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

Month: August 2015 Page 2 of 3

Blo Blow Dry Bar

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I have always wanted a blow out, but never had a good enough reason to indulge in one. So I figured attending someone else’s wedding is as good a reason as any to go for it. You dress up so take a lot of photos, and end up being in everyone’s background anyways. Plus this particular wedding served as a quasi-reunion for me; seeing faces I haven’t seen since high school. It was time to dress to impress. I already spent $25 on altering a $39.99 dress, why not spent a little more to have my hair be just as impressive. By the way the weather wasn’t cooperating so I didn’t even end up wearing the dress.

They have several locations, I choose the one on South Granville, knowing I could find free parking. Tucked away on a corner, it is one of those shops that you go if you know. Though their signature pink on a sandwich board and hanging sign does help to draw attention. They take walk-ins. I am sure that helps because not many people plan their day around having their hair washed and combed without a cut and colour.

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The set up feels like a hair salon, but there are no scissors, there are no capes worn around the neck. They style, they don’t change what you already have going on. I wasn’t the only one in at 11am on a Friday morning. I wondered what occasion everyone else was dressing their hair up for. Because truly I cannot envision this service as an every day thing. But I guess I can’t talk as there are days where I don’t even comb my hair.

The receptionist greets you right as you enter. With her sit staff on phones waiting for their next client or someone to walk in. Behind both bodies are the traditional bottles of shampoos and styling products for sale. Basically anything familiar when handling hair. They prefer appointments, but once again walk ins are also welcome. The website where I reserved a chair asked that I come in earlier to settle in, though the extra time was spent just starting right away.

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I was directed to one of their work stations. A clear plastic chair facing a counter with a mirror. The chair did not rise or lower, and the counter did not have many tools. Though all you really need is heated tools and hair spray. The stylist I was assigned was full of energy. She was friendly and we chatted so long as I continued to engage. The whole appointment was quick. Sit, curl, spray and off you go.

 

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Even though there is a “menu”, it is anything goes, you dedicate what you want. I went for a cross between two similar curly styles. The specialist told me she would be using a straightening iron to do the curls and she got right to it. When I made the appointment I added a footnote mentioning this would be my first time at “Blo” and was curious to know more about their other services before we began. I guess they don’t read the notes they give you space to write in. 

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Styles vary from up dos and straightening styles, to varying levels of volume and curl. Each its own description and sassy name like “hunt club”, “executive sweet”, and “holly wood”.

So what I assumed would be a hair washing and blow drying before styling was just hair curling. Immediately I did not feel it was worth the cost at $40. I am lazy, but am more than willing to do this myself and save the money for something else.

I mean waking in to a place called “blo” and hearing blow dryers going, I expected a blow out. I even asked what I was getting, I wanted the full experience, I wanted a blow. But apparently since my hair was washed a few days ago, it made for the best condition to style, where the curls would last. My thought was I wanted to keep the style for a few days and therefore wanted to start with a clean head of hair. Though at this point it was too late, she had started, and I am not the type of person to get her to begin again. Though secretly I was disappointed. I feel I didn’t get the full service and in the 15 minutes I sat I did not get my money’s worth.

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The stylist confirmed where I parted my hair, asked if I wanted volume, and if I wanted hair spray.. My hair looked good, but I could have technically done this myself for nothing but my time. Probably triple the time it took her, but it would have been worth it. To not wake up early, drive out, potentially pay for parking, then tipping. It took me 30 mins each way to get a service I could do myself. At 15 minutes, I paid $3 a minute.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I won’t be indulging in this service again. It is great for special occasions and lazy people, but $40 is better spent investing in a good curling or straight iron. The worst part, it barely held past the wedding ceremony. The friction from putting on and taking off my coat was too much for the curls. At least they looked good for an hour or two.

 

BLO
1529 West 14th, Vancouver BC
604-734-7599
blomedry.com

Kwong Chow Congee & Noodle House

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I have been to this one before, but there aren’t too many good restaurants open this late, even on a Friday night. After a night of drinking and wanting something homey out of Downtown, my guest typically comes here. He was a fan of their simple and comforting Chinese dishes. I found them able to satisfy that drunk food craving.

The restaurant wasn’t design with aesthetics in mind, may be fung sui was considered, but there is no way to tell. An assortment of framed awards hung by the front. The un-sat bar became a place to station lucky bamboo plants and wealth ushering knick knacks. The walls were surprisingly crisp in white paint, striped with thin black bands. On them were poster quality pin ups advertising drink and food specials. Given how their signage is in mostly Chinese script, I will assume their clientele is predominantly Mandarin or Cantonese readers and speakers. But given their location, on a very busy Main Street, I am sure they see all sorts of walk ins as well.

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The tables are worn with scuff marks, a telling sign of all the dishes that were placed and removed over time. The chairs were riddled with dings, a telling sign of all the bodies that sat down for a meal with them. I couldn’t help but relate the lack of care towards the beaten furniture, to the possibly unkept conditions of the kitchen. Although from a distance they looked alright, and it helped that they were always neatly set.

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They say the best way to judge what which you cannot see, is the condition in which they keep that which is visible. If you can’t keep the front of house up to par, what luck is there with the kitchen? The kitchen is the most important room, it is where all the food is prepared, and anything you consume has to go through. Luckily here, their kitchen is exposed and it puts your mind at ease. A large glass window separates a lone chef in white, from us sitting in the dining room. A tiled kitchen with stainless steel counters, and well organized supplies.

Another telling look at the back of house operations is the washrooms. If they are in squalor conditions and the staff are okay using it day in a day out, what hope does the kitchen have with those low standards? The washrooms weren’t the best, but they also weren’t as grimy as some I have passed on going in to. Oddly, there were broken down boxes lying on the ground, for whatever reason.

As always, with Chinese restaurants there are too many things to choose from and not enough photos to help. How is one to decide? I myself, usually sit back and let my guests choose. I find most order what they know, often not even looking at the menu. You order it cause your parents ordered it, and you grew up eating it. The only time I try new Chinese food is when I dine with others and they order that which they only know. Otherwise for me it will always be honey garlic spare ribs, BBQ pork and shrimp fried rice, or fried rice noodles. I like how the most common and popular Chinese dishes have universally known and understood names. They even often tend to taste the same from place to place, as if there is a universal recipe used by all. Chinese cuisine has consistency.

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So guess what I ordered? “Honey garlic spareribs”, a staple and a favourite of Chinese and non Chinese alike. You can’t really go wrong with sweet and sticky meat. If meat could be considered a dessert this dish would be its spokes person. They were delicious with or without rice. The honey flavour really stood out in this batch.

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This was my first time trying ostrich meat. I wonder where they sourced the meat from? “Sautéed ostrich slices with snow pea pods”. I wouldn’t be able to tell if it was ostrich by tasting it. When compared to what you would classify as red meat, this had a milder flavour. It was more chewier and a bit more fattier. I can best describe it as a hybrid between fish and chicken? If no one told you, you would think its beef by its appearance. 

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The “Sizzling chicken hot pot”, had great presentation value, but fell short on flavour. The pieces of chicken were more bone than meat. 

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The “Broccoli with egg tofu” was our vegetable dish, ordered to balance out all the meat above. Soft tofu and crispy vegetable paired well together and with everything else. 

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The “Shredded pork and bean sprout chow mein” was delicious. You can only get noodles this light and this crispy prepared like this. The texture is just as memorable as its taste. The noodles went well with the gel-like thick sauce ladled over it. 

