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Month: January 2014 Page 1 of 3

Tavern Law

Still in Seattle, Washington. In search of an after dinner option, and wanting a night cap. Our hosts took us to a themed bar. Located conveniently a couple of buildings down from their apartment in capital hill. I imagine this makes them quite popular during the weekends.

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On the exterior, things look relatively simple. White painted brick columns and full glass windows. On the front door, “Tavern Law” is printed in fine type. It all looks very professional. If it wasn’t for the string of lights outlining each window’s edge, I could see this being the entrance to an actual law firm.

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Close to 12am the bar was still relatively full. With more guests trickling in and out, all the way until cut off at 2am. As per standard bar practice the room is kept darkened. I was able to make out curiosities by candle light. Items positioned to give guests that accurate prohibition feel. Elements from an older time and of a different era. A black “Singer” sewing machine coated with a glossy black finish and gold detailing. A well worked wooden tool box with mental handle. And a classic turn table, formerly used to place bets on black or red, now hangs ornamentally behind the bar.

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With the majority of the guests gone we were given a luscious booth in the back corner. Black pleather seats with deep dimpled backs, a full round table, and it’s own miniature chandelier hung overhead. Tucked away, this provided us with a quiet space to talk in private. Able to seat 10 this booth gave plenty of room for 4.

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Most impressive was the very regal looking book shelf. I didn’t get a chance to check, but was told it houses actual, useable law tomes. They certainly kept things authentic.

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My host was most excited to showcase the pub’s secret bar. A bar within a bar? A concept meant to model after the days of prohibition, when booze was outlawed. Places like these would offer patrons a way to get inebriated in secret. Here a lone black telephone sat with handle and cord on hook. You picked up the receiver to request access upstairs. The secondary bar was just over the original. Looking up you could see the spaced carved out and could make out fixtures in the dimly lit windows. Once the vault door opens you walk up a staircase to an actual speakeasy. One tediously recreated to represent others found during the prohibition era. My host informed me of its old time swankiness. Pictures of pin up models with curls, bountiful bossoms, and legs for days. Antique furniture of upholstered leather, shapely wood frames, and with canopies over heads. It being after 12am I was not able to gather a look for myself. But I imagined things having a vintage feel. With cigar smoke, top hats, and a gramophone spinning on a needle. I liked the subtle pun. Downstairs represented the law with legal tomes and citizens abiding by the rules. Where as upstairs was literally and figuratively, “above the law”. Our hosts reminisced when “Tavern Law” first opened. Its surrounding neighbours, like themselves, were given an opportunity to come in for an intimate tour. It was then they were given details on the history and the concept of the bar. Despite all its depth and regality the bar had a very laid back feel.

The main bar was well lit with refrigerated coolers and bottles on shelves. The bartender behind it was kept active, slinging drinking and shaking up classic cocktails. Reputation has it that time and care goes into making each drink. That they treat their craft with much respect and precision. These are works of art, drinks for sipping. You are meant to linger and savour the flavours of your mixed beverage.

Sitting down this late, the food menu was already made unavailable. Though realistically this isn’t the place for a sit down meal. Maybe a snack or two, but this would not be the place you come in hungry to. If we had come in earlier, we would have been offered items like fras grois, according to our food conscious host.

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Glass of champagne.

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“Vieux Carre”. Rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters. The name means “old square” in French. And Benedictine is apparently one of oldest alcohols, it was original made by monks. When this drink came out it was strong and much more bitter than expected. With a mention our server was which to accommodate. She brought the glass back and had the bartender sweeten the mix.

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“Fourth Regiment”. Rye, carpano, antica, angostura, orange, and celery bitters. Strong and neat. One of those drinks you would describe as being able to put hair on your chest.

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“Midnight in Paris”. Bourbon, cranberry liquor, aperol, lemon, honey, and rise. I definitely got the Paris in this. This cocktail made me feel feminine, as I took it in with its lone Rose petal and delicate glass. I felt I should be gripping it with a satin gloved hand.

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“Mint julep”. Mint, sugar, whiskey, and splash of bitters. The traditional drink of the Kentucky derby. Quite the presentation with its bright mint leaves and metallic cup.

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A custom drink made from a picky and finicky description. Vodka with sour mix, lemon, and rhubarb bitters. Based on the speed in which this was consumed, I would say my guest enjoyed his customized beverage.

Would I come back? – No. As I am a tourist visiting from Vancouver, British Columbia. During my next trip back to Seattle I would like to try something else. Something different that this exciting city has to offer. However I can and have already recommended this place.
So would I recommend it? – Yes. With its unique theme and original design, I deem this bar quite the gem. For my friends studying law this would be a fun place to unwind and drink to relax after class. And if the need to study should arise, they can do that here too. With textbooks that function for both fact and novelty. However be warned this is not the place to get your “girly” shots at, and there are no blended tropical ices here. There is no rainbow this or sweet that. Here you find full bodies brews, sophisticated syrups, and classy cocktails. A place for refinement and one where you expect to pay more for quality found at the bottom of each glass. Don’t deny your cravings.

TAVERN LAW
Capitol Hill, 1406 12th Avenue, Seattle WA, 98122
206-322-9734
tavernlaw.com
Tavern Law on Urbanspoon

Revel

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A day trip to Seattle for business ends in a new restaurant for me. Our hosts are local, and one a self proclaimed foodie. They both have been eying the place, and tonight proved it to be the best time to try.

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The building is a recently renovated and a long time historic commercial building, located in Seattle’s Ballard neighbourhood. It isn’t very visible from the street. The entrance is a turn of the corner, and a wee sign in a dimly glowing, “revel” is your only indication of direction. Down the alley is a weave of strung up lights. They shine, like stars against the city’s black back drop; hanging over a space that is blocked off. There is no way of passing across the literal “bed of grass”, as one of our hosts points out. It’s an old bed frame either naturally or purposefully converted into a lawn. I enjoyed this well placed and well timed pun. So the only way to the outdoor patio is around and through the bar at the back.

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Inside, the restaurant was surprisingly busy, and without reservations we were estimated a 45 minute wait. On which we spent at back, by the bar with drink in hand. Though realistically it was Saturday: the city was out, this was downtown, and the nearby establishments were popular lounges and dancing halls. The bar area was packed to capacity, additional add ons, like ourselves were forced to stand and wait until a table freed up. Dark and cramped, those drinking didn’t seem to mind. Two tenders saw to the bar. A backdrop of shelves and bottles at one end and a mirror with bar’s ledge at the opposite. We found a spot to loiter, by the jacket hooks and adjacent to the patio entrance. Looking out through the glass door I could see a group sitting comfortably on wooden stumps. They kept warm by means of their down jackets and the elevated fire pit that they surrounded. These were the best seats in the house. The novelty of this was most appealing.

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“Revel’s” drink list included wines, beers, and unique cocktails. One of our hosts appreciated fine spirits and enjoyed a “Black manhattan”. As a former bar tender he was able to order off the menu with this one. I was craving a Caesar, confusing both our host and the actual bartender. With clarification I got a “Kimchi Bloody Mary”. Guess Caesars are only popular in Vancouver? (Where I am visiting from). The drink was spicy with a touch of tomato. Thankfully I didn’t get too much of the afore mentioned kimchi taste, I don’t like kimchi. There were plenty of garnishes to tide my hunger over. Two pickled beans, a spiralled cucumber slice, and an olive.

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Eventually we passed the 45 minute wait mark. We wandered back into the dining room to check on the status on our would be table. A minimal wait here gave us a four top. This dining space was well lit and new, neat with its recent renovations. The open space included a very unobstructed kitchen, visible right when you walk in. It gave you a very at home feel, with the chefs preparing your meals as your waited patiently. Chefs dressed in black or grey restaurant branded tees. With navy and white striped aprons around their waists, they worked feverishly and a sped up pace. Those seated by the crisp wood counters were given a very honest look into their food preparation process. Guest ate here on swivelling high tops; dining at the bar, or what would be island in any home.

