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

Month: January 2020 Page 1 of 3

LEGO’s Towers of Tomorrow, Science World

Tonight I was invited to check out the opening of Science World’s latest exhibit: “Towers of Tomorrow” with LEGO® Bricks presented by Concert Properties and White Spot Restaurants”. This new feature gallery boasts 20 of the world’s most eye-raising skyscrapers from Canada, the United States, Australia, Asia and the United Arab Emirates. Each is constructed with breathtaking architectural detail and accuracy by Australia’s Ryan McNaught, the only certified LEGO® professional in the Southern Hemisphere.

Each tower is on a scale of 1:200, and a few include “Easter eggs”. A little tidbit we learned during the welcome announcements. These include LEGO brick trees in one tower, as it is in its real life counterpart. And the use of colour changing and reflective plastic to simulate the look glass; once again, much like the actual tower it is meant to mimic.

These LEGO® towers offer visitors a bird’s eye view, one that you might not otherwise be able to travel to, let alone see, in person. Their intricacy is just as impressive in model size. Surrounded by so much inspiration, LEGO fanciers young and old are then invited to recreate their own ‘tower of tomorrow’. They can do this by digging through over 200,000 loose LEGO® bricks, a pool you are available to grab a seat in front of, and thumb through. Bricks include the regular size version, as well as Duplo for the younger kids. There is also plenty of hands-on construction areas to take your time and enjoy the building process.

Each LEGO tower comes with its own description card, including the background of the building it took inspiration from. Its name, location, height, when it was completed, and by whom. They also compare the original to the LEGO version by listing how tall the tower of tomorrow is, how many hours it took to build, and by using how many bricks. Visitors can explore each, with the largest ones free standing, and raised to the sky. The smaller ones are set up on the upper deck of the activity tables. These are harder to get a good look at with all the kids and adults in seats building. It would have been nice to have the two experiences separated.

Some of the North America towers featured in this gallery includes Toronto’s CN Tower, Philadelphia’s Comcast Technology Center, Los Angeles’ Wilshire Grand Center, Chicago’s Willis Tower, Atlanta’s Bank of America Plaza, New York’s super slender skyscrapers 111 West 75th Street, Central Park Towers, Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building.

I was most excited to see the towers that I have visited in person. Like Tokyo’s skytower and Malaysia’s twin towers.

We learned that the world’s tallest skyscraper, and thus tallest tower in this exhibit is the “Burj Khalifa”, located in Dubai at 828 metres high, its 200:1 scale model is 4140 millimetres high. It took 35 hours to build using 3365 bricks.

For some structures closer to home, look to the back of the gallery. Here, there is an interactive Community Building exhibit. It is “designed to facilitate creative thinking and playing with how urban and neighbourhood design can support and contribute to thriving communities” (as taken from the press release). I was especially amused with the LEGO Science World.

And outside of the entrance to the gallery, visitors will be able to “contribute to a crowdsourced LEGO® mural that over time will reveal a fun, large-scale landscape of some of Vancouver’s most iconic features”. Thus, encouraging repeat visits, in order to see it unfold.

The “exhibition also features TransLink’s Transport2050 MicroCity animated 3D model presenting the story of Metro Vancouver’s transportation and transit past, present and future. The experience was developed to inspire thought, discussion and feedback utilized to shape the next 30 year blueprint – Transport 2050.”

 

For a more telling visit, and the grand opening festivities, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

This exhibition runs from January 24 to September 7, 2020
Tickets are available at https://tickets.scienceworld.ca/

Campagnolo, Dine Out 2020

Looking for a place to eat, my guest and I walked Main Street in search of anything that stroked our fancy. And tonight that would be the Dine Out Vancouver sign advertising Campagnolo’s $35, 3 course meal.

We came in and the restaurant was just as I remembered it to be. A refined vibe, with a golden glow and simple furnishings. The only difference today was the new blue separator, built to mimicked glass windows on a cottage. We were seated at a booth across from it, so I was able to admire it all night.

Their Dine Out Vancouver menu doesn’t really feature anything out side of their regular menu. It simply has you ordering one or two more courses than you normally would, and saving some money on it.

To start with we shared the “Bitter Royal” cocktail with bourbon, mery melrose cognac, and 3 amari: sibilla, nonimo, nardini. It was as strong and as it looked, but still gave you some softness at the end.

For appetizers we had our choice between soup or two salads. We skipped on the “Crispy Ceci”, after taking our server’s suggestion. This was chickpeas seasoned with lemon, chili, mint, evoo, and scallion.

I am going to preemptively set the expectation of this meal and state that we came in drinking before so were searching for something more richer to coat our bellies with. A point I didn’t realize, until we got to dessert. As leftovers without the drunk appetite everything was fantastic. The flavours well paired with one another and satisfying in its’ distinctiveness.

In hindsight, with my drunk appetite, vinaigrette soaked greens weren’t as satisfying as the crispy chickpeas would have been. But the next day the “Winter Radicchio Salad” was a lively and bright mix, slightly bitter from tart greens, but with just the right amount of salt from the castelvetrano olives. The herbed croutons offered crunch, the meyer lemon’s zest helped to brighten up the dish, and the clothbound cheddar rounded out the textures with some chew. If you got everything on one spoon you are in for a treat. Good, but best as a side to some protein.

But in our state we both preferred the “Wild Mushroom Veloute” made with locally foraged mushrooms, and a sourdough crouton with rouille. I enjoyed the creamy soup with its thick cuts of chunky mushroom, but the cracker got soggy fast. A side of bread for dipping would have been nice, and helpful in sobering up.

For entrees you had a choice between two pastas or a risotto. Given my guest’s dietary restriction, we skipped on the “Strozzapreti Bolognese whole wheat pasta, pork & beef”. And instead had the “Spaghetti Pomodoro” with tomato sauce, garlic, evoo, and basil. It came with the option to add homemade meatballs for $8, but it didn’t need it, it was already plenty flavourful and rich. The sumptuous cheesiness of this, and its well sauced and chewy noodles were the comfort we wanted to end our night of drinking on. But when eating it normally, and at moments where you will find the spaghetti too overwhelming in one tone, I suggest switching to the risotto dish below for a nice contrast.

