Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Month: September 2014 Page 1 of 2

Prado Cafe


My guest took me to her favourite cafe for an after dinner drink. Ironically we came to a coffee shop and neither of us had coffee.

Located on Commercial Drive this was a popular spot for students to study at and for those wanting a quite space to read at. We walked in to a full cafe, claiming the last two top table in the centre of the room. I felt slightly bad, we came to chat and everyone else was here to work in silence. More than half the room had earphones in ear and Mac Books in face, and here we were talking in soft whispers; possibility distracting them with our chatter and gossip.


The cafe was simply furnished: wooden tables, lightweight metal chairs, and a series of outdoor benches for by sidewalk seating. And how trendy of them to have their light bulbs encased in Masson jars. Smaller bulbs were clustered together in smaller jars hung from varying heights, and a large bulb had its own jar hanging across the room.


You claim your seat and order at the counter. Your selection is a chalkboard list of specialty coffees and teas. Teas were organized by colour: black, green, white, herbals, and tea lattes. And all coffees served were the familiar espresso, americano, latte, mocha, cappuccino, and drip coffees. All crafted from forty ninth parallel’s beans, you could tell by the use of their trademark aqua green mugs, cups, and saucers, with their logo in white scripted font. They must have been good, based on the few barista awards earned and on display by the register.


For those looking to snack their refrigerated unit kept cool paninis, burritos, and wraps. Above it a plastic showcase of pastries and danishes. All items that travel and keep well, and are appropriate for nibbling on while engaged in something else.


It being later in the evening we both went for non caffeinated beverages. My guest had their speciality bottled root beer and I their “jasmine dragon pearl” green tea.

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? – No.
My student days have come and gone, and when there were here I would never be able to concentrate on study in a public setting. Neither would this be my first choice for a catch up with a girlfriend. Despite the louder volume of the music overhead, the mellow indie beats did allowed for conversation. Though the guilt in being too loud and distracting for those around you impeded in your free flowing conversations. A recommended alternative to “Starbucks” for those wanting to study on the drive. Though not a place for lunch or anything involving much more than quiet contemplation. Don’t deny your cravings.

1938 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N1J9
Prado Cafe on Urbanspoon

Taishoken Ramen


This was my latest lunch destination, a shop my guest had passed by on several occasions and wanted to try. We agreed to meet at 5pm and arrived three minutes early. They weren’t open for dinner until 5pm, so we spent those few minutes looking longingly in, and we weren’t the only ones. When the door was propped wide and the “open” sign flipped over the server immediately showed us to our table. We followed her through the threshold with the other two staff members greeting us in unison, in Japanese.


As the only ramen bar in the area, the small space that filled up quickly. The interior was wood on wood, dark and varnished: load baring posts, the panels on walls, serving and prep counters for the staff, and dining tables and benches for guests. Seating was available at individual tables with your party, on bar style counters facing the window, or at family style large shareable tables.


All the non stationary chairs were wooden stools; they were not comfortable, but they were practical. They had built in little cubbies that enabled suitable storage of coats and bags, keeping them off the narrow tables and off your lap. Considering the lack of hooks for hanging and table space to store valuables on, this is a great idea.


Each table was set with a tray of bottled sauces and shakers of seasonings, not that any were needed. Chilli oil, vinegar, soy sauce, chilli flakes, and pepper. The utensils provided were crafted to be used for enjoying ramen with. Slender chopsticks for precision noodle handling and a plastic soup spoon with groves that allowed it to balance on the rim of the bowl. This prevented the otherwise inevitable spoon sinking into soup. Clever.


The menu was a one pager, printed in colour, laminated, and unintentionally curled at its ends from regular use. Six different types of ramen were offered, along with a possible side of pork and rice, and Gyoza appetizers that would coming soon. Based on the pictures they all looked the same to me, but fine print revealed slight differences. One used miso to flavour their base broth, another soy, one had tomato, and another was specifically spicy.


My guest had the “Shio Ramen”. “Taishoken’s” unique pork and chicken broth seasoned with salt. All the ramen served start with the same pork and chicken broth, this variation was the least dressed with additional flavouring. The broth was incredibly thick, the heaviest I have ever had. My guest asked for hot water to dilute the mix and make it easier to consume, and the restaurant was at the ready. They had on hand kettles of unseasoned broth. There were enough at the ready to leave one at our table for us to used as we pleased. We added enough liquid to cater to our individual preferences. It wasn’t until my second bite did it feel the broth was too dense, too flavourful, too rich; and poured in some unseasoned broth. I estimated a cup was added for me and closer to two for my guest.


I had the “Shoyu Ramen”; like the one above it, started with their unique pork and chicken broth, but then seasoned with soy sauce. This was recommend by our server over the miso one, and the pork shoulder was suggested over the pork belly. There was a language barrier, but she was able to tell me what she liked and that is what I went with. I am surprised that the broth wasn’t the least bit oily, this is probably because it was allowed to boil for a long time. I am all about textures and found the extras in the bowl great for adding some. The seaweed was gritty, the bamboo was gummy, the fish cake chewy, and the noodles spongy.


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? – No.
The richness of the broth wasn’t to my liking, although I finished my bowl it was a struggle to do so towards the end. I am thankful I went for the regular portion over my usual large serving. Despite my ability to consume more food I just couldn’t stomach more ramen. Like fine French pastries this was too rich, I knew when to say when. As the first serving of ramen I have ever had to adjust my preference to, this is not my first choice. Though for those who enjoy their meal decadent, this one is for you. Don’t deny your cravings.

515 Abbott Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2L2
Taishoken Ramen 大勝軒 on Urbanspoon

Hollywood Steakhouse

IMG_9853IMG_9854Looking for a decent Hong Kong style dinner in Richmond, my guest remembered my appreciation for themes so took me here. As its name suggests the restaurant’s decor was centred around film and movies. It bounced around: taking you back to old Hollywood, the days of noire and back and white cinematography; then immersing you in twentieth century pop culture characters and references.

