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Month: September 2019 Page 1 of 3

Anar Persian Cuisine

Today I was in Steveston in the afternoon. A walk around this city within the city, had me realizing how many different food options are available here. Not just the Instagram famous ones, or the ones that make it into television shows. But a wide array of cuisines, including the only Greek restaurant left in all of Richmond, “Kisamos”.

Although today we would be trying one of the newest restaurants to call Steveston home. A restaurant so new that they are still waiting on a permit to be able to showcase their entire food menu, which includes kabobs. They are the only ones in the area offering authentic Persian cuisine. But are already a familiar face in Richmond, once residing within “President’s Plaza”. Their new location only has them open between 12-5pm, so be sure to come for an earlier dinner or regular lunch. (Although, I am told that majority of the businesses in Steveston does close at 5pm).

Located in what use to be Steveston’s old court house, this refurbished building has been a part of history since 1925. Inside, the restaurant is pretty modern. Dark furniture over a black and white checkered floor. A few scenic photos on the wall, a shelf of books, and a laser cut room separator with matching art pieces. All in all it didn’t really have a theme, just more a collection of items to fill up the space; including the novelty salt and pepper shakers on each table. We were the first group of people to come in for lunch, a little after 12pm on a Wednesday. A few more came behind us.

The menu had dishes listed in their traditional names, with descriptions of what you can expect from them in English, underneath. Once again, this was only half of their intended menu, the full one will be available at the beginning of November. Without much experience or photos to reference, we relied on the lone employee who looked after the front of house. She listed all of their popular items, and we went with all her suggestions.

We started with their “Ab anar lemonade” with chia seeds. It wasn’t what we anticipated from a lemonade. It was sweeter than expected and rose water focused. It served as a great palate cleaner with our meal to come. Refreshing after all the other heavier flavours. I especially liked the texture the chia seeds offered: a fun chew.

We followed it with bread and two dips. Hummus made from chickpeas, garlic, fresh lemon juice, tahnini (sesame seed), and paprika. A solid rendition, great with the basket of warm dimpled bread sprinkled with sesame seeds.

The airy and foamy bread also made the perfect base for the “Kask o bademjoon”, grilled eggplant and whey, seasoned with turmeric and mixed mints; topped with caramelized onion. The fried onions were so fragrant, they added a nice crunch to the creamy yet chunky paste.

For our entree we shared the “Baqhali polow”. Braised lamb shank with dill, and fava bean steamed saffron basmati rice. The lamb and all the meat they use is certified halal, so tender it easily sloughed off the bone. Full of flavour, but a little too salty for me, luckily the rice was the perfect base. The beans added a different texture from the firm and long basmati kernels. And the side salad offered a crispy and tangy break. All in all a wonderfully done dish I would recommend.

With all that garlic in the 3 dishes above, the saffron rose water pistachio ice cream was the perfect way to clean our mouths and end our meal. This was a lighter treat with the floral essence of rose dominating. It reminded me of Turkish delight. The chunks of pistachio sprinkled over top and embedded within the ice cream offered some great crunch.

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 great offering to the Steveston community. Something different and something delicious. Don’t deny your cravings.

ANAR
12051 Third Ave, Richmond, BC V7E 3T1
(778) 834-1707
anargrill.com

Chef Tony dim sum

Everyone is always surprised to learn that I have never tried “Chef Tony’s” before, so what better chance than today. I was meeting up with two writers from out of the country. For one it was her first time in BC, for the other she is a frequent traveller from Seattle to Vancouver; and whenever she is in town and looking for dim sum, her go-to is “Chef Tony’s”.

Located in a plaza, the restaurant is easy to spot from the road, with plenty of free parking available by adjacent businesses. The exterior is pretty non-descript. But once inside, the bombardment of accoutrements has your head on a swivel.

By the door is a waiting area, made cramped by honey comb shelves showcasing plum wines and ceramic figurines. Wooden furnishings un-sat and a collection of celebratory photos of Chef Tony and his many famous clients.

In the dining area, glittering crystal adorned chandeliers hang above tables. Their rainbow shimmer reflects off the lacquered panels covering the walls and wrapping around the bar. Out of place were the segment of red that were peppered across; and the lone pillar that glowed blue with silver cross striping surrounding it. It all had the hallmarks of a night club or lounge, but for dressed up dim sum and small plates. Although the familiar patterned carpet and white cloth tables at majority of other Chinese restaurants, were also present. Made a little dressier with chopstick holders and spill proof spouts on their tea pots.

Mid day on a Tuesday it was packed, so our reservations came in handy. And these were reservations that actually held the table and allowed to be seated at the time requested. Not just your name on a list, and when you arrive you are the next in queue.

Each seated table is given a menu. A list with colourful photos with descriptions in both Chinese and English. Using it as a guide, you tick off what you want to order from the check box sheet. This latter is Chinese only, but with a bit of detective work, using the item’s numbers as reference, you can navigate the check boxes fine enough. The items we ordered were recommendations by Tourism Richmond, and what my guests found appealing based on experience and visuals. Tried and true staples, and fan favourites when dining with Chef Tony. The restaurant prides themselves on using high-quality ingredients for their dim sum items, with a focus on quality over quantity/size.

The “Black truffle pork and shrimp dumplings” is one of their hallmarks. They are smaller in size compared to most interpretations, but you also 5 instead of the typical 4. Their size is so that you can easily pop one into your mouth, whole. “Chef Tony” is one of the first Cantonese restaurants to use truffle in their siu mai. There was no missing the distinct truffle flavour in this little bundle. A fresh and delicious meaty bite with the smokiness of truffle to put a new twist on this staple.

