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Month: February 2014 Page 1 of 2

Sweet Revenge Patisserie

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A well known Vancouver staple on Main Street. A common spot for snacks with its extensive listing of both desserts and teas, and/or the place for after dinner treats with its later hours of operation. Their self proclaimed claim to fame is their existence as an alternative to factory produced cakes, as one of the first patisseries in Vancouver specializing in good old fashioned home made desserts. Being as popular as it is, there are no reservations to be taken and it’s first come first serve. So despite me arriving before my party and the being first in line, the lone male server informed me I will only be seated when my guests get in. So in order to save my table I texted a warning to hurry.

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Inside, the single room is stuffy and warm with bodies and objects, something well suited for a cold and wet Vancouver night, like tonight’s snow fall. Set up like your great aunt’s pallor it’s a step back in time. Black and white photos in an assortment of frames. The age of the frames apparent by either their plastic gilding in gold or its wood brushed over with thin paint. The variety and content of said frames kept the room lively with visuals. Paintings and portraits from a different area. Families, lovers, and landscapes.

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As a whole the room was cozy, kept tight with a close clustering of “things”. The floor, well worn out planks of hard wood. The walls, covered in a luscious red embossed wallpaper. The ceiling, comprised of faux tin. And furnished with antique style pieces that partnered perfectly with salvaged tables and chairs. Theses tables tops were appropriately accented with oil lamps. Together, all the knick knacks around and above the wall trim and all the styling above made this the perfect setting for an intense game of eye spy. The only thing that really threw off the imagery of the room were the spare fold out chairs that allowed the squeezing of additional bodies into already cramped tables. As was the case of our seats. We were given the left corner of a table large enough to seat six. Our portion was sectioned off by a makeshift separator, barely a foot high. It didn’t do much to create the seclusion we had hoped for. I found them similar to the bars you use at the grocery store check out. They are used to separate your purchase from those of the patron before and after you. There as a symbol, it doesn’t do much to block anything out, after all I did get a good smell of the guest sitting next two me in his group of four. But given the line behind us and the filled tables before us we weren’t going to be fussy.

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The menu was a thin file fold. On it the teas were divided by rooibos, herbal, black, green/white/artisan, and even iced. Blueberry teas with liquor had their own section. And following it, a mixed variety of alcoholic beverages. Want a stronger pick me up? get coffees in organic and caffeine free. Pressed, espresso, and even specialty brews with liquor. Or if you are looking for a night cap instead, order some wines, ales, or even beer and cognac. The desserts are even cleverly paired up with recommended spirits to heighten taste and experience.

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My guest ordered the “Belgium chocolate rooibos”. All teas are available in small, medium, or large. Each varying in size by a couple of cups. 2-4-6. And at two dollars each upgrade, it matches quantity with price. Serving their teas in a two cup French press gave it that extra special touch. We allowed the tea to steep before pushing the knob down and squishing the leaves at the bottom. A move that allows the liquid inside to be poured uninterrupted. This caffeine free brew smelled just like melted chocolate. It was definitely more scent-ful then flavourful, thankfully when partnered with the sweeter desserts to come.

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“London fog”. The menu offered the ability to “fog up” any tea with steamed cream or milk and a shot of sweetness in the form of syrup. I took them up on it, choosing from their selection of both, listed in between brackets. I had the “lavender rosehip” tea with vanilla syrup. Like the chocolate tea before, this too came in a French press. With the cream and milk added in right away in the press, as the tea continued to steep. Not a common practice but it did leave things with a nice look. Shame that the tea leaves were able to escape their filtered barrier and the majority ended up pouring out into my cup. I was left chewing leaves in an otherwise creamy drink.

All their homemade desserts use organic ingredients in their cakes, pies, and pastry. They claim that it is just like how your grandma use to make; or as is the case with some of the recipes, just like how their baker’s grandmother use to make it. The dessert menu was filled with colour coded information. The name of the dessert, its ingredients, and its proposed alcoholic beverage were printed in red, blue, and purple. And accompanied with symbols that were navigated through the use of a legend. Best sellers were indicated with a cellphone outline. Gluten free with a happy face. Thunderbolted items had coffee or caffeine in it. And the martini glass declared alcoholic content. We pleasantly found out that all the desserts were not too sweet. Something I am sure was well thought out, in order to compliment their gentle teas and bitter spirits.

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“Creme burlee”, tonight’s seasonal flavour was raspberry. A fruity creme burlee with actual whole pieces of raspberry baked in. As well as a few more berries used as garnish on top. This small serving was the usual creamy custard with a hard burnt sugar top. Just as soft and as sweet as I wanted it. I actually found the raspberry a nuisance, in it taking up room meant for more creme burlee.

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“Berry Trifle”. Layers of sponge cake soaked in Grand Marnier; with alternating layers of fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries; all in real vanilla custard, topped with real homemade whipped cream. After a heavy dinner I found this the perfect light dessert. The freshness of the berries was apparent, but I expected more from a parfait. It was packed with layers and plenty of each of the above, but I didn’t get the Marnier in the cake and things could have used more custard for moisture. Even its vessel was unimpressive, an everyday drinking glass.

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“Smooth Operator”. This is the first cake I have seen offered in a single or double portion. Guess it was as good as the best seller logo indicated. Fresh raspberries and mascarpone cheese with whipped cream, layered over raspberry liqueur-soaked chocolate sponge cake, sprinkled with white chocolate shavings and drizzled in a raspberry coulis. Despite its dry and crumbly appearance it was moist throughout. Not too sweet with just the right amount of cream. Though at this size, I recommend sharing with a friend.

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The room kept fairly loud with all tables seated right until minutes before closing, at 12am. A very inviting space, we were given our bill without asking, but there was no rush to pay it or leave. In fact we overstayed our welcome without complaint. Being the second to last to leave half an hour past 12am.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
As I mentioned earlier, there are not too many late night dessert places open this late. A place that is non bubble tea related and specializes in organic and delicious teas and sweets. Heck, I don’t think there is actually another desert shoppe that offers wine with your ice cream or beer with your cheesecake. I would definitely come back during a night where I am craving classic North American desserts past 10pm. And given that there are not many other options outside of summer I would wait for a table to open up. However this is not my favourite place for desserts. I am not a big fan of the dingy aged setting, nor am I one of its cramped space. I always believe half the fun of eating out is the setting you get to enjoy good food in. And some how I feel the room and the dish ware takes away from the overall quality of the food. Truth is the desserts are fine, but I have seen and tasted a more exciting selection else where. There is not that one thing I would run back just to have. Don’t deny your cravings.

SWEET REVENGE
4160 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P6
604-879-7933
sweet-revenge.ca
Sweet Revenge Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Rajio Japanese Public House

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My Japanese friend has been meaning to come here; and an opportunity to write a blog post with his authentic insights was something I found too appealing to miss out on, so I tagged along. We came in with higher expectations knowing that this was from the same group of people that brought Vancouver the battle tested and customer approved “Suika” and “Kingyo”. So essentially we weren’t worried.

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The decor appeared to be mimicked after a Japanese night market. A recreation similar to the photos on the back of their menu. Most telling and most eye catching, was the wall of back lit masks. Three rows with fan favourites like Pikachu, Hello Kitty, Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Doramon, and what looked like Power Ranger knock offs; this amongst other characters I didn’t know of. I was informed that this is how vendors display and sell such masks at a real Japanese night markets.

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By the door were cloth banners pinned up and framed. As an outsider unable to read kanji they looked impressive. Though the illusion was broken when I was told they simply advertised food. One read “Yakisoba”, another “Oden”.

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A traditional Japanese gate was the backdrop for the bar. From its frame hung a thick braided rope with white paper drifting down. Below it a well stocked closet of Japanese beverages. From soju and sake to that carbonated pop with a ball in its bottle. And along with available seating, the bar was equipped with a refrigerated cooler. This held pre-made and pre-prepped platters for patrons to come in and take to go.

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The lighting was a cluster of traditional Japanese lanterns that hung from bamboo stems, attached to the ceiling. Theit different lengths created a good contrast.

The servers were young petite Japanese men and women. They spoke their language with several of the guests who were able to reciprocate. The place looked to be a popular spot for Japanese youths, though a large variety of ethnicities came, sat, and ate happily as well. All dressed in black tees and black aprons the servers wore their uniform comfortably. Their shirts were branded with their restaurant’s name and logo on front. And most curiously, the Facebook “f” and the twitter “t” on the back. Both at the nape of the neck of their shirts. Its significance was lost as there was no way to click the “link” to see if either of the URLs worked. Each server help any table that needed it. They all brought plates from the pass and refilled water from lengthy communal bottles. Attentive and friendly, they even took the time to explain the components of each dish.

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The menu was two separate sheets. February specials were on a photo copied coloured page. A front and back showing of drinks, sushi, carbs, tapas, etc. The listing included names in Japanese kanji, descriptions in English and inked stamps of hippos. As far as I knew the hippos held no significance.

