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Month: March 2013 Page 1 of 2

NuNu’s Sandwich Bar


Helping out Mom & Pop ~

Mom and Pop shops are a dime a dozen; they are in abundance and more and more are on their way. Why work for someone when you can open up your own shop and work for yourself? The question is what makes a one off restaurant or cafe successful? How does it differ from the rest? How does it create longevity?
“Nu Nu’s” is a small sandwich shop at the corner of Granville and Broadway. It’s located right in front of the B-line stop heading towards UBC. It opens early enough to give transit-ers a chance to grab something to eat at 7am. It is a good healthy option amongst all the “Tim Horton’s” and 24 hours “McDonalds” out there.
The store is tiny with only 3 bar seats available. The lights are dim and the place feels cramped. There is a lot going on everywhere. Lucky bamboo and other over grown plants dangle from the top shelves, out dated office equipment sits dusty in the back, and kitchen odds and ends are scattered where ever space allows. Definitely not a place you would want to sit and enjoy your food. Two refrigerated showcase take up majority of the open space. One is lined with ice, and holds containers of cold sides and salads to accompany your sandwich. If you want something warmer there are two soups of the day to choose from. And for dessert brownies and Rice Krispie bars are wrapped in plastic and ready to go. The other showcase holds things you can grab in a hurry. Especially useful if you are coming in and trying not to miss your bus.

There isn’t really anything special about “Nu Nu’s”. They make sandwiches on regular loaves of bread with regular ingredients, nothing you couldn’t do for yourself. At $7-8 it double the price of a regular foot long at “Subway”, which is only a few shops down. 
Then why do I eat here every time I need lunch? It is healthy. It is so hard to find wholesome food options under $10. “Nu Nu’s” makes everything fresh daily from scratch. They do this out of their kitchen right in plain view of the serving counter. I am partial to their “Veggie Delight” sandwich for $7.25. I am not going to lie this is the only sandwich I ever order, and I have ordered over 30 of them in the last year. You get your choice of wholesome breads like rye, whole wheat, multigrain, flax, etc. I usually get marble that is pictured above. It is a lovely pattern. How your food looks is just as important as how it tastes when it come to truly enjoying your meal. I get the works on my vegetarian sandwich: mayo, mustard, lettuce, shredded carrots, avacado slices, alfalfa sprouts, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and cucumbers. It is simple, it tastes good, and you feel good knowing it is good for you. They offer a board of options to fill in between any slices of bread, you can customize your own or go for classics like peanut butter and bananas, ham and cheese, or an egg salad sandwich. These are the sandwiches that you do not have time to make for yourself. The kind of sandwiches your mom use to make for you in your brown bag lunch that you miss so much.

The best part of “Nu Nu’s” is the staff. Nu Nu runs it with another older woman. With both ladies you can tell they love what they do, they start early and end late. When you love your job you can’t help but show it. They really make you feel welcome with conversation. They remember your orders and when the last time you came by. And sometimes they even treat you to a little extra to make your day. This is the type of service and atmosphere you cannot get from a large chain. And this is why we visit mom and pop shops. It is great people that make these kinds of places, not the decor or the food. The people are so warm and friendly that you want to go back to support them. Who doesn’t want to go somewhere where everyone knows their name.

Would I go back? – Yes. It’s a tasty and healthy option along a street full of fast food and MSG rich Chinese restaurants.
Would I recommend it? – No. This is not the kind of place you would go out to eat wih a friend. It is something quick and easy for lunch, that beats eating chips and pop out of a vending machine.


NU NU’s SANDWICH BAR
1505 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 1W6
604-731-0489

Nu Nu's Sandwich Bar on Urbanspoon Instagram

Nuba, Lebanese cuisine

A Little Jiggle in Lebanon ~

Arrived early at the “Nuba” located in Kitsalano. Took the opportunity to order a drink and jot down my first blush impressions as I waited for my guests to arrive. I walked in solo and didn’t have to wait for the hostess, as the bartender came out from behind his counter to greet me. He allowed me to take a reserved seat at the bar. I took his recommendation of trying the drink special of the day: “rosemary grapefruit gimlet”. He created light conversation and even took the time to explain what a “gimlet” was, truly great customer service from this young man. The gimlet was delightful with the light taste of gin, it cooled with the grapefruit and simultaneously heated the back of your throat with the ginger. I could have had many and would like more on their patio in summer. Eventually the group came to claim their reserved bar seats and I was ushered to my reserved table.

I didn’t mind the wait as the decor of this location was the nicest of the three I have been to. This use to be an old Greek restaurant. Towards the back of the building they kept the upstairs balcony and the indoor windows adorned with planters. Where we were seated it reminded me of an open court yard, especially with the vaulted glass ceiling. It is a shame they covered it up with a tarp. Hopefully when the weather is a lot nicer they will remove it and allow the sun to beam in, what a great dining experience that would make.

Nuba” is the only Lebanon restaurant that I know of, so there isn’t really anything I could use to compare its quality and authenticity too. But based on its now four locations I would say they are doing well. The tiki themed one on Hastings at the Waldorf has closed down, but they still have their other locations at Yaletown, Gastown, and Main St. Lebanese food is known for being very healthy and there were very many vegetarian and vegan options available on their menu; perfect for many stereotypical Vancouverites. Or as in my case a good restaurant option if you have vegetarian friends in your party; and want a place that has meat dishes for you and more then just salad for them. 


We started off with veggie friendly appies. They are known for their “Najib’s Special”, which was on Vancouver magazine’s 101 things to try 2009 and the reason I tried “Nuba” for the first time 4 years ago. The crispy cauliflower is tossed with lemon and sea salt and served with a side of tahini. This was as good as I remembered. Crispy and well seasoned. If all children were given a plate of this there will never be parents complaining that they can’t get their kids to eat vegetables. Delicious, a must order option whenever you come. 


