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Category: French Page 1 of 4

Le Crocodile, Dine Out Vancouver 2021

2021 is a one of a kind time, where we are settling in to a second year of a world wide pandemic. As a result, we are seeing a lot of records broken and many more firsts. Like Dine Out Vancouver boasting the largest number of restaurants participating in event’s history. And seeing one of Vancouver’s longest standing, fine French dining restaurants participating. This is the first time that we are seeing Le Crocodile take part in Dine Out Vancouver. It is definitely a sign of the times. I am not going to question it, but instead take advantage of the situation by making reservations, taking the earliest day and the only time that I can, and trying their $54 three course menu.

$54 is the priciest of all the set menus offered during the event, but once again, this is one of the fanciest restaurants the city has got. Not to mention you get a several bonus plates with each course, and the service and ambience to feel like you can afford it.

Between us two my guest and I was able to try their entire Dine Out menu. Which in truth was like a bistro meal eaten on the corner of the street, instead of over white table cloths and folded napkins.

We ordered the wine that was recommended with the Dine Out menu, taking advantage of Le Crocodile’s in house sommelier through conversation and her recommendations.

To start we were presented with a delicate, two bite pear and goat cheese tart. There was lots of cheesy flavour in this, which reminded me more of a creamy brie. Although I felt the filling would be better suited on a hard and plain crostini, as I found things too rich with the buttery crust.

For appetizers it’s either soup or salad, so the choice is between a light or heavier start. I gravitated towards the soup, but prefer the flavours of the bright salad instead. Golden Beets and Arugula Salad, Bufala Cheese, Dijon and Honey Vinaigrette. It ate as expected.

Wild Mushroom Soup Scented with Truffle Oil and served with a Parmesan Twist. You smell the truffle, but don’t taste it. Instead, the soup was heavy handed on the pepper, but some what balanced by the saltiness of the cheese stick. Oddly the flavour of the white pepper used reminded my guest of horse stomach soup (a traditional Chinese intestine soup) and that threw us off of it as well.

Here, the complimentary basket of bread was helpful. We didn’t use it as a start with the slices of butter, but instead as a spoon to sop up soup with and to taste sauces using; as is the French purpose of the bread basket.

Our entree came with a side plate of julienned shoe string fries to share. They were light and crispy with a nice salty flavour. I found myself picking at it one strand at a time.

The Petrale Sole Quenelle, Lobster Beurre Blanc, and Vegetable Ragout was a pretty plate. These were football shaped fish paste dumpling. Their texture is like mashed potato, with a flavour that reminded me of a refined hot pot fish cake. Truth be told, I liked the firm vegetable in the ragout more, and especially the detailing in the flaky fish shaped pastry. But overall I didn’t find that the dish came with enough flavour, where I was left wanting more lobstery goodness.

The Duck Confit, Cointreau Réduction, Ricotta Cheese and Glazed Orange served in Vol au Vent was the heartier of the two mains. This was a warming dish, the duck was brightened and lighten by the citrus. It paired fabulously with the orange segments of the pastry side.

Before dessert we were given a palette cleanser in the form of a lychee vodka sorbet. With the sweetness of the tropical fruit it wasn’t like other tart and sharp sorbets. Although I don’t think it was actually made with vodka, but merely sitting in a pool of vodka. Overall it reminded me of the liquor: soho and would have been a great ingredient in a cocktail.

There is only one option for dessert, so we both got the Warm Chocolate Tart served with Caramel Ice Cream. I liked how it wasn’t too sweet and you could taste the quality of the chocolate, and the flavours of it and the caramel concisely.

And to further end on a sweet note, the billfold comes with a crocodile shaped chocolate in dark chocolate.

Overall, it was nice to have revisited this restaurant that I haven’t been to in a while. However, I don’t know if the Dine Out menu is necessarily worth trying, given that I wasn’t excited about the soup or salad, and didn’t get a choice in dessert. I would recommend ordering a la crate instead; and getting what you want at a somewhat similar price.

Le Crocodile
909 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 4T4
604-669-4298
lecrocodilerestaurant.com

Origo, reopening & Table d’Hôte menu

There aren’t many fine dining options in Richmond, and with the closures of restaurants and the need to separate, that specific genre of the restaurant industry has seen better days. Lacking in the opportunity to dress to impress and enjoy small plates with fine wine, I was thrilled to learn that Richmond’s only French fine dining option was reopening and would be featuring a new winter menu that I would be able to try the bulk of.

And given the lack of patrons dining in and the need to separate, it definitely felt like we rented out the whole restaurant, which easily lent itself to the grandeur of our experience.

The new menu is set up like a pick your own adventure. Three course with multiple choices, I recommend dining with your bubble buddy to be able to try more. They call it their “Table d’Hôte” option. $65 gets you your choice of one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert. The following are a few options within each category.

Although first you are encouraged to start your experience by ordering some shareables to pair with wine. Origo Club is better known for their wine selection. French vintages from all the wine producing areas in France. A healthy collection that reaches from affordable to luxury; all thanks to the exuberant owner and well travelled wine connoisseur, Woody. Woody himself often tends to the restaurant’s customers. And this evening we had him pouring bottles himself, regaling us in stories of where he found the wine and what he likes about it. It and he definitely elevated the experience and fed my desire to be wined and dined. Naturally we started with a glass of sparkling to mark the celebration.

Warm focaccia is brought to the table to start. Where most figure it to be a starter to tide you over for the food to come. Bread at French restaurants is actually mention to sop up sauces, to be dipped into soups, and to be used as a base for certain dishes. It is replaced if you should finish a serving, with the intention that you should be frugal with your consumption of it.

We started off with the best oysters I have had to date, so clean and fresh. Kushi oysters served with a classic French style champagne mignonette, horseradish, and lemon. Deliciously sweet as is, and given some depth with the dressings above.

The charcuterie was a lovely gathering, fine cured meats and pickles to nibble on and wet the appetite with. You can see and taste the quality of the two types of spiced and thinly sliced meats, but it just didn’t have the same pageantry as the share plate above or below. So I would recommend this the least.

