Seasons in the Park

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Looking for a place to impress, or maybe you want to show the city off to friends visiting from out of town? Here is one of the places I recommend for both. It combines good food with a classy atmosphere, and best of all: a one of a kind view point.

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The “park” the restaurant’s title refers to is “Queen Elizabeth park”. And you certainly get an eye full of it from the restaurant’s location. Cascading hills covered in green: slender trees, manicured lawns, and the occasional bush in bloom. Our group of nine would eventually be seated at one of the larger tables. It was one step above everyone else on an elevated platform, right in the centre of the dining room, and right beneath the cast iron chandelier that looked like it belonged in a monastery. Though sadly, having the most elevated position in the house only made our view less magnificent. You actually want to aim for the unobstructed view of any window seat, or maybe even just a table on their patio. So call ahead and make a proper reservation and a special request.

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Whereas we were essentially overlooking the window side four tops surrounding us, and forced to look past the people and their parties. To blur them out in our peripheral, in order to be fully entranced and immersed with the scenery before us. To have that full feeling of being so small in a world so large, that you are a fleck in this moment and there is so much more out there. A humbling way to realize your problems are not as big as you make them out to be, because you are so small in relation to everything else. Or at least, that is what I take away from panoramic sceneries. Though given the size of our group, this was the best we could hope for. And location in relation to the window is of little consequence when you get a glimpse of the glass and metal city far in the distance.

I took the advice of my original post and made sure the one driving valet-ed his car, instead of sourcing out metered parking. It was one flat rate verses multiple trips to feed the machine, and the first hour always cost more than the additional ones do.

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To quote my previous, visit post, as I left I captured the large space well during my initial visit. “The restaurant was elegantly dressed with its own cultivated garden by the entrance out front. Rustic in wood and metal it had the feel of a woodsy cabin with the class of a fine hotel. White table cloths, tea lights for ambience, and a vaulted skylight feature over a cast iron chandelier. There was no art hanging, no decorations scattered, nothing to take away from the wall to wall breath taking view. Given the restaurant’s elevation, the windows and what lay after them, the view would be the only thing you really wanted to admire.”

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I find you tend not to notice staff and service as much when you are a larger group. Engaged in one another the wait staff almost blend into the background. Therefore I cannot recall their performance. But the fact that our food came in a timely manner, the empty dish ware was bussed in an orderly fashion, and our glasses never lingered empty; all points lead to an efficient and effective dinner service.

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The meal began with complimentary bread and butter. Warm crusty slices that were spongy in the middle, paired with butter actually labeled “butter”. In case you can’t believe it is butter.

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For appetizers we shared the “Seasons mushrooms” with crab, shrimp, and cream cheese. Grilled button mushroom caps stuffed with oozy cheesy goodness. The texture and taste was dominantly creamy, so if you aren’t a fan of rubbery mushrooms, the cream cheese seafood spread is what you got instead. That an a spring onion under tone.

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The “Calamari” was flash fried and served with tzatziki and lemon. Each piece was crispy, with plenty of tangy sauce to fully coat each bite. It was just a little salty, a point that could have been helped along with a little more herbs for flavour.

Most of the entrees had similar sides, so I will blanket describe them right here. The mashed potatoes were whipped smooth to a fine grained paste. The green beans were cooked in butter, just long enough for them to maintain their snap. And the tomatoes were amazing, the way they were prepared left them sweet and juicy.

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“10oz prime New York striploin” with the addition of a peppercorn sauce at an additional cost. Spicy and peppery flavoured beef.

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“7oz filet mignon” prepared rare with a side of tangy horseradish. The gravy boat on the side was used for extra moisture and extra flavour.

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The “Rack of lamb with rosemary” was prepared well. I found it the most visually appealing of all the plates. The meat was cooked tender. Though it took me a lot of composure to not pick the bone clean with hands and teeth.

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“Fresh BC halibut” with a lemon Parmesan crust, beurre blanc, quinoa, and seasonal vegetables. It looked pretty, but the fish did not taste fresh. Sadly, the sides that accompanied, outshone the fish itself.

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The “Seafood linguine carbonara” included bacon, prawns, snapper, and scallops. It was filling, lots of creamy sauce, coating plenty of seafood. It definitely smelled as good as it looked.

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The “Filet Neptune mignon” was crusted with crab and topped with bearnaise sauce. The crab was not so much crusted, as topped in a clump. Together with the beef and sauce, it all went together harmoniously in your mouth. Delicious.

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The “Fraser valley chicken” with lemon, roasted vegetable, and arugula was a little flat. The flavours weren’t as exciting and the chicken was especially dry.

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Sadly the added on sides of garlic mushrooms and buttered broccolini tasted better by comparison.

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“Creme burlee”. The traditional burnt sugar and luscious cream hiding under an almond biscotti piece, a strawberry segment, and a whole gooseberry with dried petals and all. The above certainly dressed up the scene, even though it didn’t do much for flavour.

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“Sunburnt lemon pie” with raspberry coulis. The slice had the same burnt sugar topping as the creme Burlee above did, but underneath it was all lemon jelly and brown butter tart. I find a good lemon dessert refreshing after a heavy meal.

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“Pecan pie with Georgian brandy and Chantilly cream”. It was nutty and not too sweet. If you weren’t full, after this you would be. I would have preferred this as a snack instead of a dessert.

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“Warm apple cake” with vanilla bean gelato and a cinnamon sauce. The cake was light and spongy, but like the pie before I would have preferred it for another meal. Better for breakfast or brunch than dinner.

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“Tiramisu with espresso dipped lady fingers and and mascarpone cream”. The slice was like an edible espresso, creamy and rich in coffee flavour. This is what they mean, when they say you always have room for dessert.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Our city is known for its view points and its citizens cannot get enough of them. So here is another one, if you have never been, this is one worth checking out. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SEASONS IN THE PARK
Queen Elizabeth Park
West 33rd Avenue & Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V5Y2M5
604-874-8008
vancouverdine.com/seasons-park

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Granville Island Brewing

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Looking for a refreshing way to cool down? Beer is the answer! And here in Vancouver, we our home to several breweries to help. Today we were in Granville Island checking out one of the city’s more popular labels. It is a large grey stucco building flagged with their various brews: lagers, IPAs, and ales. We would soon try one of each.

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Try not to trip on the sandwich board doling out “beer science”. It made sense to me.

Given the steady traffic and the bodies in the door way, we were surprised to be able to get a seat with no wait, but not surprised to have to rush through our time with it. Our server would be ending her shift and asked that we settle up prematurely. We did to accommodate, but only to be forced out sooner than we anticipated. The general feeling is that when you have paid you are done and should free the table for someone waiting. We were not impressed.

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Their taproom was sandwiched between the brewery and their gift shop. It was set up like your standard bar. High tops, share tables, and a physical bar with all beverages on tap. Naturally they only serve Granville island brewery products.

