VieAMaggi.com

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

Month: January 2015 Page 1 of 2

Air Canada Vancouver to Japan

By request of a friend, here is my blog on my ten hour Air Canada flight to Japan; and the food service I had on it.

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Learning the lesson of my partner, who arrived too late for his flight; I was sure to come more than the required hour before check in. He unfortunately was 10 minutes too late and was refused entry onto his flight. He was given the option of flying without his luggage, but how can you last a week without personal supplies and an exchange of clothes, let alone his intended three? So he missed a day and incurred a fee for needing a new ticket issued. Lesson learned.

However early my trip to the check in counter wasn’t any easier. I was very close to facing the same dilemma. A mistake was made when we purchased our round trip tickets from “bookit.com”. A mistype had my name coming up incorrectly, and it not aligning with my passport. My middle name was showing up as my last name, and this was not enough to get me through. As a result nothing came up when it scanned and I was not allowed entry. Luckily I was here early and had the time to spend it lining up to have this corrected. Very helpful staff lead me from point to point and walked me through this buracratic process. I was even consoled when I began facing a mild panic attack, over the fear of missing my flight and not being able to get a hold of my partner who booked the original richer. This was my first time flying alone and I have always relied on him. Life lesson: learn your shit, don’t reply on anyone.

Long story short a ticket was reissued without the need to go back through “bookit.com”, which would have been the proper process. And I was checked in on the spot, all in order to get me through the gates before cut off time. I was delighted, grateful, and in shock. This was the pinnacle of service. I could only image the heart ache and stress I would face having to delay my flight and do this all again a day after. Luckily it never came to that as I strolled to my gate in time to board with my fellow zone mates. The staff at Air Canada saved my trip and put a simple back on my face.

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I have only been on a handful of planes and this was the nicest one so far. Newer. They really considered the need for additional comfort when facing an eight hour flight. The flight was not to capacity, it allowed for space in between guests. Empty seats that gave two arm rests per person and the ability to spread yourself out. I was very happy with my window seat, despite it being on the wing. It came with out a shutter, but the very high tech ability to tint the window. Each cloth seat with padded head rest also came with a small head pillow and a wrapped up thin blanket covering. I made myself comfy. Pillow at back, blanket on lap, cord plugged in, and phone charging. I took a nap and caught up on my blogging. But a television touch screen and complimentary ear buds would kept you entertained. On it were television shows, movies, audio books, shopping, and even a moving map telling you where the plane was over at each exact moment.

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Our first food break came an hour into the flight. The noise of carts on carpet, bottles shaking from their movement, and the smell of food woke me up. Beef or chicken were your options. Both came heated in plastic containers and wrapped with golden foil. Similarly the other elements and sides were also wrapped and sealed for hygiene. The plastic tray was made to fit on the drop down table in front of you, with enough give for a drink and your cutlery.

Majority of this meal was cold. It made sense given the need to keep everything fresh for our extended travel. And I wasn’t sure if there were refrigeration units built on to the plane.

The little bottle of water was darling. A cup’s worth with the airline’s branding and unique ridges for a comfortable hold. I would save this for later as a drink cart followed the food cart and I was given drink options. Pop, juice, warn beverages, or ones with alcohol at a cost. I selected Japanese tea to set the mood for my impending destination, and for the need of something warm to take with this cold meal.

Cold bread is not fun to eat, but even less fun to cut into and attempt to spread butter over. Biting into solid chunks of butter before you got to the bread was unavoidable. Though the bun itself was very fresh, still spongy, and just a little sweet.

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The side salad was a green bean, tomato, and cabbage slaw. A tangy and zesty mix marinated with a mild vinaigrette and dried herbs. Each bite was crunch after crunch that balanced out the softness of the entree.

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My expectations were so low for the entree that I was actually pleasantly surprised. “Yakiniku beef with onion, corn, red peppers, green beans, and steamed rice”. It was evenly warmed and easy on the eyes. The meat was prepared flavourful in a simple teriyaki stir fry. I strategically choose the more forgiving beef over chicken, successfully avoiding dry chicken breast. The beef was balled up in a bunch, it required a tug to break down into bite sized portions. Presented sitting on top of white rice, its sauce dripped down keeping the rice moist as well as giving it some flavour. I could have done without the excess onion, and would have liked more than two chunks of red pepper and two segments green bean. Though the corn was a nice addition in sweetness, colour, and texture.

If I wanted the chicken it would have been a “honey pepper chicken served with pasta and mixed vegetables”. As told by the interactive television screen in front of me.

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Chocolate brownie for dessert. It was nice to have dessert and to have something sweet to end our meal be considered. The brownie was an easy win. Who doesn’t like a semi sweet chocolate cake? Moist and springy, I quickly gobbled up my four bites of it.

When enough time had elapsed for an average eating pace the flight crew came back around to collect the waste. Those not done were given more time to finish, as others were offered more beverages.

As for the dining experience, it is familiar to anyone who has flown. It was a little clumsy eating off a tiny tray positioned at lap level. To avoid a potential spill, with no way to clean it, I brought the food to me instead of hunching over it. The individual container for each element was perfect for this. That aside, the most enjoyable thing about late lunch on this flight was the silence. All those flying with me today were quite. Not a word was spoken, as we all ate with the occasional sounds of plastic ruffling, plastic knife against plastic fork, and tin foil creasing.

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I found the button to call for help useful when I didn’t want to get up or didn’t want to bother the passenger seated by the isle. Though it didn’t work out well when she woke him up anyways. I had asked for tissue pointing to my nose. She returned within cocktail napkins. When I explained in a whisper that it was for my nose she declared that it was all she had. This exchange sadly was enough to wake my row mate. She did however returned with a box of tissues for me to keep. Tissues I knew they had when I visited the lavatory and saw them in plain sight. Who calls napkins tissues? And who enjoys blowing their nose to with them?

We were told we would also be given snacks closer to when we were expected to land. However five hours after our small meal and three hours before we landed I got really hungry, there was nothing I could do to silence my grumbling belly. I wished I clean my entire serving. I regret not pocketing the bun, and the bottle of water was long gone. How hungry would I be before I would be willing to pay for overpriced peanuts? Eventually I couldn’t wait any longer and pushed the button for service, asking for food. Good thing as they were planning on distributing them in 45 minutes to everyone, and I just couldn’t wait that long.

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I was given Air Canada branded salted pretzel sticks and bran crunch biscuits. Only to learn this was always available in their galley for me to help myself to at any time. I wonder if your tickets cost more cause everything possible was branded with the Air Canada red and white maple leaf logo. The packaged cutlery, the square napkins, the paper cups for warm beverages and their stir sticks, and the placemats on each trays.

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The pre-arrival light meal was served an hour before landing. It started with a small portion of seasonal sliced fruit. Two chunks of pineapple, half a segment of orange, a chunk of cantaloupe, a cube of honey dew, and a simple grape. I can imagine the guy who had to organize each serving this evenly. It was a pretty standard, but a nice break from the salty snacks before.

