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Saku Broadway

Today we were at “Saku”, my girl friend has been wanting to check out their Japanese pork cutlets for a while now, as they are the only place in Vancouver that specializes in them. The Robson location also serves ramen, but today we were at their newest shop on Broadway.

Luckily she came early enough to beat the dinner time crowd, and the need to write your name on a wait list. The restaurant is pretty simple, high stools along a curved bar, more by the window out front. Tables against a booth and a couple of round surfaces for larger parties. All in all pretty minimalistic. We got one of the two tops available. Each table is set with a tray of condiments. Before we ate, our server asked if we have dined with them before. Given that the answer was “no”, she walked us through each one of the sauces. The sesame dressing is for the salad, the seeds for any thing you like, the tonkatsu sauce is in addition to what you are given with your entree, and lemon salt to use as a tangy seasoning.

Their menu is a beautiful representation of their food. The first page greets you with the sourcing of their ingredients. Pork bred to Japanese specs, raised here in Canada. The finest cuts with the perfect amount of marbling and fat. Their panko is Japanese style bread crumb, baked fresh every morning. It is prepared by a local bakery, from a specialized recipe, that ensures the panko doesn’t absorb too much oil. (I can certainly vouch for this to be true). And their tonkatsu sauce is made using fresh fruits and vegetables with the addition of premium white sesame to enhance it.

The rest of the menu is categorized by type of protein: pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetables, each getting a coating of panko. They also had a specials list. I was interested in the potato croquettes on it, but by 6:30pm they had already run out for the day.

Instead I had the “Ebi hotate curry”. Deep fried and breaded jumbo size prawns and scallops, served with their signature curry. I was amazed by how large the pieces of seafood were. With two of each, there were more of them than rice or curry. Here, I am not complaining, just noting the rarity of such a thing. This was plenty of food, including 4 sides. Well worth the $19 cost, given how tasty it all was. Certainly one of the crispiest panko breaded items I have ever enjoyed, and all without the grease. You were still able to taste the natural flavours of the seafood. The curry was scrumptious, rich and savoury ending in some sweetness. Served in a gravy boat for you to dip into or pour over your rice, as you like.

As for the sides, the miso soup was given a unique twist with the inclusion of boiled onions to chew through. It offered a French onion soup quality to it, and the onions ate like strands of cooked melon.

I was surprised by how much I liked the salad. It is a bottomless serving. Servers roamed between the tables, offering up an additional tong-fulls of shredded lettuce from their giant metal bowls. But it was the sesame sauce that made me go back for more. It had a great flavour, furthered by a couple of shakes from the sesame grinder.

And lastly, the small dish of rainbow pickles offered a change in taste through a variety of tastes and varying tartness. Altogether a great meal, I just wish they had tea to pair with it instead of soda or juice (which they too ran out of by 6:30pm). Or some dessert to end on.

My guest got their “Cheese katsu”. It is deep fried, breaded mozzarella wrapped with thinly sliced pork loin. You get more cheese than any of the pork flavour. Like my entree above, she too got pickles, rice, miso, and salad. But to it added a side of seasonal vegetables.

Three pieces of deep fried and breaded seasonable vegetable for $3.50, which turned out to be 2 slices of yam and one of pumpkin. Much like tempura but extra crispy-crunchy.

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.
If frying things can taste healthy, this is it. And if you are craving authentic Japanese style tonkatsu, it is here. Don’t deny your cravings.

SAKU BROADWAY
548 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1E9
(778) 379-5872
sakuvancouver.com

Weekend Tea

A new tea and juice shop has opened up on Kingsway, another beverage solution to help keep you cool this summer. Located by Metrotown, you might miss their shop if you don’t know what you are looking for. An all glass exterior with the word “weekend” running across the top, reminding you of what you are waiting for.

Inside, is an oasis with faux greens grafted on to the wall. They hung and dangled, surrounding their logo for the perfect backdrop. Before it, several chairs and small tables are available for seating.

You order at the counter, reading off the straightforward menu behind it. For those who order visually, they also have photos of drinks and their names on surrounding their till.

