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Month: August 2016 Page 1 of 4

Mister, artisan ice cream

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For presentation alone, I wasn’t in a hurry to try this one. Another liquid nitrogen ice cream place I thought. But the difference is, songstress Adelle gave this place a visit and shout out when she performed in Vancouver this August. Now that was reason enough to hurry in and give things a try.

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The all glass exterior gives you glimpse in. The queue tonight wasn’t very long, and the ice cream is prepared fairly quick. A blue pentagon marks the way. Their logo defines the shape their ice cream cups are presented to you as. It graces the wooden sandwich board up front, appears as a decal on the front glass, and is the backdrop to their flavour menu. Their ice cream selection is on rotation, today we were faced with the difficult choice of creme burlee, dark chocolate, vegan chocolate, mojito, Thai milk tea, and/or double Oreo.

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I had the pleasure of trying their double Oreo as an ice cream sandwich. This was only available at “Chachi”, a deli style sandwich shoppe located within Metrotown’s food court. They collaborated and brought mall goers this amazing treat for only $5. There was no liquid nitrogen involved with this one, just the exchanging of money for a wax paper wrapped bar.

The “sandwich” was a crunchy yet cakey cookie blend. Neither it or the ice cream was too sweet. The latter had a great icy texture to bite into. Those with sensitive teeth had no need to be weary, it was a comfortable cold, yet it didn’t melt any quickier, even as I ate it in the sun.

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But I digress, back to their actual “Made by Mister” shop front in Yaletown. They are one of two ice cream shoppes that make their desserts right before your eyes. Liquid ingredients are combined and stirred together in a stand mixer. With no goggles or gloves, only a mere apron around their necks, employees added to it the bubbling liquid nitrogen. Like an overflowing cauldron, the result is a mysterious fog frothing forth behind protective glass. The glass, shielded, you the guest, from any stray plumes of smoke. What is left in the mixer once the smoke clears, is your made to order frozen treat. With plastic paddles they smear the end product into paper cups. They do this forming a peaked mountain, like the point of the blue pentagon gracing their branded cups.

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The creme burlee cost a $1 more than the other ice creams priced at $7 a cup. The additional cost goes to the addition of sugar and a blow torch. Both are used to give the ice cream the same caramelized sugar topping you would get from a normal creme burlee custard in a ramekin. After the ice cream is packed tight (this is the only one without a peak), sugar is sprinkled over top, and right at the counter they skim the surface with a blue flame. The outcome is that tell-a-tale crunch you get when you first hit your spoon into a burlee-ed sugar’s surface. You crack it like ice on a pond, and are rewarded with creamy custard flavoured ice cream. It delivers on its name, and is no wonder why this is so popular. The taste everyone loves, in the format dessert lovers adore most.

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The “Thai milk tea” had a flavour that was just as accurate to its name. The perfect way for those who appreciate the traditional Thai drink to enjoy it as a melt in your mouth ice cream. It was even coloured in the same orangey-brown hue.

By comparison, the “mojito” was less impressive. It was much lighter with the combination of mint and lime. A more refreshing treat for those who like their ice creams a little more like sorbet, and their desserts a lot more tart. Best with the first taste, but it does grow tiresome after the tenth. It needed a fruit, something else to give it another level. A muddied blackberry or fresh mango purée would have done wonders. It might even propel this flavour to a position where it could compete in popularity with the other two.

There isn’t much room in the shop, a bench by the window with several seats, otherwise it is standing room only. The all concrete walls and the mesh metal table made the space very practical. Luckily ice cream is portable, and a stroll down Yaletown’s cobblestone has you finishing it in no time.

 

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.
This is the one to impress your friends with, and the one to come back for more of. Not the most decorative serving, but they don’t need bells and whistles when they taste this good. But be warned, as is the case with most liquid nitrogen made ice creams, I find their melting temperature much lower, and you end up with soup at the bottom of your cup much quicker. Luckily they have pints for sale, that you can take these home and refrigerate as necessary. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MISTER
1141 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P2
778-379-2833
madebymister.com
Mister Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

House Special, modern Vietnamese

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I have been to the two reincarnations, prior to this new modern Vietnamese venue. I like the area. Located more on the out skirts of Yaletown, there is always plenty of meter parking, for that VIP pull up.

Walking to my destination, it was the lanterns showering the patio that set it apart from all the other restaurants flanking it. They haven’t been open for long, but the red paper orbs in small and large were already faded from the summer’s sunnier days. Still it added flare, and must be quite the sight, spotting the patio on a darkened night.

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This was a family friendly environment, where walk-ins are welcomed. It had the causal and cozy vibe of any pho place, but with a certain level of elegance that is expected from a business residing in Yaletown.

Walking in, it also smelled like every other pho place, the tell-a-tale scent of lemon grass, and a crispness in the air. But the decorations had a bit more panache than at your run of the mill pho joint, and with it a lot more culture. A bamboo woven canoe with wood carved paddles, and ornate bird cages laces with porcelain pieces, hanging from the rafters. They spoke to the history and inspiration of the place.

Just like the wall of family photos that hung enroute to the washroom. I suspect they belonged to the owners and the chefs, and were their way of paying respect to their family and loved ones that got them this far.

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Given the poofed up bangs and mullet hair, and the appreciation for wind breakers and shoulder pads, my guess is that many of these were circa the 1980’s. The washroom itself was a lot more decorative than the dining room. The walls were papered in a yellow with pink, blue, and white petaled blossoms. With blue birds and tea cups perched and balancing on their branches.

All the dining room wall had was a simple quote reassuring your choice: “house special is pho lovers”. However, given the warmer day, we actually didn’t try any of their pho. But this is reason enough to come back.

Our table was by the window, facing the kitchen, from the other side of the room. I got the view of an all Vietnamese team pivoting from stove to counter, bringing plates to order. But they really didn’t attract my attention until they turned up their music. I believe it was Ludacris and DMX, circa the 90’s. I appreciated the energy this gave them and the beat that flooded the dining area. But at the same time, I was worried for their all ages friendly dining room, which included a large party with an extended family and a separate, but together “kids” table. Though no one flinched at any of the uncensored f-bombs hit.

The perks of arriving early before my guests are, not only being able to write my notes in guilt-free peace (picking up my phone to take food description as I eat is already bad enough, I don’t need to be any ruder to my dining companions, by feverishly texting myself even more messages to remember.), but treating myself to the occasional drink as well.

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The special of the day was the “Hoi-Ann fruit stand”. This is a gin and beer cocktail with Noteworthy gin and a sour German wheat beer, garnished with compressed watermelon. The fruit is vacuum sealed, and the process gives it a more fragrant flavour. It was the watermelon that sold me. When it arrived, our server recommend that I drop the fruit in for a boozer finish. It was a light drink, as fruity as the tropical name promised.

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One of my guests later tried their “Plum smuggler” made with plum wine, cassis, martini dry, and egg whites. Like my drink above, this too was on the sweeter side, especially with the egg white foam on top.

The menu was strapped to a wooden board. Within its front cover was a cloudy black and white photo, three men stood shoulder to shoulder. Based on their attire and the placement of the photo, I assume this too was of the head chef and/or the restaurant owners. It really spoke to their roots and what they hope to offer with their menu. Authenticity.

I liked how the listing included daily specials, and daily retellings of a popular dishes. This too, made for a reason to come back; and to come back earlier in the day, given some of their limited availability, per service.