 

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.
It is good, but nothing special. I wouldn’t avoid it, but wouldn’t drive towards it either. Especially when I could try any other Chinese restaurant and get something similar. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KWONG CHOW
3163 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3G7
604-875-8520
Click to add a blog post for Kwong Chow Congee & Noodle House on Zomato

BC Place, BC lions game

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My friend is a sports writer and a fan of football, both the CFL and the NFL. He has connections and with them has invited me to a BC Lions game. I started watching “Ballers” on HBO so had enough interest in football to accept his offer, plus I was lured in by the promise of gourmet concession stand cuisine.

Game Day was Friday, July 24, 2015. The pregame BC Lions Tailgate Party started at 5pm. Plenty of time to eat, drink, and be merry before kickoff at 7pm. Reading up on the day we made plans to go early. There was a lot going on before and after the actual game. So much so that I stopped to ask if this was the first game of the season or a special occasion. 2nd home game, 4th overall. Apparently the itinerary doesn’t always play out like this. Tonight’s game sponsors were just pulling out all the stops.

Similarly to their neighbouring Rogers Arena, they too have begun bringing to fans more than just hot dogs and popcorn. BBQ chicken legs, honey lager sausages, beer battered fish, halibut burgers, calamari, Montreal smoked meat, smoked pork belly, steamed pork dumplings, bacon fried rice, short rib steamed buns; and even Vij’s Indian Curry. All available at different sections and different counters around the arena.

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When we arrived we took the time to check out the Tail Gate party, open to the public: ticket and non ticket holders alike. Tented booths were set up and games were being played for prizes. And the “felions” dance squad were braving the cold in order to pitch their calendars. I learned that they don’t actually get paid to shake their pomp pomps during events. So most make a living through the merchandise they sell and any scheduled appearances they can land. Today the bash included a beer garden and menu stocked with barbeque favourites. Fans were be serenaded with live music courtesy of “Paul Luongo & The Digs” and entertained by a Felions’ performance. Though sadly the rain hindered the true party potential of the outdoor event. Barbecue isn’t the same in the rain, and not everyone enjoys dancing in the rain, “felions” included. We skipped all this because of the weather and the lack of specials. Plus this event is open for the public, where we were ticket holders, so should wanted to take advantage of the ability to enter where others could not.

We left our homes around 4pm, not only to take advantage of their happy hour menu, but because The first 5,000 fans through the gates over would receive “Save On Foods” gift cards ranging in value between $5 and $500. I shop there, I like free, I was sold. Though positive thinking still only got me $5.

Inside BC place they advertised early-bird food and beverage pricing between 6-6:30pm. A list of items from various stands at 25% off each. Lucky me, they were all the ones I wanted to try. Though unlucky us, the amount of time needed to travel from one side of the stadium to the other, then wait in line, took time. And realistically 30 minutes is not enough time to hit them all. And well after getting one or two things at 25% off before, it is hard to justify paying more minutes later. So we hustled, following the countdown clock for early bird specials, ticking down on every television screen. It told us how much more time we had left to get cheaper beer and cheaper snacks. Any everyone knows event food tends to be more expensive, so if and when you can save, you want to.

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Our first stop was at “Vij’s” serving gluten free curries with basmati rice and naan, in section 220. Curry isn’t something you traditionally get at a sporting event. Just the transportation of it from counter to seat is troublesome. But in hopes of bringing fans in for dinner before the game, they have expanded in such a direction. Your choices are between only three options: “vegetarian navy beans and kale curry with garam masala”, “sirloin and spinach curry”, and “creamy chicken and chickpea curry with cilantro”. We had the latter.

The “creamy chicken and chickpea curry with cilantro” sounded like a safe bet. We ate it right away as we foreshadowed the troubles of carrying around a hot and liquid based plate, in an arena full of people prone to bumping in to one another. So we utilized one of their nearby eating stations, set up with high top tables.

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The curry was a good portion, enough for a full meal. It was mild, with more peas than chicken. Both the rice and naan provided a good base to soak up all the warming curry. I would order this again, but preferably at a mall’s food court next time. We couldn’t imagine fans ordering from them much during half time.

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The next cart located in Section 218 offered “Montreal Smoked Meat” at a discount. They also sold pull pork, but I guess “Montreal Smoked Meat” is a better name as it is appealing for more? I really appreciated how the dress code of the staff preparing the food attempted to reflect the calibre of the food. White coats and tall hats. And the sample dishes on display made ordering all the more easier as you eat with your eyes first.

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The sandwich was decent, but I personally don’t like that much meat in a sandwich, so I may be biased. I prefer the bread to be the star of a sandwich. Here, the bun could have been crispier on the outside, as it was nice and soft on the inside. The smoked meat was a little fatty in some parts. Where I expected ribbons of tender, lean ham. If any one wants their meat fatty I would recommend going for the pork belly instead, after all such a sandwich you really eat for the meat.

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After such a carb and meat heavy dish, I often seek out something more wholesome. This time the buns were Chinese style at the “Asian steamed buns” cart, located in section 250.

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The “short rib steamed bun” showed so much promise, the display models sure looked good. Though what we got was a meaty mess dressed in soggy buns. The meat was too soft, the sauce was too runny, the bun became a dripping sponge. The vegetables added a nice crunch and some much needed texture, but offered nothing in terms of taste. Julienned raw, they would have been a huge improvement pickled and salted.

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The “steamed pork dumplings” was a lot better. Though nothing different from that which you can get from any basic dim sum vendor. This is a small plate, Chinese cuisine staple, so I guess good to have it represented her. It tasted on point. You can’t go wrong with good dim sum.

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I usually don’t find football too interesting. I have only been to one game, and only found it enjoyable because I was drinking heavily. I would be doing the same tonight. With our early bird $6 drink specials in hand we travelled towards our seats. All 12oz Domestic, Craft, and Premium Draught Beer were $6 and available at Taps, Beer Portables, Dawson Dogs, Poutine stands, Club Lounge, Edgewater. I double fisted. But if you are not a big beer fan they cater to all alcoholic appetites. They even offering wine and cheese. Glasses of wine, cheese plates, and gourmet salads are available at the “Oak and Vine” booth.

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And If you are looking for a completely different vibe to game day, visit “Club Orange”. A unique space that allows you to enjoy your football in the comfort of a club? A space transformed from box seats. I am thinking white tee, bedazzled jeans, and sunglasses in doors for dress code? Tonight they were featuring a live DJ to ensure those looking get plenty of that club atmosphere. Entry is an additional $40 on top of your ticket price. Though if you paid for nose bleeds, watching the field from a window box instead would be an upgrade, and a price worth considering. This is the newest way to take in a BC Lions game and a way to bring in more youthful fans.

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Unfortunately because of the rain (the one day out of the last two weeks it rains), the roof of BC place would be closed for this match up. This move would trap in three birds that fluttered from beam to beam, high above the field. The choice in roofing material was strategic. The angle allowed noise to bounce off the ceiling and the sails, in to stands. The perfect set ups for a concert, a concert I attended recently.

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My expert host explained to me the nuances of the season and the league. With a decrease in ticket sales they closed off the upper bowl. In this new configuration there were less seats, they sold for less, and they were a lot closer to the action. And today most of the discount seats left un-sat. So this move to limit the number of empty chairs was a good call, especially considering that the lion’s first game only drew in limited number of patrons. And as you can see from above, they were trying to be creative, thinking outside the box to draw in a bigger crowds. The demographic here was not like those present at a Vancouver Canucks hockey game. This is a hockey city, you get a wide breadth a patrons: a cross between ages, ethnicities, and degree of fandom. However with BC Lions football and the CFL, the guests in attendance are those who grew up as fans. Loyal patrons now in their 50’s and 60’s made up the majority today. My expert host reckons it is because the CLF was not as heavily marketed to our age bracket, whereas the NFL is know as the “sexier league”.

