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Month: September 2013 Page 1 of 3

The Union

IMG_2240Southeast Asian fusion. Traditional flavours meet modern techniques, in a contemporary setting, nestled in historic Chinatown.

The birthday girl chose this as our destination, in which to celebrate her. She has a track record for impeccable taste when it comes to choosing restaurants, so I was excited. Even more so when I found out the cuisine was Southeast Asian fusion. If you have read any of my pervious relevant posts, you know that I love Malaysian food, as it is the cuisine I grew up enjoying. So I knew this would be a delicious night. IMG_2242Seeing as they don’t take reservations, I set upon the task of coming in early to put our name on the wait list and get us a table. It’s been a while since my last trip to Chinatown. So after listening to my iPhone’s map app direct me onto a one way street, I finally found my way to “The Union”, parking a block away to do so. This definitely wasn’t what I expected from a restaurant in Chinatown. The food was definitely Asian, but the crowd, ambience, and decor was Gastown chic. This must be another restaurant in the rejuvenation project. IMG_2241You walk into dimly lit darkness, full dining tables, and loud murmurs of multiple conversation fighting against the bluesy voice of the jazz music playing over head. As the night wore on the music gained momentum. By the end of the evening it was upbeat old school classics. This place was buzzing. Seating was four rows of family style tables, with the ability to accommodate over 20 bodies on each. These heavy duty picnic tables were sturdy with cushioned benches to match. It was tight, but no one seemed to mind. There was a little more shoulder to shoulder and arm rubbing with our neighbouring parties than I would like. And private conversations were hard to have when surrounded so closely. But yet again this phased no one. Each group kept within their bubble. The dim lighting came from over sized, retro style, teal lamp shades. They hung low and were paired with the flickering tea lights on the tables. The tea lights in holder were used to create a separation between parties. My complaint over seating is the lack of space for your belonging. No room to have your jacket or bag take up space on the bench, and the only hooks were located on the other wall, across the room from where we were seated. To get to it meant squishing past people and rubbing them the wrong way, literally. There was also hardly any leg room for you and the person facing you, if you both decide to prop your feet up. I played unintentional footsie several times that night. And for my more beefed up guest he found getting in and getting out difficult with the lack of room to stretch out his longer legs. IMG_2243 I started by night at the bar and enjoyed the show behind it. Two bar tenders worked feverishly to create south East Asian inspired cocktails. They had as many fresh fruits and ingredients as they did bottles. Everything was sliced and peeled as needed and shaken until blended. You could tell the popularity of certain drinks as multiple glasses were made at a time. Being familiar with Malaysian food and having it as part of my background, I immediately was drawn to the all doubled cocktails made with pandan leaves and pandan syrup. IMG_2248 “Phuket coconut spritzer”. Toasted coconut rum, navy run, fresh pineapple, pandan syrup, pandan leaves, and soda water. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t taste the pandan, as that is why I ordered it. It was sweet with sugar and sharp with the rum. Between sips I got some of the shredded pineapple flesh between my lips. IMG_2252 “Boracay Hangin”. Vodka, cucumber juice, pandan syrup, calamansi juice, and atomized kaffir lime rum, topped with toasted coconut. The brew was thick. It looked like a kale or spinach fruit smoothie made in a processor. And tasted of herbs and cucumber. A savoury cocktail that almost felt healthy to drink. IMG_2249 A from scratch made piña colada, served in a young coconut. This was off the menu and the bartender seemed very proud of his creation. Especially as all the customers who saw this drink come to the pass had to know what it was. IMG_2253 Non alcoholic, “Nai Khanom Tom”. Thai basil shrub, tangerine, cucumber, peppermint, and soda. It looked like a mojito and was as refreshing. It had a nice zing to it. Another interesting beverage was their “bangas”, which means “jar” in Filipino. It is a concept drink meant to highlight the simplicity of the fresh flavours, ones that they pride themselves on using. The cocktail is literally made with a jar and a stick. There were five different varieties, each with more unique and rarer ingredients, not often seen in North American cuisine, let alone in cocktails. Ingredients like cardamom, gomme, calamansi, angostura bitters, galangal, and rambutan. Had I not driven I would have loved to sampled more of such drinks. Eventually I was moved to our table and was left waiting for my party to arrive. I felt bad as I was seated right in front of, and facing the door; so was forced to watch other guests who came minutes after me loitering, waiting for the next available table. Eventually a few of them had to stand outside in the cold, for lack of room. And here I was nursing my drink with three empty seats. The hostess warned me that they don’t like holding tables for too long, and said if my guests didn’t arrive soon I would loose the seats I came so early to get. Luckily the 15 minute time frame came and went and I was still able to remain, until the others arrived. The menu was a two side page. Drinks on the back, food on the front. The dishes were separated in to shareable “snacks”, “Banh Mi” (Vietnamese subs), “salads”, “bun vermicelli bowls”, “bowls”, “extra” add ons, and “desserts”. My birthday guest, having been here before took the liberty of ordering a few starters that she has tried and likes. The food was fusion Asian. I saw influences from Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, and Korea. We were given the option to eat with either disposable chopsticks or spoons, having both set on the table along with the bowls and side plates for sharing. IMG_2254 “Crispy fried tofu”. Tofu, spinach, and shiitake sauté, served in a Thai red curry. The sauce was spicy and full of flavour. It didn’t look like much, but I really enjoyed the taste. IMG_2271 “Mussels”. Sambal lime coconut broth, with Thai basil. Comes with a side of naan bread, which was perfect for sopping up the delicious curry sauce with. This too was very flavourful with the variety of spices used. These were the biggest and juiciest mussels I have seen to date. Their size quantified their amount. Each was equivalent to two mussels else where. This dish was best eaten hot. And I don’t suggesting drinking the sauce like a soup, it’s citrus and vinegar was too sharp alone, for my palette. Luckily we were able to get more complimentary naan bread to dip into, to not waste all the excess sauce. IMG_2256 “Nam prik pla”. Chilled spicy fish lettuce wraps, with noodle crisps and cucumber pickle. This was a little hard to eat, as the ingredients were laid over two separate leafs of lettuce. I didn’t bother to eat all the excess lettuce, after condensing things down to one leaf. This was definitely a two handed task, and even then the noddles still fell out of the wrap. The chilled temperature really suited this dish. The citrus gave the flavour profile a kick. The crispy noodles gave each bite a great crunch. And when done it left a spicy after taste from the chilli pickled cucumber. IMG_2264 “Green papaya salad”. Mint, cilantro, spiced peanuts, and chilli lime dressing, with crispy shrimp. Best described a crunch with a tang. If you didn’t know what this was, you wouldn’t think that this was shredded raw papaya. The looked like noodles and had the consistency of noodles. The fish was the best party, not oily or over fried. They would have be great dish just by themselves. IMG_2282IMG_2273“Banh mi”. Vietnamese sub with spicy sriracha aioli, jalapeños, daikon, and carrot pickle, cucumber, and cilantro. We each got one of the four varieties. Sweet and sour fried fish. Fried tofu. Lemongrass chicken. Crispy pork belly. And we all added a fried egg for $1. The bread was crispy and chewy, you could tell it was fresh from the first bite. The fried egg was crispy on its edges and soft and runny in its yolk. It made a great addition, one I did not think of ever having in my Vietnamese subs. I was able to try a bite of each sub, and I think my last choice of fish was the most flavourful one. IMG_2279IMG_2276 Our server was attentive. She checked in often and filled our waters frequently, without asking. When she addressed us she spoke by squatting, bringing her closer to our lowered level. She was willing to accommodate and even offered to help us take photos. After she snapped two, she suggested we take a look, and that she could take more if we so wanted. And most importantly there was no situation with the cake. With this group, we have had some bad experiences trying to bring in our own birthday cake to a restaurant. They either won’t allow it, or don’t help us with it. Here, our server set the candles up, offered to sing, and brought us the appropriate sized plates and cutlery to cut and eat the cake with. IMG_2289 Would I come back? – Yes. I love Southeast Asian cuisine. The food was delicious, and there are so many more dishes and drinks I wanted to try; had I the time or the stomach. I got so excited just reading the names and the list of ingredients under it. And even more excited when I saw presentation of the dishes and smelled them as they were walked to their respective tables. Would I recommend it? – Yes. It had the atmosphere of a pub, but with great tasting food and fun upbeat music. You get the downtown vibe, without having to navigate the groups and the traffic there. And there is plenty of parking around, and if you look, free spots as well. Don’t deny your craving for unique cocktails and satisfying dishes.

