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Month: January 2018 Page 1 of 4

Urban Thai Bistro: $30 Dine Out 2018 menu

I am already a fan of “Urban Thai Bistro”, for their straight forward Thai cuisine. And I must not be the only one given their long standing legacy in Yaletown. For nearly two decades this family-run establishment remains, while the two blocks that make up this area have seen favourites flourish and flavours of the month fizzle. “Urban Thai Bistro” is a quick and easy spot of Thai food at reasonable prices. And when you factor in Dine Out, and their $30 three course meal: they become an even better deal during these two weeks. This is especially given how elaborate and dressy each dish was. I was genuinely surprised and impressed. To be honest I expected stir fried noodles, and bowls of curry. But what we got was a modern approach to traditional Thai flavours, presented in a very unique way.

Before I get into more detail, to read up on the restaurant as it is regularly, visit the link below. It covers my first visit as well as more on their decor.

Urban Thai Bistro


And as always, when it comes to a media tasting: playing 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.

For this year’s Dine Out, Executive Chef Somchai promises a $30 multi-course menu that gives a “fresh and exciting take on traditional cuisine from Thailand’s varied regions”. I came with a friend so was able to explore all but one item on their set menu of choices. And given how the others were, I should have inquired about ordering it on the side and paying extra for it.

For appetizers are able to choose one dish out of three. The “Fresh five spiced spring roll” is the one we missed out on. It is stuffed with five-spice braised pork, tofu, egg, beans sprouts, cucumber, and green onion. Which is then all topped off with their Chef’s signature sauce.

But we had no regrets with the “Thai duck dumplings”. However given the “s” at the end of “dumplings” (as it was printed on the menu) we imagine multiples and a dish easier to share. Although, having our single dumpling gift wrapped like this, we were more than happy to receive this impressive plate and split it in two.

Inside the crispy shell hid plenty of nuts and marinated shredded duck meat, all seasoned in Thai spices. However, I really didn’t taste any nuts, not that I wanted to; I don’t think I would have enjoyed its grainy texture. I did find the rest of it a little salty, but the lettuce salad base helped. My guest too liked the salad, but because it reminded her of the thousand island-like sauce in a Big Mac, and she meant this in a good way. Rich and creamy and something to not leave behind on the plate.

Like the dumpling above the “Tom Yum infused shrimp balls” was actually just one ball. It is shrimp paste mixed with tom yum paste and Thai herbs, then coated in breadcrumbs. Another great presentation that had the single ball balancing on a pineapple ring.

Taste wise, it had a nice coconut flavour from the pool of curry that hid within it. A salty surprise, that I found a little too overwhelming; as the dish was missing some tang and freshness. Some shredded cabbage to balance out the rich seafood paste, the crispy deep fry, and overpowering curry. Something the fruit ring could have have helped in, but instead I found its flavour too similar and both together, too much. Some fresh cucumber slices or pickles would have been nice. And some rice would have been even better. In fact, I found most of our meal could have benefited from rice as a base. As, at times I found bites a little too flavourful for my taste, and I would have enjoyed my appetizers and entrees a lot more with a neutral bowl of steamed rice to go with it. Whereas my guest really liked all the punchy flavours she got and continued to rave about the quality and quantity of it all.

For entrees you have one of two choices and I suggest the “BBQ prawns” for presentation alone. Another plate I wasn’t expecting, so was greatly surprised when I saw how large our prawns were, exaggerated with their head and claws. Although, as large as they were, after you peel off its shell and suck out the juices from the head, there really isn’t much actual prawn meat. We were left with lot more rice, than there were prawns to enjoy with it. Luckily the southern style rice salad with coconut milk and vegetable was plenty flavourful, and great as it. A fragrant, sweet and creamy curry; which once again would have been even better enjoyed with a bowl of rice on the side to maximize the curry.

For flavour I direct you to order the “Chiang Mai rice noodles”. It is served with rice stick and vegetable, and then topped with sesame and spicy soy bean paste. The ideal morsel is one piece of beef to every two rounds of rice cake, then you get zesty and spicy beef and the chewy gum of the sweet rice cake together.

For dessert there is just the one option. Everyone ends with the “fresh coconut meat and pumpkin in coconut milk”. I was intrigued by this one, never having pumpkin in a dessert like this. With the same texture it was very similar to sweet potato in colour and sweetness. Together with the slices of fresh coconut meat this dessert soup has you digging deep and slurping up all that sweet, thick and creamy milk to finish. It was also a great end to the rich meal before, a thoughtful palette refresher.

 

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 once only deemed them just as a place for casual Thai food, staples and basics; however after this dine out set, they are no longer just your standard Thai restaurant. By the sounds of things this might be the direction they are taking for 2018, and it literally looks like a good one. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

URBAN THAI
1119 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P6
604-408-7788
thaihouse.com/urban-thai-bistro

Ministry of Japan culinary workshop

Today, I got invited to a very unique culinary workshop, (by James of @HelloVancity). Going into it, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I didn’t get much information, only who would be in attendance, and that was enough for me. Reading Japan’s renowned Takashi Tamura would be cooking alongside “Blue Water Café’s” Masaaki Kudo and Frank Pabst, and “Kissa Tanto’s” Joēl Watanabe, I was intrigued to RSVP and learn more.