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Today the “Daily fried bread” was filled with duck confit. This is made from scratch, fried bread, loaded with pulled pieces of tender duck and fresh leafy greens. The sweet hoisin sauce and the tangy creamy mayo pulls it all together, in a pocket of sesame seeds.

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The “Coconut shrimp cakes” were my favourite. I have never had anything like it. These are coconut rice cakes topped with shrimp, pork, and a nuoc Cham drizzle. It was a starchy and chewy rice cake cup, with a centre of half solid half liquid coconut cream. The shrimp was spicy, and the raw vegetable added a complimentary freshness to it. The red lettuce and shredded carrots were helpful, but the sprigs of mint only over powered. The curls of cucumber were an especially nice decorative touch.

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The “Hi phong squid” is deep fried drunken calamari; served with pickled ginger, jalapeños, and plenty of sauces. This was your run of the mill fry job with a thin batter that flaked off each ringlet. You expected a kick from the “drunken” part, but it never came. The sauces actually made the dish sweeter.

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The “Shaken beef” was similar to a Korean bibimbap, where meat or seafood and rice is served in a cast iron pot, and continues to cook at your table. You allow it to sit, and later mix things up for crisper rice. The end result as a similar texture to fried rice, and is just as hot. The tender cuts of beef was the best part, full of flavour and easy to chew down, it’s texture ran parallels with the well moisten rice.

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“Uncle Hing’s chicken wings” was their family recipe for spicy nuoc mam chicken wings. The menu joked it originated from “the remote village of Houston Texas”. The wings came to the table piping hot, generously coated with a good crackling and crispy crunch.

 

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.
These were definitely my type of flavours. Everything I had I liked, and it only left me wanting to try more. The pho would be one thing to go back for, especially as the weather cools. They had specific flavours and unique combination to them. And if I had a craving for anything again, it would be so exact that I could only find it here. In conclusion, I hope this version of this restaurant space stays, as they are a great addition to Yaletown, and an all around stand up restaurant. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HOUSE SPECIAL
1269 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6K3
778-379-2939
housespecial.ca
House Special Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Float Yaletown

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I have been to a sensory deprivation float experience before. A spa that has you washing away all your stress and worry by blocking out sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste in a pod. I feel like this is the closest anyone would and could get to the feeling of being unborn, and within your mother’s womb again.

As I mentioned, I have been to one of these spas before, but at a different location, by a different company. I decided it was not for me then, but had return now, with a friend who wanted to try this for herself. “Float Yaletown” is highly acclaimed, with many five star ratings and a groupon for 38% off. With those two factors in play, I was willing to give floating in the dark another shot.

The location and setting was already more impressive that what I had during my first time. A walk up a flight of stair, led to a second floor studio. By the entrance was shoe rack and a sign inviting us to remove our shoes. We did so, dawning a pair of their hotel slippers instead. They looked and felt new.

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You checked in at their front desk. A lone clerk worked until they closed at 12am. The longer hours made sense, given that this would be a great way to unwind then stumble into bed, and for the business professional that got out of work late. The clerk walked the stone floor barefoot, she too adhered to their no shoes policy.

Beside her desk was a shelf of natural soaps, robes, water bottles, and homeopathy products: essential oils and essences; for sale.

We helped ourselves to some cucumber flavoured water, as we filled out their waiver in their lounge area.

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When everything checked out, we were led through a frosted glass door and showed to our rooms with our own pods. And her the clerk gave us the run down.

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Each room was for a single person use. It has a shower in the corner with body wash, shampoo, and conditioner dispensers. A full length mirror, and one at head height for your face. Below the latter is a shelf with a box of useful accessories for your visit. Cotton swabs, ear plugs, face cloths; and petroleum jelly, in case you have any cuts or scars, apparently it stings if you do and the jelly would help.

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You begin by disrobing and wash yourself in the shower. Shampoo and body wash to rinse off before steeping in. The attendant advised inserting earplugs in before this. The ear plugs were a god send during this float, my last experience was without them and I couldn’t help but focus on how much water was filling in my ears, and how awful it felt to have it sloshing around. However, I forgot to put them on before my shower and was left inserting them into my ears slightly wet later. They offered two versions of ear plugs. One was the cheap neon stuff that you mould with your fingers and heat up, before inserting into your ear canal and letting it expand and fill within. The other was a wax, that you also moulded, but this only covered the exterior. I decided to double up. I hate the feeling of wet ears, luckily they had cotton swabs available to help you remedy this after.

Each pod is filled with a liquid the clerk described as being “heavier than water”. I suspect it includes some sort of sanitizer. The denser water actually helps with body buoyancy. Inside there is a spray bottle of normal water, in case you get something in you eye and need to wash it out, and a pool noodle for neck support.

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When you are ready, you hop in and pull the latch down after you. There is a handle on the inside, and a button to push, to shut off pod’s internal lights. Beside this bottom is another, that allows you to contact the attendant for emergencies.

For the first two minutes you can see the light of the room through the cracks of the pod’s lid. However after inactivity of two minutes, the room’s light turns off by itself, and the experience begins. Pitch darkness, bobbing belly up in a pool of water, kept warm through the pod’s heater, set to human body temperature.

The initial dip in gave me some sensitivity in my lower regions, but eventually my body adapted and that sensation went away. I recalling it being much worse at the last place, but also remembering a strong smell of chemicals there.

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The float is a surreal feeling, it sort of makes you feel small and non existent. Like everything you crave for and worry over, doesn’t really seem all that important in this timeless space. My body got to a stage of just existing and when it went completely limp and relaxed… I farted. Tiny bubbles rose between my legs and popped at the water’s surface. My body was telling me that this I would be the most relaxed I would get, here.

I went in with an open mind, but ended up experiencing the same issues I had last time. I am a restless person, I cannot just sit still, meditation is lost on me and yoga is too slow. So being told to do nothing for 90 minutes was damn near impossible. I couldn’t keep my eyes closed and my mind still. And for a person who is as afraid of the dark as me, this becomes a problem. My mind raced and I immediately called on every horror movie cliche and imagined every Freddy, Michael, Chuckie, and boogey man that existed coming to get me at my most vulnerable. Alone, naked, wet, and trapped in this pod.

I tried to think my way out of it, only to have me coming up with what I wanted to write about for this blog post and fearing that I would forget it. My mind wouldn’t stop it self.

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I ended up stirring from my float, turning on the light, lifting the hatch, drying my arms with a towel, and grabbing my phone. So here I am paying $50 to write about sensory deprivation, which I apparently know very little about, in a pool of water, with my upper half drying, and a thin white film caking over my skin.

Just as well, seeing as despite using the pool noodle, the float was still hard on my neck. It lay limp and arched towards my back, and panging in pain. It had me calling it quits less than 20 minutes in.

My guest on the other hand had a great experience. She was able to shut out the world and even fall asleep.

When the time ticked down and the 90 minutes was up, a soft music came on to stir us. I was already up, so proceeded to wash myself off. Shampoo, body wash, and this time conditioner too. There are towels for you to dry off with, and the full length mirror helped you get dressed.

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Outside the room, in the hallway, they also have a vanity with mirror and clean up accessories like cotton balls, pads, and swabs. Styling gel, hair spray, hydrating skin cream, and body deodorant. They even had combs, anything you would need to set yourself straight before walking out their door.

