Month: March 2013 Page 1 of 2
A Little Jiggle in Lebanon ~
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.
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.
“LambYakhne“; 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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
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.
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.
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!
86 Smite St, Vancouver BC V6B 1M7
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.
3 Alexander St, Vancouver BC, V6A 1B2
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