the taste of their products. I unfortunately
did not like the taste of these particular dogs and ended up eating around them. I have said it before, I prefer street style hot dogs, grilled smokies made on a char laden BBQ. But with these dogs it is all about the toppings anyways. They are what made each one special. “Poutine dog” with gravy, cheese curds, fried potatoes, and hickory sticks. A “southwest dog” with pulled pork, coleslaw, and barbecue sauce.

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We got the “Glendon hotdog”, the perogy one that the magazine mentioned. As expected it was three mini perogies, sour cream, chives, diced onions, and sauerkraut over a Nathan’s hot dog. I preferred the perogies as is and found them in combination with the hot dog and bun too heavy, too much. The perogies were stuffed with potato and cheese, when paired with the light sour cream and tangy sauerkraut they were a delicious bite. Why couldn’t these be offered as a cupful or deep fried as finger foods?

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My guest was intrigued by the “Maui fire dog” made with spicy mayo, teriyaki sauce, hot banana peppers, fresh pineapple, and cilantro. Like the dog before too much bun to topping and wiener ratio. But unlike the dog before this was a refreshing bite. Tangy from the teriyaki that picked up the sweetness from the cubed pineapples. The hit of spice from the peppers created some heat that paralleled well with the overall light and refreshing nature of this dog. Not to mention it was fun and creative, and almost a healthier option.

With arms loaded you either take your treats to your stadium seat, or like us find a free table nearby facing a television screen. The thought of squeezing between knees and railing with arms full and no hands free worries me. Minding your “excuse me’s” to faces you feel bad to have bother. While having to navigate with your eyes always looking down, looking at your own two feet. Lest we trip or spill someone’s beer. (Side note: All seats need cup holders!) When you get to your chair, with no free digits and the unwillingness to ask a neighbour for help, you use the edge of your bum to urge your seat down. If you are like me, unblessed with a flatter bottom, this takes a few tries. Then its a scramble to assert yourself into the seat before it flips back up. The struggle is real. And now finally you are left awkwardly balancing your now cold meal on your uneven lap. This is how spills and stains happen.

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So avoid all that because between concession stands are a series of high top tables. Each spread out enough to guarantee a clear view of one of the many screens broadcasting a live feed of the game. We stood over one such high table, its top painted to mimic ice and the centre line. I really appreciated the detail in this. Here, we took an intermission from food to talk Canucks and their chances this season. Given that my guest’s profession is to critique and rely stats through writing, I thought he would be good person to ask. He insisted on the need to be positive, joking that he has to say they are going to do well because they pay him to.

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.
If you are here for a sporting match or a performance you might as well enjoy the best of what Rogers Arena has to offer. Why have a just ketchup or mustard on your hot dog? When you can go the extra mile and have some hickory sticks and strawberry jam on it instead? The only thing missing was some fancier desserts to pair with this higher end food. What we had built us up so much that a grocery store ice cream bar wouldn’t cut it. As the regular hockey season has just started I know I will be back. And instead of waiting in the long lines at the Costco nearby, I will instead come a little early, and spend a little more, to go a little more gourmet in my arena fare. Even though the team might not always be winning, your stomach can. Don’t deny your cravings.

STEAMERS at Rogers Arena
800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver BC, V6B 6G1
604-899-7400
Steamer's on Urbanspoon

Carve & Catch at Rogers Arena

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Once in Rogers Arena, we b-lined to Section 118, location of the new “Carve” and “Catch” concessions. A stand flagged by a red lobster and several pictures profiling a cow divided into its cuts. One concession, two names, two items on menu. Both titled accurately described their offerings. Meat and seafood, “Carve” and “Catch”. No salmon or Porchetta today as the article above mentioned. Maybe they were only on rotation or available only during a specific season? Instead there was a lobster roll and a roast beef sandwich. We got one of each. As promised by the article they also served more than just Budweiser on tap. A rotation of three beers including Alexander Keith’s were made available. Take note, this is one of the few stands that accepted debit. Credit and cash everywhere, with ATMs available if needed.

