VieAMaggi.com

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

Month: November 2018 Page 1 of 3

Smoke and Bones

It was our anniversary and having stayed up late the night before (binge watching “Sharp Objects”, so calm down), we rolled out of bed late, wanting barbecue meats. My partner decided on “Smoke and Bones” so that I could visit a new restaurant and have material to write about. We dove all the way to it and got cold feet at the threshold. Judging the building by its exterior, we paused to do some more research, before parking. It had an all black facade with neon red and yellow lights directing you to the “BBQ” within.

Our apprehension was in that we feared we would be walking into an empty restaurant. A building that smelled like an old casino, serving up week old, dry barbecue at higher prices. This was enough of a concern that we had to reassess our options. Would we try something new or get our meat fix at a competitor we have visited in the past, and know we will get a fully satisfying meal there? We went for the former, having tried so many different barbecue places before, and wanting to add another to our list of references.

And I was happy to do: passing through the now empty courtyard, fenced in; and walking into the first barbecue restaurant with a wall dedicated to their ribbons, plaques, and trophies. The wall of awards built up our confidence in the place and had us expecting more.

The restaurant was dressed like a ranch themed sports bar. Spotted cow hide was strung up on the wall and upholstered on a bench by the door, an ox skull hung on display by the bar, and a full bison bust was mounted just right under the skylight. With brick columns, metal stools, wooden tables, and leather booths; the place had a modern yet rustic feel to it. I liked the detailing of having each table branded with “S&B” on one of its corners.

We arrived just as happy hour started at 3pm. So I took advantage by ordering one of their $4 beers on tap. This was their “Smoke and Bones lager”, an easy to drink brew with the fluidity of water.

For food they had a great listing with two sliders for $6, a $6 serving of mac and cheese, and a $6 chilli cheese dog. But we instead splurged on their full barbecue platter, in order to get a bit of everything and see if the restaurant bears repeating. This way we won’t walk away disappointed in one thing, and thinking everything else might be better.

Their “Barbeque platter” feeds 2-3 people of $62, and it left us with leftover for days. BBQ chicken, ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and farmer sausage; served on a large metal baking tray. Intermingled with coleslaw, potato salad, their “Smoke and Bones” beans, BBQ sauce, and corn bread as sides. It certainly is one of the more photogenic bbq platters we have had the pleasure to feast upon, but sadly, not one of the better.

The smell we got a whiff of outside, we got to taste on our tongues here; the taste and difference their smoker made. But bite after bite we could tell this wasn’t a fresh assembly. All the meats were reheated with the sausage still chilly at its core. We visited during a slower time, so could only imagine how all this would have been had we gotten it fresh-made on the day.

The following are some notes on each individual items.

My partner was most excited to see that the bread that was included in this set, also came with butter. Where as at other places bread doesn’t automatically proceed with butter and we have to ask for some and wait while they do it.

The cornbread next to it was a nice sweet bite. A simple mini muffin with that tell-a-tale corn bread mealiness.

I liked the home made pickles, they too were great for in between bites. A sharp salty tang to cleanse and lighten all the heavy barbecue to come. In fact, all the sides were helpful in this regard. Some just much better than the others.

Like the fries. They were great, a crispy thin coating encasing a stick of potato mash. It didn’t match all that well with their sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, ketchup felt like a more natural fit.

The coleslaw was nice enough, I just wished it shredded pieces were consistently chopped, so that you aren’t chewing through or avoiding shards of lettuce.

I was intrigued with their use of cooked and caramelized apple in their bake beans. It had me liking the texture of the beans more, whereas I usually don’t like how grainy they are. The apple also gave the side much sweetness, as well as passing along some of its tart nature. This is hence forth new favourite way to have baked beans.

The potato salad had so much promise. Despite its hue, and the mix of extra firm potatoes, crunchy celery, and fragrant red pepper, in what looks like a chipotle mayo dressing; this was disappointing and bland. It had zero zest to it. The potatoes were on the raw side and the peppers could have used a char. If you are going to visit and order this or their potato salad, I would suggest paying $4 more to sub in their hot potato salad instead.

As for the meat, the ribs were very dry. With it and the other smoked meats to come, you could tell it was reheated. Remixed with just a fresh brushing of sauces to help rejuvenate the exterior texture.

The brisket was either dry and lean or dry and fatty. The pieces and the way they were prepared was uneven. A dunk in the sauce did wonders in giving it some flavour.

The pulled pork was slightly more tender and on average better tasting, but only if you didn’t have to bite down on a hard and fully blackened charred bit.

The chicken was my favourite of all the meats, it could have been juicer, but in comparison it was the freshest of all the others, making it noticeably better.

The farmer’s sausage held up the best, but was slightly chilled at its centre. It was a nice enough, plenty pieces of chewy spiced pork link; sliced up for easy one bite sharing.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sadly, it wasn’t as great as we imagined it, or as their slew of accolades suggested. Even as leftovers remade into sandwiches and wraps, I wasn’t all that excited to revisit the taste. Once again, I truly believe this is only because the meat wasn’t fresh. I would love to try a batch made the morning of, knowing the difference it would make. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SMOKE AND BONES
999 Marine Drive, North Vancouver BC, V7P 1S4
604-770-1394
smokeandbones.ca

The Keg, winter happy hour

Tonight I was at “The Keg” in Granville Island, out of convenience. We were killing some time before our evening show, and the rain wasn’t letting up. Dining here meant that our walk was merely across the street to our eventual destination.

