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

Month: September 2017 Page 1 of 3

L’ Artista Italian Restaurant

My partner and I were looking for a quick dinner in our neighbourhood, he was craving Italian so we stopped at one of the many options in Burnaby Heights. I wasn’t expecting much given their limited social media presence and their 3.7 rating (when we researched ahead). But walking in at 6pm and seeing the older demographic, I could see that I would be the only one to take photos of my meal tonight, and that they probably got their following from word of mouth. We called ahead to check on the availability of a table, and were highly encouraged to make a reservation even though we were 10 minutes away. It turns out that majority of the restaurant’s tables were to be filled with their regular weekend crowd, claiming their favourite tables between 6:30-7pm. We wanted one by the window, but were told they were all reserved, despite us sitting and finishing our meal, and seeing no one claim the coveted seats during that time.

The entry way of the restaurant is a narrow corridor walk between the bar and the kitchen behind it, and an arch-ed wall. The wall corrals the dining area behind red brick and yellow stucco arches. It was an aged establishment decorated with Italian style art and artifacts. Oil paintings of buildings amongst waterways, held delicately in gilded gold frames; porcelain plates with photos of landmarks at its centre, and a collection of vases and jugs sitting ornamental on a ledge. It had a quaint feel further by the community appeal and friendly staff.

The menu was a laminated gathering of dishes categorized under appetizers, pastas, and various proteins. Having never been here before we both played it safe with pasta dishes. But our meal began with an oven warmed bun each and some whipped creamy butter to spread over it.

My partner had their “Fettuccine alla Federico”. A generous helping of pasta with pieces of chicken and mushrooms in the chef’s own sauce. The Alfredo was slightly orange due to a little tomato in it. The tomato offered the serving more depth and the addition of tang and spice. The mushroom offered the plate some heartiness, but I found them out of place. I much more preferred the classic lasagna below.

I took them up on their beef lasagna special of the day. The casserole dish came to the table bubbling, with a warning from the server who delivered it. Another server followed shortly after, offering both of us Parmesan by the spoonful and grated pepper to finish off the dish. This was a solid lasagne, homestyle with a thick sauce and plenty of toasted cheese. It was exactly as expected, great from first bite to the leftovers I enjoyed the day after.


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.
A nice option for some hearty Italian in Burnaby. A quick and easy meal between $17.95-18.95. Don’t deny your cravings.


3891 Hastings Street, Burnaby BC, V5C 2H7
L'artista Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Meet Fresh

This is a newer Taiwanese style dessert place that my guests were raving about. When I asked them what is worth trying out in Richmond, they both look to each other and came to the conclusion that “Meet Fresh” was the one I had to try.

Located in a smaller plaza I didn’t expect much walking in. Especially with all the extra art drawn over their front windows. They were nicely drawn flowers and spirals, but they did distract from the colourful posters that were meant to solicit customers in through their dessert offerings. Poster size tapioca pearls, snowy coloured rice balls, and red beans piled high.

Walking in, I was immediately impressed by how shiny and new the restaurant looked. This was definitely a chain running at a larger scale operation.

The restaurant is quite chic with plenty of breathing room. It is kept fairly simple, outside of the red Chinese lanterns hanging over the lucky cat on the counter, with a live orchid sitting on the other end. In the dining room three well taken, and well processed food photos hang on the wall. On the side of each is some history and detail written in Chinese. The ceilings are lined with unprocessed wooden planks that still have their manufacture stamps on them, and from where you stood you can see that they are made out of compressed wood chips. They gave the otherwise polished place some edge.

You order from either their televised menu above the counter, or off their stack of laminated menus to the side. All the employees were here, working behind the counter in their two tonal brown uniforms that included a cap. They take your order and hand you a buzzer. It shakes and vibrates alerting you of when your dish is ready for pick up, back at the counter. You claim what is yours from the right hand side, several wickets with all the napkins you, need, self serve out of dispensers. From here you bring your tray to any one of their tables.

We grabbed one by the window to share their “iced meet fresh signature” at. This was under the herbal jelly section of the menu, and the go-to for both of my guests. One had milk allergies so we had our version with it on the side. The milk being this little travel cup, the kind used for coffee on the go. This was a mix of grass jelly, taro and pumpkin balls; over crushed ice, sweetened with brown sugar and sugar cane. I enjoyed it as a bowl of textures to slurp up. It was plenty sweet, the milk being a nice add-on to give the dessert some more creaminess.

Similar in texture, but with a more eggy flavour is the “Deluxe egg pudding”. It was like a cross between jello and pudding, that tasted like butterscotch or caramel custard. It was nice, but not all that different from what we had before. It wasn’t even our first choice. We were actually eyeing a few of their other desserts, however they were all sold out of everything; and seeing as all of their snacks are flown in from Taiwan, it would be awhile before we could have any.


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.
A solid spot, but given that I live in Burnaby, there are other alternatives that are just as good and a lot closer to me. And it was good, but I grew up with my mom preparing me similar desserts regularly, so I wasn’t an immediate fan like my guests were. Don’t deny your cravings.


1136 8328 Capstan Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4B6
Meet Fresh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Made With Love, cocktail competition

This evening I was invited to the largest mixology competition in Canada: “Made With Love”. This is the fifth time our city has hosted this competition, with the goal to find the regional finalist for the best BarChef in Canada. Tonight, with the vote of judges and the help of patrons, they would find two to move on and represent Vancouver nationally on May 2018. During this semi final round each contestant had two chances to win, with only the two winners advancing. They either move on by winning the Judge’s Choice or the Public’s Choice vote. So this Monday night all guests converged at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s conference room for a night of drinking, snacking, and socializing.

The event ran from 6pm to 11pm, with the opportunity for ticket holders to drop in throughout the night. The only problem, some of the booths were quick to run out of mix. Shame, as that meant in some cases, like with me and my guest, they lost the opportunity to be judged and to receive a vote.

