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Month: December 2013 Page 1 of 2

Hoi An Cafe

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Craving Asian food, I sought out my guest for the best. He has never steered me wrong, and today was no different. He took me to one of his favourite go-to’s for Vietnamese cuisine. This was a nice family run establishment. Good food, a warm setting, and friendly faces serving you with a smile. Definitely one of those places sustained by the surrounding neighbourhood. With earlier closing hours and a one day close per week, make sure they are open and serving before you make the trip down.

The decor was simple and clean. Things appeared newer. Pink to beige painted walls, ceiling fans, marble table tops, black chairs, and a corner booth upholstered in red pleather. Their restaurant’s name was painted in red on the back wall, just after the cash register. And past this, gave you a look into their modest kitchen. Overall there isn’t much to look at in terms of decorations. An oil canvas painting here, a set of abstract pictures there, a couple of mirrors lining the hall, and a mounted television directed solely at the lone booth.

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I appreciated their easy to navigate menu. It led with larger coloured photos. 2″x 3″ of their dry noodle specials, spicy beef noodle soups, other noodle soups, and appetizers. For those not dining with someone familiar with their cuisine, this would help to get things more adventurous. The pictures certainly enticed me into ordering two entrees. Our food came out fast and the heat it created kept the indoors warm, with a film of condensation on the windows as proof.

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When you think Vietnamese, you think pho. And when you think pho you think, a hot bowl of soupy noodles. However here, their specialty is dry noodles. My guest claims that he often has pho at home, because he is Vietnamese. So he makes a worth while trip out here for their dry noodles. He claims no where else makes it quite like them. and that it is that good. Mid way through my meal I whole heartedly concurred. For one thing the noodles used are a wide yellow rice noodle. It’s look and colour alone is distinct. Then when you add in its original taste, you have a winner. If it didn’t come recommended I would have missed this opportunity to try something new and delicious. Both of the dry noodle varieties we ordered are similar in taste, just different in protein. The peanuts added an enjoyable textural crunch. And with all the meat and seasonings, this dish had several levels. Each bite was a little different than the last. The black sesame rice cake was an interesting element. Definitely dressing the plate up with its black and white nature. Though I thought it didn’t really compliment the noodles. It had a nice buttery quality, enjoyable when eaten alone. And if you really miss the soup element in your bowl of dry noodles, you can add a small soup for $1.00.

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“Mi Quang”. Wide yellow rice noodles with sliced pork and shrimp cooked in a pork and shrimp puréed broth. Served with a side of fresh mixed green herbs, banana blossoms, and peanuts.

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“Cau Lau”. Wide yellow rice noodles and thinly sliced pork meat cooked in a sautéed pork and garlic sauce. Served with a side of fresh mixed green herbs, banana blossoms, and peanuts.

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I anticipated eating regular pho today so had to order a bowl. As per most places, I was given the option of having it small or large. This is a small “Pho Tai Bo Vien”, with sliced rare beef and beef balls in noodle soup. It wasn’t anything unique, but it was so tasty that I didn’t need the tube of brown or chilli sauce or chilli oil present at each table.

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For an appetizer we had the “Banh Bot Luc”. Another dish I would not have considered trying had it not been thanks to my guest’s insisting. Usually when it comes to Vietnamese food, I get what I like and I stick with what I know; as it never grows tired. These bundles were steam pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings wrapped in banana leaves. Once cooked, they are served as is with a sautéed onion and fish vinaigrette sauce on the side. I like tapioca and enjoyed the chewy texture of each dumpling. And for once I appreciated the less meat filling to dumpling ratio. It was just the right amount of stuffing to allow the tapioca coating to shine. To perfectly finish each bite off, I suggest the double dipping of it into the fish sauce. The sauce’s light and salty, yet sweet taste accented the meaty and heavy nature of the dumplings.

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Our server was a young lady working the front herself. She was polite in handing us and the 4 other tables that came after us well. She was on top of refilling our complimentary cups of tea and even checked in to see how things were going. She also made no note when I ordered two dinners and then had to ask for two containers to pack them up in.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I am deeming this as my new favourite Vietnamese place. And like my guest, I will not be ordering the regular Pho soup noodles when I visit, that I can get equivalently elsewhere. I will come for their dry noodles because it is that unique and that delicious. As well as their assortment of appetizers. I hear their salad rolls are just as good as their tapioca dumplings. The salad rolls not only come with the usual prawn, but include an addition of pork rolled up as well. Just don’t forget to visit the ATM before you sit down, they only accept cash. And be warned that parking is limited with all the other restaurants around, a few laps around the block may be necessary. Don’t deny your cravings.

HOI AN CAFE
5002 Victoria Drive, Vancouver BC
604-566-9283
Hoi An Cafe on Urbanspoon

E-Tea

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A craving for bubble tea brought me to the closest place for it in my neighbourhood. One of those bbt (bubble tea) places small enough that there is never a wait. You can be sure that there is always ample seating at a less trafficked place like this. I suspect this destination is well supported by families in the surrounding area and kids from the neighbouring elementary school. With a few parking stalls out front and some by the homes near by, it is convenient enough to get.

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The space was brightly lit with fixtures above and bulbs on top of booths. I have never been to a restaurant this well lit. There are no paintings, and there are no decorations. Just a back lit display of dots and lines, with tinsel to celebrate the holidays. Yellow chairs, beige booths, dark wooden tables, and walls centred with metal and bleach wood. On each table, a sign holder for specials, and another for new menu items attached to the wall. I was impressed by the restaurant’s branded napkins in boxes. They must be doing well enough to have such a luxury.

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Most notable in decor was the towered showcases by the entrance. In them a collection of knick knacks and toys. Key chains, fake glasses, watches, and even contact lenses. Items their patrons would consider purchasing before or after their Taiwanese meal. They brought the night market shopping to their night market cuisine. I wonder how often such items were purchased?

The menu was a coloured and laminated page, back and front. On it a listing of all your Taiwanese classics. Appetizers of meat made into balls, rolls, or wontons. American influences of sandwiches and fries. And a do it yourself noodle option where you choose everything from your broth, to your noodles, to the sauces, and the meat and vegetables that sat on top. Prices varied by whether you wanted to choose one ingredients or two. Or if you wanted to add any additional elements at an additional cost. Noodle soups, fried rice, fried noodles, stone pot, toast, congee, and dishes influences by western society. I especially enjoyed their offer for a free beverage between certain times, for certain dishes. The free drink would be your run of the mill tea or soft drink, though it came with the possibility of having it bubbled and upgraded at an additional cost.

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We were presented with complimentary Taiwanese style hot tea and a plate of appetizers to start. Both unfortunately went barely touched, with all the food we were ordering. Plus the sample portion of stewed cabbage, roasted salted peanuts, and bean sprouts did not look appetizing, nor did it taste it.

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Despite eating in, my bubble tea came in a to go cup. Sealed with plastic on top and a wrapped up straw on the side. The “Green milk tea bubble tea”, cost me 50 cents more to have my pearls half coconut jelly and half tapioca. Bubble tea is not for those we don’t enjoy some occasional chewing in their drinking.