Our visit coincided with their new happy hour menu and seasonal cocktail launch; two things we took advantage of. New to this list was their teriyaki bites and pork dumplings, replacing calamari, nachos, and sliders. This was information I found out from our server, after she noticed me taking notes. We discussed the above a bit, and how I found the previous three food items to be more happy hour friendly, as nice snacks to pair with beer.

We started with one of each of their happy hour plates, and to it added two regular appetizers, as we were eating to replace a meal. As a whole, the happy hour meal felt the same. Similar seasonings and flavours found its way from dish to dish, from steak to cauliflower.

I was originally excited for the $8 teriyaki steak bites. Steak for $8 is a steal, and pre-cut for easy eating is just helpful. Unfortunately, each cube was dry and ashy. A sandy chew from over cooked meat, a fact you can tell just by pricking it with a fork. The excessive seasonings did well to hide some of the above. But overall, it was disappointing. Disappointing that they couldn’t do steak right, especially considering it is and what they should be known for.

The pork and kimchi dumplings were nice enough, not authentic but plenty tasty. A savoury meat filling encasing a nice chewy dough wrapper. The pickled vegetable on the side offered some tangy crunch and interest. But as I mentioned earlier, the saucy flavour was similar here as it was above, and therefore wore thin.

The “crispy fried cauliflower” was a generous serving, but it too felt the same. It came with two sauces, but both were sweet and salty when in reality you wanted a creamy dip like a ranch, tartare, and/or sour cream. The florets cooled fast, and you were left with a mound of vegetable that could do with a more crispy and consistent batter and fry.

As I mentioned earlier, to top off our happy hour plates above, we ordered two seafood based appetizers to follow.

The calamari was disappointing. More crunchy breading than chewy pieces of squid, it was over salted and didn’t taste fresh. In fact I liked the just-as-chunky breaded vegetables that came with it, more. This ate like something you would order at a bar, not what I expect from a higher end, casual chain restaurant, like “The Keg”. The food did not live up to its reputation.

The crab cake was much better, it ended up being the best thing we had that night. The cake was well seasoned and perfectly fried for a crisp even crust. It went well with the creamy burrata and the crisp steamed vegetables on the side. By comparison, this was a clean classic plate with no complaints.

We also drank throughout our meal, then lingered after the food was packed up, with a few more rounds.

The $5 happy hour Caesar and the $6 happy hour white. The Caesar was pretty standard, overly salty and overwhelmingly spicy. The white wine my guest didn’t like. It didn’t matter that it was on special, she preferred to pay full price to switch to mini bottles of prosecco afterwards.

Next, we both ordered the Thursday $5 drink special: their margaritas. I couldn’t even finish this, it was easily the saltiest anything I have ever had. And worst is, this assessment doesn’t even include the drink’s usual salted rim. I made mention of its undrinkable nature to our server, who took note of a 2/3 full glass returned to her and the half glass my guest too gave back. She accepted it blindly, not asking more details on how this was too salty. Here, there was no consideration and no offer to replace it or at least remove the cost of it from our bill. Disappointing from “The Keg”.

Next my guest had her first of two glasses of sparkling wine and I began tasting their new winter cocktails. The “Heart of gold” was recommended to us by our server. It was easy to drink with the sweetness of honey, a good cocktail for when you have a sore throat. Wiser’s Deluxe Rye, honey, lemon, and sage. I also really liked the sent of the fresh picked leaf before you came close to sip.

I didn’t have the room for their popular “billy miner pie” for dessert, so ordered the spiked coffee version of it instead. A shot of bailey’s and one of khalua in hot coffee, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I didn’t enjoy it the same, although this was still tasty; even for a person, like myself, who isn’t too fond of coffee or chocolate.

The “Red moon Manhattan” smelled like cinnamon and orange peel, and drank like a winter sangria with boozy cherries. Mondavi bourbon barrel Cabernet, Lot No. 40 Rye, spices, and bitters.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sadly I am not a fan of “The Keg “as a whole, there is one location that I like, the only one location where I once enjoyed my food, and would go back to. As for the others, I find the quality doesn’t deliver on their brand, nor the steaks worthy of your money. I would rather order seafood or a burger at this steak house, if I was urged to return. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE KEG
1499 Anderson St Granville Island, Vancouver BC, V6H 3R5
604-685-4735
kegsteakhouse.com
The Keg Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Canyon Lights, Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tonight I was attending the media preview for the “Canyon Lights” feature at the Capilano Suspension bridge. (An invitation I received from the illustrious @hellovancity.) This is an annual exhibition that decorates the terrain and canyon in a series of festive lights. Think tall trees topped with bulbs, LEDs lining path ways, and even spot lights shining their colour over the running waters below. This was a creative way for the park to continue hosting nature lovers all throughout the year, with the earlier sunsets during this season as an advantage. And for those who are card holders, it gives you more chances to use your annual membership within a year.