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It’s popularity has earned them tourist attraction status with regularly scheduled tours. The spotless glass wall that separated brewery from bar allowed those dining in to watch the day to day operations in beer making. Large metal vats, yards of tubing, and pipes snaking above. Their transparency forced them to be clean and up to code. Something I appreciate when considering what is to go inside of me. Today a tour group was being taken through their process from hop to beer. You could see the flash of their cameras bounce off the vanished metal. Their gift shop was located on the opposite end. In it they stocked their beer and other keepsakes. Trinkets to help you remember your time here, in true tourist attraction fashion. Being local we didn’t find the need to visit.

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The drink menu was in the form of a tasting map, with the option to try it all as “tasters”. Four 5oz glasses for $7. We went for two rounds to try them all, adding on a couple of dollars to also get today’s special micro batch. The miniature pints were served on the placemat as a way to mark one from the other.

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Here are all the beers on the menu in a glorious assembly. Tasters of everything on tap: Island Lager, Hey Day hefeweizen, English Bay pale ale, False Creek raspberry ale, small batch beer of the day, Two tides India session ale, Maple Shack cream ale, Swing Span amber ale, and their infamous IPA.

There wasn’t too much on the food menu. Light snacks and limited handhelds. Nuts, chicken wings, soup, and vegetables with dip to snack on. And if you are looking for something more filling choose between their poutine, the one salad option, their only sandwich, the one burger, or their only vegetarian option.

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Salty snacks are best paired with beer so we went with the meat and cheese plate. The “Farmer’s plate” included Benton brothers tomme de savoie and aged goat Gouda with oyama rosette de Lyon and Okanagan red wine prosciutto. Served with green apple, artisan mustards, bacon shallot jam and assorted breads. It was a great companion to the beers. We would eat and drink all the above in an assorted fashion. Though we’re disappointed that, given the area they didn’t include more artisan breads. Something hand made from one of the many bakeries nearby. It is what the area is known for after all.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The setting is unique, and the concept of doing your own taste test is always fun. Why commit to one when you can try them all? The food can be missed, but you are here to fill up on beer anyways. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GRANVILLE ISLAND BREWING
1441 Cartwright street, Vancouver BC V6H 3R7
604-687-3729
gib.ca
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L’Antipasto

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I have been here a while back. My original post deemed it nothing really special, but now looking for Italian in Yaletown I found myself returning with a different guest. Though my opinion remains the same.

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The weather was warm enough to enjoy the patio, even with clouds and without sun. You just walk on to their patio and pick your seat. A small deck out front: seated with brown chairs, paired with black tables, and dresser with Maroon napkins. Clean and simple, like their cuisine. I fondly remembered their lighting fixtures made from repurposed wine bottles. Hanging in threes, these bottles had their bottoms removed and a bulb inserted inside. The patio actually has a view of the other patios on either side. Together they seemed like a block long shared patio, it made for a pretty cool vibe.

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The menu was two pages divided between antipasti, franza, and pasta & risotto. “Before the meal”, “lunch”, and pasta and risotto. The guide to pasta types was most helpful, it included sketches for reference. Ravioli, pappardelle, gigli, rigatoni, and gnocchi. The addition of less common pasta shapes made our lunch a little more special. I was tempted by the lobster and crab ravioli, but as a rule I don’t order ravioli. I never find the serving enough, and the last thing I want to do is sit down to eat only to leave still hungry. And I rather not have to order two entrees to make that happen. Instead we decided to share a white and red sauce pasta. A wait is expected as they cook from scratch.

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The meal started with cold water and a bowl of garlic seasoned olives and a dish for the pits. I do like olives, but as is, I found them too salty to enjoy on their own. I opted to save them for the pasta to come. A briny olive is an easy was to rejuvenate flavour to a meal mid way.

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We asked for garlic bread as a side. They didn’t have any so offered regular bread instead. I enjoy bread with pasta, to be able to sop up extra sauce with it like a sponge.

 

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“Gigi alla primavera”. Lily shaped pasta from Florence, dressed in a tomato and basil sauce; and draped with burrata. I appreciated the generosity of the fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. It had a melted almost congealed texture to it. Not recommend if you don’t like your cheese stringy and gooey like stretchy spider webs. It added a nice texture to the el dente pasta. The noodles were not only visually interesting, but they were texturally enjoyable as well. I enjoyed the chewing. Though neither of the above helped in making things less bland. We wished for as much flavour as there was colour in the sauce. The container of Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over things helped.

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“Spaghetti alla carbonara”. Described as a classic Roman dish. Made with guanciale in a slightly peppered egg yolk cream sauce, served over fresh spaghetti pasta. Guanciale is an Italian cured meat or salami product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. It is very similar to bacon, but in thicker, less fatty cuts. It gave a nice meaty saltiness to the dish. But together with the rich egg yolk, there was so much flavour that it was overwhelming. Too much to take in, I needed eating breaks. I wasn’t full when I asked for the rest to be packaged to go, but I jut couldn’t bring myself to finish the rest in one setting. They made pretty good leftovers though.

 

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The bill still comes inside of a small jewelry box. Its lid was dripped with a red wax candle and stamped with a seal. Inside were two dark chocolate squares on top of what we owed.

 

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.
Once again the food was average. The plates were neat, and the cuisine is simple. But for what we paid I don’t know if it is worth it. I wouldn’t be apposed to returning, but will have nothing to look forward to. I don’t have many more thoughts on the place so, will leave it at that. Though that is pretty telling in itself. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

YALETOWN L’ANTIPASTO
1127 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P2
604-558-1174
yaletownlantipatso.com
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Stable House

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It’s been a while since my original visit, when they first opened. Since then, the neighbourhood has made them their local bar and they have reintroduced their menu. An easy going setting with fairly formal dishes. Good enough reasons as any to have me revisit and eventually amend my initial assessment.

After over a year, things don’t seem much different decor wise. The exterior is still draped with patio lights leading from awning to tree, it creates an archway of illuminated light. Today their small outdoor patio is left unseated, though I have often walked by to observe couples drinking and enjoying each other’s company, long into the darkness of the night. Though given the lack of view, I prefer the interior with its dim romantic lighting and its back supporting booths.

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Their breakfast nook by the front window was unfortunately taken. It was an elevated platform holding a spacious booth, that provided the diner with natural lighting. Food always looks better in natural lighting, and I enjoying consuming with my eyes before I dine with my tongue. I remembered wanting to claim the best seat in the house during my first visit too. But like before, we were directed to the seats in the back. The cushioned booth that ran against the wall was still surrounded by tile, cork, and wood paneling on its three sides. I even recalled the odd sight of tiles with horses on it and the irregular light fixture crafted from black narrow pipes.

We ordered off the chalkboard wine list posted on the wall. They offered more options on red, white, rose, and bubbles than they did in food. Though the menu does offer more variety now. I remember during my first visit most of the entrees were savoury tarts.

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Though the “Mushroom & Gruyere tart” with onion purée, puff pastry, and a green side salad was still being offered. It was the only clear option for the vegetarian of our group. The tart was built on a hearty, yet flaky pastry. The buttery crust paired well with the earthy mushrooms and the bold cheese. Though I would have preferred the whole assemble on herbed flatbread instead. The Gruyere was definitely the highlight of the dish, so we were disappointed to not have more grated on top.

