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Month: January 2019 Page 1 of 3

The Taco Spot, Hollywood Beach

Today we were exploring Hollywood Beach in Miami. A walk by the water, the collecting of shells, and the feeling of sand between our toes. We followed it with a stroll along the boardwalk, where we took notice of a couple of girls holding whole coconuts and pineapples, drinking out of them with a straw. They were walking out of a restaurant decorated like an island hut with a thatched straw roof, broadcasting lively Spanish beats for that tropical vibe. This was “The Taco Spot”.

My partner immediately suggested that I get one, knowing I love a good novelty cocktail. And that way he could also stop for some tacos. So we put our names down and were able to easily grab one of their four tops right on the sidewalk 20 minutes later.

They do nachos, salads, burritos, quesadillas, and a collection of Mexican done appetizers like fries and wings. But given their name, we stayed within their lane.

You can have your tacos single or make them a combo. Both options give you the choice of filling and the shell that they fill. Your choice between a soft flour or corn tortilla, or a hard shell taco. We tried one of each, but I can confidently recommend getting the hard shell. It isn’t the store bought, bright yellow in a box kind, but made in house and fried to an amazing crisp. Just reminiscing about its texture now, I want to go back for more. They would also be great as nachos chips.

I enjoyed my single hard shell taco with shredded chicken and cheese. Each taco is served with their signature cilantro cream, cabbage, pico de gallo, chopped cilantro, and radish. We got our sans the last two, out of preference. The filling itself was a little plain, but the four table top sauces allowed you to squeeze flavour as needed.

My partner got the two taco combo with a side of rice, black beans, and corn on the cob. Once again you choose your taco and your desired filling. He choose the soft corn tortilla with his carnitas and cheese taco. The shredded pork here was much more flavourful, seasoned a savoury brown with the raw vegetable for freshness. The side of beans and rice, helped in rounding out bites, making the serving more hearty.

But he actually got the combo for the addition of the “Corn on the cob” appetizer. This was a whole fire roasted corn, brushed with a cilantro pesto and dusted in parmesan cheese. Upon my first bite I was surprised by how juicy the corn was, each kernel squirted sweetly. The char of the grill together with the zestiness from the cilantro sauce were a new flavour combination for me. It was deliciously finished with the saltiness of the crumbed cheese. I wish I could mimic this at home for myself.

And last but not least, I enjoyed my prized “Pineapple pina” cocktail in full. This was a whole pineapple, hollowed out and used as a vessel for serving your choice of cold blended slush. Your choice of pina colada, margarita, strawberry daiquiri, Miami vice or mango daiquiri. Given my currently location, I went for their name sake drink: the “Miami Vice”. It is basically a pina colada with a splash of raspberry syrup. And each drink comes with a “test tube” of rum. You can either shoot it down for a good time, but I think spiking your slush with it is a better idea. What a fun drink to have adjacent to a beach lined with palm trees. We didn’t get the sun, but at least I felt like I was on tropical vacation with this in hand.

 

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.
It is great when a tourist hot spot not only boasts a great location, but a great menu to back it up. If I return to Miami I would love to come back to try some of their seafood tacos, that I shy away from for my first taste. Like their soft shell crab taco that was $5 more than my single chicken. And then wash it down with the coconut cocktail. What a great place to stop at while at the beach. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACO SPOT
1500 N Broadwalk A, Miami FL, 33180
1-954-921-7711
thetacospot.business.site
The Taco Spot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Carlyle Cafe, Ocean Drive

A stop at Ocean Drive had us visiting one of the beach side restaurants for dinner. We walked along the strip exploring our options. But the decision wasn’t easy, with aggressive wait staff hawking their wares, restaurant to restaurant. They entice you in with drink and food specials, while “smoke girls” offer up cigars or puffs from a hookah. I was tempted by the latter, but we ended up at “The Carlyle”.

“The Carlyle” was the most liveliest of the three options that we walked past. With strobing lights and playful Spanish music. Together they offered a very festive and fun vibe. So we grabbed a seat under their covered patio, and majority of the time we kept dry. The occasional, sudden and brief downpour caught us off guard, dripping drops and dampening shoulders. But for the most part the patio by the side walk was the place to be. We people watched and had those passing by watch us.

As did everyone else seated, we started our meal with cocktails. Here there were no “small” or individual sized drinks. The entire drink menu hosted 36oz drinks with the ability to upgrade to 55oz. Coming with a group, we decided to get 55oz for $35, instead of 36oz for $24. This was the “Champagne mojito” for four. Cruzan light rum, mint, sugar, club soda, with your choice of mango, strawberry, or passion fruit. We had the latter, and as expected, all together it was fairly watered down. I think it was 55oz with melted ice. Tasty though, but one by yourself isn’t enough to have you feeling anything.

For food, all the offerings felt safe. Food made for the mouths of tourists. It felt standard, with no twists or unique interpretations. When you offer over 50 items on your menu how can you specialize or prepare anything truly memorable. The cost is not for the food, but for the ambiance and the locale of where you are eating it.

“Fettuccini Alfredo” in a homemade creamy sauce. Classic and saucy, good but steep at $22 for the inclusion of chicken. I did like how they weren’t cheap with their Parmesan. We got a whole bowl of powered crumbs to use as we liked. I found myself going for a sprinkle with each twirl of pasta, and again to inject flavour to the other dishes below.

