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

Month: January 2021

CinCin, $30 prix fixe menu

Got my hair done, and when it is short and your stylist curls it, so it is the only time it will look this good, you need to go out to showcase it. And coincidentally @pickydiner had the same idea and mind set. Individually we got primped and together we met up at CinCin for their $30 three course menu. (He starting before me.) Coincidentally running every including today (Wednesday), Thursday, and Saturday, on from now until February 4th. So you only have one week left to take advantage of this deal before they switch into their Dine Out 2021 menu.

Once a restaurant I deemed only for special occasions, now offering everyday dining prices, which was ideal for an impromptu meal as such.

We sat at the bar, because that is the best place to post up when you want to drink, and have the bar managers adjacent to suggest and craft the perfect cocktail for you. Plus great lighting.

The meal began with a complimentary serving of focaccia and potato bread, served with an olive tapenade swimming in quality olive oil. Delicately brined, delicious olives that would make an appearance in my meal again, and just as good then.

The amuse bouche was a shot’s worth of butternut squash soup. Four sips of rich cream, done in all the right ways. A great treat to set the tone of service and caliber to continue.

The following are the cocktails we enjoyed. Keep in mind, we did order them and had them spaced out throughout our multiple course meal.

The Luna Ross’s was a warming cocktail with red wine qualities. Made with Jim Beam bourbon, and Campari, Elisir Gambrinus, lemon, and orange.

The Yamabushi caught my eye as a spicy margarita with Japanese influences. Yuzu, cazadores blanco tequila, grand marnier, and a sprinkle of togarashi over top. It was a refreshing citrus cooler, but didn’t have the savoury umami flavour of the togarashi, as I had hoped.

And taking advantage of our seating, we then begin requesting cocktails not on the menu. Drinks from the vast repertoire of our skilled bartenders. This one was once on CinCin’s bar menu, but has since been retired. They couldn’t recall the name, but did regale us with a story. This was a mix bag: sweet from the egg whites, noteworthy for the liquorice notes, finished off with floral tendencies. It basically tasted as pretty as it looks with lemon juice, gin, egg whites, pineapple, and Liquore Strega. The latter is an Italian spirit with a fun story. The tale goes that a man finds a witch caught in a trap in a forest , he sets her free, and this spirit’s recipe is her gift to him.

We followed that up with a similar cocktail in look. This was the “In Bloom”, the most popular cocktail in the now shuttered West Restaurant. A gin sour with elderflower and cardamom. The pronounced ginger flavour in this made it a great digestive.

And then came the night cap with the popular combination of espresso and Kaluha. A towering glass poured to have a gradient of whites to grey, then brown. Though be sure to drink it quick as the colours do end up merging.

As for food, here is what I ordered, and I want to note how quickly it came out. My first course was the squid, chosen over the Caesar salad, meatballs, and beef carpaccio. A grilled humboldt flying squid with arugula, chili, lemon, and olive oil. This was a beautiful piece of seafood, grill fire forward, but not much flavour otherwise. I would have liked a dipping sauce, some tang to help highlight, even the olive mix over the steak would have been nice here.

When faced between the choices of salmon, veal osso bucco, saffron risotto, or handmade rigatoni pasta; I went for the wood grilled sirloin of beef. It came highly recommend by @pickydiner who only just finished his portion mere minutes before I had arrived. It was a beautiful thick cut, the perfect portion size to satiate you, but also leaving you wanting more. It was prepared the ideal medium rare, a clean slice with a little sawing motion necessary. Similarly it was tender with substantial chewing needed, furthered along by the jelly-like fat that coated it and a smear in the buttery smooth polenta.

For dessert @pickydiner waited for me so we could try both the tiramisu and their doughnuts together. The zeppole is an Italian doughnut with a chocolate caramel sauce for dipping. The dough practically melts in your mouth with how airy and light it is. The dip, a liquid coating that drips, so dig in aplenty.

Truth be told, I am not a fan of tiramisu for its texture or unanimous lack of crunch and chew. But the flavour from the espresso and rum-soaked ladyfingers with coffee mascarpone cream was delicious. I wanted it as a cocktail. Or for this type of texture I rather have panda cotta.

Lastly, our meal ended with another little surprise: a one bit of their made in house guava jelly and lemon madeleine. The cakey madeleine refreshed with citrus and was the texture I wanted from a cake. But the guava was the highlight. A perfect chewy and fragrant drop, that I wish I had a whole bag of, to take home with me.

In short, I highly recommend this prix fixe menu. It is only available for the next week: Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Just before they switch into their Dine Out Vancouver 2021 menu. But if this is any indication of what they will be offering from their choose your own, three course meal they are certainly worth checking out then as well.

CinCin Ristorante + Bar
1154 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1B2
(604) 688-7338

Honolulu Coffee, hot chocolate offerings

It’s that time of year again, Vancouver’s winter chill paired with the romance season, brings the Hot Chocolate Festival back for a repeat year. And this simple dessert or hot beverage not only warms, but is just the thing to pick the city up as we pass Covid-19’s one year anniversary of existence. The ability to be able to take a cup out quick makes this the perfect minimal contact treat. This year the festival runs from January 16th to February 14th, highlight 39 cafes/restaurants and 89 different limited edition hot chocolates to try.

This year I was especially lured in by Honolulu Coffee’s tropical offerings. The Mauna Loa is a showstopper with its volcano brownie side, whoever came up with this is a marketing genius; I wanted it for visuals alone. This is a 70% dark hot chocolate with a hint of cayenne pepper and maple chilli bacon seasoning. The hot chocolate’s spicy flavour spoke to the volcanic heat and theme. You must like a rich dark chocolate to fully appreciate this one. Whereas the brownie with its dual colour frosting magma, and hovering cloud was much more mild by comparison. It served as a good accompaniment for texture and chew, allowing the hot chocolate to take centre stage.

I actually wanted to try the Mauna L’ai more for its flavour combination. However it was sold out when I stopped by the first time. Luckily, upon my second visit I was much more successful. This pink number combines guava and coconut with the 70% dark chocolate for a more tropical, light vibe. The takeout cup is finished off with coconut whipped cream and a guava flavoured macaron. Sweeter and more dessert like, this less chocolate hot chocolate is more my vibe. I liked the guava macaron idea, but wished they made it more picturesque like the volcano side above. Maybe a pink shell with pearl shaped macaron? Either way I got my guava flavour in both it and the drink. However I much more prefer my hot chocolate paired with their regularly available guava bread (think banana bread, but made with guava purée instead of mashed bananas) .

And taking their chocolate offerings to the next level, Honolulu Coffee is also offering hot chocolate bombs! These limited edition features come just in time for Valentine’s Day. The box sets are available at either of their two Vancouver locations from February 8th to the 14th.

Each box includes two jumbo sized hot Chocolate bombs. One is a 70% Ghirardelli dark chocolate bomb, and the other a Ghirardelli white chocolate bomb packed with mini marshmallows and sprinkles. And to make gifting easy, each set comes with a special Valentine’s Day card with instructions on how to maximize your interactive hot chocolate extravaganza.

Half show, half drink this is an experience in deserting. And I just love food that puts on a show before you get to eat it. A great treat or a gift for a loved one this Valentines.

Honolulu Coffee Nelson
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607

Seiza Japanese Cuisine

Looking for a grown up, night out on Main Street, my guest and I found ourselves at Seiza for some sushi and sake. The space has a modern vibe, befitting of a lounge, leading you to drink, and that we did.

Social distancing is cleverly enforced by the use of plastic bears painted to look like pop culture icons and concepts, including Pennywise from IT and Homer from the Simpsons. (I believe this is considered couture art.)I wanted a closer look, but sadly, where they sat you weren’t allowed to share their table. Though I did enjoy admiring them from afar. And in the spirit of cohesion, their smaller framed brethren hung on the wall as decor, as well.

Seiza’s menu is dense and chic, a hefty listing that spans pages and categories. Although with little descriptions and even less photos it is hard to order without asking a barrage of questions to your server first. Though with his help, we stuck to many of their house specialities, as a first time try.

Like the “Zombie brain”, named for its perceived look, this was a whole avocado split into quarters and stuffed with crab meat, then battered and deep fried, before getting a generous drizzle of spicy mayo. It was messy and mushy, yet satisfying in its crunchy meets squishy texture. (The name suddenly makes sense here.) As for taste it was delicious, great with beer, or after when you need to sober up from all the beer.

Speaking of beer, as we were in a Japanese restaurant, we decided to go for Japanese libations. A combination of hot sake and cold Sapporo to set the tone. The sake getting chased down by the refreshing, light beer on special for $1 off. Apparently this type of pairing is commonplace, but new to me, and I cherished the experience.

But back to the food: There was a sheet of specials to order off of. When I hear and read specials I think discounted food the restaurant wants you to try. However after being enticed, we learned that not all of them were on discount. An obvious point when we compared the regular menu with this abbreviated listing. Nonetheless we went for the uni cream udon at full price. I feel that ordering uni at any Japanese restaurant speaks to its caliber, in quality of ingredients used. And unfortunately the one normal looking piece of uni was hiding 2 grey and discoloured pieces, and this action spoke volumes. And at over $20 for this serving I expected better, considering the portion size was on the smaller size with 3.5 pieces of shrimp and 2 florets of broccoli. The flavour was at least there and the cream sauce tasty without actual uni flavour. I enjoyed the noodles the most. However the udon shouldn’t be my favourite part when it’s only the third word in the dish’s name: “uni cream udon”.

The rolls fared better in our opinion, however they were no different or standout from any crazily dressed and additionally topped rolls you can get anywhere. Due to my guest’s shellfish allergies and fish preferences we kept it salmon all the way, trying three different methods of salmon sushi preparation.

The first is the “Sexy salmon roll”, I am guessing for the way it looks, and then the way it makes you feel: no carbs in this so a slimmer you it insinuates. Here they used crab meat instead of rice. Although a clever no carb substitute, I found its sweetness overpowering, hiding the freshness of the salmon, which should have been the star of this offering.

The “Salmon oshizushi” gave you cooked salmon, which I don’t think was the intention. It was a lot more torched than I wanted, but at least I got the salmon flavour I was looking for here. This was the best out of the three, but I have had much better else where.

The “Ironman roll” hid everything under Japanese mayo and spicy washed tobiko. The menu listed Sockeye salmon, chicken, avocado, and tobiko as its ingredient make up. However I didn’t see or taste avocado, and the chicken was only filler. This sweet and tangy roll did pair well with our beers though.

And just for something to balance out all the punchy flavours, we got a regular Spicy yam tempura roll that wasn’t so spicy.

Overall this isn’t necessarily a destination or a stop if you are craving Japanese food or sushi. But decent as a pub, offering fusion fare with flare.

Seiza Japanese Cuisine
3068 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3G5
(604) 428-5700

21 Days of 1/2 Priced Pasta at Water St. Café

With all that is happening concerning Covid, business closures, and the struggling hospitality industry; the world’s pandemic has been overpowering all the good that usually comes out of the season. The season of giving and the need to help those less fortunate isn’t front and centre, as it has been in the past. So in comes Water Street Cafe, Gastown’s long term staple, determined to do some good, and kick 2021 off on a positive note.

If you visit Water Street Cafe or their second floor dining room and music lounge: 2nd Floor Gastown; they are giving to those willing to give back. Visit between January 1st and the 21st, 2021 with a non-perishable food donation for the Vancouver Food Bank, and you get 50% off any of their pasta dishes. Or buy one get one free if you bring a friend and contribute 2 cans.

