VieAMaggi.com

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

Month: May 2013 Page 1 of 4

Fable, from farm to table

This ain’t no story~
You walk along West 4th and a large restaurant window filled with quick moving bodies catches your eye. This is “Fable”, a new restaurant built where “Fuel” and “Refuel” use to live. Much has changed in the last two years. You are free to stand on the sidewalk and watch as masterful chefs bring organic and local proteins and vegetables together, or you can come in and experience their vibrant as whimsical dishes in person. 

“From farm to table” is their slogan, and they take their theme seriously. This idea is the brain child of Trevor Bird, a contestant on “Top Chef Canada”, season 2. (I am a food network junkie). The idea came on an episode where contestants had to come up with a restaurant concept to wow the judges. Farm fresh “Fable” was Trevor’s. He returned home, and by the looks of it was able to successfully turn this idea into reality. 


They offer top quality foods without any pretentions that may accompany it. You are made to feel right at home with a grounded decor and a staff that delivers in casual comfort. 

The owners of “Fable” have chosen a theme and have really committed. I have never been to a farm before, but if I did I imagine it would have a lot of what I saw here. 
The surrounding walls are brick with reclaimed wood beams, it gives the restaurant a rustic barn look. The back wall resembles a large chalk board done with much skill and paint. It looks like a chalk drawing of vegetables thriving in a garden: beet tops, corn husks, and lettuce leaves. Over parts of it are back lit pictures of wholesome farm scenes: barb wire, wooden bridges, and old leaning trees. Hand made wooden shelves store decorative bottles of wine. On another sits a collect of odds and ends that one would find at a farm house: a rusted saw, a large wire whisk, a blackened oil can, and an old timey egg beater that looks like a mid evil torture device. The classic mansion jar for preserving, sits on every table, protecting a lone tea light. Each table, unvarnished wood tops paired with dark wooden chairs. And my favourite, a chandelier crafted from the criss crossing of three pitch forks, centers the room. Where we were, all these em elements came together to give us the perfect lighting for pictures on a iPhone, without flash. 
The only part of this collection that really didn’t fit the theme were three pieces of abstract, colourful art done on white canvas. I did not take away from how great everything looked though. I also appreciate an establishment that puts the full effort into every part of their building. Here the washrooms were done nice with bark waste paper baskets, a regal stone sink, and a toilet paper dispenser crafted from a faux antler. 

The space is small. Narrowly placed tables and chairs make it feel like there are more bodies present than there actually is. Tonight’s crowd was a jovial one, loud voices announced celebrations with hardy laughter and tiny pings of glasses touching. The menu was a one pager, and helped the kitchen keep the ingredients fresh, and the plates churning quickly out of the kitchen. I liked their idea to date stamping them. The inky date indicated when the menu was crafted and how long a certain dish has been offered for. Since dinner is prepared from scratch, made from local ingredients that arrive right at their door; they need to be reactive to what ingredients they have on hand and utilize them to make top caliber meals, worthy of their slogan. 
This was proof of the freshness of the experience you were getting.The main menu was dated May 23rd, and the additional one page add on was for today, May 29th. 

When our main server noticed my menu got a little wet, she immediately reclaimed it in order to offer me a new dry one. I didn’t know it yet, but this was a sign on the level of customer service they provide every night. 

Appetizers came fast. 

“Gazpacho Caesar” with bacon, vodka, pickled celery, and horseradish. Being a huge Caesar fan, I had to give this spin on my classic favourite a try. This was half drink half soup. Thicker than a drink and twice as cold. You have to like your soups cold to enjoy this. It was interesting but not something that merited a repeat order. I don’t like chewing my alcohol. 
When asked, I was honest with one of the three servers that waited on us. I did not like the “Gazpacho Caesar”. Without hesitation she offered to take it off our bill and buy us dessert. She explained, it was simple, she sincerely wanted our dinner to be great. Later she came back to inform us that the batch we got was made with an incorrect balance of vodka to soup, and therefore was off putting to most, as we were not the only table to send ours back. I was impressed that she took the time to come back to our table to thank us for the honest feedback as well as explaining the situation. She went on further to say, had we not done so they would have never caught the issue. Faith was restored in the soup, and all the cooking done at “Fable”. And now I would come back to try it in this case. The whole episode made my night. I dare say it is the best service I have ever had. 

 

I was sold on the “Canned tuna” appetizer the very moment our main server mentioned it was their “signature dish”. The menu promised it to be the best canned tuna you have ever had, in quotes. The fish was served in a mason jar over fingerling potatoes, coated in olive oil and other spices. We were given instructions before embarking on our interactive first course. You mix in the teaspoon of salt then begin to mash and fold until the lot of it resembles canned tuna. You work for your meal, which was no easy task. The container was a little too small for ease of stirring, my guest was going rather slow at it, trying not to splatter anything off the sides. Though as troublesome as this may have seemed, I am glad it did not come pre mixed, as it would not have looked as appetizing. By the end of it we were smearing on chunky baby food on to hard crustinis. The buttery taste was an excellent compliment to the toasted bread. Just wish we had more crustini to eat along side the saltier mash. 

 

This night they were out of trout so we settled on “Halibut”. It was prepared with a chorizo bouillabaisse, mussels, polenta crouton, and a parsley crust. A sheet of parsley laying off centre to the pure white fish, gave this dish an artistic appeal. With help from the halibut and mussels the broth was given a rich warm seafood flavour. The corn meal polenta sat at the bottom, below the fish; it soaked up all the sauce from both sides like a delicious sponge. The vegetables added a crunch component, and the spiciness came from the meatballs. A very hearty dish considering it was fish. 

 

“Duck breast” over a rhubarb and caramelize onion tart, with creamed cabbage and an apple purée on the side. This was such a luxurious and unique dish, my guest let out a “wow” at first bite. This was a savory entree made sweet; with assistance from the apple, sweet onion, and rhubarb. Even the cabbage tasted candied. We were impressed to discover that the tart was literal and made with an flaky crust. This is nothing you have tasted, and something you would go back to rediscover. Great textures and complimentary components. A scrumptious blend of savory brown sauce and sweet apple purée. Amazing how the chefs were able to make soggy cabbage and bitter rhubarb taste this good. 


“Lemon meringue parfait”, the usual suspects in this homespun pie, with the addition of streusel and tarragon ice cream. The tart lemon gel was offset by the sweetness of the beautifully browned fluffy meringue. In the middle, hidden, was the ice cream slowly melting over the crunchy streusel. The tarragon was mild and added no real interrupting flavour to the parfait. Over all the beautiful presentation was worth the difficulty in eating. After a spoonful or two we deflated the dessert and had to quickly scoop up thick meringue from dripping down the sides. 