The exterior parking lot facing windows were decal-ed with a film strip, it ran all around the black and white building, reading “Hollywood”. Their logo was a bull’s bust facing off against a fork, a natural reminder that they are a steakhouse and a cafe despite their name. By the entrance a full poster dropped down. It presence was hoping to entice those passing by with coloured photographs of their most popular dishes.


My guest found the strung up LED lights and the row of blinking icicles visible from both inside and out a nice touch. I found it a sign of laziness. They were probably left up after Christmas of 2013. This is a pet peeve of mine. If you plan to decorate for the holidays and celebrate the seasons with lights and ornaments you need to be prepared to take them down in a timely manner. Taking a note from retail stores, as soon as an occasion elapses you change your theme and move on to promote the next thing. For example the morning after Halloween evening stores everywhere will be pushing Christmas front and centre. Though luckily for “Hollywood Steakhouse” we are now approaching fall and in about a month or two their lights will be relevant again for winter.


Stepping inside you don’t know where to look first. Most would consider the floor to ceiling decorations clutter, but you could tell a great deal of effort was put into covering every inch of available wall space. Walls coated in memorabilia and photos in black, white, and grey. As a result the room was dark and the setting a bit gloomy. Kind of like at movie theatres before all the lights dimmed and the previews ran.


Geometric stars with names of celebrity stars were stickered on floor. Laid down by the entrance they were meant to mimic the walk of fame. Cardboard cutouts of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and a battered Bruce Lee stood on guard. The walls were papered in grey with spotted white “O’s”. They were a similar pattern to each of the monochrome toned table cloths haphazardly polka dotted. Paintings of pool halls, poker games, gentleman’s clubs, and other stereotypical scenes from gangster and good fellow movies hung together. Images of various video equipment: cameras, film reels, canisters, tape rolls, and projectors were scattered high above above the room. And very classic, black and white stills of Marilyn Monore and Audrey Hepburn graced the space. All this movie and film memorabilia was intermingled with reminders that this is still a restaurant. Statues of chefs in white smocks and puffed up hats, extending their menus and a welcoming hand. A metal wine rack bolted to the wall, it held bottles between wire glasses. And a full menu transposed in chalk on a black board. On the television monitors played Asian concert DVDs with the audio broadcasted as music overhead. It reminded you that this was a Hong Kong style diner. Out of place was the giant wheeled tricycle and the moped plastered with logos. Both felt irrelevant unless they were a set prop that I am unaware off.


The menu had Betty Boop on the cover. In her little waitress apron she posed with a tray of food for a videographer and director. Each page had similar images of her costumed with a random cartooned animals and ingredients. Titles in Chinese characters and English script said little about what you would be getting. “Ham & egg” and “fish”? What would the assorted vegetables in the fried rice be? What is the difference between the “Singaporean style fried vermicelli” and the “Malaysian style fried rice noodle”? A diner unfamiliar and new to the cuisine would have difficulty with this menu. Luckily a photo heavy menu insert was available. Condensing the full menu to a one pager back and front, these were their most popular dishes celebrated in full colour, captured in close up shots. Here you ordered with your eyes, a guide perfect for those new to the cuisine and unfamiliar with the language.


My guest’s order of “Sole cutlet and angus beef tenderloin cubes on rice” came with your choice of drink and a soup on the side. He got a half coffee and half tea and cream soup over a borsch.


The cream soup possibility used a can of cream of chicken soup as its base with kernels of corn and chunks of ham stirred it. It was descent, silky with a very strong corn flavour.


With the sole cutlet and angus chunks, for once the picture didn’t do the dish justice. Portions were large and colours were bolder in real life. The fish fillet was very well breaded, a golden deep fry cutlet fried light and flaky. You cut into it with a hearty crunch. Though I am sure that the tartar sauce served as an accompaniment was bottled from the grocery store. The cubed pieces of steak were tender, and its sauce meaty. Good but not as impressive when chopped up like this. The vegetables were frozen carrots and corn, nothing special. Overall this dish was pretty good, especially considering half of it was not from scratch.


“Beef brisket and noodles in soup”, always my safe dish and my go to, regardless of where I visit. Considering this wasn’t their speciality I was surprised at how good it was. Not the traditional beef noodle soup, but one of the better variations and one of the best I have had. The beef brisket was prepared separately then added on top. There were lots of it and each was well seasoned, having been prepared on its own. Very common was the ratio of noodles to beef, more noodles than beef. Towards the bottom of the large bowl the wide rice noodles soaked up majority of the delicious broth, leaving none to savour and sip. The green onions sprinkled on top were dried and tasted deep fried. Once again this didn’t taste like familiar beef noodle soup, but it was definitely better than most.

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.
We came in with lowered expectations, especially given the later time of night. But everything we had at this Chinese fast food joint looked good and tasted good. This was home style cooking slightly dressed up. I am especially amazed at how good of a beef noodle I had. I am not a fan of the location or the darken decor, but on food alone I shall return. I hear the laksa is worth trying as well. Sometimes in Hollywood it’s all style and no substance, but with this “Hollywood” you get style and substance. Don’t deny your cravings.

8080 Leslie Road, Richmond BC, V6X1E4
Hollywood Steak House 荷李活餐廳 on Urbanspoon

White Spot at Park Royal


Park Royal has undergone so much construction in the last year. I hardly recognized it with its new areas: north, south, the village. It has transformed the area to Vancouver’s newest shopping Mecca, with exclusive stores like “Free People” and “Kate Spade”, and a number of new boutiques and restaurants. Today we visited the recently relocated “White Spot”. The sun was out and we were here for brunch. Passing by the gated patio we settled comfortably into a booth indoors.

The hostess left as we entered. She dismissed herself with a plea for us to wait. Minutes elapsed and staff members passed without notice. Eventually a server stopped to inquire about our status. With a grumble over the hostess’ absence and her need to seat us she lead us to her section. Of course.


The decor is pretty generic. Floral patterned booths, wooden tables, tiled floors, large windows allowing light to filter in, and flat screen televisions built into the spacious bar. What you would expect from a restaurant that focuses on country style home cooking and early bird specials.