The “Red Wine Risotto” had raw local apples and root vegetables, with black garlic. This was a new take on the chewy rice dish, and I found it interesting. I got a sharpness from the wine, and a sweetness from the beets, and found freshness from the julienned apple. Once again not quite what my body wanted to sober up with, starch and comforting chew aside. But especially delicious warmed up the next day, and taken in conjunction with the sweeter pasta above.

For dessert, we got one of each of the available options. The “BC Blueberry & Polenta Cake vanilla crema” was vegan friendly. The cake had that micro grainy texture you get from the use of polenta; something I am more familiar with as corn bread, and so it added some savouriness to this cake. I liked the look the kernels of popcorn gave, but didn’t think they added anything to the flavour. And the sharp kernel skins gave an undesirable rough texture to the cake. The fruit brought it back to dessert territory with its natural sweetness that played off the light cream wonderfully.

The “Dark Chocolate Torte” was also vegan friendly and gluten free, and as a result this too had a crumbly texture, but here punctuated with crushed nuts. The flavours were nice, bitter chocolate and tart cherries with a little cream for a Black Forest Cake feel. Although I wanted a spongy cake base to enjoy it all with. Something soft and sumptuous to melt on to my tongue, and I didn’t get it with either desserts. Therefore we didn’t end up finishing either, nor did we pack it to go. It didn’t satisfy like any dessert, I was hoping for. But I recognize that they are absolutely a great solution for those with such dietary restrictions.

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.
Great as a normal meal, but not ideal as drunk food. And exciting as leftovers, when I could taste my way through the experience more alert and observant.
Don’t deny your cravings.

CAMPAGNOLO
1020 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-484-6018
campagnolorestaurant.ca

Gyoza Bar, Dine Out Brunch 2020

This morning we were at “Gyoza Bar”, here to try their Dine Out Vancouver brunch menu. $15 got you a 4 piece set with plenty of value to take advantage of, before February 3rd, 2020.

It opens at 12pm on a Saturday and the crowds flooded in soon after. A large space with plenty of seating. A lounge feel with a bar backed by bricks, that transitions into an open stainless steel kitchen. We grabbed a small narrow table by the door, with plenty of light and enough space for our two square set trays below.

Since it was the weekend we started with a couple of their new drinks. The “Blue Hawaiian” is the classic tropical cocktail with blue curaçao, pineapple, lime, and vodka. Fairly sweet, leaving you with a back of your throat soreness. I much preferred the “Chu-Hai” with pink grapefruit, lemon, orange bitters, soda, and gin. The citrus flavour was pronounced, and the drink refreshing as a whole with the spritzy soda. But with both you don’t get enough alcohol to actually taste it.

The $15 Dine Out brunch menu is this spicy tuna rice bowl teishoku set.

It comes with their daily miso soup. And today it included cut up woodear mushroom and seaweed.

The salad is a mix of greens, red onion, pickled cabbage, and cherry tomatoes, all coated in a sesame and citrus vinaigrette. Then finished off with a mashed tofu paste. I didn’t know what I was looking at, I never had tofu like this before. It added some heartiness and texture to the side, making it a more fulsome start.

Our server recommend that we enjoy the soft boiled, lightly soy sauced egg mixed into the rice dish below.

The main is like a poké with a spicy tuna mash and avocado purée over sweet citrus rice. It is topped with red onion and sliced cucumber which offer the only variation in crunch. The flavours were there, but the textures lacking. It was all the same soften gumminess, so that you grew bored of chewing. You got the flavour of the spicy tuna loud and clear, but wanted it more solid. Tuna sashimi, or perhaps some deep fried onion sprinkled over top for crunch?

And because it was my first time and called the “Gyoza Bar”, we made sure to try an order of their “pork teppan gyoza”. I liked the grilled skin of these pork and chive dumplings, but wanted more pizzazz and flavour from the filling. Though I guess that is what the side of spicy miso and umami soy is for.

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.
Based on this limited experience, I would like to come back for a more filling meal. To be able to try more dishes in order to get a better feel of their regular service. But at this point, all I can say is that this set is a deal. Don’t deny your cravings.

GYOZA BAR
622 W Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1V8
(604) 336-5563
gyozabar.ca

Dinner With A View

You have probably seen the photos and videos for this one of a kind dining experience, bouncing around social media. Well it is finally open, and they have now settled in West Vancouver for the season, running from January 15th to February 16th, 2020.

This is “Dinner with a View”, a travelling dinner troupe that sets up and dismantles their domes and its luxe setting, moving from city to city. The chosen location is at Ambleside Park. The lit domes are visible driving up, with plenty of free parking around. Their next destination, after Vancouver is San Francisco. Each stop takes a couple weeks to build, with the staff screwing hexagonal plexi-panels together to form each dome. You book your seat by the round, $200 each with chairs for 6; so basically it is $33.33 per person. Dinner is separate, at $109.99 per person. It is prepared by 2019’s “Top Chef Canada” winner: Paul Moran; who is traveling with the troupe on its North American tour.

The menu is a surprise with the ability to simply choose between meat, fish, or vegetarian for your entree. They are calling this a “blind tasting”, but you can continue reading to see what you can actually expect from this luxury experience. Or better yet, watch my vlog recap, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Get the behind the scenes look and the real deal feel, to see if this one is worth attending yourself. On that note, tickets and seatings are still available until February 16, at 7pm and 9:30pm.

 

Despite your seating time, I highly recommend coming down earlier to take in the scenery and grab a drink at their pop up bar. Not only does this extend your time amongst the domes, but it also allows you to take some memorable shots before dinner, as to not take away your time within a dome.