 

THE UNION
219 Union St, Vancouver BC, V6A 0B4
604-568-3230
theunionvancouver.ca

The Union on Urbanspoon

 

Romano’s Pizza

IMG_2106  IMG_2109   When stumbling out of a bar or night club at 1am in the morning, there is nothing like a greasy slice of pizza. When eaten it helps to curb your tipsiness and replenish some of the energy you have expelled. Especially after a long night of dancing in the dark, yelling over loud music, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Tonight we found ourselves walking along Granville Street in search of just that. While waiting for our ride we decided to stop at “Romano’s Pizza”. The bright lights and open entrance were appealing, and easy to navigate when in a slightly intoxicated state. I suppose that’s why we weren’t the only ones here to cap off our night.

IMG_2108IMG_2117All the pizzas are pre made, cut into healthy sizes, and displayed in the window for passer byers to be tempted over. They kept warm with the aid of multiple heat lamps. And were ready to be eaten as soon as they were requested. Tonight there were over eight varieties in the sealed showcase. It didn’t matter the toppings, each extra large slice was $1.79. They were all left unlabelled, but it was obvious what was what with the generous amount if toppings from tip to crust. Besides when starving you judge by the appearance of your food more than anything. There was cheese, meat lovers drizzled with dressing, Hawaiian, deluxe, bacon and mushroom, and a spinach that went untouched. We went simple with pepperoni, this tired it all tasted the same.

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The pizza pallor was a counter and ovens to the right and several black two seater table and matching chairs to the left. Nothing spectacular, but they served their purpose. You grab a seat with your bite, finish and go. At this late in the night we didn’t care how dirty the tables were, or if they were ever cleaned, we just wanted to sit and rest our heeled feet. This place with its cheap food served this function. Looking around, everyone was in the same state and in the same mind frame as ourselves. Tired, hungry, and on their phones.

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I cannot imagine how staff are able to deal with all the rowdy people on a Saturday night. Their customers are clumsy and inhibited from drinking. And numerous groups, including ours were shouting. What a hectic work place. Luckily the four staff members seemed to be able to keep their calm and continued to serve their rush with muted composure.

Would I come back? Would I recommend it? – Given the same set of circumstances, yes. After a night of booze and bottles, it is nice to be able to save a little on hot food that satisfies. Not only do they offer pizza, but they have all the late night take out classics as well. Wings, lasagna, chicken strips, jalapeño poppers, spinach roles, calzones, and garlic bread. Nothing over $10 and everything with the possibility of being part of a combo, with a side of pop. Don’t deny your late night cravings.

Romano’s Pizza
902 Granville St, Vancouver BC
604-568-5470
romanospizza.ca
Romano's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe & Pie Shop

IMG_2003 IMG_2004When craving for pie, those who know go to “Aphrodite’s Cafe”. A local pie shop and cafe that does everything organic and fresh. This is not surprising as you walking in and have the smell-good scent of fresh baked bread waft around you. 

IMG_2009The restaurant is two shoppes merged into one. With the entrance to the “pies” blocked off by a potted planet outside and a set table inside. We made this mistake and had to double back. Walking in on a Friday late afternoon we had the pick of the place, but the table immediately in the doorway blocked our path, and prevented us from seating ourselves. On it was a photo of a farmer holding a bundle of very organic looking carrots, irregular and bright in colour. He seemed important, as we noticed he was also made into a piñata. You couldn’t miss seeing him and all the other piñata people suspended in the air. After their pies, I would say “Aphrodite’s” is known for their piñata heavy decor decision. They were the creepiest looking paper mâché piñatas, with large heads and skinny bodies. Yet you couldn’t help but want one. And you could for $200, as the artist apparently works out of her studio, right across the street from where we were. She can even make one customized to your exact specifications. Today Henrik Seden from the Canucks, a kangol cap wearing volleyball player, a purple tailed mermaid, and a lady pirate wielding a sword; all along side the friendly farmer hung above us. 

IMG_2008The floor was checkered in peach and blue tiles, it matched as much as the miss matched reclaimed tables and refinished chairs did. All three elements gave the place character. On the walls hung the artwork of local artists. These were for sale and are updated regularly. This season there were barren trees and poppy fields, it felt like a very rustic autumn. We took a table top for two, right in front of the chalk board menu. This is my favourite seat. The chalkboard was jammed packed with pie and drink names, all written in neat print to accommodate each one. In the centre was a rainbow leading to a cup of chai latte, and the words, “get cozy, no rain, no rainbows”. What a fitting quote to represent Vancouver and “Aphrodite’s” place in the city. You come in to get out of the rain that is necessary for life, and enjoy a hot beverage along side a comforting meal. 

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Their menu boasted a wide selection: alcoholic drinks, teas, lunch items, brunch plates, vegan friendly dishes, and ones that were gluten free. We were very impressed to see this breath from a smaller restaurant; majority of which are on seasonal rotation too. Though one thing that didn’t change, and one thing you could count on was their selection of core pies. These would always be available, from summer to winter and spring to fall. 

All the sweet pies were pre-baked and came to our table quick. The meat pies had to be reheated and baked until hot, so they took longer. Knowing we were here for pie we decided to get one from each category: Organic fruit pies, Specialty pies, Cream pies, and Meat pies. We skipped the “delights” section of the pie menu as they were technically cakes, and when craving pie that is a huge difference not to be over looked. Each dessert pie came decorated with hearts made out of cocoa powder. A simple gesture that made each plate all the more special. 