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The decor included pop art portraits of familiar celebrities. A very moustache-full Tom Selik, Arnold’s youthful portrayal of the terminator, and Sean conery ‘s suave pistol packing James Bond. Our focus was on Randy “macho man” Savage. Done in his is glorious youth with Stars and Stripes and a whole head of wild and curly hair. These must have made for quite the conversation starters, it certainly got the looks.

Our tabled seats, like all others came with its own low hanging lamp. It highlighted the bold colours found in each dish and was more than adequate for fine food photography. We sat along the wall on grey booth seats, in front of dark wooden table. Here we were almost sweating, with moisture inducing heat. With all the bodies and the continuous cooking from multiple stoves, the open space was more than adequately heated.

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Our server educated us on their family style approach to dining. Bowls and plates offered to be shared, allowing multiple tastes and the trying of new things. As needed he took then time to spell out dishes and embellish on ingredients. Well versed on this menu he was able to help us with our selection process. There was a seasonal hot pot menu offered, though we stuck with their regular listing to gain a better grasp of the place. Korean fusion was on tonight’s menu. Take what you know about Korean flavours and mish and mash it to fit the bounds of North American style fine dining. Salad with octopus. Dumplings stuffed with truffle creme. Noodles boiled with Dungeness crab. And rice dishes served with runny egg yolks. As one who loves trying new things I was most intrigued the young jack fruit curry. A fruit common to my native birth place, done up in a new way. Though when dining to share, you never want to be the one who orders the dish no one else wants or likes. We all stuck to safer bets.

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As in most Asian places we were presented with a tray of sauces. The garlic soy, Korean spicy fermented chili paste, savoury red bean, and salty fish sauce came in their own individual glass shots and scooping spoons. Without tasting I got overly greedy with the quantity, and as a result sullied a few bites. The sauces were far too salt filled for the already salty dishes.They didn’t really add any value, nor did they really go with anything. After sampling them through the appetizers stage, I left them be for the remainder of the meal.

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“Pork belly pancake with kimchi and bean sprouts”. I always imagine kimchi being incredibly spicy. So was appreciative of this appetizer and its only mild kimchi taste. Not focal in taste, it was present in colour. Each a neon orange red, indicative of kimchi. You were able to taste the flavouring of the spices used, but not its heat. It was well fried, not fluffy, with slightly crisp edges. Though overly oily, a good blotting would have easily helped rectify this. Overall this dish contained too much salt. It perfectly foreshadowed the rest of our meal. The pork belly made things salty enough, without the need for additional side sauces.

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“Potato & leek dumpling” with a Gruyère truffle crème”. With its soft outer dough and its pillowy off white appearance, it reminded me of a Korean perogy. Soft inside and super crispy on the bottom. The filling was smooth with salted cheese and whipped potato. The surrounding cream was decadent, and similar in taste and lightness to a heavier sour cream. Also quite salty, the pickled onions topping this gave the things a nice break in taste.

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“Short rib dumpling” with shallots and scallions. From looks alone you could tell the parcelled dough varied from the perogy above. This tasted more like an Asian dumpling. The skin was seasoned differently: savoury. The filling was tender and well seasoned strands of meat. With the slightest hint of vinegar, each bite was packed with great flavours. More so when combined with the freshness of the garnishing green herbs.

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“Smoky pork dan dan noodles” with collard greens and green onions. I asked for the ground peanut and crackling pork skin on the side. I like the texture of coarse cut thick noodles. With its great eggy taste they are fun to lap up. This dish had a sweeter taste, one a could not put my finger on. The collard greens balance this with its bitter essence. The saucy segments of pulled pork gave the dish is smoky barbecue-ness.

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“Dungeness crab with seaweed noodle” served with creme fraiche and a spicy red curry. With green coloured noodles and a sunny side egg this was already visually appealing. It was a shame that its taste did not marry up with is presentation. It certainly had a unique flavour profile. Slightly sweet from the crab and spicy from the curry. Contrasting, not in an enjoyable way. Also with as many noodles as I slurped up I could not make out the seaweed essence in the noodles. Though I appreciated their unusual colour and their rich and creamy texture.

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“Short rib rice bowl” with sambal daikon and mustard greens. You mix the lot up before you set about eating it. Like every dish before that and all the ones after, this too I found too salty. Thinking back now, it may just be their style of cooking? Or a Seattle thing? I clarified with our hosts to conclude, that they found things too salty as well. The perfectly pink cuts of meat had a great smokey aroma and flavouring. They were tender cubes, that we did not have enough. This is when compared to the generous portion of the hard and pickled kimchi daikon; and the flowing abundance of the slightly sauced greenery.

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“Albacore tuna rice bowl” with fennel kimchi and escarole. This was my favour of the bowls, as it was the least salty and the best paired. Up to this point all the elements in each bowl felt forced. They individually tasted ok, but together as a whole felt muddled. Here the mild mild tuna paired well with the picked rice and the sharp ginger. The tuna tasted of its salted seared crust, subtle until taken with the pink ginger common in many sushi platters.

Single stalled washrooms were located in the short hall betwixt lounge and dining room. Each door labeled with a gender specific stick man, but available for either man or woman then waiting. I always find their being not enough washrooms at a bar, a point of contention. The last thing you want is a lengthy wait after you over drank and broke the seal.

Full, but not where near satisfied we passed on desserts. But based on description they would have proved to be the highlight of the night. “Blood orange granita, ginger ice cream, jasmine tapioca”. “Calamansi semifreddo, thai chili shortbread, toasted marshmallow”. And “Chocolate ganache, peppermint snow, chocolate crumb, shiso gel”.

Would I come back? – Seeing as I am a tourist from Vancouver BC, and merely visiting; it would prove not to be in my best interest to revisit when I return to Seattle. I rather try somewhere else, somewhere new.
Would I recommend it? – No. I honestly did not enjoy the food. I was excited to try it, and looking forward to my first dabble in Korean fusion. The flavours printed on paper were exciting and the elements plated were well prepared. It is their compilation and their pairing I question. Individually nothing complimented or added to what already existed, and nothing had the ability to stand alone. We left smelling of Asian kitchen, with the longer after lingering taste of ginger in our mouths. The bright side, we got close to our suggested eight glasses of water a day, with the amount we needed to balance the saltiness of everything else. Though if this review has you peaked, don’t deny your cravings.

Revel
Fremont, 403 N 36th Street, Seattle WA, 98103
206-547-2040
revelseattle.com
Revel on Urbanspoon

Broadway Chinese Restaurant

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When looking for non breakfast-like food options at 11am on Thursday, your choices around South Granville are slim. I decided to try this little hole in the wall Chinese place in hopes that the food would be prepared quick, and as the first customer of the day I would see no wait. I walked in a quarter past 11am, to a room with only half its lights on, the sounds of coffee percolating, the “Today’s Special” sign laying across the table waiting to be filled in, and what seemed like a husband and wife team prepping the kitchen in the back. I am all for setting the day up, but do it before you unlock the doors and turn on the neon “open” sign. Be ready for your guests. After my entry to no bells and no greeting, and an initial clearing of my throat proved futile; I found the need to repeat “Hellos” a necessity. With this I was passed two paper style take out menus to look through. Lunch specials go from 11-3pm and promise smaller portions at smaller prices. However when it comes to Chinese food, I know what I like and stuck with it by means of their regular menu. And bypassed the lunch options as I was purchasing for multiple mouths. I went straight to the till to placed my order. Not even before my debit card saw the chip reading device, my requests were being called out in mandarin and made to order. As per numerous Chinese places, the expectation is that you get the cheap prices and the quick food, forgoing any hope of service. Anywhere else you would consider the woman helping me aggressive and impatient. She spoke with short burst and lacked emotion in explanation. I felt like a nuisance interrupting her morning preparation work. Though the bodies that filed in after me didn’t seem to care. They were here to eat and spoke like regulars. Busy people grabbing a quick and easy bite before and in between work.

