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Month: July 2013 Page 2 of 3

Tropika, Malaysian & Thai cuisine

I am from South East Asia, so grew up eating Malaysian, Thai, Singaporean, Indonesian, and Chinese cooking. At “Tropika” I have my pick of dishes from any of the genres listed above. I have been going to this chain for years now, it had always been only ok, you have better but it fills a craving. Unfortunately during my last visit I was disappointed to no longer to see “Laksa”, as an option. “Laksa” is a chicken noodle dish in a spicy broth. This is one of my childhood favorite dishes, and if you have read my other posts I do not get it often; so if it is ever on the menu, I must have it. I am on a constant hunt for some. 


As I have already mentioned, “Tropika” is an Asian cuisine chain. They have several locations in Vancouver and Richmond, and I have been to the all. In terms of decor they don’t really vary. It is a slurry of wood, wicker, and widgets. The most memorable for me is their cutlery. “Tropika” is in possession of the heaviest set of knives, spoons, and forks that I have ever had to handle. Other than that its Thai figurines, Buddha statues, wooden art work, and light weight seats. 



“Roti canai”. Malay style bread, eaten after being dipped into curry. It is oily, but worth every tasty bite. Another must have when you come to a Malaysian restaurant. 

“Pad Thai”with shrimp, onions, bean sprouts, and tomatoes. Wok fried and given a crushed peanut dusting. A little bland, even with the aid of a dousing of chili sauce. 

“Mee Goreng”. Fried thick noodles in a tomato based sauce with lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes. Topped with a sliced up hard boiled egg. 

So without “Laksa” I was lost on what to order. You know when you have your heart set on something and nothing else comes close by comparison. This was tonight. And I eventually had to settle on just chicken. 
“Hainanese Chicken”. Available in a quarter or half. This chicken is referred to as white chicken. The salt soaking process of the meat gives its complexion, an added white and pale colour. This style of chicken really highlights its natural flavours, brought forth with the salt. Traditionally this is eaten with a bowl of rice and soya sauce. For vegetables, raw tomato and cucumber slices are a common pairing. 

For dessert, “bubar cha cha”. This is an acquired taste with its combination of coconut and condense milk. And an acquired texture with tapioca pearls and yam, sweet potato, and taro pieces. These soft boiled roots crumble into sand in your mouth. I liked this, but my guests less so. The tiny portion size was disappointing for its price. I wish I got more of the tapioca and milky soup and less of the purple, yellow, and orange vegetables. 


Would I come back? – Yes. It’s an easy to get to Asian restaurant, with enough locations to give you options. They have enough room for reservations and larger parties. Chances are with their lengthy menu you are bound to please the fussiest of diners. “Tropika” can also function as the training wheels for a diner who is not familiar to these types dishes. I feel the food has been done in a North American style, to be able to accommodate a larger eating population. 

It is always hard for me to describe the foods I have grown up eating. Because in my mind it isn’t Malaysian food, its just food. And it taste like how it should. But what I can conclude is that I have tasted better from everything. I would deemed this to be an average Malaysian restaurant. The food was normal and nothing special. You would take a bite and not really be anxious to get another. Dishes that you would grow tired of the flavours fast, and hot sauces would be used to remedy this. So as for if I would recommend it, probably not. Off the top of my head I can easily come up with a few better Malaysian style restaurant, that actually serve “laksa”. 


TROPIKA 
tropika-canada.com


Tropika at Cambie 星馬印 on Urbanspoon Tropika at Robson 星馬印 on Urbanspoon
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Arriva Ristorante Italiano

An entertainment coupon for buy one lunch entere get the second free brought me the “Arriva”. The day and time specifications brought me here at 1pm on a weekday. 


This was an authentic Italian joint. It was blatant by the looks of the Italian owners, their staff with accents, and the richness in decor. Pickled vegetables in jars lined the wall on shelves. Thin bottles held asparagus. Round jugs carried peppers. Each a different colour, a different shape, for different produce. Wooden cabinets carried wine bottles both as storage and for looks. The room was separated by a arch. We were seated in the back, by the very traditional dark wooden bar. Our view was the backyard, an unseated patio over grown with dried plants and tall grass. It gave me the impression that it had never been seated, let alone open for the season. White table cloths and staff in black and white, gave their reasonable prices the illusion of fine dining. The menu hosted your standard Italian favours: pastas, pizzas and meats. Here they pride themselves on using the finest of ingredients to create their own breads, gnocchi, sausages, and desserts. But when I do Italian I feel pasta is the best way to judge a restaurant’s caliber. 


We started with the fresh bruschetta. Seasoned and spiced tomatoes, red onion, and capers on toasted crispy pieces of French bread. A very appetizing looking dish, but overall a little bland. Little did we know that this would set the tone for the rest of the meal.

Spaghetti and meatballs. The ultimate Italian dish. The sauces was rich and not the littlest bit watery. There was enough of it to generously coat each noodle strand and lend flavour to the two giant meatballs. The balls fell short. Given the speech on the in house made and fresh ingredients, I was surprised that the meatballs were this bad. The meat was dried and over cooked, with no seasonings, a pinch of salty would have done wonders. I really think they were pre made the night before, and attempted to be brought back to life with some extended time spent in the microwave. Good thing I had so much of that great marinara sauce to coat it in. I used it like a chunky salsa, and gave each ball some taste and moisture.