When you checked in, each person was given two dog tags, to be gifted to your favourite bartender, who crafted your favourite drink. There was over 16 cocktails to be tried, with some vendors adding on a complimentary amuse bouche to nibble on. One tag when to the professional bartenders via-ing for a spot in the nationals, another went to your favourite apprentice from the “Brandywine Bartending school”. From each category, the one with the most votes won. All the while, three specially selected judges, would be choosing their own winner amongst the three of them. Whereas the regular participating patrons got drinks in paper cups, the judges had their cocktails with presentation taken into account. They evaluated their’s based on originality, creativity, and favour balance.

Half the fun of the event was mingling with others and inquiring as to which bartender they would be giving their tags too. It almost became a game to see who had the most around their neck, as a tell of their quality of beverage. I personally took the time to visit all the booths, before casting my vote and being disappointed at the missed opportunity to try two amateur cocktails. It didn’t necessarily mean that their cocktails were the best. I personally saw it as their inability to plan out the quality needed. They ran out by 8pm and the event ran until 11pm.

I won’t be going into too much detail each cocktail that I had. So so simply watch the video version of this, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei to watch all the action!

The fact is most of these wont be available for public consumption, even at the restaurant or bar that the bartender who created it works at. They were especially created for this event, to showcase their bartending style and chops, in hopes of representing Vancouver in such a prestige competition.

The following is in no particular order, except the one that I visited each in. First the professional cocktails, then the amateur contestants.

You were able to get a drink in hand right as you entered the door. This was their “welcome cocktail” made with Campari.

The “Wild Rose” by David Butlers from “Juniper” was very botanical, and it was absolutely defining of “Juniper’s” style. They paired it with a sweet bite of floral infused whipped cream over puff pastry squares.

The “Matériel Orange” by Daniel O’Hearn of the “Reflections Bar” was my favourite of the night, and whom I gave my professional tag to. He delivered on the description of this being a Christmas drink. It was smooth and creamy, the only one to use raw egg whites and offer drinkers a rim to rest their lips on.

The “Hulala” was the tropical brain child of “Tiffanie Hensel” from the “Pawnshop”. She, it, and her booth were so much fun that it made me want to visit their actual location.

She also offered up flambé slices of banana with a sticky toffee-like glaze and some with a scoop of flavoured whipped cream and a dusting of shredded coconut.

The ladies offering the “Lady’s Secret Stakes” were dressed to match the derby theme of their cocktail’s name. And it was Chelsea Rose Schulte from “Cocktails & Canapes Catering” to move on to the nationals with the judge’s vote.

Next to them, Dylan Robert Williams from “The Westin Bayshore” won the people’s vote, for the most collected tags throughout the night. And the drink that won them this spot was the “Crystal Lake”. Like their co-winner, they too had a cohesive theme and decided to dress their table and themselves to the part. A summer camp experience with a makeshift fire of red led lights and smoke from liquid nitrogen. “Campers” tended to the table in matching “Camp Ungava” red and white tees. They even served them on wood chargers with tin mugs for the judges.

And to accompany this summer spritzer they had grilled mini wieners in palm-sized buns. A help yourself affair with four different twists on the classic ketchup, mustard, and relish. With rosehip in the relish, wild berry in the mustard, and juniper onions.

Elson Cheng of “Anh and Chi” prepared his “…o-wisp” for all us guests. It was a very citrusy drink made using their own macadamia and Carmel popcorn orgeat.

The “Seven Sunsets” was prepared by Peter Johanson of “Bar Oso”. It was a very full bodied sipping drink. The kind you savour and swish between your teeth.

There were also booths hosted by alcohol brands and other drinks offering sips, they weren’t competing, but instead offering us a few more drink options. I highly enjoyed the ones by “Red Bull” energy drink. They offered their entire line of drinks in all their fruity colours to be used in any cocktail you like. You need only tell the girls behind table which was your favourite can and what spirit you preferred with it, and they did the rest.

On the other side of the room were the amateur bartenders, representing the “Bradywines bartending school” and themselves with an original cocktail. I was only able to get my lips on 3 out of the 4 offered.

I cannot believe I haven’t heard this event before. Five years and I am only now finding out about this fun. I cannot wait to follow along with the national competition in spring and to do this all again next year. And when “Made with Love” comes around again next year, I highly suggest you make the effort to attend. If you like drinking and trying new things like me, then this event is for you. And bonus, it is all under one roof, and a nice one at that. I just hope they consider hosting in on a weekend in the future for a more free-flowing drinking opportunity.



The Trump Champagne Lounge

The name “Trump” use to mean something, at least their chain of hotel-towers did when the Malaysian owner of this newest Vancouver hotel decided to pay to use his and his daughter’s name for the hotel and its spa. But in truth one has no more to do with the other, and this is something I can see the owner regretting the decision of down the road. It wasn’t until learning this did I dare venture into the hotel’s lobby, although its front yard facing Georgia street is pretty eye catching with its water features and white sculptures. In particular the bunny head is quite popular as a photo op.

The “Champagne Lounge” is what you walk into right past the door. You grab any seat directed by the hostess. Each cluster of cushions and knee height tables features a collection of mini binders in an acrylic stand. Each, a menu worth flipping through. They have a fairly extensive collection of cocktails to wet your whistle with. But, as I will mention below, I come for and highly recommend any of their conceptual drinks.

After first discovering the following cocktails first with one friend, I have been back two more times with three other, to try a few more. So this post is an accumulation of all of these visits.

So enamoured by their showmanship, I have also filmed the experience for my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Check out the following video where I show you some of the more flamboyant cocktails our fair city has to offer.

The one that continues to impress and the one that I have had three times now is the “Scentless apprentice” at $25. The experience is presented on a vanity try with perfume bottle, perfume mister, and chanel foam spooned in table side. Per se vodka, lemon balm tincture, myrtle and sandalwood cordial, creme de banane, lemon juice, and Chanel no. 5 air. It is floral and what you would imagine a nice perfume flavoured cocktail would taste like. The foam adds a nice creaminess to each sip.

