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Month: October 2013 Page 1 of 4

Simply Thai

IMG_3454 I didn’t think I could enjoy curry again, this was after an traumatic and explosive childhood experience with the yellow stuff. But here at “Simply Thai” I grew a new appreciation for the spice. And now as I wrote this have a clawing craving for some more.

Walking in on a Monday night meant no need for reservations, and parking right out front. I was even able to grab one curb side, across the street to avoid the slanted reverse stalls Yaletown is known for. This was one of those places that you got hungrier walking in, it smelled that darn good. Ironically this was not our intended destination as my guest miscommunicated the wrong address, actually intending the one up the street instead. None the less we enjoyed our conclusion, and agreed that its slightly higher rating on urbanspoon was well deserved.

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Coming up to the door you are greeted with signage advertising “Chef Grace’s new creation”, in coloured copying. It is a picture of your chef posing with said dish and the dish as is below it. This is also posted in the foyer inside. It peaked my interest, but not enough to order. The restaurant’s space curved and sectioned off into segments, divided by barriers. This created subtle alcoves and private nooks, perfect for those guests wanting a bit of seclusion during their dining.
For larger parties there was a step up into a spacious booth, right up front with their own bar. For smaller gatherings there were plenty of tables on ground level, and additional bar seating by the kitchen. The booths were a steely grey that paired well with the amber wood of the tables and additional chairs. Each table was dressed with square plates, metal cutlery; and most noticeably, neatly folded reusable napkins done in pleated waves. Lights were low hanging orbs of yellow, that gave each table a romantic glow. This and the mellow jazzy music overhead kept the level of audio per guest lowered. I felt the need to whisper and to use my utensils in a gentle fashion. Overall the ambience felt dressy, despite the casual fare and reasonable prices. Oil canvas paintings of Thai ships, monks praying in crossed legs, and elephants guilded in gold reminded you that you were at a Thai restaurant. And the cotton webs and plastic jack-o-lanterns reminded you that Halloween was near.

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The waitresses were dressed in traditional Thai wear. Pink and blue: high collared, long sleeved satin tops; with tightly bound glittery skirts that ended at the ankle. They whisked about with their hair tied back, poised and hospitable. The dress code really added to the authenticity already felt in the place.

The menu was organized by starters, salads, soups for two, curries, chicken & duck, beef, pork, and seafood & fish. There were lots to choose from and even more to try. I allowed my guest, a more adventurous Asian cuisine connoisseur, to choose the dishes we would soon share. She selected unique dishes I wouldn’t otherwise tried, I usually just go for pad Thai.

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“Pad Ta-lay Pong Karee”. A mixed seafood dish with stir fried onions, bell peppers, green beans, bamboo slices, lemon grass, and kaffir leaves, mushrooms. All mixed together in yellow curry paste made with coconut milk and topped with fresh Thai basil. The seafood comprised of deep fried snapper filet, squid, mussels, and prawns. As expected there were more vegetables than protein, but enough seafood to flavour the sauce with a good fishy kick. My guest pointed out that the seafood didn’t taste fresh. And right after I unknowingly swallowed a spine from one of the three pieces of squid. However this was still my favourite dish, an all new and all unique taste that I have never tried. The bamboo had a great gritty bite that left your filling full. And the sauce, layers of spices and seasonings that left you with a spicy aftertaste to savour.

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“Gaeng Ped Bped Yang”. Duck curry. Sliced BBQ duck in a red curry sauce with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, tomatoes and pineapple chunks. This was my guest’s favourite dish of the night. The change in protein made this curry refreshing, an easy way to breath new life into an otherwise traditional dish. The red curry was sweeter than the yellow above, but despite that had a more pronounce and immediate spiciness to it.

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“Pad-See-Iew”. Beef with stir fried rice noodles, in thick soy sauce with cabbage, broccoli, eggs, and peppers. You can choose between chicken, beef, or pork. Our beef was a poor choice as it came out way to dry. As a whole the dish was too salty to eat as is. My guest had to enjoy it with rice.

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All together the dishes were really too salty, the two bowls of jasmine rice we had ordered were definitely needed; and the two pots of jasmine tea helped. Everything was so flavourful that you needed the rice to balance it out. There was a decent balance between all the meat and veggies. And bamboo slices gave each dish a great texture with its healthy fibre. All three dishes were so different that they held their own, standing their ground on taste when compared to one another. We finished full, with lots left over. And the best part, Asian cuisine leftovers only get better, as more of their flavours soak in. I had lunch and dinner the next night. Definitely worth what I paid.

Would I come back? – Yes. I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed our dishes. If the rest of the over 60 options on the menu were anywhere this good, I would be losing out without a return visit. And to think my my guest intended us to dine at another Thai restaurant. I was thankful that I had paid $6 for 2 hours of parking, and therefore refused to leave.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. Through smell alone you could tell the food would be good. The staff were courteous and the environment relaxing. A great place to enjoy a nice authentic Thai meal in a great part of downtown Vancouver. And for those wanting drinks to match their meal, “Simply Thai” had a list of designer martinis with ingredients as unique as their names. “Amazing Thailand” brought the tropics with banana liqueur and pineapple juice. The “Chocolate Pear” had the decadence of Godiva chocolate liqueur with pear purée. And the “Purple Orchid” was crafted from a list of 4 liqueurs, all unknown to me. Definitely the exotic to peak your interest. Don’t deny your cravings.

SIMPLY THAI
1211 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6L2
604-642-0123
simplythairestaurant.com
Simply Thai on Urbanspoon

Greedy Pig

 IMG_3499If the restaurant is named after a pig, has a pig on their front signage, and smells like cooked pig inside; why didn’t I order more pork with my meal?