Beef lasagna. I was really disappointed in this, the worse lasagna I have had at a dine out setting. The presentation looked sloppy, the noodle dividers were falling apart. The flavour profile, was so simple that it didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth for it (including what discount the entertainment book coupon took off). A sloppy layering of soft noodles sheets, meat paste, and melted cheese.

Tiramisu is my least favorite dessert, I don’t posses a passion for light cake or whipped cream. My guest however loves the treat, but found the in house version at “Arriva” only ok. She commented that she can get a better made one at any grocery store.

Would I come back? – No. 
Would I recommend it? – No. 
One visit is all I need to make my mind up about this place. There is nothing that gives “Arriva” a lead over all the other moderately priced Italian restaurants. Nothing that makes you want to come here. In all aspects it was neither disappointing nor awe inspiring. I classify “Arriva” as being in the middle of the pack. Ok food. Descent service. A clean enough setting to dine. It was just ok. 


ARRIVA RISTORANTE 
1537 Commercial Dr
VancouverBC, V5L3Y1

604-251-1177
arrivarestaurant.ca




Arriva Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon Instagram

The Morrisey Pub


Tonight my guest suggested we have a drink at the “Morrisey”, a pub she liked. It is an easy walk along the Granville strip, past sports bars and night clubs. I can’t believe I have never heard or seen this place until tonight. Such a shame to as this was a gem, not that you could guess with it being attached to the Ramada, a moderately priced hotel chain. The “Morrisey” is so wonderfully different. I found it warm and inviting, but at the same time can be considered cold, dark and gothic. The decor kept my head turning, there were just so many unique elements to see. It almost felt like you were in a haunted castle. Rusted chains hung from the rafters, they rattled along side an eerie abandoned tricycle. A generous coat of wax drippings covered spokes in a cluster of chandeliers. These elaborate lightning fixtures were an eye catching centerpiece, that also lit the whole room. They made the torch holders lining the walls unnecessary. On a shelf there sat a stack of old FM radios, their nobs and dials coated in dust. The three half melted candles standing on the fireplace’s mantle, gave the impression of a well used living room. The framed art on the walls were faded children’s school pictures developed in black and white. And to close out the theme, a dusty suit of armor rested with grip on hilt of a broad sword. This was quite the scene.
We had our pick of the seats on an early Thursday evening. An assortment of recliners, upholstered chairs and booths backed in a fabric of checkers or florals. We choose the floral printed booth in the very center of the room. We were facing the unlit fireplace, where we had a great view of everything around us. I wanted to be able to soak it all in. Though I don’t suggest visiting the shared washroom if you don’t want the above illusion broken. The washrooms are the only ones available, in the Ramada hotel’s lobby. And to get to them you walk through the hotel’s hall. It and the washrooms were made yellow by the buzzing lights, and very plain by comparison to the deep darkness of the “Morrisey”.

We wanted to try their food over a couple of beers, and choose what we thought were the best two dishes out of the punctuated menu.

“Pork and leak sausages”. Roasted sausages and a root vegetable gratin, with house made gravy. This is the best example of comfort food. It is rustic and warm, and eating it is like being hugged inside out. Each component had great flavours that paralleled well with its neighbours. The sausage was made in house. You got that great skin popping crunch from the first bite in of the zesty sausage. The juices run down your utensils, fast reflexes are required to dab it before it trails to your chin. The sausage was a fresh and lean piece of minced meat. It was peppery with an on and off again heat. When coupled with the savory brown gravy it was something else. The root vegetables were soft but still gave you a texture that didn’t crumble under the pressure of your spoon. The cheese was plentiful and offered its salty taste without taking away from that of the potatoes or carrots. I just wished that it came with more of the toasted bread crumbs that were scattered on top. With it you got all the textures you would like in one very cohesive dish.

House made “longevity spring rolls” with “Hanoi” sauce. Once you pull the full length roll out of the ceramic cup their name becomes evident. Each roll is equivalent to two and a half spring roll any where else. These were made and deep fried on site, you could tell by the temperature of each one burning your tongue. In each vegetarian spring roll there were slivers of carrots, celery, and other vegetables with the clear thin noodles. The sauce was not your usual processed plum sauce out of the bottle, this was something unique. The Indian and Thai like spices gave this sauce an earthy floral ness. And the star anise helped with its peppery kick in the back of your throat. I preferred the spring roll without it.

    

Would I come back? – Yes. I really enjoyed sitting in their themed decor, eating their comfort foods, and drinking their creative cocktails. The drink menu is a listing of fruity and creamy with catchy names. They host a rotating selection of fresh artisan hops. And if you like the everyday they cater to the Molsen and Budwiser drinkers too. The food are the classic you love, made fresh and spun for fun. Their clever chefs manage to make their dishes better, with the addition of new flavour profiles or the substitution of a main ingredient. For example they are currently doing lamb burgers and chicken confit. Two dish most commonly seen as beef burgers and duck confit. I would like to come back to try them.

Would I recommend it? – Yes. The staff comes across as genuine. You get checked in on often; and they are able to recommend the food and drinks, describing them well in the process. The space is sunning in theatrics. A great place with great conversation starters at every turn. When was the last time you played darts at a modern pub? They have a set at the “Moreisey”. They do open mike nights on Sunday and have done comedy nights in the past. And this all on Granville Street so chances are you will be here some time or another. Don’t deny your cravings.