The “Chicken tacos” were presented nicely. Three slow baked chicken tacos on a special rack, served with a spicy charred pineapple slaw, sour cream, and pico de gallo on the side. You top your taco as you like, but even with a healthy scoop of all three I found things lacked flavour. And although there was plenty of chicken filling in each shell, it was dry and hard.

The simple “Chicken avocado sandwich” with fries proved to be the best choice. Grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Swiss cheese, all pressed between home made bread. A classic club sandwich with avocado. It just needed more mayo, and my guests added salt and pepper to theirs.

 

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.
If in Miami Beach again I don’t see myself returning here. The food was nothing to write home about, and their drinks watered down. I rather grab a $55 hookah and smoke side walk side, adjacent to South Beach across the street. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CARLYLE CAFE
1250 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach FL, 33139
305-531-3238
The Carlyle Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tacofino Burrito Bar, revisit

Tacofino, revisit

I wasn’t planning on reviewing my latest visit to Tacofino’s take out burrito bar. But after a very tasty meal and noticeable improvements from my first so-so visit, to now, I thought I owed it to them to re-evaluate.

My partner wanted tacos and decided we would make a trip to find some. Based on our parking spot, the quickest and easiest to stop at was “Tacofino’s” take out shop.

For the full run down on decor and setting, check out my original visit and how the food has changed in the 2 and a half years between my first and second post.

Tacofino Burrito Bar

 

I did the ordering knowing that their chicken burrito is the one to get, not that the menu gave you all that much to choose from in the first place.

Fried chicken, rice, guacamole, and shredded lettuce. Here there was a lot more chicken than what I recalled, and it was a lot more crispier than memory serves. It paired well with the chewy thin grains of rice, the crisp lettuce, and just right amount of heat from the chilli mayo sauce the drizzled on thick. Memorable enough that I could see my self craving for another taste in the future.

Whereas I remembered the taco being pretty bland and like the burrito, in need of a couple of squeezes from the help yourself bottles of salsa counter side. Everything today held up on its own without the need for any additional dips.

The chicken taco, had the same crispy breaded chicken as the burrito, but with pickled vegetable slices, a creamy white sauce, and a cilantro salsa. Tasty chicken without any heat.

I was most impressed by the chorizo taco. It covered all flavour and texture profiles for me. The grittiness of the salty meat, the crispiness of the fried kale chips, the chalkiness of the sharp Parmesan cheese, and the tang of the pickled onions. Good, but not economical, and at $6 each you pay a lot more for the bells and whistles. I personally found it worth it, as I don’t find majority of the tacos I encounter tasty enough. Whereas my partner argued that the tacos he always has at other places have been around $2-3 each.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Some tasty quick snack worth taking a detour to, and a Vancouver staple. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO BURRITO BAR
15 West Cordova Street
604-899-7907
tacofino.com/gastown-take-out-menu

Rocky Mountain Flatbread, Dine Out 2019 menu

Dine Out Vancouver is in full swing and with two weeks left, you still have time to take advantage of the deals and the ability to try somewhere new. Like “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.”. Looking at them, you wouldn’t think they are more than a simple salad and pizza place. But behind their all wooden exterior is a restaurant that offers so much more. More on their menu, and more for their community.

Before we began our meal, our owner/host spoke to their origin story. How they built their own oven by hand, wanting to use it to make healthy pizzas for families, like their own. They vowed to then and continue to connect with local farmers, to source their produce and ingredients. Ingredients that are used to prepare their rustic pizzas, which includes an organic bread base, made with dough that utilizes maple syrup to activate the yeast.

But they have more than just these handcrafted flatbreads, baked crispy in their wood fired oven. They also offer organic pasta dishes, salads, soups and desserts. All with a focus on the quality of ingredients used and the diner’s health and well being in mind. A lesson I would learn first had with an invitation to lunch.

Their Dine Out menu is available for lunch or dinner. A $25 meal that pairs whatever appetizer you choose with a house crafted mocktail, and follows it with a selection of their pastas or pizzas for your entree, and any of their desserts to finish. The following are some of the options we enjoyed, to help you in your decision making process.

The “Paloma mocktail” is made with pink grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed lime, simple syrup, and soda. You are able to add a shot of vodka or tequila it to for $5. This early afternoon I ended up keeping it virgin, and and enjoying the tart sparkling beverage as is.

For appetizers you can go soup, salad, or mushroom cap. For the soups your options are either their Seasonal Soup or the vegan Spicy Organic Tomato Soup. The former is currently creamy bacon and leek offering. A tasty combination available in your mushroom cap, and again in your pasta as well. A hearty soup that was great for dipping your side of focaccia toast in to.

The “Spicy Organic Tomato Soup”, was tasty, but not what I imagined it to be. More like a marinara sauce then the classic pairing to grilled cheese. It tasted as healthy as it boasts it is.

Want something that requires more chewing? Then you want one of their traditional salads. Either a Fresh Herb Salad (which is the Vegan option), the Basil & Blackberry Salad, or a Fig & Goat Cheese Salad. It is nice to be given a choice within a choice. The “fresh herb salad” included assorted greens, tomatoes, oranges, cucumbers, and Vancouver grown sunflower sprouts; all drizzled in their house made fresh herb vinaigrette. I like fruit in my salads, as it gives things some sweetness.

Sadly I didn’t get enough basil flavour or a single black berry in the “Basil & Blackberry Salad”. But the freshness of the bowl and the zesty dressing was enough to have me going for another forkful.