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At the counter four staff members served in blue and black uniforms with matching ball caps. They took orders and relayed requests through shouts to the team of chefs at the back. The four chefs in white uniforms too worked out in the open. Intentionally visible so we, the diners could see them. Gratifyingly watching our food being made fresh to order, or at least complied to order.

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“Lobster roll”, lobster, shallots, and mayo on a brioche bun. Served with butter pickles and kettle cooked potato chips. You can’t go wrong with lobster, it is good on a bad day, and this was no exception. It sure looked like and tasted like real lobster, but without a clear view of the prep area I can’t be too sure. Though I think the creamy lobster mixture was premade ahead of time anyways. It was evenly mixed and served chilled from a metal container. The actual lobster meat was plentiful, left in whole visible chunks for the diner to reveal in. Juicy and flaky, with just a little bit of sweetness. Wonderfully coated in the creamy mayo sauce, the shallots provided freshness and the celery offered a nice crunch. The side of pickles gave the possibility of some acid, a sour tang to those who like it. And the chips a way to cleanse the pallet and a give a firmer texture in an otherwise soft sub. I was tempted to crunch some over top as I do with other sandwiches. But the lobster mixture was just too good to mess with. One of those things you could have 2-3 of in one sitting.

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“Carve sandwich”, sliced roast beef seasoned in Montreal steak spiced and its natural jus. Served with dill pickle and kettle cooked chip. The sandwich was plain. Good for the purists who like their meat to taste like meat. But we felt it needed some sauce. Butter, mayo, or barbecue; something to lubricate the otherwise dry bun. Preferably a jus to dip into, something to add moisture and give additional flavour. We ended up just eating the meat as was, forgoing the bun, deeming it as an excessive filler. The meat was carved to order, a piece sliced from a larger slab, and kept warn under a heat lamp. I saw pinker middles and juicier drippings from other orders, so I guest we just got a piece closer to the end of the roast. The chips we finished, good, but judging by the bags of “Ms. Vicky’s” regular behind the counter they were nothing special.

With arms loaded you either take your treats to your stadium seat, or like us find a free table nearby facing a television screen. The thought of squeezing between knees and railing with arms full and no hands free worries me. Minding your “excuse me’s” to faces you feel bad to have bother. While having to navigate with your eyes always looking down, looking at your own two feet. Lest we trip or spill someone’s beer. (Side note: All seats need cup holders!) When you get to your chair, with no free digits and the unwillingness to ask a neighbour for help, you use the edge of your bum to urge your seat down. If you are like me, unblessed with a flatter bottom, this takes a few tries. Then its a scramble to assert yourself into the seat before it flips back up. The struggle is real. And now finally you are left awkwardly balancing your now cold meal on your uneven lap. This is how spills and stains happen.

IMG_1105IMG_1104

So avoid all that because between both concession stands are a series of high top tables. Each spread out enough to guarantee a clear view of one of the many screens broadcasting a live feed of the game. We stood over one such high table, its top painted to mimic ice and the centre line. I really appreciated the detail in this. Here, we took an intermission from food to talk Canucks and their chances this season. Given that my guest’s profession is to critique and rely stats through writing, I thought he would be good person to ask. He insisted on the need to be positive, joking that he has to say they are going to do well because they pay him to.

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.
If you are here for a sporting match or a performance you might as well enjoy the best of what Rogers Arena has to offer. Why have a regular sandwich when you can have one with lobster or a fine cut of beef? The only thing missing was some fancier desserts to pair with this higher end food. What we had built us up so much that a grocery store ice cream bar wouldn’t cut it. As the regular hockey season has just started I know I will be back. And instead of waiting in the long lines at the Costco nearby, I will instead come a little early, and spend a little more, to go a little more gourmet in my arena fare. Even though the team might not always be winning, your stomach can. Don’t deny your cravings.

CARVE & CATCH at Rogers Arena
800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver BC, V6B 6G1
604-899-7400
Carve on Urbanspoon
Catch on Urbanspoon