The “Garden Falafel” was nothing special. To me falafel is falafel. One way to make it and only one outcome. Chewy in the centre and crispy around the edges. The menu describes it as, “Victor’s secret recipe of organic chickpeas, fava beans, veggies and spices with hummus and avacado.” Though if you layer on all the sauces, the side of pickled beets and avacado with the falafel it did become an exciting bite. 
The “Le Petit Feast” is a plate of hummus, taboulleh, baba ghanooj, and homemade pickles with a side of bottomless pita bread slices to share. The spreads were nothing you couldn’t get a pail of at “No Frills” grocery store for $6. And the pitas were probably bought in bulk and warmed in the microwave. Nothing really worth paying for that you couldn’t assemble yourself. The same house made pickles that were also on our other sides were what really saved this dish. Even though the pitas were bottomless it would have been nicer to get more than what you needed instead of having to rely on your server to come by your table with a refill. 

For our entrees a server brought out our plates, but had to ask other tables before ours if they ordered “these”. Unprofessional of a server to not know what table they are heading to, what each dish was, and who ordered what. Even if they were helping at another section, she should at least read the table number and dishes from the order. If I was a bigger germ-a-phobe: can you imagine the contamination of her speaking over your dish, then bringing it close to the faces of other customers to see if its what they had ordered; all the spit and skin cells falling onto your plate. At least she volunteered to bring us more pita when we were wondering if we should ask for more and if we would be charged for it.






I had the “Lamb Belly”. When in doubt always get the lamb; it is delicious because it is one of the fattier cuts of meat, and it is something you will not ordinarily make for yourself at home. This was slow cooked lamb belly in sumac, parsley and garlic with a side of arugula salad coated in shallot dressing. The menu also mentioned that cherry tomatoes would be part of this plate, but alas I was disappointed to have none. The lamb belly was thick and layered like a cake made with fat, meat, and seasonings. Cutting into it was a challenge as the fate was so thick and rubbery that it jiggled. The taste was so rich that I couldn’t eat bite after bite. I needed the arugula salad to take away from the rich fatty taste and add a crispier texture to each of my bites. And when that stopped working I had to cleanse my pallet with hummus and pita after every bite of lamb. Eventually I had to cut away the fat and didn’t have much more to eat. Luckily I was already full from the lentils in our appies. I would not order this again and did not feel it was worth the $12 I paid for it. At least presentation was top notch.
“Vegan stew”. Stewed seasonal vegetables with tomatoes, onions, and chick peas served over brown rice for my veggie loving guest. Pretty standard.

“Lamb Yakhne“; braised pulled lamb, hazelnut, toum sauce, pastry, watercress, and pickled mustard seed. My guest claimed this dish was too fancy for him. Despite him saying the taste was more complex then he is use to, he ate his plate clean along with the watercress he didn’t originally know what to do with. Like my lamb belly, you really needed the side veggies to help break up the heavy taste of the lamb meat. The pastry also helped to neutralize the salt from the lamb. 


Would I go back? Yes. It is so hard to find good places to eat that offers meat dishes and enough vegetarian ones to keep your veggie friends happy. “
Nuba” does a good job. I just wouldn’t order the lamb again. I feel “Nuba” specializes in vegetarian dishes and meat is an afterthought for them.
Would I recommend it? – Yes, especially this location. Good unique flavours, vegan friendly dining experience, a beautiful restaurant in an equally beautiful neighborhood, and live entertainment on selected day. Tonight was belly dancing. I got a sneak peak of the ladies in the washroom before they jiggled and shook on the floor. First the juniors and the seniors, literally. I just wished they travelled around the restaurant floor instead of just blocking up the entrance way.


NUBA
3116 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-336-1797
nuba.ca

Nuba on Urbanspoon Instagram

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill

Ichiban Nippon ~

The conversation came up: would you find a sushi place that hired caucasian servers or non Japanese chefs authentic? By law you cannot discriminate by race. Who is to say a French man who has trained with the best Japanese chefs in Japan, can’t adequately roll a nigiri? Though there is that preconceived notion that it cannot be real Italian food if the owner and chef is Greek. Not really a ramen place if it is run by a family from China. We never did end our debate, but this train of thought eventually led me to ask my only Japanese friend which Japanese restaurant he finds the best in Vancouver. Ironically he is allergic to seafood. I always joke that, that is why he came to Canada: he got kicked out for not being able to eat anything there.

“Zakkushi, Japanese Charcoal Grill Izakaya” had his full recommendation. I went to one on Main because he said it was the best. They have two sister locations: one Downtown Vancouver on Deman and the other on West 4th. It was hard to find the place by sign alone. It is a plain dark building on corner of Main and King Edward, hidden behind the large RBC. The front is not decorated and only after comments from customers, did they added a sign with their name to the store front. There are only three parking spots for customers in front. I didn’t even bother seeing if one was free and ended up parking a block a way. Was able to find free parking, but metered spots are around the area as well.

The entrance of “Zakkushi” is not very inviting. The door is blocked off by a dark wooden gate and you need to walk around to the right in order to get a chance to lug open the heavy door. But once inside, similar to numerous other Japanese restaurants, you get a loud traditional Japanese greeting from all the staff front and back of house. The restaurant is a small space and seating is maximized with majority of its booths being able to only fit 2 to 4 bodies. We were seated in what I would call their party room. Where larger groups could move smaller tables together. It was nice because at the time we were seated, it was a quite space for two girls to catch up. I appreciated the hostess asking us if the one table was enough. I explained that I planned to order various plates and she quickly made our single table into a double.
The space filled up quickly, good thing we made reservations the night before. I was a little put off when I was told that if we were later then 15 minutes our table would be given away. Though this did get us here on time, and they are popular enough that all their seating is valuable.