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The options were once again between chicken or beef. “Baked chicken with onion, yu choy, seaweed, and steamed rice”. And I once again I went with the beef, more because I wanted pasta the second time around. “Beef with pasta in a tomato mushroom sauce”. They called it a penne, but the noodles more closely resembled a jumbo elbow of macaroni. With mushy noodles, a runny sauce and no actual chunks of meat it reminded be of pasta from a can of chef Boyardee, specifically beefaroni. The melted cheese on top was a nice touch. And I was able to find use in the bun by dipping it in to excess sauce. Like the course before this too was served cold with even colder butter. Still hungry from before, I practically licked the dish clean. Sadly no dessert this time. Though I would have been totally happy with another of the same brownie.

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Tinted windows under the command of the flight staff helped to darken the room and allow for rest. It was amazing how much light they shielded you from. I actually thought it was night.

Overall I had a fantastic experience. I would not change a thing. I made a mistake, I did not check my ticket 24 hours in advance, and yet I was helped. It was corrected quickly and efficiently without a penalty or cost to me. I boarded my comfortable plane on time and scored a window seat. All the passengers were respectful and fairly quite, even the one baby on board kept his crying to a bearable minimum. The staff were accommodating and attentive. Drinks were offered regularly, garbage taken away often, and anything you needed was only a push of a button away. The food was satisfying and nourishing. It was much better than any of the packaged and processed foods I have been eating lately. This was a start of a good trip to come.

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A Taste Testing of Japan

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I am back from my travels abroad. I have been exploring Japan for the last two week. So I am giving fair warning that I will be updating this blog not only on meals had in Vancouver, but on my adventures in Japanese dining as well. Doing so in rotation, as to not inundate anyone.

I will also be creating a separate page for my travels. I don’t know where blogging will take me, but such posts are nice to keep around. If anything they are like an ongoing journal for myself, reminders of the adventures had and the lessons learned. And if all else, to ground myself on how blessed my life has been and how rich I have become with such experiences. Read them or not, they are here. 

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As self reflection, I have found that since I have started this formal note taking, I haven’t felt the need to hoard souvenirs and bring home reminders from my travels. Instead I collect memories, take photos, and translate both to something I can share. This blog, these posts.

Instead of just documenting all the restaurants I have eaten at, I have documented most of the posts by food type and type of dining experience had. I have made an honest attempt at hitting all the major Japanese cuisine types. However with the language barriers I faced and the dietary limitations of my particular travel companion, it was hard to get through them all. That and there is of course so much, almost too much to try. I guess it gives me a reason for a return trip. Hopefully in the summer, where it’s hotter, the days are longer, and you actually want to eat the cold sweets that are still so abundant during the winter months. I hope those who are thinking of venturing to Japan, or are interested in a culinary adventure will find this useful. I enjoyed writing them and mixing in my own views.

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These stories are, as always, my personal opinions. They are not meant to be definitive, but instead a look into the life of Maggi.

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Suntopia Tanning

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As an Asian my culture dictates that I be “light”. That I do all I can to maintain an “attractive” pale skin tone. From applying “whitening face masks” to regularly shading myself from the sun. Common tools to achieve such a look include the oversized face visor and an opened black umbrella on a cloudless summer day. I was taught that tanning naturally or in a bed could cause skin cancer, it would make me look older, and it may even make me less attractive. Granted anything done excessively can be bad for you. So there I was staying away from beaches, lingering in the shade, and avoiding general outdoor activities. It wasn’t until my first trip to Mexico that I was faced with the need to tan. I learned it was called a base tan. I needed one if I was to avoid a burn with all the exposure to sun that I would be getting. I ended up liking it, though I am sure the extra vitamin D helped to sway my opinion. With my imagination I was swept up and away on a beach chair, by a pool, in the tropics.

Fast forward a few years later, and I am still visiting “Suntopia” for my tanning needs. I like the feeling I earn walking out of a tanning bed. The warmth my body achieves and the smile my face dawns. I especially like the way my skin looks, darken, more exotic. And I also find it helps to diminish many blemishes on my face and hide more cellulite on my legs. Ultimately avoiding the need for foundation and cover up and increasing the use of short shorts.

The popularity of tanning is dependant on culture, considering ethnicity. Darkness in skin tone can be exotic; associating with beaches, hot sun, and tropical drinks. But for others it could show labouring in the fields, working with your hands, and generally not make very much. For some it determines status.

The shop is one of many in the expanding area by Brentwood Mall and skytrain. There is free parking in the lot underground, though with narrow stalls and selfish drivers this can be a challenging episode. No appointment necessary. It is first come first serve, drop in only. With multiple beds, I have never had to wait. Though depending on time and occasion the traffic fluctuates. From youths wanting some colour for the clubs, workout enthusiasts tanning to edge out extra definition, to those suffering from emphysema that use such a service to improve their skin and quality of life.

You enter and are always greeted by the cheerful face of a young woman. They recognize regulars if not by name, by face. If this is your first visit you are required to fill wavers and set up a profile. Additional visits require your last name and a confirmation of identity only.

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The counter is mesmerizing. Shelves lined with bottles of lotion. Each dressed and named to stand out. The tanning service itself is inexpensive. It is the price of the lotion that costs you. From $80-150 depending on the brand and purpose. With a clear division between those for men and others for women. Often colour plays a part in this differentiation. Dark blues, black, and brown for men. Every colour under the rainbow for women. Some even come with charms and bonus gifts for that extra lure to buy.

Everyone who endorses tanning and the beach culture has a bottle in their name. “Snooki” and “Jwoww” represent the “Jersey Shore” with leopard print and glittery bottles. Kim Kardasian has her name on a pink curvy bottle. And Ed Hardy endorses the lifestyle with a black bottle ornately decorated with his tattoo-like designs. With these as the role models and faces for pro tanning I can see possible stigma.

I choose my bottle based on promotion, price and smell. In my mind they all serve the same purpose: to give you an even tan. Though some offer bronzer to darken, some state extra moisture to improve dry skin, and others promote their slimming properties for a toned look. By far the best promotion is buying a bottle and earning 200 tanning minutes in any bed. Or purchasing a bottle and getting a month’s worth of unlimited tanning. Though more often the promotion is discounted bottles or buying one and earning a price reduction on another. Some are meant for face and others just body. But once again I don’t see the difference aside from marketing. For those who are unprepared to purchase a bottle that lasts about a year, depending on use, you can look to packets. On average they are $10 and offer enough for a full body lotion coating. Though in the long run you can see you are paying more for less. You pay for 10 more uses from a bottle that earns you double if not triple the uses.

You are able to leave any paraphernalia with them from the above bottle(s) to your goggles. A clever decision as it allows for drop ins on a whim. Your lotion is kept on file so that the clerk is able to pull it out from their cupboard below. The googles, in plastic baggies in a big bowl, like Halloween candle ready to be passed out. Goggles are necessary to avoid eye damage in the form of burnt and irreparable corneas. They occur when you look directly into the lights of a tanning bed unprotected. Horrifying coloured photos adhered to the counter reminds you of this. If you forget yours or can’t commit to buying one for the $6-15 price they sell one use stickers for $1. Gold cone shaped adhesives to protect.

