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Month: February 2016 Page 1 of 2

Vegan Pudding & Co.

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Coming out of a savoury vegan lunch we walked ourselves a few blocks for a sweet vegan dessert. A stand-a-lone stall offering only vegan puddings, but a variety of them with different toppings. With a very matter-of-fact name. They sold vegan puddings, and were “The vegan pudding company”.

It was a literal hole in the wall, one that was just a window to order from and not a space you could walk into. Behind glass stood a woman. She was the one to take your money and dispense to you one of their premade pudding cups. It was a clever business strategy. A product that kept, a space that needed no room, and a niche that seemed to be picking up steam.

You would have missed it if not for its yellow awning trim, sign, and the sandwich board propped up on the sidewalk.

They have three different types of pudding and even creme burlee. A small flavoured pudding, a medium sized pudding with one of their flavoured special sauce as a topping; or a large pudding with flavoured sauce and whipped cream. As they are prepackaged, you cannot mix or match pudding to flavour. But it is easy to separate the two, if they decide to change this direction in the future.

Vanilla with caramel sauce, matcha and black sesame, earl grey and lemon caramel, chocolate pudding with a double chocolate sauce, strawberry with double chocolate, coffee with double chocolate, black sesame with more black sesame, and hojicha (A Japanese green tea that is roasted instead of steamed, concluding with a caramel note in its flavouring.) After trying one and writing all the flavours here, I wish I took some to go. I would have liked to try the black sesame pudding, strawberry, and the hojicha. These were not common pudding flavours.

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They were a great snack and dessert option for all those with dietary restrictions. 100% vegan, certified organic, gluten free, soy free, nut free, and free of white sugar. And best of all it tasted good. It tasted like regular pudding made with cream, sweetened with sugar, and prepared with love.

My guest asked, and was told the vanilla and chocolate were the most popular, and that the owner herself was fond of the chocolate. My guest took her advice and got the “vanilla pudding with caramel sauce”. I went with my usual go to a nice “matcha with black sesame”.

Each came in a drinking cup with an additional lid separating the sauce from solid pudding, until you are ready to blend the two. You enjoy them on the go as they don’t have any seating nearby and you don’t want to congest the stall front, block the way of others wanting their vegan pudding fix too.

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Both tasted exactly as they were intended. It had a nice texture: light and foamy, instead of rich and luscious. It got better the more you dug into it. After a few taste of the pudding as is, we added the sauce and mixed it in to renew the flavour.

It didn’t matter that it was vegan and without milk and cream it was a great dessert that stood on its own, a great light treat any time of the day. I would go back for more, although it is out of the way, and easiest to get to by foot. I could definitely see them expanding their enterprise to several locations, doing well in malls, by schools, and on busy intersections.

 

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.
There isn’t more I can say, this one is a winner. Don’t deny your cravings

 

VEGAN PUDDING & CO.
101-422 Richards Street, Vancouver BC
778-379-0545
veganpuddingco.com
Vegan Pudding & Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Smallflower

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I enjoy dining with others as they often shed new light on something I thought I knew. They make each post I write unique and help my writing style evolve. And today’s meal was no different, except I was going in to uncharted territory and needed an expert.

I was stepping in to the world of vegan cuisine, with no meat and no animals products, I needed a guide. I would see how their dishes married up to their animal-full counter parts, and my “born vegan” guest would be judging it all as just food. She has been vegan all her life, and as a result, has tried many vegan dishes and her fair share of vegan substitutes. Today she would tell me how “The Smallflower” stacked up.

“The Smallflower” is the sister restaurant to “The Wallflower”. I have never been to the latter, but from what my guest has told me, the decor was what was most noticeably different. The original was described as being grungy, whereas this space was light and bright.

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Two floors in an open space. The top was their kitchen with supplies stacked and a moving body working, visible from where we stood on the ground floor.

On the main/bottom floor was their seating area, grocery store, and bakery. High top benches were set up so diners could enjoy wholesome vegan soup and sandwich combos. The sun was shining in and the place was filled with such warmth. We grabbed a seat by the window to enjoy the first sun rays of spring, very fitting given the name of the cafe.

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Along the left wall was their miniature grocery. Shelves and refrigerated units well stocked with vegan substitutes and snacks without animal products.

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Vegan takes on familiar foods like bacon and bacon grease, chocolate puddings cups, yogurt parfaits, marshmallows, dry packaged gravy mix, and gummies. With tea Popsicles, rice and soy whipped cream, tofu cheeses, soy cheese popcorn, gluten free cones for vegan ice cream, non gelatin jello, and no milk chocolate chips. Along with snacks like coconut chips, root vegetable chips, fruit juices, seed crackers, coconut water, and hard candies.

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My guest was overly excited by all the options, where normal grocery shopping includes tediously reading labels and googling the terms she did not know. She was delighted to be able to take a bag of vegan cheddar popcorn home and to try some vegan white and milk chocolate bar with me. I was surprised at how much the chocolate tasted like “real” milk and white chocolate. I could easily have substituted these into any recipe with no one being the wiser.

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The shelves of snacks ran all the way to the back of the cafe, past the counter. Here they made caffeinated beverages and held their freshly made baked goods behind glass.

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Cakes by the slice on cake stands, cookies to go, fruit tarts, chocolate brownies, Rice Krispie squares, heavily coated Cinnamon buns, banana bread by the slice, and frosted chocolate cupcakes.

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They also sold fresh made breads to take home. Bread loaves and foccacia rounds.

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The menu was three chalkboards hanging above: drinks, sandwiches, and sides. They offered a bit of everything for everyone. Real chicken and bacon for the omnivores, cheese and cream soups for the vegetarians, and dairy free hot chocolate with marshmallows and BBQ tofu for the vegans. Essentially anything listed could be made vegan, except the items with chicken. There was vegan bacon, vegan mayo, and vegan cheese. Everything listed was 100% gluten free. And they also make custom cakes and pies to order.

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We would try four sandwiches and two sides, going back a second round for more. Everything vegan.

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This was the vegan “BLT” with vegan bacon, lettuce, and tomato on toasted white bread with vegan mayo. The shards of “bacon” we’re made from coconut. They were salty like regular bacon and crunchy like it too. I was delighted that they got the taste and texture this close. And if you liked it in this sandwich, you could take home a bag and make such a sandwich at home for yourself. Although as “accurate” as I found it, I like my bacon in strips instead of chunks, so would stick with the “regular” kind. Although I will keeping this substitution in mind if I ever believe in dieting. This is a great solution to “have your cake and eat it too”. As a vegan from birth, my guest didn’t have a reference point to compare the bacon to, so could have had the sandwich without the artificial bacon and enjoyed it just the same.

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We paired this with a side of “Vegan potato salad”. It was prepared with red potatoes, carrot slivers, green onion, dill, paprika, and their own in house mayo. We both found it bland and in need of additional seasonings. I especially missed the tanginess of creamy mayo, but would have been just as happy with some mustard, salt and pepper. They were just heavy handed on the dill. The flavour was earthy, with a very grainy texture. My guest deemed it, “very much a side”.