For those who can’t drive and rather not trouble themselves with the driving, you can hop on to a shuttle at Canada place. They leave every 15 mins with busses taking you back into the city afterwards, as well.

When you get there, which is surprisingly a very short trip, there are several ways to enjoy the natural space. The Capilano suspension bridge, Treetop adventure, The cliff walk, and all the paths that wind around the water in between.

 

I won’t be describing my experience too much, as your appreciation of nature and being in the outdoor probably differs greatly from mine. Especially as I am not a typical fan of such activities, but do love a good light show (my love of lights outweighs my distaste of a hike), and during this excursion it was raining buckets. And here is me not prepared in my faux fur coat and suede boots. (Didn’t consider the durability of my outfit choice). Instead, I will showcase some of the photos I took during our adventure, and offer up the link to my YouTube channel: MaggiMei; where you can get a more telling experience of the “Canyon lights” exhibit. Although I highly suggestion coming down to experience it all for yourself. Video and photos really can’t capture the depth and grandeur of the setting in pixels.

 

The suspension bridge is great any way you look at it. Although the sign says selfies are a no-no and ask that visitors don’t block others with their photography, many do so anyways. They do this by extending their cameras out in front of them in order to snap that perfect selfie. The one where you and a friend are smiling in the foreground, with one of the ends of the bridge trailing away in the distance.

The tree top adventure had high scaling mini bridges between the rain forest’s tallest trees. A path that enables you to circle the forest high above, from one tree to the other . There isn’t much to look at as each tree stop was decorated the same. High above, where its branches meets trunk is a glowing large light. It would have been nice to see lit up animals in these tree tops. Something to offer up a moment that has you lingering in appreciation, instead of just walking quick to get through it. Because once you set foot on one bridge you are committed to what felt like 5 more after (I didn’t count).

We skipped the cliff walk. I am sure it would have been a nice hike, but looking down from above it, it wasn’t more than a curving path around the cliff’s surface. No additional lights or stop points. And with the dark of the night you can’t see any more than what is in front of you. You can only hear the running water below, really missing the point of all this being in nature. Plus the rain wasn’t letting up and none of this is covered. We had umbrellas, but walking these narrow paths with them were clumbersome.

The park also offered complimentary rain ponchos to help a little. Basically a garbage bag with head and arm holes, and a little hood. It did help to wick away the rain, although a little bolder than what most are use to in appearance: green plastic with the bridge’s logo printed on it.

There are several well stationed photo ops to commemorate your stay in a snap chat story. Like Santa’s sleigh betwixt two heavily lit towering posts and the blue bell high above it.

The lake was fully decorated with lights, a scene that played across the body of reflective water. Balls of lights positioned to look like they are dancing over the water, an owl or two, and a little boy in the moon.

One light installation was sound activated, they strobed in various colours growing in frequency and intensity with your volume and pitch. It was fun to play with, like shouting the word “echo” in a ravine and hearing it echo several times after.

A few path ways were decorated with lights intertwined with branch’s creeping overhead.

A few more trees were fully dressed in lights that crept outwards towards their trunk.

Some were even hung with balls like you’d see on a Christmas pine.

Throughout the park there were also several stalls that offered up sweet baked goods and warm beverages. Great as a snack and better as something to help keep you warm.

You nibbled and chatted up your companions under a tent, while live musicians serenaded everyone with upbeat Christmas ballads.

Once again, don’t simply rely on my photos for the full experience. If you haven’t been, check this off your bucket list this year. No other such seasonal event allows you to enjoy walking in nature, and the natural view point the canyon hosts, in a new and interesting way. For more details, check out their website.

 

CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE
3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver BC, V7R 4J1
capbridge.com/explore/canyon-lights

Merry Kiss-mas at Vancouver Theatre Sports League

Getting some Yuletide cheer at Vancouver Theatre Sports~

Christmas means so many things to so many people. Fond memories reflected on and created around all that this season embodies: from lights to food, characters to presents. And today we were down at “Vancouver Theatre Sport” (VTSL) to celebrate all the romantic Christmas specials that air on repeat this time of year. Apparently “Hallmark” does majority of them, playing out the classic will she or won’t she tropes with everyone pairing up by the movie’s end. And leave it to “VTSL” to find a way to turn these movies that make your lips quiver and your heart flutter into a laugh out loud fest. Aptly named “Merry Kiss-mas”, the performance left me with tears in my eyes. Not heartfelt water ducts of emotions, but ones of unbridled laughter as audience participation was key, and the engagement the best during these skits.

In line with this theme “VTSL” even made a trailer for their highly anticipated performance. One that you can hype yourself up to, by checking out the link below. The link also includes performance dates and how to get tickets to this seasonal show, running from November 21 through to December 24th.

http://www.vtsl.com/show/merry-kiss-mas/

 

The evening’s host was also the performer that created the entire format for this show. She was the one to pool her favourite romantic Christmas specials and build skits round them. Each “activity” or classic improv game that was acted out, was base on one of these “Hallmark” movies. In fact, the real version of the replicated gazebo that was part of this intricate set, has been featured in many, if not all of them. The entire stage was a whimsical recreation of a sleepy town. A hand painted town that included a grocery store and a town hall. Each “building” was snow trimmed and lined with blinking lights.