As an extra they offer complimentary stickers. The stickers are used on the body to give you a sun tattoo. By adhering either of their hearts or playboy bunny logos to your skin and tanning, it created tan lines around that given patch. After removing the sticker the skin under it will be slightly lighter. For clear results you will need to do this more than once. And to maintain it you will need to do it regularly.

The price list is taped to the counter. It lists their various beds and their costs per minute. There are also packages where you buy a lump sum of minutes and use them as need. Little by little they don’t expire. Like the lotions the latter cost more but has more value in the long run. Plus its nice to be able to stop by and not have to whip out any plastic.

I have only used two different beds, but they offer a few more, including spray tan services. The one I stick with is called “passions” its a mid level and mid priced bed. When I earn bonus minutes I indulge in their top of the line bed that graces the front window called the “prestige”. The difference of cost in the two is doubled. Which is ironic considering the use of the latter allows you to stay in the bed for less and earn the same tan as the former. Max time in the “passion” is 15 minutes. Max time in the “prestige” is 10 minutes. My skin allows me to tan longer without getting burn, I usually choose 13 minutes on the former and 8 on the latter.

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After paying you are directed to a room. Each door labelled for clear identification. Each room is four walled to about two inches away from the ceiling. It allows for seclusion but not sound proofing. This gap in ceiling enables ventilation and the ability to circulate the hot air produced by multiple beds.

You are given 15 minutes to undress and lotion up before crawling into a bed. Exceed this time and the bed starts without you. It has only happened to me once, when I had difficultly ripping into a package of tanning lotion with my teeth. Metal wall hooks, a clear plastic chair, and a small shelf allow for ease of undressing. On the wall are flyers advertising the benefits of continuous tanning, the right lotion usage, the packages they offer, and their free wifi. Another sign cautions on the required use of goggles.

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I prefer to go in naked for an even tan, but for that beach look, come in your bathing suit. Though being naked in the “sun” is a pretty amazing feeling, one that you aren’t often able to indulge in. Each bed is sanitized and indicated as such with a sign so you need not worry about hygiene. A face cloth is available for use. Most common as a shield for one’s face if it gets too hot. I however use it to wipe the bed’s surface down after my time. I find it uneasy that my body’s greasy print is left on the glass surface and you can make out the shape of my buttocks.

After you climb in, lay down, pull the lid down in place so that you are sandwiched between two sheets of glass you can begin. With goggles on you push start button. The lights hum, and a fan turns on to ensure the bed doesn’t over heat. Depending on the bed you are given you have options for fans cooling your body, the type of music that plays from the speaker by your head, and intensity of heat between face and body. Truthfully I do not tamper with most. 

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Some machines are ergodynamic and contour to your body’s form. Some allow you to plug in your music providing a cord. Others require you to bring your own head phones and aux jack. Some have full body air conditioning. Others only two fans directed to your face and chest. And worst is just a portable plug in fan blowing by your feet. You definitely pay more to get more.

When done the lights shut off and the machine goes to cool down mode. You are able to remove your eyewear without fear. Their is an anti static spray offered to help you get back into your clothes. When dressed you walk out, leave your bottle and glasses with the clerk and go about the rest of your day. Done.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
This is definitely and indulgence that requires continuous upkeep. Not just a do one and done sort of thing, but maybe once a week to keep a certain hue. I myself do it as needed, often doing so to hide the scar of a pimple I couldn’t help but pop.
If you are not looking for the commitment of a monthly fee, nor need to feel like you are getting your money’s worth, you can have this as an “if I can afford it” treat. I suggest just dropping in. Purchase goggles for $5 and with one of their budget beds at an average amount of time, with a one time use packet of lotion, you are looking at a little over $20. Affordable. Manageable if you want to upkeep once a month or to save as a splurge on special occasions. Don’t deny yourself.

SUNTOPIA Brentwood
4451 Lougheed Hwy, Burnaby BC, V5C3Z2
604-299-9521
suntopiatanning.com

GyuDonYa

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I had some time before work so decided to indulge on a lunch out. I don’t often dine alone as I find the whole experience awkward, and almost a waste of money to eat out if not in the company of another.

I have been eyeing this place for a while, so found the need for a cheap lunch reason enough to visit. Its been an a long time fixture downtown. Located on a visible corner with its worn red awning and comical cow logo it certainly is eye catching.

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It was cold outside, but we were kept toasty inside. Even with me sitting close to the door, and it opening and closing I was warm and even able to remove my coat. Surprisingly, radio pop tunes were playing over head. It didn’t really add to their authenticity considering their attempt at showcasing Japanese cuisine and culture. They greeted you in unison when you entered and sang your farewell when you left. A black and white mural lined the entrance, photos of Japanese life. It depicted women in traditional kimonos with their hair pinned up, a market scene with fresh produce for sale, and a group of men dressed to preform with banners and bandanas.

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I was most impressed with their bar set up. A tiled bench facing the street that allowed couples to sit side by side and singles, like me to enjoy my meal in peace. In the small gap between the window and table was paper scene. Cut outs of birds, flowers, and a water’s edge. Back lit, they were very prominent, and their reflections against the shiny counter offered some nice decoration.

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The rest or the seating available was in the form of share-style group tables. Rows, one after another ending with a high top version at the far end. This layout was labeled, creating space and unison.

I think they were hiring. A sign in the window printed in only Japanese and Korean meant they were specifically looking from either of those ethnic groups. I only caught on being able to read the word, “server” in brackets.

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Upon entry you are asked if your visit is to dine in or take out. Given the former you are assigned a seat of your choosing. As mentioned I helped myself to a stool at the bar, by the door. A server approaches with a laminated menu. The same coloured menu with photos and descriptions for each dish is reproduced as two large boards. One by the register out front for easy take out. And one above the kitchen pass for those who like to look up rather than read down. Although each version of the menu is similar, using the same photos, but presented a little different. Each equally appealing.

As a modest menu of nine similar items, and nothing over $10; it leads me to believe this could be categorized as fast food. Your choice of entree came in beef, short rib, grilled chicken, grilled pork, seared salmon, spicy tofu, assorted vegetable with beef, or grilled vegetable. Each of the above would top a bowl of steamed white rice with some sort of vegetable; be it peppers, lettuce, or green onion. With each choice you had to further decide if you wanted it in their regular or large size, for about a dollar plus difference in cost. Examples of the sizes were by the front desk, along with their limited selection of bottled imported beer.

I was tempted to choose their ninth menu option: a “miso flavoured gyu men”. But considering they were a place specializing in Japanese rice bowls, I decided to go with rice instead of noodles. Reason to come back I guess. Given the speed in which the food was prepared from when I conveyed my wish to the server, I doubt it was made to order. Although the sides and the rice I am sure was prepped ahead of time.

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Grilled beef short rib “galbi bowl” combo with miso soup and Japanese pickles. For $1.95 more you can make your rice bowl a combo with your choice of two sides. I choose the soup option over the poached egg. And from the salad and pickles choice, the colourful Japanese pickles over kimchi or their salad of the day.