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The game began with the welcoming of the players. Video introductions and themed music was broadcasted over the jumbo-tron. It sounded off stats, shared impressive achievements, and helped to grow the faith Vancouverites had in a win for our home team. An inflatable lion’s head was the only thing standing between the players and the artificial turf. Each player would inevitably be taking a trip through the lion’s gaping maw. A trip that including running past rising streams of steam and through a tunnel of cheer leaders shuffling pom poms on either side. The televised request to cheer and “make some noise” got the crowd going. And would appear every so often to keep the enthusiastic vibe strong. On top of that, the attempt at doing the “Mexican wave” (long story, you had to be there) and the die hard fans pounding on drums really egged this all on.

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I am not even going to begin to describe what I saw during actual game minutes. To this day I am still not quite sure how football is played. Heck I can’t even distinguish between the CFL or the NFL. What I do know is about yards, scrimmages, and penalties. And learned how don’t make any noise when your team has possession the ball. This is because you want them to be able to hear the plays from the quarter back, and distracting them from the task at hand doesn’t help. So instead you scream and shout, and attempt to drown out the ability for the away team to hear their plays. I am loss when to the new rules, how they are enforced, and how there can be a flagged dropped at every play. Though I did get really excited and in to it when everyone else cheered or screamed. I joined in to belong, and in doing so felt like one of the many, all rallying behind the same one, a similar interest, a common goal. So now I absolutely get the allure of attending a live game. I prefer it live as apposed to watching an edited and forced perspective version on television or off any screen. The “you have to be there” is definitely a feeling not worth missing out on.

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In between sets they kept the crowd going with free tee shirts launched out of a cannon, mini foot balls hurled towards the stands, player trivia, and prize giveaways. They suggested staying around for the first set as they would be giving away lots of cool prizes including Lions merchandise and even tickets to a future game. Tonight, BC Lions alumni Nick Hebeler and Gerald Roper will be on hand signing autographs during halftime. There were many things were going on, it was like the game wasn’t the only thing to come for.

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Instead we bought ourselves 50/50 tickets. For those who don’t know, Google lists the definition of “50/50” as “A raffle lottery in which the prize is one half the value of all the tickets sold during the event. You get 50% the company running the lottery gets the other 50%. Sporting matches are the only time I have ever seen this draw and/or participated in it. Sadly our contribution saw on return. And like us, the lions didn’t win this night.

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As a half time snack we indulged in mini doughnuts, the classic event snack. We walked up to a booth that was a large scale operation. Two conveyor belts carry raw rounds of dough through a pool of oil. They get fried a golden brown on one side, and then flipped to have the process repeated again on its back.

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Considering our ability to see the doughnuts being made from behind the sneeze proof plexiglass, we assumed each bag would be fresh. We assumed we would have that melt in your mouth warm spongy bite of doughnut, coupled with a gritty dusting of sugar and cinnamon. Both indicative and necessary in a satisfying carnival-style mini doughnut. Instead we got a room temperature bag. There was no salvaging when this happens. In hindsight I wish we returned the left standing paper bag and got ourselves a fresh batch of doughnuts, one that we would actual finish and enjoy. Very disappointing.

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Our night ended in a loss and the slow exiting for fans with heads lowered. I would like to return to experience a winning game, I am sure the vibe and atmosphere are completely different.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I might not be the best to judge this event as a whole, as I was mostly interested in the food. I came wanting to try all the unique cuisine that BC place had to offer, and I wasn’t even able to do that fully. With the need to rush from one vendor to the next then eat, time flew. But as a not really fan, I found that I enjoyed myself this night, to the point where I wondered why such games are not more heavily attended. I no nothing of the game and I was having fun. Where else do you get to sit down and drink, and interact as little or as much as you want with your neighbours in a common interest? At the end of the day, I guess it’s the price of a ticket.

 

BC PLACE
777 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver BC, V6B 4Y8
604-669-2300
bcplacestadium.com

Brassneck Brewery

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This bar is for the beer drinkers, those searching for a dressy, yet casual spot to simmer with a good brew in hand. From its exterior this hip new bar looked like a factory. It had seregated metal paneling like that of a hot tin roof, and spotless double windows peering in on large metal vats. You would almost miss it if you didn’t know what you were looking for.

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When you enter it feels like you have died and gone to beer heaven. To your left, row after row of soon to be filled beer bottles and beer jugs. Different sizes and different bottles. A striking dark glass and metallic print combination. Gold, silver, and cooper used to pencil their brand and decorate the bottles. The sketches were really well done. Some included a two bulbed spiny cactus in a pot, decorative arrows pointing in opposite directions, and dandelions sprouting from the soil. Visually, this was as attractive of a display as it was a functional one. The thought of filling each of these works of art with craft beer is an enticing one. And it goes without saying that it would be done so with a selection from their house label.

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The same sketch work was also plastered on the back wall, along with various beer options. Clean lines depicted a partially melted ice cream cone, hands cradling a buffalo, your standard hammer, and an open fridge stocked with beer; amongst other things.

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To the right, is their cash desk where you request and make your purchase. You pick your bottle and fill it with you choice of “Brassneck” craft beer. Your options are the same being served around the corner. The name of each beer, its description, and it’s alcohol content are written on a chalk board and hung above the counter. They are listed from an average 5% to an ambitious 9%. Each available in the standard 473ml capped bottle, a 1 litre serving with stop top, and a 1.9 litre jug with handle. You label accordingly with a cardboard tag and golf pencil. The whole experience is semi self serve, similar to “drinking in”.

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Looking to drink in? You seat your self past the beer kegs welcoming you. You proceed to walk under an arch where a reused wood crafted wild cat stood proudly on prowl. The staff take note of you, but do nothing to really notice you. We were left sitting at a free table we claimed, waiting to be approached by one of the two bartenders by the tap. Eye contact was made from our seats, but nothing came of it. Eventually we approached them, only to be told we had to order and settle with them, or we could start a tab with a credit card left behind. I wish they could have just hailed us over to relay that message and saved us some non-drinking time.

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I understood the process, it was like that of any bar. You go to them, you take from them, and you take care of yourself. Though I would have actually appreciated some help when it came to transporting our paid for prize. We ordered flights, four sample sizes pints served on a wooden paddle. A set of four full glasses held by a slender handle is quite difficult to travel with. There were spills. Although each glass did have its own designated grove

The setting is crafty. A small space with share style wood tables. Airy and chill, you could definitely imagine yourself on a wooden bench, partnered with a wooden table.

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You choose what you wanted for each flight. I am no beer connoisseur, so find the lot hard to describe. I drink for the feeling and less for the taste, so sadly I don’t have a favourite type of beer, ale, or IPA. And not being able to remember or identify what is what, I have nothing to compare any of it too. So below I have listed all the beer they serve, and made notes on that which I remembered because of its more unique characteristic. In the end we tried each one and went back for more of what we liked.

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“Hibiscus Wit”, Belgium style wheat beer with hibiscus. I was expecting something light and floral, but didn’t get either even at 5%.

The “Shindig” was the heaviest of the lot at 9%. It is a Belgium style tripel. It surprisingly had a sweeter after taste, similar to the finish of cough syrup. Almost an artificial bubble gum sugar.
The “Passive Aggressive” was my favourite by name. It was a dry hopped pale ale at 7%. As it’s moniker suggested, it looked light in colour, but was heavy handed in flavour.
The “Geezer” was an English style porter at 5%. It had a dark and smokey flavour, with a malty finish. I liken it to drinking a beer infused with coffee.
The 6% “Free Radical” is a white IPA with Amarillo and Nelson sauvin.
I found that “Mr. Personality” was described as a “poundable” ale humourous, but I have a sick mind I guess. It is 5%. I found it the lightest and airiest of the bunch.
I enjoyed the change of pace that the “Raspberry changeling” brought. With its red colour and its fruity nature it reminded of a spiked punch. It was tart with the taste of raspberries, and almost fizzy like soda. It is listed as 6.5%.
The “Wingman” at 5.5% is a pale ale hopped with Amarillo and citra.
And the “Brassneck” was their name sake brew at 5%. It was a very fizzy drink.