This was an event hosted by the “Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan”; and “Canada’s 100 Best” (the food magazine that once a year, ranks the best restaurants in the country, with a panel across the country). And today its editor-in-chief Jacob Richler was emceeing our afternoon at the “Blue Water Café”.

I would later learn that the workshop was meant for industry leaders, prominent chefs and restaurateurs working within the lower mainland, specializing in Japanese cuisine. So as a media invitee, I quickly became a fly on the wall, learning how to pitch certain ingredients and the prospect of an event to restaurants. All while enjoying the food that accompanied such an occasion.

The date coincided with the 90th anniversary start of diplomatic relations between Japan and Canada. The perfect day to promote certified Japanese products within Canada, and today specifically the Vancouver market. And to do this they would be woo-ing prospective clients by celebrating Japanese cooking through their famous guest chef and his exceptional techniques and use of these ingredients.

Takashi Tamura would be providing those in attendance two cooking demonstrations featuring Japanese flounder. He would do this before the room of dual long tables fully seated, with the aid of a translator. His chosen dishes would promote the use of the afore mentioned quality Japanese ingredients now available in Canada. The hope is after trying the end product, the chefs in attendance would sign up for some cartons of it too.

The first dish was “White-fleshed fish in clear broth” with scratch made dashi. The demonstration began with a step by step blow on how to make the perfect dashi using the highest quality of bonito flakes and kombu (kelp) for the endeavour.

Takashi began by boiling the kelp. The goal, to do so until it floated. Once the kelp begins to bob it is removed from the pan and a heap of bonito flakes is pushed in, to take its place. When boiled it is poured through a sieve and the soggy flakes are collected. Here our chef stressed avoiding the squeezing of the bonito flakes, to not ring the mass dry and have it relinquish all of its liquids. Doing so only hinders the collection of its natural flavours.

Instead our chef directed the room to use the soggy mass again by continuing to boil it, and to it adding half of the boiled dashi we original strained, to be part of the second batch. This is considering that there is so much umami (the taste that makes you want to eat it more) left. You go by look and taste, eventually adding salt and soy sauce for flavour, and sake to balance it all out.

When ready, this clear broth was poured over the “white-flesh fish”. It is best that you drink it right away, out of a traditional Japanese wooden bowl with lid. The bowl chosen and the art within it, along with the fish prepared, spoke to the season. The broth was light and full of flavour and depth, one of the best tasting that I have ever laid my lips on. And the flounder used was well enjoyed with a spoonful of it in tow. Simply delicious, and deliciously simple.

Our chef announced that he is able to judge the quality of any Japanese restaurant based on its dashi and sashimi. So our next course was sashimi. And a flounder sashimi carving demonstration by “Blue Water Café’s” own sushi chef, Masaaki Kudo. The man made such delicate work look effortless with his skilled knife maneuvering. First the head is removed then the fillets of each side gingerly chopped and sliced off.

The particular fish we all enjoyed was flown in fresh Japan, served to us at the ideal temperature for the best umami, according to our host. After a tender morsel, I concurred. Another light, yet complex dish with soy, spicy green radish, and green onion for dipping.

Next “Kissa Tanto’s” Joēl Watanabe was planning to conclude the program with a demonstration on making wagyu meat balls with beef from Japan, however last minute, he was unable to attend. So what would be his dish and slot was prepared in the back and served by the restaurant as they did well to improvise.

A5 Wagyu meat balls prepared in a veal jus with pickled mushroom and roasted sesame. The designation of “A5” means that the waygu is of the highest cut, with the most fat content. The result, meat that immediately softened in your mouth. Given how rich it was, one was plenty, with the mushroom and greens not only visually balancing the dish out, but giving a balance of freshness and acid as well.

Overall a interesting experience and a great chance for a food enthusiast, like myself, to learn more about what goes into the restaurant business from the back end, and how the ingredient selection is made. I would love the opportunity to attend such a unique workshop again.

The Ramen Butcher, revisit

It’s been a while since my first and my last visit to “The Ramen Butcher”. The only thing holding me back is the travel time and the wait you expect, as they don’t take reservations. So after this latest visit, it all came back to me as to why I liked them so much. Simply put: they have good ramen.

To check out my origin review and read a little more on their decor that really hasn’t changed, click the link below.

The Ramen Butcher

 

The menu is pretty much the same, because why mess with a good thing? You still pick your ramen based on colour, although don’t take it literally like it did, unless you want to be disappointed.

Two of my dining companions went for their “Black garlic ramen” with roasted garlic oil. A popular choice full of flavour. With it you can choose your meat between lean or fat. And if you can’t get half half, which is a piece of each. Although one slice is just as tender as the other, and the “fat” slice just has a bit more gristle at its end.

Another guest got the “Red spicy ramen”, another fan favourite with a little or a lot of heat, depending on your presence. You get to choose your own adventure between three levels of spiciness, here, he went two. This too comes with garlic paste for that extra punch of flavour.