The bar is serviced by a lone bartender offering up mixed cocktails from prominent spirits brands and/or wine. We started with the “Ketel One Bontanical” grapefruit spritz and the “Tanqueray” gin “sevilla tonic”. Well enjoyed with mood lighting and stand up tables. We then moved on to red and white wine by “Frico”. I enjoyed the medium bodied red with good mailability. Each was an easy drinking wine that transitioned from a stand and sip beverage, to the pairing for each of the three courses to come.

Our entire time slot stood and chatted, while servers cleared tables and tidied up from the service before. As we sipped and lingered, we were given table numbers that corresponded to the number on one of the domes. And when time, we were ushered to our dome, entering, after unzipping the doorway flap.

Our dinner night came with heavy rain and flooded roads. The packed earth each dome sat on was muddy, pooled with pockets of water that made it hard for some to get to their designated seats. Worth nothing is that you don’t get to choose your dome, and that each is decorated slightly different from the next. Different furniture and different faux plants. Our dome had orange chairs with cushions, black and white geometric throws, and plastic cacti in a white planters. Others were outfitted with long tables and shared benches covered in faux fur. Some were extra tropical with plenty of faux foliage. But each with blankets, a portable heater, and a fire extinguisher. Each dome does get warm with the enclosure sealed, and the 6 person body heat moving about and drinking. The quarters are quite close, so I highly recommend arranging a dinner with people you actually want to be sealed off in a dome with.

As for which dome you get, it doesn’t really matter in my opinion. From where they were set up you don’t get much of a view: beach, parking lot, or otherwise. It was too dark to enjoy anything, and you are caught up in conversation with your table mates sitting across from you anyways.

Your meal begins with a welcome introduction from your server, who confirms your order and brings your drinks at cost, or water in still or sparkling. The food then comes out fairly quick. Smaller plates balanced on the arms of a couple of staff members. Larger servings wheeled out in a caddy, much like aboard a plane being severed by a stewardess.

The entire menu is inspired by Chef Paul Moran’s home town of Tofino, BC. A very vegetable-forward menu, utilizing his favourite ingredients, with several being hand foraged by our chef himself. Served alongside produce and products that are currently in season, this winter. He promises a meal that speaks directly to Vancouver and Canadian cuisine. Overall, I liked everything just fine for a farm to table feast, but it lacked the richness of a luxe experience in the cold winter weather. The menu felt string forward, if not summer ready. I expected stews instead of salads, red meat instead of lean protein, and a chocolatey rich dessert to close on, instead of fresh fruit. My review is written with that perspective, and consider what is before me, as is.

We began with a lovely fermented sourdough bread, served with a Tofino seaweed butter. As a fan of the tangy-sour fresh bread, I liked this take, especially with the unique sea salted flavour of the butter.

Our appetizer was a dairy-free, vegan salad, that played on beef tartar. A beet root salad with gala apples, crispy sun chokes, winter greens, and salsa verde. It was a lovely start, with plenty of fresh vegetables. Great as a palette refresher, better as a side. But as an appetizer this was too much of the same thing, on one plate.

The entree is based on what you preselected when you purchased your tickets. Vegetarians got a crispy ginger and soy tofu dish with all the same sides as the two dishes below. Rice and greens in a garlic and sesame sauce, with morel mushrooms on the side. The following are the meat and fish options.

For “meat” you get a crispy Fraser Valley boneless chicken breast, brined over night for more flavour. Served with a smokey and sweet mustard with tarragon, yellow German fingerling potatoes, heirloom carrots, celery root, morel mushroom, and a sabayon sauce (typically an Italian dessert made from eggyolk, white wine, and sugar). The mushrooms are foraged by Chef Moran, and his foraging company. These were my favourite part of this dish. All the chicken breasts were not prepared equally. I found mine especially dry, and that of my diner mate’s were more moist. Overall, it tasted exactly as it looked, and how it reads. Simple and clean, where as I was looking for some complexity, and some more starch to have along with the meat and vegetables.

Instead, I highly recommend the miso and maple marinated black cod. Served on a bed of black forbidden rice with pickled heirloom radish, a sesame and yuzu emulsion, and asian greens (boy choy) in a garlic sauce; all topped with sesame seeds. Here, we got a lesson on the rice: it being rich in antioxidants, and originally only for the emperor of China’s consumption, hence the name. The miso sauce is strong, but necessary to flavour the rest of the dish. The fish was cooked beautifully with a nice golden brown crust, it had the artistry and refined feel that I wanted from the chicken above. It certainly matched my expectations of the experience, and the pedigree I expect from a “Top Chef” winner.

Dessert was more simple, a tropical and light fruit dish that I would expect on an outdoor summer menu. A Madagascar vanilla and lime marinated pineapple with in-house made coconut mousse and crumble; dusted with blackberry and mint to finish. It was gluten-free and dairy-free; and curated to help you leave the table with a clean palette, and the ability to “do some dancin’ after”. Sweet pineapple, airy coconut foam, and toasted crumbs for crunch. It tasted good and was as intended, but I just wanted something more decadent to end on.

Luckily, we had one more surprise to come. A cocoa powder dusted, house made truffle. Bitter dark chocolate with bite.

Worth noting is that I had a similar contrasting experience between the dinner service and the washrooms. Located at the park, the facilities were the public ones available to the everyone. There aren’t many alternative options here, but it certainly took you out of your element fast. Although I still prefer this to any Porto-potty.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend the experience, I have yet to dine in a setting quite like this. A great date night solution and upcoming Valentine’s Day destination, with the option to rent out an entire dome for two. Where dinner is equipped with a menu that caters to dietary restrictions, with lots of seafood and veggies. For more on this limited release event and how you can still get tickets, visit the link below.

DINNER WITH A VIEW
https://www.dinnerwithaview.ca/en/vancouver

Chicha, Dine Out 2020

Not only does Dine out Vancouver serve as a great, less expensive way to enjoy a meal out; it also functions as a fantastic platform to introduce or re-introduce you to a restaurant you thought you once knew. A new experience with new flavours and new menu items, showcasing how creative the culinary team can be. (And keeping in mind that the savings you receive from a discounted meal has to come from somewhere.)