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I am an advocate of pairing heavy drinking with light snacking. So we got one of every thing they offered, bypassing the sticks of dried meat. Bison, turkey, honey garlic, elk, and “Bengal beef”. They looked good, but I wasn’t up for the act of gnawing at it with my hind teeth.

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Instead we demolished the taro chips and dip. They were displayed in cellophane and emptied out into a red take out basket for our consumption. They were thinly sliced and deep fried cuts of taro, vegan friendly and gluten free. But it was the dip included that really had us coming back chip after chip, dip after dip. It was the highlight and great served chilled. Together with the chip it was light and crunchy coupled with cool and creamy. The dip was made with organic tofu, shallot oil, garlic, spices, and salt.

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The breaded twists were less satisfying. Being pre-made and left to cool out in open the could have used a good whirl in the microwave. It was flaky pasty breaded with cheesy.

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The vegetarian option was made with an asparagus rod. By the time we got to it, it was soggy and hard to bite off on you at your way towards the bottom.

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The bacon and cheese twists were no better. The flaky pastry here was more greasy with the inclusion of pork grease from the bacon. It was also too salty, I saw myself pull out all the bacon to have it as a plain cheese twist. They look better than they taste.

 

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.
I would return and suggest visiting solely for their great beers. Especially as you get to choose your own packaging for it and all. I deem it a fun place and a good time, and not just because I left tipsy. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BRASSNECK
2148 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-259-7686
brassneck.ca
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Mosquito

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If you are looking for fine dining style desserts, without having to commit to the five star meal before it, look no further. I have always thought the city needed a dessert place like this and boom here it was. A focus on beautiful plates and elaborate confectionaries. Though I couldn’t wrap my head around the name. Mosquitos like sweets. People buzz to this place like Mosquitos? Either way you won’t soon be forgetting it or its name.

This is another place that I liked so much, that I came back twice, just to be able to write a more fulsome review.

The exterior wasn’t very telling. I guess those in the know just knew. I am sure after one plate, word of mouth spread its popularity like wildfire. I know I will definitely be recommending this place.

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Right by the entrance was a display stopping you in your tracks. A golden bar cart adorned with cloched chocolates and chilled champagne. The whole scene looked like it belonged in a penthouse suite, on the night of a special anniversary. Though it was left untouched as merely a decorative element. What a shame. I saw the ice bucket being refilled twice during my stay.

The place was nice, but it felt a little pretentious. You felt fancier just by being here and under dressed if you came in off the street, even more so with the champagne cart by the door. With the glowing lights and the loud music it almost felt like a club or at least a lounge, during my first visit. The second time around it smooth jazz playing, this gave things a more mellow vibe.

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The room was fairly small. Tight corners, narrow benches and compact seating areas. Faux marble barriers created some distance and maximized what little elbow room they had. Though I guess, in reality you don’t need much more than room for a plate and a glass. They also generously offered faux fur blankets to those who were bitten with a chill. As they do keep the temperature lofty for the chilled champagne and the cool desserts.

All the desserts read so differently. How was I to choose? They all sounded so good. Each dessert was perfectly crafted to consider all the elements of eating. It gave you everything you wanted flavour wise and texturally. Sweet and salty, hot and cool, crunchy and spongy. It was a choose your own adventure in dining. You craft each bite from all the decorative elements. Each spot and every smear only added to the dessert as a whole.

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The “Buttermilk lavender panna cotta” was the most popular by looks. Honey oat granola, lemon curd, pickled mango, lemon foam, and flowers. Hands down, this was one of the nicest dessert presentations I have ever enjoyed. Served in a troth that seemed to be crafted just for this dessert. It also made it easy to share between two people, as each started from opposite ends and eventually met at the middle. The dessert was light and heavenly, like a foamy yogurt-jello. Mildly sweet with a little acidic tartness from the pickled mangos. The dried fruit and oats gave it some crunch and some texture. It also made it more filling. If breakfast ever gets a dessert, this would be it.

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“Caramel coffee frozen parfait”, espresso meringue, bourbon caramel, and candy cap mushroom crème anglaise. When I read parfait I think layers and a tall dessert eaten with a long spoon. This was more a mousse. The perfect for coffee lovers and non coffee drinkers alike. A deep espresso flavour without its bitterness. The meringue dollops gave the whipped smooth cream a nice crisp. And the caramel and chocolate offered additional sweetness too the dish.

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The “Peanut butter & milk chocolate bar”, with caramel popcorn, caramelized banana jam and popcorn gelato; was the more complicated of the desserts, I thought it also to be the most unique. Decorated with chocolate sticks and gold flakes it looked as decadent as it sounded. It was like the wedding of chocolate peanut butter and banana bread in one happy union. I didn’t get the taste of the popcorn from the ice cream, instead I found it merely offered a creamy texture and a cooling chill. The actually kernels of popcorn offered the popcorn flavour that the dessert promised. Though it was sweeter than the other elements of the dessert, and its kernel core could hurt your teeth if you bit down wrong.

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“Matcha green tea opera”, with yuzu cremeux, coconut matcha mousse, candied citrus zest, coconut and pandan leaf sorbet. This was a beautiful dish, with its colours and layers. Hailing from South East Asia, anything with pandan in it has me immediately sold. “Pandan” is the Asian equivalent of vanilla, a unique flavour that is popular in desserts as it is able to transition onto most platforms. Though sadly I did not get enough of it in the refreshing sorbet. Similarly, more matcha flavouring would have been nice. The cake was light and fluffy, whereas the coconut shards were hard and very distracting from softer textures. Overall amazing.

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“Pecan gianduja” cassis foam, dehydrated pecan sponge, pear gel and pear sorbet. This wasn’t quite as I had imagined it. The concept of pear severed three ways was interesting. The actual slices of pear were blackened, though they still held their sweet and juicy characteristics. The pear gel was the most flavourful as you got the mild flavour of pear throughout. In contrast was the sorbet that only served as a cooling and tart factor. Overall the desert was more focused on texture than taste, I wasn’t sure that it all went together.

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They also offer macarons and individual pieces of chocolates in interesting flavours. The list of macarons included Valrhona dark chocolate, Coconut with lavender, a spicy Red fruits with tonka bean, Maple caramel and vanilla, Olive oil with rosemary, Oolong tea with milk chocolate, and Roses with lychee. At $2.25 each, 25 cents more, you expect them to taste like the gourmet works of art they sound like. I played it safe with the maple, caramel, and vanilla macarons. The texture was good on all three, but the flavour was a little confusing. I tasted like they were trying to do too much, and not allowing one flavour to shine.

The list of chocolates included Tahitian vanilla and aged rum, Salted caramel, Earl grey tea, Birch syrup, Cherry with Agassiz hazelnut praline, and Kona coffee with star anise. I wished both the chocolates and the macarons were on display somewhere. I am sure they would sell better that way. Similarly having photos of the desserts in the menu is sure to have guests ordering more.

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But if you want to lean on them more as drink bar they have a full selection of champagne cocktails, spirits, and beers. The “Mosquito Bite” was their house cocktails. Made with house infused chilli vodka, Valdo Prosecco, pear syrup, lime, and basil. It tasted sweeter than it did spicy. The “French Accent” had Ciroc red berry, creme de cassis, strawberries, grape, and mint. I was sadden to see that there were no slices of strawberry or whole rounds of grape in my drink, instead it was a lone orange slice partnered with a single mint leaf. False advertising.