Our six snails served in lemon, garlic, and parsley butter was done authentically, and we were giving the proper accoutrement to best tackle them. A specialized pair of tongs to select and place each shell gingerly on your plate, and a tiny two pronged fork to make quick work of removing chewy morsel from shell. I am not typically a fan of snails due to their similarities with slugs. As a mental component I find it harder to swallow (purposeful pun). But with these well buttered and herbaceous snails, I had no issue eating my three with gusto. Here, the slightly sweetened focaccia proved instrumental in catching all that extra buttery goodness.

Next course is your small plates. Our first course was paired with a light white, a great choice given all the seafood present. You get a choice between four different options when going with the set menu priced at $65 for three courses. A roasted tomato and seafood soup with sole, prawns, and squid. Or a salad with poached prawns. We had the scallops and foie gras below, and I would recommend you do the same.

Pan fried scallops with cauliflower purée, pickled cauliflower and jalapeño, and green apple. The butteriness of the scallop was best highlighted by the contrast of the tart and tangy ingredients surrounding it. Here, less is more and two ideal in leaving you wanting more.

For something more decadent, look to the pan fried duck foie gras, with an Asian pear salad and cherry jus. Here, the fruit lifted the density of the fatty duck liver. I enjoyed it better over bread and as a spread.

You too have a choice between four for your entree. Here would indulge in all four, so I can safely recommend the steak with truffles and the pasta with truffles as my favourite two. Though all four are great with red. Naturally, for such a heavy course our host of the evening served us a fuller bodied red. One of the many he has scoured from France, scouring North to South for.

The cassoulet is a classic French dish. Duck leg confit over a bed of white beans and Toulouse and veal sausage, and carrots with celery in a tomato sauce. If you are looking to be stuffed, this is definitely the largest entree and the most filling. I personally am not a fan, given the beans. I am not a fan of beans given their texture, plus found the duck meat on the drier side, despite its good crisp, (as per its standard execution). This dish is simply just not for me.

Looking for something light for your main? Then lean towards to shoyu-glazed sablefish with maitake mushroom, and basil spinach in a shiitake broth. The white fish is so tender that you can practically drink it, much like the broth that sips like soup. Soothing and comforting this clean and straightforward classic best highlights the buttery fish with a good amount of saltines.

Dishes get heavier with the steak. Striploin steak with black truffle, accompanied by roasted king oyster mushroom, a basil spinach salad, and a cherry jus. I did find the steak on the tougher side, but the softer mushroom and thicker sauce did help to tenderize it. And the thin slices of truffle helped to gloss all the above over with its ability to heighten the umami flavour of the anything it touches.

But hands down, my favourite dish of the night and the one I would recommend most, and go back for is the truffle tagliatelle with morel mushroom, in a truffle cream sauce. As a new found fungi enthusiast, the ability to enjoy the hard sought after truffle and morel mushrooms fresh and hearty like this, in one serving was incredibly satisfying. Not to mention the instant lusciousness of the chewy noodles and heavy cream were spot on.

Last course is dessert with a choice between three options, including a fresh fruit sorbet that changes every day. We didn’t have any of that; but if we did, it would have been black currant for the day. Instead, we had their panna cotta and espresso brownie. The former was flavoured in vanilla with only a slight nuance of rum, and plenty of orange flavour. It is basically a cross between jello and pudding in texture, with the snap of the caramel-like flavoured tuile topping it for crunch.

For the chocolate lovers the chocolate and espresso brownie, made with their own house bean is the way to go. Not too sweet, the moist brownie is paired with a nice peppery earl grey and some candied nuts for contrast. I am not a big fan of chocolate myself, but found this dessert, with its sides, just splendid.

For those who like to drink their dessert, I highly recommend this sake. A yuzu forward batch that had me thinking of a beautiful lemon meringue pie. Much like their wine program, Origo’s owner, Woody is working on cultivating a just as impressive sake collection to match.

But you cannot leave without trying their coffee. Day or night, a cup made with their own cultivated and roasted beans is a must try. Origo has its own roastery in China. And the large latte I was enjoying right before bed was made using an award winning blend of three beans. It was so full bodied and flavourful with good crema, that I had to bring a bag of it home with me. And luckily me, our visit coincided with the delivery of a fresh batch.

In short, for those looking for a change of quarantine pace, or are looking to celebrate an occasion quietly and privately, I can safely recommend Origo for a good time.

Origo Club
6888 River Rd #110, Richmond, BC V7C 0B5
(604) 285-8889
origoclub.ca

Verre

In this post, I am back with my food blogger friends, and we have chosen, yet another restaurant we all haven’t tried, and all wanted to, for our latest meet up. Dinner with the prospect of pooling our opinions together, and conversing over something we all have in common.

We had trouble making reservations online, only to discover an empty dining room before us when we arrived. On this nice day and with their water side view, the patio was fully seated. But we got enough natural light and waves in the distance, from our corner table surrounded by glass.

The restaurant is modern, black and white with splashes of greenery. Checkered floors, black chairs and white tables. All set before a handsome half round bar, facing well stocked liquor shelves. Awe inspiring and a great place to drink.

We arrived in time for happy hour, so indulged in a few of their smaller plates for less. It was $5 for the “Triple cooked fries” now, or you can also have them as a side to mussels or steak during dinner. The fries were steamed, blanched, and the fried. Tasty with the garlic aioli, but also hard to mess up.

The $10 “Seared Humbolt squid with puttanesca would be what I recommend. Two pieces for $3 less than on the normal menu. The texture of the spongy squid was the highlight. I wanted more of it, than the sauce of garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, and olive oil. The olives overwhelmed the dish, I would have left them out all together.

With the $10 happy hour “Roasted cauliflower” you save $2. Firm cauliflower florets well seasoned and flavoured with lemon, almonds, and salsa verda. And overpowering with dill. Overall fine, but we all have had cauliflower we liked better elsewhere.

You save $4 on their “Short rib croquette” between 4-6pm. Breaded and fried ovals with Romesco sauce, parsley, and pickled shallots. Although I didn’t taste any of the above. Instead, this dish was incredibly bland. You got some flavour from the sauce the croquette sat in, but even that needed more seasonings. It was just tangy, where I wanted to taste the flavour of the meat itself.