There was no clutter on the walls, the only art hung from the ceiling as lighting fixtures. A large chandler made with white paper hung above our table. It reminded me of a jellyfish. The other smaller lights were wrapped in what looked like banana peels and partially peeled orange rinds – unique to say the least.


“Zakkushi” is tapas style eating, a style that has been on the rise as of late. Eating is more enjoyable when you can sample a variety of smaller offerings and order more of what you like. It is also great in big groups accompanied by drinks, and they had a few creative ones like “pink beer”. Their menu was spectacular. As a customer it is great to see what you will get before ordering it. And I order 70% based on how it will look in a picture and the rest on how I think it will taste.We ordered 10 plates and it came to under $70 after taxes. Considering the quality of everything ordered this was an amazing value.

I came in knowing I had to try the “tuskune”, grilled rice ball and the nigiri sushi as recommend by my Japanese friend. And these and he did not disappoint. In fact they were three of the best  dishes we enjoyed that night.




“Tuskune” is meat ball wrapped around a two pronged stick as apposed to being rounded into a ball. This was one of their trademark dishes. It came in five different flavours: teriyaki and sea salt; cheese and pepper; shredded daikon with ponzu sauce; sweet plum sauce; and seaweed with Japanese sweet mayo. We tried the last four. The meat was moist and each sauce transformed each stick into something completely unique from the other. One tasted sour, the other sweet, there was savory and then creamy. A wonderful way to reinvent the meatball.


“Yakioni” are grilled rice ball, it came in Shoyu or Miso. As per the waitress’ suggestion we got the special that was stuffed with “salmon, baby fish, sesame, and soy butter”. Be sure to eat this as soon as it hits your table. Inside is warm and chewy and the outer grilled layer is crispy. You get a real great taste of everything in each bite.



I am not the biggest fan of raw fish, the texture and the taste is usually not appealing to me, but I am so happy I tried their nigiri. This is the best raw fish I have ever had. It was fresh, tender and had a subtle light taste to it. The rice was equally soft. Together so good that soya sauce was not needed. Thanks to the nigiri at “Zakkushi” I have concluded that I do like raw fish, and have just been put off by the poor quality ones I have had in the past from cheap all you can eat places.

“Kani Agedashi Tofu, deep fried tofu and soft shelled crab and wafu dashi sauce”. Most Agedashi tofu dishes are usually sweeter, this one had a rich savory flavour that I really enjoyed. The sauce was thick and gel-like, it gave everything a smooth texture. The soft shell crab would have been better not coated in tempura batter, but still delicious as it was served. The syrup like sauce was the winning ingredient that bonded all these components together. It was so good that I saved some to use as a dipping sauce with the rest of my meal.

“Zakkushi Sampler”. Five different skewers of pork, beef, chicken, asparagus, and lamb. A little dry. Great but nothing new I haven’t tried. This was definitely a popular menu item as both tables surrounding us ordered many rounds of them. It was great that you could order one stick at a time if you desired, no minimum of order of any one variety was imposed.

“Ebimayo”, 6 deep fried shrimp on skewers coated in their creamy orange house sauce. One of the more tastier versions I have ever had. Each shrimp was left in its natural curl as apposed to being stretched out.


“Beef Tataki”, thinly sliced pieces of raw beef, generously coated in a sweet and spicy sauce. This was recommended by or polite waitress. It came with a side of green onion and raw quail egg over crushed daikon. The best way to eat these was rolled up and down in one bite. The garlic chips gave the entire dish a wonderful zesty quality. This one was my favourite.

Deep fried fish cake stuffed with cream cheese was one of their specials. I always say you cannot go wrong with cream cheese. The heat from the fired batter turned the cream cheese in the middle into a liquid. The side seasonings were a much needed component to every bite, as the taste did not pop without it. A completely one of a kind dish that I ate more then half of.

We got the knotted noodle in miso sauce and lobster balls in broth as part of the chef’s choice. This really wasn’t anything great compared to the rest. Though would be amazing in hot pot and if we ordered its other accompaniments.

Only until our meal’s end did we figure out the use of the small hollow wood container that sat at every table. They are a vessel to store all your used Skewer in. I wondered how often did these get actually get cleaned out.

Would I got back? Absolutely, so many more menu options I have yet to put in my mouth. They had sushi rolls that I wanted to try too, but for my first time I wanted to get all that they were known for first.
Would I recommend it? Yes, Yes and Yes. Hands down this is the best authentic Japanese restaurant I have ever been too. My friend was right. Every dish was fantastic, no complaints. The staff were plentiful and polite. My tea was always topped off and never allowed to cool. A must try for everyone regardless of what you like. Just an all around fantastic establishment. The only reason we finally left after 2.5 hours is that the table next to us kept growing in numbers and eventually there was far too much testosterone for our estrogen based conversations. 



