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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Month: April 2013 Page 1 of 4

Liquids + Solids, soup and sandwich shop

Don’t Deny Your Cravings~


Sometimes you just need a hearty lunch. My preference is the goodness of a classic soup and sandwich combo. And this is exactly what “Liquids and Solids” is all bout. They use to be “Soup Etc;” but have renamed and re branded themselves; but still come with all the same recommendations and awards. They have won “Georgia Straight’s golden plate award” for “best soup 2012”. This is not surprising as they specialize in hand crafted soups that perfectly pair with their sandwiches. 
They have two locations and I frequent the one on West Broadway. 
Their website updates daily with their fresh soup offerings. With 8 choices to choose from, and names like, “Pepe Le Poulet” and “The Cuban Bean Crisis”; I am sure you will find one to wet your appetite and put a smile on your lips. Their famous soups are also available in plastic bags to take home. They strive to balance affordability with quality ingredients, then make it accessible for their customers. 

“Liquids and Solids” uses all natural ingredients with no preservatives. The meat is organic and/or free range. So you know you get what you pay for. Yes it cost 4 times as much as a $1.29 can of Campbell’s, but after a spoon to the lips you can see it is well worth it. 
The decor has a garden feel, with potted plants on table tops, walls painted a sunny sky blue; and pictures of growing vegetables set a top of wooden planks, hanging on the wall. In the corner sat a record player, with a shelf of unused records. This was not to be touched. I have never seen the cafe fully seated and those who did tend not to linger.
With hours like 8-5pm daily, they understand their business and know they are only a destination for breakfast or lunch. They cannot compete for dinner with neighbors like the “Cactus Club” and “Earl’s” around the corner. My first visit was at 4:30pm and I was only left with one soup option and a glass case filled with wrapped sandwiches to choose from. I was advised that the best time to visit would be 10-11pm when the soup are at its hottest and the menu at its fullest.



“Broccoli Incident”, a creamy cheese based soup with bits of soft boiled broccoli. This is always a winning combination, and no different from the ones I have tried in the past. 



“It’s a Clam Dunk”, made with chunks of west coast calms. This soup was thick and creamy; with a smooth texture made chunky by the clearly identifiable pieces of potato, carrots, and celery. This is one of those soups that eats like a meal. Delicious if you like the taste of calms, because it comes with healthy pieces. 

“Mama Mia Minestrone”, one of the heartiest minestrone I have had thanks to the pasta, beans, onions, carrots and tomato coarsely chopped into the broth. With its light tomato taste it is perfect to dip your sandwich into. 


“An American Onion in Paris”, this is their version of a traditional French onion soup. The sign advertised it as a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and after my first sip I would agree. You are able to easily avoid the onions and enjoy the broth. The clear soup was flavourful, but with a little more oil then I would like floating on the top. 

“The Grateful Veg”, their vegetarian option. It is made with tomatoes, artichokes, bocconcini cheese, fresh basil, spinach, and their house made pesto aioli, served on grilled focaccia. I usually don’t like leafy greens, but the spinach seemed hand pick on the day, and had a crispness to them. This went well with their cheesy broccoli soup. 

“Coffee and Scotch Pulled Pork”. With a name like that who wouldn’t order it? Three well loved vices in one hand held sandwich. It is slow roasted pork, cooked in their own BC BUD coffee, and Scotch cooking sauce. It is topped with caramelized onions and on grilled Yukon gold and scallion focaccia bread. I felt the name really over hyped this sandwich and it did not meet my high expectations of booze and meat. The meat was tender and the bread crispy, but the sauce was a little sweet and odd tasting, thanks to the coffee kick. It was a nice to try but not one I would repeat. What made it worse was the clam chowder I bought to pair it with. Good soup, not a good match.


“Heavenly Pesto Chicken” is slow roasted, free range chicken; topped with aged cheddar, spinach, tomato and their home made aioli, served on sourdough bread. This was a wonderful medley of flavours, and the perfect light sandwich to have before returning to work. The pesto did not over power the gentle taste of tomato, and the creamy sauce gave it all a zip, similar to mayonnaise. 

“The Blue Moo”, in-house roasted free range beef, topped with sugar cured bacon, tomato, and their house made blue cheese aioli, served on walnut scallion bread. Not really fully reading their description, I ordered the sandwich on name alone. The meat had a hickory note to it, and the bacon was not as salty as if you would have fried it. You couldn’t smell or taste the blue cheese, but you were able to identify it by its creamy texture. The bread was too fibrous, and I didn’t enjoy being surprised when I bit into a walnut. 


Would I go back? – Yes, sandwiches are one of my favorite, guilt free foods. You get all the food groups in one bite and it always satisfies. Really hard to mess a sandwich up and I really like their rotating menu selections. Everything is from scratch with the utmost respect for integrity, which really shows through in their food. 

Would I recommend it? – Yes they have more unique sandwich options then “Quizno’s” and use fresher ingredients than “SubWay”. It is a gourmet fast food sandwich for the same price as an almost 6 inch foot long.

Don’t deny your cravings. 



LIQUID & SOLIDS
1550 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
Tel: 604-558-0544
liquidsandsolids.ca


Liquids + Solids Cafe & Market on Urbanspoon Instagram

Phnom Penh, Vietnamese restaurant

Best Wings in Vancouver?~


“Phnom Penh”, is Vancouver’s most well known Chinese restaurant. Though it is one of many restaurants serving cheap Asian, in East Vancouver’s Chinatown. So what makes this place so great? The buzz isn’t because of the area, garbage on the streets and pedestrians spitting in the gutters. You don’t go to any Chinese restaurants for their service, speed is key and as a result everything is carried out abruptly. So therefore it must be their food. Their wall of awards and achievements, as you enter the front door, backs this up. We came at 4:55pm and expected to wait. If you ever pass by their store front, there is always a line at the door; and bodies scattered along the block waiting for a table to clear up. However we were lucky and got seated right as we entered. If you aren’t so lucky you can admire their wall of great reviews and read of things to anticipate as you wait patiently. 