This was a rugged looking bar, it felt industrial with red brick walls, painted slate grey drywall, wooden bar and table tops, leather stool and booth seats, and menu items listed on chalkboards. It was given some charm with elegant but dusty chandeliers, old timey lanterns that hung from the vaulted ceiling, live green plants that lived in wickered baskets, and a antique mirror central to the handsome bar of well stocked shelves. And then you had some good conversation starters with the random items visible around the room. Then random pair of Hulk fists that sat atop the bar, a sombrero that hung from a wooden post, the oil canvas painting of buffalos that decorated the walls; and ofcourse the few pig figures and statues casually lying about. The twanging of the country rock over head made everything feel casual and relaxed. This was despite seeing the cutest small mouse scattering in between the bar stools, that lining the bar that almost spanned the width of the place. I didn’t really bother me. It’s the city, it’s Gastown, there is food, they have to go somewhere. This is best explained by my guest today, a former chef who is very familiar with the food industry. “Gastown is really old and the buildings can’t help it. Kitchens can be clean as possible but if your neighbouring building isn’t maintained to code the issue of mice can’t be avoided. Health inspectors only check on places that serve food for standards of cleanliness, but if an office building next door is left to rot and mould, there’s no one there to regulate them.” I concur.

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The bar was adequately stacked with bottles and glasses. I could imagine them being needed on a busy night. But at 4pm on a Tuesday they sat dried and stacked ready to be used. Every other table was occupied by pairs having quite conversation, a few in dressed down suits, others in casual sports apparel. There was a nice vibe for the uneventful evening I wanted. A great place to unwind at after work. Group seating comprised of lowered seats paired with knee leveled tables. And one had a mini table side fireplace to keep things toasty. Washrooms were downstairs in a shared building space. The keys were attached to a whisk, that hung on a hook. Eventually they opened the doors and the key was no longer needed. This I found out, impatiently waiting for said key to return to hook. At 6pm lights dimmed and tea lights in glass cups came out to top each table.

IMG_3502Walking in you can’t miss the smell of cooked ham and fried bacon that wafts out the door as you enter. It certainly lived up to the “pig” in their name. It’s smelt like they had a candle of pork fat burning, not that I am complaining, it certainly got me hungry and craving pork. A great way to get patrons to order more unintentionally.

The menu was smaller, to accommodate the smaller space I suspect. There were six choices for starters and things to be shared, and six of the mains and sandwiches. Everything was made from scratch using fresh and local ingredients, prepared with traditional cooking methods. So they take away the fryers and the gas, for you have an authentic home cooked experience. For appetizers things were as simple as a Caesar salad and hummus and pita; and got as complex as beef carpaccio and filo baked Brie. The entrees took the familiar to new heights in their creative adaptations. Meatloaf on risotto, duck confit in shepard’s pie, and truffled roast beef on a baguette. It was all hearty and all meatful. The bar stacks were bits that were meant to be shovelled into your mouth in between sips of beer. They were salty to encourage more drinking. A plate of bacon, pickled quail eggs, maple peanuts, marinated olives, toasted baguette with aged balsamic, and an arugula salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. All this and three side sauces to add on to anything. For drinks they covered beer and wines, to coffees and teas; and even health drinks in their own labelled cooler. I let my guest, a chef choose our dishes, as she knows best.

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A pint of on the tap beer and a double Caesar.

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“The old ripper”. Tennessee sour mash whiskey shaken hard with puréed white peach, creme de peaches, fresh lemon juice and bitters, strained, and on the rocks.
I literally heard my guest salivate talking about the bourbon cherry in her amazing drink. It was a great pairing with the peanuts. Almost like lemonade it cut into the spiciness of the nuts.
My guest asked for a custom cocktail. This came made with her request for the use of Buffalo chase bourbon. With it was mint, honey, and grapefruit juice. This was a refreshing sip.

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“Spicy maple peanuts”. Each pick came in chunks. They stuck together thanks to the sticky maple adhesion covering each nut. The savoury smack of soy and chilli, made me wish for more maple syrup.

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“Marrow & toast”, roasted marrow bones, garlic confit, sea salt, truffle oil, arugula, bacon crisps, and toast. This was a good portion, three bones deep with marrow. Looking back this dish was on a league of its own. The oily texture of the marrow paired well with crispy toasted baguette. And it’s rich flavour brought out the freshness of the arugula. The bacon and garlic on the side gave things another appreciated element when layered on top of each bite.

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“Meatloaf risotto”. The meat loaf and risotto were made separately, but came together with the cohesion of the in house sauce. It didn’t look like much on an artistic scale, but definitely like something out of your aunts kitchen, delicious and made with care. The meat loaf was kind of bland, it needed its accompanying risotto and tomato-salsa like sauce to perk up its flavour. We also added in the leftover roasted garlic and pinches of sea salt from the marrow dish before, to perk things up some more. I enjoyed the creamy texture of the risotto, and the chewy crumble that became of the meat loaf in your mouth.

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“Duck confit”. Shredded duck leg, dark cherry gravy, mashed potato, smoked cheddar grantinee”. Confit is duck cooked in its own fat, this causes the meat to be very tender. It had a more subtle duck taste than I originally expected. It is hot out of the oven so be careful not to burn your tongue. I used the salad to brighten up each bite of this otherwise rich and heavy dish. Though when compared to the marrow, both this and the risotto came up one dimensional.

