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Category: Asian fusion Page 2 of 3

The Boss

I haven’t been here in ages, and within the first few mins of our visit, it all came back to me as to why. “The Boss” has been a Metrotown staple for years now. A quick and dirty Hong Kong style cafe that focuses on speed and customer turnover versus service and the customer’s experience. I found the lack of communication insufferable and how they delivered drinks and utensils with a drop, rude. My guest reassured me that this was common place in such diners, and that it’s all about efficiency. But I didn’t feel like being rushed through a meal I was planning on sitting and enjoying with a friend.

I should have known it would be a rough service when they seated my guest in a 2 foot wide booth, and when she asked for one with more space she was given attitude for her request. Our server was displeased, and tried to reassure her that she could fit all her bags and shopping on to the narrow bench beside her. Though she insisted on relocating, and the result was the wait staff making fun of her in Cantonese, not realizing she too spoke and understood the language. I wasn’t present during the whole scene, otherwise I would have stood up for her and walked out. And it wasn’t like we would be missing anything from the meal below.

Our request for water, napkins, and another fork (so that we both got one) was met with a look of intolerance. Like I was burdening them with my request to have the tools I needed to eat my meal. What they didn’t hesitate on was any mention of the bill. Our server asked us twice how we would be paying, together or separate, as she took our order. And later our billed showed up when my guest still had food left in front of her.

We were just looking for a quick bite, so didn’t order anything too elaborate, simple meals for cheap, as to not disappoint. I deemed my slightly more expensive $12.95 meal more worth the cost given how more complex of a meal it was. This was a baked dish that I couldn’t just as easily make for myself as I could my guest’s choice below. “Baked seafood on fried rice with cream sauce. It was actually pretty good. Comforting in its creaminess, but once again, there was nothing much to it. I just wished that there was a warning that it would take much longer to come, or maybe the consideration of them making both dishes so they arrived on time. But I guess that isn’t efficient… the result, I watched my guest eat and she watched me after.

My guest had the “Breakfast combo A and B” for $2 less. But whereas my combo came with a drink, my choice of coffee or tea; my guest’s did not and she paid the $1 more for her lemon ice tea.

From “box A” she was able to choose one dish and another from “box B”. She had her option of an omelet and went for the shredded chicken filing. Grey chicken and green peas in a fluffy egg wrap. They were pretty bland on their own, so found their way into my seafood cream casserole as additional flavour and texture.

This came with her choice of a dinner roll or a slice of bread on the side, with a sealed mini tub of butter. Pretty basic.

Oddly, she chose more shredded chicken, but this time in instant noodle. And it tasted as bland as it looked. It was flavoured with sesame oil, but still lacked so much seasoning. This was left uneaten. There were other options like satay beef and beef brisket, vermicelli or macaroni; and yet she chose a packet she could get herself for $1.90 at any grocery store. At least now she knows, I guess.

 

Would I come back? – No
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
No cards accepted, no care given, and no flavour had. A cheap solution, but the food court is only a few steps away. But if you want a more calming place to sit and possibly an even faster dining experience than at any foodcourt with its lengthy lines, I guess this is an easy solution. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE BOSS
Metropolis at Metrotown
4720 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5H 4J2
604-438-2677
The Boss Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dundas Eat + Drink revist

I have recently visited “Dundas Eat + Drink” to take on their newest food challenge: a giant vegan serving of their authentic Vietnamese noodle soup: bun bo hue. To see what that is all about, check out my vlog where I go head to head with this 3lbs of deliciousness.

 

However, today I was back at “Dundas” for a regular meal. You can’t really tell from their name, but they serve a full menu of authentic and delicious Vietnamese dishes; all made by their chef, a mother who has raised her lucky children and family on such fare.

 

Given the area and the want to drive local customers through their door, the more generic name does make sense. They have branded themselves as an eatery in order to appeal to their neighbours and those driving out of downtown. However, it seems like such a miss to not make note of the fantastic Vietnamese restaurant that is at its core. And how it is family run with their matriarch behind the stove.

Similarly, the decor doesn’t really speak to the cuisine, although this was for the better. The posher setting had you appreciating the value of the menu carved in wood, that laid before you. Everything was reasonably priced, you’d expect it to cost more given the decor and how good the food was. It had the flavours and the comfort of street food, but crafted with the aesthetics of casual plates, worthy of photographing.

But then there was the chalkboard bar in the corner, with beers on tap and the game splashed across three flat screens. All this made more sense under their “Dundas Eat + Drink” title. Giving it a well branded, sports bar feel; even more so with the banner outside, advertising that they broadcast all UFC matches. This, instead of fostering the more familiar hole in the wall, Vietnamese restaurant feel.

Their interwoven logo found its way onto the wooden planks of the dining room walls, and on a couple of the tiles in the washroom. Logos were on each carved and torched menu, on every paper napkin handed out, and etched on each glass candle holder that provided ambience light. I guess cohesive and literal branding is one of the perks of also running a print shop, where you can do all the above for yourself.

As for the food, they offer an extensive vegan menu with over 15 different options to choose from. I thought about exploring this a little more, and really focusing this post on how it stands up against its meat-full versions. But instead, followed my stomach and sought out some of their more authentic Vietnamese flavours.

But not before trying their “avocado fries”. Sliced up pieces of avocado, breaded and deep fried for a nice crunch. Each crunch, hiding a centre of creaminess. The house made chilli mayo for dipping was a nice balance for all the heavier flavours. It was tangy and bright, giving each bite a further whipped sensation and another level of complexity.

To match with our deep friend veg we also ordered a pound of their fried chicken wings, with 6 flavours to choose from. We went with the most popular, their “house special”, which had a variety of textures and flavours. A good crispy coating with chunky bites, mildly spicy and fairly peppery. It was best dipped into their house made blue cheese sauce that came with it. Tasty enough, but I felt like I would have enjoyed either one of their classic wing flavours or their Vietnamese focus ones more. Spicy buffalo, tamarind, garlic butter, honey garlic, and salt and pepper.

We thought a great way to try a handful of their more meaty offerings was to customize an order and build our own rice dish. You basically choose main proteins or a handful of them, like we did and have them with jasmine rice, cucumbers, lettuce, pickled daikon and carrots. All topped with fried onions, and a healthy dose of their Vietnamese vinaigrette sauce. What started as lemon grass chicken, now included beef short ribs for $4 more, a spring roll for another $3, and a sunny side up egg for a toonie.

The blackened grill of the chicken was a tad acrid, but under the burnt skin was juicy dark meat. We don’t get much lemongrass flavour, but it was still a tasty piece of meat. Although I much prefer the short ribs, they were so tender and so easy to pull meat from bone. The spring rolls were tasty, in hindsight we should ordered two so that we didn’t have to share. And the sunny side egg just rounded out the dish off, adding an additional texture and some sauciness to the rice with its runny yolk.

The “Sate beef”, specialty noodle soup came highly recommend by our very knowledgeable server. She pointed out that she has yet to see the following offered in beef or chicken anywhere else, and on any other menu but their’s. This was reason enough to give it a try, and it ended up being my favourite dish of the night. Rare beef in a spicy peanut and coconut broth. It was like curry and pho melded together in delicious harmony. Creamy and buttery, it reminded me of satay. Great if you love peanuts and bold soupy flavours. When we got it, the meat was already fully cooked, whereas I would have liked to see the beef red and raw as its description promised. But overall I was very impressed by this and how generous they were with the thin slices of beef.

