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Month: December 2014

Kwan Luck Restaurant

What is open on a statutory holiday? You can always count on Chinese restaurants. We were here celebrating Christmas on Boxing Day and it was no surprise that the restaurant was not dressed for the occasion.

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Parking was a challenge. Limited spots in the limited lot out front meant taking laps around the block, and eventually parking across the street. Or in the case of a couple of vans: illegally parking in the middle of said lot, and blocking the possible exit of the other vehicles they choose to box in. This, their strategy instead of finding a less convenient spot a short walk away.

As for the restaurant my French Canadian partner didn’t even make it through the door. As a self proclaimed particular eater he was wary going in, but was ultimately scared away by what he saw through the barred windows. First it was the unappetizing sight of their washroom’s interior, made visible from the entrance. A single stalled room with dank tiles and a grungy sink. This was one of the last things you wanted to see before sitting down to eat. If this is how they keep their facilities, I can only imagine the state of their kitchen. My partner then grew more disgusted by the condition of their seafood tanks. So bothered that he refused to move any further in to the restaurant. In fact, he didn’t even make it past the threshold. 

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The tanks especially were a sight he was unfamiliar with, as he very seldomly visits such Chinese restaurants. It was a double decker set of tanks; the temporary home to fish, molluscs, and crustaceans. A blue background with pockets of filth and grime, it wasn’t meant to be an enjoyable stay. During busier nights I have seen such tanks filled to capacity. Shellfish with claws rubber banded together, attempting a break out by climbing over their tank mates. I have always felt bad about the living condition of the seafood forced to bid their time. Though on the same token, realize it is not for an extended stay. Just a practical way to serve fresh seafood I guess.

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The restaurant was pretty generic. The off yellow lights gave the setting an aged look. An worn-ness that was furthered by the faded peach coloured table cloths. Cloths used and reused, embroidered with a pattern of roses in bloom. A curtain detail hung over the plastic pull blinds. Their golden tassels hanging made an attempt at dressing up the place. They also matched the wood chairs with their gold and brown upholstery. This too helped to give the place a more formal tone, as it balanced the lack of effort made in the wall decor. Television sets mounted on opposing walls, had customers tuning in more for background noise than a foreground distraction. In fact the hand written menu options on coloured construction paper garnered more views. Chinese characters written in sharpie, similar to the writing on the small white board that hung on the wall adjacent. I found the writing on the wall did little to urge me to wanting what they were selling.

The room was packed. A heated, restaurant with no air circulation. Hot food eaten by warm blooded bodies, all in a confined space. It hardly made you feel like staying any longer than necessary to digest your meal. My famished family spent no longer than an hour there, and most of the time was spent waiting for our food.

The tables were to capacity, with lingering bodies by the door. I didn’t envy them. Two families sharing two spare chairs by the two washrooms. They were seated amongst storage items, forced to breathe in the scent of water tanks; while bearing with the sounds of continuous water running. I couldn’t be sure whether the crowd was here due to the season and the statutory holiday, or was this the restaurant’s regular busy traffic. The crowd was composed of all older asians and their younger families. The volume of the room was boisterous, you added to it each time you spoke. Though there was a need to shout to be heard. In actuality, the majority of this chatter was from the high pitch crying of various babies.

I always find Chinese menus intimidating to navigate, and it doesn’t help that I am not fluent in the script or speak. Such menus often have very few photos with very little English in its descriptions. I wouldn’t know what to have and couldn’t rely on the servers to give their recommendations. The language barrier alone was too much. They don’t describe any one dish specifically, and any slight variation from one ingredient to the other often changes the dish completely. Not to mention there is just so much pressure in selecting a dish that is to be shared family-style by a group. So for all those reasons I sat back and allowed my parents to order on my behalf. They generally know what’s best and I am not really a picky eater. In fact, according to my father, the way the food is prepared here is most similar to that of a traditional home cooked meal, in flavour and setting. The dining experience is meant to be more casual and mostly comfortable. Closer to something you would have at home then at any restaurant, ironically. I could see this being true with the quaintness of it all.

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There was a long wait to be seated, but with reservations it was nothing we had to worry about. We were instead faced with a longer wait, waiting for our food. As a result we were given a complimentary full serving of bean curd soup to tie us over. This is notable as it is the first time I have seen this sort of gesture at a Chinese restaurant. It was a clear stock soup made from stewed beef on bones, whole soy beans, and carrots cut into chunks. A full flavoured broth without much oil, it was a nice slow start for the heavy meal ahead.

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We also ordered our own soup, and really didn’t need two large servings of two different kinds of soups. Like the one before it, it was served share style in a large bowl. Presented with a ladle and individual bowls for you to self serve. Also something not common at most Chinese restaurant. Usually the server assists in doling out portions, often so quickly that they make a mess out of the tablecloth.

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“Crab meat with fish maws in soup”. We immediately noticed the unappealing grey smear of the soup. It looked lifeless, like what you’d imagined the hue of bland food would be. Looking at it, it didn’t exactly make you want any. Though the addition of red vinegar and salted pepper did help to pick things up in both colour and taste. But first you had to get over the unappetizing reusable plastic containers both came in. When were these last cleaned out and wiped down? This is the kind of soup that is best enjoyed hot, but got saltier the more you drank. The tender gel-like fish maw, dangerously hid tiny plastic-like bones. I spent a great deal of time pulling chunks of it off my tongue and out from between my lips.

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“Steamed pork toro slices with cauliflower”. The crispy wok fried vegetable was a nice contrast to the softer pieces of pork neck. The dish was cooked well and was clearly centred around the cauliflower. Filling, but unmemorable. 

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“Beef brisket and daikon hot pot”. A stew of tender beef that pulled apart, daikon cubes that melted in your mouth, and a gravy so rich it was more solid than liquid. Clearly this won my vote as the best dish of the night. It was taken as is, but would have been more enjoyable over a bowl of light and fluffy steamed white rice. But that would have been extra and we already ordered a noodle filler, below.

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“House special chow mien or fried rice”. You make your preferred selection between the two carbohydrates, we went with the former. The trick to achieving these crispy strands of noodles is to deep fry it before bathing in its savoury garlic sauce. It gave the noodles two distinctive textures and made them interesting to eat. Surrounding them were pieces of tender chicken, crunchy broccoli florets, rubbery mushrooms caps, and waxy cuttlefish segments and whole shrimp. It was a smorgasbord of textures and flavours, a dish that ate like a complete meal.


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Your choice of live seafood was between scallops, oysters, prawns, cod fish, lobster, crab, tilapia fish, sole fish, and king crab. Each one was made to your liking, with your choice of sauce. We choose the classic and ever popular cream crab. One choice out of a Chinese listing of over fifteen versions. What looked like only a half portion of this popular crustacean was actually a whole serving of a much smaller crab. The distinctive butter sauce masked any flavour of the crab. This was just as well, I enjoyed the easy to scoop sauce more compared to the flakes of crab. Crab meat that required getting your hands messy and putting in a lot of work for very little yield. As a whole the dish was on the saltier side and more work than its worth.

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Our meal ended with my parents urging us to finish our plates and the presentation of a complimentary desserts. We were asked to find a way to feed a few more bites into our bulging bellies. It was a request made with the intention of not having any of it go waste, and not wanting to pack most of it to go. Speaking of going, it was time to go, and our level of service went with it. There was no choice in desserts, the “tapioca pearls with egg dessert” was our only option and therefore presented to us without asking. I was happy, I rather it over a sweetened bowl of red bean soup. Five bowls for four people were offered on a large plastic serving tray. On this tray was a large spill, it was left un-sponged, pooling around the bases of individually portioned out bowls. The mess made the exterior and the handles of a few of the bowls and spoons sticky. Presented at room temperature, the dessert soup would have been nicer if heated. This was a pretty simple, but winning combination of tapioca mixed with coconut and condense milk.It was sweet, with a thick and refreshing quality; similar to a fusion of jello and porridge combined. I found it enjoyable to slurp up the pearls, to take in each little round through a small gap between my lips. Overall so good that I had the extra serving.

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.
There was nothing remarkable about this restaurant. Nothing that made it stand out against its competitors. Nothing that made it any different than the restaurant across the street. The food was decent, and the setting had nothing I would go out of may way to avoid. Though at the same time it offered me nothing to have me wanting a return trip. Just another generic Chinese restaurant offering more menu items than customers seated. Don’t deny your cravings.

KWAN LUCK
2516 Kingsway Street, Vancouver BC, V5R5H2
604-431-3890
Kwan Luck Restaurant 君悅海鮮中菜館 on Urbanspoon

Donair Stop

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This is the most franchise-able donair place I have ever seen. Located on the prominent corner of Granville and Smithe, it was eye catching, well lit, and brightly painted. Their logo, a white trimmed red stop sign with “DS” in its centre, was enough to have me stopping in my tracks. Here this Eastern Mediterranean specialty is repackaged in an North American style, for our Canadian palette. Ethnic fast food food with flare. A catchy name and a simple logo, that even had the Rudolph drawing in the window smiling. There was nothing ethnic specific about the place. Other donair shoppes use traditional names and authentic props to play up their exotic nature. No hookas and no tribal-like music, just a simple shop serving wraps and donairs, with the ever popular North American side of fries. There is even the possibility of making each donair a combo for $2.95 more. This includes a canned drink with your choice of either lentil soup or a bag of chips.

For those who don’t know, the “donair” is a Turkish dish made with meat cooked vertically on a rotisserie-like grill. The meat is often carved by knife into thin layers, right on the spit. They are also widely known by their Arabic name “shawarma”, or as the Greek “gyros”.