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Organic fruit pie: Cherry pie. Unanimously we agreed this was the favourite of our four pie order. It was not overly sweet. The cherries were soft and added a great texture, when you bit into them and they burst with juice. All this was was made better with the addition of two scoops of vanilla ice cream, that we had asked for and paid additional to have. And when the ice cream melted it was used as a sauce to dip pieces of crust into. 

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Specialty pies: Lemon meringue. Each pie was chilled, and as a result the lemon in this lemon meringue pie kept separating from the meringue. This pie would have been better had it been allowed to remain in room temperature. None the less it still tasted good. The lemon half was zesty with a little sweetness. The meringue was whipped fluffy and piled high just the way I like it. And the crust was buttery rich and broke off in crumbs. 

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Cream pie: chocolate banana. Originally we had ordered the vanilla bean banana cream pie, but were brought this instead. When corrected, the server brought it back to the counter, only to tell us they were out of the vanilla version. So we had the chocolate brought back. We both agreed this was our least favourite pie as we found the chocolate overwhelmed the lightness of the banana. Though the chocolate dipped banana sitting atop of the fluffy whipped cream was a nice touch. It added a different flavour than the caramelized banana sliced that sat as a the bottom. This was not something either of us would usually order, as we are not big fans of chocolate mousse. 

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Turkey pot pie. Made from free range turkey, seasonal vegetables and herbs in their famous pie crust. You were able to distinctively make out the flavour of the turkey. Together with the vegetables it tasted like stuffing, and reminded you of thanksgiving. All you needed was a dollop of cranberry sauce to complete this. However we were given a mixed green salad, that neither of us touched instead. It was great to start our meal with sweet desserts and end with a savoury note instead. 

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To drink, my guest ordered a pot of their speciality tea from Namasthe teas. The “Jasmine green dragon” was – smooth drinking tea. It came without the acidity commonly found in most green tea blends. It was flavourful enough to enjoy its natural taste, while being bland enough to compliment each sweet bite. 

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I however made the mistake of ordering their homemade hot chocolate. This beverage was made from dark Callebaut chocolate and milk, topped with Chantilly cream. On its own it was delicious and frothy, with an authentic chocolaty taste. But when paired with desserts it became too rich and ended up being tasteless by comparison. 

Our server was quite and polite. With very little interaction outside of us ordering and her delivering, I have nothing much to report.

I have eaten at “Aphrodite’s Cafe” on several occasions, during different times of the day, and in different seasons. Here is a listing of the other menu items they offered, that I have had in the past. 

 

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Brunch: Spinach omelette with potato hash, mixed greens, and whole wheat toast. 

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Brunch: buffalo sausage with farm fresh eggs, potato hash, mixed green, and whole wheat toast. 

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Brunch: elk sausage with farm fresh eggs, extra potato harsh, and while wheat toast. 

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Brunch: Blueberry pie with fresh whipped cream. 

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Dinner: spiced chai tea. Rich and spicy. 

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Set meal dinner: Organic lentil soup with focaccia bread, and house salad. The soup was very disappointing in texture. Not quite chunky and not quite smooth it felt like sand in my mouth. 

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Set dinner: salmon with potato pancake in a bed of seasonal vegetables. 

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Set dinner: Organic steak with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. I was surprised at how great this tasted, though it was not quite worth the inflated price I paid for it. 

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Dinner: chocolate almond ganache with coconut ice cream. Drizzled with raspberry sauce. 

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Dinner: vanilla praline cheesecake with vanilla ice cream.

Would I come back? – Yes. It is a little ways a way for me to get to, but with metered and free street side parking blocks away, the trip by car is hassle free. I also love pies, and like the fact there is such a large selection of them, that can be ordered by the slice. Usually if you want a slice of pie you have to commit to the whole pie, and still then you don’t get the same wide assortment to choose from that they offer you here. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. 
With over 20 pie options you will never be bored. And for those who are vegan and those with gluten free restrictions they have pies that meet your needs too. There regular menu is also pretty good. Hearty plates made with organic produce and fresh meats. I have yet to order something I didn’t want to finish. Don’t deny your cravings. 

 

APHRODITE’S ORGANIC CAFE
3598 W 4th Ave, Vancouver BC, V6R 1N8
604-733-8308
organiccafe.ca
Aphrodite's Organic Café and Pie Shop on Urbanspoon

Toyama Japanese Restaurant

IMG_2054Do you do this? When you know you are planning to go for all you can eat in the evening, you starve yourself all day in order to be hungry, take advantage, and truly eat all that you can. Well that was me and my guest this Saturday night. “Toyama” is her favourite all you can eat sushi place. So it was the perfect start to our late girls night out. Walking in at 6:40pm there was a 15 minute wait for a table for two, despite there being enough seating to physically accommodate us. So instead of waiting we opted for the ready seats by the sushi bar. We were advised to grab two out of the three chairs in the corner, closest to the door. The only other options saw the continuous motion of the servers moving in and out to grab sushi orders as they were crafted and came up to the pass. 

IMG_2056This was far newer and cleaner than most sushi restaurants. Walking into the foyer the first thing you see is a beautifully painted cherry tree, blossomed in pink. The restaurant is fairly deep with tightly spaced togethered with tables. It almost feels like a food court with its open space and no booths or rooms. It is just an eating area over dark tiled floors, and with dark wooden tables and chairs. When looking up you can see that everything is black. The ceiling has been left untiled with the ventilation system visible, and only the support bars remaining. The speaker caps and air conditioning vents are painted in red. Silver tinsel is stung up and red paper lanterns hang down. I honestly prefer the design of the ceiling over the decor of the restaurant. There are two bars across from one another. One is for drinks the other for sushi. Behind the drinks bar sat two lucky cats side by side. They looked to be fat from the beers they were holding. In the corner there was a flat screen television, showcasing the best of “Much Vibe”. However hardcore rap and booty shakes really didn’t match the theme, even when muted. 

IMG_2058Being tucked a way into the corner we were soon forgotten and had to seek out our server, in order to place our requests. True to the all you can eat tradition the menu was extensive. Though beware of the fine print. It seems like a long sheet, with over 150 choices. But the reality is, it is all actually divided into three individual menus: “A”, “B”, and “C”. And if you choose just one option from the latter it automatically boosts up your price. It is a $3 difference from “A” to “B” and $5 from “B” to “C”. Had I known or had our server warned us I would have limited our meal to menu “A” for $19.95. With over 80 items to choose from there was no way we could grow bored, or be able try them all before getting completely stuffed. But alas my greed and need to try the unusual cost us. 

IMG_2055The “A” menu is divided into Soup and salad, Sashimi, Temaki cones, Nigiri sushi, Robata (BBQ), Maki sushi, Deep fried, Stir fry, Noodle, and desserts. “B” includes all the above with more rare sashimi, nigiri, and maki. Including the highly controversial shark fin sashimi. And “C” menu is your fancier items: wild salmon sashimi, red tuna sashimi, amaebi sashimi, BBQ black cod, hamachi sashimi, uni sushi (seasonal), and BBQ lamp chop. As well as a listing of specialty sushi rolls with exciting names. However without a description you weren’t sure what you were getting without asking your server first. Though with names like: totem, Seymour, Canucks, and Stanley how can you be led astray?