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The second menu was their every day colourful fold out. By its look you could tell lots of work was put into its design. Visually eye catching, it saw selections in individual boxes, together signs on a wall. A few boxes had comments in their corner. Insightful words like: “very popular”, “wanna be heathy?”, “home made”. “it’s usually”, “be healthy blood”, and “protect from sunshine”. Present
to help guide your choices, something really needed as there was just so much to go through and many more I wanted to try. “spicy to become habit” was definitely my favourite of the non sensical slogans.
The menus was shorter then most seen at other Japanese restaurants. So they were definitely choosy over what they offered. And what was left on paper was an exciting collection of exotic proteins and different seasonings in usual applications. Stingrays, horse, and octopus. Sea urchin, jelly fish, and anchovies.

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“Rajio’s white sangria. Listed on their February specials page. Made with lychee, pineapple, orange, and white wine. Good, but too light to be paired with the food I had. It’s juice was hidden amongst all the flavours going through my mouth. Better in summer paired with hot sun, the perfect refreshing beverage then.

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After a glass of the above, I switched to pints of Sapporo on tap, like my guest. A better pairing for the spicy and salty finger foods and one bites that made up our meal.

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We were presented with a caddy of seasonings for our table. A sweeter soy sauce, a citrusy sauce, a tartar, and salted pepper. We picked from them as needed.

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Complimentary starter of raw cabbage with pickled daikon. Hard and salty and not much more. I suggest you order beer with this because you may get pretty thirsty if you consume enough. Definitely an acquired taste. Not for me.

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“Y’s mommy’s assorted oden”. Advertised as a daily selection of assorted ingredients. Six unlisted contents in one hot pot, meant as a surprise. Despite this being referred to as “hot pot”, by my Japanese guest, this isn’t the traditional type of “hot pot” or what you imagine “hot pot to be. So don’t get fooled. The dish came to the table in a bowl, not a pot. It isn’t cooked or kept heated at your table. It was soup. But my guest reassured me that it was actually cooked in a hot pot. Today ours came with generous portions of seafood and vegetable in a delicious broth. A broth that had to have taken hours to brew up this rich and flavourful. A large triangular fish cake, sausage, whole soft boiled egg, daikon, and mochi wrapped like a bag in tofu. And what appeared to be a mess on the rim of the bowl, was a smear of hot mustard on the side. Something that we didn’t use or need as everything was already so tasty. My guest found the oden amazing, taking it as far to say it can compete against his mom’s, and is the best he has had outside of home. It was a fishy and tasty mix. Different kind of textures, with a jumble of flavours that all blended together. Not one thing seemed out of place or felt like it didn’t belong. I was very amused by the large spoon the dish came with, this we used to ladle out individual portions. It is the largest I have seen. (I nonsensically enjoy things larger or smaller then their norm)

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“Aburi yellowtail sushi”. Seared and pressed yellowtail sushi topped with fish roe and a mustard soy dressing. Flavourful as is, there was no need for soya sauce. Though the ginger included did help to perk up the flavour. I liked it, but not as much as aburi salmon. I found the fish not flavourful enough to hold its own.

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“Tako wasabi (raw)”. Chopped octopus and pickles marinated in wasabi flavoured sauce. This raw
octopus wasabi ceviche is eaten wrapped up in a sheet of seaweed. The first bite stung with eye watering spicy wasabi. Though was not as hot with my next bite, as I expected it the second time around. The octopus and pickles were cold and fresh. Though I couldn’t make out their flavours individually, hidden behind the prominence of the wasabi. The toasted seaweed made the perfect base to balance out all the pickling and spice.

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“Sea urchin and ikara carbonara udon”. Didn’t taste much of the urchin, but definitely noticed the fish roe as a pop of liquid burst with each bite. The sauce was rich and creamy with a bacon-like salty meatiness to it. Each mouthful was a sloppy gloopy mess, as droplets fell from criss crossed chopsticks. A taste so good I wish we didn’t have to share.

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“Kushi katsu” is what they are known for. Battered and deep fried meat, vegetable, or fish on a stick. Served on a grill over a metal dish. The regular menu listed them in groupings, available to order one by one, at individual prices. This dish took the longest to come out. We started with the “Today’s recommended deep fried skewer set” on the feature menu. With the ability to choose from several options we got (left to right) sausage, shiitake mushroom, asparagus, oyster, tuna, chicken, and pork. Everything but the shrimp. My Japanese guest commented that this is very “Osaka-like”, as that area of Japan is known for their fried foods. This wasn’t your regular American style deep frying or your Japanese style tempura. These bites were battered with a breadier crumb that was lightly seasoned. Fairly muted there was a place for the sweetened soya sauce, and lots of it over each skewer. The fried fish was best had with the tartar sauce.

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Round two of “Kushi Katsu”, had us picking only what we wanted. More interesting and rarer ingredients like rice cake and lotus root. Like the others both came at the end and needed heavy soy sauce. These two were the best hands down. The lotus root was chewy and slightly tough with fibrous bites. And by contrast the rice cake was sticky and chewy with gooey bites. Both were what really filled us up at the end.

Still hungry, we went for round two which is common for tapas.

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“Anchovy edamame”. Your regular edamame beans marinated in a garlic sesame oil with anchovy. We appreciated their attempt at doing something different with this popular Japanese appetizer. Every other place just has them steamed with rock salt. Here their version was a large amount of beans piled high, covered with visible seasonings. A heated warm and sticky to the touch garlicky assembly. The seasonings were better than the beans themselves, I enjoyed just sucking at the pea pods. Though as hard as I tried I could not make out any of the supposed fish present.

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“Aburi eihire”. Lightly seared stingray’s fin served with their own original chili-mayo sauce. Never having anything like it, describing it is hard. I can best compare its taste and texture to dried squid. The kind you get from Asian grocery stores, flattened out and wrapped in plastic. The stingy ray was salty with a hint of sweetness that transitions to a tangy after taste. The pieces came warm, which gave them chewy texture, that is easy to bend. The cooler it got the rougher things became, and the bending eventually led to breaking. As good as these were and as interesting as I found having them here was, this wouldn’t be something I order at a restaurant again. I prefer it as a snack, maybe something to keep my hands busy as I eat and watch television.

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“Mackerel nang-bang zuke”. Marinated deep fried mackerel in a homemade soy vinegrette broth with pickled vegetables. This didn’t seem like a tapas, something share-friendly. We expected a whole deep fried miniature fish, not a segment of one. A small portion worth its $3.80 price. This fried piece was soggy in its broth. I have learned from “The Food Network” that you don’t pour oil or liquid over fried food before serving it, yet here this dish was. A lumpy mash of breading over soft fish parts. The pickled onions and red and yellow peppers were really the highlight. Not only did they offer the perfect crunch in texture but have the dish it’s colour and individual flavour profile. The perfect match up with the sauce, that saw the fish as more of the vessel for it all.

We contemplated ordering the horse meat sashimi ($13.99) or horse meat nigri ($3.50). Though with all the mention of unwanted horse meat in beef in media, and the scare of diseases in uncooked meats always around the corner; we were apprehensive about trying this delicacy for ourselves. The thought of it even made my mouth dry up. I would be more willing if I knew where the meat came from. It was not until I got home did another Japanese friend comment that the horse meat was actually good and worth going back to try. I know I will return, but the thought of trying this still repels me. I think “my little pony on rice”, to quote my guest for the night.

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Only after dinner did I clue in to significance of their name and logo. “Rajio”, Japanese for Radio. Their logo: dials for FM and AM. With their station being their address.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
With its reputation and that of its sister chains we were not worried about trying “Rajio”. And after it all, certainly not disappointed. With help from my Japanese dining companion, the conclusion is that their Osaka style cuisine is certainly authentic. They offer well done classics and inventive twists on those offered everywhere else. And with featured monthly menus it is certain to have you coming back for the popular and again to try something new. Located on a block with very few restaurants and more retail stores closed after 6pm, parking is easily found right out front by the meters. Most appealing is their reasonable prices. I have been to both “Kingyo” and “Suika”. And although the food is good, the prices leave you wanting more for how much you have to spend. So here having all this and drinks under $100 total is a treat. I would choose a further trip to “Rajio” with its kitschy decor and whimsical set up over its older sisters. Don’t deny your cravings.

RAJIO
3763 W. 10th Ave. Vancouver BC, V6R 2G7
604-558-1679
rajiopublichouse.com
Rajio Japanese Public House on Urbanspoon

U and I Thai

IMG_8179 IMG_8180One of my guests was specifically craving Thai ice tea, so we found ourselves at “U and I Thai” tonight. This dressed up Thai restaurant is located on the busy street of Cambie, surrounded by many other restaurants. Parking is easy enough, with roll of meters out front and more across the street. Walking up to the restaurant I was intrigued by their widow sticker, labelling themselves as “fine dining”. This would be something I wanted to assess for myself.

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The interior was rich in colour with the light scent of citrus in the air. Deep red and silver patterned booths and satin burgundy drapes gave the darken room the perfect bursts of colour. Buddha statues, sculptures of Thai minstrels, and craved urns greeted you at the door. Wood carvings done in two dimensional pieces adorned opposite walls. A couple were of cross legged Buddhas. The others, equally intricate carved shapes and spirals, three in a row. Most impressive was the large stone Buddha bust that sat pristine in the alcove of a red painted wall. It looked like the room was design and constructed just to showcase this featured piece. Just above and before it was a heavy chandelier that centered the room. It accented things with its golden candled glow and dangling crystals, all held together with brass arms. At the very back of the restaurant, just before the kitchen was a wall displaying two clocks. Together they showcase the difference in time between here and Thailand. Right below them hung canvas printed images of their selection of tropical drinks. Greenery came in the form of multicoloured orchids in groups, and a selection of floral in jars on tables.

