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

Month: November 2016 Page 1 of 3

How to make “Trash Can Nachos”

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I am a sucker for novelty when it comes to food. Food challenges, dishes larger than normal and smaller than usual, and anything that would be considered an acquired taste. So when Guy Fieri posted a video of himself making an extra large portion of nachos, in an extra large tin can, that he so affectionately called, “Trashcan Nachos”; I knew I had to give it a try myself.

As soon as I saw it, I knew I had the recreate it, but bigger and better. Hence our tin can nacho challenge began. To watch the video and skip all the reading, click the link.

But first to find the right folks to dare this endeavour with me. One would be a cake designer known for making over the top confectionary; and the other, a home chef who already has a reputation for preparing dishes in excess and believing the bigger the better. I found my ideal eating mates in Cory of “Hey!CakeThis” fame and Ron from “Sarlo’s Awesome Eatery”.

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I shopped for everything and anything that would be complimentary to and passable for dressing over nachos, and ended with 18 different ingredients. I took the liberty of arranging it all by colour for easy identification.

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With all the chopping and dicing, the prep time was double actual cooking and eating time. Salsa, Roma tomatoes, coloured peppers, pineapple, queso cheese dip, shredded cheddar, peaches and cream corn kernels, deep fried shallots, refried beans with lard, homemade short rib chilli, oven baked bacon, taco flavoured ground beef, black pitted olives, cilantro, jalapeño, avocado, pico de gallo guacamole, and red onions. And of course tortilla chips and a large tin can, to put all of the above into. The can was a reuse, once home to a bulk portion of stewed tomatoes.

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We would layer ingredients over layers of tortilla chips. No specific order just starting and ending on cheese. With 1/3 left and a can now full, we stuffed what we could and shut the lid half way. We baked it in Ron’s industrial kitchen, judging by ear on when it would be “done”. The gooey cheese was a fine indication of that.

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With mitted hands, Ron would shake the tower of nachos out into a pan. It didn’t hold its shape as intended, but it was still an impressive amount of food toasted evenly.

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And once un-canned, we began piping jalapeño and chipotle sour cream over our creation. And then topping it with dollops of regular sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.

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Once fully dressed, we began digging into our creation.

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As is with most dishes, the best was within the first few bites, before the flavours merged, and the colours blended. In order to get us through the one tone taste to come, we would use what sauces and unseasoned vegetables we had left to rejuvenate the flavour.

All in all, a very successful duplication, if not improvement. Definitely thinking of finding a much larger can to do a part two with.

Hotel Bar Crawl 2.0

What should have been a night of tens. Ten downtown Vancouver hotels, ten bars, and ten cocktails…

 

It was my dear friend’s birthday. And as we did last year, we planned to celebrate with a hotel bar crawl. I had mapped out 10 different hotel bars and we only got through 5. So this year we vowed to do it again, but this time working backwards through the same list. We would be starting by Waterfront and work our way to Granville street skytrain. Little did we know the weather and the holiday transit hours would hinder our full plans.

I write to much? To watch the vlog version of our night and skip the read click the link. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4aCIE7xg3ZU

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Learning a thing or two, this year we started early and knew which hotels to avoid. Our first shop was decidedly “Lobby Lounge” at the “Pacific Rim Fairmont”. They are better known as the hotel that often has the exotics (cars) parked out front. With its all white motif: light coloured furniture and marble columns and surfaces, the lounge read the right kind of opulence that we wanted to start our night off with. It is also the ideal spot for pre-drinking photographs: before cheeks deepened in red, skin started to glow, hair became disheveled, and lipstick smudged.

The hotel’s bar is located right at the lobby, when you enter to your left, hence its name. It was part of the open space, yet cloistered off with the strategic placement of planters and chairs. There were various seating available from couches to swivelling stools, and high chairs by their bar. Their alcohol and raw bar simultaneously offered craft cocktails and fresh seafood. I was sad to miss out on claiming one of the sofas forming a “c” around their elongated fireplace.

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Looking for a table for two, there was a bit of a confusion and a greater wait. It required intense mapping from two hostesses before we were actually seated. Oddly, all that lead up, to literally be walked a few steps past their podium. Although they did allow us to jump around and find our perfect spot shortly after. We were finally seated, just in time to catch a set from a live performer plugged in and strumming. He sang folk that broadcasted across the hall, and reached all those who were currently enjoying the hotel’s lobby. There was also a beautiful grand piano available for those who possessed the skill to play it.

As gorgeous as the setting was, with chairs facing one another, we found it impossible to speak to each another. We would throw back a couple of more expensive cocktails and went on our way. At $16-24 a glass and us settling on two in the $18 range, this would be the priciest drinks of the night.

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The coasters amused us with its humorous views on drinking, and the lime salted popcorn kept our hands and mouths busy with something to snack on.

I went for the “Cepa sour”, as I always go for the “weird” one. It is prepared with lot 40 rye infused with pineapple, caramelized onion flavour, citrus, egg white, and a tawny port float. Considering that the ingredients listed onion, I was disappointed that I couldn’t taste any of it or the pineapple, the two flavours that would have made this one stand out. Though I appreciated the sweetness from the egg white float.

My guest went with the “Beginner’s luck”, a more refreshing cocktail made with gin, lavender, lemon, blue mountain sparkling, and fino sherry.

LOBBY LOUNGE
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, V6C 0B9
604-695-5502
lobbyloungerawbar.com

 
 

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Our second stop was more a detour. We made the mistake of drinking before eating, so sought to course correct that now. We stopped at the newest “Tap and Barrel” location for dinner.

Their bar/restaurant is divided across two rooms, one more casual than the other, serving a more paired down menu. We wanted the full experience and was seated in their lengthy bar, between their multi tap set up and their lounge area with book shelves and television screen.

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Their theme was like a dressed up factory. Scrubbed floors, caged lights, brick features, signs lit Broadway style, exposed load bearing beams, keg lids hanging on walls, and barrels standing in corners. Our table by the window gave us a view of all the shoes that walked towards the water. It was intimate and cozy, yet loud and rowdy from the crowd.

We would continue to graze, and to not loose our accumulating buzz, we had a glass of white wine each, to keep us going.

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The “Crispy Calamari” was your standard bar offering. It is served with scallions, banana peppers, fresh dill, lemon, and tzaziki for dipping. Light and crispy, easy to pop into your mouth.

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The “Tempura Cauliflower” was one worth travelling all the way back for. Topped with fresh cilantro and served with a curry yogurt dip, these were some of the best cauliflowers interpretations I have had to date. They had a nice firm chew and only a hint of curry warmth, that was balanced out by the refreshing cool of the dip.

TAP & BARREL
Convention Centre
1055 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 1E1
604-235-9827
tapandbarrel.com

 
 

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We continued the crawl at the nearby “Pan Pacific Hotel”. A ride up two sets of escalators led us up to their second floor restaurant and bar: “Five Sails”. And there, our cocktails took a turn on the healthier side.

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The bar’s layout wrapped around the ceiling to floor windows, fronted by a water feature that wasn’t currently running. It reminded me of an airport bar, the open space, yet cornered off sections. We grabbed a seat on a set of sofas surrounding a coffee table, by the front. It was the perfect perch to lounge on as we sipped our drinks. They also offered a bowl mixed rice crackers for us to nibble on. Had we known that this would be the trend at all hotel bars (a bowl of snacks as we drank), we wouldn’t have ordered so much food, and the flatbread below.

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The “Vegetarian Pan Pacific flatbread” is made in house. It is crispy dough topped with an arugula pesto, smoked ricotta, grape tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, shallots, and fresh arugula; and topped with a balsamic drizzle. These were crisp and light toppings to parallel the crust and generous amounts of cheese. It was all very flavourful thanks to the diverse mix of vegetables and the generous sweet drizzle. The flatbread made a great pair with my kale cocktail below.

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All their specialty cocktails were cleverly named after areas and districts in Vancouver. From Chinatown to Commercial Drive, to Kitsilano, and North and East Vancouver. But we both stayed within “Kits” for our drinks.