With tickets to a show at 8pm. We were on a deadline, and unable to sit and digest, in attempts to eat more. The quality was surprisingly much better than I expected, especially coming from an all you can eat place. Especially considering numerous souring experiences from mall sushi restaurants and unsatisfying menus from sushi chains. I will not be going over each of the morsels that we ordered; but know that we ate it all, and left rubbing our bellies in pain; all in the name of gluttony. 

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Masago cone. Negitoro cone. Dynamite roll. Soft shell crab roll. The seaweed wrapped around each cone was hard to gnaw through, but other than that it all tasted how it should have and as we expected it would. 

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One of each of the nigiri sushi from “B” menu, sans the shark fin. Tako. Saba. Ika. Tobiko. Unagi. Toro. Hamachi. Ikura. Amaebi. Mirugai. Considering this was the first that I have tried many of these seafoods, I have no comparison point. I can only say it all definitely tasted very fresh. 

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Teriyaki chicken & Croquettes. The corn croquettes are my guest’s favourite dish. The one thing she must always have when she visits. And after a surprising first bite, I had to agree with her. Crispy outside, warm and gooey inside. It was savoury with the batter, but sweeten with the natural flavour of corn. Very original and something you don’t see anywhere else on a sushi menu. If I were by myself, I would not think to order this off the deep fried section. 

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Beef skewered. Yakitori chicken. Beef short rib. Great flavours, but all over cooked. 

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BBQ pork Korean style. Ika karrage (deep fried squid). The pork was chewy and the squid burnt. 

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Spicy chicken wings. Spring rolls. Beef teriyaki. The chicken wings were very spicy with a heat that lingered soon after you spat the meat out. The spring rolls had more deep fried wrap than filling, and tasted as such. The beef teriyaki was tender with great flavours from ample sauces and sliced fried onions. 

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Beef udon. Miso soup. Tasted as expected. 

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Mango pudding. Tapioca pudding. The tapioca tasted like custard. There was also ice cream, but it came at an additional cost that we weren’t interested in paying. 

Server interaction is pretty minimal. You ask for a menu sheet and a pencil, you indicate the amount desired in each order by number, you submit the page, and your requested food comes trickling to your table in individual side plates and in soup bowls. 

Would I come back? – Yes. This was the best all you can eat I have ever had. The food was good, the sushi fresh, and the menu exciting. Given the appetite and time I would very much like to return to try more: octopus salad, beef tongue, fresh corn, octopus in garlic butter, seafood fried rice, fish fingers, and unagi tempura roll. Not to mention all the signature roll in their deluxe “C” menu. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. Often you sacrifice either the quality or selection for the luxury of all you can eat. But at “Toyama” this is not the case. Enjoy a pitcher of beer and work your way through an extensive menu with a large group of friends, at $20 a head. Don’t deny your cravings. 

TOYAMA
757 Seymour St, Vancouver BC, V6B 5J3
604-688-3256
toyama.oftendining.com 
Toyama Japanese Restaurant 富山日本料理 on Urbanspoon

La Casa Gelato

 IMG_1821This is a Vancouverite’s favourite. A staple to grab an after dinner treat late at night. It’s location is almost out of the way, but a destination that is worth the travel. Away from bus routes, but with ample parking and a lighted up court yard to enjoy your ice cream in, it makes the trip all the more tempting. However without knowing about this place before hand, you wouldn’t think of coming in based on its outward appearance, as you drove by. It looks like a corner store, but flashy in pink; and stripped in green, white, and red on its awning. You are almost caught off guard walking into this huge space. You are greeted by “welcomes” on the wall, in as many languages as they had flavours of chocolate ice cream. An experience made extra special just by having to walking up the stairs and into the room. 

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The shoppe is an open area surrounded by freezers of gelato and sorbeto. The walls and counters had stack on stacks of cups and cones. So many that you thought to ask how fresh the cones were, despite them being made on site. I have only ever had a waffle cone here, but they also have the regular ones in its original neutral colour or in red, green, or blue. Behind it all were chalk-like mural drawings of different landscapes and landmarks labelled by country. Egypt and New York to China and San Francisco. Together this was all a lot for the senses to take in. It was bright, colourful, and loud. All adjectives commonly associated with ice cream. 

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Your journey begins by deciding what you want. All the gelato are the same price. You pay for the quantity and the type of vessel, if any. Single scoop, double, or triple. Cone, cup, or chocolate dipped. After you pay you receive a poker chip as your token. This is handed to the ice cream scoopers waiting for you behind the freezers, before you request your order. A great system to avoid the confusion of who has paid and who still needs too. Especially as majority of the guest sample over a dozen flavours before settling on the one they want to have a scoop of. 

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With over 218 flavours at any given time, you need to be creative in your offerings. You can only do so many candy and vanilla combinations before it gets tired. And that is exactly what they did. A few of the seasonal and majority of the weird and wacky ones are on rotation. I truly think no one orders those, but it is definitely an attraction and a reason to visit. Their names are fun to read and their flavours are fun to try. And this is exactly what our group of three did. With flavours like wild fennel, Vegemite, garlic, Aloe Vera, aged balsamic vinegar, curry, and pear & Gorgonzola with blue cheese; how can you pass up an opportunity to try them? 

There is no rhythm or rhyme to the flavours. The oddities were intermingled with the classics. And each freezer showcased a variety of colours. I took the liberty of grouping a few of the flavours we tried into my own categories. Majority of them were either fruit, candy, or chocolate bar flavours. Vanilla with Reese’s Pieces, Clodhoppers, Tobblerone, or Butterfingers. For fall they had black teas, Parallel 49 beers, roasted chestnut, and pumpkin pie. The Asian selection included: corn, pandan, taro, black sesame, red bean, mango, dragon fruit, and persimmon. They also combined random flavours that strangely complimented one another: maple bacon, mango candied ginger, chocolate chilli, apple wasabi, lime tequila, and pineapple poppyseed. And had a sugar free section, that we walked right past. If you are going to have ice cream why deny yourself the full experience of it? 

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Until today, and until I had to write about it, I never noticed the selection outside of ice cream that they carried. Chocolate dipped fruit, dessert sticks coated in chocolate and nuts, colourful candy gummies, ice cream cakes and candles for birthdays, the same ice cream scoop that they use, and even bottles of water with their logo stuck on. 

The staff are friendly and extremely patient. Given the fact that majority of their customers just go around trying all the flavours before placing their order 15-20 minutes later. You are able to try as many as you like with no judgement cast. That is the expectation when you have 218 flavours to choose from. Plus sampling is included in the price. Otherwise $9 for a double scoop gelato is a little on the pricy side. The only reason you would stop sampling is if you eventually felt guilty over the thought of taking advantage. In fact I don’t think they even discourage you from coming in just to try without buying. Though I highly doubt that happens, you can’t just try ice cream without wanting more. 