ZAKKUSHI CHARCOAL GRILL
4075 Main St, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P5
604-874-9455
zakkushi.com

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill on Urbanspoon Instagram

Vera’s Burger Shack


Beat my Meat ~

I usually don’t like writing about fast food places or chains, it feels too common, as if it has already been done. But I got mixed reviews from coworkers about “Vera’s Burger Shack” so I decided to try for myself and see if their food is as their slogan suggests: “You can’t beat Vera’s meat!”  I was craving a juicy burger that I knew McDonald’s could not satisfy. You get what you pay for and I am willing to pay $8.49 over $4 for something better tasting and hopefully better for me. I walked into the location on Broadway and Granville at 5pm. The shop was empty and the fake cow hide seats were the first thing that jumped out. They were a bit tacky but matched the black and white checkered floor and black table tops well. At least they are consistent with their colour theme. I guess the choice of the cow print was intended to emphasis their brand and image of selling quality beef. If you don’t want regular beef patties, they also serve other burgers like lamb, turkey, chicken or organic beef. And if you decided to go to a burger place not wanting a burger (why???) You could order a hot dog or a chili dog. According to their signage their hot dog
weiners are made especially for “Vera’s Burgers”. 
I immediately was greeted by a happy young girl behind the cash desk. She was in training and clearly liking her new job. I told her this was my first time here and that I will need time to look over the menu. She immediately asked if I liked bacon (what meat eater doesn’t?) and suggested I order the special for Monday: “The Canuck Burger”. It is a bacon cheese burger with  fries and a drink combo for $11.47. I only wanted the burger but got the combo in order to take this more complete picture. To combo anything is $3.99. So I only really only saved $1.09 for getting Monday’s combo. But that is how they get you to up size, the promise of a deal.

Everything is all made to order, so even though “Vera’s” is considered fast food it did take time to cook the patty and deep fry the frozen french fries. I was seated in a booth waiting and was pleasantly surprised that the girl who was helping me earlier brought my take out to me as soon as it was done. Majority of the other fast food establishments would just shout from the front that it was ready, and I would have to go up to retrieve it. This really impressed me as a customer.
I got it all to go. By the time I got back to my office to unwrap it for pictures, the sauces in my burger had pooled to the bottom and was dripping out the aluminum coloured wrapping.
I do not remember the best burger I have ever had, But this was not it. It was as I expected: thick and better seasoned then anything I could have gotten from a “Burger King” or “Wendy’s”. But I did not get that juicy burger bite that I truly craved. I wanted more umph from my first bite. Their take out menu says their burgers are made to order and therefore a little pink in the middle. Mine was 100% fully cooked (as ground beef burgers should be) but to the point it was dry and the edges chunky and chewy.
I got all the condiments possible, which ‘Vera’s” calls “The Works”. I was excited and impressed over all the options available: jalapenos, BBQ sauce, pickles, mayo, two kinds of mustard, their special house sauce, etc;. So with everything but the kitchen sink, my burger was not lacking in flavour.
The fries were of a thicker cut and not just seasoned with salt. It is as good as they were ever going to be out of a frozen bag. Comparatively to other fast food joints they were a cut above the rest.

After i devoured my burger and handed my fries to my coworker, I felt sick. It may have been because I ate too quickly or because of all the grease in my meal. If this has happened to you after eating fast food, it is because they have not removed all the grease from the stoves. This made me wonder. When was the last time they cleaned out the grease trap from their stoves? When you have franchises like this, you tend to think are all the standards for quality and cleanliness really being looked after?

Would I go back? Yes, it was delicious and it satisfied my hunger for a slightly better burger. And I would also like to try their other meat products.
Would I recommend it? No, there is no consistency of quality from location to location. And they exaggerate the descriptions of their food. Their house sauce was not so good that I wanted to drink it. Their burgers were 6 oz but not cooked pink. And there are many other burgers out there that does beat Vera’s meat. But if you want something easy and are in the area it is satisfying and should always be your choice over all the other restaurants with mascots.


VERA’S BURGER SHACK
1455 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6H 1H6
604-732-6328
verasburgershack.com



Vera's Burger Shack on Urbanspoon Instagram

Chicco Dall Oriente, dessert bar

Dessert Disappointment ~

After a meal, wanting a dessert and we not liking the options at the restaurant. We settled on “Chicco” on Robson. One, I had already parked at a meter near enough for walking and did not want to risk leaving it to possibly not find another closer. Downtown dinner time on a Friday night is always a gamble to find parking. Two, I have seen others post pictures of their parfaits from “Chicco” on their social media and they looked so good that I had to try it for myself.
It being a small cafe, seating was limited; And apparently in such high demand that the shop owner instituted a seating fee. There was a sign posted up indicating that everyone must order a dessert, with no sharing allowed. We took the last table when we came in. And after us a few more came through the door, too many bodies and not enough chairs and tables to accomodate them all. Earlier, on the owner okayed a group of three to split 2 desserts amongst themselves because then the store was empty. However as soon as the shop filled up this group was told they had to give up their table or order another dessert. The poor server was the one who had to convey the message to the patrons and she ended up being a two way punching bag. She had to do as her boss requested or be deemed insubordinate. And she had to broach this request carefully to the particularly combative guests. Rightfully so the group of three stood up for their right to continue be seated. They bought up a good point, if you agree to something you cannot just take it back if the situation changes. But having had numerous clients and customers yell at me, I can emphasize with the young server who is only a representative of “Chicco” and really has no authority to make any decisions on her own accord, especially with her boss a few feet away. The customer who was clearly upset could have calmed her temper better and address the server in a more respectful manner. Just because you pay for food and a person serves it to you, it does to give you the right to treat them like your servant. After what felt like 30 minutes of one sided banter the silent shop owner called the server back behind the cash desk in retreat. The cafe went silent and eventually the situation resolved itself when the party of three left sooner then they orginally intended to. This situation did hamper our experience and the atmosphere of “Chicco”.

The care in customer service as in the decor of the shop is non existent. Nothing about this place entices you to want to stay and enjoy your dessert with a side of conversation. The lighting is bright and offensive in colour and intensity. The tables and chairs do not match one another and sitting on benches with no back support is no treat on the spine. If you want water it is a self serve jug on a counter by the garbage can. The cups you drink out of are the plastic speckled ones you see at cheap buffets like “Uncle Willy’s”. Considering they put so much effort into the esthetics of their desserts, it would be nice if they aligned this vision with their decor.