But even though I did a full clean, I still felt the need to go home and shower more thoroughly. And this with their shower being a lot nicer than mine, at home. A high pressure shower head, comfortable stone floor, and the open space of no curtain on a rod. And bonus, their conditioner smelled amazing.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Not gonna lie, this is my second attempt at this, and it is still not for me. I can’t sit still, I can’t even just watch television without doing something else, so I don’t know why I think I can just aimlessly float for 90 minutes. So instead, I spent the time blogging and taking great hair selfies in the “thicker water”. And therefore, I yet again, have come to the conclusion that this is not for me. I prefer a massage and a sauna to help me relax. And a pool or beach for my water fun. I won’t be back, but I know enough to be able to recommend this experience to other.

 

FLOAT YALETOWN
1059 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5L7
604-974-9131
floatyaletown.com

Brix & Mortar

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My guest invited me here to celebrate my birthday. She took the time to go through my blog, in search of a destination I have yet to visit, and this was what she came up with.

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Located in Gastown, we took advantage of the warm weather with a seat on their patio. A couple of chairs behind a wood planked wall, on cobblestone. From where we sat, we got a good look into the restaurant through its open windows. Our setting outdoors was also dressed up. They had the same crystal chandeliers hanging overhead and some regal looking ivy, creeping down red brick.

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We started with a complimentary serving of bread with whipped bitter and hummus. I noted that the couple across from us had their bread basket full, whereas ours looked inadequate by comparison. We had three slices of two different types of bread.

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For dinner, I went with the pork chop, a protein I can’t makes easily myself; so like to indulge in when I can, especially when they do it well. The”Gelderman farms pork chop” came in a Korean barbecue marinade with kimchi fried rice and scallions. I was a little skeptical about ordering Korean flavours at this west coast restaurant, but not the least disappointed. This was juicy, tender pork with plenty of heat, but it the chewy rice that was my favourite part. It perfectly complimented the pork not only colour, but in taste and texture as well. The rice was so tasty that I was also able to enjoy it on its own. The only thing I would have also liked was some freshness: pickled cucumbers or shredded carrot, something more substantial than biting into a leek stalk.

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My guest had the “Wild local salmon” with warm potato salad, Dungeness crab, scallions, and smoked corn. The fish was cooked to a perfect medium. It was so tender that it flaked apart in your mouth. The potato salad offered a nice creamy contrast, and the corn some sweet smokiness. What was missing, but not missed was the crab.

 

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 plates were beautiful and they tasted good. The setting was well dressed and you felt comfortable within it. But overall, there wasn’t much that set this place apart or stood out for me. This was another well put together Canadian restaurant, servicing pacific west coast in a Yaletown setting. All very stereotypical. Not bad, just expected. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BRIX & MORTAR
1138 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2X6
604-915-9463
brixandmortar.ca
Brix & Mortar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kongee Dinesty

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Looking for a brunch time destination with my parents, we went to “Kongee Dinesty”. They serve as a cross between a Hong Kong style cafe’s tea time and traditional Chinese dim sum. I mention that I was with my parents, so that you know to expect food and ingredients I wouldn’t otherwise order myself.

The restaurant is wrapped like a present with all its windows covered. The pattern was of Chinese style geometries, mandalas, and script. It was as ornate inside with a collection of traditional Chinese patterned tea pots and cups by the entrance, an arch way with plastic firecrackers dangling by the threshold, and contemporary Chinese style wood carvings that look like miniature doors, on the walls.

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They don’t take reservations and therefore we had a minor wait at the front. This pause only lengthened when we weren’t able to register our name with the host right away. Instead, a party that came after us, got looked after and a table first. But that’s the Chinese way, first seen, first serve, literally. I was surprised that it was so busy at 11am, but felt lucky that we missed the rush at 12pm. We missed having to wait in the line that reached out the door. After all, we were in Richmond, on the weekend, in morning, when nobody cooks.

Service had a dim sum feel with a check box menu, white table cloths, and tea pots with leaves steeping in hot water. But instead they offer small share style plates, that are a little more substantial that the bites of dim sum. Just looking at the larger plates with more depth, seated at every table settling, you knew it expect more food.

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Aside from the chipped corners, the porcelain dishware was lovely and some of the nicest I have seen at a Chinese restaurant. On it was a barely visible textured pattern, a series of squiggles that could be mistaken for petals of a flower or an opened blossom.

The dining space was a little smaller than your typical Chinese seafood restaurant by night, and dim sum place by day. Their live seafood tank was also less prominent. It was positioned adjacent to the large windowed viewing of the kitchen. Behind the glass, staff were dressed in all white buttons ups, dawning matching caps, working behind plumes of smoke. It was busy on the floor, so I can only imagine the pressure behind this window pane.

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Their signature dish was the ability to customize your own congee. You begin by choosing your “kongee” base from plain, seasoned, or black pepper. Then selecting two ingredients from a list at 18 proteins to be mixed in. Like the basic pork and chicken, with seafood like clam and fish filet; and there was also liver, stomach, and salted egg for those wanting something more exotic. And finally you choose the toppings on your “kongee”, like green onion, peanuts, and pickled ginger.

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We ordered two different types of congee to share. The first was century egg and pork kidney in a black pepper base congee. Topped with everything: peanut, green onion, ginger, pickled radish, preserved vegetable, and cilantro. The toppings were what gave the congee most of its flavour. The peanut was a great accent with lots of crunch. The preserved vegetable lent the porridge its saltiness, the pickled radish offered tang, the ginger gave some spice, and the green onion was there for freshness. Although, it was topped so high and so full that you couldn’t mix the bowl before serving. You couldn’t stir things up, to ensure everyone got some topping in their portion. Despite all this, my folks still preferred it with an additional splash of soy. They claimed that, like salt it enhances the taste, “but not with actual saltiness, just its own flavour”. What stood out for me was the pepper of the congee. You could smell it wafting in the air and taste its spice on your tongue. As for the proteins, “century egg” is a common pairing in congee. It is preserved chicken egg with a green to grey coloured yolk and a dark brown, translucent jelly “white”. It is chalky and rubbery with a unique acrid taste. Definitely one that needs to be acquired, as is pork kidney. The organ reminded me very much of liver, with its grainy and iron-rich taste. I preferred the porridge without the latter and more of the former.

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The second bowl of “kongee” was pork stomach and fish fillet in their seasoned congee base, with all the toppings once again. The stomach is rubbery and ruffled organ meat, it was easy enough to chew through, but it did take a while to do so. The fish by comparison flaked apart and possessed no flavour on its own. But once again it was the peanuts and company that stole the show.

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Each congee combo comes with a complimentary beverage. You had a choice between regular soy, light soy milk, and black sesame soy milk. I didn’t know the last was and thing so was eager to try it. The black sesame was a wonderful accent to the already fragrant soy milk. Strong, but not overwhelming. Both together had just the right amount of flavour and sweetness to be an accompanying drink to lunch.

We must have been late because they were out of “Chinese fried doughnut wrapped in rice roll”, a classic dim sum and congee side. Our disappointment was met with no similar substitutions, nor was there anything else our server was able to recommend. And we did see a table get a full order after us.

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We instead got our fried dough fix with their “Handmade salty Chinese doughnut”, though it wasn’t the same. This round of dough was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. It wasn’t oily, but it had a gentle sweetness that was coupled with salt. This was the perfect snack for those who love their carbs. Best dunked in the warmth of my soy milk, but other than that this was essentially just bread.

