VieAMaggi.com

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

Month: February 2020 Page 1 of 3

Pokey Okey, Burnaby

Rejoice fans of “Pokey Okey”, you no longer need to travel all the way to Richmond to get your fresh fish and vegetable fix over rice in a bowl. Their second location is now open in Burnaby, just past Metrotown. A small shop with limited seating, no tables, and plenty of containers to take your poke to go.

Due to this being their soft launch they were only offering 3 types of poke today. Each is colour coded based on a feature ingredient, making it pretty easy to differentiate between the three. Therefore, I won’t be able to cover the entirety of their menu in this post, not until they are officially open the last weekend of February, leading into March.

You order at the counter and can watch your bowl being assembled before your eyes. Rice and/or greens first, salad and pickled vegetable next, followed by seasoned seafood, and crunchy toppings. All with multiple sauces drizzled over, at various layers.

The “yellow bowl” was bright and sunny with chunks of ripe mango, a pineapple salsa, sweet corn kernels, a sweet omelette, and a puffed tempura topping; along side non yellow items like spicy salmon, scallop salad, seaweed salad, pickled onions, and seaweed flakes over salad greens and your choice of brown or white rice.

The “red bowl” got its name from the chunks of spicy salmon, ahi tuna, kimchi, bacon bits; and an eye catching, perfectly round scoop of flying fish roe. The non red items included seaweed salad, purple cabbage, pickled carrot and radish, with seaweed flakes over more leafy greens and white or brown rice.

The “green bowl” had plenty of soy beans, wasabi peas and seaweed salad; along side ahi tuna, salmon, purple cabbage, pickled onions, seaweed flakes, wasabi mayo, and capelin roe. The tiny fish eggs were a showstopper for me, they had me favouring the two bowls they crowned.

And this weekend you can get anyone of the above for free! Just head down to “Pokey Okey” Burnaby for your free bowl February 29th and March 1st. And while you are there, be sure to tag their pink wall with some chalk art!

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked what I had today as their most popular bowls, but would definitely like to come back to try the full extent of their actual menu before making any judgements. Especially as this was my first time visiting their brand. (Haven’t been to the Richmond location yet.) Don’t deny your cravings.

POKEY OKEY
4919 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 2E5
(604) 423-9339
pokeyokey.com

iDen & Quan Ju De Beijing Duck House

There is a buzz surrounding this newly opened, Beijing style, fine dining establishment, with a history that dates back to 1864. This is “Quan Je Du’s” first Canadian location, now opened on Cambie and 12th. During the time of my visit they have only been running for 3 months, and normally I don’t like visiting/reviewing a restaurant until after they have had some miles on them. Time to allow them the ability to hone their operations and service model. As such today’s experience wasn’t bad per se, it just could have been a lot smoother with more preparation and practice. Things felt disorganized and it was obvious they were still working processes out, like their drink and cocktail program that didn’t exist on paper. Thankfully our server’s skills and customer centricity made up for most of the unanswered questions and slight misses from the brand as a whole.

“Quan Je Du” is also better known as Canada’s first and (currently) only 5D experience restaurant. An option not available yet, but when it will be, it is for those who book their VIP room: i-Den. According to the staff this comes with a $1,500 pre-charge to your credit card. Here, guests will be able to choose their environment and with the use of technology, they “will be completely immersed in their chosen narrative, such as the hustle and bustle of Shanghai or the underwater world of a coral reef. There will be a soundscape, either music or ambient, visual projections on the walls and tables, interactive ingredients, with the food and taste rounding out the five dimensions.” (Taken from their website). By the sounds of it, I would liken the 5D experience to Vancouver’s other multi-dimensional experience: “FlyOver Canada” where all your senses are stimulated in an adventure.

As for decor, the restaurant exudes luxury. With an all glass facade you can easily take in the opulence of the lounge and dining area from the sidewalk. However their most iconic room is the foyer, only visible if you enter the threshold, where the host greets you at their podium. The podium stands in front of a lengthy glass pane fire place, surrounded by a series of blue shelves lit in LED. The latter are square cubbies that soothe with their alignment and symmetry. A few of them are used to house ornamental texts, many more the restaurant’s collection of stemware.

Just past this the restaurant opens up. The layout creates good spacing between tables with several booths sectioned off like office cubicles; but with gold embroidered throw pillows for panache. They matched the gold and blue theme that found itself on to the carpet and the lighting tone. I was in awe of the feature walls that were comprised of wood carvings, a traditional Chinese style painting of a solider on horse back, and the ones that mimicked the drawers of apothecary curios. For the latter, the drawers don’t actually open, they just simply added a level of authenticity. It all fit together seamlessly, very luxe. All, outside of the table’s centre piece: a gold dipped plastic rose, set under a cloche (beauty and the beast style). I felt it cheapened each table setting unnecessary.

And it is not surprising that the washroom is as elaborate. A bronze and gold gilded facility, set behind heavy doors with sealed individual stalls.

As for food, they are well known for their Chinese roasted style duck, so we had to indulge in the “Quan Ju De Signature Beijing Duck”. Be warned this dish does take 45 minutes to an hour to prepare, so be sure to order it even before you flip through the menu. This is a specialty item that you have to order before hand to confirm the quantity needed for the night. And at their China location they hand out a certificates indicating the number of your duck, a count made in consideration of all the ducks they sell globally. However, there is no such option here in Canada.