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The miso soup was pretty average. Salty and milky with chunks of tofu, cuts of seaweed, and chopped green onion. The pickles were a beautiful hue. Great to look at, but too salty to eat. Not that my main needed any more salt or flavour. I didn’t touch any more of the pickles after the one taste that I was forced to spit out.

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I choose beef short rib, as it is one of my favourite cuts of beef, and I am only able to enjoy it when at either a Japanese or Korean restaurant. The meat was as chewy and as fatty as I expected. Without bones, the larger pieces were easy enough to bite down into smaller portions. They certainly weren’t stingy on the sauce that generous dressed the meat and dripped down to coat the rice below. The chopped cabbage on top of the rice acted as a good secondary texture, giving the bowl some freshness. Overall my combo was over salted but filling. Salty beef, salted miso soup, and briny salty pickles.

I was offered a spoon, that in hind sight I regret not accepting it. Being too proud as an Asian I guess. Rice is hard to consume with chopsticks, and I am no where near as skilled as I think I am. I was presented with a disposable set, but could have helped myself to some in the caddy stationed at each table, that was also staggered at certain lengths of the bar bench. This along with soya sauce, a mixed spice, chili sauce, and sweet Japanese mayo in a squeeze bottle.

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When done, you motion for attention and are ask to pay at the register. Past this is their single stalled washroom. A dark room with dark walls and dark furniture. Amongst all this was a beautifully decorated elevated sink. Painted in red patterned in white cherry blossoms.

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.
I usually require more than one dish before I make up my mind on a place. A second taste of a second item to ensure I truly get the range of a restaurant. However given their simple premise and the similarity between bowls I can safely conclude the following. I wouldn’t mind coming back when I want that home cook feel for cheap, done fast. And the noodles would be something I would like to try. Though as a sit down dining experience to celebrate an occasion, or to impress a guest, this wouldn’t be the one I’d recommend. Don’t deny your cravings.

GYUDONYA
500 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z2H7
604-569-0259
Gyudon Ya on Urbanspoon

Rogue on Broadway

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Seeing as I have been to “Rogue wetbar” before and have written on their menu a few times, this particular review will be primary on their Broadway location and its difference from the original one at Waterfront skytrain station. This would be my first time here.

Looking for that generic, contemporary, casual restaurant this is as good as any of the usual suspects: “Cactus Club”, “Earls”, “Milestones”. They have the same sort of staff and clients, serving the same sort of comfort and bar favourites. North American style cuisine with twists, from dishes and drinks to burger to beers. Though I personally find “Rogue” the best of the lot. I deem their menus the most eventful, with the most to peak my interest, offering much I would like to try. Where at other such places I know what I like and stick with the same thing; often wishing for more rotation and a larger and more creative seasonal offering. Here at” Rogue” they had “Lobster Mac N’ Cheese”, a “Maple blackberry wild BC salmon”, a yellow curry with shredded coconut, their “Brewhouse burger” made with IPA soaked onions and a bourbon-bacon jam, and the newest addition: “black cherry baby back ribs”. And that delicious list is just to name a few.

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Outside, their name was prominent in bright lights and red and white paint. A sight hard to miss on its very visible corner, especially given the four chances to read its name Enroute to the front entrance. Inside, when it came to decor it was all in the details. Details meant to draw the eye. Details that when taken individually, each stood out. And details that as a whole had nothing matching, yet it all some how went together. An assault of funky and fun.

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We were offered either the dining room or the lounge. Despite the Canucks game playing, it was slow on this Thursday evening. No lines, no need to wait. Given our mood, and after peering into both sides, the choice was clear. The lounge was definitely more decorative and free flowing, whereas the dining room was more classic and muted. The latter was clearly meant to seat more formal occasions. A dressed up room able to pull in those coming from work in suit and tie, or those wanting a fancier date night out. Wood was the main element used. Visible as planks in the ceiling and feature walls, and again in the waist high gate separating it from the lounge. Both rooms had television screens built into a decorative wall with sections highlighted in different colours and arranged with different textures. It was lovely to take in, but definitely took away from your television viewing pleasure. The most memorable thing in the dining room was the acrylic chandeliers. Sheets of plastic arranged to construct a four pronged light fixture. They were lit with blue LED tubes, bathing those below it with a glowing translucent light.

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We were steered right into the lounge, to what almost looked like a completely different restaurant from the one above. There were so many details to take in. A green wall with holes cut out, a poster of beer labels and logos blown up like a poster, and a cluster of light bulbs shielded by and over sized shade. The couches and high backed booth seats were blended with patterns. A black, grey, and gold stripe on beige transitioned into a regally looking spiral brocade. Both ended with faux patent plastic cushions. They didn’t really matched the black and white splotched cow print seat tops that sat across. Each table included a mosaic tiled votive done in an amber and brown tone. A few narrow tables mimicked the bar, back lit in stripes or swirls that offered decoration and a mood setting splash of light. 

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I echo-ed my guest and ordered a “Frozen Bellini”, made with white rum, peach schnapps, champagne, peach flavoured slush, and a splash of red wine sangria; giving it its red on orange colouring. Little did I know this would come as the most impressive Bellini I have ever had. It was served as a large portion in very heavy goblet. The sour peach candy on top was a nice little touch, and a nice way to end the drink. This cocktail definitely meant business, if you are going to do a Bellini you ought to do it right like this. And if you aren’t normally one for sweet, icy cocktails or you aren’t a Bellini fancier, this one will be the one to convince you.

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“Wok Squid”, a play on calamari with pronounced Asian flavours. Pineapple cut squid, jalapeño, pineapple chunks, ginger, and garlic. Served with a cilantro aioli dipping sauce. As mentioned this was a fusion twist on a classic appetizer. It was neither any better nor did it do worse than the original. It was just different, and if you didn’t compare it to any calamari dish, it was pretty good. It smelled just as good as it tasted. Though the colour of the sauce in its dull green under yellow lights didn’t help to make it any more appealing. Plus the taste of cilantro isn’t for everyone and this dip was cilantro filled. Whipped smooth and left thick, it offered some acid, and the cream help to dull the spicy jalapeño. The squid was cut into larger chunks, which made its chewy and tender texture all the more enjoyable to eat. Each morsel was breaded heavily in a herb filled batter, so much flavour that the sauce wasn’t necessary, just a way to keep the bites interesting to the end. It also gave the squid some crunch.
When presenting the plate the server didn’t consider that my on Asian guest couldn’t use chopsticks. My guest ended up stabbing her food until we were able to track down a fork. Our server later brought up the interesting fact that this being Vancouver, it is often an acceptable norm to offer chopsticks without question or substitutions.

I originally wanted the “Chocolate peanut butter explosion” for dessert, but this being our second meal, and having finishing the largest Bellini I have ever had, dessert seemed like a distant dream. However this just gives me a reason to try their layers of espresso chocolate cake, peanut butter mousse, chocolate peanut butter ganache, and peanut praline.