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“Taiwanese beef noodle soup”. One of my favourite dishes that I haven’t had in a while. Yet despite my hunger and longing for nostalgia, this giant bowl of soup was disappointing. It lacked a richness to its flavour, and I wasn’t expecting this type of noodle. I wished for the wide ribbon-like egg noodles or the thick tube-like flour noodles. The only thing that I appreciated about this dish was its portion. A bowl as large as my head, for under $9. And not liking the idea if wasting food I ended up finishing 3/4 in house and taking the rest to go for lunch the next day.

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“Popcorn chicken”, the snack size. A very popular snack item, often coupled with bubble tea. Each place does it differently. Here the breading was crunchier and the taste saltier. It was alright, though no where near the best chicken bites at a bbt place I have ever had. Each nugget was piping hot, a distinct peppery, salty, and crispy taste. The black plate the pile of meat sat on, showed all greasy finger prints; and how much oil went into preparing this.

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“Beef roll”. This is Chinese wrap filled with crispy skinned beef, green onions, and hoisin sauce; all wrapped up in a deep fried onion pancake. The beef was dry and overcooked, though well hidden with the excessive use of hoisin. The onion pancake was crisp and well seasoned. I preferred to enjoy them as is. Overall, this was a very salty dish, in deep need of water.

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“Teriyaki chicken steak on rice” served in a stone pot. The use of the stone pot meant your dish continued to cook as it sits, and is served at your table. The rice resting against the stone bowl got crispier. The bowl kept the dish hot and made the rice hard. And when all stirred together it made for an all encompassing texture profile. The rice was toasted, the meat was tender, the sauce was thick, and the onions was bountiful. Soft, saucy, sweet, and sticky. My guest was unable to identify which part of the chicken each piece of came from. And complained that each dark piece of meat was primarily fat and skin. I guess for those unfamiliar with the cuisine, these cuts of meat can be off putting. However being Asian I am fully comfortable eating meat with their nerves and tendons. So therefore found this dish tasty, and even better as leftovers the next day.

Tonight there were two waitresses serving, both overlapping in tables and helping as needed. The place was certainly not busy on a Wednesday night. Thought only one of them came patient and kind. She would add casual batter as she delivered plates and recovered used dishes. The other made mistakes on orders without an apology; and dropped plates off without a word or look. She gave off the impression that she was above this place and we were beneath her. She definitely did not make us feel welcome, instead we were made to feel more like a burden.

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The following is a listing of food and drinks I have had during previous visits. Today (above) was the first time that I actually had a full meal here. As per most bubble tea places, the possibility of take out is decorated with cute characters on their sealed lids; and bright coloured individually wrapped straws. Papaya milk tea bubble tea half and half. And milk tea with regular pearls.

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“Mango Volcano”. A dessert made with vanilla ice cream, mango purée, and toast, drizzled with generous condense milk and chocolate syrup. Simple and sweet this was delicious. The bread acted as a sponge soaking up the melty ice cream, juicy mango, and drippy milk and chocolate. I was delighted that it didn’t disappoint in presentation, I got plenty of mango and could see the volcano reference in its name.

Would I come back? – Yes. Mainly for bubble tea to go, as it is close enough in my neighbourhood. I would also consider making this a possible after dinner hang out spot. With ample room, longer opening hours, brighter lights, and cheaper prices, “E. Tea” makes for a decent place to sit and chat for an extended time.
Would I recommend it? – No. The food was utterly disappointing, over salted and overcooked. It didn’t come close to any of the other Taiwanese dishes I have had in the past. And most upsetting was the abrasive nature of their staff. I left with none of my bubble tea restaurant cravings fulfilled today. Don’t deny your cravings.

E-Tea
3281 East 22nd Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5M 2Z1
604-453-1832
E-Tea on Urbanspoon

Hy’s Encore

Sister restaurant to “Gotham’s”, the city’s oldest steak house, and voted the number one place for steak by Vancouver magazine”. All that makes “Hy’s” worth visiting, as the perfect destination for a fancy girl’s night out. You would hardly notice the entrance of this upscale dining establishment. A heavy door against a stone building. Though the presence of the valet waiting by the curb helped. He helped with the opening of our car’s door, then followed through by leading my guest and I indoors.

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We were early for our 9pm reservations, the only time we could get a table reserved on a Saturday night. We went in at 8pm hoping to be able to enjoy a drink or two in their lounge. Waking in we were greeted by the hostess who took our coats in exchange for a numbered ticket. We choose a seat from one of the four empty double recliner tables. Both the table and the chairs were equally low. The kind of seating you could imagine lounging in while you nurse a strong drink on the rocks. It was a 10 minute wait before the bartender finally approached us with coasters and a query for drinks. The coasters were embroidered napkins, marked with a lower case “h” in cursive at the corner.

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Wanting to order a bottle we requested the wine menu. It came as a page from their website pulled up on their in house tablet. In the end we took the sommelier’s recommendation on a blended wine. We asked for a bottle with a $70 cap, and after a wait and a peak into the heavily stocked wine cabinets behind us he presented us with the perfect bottle for $45.

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The “Wente” Sandstone merlot 2010 was suggested as our perfect pairing with our red meat. With flavous of blackberry, cherry, plum, and hints of roasted oak. My guest was given a taste before he settled the cork on the table and pour us each a glass. Merlots are usually muskier and dirtier tasting. This however was palatable. The sommelier did a good job choosing. When we ordered another bottle, I was disappointed to not have our current greasy and used glasses changed out to match the freshness of the new bottle.

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When the time came and our table was ready, we were lead through a brick walled tunnel into their dining room and wine cellar. Here we were seated at a very private booth, just before the ramp that lead down to the entrance of a very smokey kitchen. The booth came with red pleather seats, and a heavy table dressed in a white cloths. The chairs were upholstered in red velvet. With the head seat marked with their trademark “h” on its back. Looking around the decor wasn’t flashy, a set up that made you feel regal, with staff that left you feeling pampered. Patterned carpet and oil canvas paintings. We guessed the portraits were of presidents or at least members of parliament. The touches of Christmas came in garlands, strung up lights, and red and yellow babbles. This place gave off an old school traditional feel. Cigars and whiskey. Truly reminiscent of the oldest steak house in Vancouver.

The head servers were dressed in white coats and black ties with matching aprons. The runners wore the more simpler, white dress shirts. They looked like doctors, with their lab coats embroidered with the restaurant’s logo on its back. They were hired for their ability to provide their patrons with exceptional service. And you certainly felt it through their patience and calm speech. We stayed until we were the second last table remaining. And not once were we told to of an impending closing time.

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We were given complimentary garlic toast to start off our meal. Though in reality it came after our crab appetizer did. My guest didn’t know how she felt about the use of tin foil at a fine dining establishment. I agreed that the presentation could have been a lot more dressed up. It was delicious, but take a bite, and oil dripped out the sides of your lips. Though it is hard to beat the indulgence of warm and soft bread coated in melted butter.

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“Dungeness crab cakes” with house made coleslaw. At $18.95 I was a little taken a back that it was just one cake. Though in hindsight we should have clued in when we ordered the “crab cakes” and our server corrected it to “cake”. It was definitely delicious enough. You could tell this was made only with real crab and an assortment of fresh ingredients. Within bites we make out larger pieces of crab. The process of making this was probable hand cut, hand peeled, and home made. Though as good as it tasted we still wanted to have two per order. At $10 each, we would have seen more value in the order. I also expected more than its simple presentation provided.

