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Month: March 2014 Page 1 of 2

The Cannibal Cafe

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The name was questionable, and unfortunately not enough to keep us away. By it alone I wanted to visit, and after a peak at their menu online, I felt this was my kind of place. Burgers, deep fried sides, and drinks made with ice cream.

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The restaurant was easy to miss, with only their logo in white stencil-ed on their front glass. And their store front very similar to the one next to it. One of my guests even walked back and forth, past it four times. Their logo, a burger and crossbones sliced into with a oversized cleaver. I found it fun and worth immortalizing on film. I felt foolish making a reservation and when there were plenty of seats to be taken. The server never even checked my name off when she took me in. Though in my defence I have seen lines by this door, and yet now I wondered why.

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The bar was right up front, high tops stood in front of a row of beers on taps. The backdrop was two flat screens playing sports, sandwiching a well drawn on chalk board. On the board, coloured fire, a friendly skull, and an request to buy their tee shirts.

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We past the first kitchen on the way to our seats. I suspected this to be the deep frying kitchen. A line of paper cut outs of sharp and bloody implements hung over its bar. Hack saws, scissors, cleavers, machetes, and kitchen knives. They wafted just over the counter lined and well stocked with clean plates, bowls, and anything else you would need to eat in this diner. Some choice decorations for “Cannibal Cafe”, it might be Halloween themed, but it works here with their name.

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We were seated in the back just before the washrooms and main kitchen. All seats here were either one of the step up booths that lined both sides of the walls, or one from the long share table that went down the middle. The walls surrounding were purposefully and precisely decorated with posters. Paper posters of musicians, bands and performances used as wall paper. My guest felt it reminded her of a similar establishment in Toronto. So by comparison she felt that they were trying too hard to cultivate a certain look, instead of just letting it happen naturally. And worst still, none of the images that were printed on the multitude of coloured paper represented anyone local. All I wondered was how long did this set up take? The effort exerted into making sure no two colours were side by side and that each poster was different. Country rock twang played over head. It was always a smoky voice that matched the laid back vibe that the place gave off.

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Their paper take out menus lived at each table. It was an exciting quadruple fold out that kept me amused with fun pictures and neat writing.

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Their “Milkshakes” were made only in the neapolitan flavours. So I got vanilla only to be disappointed that it came in the metal cup they used to mix it. I was hoping for the soda shoppe style pretty glass decorated with whipped cream and sprinkles, and then having the metal cup as its refill. Though when I asked for a glass our server looked less than impressed. The drink itself was bland. I can’t believe a bland milkshake exists. I don’t believe it was made using ice cream. If otherwise I now question, “Who messes up an ice cream milk shake?” It wasn’t sweet or creamy enough. As evident by the top of the cup, a layer of foam and bubbles, a milky cloud.

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Our food took a long while to come, despite coming in at a slower time and being the only ones to order. We were hoping it would be worth the wait, but by the time we got our food, I was done my milkshake. The same milkshake I intended to enjoy with my meal.

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“Deep Fried Pickles” served with ranch dip. There wasn’t much to like about this, other than the pickles staying crisp and crunchy, and the fact they came to the table hot and remained that way for a while. The slices of pickle were too large. We didn’t like the mouthful and would have preferred thinner slices. One of my guests found the batter it was coated in, a little on the sweeter side. A sweet batter better suited to a deep fried banana. She too also found the type of pickle bland compared to the dills she is use to. All in all it was too much, and only made worse with a dip in the ranch. There was definitely an unbalanced pickle to batter ratio. One that had you saying enough after the second bite and the first taste.

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Luckily one of my guests and I opted to share plates. Less to eat and less to pay. The “Local Salmon Burger” is made with a house made wild salmon patty, fresh dill, citrus aioli, smoked salmon bacon, shaved red onions, and fresh greens. We opted for no sides, something that is usually seen when you order any burger, and should be expected with ones that cost $12.95-13.95. This fish on fish was too much. We expected a tender and moist solid filet, instead were given a dry and crumbly fish cake. Nothing jumped out in flavour. The burger needed a sauce, some mayo would have help. We ended up used the ranch dressing from the pickles to rejuvenate its boring taste.

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“vvFarmhouse Turkey OBurger”. House made turkey patty, caramelized onions, applewood smoked bacon, cranberry relish, goat cheese, and mayo. There was something off about the ground turkey patty. Turkey meat is already pretty dry and with this compressed unseasoned meat it made things harder to get down. Without a sauce, this became a turkey cake. I longed for the mayo and sweet cranberry to kick in, but was left scrounging. I was surprised it was this tasteless. The goat cheese more closely resembled cream cheese. The bacon was too fatty with no actual bacon flavour. And the onions were sopping, without that enjoyable slightly burnt char. My guest struggled to get the whole burger down; to not waste food and to get her money’s worth. For all the work she put into swallowing this could not be worth $13.95.

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I appreciate an encouraging washroom mirror. Shame it smelled like garage in there.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This is some of the most disappointing food I have ever had. The unique and attention catching name out shadowed the food within, it was their best feature. If their intent was the make all their meat taste like human, well done; because it all didn’t taste like any meat I know of. We were too nice to complain and even nicer to still tip. And worse still, I am sure the server working at the till behind us heard majority of our complaints and did nothing about it. The food was below average. Nothing tasted as expected and none of it was good. The price for value was outrageous and yet here more and more people were walking in, and looking around no one else seemed upset. May be it was our mistake in not getting a beef burger. Though realistically everything on a menu should be good. This isn’t Russian roulette, the food poisoning edition. My guest suggested that in the future we satisfy our burger cravings on commercial at any bar or Fast food stand, and not here. Don’t deny your cravings.

CANNIBAL CAFE
1818 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4A5
604-558-4199
cannibalcafe.ca
The Cannibal Cafe on Urbanspoon

Red Lobster

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I feel, this is one of those places that you have to visit at least once, as a Canadian living on the West coast. If anything just to see what the hype is all about: large portions at great prices and lobster fest. Who doesn’t feel the tiniest bit more fancy when enjoying lobster?

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It stylized as your generic family style restaurant, just with a nautical flair. Paintings of light houses, sun sets at sea, and boats docked on still waters. We sat in one of their two rooms, forked in opposite directions. All the space was certainly warranted as we were led past seated tables and a families still waiting in the lobby. The patterned upholstered booths and potted plants added a muted accent. We were given a spacious booth with a single low hanging lamp above our table, its spot light made for great food photography. Food left the kitchen pretty quick, but kids were still given placemats and crayons to colour in order to keep them patient.

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There were enough staff members scheduled to suitably attend to each party. They were easily identified by their “lobster vs lobster” themed tees, just in time to celebrate their “lobster fest” menu. A seasonal feast offering lobster centric dishes. Our server gave us the time we needed to decide and digest, and was attentive enough that we never felt the need to seek her out.