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The space was small and awkwardly next to a adult store. Almost hidden in its shadow. It was cold indoors, my fingers shivered as I texted notes for this review. The walls were a pale yellow, as faded as the pink table cloths, and old art works that sat adjacent. The room was well used but saw little up keep. The windows saw decals, as they highly advertised their participation in delivery programs online, through “Don’t cook, justeat.ca” and “orderit.ca”. An effortless string of Christmas lights still hung on the wall. On them, a balancing act of tiny baubles in red, green, and gold. Art consisted of three large framed pictures right out of the 80’s. They celebrated the art expo in New York with blimps and the Empire State Building. The art of Brian Davis, with a once bright feathered parrot now washout from the exposure to light. And the work of Janes-Paul Brown seen in US ships in a discoloured sea. Chinese elements came as a painting of two pandas and two red Chinese New Year paper lanterns. These looked newer and in time for the season.

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I appreciated the uniformity of the tables, that stood neatly in rows. Together there was room for 15 groups to dine at once. Each table and its cloth was topped with glass and a dish of traditional condiments. Salt, pepper, soy sauce, and chilli oil. They looked like they needed a good wipe down with crusted lids and spilled seasonings. Luckily I took my order to go.

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I should have judge the food by the quality and care put into the place. Maybe then I would have been wise enough to avoid a meal I paid $37 for and enjoyed no part of.

“Hot and sour soup” in medium. Over salted with more salt than either hot or sour.

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“Hot and spicy squid” appetizer. It lacked flavour let alone spice. What little taste came from a sprinkle of hot salt over each heavily breaded piece. At least it wasn’t overly saturated with grease and each bite was manageably chewy.

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“House special fried rice” with shrimp, chicken, BBQ pork, and mushrooms. For their house special, this was disappointingly simple. We use this more as a base than a main.

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“Beef brisket in brown sauce (homemade)”. This dish was extremely salty, almost too much so, to the point of not being able to consume any of it without the accompaniment of rice. Shame, as this was what I was most looking forward to. Majority of the cuts of beef were tender. A piece of fat did find its way into my mouth. I did not like this slightly slimy and slightly chewy bit of meat. Though my guest described it as being, “disgusting in the best possible way”. We both agreed that it was certainly filling, walking away full after only three pieces.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
I can honestly say that this is the first time I have ever had Chinese food I didn’t like. I didn’t know know Chinese food could actually taste bad. Chinese cuisine is all in the sauces and here the lack there of really hurt each dish. If you can tell the difference between this food and other similarly done dishes, and deem it bad, it is a bad thing. My guest described it best, “it’s at least serviceable”. We did finish it all between three people. But I would not go back for a second try, nor would I think of it. Don’t deny your cravings none the less.

BROADWAY RESTAURANT
1410 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6H 1H4
604-731-0488
broadwaychinese.ca
Broadway Chinese Restaurant 百老匯餐廳 on Urbanspoon

Earnest Ice Cream

I have long seen pictures of their ice cream on social media and have long heard tales of their extraordinary flavours. Now on this cold January Vancouver night I would get to try “Earnest Ice Cream” for myself. Though we weren’t the only ones with this idea.

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From the road it is easy to miss. A plain store front without signs, no lights featuring anything, and nothing flashy to catch wanted attention. The white building was topped with their trademark pattern of spirals, this where a sign would be anywhere else. After a call for directions we were able to arrive and recognize the frosted font at the bottom corner of the store’s front window. “EARNEST ICE CREAM seriously good”.

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The space opened up with a vaulted ceiling and gave a breath of fresh air with natural lighting from bulbs, sprouted greenery in white pots, and the sounds of country twang and a jazzy trumpet overhead. My guest deemed it “really hipsterish” with the use of reclaimed wood for the floor boards, gloss white vinyl table tops, and a record player spinning in the corner. I however described it as being “very Vancouverish” with its modern and stylish decor. I appreciated the simplicity of the space mimicking their simple offerings. A shelf was sparsely set with rows of glass jars and alive organics. Rocks, plants and sugars. A wall of mirrored tiles and a folky piece of art hung on opposing walls. A wooden cloud with sections cut out in spirals of precise detail. The same swirl of pattern found on the awning outside as on the detail on front door. The later came in the form of an scoop of ice cream and its cone.

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You order at the counter. The line was separated at a bar and it never dwindled. The menu, a chalkboard. Your options either ice cream or coffee with three variations under each title. A single scoop, double, or pints. Espresso, Americano, or Affogato. And prices conveniently listed with their tax totalled. The actual flavours of their gourmet ice cream was listed as nine individual chalk surfaces on suspended clipboards. This offering is frequently rotated and seasonal fare is taken advantage of, like pumpkin pie for fall. If you are unsure of what to choose they give samples with reusable mini metal spoons. I inquired about the “33 acres of malt” and was given a taste after a very thorough description. It was good, but tasted like a familiar variation on vanilla, with none of the Maltesers malt that was mentioned by the clerk. Everyone took their time sampling and others were willing to wait to get to the counter to do the same. It’s okay to take your time here. Two young women were working the line. They didn’t rush their guests and served patrons with a smile. Majority of which were large groups and asians.

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We felt lucky to get a seat with the crowd that came in after us. Though realistically most of the bodies came in bee-lining it to the freezer, for the take home jars of ice cream to go. These pints were served in mini mason jars labelled in handwritten names. The one freezer door was well shopped over and had much rifling through. They came in the same flavours offered by scoops, like milk chocolate and salted caramel. As well as a jar of peanut butter + jam, not mentioned.

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Despite wanting to try all the flavours and craving a scoop of each, I settled on just a double. I was given a choice of having it in a bowl or as a cone. I went for the latter as I enjoy eating my vessel instead of discarding it. “London fog” and “Matchstick espresso flake”, I enjoyed the idea of having tea on top of coffee flavoured ice cream. The London fog was a nice light start. I have had other tea flavoured ice creams that came with a grainy texture. This was smooth from thorough churning. The espresso had a classic and not over powering taste. And it’s thin slivers of chocolate were a delightful pop of flavour. For me, it is a point of contention not having ice cream in the actual cone. So I appreciated the effort the server took in pushing some all the way to the bottom tip of my fresh waffle cone. I was happy to have gotten the double scoop as I saw more value with it at $7, than with a single at $5.

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“Hot fudge sundae” made with vanilla ice cream, in house made hot fudge, Vancouver island sea salt, whipped cream, and a house preserved bourbon staccato cherry. This listing included roasted almonds that my guest passed on. The salt was a nice touch, a new flavour on your traditional sundae. The cherry was sweat, and as always I wished for more than just the one. One cherry is a tease. You can taste the quality in the churned milk, silky smooth and utterly creamy. Not your Dairy Queen or McDonald’s ice cream. I could taste the quality, though I couldn’t taste the whipped cream. It was out shadowed by the sweetness from the focal ice cream. However as good as this was, this one scoop wonder was not worth the $7 the requested. At that price, it is equivalent to two full ice creams else where.

I was surprise to see that despite the drive out and the expectation of a wait, people took a look at the line and walked away. Where as others were without seats were set about happily eating in place. A few clustered, standing in the middle of the room with spoon in hand and smile on face. And others still choose to bare the cold and have more breathing room outdoors. We eventually gave up our one of the six tables and dropped off our dirty dishes on the cart by the door.