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We made the “Veggie melt” vegan by swapping out the butteriness of harvarti cheese with a more chalky “Daiya”, a dairy-free cheese. The sandwich also came with spinach, tomato, mushroom, red onion, red pepper, and pesto hummus; all on toasted focaccia. This was a great vegetarian sandwich that didn’t even need any cheese. The pesto hummus tied it all together with a nice zesty flavour that paired well with the herbs in the focaccia, while balancing out the raw vegetables. The hummus was really the highlight of each crunchy fresh bite. The only change I would make to this, is to grill the vegetables, or at least the red pepper and onion for a nice smokey flavour.

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With it we had their soup of the day, a vegan mushroom. Without the cream I didn’t find as creamy as a can of Campbell’s or any mushroom soup. And instead I thought the flavour was almost floral-like. My guest on the other hand was raving about this. This was an actual creamy vegan soup, a side that could stand on its own. A great soup that she would actually come back just for. Plus, she doesn’t think she can find anything else like it, anywhere else.

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We also tried their “three cheese melt” with vegan cheeses. Daiya and tofu-based cheeses. Each had its own colour and texture, and together they were ooey and gooey, melting as one, just like processed cheese would. This was the kind of cheese sandwich you would cut into two, and would pull apart thinking the cheeses would stretch into a strand between the two halves. Except it only looked like it would, and it didn’t get very far when I tried. The cheeses were not as creamy and as sharp, but was salted plenty enough. I would eat this in place of any other grilled cheese sandwich. And like any other grilled cheese, I would have liked it on sourdough bread with a side of tomato soup.

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The vegan version of the “smoked salmon bagel” had me interested. How were they going to substitute the cream cheese and salmon in this? Two main ingredients in this sandwich of sorts. They used a vegan cream cheese and a salmon substitute with fresh red onion and capers. I was surprised and delighted by the smoky fish. Its wilted and almost gel-like texture was very close to real smoke salmon by the slice. Though it was much milder in taste, something that I almost preferred over “regular” salmon. And just as impressive was the thick creaminess of the “cream cheese” it sat folded over. This was my vegan’s first taste of bagels and lox. She liked it well enough and would order it here again, as this is another item not offered else where.

 

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? – Yes.
There aren’t that many vegan options and retail stores out there, and this seemed like a great one. Both the vegan and the omnivore agreed that this was a great space with some great healthy meal options. With substitution that run neck in neck with, “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” Fake proteins and imitation animal products that parallel the original. Don’t deny your cravings

 

SMALLFLOWER
47 West Hastings, Vancouver BC, V6B 1G4
778-379-7377
thesmallflower.com
The Smallflower Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bao Chau

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Today my mother decided to bring me to her favourite Vietnamese restaurant. She frequents the place at least once a month, ordering take out for herself and my father.

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The photos online were a little deceiving. I could tell that they were taken a while ago, given the setting we stood in now. It was clear that they haven’t spent money on the upkeep of the place. Tables with their varnish worn off, scuffed floors, neon signs that no longer worked, and paintings faded from natural sun light. I have said it before, I can’t help but judge a restaurant by its decor, as it often relates to the kitchen and the hygiene of the place. Especially with browning plants by the entrance, clutter on the bar’s counter and desk, as well as a full garbage bag sitting by the register. But that at aside, the food was solid.

With many pages to filter through, I asked my mother what she recommended from the menu. She typically orders her “regular” so we expanded on that. She usually gets their grilled and barbecued meat dishes, instead of any pho or noodle soup.

A table got their meal before us, after coming in after us. I gave them the jealous glance wanting my food first, as we were here first. But we ordered dishes that came with multiple elements, requiring multiple preparations. That and the lone woman working the front seemed swamped with the six tables that came and went during our stay.

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“Combination A” included one chicken skewer, one shrimp salad roll, and two deep fried spring rolls; served over a raw salad and rice vermicelli.

I am a big fan on the battered Vietnamese spring roll, especially when freshly fried and dipped in to some fish sauce. This over the wrapped Chinese spring roll served with plum sauce. I enjoy the chewier, crunchier texture of the Vietnamese version more, and the contrast between the savoury pork filling and the tang of the fish sauce. My mom described its texture as being rugged. I enjoyed it most with a mouthful of fish sauce coated vermicelli.

We weren’t sure what the chicken skewer was marinaded in to turn in red, but could taste the excess salt and over seasoning with lemon grass. We would have liked the skewer more if it had spent some time on the grill, giving it a crisper texture and a nice ashy char.

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The salad roll wrapped up a slice of ham and a handful of bean sprouts, along with the traditional shrimp, lettuce and noodle. It was made ahead of time and refrigerated. The rice wrapper kept moist by being tightly bundled in Saran Wrap. The thick and salty brown sauce is what gave it is flavour.

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“Steamed rice with BBQ pork chop, shredded pork, pork hash, and ham. Over all everything was on the saltier side, but that’s what made it taste as good as it did.

The BBQ pork chop came a little over cooked in bone, but had the exact grill we wanted for the chicken above.

The shredded pork was reformed in to a pink pork patty. With its sweet honey-like glaze, this was my favour element of this plate.

The pork hash looked like noodles or potatoes, but was shredded pork skin severed with minced pork bits. It had a unique rubbery texture to it like a cross between jelly fish and cartilage. Not for everyone, but a treat for someone who likes the chew.

The ham was in a circular chunk. Like a cross between cold cut and spam, but not as salty. Instead, it had a nice mild flavour to it with a chewy fishcake-like texture.

 

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.
This was your average Vietnamese restaurant serving its community. It was easy I get to with free parking in the back. The prices where fair and the food was good.
Don’t deny your cravings.

 

Bao Chau
2717 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 1Z8
604-251-6956
Bao Chau Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Urban Tea Merchant

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Looking for some girl time, we made high tea our activity of choice.

They have an entrance on both Georgia and Alberni street. And both lead into their merchandise store, which splinters off into the restaurant.

I feel this is one of the nicer places for high tea, given the extent of their store front selling gourmet tea and tea accessories. All their teas are from TWG tea. All 100% natural teas that do not go through any chemical processing, that only use all natural fruits and flowers.

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They also boast quality products in their selection of tea cups and matching saucers, delicate spoons, cotton tea filters, tea gift sets, tea pots, and carafes. Some were works of art priced at $700. Teapots in glass and clay, speckled spots and some in stripes, patterned pots with matching cups, and insulated metal pot holders to keep brews toasty.

If you can’t commit to a whole tin of tea or aren’t in need of a box set, you have the ability to purchase their tea loose leaf, per pound, choosing one from their wall of tins. After all, tea is best fresh and comes with an expiry date. You don’t want to purchase more than you can drink at a time.

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They also offer TWG tea infused macarons. Racked up behind the counter in flavours like “1837 black tea and blackcurrant”; “grand wedding tea with passion fruit and coconut”; “vanilla bourbon tea and kaya”, and “Napoleon tea and caramel”.

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Amongst the shop’s shelves, display cases, and side tables of merchandise were white clothed tables for patron seating. However, we were led to their salon for our service. It required a walk up a ramp lined with black and white photos. The photography captured scenery and scenes tied to the procurement of tea and the beauty of the tea culture. They were very consistent with their theme.

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The salon was a room with pink walls and more black and white tea themed photos. In a corner was a sculpture of black charcoal tea pots. They were in the act of pouring one into another. This was a shut of fountain that would have otherwise drained into a basin of stone below.