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The “Prawn cocktail” came with a house made cocktail sauce. At $17.95 this too left us feeling like things were a little lacking. I appreciated their larger than usual size and their shelled and chilled nature. The prawns had a sweetness complimented by the tartness of the tomato based cocktail sauce.

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We shared their “Bone-in rib steak” at 16oz for $47.95. And as we had at “Gotham’s”. we requested the English cut. English cut is when they cut your steak up into manageable pieces. Each strip was cut with the grain, exposing the perfectly pink medium rare centre. We enjoyed the marbling of the meat and the tenderness that the fat brought out.We deemed our steak as good as the one we had at sister restaurant, “Gotham’s”.

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Each steak came with your choice of potatoes, done one of four ways. Neither of which is mentioned on the menu, so we were delighted to be given the option by our server. We selected the twice baked potato, rather than the once baked, panfried or French fried. Our potato came on the plate with the steak. It was boiled, scooped out of its skin, mashed and whipped with butter, then scooped back into its casing before it is baked golden in the oven. Our twice baked potato was dressed at our table, right in front of us. Here we were able to pick and choose what we wanted our side topped with and with how much. Though our server was already generous with the butter, sour cream, green onion, and bacon bits. If you are going to do it, do it big. I loaded this spud with all that I could.

After being disappointed with the dessert offerings we passed on some after dinner sweetness and opted for more wine. The desserts were the likes of cheese cake and chocolate cake. Nothing we couldn’t get elsewhere.

I always wonder why at places like these, with prices like these, would families bring their children here for dinner. I wonder how much their children appreciate this fine meal over a “McDonald’s” happy meal. At least at “McDonald’s” your food comes with a toy and a smile on its box.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
The food was good, the were staff pleasant, and the decor was decent; but I felt the prices were steeper than expected or advertised. This was especially the case with the appetizers. We had a good time and wouldn’t mind coming back, but both my guest and I agreed that we had a more enjoyable dinner at “Gotham’s”. If you decide to visit hungry and dine until full, be sure to set aside the proper amount to accomplish this goal. Don’t deny your cravings.

HY’S ENCORE
637 Hornby Street, Vancouver BC, V6C 2G2
604-683-7671
hyssteakhouse.com
Hy's Encore on Urbanspoon

Grub

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The name peaked my interested, and the bodies waiting outside had me wanting in. This International fusion restaurant would be what I would describe as a hole in the wall on. A tiny space, cozy but too casual to be romantic. Each table was set up along the right wall, a line of booths in pale yellow with back supporting cushions to boot. The chairs were hard, and even with my best efforts I was unable to get comfortable in one. It didn’t help that the narrow space meant my seat in the isle continued to get kicked as servers and patrons walked by.

IMG_5499 The room was dimly lit, with little brightness coming from tea lights and low hanging balls above. The wallpaper was the most interesting, a unique pattern produced by stamps. Images of deer, a person made from fire, a naked man kneeling with a snake wrapped around him, a half man and half car, a microwave, and other things too intricate to describe. From a distance they looked like printed flowers. Though close up, they made quite the conversation piece. As unique was the mobile that was pinned up by the window in front. From it hung squiggles, u’s and circles in primary colours. Another interesting decor choice that got you thinking, much like the random large yellow porcelain rooster sitting on the bar.

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The menu was several pages on the table and the rest hand written on a chalk board by the door. In order to make an informed decision I had to get up to take pictures of said chalk board menu. This I brought back to my table, to give my party am idea of the items not listed. I appreciated their assembly of plates for the carnivore, the herbivore, and the Pescatarian.

We four each choose the “Grub table d’hote”. A three course prix fixe. $35 for the meat and fish options and $30 for the vegetarian or vegan. Today’s mains were what we needed to capture on the chalkboard. The following is listed as starter, main, and dessert per guest.

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The starters were a choice between their daily soup, salad, or a personal portion of one of their three antipasto. The vegan starter was a tasty but simple mix. “The Herbivore”, ratatouille, pickled cauliflower, marinated mushrooms, hummus, vegetarian pate, bocconcini, and olives. Everything was very pickled, a salty grouping that really wasn’t anything special. My guest left it could have used some more simple crackers as a base.

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The vegan main course was wild rice and cauliflower filled butternut squash cups; and Moroccan spiced roasted vegetables with a chick pea ragout with candied peppers. The concept and presentation are definitely noteworthy. Though the flavour combination could have used more zing. The squash was flavourless, not helped by the blandness found in the filling. The peppers had the most flavour with an over powering sweeter taste. The broccolini was the best part as it added some much needed crunch to an other wise soft and soggy plate.

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The daily vegan dessert feature was the sticky toffee pudding. It definitely lived up to the stickiness in its name. Things started sticking to the roof of my mouth. The vegan ice cream was amazing, I was unable to tell that this product was void of milk. I didn’t think vegan ice cream was possible. It was just the right amount of sugar, not too much. A good combination with the likes of the much sweeter toffee. We just a didn’t get enough of it in only one scoop.

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The soup of the day was a coconut tomato cream soup. What a unique way to recreate a classic dish, with this exotic twist. Thick and silky this was an enjoyable mix to spoon in. The bread was deliciously seasoned and it easily sopped up soup like a sponge.

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My guest ordered the “Article Char”, but was given the “Ling Cod” by accident. Upon realization our server immediately offered to take it off the bill so that she could enjoy the cod at no cost. However my my guest had her heart set on the char, so was given the plate she so desired at a discounted cost. “Ling Cod”, seared cod filet, house made gnocchi with Rose sauce, and avocado salsa. We didn’t try it, so I am unable to describe it.

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“Arctic Char”, seared char filet, with a lemon and crab risotto, in a leak saffron cream. This was creamy mix, best eaten hot. The fish was juicy with crispy skin. The risotto was a marriage of cheesy and salty. A little too much of both, made it difficult to eat as is. Instead it made a good pairing with the more mild fish.

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“Rosemary lemon tart” with house made honey ricotta. It was both tart and sour, the perfect dessert for those that don’t like the sugar in their after meal treat. My guest finished it, but found it to be nothing special.

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“The Carnivore” starter is three types of cured meats, liver pate with rhubarb chutney, red pepper jelly, mustard, olives and pickles. Like the other antipasto, this was an union of complimentary elements. Each eaten separately tasted as one would expect. Though a dish better shared with others than eating it all alone. The liver pate resembled a cheese paste in both texture and taste. Together it was all very salty and the flavoured bread didn’t help to balance this. Instead this platter needed a few slices of plain bread or crisp crackers.

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“Duck”, Wentzel duck breast with butternut squash pudding, a red pepper and onion yoghurt, and a walnut pesto. The duck was very juicy with ample flavours, despite the occasional drier section. Overall this was a well cooked dish. It was a little on the saltier side, so would have been excellent when paired with a glass of red. The strong salted taste would be complimentary for the tartness of wine. Similarly, wine would have paired well with all the antipasto dishes as well.