As for their trade mark parfaits, it is nothing special. Yes, they look beautiful for pictures, but honestly not worth the $8-9 price point. All it is, is a plastic cup filled with a variety of items, that are not necessarily complimentary. I counted 10 in the strawberry one I ordered. All this is topped up with a scoop of ice cream, syrup or fruits. The base filler was cornflakes and bits of sponge cake. There were some fun ingredient choices like fruit pearls, red bean spread, rice cake chunks, crumbled up pieces of cookie, etc;. The most enjoyable thing about them was taking the pictures. I appreciated all the ingredients that went in to making them but they were hardly the “modernist desserts” “Chicco” claim them to be. Very disappointed that the look did not match the taste.

At “Chicco” you can also order cakes. The strawberry shortcake and green tea cake we had did not measure up. The strawberry shortcake was not close to an actual starwberry shortcake. They were cheap sponge cakes, the kind you would find in a $3.29 Swiss roll or at the bottom of a Chinese fruit cake. This not worth the $7-8 dollars we had to pay for them. We did not even finish it all. If you are out of options and just want to get off of the street late a night, this would be a viable option.

Would I go back? – No, nothing really worth trying a second time.
Would I recommend it? – No! No reason to discredit my reputation for this.


CHICCO DALL ORIENTE
1504 Robson St, Vancouver BC
604-633-1286

Chicco on Urbanspoon Instagram

Oakwood, Canadian bistro

Canadian Wood ~

Another restaurant that Frenchy worked on is “Oakwood Canadian Bistro” in Kitsilano.(click link to read previous post of the restaurant he helped build: http://vieamaggi.blogspot.ca/2013/03/now-open-to-general-public.html) “Oakwood” is owned and operated by one of the members of the Donnelley group. He made it his mission to hire the best chef to help design a Canadian inspired menu with dishes that look and taste memorable.


Our first time here was in spring of 2012, right when they just opened their doors for business. We enjoyed a three course meal with drinks on the house, as a thank you for the amazing job
Frenchy did on their signature fireplace. The fireplace is now adorned with antlers, and is so striking in craftmanship that “Oakwood” has used its image on postcards publicizing their opening.
My second visit was during my 2012 Birthday. Since our first time in spring the menu had been updated with numerous changes. I figured they must either still be trying to find their signature dishes or the change was to keep regulars coming in to try something new. So I cannot promise you that anything I have listed below would still be on the menu.


The décor reminds you of a homey Canadian cabin: brick walls with wooden tables and chairs, cast iron lighting fixtures and food served on wood blocks and in mason jars. The restaurant has a very casual warm feeling, especially with the large fire roaring. There is lovely booth/couch seating surrounding it, but I have yet been able to enjoy it from there. A unique centerpiece sat on the large table in the centre of the room: a repurposed stand mixer with potted flowers living happily in the stainless steel mixing bowl.

I will not be speaking to everything I have tried, it has been too long and I will not be able to give an accurate account of them all, or at least the ones that were not memorable. But I have posted the photos and their descriptions below.


“8oz sirloin, potato croquette, onion jam, red wine jus, with a dijion hollandaise.”



“Albacore tuna, fennel salad, and lime crostini”



“Leek bread with house made butter”



“Beet salad”



“Duck parfait”


And here are the memorable of all the menu options I have tried at “Oakwood“, the good and the ugly.


I am not shy about my love of
caesars and “Oakwood’s own unique Caesars’ spice rub blend gives their version of it and extra kick. One of my top 5 favorites for sure. This would have made it to number 1 or 2 if they had a unique garnish or any. When ordering a Caesar you expect an olive, pickled bean or celery as a minimum. Where it gets fancy is when they have all three. A caesar isn’t a caesar without some kind of pickled vegetable or meat.




“Poutine with Canadian bacon”. If you are from Quebec or a poutine purist this one is not for you. They only thing traditional about this poutine is that it’s called a poutine and made with fries. The gravy is a lighter mix in order to not fight with the saltiness of the Canadian bacon. The cheese is in the form of curds, but it does not squeak. I enjoyed it because I was not expecting a normal poutine and knew I was basically getting fries, cheese, gravy and bacon. The presentation is also nice and makes eating more enjoyable when it is out of a mini skillet.

“Dessert trio: banana and chocolate with peanut brittle, lemon and raspberry sorbet, strawberry pie” I love appies and desserts when it comes as a tasting, a little bit of each.  You get to try 3 different desserts for the price of one, ensuring you will not get bored of any one taste. We were able to share this amongst 6 people comfortably. And it was a great conversation starter to ask one another which one they enjoyed most and why.

“Steak and frites”. Similar to the 8oz steak this cut of meat was precut for you. When I get a steak I like cutting into it myself to uncover the pink and have the first juicy bite. By precutting it, it does not make it any easier for the diner, nor does it make the plate look any better; but instead it steals a part of the eating experience from the diner. Though that aside it was a very well cooked piece of medium rare beef. The gravy was rich and concentrated with a very savory flavour. The fries were house made and by leaving the skins on, it gave each bite that extra crispy texture along with the chewy starchy one you get with all fries.

“Rolled beef Carpaccio” This is not your traditional Carpaccio, this stood out because it is made with an egg stuffed with enoki mushroom and other fresh veggies on top. This was unique, it did not have the fresh light, simple taste of your usual beef Carpaccio. This was heavy with sauce and had a mixed bag of flavours thanks to the 10 plus ingredients that were brought together to essentially make an deconstructed breakfast omelette. I would not order this again and if it hadn’t been free I would have complained and sent it back for on delivery what I expected.