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With the restaurant’s doors opened wide it looked inviting. The small line visible from across the intersection was enough of a reassurance that the place was good, but not long enough to deter those unwilling to wait. And if that and the delicious smells didn’t attract you in, the sandwich boards advertising free fries and the possibility of making your wrap or donair gluten free certainly had you taking a second look. The latter a relief for those with the specific dietary restrictions, as well as for those with growing health concerns.

The shop is small. Right by the door is a tiny seating area. A corner table by the window, and another two able to seat a larger group if pushed together. Given the practical cafeteria like seating: picnic tables with benches, this isn’t meant to be a sit and linger type of restaurant. You eat in and go or take out and go. I imagine their cuisine most popular amongst teens on a budget, and those out late after hard drinking and heavy dancing. This evening’s tables were filled with resting shoppers. Those who sat with their large bags and big purchases, seeking to save a little during dinner.

To the left, the wall is papered in red advertising their “authentic gourmet food”. Against it a cooler for canned soft drinks, a rice cooker, and shelves housing boxes and styrofoam for take out.

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Right at the entrance you are greeted by the counter, you approach it to order. The menu is a list three panels wide. It requires the arching of your neck and a look up to take it all in. Donairs, wraps, rice plates, or salads and sides. Each offering includes your choice of protein or vegetarian substitute, and their suggested variations. All the meats are advertised as being organic. The donair is titled as being “Halifax style”. Researching on the term, I discovered that the donair scene is pretty big in Halifax, with many fans making it their own. I would soon see this here, with their line up of possible ingredients to accompany the traditional meat and bread dish. Donair flavours are either beef, chicken; or “falafel”, their vegetarian option. Wraps were mostly made with chicken, with the possibility of substituting in beef for the “buffalo chicken” flavour. The chicken wraps came in Caesar, tropical, chipotle, Thai chilli (spelled “chilly”, a purposeful type-o?) and buffalo. Rice plates offered the same meats as above or falafel instead. “Falafel” is a deep fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Your choice protein is served with rice, salad, pita, and your choice of sauce: tzatziki or hummus. Salad are available in Caesar, Greek, and Tabouli. “Tabouli” is a vegetarian salsa traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, and onion. Then seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. 

Either of the it two men working side by side take your order. They prepare wraps one after another, alternating between guests. Efficient as one builds the wrap, the other chargers their customer. Past them you can see the traditional donair set up. Slabs of meat rotating on a spit backed by stainless steel. Here either chicken or beef is kept warm as they spin round and round. Using a knife the meat is carved as needed right into a pocket of dough. After committing to a donair you look down behind the glass. Down at the multiple metal trays filled to the brim with colourful and fresh ingredients. Most are on the healthier side, like the variety of raw and pickled vegetables.

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I choose the beef donair over the chicken. I often find most fast food chicken is prepared too dry. And I also prefer dark meat, but more often get the commonly used and mostly preferred white breast meat. So I have learned not to gamble and stick with beef over chicken, beef that I know will be tasty. However I was given chicken by accident. A fact I didn’t clue into seeing the darker and heavily seasoned scraps of meat. A fact that was announced only when the donair was done and being extended to me. The server caught his mistake and was more than prepared to make me another. However I decided to accept it as is to not cause trouble and to not have to wait for another. Plus a lot of work goes into crafting one. To compensate for the mistake his coworker winked that he would give me extra fries instead. Completely unnecessary, but a nice touch none-the-less.

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The assembly begins with a pita being split into two width wise, to form a pocket. The seasoned and shredded near goes in first. Everything else that follows is up to you. Think “Subway” but with a wrap. I took everything but the hot colourful jalapeño peppers. A grilled chicken donair with hummus, shredded lettuce, carrots and beets; red onion, tabouli, tomato wedges, cucumber slices, pineapple triangles, pickles, and tzatziki sauce. For sauces you choice is between regular mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, an herbed vinaigrette, chipotle mayo, garlic mayo, and hot sauce. I went with my usual favourite: Chipotle mayo. Cheese is unnecessary and extra for $1. Another very North American influence, like the condiments before. Either a shredded mozzarella and cheddar blend or feta. Feta was recommended and that’s what I went with. Once assembled the bundle is wrapped and pressed to keep its shape and toasted to give it warmth. It reminds me of a calzone or pizza pocket, but less stable. 

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This was one of the largest hand helds I have had for under $9. Packaged like a box, I lifted the top to see a well arranged and well stacked slew of ingredients. Colourful, fresh, and full of exciting flavours. As with most similar bread wrapped fresh fixings, there is a need to eat quickly. Taking your time results in the bread getting soggy and everything falling out the bottom. Mine started with purple beet dyed juice drippings, that was pretty for what it was. Then less than mid way through my donair broke in the middle. Half the meat fell out, and I found myself eating the rest with a spoon. Luckily I didn’t attempt to eat and walk, but waited to take out and sit down. Things got messy as I got in there with hands creamy and mouth gaping. Not one bite was boring as you got a different seasoning, another sauce, a new vegetable’s texture at each go. What I found most surprisingly enjoyable was the sweetness of the pineapple. It was a nice twist, a surprise pop of juice and sugar. I would have liked the onions chopped finer though. At one point I bit into a slice the size of a baby’s fist. That wasn’t a great bite. Overall no complaints. Delicious and filling I couldn’t take it all in one sitting, nor would I have been able to salvage any of it as leftovers. I finished belly full and hands lingering with the smell of donair. I needed a breath mint to cleanse my palate of the pickles, onion, cilantro, and tzatziki fighting for supremacy. 

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Any purchase of a wrap or donair earns you a free side of thick cut fries. It was a familiar plus, and as I mentioned earlier I got more than usual. The fries are deep fried to order, and if eaten in, served along side the wrap in a plastic basket. If taken out bagged in brown paper. These were proper English style chips according to my British colleague. They were toasty on the outside with a crispness to the skin; and melty and soft in the middle, almost like mashed potatoes. Good and salty, as they should be. I preferred them without ketchup.

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.
What I had was good, it is not something I would want often, but instead one of those specific cravings that could only be quelled with the perfect donair. As a believer of more the better and most is best, I was trilled to have over fourteen different ingredients available to me in this one meal. With all these options you can have your way, or be like me and get more bang for your buck by having it all. And for regular diners all the possible combinations would give you endless flavour pairings. I would line up for this because I know the wait wouldn’t be long. Donairs are a fast food option healthy and heartier than any chain, at the same cost. Don’t deny your cravings.

DONAIR STOP
898 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2C9
604-910-5925
Donair Stop on Urbanspoon

Kefi Greek Kouzina

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We have been here once before, and on that first occasion, our visit was less than pleasant. On that day, nearly a year ago, the hostesses didn’t make us feel welcomed and the chefs and servers kept us waiting over an hour for our food. Time we spent waiting meant we were late for the movie we were planning to watch afterwards. However today we recalled the food as being pretty memorable, so were willing to gamble on a second visit. A gamble indeed as this drop in was without reservations, as a last minute Saturday night plan.

The restaurant is located in Schoolhouse Square, an outdoor shopping plaza with a large lot, adjacent to the Coquitlam Cinaplex. We drove to the far left corner for “Kefi”, with plenty of parking around. The restaurant stands out with its name in neon blue lights. The equally large sign to its left advertised $8 lunch specials. It had me wishing we had come seven hours earlier to take advantage of such a deal. Despite the lack of blue and white stripes and lush greenery, with its white painted columns against its rust stucco exterior the architecture certainly looked Greek to me.

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Coming in on a Saturday night we were pretty skeptical of being seated right away. Especially seeing as this wasn’t our first choice for that very reason. We asked the hostess if it was busy and she confirmed that it was, but sheepishly admitted to having room for us. The restaurant was dressed moderately festive with sparse garlands and dimly lit wreaths to reflect the holiday. But even with all the multitude of bulbs and twinkling glitter, the room maintained it dark and romantic ambience. This did well to illuminate their featured ceiling panels. Lean back and look up at back lit images of Grecian urns. Photos and pictures of historical works of art: pots with handles and vases shaped like trophies; and beige on black carvings showing everyday life in Greece through two dimensional sketches.

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Other than that there wasn’t much in terms of decor. The bar sat at the back with tall stools and flat screen televisions. The dining room before it, divided into two sections at varying heights. A platformed step up and a wooden bannister created the illusion of more room than there necessarily was in this little restaurant. Rust coloured walls, small framed posters, blue LED lights trimming the ceiling, and wooden floors that matched the wooden tables and chairs. Simple and homey. The type of restaurant ideal for a casual gathering, the type of place where no one would judge if you came dressed in sweat pants or a track suit (true story). Though the attractive female servers in their form fitting black dresses and glossy long hair certainly picked up fanciness of the place.

The menu was listed with titles in their traditional Greek names and their descriptions in English. Each plate was classified as either starters, salads, soups, comfortable food, grilled and fried, and accompaniments. As is the case when we have Greek, my partner choose the chicken souvlaki and I the roasted lamb. When I think Greek I think fall of the bone meat, savory rice, and soft roasted potatoes; and that’s just what we had.

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Our dinner began with two portions of Greek salad served as a shared one. Pre-chopped cubes of cucumber, tomato, green peppers, red onion, and a black olive each. It is prepared ahead of time, left to chill, and served as needed. The heirloom tomatoes could have been allowed to ripen more and I would have preferred the batch at room temperature instead of a teeth aching cold. But at least the salad was generously drizzled with olive oil and heavily dusted with herbs, and abundantly sprinkled with feta. Overall pretty standard, a side of fresh vegetables to balanced the savouriness of the carbohydrate loaded rice, pita, and potatoes to come.