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“Pear strudel”, a la mode with sea salt caramel. This dessert sounded so good on paper that both my guest and I ordered the same one. It closely resembled apple pie. The pear baked inside was soft and perfectly caramelized, though a little too sweet. The crust was a little tough and over baked on its ends. Though overall very flaky and buttery in taste. I was disappointed that in her hurry, our server placed our dessert utensils on our dessert plate, thus smudging the caramel made designs, before I was able to take a picture of it. This was a very decadent dessert, that was a little too much to end with after two other courses.

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“The Pescatarian” starter was salmon gravlax, avocado and tomato salad, marinated seafood, smoked trout brandade, chilled prawn with tomatillo, and a pickled cabbage slaw. I had to remind myself this was just a tasting, as it didn’t look like much. With one prawn and one sheet of salmon. I had more pieces of bread than elements to top them with. Another simple gathering of ingredients. Good but nothing memorable.

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“Pork”, seared pork tenderloin, and aged cheddar and bacon cream tagliatelle, with a red onion marmalade. The pasta was creamy with a whole lot of oily. A luxurious bite that paired well with the drier ends of my pork. The pickled onions gave bites a sweeter profile, and made for unique flavour when eaten all together.

To our surprise, despite this being a International fusion restaurant, we were rewarded fortune cookies to end our meal, along with the bill.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Everything was unmemorable, despite the great presentation in their plates. The food was good, the setting average, the staff courteous, and the environment a pleasing calm and casual. The food was decent, but nothing I would crave for again, nor would want a second shot at. This wouldn’t be my first choice for dining out, though I wouldn’t mind if I was invited here for dinner in the future. Though I did appreciate the price to value ratio. The plates came quick and all at once. We finished them all clean and left the restaurant stuffed. Don’t deny your cravings.

GRUB
4328 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-876-8671
grubonmain.ca
Grub on Urbanspoon

Cafe Crepe

IMG_4977 IMG_4978This is one of the more popular staples of Robson street. Who hasn’t once stopped here for a snack in between shopping stops?

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At this location of “Cafe Crepe” you can either enjoy your crepe to go or have it while dining in. If to go, you place your order as you stand on the sidewalk. Then either enjoy your crepe as a hand held while walking or stationary on the wooden benches out front. Though I prefer to go inside for the comforts of their warm and dry booths.

The room was set in dark chocolate colours, walls rich in deep red and earthy brown tones. A large contrasted to the 50’s style black and white checkered floor. Marble like columns and spinning ceiling fans added to the mishmash of decor pieces. If you looked closely the age of the place is apparent. With discoloured tiles and warn out table edges it was obvious things were well used. Though the smell of crepes hid everything behind the glamour of delicious buttery and sugary goodness.

Large noir posters scripted in French and hotel lobby-like jazz music set the tone. Though the music was barely audible past the mummer of guests engaged in deep conversations and knives and forks cutting through thin dough, cream, and fruit. Its smell tantalized you as you waited. With no actual designated waiting space, the line to be seated started beside the partition that separated the open kitchen from the foyer leading in. On busier nights patrons would be left standing with a view that gave them a glimpse at what it takes to make a crepe. Chefs in white coats working shoulder to shoulder on their own crepe griddle. Here they directly poured on their egg based batter. Then using a special tool, they evenly spread the would be crepe thinly over this heated surface. It is cooked until lightly golden, then filled accordingly with toppings and fillings of savoury or sweet.

Crepe options are separated between the savoury and sweet. With traditional breakfast toppings like eggs, bacon, Brie cheese, and jam. Hardy lunchables like spinach, tuna, chicken, smoked beef, tomato, mushroom and salmon. And dessert possibilities with fruits like apple, strawberry, banana, lemon, or coconut. And nuts like walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts.

The boozy options of grand Marnier and rum intrigued me the most. And the chocolate, caramel, ice cream, and honey felt familiar.

Despite their restaurant’s name, they offered a slew of options six menu pages long. If you are not interested in crepes try their regular breakfast platters served all day. With the likes of eggs, omelettes, hash and toast. Or go the cafe route and pair your specialty coffees and steamed milks with salads, soup, and grilled paninis. Still looking for something even more filling? Then enjoy a classic hamburger with fries or even chicken strips. A little bit of everything to satisfy the most pickiest of diners.

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Though if that summary isn’t enough they also serve alcohol in beers, by the bottles and on tap. Wine in all colours. Cocktails in all varieties and even weekly specials. Apparently this chain is known as a great place for cheap alcoholic beverages late at night.

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Lucky for us we visited at a slower time and on a slower night. As a result we were immediately greeted. Three different individuals took the time to ask about the size of our party and if we wanted to sit in. Yet all three walked away shortly after with no resolution. We eventually had to flag a staff member down to get our desired seating. The wait, despite the sight of many empty booths.

When at “Cafe Crepe” I go for what their name suggests, and for what they specialize in. After all, when in Rome? We chose sweeter crepes for a light mid day snack, and went fancier by ordering from their list of specialty crepes. Each came with three or more premium toppings. A move to break away from the typical, and our usual butter and sugar and banana and Nutella order. A move we would later regret.

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“Crepe du chef”. Apple sauce, banana, and cinnamon. This crepe was tasteless and in dire need of the complimenting flavour of real maple syrup. Though despite our mention the plain tasting dessert, we were informed the syrup would come of an additional cost.

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The “Exotique” crepe is filled with rum, toasted coconut, banana slices, and sugar. I immediately got a hint of the rum, it was sweeter then I anticipated, but retained its liquor kick. The toasted coconut I could have done without. It’s hard texture sprinkled throughout the soft folds of the crepe threw things off. And it’s dried nature diminished the freshness of everything else.

My guest regretted not ordering his usual Nutella and Banana crepe and I my usual plain sugar. In fact after two bites I was done. The increased number of ingredients did not make things better. I found they overwhelmed the usual delightfulness of the light crepe batter, best highlighted in a simple sugar crepe.

IMG_4976The staff were unmemorable. There was enough of them around, yet it took them a long time to fulfill requests and place orders. They spoke minimally and dropped off plates with no more than a nod.
The washroom was one of the worst I have had to endure. They were two single stalls. And both smelled just as bad.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Where else would you go to fulfill your crepe cravings? You can smell the butter and cooking dough from the street. A scent so delicious it beckons you to approach. Here you get a view of the crepe making process, like watching a performance behind glass. With all the varieties you are sure to find the crepe that suits you and your dining needs. My only advise is to stuck with what you like, in order to not be disappointed by what you try. Also, as the restaurant isn’t the cleanest or the most inviting, I would urge you to take your treat to go. Don’t deny your cravings.

CAFE CREPE
1032 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2V7
604-488-0045
cafecrepe.com
Cafe Crepe on Urbanspoon

The Irish Heather

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Looking for the perfect after lunch spot, and not willing to walk too far, our journey ended at the “Irish Heather”. We were lured in after taking a quick peak through their front window. The decor was modern, warehouse grittiness with a luxurious feel. This is what I would consider a hole in the wall pub. The lead in was a handsome bar, red brick walls, hardwood floors, a wintery dressed fireplace with matching tinsel and tree, shelves stocked full with bottles, and large canvas paintings of patrons enjoying themselves at a similar bar. I was enamoured with the showcase of Guinness memorabilia. A three shelf wide display with signs, old bottles, bumper stickers, and other collectables. I wonder how much all that went for.