Tonight, I was outright surprised and impressed by how much I enjoyed the $35 Dine Out menu, from modern Peruvian restaurant: “Chicha”. Where other restaurants are offering 3 courses, they have 4. And as others only give you a choice between 2-3 dishes, you get 2 out of 8 possible entrees; half of which are vegetarian friendly. And tonight I was able to try them all, so that I can now steer you in the right direction.

Located on West Broadway the restaurant is fairly easy to get to, with a paid parking lot and meter parking wherever you can find it. Their smaller space is warm and cozy, kept dim for ambience and that date night energy. The menu is easy to read with vegetable only dishes colour coded, and divided from all the meat and fish.

For the first course it is either soup or salad. I wouldn’t typically have the salad, but the “Quinoa Ensalada” is definitely the one to get. A memorable gathering of quinoa, red onion, mango, avocado, huacatay (Peruvian mint and lime vinaigrette), and a rocoto chili aoli. There was so much fresh fruit flavour in this that it kept you going back for scoop after scoop. The sauce was citrusy and sweet, and the texture a great toss up to chew through. It was deliciously done, and if I had flavours like this every day, not only would I be healthier for it, but happier as well.

By comparison the “Aji Amarillo Seafood Chowder” was good, it just wasn’t as good. Locally caught, fresh assorted seafood like wild shrimp and sockeye salmon; along side red nugget potato, corn, and a peruvian aji amarillo chili. It was a fish based cream chowder, that was salmon forward and tangy. All I was just missing from this was some crusty bread or chewy sourdough to dip into the soup.

For your second course you get to choose 2 out of the 8 available options, and thankfully you get two choices because it is all worth trying, and it is hard to choose just 2. Of the 8, 4 of which are gluten free, 2 vegetarian friendly, and 1 full on vegan.

The “Chalaco Ceviche” was a mix of Pacific Ling Cod, Wild Sockeye Salmon, Prawns, fresh oranges, green leche de tigre marinade, and crispy calamari. A fresh and punchy seafood salad, served chilled and full of lime flavour. Tasty enough, but not as filling as I had wanted from an entree.

The “Mariscos Fettuccini” is surprisingly my pick, I don’t normally think pasta when I look to Peruvian cuisine, but this one I would order again. Pan seared Pacific Ling Cod, prawns, wilted greens, and seared cherry tomatoes over buttery noodles. All evenly coated in a mesquite seafood corn sauce. Simple and delicious.

The “Verduras Causa” was like a beet humus, that you scooped up with crispy Rocoto Chili dusted yam chips. A whipped potato with lima bean puree, pickled beets, and Peruvian black mint. It was refreshing with a vegetable centric salad quality to it. Once again a great dish, but better as a starter. Although with your choice of any 2, you can get it as an appetizer.

But the one to not miss, and my favourite of the lot is their “Cauliflower”. So good that you won’t want to share. Maple and Rocoto Chili glazed cauliflower, yam puree, and salsa criolla. Each cauliflower florets was moist and sweet, a firm texture to contrast the yam purée (with its own sweetness). And for a nice change of taste, the side salad offers some appreciated tang and freshness.

The “Adobe” was another one I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. I don’t often gravitate towards a vegetable focused stew, but this is one I recommend for those that do. Braised smoked pancha chili eggplant, chickpea stew, crumbled feta, annatto oil, quinoa and honey bread crostini. Hearty, but not heavy, more like mild chilli. The rounds of firm chickpea was best eaten with the hard toast. I liked the hard crisp and the toast’s dried fruit, plus the sweetness it added to the stew.

“Papas Rellenas”, are like Shepard’s pie pockets. Deep fried crispy on the outside and stuffed with mashed potato, beef, onions, parsley, and black olives on the inside. Served with a side salad of greens and a rocoto chili aioli for sauce. This was a fun twist on a classic, and you get two of them. The Peruvian twist was the zesty aioli, but I wanted something more familiar in a meat gravy, instead.

The “Pollo Skewers” reminded me of souvlaki with its herbal seasoning, thorough grill, and its sour cream-like tang similar to tzaziki. You also got plenty of pickling from the bed of vegetables, not unlike the julienne strands or cucumber, carrot, and turnip that you can find in a traditional banh mi sandwiches. Chimmichurri chicken thighs, crumbled feta, lime cream, and crushed cancha corn. Bold and flavourful, with a lovely char on the meat. Great as is, but would better with some rice pilaf as a base.

The “Costillos de Cerdo” was a generous serving of ribs and potato salad, that flashed me back to summer. Aji panca chili and orange barbecue sauce glazed baby back ribs with a red nugget , green bean, and smoked bacon potato salad. The ribs were plenty saucy, having you licking your fingers clean once you easily rip meat from bone. It was the flavour I needed to breathe some punch into the salad. The potatoes were grainy, whereas the beans helped to offer some needed crunch. Overall, another one I would recommend.

For dessert you only get to to choose 1 out of the possible 3 options. Although if you can swing it, get the first two, as you will not regret it.

My favourite of the two would be the “Alfajores Peruvian Cookies”. Shortbread cookies made into a sandwich with a dulce leche filling. The shortbread crumbles in your mouth, filling it with the enjoyable sensation of powdered sugar. And the filling is the perfect amount of sweetness, a milky caramel that didn’t overshadow the butteriness of the cookies. So good that I wanted a box of them, to not share. The sauces and fruit on the side were great for presentation, but they did not add anything to the dish in terms of flavour, if only just lemon zest.

The “Picarones” were Peruvian donuts fried to order. Made with sweet potato and pumpkin, but it didn’t show. This was a cakey doughnut with the texture of a regular French crueler. Best with a heavy dip into the orange spiced honey and pisco raspberry sauce it sat atop of. Tart jam with the beads of the seeds to gum through, and a hint of cinnamon and sugar to end a bite on.

The last option was an assorted fresh fruit platter, but I feel that you can do that for yourself. Instead, I suggest ordering that which you can’t make at home.