To round up, I was enamored with the level of customer service the staff at “Fable” provided. We were well taken care of by all three ladies working the floor. They checked in on us and saw to it that we enjoyed every part of our meal. The parts where we didn’t, we were offered solutions to rectify the situation. This was done without us having to press for it or even suggest it. How refreshing to be put first. Each waitress possessed great energy and was happy to go into detail over the food. I asked for suggestions and explanations over menu items. Not only did they added clarity but sold me on them as well. And for those reasons alone I will be coming back. Not even mentioning how delicious the food was. I enjoyed every creamy bite knowing it was made with the best ingredients and I was putting good healthy foods into my belly. 

Would I recommend it? – Absolutely. I was awestruck over the decor, swept off my feet by the staff, and given an experience close to angelic with the food. There was nothing I did not enjoy about tonight. And if the line ups were any indication, most of Vancouver felt the same way. Don’t deny your cravings to sample what the best of the farms have to offer. 


FABLE
1944 West 4th, Vancouver BC, V6J 1M5
604-732-1322
fablekitchen.ca

Fable Kitchen on Urbanspoon Instagram

Triple O’s, at Chevron gas station




One wouldn’t think to have dinner at a gas station, and yet here is where I found myself on a Monday night. After pumping up at “Chevron” and needing a quick bite before a run at “Walmart”, we settled on “Triple O’s” for food. This strategy was in part due to pure convenience and the knowledge that they do do descent burgers. 


Pass the “Chevron” till is “Triple O’s, a full restaurant within a gas station. In the left corner is a counter. Above it, back lit menu options. Behind it, stands a lone man waiting to assist customers. And to the right, a full sit down and dine in, eating area. A row of window bar seats, two booths, and bistro tables between them both. Its not the biggest space, but it serves the needs well. Despite their classy black and red colour blocked booth seats, these were the worse booths I have ever sat in. The back support is non existent. You expect the back to be crafted of the same faux material that make the seats as bouncy and as supportive as they are. But you lean back unknowingly and are struck with the discomfort of pretty painted wood planks. 

Effort was put into the decor, their theme a mock up of a retro diner made modern with certain accessories. This paired well with their selection of music, classics from the decades before. During our stay we heard that “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and that We Spun someone right round like a record. I personally knew all these songs and enjoyed singing along, much to the chagrin of my guest. They had an old timey cola refrigerator and an old school motorbike. This was over head and framed their handsome miniature stone fireplace. The first time I have seen a fireplace at a gas station. Shame it wasn’t on. 


With slower traffic the one
employee was able to managed the front, prepared the food, and served the customers. During our stay we were the only ones, but as soon as we left a group of five hungry men entered. I wonder how the “Triple O’s” employee would cope with this busy spurt. For us, he delivered on the service I expected at any other fast food place. But I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation of our $12 meal. I honestly felt that each menu item was not only delicious, but it came to us as it would look in their pictures. Here is a prime example of you get what you pay for. 


“Ultimate crunch combo”. Spicy chicken burger with tomato, lettuce and their house mayo. This mayo was so good that we got it as a side to dip our fries in to, with enough leftover to splatter more in between the burger buns. The flavor of the breaded chicken breast reminded me of a crunchier “McChicken”. But with a juicier all white meat patty, that just tasted better for you. The lettuce and tomato were fresh and crispy. 

The fries were thick cut, the ones that come out crispy on the outside and ends, and soft and moist in the middle. They were piping hot and got melty with the mayo. 

Instead of a regular fountain drink we paid extra and got their special coffee crisp milkshake. Their high quality milkshakes are listed as $5.99 but came up to $1.50 with a combo. Best Shake for the price. Vanilla ice cream, coffee flavoring, chocolate drizzle on the sides, topped with whip cream, and a healthy sprinkling of mashed up chunks of a coffee crisp bar. This was a beautiful looking shake that tasted just as great. I stirred all the components together and enjoyed trying to syphon the chunks through the too narrow straw. 


Would I come back and would I recommend it? Yes and yes. It is a quick and easy stop for good food. And with it located at a gas station there is always parking and no wait to order. I don’t think many others would consider grabbing a burger combo while they pump gas and buy a lottery ticket. Yes, it is expensive when compared to the neighboring “Wendy’s” or “McDonalds”; but it is worth your money to get something better for you, that satisfies your hunger more. I am always full when I walk out, after one of their meals. I don’t think you could say the same for its local competition. Plus they are the “home of the legendary burger”. Don’t deny your cravings. 



TRIPLE O’S

3505 Granville Highway, Vancouver BC, V5M 2B8

Tel: 604-438-4371


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Hawksworth, contemporary Canadian cuisine

“Hawksworth” is a fine dining restaurant located in the heart of downtown, and nestled at the bosom of the legendary “Rosewood Hotel Georgia”. Their symbol, a setting of cutlery is cleverly placed to assemble an “H”. It well represents what their restaurant embodies, a focus on food and the experience of eating it. The restaurant is ingredient led, contemporary cuisine that highlights the imagination of owner and head chef, David Hawksworth. His hard work has earned him and his restaurant countless awards and relentless recognition. Some of which include best chef and best new restaurant, as decided by “Vancouver Magazine”. 


You walk in and are awestruck by the glamour and elegance of it all. Simple sophistication. Glass fireplaces, crisp table linens, and a serene glow from low lit candles. Despite all the prestige and opulence of the name and the space behind it, the staff treat every customer without discrimination. No prejudgments are made based on your look or dress. Here they offer equal resect, backed by attentive and relaxed service to everyone. Though as a side note you can always tell who has money when dining at a fancy restaurant like this. For the working class like myself, this is a full on night out. I dressed to the nines, in what could almost be deemed a ball grown, my best heels, and my biggest brand named jewelry. Where as for the wealthy in their “Tommy Bahama” Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts this was just another dinner in paradise. 

“Hawksworth” is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Today I was in for a sophisticated girls night out with fancy attire on body, and pretty cocktail in hand. All their contemporary Canadian dishes preach the best ingredients, sourced locally and all across Canada. They are brought together through a range if culinary techniques and traditions drawn from this country’s diverse heritage. And what comes of it is the some of the most enticing and well constructed dishes I have ever had. The best part of eating is when you are able to eat with your eyes, before you proceed with your mouth. I won’t speak on the unspoken, but obvious expensive cost attached to establishments like this. What I will mention is that for all those wanting to head here for a try, be warned, budget well and make sure you can afford it, or see your self washing dishes in the back of house. Joking. The menu is constantly being updated based on the seasonal availability of ingredients. What I have enjoyed below may not be on the menu during your visit. And my apologizes for the darker images. I felt absurd using flash at a place like this. 

“Octopus ceviche”. We came in with the intention of trying this, thanks to a strong recommendation from a colleague. The ceviche was light with gentle nods of citrus. The octopus, cut into small bites that were tender and not the least bit chewy. The sprouts, potatoes, and other seasonings gave this dish complexity; a variety of flavours that came in layers. Definitely a dish to savor one morsel at a time. 