Wicker chairs, floral patterned booths, and white table cloths. Atop each table stood a tin of TWG tea as its centre piece, along with a matching TWG branded teacup and saucer at each place setting. Given the delicate nature of high tea and the classic image of cups trimmed in roses and gilded in gold; this branded cup really didn’t add anything to the setting or experience. This wasn’t the type of teacup you used with pinkies up. Overall we felt that they were a little too forceful with the tea messaging at this point, almost to the moment just before tacky.

The most difficult part of high tea is deciding on which tea service you want with what type of tea. Especially here, where they had five different service options to choose from and over 50 different types of teas to read through. (50 if I had to guess.)

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We were accidentally delivered one of the appetizers from the “Pacific Route Tea Set” and I was not shy to ask to take a photo of it before it was taken away. This was the “lobster avocado tower” with basil aioli and a chilli tobiko emulsion. Coupled with “miso and maple marinated sablefish” served in butter lettuce with micro greens. At $45 per person the “Pacific Route Tea Set” is inspired by “West Coast” flavours. Served on beautiful glass platter, it includes other OceanWise seafood like their butter poached prawn with “Orange Blossom Oolong” chutney and sweets in an apple dome infused with “Caramel Tea”. It sounded beautiful, but we wanted something more classic and less seafood forward.

Given that this was one of my guest’s first tea service we decided it should be with the “Traditional Tea Set” at $42 per person. It included tea sandwiches, scones with jelly and devon creme, and petite sweets served on a three-tiered platter.

Though I took a pause at their seasonal and limited time only featured tea service: The “Lunar New Year Tea Service” at $48 per person. It celebrated the occasion with Asian-inspired savouries and sweets, accompanied by their “Jasmine Monkey King Tea”. I would miss out today, and it is only available until February 29th.

I longed for their “Platinum Tea Service”, a pricier set that was unlisted to keep in mind market prices. This was their most luxurious afternoon tea experience. Tea-Infused Duck Breast, Fois Gras, Northern Divine Caviar, and with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. With it you can also order one of their cocktails made with tea.

For those looking for something lighter or earlier: the “Breakfast Tea Set” was available at $18 per person. Freshly baked scones or croissants with creme and jelly. Served with fresh orange or cranberry juice and a pot of her tea. Only available from 10am – 11:30am.

Similarly, they offered an “Express Lunch Feature” at $25 per person, Monday through Friday from 11am – 1pm. It’s a light afternoon high tea service that includes sandwiches, a scone with devon creme and jelly, and tea-infused sweets. As its meant to be be quick, there is a 40-minute only seating during this time.

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If you can’t commit to a full set or service, they also have tea and treats available a la carte. But half the fun of high tea is the presentation of it before you. A tower of miniature treats, delicately crafted. Like our “Traditional Tea Set” featuring a tray of savoury bites like handcrafted tea sandwiches, a layer of baked goods like fresh scones with tea-infused jelly and creme, and two trays of petite sweets. With food for three, our three tiers ran out of space and was spread across four plates. The tower was delivered with two hands and came with a point and describe run down of everything on it. As a whole, the assortment was heavy on the sweeter side, with three layers of sweeter treats.

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You begin by choosing your tea. Anything priced $8 and under is included with this set. If you decide to get a pricier tea you need to pay the difference for it. I wanted one of their blossoming teas, but would have had to add an additional $8 for this specialty pot. So instead had asked for our server’s recommendation on something unique. He rattled off a few fruit and sweet dessert combinations until I heard what I liked: the “coffee bean and coconut” tea. My guests got the “Paris breakfast” in cocoa and vanilla and the “Maharaja Darjeeling” black tea. Each arrived in its own full tea pot without any leaves. Just a fully brewed four servings per person, steeped for the perfect pot.

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Once delivered, each of our first cup of tea was poured by our very polite server. He did this in a swirling circle motion, to aerate it? Each tea was lovely, you could smell and taste the notes mentioned in its name or title. Especially the espresso-like coffee flavour of my tea, ironically. These were full bodied teas, so I enjoyed mine as is, but both my guests had theirs with milk and sugar. Coarse brown sugar and heated and frothed milk in a creamer. The latter was a nice touch to help keep your tea warm. Though the insulated metal tea pot carrier helped with keeping things warm too.

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We started with the bottom layer of savoury snacks: finger sandwiches and small bites.

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The “cucumber and aged cheddar sandwich” was a classic. Light and salty with a nice crisp.

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The “Earl grey gentlemen tea sandwich” came with sencha tea infused cream and fig jam. Both were great, but a little odd when paired with freshness of the lettuce.

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The “Tomato and piave vecchio cheese tea sandwich, with watercress aioli” reminded me of margarita pizza. Pesto, light tomato, and a sharp pang of cheese. Though the tomato made the top half of the sandwich soggy to the point of wilting.

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The “smoked salmon rosette sandwich” with “sencha wasabi aioli” was more of a canapé. A round of whole wheat toast under some salty salmon. I found it prettier than tasty.

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Similarly was the “Imperial lapsang souchong” tea flavoured “chicken basket”. Gritty mashed and peppered chicken meat stuffed in a stale and soggy waffle cup. The chicken was well seasoned and would have been better between two slices of bread, with the addition of some mayonnaise and cucumber. Though the sprig of pea shoots helped to give this two biter some freshness that it needed.

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The second layer was baked goods, a good transition from savoury to mildly sweet.

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The madeleine was a little dry. Though the “Victorian Creme and 1837 Black Tea Jelly” spreads were helpful in combating this. The cream made things a little more moist and the jam paired well with the pastry’s coconut flavour.

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The freshly baked scone was a chocolate, as seen by the melted brown pooled at its bottom. This extra coating made things a little cakey. And the texture was more like a biscuit with crispy edges. Nothing like a scone, but still great with the cream and jam.

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The top layer of our tower was a rainbow of fruit and sweets. They were equally considerate in providing us three of each fruit so that we could each have some. This was described as a “melange of fresh fruit” that included gooseberry, raspberry, blueberry; a slice of dragon fruit, a curl of melon, and cubes of watermelon and honey dew on orange slices. And to give it all a more tropical flare and the illusion of refinement, it included a freshly pruned purple orchid with sparkly velvety petals.

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This one was unlisted on the menu, but based on taste, it was a strawberry cheesecake-like butter tart. With strawberry jelly gilded in gold and dusted in crushed pistachio. And a velvety smooth custard at its centre. This was as delicious as it was pretty.

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We each got a “TWG tea macaron”, choosing one between the “Moroccan mint tea”, “Bain de roses tea”, and “earl grey fortune and chocolate”. I had the former and it wasn’t what I expected. The texture of the shell and the cream seemed to be more dense than a regular macaron. In suspect this was a result of the infusion of tea. The shell was crumbly like a cookie, sandwiching a filling full of mint flavour. The rose one was described as being sweet like fruit loops.

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“Matcha nara mousse with vanilla bourbon tea panna cotta” was amazing, this was my favourite element of the tower. It was airy and light, one of those desserts where you scrape the glass repeatedly and you lick the spoon clean. The round beads of chocolate added a nice crunch, and visual interest to the shot glass; that and the chocolate square dusted in green edible glitter. More of these chocolate pearl confetti-ed the plate with a red jelly square that border the layer.

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And as I mentioned early, as it was tea for three, we ran out of room and they needed to split the rest of our desserts on to a secondary plate.

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“White and dark chocolate dipped strawberry”. It was delicious. Creamy chocolate fully enrobing a large juicy strawberry. But despite the stereotype, this was not a sexy dessert to eat in public. With each bite, majority of the chocolate fell off in shards, you catch them in the palm of your hand, only to slurp them up into your gaping mouth after.