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The bar was located in the corner. It was stocked well with bottles for cocktails and surrounded by unseated high tops. The dining room was spacious, it allowed for the seating of larger parties with enough nooks and crannies to give couples some privacy. Our reservation gave us a four top by the window.

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The servers were dressed in traditional Thai wear, this and their accents added to the authenticity of the place. I was approached with a bowed greeting and showed to our reserved table. Each of the three servers wore bold coloured skirts or shorts patterned in gold. These matched their satin-like tops accented with a textured scarf across one shoulder. The whole outfit was held together with bold gold and crystal necklaces and matching wide waisted belts. They were dressed too well to be serving the lot of us. The bartender was in a Royal blue top and rose coloured pants that cut off at the knees, like Aladdin or genie style. She took my order for a cocktail, made it, and came back to gauge what I thought of it. And on each approach she stepped forward with a slight head bow and the nodding of palmed hands, clasped together in prayer. Very official. The other two servers were as attentive, checking in on the food or if we needed more. They didn’t care that you weren’t in their section, and helped whenever and wherever needed. Be it bussing dishes or clearing tables.

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I only ordered this because it was named the “Asian Sensation”. A sweet tropical cocktail with 2oz Malibu rum, pineapple juice, and sprite. Definitely classified as a girly drink with no hint or burn of alcohol.

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“Thai ice tea”. This drink is the sole reason why we were here. It is the Thai version of a sweetened red tea. It uses evaporated milk instead of regular milk. My guest commented that if she goes to any Thai place and they don’t have this drink, she would honestly walk out. After a sip I agreed it was that good. Similar to the Hong Kong style ice tea, though with a zestier tea taste. I preferred this.

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She even ordered one to go, but without take out cups, had hers in a plastic soup bowl.

Their menu and website advertises that the preparation of all their dishes comes with the “freshest of ingredients, the finest cuts of meats and only the most authentic of Thai spices and herbs”. Considering the meal we had I would deem them as fine Thai cuisine, this is the conclusion when comparing it to all the Thai that I have had prior to. Also, I appreciated their ability to personalize each dish to the desired level of spiciness. A good sign that plates were definitely made to order.

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“Chicken or Pork Satay”. Made with fresh chicken marinated in Thai spices and coconut milk. Served with a traditional peanut sauce and a tangy cucumber relish. The meat was fairly juicy for white chicken breast. Best eaten right away, it got tougher the more it was allowed to cool. Good, but no where near the best I have had. The peanut sauce was the best part, a chunky and savoury sauce with a luxurious peanut buttery taste. The pickled cucumber was sweetened with honey, its thick syrupiness helped to cut into the richness of everything else. It made for a great taste rejuvenator in between assorted bites.

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“Stuffed Chicken Wings”. Seeing something similar on an episode of “Eat street” I insisted on ordering chicken wings stuffed with other ingredients. These were marinated chicken stuffed with vermicelli & Thai spices. Then served with a homemade Plum and chilli sauce. I wish these wings were served whole, instead of being chopped up into threes, it would have made for a better presentation. The spices came prominent in the form of an herby taste. And the noodle gave things a chewier texture. Though together it all tasted bland and dry like day old meatloaf. The dish needed the sweet and salty plum sauce to perk it up. And I just didn’t get enough of that crispy wing texture that I expected.

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“Tofu with Thai Basil”. A stir-fried tofu dish with onions, bell peppers, green beans, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, garlic, spices and thai basil. Each chopped up bit came evenly coated in this savoury sauce. I enjoyed the crispy green beans the most. A solid vegetable dish, good as a side, but missing that kick to have it as a main. Best when eaten with a protein and rice.

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“Red Curry Duck with Lychee”. This one came highly recommended by those who have been. Braised duck with lychee fruit, light red curry paste, coconut milk, bell peppers, bamboo shoots and fresh Thai basil. Served with your choice of rice in either jasmine or coconut. We got the coconut, liking the idea of a creamier rice, and planning on the fact that it would help balance out the chilli flavour in the medium spicy curry. A spiciness level we chose when asked how we liked things. The duck tasted like chicken, we just didn’t get any of that usual rich flavour indicative of duck. Especially as the drier pieces failed to absorb any of the sweetened curry sauce. And although there were lychees in the mix, there was not enough to make a difference. I didn’t get any of the lychee sweetness I expected and wanted.

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“Authentic Pad Thai”. Rice noodles stir fried with shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, and palm sugar, in a Tamarind sauce. Served with ground peanuts, chilli powder, banana flowers, garlic chives, and fresh lime. We choose shrimp as our protein after given the option of it, chicken, or beef. There was a generous amount of everything in the bowl. All clearly displayed before you had to mix things up. The noodles remained moist in its own broth, pooled at the bottom. A sweeter than usual taste that came through despite the level of hot spices present. The carrot strands, bean sprouts, and crushed peanuts were kept separate to be able to keep their crunchy texture. A texture that helped with the overall mushiness of the liquid soaked noodles. As I recall most pad thai dishes are dry, this one was definitely a twist all their own. One of my guests, having been here on several occasions and during each has ordered this, commented that this is just how they make it.

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With the bill came really bad milky mint Thai candy. With the creaminess and texture of milk and the strong taste of peppermint,

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I like the area, and don’t know why I don’t venture down here to dine more often. The menu is extensive leaving me with much more that I wanted to try, “jumbo prawns in a blanket”, “fresh garden roll with duck”, “drunken noodles”, “swimming Rama”, and “jungle curry”. Not to mention their desserts, young coconut or mango creme burlee and deep fried ice cream. All the above are worthy of my interest and a revisit from me. Therefore if I had a craving for Thai and was told there would be a wait of 30 minutes I would definitely hang tight for a seat here. The food is good, with slight variations and unique twists. It is not the best Thai I have ever had, but there are enough to keep and hold my intrigue. Don’t deny your cravings

U & I THAI
3364 Cambie, Vancouver BC, V5Y 2A1
604-875-6999
uandithai.com
U and I Thai on Urbanspoon

Sushiholic

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This has been on my list of restaurants to try every since it opened a year ago. I pass by it everyday on my way to work. And it’s invitational banner to try their “awesome roll” has caught my eye on occasion. So this morning I pulled on something cozy and ventured out close to home. As is the case for most places around 12pm, the few parking stalls to the side were taken and the street out front was packed. We were lucky enough to pull in as someone was pulling out. So were a step away from the door. Prefect for rain without an umbrella.

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We were surprised by the crowds inside. Despite its awkward location, away from businesses, on a block not known for restaurants, and being the neighbour to a rotation of businesses opening and closing. The space was small, so felt more cramp than it ought to be. The restaurant felt like a home. The way the space was separated and seating was done across a few rooms. Additional seating was up the ramp and around the back. This wasn’t obvious until herds of people walked out to leave. They had to be coming from somewhere. The room felt hard with its wood floors, flat booth seats, and glossed red wood tables. These tables were of your standard small shop variety. Narrow two seaters, positioned longer than wider. Necessary given the amount they tried to stretch out of their small space. Tables started right in the foyer, with the sushi bar immediately in front. The bar was framed with bamboo detailing, decorated with an ornamental spiny blowfish and a lucky cat statute, and secured with a camera in its corner facing the door. Behind the counter were two to four sushi chefs prepping and rolling, depending in traffic. With a surge of orders more chefs joined the line. This kept the rolls coming and the guests not waiting. On the floor worked two women. They took orders, served food, bussed dishes, and fixed wobbly tables. All the members of the staffing team knew Japanese and spoke to one another in their native tongue. So I figured the food must have been authentic enough. And an attempt at greeting everyone that entered and everyone that left in Japanese was made, though it went undone when it was busy and heads needed to be down.

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Behind our booth was a wall that separated the other dining room. I could hear the clanging of plates and the chatter of conversation. Standing up and looking through the cut out in the wall showed a room as piled densely with tables as ours. This I made out past the Japanese beers lined up on display and the geisha figures behind glass. The other artwork and decor pieces scattered around the room were as authentic. A framed photo of a Persian white cat dressed like a traditional sushi chef with head band and robe, seated in front of a tray of sashimi. Traditional Japanese artwork of bubbly waves and white, black, and red faced of geisha women. There was also some greenery to perk up the place. Lucky bamboo shoots in bloom, well kept bonsai tress, and tiny rock gardens tenderly cultivated.

The menu was a simple to navigate listing for sushi and Japanese food, for enthusiasts and eaters of all preferences and of any caliber. Clearly differentiated pages for appetizers, soups/salads, rice bowls and noodles; and sushi by sashimi, nigri, maki, and their special rolls. Pricing bold and clear, something I highly appreciate when attempting to watch my spending. Vegetarian options were indicated with a leaf by its name and spicy items with a chilli pepper, the same. No pictures for the familiar dishes like tofu, miso, and teriyaki dishes. But the special rolls not only had their own dedicated four pages with high resolution pictures, but they were also displayed and advertised as a handy table top triangular card. Seeing the other diner’s traditional Japanese wooden trays delivered, I was impressed by the effort put into the presentation. Colourful rolls and sashimi lined up neatly, each looked delicious.