I had the “Kale gimlet” with Tanqueray no. ten, Grand Mariner, and freshly squeezed kale, pineapple, and lime juices. Vegetable and alcohol appeals to me: a ying and yang, healthy versus not so much. This is a great way to trick heavy drinkers like me into consuming more vegetables. It tasted like a spiked kale smoothie, but wasn’t as dense as I expected it to be. Refreshing from the greens and tart fruit, partnered with that distinct burning quality of alcohol to wash it all down.

My guest choose the “Namaste” made with Ketel one citroen, cold steeped chamomile tea, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, and lemon Marrakech bitters. It was as easy to drink as its calming name suggested.

FIVE SAILS
Pan Pacific Hotel
410 – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 3E1
604-844-2855
fivesails.ca

 
 

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What wasn’t planned was our stop at “Arc”, restaurant/bar to the “Fairmont Waterfront”. But having never seen and heard of the restaurant and peering in to see a pretty lively setting, we thought the detour was worth exploring. It was also pretty eye catching with its interior blue lighting streaming out from its many exterior windows.

We walked in, in time to catch the tail end of a piano and vocal performance from a live musician, shame as it is quite the enjoyable feature when you are drinking. Of note, they offer live music 5-9pm every night.

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The room was fairly dark, and the blue accented lights only casted more shadow, as such I was hardly able to make out much detailing in the decor. The space was in the form of a crescent, with the lounge and bar portion to your left and the dining area to the right. There were objects hanging close to the vaulted ceilings, but to notice them you really had to squint and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. All this ambience lighting made it a great after dinner date spot, a place to get up and close, comfy with another body.

We were given two recliners and a marble side table, by the glass boarder that separates hotel lobby from bar. This divide included more lighting so that we were able to actually see our food.

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As we learned is trend with all hotel bars, we got a bowl of complimentary salty snacks to munch on as we drank. Here it was a bowl of both salt and vinegar and BBQ chips, given their thin and crisp texture, I am guessing the brand is “Lays”. Their crunchiness went well with the plate of cheeses we also ordered.

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This cheese plate came with “Golden Ears” Brie, Jersey blue, aged cheddar, and ash ripen goat cheese. All amongst a few smears of fruit compote, dollops of spreads, and a handful of dried fruit crackers to eat it with. It was a great offering of salty and sweet nibbles at $24 for four different cheeses.

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As for drinks, my search for the most unique continued with a show, table side. When I asked about the “Flaming Rosemary gimlet”, our server confirmed that it is indeed set on fire. The heat and ash give the drink a smokey quality. And they were then more than accommodating, to grant my request of having this flame and fire prepared table side. Fresh rosemary and green chartreuse in the glass are set on fire with a lighter. When enough blue and orange flame rises a mix of beefeater gin, ice, and fresh lime juice gets poured over its. Once again, it’s the smokiness from the flame that draws out all the savoury and herbaceous flavour of the cocktail.

My guest kept her trend of light drinks with the “Pomegranate mojito”, made with Barcardi silver rum, fresh mint, fresh lime juice, bittered sling autumn bog cranberry bitters, and soda. It tasted like a spiked berry fruit punch.

And when we thought we couldn’t be papered anymore, our sever brought out two glasses of complimentary birthday bubbly in celebration of guest. Truth be told, I didn’t want to leave, but the point of a crawl is to visit as many stops as possible, so off we went.

ARC
Fairmont Waterfront
900 Canada Place Way, Vancouver BC, V6C 3L5
604-691-1818
arcdining.com

 
 

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Sadly, it began raining while we were warm within “Arc”. And without an umbrella, a walking tour of downtown’s hotel bars become less fun.

And after a few blocks dredging, and our hair and clothes being soaked through, we decided to allow the rain to detour us. We grabbed a taxi and bee-lined it to our last stop prematurely. We would end the night at “Yew”, restaurant to “Four Seasons”. A seafood bonanza we discovered at last year’s crawl, and has since become one of my guest’s favourite spots to frequent.

Second floor and “Four Seasons” concierge adjacent, “Yew” is notable with its craved wooden fish display, swimming you through their threshold. When we are here to drink, we always grab a seat on the couch, facing the entrance, with the bar within spitting distance. Despite the day, it’s is always busy with a lively crowd.

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But little did we know, the quick cab ride would push our already tipsy state cross the line. I can drink, but as soon as I step foot into a vehicle and everything sloshes around in my stomach, it is game over. So luckily we were seated with our usual server and he remembered us enough, to know when to cut us off. This is after we ambitiously ordered a full bottle of Processco, sparkling wine; but were only able to drink a glass each. He was also kind enough to only charge us for what we had.

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The complimentary bowl of spiced popcorn helped in sobering us up a little, so we ordered more food to help speed up the process.

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The “Crab and avocado millefeuille” with German rye and an herb vinaigrette was a visual feast. It is best described as alternating layers of mashed avocado and soften crab between crispy crostini. It was light and refreshing. You could taste the freshness of the crab, but sadly with our continuous snacking and drinking, we hardly had the room to finish it.

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And to our delight, the birthday girl was presented with complimentary, celebratory dessert. A plate of chocolate on chocolate. Chocolate brownie with macadamia nuts, a chocolate cookie crumble, creamy chocolate gelato, chocolate gems, and strawberry fruit to lighten the mood. They went the full nine yards with the candle and message in even more chocolate. Considerate touches like these and the value in their “tackle box” is what has my guest coming back visit after visit.

YEW
Four Seasons
791 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC, V6C 2T4
604-692-4939
yewseafood.com

 
 

Our night ended with us catching the last train home. I am firm believer of everything happens for a reason. Good thing it rained and we were forced to cut our night short, because little did we know, this Friday being a holiday, transit would only run until 12:30am, and we just managed to catch the last train home. Otherwise it would be a steep fee back to Burnaby, via taxi for the both of us. That is $40 better spent on drink during the next crawl.

All in all this was another successful hotel bar crawl. This year not only did we discover more sumptuous settings to drink some unique craft cocktails in, but we got to enjoy each with a complimentary bowl of snacks. So with notes taken, we are looking forward to making it even better next year.

St. Regis Bar & Grill

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I was invited to a media event at “St. Regis Bar & Grill”. This was a sneak peek at the season’s new dishes, in celebration of winter and the celebration season. An exclusive menu tasting with Executive Chef Daniel Ackland.

And truth be told, before today it is not one of those places I would think to visit otherwise. As always, 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 please be mindful, 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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The restaurant is the neighbour to the “St. Regis” hotel, and as such, included in tonight’s festivities, was a look at their suites for rent, per night. Established in 1913 the building is 103 years old with plenty of facelifts to keep this boutique hotel looking relevant. Our behind the scenes tour included a visit to 3 of their 65 rooms, across 5 stories. The hotel manager showed us their standard, junior, and executive suites. The latter two had their own living rooms, and the executive one had washroom tiles that heat up under your feet. They were modern with all the modern conveniences of our digital age. USB wall outlets and the option to connect phone to television with Apple TV.

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As for the restaurant itself, it is your run of the mill, standard, all wood sports bar with plenty of television screens to keep up to date with your sporting matches. I would soon discover the quality of food that they offer is nothing you would expect from a bar, and one to visit for a great meal in a more causal setting. They do comfort cooking with pub flavours and American classics.

Tonight, we were housed in their basement event room. It recently got its own wet bar, making it self contained and the destination for our drinks all event long. The event included dishes as they’d appear on the menu for us to photograph and family style share portions we could pick at as a group. There was plenty of food and the opportunity to take some home for very delicious leftovers

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With tonight’s tasting the chef and staff shed some light on the history of the bar and its kitchen. Previously the latter only dealt with frozen foods and pre-made meals, but when Chef Daniel Ackland took on his role as executive chef, he sought to reinvent and improve on their offerings. With him at helm, they stepped away from fine plates and frost bite, and moved towards comfortable local flavours. With “hot flavours fast” being the motto of his kitchen.

Similarly, the restaurant’s space had its own transformation. Previously, this was one of Vancouver’s 25 strip clubs, with a pole where their festive tree was set up today. After that it was reincarnated into a comedy club with its own stage. There is alot of history in this building, so I was genuinely surprised at how modern and clean the washrooms were.