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All though still relatively full from lunch, my co traveler was feening for their unlimited and complimentary cheddar bay biscuits. A craving she couldn’t pass up during this or any visit to Seattle. These were baked fresh and came to your table warm in a basket. These crumbly savoury cakes were all the right kinds of cheesy, fluffy, and melts in your mouth goodness. You can’t go wrong with a country style cheese biscuit, and the notes of herb made them a hearty appetizer. A preferred starter over bread and butter any day.

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“Bahama Mama”. A frozen blend of tropical fruit flavours mixed with captain Morgan’s original spiced rum and topped with a splash of Barcardi select dark rum. Definitely a drink you enjoy with your eyes and mouth.

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I was upset that my guests did not take more advantage of the lobster fest that was currently running. So I went all out with their, “Ultimate Surf and Turf”. A Maine lobster tail with crab and seafood stuffing, paired with a peppercorn seasoned grilled sirloin topped with Maine lobster meat in a citrus hollandaise sauce. Served over mashed potatoes, roasted tomatoes, and green beans. I was given the option of garden or Caesar salad on the side, or paying more for soup. I passed on it all as there was already a lot of food and even more biscuits to be had. The lobster certainly hit its mark. A generous tail seasoned with melted butter, then heightened with even more seafood on top of it.

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However the steak did not meet my medium rare expectations. It came dull in colour and I could tell it was overcooked without even having to cut in. So when I did it was no surprise to see hardly any pink in the middle. They offered to prepare me a new steak, by suggesting this one be taken away. They did, but left the rest of my plate behind, all the sides waiting for a new steak. I obliged, but now had to eat my tail and veggies without it so that they wouldn’t get cold. Such food is best eat warm. Cold butter sauce and room temperature mashed potatoes? When the steak returned it was heavy in peppercorn, a taste I found overwhelming for the gently salted beans and barely seasoned whipped potato. I found the side of stewed tomatoes unappetizing in their discoloured brownish red. Salty, and half sun dried, they became a good way to balance the steak’s pepperiness with salt.

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“Lobster Pizza”. A thin crusted pizza topped with langostino lobster meat, melted mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and sweet basil. The thin crust was chewy, and with less breading, this meant more room in my stomach for everything else. As light as it was, it made a good appetizer, but not hearty enough as the entree it was listed as. My biggest pizza gripe is when the toppings don’t adhere to the crust. And here the limp slice lost everything as it drooped. The flavour was over salted, with an overly cheesy after note. As a result you lost much of the lobster taste. It hid behind the tomato and basil that helped to keep things light, they shone through more as the stars of this dish.

My guests shared the “4 Course feast”, a great deal at $16.99. You choose from a list of soups, salads, entrees and desserts.

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“New England clam chowder”. The soup very bland, it needed excessive shakes of pepper and salt to have it palatable. The texture was watery and overly clam-y. It was like all they did was add cream to canned clam juice. A big disappointment when compared to all the thick and full bodied clam chowders I have had with actual chunks of calm.

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“Fresh Caesar salad”. Pretty standard, and as bland as the soup. But for the price I guess something’s got to give. This is the first salad I have seen being salted and peppered.

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“Wood grilled chicken with portobello wine sauce”. A very generic dish. You did get any of that wood grilled essence mentioned in the title. It tasted more pan fried. The chicken was boring and uninventive. And like those before it, this too was overly salty. The mushroom and wine sauce was muted, flavour notes that only distracted from the dish. I didn’t know you could have too much mushroom-y taste.

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After a different dessert came, we went to our server to confirm the conversation we had before. To pay a little extra for their “cake in a jar”. A couple of dollars more got us the seasonal “red velvet cake in a jar”. The usual is a strawberry short cake. But this was sumptuous layers of red velvet cake, rich cream cheese icing and mini chocolate morsels. As great as this presentation was, it was difficult to eat. Each bite required picking up the jar, tilting it on its side, and gouging what you could with your spoon. Though I was impressed that the jar was branded with “Red Lobster”. Things were really sweet thanks to the abundance of icing topped. We wished for less in exchange of more spongy and soft cake. A dessert I definitely recommend sharing.

I was impressed that their to go containers were microwavable and dishwasher safe. A great idea to get more use out of them, other than just packaging. Our bill came with suggested tip amounts at 15, 18, and 20 percent. And surprisingly they didn’t take debit, maybe just our Canadian debit?

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The food wasn’t amazing, but at least it was decently priced. As I mentioned before this is just one of those places you have to cross off your to try list. Not everything is worth the hype, but at the prices charged I am sure you can leave happy after a four course meal. Even if its just so so. A place I wouldn’t mind dining at again, but only after I exhausted other options. Why eat at a chain when you can potentially discover a gem in a small one of establishment? Don’t deny your cravings.

RED LOBSTER
4231 196th St SW, Lynnwood, WA 98036
425-672-1137
redlobster.com
Red Lobster on Urbanspoon

Thai Tom

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My guests have been here before and loved the place upon first bite. So when visiting Seattle for the day, we made a point to have lunch here. At 4pm there was a line and a wait requiring 50 minutes. 50 minutes we spent loitering around the University District. Apparently this is a common occurrence, to see lines and people standing by outside. Though most are here to get their meal taken out. A great way to avoid the wait, and having to dine in their cramped and less than modern setting.

The restaurant was a dark narrow space. An older building that felt less than clean with its dingy corners, dusty fixtures, and edges filled with grout. The brown patchy walls and photos faded with age didn’t help either. The traditional Thai elements lent their authenticity to the place and gave a distraction from the above. These included framed art of Thai deities, a large tapestry of gold figures sailing in boats, an elephant’s bust with trunk extended and tusks out, and lamps of wicker and wooden cages surrouding bulbs. I dared not use the washroom when the front of house looked like this. And based on her last visit, my guest reassured me it was a bad as I thought.

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The kitchen was visible from the entrance, with seats around it to watch the action of cooking over large flames. A few feet away, chairs by tables were available for parties of two; but groups larger than that were forced to wait for bar stools to open up. The compact placement of stools and the lack of hooks or racks meant loose belonging, jackets, and bags sat awkwardly on laps.

It was loud between the beats of dance music, the sounds of metal spatulas against frying woks, and the chatter of customers speaking in close confines. The music heard was based on preference of the chef cooking that set. We went from electronic dance to party rap during our stay.

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We observed the chefs moving to the beat and keeping pace with the base. Their music must help to keep their rhythm up and their focus on point. Greatly needed to accommodate all the orders and to not have them overwhelmed by the close proximity of guests watching them in scrutiny. Each time the chefs regrouped it felt like a game or match was starting and we were excited to watch. One of the two servers would take all orders, and one of four chefs would cook per batches needed. It is a fast and furious display. Dish after dish pushed out efficiently. With buckets of vegetables sliced and prepped, and sauces pooled with ladles for scooping; it was just a matter of grabbing handfuls and throwing it in the pan.