Would I come back? – realistically yes, but in reality no. I enjoyed what I had and would eat it again if driven here and treated. But I would not go out of the way to make a return run. It was good, but not worth the the buzz or the hassle. The drive out, the wait in a lengthy line, and then to have to pay the price, knowing you can get more else where. Although the flavours were unique and the ice cream is very good. Though when was the last time you have had bad ice cream? Case and point. Ice cream is so amazing that even the $1.99 stuff is good. So for me the value I give to “Earnest ice cream” is not worth what I am having to pay for it.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. It is trendy with pictures instagramed and images pinned. The flavours are fun and have a taste of their own. All definitely worth trying at least once. It’s all natural and tastes light in organic-ness. You get a way feeling healthier for eating it. Don’t deny your cravings.

EARNEST ICE CREAM
3992 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4E4
604-428-0697
earnesticecream.com
Earnest Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Chutney Villa

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My friend chose Indian cuisine for tonight’s dinner, wanting to enjoy a healthier option, as a pose to our original plan of burgers.

I have driven past their familiar store front several times. The orange and black colour scheme is eye catching from the road. Peering inside I couldn’t see much thanks to their dim lighting. Though once in, I saw white walls and red booths, and wall trim in a dark wood brown. This wood matched the type and colour of the frames handing above. Inside these frames was a series of oil painting. Each represented a traditional East Indian scene, a prince in a gold carriage led by two handsome white steeds. Two woman dressed in colourful saris balancing parcels on their head as they walk pass a beach with fishermen working in the water. And a man and woman riding a camel in a gold and orange desert. Across from this scene were two aches built into the wall. These alcoves with their dome shapes made the best place for a shrine. Stone statues, Lotus flower tea lights, flowered garlands and other traditional elements sat on display. They took time and pride to keep this ledge dust free.

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Their handsome stone faced bar was left unused, even with the placement of three high top stools. Though they were not meant for seating as the counter surface in front was covered with chocolate, newspapers and used more as a place for storage. And realistically you would want guests seated so close to your cash register and it frequently opened and shut throughout the night. Behind this was their kitchen, closed off and separated by a cabinet door. Peering in you could see a few men bussing dishes in the back. Extra place mats, utensils, and supplies were kept in a cabinet that had an electronic fire place hanging over it.

Two young girls in traditional garments worked the front of house. They were polite and helpful. Armed with great knowledge, they guided those, like ourselves, who are unfamiliar with the cuisine. They answered all questions with patience and repeated descriptions of dishes as needed. During slower periods they spoke to each other casually as if related. From our table I was able to over hear too much of their details. Concerns on personal life to complaints of work to do.

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Each table was set with white table cloths and paper place mats. These mats gave diners an educational explanation of spices found common in Indian cuisine. Cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, and curry leaves. It spoke of their health benefits and their role in the cooking. We were both intrigued at the restaurant’s label of South Indian cuisine. The differentiation from regular East Indian cuisine merited additional questions. One of the two girls took the time to explain it all to us. South Indian cuisine is most noticeably different in that their cooking uses no dairy. For the consistency of milk they use coconut milk. Their curries are made from tamarind and tomato, not just coconut. I was surprised to see “Dine Out” menus at each table, and to see them professionally printed in colour and on hard stock paper. Dine out offers a tasting of a restaurant at very reasonable prices. On another day we would not be able to get all that we did for $18. Though food does come as smaller portions. I think this is a good way to try new things without much commitment or any great feeling of loss if you don’t like it. Starters, Entrees, and Desserts.

Each of our three courses were served on metal plates. With lots of unknown spices and flavours new to me, I found our meal hard to describe or review. With no reference point I am unable to deem what I liked and what is good. I think the best is to try it all for yourselves. I did however get very thirsty and was very thankful to have my taller cylinder of water refilled regularly.

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We were first presented with an assortment of chutneys to accompany our meal. The tomato and coconut ones were on the spicy side, and the mango and apple fairly sweet. My guest and I both found the later most appealing and apple our favourite. A few dishes were already spicy and the addition of a spicy chutney was unnecessary for us. According to our server, chutneys l are popular dips. In regular Indian cuisine they usual come in coconut. However South Indian cuisine offers a larger variety, using a lot more fruits. This was well exampled by our four portions above.

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“Dosa crispy rice & lentil crepes”, served with lentil soup and a cool coconut chutney. This large shell is an impressive sight, and this isn’t even the full size that it regularly comes it. The wrapping is crisp and slightly on the oily side. The filling is loosely wrapped by the rounded crepe shell. The potato, onion, and pea inside reminded me that of a samosa’s. We agree that this was enjoyable to eat and deemed it the best dish of the night.

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“Meen puttu seamed ling cod”, tossed with green chillies, turmeric, coconut, and mustard seeds. Texturally it felt like tiny rice grains or sand. This is not what we expected when we ordered fish. Especially as we were unable to make out or taste any of the supposed ling cod. We heavily used our platter of chutneys to coax in some flavour.

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“Pepper lamb”, tender lamb pieces boldly spiced with black pepper, cardamom, fennel, and coriander; then teased with a touch of mint. This was a strong and sharp first spoonful. My guest passed on the lamb knowing she would miss its actual lamb-y taste, which she likes. She was right. With all the spices I couldn’t tell what protein I was having, if not for the menu. It was a fair amount of meat, each cut up into manageable bites. The rice was a welcomed base, its light airy taste and texture helped to better balance all the heaviness found in the stew. I suspected the rice was cooked in coconut milk to give it that extra freshness. The potato sides added substance and the different sauces added a new taste component. I found the yam purée too grainy and therefor off putting. The white sauce reminded me of a mild tzatziki, it helped to cool things down when it got too spicy. And the crisp fried chip was a fun crunch.

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“Allepey chemen”, white prawns cooked perfectly in a gravy of coconut milk, fenugreek, fennel and ginger; then tempered with a dash of coconut oil. Mild and much lighter compared to the lamb. With five pieces of shrimp you had a fair amount to have with your rice and sides. Though we also found extra empty shrimp tails in the mix.

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“Gulab Jamun”. A classic Indian sweet, melt in you mouth milk solids, soaked in sugar syrup. This was my favourite of the two. The syrup gave an extra sweetness and softened the bite. Though towards the bottom things got too sweet when the syrup soaked through.

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“Kesari Halva-style”. Cream of wheat flavoured with saffron or pineapple. I can best describe this as a thick cake, with its chewy texture and glutinous notes.

Would I come back? – Undecided.
Would I recommend it? – Undecided.
I am very inexperience with East Indian cuisine, let alone South Indian cuisine. All that I tried this evening was for the first time. And without a comparison point for reference I cannot give an honest opinion. Did dishes taste like how they normally do? Were things presented how they normally look? Was there a twist? Is this fusion? With an equally inexperience dining partner we were unable to decipher any of the questions above. All I can say is none of it is bad, but this isn’t the type of food I would normally gravitate towards. There are flavours I am unfamiliar with and would not immediately crave. Maybe I should come back with someone who does have experience with this type of cuisine to get a better experience. Don’t deny your cravings.

CHUTNEY VILLA
147 E Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1W1
604-872-2228
chutneyvilla.com
Chutney Villa Fine South Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Rogue kitchen & wet bar

Planning to drink heavily for lunch, we wanted our destination easily accessible by transit. You don’t want to be drinking and driving now. What immediately popped to mind was, “Rogue”. There is no where more conveniently located, then right at Waterfront station.

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Were weren’t the only ones with this logical thought. Game night, 7pm the restaurant eventually filled up. It’s easy location, and its quick walking distance to any after party was too much of a lure. Even with a wait, half an hour for a table isn’t worth worrying over. There is plenty of room to pass time in, a whole station to linger in. Occupy yourself by grabbing a coffee and a seat at the adjacent “Starbucks”, or the maybe the nearby “Subway” or even the “A&W” across the way.