Similarly, their har gao takes a tangent from all the others. “Shrimp matsutake dumplings”. They are the the only dim sum restaurants to use matsutake mushrooms in their har gow. The rich earthiness of the mushrooms changes the flavour with subtleties.

Not your typical dim sum fare, but an interesting dish just the same is the half order of “Marinated chicken trimmed with black truffle flakes”. A familiar taste in the cold, yellow chicken; but given a twist with the black truffle. A unique flavour that I found myself wanting to repeat, as you almost forget what it is like and need to remind yourself with another piece. I am not a fan of the greens, but was able to pick past them and enjoy the oily, cold, and tangy chicken. A unique sensation on its own, now elevated with the almost briney truffle flavour.

I enjoyed the classic “Baked BBQ pork buns”. Perfectly rounded dough baked to perfection and glazed with honey for an extra touch of sweetness. With it and the sweet bbq pork filling this ate more like a dessert. I could have used more filling and larger chunks of meats.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the “Steamed egg sponge cake”, this one came highly recommend and I can see why. Best served warm and fresh, an eggy and delicious sponge that is fun on the tongue. A neutral cake that kept you going back for chunk after chunk. I could eat a full serving by myself.

The “Coconut jelly dessert” is definitely one you order for novelty. They are so cute shaped like rabbits, but I wish the serving was a given a little more finesse in its presentation. As for flavour it tasted more like tangy yogurt than coconut fruit. I didn’t like it on its own and wanted some condensed milk drizzle or simple syrup to sweeten up the serving.

“Pan fried taro and preserved pork cake” I liked the flavour, but not the texture from the large chunks of taro. Not my favourite rendition.

The “Diced pork, chive and Chinese donut rice noodles” was a good one. I was surprised and delighted by the nice crispy texture of the fried Chinese doughnut. But wanted more depth from the dipping sauce. Either some sweetness from pork floss or the typical peanut butter, for a good mix of salty and sweet.

The “pan-fried diced pork pandan bun in casserole” came to the table smelling amazing; with sizzling onion against a hot cast iron dish, caramelizing. They looked good but lacked flavour. I didn’t get any pandan from the green bun, and wanted more filling to enjoy with it. If you like pandan, you will be disappointed with this one.

My guests fully enjoyed the “Baked durian paste pastry”. They liked the flaky pastry that crumbled under their bite. I found it chalky and the durian in it too fibrous. I also didn’t get the durian flavour I wanted from this, it was cooked, whereas I wanted fresh melt in your mouth durian. If you like durian, you may be disappointed by this one too.

The “Black squid ink salted egg yolk buns” is an item worth waiting for; and we did wait for it, literally. They forgot our original order and when we inquired about it, they forgot to look into that. Though we did eventually did get our buns steamed to order. The colour is striking, a deep black with a splash of gold. Inside a liquid filling that pools in the bun like water does in a cup. Be warned it is hot and we did burn our tongues with its custard core.

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.
I can see all the hype. They offered creative updates to your dim sum favourites, and utilized elevated ingredients to dress up your meal. Definitely worth checking out and one worth visiting for those who love a dressier dim sum and truffle. Lots of truffle items available. Don’t deny your cravings.

CHEF TONY
101 – 4600 No. 3 Road, Richmond BC
(604) 279-0083
cheftonycanada.com

Interior Design Show 2019

2019 marks the 15th year of the Interior Design Show (IDS) in Vancouver. A trade show known for “Igniting innovation & celebrating design tradition”. It hosts and welcomes “individual designers, artists, makers and design-centric brands who have come together to showcase their current works, concepts and products”.

As my first visit and first time, I simply thought this was a trade show with vendors hawking carpet by the foot, light installations, and/or wallpaper. But this show is so much more than just a live-action catalogue, more than a space where you can shop for your next renovation or home project. There is plenty to see and do, and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves art and an interactive experience.

2019’s theme is “Design DNA”. “DNA is the building blocks of who we are, our identity. For IDS Vancouver 2019, each component, each varied shape represents a designer, concept, product, idea, moment, or experience – a piece of the overall DNA. Beyond the look and feel, the theme will be explored and interpreted in all facets of the show, including their onsite and offsite programming, special features and show floor activations.”

And “In addition to experiencing installations and features, there will also be opportunities to hear from some of the design world’s most notable and talented personalities and connect with a long list of world-class designers that either call Vancouver home, or call on Vancouver for inspiration.”

IDS is running this weekend from September 26-29 with additional parties and studios highlighting the design show at various locations. For more information on that visit the link below. https://vancouver.interiordesignshow.com/en/home.html

In this blog, I will only be covering exhibitors at the actual showcase, held at the Convention centre. A few of the highlights that were brought to our attention during the media preview, and a few of the displays that caught my eye as we explored the exhibition hall, as they were still setting up.

Right at the entrance is “A sense of place”. An feature brought to you by Benjamin Moore and a London based multidisciplinary artist. Emily Forgot looked at Canadian architecture when she combined shapes and colour palettes. You may recognize what was referenced, but it is all pretty abstract. Like the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and the Museum of Anthropology. All 14 of these original custom pieces are for sale, with 50% of those sales going to “out of schools”. “Out of schools” is “BC’s award-winning education program that uses film and video with facilitated group discussion to engage students on issues of homophobia, transphobia and bullying”.