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The “New York breakfast tea chocolate tart” wasn’t as sweet as it looked. It took on some of the bitterness from tea to balance out the chocolate mousse, wrapped in a chocolate cookie, with various chocolate pearls on top. It was just the right amount of crunchy shell meets creamy centre, then finished with crispy topping. I just needed a tiny glass of milk to finish it off with.

The staff were very attentive. When a window table open up, we were offered the ability to move to it for a courtyard view. – We took the opportunity. Our original server introduced the young man that would be taking over for him, when his shift ended. Both checked in often to see how things were. Our original server even made an effort to ask if I liked his tea recommendation and if it was as unique as I had hoped. – I did. It was. Both stopped by often to see if we liked the food and needed anything else. Even the manger did this, making his own rounds. I found the lavished attention nice. The feeling of being waited on during such an elegant activity, with classical music playing overhead. I was just missing a salon dress, pearls and white gloves. However my guest found it a little much and a lot intrusive, especially as the manager interrupted her mid speech twice, in doing so.

 

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? – Yes.
This is the place to go to, to impress. They even have a Pacific Northwest themed tea service, if who you want to impress is from out of town. You don’t get the full tea salon experience, with the setting; but you do get some of the most delicious, full bodied teas and one of he most well displayed tea tower presentations. I would be interested in following up with them to see the various tea services that fluctuate with the season. Don’t deny your cravings

 

URBAN TEA MERCHANT
1070 West Georgia Street, Vancouver BC
604-692-0071
urbantea.com
The Urban Tea Merchant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Whole Foods Marketplace

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The new “Whole Foods” in Burnaby is open. Being in my neck of the woods, I like many others, wanted a look inside; and the Facebook adverts popping up on my feed peaked my interest.

It was an impressive building, one of many business popping around this new high rise residential area. This will soon be the place to be with a pizza parlour, liquor store, and hair removal boutique.

With many ways to enter, we did so from the back, parking our vehicle underground. The “Whole Foods” was on the second floor, up a flight of escalators. Like all grocery stores there were bins of seasonal specials and fresh fruit for sale out front to greet you.

We came in for lunch and headed right to their marketplace, a food court of sorts. We were surprised by the assortment from their cooked food bar as well as their various themed stalls.

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In the centre of the open space were several rows of open food. The first row of trays was their cold bar. Toppings for you to assemble your perfect salad, all perfectly chopped. And not just your regular lettuce and tomato assembly, but there were over two dozen items to choose from and bevy of dressings and vinaigrettes to mix and match with. Four different types of leafy greens, purple cabbage, steamed eggplant, artichoke hearts, purple beet chunks, radish slices, snap peas, pineapple in cubes, peel shrimp, and corn kernels; just to list a few of the more exotic choices available. Over 30 metal trays to peruse through, at $2.49 per pound.

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After that was the hot food bar. A row of vegetables in green and orange; like herbed carrot, kale salad, coleslaw, and potatoes with peas. Followed by some Chinese inspired sides like fried rice, tofu puffs, and stewed bok choy. There was also some meat to round off a full meal. Like a buffet line, where you pay per pound instead of all you can eat. And unlike a buffet, most of these were all healthy dishes, no guilty feelings of remorseful eating an hour after.

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Having tried the above in the past at other “Whole Food” locations, and not being wow-ed by their pre-cooked healthy dishes, I decided to pass on them now.

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Similarly, their sushi stall didn’t do anything for me. They rolled sushi for you. You choose the wrapping, the vegetable filling, a sauce, and a topping. I didn’t bother exploring this option any more in detail, so am unable to list any of the options for the above. But this definitely didn’t sound like normal sushi, more things wrapped in rice served with a sauce for dipping. Basically a rice wrapped burrito stuffed with random ingredients and cut into bite sized rounds.

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They also had a deli with cold cut sandwich options and charcuterie sliced to order. Their signature sandwiches seemed interesting, especially seeing all the tubes of meat and bricks of cheese laid out before you. Amongst this was also a large assembly of full entrees complimentary to the “buffet line”. They were held behind glass and priced separately per pound. The more expensive, fancier stuff.

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However I was looking for something a bit more unique. So instead stopped at the East Indian inspired stall: “Blackbird Street Food”. They specialized in the “Dosa” and “Frankie”, as depicted on the two signs framing the stand. “Frankie” is Indian flat bread grilled and stuffed as you liked. The “dosa” had a similar concept except it used an Indian lentil crepe as its casing.

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The stall offered three ways to enjoy their mains. Either the two above or as a “biryani”, which is like a salad bowl without the carbs. All were priced at $9 each. And each option had a premade example on display. It being behind glass helped in your ordering process. It was enough to have me standing in line for one.

You start by choosing how you want to consume your main. I went for the dosa, the crepe made with rice flour and black lentils. Though it was actually more eggy and spongy in taste and texture. It was not made to order, but heated over a grill to warm.

All ingredients were laid out before you in metal trays, and listed on the menu behind the lone staff member working. But he still took the time to explain to me what each item was.

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Your choice of mains are between vegetable curry, butter chicken, goa fish curry, and lentil dahl. The toppings: corn and peas, shredded carrot or shredded beet, diced tomato, cucumber, and pickled onions. You also get to choose sauces for your wrap.

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I went with the popular choice of butter chicken, making him scrape the bottom of the container to have enough for my dosa. This included rice to have it more filling. To it I requested the addition of corn, tomato, carrot, and beets. I then had it finished it off with some coconut yogurt and mango chutney. Though the glass that separated us and the hum of equipment behind him, made it hard for him to hear my order, and for me to hear what he offered.

The lot of it was then folded in to a bundle and wrapped in tin foil. Just watching this process I knew eating would be a challenge. I saw tears in the dosa and the ingredients spilling out, despite how gingerly he was treating my parcel.

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In didn’t like the heaviness of the wrap with its grainy and egg-like texture. It was more like an dense omelette than a fluffy crepe. And because it reminded me of egg, I longed to have it with ketchup. And given how bland I found it, the ketchup would have helped. Though a ranch dressing or a Italian vinaigrette would have been best over the cold and raw vegetables. I really missed the yogurt and chutney. After a few initial bites, I ended up eating the rest with knife and fork, like a meal out of a dosa bowl. It only got worse when I unwrapped it and everything spewed out.

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My partner went with their Mexican option at their “Taqueria”. Meat or grilled vegetables in burritos, bowls, or tacos. Similar to the Indian place they too had all their ingredients laid out in metal tubs for you to pick and choose as you pleased. But where they differ was in the chilli lime crema, guacamole, jalapeño, corn salsa, cilantro, tomato, etc.

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He went with a chicken burrito that came with rice and beans. There were plenty of toppings in his burrito, but not much meat. I felt the same way for my dosa. And like the dosa it was a little bland. We missed all the sauces, dips, and cheeses that come with North American fast food burritos.

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We then stopped at their pizza oven to grab a premade slice of thin crust. This was their wood fired New York style pizza stand. It included an authentic looking pizza oven and a young man wielding a paddle in operation of it. All the available pizzas are laid out behind glass for you to choose by sight.

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We went for the classic Margarita pizza. Thin crust with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil. It was the best of the three items we ordered. Light and delicious, a great pizza considering it was from a grocery store.