We were in time for a late brunch so ordered off the breakfast menu, but with milkshakes. Chocolate and vanilla milkshakes, shaken and served with a refills in a metal cup.


“The Spot’s Omelette”. Crispy bacon, back bacon, sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, green onions, and tomatoes with cheddar, mozzarella and jack cheese. Served with mashed hash and multigrain toast. The omelette was lack lustre. The vegetables folded in were overcooked and soggy, more ham was in need to add flavour that was missing. Sadly my guest deemed the toast to be the best part and he only ate one piece. He choose the smashed potatoes as his potato side. They were as expected, boiled nugget potatoes, smooshed with a fork and then deep fried.


“Chorizo and goat cheese omelette”. Chorizo sausage, sautéed zucchini, bell peppers, arugula, BC goat cheese, and their special blend of cheeses. Other than being topped with Arrabbiata sauce, it looked similar to the omelette above on the outside. My guest deemed this passable, it too lacking in flavour. With a one note texture she found it boring to eat. And when she specifically asked for peanut butter with her toast, it was forgotten. This despite her emphasis for it over jam and checking with our party for any peanut allergies. Still still got a package of strawberry jam.


“Steelhead Benedict Benny”. Two poached eggs and cured BC steelhead on an English muffin with hollandaise and fresh dill. Served with a side of black bean salsa. I don’t know why but I expected the salmon smoked, like that which I have only ever had. Instead it was cooked well and served crumbly, an unappealing puff of pink. With a soften texture similar to that of the soft poached egg and the thick hollandaise sauce, I too found this boring to eat. The zesty salsa was helpful in renewing interest, layer in a new exciting flavour at my discretion. Though I didn’t necessarily find it complimentary to the hollandaise and salmon. As my side I chose the cubes of potato hash over the potato mashed. They were good, but nothing special, and ketchup helped.


The original order of “buttermilk pancakes” comes four pancakes piled high and served with blueberry or fresh strawberry topping with whipped cream. My guest opted for a half order, two pieces and no fruit. She deemed it normal as she generously coated each portion she cut off with grocery store maple syrup.

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.
I always expect more from a chain restaurant. This from the belief that such an organization is regulated and therefore should be consistent on delivery and higher in their standards. Instead I find such places sloppy, they ride on their names and their established brands, and slack off when and where they can. The hiring process is less critical, staff are not as caring, and food not as good. This was disappointing and is further ammunition in my belief to stay away from chains. I would recommend this as a quick and average stop, for food you settle on and service that gives you space. Not my first choice, but hardly my last. Don’t deny your cravings.

797 Main Street, West Vancouver BC, V7T0A5
White Spot on Urbanspoon

Seventeen89 Restaurant + Lounge


This was the latest destination for our seasonal, girls night steak night. We have already hit the major steakhouses and were now exploring the lesser known ones to see how they stack up. It wasn’t until I read to the taxi driver the address of my destination did I realize the restaurant was named after the building’s number. Originally I thought it referred to the period in time which they took their influences from.

Located kitty corner to the intersection of Comox and Denman you may miss it your first time around the block. Finding parking is a hard task, with no designated lots or many street side meters, a hike to your destination is often required in this area. Hence my decision to taxi, which also supported my wanting to drink.


They are a recent addition to the neighbourhood. I couldn’t make out much detail in the darken room. A space purposefully kept dim for a more romantic ambience. An iconic space was brought back to it’s original grandeur with plush red mohair booths, large leather chairs, curtained off private rooms, and a well stocked bar. Most impressive was the art above us. A fresco painted ceiling of cherubs intertwined with ribbons and vines.


Decorations consisted of oversized vases fitted with elaborate floral arrangements, a mirror etched in pattern, and black and white photography. The bar only sat five on red velvet cushioned stools. And not only did it serve premium top shelf liquor it also hosted an oyster bar and their “ship to shore” feature. An advertisement drawn in chalk on a black board. A doodle of cartoon fish and a palm trees. Cute, but it didn’t really match the more formal theme of the place.


Every little detail that surrounded us added to the preconceived air of opulence. Miniature lamps in yellow or red topped each table clothed in black. They stood along side the slender salt and pepper shakers and the carefully positioned cutlery and side plates. Like the layout everything was landed to best exemplify the stage and your relative position to it. Tables were stacked tip to tip. With two chairs a piece everyone got a view of the stage, towards the back of the room. Sitting in one of the deep back chairs with its upholstered cushions and wooden armrests, you are given the feeling of regality. Though due to the bulkiness of the chair and the precision angling it was in, there wasn’t really any possibility of shifting when I wanted. The music was loud and the ability to hold a conversation practically non existent; more so when we were unable to remove the gap between us to talk in loud whispers.


Live jazz and blues performances happen regularly, every Tuesday and Friday to Sunday; a rotation of performers. This Friday was such a night, an event we did not expect. Despite the menu we were not charged the mentioned $10 cover fee, nor forced the $20 minimum spend. Though with a menu this rich there wasn’t much under $10. Just as well, we had come to eat and had come to chat, and truthfully found the loud music a hinderance to both. But a couple glasses of wine in I started appreciating the artists and their excitement for their own music. I didn’t dance as the lead singer requested but did sing along when I could, much to my guest’s chagrin. It was a nice treat, something not common. And it was clear that majority of the mature crowd that held seats tonight were here for the live music.


As a whole the setting felt classic and aged. The restaurant had a homey feel, quaint despite the attempt at being fancy with furniture. A good place to name as your regular hang out, if you can afford it. With friendly staff and professional service they would certainly make an effort to get to know you and to welcome you like a friend. Our server was observant enough to notice a gift/card that my guest had with her and inquired about the occasion that brought us here. And when I sat down she made the effort to wish me a belated birthday. Later the chef and owner came out to introduce himself and his restaurant to us towards the end of their service. It was a nice touch, putting a face behind the place. He spoke about the music, the food, and was genuinely proud of what he had achieved here. He then ended the conversation with his business card.