Although, I much preferred the fig and goat cheese salad, although I didn’t find a single fig slice, through my rummaging around in the bowl. But there was plenty of goat cheese crumbs to make up for its absence, and I love goat cheese.

But for something a little different, and if you have never visited “Rocky Mountain” before, the “BC mushroom caps” are the ones to get. Local roasted mushroom caps stuffed with your choice of filling, with 4 options to consider. I avoided the “Spinach & Goat Cheese mushroom cap”, for my dislike of wilted greens; and missed out on trying the “Bacon, Leek & Cheddar mushroom caps”, as they seem to be the most popular amongst our group.

So the “Roasted Veggies mushroom caps” are my pick or the “Sundried Tomato and Hummus” stuffed ones. But basically you are choosing each based on what flavours you want stuffed within.

For entrees your choices are between their flatbread pizzas or their chef’s pasta feature. Both customizable. Choose one of their traditional flatbread pizza from: Classic, Tomato Basil, Parma, Sundried Tomato (can be made Vegan), Naturally Meaty, Beef Pepperoni, Sundried Tomato & Goat Cheese, Farmer’s Market (can also be made Vegan), Pesto Shrimp, Genoa Salami, All Canadian, or Pesto Chicken. For a Gluten Free Pizza Crust you can add $3.00. And to make it one of their “Artisan Pizzas” like we did, you can add $1.20 – 5.00 accordingly.

They have a healthy list of vegan and vegetarian options, with the ability to transform majority of their speciality pies in a similar fashion. One of the more memorable ones was the “Beyond avocado veg” vegan pizza, it lacked cheese and you couldn’t tell. It had an avocado sauce base which was topped with zucchini, bell peppers, vegan beyond sausage, caramelized onions, and hemp hearts, all coated in a balsamic reduction. It was like eating a roasted vegetable salad with guacamole. A dynamic gathering of vegetables that keeps bites interesting, thus allowing you the ability to eat the whole pizza solo. Although I advise coming with a friend or two, to be able to order a bit of everything from their Dine Out menu, and share it all.

Another vegetarian friendly option is their “Farmer’s market” flatbread pizza, this also doesn’t come at an additional cost. It starts with an organic tomato sauce base, and to it adds mozzarella, a three herbed pesto, capriny goat cheese, and a collection of fresh seasonal vegetable. Today our vegetables included juicy cherry tomatoes, crispy kale, and squash that offered substance and a great starchy texture to your bites.

One of their more original artisan pizzas is the “Chorizo and cod”, with a spicy tomato sauce base, local chorizo sausage, fresh bell peppers, red onions, sun-dried tomato, mozzafina di latte, green onions, and pan seared ocean wise cod. It was delicious with so much depth in the tastes and textures used. And I liked how the fish was presented as breaded and baked nuggets, to really highlight them.

If you have never been, the “Fig and Brie” is the one to try. Black Misson fig jam, crimini mushrooms, local prosciutto ham, caramelized red onions, triple cream Brie, and fresh arugula dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. I just wished for more slices of fig, as its sweetness paired so well with the salty ham and the pepperiness of the arugula.

The “Bacon and Potato” took what worked with the soup and the mushroom caps above and made it a hand held in this filling pizza. Garlic oil base, local potatoes, leek, caramelized red onions, double smoked bacon, a three cheese mix, green onions, coarse ground pepper, and rosemary. Hearty and delicious.

The “Parma” is one of the pizza orders that is available off of their Dine Out menu, without the need to pay extra. Organic tomato sauce, mozzarella, Schinken Speck cured ham, crimini mushrooms, mango, arugula, and plenty of parmesan chips. Another flat bread that covered all flavour and texture boxes. Sweet fruit, salty ham, stringy cheese, meaty mushrooms, and fresh veg.

If you choose the pasta route for your entree you can choose the “Chef’s pasta feature” from off their blackboards, (it can be made vegan). It is made with organic pasta and local seasonal veggies. And for $5 more you can get it with free range local chicken. The best part is all their pasta is perfectly cooked with a great chew and comes with flatbread on the side to scoop sauce up with.

Or you can add $1 to your meal for the “Penne Bolangnese”. Organic penne, slow cooked organic BC beef tomatoes made into a sauce, shaved parmesan, and basil. A classic tomato sauce pasta with plenty of ground beef.

For $1.20 more you get the “Bacon & Three Cheese Penne”. Organic penne, double smoked bacon, whole cream, sautéed leeks, aged cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and caramelized onion. This was my favourite of the three. I found it like an upscale Mac and cheese, but with bacon!

And then you round things off with dessert. Like their house-made “Mango raspberry sorbet”. It is sweet, not tart, (which is the reason why I don’t like sorbet), and deceptively creamy given the lack of milk products used. A beautiful end with the essence of rose.

For something more rich you can order their “Warm double chocolate brownies”. Created with Callebeut chocolate, and served with a scoop of their house made vanilla ice cream. A chewy brownie that sticks to your teeth and melts on your tongue. Rich, but not to the point you couldn’t finish the serving yourself.

But my vote and the one I would come back for is their Vegan and gluten free “apple cinnamon crumble” served with coconut ice cream. I cannot believe this is vegan friendly. I didn’t miss anything in this. The ice cream was creamy smooth. The oats toasted evenly and coated in cinnamon. And the dried cranberry a nice pop of flavour and some chew. I can imagine this as a great way to start your day, or a breakfast granola on a hot summer’s day.