“Yellowfin tuna”. Gently seared tuna resting over a bed of quinoa. The grains were done well, in a way that gave them a similar texture to the fish. And the radishes and peas were what gave this otherwise soft dish a coarseness and crisp that was needed in my bites. 

“48 hour beef shortrib”. Slow cooked and perfectly cut portions of beef. It practically melted in our mouths. The sauces melded into each meaty fiber, giving it just the right amount of mouth watering flavour. The meat was really the star of this dish; and the melon, nuts and others were merely unnamed back up dancers. I wish we got more than three cuts, as this was an order we intended to split between two hungry girls. 

When it comes to eating, my policy is to try everything at least one, just to say you have. And also do it to be able to brag about it later. After that, it is all about price for value. You want the most bang for your buck. Weighing if it is worth it to pay more for finer ingredients and technical skills of an impressive kitchen brigade. We spent over $70 for 3 dishes, that as delicious as they were, were on the smaller side. They left us wanting more and leaving to search for a hot dog cart. 


Would I come back? – Yes. If I wanted to dine to impress, or had someone willing to treat me. This is not the destination for an everyday meal for the working class. $20 for an appetizer at one third of the size of one anywhere else, is a little hard to swallow. “Hawksworth is the kind of restaurant where you come in for an once in a year anniversary, or if you can afford $50 per meal. 
Would I recommend it? Yes, this is a great place for a fancy celebration. Nothing makes an occasion more fun then dawning your Sunday best and enjoying one of the finest crafted meals. You pay lots, but it goes towards everything, not only the food, but the act and the experience of eating. 
Don’t deny your cravings. 


HAWKSWORTH 
801 West Georgia St, Vancouver BC
Rosewood Hotel Georgia 
Tel: 604-673-7000
hawksworthrestaurant.com

Hawksworth on Urbanspoon Instagram

Portobello Ristorante, Italian




My entertainment book coupons brought us to “Portobello”. I had three of them and planned to take up their offer for “one complimentary dinner entree when a second dinner entree of equal or greater value is purchased”. We were three women and this would have given us each, one dish to eat in and another to take home. No where was there a limitation posted on the coupon or their website. But upon presentation of them I was told I could only use one at a time. We were then asked to invite another guest to join us to make our three a party of four, so we could use two coupons. I thought to myself what difference would it make if we are willing to pay for it all the same? The owner was unmoving on this, as he communicated through our server. Instead of coming to address us personally, he hid behind his employee. Our middle aged server had to bring our message to him, and his to us; this went on back and forth several times. This was a bad start, and an omen of the worse to come. 

It was not like we were cheap patrons. We ordered pints of beer, a carafe of red wine, hard shots, two appetizers, three entrees, and two dessert. Yet was not worthy enough for the owner to step out from behind the bar to address our concerns in person. I was upset, but we stayed as we were already settled. I choose the full booth towards the back of the house, and climbed in, after I dusted off all the crumbs from our soon to be seats. Unflinching our server watched. I did ask for him to take another go of the rag across the table’s surface. Our corner seats gave us quiet and reprieve from the conversations, held by the only other three tables seated here on a Sunday night. The restaurant was simply decorated. The beige walls remained empty with pictures unhung. Dim and low spot lights pointed towards the ceiling, giving the place a romantic feel. And wooden chairs and matching tables sat, adorned with white table settings. 
“Bocconcini alla caprese”, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Exactly as its list of ingredients state. There was not enough balsamic to lend each component its flavoring. The tomato had not fully ripen, this made it taste and feel like watery tomato peel. The mozzarella was the best part, but I have no way of knowing if this was as fresh as our server preached it to be. Overall definitely not worth what we were asked to pay for it. 

“Prosciutto & Melone”, imported Italian Parma prosciutto and cantaloupe melon. A great combination, familiar to Italian cuisine, but new to me. The saltiness of the meat melds well to the sweetness of the cantaloupe. One of my guests had this before and informed us that the prosciutto is better and more commonly paired with honey dew. 

“Ossobuco Classico”, veal shank, braised with red wine, rosemary, carrots, celery, and served over risotto. Our server led us to believe this dish would contain bone morrow. As we dug around for some, we grew more and more disappointed in its absence. It was just meat and risotto. Everything was mushy and had one flavour note, thanks to the sauce running out of bounds on the plate. 

“Linguine al pesto con carciofini”, fresh basil pesto, roasted pine nuts with artichoke. This was unfortunately the only vegetarian option for my non meat eating guest. It was good, but honestly so simple and easy that I would be ashamed if it came to us anything less than. 

“Vitello al Marsala con funghi”, thin slices of veal, sautéed with mushrooms, paired with a butter Marsala wine sauce. Served with a side of fresh vegetables. It resembled thick and gloppy beef stew. Nothing separated this taste from that of the “ossobuco”, despite its differing list of ingredients. I would have thought the two were different portions from the same pot. Definitely not worth the $24 price point attached to it. It was one of those times you know the food is bad, but because you choose the restaurant you over compensate by pretending it is the best thing you have ever had. You couple each bite with yummy “mmmmm” noises to hide the shame. 

Classic vanilla creme brûlée. Their other desserts mention being made in house, so it leads me to believe that this, without the same designation, was purchased elsewhere; then torched on top upon serving. Explains why this was the best thing I had tonight. Though I must add in I adore creme brûlée in all its forms, and even more so when it has a large surface area for optimal amounts crispy burnt sugar per spoonful. The cookie plunged in was an interesting touch and made for an extra treat. 

We also took our server’s suggestion to order their dessert of the day, a pre made apple tart with a side of vanilla ice cream. He convinced us to get it cold, guaranteeing it would be for the best, and that he preferred it this way too. Upon reflection who eats apple pie cold? It’s the best hot, fresh out of the oven with a dollop of ice cream melting over top. The cream permeates the pie crust creases and makes each bite all the more delicious. We were eating later, and they were closing, may be they didn’t want the hassle of heating it up in the oven? Either way a great disappointment cold, despite how tasty the pie was. This too I believe was not prepared in house. 

To end our meal we were given a complimentary chocolate spiced cookie and two meringues to share between three grown women. The math did not add up, but we were too full to care. Was this generosity a gesture of apology for the start of the dinner before the bill and tip? Or scrap that would have other wise been thrown away? Either way it was good and I do not want to read anymore into it then I usually do. 

Would I come back? Absolutely not. Beside the lack of customer service when dealing with my coupon and thereafter dissatisfaction. The quality of food was not worth it’s price. Yes we were full but not near being content. I still have two more entertainment book coupons that I plan to discard. Anyone interested in relieving me of them? 
Would I recommended it? No. There is nothing special about this restaurant worth mentioning. This is home cooking disguised as fine dining. And hiding behind an attempt at a classy presentation and expensive costs. 