Would I come back? – Yes. Given the right mood and the right night, with the right crowd yes. This would be an ideal laid back Wednesday plan. Parking isn’t great, but if you plan to drink you can just hop on the skytrain and make the rest if your way by foot. The walk through Gastown is always a lovely one, lamp posts and cobbled streets. An old world charm not found outside these streets.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. The staff were casual, yet attentive. We never had to go seek anyone out. I dropped two forks, and without a huff got two more. And there was an appreciative banter of exchange between us and our server. This is my guest’s go to, she enjoyed what she originally had so much after her first visit, that she wanted to return with me. She liked the food and the skilled work of the bar tender. Her only wish was that we had a bigger table to accommodate all our plates. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GREEDY PIG
307 W Cordova Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1E5
604-669-4991
hegreedypig.ca
Greedy Pig on Urbanspoon

Japadog Foodtruck

IMG_3440In keeping with my theme of fast food, small bites, and hot dogs as of late; here is “Japadog”. What a coincidence that I mentioned it in my previous post, and today it rolled up outside my work. I was obviously obligated to pay it a visit.

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The truck is pretty simple: red, like the rising sun? If it weren’t for the “Japadog” banner that they laid across the windshield, you wouldn’t know what they were selling from the left side. Luckily in Vancouver the name speaks and sells itself. Today two young Japanese girls worked the truck. They spoke with authentic accents and giggled and bowed as expected. The menu is to your right, each dog a different name with their picture above. No two looked alike and they all looked interesting enough to warrant a trying. One was served with pan fried noodles over the hotdog, another had a deep fried cutlet, and one traded out the hot dog all together for a large tempura-ed shrimp. The Japanese condiments were miso, bonito flakes, dried seaweed, and a special seasoned rice. And the sauces that complimented them included plum, teriyaki, soy, and Japanese mayo.

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I always just order their main hotdog, the one covered in seaweed, that has won them all their accolades. But seeing as today I would need 4, and that I was feeling overwhelmed with the 14 options available I sought out help from the clerks. Together they choose their most popular 4, including their trademark dog.

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“Kurobuta Terimayo”. Kurobuta pork, teriyaki sauce, seaweed, fried onions, and Japanese mayo. This was voted as one of the “101 things to taste before you die” by “Vancouver Magazine”. It had a good sausage, the meat was layered with spices. We found it similar to a Polish hot dog with its crunchy skin. It was aptly spiced without giving you too much heat. There was a good balance between the fried onions and seaweed, the perfect salty meets crunchy.

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Another printed media mentioned hotdog was the “Okonomi”. Kurobuta pork, Japanese sauce, fried onions, Japanese Mayo, bonito flakes, and fried cabbage. It was like a mashed up Japanese pizza, but in a bun and over a dog. The wiener was same as the one before it, equally delicious in this assortment of ingredients. The crispy cabbage gave a nice crunch and the bonito flakes a light texture to enjoy.

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“Love Meat”. Funny title aside, it was great for the lovers of meat. Arabiki pork sausage, cheese, in a beefy meat sauce. The hot dog was just another dog, the sauce is what set it a apart and tied it all together; and the cheese is what made all the difference. The texture was just right. Meaty and chewy with all the right juicy. For the meat lovers guy this is a great snack. It was inhaled in less than a minute.

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“Croquette”. Arabiki pork sausage, fried cabbage, Japanese fried roll filled with mashed potatoes. This sausage was not as good a quality as the ones before it. It would have been better as a smokie. The high
expectations of it were not met, as the cheaper hot dog left you feeling a little short. Overall, it would have been a little better well done. And the croquettes would have been a little better on their own. They didn’t add value to the bun. The crispy nature of the croquette was lost in all the moisture from the heat of the meat and sogginess of the cabbage. And the cabbage only added a different texture, with no actual taste component. The solution would have been to add more sauce, which is an option with their help yourself sauce bar. Though most find additional toppings unnecessary.

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I made one a combo to get a serving of their “shaker fries” for cheaper. “Shichimi” & Garlic”, spicy fries with roasted garlic. Six flavours, so well seasoned that the use of ketchup was made an afterthought. Be sure you eat them fast, the heat from the brown bag made things very soggy, very fast. Maybe shake it in the bag, then pour it out into a cardboard container? I left forgetting the fries and my drink and the girl chased me down. She was genuinely apologetic with panted breath. That was appreciated.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend? – Yes.
These aren’t your connivence store hot dogs. For those who like Japanese food, trying this Asian twist on an all American classic is a treat. A clever way to reinvent two already popular items into something exciting and new. With so many unique offerings multiple trips are needed to sample them all. And given that they have a stationary cart, a store front, and now a food truck you may not travel far to get your fix. It really speaks to the success of their quality tube steak, their business must be better than ever. Don’t deny your cravings.

JAPADOG FOODTRUCK
japadog.com
Japadog on Urbanspoon

Fritz European Fry House

IMG_3438Late night snacking fried up before your eyes. I came here with the sole intention of having a place to write today’s blog post on. Getting off work late means not a lot of restaurants are open and available for dining. But I knew “Fritz” would be, so here I was pulling up right in front. The owner watching, to be able to later tell me I had the best parking spot on the block. 

Their decor is themed after a medieval castle. With simulated stone floors, worn wooden benches, and lanterns hung from decorative beams. They even had their own crest on the back wall. Seating is limited, but majority of their guests take their fries to go and use the benches as a waiting point in between. A few seats are equipped with arm rests, and these arm rests are equipped with holes. The holes are meant as holders for their cone shaped fry cups. As is the case for the iron stool, that serves the same purpose. 

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By the looks of things this was a father – daughter team working from behind the counter. They were enthusiastic and friendly at 12pm. Guess you have to be a night person to be able to work until 2:30am on a Sunday. Though they stay open even later on all other nights, it is as late as 4am on the peak club evenings. They know their demographic. Hungry, drunk, and tried young adults; looking for a warm place to rest their feet and something delicious to cut some of the edge off their intoxication. And “Fritz” is their solution. This is the go-to for late night drunk eating when out on the Granville strip. Why settle for cold rotating pizza under a heat lamp, when you can get potatoes fried to order with all the bells and whistles. 