IMG_1836Aloe Vera and caramel apple in a cup. 

IMG_1839Dragon fruit & pandan in a waffle cone 

IMG_1842Pumpkin pie & vanilla almond in a dipped cone. 

 

IMG_1846Would I come back? – Yes. I am a fiend for ice cream and a stickler for easy parking. And this place has both of those things. With 218 flavours, and patient staff, chances are you would come back for more and to try more too. There was a sign celebrating next month’s feature gelato, chanterelle mushroom; that itself is worth a return trip for. 

Would I recommend it? Yes. I was the one who took my guests here for the first time today. This place impresses and I have never seen a person leave unhappy. This is a definitely a destination not worth denying your cravings at. 

 

 

LA CASA GELATO
1033 Venables St, Vancouver BC
604-251-3211
lacasagelato.com
La Casa Gelato on Urbanspoon

Storm Crow Tavern

IMG_1780You don’t go into a pub like this without doing some research first. Knowing this was a space for those who liked science fiction, fantasy, video games, and movies; I made sure to have my first visit be with guests who would appreciate it all as much as I did. The restaurant was decorated wall to wall with various memorabilia, merchandise, props, and collectables. Not an inch of space was wasted. Forgive me if the following description is too much, but there was so much to see, so much that I liked, and so much worth mentioning. 

 

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The decorated walls were split into sections, and each was given its own theme. Closest to the window was the one for “Dr. Who”, it came with cartoon character fan art. The “Alien” wall included rubber alien toys, positioned to look as if they were ready to jump. And my favourite was the column covered with prop ray guns, laser pistols, baster rifles, and other point and shoot weapons that married fantasy with reality. 

IMG_1783The bar at the very back hosted “POP” vinyl figures from “Lord of the Rings” fame, and your favourite classic horror movie characters. Prop weapons were used as art. Hand held blades were framed, and sword and shied were mounted as decorations. The glass was broken from the showcase that was protecting a board sword. It was labelled as being set aside in case of a potential zombie attack. Other random decor pieces included: A giant, more than 6 sided dungeon and dragons red di. A ring of iron keys that I can imagine belonging to a dungeon gate. And a “Art-o-mat” machine that made art to go for $5. Basically this was a repurposed cigarette machine that now dispenses hand crafted pieces of art from all over the continent. 

IMG_1781IMG_1782Everything felt sturdy and looked hardy, true to the “tavern” in its name. Old world wooden chandeliers hung over great, long hall tables. The chandeliers were a thick wooden circle, with iron bases attached, used to hold thick candles in place. Traditionally they would be ones of wax, however in this case they were plastic and flameless. Together it felt like a seat to enjoy a good pint of ale in, not one for sipping pretty cocktails at. If you squint hard enough you can imagine removing your helm, throwing down your chest plate, and placing your blade before you. As you sat down for a wooden bowl of gruel and libations in a metal goblet. 

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I was surprised that it was this packed on a Monday night, at 8:30pm. However it all made sense when we later found out it was movie trivia night. Tonight’s presentation was, “The adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: across the 8th dimension”. Those tables participating were given a pencil and a piece of paper. The paper was a list of 14 questions for a pop quiz. Answers would be obtain through watching the movie. Tonight’s winner would earn gift cards and props from old movies. We attempted to participate, but being in the second room, with a divider hindering our view of the projector and screen, we soon gave up. This put a dent in our experience. My guest found it not fair to have the opportunity, and yet not have it so that all the guests could participate, as half the restaurant couldn’t see. Though this design was useful for those wanting to eat, drink, and speak without having to complete with a talking television. At least we were included in the free popcorn given out to celebrate Monday movie nights. 

For those not wanting to, or unable to watch the movie, a stack of board games are available as alternative entertainment. You can bring your own or choose from their library, with titles like “Lord of the Rings Monopoly”. And for solo diners, grab a book from their library, I like the choose your own adventure ones, and they had a bunch of them. These are the scifi or fantasy books where the reader is given options on what the protagonist should do. To take the story in the direction you want you are told to turn to a certain page. You bookmark the path you didn’t take to later go back and read. This is in case your character dies, and so that you know the conclusion to each scenario. That was my childhood. 

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The menu was just as fun to read. The cover resembled that of a role playing game; with sorcerers, goblins and dwarves on the front, and instructions and details for game play on the back. Each menu item listed was your ordinary bar fare, but made fun with a quirky name and unusual descriptions. A cross between the fantasy theme and the old timey tavern feel. The word “epic” was used to take salads and burgers to the next level. “Crow” to pay respects to their name. And seeing “Cthulhu”, “plants verses zombies”, and “elvish” made you smile. The drinks in my opinion had the best names and most intriguing list of ingredients. The “sexy teenage vampire” included angst in its recipe. The “eye of sauron” had enteral malice. And the “potion of extra healing” was said to be made with unicorn ichor. The entire menu took us a good 10 minutes to go through, we wanted to and felt like we had to read it all. Not just skim. Ordering shots came as a game. You can roll a 20 sided role playing di to help you pick, it saved you a $1 by going random. Otherwise it is $6 to choose your shot. Shot 20 was the “critical hit” made with frangelico and whip cream. This shot was not available off the menu, and is only for those who can roll a 20 on the di. And you even got to keep the glass this super sized mega shot came in. We seemed to be the only one rolling a di tonight. I would like to come back for a night of just drinking and di rolling. My guest rolled a 12 and the “Curse of the Aztec Mummy” was his prize. This shot was made with tequila and goldschlager, which I was told comes with gold flakes. However after waiting for its arrival for nearly 15 minutes we finally decided to cancel its appearance. I attempted to track our server to do so, only to find her watching the movie along side all the patrons. When I did, she insisted she could make it right away, but her opportunity to do that had already passed. It was sad because up to this point she was attentive and fun, I guess the movie was a good one. 

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When your order is up your plate comes out from the sliding window pass, located on the back wall of the bar. I liked the idea of this secret window passage. We had to get the “Chickpea fries”, as this was labelled as their signature dish. They looked like and were prepared like French fries, but made from chickpeas. The basket came with a choice of spicy sriracha aioli, sun dried tomato aioli, or a honey mustard sauce. We didn’t get an option and as a result spent bites trying to figure which of the three we were dipping in to. The fries were different, but enjoyable. A grainy middle with a crispy shell. Both textures suited the creaminess of the sauce. I enjoyed the different sizes each stick came in, the smaller ones were more crunchy and the larger ones more doughy. We pondered how they managed to get chick peas into such a fluffy texture. My only criticism is the basket should have been filled and packed tight with more sticks. 

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“Mac & Cheese of Cthulhu”. Described as creamy noodles in a homemade three cheese sauce. The write up also included a introduction to Cthulhu, for those uncertain of how Cthulhu meat would taste in a pasta dish. (Kidding) Even the first bite, topped with melted baked cheese was bland. Thankfully the noodles were cooked well and of a fun shape, to have something positive to write about. My guest used the aid of ketchup and left over chickpea fry sauce to perk up his pasta. Cooked properly, not flavoured properly. 

