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

Month: February 2020 Page 1 of 2

Miss Korea BBQ

Walking up to the restaurant, we recollected that we have been to this location before; but as a different reincarnation. It then too was a do-it-yourself barbecue restaurant. But instead of a Japanese, this was now a lively and boppy Korean bbq hub. You could smell the smoke a block away, and hear the sizzle even past the jovial voices and the bubbly K-pop ballads belting.

Sadly, we were horribly late for our reservation, and as a result our table was given away. So we were left at the threshold, awkwardly standing, at the centre of a cluster of dining tables, separated by dark wood separators. There was no other option given that the small waiting area was already cramped, and it was too cold to enjoy standing outside. So here we were, waiting a minute for every one that we were originally late for.

It was packed house on Friday with plenty bodies waiting for a table after us, this did bolstered the restaurant’s imagine in my eyes. It had me thinking that it must be worth the wait, especially given how popular it was with the Korean population. The only hitch, all the waiting had my eyes drying from the unseen smoke and my nostrils trying to close in on themselves, to avoid breathing in the acrid smell of burning compounded, from every grill at every table. Be warned? This smell does follow you home, embedding itself in your hair and on your clothes.

But past this, the visit, the food, and especially the service were a delight. The young host was cheery and welcoming, we were ushered to our table as soon as one became available; and well look after each time we push the red button for service. A measure of convenience for the staff, but an action I could not get use to. Continuing to make eye contact and hail a person like I would a cab, like at everywhere else.

The menu was easy to navigate with plenty of coloured photos. If you want the full experience you get one of their predetermined barbecue sets, and to it add some sides. For more food, go for one of their full dishes like kimchi pancake, bibimbap, or japchae. There are also a number of smaller appetizers and share plates to consider.

But back to the barbecue sets: a collection of raw meats that you cook yourself on the grill, located at the centre of your table. They are a variety of sets to choose from, each with 4 sides, bowls of rice, soup and sauces. So you are basically choosing what types of meat you want. And then if you want the order as a medium which feeds 2 to spare, or large which can feed 3-4.

We went with the “Miss Combo A” which centred around rib eye steak, pork belly, special galbi, and chicken. And added on cheese as one of the grill sides for an extra $3.95. The price is steep for 60mls of shredded cheese melted and quick to burn, but amazingly delicious with the meat if you get it all gooey and stringy.

Meats are marinated and served all together on one platter for you to sort through. Larger cuts that you might want to trim down to size if you are sharing, and seeing as your meal doesn’t come with knives for slicing. You get two tongs and a pair of scissors. One of the tongs is for raw meat the other to serve the cooked cuts. You can either cut the meat down to size before or after it is cooked. We went with before and found the dull shears ineffective on any sinew.

We were advised to eat the chicken and pork first using a more closed off grill plate. And then when we move on to the beef, the grill plate would be changed to one that is more wire-y. This was nice, given that the grill isn’t oiled so it does get caked with burnt meat that sloughs off during the cooking process. So getting a new one mid way ensures you are tasting more of your meat, and less of the burning.

How the meat turns out depends on you, so be vigilant and visit with someone who actually enjoys tending to the grill. For me, not so much, I rather eat and enjoy my meal with minimum work. But this sort of dining is more for comradery and the ability to elongate a meal through slow preparation and gentle grazing anyways.

As for how it tasted, the seasoning was the same for all the meat, a mildly sweet and salty marinate. Good but not enough. I found myself dipping everything into the side of sweet soy, chilli, or course salt for more punch. Each cut had a different chew. I liked the special galbi the most for its perfect balance of fat and meat, the chicken was the most tender and naturally flavourful, the pork belly was mostly just fat, and the rib eye a little too aged and musky for my tastes. But the fun really comes from trying them all with a different combination of the egg, corn and cheese on the side.

The corn came shrivelled and remained dry. The egg bubbled up and kept warm like a fluffy omelette; and along side with the cheese and pork belly, you got flashbacks of breakfast. Be warned the cheese is very hot and it holds its heat, so be careful as it can burn your tongue.

You can also use the 4 vegetable sides as a way to inject a little flavour along with the meat and rice. Although majority of them are more tangy and refreshing in quality and serve better as a break in between, to change up the flavour with. Like the spicy cucumber and pickled julienned daikon. There is also the more common chilled boiled potato and spicy kimchi sides.

The soup comes to the table sizzling in its cast iron vessel. A light vegetable broth with hot spice. Mixed in are plenty of chopped cabbage and onion; with chucks on tofu, cannelloni beans, and zucchini. A great start to warm your stomach up for things to come. You can also enjoy the vegetables over your rice as they are well seasoned by the soup.