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We started with their “Pork belly”, char sui pork with their house made kimchi. This was a very loose interpretation of Asian fusion. The pork is made sous vide. “Sous vide” is a method of cooking where the meat is sealed in an airtight plastic bag, then placed in a water bath for longer than normal cooking times. The end result is pork cooked evenly, the middle is cooked properly without overcooking the exterior. All the effort was worth it, the meat was firm yet moist, the leanest cut of pork belly I have ever had. Not that oily or all that flavourful, but the sides helped with the latter. The vegetable was hardly kimchi, more pickled roots and cranberry sauce; and all together this was more turkey dinner.

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To follow it we had some truffle hummus with pita, pickled carrots, cauliflower, smoked olives, pepper, cherry tomatoes, and celery for dipping. The hummus was dense and surprisingly flat, given the promise of truffle in the mix. After a taste, the vegetables on the side didn’t seem all that appealing.

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With the “Calamari” the chef wanted a little variation on the classic. And he did so by making this gluten free version with the freshness of greens: lemon pepper aioli, fresh herbs, and chives. They were plenty tasty and fully crispy, you couldn’t tell that they lack corn starch in the breading.

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The “Potato skins” her a crowd pleaser. They were topped with smoked bacon, shredded cheese, green onion, and sour cream. Chewy and tasty, what more could you want?

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The “Chicken fingers” were unexpectedly my favourite of the night. I typically stay away from breaded chicken because I find the white meat often used dry and the coating often soggy. Here these were the best chicken tenders I have ever had. They were made from chicken breast and the chef’s own version of 12 herbs and spices a la KFC. They were crispy and juicy and even better when dipped into the sweet and sour plum sauce.

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The “Quinoa salad” offered a break from all the fried food. Good enough, but at a bar, and this one in particular, you wouldn’t think to order such a dish. But this showed the kitchen’s desire to have options for everyone on their menu and them moving towards a more casual dining menu. As a whole I say they offerings rival that of more popular casual chains like Cactus Club and Earls. The salad was made with mint, roasted roots, feta, cranberry, cherry tomatoes, and beets; in a light citrus dressing. It was also topped with a cracker shard to give things some crunch like a crouton. Not surprising, the salad was on the brighter side. I appreciated all the variety of ingredients, and the golden beets the most. All these different elements helped to kept the eating exciting.

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As a textural dinner the “Garden burger” wasn’t a favourite for me. The patty was a tightly packed assembly of roasted hazelnuts, couscous, chick pea, green curry, and onion gastrique. Topped with salsa, grainy Dijon mayo, and jack cheese; on an onion bun. The crumbly nature of the patty was like sand in my mouth. And there was not enough crispiness from the vegetables to change that for me. Though the use of minted tea, green curry paste, and Sriracha were an interesting flavour profile that had you going back for several more bites.

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The chef was proud of the “Regis burger” he declared it is favourite burger in Vancouver. House made ground beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic aioli; on a brioche bun. The meat was juicy and the seasonings in it flavourful. Although I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for it, having recently come out of a burger challenge with 6 dry beef patties and not being able to forget.

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Next we tried a few of their scratch made pizzas on the $10 menu. Each was a thin crust baked golden and crispy, with tangy tomato sauce and fresh vegetables. They even went so far as to provide gluten free options tonight, so I feel that it is safe to assume that this is an option for those with the dietary restriction to request.

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The “Margarita pizza” is topped with bocconcini, mozzarella, basil, and tomato. It was my favourite in all its simplicity.

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The “Fungi pizza” has mozzarella, shallots, mushrooms, and truffle oil.

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The “Italia” comes with mozzarella, Napoli salami, salsiccia picante, prosciutto, and chiffonade basil. Definitely for the meat lovers.

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And the “Ham and cheese” was born out of multiple requests and popular demand. Along with its name sake ingredients it also had mozzarella and basil.

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There are also gluten free possibilities with the “Chicken and mushroom penne” with broccolini, lemon, thyme, parmesan cheese, and chives. This was a light pasta that didn’t weigh you down with rich sauces or heavy ingredients. Just a nice portion accented in citrus.

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In contrast was the flavour of the “Spicy noodle bowl”. Made with with teriyaki sauce, roasted chicken, and fresh vegetable it had plenty of rich flavours to spare. A tangy tomato base that was only slightly spicy mixed with the sweetness of teriyaki. The chewiness of the starchy noodles and its pairing with the crisp vegetable also helped to balance some of the spicy heat out. Overall, it was a nice interpretation, much lighter and much less oiler than most Chinese stir frys.

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The “Quarter chicken dinner” was slow roasted chicken with crispy skin, served with shoe string fries, buttery gravy, and tangy house made slaw. The chicken was already tender, but made perfectly moist with the light gravy poured over it. This is one I would go to when craving rotisserie chicken.

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The “Short rib with garlic mash potato”, shallot, spinach, and red wine jus was rich and creamy in all the right ways. Melt in your mouth tender meat and a pile of whipped smooth potatoes and wilted vegetable to match. The deep fried onions were great in adding crunch and some zesty flavour to the otherwise mushy plate. Similarly, the pickled onion offered some freshness in its salted tangy taste.

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Currently they only have one dessert offering to finish on, but this is the only one that you will need. “Warm cookie skillet” with white chocolate chips, dark chocolate ganache, and vanilla bean gelato from “Mario’s Gelato”. The chef was proud to inform us that this was his mother’s recipes and she had approved in its use here. The cookie is severed with the cast iron skillet still hot, and best when the cookie within it is still warm. Everyone loves a freshly baked cookie, there is something so comforting about its gooey sweetness; only improved with the creaminess of a thick melted vanilla iced cream. Another one that I wouldn’t expect from a bar, but now have to go back for.

I really enjoyed interacting with the chef. He was pleasant and funny, and demonstrated true passion for his food. He showed us photographic proof of himself winning the lottery last summer, yet here he was still in his white smock, behind a hot stove doing what he loves. And that passion certainly showed in all that we had tonight.

 

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.
Once again, had I not been given the privilege to attend this event, I would not know such a menu existed; within this historic building and bar that I have passed by, but never thought to enter. Definitely one I would recommend when looking for a casual dinner option on a budget. One I would choose over similar causal chains, and one that I have already made plans to take my partner to. Good food, good prices, and they are open late for a later last call. Where most bars close at 12am they offer you a place to drink until 2pm. Plus two happy hours to take advantage of at 2-6pm and 8-10pm. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ST. REGIS BAR & GRILL
608 Dunsmuir Street.
604 696-5558
stregisbarandgrill.com
St. Regis Bar and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Westcoast Darts Cafe

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This place is too good to stay away apparently. I visited only a few weeks ago and today I was back, a few days before their grand opening, for their media event. And today my dining companions would be Phil and Jess from “Domo is craving”, James from “Hello Vancity”; and Areta from “Foodgressing”, who arranged all this for us.

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.

The layout was the same, a divide between darts arcade and a dining area for snacks. But I was impressed by how many changes and improvements they had made to their menu in the short time between my visits. Though at the same time, they were pretty honest with what they were still working on and tweaking.

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Like their “Strawberry cheese cap with match milk tea”. With the name alone, I knew this one was for me. It wasn’t as big of a hit with the other food bloggers I was dining with today, but it is still one I would encourage others to try because there is nothing else like it. It is a fluffy layer of strawberry flavoured cheesecake, delicately hovering over a refreshing chilled tea. The first sip was a mouthful of fluffy foam, like straight up drinking dessert. With the second and third sips you got more tea to balance out its rich sweetness. Bigger gulps mean a bigger balance of flavours and textures. Although you could just as easily stir it all up and get a better ratio then. The owner took the time to deliver commentary on each dish, and here it was that the drink is normally made with oolong tea, as is more mild and therefore more complimentary. But they ran out today, and didn’t want us to miss the opportunity of trying something so unique to them.

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I figure they must be proud of their creme brûlées, given how many we were given a taste of. We were served an original, chrysanthemum, black sesame, lavender, and London fog to try. Each ramekin well represented their promised flavours. Some were lighter than others, so we were advised of their recommended tasting order. Sadly there was so much food heading our way that we must have left these too try, too late. Because when we finally got to them, there was no trademark creme burlee crack. That breach of solid sugar to unearth luscious eggy cream was more a sigh, with our spoons just sipping in.

