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Month: January 2016 Page 1 of 3

The Yale Saloon

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Looking to cross one off the bucket list at downtown Vancouver’s newest country, rock, and BBQ destination.
I was privileged enough to attend their grand opening, and sly enough to come early to take photos. Doing so to avoid the soon to be crowded bar, seating areas, and dance floor.

Located within the Granville entertainment district, like all the other night clubs and attractions, their neon lights lit up the sky. It’s name in blue, derived from the hotel it was affiliated with; a saxophone to symbolize the regular blue performances within; an a pink pig branded with “BBQ”, for obvious reasons.

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This would be my first foot into a country bar/club, and minus the bales of hay, this is how I would expect a modern interpretation of one to be. Walking in, I was immediately impressed by the thoroughness of their theme. The servers were in dressed down “country” wear: a causal red flannel shirt and denim blue jeans. A few had bandanas, but not enough had cowboy boots and hats. They sold you on the “country” with details at the bar and the decorations on the dance floor. The main bar had longhorn bull horns presented in display. Several bottles of spirits and various bottles of wine were corralled behind wire. And rusted cans and tins, were lined up in a row above it all.

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Above the glowing red the dance floor were chandeliers shaped like wagon wheels. A texaco gas pump and a moose head stood near by. And surrounding it all l were booth seats, high top tables meant for leaning, a secondary bar, and benches to rest your tired feet. Feet tired from the line dancing, that often went on there.

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Tonight they had cheerleaders from the BC lions in. They were here to perform in celebration, and did so incorporating some line dancing moves into their regular pom pom full routine. It very appropriate given the venue. I was hoping we as the guests would be given the opportunity to fall in lines and try some group line dancing ourselves. It would have been another one to cross off on my bucket list. Guess I have a good reason to come back. Back to the only place that would offer such an opportunity.

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Their sit down dining area was located by the entrance. A step up, adjacent from the primary bar and the kitchen. From here you got a good look at their smoker. We would later get a behind the scenes look at it, as well as an exclusive tour of their kitchen. The above area was set dim, strung with small hanging bulbs of lights. Along with the television screen broadcasting old cowboy movies, it illuminated the section and made visible the cow patterned flooring underfoot. Splotches of black and white that the red leather upholstered booths and high top chairs stood on. Here, they spoke to their promise of blues music with a gallery of black and white photography. Framed photos of blues and country artists in performance against a handsome red brick wall.

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The celebration of the music continued by the dance floor, with a vinyl record collection pasted on the wooden panelled wall, like wallpaper.

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For their opening, there was a back drop with props to play out your cowboy fantasies. Dawn a straw woven cowboy hat, a red patterned bandana, and straddle a saddle propped on a stool, for a memorable photo. There were enough hats that many guests wore them to play cowboy and sheriff all night long.

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But out of everything, I was most enamoured with the mechanical bull. As soon as he and I locked eyes I knew I would mount him not once but twice tonight. And I was determined to not break a nail while I was bucking around. It was the body and head of a rotund bull, surrounded by an air filled barrier. Like a bouncy castle without the trampoline.
Monday through Wednesday they have live music. And during their weekends they turn the western on with country and rock tunes, and this mechanic saddle for some bull ridding. It is definitely a recommendation for a girls night out. There is an innuendo to the whole thing that have women turning 30 and brides celebrating stagettes flocking to such an attraction. I mean they did make it tempting to host your party here. A reserved table at no extra charge and no cover charge for all those invited, free line dancing lessons from their staff, and a free mechanical bull ride for your entire party. The birthday-bride also gets a complimentary cowboy hat in celebration. It had me contemplating when would be appropriate to have such a night out.

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Mechanical bull riding is glamourized in movies and on television, landing it on many people’s things to-do list. And the “Yale” is the only place downtown that lets you check it off. This would be my first time. A young man manned the station behind a pedestal of controls. You showed identification and signed a waver: if you get hurt, the bar is not liable. You go on at your own risk, fully aware that the whole point of the activity is to out last a jerky machine, programmed with the intention to whip you off and down by force. Hopping on is challenging if you aren’t very fit, or like me, lack upper body strength, with the ability to lift yourself up and on to the saddle. The “bull” operator was kind enough to give me a hand, or leg. On bended knee he allowed me to use his thigh as a stool. Though during the second time around, full of liquid courage and off the high of doing it once before, I was able to hop on myself. Before my first ride I enlisted his help, asking of for tips and tricks on how to out last the machine. You hold on with one hand, using both could potentially lead to you clock yourself in the face, so should the bull jerk that way. Then from there it is negotiating your balance and reacting the the machine. When you were swung one way, you have to tilt to the other, then rebalance yourself back at centre as soon as possible. This was the trickiest and not doing so soon enough is what resulted in you loosing your balance and tipping off. Extending your legs and asserting your bicep strength to hold on helped. The settings vary with a “sexy” mode for those scared to fall, but wanting a taste of the experience. “Sexy mode” is basically the machine swerving back and forth under you, like a women swaying her hips to the beat at a night club. The ride typically starts from here, then cascades to the point where it is obvious that the “bull” wants you off its back. The fall is inevitable, but just as fun as the ride itself. You are still holding on tight to the braided rope, so it is your bottom that lands on the mattress of air. Despite the exhaustion, the trembling after, or any rope burn and chafing, you immediately want to try again. To best your time, especially if it is your first. By the night’s end I had ridden it twice with a combined time of 50 seconds. I was proud, having won a prize the second time around. And proudly walking away with battle scars. Scars in the form of a bruise in my inner thigh from the thick braid putting pressure in between my legs, and the soreness I experienced the days after. Worth it, to say I have lived and done it.

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A country western bar isn’t the same without some good barbecue. And their entry into the game comes with one of the biggest smokers in Vancouver. This one was affectionately named “Gator”, by their executive chef, who shared his nickname with it. He was kind enough to give us a run down of his operation and a behind the scene look at what he loves to do day to day. He opened the stainless steel door of the smoker to reveal a slow rotating wheel of grill racks. From what I could make out, they were smoking full rack of ribs and others meats wrapped in tin foil. The smoker is stacked with logs of wood. The wood is not what cooks the meat, they are used to accent it with their scent and flavour. Hickory, cedar, cheery and pine from the Okanagan. Three hours the meat sits in brine, three hours more it sits and slow cooks in the smoker. The chef sprays the meet to keep its surface moist. This is how they make proper slow-smoked meats with their homemade rubs and sauces.

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Just past this is their kitchen. Line cooks were back here tonight prepping the appetizers that would soon be passed around to the guests. Slider buns being squirted with sauce and brisket being sliced under a heat lamp. We were gifted a taste of some of the most succulent meat I have ever had. This was quality melt in your mouth meat, made all the more tender with its pockets of fat. No sauce needed it was full of flavour. I could have eaten the whole mound with bare hands, if given the chance.

Their menu is a celebration of good meat just like the above. Barbecue platters of pulled pork, brisket, hot links, and side ribs. With all the traditional sides of course: coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, and corn bread. They put their spin on this and other bar classics like soups and salad, wings, nachos, burger and sandwiches, and full entrees. A salad with corn nuts, a quinoa bowl with beans and their own smoked tomato vinaigrette, grilled cheese with BBQ chicken and caramelized onions, a chopped chicken burger with a buttermilk ranch sauce, and the ability to add smoked meat to practically anything.