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A mistaken word on our end had the server bringing me the lamb chops instead of the roasted rack of lamb. I was not disappointed. Had I gotten my usual I would have missed out on the “Rack of lamb paidakia”. New Zealand rack of lamb chops grilled with garlic, lemon, and oregano. Served with patates, spanakoritzo, and tzatziki. This was one of the nicest plates I have had presented at a Greek restaurant. Plating was certainly considered when stacking each chop, one after another. The lamb was grilled with a crusted rub that gave the meat a bit of a crunch. Eaten like lollipops the lamb was a little tough to tear into, but overall well prepared and packed full of salty flavour. A strong flavour that competed with the seasoned rice and roasted potatoes. So much flavour that I wished I saved some of the starting salad to eat between these bites.

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“Chicken souvlaki”. Skewered fresh chicken breast grilled with garlic, lemon, and oregano. Like the lamb this too was served with a side of patates, spanakoritzo, and tzatziki. Thick chunks of white chicken breast, grilled tender and served as one of the longest skewers of meat I have ever had. The charred flavour was as prominent as the seared grill marks on the chicken. Though as meaty as each bite was, it could have been more juicy and dialled down in its overwhelming lemon flavour. Luckily the lemon’s sour tang played well with the zesty rice and herbaceous whole potato. They did well to balance each other out.

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Each of our entrees came with a pita, served in a wire rack, slightly buttered and warmly toasted. A standard part of a Greek entree, best taken with the creamy and tangy tzatziki dip on the side. There was much effort put into creating flavours, even this pita was heavily seasoned. Something not necessarily good, as this was soon identified as our only palate cleanser of the meal.

The washrooms were ironically labelled for “gods” and “goddess”. Though it couldn’t be further from a space befitting a mystical deity. A continuous loud buzzing from harsh florescent lights. Stall doors so low that when standing you can see straight to your reflection on the mirror before you. And a reusable hand towel machine that requires a turn of a knob, and the allowing of sopping wet fabric to dry and be used by multiple sets of hands before being cleaned. The facilities were clearly outdated, there were lots that revealed the age of the place. A friend in the food industry once told me, a restaurant’s washroom often reflects its kitchen.

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 setting was nothing memorable, a descent spot for a casual dinner. Not my first choice to celebrate an occasion at or spend a fancy dinner within. Though half the room seated for work functions, romantic dinners, and group birthday parties would disagree with me. Despite all the staff scheduled each one did little more than taking your order and bringing you your plates. As before we didn’t get friendly the welcoming service, often typical from family run Greek establishments. We were not made to feel as if our business was appreciated or even needed, just another table on a moderately busy Saturday night. Our food was good, as mentioned there was clear effort put into coaxing the most flavour out of everything. Though as a result all the spices and all the pungent garlic ended up fighting for supremacy in your mouth. There was not enough freshness to balance any of it out, no dedicated palate cleanser. Served as the appetizer, the salad was long gone, and the pita taken with tzatziki was no slouch in flavour as well. Each element was good on its own, but as a whole it doesn’t always compliment one another. Though at the end of the meal it is still better than any bland dish in need of self salting. Plated with design and purpose in mind, servings are not as large as at other Greek restaurants, but both run at similar prices for similar dishes. The menu spoke of how everything was made from scratch, even the broths and sauces and they make their own desserts. They even go as far as to butcher their own meat, ensuring nothing is prepackaged or processed. So I could see the higher cost on average as money being well spent. Even then the prices were still reasonable. Don’t deny your cravings.

KEFI
102-100 Schoolhouse Street, Coquitlam BC, V3K6V9
604-529-1776
kefi.ca
Kefi Greek Kouzina on Urbanspoon

Tapas 23

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I have lived in this city long enough to see restaurants come and go; buildings torn down and others built up. This was one of those times, where I have been to a location now reinvented. Given my less than stellar rating of the original, we were eager to see how its latest reincarnation would fare. Once home to “Crave” is has now been rebranded as a tapas restaurant.

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Located on Main Street, parking is tricky depending on time of day. We were aiming for mid afternoon so had our pick of the lot: side streets, metered parking, or lane ways with nothing signed. We came right at 3pm and caught the server still in mid prep. We let ourselves in anyways, as she confirmed the time. We were led to the very back of the restaurant. Pass the small bar upfront with seats facing out the window. Pass the shelf by the hostess podium, showcasing wine by the bottle. Our table was the closest to door leading to their patio out back; like the one out front, it was now close for the season. Though I could imagine both being quite the destination on a hot summer’s day. On weekends sangrias were on special for $5, an ideal drink in July, under the shade that their backyard patio provided. The patio out front was divided from the interior by a glass paned garage door. With a push of a bottom or a pull of crank this door would roll up and the space would open up. Instant fresh air. Though all these luxuries would have to wait until the days grew longer and the weather became less wet.

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The layout was as I remembered, it was the decor and menu that had been redesigned. The walls were papered in print and hung with Spanish posters. Each poster of various size was framed with various frames. They created visual interest. I couldn’t read what each read, but found them whimsical none-the-less. Especially the one with the mime dressed like a clown holding a bottled beverage in each hand. He wore a full black oversized onsie with ruffled collar; a masquerade mask covering half his face; and a top his head, a pointed cone for a hat. From afar the wallpaper resembled smudged ink blots in grey on a sheet white, but with a closer inspection they actually likened to a faux marble finish.

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Despite the large windows looking out at street level and the lighter coloured walls, the place was kept dark. Little was done to add brightness to the place. The lights were dimmed and the furniture was dark. Combined with narrow isles and the unique smell it felt like we were dining in a basement.

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The restaurant had a smell to it. An overwhelming punctuation that reminded me of rust and cobwebs. The kind of musky perfume suited to a great aunt or a duchess living in a dusty old mansion. Almost floral, but more befitting of an antique store, not a clean, well kept establishment serving food. As scent is attached to taste this concerned me. One of my guests insisted it was mould that we were breathing in. Either way it was outdated and unpleasant, but not enough for us to leave. The smell was eventually drowned out with familiarity and the sweeter scents of our dishes arriving.

What better for a meal in between meals than tapas, meant to be shared amongst friends. The website led me to believe we would be experiencing authentic Spanish tapas, in actuality the small plates had more of a Mediterranean influence, as listed by the menu.

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The menu was a one pager with specials printed in chalk. Conveniently the latter was listed on a blackboard strung up to our right. We only needed to look up and point to order. We were in time for their happy hour between 3-6pm. There were no separate menus to order off of, instead our server mentioned what would now be $5 instead of its regular price. Disappointingly this selection consisted of only three items and Pabst Blue Ribbon for $3 a can. We would later discover there were actually six $5 specials offered during happy hour, but only three were made available to us. A titbit we gathered from a takeaway insert included with our bill. How could they run out given we were the first customers in at 3pm and the first ones to order?

Vegetarian dishes indicated with a lower case “v” and “*” meant nuts. There were plenty for our vegetarian guest to partake in and plates delicious enough for us to share in. Plate after plate came and I appreciated how they all matched in colour and size. Visual consistency is a thing of beauty.

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“Charcuterie and cheese” the perfect pairing to wine and a good way to start our meal. It was an interactive display with lots of flavours and textures to discover alone or partner together. Cured meats and smoked cheeses, briny olives, fresh fruit, marinated mushrooms, pickled veggies, and crisp crackers and toasted bread to eat it all with. Our server had difficulty remembering all their formal names, I don’t blame her. I can’t even recall what she did manage to remember. This by far is one of the most elaborate charcuterie and cheese boards I have ever had. Not just the usual meat and cheeses with bread. But seasoned and pickled vegetables: button mushrooms, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumber, and carrots; were an impressive ensemble. And the condiments and spreads included were an added bonus: a grainy mustard, a sweet and spicy chilli jam, and a citrus jelly compote.

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I have never seen so much blue cheese offered in any menu. We, three women, decided to indulge in the stuff as our partners prefer not to. They are unable to get past the cheese’s pungent smell to taste its bitter and buttery goodness. Unfortunately the two dishes they were supposed in had us playing hide and seek with its flavour.
We ordered the “Empanadas” on special for $5. Regularly it goes for $12, at that price I assume you at least get one more. Two empanadas filled with beef brisket and blue cheese, served with a Chimichirra sauce. When we cracked into each empanada it was piping hot with the steam that escaped. With its flaky pastry and thoroughly heated filling you could tell this was made to order. As mentioned I couldn’t make out any blue cheese promised on the menu, and I was looking and tasting hard for it. The beef was tender and pulled to a stringy consistency, having it baked in a crispy shell kept it moist. Though after the first bite I grew bored of its one note taste. Luckily the mild Chimichirra sauce help to add acidity and freshness to the dish, and to perk it up with a little spice.

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“Patatas Bravas”, their in house specialty. Baked and fried potato cubes served under a creamy garlic, chilli, tomato sauce. This varies from traditional Spanish cuisine, as most Spanish food isn’t meant to be spicy. Whereas this dish was almost too spicy. “Bravas” in the title is used to refer to the use of many spices in the dish, not that it is spicy hot. Without warning of the heat I took in a large mouthful with lots of thick sauce, thinking it would be similar to a homemade ketchup. Instead I set my mouth on fire, though it doesn’t help that I don’t have much of a tolerance for spicy hot foods in the first place. Once my tongue cooled, I only dared to pick at the un-sauced potatoes existing at the corners of the plate. The potatoes had a grainy, cakey consistency to them, like they weren’t cooked through. Whereas I expected a crispy bite given their golden brown exterior. They were bland, relying too heavily on the sauce for its flavour. They could have benefited with some more salt and a lot more seasonings.