PORTOBELLO RISTORANTE 
1429 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6H 1H6
Tel: 604-734-0697
portobellorestaurant.ca

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Sushi California

Was turned on to “Sushi California” as a recommendation from a friend of a friend. It was a quick place to grab a lunch that stood apart from all the burgers and fried food joints. The worse is when working in construction, you stop to have a big greasy meal, then have to return to lugging heavy stone. Sushi is the solution and “Sushi California” is the choice.
The original location is in Coquitlam, but since my first visit a couple years back, they have grown more popular and have opened a new one along West Broadway.

During one visit I noticed that the chefs spoke Mandarin to one another, as they wrapped rice in seaweed. My question is then, is sushi any less authentic when made by a Chef who isn’t Japanese by ethnicity, but has been trained in the art? Regardless of your opinion you can’t deny the result as it lands on your plate. Here you get the common sushi stop classics that appear on every sushi menu. But for those regular sushi eaters, who are bored of the normal and want a little strange in their rolls; this is the place for you. “Sushi California” gives you the options of a fine Japanese tapas with the casual comfort and speed of a quickie stop and take out shop. They offer less commonly seen dishes like “takoyaki” (octopus balls), “yakitori” (skewered grilled chicken), and “ishi yaki” (hot stone bowl with fish roe). All these normal appetizers here are delicious, and something you cannot get out of any other fast food sushi place.

I have visited here for cheap and fast sushi on several occasions. Each time I was required to stand and wait, pushed up against everyone else in the tiny foyer. It is a struggle to leave your name on a wait list without everyone thinking you are budging in line. Together we ,the group hungrily stood, overlooking all the 20 tables and 10 bar seats. All ages, races and relationships gathered for lunch and dinner. They accommodated parties of one, to groups of 8 with tables joined. Nothing unique about their set up. Narrow table tops, wooden chairs, and sushi bar at back. On one occasion I was surprised to see a non Asian, blonde waitress working a section. She chimed in with the others, calling out Japanese greetings when customers came in and left. Her being there did not affect the customers, service or food; I just thought it was something of note and nothing you’d see ever day. So far this was my first and only experience.



In the past I have had their “Box Sushi”, named for its shape. It is avocado sandwiched between rice, topped with thin slices of smoked salmon and cooked scallop and shrimp. Each piece is cut and topped with a tiny slice of lemon to accentuate the seafood. I ordered this more for the novelty of a squared roll. You pay more the labour required to make this and it is not any better or worth it, just like a square watermelon. I found there was too much rice, it over powered the gentle texture if the seafood. I ended up removing half of it from each piece before I started eating.

There was miscommunication with my udon order. I had asked for their “Vege Udon” with no leafy greens or green onions. Instead I got a bowl of white noodles in brown broth with a couple of mushroom slices. The fish cake pieces gave the bowl its only colour: white with a bright pink swirl. The soup was bland and required the Japanese all spice, traditionally found on the table to accompany soupy noodles. I shook a whole bunch in and with it was able to finish my bowl. I did not complain about the mix up as I was under the weather and a simple soup and less confrontation was a blessing.


“Chicken Teriyaki Roll”: chicken teriyaki, lettuce, cucumber, with a healthy scoop of teriyaki sauce poured on top.
“Beef Teriyaki Roll”: beef, lettuce, cucumber, avocado, and mayo.
Both rolls were pretty standard, too large to eat in one bite. It is an easy way to enjoy your teriyaki bowl in convenient, pre-assembled bites.

Today I wanted to judge the quality of their take out and take advantage of their discount. Those with the ability to plan their take out needs ahead of time were rewarded. Order 2 hours before pick up and receive 5% off with a minimum order of $25 or more in cash.


“Grilled Beef Tataki”, sliced beef cooked medium rare, and served with ponzu sauce. This takeout version lacked an effort on presentation. For the $8.95 price point I expected more than a clumped up ball of ten tiny slivers. I did not touch the onion and sprigs of watercrest vegetable on the side. The taste was all there and they were extremely generous with the ponzu sauce, but I would be able to get more and better for that price else where. Had it been in the restaurant and plated differently, my decision may be different.


Not often do customers check through their bundled up take out orders, before their commute home; the result is incorrect items or missing pieces. In this case it was the former that sullied my experience. I had requested a “Ikura (salmon roe) nigiri”. In its places was an “Albacore Tuna nigiri”. I was not charged the 60 cent difference, but was disappointed to go home and have to eat it instead of what I had craved and therefore ordered. At least the tuna was a generous piece that engulfed the rice. It was fresh and tasted as expected.
I also picked up the “Tobiko and Quail Egg nigiri”. The presentation did not survive the trip home, I lost more than half of the tiny eggs, that was suppose to balance on top. Eaten one at a time they did nothing, and did not taste like anything; but as an assembly you got a great texture that popped in your mouth with each bite down. The quail egg was raw and runny, it helped adhere the individual eggs together and as a whole on to the soft ball of rice. I enjoyed the piece with my ample container of ponzu sauce. The taste is nothing I am familiar with, but I enjoyed the surprising deliciousness out of this new.



“Grilled Beef Teriyaki” with “seasonal vegetables” and teriyaki sauce. Any where this is always prepared with the same vegetables: large, slightly cooked pieces of carrots and broccoli; a shredded mix of cabbages, and bean sprouts. This is despite the menu listing them being seasonal choices. The boxed was packed, and the promise of lots of meat was high. But through clever packing the beef was only thinly spread over the top. Below the grilled beef was a bounty of white rice and chopped cabbage as filler. After eating all the beef with vegetables and rice in each bite, I ended up throwing away more than half of the box in rice and “seasonal vegetables”.


I will be returning to eat and take out from “Sushi California” in the future. Their Coquitlam location has easy front of shop parking. The staff are friendly enough. The food comes quick. And the selection is sure to satisfy with classics and delight on all the variations to it.
Would I recommend it? No, the prices are a little steeper here than at other sushi fast food places. Chances are that people wanting sushi are content with the simple California roll. And those wanting stone bowls or sashimi platters are willing to go somewhere a little more formal and a little more pricy to get their fix. There are just too many Japanese options out there and I am confident this is not the only or the best.
Don’t deny your cravings.

SUSHI CALIFORNIA
501 North Road, Coquitlam BC
Tel: 604-931-8284

Sushi California on Urbanspoon Instagram

The Roof, Black + Blue’s third floor

Black and blue for take two~

A sunny day, a break in the clouds; and we took advantage by heading to “The Roof”, the city’s largest rooftop restaurant and lounge, by “Black and Blue”. I have already written about my experience at “Black and Blue”, click link here for that: http://vieamaggi.blogspot.ca/2013/03/steak-and-bj-day.html
But seeing as “The Roof” is a restaurant within a restaurant. I thought it would be useful to write up a separate blog post just for it. 