Don’t mind the darkness of the food photos below. At such a setting I rather not turn on my flash and blind others. Plus it is a more accurate account of the experience. I eat the food in a darken setting and want you, the reader to experience what I do, as I do.

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“Jalapeño corn bread”. Moist nuggets, like spongy cake bites, but with the gentle sting of some spicy jalapeños to kick it up a notch.

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“Baked Mac n’ Cheese”. Elbow macaroni heavily coated in velveeta melted cheese, then breaded in cornflakes for the perfect crunch. Heaven on a stick and the perfect accompaniment to drinks. It was served with their homemade chunky ketchup-like dipping sauce, for those in need of tomato with their cheese.

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The “Pulled pork” sliders were made with slow cooked pork shoulder, crunchy slaw, and jalapeño mayo on a brioche bun. It was definitely a multiple napkin burger. They were generous with the moist maker sauce, I didn’t miss any of it when glops of it fell to the floor within my first bite. The spice was a slow burn balanced by the heaviness of the cream. The bun was good, but I would have liked less of it to better highlight the pork.

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“Side ribs”. They were easy to eat as the meat fell of the bone. Great as is and better with a thick and sweet barbecue sauce.

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And we had plenty of rye and ginger cocktails to wash it all down with. Because really, what else do you order at a country bar other than whiskey?

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I could definitely see myself back here for dinner with my partner and dancing with my girls. They are bringing something new to the area and people are eating it up. The bull riding and line dancing are ones to stop by and try, and the barbecue platter is one to lust over. For a low-key fun night, without the need to dress up, this is one that I would recommend for a good time. I have already promise my partner that I will take him back to try their barbecue, so expect a more comprehensive post on the food, soon. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

YALE SALOON
1300 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1M7
604-428-9253
yalesaloon.com
The Yale Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tsui Hang Village

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Downtown isn’t the first area I would think of when looking for cheap Chinese food. However, tonight we walked out of a bar and were having that specific craving. And to our delight, as soon as my guest announced that she wanted Chinese, there it was.

I have often driven past this long standing building. White stucco with a row of yellow awnings bolded in green typeface. With nothing descriptive to its exterior, you almost miss it if it weren’t for its sheer size. My guest was iffy about entering, as it wasn’t very busy inside; on a weekday a little past the traditional dining hour. But with no other Chinese restaurants near by, and the rain beating too heavily to wafer in our decision, we committed. We would be the other other table seated during our stay.

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The upside to any empty restaurant is the ratio of staff to patrons. Here it was one and a half employees per table. They were quick to approach and eager to serve, almost to the point of being too attentive in a pestering manner. We only paused mid meal to talk, and asked if we were done eating. Reality was we would finish both plates clean.

The space space wasn’t anything special. If your focus kept to the left it felt very cold, like prison. Cement stone walls free of any menu ads, clear of any art work, simply stripped in metallic gold piping. Towards the back, the empty fish tank added a pop of colour and some desired contrast. But the pile of dirty tables cloths on the floor, under the arch way to the kitchen, wasn’t so appealing. The pieces of art to its left, helped. A bird on a branch against a greenish-grey sky.

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Looking up there was much more to marvel over. The vaulted ceiling made way for a crystal chandelier, bead after bead encrusting one dome under another. They twinkled in rainbows. Looking upwards also drew your attention to the presentation of vases on the back wall. Each stood in its own specially created alcove, spot lit with its own bulb, and preciously high out of reach. Other than that there wasn’t much in terms of decor. There was lots of negative space, increasing the feeling of emptiness in the sea of un-sat tables.

Without the more traditional red velvet wall trimmed in gold, or well wishes in Chinese characters; I assume this was not a restaurant that catered to Chinese occasions, large parties, or wedding receptions. Though they certainly had the floor space and table room for it. Although given the location and surrounding area I wouldn’t pick them for any of the above. Instead this it was a Chinese cafe with too much real estate. They served drop-in diners lunching at top speeds, and a dinner crowd stopping by for convince. As such I think a more casual and decorative setting, with dimmer lights and less white table cloths, would suit them better and bring in a crowd. A different crowd that was done loitering on the streets of south Granville and instead wanted to lounge over blended drinks. I imagine a bubble tea house serving Chinese snacks. Because as is, I doubt they ever fill to capacity, and as such you as the diner are left wondering why they aren’t more busy. The questions: What’s wrong with them? Should I be eating here? Run through your head. Whereas a smaller venue, better suited to their business plans means less empty tables and the illusion of a well sat and popular establishment. After all we dine out to be with others and to eat with others. Not in a hall with no noise and the next couple a handful of tables apart. Though coming out of a rowdy bar of shoulder to shoulder bodies, this was a nice break from that.

I didn’t check, but if they are open later on weekends I can also see club goers and bar hoppers ending their night of travels here for some Chinese comfort food. The greasier the better, for cutting into a belly full of booze. It certainly worked for us.

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The menu was a list of familiar Chinese dishes. The “Chef recommendations” was one page, one side of the laminated sheet. 39 different dishes, one more familiar than the last. Classics and North American renditions of Chinese food. Wontons, General Tao’s chicken, garlic spareribs, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, and fried noodles. On the back, an extensive list of Chinese dishes, many of which are available ams typical and at most Chinese establishments.

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We kept it salty with the “Pan fried string beans in a Szechuan sauce”. A great vegetable dish that doesn’t taste like one. A lengthy thread of crispy bean, as delicious as they are fun to eat. Great alone, better as a side with meat and rice.

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“Flat rice noodles with beef in soy sauce”. Another classic that delivered on what my memory remembered it to be. Starchy noodles, tender beef, and crisp beansprouts.

Of note, the manager stood out in his willingness to serve and help. His employees on the other hand were stiff and unsure of themselves. We had asked if they could call a cab for us. One young man hesitated, stalling with an elongated “errrr”. It was like he almost wanted us to sense his discomfort and say, “never mind”, to put him out of his misery. The manager was quick to step in. He sped walked outside and hailed one for us, as we gathered our belongings.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It was good. I had no complaints. It’s location and circumstance severed it well. But other than looking for Chinese food in the Granville entertainment district, I cannot imagine myself returning. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TSUI HANG VILLAGE
1193 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1M1
604-683-6868
tsuihangvillagevancouver.com
Tsui Hang Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro

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My second Dine Out experience was also at a Canadian restaurant, and it was also another restaurant I have been too and have had great meals at in the past.

It was warm enough that that people were drinking under the covered patio. It was the only option for walk ins, given how busy they were inside. Each bar stool was filled and each table arrangement sat. We made a reservation but still got saddled at the end of a long communal table. Pairs across the table from one another in a line.

The mirrored tiles above the bar and mirrored panels behind it caught my eye. The bar was handsome with glossy white shelves. They looked like they were build with oversized Lego bricks. On them bottles stacked neatly in two tiers.

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There wasn’t much in terms of decor, not that any was needed. I personally enjoyed the simplicity of the place. Cozy like a cabin, but chic like a loft. A back lit photo of tree tops and clouds, a deer skull and some moose antlers, and a mixer repurposed as planter. And a roaring fireplace and its mantle set with candles, hung with terrariums, and stopped with a golden cow book end. It was a comfortable setting for the booths by it.

The hall way to the washroom was the most decorated. A lengthy mural of Canadian trademarks. The salmon, our ducks, a city’s skyline, and native art to tie it all together.