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I have been driving past their giant banner advertising and tempting me to try their “Awesome roll”. So that is what I had to order. I believe the best way to judge a sushi restaurant is by their specialty and house rolls. And the other rolls listed as being “speciality”, I have seen or had at other like restaurants. The “awesome roll” was listed as being made with crab meat, avocado, cucumber, masago, and baked salmon, with yam fries on top. I saw none nor tasted any sign of cucumber. The roll hidden under all the fried yam shards was essentially a California roll topped with cooked salmon and a dollop of orange coloured fish roe. Things got messy fast, with the yam strands constantly falling from between my chopsticks and out of my mouth. The table and my lap were a mess. The first bite was the best. The texture was chewy with rice, crispy with yam, and creamy with the Japanese mayo drizzled on top. Though the one note flavour wore on and I eventually needed something fresh to break up the now heavily fried and over creamy taste. I used the ginger and soya sauce provided to help. The end result was too much yam, a lot was left on my plate. Of note, I appreciated the restrained amount of wasabi on the plate, usually they give too much and this gets wasted.

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“Chicken Donburi”, a Japanese style rice bowl with chicken and a good blend of vegetables: broccoli, carrots, button mushrooms, cabbage, onions, and bean sprouts. Our serving was requested without the marinated egg it usually comes with. There was a lot of chicken in this bowl, the most my guest has gotten anywhere else. Each piece was grilled until tender, with that perfect slightly charred taste coming through. Though coated generously in sauce, it was not the usual teriyaki variety that we expected. It was mild like a watered down hoisin with honey? My guest felt the need to add some soy sauce to salt things up.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
This is what the neighbourhood needs. With no other restaurants around, let alone a sushi place that serves such an extensive list of specialty rolls and Japanese classics. It makes a good stop for all the working professionals in the nearby businesses. They can easily walk here and avoid the hassle of finding one parking stall out of the seven available. All of which are free, though beware a few are only available during non peak driving times. Proof of the above filling the welcomed need for such a place was seen in the number of bodies that sat in their chairs, this despite their less than ideal location. Though it is only several blocks away from Rupert skytrain station. Overall as a destination, I did not find their sushi any different or any better than anywhere else. The food was good. Though nothing worth a specific trip to. If I am craving sushi and it is on the way, I will definitely make a stop. But I can technically make a stop anywhere to get similar things, including their specialty rolls. Don’t deny your cravings.

SUSHIHOLIC
3311 E Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5M 2A1
604-879-4881
sushiholic.ca
Sushiholic Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Stable House

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This newly opened bistro/lounge like restaurant brings the cozy heritage feel of Gastown here to South Granville. There is nothing else similar in design or ambience on this block, so for most its a welcome change. Located kitty corner off Granville street it may be easy to miss. With no obvious signs or a sandwich board out front, I needed a cautious closer look to establish if I was where I needed to be. Though the laced up lights bridging the gap from the restaurant’s awning to its tree out front helped draw my eyes. And being able to see two diners sipping on red wine and lounging in their spacious booth, through the front window box helped.

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Inside the space was dark, kept dim by sparse lighting above and the dancing of many tea lights all around. The deep and bluesy music over head matched the casual cool vibe. It overpowered the murmuring voices and kept the volume to a hum. Though the same song played twice in less than 15 minutes. My guest commented that, “at least the minimalist theme was consistent”. Everyone seemed to be coupled up this evening, in this more deep and dark romantic setting.

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When I originally walked in I was left standing, waiting on either one of the two staff members behind the bar. Both looked up to meet my eyes, but neither bothered to acknowledge my presence. So I was left waiting for them to be ready and willing to seat me for my reservation. Both looked to be proficient in bar tending and seat serving, as they toggled back and forth between the two roles as their patrons needed. Eventually the woman was ready, she walked to the hostess booth that was awkwardly placed in the centre of the room. It functioned not only as a waiting point, but as the storage for paper menus and a barricade between two tables to set them apart.

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The bar was equipped with serval wine bottles on shelves, a few beers on tap, and an espresso machine on the counter. All things that would make it a refined destination for drinking. With its backdrop tiled in aqua, despite the lack of lighting, it was able to catch my attention. More tiles lined the bottom of its counter and matched the many white high topped chairs that sat before it.

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Requesting a table for two, we got awkwardly seated by a wall. Our table was push up right against it. This was to allow for more space between our table and the one to our left. This space saving measure resulted in my right elbow hitting against the white painted wall as I attempted to cut into food and pick up my drinking glass. Even moving the table an inch or two gave no relief. A look up to the same white wall gave us a close up view of their wine list. This was written on an large chalk board, along with suggestions of cheeses and meats to pair. The room’s other walls were all different: one was made of a spongy cork and the another bathroom tile, equipped with pictures and patterns of horses. Of note was the lamp made out of piping, this was interesting compliment to the bathroom theme. Other than that there was not much else in terms of art or decor. The setting looked modern and acted functional.

The menus were a short list of either food or cocktails and beers. I would quickly learn that this wouldn’t be the place to come to eat. With little option, a drink in either hand would be required to get you full. The food menu referred you to the “fresh list” for the daily soup. This was another chalk board by the bar. On it was the soup I would later pay two dollars for as a side to my main. The food menu was starter and nibbles heavy. Not what we expected when coming in hungry. Salads, bites of fish, and platters of meats and cheeses Bypassing this for more substance, our five entree choices boiled down to either “tarts” or “pies”. Seeing as there were three variation of their “tarts” this seemed like a safe and popular bet.

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“Smoked Salmon Tart”, $17. Made with salmon mousseline, tomatoes, capers, onions, and crumbled goat cheese. With a green salad on the side. This was not what we expected a tart would look like. The base was a crispy sheet of filo pastry. It’s flakey layers added a mild level of sweetness to dish.

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Other than base, the rest of the dish was served cold. It had a light freshness when compared to the dish after. The salmon was prominent with all its common accompaniments. It definitely offered a safe and tested assembly. The currents in the salad gave it a more unique flavour and a chewier texture. Though having most of them gathered at the bottom was a missed opportunity. Overall the dish as a whole was good, with all the right flavour pairings. Though you would imagine something like this is more suited as a light breakfast than a filling dinner.

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“Confit Tart”, $16. Made with
confit duck & pork, dried fruit, orange, pumpkin seeds, orange gastrique, and fresh thyme. Here we traded out the green salad above for their possible substitution of soup for $2.

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The soup of the day was a “fish chowder”. It was thick and rich like you would expect from a chowder. With the obvious presence of potato and heavy cream. Though we couldn’t get past the grainy texture of the broth thanks to the flaked fish. The big pieces of salmon were hard to miss. With a ratio of more solid ingredients than liquid soup, what was left at the bottom of the bowl was a compilation of mushy chunks. This we left unfinished. They weren’t shy on their serving of duck and pork on this tart. The mound of dried pulled meats would have been improved with a thick gravy drizzled over top. The nuts gave some crunch and the fruit a little juice, but together they didn’t add anything to this dish. And in one bite I came across an inedible twig, that I had to pull out from my mouth. Not impressed with this as I hoped to be.

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Stilling hungry and thinking that dessert had to be better, we asked for a menu. With only three options it was easy enough to narrow down. We passed on the “lemon buttermilk tart” as we had two tarts for dinner. And said no to the “apple crisp” feeling like it would have come on the same filo dough as dinner did.

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We settled on the “Spiced chocolate mousse”. Made with raspberry coulis and Chantilly cream. It was as spicy as our server warned, but not as spicy as someone should or would expect in a dessert. The taste was unique. The cumin used gave a strong tickle at the back of our throats, a burning spiciness from the amount used. We only got through a few licks of our spoons before getting it taken back to the kitchen. When we had our request for more raspberry coulis denied, the chef added more cream to the whipped chocolate instead. This addition made our shared dessert more palatable. We liked its creamy texture, with the new addition it ate like a malted milk shake. The chocolate was good but the taste better suited as a baked cake. It was too overpowering and too over bearing for the light creaminess of a mousse.

Our male server was attentive, he served us for the majority of our visit. He was always ready and on hand, making serval laps around the room to keep apprised of everything. My only critique was when we made mention of how spicy our dessert was, the only thing he offered was a lesson in how to dull spicy flavours using either milk or bread. Neither were brought to us. And I was the one to get up and inquire at the bar on a way to improve it.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I wait in line for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
The location was convenient and there was plenty of free parking a couple of blocks away. The decor
lovely and the settings simple. A good enough place for a drink after dinner or a possible location for a first date in the neighbourhood. You come here to drink greedily and to graze gingerly. More of a wine and cheese place, so don’t come hungry as we did. We expected a heavier dinner and more of what we had, based on how much we had to pay for it. The menu was limited. Descent enough food, but nothing I would crave for or need to try again. We left full, but not satisfied. There are plenty of other places for cheaper drinks in the neighbourhood, but for your fancy wine and fine cheese needs make “Stable House” your destination. Don’t deny your cravings.