We were full, but had to try a couple of their desserts. They all weren’t traditional Vietnamese sweets, but special in that the same chef who prepared all the dishes before makes all their desserts the day of as well. Impressive as most restaurants tend to buy out, for their cheesecake and chocolate cake. Even more so if their chef isn’t a trained pastry chef. We were not disappointed.

The “Dundas cheesecake” was a New York style cheesecake with berry toppings. And it was everything that my guest and I like in a cheesecake. A whipped creamy texture, but still fluffy. The raspberry topping was the perfect amount of sweetness and tang to pair with the saltiness of the cheese. I just wanted more graham cracker crumb crust and less cheesecake for a more even ratio of the two per bite.

The “Mango n sticky rice” is a Thai dessert topped with coconut milk, therefore a great option for vegans looking for a little sweetness after their meal. There were familiar flavours, ones that I wanted more of in varying degrees than what I got. I found it a tad too fragrant with the flavour of the toasted sesame seeds, maybe less of them, to balance this out, could help. I liked the faint flavour of pandan and wanted more of it from the rice. It was wonderfully intertwined with the silky coconut milk, and the fresh mango side offered some sweetness to the lot. I just wished it was in season. This is a dessert I would come back for more of. It paired well with the green tea and pandan brew they were offering with the meal.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I am hooked, after this visit I have several reasons to want to visit again, and soon. They make for a great spot to meet up with a friend for a good cost effective meal. Half way between city and my home. Coquitlam versus west end. I would go out of my way to “Dundas”, despite the distance from my work or home, for either a bowl of their sate beef or their vegan bun bo hue, should the right craving arise. That and be sure to follow it with one of their pandan desserts. They are also really good for drinks, $5 for a 6oz glass of the house red or white, any time of day. All served by friendly staff who engage in your party and are very welcoming. They love their food and are able to speak to it. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DUNDAS EAT & DRINK
2077 Dundas Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1J5
604-420-1200
eatdundas.com

Giant Vegan Pho Challenge at Dundas Pho

The restaurant that brought Vancouver its first big bowl pho challenge is back with another!

It has been a year since “Dundas Eat + Drink” gave us their 6lbs “Six-O-Pho” challenge. And with the colder weather upon us, they’ve reckoned its time to launch another. This is their 3lbs “Vegan Bún bò Huế” challenge. It is 100% plant based, meaning this opens the doors for a lot more competitors.

 

And once again, I am honoured to be able to be the first one to attempt this challenge, and to road test it for them. To check out how I faired, and to get an idea of what’s it like to take on an eating challenge, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

Bún bò Huế is a popular Vietnamese soup containing rice vermicelli and beef. The dish is best known for its balance of spicy, sour, salty, and umami flavours. This version is as tasty as its reputation suggests; made with deep fried tofu, king oyster mushrooms, and vegan Vietnamese ham. All the above gives the bowl plenty of taste and texture; along with the rice noodle base, and the mix of raw green onions, red onions, and cilantro for topping. But truly the star of this dish is the spicy vegetable broth. Despite its red hue it is actually not that spicy, more of a medium-mild on the heat meter. Delicious and great for chugging, which is helpful considering the challenge requires finishing the entire bowl, including the broth, down to the very last drop.

So now that you know how delicious this serving is, how can you try it for yourself, and better yet beat it?

The challenge is running all through December, it started on the 1st and “Dundas Eat + Drink” continue to host customers until the 31st. Each competitor pays $25 to play, win of lose the price is set. If you finish the entire bowl in under 20 min, you will win an instant prize! Then the 5 fastest contestants will be invited back for round two. This is a winner’s table where all 5 will face off against one another, in the hopes of winning the grand prize, valued at $500!

As they did last year, the extra large bowl of noodles will continue to be available for order after December 2018, although the price will increase to $30. To reminisce over last’s year’s meat heavy pho challenge, click on the link to watch my attempt video.

 

DUNDAS EAT + DRINK
2077 Dundas Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1J5
604-420-1200
eatdundas.com

The Rise, revisit

My original visit to “The Rise” wasn’t very favourable. (I will include the link at the bottom, for those curious and wanting to compare.) Luckily I didn’t let a quick open and a first assessment steer me clear of this modern asian fusion restaurant. Out of convenience I have found myself at their threshold for a handful of meal. I work in the area and find lunch with them is quick and tasty. They have taken feedback, grown, and improved since their grand opening introduction and I can finally say that it is time I do a revisit post, and paint a more accurate picture of what it’s like to dine with them, almost a year later.

In truth, my visit today was in a different capacity. Today I was here as a judge, one of three, ranking this year’s Vancouver Foodster’s Sangria challengers. But I won’t be covering my thoughts of their drink here, instead I invite you to try them all for yourself and help judge in the people’s choice category. And be sure to check back here to read my full recap of the challenge, including my thoughts on each and how I voted.

Whenever I visit “The Rise”, should the weather permit, I like to dine on their patio out back. There really isn’t much of a view, as their wood barricade with artificial greens mask the scene of the alley below. But this cloistered off deck gives you an oasis in the city. A quiet spice to linger at, with heat lamps and warm blankets should the temperature turn.

The following is what I had on this day, plus a recap of a handful of meals I have had over the summer season.

I have been meaning to try their “Wheel of nosh”, for a while now. This was a creative way to serve a sampling of either appetizers and/or desserts. And today I not only would get to try one, but both their savoury and sweet sets. When the name says “wheel”, it literally means wheel as these small bites are served in little glass bowl sitting in a wire rounded Ferris wheel in either rose gold or silver. Each wheel has 8 bites, a set of four for two people. So best to share this one with a friend. There are no changes to this one, they don’t offer the wheel for one with 4 savoury bites and 4 sweet. I asked. The collect varies from day to day, each, a selection of Chef Dan’s d’oeuvres.

Today I lucked out as I was able to try and fall for these savoury macarons. I have never heard of, or would think to do savoury macarons in cumin and carrot or tomato and basil. Both had the perfect crisp bite meets luscious cream centre that is a tell-a-tale mark of a great macaron. Your eyes can’t believe what you are tasting: you get the quality of a fine macaron with the flavours of a fresh salad and/or seasoned pasta.

The carrot and cumin tasted like soup seasoned in Indian spices. I would have liked this served warm to mimic that hot soup feel, it would have also added another layer to the dish; and/or change the texture and/or experience of it. The tomato and basil ate like a salad with dressing or red sauce pasta. I would have liked a garlic bread macaron to go with it.

I really liked the “Truffle honey chicken drumlets”, this one taste would have me going back to order a plate full of these crunchy bar snacks. Often I am complaining that I don’t get truffle when it’s mentioned in the name of a dish, but here there was no missing it. It was fragrant, but also well balanced by the sweetness of the honey.

The “Shrimp with house made XO sauce” was nice. Large and juicy shrimps seasoned for a tangy meets garlicky flavour.

This was a clever way of presented a spicy tuna tartar with guacamole and freeze dried corn kernels. The waffle cone was sweet, it mimicked the sweetness of the corn. Although I wanted more of a vinegar and cream flavour from my tuna tartar, almost like a poke with a rice cup. The aforementioned cream would have also given the bite some moisture.