For drinks they had a $4 “Aperol spritz”, with Segura Viudas, orange slices, and soda. A classic.

I tried their “Celeri fizz” out of curiosity. I am always interested in discovering another savoury cocktail to add to my list, this was not it. Sipsmith gin, pressed celery juice, berentzen apple liquer, and lemon. It was bland and drank more like celery water than a cocktail. I was not impressed, and our waiter was kind enough to take it off the bill for me.

Instead, I switched to Thursday’s drink promotion. 1/2 off select bottles of wine, $75 and under. The “La Stella Pinot Grigio 2017 BC” was “like a Chardonnay but not too oaky”, according to David of @pickydiner fame; whom I shared the bottle with.

Areta of @foodgressing popularity enjoyed her mocktail. “Les Mocktails” with earl grey tea, lemon, egg white, and demerara syrups. It gave her the sensation of drinking a cocktail with the coupe and foam top.

Now past 6pm, we ordered the following off their regular menu. The “Steelhead crudo with dill creme fraiche” was my favourite dish of the night. It is pretty start forward, but deliciously done. The texture of the fish was silken and perfectly buttery. Soaked in olive oil and salt it was simple and refined.

The hand chopped “Beef tartare” was citrusy and salty, flavoured with truffle, Parmesan, and parsley. It was served with potato chips, but I would have liked a more dense base with the heavier tartare.

The side order of “Brussel sprouts with pork belly and Parmesan” was okay. It had a good garlicky flavour, but I wanted it crispier. And it would have been more enjoyable if the sprouts were smaller; or simply cut in half, for easier eating.

The “Grilled pork saddle” was pretty good too. Fatty and charred, with sprout leaf slaw, and mustard seed jus. Sharing it 6 ways was enough of a taste, it would have gotten old fast as a single serving.

The “Whole deboned trout” came butterflied, whereas I read it as head to tail, served on a plate. It was browned in butter, served with green beans and almonds. A solid dish with tender fish, and crispy beans, all deliciously flavoured with butter.

The “House made fettuccine” is a safe order. Dry pasta noodles flavoured with preserved lemon, tarragon, and leeks. Served with plenty of calms. All together a fresh and lemony dish that left you feeling light.

The “Short rib polenta” was a much better interpretation than what was in the croquette. Tender meat that fell off the bone. Deep and dark with a spiced wine jus. A specific flavour that I was not a fan of. I did however like its drippings mixed in with the silken polenta paste.

The “Veal chop” in browned butter, with arugula, cherry tomato, and lemon was also bland. It was a meaty offering, great texture with a bit of fat; it just needed some sauce.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Everything was just okay, so we didn’t look into dessert. It was a lovely dinner with good friends, in a beautifully done restaurant with a gorgeous view. However there was nothing different or outstanding about their food menu to bring us directly back again for dinner. Instead I work suggest this as a watering hole. A first stop on a bar crawl. Don’t deny your cravings.

VERRE
550 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 3H1
(604) 428-4843
verreyvr.com

Café Salade de Fruits

Today I was at a lovely Parisian cafe, hidden within one of the side streets along South Granville. A hot spot for locals given the number of tables filled at random this Thursday afternoon. And each of them well taken care of with all the plenty of staff in branded tees on hand.

The smaller space is packed tight with seating to maximize their capacity. Booths by the wall, four tops by the window; and two rows of narrow tables between them both, side by side for convertible seating. Or you can grab a seat outside on their decent sized patio. Indoor, each table has a metal street sign screwed on to it. A way to pass on their personality and their French heritage.

Similarly, the restaurant is decorated with French themed artifacts and knick knacks. A cork art piece arranged to look like France. A few Eiffel towers crafted from different mediums. The blue, white, and red flag; and a lot more French street signs. A faux brick facade fronts the kitchen. Behind its peek-a-boo pass you can see two chefs in black working with stainless steel, to a citronella green motif.

The menu is printed in both French and English and is pretty straight forward. I liked how there were many specials of the day, offering variation to regulars at reasonable prices. A sandwich, soup, crepe, omelette, quiche, and pasta. We would stick to the French classics, for my first taste.

The “Garlic and butter escargots” were perfection. So much minced garlic and melted buttery goodness to sop up with the slices of baguette. And if you don’t like the idea of eating snails, you couldn’t tell what they were here. Chewy bites of escargot with no additional flavour outside of the garlic and butter.

The mussels were a classic, we paired it with a side of fries over salad. There was plenty of flavour in the soupy broth, more butter and garlic to enjoy with more bread. So tasty that I could have just drank it as is. The mussels were well prepared, the perfect vessel for the sauce. And the thin cut fries had a similar flavour when dipped into its side of garlic cream.

I was surprised by how much I liked the “Deep fried calamari”, especially considering it was gluten free. The thin veil of batter actually had me enjoying the perfectly soft and chewy texture of the squid a lot more. It wasn’t greasy, and you didn’t feel bogged down after eating half a bowl of it. I would order this one again.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A really great spot to have a simple and delicious meal at. I would love to try more of their offerings to get a more fulsome picture of their food, but so far I like everything we had. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CAFE SALADE DE FRUITS
1545 W 7th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J 1S1
604-714-5987
saladedefruits.com

Chambar, terrace open

As of June 1st Chinatown’s best patio is open for the summer season. And to help celebrate, they are launching a new happy hour menu to mark the occasion.

Located right by the Stadium skytrain station, “Chambar” is easy to get to for an early brunch or an after hour cocktail. And patio is open morning to late, serving everything within, outside on their sun soaked patio. An oasis of brick, leafy greens and vibrant florals. Seating on the terrace is first come, first served. With no reservations allowed. So come early and enjoy it fully.

My recap today won’t be of the actual experience, but of the festivities leading up to the launch.

Nothing spells summer like a cool cocktail on a hot day, and we would enjoy 4. Three of which are barrel-aged and highlighted on their updated happy hour menu (which they call an “interlude”).

First it was the “Le Soleil Punch” with Remy Martin VSOP cognac, Mount Gay Eclipse rum, Cointreau, House limoncello, Aperol, and an iced tea blend. This was an easy sipper perfect for patio drinking.