The whole duck is carved up table side by a professional chef in all white, with matching chef’s hat. He does this on the spot, hovering over a golden cart. You pay $96 for the service, show, and fowl. The perfectly sliced pieces are laid out like scales, served with a warm thin crepe, scallion, cucumber, and a sweet bean sauce. As for the rest of the duck, they pack the entire carcass for your to take home later.

The speciality dish was delicious. The duck skin is served with white sugar that you dip it into as per the suggestion of the chef. This delicacy is a little too fatty and sweet for my tastes, but an interesting combo nonetheless.

The slices of duck were cut so consistently, it was a testament to the silent chef carving it. With them, you craft your duck wraps yourself: dressing, stuffing, and rolling as you like. There was plenty of everything for 3 people to share, with the thin crepe wrap keeping warm by candlelight. But be warned the double decker steamer does have the bottom container getting over steamed and dry with an extended time over the flame. You take one wrap and fill it with slices of duck dipped into their house made black bean oyster and hoisin sauce. To it you add thin slices of cucumber and scallion, before folding the sides of the wrap together and the bottom up to create an edible pocket. And if you don’t know how it’s done, there is an option to watch your server demo it first.

The rest of our dishes were ordered in consideration of the cuisine type and what they might specialize in.

Since we were having duck, we figured why not truly have the whole duck with the “Quan Ju De Duck platter” which includes marinated tongue, gizzard, and liver. It came to the table smoking on a slate slab for extra flare.

The liver was a mild start, those familiar with the flavour will be a fan of this.

The tongue came bone-in so be careful, I didn’t even know there was a bone any tongue. It ate like cartilage and really isn’t bad if you like chicken feet.

As for the gizzard it needed to breathe more, in order to alleviate some of its muskiness. It didn’t really have a meaty texture to it, but one more like cellulose instead. It was best described by one of my guests as “foie gras eraser”.

We asked our server for her suggestion on what was the most visually appealing, this was her number one recommendation, and I can see why. “Smoked five spiced venison” with prawn stuffed morel mushroom, bell peppers, and scallions. The small dish is served smoked with hickory in a giant fish bowl with rocks and moss. The smoke is released table side, making for a great visual treat. As the smoke wafts around its scent becomes a part of the meal. Served with hard charcoal crisps, you eat it much like chips and salsa. Except, this was a tad overwhelming with the distinct flavour of five spice. I would have preferred it with rice instead, for familiarity sake.

I really like the “Tofu blossom soup”, but didn’t think I would based on the bland sounding name. It is a serving of thick and almost gelatinous broth, made with chunks of tofu, spinach, and Chinese prosciutto. The bits are sliver thin and they bob around in levels within your soup. It is simple and beautifully warming.

And to round out or meal with some starch we had the “Beijing style stir fried sliced pancake with shredded cabbage and garlic”. It is basically chewy dough cut up and wok fried like noodles. The dish had a vinegary tone to it: tangy, with the flavour of dried daikon coming through, and a needed crispiness with the shredded cabbage.

And your meal ends with a wet wipe that was thick like a facecloth. A nice little touch worth mentioning.

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? – Yes.
I would definitely like to return to try more of the menu and their 5D experience before making a full assessment. But for tonight, it wasn’t as expensive as I thought and the extravagance of the dishes is what I like. I would have to save up for the $588 chef’s tasting menu though. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

QUAN JE DU
2808 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2V5
(236) 477-7777

Artusi Restaurant, #LasagnaChallengeYVR

Today I was trying yet another Vancouver Foodster best lasagna contestant. This time traveling to New Westminster, and staying for a full 10 course dinner. I went in with no expectations and came out fully delighted.

If you are expecting what you know to be “classic Italian” cuisine, you won’t get it here. Like their restaurant name suggests, what they offer is a collection of recipes compiled and catalogued by Pellegrino Artusi. He gathered traditional Italian recipes from Northern Italy, Southern Italy, and the islands. Recipes that are now over 100’s of years old, well cataloged in the highly regarded cook book “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” (published in 1891). To this day it is still regarded as the original Italian cookbook. This is the framework that their menu is built on. That, and well composed and complimentary flavours using only 3-4 ingredients. And today we would get to experience it all first hand with a tasting of all the chef’s favourite dishes.

Walking into the restaurant we were caught of guard. I wasn’t expecting something this elevated in New Westminster, that isn’t located at the hub of the city. White cloth napkins and white table cloths on every table, soft candle light and dim lights. The decor was demur with playful pops of colour across watercolour paintings and green accents. A more intimate setting, ideal for a first date. Dressy enough to impress, but not over the top to intimate. Like the decor, the staff was just as approachable and warm. Friendly faces with regular check-ins and light hearted banter. You immediately felt welcomed and could tell that they cared. An important point I am always looking out for when I recommend a restaurant. And for this alone I would refer them, it is just a bonus that the food measures up.

Given the vibe we started off with a couple of drinks to ease into our meal. I went with a fruity rose that was recommend to pair with the seafood heavy first course. My guest opted for something more punchy in the “Quadrifolio” cocktail. A mix of Grey goose vodka, pear, lime, melon, and falanghina.

For food we began with some complimentary bread. Named after its knot pattern, this was a sweet bun flavoured with light rosemary and garlic, served with a dish of olive oil for dipping. It had a cake-like quality to it. Although the oil was unnecessary, as there was plenty of flavour in the adorable button loaf as is.

Then, we were spoiled with to a dish that hasn’t even made it on to the menu yet. Scallops served in shell with a spreadable andouille sausage and a saffron reduction. A stunning dish with presentation points through the roof and flavour that pops just as much. It wasn’t overly fishy, a great option for those who don’t particularly like seafood, like my guest today. He was happy to have the zesty sausage paste overpower the firm scallop in a pool of jus.