I had the “Orange Miso” only because it sounded unique. Miso marinated ground pork that actually isn’t orange in colour. But the paste that flavours it sort of is. It had a rich taste that went nicely with the chewy thin noodles. These are some of my favourite ramen noodles. I liked the thinner strands and the chewier consistency.

Although these bowls may look like a smaller portion size, the reality is you can make it double at no additional cost. If you slurp up all your noodles and are left with some excess broth, you can refill them. The first noodle refill is free, and I believe “The Ramen Butcher” is the only restaurant to offer this. A little side bowl of extra noodles to elongate your meal and your time with. This goes for any ramen dish, except for their signature “tsukemen”. If you want additional noodles for it, it is then $1.75, which is still a good deal. “Tsukemen” is the ramen served chilled and separate from its broth. Ideal for hot summer days, when you still want the taste of ramen. So by dipping noodle into sauce and then shovelling it into your mouth, you are decreasing how hot the noodle get and how much broth they soak up. Therefore you always end up with more soup than noodles.

I like it when I get to revisit and review only to find that what I said originally still holds true. There is no wonder why they are still standing and still seeing the traffic they do today, even with the same menu. Although they also have rotating specials. Like this Street Fighter mock up, featuring two different chasu dons “battling”. The suggestion is that you try both and vote for your favourite to win. It was such an eye catching advert, that it certainly had me reassessing whether I could finish a bowl of noodles with a side of rice.

 

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.
Even after 4 years, this is/was still good ramen. Worth travelling to and worth waiting in line for. Luckily the latter flows fast as the ramen is made to order and served quick. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN BUTCHER
223 E Georgia St, Vancouver BC, V6A 1Z6
604-806-4646
theramenbutcher.com

Diver’s Weekend at the Vancouver Aquarium

As a grown woman, with no children; there isn’t much that brings me down to the aquarium. That is, unless there is a special event, like there was this past weekend. On Saturday, January 27 and Sunday, January 28 of 2018, the Aquarium hosted their 19th annual Divers’ Weekend; and this year I was one of the hundred in attendance.

This weekend, regular admission also gave you access to “fascinating exhibits, riveting dive demonstrations, and informative workshops” created for divers and non-divers alike.

It brought in a mix of patrons including families with young children and seasoned diving enthusiasts. For the children there were showcases where you could see (but not touch) tortoises and penguins close up, and partake in various diving-inspired crafts and activities. For the adults you were able to learn more about scuba diving through historical gear diving demonstrations, as well as generally what it takes to be a diver. The latter was gathered information from the rows upon rows of tables, dedicated to various vendors offering diving equipment for sale and conversation. All in order to share the latest techniques for undersea exploration.

Not only did the additional tables around every free corner make the interior of aquarium more crapped, and more lively than I have ever experienced it. But, the Vancouver Aquarium also offered 50% off admission and 10% off Aquarium membership with a valid diving certification card. So there were plenty of people in attendance today. All these extra bodies created a great energy to be surrounded in. And the back to back activities provided something for everyone, and something new to experience almost every 15 minutes.

Here, visitors had the opportunity to investigate all things diving from more than “25 exhibitors, including public service dive teams, not-for-profit conservation organizations, dive stores, charter operators, underwater photographers as well as equipment manufacturers and distributors.”

And this year the theme was training, with special guests offering their insight into exploration techniques through workshops hosted by Ocean Wise, Vancouver Aquarium experts, and local industry leaders. These included informal classes on how to take the perfect underwater shot, how to identify fish while diving in B.C., occupational diving, and diving and boating safety.

We didn’t get to experience all the shows but those that we did, we did enjoy. The following are some photos captured to commemorate these experiences.

The sea otter show, where we saw how they ate and a few stunts they were trained to preform.

We got to “Meet a tortoise”. They crawl to you, and you can look at them, but you can’t touch them.

Diver Dan jumped into a large pool of water showing off his equipment and how he stays safe in B.C. Waters.

I highly recommend the 4D coastal predators show. Now only is the mini movie in 3D, but the theatre has a few other real features to help fill immerse you in to the show. (This is where I list spoilers, so look away if you plan on going and want the surprise.) This includes bubbles floating over you, the back of your seat getting poked, water squirting in your face, gusts of air by your neck, the rumbling of your seat chair, and air being blown like waves and the wind in your general direction.

For a full review of the aquarium and what it has to offer “normally”, visit the following link to a previous “regular” visit post.

Vancouver Aquarium

 

And learn more about Divers’ Weekend, and to plan for next year’s visit, proceed to the link to follow. www.vanaqua.org/diversweekend

 

Vancouver Aquarium
www.vanaqua.org

The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

For me when I hear “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” I think of my childhood. I remember Sunday nights, my entire family gathered around the television, waiting to be astonished by one of our favourite shows. An hour of learning meant to surprise and delight with weird factoids and incredible human feats.

So when I was invited to the newest feature at the “Telus World of Science”, I was ecstatic. From January 25 to April 22, 2018 Vancouverites are able to enjoy a live showing of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” in this travelling hands on experience. The feature “presents the science behind Robert Ripley’s legendary compendium of oddities, anomalies and fantastic feats”. Not only does the showcase highlights the things you can’t believe, but in partnership with Science World, are showing you the science as to why they do and can.