“Oakwood Waldorf” I remember ordering this not knowing what a “Waldorf” was, and was disappointed to see this salad coming to our table. I do not like paying for salads, I want more work put into the meals I pay for, especially at a price of $15. Though for a pile of leaves I did find it pretty tasty, but maybe cause my expectations are low for salad. It had cheese, walnuts, grapes, and a smooth dressing that really made the dish come 
together.

Would I go back? – Yes its a beautifully done space in a great neighbourhood with ample parking. A great place to sit and talk with friends over a light meal. I would also be curious to see how the menu has evolved since my last visit.
Would I recommend it? – Yes, I am proud of my bf’s masonry work and would love to showcase it to others who appreciate a handsome fireplace.



THE OAKWOOD
2741 4th Ave West Vancouver
604-558-1965
oakwood.ca

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro on Urbanspoon Instagram

You Tan, vibrating platform & infrared sauna


A Little Erotic Vibration ~

Went to “You Tan” with a coupon from “Buytopia”, good for 2 sessions in their infrared sauna and vibrating platform, 40 minutes each session, all for $24. 
The location was a little far and we were lucky enough to find expensive downtown meter parking on the kitty corner, but our deal was just too good to miss this, and all in all worth it.
Once inside we were greeted by the owner, who was the only one in on this Friday evening at 6pm. She is one of those people who you instantly knew would be just fun to talk to. She is Pursian and I have never heard the Persian accent come across so rich and welcoming as out of her lips. Her voice echoed throughout the small shop and filled each tanning room with so much energy. As she spoke her curly hair bounced and dance on her head, it all looked as happy as she was. When we presented our coupons we were told that it was put up and advertised by “Buytopia” without her consent. Immediately I was worried that this experience would soon turn sour. But from a customer service point of view she handled the situation well. After she expressed her dislike of “Buytopia”, she told us she has been honouring all of these coupons for her customers and recommend that we instead checkout her favourite coupon site, “Swarmjam” for our future coupon needs. Not only does “Swarmjam” have amazing deals, but they are great to small businesses like hers. 


“You Tan” is a small shop decorated in opulence. A crystal chandler hung in the foyer, silky drapes were tied off in the entry way, fine etched mirrors and other crystalized ornaments hung on walls. Individually each piece was wonderful and added to the feeling of refinement, but all together some patterns and colours did clash. I was so impressed with the washroom that I took a picture. The walls were a warm red and several of its features were so special. There was natural organic lighting and a sink that is an elevated bowl with a waterfall tap and built in filtered drinking water. One glaring oddity was the shelves of jewlelry on sale, at the front of shop by the cash desk. i understand the need to expand and cater to the needs of the customers, but where is the tie in or cohesive theme with this choice? Having slimming treats and a sauna in a tanning salon is already a big stretch. Though from what I saw of it, the jewellery looked like unique quality pieces.


The owner, “Vera” (this is not her real name, she looks like a Vera) took her time to explain all the benefits of each treatment. How we should start with the vibrating platform first; that the shaking it causes helps your body break down fat cells and keeps them off by training itself to let go of toxins, if used often enough. By standing with your legs wide apart on the platform, at the highest possible setting it creates optimal full body shaking and therefore fat losing. Standing on your tip toes helped to decrease the mircovibrations in your head. She warned us that with all these movements that your body is not use to, the reaction will create the feeling of itchiness. This inch came to different parts that were being worked out the most. We definitely found that to be the case, so much so that my guest had to stop cause she was “too itchy”. At least there is a way to tell it was working. I found out the hard way that I had to warm my body up in preparation to the full setting. I did this by layering on the intensity of the shaking. Without doing so I got cramps in my abdomen. The kind of cramps you would get if you started running too fast without stretching first – painful! 

The best part about this machine was if you stood tip toed with your legs the right width apart, with your back arched just so, all the shaking turned into an erotic pulsing. “Vera” had warned us that some customers, including herself have been turned on by this machine; And boy that is no joke. Needless to say once I discovered this trick I had to stop initiating it; as my guest was a few feet away in the sauna room, with clear view of my toweled self shaking what my momma gave me. 

After 10minutes of non-stop shaking you would then head into the sauna for the remainder of your session. The room was large enough to seat 2 comfortably, on a glass bench. Set at 65 degrees, the room was a perfect temperature to sweat off impurities in the skin along with some pounds. Its green lights helped to active this process in your body through colour waves. If you are shy about being close to someone, while only covered by your standard bath towel you may opt to come alone. We found the sweating refreshing, though it did nothing for our hair and makeup. I planned ahead and cane without makeup and had my hair all tied up and clipped out of my face. My guest did her best to maintain her makeup and smooth over her hair, needless to say right after our session she wanted to go home to shower. All in all a great first experience at “You Tan”. I will be going back not only to use up my next session, but because my guest and I will be signing up for 12 more sessions of infrared sauna and vibrating platform. “Vera” gave us such a great deal, not only putting our $24 towards this package but giving us a price break because my guest and I will be going together and sharing the room. So yes I would come back.

Would I recommend this place? – It is still too soon to tell. I will be judging this based on the results I hopefully will see after my next 13 sessions. So far it’s a great feeling after you are done, you feel like you have been to the gym with the same endorphins, without actually working for them. Nothing wrong with a short cut beauty treatment!



YOU TAN
86 Smite St, Vancouver BC V6B 1M7
604-558-2828
youtan.ca

Instagram

Alibi Room, modern tavern


You Ain’t Got No Alibi ~

Went to the “Alibi Room” on a Wednesday at 7pm, we made reservations anyways. Good thing too, as there were people waiting as we entered and at least a group by the entrance throughout the night.

It is located at the outer edges of Gas Town and is considered a “hidden gem” just by the location alone. The outside of the restaurant does not try to attract attention with a sandwich board, a neon lit-up sign or even a coloured awning. Instead it just relies on its reputation and word of mouth referrals.
It’s nice to see front of building meter parking in Gas Town. Although with only 4 spots available you are better of taxi-ing and being able to drink as much as you want and to try all the local craft beers Alibi has to offer.