Similar in presentation and awe is the “Applewood-smoked Bacon-wrapped Prawns”. Although they looked a little burnt and tasted it. But nothing you couldn’t get past to enjoy a large juicy prawn and thick salty bacon. A great hands on appetizer, but try as I might I was unable get any meat from the heads of the shrimp; left on more for show than flavour.

I found the “Thinly Sliced Veal with Tuna & Caper Sauce” one of a kind. Even the chef referenced not often seeing a meat and a fish together in a dish like this. There are few such Italian dishes, but this one is still a stand alone. The still pink, meaty slices of roast beef were served cold, as to not have any warmth wilt the evenly dressed salad greens underneath. You get the unmistakable flavour of the tuna in the creamy dressing that was poured over each slice of beef. When trying it without context you are caught off guard, so spend subsequent bites figuring out what it is you are tasting and how you feel about it. I didn’t mind and thought it was a new taste pairing I have yet to try. My guest on the other hand couldn’t wrap his head around it. You just don’t expect tuna fish with another protein.

I really liked the next dish for the balance it provided for our entire meal. This was a refreshing salad of tomato and cheese, perfect with and in between everything to follow. There were three different kinds of tomatoes: confit, sun dried, and raw; all surrounding a bed of cheese, best described as the “Stuffing of burrata” by the Chef. He was proud to follow up that it is made in house, much like everything else. It was like a denser burrata, but just as mild and refreshing. A milky quality given some sweetness with the olive oil dressed tomato salad.

This was a nice transition into our pasta course. We started with the lasagna, and the reason for my visit in the first place. This isn’t your typical red sauce pasta, but instead one with three kinds of mushroom and a thick gloopy gravy. More slices of porcini, cremini, portobello mushroom than noodles, this ate heavy. My guests loved it declaring it “amazing umami” quality and earthy feel, whereas I wanted a little more of the cheese topping for its saltines.

The “Caramelized Sweet Onion, Guangiale, Balsamic Reduction, and Rosemary gnocchi” has a history extending back 400 years. It was sweet and salty, which reminded me of Korean gojuchung. We toyed with the idea of enjoying this with some brie given the standout balsamic reduction. But the highlight was when you hit salty pork, and it adding a variation on the flavour.

In contrast was their spicy gnocchi, this too gave me Korean vibes with hints of a picklin like kimchi. Good on its own, but I especially enjoyed pairing the two gnocchi dishes together for a nice sweet and spicy contrast.

We followed our pasta course with some meat. The “Pan-seared Beef Tenderloin & Fingerling Potato’s” were seasoned with plenty of garlic and fresh herbs, along side butter and roasted tomato. The beef was served sliced up for easy sharing, and its increased surface area allowed for more jus to get absorbed by the tender, medium rare beef. The fingerling potatoes also sat in a pool of balsamic reduction for some added sweetness. But the butter and salt were what came through on the palette. Overall it was a tad on the salty side for me, but my guest loved it just fine. I was just missing more freshness to it, but our tomato and cheese salad served well here. I would have also liked a nice rice pilaf to eat with it, or a nice crusty loaf to soak up some excess oil with.

And you want to save room for dessert, because they make for a great palette fresher and way to end on something light and sweet. Especially the lemon tiramisu with ladyfingers, limoncello sauce, and a lemon mascarpone cream. So fresh and zesty, it makes for a great dessert for those who don’t necessarily want something sweet. I liked the mousse topping the best, but wanted a crispier, graham cracker base to go with it instead, (The mousse reminded me of cheesecake with its salted cheese). Not to mention, I am not a fan of tiramisu because everything tends to be soggy, and I like some texture and crunch in my desserts.

For that reason I liked the panna cotta with its caramel coated almonds, on top of chocolate ganache and a rich cream more. The panna cotta was a cooked cream made with potato starch, instead of gelatine so it stayed creamier. The result, a light and luscious dessert.

The next dessert is mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar, and amaretti cookies baked and served in another mason jar. It was almond forward thanks to the cookie crumble, a nice contrast to the more pudding-like cream underneath. This is a dessert that grows on you the more you wrap your mouth around it.

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.
In summary, a great spot for traditional grass roots Italian. Rustic yet dressy, with flavours and combinations that we have never had before, using recipes and flavours much older than what we know Italian food to be in North America. You don’t expect to go to an Italian restaurant and have anything like this, served by a genuinely enthusiastic team and chef at the hem makes all the difference. I highly recommend “Artusi” for Vancouver quality food and service at New Westminster prices, at “20% less” (according to the Chef). They definitely check off all the boxes to be considered a hidden gem. Don’t deny your cravings.

ARTUSI
412 6th St, New Westminster, BC V3L 3B2
(604) 553-9922
artusirestaurant.com

2020 Genesis G70 review

This week for regular girl car reviews, I climbed into the more luxurious, 2020 Genesis G70. A stylish sedan that had my passengers confusing it for a Bentley, given the badge with wings and the premium interior with light brown leather. I, myself was enamoured with its image, impressed walking up to the lower profile, and again having the supple leather cup my body and stimulate my eyes with its creaminess. I squealed with excitement during my first drive. This definitely made my commute more interesting, and my need to be seen in and with it more intense.

I found myself doing things with the Genesis that I don’t normally do. Like I am not one to take note on how the engine sounds, however it is hard to ignore the roar of the G70. And I have to admit it sounded good. It sounded as high end as it looked.