As good as all this was, and despite how much food we already had in front of us, I couldn’t walk away without ordering the “Seafood rice cake”. Rice cakes are one of my favourite, especially in this form. I enjoy the chew of the tubes, and here it was well highlighted by the mix of the seafood and their textures. Shrimp in tail, mussels in shell, sheets of fish cake, and squid curls; all smothered in a sweet chilli sauce. Spicy enough to give your tongue a run for its money, but not hot enough that you would stop eating. I am not ashamed to admit that I single handedly finished the whole bowl.

To drink we had soju, because when having Korean barbecue what else do you turn too? However I made the mistake of ordering a sweet one in green apple fruit. The result, the most un-complimentary food and drink pairing I have ever had. I outright admit soju was a bad idea. However, in my defence I typically am not the one who orders it, it is just shows up!

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great place for good barbecue and a fun date night option. Just be prepared to come out smelling like burn bbq smoke. Don’t deny your cravings.

793 Jervis St, Vancouver, BC V6E 2B1
(604) 669-1225

2020 Mazda 3 Sedan review

Not the brand or the label, not what’s under the hood. Reviews written by a regular woman for other regular folk. I don’t care how many horses it has under the hood, what I care about is how it drives for my needs. These reviews are my personal experience, I am not pulling from any expertise or any manual or technical review. These are just things that I notice as a regular driver, one that commutes over two hours a day. Additionally, I don’t care if something comes standard or may be considered a minute detail, if I think it is interesting and worth mentioning, I will be doing it here. Like do the seats raise high enough. Can I see past the front of the car, can I reach all the buttons on the centre console and dash with ease? And how do I feel when I am behind the wheel? Powerful? Professional?

This week I was in the front seat of the 2020 Mazda 3 Sedan, having driven the sport edition just a couple of weeks ago I knew what to expect for the automatic version.

For me Mazda’s are a great staple, no real out standing hits or misses, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I get in to one I know exactly what to expect from it, and it delivers. Simple easy driving, reliable comfort; that car that brings you from point A to B without issue. Therefore, this is going to be short one because I don’t need to oversell it, I don’t need to talk it up, the Mazda 3 is just a solid vehicle.

When it comes to getting into a new vehicle, I don’t invest time in reading a manual. I simply adjust the driver’s seat, sit down, and begin pushing buttons. Tuning the sound system to the way I like it, favouriting my preferred satellite radio stations, and getting acquainted with all the features I will need to use for the week. And considering this, upon first blush impressions the Mazda 3 is easy.

Its standard features include lane assist, seat and wheel heating, automatic windshield wiping, and your speed and the limit projected on to the windshield for easy viewing. Along with keyless entry the vehicle is effortless. You don’t feel like you are exerting yourself in the least bit when you are driving, giving you easy and effortless commuting.

Although if you are planning on carpooling you might have issues. There is no room in the back seat. I ended up shooting and impromptu taste test video back there, and had to move the front seats as far up as the could go in order to do so. Meaning either the driver has leg room or the back seat passengers do. Similarly, if you had a car seat back here, you won’t be able to fit in the front seat. Thus, making it not very practical as the family sedan.

But as a single person vehicle it works, especially with the great fuel economy. A week worth of work and extracurriculars only had me filling up once, and even then it wasn’t over $60.

In summary, comparing it to the restaurant reviews that I also write, there isn’t anything out of sorts with the Mazda 3, but at the same time it isn’t necessary your favourite restaurant or the one you are excited to recommend. This is the one you go back to time and time again because it’s by your house and inexpensive. Like your comfortable, local neighbourhood pub. Thank you Mazda Canada for the wheels of the week!


King Size Bubble Tea & Games

My friend got invited down to “King Size Bubble Tea” on Main Street for a drink and some karaoke. The shoppe reached out to her after seeing her wacky personality come alive on social media. So she called me up for a fun afternoon of bbt and singing.

They have been a go-to for bubble tea in the Main Street area for 2 years now (previously known as “7 Lemon”), but only recently have they expanded their entertainment offerings to include karaoke, so were now excited to share. Their goal is to bring something different to the world of bbt cafés. As it is getting harder to compete with the international imports planting roots in Canada, with many more shops breaking soil thereafter. So here at “King Sized” they are focusing on the environment in which their drinks are being served. What more can their guests do, after buying a cup and nursing it for an hour or two.

The decor definitely speaks to the above. Walking in, it felt like someone’s bedroom, and it certainly took me back to mine growing up. There were multiple nods to gaming and anime with “One Piece” “wanted” posters on the wall, “Gundam” builds proudly displayed on the shelves, “Yu-Gi-Oh!” playing cards and their tins, and “Bleach” posters; from what I was familiar with.

For games they had the classic board games like Battle Ship, Guess Who, and Card Against Humanity. There was an electronic darts machine in the corner, and old fashion wooden chess set up at the ready, and a gaming station with Nintendo’s Game Cube and an Xbox 360 plugged in.