You take an elevator up and walk out of the darkness into sky light. The corridor leading on to this rooftop restaurant is a narrow passageway, it is guarded by the bust of a giant bronzed bull. Wall seats line the left, they are upholstered with a stripped zebra pattern and is accompanied by matching pillows. A row of glowing blocks plays a dual function as decor pieces and seats. You can switch the colours from orange, blue, yellow, green, etc. Not exactly comfortable but one hell of a spot light. They alos make for great extra seating, helping tables of two become three. There are no reservations made for a seating here, so the investment in a spacious and comfortable waiting room is appreciated. Around the corner is their dining room. A tight space half covered and half opened to the sky. To maximize space, some tables were set in places that made it awkward for the diner sitting and the staff trying to maneuver around them. On one such table we observed a man interrupt his conversation to tuck his elbows in, in order to avoid them getting caught by a server whizzing by. I personally would have waited for another table or just travel back downstairs to be reseated. Here, you pay top dollar for the food, with experience included; and such a table situation would ruin my night. We choose a table by the fire place. The glass and tile fireplaces spanned across both the west and east walls. It intimately lit each table with romantic dancing flames. It also kept half your face and body warm, the other side was left to whatever elements were out doors that day. The rest of the rooftop kept heat with the aid of traditional patio heat lamps. And large retractable umbrellas shielded you from the elements.
Plants in boxes lined the back of booths. They created a division between the seated diners and the causal lounge set up, in the center. This space is perfect for large groups wanting to snack and drink. 
“The Roof” has a completely different vibe from the rest of its levels. A loud casualness compared to the quiet extravagance of the bottom two floors. The music sets the tone with upbeat pop classics and dance tunes with a little bass. It attracts a more vibrant crowd in both speak and dress. More youthful adults assemble to cheers one another with cocktails, and laugh around well grilled food. Though I would add, that on this night a lovely group of seniors were here celebrating with sparkling wine and a cake with candles.
Although this is atop of a building in the middle of downtown Vancouver, don’t expect a view. You are surrounded by tall buildings and can only look up at them. You are here for the fresh air and the novelty of finer dining outdoors. As for the potential bird problem, a plastic owl stood guard. He is one of the ones you can get at any home centre, a more natural and decor friendly way to detour unwanted fowl.
As with everything else the wait staff here is more casual, and I would say funkier. Where as downstairs they wear ties and full length collared shirts, hair in buns, and dress pants. Upstairs the female servers wear a black criss cross halter dress, as their dress code; and use accessories to better express their individuality. Brightly coloured hair, visible tattoos, and limited piercing are ok. Men are in white shirts with rolled up sleeves and slacks. Our server came with sunglasses in case the sun’s glare got in his way. There were lots of staff for optimal service. The levels were distinguished by their wardrobe. The managers wore suits and had earpieces like undercover security guards. The servers were given ability to dress more laid back, one girl wore croc ballet style flats. And the remaining staff front of house were bus boys in all black, they helped to cleared tables and refill glasses. When busier, the kitchen also helped bring food out. Each plate was expected to leave the pass as soon as possible, hot and at its peak of deliciousness.

Here, there is no surprise that the menu is different too. It is being prepared in another kitchen and therefore needs to be adaptive for that. The menu is crafted to feature generous cuts of prime meats, skewered fish, and seafood and poultry cooked over wood coals in their grill.

The only steak option here was the “P.E.I. Blue Ribbon”. My guest got it in a 12 oz, done up medium rare. This steak has superior marbling as a result of longer grass feed times, and natural aging. The “Blue Ribbon” classification means it is the top percentile of Canada’s highest grade. As great as it was, we could not help but compare it to the steak we had previously at “Black+Blue”, downstairs. We had the tenderloin and were able to devour it all without trimming away any fat. Today we felt the quality of this steak was not at a similar caliber. But then again we got a 12oz for the same price as a 8oz downstairs. The meat came with the chosen choice of mashed potatoes and kale. The potatoes were fluffy and buttery, with chives mingled in for colour. And the kale was surprisingly good. I hate leafy greens, but with its crispier texture and unique saucing I was able to eat some and go back for more. I love it when a restaurant can make a vegetable that is good for you taste like it isn’t.

“Seafood Trio”, skewered and cooked in their wood fire grill. Half an Atlantic Lobster tail, 2 jumbo tiger prawns, and a large scallop; Served over a quinoa salad with red peppers, asparagus, pistachios, cherry tomatoes, almonds, chives, and zucchini. This was an amazingly light meal that filled me up. The lobster meat was limited but what I had was sweet and buttery. The scallop was the largest I have ever seen, and would have been considered 2-3 scallops else where. The prawns had that great grill mark on them, and its accompanying flavour by consequence. I did not feel guilty about eating any part of this meal, in fact if felt like this was a healthy choice and yet so ridiculously delicious.




“Pineapple Carpaccio”. Traditional carpaccio is used to described anything that is thinly sliced and raw, usually reserved for meat and seafood. In this case the term applied well to my dessert. Wanting to stay light after my refreshing dinner, I got fruit and sorbet. This dessert was made with rum syrup, mint leaves, puffed sugar, candied ginger (not listed on menu), and coconut sorbet. This assemble of ingredients had such an original taste, nothing I can compare it too, for better clarification. It had so many layers of flavours thanks to all the components, working together harmoniously. This quantity is definitely meant for sharing, unfortunately for me my guest didn’t like it. I enjoyed trying it and am happy for the experience, but it is not something I can imagine getting again. Not a guaranteed everyday win dessert. They also had the classics like creme Burlee and apple pie, if that is more your vibe. 


Through out our meal we never had to chase our server down. In fact managers came to ask how our meal was, and make sure we were enjoying ourselves. Though as soon as we needed the dessert menu we couldn’t get a hold of anyone. We got the attention of our server but he didn’t get to us until a good 7-10 minutes later. I don’t blame him, a busy night like Friday, at a popular restaurant, having to wait on two large groups that have been drinking all night. In fact one such group was especially rowdy and insisted on taking back a shot with one of the ear pieced, suit wearing managers. 


Would I got back? No, I didn’t like all the ruckus and noise. The space was too tight and you didn’t get the setting and service you want at the prices you pay. And like any outdoor patio they have earlier cut off times. It closes at 10pm. If you are planning on a longer night you will need to get up and move the party downstairs, how troublesome hen tipsy.

Would I recommend it? Yes. “The Roof” has a playful vibe, staffed with the right bodies to encourage your good time. I would recommend going for great seasonal cocktail and/or snacks off their bar menu, but save the full portion entrees for the comfort of indoors and downstairs. Plus with their great customer service model I am sure they would prepare you anything off “The Roof” top menu to be enjoyed at “Black+Blue”.
Don’t deny your cravings.