I also had one of their newest theatrical drinks a couple of times. The “La belle saison” features an egg in a nest that is cracked open table side, as the final touch to crafting this cocktail. The egg is actually emptied of its traditional content, before being injected with a honeysuckle and jasmine foam. So when it is cracked over your drink you already have a nice final egg white to sweeten each sip with, as appose to having whip a raw egg into meringue. This fact alone makes me feel like it is closer in value to the cost of $28 a serving. Glenlivet Nadurra, J.Dupreyon, Armagnac, French Hay and Valencia Neroli Cordial, Sauterne wine, and lemon juice. It was a very easy to drink punch, show aside I would order this one again just for its taste.

And last of the available “conceptual cocktails” of this season is the “Jupiter’s knot” at $25. A single glass served on a tray of pine branches and needles, with pinecones for a forest aroma. Liquid nitrogen and water gives the drink a nice blanket of smoke when it is being brought over. They put in enough to really give you a show. The entire song and dance is very telling of the flavour you should be expecting. Forest sights and smells for a woodsy cocktail with smokey notes. Definitely the strongest of the three with some hefty bite.

Under their list of “contemporary” cocktails I have had the pleasure of trying their “blood and champagne” cocktail twice at $20 a glass. And each time it reminds me of orbits. “Orbits” is the short lived 90’s drink that had bits of chewy pearls floating around it in, as if in space. They gave the clear drink colour and some texture to chew on. And this was before bubble tea really became mainstream in Vancouver. Here they had similar pearls to give you an actual jelly pop as you sip and chewed.

For those who don’t drink alcohol, but still want an interactive experience, they also have a magical tea set. This is the “Butterfly effect”, $19 for a mix and match, blend your own tea experience. On the menu it ironically goes into the negative effects of alcohol, soliciting drinkers into a world where “heathy and longevity is put before escapism through intoxication”. It felt a little judgey to me given how many of their alcohol drinks I had and they are what you come in for in the first place. It promised that if consumed, it would give the drinker the feeling of relaxation, vitality, pain relief, increased energy, and an overall uplifted mood. All possible through their blend of 47 botanical herbs, flowers, barks, and remedies. There were six main parts to this, all served on a metal tray. Which includes four test tube vials filled with hand carved ice (necessary to chisel into order to pit into such a narrow vessel), pea flower solution, relax and uplift tea, and house crafted super kombucha. One by one a bit of each vial gets poured into the test tube of ice, throughout the process you watch the liquid change colour. When all mixed up it is poured over an ice block in a regular drinking glass. Then a drop of vitamin C is squeezed in for good measure. It tastes medical and sweet. A tea heavy drink I wouldn’t necessarily associate as a thirst quencher. Definitely designed for the show.

They also have a healthy selection of sweets and snacks, including a high tea tower I have yet to try, as it is only available during the weekends during the brunch-ing window.

Their “artisanal charcuterie and cheese plate” was a nice way to nibble on something savoury, helpful in balancing out some of the sweeter cocktails. A good mix of sharp and salty cheese, paired with creamy cheeses and creamier meats that you spread on the crisp sheets of crostini with a knife. The preserved vegetable and fresh fruit offered a freshness to contrast the above. At $28 it is a little steep, I much rather spend that amount on another one of their speciality cocktails instead. Although this is one of the better gatherings of meat and cheeses on a plate that I have had. They are all well thought out to give you the most depth of variety. Something for everyone and something new for those more familiar with charcuterie and cheeses.

On a different visit it was all about dessert and outside of one, I have now all their available desserts. The “Praline chocolate barre” is for the chocolate lovers with its rich hazelnut dacquoise and vanilla bean ice cream. A classic desert with crispy layers and luscious textures.

Although I prefer the more unique “Green apple” desert with Gorgonzola mousse and a tart green apple sorbet. This was mix of salty and sweet, featuring the classic pairing of apples and cheese. My guest didn’t like it, insisting she was tasting too much of the blue cheese. I found it tasty, but would have appreciated it assembled together as a solid layer cake, instead of this deconstructed plate. Dollops of cream, miniature scoops of cheesy mousse, jiggly jelly, and ripped apart pieces of cake spread across the plate like polkadots.

One of my less adventurous diners was more than happy with a scoop of “Valhrona Chocolate” ice cream that dressed up with berries.

But the best way to get a little taste of everything and the dessert I recommend most is their “Mignardises”. It is $25 for this bento box of sorts. Given the workmanship and variety, I most definitely felt the value worthy the cost. This is the chef’s daily selection of desserts. I have been told that it can vary slightly between day to day. It was good, but nothing stood out in terms of taste. It was as expected and I have no complaints about that. On this day we had the following. The Eclair cream puff combo with hazelnut chocolate, Raspberry cheesecake, Vanilla bean cream with a raspberry centre and a chocolate shard, Rum and vanilla ice cream, Red velvet cake with a crispy wafer and raspberry filling, Matcha cream cake, and a Chocolate cake pop shaped like a bear’s head.

And if you get a chance to visit their night club, “Drai”, of Las Vegas fame; do it. Trump Tower is home to Vancouver’s only roof top club with a pool. I didn’t go to party, but I was able to get a look at how spectacular the setting was.


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 am just waiting for them to update their drink menu to have a better reason to visit them again. A great place for a special occasion, or a fun place to host girls night at, with very visual drinks and desserts to spoil yourself with. Don’t deny your cravings.


1161 W Georgia St, Vancouver BC, V6E 0C6
The Trump Champagne Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


I have been meaning to visit the highly acclaimed “Botanist” for sometime now. And this long over due visit ended up coinciding with a birthday party, and a gathering of over 16. However, what should have been a joyous occasion was soured by a rocky start and some miscommunication at the beginning of the night.