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Decide between poutine or their fries called “fritz”. You can have your poutine as the main attraction, or as a side with a hotdog. Today I had the later. Choose just the standard gravy and cheese curds, or one up everything with a variety of ingredients. From chicken and pulled pork, to smoke meat, and even real strips of bacon. Make things more filling with a meat and bean chilli over those fries and gravy. And for the vegetarians they have a veggie gravy available. They have two sizes more than your regular poutine places. If large just doesn’t cut it, amp up your order with a jumbo or even the bucket size. Tonight I wanted the traditional, and went for just a regular poutine in a medium size. I am a big fan of their peppery gravy and did not want to have any extras take away from that. “Fritz’s” gravy is my favourite poutine gravy. It is rich and meaty with a great kick. It doesn’t hurt that I really like pepper in my food. 

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The fritz fries can get just as interesting, with a long list of sauces meant to question the use of ketchup in the traditional French fry pairing. Each dip sounded tantalizing and worth trying. Garlic lovers, feta onion, jalapeño mustard, Parmesan peppercorn, and sundried tomato pesto; just to name a few that peaked my interest. I took one of the daughter’s suggestion and made the mango green chutney my choice. Though I later changed my mind to the blue cheese sauce, just as the father began scooping my original pick into a small triangular cup. He warned that changing my selection would mean I would be missing a good one. So despite my indecision he was kind enough to give me a half portion of each in the one cone cup. I was ecstatic, I would be able to try two sauces for the $1 price per sauce. I wanted to try more of their sauces but at $1 per and with only a small portion of fries, it would enviably go to waste. The specialty European dips were 25 cents more: fritessaus, peanut sauce, and curry ketchup. I had a small fritz with blue cheese and mango green chutney dipping sauces. 

Would I come back? – Yes. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. 
Fries are one of those food items that can eat like a snack or eat like a meal. It spans countries and cultures. No one turns down a good fry, be it the crispy ends or the chewy centres. And the fries at “Fritz” covers both the crispy and the chewy well. The fact that they managed to find a way to take something so simple to the next level through condiments and spreads; then market it to the right crowd, in the right area is commendable. They have a successful business on their hands, a gem to be passed down from father to daughter. Next time you are out late on Granville Street downtown, be sure to stop by for some comfort food the European way. Don’t deny your cravings. 

FRITZ 
718 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2G6
604-684-0811
fritzeuropeanfryhouse.com
Fritz European Fry House on Urbanspoon

Van Hot Dog

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IMG_3364I wonder how much business hot dog carts have lost since the arrival of food trucks? I thought this, as I decided to grab some street meat for myself today. Doing this to avoid the small line at a truck nearby. They certain don’t beckon the same attention as a sunshine yellow truck or one with flames across its sides. But hot dog carts have been in business for years, and they must still be holding their own to be out here grinding day after day. What has changed? Gone are your run of the mill dog and bun, there is now a need to reinvent the hot dog. To make it stand out when they have the likes of so many food trucks to compete against. The solution that “Van Hot Dog” came up with was variety. Choices in their meats and options in their condiments. The pictures of all their offerings were certainly done to be appealing. No two hotdog photos looked alike, despite them all starting out the same. White bread bun, with an option for brown, and sliced and grilled hot dog meat. Bavarian smokie, Bratwurst sausage, All beef hot dog, Jalapeño and cheese smokie, Chicken smokie, Italian smokie, and Veggie hot dogs, in their usual off pale pink colour. Wanting something cheap and simple I settled on the all beef, after the chicken had all sold out by 2pm. That’s the thing about hot dogs cart, you can still get something for a five. The sauces included the traditional ketchup, mustard, relish, and mayo. Then branched out into ranch, barbecue, and tartar. Toppings available were shredded seaweed, sauerkraut, picked peppers, olives, and bacon bits. What they lacked in exciting food they made up in exciting add ons to dress your dog up with. I appreciated their attempt to keep up with Vancouver’s hot dogging trends, by offering seaweed. The picture of my hot dog got confused with a “japadog”. 

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You can’t really go wrong with a hot dog. A quick and simple meal when you need to be on the go. An easy handheld that ables you to walk and eat at the same time. Not saying it’s the best, but this one of the most longer standing hot dig cart in Vancouver, on the corner of Robson and Burrard, the southeast corner. I remember passing by this thing in my youth, the first street food vendor I ever visited. Here’s hoping they are able to keep up with the eggs to go, the sandwiches grilled up, and crepes coned in a round. Don’t deny your cravings. 

 

VAN HOT DOG
900 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2V7
604-322-6249
Van Hot Dog on Urbanspoon

Faubourg Paris

IMG_3363Bread, viennoiserie, macaron, pastry, cakes, catering, and wholesale, oh my! I have been a long time fan of “Faubourg” bakery in Kerrisdale, so was ecstatic when then opened their long awaited, second location downtown. For me this is a destination closer to my home and work, and therefore more visit friendly. Though their plans for expansion doesn’t stop there, with goals for a third shop popping up in Park Royal by winter 2013. Now you need not travel far, where ever you are, for an authentic French bakery. At the Hornby location they do the same great delicate desserts, the same fresh loaves of bread, and the same popular flavours of macarons. So you are not missing out on anything from location to location. This includes their pastry chef’s unique offerings only available for that month. October’s selection is a honey caramelized fig and blue cheese macaron, a pumpkin flavoured cream filled croissant, an apple bread, and a spiced apple caramel tower dessert. All very reminiscent of fall and the harvest is brings. What a novel idea to keep you visiting month to month.