Tonight I was invited to the media opening, an exclusive viewing presented by “Save-On-Foods”. The invite allowed me to be among the first to experience this new feature exhibition with a curated media tour by the Director of “Ripley Entertainment”, John Corcoran. He made the tour, with his enthusiasm and excitement. He easily engaged the kids in our group, and made me wish I was one, to get some of the opportunities they did. Climbing through the belly of a snake, lifting the heavy neck coils once worn around the necks of the Kayan women in Myanmar, and making my their comic magazine. (But more on those later.) We even heard Dr. Scott Sampson speak, the CEO of Science World, who is also a palaeontologist and helped to discover one of the dinosaurs in the exhibit.

You work your way around the exhibition hall, reading the plaques and discovering each anomaly at your leisure. I won’t go through everything, as to not spoil the experience for you. But will highlight what I found notable here, just to get you excited.

For the vlog version, check out my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

The exhibit greeted you with a life size, to scale recreation of the popular Michael Bay Transformer, “Bumblebee”. He came with the invitation to take plenty of pictures and post them all using the hashtag “WeirdScienceYVR”.

There was a series of mosaic portraits done with everyday items. It was interesting to learn that they would become more clear behind the lens of a camera and/or phone screen. Burnt toast to resemble Albert Einstein. Various gummies and twizzlers made in the image of preteen Justin Bieber

Benjamin Franklin made from monochromatic keyboard keys. Martin Luther King was made out of stamps and Nelson Mandela was crafted from coins.

The weird animal corner includes a four legged chicken and a two headed calf that spun around.

There was a recreation of the world’s largest snake, with the ability the crawl through its hollowed out belly on your hands and knees. You could also examine its “scales up close, what its cross section would look like if you cut into it, and how wide its jaw stretched to show its fangs.

A replica of the world’s tallest man was made animatronic. He nodded at us, tapped the head of his cane, and stood up and sat down at random. When standing, he stood tall beside a measuring stick to best showcase his full height. A great photo opportunity is to stand beside him and see how you measure up. In a glass case beside him, was one of his actual shoes, size 36, the largest recorded.

One of the group’s favourite was the story of Willard Wigan and his micro structures. A man who diet started his careers making the world’s tiniest sculptures by making a house for ants. This was challenge his mother set before him, and then followed up with whether he had made the ants some furniture for their new house. Soon he began challenging himself to build smaller. Working on the tip of pins, in the hole of needles, and even on the hollowed out end of a beard follicle. Works of art so small and so detailed that he uses hair to paint and has been known to accidentally inhale pieces he has been working on for weeks. The exhibit included powerful microscopes so that you could actually appreciate and see them.

As I mentioned earlier, the exhibit included some dinosaur fossils. Specifically the “Kosmoceratops Richardsoni”, a triceratops with an additional frill at the top of its head. It was discovered and named in part by Science World CEO and professional palaeontologist, Dr. Scott Sampson. It is believed that this extra feature offers protection and additional attraction for mating for the Kosmoceratops Richardsoni. And at 1-2 tonnes this dinosaur is not to be messed with.

I appreciated the work that went into the “Silver Ghost” Rolls Royce, made from over a million individual match sticks.

And marvelled at how well the South American shrunken heads held up.

Overall, this was a great experience for all ages. An interactive showcase that draws you in with buttons to be pushed, the games to be played, and even trivia to challenge your family and friends with. You also get to touch things, and climb on and in things for some unique photo opportunities. This is a great way to get families together, with everyone walking away having learned something new that is both fun and interesting. So come by and “Ignite your sense of wonder” at the “The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”

 

The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Science World at TELUS World of Science
For additional information check out their website. https://www.scienceworld.ca/ripleysftg

Robba da Matti

I have been to this restaurant before, a couple of years back when it went by a different name. So with a new title I decided to revisit and see what else has changed. It wasn’t the decor, or the menu, as both looked exactly as I remembered it. So even before I ordered, I was a little apprehensive, as my original review had them pretty average. However the cooking and quality can change and has changed for the better over the course of 2.5 years.

So before you start reading about my latest visit, take the time to recall how they were when they were “L’ Antipasto”.

L’Antipasto

 

They have a smaller space, half of it is dedicated to their open kitchen. This intimacy gives you the feeling of dining at someone’s home, where they are cooking for you. Especially when the chef leads over the counter to inquire about your meal and if/how you are liking things. It definitely gives the food a face.

But chances are that will be seated on their year round patio. Rain or shine it is covered with a waterproof tarp and outfitted with several heat lamps. Still cold? They offer red fleece blankets that match the awning. This is also where large groups are situated, and was the case during our visit. So our group of four found ourselves inside with a view of the chef in action. Three backs hunched over the various ranges, scooping and saucing fresh made pasta. This transparency only makes you appreciate the quality of said noodles when it finally hit your tongue.

We were a group of four so had four of their pastas to share.

The one that actually brought us in was the “Pasta Saporita with pancetta, porcini, sun-dried tomatoes and Gorgonzola cream”. We were here trying this limited edition specialty menu item, as a part a philanthropic dining series hosted by Tangoo. This was part of their #ChewingForCharity series, where they found a way for the tech-savvy modern diner to do good by doing what they do anyways. Diners can give back to local charities by taking and posting photos of delicious looking food on Instagram and tagging #GiveWarmth.