THE ROOF
1032 Alberni St, Vancouver BC
Third floor of Black+Blue
Tel: 604-637-0777
the-roof.ca

Black + Blue (& The Roof) on UrbanspoonInstagram

Golden Lake Seafood, Chinese restaurant

Dim sum is the Asian version of brunch, but available every day of the week. It brings in morning business to Chinese restaurants that specialize in dinners. “Dim Sum” literally means “small plates” and that is exactly what you get from this experience. You choose from a list of options or pull plates off carts when they are pushed by. Today at “Golden Lake Seafood” we were enjoying the former. The great feature here is that their menu options are listed in English and Chinese with accompanying pictures. This allows for ease of ordering for those not familiar with Chinese, and lures others to order more based on how delicious they look in their picture. We made sure to come in before 11am to take advantage of their Dim Sum special. Monday to Friday, 20% off all food between 9am, when they open, until 11am when they start serving lunch.


Judging “Golden Lake” based on its exterior, I walked in expecting an old run down and cliche Chinese restuarnt. I got the cliche part correct, but was hit with opulence instead of degradation. All the Asian symbols for luck and wealth were accounted for. They were done in the most grandiose of ways, at least that I have ever seen present at a restaurant. Right in the doorway, your path is blocked by a large, free standing fish tank. It was as tall as myself and housed large gold fish splotched with varriations of white, orange and black. Past it was their bar, the usual suspects were congregated here: a large bottle of XO cognac, a planter of tied and trimmed luckly bamboo, a table top waterfall display, a lucky cat statue; and a golden buddha lounguing on his side, smiling from ear to ear. In the dining area a wall mirror creates the feeling of a larger space; and your typical gold and red murals add colour to otherwise plain tables and settings. One has a Phoenix sharing space with a Chinese dragon. (Chinese dragons do not have wings, and are more like snakes, with mulitple sets of feet.) And the other, blooming blossoms along side ancient Chinese pictographs and script. I do not know what they mean, but I can be sure, like everything else, it is meant to bring in luck and by consequce prosperity and fortune to this resturant and all those who dine here.

If you have been to any Asian restaurants you can see how all this is both impressive and cliche at the same time.

I will not be going into detail over all the small plates my guest and I ordered. They are the ones we usually get and they all tasted as we expected. Chinese recipes are pretty standard from place to place. We got enough food to stuff two grown women, and enough leftovers to serve 4 people an adequate dinner. In order of their appearance on to our table.


Stir fried radish cake with spicy XO sauce.

Minced braised pork with string beans.

Coconut milk and scented osmanthus.

Prawn dumplings.

Chicken feet in the chef’s special sauce.

Deep fried squid with chili pepper and salt.

Mini octopus in curry sauce.

Pork spare ribs.

Sticky rice wraps with meat and dried scallops.

Steak spare ribs in garlic sauce.



I do not usually do blog reviews on Chinese restaurants; they are a dime a dozen, and nothing about any of them really stands out. They all have simillar ideas on what is considered good decor. And you can only go into so much detail when describing one “lucky” figure to the next. The same goes for the food served and the service delivering it. All the classic Chinese dishes done the way that everyone likes and remembers from Asia, presented to you in record breaking speed without a smile. I made an exception with “Gold Lake” because it is a Chinese restaurant I would actually insist on going before and instead of others. It is clean, their knick knacks look prettier; and they have parking stalls that are spacious and easier to get into, to avoid bad drivers. (insert joke on sterotypes here.) For those reasons I would come back.
Would I recommend it? – No. Not many gatherings with friends are done in Chinese restaurants, in fact I only step into one with family. They are always loud with talking and the clattering of dishware. And dinners at traditional Chinese restuarnat are in portions meant for parties of 10 or more.




GOLDEN LAKE SEAFOOD
3555 East Hastings St, Vancouver BC, V5K 2A8
Tel: 604-298-2468

Golden Lake Seafood Restaurant 湖濱海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon Instagram

Rumpus Room, gastropub

Been planning a trip down here after watching the “Rumpus Room” on episode of “You Gotta Eat Here”. I made up my mind to order everything I saw on the show even before I even sat down. We were a little disappointed that we missed the 4pm cut of for breakfast choices. Though were not disappointed on what the rest of the menu offered us.


I don’t even know how to begin. I don’t even know where to look. I can keep my focus whether it is on the shining athlete medals, the authentic Mexican sombrero, or the deer bust wearing aviators and a fedora. No two lamps match. Nothing is a part of a set. Everything is an assembly of this and that; brought together for conversation, nostalgia, and the hope that it will make everyone smile. It definitely does not miss its mark. Everything here is kitschy; it looks like it has been rummaged through and salvaged out of your grandparent’s basement; including the couch and classic board games. Both of which are part of the dining room. You can lounge on the well used and well loved couch, crack open shoots and ladders, and have a match over cocktails or a sandwich. Every empty space is occupied; even the ceiling’s rafters are maximized for storage. Tucked between them are tins for film reels, orange buoys, and toboggans and skis. Other great objects of decor worth mentioning are: The framed photograph of Burt Reynolds posing topples, I identified him by this thick mustache. A live fern sporting a rainbow flag in support. And possibly the largest pepper mill ever.

We sat next to a decently dusted shelf. On it lived bowling trophies, a snow globe with at least 75% of its original water, a barrel of monkeys, and a box of pick up sticks. The wall behind us was an actual working  garage door. It opens up on hot summer days; and it is the next best thing if you can’t get a seat on their eye catching turf and flamingo patio. If you have passed by it, yeah this is THAT place.

When it came time to use the washroom, I was delighted to walk in glowing, from my white shirt. This illusion was courtsey of the only source of light in the one room bathroom, a black light. A white and neon mural was done to take advantage of this effect. It was a trip to use glowing toilet paper. And I have never had as much fun relieving myself as I did here. My only after thought was how clean can it be? For those who missed and those who had to clean after it,  all in a black lit space. For my second washroom run I had to see what waited behind door number too. This was a relax go in a room that took you to Fiji, with lush plants, a palm tree silhouette against a sun setting in a mural, and an abundance in wicker accents.



When it came time to order, the menu at “Rumpas Room” brought back memories of childhood. They were your standard elementary school duotangs, in all the primary colours. On them were a disarray of insect, dinosaur, and princess stickers randomly stuck on.

“GrownUp Juice” is a cleverly named mix of Stoli raspberry vodka, butter ripple schnapps, lime juice, and soda. This was as fantastic as their menu promised us it would be. We could drink liters of this on a sunny day. Then come back and order more all night.







“Deep fried pickles”, dill spears that are battered, deep fried, and served with their house made tartar sauce. This is a real deep fried pickle, light and crispy outside; and when you bite in, you get that fantastic “snap”, confirming its freshness in your mouth. The tartar sauce was tangy and the perfect compliment to this treat. It was all really good, but after the first whole pickle, we found the next too salty. This would have been made better as a side order to a burger, or a topping in one. Careful when taking a bite into them fresh; they are hot and will have your tongue back pedaling trying to cool itself off.
“Mini Hotdogs”, one of those dishes you order for the novelty of having them miniature. It tasted exactly like any of its full sized breathern. But more importantly, it was as fun to dress with ketchup and mustard, as it was to hold and eat.