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Their covered patio was a step up and at the forefront of their shop. The large orange umbrellas used for sun and shade spoke fall and was striking against their chocolate brown awning. It was 1pm and on this sunny Vancouver fall day, patrons were enjoying coffees and teas to go in scarves and knitted wear. With your first step in you could tell this location was much larger and much newer than its predecessor. Polished white counters, spotless glass barriers, and top of the line stainless steel equipment behind the counter. I was surprised that there were so many security cameras in bubbles over head, I guess some would steal for the perfect macaron.
Seating was located on the patio, on two seater tables inside, and as one of the ten high top chairs that lined the long dining table in the centre of the room. On this feature table was a large glass vase, the home of eight or more white orchids. Above hung two metal and sparkling crystal chandeliers. They looked alive like the vines of a plant budding at the ends. This really brought a level of fancy to the space. The panoramic portrait of women and men in the 50’s enjoying tea brought a level of sophistication. And the black and white projected movie against the adjacent blank wall was a unique touch all their own. It all reminded me of a parlour. I could definitely see myself enjoy tea and sweets here. What the space lacked in intimacy, it definitely made up in opulence.

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I didn’t like the method in which guests lined up to place their order. Everyone would queue for the one till. Once there, the cashier would have to double back to recall what you wanted from showcases. I am sure my visit was an isolated incident. It would make more sense to have a staff stationed up front to pull your order together, then bring it to the cashier to ring through. I wasn’t getting that, even with the presence of the three other employees, not otherwise engaged with customers.

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Given that this is on their front facing display, it is the first thing you see as you enter, and that it is pictured on their bus ads; I had to order myself some macarons. With 11 different flavours and a set deal for ordering in groups, I went for 9 to ensure I tried all that I wanted and the rest that I found unique. I left lemon and chocolate behind, and the following is a list of macarons in order of how I consumed them.
This month’s feature was the Figs and blue cheese macaron. With a flavour combination like that I had to give it a try. I thought the pale hue and its swatch of purplish-navy was a great nod to the colour of blue cheese. As was the case of each macaron, you could definitely make out the ingredients mentioned in their names. The sweet figs and salty cheese made this treat a salty earthy bite. You were able to single out the blue cheese, as it left an after taste not to be forgotten.
The “Faubourg signature” was a passionfruit and vanilla macaron. It was more tart than sweet, I suspect the vanilla was used to balance the fruit.
Judging by what sold down, the salted butter caramel was a best seller. This was sticky and gooey morsel. I was able to clearly make out the richness of the butter.
I didn’t know what cassis was, but was willing to take a bite before I goggled its definition. It turns out it is most commonly a wine made from black current. No wonder its taste reminded me of dates.
The light purple lavender was delicate and flowery. It tasted as pretty as it looked.
The cappuccino was strong and full of flavour, very true to its name.
This was the sweetest pistachio macaron I have ever had. Before this I have only tried ones that bore a gentle nutty hint.
The raspberry tasted juicy as it was bursting with flavour.
And strawberry black pepper was really fresh, with most of its sweetness offset by spicy pepper.

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Looking to try something new, my attempts to gravitate away from the beautiful pastries failed. They had eclairs, orange merengue tarts, tiramisu logs, lemon tarts, mille feuille (also referred to as a Napoleon. layers of custard, and vanilla on French pastry), and whole cakes ready to be iced or chocolate piped. Though considering I was looking to take my order with me I opted for one of their freshly baked bread-like goods. I figured they would be more travel friendly. The worse thing is buying a pretty dessert, only to open the box later to find smudged cream and dented chocolate.

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I ordered one of their chocolate twists and one of their raisin spirals. Both were topped with rock sugar and both did not have enough of their namesake ingredient. As delicious as they looked biting into either left me disappointed. There was no chocolate inside and no raisins embedded within. The chocolate were dots sprinkled in nooks and crannies of the knotted up dough. Hardly enough to acknowledge the taste of chocolate, let alone get a little per bite. The same could be said for the lack of raisin presence in my spiral. It was good, but I found the pastry itself nothing special. It didn’t live up to my expectations of the place. These were snacks I could get from my local grocery store. Disappointed. They would have made great ends to sandwiches, as they were plain with the need for flavour enhancing ingredients in the middle.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it ? – Yes.
I like their location, just off the Robson street. Parking is a little difficult, but most Vancouverites walk downtown anyways. Easy to get to means easy to quench your macaron cravings. Their pastries are works of art. Their food is made fresh. And they serve savouries and sandwiches for those looking for more of a meal. The space in which all this lives is quite special. The perfect well lite place to sit, take a breath, and enjoy tea and a tart or coffee and a cake. Don’t deny your cravings.

FAUBOURG PARIS
769 Hornby Street, Vancouver BC, V6C 3L2
604-267-0769
faubourg.com
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Chili Pepper House

IMG_3314Serving authentic (Desi) Indian style Chinese food, not quite sure what that entails… After our first choice restaurant was closed at 8:30pm (that’s going to be a whole other blog post), and after painful minutes of indecision we ended our back and forth at “Chili Pepper House”. I have been a few times before with family and friends. It’s near my old neighbourhood and they serve everything you need from your typical Chinese restaurant. Parking is easy with ample street side and a few stalls in their own lot. You can’t miss its bright yellow awning on the corner of Kingsway and Rupert. And you can’t help but wonder about the massage pallor adjacent to it that is still open at 10pm on a Wednesday night. 

Walking in, the bright side was how delicious things smelled. The dark side, how worn out and down everything looked. Dusty plants, a grimey washroom, and a high chair that looked as if it wouldn’t pass recent safety inspections. But it was busy with patrons seated and ones coming in after, that we were optimistic enough. To summarize its decor would be to call it run of the mill. No stand outs or attention gaining accents. The yellow lights, the toupe walls, and the black chairs paired up with white tables did nothing for the decor. A few Asian inspired paintings and works of art hung on walls; and one of an Italian landscape, just to throw you off. Thought clearly with this traffic the food spoke for itself. That and the corner in which all their awards displayed. Surprised it was tucked away, as apposed to bring front and centre when you enter. 