STABLE HOUSE
1520 West 13th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6H 1P1
604-736-1520
thestablehouse.ca
The Stable House Bistro on Urbanspoon

Burdock & Co.

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Looking for a vegetarian and/or vegan friendly place for Sunday brunch, one of my guests suggested “Burdock & Co.” After hearing all the great reviews on this newly opened farm to table style restaurant. Organic produce, locally sourced ingredients, and all the practices that puts them right at home on the community and culture focused Main Street. Walking to its corner block location, the all black outing was subtle, almost unnoticeable. I would have missed it if I weren’t actively keeping an eye out. Not even their name printed in a thin font indicated their intentions of offering food.

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We came right at 10:30am and was lucky for it. The restaurant quickly filled up right. With limited tables and maximum capacity at 20, those left standing by the door were expected to do so for a while. Yet they seemed content to do so.

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The decor is dressed in the increasingly popular rustic yet chic styling. A painted white brick wall opposite one made from repurposed wood planks. The planks were covered in burnt out holes and branded striations that gave away its age and use. The markings were lined up to form a pattern, and only added to the industrial look of the place. Each wall owned its own style of lighting that matched its look. A string of tiny bulbs against the white painted brick wall. And a rotatable set of twin black lamps bolted to a few of the wooden planks.

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We grabbed a couple of high tops, with the warning that the tables were set up to be dined at communal style. These tables were attached by metal beams, but left space in between. Together but separate like picnic tables missing a few planks. Definitely ideal for communal eating. Though became a nuisance for our party of three. The one sitting single felt left out, and the sharing of food required the bridging of a rift.

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The menu was a single page attached to a sheet of construction paper by a patterned piece of tape. Masking tape with sketches of mountain tops and scaled fish. As simple and as neatly done as everything else that surrounded it. 80% of it was labelled with (V) or (VE) to indicate vegetarian or vegan. We were definitely giving more friendly options for our guest with dietary restrictions.

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We started with the traditional brunch beverage, with a twist. “Pear mimosas”. Sparkling wine, fresh orange juice, pear and anise cordial. A sunny start to our meal and day. I didn’t get the shot of pear I expected and more orange that anything else.

An egg heavy menu, proudly declaring they were all from, “Urban Digs”. Poached egg, fried eggs, and eggs over easy. Classic dishes redone creatively with a breakfast flair. Hollandaise and poached egg over house made scones. Toast with hummus and mushrooms. A cake made of sun choke. And a breakfast bean tortilla topped with a fried egg.

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We started with shared servings of dishes “for the table” as appetizers. Our dish ware, these vintage patterned ceramic plates and metal utensils. Homey like their food.

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“Grilled maple fennel bacon”. This was the best bacon I have ever had. Not your regular crispy and crunchy strips, but chewy and sweetened slices instead. I didn’t even know bacon came like this. The sear was perfect and gave off a hint of smokey char. With fat in the meat so good that we ate it all. It wasn’t at all gristly. Instead, it had a surprisingly firm texture to it.

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“German butter potatoes with pickled garlic and marjoram”. And this was the best roasted potatoes I have ever had. The perfect pairing for the best bacon above. It was a shame the rest of the food didn’t measure up to the two appetizers. The potatoes were cooked to that perfect combination of chewy starch on the inside and crispy skin on the outside. And they sat in the most luxurious pool of butter and garlic that was absorbed into each bite.

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The vegetarian of the group had the “Fried eggs on toast, with humous and wild mushrooms”. Quite the presentation. Three perfectly fried golden yolks split down the middle by a carefully set row of wild mushrooms and Brussels sprout leaves. The vegetables tasted as fresh as their colours looked. The mushroom was definitely highlighted as the star of the dish. Though with the amount on the plate, it became overbearing mid way through. The humous was very mild, aside from its creamy texture on the hard slice of toast I couldn’t tell it was even in the dish.

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“Buttermilk fried chicken with sweet onion, and a side of house made biscuit”. What came to the table was not what we imagined would be on the plate. A very edited dish. The balsamic onion with its tangy note, helped to bring the other elements together. Cakey biscuit and tender chicken, with fresh greens in a creamy sauce. Though overall the dish felt incomplete and left us wanting more. Not necessarily more of everything. Maybe just a whole portion of chicken? We were disappointed with this as we sincerely expected a play on the classic chicken and waffles.

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“Fried eggs, smokey tomato, black beans, creme fraiche, corn tortillas”. A beautiful tower with a one note taste. It was certainly fresh with the salsa and filling with the beans. But lacked a tangy component. More cream, a pickled bean, or some avocado? A lightness that would have helped to keep you coming back for more bites. Got bored half way and did not bother to finish it. Though the first smoky, crispy, and very Mexican bite was good and certainly the best.

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We took a look at their dessert offerings. With none of the four really peaking our interest we passed on a little sweetness.

Our server perfectly complimented the venue and food. Inviting and easy going with a certain comforting way about her. She read cues and interjected clever banter as she delivered plates and checked in on how we were doing. A few times I recalled being shocked at how open she was, but began laughing when I realized it was all in good fun. Luckily my guest was as witty in her verbal exchanges. It allowed me to remain blank in my stares.

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Beautiful photos of vegetables came with the bill. Paper clipped on the back.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
The food is not mind blowing enough for a must return. But not bad enough that if I was invited back I would avoid it. The bacon and potato certainly deserves a revisit. And I am curious about how their dinner menu fares in comparison to this brunch. The eggs were certainly well done. You could taste and see the difference in them being organic. With their bright orange yolks and their rich and velvety nature. And we certainly got the pretty plates we expected. It is just a shame that the taste didn’t marry up with the visuals. Though I did leave happy. You know the food is good and good for your when you leave belly full and body light. Don’t deny your cravings.

BURDOCK & CO.
2702 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E8
604-879-0077
burdockandco.com
Burdock & Co. on Urbanspoon

Phoenix Garden Chinese Restaurant

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Chinese New Year calls for a mandatory extended family dinner at a Chinese seafood restaurant of course. And tonight we found ourselves at “Phoenix Garden”. Right in the middle, the perfect central gathering point for five families to gather at.

It was your classic Chinese restaurant set up, only now with a weak attempt at decorating for Lunar New Year. Red and gold diamond shaped signs of prosperity, red and gold lanterns and streamers of red crate paper. There was definitely a noticeable colour theme. Though I was almost disappointed to not see an imagine of a horse in sight, after all this was his year.

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The rest of the restaurant looked recently renovated. Wood and stone detailing on freshly painted walls. Chandeliers made out of individual pieces of crystals. These were visually wasted hanging so close to the linoleum tiled ceiling. Giant pieces of art spanning the length of a wall. They were done in Chinese paint brush, images of pink blossoms and green leaves. And signs advertising the restaurant’s menu options with pictures, Chinese scrip and pricing. The bar at the back was minimal and left more as a place of storage. The area was well lit and allowed for the tabulation of hand written bills by the register. Beside it, the usually seen live seafood tank. Today it was lobster. Crustaceans with rubber banded claws, ready to be cooked when ordered. Tables for dining were either a squared single or double, or rounded for maximum seating, each centred by a lazy Susan. Empty tables were pre-set with dish ware, and ready to be seated at a whim. All the surrounding chairs were covered with sleeves, essentially a beige and gold embroidered bag. A quick and easy way to keep each chair matching and protected from everyday use. It’s cheaper to replace the bag than to reupholstered a chair cushion.

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Tonight’s dinner was served as the classic Chinese feast, family style. Large portions to be shared as a free for all. You scoop what you want and take your turn as the wheel spins from guest to guest. We ate from the set menu, “Discount menu $288”. All this food needed lots more tea. The Chinese drink tea with such over seasoned and salty meals to help cleanse the palette and aid in digestion.

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“Peking duck skin wrap”. Quite the spectacle to see a whole BBQ duck being cut with a clever by your table. Though shame it was only for half the duck, and only for it’s skin. This is one of my favourite dishes. The duck skin is baked to a crisp, together with cucumber, leaks and a scoop of a brown savoury sauce it was wrapped up in a small flour tortilla, all to be eaten with your hands. With only enough for each person to have one wrap, I was left wanting more.

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Mince pork and vegetable lettuce wraps. Scoop desired amount of the minced mix into lettuce leaf, cover generously with more savoury brown sauce and enjoy crunchy bites.

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“Dried scallop fish maw soup”. A thick soup with strands of egg whites floating around. It almost has a gel like consistency. I enjoy mine with a spoon of red vinegar that accentuates the fishy flavour and gives things a sourish kick. So good that I indulged to two servings.

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“Deep fried shrimp balls”. Battered and fried for a crisp outer coating. Inside was pink, with a mashup of shrimp. Pretty tasteless a quarter through. There was a need for sauces of soy and chilli.

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“Giant lobster 8lb up”. Two whole lobsters in savoury broth over noodles. This made for quite the main attraction. A would be messy hands on dish that came with individually wrapped wet napkins and a nut cracker to get through the shell. The sauce was think and syrupy. It encased each strand of noodle with the lobster essence. I don’t like getting my hands dirty or working so hard for my food. So was thrilled to be able to grab up pieces of lobster that only required an extra pry to scoop out some of its delicious meat.

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“Free range chicken”. This yellow salted chicken, with its head intact and included on the plate, throws off those who are unfamiliar with the dish. The yellow tint comes from the salted bath it marinates in for hours. And the head is included more as a symbol, put there to prove you are given the whole animal. When eating I personally pull away the unappealing yellow skin, sometimes you can still see pieces of hair or feathers sticking upright from the dimpled skin. The meat is often a little dry, and therefore harder to get through at the breast. It’s salted enough and best eaten with rice.

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“White perch with sauce”. Deep fried fish served as a whole, and cut up at your table. It was crispy at the top thanks to the frying process. And soggy at the bottom, with the sauce it sat in. A mild flavour highlighted by the green onions and parsley it was topped off with.

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“Fresh bean curd and vegetable”. The vegetable dish, there is always one at a full Chinese dinner. Made from bean curd, green onion, baby bok choy, and carrot slices cut into odd patterns. This dish was watered down with the soup it sat it. A soggy mess that was not to by taste.

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“Tobiko lobster pate”. Chinese dinners usually end in a heavy rice or noodle course. This ensures that everyone is left well fed or full. If you aren’t at this point the carbs will get you there. This is a lobster flavoured rice with fish roe and green onions. With no actual lobster meat the flavour is infused into the rice kernels during the boiling process. So each grain as that seafood fresh taste. The new twist to old fried rice is the use of the fish eggs, I have yet to see anything else like it. It was ok but I felt it lacked something. I preferred it as leftovers eaten with the chicken from before.

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“Baked tapioca pudding”. For dessert we had Chinese baked pudding, for the younger generations this is much preferred over the traditional red bean soup. This pudding pie had a great looking golden brown crust. It was presented as a whole and scooped out in front of us. Perfectly distributed into enough small bowls for ever member of the table. I never like eating using the porcelain soup spoon. It is wider than your mouth and not as enjoyable to eat from. The crust is similar to the topping on Chinese pineapple buns. Sweet and custard like it crumbles in your mouth. And the tapioca baked inside gave a great gummy texture.

Our family was unable and/or unwilling to finish each plate of our multiple course meal. To not waste a drop of food food, what was left was packed up as we went. Each family calling out what they wanted for lunch or dinner tomorrow and self scooping it into a styrofoam box.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I have said it before, as a Chinese person I cannot best describe Chinese food. Growing up this was just food. It all looks and tastes the same because I have tried the majority of the variations it all comes in. The food was good, but not better or any different than the other Chinese seafood place up the block. There was nothing that stood out or was all that memorable. I would come back, but not on my own accord. Though family was happy, we left full, and each person a had a take home box for the next day. What more could we ask for? Though what I was most looking forward to was going home and brushing my teeth. All to rid myself of the aftertaste that lingered in my mouth. It was a quick to stale jumbled up mix of food and flavours. Something very familiar at the end of all my Chinese meals. And something a pot of jasmine tea cannot hide. Don’t deny your cravings.

PHOENIX GARDEN
2425 Nanaimo Street, Vancouver BC, V5N 5E5
604-568-8268
Phoenix Garden Chinese Restaurant 鳳凰城酒家 on Urbanspoon

Patisserie Fur Elise

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I was warned by my guest that things would get pretty girly, though nothing could prepare me for all this.

This little tea house is located in one of the three heritage homes, side by side on Hamilton Street. Gated up and fenced off, with signs posted up as warnings; I was apprehensive about permeating the perimeter. Though the large pink back lit sign, assured me that they were open and I was at the right place. So after gingerly opening the gate and gently threading to the steps, I entered the two storey building.

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Walking up I was able to make out the display in the front window. A mannequin dawning a simple egg shell white Victorian style dress, with the tiniest red floral embellishments. She stood headless in a field of green grass and colourful wild flowers. Beside her was a pedestal of decorative pastries and jewelry for sale. It was accurately themed and gave a glimpse into the rest of the cafe. Once inside there was no one downstairs, let alone in the foyer to greet me. And with no signs directing me on where to go I instinctively turned to my right, taking the time to explore their unmanned bakery. Here you can take a few of the goodies you will be enjoying at high tea to go. I would be back later to shop.

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I could hear the joyful laughter and chatter from voices above, so made my way upstairs. Clomping up the wooden staircase, it eventually brought me to their dining room. The space opened up, the smell of oven baked goods filled my nostrils, and the sounds of classical music fed my ears.

To my right, a large marble counter plays home base to our two servers of the day. Above it, glass windowed cupboards carry all necessarily paraphernalia for a traditional tea service. Pots, cups, saucers, plates, and all the accompanying accessories. We were given the option of either enjoying tea in this room, or in the salon further back. We choose the later for more intimacy, though not that the space was loud to begin with. With calming music and graceful staff the ambience was set at a peaceful lull. Each rooms held several tables in groupings of twos or for fours. Groups, singles, and couples were gathered here today. And had there been better street side advertising out front, I suspect more tables would have been seated.

The decor is hard to describe, as I have never seen and experienced anything quite like this before. I was swept up in giggly emotion, and under dressed in a leather jacket and boots. This was especially the case when comparing myself to the dress code mandatory to the staff: very girly in floral dresses. It’s like they stepped out of a Victorian fairy tale and this was their perfect house.

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As a little girl playing a game of pretend tea party, this is how and where you imagine having them at. An overgrown doll house, an heiress’ boudoir. It brought me back to my childhood and satisfied the little princess in me. All white everything. It was well cleaned and better maintained. A traditional type of decor with a very modern appeal. Formal with crystallized lighting and glossy white surfaces. Shiny white tiled floors, heavy pedestal table, and chairs to matched in a patterned upholstery. My guest informed me, having been here before, that they use to more “Princess like”, with more fluff and more dollies. So what I got today was a watered down version? I can only imagine how much more extravagant it usually is.

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There is a set menu with a mandatory ordering of one afternoon tea set per person. With only the one choice, the actual menu is only present for you to select your type of tea and reference in anticipation of what’s to come. There are over 15 choices of teas to choose from, and each a delicious assortment of ingredients. “Magic desert”, “Mango flip”, “Blueberry yogurt”, “Lychee garden”, and “Sweetheart”. A few come with an aroma of juicy fruits and fresh cut florals. And others the taste of candied pineapple, jasmine petals, or rich full bodied creams. All these considerations make narrowing things down time consuming. Each tea choice also come with a detailed description on how it would taste, very useful when sussing out what you feel like. Malty or musky? Sweet or savoury? With honourable mentions for brews full of antioxidants or ones caffeine free. I hated having to choose just one, but couldn’t possibly finish several pots. We relied on our server’s suggestion of the most popular and most unique tea. She took our order by use of an iPad. And of course it was dressed in a pink protective case.

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Both servers were of an utmost professional level. They spoke confidently and walked elegantly. They served everything prim and proper on trays. It all felt very regal. Though the speed in which they worked was a little slow for the go-go world we live in. In order to be this poised and to be this quite it requires the taking of time and an extra level of finesse that can’t be rushed. Though looking around the room today, everyone seemed to have time to spare. Here minutes turn to hours as you enjoy the space and take your reprieve of the busy world.

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We were presented with more tea accessories than I am familiar with, and without instructions or a tutorial I was a little lost. The last item to hit the table top was a hourglass running down a minute with pink sand. As soon as our timer was out, the tea would have had enough time to steep, and it would be ready to serve. The pouring process is meant to be done through the metal bird shaped filter. This is to ensure no lose leaves get through, and end up in your cup. Though after a few attempts in which I spilled, and finding the whole process clumsy, I began pouring from pot to cup directly. I don’t mind eating leaves, and it was better than spilling. The place is too nice to be messy in, and I couldn’t leaving wet soggy napkins next to such a beautiful set up.

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We were also presented with the option for cream and honey in our teas. Both came in a set matching our tea pots. The honey was a BC local berry honey, unique to them and available for sale downstairs. My guest stirred hers in, customizing her tea to perfection. The tea smelled of their names. Both full bodied and rich.

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“Honey scented tea”. Award-wining black tea from Wu He, Taiwan. Rich and mellow, with a honey like sweet aftertaste. This has been exclusively imported for their shoppe. As promised this tea was unique. It had a stronger taste than it did a strong scent. This my guest enjoyed enough to later buy some leave to take home.

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I got the “Creme burlee”, as it’s name immediately lured me in. There is no doubt why this is the most requested tea. It is flavoured rooibos reminiscent of dessert. With carob, blackberry leaves, puffed rice, sunflower, tonka bean extract, vanilla, and amaranth flavouring; it smelled like creme burlee. It was caffeine free with a mild taste, something that got better the more it was allowed to steep. I drank mine as it, allowing for the breathing in of the scent as I drank in the nectar. I much more enjoyed the smell over the taste.

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Our meal began with the “Chef’s choice starter”. Today it was a “Raspberry panna cotta”. And anything that looked this beautiful definitely tasted it. Hands down was the best item of the day. So good that I saved half for the end of my meal, to have as my last bite. It’s texture was soft and smooth like a thoroughly churned cream, with the iconic taste of vanilla bean. The raspberries added a pop of sweetness and a flavour that brighten up the serving. I was so impressed that I later bought some to take home with me.