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.
As a whole the menu did a real great job with the vegetables, I would come back and order all the vegetarian dishes, and not be mad. Each dish had its very own flavour profile, you never got too much of one, if you share between you and a friend. A great menu, and one worth visiting during this year’s Dine Out. Don’t deny your cravings.

CHICHA
136 E Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5T 1A1
(604) 620-3963
chicharestaurant.com

Money Tea

We were in Richmond today, and having made the drive down, we thought to explore the scene a little. And with a speedy search on Instagram we found just the place, for a quick drink and some fun photos.

This is “Money Tea”, the aptly named tea bar located in the Continental Shopping Centre (not to be confused the the money loan centres). With its name and lucky cat motif it was themed in good fortune. The exterior inviting with happy cat banners and a collection of happy cat statues on display. Each, waving you in, from their spot on the yellow shelves. Each round and plump, with squinted eyes, paw up, and surrounded in opulence.

Inside, the theme explodes with more smiling cats splashed across table cloths, multiple of them painted on wall murals, and as cartoons papered on the wall. You saw the collection of lucky cats dressed as samurais, a fisherman with a big catch, a geisha; and different breeds of cat including black, calico, and Siamese.

But the wall that caught my attention was the one covered in lucky red pockets. And to be honest, I was more excited by this and the scenes above, than the drinks we would order at the bar.

Their drink offering includes coffee based drinks, tea steeped with fruit, flavoured green tea with a milk foam, flavoured teas, milk based beverages, fizzy fruit water, milk tea, layered juices, and yogurt based drinks. It is hard to choose just reading off the written menu, so our group found ourselves ordering from off of the photos posted by the bar/counter.

The “Yangleduo series” is one of their most popular drinks for its presentation. It utilizes the famous fermented probiotic milk beverage as a base; flavouring it with either lemon, passion fruit, grapefruit, or peach. The finished blended product is served up the in large plastic bottles, shaped like the classic Yakult container. It serves as a fun takeout bottle, and keep sake. We had the passion fruit flavour and it included the fruit’s black seeds bobbing at the top. It was a mild flavour with the tang of yogurt.

I also ordered the “blue velvet coconut milk with peach plum” for its aesthetics. The sky blue hue in contrast to the opaque white milk was appealing. From the counter we watched the “gum” get poured into the tall plastic cup, then the milk; before a blue power gets diluted in water, then sifted over the drink. The blue bleeds in, colouring it, but not actually flavouring it. As a whole, it tasted like a diluted coconut milk, with the gum offering a nice jelly-like chew. Not my favourite for taste.

I much preferred the “peach gum brown sugar milk”. It had the sweetness I wanted in such a drink, with the classic flavour of milk tea and the texture of the chewy peach gum to round it out.

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.
A fun spot for a quick drink. The drinks aren’t much different from other like cafes, but the cute theme definitely makes it worth stopping by. Don’t deny your cravings.

MONEY TREE
3779 Sexsmith Rd #1116, Richmond, BC V6X 1J8
(604) 370-7083

Granville Room, Dine Out 2020

Dine Out Vancouver is back for its 17th year. Great deals on new and favourite restaurants, serving up specialty menus. Typically 3 courses set at either $15, $25, $35, or $45 price points. For most you get to select an appetizer, have your choice of entree, and a dessert from a couple of catered selections. Not only does it encourage you to get out and about when the weather makes you want to stay in, but it also helps the hospitality industry and those working in it.

With so many possibilities it is hard to choose which restaurant and when. My strategy is picking ones that I haven’t been to and going for the best deal. This allows you to try something new and even if you don’t like it, it isn’t a big loss to you or your wallet.

Tonight, I was one of the Donnelly Group properties to do just that. And if you visit the “Granville Room” or any of their other Public Houses, I highly suggest taking the savings and applying them to some drinks. At any of their establishments, each Dine Out course has a recommend BC wine or cocktail pairing that goes with it. And I can fully attest, that the food is made with pairing drinks in mind, and that both are made better with the other. And bonus, this bar is located on the Granville entertainment strip downtown, meaning it is easy to get to by transit.

The room is moody and dark, the later it gets the greater it fills. It has your typical bar vibe, playing music with a lot of base, offset by the roar of jovial conversation at neighbouring tables. You seat yourself at either the wooden bar or any of their booths or four top rounds. I recommend the former with its healthy back splash of bottles. Above the bar terrariums hang in decoration. Each equipped with its only spiky air plants laying on some rocks, they compliment the forest of vines and leaves that creep down from above the door way. The botanical elements gives the space a lushness and a literal breath of fresh air.

 

The Dine Out Dinner menu is three courses for $25, and if you go with a friend and share, you get to try 2 out of the 3 options for both the appetizers and entrees.

Starting with the appetizers we had “Jor’s Flautas”. You have a choice between the braised chicken or sweet potato filling, along with a topping of cilantro, sour cream, and salsa. Having had the chicken, I think I would have liked the sweet potato better. Its pasty texture would have offered a nice contrast to the crispy roll, as well as its natural sweetness. The chicken on the other hand was shredded and ashy, I wanted another texture that didn’t parallel the flour tortilla shell quite so well. It would have also been nice to have a cream based sauce to coat the chicken in, before wrapping it. I kept wanting something on the sweeter side from this, like a honey based sauce that would have been nice here. The appetizer as a whole reminded us of taquitos, and were just as zesty. Each roll had a nice spice to it that perfectly paired with the recommend BC VQA “Volcanic Hills” Pinot Gris. The slight burn was balanced out by the cool, crisp, and tart flavours of the Pinot, really elevating both.

Out of the three appetizers I highly recommend the “Prawn Lettuce Wraps”. The curry sauce it sat in was amazing. A fragrant coconut curry with ginger and sriracha. However, I wanted it with rice or some bread, to better soak up all that sauce. Especially given the generous ratio of prawn to lettuce. Instead, most of the curry dripped off the vein of lettuce it was served with, as the intended scoop/base. The cucumber and mint garnish added a nice touch of freshness, to each self-curated bite. The flavourful-ness of this was also well accented by the “Volcanic Hills” Pinot Gris, it toned and defined.