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“Bruselas”, their signature dish that came highly recommended by our server. Sautéed and grilled Brussels sprouts served in a balsamic reduction, sprinkled with shaved Parmesan and slivered almonds. It doesn’t look too appetizing, but this was my favourite dish of the night. I enjoy a good deep fried sprout, but unfortunately didn’t get it here. The intended crispiness was lost due to the pool of sauce that each bulb was forced to sit in. The reduction had a sweater flavour that was most complimentary to the bitter vegetable and the salty cheese. The dish needed it to pop, but I suggest serving the balsamic on the side for self dipping instead. Thus allowing each Brussels sprout to remain crispy and giving the diner control of how much or how little sauce they wanted.

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The “Manchego stuffed dates wrapped in bacon” were on the board of specials. At $5 we didn’t need happy hour prices to enjoy them. Three one bite morsels of sweet and salty, chewy and gooey. Crisp bacon and melted cheese is a winning combination. Though the skewers could have done with some freshness. Maybe a sheet of pancetta for wrapping, instead of the overwhelmingly salty taste of bacon and the oily texture of bacon fat. For added sweetness and spice smear into the drizzle of balsamic and chilli mayo decorating the bottom of the plate.

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“El Tomate”, oven roasted tomato in a blue cheese sauce. This took the longest to come, and what we eventually got was not what we had expected. We imagined a whole round and red heirloom tomato; baked in the oven until charred, then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Surprisingly the tomatoes was yellow and there were two smaller ones still on the vine, instead of one large. It was a strikely well composed plate visually. Given that the quantity per order is not listed, it would have been nice of our server to offer to bump the order up, to charge more so that each of us could have our own tomato. This instead of attempting to split the last half three ways. The blue cheese was more pronounced here, a sharp and smokey after taste that paired well with the syrup-like balsamic drizzle. With the pointed slices of baguette we likened the dish to a do-it-yourself Italian bruschetta. The tomatoes themselves were a soggy pulpy bite, a texture that reminded me of baby food. I have had good roasted tomato in the past, and on each occasion it was done keeping some of its original firmness in tact. Whereas here, the fruit/vegetable caved in with just one cut. The thicker, lumper sauce did little to improve the enjoyment of eating the tomato mash; but the bread and it’s toasted crunch did help to add a solid texture.

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.
Given what little of the menu we tried I wouldn’t be against a return trip. Solely based on its vegetarian offerings I deem them decent. But maybe dining with a omnivore, like myself, I will find more enjoyment in ordering off the full menu. Returning with someone who can appreciate anchovy toast, sautéed prawns in garlic cream, mussels in a white wine butter sauce, clams with chorizo and goat cheese, squid saut éed with capers, and braised short ribs. Or someone who would prefer more deep frying in their happy hour meal. Greasy sides to partner with cheap beer. “Cobello Fritos” spanish onion rings, homemade fries served with a roasted red pepper aioli, or potato crusted chicken wings. Overall the experience was decent: our server was very informal, the setting was comfortable enough, and the food average at best. There was just nothing that stood out for all the right reasons. An overall rating that may have be higher if not for the smell of the place. Don’t deny your cravings.

TAPAS 23
3941 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V3P5
604-620-8300
tapas23.com
Tapas 23 on Urbanspoon

ABC HK Cafe

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Located in Aberdeen Mall, I hoped it would be worth the drive out from my home in Burnaby. Though I often find that you just can’t get the same quality for price in Chinese food outside of Richmond. Besides, this was my guest’s latest choice, and so far he has yet to steer us wrong. We made a point of calling ahead to ensure our destination would be open later. The mall closed at 7pm, but the clerk said they would end service at 9:30pm, well after the regular mall hours.

Being familiar with the mall my guest knew exactly where to go. Me less so, as I got confused finding it. The restaurant wasn’t easily visible. With no directory I walked a full lap around the second floor, yielding no results. Without going closer, there was no way to tell our destination would be hidden well behind two other restaurants. Past “Dinesty” and further behind “Guu”, “ABC HK Cafe” eventually became visible. The mall is shaped like a horseshoe, with windows for walls I eventually saw my destination through one window looking into another.

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Outside of the neon lights the restaurant’s front face was pretty unspectacular. The glass doors were prompted up, showcasing coloured copies of their menu, sheet by sheet. If you weren’t yet interested in giving them a try, their photos might help sway you. And for more information you could refer to the side table to your left, and the various takeout menus situated on top.

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Pass the threshold an old timey jukebox greeted you. I deemed it more for show than for function. A fact concluded from their choice in music playing over head: instrumental jazz. These weren’t the smooth stylings typical from a coin operated jukebox. Not sure if this fixture was an attempt at a theme, but they also had a gramophone sitting idle to match. Other than those two, the decor consisted of unusual lighting and Chinese style art.

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Balls of lights lowered at various heights, floated over their island drink bar. This round counter was home base for coffees, slushies, and bubble teas. Over each of the booths and tables were equally low handing lamps. These were slender cylindrical shades, coloured in a splotchy black to red then orange-amber gradient. Their reddish hue matched the upholstered seats of all their chairs.

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The empty walls behind the booths were occupied by Chinese glamour posters. These painting were in water colour depicting Chinese models. Women delicately posed like flowers: with pale complexions, slender waists and limbs, and their hair pinned back to show off their round features. They each wore their own tightly fitted traditional Chinese dresses patterned in flowers. Some of these women were depicted as mothers, others were musicians in mid performance, and most were advertising drinks and food with their calming smiles. I didn’t take the time to notice each one more, but it was not like they were hard to miss. They also made an appearance by the foyer and on the cover of the main menu.

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Speaking of menu, I could write a whole post just on the topic. There were six separate pages printed front and back to go through. And an actual spiral bound and laminated book with twelve pages all its own. How was I suppose to go through this? Especially given the pressure from a prompt server wanting us to make our selection in a timely manner. The actual menu had an item per page. A full sized colour photo of a main and it’s add ons, side plates, and desserts. Some had options to customize your own combo. but all ended with a set meal of two to three dishes. The final pages were dedicated to two just of desserts with photo, and of drinks without. We organized ourselves. We put aside the pages advertising the buffet style servings and various set meals. We passed on their Christmas themed set menu; printed all in Chinese characters, I was unsure what the $38.88 cost included. And we couldn’t bother to ask or to read the rest. It was all too much, too overwhelming. We ended up making it easy on ourselves, sticking with the one pager that highlighted their Wednesday special: 20% off their “Chinese style lobster set” menu. Today was Wednesday, we both liked lobster, it was meant to be.

This special allowed us to choose additional dishes on top of our lobster centric one. We went in the middle and choose three additional dishes for $88, at 20% off. Instead of two or four additional ones. Our options for three were made with much difficulty, out of a list of over 20. I often find that Chinese style restaurants over complicate things by attempting to offer everything for everyone. 20 items to choose from, and this was just one of the six menu pages. I am not especially familiar with Hong Kong style Chinese food. Their names offer no clarity, and their description no insight. So I usually stick with what I know, with what I like, and with what I have had before. And lucky for me, my guest knows this cuisine all too well. We decided to cover all the meat groups, and forgo any vegetables: seafood check, poultry check, beef and pork double check.

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We started by choosing how we liked out lobster. The various cooking styles included little description, so we played it safe and took the advice of the menu. We choose the “lobster on sticky rice” over “Cantonese style with rice”, “Garlic and ginger with noodles”, and “creamy with noodles”. Admiring things as it was being presented to us: it was as impressive as its photo suggested. Stunning presentation aside, these were two whole lobsters baked in a giant bamboo steamer. Pretty extravagant. Red shells and white meat, over a bed of warm and sticky rice. Surprisingly the dish did not include handheld metal nut crackers, a commonplace utensil, useful when tackling lobster in shell. Though I would soon learn it would not be needed. Both the lobster were chopped up strategically, making the flesh accessible with forks and a little prying. In the white rice was a mix of red lobster roe, yellow corn kernels, and green onions. As a whole rice was on the sweeter side, a flavour due in part to the natural sweetness of corn and lobster meat. Both were then balanced by the use of the more savoury garlic and the freshness of spring onions. Together, the lobster and rice were a delicious and complete pairing. So complimentary that we ordered two additional bowls of plain white steamed rice, as to not have to waste any of the lobster rice on our other dishes to come. With all this food it took us a while to work through, and unfortunately this dish is best enjoyed warm and is no where nearly as good in room temperature.

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We went for duck over chicken, finding the former less common in daily dining. And we chose the “BBQ Half duck” over the “marinated Chao Zhou style”. We both didn’t know what the latter referred to, nor did we want to ask. The portion looked generous, precisely plated and even garnished. Each piece of duck was lean with a darken crispy skin. A little tough, with more bone than meat. The sauce was not the usual tangy plum that commonly accompanies an order of duck. In the container was a thicker, more jelly-like spread. It was sweeter like jam, with notes of citrus and maybe apricot; and thicker like molasses, spreading like butter. Together with the duck it proved to be an interesting sweet and savoury paring unlike any other BBQ duck combos I have ever had.

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“Honey garlic spareribs”. Hands down one of my favourite Chinese dishes, therefore I deemed it as delicious as I expected. Stickily sweet with plenty of drippy sauce to go around. Though the texture of each riblet was challenging. Each nugget was coated with a roof of your mouth scrapping crunchy skin, with very little meat surrounding hard bone or tough cartilage. You needed to chew your way through many pieces in order to get a substantial morsel.