And I don’t typically find the need to toggle between drive modes, simply keeping comfort in mind and on the dial. However, given the pedigree of the G70, I wanted to toggle through everything and find the best drive for my any route. Here, “comfort” mode delivered on a smooth ride befitting of a fine estate car. On “eco” it didn’t loose any of its zip, while saving you on gas consumption. But hands down the “sport” setting won my heart. Just shifting the dial back and forth, you could feel the increase in energy and power that came over the G70. It felt like it just took an energy drink and was ready to play. A little boost that shot you forward. This made up hill climbs a breeze and straightaways feel like you were on the track for a second. But be warned you can easily get caught up on how solid it feels at higher speeds, that you accidentally disregard the speed you are at. But at least with safety sensors the Genesis lets you know if and when you are approaching another vehicle too fast, and on any side.

As for the way it drives, the sedan handles very well, there is only a little bit of resistance from the wheel to make you feel like you’re in control, with the brakes stopping on a dime.

And obviously toggling between modes and keeping it on sport does come at a cost to your fuel. The Genesis G70 is hard on gas normally and more so when you play around on sport mode. I normally don’t find myself filling up mid week, but with the G70 I did. It is hard on gas, but at least it takes regular, which is just as impressive and it is surprising, given the power. However, if I owned the vehicle you would see me filling it up with 91, just so that it runs better on sport mode.

For finer details, I appreciated the fully electric seat and wheel adjustment. It is less common for the steering wheel to be electric, but wonderful to be able to get a precise setting for the most comfort. Every body is different so simply being able to move the wheel an inch up or forwards isn’t often enough.

And as a driver who does get confused by the windshield wiper setting: as in do I push it up or is it down? It is nice that in either direction you go, you get a read out on the centre dash. From here you are able to scroll through the settings whether its off, auto, high, or low.

The only negative in terms of comfort is specific to my build. I found the driver seat a little too long, and given that my legs are shorter, they were left dangling. Not problematic for my everyday commute, but not ideal for longer trips. Not that I would take the G7 on a road trip. For profile and gas consumption alone I would look else where.

Fun fact, you needn’t worry about dropping your phone between the seats.
People often complain about losing their phone between the cracks of the seat and the centre console, and not being able to find it or fish it out without getting out of the seat, on their hands and knees to search. However, this is not a problem with the G7, there is plenty of finger room to find and reclaim any dropped items. True story: my horror of the hassle of a hard search was quickly nullified realizing the above.

In summary this is a great addition to the Genesis line, and a treat to drive. It is well worth the extra you would be paying for it. Not your daily ride, but the one you take for weekend cruises and to nicer dinners downtown. Thank you Genesis for the long weekend with the 2020 G70.

#GenesisG70
https://www.genesis.com/

Ham and Eggman’s

Today I was having brunch with my foodie family. Our group of like-minded food lovers and food writers ascended on “Ham and Eggman’s” in East Vancouver. An area I am familiar with, having grown up in it. The breakfast restaurant turns 1 in March, but before it the space belonged to a sushi restaurant. The rock garden with still water and live greens by the entrance spoke to that history.

Given their location and offering they serve their community well for brunch. An elementary school is near by and two adjacent lots are being cited for high rises in years to come. That and the already heavy residential neighbourhood gives them lots of potential regulars to pull in. And with larger portion sizes and an more exciting menu than at other breakfast spots, they are well on their way. Not to mention they are unique to the area, where majority of the established restaurants are asian in cuisine, they stand out as the only breakfast spot and internationally driven with their egg focused menu. Two points of pride for the owner, whom we were able to chat up during our visit.

The space is pretty straight forward with painted black walls and white furnishing. Seating is across a series of tables that can be pushed together for larger parties at either ends of the restaurant. We nabbed the one closest to the window of the best lighting. It gets pretty dark the further in you go.

The menu is easy to navigate with familiar breakfast items and a healthy description of what each dish is so that there are no surprises. The following is what we ordered, exploring savoury and sweet options as well as everything that had an international flare to it.

The “Sweet oatmeal” was a surprising favourite of the table. You don’t often think of ordering oatmeal when it is something you can easily make at home. But their sweet rendition was a wonderful addition to our breakfast buffet. It offered a nice buffer in between the more salty plates. The oatmeal resembled small beads, a different texture than what I am use to. It had an interesting mouth feel, along with the harder crunch of chopped nuts and sweet dried fruit.

“Ham & Eggmans” do their best to make everything in house, but give the lack of kitchen space they are forced to out source their bread and waffle needs. As such, their waffles are procured from “Patisserie Lebeau”. So they were good, but not as fresh as I have had them. It could also be that we didn’t get to eating them right away due to our little photo session, so they were at room temperature when we did. But with enough Chantilly cream, fruit compote and, maple syrup it didn’t really make a difference. I did like the addition of the small portion of hash browns that came as a side on the plate. I don’t often order sweet breakfast dishes because I want to start with some savoury before moving on to sweet as a treat. So this way you get to do just that. Plus their hash browns are amazing.

The hash browns are another point of pride for the “Ham & Eggman’s” team. They have worked on them, getting them to the crispy delights that they are now. Plenty of flavour in a golden brown shell that stays crunchy throughout the entire meal. Our group unanimously enjoyed them.

We were able to snag the last “Chicken and waffles” order, to my delight. Whenever I see this on any menu, I have to have it. Who doesn’t like Buttermilk marinated, boneless fried chicken served with sweet Belgium waffles, Chantilly cream, bourbon maple syrup, and a fresh fruit salad for good measure. Here, the doughy waffles made the ideal base for the juicy dark meat chicken. The chicken’s saltiness playing off well against the sugar crystals in the waffle; with m the bourbon syrup bringing it all together. I would order this one again.