As for the karaoke, our visit was at 1pm, right when they opened on the weekend. And as long as you have the courage and are willing to grab the mike and belt out your favourite tune, you can sing any time of the day. The karaoke machine syncs up to your phone when you connect to one of their wifi networks. From there, you pick your song off of the YouTube app, choosing a lyric video so that you can read along. Although there are also actual karaoke song versions available, where you can only hear the melody, minus the vocals. And viola, easy karaoke with out the licence.

When it comes to drinks, their menu hosts all the familiar bubbletea flavours: slushes, steep teas with fruit, and milk based teas. Be warned if you have dairy restrictions, they only use real milk, therefore you will have to avoid the entire milk tea collection. I was fine, so got their classic milk tea, which ended up being too sweet. They gave me a choice in sweetness and ice, but I left it as “normal”, not knowing any better. I did like how their pearls were warm and extra squishy though.

My host however has a dairy allergy, so went with the recommended strawberry lemon tea made with real strawberry fruit. It was lemon forward, with the underlying flavour of rose, and very little tea. She declared that she liked it, despite not typically liking tea drinks.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
In short, a fun spot to hang out at, with drinks and games to play. Don’t deny your cravings.

4385 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3R1
(778) 379-7060

El Camino’s brunch

My friend and I were meeting up on Main Street, and looking for a quick bite to eat. She suggested “El Camino’s”, and seeing as we both have never been, we made it our destination.

Named after the vintage car, they have used its likeness as their logo. A red Chevrolet in front of a orangey-yellow sunburst. The exterior isn’t much to look at with the patio covered by a waterproof tarp. A large contrast to the warm and photographic exterior that awaits within. As their sign out front advertised, they have cocktails and a very well furnished bar to craft almost anything. Its expanse greets you at the door, shelves featuring tequila reaching out towards either direction. To the right a more formal dining area, set to a backdrop of Spanish painted on to cement bricks. To the left, more of a bar feel with high top tables in front for a mural. Yellow eyes peering out from behind a wall of blood red roses. We would grab a seat in between, two high stools against a makeshift table top, balanced on an ornately painted barrel. The lot of it gave the room a certain western feel, befitting of their namesake.

The brunch menu included the usual famialr breakfast offerings of fruit bowls and fried eggs; but with Latin American-inspired sides and flourishes like salsa, tortilla chips, and black beans.

My guest got the “Tomatican hash”, a Chilean stew of tomatoes, onions, peppers, corn and potatoes; topped with braised short rib, a poached egg, hollandaise, and tortilla chips. It ate like chips and salsa but with stew for dipping into. Thanks to the side of potatoes and the tortilla, this ate like two different plates in its variety.

I had one of the three Benedicts. It was a plate of two poached egg, a smokey hollandaise, hash browns, pulled pork, and pickled jalapeño on cornbread. This was deliciously done and exactly as how I envisioned it when ordering. The sweetness of the cornbread played off the salty pork, and now and again you would get the heat from a rouge jalapeño. Not to mention both eggs were perfectly poached and creamy with the hollandaise. I would return just for this.

But if you needed a bit more zip to your plate, look to any of the three bottles of house made hot sauces and barbecue sauces, stationed at every table.

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.
Given how much we both liked our plates, I would want to come back to try more of their brunch menu and work my way through dinner and lunch as well. Don’t deny your cravings.

3250 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3M6
(604) 875-6246

Sanbo Chinese Restaurant

For our latest food blogger meet up, our group decided to take advantage of the timing, and themed our dinner around Chinese New Year, (which actually lasts for 15 days). We made “San Bo” our destination, given that a few of us have been before and have vouched for the food.

The restaurant is located in an outdoor plaza, with plenty of parking available. The restaurant is easy to spot with its bright awning marked with a spiny king crab. Normally the restaurant is bustling, but given the medical state of emergency that is plaguing the world currently, there was nothing but a quite whisper at this Chinese restaurant in Richmond. Many of the tables remained empty during our 2 hour dinner.

Our group of 7 gathered around a large table centred by a lazy Susan. We ordered based on things returning guests have had and liked, and to it added on a few interesting sounding dishes. The English menu is fairly easy to read, but with very little photos and names/descriptions like “preserved ham”, you aren’t quite sure what you will be getting.

Our feast began with a lotus root and pork bone soup that we would serve ourselves. A murky broth that was warming to the bone. Deliciously satisfying with bits of meat to maw on as you sip. So good that I helped myself to another serving immediately after finishing the first.

The “Whole Soy chicken” comes highly recommend, and you have to order it ahead of time, given the need to marinade the chicken for an extended period of time before. The end result: the chicken’s skin was flavourful with sweet soy, but the actual chicken meat a little dry for my tastes. It was good, but comparatively, this wasn’t my favourite of everything we had. There was just so much good food to follow.