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“Curry beef tendon and beef brisket in hot pot”. Including this curry, all our dishes were unintentionally on the sweeter side. This was the mildest curry I have ever had, it would have faired better as the filling in a cocktail bun. The type of bun with sugar in the dough and a honey glaze over top. The curry lacked a searing heat from chilli peppers, and some much needed fragrant spices. It was one dimensional and very bland. Curry is traditionally a mix of cayenne, turmeric, chilli, and curry powder; I missed all of the above. As a silver lining, the beef however was cooked wonderfully. Each bite size cut was tender. The brisket had a soft pull pork-like consistency, and the tendon offered a nice softened jello-like texture. This softness contrasted well with the crispness of the coloured peppers. Though I could have done without all the giant segments of onion.

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Half coffee half tea. This is a Hong Kong style specialty beverage. A must have for him when he is at any Hong Kong style cafe. He informed me that such a drink originated from  cafés much like this, and is a very popular treat on the streets of Hong Kong. There are just not enough curly bendy straws in the world.

I was surprised by the service. The staff was fairly observant. Refills on our complimentary cups of hot tea came often, and the bussing of empty plates was frequent. Each scenario was enacted in silence, but appreciated for its promptness.

Inconveniently the washrooms were located out of the restaurant. Out in the mall it was a walk down a bare corridor that lead to secluded stalls. I found it pretty scary going after the mall had closed.

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Our dinner bill was presented with one of their business cards. On the back of it was a track for the collection stamps. We accumulated 10 stamps without knowing this rewards program existed. It was not explained to us now, nor was it noted when we began to order. The purpose of such reward programs is to encourage larger orders and return visits. And the former is hard to achieve without the restaurant’s servers acknowledging it exists and educating their customers. Shame, as they were certainly committed to this program. Committed enough to have a special stamp created. None-the-less I was able to read that for every $7 spent we would receive a stamp. And with enough stamps we could redeem them in for complimentary dishes. However two of the available options were blackened out with sharpie. What remained was with 10 stars, you could have a “Sze Chuan spicy chicken” or “deep fried chicken wings” appetizer. At this point we had enough for this. With five more stars we could upgrade to a whole entree, either “baked pork chop on rice” or a “baked meat sauce sphagetti”. And the big prize for 20 stamps was the “Half Chao Zhou style marinated duck”.

Another delightful surprise was our ability to settle our bill with the use of a credit card. This is not often the case. I find majority of the Chinese restaurants in Richmond prefer the practice of “cash only” as there are less fees for the business. But with this practice it put their guests at a loss. It is the guest and their experience that suffers without the convenience of accepting multiple tenders.

Despite being told earlier they would close at 9:30pm, as soon as the second last table motioned to leave we were told to vacate ourselves. It came a matter of factly as the server began piling dishes and wiping down our table with a rag.

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.
Well I guess we will have to come back, as to not allow our rewarded points to go to waste. Or at least return to take advantage of a free snack, if not another full four course meal. We enjoyed what we had, realizing this isn’t your typical Hong Kong cafe fare. Our plates were full and each well presented, much like the others being chauffeured to neighbouring tables. Everything listed and enjoyed was not something you would think would be available within a mall, let alone something you would come here specifically for. At the end all these full sized entree plates, with enough for three meals worth of leftovers at $75 is a good deal to me. Don’t deny your cravings.

ABC HK CAFE
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X4J7
604-295-6777
ABC HK Cafe 愛彼茜餐室 on Urbanspoon

Shiro Japanese Restaurant

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My punctilious editor chose this restaurant as our destination for the evening. He has heard good things, and based on some serious research, deemed this as one of the better quality sushi restaurants in Vancouver. He came in to see if the fish was as good as he was led to believe.

Driving to, I was pretty proud of my street side parking job, reversing into a spot only a few feet away from the actual restaurant. I was very happy to find this on only my first lap. This self smugness lingered, only to walk up to the entrance and see a parking lot right by the door. “Shiro” shared the parking lot with other businesses in this outdoor complex, with several reserved spots for their patrons alone.

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As the awning suggests, this Japanese restaurant offers a sushi bar and specializes in tempura. Judging it by its exterior, it didn’t seem like much. Peering in at the empty space with only two tables seated, it didn’t look like much. And one of those tables was occupied by my party. Seated by the doors we tolerated the cold chill that blew in each time they opened, and each time more guests came in. Very shortly, all but the bar was seated, and we were left shivering. There was not much decor to take in. White walls, faux light marble tables, and dark chairs with red cushions. I did appreciate the low hanging lamps, that allowed for ideal, no flash photography.

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The room centered around the island sushi bar. Despite the slower traffic, three chefs found it necessary to squeeze into the tight space. A box surrounded by counter space and a showcase of fresh and frozen ingredients on ice. They were equally heavy on the floor staffing as well. Dressed in either navy or white logo-ed tees, there were more than enough staff members to ensure we were well taken care of. Majority of the time one was actually serving, while the other four stood idle. We were attended to with a mere rise of the hand. Though all this attention soon became intimidating as it is intimidating to have a dish pulled out from right under you. As soon as the last dumpling was gone, the plate was gone too. Worse was the constant roving of eyes, aimed to spot those in need, it made you feel like you were under the scrutiny of a spotlight. Though towards the end of our meal we were given our space and allowed to linger long after all the plates were cleared, the tea ran dry, and the bill settled.

It was a simple to navigate menu, that was spread across loose pages, a bound book, and specials on a dry erase board. They each had straightforward names, with barely enough to tell you what you’d be getting. That and with the lack of photos, left a lot to mystery. The legend included ensured you choose best for your dietary needs and eating preference. The firetruck emblem indicated spicy dishes. The green tractor stood for vegetarian options. And the restaurant’s own logo meant the item was a in house selection. Interestingly, they had a section of the menu that listed sushi and sushi combos that did not allow for any substitutions. Yet with names like “assorted sushi” and descriptions like “7pcs sushi & tuna roll” you couldn’t be sure you even wanted any of it, let alone want to have any of it substituted. The “special assorted sushi” with “8pcs sushi & 6pcs California roll” was no better a description either.

Our service began with our green teas being topped up regularly, enough to eventually earn our own thermal insulated tea kettle right at our table. This was to be shared and pour as needed.

Unintentionally we began our meal with vegetarians appetizers, sashimi, and cooked meats. When still hungry we ordered more, sushi rolls, in hopes of filling us up.

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Two orders of gyoza. A Japanese tapas usual, made pretty standard here. Based on the freshness of the filling and its temperature, you could tell they were made in house and pan fried to order. The skin was chewy and the sauce complimentary to the pork within. Overall this was as expected and left nothing to complain about.

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“Cheese isobe age”. This was a wild card pick that turned out to be the surprise favourite of the night. This is something you don’t often see at Japanese restaurants; there aren’t a lot of cheese dishes in Japanese cuisine. That alone made this dish pretty unique. Cheese wrapped with seaweed, breaded in tempura batter, then deep fried. First bite in was crunchy from the batter. It complimented the crisp seaweed and the stringy mozzarella under it. The gooey and salty cheese paired well with the bitterness of seaweed. It was good as is, but would have been better with something to dip it in to; a salty tempura sauce or some spicy mayo. It was fun to eat, like a Japanese jalapeño popper. We had originally ordered it for the novelty, but I guess you can’t go wrong with deep fried cheese.

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“Agedashi tofu”. Another Japanese tapas standard. A soft tofu breaded in batter and deep fried in high heat. Best taken when freshly made; when the breading is still crispy and the sauce just soaks through. This batch was fairly sweet, I would have preferred a more savoury sauce and a smaller cut of tofu. Average at best.

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“Chirashi Don”. Without a list of ingredients, the fresh seafood that was to be included was a gamble. As his go-to order, my editor went ahead and requested it anyways. Unfortunately he was disappointed, finding that most of it didn’t stand out. He deemed the fatty mackerel to be the best out of all the sashimi in the bowl. But was disappointed at the exclusion of yellowtail. The texture of the squid was inconsistent; some parts too soft, others too hard. And compared to other places, there was just not enough variety of seafood present.

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“Hamachi nigri”. A leaner fish on soften rice. Simple, fresh, tasty.

“Special scallop”. Scallop mixed with mayo, tobiko and masago. This was nothing outstanding. For what it was it wasn’t worth the price. We won’t be ordering this again.

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One of “Today’s special” was the “Wagyu Aburi Sushi”. At one piece for $6.95, it was a pricy order asking for three. One that we knew would not be filling, and one where we could have had more for less instead. But I have yet to try wagyu and decided to make tonight the night to do so. This was suppose to be a buttery brand of Japanese beef. Having nothing to compare it too, I deemed it delicious, but not necessarily top quality wagyu. The meat tasted fully cooked with a sweet and garlicky flavour. In my haste to try wagyu for the first time I inhaled it one bite, only noting the flavour and not the texture. Excuse to try more I guess? As mentioned, the sauce was flavourful, but nothing melted in our mouths. I was told real wagyu beef would, though I could still taste that this was a quality cut. However I do not feel it was amazing enough to be worth the steep price tag charged.

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Another of today’s specials was the “Tsubugai sashimi”, local whelk clam. It had a unique texture that isn’t for everyone. I found it most similar to cartilage, chewy and rubbery, but easier to break into with teeth. Not silky rubbery like squid but gritty rubbery, a texture all its own. One I have never had until today. Overall I found this dish just ok, not something I need to try again. You have to be in the right mood for this adventure.