MORRISEY PUB
1227 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1M5
604-682-0909
themorrisseypub.com





The Morrissey Pub on Urbanspoon Instagram

Kingfisher Waterfront Bar & Grill

Enroute to the Mission raceway we wanted dinner. We kept our eyes open for a new place, a hidden gem that didn’t look too run down in a small town. We knew “Kingfisher” was our stop when we drove by its lot, filled with cars inside and out front. This looked to be the only building seeing business at 6pm on a Friday night. A lone pub slash restaurant in a row of empty factories and industrial facilities. Yes it was busy now, but I can only imagine how busy it got during happy hour. After shift for many hard working men and women, who toiled in the factories now closed for the day. 

That aside, we had to stop. Clearly the locals knew something about this place that we had to find out. Pulling in we it was a race to find a parking spot. To your right there were rusted containers, your left a chained and gated off field, behind you the empty road ahead, and before you a old restaurant fronting a fantastic view of the Pitt River and setting sun. 


Seeing the crowd get out of their cars I was expecting to be the only Asian girl in the joint; only to open the door and pass the stone waterfall feature, to see standing behind the hostess podium, a young Asian girl, no older than 14. I could see the same surprise in her eyes that were probably in mine. She stood with another 14 year old East Indian girl. Yes this was a pub and bar but as hostesses they came no where near the alcoholic beverages. We Vancouverites must speak very differently than that of Maple Ridge locals. After a series of “huh’s” and “pardon me’s” we decided to not wait for a beautiful patio seat, and instead grabbed a no-wait seat inside. This place was as busy as Maple Ridge was going to get on a Friday night. An hour plus wait for the patio and a quarter of the seats reserved. We settled on the bar, not liking our closely spaced booth options. Here our neighbours were friendly and struck up conversation. But we had places to be and were just concerned about eating and beating it.

Our seats over looked the plain bar. The old walls and worn doors were well lit by the sun and the reflective waters of the Pitt River. Nothing stood out decor wise, and yet you felt as if nothing matched. It just looked like a living room in anyone’s home, with an island bar and booths. But with the large windows facing the water you weren’t really looking anywhere else. You focused on that view, and on first glimpse that was worth the drive out to no where. 
We were surrounded by a pretty diverse and mellow crowd. All Caucasian, all middle aged, all in casual wear, and all having fun. We got settled into our seats just as the band arrived and started setting up. According to the staff they were good. We really didn’t get a chance to experience this before we were ready to leave. 

Seeing a beer taster get passed to another customer, I had to get one too. I always find them the best deal. You get to try 3-4 different beers for the price on one. Shame, that the version at “Kingfisher” only used 3 of the 4 cut out slots on the beer paddle. They called this their 
Weekend summer beer flight. You got three tasters for $9. Your selection included the “Hoyner pilsner”, the “new grist gluten free” beer, and the “hay fever saison”. All light, one tangy, and you could tell which one was gluten free. 

The menu was thorough with a fairly large selection from pastas to burgers. But nothing really jumped out as a must try. Also you don’t want to pay $20 plus for a dish you potentially won’t like, at a place where you don’t know how good the cooking is. We instead decided to share three safer appetizers. I think the best way to judge a bar is by how well they do the usual classics. Bar fare that is available at all other bars. In this we felt that “Kingfisher” had its hits and a few misses.


Hand breaded onion rings. Buttermilk herb marinated, beer battered onion rings, with red pepper aioli dipping sauce. Each “O” had a crispy texture. But the batter did nothing to give it an individual taste. Shame, as I was expecting a better beer kick in my first bite. In my opinion the best onion rings are ones where you can’t taste the onion or feel its slimy texture. These had those classifications. And as long as you were heavy on the sauce you need not worry about lack of taste. 

One pound of crispy wings in honey garlic. These were literally the smallest wings I have ever had. Their chickens must be on a diet to have such little meat on bone. Three pieces here were equivalent to one wing you can get at local your grocery store. The saving grace of this dish was how great the honey garlic sauce was. It was thick and sweet with strong garlic a pick me up. 

Braised pork ribs. Ginger soy marinated pork ribs, fried and tossed in hoisin sauce. Doesn’t look good but at least tasted it. We never tried anything like it. It had the flavours found at a North American BBQ competition but prepared with heavy Asian influences. Most of the pieces were fall of the bone tender. Though half way through the long plate, we realized one side was more tender than the other. 

These plates were all great appetizer sizes for sharing. Each dish was under $10. The food was ok, but nothing note worthy.The sides that came with each plate was bland. And felt like it was only present for colour. 

The later it got, the busier it got, and we lost service from all the staff. It was considered a Monday night at any bar in Vancouver, but here everyone was scurrying and staff kept their eyes down, lest they be hailed for help. An over crowded bar and forgotten requests warranted a small tip. At the end we gave up on packing our leftovers to go, and left un-noticed. This was after we made attempts to hail one of the two bartenders. After 15 minutes we got up to leave. It was only then did they turn to our direction, though only to check that the bill was paid in full. Not even a “goodbye” or “thank you”. They just wanted the seats for two locals waiting with the herd of others at the restaurant foyer. 