The menu was two pages of seafood and red meat, with prices comparable to those at other steakhouses. Seeing them I expected the quality to be on par as well. But unfortunately left disappointed. There was no bread to start, and our appetizers and entrees came all at once. Therefore there was a need for us to rush through it all to ensure our steak was still warm when we got to it.

Each of our appetizers came in threes. Knowing that we would be sharing, it would have been nice to have been given the option of adding another portion so that we each had two a piece. Instead we were forced to half a crab cake that fell apart and split a shrimp down the middle to be fair.


“Baked Dungeness crab cakes” with sweet pea shoots and pineapple salsa. This was my favourite of the night. You could tell each cake was moulded with real flaky crab meat. Given with the amount of crab and the lack of fillers, a whole crab and then some probably went in to making these. The other ingredients mentioned either came on top or were laid on the bottom. The pea shoots gave the creamy crab some freshness and the pineapple a nice tangy zing. Though I felt it was still a little bland, but didn’t want to risk adding anything to take away from the lightness in the crab.


“Grilled jumbo shrimp cocktail”. I don’t know how many I expected for $17 but I feel a little under $6 per shrimp is steep. Having said that these were delicious sweet shrimp. As some of the largest I have ever had, they earned their “jumbo” moniker. The iceberg lettuce was more for show and went unbeaten. The cocktail sauce I found no different from that which you can find prepackaged in jars. It had a nice sweet tomato flavour, like a toned down and more organic tasting ketchup.


Their three options for steaks were all from the same place and were prepared the same way, you just got to choose your cuts. This was Spring Creek Ranch’s 40 day aged beef charbroiled. Raised with no antibiotics, no hormones, and no steroids. Each cow is only fed a wholesome diet of forages and rolled barley. And each prepared steak is served with market select potatoes and vegetables. We got the biggest and fattest of cuts, the “12oz. Ribeye steak”. Our options for sauces were between the traditional peppercorn, my preference the garlic butter, or a béarnaise. Our waitress strongly recommended the latter and that was what we got. We did so only to find it just tangy and buttery, believing we would have preferred the garlic butter instead. The plating felt random and the steak was not as tasty as I had hoped or would expect at $45 a plate. It was two cuts joined together by tendon. Though what made for a lack lustre presentation made for easy sharing. We had requested medium rare and instead got a medium if not well done slab. My guest didn’t want to trouble the staff, so refused to send it back. We were left chewing through dry ends and paying too much for it. The vegetables were flavoured in the same peppery sauce as the steak. Baby bok choy, baby bell peppers, zucchini, garlic cloves, turnips, and a potato cake.

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? – No.
I am torn with this one. The service was inspiring, the theme well thought out, but for what was charged I did not feel the food lived up to the expectations and the evaluations. Though I was curious about their $3.50 a piece miniature desserts. It was a good way to have a taste of the seven small bites offered. For those who like live music especially jazz and blues this would be a good dinner-ing spot for you. To enjoy good music with a glass of wine in hand. Just be warned there may be those like me who only come in to eat and to drink, that may serve as a distraction. And for those here for classic cuisine in a quiet setting, they have recently added a porch out front. It offers the same experience as indoor, only steps from English Bay. Don’t deny your cravings.

1789 Comox Street, Vancouver BC, V6G2M5
Seventeen89 Restaurant + Lounge on Urbanspoon

Brasserie Bistro


This one was tough to get to, between finding parking on a Friday night, to actually locating the restaurant. In fact, in my confusion we entered a completely different establishment trying to claim my gifted groupon. We left as the groupon was the only reason we were trying to get into the “Brasserie” in the first place. By looks alone this wasn’t a restaurant I would come to on my own accord, and pay to dine at my own money. But once again I was given a groupon totaling $40 and I was not going to let it go to waste. Free is free to me.

It was located in the aged, three star “Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites”. A hotel I had once visited for a business meeting and decided I would never like to stay at. It just isn’t to my taste, I prefer my hotels modern and a lot more contemporary. This was outdated in decor and feeling.


Despite the use of a groupon deal to advertise their restaurant and potentially drum up more business, they clearly didn’t want diners from the outside visiting in. There were no signs advertising their location and no sandwich boards calling any attention. Heck we had a hard enough time getting here, and we intended to dine here. They were missing the large possibility of walk ins. Only the hotel’s sports bar is mentioned with both a back lit sign and sandwich board facing traffic. So there was no surprise it was the much busier of the two.


You enter through the lobby and are directed by the concierge. This Friday and every Friday they have an all you can eat prime rib buffet for $30. Looking at the set up of olives and a few salads, two covered entrees under metal, and a slab of prime rib under dual heat lamps this would be something we rather pass. And we weren’t the only ones, the other guests at three other tables also ordered off the regular menu as well. In my opinion the servers could have done a better job promoting the special and really selling us diners on the deal.

The dining room was seated with mature patrons, folks that were dressed casually, and seemed to have all the time in the world. My guess is that they were on vacation and staying at the hotel. This was not what I expected or was looking forward to on this date night. Knowing my partner’s pension for the finer things, and the effort he put into grooming himself tonight, he would echo my impression. Being French Canadian he was also immediately hung up on the name of the place. For him “Brasserie” referred to a “brewery” and, by extension, “the brewing business”. Though it was the other definition that was in use here. “A type of French restaurant with a relaxed setting, serving single dishes and other meals. It can be expected to have professional service, printed menus, and, traditionally, white linens.” This was taken off Wikipedia after a debate on the definition ensued.


The restaurant was very out dated; it was typical of an older hotel. The same floral print that patterned the booths lined each chair cushion. No white linens, instead a faux marble table top, with beige reusable napkins. Off white walls, dim orange bulbs, and grey photos in black frames did little to perk up the generic nature of the room.

The staff on shift were very friendly. Uniformed in black with gold name tags, they were welcoming in the most casual of ways. They were inviting, making every effort to engage us in banter. And like their clientele they too were more mature. My only grievance was not being able to reach them by phone after five attempted redials. I left foolish now looking around the empty room thinking we needed reservations.