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Their Dine Out menu for $29 per guest, with the ability to add on another $20 to include recommended wine pairings. The menu itself was well laid out, it was easy to read and helpful in the navigation. A glossary of terms on the side spelled out chef speak. And where we still had questions our server was more than happy to answer. He even took the time to illustrate the appearance of shemiji mushrooms using his hands to form their shape and size. Each plate was beautifully done and did not disappoint.

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“Buttermilk fried chicken”, endive and pear salad with a honey mustard ginger dressing. Tender chicken meets crisp and sour vegetable. This was a great balanced salad. The greens kept crisp.

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“Lemon pepper calamari” with blistered green beans in a sauce rouille. “Sauce rouille” is a French sauce served with seafood, this one was made with chilli peppers and garlic. The tangy orange sauce and a creamy mayo, there was a little too much of it. The beans were already very tasty, but they were presented sitting in the sauce. Whereas I preferred them as they were seasoned and salted. As a result the entire dish was on the saltier side. However each item’s individual flavours and all of it together with its great textural balance, made us forget that. I wished for more of the crisp battered and fried juicy pieces of squid, they were also great on their own.

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“Smoked ham hock orrochiette” (a seashell or ear shaped pasta) with shemiji mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, creme fraiche, and pangratatto. “Pangratatto” is olive oil toasted bread crumbs. This was an interesting choice in plate-bowl ware. A combination of both with room to scoop and a surface to scrape. Just beware of the possibility of tipping it when you jab a fork in to a sprout too hard, or when attempting to cut with knife and fork. The sauce pooled at the bottom. It, along with the pasta was infused with a gentle, yet distinctive ham flavour. It wasn’t overpowering, as promised by our server. The sprouts and crumb added a crispy and crunchy component to the dish. The latter was my favourite part of the dish. I could have used more and more garlic flavour in each sprouts; and while I am at it, a serving of it all on its own.

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“Olive oil poached ling cod” with wild rice and puff rice. Served in a coconut curry with pickled fennel, squash, and jimica. “Jimica” is a crisp, white-fleshed, edible tuber. It’s like a crisper potato. This was as ethnic as it looked, and as exciting to eat as it is to look at. The fish, vegetables, and rice were all perfectly prepared. You got everything in a red, orange, and yellow colour spectrum. Creamy, tangy, and sweet. The pickled fennel reminded me of the pink ginger served along side sushi, but with less vinegar and salt used. It added a nice palette refresher from the heavier curry. The root vegetable offered various starchy textures. We appreciated their use of the out of the box ingredients, and not just the common potato and/or carrot. They definitely considered texture well in this entree.

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The desserts were the perfect high note to end the night on. The “Salted caramel and apple cheesecake custard” had me raving. Tart chunks of apple, a crumble decadent in melted butter and toasted brown sugar, and a sauce that tasted like melted cheesecake made with real cream cheese. We just didn’t make out any of the salted caramel. It was also a little on the watery side, nothing more crumble at the bottom of the jar couldn’t have remedied. I also took in bite after bite wishing for something more solid. Like a piece of sponge or an actual chunk of cheesecake. But that wouldn’t have made this as unique as this was. I would love to see this make it on to their regular dessert menu.

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The “Chocolate and orange tres leches cake” was a dessert within a dessert. Chewier bits of hard cake within the softer sponge, all under a blanket of thick chocolate fudge. It was a nice texture to work through. The dark brown chocolate topping wasn’t as decadent as it looked. In was only light in chocolate flavour, making way for the notes of orange.

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Having our bill presented on this little stump was a nice touch, and it kept well with their theme.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Walking out of dinner, I could not have been more enthusiastic about this place and what we had. I now understand the wonders a good meal does for your mood. This still remains the restaurant I recommend to those looking for comfort, a nice venue in a nice area, decent prices, and a place to impress. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE OAKWOOD
2741 4th Ave West Vancouver
604-558-1965
oakwood.ca
The Oakwood Canadian Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Edible Canada

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I haven’t been to a restaurant participating in Dine Out Vancouver for a few years now. But with a record setting 288 restaurants participating (according to Vancity Buzz) it is hard to avoid stumbling into one.

The purpose of the occasion is to get those who don’t regularly “dine out” the opportunity to do so, at a cost they may not otherwise be able to afford. Whereas for me, this is my hobby. I would have gone out, and eaten out, at any restaurant, regardless of cost. If it’s good food, I am willing to pay full price. Therefore I typically shy away from Dine Out as the restaurants are more crowded, the experience is not the same as it typically would be; and the menus constrain you on what you can and cannot order. You may not find what you want at their modified price. This was the case today.

Located on Granville island, the restaurant was easy enough to drive to and find free three hour parking for. Its patio out front was strung with lights. In summer this area would see lengthy lines and willing waits. By their regular entrance was their take out counter. It was painted to look like a caravan in white and blue. It advertised their fish and chips with the “door” acting as the window directly to the kitchen’s pass.

Right as you enter, you are treated to the scent of salty fatty bacon, this was their signature scent. The host’s booth is to your left. As you wait to be seated you can watch the same kitchen mentioned above, with chefs set to their work. An open area, a row of men in aprons bringing dishes to the counter, and them keeping warm under red heat lamps.

The room was packed tight: corner to corner tables, with only elbow room distance between each. There was nothing really distinct about the decor. A wall of windows, and on the only available wall space, a wooden piece representing their theme, name sake, and the country we live in.

The same restaurant space is also used as a cooking school and specialty cooking supply store, with both features located towards the back. By dining here tonight we were eligible for 10% off anything in the store when we showed our receipt.

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Their dine out menu was a $30 prix fixe. You choose between three starters and three mains, and one of two desserts. Coming with a friend means there is more for you to try. Originally we got excited with the menu listing seven starters and seven entrees, not realizing four of which required an additional cost to enjoy. It got our hopes up and had us looking foolish in front of our server. We noted the prices after each item under “a la carte”, but assumed that was for those who didn’t want three courses for $30. So we thought ourselves clever to order the most expensive items, to get the most of our money’s worth. Only to have our server politely check for our understanding. Some of the dishes required an extra charge $8 here, $15 there, or $125 more for the caviar we  asked for. After acknowledging our misunderstanding, we had no problem sticking to the items included in the $30 price. But it almost felt unsettling, it would have been nice if we were told of the add ons and their pricing as we were seated and left to review the menu. We could have just paid the add on amounts, to have the fancier plates, but that isn’t the true spirit of dine out.

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“Molten cheese croquette”. Alpindon cheese, okanagan kirsch, and a warm winter coulis. Basically this was a fancy grilled cheese with a tomato-like soup. It was delicious in its tried and true flavour pairing. A crispy coating of thick breading hiding sharp and stringy cheese, all in a pool of chunky and tart tomato pulp. A classic made grown up with a well thought out presentation.

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“Braised Alberta oxtail”. Roasted hazelmere kabocha squash risotto, okanagan port and current Demi glacé. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but this didn’t quite meet it. The beef was nice and hardy, it paired well with the cheesy and salty risotto. But after a few bites the flavours become boring. The dish needed some freshness to liven things up. The tang of the decorative pea shoots helped, so much that I took more of it from the dish above, to have with this.