Would I come back? – No. 
Would I recommend it? – No. 
The distance to travel is considered more than out of the way. The river was beautiful, but we didn’t get a chance to enjoy it. And with a wait time of an hour plus it was not worth the time spent. You could leave your name and come back, but there is nothing around to see, and you would only loose a hard sought out parking spot. The food was only alright with both strong and weak points in each dish. Definitely nothing different or better than if we had ordered this else where. The staff were unfocused and seemed to buckle under pressure. So a trip out here for this is not worth your effort. But this was definitely the bees knees in the boonies. 



KINGFISHER BAR
23840 River Road, Maple Ridge
604-463-0094
kingfisherspub.ca

Kingfishers Waterfront Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon Instagram

Nu Greek


Looking for a lunch that was not only tasty, but speedy as well, I went to “Nu Greek”. Here they special in take out orders and offer it as modern Greek cuisine. They must do well, to have this, their 3rd location open up on West Broadway. 
The shop is tiny, three cramped tables partnered with narrow stools are available for those wishing to eat in. They are either all smushed into the corner and tightly facing the front window, or wedged between the counter top and wall. 

The menu is some scrawlings on a black board. Your choices: meat plates, wraps, salads, or pitas and dip. You meat options are chicken, lamb, octopus, salmon, and vegetables. I decided to try a little of everything with an octopus plate and a lamb souvlaki wrap. 

The octopus plate came with a side order of the traditional Greek salad, their mint chick pea salad, loads of tzatziki sauce and a pita for dipping. I was surprised to be given an option for what pita I wanted, in both of the dishes I ordered. I choose the white for my wrap, oregano for my plate, and forgo-ed the whole wheat all together. Be warned, when asking for octopus it does take longer. Its prep work is done in the back. And was the last component to hit my recycled take out carton. Octopus is hard prepare at any restaurant, let alone a hole in the wall, two man operation. But here at “Nu Greek” they did it well. Their octopus was firm and not chewy, with a great charred flavour. The Greek salad was nothing special, soggy and cold, it tasted watered down. The chickpea salad was a different accompaniment, a great break from tradition that played off the other elements well. It just needed a little citrus spritz to give it some life. Notable is the fact that they spell their tzatziki, “satsiki”. I had to ask if it was the usual kind, and was assured it would be. I am a sucker for tzatziki. So anything smothered in it is a winner to me. They were definitely generous with its usage, and far for stingy. 


As I mentioned I also got the lamb souvlaki. I was not the only customer to ask what was the difference between the “souvlakis” and the “plates”. Even the staff agreed that it was confusing with the wraps being called souvlaki. The clerk joked that she should add in “wraps” in tiny font, for ease of confusion. The wrap came quicker than my plate. It was prepared with premade components, that were gathered together by a fluffy pita shell. Your options for fillings were cabbage, tomato, and onions, with a healthy scoop of tzatziki and some spices or hot sauce. Wrap it up or take it to go. Just make sure you make up your mind quick, as the sauce gets messy and your pita gets soggy. The flavours were solid. The lamb tender. A well crafted wrap. The perfect sized get it and go lunch or snack option. Just make sure you have some gum or mints around after, the onions, garlic and tzatziki really does a number on your breath. 


The lead of the two, behind the counter, was a young girl. She was chatty and edgy, just the sort of face you want fronting your business. She was charismatic and had the great ability to strike up a conversation with anyone who entered the doors. 

Would I come back? – Yes. The food was well prepared, and tasted good. The portions were generous, the options like no other in the neighbourhood, and the location convenient. It is not my number one go to, but when craving for a specific Greek spice pallet, this would be a fantastic option to satisfy that craving. 
Would I recommend it? – No. Other than its convenient proximity to my work place, there is really nothing about this that place that sets it a part. Yes serving octopus is special. But other than that, they have a small menu not meant of dining in or an every day visit. You come in get what you need, then rush out to catch which ever bus you need. Don’t deny your cravings. 


NU GREEK
1513 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 5K9
(604) 558-2044
nu-products.com

Nu Greek on Urbanspoon Instagram

Three Brits Public House

If you have heard any of their radio ads, “Three Brits Pub”, it is the only pub in the West End that specializes in craft beers. Today I found myself here, in need of a cold pint to cool down. If you have been to any of the other Donnelley Group ventures, you kind of know what you are in for. Louder music, a younger crowd, and bad food. 



The place is like a night club cramped and dark, with mirrored walls laid with gold and bronze foil. Not much to describe between table tops and bar stools. We grabbed two seats at the bar. It was really the centerpiece of the place. I appreciated the hooks that were bolted under it, perfect for coats and bags. Behind the bar stood our two humorous, and almost arrogant bartenders for the evening. One of them was at least British. Their jobs were to keep the crowd going and the liquor flowing. My guest ordered a bud and was both shamed and denied her request. Not explaining the bar’s only craft beer selection, the lead bartender told her he will bring her something she would like. As the glass landed he reassured her, and us, that the Thursday Kronenbourg special was the way to go. With no choice we had one each. This is the kind of service that is quirky, a little fun, and only acceptable at more casual bars like this. And I always get it when I visit any Donnelly Group establishment, it must be something they train their staff in. The bartenders were great and jumping in, and it was sort of nice to have that second party add to our conversation. We joked around, and when relevant, they added two cents or validated what we said/what they had heard. The two men also delighted us with their bar art. Twisted and folded napkin roses, and a heart fashioned out of fountain straws and a lighter. 