Upon entry you notice the décor is very “industrial”:  Brick walls, large ceiling to floor windows and cast iron fencing in front of them. Even the art work matched this theme; back lit images of gears and oil rigs hung on walls.
Walking to the table you notice a train pass by outside, but you cannot hear it as it is even louder inside. All tables available tables on both floors filled with bodies drinking. Seating is maximized with a bar set up against the stair railings.
We were seated at one of the long share tables. One of my guests suggested they should turn up the music because it sounded like a cafeteria. Sitting at this table sure made it feel that way. Though, I felt if the music was any louder it would just add to the background chatter that you had to tune out in order to be engaged in any conversation.
The “Alibi Room” had a menu that listed over 40 beers: IPAs, stouts, ciders, lagers, porters, etc. These were all available in a variety of sizes: 6oz, 10oz, 16oz, 14.5oz, 20oz; all to accommodate any drinker’s needs or preference in glassware. We got 3 rounds of the 4 taste samplers at $12 each, $3 per 6oz glass. They were served on “frat bats”, long wooden boards with a handle and slots free for 4 glasses.
Beers that had an expiry date: a countdown to when you could last order them jumped at me as being the most desirable to try. There were also options for beers that would be served once another ran out. I like my beer dark, the stronger the better, I feel I get a better value for my buzz. One of my guests likes the lighter options that are closer to “regular” brews like “Bud Light”. And the other guest, love the fruity notes of IPAs. Together we were able to drink and discuss the intensity of the “Thor’s Hammer”. And the smooth texture of the creamy “chocolate stout”. We tried 13 different varieties of beers, all with amusing names like, “Back Hand of God”, “Sticke Dark”, and “Creepy Uncle Dunkel”. This may not for the weak of heart as one of my guests finished her rounds with sparkling wine.
If you are like trying tasters of different artesian beers Alibi is for you. All their beers are local brewed and their selections are updated regularly. With no two beers the same you could easily make a night of trying each with a large group of friends.

Maybe it was the beers or that we were hungry, but everything we ordered we loved. We had a broccoli and mushroom pâté served with a side of crostini and roasted garlic. The pâté had a smooth velvety texture and easily spread, its taste was so flavourful and rich I could not believe that it was vegetarian.

 

The great part about dining with other women is that everyone enjoys share their plate, and you get to try a bit of everything. I made sure to try the seared albacore tuna first, knowing its light fresh taste would have been hidden after a bite of anything else. The tuna was accompanied by a green olive tapenade, thinly sliced zucchini and a red lentil puree. The flavours melded well together and it reminded you of biting into a cool breeze. What a fitting dish for the first day of spring.

The 1/2 roasted game hen came with a side of buttery leek mashed potato, and roasted carrots and squash, all coated generously with ale gravy. The chicken was moist white meat. The potato was made special with the extra pop that the leek gave. And the vegetables were soft and almost melted in your mouth. It was a great dish but in comparison to the fish and pork it really fell short. It just only felt normal.

The grilled pork Loin was juicy with the right amount of salty fat in every bite. It went really well with the cheddar-bacon grits; I have never had grits made into such a texture that it felt like we were eating scalloped potatoes. This was then topped with spinach and creamy mushrooms with an apple mustard.

The dinner special was deep fried eggplant stuffed with mozzarella, over marinara sauce. The eggplant tasted like bread battered mozzarella sticks with a nice crispy crust. They were amazing right when they hit the table: Hot. And much better without any sauce, which only took away from its subtle taste. But the garlic bread and marinara sauces sang together.


There was only one dessert option and by its description we had to have it. A trio of: a flourless chocolate lava cake; espresso ice cream over salted caramel crumble; and poached pear over piña colada mousse with mint. We even got beers to match these.  They were like each dish before it, amazing. Everything had such a unique spin on the orginal, which made them memorable. It was all so good that I actually forgot to take a picture before I dug in.

Would I go back? – Yes! The drinks were original with no two alike. And the food on point, there was not one thing we didn’t like. And this was all made better thanks to great staff with big personalities and helpful smiles
Would I recommend it? – Yes! For those who have never been it is definitely a must try hidden gem.  Alibi is great way to do the beers tasting thing without having to accumulate all the beers yourself.


ALIBI ROOM
157 Alexander St, Vancouver BC
604-623-3383
alibi.ca

Alibi Room on UrbanspoonInstagram

Chill Winston




Chilling with Winston ~

Decided on "Chill Winston" in Gastown for our girls night out. Reason being we both have never been and wanted to, but never have because were discouraged by the long lines and wait times during peak hours. 
So we walked in on a Monday and had our pick of the place. They had a variety of seating from couches to high tops, we chose the latter.
The decor was dark and very bar slash lounge-ish. It was a very causal and comforting setting, one where you could stay hours at and not feel pushed out. I am sure this is contrary to the case during the weekends. A projector played an old timey movie against the brick wall. A nice place to sit, drink slowly, and talk.  
We got the night started with miscellanous drinks. I cannot tell you what we actually drank because we decided to order by colour, in order to get beautiful pictures (ofcourse). We ordered, "one red, one blue, one yellow, and one green" for the first round. What came of it were some amazing looking and tasting surprise drinks. All 4 martinis were on the sweeter side and did well to hide the shot in each glass. The four were so beautiful all lined up in a row, that a patron at the nearby table came over to ask if she could take a picture with our drinks. Second round we ordered "orange and brown". I fell instantly in oral heaven with the "brown" custom coffee drink our bartender made. He told me the recipe and I copied it down, ofcourse knowing full well I cannot duplicate it. 1 shot espresso, Vanilla liquoir, Chocolate liquoir, Baileys, Frangelico. Our male bartender was much more generous making our second and third round filled it to the brim.