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“Oceanwise seafood tagliatelle”. Wild salmon and halibut cheeks in a white cream sauce. Topped with kale chips and crushed hazelnuts. There was no kick or depth to this dish. It was bland and also not very exciting to eat. Once again I was looking for something tart or fresh to pick things up. The fish was noticeable, but missing. I would have preferred a piece of it, than just its cheek in chunks.

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“Alberta Rangeland bison bourguignon” with white mushroom, Fraser valley root vegetables, and a white bean purée. It wasn’t much to look at, and harder to eat. It was too salty. The beef and mushroom carried no flavour. The bison was on the drier side and gravy was not the solution. Some potatoes or rice would have been a good solution.

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I asked for some bread in hopes of being able to temper the salt. It didn’t help. I only took a bite of it and three of the stew. When our server came back to bus this course’s dishes she asked if I wanted it packed up. I had already mentioned that it was too salty when I asked for the bread, and restated it now. I didn’t ask for anything, but I would have liked to have been offered the other fixe prix entree instead. I complained that it was too salty twice, and refused anymore of it, so you would think it was understood that I did not enjoy my meal. Luckily the desserts were a better show.

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The cream puff looking things were their “Nun’s puffs”. They are Quebec style profiterole drizzled in maple syrup and sprinkled with maple sugar. They were lackluster, neither fresh nor decadent. Each round was cold and soggy. Having fresh cream puffs and expecting better from here, I was disappointed. It would have been nicer to serve the puffs warm with some powered sugar, then have the maple syrup on the side for us to dip as we wished. This would have helped with the soggy aspect I mentioned as well.

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The “Creme posset with fruit compote” was like a different take on a yogurt parfait. Topped with house made granola and a blueberry compote. It was a tangy creamy yogurt-custard mix. It started with peaks and mid way began to melt, which surprised me. I ate it quicker so I didn’t have to drink it. It would be a nice brunch dessert.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Given the great many brunches I have had in the past, I was a little disappointed in this meal and the fact they didn’t action on my salty comment. But I am not about to write them off for a non-typical occasion. It is not fair to judge a restaurant during a crazy period like this. When they cut costs to make the advertised price points. When staff are pushed to the limits to accommodate the influx of traffic. As I mentioned in the beginning, this is why I typically don’t take part in Dine Out. I will likely visit them again in the summer. A regular service with their full menu, at prices they deem appropriate for their cuisine. For now I stand by my recommendation of them for brunch, their bacon Caesars, and their specialty shop. After all there aren’t too many Canadian themed restaurants in Vancouver. Ironically, I visit the only other one I know in my next post. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

EDIBLE CANADA
1596 Johnston Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3R9
604-682-6681
ediblecanada.com
Edible Canada Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Portland Craft

 

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Originally I was suppose to be in Portland for a two day trip, but because of the current poor exchange rate we decided it best to cancel and stay in Canada. So today, this was as close as I was going to get to Portland.

It’s hard to find a place that can accommodate 13 people, all in one table. That was my requirement. I didn’t want our party split up between two tables deciding who would be part of table A and who would have to be table B. “Portland Craft” was able to meet those needs on one of their long cafeteria style share tables.

There was a second floor for additional seating. But we were kept on the first in the centre of the room. One of the several lengthy tables that stretched the expanse of the first floor. Set high with waxed wood, partnered with dark, low back high chairs.

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My seat gave me a perfect view of their multi tap bar, something you would expect given the “craft” in their name and the “Portland” in their title. A row of taps under an in depth list detailing what each was. We had to take advantage of this selection and asked if they did flights. It wasn’t listed but they were happy to comply, allowing us to choose four brews from 1 to 16 on their chalkboard list. The beers were good in these little glasses, but it wasn’t an actual flight without a paddle for the glasses to sit on.

With our group of 13 we were able to put a dent in their menu. Majority of it was small plates, best shared between a group. It was all decent for a bar menu, I was just disappointed in the portion sizes for the prices asked.

A few of us thought about getting their “put a bird on it entree” which was essentially chicken and waffles. Though declined once we found out that it wouldn’t be served with a waffle, but instead fries. It just wouldn’t be the same. They also didn’t have the “old bay spiced popcorn”, which didn’t seem very hard to prepare. Or the “butter lettuce salad”. As a result one of my guests settled for her fourth choice, the unsatisfying salad below.

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The “Beet salad” was beautiful with colour. Roasted red and golden beets, heirloom carrots, whipped chevre, Belgian endive, mache, and a hazelnut crumb. But this was more a side salad than a full plate.

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“Duo of dips” with smoked paprika and roasted garlic aioli. I would have liked more bread and larger pieces of vegetable to fully enjoy the smear of dips.

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Pizza came in either meat or vegetarian, this is the latter. We expected more in terms of presentation. The shape and its uneven and partially burnt curst, had it looking very amateurish. For taste it was just so, nothing memorable.

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The “Organic chicken wings” came with your choice of flavouring. Our table choose the root beer glaze over bbq, hot, or salt and pepper. It was certainly creative, but nothing need trying again. I prefer my wings savoury. It was sweet and sticky like root beer, and you almost got the fizz in the textured breading of the wing.

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The “gravlax” was essentially a smoke salmon charcuterie plate. Vodka cured salmon, sunchoke chips, pickled fennel, shaved asparagus, and a grainy IPA Dijon. Each element was good on its own, disappointing all together. It was a sparse showing and lacked cohesion in a bread or cracker.

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The “Tuna sliders” came with albacore tuna grilled rare, edamame puree, and kohlrabi slaw. Finished with a pea shoot salad in mizuna and sesame. The bun was buttery and moist compared to the dry and chalky tuna. The pea shoots would have been nicer in the slider. And I could have used some tartar or cream to finish it all off.

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The “Pork belly” entree was braised pork belly, fried brussels sprouts, maple sherry glaze, and crispy leeks. It was an impressive looking dish. Though fatty pork meats soggy Brussel sprouts, is an acquired texture.

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“Braised beef” with cheddar and jalapeno grits, grilled asparagus, and jus.

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A side of “sherry and chilli fried Brussels sprouts”. This was amazing, one taste and you wanted a whole bowl for yourself.

We planned for this evening to be a surprise party and they were more than willing to accommodate us. They took the birthday cake, hid it, took it out when we requested, and supplied us with a knife and plates to dole out slices. Our server was accommodating to the point where she enlisted my help in placing and lighting the candles on the cake. She even suggested that I be the one to bring it out, as a posed to her “taking the spotlight”. Then she followed her over-the-top-service by leaning over another table to snap us the perfect group shot. All the while she would make jokes and explain herself for my understanding. She really made all the difference.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the food, but would definitely come and again and recommend them as a great place to catch up with friends over a pint of two. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PORTLAND CRAFT
3835 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-569-2494
portlandcraft.com
Portland Craft Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Whitespot

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This was the chosen destination for our family’s causal get together. My grandmother is visiting from Brunei with traditional tastes, and my partner is known for his very particular tastes. My mother came up with “White Spot” as the compromise. She dislikes how dark other casual chains are, so appreciated their well lit rooms. And she figured that there were enough options on the menu to satisfy everyone between burgers and entrees.

This particular location still has the option of drive in. You park in designated spots and servers approach your vehicle. You order off their wall sized menus, posted up on the exterior, posterior side of the building. After payment is received your food is brought out along with a long board. The board acts as a table, balancing between the opened windows in the front seats. I was amazed that despite the rain and cold, and how easy it is to just park and walk in, people were using this service tonight. I personally would be concerned with making a mess in the cabin of my car, not being able to wash my hands if needed, or call the server if I wanted anything else.