Their menu and decor is alike: a smattering of Thailand, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam influences. Stone Buddha figures, statues of slender Thai dancers, colourful Indonesian Gods, and a shrine dedicated to Chinese ancestors above the kitchen entrance. The theme was further blurred and got more confusing as we sat down to “Lady Gaga” singing, “Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra” over head on the sound system. There are enough non-Chinese clients to warrant the English pop music playing.

“Phnom Penh’s” tables are done in your typical Chinese set up: rectangle table tops for two, squares for three, and circles for 6 and more. If you don’t mind it, your party of two can share one of the larger tables with other strangers, in order to be seated right away. This is a smart business strategy, as you maximize seats and serve more customers. This is the same reason why service at Asian restaurants spend less time on courtesy – in order to
focus on speed. You are able to turn about tables faster, therefore seat more customers, and see more profits. The plus side to this practice is, as a customer you get your food promptly. The minus is you get service that comes across as rude, and have to constantly track your server down. Though I will say this, if you can stop them, you can ask anyone for anything and get it. This is preferred over hearing,”I will get your server”. Eventually I learned the trick, if you want anything ask the manager. The managers of Chinese restaurants are usually the ones dressed better. They are in branded clothing, a colour separate from the others. In this case he was a young man in a baby blue Armani tee and Rock Republic jeans. He stood out form the others in their black cloth pants and a black tee with their restaurant’s name on the front. 


We ordered quickly, my guest having been here before made sure to get two of their most popular dishes, for me to try on my visit. When our food came we were not the only ones eating, the kitchen staff set up a 10 seater table in the back, and together shared 4 dishes of meat and veggies over bowls of white rice. They were obviously taking their break and refueling before their busy time. They had impeccable timing, as soon as they were done the crowds came and the restaurant instantly filled up. From this point the service declined, along with my dining experience. No one checks on you or how was your meal is tasting. Your dishes are plopped hard onto your table. We had one dish missing and had to follow up on it three times. Every question you asked was return with an air of impatience. At the end I felt bad to even ask for the bill, I was getting so much attitude. Of course this came right away. One of the other managers was so eager to claim it that he watched us drop the bills, then hovered before asking if he could take it. All this was done even though we were still seated, finishing our drinks. The bad service really blemishes all their food awards from “Vancouver Magazine”. 

I am a sucker for a fun name and had to get their “Moo Moo Juice”. I deduced this to be a milkshake made with a variety of exotic Asian fruits. My guest ordered the “lychee moo shake” and I had the “jack fruit moo shake”. Jack fruit is a tropical fruit that I am very familiar with, being born in Southeast Asia. The flesh is starchy and fibrous, and the flavour is comparable to an apple, pineapple, and banana combined. Those who haven’t grown up enjoying it might not take to it. But it was delicious in my drink. Both drinks looked and tasted void of milk. I would classify it as a slush. They were still great, but not as expected. When I inquired about the absence of milk, a server insisted that there was a tiny bit in. 

“Phnom Penh” deep fried chicken wings, made with garlic and served with a lemon and pepper sauce. I have eaten a lot of wings in my years, but none with as a unique taste as the ones here. You can’t describe it, it is just good. And I can see why this is their best selling dish and why every table had a large plate before them. We won’t be making the mistake of getting the small next time. The extra $4 for a pound more is worth it. You can just eat a plateful and nothing else. This is my first time having this great taste in my mouth. The seasoning on each wing is so well coated and so delicious that I recommend enjoying it as is, and forgoing the dipping sauce.

Another customer favorite is their marinated “butter beef”. This is thinly sliced, specially prepared raw beef on a bed of fried garlic, cilantro, and their house sauce. This was my guest’s favorite and a dish she does not come without having. I had to struggle to separate the meat and once I got it into my mouth I couldn’t swallow it. I did not enjoy the chewy texture and had to really go at it. After 15 bite downs or so I had to spit it out. The sauce was delicious and would be great over cooked beef. This was just not a texture for me. I have had raw beef before, and it has always been truly soft like butter, and not just named it. One that I recommend trying for yourself.









Seeing it on another table I ordered the “special combo B”, deep fried spring rolls, prawn supreme on sugar cane, Vietnamese steamed rolls, all served with a side of vermicelli and fish sauce. The “prawn supreme” is prawn meat mashed together, rolled into a ball, then deep fried with a sugar cane stick poked into the middle. It tasted like artificial prawn, sweetened by the sugar cane. Everything else was as expected and even more delicious when saturated in the fish sauce. With a portion this large it is definitely a plate to share.

For dessert we wanted to try the “9 layer cake” and “pandan jelly ice”. But was disappointed to find out that they ran out of both, but we could come back Sunday for the cake. (My dinner at “Phnom Penh” was on a Wednesday) Our disappointment was deepened when our server described how delicious both were.

They had a pretty ok bathroom for a Chinese restaurant, in the middle of Chinatown. Not as dirty as you would think. Before I dared enter I imagined cracked sinks, stained toilet seats and wet spots on everything. It was better than this.

Would I go back? – Yes, but only to pick up a take out order. Chinese food doesn’t have the same presentation points as other restaurants; and taste just as good eaten out of styrofoam. Plus you either choose dealing with hour long line ups (they don’t take reservations) or have to enjoy your meal early bird style. My time is valuable and I usually get hungry by 6-7pm. Also you get to avoid the poor service and not have to tip for it out of obligational guilt.
Would I recommend it? – Absolutely half of Vancouver can’t be all wrong. The food is good and at great prices. And honestly the best tasting chicken wings I have ever had. I suggest enjoying a late lunch or early dinner soon.
Don’t deny your cravings.