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Seating was available on metal high chairs by the bar up front, or at smaller tables further back. Narrow tables and the grey booths behind them were combined if the need to accommodate larger parties arose. We eyed the secluded table in its own alcove. It came with a spot light over head, but it sat two and we were a party of three. Instead, we took the booth adjacent to the hall of washroom stalls. This hall was a row of doors. Each door was identified as being either for men or woman. And under this print was a quote associated with the gender. Something to read while you waited your turn.

Friday afternoon at 3pm the crowd was already rowdy, though this was certainly the place to do it at. The generous spacing in between tables, allowed private conversation to stay intimate at louder volumes. The staff were patience with no emphasis was placed on rushing anyone through. This is the type of place where nursing your drink is a common sight. Though with a full list of beverages, I wouldn’t see why one would stick to one glass or one pint. Draught, wine, bottles, and mixed beer; something for everyone. And for those looking to have food with their alcohol, a limited food menu is available. Sandwiches, chips, and other classic bar fare. Not much of it was Irish specific, but everything that was familiar to the bar scene came with a renewing twist. Curry powder in your fries, chipotle in your fish and chips dip, chicken salad made with vermicelli noodles, and a pot pie filled with steak and ale. Though even with all this, I found it weird to see Thai and curry on an Irish menu, especially when there was only one bangers and mash dish and no Irish stew.

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The idea of a mixed beer drink was intriguing enough to warrant a try. I asked for our server’s recommendation, wanting a sweeter beer cocktail. He strongly suggested the “Snake bite”. The menu promised a tasty mix of 3/4 lager and 1/4 cider, boasting that it was allegedly temporarily banned in the United Kingdom. The sweetness of the cider cuts into the bitter beer, allowing its apple-like flavour to really comes through. This was drinking beer and having no after taste. An enjoyable mild mix that I could have had multiple refills of.

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“Driftwood fat tug”

Interestingly, “Steamwhistle” was recommend when we asked for something similar to Budweiser.

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Wanting to add a little salty snack to our mild beer drinking. We shared a platter of their “Grilled flat breads and dips”. It came with dips of hummus, raita, and a sun dried olive tapenade. I was disappointed on the realization that these were just pre made elements assembled on to a dish. Cold dips and hot pita, as always there was too much of one, and not enough of another. Mid way through we realized that we were never given any olives. Apparently they ran out of the olive tapenade, and instead of informing us, we were just given a double portion of hummus. When asked, our server said the chefs don’t tell him anything. I guess he didn’t look at the plate? Or worse, they hoped we just wouldn’t notice. Though our server’s solution was impressive. In lieu of the olive tapenade he presented us with a bowl of chilled mixed olives. We were delighted and gladly accepted the consideration.

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Would I come back? – Yes and no.

The place was clean, modern, and cozy. It made for a decent spot to drink and talk at. I had a good time and my beer cocktail was both original and delicious. Though as much as I wanted to try the five others available, I would not go out of my way to make this my next drinking destination. Nor to make it a recommendation. Though now thinking back to the combination of champagne and Guinness, my interest is slightly renewed. Given the opportunity, I would return for more after dinner drinks, however would not come back for a full meal, based on the lack lustre appetizer we shared. Don’t deny your cravings.


IRISH HEATHER
208 Carrall Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2J2
604-688-9779
irishheather.com
Irish Heather on Urbanspoon

Yaletown L’ Antipasto

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No store sign, no sandwich board, with a front door a few steps in from the cobbled sidewalk. I hardly notice the restaurant at first pass. They led with the patio and the entrance got lost in the jumble. Even my taxi driver missed it by a block and I walked past it twice.

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Walking in, it felt like I was visiting a friend’s for dinner. A narrow, open space; similar to a tiny studio loft with wooden floors and large glass windows. The only thing separating the kitchen and the lone chef behind it from the dining room, was the wooden partition built up at waist height. This made things a lot more intimate. Especially with the chef watching you eat just a few feet away. Not to mention the chairs being backed up from one table to the next in order to maximize space. The chef was friendly enough. I saw him engaging with guests, and heard him humming along to the blusey tunes playing overhead. During cooking lulls he even stepped out from behind his barricade to season food, crack pepper, and sprinkle on Parmesan.

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Everything felt as casual as it looked. The brick wall backing the kitchen gave things a rustic homey feel. Bottles of wine sat in makeshift shelves, crafted from old crates. And candles in weathered bird cages and giant metal utensils were used as unique decor pieces. Indoors there were five two tops and two booths that sat four. Limited seating ensured the setting would remain quite and romantic. When we started the only other two parties were on dates. They whispered and softy ate to the tea light at each table. By dessert the restaurant was completely seated. Large groups in the booths, couples across from one another, and patrons in gloves and scarves, with jackets zipped all the way up on the heated patio. The outdoor patio looked as romantic as it did indoors, even with the use of a plastic tarp to keep things dry. Same dark wood tables and chairs. And unique lighting features created from cutting off the bottoms of green glass bottles and stringing long cylindrical bulbs through. These were bound in groups of three to give things a pop of interest.

IMG_5164No matter where we sat I was cold. A constant chill from the un-insulated windows, and lingering draft from the opening and closing of the patio screen door. A crack was left open to ventilate a room that was quickly steaming up. Heat from the hot food being prepared and from the stove top fan that was out of commission. The server and her manager would pass utensils, beverages and plates through the door and onto the patio via a side table. This was done before walking around and out the front door to serve said dishes to their guests. They also kept all their menus on a podium just outside and beside the front door. So each party required the door to be opened coming in and once again in order to grab a menu. As I was dressed fully and forced to keep my winter coat on all through dinner, this was a point of contention with me. What’s worse was the need to put on your cold weather wear before trekking to the shared building’s washrooms, outside our restaurant. Though with all my complaining of the cold, the place did get a lot warmer with the increase in cooking that needed to be done, due to the volume of patrons after 8pm. Though I don’t know how the one chef kept on top of it all, including serving a group of 12 that came in all at once.

We needed some additional time before placing our order. Our server, the only server at the time stood in the corner behind us, she waited for us to be ready. I guess there wasn’t much more room to linger and no where else to wait at. It just put an awkward rush on things. With our table in this corner we were also privy to the conversation of the staff whispering. As this happened our chairs were being kicked and our arms accidentally nudged. I guess we chose the worst table in the house, we just wanted something furtherest from the opening and shutting door. Mid way through our appetizers a guy walks in. With no introductions he tops up our water and my wine. His uncommunicative reaction abruptly caught us off guard.

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I asked for the recommendation of a sweet wine. Our server mentioned what she thought was the best and the sweetest. Only to say she ran out of it, repeatedly. I jokingly told her to stop mentioning what I can’t have and jested that she recommend something that I can. She cleverly reply that it would give me reason to come back. I was disappointed that it took a while for her to come up with a back up, second choice given their impressive wine listing. I settled on her pick of the “Pfaffenheim”. Gewürztraminer” from France. Light and easy to drink, this white was just what I had in mind. When I ordered my second glass from the man, in a rush he poured more straight into my current glass. A glass that was already filled with drink. I felt cheated out of an exact measurement and a new glass.