IMG_3315We were seated at one of the tightly placed tables. So close I could hear the man at the table next to ours scratching, dragging nails through flesh. Each table was pre-set with plates and utensils, as many dishes were meant to be shared. A plate of spices and sauces over a paper towel sat at each table. The condiments included salt, pepper, soya sauce, chilli sauce, and pieces of whole chilli bobbing in brine. The menu was a duotang filed with page protectors. Each a page, a different category. Though they ran out of content pages five short. It took for granted that its customers knew the ins and outs of Chinese food. It was page after page of simply naming proteins, and what sauces and vegetables they would be paired with. I did appreciate that a few of the meat dishes were specified as being either dry or boneless. This was of course followed by its description in Chinese characters. There were no pictures to rely on or any detail to help you decide. Without the two there is a less likely chance of customers trying anything new, or wanting to come back to try more of what they know not. Though at the end of the day, if you have a favourite Chinese dish you can be sure this menu covers it. All except for pork, they don’t cook pork. Didn’t get a chance to ask why. 

Originally we were eye balling the “Deep fried mini buns” and “Papadum” for appetizers. Only to find that the former was empty inside and only used as a bread to dip into sauces and soups. And that the latter was a corn chip, served with out the accompaniment of sauces. It worried me that no server bothered to lend clarity to anything we ordered. If a dish landed on our table not to our expectations would we be able to return it to the kitchen? 

IMG_3319“Chicken hot and sour soup” for a small it came to $4.25. In it was tofu, shrimp, bamboo shoots, chicken, mushroom, cabbage, and black seaweed. This is my favourite soup, perfect for those who enjoy a flavour explosion in their mouth. A bold taste and complimentary ingredients; all wrapped up in a great slurpy, spicy, and tangy profile. Be warned this is one of those soups you chew. Interestingly, when one of the servers delivered this bowl she mentioned being able to tone down the spiciness, and suggested we give it a try to see if it was too much. We didn’t take her up on her offer, but it was nice that we were given the option. I now wonder how much different would this be the second time around with less spice. 

IMG_3324There was a section of chef recommended dishes. The “Five treasures” intrigued by guest. All it said was it was chicken, beef, prawns, scallop, and squid. At $14.95 this was the most expensive dish, and luckily the best tasting one as well. This was definitely the sole stand out of dinner. The sauce had a sweet teriyaki like finish. As promised it was mainly proteins intermingled with a few vegetables. All the vegetables were surprisingly tender and well cooked, often the case they come out half raw. The pieces of squid was the best part. It was cooked perfectly soft that you had no difficulty cutting the large piece through with your teeth. Though with only two pieces in whole dish you felt cheated. 

IMG_3323With Chinese food you always get a rice dish, it serves as a good balance to even out all the strong dishes and salty spoonfuls. “Black bean fried rice”. At $8.75 it was disappointing that the rice tasted plain on its own. This is despite the fact that it had over half a dozen ingredients in the mix. As expected it made a good base to eat everything with. Though we could not taste any black bean. 

IMG_3322“Chicken curry”, when asked one of the servers confirmed this was a yellow curry. I Immediately had a bowl of florescent yellow stew enter my mind. So when I saw this plate for $8.95 I was disappointed. This is proof that pictures and details are necessary on a menu. It was ok, spicy with the appropriate curry flavouring, but it was just not I was hoping for. 

IMG_3325A spoon of “Sweet and sour chicken” for $10.25 gave a great break in between all the spicy dishes. It’s thick syrupy sauce was a burst of freshness, along with the juicy segments of pineapple, and crisp pieces of red and green pepper. Much better than the variations found under food court heat lamps, and in all you can eat buffet lines.

Everything came out so quick and all at once that I was skeptical over its freshness. We speculated whether it was made to order or reheated on the spot, but were unable to dicipher this through taste or appearance. Oh MSG. As a whole the dishes were spicy, hot enough that there was a constant lingering of it in your mouth. And as a result everything eventually started to taste the same despite dish, sauce, or seasoning. Everything was also very salty, not even four glasses of water could rectify this. I was happy that the meal ended with a complimentary fortune cookie. It’s simple, one toned taste helped to clear some of our palate. Not enough Chinese restaurants adopt this practice. I know fortune cookies aren’t originally Chinese, but the two are associated hand in hand now.

Would I come back? – Yes. Like today if I was in the area and needed something in a pitch this would be a decent go to. They had surprisingly good customer service. Tonight was the most interaction I have ever had with staff at an Asian restaurant. One lady called us “friends” and asked us to enjoy. She made small talk about what we thought of the food. And after finding out it was our first time, suggested we tell all our friends to visit her. This is a rarity as most Asian places focus on speed of service and ignore the human interaction piece. So I was impressed at her attempts, despite the language barrier. Though truthfully there is no need to return again, as you can probably find something similar to this Chinese restaurant around any block. 
Would I recommend it? – No. This is your typical Chinese restaurant, good but nothing about it was memorable. This is the kind of food you eat to be full, but expect to be hungry with an hour later. I ate until stuffed, but then enroute home digested enough to be able to stop for bubble tea. I needed something to refresh my palate. It is telling when you want to scrub your mouth clean of the taste of the food you just had. 