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The only down side to the “Braised pork belly” with corn risotto, celery, and red onions was that there was not more of it. They definitely earned bonus points for this presentation. An over turn ceramic basket strategically placed, just for show. The pork was prepared extremely tender. It had just the right amount of fat on each piece, to literally melt in your mouth. And its overall saltiness went well with the sweetness of the corn. Though from a textural standpoint I could have used some crunch, maybe a slaw or some pickled vegetable to add a crunch and offer a change in palate.

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The “Seared albacore tuna loin” with fennel, warm barley, red cabbage, and almonds; use  to be a feature, but was so popular that they made it a regular menu item. With so many elements this dish delivered on all that I was expecting visually, textural, and flavour wise. I have never had barely prepared like this. It reminded me of dirty rice, gritty with various textures thanks to the various sized grains and nut slivers. It was definitely filling. The celery and pickled beets gave it some crispness. And the tuna was seared a perfect pink and presented to highlight it on the dish. The pickled fennel offered that tartness I wanted in the pork dish before. Together it all felt very healthy. A dish I consumed with no regrets.

 

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.
Given that there is nothing else like it in the area it will continue to do well. That Gastown vibe at a slower pace, located on South Granville. The food was good, but for the price we paid, it is not for everyday dining. I recommended here more for drinks and causal conversation. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

STABLE HOUSE
1520 West 13th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6H 1P1
604-736-1520
thestablehouse.ca

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Richmond Night Market, part 1

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This would be my first visit to the Richmond night market this year. The summer season is in full swing, operating from May 12 to October 15. Open Fridays and Saturdays  from 7pm-12am and Sundays and stat Mondays 7pm-11pm.

After several years it is still a popular weekend destination that only seems to get bigger every year after. One thing you consider when attempting a trip down to the market is the parking. As the event gets bigger, the same could be said for the parking congestion. Although it is a free lot, the cost on your time is a hefty fine. It is a slow attempt to move in, and is just the same trying to get out, angry drivers and carefree pedestrian blocking roads. Luckily they have hired traffic guards to help move things along. We however played it clever and opted to walk blocks, instead of queuing in the car.

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Similarly, we paid $20 to get their zoom pass, in order to by pass the admissions line. A obvious option when considering having to stand for a 30 minute plus wait. I don’t know why people even bother to line up, when the $20 cost includes seven additional visits and the option to save time. So this is especially worth while if you know you are going to come back again. And we would. The math is less than $3 per entry. A savings when you consider that the regular fee is $4. Previously the going admission rate was $2. Though this increase in price was not stopping anyone for coming. Similarly, this year $20 pass card only gets you 7 entries, where in previous years you got more than 10. Economics.

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This year’s theme was a pirate one. Their rubber duck mascot, “magical lolliduck” dawned an eye patch, a black over coat, and a captain’s hat with a skull and cross bones for the occasion. Pictured in fixtures and on signs, they were consistent on their messaging. A gumdrop and lollipop themed pirate ship was even docked for the occasion. It lack sails, but made up for it with confetti dotted cannons. Lolliduck was on the flags, his likeness was mounted on the side of the ship, and there was also a big bust of him fronting the vessel. It isn’t practical for sailing, nor are you actually able to board it, but it does make a great photo op. The market had many such planted photographic moments.

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The market is more than just food and shopping. A stage by the entrance hosts  nightly live entertainment. It is line with an international collection of plastic “rubber ducks”. The Canadian duck was dressed like a Mountie, the Dutch one wore clogs, and the one from France was dressed in a striped shirt and a beret; it was all very cliché. They all said “welcome” in English. They are reused every year, along with the spiral lollipops and swirling gumdrops from last year’s candy land displays.

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We started our journey through the maze with the food stands. Agreeing to stop when anyone signal their attention to the group. We would stick together, it is easy to get lost in the sea. If you are claustrophobic or hate being touched, you might want to skip this event all together. Both are unavoidable when there are this many people confined to travelling in parallel isles.

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I am the kind of person who wants to make a loop before deciding on what I want. I want to make the best in formed decision, especially as I am most interested in the unique. We started with savoury and worked our way sweet. Although the prices of most  items are steep, you actually eat less and therefore spend less. The time it takes to travel and wait in line allows your stomach to tell your brain that it is full.

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The “Buddy Kushikatsu” stall prided itself as being from Osaka and the first of its kind in Vancouver. Kushikatsu is a Japanese dish of seasoned, skewered, and grilled meat. It can be made with chicken, pork, seafood, and seasonal vegetables. These are skewered on bamboo; dipped in egg, flour, and coated with a panko crumb. And then finally deep-fried in vegetable oil. They are served drizzled in a tonkatsu sauce, a type of thick Worcestershire sauce.

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I appreciated the cooked demos on display. It definitely helps the ordering process and gets you tempted as you walk by. The market is a visual place.

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Made to order, we got 7 for $10 to be able try one of each with doubles on what we wanted more of, otherwise it is $5 for 3. Scallop, chicken, quail egg, cheese filled beef, and cheese filled chikuwa (fish cake). The scallop and beef were a little dry. The soft boiled mini egg just melts in you mouth. And the fish was nice because of the melted cheese dropping from its centre.

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At “Big G’s large fried chicken” booth the name says it all. Though they also offered deep fried fish cake and mushrooms for those who did not partake in meat. We stopped here because the photo on the booth promised chicken as large as our faces. And sometimes food needs a good gimmick. The booth delivered and the staff working it suggested that we take a photo of said chicken beside our faces to compare the size. We did.

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The slab of chicken went bag deep. Given the presence of bones, I feel they pounded half a chicken flat, breaded it, then deep fried it to a crisp. It tasted just like the salt and pepper chicken nuggets you get at Taiwanese bubble places. The dark meat portions were juicy and the chicken overall was well cooked. Though because it was so salty, more oily than expected, and had a one dimensional flavour; we were unable to finish it between three people. It also did not travel well as leftovers. In retrospect we would have been better off ordering the chicken strips for $7. The same chicken, but cut up and easier to share. It was also a more reasonable amount. Though for $2 more, who wouldn’t want to cross off eating something that is larger than their faces off their check list.

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“Mango Tango”, don’t let its name fool you, they don’t just do mango. For all its mango centred desserts they also had a durian substitute available. Mango or durian sticky rice, grass jelly, mousse, or tofu. The stall was most cute with a cartoon green mango and a pointy durian mascots. And as is the case with most vendors, the pictures provided on the awning helped to attract attention and pull in customers. It certainly worked on me.

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Having seen durian offered as a pancake I just had to order one for nostalgia. Durian is an acquired taste. Growing up enjoying it, I do find myself with occasional cravings. In Southeast Asia durian is considered the “king of fruits”. It is most known for its distinctive odour and its formidable spiky shell. If you can hack your way past the spines, soft fruit surrounding large pits are waiting for you. For those unfamiliar with the fruit, it’s scent is often likened to smelly gym socks. Not the best image when eating, especially as scent is tied to taste.