The kitchen remained relatively quiet. I watched their slow pace and the team of three remain calm. With a lack of traffic and an abundance of time they could have put more effort into their cuisine, and I wished it showed more. The head chef made an appearance in the dining room. Standing by the buffet set up he stared down at the barely touched prime rib. I felt bad, they obviously put effort into their preparation and now it would go unenjoyed. This succulent and impressive piece of meat. Unfortunately everything had to be taken down 15 minutes later when the buffet ended at 9:30pm. Luckily his feelings were salvaged when the guest next to our table was heard raving about her full order of ribs; it would be a similar case for us. Though when it came time for us to eat, the chef’s presence in the dining room was intimidating. I felt like I had to eat with a smile or at least verbalized one “yum”. Though it was nice to see that he cared enough to check in on all his diners from a far.


The finger bowl with lemon and the side of ketchup for our ribs and fries came first. Half order of “braised baby back ribs” with maple BBQ sauce, Asian slaw, and fries. The ribs were good, meaty bites that easily pulled off the bone with a forked tug. The sauce was caramelized sweet from the maple syrup and spicy from the BBQ rub. Though the latter out shone the former and I would have liked more maple syrup flavouring. The fries were nothing special and the coleslaw tasteless. Both could have used salt to taste and some vinegar to kick. As a whole this was a decent plate at a decent price.


“Pancetta and chèvre stuffed and baked chicken breast” served with seasonal vegetables, a buttered sweet pea rice, and shallot jus. The plate looked homemade. An effort was made in presentation, separating each element, but the sloppy gravy and the spilled rice made things look clumsy. The chicken breast was oddly sliced, unevenly into three prices. Neither of which were stuffed, instead the pancetta and goat cheese filling was slathered on top. Both were what gave the chicken it’s taste. The generous amount of gravy was needed as it gave the dry white meat some moisture. I was rudely surprised on several occasions with shards of bone in my chicken breast. Alarming as it could have chipped a tooth or caused me to choke. The balsamti rice was my favourite element. A light rice that tempered all that was going on with the chicken, and I really just like peas. The boiled veggies needed some salt and some peppering, I guess that’s why salt and pepper shakers are at each table.

The washrooms were an inconvenient trek out of the restaurant and into the hotel’s lobby. Pleasantly chocolates came with the bill. Our tab was $36 which our $40 covered, we were only charged tax and we gave our tip.

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 hotel needed some love. An update, some remodeling, some work to breath new life into the building. And the same could be said about the “Brasserie”. I liked the care from the chef and the casual service from the staff, but was let down by how unspectacular the food was. If it weren’t for my groupon I would have never thought to visit the restaurant, and if it weren’t free I would have left upset. Instead I have now tried and know I won’t be back for seconds. Don’t deny your cravings.

Coast Plaza Hotel
1763 Comox Street, Vancouver BC, V6G1P4
Brasserie Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sawasdee Thai Restaurant


This one has been on my list of place to try based on the beautiful photos and the glowing reviews online. So given the chance we made this our latest group gathering. Parking was surprisingly easy with plenty of road side meters to stop at, so I was already in a good mood heading in.

The exterior was bold in lime green trim and mocha brown panels. With the windows frosted and the blinds drawn you couldn’t get a look inside. So stepping through the threshold I was surprised that it was as busy as it was. A smaller space cramped tight with tables and bottoms in chairs. The steady sounds of chatter filled our night. Looking around and past the sea of heads there isn’t much to describe in terms of decor. Traditional Thai artwork all from the same collection. Scenery and every day life depicted through oil on canvas. Definitely one of those places where the food speaks and stands alone.


When enjoying the cuisine of Thailand I have to have my “Thai iced tea”. Traditionally made from strongly brewed Ceylon tea, sweetened with sugar and condensed milk, then served chilled. A great accompaniment to the often spicy Thai entrees. Though we were kept waiting for these as they were forgotten amongst the bustle of the night.


“Som Tum”. Fresh green papaya salad, tossed with chili, lime juice, peanuts and fish sauce. Given a choice of spiciness we choose medium, but what came was a heated sort of tongue singing spicy. And it sure didn’t look spicy. This was a burning that hid the overall flavour of the salad, a spice that couldn’t be tempered by the freshness of the tart papaya shreds. Thought texture wise it had a nice crunch.


“Cho Muang”. This one was the main reason why I wanted to come. Seeing shots of this on other’s plates I too wanted to try their beautiful flower shaped dumplings. Filled with chicken and spices the purple colour did not reflect in the flavour, and was only for show. Stuffed full with minced chicken and strong pepper, the overall tone was garlicky. I would have preferred thicker cuts of meat to better partner with the starchy and chewy dumpling skin. This was definitely nothing I have seen or tasted else where.


The “Tom Yum” soup was spicy and sour as expected. A lighter soup made with straw mushrooms, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves. The mushrooms acted like little balls of soup, each bite was a literal burst of flavour. We choose shrimp over chicken as our protein, and were delighted that there were more than just two or three whole shrimps in the broth. The strong lemon grass flavour was easily noted, but it still tasted sweeter despite it. Not quite the usual tom yum, but it did posses the right tang.


“Thai Spring Roll”, deep fried vegetarian spring rolls stuffed with bean thread noodles and mushrooms, and served with a house made sauce. The rolls came whole with a bundle of butter knives next to them on the plate. My guess was that these were to be used to cut the rolls down to shareable portions? Though did we really need a knife per roll? After operation cut and share, the first bite was a nice crunch thanks to the non-oily, crispy skin. The sauce was similar to fish sauce with its sweet and sour notes, but with some extra texture from the floating chopped peanuts.


“Roasted Duck Curry”. Red coconut milk curry with roasted duck, pineapples, bell peppers, tomatoes, basil leaves and bamboo shoots. Curry needs rice, its thicker sauce needs a starchy base. Here a bowl comes separately at an additional cost. The curry was good, mild in spice compared to everything that came before it. And a dish made sweeter with the use whole grapes, that was something new. I don’t know how I feel about grapes in my curry, but I am familiar with raisins in my fried rice. As decent as this was I felt it was missing some depth. Like maybe having more of the smokey duck flavour come through?