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“Uni sashimi”, yet another daily special. Four pieces of rich and fragrant uni, pairs stacked one on top of another. We could tell this batch was fresh because of its very fishy flavour. This is only my second try of the ingredient, and I learned that they were the reproductive glands of sea urchins. Unfertilized eggs. For those who have yet to try, it has a distinct flavour hard to describe. One like no other, a taste that grows on you. Runny like eggs, with a strong woodsy note, almost slightly sweet. It tasted best chill, and better as is. This is something I encourage anyone to try for themselves and judge for themselves, a delicacy not for everyone.

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“Aburi battera”. Barbecue mackerel pressed sushi. Another of their daily specials. Apparently only four orders a day are made available, at least according to menu’s fine print. What are the odds that we were able to grab one of the only four portions today? You could taste the fattiness in the fish, it had a smooth almost velvet-like texture. The salty smokiness of the charred fish paired well with the sweeten rice below it. With their brick-like shape I found then easy to grip between chopsticks and easier to enjoy bite by bite.

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Two orders of “BBQ short rib”. We were less than impressed by the small pieces presented to us. It was an average cut of beef with more fat than meat. Mostly just greasy and gritty, it was less than enjoyable to eat. And the daikon used in the sauce gave it an unpleasant grainy texture.

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“Spicy negitoro roll”. Chopped tuna belly, green onion, cucumber, radish sprouts, mayo, spicy sauce, and furikake. Over sauced, it was best taken in one bite, lest the creamy mess spill out. Almost too much mayonnaise and chilli, it hid the flavour of the tuna behind a mash of textures and loud flavours.

After my last fusion sushi roll experience I have sworn off intricate house rolls that once intrigued me. I stay away from rolls promising ingredients on the inside and on top, and any roll with more than five flavours fighting for supremacy. Luckily there weren’t many of these “special rolls” here and even then most sounded pretty normal. The “Alaska roll” with salmon and crab, the “Philadelphia roll” with smoked salmon and cream cheese, the “Spider roll” featuring deep fried soft shell crab, and for those who are not a fan of seafood: teriyaki beef and teriyaki chicken rolls. Anything excessive was listed in brackets to be a “big size roll”. Beside it, I appreciated the mention of how many pieces would be in that one roll. But even the “big size rolls”, had pretty common ingredients. The “Kazu roll” was a “big roll” at six pieces. It was made with tuna, salmon, scallop, boiled prawn, masago, mayo, and lettuce. After having had kiwi and strawberries in sushi this was all pretty tame.

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So we went ahead and shared the “Shiro Special Maki”. This was a “8 piece big size roll” with tuna, salmon, yellow tail, mackerel, squid, octopus, masago, lettuce, radish sprouts, and mayo. They were huge, they came looking like tires. Definitely not a one bite portion. With a greater rice to filling ratio it was no surprise that things held together well. Stuffed with slivers of fresh seafood, you couldn’t distinguish any part of it. Nothing was highlighted, no subtle notes were mentioned. This was just an onslaught of food. Eleven ingredients listed on the menu and not one jumped out. One of my guests even joked that this roll could be all the things one might find inside a shark. Overall decent, a good value at $12 considering the variety of fish. Shame I couldn’t taste any of it.

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“Black sesame ice cream” with peanut powder and “Tiramisu ice cream” with green tea powder. Two of the best ice creams I have ever had. Homemade in house, I would come back just to have more. The black sesame was heavy, a cakey ice cream that played off nicely with the crunchy peanut crumb. The tiramisu was silken like its namesake cake. Light, with an almost fluffy white cake-like sponginess. I was amazed they were able to achieve such a texture from an ice cream. The green tea powder was just the right amount of bitterness to cut the edge off an otherwise particularly sweet dessert.

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Even with dessert, our meal ended with a complimentary pack of chocolate “Pocky” snack sticks to share. A sealed pack without its cardboard box was presented with the bill.

The washroom was unspectacular, however the Japanese style toilet in it is worth mentioning. A short bowl with a built in control panel on its side. Not wanting to get too close; I only took the time to notice the bidet function, the need to use the drying button after it, and the possibility of a warming seat while in prolonged use. I dared not to enjoy all it had to offer here, but would definitely love to try it in the comfort of my own home one day.

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.
We enjoyed most of what we had, but felt much of it could be found at other Japanese restaurants and other sushi shops. Done better and perhaps offered cheaper? I wouldn’t avoid a return visit, but wouldn’t go out of the way for a full meal. The only things worth revisiting was their deep fried cheese and their specialty ice creams. Though good ice cream is worth traveling far for. Don’t deny your cravings.

SHIRO
3096 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V5Z2V9
604-874-0027
shiro-vancouver.com
Shiro on Urbanspoon

Suika

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We came here on whim, looking for an after dinner spot. This, a last minute call to a friend of a friend’s birthday party. Coming from a less satisfying meal we were game. First we were still hungry, and second I am always in the mood for Japanese tapas.

It’s been a while since my last visit. And as stated before, I would return, so it is no surprise to see me back. Reassessing the restaurant, they seemed to have settled well in the neighbourhood. A new hot spot out of the downtown core. A lively restaurant with a rambunctious crowd, a stylish setting, and even their own personalized napkins printed with their name and watermelon logo.

As before the venue was packed, even more so with this Saturday night crowd. Four birthdays were announced during our limited stay. Each time the lights dimmed and the staff sang, offering a cake and candles along with their loudest birthday wishes. We were such one. The cake came from the party celebrating, but it was presented by the restaurant with vigour.

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We became part of an existing meal, the others already mid dining. Already seated we found our way to the middle of the restaurant to join them. We were at a large table against a rich background. Ashen walls dabbed with paint, below a tapestry of fabric. One half, a wood wall painted in black and heavily embellished with cast iron knobs and hinges. The other a woven rainbow. Lines and patterns column by column, arranged with a leaning towards pink. We were seated by their limited sushi bar, with a look into their refrigerated windows and a peak at the chef’s making rolls behind them. Our view also included the cages used to separate large parties towards the back and sight of their trademark chandelier. A lighting fixture composed of used sake bottles in a variety of colours with a variety of labels, hung.

The server was quick to notice us and quicker to pass us some menus. She a petite woman who dragged us additional chairs, made attempts to engage us in conversation, and apologize profusely for anything she deemed incorrect. From her we ordered several plates to share between three. And got them in a fairly decent amount of time. It all came quicker than expected given the number in the room.

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“Tako wasabi”. Wasabi marinated raw octopus severed with dried seaweed. I have had this on several occasions and found this portion consistent with all the others. A smooth yet rubbery texture, with a tangy taste and a nostril steaming heat. The type of heat that has a tickle and a pinch gravitating to the tip of your nose. The seaweed helped, acting like a base to stabilize the intensity of the mix.

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“Chinese poutine”. Interesting concept, why not? French fries topped with a spicy ground pork sauce, mozzarella, chilli oil, sansho, and minced cilantro. It even had the cheese component I expected from a poutine, but just not enough of it. They at least delivered on the name. The greasy slop of meat didn’t suit the fries. With its grainy and grittier texture it would have been better suited over smooth noodles or sticky rice dish. Dishes that it’s already typically found in. The meat sauce over chewy fries of a similar texture, didn’t offer much of a dynamic eating experience. I found it off, as I often eat for texture as a pose to taste.

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“Kakuni Bibimbap”. Stewed pork belly, sweet dried shrimp, and scallions on rice served in a hot stone bowl. I found it charming how the menu warned it was “Hot, hot, hot!” I was actually able to snap a shot of a bowl, before the at your table mixing process. Most happy that our friendly server obliged in my photo taking. After her practiced mixing with two spoons, skillfully scraping stone and tediously fluffing rice; we allowed the rice to sit. When squished up against the surface of the stone bowl for longer the rice cooks further, thus ensuring it would be crispier. To eat, the mix was rigorously chewy. Small sticky bits dug into the nooks and crannies of your teeth. Annoying. As a whole the rice was fairly tasty, a one tone salty meatiness. Decent as is, it would have been better with larger pieces of the stewed pork belly.

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“Aburi toro battera”. Lightly seared and gently pressed fatty tuna sushi. Made with avacado, shiso, and sesame seeds; then topped with a homemade soy dressing and sesame sauce. The rice was as soft as the fish. It fell apart as the tuna melted. Well sauced, there was no need for the addition of soy or wasabi so none was included. Real ginger was, and its acidic tanginess went well with the heavy roll.

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“Corn kakaige”. Organic corn niblets fried with cilantro batter, soy sauce, and butter. It looked as good as we had imagined it off the menu. It was simple but surprisingly delicious. The sweetness of the corn really came through. Sweet and salty, crispy and chewy; as fun to eat as it is to look at. Pulling nib by nib off the mass of bulbs.

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We got a bottle of sake for the birthday boy to share. Sake, Honjozo, Yoshinogawa, Niigata. The bottle went for $110.

I fondly recalled the inclusion of mouthwash and tiny cups in the washroom. Something I appreciate after a meal full of flavours, and the fear of garlic and ginger lingering on my breath. I did not hesitate to help myself to a minty after dinner palette cleanse.

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.
A little on the pricy side, when comparing how much you get for what you pay. The flavours are amazing and a few of the plates creative, but for how much you are charge and how hungry you still feel, I don’t recommend them for everyday dining. Though with staff willing to play along and the space to accommodate, I deem this a great venue to host a party at or to gather multiples within. Invite many and share all the dishes to lessen the bill. Don’t deny your cravings.

SUIKA
1626 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J1X6
604-730-1678
suika-snackbar.com
Suika on Urbanspoon

Notturno

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This seemed like a newer venue, one that none of us had heard of before, that was reason enough to give it a try. Its narrow space called for a narrow entrance; with space guiding stanchions, and a sandwich board leading the way. Against the restaurant’s red brick facade, their multiple black signs with simple white was striking. The name, written in a slight script, alluring.