PHNOM PENH
244 East Georgia St, Vancouver BC, V6A 1Z7
604-682-5777



Phnom Penh 金邊小館 on Urbanspoon Instagram

Memphis Blues, Southern BBQ


No Crying the Blues Here~


“Memphis Blues” is Frenchy’s all time favorite restaurant. It took me 2 years to get him in because he didn’t believe in the higher price for a casual night out. But after his first meat feast he was hooked. This is one of those few times you are truly paying for what you get. Ask anyone who has ever been, they have only good things to say about the food and portions at “Memphis Blues”. On top of being excited to go.

There are 3 locations in Vancouver and I have frequented all. They are pretty consistent from one to another. Similar decor style, preparation of food, and friendly staff. The layout is simple. Tables lined in columns. Art indicative of the south. Pictures depicting jazz and soul music, and saxophones being held at 45 degrees. And the occasional delicious pig referenced in novelty.

Everything is self serve from picking out your drink from the fridge, to packing up your own left overs. You choose your table then head to the cash to order. I always dislike these types of arrangements. You end up tipping before you have tried the food or have seen the extent of the staff’s service.

At each table there is a selection of additional sauces and spices , I have never used them but they are there if you need the extra kick. Most importantly, each table comes with its own, much needed roll of paper towels. With all the sauces and hand held meats, I can see them going through rolls and rolls in a day. 

Our favorite meats are the pulled pork and beef brisket. We usually share the $22.95 combo plate, with enough left for lunch the next day. Each plate comes with a slice of corn bread, a small portion of baked beans, a scoop of coleslaw, and their house special BBQ sauce. But we have also gotten them as meals for $16.95-17.95. More of the meats we love with the same sides and your choice of either fries or potato salad. Their herbs and spices make them Frenchy’s favorite seasoned fries; so good hot and fresh that ketchup is not needed. Their BBQ sauce isn’t too strong and has a little sweetness to it; it goes well with everything they serve, even the cornbread. 

If you want to try a little bit of everything they have a variety of combo platters to fulfill that craving. Two of their platters are named after the Presley’s, how southern of them, and how fitting with the Louisiana decor. We like their “Memphis Feast”, their signature platter with a bit of every meat available and all the fixings. This is the best way to try BBQ. Their pulled pork is shredded perfection, with a melt in your mouth kind of tenderness. The beef brisket is my favorite. It is fattier and therefore a more rich cut of beef. Always well seasoned and layered with marbleized fat. The ribs are flavourful, but far too dry to have any fall off the bone. The sausage is your easy win, always consistently delicious and juicy with fat morsels.
This is no place for a salad, but for those wanting more breathing room smoked chicken, catfish over greens, oyster po’boy, and BBQ poutines are available on the menu. They also serve desserts, but I wouldn’t know, as I have never been not stuffed full enough to ask.
My only real complaint is their drinks. Yes they have a fine selection of beers, but if you want red wine with your red meat it comes in a stout glass, meant for fruit juice; and half the fun of having wine is swirling it in a large breathable goblet.

Would I go back? – Yes, we have been at least 7 times last year and will probably go 7 more this year. Good food everytime, eat in and take out. You get exactly what you expect and it does wonders to satisfy your meat cravings.
Would I recommend it? – Yes, it is one of the only BBQ places in Vancouver; and after much research I can conclude it is probably the best. It is optimal when you go with a group of friends and get one of the full platters meant for 10! One of my fondest memories is trying “Memphis Blues” for the first time with a group of friends during the “Super Bowl”, we enjoyed the “Picnic pack” with a side of “tall boys”. Meat, pops, and plates for four that fed 7.
Don’t deny your cravings on this one. So much meaty goodness.


MEMPHIS BLUES

1465 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6H 1H6
Tel: 604-738-6806

Memphis Blues Barbeque House on Urbanspoon

430 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 0H3
Tel: 604-682-6225
Memphis Blues Barbeque House on Urbanspoon

1342 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 3X6
Tel: 604-215-2599
Memphis Blues Barbeque House on Urbanspoon

memphisbluesbbq.com

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Korean MaMa Express, food truck

Korean BBQ on the Move~


Food trucks are fast food that comes to you and is made delicious on site. You get the ease of grabbing something on the fly without the taste of something heated from frozen and tossed into a box. But this means you are paying more for better ingredients.
This is exactly the case with “Korean Mama Express”, a Korean food truck which permanently resides on the corner of Broadway and Granville. It doesn’t look like much, but it smells delicious. It is run by two Korean sisters, one takes the orders and the other cooks from the stove top at the back of their truck. Rain or shine they are out there from 10am to 8pm, depending on foot traffic and how much food they go through in the day. The best part of their truck is their picture with the actor who plays “Raiden” in “Mortal Kombat”, the tv series. They offer more options than most food trucks. Korean flavours and Asian style meat dishes incorporated into popular North American vessels: like taco shells, quesadilla, and buns. They specialize in variations on the traditional hot dogs, hamburgers, and rice and noodle bowls.

“Cheese Dog”, a hot dog topped with sautéed beef, onions and cheddar cheese spread. Pieces of beef over a 100% beef hot dog. Not really all that special, and not cheap at $7, but it hits the spot if you want a meat-full lunch on the go. I have had 3 of them so far.

The quesadilla is stuffed with all the same ingredients as the “Cheese Dog”, minus the hot dog wiener. It is a gooey bite with melted cheese. And a great flavor with the juiciness of the beef. $9, is steep for something that cost less than $6 for you to buy and make for yourself, with enough leftover to feed 4 of your friends.
The quesadilla and the soft and hard shell tacos are the exact same dish on different doughs.