The birthday girl confirmed her ability to bring balloons to dinner, she had planned to use them in the backdrop for photos and as a way to make the night more festive in her honour. But now walking in to the restaurant with them, one of the hosts rejected the idea. He cited the ambience and the need to not have the distraction for the other tables within their dining room. I understood the need and the policy, I just wished for the sake of my friend that they told her before she lugged her collection of helium all the way down. She even did her due diligence to ask how many balloons she could bring and had kept within their requirement. This miscommunication would then painted a negative brush on the rest of the night; where she and naturally her guests, were eager to point out anything else amiss going forward. Something that was magnified given the prestige of the place and the price points we were paying to dine here. And I guess the staff felt the energy of the table, as we were left waiting for utensils and repeating our requests for water and napkins. And at one point when we were trying to hail someone over for the bill, we saw the manger who we had spoken to earlier approach, but soon after walk away. Understandably majority of my co-diners were upset, specially when the set menu had us committing to $90 each for three courses, including the mandatory large group service charge of 18%. When approaching a high end restaurant your expectations are higher along with its prestige and it looks like they fell short for majority of our group. However I think we could have and should have been more considerate and polite when speaking with the staff. I work in the service industry and know how it is like to be slammed with a busy Saturday rush, while having to accommodate a large group. A little more compassion could have saved the night all around for everyone. None-the-less this didn’t sour my experience with them. I enjoyed my meal and the opportunity to diner here enough to plan a return trip a month later. So this post will be a combination of the two.

During my original visit, I wanted some speciality cocktails that I saw posted on their Instagram page, but were disappointed to learn that their “experimental cocktails” weren’t available in the dining area, but only at the bar. Shame, as we would have ordered three then and there and at $28 each, it is only to their benefit. So this is what I came back specifically for the second time around. A little steep, but given the ingredient list and the work that goes into each, I can see the value. Maybe not an everyday cocktail, but ones worth trying for an occasion.

To see the video version of their preparation as well as my review on them and other such extravagant cocktails, please visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.


This is currently the selection, however I have been told this list will rotate a few times a year. Once again each is priced at $28 a glass. They are prepared behind a glass room within the bar/lounge. We visited at a slow enough time that the staff humoured me with a more up close and personal look into the mixology. I even got an explanation of what went into what for why. Our bartender in particular was friendly and patience, he really made our time there all the more fun and all the more worth the cost we paid at the end.

To start, he poured us a round of amuse bouche cocktails. Like a cocktail appetizer before our cocktail entree. Something to keep us busy as we waited for our more intricate order. And if all the drinks were as good as this one, we were in for a treat.

Between three girls we enjoyed the following. The “deep cove” cocktail is made Island Gin, Sea Buckthorn, Blue Algae, and Drift Wood; and is served in a specially designed drinking vessel. The glass is shaped around a piece of driftwood. Therefore only one fits together with the other, further exalting the drink. This was my favourite of the three for taste and volume. A fishbowl sized cocktail that you grasped with both hands; although realistically you were getting less alcohol as the crushed ice was quick to melt, watering down your drink. It was as tropical as it looked with that a salty quality that you’d expect from an ocean themed cocktail. It was painstakingly prepared with thinly sliced sheets of cucumber folded over and arranged within the ice, with long needled tweezers. It was used to help convey the look and motion of waves with the bubble glass. Like waves rushing against the shore and the beached log it sat on. It was finished off with a metal straw, that some how made the drinking of it even more luxurious.

I had a similar feeling with the glass straw in the “pretty bird”. This was another cocktail served in another unique blown glass vessel. We joked that the shaken liquid was poured into the bird’s butt and that is where you also end up drinking out from it. This was a more floral drink, delicate with Gin, Berries, Seeds, Bubbles, and Bird Nest.

The “candy cap magic” is for those who love a stiff drink. Mushroom Rye, Vermouth, Spiced Maple, Forest, and Moss. It had a very earthy presentation. A terrarium filled with moss, made the perfect patch for a heavy scotch glass to sit on. To it our bartender injects water through syringes, which reacts with the liquid nitrogen for a smokey show. The visual is smoke creeping out over the moss, like you could imagine from within a forest clearing, at the break of dawn. This was definitely the more visual of the three, furthered by having to open the door of the terrarium to get at your glass. As a drinking, this is the kind you enjoy in sips, with a nice back of throat burn as it goes down.

Overall sharing amongst ourselves was the way to go for this. I don’t suggest the above with food, but to enjoy them on their own, as after dinner drinks. Especially doing so on their patio if you get the chance. On this colder night we had it and the larger cushioned seat all to ourselves. Here we were able to chat amongst their luscious greenery, sit well supported by their velvet pillows, and wrap ourselves warm in one of their knotted throws. It made for a cozy and unique drinking experience and the perfect setting of a girl’s night out.

Although, if and when dining indoors, I suggest the pocketed alcoves on the way to the dining room. They have a tropical feel to them, with more out-reaching and creeping plant life, and the patterned upholstered chairs to match it.

However for a larger group the dining room is where you will be seated. At its centre are glass cases housing delicate floral arrangements. Easier to admire with their back light, given how dim the room is lit. So be warned, my following photos are on the darker side, to not only capture the tone of our visit, but to respect those around me by not using flash as we ate.

So now back to the night of my original visit. Then and there I was too heartbroken to try any other drink, and given how great my return visit went, I now know my hunch to wait and return was the right decision. But a few of the girls had their “lillemonade” cocktail instead. This is Lillet rose, lemon verbena, lemon, sparkling water, and lavender. It was described by the menu as being a refreshing and delicate aperitif tongue teaser, which is as good of a description as any.

Our meal began with some seeded bread. Perfectly kneaded dough moulded and cut up to resemble leaves. They were beautifully done and a great mark of the meal to come. This continued to be replenished throughout the night along with the whipped butter side. However I wished it was softer and fluffier bread, as my own personal preference.

From here we had threes choices for our starter, three of our desired entree, and two to choose between for dessert. Between our large group, I was able to take photos and try all eight dishes.


The “Charred octopus” was served with asparagus, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and chorizo. It looked like each ingredient was most gingerly placed at its predesigned angle. The octopus was definitely the star of the dish, each segment had a beautiful char with a smokey flavour that carried through to the vegetables. The thin slices of the latter was a wonderful compliment to the chewiness of the former. However, I would have liked the chorizo minced up into smaller chunks. I found its spice a little overwhelming, with too much punch for the octopus to compete with.