And to pair with the cocktail above, they offered savoury and salty snacks like “Truffle oil & parmesan popcorn, “Toasted Marcona almonds”, “Baked prunes with Taleggio”, and cheese or charcuterie plates. Though I cannot see myself coming here to drink and snack, especially when their desserts are within arm’s reach and look as good as they do.

 

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.
Given how ornate these desserts looked I was surprise that they only asked for the standard dessert pricing: $10-12; which is very comparable to other restaurants, that would take less care on their plating. We were definitely getting our value’s worth for this desert experience. Sadly, I still haven’t managed to try them all, I guess I have to come back again. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MOSQUITO
32 Water Street, Vancouver BC
604-398-3188
mosquitodessert.com
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Chambar

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I have been to chambar before, but never to its new location. I can see why they moved one store down. The space is much larger and they are now equipped with a patio.

Given the option I choose indoors over outside. The patio was a closer and more uncountable sit next to your neighbour. Instead we were able to grab a corner booth inside. If possible always go for the corner booth. It allows you to sit closer to your guest and have not have face them. Not everyone looks good eating.

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The dining room went far back. Past the regal bar it was all red brick, wooden posts, and cement walls. It was all very rich and warm. The bar was especially impressive, something worth sitting across from.

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Their lighting was really something else. Various glass bobbles over bulbs. Single bulbs suspended by thin wires. The feature ones were a web of colour protruding from a bronze axis. It reminded me of our solar system. Very whimsical.

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Having been before I knew their “Blue fig” was worth trying. This was a cocktail made with oven roasted fig infused gin, and served with a side of blue cheese. It was definitely a unique drinking/eating experience. You take a sip and you enjoy some savoury cheese after it. Though not surprising as sweet figs and sharp cheese do compliment one another.

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The “Moi et fernet” was made with El jimdor reposado, Amer Nouvelle, fresh grapefruit juice, and a licorice twist tea syrup; and finished with a fernet branca float. I choose this for the belief that it would be like a float. It was not what I expected, but a new flavour worth trying none the less. And the best part, the liquorice wasn’t as pronounced as I had feared. Its savoury tone actual really went great with savoury dishes below.

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“Scampi”: Harissa prawns, preserved lemon, and a herb salad. The creamy sauce was unlisted, so therefore an unexpected surprise. Though if “ebi-mayo” has taught us anything, shrimp Amaya’s goes well with plenty of creamy and tangy mayo. Though here the prawns were just as good without it. Most surprising was how fantastic the salad was. I didn’t expect a salad of mint and cilantro would show up, nor did I expect us to finish every leaf. The citrus dressed salad went really well with the juicy prawns. They balanced one another out. Isn’t it always the case that that best dish of the night was the most simple?

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They are known for their mussels so we had to partake in a pot. Out of the three different flavours we choose the “Congolaise”, made with mussels, tomato coconut cream, smoked chilli, lime, and cilantro. Served in a pot with its lid, the latter would be later used as a vessel to discard empty mussels shells in. The shells were fairly large, but sadly the mussels in them not so much by comparison. The stew was like a spicy tomato broth, and would have went well with bread instead of fries. A loaf for dipping or a sandwich for eating with. Though to their credit, the fries were crispy and well seasoned.

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“Fletan au tamarin”. Haida Gwaii halibut, sea asparagus, sweet peas, mustard greens, spicy tapioca, and jalapeño pistou; in a tomato tamarind broth. The fish and its sides came first, with the broth after. A server completes the dish by pouring a spouted creamer’s worth of broth over the whole lot. It was poured over the dish right at our table, I regret not capturing this on film. The dish was light and and refreshing, filling without being stuffed. The crisp green beans paired well with the soft flaky fish. This is the first time I have had sea beans, and I conclude that I liked their wiry texture. But it was the savoury broth that stole the show. I could just drink it like soup.

Our server was a delight. She was so well spoken and so thorough with her replies. She knew the menu and painted a vivid picture of what she recommended and why. Though sadly, I find that I never take a server’s suggested recommendations. I ask because I am curious, though in reality I already know what I want. I must be very annoying. Our server was also very attentive. She checked in often and whenever our eyes met in the distance she held it with a smile. She followed up by coming as soon as she could to tend to us. I have never felt so welcomed.

 

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.
I couldn’t see this as a regular dining destination. But instead, the perfect spot for a first date or any occasion. This is a good place to you take someone that you want to impress. A comfortable setting and an original cuisine like at no other restaurant. Don’t deny your cravings

 

CHAMBAR
568 Beatty Street, Gastown Vancouver BC
604-879-7119
chambar.com
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e.b.o Restaurant & Lounge

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This is a restaurant I liked so much that I had to come back before I began writing. I wanted to try more dishes, to be able to deliver a more fulsome review. “Ebo” deserved it, as one of my new favourite go to restaurants for modern casual cuisine. Think “Cactus Club” or “Earls”, but without all its commercialism and the crowds. So be aware than this post is written across two pretty consistent trips, where the only real difference is what we ordered.

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Located in the Grand Villa Hotel and Casino you wouldn’t necessarily think to come here for a meal. And you would think that given the name, dinner would be in a Japanese theme. The main reason, I have yet to visit until today. So when my friend showed me a video of a dessert online and asked me to go with her, I was skeptical such a decadent looking treat would be offered on the menu of a formal Japanese restaurant. I am so glad I didn’t let disbelief dissuade me from visiting.

With plenty of metered parking out front the drive to is an easy one. You enter through the foyer and turn right a top the staircase. The left leads you to have your ID checked before you can enter through the threshold that leads to the casino floor. I took the right, past the duelling pianos.

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The lounge is out front with their bar adjacent. But I was interested in the casual dining room set with fine dining features. Flickering candles, white cloth napkins, and soothing jazz. The room was glowing in amber, it pair well with the maroon and brown tone of the furniture. Intricate lamp shades craved from plastic, and a mass of wires and bulbs resembling a bramble bush with multi-petaled flowers. The furniture consisted of velvet clothed booths, wooden tables, and upholstered chairs done in a checkered pattern.

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Towards the back were make shift rooms, they gave privacy with the use of drapery. By the window they had a view of foliage and the city. A side from the oversized vases and the several convex mirrors framed in spikes there was not much in terms of decoration. Though none was really needed.

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The kitchen was where you wanted to be looking. It was an open view of the lone chef assembling plates and bringing them to the pass.

The staff are all pleasant and extremely accommodating. I chose my seat with no argument. There was no need for reservations or to wait, the restaurant was barely sat and it kept a peaceful quite throughout the night. Given the menu’s quality for price, the setting, and the expertise of the staff; I am surprised it was no more busier. Though being attached to a hotel and casino you expect a level of prestige, and it was certainly delivered. I was sat and even asked the occasion for my visit. Upon hearing that it was for a birthday I was immediately offered their signature dessert, with my choice of sentiment. No asking, it was suggested, maybe even a little compulsory. I haven’t felt so pampered at a restaurant in a long time. There is a good reason why I returned within a month and will return again soon.

I found the menu, it’s offerings and its prices comparable to that of most causal dining restaurants. Starters like soup, spicy chicken, local mussels, and various dressed salads were familiar. They also offered fresh baked breads with hand whipped butter. For mains, steak had it its own header. The list included several cuts, paired and dressed differently. They even listed the days in which the beef was aged. Looking for something less red? They also offer roasted chicken, fresh seafood, linguini, Shanghai style noodles, a seasonal risotto, and a roasted cauliflower and lentil dish. Something for everyone, and not the sort of thing you can get everywhere.