At the “Edible Futures” section you take an audio tour through a “what if” world. Artists envision what our food sources would be like between now and the far future, and go into detail on how we get to that place. It presents multiple perspectives on global food security issues like climate change, declining fresh water supply, loss of biodiversity, food waste, and the gap between producers and consumers.

Seaweed as a meat substitutes and dumplings filled with weeds and wild flowers. This travelling exhibition curated by the Dutch Institute of Food and Design and presented by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, will have you going “hmmmm” over your next meal.

LA based retailer “Poketo” will have a pop-up this weekend. They are best known for their exhibitions and workshops that foster their local creative community. Hear from their founders and shop a selection of their design-conscious goods.

“Seeds” is a sea of sented ribbon to wade through. Dutch eating designer Marjie Vogelzang. It tells a story from seed to bread, where the kitchen’s functions are broken down to reveal the ways that the preparation and sharing food drives human connection.

One I am excited about, that wasn’t at its full construction was “The Bistro and Wine Bar” presented by Kim Crawford. A sampling bar that takes guest through five distinct varietals in a visual setting reflective of its aroma and taste.

The “VIP Lounge” is designed by “LIV”, an award winning design studio that incorporates all aspects of design into their practice, including branding, animation, illustration, and CG artistry. This resting place has curated furnishings and accents to help create and “regal and relaxing” VIP experience.

“Prototype” is a curated showcase of the next generation of designers. It features products and objects not currently in production. You as an attendee can vote for your favourite and between these votes and a panel of judges, the winning design gets its own feature at Studio North.

The “Restock Central Bar” highlights the waste from the residential construction industry. Its goal is to bring awareness to the message of salvaging and reusing to help build a more non-toxic future. This space has been created with 80-84% recycled material, 15% has been salvaged, and only 5-1% will go to the landfill. It has been erected with no cutting and no drilling, but instead, connecting materials with clips or straps so that it is intact for future use. “Restock” was designed by “measured architecture”, and built by “powers construction” with salvage materials by “unbuiler”.

Here are some additional visuals that caught my eye.

In short there is plenty to see and do at this unique trade show. Treat yours eyes and your senses at the Interior Design Show from the September 26-29th, at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Jimmy Choo high tea

When I saw the advert for this online, I jumped at the chance to attend what sounded like such a bougie high tea experience. At my current income bracket I could not hope to own a pair of Jimmy Choo’s shoes, so this would be my way of getting close to that lifestyle. However, things were not as expected, and I would continue to feel luxury at arm’s length this afternoon.

The event advertised a Jimmy Choo themed high tea tower, a look at their new fall collection, and a free gift. And it was the latter that sealed the deal for me and had me reaching for my wallet. I was most excited about the promise of a free gift. Not only would it be a great keepsake, but it would make the whole $150 ticket price worth it. I was expecting a key chain or a sample size of their fragrance to take home. Instead, everyone got a gift card, in a box, placed on their setting. It was a $100 gift card to put towards today’s pop up shop. Sadly, majority of the diners already splurged on this, and were not planing on spending more on a handbag at $1500 or a pair of pumps at $2100. So as it was the case with me, many gift card went unused. Left in the box to expire in less than a month’s time. The gift card had many stipulations. You could not combine gift cards, one per transaction; nor could you use them towards a fragrance. And there are no Jimmy Choo stores in Vancouver so you only had a limited time to redeem the card. A month, which is the time the pop up shutters down.

So already this event was off to a bad start in my books. And from here I was extra critical, trying to find value in what I had spent, yet coming out empty handed. For the visual blow by blow, and all the emotions, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

This high tea service, like all others at Fairmont Vancouver is held on the 15th floor, which is their roof. It is a lovely building with an amazing view, but the interior here is outdated, and nothing was done to mark the exclusivity of the occasion. You can enjoy tea here anytime with out a ticket, so I was wanted more bells and whistles for the commitment and price.

The only thing different, that was set up for the occasion was the showcase of Jimmy Choo shoes and small bags. Had I known this was targeted more as a shopping experience rather than high tea, I wouldn’t have bothered purchasing my ticket. And here I thought this was catered to us regular folk, a taste of the food life through finger sandwiches, scones, and sweets. Needless to say, I browsed the displays, lusted after the shoes, then simply walked away.

From here I continued to be disappointed in our food and drink offerings. You were able to choose your tea options from a list of 7. The menu listed them as “Lot 35 teas”, a brand I am familiar with, and one that I enjoy the prestige and quality of. One that I also felt would have matched well the feel of the space.

However what we actually got was tea by “David’s Tea”, as shown by the tags from the bags. It wasn’t bad per se, but it wasn’t what was advertised, and it felt a little too everyday for the upscale dining experience I bought in to.

We did each get a welcome glass of sparkling wine. This was not Moët, despite the menu listing Moët as the only option, at $30 a glass, if you wanted another. Yet another mar on the experience.

The actual tea tower was a pretty display. But besides a few of the desserts, it didn’t read any different or all that luxurious, or specifically like Jimmy Choo. I wanted more embellishments from each individual item, and a tray that was decorated and/or branded accordingly. I would valuable this at $50-60 for this. So I pretty much paid the remaining $90-100 for the gift card I will not be using. Nonetheless, the following is in the order of which we had them.