The following are what we tried, based on the clerk’s suggestions. Their specialty is their fruit based teas so we were sure to try the “Lychee Tea”, that came highly recommend. Plus, it isn’t often that you come across lychee juice on a menu, even if it is blended with tea. There are bits of lychee and jelly within, offering plenty to to chew through. It was not too sweet, serving as a great thirst quencher.

Another one of their specialties is their yogurt drink. We tried both the “Honeydew yogurt” and “Grape yogurt”. You definitely want to mix this one up so you get an even blend of the slush and yogurt, with jelly bits in each sip. The fruit flavours come through and you get a bit of creaminess to it from the dairy.

The “Zang mango” is mango jam, mango chunks, fresh milk, and cheese foam. Another one you mix up, in order to get the intended flavour. Sweet fruit and salty cheese works in this drinkable dessert.

And I got the “Zang pearl milk”, their take on the popular brown sugar trend that doubles the calories and sugar of the drink. Great the first few sips, but it is a flavour that wares out quick.

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 solid option for drinks and a place to chat at in the area.
Don’t deny your cravings.

WEEKEND TEA
#101-5021, Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 4A5
(604) 620-1315
weekendtea.com

Green & Oak Malaysian Restaurant

My guest and I were looking for Malaysian food for dinner. And after a quick Google search, we were happy to find one by our homes, in Burnaby. Based on the building’s roof detail, we surmised that this use to be a Greek restaurant. But the rainbow spotted wall paper and light weight, bleach wood furniture had the interior looking more like a bubble tea cafe. Similarly, the name didn’t really speak to what was on the menu.

We were originally seated by the back exit, on a convertible table. However, as soon as a table by the window opened up, the host that originally showed us in (who I think is also the owner), kindly re-sat us without us having to ask for the better table. All the while she had her young 3 year old son in tow, helping to drop off menus and deliver diner’s their bills. It gave you an “Awww” sensation and spoke to this being a family run business.

The two sided laminated menu listed a bunch of familiar plates, and I fully indulged in this edible walk down memory lane. The following are a must order when I see them on any menu. However I had a preconceived idea of how each dish tasted, and therefore I was left unsatisfied. The food was good, and I would have enjoyed everything more had I not compared it to my mother’s cooking or that which I had growing up. It was simply a different rendition of Malaysian cuisine. My guest on the other hand enjoyed everything in full, taking a take out menu to go, along with our leftovers.

“Roti-canai”, fresh made Malaysian flatbread, grilled and served with their own curry dipping sauce. The dough was chewy and flaky, the perfect vehicle to sop up chunks of their curry. The curry here was the exact same one served in their “Malaysian curry rice”. A coconut curry made with lemon grass, shallot, and onion. I wanted a richer curry, finding it a little flat for a dip. I also wanted some more peanut and sweetness to it, to better play off the salty roti.

The “Hainanese chicken” was my favourite of the night. Steamed chicken cooked in rich chicken stock, served with a red chilli and ginger dipping sauce. This is the set meal with both white or dark meat, but for $1 extra we could have had our choice of all dark or all white meat. It was just as I remembered it. Tender chicken, served slightly chilled, with a flavour that is clean on palette, ending in a faint soy flavour that lingers. As a set menu it comes with a neutral soup (compared to everything else we ordered), a tasty chicken stock flavoured steamed rice, and a mild chilli and ginger oil sauce for additional seasoning.

My guest’s favourite dish was the “Penang tofu”. Deep fried tofu topped with onion, cucumber, and a sweet chilli sauce. This version was good, the sauce was on point, but we wished the tofu was crisper and that the deep fry had more of a freshness to it.

The “Laksa soup” was disappointing. A runny curry based soup with tofu, bean sprouts, egg, lemon grass, lime juice, and hints of coconut milk. It wasn’t as flavourful or as rich as I know laksa to be. We had our choice of vermicelli, egg noodle, rice noodle, mixed or no noodle. We went for the egg noodle, but had we selected for the finer gauge, traditional, rice noodle we might have liked the bowl more. See a whole reminded more more of a sour tom yum soup, than the rich curry based soup I was hoping for.