“Pad Kee Mao Noodle”. This was advertised as a chef’s special, so I was most disappointed with its lack of flavour. Having vegetarians and vegans in our group we ordered this stir fried rice noodle dish without the usual choices of chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. Instead it just had the intended baby corn, onions, bell peppers, straw mushrooms, and basil leaves, with tofu. Though no consideration was made and no alternations were done to transform what should have been a noodle flavoured with meat to one seasoned well with less flavourful vegetables and tofu. A sprinkle of salt went a long way, but not enough to salvage the title of “chef’s special”.


“Pad Green Bean”, sautéed green bean with garlic sauce. These were crispy beans with a waxy finish, coated in a mild garlic. Great as is.


“Tofu Cashew Nuts”, deep fried tofu cubes sautéed with cashew nuts, onions, bell peppers and carrots. Each tofu block was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This was a puddling-like tofu, sweet and smooth. All the non-meat eaters felt this was a really well prepared dish.


“Pad Thai”, stir fried thin rice noodles with tofu, prawns, egg, green onion, and bean sprouts. Served in your choice of either a tomato or tamarind sauce. As a staple in Thai cuisine we found this good, but nothing special, and certainly not the best. Though the generous amounts of bean sprouts is worth noting. Some were cooked and already intermingled with the sautéed noodles. Most were left raw as a side. Along with the chopped peanuts they offered a nice crunch to the otherwise overly chewy mix.


“Nuea Pad Ma Khua”. Sautéed cuts of beef, eggplant, bell peppers and basil leaves in black bean sauce. The beef was overcooked and chewy. The eggplant was the real star of the dish, it was done well. I appreciated them being left firm, I dislike a soggy and mushy piece of eggplant.

All members of staff were always on the go. Rushing from one table to the next, refilling water without a word. They were laser focused on the task at hand. There was not one server assigned to one table or responsible for one section. Everyone helped out as needed. Everyone delivered plates that came up to the pass, bussed away empty dishes from tables, and took requests as needed. This lack of order and focus may be why our iced teas were originally forgotten. As a nice touch, between finishing our appetizers and starting our entrees one of the servers distributed new plates for each of us.

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? – No.
The food was good, but this wasn’t the best Thai I have ever had. I wouldn’t mind another visit, but this wouldn’t be my first choice. The food was average and we left full, but there was nothing really unique about the decor, service, or cuisine. I found the restaurant a little loud for my liking, and I rather not shout to have a conversation. In short there is nothing special to have me clamouring to return. Though I would definitely recommend trying their purple flower dumplings for the novelty. Don’t deny your cravings.

4250 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V3R1
Sawasdee Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Belgium Place


Vancouver is amidst a waffle frenzy. Waffles are the new “it” food; the dessert and snack in town that has everyone taking pictures. “The Belgium Place” is the latest of such cafes opened to capitalize on this momentum. Newly located at the former home of “death by chocolate”, the last of this franchise in Vancouver. On a block familiar with small cafés and one of bakeries near south Granville. It is here that waffles are made in the authentic Belgium tradition.

The exterior is bannered by flags of black, yellow, and red; a string of which hangs above the windows. Below them stands a series of tables and chairs made available for sidewalk seating.


The doubled entrance doors were spread open and made inviting. Inside the space was large, almost vacant. It was a dance floor speckled with seating on opposites ends. Such an excess in square footage could have been better utilized with additional tables or even a larger counter space for the chefs to craft waffles on. Thus giving the people a show and foodies a good photo op.


You order on your right, a straight and unobstructed walk from the door. By the register is a showcase of pre made pastries and sandwiches, yogurt cups, and bottled and canned drinks. A quick spin in the oven or microwave and most are good to go. There is also samples of dessert waffles dressed in slivered almonds, chocolate spread, and dusted in icing sugar. They give you a visual idea of what you would soon enjoy.


Above are four televised menus. A screen to advertise their in house made Belgium baguette sandwiches; one for sides like soups, salads, quiches, and croque-monsieur; another for coffees and other specialty beverages; and of course a whole screen for their Belgium waffles. A little hard to read without squinting. Thankfully the gentleman behind the counter was friendly, allowing us to take our time with the selection process. Seeing as they were still fairly new I would have appreciated an introduction to their business. “Is this your first time visiting us?” “Do you know about our liege waffles?” “How did you hear about us?” A conversation like that would have helped with some word of mouth advertising. As I would have then turned around and recommend them based on my inviting experience and the owners taking the time to introduce themselves.

They only serve liege style waffles, the most common type of waffles available in Belgium. Those are the more circular waffles, the ones with jagged edges as apposed to the rectangular ones. Liege waffles are known for being more richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier. It is an adaptation on brioche bread dough, featuring chunks of pearl sugar which caramelize on the outside of the waffle when baked. In ours the beads of sugar were embedded and sandwiched in between the layers dough.


The types of waffles are categorized by either sweet and savoury. With the former you can customize between what compotes, gelatos, sauces, and nuts you wanted as toppings. Or leave the guess work and select one of the pre-thoughtout “Liege waffles du chef”. If we didn’t come from lunch I would have liked to try a savoury waffle before my sweet one. A list of pretty unique ingredients peaked my interest: curry chicken, North Sea crab, tomato shrimp, and surprisingly some with maple syrup and Chimay cheese. They all sounded interesting, combinations worth trying.


You order your meal at one end and pick it up at another. After paying you proceed to the left as signed. Here you are able to watch your waffle being prepared in an area that held baskets of baguettes on the wall and the word “waffle” spelled out in red block letters. A pile of pre made waffles laid stacked on wooden racks for cooling. They would soon be plated and decorated, before being served to you right at your table.


You seat yourself choosing between any of the empty wooden tables or cast iron high tops. A collection of the two were situated on either ends of the room, left or right of the counter. On one wall “Belgium Place” was spelled out in black over red, on the other a list of names in fine print. A list of those they wanted to dedicate their cafe to? Or perhaps investors, who without them they would not be here today? There was even a play area to keep young children occupied. A kitchen play set: sink, fridge, and stove. With metal pots and plastic vegetables. Despite this casual setting our hosts were very attentive. Both men checked in on us, wanting to see how our food fared.