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There was also ran out of the “stir fried halibut with rice cake”, so we got the “spicy xo rice roll” instead. This was a nice, light chew you take in for the texture. Spicy as the name promised. The bean sprouts added some freshness with a nice crisp, and the egg gave the dish a different texture and some needed colour. Another dish for those who love their carbs.

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The “Hong Kong style fried rice noodles” with beef was very similar in texture and taste as the dish above. This was a classic I grew up with and it was as good as I recalled having grown up. Well dressed strands of salted flat noodle, tender chewy beef, and crisp sports.

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The “Stir fried tofu in garlic” was cubes of tofu stacked like bricks. They were serve stilling piping hot in the middle. The garlic was salty and the only thing that gave each rectangle its taste, with a nice ground up crunch as a bonus. This was the fanciest application of tofu I have ever seen, it felt gourmet in this light breading, and smooth and creamy centre. It was jut missing a dipping sauce, perhaps a sweet chilli sauce to give it more dimension.

There was great value in our meal. $55 for all that we had, and we took half of each dish home to enjoy later. So basically all this serves 6 comfortably.

 

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.
It is a little out of the way for everyday dining, but when in the area, I would not be apposed to a return visit. This was one of the nicest dim sum-like restaurants I have been to. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KONGEE DINESTY
150-9020 Capstan Way, Richmond BC, V6X 3V9
604-278-0077
kongeedinesty.com
Kongee Dinesty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

#PopUpPatio at the Westin Grand, Robson

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This is another summer only affair, and I wanted to take advantage before the season ended. This was a pop-up patio at the “Westin Grand Hotel” on Robson street. Service is only available on Thursdays and Fridays, from 5-9pm, with their happy hour being the last hour.

Located on the third floor, you enter via the hotel’s front doors. A climb up stairs leads you to their lobby to catch the elevator up. The “Westin” is in mid renovation with boarded up sections, and a showcase sampling of what there is to come from them in the near future.

Waking out of the elevator, I was caught off guard by the gym scene, training equipment and people sweating behind a wall of glass. I followed it around to the patio and pool. I anticipated being seated pool side with a tropical drink in hand. However, the pool and all the lounge chairs by it were being enjoyed exclusively by the guests staying at the hotel. And looking at the pool to appreciate this extended luxury, meant staring in those individual’s general direction. Even a few of the patio’s tables and chairs were held by the same half dressed guests. With white towels and swim suits they were splashing around in reflective blue waters. I half wished I could too, but would prefer the scene on vacation, as they were on now.

Amongst it all there was a live DJ playing, what I could only best describe as summery dance music. Techno and pop to set the mood.

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The rest of us fully clothed folk took our seats on one of the tables surrounding the area. I grabbed a wicker and glass high top overlooking the downtown library’s court yard. Slightly shielded by the height of neighbouring buildings, the shade gave us respite from the summer’s sun. This was a great way to spend the last day of this heat wave, before the weather cooled.

This was a great pop-up reimagining, a clever business idea for the hotel, giving them extra income with additional guests. The patio and the food and drinks were already available for their customers staying for the night, why not open it up to a few more and fill the chairs with butts. But as an external customer, it was an awkward scene. You felt like you didn’t belong, nor was it the background you imagined. Their online presence did a poor job to illustrated what you could expect. Families on vacation and kids splashing in the pool. This wasn’t the backdrop I expected sipping $12 cocktails to.

At one end of the general seating area there was a barbecue and beer tent set up to serve. By it, their chefs cooked on griddles and their bartenders mixed cocktails. They had a specific list of drinks and food, cooling cocktails and easy to grab finger foods. Everything light and inviting to accommodate the weather. After all, eating while you sweat is the worst.

In the beginning we couldn’t decide whether we wanted to stay or not. My guest felt the setting awkward. As mentioned, the pop up patio idea was great for the hotel, but not so much for the guests off the street. Searching them online and visiting their website, it was never mentioned that the pool would ever be in use, let alone rampant with bodies. We went back and forth, and finally decided to stay.

The food and setting were decent enough, but it was the service that had it all falling short. They needed more servers for one thing. Ours was trying his best and being absolutely patience with the situation, but things were forgotten, guests went unnoticed, and you just didn’t get the five star treatment expected at a hotel.

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“Appletini” with vodka and sourpuss apple; and the “pink lemon drop martini” with limoncello chambord, and cranberry juice with actual cranberries floating on top. It being outdoors and on a patio, our beverages were served in clear plastic martini glasses. There is something about drinking cocktails out of a plastic cup that takes away from the experience. It makes the drink feel cheap and its taste average.

We had a long wait for our cocktails, that pretty much came with our food. When it all finally showed up it all looked good and tasted good. But when it came time to eat any of it, we had to ask for the plates required, and the water to help wash it down. We were well enough looked after by our server, but the table next to us were less taken care of. In fact the family of three ended up walking out because no one came to greet them, let alone offer to serve them food.

However, he could have used a few pointers. When ordering he never mentioned any of the possible sides, or did he give us the chance to choose our own. Luckily, the chef instinctively gave us one of each of the side options. He also dissuaded us from getting the ceviche that we wanted. He described it as being a small portion and suggested that we don’t order it. We made a different choice on his suggestion, only to be impressed by the two martini glasses filled with ceviche walking past us. It later prompted me to run to our server, by the food tent, asking if we still had time to change our order, back to the ceviche.

He asked his chef and the answer was no, I could see that our second place tacos were already crafted and waiting to be plated. I explained my story to both hi. I felt bad for throwing our server under the bus, but explained our decision for not wanting to take his suggestion anymore. I explained how we just saw the ceviche and wanted to get it because it looked more than enough food. The chef suggested cutting one of our orders in half, to be able to have the ceviche in full. I declined saying it is what it is, and we will live with our original choice.

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However they surprised and delighted by gifting us our own ceviche. The chef sent it to us with his regards. The “daily ceviche” was described as “the chef’s own creation using the season’s freshest seafood”. It was on rotation and today whitefish with grapefruit, tomato, cilantro, and sprouts was on the menu. The mix was sweet and tangy, and full of flavour. I just wished there was less juice pooled at the bottom of the glass and a few more chips. The chips were used as garnish and offered the ideal base to scoop and eat the chopped fruit and fish with. But when we ran out, the salt and vinegar chips below were helpful in replacing that void.

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The chips was one of two possible sides, that we didn’t get to choose, but we ended up have both side with our two entrees. They seemed like the kind you get from a bag at your local grocery store.

The “Quinoa sliders” are prepared with home made quinoa cakes, melted Brie cheese, tomatoes, and butter lettuce; all between a gluten free ricotta bun. Except they were out of gluten free buns, and asked to use regular slider buns instead. This was preferred by us. The burger’s vegan patty was very tasty, its corn-like flavouring paired nicely with the smokiness of the cheese, the creaminess of the lettuce, and the tomato’s juiciness. This was a sweeter burger that quickly became my favourite of our three dishes.

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Our last minute substitute, had the other side we wanted to try. The “Rock ta-ak oh” is tortilla shells filled with deep fried rockfish, green cabbage slaw, and Serrano pepper infused sour cream. It was crispy breading and chewy tortilla, with tangy and creamy notes, bite after bite. Fresh and light, they tasted as healthy as they looked. Although you couldn’t say the same about the sides.