There are six pasta options to choose from, and this excludes their 4 gnocchis, unfortunately. However with some pastas around $10 after the discount, it is certainly worth visiting multiple times before the 21st. The following is our top 3 choices that we tried during this visit.

The Spaghetti Alle Vongole was a lightly dressed pasta tossed with a generous amount of manila clams; along side garlic, shallots, white wine, heirloom tomato, and fresh herbs. Be sure to mix up as the sauce does pool. The bare dressing allowed for much of the clam flavour to shine through. But I personally could have used more butteriness to it, and additional cherry tomatoes for their added freshness. At $13.50 half off, this is the time to try it, if you have been eyeing it.

The Pappardelle Bolognese was a classic with its beef, veal and pork sauce made with roma tomato and fresh herbs. When I think of pasta, I think sweet and tangy, so this one hit the mark for me. This was a clean dish that you can make out the quality of ingredients within. And at $9.88 after the promotion, you can’t loose, and might as well order another to go.

The Orecchiette Pesto was our server’s favourite and I can see why. This dish was well balanced with plenty of broccoli florets, alongside the broccoli-basil pesto, roasted garlic, pistachios, and asiago cheese. It wasn’t heavy or rich, but ate more like a pasta salad. It had great flavour and longevity for $10.25, after the donation deal. This one I would order again out of the three, after trying the other 3 available options, of course.

And if you are like me, you aren’t just going to come in to Water Street Cafe for pasta. With their stunning location and breezy, yet sophisticated dining room; you are probably going to want to make a night of it, and order drinks and appetizers to start. Here is what we had.

I ordered the Vancouver Martini made with Odd Society East Van vodka, dry vermouth, and olives. I definitely grew into martinis as my palette evolved and I discovered the art of holding spirits in specific parts of your tongue. Then chasing it with sharp flavours, like the olives, to leave the best lasting impression in your mouth. This cocktail is a winner in those regards.

My guest had the Earl Grey Old Fashion. A twist on the classic with Jim Beam bourbon, earl grey syrup, bitters, orange peel, and a cherry. It was a lovely spirit, but it kept me looking for the nuance of the black tea, and left me missing the smokiness of an Old Fashion completely.

We followed our cocktails with 9oz of the house red blend each. Red, to best pair with our pastas above. This was a red that grew on you, a medium body that ran well with the salty cheeses of our pasta specials above.

As for appetizers, before we even made our selection, the chef sent over a lovely amuse bouche, as a thoughtful gesture. A dollop of their Salmon Tartar over a cucumber slice, which so happened to be one of the starters we were considering. This was smoked and raw BC salmon, cucumber, dill, shallot, sesame, and avocado; in a ponzu reduction. The perfect fragrant bite to wet our appetites with, and allow us to try something else.

Like the Bison Carpaccio. This is the dish I like to order for those who have yet to visit Water Street Cafe. It is a sumptuous offering that really showcases the restaurant’s fine yet approachable style. It is Albertan Bison, pink peppercorn, shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, greens, and crispy capers. Despite the list of bold flavours, was a completely balanced dish with the cheesy cream sauce, hint of truffle, the tangy capers, and the peppery salad.

It is best paired with additional freshness from the Burrata Caprese. Heirloom and Roma tomatoes, basil, salsa verde, white balsamic glaze, sun dried tomato pesto, and himalayan pink salt. I love the delicate yet bold flavours of this starter, whereas my guest didn’t find it salty enough. I definitely suggest catering the perfect bite by layering all the above mentioned ingredients together for a harmonious mouthful.

In the heart of Gastown, with the best seat in the house, I definitely recommend a visit to Water Street Cafe if you haven’t been in, in while; or have never gotten a chance to. Where else can you better people watch and take in the hourly chimes and steam of Gastown’s favourite monument? Plus you have until January 21st, 2021 to do good and eat well for less. Half off pasta are worth travelling for.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832

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