Eventually, as I dreaded, I got hungry and asked for the menu. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. I visit a Donnelly Group establishment expecting the food to be descent. And every time the food falls short and a lot is left to be desired. Maybe it is my own fault. Maybe I needed to be more than one pint in before ordering food. Maybe I was just too damn ambitious in my ordering. 

Nothing jumped out at me. And the beans that they were pushing we weren’t wanting. Apparently these spicy garlic beans are their specialty. Special enough that I have read of them by scribbles on their sandwich board outside. Now reading their description I was not sold. Chilled green beans seasoned in a hoisin sauce glaze with sesame oil, garlic, and lime. It is just beans in sauces. For $8 a conservative plate I could buy all the ingredients and make enough for the week. But I can see the appeal. A healthy snack that is salty and fun to eat. Say, a Western answer to the Japanese edamame. The menu has your usual bar fare: wings, burgers, and fries. And I give them credit for adding on some more unique tastes: Vietnamese short ribs, quinoa salad, and a wild salmon entree. 

Wanting something lighter I decided on the ceviche. The description read, “Locally sourced seasonal seafood, avocado, poblano pepper relish, Thai bird chili, and taro chips”. The chips were the best part. Once again I know I was stupid for ordering this kind of dish at a pub. So not surprising, I was severely disappointed in the quality of food. First, if the only protein is fish you cannot be defining anything as “seafood”. Using the word “seafood” leads to the expectation of shrimp, squid, scallops, clams, and a whole lot of other sea creatures, that are not classified as fish. Second, for the price at a pub the serving was small and the presentation uninspired. And lastly, there was no effort put into the flavour profile. Had they tasted the sauce before serving this, that would have been evidently clear. Over all rated is it had promise, but I was disappointed. And can only blame myself. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me over 6 times I should know better. 


Would I go back? – No. 
Would I recommend it? – No. Aside for its choice real estate: walking distance from English Bay; and a better selection of not your usual brews, this place really has nothing new to offer. There are plenty of other pubs neighbouring that offer better food and better drinks, in a better space for cheaper. But what I would say is I appreciated the staff to patron ratio. There were enough working bodies for each sever to be able to cater to their clients adequately, while having enough of a yreprieve to converse with one another. 


THREE BRITS PUB
1780 Davie St, Vancouver BC, V6G 1W2
604-801-6681
donnellygroup.ca/locations/pubs/three-brits




Three Brits Public House on Urbanspoon Instagram

Capstone Tea & Fondue

I enjoy interactive eating. It adds to the experience and gives you something to bond over with your guest. So when I was asked to go for fondue at “Capstone” I was pretty excited. It is the first search that pops up when you type “fondue Vancouver”. Having said that, there really isn’t anywhere else that specializes just in the art of dipping solids into heated liquids. 

Parking is easy enough, a few meters on the street in front, and more as you turn off at the corners. The restaurant is quite often busy. Every time I pass by, all the two seater tables that line the windows are always full. Full of couples starring at their cellphones instead of each other, and gaggles of girls taking pictures of everything and each other. (Ahem I only take pictures of the food). Walking in, I was surprised that it is as spacious as it is. Plenty of larger group seating in corners provide for a more intimate setting. We were hosted to the back, walking down a miniature set of stairs to get to our table for four. Our table was right across from their tea and teapresso bar. (“Teapresso”, a term they coined to describe your typical coffee and milk drinks made with tea as the replace caffeine, instead of coffee) I found this to be a smart accompaniment to their fondues. 

I jumped at a chance to try a mint chocolate latte. I haven’t seen those anywhere, and after a sip I quickly realized why. It didn’t translate to a latte as good as it did ice cream. It neither tasted refreshing or calming. 
Though I am sure their other tea options are lovely. They do tea lattes, flavoured teas, herbal teas, as well as house blends. And for the hotter weather that all translate into iced tea and iced teapresso. And if you don’t want the caffeine try a shaken or sparkling fruit ice tea.


The menu is simple hot or cold fondue? For a meal or dessert? Savory or sweet? How ever you spell it you have two options chocolate or cheese. With the mild cheese fondue you dip in French bread cubes and assorted fruits and veggies. With the 56% semi-sweet Belgium dark chocolate, you dip in ice cream, candy, cookies and sprinkles, fruit, and pastry bites. Today we selected the savory and found it to be nothing fancy. I was disappointed in the experience. It wasn’t a big pot of cheese, but stingy individual sized cups of cheese. The whole point of fondue is being able to coat as much or as little cheese as you so should desire. I found myself rationing my melted cheese, and really short changing myself on the experience. Not even half way done I was out of cheese. And in order to get more, it was a charge almost as much as the meal had cost. By the end of the exercise we were sick of the taste and not any fuller. If I were to give one suggestion to the owner, it would be to try the experience for themselves. See if you find it enjoyable. If not change it with the diners needs in mind. Do I have enough variety? Do I have enough sauce? Is the table set up as inviting as I want it to be? But then again with all the traffic and seats continuously being filled you could argue, if it ain’t broke why fix it. I on the other hand am a stickler for, any job worth doing is worth doing well. 