The “Cheesy potato skins” topped with bacon bits, green onion, and sour cream. They were tougher when cooled down, with the need to saw the potato down piece by piece. And they lack salt despite the addition of cheese and bacon.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The food was good, but we came more for the setting, and that fell short. I cannot imagine myself returning, when there are other restaurants that offer similar cuisine; if not better and cheaper, being unaffiliated with a hotel chain. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

#PopUpPatio
433 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6L9
604-602-1999
westingrandvancouver.com/vancouver-patio
#PopUpPatio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gwen Stefani at Rogers Arena

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Looking to keep the tradition going, I took my friend to see Gwen Stefani in celebration of her birthday. The performance was live at Roger’s arena on Thursday, August 25th, 2016. Last year’s we went to the Nicki Minaj concert, so today we were looking for something just as engaging, and Gwen gave us just that.

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My partner helped us get the tickets off Craig’s List. There is always the fear of being swindled and buying fakes, but it is the risk you take when you buy your tickets late, and want to get them cheaper second hand. These tickets were from a radio contest winner, who preferred to pocket the money.

Previously, I was never one to pay for a concert. I never saw the appeal of seeing someone perform live. I never idolized a musician enough or thought the amount of money was worth the couple of hours I had to give up to watch them. And then there is the gauntlet that is trying to leave the concert with thousands of others. Battling for taxis and pushing for skytrain access. I am firmly against lining up to go home. Though, this blog and everything I write on is a good example of: you don’t know, if you don’t try. And I have learned, to attend a concert is worth the effort.

It wasn’t until my first concert did I see the value and knew the excitement of one. It is not just about the artist on display, the songs that they play, or the pageantry the perform. It is also about the experience and the atmosphere: the sights, the sounds, and the sensations. A gathering of like minds to enjoy like music, under the same roof. The energy is often electrifying and the camaraderie is what excites me.

And today, I appreciated the maturity level of the crowd, there was hardly a kid in sight. It made sense, given the artist and her popularity peaking ten years ago.

Tonight, I like many others, was here for nostalgia. A generation who has grown up with her music, and now had the steady income to purchase tickets, to see her live.

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I was looking forward to hearing more of her older stuff as part of “No Doubt”, all the songs that topped the charts in the 90’s, rather than the tracks off her new 2016 album. “This is what the truth feels like”. She did a good job in giving us both, blending new and old, fast and slow. The newer album was more soulful, it made sense given where she is in her life and her recent divorce. Where as “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” And “Sweet Escape” were a lot more joyous and more fitting of a dance floor. I preferred to dance in front of my seat. And found myself sitting instead of swaying to the ballads.

Our seats were lower bowl and gave us a decent view. Close enough to see her through her outfit changes. And everything else, the large television screens on either ends of the stage, projected enough detail for those in the nose bleeds to see. Gwen looked as good as she did ten years ago. The same taunt abs showing from her midriff baring tops, the same punk style with fishnet, spikes, and sequins.

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But first Eve, of Rough Riders fame graced the stage. She preformed her hit singles, like “Who’s that girl” and “Tambourine”.

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Doing so, before joining Gwen on their collaborations, mid way through her performance. “Let me blow ya mind” and “Rich Girl”. They showed appreciation for one another and posed for photographs, before Eve left the stage and Stefani continued her set.

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I was never a big fan of Gwen Stefani, but watching her live, my appreciation for her grew, each time she opened her mouth. She was a great performer, she had tonnes of energy and didn’t even once find herself out of breath, there wasn’t a pant in sight.

She has a unique voice, that gives you great difficulty in understanding each word she sings, but her sound is unique to her. Pop meets ska in a pretty, yet punky package. With her glitter, plaid, and ripped pants she looked liked she stepped of 2006 and owned it.

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Between singles she addressed the crowd, she thanked them for their patronage, and was in disbelief of all the love she was getting now. She seemed truly thankful for her opportunity to preform and we, the crowd, ate it up. During “Don’t Speak”, many even raised their lighters and many more their lit cellphone screens.

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I was glad she made mention, and paid tribute to her harajuku phase during “What you waiting for?”. This was done with cartoon representations of her and them on the video screen, dancing and riding mopes in the background. But sadly they didn’t join her on stage, dancing live now.

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Most memorable was when the crowd thought that “this shit is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s”, with everyone’s favourite cheerleading anthem, “Hollaback Girl”. This was the one I was most excited about. Surprisingly that wasn’t the song she ended on, but instead, a new and old track, as part of the encore.

 

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 found this a feel good, happy concert. I got some video footage for memory sake, but was not about filming the whole thing, then watching it again. It would never be as good as seeing it live with my two eyes. I will definitely be back for more upcoming concert events in the near future.

 

ROGERS ARENA
800 Griffiths Way, Vancouver BC, V6B 6G1
604-899-7400
rogersarena.com

Salchica

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I have never tried, or do I have much experience with Northern African or Middle Eastern cuisine. So today I was excited to have the opportunity to explore both a little more through a media event, host by local food blogger, “Foodgressing”.

This was a well run event where local food lovers who not only eat, but photograph and write about their meal came together to catalogue a shared meal, in support of a newer restaurant.

As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue. No one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

Sadly the restaurant was dim and set with yellow bulbs, so excuse the quality and tone of my photos. They not only washed the food out, but didn’t do the plate justice. But as always, I try to bring my readers the most authentic look in to each of my experiences. This is so that you know what you will be getting from a restaurant in food, setting, and service. I do not edit any of the photos on this blog, and like it is with me, what you see is what you get. Media tasting or not. However there were a few bloggers who do put in the extra work to give you, their readers and followers, a more beautiful photo. Even going so far as to bring each plate served outside, for a natural lighting photo shoot, I suggest visiting them for some more delicious looking plates.

Located on the Granville entertainment strip, the restaurant doesn’t immediately stand out. A white awning with its red bull logo framing the name. A couple of chairs and a sandwich board out front. Nothing that would stop me in my tracks, and usher me in.

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Inside, a miniature bar in red fronts the place. The narrow room has tables and chairs on either ends. On the right is a unique high top-counter installation. It is a table with piping for legs, supported by another pipe attached to the wall. You sit on shelves with and back cushions glued to the wall. I appreciated its creative assembly. But as a larger group we were seated at a long table made out of all the smaller two tops pushed together.

Despite where you sit, everyone earns a view of the kitchen’s operations towards the back. A stainless steel counter fronting a ceiling to floor brick wall. This handsome wall is branded with their name. With a ding of a bell and a window pass, dishes move from kitchen to service within seconds.

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The room was decorated in pickling preserves. Mason jars and reused pickle jugs on the counter and on the shelves along the wall. Carrot shards, whole nugget potatoes, and cauliflower florets, out of the ones I could identify within the murky waters. The vibe as a whole was more casual and mellow, despite the dance music with poppy beats.

The menu was an easy to read and a well explained listing of appetizers, salads, dips, pickles, and entrees. They even made their own healthy shakes from vegetables and fruit. Knowing that many may not be familiar with their cuisine, they took the time to describe each dish with detailed sentences, which I appreciated. I like knowing what I put in my mouth and fully enjoying all the ingredients they make mention to. Not having a list, denies me of that oral pleasure.

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We started off with their popular dips with and bread. The serving allows you to choose three dips from their traditional dip menu, which comes with a side of toasted focaccia bread. As it is typically with such dishes, there was not enough bread for all the dip provided. The bread gave each bite most of its flavour, with the dip being more of an accent point.