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The chrysanthemum was the lightest flavour. The others couldn’t taste the flower from the custard, but I preferred it that way. Similarly I preferred the clean cream of the original creme brûlée, over the richer ones below.

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There was a sharp tea flavour from the London fog. It wasn’t bad, but I would have preferred it topping cake, instead of taken in as is. The lavender was so strong that I couldn’t imagine it paired with anything, but some tea. And the black sesame was a true account of the seed. Altogether they were a fun experience to taste and try all at once.

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This is my second time having their “Crystal sunrise” and I was still excited by it. The group also found it the most interesting. They have never seen anything like it. Mango, strawberry, and kiwi wrapped in gelatine, using moulds only available in China. You enjoy each with a topping of pop rocks and sugar. It adds texture and nostalgia to this interactive dessert.

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And since my original visit, they have improved on their mocchi offerings. They were no longer sunken in discs, but now budding blossoms in their very own specialty dish ware. They really capture your attention with their look alone. The mocchi is available in matcha and espresso flavour, with the mention of a rose and milk in the works. And instead of matcha on matcha, there were now three dips offered for you to choose your own flavour combination. Matcha, pistachio, and chocolate to dunk as you wish. Although I still preferred the chewy rice cakes as they were, seeing as they were already pretty flavourful in my opinion.

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The “Mango sago” was some of the most refreshing interpretation of this Asian dessert that I have tasted. This was the perfect palette cleanser for everything that we had before it. It was a nice dessert-soup with the tapioca, fresh mango cubes, and grapefruit shreds offering you some textural interest to chew on.

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We were most impressed by their build your own coconut sago presentation. A bowl of hot and one of cold coconut milk sago, served with a travel ready lazy Susan to display all the available toppings on. A spin had you browsing through the possibility of red bean, mango, black rice, matcha mocchi, Taro mocchi, lychee, or durian. You could order two ingredients at a time for less food and a smaller cost. But as a visual diner, I prefer all the options, and the way they shaped a bowl of sago together.

I went all in with a little bit of everything and enjoyed the great texture of the purple sticky rice, with the smooth coconut milk the most. The durian was not surprisingly the most pungent, and not for novices. I love the taste of the smelly fruit, so found it a nice sweet addition. All together this was a more mild dessert. It was fun to discover what you would dig up in each random spoonful.

“Westcoast Darts Cafe” have been around the block for a few months now. Using that time to work and rework their menu, and figuring out what works for them. Their grand opening is this Saturday and after two days to reset they will be reopening with a brand new menu the following Tuesday.

Instead of a novel of over 70 items, they will now be offering 8-10 dishes done to the best of their ability. Items once requiring 24 hour in advance notification, will now be available daily, with limited servings: 5-9 per day. This includes their flavoured Millie crepe and their flaming and melting chocolate ball sundaes. A few new things you can look forward to is a “Peanut butter lava cake” that has tested well, a citrus creme brûlée; and even some savoury Japanese inspired snacks, ideal for later night cravings. Though they are limited in what they came do, as they do operate out of a smaller kitchen.

 

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.
My original thoughts from my original visit still stand. I like the place for its pageantry, and the thought that goes into putting on a good show of desserts the most. I still have no doubt that they will keep churning out such creative concoctions. But without a cohesive theme, I also still find them confusing, and thus unsure of the right occasion to visit. Not quite dart alley, not quite a dessert cafe, something in the middle for those who want that merging? Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WESTCOAST DARTS CAFE
3608 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5R 5M2
778-379-9901
westcoastdarts.ca

Standing Egg Coffee

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I am not a coffee drinker and therefore not a cafe visitor, however peering into the window of this one, I knew I wanted go in. And after today, I have deemed it is my new favourite cafe for its decor alone.

Located in the Korean area of Burquitlam it sits in a plaza amongst a grocery store and several Korean restaurants that I frequent. I first discovered it passing by, reading its name on their sandwich board and being curious enough to peer in through the glass entrance. The name doesn’t match the theme, and I couldn’t connect one to the other. However, given my interest, I can at least say it is an effective lure. My first visit was after dinner, and not necessarily the best time to grab coffee, so we agreed to come back earlier in the day next time.

“Standing Egg” is dressed in blacks and browns like the coffee they brew. It is a trendy and clean space with several industrial and artistic elements that are both visually interesting and functionally useful. Lights are strung up with lengthy cords of wire, burlap sacks and worn wooden crates are used as storage solutions, wooden planks and metal piping is repurposed as wall mounted shelves, and nails and string are hammered and strung to create works of art. The latter mapped out the world in mental and yarn, I assume spelling out their other locations internationally.

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In the centre of the room is an iron display table showcasing knick knacks and bobbles that you would find in a study or den. A wind up camera, a bottle holder and wine for the carafe, a snow globe with a couple engaging in the waltz, and several coffee making apparatuses. Hanging above it all, with the aid of paper clips were customer’s stamp cards. Brown logo-ed cards with their names and black sharpie marks indicating how much more they needed to get a free cup during their next visit. This was a fun way to display and store such cards for self service.

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Along the back left wall were full length cold brew coffee drippers on display and for sale. They looked like hip height hour glasses retailing for $350 each, and only added interest to the space.

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You order and pick up from the counter at the back. You are given a buzzer after payment to indicate the completion of our purchase and it’s readiness for pick up from the same counter. The list of coffees are printed on a piece of paper and clipped to a miniature easel on the desk. Given my inexperience with coffee, I found the clerk very helpful in answering my questions and when making my decision.

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Seeing as I don’t drink coffee, I don’t often get to enjoy latte art, so when I do, I make sure to order something that would allow me to appreciate a picture in foam. Today, the only way that was possible was via a regular latte. Apparently the inclusion of any of their specialty flavours from various syrups, would make the drink too heavy for latte art. It sounded odd, but who am I to argue? So I had to forgo the possibility of a vanilla, honey, or a Spanish latte for the regular coffee and cream version. It tasted plain to me, but as it should according to my more coffee experienced guest. He described it as coffee lite.

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He on the other hand, went for his usual Americano with a twist. The “Shakerato” was their house special and its name delivered. A martini shaker was used to prepare this coffee cocktail. It was an iced Americano topped with foam. A light beverage with a nice tang, it reminded me of refreshing-ness of salted plum. My guest raved about the coffee’s quality. He suspected it was in how they prepare the beans. They did deem themselves as a laboratory for organic coffee. I was just as impressed with their thorough branding, which included their logo etched into the glasses and stamped on the porcelain.

Of note, regular sized beverages were served in proper glasses and mugs, if you wished to dine in. For those looking for a larger portion, it is only available in take out cups, staying-in or not

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As for food, they offer no more than a showcase of desserts that you can point to and order. A rotating selection of macarons and individually sized cakes, making them a great dessert stop as well. I am unsure if they were made in house, but regardless, they were tasty.

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We had the Tiramisu, which tasted like cream and coffee as predicted, and had the fluffy texture of a soggy sponge as expected. But what isn’t normally included is all the extra shards of chocolate that topped the treat. Mascarpone mousse with coffee infused whipped ganache, on a sponge soaked in espresso. It was a little too rich and creamy for my liking, but my guest of Italian decent found it alright.

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The “Pumpkin tart” was a more seasonal offering. Savoury pumpkin featuring a light cinnamon and chocolate cream, topped with spicy ginger bread cubes. The buttery crust was my favourite part. Even with all the bolder flavours, the elements melded in harmony. Creamy and not too spicy.

 

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 definitely a destination to socialize in and a comforting spot to study at. For those visual folks like me, it stimulates in every facet. Solid coffee and delicious cakes in a very special setting. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

STANDING EGG COFFEE
Unit 109-4501 North Road, Burnaby BC, V3N 4R7
694-836-9129
standingeggcoffee.com
Standing Egg Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

McDonald’s Season Cravings Menu

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I think waffle fries are the best fries, and if you can incorporate potatoes into a burger it’s a triumph, therefore when I saw McDonald’s new seasonal menu, I immediately made plans to try it for myself. But because I am me, I would go the next step and order the entirety of their limited time only menu to try.