“Smoked salmon salad” with crème fraîche, salmon roe, and profiterole. Shredded fibrous salmon stuffed into a chewy pastry shell. The salmon roe was the highlight with its juicy pops.

The “Heirloom tomato” finger sandwich was visually appealing. Neufchâtel and balsamic pearls on whole wheat. The flavour came from the vinegary pearls, you had to place them strategically in order to get its tangy flavour with the other wise bland tomato sandwich. Some salt and pepper to taste would have been nice as well.

The “Traditional egg salad” came topped with thin slices of cucumber. It offered freshness and crunch to the otherwise pasty sandwich. The menu lists watermelon radish and brioche; I only got a sliver of the former as a garnish, and was missing brioche all together. As for the egg salad mixture it was chalky and light on mayo. Whereas I want tangy and maybe a little pickling from it.

The “Coronation Chicken” was my favourite of all the sandwiches. It had the most flavour with mango chutney, chilli, pickled walnut, and Pullman. The pickled walnut on top was interesting, it didn’t taste like a nut, and it wasn’t briny like a pickle. It was soggy and ate more like mushroom in its heartiness. The chicken spread was a tad spicy, and there was no sign of mango or its sweetness present.

I liked the look of the “Autumn harvest pea hummus” with prosciutto and ciabatta, but not its texture. And I didn’t find the ham and the hummus all that complimentary. The hummus was a pea forward grainy mush. The saltiness of the prosciutto hidden behind this flavour. The tangy goat cheese helped to pull it together, and the peppery pea shoots I found too much.

My guest doesn’t eat pork, so they substituted the prosciutto option above with beats and cream in another profiterole.

We each got two scones. One buttermilk raisin and one apricot. Served with orange marmalade, strawberry preserves, and clotted cream. The scones were perfect, exactly as I expected with plenty of spreads to give me the flavour I wanted.

For dessert, the two tone pink stiletto “Vanilla sugar cookie” was fun. Not too sweet, a great treat.

The “Macarons” were disappointing. They weren’t fresh. The shells were hard and crumbly and the cream, cakey. They were at least pretty in gold. Gold dusted caramelia cremeux and gold leaf topped elderflower cream. Neither were too sweet. Missing caramel, but got chocolate from the former. The latter was more floral.

The “Chocolate tart” was an explosion of chocolate, featuring a chocolate crust, a chocolate malt ball, a solid chocolate calling card, and plenty of creamy chocolate mousse. The Jimmy Choo logo was a nice tie in.

The “Orange pound cake” was a playful interpretation of one of the available to purchase Jimmy Choo handbags. The shade of pink was off, but the uniquely shaped crystal clasp was a pretty good match. I found the fondant too sweet, but the cake within, pleasant. Hints of orange from a nice sponge.

The most impressive of the lot was the “Lavender scented panna cotta”. All the balls and circles elevate this, adding juicy pops of jelly chews, along side the creamy panna cotta. The floral lavender notes paired well with the cassis brittle gel and passion fruit pearls. But it did get a little like eating perfume, towards the end.

The service was at least fantastic. Our server was attentive. He checked in on us and kept offering to take photos of us. And when we looked like we had, had our fill, he offered to pack it all up to go.

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.
I expected a dip into luxury with this, and instead felt more on the outside looking in then ever. This was not for the every day person wanting to splurge, but a shopping experience for those who wouldn’t bat an eye at dropping $150 for a ticket to tea, and 2 more for each of their young daughters. Lesson learned, I will be staying away from ticketed high tea experiences for a while. Don’t deny your cravings.

FAIRMONT VANCOUVER
900 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC
(604) 684-3131
fairmont.com/hotel-vancouver

$4 happy hour specials at Match Eatery

It was a rainy day, and we spent it at home, sleeping the weather away. And now after 9pm we rolled out of bed in search for some dinner. We decided to take advantage of the timing and head down to “Match Eatery”. Located at “Starlight Casino” in New Westminster, they have a pretty decent happy hour menu. The same food and drink specials you get during 3-6pm, are also available from 9pm to close. A tidbit I learned from another recent visit. In fact, a few photos in this post are from that visit, with better light.

The bar was busier this Saturday night, with all its televisions and surround sound systems dedicated to a live broadcast of boxing. There was a television screen no matter where you looked, and the booming announcer’s voice was hard to avoid. You couldn’t miss the literal blow by blow. The tense energy from the heated match helped to set a more lively vibe.

We were taken on a trek, past the lengthy island bar that lit the way, and given one of the many spacious booths that lined the open room. A comfy round all the way towards the back, by the largest television screen. I liked it and all the other available booths, the more comfortable seating made you want to linger in the space for longer. Feeling more relaxed and therefore eating and drinking more.

Please excuse the quality of my photos. I took them in the dark of the room, as I didn’t want to distract from the match, or the overall late night ambiance, with a bright light.

We basically ordered one of everything off the happy hour menu, minus the pretzel with warm cheese dip and mustard. All food items are $4, available for you to order one at a time. This, instead of 3 to a set like they have on the regular menu. Even as a slider this was a lot for $4. The “Meet me at the hop” is a 100% fresh Canadian beef car hop burger, with American cheese, house mayo, and iceberg lettuce; all between a brioche bun. Each slider is served with a handful of house made old bay kettle chips. The chips were perfection, served in large slices, just the way I like them. You bite through each lightly salted crisp, enjoying the texture just as much as you do it’s flavour. As for the burger it reminded me of a whopper with its sauce, minus the tomato and replacing it with a strong and melty American cheese instead. A solid four biter, no complains.