IMG_1808When was the last time you had stew? This reminded you of home and fall. A perfect dish fitting for this time and the table.”Barbaric beef stew”. With roasted potatoes, yams, onions, carrots, butternut squash, and chunks of beef; all in a thick gravy. Served with a crust of bread. There was an option to upgrade your bread to chips for $2, but stew and bread go together hand in hand. It tasted just like how my guest’s mom would have made it in Saskatoon. She claimed that ample gravy is the key to a good stew, and her portion had just that. The potatoes were your garden variety potato with the skin still on, they added the perfect starchy bite. The bread was used to clean the bowl by soaking up all that extra delicious sauce. 

IMG_1813IMG_1814“Storm Burger”. All beef patty with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, topped with sundried-tomato aioli on a fresh Portuguese bun. Gluten free bread was available as an alternative at no extra charge, for this and all other sandwiches. The burger came with three possible upgrades. I made this a “thunder burger” with the addition of a honey BBQ sauce, smoked provolone, and crispy bacon for $3. My other choices were to go “legendary” for $3 with a second patty. And for “mutant sized” appetites go “apocalypse” with two extra patties for $6. Burgers are usually a safe choice at a pub or bar. So long as the patty was done right it pulls the meal together. Luckily the charbroil was good on burger. Other than that it tasted as it should and fell apart as most burgers do. 

Everything smelled good. Though it was a shame that the food and service didn’t have the same high standards as the decor. As a table we agreed that when preparing classics there is no excuse for the bland and flavourless. And that there could have been more done to make each dish as inventive and different as their names suggested them to me. We bought into the hype the menu was selling us. Our server was great until the food came, aside from not offering a choice in our fry sauce. As soon as our plates landed she disappeared. She didn’t check in to ask how the food was, our glasses of water remained empty, and tracking her down was a journey. Shame our server didn’t know that my guest decides on how much to tip based on how much water stays in her cup. Sadly it went and stayed empty on several occasions. Though this is to be expected with all the stimuli surrounding the employees, and is competing for their attention. After all, you won’t hire a server who doesn’t like the “nerd” culture. How embarrassing to have them not know the difference between the tenth or eleventh doctor? Or the difference between a scimitar and a claymore. (Use that as a test to see if you should give this place a try.)

IMG_1817It was cute that our bill came in a tiny chest.

 

One of my biggest pet peeve at a bar, pub, lounge, or any place that advertises itself as a drinking establishment is single stall washrooms. When you drink you need to go, and you don’t want to have to dance around and wait for one person to be done, one at a time. At least here there was a hallway of framed zombie pictures to look at and a wall to lean on. However I never made it to the toilet, as I couldn’t stand the estimated 10 minute before me. 

 

Would I come back? – Yes. Not for the food, but for a movie in the right seat and drinking with a large group. As I mentioned earlier, I would like to come back for a night of di rolling and drinking. $5 per shot isn’t that bad and I want to win that “critical hit”. Would I recommend it? – Yes. As much as this was just a “flash in the pan” (to quote my guest, Teal) I suggest coming for the decor, the atmosphere, and the buzz you get when discussing interests with like minds. There is plenty to look and more to talk about. With games, books, and movies you can be sure to leave entertained. And I don’t think there is any other taverns in Vancouver to experience all this at. Don’t deny your cravings. 

 

STORM CROW
1305 Commercial Dr, Vancouver BC
604-566-9669
stormcrowtavern.com
Storm Crow Tavern on Urbanspoon

Uncle Kebab

IMG_1765 Another food truck parked by my work place meant an early lunch and an opportunity to try something new. I love it when my food comes to me. 
I have to admit “Uncle Kebab” doesn’t took too appealing compared to the other more flashier and newer looking food trucks out there. By image alone this may not be your first choice. A white truck with yellow accents and a picture of a wrap blown up on the side. Sort of unspectacular. The menu is a chalk board wrapped in plastic saran wrap, to the side of the serving window. Like the truck it may not be the most appealing. But their slogan of “always fresh”, printed across the front of the truck is promising for those considering a meal here. The menu was basically two choices that came in either chicken, beef or vegetable. I had one of each with meat. 

IMG_1766I approached the window. The young woman that worked the front got up from her seat to greet me. She sat to the side, away from the direct view of the window, but with enough visibility to jump into action. I have mentioned this before, but as a food truck vendor I believe you need to attract pedestrians to approach your truck to try something new. Not just wait for one to approach you. You are not stationary and therefore need to adopt the practice of going to your customers in driving, and approaching your customers in selling. I have watched enough episodes of “FoodTruck Wars” to know what great food truck customer service can look like. 

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The food took a while to make, but considering it was “always fresh”, this was something worth waiting for. “Beef wrap with hummus and salad”. This was the longest wrap I have ever seen. That alone impressed me. The beef was very well seasoned. The meat firm, yet not over cooked. 
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“Extra large box in chicken”. This too came with hummus and salad, but on the side, instead of being all wrapped up. The chicken was moist with a great texture. Together it and the rice reminded my guest and I of Indian biryani. Biryani is essentially the Indian version of fried rice. It was seasoned with the very familiar curry spices. The same spices that were also used in a curry dry rub for the chicken. The side salad was extremely oniony. This salad is one that I would not advise you to have if you wish to have a conversation after its consumption. 
Essentially both items were the same dish, but in different formats. In both the hummus was distinctly fresh, with a good amount of tahini. Tahini is what give hummus its zip, otherwise it is just mashed up chick peas. All the ingredients together had an interesting flavour. Familiar yet different. No matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t make out the theme of the food. It tasted Greek with the olive oil salad and tahini hummus. Yet Indian with its bold curry and zesty spices. Thankfully both were complimentary to the another. Your mouth felt as if it was traveling the world. 

Today “Uncle Kebab” was conveniently parked in front of a public bench and garbage bin along south Granville. It provided the seating you don’t always get when eating at food trucks, and a place to discard your containers when you were done. Though the truck also provided their own garbage bin, something that I wish all food trucks did. 

Would I come back? – Yes. This is a case of not judging a book by its cover. The food held up on its own. I just wish that they put more of an effort into luring customers to try their food for the first time; because given the chance, after a taste you would come back for more.
Would I recommend it? – Not especially. The food was good, but not the best that I have had in its genre. But at $17.95 for both of the items above, it certainly warrants trying. Don’t deny your cravings. 

 

UNCLE KEBAB
604-375-4727
Uncle Kebab on Urbanspoon

Bella Pizza

IMG_0871Having spent all my pay cheque on finer foods, and counting the days down until the next. I seek out cheaper meals to make my money last. Today’s lunch was brought to me by the change found in my purse. A girl has got to eat. And for me it often means forgoing calorie counting to find a cheap alternatives. Today it was pizza at “Bella Pizza”. Conveniently located between “Mac’s” connivence store and a Chinese restaurant, and kitty corner to a sex shop.
IMG_0880I came in snapping pictures and was greeted with a non chalant question as to why. And as soon as I explained it was for this blog it became kosher. Not only was I able to take more, but was obliged when I asked to take one of the open oven. If that isn’t the definition of hospitality I don’t know what is.