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Everything we ordered was wrapped for travel and priced to scan. We brought it to the regular check out to pay. The express lanes make the process a little quicker for those only here to eat, like us.

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After paying, we went to their seating area, adjacent to the cafe serving coffee and baked goods. This was a designated section with tables and benches for you to unwrap and devour. It was just like a fancier food court decorated with origami birds strung from the ceiling.

 

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.
Although it wasn’t the most satisfying meal I have had, I felt good about eating it. For a quick, easy, and healthy meal I can definitely see myself returning. Not to mention they have an impressive bakery and dessert bar that I have yet to discover. However, more likely I will be heading to a fast food substitute as I don’t deny my cravings.

 

WHOLE FOODS
4420 Lougheed Highway, Burnaby BC, V5C 3Z3
604-205-5032
wholefoodsmarket.com
Whole Foods Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Adelitas

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After hosting a “Mexican Jesus Party” (long story short: we pulled the Jesus figurine out of a cake during a Mexican Christmas party, and as a result, were asked to host the next party.) we decided to follow the night up with some authentic Mexican food. And after a quick search on google we found ourselves here. We were excited by the authentically designed sign driving by. (I thought I took a photo of it, but I guess I didn’t hit the button hard enough.) It was of a woman in traditional Mexican ware and patterns. It was a newer sign, indicating the place was well kept up, despite its smaller size and traffic. And we were even more optimistic when we entered to see a family of Mexican mothers and their children speaking in Spanish as they nibbled on what remained of their meal. We wanted authentic and not fast food or tex-mex Mexican, and we definitely got it here.

Located in a little complex on Victoria Drive, our Mexican shop was only two doors down from another. This one had higher reviews and the other seemed to focus more on vegetarian meals based on their online menu, and we were here for meat.

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Inside, the setting was simple and toasty warm. A freshly painted lime green wall with forest green piping, opposite a wall of framed mirrors. On the former hung haphazardly, traditional Mexican artifacts: a serving tray, a glossy clay urn, a clay pot with handles, stone daggers; and an ornament of the the moon and sun in half, joined together to form a whole. In the corner stood a a hat rack with some festive sombreros, I imagined they would make great play things for the kids that ate here, or diners wanting that photo op. Each table was draped with a Mexican style multicoloured, woven blanket, protected by a layer of plastic. The only thing that varied from the scene was the country and Christian rock music playing overhead.

Understanding that this was a mom and pop shop we came in knowing what to expect, and with the right standards of expectation. As authentic as mom’s home cooking, nothing flashy just warming comfort food to fill the belly.

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They had a main laminated menu, then two additional sheets written in pen, kept in plastic sheet protectors. They listed their alcoholic drinks, and regular beverages and desserts. Under homemade drinks I went for the “Horchata” knowing well that I liked this sweet milky beverage. This over the “Jamaica” described as tea, and “tamarind” described as a sour juice. I appreciated the lone server’s ability to describe each for my perfect understanding. “Horchata” is the name used for several kinds of traditional Spanish beverages, made from ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, or barley. Their’s was sweet but light. Similar to watered down, cinnamon flavoured, skim milk. A great accompaniment for someone, like myself, who doesn’t have the tongue for spicy food.

When going over the menu, we didn’t realize that there were more options on the back page, and therefore had to send the server away to gain more time for deciding.

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Our meal started with a bowl of room temperature corn chips and three plastic jugs of sauces. I had wished that the server took the time to explain to us the sauces. What each tasted like and which ones were the hottest, though I was more willing to try each. Shame, that we didn’t have a side dish to do this on and I ended up flooding the chip bowl with a mix of the spicy red sauce, the creamy hot orange sauce, and the tangy with a spicy finish green sauce.

For each food item you have your choice from all of their fillings with Mexican name and English translations listed. Chicken, BBQ beef, ground meat chorizo, shredded pork, shredded beef, tongue meat, and pork meat.

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Three soft tacos with our choice of meat. You only get to choose one filling for all three, with lamb being at an increased price of $3 more. We asked for chicken, but got pork instead. However, seeing the server so apologetic and knowing the cost of wasted food to a small restaurant, we decided to keep what she had brought us. Although I had the same meat in my entree below and I found it hard and dry. The pieces of beef were cut so small that it was easy to overcook. Though it was still good with great flavour. The tacos as a whole were pretty generous, a good amount of topping to enjoy with six flour circles. Beef, onion, and cilantro. It needed some sauce as it was a little dry, but the table sauces provided were too spicy for me. I ended up enjoying them with the guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce from my entree below.

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Enchiladas with your choice of meat and sauce. I wanted the “mole” described as a chocolate sauce that was salty, sweet, and hot taste. But they didn’t have any ready, so I went for the “green” over the red, as it wasn’t as spicy. Seeing it arrive at our table, it didn’t look too appealing. It certainly didn’t look this watery in the menu’s photo. Though it wasn’t watered down tasting like it looked. The juice soften the beef and added flavour like a stew. My partner even used some for his dry burrito below. Taking each bite with some of the dry rice and creamy bean on the side helped balance out the soggy texture. The rice didn’t have a lot of flavour, it was great for neutralizing everything else and as a palette cleaner.

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The burrito combo came with your choice of meat wrapped in a flour tortilla. With a side of beans, rice, vegetables, and guacamole for you to use as you like. Eat a bite of burrito with a scoop of each. It was an all pulled pork filled burrito and they were generous with the meat. The carnitas reminded us of the ones we had roadside from a vendor in Mexico, very authentic.

 

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.
The cost for what we had was no less than at larger Mexican restaurants and things tasted similar enough. However there was just something so comforting about their plates, something so genuine about their service, something special that made our visit all the more memorable. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ADELITAS
5178 Victoria Drive, Vancouver BC, V5P 3T8
604-677-1580
Adelitas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sai Woo

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This one was on a list of best new restaurants as told by “Vancity Buzz”. So when our little trio was at a loss of where to go, we took the advice of the article and found our way here.

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Located in Chinatown it took some of its influences from the area, but this wasn’t your typical Chinese Eatry. There was a waving lucky cat in the window, a traditional room separator depicting Chinese fairytale scenes, and a helium filled balloon shaped like a Chinese dragon’s head with whiskers. This whimsy was met with a rustic feel. Red brick walls, wooden planked floors, the top halves of leafless trees bolted down to the corner of booths and strung with tiny lights. They and the flat light panels strung up like buttons, helped to cast a romantic glow in this already dreamy setting. And the bluesy hotel lobby music, booming with base overhead completed the scene.

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Looking around I would have been happy to sit anywhere. Each place setting was made to look comfortable. The cozy corner with the high tops, red candles, and the Chinese screen. The step up half booths with red and gold embroidered pillows perfectly propped. The bar stools that fronted a handsome bar with a good collection of spirits and wines. But I think we got one of the best seats, an engulfing booth shaped in the letter “C”. It held us well and allowed us the comfort of being close without sacrificing elbow room. It also gave us a decent look into their kitchen. Bathed in white light, it was visible from all the way at the back.

The menus were concise. A punctuated list of drinks and food with an Asian inspired twist. Cocktails made with hibiscus flower, kombucha, or spicy ginger beer. Olives with preserved chilli, almonds in satay sauce, Gai lan seasoned in oyster sauce, fried rice with Chinese sausage or kimchi, and even a vegan laksa. I dared not to try any of the above, believing that my memory of them wouldn’t allow me to enjoy these fusion dishes, especially a laksa without fish sauce. This would be a meal of comfort foods with a fancy twist.

