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Category: buffet

Tibisti Grill aka Lebanese Cuisine

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I admittedly am ignorant when it comes to geography, a fact that was pointed out by my partner, and one that I am trying to improve on though travel and trying new things. Which brings me to “Lebanese Cuisine” the Lebanese restaurant serving Lebanese cuisine, in case you have missed that. The name on the awning is “Lebanese Cuisine”, but online they are referred to as “Tibisti Grill”. I have limited experience in this cuisine type. This would be only my third time trying Lebanese food, and only the second Lebanese specialty restaurant I have visited.

According to Wikipedia, “Lebanese cuisine includes an abundance of starches, whole grain, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood… Fats are consumed sparingly and poultry is eaten more often than red meat. When red meat is eaten it is usually as lamb or goat’s meat. Cooking is done with copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, with lemon juice as a popular seasoning. Olive oil, herbs, garlic and lemon are typical flavours found in the Lebanese diet. It is similar to the diets of most Mediterranean countries”. It sounded delicious and I figured a buffet would be the best way to dabble in all of the above. Though they also offer an a la carte menu as well.

I found the name of the restaurant direct and to the point, much like the exterior and interior of the building. On the outside coloured posters depicted dishes served and listed their names in red. Maui ribs and roast lamb meals, souvlaki in beef or chicken, NY steak; wraps in chicken, beef, or lamb; and sides like baba ganoush, garlic sauce, hummus, tabbouleh, and baked potatoes.
“Baba ghanoush” is a dish of cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasonings. “Tabbouleh” is a Arabian vegetarian dish traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur and onion. It is seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.

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Inside the restaurant it was just a seating area and a buffet line. There were no decorations, no need for art or for objects to fill up the space. They gave you only what you needed to enjoy a quick meal with. A clean restaurant, with sturdy furniture, and an assortment of pre-made dishes to help yourself to. The only thing I can say, is that with so much of its space left empty and un-used, it seems like the restaurant was designed and chosen with the possibility of expansion in mind. The back of the restaurant was cleverly hidden behind cubicle-like barriers; a freestanding wall separating seat from sight. They hid the unused space. Empty refrigeration units, empty racks, and permits to operate in sheet protectors. It wasn’t the most appealing view, but we only had to see it when we paid, and by that time it was too late to change our mind about staying for dinner.

Smaller buffets get a bad rep. The thinking is that less business means more food left over and more food going to waste. So to cut costs and to reduce waste they may either reuse leftovers or prepare smaller portions, meaning you are skeptical of how fresh things actually are. And then there is the understanding that buffet food will always be a little over cooked, as it is steeping in the heated dish. Though not every one is so particular about eating over cooked food. You really have to consider, what you are getting for the price you are paying. We were here for their lunch buffet, which gave less variety at $3 less per person, when compared to the dinner buffet. $11.95 for lunch, $14.99 per person for dinner.

All that some need is a cheap and easy lunch or dinner. Food available right away, a hassle free system; and good selection of meat, veggies, and carbs. So the question is do you tip? And how much do you tip for a buffet where you are literally doing some of the service leg work for yourself. I will let you all simmer on that one.

We went in with open minds, and the reassurance that if we didn’t like what we saw, we could easily walk out. Though once we were through the door, we were immediately greeted by the owner. He was most helpful and most convincing in why we should stay for lunch. We ended up taking a seat upon his suggestion. After hearing our want to check things out before committing, he took the time to give us a walking tour of the buffet. The owner was very friendly, and to him everything was “amazing”. There were no names to any of the trays, no list of ingredients under each tub, no way to ensure dietary restrictions would be met. But he did point to each one and list their main ingredients for us verbally. Luckily neither of us had any dietary restrictions to consider and can actually enjoy the assembly a buffet provides.

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The buffet line was divided between cold and hot foods, appetizers and entrees. The former includes salads and spreads to start. A green salad, a Greek salad, dolmades, hummus, tzatziki, and a garlic butter to go with room temperature pitas.

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The latter buffet trays were all yellow, orange, or brown. Roasted potatoes stewing in butter and herbs, yellow rice seasoned heavily in spices, meatballs in a tomato paste, sausages in a tomato sauce, chicken legs done two ways, and roasted lamb.