The “White gazpacho” came with a show. The serving lands just with the cucumber, marcona almonds, green grapes, and sidestripe prawn gathered together at the centre of the bowl. From here your server pours the actual soup over it all. It was thick and creamy, but reminded me of sour cream in drinking form.

In my opinion, the “Watercress salad” looked unimpressive. Green grapes, tarragon, goat cheese, and balsamic. I didn’t have any, but the two girls who did seemed to like it just fine.

The “Duck breast” was my entree of choice. It was served with spaghetti squash and rhubarb, coated in a natural jus. It tasted like BBQ duck done Chinese style. The rhubarb and star anise had mixed reviewed. I appreciated the rest of the julienned vegetables for their crisp bites to pair with the tender and juicy cuts of meat.

The “Mustard-crusted chicken” came with smoked potato, leeks, and a fennel mousseline. The chicken had a nice crispy skin, but I found it too salty. Having the meat with the side of fennel slaw was helpful, it broke up the flavour and gave the dish some lightless. Although I would have preferred them pickled like sauerkraut for the tangy quality I felt that was missing.

The “Olive oil poached halibut” was a head turner. Tomato, squid ink, and local greens. Like the soup before, the broth for this was poured table side, a nice tomato water. It was light and healthy tasting with the tomato giving punches of tang to the buttery fish. The squid ink crisp was a fun little barrier to break through to reach tender and flakey white fish. A little bland for my tastes, but those that ordered it said they would do so again.

For dessert the “Beetroot cake” was the more popular pick of our two choices. Hazelnut, vanilla, Gewürztraminer gel, and elderflower frozen foam. It was like a lighter red velvet sponge, with each flavour layering on for a more complex dessert.

I preferred the “Meyer lemon polenta cake” with apple, honey, Angelica brûlée, and lemon buttermilk ice cream. The honey gave it sweetness and the apple made it refreshing with only a hint of tart. This was a nice palette refresher to end on. Although given how flavourful some of our plates were above, a more richer dessert option would have been nice to round the meal off with.


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.
Two different visits, two different occasions, and I enjoyed myself at both. A restaurant I appreciate for its details and one I would gladly cone back to again on the right occasion. Don’t deny your cravings.


1038 Canada Place Way, Vancouver BC, V6C 0B9
Botanist Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Buckets Ice Cream

I was hanging out with my friend today, and as per tradition, our time together ended with some ice cream. Today we stopped at this newer liquid nitrogen ice cream shoppe, by her house.

She had mentioned that during her original visit with them they hosted a line up of pretty unique flavours, corn being one of them. So I was eager to step foot inside and try some of these for myself, today. However we were greeted by the sandwich board outside, advertising their list of pretty normal flavours. Creamy ice cream in cookies and cream, salted caramel, and coconut coffee for the vegans.

Inside, the shoppe was a counter on the right with the seating area across from it. A couple of stools, some tables to prop up against, and a play corner with picture books and a magnet board to keeps kids entertained. We had one with us today and she was plenty engaged by it, enough to not pry ice cream and cookie from our hands.

I checked out their “bucket list” on the board behind the counter. There were five flavours to choose from, each would be made to order using liquid nitrogen. I wanted to try a few before ultimately settling on the one I wanted to commit to a full scoop of, however the clerk refused my ask. Given the need to make their ice cream to order with liquid nitrogen, it made sense. Although if they were going to pursue some more unique flavours, it might help to have a batch frozen in the freezer, just for sampling.

Given their name and the fact that their logo has scoops piled high. I had imagined their ice cream being served in an actual bucket. The reality was it was just a name, and there were no buckets. Their ice cream was either offered in an edible waffle bowl, or available as a scoop within a disposable cardboard bowl. Or a plastic one if you are eating in. However we would go the handheld route and order our ice cream in between two baked cookies instead. They seemed a safe bet and if the ice cream wasn’t good, at least you are left with a nice cookie to chew on.

They actually only use liquid nitrogen in their fresh made scoops and pints. They have decide to not use it for their ice cream sandwiches, because the freezing process changes the consistency of the ice cream. If they were to use liquid nitrogen in this sandwich, their ice cream would lose some of its signature creaminess. So instead, churned ice cream is used for their sandwiches and I couldn’t tell the difference (not that I got to try a taste of their nitrogen made ice creams.)

We shared two sandwiches between us. I was more partial to the “PB & J”. This was a peanut butter cookie with strawberries and cream ice cream. The perfect interpretation of the popular pairing in ice cream sandwich form. The cookie was soft and the ice cream light. I could have another right now.

My friend liked the “Le norm” one better. This was an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie paired with coconut vanilla ice cream. A vegan option that you couldn’t tell lacked cream or milk. The bites were heartier with the texture of the cookie, and well paired with the lightness of the coconut milk made ice cream.


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.
Overall, great ice cream sandwiches. However, I don’t know if I would travel all the way back for more. But I would stop by if in the mood and the area. Don’t deny your cravings.


3330 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3M7
Buckets Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kirin, Starlight Casino

After a disappointing experience and the last Kirin, my family was willing to try somewhere new, yet not stray from the restaurant chain that they like. So we found ourselves travelling all the way to New Westminster for this location of Kirin, within the “Starlight Casino”; instead of their downtown or Cambie street one, that is actually much more convenient for us.

To read the post on our precious visit with unsatisfactory customer service from a high end Chinese restaurant, please click the link below.




I personally didn’t mind the trip as I find this, their newest location the nicest of the lot. With vaulted ceilings and high walls in a peach and tan shade, patterned curtains, and crystal light features, there was enough detailing to add glitz, without feeling like they were crowding the room. Their other familiar pieces from location to location was also present. White tablecloths, a candle lit under a mental platform to keep your tea warm, and metal chopstick stands to rest them on when not in use. We were seated at a table for five by the window and our view allowed us a look at their garden of black bamboo. Apparently in order to get them their desired hue it takes cultivating of an additional year.