The “Pork belly hash” was also pretty memorable. Crispy pork belly, asian greens, cabbage, shiitake, and Kennebec hash browns tossed in a gochujang bbq sauce. Then make more breakfast-y with two poached eggs. Sweet and salty asian flavours make this hash one of a kind. You do get quite a bit of pork belly, which maybe hard to discern, given how similar they look to the potato chunks. But biting down there was no mistake. Mostly fatty they are better with the other ingredients as a base. I wouldn’t want to commit to the whole serving myself, but a nice side to share.

They have a few options for their “Scrambles”, each with three eggs served alongside their kennebec hash browns and toast. We went with the “Mexican” version prepared with house made chorizo, fajita peppers, onions, aged cheddar, and topped with salsa and sour cream. This didn’t read Mexican for me. Maybe with more beans, a punchier chorizo, and zestier seasoning it would have. I did like it for what it was, and would have liked it rolled up into a breakfast wrap, with more of that sour cream sauce for dipping into. But you did get two halves of toast in you choice of either multigrain or sourdough. We went with the latter.

Similarly, there were a few choices for “Eggs Benedict”, each served on a toasted English muffins with perfectly poached eggs, their house made hollandaise sauce and more tasty hash browns. Upon our server’s suggestion we went for the one with the mix of wild mushroom and green onion. A delicious plate with the creamy hollandaise smothering the tender mushrooms, made further decadent with luscious yolks we broke into. This is another one I would order again.

The “Lomo Saltado hash” had Peruvian style marinated steak, fajita peppers and onions, grape tomatoes, and fresh herbs; all topped with two poached eggs. Another dish I wanted to wrap in a carb. The heavier fajita flavours also had me craving a sour cream or something else to brighten it up, like an avocado mash maybe?

The “Shakshuka” is a Turkish style spiced tomato sauce served with poached eggs, feta cheese, and fresh herbs. It comes with two pieces of toast for dipping into. Which would have been nicer with a thicker stew to scoop up, instead of the watery tomato mash to sop up. It also lacked flavour compared to the other dishes above. Here I would have liked some beef to help make the dish heartier.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall a really great option for breakfast in the community. And it is a treat to not have to drive all the way downtown for a modern breakfast platter. Fair prices for the portion sizes and the consistent quality. They definitely live up to their name with their perfect eggs. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAM & EGGMAN’s
3883 Rupert St, Vancouver, BC V5R 2G7
(604) 620-8942
hamandeggmans.com

Ahwaz Hookah House

I haven’t been to many hookah lounges in Vancouver. It is something I typically engage in on vacation as a vibe, and only in Malaysia or Mexico (apparently). But tonight we were visiting it as an after dinner activity, something different with the opportunity for me to practicing blowing smoke “O’s”.

The name of the lounge translates to “noise” according to my hookah partner. A bit of a contradiction given the stillness in the room and the early 00’s r&b and hip hop, slow jam playlist. It was intentionally calming and melodic, whereas I wanted something more upbeat, as that was the mood we were in.

The shoppe is an intimate space with a fabric tented ceiling and lights that strobed colour. The room was kept dim and compact with artifacts. The multitude of framed portraits and gilded accoutrement added to the authenticity of the place. That and each hookah apparatus being labeled as hailing from Egypt.

You enter the small space and head to the desk at the back of the room. A clutter of knick knacks and a collection of ornamental hookahs in varying sizes. Here, the owner/care taker takes your order. You are basically just choosing which fruity flavour of shisha, (a molasses-based tobacco concoction smoked in a hookah) that you want. The flavours include apple, grape, orange, strawberry, lemon, or mixed fruit; each the same $20 fee. We went for the watermelon upon my request. I like the flavour and you don’t often see it on other fruit focused menus. As for the taste, it tasted exactly as expected, and more so when you breathe in with the tip of your tongue out.

The chalky brick of shisha is torched on fire. With its embers glowing, it sits on a pedestal wrapped in tinfoil. You breathe in its smoke through a nozzle at the end of a tube, that connects to the base of the hookah. You know it is working when you see the water bubble and sound, at the bottle of it. For hygiene reasons, each smoker gets their own nib to place in the tube, you use this to suck in smoke through your mouth; and it is discarded after your visit.

The notion and activity offers something to do and a place to do it in, all at an affordable price. Coupled with a light head high, if you are doing it right. At first I was sheepish about sharing the confided space so closely with the others that were already seated on couches and chairs. Gathered together, but in their own twosomes surrounding their own hookah, stationed on a knee-height table. However, given the close proximity to one another, we were able to engage with a few of these other groups: exchanging commentary on the music choice, and sharing tips on how to blow smoke doughnuts. Overall a great experience, and something different to try.

AHWAZ
1322 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6E 3M5
(604) 696-9376

Galentines at Glowbal

Every year my best friend and I celebrate Galentines, it is a take on Valentines that endures our relationship. We do all the clique things that boyfriends and girlfriends (or any couple arrangement) does, but with each other as the bestie. So all the fun and extravagance, but with none of the disappointment.

This year we choose “Glowbal” as our destination for a more luxurious feel. A busy weekend, we were seated on the second floor looking down on it all, and the open raw bar.

We started the night with a couple of glasses of sparkling wine to mark the occasion.