But between the two slider options, I would recommend the chicken. But at this price, just get one of each. This is the “Crank up your honky tonk” Southern fried chicken sandwich topped with their secret sauce, ice berg lettuce, and sweet pickles; between the same sweet brioche bun as above. This too is served with house made, old bay kettle chips. I would recommend ordering either just for the chips. The chicken burger tasted as impressive as it looked. Plenty of crispy batter on a substantial amount of chicken to crunch though. It was good quality white meat, tangy slaw, and creamy heat. Delicious, exactly what I expected from a fried chicken sandwich.

The menu reminded us that “Life’s short, eat more tacos” so we obliged by trying one of each available on the happy hour menu. The “Mole chicken” is a food truck style taco prepared with fresh slaw, pico de Gallo, chipotle cream, and mexi-fries. This was a familiar flavour with zesty heat and runny dressing. A little too spicy for my partner, but with enough slaw it does balance things out with its freshness.

Between the two tacos I preferred the “Crispy fish” one. This too was a food truck style taco with fresh slaw, but chilli cream and fruit salsa, over the crispy fried white fish, and side of crispy mexi-fries. The mexi fries were pretty bland, a dip in ketchup is how I preferred them. The fish had a nice crunch, it had just as much flavourful seasoning as the chicken above, but less liquid running down your mouth with every bite. I liked the surprise sweetness and tropical feel from the mango chunks. They also have helped to dull the heat of the chilli cream. Glad I liked it, as we got two. Our server accidentally brought us the wrong order, and seeing as he can’t take it back once it hits the table, he let us have it for free.

The menu was cleverly crafted. Each item came with a side of potato, other than fries. Therefore if you are craving some, like my partner was, the only way to get it is to spend another $4 for their “Dirty fries”. These are hand cut fries tossed in Cajun butter, topped with chip dip, Parmesan cheese, hot sauce, and crispy bacon. These was so much going on with this that you didn’t need ketchup. Each shoestring fry different, with the above dusted over it in various combinations. Great with beer given how salty it was with the parm.

To drink my partner had a 16oz craft draft for $5. He had a choice between IPA, pale ale, and amber ale. He went pale with “Steamworks”. I went with the 1/2 price wine. Any size any selection of wine went for 50% off. Pictured is the Shiraz Cabernet by “Saint and Sinner” from Canada. A nice rich red that paired well with all our salted and fried, heavier tapas.

Fearing it wouldn’t be enough food, my partner also ordered the “Italian sausage rigatoni” from off of the regular menu. Rigatoni in a house made tomato sauce with roasted Italian sausage and whole cherry tomatoes. Topped with a dollop of Boursin cheese and shaved Parmesan, and served with a triangle of garlic loaf. The pasta was a comforting portion. Like everything else this too was not bland. Plenty of zesty sausage, juicy tomatoes, tangy sauce, and herbaceous salted cheese to keep you curating your bites. My only critique would be, smaller pieces of the above. Sausage shreds and tomato halves to better enjoy with the pasta. You want the ingredients smaller than the large noodle tubes. And there was pretty much a 1:1 ratio between sliced up meat balls and the chewy pasta noodle.

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.
Everything was a lot better than a thought it would be, for a late night menu. Great staples, all at amazing prices. You get so much value, that I would absolutely recommend their happy hour, and come back for more myself. This serves as really great sobering up food, ideal with heavy drinking and a late night vibe. Don’t deny your cravings.

MATCH
350 Gifford St., New Westminster, BC, V3M 7A3
(604) 777-8008
matchpub.com

Starlight Casino

Today we were gathered at New Westminster’s “Starlight Casino”. Here, to get a more intimate look at this entertainment property. From two of its anchor restaurants to a game of baccarat in their salon room.

For the visual version, check out my latest vlog video, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Our night began at “Kirin” for some fine Chinese cuisine. A whole suckling pig, lobster, and traditional dim sum desserts, to name a few. For more detail on what we ate, click the link below.

Kirin Banquet

 

As we nibbled we were also given a show by “Shang Noodle House” (also located within “Starlight”). They had their national noodle pulling champion from China, putting on a demonstration for us. She won the title 10 years ago, before she came to work with them here. From a ball of dough she pulled and stretched the round, repeating the motions again and again until she had noodle threads so thin and so soft.

We were then given a chance to touch it and hold it for ourselves. Although I wished there was time of us to try the pulling motion for ourselves, as well.

The final product was then deep fried for everyone to try. Crispy and crumbly, it melted in your mouth and tasted like corn flakes.

After dinner number one, we moved the party to the “Match Eatery” and pub, next door. We were given a tour of all their party rooms before finding ourselves in their “Bud room” with our own bar, pool table, and television screens. For the run down of “Match” and all that they have to offer as the place to party in New Westminster, visit the dedicated blog post below.

Match Eatery, Starlight Casino

From there it was a quick stop at the casino’s “Red Bar”. A bar and club of sorts. Every night, after 9pm its doors open and the party energy within spills on the actual casino floor. Here they have non-ticketed live bands playing every Friday and Saturday. Rotating musicians playing until 1pm and a live DJ taking over until they close at 2pm.

To immerse ourselves in the space further we enjoyed a “French 75”. A classic cocktail with gin, lemon juice, and sparkling wine.