As always my father takes the reigns when it comes to ordering, as no one else in my family wants the responsibility. According to them, they just come to eat.

We always start off with a warm soup, which warms up the belly for the fulsome meal to come. The “Crab meat and fish maw soup” is one of my favourites, in which I only get treated to when dining with my family. It is fishy and salty with a thick syrupy-like consistency, punctuated with nice chewy rubbery bits. I like it best with a spoon of red vinegar for an additional tang. I wish there was enough for multiple bowls, but somehow there is always just enough for everyone to have their one.

Next came the live lobster cooked in a “cream and butter sauce”. When ordering you are asked how large you want it, as you pay for the crustacean by the pound. So later showing you your lobster alive and crawling table side, confirms this order. To begin this course you are handed a hot towel to wipe your hands with, however they were more like luke warm cloths when we got them tonight. But at least they served their purpose and were used get our hands clean for the task ahead. I actually don’t like getting my hands dirty when I eat, so don’t actually eat a lot of live seafood prepared in shell like this. However, everyone was given a two pronged fork to help pry meat from shell, which allowed me to indulge a lot more today. I greedily took the claw, and was disappointed by how salty and fishy it tasted. It needed more of the cream sauce it sat on to mask this taste. And even then I wished that the sauce was denser, with a more luxurious texture, and that the chunks of onions within it weren’t so large. To end and to clean our hands again, the table was given two hot water finger bowls with lemon.

This is their “Hot appetizer barbecue assortment”, the menu didn’t list what we would be actually getting, so we were surprised by the mound of jellyfish that sat on top of it. It was most definitely cold, and it helped to chill the assortment of barbecue meats under it. The barbecue meats included pork, pork belly, and duck. It was good, but nothing outstanding given the prestige of the restaurant.

The “Chef’s special deboned duck” is what continues to bring my father back. This is the specialty dish that he ordered last time, that requires advance preparation, that he didn’t get. It comes stuffed with “eight treasures” including legumes, nuts, and dried shrimp. It is served whole and then cut up and open table side. Most impressive is the ability to cut into the duck with a butter knife; it is just that tender. Although tasty enough, I don’t particularly like the end result as I find the stuffing too grainy in texture and I was never a fan of cooked nuts. I would have preferred the stuffing done American style with breadcrumbs instead, but who stuffs a duck?

The “String bean stir fried with chopped garlic and minced pork” was my pick, although I was chastised for it. Given how common this dish is and that any restaurant can prepare it for you. However I don’t often eat Chinese food, so I didn’t have the same sentiment as my family did. We ended up getting it at the end as our only vegetable dish. And sadly I was disappointed by their offering. I wasn’t a fan of their beans, I found them old and their peas within chalky; whereas I prefer my green beans thinner, longer, and crispier. At least the seasonings were spot on, plenty of minced meat and garlic for flavour.

My mother ironically selected the “Braised ox tail in red wine sauce en casserole”, but didn’t have any of it. She found the meat hard, despite it being some of the most tender beef I have ever had. It was incredibly easy to pry meat from bone. It came sizzling in its hot pot as a good mix of fat, cartilage, and meat per large bone segment. The crisp green peppers and the soften carrot chunks in gravy made a nice pairing with our side order of rice.

For dessert we got both options of sweet soups, great for those preferring one over the other. The older generation went for the traditional red bean. But as I have mentioned countless of times before, I avoid it as I am not a fan of its texture. So instead I helped myself to “sago” which is like sweetened coconut milk with tiny tapioca balls. This time it was served cold, whereas I much more prefer it warm with the tapioca soft.

And to cap off my mom’s birthday celebration (the low key reason why we were here tonight. She doesn’t like a fuss being made over her.) we ordered a round of lucky peach buns filled with a sweet lotus paste. One for each person, steamed and served within a bamboo steamer. They were wonderfully soft and great to chew between the teeth.


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.
Definitely not a restaurant I would travel to or even visit, outside of family dinners, but absolutely one of the nicest ones my family frequents for special occasions. Don’t deny your cravings.


Starlight Casino, 350 Gifford Street, New Westminster BC, V3M 7A3
Kirin Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Harvest Haus preview

It is no surprise that I love to drink, and every year around this time I tell myself that I will take part in one the biggest drinking celebrations in the city: Oktoberfest. Although I have yet to follow through on my world, however, this year will be different. This year I am happy to attend Harvest Haus’ 4th year grand opening on Thursday “Oktober” 5th from 6:00PM – 10:30PM. On this night we will be celebrating the reopening of the “Harvest Haus” doors with a Bavarian style party. A night where it is all about honouring the true traditions of the Harvest.

Over the course of two weekends, there will be seven separate events held at “Sole Food Street Farms”. Their transformed acres of vacant and contaminated urban land, made into street farms that grow artisan-quality fruits and vegetables; makes for the perfect location to celebrate the harvest at. So it is here that, West Coast’s largest Germanic-inspired cultural harvest festival will be spread across seven separate seatings, welcoming 1,500 guest under their great Harvest Haus Halle tent. And I am super excited to be one of the ones attending the first night, to be able to fill you all in on what’s what! So stayed tuned for the follow up post. And therefore none of these photos are my own.

Each lunch and dinner seating will include a theatrical keg tapping by the Harvest Haus Bürgermeister to start off the festivities. Followed by four-and-a-half-hours of fully immersive entertainment. Which includes medieval tomfoolery, a giant Jenga set and darts, a swashbuckling and swordplay exhibition, and axe throwing at a fee. All while Bavarian brass oompah and favourite party hits by Vancouver’s “Oktoberators” play on the central stage. There is also the highly anticipated return of internationally renowned DJ Erick Decks from Frankfurt, Germany.

All the while, guests will by enjoying European beers in authentic ceramic “Bierkrug” (steins), specialty German wines at communal long tables, and traditional Oktoberfest delicacies such as pretzels, Brezen, Bratwürst and Sauerkraut available in the open-air Marktplatz (marketplace).