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On their secondary line was a serving of fried chicken wings and mixed stewed vegetables. The rest of the trays were empty in anticipation of the larger dinner service line up. The vegetables were actually brought out after our first go at the line. I appreciated that despite it being late lunch, early afternoon, nothing looked too sold down. I mean they even put in the effort into preparing and offering up a new dish. And that it wasn’t just a top up.

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As our plates were varied and was composed of a little of everything, I will be simply listing notes of the dishes tried.

The garlic butter was good, but would have been better on something crispy, instead of the available room temperature pita bread. I wish there was a way to warm the pitas up, they were hard and chewy, almost stale. Actually I wish they made the pitas from scratch, you could tell this was store bought. Although I still found them one of the better items when paired with tzatziki and hummus. Though the hummus was a little on the bland side. It was easily perked up by stirring in a scoop of the garlic butter adjacent.

I am not a big fans of Dolmades, the peppery leaves are not to my liking. And even if I unwrap them from the little bundles, the soggy paste-like filling isn’t any better. It was too tart and too acidic for me. “Dolmades” are delicate parcels made from grape leaves stuffed with long-grain rice, toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs and seasonings.

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There were two different types of chicken, both dark meat and both only leg pieces. One was a spicy chilli, the other more like a mild bbq. You could tell them apart by the colour of the sauce and the presence of red flakes. I liked both for their juicy meat, that soaked up all the flavouring of the broth they sat in.

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The lamb was hit or miss. A few pieces were fall off the bone tender like the owner promised. Others got too much heat, and as a result dried out. Luckily with a buffet, you don’t have to finish what you don’t like and get to go back for what you do. I passed on the dry pieces and fished around for the ones that were more tender.

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The meat balls were actually more flattened meat patties. And like the sausage they were both just meat in tomato stew. They tasted as you expected them to: ground beef and spicy pork sausage.

Similarly, the Greek and garden vegetable salad was nothing special. Greek salad seasoned in olive oil and feta and garden salad dressed in a salty tangy vinaigrette

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall the food was nothing unique, it tasted good, but nothing very memorable. The flavours were similar to Greek cuisine. We tried a little of everything and went back for seconds, so I will deem the price for the food worth what we paid. However I am not a fan of most buffets in general. I don’t like the presentation or the selection. I don’t like the service model and miss the excitement of seeing a dish set before me. Though here, at $14.99 for the the price of one entree, you are better off paying that price for the buffet, and to be able to try more for less. Also this buffet was missing a dessert component, where most do consider something sweet to end the meal on. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TIBISTI GRILL
6990 VICTORIA DRIVE, VANCOUVER B
604-737-1000
Tibisti Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Accent Cruises

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Groupons and coupons for restaurant meals make the best gift for a food blogger. This one was a generous gesture from a good friend. A social shopper coupon valued at $149 entitled me to enjoy a 2.5 hour sun set dinner cruise for two in Vancouver harbour. The coupon would expire in late November, and because the sun was setting earlier and earlier with the approaching fall season, we decided on the closest available weekend and hoped for no rain.

There is a need to call and reserve a seat, while paying the 5% tax and 15% service fee ahead of time. Done either via credit card over the phone or in person at their offices. However a mix up had our reservations on another day. Luckily they were able to accommodate us last minute today.

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Our journey began at the Granville Island dock. We left our car parked and followed the signs to their registration building water side. Surprisingly there were a few cruises launching this evening, all at 6:30pm. After our check in we were directed to our boat, the “Burrard Queen”.

As a last minute inclusion we were able to pick through one of the last few unclaimed tables. All the ones adjacent to windows were already taken, but we managed to wrangle one close enough to get a partial view.

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The boat was older, and not as glamorous as I had envisioned walking in. It smelled like diesel outside and like an old wet basement inside. The ceiling was made from soffit, a material used to create overhangs and features without considering aesthetics. To soften the look white cloth was draped over it each panel. If you squinted hard enough and really used your imagination it gave the space the feeling of a tent or even a cabana. Almost airy. All four rows of tables were seated, each clothed in black over white. Each with a tea light for ambience sake, and some with a modest arrangement of flowers. All the accompanying chairs were covered in a white stretchy seat covering. There was effort put into to dressing the space up on a budget.

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At the bow (term from front of the ship) of the dining room was the bar. It had high top seats available to sit with the bartender and take back hard liquors. Beside it was a table set up to offer wine by the glass, at cost. Their bottled choices were lined up and presented with bottle cozies that obscured the labels. Both drink destinations were very unpopular with most guests. Like ourselves, no one was really using this opportunity to drink heavily or at all. It was a short trip and most of it was spent eating or taking in the sights. Though at 8pm the lights dimmed, and it was from here that the top 40 music staring plating. There was certainly an attempt at setting the mood for more drinking and a more of a party-like atmosphere.