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“Cucumber dill finger sandwich”. We were highly recommend to start our tea service with this as it was light and a good springboard. The cucumber and dill were nicely pickled with a fresh bouquet. My guest was surprised she liked it despite not liking the taste of dill pickles. Though bites were dry with the too much cream cheese and an extra layer of bread in middle. All in all a good start indeed.

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“Asparagus and mushroom quiche”. These were slightly warmer than room temperature, though I am sure they were made ahead of time in a batch and reheated to order. Though probably baked the morning, as they tasted out of the oven fresh. A savory bite with only whispers of the vegetable. The real star was the golden brown buttery crust.

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“Prosciutto, Brie and fresh basil croissant”. The croissant was not as soft or as buttery as expected. It was too crunchy. And with each bite a piece flaked off in shards. It almost seemed stale. And the prosciutto over powered everything with a shrill saltiness. We preferred a more mild sandwich with our mild tea. An increased addition of basil would have freshen things up a great deal.

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“Scone with cheddar and pancetta”. The scone had a great spongy texture. A pleasant savoury chew with the herby taste of onion.

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“Scone with almond streusel”. Served with a butter and a pink grapefruit tea jam. This was a plain scone, with the needed for its accompanying compotes. It’s own buttery flavour was not flavourful enough. It was best eaten with the combination of whipped butter and the jam together. The jam was unique with pieces of jelly and tea leaves embedded inside.

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At this point we were full, but we couldn’t stop now, just before a taste of dessert. “Maple pecan daisy tartlet”. Despite its dense look it was surprisingly light, with a hint of savoury salt in its crust. The brown sugar maple filling by comparison was too sweet. These were definitely baked on site, as we saw fresh trays cooling on the counter. Overall I was not a fan and didn’t not finish.

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“Tiramisu”, the pale yellow colours square. A creamy topping with a spongy cakey bottom. This portion was a good amount given its decadence.

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“Mini fur Elise”. A strawberry mouse square with a strawberry fruit chunk filling in its centre. Light and pretty, definitely fitting as their name sake pastry.

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“Honey Madeleine”. Nice and soft, and not too sweet; despite its honey coating and the honey in its batter.

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Coffee and strawberry macaron. There was a fresh crisp when you took my first bite. Good, but I have had more exotic and more tastier.

The whole high tea experience is quite relaxing, everything is set up to force you to move much more slowly than you normally do. Soothing music, a serene setting, and bites meant to be nibbled and savoured. Everyone is embracing the quiet, speaking is kept to a whisper; with softer spoken servers and tables spaced out for privacy.

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When it came time to use the restroom, I was not disappointed here as well. The one stall set up for both genders was done boudoir style. A beautiful lit up mirror in front of a elaborate cushioned seat. As delicate and feminine as the rest of the cafe.

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Before we left we purchased items to take home from their shop downstairs. We announced this in order to have someone there to serve us. The selection is labeled and arranged neatly and spaciously behind a glass showcase. Coconut mango mousse, Black forest chocolate lava, and Lady Emerald. And teas and chocolates wrapped, jarred, and bundled ready to go.

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I bought a pack of macaroons to go. One each in their only available flavours: coffee, banana, pistachio, raspberry, and vanilla. Common, though at $1.75 each, these were some of the most inexpensive macarons I have seen.

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And because I enjoyed it so much I was willing to spend $6 for a bottle of panna cotta, in blueberry. Realistically it was the container that cost me. The glass jar with its cloth and lace seal was too irresistible. And even though the portion was small it was so good that it was worth it. Eaten a few days later it was as delicious and satisfying as the panna cotta I had during tea that day.

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Even their business cards are cute.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I wait in line for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
The building and everything in it is just sweet. And it all smelled so good, we were informed that this is because everything is baked on site.
The cafe seemed out of a fairytale. It marries up with every little girl’s princess tea party dream. Cute treats, delicious teas, crystal chandeliers, and some of the finest china pots and cups to play with. It is definitely the nicest setting in which I have enjoyed high tea at. Though with very little menu options and a hide away location it might not be my first choice. I enjoyed their selection of teas over their forced food choices. Only the panna cotta was memorable. Given the option this would not be my first choice for food, but definitely the number one place to impress a future female guest. With a location that is a walk away from transit, and with street side parking available, it is easy enough to get to. Just make sure you check that they are open, given their shorter work days. Don’t deny your cravings.

PATISSERIE FUR ELISE
847 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6A1
604-684-1025
patisseriefurelise.com
Patisserie Für Elise on Urbanspoon

Gallery Cafe

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I never knew there existed an opportunity to have lunch at the Vancouver art gallery. Though walking up the steps on the Robson facing side I could see the novelty. There is something to be said about being able to dine surrounded by so much beauty. Having a refined lunch with a glass of wine, while listening to classical music. All this knowing on the other side of the wall lays art, countless of years old, styles and techniques that would enrich any soul. I was awestruck even before I went in.

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Walking up to the entrance, the courtyard before it looked overgrown. With winter still looming over us and a cold snap of wind blowing, the patio would not be ready for seating anytime soon. Those not wanting to brave the cold would have to wait until we got some much needed sun to warm things up. Though looking past the soggy white of the shade providing umbrellas and all the dried and dying greenery in dusty pots, I could see the potential. Slightly elevated and over looking the busy Robson street, it made a great vantage point for people watching. An oasis in the concrete block.

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Inside, this cafe set up is almost self serve. You start at the back to collect a plastic tray. From here you either grab a chilled beverage, juice or beer on ice; or move your procession along to the counter. At the counter you set your tray on the double barred railings and wait for either one of the two servers behind it to help. Your choices are displayed behind refrigerated glass. Sliced, plated, and wrapped; ready for a trip into the microwave. Little handwritten signs before each white bowl or plate tell you what you are getting. “Beef bourgiugnon”; “Grilled Mediterranean style sole over bean and kale ragout”; salads with ahi tuna, chicken breast, mixed greens, or cous cous; assorted sandwiches in ciabatta, French, and whole wheat bread; and a bevy of desserts by the slice. “Lemon buttermilk bread pudding”; “Raspberry strawberry rhubarb crisp; bars in nanimo, chocolate peanut butter ganache, and walnut cheesecake; and the usual suspect of cakes, tarts, pies, and cookies. I am sure they keep this selection on rotation and updated for their regulars.

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Sparkling alcoholic beverages and artisan coffees are requested off menus above. They are organized as “coffee”, “wines from BC”, and “imported wines”. And are listed along with the café’s core selection of “quiches, paninis, sandwiches, salad bowls, and daily soup”.

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We ordered a carafe of white wine and settled it on one of our quick to fill plastic trays. We found balancing it and attempting to maneuver to a seat challenging. Like cafeteria style dining you eye an empty chair and you seat yourself and your meal. But here it was a labyrinth of closely position tables and plastic chairs, with plenty of bodies to fill both. All the booths, that created a boarder about the dining room, were filled. So we settled for one of the only seats left in the centre of the room.
We sat down and got comfortable only to realize we were without tools. Glasses and cutlery were set up towards the entrance, you take what you need and courier it back to your table. Glasses cleaned and lined up on glass shelves; mental knives, forks, and spoons separated into buckets. I felt this style of eating combined the set up of a help yourself buffet, with the stuffy ambience of a coffee house, and the fresh and comforting dishes of a fine bistro.

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“Smoked and wild salmon with capers and green onion quiche”. The egg was whipped and baked to an airy lightness, it had the ability to break up the more savoury ingredients. The two preparations of salmon were surprisingly not overwhelming, it’s sharp taste was carefully balanced by the freshness of the green onions and the zestiness of the capers. The best part was the top of the quiche, it was baked to a slight crisp and seasoned richly with aromatic herbs. It was surprising this came out as well as it did being a microwave job.

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“Mexicali tortilla pie with fresh roasted salsa”. Truth is, I found nothing behind the showcase more appealing that this. Had there been a lasagna or a white sauce pasta I would have gone in that direction. But I forget this is a quick bite stop and the food is meant as a snack, a light meal in between. Though I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked my tortilla pie after I tasted it over and over through punctuated bites. The sauce was spicy and it required breaks of wine for me to get through. The pie was layered and baked like a lasagna, but with the absence of noodles; though the presence of plenty of vegetables made up for that. Roasted peppers, smokey yam, and crisp string bean. It was healthy and tasted delicious. And once again, if I hadn’t seen it myself I wouldn’t believe this was a reheat job.

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“Mango cherry chocolate frangipane”. Based on its name and appearance we imagined a sweet fruit tart, light cream and juicy berries. Instead we had a hearty meal. With chopped nuts and mashed dates this was a pie as filling as the quiche my guest had before it. Heavy and dense it was best consumed a few nibbles at a time. The fruit though coated in sugared syrup did not really lend any sweetness or much taste. We found it only okay considering this was not what we expected.

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“Unbaked blueberry lime cheesecake”. I have never had a cheesecake look and taste quite like this. I am going on the record saying this is currently my favourite cheese cake. Usually I prefer the crust over the cake portion of a cheesecake, and wish for a different ratio. Here I was happy to have all the extra cake. It was whipped to the smooth texture of cream, closer to resembling fluffy meringue than a dense cheese based dessert. With its slight acidity from the lime folded in, and the sweet pop from the blueberry sprinkled over, the dessert was light and refreshing. The crust added a great crunch in texture and a sultry buttered taste. I found myself thoroughly licking my spoon after bites.