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Inside, the restaurant was as dimly lit as the lamp posts along the cobbled streets of Gastown. And as lively as the pedestrians traveling along those streets. Moving in deeper the walls seem to narrow. To our right mirrors in various sizes, framed in various white frames. Each artfully arranged, hanging on stark white walls. Their staggering resembled a hall in a home; more so with its decorative moulding and hardwood floors. The remaining wall space was recreated to give the menu a larger surface area. A coat of chalkboard paint made the room a large canvas in black and white. Wine by the glass and wine by the bottle listed along the wall to our left, and beers on tap and cheeses on chill were featured on the load bearing column in the centre of the room.

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A smaller venue such as this meant limited seating. We grabbed the remaining few along the bar. Sitting on high chairs facing a mirrored backdrop, we admired their boutique bar. In the amber light of hanging bulbs above us, each bottle glittered in its own reflection. With this many bottles of liquor and this many bottles of bitters, the possibilities for cocktail concocting was endless. They surely took their craft seriously.

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To drink, “Notturno” offers a rotating menu of share-style plates, an ever-changing craft cocktail program, BC-brewed craft beers, and an array of wines to tempt. Their cuisine promises to deliver the rich flavours of Italy in sizes designed for trying a little bit of everything. Doing so with the use of modern recipes and traditional Italian elements.

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“Old fashion” a classic cocktail made by muddling sugar and bitters with whiskey. I was amused by the large round of ice used in the glass, it chilled the beverage without diluting it. Given its size they must have had to make several before hand.

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The “Vancity Cosmo” made with lemon and cinnamon infused vodka, lime juice, Cointreau, and fresh cranberry juice; with just a dash of sugar. The cinnamon flavour was the most pronounced. It was a lingering spiciness strong enough to over shadow the zing of the citrus in the lemon and lime.

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“The Witch and the Rose”, quite the name. It was the sole reason for our interest in the cocktail in the first place. Though shame they hadn’t the sherry needed to make it, so we ended up switching our order to a “bourbon sour” instead. “Bourbon sour”, made with bourbon, egg white, lemon juice, and a rich simple syrup. Shaking vigorously produces the sweetened white foam atop the glass. Like the “old fashion” this was a classic we’d knew we’d enjoy.

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“Beef carpaccio, brushed with porcini mushroom and chestnut purée, cited lemon, and crispy shallots”. This was an artistically presented plate. Served with slices of bread there wasn’t enough meat to go around. The beef, was sliced paper thin, it tore like tissue and melted like butter on the tongue. The fragrant onions and earthy purée hid the taste and texture of the carpaccio behind the crunch of deep frying and the smokey flavours of the mushrooms. Enjoyable, but the beef would have been better as the star of the dish.

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“Burrata and Nduja sausage”, it wasn’t as we had expected. The sausage was not encased, but offered more as a paste. It smeared on like a spread, with equal parts salty to spicy. Its smooth chalk-like texture married well with the creaminess of the burrata cheese. The bread offered the perfect vehicle for this do-it-yourself style crostini appetizer. It all reminded of an adult play on ham and cheese sandwiches.

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Fearing we would be left hungry we did as the menu suggested and asked our server for details regarding their “Feature pasta”. Tonight it was spaghetti in a tomato meat sauce with fresh ground Parmesan. The dish came piping hot, proof of its made to order readiness. Though sadly it tasted as simple as it looked, a run of the mill red sauce with tender noodles. I would liked to have had more kick in a thicker sauce, more stewed tomatoes, and more seasonings to evenly coat all the pasta left undressed.

It was kind of our bartender to pause our ordering when he deemed we had asked for too much food. It was well heeded as our party didn’t really enjoy what had, and would have hated to pay more for more of it. I unfortunately did not feel the food was worth the cost. I am sure the ingredients were only the best, and only the finest of techniques were used in its conception and creation. Though neither of us were wowed by any if it. We however were enamoured with the drinks in their perfectly paired glasses, but left hungry and wanting more we choose to depart. Based on the dishes thus far we thought it best to venture else where for a fuller meal.

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 drinks were well crafted and the ambience to have many of then in was fun. However given the type of food served, the types of plates presented, and the fee required; I do not recommend this as your dinner destination. But instead, try it as an after meal drink spot or a happy hour go to. Where fine spirits deserve fine ingredients and lighter eats are interesting, they leave you wanting more. Don’t deny your cravings.

NOTTURNO
280 Carrall Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2J2
604-720-3145
notturnogastown.ca
Notturno on Urbanspoon

Beefy Beefy Noodle House

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Cold weather deserves hot soup. A last minute change in venue saw that I would have what I craved this cold and rainy night. At a little to 6pm, the restaurant was still fairly empty and I was able to grab a parking spot right out front. An empty stall in the lot of the very same complex that the restaurant was in.

Given the name and the location I suspected the room would fill soon, I was right, four parties immediately sat after I claimed my seat. And by the time I left half the restaurant was full. The ample space was certainly needed. We saw one server on floor become four to provide adequate and speedy service. This is Taiwanese fast food at its best. And majority of those looking to take advantage of this fact tonight came in to dine solo. At first we were all directed to one half of the room. The original lone server sought to fill all the tables against the wall. These tables were partnered with hard bench-like seats jutting out from the wall. Their choice in seating alone decided this would not be an extended stay. Without groves or dimples in the wood, sitting for an extended period of time would become uncomfortable quick. As the idea of bubble tea places are often ones where you are able to sit and loiter long after your meal, a bit more comfort would have been a nice consideration. A pillow, a cushion, or even a cloth covering. We did end up staying over an hour after our bowls were cleaned, and my posterior did suffer. Our dishes were bussed and we left to our conversation. It was surprising and appreciated how all the servers continued to check in on us. Each time offering us a top up on our complimentary cups of tea. I must have had over eight refills over the course of our stay.

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The restaurant was simple in decor. Practical elements to add pops of colour. A back lit feature of reddish orange with spots in white to my left. And a wall sized chalkboard listing food and drink specials in coloured chalk to my right. On the chalkboard, tiny print in both Chinese characters and English script. It spoke to what was new, what were today’s specials, what were the restaurant’s top eight dishes, and the six drinks special unique to their establishment. However it was a shame that none of these offerings were reprinted on the menu or presented as an insert to the menu. When seated I did not get a clear view of this list and half the restaurant had a pillar blocking it from their line of sight. What if the large group in the corner wanted to take advantage of the free appetizer when you purchase four beer special? Or what if the couple in the centre of the room wanted to try what “real milk tea” taste like. Both would miss this opportunity as the waitresses offered no specials and made no recommendations.

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Luckily both my guest and I came in knowing exactly what we wanted: our usuals. I am not willing to chance a bad meal, by trying something new. Not when places like these aren’t known for their guaranteed good eats, but rather known for their cheap and simple meal solutions. So beef noodle it is and always will be.

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“Beef noodle soup with beef brisket”. I cringed when I saw our server at the kitchen pass, wipe the rim of my bowl with a rag. A rag that was left on the counter and used intermittently. None-the-less I sucked it up and accepted my order. Thankfully the dish looked delicious and it smelled even better. I was however disappointed in the lack of beef in my beef noodle. It’s in the title, I expect it to be one of the two dominant ingredients. There were just four trimmed down cubes of beef. At least each block was tender and well cooked. I found myself nibbling them down, rationing enough for there to be a bite with soup and noodle. Even then there was too much noodle still in the bowl. Overall the dish was average at best, no where near the best, but with a solid soup base, it wasn’t the worst.

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“Sliced lamb in satay sauce with rice”. Nothing outstanding, your standard Chinese homecook-like meal. The lamb meat was fatty. Overcooked it was chewy. And with the satay sauce the texture became grainy. The chillies present helped to gave it some spice and a more dynamic flavour. With such a strong flavour present in the lamb it was best taken with rice and the side of stewed vegetable. They added a descent base and some easy freshness.

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.
Beef noodle always hits the spot. Though this isn’t my number one pick for the stuff, more just a choice made out of convenience. I won’t hesitate to visit again, but I rather try other one-of Taiwanese style tea cafés first. Though if you do visit, be warned its cash only. Don’t deny your cravings.

BEEFY BEEF NOODLE
4063 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V5C8
604-568-6821
jynoodle.com/index1.html
Beefy Beef Noodle House 京園牛肉麵 on Urbanspoon

Frankie’s Italian Kitchen & Bar

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Wet wet rain, cold cold night, what better than hearty meal of pasta partnered with some fine wine? We braved the deluge to drive out to “Frankie’s Italian Kitchen”. The restaurant has been open since 2011, though with a rotating look around you couldn’t tell. The space was kept clean and fixtures in pristine condition. Once “Beatty Bar & Grill”, a generic sports bar. And before that the home of the historic “William Tell” restaurant, at its time, one of the only fine dining establishments in downtown Vancouver. But now it is “Frankie’s” and they are doing what they can to live up to the location and its significance. Most recently they have brought in a new head chef. His goal is to elevate the food by rejuvenating the menu and bringing consistency to every plate. Judging by tonight’s meal he seems to be successful in this endeavour.