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The durian pancake was more whipped cream than durian, it made sense given its price tag. You get two folds, I offered one to a girl who was interested in my dessert and asked where I got it from. I wanted a taste and didn’t need two. Plus my companions complained of the smell. It barely had any fruit, yet one breeze and one of my guests couldn’t take it anymore. Though at the same time, I managed to get one to try it for the first time. It is definitely not for everyone, but for me it tasted like childhood.

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At the “Icy bar” we had the “mango tapioca icy”. It is best described as a dressed up snow cone with condense milk for sweetness.

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It also comes in strawberry, mochi, grass jelly, and various combinations of the three.

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You get a coupon book with your zoom card purchase. Although there is a required hunt to located the stand in which it is passed out. The book offered over 50 pages of food and item discounts. Though standing still and going through over in a sea of people was a little tricky. Luckily vendors participating did advertise their inclusion by using signs on their booths to alert customers. We only ended up using one of the coupons on bubble tea. The deal is buy one get one at 50% off. Given all the similar stands, the coupon definitely swayed us in their direction.

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“Bubble Tea Mosters”. Did they spell “monsters” wrong? Though you almost miss this potential type-o because their banner was so cute. Food with cute faces and large eyes, as is the custom for many other stalls. They know their demographic. At “Bubble Tea Mosters” they cleverly market that their pearls or jelly for their tea is free. Though in reality, is its already included as part of the price.

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Papaya milk tea and strawberry slush. After various salty snacks this was a much needed thirst quencher. Though other than that it was your run of the mill powdered milk tea mix and frozen fruit blend.

Of note, not covered in this first visit post is the games area where you can win large plushes; and all the vendor stands selling everything from cell phone cases and socks, to colour contacts and samurai weapons. I guess it gives me another reason to return.

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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.
For me, this is one of those things I do every year. And with so much to eat and see, I end up visiting multiple times. The atmosphere is fun with bright lights and photo ops galore. Eat your food under pink led bulbs, imitating a lit up cherry blossom trees. Or purchase some “hurricane potatoes” to be able to sit in their “throne of rotato” for d one of s kind photo. (As a rift on the “Game of Thrones” throne.) Both features are very unique to the night market. My only gripe, besides the parking and the crowds: I find their regular announcements over the PA annoying. A repeating track invites guests to come to the night market. But seeing as you are already here, it seems redundant, as no convincing is actually needed. As always, don’t deny your cravings.

 

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC
richmondnightmarket.com

Richmond Olympic Oval

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Looking for an effective way to cool down this summer? Have you thought about ice skating? An activity available all year around at the Richmond Oval. We came specifically for the Canada day themed free skate, and I thought it the perfect time to get a better look at the arena in general. Built for use during the 2010 Olympics this stadium is now used by many as their go-to recreational destination. And if you don’t live in Richmond, it is certainly worth the trip down.

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Apparently the building’s design inspiration was the heron, the official bird of Richmond. The roof is held up using fifteen glued laminated beams, and is designed to resemble the wings of the very heron. I can’t quite see it, but it’s roof is one of my favourite features about this building.

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The oval is an indoor multi-sports arena. When built for the consideration of the 2010 Winter Olympics it was originally configured with an speed skating rink. The venue has since been redesigned, it now serves as a community multi-sport park. The upper level consists of a fitness centre with a view of the North Shore mountains and the river. It houses more than 200 pieces of equipment. The main floor includes two ice hockey rinks, two running tracks, a climbing wall, a rowing tank and a flexible area which can be used for many other sports. Including basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, and table tennis. And most recently outdoor sand volley ball courts have been added, just in time for summer.

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The area also includes some beautiful views. Past the sand pits are wood laid pathways that lead close to the water’s edge. Along the length of the arena several beach chairs are set up. It is the perfect place to take a walk, then sit as the sun sets.

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Outside the arena is the “Water Sky Garden”, a sculptural environment designed by artist, Janet Echelman. It comprises of a boardwalk that weaves through a pond, and two pedestrian bridges that reach the Olympic Oval. Above this pond hangs the artist’s “sky lantern” sculpture. The sculpture is made of Tenara architectural fibre, supported by painted galvanized steel rings. An interesting idea, that unfortunately has not been very well maintained. The garden now looks more like a swamp. The water is home to flies, that are breeding and feasting on the unkept pool.

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The indoor space also includes conference rooms, a cafe serving the oval, a private gym for rental, a high performance training centre, batting nets to practice your golf or baseball swing, a yoga studio, and even a physiotherapy office. Your one stop athletic shop. The realization of this had me self conscious. Athletic types all around and I felt out of place in my high low skirt and metal embellished sandals. As some of you may know, I don’t do sports or exercise. I work on my feet all day and that keeps be just fit enough.

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After our tour we were the first to ice skating rink, where the themed skate would he held. A table manned by employees offered stickers and rub-on tattoos. We passed it for the skate rental booth. If you have your own you don’t need to pay to rent, instead you just pay for the entry fee. As a women I was able to choose between men’s hockey skates at a smaller size or women’s figure skates. The former gave you more room if you have wider feet. I needed the latter and found its longer blade helpful in keeping me balanced.

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As a gimmick, for fun, they include toys on the ice, today it was plastic dinosaurs. I don’t know the point, but it sure got our attention and stood out in our memories.

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It took me a while for me to get my groove back, a few laps for muscle memory to kick in. I enjoyed the time spent with my friends, but truth is after a few rounds there was nothing else to do. Though the setting was beautiful and made for a great photo op. I don’t know why I was surprised that it was cold. Fun, but not something I could see myself doing on a regular bases.

 

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.

 

RICHMOND OLYMPIC OVAL
6111 River Road, Richmond BC, V7C 0A2
778-296-1400
richmondoval.ca

Willow Stream Spa

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We have been having some steady summer weather lately, so what better a time then this to book an appointment to my favourite spa and it’s one of a kind patio? Typically the 24 hour cancelation fee has me fearing bad weather and the inability to rebook on the day. So when the forecast called for sunny skies and no clouds I took advantage. Having been before, I knew to ask when the sun would be out and timing my appointment for after I caught some rays. They allow you unlimited use of their facilities for any spa service booked. In the past, I have walked into a massage room only to walk out disappointed; with the sun well hidden past neighbouring buildings. So in my case 11-3pm was the magical time. My appointment was at 2:45pm, when we were no longer able to chase after the retreating sun. By chase I mean, moving from seat to seat until the entire patio was void of the sun’s rays.

Despite it being downtown, parking isn’t really an issue, if you have the money to spare. You drive right up to the front and leave your key with the valet. You get some of the cost reimbursed by the spa. After over 4 hours parked the total came to $15. But now at the lobby, you claim a ticket in exchange for your key. You leave your vehicle for the attendant to worry about. If your vehicle is of the expensive and sports car variety it gets parked right out front. For the rest of us, underground it goes. I was particularly embarrassed to be pulling up in my dirty vehicle, that I failed to clean for over a month.