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Walking in at 3pm we avoided such a pause. Went right in and were immediately led to a seat of our choosing. I am always impressed by their layout. With vaulted ceilings the place opens up. The golden lighting reflecting off the crystal detailing of the chandeliers gives the restaurant a fancier feel. A more formal air for their casual lounge. Crafted from a combination of glass, candles, and strung up beads raining down; multiply this by three, and these chandeliers are quite the sight all lined up in a row. The gold swirls in the patterned carpets underfoot, and the golden details in the hanging curtains between booths; helped with air of elegance. Once again at 3pm we had our pick of the place, the second floor was left unused; and cloistered away rooms for large parties went unseated. We claimed one of the cushy faux leather booths as our own. It was a rich brown that matched the stripes on the tables. We came in knowing no reservations would be needed. But when seated were warned our table was reserved for a party joining at 6:30pm. We were settling in nicely for an early dinner and afternoon of wine by the bottles; and the space was perfect for this. Sparse tables, easy going staff, and a list of old school music playing over head. Things couldn’t be finer for our purpose. Closer to the onset the evening, day light faded and the room filled with bodies. We saw less of our server and saw more tables occupied around us.

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The menu was divided by seasonal specials, food, and drinks. A listing of bar classics and casual North American favourites. We were happy with the pricing for bottles of wine, so had two bottles of white from the fairly local, “Blasted Church”. It was served chilled and our glasses were refilled regularly.

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“Sushi bombs 2.0”, tempura prawn, albacore tuna, tobiko, sriracha, and sesame seeds; chased with wasabi soy. I ordered this more for its novelty, having had it once before. Broken down this was a tuna roll minus the seaweed. This was rice rolled into balls, topped with tuna sashimi, and accented with a squeeze yourself eyedropper of soy sauce. With their mild taste, the surrounding elements gave the plate some colour and added some textural crunch. All in all it was good, but I would consider this more of a visual feast than great sushi. Definitely not filling and not worth the $9 I was charged for it.

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“Nachoes”, a gluten free option made with red & green jalapeños, mangoes, grape tomatoes, scallions, and monterey & cheddar cheese. Served with a side of salsa & sour cream, we added guacamole for an extra $1. With the addition of the fruit and vegetables the plate was made light and more refreshing. Almost tropical with the mango and coarsely chopped up cilantro. I question the hard to eat out of narrow plate, that our pile of chips were balancing on. Would it not be easier to use a larger plate, to avoid the dropping of chips? It would also help in the dispersing of cheese. Well made nacho plates have cheese over every layer of chips. These nachos were greatly lacking in cheese. And as always there is ever enough dipping components with the rationing we had to so.

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“Hedgehog ice cream pie”. Layers of latte, almond, and hazelnut ice cream on an espresso chocolate biscotti crust, drizzled with a chocolate sauce. This was fabulous, I literally licked the plate. The ice cream was light and each flavour melded well for a cohesive tone. I could use one now.

We only saw friendly and accommodating staff members. Though it helped we were the one of only three tables seated in the dining room for a long time. With no rush the pace was easy going and everything came with ease. And our server went along with our requests without judgement. We switched tables a couple of time looking for the right view. We were redirected and moved without a fuss. Our table was checked in on often by our outgoing server, who was able to throw jokes and laugh with us.

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Of note, the washrooms are a little inconveniently placed in the basement. A trek down a spiralling staircase gets you there. Men’s and women’s are differentiated by “Rouges” and “Roguettes”. And inside, for women there is quite the advertising. A display of topless men, appearing on the corner of your mirror one by one, to promote the Fiat. Same for men, but women? I wonder.

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As previously mentioned, on past visits I have also had the sushi bombs.

rogue nachos with mang, cherry tomatoes, chives

And the rogue nachos. I guess you can say I like what I like.

rouge, poutine, bacon, goat cheese fries

“Fries x3”, hand cut kennebec fries; served with gorgonzola cream & bacon, made poutine style with gravy and cheese curds, and seasoned with truffle oil & parmesan. The variety kept things exciting and the palate interested. Great bar food.

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The very seasonal “Vietnamese tacos”. Instead of a corn tortilla, a Chinese style steam bun, “bao” dough is used. These were used to sandwich tender pieces of pulled pork and pickled vegetables; in carrot, cucumber, and radish. Very similar in its sweet and sour nature to Vietnamese sandwiches made with baguettes.

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Rogue’s take on udon is no longer on the menu, but when it was I remembered wondering why I ordered an Asian noodle dish at this lounge restaurant. But later admitted to it being pretty good.

rouge spicy shrimp pizza

“Spicy tiger prawn pesto pizza”, chilli prawns, red onions, pesto, mozzarella, feta, and grana padano parmesan. With lots going on, the pizza dough was overwhelmed with flavour. Great when paired with beer.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
The food is solid, the staff are friendly, and the location is very convenient. And what a location, built in a glamorous train station with brick walls and regal carpeting. You got that dress up formal feel with the comforts of a casual chain restaurant. They give a great effort in bringing the two worlds together. And as I mentioned earlier, an ideal location to be drinking at. At a few steps to the skytrain platform, you need not worry about the cold whether or a walk done too far in too uncomfortable of a shoe. The “Rogue” proves in real estate it’s all about location, location, location. And it doesn’t get anymore convenient than this. Good food, better drinks. Don’t deny your cravings.

ROGUE
601 West Cordova Street, Vancouver BC
604-678-8000
roguewetbar.com
Rogue Kitchen & WetBar on Urbanspoon

Sushi Van

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A new sushi restaurant on South Granville. A welcomed change to the neighbourhood, from the “Wrap zone” that previously held the location. This week was their grand opening and the no tax banners and signs attracted my attention. Though it not being on street level and the need to walk down a flight of steps hid it from general view.

Once inside the space opens up, with a sushi bar by the door and a dining space done in black and white to the right. The bar was left simple with black shelves holding white dishware. Their logo branded behind all this and spotlighted with lamps. For a small sushi place it was eye catching. A cozy space to have dinner at and enjoy your company in. I am sure “Sushi Van” will give the two sushi restaurants in either direction a run for their money. Three chefs worked behind the sushi bar. Two in black coats and caps, one in a traditional male style kimono. A server/hostess in branded tee and a bus girl in all black ran the front of store. Both buzzed around running odd jobs. Everyone working today was in a good mood they joked with customers and laughed with each other. And they were all conversing in Japanese so things seemed authentic.

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The small stone fireplace, the black painted wooden tables and chairs, and potted green plants kept things looking fresh and clean. Each table was prepped with a delicate white soy sauce jug and tiny sauce bowls to pour it into. A welcomed change from the usual reusable “kikkoman” bottles used else where. The tea was free and set up as self serve by the cash desk, and soft drinks were available at cost, in a cooler that you grabbed yourself.

Right a 6pm, for the early dinner rush, individual bodies came filing in. I just missed the line and eagerly order. I was asked to wait for 15 minutes for my take out to come to pass. But between the two sushi chef my 15 minute wait easily became 9. The extra appeal and the added popularity of the place probably came from their promotions. As I mentioned earlier, this was their week long Grand opening celebration. They offered their new guests no tax and lunch bento boxes at 2 for 1. This would be offered until January 31st, 2014.

The biggest appeal for me was their focus and attempt at making their sushi even more healthier. Orders came with packets of naturally brewed soy sauce, made with no preservatives. Not that I used any, each roll of sushi was already pretty tasty. And all their rice was cooked in green tea. This gave each roll of sushi the flavouring and essence of green tea, with all it’s health benefits. Say hello to eating sushi with antioxidants infused into each grain. The down side to this was that this cooking method caused the rice to lose a lot of its usual adhesive-ness. It easily crumbled from the pressure of chopsticks. When eating nothing hit my mouth in a cohesive segment.