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You could be seated, but not fed until they were ready to start the next set cooking. Therein our 50 minute wait to be seated became a 75 minute to eat. They were fast, but messy. Strands of lettuce fell on the floor and shards of carrots hit the flame. One chef was set to tending six pans. An impressive feat of multitasking. Though at one point he went too fast and a spoon went flying in front of my co-diner. Without a word or apology he reclaimed his tool to use again. I guess he was too much in the zone to acknowledge us. The other chefs were either washing dishes or pre-chopping vegetables as this one man set about to seed 15 hungry mouths. We were told that serving and cooking in sets, allowed the kitchen staff to clean up. Yet sitting immediately adjacent to the stove, I saw no wiping nor removal any of the mess around each coil.

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The menu was a wooden board painted in black and printed in metallic gold and red. Two sides of appetizers, soups, entrees, drinks and after meal treats. We had lots of questions when ordering, as the menu offered no description and had no pictures included. You had to know the place, or the food to get what you wanted. You can’t simply order not knowing what, “pour man noodle”, “Phad see you again”, or “swimming Rama” was. Sadly when asked, our server couldn’t really give us any answers.

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“Thai ice tea” served in plastic cups. With pre-made servings in to go cup for easy take and travel. I can’t believe I only discovered how good Thai ice tea is a month or two ago.

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“Panang curry”. We got chicken over shrimp and tofu. A very flavourful curry without too much chilli spice. The first bite was the best in exciting flavours. It had a lingering heat that went all the way to the last spoon. Rich and nutty in taste with a buttery smooth texture. Necessarily paired with rice, as a one note plate that slowly grew ragged.

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“Pad Thai”. Without pictures to aid in my entree selection, I played it safe. I choose the shrimp over chicken and tofu, and was delighted over the generous portion it came in. This was the best pad Thai I have ever had. A sweeter sauce coated the chewy noodle. A few strands were overcooked and other were slightly burnt, it gave the dish it’s only crispy component. I was perplexed by the presence of rice on top and would have preferred more noodles instead.

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“Thai curry fried rice with cashews”. We chose the chicken over shrimp and tofu. This was on the over salted side. Tasty, but with too much salt, it took away from that what would be delicious taste. My guest usually doesn’t like nuts in her rice or noodles, but their presence here wasn’t a hinderance. Though it must be noted that she did not finish her plate, and over 70% of what was left was halved peanuts.

Service is not the focal point here and the food definitely speaks for itself. Other than placing our orders and asking for the bill there was no interaction with the staff. Just as well, as there was a bite of a language barrier between ourselves and the authentic Thai staff. Luckily we both had the understanding of food to communicate just enough.

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We couldn’t make heads or tails out of the hand scrawled paper bill. And the symbols didn’t mean anything not paired with dish names. We took for granted that we were paying what we owed.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The place is authentic not only in cuisine, but in culture and community as well. I truly enjoyed my pad Thai and felt it the best I have had to date. The curry and rice fell short, but others dishes yet to be tried deserve a revisit for. Though because of the age of the place, this isn’t the restaurant I would want to come back to for a sit down meal to be enjoyed in. Tight spots and cramped quarters make the privacy of date night impossible, as two couples saw. I judged them on their attempt at hiding their public displays. I rather this delicious Thai food, in the comforts of my home; or in this case as a visitor, my hotel room. Don’t deny your cravings.

THAI TOM
4543 University Way NE, Seattle WA, 98105
206-548-9548
Thai Tom on Urbanspoon

Holly Food Foodtruck

IMG_9331IMG_9333Another food truck by my work meant another impromptu lunch. This was a big black truck, one of the fancier ones I have seen. Well equipped in stainless steal and a fold out window, this was the kind production sets used to feed large crews. Fancy for the food and too formal for the way it was used. Only a simple logo in thin green lines identified its purpose. What looked like a broccoli in a chef’s hat was made from the capital letter “H”, the “H” in their name: “Holly Food”. The name and the mascot revealed little about their offerings and gave nothing to remember them by. A closer look was needed as this did not resemble your usual eye catching and well coloured food trucks.

It was a very simple offering, something your mom would make for afternoon snack and nothing you couldn’t do yourself. Basically it was corn in a paper drinking cup. Three varieties and one in a combo. When I asked for more explanation than the sign allowed I was met with one guy. He made an valiant attempt at trying to sell me on his product, despite the slight language barrier. He was friendly and seemed gentle and kind. This was based on the way he finished off each order gingerly with parsley and placed it thoughtful into your hands. He explained, this was “organic corn, a new fusion in Canada”. He really made emphasis to the special sauce. At $6 plus per cup I felt it was expensive for what it was. But as a food blogger I was obliged to pay the $13 for what I got below.

As the only guy working, he moved a little slow. Slow for what is meant to be fast food, and slower for what I imagine should have had been prepped before opening. He took orders, made them, and gave them before helping the next in line. I saw him lose customers this way. Without acknowledging the others willing to try and taking their money, he gave them the option to leave to find alternatives. And on two occasions he almost forgot to charge his customers, but both she and I were honest enough to call this to his attention.

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Despite the colour photo-ed menu of smoothies and fondues posted up, they were only available on weekends, and today was Tuesday. But without a notice or sign I ordered from both options only to get a puzzled look in return. The man had to step out and off to read his own menu and tell me, “only on Saturday”. I was unable to try oranges, apples, and bananas; platters of common fruits peeled and cut, blended into juices, or dipped into chocolate. Such a disappointment, a truck this big, and all they offered was corn kernels.

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The original was the “Holly corn”, offered in small, medium, or large at $5, $6, and $7. This was steamed organic corn, fresh mushrooms, shredded cheese, fair trade spices (salt, thyme, and pepper), parsley or cilantro and fresh lime. All coated in their homemade holly sauce (egg, olive oil, and mustard). This is in a medium. It tasted as is, with honestly no explanation needed. There was lots of stringy cheese present, but none of it could you taste. And with no mustardy taste, all you could make out was the mushrooms and the weird sauce. The sauce clumped to form the texture of paste.

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The “Special holly corn” is only available in a medium or large size. So I got the medium. The was same as the regular holly corn above, just with the extra addition of cold luncheon meat (chicken salami). I found the taste of the baloney off putting. It’s saltiness became the only flavour to shine through. And at 75 cents extra for the meat, it wasn’t worth it. This wasn’t special like its name suggested. This was odd, not bad, and not normal.