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The boat left the dock and we headed to the upper deck to take advantage of what little daylight we had left. It was a sunset cruise after all. It is up here that the captain steered and navigated the vessel. An arrangement of numerous lime green seats and patio tables allowed for sitting and drinking in little comfort. Though with all the bodies taking photos and standing to get the best view, there was little hope of enjoying the view while seated. Not to mention the cold chill in the evening air was amplified by the ocean breeze. After capturing the colour of the sky, the pinks and the oranges as the sun hid behind clouds and slowly disappeared in the horizon, we retreated back into the warmth of the dining room. The ship moving further and farther from the city and its scape. Our view included the water, the mountains, the sky and its clouds, our city its lights, others boats, and all the cameras everywhere to capture it all.

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It was up here that we were taught how to use a life jackets and the emergency boats. Only those taking in the view were privy to this tutorial. Mostly due to the fact that all the emergency equipment was stored here. Our tutor asked for a volunteer and a good sport offered his services. It was hard to get the crowd’s attention, she would have been better off explaining all this before we left the harbour.

All drinks came at a cost, even water. They only offered bottled water at $2. You can start a tab with a credit card or pay as you go. They however had no issue with me walking in with a can of red bull in hand. It wasn’t until later did we realize that coffee and tea were part of the package and it was a help yourself set up. The whole dining experience was slightly confusing with lack of communication from the staff. I had to ask when dinner was, if we could move about the boat, and when we could help ourselves.

Dinner was set up buffet style, but very limited. For the sake of organization each table was called up one at a time to help themselves. I couldn’t figure out how they decided the order, as we were kept eagerly waiting.

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You serve yourself from appetizers of salad and bread. A mixed green salad with three dressing choices. I didn’t have any, but I am guessing a raspberry vinaigrette, thousand island, and ranch dressing by colour. Beside it a well sauced Cesar salad with Parmesan and croutons. The large portions were overwhelming, but absolutely needed given the full seating. Both were pretty generic salads, not worth a second try.

The entrees were dispensed by two
servers, one on meat, one on sides. You were given a choice out of the four or all four. There was no care put into how they doled out the meal. Both of our plates had food hanging off the sides.

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The chicken was extremely overcooked, dry and tough, in a beige colour to match. The only thing going for it was that it was warm. At first I couldn’t even tell it apart from the fish.

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The salmon was only better by comparison. At least it had moisture and more dimension.

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The side order of carrot was on the raw side. It just tasted like carrot, only carrot.

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The potatoes were slightly better, properly cooked and more flavourful. Though still bland. It was like the chef didn’t taste his food, he seasoned based on appearance. I never add salt or pepper to my food. Though I found myself repeatedly going for the salt and pepper shakers today.

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The bread was sadly the best thing. The large bowlful was filled with cut up pieces of baguette. Chewy and cold, it tasted better than anything else. I was not impressed with the the communal lump of butter with butter knives protruding from it. It looked sloppy and felt lazy. Not to mention it wasn’t very sanitary. Knives smearing butter on pieces of bread held in hand.

All the cups and mugs to be used for tea and coffee were dirty. I lifted several glasses in search for one that was smudge free and grease less. It is sad when you settle on using a cup because it is not as bad as the others. Meaning less sticky on the outside and with little to no residue on the inside. The thermos for coffee and the one used for hot water meant for tea were not labelled. I wanted water and ended with some coffee in my earl grey, not a bad taste actually. The milk was in a jug kept on ice to keep it cool. There was certainly not enough for the whole boat to have milk in their hot beverage.

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Everyone had the ability to go back for seconds, but honestly nothing was good enough to have again. After the first round and everyone was eating their entree, the troths were left unmanned. Each held a large scoop spoon to be able to help yourself with as much or as little as you like. One lady had a plate full or roasted potatoes.

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Chocolate cake by the slice for dessert. The servers come around and offered you a slice once it is clear that your meal is done. Each slice varied from the other by size. No two slices were even, so I took the larger. Each piece was dressed with white chocolate shavings and served with a dollap of real whipped cream. The cake was moist and sweet with the taste of milk chocolate. It was good enough to have me questioning if it was store bought. Overall generic, but amazing compared the rest of dinner, even the bread and butter.

Over all I was not the slightest impressed with assortment and presentation. My guest said he has has more bland and has had much worse. With little to no options, this dinner cruise really isn’t for vegetarians or anyone with any dietary restrictions. You take what they offered or you didn’t get to come.

The women’s washroom was a closet with two smaller closets, one for each of the two toilet bowls present. With the front door unlocked and so close to the stalls, and a flimsy hook to peg set up in the actual stall, using the washroom was an anxious feeling. For the men, their washrooms weren’t any better. Located in the basement, directly underneath the woman’s, it came with a low ceiling. My guest at just under 6 feet had to bend at the neck in order to travel about. He was even less impressed with the sign that gave users directions on how to flush. Both facilities were at least clean given the age of the place and the wear of the equipment.

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The sky soon turned black, the temperature dropped, and the windows got steamy with condensation. Although it was much colder outside the cabin inside was able to keep us warm. We only ventured out once again to capture more of the city on phone. The lights were dimmed and things got romantic. The tea lights were lit and faces were highlighted in the dim cabin. The lights of the city popped against the black of the night. As unique as this all was and as beautiful as Vancouver harbour was, I was ready to go back to land as soon as I finished eating. In fact I was eagerly waiting for 9pm to come and the cruise to be done. So much so that I got excited when we passed by the Granville Island Marketplace, our starting point, early. Only to watch us past and continue to explore the end of False Creek. We were surprised that the boat’s route wasn’t more close to land in the first place.

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The tail end of our adventure had us passing by the distinctive orb of Science World, lit in pink tonight; the iconic tracks of the Expo line skytrain; Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks; and BC Place where the lions roam.

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Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
If this wasn’t free for me I would have complained to have my money returned and my time reimbursed. To best put it, I am glad that didn’t waste money on ordering drinks here. It was only tolerable when I reminded myself that it’s not only about the food, but the experience and the adventure on open water. But even then the boat wasn’t all that impressive. I only recommend this for the novelty of being in a boat, and for those from out of town wanting a different way to explore the city a different. Though even so I strongly recommend that you skip the dinner portion, save yourself money and just enjoy the cruise. Don’t deny your cravings.

ACCENT CRUISES
100-1676 Duranleau Street, Vancouver BC, V6H3Y1
604-688-6625
accentcruises.ca
Accent Dinner Cruises on Urbanspoon

Uncle Willy’s Buffet

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My guest wanted burger, fries, meat, and pies. So after driving around and not being able to pin down anything specific, we found ourselves in the most generic of places with the biggest of appetites. Though ironically, even though “Uncle Willy’s” is classified as American cuisine, it is owned and operated by a Chinese family; and their offering includes familiar Chinese dishes like spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, and fried rice. Though truthfully it is done in the heavily westernized food court versions.

Ask anyone and the response seems to be, “it’s been about 10 years since I have been here”. There doesn’t seem to be a large all you can eat scene in Vancouver so the Uncle seems to be your only choice. The challenge here was to eat all you could. Dinner over lunch offered a wider selection with an accompanying steeper price. At $13 per person I still viewed this cost with substantial savings over any entree at any popular casual chain.

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You are greeted at the hostess booth where the expectation is to pay first. A wise process seeing as parties move about regularly and cheque skipping would be easy enough with the lack of interaction needed between staff and patrons. Though the one way in and one way out path set up by a walled partition does help in regulating things. A tip jar sat sadly empty by the register. Considering we were the last party in and the dinner rush had come and gone this was a sad showing.

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We were handed a proof of purchase in the form of a receipt and green slip. On it was a series of rules and regulations, as well as standards kept. Clean plates and utensils used at each round. Managers have the ability to restrict service of certain items or unusually large sized portions. The necessity of supervising your own children. And maximum occupation of table is at 1 1/2 hours. We chose our table out of the many free and used our slip to claim its seats. Placed face up means your dinner is on going and faced down declares your completion of it.

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The room was all pretty functional. No art, no distraction. Neatly arranged tables that faced the buffet line. The buffet began with tools needed. Grab a tray, equip yourself with utensils and napkins and walk down the line. Soups, salads, hot appetizers, stews, meats, and sides. No real flow or rhythm. The end is flanked by a station for meat cut off the slab. Here a staff member hovers, ready so should you want a carving. A secondary buffet table sits kitty corner. On it Chinese sides and American classics co mingle. Nothing really different from the main line. The restaurant is shaped like a “L”, comprised of two rooms. Two rooms meant maximum seating, one only in use during peak hours. The other space kept dark and empty when seating in the main dining room is sufficient. It is here that desserts are kept. Sweet squares and chilled slices come from closed off and cooled down showcases. You lift lids and open latches to pull out your desired treat. A portion already precut and redivided into smaller bowls. Soft serve ice cream and warm desserts were to its side. Spiced apples and tapioca pudding today, both left to burn and harden, unattended in the far corner. The soft serve ice cream is everyone’s favourite, from a machine you use yourself. You pull down the handle and gather as much of the cream you like. Pumps of chocolate and caramel are available for add ons. Or you can make any of the brownies, pies, or jello a la mode.

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We grabbed our own set of cutlery and dish wear and heading down the line, savoury first. We were iffy about the cleaned plates and bowls still beading with water and streaked with condensation from steam. They were stacked high and placed face down on the spring loaded platform. Clearly a time reducing action, though one with the potential to do harm. Harm in the form of cultivating mold cultures, from the combination of moisture and humidity. This became more evident when the unidentified manager declared, “no pictures of the food miss”. I took his blanket statement to only refer to the buffet line. This stern declaration came from a man in sweatpants and a sweater. He wore no identification and made no mention of who he was. Though every now and then he would get up from his plate and his table, stop eating, and take a once over look at the hot table. He patrolled the trays and mixed the mounds as he felt needed it. The movement did help to remove any signs of congealed solids or tacky liquids.

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The disabling of photography had me thinking. What were they hiding? In a day and age where social media is so prevalent. Each picture has the potential to translate into free advertisement, and spring board a business in a matter of seconds. Nothing spreads like word of month so hindering it, could only mean there was something they didn’t want seen. Maybe it was meant to hide their corner cutting practices and subpar food handling policies? Actions that they preferred to continue go unnoticed. I understand that certain processes need to be shortened in order to keep prices low, but at what cost? I have seen other buffets go the same way. It only takes one food poisoning incident and one claim of indigestion to shut a place down. It’s been a while since I have completed my food safe training, but I do recall some practices that were missed here. Dishes, bowls, spoons, and forks cleaned and left to air dry in tight stacks and covered bundles. Staff tending to the trays of food without hair nets. And slicing meat without gloves, only after bussing tables minutes before. I bore no witness to proper hand washing techniques. More trays than the radiating warmth of heat lamps could cover. Food left out in the open, uncovered and without a sneeze guards. Though those with said guards had them barely protecting the dishes below. Most unappealing was the wilted salad fixings sitting in half melted ice chips and pools of stagnant water, and worse still were the large servings of oxidized fruit sliced, next to it. Though I guess no one cares about salad or fruit when you can have fried chicken and ice cream.

The great thing about dining at all you can eat places is that your expectations are so low that when something is actually alright you think its pretty good; you get excited, and you get seconds. The following review will be a quick blurb on pros and cons. There is too much to cover and truthfully the quality of food does not deserve more time.

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My strategy for getting the most out of a buffet is to go with what you like and don’t waste room on any fillers. Stay away from bread, rice, or pasta. Focus on that which would normally cost you more else where. And when reaching your peak, dip into lighter foods like corn or jello to rejuvenate your palette and help catch a second wind. More of appetite to eat more. Every buffet plate you scoop needs such a pallet refresher.

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the food, but I got away with taking ones of my piled high plates.

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Vegetable beef soup with frozen vegetables and pasta shells.

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Perogies, cabbage roll, sliced sausage, French fries, spring rolls, salmon, and meat balls.

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Cold macaroni salad in tomato shells, corn kernels, spaghetti and meat balls in marinara sauce, beef stew, vegetable curry over white rice, and perogies.

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Green beans and mushroom, chicken thigh, fried chicken drum, fried rice, cheese gratin, cold orzo salad, and mashed potatoes with gravy.

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Coleslaw, chilli, corn bread, fried chicken, salmon, and roasted potato.

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Fried vegetable noodles, corn kernels, slices of beef, and a slice of ham.

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Green jello laced with cabbage, apple pie self made a la mode, diabetic friendly vanilla pudding, spiced apple cobbler, cream puff, and chocolate and caramel topped soft serve ice cream.

Pros: Salmon surprisingly good, well seasoned and easily flaked. The spiced chicken was moist, and skin flavourful despite its burnt look. The fried chicken was tender, like the colonel done gone fried it himself. Flavourful spaghetti sauce and firm meat balls. Soft serve ice cream the best I have ever had. Desserts divided in pieces small enough to allow for multiple samples. Though as soon as we started to feel bad for being so surprised, we found enough cons to bring us back to reality.

The Cons: The sausages were the cheap processed kind sliced diagonally; it tasted like it. Soggy cabbage rolls with wilted wrappings. Spring rolls that you could only taste the grease they had been sitting in. The beef vegetable soup reminded me of servings from my primary school thanksgiving assemblies. Salad greens wilted in bowl and apples oxidized in heaps. Coleslaw drenched in mayonnaise. Corn kernels tasted like the can they came in. And carrot blocks left hard and uncooked, tasting of age and refrigeration. The fries had been left out and old, if it was McDonalds we would have waited for a fresh batch. The cuts of meat that were sliced upon request, were as dry as they looked. They sat as a stump on their individually stained cutting board. A heat lamp on each, only a couple of inches away. Majority of desserts were cold and tasteless. Those kept warm were overcooked and tasted burnt from their trays. There used to be sprinkles offered at the make your own sundae bar.

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Yes I understand we came in later, expecting full dinner service an hour before they called “last call” on the buffet. Though had they given us such a warning on closing time when we entered, if hours of operations was posted on the door, and if someone came by so we could ask; maybe I wouldn’t be so harsh. But as a guest I feel that since I am paying the same fee at 8pm as the person dining at 6pm, should I not get the same quality of food regardless of time?

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The staff are alert enough to notice your approach. They get in to positions speedily, and disperse when not needed. A server to claim your payment, others to man the buffet line, and more still to clean tables and cut meat. Though when needed none were found. No one was around to ask any questions, no one came to bus our table, and no one came to check in on how we were. Heck the staff that did pass by couldn’t even muster eye contact. Extroverted youths who were here for a paycheque. Seeing others leave and hearing last call on the buffet line we wanted to ask when they would be closing. I even contemplated dialing them from my seat to ask. Luckily the dessert bar was still available and I was content with just that. When we got up to go no one said a word. We were clearly the last ones still here, with our table the only one without its chairs upside down on it. Yet despite catching faces no one bothered to look up to say good bye or thank you. A cold and silent exit for us. Just as well, I decided not to tip on the service I did not receive nor on the welcome I did not feel. As I briefly mentioned earlier, if they were upset with us leaving later why not say something? Tell us when we came in that last call would be in an hour, 9pm on a Thursday. Have it posted by the entrance. Have staff bus our table and gently mention it in passing. If no effort was made and we did not know, how can they be mad at us for out staying our welcome? I guess as long as they had our money they were happy.

As a side note, not that I think this would be a vegetarian’s first choice, be warned nothing in trays are labeled with names, descriptions, or ingredients. Only mention is a showcase of diabetic desserts, warned only for those with the need. So those with allergies and dietary restrictions need stay away.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I am good on “Uncle Willy’s” for a long time to come. It’s like cheap Chinese takeout , you get that craving once a season and after a few mouthfuls remember why you don’t eat it more often. When it comes to consuming anything, my body is pretty tolerant, it handles weird combinations and cuisine that would leave others in an upset position. Though I think it is here that I need drawn the line. This muddled mix isn’t meant to be eaten on a regular bases, and the food offers not much in terms of nutritional value. It’s most popular clients are seniors looking for additional deals, teenagers on dates, and young families looking for a quick and easy dinner solution. It’s cheap and plentiful, satisfying all those who are famished on a budget. Coming in looking for more would leave you very disappointed. Set your standards very low to be pleasantly surprised. Don’t deny your cravings.

UNCLE WILLY’S
6411 Nelson Avenue, Burnaby BC, V5H4J9
604-431-0399
Uncle Willy's Buffet on Urbanspoon

Maurya, Indian Cuisine


I came to work early for a conference call, but ended up having some minutes to spare before my shift; so decided to spend them at “Maurya”. I couldn’t remember the last time I had Indian food, let alone went to dine at an Indian restaurant. But I guess when you are going out with friends you don’t automatically think, “Oh let’s have some pints at that Indian bistro along with some curry”. So having the time and wanting to enjoy my own company I decided to make “Maurya” my lunch. Like most places lunch ends at 3pm, but for them dinner starts up right after, with no window for prep work in between. 

Today I decided to dine in, but they do encourage delivery and online take out orders with discounts and freebies. Like a free dessert with any $50 order. I went in already having decided on what to get. Only to be swayed by the lure of the all you can eat for $13.99 sandwich board outside. Why try 2-3 dishes for $55 when you can try them all for half the cost. (That is such a stereotypical Asian thing to do, one that I am not necessarily proud of.)

The restaurant was a lot nicer than I had guessed it to be. With thick rimmed windows and a patio of over grown plants out front, it is not easy getting a sneak peak in from the sidewalk. I now understood why they offered catering and banquets, the room sure could host it. It had a lovely old timey presence. Thanks to handsome wooden tables, stone tiled floors, a faux balcony with a lion stone head, gown length drapes that hung from the vaulted ceiling, and the largest urn of flowers as the room’s anchor point. The only real Indian decor piece was the large bronze Buddha carving on the wall. I was impressed. Not that I have been to many or any Indian restaurants, but I had an inkling this was one of the nicer ones. 

I didn’t know where to begin and sat until I confirmed with the server that I could just approach the buffet tables and heated troths. As good of a deal the all you could eat seemed to be I wasn’t convinced by the look of the stale food sitting in their metal trays. It was hour to lunch closing and I was the only one in this large restaurant, so surely this food wasn’t fresh. Instead I decided to open my wallet and order from the menu. It was pages and pages of unfamiliar food that sounded good on paper, but I was worried to try. One culture’s delicious may very well be another’s too much. And Indian cuisine is known for their heavy use of spices. 

My wait for food was punctuated with mellow ethnic music over head, coupled with Hindi rap from the radio in the kitchen, and the distracting chatter of the staff, in what I assume was Hindi or punjabi. At that wasn’t even the worse of the auditory assault. The sound of a vat’s worth of grease deep frying, what was probably my meal alarmed me. 



“Maurya Seafood Platter” with butter milk marinated prawns, fish, and scallops. All deep fried and served with Indian dip. I couldn’t tell which from what as it was all battered the same and gathered on a smaller plate in piles. At least it all tasted good. Though the sauce was the real highlight. I liked the addition of the pickled seasoned beats and greens to cut away some of the extra grease per bite. The pieces of seafood I am sure were all frozen and flash fried. I have only seen the tiny balls of scallops available as such in major grocery stores. Overall ok, but disappointing in both presentation and mouth salivating flavour. 

I was going to get the cliche Indian classic: butter chicken; but having seen it red with tomato sauce in the all you can eat trays, I figured this was not one I expected and had wanted. Instead I got the “Chicken Chettinad” that came highly recommended by my server. It is marinated chicken in a South Indian Chettinad paste of coconut and poppy seeds. A speciality served with rice and naan bread. This was so good that it won the 2009 Dine out Vancouver award. Sure my plate came with numerous elements but at over $20 for a curry with 7 pieces of chicken, the price came too steep. 
I didn’t find anything remarkably special to this. And surprisingly it was the steam vegetables that were the best part of the dish. They were saturated in butter and I could taste it in each oily bite. Yet I finished it happily. I didn’t bother with the salad. And the chicken would be dry and chewy had it not been lubricated by the orange colour sauce. I think the naan was home made and it was a good accompaniment to the curry for dipping into. 


Would I come back? – No. The food was just ok. Had the price matched the quality my answer may have been different. And despite the regal decor, the ambience was distracting and took away from the eating experience. I didn’t enjoy the singing from the chef or my forced eavesdropping of conversations between the staff. Plus I have never had to wait so long for a doggy bag. Not to mention I was the only customer in the whole restaurant. I just wanted to escape all the voices echoing in an empty hall. 
Would I recommend it? – No. I think this place use to be great at one time. All their awards and stickers advertising their past successes is evident of this. But without updating their menu or creating features to pull new customers in, this place has been forgotten. I hate to say it but I almost prefer the $7.99 plate of butter chicken from the food court. But truthfully how popular is curry and spicy foods on a hot summer Vancouver day? The proof was in the fact that theirs was the only empty patio on the block. But thankfully they had air conditioning inside. 


MAURYA
1643 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 1W9
604-742-0622
mauryaindiancuisine.com



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