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The “guava punch” was described as tall and refreshing. Made with El Jimador tequila, guava nectar, orange, lime, and soda. We ordered it because guava’s presence on any menus is rare. Although I didn’t get the guava flavouring I wanted or expected. It was more a like a citrus soda.

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The “Scallop crudo” was a beautiful dish. Made with fried milk, nori chips, black roe, apple, and pine nuts. It’s beauty transition in to its delicate taste as well. You eat for the texture and the experience of eating, not to be nourished or filled by it, thus making it a great plate to start with. The fried milk was more like soften cottage cheese in texture, as for taste it had none. The actual crispiness of the dish came from the blacked chips and the toasted pine nuts paired with sweet apple slivers. The latter pair was a new twist, it wasn’t your typical lemon or tomato pairing with seafood, it made for a nice change. And despite all that surrounded the scallop, nothing distracted from its taste and freshness.

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The “Duck taco” was not prepared with maple hoisin and Asian slaw. At $5 each, we each got one. After hearing the server describe this appetizer as a small shell, we immediately imagined it similar to Peking duck wraps, we would not be wrong. Except the wrapper they use was much chewier, softer even. The filling was packed full of flavour, thanks to plenty of sauce and more meat than the traditional Peking duck wraps. Having one was not enough, but at $5 a pop it was a little pricy to have the 10 I craved to be satisfied.

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The “Crispy chicken drumettes” came seasoned in a black peppercorn glaze, and was served with a yogurt lime dip. I asked how many drumettes would be in an order, and was told the order is done by weight of chicken. Some of the drums were crispier than the others, but overall it was pretty average. It was decent as is and we could have done without the dipping sauce. The sauce was tangy and not necessarily complimentary.

The “Pork belly” braised in fermented red tofu, taro purée, taro chip, and greens; Sounded the most interesting out of all the entrees. But unfortunately it was sold out by the time we ordered: 7:30pm. We suspected that they prepared everything the day of with fresh ingredients, so they don’t over shop. We were lucky enough to grab the last tacos when we did, leaving only one more available for the next patron that wanted one.

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The “Lemongrass chicken” was appealing to me with its side of pandan rice. I am a sucker for anything pandan, though I got none of it here. The plate also came with wilted bitter greens, a fried egg, and bitter melon chunks. The chicken looked good with its charred grill, but to enjoy it, you’d have to like the taste of burning. Though the chicken under the skin was decently tender. Similarly was the yolk and the overcooked egg whites. The wilted greens didn’t look all that great, so was passed over. Even with my nitpicking, this was still my favourite dish of the night, and it was missing its lemon grass and pandan flavouring. It speaks to the dishes to follow.

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The “Ling cod” came with pomme purée, potato chip, mushroom jus, King oyster mushroom, and jalapeño. It was a fragrant fish, but dry with its crunchy skin. I found it all too salty even with the mashed potato and mushroom in the same bite. The chips just added a nice crunch on the side.

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Similarly, the “Beef short rib” was fairly salty for my tastes. It came with celeriac, shiitake, chestnuts, and katsuobushi. “Katsuobushi is the Japanese name for dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna, also known as bonito flakes. I could have done without the purée in this dish, it added no taste and only lent things its chalky texture. The flavour of the mushroom stood out, and was quite nice with the strength of the meat. Both were chewy and absorbed much of the sauce. Both also hid the mild bitterness from the melon well. I liked the fattiness of the meat, however my guests found it less appealing.

We asked for the dessert menu earlier, to be able to plan out our meal. Did we want to save some room for something sweet? Or were we happy tasting several different plates? We took a look at their three offerings of desserts, and despite the strong recommendation of their mango mousse cake from our server, we passed. Good thing to as we had plenty to eat with six dishes and weren’t impressed by them, to later want dessert.

The washrooms were located in the basement. To get to them you pass by a mirror decorated in the traditional Chinese style geometric shapes and a room of red. This red room served as a private room for large parties, and made a space to lounge in. There was one in there tonight celebrating a 30th. It was a wonderful space tinted in red with red walls, red lanterns, and a red spot lit bar. They were thorough with their presentation of lucky red on gold, even more so than at most authentic Chinese restaurants.

 

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? – Yes.
The setting was lovely, as was the dishes, but I enjoyed the former much more. I am glad I got the chance to try the food, but for the price and for what I had, I cannot imagine coming back again for more. Though let it be known, I have never been a fan of Chinese fusion. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SAI WOO
158 E. Pender Street, Vancouver BC
604-568-1117
saiwoo.ca
Sai Woo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Peaceful Restaurant

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This one has been recommend to me by a few for good Chinese food. Their claim is that they are Canada’s leader in the premium northern Chinese cuisine, with three locations in Vancovuer. They offer plenty of dim sum made in house and noodles that are hand pulled. So we came in with high expectations, and knowing we would be eating plenty of carbs tonight.

My mother and I planned to have an early dinner at 5pm, expecting to beat the dinner traffic by doing so. Although others had the same idea, and as a result the place was busy, seated to capacity. I suspect this was the working crowd, stopping by for a meal after work in order to bypass rush hour.

Driving past the front the restaurant, it stood out as the one with the red and white awning presented by a cut out of a woman in white, lifting a dish of food.

But we entered from the back, an option that only seem to be available at Chinese restaurants. They had free parking in the back, if you were lucky enough to snag one. If I was to judge the restaurant solely by its back alley presence, I wouldn’t have gone in. It was a dingy and grungy walk through a dark corridor. Not exactly the first impression you’d want a first time diner to have. Coming out the other end we surprised the staff and forced them to seat us right away. Doing so by interrupting the seating of another group. We didn’t do it on purpose, but there was no booth or hostess waiting at the back entrance to seat you. And we were already where most patrons were being sat. So we easily grabbed the table that we wanted.

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The dining area was cramped, more functional than artful. Their accomplishments were framed on the wall as magazine articles. It was bright lights and closely set tables like a cafeteria. It gave me the impression that everyone present now was here for the food, and no necessarily the setting. This thinking got us even more excited of the food to come.

We were seated in the isle adjacent from the kitchen’s pass. We only got a glimpse of the men and women working the narrow kitchen in their white paper hats. But a good view of dishes ready to be served. They were being pushed out, steady like a conveyor belt.

The menu was easy to navigate: predominately in English, with only the name of dishes in Chinese phonetics.

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Whenever I get the option, I order “Xiao-Long Bao”, it translates to “small steamed buns” in Chinese. They are thin dough dumplings filled with pork and “savoury juice”, as the menu described. It was correct, as there was no soup in any of these deflated dumplings. Not the soup bombs I expected, no wave of soup pouring into my mouth once teeth pierced through dough. All eight arrived burst with its liquid pooled at the bottom of the bamboo steamer. The way you eat them otherwise is to bite the top off and suck out all the soup. Although in spite of its poor execution, they at least tasted delicious, with a nice ginger warmth to each. Mild soften pork paired with a chewy and starchy covering.