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A few McDonalds locations now have kiosks where you can avoid human interaction by ordering via touch screen. It is through these machines that you can also customize your burgers. Stacking as much or as little ingredients and condiments you like between a variety of buns. And apparently when it is all said and done, your creation is served to you table side on a wooden board with fries in a metal basket. Fancy for what it is and where you are.

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Today we wouldn’t be building our own burger, but I did want to test the efficiency between this new innovation and the regular stand in line and wait process. My guest placed her request via the kiosk and got it almost immediately. My order at the counter was more of a struggle. Given the addition of 8 of these kiosks at the Metrotown mall location, they have now removed a few registers at the counter and you can only order at one end. The line was shorter, but allowed more opportunity for human error. Maybe it was because I ordered so much and had a substitution, but mine order ended up taking so long that they offered me freebies to appease my having to wait. I think they actually forgot it. They offered a free fountain drink, although I declined it and the other they handed me thinking it was what I purchased; instead of the hot beverage I actually did. They also let me keep the extra large carton of regular fries, after I informed them that I had actually ordered the waffle ones. Overall my interaction was a bit of a gong show, but the few employees that helped me were so nice that I really can’t bear to fault them. So machines 1, humans 0 this round.

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The seasonal menu includes two hot beverages, one burger and side, and two new desserts. I went for the “salted caramel latte” instead of the peppermint mocha for my meal combo. The latter being more unique. Not being a coffee drinker, I was glad that the latte was more caramel than coffee, a sweetness that I could appreciate, and one that would hide much of the bitterness in the coffee for me.

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The “Potato Rosti” is essentially the burger to transition the lowly hash brown from morning snack to being an acceptable part of dinner or lunch. A 100% Canadian beef patty topped with bacon pieces, a crispy potato patty, processed cheddar cheese, and a creamy cheese sauce; all served on a toasted bun topped with rolled oats. I liked the starchiness of the chewy bun and found that with the meat and potato between it, this was a particularly heavy burger. The first bites were the best, but you were soon felt wanting to change the taste. Each mouthful could have used some tomato for freshness, a pickle on the side to make it less heavy, even a dollop ketchup would have helped here. Instead it only have more potato to offer, a similar kind of crispy potato as the side.

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The “waffle cut fries” had a fun texture and a true potato flavour. But it’s size and shape are a double edge sword. It is fun to eat, like a giant French fry criss crossing together with others like a quilt. Though each piece is too large to simply dip into ketchup, and even after managing to jam them into those little paper ketchup cups, you still get less of them per box than their regular shoe string counterpart. For taste and texture I still prefer the crispiness of their regular fries. They are my favourite between all the fast food fries out there.

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The “Double chocolate pie” was my favourite of the new menu items. It was a warm cookie crust, enrobing gooey fudge. Given its appearance, I imagined it much sweeter, so was pleasantly surprised to find it as good as it was from first bite to last.

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The ice cream in the other hand was far too sweet. The combination of vanilla soft serve and hot fudge sauce, topped with mini caramel “Turtles” candy chocolate and a chocolate and caramel drizzle was too much for me. The turtles were adorable little caramels covered in milk chocolate. However, unlike the actual candy it lacked the pecans embedded. There weren’t even any pecans sprinkled on top. Instead it was a sealed plastic bag of peanuts, that you would get with a regular sundae. I didn’t clue into the fact that this may have been another mistake on the staff’s part and one worth looking into. My guest even warned me to go through everything I ordered and to make sure it was all there when I was finally handed the brown paper bag.

 

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.
Overall each in its own right was a solid new edition to their regular “McDonald’s Canada” menu. It wasn’t enough to take me away from my favourite order of McChicken and regular salted fries, but enough for me to deem them a novelty worth trying. And if you like it, enjoy it aplenty, because it is only around for a limited time. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

McDONALDS Canada
Metropolis at Metrotown
4700 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5H 4M1
604-718-1005
mcdonalds.ca
McDonald's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

“The Beast” at Cannibal Cafe

Ever since I started my YouTube channel: “MaggiMei”, I have been looking for ways to test my love of food with friends. Today this was through a burger eating challenge.

To skip the reading, watch the video here.

THE BEAST burger challenge at Cannibal Cafe is 6 x 6 oz Patties, 6 x Double Cheddar Slices, and 6 x Double Bacon Strips. The goal is to eat it in 30 minutes to win a T-Shirt, get your photo on their Wall of Fame, and the $39.95 burger is free.

I have been to the “Cannibal Cafe” on Granville before. Reading over the menu the first time around, it was love at first sight with “The Beast”. Seeing a photo of this tower of meat and cheese between vegetable and bun. I wanted to order and try “the beast” then, however the challenge requires 24 hour advance notice, and the proper preparation if you have any hope of succeeding.

So I found three other willing participants and together we set the date. Going into it we each had different strategies on how to succeed. There were different times when we stopped eating in anticipation of our 6pm challenge, for one of us this would be the first meal of the day. We walked in confident and after seeing the burger, were even more enthusiastic over the possibility of finishing. Boy were we wrong.

But before we got into gorging, there was a waiver to read and sign. In it we reassured our age and our health. Signing to make them not liable, should something unfortunate happen to us during or after this challenge.

The form stated that we could only attempt “The Beast” once every 6 months. It made sense considering if you can do it once, what’s stopping you from doing it again and again, and getting a free meal each time? Next, you are unable to get up, leave the table, or use the washroom during the challenge and 10 minutes after the burger is done, should you be able to complete it. This was to prevent everyone from cheating by concealing food or throwing up.

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We each had our photo taken as a “before”. Incase we finished, this would be the photo they used for their “wall” of winners, a television screen with a healthy rotation of photos of successful participants past. Only one of us would gain the honour and a few other perks.

We were each given a spare plate and a glass of water to start. Our first five minutes were actually spent getting our set up in order, to maximize our planned eating strategy. We all knew to minimize our drinking for fear of filling our bellies with water. And to save the bun for last, lest it expanded and filled. Our server would check in on us regularly, and an egg timer sat at the end of the table cheering us on.

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Each burger came to us one by one, barely holding it upright was the skewer that pierced it. In fact we had to hold it up ourselves for our “before” photos. Our four garnered a lot of attention from the other diners, enough to have a man at one of our neighbouring tables request to try it himself. He would finish with 2 minutes to spare and with much more class than any of us did. I felt bad for the other diners hearing us moan and groan. And even worse for the kitchen hearing us complain about the burger itself. We went from our first bites being delicious to how gross each bite was 10 minutes in.

Evan is allergic to cheese and Mandy dislikes tomato and onions, so both got more lettuce as a replacement for them. The restaurant accommodated, but still required you to finish an “x” amount of food.

I went in to the challenge planning to change taste and texture with different ingredients each bite. Like lettuce and tomato with one of the patties, cheese and bacon on another, one as is, one with pickles, and another that used the red onion as a palate cleanser in between. However, it was not meant to be for me. I tapped out early, only 3 patties deep with all the bacon finished. I am a textural diner and as the burger became drier, I had less and less desire to put any of it in my mouth. I was forced to tap out when I gagged on the crumbly texture a few times and could taste what I manage to get down come back up. I eventually was able to swallow what I had in my mouth and keep it down, but dared not to go back again for more. Each of us had that moment, the pause, and the need to focus on keeping things down. Which was followed by relief when we were successful.

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We chatted as we ate, although I doubt our unison complaints helped propel one another towards the finish line. Each of my guests impressed me with their a ability to suppress vomit, and cut through the pain to finish as much they did. Mady was just shy of completing by half a burger. Had she been given more time to eat it in, she would have absolutely finished. She just needed 10 minutes more. Similarly, I was impressed by Richard’s ability to pack food in. Given his slender stature, it was surprising the amount he was able to take in. It was to the point that he had a “food baby” and it incredibly easy to feel all that he consumed through his stomach.

As Evan was the only of us four to finish, for his efforts we had a $0 bill to pay. He also earned the pride and accomplishment of winning, that he deemed well worth the pain. And literally 30 minutes after, he was well digested and ready to eat again. As was the case with me, I wasn’t full, I just couldn’t eat anymore thanks to the taste and texture.