As to not ruin the surprise, I won’t go into details of the actual performance. Although that being said and this being improv means that there are no two shows alike.

Audience members typed out lines for the actors. A pair became hands and one scene that required gift wrapping. And during the second half of the show, they asked for a volunteer to star in their own Christmas romantic comedy! I am a little too shy for the above, plus prefer to laugh at everyone else’s attempts.

In short, with a well stocked bar and the ability to bring your glass in to the theatre, “Merry Kiss-mas” makes for the perfect after dinner, date night activity. And if you have the time I suggest rounding out your night of romance with their “OK Tinder – swipe right comedy” show, that runs for 60 minutes after. It pokes fun at Vancouver’s dating scene, highlighting the apps that are transforming the way we find love in the city. For more information on it and to buy your tickets online, check out the link below.

http://www.vtsl.com/show/oktinder/

The Dumpling Trail

Tourism Richmond has put together a brochure of delicious dumplings and where to find them in their neck of the woods. This listing has recently been updated with two new stops and one new dumpling, so today we were here to give the self guided tour a go.

Fondly referred to as the “Dumpling Trail”, this listing helps visitors single out the best places to go for the dumplings, that they want to try. It is no secret that Richmond is known for their Chinese food. The city has earned international attention thanks to the accolades bestowed to it from highly acclaimed publications. It is the skill of the chefs immigrated from China to Richmond, and the bounty that Vancouver and Canada’s farms provide: organic produce, grain fed livestock, and fresh ingredients.

One side of the brochure lists 13 different dumplings, what they are and where you can find them. 20 different restaurants all vetted by the Tourism Richmond team. It highlights those only available during dim sum hours, the dumplings that are available with a vegetarian filling, the restaurants that are cash and debit only, and it includes a map on how to get to each destination.

 

The following is a review of each dumpling, and where we tried it. For the vlog version of this event and all 18 different dumplings that we tried on this day, check out my latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

The first 5 are only available during dim sum hours, sadly we missed trying the “Jian Dui”. Although I have had these sweet Chinese pastries before. A deep fried sesame seed ball filled with red bean paste, black sesame, or black bean paste. We enjoyed dim sum at “Empire Seafood Restaurant” and feasted on the following 4.

“Ham siu gok” are Chinese egg shaped dumplings, fried to a crisp, with a chewy centre and a filling of minced pork.

“Har Gow” is a popular steamed dim sum dumpling. A ball of shrimp and prawn inside a tapioca wrapper.

“Siu Mai” are equally as popular, these steamed pork bundles are typically coated in a yellow wrapper and topped with florescent orange salmon roe.

“Wu Gok” is a deep fried taro dumpling with a crispy shell and a mashed taro and ground meat filling.

“Chiu Chow For Gow”. This dumpling originated from the Chao Zhou district of China. It is known as one of the most fulsome dumplings, boasting a bevy is chopped and minced ingredients: peanuts, garlic, chives, ground pork, fried shrimp, radish, and shiitake mushroom; all wrapped in a tapioca flour shell.

Not specifically listed on our “Dumpling Trail” guide, the following are a couple of other dumplings we tried during our dim sum.

“Steamed wild mushroom dumpling with black truffle”. We ordered this wanting the taste of truffle, but only got the woodsy flavour of the shiitake coming through.

“Steamed cuttlefish sauce, scallop dumpling”. I like the presentation of this one, having had it wrapped in a dyed orange and now black wrapper.

Empire Seafood Restaurant, dim sum

For more on “Empire Seafood Restaurant” and some other dishes that they offer, check out my previous visit review.

Not just available during dim sum are the popular “Xiao Long Bao”. Originating from Shanghai, these soup filled pork dumplings are best dipped into vinegar and taken in, in one full bite. Although, be aware they are served hot! We had them at “Empire” and “R&H Chinese Food”.

At “R&H” we also had 3 other dumplings. The “Guo Tie”, pan fried potstickers filled with ground meat and vegetable, all wrapped in a thin dough. Its time in the pan gives it a wonderful char.

“Wontons” are typically filled with ground pork and shrimp, served in soup or chilli oil, we had the later.

And not on the guide, but one that we tried was the “boiled dumplings” with pork and chives.

 

R&H Chinese Food

For more on “R&H Chinese Food” and details on how the above dumplings tasted, check out the link above for the review.

 

We had “Shui Jiao” at “Morals Village”. These are simply any dumplings boiled in water. They are found all over Asia with a great variety of ingredients like chicken, beef, and leeks. Here they have either shrimp or chives, we went for the later and it included pork; and got to boil it ourselves in our very on hot pot.

Morals Village Hot Pot

For more on “Morals Village” and what you can expect from their hot pots, check out my the link to my review above.

 

“Banh bot loc” originated from Vietnam. These tapioca skinned dumplings are filled with pork and shrimp, and dipped into fish sauce. They are best eaten fresh when the dough is still gummy.

Another type of dumpling that wasn’t on the menu, but we were lucky enough to be treated to, were these mung bean rounds. With a pork filling and a fish sauce dip, they were similar to the above, but different with its gummy exterior and fried onion topping.

Bánh Mi Très Bon

Both are only available at “Banh Mi Tres Bon” on the trail, for more about them and some of the other appetizers worth trying there, check my review post above.

 

Similarly, you can only get the last dumpling on the list from one location. “Mandu” are Korean dumplings that have a similar taste and feel to Chinese dumplings. They are available steamed, boiled, pan fried, or deep fried at “Samsoomie”.

We went for the “Pan fried dumplings” filled with pork and chives. It was heavier than the other reincarnations above, although the sauce was helpful in brightening it up, as well as giving it a more memorable flavour.

The “Sweet and sour wonton” had a lot more punch. These little bundles were cute, like little presents you popped into your mouth, one after another.

 

And last but not least, an order of beef and chicken gyozas. These are available from either one of the two “Pepper Lunch” locations in Richmond.

Served on their trademark heated skillets, they come sizzling and perfectly seared for an even char. They are served as a set with a bevy of sauces for you to choose your own flavour adventure; be it dip, squeeze, or dab.

 

And with that we successfully tried 12 out of 13 of the listed dumplings on the Tourism Richmond’s “Dumpling Trail” list, enjoying 18 different dumplings in total. To learn more about the “Dumpling Trail” and to get the map and listing for your own self guided tour, visit the link below.

https://www.visitrichmondbc.com/blog/post/10-dumplings-to-try-on-the-dumpling-trail/

“Date Night” with Robba Da Matti

My anniversary with my partner is coming up, and I wanted to mark the occasion with a nice dinner. This desire to impress had me looking into nicer restaurants and what they could offer a pair celebrating a landmark.

My search brought me to “Robba Da Matti”, I am already familiar with them as a nice cozy spot for Italian cuisine in Yaletown, but now they have a “date night” special giving myself and others a reason to look their way.

This was a $122 three course meal for two with a bottle of wine to enjoy through out. Either a bottle of Nespolino, Sangiovese, Merlot, or Tolloy pinot Grigio. Which is a great deal, so continue reading to see how I broke it down, and how you can enjoy date night with “Robba Da Matti”.

Besides taking the guess work out of planning a successful evening, what I like best about this dinner special is that it isn’t just a set listing of dishes. Here, you can actually pick what you want from their entire regular menu. 2 antipasti plates, or the “yaletown antipasti” or prosciutto and burrata to share”. The latter two serve as larger portions equivalent to two plates. Next you pick any of their 2 pastas as your entree or to share. And this listing includes gnocchi, risotto, and lobster ravioli. To conclude there is dessert. Maybe their popular tiramisu, their lavender creme brûlée, or a chocolate mousse? The choice is all yours. The following is what we enjoyed betwixt two.

We were seated on their heated and covered patio. Visiting earlier in the evening had the natural day light illuminating our meal. Although once the sun sets it is definitely a more romantic scene. Flickering the lights on each table and repurposed wine bottles crafted into lighting fixtures hanging above. The latter certainty set the tone, they also offered a great conversation starter for those first date jitters.

Our host was very pleasant. She was passionate about the restaurant and was able to walk us through their menu with ease. She mentioned there being a new cook in the kitchen, and how they and the entire kitchen staff are great at churning out delicious plates. She also engaged us in conversation, like you would a friend visiting your home.

Before our dishes came out we got some salty and briny olives for the table. They paired well with our bottle of red. They were out of the “date night” red during our visit so kindly upgraded our bottle at no extra charge.

The complimentary crispy bread served as a nice base for the “Burrata caprese”. A crispy and chewy bread to spread the smooth cheese over, to drench in the fragrant olive oil, and to top with the pesto sauced tomatoes. The caprese included fresh roma tomatoes and basil infused olive oil with barrata mozzarella, flown directly from Puglia. It was delicious but messy, the way I suggested eating it above. So maybe take it in with knife and fork if you are trying stay cute for a first or newer date. But in my case I was comfortable enough with my guest to have the oil dribble down my chin in satisfaction. They used a lot of it and every drip was delicious.

Sadly, I wish we read the menu better as our next appetizer was fairly similar to the one above. It too was tomato heavy with greens seasoned in olive oil, but here Italian seasoning played a larger role and the bread was a lot tougher. “Bruschetta al pomodoro” prepared with oregano flown in directly from Calabria, served over top cherry tomatoes and garlic, and all coated in an extra virgin olive oil. It was a light refreshing start. But I would have liked it more as a side, to accompany our pastas following. Another hard to look cute while eating it dish, as the diced up tomato cubes were quick to take a stumble onto your plate below with each bite.

For one of our entrees we got the “Osso buco & risotto alla milanes”. This was a braised veal shank and saffron risotto that included bone marrow and carrot. The saffron was mostly noticeable in the bold yellow hue of the dish. In terms of taste, it was far less prominent, especially hidden by the tart tang of the lemon that over powered. The texture of the risotto was a great balance between firm kernels and a creamy rice dish. It was bright plate, both figuratively and literally. And easy to eat in small bites between light conversation.

I much more preferred the feeling of comfort from the “Spaghetti alla carbonara”. Although it is recommended that you not eat spaghetti during a date, as you are often caught slurping up saucy strands of pasta. The image of food hanging from out of your mouth may not be the one you want to cultivate. But I say go for flavour over image any day, because this way if the date is good or bad, your belly will at least be happy. This dish had delicious finely cured guanciale and their tender noodles coated in a free range egg yolk and peppered cream. It was made thick and creamy by the yolk. The fatty pork helped to cut into the chewy and slurp-worthy starch.

And here my date tip is to watch out for over eating, feeling unforgettable is no way to be on a date, especially if you are planning to go home to do other things. The solution is to simply doggy bag it all, cause pasta is just as good as leftovers when the sauces soak in to the noodles more. And best of all you can come back to it later, either hot or cold, when you work up an appetite. Plus this saves just enough room for your own full sized dessert to eat all of, or to share.

The tiramisu came highly recommended by our cheery server. Even to the point that she suggested that my guest and I both don’t like tiramisu because we haven’t had theirs. And I almost ordered it because of this comment, but the reason I don’t like the popular dessert is not because of its taste, but instead because of its texture. It is a soggy cake that is sharp in coffee flavour. Whereas I prefer my desserts lighter, to have something airy to end on, as we ordered below.

The “Panna cotta” was soft and delicious, the tawed frozen berries gave it its flavour. Although good, I can only imagine how even more satisfying this dessert would have been if the berries were fresh. And seeing as they aren’t currently in season maybe offering a fruit topping that is instead?

Similarly we had the “Mousse di fragole”. Strawberry mousse that was probably made from frozen strawberries. However it was less noticeable blended into such a luscious yogurt cream like this. I liked its milkier consistency and milder flavour than any chocolate mousse. Although for those who feel the opposite, they do also have a chocolate version available.

And with full bellies and the taste of sweetness on your lips, you can end the first half of your date night with smiles on your faces, checking it off as a success. Seeing as you are already down town, I suggest enjoying a walk around the neighbourhood and taking in some of the winter holiday lights that have already begun shining. This helps work off some of your food, in case you did end up overeating because everything was so good.

 

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.
This is such a good value. Let’s work it out. $122 for all of the above. Typically, a bottle of wine ranges from $40-60. Let’s say it’s $40, if you take it out of the equation that leaves you with $82, split between 2 that is $41 per person for 3 courses that includes complimentary bread and olives. The appetizers run from between $9-15, appetizers between $18-27, dessert $7; with no stipulations on what you can choose. Therefore depending on how you choose your adventure you are saving with this deal, and allowing someone else to help plan you the perfect date night meal. Plus, there is nothing that impresses me more on a date than ordering a whole bottle from the get-go; that just screams a good time. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ROBBA DA MATTI
1127 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P2
604-558-1174
yaletownlantipasto.com

Bánh Mi Très Bon

Today we were traveling around Richmond, taking on the “Dumpling Trail”, a self guided tour that took you on a journey to taste 13 different kinds of dumplings across 20 different restaurants, all vetted and vouched for by “Tourism Richmond”. “Banh Mi Tres Bon” is the latest restaurant to be inducted to this list and their “banh bot loc”, the newest dumpling you can try on the “trail”.

 

To check out all our achievements on the trail, and too learn more about the dumplings featured at “Banh Mi Tres Bon”, check out the latest video on my channel: MaggiMei.

They are not just a causal Vietnamese restaurant, this little cafe has character. A collection of art and knick knacks littering the room makes the space feel smaller and more live in. A decorative old timey bicycle with giant wheel, geodes and crystals, stuffed plush, and hanging decorative hot air balloons. In the corner was a little nook with upholstered chaises and books facing out on a shelf. And the soft melodic music in the background, furthered the above with its calming ballads.

In tune with the cafe feel there was a showcase by the register offering character macarons and individual sized cakes. But we were here for their savoury dishes, as spelled out on their memorable wooden menus.

“Banh bot loc” are Vietnamese shrimp and pork dumplings served with fish sauce. You pour the latter over the former, and enjoy the salty and sweet with the chewy and starchy of these dumplings. A taste and texture, I very much so enjoyed.

Another type of dumpling that wasn’t on the menu, but we were lucky enough to be treated to, were these mung bean rounds. With a pork filling and a fish sauce dip, they were similar to the above, but different with its gummy exterior and fried onion topping.

When visiting “Banh Mi Tres Bon”, their “Savoury mini crepes” are also worth trying. Served in their very own sizzling skillet, with all the tools you need to remove each round. It is suggested that you do this before pouring the fish sauce over the mini crepe. This is to ensure that you get the full experience of a crispy cup housing the salty meat filling.

I highly recommend their “Butter garlic chicken wings”. Crispy fried chicken with a buttery finish and a garlicky kick. I could eat a bucket of these in one sitting. Best with a dip into their sweet and salty fish based sauce.

And you don’t visit a resultant called “Banh Mi Tres Bon”, without trying one of their banh mi. And with their “Banh mi trio”, you can try 3 out of 7 of their Vietnamese sub offerings as a flight. Each has the same list of vegetables that include carrot, radish, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeño; you are just changing up the protein in between the crispy slices of fresh baguette bread.

The house special had cold cuts of Vietnamese ham and braised pork belly.

The pork meat ball, was more like a minced pork loaf.

And the grilled lemon grass chicken could have used more time on the grill, to allow the pepperiness of the chicken to shine through better.