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The “Peaceful beef roll” is meat and sauce wrapped in a Chinese pancake. Strips of beef seasoned in Chinese five spiced and served with a sweet hoisin sauce. The menu described the pancake as “a crispy green onion flat bread”, though the grilled brown dough was without a speck of green inside or out. Shame, as the wrap would have been nicer with the fresh and fragrant flavour of green onion. Similarly I would have liked the sauce on the side to dip into as I wanted. Though their balance between meat and sauce inside the wrap was spot on.

The menu gave you all sorts of noodles to choose from: wet and dry, ones with soup, some stir fried, others in sauce. With each dish you could choose to have it made with either their hand dragged or blade sheared noodles.

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We went with the “Xin-Jiang chicken noodle”. Chicken braised with potatoes and hot peppers in a reduced spicy star-anise sauce. We had every intention of ordering the blade sheared noodles as I enjoy its thicker and chewier texture. However we weren’t asked our preference for noodles and instead were given the hand drawn variety. When we called it to the attention of one of the severs, she said that we had to specify and since we didn’t we were given the default noodle. My mother assumed all responsibility for the mistake and was apologetic, as she ordered and I was disappointed. I told her she shouldn’t be, as it wasn’t her responsibility. As a server it is their’s to inform the diner of their options. Like “how do you want your steak?”, “which side do you want with your entree?”, “how much spice would you like in your food?” Often diners miss out on key information on the menu, a server calls it to their attention and helps to guide their meal in the best direction. We missed out on this and worst of all my mother felt bad about it. The server that gave us our dish overheard our conversation and came over to check on us. She was the one that told us of the default noodle situation. Then passed on our feedback to her colleague, the one who took our order originally. The other server was apologetic, but at this point nothing could be done. I was happy to keep the dish as is, but would have liked to know that they were willing to make us a new serving with the blade seared noodles, to have us satisfied and enjoy what we had wanted. But that was not the case.

As for the dish as a whole, it was interesting. Like the other two appetizers before it, this was another dish that was the chef’s recommendation, as told by the red arrow pointing to it on the menu. It had plenty of flavour and was tasty enough. Though I found the inclusion of potatoes and jalapeño in the noodles quite unique. The former added extra starch and a gummy texture, and the latter some back of the throat spice. My mother assessment was that it was good, but she couldn’t identify which part of China this style of cooking originated from. Though the noodle was definitely the best part of the entire dish. Its texture was wonderfully consistent, I could have had a bowl of just noodles and sauce.

When it came time to pay it was cash and debit only, and we were asked to do so at the front. During the wait, the host made small talk, asking what we thought of the meal. My mother was honest and later felt bad about it. The host seemed disappointed in her response. My mother brought up how the food was not served hot enough, that the meat in the wrap was cold and how the wrap itself was missing the advertised green onion. She went on to critique that even the tea was cold and the cup we drank it in seemed grimy at its bottom. The host defended the chefs insisting that everything is made fresh daily, and it was probably just the sauce that cooled down the filling of the wrap. More importantly, we missed passing on the feedback that the dumplings were pretty disappointing as well.

 

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.
As a whole I wouldn’t mind coming back and trying more. They offered a lot of dishes I liked, and it was easy to order and ask questions as a non Chinese speaker. Everything I saw coming to the pass were I wanted to try. It was just the details that got missed and a lot of the intricacies they couldn’t hit in their preparation. But maybe it is because they specialize in quick and easy meals like at a food court; And maybe we should to judge them a little gentler because of this. This wasn’t a sit down establishment, but a cafe for fast food. And if that was the case they were amazing for what they did.

My mother on the other hand wasn’t convinced. She has been to China and has had plenty of experience in Chinese cuisine. She felt that things weren’t as they intended to be. That it was a hassle to get here between the drive and the parking, and they are so many similar restaurants out there with similar options; that she rather go to one of these different restaurant to try something new. We agreed this was westernized Chinese food for the non Chinese. The only other Chinese person in during our stay order fried squid as “calamari”. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PEACEFUL RESTAURANT
532 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-879-9878
peacefulrestaurant.com
Peaceful Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CHOP Steakhouse & Bar

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When I am thinking of steak, “Chop” isn’t the first authority that comes to mind. It’s typically “The Keg”, then from there I weigh my budget as I search for something more more luxurious. However I was gifted with a gift card and that was reason enough to visit. Even if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to pay for all of it, so it would be a good deal any way I looked at it. And what better a day than on Valentine’s to have steak. Nothing is more romantic than getting your man steak on February 14th, even if its with a gift card, cause and that is just practical.

Tonight it was rainy and their patio was covered up for the season. But we took a pause to appreciate how it would be during on season. It seemed grand with their oversized lamps, fire pit, unique shrubbery, and curved booths. You could tell this was a nice patio to be on during hot summer days, and one to be seen on. A great stop for those living in Richmond, not wanting to travel to downtown Vancouver for a patio as nice as this.

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We walked past it towards the entrance, following the covered corridor with its path lit in tiny bulbs. It curved to the door, in line with foliage pruned to look like two round lollipops.

Pass the heavy doors, inside was their hostess booth and foyer with guests waiting to be seated. In celebration of the occasion they set out some drinks and canapés to set the mood. A help yourself collection of wines with glasses; and a bite of strawberry, cream cheese, and balsamic over a crostini. We weren’t able to indulge in either as we had made reservations and our table was ready.

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We were led to the dining room rich in brown tones. Suade meets leather booths, carpeted floors, a painted ceiling; and protruding blocks with light, hiding any piping above. There wasn’t much in terms of decoration or art, outside a few light fixtur. There were nice wiry orbs hovering over select tables. We wished we were under those, they made for quite the romantic scene. Though given our spacious booth that sat four, we were happy to have our table and be able to sit side by side at it.

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Today was Sunday and surprisingly they didn’t have Caesars on special, as most restaurants do. Shame, as I wanted to try their “Craft Caesar” made using Walter’s clamato with vine ripened tomatoes, gluten free vodka, and their house made hot sauce. Caesars are on special on Wednesdays. None the less, I ordered it being lured in by the description of scratch made tomato juice. What would this be like in a cocktail? Not surprising, you tasted it within its thicker texture. It was similar to paste, with a strong grilled tomato flavour. It would have been great as a sauce over pasta. And as a result, a little heavy to drink as it, being too flavourful without food. But luckily it was complimentary to our entrees below. I took a bite of food then a sip of Caesar. I was disappointed to not have any of the garnishes mentioned on the menu. Where was the promised sweet pepper and olive toppers? I didn’t mentioned it to our server, but hate to have to check over their work as a diner. I expect what is advertised, although I know many patrons don’t even read the descriptions. And then are upset at having something they didn’t expect, but that was listed. I would have at least appreciated it, if our server mentioned that they were out of garnishes or that they are no longer part of the drink, despite still being mentioned on the menu. It was like they were hoping I wouldn’t bring it to their attention, by not reading clearly. It was already a busy night for them, and it was already hard enough to get their attention, so I ended up making no mention of it.

The “Sparking Bellini” however, impressed us. It was sparkling wine, white peach purée, and chambord royale over ice. Visually I was impressed by it, and the unusual sight of a brick of ice frozen with mashed raspberries. When the ice melted and the fruit got added to the drink, you had anew flavour element to enjoy. As for taste, it tasted like a Bellini without looking like it. Muddy with a fizzy finish, but not very strong.

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They had a set Valentine’s Day menu where you pick a appetizer, entree, and dessert out of preselected options for $49. However given my disinterest in either salad or a soup for an appetizer and that none of the desserts had me very excited, we decide to pass and just order what we wanted a la carte.