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.
When comparing both locations in Vancouver, this one seems more upscale. Here patrons aren’t coming just to do some serious drinking, then partying downtown. Whereas being located right by the skytrain, the waterfront location is the ideal place to get your drink and party on. The Broadway location on the other hand is well lit for a contemporary casual dining chain. It’s thoughtful decor and address out of downtown attracts a different clientele and in turn creates a different vibe. Here it’s more chill. This is a great venue to come to and have dinner at, to watch the game in, and have drinks at. And they give you plenty of reasons to dine with then. Weekly drink specials, $3 happy hour specials between 3-6, and they even suggest preordering for a group gathering to earn yourself a free meal. Don’t deny your cravings.

ROGUE
602 W. Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-568-9400
roguewetbar.com
Rogue Kitchen & WetBar on Urbanspoon

Spaghetei

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My Italian friend has been looking forward to decoding this Japanese interpretation of his heritage cuisine. The concept was interesting. Japanese flavours and Italian sauces over el dente pasta. We were curious to see how this idea would pan out, I mean it must be promising if they were proud enough to declare their existence since 1995, on their awning. Although upon reflection I can only wonder were this was. Where was it that they were still standing after ten years.

The name was displayed in a unique font. Like its cuisine, a fusion; this of Times New Roman with an Asian flare and pronunciation to match. Its exterior looked like a cage with white bars across the front. In between gaps of window you got a look inside. We came at 5pm, the beginning of the evening shift and were the first for it. We pulled open the heavy door by its unique door handle: a large fork. Though it more resembled a pitch fork, painted black.

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You pass through the tiled corridor lined with little squares of amber and orange glass, then pause in order to be seated by a server. You don’t see a lot of orange in most restaurants, and it isn’t the traditional colour choice of most Japanese establishments. My guest declared its pops of colour very Italian in nature and the white walls and wood accents very Japanese. Earthy and warm and simple and clean; yet another fusion, another example of the two cultures coming together. Similar were the orange streaky paintings on square canvases and the large kanji character written in thick black brush stokes. Together, but opposing on opposite walls. Overall the setting was modern with traditional touches, like the 25 cent machine half filled with plastic capsules. Little toys for young girls and boys. It was a enough pleasant setting to be in, one that was kept very clean. You couldn’t tell the age of the place, other than the worn table corners. No seats ripped and no floor tiles scuffed. Pleasant.

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The kitchen was visible with a gap between its wood counter below and the hanging concealing curtain above. Behind it you could make out a lone chef dressed in white. He was head down, prepping his station in full concentration. Surrounding him was a tall stack of large noodle bowls and dinosaur figures on display. Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and a Japanese figurine to end the shelf.

As mentioned we were the first ones in for dinner. All the tables were left undressed, but we were given a slender basket filled with communal use paper napkins and metal cutlery. My guests mentioned wanting a little more panache. A centre piece, a candle, something more to dress the table up with. I was fine with the simple setting, it meant for better photos, clean of all background noise. Together with the lighting and the table’s dark surface, our position was ideal for “foodtography”. The bright lights above just hit the food nicely below.

The menu was a coloured affair. Each of the 13 items offered had its own glossy photo in bold hues, and its name and description in both English and Japanese. Not knowing what to expect we ordered by looking and pointing.

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“Pork chilli oil bread appetizer”. We wished for a larger emphasis on the “oil”, to give us a fair warning of what we would be getting. The mix wasn’t visually appealing, seeing all that oil and all the meat forced to soak in it. Therefore it was no surprise that the meat was tender and chewy, and overly oiled to a slick from this bath. Though all that moisture did help to soften the tough, dry bread when scooped atop. A pain point here and at other places was the serving. We were presented with five slices of toasted bread to be shared between three people. Could they not have added one more slice? Could they not have asked if we wanted an equal number of baguette slices so we could each have two tastes? Could they not have been as generous with the bread as and they were with the meat and oil? A better ratio? There was plenty of it to heap on as excess topping. As for the flavour it was hard to notice any past the unique texture of whipped meat saturated in heated oil. But it did have just the right about of heat, and a pleasant lingering spice that lasted well after your swallowed.

Each pasta came with the option of enjoying it as a small, regular, or large, at about a dollar difference. Given our skeptical nature and the want to try more, we stuck with three regulars to be divided by three hungry people.

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We passed on the “Neapolitan” pasta because the menu described it starting with a ketchup base. We didn’t want to dine out and not have our meal be made from scratch. So we moved on to another red sauce pasta, only to catch the scent of ketchup from its “tomato cream”. Ironically this one was the closest to Italian-like pasta, but it was still far from achieving the simple freshness that is the pinnacle of Italian cuisine. The menu described it as a creamy tomato sauce with chicken and various vegetables over spaghetti noodles. You could almost immediately smell the ketchup in this, which would have been made more pleasant had there been chunks of fresh tomato mixed in. My guest likened it to the processed sauce found in cans of “Chef Boyardee” pastas. Sweet and tangy. One, which I may add, that I actually like. We eventually found the bacon at the bottom of the plate and were mixed on its presence. 2/3’s of us found it didn’t add any value to the plate as its flavour was hidden and its texture lost under a chunky sauce. The remaining 1/3 liked the bacon and declared that you can’t do wrong with bacon, especially one as chewy as this. What was surprising was what the menu considered “vegetable”, a fungus and two leafs of spinach.

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“Mentaiko and shrimp”. What others deemed as their best dish, we found an interesting assembly. One we could not finish and one I did not need to try again after two bites. Mentaiko, shrimp, and assorted mushrooms, topped with fried seaweed. Mentaiko is the marinated roe of pollock and cod, it is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine, and popular atop many pieces of sushi. These little balls of juice added an interesting texture yo the starchy pasta. Natto and shiso leaves were possible add ons to this already very Japanese flavoured dish. Their inclusion would be an additional 80 cents or $1.30. Though given all the ingredients we were already unfamiliar with, we didn’t need to add any more of it to the mix.
It was nice to have the few pieces of shrimp without their tails, though no surprise there wasn’t enough to go around. Delightfully the seaweed was complimentary and added a pleasant spice. But over all we found the noodle too fishy, and the eggs unavoidable. As mentioned, its texture added an interesting pop of juice to an otherwise dry noodle, but was something I rather do without. We wished for a sauce to pull the dish together, or better yet a broth, though with the latter it wouldn’t be much of a pasta dish. Clearly we liked this the least, finding it too out there to the point of being off putting.

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“Double meat sauce”. This was their signature meat sauce with sliced beef, topped with diced boiled egg. The “double” in the name came from the beef prepared two ways. Similarly they had “Meat sauce with shrimp”. This too was the same signature meat sauce, but instead of the slow cooked beef mentioned above, it was topped with shrimp and vegetable. We took the menu’s recommendation, putting weight into its statement of, “a must try for meat lovers”. Good advice, as this was the best of the three. For once, here was a dish that actually looked better in person than what was shown on the menu. Though what mattered most was the taste. It wasn’t great, but sadly good as it was the best of the three that we had. I considered this more of a meat stew than a pasta dish. The meat was the star of the dish, and the noodle the filler in which to eat it with. It tasted like a Chinese noodle dish with strong Asian flavours, but using a thiner type of spaghetti. The meat itself was stringy like it has been beaten tenderized too long.

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All their spaghettis were served with a piece of garlic bread. We didn’t question it being pictured green on the menu. When delivered it was announced as a spinach flavoured garlic bread. Though spinach only in colour, and not in flavour. It tasted like regular garlic bread.