That’s why we dined in. This is your friendly neighbourhood comfort restaurant. A great option for families to gather at if no one wants to cook. An outing without the need to dress up or be a big deal. Just another meal that is a little more wholesome than at any fast food chain. Many other families were thinking the same thing and as a result the restaurant was quite full tonight.

Our group of six were given a table at the very end of the restaurant. The hostess led us through the isle, passing by all the filled booths and the visible kitchen pass. I didn’t like our corner table, as it felt like we were being hidden away, and out of convenience range from all servers. This proved to be the case when I attempted to ask for more napkins, but everyone was working the main room. I eventually had to walk out of our separate dining area to grab a napkin off their counter myself. However, my family liked the seclusion and quiet this corner brought us, and the additional space it gave us.

The menu was all comfort classics, regular meals North American palettes would crave for. Pages of burgers, pastas, salads, and meat and seafood entrees. There was something you could see yourself eating.

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“Baby back ribs”. Tender slow roasted baby back ribs glazed with a Tennessee whiskey BBQ sauce. Served with a warm potato salad and creamy coleslaw. We choose the half rack and immediately wished we got the full. We forgot that a half rack only looks like a lot of meat with the bone, but in reality you are left hungry wanting more. The side dish of sauce was tangy and tasted store bought. It was different than the whisky BBQ one already glazed on the ribs. We found use in it, helping to picking up the flavour as needed.

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“The legendary burger” was a disappointment. The menu read it as their “traditional 1/4 beef burger with their signature triple o sauce”. You would assume that the burger would include the regular fixings like lettuce, tomato, onion, maybe even cheese. Instead it came as a sad beef patty in between room temperature buns, with a dollop of bright orange sauce. It would have been nice if our server had mentioned something and suggested add-ons. “Did you want anything else in there? The burger only comes with the patty and sauce.” Not only would it have made our burger more satisfying, but she would have increased our bill and therefore the restaurants sales through recommending. A similar thing could be said for my burger below.

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Their new “Macaroni and cheese bigger burger” made with a 6oz 100% fresh Canadian beef burger, crispy cheddar cheese, sautéed onions, bacon, sriracha ketchup and mayo. Their house made macaroni and cheese was elbow macaroni tossed in a creamy aged white cheddar cheese sauce. Given that this was the feature of the burger, I expected more of it. There was hardly a spoon’s worth of macaroni clumped over the burger patty. I didn’t even notice it’s texture or taste. The saving grace of this burger was the baked cheese. This was literally a slice of cheddar baked to a crisp with burnt edges. It added a nice crunch to the assemble of mushy onion, soggy pasta, and chewy beef. And for a few dollars more this meal could have came with a couple scoops of salted caramel ice cream for dessert. I would have definitely said yes to this add on, had it been brought to my attention during the ordering process. However the server didn’t and I only realized this was an option after reading the menu insert later. Instead I got the milkshake below and wasn’t disappointed.

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Vanilla milkshake with a refill cup. Traditionally classic milkshakes are make with a milkshake mixer. All ingredients are combined in said metal cup and churned for that creamy, not quite solid and not quite liquid texture. Then a tall and slender milkshake glass is filled and topped with whipped cream. The excess in the cup is presented as the refill. In this case the shake was probably made in a blender then poured in the presentation glass and separate metal cup. I could tell this was the case as the walls of the metal cup were without drips or liquid.

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The “Chicken pot pie” was another new item on their comfort classic menu. This was described as “tender chicken in a home style broth with potato, carrot, celery, and peas and baked with flaky pastry”. It was impressive coming to the table, a large bulb of a pie. Though it was deemed lack lustre as soon as we dug our forks in to it to take the first bite. The pie part was only a pastry lid over the bowl. And the bowl was only half full of watery sauce and bits of vegetables. I would have like more of and larger chunks of chicken, potato, and carrot. This would have made things more hearty, like a full meal. At this point I was more impressed with the Campbell’s chunky soup that eat like a meal, or the frozen pot pies from superstore. Luckily this came with a side of their spot salad, as the pie wasn’t very filling as a meal on its own.

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The “Chicken and mushroom fettuccine Alfredo” was pretty standard. Set with a lemon grilled BC chicken breast over fettuccine noodles, tossed in a classic Parmesan cream sauce with sautéed mushrooms and spinach. Served with a side of garlic panini bread. It was filling, but a little bland. Additional salt helped.

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“The spot’s fish and chips” was two pieces of their crispy tempura battered cod, creamy coleslaw, and endless signature fries. My father added on another piece of fish and passed on the refill of fries. The batter was crispy, the fish was flaky, and the tartar sauce made the dish.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
As a food blogger I am spoiled. I try different foods and overall eat pretty well. The more I have and the more I try, the more refined my tastes become. This double edge sword has me maturing and realizing what I once thought amazing, is now unsatisfactory against my lips. This was the case today at my local “White Spot”. It is no fault of their chef or their restaurant, it is just that after reviewing over 700 different establishments I have a better frame of reference and can compare them more discerningly. I simply found their cuisine basic.

It wouldn’t be apposed to coming back for a quick and easy bite. But I really didn’t like the setting or the entrees all that much, though this is one of their older locations, In much need of an update. I much prefer their “Triple O” locations that serve just burgers and shakes, and could easily recommend them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WHITE SPOT (Gilmore)
4129 Lougheed Hwy, Burnaby BC, V5C 3Y6
604-299-4423
whitespot.ca
White Spot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tableau Bar Bistro

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I don’t typically visit downtown during the weekends, I prefer to avoid the crowds and the accompanying traffic. However the lure of some fine fired chicken and waffles was enough of a reason. And to my delight it was fairly quiet this Saturday morning, with an easy drive to and pull in park curb side.

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The restaurant is located within Loden hotel. I was amazing how chic both were. A doorman greets you and opens the door for you. You enter and are in Loden’s lobby. Walk forward and past a stone fire place, leather couches and throw pillows to check-in, or take a left for “Le Tableau”.

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We were given the option of a table by the window or somewhere across from their bar. The former with a view of the sidewalk suited us just fine. Though the view looking into the restaurant was the one that was preferred. The restaurant reminded me of a regal study. Vaulted ceilings with dangling lamps paired with patterned floors of brown and gold, and tiles in black and white. The dark panelled walls were decorated with black and white photographs. Scenes of motion captured in stills, happy faces, and beautiful places.

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At 11am we had our choice of ordering off the brunch or lunch menu. The latter had all the usual brunch time favourites: egg and bacon breakfasts or fruit and waffles, with accompanying morning cocktails. Lunch was more fulsome with raw seafood platters, creamy pastas, and specialties for every day of the week. We came in wanting brunch so stuck to our guns.

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“Chicken and waffles” with buttermilk fried chicken, maple syrup, and gravy. Having it presented before us, we were immediately impressed. The chicken looked as crispy as it tasted. It only took the first bite for my guest to declare she would come back, and better yet this was now her favourite chicken and waffle combo to date. The breading was evenly golden, crisp like corn flakes, hiding a juicy white centre. The chicken was well seasoned, good on its own; made more delicious with their side serving of smooth gravy, served heated in a little spouted cup.