Each seating will feature a special theme with tickets ranging from $25 for General Admission to $50 for VIP. These are on sale now at, and expected to sell down quick. Partial proceeds benefit the Music Heals Charitable Foundation that supports a wide range of music therapy services to communities in BC and across Canada. For a list of all the seatings and to find the theme that best excites you, check out the list below.


Grand Opening
6:00PM – 10:30PM
This night features the reopening of the Harvest Haus doors. Revellers will kick off the party, Bavarian style. Where the night is all about honouring the true traditions of the Harvest – with one exciting new addition: axe-throwing (complimentary for this night only)!

The Duelling Arts
6:00PM – 10:30PM
The “Duelling Arts” graces the Harvest Halle with a show that allows guests the ability to embrace the thrills of swordplay, bier, and to take part in some competitive axe-throwing in a safe environment.

The Stein Games
12:00PM – 4:30PM
This is an afternoon of beer sports competition. Event runners will host multiple games, including Stein Pong, with contests and the ability to watch or take part with your own team.

Ach, Ja! It’s Saturday
6:00PM – 10:30PM
This is planned to be the most vibrant night of the week with a promise of celebration with much dancing and drinking.

Zany Mode
6:00PM – 10:30PM
New this year is the best dressed contest, where guests are invited to come dressed in their best costumes and make a case for themselves on why they should win. There will also be bonus points given out to those who come in groups costumes.

Lippensynchron Battle
12:00PM – 4:30PM
This is a return of the popular lip sync competition. Where you can either come to do battle, or come to be entertained by the teams who compete to the best best of their abilities, with some pretty creative routines.

Closing Night
6:00PM – 10:30PM
And on its last night, guests will dance and drink to celebrate the last event of this year’s Harvest Haus.


Evening Seatings: October 5 – 7 and October 13 – 14: 6:00pm to 10:30 pm Afternoon Seatings: Oct. 7 & 14: 12 pm to 4:30 pm
Location: Under the Harvest Haus Halle at Sole Food Street Farms (88 Pacific Blvd)

Tickets available now at

This event is brought to you in part by “Wet Ape Productions” and “The Social Concierge”.

Zenstone Coffee

My guests and I happened here by chance. We were on our way to another, after-lunch-dessert-place, but were lured in by “Zenstone’s” exterior advertising.

I am not a fan of coffee, but I love latte art. And upon seeing enlarged photos of their colourful cups, I came to a stop. They were hung on a clothes line in the front window, for that very purpose. Captivating enough to have us drawing in closer and eventually agreeing to head on in.

Inside, they are set up like your typical coffee shop. An open space with the counter at the far back, and clusters of tables to weed through on your way there. You order off of their blackboard menu. But it is much easier to allow yourself to be lured in my their glass showcase of sweets and to be tempted by their specials on their own dedicated table top chalkboard sign. They were clever in not only highlighting what went into making each specialty beverage, but also including a coloured photo of it. After all, it was what got us in here in the first place. They are definitely playing off this generation’s love of the unique and the photo worthy.

After ordering and paying, we picked it all up from the counter. Then we served ourselves bringing or drinks and snack to the row of chairs facing the bar, by the window. We sat below their metalwork globes, with a bowl of succulents at the counter.

There were three of us and we each ordered one of their non-coffee lattes, pairing it with one of their mini stuffed waffles that matched. They also have full size waffles made to order, along with the prettiest individual cakes, set in their own plastic showcase. Let just say, for someone who eats with her eyes first, it was hard for me to not simply order their entire menu.

And it just so happened we came in on the best day possible. The barista that was in today, is the only one who is able to make the more complicated latte art. Not just hearts and leaves, but he can give your coffee a face. He was kind enough to humour our request for different design per mug, and patient enough to allow me to film him doing so.

To watch our drinks being brought to life, please visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.


I had the purple yam latte, which he made into a cat’s head with pointed ears and rosy cheeks. You could tell this was made with real taro paste from the melted parts of it that sank to the bottom. I advise stirring things up before you drink to get a wonderfully noticeable yam flavour in each sip.

One of my guest had the green tea latte that came as a bear holding a heart. It had a wonderfully rich matcha flavour.

And my other guest had lactose allergies so had her black sesame latte made with almond milk. Our skilled barista warned us that the art may not turn out, as it comes out best when done with heavier milk. Although he was able to create a lovely rose with stem and leaf using the almond milk just fine. Like the two lattes before, this one was just perfect. You got the promised flavour without having it overwhelm the hot milk. Citrus black sesame latte with almond milk and real black sesame paste.

As I mentioned, we also tried three of their “Mini stuffed waffles”. I chose each flavour based on their colour, only to accompany each drink; and was not disappointed by any of them. Each was fresh and chewy with a nice dense filling.

The purple one got its bold colour from beet juice. It was filled with blueberry jam. The jam oozed out after you took a bite. And was so good that you wanted to nibble on each, to make it last and fully enjoy each. The matcha chocolate one was more of the latter than the former. You tasted something delicious, but couldn’t tell that it was the matcha powder that you were enjoying. And the chocolate black sesame was very much so the same.


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 wish they were closer to me, as I could see myself frequenting them more often if that was the case. And that all of their baristas would be able to craft similar cups to the ones above; but apparently that takes a lot of learning, and only five such baristas have such skill within the city. Don’t deny your cravings.


1131-8328 Capstan Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4B6
Zenstone Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

ZenQ, Marpole

If you haven’t noticed, Taiwanese tea house brand “Chatime” has open dozens of new franchise locations all across the Lower Mainland over the last couple of years. In almost every area, you can expect one of its purple awnings. So it is no surprise to learn that their sister dessert shop, “ZenQ” is right behind them with two locations in Richmond and Coquitlam, and a third on its way in the next couple of months, at Hastings and Willingdon.

During the time of this visit, the location I visited at Marine Gateway has only been open for a week. This was their soft launch and they were still working out their day to day operations, before advertising a grand opening.