They also have a gluten free cheesecake for you to consider, with a toasted coconut base. Although no one decided to order this today.

If you aren’t able to make it out to them during the Dine Out Vancouver run, worry not, they will be bringing this menu back for Valentine’s Day and to it adding a plate of “Koko Monk” chocolates for you and your honey to share. The “First kiss” heart with a sour cherry and raspberry filling, and the “Coconut curry” patterned with a cold leaf print. Both are vegan friendly, using 100% chocolate and no sugars, and each is sweetened with natural fruits.

If the above doesn’t turn you on to “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.”, the following will. As I mentioned earlier, not only do they feed their community they also help to educate it as well. They give back with their “Earthbites” initiative, connecting families with their food. Teaching kids and families how to grow their own food and eat more seasonally. Similarly, they also work with over 3000 students from various elementary and high schools. Where they help to plan and create their very own school garden. Then they help to build the curriculum around access to said garden, pulling it together with nutrition and the importance of consuming vegetables. Like picking all the kale they grow and using it to make a kale smoothie. Thus teaching students raw recipes that they can do at home, themselves. A great learning as most students are malnourished; they are eating, but not eating the right things.

So as you can see, after getting the above run down, I was even more excited to sit down and dine with them. And I hope after reading all of this, you will feel the same way too.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLATBREAD CO.
4186 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P7
604-566-9779
rockymountainflatbread.ca
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sopra Sotto revisit

I have visited “Sopra Sotto” before, when they first open last summer. Therefore looked to them tonight when my partner wanted flatbread pizza from somewhere new.

He liked the interior as I did. Modern with a mix of tile and wood, and a splash of whimsy from the colourful fowl themed wallpaper. The open dining area meets bar had a dull roar to it, a steady murmur of voices in gentle conversation. It wasn’t until the room started to cleared, that you began to hear the beat of the mellow melody playing overhead. It gave the restaurant a casual hip vibe, like the foyer of a resort hotel or at a jazz club on a Sunday.

Please note: I apologize for the lack of photos, but I only decided to write a revisit post because of the great service we received and seeing as the restaurant was as good as I remembered.

We were seated by the pizza bar, with an unobstructed view of pizzas continuously being made to order. Rounds of dough shaped and flatten, then sauced and topped for a trip into their dome shaped pizza oven.

Just watching the process made us want to take advantage of its availability. We ordered our usual “Margherita pizza”. This one came with san marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, grana cheese, and basil. The crust was was thin, its main flavour: the char of the grill. It well contrasted the slight sweetness to the marinara sauce, causing both to stand out. Together with globs of fresh and chewy mozzarella and fresh basil this was a pleasant light start.

We wanted some pasta to pair with our pizza, however they were sold out of our first choice, so we got the “Square spaghetti made in house in an authentic bolognese sauce” instead. I really liked the firm texture of the thicker noodles, whereas my partner did not. The entree wasn’t saucy, more juicy with the grounds of seasoned beef. All together it tasted more like a hearty beef stew than the red sauce spaghettis that I am more use too. Overall a flat taste, and a dish I wouldn’t want to have on its own. Best shared for bites to take in between other bites.

My partner felt daring enough to order what sounded like a meaty appetizer to start (he is notoriously a cautious diner). However, we didn’t get it until after all the above came to our table first. Here, we were a little disappointed, as we wanted to elongate our meal with several courses. Luckily, who I believe is the manager, noticed my disappointment when I inquired about our appetizer as he dropped off our pizza and pasta; and he offered to have both entrees remade so that we could enjoy our meal as intended, in the order we wanted. But we declined, it just seems excessive and a waste of food. So he told us he will have the cost of our appetizer below removed from the bill, for the mistake. That was very generous of him, and we really appreciated the gesture. It spoke to their customer centricity.

Our appetizer quickly came after, however we ran out of table space. We were given such a narrow eating surface and three large dishes to have to fit within it; along with individual plates and cutlery, a water carafe with glasses, and my glass of wine. It would have been best as our introductory course.

The Porchetta platter with savoury and moist pork roast, fresh focaccia, and local grilled vegetables. Eggplant, cucumber, broccolini, and potato. It wasn’t what either of us expected. I imagined a take on bruschetta when the menu described the meat and veg being on the focaccia toast. Instead, what we got was a great collection of ingredients to pick and choose, and nibble on in any order or combination that we pleased. My partner didn’t like how grey the meat looked and even less how little flavour it had. I used it as a base of the fully olive oil and rosemary seasoned vegetables. But my favourite part was the focaccia, it was chewy and airy with the quality of naan. My partner found it salty, I deemed it a great bite to enjoy as is, instead of using the meat and vegetable as toppings for it.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
My partner deemed their pizza some of the better thin crust style he has had, and that he can see himself craving another slice in the near future. In fact I only had one piece, whereas he had 2 at the restaurant and declared the other 2 would be his lunch tomorrow, before I could reach for another. If that isn’t a good review, I don’t know what is. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SOPRA SOTTO
1550 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 2Y7
604-251-7586
soprasottovancouver.com

Elisa Steakhouse

There has been much buzz surrounding Vancouver’s newest steakhouse. Located in the old home of Milestone Yaletown, “Elisa” has found itself well welcomed to the neighbourhood.

So when my girl friend was craving steak we decided to check out their offerings. They are a very chic and modern steakhouse, no fuss, just classic lines and a wine wall that travels. When we sat down our server gave us a run down of the menu, while pointing out stations around the restaurant. There is a raw bar where they whip up tartare, and shuck oysters. Their wood fire oven in the back is what gives their meat its char. And they even have a table where prosciutto is carved off the leg of a pig.