Like their “Famous curry beef tendon” this is one you order for its texture. Jiggly pieces of tendon, firm meat, and potatoes boiled for so long that they almost melt; all coated in a sweet curry with a slight spiciness. This was of my favourites that I would order again.

The “Crab and sticky cake special sauce” came with some theatrics. The crab was fished out of the tank live, and presented to our table before preparation. You are paying for it by pound, so this way you get to assess the size and freshness of your meal to come. In this case it was 2.8lbs. I like the taste of the crab in the peppery sauce, but the amount of work you have to put in to cracking its shell and peeling meat from it, takes away from its deliciousness. Especially as this dish does tend to cool down fast. Either way, I was plenty happy simply chewing on the rice cakes that surrounded it. I did try the guts\brains of the crab for the very first time. It was so bitter and acrid that I immediately spit it out. I have seen guests fight for it, but this one was not for me.

I also really enjoyed the “Spicy shrimp with vermicelli hot pot”. It came sizzling, remaining warm well into the meal. We didn’t order any rice, so this served as the carbs/base you wanted to eat, with some of the more protein forward dishes. Although it was plenty tasty as is, especially with the large butterflied shrimp that topped it.

The dish that stole the show for the table was the “House special salted egg with deep fried fish skin”. At $28 you get this much, made fresh to order. It is well worth it when compare it to the pre-packaged bags of salted egg yolk fish skins that are trendy now. But bring friends because it is a lot, and I personally couldn’t see myself eating more than 4-5 pieces at most, in a sitting. It is best enjoyed right when it hits the table, warm. Although is just as crispy and crunchy towards the end of the meal as well.

The “Fish lips and duck feet” we ordered based on its name, and the novelty of saying something so bizarre aloud. Chewy textures saucy in a thick gelatinous stew. Another one you order for texture and its unique mouth-feel.

Feeling like we needed some greens to balance out the deep fried items and all the meat and seafood, we order d the “Garlic pea tips”. This action is very typical at most multi-course Chinese feasts. I am not a fan of the texture of wilted greens, so passed on this one. Besides, reading its name I expected crisp peas in pods.

The “Sweet and sour pork” was a classic, not something I haven’t had before, but much better prepared than I have had it previously, at food courts stalls. Sticky and sweet chunks of breaded meat that hit the spot with a balance of refreshing pineapple and sharp peppers.

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.
We were skeptical about being able to finish it all, but impressed ourselves. The food was that good, and we left plenty satisfied because of it. Overall, an amazing meal, I can see why half of our party wanted to return today. I have no qualms over a revisit in the near future, and simply ordering everything we had tonight. Don’t deny your cravings.

4600 No 3 Rd Unit 121, Richmond, BC V6X 2C2
(604) 278-2616

Taboo: Naughty but Nice Sex Show

In continuing our quest to attend as many conventions as possible this year, my girl friend and I found ourselves at the “Taboo: Naughty but Nice Sex Show”. We strolled in around mid day, not wanting to be too eager right when they open at 1pm.

It has been years since my original visit, so I walked in expecting what I could recall from memory; especially as it was held at the old convention centre today, as it was back then. An open space where guests were able to get up close to products, try things out when possible, ask questions to vendors, and take what they liked home, after. The sprawling space was kept warm, and the air heavy and hot. The temperature meant to keep those who decided to dress with less warm, with coat check outside for everyone else.

Tickets are reasonable at $20 an entry at the door, or $5 less if you purchase ahead of time. It includes a goodie bag of flyers and adverts, with admission and the ability to spectate several seminars, live shows, and work shops all throughout the day. All on top of getting handsy and up close and personal with a lot of product. An opportunity many might not get to do, or feel comfortable doing at their local sex shop or even specialty grocery store. But this assortment didn’t just include lingerie, restraints, lube, or vibration devices. Tables and makeshift stalls to browse through also included plenty of fashion jewelry, cosplay animal ears, boudoir opportunity, lotions and body scrubs, hand made soaps with sexually suggestive names, candles that doubles as body wax, and a slew of clothes from lounge pieces to bodices covered in crystal.

There was a lot more to see across the whole convention space, although at the same time after a couple of laps, one phallic representation does end up looking like any another. The following are a few of the highlights through photos.

Declare your sugar baby status or your daddy issues with merchandise that is easy to read across your chest or panties.

Meet the latest life-like sex dolls with both male and female anatomy. You can look but don’t touch, a point I didn’t realize until writing this post and looking back at my photos.

There was no shortage in penial shaped treats. Sugar cookies, ring pops, and even a bouquet of them to suck on. I was most enamoured by the artistry of “Punk Rock Pastries”. At their booth you can purchase vagina or penis cookies, browsing the entire collection until you found ones with the skin tone, veins, and shape that appeals to you the most. They also hand bondage bread men, cookies of your favourite sexual position (doggy style), and even whole cakes topped with your favourite sexual anatomy piece.

Feeling over stimulated? Catch your breath at the oxygen bar.