When dining in, metal reusable cutlery is available. A note that was made mention of when our hosts observed us sawing waffles with wood. We had grabbed disposable utensils by the door, their take away wooden knife and wooden fork. We originally declined regular knives and forks as these were the nicest and the fanciest disposable cutlery I have ever seen. They looked cute and they are biodegradable too. I did not get the smoothest of cuts, but things were decent considering its workmanship. We eventually did go to metal after MissVancouverPiggy thought the bitter flavour of the wood might have rubbed off in her food.


I had the “Waffle Vanilla Ice”, one of the “Liege waffles du chef”. It included apple compote, vanilla gelato, fresh whipped cream, and caramelized walnuts. The waffle was dense yet fluffy, crispy yet chewy, just as its descriptive characteristics suggested. With the multiple sugar crystals centred in each waffle they were good as is. I found there was no need for additional flavour by adding additional ingredients at an additional cost. So appreciated how the sides were kept separate for me to dress myself.


The apple compote was similar to what you would find warm and bubbling in a pie, but served chilled. The walnuts didn’t taste caramelized, instead were waxy and only slightly sweetened. I would have preferred them toasted or roasted to coax out more of their earthy flavour and to give the waffle some crunch. The vanilla gelato was delicious, I was in heaven with two scoops! You never see more than one with your dessert. Gelato is Italian soft ice cream made with little amounts of air, milk, cream, various sugars, and flavourings. It is generally lower in calories, fat and sugar than our regular North American style ice cream.


MissVancouverPiggy choose to craft her own waffle combo with walnuts, almonds, and vanilla gelato. Even though her walnuts were forgotten, she decided not to make any mention of it. And like my serving, the presentation of her was just impressive.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No
I have had liege waffles before, but these were the first where I was able to see and enjoy the sugar crystals. I would have liked them warmer, fresh off the press, but these were one of the best I have had so far. During my next visit I will be having my waffles undressed. Although the various options available did make things interesting and picture perfect, I don’t believe any are needed to accentuate the already delicious waffle. I deem this a decent spot to stop at for a quick treat, and a quite cafe to catch up at with a friend. Don’t deny your cravings.

1598 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J5K9
Belgium Place on Urbanspoon

Dougie Dog Diner Truck


I was invited to the Vancouver Police’s family day and open house with my mother. An event that was catered by two “Dougie Dog” food trucks. I had first heard about “Dougie Dog” on “Dragon’s Den”, the show that has “aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business concepts and products to a panel of Canadian business moguls who have the cash and the know-how to make it happen” (as taken from the CBC website). Dougie Luv was the owner of “Dougie Dog” diner, once located on the Granville entertainment strip in downtown Vancouver.

Since the episode’s original airing and Doug’s inability to earn any of the dragon’s investment he has returned once more to try again. A return over a year later that saw him with the one food truck he originally sought the Dragon’s help with financing, but now needing their help in getting a whole fleet of food trucks. This too ended without a deal. But fast forward, Dougie has since closed down his diner and now dedicates his time to managing his two food trucks. Two steps in the direction of owning an army, driving them to where gourmet hotdogs are needed. A better business model considering the portability of his chosen cuisine.

They pride themselves on not just being your everyday, run of the mill wieners and buns; but giving this common staple some pizazz. Today they were commissioned to serve at this event, and seeing as food was free for guests you were limited in your choices. Either their special or a hotdog dressed in the usual accompaniments.


The twin trucks were painted the same with the front half keeping its steel finish and the back half in a red and white gingham pattern. It reminded me of a picnic blanket or the wax paper you get at the bottom of fast food baskets. Their logo was as prominent as the mention that they were on “Dragon’s Den”; they must be riding that for as long as they can. The line extended and guests were filing in front of the open window. Inside there were three employees preparing the hot dogs with Dougie Luv servicing the front. He was making jokes and trying to keep the long wait patient in the hot sun. I found his attempts at being light hearted off putting with his very dry sense of humour. He came across as abrasive if you were unsuspecting. Limiting me to one napkin isn’t so funny when it’s said straight faced with the feeling of indifference.


On any other day the specials board would list a few of their “modern dog” variations from Korean BBQ pork with kimchi, to vegetarian spinach and feta; from processed cheese and crushed potato, to their most extravagant hot dog dressed in Kobe beef, lobster, cognac, and truffle oil. But today there was just the “Charlie Mac Dog” spelled out in chalk. The filling was friendly sounding with crisp bacon, homemade macaroni and cheese, and melted cheddar cheese over their regular all natural hot dog wiener.


There was nothing special about the actual hot dog. Its plastic-like skin made tearing into the wiener a rubbery and waxy affair. Its light pink shade could have used some time on a grill to give it more colour as well as some more flavour. Their steaming had the hot dogs one dimensional. I also caught a glimpse of one taking a trip into the microwave. The macaroni topping made things too starchy, too much of a carb to meat ratio. The cheese sauce was oddly grainy, it made eating feel like your tongue was wading through sand. The bacon was the best part, but could have used a deeper fry to give this dog a much needed crunchy component. The side of fries were done nicely, well seasoned with a crisp, but considering the main it only made things more doughier. A coleslaw instead would have a been better, giving the meal some acid and a much needed crunch. I craved for some pickling, a sweetness. This whole thing would have been best enjoyed after a loaded night of drinking.


The “Dougie Dog” root beer was their own bottled butterscotch flavoured soft drink. As soon as you popped the lid you could smell the strong fragrance of butterscotch. Though you couldn’t taste it as much, just as well, seeing as this was the sweetest root beer I have ever tried. Not the best accompaniment to our hot dogs above.