With drink in hand we then rounded out the night playing baccarat, which all of us have never done so before. We were treated to a two round tournament in one of “Starlight’s “ prestigious salons. It is only open by special request with $25,000 buy-in to start and a $500 minimum to play. For those who request the salon, you are treated to your own concierge, they help with any requests you may have, and serve sparkling wine to help celebrate a win, or drown your sorrows in liquor.

The following are instructions on how to play baccarat, from what I retained. Naturally, there are a lot more nuisances to the game, but this is all I needed to get me through the first few rounds, where I started hot and fizzled out quick once my luck turned.

Each round is 20 hands. The goal of each hand is to get to 9. Aces are worth 1, face cards and 10s are 0. For example if you get a king and a 5, your total is 5 and another card is pulled trying to get to 9. The banker doesn’t draw on 7 or more, and the player will always draw on 5 or less. Either can only have up to 3 cards. You don’t actually hold any of the cards, the dealer places everything before them. A hand for the banker and one for the player. Your goal is to place your bet on whether you think the banker or the player would win. We were each given $2500 in chips to play with and one by one we busted. The last one standing won a gift card.

Thus, our night ended in us learning a whole lot more about the casino as a whole: sampling all the food options, checking out the entertainment possibilities, and trying our hand at the games. And yet there is still so much more we didn’t get to see and do. Definitely a great place for your next night out. And for those looking to go all out, they have shuttle service from the skytrain to the casino and back again, so you can leave your car and worries at home.

STARLIGHT CASINO
350 Gifford St., New Westminster, BC, V3M 7A3
(604) 777-8008
matchpub.com

Match Eatery, Starlight Casino

“Match Eatery” is party central in New Westminster, and we got a full look at all they have to offer. Not only do they boast a large island bar and plenty of booth seats, ideal for any game or match viewing; but they also have 5 different private rooms to cater to any occasion or clientele. We would visit them all, before hosting our own party in the “Bud room”.

The first room was more like a whole private restaurant. A full bar, several tables, and private washrooms; giving guests the ability to rent out a whole restaurant for themselves and 100 of their best friends. But more realistically, the ideal venue for a work function.

The “Lounge” got its name, given the ability for guests here to watch any game in comfort. Individual couches set up facing the ceiling to wall television screen, much like a theatre. For additional fun is a giant jenga and giant connect four that you can play with as well.

My favourite room was the “Smirnoff” room, named for its pronounced branding. This was a sealed off room, and with the door closed: sound proof. Here, you can have your own DJ and convert a part of the room into a dance floor. Reserving it is pretty much like renting out your own club with private bar and washroom. Given, the upscale appeal of the place, they have a specific menu to match. Not just bar snacks and finger foods like what we had below, but canapés like bocconcini and tomato skewers, instead.

Tonight we were in the “Bud room”, similar to the room above in that it was branded with everything “Budweiser”. A Budweiser bar with bottles on display and a dedicated bartender, their logo on the pool table, and Budweiser beers in Budweiser buckets at every table. This is the ideal room for a smaller party, and the most popular one to reserve. Great for a gathering with two television screens to catch any match on.

The following is what we had: a great sampling of their regular and happy hour menu, each with a whimsical name. “Ain’t no thing like a chicken wing”. Classic deep fried pub-style wings, dry rubbed in salt and pepper. But also available in hot, xo sauce, bbq, and honey garlic. Served with celery sticks & ranch dip.

The “Nacho average nachos” was a grandiose platter with a mound of chips topped with jack cheese, cheddar, their house-made cheese sauce, jalapeños, black olives, and green onions. Served with an edible bowl of salsa, sour cream, and house-made guacamole. This was the vegetarian version, but for $4 more you can add taco beef or mole chicken to your order. Even without it, this was a hearty serving, plenty of layers and lots of dip to keep you going back for chip after chip.

“No Bib Dry Ribs”, named for the promise that you will keep your shirt clean with their salt and pepper dusted pork ribs. It was a little on the dry side, as intended, but it left me wanting a tangy or creamy dip to give it some moisture and flavour.

“Squid pro quo” was heavy breaded calamari, fried jalapeños, red pepper, and diced red onion; all served with tzatziki for dipping. A solid order, but I could have personally used less breading and more chewy squid.

I liked the gummy sweet chilli sauce on the “Shanghai Express” crispy chicken bites. And the black and white sesame seeds and deep fried noodles offered some crunch. An easy to like and share appetizer.

“You had me at Pepperoni”, a double pepperoni pizza with roasted garlic, pepperoncini peppers, and cheese on a honey-sesame crust. The crust was the best part, it ate like bread sticks. It and the hot peppers adding a new dimension to the classic pepperoni pizza

“Mamma Mia- Did Someone day margherita?” “Match’s” version of the classic with roasted tomatoes, bocconcini, and pesto was a little saltier; and had a lot more flavour than a regular margherita pizza, thanks to the zesty pesto. This one is Vegetarian friendly.

The “Bbq chicken pizza” was mole chicken, bbq sauce, pickled red onion, cilantro, mozzarella, and cojita cheese. Classic sweet and spicy bbq sauce paired with tangy onion and plenty of cheese.

We also had a few happy hour food specials, that I didn’t get to try tonight. But having heard that they were all $4 each, I came back shortly after, to try the extent of that menu myself. For that review, come back for tomorrow’s post.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I would definitely recommend their happy hour specials to any one who loves a good deal, and the property in general if you are looking for a lively spot to watch a game at or have a great evening within. The party definitely starts here. Don’t deny your cravings.