I passed on purchasing any more. The “Veggie holly corn”, which was the same recipe but with some vegetables: asparagus, carrot, and broccoli. And their “special combo” had the special holly corn with cut up fruit on the side.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
We wondered how this idea even came to fruition? A random grouping of foods that don’t necessary compliment. Corn, fruit, and chocolate? And with the presence of baloney, it almost seemed like they took what was left from their fridge and combined it together to make this. The corn wasn’t even fresh, the kernels had that out of can texture and look. And its presentation only made it all the more common. I understood the purpose of serving it out of a cup; like the ingredients this kept their costs low. We did mange to finished it all, but hunger may have been a large factor. I would have preferred this just as a regular corn on the cob, and wished they served that instead. After all that is nature’s corn dish on the go. Don’t deny your cravings.

HOLLY FOOD
604-364-1416
hollyfood.ca
Holly Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Sunflower Bubble Tea

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In my youth I recall frequenting here. And based on the clientele, this was still a popular hang out for kids after school. What’s not to like? Located close to a sky train station for those who can’t drive. And serving quick food at cheap prices for those with a curfew and limited allowance. 
As expected, based on the area and the Taiwanese cuisine it served, guests sitting in were all asians. They sat in loud groups, small families, or by their lonesome. Each table enjoying bubble teas in plastic cups and straws, and hot dishes with plastic chopsticks.

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The decor has changed a lot since the last I was here, over 8 years ago. What was once a bubble tea cafe and a hot pot place side by side is now the expanded “Sunflower Bubble Tea”. A brighter setting and a larger space, very reflective of their popularity and their need to double their square footage. I liked their simple decorating. White walls and glowing colours. One detailed in 3D flowers and back lit with a transition of lights. The other a series of polka dots and stripes in pink, yellow, and orange. A partition separated the walls and the space in half. It and the dual doors were a reminder of the two separate restaurants they use to be.

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We were seated in a booth by the tea bar, and as a consequence our dining was filtered in with the shaking of ice and liquid and the blending of fruits and juice. This was on top of the music playing overhead and the chatter of gossip from mouths around. The musix was a transition from mandarin love ballads, to Japanese pop songs, and English top 40 from the recent past. A little mix for everyone. The banter was from adolescence minds: their grievances and the escapades of their day to day lives made me appreciate how much I have grown. I wondered if I was ever so trivial, as I sat feeling too old for the place.

The menu was condensed compared to like bubble tea places. With the usual split between drinks hot and cold; And food in rice, noodles, or hot pot. The server assumed we knew mandarin, and continued to engage in it despite only one of us returning in speak. Both of the women running the front were very casual. They spoke abruptly with little interest, and were dressed comfortably in runners and sweats. You could tell emphasis was on speed of service as apposed to the quality of interaction. Though I could see some of their behaviours being a result of their day to day stresses. Some resentment stemming from their day to day customers. Indifference from dealing with large groups of teens running the place as their own. Today we had groups squatting on tables and others playing their own foul mouthed music loudly. Both women were hesitant and passive about reprimanding behaviours, they allowed such to carry on until they built up the nerve. As guest I found these actions and the space fairly uninviting because of it.

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The “passion fruit green tea” came too sweet, we had to ask for a second glass to water things down. The waitress assured it us no sugar was added, and poured away half to refill with water. “Matcha green milk tea”. By comparison to the former this was bitter. With hardly any sugar the matcha flavour was allowed to shine through. A deeper and heartier brew complimentary to the more complex meal ahead.

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“Spicy shrimp ball with rice”. A simple offering of seafood and rice accompanied by a side of bean noodles and pickled vegetables. The shrimp ball was not the breaded deep fried balls that I had imagined. Instead the word “ball” described how the pieces of shrimp curled up after cooking. Although the star of the dish they were over cooked. Luckily the heavy spices and generous coating of chilli oil were able to successfully mask any undesirable taste. And similarly the peanuts offered a crunch the tough shrimp was able to hide behind. Though it got worse tasting the colder the plate got. My guest finished her meal to not waste food, only to be stricken with a stomach ache when she returned home.

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“Braise beef noodle with soup”. I contemplated about getting their tomato version, only to change my mind, after hearing it was just the same with the addition of stewed tomato for a dollar more. The is my safe choice when dining at unfamiliar Taiwanese places. The flavours of beef noodle soup are easy to build and the dish hard to mess up on. This was your regular run of the milk version. Not the best, not the worst, just middle of the pack. Good enough to finish. The slices of beef were tender though I could have used more to better match the meat to noodle ratio. The soup flavourful enough, though I also could have used more spices to perk up the closer to bland taste.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This is not a destination, we only ended up here because our original choice was closed and I refused to find another parking spot or leave even the area. The food was average, the service on par, and the setting barely tolerate-able; between the rowdy clientele and the age of the washrooms. A hole in the wall that deserves to stay that way. It gave us nothing different, and offered nothing memorable. We walked away unsatisfied with a stomach flu. Luckily it is located close to schools, community centres, and a convenient sky train station. This will allow it to see continued success in the area. Don’t deny your cravings.

SUNFLOWER
5125 Joyce Street, Vancouver BC
604-909-0669
Sunflower Bubble Tea on Urbanspoon

Soho Road Foodtruck

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Looking for lunch on the go downtown, I decided to hunt down food trucks that only frequent here. I stopped between two that have made the busy intersection of Granville and Georgia their semi-permanent home. “Soho Road” became my choice based on the line waiting and the absence of guests at the other.

This truck was actually a pull along cabin. It went unhitched and left for the day, only to be picked up after peak lunch and snacking time. It was stranded and left completely at the mercy of the truck that set it. And there it would remain until it either sold out or the crowd decide to subside.

It was a black truck with their logo in glittery gold. Bubble typed lettering trimmed in red, done in a very 70’s stylized font. Today, around it gathered foot traffic from pedestrians and feathers from pigeons. The former shuffling along to their routes, and the latter looking to scrounge after fallen crumbs.

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The menu was a chalkboard of colourful options they have coined, as “Naan kabobs”. Traditional East Indian curries and dishes wrapped in a handy naan pita to go. This idea made your favourite ethnic sit down dishes get up and go hand helds. On these very chalk boards they also proudly advertised their mention in “Eat Street”, the food network show on food trucks.

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As last in line, with six before me, and each individual waiting for their turn to order, patience was a requirement. Naturally I saw a considerable wait time, from the time I was addressed by the clerk to the moment my three naan wraps were bundled in tinfoil. The truck was run by a two man team. The guy who worked the front was friendly and inviting. He inquired about where you work and why you visited. He thanked and appreciated your business and invited a return. At one point he even helped to usher away an individual very insistent that I give him money. He casually asked this disheveled man to not heckle his guests in the line.

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Chai Tea, what else pairs well with East Indian food? Similar spices and flavours, it not only tastes great, but pairs well.

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At 3pm they were out of “hariali chicken” and “lamb seekh”, and I was the last one to get their special of the day, “Lamb tikka masala”. The clerk was not shy about admitting this was his favourite wrap and the one I should save for myself, if as he though, I intended to share all three. The lamb was cooked until tender, and much heartier than the other chickens.