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You journey through the hotel foyer: past the check in desks, the florist in the corner, and their lobby lounge with live music, right to the elevators at the back. 5th floor, your destination is listed. I always thought it was a shame that they didn’t have this spa and its patio higher. Doing so would be a better view and less noise from the world below. A concern that did not weigh heavily enough to have me not returning.

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On level five, you check in at the concierge, she confirms your appointment and that you have been before. If not you get the guided tour. Lockers are available and secured with a combination of your choosing. Leaving your stuff behind, you change into your swim suit, slip on a pair of their rubber sole flip flops, and clothe yourself in their heavy terry cloth robe. Both are for complimentary use, available in each locker. It’s locker room rules, so you are able to change freely out in the open, or if you prefer modesty, you can use one of their spacious washroom stalls.

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One of the many reasons why I like this particular spa so much is that all the amenities are included with your stay. You do pay a steep fee for the massage service, but it is well worth it if you take advantage of all the little adds on they offer. Use of their roof top patio, the perfect oasis to tan in, above a bustling city. Shared use of their indoor lounges, one specifically for men and one for women, or join a friend or partner at the co-ed share space in the middle.

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They also have dried nuts and fruits and several water station around for you to stay hydrated with and to snack on. Spa treatments usually require you to drink lots so their flavoured fruit water and refreshing teas help with this. Pineapple cubes or watermelon chunks in a vat of ice water, berry berry iced tea, and an apple sencha iced tea. Over eating and having a massage can cause unwanted discomfort. The best solution, nibble on handful of their mixed nuts, or grab a rectangle of their power bar mix. It is all help yourself, with each item under its own glass dome. You take as much as you like with a pair of tongs and a small dish.

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If you come on a good day the whole patio is your play ground. It is almost peaceful if not for the roar of engines and the rumbling of trucks below, even the occasional loud conversation fills your ears. Though if you focus on yourself and concentrate on the smoothing spa melody broadcasted, most of this does fade away. The ground was made from large stone with wooden planks framing the space. Various wicker seats and their accompanying side tables were free at a first come first bases. Best to claim what you want with a towel or robe. A few loungers made the perfect place to recline in for you and a friend. A large curved surface to maximize comfort. They were intermingled with a few chairs surrounding an outdoor fire pit. Clearly it’s flames were for show on a day like today.

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By the balcony’s edge was a row of wicker nests propped up with silver and white throw pillows, a woolen throw and its own heat lamp. Once again, on a day like today the latter two were unnecessary, though perfect when the patio looses its sun at around 2:30pm. This is when the surrounding buildings obstruct its rays. Tanning in the city. As a courtesy you lay a towel out, this catches your sweat and makes the furniture sanitary for the next person to use it. The sad part is most people don’t clean up after themselves so you are left wondering if a space is free when towels are left holding it. The only down side: beware of birds. I seem to have the luck of being graced by fresh splotches of bird droppings during each visit. Luckily each time, it was on the furniture and not my face.

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Though if you have missed the sun altogether, you can still enjoy the roof top space by ordering a meal and a bottle of wine or taking a dip in either of their small pools. The menu is from Oru, their lobby’s kitchen. It includes a curated list of Pacific Northwest style plates and flavours from the Pacific Rim. Sushi, salads, meat and cheese platters. Though plan ahead because any of it requires at least a 45 minute wait.

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Both pools felt heated thanks to the sun, but only one was meant to be an actual “hot” tub. So as a result both were left unoccupied. No one wants to dip into water only to be made warmer on an already sweaty day. We however took advantage of the exclusive pool and enjoyed a soak while commenting on the view. Some like it hot. And in the hot tub we even had the bubbles running thanks to a friendly staff member offering us the option. Power jets, enough said.

I have always found any massage under 30 minutes too short, and 60 minutes is just when you start to relax. Therefore I decided to indulge in a 90 minute therapeutic massage today. Over the course of two years I have been struck four times in four separate car accidents. As a result I suffer from day to day back, and lingering shoulder to neck pain. So today, I was hoping this costly session would bear fruit. And that I would get some more peace than my weekly physiotherapy sessions can provide. I was looking for instant relief and hoping a registered massage therapist would help.

Most people prefer to have a masseur the same sex as themselves. This reminds me of childhood days on the playground, where the opposite gender had cooties and touching them or letting them touch you would transfer the imaginary disease on to you. No matter the gender they are professionals, they are providing you a service, this is their livelihood. They will not do anything to jeopardize this and if you think that they care to take a peak at what’s under your towel, you are wrong. You have nothing they haven’t seen. This is business, you are a means to an end. Blunt, but true. So for all those who are scared by a different gendered masseur or masseuse, don’t be. Now a trip to a gynaecologist or a Brazilian wax may be a different story.

As you can see, I have no preference. If anything, the sexist thought I have is that, men are stronger and therefore better at deep tissue massages? Though ironically, my male masseur was self proclaimed as being heavy handed. Too strong that I had to ask for him to tone the pressure down, something he was easily able to do.

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The session begins with a personal pick up by your masseur. They lead you to a room in the back, on the way offering you water or the time the use the facilities. Once in the designated rooms you both go over logistics. You are walked through a waiver, a list of points to cover, and questions on what he or she needs to be wary of. Allergies? Pregnancies? Any medical conditions? The usual. There is some customization available in your massage session. You determine the level of pressure you desire and places you want them to concentrate on. Like ordering off an all you can eat menu knowing you only get 90 minutes to enjoy it all.

Once you have signed off consent, you are given the time and the option to fully disrobe. The heated robe rack dries your swimsuit, if you have taken a dip in either pools. Naked you climb in to the massage table, an inclined, single bed outfitted with fresh sheets and fluffy linens. The table is heated and the whole experience feels like you are resting on a cloud. Face down the relaxation begins with aroma therapy and the calming fragrance of lavender wafting under yours nose.

Even with 90 minutes it all felt so short. As soon as it began, sadly I was already counting down to when it would be over. It takes you about 45 minutes to truly relax and if you are doing the therapeutic massage like me, you never truly settle. Instead the intensity of the massage and the need to get in deep has you all tense. There is a need to have your limbs jostled, just to remind you to let go. My masseur resorted to asking me to control my breath, to breath in deeply; as a way to get my mind off my pain points and the ticklish spots. My massage was definitely geared towards me. He had me push back and give resistance, to stretch out joints and to loosen ligaments, it was a very evolved 90 minutes. The focus was on tender points where my muscles were most knotted. He pushed on sore points with just enough pressure. He instructed that if I was to rank my pain, there should be nothing that is over a “7”. And if is the case I have to get him to stop. Top to bottom on my front, then bottom to top on my back. When their was time to spare my more severe pain points were revisited. It ended with me sitting up right. I definitely left feeling achy, but coupled with the note of their being less weight on my shoulders.