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The equally crispy waffle with sweet syrup was a good compliment to the salty and savoury chicken. We appreciated how they provided the syrup and gravy on the side. To be able to select how much of each we wanted.

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“Eggs Benedict” with your choice of florentine (spinach), shaved brisket, and smoked salmon. Our server recommend the brisket and I took his advice without regret. Everything on this plate was melt in your mouth tender. Fabric-like folds of beef, poached eggs like jello, and hollandaise as silken as cream; all over buttery English muffins. The flavours were simple and clean, each taste distinct and sharp, coming together in harmony. Shame it wore a little thin after the first round. Though having some crisp potatoes with ketchup on the side did help to change the taste. The potatoes were nice and starchy, pan fried with crisp edges. The poached eggs were definitely the highlight of the Benedict, their luscious golden orange yolk was amazing. I just which they used larger ones.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If brunch was this good, I could only imagine what a full dinner service would be like. My guest certainly thinks their chicken and waffles are worth trying and I vouch for their eggs. And it doesn’t hurt that their dining room was as nice as it was, with a comfortable vibe. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TABLEAU
1181 Melville Street Vancouver BC Canada V6E 0A3
604-639-8692
tableaubarbistro.com
Tableau Bistro & Bar - Loden Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brew Street Craft + Kitchen

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We were driving by and with its lights on and parking lot full, this was as good as any place to dine at.

This craft kitchen and bar is attached to a privately own liquor store. Both entrance doors are side by side. A smart strategy, giving patrons the ability to go from one to the other. You start with a drink or two and take the party home with a bottle or four.

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The bar’s entrance was an impressive wood and brick foundation with double doors. Their name branded on to wooden planks in Times New Roman. This snapshot was a good idea of the theme within. Inside, the dark of the room opens up with vaulted ceilings. The brightness of the wall to wall television screens lights up the space. Several flat screens broadcasting various sporting matches, one screen under another, and many more side by side, by side. Though without commentators, the overhead music with its base is what kept the place bumping.

The entirety of this setting is what you expect on a Friday night from a good bar. Walking in you could tell this was a safe bet for a good time in Port Moody. You could feel the energy from the visiting crowd, the vibe exuding from the bustling staff, and the joy of the people already seated, and many more coming in after 9pm. And best of all were the drunken bodies stumbling to the washroom after successful shots.

All this, coupled with a rustic comfortable feel taken from wood panels walls and worn wood furnishings. Whimsical signs invited you to drink, go outdoors, and to drink outdoors. “I’m outdoorsy. I like drinking outdoors”. “Go jump in a lake”.

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There were several different areas for seating. An elevated section surrounding a stone fire place, a dining area with the option for large groups, and an outdoor closed off patio currently serving as a room to play pool in. We were given a high top overlooking the bar.

The bar was seated along a curve, it arched from one side of the room to the other. A well stocked and multi tapped line against a brick wall with wood slat for shelves. On tap were seasonal offerings with the option of having a few be part of curated flights. Though if you are looking for something with more kick, they also had plenty of seasonal cocktails available. Not surprising from a bar with a liquor store adjacent, their drink menu was a very impressive list to appease all palettes.

The food menu was pretty diverse as well. The bar basics like poutine, wings, and burgers were present. As well as interesting twists on classics like garlic infused fries, panko breaded Brie, and a coconut and cilantro seafood chowder. I thought long and hard over their confit garlic and goat cheese pizza served with a whole egg on top. In general I was pretty optimistic given their sub title of “craft kitchen” in their name. However my faith in titles would be mistaken, and my partner’s assessment of this just being a bar with “bar food” was dead on. Luckily we played it safe with chicken and pasta, two things most bars tend to do quite well.

The food took a long time to come; surprising, given we ordered it at 9pm and at this point in the night, majority of their patrons were happy with a liquid menu.

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“Gnocchi and pulled braised beef”. Potato gnocchi topped with braised beef, tomato ragu, arugula, and shaved Parmesan. The dish was more meat then pasta: 1:4, gnocchi:beef. The pulled beef was good, but there was just too much of it to eat as a dish on its own, it needed a base. We ordered additional sides of garlic bread triangles, but we’re still left with enough meat to take home and make into a sandwich. But I thought it would be weird to doggy bag only the meat from a pasta dish, like I intentionally only ate all the soft and chewy gnocchi lumps. The tomato flavour in the sauce was present, but the sauce as a whole needed some kick. Spices, seasoning, even more salty cheese could have easily remedied this. I don’t often make use of my table seasonings, but I looked for the salt shaker and said yes to the freshly ground pepper. Each element of this plate was good, but bland and not very exciting all together.

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“Cajun chicken”. Skin-on blackened Cajun chicken breast served with garlic mashed potatoes and Tuscan vegetable. These were flatted prices of chicken breast, orange from the spices. I wasn’t visually excited by it, you could tell the chicken was dry just cutting in. Though having it in a bite with buttered carrot and garlic mash helped. The chicken was seasoned very peppery, a tingling spice that creeped down the throat. Overall the base flavours were all there, and like the pasta above, it was just missing a little something to make it truly satisfying.

At one point we had great difficult finding our server. Eventually we spotted her sitting down and taking selfies with a group of young men. I guess if any establishment allowed this from their servers, it would be a place like this. So we waited with glasses of water left empty and my food cooling, wanting bread we couldn’t ask for. Similarly our neighbouring table was sat, but not greeted or approached in timely manner. But this was a busy bar, a rowdy place, I guess I couldn’t and shouldn’t expect prompt care. But there were just so many servers standing idle by the kitchen pass. I manage to meet eyes with a few as my head roved the room from side to side, but even with a wave and gesture, none cameas I wasn’t seated in their section. Eventually I just walked back to the entrance and listed my requests to the hostess, she agreed to help. And I eventually got want I wanted delivered to me by two other servers.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I would recommend them more for their setting then the food. And would personally like to return just to drink with a large group of friends. Shame they are sort of out of the way and hard to get to with transit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BREW STREET
3224 St. Johns Street, Port Moody BC, V3H 2C9
604-492-3883
brewstreetcraftkitchen.com
Brew Street Craft & Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sun Lounge Tanning Studio

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I am a creature of habit. So when my partner brought me to my first tanning session and I liked it, I kept going, and I kept going to the exact same location. The purpose of each visit, to darken my skin and hide the appearance of acne and scars. An ultimately avoid the feeling of having to hide under a coat of foundation with a nice even tan. So today, when looking for a touch up, I was utterly disappointed to learn that my neighbourhood tanning salon had been barred up and was closed for business. The gate was extended and the room was left dark, a note on the door said “goodbye”. Guess my once a month visits were not enough to keep their business going.

So my thought now was to find a new place. A new salon I felt comfy to strip down in. Somewhere that was easy to drive to and had free parking. The question was, do I take this opportunity to find somewhere new? Or do I stick with the same franchise, but at a different location? I googled the the next closest “Suntopia” location… They were all closed. That left me with only one option- to find a new place for my tanning needs.

When driving home I spotting a possibility. It seemed like a good choice as I didn’t have to change my regular route. I would be able to stop and tan at a whim; especially as I keep my protective eye wear in the glove compartment of my car. I liked not having to go out of my way to get to it, then being able to park in their underground lot for free, as a shopper of the “Tandem” complex.

The salon looked decent waking in, and was especially inviting with their 50% off discount if you came in between 9:30am and 1pm, Monday to Friday. One of their more high end beds graced the display window.