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Cucumber margarita. El jimador tequila, agave syrup, muddled cucumber, and fresh lime juice. And a white wine sangria made by special request. We weren’t charged for the fruit in the sangria, just the wine.

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The “Wagyu beef carpaccio” with Dijon aioli, capers, Parmesan mousse, pickle shallots, crostini, and horseradish was a work of art. This is the most dressed up carpaccio I have ever had. The cuts of meat were so fine that it shredded when you attempted to pick it up and practically melted in your mouth. Though I have never had carpaccio paired with so many additions. It didn’t really need it, but they did make the dining more interactive, you were able to craft your perfect bite with all the accompaniments. The cheese mousse was pretty interesting. Velvety smooth, and leagues better than any cheese in ab aerosol can. Creamy like a whipped cream cheese, it reminded us of the cheese in the middle of a ritz cracker, but without the toxic orange colour. On thing we wished for was thicker bread, to make for a more fulsome base.

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“Roast scallops” with beets, cauliflower vanilla purée, caper and raisin emulsion, pork saddle, and chicharron. Wished we read the menu fully, my guest can’t eat pork. Our server immediately took responsibility for our mistake, suggesting she take it back to have it remade. We declined, but wow, what great service. Like the plate before this appetizer too was very interactive. Various elements offered different tastes and texture. The beets done three ways was sweet and soft. The purée was velvety and light. The pork gave salt, and its salty fried skin, some crispness.

The mains on the other hand were less impressive. Served on different plates, it didn’t quite have the same striking presentation as the two starters above. I was disappointed. They looked less fine dining and more home style looking.

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“Lamb shank” with saffron fregola, kale, citrus, and pine nut grenolata. This was a good way to get me to eat my veggies. The kale was really good. Each leaf was crispy with a nice chewing texture. It paired nicely with the squishy bulbs. They looked like yellow peas and served as a nice starchy base to enjoy the lamb with. Eating it was fun, like chewing tapioca in bubble tea. The lamb itself was very tender, its smoky flavour partnered well with the grilled crunchy cauliflower. Overall a very hearty dinner. Thought, like the risotto below, both entrees were very rich, too rich. We were unable to finish them in one sitting.

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The menu listed the “Seasonal risotto” with Superfino aged carnaroli rice and farm inspired ingredients. Tonight it included cherry tomatoes, goat cheese feta, and olives. How Mediterranean. My guest added chicken at an additional cost, choosing it over the option of wild spring salmon. Good choice given the additional ingredients today. This was the least impressive dish. A sea of bold yellow rice topped with red and green rounds, and sheets of sheared chicken breast. It looked like something your mother would prepare for you when you are sick. It didn’t try like the other dishes did. Though risotto is sort of like congee, and you can only do so much with lumps. Flavour wise it was better, cheesy and easy to eat. Overall we felt it was best as a side, rather than a main.

And the reason why I came the first time and have continued to come back. After seeing a video of this dessert experience all my friends wanted me to take them. And I have agreed that I would. This is their signature dessert, the “Sundae surprise for 2”. Once again I have been seeing this online and was very excited to be able to finally try it for myself. Assorted hand crafted toppings, fresh strawberries, pop rocks, candied almonds, and coconut sauce. The “surprise” is a different flavour every day. Today it was chocolate ice cream and orange sorbet.

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A chocolate ball resting on spun sugar is delivered. The chef pours heated coconut milk, from a small creamer, over it. You watch as the chocolate ball melts down, revealing a hollow filled with two scoops of ice cream and various sundae topping scattered all over. Half the fun is sorting things out and identifying toppings by taste and texture. With the first I was able to make out brownie bits, sponge toffee, chocolate balls spray painted in edible silver, and macadamia nut. Thanks to the coconut milk, certain bites reminded me of a Vietnamese desert.

The second time around, with a more prepared palette, I was able to make out and identify the following, on top of the Chocolate and mango ice cream and sorbet, and the spun sugar. Honey comb, jelly cubes, Oreo cookie shards, strawberry, rice Krispies squares, pop rocks that actually cracked in your mouth, brownie chunks, and chocolate balls. It definitely has everything, though I feel it would be better with vanilla ice cream as a neutral base.

During my first visit one of the chefs came out from the kitchen to inquire about our meal. She thanked us for visiting and allowed us to ask her questions. We told her we were here for the desert because of the photos we have seen on Instagram. Such a nice opportunity to be able to thank the chef for such a unique end of meal treat.

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With each the bill, it came homemade chocolate lollipops. Milk chocolate with almond, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts; and white chocolate with peach and grey sprinkles.

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Hibiscus flower and fennel seed milk chocolate and white chocolate coco nib.

 

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 have been back twice already so do anticipate a few more times after. The dessert is really what keeps me returning, it is the perfect unique treat to highlight a celebration or to impress a date with. I suggest snacking on appetizers (they are better than the entrees) and leaving plenty of room to gorge on a sundae for two. They have other desserts, but none that can shine a candle to the chocolate ball. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

E.B.O
Grand Villa Hotel & Casino
4331 Dominion Street, Burnaby, BC V5G 1C7
604-453-0788
grandvillacasino.com/dining/ebo
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Neighbour’s Restaurant & Pizza House

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A few days before payday and you find that your dining choices are much more curated. What’s good and works with my $20 a meal budget? With their Monday to Wednesday specials, “Neighbours”, the neighbourhood joint was a fine pick.

When I know a restaurant is family owned and operated my expectations for it are a little different. I shift from a focus on food to one more on vibe. How comfortable and how well taken care of I am, is almost more important than what I am being served. To be labeled as home style encompasses the community and the unity of family. I want to feel that coming in. I want to be welcomed, to know that my stopping in at random is appreciated; and if I have a reservation, that they have been expecting me and are excited to usher me in. Such expectations I trade, in exchange of accepting a regular meal at a fair price. A lot to ask for from this long standing mom and pop kitchen, but they delivered.

The shop stood still when we entered. Smiles shone and we were immediately directed to a table by the owner himself. I mean they must know what they are doing to be doing this for over 30 years. Three generations of restauranteurs learning how “mama does it”.

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The setting was homey with framed photographs on the walls. Smiling faces posed behind glass, black and white snaps of the kitchen’s daily operations, a commemorative piece celebrating their establishment since 1982, and a cork board of photos capturing loyal customers and fans celebrating the restaurant’s, then 25 years in business.

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In another direction, a panoramic sea scape gathered the room around it. It took you in with its blue waters littered with sail boats, and it’s green bluffs overlooking several red roof homes. I imagined this to be a tranquil landscape in Italy, to match with the restaurant’s heritage.

Each table was dressed with a plastic patterned table cloths and partnered with worn wooden chairs. I wasn’t a fan of the cloth professionally, but it was familiar sight. In my mother’s kitchen, on her dining room table is such a cloth. It too is tacky and sticky to the touch.

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Fake greenery hung from baskets, suspended from the ceiling. And painted chalk boards advertised their daily specials. Like “Souvalaki Tuesday’s” where chicken or beef Souvalaki is $10.95, and it includes all the familiars of a Greek entree. Rice pilaf, Greek salad, pita bread, and tzatziki. Or “Wings Wednesday’s” offering up beer and wing deals in a combo, or 45 cents per wing, with a minimum order of ten.

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When I was researching them online, there was no mention of their appearance on “You Gotta Eat Here!” A Canadian food themed show, where host John Catucci travels across Canada on a journey to find the country’s best comfort foods. But it was heavily advertised in house, a visual reminder of their 15 minutes of fame, on every menu and by the front entrance. Their appearance on the show was one they enjoyed and were so grateful for, that the nod to the show came with a thank you note as well.