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Their menus were take away versions, photocopied papers folded into three parts. For those wanting more pictures to help the decision making process, a coloured album-ed menu was available to be shared amongst all guests. It proudly advertised their use of “green rice” for their customer’s health, how they spend a lot of time thinking up the perfect sushi combinations, and they encouraged diners to “not eat to live and but live to eat”. There were lots to be interested in on the “specials” section of their menu. Though with little description, the vague-ness of things forced me to ask a lot of questions. And not all of these questions were able to be answered by the hostess or the sushi chef. “Sushi risotto”, “nude boy”, and “burning love”? Quite a list of names, it certainly peaked my interest.

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“Sushi pizza”. Deep fried sushi rice topped with imitation crab meat, avocado, two pieces of salmon, two pieces of tuna, and masago. A growing sight in more fushion and modern sushi restaurants. The novelty of combining something Japanese in taste with an eating experience common in North America. Here you have your sushi presented as a flattened and rounded sheet of rice, topped with the appropriate seafood and sauces. It gave quite the presentation. The warm crispness of the rice was a good contrast to the chilled smoothness of the raw fish.

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“Tokyo tower”. Sushi rice topped with spicy tuna, avocado, chopped scallop, crab meat, and fish eggs. I understood the “tower” in the name, as ingredients were piled up, one on top of another. But I just didn’t get the height I was expecting. This came recommended when I asked for what else was popular. It was a nightmare to eat with chopsticks. It presented well, but gets ruined quite quickly when attempting to get a bite out. It is nothing more than a rice dish made into a round. It could also be considered a pizza, and should not listed as a specialty roll.

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“Tuna 4way”, Each a different look ^^”. And yes, that was exactly how it was written on their menu. Spicy tuna, tuna gomae, tuna tataki, tuna yukke”. I don’t know which was what, but each offered a unique play on the common tuna. My only regret was not starting with this first, as it’s pleasant and mild taste was lost after consuming a sauced up and flavourful sushi roll.

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“8 flavour”. A crab meat, avocado, and cucumber roll; cut up. Each segment is topped with different ingredients. Simply put, aCalifornia roll topped with add ons like spicy scallop, shrimp, and even more imitation crab. Once again another roll that was a visual feast. This was the roll that the server had to ask for clarification from the sushi chef. Who in turn needed to ask the head chef for an explanation.

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“Tuna tataki roll”. A crab meat, avocado, and asparagus roll; topped with seared tuna and a deep fried garlic piece. The roasted garlic changed the taste, of what would be a normal roll. It was the best part of the dish, and it’s presence made this my favourite.

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“Calamari roll”. Lettuce, crab meat, kappa (cucumber), avocado, deep fried calamari, and fish eggs. Great chewy crunch from the lightly tempura-ed squid. This is the one roll I would use with soy sauce.

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“Nude Boy”. Salmon, tamago, crab meat, avocado, and kappa, all wrapped up in sushi rice and a sheet of rice paper. The rice paper is in place of the traditional seaweed. The see through nature of the wrapping is what gives this roll its name. Definitely different and very inventive, but I don’t think the substitution served any purpose. The rice is still present and seaweed actually a more health conscious option. Truthfully the white floor skin made the roll worse. It’s mushy texture throws you off, it is missing the crispiness of the seaweed that offsets the gooey-ness of the roll. To quote my dining companion, “It feels weird inside my mouth”.

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“Burning Love”. Salmon, avocado, kappa, tamago, and crab meat roll. Topped with seared salmon and coated in a green onion spicy sauce. And yes I saw the use of a blow torch in play. I enjoy how the searing brings out a sweetness in the salmon. With the chilli sauce, it starts off fairly sweet and ends with a spicy kick. Though nothing was “burning” as its name suggested.

As a side note, I wished their business cards and take out menus was better proof read. Letters went missing and words went misspelled. I would like them to stay in the neighbourhood and do well.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I liked the food and enjoyed the uniqueness of their green rice. Each roll was fresh and very flavourful. This saved me the need of adding any soy sauce to things. Though be warned if you are looking for regular white rice sushi rolls, they don’t have any here. The presentation was so nice in styrofoam take out containers, I can only image how stunning it would be on a dine in plate. Though realistically, everything we had was comprised of the same ingredients, just presented in different ways. My dining partner tonight put it best, this sushi was not about the fish (as traditional Japanese sushi is), but about the noise used to mask the fish. Either way I have been back twice since, and can definitely see this being a weekly occurrence. Therefore am deeming this as one of my top favourite sushi places in the city, if not the favourite. Don’t deny your cravings.

SUSHI VAN
2566 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3G7
604-739-9440
Sushi Van on Urbanspoon

Eight 1/2 Restaurant Lounge

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Named for its location, in a heritage building on eighth, half a block off Main Street. Clever. I have liked a few of their pictures on Instagram, so have been meaning to try things in person. Luckily I made a reservations, despite its tucked away location, lines formed and patrons were turned away with the disappointment of a 20 minute wait.

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As it’s description online promised this was a classic two story house. Though our experience remained on the ground floor. Walking in through the front door you are engaged by vibrant colours. Whites, reds, and blacks were used to paint buildings and catalog numbers. We questioned whether digits were purposefully done drippy, while others were created perfectly with stencils. My guest described the theme as kitschy. Everything was arranged to accommodate the house’s floor plan. As a result the decor came across as awkward, almost jumbled in its mish mash. Stone bricks stacked against one wall, bulbs of light came protruding out from another. Exposed beams were visible above us, and speckled light fixtures came dripping just below them. Like in any home, the kictchen was towards the back. It was closed off and not visible through the frosted glass window with the restaurant’s name painted on it. The room’s focal point was its black and white panoramic photo of Main Street. This canvased artwork stretched across the restaurant. It was easily recognizable for what it was by us locals. Seating was fairly roomy despite the narrow space. The lengthy bar took majority of the square footage. Seats were either by the bar or at several tables to its right. Though it didn’t matter where you sat, all the television mounted up around the room were shut off for the night. I felt short in my low booth seat, comparatively to the height of the bar stool adjacent. Tables were set and decorated with a collage of faded letters and old timey newspaper clippings. They sat broken up and scattered under a sheet of glass. The restaurant was nice enough, though we found it would have been more impressive as someone’s home, instead of a restaurant. It definitely came across as as great local eatery for the neighbourhood. Tonight the people clearly came for their drinks. Glasses of all shades and colours sat on every table, and at every setting.

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Reading their literature, the restaurant’s owners pride themselves on their values and stand by their food. They shop local and don’t fry or microwave, they recycle and compost, and support their neigbourhood. Organic, free range, and Oceanwise; all words and promises you want to hear when dining out. They prepare dishes they want Vancouverites to claim as their own. And if that is not enough, further reassurance of their craft comes from their motto, “What goes in your body should be simple, fresh, and local”.

Their drink list included scratch made cocktails with hand squeezed juices. I came in knowing I would have to try their “tequila pineapple caesar”, as seen on their Instagram page, only to come to the conclusion that this was a seasonal option.

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Wanting something sweet, and having my eye catch on the words, “Blood & Sand”, I was sold when our server reassured me that it would fruity based on its written menu-ed description. Though in retrospect, with a name like “blood and sand”, it shouldn’t be sweet. Auchentoshan, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and orange juice. It tasted like alcohol, with not the least bit of sugar present. When our server asked, we were honest in our distain for the cocktail. She immediately offered to have the drink stricken from our bill.

“PG13”. Pimms No.1, ginger ale, cucumber, lemon, lime fresh mint. Refreshing and light with cucumber and citrus. A drink I was able to enjoy with dinner.