To summarize would I come back? – No. Would I recommend it? – No. 
What I had today was nothing special and certainly not worth the price tag we had to pay per person. I ran out of cheese even with my conservative dipping, and it was a hard struck battle to get more. The truth is, all the above ingredients cost less than $10 to prepare, not including the fondue set. So I guess the almost doubling of the price came from the rental fees for their tiny ceramic fondue set and the 29 cent tea light. 
The rest was a charge for the “chef’s” skill that is necessary to conduct coarse chopping. If you were unable to read into it, I was being extremely sarcastic. In short I was unable to find any value for what they are offer at “Capstone”. You are better off throwing a fondue party. Getting each guest to bring one item for dipping, enough to share. This I guarantee would make for a better night. More food options, more portions, more smiles, and a fatter wallet. Though, with their monopoly on the fondue market I feel “Capatone” is able to charge whatever they like. Yes their dishes are just cut up pieces of food accompanied by candles heating cheeses and chocolates; but what they can argue is that they are selling an experience and that is hard to put a price on. 


CAPSTONE TEA
1429 Robson St, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C1
capstonetea.com 

  Capstone Tea & Fondue on Urbanspoon Instagram

Indochine, Asian Fusion Kitchen

Rumor has it that the “famous” fried wings at “Phnom Penh” are also available at “Indochine”, a barely one year old restaurant on West Broadway. I was here with a group of 4 others and we were about to find out. Apparently both places are run by the same owners, so chances of a similar menu is not unlikely. But what put me in disbelief over the fact that they were sister restaurants, was that “Indochine” was not trying to leverage that relationship to gain patrons from “Phnom Penh’s” success. No servers made mention to it, and there was nothing on any table or at the doors to advertise it. 


The exterior of this restaurant leaves everything to the imagination, with their pretty unexplanatory decor choices. Darken windows on a back foundation, with a row of bamboo canes blocking the view from either way through the window. And in neat print just the name “Indochine”. No tables seen through the glass, no happy customers visible inside, and no visuals of food or mention of a restaurant. Inside, a very simple decor. Just the essentials: tables, chairs, and a row of television sets over a bar. This was the first time I have seen a sports bar hiding in an establishment that is specializing in numerous Asian cuisines. But I guess they do classify their food as being fushion. This did not take away from any of the authenticity found of the food. 

The menu was pages of things I grew up eating in Brunei and others that I have discovered in Canada and now love. My eyes were hungry with delight and my stomach wanted to try everything, from the “black bean escargots” to the “black pepper poutine”. This truly was East meets West. But alas a food blogger knows to ration their eating out budget. 


“Indochine garlic butter chicken wings”. Spicy chicken wings with garlic chips and lemon pepper dipping salts. Comparing these wings to the ones at “Phnom Penh”: it came with the same chili and green onion sprinkled on top, and the same side of salt. I can’t take heat in my food, but this I found great. The pieces were meaty and the skin crispy. A great set of wings, good enough to order a refill. And we did. However I did not find them enough alike to the ones at “Phnom Penh” to conclude that they indeed share the same menu or chef. Though they do also have “butter beef carpaccio” on their menu. 

“Lemon grass chicken or pork”. In this case it was Vietnamese style lemon grass chicken with fried egg and a salad of tomato and cucumber on rice. It came with the ever popular fish vinaigrette on the side. A very simple and common every day meal in Asia made Vietnamese with the inclusion of the fish sauce. You get all the food groups in this one. Proteins, veggies, and lots of rice. The dipping sauce was really the star of the dish. A sweet and sour vinegar that only enhanced the existing flavours. I find that you really can’t taste the fish in Vietnamese fish sauce. 

“Singaporean Teriyaki”. Boneless chicken marinated in a Singaporean style teriyaki sauce with soya sauce, and a red wine reduction. Served with a bowl of rice. I can’t really describe the difference between Japanese and Singaporean teriyaki, but based on tasting this, it exists. The Japanese style is sweeter, almost syrup like. The Singaporean one is spicer with a savory kick. 

“Beef Luc Lac”. Vietnamese and French style stir fried beef cubes in a rich garlic butter soy sauce. And to continue the Vietnamese and French theme this is served with your choice of tomato fried rice or a French baguette. My Vietnamese guest who ordered this choice the former. Tender bites of beef with a tangy savory rice. 

“Singaporean Laksa”. Rice vermicelli noodles in a spicy seafood coconut curry broth. With shrimp, tofu puffs, bean sprouts, fish balls, fish slices, and a sliced hard boiled egg. If you have read any of my previous south East Asian restaurant posts, you know I am a sucker for laksa and have to order it given a chance on any menu. This bowl that I was having at “Indochine” was one of the spicest ones I have had in Vancouver. (I never ask to adjust spice levels when ordering.) Though despite it being spicer than what I am use to, I love the stuff and ate it all anyways. 


Would I come back? – absolutely. This is my kind of food. You bring all the best elements from all cuisines and you combine it all together for a great remix. Like a Japanese style baked oyster with very American cheese. Or Japanese ramen in a minced beef and cream cheese sauce reminiscent of Italian cuisine. And sides like garlic and French bread offered along side rice and shrimp crackers. It all sounds a little weird and a lot unfamiliar, but I can’t wait to come back and try them all. 
Would I recommended it? – For those familiar with Asian style cuisine this is a must try. Familiar flavours joining new ones for a great taste experience. It is like hearing a sample of an old song you use to listen in a new one you now like. The location is easy to drive to with plenty of parking and bus routes going past in front. The restaurant itself is nothing special, the food is really what will have you coming back after your first visit. Don’t deny your cravings. 