The red coloured “Harrisa” is a spicy traditional Moroccan paste made with dried red pepper, garlic, chilli, and paprika. Given its ingredient make up and bold hue, there is no surprise that this was prick your tongue spicy.

The green coloured “Sahuog” was another spicy and traditional dip, but this time its origin is yemenite. It is a sauce made of green pepper, cilantro, and garlic.

The off white “Garlic mayo herb” dip was helpful in pulling the other two together, and decreasing the tinge of burning they left me. It is made with Italian parsley, cilantro, spinach, and garlic aioli.

We ordered more of their focaccia bread and had it with the four salads below. Especially when I consider two of them as more dips than salad.

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“Baba ghanoush” is roasted mashed eggplant in a tahini lemon garlic seasoning. It was the perfect paste-like texture to scoop up with bread. It was served cold and creamy with mild chunks.

The “Hummus” is made in house. It is a roasted chickpea dip topped with garbanzo beans and extra virgin olive oil. It tasted exactly as you expected it would. It too is paste-like and chalky thick.

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The “Tabbouleh” salad was made with bulgar (a kind of dried cracked wheat), finely chopped tomatoes, cilantro, Italian parsley, and mint. Then seasoned in olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. It was a sharp salad full of refreshing mint and herby bites. A great side when needing a break from something to spicy or rich with meat.

The shredded carrot and lettuce coleslaw was not mentioned on menu. It too made a great side, something to give you a break in between more flavourful bites, shame it was served as a starter instead. And alone I found it too creamy with overwhelming mayo and too tangy with excessive vinegar.

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The “Chicken skewers” were marinated and grilled chicken breast, served with their in house made garlic chipotle mayo. The chicken was a little over charred and had an acrid taste. However the creamy mayo highlight was more than enough to have you forgetting all about that. The dip had a nice light flavour that also complimented the vegetable served as garnished. Together with the chicken, it made for a more comprehensive bite with creamy, fresh, salty and meaty; all rolled into one.

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The “Antipasti” is oven roasted vegetables topped with extra virgin olive oil. The assortment included eggplant, bell pepper, yam, carrot, and zucchini. They made eating vegetables fun with this one. Nicely grilled with a smokey flavour, but it could have been served warmer. The sweetness and the starch of the yam made them my favourite.

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The “Sweet liver pate” was not the most appealing dish. Not only because it looked like mud, or worst smeared on to a plate; but because you don’t typically use the descriptor “sweet” for ground up organ meat. This was stir fried liver and onions made into a pâté, flavoured with cinnamon and a bay leaf. And served with toasted focaccia bread and a homemade cherry tomato jam. I couldn’t wrap my head around this one. You tried it and went back for more to decide whether you liked it or not. The liver was pronounced, the sugar used was only so effective in hiding its distinct flavour. The one isn’t for me.

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The “Beef kebabs” were wrapped around a cinnamon stick and grilled. They were served over their baked potato cream purée, with a side of roasted tomatoes and shallot onions. Then all of it was topped with a sweet reduced balsamic sauce. This extra sauce was unnecessary, as it was an already pretty tasty version of meat and potatoes. Similarly the cinnamon added nothing but aesthetics to the meat. The beef was cooked to a nice pink, but was left on the drier side. I would have liked a nice gravy or jus to moisten things up with.

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The “Cherry salad” was a nice refresher. Made with three colours of tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, mint and feta cheese shavings. It reminded me of a sweet Greek salad, but with the refreshing twist of mint. And more importantly it was well dressed, every element was glistening from the vinaigrette, with plenty more to dip into at the bottom.

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“Couscous maraguez”. “Couscous” is small steamed balls of semolina, usually served with a stew on top. Today that stew included traditional Moroccan spicy sausage made with fresh Alberta lamb, and a reduced harrisa sauce. “Harrisa”, is the dip from above made with dried red pepper, garlic, chilli, and paprika. It being reduced meant it was less spicy, and the couscous also helped to mellow out the heat. The stew was compared to a ragu, especially with the soften vegetables. The sausage had a great flavour, but I wished it wasn’t so tough. It was dry and gritty to bite through. When I think sausage, I crave the kind that leave juices dripping down my chin (there is no way I can describe the feeling, without sounding dirty, this is my third edit). And sadly the same sausage, with the same dryness made an appearance in the dish below.

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“Shakshouka maraguez” was the same spicy maraguez sausages surrounded by slow cooked spicy tomato sauce and poached eggs, on a sizzling plate. It was served with more focaccia bread and a tahini sauce, that wasn’t necessary and that we didn’t use. Once the sizzling subsided we stirred the eggs in, the yolk offering some moisture to aid in the dryness of the sausage, but both it and the stewed tomato could only go so far.

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The “Spring chicken” was my favourite. Moroccan seasoning, marinaded chicken strips grilled with fresh rosemary leaves, served with carrot rice and drizzled with date molasses. The chicken was so tender and juicy that compared to it, the rice was too dry and hard. But not enough for me to stop eating it. The zesty chicken went really well with the flavour of the rice. The sticky syrup helped to add some moisture to it and give things a hint of sweetness.

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Our meal ended with the only dessert they offer, “Malabi”. “Malabi” is a traditional Arabic dessert of corn flour and milk, soaking in rose water and maple syrup, topped coconut shavings and crushed peanuts and almonds. It looks like custard, with a slightly firmer texture, but is like nothing I have had. The rose water was strong and distinct, it definitely was the front facing flavour. I would have preferred a light cream instead, and less sweet maple syrup. One guest was allergic to almonds, and they were kind enough to prepare a whole new serving for her without it.

 

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.
A great place to grab a quick bite at, and expand your cultural horizons within. Many of the flavours and plates I have never had and have never tasted, definitely worth taking a second look at. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SALCHICHA
1065 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1L4
604-620-0306
salchicha.ca
Salchicha Meat Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

21 Nautical Miles Seafood Bar

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Seafood boils are making a resurgence our food landscape with a few popping up around town. I first spotted this one by its purple neon lights while walking past at night. And today I was lucky enough to be invited to a media preview hosted by “Chinese Bites”, to feast on a few of their more elaborate dishes. Especially, as I won’t naturally find myself visiting such a place. I don’t like labour in eating and getting my hands dirty with boils and other crustacean dishes, but I would soon learn that there is so much more that they offer.

As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue. No one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

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I like the novelty and concept of seafood boils, but not actually its application. I don’t like working for the food I pay for. I also don’t like getting my hands messy when I eat. I keep my nails long, and getting anything stuck under them is the worst. During Chinese style family diners I avoid the fancy crab and lobster platters for these very reasons. So being treated to a meal now, I was willing to work for my food today. But not enough to keep cracking until the very end. I did enough to taste and say that I have. Though I was lucky to be seated by Sherman, of “Sherman’s Food Adventures”, and he was willing to cut, smash, and snip his way through a few legs and limbs, so that those around him could share the benefits of his labour. But more on that later.

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Given its decor you might not be able to guess what they are offering right off the bat, but the name is more telling. “Nautical 21”, something to do with seafood? Inside, this Taiwanese restaurant spoke to it influences in the caricature prints and their decorative patterns. Illustrations of chibi-sized men and women dawning traditional Chinese wear hanging on the walls, and a few more silk screened on a smattering of their throw pillows. Each chair had its own pillow to ensure comfort and welcome an extended stay.