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“Butter chicken”. I was expecting the common North American style butter chicken taste and missed it here. I didn’t get that certain creaminess, nor the usual off yellow that I am familiar with. It almost seems like there was less butter in this then I am use to with other variations.

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“Tandoori chicken”. Tasted like the butter chicken so much, that I almost got the two mixed up. If it wasn’t because of this slightly chunkier texture or its darker colour, I wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the two. The tandoori spicier with more jagged seasonings; whereas I found the herbs of the butter chicken to be more smooth.

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The naan was the best part, garlicky and buttery it held up well. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t need to gobble it up quick, as this wrap didn’t get soggy or break through like others would. Though at the end ingredients did fall out and things did get juicy. Saving one out of my three wraps for later, I should it it completely salvageable with a medium toast in the oven. The richness in each sauce was well balanced with the freshness of the diced vegetables. A pair of opposites that complimented with a contrast of soft and hard, and flavourful and mild. All wrapped up in to a crispy, easy to love doughy base.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The food was good in a pinch, easy to eat, rich in flavour, and unique just to them; all a decent price. With “Soho Road” you get the taste of East Indian cuisine without any tongue singeing spice. A toned down, and almost Americanized version of Indian curries and entrees, but still completely authentic judging my the men who ran and operated the truck. This is the uniting of your favourite East Indian dishes with North American eating practices. Don’t deny your cravings.

SOHO ROAD
700 W Georgia Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2H7
778-558-7272
Soho Road Naan Kebab on Urbanspoon

Pho Extreme Xe Lua

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I have passed by this place on occasion. And being the late owl that I am, I always make a mental note of any place that is open late or for 24 hours. Conveniently located across from a skytrain station and at the corner of a busy intersection it is no surprise that the restaurant was still fairly busy at 11:30pm. Patrons finishing up meals, others picking up take out, and a few just sitting as we were about to leave an hour later.

The restaurant is pretty standard. A decor of pieces as a pose to a setting with a central theme. A scene of green plants and traditional Asian figures greeted you at the door. They shrouded the bar that stood behind. Lucky bamboo and cats, potted plants tied in red, Buddhas in gold, and red shrines dedicated to ancestors. The white walls were home to a mix of Vietnamese and oriental inspired art. Giant fans with wildlife painted on, framed works of women in traditional south East Asian island wear, and an expansive painting of a watery landscape framed by a setting sun and encroaching greenery. And then the framed jersey of Canucks #33 Henrik Sedin, unsigned. A little out of place, but who would ever complain about Canucks pride. Seating is self serve and available in any of their booth or table tops. Black marble-like tables splashed with white came with matching black chairs. They sat on hard wood floors framed by splotchy dark red booths.

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Service is pretty minimal overall. A young man and woman team worked the front, with their lone chef covered the back. The guy took the food orders and gave her the necessary directions. She bussed tables and fetched side plates and took out take out boxes as needed. And the chef delivered the dishes he cooked, as he completed them. It was clear by the way they dressed and they way the young man spoke he was the one in charge. The girl seemed to be training all in black, where as he was leading in a very casual striped shirt and baseball cap. Too casual for my liking, despite the intended relaxed feel of the place. I have never been served by a person in a ball cap. When they weren’t needed by their guests they chatted casually at the host’s podium. He sitting, she standing, it gave them a perch to view the expanse of the place. At one point the television channel was switched from the hockey game before, to one that mentioned the word “penis”. There then was a chat between the two on which channels were acceptable for a restaurant. They must have seen the surprised look on my face and others as we froze mid bites, hearing the word mention so fearlessly, so out loud.

Sit down or take out, there was only one style of menu. Folded paper printed in blue ink. Tucked away in between the extra utensils and napkin dispensers. It wasn’t immediately obvious this is what we were to be ordering from; and no one made a point to ease us in the process. And with no pictures and no descriptions, it was hard to know what you wanted or what you usually get. Luckily the young man was able to steer me in the right directions based on my lose descriptions of what I have enjoyed at other Vietnamese places in the past.

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Utensils are the help yourself style. A caddy of bright green chopsticks, white plastic soup spoons, napkins by the bundle, and an assortment of bottled sauces and saucy spices.

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Despite our hunger we found the food just ok. Nothing quite tasted like what we expected. Failing to keep in mind that the food wasn’t solely Vietnamese, we were left disappointed. I guess having the “Cambodian” in its subtitle means their food is a fusion, and we shouldn’t have expected only what you were most familiar with at other strictly Vietnamese pho places.

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Complimentary jasmine tea and a side of bean sprouts came first, as we waited for the actual bowl of pho to eat them with to come. I believe it was complimentary, given that the bill was tallied on paper by hand, with no listing of what we had ordered or what their corresponding prices are, I can’t be too sure.

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I appreciated the young male for not judging us on how much we ordered, and applaud him for having the moxie to ask if we wanted spring rolls on top of the four other dishes we already requested. I of course agreed to his suggestion. “Spring rolls” two rolls served cut up. Just by looking at them you could tell these weren’t your regular rolls. They weren’t wrapped in the deep fried until crisp orange wonton skins. It’s different batter looked crunchy and uneven, like they were coated in tempura mix. But it’s discolouration and taste resembled a wash in egg and flour. A messy job that allowed presentation to suffer. Either way it was good, but fell short of expectations. It was the bare minimum of crunchy, with a filling unidentifiable through continuous eating alone. It had a distinctive paste-like texture with a taste like no other. When you think and crave spring rolls you imagine a certain look and a specific taste, this was none of those things all wrapped up in a handy roll. On the flip side my non Asian partner said these were the best spring rolls he has had because they didn’t taste Asian.

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“Special sub”. They had a few selection of “Bánh mì” sandwiches, (the Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread, used specifically to describe the above baguette sandwiches). Often filled with various ingredients, but consistently with pickled vegetables, meats, and cilantro. I asked for the most popular, only to not have it be the traditional one with cold cuts and pate. So got the one I wanted instead. These sandwich always have the best first bite, the surprise of having warm toasted bread with chillingly cold meats and vegetables in between. A crunch that has bites of crust and lots of bread crumbs falling on to your plate, the table, and your lap. My guest and I were rudely surprised by the jalapeño, hidden between all the folds of meat and strips of pickles. It’s spice took our breaths away.

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“Grilled lemon grass chicken with rice”. The chicken was grilled with darken char marks that were accompanied by a pleasant smokey taste. For those who prefer white meat, this one isn’t for you. Although tender the pieces of dark meat were fatty with lots of nervous and extra tendons.