To read more about the charitable program and our participation in it, visit the link below.

#GiveWarmth, #ChewingForCharity series

 

As for the actual pasta, it was a classic Italian done beautifully. A little salty and a little sweet, best with a couple scoops of fresh parmesan cheese and grated coarse pepper. But what we really liked about it was the noodles. These thick and coarse sheets were chewy with a gummy texture. And the lighter sauce was ideal in exemplify it. Case in point is the pasta below. It had the same kind of noodles, but here we all liked this one better. So it’s a shame that it is not regularly available on the menu, to come back and have more of.

The Pappardelle “rosche rosche” had free range chicken, organic boneless beef short ribs, and Italian fennel sausage. Together it made a hearty ragu. The menu cited it as a “family recipe passed down Nonno Nicola”. There was nothing wrong with this dish, just being able to compare it to the one above, had us leaning the other direction. Overall, a great option for meat lovers.

The “Garganelli alla primavera” was short fresh pasta in a classic tomato and basil sauce, draped with burrata mozzarella pugliese. This too was a great classic pasta. I just wished the generous amount of burrata was a tad more fresh. It didn’t quite melt the way I expected, or have had it. The dish over all was juicy and fresh, idea for a lighter meal on a warmer day.

The “Lobster and crab ravioli” is one of their most popular dishes, which their Chef Filly does in a sauce of fresh tomatoes, arugula, and prawns. And it was done well, light to highlight the mild seafood flavour. We shared the plate, but given the size and richness of each square, I would gather that this is the perfect portion size for one satisfied serving.

 

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.
Revisits are a great way to reassess your original review. There are always outliners to consider during any one visit, as is there always an opportunity to improve. So revisiting somewhere you are apprehensive about after your initial stop in, is a good way to gauge the above. And even though my original lunch may have been a “no” to return, I think two years in between is enough time to consider it a new visit of sorts. In short, now I would come back and can now happily recommend them for anyone looking for quality pasta in a more intimate setting. A great choice for date night, under their romantic lighting, and best paired with wine. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ROBBA DA MATTI
1127 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P2
604-558-1174
yaletownlantipasto.com
Robba da Matti Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aki Japanese Restaurant

I was downtown Vancouver with a handful of foodies, and we were in search of a nice sit down meal. A few of us rattled off a few places we have visited and liked in the area. And when we came to the possibility of “Aki”, we all agreed; after hearing this was one of the oldest restaurants in the city, and one of the first Japanese restaurants to open in Vancouver. However this isn’t their first location. They originally opened on Powell, between Chinatown and Gastown. And even with the move, they have kept the same menu that has given them so much success for the past fifty years.

The restaurant was spacious, more suitable as a lounge with vaulted ceilings and spacious booths. Warm in rich reds with their wooden walls and cushy upholstery. Definitely the type of setting you want to elongate your time within.

The one who recommended the place comes specifically for their uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon eggs). She declared it the finest in the city, with the restaurant owner confirming that they are always flown in fresh from Japan, unless it is in season in Vancouver. (This is in summer.)

So naturally three of us had to have some in the “Uni and ikura don”, which was done with no regrets. Sea urchin and salmon roe in a bowl of seasoned rice. They all agreed on its really clean flavour, stating it was not the least bit overly fishy. Then they made plans to return again.

Our host also suggested the “Nabeyaki udon” as another one of her other go-tos. Prawn tempura, chicken, fish cake, vegetable, and egg in noodle soup. It was filling with a good variety of ingredients to pick and choose from. And best of all the serving stayed hot in the clay both. A good thing, as broth is best warm, and every sip can be as comforting as it smells and looks.

Our host herself was keen on her self selected sushi platter. Two of each nigiri: uni, ikura, and scallop nigiri. She too found the quality of fish as fresh and tasty as the others did.

I, on the other hand was indecisive of what to get. There were so many unique things on the menu that caught my eye, but eventually I went for what my tummy wanted at the time, the “Katsu curry” with a deep fried pork cutlet. Although sadly, it didn’t satisfy. Where I was expecting a sweet Japanese style curry, this one was spicy and overly peppery. Good if I wanted those rich flavours. If only there was more rice, to enjoy it with and to help balance out the strong flavours. That and a lot more of the palette refreshing, tangy ginger. Although I did like the heartiness of the curry with the chunks of potatoes and slices of carrots mixed in.

For dessert I couldn’t pass up trying their “Kinako vanilla ice cream with maple syrup”. To it you have the option of adding in red bean and coffee jelly, like I did here. Each element was great on its only, and was only heightened by the creamy gelato used as base. This is a sundae that I would go back for and one that I would ask to take out next time around.