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Interestingly, they face a difficult challenge with their location. Given their surroundings, there is a need and an attempt to be everything for a few diverse groups. First, their neighbour, the “Hampton Inns and Suites” requires them to have an upscale feel, fine dining for their traveling clientele. And in doing so they would be a welcome change for the other hotels in this more affluent area. Second, their adjacency to “Rogers Arena” and “BC Place” means factoring in the potential business from concert goers, sports enthusiasts, and beer drinkers. And not just hometown hockey and football fans, but this weekend, Grey Cup fans as well. And the fans of musicians and singers are just as diverse as the performers themselves. From Sting, and Fleetwood Mac to Usher and Sam Smith, (to be timely with my examples). For them the setting and menu needs to be something that would bring a dressed down and rowdy crowd in. Third of all, the expectations of downtown Vancouver diners requires “Frankie’s” to serve artful and delicious dishes at affordable prices. And finally the vision of the owner his head chef means bringing you authentic Italian plates like that your grandmother use to make, like what they do best. Which is something completely feasible when the owner is Italian and he possess his grandmother’s actual recipes, passed down from generation to generation. It certainly gives you that little bit of authenticity doesn’t it? As you can see there is a lot of expectations to live up to and this is how they are going to do it.

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At “Frankie’s Italian Kitchen & Bar” their promise is to offer the finest of all that make up a complete Italian meal. Offering up family recipes, flavours of southern Italy, as well as newly inspired Italian dishes year round. Their vision is in the use of fresh ingredients, proven recipes, exceptional value, and true service. I certainly received all four during my stay.

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Their space is one that will make you feel relaxed and welcomed in, in any dress and in any state. Their separate but attached bar allows comfort to those in jeans and a tee, wanting to claim a seat at the bar. A seat primed in front of a television screen, tuned to the latest sporting match. While the dining room with its lit candles and romantic darkness, gave those looking for a sumptuous meal in a more regal setting the opportunity for peace and refinement. Finished off with set tables of reusable napkins and polished cutlery; they were only lacking the white table cloth. Though this omission was done purposefully to bridge the gap better. Classy yet casual. Barstools and television sets paired with framed artwork and cloth napkins. Quite the melding of demographics. This divide was most helpful for and best seen though us. I was in my more dressed up attire and my guest in his chosen oversized hoodie and worn sweat pants. No judgement was made in his choice of wardrobe, nor was there any sneering that he drank sparking and fine wines from delicate stemware. Whether its sitting at the bar sampling menu items and watching television, relaxing in the lounge while sipping on wine, or enjoying dinner in the formal dining room; their goal is to give you a settings where its all about family, food, and friends.

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As a regular diner, it is always a treat to meet the owner of a place you like and the chef making a dish you love. And here I got to do just that. Both men were as friendly as their courteous staff. You could see the pride in what they have brought together here. Pride through the smiles in their eyes as they described the cuisine, and the pause in their words as they reflected on a pleasant memory. Our chef made a point to explain each dish and his inspiration for it. While the owner aligned it with his happy childhood. Its one thing to eat good food, it’s another to dine on delicious dishes with as rich of a history as ingredients on the plate. You could tell us being here meant just as much to them as it did to us having a nice night out. It is when a business values their customers that you know you will have a great experience. After all as a consumer you have a choice of where to spend your money and what on. A smart business knows that service is the key for larger bills and continued visits. And after a night of feeling like VIPs (in toques and sweatpants no less) there is no doubt I will be returning for this very service. My glass was never half full, top ups on wine and water were ever constant. Empty dishes were bussed in a quick and neat fashion. And we were checked in on a regular based. Our plates were used as a gauge on what we liked and what we could use less of. We were made to feel welcomed in all aspects. Truly a wonderful and satisfying experience.

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They boast a full, but simple to navigate wine list. Nothing intimidating or pretentious about their by the glass or by the bottle offerings. Like their cooking it’s approachable and comforting. There are over thousands of great wines available, with a focus on British Columbia VQA wines and imported Italian wines.

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“Beef sliders”made with sirloin, cheddar cheese, and mayonnaise between toasted slider buns. These big mouth bites were simple but delicious. A juicy patty with the perfect hint of pink hidden at its centre. The emphasis was on the quality of the fresh ground beef chuck used, not any filler ingredients to create visual interest, or excessive condiment use to overwhelm flavours. Its meaty inclusion on the menu spoke to the head chef’s background in butchery.

“Margherita pizza” made with bocconcini, San marzano tomato, grana padano, and basil. Despite its simple appearance this was a well flavoured and thoroughly tasty pizza. The crust was crisp, the dough was light, and the basil and tomato were clearly fresh. It wasn’t a filling course, which allowed for the consuming of multiple slices without guilt.

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“Frankie’s pizza”. Like the previous pizza, this signature one too came with a light crust that was easy to eat. Made with capicollo ham, fresh herbs, roasted olives, and mozzarella; this was definitely a more complex version of the one above. The array of ingredients added different layers to each bite. Savoury, herbaceous, salty, and smokey. A bounty of complimentary flavour, for those who are fans of olives, like myself.

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“Risotto Funghi” made with mikuni field and wild mushrooms, truffle oil, grana padano; and vegetable stock. It is the use of vegetable stock that makes this dish vegetarian. This was their seasonal risotto, featuring Pacific Northwest and Vancouver island mushrooms. The very same kinds of mushrooms our Chef hand picked as a young child. The risotto got most of its flavour from their in house made olive tapenade. A salty brine that well complimented the earthiness of the wild mushrooms. It had the perfect rich and creamy, porridge-like texture. And the smaller portion we were provided with was the perfect serving, any more in one setting would be too rich.

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“Sunday gnocchi”, hand rolled gnocchi made twice a week, simmered with their “Sunday gravy”. A luscious gravy of lamb, beef, Italian sausage, and tomato. I love a good melt under your tongue gnocchi. Each bulb was tender and warm to its centre. The perfect platform to highlight the meaty sauce that thoroughly coated each one.

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“Lobster ravioli”. These little pockets were stuffed full, each square bursting with fresh shredded lobster meat. The soft pasta coating outside partnered well with the moist flaky meat inside. Each possessed a prominent lobster flavour without being too fishy. The Rose sauce and whole cherry tomatoes offered a burst of juice and a citrus like acidity to the plate. Flavourful, but mild enough to keep all highlighting on the star of the dish, the lobster.

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“Frankie meatballs”. This is a family recipe of beef, veal, and pork. Each perfectly round ball was hand formed and left to slowly simmer in an organic tomato sauce. Cooked through it was moist, holding its shape with each bite. As good as it was I found they needed a platform: a slice of warm bread, a crunchy crostini; or better yet, a bed of spaghetti, like below.

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“Caprese salad”. Windset farms vine ripened tomato, bocconcini, baby arugula, basil, and balsamic glaze.

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“Grilled Louis lake steelhead”. Grilled wild steelhead salmon, citrus vinaigrette, seasonal vegetables, and organic roasted potato. A lavish serving of salmon steak in the perfect salmon pink. Over the freshest looking leafs of green.

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“Seafood linguini”. Half lobster, clams, mussels, fresh fish, jumbo prawns, and organic tomato sauce. That half lobster was an dramatic sight atop the pasta. The King of seafood with his brethren surrounding him.

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“New York Striploin”. Canadian AAA grilled 10oz Striploin marinated in their signature herb butter sauce. Here, severed alongside sautéed broccolini and a spool of red sauce spaghetti. Quite the sizeable portion of beef.

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“Marsala Chicken”. Rossdown farm chicken breast, Marsala wine, mushroom sauce, and seasonal vegetables. Not as stunning in presentation as the others with its murky grey sauce; but the red and yellow peppers, the green zucchini slices, and golden potatoes wedges did help to perk up the colour pallet.

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“Spaghetti and Frankie’s Meatballs” Their own family recipe of hand rolled beef, veal, and pork meatballs; in a roasted and simmered organic tomato sauce, over a mound of twirled spaghetti. The pasta was clearly plated for photography, with none of its ends visible.

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“Rigatoni Salsiccia” made with Italian sausage, tomato sauce, red wine, and concerto tomatoes. The pasta was cooked to a firm el dente. A chewy starchy bite accompanied with the perfect amount of tangy tomato sauce and tiny chunks of well seasoned ground beef.

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“Antipasto platter”. Cured meats, select cheeses, house made misto olives, and caramelized onions, served with segmented pita slices.

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Our meal ended with a traditional Italian dessert, “Tiramisu”. Their’s is made in house where they hand dip their own lady fingers and whip up their own mascarpone. Topped with cocoa powder and garnished with fresh strawberries, the cake was quite the sight after such a heavy dinner. Light and creamy it balanced the rich denseness before it. Fluffy layers of supple cake floated between layers of luxurious cream. A mouthful of lusciousness in every spoon.

As per most restaurants attached to hotels the facilities are located in the hotel’s lobby. A trek out of the dining room, but one on polished floors and past a glamorized setting.

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? – Yes.
It is often hard to find good food after 9pm. For those night owls like myself, restaurants like “Frankie’s”, attached to hotels, provide a great option. Often open late and ready to accommodate they make a decent stop at all hours. And at “Frankie’s” with their full breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night bar menu; they have you covered at all times of day. A variety from “chicken and waffles”, to eggs Benedicts with a bevy of toppings, and “roasted vegetable frittatas” for breakfast. Various pizzas, scratch made sauces, a multitude of pastas, “arancini” (Silcilian risotto balls), and “classic stracciatella soup” (chicken stock, egg, and spinach) for those looking for an Italian retreat. To AAA steaks, saucy chicken wings, and deep fried calamari for late night and after the big game eats. There is something for everyone with an expectation that you will find something to like. Each menu is hand picked to fit their diverse demographic. Sports fans and concert goers, traveling tourists, and downtown enthusiasts. All under the idea of simple, but true Italian cuisine. The food speaks, and there was nothing we didn’t like listening to. Don’t deny your cravings.

FRANKIE’S ITALIAN KITCHEN
Georgian Court Hotel
765 Beatty Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2M4
604-688-6368
Frankie's Italian Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

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