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“Steak flank pho”, available in a small and extra large, we were happy with just the regular large portion. The beef came heaped, allowing slices to stay medium rare on top. For those wanting you can enjoy them as is, though I prefer giving them a dunk in the still steaming broth to further cook. Just looking at the soup I knew it would be tasteless. An almost clear and almost colourless mix, the brown sauce that comes with the table was indeed needed. This would be the first time I needed it in my pho, as I don’t use it anywhere else. The silver lining of the dish was the beef. The meat was tender and tasted of a descent quality. The portion was deserving of the large title with plenty of noodles and a bundle of bean sprouts on the side.

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“Spring roll, grilled pork with vermicelli”. Out of the lot this was the most impressive looking dish. With plenty of colour and elements it was certainly the most flavourful. The spring roll was the same as the ones we has as our appetizer. The pork was cut into too small pieces with an uneven meat to noodle ratio. The peanuts gave a good crunch, and the pickled carrot and radish gave a good zing. We made the mistake of mixing in all of the fish sauce, it made the noodles a mushy mess and the entire dish too watery for a noodle dish meant to be taken without broth.

If you missed it, printed out and posted up, they “ONLY ACCEPT CA$H” in bold, underline, and exclamation pointed. The black and white sign sits on top of the host’s podium, and was never once mentioned in person. Luckily I carried enough cash with me, though what establishment only accepts cash? Ones that don’t want to pay the fees that make it convenient for everyone else?

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food was only good because we were hungry, not because it was actually good. I ordered what I knew and it still came out not as we had expected, nor did it come out like how they make it anywhere else. We left wanting more and not quite feeling satisfied. Although they do have their convenient location and their 24 hour operating time going for them. The food was as disappointing as the service from the staff. Although typical of Asian places, I still find it disappointing that they hardly seemed invested in the place or wanting to retain us for repeat business. There was no effort made to check on what we thought of the food, nor was there any effort made to be inviting with small talk. Instead they themselves were engaged in a personal conversation, where the young man admitted to not “giving a shit” in another matter. Overall unprofessional and deeply unsettling the food and service fell below my expectations. Don’t deny your cravings.

PHO EXTREME XE LUA
457 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Y 4A8
604-879-8228
Pho Extreme Xe Lua Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cupcakes

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The bakery specializing in just cupcakes bares the “original cupcake” name. A shoppe so established that when you think or say “cupcakes” this is what immediately pops into your head. Pretty and colourful swirls sitting gently on top of spongy fluffy cakes. Here presentation is just as important as taste.

This new edition to Metrotown certainly had heads double turnings. A three walled set up that is as smile-inducing as each of their stand alone stores. A lot of work is put into making sure each franchise location matches the look and feel of all others. This pink and cutesy latest, screams fun. The cartoon cupcake logo embodies what their shoppe is about and their motherly mascot in 50’s frilly apron, checkered dress, and shimmering pearls is the friendly face that serves them to you.

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The store is painted a bold turquoise and trimmed in their trademark bright pink, with accents in similar shades of pastels. Easter is around the corner, and they are anticipating with their walls decorated appropriately. Blooming flowers and baby chicks team up to bring you a very festive scene of spring. And with like matching cupcakes for sale, they have the seasonal thing under wraps. Cupcake tops made to look like coloured eggs in straw nests, baby bunnies or fluffy chicks hiding in tall grass, and a sheep made out of marshmallow rounds.

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Day to day business has them lead with their cupcake collection forward, a grand display kept behind glass. Each with it’s own cake stand and bubbly sign. The sign labeled with its name and a breakdown of its flavour profile. A collection that varies by day and availability in season.

If all this appeals to you, but you aren’t hungry, you can take part of this home in merchandise. They also sell tee shirts, aprons, and reusable bags, all stylized in their bubble gum pop theme.

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I was here today for a birthday cake, but they don’t offer any ready to be taken to go. For a full cake you need give notice, but they do have cupcakes available for the same purpose. The birthday cupcakes were the largest one, the size of two fists they had their own stand. Pre-piped with “Happy Birthday” in cursive; and decorated with a boarder of colourful flowers and leaves on top, and trim of rainbow sprinkles on its sides. This would be a lot to eat in one sitting, and plenty for making an good impression. And if you want to go the extra mile, buy the candles you need and the special toy cake topper that would make things extra special for the birthday boy or girl.

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I also got the prepackaged mini cupcakes to go. A set that gave you sample sized bites of 12 different cupcakes. Each box was slightly different, ours included red velvet”; “sweet 16”, a vanilla cupcake with pink buttercream, “lemon drop” a lemon cake with lemon cream and candy; “blue Hawaiian”, a coconut cupcake with blue buttercream and toasted coconut; “caramella”, a chocolate cupcake filled with caramel; “mint condition”, chocolate cupcake with mint flavoured buttercream; “koo koo”, a vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and shredded coconut; “diva”, pink buttercream on top of chocolate cake; “Versace”, marble cake with chocolate buttercream; “obsession”, chocolate chips and cream cheese frosting on top of a chocolate cake; and “chocolate”, with chocolate everywhere. This same flavours are also available as full regular sized cupcakes. Other flavours include “cookies and cream”, “24 carrot”, “buttercup”, “raspberry beret”, “cosmopolitan”, and “lava flow”.

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Despite their colours and names, essentially these were simple cupcakes in either a chocolate or vanilla base or both done in marble. Nothing different topped with either a cream cheese or buttercream frosting that has been dyed with food colouring based on desired flavour.

Most disappointingly, the employees were just not there. They didn’t seem very present or slightly ready to help. The young girl behind the counter took your money and packaged your desserts in their logo-ed to go boxes in silence. There was no light hearted exchange or jovial banter on why I needed $40 worth of cupcakes. She was there just for function. And the man who looked to be her boss seemed even less present. More interested in his phone than his business, he became the darkness in the rainbow of the room. An eyesore before a liability. I understood his need to be on his phone and the need to use his computer for the establishment that he was currently in; but as a guest I don’t need to see it or have you highlight it. We did not need the view of him leaning through the kitchen window on his devices. But none the less this became the back drop to all the lovely cupcakes they were are trying to sell. Majority of retail is presentation, and he wasn’t doing it any favours. Though seeing as all customers are here for quick stops, get in and go; and there is no need for the lingering of guest, I guess the above goes un-noticed and really is of no one’s concern. No one but me with my hyper vigilance. Sadly, I don’t understand how anyone can look or be so upset working in such a fun place. You are surrounded by happiness and are selling smiles to guests. Either that or you are in the wrong business.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I call these the giftable cupcakes. There perfectly crafted and perfectly duplicated desserts, never fail to in-still the desired excitement that the gifter intends. Although at its heart, this is just a simple chocolate or vanilla cake. Almost a plain jane with no crazy flavours and no out there combinations. And tame for the exciting world of weird concoction and fusion flavours that we live in (or that I like to play in). Outside of their stunning colours and perfect frosted spirals they aren’t anything very special. A run of the mill cake hiding under all that fluff. Had I the recipes, I could probably duplicate each to similar taste, though far from desired professional appearance. These are great quick and easy go-to’s for those not wanting to bake. The type of cupcakes you buy not worrying about flavours that not everyone would like. Great for everyone else, I like my flavours bold, a unique paring of things not commonly partnered. Though these cakes are good in a pinch and never disappoint when you are craving one. And with multiple convenient locations and the ability to franchise, Vancouver won’t soon be short on “cupcakes”. Cupcakes to satisfy your nostalgic candy cupcake cravings. Don’t deny your cravings.