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
Seeing as this was my second taste of “Dougie Dog”, over a year apart from the first, I can safely conclude my initial assessment was correct. This is nothing I need to have again. It costs more than your regular street corner hot dog, and it doesn’t taste any better. When I think hot dog I think grilled with a slight char, smokey and juicy, salty and spicy. This hot dog was bland and lifeless, the ingredients that topped it were meant to give it some flavour. But loading more ingredients doesn’t make a hot dog better, it just makes for a worst version of, in this case, macaroni and cheese. I would not pay for it, so am glad I got it for free today. My mom too found this poorly conceived and not satisfying. She felt that she was wasting calories on something that didn’t even taste good. I conclude that the best hot dogs are of the “street meat” variety. Grilled on the spot with your choice of self serve toppings, at a fraction of the cost. Don’t deny your cravings.

Dougie Dog Diner Truck on Urbanspoon

Sunshine Diner


This wasn’t our first choice. Our attended destination was to be closed for a week. So walking around the block MissVancouverPiggy and I eventually ended our journey here.

Basing our choice on the exterior, this seemed like a good bet, or at least a restaurant that would be fun to write about. The windows were trimmed with that classic black and white diner checker. The decals lured you in to listen to the music of the 50’s and 60’s on their real working juke box, a place where rock and roll was forever. I was however most interested in their advertised 50’s style fruit bowls and milkshakes.


At the door we were greeted by full sized coloured statues. They were loosely based off celebrities that defined pop culture in the 50’s. Marilyn in her trademark white dress, risen with the steam from a vent, perfectly posed. Elvis with his quaffed sideburns and curled lip behind a standing microphone, no blue suede shoes though. And James Dean, which required some research on my part to identify.


It was a nice day and the patio out front had plenty of shaded seating under umbrellas, but we could not miss out on sitting indoors. Dining surrounded by so much retro nostalgia. It was such a fun space, and there aren’t many well conceived themed restaurants in Vancouver.


Inside the restaurant was made to feel like you were stepping back in time. Bold in primary colours: bright blue walls with red trim and flashy red vinyl booths. Not an inch of wall space was left uncovered. Car models and car moulds traveled haphazardly along the walls, high above the restaurant. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley were heavily represented here as well. Their faces seen in a series of black and white photos, painted portraits and collector cards framed. It was an assault of imagery, too much for me to recall in print.


The front end of a mint green Chevrolet Cadillac served as the host’s stand. From there we were led to a booth of our choosing, past the bar tucked away in a separate room, adjacent to the neon lit juke box. The seat was waxy, it squeaked as I slid in. In front of us a black and white “I Love Lucy” was playing on the mounted television with no volume. Instead, as promised, 50’s and 60’s classic rock and pop with some swing could be heard playing overhead. And it didn’t come from the juke box behind us.


The diner served breakfast all day, on a page turner of a menu. A collection of eggs, waffles, sandwiches, egg Benedict, omelettes, salads, and charbroiled burgers. So many options and combinations that you could customize your meal to have it your way. It was an easy to navigate listing, with pictures and notes to guide your choice.


We kept it safe and shared a “Vanilla milkshake”, despite the ability to mix and match all their flavours. In hindsight I wouldn’t mind a banana strawberry or a chocolate and peanut butter. It usually comes in the traditional milkshake glass with a refill in the metal milkshake cup. But because we were sharing we each got our own glass, filled to the brim.


All burgers come with lettuce, tomato, and pickles on a toasted bun. You get your choice of aioli, mayo, or relish. Each order comes with a side salad and your choice of French fries or home fries.


We got the “FAT Elvis Burger” with bacon, cheddar, and avocado. You could taste the all beef of the patty. Though I found it dry and bland, it could have used more seasonings. It’s accompanying ingredients were fresh, they even generously used a whole half of an avocado. The mayo and relish aioli offered no flavour, and the use of ketchup was needed. It just wasn’t that tasty, disappointing.


Our salad came with a choice between ranch, French, or raspberry dressing. Out of curiosity I choose the raspberry. This candy-like spread was as colourful as it was sweet. An off putting texture and a souring taste, like the candy “nerds” made into a syrup. Ironically it had a boring taste. The salad itself was an impressive mix, a combination of leafy greens, orange cherry tomatoes, and coloured peppers. Effort was made.


The potatoes were shred thin, and fried crisp. Not bad, but nothing special. An expected side to an average burger.


Each order of eggs Benedict came with large poached “born 3 grade A” eggs, drizzled with their homemade hollandaise sauce. Something unique and a great idea, you get the option to mix and match the two halves of your bennies. Choosing two different toppings under your egg instead of having the same on each half. And you can even have half orders for $9.95, $4-5 less than a full serving.


We paid a little more for the mix to try more. We had a theme going, “Elvis Benny” with cheddar cheese, back bacon, bacon, and turkey bacon. Three kinds of bacon is always a must try for me; but it was with this breakfast bite that I learned, too much bacon can be a bad thing. All together it got too salty, though I enjoyed the crispiness of the regular bacon in the bunch. Both sides of the toasted English muffin was tough, there was a need to rigorously saw through each, though they didn’t taste burnt.


The “Hawaiian Benny” with grilled pineapple and ham. The pineapple was from the can, the ring grilled with the appropriate markings. Its sweetness was different from the other bennies I have ever had. A different mix I can’t imagine wanting again.


With any breakfast order you choose between either home fries or French fries with your bowl fresh fruit. Since we had the fried variety in our last order we went for the home style. The potatoes were chewy and lightly salted, like the French version they were good, but not memorable.


When asked about their fruit bowl our server mentioned they were known for them. That there is often 16 different types of fruit, and sometimes even 20. This statement required that I counted: kiwi, watermelon, banana, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, organge, honey dew, peach, red and green grapes, pineapple, nectarine, peach. 15 close enough. This was sadly my favourite part of our meal. So fresh.


Even the washroom doors matched the theme.

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? – No.
I found the theme and decor charming, but the food unremarkable. The menu would be best served as an greasy morning meal, one eaten in a slurry after a late night of drinking. Though nothing you couldn’t find at a “Denny’s” for cheaper. The food was decent, but nothing I need to revisit considering the distance we drove. Don’t deny your cravings.


To read MissVancouverPiggy’s review on Shineshine Diner click here.

2649 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6K2G3
Sunshine Diner on Urbanspoon

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