Two Parmesan shakers were presented at the start. Two for three people meant there would be minimal wait to use either. Though realistically Parmesan cheese would have only been complimentary over the pastas with a tomato sauce base. So one out of our three plates.

We had lots to take home. Three grown adults couldn’t finish three regular portions of pasta. Though in our defence it was 90% carbs. We had lots of take out, and everything was packed up for us. Everything in individual containers, all stacked in one bag; but presented with two extra bags in case we wanted to each take one container home.

Our server was attentive, she never really checked in, but at the same time never left our cups half empty. Attentive without ever being in our faces. And when it was time for dessert, she brought us the menu without asking. Even pointing to the options Vanna White style. Sadly we were too full to entertain the thought.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Nothing tasted like you expected it to. This was like nothing we expected, and yet I wanted it to be something else. Maybe if we didn’t go in expecting pasta we would have nothing to comparable it to, and maybe we would have enjoyed what we had more. But with a name like theirs, there was no way to avoid such a comparison. In conclusion this is a very original concept that I commend them for, a unique blending of cultures. Even though this one wasn’t for me, I definitely recommend trying it for yourselves. Don’t deny your cravings and the opportunity to see if this is for you. In existence since 1995 has to mean something.

SPAGHETEI
1741 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G1E1
604-428-1014
spaghetei.com
Spaghetei すぱげっ亭 on Urbanspoon

ManCakes Bakery

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I have finally tried the unique offerings of “mancakes” bakery, a cupcake store for him. No pinks, no frills, no ooey gooey cuteness. Just grown up cupcakes, with a sophisticated flavour that grown men can appreciate. In a shoppe that is geared to the male gender, but either sex can come in to indulge.

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The tiny shop is sandwiched by other small one-of lunch and dessert places. It stands out with its red, white, and black theme. Their original logo is represented on the awning and as scrawlings on their sandwich boards. A stick figure man, standing upright in the centre of a cream topped cupcake outline. If you like rebuses this one was cake. Decorating the front windows is a scattered list of their unique cupcake flavours with appropriate names. “King Kong”. “Pink Peppercorn”. “Breakfast”. “Tequila pineapple”. Some of the names were explanatory, other had posters describing their make up inside.

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Inside the colours where predominately red and black. A fire engine red, bold on the counters and tables. A charcoal black, dark on furniture, couches, shelves, and painted on one wall. The dish ware too was coloured black. The room purposely had a very masculine feel, it well matched their overall garage theme. Though this was the cleanest and most enjoyable garage I have ever seen and been in. A mental garage door was the background to the cash desk. On it was their logo and a good coat of wax. Shiny. Hand held red tool boxes decorated the top of a shelf and a free standing large box was used as a coffee caddy. It was home to creams and sugars for coffee and teas. Their choice of music was a nostalgic 60’s mix, only the chart toppers. This list featured the B-52’s and Tom Jones. Bonus points for those who can name their biggest hits.

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Not only have “Mancakes ” stepped up the cupcake game with sweet and savoury cupcakes, cupcakes featuring alcohol, and cupcakes with original ingredients; but they also fill their cupcakes too. That’s right, frosting on the top and cream in the centre. So three parts of each “mancake” combine to give each cupcake a truly original flavour profile. Base, filling, and cream.
The “chocolate red wine” boasted a chocolate base with a marscapone mousse filling, and port cherry red wine buttercream topping. And it was finished off with a a dark chocolate disk and a red wine gelée. The “Buffalo wing” had a spice base filled with tangy blue cheese cheesecake mousse, a hot sauce buttercream frosting, and a crispy chicken crumble topping. We over heard the owner tell other customers that the “Chicago” cupcake was his favourite. This was a vanilla base filled with caramel and topped with cheddar cheese infused buttercream and caramel popcorn. They also offer seasonal and timely flavours. According to their website the “Hunger Games’ #MockingJay” cupcake was a partnership in time for the launch of the third instalment of the franchise. Reading its description I was highly interested in trying it. Though when I was in shop it was not available, and there was no sign advertising its existence. I think I would have noticed a cupcake with gold mocking bird print stencilled on to it. This would have been a chocolate cake filled with a passionfruit and lychee pearl mousse, and topped with a chocolate ganach. Then decorated with a champagne infused marshmallow, gold mockingjay print and pearl sprinkles. The website even went so far as to recommend lighting it on fire. Now that would be one impressive cupcake. The current feature flavour was a wintery seasonal “Spicebox Christmas”. A chocolate base cake with a eggnog creme brûlée filling, topped with a Spicebox whiskey chocolate ganache and crushed candy cane. But as much as I wanted to try them all and as amazing as the above sounded, we went for the “Mancakes Combo”, two cupcakes and a coffee for $7.95. Though being able to switch out coffee for a tea.

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Hearing the word “mancake” I assumed larger and heftier cupcakes, what I got was your standard size cake. Even their website had them looking like the jumbo variety. After all that went in to each, you want more to appreciate its flavours more. Though standard sizing would give you a good reason to get more and try their other flavours, especially as each is quite filling. My only real critique is the amount of filling inside each. Each of the two flavours I tried was delicious, but a dollop was all that was afforded. This one bite of jelly or cream lived at the top of the cupcake, only penetrating the base mid way. Not only was the bottom void of frosting, but now avoid of filling too.

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“Apple Brie”. A spice based cupcake filled with a sweet apple cider jelly, topped with a brie cheese icing and a crushed pretzel brittle. This cupcake delivered on its name sake flavours, the notes of Brie being the most obvious. It gave you a light, but distinct sourness in the icing. Together with the base and filling, it sang in harmony. This was a taste and combination common in cheese and charcuterie platters, in one handy dandy, hand held snack. A well tempered, spiced filled cupcake that gave you a little bit of everything. Spice from the base that tasted like carrot cake, minus the traditional carrot slivers. Sweetness from the apple jelly, that was so good, I wish there was more of it. And just the right hint of salty from the course salt embedded into the pretzel brittle shards. This was a good one fall, the perfect treat if you can’t decide on sweet or savoury. Have both.

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“Whiskey Lime”, a spice based cupcakes filled with whiskey infused chocolate ganache, white chocolate lime icing, with a sugar and lime zest topping. This was amazing, the most exciting cupcake I have ever had, with nothing comparable. It was hard to describe. Smokey and sweet, with a kick of tang. Everything you would expect in a well aged whiskey, but brought together to be chewed.

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At around 3pm, after a handful of patrons came in to ponder, but not to buy; a new sign went up. In order to lure additional bodies in they would be offering free samples. Already seated, but being within eye line of this sign, my guest unabashedly asked if we could have a sample too. What was brought over was a taste of their “Deathly chocolate covered bacon”. I have had chocolate covered bacon before, but found this to be one of the better renditions. The bacon was baked chewy, and the chocolate draped over it in a solid slab. It made for a chewy and crunchy one bite. It was as enjoyable to eat as it was tasty. A classic sweet and salty pairing. I wasn’t sure if they would soon become sides to a “mancakes” like a side of fries with your cupcake, or if they would soon grace the top of a “bacon chilli chocolate” cupcake.