CHILI PEPPER HOUSE
#1-3003 Kingsway, Vancouver BC
604-431-8633
Chili Pepper House 嘉應閣 on Urbanspoon

Guanaco FoodTruck

IMG_3305Pupusas & Antojitos. Another food truck rolls up, which means an impromptu lunch for me. I don’t think I have ever tried Salvadorian cuisine, so sampling the most popular from a travelling food truck seemed like the best solution to rectify this. It’s tomato red, pearl white, and lime green colour scheme is a little hard to miss. And the palm tree painted on the side with the authentic music playing from the back, gives you a come hither hint of the exotic. The music was catchy and definitely as colourful as the truck. All together, this was definitely hard to avoid looking at when you walked by. 

IMG_3304I am always too eager when I see a new foodtruck. They say 11am and I show up 5 minutes to, only to have to wait 30 minutes after. Though today the staff member was nice enough and my patience was appreciated. When the side panel lifted, what appeared was a mother and son team working out of the truck. (At least I think they were mother and son). He ran the front and conveyed the order to her. Given the chance he also helped to prep the food. I wasn’t the only customer to order and when her food came up it was hard to hear past the trumpets and maracas found in each song. 

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The menu was easy to navigate with a coloured diagram showing what a “pupusa”, their main speciality was. This included a picture and placement of each ingredient in its maize tortilla. Each “pupusa” is filled with cheese, seasoned pork, and savory refried beans. And comes with a side of mild tomato sauce and “curtido”, a pickled slaw. They can also be made vegetarian, by being filled with vegetables and beans. Between chicken and pork, I got the “Chicharron (pork) pupusa” platter, which comes with a side of “yucca frita”. The shell was soft like naan bread, made mushy with the black beans tucked inside. There were more beans then pork, and they overpowered the whole thing. Each bite needed a bit of slaw to give it that juicy crunch that was missing without it. A pop of colour and spritz of freshness was also missing, more than what the salsa and slaw could supply alone. The fries were thick cut, deep fried cassava root. The texture is crispy because it isn’t battered. It is done so well that you get that battered taste and texture without the transfat. But fries without dip is a shame, they could have really used a creamy sauce to soften each stick. Even just mayo would have help. 

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“Pasteles”, crisp fried mini sized pockets, stuffed with beef or chicken and diced vegetables. I ordered one of each. Looking at them I was skeptical if they would be stuffed sufficiently, as is often the case when you order dumplings. So was delighted when I cut in and everything oozed out. The chicken was packed full of cheese, there was no skimping here. Each bite was like a creamy Alfredo morsel. Soft and melty inside, crispy from the deep frying outside. The beef “pastele” was more flavourful. And when the addition of vegetables, it reminded me of shepard’s pie, without the potato. These were great handheld snacks, sort of like a fancy pizza pocket. 

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“Horchata”, a traditional beverage made with morro seeds, ground cocoa, cinnamon, sesame seeds, and vanilla. It is a sweet milky drink that reminded me of what is left over after you finish your bowl of cinnamon toast crunch cereal. The food was made on the spot so a wait was required. But the drink came fast, as it premade and churning in a container before it was poured to my cup. 

Would I come back? – No. I found the food just ok, not something I personally would crave for. Despite its flavours and its appearance, it is not to be confused with Mexican cuisine. Where I find Mexican food bold, fresh and flavourful; this lacked the same spicy and overall kick. It all seemed a little bland and continue to taste like it was missing something. An original twist or spin to make it stand out? 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. For those like me, who have yet to try Salvadorian food this is a great place to start. You need not commit to larges portions, and the prices are decent in case you find it not your type of food. They also deliver as noted by the “don’t cook just eat . ca” tag. How convenient will your first Salvadorian experience be? Don’t deny your craving. 

GUANACO
604-442-2374
Guanaco Truck on Urbanspoon

Papa Greek

IMG_3229The speed and connivence of a food court stop, with the comfort of a quite sit down restaurant, all in an intimate space of a cafe. When in Maple Ridge your lunch options are limited. I refused to settle on a chain restaurant, and didn’t want to chance anything by choosing a random hole in the wall. Most time was spent trying to find a unique spot that didn’t look run down. Eventually our travel concluded at a small outdoor shopping complex. It was here that we settled on the newer and cleaner looking “Papa Greek”. It’s name was as creative as it’s menu.

The place was pin drop quiet with no music playing. The only other party left as we sat, as was the case after us. As we left a group of three came in. The place never had more than one of its 8 tables full, while we visited.

IMG_3230We didn’t expect much looking at the server, who was the only staff member in today. She was young and definitely only here for a paycheque. But we were already though the door and the photo menu looked good enough to try. The menu was fast food style, back lit, above the serving counter. With 18 familiar classics, they had all the would-be Greek cravings covered. Beef, chicken, lamb, and salmon souvlaki. And for the vegetarians there was a platter with veggie patties. If you want some variation, go for the chicken and beef gyro combos. And for those looking for non Greek options in a Greek restaurant (like my guest), choose from chicken fingers, Caesar salads, wraps, and lasagna. Each entree was severed with roasted potato, rice pilaff, Greek salad, and tzatziki sauce. For an additional charge you can add on a pita as well.

After ordering and paying. The lone employee slowly began assembling our lunches. We honestly thought that there was a guy in the back who was going to do all the cooking, so were immediately regretting the money we had handed over.

Making the lasagne involvedremoving a pre-prepared dish from the fridge, ladling tomato sauce over it, then shoving it into the oven. Everything else came from the covered metal trays in the front. We watched her assemble and cook. As we sat things were looking bad. I am sure she got the proper training to do her job and was has the skills to work this location herself. However based on what we were seeing, we weren’t holding our breaths for delicious plates. Though it did get better as the food was delivered with a smile, and it all came together hot and smelling as it should.

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Even at $10, this was a small portion. For one skewer, it was over priced. I have gotten more meat out of a fast food burger, at half the price. The beef was a little dry and a lot chewy, not surprising from a reheat job. The rice and potatoes were also reheated, but their heavily garlic-ed seasonings made them the headline of the dish. The Greek salad was ice cold and drenched in a pasty dressing. It can only be described as a half ranch, half thousand island concoction. Though despite its look, it wasn’t half bad.