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After I was given the space to redressed, I was ushered back to the lounge area. Enroute I was given a shot glass of their green smoothie. A cold pressed juice that includes apples, spinach, and pineapple. Before we parted ways he took the final time we had to debrief me on our session. Giving me feedback on how to help my existing sore points. How I should keep my shoulders to improve the strength in my back. And even helpful breathing tips to make the healing process easier. All this and his ability to cite body parts scientifically, gave me much confidence in his abilities and knowledge.

After your treatment you can head back to the patio and/or enjoy any of the other amenities. Continue unwinding back in the hot tub or maybe in the steam room instead?The additional heat before or after a treatment is proven to help the relaxation process. But if you are looking for something more dry, they also offer a unisex sauna to sweat out those same toxins in.

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And when it comes time to clean up, you can do so in either of the two individual shower stalls. They are individual rooms that lock for individual use. Each comes with a bench, towels, a fresh robe, and two different types of shower heads. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are of the pump bottle variety, each bolted to the tiled walls. Or if you are looking for something more indulgent, try their experience showers. Multiple shower heads in multiple directions. Each with its own setting and the ability to adjust its intensity. If you hit the right combination it’s like a watery massage washing you with waves. This showering experience even comes with view, if you dare to take a peak of the streets below.

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I definitely took advantage of all their clean towels. Nothing like a clean fluffy hotel towel after a refreshing shower.

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Once dry, they have everything you need to take your time, and to prep yourself for the outside world. Cotton balls, cotton swabs, deodorant, razors with shaving cream, tampons, sewing kits, mouth wash, and body cream. All travel size, set up by the shared sink. There are even individual vanities with back lit mirrors; providing combs, hair spray, gel, and the use of a hair dryer and a straightening iron. This set up takes into consideration those who are here may be on vacation.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Hands down my favourite spa, the patio really sets it apart. If I haven’t convinced you of how good it is after this long post, I don’t know what will.

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 0B9
604-695-5550
m.fairmont.com/pacific-rim-vancouver/willow-stream

Mahony and Sons

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Our destination today has been noted as one the of city’s best patios, not necessarily for the setting, but the view that accompanied it. With the sun out and happy hour upon us we were delighted that there was no wait to be seated.

We walked into the bar, only to exit out on to the patio. Majority of it is covered by the awning of the Vancouver Convention Centre. The area as a whole now includes many food options and tourist attractions. Given its location it made sense. A booming area with bodies scattered around.

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The patio snakes down the length of the restaurant. The tables are thoughtfully set up to face the scenery. Our seats were not right against the glass panes and metal post barrier, but we still got a good look at the waters of Coal Harbour crowning Canada Place. You just had to do so, past a bunch of heads, avoiding their eye line, playing it off that you weren’t looking at them. Shade is offered by inverted patio umbrellas. I thought they looked odd, but they served their purpose well. Because, although I appreciate having the sun on me and dining outdoors, I cannot enjoy a meal that I am forced to sweat into.

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The menu was your standard bar fare. Not being able to commit to anything that we really wanted, we went for their “Mahony Platter” to be able to try a little bit of everything. Calamari, dry ribs, Pablo chicken tenders, fresh cooked potato chips, garlic Parmesan toast, and spicy cayenne chicken wings.

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The honey mustard dipping sauce was best coating the chicken tenders. The batter on the chicken was crispy on the outside and slight dry on the inside. The sauced definitely helped with this.

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The tzatziki paired with the calamari, and both were disappointing. Not enough dill in the dip and not enough spice with the squid. Though they looked good and had the minimum required crunch with the splotchy batter.

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The spicy mayo was the wild card. Best used for anything that needed an extra kick. Like the potato chips, that weren’t evenly cooked. Certain chips were soggy, others were spotty with only the edge being crunchy. They seemed to have trouble with delivering consistency.

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Similarly the cheese bread lacked flavour, but sadly it was the best thing on the plate. Ironically it could have used more cheese.

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The hot wings were messy from the watery sauce. The flavour decent from the cayenne, but it lacked any juiciness that you’d expect from a good wing.

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The dry ribs were the worst. There was not much meat on these bones and what was present, was all dry. Attempting to eat it was like sucking ob block of salt. The flavour was just salty, just like soya sauce.

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Upon reflection, the frozen drinks we got may not have been the best pairing for the salty snacks above. Piña colada, rum pineapple, and coconut. Strawberry lemonade, vodka, strawberry, and lemonade.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I was tempted to complain about the ribs, and everything else in hindsight. They were the reason I tipped less and contemplated on not tipping at all. That and our inattentive server. Our glasses of water had lip marks on them, and it was impossible to flag a body down for help. Even getting the bill and requesting to pay with a card was no different. And sadly it was not even that busy, there were plenty of seats left on the patio and many more inside. And even though it was happy hour, between 2-6pm, they had no specials to solicit additional business. Sadly I don’t think I will be return here, view or not. Not even to enjoy the waters of Coal Harbour and the sails of Canada Place. Aside from it and the waitresses wearing short plaid and pleated skirts, there was nothing special about the place in my opinion. But don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MAHONY AND SONS
1055 Canada Place, Unit #36, Vancouver BC, V6C 0C3
604-647-7513
mahonyandsons.com
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Kirin Seafood Restaurant

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A fine celebration deserves a fine destination. My brother has earned an “MD” at the end of his name, and my beaming parents arranged a dinner to commemorate the occasion. Dinner tonight would be at one of the more fancier known Chinese fine dining restaurants in Vancouver. Though having it hidden on the second floor of a less popular mall really didn’t convey the above message well.

I am not familiar with “City Square mall”. And the sign posted on the side of the building did little to guide me to my intended destination. I ended up walking towards it and not finding an entrance directly into the restaurant. It turns out the only way in is a ride up the elevator, or a climb up two flights of stairs to the second floor. I wonder how well they do after the mall closes and no one passing by knows they are here. I guess you know where to go if you plan to be here. And are only here because you want to be.

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Walking through the corridor you are forced to face their live seafood tanks. Fancy restaurant or not, the conditions of the soon to be main course didn’t look too comfortable. Though I highly suspect majority of these tanks would be empty by night’s end. And sadly it did not dissuade me from the meal ahead. The geoduck enclosures were designed to have the molluscs expose their “necks”. “Geoduck” or “gooey duck” is a species of very large, edible, saltwater clams native to the west coast of North America. The geoduck is both one of the largest clams in the world, and one of the longest-lived animals of any type. I refused to eat any. I consider them like snails and that does not appeal to me. To its right huddled sickly fish. And below it a tank with crabs and lobsters mingling. The king crab earned its title by roosting itself on top of the other regular crabs.

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I was horribly early, but allowed to be seated at our reserved table, in the centre of the room. Though being hungry and being surrounded by other diners grasping chopsticks was difficult. Everything smelled so good. I was familiar with the dishes and now began to crave them, but I wouldn’t be able to order any. As I have stated before, I only really indulge in Chinese cuisine when out with my relatives. It is not a cuisine I often crave, nor one I would solicit friends to come out with me to try. So I was sure to enjoy the bounty of eleven courses between eight people tonight. Not a predetermined set menu this time. Though you could be sure the meal would still start with a soup, continue with a cold or fried appetizer (sometimes both), there would be a vegetable dish, a fish dish, a shellfish dish, a meat dish; and to end the savoury portion: a rice or noodle dish to ensure you would leave with belly full.