The “Ddok Kalbi” Burger is made using a beef rib patty; and it is not worth its $8 price. Yes you are paying for the higher quality patty, but the burger is not much more than a beef patty, a slice of cheese, ketchup, and a leaf of lettuce.

Would I go back? – Yes, it is quick food made to order, right by my work. Sometimes you just want some street meat.
Would I recommend it? – No, the food is so simple for the price required. I do not find value in it, besides it always tasting good.
This is a craving you can satisfy almost anywhere that serves hotdogs and burger.

KOREAN MAMA EXPRESS
Food truck on Broadway and Granville.





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Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

Two Girls One Pot~


Nothing brings me more eating joy then to gather non-Asians to try hot pot for the first time. Hot Pot is where you cook your food at your table; essentially in a boiling pot that is hot. You pick your soup broth and in goes your chosen ingredients, as soon as it boils. When cooked you scoop out what you want to eat. This is best enjoyed with a larger group.
Those who are conscious of the germs found in sharing, this is not a meal for you. Asian logic is sharing brings families closer together. And the thought process is that boiling kills all germs and the use of common chopsticks when scooping, avoids giving everyone a taste of your saliva. There is also the risk that the meat you add in doesn’t get cooked fully, and you and your guests are getting sick out of the same pot. To avoid this ensure everything is cooked through, and that you do not add in more raw to a pot that is almost done. Eat everything cooked in one round before filling the pot up for a second. Also use separate utensils to put the raw food in and take the cooked ones out. After I explain all this and we try our first round, all those who are new to hot pot come up with the same conclusion: why are they paying to cook the food for themselves. I usually explain, they are paying for the tedious prep work required and enjoying the interactive eating journey. 

Our favorite Hot Pot place is the newest location of the “Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot” chain. It is across from Metrotown, and is the old home of “Sammy J Pepper’s. This is a great location, with tones of traffic from those frequenting the mall. Shoppers wanting something the food court can’t offer can take 10 minutes to walk across the street. It is a large space with over 50 tables and booths, each with its own own stove top built into the table and overhead sprinklers for safety. For those wanting some privacy for their groups of 10 or more, there are rooms large enough to seat everyone. 


The menu is a sheet of paper with everything you can order and a check box to fill in the quantity desired. There are over 5 broths to choose from at $9.99 each, or you can do a split pot that holds two different broths to cook out of. This is all you can eat, so for $19.95 you can order and try everything without hesitation. You make your ingredient selection from a list divided by meat, seafood, veggies, and tofu. Everything is ordered in quantities and you do your best to suss out how much you and your meal companions can eat in 2 hours. The trick (or the Asian way) is to pace yourself and order the most expensive items first, to ensure you get your money’s worth. We have been here a handful of times and have it down pat. We order all our seafood and our favorite, the quail egg first. These items cost the most and the restaurant purposely gives you everything else first in hopes you will eat you fill and forget the rest. 

The seafood may not be the freshest or cleaned of all particles of sand, as was the case of our cuttlefish; but at $20 for all you can eat, a mouthful of dirt is worth it in my opinion. They also offer mussels, squid, and a variety of fish. And for those wanting the more exotic, sea cucumber is available for $14.99 on special request. Expensive and frankly not worth it in your hot pot broth. I only ordered it so my non Asian friends could try, but thinking it was at an affordable $4.99 for a plate.
The meats is their money maker, they are cut razor thin, curled into ringlets, and stacked 5 rolls high for the illusion of lots of meat. The reality is it is probably less meat than a 6 oz steak. They cook instantly so you need to scoop out what you put in, before it dries out. Scoops are little wire nets that capture the meat, but not the liquid. At the end of your meal this becomes one of the most flavorful soups you would have ever tried, that you essentially made yourself.
The unique thing about “Fatty Lamb”, that sets it apart from its rival Hot Pot places, is their self serve sauce bar. At the centre of the restaurant is a rolling tray set up with 6 different sauces that you can use to mix and match a taste that compliments your cooking. You can choose from chili oil, a peanut satay sauce, hoisin sauce, soya sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. There is also plastic pitchers of additional stock you can add to your pot as the liquid in it boils down.

Be careful to pace yourself and try to predict how much your body can take in. Some hot pot places, including “Fatty Sheep”, mention that you will be charged for all dishes uncompleted. Though I have never cleaned all my plates and have never had to pay a fee. The warning helps to prevent any customer from over ordering.

Would I go back? – Yes. The service maybe slow, and your second round takes twice as long to come, in order to allow you to feel full and eat less. But it is still a good deal $30 for soup broth and all you can eat. Come with a group of friends and you have a fun 2 hours gorging on food and enjoying company around a hot pot.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. For those of us who love the dining experience of cooking at your table, and starving yourselves all day in order to truly eat all you can, hot pot is for you. And there are not many options available other than “Little Sheep”. “Posh Hot Pot”, does not have a sauce bar and with one type of seasoning, you get tired of your meal quick. After two pounds of meat and vegetables that taste the same and are dipped in the same sauce, you get sick of the taste for an extended period of time. “Fatty Cow”, gives you sauce options to choose from, but not a lot of it and more comes at a price.
So for all those reasons if hot pot is what you are craving don’t deny it, eat all you can and burn and boil down the rest that you can’t.




LITTLE SHEEP MONGOLIAN HOT POT
littlesheephotpot.com

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot 小肥羊火鍋連鎖店 on Urbanspoon Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot 小肥羊 on Urbanspoon Instagram

Itadakimasu, Japanese Tapas

Jappa Tappa ~


You know when you enter a Japanese restaurants and they yell at you? Well they are actually saying “Itadakimasu” and it means “I humbly receive” in Japanese. And this was an appropriate name for the Japanese tapas place we were dining tonight: “Itadakimasu Izakaya”. As a note, it is also used before dining to invite everyone to eat.
The staff were friendly and seemed excited at our large party. On this night there was a Canucks game playing and only a small tv in the corner to showcase it. Obviously not a go to place to eat, drink, and cheer for the home team. Therefore we were one of the only 2 tables occupied in tonight. But on regular night I imagine many young Asians filling the seats with laughter and their bellies with all the sake and drink specials they could handle. But tonight we were focusing on the food and beers.

Based on their Facebook page and the restaurant’s decor, I believe they are a newer Japanese tapas place. The wooden tables and black chairs were clean and un-scratched. And matched well with their other muted decorations. If you follow them on Facebook you get a heads up on their specials and access to coupons like 10% off everything, including alcohol. They don’t have a menu up but they do post amazing food pictures with the dish’s name and an ingredient run down. A great way to entice future customers in.

Their in store menus were as beautiful as their plates. A one page of salads, sushi, finals, and desserts; printed on black, written in white and green. Each option was listed in Japanese then translated and further described in English. It was a little more on the expensive side as compared to other places I have tried. But everything looked beautiful and tasted delicious. And when the bill was split amongst 8 bodies it did not do that much damage.


“Deep fried Lotus Chips”. So good we got another round. Crispy with a mild starch and salted taste. 


“Beef Tataki”, thin slices of raw beef. They were incredibly tender and well seasoned with light soy and sesame oil. I just question the color if the meat. I have more often seen it in a brighter red color. 


“Fried Tofu Three Ways”: BBQ, hot and teriyaki. For the vegetarians out there. Great but hard to share between 8. 


“Cute” sushi balls, as it is listed on the menu. It is essentially a variety of nigiri sushi rolled into balls instead of its traditional long oval shape. And this simple change has made them all that much cuter and one of “Itadakimasu’s” most popular dishes. Can you name each one?


“Deep Fried California Roll”. The best version of a California Roll I have ever had. Everything tastes better fried, even things you don’t like to begin with. I am not a fan of California rolls; but the breaded crust, sweet teriyaki sauce, and Japanese mayo on top really improved on the original recipe. Giving this roll a crunchy and creamy texture simultaneously. 


“Ebi Mayo”, a typical Japanese small plates favourite. Shrimp stretched out, then deep fried in tempura batter, and coated with Japanese mayo. This one had a twist in its batter and mayo recipe, which made it so good that we ordered a second helping. 


“Takoyaki”, breaded batter with cabbage and octopus pieces, formed into balls and topped with onion flake and seaweed. Very popular at summer night markets and made available here all throughout the year

“Unagi Roll”, eel roll. I really enjoyed all the additions to their rolls. You didn’t need soya sauce as each roll came sauced and topped with extras.

Vegetable roll with mango on top. The mango and the salt from the sauce really made this roll sweet.


“Kimchi Udon”, not the prettiest plate that night, but the best tasting hands down. Each strand of noodle was marinated and packed with flavour.

“Chicken Karrage”, deep fried chicken pieces. I didn’t find this any different from all other chicken karrages, except its pieces were cut larger. It was still dry inside and oily outside, as it is everywhere else.

Yam fries and gravy with a twist. These were made Japanese style with tempura batter and a soy based gravy. Not that flavorful and a little on the soggy side, even before being dipped in.

2 Deep fried crab cake over a cream and gravy sauce. I admire the extra time they took to create the design at the bottom. Dishes taste better when they look it.

“Sushi Pizza”, with deep fried and battered sushi rice as the crust. We ordered this based on the name, but was disappointed that it looked nothing like a pizza; and was just rice at the bottom with sushi ingredients mashed up and spread out on top.

Tuna roll made squared, with cucumber chunks sandwiched in the middle. Wasn’t a noteworthy taste, but it sure looked good.

The menu listed this as being “home made creme brûlée”. So we were utterly disappointed to see a set of flan land on our table.

Matcha green tea and chocolate cake. Tasted pre-made.

The deep fried vanilla ice cream coated in cornflakes compensated for the other two disappointing desserts. Its taste can be described as cereal and milk. Delicious, combining the wining combo of ice cream and deep frying.

Would I go back? – Yes. This was another great Japanese tapas place. I am starting to think there can be no bad one. They all apply the winning model of beautiful small plates to share; and cheap drink specials. Two things Asians love and Vancouver is not short on either.
Would I recommend it? Yes and No. For all the above reasons yes. It was good food in a great space, at a convenient location; but nothing really wow-ed me enough to make it a go to place.
Don’t deny your cravings.



ITADAKIMASU IZAKAYA
4148 Main St, Vancouver BC
604-558-3776



Itadakimasu Izakaya on Urbanspoon Instagram

Bob Likes Thai Food

Bobs The Word ~


The old home of Bin 152 is now the second location of “Bob Likes Thai Food”. This casual diner attracts attention with its colorful store front and its comical mascot, dawning the awning. You walk into a narrow space and are sandwiched in a joyful environment with simple decorations. A giant novelty fork and knife set are hung on the wall. Mellow lighting resonates from a paper mache star, set in front of an antique map. In the background, tropical music with tin drums lightens the mood. A pretty impressive bar sits in the middle, something not common in other Thai restaurants. But this is no ordinary Thai restaurant. No shrines or Thai art in sight, and no red or flowered anything. On the menu you have your classics like “Pad Thai”, “Tom Yum”, and assorted curries. But then you notice the “fish and chips” and the “poutine”. This is how Bob does Thai: with a twist. They have takeout menus and that is exactly what I planned for dinner tonight. It was not busy at 6pm on a Tuesday night, and therefore my order came quick.