INDOCHINE KITCHEN 
1 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1V4
604-568-0828
indochinekitchen.ca




Indochine Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon Instagram

Maurya, Indian Cuisine


I came to work early for a conference call, but ended up having some minutes to spare before my shift; so decided to spend them at “Maurya”. I couldn’t remember the last time I had Indian food, let alone went to dine at an Indian restaurant. But I guess when you are going out with friends you don’t automatically think, “Oh let’s have some pints at that Indian bistro along with some curry”. So having the time and wanting to enjoy my own company I decided to make “Maurya” my lunch. Like most places lunch ends at 3pm, but for them dinner starts up right after, with no window for prep work in between. 

Today I decided to dine in, but they do encourage delivery and online take out orders with discounts and freebies. Like a free dessert with any $50 order. I went in already having decided on what to get. Only to be swayed by the lure of the all you can eat for $13.99 sandwich board outside. Why try 2-3 dishes for $55 when you can try them all for half the cost. (That is such a stereotypical Asian thing to do, one that I am not necessarily proud of.)

The restaurant was a lot nicer than I had guessed it to be. With thick rimmed windows and a patio of over grown plants out front, it is not easy getting a sneak peak in from the sidewalk. I now understood why they offered catering and banquets, the room sure could host it. It had a lovely old timey presence. Thanks to handsome wooden tables, stone tiled floors, a faux balcony with a lion stone head, gown length drapes that hung from the vaulted ceiling, and the largest urn of flowers as the room’s anchor point. The only real Indian decor piece was the large bronze Buddha carving on the wall. I was impressed. Not that I have been to many or any Indian restaurants, but I had an inkling this was one of the nicer ones. 

I didn’t know where to begin and sat until I confirmed with the server that I could just approach the buffet tables and heated troths. As good of a deal the all you could eat seemed to be I wasn’t convinced by the look of the stale food sitting in their metal trays. It was hour to lunch closing and I was the only one in this large restaurant, so surely this food wasn’t fresh. Instead I decided to open my wallet and order from the menu. It was pages and pages of unfamiliar food that sounded good on paper, but I was worried to try. One culture’s delicious may very well be another’s too much. And Indian cuisine is known for their heavy use of spices. 

My wait for food was punctuated with mellow ethnic music over head, coupled with Hindi rap from the radio in the kitchen, and the distracting chatter of the staff, in what I assume was Hindi or punjabi. At that wasn’t even the worse of the auditory assault. The sound of a vat’s worth of grease deep frying, what was probably my meal alarmed me. 



“Maurya Seafood Platter” with butter milk marinated prawns, fish, and scallops. All deep fried and served with Indian dip. I couldn’t tell which from what as it was all battered the same and gathered on a smaller plate in piles. At least it all tasted good. Though the sauce was the real highlight. I liked the addition of the pickled seasoned beats and greens to cut away some of the extra grease per bite. The pieces of seafood I am sure were all frozen and flash fried. I have only seen the tiny balls of scallops available as such in major grocery stores. Overall ok, but disappointing in both presentation and mouth salivating flavour. 

I was going to get the cliche Indian classic: butter chicken; but having seen it red with tomato sauce in the all you can eat trays, I figured this was not one I expected and had wanted. Instead I got the “Chicken Chettinad” that came highly recommended by my server. It is marinated chicken in a South Indian Chettinad paste of coconut and poppy seeds. A speciality served with rice and naan bread. This was so good that it won the 2009 Dine out Vancouver award. Sure my plate came with numerous elements but at over $20 for a curry with 7 pieces of chicken, the price came too steep. 
I didn’t find anything remarkably special to this. And surprisingly it was the steam vegetables that were the best part of the dish. They were saturated in butter and I could taste it in each oily bite. Yet I finished it happily. I didn’t bother with the salad. And the chicken would be dry and chewy had it not been lubricated by the orange colour sauce. I think the naan was home made and it was a good accompaniment to the curry for dipping into. 


Would I come back? – No. The food was just ok. Had the price matched the quality my answer may have been different. And despite the regal decor, the ambience was distracting and took away from the eating experience. I didn’t enjoy the singing from the chef or my forced eavesdropping of conversations between the staff. Plus I have never had to wait so long for a doggy bag. Not to mention I was the only customer in the whole restaurant. I just wanted to escape all the voices echoing in an empty hall. 
Would I recommend it? – No. I think this place use to be great at one time. All their awards and stickers advertising their past successes is evident of this. But without updating their menu or creating features to pull new customers in, this place has been forgotten. I hate to say it but I almost prefer the $7.99 plate of butter chicken from the food court. But truthfully how popular is curry and spicy foods on a hot summer Vancouver day? The proof was in the fact that theirs was the only empty patio on the block. But thankfully they had air conditioning inside. 


MAURYA
1643 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 1W9
604-742-0622
mauryaindiancuisine.com



Maurya Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon Instagram

Suika Snack Bar, Japanese cuisine

From the restauranteurs that brought you the highly successful Japanese tapas, “Kingyo”, they deliver once again with”Suika”. “Suika” is a Japanese snack bar on West Broadway, they are open for lunches and dinners. Their specialty is preparing delicious plates meant for sharing. Their logo is a ripe melon. It is not only their namesake: the Suika Watermelon; but a nod to the freshness found in their food, and their popularity as a summer destination. 