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Our table, like all the others felt perfectly set. I could imagine rulers were pulled out to guarantee the exact one centimetre from charger to tables edge. Their colour scheme was a spectrum of ever greens paired with a golden brown. Unknowingly I came in matching the room with my army green coloured dress. The carpet was a circular pattern in deep green, navy, and brown. Each setting had a charger rimmed in a pine green set against metallic gold. The pattern of a lion coiled in a continuous ribbon danced along this edge. The white table cloth draped over the table gave it that fine dining flare, along with the use of cloth napkins. On each dining plate was a reusable spearmint green napkin, it was folded into a cone, pointed at the tip. Each triangular origami project faced inward towards the lazy Susan. A “lazy Susan” is a circular rotating tray or turntable. It is placed in the centre of the table to aid in the moving of food without reaching. It requires each dinner guest to wait patiently, and to take their turn. This is pretty standard furniture at any family style Chinese meals. On the turntable was a frosted image of a lotus flower and more ribbon.

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From here the details only become more ornate. Each chair had a hand carved element: a Chinese dragon with feathered tail and wispy whiskers blowing smoke. Puffs of curly clouds surrounded him. On the table, individually wrapped, reusable chopsticks rested on their own tiny chopstick bench. It gave you the impression that the set you were using was new and thoroughly sanitized. Though sadly no one else would get to experience this, because as soon as I sat down, one of the servers removed all the paper packaging from all the chopsticks and crumpled them up to discard. One by one, until all eight were done.

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Similarly, was their set up of tea. I was offered hot tea as I waited. Good thing, as the room was so cold from an effective air conditioning, that I needed the warm cups of tea to helped to keep my shivering to a minimum. I agreed to the jasmine. Two porcelain tea pots showed up. One was labeled with the tea it held within. The other hot water to dilute the first. Hot water kept hot with the aid of a candle light and a metal coil. The candle goes under the covering. It’s flame heats the silver plated metal and keeps the pot and its contents at the ready. This was a standard accessory at each table. Of note, our tea pot was never refilled with fresh tea leaves. Odd considering how many guests were at our table and how salty Chinese food is in general. We needed several cups of tea to help cut the grease, though in the end what we were left with was leaves in water. In hind sight we could have asked for a fresh pot, but by the time we noticed we were already at dessert.

At 6pm the room exploded. Bodies filled seats and voices rang throughout the room. The room had slight dips and elevated areas to create the illusion of space. Instead of a sea of tables you had pod-like clusters of tables.
As is often the case at Chinese restaurants, the staff are in uniform. Coloured vests over white shirts, partnered with black pants. Their vests were greens. The men wore ties and the women bow ties. The managers were in full suits. They roamed the room and jumped to help when they could. Everyone kept themselves busy.

I was impressed by the menu’s detailed. High quality, full colour photos tempted you. A showcase of what they offered and how the intended to plate it all with care. Both the chef’s recommendations and all the set meals, divided by number of diners, included  details in multiple languages. Chinese characters, Japanese kanji script, and English pint. A few items required a day in advanced ordering. When making the reservation my father requested the melon soup and stuffed duck.

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Double broiled whole winter melon with assorted seafood and meat. Sadly this was not presented at our table. I made an effort to capture its photo while it was on a serving table to the side of our table. It had quite the presentation. Soup served in a melon, carried in a silver plated bowl-dish combo. A platform that looked like it was made just for this occasion. I can only imagine the time required, boiling on low heat, to cook this melon through. There was so much going on in here: real crab meat, fish maw, mushroom, shredded chicken, garlic, and bacon. You scoop the melon from right off its rind. It is so tender that it easily peels off with the aid of a ladle. It had as much flavour I expected it to, given its ingredient line up. A rich yet light broth, savoy with pops of bacon salt. Though as good as it was, it could have been served hotter. They left it sitting out for too long.

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Chilled jellyfish is enjoyed by most. A salty cold snack that everyone loves for its chewy spongy texture.

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As mentioned above, the Chef’s special stuffed deboned duck required an ordering in advance. Like the melon, it too required many ingredients and a long time to prepare. Time spent to have the duck coming out tender and moist. So tender that cutting through its bone with a steak knife was no problem at all. It was carved at our table, before our very eyes. Though after cutting the whole duck down to dispensable sizes, it looked less appealing. It looked as mushy as it tasted, with all the lumpy stuffing spilling out. The stuffing tasted like the filling that would be inside a “Zong zi”. “Zong” are sticky rice dumplings stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed, or other large flat leaves. I could make out the ground meat, bean, peanuts, lotus seed, water chestnut, and barley in the mix. Eight different ingredients in total. I appreciated the workmanship, but did not like its  texture. I rather it a regular barbecue duck, to have the meat more solid, less stringy. At least the flavour was good.

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A mixed vegetable dish for the vegetarian in our group. A selection of broccoli, celery, mushroom, baby corn, carrot, baby bok choy, and bamboo shoots.

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Salt and pepper fried tofu. Considering the other dishes before and after it, I found this quite bland by comparison.

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Green bean with mince pork. This has always been my favourite vegetable dish. Combining your greens with salty and spicy meat. I enjoyed the length of the beans and their crispy texture.

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The black pepper beef was very salty. But at least each cut was tender and easy to chew through.

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Pan fried prawn in black bean sauce. Large stalks of vegetable to match the large prawns. Eggplant, green pepper, and green onion. The eggplant was surprisingly very good. It held its purple hue and didn’t get mashed up in the stir frying process. These were some of the largest shrimp I have ever had. Cut in half, served butterflied, they were flavourful and beautiful.

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Braised pork belly in the chef’s special sauce. Served as a slab, and then cut down for individual portions at the table. It was so easy to slice through because of all the fat. You felt guilty eating it, though couldn’t help but to enjoy the way that it melted in your mouth, it was just that creamy. I couldn’t have more than one piece it was just so rich. It needed a starchy base, like fried noodles or steamed rice.

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The Portuguese baked seafood rice, was like a rice casserole. It tasted like fried rice, but with a creamy layer, baked to a bubble. Though once you started mixing everything up, you realize there is an uneven cream to rice ratio. I expected a curry taste because of the yellow colouring, the same colouring that made the dish look drab. It needed something green, a leaf or a vegetable for added colour and texture.

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For desert it was the standard red bean desert soup. I am not a fan. I do not like the sandy, grainy texture of it.

 

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.
This was definitely one of the more fancy Chinese dinners I have ever had. Our meal even ended with a hot towel. That kind of service hardly exists anymore. The setting was incredibly clean, and we were well taken care of by the staff. Used dishes bussed promptly, staff working at less abrupt pace, everything we required delivered speedily. And the food was good, but I felt it no different than some of the dishes served at other, less prestigious Chinese seafood restaurants. I would definitely save this one for more special occasion, like ours. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KIRIN
201-555 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver BC
604-879-8038

kirinrestaurants.com

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Neverland Tea Salon

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Each high tea service is so different from one to another. The setting and what is served, contributes to this uniqueness of experience. So on a mission to try it all, and deem on best, I found myself here for afternoon tea with a girlfriend.