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However it was down to the wire with Evan and he was close to not winning. The bun held him back, his tactic of dipping it in water didn’t help. It only made the texture worse, not lubricating the bite like he wanted. Instead, he was left with a glass of murky water and the need to use something to wash it down. He was struggling to take the last puff of bread when the timer beeped. Our server came just in time to see him holding his clenched fist against his pursed mouth, with us reassuring him. “You got this Evan”. But where we failed, he came out on top. And after sitting the required 10 minutes after finishing the burger, he was rewarded a tee shirt. It was an outlined drawing of “The Beast” burger on the front, and bold words declaring “I took down The Beast” on the back. His photo would also be uploaded on to their “wall of fame”.

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Once again, I found it interesting that when we began, we did so by praising the burger. However, we ended our meal we did so with hatred for it, and all the other burgers in our near future. Not only did the taste become redundant, but the texture left a lot to be desired as well. The patties were over cooked and the beef dry at its centre. The side of ketchup and hot sauce we requested didn’t help to give moisture or provide flavour, it just better highlighted how flat the seasonings were. Had the burger been made with six different proteins, or at least seasoned differently six ways, I believe we all would have come closer to, if not finishing. Or at least enjoying trying do a lot more.

 

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.
At this point, I am still scared off burgers for the foreseeable future. However, in six months time, I would not be apposed to giving it another go. Knowing what I am getting myself into, I think I would have better luck. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CANNIBAL CAFE
433 Granville Street, Vancouver BC
604-620-3212
cannibalcafe.ca

Basil Garden Restaurant

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My visit came as a recommendation from “Flyingvee967”. A newer Vietnamese restaurant that was actually in my old neighbourhood in East Van. A restaurant he liked enough to go back to a couple of times, and one many might not stop at given its location. A little plaza with a couple of other restaurants on the corner of Broadway and Renfrew. I had past by it a few times, but never thought enough of it, to venture in. Not until Victor’s praise for it and it’s owner.

With easy parking in its own lot, it is plenty accessible. Although its doubled up awning signs were a little more confusing, but I guess the one in red was there to make sure you knew that they offered pho.

Walking in, I immediately deemed it as one of the nicest, more budget friendly Vietnamese places I have been too. The newness was still present in their white lacquered tables and matching chairs, and in the un-scuffed white painted walls. There wasn’t a lot of decoration or noise, to kept things chic. Just three strips of green on the wall, imitation grass in two shades. It spoke to the freshness of the place and added a certain zen to the room; making it a restaurant I would frequent just for its setting alone. Though it did help that the food was good as well.

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The menu was an easy read across a double sided large sheet and 71 options. Not a lot of photos, but pretty self explanatory item names, if you have a basis in Vietnamese food. Appetizers like spring and rice rolls and crispy chicken, pho with a beef soup bases and ones with pork bone, chicken or pork over rice, vermicelli noodle bowls with meat and vegetable toppings, specialty stir-frys and curries, banh mi sandwiches, slow drip coffees, smoothies, and other freshly squeezed and ice beverages. In order to get a good idea of their cuisine, we ordered what we would have at other pho places, to get a good comparison.

When making the recommendation, Victor mentioned calling ahead to see if the owner was in, and saying that “Victor from Richmond” recommended my visit. However, I just couldn’t stomach calling ahead and name dropping. One, because I don’t like making a fuss when I dine out; and two, I prefer to write with the raw guest experience, one unrehearsed and free of special treatment.

Though had I done as Victor suggested, the perk would have been getting to order specialty dishes not labeled on the regular menu above, like their market price speciality lamb chop. However, I was later able to mention the lamb he was raving about to our server, and she then went to request it from their chef, who also doubled as the owner. Today I purchased them by the bone at $5 per. The chef/owner would later come out of his kitchen to greet us table side. He did this to reassure our happiness in all that we had. I always appreciate this kind of care, it shows that the restaurant is dedicated to the customer’s experience and willing to gain feedback to improve. To me, this is going over and beyond.

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The chef was particularly interested in how we liked his lamb chops. He was worried that they didn’t have enough time to marinade. But we found it plenty flavourable, a little too salty if I am to be honest, with majority of it lingering on the bone. As for the meat, It was a tender cut, dabbling on the greasier side with all the gristle. My guest couldn’t stop raving about it, he declared a few times, wanting to come back just for more of it.

Although Victor didn’t steer us wrong above, we didn’t take his suggestion of the spring rolls that he described as being “a bit small, but there is enough small pieces. The traditional spring roll skin crunch is the best!” Or the lemongrass pork chops that were “thinly sliced and boneless. Chargrilled on the outside, with some fattiness that was really good.”

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But I did enjoy some of their pho, as he did. The “House special” combination of beef with rice noodle soup. It arrives at your table the perfect temperature and ready to be slurped. And as Victor found his, the portion was light. The broth wasn’t overly oily, a kind of soup you can drink as is, spoon after spoon. The serving included various meat and organ parts. They added chew and a different eating experience, together with the slippery noodles. Although I could have used more, as there was more noodle and soup than meat to enjoy it with. We had the large to share for $10. One size down was the medium bowl for $1 less.

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We also shared their “Special cold cut sub”. It was crusty French bread sandwiching smooth pate, chilled sliced meats, and pickled vegetable. No complaints, it was as expected, with the jalapeño slices hidden for a spicy surprise.

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I don’t drink coffee, but I appreciate a good “Vietnamese iced coffee with condense milk”. My guest just wanted coffee, not know what Vietnamese coffee was like, so was excited to see the drip apparatus brought over to our table. It is a metal cup with a screw down press that sits above your glass. And slowly the water and coffee grounds mix, and then drops of black sift through the sieve and lands over a spoonful of sticky syrup-like condense milk waiting for it at the bottom. When all the liquid has run through, you mix milk and coffee together, and add ice to chill. Not knowing what good coffee tastes like, I guess I just drink it for the condense milk.

Our meal cake to $40 total, for three dishes and two drinks. $8 for two coffees, $5 for the bun. This was a great deal and we left more than well fed.

 

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 can definitely see myself coming back for a quick bite and closer to payday when I want good food and funds are in short supply. They might not necessarily be a destination, but should be considered a neighbourhood favourite. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BASIL GARDEN
2889 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5M 1Y9
604-871-9998
basilgarden.ca
Basil Garden Pho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cosplaying at FanExpo 2016

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Click the link to view the video version of this post summarized.

I was determined to check this one off the bucket list, and thought why not make it a two-fer. Cosplay as sailor Mars and attend a con in character. Well it ended up being Cosplaying Sailor V and attending fan expo.

“Sailor V” is a Japanese anime character from “Sailor Moon”, an animation program that broadcasted on Canadian television. I grew up with it during my days as a 90’s kid. I still reflect on it and its characters with fond memories. “Sailor Mars” with her long black hair and red outfit would have been easier for me to portray with my similar ethnic appearance. But a friend suggested and convinced me to do “V” instead, to stand out a little more. I also liked the idea of wearing a wig and a mask to better “transform” into her character.

Right away I admit I took the easy and lazy way out, hiring a friend to create my costume out of needle and thread, epoxy and plastic. Whereas true cosplayers shape and mould with their own two hands. They take pride in creating outfits and accessories to replica. To wear their completed product is the end goal and the prize at the end of the tunnel. Especially for those who specialized in detailing and having things as close to the original concept art as possible. So I guess I would classify myself as a model then, very loosely, and only in this setting of course.

The process began by consulting my expert at “Daemonique Arts Studio”. She took my idea and put a cost behind it. A very reasonable $300 friends and family discount; considering I was getting something custom made, tailor to fit, and altered to flatter me. The full costume commission included an embroidered purse, clay moulded jewelry, and enamel glasses cast from her own homemade mould.

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I sent her photos and enough requests for her to plan out the project. Having already made me a Luna ball purse previously, she easily used the pattern to make me an Artemis one now. Instead of a purple cat head shaped ball/purse, it was white with blue eyes. She went so far as to string it along with a heart shaped chain. For those who don’t know of the anime, this is very significant; as Venus’ attack is called “love chain and circle”. Dominique did her research. I was impressed.

She began the actual costume by measuring my limbs, and reassuring me that if I was to increase in bulk, she could easily take things out. I was not worried about needing to bring them in.