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Our meal began with a warm whole wheat bun and some frozen butter. The latter was hard to scrape, but easily soften against the fresh spongy loaf.

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With all steak orders you are given the option to have it as a set meal for about $5.99 more. The “chop experience” asks you to pay extra to include a soup or salad to start, and gives you the choice of two sides instead of just the one. I was passed for the same reason that I passed on the Valentine’s set menu above. But it was great to be given the option, whereas most servers don’t bother to suggestion sell and mention an add-on for my benefit. We went with the “Filet mignon in a red wine reduction”. Choosing the regular 8oz filet over the petite one at a $5 difference and 2oz less, so that I could share it with my partner. For sides my choices included wasabi infused mashed potatoes, a wild rice pilaf, baked potato, cut fries, or fresh seasonal vegetable. Given that I had only one side included,!I choose the largest and most filling option: the mashed potatoes. It was no different than regular mashed potatoes, with just the whisper of wasabi to give it some zing. The order also came with a bonus half tomato. I think it was included to balance out the plate and make it more fulsome looking. It was a juicy oven baked tomato with some crispy batter on top. Both side were complimentary to the steak, with plenty of mashed potato leftover once the steak was done. The filet mignon was perfectly cooked to the medium rare I had asked for. It was well seasoned with a peppery crust. Though at $38 for 8oz, I found it a bit over priced. I could have gotten more for the same cost at other steak houses.

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We also shared their “Oven roasted chicken with basil lemon pan jus”. This was served with a wild rice pilaf and seasonal vegetables, two of the five sides we had to choose between for the steak above. It wasn’t the best looking plate. Hardly gourmet for the $22 price. It was more rustic in look and taste. It was a chicken breast sliced in two, pounded flat, then battered and fried to a crisp. Although it’s nice crunch hardly lasted as the chunky chutney-like sauce overtop made the chicken soggy. It would have been nice to have the strong condiment on the side for us to pour and dip as we saw fit. Especially as it was almost too sour with the stronger essence of lemon. The chicken itself was tender and perfectly cooked juicy. It outshone the flat sides that had you wishing for some freshness. The squash and broccolini were heavy, starchy and chewy; like the wild rice. It needed something light to balance things out, like the tomato above.

I don’t know if it was just because it was Valentine’s Day, but our server wasn’t all that attentive. Especially given the regal setting and the prices we were asked to pay. It was a busy night, but not all their tables were sat and there were plenty of staff on the floor including bussers and the mangers rolling up their sleeves to serve. We were left waiting to order, waiting when we had asked for water. There was a long pause between finishing our entree and getting the dessert menu, to the point that I changed my mind on wanting to end our meal on something sweet. There was even a wait to pay the bill, like everyone in our section was served before us because we didn’t opt for the set menu. Though despite all this our server was plenty friendly and very professional. Maybe it was just that they needed more staff on tonight? I even overheard one of the managers introduce herself and personally thank a neighbouring table for joining them this Valentine’s. She then presented them a discount card for their next visit. I wish we too were extended that courtesy.

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The space was actually much larger than we originally thought, something we discovered on our way to the facilities. A tunnel of light led to a secondary dining area and both gender washrooms included lounges. The men’s in particular was one of the nicest I have ever been too. It had wooden rafters, a circle of mirrors for that 360 degree check, and even complimentary Valentine’s cards for men to jot down a sentiment, to impress their date; though they were out by the time we got there. Both washrooms had grey toilet bowls, non running stone fountain in its foyer and seating to get comfy in; though who really spends that much time waiting in the washroom?

 

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? – Yes.
I wouldn’t be apposed to coming back. I might not order a full meal, but would be content on snacking and sipping in this setting. Though is a little far to travel to if you don’t live in Richmond, and it is no where near transit if you wanted to stop by for a drink. But for patrons staying at the nearby hotel, this is a lovely spot for dinner, it just needs a neighbouring casino to complete the experience. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CHOP
10251 St Edwards Drive, Richmond BC, V6X 2M9
604-276-1180
chop.ca
CHOP Steakhouse & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Silvercity Coquitlam VIP

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What better way to watch the highly anticipated Deadpool movie than like a VIP? And as the movie’s strong marketing campaign suggested, we made doing so part of our Valentine’s Day plans.

If you are like us, and hate arriving anywhere early just to line up. In this case, line up for the perfect seat, the vip service at Coquitlam’s Silvercity theatre is for you. Not only is your seat reserved, and yours to sit at, at your leisure; but you essentially get a small couch for you and your guest to lounge in. This was in place of the typical pull down, squeaky movie chair. With large arm rests that also function as a table, and the ability to remove the one between you and your guest. It is a more romantic way to watch a movie as a couple. Better seats made to make viewing a movie as comfortable as it can be outside your own home, but with the large screen experience.

We often use this service, basically with all the movies we deem worthy to watch in the theatre. The block blusters and films that would be best seen off of an engulfing screen. It costs a little more, but we earn it back in time not spent waiting in line and being in discomfort. The latter is especially essential during a longer movies, and as you age and earn back problem. Inevitable.

You order your tickets ahead of time and online, then pick them up at the kiosk. And with tickets in hand, you head into a specially sequestered area for “VIPs”. Basically you pay more to have the perks available in these set theatres. At the entrance, a ticket checker checks tickets and IDs, as they serve alcohol in the area.

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In this space and there is a designated lounge area with a bar, high tops tables, and recliners. A great place for those wanting to have date night all in one place. Dinner and a movie? The carpeting, fireplace, and dim lighting helped to set the tone. Here not only are you able to order alcoholic drinks, but food as well, with its own concession stand. Basically it is a similar assortment that is offered at the lobby, but gussied up for fancy small plates and full sized entrees.

If you rather not mingle, but take the time to set yourself comfortable before the movie, you can do so with your reserved seats. And whilst sitting, if you decide you want something from the concession stand, a group of servers stand at the ready to assist. With a raising of your hand they trek up the isles to take your order and deliver your requests. And all the while you stay seated in comfort. I didn’t see money or a machine changed hands, so I don’t exactly know how payment is made. This service is available right up to and including the start of the movie. But most movie goers don’t solicit the service after previews; knowing it will require a body walking back and forth, blocking the view of others. However our neighbours continued to order drinks well into the movie. Resulting in my partner and I bobbing around trying to earn ourselves a view of the screen. We all know how great the first scene of the movie is. And we missed a seamless view of it.

Therefore after this experience, I know I will never take them up on this service. Not only to spare viewers, but in general we don’t really purchase theatre food. It is like any snacks at any event, it is often sold at inflated prices. And they aren’t necessarily all that good, they are just the only options available. Therefore you end up having to pay more than you should for it. Though if we choose to snack, it is on popcorn, and that is easy enough to grab yourself.

But one of the best things about the VIP experience is the washroom situation. A row of single stalled facilities are available for those attending these shows. It means a shorter wait for the washroom and a nice visit to it.

As for the movie, it was as great as everyone says it is, and it leaves you immediately wanting more.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Don’t have to.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No. You don’t travel out of town to watch a movie.
Anyone can enjoy their own VIP experience for $21.99.

 

SILVERCITY COQUITLAM
170 Schoolhouse Street, Coquitlam BC, V3K 4X9
604-523-2911

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