With each hot dog, sandwich, and burger entree you get more then just the regular choice between fries or salad. At “Rumpus Room” your choices include yam fries, chili soup, coleslaw, salad, wedge salad, mashed potatoes, ants on a log, and even a waffle. Random, but I have always found a waffle to be an improvement to any meal. As on “You gotta to eat here” I ordered the “Peanut butter burger” and the “Red hot and blue burger” with ants on the log and coleslaw on the side.

“Peanut butter burger”. This beef patty, like all their others, uses local meat that is hand pressed and 100% organic. This 6oz. uses no seasoning, here they let the meat speak for it self. Bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, apple cranberry chutney, and a large dollop of peanut butter tops this monster off. The brioche bun did its best to hold everything together. But this was one of those juicy burgers, that after the first two bites it leaves your hands a slopping mess, your belly a bit more satisfied, and your lips with a happy smirk.

“Red hot and blue burger”, free range chicken marinated in buttermilk, battered and deep fried. I was impressed that every bite from first to last was just as crunchy outside and just as tender and juicy inside. This delicious chicken patty is splattered in hot sauce and blue cheese dressing before its wedged in between Swiss cheese and a brioche bun.


The coleslaw was your standard crunchy cabbage and carrot mix. It was more veggetables then creamy sauce. It helped to break the heat from the chicken burger we paired it with.

“Ants on the log”. Another trip down childhood that the “Rumpus Room” takes you on. It is an easy classic that brings you back to grade 3. Simple to make, but who has the time to pipe peanut butter onto celery sticks, as is their version does here. Each “log” gets cranberry “ants” and slivers of Granny Smith apple. All of which are great complimentay ingreidents, that puts a grown up taste on this kids classic. Full, my guest intended on only licking the peanut butter off the last “log”, but it was so good she committed to eating it all instead.

“Deep fried cheese cake”. The cheesecake is frozen then fried, sections oozed out in liquis and others were still cold. We would not order this again, yet did not let it go to waste. Part way through the owner, Rachel (I recognized her from television) came to inquire how we liked it. We were honest, this was our first taste of deep fried cheesecake, and now we both wished it was just a regular one. The  graham cracker crust was hardly recognizable and tasted overly cinnamon-y. She recommended adding on some syrup, that many patrons find it is not sweet enough for a dessert. I found that some on the side helped, my guest was less convinced.

To be honest I had a hard time critiquing all these plates. We choose their most unique dishes, with the most surprising of ingredients. They all had great flavours, but were contradictory together. Note to self: pickles and apple raspberry jelly don’t mix. Blue cheese and peanut butter clash. But peanut butter and burgers, good. At the end of the day you can get anything on the menu at “The Rumpus Room” with confidence. I do however strongly recommend whatever it is, it be coupled with a large side order of napkins. Paper towels are needed for your down and dirty, hands on gorging. This is one of those places where in order to enjoy everything you order optimally, it has to be eatten in the now. Nothing fried or sauced on bread will be much good as left overs. Not that you will have any.

Our server,like Rachel, was friendly and checked in on us often. He was observant and went back to get us new plates when he noticed the ones that were coming to us were a little dirty. And I appreciated the enduring terms Rachel referred to our table and all the others. You were made to feel truly welcomed here, like a friend. And it is just refreshing to see a business owner loving what they are do so much that they want to be here and come in to not run their shop, but to work it. She then added joy to our night with complimentary lollipops with our  bill. She gave us a “Lil Love ;)” through discounts taken off all our food. This was not because we complained or because we had asked, but because she wanted to surprise and delight- it worked.

Would I go back? – Absolutely, as soon as we sat down we made plans to return for breakfast and try their “Breakfast poutine” and “Breakfast waffle burger with a side of shebang”.  They both looked messy but delicious when I saw them being prepared on “You Gotta Eat Here”. There are also many more fun drink and food items I want to try, like chicken and waffles. And I want be seen enjoying all the above on their funky patio.
Would I recommend it? Another absolutely, with so many other dining options out there, they have done wonders to set themselves apart. This is a place that if you crave exciting food, fun games, a bounty of drinks, and staff that only encourage all of the above; this is your only go to. Where else can you look at a pig with a mustache in the eyes as you devour bacon chips. Don’t deny your cravings.

THE RUMPUS ROOM
2689 Main St, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E7
Tel: 604-839-5780
rumpusroom.ca

Rumpus Room on Urbanspoon Instagram

Menchies, frozen yogurt franchise

Self Serve Soft Serve~

I wanted ice cream and came to “Menchie’s”, having driven past it a handful of times. It is not convenient to get to and parking is slim, but it is sure worth the trip down Cambie and 3rd. But it isn’t ice cream.
Their fun bright pink and green colour pallet is what caught my eye the first time, and was what was luring me in now. You enter and see polka dots, their cute swirled mascot, and happy smiles on faces of all ages. The place screams fun.

“Menchie’s” is a frozen yogurt shop and it differs from all others of its kind. Everything is self serve and you pay by weight. Your journey starts when you grab your cup. For those wanting more crunch one with a baked waffle in it is available. You fill it with the frozen yogurt of your choosing. You can mix and match all their flavours. Each machine offers the option of twisting two complimentary ones together. In this case I selected honey dew and water melon twist; not for its light tangy taste, but for its colours as it would appear in my photo. In here I also swirled in some pure vanilla frozen yogurt, as it is my all time favorite flavour; and their rendition of it is amazing. Other flavours that may tickle your fancy are pistachio, coconut, strawberry, tart, and chocolate. Complimentary flavours are paired up side by side so that they can be twisted together. But once again, if you had the time you could pull down the leaver and get in a bit of each. To the side is the topping bar. Chocolate, caramel, strawberry, and other sweet syrups and sauces are available in pumps. Fresh fruits and parish-able treats are in the refrigeration units. Cut up strawberries, fruit jelly balls, crushed Oreos, moist brownie chunks, and gooey cheese cake pieces were available and selling down fast today. The chocolate and candy choices are adjacent, in self scoop bins. They range from your classic ice cream toppings like sprinkles, peanut butter cups, and smarties to the more rarely seen fuzzy peaches, malt balls and fruit loops. Here the world is your oyster and no one judges on how much you load up, and what you fill it with. You also get to fine tune everything to your liking, where as other places you are dependent on your frozen dessert barista’s discretion.


In my case this was my first time and I went a little crazy, out of excitement. I went all out on the frozen yogurt, and felt myself no room for much toppings. My original intention was to get a bit of each, but without the space to do so I settled on only mango jelly, blueberry mocchi, honey mocchi, regular mocchi, rainbow sprinkles, and yogurt chips.

My next time back, the following will be my strategy. Swirl a vanilla frozen yogurt tower in the center of my cup. Spoon in around it as many fruits, candies, and chocolate toppings as I can, so that it looks like a moat. I realize you pay by weight and the toppings are heavier then the watery yogurt. But the point of coming here is to get as many options as possible. You would have to buy full amounts of each topping to get a little bit of each in your cup; where as at “Menchie’s” it is all laid out for your convenience. You get only as much of each as your want, without the commitment of a full package.