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“Lemon Lemonata”. This was one of their signature cocktails made with Lemoncello, freshly squeezed lemon juice, vodka, and sparkling water. As refreshing as this was, this is more a recommendation for the dog days of summer.

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“Beef tenderloin carpaccio”. AAA Alberta beef, slightly seasoned and drizzled over with a white alba truffle infused olive oil. It is served alongside traditional antipasti vegetables. I recommend not adding on too much of the greens per bite or else you can’t taste any of the mild beef. The chips had a crisp garlic flavour. They were the perfect vessel for the toppings. Each morsel an easy to wield baguette slice. Though the edges of the crunchy bread did end up scratching the roof of your mouths. This was a solid dish and a great light start to the meal. Though we wouldn’t have seen much of a difference had there been no meat present.

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“Gigli alla primavera”. Organic tomato sauce and basil combined with a lily shaped pasta from Florence, draped with creamy burrata mozzarella imported from Puglia. This was the same dish my guest has during her last visit, and the reason she wanted to come back today. Everything about this plate was unlike any pasta I have ever had. The cheese had a light lemony quality to go with its creamy and stringy texture. And the unique shape of the pasta made things fun to eat. Each shell was cooked perfectly, chewy and firm. The sauce was not heavy, it gently coated everything with a little sour kick. Not salty, but enough seasoning to be flavourful.

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“Pappardelle rosse”. Thick ribbon egg noodles in an organic tomato sauce with braised boneless short rib, beef tenderloin, chicken breast, and Italian fennel sausage. As hard as I tried, I was unable to make out the distinct varieties of meats. The sauce was however very meaty and savory. They all pulled apart and fell off whatever bone they once were on. The lighter coloured meat I identified as chicken. This was harder and a little cold, perhaps it was reheated before added into the mix? The eggy flavour in the noodles were noticeable. It lent a slip and slide texture with a buttery taste. This was definitely more complex than the dish before, though just as well seasoned with the right amount of salt despite its many layers. It reminded me of similar dishes I have tried before.

We did not order any desserts, but my guest informed me that on previous visits she has seen the staff enter the hall way to retrieve desserts from their sister restaurant.

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When asked, our bill came came in a small box. Its lid was dripped over with a red wax candle and stamped with a seal. Inside were two dark chocolate squares on top of what we owed.

Would I come back? – No.
I found the setting took away from the quality of food. I had an unenjoyable eating experience. It came from the cold and drafty restaurant; and the tight corners that forced us to be bumped and jostled throughout the night. As I always say, a large part of dining out has to do with the setting in which eating takes place in. You pay for the food, the ambience, and the experience. If all of them are not just right, it takes away from that which is. Though I sincerely question how fresh the food actual was. Everything came out relatively quick, from one chef and one pot on the single stove top. I question if the noodles and sauce were made on the spot, if even daily. And found the chicken in my pasta to be cold.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. The food was good and the setting can be enjoyable. Great presentation and large portions. Plus the fact that it got so busy on what many would consider a slow weekday. Guests were even willing to brave the cold in down jackets and wool gloves to eat here. This certainly says something about the place. Don’t deny your cravings.

YALETOWN L’ANTIPASTO
1127 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P2
604-558-1174
yaletownlantipatso.com
Yaletown L'Antipasto on Urbanspoon

Minami

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I have been eying this place ever since I found out that “Minami” was sister restaurant to “Miku”. Meaning the same fusion Japanese dishes, at the same high standards, and the same great quality, at a fraction less? Why not?

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Judging by its decor and ambience, this is the kind of place you could just sit and enjoy a couple of drinks at. Alone or in a large group, there is certainly ample space to do so, and enough seats be able take your time at it. Seating is available between their lounge and bar, the dinning room, or the covered and heated patio. The lounge had bar top seating and tables facing a set of double stacked flat screens. On each, sports. The area was better lit and furnished differently. The dining room was a dark space. What little lighting came from either the tiny bulbs centred in acrylic tubes over head, or the one flickering tea light situated at each table. As the tea lights shone against the all white tables and the all light grey booths, they brightened things up. The chairs were wooden and similarly upholstered in grey. Their lowered backs and cushions made hunching over the shorter tables tops a necessity of eating. And although the patio at the end of the restaurant was closed for the season, it still added to the chic decor. Looking out through the large glass windows you could see a stylish black furnished setting with heated lamps and their restaurant’s name painted across the back wall in black brush.

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The lighting kept things romantic and the accented setting kept things a classy casual. Walls were painted with murals of running water, lotus flowers, leaping frogs, and swimming fish. The feature that caught my eye was the one of navys and oranges, koi outlined in gold. Several columns were completed with branches of cherry blossoms creeping down towards it base. I was in awe of such a setting. Impressed both by the thought that was put in to making you feel comfortable and the thought put into the details, giving things such a regal feel. Hard wood floors, cut out room separators, and the contrast of black utensils on white furniture.

Having never been here and not being able to rely on any photos in the menu when ordering, I solicited help. My guest was to pick for us the dishes that “Minami” is most well known for. The listing was Japanese fare: popular appetizers and entrees redone with a twist and a lengthly list of specialty sushi rolls.

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“Yoshi Organic (junmai)”. When dining in Japanese you have sake. This we requested warm, and therefore took some time to have heated up. It was then kept warm at our table by means of an insulated metal container filled with hot water. The alcohol was crisp with a sweet note of pear and almond. Semi sweet, all smooth, and not too dry. An affordable drink we deemed great for the colder weather. It warms your inside with a happy burn and gives you an enjoyable after taste laced with fruit.

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“Albacore tuna and kaiso seaweed tartare.” Made with avocado, red onion, celery, cucumber, micro greens, lotus root chips, a spicy sea same ponzu vinaigrette, and a wasabi creme friache. Although my guest doesn’t like tuna, she insists this is worth trying. We used the lotus root chips as a vessel for scooping up the mixed tuna. Adding on the creamy avocado and crisp celery and onions for the perfect bite. Soft and crisp, cold and warm, with both strong and mild flavours, this covers all your bases. And with its stunning presentation, I was excited to try it; as well, it made me more excited for what was next to come.

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“Aburi salmon oshi sushi”. Pressed BC wild salmon and jalapeño in a milk sauce. This is their well known signature roll. Something made popular and also offered at “Miku”. The top of the fish is seared with a torch to get its darker caramelized colour and that little bit of crispiness in its texture. The wild salmon melts in to flavoured rice. It is accented with the spiciness from the coarse black pepper. And the jalapeño slice adds on just the right amount of heat. It was enjoyable to eat with its soft texture, though just a little on the oily side. My only advice is that if you plan on sharing, don’t, and order a roll each. It’s that good.

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“Minami roll”. Aburi short rib, spicy prawn, and cucumber, in a wasabi masatake sauce. We choose this roll thinking, having short rib in sushi is intriguing, and would be a first for both. The short rib was half cooked and needed more seasoning. The cucumber was refreshing and the green onion added a certain pop. We had to be careful how we picked up each segment. It was a chopstick balancing at to ensure the toppings stayed on top.