“Moscow Mule”, Russian Standard Vodka, ginger beer, fresh lemon juice. This was our replacement for the first cocktail. Like a sharp gingerale, with a spice that lingered in your throat.

The food menu highlights gluten free options with “gf” and pointed out Oceanwise dishes with the appropriate logo. Looking at the list, a lot of similar ingredients and the same elements were used thought out from appetizers to pizzas and small plates to mains. Corn salsa in the “Pacific Bacon Sliders” and “Okanagan Stuffed Chicken”. The creamy parm dip came as a side for both the “Steak Bites” and the “Crisp Oven-baked Wings”. And chorizo was present in the “Mini Perogies” dish and “8th Avenue pizza”.

After having our first two plates and being neither excited or satisfied, we opted to stick with small plates instead of a main each.

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“Baked Brie”, Filo wrapped brie, okanagan honey, sambal oelek, and candied apple. Our dish traveled, after going to two different tables, and being rejected. We claimed it as ours, only to have one of the hostesses take it back to the kitchen, in order to check that the order was indeed ours, “to not make a mistake”. How ironic. The cheese was creamy. When cutting in to the crisp filo skin, it oozed out and clung on to utensils like stringy web. The salty cheese, spicy chili, and sweet apple were a good mix. The whole wheat baguette pieces were a good base for the flavourful toppings. Though still soft, I would have preferred the bread white. A good dish with a unique flavour profile, but nothing I would have a craving for.

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“Mini Perogies”, Potato and cheddar mini perogies, with Peruvian chorizo, and caramelized onions. Each pocket was topped with sour cream and a sweet chipotle sauce. It tasted home made, like someone’s Ukrainian mother made it specially for you. Despite their miniature size they had more flavour than your regular perogy, this was thanks in part to the sausage. I personally thought the perogies were tasty enough that the chorizo distracted from them.

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“Crisp Oven-baked Wings”, BC free run chicken wings served with a parm dip. The wings came in a choice of salt & pepper, Thai, BBQ, hot, or honey garlic. These were not your regular honey garlic wings. The bake not deep fried process gave them their tender and juicy flavour, as a pose to the usual crunchy and chewiness indicative of most chicken wings. This was definitely nothing as its name suggested, but we still agreed they had a good flavour, the chives added a tang that set them apart. Overall you really can’t compare these to other wings, because they are not like other wings. Neither good or bad, we thought them ok. Although the parm sauce was present and available for dipping, it didn’t change the taste.

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All pizzas came in a thin 10″ crust. The “BBQ Chicken” pizza was made with BC free run chicken breast, caramelized onion, roasted red peppers, and alder smoked bacon. It got topped with mozzarella and drizzled over with a thick BBQ sauce. Each bite grew progressively saltier with all the elements present. There was too much going on, a jumbled mix, that made it hard to make out any individual ingredients. Plus there was that overwhelming BBQ taste that masked everything else. I stopped on the thick cuts of white chicken breast, they were too large and too heavy for the droopy pizza crust to hold. And I actually used the creamy parm dip from the chicken wings here, to perk things up.

Would I go back? – No.
Overall the food was just ok. We left full, but not raving over what we had. Nothing tasted as we expected, and nothing was without some variation. Inventive, but always missing that something you wanted when you ordered the dishes. We were able to finish all the food, but it would never be something we would crave for again. Our server was friendly, but the hostess and the other young lady who worked the room was cold. They dropped of dishes and obliged requests with an air of hostility. We asked for our ambience adding candle to be relit and were made to feel as if we burdened the girl who had to go across the room to get a lighter. When we asked for a plastic bag to house our take out containers in, the best they could offer was a used one from “Buy Low Foods”. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was once used for someone’s home made lunch.
Would I recommend it? – No.
If you have to come, hopefully it is because you are living in the neighbourhood and didn’t make a specialty trip out. Come for after work drinks, but skip the food. Don’t deny your cravings.

EIGHT 1/2
151 E 8th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5T 1R8
604-568-2703
eightandahalf.ca
eight 1/2 Restaurant Lounge on Urbanspoon

Mamie Taylor’s

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When deciding where to go, my guest asked me if we could visit a restaurant that was located in Chinatown. She checked to see if it was okay, as if it was a deal breaker?

Leafing through the witty humour found in their cyber pages I was immediately sold on “Mamie Taylors”. Their website read, “We promise that the menu on this website is pretty much, most of the time, fairly up to date and accurate, except for when it isn’t.” And “We also have taxidermy.” I was perplexed over the thought of seeing dead animals, while eating others.

Walking up, I wasn’t able to notice the restaurant immediately. The block was as dark, and the surrounding businesses were closed. An all black front and an unmarked awning meant you relied solely on the knee level sandwich board to tell you where you were. A drawing of a bird in flight and their name in print.

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Walking in the space was equally dark and the ambience mellow. The decor and design reminded me of the stereotypically manly den. Rich leather seats, glossed wood tables, deep green painted walls, and the smooth sounds of a blusey rock band playing over head. The rest of the decorative pieces matched accordingly, and as promised there was taxidermy present. Heads of bears, bucks, wolves, and elk; and a variety of fowl in flight. Peasants, ducks, and an assortment of other members of the aviary family. The stuffed bob cat balancing a ballon on its head and the bear skin rug caught my attention on top of a cabinet and mounted on the wall.

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Seating is done communal style. An accommodating fact for restaurants, in order to maximize space. And a unique way to refine dining and make a new acquaintance or two while you are at it. Though realistically I didn’t make an attempt at the latter, nor did I observe anyone attempting the same. I could have been seating on a Tuesday night was bountiful and parties for their own table corner, a stretch away from others. The rooms were distinguished between the lounge and dining room. One faced the bar and the other the kitchen. Both open spaces that allowed a looked into the working and conversations of the bartender, wait staff, and kitchen hands. The bar was set to the back drop of red bricks and worn mortar. On it, parallel shelves, the home of bottles and curiosities. Statues and figurines of animals, though I can’t be too sure. The flickering of candle light did little to illuminate the area. I was surprised the bartender was able to locate what he needed at such speed. Though I am sure his eyes are adjusted to the darkness. Over a great attention to detail was put into the place.

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They don’t allow reservations,though once again, none were needed this Tuesday at 6pm. Menus were recycled paper stamped with their trade mark bird soaring with wings spread. One for wine; another for snacks, smaller plates, and dinner; and one for drinks and desserts. The dinner menu was stamped with the date of its creation, today “January 11, 2014”. So they kept things exciting with a constant revolving and evolving menu. After we ordered, our table was set with the appropriate dishware. We found it different for a bar to offer reusable napkins and patterned plates with a rural country feel.

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As I sat, I nursed my recommended cocktail. I asked for something sweet, “Pressed apple flip” was recommend. Made with calvados, pisco, apple cider, port, and a whole egg. It came looking like a coffee drink in colour, foam, drizzle, and glass. I didn’t get much apple essence, but it was on the sweeter side as I had requested. With two pages of American and European whiskey, I assume that was one of their specialties. This fact definitely matched the manly bar feel. And judging by the solo male bodies that trickled in throughout our stay, they deemed it as such themselves.

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“Schnitzel salad”, winter greens, pork belly, fried egg, curried pears, and stilton. The abundance in cheese overwhelmed the dish. Though without them the salad would be too bland. It was delicate balance trying to ensure each bite had a Stilton cube, but no more than one, lest it outshine the other, more milder ingredients. The bitter greens were needed to balance out the flavour of the cheese. The pork was surprisingly not the star of the dish. I imagined the meat more fatty and its flavour more pronounced. Instead it resembled flattened and breaded chicken. It was more of an add on, for texture.