“ZenQ” supplements desserts to “Chatime’s” extensive drink menu. A few locations of the former has been known to open up within the latter. Having “ZenQ” locations in Vancouver means there is a platform and a place to go for more traditional Chinese style sweet soups and jellies. Something that should be consistent with their offerings in Asia. Especially considering that when new franchise owners purchase their businesses, they get flown to Taiwan to see the brand in its popularity high, running optimally. This is before they head back home to replicate this phenomenon for themselves. But as they do, they have help. “ZenQ” also sends new franchise owners their own trainer. The trainer’s goal is to walk new owners through each process and to be their coach in driving a successful venture.

Here, I learned that “QQ” means chewy. And that the single “Q” in their name, their slogan “wow so Q!”, and the name of their popular rice balls is a reflection of that chewiness. The “Q” reminds you of their chewy claim to fame. And given how much I liked them, I can see why they have grown internationally. I would easily come back for more and recommend them just for their rice balls with no issue.

All said balls are made by hand and from scratch ingredients. Available in either mango, matcha, or sweet potato flavours with their accompanying colours. The process is as follows. The flavouring ingredients are steamed and mixed into a dough. The dough is hand rolled and cut into pieces, then stored in the freezer for some cold treatment, before you boil them to the perfect tenderness. This is to keep each doughy ball’s intended shape and texture. And it works. The balls make a strong appearance in their tofu pudding and grass jelly series.

Their menu is easy to navigate with all their available drinks and desserts being sectioned off into their own “series” and corresponding categories. During this media event we were able to try an item out if each series.

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.

This is their “Tofu pudding no.3” with sweet potato, peanuts, Q balls, and pearls. Each serving in the series differs by ingredients, with each assembly being assigned a different number. Chinese desserts aren’t typically not too sweet, they are flavourful with a large emphasis on texture, and this was a great example of such within this bowl. A variety of textures in this sugar sweeten soup-syrup. It was a nice slurp with jiggly pudding chunks, chewy Q rice balls, squishy tapioca pearls, melty boiled sweet potato, and peanuts for a soggy yet firm texture. I have never been a fan of cooked peanuts because I think their natural crunch is already so great, and that you lose that by cooking it. None-the-less they are easy enough to eat around.

As I mentioned earlier, their Q balls also make a popular appearance within their grass jelly series. This is their “Hot grass jelly no.2”, and like the bowl above, the number differentiates the serving by its additional toppings. No.2 comes with taro, pearls, various Q balls, and a scoop of brown sugar ice. Its hard to describe grass jelly to someone who has never had it. I can best liken it to black jello flavoured with sugar cane syrup. With the addition of the brown sugar, it had a certain molasses sweetness to it, helpful in tying everything else together in a complimentary tone.

From the “Royal sweet soup series”. We had their “Red bean soup no.3” with sweet potato. Now, other than from here, I don’t know where else you can get red bean soup that isn’t in a sit down Chinese restaurant. Although it’s just as well, given that I am not a fan of the graininess that accompanies red bean. I can see those more unfamiliar, being scared off by the look of it. With its murky water and mud like texture it doesn’t look like any traditional North American style dessert. More like sweet soup with an orange zesty after taste.

The “Longan black glutinous rice no.3” came with boiled tender sweet potato chunks. I wasn’t a big fan of this one either. It had a smiliar granulated texture like the soup above. Although with the glutinous rice it at least had a nicer chew to it. However this just left me even more dissatisfied as I wanted even more chewiness from it. I bit into a boiled Logan fruit thinking it was a Q ball. It wasn’t sweet, but more medical with a rich herbal after note, thanks to the brewing of it within this bowl of water and rice.

This wasn’t what I was expecting when I learned read “Creamy frappes” as a subsection on the menu. I was imagining a Starbucks popularized frappuccino. Whereas this was more than that, and more like shaved ice. A mound of sheared mango flavoured fluffy ice, served with a side of mango jelly cubes, fresh mango chunks, a healthy drizzle of condense milk, and rainbow cereal. The fruit loops not only gave the dessert some visual interest, but it also added crunch and a new flavour profile when you bite into a neon loop.

They also make homemade waffles pressed to order. I found these tasted a lot like bubble waffles with their light eggy-‘ness. This was their “Fresh fruit waffle” with mango, strawberry, honey dew, and banana slices. Finished off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. I suggest eating this as soon as you get it for a cakey waffle that resembles angel food cake. Otherwise you are facing a hard lump of dough. There was a lot more fruit than waffle. Whereas I wanted more substance and the ability the pair the right amount of fresh cut up fruit to toasted waffle pieces, and maybe some sauce to bind it all together.

I much preferred the Banana chocolate waffle with fresh banana, chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream. The flavour of the chocolate spread was the highlight, and banana is a standard pairing with it. There was no complaints with this one. I got exactly what I expected.

From here we transitioned into drinks. From the “ZenQ tea time series” I really enjoyed their handmade taro milk tea. This one has to be served hot given its texture and the need to mash up and stir-in the grittiness of the real taro root with heated milk.

The rest of our drinks were served cold in plastic cups. Up first was their “ZenQ grass jelly” drink. A very tea-heavy milk tea with whole chunks of grass jelly.

From their “Handmade tea series” we had their “Mango blue mountain green tea”. The mango has the drink starting out sweet, and then ending bitter with the tea.

From the same series is their “Strawberry black tea”. It was a little too sweet with too much strawberry flavour for my taste.

The “Oreo cocoa ice diamond” was part of their “Special drinks series”. The “Ice Diamond” refers to its cold and crystallized texture. This one more closely resembled a frappe with its blended up dessert like-flavour.

The “Winter melon black tea” of the same series wasn’t as expected. I have tried winter melon syrup before and its sweet and sugary notes didn’t transition into this cup. With the use of almond milk for creaminess, this drink was more nutty, hiding all the flavour of the mild winter melon.

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 wouldn’t be apposed to a return visit, but it is a little far for me to drive to just for a casual drink and dessert spot. A solid representation of Taiwanese style drinks and dessert for those in the area though. Don’t deny your cravings.


495 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver BC
ZenQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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