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The swirl of white clouds paired with panels of red, yellow, and purple were the bursts of colour in a sea of bright white chairs and pale green tables. The latter was sturdy with thick curved legs. The gold trim gave them a little bit of glitz that matched the ceiling of gold bauble lamp shades. A cluster of gold orbs strung up by thick black cables, were like UFOs decending. They were memorizing and certainly the feature of the room. They attracted your eyes upwards and towards the second floor balcony.

However the stylized decor, the upbeat pop music, and the seafood boil concept didn’t flow together. Each element worked on its own, and was celebrated for its own uniqueness, but together they seemed confused. For a seafood boil I would expect a more causal setting befitting of a bib and the necessity of eating with your hands. Here the decor was better suited to a night club with its purple glow and coloured spot lights when the sun set. But the music said fast food joint with the bubbly stylings of “Justin Bieber” and “Maroon 5”. Though the decor and the food did start coming together when we got into their more traditional Taiwanese style dishes, and the music eventually become background chatter as our voices rose in gleeful dining.

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Each table was prelaid with a lengthy sheet of parchment, and each seat was equipped with a disposable plastic bib. The bib was not only a fun accessory to sling over our heads, but it helped to keep our clothes clean and clear of the carnage of ripping seafood from out of its shell and devouring it with our two hands, which were shielded in plastic gloves.

To help you in your meal you also get your own wooden slab and matching mallet. The mallet is smooth on what end with textured rounded spikes on the other, it gave you the flexibility to crack with a gentle tap, or pound with some furious force.

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The gold handled scissors were best used to cut through the crab legs. With a snip lengthwise you free a whole leg of its meat, intact in one piece. And you need not worry about getting too messy, you do finish your session with wet napkins to mop up.

We were treated to all four flavours of their seafood boils, each one grew progressively spicier. They are made to order in large metal bowls, then poured right on to the table, over the parchment. Then in you went. You claimed what you liked and ate from which ever pile you wanted. I only took from the garlic butter and black bean boil, fearing for my tongue with anything spicer. My fellow bloggers reassured me that it was indeed much spicer towards the other end of the table. The assortment of seafood in each regular order includes BC Dungeness crab, selva tiger prawns, blue mussels, clam, corn on the cob quarters, and whole nugget potatoes. We had the add on of Alaskan King crab, lobster tail, and snow crab; and you can too for an additional cost. Each portion is meant to be shared, with a minimum order for two and a cost per person.

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Here is a behind the scenes look at the work that each food blogger and Instagram influencer puts in to giving, you, their readers and their followers, the perfect photo. The best shot out of dozens that get snapped, that incapsulates and captures the experience and food in the best way, in the best light. All to get you closer to them and their views, behind your own screens. Dishes get staged, plates get brought out doors for natural lighting, and food gets cold while everyone takes their turn.

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And then there is me, with my iPhone 6. I appreciate the beauty of their photos, but am a little too lazy and a lot more practical for that extra work. I snap as I see it, and don’t edit any photos for this blog. I am a regular joe coming in for a regular meal. I want my photos to reflect the same lighting and the same food you would feel and taste when you visit.

Everything was plenty flavourful, drenched in sauces that permeated the shell. But if you needed more taste, you only need to dip meat in the pools of sauce that gathered on the parchment. Globs of butter or drips of hot sauce. There was no shortage on tasty. In fact, you felt like you needed a side of bread, some baguette slices, or even corn bread to have something different for those in between bites.

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The “garlic butter” was definitely favoured by the group. It was not only one the one that wasn’t spicy, but who can say no to butter.

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I couldn’t get any more spicer than the “black pepper”. Although I enjoyed its flavour over the garlic butter, my burning mouth warned me not to take on too much. If you can tolerate the heat, this is the one I suggest. I don’t like spicy foods where all you can taste is burning, it masks the natural flavour of the food, and all their fresh Oceanwise seafood is definitely worth tasting.

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I didn’t try any of the “Xi’an spicy” for fear of my tongue.

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And avoided the “House spicy” which was on a scale of 5/5 in heat. Although you are given the option to customize your own heat levels when you order with them.

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They also have their seafood fried with their “wok fried spicy”. As it was quoted, “the beauty of this dish is the seasoning on the outside”. There was no flavouring past the shell, you either had to lick the exoskeleton clean of its crispy fried crumbs, or eat the crustacean shell and all. The latter was no problem to do if you grabbed one of their tiger prawns to maw on.

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We transitioned out of the first flavour-full portion of our meal with the bussing of our table, the discarding of the parchment, and a palette cleansing soup.

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The “Kung fu soup” won me over in name and presentation. It was served in a traditional, individual tea pot and cup. The soup was abalone flavoured. For those unfamiliar with Chinese broth soup, don’t let the grey murky colour dissuade you from giving it a try. It was light, yet full bodied, it well complimented all the seafood we have had and all the seafood that we yet to have. Definitely my favourite flavour of the evening. However not the best to cool a burnt tongue with or cool down on a hotter day. I could imagine coming here for winter and starting my meal with this soup, to warm me up inside and out.

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The “stone cooked scrabble eggs” had us reminiscing of the children’s storybook, “Stone soup”, but without actual soup. Hot stones in a clay pot, within a wicker basket is first brought to the table. Then a blend of egg, shrimp, and green onions is poured right over them. A lid is placed over it to allow the eggs to cook. When the liquid is boiled to a solid, and the texture of the eggs is a fluffy yellow, you know they are done. The intention of this dish is that you cook this yourself at the table, with the help of the staff. Definitely one for those who like a little dinner theatre.

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But then there is the issue of scooping servings out. Even with the narrow spoon provided, it was not easy to scoop eggs while avoiding rocks, my solution was to tedious separate the two before we began eating. Maybe have a strainer or some sort of wax paper between rock and egg? Although you don’t get the same presentation that way. This was simple in recipe, yet one of the best scrambled eggs I have ever add. Salty with the shrimp and fresh with the onion. I would have this brunch, although I can’t say the same for dinner or lunch; and they don’t do a breakfast service.

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The “grilled oysters” were topped with a mound of minced garlic and it was too much. It gave things a slightly bitter taste, which was easily rectified when you simply pushed all the garlic off, but you had to learn that lesson the hard way. Like with raw oysters, it needed something pickled and tangy to give the natural base of the oyster some acid.

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The “chicken wings” were just as deceiving. They looked like regular fried chicken wings, but their preserved plum flavouring made them sweet. If there are such things as dessert wings, this would be it. We didn’t hate it, we just couldn’t understand it. We speculated the inclusion of honey and peanut butter, or even maybe they used sugar instead of salt by accident. This was definitely one of a kind. I would have liked some actual plum sauce for a dipping sauce to balance out the sweetness, and have the sugar as more of an accent, then the dominant flavour profile.

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We the. went back to spicy with the “Sichuan style boiled fish” with dried tofu and noodles. This portion is traditionally set at a maximum 5/5 for heat, but once again, you had the option to customize the heat to your preference. It was a slow burning fire, that grew and crept up on you. As a whole the flavour was one toned, you grew tried after one serving. And the noodles used were harder, they didn’t soak up any of the flavour. I would have preferred a chewier strand like udon, or bean thread, as I expected. Rice would have also been a better base, helping to tone down the spice. As for the fish it was as gentle and flaky, and the tofu was chewy and light. But they were too similar in texture, here I would have preferred the use of squid over fish. But at this point I have suggested too made changes, thus not having the dish as it was originally intended. I guess this one is not for me, but this IS a traditional Taiwanese dish for a reason.