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With these rolls you are not given any of your usual soy sauce, wasabi, or ginger accompaniments. It is suggested you enjoy them without the use of condiments, to be able to truly enjoy each element solo and together as a piece. Plus the thought is that these rolls are so well crafted with their own sauces, that any addition is unnecessary. However my guest is used to a certain level of salt with her rice, so sheepishly asked for some soy sauce. We were both given a tray with a sweeter soy and the regular dark, with a lump of wasabi.

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“Kaisen Soba Peperoncino”. Noodles with prawns, squid, scallops, sweet peppers, shiitake mushrooms, jalapeño, and tempura bits, in a chilli-garlic soy. It tasted like a Chinese dish with a Japanese twist, which came from the sauce and the tempura bites. The jalapeño was a new way to get the spice you wanted without the traditional use of chilli peppers. And everything was cooked tender and an easy chew. The scallops had a great buttery flavour and the squid were cut to the perfect bite size. Though over all we found this dish too salty. Something that could have been easily fixed if eaten with a bowl of plain rice.

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We were informed that all their desserts were made in house. I had asked to sample the jasmine and miso-salted caramel ice cream before choosing between the two. Our server didn’t seem too keen on my request and it took some slight convincing. I settled on the light jasmine, when the miso-salted caramel reminded me more of miso soup than caramel anything. The green tea and jasmine ice cream made the perfect double scoop. Both are light and traditionally used for teas. Though each came with its own distinct and strong flavour. A couple of biscuits and some assorted fruits were served alongside our iced cream, they prettied up the plate, but really didn’t add anything to the mix. I know Japanese cuisine is known for their tinier dessert portions, but I wanted more and did not feel this was worth the $8 price tag. Anywhere else, all this would be considered one scoop.

IMG_5120Our server was attentive. She checked in regularly, asking “Is everything still beautiful?” “Are things still wonderful?” It was a nice change from “How are things?” and “Are you ok?” Her choice of words made our meal more exiting and gave us the impression that things should be, and are beautiful and wonderful. Only a few times did I notice her flinch at our requests. One was for soy sauce and the other to be able to sample of the more exotic flavours of ice cream. Though on both occasions she eventually accommodated us.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I like the causal setting with the fine dining feel. The staff were courteous and professional. The food was delicious and the plating stunning. This is great place to celebrate an occasion at and one to invite all your friends to. Spacious and comfortable, an ideal place to enjoy good Japanese fusion. Thought not the place to go to hungry. You will spend quite a bit to satisfy a starving belly. Instead come here for appies and dishes shared like tapas, alongside multiple cocktails of course. Don’t deny your cravings.

MINAMI
1118 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2T9
604-685-8080
minamirestaurant.com
Minami 炙 on Urbanspoon

Ganache Patisserie

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My quest to seek out Vancouver’s best macarons have brought me to Yaletown’s “Ganache bakery”. A small shop specializing in French patisserie and polished wedding cakes. These works of art were visible from the front window, and a terrific choice to lead with. White icing smoothed to silky perfection on tower. Symmetrical levels and layers cascading with delicate flowers, lace detailing, spiralling patterns, and sparkling jewels. They looked more elegant than they did decadent.

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Walking up to the counter it is hard to miss the all chocolate statues of Asterix and Obelix, sitting on top. This was a true testament to the skill of the pastry chefs as artists. I can’t even fathom the time they must have taken. How labourous the process to mould something that melts, and craft it into a piece of art meant only to be eaten. And if you don’t believe their talent from just that, believe their awards won and their glowing magazine reviews displayed on the walls.

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To the right there was a bookshelf. It was home to baked goods, homemade chocolates, and candied treats; all wrapped up in cellophane and tied off with ribbon. These were meant to be easy grab and go sweets. Each cubicle showcased something different, that was just as good as the last. Bags of chocolate spots, crumbled toffee shards, wrapped caramel cubes, light meringue dollops, and cream filled cookies in both chocolate and vanilla. And like everywhere else, there were more wedding cakes perched on top. Having tiered wedding cakes in every available corner, it was obvious this is what they specialized in.

Seating was sparse, a few small tables in either corner. I always find the ambience intimidating when having to eat in a space so quiet, so tight, and being the only ones doing so. More awkward still, the couple seated on the table just in front of the book shelf of treats. I found their presence made it hard for me to browse the display. I invaded their personal space one time to many, feeling bad I gave up looking. They didn’t offer to move aside, nor did I bother to ask. As a result, I didn’t pick up anything to purchase, though I had every intention to. And the shop lost a sale.

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I found it impressive that they still had such a full selection of baked goods and desserts given the time of day. At most bakeries 45 minutes to closing means empty trays and nothing new until the next day. Here the showcase still displayed cakes by the squares and tarts by the rounds, each variety lined up in a column. Each individual dessert was either decorated with spray on glossy colours, topped with chocolate and nuts for texture, or given fruits and flowers for that extra special touch. Today I chose based on ingredients and would be taste, rather than my usual, “which one would be photographed the best.”

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The macarons came already boxed up with no real choice. You picked your boxed based on how many pinks or browns you wanted, not knowing what either flavoured was. There was a option for regular or mini macarons. I opted for the smalls as good tasters. The light beige was hazelnut. The lighter brown cappuccino. The pink was strawberry with a light texture and taste similar to artificial strawberry- Pocky. Yellow was passionfruit, and just as tart as the fruit itself. The brown macarons were chocolate doubled up, a chocolate crust meets more chocolate as a mousse filling. It’s filling made this a thicker bite. And the red was cherry with a grainy texture. The macarons were good and it was enjoyable to eat something so miniature. But I didn’t find their flavouring any more original or all that much better than else where. These are not worth a special trip out for.

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The cakes however are a different story. “Foret Noir”. Vanilla chantilly, moist chocolate cake, chocolate chantilly, kirsch-soaked cherries. This was a classy upgraded version of a Black Forest cake. Though this was no where near your average grocery store version, kind you grew up eating as a kid. The chocolate cake was perfectly moist and all over rich. It’s sweetness married well with the sharpness of the cherries. 

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“Coco Velours Rouge”. Red velvet cake, coconut cream cheese mousseline, chocolate ganache, and vanilla Chantilly. I am not a fan of regular whipped cream, but I found the silkiness of the Chantilly with its hints of vanilla thoroughly enjoyable. This was what bonded the layers of the cake together and gave it its creaminess. You were able to make out each individual flavour from the different elements of this cake. Together they made an amazingly indulgent treat. Though I felt the dark and luxurious taste was thrown off by the coarse texture of the coconut flakes sprinkled on top.

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These cakes were best eaten fresh to maintain the lightness in their whipped cream and the moistness in their spongy cake. Though I must say, they kept surprisingly well over days in the refrigerator. I like to savour my desserts with little mouse-like bites at a time.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I did not prefer their macarons, but they boasted a most impressive collection in their cakes and pastries. With over 30 options in behind the refrigerated glass unit and 15 more prepackaged, you can be sure there is something here that would peak anyone’s interest. Creme burlee, lemon meringue, green tea, mango mousse, cheesecake, and all things chocolate. If it was closer to my neighbourhood, this would also be my ideal place to pick up a birthday cake at. They had a few ready for piping. I also recommend “ganache” for those thinking wedding cakes. With all their awards and media buzz, they must be doing something right. Don’t deny your cravings.