One of the $9 lunch specials was “Pad Pik King Chicken”. It is chicken sautéed with red curry paste, green beans, lime leaf, and garlic. To boil it down, this was juicy chicken and crispy green beans, over your standard white rice. On the side, came lightly fried wonton skin; these were a little soggy from the coating of sweet chili sauce. This would have been a filling meal on its own, rich in flavour, but nothing all that special. I am Chinese and am able to make something very similar. When I eat out I pay to eat dishes I cannot make for myself.

Seeing the words “Thai poutine”, I had to give “Bob’s poutine” a try. On the menu description it pays a homage to the traditional style of poutine made in rural Quebec in the late 1950’s; following it, is their disclaimer that it is done “Bob’s way”. Deep fried thin slices of taro root, topped with lemongrass, lime leaf, deep fried tofu, chili and green curry sauce. This is a great vegetarian option with a punch. But when you read “poutine” you expect heavy and greasy, this was the complete opposite with light crispy textures. I would liken this more to Thai nachos because of the chips. Had the taro been cut into strips lengthwise, like fries, I would be more comfortable with the moniker “poutine”. The first few bites were surprising. You kept eating in hopes that it would get a little better and a bit more satisfying: Nothing changed, but it did get soggier and spicier towards the bottom. It needed a dense gravy to coat the chips.



“Beef Salad”, beef marinated in fresh lime juice, and chilled with cilantro, roasted rice, cucumber, tomato, and onion. This is my kind of salad, no leafy greens and a crunch in every bite. The beef was tender and I really wanted to eat more, if only it wasn’t so spicy. Eventually I gave up eating when trying to avoid and pick out all the chili flakes failed. The tomato slices and cucumber chunks gave this salad a great light freshness, but did not help to cool down the spicy meat as I had hoped. We ate, sweating in flavor.

“Chicken Wonton”, 6 crispy wontons filled with ground chicken and served with a homemade plum sauce. The dipping sauce closely resembled bottled sweet chili sauce, I did not taste plum as the menu suggested. It was 80% wonton skin and not 20% enough filling. The chicken tasted more like tofu. Plenty of the sweet sauce was needed to combat the taste of the deep fry.

When ordering small plates and you see spring rolls on the menu, it is a must have and a guarantee good eat. “Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Chilli Jam”, filled with carrot, cabbage, mushroom and bean noodles. They were good, but as good as any other.

“Bacon Wrapped Lychee and Pineapple”, Just as its name suggests. Shame an order only comes with 3 pieces, and therefore a little steep at $5. They tasted like bacon wrapped scallops, the lychee acts as the scallop, with its similar texture. The fruits gave this one bite wonder a sweet pop. This was my favorite dish, and I saved it for my last bite. It helped to cool down my burning tongue.

Together all these dishes from “Bob Loves Thai food” proved to be a satisfying dinner. I just wished I had mints to wash away the garlic after taste, that lingered in my month, hours later.
Would I go back? – Sure. Their prices are fair, small plates from $5-10 and entrees at no more than $14. Their menu is large and there are more Thai dishes with a twist are worth trying.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. It is easy to get to by transit and parking is available nearby. The setting is nice and the food fair. As far as Thai restaurants go, this is the only modern one I have been to; with up to date art, food that people crave, and a worthy bar menu of a restaurant on South Granville.
Don’t deny your cravings, if “Bob likes Thai food”, so should you.

BOB LIKES THAI FOOD
1531 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 1W6
Tel: 604-558-3320
boblikesthaifood.com

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Socrates, Greek taverna

Going Geek for Greek ~


We dressed down in sweats and headed out to eat at our favorite Greek delivery place, “Socrates”. When you know you are going to get stuffed, loose fitting clothes are the way to go. We first learned about them when we goggled “delivery places in Burnaby”. Though this would be the first time I would get to see the restaurant in person; after having made over 6 calls for them to come see me. It is usually quiet when you pass by, and you rarely see a body in the window. It is one of many, one of restaurants in a row; in an area that is not very busy and all its buildings look run down. But locals know this is a well kept in the area. “Socrates” does not look like much from the outside, especially with the words “air conditioned” scrawled on the window; It looks tacky and air conditioning should not be a deciding factor for anyone when deciding where to eat. 

So I was awestruck to come into an open, well kept Greek restaurant. You did not get all the usual clutter you see from older, family owned places; It did not look like an old lived house. The wall feature caught my attention first. A whole wall created to resemble a landscape, one in Greece perhaps? The painting is hand brushed and showcases a lone wood cabin situated in the wild woods. The water looks alive as it falls in front of an expansive mountain side. As entranced as I was with this, I was told from a masonry perspective: the rocks are ugly. “Have you ever seen white rocks?” The spectacle would have been just as impressive if the rocks were left in their natural color, instead of being painted white to match the walls. The rest of the restaurant is kept simple and styled in Greek familiarity. 

I appreciated the neutral colours: wooden chairs and white everything else, it gave the place a bright, clean look. A row of columns separated 1/3 of the restaurant, and is a nice homage to the Greek culture. The dainty plants in plain white vases and planters looked well taken care of and not over run. The only thing really kitschy is their collection of faded photographs taped above their bar. Photos of pseudo celebrities and loyal customers. If we wanted the cliche we are just missing the traditional court yard in the middle of the restaurant, Greek pottery, a blue and white flag, and a few arches. Definitely one of the best kept, small, family own and run Greek establishments I have seen.

At 7pm on a Wednesday night a middle aged woman ran the entire front of house. She handled it well as only 6 tables were seated out of the over 45 available. She created a homey, community feeling; calling her regulars by first names and checking up with details on their lives. This is not the kind of service you can get from a chain. 