The third appetizer option that we skipped was the “Dirty Fries” with queso dip, sea salt, and parmesan. And I suggest you do too, if you plan on getting either the steak or the chicken below, as both come with a generous helping of fries as sides. Chewy, thick cut fries with a nice potatoey centre.

The “1/4 Rotisserie Chicken” featured quality white meat that was tender and moist. Although I was left wanting more of its natural juices to come through for added moisture. I could have dipped it into the side of gravy, but found it far too salty, with not enough meat flavour. Instead, I opted for ketchup, but would have been happier with a sweet honey maple barbecue. You also get a kale slaw on the side with the fries, but I was not a fan. The slaw was dry and bitter, with the texture of leafy greens, which I have never liked. Besides when there is fries why would you go for the vegetable option?

But the one to get is the “Steak Sandwich” with horseradish mayo, arugula, and tomato if you want something heartier. Or the always comforting “Mac & Cheese rigatoni” with truffled parmesan, bacon, and greens. We had the former and was not disappointed by the quality of the steak. Perfectly prepared to a medium rare, juicy and tender with a savoury spice. This was given a pop with the zesty horseradish spread. There was a little too much of it at some points, and overall it made the bread soggier. I would have enjoyed this better deconstructed. Steak as the main, buttered bread, and the salad on top as a side. Trying to eat this open face sandwich got messy, and trying to cut through the bread only made things worse. The fries were the same as above, the gravy was just as salty, but more like a jus you get with a beef dip. Nevertheless I didn’t use any of it, as the steak was already well seasoned.

The recommend BC VQA Wine/Beverage Pairing for all the entrees is a “Gehringer Cabernet merlot”. This is a mellow, easy drinking wine that acted as the perfect “meaty” palette cleanser between all the richer flavours. It also aided in balancing out the salt.

You didn’t get an option for dessert. Being primarily a bar, they weren’t as invested in flushing out a sweet menu. Instead, they completed this set menu with a “Drumstick”. The brand of frozen ice cream cone with a chocolate fudge centre and a coating of chocolate and peanuts, over vanilla ice cream, all on a sugar cone. I was a little disappointed in realizing it wasn’t made in house, but after one bite nostalgia kicked in and I was a-okay. Especially seeing in presented in a mason jar of jelly beans. Double the childhood feels.

And even this too had a beverage pairing. A Lot 40 Old Fashioned. And I must say I was both surprised and impressed at how well they went together. The chocolate in the ice cream almost caramelized the drink. It was weird, but it just made sense. I highly recommend trying it and/or dipping one into the other. Childhood indulgence and adulthood vice meeting and having mouth babies.

The food is definitely made to be paired with drinks, considering “Granville Room” is a night spot, with a bar front and centre. You come for the drinks, and if you are hungry there is an amazing set meal you can indulge in, for cheap. The way things are priced these days, the above for one is about the same price as a fast food combo with drink, fries, and frozen soft serve. Here, you get better quality food, and it feels like you are getting a deal. All in a setting that is much nicer that any place with florescent lights and a swivel chair. In conclusion, this was a great deal at $25 per person, plus drinks. The food was solid and we left with leftovers.

GRANVILLE ROOM
957 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L3
(604) 633-0056
donnellygroup.ca/granville-room

Science of Cocktails 2020, media preview

I braved the falling snow and icy roads of Vancouver to attend the sneak peek of this year’s Science of Cocktails. It is one of my favourite events of the year. It combines my love of drinking and cocktails with the joys of exploring Science World with child-like wonder.

Tonight, we would get a closer look at 7 of the participating vendors and what they will be offering on February 6th (the actual night of the event). Three food options, and four creative drinks made utilizing science.

Although it may look like just look like it’s all fun and games, this event is actually in support of a good cause: the Science World Field Trip Bursary. Over the years they have raised funds so that children from underfunded schools can attend field trips to Science World, bus ride and all. And this year are anticipating the total raised to climb to over $1,000,000.

Tonight, all festivities were held in the “Eureka Hall”. A interactive space set up with stations for guests to explore and engage. You had the opportunity to chat up representatives from restaurants/bars, and liquor brands; as they talked you through their food and drinks and the science that plays a part in bringing either before you tonight.

To watch all the fun, check out my latest drinking vlog, where we test out anti-asian glow pills. And what better place that at an event that starts cocktails as the main attraction!

Cam Brown of “Ballyhoo Public House” was preparing whiskey sours with “Jim Beam Black” and a power drill. Jim Beam Black, lemon, pineapple juice, simple syrup, egg whites, and tiki bitters. The trick serves as a great way to make drinks in bulk for a larger crowd.

Bartender Jonathan Smolensky of “Sovereign Wine & Spirit” was utilizing butter and popcorn in a whole new way. The concept is called “fat washing”, where the flavour of butter is infused with “Appleton Rum” and served with coke and malice acid-dusted popcorn. This was my favourite drink of the night in terms of flavour. Zesty lime, savoury salt, and the familiar syrupy-ness of coke cola, all mixed together. The popcorn also made for a great snack.

Bartender Trevor Kallies from the “Donnelly Group” and “Martin Kovalcik from “Glowbal” sweetened their Old Fashion with honey and beeswax. Made with “Lot No. 40 whiskey”, honey bitters, sugar, and beeswax. A strong cocktail that had me puckering.

At the “Boodles” Gin booth, Royston Greatorex of “Sai Woo” was making “cocktail caviar” with reverse spherification. A syringe of honeydew juice gets squeezed into a bowl of citric acid solution, sodium alginate, and calcium chloride. And the end result is little hardened pearls to add into a shot of gin. It made taking this back fun, with the texture of the juice balls to chew through.