An all charcoal black paint job with matching black patio tables and black chairs out front. It wasn’t very telling from looks alone. Lace dollies and pastel tones were well hidden.

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The restautant’s whimsical name delivered on its promise for fantasy and fun. There was just so much to see. Most of it what you’d imagine a faerie or sprite would approve of. It made it all the more accurate to its name. Antique furniture refurbished became showcases for things they sold: bags of teas, diffusers, pots of honey, and delicate cups to hold your pinkies up with. Everything you needed to host your own regal tea party at home.

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Their namesake was referenced literally in a quote, as well, it made an appearance as a decal on the ceiling’s trim. A shadow of Peter leading Wendy on her adventure of a life time. And the thought “Would you like an adventure now, it would you like to have your tea first?”

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Several crystal chandeliers adorned the ceiling, they dangled and shone while reflecting tiny rainbow against the hard wood floor under foot. Amongst them were charms hanging from repurposed branches. Painted tea cups trimmed in gold, strung up amongst angels and doves hung with literal bells on. Very whimsical.

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Their work counter was towards the back, behind it was an impressive display of their own branded teas, sealed in tins. Row on row, all evenly spaced, all within the same colour palate. Framing it were various pots and cups also display. Each with delicate handles and tipped spouts. On the actual counter were covered cake trays offering loafs and biscuits ready to travel.

The seating was very cleverly set up, with the little space left maximized. A new mother enjoyed herself on their recliner by the window. Her ability to lean, allowed her baby to rest on her belly. Larger groups shared family style tables sat with various mismatching chairs. Their charm was in the fact that it mimicked the seating of any large family gathering at someone’s home. You pull all the chairs and any of the plates out of storage. Design is not issue, it is about the food and the people surrounding you.

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We got a chemise couch with our own small size table each. It offered us the ability to dine side by side and talk like only how two girls catching up in a tea salon can. I find it more comfortable to talk with someone from the side.

“Neverland” also boasts an impressive bar for ladies looking to add a little kick to their tea. Not only wines, but some pretty impressive hard liquors too. And to keep with the girly theme there were plenty of pink libations to go around. They even have happy hour where it’s a free upgrade to bubbly high tea. We went ahead and indulged in this. This is the first time I have seen alcoholic beverages offered at any tea service.

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“Paragon”. Pink lemonade fruit tea, lemon vodka, galliano. “Royal Albert”. Bumble berry fruit tea, floral vodka, and pink grapefruit liquor. Given the summer’s heat this was more refreshing as a chilled cocktail than a hot tea. Though we would still have steeped tea, but with the option to have it chilled with ice cubes and served with plastic straws.

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The high tea service meal is set. Served on a three tiered tray, it is levels of savoury to sweet. We used the listing to decide what to eat first, starting with the various finger sandwiches and working our way through dessert. The server was great at pointing out each item by name and providing commentary when necessary. I found the entire assortment as a whole, a twist on the regular. An additional pinch of spice, a new complimentary ingredient, and each classic is born again.

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Starting with the “Lemon herbed cream cheese, cucumber, and arugula on whole wheat”. Not just your regular cucumber sandwich. Now renewed with the equally fresh flavours of zesty lemon and peppery arugula. It was definitely the refreshing light start we expected.

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The “Chicken salad with tarragon, salt roasted pears, walnuts, and globe grapes” was like enjoying a fancy chicken salad between bread. Creamy from the mayo, spicy from the seasonings, sweet from the fruit; and the walnuts were just a nice addition for crunch.

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The “Curried egg salad with shaved cucumber and cilantro” was a grown up version of an egg salad sandwich. Slightly dry, very fragrant, and surprisingly light.

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“Warm fig chutney and ripe Brie on a mini croissant”. Who doesn’t like salty Brie paired with a sweet jelly? This reminded me of a grown up cheese and jam sandwich.

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“Caprese on focaccia with arugula pesto, Pune nuts, and Asiago. Classic Italian flavours from bold ingredients, you can’t lose. The tomatoes looked so vibrant, like they beckoned you from the plate.

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We then finished our sparkling teas, and switched over to our regular tea, served chilled in glasses. Shame the heat prevented us from enjoying the full high tea experience: a slow steeped hot tea. Effervescent teas served in dainty, floral cups. Sadly we did not take advantage of their “never-ending” tea refills”

“Berry me in champagne” lured me in with its name. A delicate Pai Mu Tan white tea, described as “being accentuated with the luxurious aroma of champagne”. I could only taste the lingering sweet raspberry scent the menu described. It was a little much for the same menu listing to say it will “leave you feeling elegant and pampered”. It was good, but not that good. It tasted like lightly flavoured water.
And here again they were very flowery in their description. “Peaches and dreams”. A sweet light tea makes a very fruity beverage. A blend of eight green and white teas that are “lively and smooth”. “Bursting with tropical fruit flavour”, it was more like watered down grape juice. Though decently flavourful for tea.

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Traditional scones served with strawberry jam and Devonshire cream.

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“Lemon curd and blackberry marshmallow on a thyme shortbread crust”. This was my favourite of all the desserts. I am partial to lemon bars. The top layer was light and fluffy, like a rolled out jelly and marshmallow mix. Its flavour, a cherry lemonade.

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“Mango passion fruit cheesecake with macaroon base”. It was tropical. The top two layers were whipped smooth, so I found the gritty crust a distraction. The dried coconut shreds got stuck in my teeth. I didn’t like this much purely for its texture.

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“Creme brûlée tart with rhubarb and fresh strawberries”. The rhubarb made the dessert a little sour. An easy remedy if we have the caramelized burnt sugar indicative of a creme brûlée.

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“Chai mousse layered with chocolate sponge.” Rich robes of chocolate, perfect for those who love chocolate and love it a lot. A like your spoon clean sort of dessert.

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When it was time to pay the bill, it was presented in a silver milk pourer along with a baggy of their own loose leaf tea. “Pink lemonade”, tisane. What a nice touch, and a nice way to later reflect fondly back to your meal.

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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.
Hands down, my new favourite place for high tea. The decor is whimsical and fun, a sweet place to feel childlike in. Though the food alone is reason to go. Compared to other tea services they are more playful with their flavours. They take traditional high tea pastries and finger sandwiches, and give it a meaningful twist. It gives you a reason to come back to them, no one else does what they do. Cucumber sandwiches with a lemon and herd cream cheese, an egg salad sandwich with curry powder, and a chicken salad sandwich with sweet fruits. And the desserts were the merger of two stand alone treats, made more successful together. Creme brûlée with strawberry rhubarb pie, cheesecake with macaroons, and a marshmallow meets shortbread combination. Definitely a cut above. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NEVERLAND
3066 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-428-3066
neverlandtea.com
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