The clerk, who may also be the owner was friendly. He was knowledge, speaking of the product with passion and high regard. Like ourselves, all those we entered after had a lot of question. And even though majority of them walked away empty handed, each couple got the same great service that we did for ordering. To start, he inquired if this was their first visit. If that was the case it would be followed by a description of what it is that they do, and how it sets them apart. It certainly had me interested and wanting to try his favourites and his recommendations. Shame the others didn’t feel that way. Although, just because they are not buying customers today, doesn’t mean they couldn’t be paying ones tomorrow.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
“Mancakes” is original, it’s fun, it’s fresh. It is my kind of dessert. Why have a normal vanilla cupcake, when you can have a vanilla cupcake made with refreshing grapefruit and spicy yet floral pink peppercorns. After all the former would just be a boring vanilla cupcake iced with overly sweet vanilla frosting. A regular cupcake that you can get anywhere else, including your local budget grocery store. Why go for the ordinary when you can partake in the extraordinary.

“Mancakes” bakery also exist as an option for men who have a sweet tooth and who love cupcakes, but may not feel as comfortable entering a shoppe that is 90% pink. This is a place where they can get funky and fresh cupcakes that are frosted high and cream filled deep. Then enjoy it in a casual, comfortable, and mostly gender neutral setting.

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I mostly enjoyed the fact that they were not sweet on sweet, in sweet. Each combination was thoughtfully tempered to give you a harmonious bite. Cupcakes acceptable for dessert or snack. Cupcakes perfect for if you are craving savory or if you are craving sweet. And with your choice from over ten tried and tested flavours on rotation, including seasonal options; you are sure to find a favourite in their line up. And if you can’t decide on just one, they have taster packs available. Twelve assorted, one bite miniature cupcakes packaged in what they call their “tool box”. Either way they will have your cravings covered here, so don’t deny them.

MANCAKES
288 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6B6A1
778-886-5323
mancakesbakery.com
ManCakes Bakery on Urbanspoon

Frites

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I was here by way of a social shopper coupon. It promised me two of their deluxe poutines, so I invited a friend along to share in the bounty.

“Frites” is one of the newer poutine places to call the entertainment district of downtown Granville Street, home. This location is a wise one, I can only imagine the lift in traffic from after hours businesses and the serge of additional customers during the weekend nights. After all fries, cheese, and gravy sound pretty amazing when you are drunk, tired, and hungry. It sobers you up and warms you through.

As the new kid on the block it also probably didn’t hurt them to move into an area already known for hosting other successful poutine shops. The healthy competition draws people looking for this very Canadian food item in. And as a result “Frites” probably picks up new customers and additional patrons only now discovering their location. Some willing to compare how they stacked up to their neighbours, others wanting to try something new, those unwilling to wait in the longer lines of their more established competitors, and even maybe those who recognize this chain from its original locations in Toronto. Either way this area probably earned them residual sales. After all it’s about location, location, location; an if you build it they shall come sort of thing.

Its black awning and matching black sandwich board weren’t too striking. It was actually their slogan that drew me in first: “fries with benefits”, it referenced their unique “double-layered poutine”. A poutine that had a more even gravy and cheese ratio to fry, made using authentic Belgium fries.

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Inside their shop was where they choose to advertise their offerings with large poster-sized images. Coloured close ups of their waffle sandwiches and burgers, along with their various topped poutines. All a little pointless in my opinion. In order for potential customers to see them they need to enter the shoppe first. And once in the shop it is almost a guarantee that they will buy something. I guess it was more artwork and decoration than anything. Though all they did aid in your decision making process, allowing your eyes to do the ordering.

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Seating was very limited, signifying that this was the type of place meant as a quick meal, and not one to linger at. Black cushioned stools were paired with red bar/table surfaces. Majority faced out the window, with a table for two against the left wall. At the centre of each setting is a diamond shaped cut out. Its intended purposes was to hold a cone tipped serving of fries. We didn’t need this, but it told me their most requested item was their Belgium fries as is; as there was a need for this specific table modification.

The process starts when you head to the cash register at the counter. A cashier greets you and takes your order. Behind him is the kitchen. A cut out wall allowed for the viewing of orders being made by another employee stationed in the back. Visible from front door, there was no mystery to their processes.

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Like food court style service you look up to a posted menu in order to make your selection. Anything off one of the three television sets broadcasting the expanse of the menu in a fun and engaging way. Your options were fries, poutines, or sandwiches made with waffles instead of bread. Each of the above also came in variations, for a have it your way sort of deal. There were five options for poutine, together covering all the major meat groups: chicken, pork, and beef. Having regular fries opened you to the option of it being served with one of their 22 different gourmet sauces. “Suicide”, “peppercorn ranch”, “Madras curry”, “Jamaican jerk”, “sriracha”, and “Go Ju Jang” their Korean style sauce; just to name a few. They were certainly not exclusively Belgium in style, more a multiculturally influenced smorgasbord. The waffle sandwich gave you the most customizable options. Choose your meat, your sauce, and even the bun; it didn’t even need to be a waffle. Though without the waffle it kind of defeated the relevance found in the name.

Because of the coupon, our choice was limited to either pulled pork, beef chilli, or bacon mushroom. Just as well, as I wouldn’t want my first taste of their food to be with anything, but one of their layered poutines.

After your order is processed, a handful of fries take a dip into oil. This is made to order, done in order. Once crispy, a ladling of pre-made gravy is then generously drizzled over a portion. And finally topped accordingly. Each helping of poutine is served in to go containers with foldable lids and stickers of their banner.

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As with most poutines there is a need to eat this one quick as well. A need to shovel in multiple sticks of fries before the gravy gets absorbed and the potatoes get soggy. The gravy used had a light and runny texture. Greasy, with a consistency similar to that of a meaty vinaigrette, or a runny real maple syrup. The dollops of cheese were the size of nuggets. I was most impressed by the amount and freshness of each curd. They were slightly melted by the warm gravy, and become stringy as we pulled them from the box towards our mouths. As promised there was a double layer. There was plenty of cheese and the bottom of the box as well as the tip, not just undressed soften fries.

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The “pulled pork” poutine was sweetened by the honey barbecue sauce. We felt it needed some additional spice, a kick to make it stand out. Maybe even some onions or fresh herbs to counter act the dominating sweetness.

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We agreed that the “Bacon mushroom” was our preferred poutine. The latter were thick slices of cooked button mushrooms, and the former fried and tossed bacon bits. The bits had a texture of stale crumbs. Overall it had a savoury salty flavour, one I found more enjoyable than the sweet poutine above. As a result it also married better with the salty cheese. I still could have used more bacon though, maybe some in chewy chunks as well and the tough sprinkle.

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Poutines are generally salty, I needed a drink mid way through. My guest was keen enough to point out the poster she read by the mini fridge. It advertised a free bottle of water or pop if I liked them on Facebook and checked in my location today. That sounded easy enough for free, and here I was about to just pay for a drink. Clearly this was an advertising strategy meant to leverage my social media following. One I was okay to help in for something free. After the clerk confirmed the above on my phone I was allowed to help myself to a free bottle of water.