Followed by an amuse bouche of “Butternut squash and ginger soup”, served in an espresso cup. A vegan soup that was light without the cream, and carrot forward to my tastes.

It transitioned well to our “Glowbal Dungeness Crab Cake” appetizer. A large puck of crab meat with a crispy seared crust. Served over a lemon tarragon aioli that gave it an enjoyable creaminess. And with the thinly sliced, raw and refreshing side salad, this became a well balanced dish of textures and harmonious flavours. A delicious and light start.

For our main my girl friend was lured in by the appeal of a premium cut of steak, or in this case, two. This is the 28oz Prime Rib Eye ‘Double Entrecote’ for $110. Two steaks cut down to strips for your easy consumption. Served with enough sauces and sides to make it a full meal.

The truffle mashed potatoes were garlicky with lots of rich flavour, but none of the truffle.

I really liked the Brussels sprouts, fried crispy and seasoned salty with plenty of Parmesan.

The seasoned vegetables were a collection of zucchini, heirloom carrots, and broccoli sautéed in butter and herbs.

And if they or your steak needed a change of taste or any additional flavouring, look to 1 of the 4 sauce dishes also included with the set. A red wine jus, a horseradish cream, chimichurri sauce, and herbed butter. The red wine was a classic steak sauce. The horseradish, a sharp cream that helps to brighten up any dish. The chimichurri tangy with pesto and lime notes. And the herbed butter a little too decadent with the steak, overpowering it. The sauces were a nice way to elongate the longevity of the meal; but as flavouring agents unnecessary, given how well seasoned and dressed everything was.

As for the steak, it was a fattier cut. We asked for it medium rare, but I still found it harder and drier. Not bad, but not in my top 3, which is a little more detrimental given the cost. The salad on the side was undressed and added nothing to the plate, aside from colour. The sides above were what you wanted to concentrate on anyways.

As impressive as the assembly above was, the following stole the show. Every Friday and Saturday night ”Glowbal” has a bar cart service. A table side show where a roving bartender creates various sensory cocktails. Tonight they would use smoke and bubbles for an added flavour and scent, along with the literal smoke show.

The earl grey sage martini was shaken and topped with an egg foam, before a smokey rosemary bubble is blown on top of it. A specialized machine does the inflating. The bubble lasts for several seconds creating quite the image.

You can also get it on top of a whiskey sour, like my guest did. Then, as a party trick, our table side bartender pushed the two glasses together and the 2 singular bubbles merged into one with a well defined crack in between. Honestly the most fun I have had at a finer dining establishment.

None of the desserts really appealed to us, so I had mine as more of a liquid dessert. The Melon ball cocktail, topped with a tuft of cotton candy, that sat doubling the height of the glass. This is a fruity tropical cocktail made sweeter by melting the spun sugar within it. This too was a great visual drink.

It is worth noting that between our server, all the staff, and the managers, we were well taken care of. Plenty of check ins and the willing ness to help and accommodate at anytime. This included changing tables mid meal, in realization to the fact that we were ordering a feast we would not finish.

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 wonderfully memorable night because of the great service and outlandish food and drink. The attentive staff made all the difference and the unique moments they offered are the ones you will be talking about for months to come. Don’t deny your cravings.

GLOWBAL
590 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1A3
(604) 602-0835
glowbalgroup.com

Ragazzi Pizza Co., #LasagnaChallengeYVR

My duties as one of Vancouver Fooster’s Best Lasagna judges has brought me down to “Ragazzi” in East Vancouver. I am actually familiar with the corner pizza shop, having my parent’s house located in the area. But it has been forever since I have laid eyes on “Ragazzi”, so it was so great to catch up and watch how they have flourish over the years, during this visit.

They serve a community with the likes of a public library, community centre, fire hall, and retirement centre; all surrounding it. Many of the visitors today were kids coming in after school or after their extra curriculars. Parents, groups of teen, and single folk looking for an easy dinner solution, with leftovers to serve as another meal.

It was a smaller space with order by the slice options by the window, to take to-go or quickly dine in. As well as a full menu with pizza and pasta that is baked to order. We grabbed a booth seat at the back and casually conversed as we waited for our meal. The flat screen televisions provided something to look at.

Seeing it, I was immediately impressed by the size of the serving of the vegetarian lasagna. I found my mouth watering up, looking at the even layers of tender noodle, gooey cheese, and melty spinach. It smelled and tasted exactly like what I envisioned when I anticipated lasagna for dinner. A classically done casserole that hits all the comfort bites with its salty and tangy notes, without the need for any ground meat. This is one you would crave again.

I was here to judge their lasagna, but couldn’t walk away not trying their pizza. This is their classic margarita with a thick, yet airy crust, and a sweet tomato sauce. It is seasoned a little on the mild side between the mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. However, you can easily reach for any of their table top condiments. A squeeze bottle of hot sauce or ranch dressing and/or a shaker of chilli flakes or Parmesan cheese to customize each slice to your preference.

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 whole neighbourhood can’t be wrong. A great spot to pick up a slice to snack on, but worth checking out for local hole in the wall charm. When you crave pizza and lasagna this is what hits that spot. Don’t deny your cravings.

RAGAZZI
2996 E 22nd Ave E, Vancouver, BC V5M 2Y4
(604) 433-2235
ragazzipizza.com

Sprezzatura Restaurant, #LasagnaChallengeYVR

Vancouver Foodster is back this month with another one of his food challenges. These challenges pit participating restaurants against one another, for best dish in a chosen category. This month it was lasagna, and as a lover of pasta and carbs in general, my skills and palette were called upon to be one of the three judges. The goal, visit all participating restaurants, try their entries, and declare a winner based on an accumulation of points between presentation, originality, and taste.