Need to take a seat? Live classes taught those interested how to bind your partner and penetrate her, with rope and full nudity. Others taught females how to ejaculate/squirt. Or go for something light hearted with a stage show hosted by a drag queen with full audience participation and prizes. She had couples give each other lap dances, and tested individuals on the spot by asking for their orgasm faces and voices.

Guests could also test their agility and stamina on poles or hoops suspended in the air. Or dare to enter the truck advertising free candy and getting a little more. At the latter, we were able to test our might through a little whipping. Laying face down, ass up we had two ladies take turns flogging our backside with a multiple tasseled leather whip. (This will be the most action I get in a while.)

And best of all, alcohol is served with multiple bars at the side of the room. Wine, beer, or cocktails; anything to help nervous ticket holders relax and get into things. Although all in all it is a very free and open space. Several men and women came dressed in their best attire with no judgement or double takes from anyone. Corsets, stockings, pasties, and ball gags. There was even a lone furry wandering the crowd.

In summary, a great expo for those wanting to expand their sexual repertoire, or learn how to spice things up in a current relationship one week before Valentine’s Day. With plenty to see and learn you can easily spent a day there. No need to be shy!

Wellness Expo 2020

My girl friend invited me to the “Wellness Expo” at the Vancouver convention centre the first weekend of February. I am not know for being particularly health conscious or even looking to be more physically fit for summer, so this was a harder sell for me. Thankfully I am always down to trying something new, and was therefore pleasantly surprised by my first ever visit.

Naturally I won’t be able to cover everything that I saw and did, in the detail that I do. However, I will include highlights and pinpoint interesting products below.

Each ticket holder is given a goodie bag at the entrance, upon check-in. A reusable bag from their sponsors filled with assorted samples to take home and try at your leisure. This also serves as a great bag to stock up and store all your purchases and additional collected samples within.

Like most other expos, it is a sprawling space where guest visited booths at their own pace, try samples that appeal, and strike up conversations with vendors based on interests. Closest to the door were all the food and drink samples, transitioning to wellness products, and new age practices towards the back. This was a self serve marketplace where entrepreneurs and spokespeople introduced newer products or lines that you might not otherwise get to hear of.

There were so many samples that I found myself having an accumulated lunch there. Gourmet salsa with fresh fruit and vegetables. All vegan soups that have you not missing meat. Gluten free pizza crusts that don’t taste like ash. Veggie patty alternatives, herbal mushroom chocolates, teas, and coffees; and even healthy pet snacks for your beloved cat or dog.

For dessert there was several yogurt options to smack on, a diary free ice cream worth trying, chocolate flavoured hummus, popcorn with a protein powder sprinkled over top, and low calorie candy.

For those looking for more nutritional focused items there were plenty of protein mixes, powered vitamins; and plenty of supplements in gummy, pill, and drink form. One a day juices that promises to cleanse and rejuvenate your skin. Drink that are chalk full of antioxidants. Majority of which were available to purchase here, and at major Vancouver health food stores in the future.

There are also a couple of of all natural make up lines and hygiene goods. A shampoo bar that eliminates plastics in the shower. And a salon booth serving women with on the spot curls or hair straightening. The latter which had me sold and walking home with a new straightener that promised the results would last up to three days on unwashed hair.

My guest and enjoyed getting a health check with a laser to the palm of our hands. Results were better than expected and included solutions on how to get it even better. We also had our aura decoded with a scan of our palms. What the colour signatures said about you bodily health, and how it is reflected in your mental wellness. This came with pages of homework that included a list of supplements and activities that would help realign any issues. We the treated ourselves to a couple of crystal and semi precious stone bracelets, each with its own healing property.

In short the wellness expo is more than just a bunch of hawkers promoting a healthy lifestyle, it is a wide breath of new and local products aimed at day to day well being and creating dietary solutions. A great expo where you definitely feel like you are getting your money’s worth at. I will have to be back next year.

Vancouver Convention Centre West
1055 Canada Place
Vancouver, BC V6C 0C3


2020 Hyundai Kona review

This week I was behind the wheel of the 2020 Hyundai Kona. This would be my first electric vehicle assessment from my new “regular girl review” series. I haven’t had too much experience with fully electric vehicles, so was excited to put this one to the test.

As with many, I get anxiety relying on a battery to fuel my transportation needs. Is one charge enough to get me where I need to g? Will I be able to find a wall charger at my destination. Will it charge my vehicle fully and within the time I allot it? For many, hybrid vehicles are the way to go. You get the best of both worlds as they offer a little from both the battery powered world and the fossil fuel solution.

But I can confidently say that I got around well just fine being fully electric, and without the need to charge the Kona for the week. I did end up doing so on 3 separate occasions. But between low volt wall outlets and limited timed parking, it really didn’t make much of a difference. At 400km, the range is tremendous. My 60km (to and fro), daily work commute put a dent into this, but the Kona still had plenty of juice left to get me around for grocery shopping and social outings. And doing so with comfort and ease.

This is a smaller SUV, and as such, it might as well be a coupe. Despite the luxury of a generous arm rest equipped with cup holders, your passengers don’t get a lot of room in the back seat. With the front rows adjusted comfortably, leaving enough leg room to do some stretching, you take away all and any such room for your passengers at the back. Not to mention there are head rests and belts for 3, but nothing more or in addition to being able to sit 3 well for an extended period of time. There are at least compartments and binning on the doors, to be able to store what you need, leaving as much room as possible for the people.

And what felt like a spacious cabin, was actually just as tight. The proof was in the number of times I found myself accidentally poking or jabbing my front seat passenger. A couple of times this was due to me trying to use the cup holders, and more when togging between music and the settings on the centre console. I kept thinking that I had more clearance than I really did. And it didn’t help that the centre console was set further back than with most vehicles. So in order to use it you seat yourself awkwardly, positioned with the need to almost turn around and look back and down at it. And these were buttons that I found myself using often enough to find this positioning a nuisance, like the seat warmers and sport mode. As for the buttons themselves they felt a little cheap in plastic with the push down.

Turning the vehicle on is as simple as pushing a button. It lights up and shuts down with melodic tones, much like a computer or game console would. A nice warning tone, it begins to ramp up as you slowly accelerate, it climaxes when you hit 30 and you can’t hear it any more. This is an audio cue that let’s you know that your vehicle is running, given that you don’t actual hear or feel the roar of an engine. This is not to be confused with the back up sensors that sound a lot more jarring, on purpose.

And when driving you don’t miss a normal gas engine. Start and stop the car is very responsive, you get a whole lot of power accelerating just with a little tap. On the line at a red, I beat a BMW easily. And I kept my acceleration speed, so that I didn’t even realize I was clocking in over the speed limit. But luckily when it came to breaking, the Kona stopped at a dime. The perks of a computerized engine means no delays or moving parts to have to go through the emotions with. No resistance working against you.

But at some points, I did feel out of control, between the body rolls and the shaky wheel, certain speeds on the highway were a little sketchy. With normal conditions, the drive is incredibly smooth. It almost feels like you are gliding, there is no friction between you and the road. No movement in the car from the changing or switching of gears, it is just simply running. It all felt easy. Like the intuitive windshield wipers. It is nice to have a car that knows what to do, it knows it is raining before you do, and reacts accordingly so you don’t have to.

Although with the beating rain came the noise. The cabin echoed with all the sounds of the water sloshing on to and under the car. The sounds made it feel more intimidating than it actually was. That and you could feel all the individual bumps on the road like it was multiplied. The easy remedy for the unwanted sounds is to crank up the music to drown it out. And luckily the speakers are great, and there is a nice echo in the Kona for some the good acoustics.

But now for the most important part, the actual charging. As with all electric vehicles, the outlet you choose effects the speed in which you charge. I was able to find a normal outlet in my underground, but finding where to plug the cable from the wall to the car was another story. Luckily, with all the references of the internet at my fingertips I was able to do a quick search to locate the panel. Given that the Kona didn’t need a grill to help cool down the engine, it was covered and used to hide the charging outlet. A single push on the left side popped open the hatch. A practical decision, but one I didn’t like for cosmetic reasons.

The plug in process is pretty self explanatory, you match the “female” part to the “male” part and they click into place. Removing it on the other hand is a different story. This required another internet search, and the patience required to watch a 4 minute YouTube tutorial. Here it is summarized. There is an lock button that ensures that if you leave the cable plugged in and the vehicle unattended, no one can remove it. Any amount of tugging won’t release the cable, you would sooner move the entire car, true story. To be able to unplug you have to unlock all 4 of the doors.

There is also an Auto Unlock button that unlocks the cable when it is done completely changing. This is helpful when you are at a charging station, and don’t want to hold the plug up. This way another person can come and use it after you.

Or you can simply avoid having to charge your vehicle for as long as possible by utilizing the Kona’s auto regeneration feature. In laments terms, when you feel the resistance from the car (almost like it is breaking, but it’s not), you use the paddle at the side of the wheel to down shift. This action allows you to help in the regeneration of the batteries. With the dash showing you by how much.

In summary, there is just something about driving an EV vehicle that just makes you feel like a better person. You want to be seen walking up to your car, to be acknowledged that you are doing something right for the longevity of the world. And that you don’t have to worry about fluctuating gas prices or when to fill up for the best deal. The only worry is the eventual need to replace a larger and heavier battery that will no longer hold its charge. EV vehicles are the future, and if they are built like the Kona, I can tell that we are going in the direction. I honestly would like an EV in the future, but more realistically when my home supports super charging. A method that isn’t timed or costing me anything in addition. As for which EV, I will need to test out a few more before I make that decision. But in the meanwhile it was nice of Hyundai to allow me to use the 2020, fully electric Kona as my guinea pig.

Hanoi Old Quarter

Over the past years our family has started a new tradition. Instead of visiting a Chinese restaurant for Chinese New Year, we gather and dine at anything but. One year it was “White Spot”, last year Korean cuisine, and this year it was Vietnamese. I choose “Hanoi Old Quarter” wanting to try the newer restaurant myself; having dined at and liking their sister restaurant, the long standing “Mr. Red Cafe”.

“Hanoi” was similar to the original location with its tropical theme: a mix of live and plastic plants, over grown foliage, a thatched roof bar, and artifacts. The traditional music and warm lights added to the cozy feel of the place. As a smaller restaurant, it is highly recommended that you make reservations, they will need to push tables together to accommodate parties larger than 4. We were spread across three tables. Those sitting along the booth, against the wall, found ourselves balancing cheek between the cracks of the seats. Worse still was the fact that the benches were set at different heights.

When it came time to order, a few of our family members ordered their own dishes, but most of us shared everything, family style.

The “Green Papaya salad” was a nice start. Thin strands of fruit that ate like vegetables. It was refreshing and tangy with the familiar flavour of fish sauce. You also get a certain herbaceous-ness to it from the mint, and layered crispiness from the fried onions.

The “Prawn and pork spring rolls” were a little too oily for my liking. They had a flat flavour that was helped along with a thorough dunking into the fish sauce dip. In my opinion, fish sauce fixes everything.

Similar, but different was the “Crab meat spring roll”, though actually they were more like squares”. Similar in deep fry texture and grease, but different in format, thus making it much easier to identify between the two stuffed spring rolls. I didn’t get crab meat in this, there was too much oil masking its lighter flavour. But just as well, with a remedying dunk into the fish sauce, that is all I tasted anyways. If I didn’t know what it was in it, I would have thought this was another pork and shrimp roll.

The “Deep fried chicken wings” were heavy on the batter, but still bland for it. It needed every pinch of the salt that was piled neatly on the side. Another one I dipped excessively into fish sauce.

My brother ordered his usual, the “Lemon grass with rice”, a normally quite person he cleaned his plate without complaints. Sadly, he was not in the mood to share.

I don’t like ordering the same thing as anyone else, so had the similar, but different “Grilled pork chop with rice”. Similar to the chicken in its dome shaped rice side, hard and bland broccoli florets, the bed of lettuce that the protein sat on, and bowl of sauce that looked like soup. I learned of the latter the hard way, taking a gulp of salty fish sauce to quench my thirst. As for the pork chop itself, the meat was tender and tasty with just enough gristle, an even grill and easy to cut. I would definitely order this again for comfort eating.

The “Pork hock, deep fried tofu, and Vietnamese sausage” was an impressive looking set. A choose your own adventure platter. You curate the perfect bite between airy tofu puffs, an earthy sausage with a metallic quality to it, and a tasty smoke prawn paste to mask what you don’t like.

The “Grilled pork belly and patties” wasn’t what I expected. I bowl of chopped up meats, sitting in a pool of fish sauce. Although soggy they were at least tasty. This was best mixed into a noodle dish with the bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, and vermicelli on the side.

The “Duck stew and green bananas in clay pot” looked like a hearty stew, but wasn’t as rich as I wanted it. The duck was dry and chalky, the flavour a little medicinal, and the bananas included the peel. Interesting and different overall, but this one isn’t for me.

The “Beef stew in clay pot” was more my speed. It read “stew” and it delivered. It even came with a whole banh mi baguette to help sop up stringy meat and plentiful gravy.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Not the mainstream Vietnamese flavours I have come to know and expect, but something completely different and worth trying nonetheless. New flavours and unique ingredients prepared with presentation and freshness in mind. Although saying that, if I was to return I would try their pho and/or order the lemon grass or grilled pork on rice again. Don’t deny your cravings.

Le Doux Ciel, Chinese New Year High Tea

I have seen photos of this newer cafe floating around, but what got me through the door finally was their limited edition, Chinese New Year themed high tea set. It is only available for a month starting January 15th and running to February 15th, 2020

In order to indulge you must make a reservation and that comes with a commitment. The cost is $59 per person. You leave your credit card information and are billed “50% or more” if you cancel with less than 24 hours notice. Therefore, we made sure we got there early to avoid complications. Parking is easy enough, if you seek a spot in the underground lot of the “Praq Casino” adjacent. This is within walking distance of “Le Doux Ciel”.

The cafe is a wonderfully curated space. A touch of elegance with soft pastels, velvet upholstery, marble counters, honeycomb tiles, and flourishes of gold. On the ceiling dangled oversized balloons in whites, teal, and gold. They bounced around adding whimsy, and adding to the celebratory mood. It all definitely got us more excited for what’s more to come.

Your journey begins with a choice of tea, two pages to skim through, all served in a bird themed set. Individual tea pots that resembled bird houses, tea cups that had a tiny bird perched on its handle, and a saucer shaped like a gilded cage.

We would take our server’s suggestion and order their two most popular teas. The “milky blue”, isn’t actually blue in colour (we checked before ordering it). It had a naturally milky essence to it, without the need to add any actual milk product. And enough sweetness from candied chestnuts to enjoy without any honey or sugar. Its creaminess matched the indulgence of the set well.

The second most popular brew was the “blanc and rose” white tea. You got plenty of gentle rose notes in this cup. More light and floral than the blue tea above.

The actual full food set comes out fast. Many of the elements are pre-made and simply assembled on these speciality, miniature shelves. They typically house small figurines and leave quite the oriental impression. But there were so many pieces to this set that they had to spread it across two fixtures. The second one was a platform, and like the shelf, it was topped with waxy paper to protect the wood from oils and sugars from the snack-sized feast before us. We worked our way through everything, looking to the menu as a guide of the order in which to do so. It was in doing this that we realized that we were missing one of the listed items: the traditional new year cake. But alas the chef had already retired for the day so we were unable to try it. However, the clerk offered us our choice of any of the treats in the showcase, but more on that below.

Once again, in the order that we nibbled and savoured: We started with the “Vegetable spread mix”. It looked half thought out. A slice of cucumber topped with sautéed vegetables. A mix of red peppers, eggplant, and mushroom. It ate like a vegan chip and salsa, but needed more. It was missing seasoning and a pinch of salt. And perhaps a final topping to complete the concept. My suggestion would be a sprinkling of fried onion. It tasted healthy and was light, giving you a similar feeling that you would get from a cucumber finger sandwich, in other high tea sets.

I really liked the “Smoked bacon on steam buns”. A nice thick cut of bacon with a maple syrup finish, its sweetness went well with the sweet onion paste smeared within the doughy bun. All that was missing was more vegetables, something pickled like you’d get in banh mi, for a nice tang.

By comparison, the “Sesame brioche buns with roasted pork belly” was similar in sweetness and tangy sauce. But here, the thick and crunchy skin was hard to bite through, and just as dry as the bun. Overall great flavours, I just wanted the dish to be better curated, and once again with more veggies to balance out the heavy juices.

The “Exotic mushroom veggie spring roll” came served with a sweet chilli sauce on the side for dipping. It was crunchy with plenty of mushroom filling. I don’t know about the “exotic” part though. It was pretty standard all in all.

Next, we transitioned from savoury to sweet with the “Bird’s nest soup with red dates”. It had a jelly-like texture that drank like slurping down minced jello. It was refreshing and only mildly sweet, with the flavour of the dates coming through.

The “Fermented rice cake” was interesting. Three desserts in one, including the decorative white chocolate piece crowning it. There were a few more scattered across the set, similarly decorated it Chinese characters and/or symbols to really round out the theme. At the centre was a tiny glutenous rice ball with sesame seed paste at its centre. I have never had one so mild, it contrasted well the tangy fermented jelly surrounding it. But overall this had a medicinal quality to it.

The “puff pastry” is one that I am familiar with. Shaped like a lotus flower, with a flaky shell, surrounding dense date paste. Given how dry and ashy it is, it is best paired with tea or coffee and nibbled on.

I was most excited by the sugar coated hawthorn fruits. Visually, it was juicy looking strawberries coated in syrup and wrapped in edible, translucent paper (like what you get with white rabbit candy.) I would later learn that this called “bing tanghulu”, a popular Beijing snack. It tasted like “haw flakes” and was fun to eat off the stick. This was all kinds of sweet, across different textures.

Once again, the menu also listed a “special Chinese traditional cake”, but it was missing on our tower, and by the time we realized this, the chef was already gone for the day. Therefore to round out our meal, our server (the lone employee left to hold down the cafe), offered us the following.

A couple of their Chinese New Year themed macarons like red bean and osmanthus. The former actually tasted like red bean, whereas the latter was just sweet. I was waiting, but I never got the floral notes I expected from the blossom. It simply tasted artificial, and a little like mango?

And in keeping of our asian theme, we choose the “Black sesame cake”. One of their single serve, individual sized desserts, pre-made and waiting behind glass. It was mostly mousse with a thin layer of sponge. I found the texture sandy, whereas if I was going to have this much mousse I wanted it rich and creamy. At the centre was a mildly tart blueberry gel core. It helped to brighten up the dessert, but as a whole, this one isn’t for me.

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.
Honest this it is one of the better high tea sets I have had. Everything is made in house, and I definitely tasted the value across each course. Complex and creative, this is one to try! Don’t deny your cravings.

65 Smithe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0R3
(236) 520-2888

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