This is a great go to for late night drinking done in a large group. A real plus is that they are located out of the downtown core. It makes them easy to get to, with ample meter parking in front. Not that you should be drinking and driving. Passing by on any given late night, the place is usually bumping. And the staff are busy hosting one or two larger groups. As was the case tonight. This place gets loud. Non stop laugher and joy can be heard from the sidewalk outside. And you can’t blame them with a list of “Suika’s” tasty drink specials in hand, it is no wonder. On top of not reeling in the excessive sound levels, the staff at “Suika” don’t rush you out. So long as you keep drinking and snacking you are welcomed to stay until the place shuts down for the evening. Tonight I was here with three others to celebrate a birthday and see if the food was on par with the reputation set out my “Kingyo”. 


The restaurant is deep and dark. Amplified by dim lights, with almost black furniture, and grey scale walls. It almost looks gloomy. The cinder block post and the cage use for storage adds to this effect. This is one of those restaurants where it gets so busy that tables are jammed as close to one another as possible. It is to accommodate the many patrons left waiting for a seat. The staff keep chit chat to a minimum. The expectation is that they check in on their tables often to ensure that glasses and shots are filled; and as soon as an empty plate is rotated out a filled one gets put back into play. 

The menu, as it is with many authentic Japanese tapas places, lists dishes in kanji with an ingredient run down in English below. 
It seemed only fitting to start the night off with a cheers and some choice Soju. This was one of the same bottles used to adorn the striking and unique chandelier above us. Now this was a fitting centerpiece and it accentuated their theme. Drinking!
As is the custom here, we ordered a few dishes to share. Each plate goes on average from $3-10. It might not seem like a lot, but in order to get enough food to feed four hungry adults, the money does add up. 




“Lotus Root Kinpira”. Stir fried lotus root seasoned with fresh shichimi sauce. It was a disappointingly small tasting bowl. And nothing more than cooked root vegetables tossed in a simple salty sauces. The list of roots included lotus, carrots, and potato. As unsatisfactory as this was, for our resident vegetarian there were not many options available. We ended up ordering 2 out of the only 5 non meat dish available. She was forced to pick around everything else. 

“Tofu Salad” with cold tofu, fresh and fried bean curd in organic greens, drizzled with a sesame soy dressing and chili oil. The greens were wilted and only worsen by the oils it had absorbed. This salad lack character and depth. It was a miss that once again we had to take, with not too many vegetarian options available on the menu. 

“Tako Karaage”. The octopus slices are first marinated in a plum and perilla coating with whipped egg whites. Then deep fried and topped with scallions and seasame oil. The tiny bite of it that I had was very good. But the portion size, I couldn’t see sharing. Once you figure out if you liked it or not from the first few bites, there is non left to savour. 

“Grilled Sable Fish”. Simply a grilled miso marinated sable fish. I liked the presentation of the fish on the leaf; though I expect it to be grilled with the fish, and have some of its flavours transferred in the process. Each chopstick full was moist and flakey. I really like it, and that says a lot as I don’t really like fish in the first place. 

“AAA Beef Filet Steak”. An AAA beef fillet steak with fresh garlic chips, served on a hot stone plate. It came with a side of fresh shichimi spices and a soy and onion sauce. 
It was cooked to a perfect medium well and was delicious. I expected nothing less from a dish that got a mention on a previous list of Vancouver Magazine’s 101 tastes to try. And boy howdy did this not disappoint. By far this was the best dish that we had that night. Only shame was that it came in such a small portion. At $16 a hot plate it was a little too pricy for us each to get one to ourselves. And once again it felt like there was not enough to share and enjoy. 

“Ebi Mayo”. Deep fried cilantro battered tiger prawns with a chili mayo sauce for dipping. A very common Japanese tapas dish. I found this version really no different than all the ones I have had from other Japanese restaurants or sushi joints. My advice is to eat this right away as it is best hot. Failure to do so results in a beyond soggy battered crust, that only becomes mush in your mouth. And you really do want that crispy shell around your juicy prawn. 





“Asari Yaki Udon”. Pan fried thick noodles with Manila clams and citron pepper. Now this dish really needed to be larger if it was meant to be shared. The noodles managed to soak up majority of the clam broth and as a result were jammed packed with flavour. Each slurp was a tasty strand. Not enough clam to noodle ratio though. 


Would I come back? – Yes. I like their decor and have visited a few times since they opened over a year ago. Since then they have built themselves a small patio out front and have celebrated their one year anniversary with a week of giving out candy and token prizes to their beloved customers. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. This is the ideal place to bring your rowdiest of friends to enjoy drinks from a suburb list of beers, sakis, and fruity cocktails. You can laugh as loud as you like, eat at your own pace, and enjoy a table with 10 of your closest friends. My only warning is to bring cash and lots of it. The small plates leave you wanting more food. The salty flavours leave you wanting more drinks. And the bill has your wallet crying, “no mas”. Don’t deny your cravings. 


SUIKA 
1626 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 1X6
604-730-1678
suika-snackbar.com

Suika on Urbanspoon Instagram

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