 

 

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.
Not necessarily my go to for Vietnamese cuisine, given the travel time; but a solid option for a quick meal and even take out, when you are in the area. Everything was unique and delicious, and I am told their bone marrow pho is worth coming back for. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BANH MI TRES BON
1840-4720 McClelland Road, Richmond BC
778-928-7298
banhmitresbon.ca
Bánh Mi Très Bon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Morals Village Hot Pot

Today we were traveling around Richmond, taking on the “Dumpling Trail”, a self guided tour that took you on a journey to taste 13 different kinds of dumplings across 20 different restaurants, all vetted and vouched for by “Tourism Richmond”.

One of our stops was “Morals Village” for their water boiled dumplings”. They are a hot pot restaurant, so you wouldn’t expect to find dumplings here, nor would come here just for dumplings. So it is great to see that they were highlighted in our “Dumpling Trail” brochure, otherwise we wouldn’t think of visiting.

Located in an outdoor plaza, their red plastered exterior draws the eye. Large photos of their hot pots give you a peak of what’s to come. Walking in, the decor really impresses. Dark wood fixtures, walls and chairs; paired with black marble tables and counters. I liked the plastered art: a paper mache tree with pink and white blossoms that crept across the room.

What was less impressive was the clerk standing behind the counter eating chips. We walked in to no greeting, instead I had to initiate conversation as she ate. I felt the need to ask if they were open for business, given her demeanour and the fact there was only one other table seated in the back. She pointed to a table as she fed herself another chip.

We sat ourselves taking in the preset table with built in heat source and a rack of ladles. Another employee came by to drop off some menus. With little writing on the wall and little instruction in this landscape listing, I felt the need to ask about what the hot pot came with. He walked us through the menu and clarified things. You start by picking your soup base then the meat, seafood, vegetable, noodles and/or tofu you want to go into it. You pay for everything you want, a lesson we learned the hard way.

No where on the menu does it list that you have to pay for sauces, nor is there a sign by their self serve sauce and topping bar. So when our bill came, we were all shocked by the $3.25 fee we each had to pay. Especially given that we budgeted ourselves and knew that we did not eat $3.25 worth of sauce. Not to mention that there isn’t not enough flavour from simply boiling the meat and veg in the broth. It was with the bill and my disappointment that I decided I need not return. There are many hot pot places to choose from within the Lower Mainland. And a handful of them offer a lot more value for as similar flavours. Aside from the decor and the fact that “Morals Village” offers well made dumplings, done in house, there isn’t much else that sets them apart. And when it comes to hot pot, all you can eat will always be my first choice. None-the-less the food was good and I had no complaints with that.

I liked the fact that the dumplings we came in for were made in house, and presented raw. They were served as one of many ingredients you can choose to cook within your boiling pot, so were basically flavoured by the broth that you choose. Available in shrimp or chives, we ordered the latter.

We went for the “Special spicy style vegetable oil soup base” for our hot pot. It was spicer than it looked with its fiery red hue. The broth itself was deliciously warming. We each made sure to enjoy a bowl of it when we were done fishing out the boiled ingredients. You just need to be weary of biting in to a peppercorn or chilli flake and overwhelming any bite or scoop when you do.

For other ingredients we ordered the “octopus”, which turned out to be cuttlefish.

The “Sliced supreme beef” was nice, quick to cook, it was ready within 10 seconds.

Enoki mushroom was our vegetable choice, I liked their texture and the contrast in chewing they provided with everything else.

 

To watch our hot pot dumpling adventure and to live the experience of the “Trail” through us, check out my latest YouTube video on my channel: MaggiMei.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I liked the way the dumplings were presented and how you cook it yourself at your table. However, as a hot pot option I would pass on them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MORALS VILLAGE
Empire Centre
4540 Number 3 Road, Richmond V6X 1E4
778-237-3737
Morals Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

R&H Chinese Food

Today we were traveling around Richmond, taking on the “Dumpling Trail”, a self guided tour that took you on a journey to taste 13 different kinds of dumplings across 20 different restaurants, all vetted and vouched for by “Tourism Richmond”.

And this brought us to Landsdowne centre. I wouldn’t think to visit their food court for some quality dumplings, but here we were and they did not disappoint. A few of my travelling companions have visited this stand prior to, and each confirmed how busy they get and continue to be throughout the day. I saw it for myself as lines grew, bodies were willing to wait, and customers posed for photos in front of their counter.

You order from off of their televised menu and pay. And as you wait, you can enjoy the show on the other side of the counter. Today, two women were making soup dumplings behind glass. One was continuously pinching and rolling dough out to little flat rounds. She did this two at a time, the first I have ever seen. The women next to her took these rounds and filled them with a meat paste that included green onions. With swift fingers she pinched each ball to a perfectly pleated point. Steamer after steamer of completed dumplings were stacked in columns, awaiting a trip to the stove top.

 

To watch these dumpling being made, and to see what we ate in action, check out my Vlog of the “Dumpling Trail” above. It is about 5 minutes into the video.

 

Naturally, we had to try a basket of these. Hands down, these were some of the juiciest “Xiao long bao” I have ever had. Large and fully filled with liquid. So much soup that it filled my mouth, as I swallowed with a gulp.