 

IMG_0875 IMG_0877There is nothing special about the decor. Everything was set up for take out or eat and go service. At a place like this the expectation is you are here to get full then get out. Loitering in a confined space is usually not ideal for anyone. Grey scaled tiled floors. Red trimmed walls and corners. Grounded tables and swivel seats.

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The menu reflects this as well. Pizza by the slice. Bigger pieces at a cheaper price. The menu was a back lit list of 7. You have the usual suspects like cheese, pepperoni, ham & pineapple, and a vegetarian option. I got the most exciting and unusual that “Bella Pizza” had to offer: Pesto. This along with two slices of cheese was lunch for two. The total came to $7. And looking at the picture, I pretty much have a whole medium pizza in my take our box. These were done in a New York style crust, sauce and toppings to the edge. The crust was thin and crispy. I was surprised how little oil there was; and how grease free the cardboard box around, and the wax paper underneath was. If it wasn’t for my slice of pesto, there would not be a drop of oil in sight. I was defiantly full after my portion. This makes a great filler and at less that $5 for a meal for one, you can’t lose. Though be warned I was very thirsty afterwards.

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On previous take outs I have enjoyed the regular cursted pepperoni and pepperoni and mushroom.

Would I go back? – Yes. You can’t get much for $3 these days. And this is a value meal that can’t be missed. They also have bread, salad, and wing sides available. And of course soft drinks to quench that salt induced thirst.
Would I recommend it? – No. Aside from the fantastic price, there is nothing more that sets this pizza parlour a part. Each slice was delicious, but nothing that would induce cravings and a wonton need to return for more any time soon. A pizza craving that the hut or the Caesar can easily solve.

 

BELLA PIZZA
2525 Hemlock St, Vancouver BC, V6H 3G8
604-732-6565
bellapizza.ca
Bella Pizza on Urbanspoon

Hub Restaurant

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At 30 minutes to 1am our group of five stumbled into “The Hub”, Yaletown. Last call was on the horizon and day was approaching, yet our server received us with open arms. And despite our intoxicated state she was nothing but patient. I suspect this is a common occurrence in her industry. 

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The Guru (gurucooking.ca) says that “The Hub” was the original “Browns”. But from what I can remember during my latest visits, they don’t seem all that similar. Here the logo is the letter “H” with utensils protruding from each angle, a duplicating pattern of fork, knife, and spoon. The decor had that quintessential, contemporary, casual, bar feel. Dim lights from oval paper lanterns, hard wood floors with matching hardwood ceilings, red brick and mortar walls, an island bar with flat screens mounted to it, and an option to sit on high top tables or in elevated booths. The wall by the kitchen was lined with speakers caps, it was an original design that made for a great conversation starter. 

This was the casual dining destination for craft beers, thick burgers, and bar comforts. In a setting that breathed unpretentious, the servers wore logo-ed tees and jeans. In their comfortability, you were made to feel more relaxed. They were not on stage and therefore neither were you. 
IMG_1668The menus was your usual division between food and drink. The food was divided into “snax”, “greens”, “mains”, “desserts”, “pizzas”, “sandwiches”, “brunch”, and “burger bar”. I was excited to see a page just for Caesars on their drinks list. 5 options: 3 Roman emperors, and one made from gin. Each started off with Clamato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and fresh horseradish, with a salted rim. And differed in garnishes, including pickled beans, poached prawns, and cucumbers. The “Augustus” is made with Finlandia jalapeño vodka, a pepperoni stick, and lemon. The “Smokey bacon” too has Finlandia vodka, but is then jazzed up with smoked paprika, a bacon stick, and a bacon bit rim. With the emphasis of this Caesar being on bacon, I was disappointed that it did not include a full slice of bacon. Or maybe there was, the other half was crushing up for the rim. If that is the case l, this drink needed more bacon. Though the quarter I did get was thick and crispy. In general these some of the strongest Caesars I have ever had, you could clearly make out the alcohol in each sip, and their spiciness seem to only amplify it. 
IMG_1671The Guru ordered the “Beef dip”. Made from a fresh baguette, horseradish mayo, prime rib, and au jus. There was the option to add caramelized onions and cheese for extra. The bread was quickly turned into mush, even before a dip in the jus. The Guru knows and likes his beef dips. He says that as simple as a beef dip is, it needs a harmonious marriage between meat, bread, and sauce. Each element needs to bring something to the table, without out shining another. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for him. The Guru also wanted an order of onion rings. And instead of that, he was given the option to have them as a side dish to the beef dip, as a posed to the standard potato fries that were suppose to come with his sandwich. The rings were thick cut, beer battered, served with chipotle mayo. They tasted good, but you didn’t taste the beer battered difference that was suppose to set them apart from the others. They were no different in taste than the frozen and flashed fried kind. 

IMG_1675“Fully loaded nachos”, tomatoes, black beans, corn, black olives, banana peppers, green onions, and cheese. With salsa, sour cream, and guacamole on the side. The Guru said that the key to a good nachos is its layers. Were the mountain of chips intertwined with additional servings of cheese and veggies in addition to what was on top? Though this plate had the above, the Guru claimed that it tasted like a Mexican restaurant in an all exclusive hotel at 4am in the morning. Every chip should have a taste, and did until you realize they gave up half way. 

It was last call and one of my guests had yet to finish the beer in hand, let alone the one that sat untouched on the table before him. Though with the added pressure of not being able to have more beer, he simply attempted to order another of the drink he had yet to try. And like the onion ring suggestion, our server offered advice that suited our needs, the customer’s need over her restaurant’s. She suggested that he try the beer on the table before she got him another helping of it. She was right, it was strong and sharp and he didn’t like it. In both instances without her help we would have been upset. By ordering more than necessary unknowingly; and having to order more to replace something we didn’t like, while having to pay for the original and it’s replacement. This is a great approach when in the customer service industry. You cater to your client, and that is what she did. We were impressed by her questioning of our bad decisions. And in turn we appreciated her and the restaurant a whole lot more. 

IMG_1698On a previous visit to “The Hub” I have enjoyed the following. 
Sparkling wine with raspberries. Nothing looks more celebratory than fruit floating in cocktails suspended by tiny bubbles. 

IMG_1700“Red wine braised beef”. Beef with a rich demi glaze, served with mashed potatoes, and seasonal vegetables: cherry tomatoes and asparagus. The meat was a tad on the chewy side, but the ample serving of gravy saved what could be have been dish sent back. The potatoes were lumpy, if you like that sort of thing. It is like the great chunky or smooth peanut better debate. 

IMG_1702It was only a matter of time when poutine went handheld. The “poutine burger” is a burger bun sandwiching fresh cut fries, cheese curds, demi glaze, crisp bacon, and Frank’s mayo. On the menu it clearly warns “no meat”. This burger has no room for lettuce, it a hot mess; and there’s no avoiding making one when you order this. However two bites this became a regular poutine that you eat with a fork. Sort of defeating the whole purpose of getting it in its more complicated bun form, as a posed to it being scooped out into a bowl. None the less it was tasty and I finished all of it, soggy bun and all. 