 

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.
Given the restaurant’s heritage and this successful first taste, I would definitely like to come back and try more of what they offer. Next time I would ask for and take the owner’s suggestion, as I did find the menu hard to sort through without photos or much more explanation. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

AKI
1368 West Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6E4S9
604-682-4032
akirestaurant.ca
Aki Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Butcher and Bullock: Dine Out 2018

A Two Rivers Specialty Meats and Donnelly Group Collaboration.
As part of Dine Out Vancouver 2018, “Butcher at the Butcher” hosted a beer and meat fest like no other. They pride themselves on working with a number of local/BC suppliers in developing and curating their modern pub menus, so on this night, they chose to shine the spotlight on two of them. In partnership with “Two Rivers Meats” and “Postmark Brewing” they held a special dining event that combined locally-sourced meats and pairs them locally-brewed beers. For those who missed it, this is my recap of that great night.

I was invited to attend as media, so as always: 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 evening, the “Donnelly Group’s” culinary team prepared a number of meat-centric, locally-sourced dishes. There were three food stations, that served up a different meat dish and suggested which beer to pair it with. Along with canapés passed around for the duration of the evening. Tickets were only $69, which included taxes and service charges. With each ticket you got six food and four drink vouchers to be redeemed. You can basically visit each food station twice and try all but one of the beers offered from the bar. The canapés were all you can eat and there was plenty for everyone.

During our dinner, we got to meet Fraser, who is the owner of “Two Rivers”. He, like everyone else, was here enjoying the feast; and was highly interested to see how his product was being received. Given the smiles around the room and the piles of bones on each plate, it was safe to say that everyone was loving the food and enjoying themselves. We learned a little more about “Two Rivers”, from Fraser. We heard how they have been working with the “Donnelly Group” for five years now, supplying all burgers, custom sausages, and steaks to all of public houses. They do this with much care, with a focus on where the meat comes from and how it is treated and raised. And with their great quality produce they make everything from scratch, from their factory in Vancouver.

The following were dishes from the food stations, followed by all that was offered from off the travelling trays. Each station was set up with a server either slicing, scooping, or pouring for diners who redeemed a ticket. A sign marketed their feature and suggested which “Postmark” product was an ideal pairing for it.

I arrived first thing to be able to see everything set up and in its entirety. Like the whole slab of beef brisket that would be slowly sliced down to its end, as the night progressed. Here, you had your choice of enjoying the slow cooked beef, as is in all its glory, or as the feature in a brisket slider. This would be a spiced and braised, fatty piece of brisket served on a bun with your choice of condiments and vegetables. Like ketchup, Dijon mustard, shredded lettuce, and tomato.

What started as a slider became me simply taking the brisket out and eating the meat on its own. One, it was so much better as is, two with all the food to come I had to pace myself and not fill up on carb. After all this event guaranteed you didn’t leave feeling hungry.

The brined and fried chicken station was my favourite, and admittedly much better earlier on in the night then later. Then the pieces of chicken were large and juicy, with a thick coating of breading doubling its size. If the colonel had an older, refined bother, this would be how he prepared his chicken. However as the night progressed the pieces got smaller, the breading thinner, and the frying a little drier and darker. And this is reason why I always arrive to everything on time, if not early. The early bird gets the worm for a reason. The side of mini mac & cheese. Was pretty consistent. No exciting flavours, just a good sized serving to offer as a neutral base for the featured meat.

The “Sausage Plate” station allowed you to stylize your chosen sausage with a bevy of condiments. Grilled onions, sauerkraut, and four different flavoured mustards. This spoke to “Two River’s Meat” custom creating sausages for Donnelly in their long standing relationship with them. Unique links like tonight’s jalapeño cheddar and hot smoked turkey sausage. One ticket only got you half of one sausage, so I gave up two tickets to be able to try a half of each, and feast on a whole.

Each segment was sliced up and laid to rest on a bed of crispy French fries. Then over both a generous ladle of canapé spread showered them. From here you used tongs and spoons to pile on what you liked from the six bowls of condiments before you. The turkey sausage had a unique blend of spices, a little stiffer and more mild compared to the juicy jalapeño pork sausage I preferred with its zesty heat and squirting, salty, cheesy juices.

The rest of the meats flowed around the room, balanced on wooden boards, in the arms of servers. If you missed out on one round, you were sure to catch them and more on the second to tenth.

My favourite and the crowd’s favourite was the thick cuts of gooey and crispy “Candied Bacon”. Not much more to say then perfection, as the best cut and flavour I have had. In fact I wish I had a bowl of them before me as I am recalling this to write about it.

The “Crispy fried & glazed pork ribs” came as a close second. Also sticky with a little bit of sweet. These generously coated, tangy ribs fell right off the bone as you reached out for one.

The “Bresaola toasts with truffle & goat cheese” was a refreshing break from all heavier cuts. A thin slice of salted prosciutto that matched the saltiness of the truffle and a cheese. Although I would have liked a salsa or some greens just to brighten it up a bit.

The “Duck Wings” were actually duck drums. A few bites of drier meat well seasoned with a bit of heat and lots of honey from the sweet chilli sauce used. I just wished the used the same recipe on duck breast instead, after all that is where all the meat is.

The “Lamb Belly with cilantro & mint, yogurt and cucumber” was tender pulled strings of lamb, piled high on a crisp wonton. It was tender and crispy, with the yogurt and herbs giving the bite some tang and freshness. It was a great canapé to start on.