However we came in with a game plan, so knew what we wanted. We would start off with their “Elisa seafood tower” prepared with kusshi + irish point oysters, cured hamachi, cured golden eagle coho salmon, tuna tartare, shrimp cocktail, and whole nova scotia lobster. And it wasn’t cheap. At $159 I wanted a greater collection of seafood gathered on this towering monument of marble, cast iron, and ice. It was so heavy that the strongest one in the kitchen had to bring it out with two hands. Impressive to look at with the lobster crowning the tower, but there was a lot more ice showing through. As for practicality: it isn’t. It is hard to pick through when it is 5 feet taller than you, when seated. Great for show, but we were quick to eat through our plates, so that we could shuffle them down to our face level; and move the obstruction from the table that was blocking our view of one another.

Taste wise, everything was good, but nothing that had me pausing on it. Juicy oysters with a wonderful tangy vinaigrette and fresh horseradish.

Cold lobster that I dipped into the leftover butter from the bread below. It gave the sweet lobster meat some needed flavour. And there is plenty of it when you get a half of the crustacean for yourself, and half an exoskeleton to pick through.

The hamachi was tender and seasoned salty. The salmon standard, but the orange brought out some flavour in it. The jumbo shrimp was great, I wanted the four for myself, each heavily dipped in cream. And the tuna mix with avocado had me craving some chips, a base to scoop and round out bites with.

While we nibbled our way through this barrier we sipped on wine and cocktails. I focused on the latter, and have the following to show for it.

The “empress” is a $17 cocktail made with mount gay xo rum, turmeric honey, lemon, aquafaba, and arabica coffee bitters. The flavour reminded us of cola, with a coffee pop.

“Divine rabbits” is a savoury drink. The black pepper and foamy egg white topping had me chewing this cocktail. I didn’t taste the listed strawberry, but really wanted to for the sake of this drink. Mezcal, blanco tequila, campari, strawberry, citrus, egg white, and black pepper.

The “corpse reviver no. blue” was a punchier cocktail thanks to the abinthe rinse that coated the glass, and lucky me I didn’t get much of that flavour that I don’t actually like. Tanqueray london dry gin, blue curacao, carpano bianco, lemon, and absinthe. It was easy to drink and the soaked cherry, a nice note to end on.

The “dothraki for delicious” was as strong of a drink as I think the fiercest tribe in “Game of Thrones” would order. Made with tra kal patagonian spirit, white vermouth, green chartreuse, and chocolate bitters for $17. This is definitely one of those beverages that taste so strong that it makes you see double. This too had a liquorice-y finish. With the briny olive garnish helping to balance out the strong spirit.

I was secretly hoping that the “wax poetic” used the beeswax it listed as an ingredient for garnish as well. No such luck. Tanqueray no. ten gin, white vermouth, beeswax, and grapefruit for $17. This was a clean and sharp beverage, great for sipping on.

And for my last cocktail of the night I ended in something sweet. “don’t call me shirley!” Made with cachaca, dry curacao, lime, grapefruit, and carbonation for $16. It was a fizzy, a pretty drink with flirty bubbles for a great girly girl cocktail.

Now to rewind a bit, our meal actually began with bread. Slices of their Country loaf and sourdough served with a healthy amount of butter. I liked its flavour alright, but found it too hard and crusty. It was also very messy, with coarse crumbs falling everywhere on the white table cloth. These crumbs would later scatter across the table top, and in between courses our server swept them all off the table with a long metal scoop-tool.

After we made our way through the tower, my guest still wanted to eat. So we thought it best if we rounded out the night with a steak from the steakhouse, seeing as it as one of their staples.

We got her favourite cut, bone in, and sliced by the kitchen for our convenience. 20oz of “Blue dot, Prince Edward Island rib-eye”, that is potato and grass fed meat. It doesn’t come with any real sides, a small mix of stewed vegetables and one stalk of broccolini, so we ordered two of our choosing below. As for the steak, it was delicious. Well seasoned and grilled for a nice distribution of char. And fatty by the bone and at the ends. Deliciously worth the $69 price tag, when compared with other steakhouse prices and their quality of meat and preparation. For 10oz more to your steak you can add $26 to your cost.

For sides we ordered the “roasted potato”, but got their “fries – 3 times cooked” instead. Braised, blanched, and fried sticks of potato; served with a thick and creamy mayo and butter-like dip. It was so good that we didn’t bother to correct them, and kept the fries.

We also had a side of “onion rings”, which like the side above and all the other sides was $12 each. As for the onion rings, each was crispy, and fried heavily enough so that I couldn’t make out the thick slab of raw onion hidden at the core. A good thing. They were the best when dipped into the pool of buttermilk Ranch dressing served on the side.

We didn’t have room for dessert, so when it was time to settle up, it was nice that our bill came with a treat. Served with the billfold was a small dish with two pecan sable rounds. They were a nice sweet and cheesy cookie that made the price we had to pay next palatable.