IMG_1704“Broccoli and cheese soup”. A classic thick and creamy bar type soup. It takes being used as a dipping sauce for burgers and sandwiches well. But on its own, with its thick chunks of garlic bread croutons, this the soup is rich enough to feed like a main. 

IMG_1659Would I come back? – Yes.
I enjoy pub food and this was some of the best I have had in terms of consistency. Visit to visit the food has been the same as its always been. You don’t get bells and whistles, but you do get your satisfaction requirements met. You come in knowing you won’t have to eat through a bad plate; not sending it back because it was your fault for coming on a slow night, or on one where the head chef wasn’t working. There shouldn’t be the need to have food a guessing game. It’s science, use the same formula to get the same solution. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. “The Hub” has every one of your classic bar favourites You want salty, savoury, sour, and sweet? This menu has you covered. There are options from a bucket of shrimp to edamame beans, to a brown rice bowl with salmon and mango, and a carnivore pizza made with spicy yogurt and four kinds of meat. I find it doesn’t matter when I come or what I ordered, the food is always good. Just don’t expect anything ground breaking, I haven’t seen much of a change in it for the last year to year and a half. You just get what you can get everywhere else, with a slight variation. Classic, well known, and well loved pub food. Don’t deny your cravings. 

 

THE HUB
1165 Mainland St, Vancouver BC, V6B 2S2
604-696-0400
hubrestaurant.ca
Hub Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cinema Public House

IMG_1642Looking for an after dinner drinks place on a Friday night may not be the easiest task. We wanted somewhere we could walk to, that wasn’t overly crowded, and that we didn’t have to wait for a table at. Eventually our walk along Granville Street concluded at Cinema, a Donnelley group venture. I have been here on a couple of occasions. Each time it was because of its easy location, its easy entry, and its ease in getting a drink. The bouncer cards you as you enter. Oddly the Guru (gurucooking.ca) got carded by a bouncer who barely looked 20 himself. The Guru is far from 25, with the peppered hair to prove it. So naturally the rest of us, who too were well over 25 had to be carded before entry was permitted. 

IMG_1645Walking in you are bombarded with stimuli. Flashing lights and pounding music, the room shook and spin, and not only because you have been drinking. You feel like there was a battle for what was heard by your ears. It was loud with base from Benny Benassi’s song “Cinema” (a delightful play to hear “Cinema” in “Cinema”, by the way), and noisy with dialog from the movie “Caddy shack”. Both were playing simultaneously in an attempt to gain the attention of all the tables shouting. The lounge was split into two rooms by a wall between the row of booths. We grabbed a booth closest to the entrance, which would later prove to be the best for an easy escape. Clusters of metal lamps and disco balls hung from the ceiling. They added ambience and that party rock feeling, as light refracted over the crowd of people. Air hockey, pin ball, and arcade games were lined up on the right. These made for great reliefs between conversationless moments. The titles are also great to play when drunk or on an awkward first date, especially the one that required the aiming and shooting of a fake rifle. And both of the above scenarios were played out before us this night. 

IMG_1653Every night there are different drink specials, tonight was highballs and craft beers. Our table took advantage of both. When time to order our server came and casually sat on one of the three tables that were adjacent to our section of booths. She seemed to hear fine as we shouted out drinks at her. Our orders arrived relatively quick, with everything doubled in alcohol. Although, when a second round was needed she was no where to be found. So to keep the party going I made my way to the bar at the back. Like you would see at a club, there were no high tops for sitting at this bar, those are a few feet in front of it. This bar is meant for quick drinking. You approach the counter and do your best to grab the the attention of the lone bartender. Your goal is to do so before the girl beside you does. There is no line, but in your head you insist you were first. Instead your lonesome self gets the attention of a group of guys perched up at the corner, they have found their spot for the night. You stand on tip toe leaning as far forward as possible. You figure a faked height and a closer proximity to the bartender would help your cause. Eventually you resort to waving money or a plastic card, this works. You scream your order into their ear. Usually your group is right behind you and you are able to pass the drinks back as soon as one comes up. And after a cheers and a “clink” you throw them back and leave the empty shot glasses on the bar. However my group was still seated at our table, and in my slightly inebriated state, walking a few metres with 5 “Tom Collins” was not an easy feat. The bartender attempted to get our server’s attention as she punched in an order a few feet away. But she claimed to be too busy to help. So I was given a serving tray and sent on my way. Our server did however come back to our table to retrieve the tray and empty glasses. There was no further explanation or exchange of words. 

Good thing we weren’t here to eat, I have yet to find one Donnelley group establishment that serves a decent meal. Each location has a slightly different menu, with a few over laps in some, and nothing out of the ordinary at most. Each one sounds good in writing, looks good in presentation, but taste bland when eating. Here are a couple I have tried in the past and regretted having done so. 
new oxford quina saladThe “Quinoa salad” is made with mixed dried fruits and nuts, cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and fresh mint, all in a harissa vinaigrette, and topped with a crispy flatbread cracker. There is an option to add in either free range chicken or wild bc salmon at an additional charge. Who was I kidding when I thought ordering a salad at a bar was a good idea? The nuts were stale, and something in the mix tasted rancid. But nothing must have been as I didn’t conclude the night with stomach problems. This tasted off on first bite, but I forced my way through it, to not waste my money (Asian problems). And even though I hated it, I got what I didn’t finish packed up to go, only to throw it out at home. 
new oxford poutine, bacon, egg“Poutine Lyonnaise”. Thick cut fries and Village Co. cheese curds, coated in a garlic gravy, then topped with a soft poached egg. As is the case with most poutines there is not enough cheese curds. And here the gravy wasn’t hot enough, to melt it to that a gooey stringy texture that is so much fun to pull out and eat. The egg was a new spin for me. Once pierced the yolk provided an additional textural element. But other that that and the colour, it didn’t do much more to help excel the dish. 

IMG_1648Would I come back? – Chances are yes, but not by choice. Only by circumstance and on the insistence of someone else. I am too old to enjoy a space where I cannot hear my companions, and rely on large amounts of alcohol to be entertained. I value good food and a great setting with my company. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. Each one of the Donnelley Group’s lounge & bar establishments are located in high traffic strips. They are seen as the go-to for a late night of drinking. Here the lights are dim, the music is loud, and there is a buzz in the air. And tonight at “Cinema” this was exactly the case. For those looking for a that rowdy night without the sweaty dance floor, this is good destination. No cover charge, plenty of seating, and a bar with lots to mix from. However talking consisted of yelling and pseudo sign language. At one point our group gave up and resorted to playing on our phones to keep entertained. It was for this reason that we changed destinations for the second time that night. 

 

CINEMA
901 Granville St, Vancouver BC, V6B 2C9
604-694-0202
donnellygroup.ca/locations/pubs/cinema/
Cinema Public House on Urbanspoon

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