All sauces including chilli oil, soy sauce, and vinegar are available for self serving at the counter. You squeeze and scoop what you like into little plastic containers and load your plastic tray to go. It is a food court, so you pick your seat based on what is available.

Their “Wonton in hot chilli sauce” was popular amongst our group. Tasty pork meat with a nice kick of heat from the chillies and oil.

The “boiled pork dumplings” with pork and chives were well stuffed and juicy. Best with a dip in the sauces.

The “Grilled pork dumplings with cabbage” offered a surprise. These too were filled with soup, juice that squirted out as you bite in. My pants learned this the hard way.

According to @pork_ninjas, “R&H” are also good for “Braised beef noodle in soup”. Although, by the time we got to it, the noodles were soggy. Though the flavour of the broth and the tenderness of the beef held up.

 

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? – Yed.
If they were more convenient to get to, I could and would absolutely see myself here more often. I was genuinely impressed. You wouldn’t expect such quality at such a venue and here we were eating it up. And they, giving you another reason to visit the mall, outside of the newly opened T&T. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

R&H CHINESE FOOD
Lansdowne Centre
5300 Number 3 Road, Richmond, BC V6X 2X9
778-297-5668
R&H Chinese Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nando’s, North Vancouver

There is a new “Nando’s” in North Vancouver, and I came up during their grand opening to celebrate the occasion. “Nando’s” is a known for their Portuguese flame grilled chicken, seasoned in their trademark Peri-Peri spices, a sauce and a flavour I would learn to recreate this evening.

 

For the recipe and the how to, plus a recap of all the below that we enjoyed, check out my latest vlog on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei!

 

Like all their other restaurants, this location had its own character. Warm tones, wooden fixtures, and colourful geometrics coming together to bring you a casual and modern setting. Comfortable, but still dressy; enough to enjoy a glass of wine at, and so we did.

New to their menu was the availability of sangria, described on their menu as a “fresh and fruity mix of red wine and berries”. They also have the regular wine, if you didn’t want the fruit.

They are a great way to start your meal, just like the sides of mixed salted nuts and olive oil seasoned olives.

The “Peri peri chippers” are also new to their menu. House made and fried crispy warm chips, dusted in their peri peri seasoning, served with a side of their “perinaise” to dip in to. “Perinaise” is what they call their blend of peri peri seasonings and mayonnaise for a creamy and spicy spread. So good and so popular that it is also available in a squeeze bottle for you to take home.

Their “peri peri crusted wings” (also new), are available for ordering as a trio, quintet, and in a group of ten. The seasoning creates a crust over each juicy piece of wing or drumlet, giving it a crunchy texture to sink your teeth into.

 

They also offer regularly seasoned wings, in plain, herb and lemon, mango and lime, medium, hot, and “xtra hot”. Like all their other chicken, the choice is yours, but if you need additional heat or more flavour they also have their bottles of peri peri on stand by for self pouring.

But the best way to try all the above is to order their “wing roulette”. 10 wings in varying peri peri heats, where half of the fun is seeing who gets the “xtra hot” one. A game we played and filmed in the video above.

“Grilled chicken livers” are also new to the “Nando’s” menu. Having grown up eating liver, I didn’t shy away from trying their rendition. We choose a medium spice and opted to have it with a side of their garlic bread.

The nuggets of organ meat were good on its own, plenty of flavour and not ashy. However, I much more preferred it with the bread as base and some of their hot peri peri sauce for additional flavour.

If you visit “Nando’s”, you have to get some of their rotisserie style chicken, as it is their most popular dish. We had our half chicken on its own, in mango lime. The fragrant sweetness of the mango was a nice break in the consistent taste of everything else.

And be sure to save room for dessert because the “Pasteis de natas” should not be missed. I would and do travel to my local “Nando’s”, just for one of their traditional Portuguese custard tarts. A sweet flakey crust, cushioning a creamy custard that just melts on your tongue. Delicious.

The “Nando’s kiss” is a new dessert, along with the bottomless frozen yogurt, and their chilli chocolate cookie. The “kiss” was named after the Hersey’s chocolate, a shell of chocolate, topped with whipped cream, housing a dark chocolate ice cream centre. Sadly, our dessert came out before we were ready for it, so we sent it back. And as it sat in their refrigeration unit, it melted, the result was a pool of chocolate in chocolate; chocolate soup as it were. Therefore I cannot give a true assessment of this.

In between courses we took part in their peri peri making work shop. A table was set up with prepped ingredients, all chopped up and minced. Their marketing rep takes you through the process, spooning ingredients and grinding them together with a mortar and pestle. As you worked to grind everything down to a paste, she educated you on their trademark spice.

Their peri peri peppers grows in Africa, it is the only chilli that grows towards the sun. The work required to pick it and make it into the sauce and spice we know and love, gives African workers the ability to earn a living, and take care of their families. “Nando’s” pride themselves on this fact, realizing that it not just about making a sauce, it is about the people behind it as well.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A solid destination for some good chicken. And with an extensive menu that includes salads, wraps, sandwiches, and meat on skewers; you could eat with them everyday and still find yourself trying something new. I will be picking up from them, the next time I have a potluck, a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NANDO’S
148 13th St E, North Vancouver, BC V7M 2H7
604-988-4915
nandos.ca
Nando's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén