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Month: December 2020

Street Auntie, set menus

Reading the press release, I was really excited for the eventual opening of this new Asian fusion restaurant. However given their creative branding and concept, I was surprised to learn that they were situated downtown, along the Granville Entertainment district. Instead, I envision them in a more eclectic neighbour, one more befitting of their flare. Though at the same time, they are ones worth travelling to.

The name catches your attention and their pin up model mascot (inspired by the owner herself: tattoos, sex appeal and all) kept your attention. I was sold by this and the traditional Asian flourishes throughout the restaurant. For example, the decorative pantry right as you entered, the menu that included Chinese paper patterns, and the bamboo utensil holders at each place setting. We grabbed a seat by the plexi-separated bar to see all the action of the kitchen and bar unfold.

Street Auntie currently does not have their liquor license, but are making due with an interesting and well developed drink menu, nonetheless. A listing that they cleverly refer to as “The Sobering Menu”, which can just as easily have a shot or two added into each concoction, to give it a little “spirit” (when they have the proper documentation to do so).

The following is all 3 of their available drinks, which can be ordered as a pairing with the set menu below. The drink add-on runs for $19 per person.

The “Teatonic” features Yunnan sparkling tea. It is a refreshing beverage with a hint of tanginess that reminded me of tamarind. Here, the cooling flavour of the tea definitely helped with the spiciness of our first course below.

The “Golden triangle aromas” included lemongrass, ginger, mint, and lime. It was a great drink to help cleanse the palate in between bites; while offering some freshness for the deep fried foods it was paired with, also learn more below.

In a similar sense, but with more creaminess was the “Jasmine Babe”. It is essentially a floral milk tea. Its familiarity and comfort mellowed out some of the more potent dishes. This would be the one I would take togo in a plastic cup, I was just missing some pearls.

As for food, Street Auntie is open Wednesdays through Mondays for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Their unique concept allows diners to enjoy as many dishes as they want from the weekly rotating menu, during a pre-booked one-hour time slot. This run for $38 per person for lunch or $58 for dinner, respectively. Basically you have to get the only set available. They currently have a collection of 4 different menus on their website. Each with 8 different items, available during specific weeks, with some overlap from set to set. The following is the “Ocean Auntie” menu, which we enjoyed, and is currently available from November 25th until December 2nd.

The “Yunnan Ghost Chicken” was a starter salad made with mango, pickled young papaya, sawtooth herb, lemongrass, chilli, and golden triangle lime. The chicken that resembled Hainanese chicken, really stood out in this. The sneaking heat of the vinaigrette was mellowed out by the crisp julienned vegetables and fruit. A crisp texture furthered along by the crunchy deep fried tofu shreds. I found the salad’s chilled tang helped to jump start the appetite. I liked this as the first course, and finished my portion clean. Whereas others found it too large for such a refined tasting.

The second course with its upscale take on dim sum was one of the most memorable for me. Street Auntie took familiar favourites and gave it a boujee twist. Like the morel mushroom finish on a juicy siu-mai pork dumpling. Or the unseen addition of avocado to the classic shrimp dumpling, har-gau. And most decadent of all was the stuffing of sea urchin into what looked like a gyoza skin. The latter offering a most out standing flavour. I would recommend Street Auntie for this trio “basket” alone, thankfully all the menus to come includes it.

I am a fan of salted egg yolk fish skin, I buy the imported packages from Asian grocery stores, so it was a treat to get it fried fresh with a heavy duck egg-yolk coating at Street Auntie. This is another dish I would recommend, however it is only available on the “Ocean Auntie” set.

Similar in bold flavour and crunch was the spicy, garlic fried, soft shell crab. There was plenty of peppery garlic flavour on the crispy crab, and as excess “sprinkles” , that I later shovelled into my mouth.

And what is a Chinese meal that does not end in a starch like rice or noodles? With the “Ocean Auntie” set, that starch is the “Street Auntie fried rice” severed with their house made “XOXO” sauce. They doubled up on the “XO” in the name because all the ingredients are doubled. This help yourself serving of sauce on the side is what flavours the otherwise bland rice. Therefore, it would have actually been nice to have the rice served and eaten in conjunction with the crab above, more like a side than a main dish (as it was served).

As tasty as all the dishes were above, dessert was my favourite course for its presentation alone! Served on a tray with some cleansing tea or energizing coffee, diners get a one bite of “mango and pomelo sago explosion”. Like its name suggests, things can get messy if you are not careful. Eat this in one bite and be surprised by the amount of tasty, sweet, and citrusy flavour that floods your mouth when literally “burst the bubble”.

I really liked the “Beijing Hulu” that looked like sticky lollipops, but are actually a hard sugar coating juicy grapes. I could have eaten a handful like candy.

However, the showstopper of the night was the giant fortune cookie cake you share with your dining companion. And the best part, it comes with an actual fortune you can eat. Printed on rice paper, it doesn’t add a taste or texture to the dessert, but is definitely plus 100 in pageantry. I would order it for visual alone. Eating wise, this was a soft sponge cake filled with a slightly bitter jasmine tea and strawberry gel filling. A mild cake that would perfectly accompany the tea above, severed in delicate and traditionally printed porcelain.

And for good measure, we even got regular fortune cookies, but dipped in frosting and decked with sprinkles for that extra panache.

Not on any of the menus, but made upon special request was their tongue and cheek “East Van Special” a mint chocolate and fudgey chocolate cannabis leaf served over a chocolate cookie crumble, with edible rice paper “plated” printed with the east van cross pattern. I thought this was such a fun idea and great homage to the city.

At this point they are still working out the logistics and menu, so I want to reassure you that my feedback was passed on and taken with a grain of salt. I cannot wait to go back to try a completely different menu and maybe by then, some tasty alcoholic drink pairings to go with it all!

Street Auntie Aperitivo House
1039 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L4
streetauntie.com

Sula, the second location on Main Street

Being a fan of the original Sula, Indian restaurant on Commercial Drive, I was excited to try their second and newest location on Main Street, one week after they had opened. And boy was I not disappointed by decor alone.

The space is warm and opulent in a time that requires us to be cold and distant. Glowing lights suspended by gold; they matched the copper of the table settings and the brown and oranges of the bar. Shame that their opening coincides with these times, because I can definitely see them as a place to linger and enjoy lively company within. They certainly have the drink list to keep you sipping long into the night. Including a healthy Gin and Tonic listing, much to my guest’s delight.

The “Kerala” is a mix of Tanqueray Rangpur, Kaffir Lime, Green Cardamom, and Mediterranean Tonic. It is an effervescent cocktail, sparklingly light, and finished off with a tangy punch.

“Vayu’s Calm” includes Hendricks Gin, Spanish White Vermouth,
Green Chartreuse, Cardamom, Mint, and Lime. This reminded me more of margarita, especially with how lime focused it was. I was just missing the salt.

Round two of cocktails had us trying the “Cosmic Dance” with Big Boss Cashew Fenny, Old Grand Dad Bourbon, Apple, Honey, Chili, and Spices. This one was more my speed. A heavy sipper with a dull heat that is slow to burn the back for your throat. This is the kind of cocktail I want to drink if I am under the weather.

The “Delhi Junction” included Fenugreek-infused Bombay Sapphire, Fino
Sherry, Dry Vermouth, and Aromatic Bitters. This was their take on a martini, but more subdued. It was a new flavour combination for me, one I can only best describe as being herbaceous in a juicy way.

Whereas the cocktails at the Commercial Drive location are sweet and tropical, these are more refined and for the spirit connoisseur. This bar is one you would make a bee-line to, just for a stiff drink or three. Therefore, it would have been nice to start off with a small bowl of mixed nuts or crackers, to really celebrate the bar list and align them more with a place you would frequent for their cocktails.

Instead we nibbled on a couple of appetizer’s whose serving served more as an entree. As good as they were, I would have liked 1/3 of each presented as a starter, in order to save room for all the entrees you can’t help but be curious to try later.

The Indian Street food and Chaats are dine in only, due to the nature of the dishes and the need to enjoy them fresh and crispy. Chaat is a category of Indian street food that hits every component of taste. It is a combination of sweet, sour, tangy, crunchy, umami, and spicy.

The “Papdi Chaat” is Indian canape wafers topped with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt and chutneys. It ate like a bowl of cereal or platter of nachos. Although as good as it was in texture and taste, less would have been more. This was enough for 6, but ordered for 2.

The “Mumbai Vada” is a dairy-free battered potato dumpling seasoned with green chilli, tempered cumin, and mustard. I expected a fully encased bundle, but was served my dumpling pre-cut up. From presentation sake, I would have liked this in smaller bites, left as a whole. Flavour and texture wise, it was much like a somosa, but without the traditional accompanying chutneys.

When it comes to Indian cuisine, it doesn’t matter where I go, or how much I try, I always gravitate towards butter chicken. I would not be satisfied without giving Sula on Main’s version a try, and sauce wise it held up. Rich and creamy with the flavour of their Tandoor broiled chicken in tomato, cream and butter sauce coming through. My only critique was that the pieces of chicken were dry, despite them being left in large bulky chunks. I Would have liked bite sized portion of chicken, cooked tendered instead.

And unique to the Main Street location is Sula’s seafood offerings. It showcased the regional cuisine of Mangalore, a coastal town in the southern part of India. Between lobster and crab, we gravitated towards crab due to our server’s suggestion, however based on what we had, I would suggest the lobster instead.

 

The “Jenji Gassi” is local Dungeness crab cooked in a coconut curry, highlighting flavours from byadigi chillies, poppy seeds, and cumin. The crab was cumbersome to crack in such an opulent setting. I appreciated its whole, shell and all in our presented serving. However, found the work it took to crack and peel not worth the little amount of meat that came out of it; especially as it was bland. The sauce on the other hand was a treasure. I sopped it all up with the naan below and greedily drizzled it over the rice as well.

 

The Main Street location of Sula also boasts a Tandoori oven, so we were sure to partake in a couple of dishes that required a longer baking. The following two came with a 30 minute warning, so order early and expect to wait with cocktails in hand.

The “Tangdi Kebabs” were described as “Iran’s culinary gift to India”. They are chicken drumsticks char-grilled in the tandoor. The result, an excellent grill flavour from the blacken char, with the smokiness adding levels to the chicken’s seasoning. And here I thought I liked it a lot, until I tried the lamb below.

The “Adraki Lamb Chops” are roasted with crushed cashew bits and seasoned with garam masala, cumin, and a coriander spiced marinade. You got the crunch of the cashew offering a nice contrast to the perfectly prepared, tender and juicy lamb meat. If, no when I return, I will definitely be ordering this again.

And no Indian meal is complete without the rice and naan necessary to soak up all the delicious sauces with. I would be just as happy with just the butter chicken or crab sauce and naan.

The “Tandoori Naan” is a classic as an extra pillowy tandoori Indian flat bread. For something a little different Sula also has stuffed naan. We tried the one sandwiching spinach and Indian cheese, paneer. The addition added an extra level of indulgence to something already so great. I have never see such an innovation else where, so credit Sula its creation.  And I can recommend it just as easily as an appetizer to start with.

For rice, I was disappointed by the coconut rice. Its broken texture did not lend itself to the already soften dishes, and the coconut flavour did not add anything to anything. Instead, I recommend the basmati rice for its fragrant taste and texture. A better mild companion to all the great flavours above.

And don’t forget to save room for dessert. A semi-sweet end to help cleanse the palate is the mango coconut rice pudding with cardamon and rosewater. It eats like a dessert oatmeal with a freshness that leaves you with a cleaner mouth feeling.

Like between two children from the same parents, I hate to pick favourites here, but the new Sula on Main with it sophisticated setting and specialty menu have won me over as my favourite between the two.

SULA MAIN STREET
4172 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-874-5375
sulaindianrestaurant.com

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