“Lind’s Lemonade” had a beautiful hue to it thanks to the hibiscus flower used. Matusalem platino, house made limoncello, hibiscus, fresh lemon, and Talisman pale ale. A slightly floral, spiked lemonade without sting of alcohol, a dangerous drink if you take in to many.

The “Zenzero Spritz” made for a good digestive thanks to the ginger. It was light tonic with a low calorie feel. Bianco vermouth, ginger, sparkling wine, and soda.

The “Botinst G&T” was a refreshing classic. Bontist gin, house tonic, grapefruit, and rosemary.

They also had bottles of rose and white wine on ice, and red at the ready.

And “Strange Fellows” brewing had their beer cart set up to pour their ales, lagers, and IPAs.

As this was a mix and mingler, we didn’t get the ability to taste full plates, only teasers of what they offer from their brunch, lunch, and dinner menu. Enough to wet my appetite and have me curious over what the full servings would be. But sadly I didn’t get enough of a taste to really review them for you here, but they are as follows

Duck confit & eggplant wrapped in phyllo dough. A little dry and heavily if not fully drizzled and smeared with the cream and orange blossom syrup.

Veal stuffed calamari. The taro chips served as great little spoons to scoop up squid and cream. A descant one biter that maybe too much as a full serving.

I loved the colours of English pea dumpling with spicy carrot hummus. Plenty of pea purée stuffed into chewy wrapper. The hummus offered spice, but I would have preferred a sour cream to dip into as well.

Chicken sausage and chorizo manchego sausage. Served in zesty slices with dollops of cream and pesto, the full sausage is typically featured on their brunch menu and in their paella.

Poached prawns on sourdough bread with jalapeño and fish roe. Piled high, there was a lot to unpack in this. I liked each individual element, but not necessarily all together in one bite. This was especially the case for the pickle ginger, which would have been better served as a finale palette cleanser.

The grilled asparagus with olive oil and shredded cheese was exactly as expected.

I loved the visual of this colourful presentation. A pick-a-bite platter with beet mousse over flatbread, fried halloumi cheese, pea falafel, and flatbread with carrot hummus. A little dry and plain, I would have liked a sweet and tangy sauce to dip into for some character.

The one bite of beef striploin was perfectly tender. Prepared with cioppino onion and A truffle aioli I found myself eating a couple of these. I wouldn’t mind trying the full serving of this one.

The seared tuna and Japanese yam with a beurre blanc was another classic bite well executed, that I wanted more of.

 

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.
All in all this was enough of a taste to have me planning a trip back to enjoy full plates, more cocktails, and their patio. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CHAMBAR
568 Beatty Street, Gastown Vancouver BC
604-879-7119
chambar.com

Le Crocodile, revisited

My girl friend has never been to this popular French restaurant, located in downtown Vancouver before; so when looking for a spot to celebrate at, we made this our destination.

This classic has been the go to for many date nights. Where fine dining is done classy with white table cloths and napkins; servers in button ups and vests, with towels over their forearms; and an in house sommelier ready to assist you with your wine ordering, table side.

But before we continue, for my first visit account and a more romantic scenario; including more details on the decor and ambience, check out the link below.
http://vieamaggi.com/le-crocodile/

We started by getting a bottle of Pinot Gris to share. It was kept on ice in a near by pedestal ice bucket. It was just in reach to keep our glasses topped off regularly. We ordered the most affordable bottle: a Gentil white blend. Alsace, FR. $50 for the bottle.

Our meal began with a complimentary amuse bouche. A braised endive with goat cheese and pear tart. It had the texture of soup on a buttery crust. It was cheesy, almost gelatine-like, and reminded me somewhat of a can of mushroom soup before you add in the water. Getting something for free is always a nice start to your meal. You feel special and walk away thinking you got more than what you paid for. And this feeling “Le Crocodile” cultivated for us continued on. with a complimentary basket of bread below and two desserts to close out the meal at the end.

White and rye slices of baguette with squares of firm butter.

For entrees I enjoyed the “Duo of foie-gras tasting”, wanting something completely French to take advantage of the locale.

The foie-gras terrine was meaty, thick and rich. I found the toast it was served with too hard, so helped myself to all the softened bread above. The ice wine gelee on the side was a nice balance, a dry texture and something bubbly to chew through with the heavier spread.

By comparison the foie-gras burlee was creamy and light. It had the airiness of its namesake dessert, furthered by its trademark burnt sugar, torched top. A very creative spin. But two together was too rich. This was an appetizer best shared.

My guest had the “One and one half pound Atlantic lobster” steamed and shelled, sauté with market vegetables in a saffron butter sauce. This was as decadent as it sounded, the cream sauce was all consuming and luscious, full of that tell-a-tale sweet lobster flavour. A little too rich on its own, best with some rice or the shoe string potatoes they fried, as a side.

We didn’t finish either of our meals, both were too decadent as is, and even more so shared together. In the future I would consider and recommend their set dinner instead. Allowing the expert restaurant staff to curate your perfect meal: appetizer, entree, and dessert; with all the other small bites in between.

And in between courses our table was tasteful cleaned by our server. A concave metal tool was used to scraped crumbs of our dishes prior, before new dish ware and cutlery was set.

Even though we passed on ordering dessert, we still got something sweet to end our meal on. A complimentary scoop of “Cantaloupe sorbet with Porto”. It was refreshing and light with the full flavour of the fruit shining through. Tangy to start and sweeter to finish, making it a great palette refresher.

And as per their tradition, every meal here ends with their “Le Crocodile” chocolates in milk and dark. One for each person at the table.

 

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.
Not for every day dining, but a great indulgence when you are looking to celebrate. Rich food with prices that match the richness of the experience. They are a Vancouver institution for a reason. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LE CROCODILE
909 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 4T4
604-669-4298
lecrocodilerestaurant.com

St. Lawrence

Today I got to visit one of Vancouver’s most acclaimed restaurants with a group of food bloggers. It’s one thing to enjoy good food with friends, it’s a whole other experience when you do so with others as enthusiastic about food as you are. Eating together, discussing what you are having, while engaging in conversations about other foods. This experience elevated my eating, and I got to learn a thing or two on food trends from those who keep on its pulse.

I have been meaning to check this restaurant out, not only because they have been crowned Vancouver’s best restaurant of 2018, and because their reservations require a month or so advance notice, but also because they serve French Canadian cuisine. My partner is French Canadian, and I have just been to Quebec, thus giving me some knowledge and context to compare what we would be eating to what I have recently enjoyed on my trip.

Walking up to it, the exterior looks like a cinema’s entrance perched up on its corner. It had a black and white 50’s feel: black bars and white curtains. The casual yet refined feel transitioned to the bar within with a timeless appeal.

Inside, the interior has taken on a more homey-cottage approach. Royal blue paint and rustic browns decorated with nostalgia. Oil paintings of scenery and fruit, dried flowers kept erect in pitchers, copper pans hung and floral curtains strung. It was cozy and felt lived-in, a sensation that ran parallel to the food they served: comforting and simple in its refined elegance.

We started with some cocktails. An “Old Fashion” and the “Vieux carre”, a cognac based drink.

As for food, we ordered a handful and shared everything between four. Our meal started with the traditional bread, served with a traditional Quebecois condiment. “Croton” with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In Quebec cuisine, cretons is a forcemeat-style pork spread containing onions and spices. Due to its fatty texture and taste, it resembles French rillettes. This was by far a lot more bolder and spicier than the version I had in Quebec. And when paired with the house-made spicy mustard mayo it was a very bold combination as zesty as the bread was nutty with whole grains.

I was most excited about the “Oreilles de crisse”. I only just discovered this French Canadian version of pork rinds, which I fried up for the first time myself, a mere two months ago. Fried pork rinds with maple syrup and spices. These were a hit with the table and definitely the one you have to order when you visit. You can’t stop with just one. Each curl had the ideal amount of seasoning, the perfect blend of salty and sweet, gently coating a light as air styrofoam crunchy-like crisp. With each bite down, you saw juices oozing out, juices you would lick off your hand with no shame. To quote one of my guests, “they were aggressively seasoned, but in a good way”.

The “Steak tartare, chèvre noire, and pomme gaufrette”. Beef tartare, chèvre noire cheese, and potato chips. The raw beef was acidic with a bold vinegar tang, half the table found the truffle flavour in it too bold, I just wish I got to taste the truffles. I liked the shredded cheese for a different layer of flavour and how the freshness of the greens balanced it all out. The chip was the perfect base to scoop the tartare up with, like dip. It offered a heartier satisfaction along with its crunch, and enjoyable to chew texture. It also gave you more flavour, for those who like things punchier.

The “Quenelle de poison, crevettes and sauce nantua”. Fish quenelle, side strip shrimp and lobster sauce. The table joked that this was like a fancy French fish ball (similar to Chinese style fish balls that you get in hotpot), and one of the most expensive we all have ever had. But being well versed in chewy seafood and meat balls, I can confidently say that this one was a lot more refined. It was almost light and fluffy with its softer texture, like it was whipped into a cream then steamed solid. Although well flavoured with the creamy lobster sauce, I wanted more of the flaky pastry to eat it with. Something to round off the plate and add more crunch. To quote one of my table mates, “this should be rich, but it doesn’t eat that way”.

“La terrine du jour”. The house made terrine of the day was a chicken and duck meat terrine with pistachios. A “terrine”, in French cuisine is a pâté made in a pottery container. It was a delicious meat spread, but I wished it was served with cracker or we had saved some of the bread before to eat it with. Instead it is offered with a un-proportionately large ceramic jar of cornichons, which we weren’t shy to eat as much as we could out of. “Cornichons” is a cucumber that has been pickled in a brine or vinegar. Its pickling helped to refresh bites and lighten up the rich meat paste.

The “Ratatouille and flan au cheddar avonlea”. The Ratatouille with avonlea chedda custard was ordered in order to give us some vegetables in our meal. It offered a great amount of freshness, and made for great in between plate bites, helpful in lightening up the lot. And with the delicious cheese custard on top, this dish ate like a full fledged entree.

Cote de porc, fromage oka and sauce charcuterie. When looking for a hearty entree, the pork chop with oka cheese, and butcher sauce is the one to get. This was one of the most juiciest pork chops I have ever had. Each slightly fatty morsel was well complimented by the buttery potatoes and the rich gravy that it floated on. A well balanced entree that would have you enjoying each bite from first to last, and not regretting the price that you paid for it.

We tried the “Steak St. Lawrence” as well. It was a grilled hanger steak, served with bone marrow, sauce aux poivres, and frites. The steak was pretty standard, it had a tenderness that paired well with the saucy mushrooms. But it was the fries that had you coming back to the plate for more.

“Tourtiere de Ville au cerf”. Meat pies are a stable in French Canadian cuisine. I have tried a handful, fresh and frozen, courtesy of my partner. So it was nice to try this very elegant and dressed up version here. The venison made the serving very dark, plenty of rich flavours with the heavy use of all spice. It was best enjoyed with the pickled beets and the cornichons on the side, to help brightened up the plate. Without it the meat pie was fairly briny, not overly salty, but it did have me drinking plenty of water in between mouthfuls, out of thirst.

One of the specials of the day was the “Crispy veal sweet breads” prepared in a wine and truffle sauce, topped with an onion ring and served with chanterelles. It was an easy to eat dish, despite many who would be queasy from learning that this is a plate featuring thymas glands. Overall the flavours assembled were sweet and bright with the refreshing corn and crispy onion ring taking centre stage for me, and the paste-like sweet breads ending each bite with its distinct flavour. The dish had a comforting warmth to it, great as a side along with some protein and rice.

For dessert we got the “Riz au lait facon l’ami jean”. It was a serving of rice pudding and salted caramel, enough for the table (or 3-4 individuals). This one definitely grew on me. At first I didn’t like the texture of it. The grains of individual rice were noticeable, but the crunchy pecans and cinnamon sugar cookies helped to mask it and give the dessert some cohesion.  I found myself continuing to go back for scoops and scoops, until by last bite became too sweet.

I was more excited about the “Taste au sucre”. Sugar pie is one of my partner’s favourite desserts, meaning I am fairly familiar with it and even know how to prepare it for myself. I liked it plenty with the pool of vanilla cream helping to balance out the sugar, and how buttery the crust was. However, my partner was less impressed with his leftover serving, After a quick spin in the microwave to warm it up, he declared the pie too watery.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It was a delicious meal, different yet familiar. All the flavours above were a stark comparison to their counterparts, that I had from Thetford Mines (a small town Quebec), and the traditional French Canadian cuisine I had a mere month ago. The workmanship here and the quality of ingredients used had me validating the in price we had to pay. A great place for a dressy and delicious meal. And a restaurant I suggest you bring anyone visiting Vancouver too. Definitely a must not miss opportunity, as Vancouver’s best restaurant of 2018. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ST. LAWERENCE
269 Powell Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1G3
604-620-3800
stlawrencerestaurant.com
St Lawrence Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Baguette et Compagnie

Today I got a special delivery of French pastries, a box of goodies from “La Baguette”. They are one of the true French bakeries in Vancouver, with professional bakers hailing from France. What you don’t pick up from their store front you can enjoy at hotels like Hotel Auberge and the Wedgewood. And I can see why these acclaimed hotels would want to work with them. Truly this was some of the best pastries I have ever had, I even put them to the test, sharing my bounty with my finicky partner who knew his way around a croissant or two.

These were also the most flakiest pastries I have ever had. They were so crispy on the first day, so but sure to purchase and not hesitate on biting in. There and then you get light buttery shards that almost melt under your tongue. Each pastry has the same really flaky and crusty texture on the outside, with the same soft and chewy centre waiting underneath. They were truly enjoyable to eat for taste and texture. Plain or filled, the buttery taste of the pastry came through. Although I prefer them plain to enjoy the pastry as is. Just biting into it you can hear how fresh and flakey they were. The messier the better and these did crumble everywhere, but was so good that I made the point to pick up all the flakes and put them directly into my mouth

The best for me was top three for my partner, a man who has grown up on the luxury of buttery fresh breads and pastries.

The buttery croissant was perfection. I would have one to start, a second as a sandwich with aged cheese and cured meats, and another plain one just for dessert.

Or better yet, the chocolate croissant is ideal for dessert. Within this square was the perfect amount of chocolate to pastry ratio. A simple goal, and yet a hard one to achieve.

The apple cinnamon one was a nice heartier option. Its crust was slightly thicker than the others, and a touch saltier. It would have also been great wrapping a sausage roll or covering the contents of a chicken pot pie.

This is actually my first time trying an almond croissant. I just thought that it was a croissant with toasted almonds topped with icing sugar, I didn’t realize it had a coconut-like filling, that was buttery and rich like a custard with texture. I found myself especially scooping up fallen scraps into my gaping mouth with this one, and there was a lot more here. The butter coconut filling adds additional sweetness and crunch, giving you a new experience to your croissant consumption. I will definitely be ordering this again.

Once again, it is best to eat any that you get all on the same day. That is when they are at their best and intended to be consumed. They get stale and hard the day after. However, what I had left was still so tasty that I endured rough pastry shards cutting the sides of my mouth and the necessary head jerking pulls with teeth necessary to finish them off. And it was worth it.

 

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 would like them to be closer to me, or at least have my local coffee shop take on their pastries. These are worth travelling for, to a certain extent. If I worked downtown Vancouver, I would see myself taking the “long way” to work to get me some of these. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA BAGUETTE
1102 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1X4
604-684-8003
labaguetteetcompagnie.ca

Rosé All Day at The Wine Bar

Vancouver is well known for its craft beer scene, and all the bars that serve them in barrels, batches, growlers, pints and flights. There are more and more small breweries popping up every month, with more and more bars to offer them to you. So I was ecstatic to discover that our fair city now has a wine bar to cater to those who prefer grapes over hops; offering just as much variety in wine as your local bar would beer. Introducing “The Wine Bar” the literal name, that gets right to the point, as well as delivers on the promise of wine by the glass, as well as bottle.

And if that isn’t reason enough to visit them, they have recently launched their rosé program, making “Rosé all day” a reality, and not just a slogan reserved for graphic tees.

On this night I was invited to the #Rosé launch party, allowing thirsty guests the ability to sample their collection of pinks. They have more than 40 different rosé wines available by the glass, and even more options if you are willing to order by the bottle. This assembly even included a 4 litre bottle for over $1,500, which was quick to sell, at 25% off. Every Sunday, “TWB” invites guests down to their water side bar for 25% off any rosé (bottle or glass)

But tonight we were able to taste as many of the pinks as we could, whilst mingling with the vendors that represented and distributed the various labels. They too were enjoying the wines and the space, as they gave guests a little more in depth information on the brand they represented. Around the quick to fill room enthusiasts were seen swirling and swishing, trying with a spit. And there was myself, downing each taster like a champ, with my face turning a shade to match my quick to empty glass.

I wish I was able to be a bit more discerning of each sip that I took. But truth be told, I cannot recall the notes between sweet and/or dry, just that I enjoyed them all; and half the fun is try as many as you can. Hence the appeal of the wine bar in the first place, as it is what sets them apart from others. They allow you to try something new, or be more adventurous, without the commitment of a full bottle.

As we drank in deep, a rotation of handheld snacks kept me in check. A selection to showcase the kitchen’s ability in small bites, just as what is offered on their regular food menu. A menu that has similarities to their sister restaurant, “Provence Marinaside”, next door. The only difference is here, they have cultivated a more casual setting to spend your time at. Truly laid back and easy, like your favourite bar, but with wine and the air of sophistication it always brings.

Your option of seating includes cushy benches indoors, and a patio up front with a water side view. The latter was the perfect setting to people watch, and be seen at, behind a flower lined fence. But the actual place to be is right at the entrance, in front of the fully stocked wine bar. Bottles corked and left to chill, and taps with slender nozzles to admire. But on this occasion it became our standing bar, and the perfect platform to highlight their new French and American rosés; as well as a collection of pink sparkling.

For nibbles we enjoyed a self serve, auto replenishing platter of raw oysters on ice with caviar, because fresh oysters and wine seem like a natural conclusion.

Jumbo shrimp served chilled with a tangy dip. Self explanatory and always a crowd pleaser.

I liked the mildness of the juicy sausage, a sharp contrast to the soggy cheese and vegetable with quinoa on bread bite.

I much more prefer the perfectly round pastry puff topped with a veggie ratatouille-like zesty mix.

Although I had a great time, given the amount of attendees and the tone of the gathering, I wasn’t able to fully take-in or enjoy “The Wine Bar”; so decided to come back for a more “normal” night shortly after. Doing so with a friend who drinks wine like others drink water. Although sadly she must have been overwhelmed with all the options, as she decided that we should share a bottle of bubbles from Italy. This was the easy choice, instead of picking and choosing by the glass, visiting the world through its wine in the process. Guess that gives me the excuse to return once again.

Because “The Wine Bar” has over 200 different wines available by the glass, and over 400 by the bottle. 400 different wines to choose from, in a dining scene where no other restaurant or bar can boast the same.

During our stay we would nibble on their small plates, taking advantage of the Southern French fare that “Provence Marinaside” is known for. Naturally, the menu helped you pair the perfect glass to go with your dish of choice; but for us, our bottle was plenty.

First we had some garlic marinated “frog wings”, because: when in “Provence”. They were dressed in your choice of sea salt, Jim bean bourbon, or espelette Pepper. We went for just some salt to flavour and exemplify the garlic. With the simple dressing the flavour of the well seasoned wings came through lough and clear. The little, one-bite drums had the frog meat falling off its bone. You put the whole thing in your mouth and with a twist of our tongue you removed the meat. These were so great that I could have eaten a half dozen more.

Next we had some “crispy calamari” with lemon and a garlic aioli, for a similar crunch. Well breaded and chewy, but unmemorable when served along side the frog wings above.

We would start our meal and time in the small dining, waiting for a table to free up on the patio. When it did we moved our set up, and indulged in our next course of tapas plates with fresh air and a cool breeze.

Having drank to the point where you want carbs to balance yourself out internally, I immediately eyed the “Gnocchi du jour”. Today the chef’s creations was their house made gnocchi in a light cream sauce with morels and kale. They had the perfect texture and were the exact taste I was craving for at the time. Chewy and buttery, the mushrooms added some earthiness and depth, with the kale brightening up the plate with its change in texture.

Off the dessert menu, we also enjoyed their “Artisanal BC cheese plate” with gluten free crisps, olives, and fruit compotes. Wine with cheese just seems to fit best at a French style restaurant, and even better when it highlight’s BC’s dairy farmer’s contribution to the cheese game.

 

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.
As, I mentioned above there isn’t another place quite like this in Vancouver, and none with a view like they do. A great spot for those who enjoy wine and would like to get acquainted with an extensive list of wines from around the globe. Here you can try them by the tap, glass, or bottle at reasonable prices. They not only have the largest by-the-glass wine program in Vancouver, but in all of Western Canada as well! Come for 400 plus wines, but be sure to start with a visit on Sunday for 25% off bottles and glasses of rosé. “Each ready to drink by itself or pair well with our food menu.” – Josh, Wine Director at TWB. “Don’t deny your cravings” – Magmei

 

TWB
1167 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver BC, V6Z2V4
604-681-4144
thewinebar.ca
The Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Silk Lounge

Today I was invited to “Silk”, a new lounge that is like nothing you have ever seen. Four and half years in the making, and all that time was well spent, considering the reaction of those in attendance tonight. A collection of hand picked elements came together to transport you into an exotic fairytale. Fresh blooms perfuming the air, buddha head statues adding mystic, crystalized embellishments for a bit of glam, and bevy of colourful textiles and purple highlights to bring it all together. Even the rivets keeping the booth seats together were purposefully patterned, together they spelled out “S-I-L-K” all around the room. This was the level of detail that we were able to appreciate. But don’t just take my word for it. Here the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is absolutely true.

I definitely spent more time photographing the scene and myself within, as apposed to eating or drinking. And no doubt you would do the same if you visit. In fact, I want to come back during the day to literally capture the decor in a whole new light.

Here there is no “bad” seat. The dining areas is sectioned off-ed with string curtains and differing design elements to create visual interest. This ensures everyone is able to be engulfed in this wonderland of colours and patterns.

Even the washrooms were heavily decorated. The hall leading to it was lined with candles, fresh flowers bobbing in pools of water, and lights softened by coloured fabric. Within each individual washroom was a rainbow chandelier crafted from gems in every colour, the result: a multi-coloured rain casting over you as you did your business, in one of the cleanest restaurant washrooms that I have every visited. An important fact considering that they are a lounge with an expansive bar.

We grabbed one of the floor-level tables, towards the back of the restaurant. Removing our shoes, we would sit cross legged on flattened, embroidered cushions for the remainder of the night. From here we were served a collection of their appetizers, a handful of their entrees to share, ending on desserts.

“Silk” offers French style cooking prepared with spices and seasonings familiar in Indian cuisine. They pride themselves on preparing everything from scratch, in house. Like all the cheeses for their savouries and all the chocolate in their desserts. This is done from farm to table, with all their ingredients organically and locally sourced within BC, if/when the season permits. A point of pride and something necessary for creating good food when you are Gary (the owner), and have grown up working on farms for over 20 years. Utilizing this knowledge, Gary wanted to share the traditional Indian recipes he grew up with. Delicious portions prepared with hand ground spices. He found that there was nothing like this being offered in Vancouver, so took it upon himself to fill the gap; offering modern twists to his mother’s recipes.

Chatting more with him, I was able to tell that he is a very genuine and humble restauranteur, which are the very characteristics he has passed along to each member of his team working tonight. This is also seen in his decision to open a lounge with a more private setting. The goal was to host smaller seatings, in order to cater to each customer more intimately. To be able to look after them and to engage them fully.

And in order to do so and ensure everything is at its absolute freshest, evenings and early mornings are spent preparing for the dinner service. A commitment that they intend to keep, and have to, given that there is no refrigerator in their kitchen. The menu reflects this commitment to quality, with the cost of premium ingredients reflected in the pricing. Appetizers that eat more like tapas plates with 4-5 bites, range from $12-20; and entrees that have you wishing for a more run from $20-35.

They have been open since February of 2018, and on this day in April we were here to help celebrate their grand opening, starting with some drinks.

“The silhouette” was their welcome drink. A shaken cocktail made with chambord black raspberry liquor, Cointreau, vodka, fresh orange juice, and agave syrup; then topped with ginger ale and fresh orange juice, and served over fresh ice. This was so easy to drink: sweet and refreshing like a juice.

“Sangria”. A blend of brandy, snapps, wine, and fresh diced fruit. Available in red and white.

“In house Old Fashion.”. The “Silk” version is made with black barred tequila aged for 12 months, and distilled in the style of bourbon or scotch. This gives the cocktail cinnamon-y undertones, balanced by the inclusion of agave syrup. It is finished off with a flame zest-ed orange peel.

“Mojito”. A shaken drink mixed with white Caribbean rum, lime juice, and fresh organic mint.

“Kumbh kaali mirch”. These organic, locally sourced mushroom caps are vegan and gluten free. They are seasoned with fresh ginger, garlic, and hand milled black peppers. Each round was juicy with spicy notes, but more of a dull heat that rises slowly.

The “Steak bites” were the table’s favourite. Served with a brandy demi-glace and a few slices of their organic grain baguette. The beef was tender, easy to chew through with its pinky centre. The bread was made in house, spongy and soft, it just needed some in house made butter to complete it.

The “Basil chicken tikka” is the one I liked the least. I found the free range chicken thigh marinated in a ginger, garlic, and basil rub; dry and flat. Where the other items didn’t need the sauce that it came with, here my piece of chicken took a generous dip.

I was much more impressed by the “Prawns diablo”. Lemon butter and wine marinaded prawns served with some organic chilli and more organic grain baguette. Not everyone tried the bread, not realizing it was made in house, therefore I wished the servers had highlighted this. As for the prawns, they had a little heat in them, if you needed more you could get a mouthful from the innocent looking chillies to its side.

The “Stuffed jalapeños and rancttera sauce” is another vegan friendly dish that is gluten free. Here, organic jalapeños are stuffed with cashews, walnuts, spinach, and grilled guajillo peppers, then topped off with a house made rancttera sauce. They weren’t as spicy as the prawns above. A slightly firm pepper, grilled crisp with a cheesy taste. This was a nut made cheese without the crumbly texture of crushed nuts. It is best eaten after a drag through the tangy sauce smear on the plate.

“Paneer tikka”. Handmade paneer (Indian cheese) slow cooked in a traditional clay tandoor oven. This too is vegan and gluten free. In the dark of the lounge it looked like grilled pineapple so I was surprised when it tasted like cottage cheese with the texture of ricotta. Good, but I felt like it need more, the dip helped but I wanted something richer to give this more muted dish some kick.

Overall the appetizers were easy to share, but I would have liked a base like rice or naan to go with them; something to make them more complete. Given their presentation I wouldn’t necessarily order them with drinks in this lounge setting. With their bold flavours they ate like a meal, and not like tapas.

We would see to my craving of rice and naan during our round of entrees. Little did we know, they actually offer three types of roti, each a different taste and texture based on the type of grain used to make it by hand. Had we known, we would have tried all three. If you are expecting doughy and fluffy naan, this isn’t. It tasted healthy with that tell-a-tale dry and firm whole grain characteristic.

The vegetarian and gluten free “Spinach paneer” utilized the same in house made cheese that we had above, but in this dish my original concerns of plain cheese is addressed. This is a traditional Indian cheese dish cooked with spinach. The creamy spinach paste engulfed the soften cubes, offering a texture more like a stew. Great with the side of rice. This was done more like traditional Indian style cuisine than a fusion with French cooking.

I find “Butter chicken” is always a good tell of Indian cuisine, as every Indian restaurant offers their own rendition of it. Here, this traditional Indian curry is made with organic cream, fresh tomato purée, and organic butter. This was the leanest butter chicken I have ever had, like all of their dishes thus far, nothing was overly rich. Great, considering this is a lounge and the thinking is that you will spend most of your time drinking. With these dishes, you were full without feel bloated

The “Rack of lamb” is the showstopper. A pistachio crusted rack of local grass fed lamb, in a pomegranate jus, served with a seasonal organic vegetable ratatouille and potato purée. The lamb was done right, tender with pink and bits of gristle. The pistachio crust offered a nice crunch, and the jus was the gravy you wanted to coat your creamy mashed potatoes in. The vegetable ratatouille rounded the serving off with some freshness. My only complaint is that I had to share.

For dessert the cheesecake is the one to get. This too is made from in house made cheese, available in three fruit flavours. Each slice is made with organic milks and housemade fruit jellies, served with fresh fruit and a brandy goat cheese caramel. Depending on the fruit it adds a different texture to the cake. Each came with some of their unique caramel sauce. The caramel wasn’t overly sweet, but more milky like a watered down dulce de leche (in a good way). You are able to mix in the caramel to add some sweetness to cake.

The kiwi flavoured had an extra texture with the kiwi seeds baked in. Think a poppy seed muffin, but as a denser cake. It is nothing like you have ever tasted, let alone cheesecake. Original, different, good.

The mango was the most refreshing flavour, its puree helped to make this the fluffiest cake, in texture.

But I like the texture of the strawberry one the most, it was most firm and most like a new york style cheese cake. As for the taste, it was like melted strawberry pocky with this yogurt-like sauce.

 

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 liked that they offered a full menu of food, but given their location and the setting, I am more likely to recommend them as an after dinner spot. A great place to stop by after dinner or after work, to pick at some French style Indian tapas. Or better yet, stop by for a cocktail and one of their cakes to end your night on a high note. My only apprehension would be their location, a walk away from easy transit, in a neighbourhood most rather not walk through at night. Although still worthy of checking out thanks to a team of great staff and an Instagram worthy space that you won’t soon forget. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SILK
132 Powell Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1G1
778-379-6900
silkdinnerlounge.com
Silk Dinner Lounge and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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