As a business the downside to this venture is it gets very messy. With self service, patrons as less likely to be careful when piling on ingredients. Without that extra care and attention, much of it ends up on the floor. This is now wasted product, and potentially becomes an extra cost to refill and replace. When I was done the floor was a crunchy sticky mess. When you know you don’t have to clean up after yourself, you don’t care if your pouring isn’t exact or you miss sprinkling the cup by a few centimeters. Really, shame on me.


Truthfully nothing can replace the texture of real creamy milky ice cream, but as far as attempts at duplication goes, “Menchie’s” gives it a good try. Their frozen yogurt tastes healthy and therefore you end it feeling guilt free. But what you don’t get in calories here, you get from all the sweet toppings. None the less it is worth it. Each unique cup is fun to create and even better to devour. You eat them with a cute pink or green plastic spoon. For avid fans they have a rewards card that entitles you to a free dessert after enough purchases are made. And if you don’t like frozen yogurt they also sell their own branded stationary and accessories with their mascot on it.

Would I go back? – Yes. I have to go back and try to get the most out of my frozen yogurt. Something that I did not get to do the first time around. I enjoyed customizing my treat, but felt the need to hurry with all the bodies lining up after me, and moving around me. During my next visit I won’t be new to the experience, and therefore will be able to gather what I want with speedy confidence. Plus the watermelon and honeydew flavours are not the ones for me.
Would I recommend it? Yes. Summer is around the corner and this is a perfect solution to beat the heat. It reminded me of a smoother, less liquid-y slushie. Truly a unique taste that matches the unique experience of creating our own ultimate sundae.
Don’t deny your cravings.

MENCHIE’S
2315 Cambie St, Vancouver BC, V5Z 2T9
Tel: 604-558-1232
menchies.com


Menchie's Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon Instagram

The Red Pagoda, Viet-Asian cuisine




 There are so many options when you are looking to have lunch on Commercial Drive. Today we choose “The Red Pagoda” because of the easy to pull up, street meter parking right in front. We were not disappointed with our on the fly decision. “The Red Pagoda” is a couple of years old. The stucco walls, and bronzed ceiling fans stand out from an attempt at Asian decor; signs of the Italian restaurant it use to be. Inside, it is dark and cold. On two separate occasions I mistook shadows for bugs on our table. The Asian lanterns bolted onto walls, and the 4 light bulbs attached to fans did not do much to light up the space. The dark walls and darker furniture and fixtures further hindered the work of the light. Everything is painted black, and by the looks of all the chip marks, this was done a while back; with a desperate need for a good touch up. Their buddha theme was evident with a portrait hanging on the wall, a sculpture resting by the register, and a bust as part of a shrine located at the back of the house. Though the conclusion is decor is definitely not a focal point here. A half drawn pagoda stands alone on black board. My guess is, it is meant to be a board to highlight their specials, one that doesn’t seem important enough to finish.

Despite its look, many of the booths and tables were occupied. And the one waitress was busy ping pong-ing around them. She sped walked to clear tables, take orders, and serve dishes. Here, as it is with most Asian places, speed is key and service is an after thought.

Flipping through the menu I see a mix bag of options. This explains their self labelled, serving “Viet-Asian Cuisine”. All the classics were here. Chow Mein (fried noodles), won tons, and hot and sour soup from Chinese cuisine. Edamame, tempura, and agedashi tofu, dishes common to Japan. Lemongrass chicken, peanut satay, and curry, from Thai style cooking. And of course Vietnamese favourites: pho beef noodle, rice rolls, and Vietnamese ice coffee, were present.
There was a sticker stuck onto the “noodles” page of the menu. On it was fine printing that advertised their food as having no MSG, with only exception being in their soup. I found this funny as the first and second line contradicted one each other. In my case I didn’t care what was put into my soup, as long as what came out tasted great. “The Red Pagoda” also does catering and sell their products raw and pre packaged for you to prepare at home. But seeing as we came in expecting a Vietnamese place, we stuck to their specialty.


We ordered the “Sample Platter”, along with every other table in the restaurant. It is enough spring rolls, shrimp salad rolls, chicken and pork brochettes, minced shrimp on sugarcanes, beef wrapped in heart leaves, pickled vegetables, and vermicelli for a couple of people to share. Though we found all that, too much for two. This dish came with the classic Vietnamese fish sauce. It is a light tangy and sour sauce that tastes nothing like fish, and goes great on anything it is presented with. All this was $14.95. At some places you can’t even get a lunch combo for one, at that price. This was a great deal for its value. And would have been enough for two, but instead it became leftovers for one. Everything was delicious, the colours vibrant, and the food fresh. With Vietnamese cooking you don’t often get the taste and feeling of heavy oil on your lips. The spring rolls were well fried and left no residue. The rice rolls really took on the great salty and meaty peanut sauce; I globed on heaps of it. Without the sauce they would have been tasteless, mushy bites. The rest of the meats were a little dry, but they had enough great flavour to make them tolerable when dunked in sauce.

“Charbroiled lemongrass chicken with spring rolls”, this too came with a side of fish sauce. Traditionally a dish like this is thought of as a Vietnamese salad: veggies, meat, and noodles. Here you can choose between chicken or pork, we leaned on chicken because pork was present in the spring rolls. The chicken was tender and not overly sauced or too flavourful, that it took anything away from the mildness of the plain vermicelli and pickled vegetables. The spring rolls, as they were in the platter, were crispy and chewy without being oily. Real great big bites, filled with tasty ingredients. Once again everything was only heightened wen dunked it in fish sauce. (I am a biased fan of fish sauce, if you can’t already tell)


“Pagoda special beef noodle”. This is your traditional style pho that is available anywhere you can get pho. It tasted as I expected, and was the same as every other bowl of pho I have had. The soup was rich in flavour, the meat tender and fresh, and the noodles were as long as they were slippery. Though here there was no extra brown sauce or chili sauce on the table to be squirted in. And what made this dish worthy of having “special” in the title was the list of different beef parts: medium rare beef slices, beef brisket, meatballs, tendon, and tripe. With only one size, this too became leftovers.

Would I go back? Yes. The food was good, nothing to complain about and nothing that I didn’t expect. The prices fair, and you left with the feeling that you got what you paid for. And in my mind with this great of a share platter, it put this place above all others.
Would I recommend it? Yes. Great food for great value, in an area that is easy to get to and has ample meter and side street parking. I would almost prefer it as a take out stop. You order what you want and take it to eat in the comfort of your own home. Don’t deny your cravings.



THE RED PAGODA
1408 Commercial Dr, Vancouver BC
Tel: 604-569-2122

Red Pagoda on Urbanspoon Instagram

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