When we have our delivery it is always good; but today everything is that much better when you get it to enjoy it at your table, 2 minutes from getting it off the stove. Prices are no cheaper when you eat in, but I did notice that the portions are a little smaller, whereas they fill the containers in a delivery order. When comparing the pictures below you can see with delivery, you get a whole large potato, more salad, and definitely a thicker cut of lamb. With delivery you also get to choose your souvlaki size with a $3 difference between the small and large.
With our take out orders I usually get the lamb and Frenchy the chicken souvlaki. The souvlaki is thick cuts of white chicken meat, skewered through. It is a good portion size, and the breast meat is prepared tender and juicy. It has never disappointed us yet.

I always get lamb when going Greek. It is always delicious; and not something I dare attempt to prepare for myself. This is one of the larger portions of lamb I have ever gotten for $16.95. Their menu has a hand printed price correction showing this was previously $15.95. My suggestion is to make up more menus, it is worth the cost. You don’t want new visitors being reluctant to order items because they have been marked up.
“Roasted Lamb”, described as a generous portion of tender meat baked with traditional spices. It is served with Greek salad, rice pilaf, tzatziki sauce and pita bread. The sides are the same for everything and the same in other Greek restaurants .
Their Greek salad did not taste frozen. You can tell if you bite into a watery tomato or if they come with ice crystals on them. I used bites of salad as a great way to break up the strong garlic flavour coating everything else. .

Unlike with take out, the pitas came before the meal; cut up crispy in a basket. They were lightly seasoned with olive oil and garlic salt. We asked for tzatziki sauce to accompany it and saved some to enjoy with our entrees. Tzatziki is my favorite food to come out of Greece; And there can never be enough of it. It goes with the potatoes, rice, meat, and about everything else. The rice pilaf was soft and had equally soft boiled carrots mixed in. There was no horror of biting into a hard, uncooked carrot. The rice was mildly seasoned, and meant as an accompaniment to the meat. The lamb fell off the bone. I was able to easily pulled apart the meat and remove the bone with nothing else. The dish had a great natural flavour, heightened by the amazing seasonings. I have had this exact dish over 6 times and it is so good that I don’t want to try anything new. Which is so out of my character, so you know this is good.

“Half Chicken Greek Style”, came with the same accompaniments as above and it tasted consistent to it as well. The chicken had a light lemon herb flavour. Frenchy claimed it better than Nando’s take on the similar recipe. The crispy light skin was the best part. Towards the bone the meat got drier, but with such a thick piece it is hard to make sure everything is cooked through and still juicy.
We ate until full and had a full meal to take home with us. All for less then $35.

Would I come back? – No, only because they do delivery at no extra cost. And with what looks like more food for the same price. So why not eat at the comfort of your own home? Plus you get away with tipping less on delivery then dine in (cheap Asian speak).
P.S. they also claim to specialize in Italian cuisine, but who goes to a Greek place and not order Greek food? But I will probably end up trying some of it one day.
Would I recommend it? – Absolutely!
Why are people not coming here to eat instead of lining up for hours in front if “Stepho’s”. Then once seated, feeling cramped and rushed; and having to yell out their conversations in an extremely loud setting. Yes the portions may be slightly larger, but who needs to eat that much food. And yes it may be on the cheaper side but my time is worth more than saving $5-7. I guess it boils down to location, location, location. But with Greek it is always good and this is one of my go to’s for food I know will be delicious and plentiful. We always have leftover to spare.
Don’t deny your cravings, enjoy good Greek in a quiet dine in setting or get them to deliver at “Socrates”.

SOCRATES GREEK TAVERNA
6633 East Hastings St, Burnaby BC
604-299-3777



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Days of our Ives, Vancouver Acting School

Teal the End of Time ~

I threw on a aqua tee shirt and headed to the “Vancouver Acting School”, 3 blocks off Main Street sky train station. I was there to watch my friend, Teal at her inaugural showcase. I didn’t have a teal shirt. I am usually not a fan of live theatre and have only been to “bard on the beach” twice, but I like the idea of watching a friend perform on stage. So we got a big bouquet of flowers and set off to support our friend.

“Vancouver Acting School” is series of hallways leading to stages, changing rooms, and storage for set equipment. There are little cues set up to motivate the students and remind them of why they are here. Stars below the men and woman sign on washroom doors, the “hang in there cat” on the door of “Snyder Theatre”, a large photograph of the Hollywood sign sits in the lunch room, and 6 microwaves gives them a taste of the good life.

Tonight’s performance was part of the “Days of our Ives”. Cleverly named, six one act plays written by David Ives. The class of actors and actresses were cast in at least two plays each; which spanned across 2 programs over 2 nights. I overheard that only select, highly talented students were hand picked to be a part of this graduation class. So was pre assured of the success of the night. Tonight’s plays were “Lives of the Saints”, “Captive Audience”, and “Mere Morals”. Teal starred and started the scenes in the first and last play. 


I have never truly appreciated the hard work that acting entails until watching my friend perform. To be frank I thought acting was a lazy profession, one that anyone can do; like drawing portraits at Stanley park. But the more I watched Teal and her classmates the more I was proved wrong. I could not even imagine beginning to pretend to act, let alone pursue it as a profession as these students were.

How many of us repeat letters and numbers again and again, just to remember them before we copy them down? And here is Teal. She is able to remember two sets of lines, paired up with two different character personalities. She had to go from one persona into another in the span of 20 minutes. I could not believe what I was seeing. And the accents? I cannot do one. But for those of you who can, imagine keeping a polish accent for 20 plus minutes. Then switch to one a burly Boston construction worker would have for another 20. How did she compartmentalize each?

How are they able to act through all the distractions? Five minutes into the first play the door opens and a bright light snuck into the intimate 50 seats theatre. The actresses went on, without hesitation. Had it been me I would have turned my head 45 degrees and squinted into the light.

