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Category: Cambodian

The Gray Olive Cafeteria

After visiting “The Gray Olive” for the first time during a “Vancouver Foodster Tasting Plates” tour in the Burnaby Heights area, I knew to come back when my partner wanted some all day breakfast near our home. We wondered in at 2:30pm, and being the only ones to dine in at the time, had the pick of the place.

You order at the counter, after deciding what it is that you want, from the menu that covers the wall to your left. Weekday breakfast and lunch options are available all day, with some specific brunch specials only available on weekends and during holidays. We came in wanting breakfast, but ended up ordering sandwiches off their weekday lunch menu instead.

Their burgers and sandwiches don’t come with sides so my partner got their “G.O.” potatoes in a smaller serving, to accompany his “chicken bacon club”. This was a traditional club made with quality ingredients. Tender white meat chicken breast, thick cuts of bacon with a crispy caramelized coating, crisp lettuce, and a juicy tomato slice. But in place of a classic mayonnaise spread, they had a roasted garlic aioli. I didn’t really notice it, and found myself missing the tang mayo would have brought to the brioche bun instead. Overall, it was deliciously light with all its freshness. Good, but the breakfast potatoes out shone the sandwich given how good they were and how much more flavour they had in each cube. Each had the perfect crispy texture to them, a thick battered shell hiding a nice soften centre.

I went for their “roast chicken” sandwich, pairing it with a cup size of their “tomato bisque” soup. The soup was one of two soup specials for the day, I made it my side at an additional cost. Pulled chicken, pea shoots, pickled red onion, harvarti cheese, black pepper aioli, crackling, and gravy. It was like a chicken dinner between a toasted baguette, with some of the best tasting chicken I have ever had (and here I thought the sandwich above was impressive). You could taste the quality in everything from the first bite. The toppings added texture with the crunchy crackling and freshness with the green shoots. The red onions offered some tang, but I wanted more for my appetite. Maybe some sweet pickles on the side or a sharp mustard for contrast. I liked the idea of the gravy as a dip, but it only made an already rich sandwich denser. Instead we used it as a dip for the potatoes above, replacing the typical ketchup pairing. It was a light gravy, thick and slightly peppery. It did not mask or overwhelm anything it coated.

As for the soup, it made a great warming start. It had a nice and thick, only slightly lumpy consistency to it. Although I wished it more creamy, where the first sip reminded us of pasta sauce given the spices used.

The restaurant well reflected the food. It’s decor matched in how it was modern and trendy. Light Hearted and simple, you had everything you need and no extra flash. The space was brightly lit, with bleached wood and white furniture, it almost felt like a warm spring day within. Warmth from easy listening music and the that sprouted by the door and above the counter.

My only critique would be how they call themselves a cafeteria, but their food quality and prices are far from a mass assembly of food left to keep warm under a heat lamp. Given that we paid for it, the leisurely meal we enjoyed above, would be nicer as part of a full sit down service. To not order and have to pay before you eat, but to have your order taken at your table. Although they do deliver your meal to you on a metal tray, and bus it all away after; and you also get check-ins as your meal progressed.

 

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.
This, hands down was one of the most freshest meals I have ever had, and one of the healthiest servings I have ever enjoyed. When it all came the portions looked small, but reality was, this was a lot of food and we couldn’t finish it all. My partner got full fast and was sad because it tasted so good and he couldn’t finish it all. And unfortunately none of it would travel all that well as leftovers packed up to go. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GRAY OLIVE
4190 Hastings Street, Burnaby BC, V5C 2J4
604-566-9664
thegrayolive.com
The Gray Olive Cafeteria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Alibi Room

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This modern tavern is one of my favourite places for beer in Gastown. They offer over 50 on rotating tap. To the point where their paper menus get numbered as they are updated so often. So what better a place to kick off our afternoon of drinking?

Located on the outskirts of Gastown you might miss their cast iron exterior if you didn’t know what to look for. Black on black with polished wood tables out on its narrow sidewalk patio. It was left unseated this crisper afternoon.

Inside, moving pass the closed door foyer is its bar and drinking hall. You are greeted by the hostess, and the combined murmur of low chatter and higher pitched laughter as it resonates across the open space, bouncing off vaulted ceilings. Set up like a cafeteria, seating is row after row of share style tables. As a result, they make a great place for larger parties and those wanting the energy of a crowd to egg their drinking on. They also have additional seating in the basement. A spiralling staircase brings you down to a nook of sorts. Darken corners with serval tables and barrels surrounding you. I got a good look at it from my trip to the washroom. The facilities consisted of several single person stalls, as it is a necessity when you plan on drinking and are forced to break the seal.

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I like beers of all sorts, from lagers and ales, to stouts and sessions, I am not picky so their detailed menu helped with my decision making process. It was an easy to navigate, typed out listing of their sessions, pale, imperial India, bitter strong, b. wine, stout, and cider offerings. Arranged by type, including the brewery, the beer’s name, the type of brew, the percentage of alcohol content, and it’s hoppiness as indicated by hand drawn “hops”. Though the sketches looked like acorns or berries. The menu also illustrated drink sizes from 6oz to 26oz, and all the ones in between, across various shaped glasses.

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With so many things to consider, I couldn’t help but go for the ones with the highest alcohol content, wanting the best bang for my buck. I would make a lousy connoisseur. Similarly, I ordered a flight to be able to get a tasting of each. This included Persephone’s 2015 barley wine at 11.9%, Brassneck’s inertia imperial stout at 9%, Parkside “dusk” pale ale, and “After the jongleur”, Powell street’s Belgian witbier with ginger and cardamom.

To snack on we had some Mediterranean style, vegetarian tapas. Both my guests where vegetarians and I would be the one to accommodate them. Had I my pick of the menu, I would have leaned towards their “Free-run chicken wings” with sweet chili garlic sauce or the “Charcuterie plate” featuring their daily selection of meats and cheeses paired with house condiments and warm breads. As both tend to be on the saltier side and pair real well with beer.
Their “crispy pork belly sandwich” with kimchi mayo and pickled veg or their “Jalapeño chicken sandwich” with buttermilk fried chicken tossed in jalapeño hot sauce would have been runners up if I wanted something more hearty.

But instead we had the “Holumi” and the “Mezze Plate” from their “fresh sheet”. The fresh sheet was a “while available” listing of items, limited in number, and served from 5-10pm Sunday to Thursday and from 5-11pm Friday and Saturday.

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The “homemade halloumi” included heirloom tomatoes, sundried tomato bread, pesto, tomato cream, and balsamic. This was the perfect summer salad, the kind you could eat two servings of and still love yourself for it. The kind that cools you down from the heat outside; and gives you just enough food to fill, but not stuff. A nice fruit salad-like texture and sweet taste. The halloumi offered some substance along with the bread, satisfying that filling carb craving when you are hungry. “Halloumi” is unripened brined cheese made from a mix of goat’s and sheep’s milk. It has a higher melting point and so is often the cheese used for frying or grilling. In this case it was grilled to a smokey char. The heirloom tomatoes tasted like regular hot house mild tomatoes, but with some beautiful colours. Yellow and a splotchy red. But it was the pesto and cream that pulled it all to together.

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The “Mezze plate” was an assortment of hummus, marinated peppers, housemade pickles, olives, goat feta, falafel, flat bread. A great of mix and match of flavours you scooped up and ate with your hands. Smokey and salty, meets creamy and crumby. The plate covered all your flavour and textural needs. I just wished that there was more pita to enjoy everything with, and that the red peppers were served warm like the everything else. The golden beets where my favourite. They were juicy like fruit and tender like poached eggs, they made the perfect refreshing bite between plain hummus and briney olives.

Other current and interesting fresh sheet options worth checking out is their “crispy duck and asparagus salad, with their house hoisin sauce. It sounded like an interesting take on a Chinese classic. The “Oceanside west coast clams” were steamed in beer with garlic, and sounded like a winning group of ingredients. And then there were the more traditional “housemade meatballs” in tomato sauce and chimichurri flavoured “grilled chicken skewers”.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Great drinks and good food in a lively environment. What more do you need? Not a stand out, big definitely a stand up place. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ALIBI ROOM
157 Alexander Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1B7
604-623-3383
alibi.ca
Alibi Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pho Extreme Xe Lua

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I have passed by this place on occasion. And being the late owl that I am, I always make a mental note of any place that is open late or for 24 hours. Conveniently located across from a skytrain station and at the corner of a busy intersection it is no surprise that the restaurant was still fairly busy at 11:30pm. Patrons finishing up meals, others picking up take out, and a few just sitting as we were about to leave an hour later.

The restaurant is pretty standard. A decor of pieces as a pose to a setting with a central theme. A scene of green plants and traditional Asian figures greeted you at the door. They shrouded the bar that stood behind. Lucky bamboo and cats, potted plants tied in red, Buddhas in gold, and red shrines dedicated to ancestors. The white walls were home to a mix of Vietnamese and oriental inspired art. Giant fans with wildlife painted on, framed works of women in traditional south East Asian island wear, and an expansive painting of a watery landscape framed by a setting sun and encroaching greenery. And then the framed jersey of Canucks #33 Henrik Sedin, unsigned. A little out of place, but who would ever complain about Canucks pride. Seating is self serve and available in any of their booth or table tops. Black marble-like tables splashed with white came with matching black chairs. They sat on hard wood floors framed by splotchy dark red booths.

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Service is pretty minimal overall. A young man and woman team worked the front, with their lone chef covered the back. The guy took the food orders and gave her the necessary directions. She bussed tables and fetched side plates and took out take out boxes as needed. And the chef delivered the dishes he cooked, as he completed them. It was clear by the way they dressed and they way the young man spoke he was the one in charge. The girl seemed to be training all in black, where as he was leading in a very casual striped shirt and baseball cap. Too casual for my liking, despite the intended relaxed feel of the place. I have never been served by a person in a ball cap. When they weren’t needed by their guests they chatted casually at the host’s podium. He sitting, she standing, it gave them a perch to view the expanse of the place. At one point the television channel was switched from the hockey game before, to one that mentioned the word “penis”. There then was a chat between the two on which channels were acceptable for a restaurant. They must have seen the surprised look on my face and others as we froze mid bites, hearing the word mention so fearlessly, so out loud.

Sit down or take out, there was only one style of menu. Folded paper printed in blue ink. Tucked away in between the extra utensils and napkin dispensers. It wasn’t immediately obvious this is what we were to be ordering from; and no one made a point to ease us in the process. And with no pictures and no descriptions, it was hard to know what you wanted or what you usually get. Luckily the young man was able to steer me in the right directions based on my lose descriptions of what I have enjoyed at other Vietnamese places in the past.

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Utensils are the help yourself style. A caddy of bright green chopsticks, white plastic soup spoons, napkins by the bundle, and an assortment of bottled sauces and saucy spices.

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Despite our hunger we found the food just ok. Nothing quite tasted like what we expected. Failing to keep in mind that the food wasn’t solely Vietnamese, we were left disappointed. I guess having the “Cambodian” in its subtitle means their food is a fusion, and we shouldn’t have expected only what you were most familiar with at other strictly Vietnamese pho places.

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Complimentary jasmine tea and a side of bean sprouts came first, as we waited for the actual bowl of pho to eat them with to come. I believe it was complimentary, given that the bill was tallied on paper by hand, with no listing of what we had ordered or what their corresponding prices are, I can’t be too sure.

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I appreciated the young male for not judging us on how much we ordered, and applaud him for having the moxie to ask if we wanted spring rolls on top of the four other dishes we already requested. I of course agreed to his suggestion. “Spring rolls” two rolls served cut up. Just by looking at them you could tell these weren’t your regular rolls. They weren’t wrapped in the deep fried until crisp orange wonton skins. It’s different batter looked crunchy and uneven, like they were coated in tempura mix. But it’s discolouration and taste resembled a wash in egg and flour. A messy job that allowed presentation to suffer. Either way it was good, but fell short of expectations. It was the bare minimum of crunchy, with a filling unidentifiable through continuous eating alone. It had a distinctive paste-like texture with a taste like no other. When you think and crave spring rolls you imagine a certain look and a specific taste, this was none of those things all wrapped up in a handy roll. On the flip side my non Asian partner said these were the best spring rolls he has had because they didn’t taste Asian.

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“Special sub”. They had a few selection of “Bánh mì” sandwiches, (the Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread, used specifically to describe the above baguette sandwiches). Often filled with various ingredients, but consistently with pickled vegetables, meats, and cilantro. I asked for the most popular, only to not have it be the traditional one with cold cuts and pate. So got the one I wanted instead. These sandwich always have the best first bite, the surprise of having warm toasted bread with chillingly cold meats and vegetables in between. A crunch that has bites of crust and lots of bread crumbs falling on to your plate, the table, and your lap. My guest and I were rudely surprised by the jalapeño, hidden between all the folds of meat and strips of pickles. It’s spice took our breaths away.

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“Grilled lemon grass chicken with rice”. The chicken was grilled with darken char marks that were accompanied by a pleasant smokey taste. For those who prefer white meat, this one isn’t for you. Although tender the pieces of dark meat were fatty with lots of nervous and extra tendons.

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“Steak flank pho”, available in a small and extra large, we were happy with just the regular large portion. The beef came heaped, allowing slices to stay medium rare on top. For those wanting you can enjoy them as is, though I prefer giving them a dunk in the still steaming broth to further cook. Just looking at the soup I knew it would be tasteless. An almost clear and almost colourless mix, the brown sauce that comes with the table was indeed needed. This would be the first time I needed it in my pho, as I don’t use it anywhere else. The silver lining of the dish was the beef. The meat was tender and tasted of a descent quality. The portion was deserving of the large title with plenty of noodles and a bundle of bean sprouts on the side.

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“Spring roll, grilled pork with vermicelli”. Out of the lot this was the most impressive looking dish. With plenty of colour and elements it was certainly the most flavourful. The spring roll was the same as the ones we has as our appetizer. The pork was cut into too small pieces with an uneven meat to noodle ratio. The peanuts gave a good crunch, and the pickled carrot and radish gave a good zing. We made the mistake of mixing in all of the fish sauce, it made the noodles a mushy mess and the entire dish too watery for a noodle dish meant to be taken without broth.

If you missed it, printed out and posted up, they “ONLY ACCEPT CA$H” in bold, underline, and exclamation pointed. The black and white sign sits on top of the host’s podium, and was never once mentioned in person. Luckily I carried enough cash with me, though what establishment only accepts cash? Ones that don’t want to pay the fees that make it convenient for everyone else?

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.
The food was only good because we were hungry, not because it was actually good. I ordered what I knew and it still came out not as we had expected, nor did it come out like how they make it anywhere else. We left wanting more and not quite feeling satisfied. Although they do have their convenient location and their 24 hour operating time going for them. The food was as disappointing as the service from the staff. Although typical of Asian places, I still find it disappointing that they hardly seemed invested in the place or wanting to retain us for repeat business. There was no effort made to check on what we thought of the food, nor was there any effort made to be inviting with small talk. Instead they themselves were engaged in a personal conversation, where the young man admitted to not “giving a shit” in another matter. Overall unprofessional and deeply unsettling the food and service fell below my expectations. Don’t deny your cravings.

PHO EXTREME XE LUA
457 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Y 4A8
604-879-8228
Pho Extreme Xe Lua Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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