CUPCAKES
4700 Kingsway, Unit 1136A, Metropolis At Metrotown, Burnaby BC, V5H 4M1
604-451-1400
originalcupcakes.com
Cupcakes at Metrotown on Urbanspoon

Tomahawk Restaurant

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“Tomahawk” has been recommended to me on several occasions. Known more for their breakfast, I still decided to come in for dinner. Located farther for me in North Vancouver, I found it worth the introductory trip down. If not for the comfort food, for a decor like no other.

If you miss it, the restaurant’s entrance is flanked by a pair of matching totem poles, the only place like it. With a spacious parking lot to the side it is fairly easy to get to and convenient to stop at.

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At the lobby you are greeted with a scaled down gift shop. A corner store of candy, souvenirs, and native memorabilia for purchasing. I suspect this does fairly well as tourists often visit, and have been doing so since 1926. Proof is in their framed awards. Rows and rows, and years and years of accolades lined the foyer. Decades of achievements throughout time, and a testament to their longevity.

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Past the food and collectables is a running water feature. A pond sized pool surrounded by brick, settled in by yellow rubber ducks. A collection that seemed out of place against all the native artifacts. Pieces rusted with age, worn with use, and dusty with memories. And here were these bright and bold yellow ducks. Ducks in water, ducks on land, some with hair, others with hats, a few wore vests, and others with nothing but their smiles. It appeared gaudy in a room of history and art worthy of a museum showcase.

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Seating is a melding of 50’s diner linoleum counters, and wooden tables. And on this rainy Sunday night we had the pick of the place. We left the counter to those wanting to watch the oscars on the old school boxy television, and chose a seat in the dining room. Tables sat with room for four, and two tops lined the wood barricade in the centre. They separated us from the cafe’s bar. This was your typical small town cafe. You had your coffee machines, your fountain drinks dispensers, and a windowed fridge full of homemade pie sold by the slice. This is the type of scene you image walking into at a random truck stop in the states. Very quaint, very homey, I certainly felt its charm. To give things a little more panache, an oval vase and a small branch of real flowers sat at each table. They were so fancy, it almost seemed lost in this more casual setting.

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The room was a story of native art. Art that reached all the way to the top of the tipped roof and all around the building of wooden planks, brick detailing, and re-enforced cement blocks. The focal piece was the panoramic that covered the left wall in deep green, red, and white. On it four legged creatures and birds in flight, each vividly drawn and detailedly decorated. Above this work hung black masks and framed pieces done in a similar style.

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There were stain glass panes of a wolf, turtle, owl, and snake. Each with it’s own characteristics and each equally bold in bright colours. Miniature wood carved totems lined the space above the cafe’s bar. And portraits and images hung from the walls. A look into their culture, their chiefs, and the artifacts that well represented their traditions. Native spun wicker and other house hold items hung from the rafters in decoration. Pots, jugs, drums, and a series of iron tools I couldn’t identify. Lighting them and this little room came from traditional looking saloon lanterns crafted in iron.

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According to the informative menu, “Tomahawk” was started by Chick Chamberlain, the founder since it opened in 1926. This was one of many restaurants he and his brother opened, but would be the first drive in. Chick himself would come out to take your order, before going back to the kitchen to cook it. He then delivered the finished product right to your car. The tale leaves off with business being better in door despite the Great Depression hitting the late 20’s. I didn’t really need to know more but an option to ask servers was there.

Despite the “BBQ” in its subtitle, the only item on the menu that was done BBQ style was a chicken. They seem to specialize more in comfort cafe foods. Sandwiches, soups, salads, and burgers. With breakfast all day and light hearted dinner specials like meatloaf.

Food came fast with options for condiments and sauces like BBQ and HP sauce. Though we were charged 50 cents for the side of mayo for our fries. And similarly charged $1 for the hot water with lemon. This was a first. Guess a small place like this needed the extra service and extra touch to be paid for.

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“Clubhouse sandwich” with slices of oven roasted fresh turkey. Yukon style bacon, crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes and their “Tomahawk” special sauce. Served on thick toasted Klondike bread. With options between white and brown we chose the latter. The presentation was full-some. A pretty standard sandwich. The turkey was dry and the sandwich plain. The Yukon style bacon was less salty and less flavourful than its more popular North American cousin, though it and the mayo were still the highlights of the dish.

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“Skookum chief burger” with onions, lettuce, organic ground beef patty, Yukon style bacon, free run egg, aged cheddar cheese, wiener, tomato, and their “Tomahawk” special sauce. Spent the extra $2 to have my fries upgraded to battered onion rings. A not surprisingly this would be a two handed job. I liked the size didn’t know why I wouldn’t expect it this large given the long list of ingredients. This burger had everything they could have put into a burger, everything but the kitchen sink. The burger grew one toned and tasteless half way through, and like the sandwich before the whole assembly was more bland than you’d expect. Ketchup became the easy refresher. The patty was on the drier side, and I saw the sauce but couldn’t taste it. The Yukon bacon and the hot dog wieners were surprisingly not salty enough. I really liked the idea of shredding the lettuce this fine. And the pickles on the side gave it that zest and pop it was missing, a great tasted rejuvenator. This was good, but nothing I couldn’t make myself.

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The age of the place was really seen and smelled in the condition of the washroom. Tiled and grimey it has seen a lot over the years.

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Complimentary cardboard head wear to help you remember your visit. This and the same place mats that we used at dinner are available at the gift shop counter. Free for the taking.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The experience was pleasant with friendly soft spoken staff, and the food was descent as we ate through both entrees. Everything was good, but not so spectacular to have me clamouring for a return. I appreciated the simplicity and homey feeling of the place, the history in the building and the stories of the walls. Though other than its age and its nostalgia, the setting is not my style. I prefer modern and more blanks. The food although satisfying and picture worthy was pretty common and nothing I couldn’t make myself at home. There was nothing I never had, and there was nothing I would have craved for again. Beside the travel is far for me, so this would not be my immediate go to for burgers and sandwiches. Though I may be back to try their breakfasts, after all apparently it is better, and what they are known for. Don’t deny your cravings.