The reception desk was right at the entrance. To the right of it, their wall of suntan lotions and applicable accessories. I liked the ability a shopper had to pick up bottles, read labels, and check the cost of things without having to ask a clerk for help. However their selection was limited. They only had three packets of one time use lotions for me to choose from today. I wanted to do a drop-in and try their beds and salon, before purchasing a package and a lotion which they could store on location. My packet choices were between tingle lotions and a regulator bronzer. The former is suppose to rupture the top layer of your skin giving you the feeling, heat, and sensation of burning. Hence the “tingling”. You would essentially feel like you were sun burnt and be red because of it. This would last for a couple of hours, before cooling off and evening out to a even and darker tan. I was curious, but didn’t like the idea of my skin “feeling hot like it was burnt”. So stuck with a regular packet that too promised optimal dark colouring, but without the breaking of my top layer of skin.

I was one of many new clients who decided to try “Sun Lounge” out, now that “Suntopia”, was closed. The clerk helping me chatted me up as I filled out their first time visit waver. It was a list asking me questions about my skin, to learn my limitations in sun absorption. When time to choose my desired tanning bed, I recognized the name of the one I had been using previously, so decided to stick with it. I also went for the same time, for comparison sake and the fact I knew exactly what I was asking for. 15 minutes on a maximum of 20.

My goal was to find a new regular tanning place. One that I felt comfortable to disrobe in, and a bed I felt comfortable to lie on. Somewhere safe and sanitary. This location had less beds, but visually was a nicer salon. No adverts adding to the walls, just a frosted sliding door shielding bed from the public, and a stylized mirror for use in each room.

The washroom was a lot nicer as well. I typically start my tanning time here, removing my make up, for a fresh surface to apply lotion on to. I had warn the clerk of my intention, and she did say she would start the bed later. However, I still found myself scrambling to evenly apply lotion and rushing to hop into a bed that started the tanning process without me in it. I slapped on the staining lotion in streaks, fumbled for my eyewear with oily hands, and then awkwardly rolled in to the bed with my hip first.

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The top of their “passion” bed didn’t have a barrier and a place to stop your pillow, marking your position. So I lost the head rest to the ground and found my forehead sticking out beyond the shine of the light. Some greasy readjusting left body prints, as I got into place. The bed itself was an older model, the highest setting of the fan didn’t provide much cooling. I sweated on to the plastic bed under me, leaving an additional layer of film. This I believed blocked the optimized light rays from evening out my skin tone. Yet the fan that buzzed above me was so loud that I couldn’t hear the dance music playing past it. There was one speaker bolted to the wall by my head, but I couldn’t make out the music past the whirl of the fan’s motor. The “passion” bed that I had used previously had speakers attached right to the bed’s physical frame. In this way, they created the feeling of surround sound as you laid still. And said speakers also offered that protective barrier where the bed ends, that I mentioned missing above.

Mid way through the actual tanning process, I started feeling a wave of heat resonating from my behind. The lights on the bottom of the bed were intense, and as a result my rear end felt like it was burning. Seeing that I was on my back, the only way I could get relief was to bend my knees and lift my bum. I didn’t want to climb out of the bed and retrieve the rolled up towel provided on the chair nearby. As I already missed 3 of the 15 minutes I paid for trying to get in, in a hurry. I am sure I could have said something, but to get dress, convey the message, then climb back in bed hardly seemed worth it, especially for a place I don’t think I would return to again. During and climbing out, my buttocks continued to tingling with heat and a mild sting, like how the tingling lotion was described. Except I was supposedly using the regular stuff.

When I got out of the bed, I notice that the hinge that allowed the top part of the bed to pull down and sandwich you into between lights, had not been cleaned. It was caked in chunky puffs of dust. This is equipment different people use regularly, that people ought to feel comfortable lying in naked. And with this view I didn’t have that same confidence as I did walking in. Not to mention they didn’t have that sign reassuring guests that each bed was throughly sanitized before their use, like how my last salon did. Luckily I didn’t notice it until after my session was done. I wouldn’t know how to broach the topic without looking like a germ-a-phobe.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Seeing as I am just starting my search, there is no need to commit to the first other salon I have visited in the last 5 years. And seeing as I treat myself to a bronzing only once a month I can take my time sourcing a new location. Though shame, this would have been the most convenient one, if not for the lack of lotions, the quality of the bed and the level of sanitation. But in the end I got what I had intended, a nice golden brown to my complexion. And as the experience was less than 30 minutes, and I don’t have too many issues; I can see myself returning out of laziness and willingness to drive anywhere else. Hence forth, this will be my plan b tanning salon.

 

SUN LOUNGE
4158 Dawson Street , Burnaby BC, V5C 0A4
604-294-8266
sunlounge.ca

Chew Restaurant

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In consideration of a new business.
It is hard to carve out your own unique spot within the Vancouver food scene. The stakes are high, the qualifications are numerous, and the foodie nation is strong and opinionated. Anyone with a smart phone can share their views. And with new aps and food sharing sites dedicated to bringing every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s opinion to the online social sphere; we as social influences have more power than ever to make or break a business; just from one interaction. So sometimes we need step back and take in the whole picture before we comment. To have a clearer look, before we judge. To consider extraneous factors, before we hone it on one detail and forget the rest. I myself, am often guilty of the above as well.

Therefore, this post is written in defence of soft opens and the ability of a restaurant to learn from its mistakes and to regroup, only to come out stronger. There are many reasons why a restaurant would opt for a soft launch, and do a trial run before opening its doors to the public. Not many things are done successfully within the first try, without testing a plan and plenty of practice to back it up. Running a restaurant and a successful kitchen service is no different. During a restaurant’s soft open you test the equipment and the ability of your staff to work with one another, and within their given space. You iron out the kinks and get yourselves battle ready.

This was one of those rare experiences that try as they might, the service just did not go smoothly. Not from fault of the owner, or the staff that took part; but sometimes life happens and things simply just don’t go your way. In this case, it was the whole kitchen staff threatening to walk out if they didn’t get paid more for their work today, and following through on their threat. Even knowing the stakes, as a business owner and operator you cannot condone or negotiate with such tactics. Therefore this was a 12 course service, cut short and miraculously ran with only two less experienced kitchen hands. And looking at the a larger picture and all impeding factors as a whole, this definitely was a great showing, full of heart. Luckily I get to capture this, as I blog not only about a restaurant’s food and the decor, but it’s service and my experience as well. And this is one worth documenting, just for the latter.

Mind you, had I not known the full picture and the circumstances above, this would have definitely been a much different post. But as humans we need to be compassionate and understanding of one another; and sometimes that means allowing one of us to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, to learn, and to just be human. I have written such posts, where I suggest giving a new restaurant the time and ability to grow into their own: to learn and improve, as other start up retail shops do. This is such an occasion. Not everyone makes a good impression, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t worth knowing. I rather support someone with passion and heart than a faceless conglomerate.

The one thing I can suggest is how the information on the above was presented. Instead of trying their best and falling short, it might have been better to preface the challenges and ask for sympathy from the diners to begin with. Perception is reality, and how things are presented often makes all the difference. For example, each course came cold, and the food took so long that my guest began playing “words with friends on his phone” and we simply ran out of things to say waiting. Food that we knew should be coming, food that we could hear being assembled in the kitchen, and smell just around the corner; but were are unable to partake in. Had I known the situation in the back, I would have been more patience, more forgiving, and maybe even offered a hand.