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Looking around at the other guests in the dining area I have never felt more grown. I am not an art snob, not do I know how to appreciate it. But the feeling of being in this place and enjoying a meal with someone who does, gives you a different perspective.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
I only found the food ok. It was good for a pre-made microwave job, and convenient when you are looking for a heartier and healthier meal on the go downtown. A great second option over cookies, muffins and bagels, but by no means is this a dining destination. A good first stop before taking in an art exhibit, ice skating at Robson square, or shopping on Robson Street; but not the main plans of a night. The restaurant’s decor was simple, you expected more for where you were. At least more art. The most was a timely Chinese new year set up with a red happy Buddha statue and few mandarin oranges around it; and a bust of a moose constructed from white paper. So eventually you get over the novelty of eating in a historic art gallery. Though I would like to come back for sunglasses and chilled wine on their outdoor patio during a hot summer’s day. Don’t deny your cravings.

GALLERY CAFE
750 Hornby Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2H7
604-688-2233
thegallerycafe.ca
Gallery Café on Urbanspoon

Kingsway Sushi

I am always skeptical of any all-you-can-eat places. The reputation is that the food would be sub par, with the restaurant using cheaper ingredients that taste no where near fresh. You get what you pay for and quantity, quality, and price are all linked. Something especially precarious when it involves raw seafood, as is the case today. If you want good quality meal in a generous portion, you make sacrifices in price. If you want to spend less and have more food, you lose out on quality. And if you want the best quality at a cheaper price you are lucky to walk away with a spoonful. So the thought is, such restaurants are losing out on the possibility of earning more money, because they are offering everything at a pre-negotiated flat rate; therefore the quality of food must be diminished in order to balance the costs. You walk in expecting a shrunken list of cucumber rolls and imitation crab meat.

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Today I was invited to “Kingsway Sushi” as a guest and would never turn down a free meal, or the chance to walk away guilt-fully full.

On the corner of Kingsway and Boundary, I have passed it numerous times but never thought to go in. It is part of a shopping complex that includes a “Starbucks”coffee shoppe, a dentist, a lawyer, and a few other small independent businesses. Parking is available in their underground lot at cost, and requires a walk around to get to your destinations. “Kingsway Sushi” is an older looking building with a similarly stale inside decor to match. The foyer is a cluster of sun worn posters, slowly yellowing plants, and mismatched cushions on mismatched chairs. An assault of colours and patterns.

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The restaurant was fairly large, with barricades and screens; the space was sectioned off allowing the flow of movement in one direction. Following the host we were led on a tour of the place, past the cloth doored washrooms, the several giant inflatable beer bottles and cans, the well lit and better stocked sushi bar, the wall sized Japanese paintings of nature and water, and rows upon rows of booths and tables. There were more than enough seats to allow all parties to be sat without reservations, or much wait if any. Large glass windows surrounded the room, it gave an elevated view of the busy streets below. We were seated in a booth by one and was colder because of it. Seats were hard wooden benches, only made slightly more comfortable with the flattened cushions available. Each a different floral pattern, like one would see at their grandmas house. They offered no support as I suspect they are well worn down by bodies sitting and eating as much as they can.

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The rules are if one person wants to enjoy the all-you-can-eat menu, the whole table has to participate in the program as well. An action well placed to prevent the sharing of food and the loss of revenue for the restaurant. Our dining options came as a sheet to choose from. I was impressed with the variety, and annoyed by the smaller portions. The menu was a labyrinth of guessing. With names and no descriptions you couldn’t be sure you knew what you were getting, unless you asked. Though that is part of the charm of having all-you-can-eat, there is no consequence to ordering something to try and not liking it. You order things by the bite and order another if you don’t like the first. Here you call out your requests to the server who jots it down on his mobile device. Then you prepare as everything comes as one item on one dish. This created clutter and the need to constantly have our table bussed. Though I would have preferred the compilation and consolidation of all that we ordered. Things assembled into several dishes arranged by hot, cold, sushi, or deep fried. Though seeing as things are made to order by different chefs it may not be easily feasible.

Food came fast, though without a record you can’t be sure that you are getting all that you asked for, at the portions you intended. I am sure they limit you if they feel you have ordered to much, so no food is wasted anyways. And if you think about it you don’t actually eat as much as you intend waking in. With dishes coming in spurts you get full waiting for the next round to come. I am sure some parties don’t even consume the $23-25 they charge per head.

So much food came without an explanation. There was too much to eat and even more to remember. I cannot be sure what was what and what tasted like it was suppose to. It was a frenzy” of food and chopsticks at our table of four. It all came in and on mismatched plastic plates and bowls. I hate to think of all the dishes that needed washing and the quality of work that got it all done quick.

The following is a catalogue of all that we sampled. It was all pretty good and there was nothing I really disliked. With plenty of specials and unique twists on classics we were kept satisfied with variety, I was highly impressed. Green jello cubes on rolls, canned lychee in sushi, and rice cracker in place of real rice. Some real inventive sushi crafting here.

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“Edamame”. A favourite finger food and a common starter.

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“Seaweed salad”. A unique taste that is crisp and refreshing. I mostly enjoyed its rubbery texture.

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“Agedashi tofu”. Deep fried to a crisp on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. Each cube sat in just the right amount of salty sauce.

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“Ebi sunomon”. I never felt one piece of shrimp classified this as being anything more than noodles in a lemon broth. Tangy and tart it makes a great palette refresher.

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“Gyoza” & “Honey mustard chicken”. The chicken was too heavily drizzled on with garlic mustard for my taste. It overwhelmed the meat and made it hard to eat, even after scrapping off all the excess sauce.

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“Deep fried shrimp bomb” with a sweet chilli sauce. A great presentation with the bomb, the sauce was smeared to look like an explosion. I was impressed by the tying off of the dough with edible fibres. A cute stuffed full one bite.
Oyster motoyaki”, not made in the traditional oyster shell, this savoury pot looked like custard. The amount of processed cheese on top made things overly greasy, as the oyster sat saturated at the bottom of the tin foil cup.

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“New York steak on skewer” & “Chicken brochette”. Both a little tough, each came well seasoned in its own individual flavour.

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“BBQ chicken wings” & “Chicken Karaage”. Both types of chicken came a little too dry and therefore too chewy. And the Karaage was too salty to enjoy without rice.

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“Beef tataki”, surprisingly very good once I got past the fact that the beef was raw. In thinly cut strips it was easy to chew down on. The sauce was a mild and played off the natural taste of the meat.

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“Beef short rib”, a hit and miss depending on cut. The first order came out great with thick meaty pieces. The second saw more fat on each rib. It had so much gristle that we discarded the entire plate.

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“Beef teriyaki” & “Chicken teriyaki”. Your standard Japanese fare. Heavy on the sauce, just the way I like it.

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“Popcorn oyster”. Not my favourite. The texture was sandy and the seafood tasted off.

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Fried smelt, crispy to the bone.

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“Ika Karaage” & “Deep fried sole”. Overly fried, almost burnt that you can taste it. The sauce did help to lighten and alleviate most of the above mentioned issues.

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“Yam tempura” and “Prawn tempura”. Their light colour made them look unappealing, but they tasted as expected. Just missed the usual dipping sauce.

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“Tuna sashimi”, “Salmon sashimi” & “Spicy salmon sashimi”. Fairly fresh, impressed by the quality.

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“Tai, hamachi, and Tako sushi”. More for look and not much in terms of taste. The octopus was very rubbery and the appearance of suctions on tentacles slightly off putting.

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“Spicy scallop cone”. I usually don’t like cones. I find the rice to filling ratio off, with more of the former and not enough latter. This was the case here. Each cone was eaten with the empty tip unfinished.

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“House roll”. Salmon, tuna, kani, avocado.

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“Chicken teriyaki roll”, “Dynamite roll”, “Cheesy California roll” & “Crunchy roll”.

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“Scallop pearl sundae”, “Lobster delight”, “XO sundae” & Smokey shrimp rice cracker”. Calling these sushi pieces “sundaes” confused us. By their names we figured they must be desserts. In reality the “sundae” referred to the mound of ingredients on top of each piece. A clever idea and a catchy name that had me curious. Surprisingly the unusual presence of lime jello, lychee fruit, rice cracker, and xo sauce did not throw off the taste. It gave things a little sweetness and a pop of eye catching colour. Great as a one of to try, but something I would never order as a six piece roll to finish.

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“Mango pudding” & “Coconut pudding”. The must have end to a heavy meal. Light and fruity they wash the palette clean.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommended it? – No.
The food was decent, the portions fair, and the value definitely there. As one of the only all you can eat Japanese restaurants in Burnaby you don’t have much other choice when wanting such fare. They keep the menu different and have no fear over being inventive. Offering a decent array of choice it is definitely worth a visit. Not the best, but a sliver better than most all-you-can-eat places. Good, but nothing special enough to remember or recommend. Don’t deny your cravings.

KINGSWAY SUSHI
#110-3665 Kingsway, Vancouver BC, V5R 2P9
604-433-6388
topgungroup.com
Kingsway Sushi 東壽司 on Urbanspoon

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