And to pair with all these drinks there were also food vendors offering small bites. Like Chef Ellie Jubene and Lilian Chow of “EL PLTR” who utilized their entire station with a impressive spread. A large grazing table featuring their most popular bite sized appetizers, cheese and meat charcuterie, veggies and dip, fruit and salty snacks, and a handful of sweets. You picked and choose your way through the stunning assortment, taking only what you wanted from pigs in a blanket, Mac and cheese, quiches, turkey meatballs, a Greek salad and hummus dip with pita, and a vanilla and chocolate marble cake. They even included more exotic elements like dragon fruit and real honey comb. I was taken aback and got real excited just seeing all the food before me. Served room temperature it was all good. I cannot wait to see what they bring to the actual event on February 6th.

Executive Chef Jasmin Porcic and Sous Chef Mark Amos for “Edge Catering” prepared “Sous vide beef short ribs” with a maple cider glaze, peated whiskey pearls, and smoked butter powder. For the vegetarians they had a smoked mushroom version. The short rib was a moist mouthful elevated by the buttery crisp of the crumbs, and the distinct sharp flavour of the whiskey that was better highlighted with applewood smoke.

And the development and training Chef at the Donnelly Group, Sarah Stewart was on site torching up “Aburi high tea sandwiches” in both white and brown bread. Equipped with a searzall and a blow torch she gave each sandwich an even sear. It was quite the show. Each perfectly rectangular sandwich was stuffed with a fried chicken salad, and topped generously with a spicy mayonnaise. I was impressed by how soft the bread was, even after its toasting. A creamy and gooey stackable snack, that had me wishing they were offered at more high tea salons.

For entertainment there were science demos to shock and awe. Lycopodium Fireballs made from fuel, oxygen, heat, and a willing mouth to blow it all together. From out of a tube came a 2-3 foot fireball, up into the air. We also played with bubbles. They were blown by hand and showcased a rainbow within, when on the light table. And we were then able to put your bartender skills to the test with a blind free flow pour challenge. Guessing how much 2oz is by feeling alone.

And once again you had free rein of the hall to play and explore as you would as any visitor to Science World. Today this included the electro static orb, the giant piano board you play with the feet, and a two way mirror that changes its reflection with light. But we had the most fun standing in front of the heat sensing camera.

With all this only being a 2 hour teaser, I can only imagine what the actual night will be like on February 6th. 4 hours to drink, eat, play, and mingle at your own pace. A cocktail attire party within the iconic ball of Science World. With a long list of participating bartenders and restaurants, there is plenty to keep you busy the duration of the night. So splurge on the VIP tickets to gain access an hour earlier and entry to the VIP lounge. The latter is a designated area with its own exclusive bartenders and restaurants. Ones that regular ticket holders won’t get access to. And based on what I have witnessed year’s past, it is definitely worth the cost, and the donation to this charitable effort.

To get your ticket and learn more on how to support Science World, visit the link below.

TELUS World of Science
1455 Quebec St, Vancouver, BC
https://www.scienceworld.ca/cocktails/tickets
#ScienceOfCocktails

Noodle Arts

On a cold, but more tolerable snowy night, we were in search of some noodles to help warm us up. Our journey brought us to “Noodle Art” on Robson Street. Where 2 out of 3 of us had never been before, and the 3rd frequents, always ordering to same menu item.

On this slower night we had the full attention of the floor staff, which included the lone server in pink and purple uniform, and the owner of the restaurant herself.

This was a treat, as she gave us a quick background spiel. Her family actually owns 68 similar restaurants in China, with this being their first venture in Vancouver, with its own name. They specialize in traditional Lanzhou cuisine, flavour from the “ Silk Road”, North West of China. As she spoke you could tell how passionate she was about her family’s legacy and the pride she had for her shop, here.

The restaurant is brightly lit. Wood strips line the right wall and a blue and red mural of people and horse covers the one on the left. But the highlight of the space has to be the partially open kitchen and the ability to watch your choice of noodles be rolled, cut, or pulled to order, then boiled up in a wok of hot water. The entire mesmerizing experience was carried out by two chefs in full uniform. Unsmiling and utterly focused on the work before them. Their hands work feverishly and the food came out quickly there after.

We were seated on the right and given a two sided menu that when folded and not laminated also served as their take out menu. Names of items were fairly descriptive, with a few choice photo to help in your decision making. However, we had the owner by our table, helping us to decide. Originally we were all going to get their “traditional Lanzhou beef noodle”, (the very order my one guests all the time and got again tonight). Although through her recommendations we were each able to find and try a different dishes, each with its own strong points. When you order any of their noodle dishes you get to choose the type of noodles you want from it. A choice made from a list of eight different options that includes an extra thin strand at 1mm and a thick flat noodle at 5mm. Worth mentioning is that they also offer rice, meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes, or their noodles dry. But we came in with a craving and one bowl of soup noodle is plenty of food for one.

As expected, the one guest got his usual: the traditional Lanzhou beef noodle, making it a combo. “Combo A” gave you a cold side, additional beef slices, and a marinaded egg with your large bowl of noodles. But if it was me I would have gotten “Combo B”, so that I could have a dessert with the set. He customized his bowl with their thickest noodle at 20mm and ask for extra spicy oil to be added in. However, the noodles weren’t all that thick and the oil wasn’t even spicy. (Though now looking at the photos, I think they must have us the wrong noodles). The noodles were nice and chewy, an ideal cut for those who order such dishes for the noodles and enjoys chewing through them. You can also get a container of the spicy oil for the table, to be able to scoop as much or as little as you like, on to whatever you want. It offers a nice peppery flavour, but despite its neon red hue, I would classify this as mild at best. As for the broth, given the amount of oil used, I can’t be sure of how it tastes normally. I guess I would just have to come back to find out. As for the sides, they were a nice break in between bites, great alone or even together within the noodle bowl. The cold seaweed offered a firmer chew, and the extra meat and egg some heartiness.