 

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.
Not a destination for every day dining, but definitely a great option for those looking to celebrate in an opulent setting. With a menu that speaks to luxury, and an impressive spread that will cost you for the quality you get. Fine steak and seafood lovers rejoice, you have a new restaurant to add to your list. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ELISA STEAKHOUSE
1109 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P6
604-362-5443
elisasteak.com

Ramen Koika, prime rib ramen

I already associate “Koika” with fun and creative bowls of ramen, so it is nice to see they are keeping this imagine up with an all new prime rib ramen! There is no one else in the Asian fusion game adding their own ingredients and toppings to classic bowls of tonkatsu. Here you can get your ramen with a collection of shellfish, some deep fried chicken, or a mixed broth of pork meat and shellfish.

As the newer of the two locations it was still as fresh and as new as I remembered, during my original visit. Their name spelt out in actual lights, a mural dedicated to the master that they learned their Tokyo-Chiba style from. (Whom also got a shout out on their one page laminated menu.) And most eye catching their unique light installation, a collection of wood pieces dangling in mid air.

We were seated by the noodle making booth, although it was left unattended today. They do make all their noodles in house, it’s just a shame that I never visited when they physically are.

The “Prime rib ramen” got its own feature. A separate full page that did well to tempt the on looker. 1 price of AAA prime rib, onion, cabbage, wood ear mushroom, bean sprouts, and triple black garlic oil; all in a tonkotsu soup base. This runs at a premium price of $15.95, but it is worth trying, and when I do I suggest you add the $4.95 to get an extra prime rib. If you are going to do it, do it right, with enough meat to ration between all the slurps of noodles. The tender meat on bone was the flavour maker, it was plenty tasty on its own; but just bobbing in the broth, it’s meaty essence transitioned into the soup well.

As with all their other ramen bowls you can choose the level of heat from non-spicy, mild, or spicy; and you also have a choice whether you like your noodles firm or soft. And for both our ramen dishes we got a lot of noodles. Other restaurants charge you $1 for your ramen refill, more noodles to finish off the soup with, in full. Here, you get all the noodles you would need in the first go.

In comparison my partner got the much lighter “Tonkotsu shio ramen”. Cha-shu, bamboo shoot, roasted seaweed, green onion, spinach, and bean sprouts. It was a clean broth and simple, it relied on its toppings to give it character. Like the sweetness from the side of corn at an extra free.

We also tried some of their appetizers. Like the “Ugly onigiri” sold by the piece. I assumed it was a small round so when I saw the two I had order arrive, I was ashamed. I had ordered two giant rice balls the size of grapefruits, and found myself eating them like an apple in hand. There were the largest rice balls I have ever had. A tuna and mayo rice ball mixed with seaweed and sesame oil. They made for a great filler, but I wished for more seasoning in the rice, so that the bites without the flaky fish centre still had flavour.

The “Coco karaage” is deep fried house battered boneless chicken with kaarage cream or a spicy sauce. We got the non spicy version that ended up being a sweet chicken dish. Nice nuggets of brown meat, juicy and fresh.

They were the perfect pairing to the “Creamy croquette”. You get 3 in an order, each golden brown and dressed in a tangy brown sauce. Corn, onion, mashed potato, and mozzarella cheese. Each ate like a meal of county chicken and potatoes, without actual meat. It had a nice texture, whipped smooth and almost sticks to your teeth.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A fun bowl of ramen, a nice twist on one of Vancouver’s favourite foods. And the prime rib is definitely worth trying out. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN KOIKA
1479 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C1
604-428-6117
ramenkoika.com

Guy Fieri at Peaceful Restaurant

“Food Network” celebrity, Guy Fieri was in Vancouver shooting for his latest television series. In it he revisits his favourite stops along his travels, while looking for the best “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”. And I just so happened to be at the original “Peaceful Restaurant”, when he popped in. No words needed to be spoken, you could tell something was happening in the restaurant tonight. The camera crew, the large spot lights, and the cherry red convertible rolling up with a “FLVRTWN” license plate. Not to mention all the well dressed staff on shift today and the owner and his entire family present and ready to serve customers and prepare food. And it is not surprising that tonight I have had some of the best service, and the best meal from them to date.

For those unfamiliar with “Peaceful” they are the well known and beloved Sichuan restaurant that is delicious and approachable. A friendly spot that anyone unfamiliar with Chinese food, or is too intimidated to visit a restaurant with its name only written in Chinese characters; can come to and order exactly what they want and how they want it. Cut and paste Chinese food with an easy to read menu and plenty of photos. The restaurant takes into consideration their customers taste. More spice, less chilli, or additional salt. It is no wonder this winning recipe has earned them international recognition and additional locations all across the Lower Mainland.

The cafe on Broadway by Cambie is their first location, the original one that Guy first visited and helped launch all those years ago. With his endorsement he was able to help propel this family run business into the multi chain organization that they are today. And it was nice to be within the restaurant when the two parties (Guy and Charlie the chef and owner) reminisced about it all.

The filming was done in the kitchen, where Chef Charlie offered up newer dishes and sought Guy’s opinion on them. There was tasting and talking before the shaking of hands. The Guy was gone, just as quick as he came. But not before posing for a few photos and tagging the wall, just like he did 6 years ago.

When it came time for me to have my meal, we took our time and stayed much longer. The staff were friendly, and very hospitable. I heard servers ask about preferences when talking orders , and returning a couple more times to check on dinner and if they can be of further assistance.