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She updated the progress of my commission via her Facebook page, and by proxy, increased my excitement. I was able to follow along and like it all. My most important request was the ability to use the cosplay again. Not just as an duplicate “Sailor V” outfit, but one that I could peel apart and wear piecemeal. She was great at fulfilling this with buttons that snapped pieces apart and others that could easily be separated by the cut of a few extra threads.

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The skirt got its pleats and an attempt for a pocket. And after the first fitting, it lost some of my original desired length. I wanted accuracy of character without exposing bum cheeks. I was however more open to an exposed midriff. The top was a capped sleeve blouse that we took some liberties with after the first fitting. The collar was easy to remove, including the red bow and the yellow ball at its centre.

With the second fitting the first round of adjustments were made, and the detailing was now in place. The skirt had it’s bottom red trim and its blue satin bow, that sat on the waist. The top now had more moderate sized sleeves and a collar with red trim, that also matched the one at the bottom of the skirt.

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What was most impressive was the mask that she made using her own mould. She sanded it down by hand and painted in a pearlized red. Seeing as she had already taken the time to make a mould, she now had a few extras to sell at her “Fan Expo” booth and on her “Etsy” page.

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She made the crescent moon for the ribbon choker necklace. And sewed together the orangey yellow tubing that topped the custom white satin gloves. She even went so far as to source materials that allowed me to type on my touch screen phone. How thoughtful. I was able to find shoes for cheap, and Dominique attached ribbons to them. With a loop around the ankle and clasp to secure them. They looked like the navy Mary Janes that “V” has.

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The second fitting ended with minor tweaks, like adding an inch to the gloves for more give, and more fabric on the shoe’s ankle loops for increased flexibility. But when it came down to actually dressing for the occasion, safety pins became a useful tool that I wish I had more of. It’s hard to get the same fit that anime characters have, not surprising considering that their clothes are pretty much painted on. I grew an appreciation for all cosplayers and their dedication and patience for their craft. It took me over an hour to dress and strut, to muster enough confidence to walk out of my home with.

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I had borrowed a platinum blonde wig from a friend. It wasn’t the same shade as “Sailor V’s hair and wasn’t styled like her’s: with brush broom bangs and curly tips. But at least it was as long as “V’s” locks, and a better solution than me paying $100 plus for something more accurate that I would only wear once. In my case it worked well enough and those I spoke to at the con appreciated it.

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This year’s “Vancouver Fan Expo” ran across three days: the weekend starting Friday, November 11 to Sunday, November 13. Seeing as this was my first like event, I committed to only one day. I paid $40 for Saturday’s entry fee. It was held at the old convention space at “Panpacific Hotel”. Costuming and non-costume folks mingling and spilling out into the rails of Canada Place marked our destination. Many, including myself, used this time to gear up before entering. We pre-brought our tickets, so only had to check in at the counter. Those without the same foresight couldn’t easily buy their way in on the day.

As my first sci-fi, fantasy, anime, comics, and really any fandom convention; I didn’t have any expectations going in. But was immediately awe struck with the sheer size of the space, imagining all the rows that ran along the length of it. Vendors selling and actor signings with spoken panels were divided in two separate areas. Although, even with this distinction, I found the exploration could have been better organized by alleys. Rows featuring similar vendors, to be able to narrow down your search for something, and allow for a more seamless travel route.

We waded through the sea of bodies, taking in the artist’s wares, and letting our eyes follow all those in full costume. I didn’t see any other sailor scouts, but I did find a Luna and Artemis in human form. And was bewildered by a “Power Girl” with cutlets. There were so many different costumes, I wished I knew what more of them were. “Goku” and “Vegeta” from “Dragon Ball Z” came separately. I found “Waldo” just standing there. There were “Hogwarts” students and ninjas from the “Akatsuki” clan (Naruto) wearing robes. Old school and new school “Harley Quinn” made an appearance, but only one came with “The Joker”. And Storm Troopers and anything Star Wars related continued to be the most popular photo op. Everyone under this roof was here without any shaming, just celebrating.

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However, more people came as they were, celebrating their fandom with logo-ed tees and branded accessories and I can see why. Only an hour in costume and I was envying them. The wig started to pinch, as there wasn’t much give, after bundling my full pony of long hair under its cap. And as comfortable as the mask was, no one is use to having something like that across their face, and it did start to irritate. Luckily the ribbons attached to them easily pulled across the back of my head and held things in place to avoid chafing.

Not being interested in any of the panels, not wanting to pay $50 for an autograph or $250 for a photo op, and not having the money to do any real shopping; my guest and I left after only two hours of exploring. This was after making three laps of the place, chatting up friends with booths and others here for leisure. As well as taking the time for him to present an actress he liked, with a photo her drew of her. We came at 11am and left around 1pm having had our fill of the expo.

But for those who are more immersed in this world, I can see the value of such events. This is the perfect setting for like minds to gather. For those with similar interest to make new friends and discuss their passions freely. To have vivid debates and accurate reenactments with others who understand them well. It is a place for cosplayers to dress like their favourite characters, and for a day pretend that they live just as exciting lives, or even possess a few of their characteristics. Being dressed up, I have never felt so welcomed or accepted in any group. I was too shy to ask other cosplayers to take photos with me, but enjoyed having strangers ask to take my photo. In short, there is no other feeling like a fanexpo.

 

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.
As a semi-fan of many things, I enjoyed all the new sights and sounds of an event like this. I have now experienced it and can say that I have. However, aside for working my friend’s booth next year, I cannot see myself returning for another visitor’s round. A food expo is more my speed. But I have no regrets, a new experience down and two more to check off the bucket list!

 

Click the link to see my YouTube summary of my time as Sailor V at Fan Expo. This includes meeting the creative force behind my costume and seeing it in “live” in action.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zbpZbhx26hw

 

DAEMONIQUE ARTS STUDIO
https://m.facebook.com/daemoniqueartsstudio/
https://www.etsy.com/nl/shop/DaemoniqueArts

 

Not all photos are taken by me. Sailor V reference shots were taken off the Internet. And costume build photos are from Daemonique Arts Studio.

Westcoast Darts Cafe

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This one was referred to me by a good friend. She knew me enough to know that I would not turn down a place that offers anything requiring an order placed 24 hours in advance. She went on about how wonderful the owner was, how he was generous in letting her taste and try things on the menu, even going so far as to give her some coupons for 10% off to give to her friends. (I sadly lost mine, came in anyways, and then got one to give out myself.) Although I didn’t need it as they advertised that writing a review on Yelp automatically earns you 10% off your desserts with them. (I actually didn’t do this either.)

Based on how she described what she had, it all sounded quite unique. She built me up so much more today, that it visually met my expectations, but not when it came to taste. They were pretty, but aside from the “crystal” fruit, pretty boring to eat with one tone flavours and unison textures. Feedback, I would later discuss with the hands-on owner himself.

You won’t miss it driving by. Although its location might not be the most convenient. Not quite on Boundary to take advantage of its extra traffic, nor in the hub of the Kingsways-Joyce area to take advantage of the skytrain route and youths looking for a place to hang. However their locale makes them a destination worth making an effort for. The giant bullseyes decal-ed on its exterior easily catches your eye.

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I was a little confused by the name and its apparent theme. But did like the idea of a place to play a game of darts at, whilst extending the night with some desserts. Given the name and some research into their origins, they appeared to be a dart appreciation club first and foremost. As proof by their successful past ventures, and the appearance of specialty darts on display, behind glass, and for sale at the check out counter. The counter was even flanked with dart boards. They started out as a darts club that sold such merchandise, and decided to expand their brand and stage presence with a cafe extension?

Darts and dessert don’t necessarily match. Who was their targeted demographic? This wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice for a girls night or a date destination. Although I can testify to the enjoyment of their dart machines and the ability to play a round or two before and after your treat to burn some the calories. My guest even woke up with a sore arm the next day, thanks to our vigorous matchup. But to pair with a place that offers round of darts, you are more likely to expect wings and beer, peanuts, and hickory. Not matcha mocchi and creme brûlée. Although, this maybe a unique option for a double date, where the guys can feed their competitive natures with a round of darts, and the girls gab over bubble tea. And visa versa. But it mostly looked like the owners liked darts and wanted wanted a way to combine their passion with their career, and this project was born.