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.
I am not a big fan of fries, but as a late night, easy to eat and sober up to snack it fairs pretty well. Especially as there is so many ways to make it your own. Overall I found the food good, but the portions associated, on the smaller side. A convenient cuisine, at convenient prices, in an convenient area. An easy win, on a tested dish. Not the best, but one that could definitely hit the spot in a pinch. Don’t deny your cravings.

FRITES
1011 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z1L5
60-559-0550
frieswithbenefits.com
Frites Granville on Urbanspoon

Hawksworth Cocktail Bar

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I have been to “Hawksworth” Restaurant before and have enjoyed “Bel Cafe” too. But today we just wanted drinks and desserts in a nicer setting, so deferred to their cocktail bar instead. Conveniently located between the two.

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You enter through the lobby of “Rosewood Hotel Georgia”, though the enjoyable novelty of rotating doors. As you exit the pod you are greeted by their hostess. She checks your coat, so should you choose to relinquish it. And in exchange gives you a tag. Given our choice of bar over dining room we were directed to our left and allowed to choose our own seats. A hard choice given the overall appeal of the room. An appealing decision between high top, sofas, and individual couches. After a back and forth we allowed the two freestanding fireplace to sway our vote. Side by side they were multi functional, heating the room, giving the space an elegant depth, as well as acting as a barrier separating bar from dining room.

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It wasn’t until we had a third join our party of two did we relocate to the couch by the door. It had roomy seating for larger groups. A beige chesterfield outfitted with perfectly propped and chopped pillows, and two side tables to rest drinks and small plates on. Above it hung a large frame, underneath its glass an image of a large sparkly heart filled with various butterflies. They flew wings a flutter in all sorts of colours. All together a comfy setting that allowed for lingering and almost encouraged drinking in a lounge-like state.

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We had some sparking wine, and our third a sparkling cocktail.

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“Death in the Afternoon”, the name alone was reason enough to order it. Along with all the other cocktails this had its origin date listed. Created in 1935 this was made with Pernod absinthe and bubbles, then garnished with the zest of a lemon swirled.

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The regality of the place was in the details. Fine accents that for the most part were left unnoticed. But for those who took the time to take it all in and to enjoy their experience, you could see the purpose in the using. You could see the effort, you valued the worth. We were such diners.
Tuliped glasses with the perfect weight for our wine, it gave drinking a dainty and feminine feel. A rounded bottom and a fluted lip on our drinking glass, gave each a solid hold and an comfortable bend for the lips. Even the spoons for our desserts had a unique feature. A dimple on its side aided in the breaking off of and the scooping up of soft pies or cakes.

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We requested the dessert menu and ordered the “Cassis Almond Tart with pear sorbet and tonka beans”. We were not disappointed in the anticipation of this dessert. It was delivered, a beautiful work of art, and a well thought out dessert. It gave you the option to pull textures and flavours together to create your perfect bite. The tart itself was freshly made. A fragrant almond paste folded atop a golden brown crust, and sprinkled over with a crisp crumble topping. It played off the floral pear sorbet nicely, with its cold clean flavour. And ran paralleled with the luscious cream, the honeyed almonds, and the tart berries. I wasn’t sure what the red shard was that topped this masterpiece, but it was a sweet finish to a pretty sweet dessert. Hot and cold, smooth and crunchy, sweet and tart. This one had everything.

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Our bartender and server was nothing but courteous. He was polite, giving everything he touched and everyone he spoke to the respect it and they deserved. This included us. You were happy to wait for his services, as he ran the whole room by himself. He was comforting with a smooth coaxing. He reassured us of our choices, and checked in often to ensure we had everything we needed to feel well taken care of. Even after I broke a glass with my flamboyant hand talking, he still kept his calm composure. Insisting we not help with the clean up lest we cut ourselves.

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.
Hands down this is one of the nicest restaurants in the city. And even though just for drinks, this was still one of the nicest dining experiences I have had to date, cocktail bar or not. I may not be able to afford their plates from day to day, but a fancy drink and a decadent dessert at $10-13 is completely manageable. I recommend coming here for a taste of the good life without having to pay for the full price. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAWKAWORTH COCKTAIL BAR
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
801 West Georgia Street, Vancouver BC, V6C1P7
604-673-7000
hawksworthrestaurant.com
Hawksworth Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Rain or Shine Ice Cream

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My guest wanted “Earnest” ice cream, but it was a Tuesday. I wanted to give her an equally satisfying ice cream experience so drove us to “Rain of Shine”. I find both comparable, but today was taco Tuesday!

On a cold day like tonight it was no surprise to see that behind the fogged glass door and windows the place was empty. They however wisely turned the heat up to encourage guests in to enjoy cold ice cream in a hot room, the best way in my opinion. It worked, the place slowly filled after we came through the door.

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The decor was as I remembered it the last time I visited, not too long ago in summer. A narrow space with only enough seating for several small gatherings. Beyond the seating area was a lengthly counter from where all their ice cream is served. And further still is a windowed look into their operation. Behind the wall was where their own branded ice cream was being massed produced. Enough servings to be offered by the scoop and as a take home tub.

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By the entrance still hung their purple and white splotched cow bust. He still looked as happy to have a yellow ice cream cone, turned upside down on his forehead. Surrounding him were laminated and coloured print outs of ice creams in pointed sugar cones. They were arranged to form star-like patterns. Past that the wall featured odd cuts of wood jutting out in various heights, widths, and distances. Both filled up space well enough.

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We naturally went for their Taco Tuesday special at $6. A waffle cone made and shaped in house to the fold of a taco. In its centre your choice of two different ice cream flavours, whipped cream, and a topping of your choosing. You have to take advantage of this once a week offering. Essentially this was just an ice cream cone, but presentation and marketing mean something.

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It being her first time my guest stuck to ice cream from “the keepers” list. She paired “salted caramel” with “coffee-toffee”, saying no to the whipped cream, but yes to the toffee brittle topping. She liked everything about her sweet treat, except for having to eating out of a box.

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I went for very seasonal flavours from the “Seasonal Flings” list of six. Although I sampled both the “egg nog” and “brown butter Snickerdoodle” and liked them, I decided to bring wine and beer together, to pair sorbet and ice cream. The result: “Brassneck multiweizen beer ice cream” and “mulled wine sorbet”. Topped with candied hazelnut and whipped cream. I always get anything limited edition or that which is only around for the season. I want to try and not miss out on a good thing, especially because of a little cold weather. It tasted like Christmas with the beer and candied nuts. The wine however went in a different direction, away from sweet and creamy and instead was juicy and floral. A contrast with everything else including the waffle taco and hazelnuts.

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.
I said and I would be back, and because I have I will again. Though for this the timing has to be just right. Obviously a Tuesday for “Taco Tuesdays”. I never have anything negative to say about ice cream and even if it is, there is not much that can have me not finishing it. Don’t deny your cravings.

RAIN OR SHINE
1926 W 4th Ave #102, Vancouver BC, V6J1M6
604-428-7246
rainorshineicecream.com
Rain or Shine Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

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