I wanted what Guy got to try so ordered the two below. “Sichuan thousand chilli chicken”. Crispy chicken stir fried with dried peppers, peppercorns, garlic, ginger, green onion, green beans, and crispy potatoes (which is a new twist they are taking on this dish). It looks a lot more spicy and intimating than it really was. If you avoid the red chillies, you avoided the heat. Therefore the dish took work to eat, can’t just scoop and plop a spoonful into your mouth. Being caught off guard by a peppercorn or two, isn’t all that fun. But the menu gave you fair warning. They called this dish “tongue tingling” and that it was. I did like the rest of the ingredients. The ratio of batter to chicken was great, enough for crunch, without hiding the actual flavour of chicken. The beans were firm and the flavour complimentary to the nuggets of meats and the slivers of garlic. As my guest put it, this was a well balance meal with meat, vegetable, and starch; you just needed dairy.

“Xian steamed cold noodle” was the other dish we tried cause Guy did. I love a good thick and chewy noodle, so was excited to try some of “Peaceful’s” house made version today. When ordering it, our hostess spoke to how the dough for this is prepared. It is washed before it is cut into strips. And is then boiled and a thorough dressing with a garlic vinaigrette that includes sesame oil and tahini. The result, a chilled tart and tangy dish, with a warming chilli spice. Our hostess was also quick to boast that their freshly made chilli oil is what makes all the difference in this, and she was right. Great as a summer plate or a appetizer to kickstart your appetite.

And what put them on the map during Guy’s last visit, and the dish he helped familiarized: the “Peaceful beef roll”. Slices of beef and strips of chives roll together with a sweet and tangy sauce in a chewy green onion pancake. Altogether a great combination. It is worth nothing that everything in this, and everything else on the menu is made in house, except the rice cakes.

My favourite dish of the night was the “Peaceful house stir fried noodles”. Seared noodles, fish, shrimp, squid, pork, and vegetables; all coated in a chilli garlic sauce. It has a really great flavour that fully coats each slurp-able noodle strand. I liked the texture of the squishy squid with it, but found the BBQ pork a little much, whereas the fish was hard to notice all together.

And when it is handmade in house and on the menu, you have to get the classic “Xiao long bao”. These steamed pork and chive filled dumplings were deliciously moist, one bite morsels filled with warm soup. They were so soft that they almost melt under your tongue.

It turns out the owner’s daughter was working front of house tonight, and she was actually the one tending to us. Upon learning this fact, I took the opportunity to chat her up some. We discussed the universality of their Sichuan cuisine. And the fact that they are the Chinese food chain that is welcoming for everyone. She seemed proud, as her dad and brother dawned their chef’s uniforms, and her mother sat in the dining area taking it all in. What a cool experience and a great day to play the fly on the wall.

 

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.
Same assessment as the last time I visited. A solid choice for quick and easy Chinese, made all the more special tonight. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PEACEFUL RESTAURANT
532 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-879-9878
peacefulrestaurant.com

New Oxford, Dine Out 2019 menu

I have been saying it for a while now, but here it is again, ever since Chef Sarah Stewart and Chef Chris Stewart (unrelated), have joined The Donnelly Group’s development and culinary team, the caliber coming out of their kitchens (within all their public houses), has taken a 360. Chef Sarah has taken on the mantle of “Development & Training Chef”. “Coming from rural Ontario and attending OCAD in Toronto, Sarah has cooked across Canada in eco lodges, rustic camps, mountain escapes and bustling city-centers.” She was hired to work on developing both people and tasty food. And Chef Chris is currently the Director of Culinary Development, having first worked at “some of the best kitchens in the world: Michelin-Star winning “Fat Duck” in London, California’s “French Laundry”, and Vancouver’s own “Hawksworth”! Their focus on quality, presentation, and taste shows through. And the result is, not only are Donnelly Public Houses the spot for a great night life vibe with plenty of drinks, but now you can sit down and enjoy the food they are served with as well.

And today we would do just that at one of their 3 locations participating in Dine Out Vancouver. I choose our destination based on the menu, and found myself at the “New Oxford” in Yaletown, wanting chicken wings, fried chicken, and brisket. A three course meal for $25! And trust me what I say for the quality of food and the amount on each place this was a deal! Most places would charge you $20 for a pasta dish and here we got that and two more courses to boot. So naturally it is easy to funnel those saving to some wine pairings. Perfectly chosen wines to highlight flavours plate to plate.

To begin, you have your choice between 3 appetizers. We passed on the “Currywurst, charred bratwurst, fenugreek, and cumin” with the Tantalus vineyards pinot noir wine pairing.

And instead started on the “Heirloom carrot soup” with jalapeño yogurt, sumac, and pistachio. It was a creamy start, hearty and warming, but I wanted it more tangy like a tomato soup to pair with those buttery toast points.

With it we had 3oz of their Road 13 honest john’s red as a pairing. This was the perfect amount of vino to sip and eat to. The red here had more bite to it, a snap back to offset the rich texture of the soup.

And we also shared the Red chili wings”. And what you assume would be a smaller appie for one, was a dish you could share with another, with 5 wings a piece. A pub with poor wings is a crying shame, so I am happy to report that these were amazingly juicy. Not dry and shriveled up Wednesday night special wings, but great meaty bones. They reminded me of and tasted similar to buffalo wings, they even gave off the same nose tingling sensation. Although, despite its name and the jalapeño, it really isn’t all that spicy. The distilled vinegar balances most of it out, and the parmesan aioli covers it completely. So what you are left with is a slow to rise burn.

With it we had the Evolve shiraz, a sweeter red that helped to transform the heat of the wings, and balanced it out.