MATCH
350 Gifford St., New Westminster, BC, V3M 7A3
(604) 777-8008
matchpub.com

Kirin Banquet

We were gathered at “Kirin” in New Westminster for a more intimate look at the popular fine dining Chinese restaurant; as well as the whole Starlight Casino property it is a part of. (For the full review of that, visit the link below.)

Our evening began in one of Kirin’s private rooms, towards in the back. Vaulted ceilings with large lanterns, that bathed the room in a glow. The light cast, matched the orange of the walls and the hue of the carpet underfoot.

We all took a seat at individual tables, with tea and orange juice for each. Then one by one our banquet feast came. With each share-style platter: we took photos, it was divided, portions were served, and we ate to try, (knowing there would be a second meal to follow).

The first course began with “Roasted whole suckling pig”. A whole baby pig filleted, with crackling skin. It was a show stopper with its blinking LED eyes. Here, we would not get any of the pork, but did enjoy the skin as the centre to a white bun canapé with cucumber, green onion, and a salty and sweet brown sauce. It was a delicious starter, but I couldn’t help but ache for some of the actual pork meat to go with it.

Next was another impressive looking platter. “Live lobster in puréed squash soup served with spinach noodle”. Two whole lobsters with plenty of meat. The crustaceans were naturally sweet, so you mostly tasted them, and none of the additional flavours from the squash. It could use some more seasoning, or at least at little more salt. Similarly, the spinach noodle that was underneath the lobster needed more flavour. It had a wonderful hue and a great texture with the squash paste coating it, it just wasn’t tasty enough for my preference.

Next, was one of their new dishes. “Prawn and pork wrapped in flat rice noodle topped with puréed truffle”. It was an interesting interpretation. It reminded me of dim sum with the pork and prawn bundled together. And also like fish maw soup with the texture of the gummy rice noodle wrap that surrounded both. The side of crisp broccoli florets offered a nice crunch. So all I was missing was the truffle. Because if the menu goes out of its way to mentioned truffle, you are looking for truffle.

Next was “sautéed beef tenderloin cube with black pepper and basil”. Yet another stunning presentation. Meaty chunks of beef and onion with cabbage at the centre of a fruit and vegetable heart. Thin slices of cucumber, tomato, and oranges arranged around the savoury like a heart. Tasty enough, but it would be nice to have the latter tie into the beef and onion more.

For dessert it was a collection of “Chef’s special dim sum dessert”. The room enjoyed the “Glazed deep fried dough delight with walnut and duck egg yolk”. Majority of the guests liked the fact that it melted in your mouth. I didn’t like the chalky finish and how powdery it was. It would have also been nice to have more nuts like the walnut to chew through and a lot more of the egg yolk flavour to savour.

The deep fried sesame seed ball had a lovely crispy and chewy shell. Served fresh, it had a steaming, thick glob of sweetened mung bean paste at its core.

My favourite of the desserts was the “Fruit mochi”. Chunks of cantaloupe and honey dew in coconut cream, surrounded by a wonderfully gummy shell.

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.
Best enjoyed with a large group, not necessarily somewhere I would come for quick and easy Chinese food. This was definitely a feast and for an occasion. Don’t deny your cravings.

KIRIN
Starlight Casino, 350 Gifford Street, New Westminster BC, V3M 7A3
604-528-8833
kirinrestaurants.com

Xing Fu Tang, Burnaby

This one has been a long time coming. I have tried to visit this Taiwanese import for a while now, but kept encountering lengthy lines at its original location. So with its second in Burnaby, in a less frequented area, with plenty of parking to boot; a visit is much more feasible.

Its all windowed exterior and bright interior lights make it a beacon in the night. Easy to spot driving by, where everything else is shuttered for the evening. There menu is televised above the counter and taped up on a pillar by the door. It is easy to read and make your choice by sight. 11 specialty drinks and your typical teas with the possibility to add in pearls.

My guest is already a frequent customer so knew what she was getting, the same thing she gets every time. Their trademark specialty drink, the one that they are most famous, and the one the menu highlighted with a larger photo of.

“Brown sugar pearl milk”. An additional level of decadence is added to your typical pearl milk tea. The tapioca pearls are mixed in with melted brown sugar. The latter has a sticky toffee-like consistency, adhering to the pearl and the cup; making it look “dirty” (another nick name used to describe this class of drink). This combining of pearl and brown sugar is done throughout the day, when they sell through of one batch. If you visit at the right time, you will be treated to the show of them making it, and the scent of a room sweetened by cooking sugars. A specialty wok is placed at the counter, set behind glass for a hygienic view point. Here is where the magic happens, and the pearls stay until they are scooped in to cups using a specialty curled metal spatula.

As for the drink itself: It is a scoop of these brown sugar extra sweeten pearls, milk, cocoa power, and a vanilla cream foam topping that is torched. You can smell its burnt caramel flavour just by holding it. But surprisingly it is not as sweet as you think it would be. Drinking it without stirring, it tastes like slightly chocolatey milk. But after a good mix, folding the foam into the milk and having its torched heat warm up the serving, it is pretty darn tasty. A sweetness that is great the first few sips, but wears on you after a few more. No complaints from my guest who admitted that this was her second one in as many days.