TOMAHAWK
1550 Philip Avenue, North Vancouver District BC, V7P 1N2
604-988-2612
tomahawkrestaurant.com
Tomahawk Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Back Forty Saloon

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This was destination of my latest dinner, as chosen by a guest who has been before and loves the food. The bar is commonly identified by its its adjacency to BC Place, and it’s outdoor sign that read, “the past, the present, and the future walked into a bar, it was tense”. I can only imagine its draw after games, as a sports bar with great food.

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I walked up to the entrance only to realize I could have parked for free in their lot, to the right. This I had missed this after paying for street side parking.

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We were greeted at the door by a podium that was signed, “free range seating”. Given the abundance of empty tables available, this was a good idea. We chose a four top, only to switch to a larger group sized table when our party expanded. The place was furnished in rustic hardwood and faux leather. Grey dimpled booth couches lined the back wall, they allowed the seating of many tables sandwiched between them and high top stools. The central dining room was a good mix of high tops and regular tables. A good way to give the room some visual interest and their patrons some options. The back wall was covered with black and white framed photos and gold foiled framed paintings. A collect of history meet art in landscapes, portraits, quotes, and sketches.

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To the right of the room was a row of three garage doors. When closed they made up the wall. When opened they merged to meet with the patio. I could see how a feature like this would make them very popular on the hotter days ahead. An open space that gave you the shade of being indoors with the heat and breeze of Vancouver’s summer.

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The bar was mounted with flat screen televisions. It had a chalkboard wall use to advertise daily specials and upcoming events in coloured chalk. In its corner was a bell, I imagined it being rung boisterously for home team goals and points during sporting events. It probably remained for the old bar that existed before. Bottles were in rows and beers were on taps. Seating here was the same faux leather cushions on backless stools. And above them were lamps that looked like over sized light bulbs with their top cuts off. A barrel was used to store coasters and hold spray bottles by the nozzle. Overall the place had a very rustic feel. A homey space made comfortable with the country twang playing over head tonight.

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All servers were dressed in “Back Forty” branded tees or tanks. The bar wasn’t especially busy on a Thursday so they occupied themselves with clean up and prep. Our server was seen sitting in an empty booth by the kitchen, wrapping utensils in napkins and binding each set with tape. With any eye contact or motion he would spring into action. I admired his ability to multitask and his desire to be proactive. He was attentive and checked in often on us and the status of our drinking. Where as other servers were seen sitting by the bar waiting to be called upon. They could have been on break, but with their uniforms on and being seen watching television, this wasn’t the best image.

Water was served in mason jars with a wedge of lemon. It seems the mason jar trend has yet to see its peak.

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3 grasshopper wheat ales in their 24oz “silo” size. Now this was a beer. The steins were specially printed with their name and a moustache. When correctly taken to you mouth it appeared that you had a thick black moustache above your lip.

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“B40 smoked chicken wings” on special. Despite the menu, we were given only three flavours of wings to choose from. Though this might have been the case because they were on special. We got one of each: BBQ, honey garlic, hot. The wings were meaty, and each serving came with a heap. The smoking process made them tender and juicy. The BBQ had your typical tangy taste. The honey garlic was my favourite sticky and sweet. And the hot wasn’t hot, despite it being made with Frank’s red hot. We were given side plates to eat off of as we shared all the wings. Though without a bone bucket they quickly became a graveyards on our plates. A messy appetizer, luckily we were given wet ones ahead of time.

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“Three smoked meat soft tacos”. Each soft taco shell is filled with my guest’s choice of pull pork over beef brisket, slaw, a chimichurri sauce, sour cream, Sriracha, and cilantro. As our server promised the pulled pork was amazing. Slow roasted it easily separated into strands, each with that smokey spice. Together each taco was zesty. The mix gave a good blend between savoury and fresh, with just the right amount of everything for balance.

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Given a choice of sides he chose the macaroni salad over the fries, regular salad, or coleslaw. Pre made, the sauce was given a chance to be absorbed by the elbow macaroni. It was the only soft component in a mix of hard carrot chunks and not quite cooked mini broccoli florets. I found this a break away from all the heavy sauces and spices used in everything else. A palette refresher.

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“Back forty burger”, a 7oz beef patty, topped with mustard, B40 relish, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and pickle, all between a toasted Kaiser. Despite this being a BBQ place this tasted just like a regular burger that you can get at any fast food place or burger joint. I hind sight my guest should have added the double smoked bacon or aged white cheddar for $2 more, just to get more out of this entree.

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“Buttermilk fried chicken po’boy”. House made deep fried chicken in their house buttermilk batter, house slaw, mustard, and Sriracha, all between a toasted Kaiser. Our host got the same burger as she did during her first visit, she found it that good. The chicken was perfection. Deep fried with just the right amount of crunchy battered skin, yet moist like it had been smoked all day. The coleslaw and mustard gave the sandwich some zip and a creaminess for balance.

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I too had the same chicken in my “buttermilk fried chicken and waffles”. Belgian waffle, buttermilk fried chicken, double smoked bacon, a maple butter sauce, chicken gravy, and scallions. With two pieces of chicken as is, I was able to come to the same conclusion about its crispy skin and juicy meat. However there were spots where the skin had that overly fatty oily texture that is less appealing. Like the chicken the waffles were best as is. Thick and doughy you got that buttery maple syrupy sweetness that contrasted and complimented the saltiness of the chicken. The gravy wasn’t the traditional country gravy, the kind that goes well over lumpy potatoes or cheesy biscuits. Instead it had the maple syrup essence and something else that threw off the whole plate. The chicken was good, the waffle was good. But the gravy that was covering most of it wasn’t. I was unable to finish this and pick at what wasn’t touching any of the pooled sauces at the bottom. What a disappointment. The best chicken but worst chicken and waffle combination I have ever had.

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The disappointment in my entree was almost salvage in their only dessert, the “monster mud pie”. Mocha ice cream on a graham cracker crust, topped with chocolate sauce, caramel, whipped cream and roasted hazelnuts. All things I like in my dessert and all things with a proven track record to work well together. You honestly can’t go wrong with this combination and they weren’t stingy on the helping or toppings.

The bar empty by 10:45pm and we were left wondering if we needed to leave as well. After clarification and the paying of our bill we were allowed to loiter as a few bodies trickled in, well before their 1am last call.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food was good, just my entree wasn’t. I would like to come back to try the other items that caught my eye. “Smoked chicken pot pie”, St. Louis style pork ribs; and “Mac Daddy and cheese” with your choice of smoked chicken, bacon, pulled pork or salmon. Certainly not the best BBQ place I have tried, but definitely worth repeat business. However the buttermilk chicken was the best chicken I have had. And no other chicken has yet to taste this good to me. Parking is free and its location is convenient. Tucked away the bar isn’t as busy as others so service and food should remain consistent. Don’t deny your cravings.

BACK FORTY
118 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2M1
604-688-5840
backfortysaloon.com
Back Forty on Urbanspoon

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