How do they ignore the live crowd? There were whispers, people fidgeting in chairs, and laugher. The gentleman who sat behind us had one of those awkward live taping laughs. The one laugh that is louder than the others, and is so abrupt that it often comes across as being forced. How were they ignoring him?
How can they not break character when they recognize someone? We were supporting Teal from the centre, front row. A distraction three seats wide, as we almost shot our hands up to wave as she hint the stage light. How was she able to get over the spy ness and the thought of her friends judging her? At least I was, to be able to write this post. We know how she is, and for her to be able to get us to see her as anyone else, is that much harder; and a sign of a great actress. I got caught up in both her character’s life; so much so that after the show I wanted to ask the truth of one of her character’s claims and if the other was dead.

Tonight I was also made painfully aware of my lack of culture and recognizing subtle nuances. I was lost play to play, not understanding the underlying message and relying on my partners to fill me in. But as soon as it hint me I truly appreciated the writing done and the actors being able to take so much out of it. There were some actresses better than others, and it showed, when you couldn’t take your eyes off of them, even when they weren’t speaking. These were the ones that made you believe. The ones that were able to hold firm their character and not break role. In “Mere Mortals” three woman portrayed the talkings between 3 men during their lunch break. I got sucked in and wanted to know if who their character’s said they were, were really who they were. From this I was hooked on live theatre. But it was too short, I started really getting into it and boom 3 plays were done. I was also sad that there were no programs, as the horder in me wanted a keepsake to remember the awesome performances. 


Tonight also broke my stereotypical belief that only actors that are troubled souls, with slicked back greasy hair, and squinted eyes are able to play serious roles. Because here was Teal Fiddler, funny girl and aspiring tv actress. Charming in her mixed matched colourful socks, doing just that. She had to yell, get mad, and look troubled; and did so, wonderfully. She held her faces, pursed lips never revealing a smile, even when the audience laughed at a joke from another character. And she was able to recall lines and pair them with the according body language with ease.

This was truly an eye opening night and one I would love to duplicate in the future. It is a strong possibility as living in Vancouver you get to meet a few expiring actors and actresses. They come from all over to study at one of our many schools. Vancouver is well known for its thriving film industry. These students study the movies and tv shows filmed here, play a hand in production, write their own screen plays, and of course act in local plays. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend taking advantage of this and checking out a local performance today. You won’t be disappointed by the charm a small product can carry. And the creativity put in to getting their message across on a budget.

Congratulations Teal and “Vancouver Acting School” grads of 2013.





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Carmelo’s, classic Italian restaurant

Clean and Simple Italian~


Tried “Carmelo’s” on a recommendation from a friend, who also happens to work there. She is originally from a small town in Quebec and says that “Carmelo’s” is the best Italian food she has ever had. They promise a rewarding dining experience with Italian and West Coast flavours; Brought to you by friendly staff, in a relaxing environment. All at a price that won’t break your budget; And just what I like. As good as food is I don’t want to spend a lot on it, considering I don’t get to keep it any longer than my digestive system allows. 


“Carmelo’s” is a cozy restaurant with a decor as classic and as simple as its dishes. Tables are dressed in white linens with metal utensils placed neatly on top. Large paintings occupy empty spaces on the wall, and nothing really distracts from the food or the company you are with.
This is a favorite spot of many locals and the famous from the West Coast. Customers come in a range of ages and ethnicities and are blue collars to entrepreneurs. Tonight we dined beside a young family and their 2.3 kids and an elderly couple who ate with hands held across the table.

The menu is not fussy and it focuses on simple dishes made from fresh ingredients. Why over complicate a plate, when they can have it taste just as satisfying with a less is more approach? “Carmelo’s” offers all things Italian: made to order, stone fire pizzas; mouthwatering pastas; and entrees from the catch of the day local seafood, to racks of lamb, and tender cuts of veal.

We got our appetites going with complimentary bread. Two types of warm chewy bread and crunchy breadsticks, accompanied by garlic spread and olive oil for dipping. And sipped on some sparkling wine as we waited for our entrees. The fine dining vibe required some bubbly. 

I ordered “Veal Stuffed Cannelloni”, not being able to make anything like this from scratch. The entire dish was as soft as butter. It was evident as I cut into it with the side of my fork, and it melted on the tip tongue. The sauce was a light tomato and the pasta one of the freshest I have ever had. It was good, but just more plain then I am use to. But that is exactly what “Carmelo’s” is all about, less ingredients used for an uncomplicated taste. 

Like the cannelloni, the “Fettuccine Alfredo” was very simple. It is made with only Parmesan, cream, butter and garlic. We regretting having this without chicken, as the presentation was a little flat with just noodles and sauce. The grated parmesan on top added salt and a different texture. This was the best Alfredo sauce I have had in a long time. I just wished there was more to the dish, some broccoli or asparagus for taste. Some chives or fresh ground pepper for colour. Or some meat to make it worth more of my $14. All the above suggestions would have also made the presentation more impressive too. But once again that is not the point. “Carmelo’s” focuses on simple and clean. Something that is almost a lost art, with all the over the top creations we are seeing; like bacon on doughnuts and shredded seaweed on hotdogs. Where else can we get away from the extreme and get back to basic, healthy, in proportion eating.

Would I go back – Yes, the food was delicious. Everything in every dish was guaranteed fresh and organic; the best you could put into your body – Guilt free pasta in a portion perfect for a sitting. Yes you can get more for less at “Anton’s”, but it is covered in oil and so much food and flavoring that it could make you sick.
Would I recommend it? – Yes, if it is good enough of some of the richest locals on the West Coast, it is good enough for anyone who can afford the $14-$16 price tag.
Don’t deny your cravings on this one.

CARMELO’S RISTORANTE ITALIANO
1448 Marine Drive, Vancouver BC, V7T 1B7
Tel: 604-922-4719
carmelos.ca





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