GANACHE
1262 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1C6
604-899-1098
ganacheyaletown.com
Ganache Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Marcello Pizzeria

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Having our hearts set on Italian, we turned to commercial drive and the well known “Marcello’s”. I have never had a meal here that I didn’t like. I always leave full with plenty of leftovers for the following day. Plus with their larger dining area I was almost certain we could get a table without reservations on a Saturday night. 

Not only were we seated right away, but our server approached us within minutes and our food came shortly after. Maybe it was because of their efficient team, or maybe it was because we had expressed our immediate hunger. Either way we were thrilled to be eating after searching for a place like this a good 45 minutes before. 

IMG_4874It was a large open space that narrowed towards the back, tapering into a thin hall. And it was within this thin hallway that we were seated. Had we been willing to wait, maybe we wouldn’t have to settle on table all the way in the back, right by the restrooms. Though depending on the person, this area wasn’t all that bad. It was a more secluded and therefore more quite. Away from the clanging of the opening kitchen and the chattering from the crowd eating. I just thought it was a shame that we didn’t get a dining view of the handsome stone faced oven; and the steaming pizzas as they came up to pass. A large oven that stood prominently as you entered. With vacant eyes, protruding nose, and a gaping mouth which pizza on a board slid easily into. Once baked golden the pizzas sat steaming under heat lamps until ready to be served. 

IMG_4872The tables were taller than the chairs surrounding them. Maybe I am just too short, but I felt like I had to hunch up and forward to accommodate their lowered level. These bleach wooden tables came with rod iron accents. The same black iron that was used on the gates that flanked the surrounding door sized windows, and that were crafted into balconies for the shelves secured high up on the wall. On these, sat potted plants that gave the room a breath of fresh air. The vaulted ceilings and regally framed mirrors gave the illusion of depth of space. And the lighting fixtures that centred the room were hung in a row casting a romantic orange glow. It was not until half the restaurant cleared out by 8:30pm did I realize there was upbeat music playing. I guess the echo of voices conversing hid this well. My only real gripe over decor is the irregularly spaced stalls in the woman’s washroom. A woman of more girth would have found issues with a set up like this. Though the terra cotta tiles and stone Roman bust were an elegant touch. 

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Since we were having Italian, we thought we would keep it within the country and enjoy things with Italian beer by the bottle and a large glass of red wine from Italy. 

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“Pasticiatti” gnocchi. Traditional Italian home made potato and egg dumplings sautéed in a cream and meat sauce. I was surprised that I didn’t get sick of the taste, usually mid way through a heavy pasta dish you feel the need to take a break. Though this dish was good all he way through. The gnocchi was light and each round, a great chewy bite covered in a savory thick sauce. The sauce was your classic meaty tomato sauce, boiled to an enjoyable thickness and lumpy consistency. I wished I had a side of garlic toast to sop up the excess. 

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“Lasagna” layers of spinach noodles an meat sauce topped with bechamel. Prepared from scratch in their kitchen and baked to an oozy perfection. Hot and bubbly with layers of gooey cheese and thick ground beef, all wrapped up in a velvety sauce. It is a great balance between hearty meat and airy cheese. The green noodles were a new twist, and one that added a new flavour element to the traditional baked lasagna. Creamy texture, el dente noodles, and a thick sauce. Everything was so tender that it was easily cut into with a knife. Still hot on the last bites, my guest had to do the thing where you take a bite and attempt to balance it on your tongue while blowing to cool the morsel down. 

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With a majestic oven like theirs you have to try one of their thin crust pizzas. It is not often you get to watch your pizza baked in a fiery wood burning oven. You begin by choosing your pie in either a medium or large size. Select from a listing of predetermined ingredients or customize things as you see fit. I was delighted to be given the possibility for a half half for ours, when my guest and I couldn’t agree on toppings. He chose the “Prosciutto E. Funghi” made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, and mushrooms. And I the “Capricciosa” made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, salame, artichokes, black olives, and mushrooms. I added eggplant for the novelty, as the option of it on a pizza intrigued me. The eggplant was moist, soften without being soggy. I actually removed it from atop the pizza and enjoyed it as is. They didn’t add anything to its visual appeal, nor were they needed for the over all taste. Plus the chefs mistakenly placed the three grilled slices on my guest’s half, who does not like the taste or scent of eggplant. As an avid olive enthusiast I was delighted to have as much as I did per slice. Both pizzas tasted similar with the very distinct flavouring of prosciutto. The only difference was the addition of more vegetables on my half. 
The pizza crust was heavy with loaded ingredients, and therefore soft and doughy in the middle. Though it’s edges retained an enjoyable crunchy and airy texture. The baking process with smoked wood gave things a noticeable earthy flavour. Both halves were definitely fresh, and you could tell it was all made by hand. Though for my taste, things could have use more cheese. And that is exactly what I added when I reinvented them as leftovers. Luckily I was able to get what I couldn’t finish, packaged up in a box to go. 

Our server was friendly and attentive, she made it a point to never be too far away for too long. As was the case of the other server who also worked the narrow stretch of hall we were seated in. We were checked on regularly, our order was brought out quickly, and she even apologized for not noting which side of the pizza we wanted the eggplant on. We couldn’t ask for more from a casual Italian restaurant like this. Only once did I have to get up to track her down, this was after failing to capture her attention with a few loud “excuse me’s”. She gave us space and allowed us to sit and nurse our drinks, there was no rush to leave, but some pressure came with the premature bill drop off. This move was despite 3/4 of the restaurant being emptied. Though the complementary after dinner candies helped to win me over once more. 

The following are pictures of plates I have enjoyed in the past, during precious visits. 

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A mix of marinade and grilled vegetables of the day. Olives, mushrooms, artichoke, eggplant, and peppers in red and green. This collection of soft charred vegetables came with warm grilled pita as the perfect eating platform. 

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“Affettato Misto”. Sliced salame, prosciutto crudo, spiced pancetta. The addition of grilled focaccia and olives helped to break up the otherwise overwhelming nature of salty meat. Thankfully we had also ordered the grilled vegetable platter, these two dishes coupled well together.

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“Fornarnina”, not to be mistaken for pizza, despite its look. This thin and crispy flat bread was baked up before it was topped up with fresh ingredients. This was the “Ortolana” prepared with fresh tomato slices, arugula, and bocconcini cheese. 

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When sharing a pizza with a vegetarian, it is best to order something that everyone can enjoy. The “Vegetariana” is made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichoke, mushroom, green pepper, and onions. 

Would I come back? – Yes. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. 
The food was as expected, it did not disappoint in quantity or price. It all came quickly and all pipping hot. A collection of stunning colours from fresh grilled vegetables and home made sauces. It was the perfect comfort meal on a cold and wet Vancouver night. We left well fed, with plenty leftover for the days to come. Italian food always taste good the second day, when flavours are allowed to soak and marinade. Don’t deny your cravings. 

MARCELLO 
1404 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC
604-215-7760
marcellopizzeria.com
Marcello Pizzeria & Restaurants on Urbanspoon

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