If it were me, I would have separated the two concepts into their own brand and tethered them together by the shared space. Two entrances, two doors, two different names and each its own theme. “Westcoast darts”, the local dart club offering electronic dart games and dart accessories for sale. And an adjoining cafe serving tasty drinks and delicate treats, in a comfortable setting to hang out at. Maybe with the name “Sweat Strike”? This would have made the cafe portion easier to advertise and promote.

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As mentioned, they offer the equipment and the space to play a round of darts. Each match up served between 1-4 people, per machine. They have four machines in a row for use. Each one was standing up against the wall with a dart board, blinking lights, and its electronic scoring system. You stand behind the stickered line on the floor to aim and throw. Being the only ones in, the staff themselves were playing a round. The gentleman who appeared to be the manager, walked us through the rules. The game we played was “701”. The goal was to shoot our darts and earn as many points as we can, based on where our dart punctured. Different slices of the board offered a different number of points: 1-20. Specific segments doubled or tripled those points. And getting a bullseye in the middle earned you 50 points. The goal is to get as close as you can to zero, with the winner in a match being the one with the least amount of points. We tried two matches and with both only got only as close as the mid hundreds, not bad considering we both started at 701.

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The actual darts you use are communal ones in a cup, at the check out counter. You grab three of one colour, before stepping up to the line to shoot. And because they are stuffed in tight and used by amateurs like us, who don’t always get the target, their pieces are bent and this does effect your aim and throwing outcomes. We would try our hand at two matches and needed a few rounds to find our grove.

To pay it is $1 each and with 15 rounds total, you feel like get your money’s worth. Especially if you are like us, taking our time to finish. Taking pauses to question the hypotonic trance that is k-pop, as it played with English subtitles on the wall mounted television adjacent. In this area it was also the background music.

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As we played they prepared our desserts, we were given the option to delay their arrival as we finished our first match up. This was considerate and especially important as the “chocolate sphere” I ordered came with a show. And at $27 a serving it is the most expensive thing on the menu and deserving of the pageantry and your attention.

The “chocolate sphere” is a hollow ball of chocolate filled with your choice of ice cream, it is then drizzled over by your choice of hot syrup. The heat causes the chocolate to melt down, creating a sauce and unveiling the hidden scoop of ice cream atop of a piece of cheesecake and strawberry slices within. Between vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, matcha, and mango ice cream we went with the latter most. It was a nice pairing to give the already sweet dessert some freshness and a bit of tangy tart. This was a recreation of a similar sundae-melting ball dessert at another restaurant. Where as I preferred the look and composition of the other, I found the taste of this one better. It wasn’t as sweet, with the fruit and cake you were able to finish it all without being overwhelmed with chocolate sauce over melted chocolate, with chocolate ice cream and chocolate brownie pieces. Here it was better balanced, and you had the ability to customize it to your tastes. It was just missing a nice crunchy component like some crushed up toffee or brittle, maybe even candies nuts? Oh and some whipped cream.

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My reservation wasn’t needed, but part of the process since I ordered the two desserts you needed to call in ahead of time for. And when I called for the one above, I was also told about their Mille crepes as well. These also required a 24 hour in advance request. I was immediately sold by its exclusivity too. They even had flavours to pick from. Their regular, which I assume was vanilla, or their special of the week a matcha and red bean. I naturally requested the latter, as per my penchant for the irregular, and was left with regret. The difference between the two flavours was $9.50 versus $8. Mille crepes are more recently become a popular dessert in Vancouver. It is a cake composed with many thin layers stacked, similar to crepes, each separate by a layer of cream in between; thus giving it its name. Its laborious undertaking is what makes them so unique. Not many places offer it and if they do, it is hardly fresh or all that good. So having to request it here almost guarantees that they are preparing one just for you. But sadly it was not as I expected it to be textural, or promised my guest who was trying it for the first time. The matcha flavour was pronounced and to the point of being a tad bitter. There was a thick coating of its powder on top, leaving your lips chalky with each spoonful. The red bean was not that pronounced, which was nice. A spoon of it made its way to the top as garnish and additional beans were layered into the bottom layer of the mille crepe. It was a heavy dessert, the dough stuck to the roof of my mouth, with a tacky texture. All the cream had the layers sticking. A lot denser than others I have had, less like the angel food cake lightness I remembered and more like chewy pancakes.

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My friend who recommended the place to me strongly recommend the “Crystal sunrise”. She recalled the owner saying that people from China are messaging him, trying to figure out their recipe. Being familiar with a clear gelatine, I surmised that this is milk and fruit enveloped in an jelly-like agar coating. It was certainly quite the visual feast and interactive with the popping candy on the side for dipping and crunch. The whisps of evaporated milk helped numb the tartness of the kiwi and strawberry. Where as the mild mango was my favourite flavour. The “skin” wrapping each pieces was the best part. Its slippery texture and sugar flavouring were enjoyable enough that I would have ordered just a bowl of it, like clear jello. It also made a great palette refresher to have in between everything else that was a lot more rich.

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More rice, like the “matcha mocchi with matcha dipping sauce”. This was not on the menu, but I scrolled through enough of their online photos to know that it was an option. My guest is a big fan of matcha, so forcing her to share all the desserts I wanted, I could at least give her one that she did. Here too much matcha was a bad thing. Bites got bitter fast. I preferred the mocchi as it was, without the dip. They looked like those two bite brownies and had a similar chewy texture to them. The matcha sauce gave it a nice creamy finish, that would have been better in chocolate syrup or just plain whipped cream. Later when the owner came to chat us up, I was honest in my feedback.

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I explained my feelings on the overloading of one flavour. And to it he offered us a taste of a different mocchi dipping sauce, one that they are still working on. It is a “Pistachio cream sauce with grand mariner”, to pair with a feature espresso flavoured mocchi. If the other half of the equation tasted as complex and interesting as the sauce here, they have themselves a winner. But in the end we did finish the green tea mocchi pieces by themselves, they were that good as is, with its crispy edges and chewy centre.

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We tried this much, and their menu still offered more. They had flavoured creme burlee, sweet and savoury crepes, toast by the slice and as a box, ice cream sundaes, cream cakes, and flavoured sago (Chinese style pudding with small, clear tapioca pearls). The owner also promised more dessert items, and a frequently revolving menu that included weekly specials, when they have their grand opening in a week’s time. It has been three months since their soft launch, and I got the impression that they have worked through many kinks. As told by the bound and laminated menus with plenty of black sharpie lines and an inserted list of handwritten offerings. It was hard to discern the latter without the same thoughtfulness of drawings and description that their originally intended menu had.

They also had a healthy selection of drinks from coloured teas and fruit slushes, to blended cookie and candy shakes. All this made them a great place to linger at: food and drink, and an activity that offered you something different to do on a Thursday night.

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Of note, I liked that all cups of water were served at room temperature. It was a nice compliment to the cooler dessert. Unlike the battling sounds of the Chinese pop music playing on the left side of the cafe, versus the Korean pop on the right. As for the decor of the dining area: It was black silhouettes against white paint. Adhered on the wall, lining the floor and the ceiling is a border of city skylines, named along side their most notable landmark.

Seeing as we were the only patrons for a long time, we reaped the benefits of a full team of four tending to our visit. Everyone checked in to see how things were and tasting. The server and host as part of their front of house role, the chef for his own reassurance, and the owner for the want to improve. I was sincerely impressed by the owner’s earnest desire for feedback, to solicit everything his diners had to say and use it to keep getting better. How humble. With such an ethic, I have no doubt that they will see much success in the new year. Especially with the evolving menu, and the ability to keep it fresh and relevant for months to come.

 

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.
Final thoughts: I liked the place and the pageantry of the desserts, and have no doubt they will keep churning such creative concoctions out. But without a cohesive theme, I do find them confusing, and thus unsure of the right occasion to visit. Not quite dart alley, not quite a dessert cafe, something in the middle for those who want that merging? Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WESTCOAST DARTS CAFE
3608 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5R 5M2
778-379-9901
westcoastdarts.ca
Westcoast Darts Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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