Here they serve Italian-Greek style comfort food. Why decide on either cuisine when both are so much better, together? I find both Italian and Greek, with their heavy seasonings and carbohydrate loaded offerings very reassuring. They had everything for either cravings covered. Pizza, pasta, salads, and dips; even barbecue was on the menu. Everything you expect from a Greek restaurant was present: roasted lamb, spanakopita, Greek salad, calamari, and even baklava. And anything you would want from an Italian restaurant was also accounted for: chicken Parmesan, meat balls, bruschetta, stuffed pastas, baked lasagnas; and over 35 different pizza choices, including the ability to customize your own. And just to please everyone, they also offer classics like barbecue ribs and apple pie. It was all very homey. Their name certainly fit all this.

Though seeing as it was pasta Monday’s, where a hearty pasta dish was $8.95, we had to take advantage of that. Where as regularly, full pasta dishes go for $14-17.

Especially as the deal was dine in only. You choose your favourite type of pasta and sauce, and it comes with garlic bread. Apparently, their regular sized pastas can feed 2-3 people, so good thing their Monday specials is less food for less. Fettuccine, spaghetti, or penne regatta. Meat sauce, marinara, Alfredo, or rosa.

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My guest ordered the most familiar, “Spaghetti with meat sauce”. Although simple, it was very flavourful. Oh wasn’t your regular tomato based sauce, it has some extra spice to it, yet finished on a sweeter now. The perfectly cooked noodles absorbed the rich flavours well. Interestingly the sauce and the noodles so congeal as it time passes and the pasta begins to cool down. Towards the end it was like eating a whole different plate of pasta texturally. I preferred it fresh.

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Seeing as the pasta deal was dine in only and my guest wanted to take some home for the low price of $8.95. We ordered another portion to go. It was exactly what she had and was still working on. Context: she is a very petite Asian female, so her ordering this much food is sure to raise some eyebrows. Yet our server happily complied with her request. To my guest’s point, she did take a bite when the new plate hit our table.

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Their daily classic special was 6oz New York steak for $15.95, which includes garlic butter mushrooms, spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread and a tossed salad. All this food sounded like a good deal I had to take advantage of. Though, sadly the steak was served a little dry, even through I had asked for medium rare. It looked right with the perfect pink middle, but the chewing was tough and the meat was grainy. It was more medium than the medium rare I had wanted. I guess here is an example of you get what you pay for. I thoroughly appreciated the sides that helped to break up the taste. I even ate the orange slice, even though it was covered in meat juices.

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The side salad was actually served first. I was given the option of Italian, ranch, or thousand island dressing, I choose the former. The salad was cold and on an empty stomach I rather have my first bite be a warm one. I think it was a pre-bag salad mix with the addition of celery and large tomato chunks. Over all, nothing special.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food may not be the best, or any where near gourment, but the value makes up for that. Decent portions at a fair price. I likened my experience to eating at home with the same comforts, but without having to clean up after ourselves. But to be picky, i feel the staff aren’t as attentive because of the lack of family members/help, but they do their best. I mean, after seating us, the owner came back to check in on us throughout or meal. There was definitely care here. I will go back, but am in no rush to. It was good, but nothing to have you craving for more. I tried Italian today, so maybe Greek another day. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NEIGHBOURS
6493 Victoria Drive, Vancouver BC, V5P 3X5
604-327-1456
neighboursrestaurant.ca
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Temper Chocolate & Pastry

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On the day of my birth my partner brought me to a bakery to choose my own cake. He did his research and even found one I have never been too. Located in the Dungrave area, in West Vancouver, an area I don’t visit often. The cafe’s name was catchy, though I immediately thought it referred to anger, as apposed to the treatment of chocolate.

The patio was outfitted with chic black umbrellas, it offered a nice spot to sit and chat at. Though given the heat, we felt the air conditioning available inside would be more enjoyable with a dessert that could potentially melt.

Inside the shoppe felt sterile. White tiles, marble counters, and varnished wood. It was so all so organized: everything in its place, everything had a space. The lone busser did her job well in keeping the place so tidy. As soon as a table was cleared it was cleaned.

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By the entrance was a showcase advertising the gifting solution their homemade chocolates proposed. Simple branded boxes to gather all your hand picked chocolate into. They even dabbled in chocolate art as noted by the full chocolate bear figurine. It had a circular head, a round snout, and eyes and nose made out of discs. I would personally find it too cute to eat.

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The next showcase offered their chocolate to go, in a more casual way. Clear boxes of their chocolate rocks, chocolate bark, chocolate bars, chocolate bricks, chocolate sticks, chocolate peels, and chocolate toffee. Various sizes and various flavours to curb any chocolatey craving. They even sold their own hot chocolate mixes and chocolate spreads, very giftable.

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Sadly I am not a big chocolate buff so didn’t really order anything from their individual chocolate showcase. Though I did note how well lined each row was and how exciting some of the flavours were. Their “creamsicle” square was coloured orange, it was advertised as having won some chocolate award. Similarly the passion fruit, raspberry, and fresh mint seemed to have their tops wrapped in paper, representing their flavour’s colour. A bright pinky-red for raspberry; a yellow, orange, and red blend for passion fruit; and a bold green for mint. Other chocolates were topped with their featured ingredient. The “Stumptown coffee” was sprinkled with coffee grounds, “lavender and honey” was topped with faded purple leaves, and the “barley infused caramel over praline” featured a lone barley kernel. The round dome shaped cocktail inspired chocolates had me contemplating. A spray painted green “margarita”, a shiny red “pimms cup”, a frosty looking “blueberry cocktail”; and an empty row of “mango martini”. By 1pm they already had many things sold out.

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Their viennoiserie selection included savoury options with the sweet, separated between shelves. “viennoiserie” are baked goods made from a yeast-leavened dough similar to bread, but with added ingredients like eggs, butter, milk, cream and sugar; to give them a richer, sweeter character. There was a bacon onion croissant and cheesy individual loaves, a sweet cheese croissants and cranberry and orange scones.

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My partner got the last “pain au chocolate” croissant, warmed up. Pointing to it behind the glass he knew it would be good. The pastry was so crisp and flaky, he dug in splitting it in half. He immediately declared this to be one of the top chocolate croissants he has ever had. (And over the years I have brought him many) Although, he did wish there was more chocolatey filling.

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I had the “spiced apple turnover” with puff pastry and almond cream. It was like the fancy version of a common apple strudel, topped with large sugar crystals. Like the croissant before, the flaky pastry was the best part. Buttery and crisp, we ended up eating around the soften apple chunks just to enjoy the puff pastry as is.

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The individual desserts were a work of art. Glossy rounds in a variety of typical dessert flavours. Chocolate and salted caramel, vanilla and caramel, mango and caramel, and Black Forest; to name a few.

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Though out of all the cakes, the lime and coconut one caught my eye first and most. It was this stand out pastel neon green colour, sitting with all the regular brown and white cakes. It was rimmed in shredded coconut, and topped with two dollops of merguine and a chocolate spiral. Digging in, I expected the cake to be soft and spongy, instead it was hard and crumbly like a shortbread cookie. At its centre was more toasted coconut, chocolate and a yellow custard. It was as delicious as it was beautiful, but fairly sweet.

Of note, in his clean white coat, I believe it was the pastry chef who came out of the kitchen to serve us.