IMG_3235The machine that was used to bake the lasagna was impressively fast. The dish could have been a little hotter, but it wasn’t half bad, being taken from cold to hot in a matter of minutes. The tomato sauce was a little too sweet, and therefore tasted liked like it was missing something. A pinch of Italian spice? Something to give it a touch more authenticity. Maybe it was basil?

During our wait and in between our speculative conversation, we had lowered our expectations so much that we actually found the food okay. We were genuinely surprised over how much better it tasted than some of the other Greek restaurant we have visited. This was definitely better than any food court meal. The point of this shoppe is decent Greek food, fast. And they certainly delivered on their average offerings.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No
Maple Ridge is a little far to travel for just edible Greek food.

PAPA GREEK
670-22709 Lougheed Hwy, Maple Ridge BC, V2X 0T5
604-466-4060
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Boneta

IMG_3070 Fine wine and small plates. A girl’s night out deserves a location that allows for decant conversation over good food and abundant drinks.

The restaurant is a little hard to find as it is not aligned street side. Instead a sandwich board points you in the right direction. A few steps lead into an open court yard. Plainly adorned, their white name written on their blacken window is the only indication of your reached destination. Just be sure to avoid the sapling that is idly planted in the middle of your path. Walking in without a reservation, on a Friday night, we were surprised to be seated only after 5 minutes. Though as great as this was, the minutes coming up to it were a little rocky. The host couldn’t care less if we left or stayed. By his tone, it almost felt as if he wanted us to leave. Originally he postulated that our wait would be 30 minutes for a table, of which would be spent standing in front of the entrance. The one chair in the corner did nothing to accommodate two grown women. Luckily our soon to be server was on the ball, and suggested splitting the table for four in to two for two. Good move as I was going to suggest this course of action myself. It’s hard to tell a customer that they are no seats available when they can clearly see the one empty table, less then three feet away.

IMG_3071With our table and the washrooms right up front, there was no need to explore the entire depth of the restaurant. From what I could see, nothing stood out more than their overhead lighting. Clusters of lightbulbs brought together to resemble a tree branch. Bulbs in place of what would be leaves. Several units hung from the ceiling in different watts and in different arrangements. Seating was available in either tables and booths. All of which were positioned closely to maximize space; indirectly allowing optimal eavesdropping of surrounding conversations. Three of the walls were windows, they allowed in daylight and the peers from the foot traffic passing by. Several coloured pieces of art hung at the forefront of a few of these windows. They resembled stain glass, in yellow, red, green, purple, and blue. At the very back of the restaurant was a greyscale print of Yaletown’s skyline. Buildings done as decals on a building.

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The atmosphere was pretty casual. The staff dressed in their every day wear echoed this, pleated slacks, printed button ups and silk patterned blouses. From where we sat it gave us a look into the bustling kitchen. Here, a team of professionally dressed chefs in white smocks and clean aprons were working with a smile.
The overall space was incredibly loud, being arm’s length away from my guest didn’t make it any easier to communicate. There was the need to have our back and forth done through spurts of shouting, and illustrated through wild arm movements. Not the best place for intimate conversation.

The menu was a listing of wines and cocktails, and a page of small plates and tapas. The introduction to it spoke of the freshness in their ingredients and the timeliness of their seasonal offerings. It was all reflective of where the chefs and owners live and eat. This was the same for their carefully cultivate selection of wines. Everything was decently priced, so I was curious enough to ask how much the market price beef dish would be going for tonight. The “Cote de Boeuf” included marrows for two, and would be a worth while 50 minute wait. However at $89 a plate, we found having three bottles of wine a better option, at least for our specific needs.

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As is the traditions with our girl’s nights, my guest and I choose our first bottle of the evening, “Monte Cicogna Verdicchio”. This was a light and crisp wine, likened to a “Pinot Grigio”. It went down easy and was done in no time.

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“The octopus chips” were seasoned in lemon, chilli, and parsley; and a served along side a spicy aioli. You could definitely taste the lemon in each piece, it was so sharp that it made things too tart. The only way to mask this flavour was to dip generously into the spicy aioli. However the sauce definitely over powered octopus. If I hadn’t chosen it, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it was. It was soggy and salty, as it arrived onto our table cold. The coating tasted stale, and too much chewing was needed to get through each piece.

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After the disappointment found in our first order, we stuck to the more traditional options of the menu. “The poutine” was hand cut fries, fresh cheese curds, and “proper gravy”. I was intrigued by what “proper gravy” would taste like. I found no difference in it, compared in the gravies I have had in poutines of the past. This was good as I worked my way down to the bottom. The gravy wasn’t too salty, and they weren’t stingy with the cheese. You can’t really go wrong with something as simple as poutine.

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And as a perfect pairing with our wine we had some cheese. “Three fine cheeses with bread, crackers, candied nuts, and preserved fruits.” The presentation won me over with its colour and delicateness. The sprigs of green brought some much need colour to all the yellow and brown; and the slices of pear and the pieces of raspberry brought some fresh sweetness to an other wise savoury plate. As good as this was, each element on its own was nothing exclusively unique, or particularly difficult to assemble as a whole. I regretted ordering this after the realization that this was all something that could have been done for myself in the comfort of my own home.

Would I come back? – Yes. The night was a success. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest coming back, but wouldn’t be apposed to returning as well.
Would I recommend it? – No. There was nothing that really impressed me, nor was there anything really warranting a direct mentioning of. This was just an okay place in Yaletown. Don’t deny your cravings.

BONETA
12 Water St, Vancouver BC, V6B 0B7
604-684-1844
boneta.ca
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