For drinks you were only given four tickets, and with five “Postmark Brewing” drink selections to choose from, you had to make your decision wisely. You got a taster for each, but if you choose your dining companions correctly you could pool tickets together and try more than the allotted four for all five. The options available are listed below.

Falconers IPA — 6%/52 IBU
• Hops- Falconer’s Flight
• Malt- Pale Ale, Maris Otter, Crystal, Aromatic
• Yeast – American Ale

Gose — 4.1%/8 IBU
• Hops-Perle
• Malt- Pilsner, Wheat
• Yeast- American Ale
• Other- Coriander, Orange Peel, Salt

Cider — 5.8%
• Cider Apples – Snow, Michelin
• Sweet Apples – Spartan, Golden Delicious

VUW Merlot Barrel-Aged French Saison — 6%/ 25 IBU
• Hops-Aramis
• Malt- French Pilsner, Wheat, Caramel Wheat, Aromatic, Caramel

Munich
• Yeast- French Saison
• Other- Aged in Merlot barrels for 6 months

 

So, if you are sad to have read that this came and went without you knowing about it, don’t miss out Donnelly’s next great Dine Out event: Foodie Trivia. This is also a ticketed event for one night only. Here they take a foodie spin on Donnelly Group’s already popular pub trivia nights. On February 1st at the Bimini Public House. Foodie Trivia is being developed and run by Nice Guys Trivia, the city’s best trivia hosts. Here, teams of up to six players will test themselves in a bowl of food, chef, and restaurant-themed questions. They will be competing for prizes and glory whilst enjoy a three-course dinner created by the “Donnelly Group’s” chef team Alvin Pillay, Sarah Stewart, and Chris Stewart. Each course will be accompanied by a paired cocktail and snacks will be served in between to make sure that no-one is competing on an empty stomach. Tickets are available for $75, which includes taxes and service charges, and are inclusive of the above mentioned food and drink.

Tickets are available and on sale at www.dineoutvancouver.com. And For more information about Donnelly Group pubs and cocktail bars, visit www.donnellygroup.ca.

 

BUTCHER & BULLOCK
911 West Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6C 3B2
604-662-8866
donnellygroup.ca/the-butcher-bullock
The Butcher And Bullock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Acura RLX 2018 sport hybrid review

In 2014 Acura introduced the RLX as their new redesigned flagship luxury sedan, it was longer and wider than the RL that it replaced. And today, four years later we would be given a week with the newest incarnation, which included another makeover.

Most noticeable is the new redesign of the front end, with restyled LED headlights and taillights. Less visual is the handful of updated tech, exclusive to this RLX sport hybrid edition.

Keeping in mind that I don’t know as much as my partner does when it comes to cars and what I am looking for, or need; I found this one particularly beautiful. A vehicle a non car enthusiast like myself can enjoy aesthetically. And you would think it feels the same when it greets you with blue LED lit door handles on all four for its doors. A nice feature and way to say “hi” in the dark.

Inside the car was considerate with luxury perks. The mirror at the back of the sun visor has lights on either sides of it. It was better lit than the one I use at home, giving you the perfect reflection, for that last minute make up application on your way to work. All while you recline in comfortable leather seats, with detailed stitching that hug you with cushiony lumbar support. And with a flick of a button give you a warming or cooling sensation to help regulate your core temperature from your butt to your back.

The sun roof window slides with ease, but sadly I would not be using it. I did this test in the underground parkade of my apartment building, because Vancouver gave us rain for the week. A shame, considering how stunning the car looks and how shiny it is, even on an overcast day. This is the type of vehicle you drive around in just to be seen in. Especially with roof and windows rolled down and your new 14 speakers Krell audio system pumped up.

And if and when you hit traffic, the new traffic jam assist comes to the rescue. It basically combines the active lane keep assist technology with the adaptive cruise control and low speed follow. All together these three help to take most of the work out of driving in stop and go traffic.

Under the hood the RLX Sport Hybrid is powered by a 3.5 litre, V-6 gas engine. Combined with 3 electric motors, it has an all wheel drive system. These electric motors are borrowed from the $200,000 NSX and everything together gives you a whooping 377hp and 341lb-ft. This is mated to a seven speed dual clutch automatic transmission, which is nothing to laugh at. Giving the RLX more power than his German rivals. While the hybrid system helps to save a good amount of fuel, even as you are taking advantage of this power. Ideal if you are doing all that driving around town that I mentioned above. And for those who don’t understand exactly how the hybrid system works, the RLX’s dash display illustrates this for you. Showing how the hybrid energy gets collected with every break and gets distributed to all for wheels of the car with every acceleration.

The RLX is a quiet and comfortable car. It is perfectly suited for both road trips and daily commutes. With a light and neutral steering wheel, that offers a touch more feel than its rival. In short, it is a seriously stunning car. And luxury label aside, a beautiful vehicle I want to own and would love to be able to get in and out of day to day. I will have to remember to loan this one again during summer for all of the above. Thanks Acura for the spectacular vehicle and the wonderful week we had in it.

#ACURARLX
Acura.ca

Forage: $30 Dine Out 2018 menu

This is my third dine out adventure and I am still insisting that my guest chooses a place for us to go. Tonight, her choice was “Forage”, having never been before. I haven’t been in over four years so thought it was about time I revisited. Although, sadly I found my original assessment held true. Their food was inventive and trying it during their Dine Out $30 menu is a great deal, however it still left me thinking what I could have after to satisfy me more.