As a new seasonal main, my guest was very excited to see “Beer belly”. She does not eat pork, so knows not the love between a foodie and her pork belly. So to be able to try a close proximity of that sensation was something that she relished this night. House smoked sterling beef belly, braised cabbage purée, crispy coleslaw, pickled cucumbers, and house ipa mustard. This was a vey well balanced dish. Despite all the fattiness of the cut, the neighbouring veg and mix of textures helped to break the fat and grease down for a less overwhelming bite. Fresh leafy greens, tangy pickled cucumbers, and the clever idea of deep frying shredded coleslaw and using it for some crunch. All framed by the fragrant mustard that made for the perfect binder, bringing it all together.

Given the heaviness of our first course, we decided to take it lighter with the seafood in the “Gone fishing”. Grilled scallops and tiger prawns over a zucchini and carrot rice pasta, dressed in yuzukosho cream. The cream was made from fermented yuzu, giving it a more full bodied flavour and a new experience for me. The prawns and scallops were cooked perfect, the latter easily melted against the pressure of your teeth. And the noodle and vegetable mix made the ideal base. It gave the dish some heartiness, while still keeping things light, allowing the fresh seafood to shine.

As mentioned earlier, for dessert we had a sampling served on another Ferris wheel. If you had to choose between the two “Wheel of nosh” versions, I recommend the savoury appetizer one. By comparison dessert wasn’t as creative. Good, but not anything you couldn’t get from else where. Where was the whimsy that we got from all the other dishes?

The warm green tea cheese with tart freeze dried raspberries was the best out of the four different desserts on the wheel. It was tasty with a nice crunch, a flaky buttery crust, and creamy centre. This two biter was enough that I would consider getting the full sized version of this dessert in the future.

The raspberry macaron was very standard, it was at least very fresh and I could tell the raspberry flavour was coming from the pureeing of the actual fruit. Here I would have liked this to be made into a raspberry pie macaron, or have a scoop of ice cream dolloped on top; something to elevate your normal macaron.

Similar was the marble mini cheesecakes. It was good, there was enough crust to enjoy the cream with, but how were they making this their own?

I liked the vanilla and blackcurrant cream puff. At least the addition of black beret made this the restaurant’s own. It was served chilled, whereas I would have liked to have the puff dough warmed, thus making the vanilla cream a little more runny, like a “lava” puff. The addition of the chocolate at bottom gave the overall bite a nice flavour and crisp.

Overall, these wheels were a nice way to present share platters and small bites. However after the novelty of trying it once, you need not revisit it for whimsy, but instead as a full sized dish, if the taste won you over. Given its purpose, I wanted more variety in the sampling, instead of two of each, give me 8 different bites, although it is economically harder to do so.

Now, here are some of the dishes I have had a few months back.


The “schmaltz stir-fried rice pilaf” with chicken confit, sous vide free run egg,
chicken crackling, and the salad du jour.

“Shroom 2.0”, a vegan full and gluten free side, that was filling enough to eat as a meal. A gluten-free spaghetti served with a mushroom medley, smoked tofu, silken tofu cream, and cashew parmesan.

 

 

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I got my wish, through their ever evolving menu, they have reinvented their dishes and have come into their own. They are the most/only unique offering in the neighbourhood, and shine because of it. You will continue to see me frequenting the space: enjoying the puns in their names and the novelty of their interactive cocktails, and for their delicious ramen renditions. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RISE
3135 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3K1
604-559-8280
theriseeatery.com

For the original visit and review, click the link below.

The Rise Eatry

Gon’s Izakaya

After a day out at Stanley Park, attending a music festival in the rain, I was more than ecstatic to end our night within the warmth of this fushion Asia Restaurant.

Given how much I liked the food, I was surprised to see it so empty on a Saturday night. But this is also how I felt about the last three restaurants that held this space. Maybe it’s the location? -A far walk from Robson’s main strip, but then again they are next to a popular dessert cafe that has only flourished with its tenure. None the less we had plenty of room to enjoy this Japanese inspired izakaya, sharing raw seafood, saucy noodles and deep-fried vegetables amongst three.

At the entrance was a lengthy share table centred with some decorative bamboo and stones. Around the corner were additional seats lined up against the wall, a row set parallel to chairs along the bar. We grabbed a corner at the former and began amassing food and drink, starting with a bottle of white wine.

The menu is easy to navigate with pictorials. Their “Spicy red nabe”, was declared a must try, highlighted on its own laminated sheet. This was their house special hot pot with Japanese nappa cabbage, bean sprouts, tofu, eggplant, chicken, and pork belly: cooked in a miso broth flavoured with red pepper and paprika. You had the option of choosing how spicy you wanted it from a scale of one to five, I went for a one to be able to enjoy the dish.

It is cooked table side over a electric coil. It comes as a tower of raw ingredients in the aforementioned broth. Then as the brew boils and the steam seeps out, your server returns to peel back the layers of pork belly, and shift vegetables around to uncover a foundation of beansprouts. This opening is used to stir in a paste and a chilli sauce. Then the serving is allowed more time to boil and cook. The result is a wonderfully fragrant hot pot, one of the best in flavour with the fermented pickling providing a natural umami to the mix. This was definitely my favourite dish of the evening and one I would order again, should I return.

A close second for very different reasons was the “Tempura curry Udon”. I would order this one again too on my next visit. I was looking for something rich in sauciness with the proper carbs to soak it up. This sweet Japanese style curry with chewy fat udon noodles did not disappoint. The flavours and the textures of this are all ones I personally gravitate towards, if I am ordering for preference. I want another serving just writing and re-reading this.

The “Gon’s original kara-age” is Japanese style deep fried organic chicken. These were an easy win, tasty nuggets of juicy chicken you could easily pop into your mouth. Best with an beer to balance out its saltiness.

A little too similar was the gathering of deep fried vegetable and homemade fishballs. Tasty, but together with the chicken above this was too much deep fry and not enough pickled vegetable or creamy sauce to break things apart.

The “Seafood donburi” came as a set with miso soup, a side salad with vinaigrette, a steamed egg dish, seasoned bamboo, and a dish of tangy pickles. You felt you got your money’s worth with this one. Plenty to mix and match flavours with, and enough to leave you full. The raw fish over the sushi rice was a collection of sashimi that included red snapper, yellow tail, tuna, octopus, and sweet spot prawn. It was a seafood lover’s dream given how fresh it all tasted.

The “Takoyaki poutine” made good drunk food. Fries, gravy, and parmesan cheese topped with four balls of takoyaki, flavoured with its normal dressing of sweet mayo and bonito flakes. It tasted exactly as it sounds.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I really liked this place, as I naturally gravitate to asian fusion and smaller plates that allow you to order lots, try plenty, and sharing everything. If this was by my work I would be frequenting them more often. But sadly its not that close to make a trip out to, nor is parking easy by it. But if you are ever in the area and are ever given the option, I would definitely suggest snacking with them. Don’t deny your cravings

 

GON’S
854 Denman Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2L8
604-559-6404
izakaya-gons.com/denman

Sai Woo

Dinner and a history lesson at Sai Woo.

Today I was invited to Sai Woo for a chance to taste their spring menu. It has been a while since my last visit and today I was curious to see if my original assessment and thoughts could be turned around. And with a new chef and their new management team this was definitely the case.

Disclaimer: When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

I was pleased to see that the boarding and the necessary tunnelling to get to the restaurant’s once blocked off entrance was now clear. A welcoming walkway led your eyes and your feet to their threshold. A red “brick” road protected by a dragon. But it is their LED rooster that attracts attention and marks their location, with his red and yellow wings spanned. We would later learn that this was an exact duplicate of the original sign that once graced the original “Sai Woo”, the restaurant and the name that this second generation establishment was modelled after.

This has got to be my most informative and interesting dinner to date. We got to sit down with the owner Sally, and boy howdy did she know her Chinatown history. With it and her storytelling, @eatwithmao and I engaged. She has been a restaurateur for over 18 years, beginning her tenure in Yaletown. She got in early predicting that the area would boom, it did. Now this was her next premonition, and once again she got in early as one of the first new restaurants in the evolving Chinatown landscape. Her goal was to bring back the neon dinner and dancing era that made it so “glamourous”.

The building was originally in bad shape when she purchased it in January of 2013. Previously it was the old “New Town Bakery” and restaurant, which has since moved one store down. A lot of work went into making this new restaurant “old” again. It began with peeling back layers and revealing the original wood, cement, and high ceilings with skylight. All that existed when it was “Sai Woo Chop Suey” from 1925 to 1959. In fact the same wood that you would have walked on in 1925, from threshold to the isle between tables, has been uncovered and revitalized.

They continued to build on the history by adding found items to their decor. Sally managed to salvage art pieces from the historic centre above then. Wooden cinema seats, traditional drums used in parades, calligraphy framed into art, stone guardian lions, etc. Most notable was the “Wooden Phoenix” carving that once hung in the “Marco Polo” night club. It was originally commissioned to advertise the club’s “china dolls” drink service. Who knew it would eventually get back to the neighbourhood it once came from.

My favourite were the props from Bruce Lee movies. The prayer papers hanging above the staircase that took you down to their basement, and from the ceiling of the communal washroom space. The carved wooden moon gate also came from a Bruce Lee movie. It is currently being used to frame a projection of the very Bruce Lee movie it was originally a prop in.

All these restored artifacts gave the place so much more history, and they made the spot all the more special. I just wished there was a way for the restaurant to showcase this better. I was lucky to be able to chat up the restaurant’s owner for the background information; but for all those who didn’t get the chance to, they are missing out on so much interesting knowledge and history. Knowing all the above makes me love “Sai Woo” more. It makes me want to talk about it. It makes me want to recommend it to those visiting from out of town. To be able to take friend down here myself and to teach them these tidbits.

Although, aside from these artifacts, the restaurant is less outwardly Chinese inspired. This speaks to their menu of Asian staples made more approachable to the Canadian appetite. It looks and feels like a wine bar, which was perfect given we were here during happy hour.

The “Coco Harvey Lowe” is a freshly tapped young coconut shaken with dark rum. After the drink has been drunk, borrow the “Coco Jack” from the bar, to be able to get every last morsel of that young coconut meat within. It is a sickle shaped hand tool that you use to peel the flesh within the coconut, much like peeling fruit, but backwards.

The end result of their “Smoking Gun” cocktail looked and tasted much like an old fashion. Except here literal smoke was added to it, for a smoke flavour and aroma. El dorado 12 year old rum, bitters, brown sugar, oak, and tea smoke. The drink is assembled before you. The mixed cocktail is poured into their skull shaped glass, bottled up with smoke. A few tips back and forth to infuse the essence of the smoke, before the finished product is poured out over a giant square ice cube,

As for the food menu, it is helmed by Chef Isaac, who has made “Sai Woo” his residency for over five years. His creativity has cause the menu to evolve, so for those who have have’t visited recently, doing so will give you a whole other experience. He takes inspiration from all over Asia; picking flavours and techniques from Korea, China, Vietnam, and Taiwan; but putting his own defining spin to things. His take on Asian fusion is as bold in flavour as it is in its presentation.

 

We started with a “Smoke beef tartar” made with fermented garlic, fukkake, and bonito flakes. The tartar is slightly torched and spicy with a wasabi mayo dressing. The hiccama topping it is pickled with a Vietnamese fish sauce for a vinegary tang. And the crispy cracker topping it offered a neutral base and some crunch. All together this covered all the textures and tastes that I was looking for. You break everything up, then bring it back together for the prefect bit. It was one of the more creative dishes that we had this night, but sadly it is not on the menu regularly.

By contrast the “Beat Terrine” made a great palette cleanser; something more mild and refreshing to have in between plates, in order to refresh. Shame, we only got one such dish to fulfill such a role; especially given how punchy everything else was below. Szechuan spiced beet terrine, goats cheese espuma, honey beet purée, and shaved vegetables.

The “Taiwanese Pancake” was an item that was still on the drawing board, another one we got to taste that isn’t on the menu. Instead of using the traditional green onion pancake that is typical of this wrap, here they fold their Chinese five spice pork and mozzarella with a house made roti. I wanted to taste the cheese, to have more of it to help balance out the stronger spices seasoning the pork. I also wanted a cream based sauce to bring it all together, instead what was here was the same watery and tangy sauce that flavoured the tartar above. The extra liquid made the roti soggy, if you didn’t inhale it. Here, a thicker bread product or a 2:1 ratio of it and the filling would have help to dull the overwhelming flavour of the wrap, furthered by the overly fragrant herbs. This was my least favourite dish of the night.

By comparison, was their “Korean garlic chicken” served with a gastrique, pickled vegetable, and scallions. There is good reason why this is their best selling dish. This crunchy white meat chicken nuggets would have been ideal with the roti above. I find such strong flavours need a carb heavy base to sit atop of, or else invest in more cocktails to balance out the saltiness.

The “Saiwoo lettuce wrap” was a great carb alternative, and a better balanced dish. There was plenty of vegetable and sauces laid out to craft your perfect bite. Fermented soy bean paste, shallots, pickled vegetable, house made kimchi and leaf lettuce brought together to support the feature protein of the week. Today it was a spicy korean pork so good, that I could have eaten a plate of it as is.

The “Vietnamese noodle bowl” is one that I could enjoy any day, at any time. Sous vide chicken, pickled vegetable, fresh lettuce and house made spring rolls over a bed of vermicelli. I found this a great up scale version on the classic bowl, with the perfectly crispy spring rolls being my favourite part.

For dessert we had their “Lemon pavlova”. What looked like luscious cream was starchy and hard, with a chalky finish that sticks to your teeth. The flavour is nice enough, but we left it wondering if this was the intention: chewing through it like gum and having to pick your teeth clean after. Instead, ate the strawberry compote, matcha crumble, and mango purée as it. All three would have gone wonderfully with a nice oil based sponge cake instead.

 

The “Grand mariner semi fredo marquee” is for chocolate lovers. A decadent brick of mouse given some brightness with strawberry gel and meringue.

After the meal above, I wanted to end in something much lighter. An angel food cake, jello, something to cleanse the palette, and not eat like another meal. There is a reason why after Chinese food majority of the desserts available at a Chinese restaurant is simple and not sweet. Red bean soup or orange slices. The desserts are good if you came in just for them, but to finish on them was a little much.

Overall, each dish held up on its own, but all together like this, we found it a little overwhelming. Many of the flavours of what we had ran parallel to one another. So much so that you tired of the taste of Korean spices and Vietnamese fish sauce. If we had balanced out our order with one of their fried rice dishes and/or another vegatable platter, it would have been different and ideal. But as a customer wanting to order a few dishes and trying them for the first time how would you know? Especially if the servers are not trained to guide you on this culinary journey. If they haven’t tried much of the menu themselves or have the know-how to suggest and recommend, your experience with “Sai Woo” could very well be tarnished.

Therefore I recommend the menu being arranged like a grid of four. Where you choose an item from each “box” to craft the perfect pairing between dishes. Something from the “spicy” box, one from the “tangy”, one from the “refreshing” category, and one from a group that would/could serve as a “base” for each of the above. And even what dessert to order if you are feel like a “sweet” or “refreshing” tastes to end your meal. A fool-proof way to complete your meal.

Another thing I would change is the lighting. It is a shame that the restaurant is kept so dark. I understand it is to foster the night life vibe, but they have a great lounge space down stairs where you could cultivate this at instead. A red room with curtained ceiling, seat cushions and benches that allow you to literally lounge. There is even a sliding door equipped with an eye slot that allows you to assess who it is you were letting in, before granting them entry. This was the ideal setting for many of their customer who came in after dinner else, looking for a space to sip cocktails and keep the night going. Although after speaking to restaurant management, I do think they see this opportunity themselves. They disclosed the possibility of introducing a lounge menu with $8 drinks and plates.

And instead I would make the main dining area more like a restaurant, giving each table better overhead lighting to full appreciate the beauty of the dishes above. We were lucky to have come in early and to snag the only table by the window; but the deeper into the restaurant you go, the darker things get, and it is no wonder that much of their clientele this friday night only came to drink. “Sai Woo” feels more like a social bar once the sun goes down.

 

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.
This is my favourite type of restaurant to write about. An establishment with plenty of character, run by people with so much enthusiasm and heart. There was nothing easy about what they were doing, nothing about their decor or menu spoke to an “easy win”, they were taking dining to another level and willing to take the risks necessarily to set themselves apart. With a little more finesse and continuos improvements, like they have been doing, I can clearly picture their upward trajectory. After all there is no other restaurant in Chinatown with this much history, that alone is worth coming in to see. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SAI WOO
158 East Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1T3
604-568-1117
saiwoo.ca
Sai Woo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kosoo Korean

I really enjoy fusion cuisine. The ability to take two or more things that work, and bring them together to make something new and exciting. And in this case, the outcome was the inventive menu of “Kosoo”. Korean fusion with Spanish and Italian influences, made by french trained chefs.

Today we have been invited down to their restaurant to try their new spring menu. A list worthy of printing out and posting on a banner outside their entrance.When it comes to a media event, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

Their restaurant is kept fairly dark with a well stocked bar. Both make it the type of place you could gather at for a light lunch, and then have it transition into the ideal spot for date night. So naturally we started our visit with a few sangrias in white and red, stepping forward with their Spanish influences.

We took a seat on their wooden booth by the window. Our backs against the back lit, violet wall; right under the words “eat” in metal letters. It felt appropriate. The restaurant’s name would follow, a few more decorative pieces amongst a line up of vases.

Our meal began with their “Caprese”. It is worth noting here, that their spring menu took the time to educate their customer. Each item was listed with a photo, the dish’s name and price, as well as some historical or cultural tidbit on the plate itself. Like how caprese originated from Capri, Naples in Italy. Their version was a lot more dramatic and flavourful than the traditional. It utilized savoury garlic and fresh onions in its peso-like sauce. The perfect zesty pick me up for the milder slices of fresh tomato and soften cheese.

The “Toro sashimi” by contrast needed no add-on our flavour or accentuate it. The menu made sure to note that “tuna belly is often considered the best part” of the fish. The time the chef took to present each individual slice like the petals to a rose was memorable. It spoke to the beauty of the raw fish. For me, I preferred its rich, buttery texture dipped into a little bit of soy.

Truthfully I am not a fan for leafy greens, and especially wilted spinach. Therefore I avoided the “Gomae”, a traditional Japanese side dish of spinach. Although it was interesting to note their use of authentic Korean sesame seeds to bring a different flavour mix to fragrant the greens.

Their “Spicy tuna roll’ was a California roll topped with seared tuna and jalapeños, drizzled with spicy mayo and special sauce. A little bit of heat, but mostly imitation crab meat and mayonnaise.

Very similar was their “Unagi roll”. Unagi and avocado topping another California roll. It had some tang from the brown sauce drizzled over, but nothing that had it standing out. In totality both rolls weren’t anything you couldn’t find anywhere else, nor did it speak to their theme.

Their “Cheese chicken galbi” is their signature dish and quite the showstopper. Chicken galbi is a spicy Korean style chicken. Here, it is mixed together with bean thread noodles and kimchi vegetables. The mound of which sits at the centre of their cast iron pot, which is served on a stand. The stand is home to a flame that keeps the meat warm, and melts the two dips that are served on the outer edge of this specialty pot. You can dip the chicken into either a troth of mozzarella cheese, or one yam puree with sweet corn kernels.

Sadly no matter how long we waited, we just couldn’t get the cheese to melt to the perfect stringy and gooey texture. One tug of the string lifted all the congealed cheese up and out of its metal canal all at once. Similarly the puree never got warm enough to have that smooth pasty texture. Instead it was chunky and lumpy like a hummus. As for the flavours all three elements were complimentary to one another. The salty, milky cheese was especially helpful in cooling down the spiciness of the chicken. The noodles added some chew, and the corn a bit of sweetness.

The “Tomato mussel stew”, was pretty self explanatory by its name. Tomato and fresh mussels in a stew with Korean spices and prawn. I liked this dish the least. The sour and tangy korean spices gave this dish an additional fishy and salty flavour. I felt it had a teaspoon too much sea salt.

Very similar, but more like traditional mussels and frites was the “Gambas”. This is a classic Spanish tapas dish seasoned with Korean dried chilies and plenty of garlic sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and garlic.

This was the most memorable dish in appearance and name. The “Spicy Popeye gyoza” is perfectly folded dough, surrounding a juicy prawn with spinach and creamy cheese. This crispy take on gyozas also included a chipotle-like mayo for dipping.

There is also a “Truffle japache”, which I was highly interested in trying, but we didn’t get a chance to. According to the menu truffles are called the “black diamonds of the earth”. Its presence in the dish was suppose to add a little richness in aroma and taste to the most traditional of Korean noodle dishes. Their version of the popular noodle dish was topped with beef “dduk-galbi”. “Japache” was was originally associated with Korea’s royalty, and with truffles in the mix I am sure this was taken to the next level.

 

The following are a few dishes not on their spring menu. Instead, there are some of the popular dishes off their regular menu that we got to try.

The “Tartar sampler” were three scoops worth of tuna, salmon, and beef tartar. Well seasoned, these were fun morsels to start your meal with. Thought I would have liked some starch or a stiff crostini to use as a base for texture and heartiness.

The “Sable” fish was a beautifully clean and simple dish. Authentic Korean fish broth with green onion, rice balls, and fennel.

To continue to end things on a light note, we had little ramekins of their “Green tea mousse”. It had a very strong green tea flavour, to match the stiffness of the dense mousse. A little bitter and not at all sweet, for those who prefer a more subtle dessert.

“Kosoo” also offers a pretty great lunch menu. A feast for two, with all the dishes and sides pictured above for $30 per person. Sadly I didn’t get to try it in its entirety, so won’t be able to write about it here. I guess that is as good of a reason as any to revisit.

 

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.
Interesting plates with plenty of creativity to leave you learning of a new flavour combination. I recommend it for those who wanting to try something completely new and different. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KOSOO
832 Cardero Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2G5
604-563-5556
kosoorestaurant.com
Kosoo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dundas Six-O-Pho

I, like many others, first came to “Dundas Six-O-Pho” for the novelty of their big bowl pho challenge. And many, like me, weren’t able to beat it. However, the quality of the noddles and the meat in the soup (that we got to taste), was good enough to having us coming back. A return trip, to see see what else the restaurant has to offer, and maybe this time in portions we can actually finish.

To read up on that visit, and to watch my vlog of the food challenge, visit the link below.

Dundas: #sixophochallenge

 

In response to their vegan and vegetarian customers, “Dundas Six-O-Pho” now offers a vegetarian menu. A one page list of nine unique vegetable centric dishes, prepared with Vietnamese influences. So today, myself and a group of bloggers came by to try them, and a few of their Vietnamese-style bar classics as well, during this media event.

When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant toggles between being a traditional Vietnamese restaurant and a bar, but with none of the decor from either. Traditional recipes from the kitchen and a fully liquored up counter at the front. The corner bar offers local beers on tap, from a list written in chalk. The dining area centres around a row of starburst light fixtures, and the booths seats that are situated below them. Along the left wall is Vancouver’s city sky line, printed in a mono chromatic grey and used as wallpaper. The only outlier was the paper mache giraffe that stood by the doorway.

I liked how the wall’s wooden backboard is etched with their logo and restaurant’s name. A little touch that speaks to the pride in their brand and the owner’s side business. The owner of “Dundas Six O Pho” also does wood carving and glass etching. Which he uses to customize and brand his restaurant. All the beer glasses are etched, much like their walls, wooden tables, and wooden serving trays. They even have umbrellas, plastic take out bags, and tee shirts with this logo. The latter the staff wore as their uniform. It was cohesively done, and I was impressed by the detail of it.

I also really like the music they played. It was upbeat and fun, with hits off the top forty charts from the last two decades. It went from “Sky’s” “Some kind of wonderful” to “Benny Benassi’s” “Satisfaction” and “I love my sex”.

To start with, we enjoyed some modern drinks, along with the traditional.

The traditional Vietnamese style drip coffee with condense milk and ice.

A flight of beer served with their branded flight paddle.

And some flavoured sodas: pomegranate and hibiscus cream soda, ginger turmeric, and lemonade.

We began the eating portion of our afternoon with five of their new vegan options.

The vegetarian salad was composed of mixed greens, bean sprouts, fried shallots, fried tofu, tomatoes, and cucumber. It was generously drizzled with a tangy garlic sauce. It made for a good start, as a flavourful salad. I appreciated how they incorporated Vietnamese flavours into this with the use of beansprouts and fried shallots, I have yet to enjoy either in any other salad.

The vegan curry was hearty with a long lingering spice. A coconut base with mushroom, carrot, eggplant, fried tofu, and coloured pepper. Plenty of vegetables to give you plenty of interest.

The “Vegan bao sliders” were filled with minced tofu, lots of coloured onions, and pickled carrot. I am not a fan of this much onion as it, but even when I scooped them out, the slider still had a lot of flavour. This was thanks to the tasty gravy, that I could have just dipped the soft and chewy bao into, and eaten like fries and ketchup.

The “Veggie pho” was prepared with a simmered vegetable broth, it features more fried tofu, and plenty of seasoned vegetables like broccoli, baby bok choy, and carrots cut into flowers. It was a clean and tasty broth, not what I think of when I think pho, but a tasty soup base to lap up all of. The shallots were my favourite topping, they offered crunch and a nice zesty flavour.

The “Vegan Pad Thai” was my favourite out of all the vegetarian friendly dishes. broccoli, mushroom, carrot, green onions, and more fried tofu. This classic dish doesn’t need meat if they get the sauce and noodles right, and they did. Not traditional tasting with a lot of tamarind, or too tangy with a ketchupy flavour (to quote @dennispang). Just a nice sweet and salty flavour to enjoy over chewy noodles and crisp vegetables.

The “Deep fried wontons” are filled with vegetables, and served with their house special tangy sauce. The sauce looks like, but is not the typical Vietnamese fish sauce. But they do provide some acid to help cut away the grease of the fried wontons. You can enjoy said wontons crispy as is, with the sauce to flavour, or order them over your vegetarian pho like below.

Just be warmed, if you do, you have to eat fast as the wonton skins get soggy quickly, bobbing around in the broth.

Now we get in to “Dundas Six-O-Pho” house specials and a few of their more popular dishes with meat and seafood included.

The “Sizzling rice platter” is quite the spectacle. It is available in chicken, beef, or prawn. We had the chewy chunks of “Shaken beef”. The sizzling serving comes hissing on a hot plate with red and green peppers, onion, and plenty of black ground pepper. I liked how the rice on the side cooks a little more, with the bottom ending up crispier like fried rice.

Like the sizzling plate, they offer plates of rice served with your choice of protein. This is their “Lemongrass chicken rice”. Beautifully grilled chicken with a delightful char presented with a healthy serving of rice, raw cucumber and tomato slices, and a leaf lettuce salad with pickled daikon and carrot. Nothing much to say, except this was a Vietnamese classic done wonderfully, I would have this for dinner any day.

All their pho noodle soups are prepared with a chicken and beef broth. The broth is simmered for over 16 hours in star anise, cinnamon, roasted ginger and onion. The finished product includes rice noodle, cilantro, onion, fresh bean sprout, thai basil, and lime. This specifically is their “Pho sate”. It is made spicy with a spicy peanut and coconut broth.

I would recommend “The Dundas Platter” for anyone looking to try a little bite of everything, or for sharing as a starter. It comes with one crispy spring roll, one fresh salad roll, a chicken satay skewer, a beer skewer, and plenty of cassava fries. All with a side of vinaigrette sauce, peanut sauce, and house special sauce to cater to your dipping preference. Another tried an true assembly of just good Vietnamese food.

The “Asia burger” was an interesting interpretation. This black sesame topped brioche bun sandwiches, bean sprouts, pickled slaw, jalapeños, a beef patty, a fried egg, and fried shallots. It is definitely one of those burgers you can’t put down, lest it falls apart, there is just so much in it. It is also the first burger I have ever had with beansprouts and fried shallots as toppings, which gave a few bites some great textural interest. And in my opinion, any time you add in a fried sunny sun up egg, you are in for a good time. Because the messier it is the tastier it is. And if that is not enough food, it also comes with a healthy side of fries and a sriracha aioli for dipping.

And my favourite dish of the day and certainly the one you have to come down for, because it is not available anywhere else: is their “Dungeness Dundas Nachos”. This is one of the most creative spins I have ever seen done to nachos. It uses golden fried wonton chips that they top with hand pulled Dungeness crab meat, a tofu scramble, tomatoes, olives, capers, pickled onion, cheese and jalapeños. All this is drizzle over with their creamy jappa mayo and sprinkled with chives. And still comes with a side of their house made fresh cilantro mango salsa and more even mayo for dipping. Every bite was a different experience, giving you many reasons to pick the plate clean. Words cannot do this justice, jut try it for yourself.

And for dessert we ended with their fried to order “Deep fried bananas”. You get a whole banana and a scoop of ice cream. The batter was fried to a light crisp, and not greasy, just airy. It generously coated creamy sweet banana, drizzled in a chocolate sauce for that extra decadence. Not to be missed as well.

 

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.
A really fun spot for Vietnamese fusion. The flavours you love, in a setting you want to share with your friends. And with a unique menu that will have you returning for more. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DUNDAS PHO
2077 Dundas Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1J5
604-420-1200
eatdundas.com

The Rise Eatry

I was invited to the highly anticipated media launch for “Rise Eatery”, a new and modern restaurant joining the South Granville neighbourhood.

When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The space is simple and clean, the kind of locale you would want to linger in, well after your dinner; and with a bevy of unique drinks you can. Raised criss crossing lines on white walls, grey booths with irregular wood shaped tables and black linear chairs. A few pops of colour found a way to animate the place within whimsical works of canvas art. And they even have a patio at the back to enjoy some sun as you dine. However, overlooking their parking lot and its alley, doesn’t make the best of views.

Given their well dressed bar, it would be a shame not to try any of their cocktails. One led to another, each a twist on a famed classic; much like the rest of our tasting menu to come.

Their soon to be signature drink is the “Geisha-rita”, a visual drink pretty in pink, and as fun as it is tasty. It is a mix of sake and pink lemonade, poured over a canned lychee fruit skewered by a strawberry Pocky stick. It is rimmed with togarashi for a salty and savoury finish. The flavour of the lychee was gentle as an accent, best highlighted by the bold and spicy rim.

The “Old Timer. Newly Fashioned” is their fun play on a classic favourite. It is a drink that changes as it melts. It begins with prep: their blend of sour cherry juice is chilled until frozen at the bottom of a tumbler. To this frosty glass a shaken mix of maple, orange bourbon, thyme, and bitters are poured in. And what you get us a more palatable version of an old fashion, accented by the slow to melt cherry juice, that also helps to keep the glass chilled. This makes a great option for those who rather not the sting of sharp liquor.

And lastly we had the option of trying their “Rain City Ricky”, another playful and fun twist on a classic cocktail. Made with gin, cucumber, mint, lime, and soda. The twist is the inclusion of lemon grass to the line up. The result is a very refreshing drink with the zing of some smooth citrus notes. This was the easiest to sip and down.

Now when it comes to their food, I feel a disclaimer must be declared. I went into this meal all wrong. For the best results follow my tips. First, forget what you know about any one cuisine; and second, forget trying to figure what kind of fusion they are. They identify themselves as being global fusion, pulling from many different types of international influences. You can’t compare it to any one cuisine, and if you did you would be left with a lasting taste of confusion. However, of you sit down with an open mind and enjoy what is before you for what it is assembled on the plate, it gives you a better experience. Each dish we tried below is different, each is unlike any other you have had, and each a recreation all its own.

We began with some canapés. And like all their cocktails, each of their dishes came with a fun name. The “creme de la creme” centred around what they called a “duck liver creme burlee”, with a goji berry chutney over a toasted slice of baguette. The cream was a smooth pâté, delicious and flavourful. I assumed the “creme burlee” in the name derived from the fact that it was torched slightly, but I didn’t get any of that.

The “Tuna mole” was a play on chips and dip. A spicy albacore tuna tartare mix, sitting over a roasted corn guacamole. A heavy dip, unfortunately served with frail lotus chips for dipping with. If they were thicker cuts of lotus root, this would have worked better. Instead you were left wanting a stronger base like the one below to pair with such a punchy appetizer. Plus the chips were additionally soften, with an acrid taste from its burnt edges.

The “Routine”, was anything but routine. It took the idea of layering a carb with gravy and cheese, but other than that, this could not be defined as a poutine. Fried ramen cubes covered in cheese curds, miso gravy, kewpie mayo, and furikake. I liked the imagination but lost out on the execution. The texture of the raw ramen cubes left you with a grainy finish, and the more cooked ones gave you a chalky sand to swallow. I would have preferred the noodles prepared normally, with the same ingredients on top. There were tasty bites from the bonito, tanginess from the mayo, and melted cheese that went with everything. I just wanted some freshness to finish it off with. Some bean sprouts or pickled cucumber to help brighten up the dense dish.

Their “Loy Hay Salad” is similar to the traditional Chinese new year salad. A dish with all its ingredients laid out before you, and diners mix them all together at the table. This is done by lifting noodle and vegetables high above the plate and dropping it back down, repeating the motion. This process is thought to usher luck to those dining. And at “Rise”, they did the celebratory dish justice. Theirs is well balanced with the creamy fish and tangy vegetables playing well off one another. Smoked salmon, julienne cucumber, daikon carrot, pickled ginger, onions, tomatoes, taro, pea shoots, crispy vermicelli, toasted sesame, and peanuts; all in an apricot and beer vinaigrette.

Another one that I liked the idea of, but could have used more finesse in its execution is the French fry stir fry for the “Steak your claim” entree. Served in a cast iron skillet the side of kennebec potatoes fries were over salted with the balsamic Demi glaze that coated them. The cherry tomato halves, shishito peppers, and onions helped to cut into this, but not enough so. The twist was the inclusion of chewy pieces of Chinese donut. Although I didn’t find that they added anything to the dish, flavour or texture wise. The grilled 8oz rib eye steak main was much better. Cooked perfectly with an easy to take chew, and tasty as is. Here, I could have done with the chimichurri sauce, although its bold hue did tie the dish together visually.

I liked the “Shio Koko”: salted rice, malt roasted maple hills chicken thighs skewered and standing tall over a creamy helping of their Japanese potato salad. The chicken was cooked juicy with a great char from an even grill. A sweeter flavour to contrast the more vinegar based salad. The tangy pickles gave the side the freshness it needed and therefore I wished they were chopped up and mixed it with the other colourful vegetables hiding under the mayo.

I found the “Heart attack rice” a hearty bowl, but not necessary the main as they intended. This would have been better as a side as it felt like it was missing a dominant flavour to pull all the minced ingredients together. Schmaltz stir fried rice pilaf, chicken confit, and a soft-boiled egg to crown it all. The pulled chicken was nice, there just wasn’t enough of it. The airy pork skin added some crunch and the soft boiled egg gave the rice some moisture. As a whole, the dish was on the sweeter side, where here I wanted it saltier, more savoury. So the colourful peppers felt out of place. This would have paired nicely with the dish below.

There were no complaints over the “Long n Green”. Crispy pan fried green beans prepared with wok’ed haricot very, butter, soya, and their house XO sauce. The beans had a nice flavour, I just could have used more of it. There was not enough of the lumpy clump of sauce that topped the dish.

The one that surprised me was the “Shroom”. A vegan udon that used silken tofu cream and cashew Parmesan to achieve its luscious white sauce. A great pairing with the earthy mushrooms. I could have used more of the crispy onion for depth and maybe some peas for freshness. But it was the texture of this that won me over. I could have sat here slurping each noodle strand by strand.

For dessert we had their “Mean n’ green”. A matcha molten lava cake served with a side of adzuki bean ice cream from new and local ice creamery: “Innocent ice cream”. They may have rushed the cake. It was a runny batter at its centre, and fairly bitter. The sides that were cooked were wonderful, I just wish I had it as they intended it. By comparison the red bean was tasteless and icy. I found them best together for balance. The mix of melted cream and runny green was like a matcha latte of sorts.

 

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.
I like their concept and their space, I just wish that I liked their food more. The menu almost feels like they are trying to hard to be different and as a result each dish doesn’t have focus. Great ideas, just not well conceived. And this is coming from a girl who loves novelty and doing something for the sake of being different. But here the flavours were everywhere, and you were either left having too much or feeling like you needed more. Although having said that, I will still recommend them for upscale and dressy cocktails in the area. And I myself will be back, to see how their menu evolves as this new restaurant finds it ground. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RISE
3135 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3K1
604-559-8280
theriseeatery.com
The Rise Eatry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kaya, summer tasting menu

I have been to “Kaya, Malay Bistro” a handful of times now, since their opening in 2012. Hailing from Brunei, I find Malaysian cuisine homey, so have admittedly visited most of the Malaysian restaurants in the lower mainland. This one is not only the most convenient for me, but I find each time I visit they seem to have introduced something new to their menu or to the way they host.

Today it was the addition of happy hour with a $4 menu. This is now available Monday to Fridays from 5-7pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3pm. $4 tapas and beers including calamari, roti, curry somosas, vegetarian spring rolls, satay, and more. This means that they offer more than most places also hosting happy hour, although they might not be your traditional choice.

They also have the option of all you can eat on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30-2:30pm at $18.95 a person. With over 29 savoury items, including desserts to choose from; this is definitely a good deal. Vegetarian items, noodles and rice, tapas, and meat dishes.

But today, we as media were invited to try an exclusive and new tasting menu. But first, the disclaimer: When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

We were given the full experience of their new tasting menu, in celebration of their 5th anniversary. This is a set list of eight dishes brought together at a set price of $38 per person. A couple of them new menu items, but majority familiar favourites, that you would have ordered anyways. This menu (pictured) would not be regularly advertised in house or offered as an add on when you are seated. The only way to have the following for yourself is to come in knowing about it, due to its extensive coverage on social media; by us food bloggers and social media influencers. A very clever way to bring new bodies in through a new channel and to monitor our combined social influencer and blogger reach.

But not only that, “Kaya” is willing to double down and offer their new social media friends an additional 50% off on this tasting menu. All you have to do is follow them on their social media channels at @kayamalay on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and like one of their photos to be able to reference the deal. This would make the already affordable menu, $38 for 2 people, for an 8 course meal. My photos below are reflective of this deal of two can dine for $38. Although in order to maintain the quality of such an elaborate set, only 10 servings will be prepared daily, so to get yours, come early and make your reservations quick to capitalize. This will be running from today (June 24) to August 31, 2017. So if you love it, you can come back and enjoy it over and over again until the summer’s end. And if you didn’t, it would have cost you $20 to try something new, well worth the experience points.

The business major in me loved the idea, of them having a way to track our reach. Restaurants and PR teams invite us in to eat and cover their restaurants and events and we in turn have footage for our various media channels, making it a symbiotic relationship. And now there would be a way to track the success of this partnership. So let’s see how well this works. If you are reading this, go!

And since you are already saving so much, I strongly suggest ordering a share size bowl of rice; as I reference wanting a base a couple of times below.

Once again all the the dishes to follow are presented for two to share, catalogued as we received them. We started with the “Acar Awak”, which is pickled vegetables in a spicy and sour dressing. I often describe it as being like salsa and kimchi combined, however this is a variation that I am not use to. This version wasn’t spicy, it was less saucy and more water-logged, and the pineapple was a interesting add on. Its tangy-ness is ideal as a side dish, instead of a meal starter. I suggest leaving this one the side to nibble on in conjunction with all the dishes below. Especially with the deep fried and heavier spiced dishes.

The “coconut and cumin king prawn soup” was a great dish to warm up with. It is easy to sip with plenty of strong flavours. Each spoonful left you with a deep tickle at the back of your throat, one that continued to warm and linger. It was warming where as its chunks of the tomato. button mushroom, and half prawn offered some cooling elements. They were also nice to nibble on for a change in texture.

The “Satay chicken” did not disappoint. Charcoal grilled, marinated skewers served with a chunky peanut dip. This is a classic that I have ordered from them before, that is exactly as I expect it to be. Tender and tasty chicken with a great smoke char, only exemplified by the nutty peanut buttery sauce.

The “Roti canai” was a little bland by comparison, but only because all that came before it were such stand outs. Hand rolled, layered flat bread with a curry sauce for dipping. The roti was nice and chewy with light folded layers.

For entrees we had a dish of deep fried “mini soft shell crab”. They were easy to eat with a quick pop in your mouth. They were sautéed with fresh onion, garlic, shallots, mild chilli and fresh Indian black peppercorn. Each bundle was fairly flavourful, but I would have still liked a sauce to help balance the oils of the thorough deep fry, and to change its taste mid way. It is here the pickled vegetable from above was most helpful. The idea of a sweet chilli sauce, a dressing with wine, or even a wedge of lemon were thrown out by the group.

The “seafood bouillabaisse in Assam curry sauce” had prawn, fish, mussel, and cuttlefish; all swimming in a spicy turmeric and coconut sauce. Seasoned with tamarind, galangal, lemongrass and ginger. It wasn’t the Assam flavour I had and remembered from my trip to Malaysia a few months back, but I still found it a great retelling. As a bouillabaisse, I wanted some crispy bread to have it with, but some rice here would have done wonders. I ended up drinking down all the sauce, as I enjoyed it that much.

The “Sambal chilli trio” was another that would have been improved having it over a bowl of steamed white rice. It is a mix of stir fried okra, eggplant, and green beans with shrimp, tomato, and shrimp; all in a belacan paste. The vegetables were kept crisp with a nice texture to chew on. No complaints.

And for dessert we ended the meal with their “Pandan cheese panna cotta”. It was a great idea and something I was very excited for, as I don’t see much pandan offered in the city. However, there is such as thing as too much pandan flavouring. It gave the dessert a great colour, but I found it combated too much against the cheesy and already rich flavour of the panna cotta. I wanted light and creamy from this, whereas this was more dense like a mousse. The fresh strawberry slice helped to lighten up the dish, but there was not enough of it to ration with each and every bite. However, I like pandan so much that I would have and order it again.

Not included in the menu, but is on their list of fruity, non-alcoholic drinks is their refreshing “Ginger citrus soda”. I had one to help cool off with. Hand pressed lemon, lime and orange; shaken with fresh juices and soda with your choice of mint or basil. I went mint for a more mojito-esque feel.

And thus ends our social media menu tasting. Once again a great deal, one that I recommend taking advantage of and trying for yourself.

To get a better feel of the decor and setting of place (as it really hasn’t changed) and/or to get a glimpse of how “Kalay” was four years ago, check on my first visit review by clicking on the link below.

Kaya Malay Bistro

 

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.
Not many Malaysian restaurants in the city, and their fusion approach keeps things modern and creative. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KAYA
1063 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-229-5872
kayamalay.com
Kaya Malay Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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