 

 

 

The menu is mainly small plates for sharing, and we did exactly that. We choose 4 appies: "Maui Bison Ribs"; "Crab Cakes"; "Marrow"; and "Stuffed Dates". 
My guest tonight loves marrow so we had to get that. It was just alright, and not as good as the ones I have had at "Italian Kitchen" and "West"; both of which had plenty of meat and flavour with every spoon-full you dug out. To the bottom is marrow from "Italian Kitchen"
At "$18.95. The one at "Chill Winston" (right) is $15.75. In this case I feel the $3 more for the marrow at "Italian Kitchen" is worth it as you get more marrow with more crustinis and condiments. And from a photography point of view, the presentation is just so much more impressive. 
The surprise star of the meal was actually the stuffed dates, "Medjool dates stuffed with Humboldt Fog goat cheese, wrapped in smoked pancetta". It had a sweet and salty taste, and even better after taste. I definitely saved this as my last bite to ensure I retained a great flavour on my pallet. Soft and chewy more like a dessert then appie.

 



 



 


As for the crab cakes and braised, fried ribs: they were exactly as expected, so they did not disappoint, but at the same time they did nothing to wow us. I would order the dates again but like to try other options next time.

 
Will I go back? - Yes, only if I make a reservation and/or don't have to line up. I don't believe any food is so good that it's worth waiting an hour or more in order to pay to eat it. 
 
Will I recommend "Chill Winston" - yes, it is on the pricy side but you get what you paid for. Good food uses better ingredients, which ofcourse cost more. If you want any of this goodness you need to be willing to put down some bills. A must go place for a get together with drinks.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 



 



 

 
 
CHILL WINSTON
3 Alexander St, Vancouver BC, V6A 1B2
Tel: 604-288-9575
chillwinston.com
 
 
 
 
 

 



 



 



 


 
 
 
 
 

 



 



 



 



 



 



 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Carl’s Jr, fast food chain

Crossing into Vancouver ~

I have fond memories of cross boarder shopping and stopping at “Carl’s Jr.” for something quick and cheap. You don’t want to spend too much of your money on food, when its all suppose to be allocated for new clothes and accessories.
So if you are in the states and need to eat fast food why not make it something that we do not have in Vancouver?
I remembered one of my first times at “Carl’s Jr., I ordered the most decadent milkshake in my life: banana milkshake made with chocolate syrup, cookie pieces, whipped cream and chocolate chip chunks. Since then I have associated the chain with fatty foods than are worth gaining pounds to eat.
So when I saw the location by Pacific center finally open, I demanded Frenchy take me.
Right when you get in there is a “Carl’s Jr.” Star mascot costume sitting at the foyer. Like everyone else we tried it on and took pictures. Mid way we considered how many bodies with their smells had fused into this damp costume.
The restaurant is like any other fast food chain, bright florescence lights, uncomfortable seating, tables that never seem to be clean enough, a bunch of young staff standing around with nothing to do, and over weight customers gorging on burgers, boxes at a time. The most comfortable and best seating, right in front of the only T.V.  was sadly occupied, as i am sure it always is.

At first blush was disappointed by the menu, small selection with hardly any dessert options or limited edition menu items. All very unlike its original locations across the border, that I have acquainted myself with. Disappointed, we shared a meal combo and Vanilla Milkshake. The milkshake was made with real ice cream and as all the ones that are, it was incredibly creamy and delicious. The burger had a charbroiled grilled chicken patty. It was tender and juicy, but not tasty as many of its competitors. I would prefer a “McChicken” or a “KFC” chicken sandwich over this. Maybe even a Burger King Chicken sandwich, and that says a lot. This is mainly because of the difference in pricing between the chains.  “Carl’s Jr.”‘s burgers are about $3 more than the other’s. Majority of their menu items are over $7.
The real win in this experience was the criss cross fries. It is a nice change of pace from your regular potato sticks. It is chewy inside and crispy when you bite in, seasoned so well it does not need additional condiments. Plus it is so fun to look at and even more so to eat.

So recently we decided to give “Carl’s Jr.” another try, so I guess the question of will I go back has been answered with a yes.
This time around we wanted to try the beef burgers that are advertised as being made with better cuts of meat. With first bite they were comparable to the beef patties at Harvey’s. 
I got the Memphis BBQ burger. Along with my all beef patty, in it had deep fried onions, cheddar cheese, pulled pork, and a sweet BBQ sauce, all on your standard bun. Towards the end the taste got boring and I regretting taking my last two bites. Maybe it was the realization that this meal was not good for me.
My guest got a regular charboiled beef burger with cheese, ketchup, and mayo. They made it with way too much Ketchup and mayo, he ended up dissecting the burger in order to scrape the excess off. Both our burgers got soggy fast so you had to eat bite after bite nonstop, in order to maintain a dry bun. And after each bite you needed a new napkin to mop up the mess on your face, good thing they thought of that and put a napkin dispenser at each table.
I do think their beef burger are better than any other fast food burger place. However for the price you can go to “Red Robins” and enjoy a cleaner eating area and fill up on bottomless drinks and fries. All this while enjoying a unique burger experience with a great patty.
But I still plan to go back to “Carl’s Jr.”,  had I been more hungry I would have liked to try the “thick burger” patty in my bun. 

And for all you lovers of burgers from across the border, “Five Guys Burgers and Fries” are making their way to downtown Vancouver as well.




CARL'S JR. VANCOUVER
corner of Dunsmuir and Howe
604-620-9509
carlsjr.com



Carl's Jr. on Urbanspoon Instagram

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