I was excited for the “Belachan fried rice” with dried shrimp, chilli pepper, pork, shrimp, egg, and soya sauce. This was a flavour that isn’t known to many, a unique fishiness with good umami. I just wished it wasn’t so greasy, leaving a sheen on our utensils and lips.

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.
Once again, the food was good enough, but it just didn’t satisfy because of the expectation I had going in. Not traditional Malaysian fare, but a unique interpretation when in Burnaby, to discover. Don’t deny your cravings.

GREEN OAK
3760 Hastings St, Burnaby, BC V5C 2H5
(778) 589-2668
greenandoak.com

Nightingale revisted

It has been a while since I visited “Nightingale”, I was reminded of it thanks to the success of “Netflix’s” romantic comedy, “Always be my Maybe”. It centres around the restaurant industry and therefore uses several Vancouver restaurants as its backdrop. “Nightingale” makes an appearance as “Saintly Fare”, a new restaurant opened in San Francisco by our main character, Chef Sasha Tran. In the movie it is clear that the two storey restaurant with its bird cages and origami bird accents is actually “Nightingale” on Hastings at Burrard.

My original visit was right when it opened in 2016, and back then I didn’t have a very memorable meal, so was looking forward to reassessing it now, with all its new found success and film notoriety.

We arrived in time for happy hour cut off, Sunday to Wednesday from 3-5:30pm. So ordered their popular “buttermilk fried chicken” for $3 less. It was dressed in a spiced maple syrup with sumac and pickles. Not your classic fried chicken flavour, but just as crunchy and tasty in its sweet sauce and tangy pickles. Although I would have preferred this over waffles given its sweetness and natural alignment for brunch.

I was excited to see “Chicharron” on the menu, but was disappointed by its execution. I have had pork rinds before and given the nature of the restaurant, I figured it would be an elevated rendition. Instead, these were fairly dense crisps, heavier than I thought they would be, with a harder crunch. Not only was it tough to eat, but it lacked flavour with its simple charred lemon salt seasoning.

For our entrees we shared a pizza and a pasta dish. The “Summer squash” pizza was thin crust dough topped with Fresno chilli, mozzarella, san marzano, and fior di latte. It reminded me of a sweet Margherita pizza at its core. But with the unique starch and woodsy-ness of the sweet squash, balanced by the salty cheese and fragrant crispy basil leaves.

The “Chitarra pasta” was similar in its lightness. Rich in flavour and not in sauce, it was a little dry with the duck ragu, crispy sage, and pecorino romano. Overall it was tasty enough, but I prefer a saucy pasta and something less salty. With this, we finished a litre of water between us.

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.
It certainly is a nice spot, but the food just doesn’t satisfy as other pastas and pizzas at other restaurants have/do. Don’t deny your cravings.

NIGHTINGALE
1017 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 0C4
604-695-9500
hawknightingale.com

Buttermere Patisserie Cafe

Popular online bakery, “Butter Mere” now has its own store front. After three years of providing Vancouverites with tasty and trendy cakes for all their special occasions, they have finally found the ideal location. A relaxed cafe setting to serve their confectioneries, conveniently close to their actual bakery.

Notable for their one line lion logo, a male lion standing on its hind legs holding a cake. They have taken over the old home of a now shuttered smoothie shop. And luckily for them, their predecessor’s modern decor with bleach wood accents, geometric printed counter, and fresh greenery transitions well to a bakery’s cafe space. There are several small tables seated in front of a wooden bench that ran down the length of the case, but grabbed one of the two nooks at either sides of the front door, for more private seating.

Their existing fan base has seen that their first week opened gets plenty of foot traffic. With many more walking in to experience their highly photogenic offerings in person. On top of full sized cakes for serving at parties, they have a showcase of individual sized desserts and cream rolls for point and ordering. The latter was sponge and cream in flavours like matcha red bean, hojicha, and chocolate strawberry, etc.

I started with their fun “ruby is the new black” hot chocolate. This is the hot version, but it is also available, just as pink, cold over ice. For those who have tried it, it tastes like chocolate milk made with the limited edition pink ruby Kit Kat chocolate bar, melted down. As deliciously creamy as you think it is. Though sadly only available in whole milk, with no dairy free or vegan alternatives; lest it change and clashes with the taste of the unique chocolate.

We did ask, and more vegan friendly offerings are in the works, with milk alternatives. Upon this visit they have only been open for under a week, and are still working things out logistically.

I paired the pink “yogurt raspberry cloud” with my matching pink drink. This was a uniquely textured cake, made using a mould created by an architect. It ate as fluffy as it looked, light and airy. Yogurt mousse surrounding a raspberry and cherry compote, over a crispy raspberry wafer. A dessert with plenty of textures and flavours to keep things interesting bite after bite.

But the highlight, and the one to order, if you can only get one, is their “Salted egg yolk puff”, it comes in a set of four, as you see here. A crispy, almost cakey shell hiding a sweet custard-like cream flavoured like the distinct salted egg yolk. A wonderful rendition of the trendy food item.

And for those looking for something more rich, they have their tiramisu in a glass. It was a great presentation, but hard to eat. You had to dig around and up to get the right mix of fluffy sponge, whipped cream, quality cocoa powder, and hint of Kahula.

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 place for a celebratory cake, and a now a great cafe to have something sweet at. And seeing as they are the only dessert spot and/or destination for tea in the area, expect them to be busy! Don’t deny your cravings.

BUTTERMERE
636 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2W1
778-956-7789
buttermere.ca

Green Leaf Sushi

Today I was at the “Green Leaf” located in Kits, based off of a recommendation. And seeing how many people were waiting to enter right when they open at 5pm, alongside with me, it seems like I made the right decision. Here, it was nice they had benches around their exterior to seat those waiting.

We grabbed a couple of seats by the window bar. The space is maximized with short, narrow tables, a necessity given how they all quickly filled 15minutes after they opened. And throughout our stay, the restaurant saw a continuous turn of people sitting, eating, and leaving. Not including all the take out and food delivery orders.

As for the decor, it is more about what materials they used and where, as apposed to a collection of artifacts or art. Tile floors, panelled walls, wood block features, and wooden table and chairs. What didn’t seem to fit was the type of music being played. I found the classic styling of Frank Sinatra a little too jazzy for this causal, fast food, sushi and Japanese shoppe.

When it came to the meal, I liked the option of having either hot or warm tea. I choose the ready to drink room temperature version.

As for the food we shared a collection of items that jumped out at us. The “Aburi tobiko roll” is filled with wild sockeye salmon, cucumber, crab meat, and tobiko; topped with oshi sauce and green sauce. It was a tasty roll, especially with the crunch from the toasted tobiko, and the warming heat from the jalapeño. I would order this one again.

But I would skip the “Kani-ume oshi sushi” the next time around. Real Dungeness crab, tiger prawn, ume oshi sauce, and crispy capers with ume dressing. You could taste the quality of the crab, but the amount of mayo used was overwhelming. It needed more tang to cut into it, and I didn’t find the salted plum or the capers complimentary or effective in this regard.

Our server mentioned having uni in today, so I took advantage, by adding $6 a piece to the “Uni meshi ishiyaki” rice bowl. I ordered two pieces and they gave me two smaller ones when the second piece didn’t measure up. I ended up enjoying them as is, to not take away from their creamy flavour.

As for the mushroom bowl base it was shiitake and shimeji with rice in a hot stone bowl, served with a seaweed sauce. It also comes with a side of miso soup. It was like a Japanese style risotto with the sweetness of the shiitake mushroom coming through. The green onion added freshness and any excess uni acted like a creamy fermented egg to help sauce up the rice.

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.
Based on the what we had, and all the creative menu items we considered, I would definitely like to return to try more. Don’t deny your cravings.

GREEN LEAF
3416 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6R 2B3
604-568-9406
greenleafcafebc.ca

G-men Ramen Steveston

We were in Steveston and looking for lunch. Though this being a Saturday, the historic fishing village was busy and all their popular spots saw lengthy lines.

So wanting to eat sooner than later, we stopped at the new ramen place that just opened up, Steveston’s first. Although, had I known the restaurant was without air conditioning, I might have reconsidered our idea of hot noodles in broth on a hot summer’s day. None-the-less here we were, two amongst many with the same idea. We were able to grab two stools at the very back bar. And there we would be ignored by the busy staff, after we ordered and they delivered our two bowls of ramen. To paint a better picture, it was a struggle to get our bill to settle up and leave. This was despite a line at the door for those wanting to dine in.

I went for their most popular choice, the miso ramen, I added butter and corn to it for $2.50 more, and added an egg for $1 more. Authentic chicken and pork broth with their homemade miso seasoning and thick noodles. This was already a rich serving, and I don’t think the butter made a difference in that regard, except for additional calories. I did like the sweetness the corn added and how they popped with each bite.

My guest ordered their “RCMP” ramen advertised as being “addictively spicy”. She too added an egg, because after all ramen isn’t the same without a soft boiled egg. It was exactly as she expected, spicy with a bold red broth, but manageable in terms of heat.

Everything was good, but one bowl isn’t enough to properly assess the restaurant, especially since their menu is one of the largest I have ever seen at any ramen place. On top of 8 different types of ramen and all their variations, “G-men “ also offers plenty of appetizers from mixed nuts to a chicken dip with crackers, raw octopus to pickled squid. They have salad with and without seafood or meat, plenty of sashimi as is, seasoned and in combos. There are rice bowls and poke bowls, and a section just dedicated to deep fried and bbq items.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t travel all the way to Steveston for ramen, and when there I would choose somewhere to lunch that better showcases the town. However, for the locals this serves as the only, and therefore best place for ramen in Steveston. Don’t deny your cravings.

G-MEN
3711 Bayview Street, Richmond BC, V7E 3B6
604-275-4636
gmenatsteveston.com

Giovane Cafe, revisited

My friend has yet to try one of “Giovane’s” popular sugar buns, so when looking for a meal downtown, we headed to “Fairmont Pacific Rim” to indulge.

I find myself frequenting “Giovane”, not necessarily for the food or drink, but instead for the shopping. This unique cafe caters to hotel guests, and as such is attached to a gift shop of sorts. Here, they don’t offer your name on a key chain, or any tees that read “I visited Vancouver and all I got was this lousy tee shirt”. Instead they have a collection of great gifts like hand poured candles, colourful stationary, gourmet candy, men’s leather goods, and onsies for babies. And they frequently rotate this assortment, making them a great place to get any gift, for any occasion.

But I digress, we are here for the food. The “carbonara” with pancetta, egg yolk, shallot, garlic, and Parmesan. The pasta noodles were incredibly fresh, perfectly prepared with a firm chew in mind. This was lightly dressed in a creamy sauce, and salty with bacon and cheese. Although it was one tone and the flavour did wear out.

The “pescatora” with shrimp, baby clam, white wine, tomato sauce, and basil; gave you fresh seafood flavours with tangy tomato. This too needed more depth of flavour, although the mix of shellfish did help to keep things interesting.

Overall, I am more excited over “Giovane’s” desserts then their food menu. Their sweet offerings are a lot more whimsical, creative combinations that change with the season. One such example is the “Pineapple ube” cake. It stood out from behind their glass showcase. And the best way to order dessert is with your eyes. I liked the contrasting colours of purple and orange. You could taste the pineapple and feel it’s fibres against the crispy layers. But I missed the ube completely.

And my guest loved the “matcha sugar bun”. A crispy coating of sugar over chewy bread, filled wall to wall with a fluffy cream. It wasn’t too sweet or too bitter with the matcha. Just a great treat to enjoy with coffee of tea.

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.
The pastas were good, but not memorable, there are a handful of Italian places I would get my carb fix from first. But for dessert, “Giovane” is superb. Cakes perfect to celebrate an occasion with and desserts idea for indulging in. Don’t deny your cravings.

GIOVANE CAFE
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 2G8
604-695-5501
giovanecafe.com

Liu Yi Shou Hot Pot Restaurant

Despite the seasons, Chinese-style hot pot tends to be a consistently popular destination for those wanting a little more involvement in their meal. You cook up your own dinner, customizing it from which broth base you use to what ingredients you put in. And at “Liu Yi Shou” they offer a few more options to make your experience even more interactive and personalized.

For the tutorial on how to maximize your hot pot experience, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

First “Liu Yi Shou” has happy hour, plenty of wine and beer on special. I suggest sharing a pitcher with your friends. With all the spicy and flavourful ingredients, beer makes for a great in between sipper. They also have plenty of can sodas and fruit pops available, and even coconut water you drink right out of the fruit. So start with this as you explore their very extensive menu.

And while you work out your order, or wait for it to come and boil, you can start nibbling on their “Cheese fondue”. This is a new menu item, and one that you don’t often see at a hot pot restaurant. Not just melted cheese, but their fondue is mozzarella flavoured with tomato. It is served with a board of hot dogs, celery, and chicken wings for dipping into. I really liked the flavour of the cheese dip, it had a comforting, gooey tomato soup feel to it. But despite the lit tea light under the individual fondue bowl, it does cool quick. Although it doesn’t congeal, so you can come back to what you don’t finish in between your hot pot, as a flavour changer.

You can also order their popular marinade appetizer dish. This is an assorted platter of quail eggs, bean curd, pig’s ear, and pork hoc marinated in a soy sauce blend. It is enjoyed cold or at room temperature. This you eat more for its textures of squishy, spongy, chewy, and rubbery.

Today I was dining with hot pot experts and they made sure to order the most unique of all the option, plenty of which are exclusive to “Liu Yi Shou”, starting with their tri-soup pot. You can enjoy 3 different flavours of broth, altogether in one pot. Ideal for those who get tired of a one flavour boil; or for those who can’t take their food spicy, dining with those who only like it spicy.

We had the chicken with coconut soup base, the wild mushroom soup base with Chinese herbs, and the spicy and numbing hot pot. The latter was extra special, it came with a block of tallow shaped like their cow mascot. “Tallow” is saturated beef fat, it is higher in calories than butter, but healthier and better tasting! The hotter it got, the quicker he melted, and soon he was face first in a pool of chilli and peppercorns. Not only does this make the soup more indulgent, it also help to cut into some of that hot, hot heat. And if you order the chicken and coconut soup base, you get a plate of raw chicken complimentary, to cook within it.

In an effort to save table space, our platter of finely sliced lamb and beef is served on a wooden ring, that fits perfectly around our hot pot. From here it is easy to pick up a slice and dunk it into any broth. Both cook up relatively quick, and after 5 dunks you are ready to eat it.

But as waited for all the soup broths to boil, we made our way to the back of the restaurant, to their help yourself sauce bar. At some hot pot places I find I get bored of the taste, that everything is boiled up the same, and has only the one flavour throughout. Here, you can customize your own sauces and curate the flavour, so that anything you don’t like is on you. Mix and match from sauces and oils like spiced vinegar, oyster sauce, sesame oil, satay sauce, mushroom paste, and bean curd paste, etc. Toss in some minced and chopped dry ingredients like sugar, green onion, toasted soy bean, mashed garlic, preserved turnip and peanuts; for texture and chew.

And while we were busy mixing and creating to our heart’s content all our ordered ingredients began arriving one platter after another. The beautifully plated, raw food comes out quick here.

A wooden box of leafy greens and various mushrooms.

Fish paste moulded into two hearts. This you scoop and drop into the broth for it to boil up and harden into a solid ball.

A platter of shrimp, cuttlefish, pork and beef, pre-formed balls.

An interesting one were these tubes of bean curd that you dip into the pot for 3 seconds. They act like sponges, soaking in the broth and offering a distinct ribbed chew.

For the adventurous you can order a platter of intestines and organ meats, for a more traditional hot pot experience. Pig’s blood, beef tripe, ox aorta, and goose intestine. I would also consider this, one that you order more for its textures, each with its own unique chew or gelatin-like consistency. The aorta had the same chew as squid rings, the tripe was so tender and easy to bite into, the intestine required more jaw work; and the savoury pigs blood had the texture of pudding and jello combined.

But the highlight and feature of our meal was definitely “meat Barbie”. A Barbie doll repurposed. She was dressed in strips of angus beef that you peel of her torso or cabbage base and add into your soup. At her feet is a garden of raw seafood. Shrimp in shell, fish puff, mussels, fish, and sticks of imitation crab. A visual treat, as well as a tasty one.

And for those who actually still have room for more, “Liu Yi Shou” does have dessert, offering something sweet to end on. Like their red rice cakes that you dip into condense milk or a sweet syrup. I did try one, but after all the food above, I felt ending on anything rice related or starchy a little much.

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.
I like their creativity and the broad offering of their menu. They aren’t just a place for hot pot, but serve as a stop for happy hour as well. Cold drinks and small snacks or dessert. They offer regulars and occasional customers reasons to return with plenty of variety to try and taste. And as the first hot pot place to have franchises all over the world, there are many locations for you to get your fix at. Don’t deny your cravings.

LIUYISHOU HOTPOT
1542 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C2
778-379-3977

Grapes & Soda

I have been meaning to check this bar out, so when looking for an after dinner drinking spot, in the South Granville area, we headed down to “Grapes and Soda”. And to our delight, their head bartender, 2018 best bartender of the year, as voted by “Vancouver Magazine”, was behind the counter mixing tonight.

With its patterned vinyl on the all windowed exterior, you can’t really tell what’s within, if not for the bottle cap logo on the sandwich board, and the flag hanging off the side of the building.

Inside, the little space is a lot more intricate. It has a similar vibe to all the other dark and intimate bars I am familiar with, in the Chinatown area. It leads with a well stocked shelves, 3.5 rows of bottles packed in together tight, and a collection of botanicals and bitters on the counter to speak to their mixing program. The restaurant is spooky and dark, with cozy space saving pockets, and parchment wrapped lights, offering a little illumination. Seating runs down the length of the room, across from the actual bar that continued into their kitchen. Our group of 5 shimmied into the booth by the door.

Interestingly, on the back of the menu was a message, making note of the drawers under each table. Guests were encourage to use these as a place to house their cellphones, a place to put them away securely, and to not be tempted to pull them out for the duration of your stay. However, the fear would be then forgetting them there.

When it came time to order I went for one of their soda cocktails, considering this was their specialty and name sake. Today’s special was a red coloured soda with umeshu, gin, lime, whey, and shiso. They are premixed and pre bottled, served with a glass of ice and bottle opener. It was a easy drink with hints of plum and lime. I didn’t get any of the distinctive shiso flavour though, not that I wanted any.

I liked the look of the wide and short coupe that the “Tempest” cocktail came in. Blackberry, mezcal, coffee, lime, egg white, and a chilli tincture.

The “Lassi legal” drank like a creamy dessert. Kaffir lime, cachaca, kefir, coconut, cucumber, mint, and cilantro.

They can also mix up any of your favourite classic cocktails like this “Spanish gin & tonic”. Basically, anything but a highball, as they don’t carry grocery store sodas like coke or sprite.

We didn’t order any food, but for those looking for a light snack to accompany their drinks they do small plates. Bread and charcuterie boards, vegetable heavy seasonal dishes like cauliflower, peas, and zucchini; and fruit forward desserts like Mille feuille and strawberries and rhubarb with ice cream.

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 fun place for some creative cocktails in the South Granville area, and out of downtown Vancouver. I would love to frequent here if not for the need to travel via skytrain and bus to and from, if I plan to drink multiple glasses. Don’t deny your cravings.

GRAPES & SODA
1537 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver BC 6J
604-336-2456
grapesandsoda.ca

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