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“The fried chicken” with buttermilk biscuits, parsnip smashed potatoes, kohlrabi slaw, and gravy. The chicken had a crisp skin and was well seasoned. Though both growing up on the fried chicken from the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” chain, we deemed its processed chicken better. This chicken definitely tasted healthier, it wasn’t overly oily and it came from a fresh cut of meat. The sides offered great textural balance to the chicken. The potatoes had a whipped silky texture to it. The coleslaw, a crunchy pop of freshness The cheesy biscuits were thick to bite into, a little too bready, if that is even a thing. And the candied pecans just seemed out of place, it’s sweetness and hardness and threw off the taste and the plate.

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The dinner feature of the night was a chargrilled whole trout. It was deboned, and accompanied with house made gnocchi, sautéed vegetables, roasted potatoes, and a spicy beurre blanc sauce. The white butter sauce was mild, it seamlessly pulled all the elements of the plate together. The fish was a little salty, it paired well with the soft and chewy gnocchi. The vegetables were undercooked, and therefore a little hard. Overall it was a well balanced dish, not at all spicy as our server’s description led us to believe.

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“Deep fried apple”. Vanilla ice cream stuffed into a hollowed out Granny Smith apple. The whole apple is then coated in a rice crispy crust and then deep fried. It is served sitting in milk caramel sauce, and sprinkled over with powdered sugar, raisins, and apple chunks. Very unique, this was definitely the most popular dish of the night. It tasted like a cross between a caramel apple and an apple pie. Sweet caramel toppings like a caramel apple; and a warm crust and a la mode taste reminiscent of an apple pie. The raisins were a unique touch and reminded me of oatmeal or an apple cinnamon breakfast cereal. I would come back just for this.

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The washroom was quite the attraction. Wallpapered with cut out of animals in red and black for target practice. They certainly matched the taxidermy theme outside.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Located in a quickly developing block of Chinatown, it is a little out of my way, but with plenty of metered street side parking it is easily enough to get to. The decor was lovely and certainly one of a kind. With all the stuffed wildlife posed in striking fashion, I wouldn’t recommend this scene for any vegetarian. The menu is a unique list of original ideas. Items I have not heard of elsewhere and I can see as a pull for return. “Fried olives”, “oyster biscuits”, and “oxtail fondue”. I wasn’t in the mood to get my drink on, but the mezcal, single barrel bourbon, and absinthe flights had me very interested. I would recommend this as a great place to host a large gathering, though without reservations, you run the gamble of not getting a table. Don’t deny your cravings.

MAMIE TAYLOR’S
251 East Georgia Street, Vancouver BC
604-620-8818
mamietaylors.ca
Mamie Taylor's on Urbanspoon

Po Kong Vegetarian Restaurant

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When dining with a vegetarian it is nice to accommodate their dietary restrictions once in a while. Today we decided to not force our veggie friendly third to order lunch on a carnivore-full menu. We got her to suggest the venue, and I was excited to see how it stacked up in flavour. Would I be satisfied without the animal protein I unusually crave.

Parking was inconvenient. The parking out front was packed on both sides of the road, and the lot in the back had guests boxing one another in. After a few laps around the block, I was forced to park a couple of blocks away. Walking up and in, things looked a lot like your run of the mill Chinese restaurant. After you turn the corner, to avoid the glass partition, you are face to face with their restaurant’s shrine. A wooden stand home to a porcelain Buddha statue and its fruit offerings. This and the artwork pinned to walls speak to their Buddhist beliefs and inspirations. The dining room was made up of round family style tables covered in cloth, and topped with lazy susans; Familiar prosperous Chinese characters hung up for good fortune; Stone statues, jade carvings, and lucky bamboo. All the makings and markings of a traditional Chinese establishment. I was only surprised by the green of the place. A medium hue of green highlighted the room. The same green that dawned the chairs and the wall trim, was seen on the chopsticks. And a pale green found its way on to the table cloths. I thought this a clever nod to their all vegetable menu and offerings. As is the case for many Chinese restaurants, one wall was covered in mirrors, a common and easy way to give the illusion of depth in a crowded space.

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The restaurant was fairly busy on a Sunday afternoon. Enough patrons to keep the staff busy, but not too much to take away from the service. George is the owner, and I believe it was he who was the one making rounds throughout the dining room today. He helped pour tea and refill our pot. He checked in on our well being and asked for feedback on the dishes. We engaged in humourous banter and he was jovial during each one. We couldn’t have asked for a more engaged business owner. Something not often seen at other Asian operated, and food focused businesses.

I was late so took no part in ordering off the thick menu. Though was surprised to see such a collection of dishes without the presence of meat. The following dishes will be described from the perspective of a omnivore, comparing them to its meat substitutes.

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Stuffed wonton soup with peas. The portion was smaller, and meant to be perfectly split amongst three people. One of the many servers, helping any of the tables, was kind enough to wait for me to take pictures. She stood while I clicked, before ladling out the portions before us. The broth was light in texture and rich in flavour. Each wonton was wrapped in a doughy skin and stuffed with chunky vegetable. It didn’t taste like meat, but I didn’t miss it in its absence. I did find the pea shoots distracting and sort of out of place in the bowl. Their taste didn’t balance well, like a sore thumb.

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Shredded vegetable and ginger fried rice. Similar in look and flavour to the chicken or fish version, but with ginger to give it that extra dimension, that would otherwise be missing. It was good, but used it more as a base for the other more flavourful dishes.

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Shiitake mushroom and Chinese broccoli. The mushrooms were a gummy mouthful. I was unable to cut them in half, so resulted in forcing the full cap in to my mouth and down my throat, with great difficulty. As a result I only had one. Though the one cap was packed full of rich sauciness. The Chinese broccoli was as it usually is, cut up and served in large stems. Eating it requires unladylike like chomps and a tug of the jaw. And because I believe eating should be easy, I avoided this dish all together.

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Colourful vegetable chop suey in bird’s nest. The variety of vegetables were chopped into bite sized pieces, they included carrots, baby corn, zucchini, mushroom, and celery. Celery was the most present in the assortment. The sesame seeds added an extra dimension of taste, and the cashew a nice sweeter crunch. There was also a pink block of imitation meat. It resembled spam in both taste and texture. As both a meat and spam lover this was a salty treat. The “nest” was deep fried greasiness. Light in texture, and bready in taste. It made for a good break from all freshness, found in the vegetables it carried. Definitely a smorgasbord of flavours and colour, as its menu-ed name promised.

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Bean curd with black bean sauce. We agreed this was the best dish. Each piece of curd was likened to a sponge in texture and character. A chewy bite, that easily soaked up the savory and sweet sauce it was covered in. As the heartiest of all the dishes, this was the best one to end on. We would leave filling full. With enough leftovers for lunch for two.

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Mango pudding: light, airy, and never too sweet. You can never be too full for mango pudding. It actually cleanses your palette, and for me gets me ready to eat more. This I find is especially the case at all you can eat places. With its creamy texture, I like sucking this jello like blob through a thin opening between my teeth. We were given the option of having our pudding with or without cream. I like the cream for an added sweetness.

The busing of tables and the clean up process in between guests included gathering all dish wear by the table cloth and sweeping up food off the floor. They certainly kept things at an appreciated neat and tidy level.

Would I come back? – No. Although the food was good and I left full, I am a true omnivore, if not carnivore. I was ready to gobble a large beef burger in three hours.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. The vegetarian of the group left raving about the cuisine. She enjoyed each dish and was happy to have it all again tomorrow, as leftovers. The menu was page upon page of delicious all vegetarian and vegan friendly dishes. A variety not easily found else where. The service was more than your usual order and deliver Asian style approach. The owner cared and his staff were accommodating. Don’t deny your cravings.

PO KONG
1334 Kingsway, Vancouver BC, V5V 3Z4
604-876-3088
pokongvegetarian.ca
Po Kong Vegetarian Restaurant 普光素食 on Urbanspoon

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