We were all invited back for a redo, the owner passionately pleading for another chance and a month to perfect his craft. He wasn’t giving up on himself and I wasn’t about to on him either. Besides, from what I understand their sauces take over 24 hours to make, and their broths are simmered for over 72 hours. Both specialities are definitely worth a return trip to try at their best. Because the best things in life take time, and a struggle makes the result all the more sweet. Plus they source many of the ingredients used in their dishes and their drinks from Taiwan, so this would be a good place to try something authentic.

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They are a new Taiwanese restaurant in Burnaby. We were here to enjoy their grand opening, excited with the promise of a whole roasted pig, carved table side in celebration.

Driving up to the building it was eye catching from the frosted window of our car. With its bright white awning it practically beckons from the road. Great for last minute diners and the stopping of those just cruising by. The logo was a cute cartoon: the letters “chew” come to life, illustrating the action of chewing. It was clear the “C” was the aggressor, taking a bite out of “E” and “W”, honing on the bubble tea cup in place of “H” next. They was cutesy with their round and sparkling anime eyes.

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This was previously the home of another Taiwanese bubble tea house. They kept the layout, but tagged the space with their own brand of graffiti. “Chew” in a jagged font with a outer space-like spectrum of colour backing it. The paint job above, where the ceiling met the wall was incomplete, noticeable by a rough edge where white met black. You could tell they were still in the works of setting the space up for their official opening.

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What attracted my attention was the wall where a white feathered cartoon chicken, with red hood and yellow beak was preparing himself for a jump. He was about to jump off a counter into a smoking deep fryer. He looked very determined to complete his kamikaze mission. Morbid but cutesy, like their logo. Other than that the room was outfitted with strategic lights and a bar in red, and not much more. If you turned the lights off you could confuse the place for a night club. The level of lighting in the restaurant and its stark brightness, being oddly partnered with the steady beats of wordless techno. You got the background track of a dance club, without it the ambience of dim disco lights.

As expected from a Taiwanese cafe, the menu was a very comprehensive list, a bound three rings without the binder cover. Each item came with Chinese and English descriptions, partnered with select photos.

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The opening of our service started with the unveiling of the barbecue whole pig. It was of a moderate size, sprawled out and glossy with a golden brown tan. From snout to tail it was impressive to see it in its entirety. It filled the room with awe and the lingering scent of grease. When time, the Chef had great difficulty carving the beast with his square bladed butcher knife.

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But the job was done and its meat was chopped up and plated into bite sized portions with cilantro for garnish. The crispy skin is the best part of the pork. If you have never had it, its texture is one of a kind; a bite in produces a sharp snap, like that of a break into crisp cracker. The meat was tender from all of the fat under said skin, and thoroughly saturated in salt. Served cold or hot, as is or with rice; this is certainly a Chinese delicacy.

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Next was an impressive board of freshly squeezed juices. It was decorated with the hollowed out rinds of the actual fruit. They sat in a bubbling bowl of water, smoking from the addition of liquid nitrogen. This was great for effect and show. Cups of fresh, foamy pineapple juice; and fresh juicy watermelon. This would be great on a hot summer’s day.

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A tray of fried appetizers to sample came next. A handsome collection of salty snacks, ideal to partner with cold drinks.

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The “Deep fried squid” was chewy tentacles breaded in a lumpy and chunky batter. It was lightly saturated in oil, with a heavier coating of pepper. It was good, but better and best if it served fresh and hot.

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The “Marinade spicy pig ear” was a first for my guest. I am familiar with cartilage, and the sensation and sound that chewing soft bone makes. An echoing crunching that rings through your mouth and up into your head. However this is not not a texture for everyone, including my guest. He found its look misleading, it reminded him of thick strips of bacon, but without its salt and chew. He thought it a shame that the texture was what it was, as he really like the spicy sauce they were marinated in. But the sauce wasn’t enough to hide or save the fact he was not eating meat or an organ. I, similarly couldn’t go back for another piece. I found that after I ground through my first slice, a lot of its bits got stuck within the crevasses of my teeth. But this is just the nature of consuming pig’s ear.

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“Deep fried lotus root chips” with mayo. A creative snacking chip, that may be a little healthier than the regular potato variety. However a few pieces were over cooked with an acrid oil taste, and the mayo couldn’t hide it. Though it wasn’t bad enough to stop me from going back and eating more. The texture was unique, for the same reason it’s enjoyable to chew through Swiss cheese and all its holes.

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“Deep fried chicken nuggets”, a Taiwanese classic, seasoned heavily with pepper and salt. I find Chinese nuggets are typically made with dark meat for a fattier and juicier centre, whereas North Americans pride themselves on nuggets made with white meat for a healthier and drier middle. These Taiwanese nuggets were made extra creamy with a dunk into the side dish of mayonnaise. Generally, all deep fried foods are great with something creamy over top. Unfortunately this too came at room temperature, and would have been better hotter.

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Was this what the menu deemed “Taiwanese style kimchi”? It was more slightly pickled cabbage sheets and carrot slices, marinaded with vinegar and chillies. This was great for breaking up all the deep fried elements with its sweeter tang.

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“House special milk tea” with pearls. It was like regular milk tea, but made using a different brew of tea; this provided an extra kick and flavour to the beverage. The tapioca pearls were sources from Taiwan. They were also offered in “mini pearl” sizes, best for those who wanted an easier chew to their drink.

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“Three spices stewed chicken”. It was a soy sauce marinated chicken with a distinctive salty and sweet Chinese flavour. It was a great tasting chicken, but felt like it was missing something. A bowl of rice or a side of vegetables to complete the flavours.

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Stirfry prawn and dried tofu. It had a similar flavour to the dish above with the use of soy sauce, and it too being sweet and salt. The blander tofu was an adequate base for the prawns, that soaked up the flavour of the sauce. Though this too felt like it needed a base. Maybe that’s how I feel about all Chinese dishes, as they do come out fairly salty, and with the expectation that a bowl of steamed rice is often a reach away. Overall this was not the most exciting dish. It would have helped to have it seasoned more spicy, or even stir fried with the chicken above.

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Green tea and black tea with milk and calpis yogurt. It was like a bubble tea latte with the inclusion of foam and milk, giving the drink a creamier texture and a richer taste. I liked this fusion beverage and would like to have this again with or without pearls. A great drive through drink.

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“Taiwanese dumpling”. These were steamed pork bundles wrapped in a sheet of starchy flour and sprinkled over with green onion. It was served with a spicy chili oil and soy sauce mix for dipping in to. The dumpling and sauce together in one bite was perfection. Tender and full of flavour, I could have eaten a dozen of these alone, or with soupy noodles in a broth similar to the sharp vinegary sauce. This was definitely my favourite of the night.

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Cooked pork sliced thin on a bed of shredded leeks, drizzled in a brown hoisin sauce and served with a yellow mayo. The sauces was the source of flavour. Without it, the meat was just salty. This would have been best wrapped up in carbs or wonton wrappers, like how you would serve Peking duck.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sometimes you choose to go back just to support a person, because you believe in their passion and have seen into their heart. Also I believe this place has great potential and would like to see them reach it. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CHEW RESTAURANT
5507 Kingsway, Burnaby BC
604-559-9888
Chew restaurant  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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