I had the “Braised ribs noodle soup”. This came recommend my our owner-host. They had originally run out of the meat in the morning, so this evening I would be partaking from a fresh batch. Hearing that was enough to have me confirming the recommendation. I had it with “triangle” noodles, that weren’t actually triangular. They are just not as flat as most of the other noodles. Thicker strands, but with a less width. They were chubby and chewy and only got more so, the longer they soaked in the broth. They do absorb liquid quick, so I suggest eating this one first and fast to get firm noodles and plenty of broth to slurp up. As for how it tasted, I couldn’t help but to compare this dish to Taiwanese beef noodle. Therefore I wanted a richer broth, with more pepper, and more heat in spice and in temperature. Similarly the meat was bland. Pieces were inconsistent with some being tender and others dry. All the flavour could have washed into the soup, but I found they fell flat. Though luckily I was able to reach for the chilli oil jar and rejuvenate my serving with a whole new flavour to work through.

My other guest got their “soup” special, a new menu item only introduced a day ago (from when I visited). They are competing in Vancouver Foodster’s Best Soup Challenge, and this is their entry. It isn’t on their regular menu, but is featured on stand up signs at each table, along with a card informing you on how you can vote for your favourite (after trying all the competitors) at the Vancouver Foodster website. Something they want to promote, so that they can potentially be crowned the best in the city, for the best soup.

This wasn’t a new dish they created, but one that is well known and well received, especially by my guest who ordered it and knew exactly what she was getting. This was their “Lamb noodle soup”, a light broth that was full of rich flavour from boiled lamb bones. It was peppery with plenty of thin slices of lamb meat. It came with vermicelli and her choice of “Blade carving noodles”. The latter made by using a knife to roughly cut out chunks of dough, straight into boiling water. The result, a thicker, shorter noodle with an inconsistent chew. It did paired very well with the thin slippery glass noodle. But she too found herself reaching for the chilli oil to help change the taste mid way.

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 liked what I had, but wouldn’t go out of my way for their noodles, nor would I classify them as a destination. I can find other options with more flavour, closure to my home. However, they definitely make a great stop for those living in the neighbourhood. This is especially the case with their stamp card program, and the ability to collect them for an eventual free bowl. Don’t deny your cravings.

NOODLE ARTS
1739 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6G 1C9
(604) 673-5688
noodlearts.com

Banter Room

My girl friend and I heard about a Yaletown bar/lounge with a champagne vending machine and immediately made plans to visit it, (the next time we were in the area). The first of such vending machines in Vancouver is located at “Prohibition” within “Hotel Georgia”. Both it and the one at “Banter Room” function and cost exactly the same, but now we can say that we have had a bottle from both.

There is just something so novel about ordering what is considered a luxury item, from something that is so accessible and every day, like a vending machine. We joked that the small bottles of Möet offered were “juice boxes”. The machine is sponsored by Möet so only offers its bottles. And you don’t actually pay out of pocket. Instead, you order it like you would any drink from your sever. You get a token from them, which you then insert into the actual machine, and then make your selection. Although once again, it doesn’t matter which combination of letters and numbers you push, the exchange is exactly the same: a small 200ml bottle of Möet for $30.

But first getting there, the actual restaurant was hard to find. With surrounding businesses boarded up, we had to back track and ask for directions. Not to mention the exterior isn’t very prominent. The covered patio is darken for the season, and only their discrete logo in green marks the spot.

Inside, the lounge is just as dark. There is plenty of sprawling room with stools by the bar, single tables, and rounds for groups of four. Larger parties are accommodated by pushing together tables against the brick wall at the back, the one decorated with diamond shaped mirrors. Yellow glowing spot lights, back lit tile, flatscreen television screens, and tea lights offer a little brightness. But this is one of those places that you need to shine your phone light over your menu in order to read it.

Our server was bright and bubbly. She greeted us at the door with her light blue crop top and black bottoms. This must have been the dress code considering the only other front of house employee was dressed in a similar fashion, with the same colours and her midriff showing as well.

We were strategically seated by the vending machine. When it came time to order, we picked a few items off of their laminated, single sheet menu; and had our server either confirm our choices or direct us towards something better. She ixnay-ed the “Zucchini Noodle Pescatore”, announcing that she has most steer clear of it considering how easy it is to make at home. And instead suggested a salad, if we wanted something light. But I don’t order salads, given it too is something you can easily make at home. It is just assembly, and when I go out to eat I want to have something that I cannot and will not make on my own.

Instead, we would have the same shrimp in it, with the “crispy tiger prawns” appetizer instead. A thick sweet chilli glaze evenly coated the large, juicy shrimp. They were a little tough, but still delicious, especially when paired with the bed of cool and creamy coleslaw it sat on. This made for a great palette changer for our two more cheese focused dishes below.

The “Mac and cheese” served in a skillet caught our eye immediately, and we were reassured in a our choice, after we were given a generous nod of approval from our server. This isn’t your regular children’s version of Mac and cheese. Prepared with a three cheese blend of sharp and salty cheeses, this isn’t the mozzarella or cheddar that most are familiar with. It and the gummy gooey texture would be ideal with beers or heavy drinks, and then the leftovers would serve to help you sober up with later. Ideal drunk food.

In comparison, the “oven baked brie” was bland, even with its topping of caramelized apples, brown sugar, and walnuts. I wanted more cinnamon and toasted sugar flavour. And the walnuts to be also baked, but with a coating of honey for some sticky sweetness. This felt flat, and the hard and undressed whole wheat crostini did nothing to help. A sweet chilli sauce like with the prawn above would have been much better as a dressing for the melted miniature wheel of brie.

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.
The food was only average, so I don’t think I will be returning to try their whole roasted chicken for $85 or their tomahawk steak for $185. I can see myself sharing one of their “colossal cocktails” for $75. But I would need to bring 3 others along with me in order to be able to order the 12 oz bucket of booze with mix. This would be ideally done during spring or summer, when I can have on their patio. A bold patio which includes a great photo op in the form of a stationary circle swing, set to a tropical backdrop. Although we did get to enjoy it tonight in the cold darkness. Don’t deny your cravings.

BANTER ROOM
1039 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 5P9
(604) 565-1039
banterroom.com

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