Although, this is probably just me, as the restaurant was packed with diners seated at every table, and flushed around their island bar. Each one enjoying their time and raving about the food, over their beer and wine flights.

To read up on my original visit, click the link below.

Forage

 

“Forage” servers start your meal by asking if you have visited them before. This is so they can explain to you that everything on their menu is local and sustainable, just as their restaurant’s name implies. Our server then followed this forward with the suggestion that we place our order fast to get our food fast. This was foreshadowing the pace of our meal. We ended up doing as she suggested and the food came faster than expected. We were in and out within 45 minutes from ordering to paying.

Our first dishes came less than five minutes later, as if they were made in mass, and were sitting on the counter waiting for us to order them. It was a clever strategy to start with cold appetizers, especially considering how busy the restaurant was with 6:30pm seatings.

Between two of my us, we tried all their non vegetarian options and the only two desserts offered. We passed on the vegan “Beetroot Salad” appetizer, with roasted Brussels sprouts, brusselkraut, and bull kelp granola. And the vegan “German Butter Potatoes” entree with emulsified butter, oyster mushrooms, smoked hazelnuts, picked herbs, and shaved Alpindon.

The “”Vietnamese Style” Bison Shank Salad” featured semi raw slices of beef, flavoured in spices that reminded you of the beef in pho. Served with thin ribbons of shaved squash, braised daikon with a tangy flavour, crispy shallots, cilantro, mint, and fermented chilies. A mild start that encouraged you to explore your plate, mixing nibbles for different textures and tastes. I personally would have liked more prominent flavours or a sauce to smear over things.

I much preferred the easy to chew through “Grilled Humboldt Squid”. The tender slices came with a spicy radish kimchi, and crunchy puffed wild rice. It was flavoured heavily by the sweet soy dressing that pooled at the bottom. Their choice of seasonings reminded me of a Chinese style vegetable dish, salty with the kimchi and sweet with the soy. But too much so when both drenched the squid and radish at the bottom of the bowl.

For entrees I had the “Harissa Grilled Duck Leg” with a white bean puree, sweet and sour carrots, and jus. It was a beautiful plate, stunning in its detail and how each slice of purple carrot was placed on the duck leg and purée like polka dots. Although I found the duck a little dry, especially at the edges of the meat. Between it and the vegetables, nothing popped. It all tasted mild, whereas you wanted a char or some zesty gravy. And I wanted a crunchy texture and a heartier side. A serving of seasoned rice or some herbed carrots, potatoes, and/or Brussels sprouts would have done wonders, for variation and continued interest in the plate. The duck skin was the best part, with the most flavour; but there was not enough of it. Sadly I finished my plate, just so that I wouldn’t waste it, not necessarily because I was excited about its flavours hitting my tongue.

Here, I much preferred the “Crispy Halibut Cheeks”. They were the best tasting fried fish I have had. Like an elevated fish and chips, which left me craving for the starch of fries and the tang of tartar sauce. Instead the smoked yogurt did its best, but I wanted more kick from it. I could have done without the cauliflower “cous cous” as it’s grainy texture left me wishing for whipped potatoes or a risotto for a gumminess instead. Something moist and chewy, a texture to contrast the airy crunch of the not greasy serving. The poached radish and pickled mustard seed did help to brighten up the plate. But the former was a little bitter.

I can at least say how I was impressed by the portion size of both entrees. Given the amount of duck and fish cheek you got, this was a great value, as one dish for a $30 menu. Whereas you would expect to pay $30 just for one of the plates above.

For dessert I liked the “Elderflower Cheese puff” better between the two option. But mostly because I don’t like chocolate and the “Chocolate Cherry Bar” had plenty of it.

When I first saw the cheese puff I thought I was given a melted dessert. Something probable, given how hard the kitchen was working to stay on top orders. So maybe they too made these desserts in mass? However, when I brought it to our server’s attention, she reassure me that the dessert came to me, as it was intended. That the vanilla ice cream that stuffed the puff only looked melted, because of the cordial and gin spiked blueberries that pooled around it. I liked the salted cheesiness of the cream hiding within the sponge-like shell of the puff. I would have preferred it dry, but my guest did like the spongy texture the soggy puff had. With the blueberry adding freshness to your bites.

The “Chocolate Cherry Bar” was a little too chocolate centric for my choice. Although the hazelnut crumble, white chocolate cherry cream, and chocolate sauce helped to balance it out. It only left me wanting something refreshing. More cherry cream or actual cherries. Or maybe whipped cream with fruit to brighten the very dark and slightly bitterness of the dense chocolate bar. It had the whipped airiness of mousse, with the density of pudding, all rolled into one. My guest said it reminded her of chocolate fondant, expecting to eventually bite down a cake base or sponge that never came about.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Based on today’s meal, I wouldn’t mind returning, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Beautiful plates, unique flavours, just not what I personally gravitate towards. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FORAGE
1300 Robson St, Vancouver BC
604-661-1400
foragevancouver.com

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