And for those not judging, you can get into the competition by visiting all participating restaurants yourself, trying each, and voting for your favourite online. The winner will be crowned the “people’s choice best lasagna”.

So today I was doing my duties, here at “Sprezzatura”, glad that I got a chance to visit for the first time. I don’t think I would have ever thought to come down otherwise, and would definitely be missing out as a result. Despite the size of the space, it is off the beaten path. Therefore you don’t often drive past it, opting to take the larger streets at either ends, instead.

It is a beautiful space in its industrial simplicity. There is plenty of breathing room between the vaulted ceilings and seating arrangement. Exposed ceilings overhead, concrete floors with checkered patterns underfoot, and glossy black and white tiles around. There was a collection of seating across the space. Like the more lounge-y area that also doubled as a cafe bar with high tops and a pantry-esque vibe.

In front of the open kitchen you can grab a seat with a view. Sit down on one of their marble table tops, paired with a metal and wooden chair that you would find at an outdoor cafe. Here, you can see their whole kitchen operation. Everything is made from scratch, in house, and cooked up within either of their two ovens. The first an individual cooker, the second a wood stone pizza oven. Therefore nothing on the menu is deep fried, grilled, or sautéed. And this lack of cooking options available doesn’t hinder them, but instead it gives them a very unique angle; furthering their brand of a local, unpretentious bistro.

We ended up grabbing a seat by the window with fun decals of pizza, cocktails, wine and cutlery. A nice nod to the food and whimsy that the space holds. It was in the corner, by yet another unique seating area. A nook with wooden benches and matching tables, soften with throw pillows. On the wall hung a collection of sketches and photos depicting historic sporting moments and wins. Here, I was able to chat with the general manager Gino, who described the setting as a “London gastro pub with an Italian summer menu”. He then walked us through the menu highlighting popular items and must tries from their 7 month old bistro. Which was helpful considering the menu doesn’t include photos or a way to underline the highlights.

Our visit coincided with their daily happy hour between 3-6pm, so we were sure to take advantage by ordering a couple of their specials. Like the meatballs at 50% off. They were also stressed as a must try by Gino. They were steamed with tomatoes, parmigiano, and basil. Bobbing in a cast iron pan with classic marinara sauce, the flavours were all familiar. A tasty bite, but I couldn’t help but long for the crispy edges that a cast iron would normally give.

During happy hour all pizzas are $5 off so we had to try one of those. They prepare traditional Neapolitan-style pizza that is commonly soft in middle with a nice chew all around. We were originally eyeing the roasted pork belly or sausage pizza. However Gino warned that it does get heavy with the meat, literally and figuratively, and what you actually want from a Neapolitan pizza is something that is light, not soft and soggy. So we ended up going for the mushroom pizza with Fior di latte, cremini, porcini, parmigiano, and truffle oil.

I watched the pizza come fresh out of the oven and get topped with cheese, and cut into slices with ease. It is served to you on a rack for space saving measures, or if you order multiple pies. The dough was beautifully blistered, light and chewy as promised with plenty of fragrant mushroom, but we didn’t get much truffle flavour come though. Either way deliciously done and just as tasty the day after as leftovers. Although during my return visit I would gravitate towards a more meatier pizza for more kick.

We thought about getting our pork belly fix as a roast, but we urged to get the roast chicken instead. That this boneless half chicken with only its wings attached, it is a favourite amongst the regulars and staff alike. It is cryovac-ed and marinated for 25 hours, before it is baked skin side down on a pan. The result, a unique display of balance of juicy chicken with extra crispy skin. It was good with the roasted herbed wedge potatoes on the side, as they added additional salt and zest to the dish. Tasty, but not as memorable as it was hyped up to be. Instead, it left me curious over how much more flavourful the pork belly or even their beer braised wagyu would be.

Walking in and smelling it in the air, I had to get an order of their vegetable side special of the day: the garlic and Parmesan Brussels sprouts. A side serving was the freshness we needed to balance everything out. But it wasn’t as crispy as I wanted them from the baking, and it only got wilted once it cooled down. So eat this first and fast. Ideal with the roasted chicken above. However, if you are looking for crispier vegetables, apparently the dressed twice arugula salad, with honey as the second coating is the one to get.

And now for their lasagna, and the reason why I was here in the first place. Given their cooking method, this Italian bistro is only able to offer two types of pasta dishes. A Mac and cheese casserole, or this, their “Porcini lasagna” with Fior di latte, cream, and rapini mushrooms. This isn’t your typical lasagna, it isn’t the type you think of when you consider layers of noodles in a pan with meat and cheese. I could deem this more of a gourmet rendition, built up for an adult palette. Not your typical tomato base, so you don’t get that tang. Instead it is a rich and earthy bite with decadent salty cheese. A lot on its own, you definitely want a side with it, to be able to change the taste in between bites. Very different. Not one you would crave, but one you would want to try.

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.
A great spot to host larger parties, I will definitely be suggesting this one to my family the next time they want to get together. Everything was familiar, yet different with slight twists and variations, to make the dining more interesting. I left full, but feeling healthier because everything was baked. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SPREZZATURA
265 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5T 3J5
(604) 876-6333
sprezzatura.ca

Science of Cocktails 2020

Another year at the Science of Cocktails and it continues to not disappoint. This is a one-of-a-kind drink and food fuelled night, hosted within the city’s most iconic dome. Those gathered are here to support underserved schools, raising funds so that school children can have the opportunity to visit Science World. The monies earned cover 50-100% of their admission and transportation, with an estimation that 9,000 kids will be exploring Science World in wonder between 2020-2021. “By the end of this school year, over 30,000 kids will have benefitted from funds raised in the five years Science of Cocktails has been running”, (as taken from the event’s press release).