For your next course, you also have your choice between three entrees. Here we passed on the “Quinoa & avocado salad”, with charred chicken, feta, pickled shallot, citrus, and thyme. Along with its BC VQA Wine Pairing: Summer Hill Alive White.

Instead we enjoyed the “Brisket cavatappi” with basil pesto, roasted garlic, and grana padano. The sauce was more like a salsa, summer fresh with its raw ingredients: cherry tomatoes and sprouts. And with the noodles, it felt like a pasta salad. I liked how light and refined this take tasted. It was more tomato than beef brisket though. Not that I needed any in the first place. But what I could use more of were the Parmesan cheese chips, the cheesy shards added some crunch and interest.

With it we enjoyed the Adega malbec, a wine so smooth that it blended in well with the light pasta.

Whereas we had a nice white Lock & Worth Sauvignon Blanc with our chicken sandwich below. The clean white gave the sandwich some a tang, it offered itself as a nice palate cleanser in between bites.

The “Golden chicken sandwich” with panko crusted white chicken breast meat, iceberg lettuce, pickle, bay leaf, and hot sauce. The chicken patty is amazing. And it is not just one breast, but two overlapping pieces of breaded chicken go into this. Lean and juicy on a fluffy butter bun, with luscious mayo and crisp lettuce for freshness. The nice thin fries compliment the sentiment.

Dessert was offered with a beverage pairing of coffee, but it was a little too late for some. “Cherry cheesecake” in a jar with vanilla, brown butter, and a crushed tim tams crust. This is if cheese cake were a mousse, slightly chilled and foam-like. The cookie crunch offered a good base, the chocolate shards a good chew. The cherry gel was a nice surprise, along with the one maraschino cherry hidden within.

The “Dark chocolate praline bar” was a more dense dessert. It was hard to cut through and most of it shattered across the table. I should have just picked it up and ate it with my hands. There were plenty of bits to chew through and even more nuts to get stuck in your teeth. It tasted like a crumbly peanut butter bar, but more buttery. Given how sweet and decadent it is, I am glad that they made the serving smaller for this Dine Out service. I can’t imagine anyone finishing a whole version of this, which is double the side of it in my photo.

In short the “New Oxford” makes for a great place to take advantage of a $25, limited time only Dine Out menu. The taste and service will surprise you. Great comfort plates that both look good and satisfies, served by staff who are friendly and attentive. Gone are my preconceived notions of them as being nothing more than a rowdy bar.

 

OXFORD TAVERN
1144 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2G2
604-609-0901
donnellygroup.ca/new-oxford
The New Oxford Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Minami, revisit while on the Keto Diet

It has been a while since I visited “Minami”. I enjoy the food, but don’t always feel like I am getting the most out of my meals with them. Considering the money I spend, and the smaller portion sizes I receive. Although always delicious and fresh, I often leave wanting more for cheaper, else where.

But today I was dining with @MaryinVancity, who has started and is adhering to a ketogenic diet. The “Keto diet” is a low-carb, high-fat diet, in which she has already seen some success in. “It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis”, (according to Wikipedia). So today, Japanese cuisine offered a menu with many dishes she could enjoy or easily modify to be without carbs.

But before we get into it, for my first visit to “Minami” and my thoughts on the vibe and the decor, visit the link below.

Minami

Mary was able to enjoy the kale salad and salmon sashimi, still meeting her diet’s requirements.

Instead of the traditional spinach version, “Minami” offers the Yaletown crowd a familiar kale twist. Though the “Kale goma-ae” is seasoned in sesame soy, just as the spinach would have been. The leaves of the kale offers a nice crisp texture that holds up. I typically avoid the regular version for its wilted greens, so being able to chew through the firm kale now was nice. This was easy to eat and tasty in its sauces.

The “Salmon sashimi” was beautifully plated and incredibly fresh. No complaints.

We also shared the “Aburi beef carpaccio”. AAA sterling silver short rib, 63 degree sous vide egg, shaved grana padano, wasabi creme fraiche, caper crisps, organic baby greens, and a wasabi chimichurri ponzu. We were advised to break the yolk and mix the lot together. The outcome, thin cuts of meat made gummy by the saucy egg. This was a nice contrast to the fresh sprigs of green and the firm and salty shards of cheese. An amazing plate for $22.

Thanks to Mary, I learned about the keto diet, what you can and can’t eat, and how so many have found success in losing weight with it. However I don’t think I could give up carbs, they are the foundation of what I like about eating. Like sushi with its chewy rice so I had to order myself some below.

Working on the assumption that dinner wouldn’t be more than $30 I rounded out my meal with the “Champagne roll”. A sushi roll Mary could only try one of, as the rice that coated the sushi roll is a carb. A Hokkaido scallop, sockeye salmon and cucumber roll, coated in golden tobiko. The latter gives it its name in colour and the fact that eating these tiny fish eggs gives this roll a popping sensation. Pops like those from a bottle of champagne with its fizzy bubbles, and they lingered well after. I continue to find bits of tobiko in my teeth and on my tongue, and continue to bit down and pop them all in relish. The roll was prepared and served sans soy, flavoured intentionally for a salty and sweet combination. It was a lighter roll, allowing you to make out the natural flavour of the shellfish and fresh fish. Tasty but at $18 a little much for every day dining.

 

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.
This continues to be a Yaletown hot spot. A great place for small plates and light banter. I advise visiting with a group, to be able to try everything and afford it. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MINAMI
1118 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2T9
604-685-8080
minamirestaurant.com
Minami Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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