I preferred the “bunny jelly mango smoothie”, this was also recommend by the laminated colour menu. A larger photo to have the allure of a rabbit on your drink lure you in. It was impressive that they were able to make the drink thick enough to have the coconut jelly moulded bunny sit a top of the drink without sinking. This too was sweet, but better with the tartness of their mango and the blended ice that helped to thicken it. In this drink you don’t get the regular black pearls, these were called “pink pearls”. They were squishier and popped more than the regular pearls, but not as juicy as juice pearls. A nice in between with less chewing, and equal parts sweet and tart. But the rabbit was my favourite part, a dessert on its own. Tasty coconut jelly you can either try to break down and have with your drink, or coconut jelly you can fish out of your cup and eat as is. Two desserts in one.

Worth noting is that their cups feel smaller than the ones at other bubble tea places, but at the same time I don’t think you need anymore. They were filled to the brim, and then some with the spill proof lid in place.

And while you are waiting for your drink to be made to other, you can also get your fortune told. A Taiwanese tradition that has you picking a red tipped wooden stick out of a collection of 100. Each one is numbered. The number corresponds to a number on a little drawer, from the fixture adjacent. You open the drawer to retrieve your paper fortune. A sheet that you can take with you as a souvenir. Based on the ones my guest and I got, it feels very romantic and relationship driven.

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.
I am not a big fan of bubble tea and sweet things, but from what I tasted, and comparing it to others, I definitely like their brown sugar pearl drink the most (haven’t tried many to date). Worth trying if you haven’t already. They are on a different level with their bubble tea gastronomy. Don’t deny your cravings.

XING FU TANG
2675 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5R 5H4
(604) 423-3773
xingfutang.ca

Wang’s Shanghai Cuisine

My guest has been wanting to take me here for a while now. This is her favourite Chinese restaurant in the city. Delicious and authentic Shanghai cuisine at a fair price. Although she warned me that the service wouldn’t be great and that one regular server in particular comes across as rude (I identified her immediately). And I can tell you right off the bat, if the service doesn’t match the caliber of the food, it takes away from the taste of it.

Located in the “London Drugs” plaza on Kingsway, parking is easy to find, but hard to get into with tight stalls, narrow lanes, and inexperienced drivers. The restaurant is to the left of “London Drugs”, if you are facing it.

We came just in time to grab the last empty table, although the wait is short for the next one to free up. The food comes out quick and this isn’t the most enjoyable setting to linger in, so turn around is consistent. Closely placed tables so your meal doesn’t feel private, staff that stare you down as you eat, and the overall abrupt and rushed energy you feel from the staff as they hustle and bustle around you, with no time for pleasantries.

The menu is pretty straightforward for those familiar with the cuisine, but vague for any one visiting them for the first time. “Tofu puff with vermicelli soup” doesn’t tell me much about the flavour of the broth I am committing to a bowl of. Similarly, either does “Fried bean paste noodles” and “meat stew noodles in soup”. Lucky for us, my guest was well versed in their menu and ordered a few of her favourite go to’s. It was all heavy in carbs, and therefore all delicious.

Ironically we didn’t order any of their popular soup dumplings, especially considering there was a chef making them to order in a plexiglass box. A giant bowl of ground pork, lumps of dough, rolled out and stuff with machine-like precision.

“Wonton noodle soup” is not on the menu, but they make it for her each time by adding their boiled wontons to soup, then adding in noodles. Although when the dish came to our table, it was missing the noodles. And after a debate with the server, who blamed us for the miss in our order, we got a whole new bowl of broth with noodles. More noodles than we would have gotten otherwise. This was a delicious neutral clear broth, deep with flavour, but a little oily. I would be happy just drinking it, the noodles only added starch, and I wasn’t a fan of all the wilted greens in the dumplings.

I much more preferred the thicker, chewier texture of the “Shanghai style pan fried thick noodles”. I just wished there was more to the dish beside crunchy cabbage and shrivelled up pieces of pork. More depth, a greater feeling of eating a full dish and not just soy sauce noodles. But flavour wise, it was not overwhelming, and if I set myself to it, I would be able to finish it all in one sitting.

Next we had even more carbs in the “Pan fried pork bun”. I bit down, not realizing it was a soup filled bun. The juices squirted out, and I found myself slurping them up hastily. They made the centre of the bun soft and moist, a nice contrast to the crispy exterior. And the meaty centre acted as a sponge that soaked up all the flavour.

The “Beef roll” is worth repeating. This version used a lighter dough to wrap beef, cucumber, and plenty of sauce. Too much salty brown sauce for my tastes, lit bled out of either side and made the dough soggy. But the flavour was good and you can get past the above. .

To circle back to what I mentioned earlier, the service portion was lacking. Our server took our order without uttering a single word, and then reached around to grab the menu from us with no regard of personal space. Then we had to argue for the noodles with no apology, but instead, the accusation of us saying the wrong thing. This was followed by not being able to get the attention of someone for the bill. And having to go to the counter to pay; and given containers there, so that we could pack our own leftovers. We expected to have to pack up what we didn’t finish, ourselves. But it would have been nice for them to bring the styrofoam boxes and plastic bags to the table, instead of simply handing it to my paying guest, just cause she was up there.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Tasty food, I would go back to satisfy a craving, but I wouldn’t make them a destination. I also wouldn’t want to recommend them, less someone also gets bad service. Good Shanghai for me, and still the “Best Shanghai” in the city for my guest. Don’t deny your cravings.

WANG’S SHANGHAI CUISINE
110-3328 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5R 5L1
(604) 428-6818

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