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“Beef and lamb skewers” flavoured with cumin. I liked the use of the thin metal sticks instead of the typical wood. They made each serving light weight and easy to a wield. Despite being flavoured the same, there was a big difference between the two proteins. The lamb was the favourite, it being more tender and thick, you could tell just by looking at both comparatively. The beef was on the drier side and more shrivelled from an over cooking. It would have been nice to be giving a dip to enhance both with. Untraditionally, a creamy sour cream or dill to cool it down, or a sweeter peanut butter sauce that would give it the same effect.

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The crawfish tower was a crowd pleaser. Any time you add liquid nitrogen to the mix and get yourself a smokey fog, people swarm. This specialty designed metal tower was built to impress. The base was further divided into four troughs, each filled with crawfish seasoned in the same sauces as our boils above: garlic butter, black bean, xi’an spicy, and house spicy. And once again, all spice levels were adjustable. At the centre of this was where the dry ice lived. When the smoke dissipated, our server was able to pour some water over it and cause the reaction to begin anew. He did it until I got my unobstructed shot.

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The second and top tier had some sides to help balance the salty and spice of the shellfish: edamame beans and cucumber chunks. Given how tedious cracking meat from shell from such a tiny marine mammal is and how little yield there is, I can’t imagine myself ordering this one. However, I imagine it being a great snacking opportunity for a group of friends. Something to keep you busy as you talk and drink, like eating more complicated peanuts at a bar.

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And they saved one of everyone’s favourite dishes for last. “Blue crab in chef’s special sauce”. Blue crab, chicken wings, chicken feet, potatoes, and carrots; in the chef’s secret recipe sauce, all the way from his hometown of Xi’an. The heated pan it was served on ensured thing would stay warm to the last bite. The sauce was buttery and rich like gravy. More savoury than spicy, like a hearty stew. Everything was tender to the tooth. This would be another warming dish to come back in the winter for.

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To end our meal, I was craving something cooling and sweet to finish on. And they had just the dessert for us. Their “Mango thousand layer millie crepe” was flown in all the way from Taiwan. Served with whipped cream, vanilla bean ice cream and a berry compote; this was exactly how I wanted to end this meal. And judging by everyone else’s clean plate, they would agree. Soft spongy cake and sweet sheets of mango, delicious.

They are not the first place that would come to mind when thinking of spicy food, nor is the area one I would gravitate towards for Chinese food, dressed up or not. But if any restaurant could operate within that criteria, this would be the one.

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However if you are looking for a great setting to drink at this would be one I could recommend. I would like to come back for drinks at night. From the side walk, the glow of their purple lights reflecting off the gold orbs draws you in. It’s more romantic in this shade, and their second floor balcony offers a more chill experience, over looking everyone else.

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I didn’t get a chance to look over their cocktail list, to deem it worth a trip or not. But we did get to try their wine that attracted flies into our open mouthed glass. The staff were more than accommodating by giving us fresh servings the two times that happened. But what got me excited was the beer dispensed from their tower. It was globe-like gumball machine with a tap. A tip down allowed the table to pour and drink at their leisure. Now this table top mini keg is worth the novelty at 3 litres.

 

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 definitely recommend trying their seafood boil, as the only one in Vancouver. And staying late to enjoy their traditional Taiwanese finger foods and snacks with drinking. But we warned, wear baggy and floaty clothes, because by the time you leave, you will be full and bloated from salt. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

21 NAUTICAL MILES
1257 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6K3
604-688-2333
21nauticalmiles.com
21 Nautical Miles Seafood Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Crackle Creme

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With the increasing popularity of “Pokemon Go” (the augmented reality game, where you catch pocket monsters by walking and travelling in real life time), and my love for it and novelty, when I heard they were selling Pokemon themed macarons at “Crackle Creme”, I directed our after dinner dessert destination here.

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Once just known of their specialty flavoured creme burlees in ramekins, they have slowly expanded and slowly carved themselves into a more comprehensive dessert place. And with no surrounding competition, they have been doing a hell of a job. “Crackle Creme” now also offers ice cream, waffles, macarons, and hot beverages.

Nothing is made to order, with all the prep required, but finishing touches are completed before your eyes. The toasting of a room temperature waffle, the scooping of ice cream between two large macaron shells, and the torching of sugar over custard.

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But with an eye catching collection of colourful macaron characters in their window display, I directed my attention there. These are made in partnership with “Gourmand Macaron” to sell exclusively here. Each had its own flavour, not necessarily reflective of its colour or pattern, except the coconut pandan which was a pale green dusted with shredded coconut. Totoro was lavender, his white friend matcha, and the pink version passion fruit. Hello kitty was lemon, Kerropi was also matcha, a minion was mango, and the poop emoji was hazelnut; just to list a few.

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I of course got pikachu which was chocolate ganache filled and a red and white pokeball that matched. I passed on snorlax because I didn’t think it was obvious enough that it was him. The macarons are good, but it is for their image that you get them. So it was sad that despite gingerly removing them from the mini brown paper bag that they were served in, their surfaces got smudged when I went to get a better grip on them. The owner informed me that it was because it was too hot, and the ink used melts. However this happened immediately after I got them and went to pose them for another photo. And because I ordered them more for look than taste, I naturally was disappointed.

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The black soot from the animated movie “Spirited Away” faired better. Its entire surface was engulfed in black sesame seeds, and naturally, black sesame flavoured. I ordered the large version as an ice cream sandwich, and was given a choice of ice cream filling between today’s availability. I went with the original sounding honey lavender. It was a good call as the macaron shell was fairly sweet and the gentle ice cream didn’t add any more sugar to the mix.

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My guest went for one of their leige waffles glistening behind glass. Separated on wire racks they were ready to take a whirl in the oven before being served warm and a la mode. For a less sweet pairing, she went with the hojicha flavoured ice cream, which is roasted green tea. And like my combo, it paired nicely for a mild dessert. The waffle was decent, but you could tell it wasn’t fresh. It didn’t have that spongy springy texture you wanted.

For drinks, they had a self serve water station. It had sprigs of thyme in it, giving the water a floral after taste. It was certainly unique of them, but after my dessert, I just wanted some ice cold, refreshing, tasteless water, to wash it all down. This area is also where you leave your used dish ware and cutlery when done, stacked in plastic trays.

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For seating they have counter top ledges and stools by the windows and against each free wall. We opted for the scenery of the adjacent park, over their walls decorated in pop culture references and framed dog photos.

The patio out front was a space saving narrow plank of wood in front of a few chairs. It wasn’t the most comfortable eating arrangement: to stoop and hover over your plate, but without air conditioning inside, it was still preferred.

 

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.
I haven’t had their creme burlee since they first opened, so would like to return to revisit how they are now. They also have a lot more flavours on rotation. Thai tea, lychee vodka, Vietnamese coffee with cocoa nibs, baileys, and even a vegan mango coconut; just to name a few. Both them and their macarons also make great gifts, and novelty worth returning for. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CRACKLE CREME
245 Union Street, Vancouver BC, V6A3A1
778-847-8533
cracklecreme.com
Crackle Crème Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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