 

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.
Given the area in relation to where I live, it would only be a when I am in the area and craving desserts or a snack, I would come here option. I liken it most similarly to the setting and quality of “Chez Christophe Chocolaterie patisserie”, in Burnaby. A sophisticated bakery for those looking to indulge fully. Serving beautiful chocolates and decadent cakes that make the perfect gifts, for those you love most and those you want to impress most. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TEMPER
2409 Marine Drive, West Vancouver BC, V7V 1L2
604-281-1152
temperpastry.com
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The Roof at Black + Blue

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This seems to be our special occasion destination. We were here on the actual day of my birth, at what we believed was a restaurant that would ensure we get that fancy, not for every day dining kind of vibe.

We made a reservation, though after 9pm on statutory holiday, none was really needed. So with options, we decided to dine at their otherwise busy roof top instead. Switching our original desire for a fine dining vibe at “Black & Blue” for a more happening one at “The Roof”.

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You take the elevator up to “R” and walk out into a narrow corridor. It was lined with zebra printed cushions and pillows; and blocks that lit up in a neon pink, green, and purple. This gave those needing to wait on another night, a comfortable place to sit in. The shame glowing cubes were also used in the lounge area for some funky seating solutions. Waking in, you come head to head with a metal bull bust, before taking a sharp right into the dining area. The hostess booth is hidden behind a sharp left.

And behind it was the kitchen fully exposed. It shared a counter top with the bar to its left. It was functional, but my partner pointed out that it may not be the best thing to front the restaurant with. When you walk in, the first thing you see is a stack of clean dishes. It doesn’t really match the party vibe they have attempted to cultivate here. The music is bumping with lots of bass, the servers are dressed less conservatively, and everyone seemed to be yelling or laughing louder than normal.

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We were directed to a two top right beside another couple. Given the lack of privacy that it would cause, we requested another two seater by the adjacent stretch of fire instead. An elongated fire place with flames roaring behind glass. This was a small request that seemed so complicated, as the hostess had to leave us standing in the isle, while she conferred with the head hostess. I use to work in the restaurant industry so know this conformation is for the section, not the actual table itself. Is the server in your new section able to accommodate a new table? Are you taking business and tips away from another server with this move? Would they get it back? Though as a regular patron, that may not be something you understand, or should you really have to concern yourself with. All you see is an empty table, and all you understand is them not wanting to give it to you. Eventually we were permitted to sit in the empty table, beside the other empty tables. And when the lights dimmed the roaring fire created a nice ambiance for us. Though the half of our faces closest to the flame did start to heat up and become uncomfortable.

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In retrospect, I don’t know what the allure of a roof top patio brings? What is the draw when all you can see is dark skies and the tip tops of neighbouring buildings, taller that the one you are in?

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Like the decor, service, and dress code; the menu here was far more casual than the one offered downstairs. A one pager of raw seafood, shareable snacks, salads and sandwiches, meat prepared on their wood fire grill, and the traditional steaks they have come to be known for.

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We started off with the “Mac & Cheese sticks” served with a truffled cheese sauce on the side for dipping. These were more brick or block then stick; something my partner seemed disappointed about, as he has chosen this with the intention of it being unique and something that would make for a good photo. He knows me well. The dish came surprisingly fast for something that had to be deep fried to order. Your fork glided into the brick. A thin layer of crisp fried breading hiding luscious cheese coated noodles at its centre. The coating was like the topping on a pasta casserole, crushed potato chips or panko. But here, you get that crunch with your soften elbow macaroni in an easy to eat hand held. The mac and cheese itself was sharp with cheesy goodness, you technically didn’t need the additional cheesy sauce for flavour. But it did add a new flavour element when the original taste grew tired, after the second block. As to not spoil our appetites further we got the rest packed up to go. In doing so, our server mentioned heating it up in the oven, instead of the microwave to avoid it mashing down.

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The above went particularly well with my Caesar as tomato and cheese are natural companions. This was a spicy Caesar with a coarse rim, topped with spicy sausage, green olive, and hot pepper.

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“B+B fries” seasoned in salt and Rosemary, served with a side of spicy tomato aioli. Fancy fries.

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To take advantage of their specialty, I went with the “Beef brochette skewers” cooked over their wood fire grill. Seasoned in Montreal steak spice, served along side a seasonal panzanella salad. A “panzanella salad” is a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes that is most popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. This version included arugula, cherry tomatoes, home made herbed croutons, pitted black olives, crumbled feta, red onion, and a balsamic dressing. It was a happy surprise to take a bite into watermelon, it really made the salad stand out and even more summery. I like the croutons that tasted like mini cubes of crusty garlic bread, they soaked up the vinaigrette like a sponge. I found the whole olives too distracting too take in one whole bite. It over powered the other lightly dressed vegetables.

As for the beef it was cooked perfectly to the medium rare that I expected. It came served on the cast iron skewer that it was cooked with. A server would remove it with a clothed grip and a pronged fork, right before my eyes. The meat was charred at its edges and tender in the middle. The better of the two beef dishes ordered, sadly as the menu spoke so highly of the quality of steak below.

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My partner had the 8oz beef tenderloin. Beef tenderloin served with potato salad, grainy mustard vinaigrette, and chimichurri on the side. It was listed as “Double R Ranch USDA Prime” beef. Hand sorted cattle graded to the highest standards. With only a limited number of steaks shipped around the world to certain chefs, it made them very exclusive. But I question exclusive enough for a $21 difference between my portion and his? Where by looks it seemed like the same amount of beef for both entrees. And worst, poor preparation felt us deeming his tenderloin definitely not worth its $47 requested price.

My partner too asked for his steak to be prepared medium rare. After a bite in, we found it more on the rare to purple side, a look and texture we were not comfortable consuming. After hailing our server she was quick to offer a remedy. She asked if we wanted a new one prepared, or were okay with having this one just cooked further. As I already had my plate and he didn’t want to wait any longer than necessary, we just had the steak put back on the grill. After her apology, one of the managers came to echo her sentiment. Finally, he was the one to deliver the patched up plate. It looked like everything, including the sides were re-plated, with presentation in mind. He ended up waiting by the table for us to inspect it, even shining a flashlight on the steak to ensure it was perfect this time. Sadly it wasn’t, it was still on the blue side, but my partner already felt bad about complaining once, and would not let me send it back a second time. And as I eluded to earlier, it didn’t come back the same. Sadly having it put back on the grill did diminish the quality of the steak. Sadly, we were charged in full for the double cooked steak that was suppose to be the creme de la creme of beef. Where normally $47 would be considered a reasonable price for a more carefully raised beef. Where as my brochette’s flavouring came from the grilling process, his came from the meat itself, with very little seasoning needed. That is, if it was none right.

After the care they took to apologize for our undercooked steak, it took a noticeably long time for them to acknowledge us at our meal’s end. It didn’t help that our dishes were bussed and packed up by a different employee. But by the time our server came to offer us desserts, we were full, bored, and ready to go. Though the intention was to request a birthday themed dessert with writing in chocolate and a candle to blow out. A point my partner made mention to several times this night. He even had them note it when the reservations were made. So was very disappointed when nothing came of it, especially considering the prestige of the restaurant. He expected better treatment and more fan fare, at least after he said it was my actual birth day, three times in person, to three different employees.

 

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.
Sadly tonight’s dinner has altered my opinion of “The Roof” and “Black & Blue” by association. Sadly I don’t feel the need to return again, or at least anytime soon. We felt let down in consideration to our past visits. And ironically we were thinking of just going to “The Keg” for steak, but wanted the glitz of a Glowbal group establishment. But maybe all this was just because we were dining on the roof, as “Black & Blue” is the true fine dining restaurant. Or maybe we just expected too much? Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE ROOF
Third floor of Black+Blue
1032 Alberni St, Vancouver BC
604-637-0777
the-roof.ca
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