“All proceeds from Science of Cocktails, including ticket sales, 50/50 draw, coat check, and silent auction prizes, go to support the Class Field Trip Bursary Program”. With the dedicated event teams, bartenders, and chefs volunteering their time and efforts to make this event successful”. This great cause has already raised $1.2 million dollars cumulatively, thanks in part to selling out the 5 years in a row that they have been doing this.

For those who have yet to attend, this is a great night where guests peruse tables and stands, chatting up the city’s favourite chefs and most talented bartenders. Each of which have created a sensory food or drink experience to be sampled. Each of which showcases science through unique ingredients and/or unorthodox techniques.

This year there were more than 35 cocktail stations and a handful of food stations. So many different stalls that we were unable to visit and cover them all. The following is what we did get to, with a few of my favourites highlighted.

Worth noting is that a lot of the food tables ran out mid way through the night, so you need to work with urgency if you want to hit them all. With a buffet mentality you can pretty much eat and drink as much as you like, tasting it all, and returning for your favourites.

“Empress” gin showcased their colour changing liquor by adding acid in the form of tonic water and lemon. They were able to do this to match Pantone’s current colour of the year: “classic blue” and a purple in “Radiant Orchid”. The colour cards here were a nice touch.

“Monkey Shoulder” whiskey teamed up with Nespresso for a spiked coffee shot, sweetened with pineapple flavoured cotton candy for extra whimsy.

I am forever a fan of “Hendricks” and their romantic branding coupled with a little tongue and cheek sensuality.

“Bombay Sapphire” and “St. Germain” made a cocktail that glowed in the light of a black light bulb.

A robot bartender took precision mixing to a whole new level by making White Russians for its audience.

“Maestro Dobel Tequila” put on a show by adding a lot of smoke to their cocktail.

A similar technique and trend was also used in the “Bubble and Pop” cocktail with flavour adding smoke.

But why drink your cocktail when you can chew it? Especially if they are gelatine shots served by a lucha libre.

“Nutrl vodka” had a three storey tea drip that was eye catching.

And for those who wanted a break from mixed drinks, they could look to “Road 13” for either their red or white pours.

Feeling a little peckish? “El PLTR” impressed your eyes and your stomach with their expansive charcuterie platter. A collection of finger foods in savoury and sweet from meat balls and hummus to fresh fruit and chocolate with nuts. A help yourself smorgasbord that saw a continuous line.

At the “Lazy Gourmet” booth guests had the black ink risotto with salmon crudo, citrus pearls, and fennel dust.

“Emelle’s” catering offered up easy to eat “elemental salad spoons”. Beet and balsamic spheres with an infused extra virgin olive oil and freeze dried plant-based “chèvre”.

“Hapa Izakaya’s” vegan edamame roll was a popular one. A fully loaded sushi roll with edamame, avocado, shiso, oshinko, green beans, rice puffs, and a torched miso sauce.

“Peake of Catering’s”, Chef Michael Chan won best overall dish for his Lobster Terrine with Crystal Bread and Miso Powder. A surreal looking hors d’oeuvre that had you doing a double take, wondering if you were going to be eating plastic.

And as you sipped and nibbled you have the option of taking in scientific demonstrations like the “Reuben’s Tube, where sound waves create spectacular columns of flames”. And at the centre stage there were a variety of shows at predetermined time slots, like the tricky bartending. All the regular exhibits were also open for interacting with as well.

Like the feature exhibit, which is the new “LEGO Towers or Tomorrow”. This has been transformed to the VIP lounge. A special area with additional activities, live music, and catering for special ticket holders. The extra cost in the ticket gives you extra. And it is well worth it for the ability to sit and relax in a calm space, alone. A respite between the hustle and bustle of this multi-storey event.

It included a stage with live performers, and a lengthy bar offering specialty mixed cocktails only available within.

Here, VIPs could get professional head shots to take home as souvenirs, by “The Near and Dear”. Andrea our artistic director was great at posing her models, and recreating their vision for themselves in black and white.

VIPs also enjoyed additional food the likes of a seafood grazing platter hosted by “Boulevard”. An impressive spread that included fresh shucked oysters, crab legs, and large shrimp. So impressive that it won Chef Roger Ma and his team the title of “Best Presentation”.

There was also a circulating collection of small bites that include foie gras macarons, and later desserts when the night drew to a close. Two bite sponge and mousse, panna cotta, chocolates and gummies.

In short, there is no other event like this, and many reasons why I look forward to it every year. If you have never been, make sure you bookmark the link below to attend next year’s soirée. And if you have, upgrade the experience with a VIP ticket, which is well worth it. Because remember, 100% of your ticket goes towards a great cause.

Check out the more telling vlog, now up on my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

Presale tickets are already available for next year’s event:
When: February 4, 2021
Where: TELUS World of Science | 1455 Quebec St, Vancouver, BC
Price: Presale General Admission tickets cost $135 with a charitable tax receipt of $30. Presale VIP tickets cost $225 with a charitable tax receipt of $125
Tickets: Presale tickets are available until February 28 at https://www.scienceworld.ca/science-of-cocktails/tickets/
Hashtag: #ScienceOfCocktails

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén