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Category: Happy Hour Page 1 of 2

Tojo’s Restaurant, Cocktail Hour

Admittedly, this is my first visit to the Vancouver institution that is “Tojo’s”. The restaurant has garnered much attention and many accolades thanks to the local celebrity chef with the same name. Tojo-san is better known as the creator of the widely popular “California roll”. And his restaurant on West Broadway has seen sushi trends come and go, but it still remains one of thee spots for authentic Japanese cuisine.

Most recently they have opened their sake bar, and with it a focus on cocktail hour drink specials. Normally, their two hours of discount food and drink is available from Thursday to Saturday from 4-6pm. However, for the winter season, they are attracting more diners by extending the promotion across Monday to Saturday 4-6pm. Ideal for those in search of a warm perch and a cold drink.

For many, their sake bar serves as a great transition into dinner. For most, it is an approachable and cost effective way to enjoy the quality and prestige of “Tojo’s”, at prices one can afford day to day.

The restaurant is a beautiful space, modern and open with plenty of seats. If given the choice, I would opt for the sushi bar. They are the best seats in the house, especially when Tojo-san is behind the bar, and you catch a glimpse of him rolling his career defining sushi. And speaking from experience, he is very accustomed to having his photo taken, posed or not.

Although today we were gathered in the lounge, with vaulted ceiling and a well stocked bar. The locale only seemed fitting given our intended tasting of their entire cocktail hour menu. This was a brighter space thanks to the full window-ed exterior; although with the onset of earlier nights, this was fleeting. Here, bouquets of fully bloomed lilies crowned tables, green leaves and vines added freshness with bamboo accents, and the ceiling is hung with lanterns and a traditional Japanese sun umbrella.

We were all lined up at the bar, to be able to watch the quick hands of their bar manager, Akira; craft “Tojo” exclusive cocktails, created by Jeff Savage of “Fairmont Pacific Rim” fame.

Akira started everyone off light with one of their highballs. The “Japanese” one features Suntory Toki with a Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech Bitters, and Soda. It was easy to drink. It didn’t mask the refined flavour of the smokey whiskey with sugar or syrups, and there no burn to follow. This was the epitome of a simple and clean cocktail, one that even a non drinker can appreciate. Similarly, they had two additional country-themed highballs. The “Canadian” features Lot 40, and the “Scottish” one, Johnnie Walker Black.

Next we had the “Tokaido 53”, which was described as a riff on a martini. It was inspired by “journeys on the ancient road connecting Kyoto and Edo”. It was made featuring Bison Grass Vodka, Kazuki Gin, and an Herb and Citrus Oil. This is for those who like a stiffer cocktail. Strong in botanicals and fragrant florals, with a flavour that transitions as it goes from sip to swallow.

The “Salaryman” was as easy to drink as an iced tea, but with substantial citrus punches. The menu suggested this as a “stern cocktail”, that is best way to end your work day. A Japanese Whisky Blend, with notes of Matcha and Black Sesame. Although I wish I could actually taste more of the latter two, and/or see it as a dusting on top of the actual cocktail.

My favourite drink of the night was “Tojo’s Milk Punch”. Eastern flavours prepared with Western techniques, for something new and different. Bank’s 5 Island Rum, Shiso, Sencha, Mint, Lime, and Clarified Milk. This too I found easy to drink; and great of you don’t like the taste or burn of liquor. My dinner mates described this one as being “dangerous” because it tastes too much like punch with a creamy, milky, sweeter finish.

And lastly we had the “Kitsune Gimlet”, a cocktail that was tart and tangy. A punchy sour that wakes you up, and is made with Kazuki Gin, Yuzu, Honey.

Given that “Tojo’s restaurant” is better known for their luxury experience, you can also indulge in some premium sake. One of the bottles above is $2000 and the other runs for $6k. They are both exclusive go “Tojo’s” with the latter being the last of its kind.

As for food, we got a first hand look at their upcoming yakitori option. Only available during cocktail hour and made before your eyes, the station is a hot griddle with “Chef Drago behind it, at the ready. After a good oiling the heated surface is used to cook sticks of marinaded meat and tofu. And half the fun is watching the colour of either transition to a delicious gold brown, whilst hearing the snap and crackle of a hot oil and juices sizzle.

The chicken was incredibly tender and juicy, seasoned in a simple salt and pepper dusting.

The tofu could have used more dressing in my opinion, but considering what it is, it did offer a nice break between the meat sticks. Firm tofu with a garlicky sauce brushed over generously.

But my favourite yakitori was the beef, flavoured in an orange juice and brown sugar marinade. The milder citrus helped to enhance the natural flavour and juices of the beef.

Much like the tofu, I judged the next plate on my list before seeing it or trying it; and was pleasantly surprised as a result. The vegetarian “Miso mustard lotus root” are cube of taro sitting in a pool of tango miso. They are crunchy in texture and slightly spicy with a chilli mayo. Each block rich and satisfying.

Next, we got tofu a different way with the “Tofu Ankake”. This is describes as an agedashi tofu with eggplant, both sitting in a thick broth. It was a beautiful dish, the vegetable offered some textural interest to pair with the silken tofu. Here, I would have liked some additional broth, to be able to enjoy the whole more like soup instead.

For actual soup we had “Tojo’s chowder”, it looked like a classic chowder, but was much lighter and less chunky. And it still ate creamy, but with Japanese nuances. Mussels, salmon, carrots, and plenty of onions.

The “dashimaki + caviar” was a crowd pleaser: Japanese egg omelette topped with ikura & tobiko. Everyone appreciated the work that went into crafting the thin layers of egg omelette, that folded into one another, seamlessly. I especially liked the mix of textures it brought to my mouth. The fluffy egg, the pops of roe, and the mashed radish.

But my favourite dish for taste was “Tojo’s tuna”. This is one of his signature dishes made with wild albacore tuna in a wasabi and sesame sauce. The delicate fish didn’t need any additional seasonings, but the pool of sauce at the bottle of the bowl was there if you thought otherwise. I also liked the added crunch the crushed peanuts provided, offering up a completely new sensation.

The “Royal Chicken” was deep fried white meat chicken stuffed with asparagus. Beautifully done and presented, but a little dry for my tastes. I wanted more of a saucy gravy to dip it into, instead of the salty plum paste served on the side. Although the plum did pair well with the shisho leaves, embedded somewhere within the roll.

The chicken in the “Citrus and sea salted wings” on the other hand, was right up my alley. Crispy organic chicken, prepared “Tojo-style”, which means mess-free. In fact they take the time to push all the meat to the tip of the drumlet for a more aesthetically pleasing look. There was plenty of crunch to this simplified wing: juicy, salty, meaty, and just well done. And the side of tempura sweet potatoes were well chosen, they added balance and starch to the serving.

The “Bbq scallop” was a show stopper, served in shell with tomato, snap pea, carrots, and enoki mushrooms; all soaked in a bright dashi broth. Delicious.

The “Wagyu sukiyaki” was comforting. Thinly sliced piece meat, fried rapidly with vegetables and a light teriyaki-like sauce. All of which are piled high over chewy glass noodles. I would love a full serving of this for any meal.

And you can’t visit “Tojo’s” without having his “Tojo maki”. As “The Pioneer of the modern California Roll” this one speaks volumes; showcasing local Dungeness crab. It was lovely. A classic and I have no complaints.

We rounded out the night by bringing back the hot grill and “Chef Dragon” got back behind it. With dual flippers in hand, he made everyone their own individual size seafood okonomiyaki. “Okonomiyaki” is a savoy Japanese pancake. This one has shrimp, scallop, and plenty of shredded cabbage; held together with a wheat-flour-based batter. Worth noting is that this rendition had very little batter, allowing the crispiness of the shredded and stringy cabbage to take centre stage. If we weren’t full from all the above, we were now.

And as a amazingly cute gesture, “Tojo” presented each of us a hand picked bag of small Fuji apples, as we said our goodbyes for the night. This gesture is not the norm, but fully appreciated, nonetheless.

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.
In short, and to repeat myself. “Tojo’s” new cocktail hour menu is worth checking out. A taste and teaser of this famous restaurant at great prices, paired with amazingly crafted cocktails; what’s not to love? Don’t deny your cravings.

TOJO’S
1133 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6H 1G1
(604) 872-8050
tojos.com

Cinema Public House, Happy Hour

Today I was invited down to check out “Cinema’s” facelift. And the Donnelly group has recently closed down a few of their outlying public houses, so I was also interested in getting a look into this decision, through this reintroduction meal.

Donnelly group has been looking at its spaces and the neighbourhoods that they have been occupying. And the decision has been made to better align themselves to their demographic, which includes a more friendlier space and dynamic menu. “Cinema’s” focus is on the after work, downtown crowd, due to its corner street location. Lunch for a quick, inexpensive, and delicious meal. And then when after the dinner rush is over, the space opens up and the DJ spins the wheels until 3pm, catering to a completely different crowd. They do this considering the event that is letting out in the area, and those who have chosen to visit on any given night. The kitchen is open until 1pm on week days and 2pm on weekends, which is fantastic. I can not tell you how many times I wanted a late night meal, but there aren’t many kitchen open past 10pm.

Once a dark corner that only looked to host a more lively, after dinner crowd. Now an open space hoping to bring in the happy hour and hungry dining crowd. “Cinema” has recently torn down the wall that separated the bar from the booths, and expanded the patio to face Granville Street. And I can honestly attest to the fact that it does make a difference. The setting is looking more inviting. And because of it, the bar was busy at 5pm, a full house of rotating tables here for happy hour, like we were.

The menu gives you a deal on drinks with $5 beers and $6 wines from 3-6pm daily, and again Sunday to Thursday 9-1am. They don’t have food specials, but with $6-8 snacks, $10 sandwiches, and $12 pizzas and mains on their regular menu; you are saving each time you visit anyways.

We started with a couple of their signature cocktails. Like the “Shogun” featuring suntory toki Japanese whiskey, st. Germain elderflower liqueur, strawberry syrup, lemon, mint, and candied ginger. A nice warming beverage because of the ginger, yet cooling with the sweet fruit and citrus notes.

The “Funny Pages” was a great afternoon pick me up. Lot 40, cold brew, Jägermeister, and a golden graham milk syrup, it drank like a spiked coffee, sweetened with milk, sugary from breakfast cereal.

They also serve cocktails that they have borrowed from off other menus. Like “Naked and famous” from “Death & Co.” in New York. Sombra mezcal, aperol, yellow chartreuse, and lime juice.

And the “Sherry colada” from “Waydown Ace Hotel” in Chicago. Havana Club 7yr rum, amontillado, sherry, coconut syrup, fresh pineapple, and orange zest.

To eat, we shared a handful of dishes from their $6 snack menu, and had plenty for everyone. The “mozzarella sticks” were herb crusted and served with a marinara sauce for dipping. What’s there not to love? String cheese under a crispy, well seasoned shell, enjoyed as is or with a palate cleansing tangy dip into tomato.

My favourite was the house made “queso dip” with crispy corn tortilla chips. I would drink it like soup, but it is best coating doughy bread, like with the pretzel below.

The “Pretzel” was actually served with its own queso dip, but I would have preferred it with a spicy mustard option instead, or maybe both for a nice contrast. The dough was a little oily and the heavy handed coating of sesame seeds was either a hit or miss amongst our table. I personally liked the additional texture for its mouth feel.

The mini “Perogies” were a unanimous favourite. They were filled with cheddar cheese and topped generously with sautéed onions, sour cream, and green onions. It tasted exactly as how you’d expect it to.

The “Blistered snap peas” was an interesting menu item, or appetizer to be offered at a bar. But they were tasty, and spoke to the kitchen’s new direction: offering healthy options and vegetable friendly solutions, for a snacking, after work crowd. They were so simple, yet so good. Fresh snap peas seasoned with a Spanish chilli, lemon, and ricotta salata.

Similarly, the “shishito peppers” were a healthy, all vegetable option, that you didn’t regret eating. Seasoned in a red wine vinegar and lime. They weren’t spicy, but had more of a grill smoke to them.

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.
Great food at good prices, in a newly renovated space. I liked everything I tasted, and it looks like they have something good on their hands, so expect such a menu will be rolled out to all their other properties in the near future. Don’t deny your cravings.

CINEMA
901 Granville St, Vancouver BC, V6B 2C9
604-694-0202
donnellygroup.ca/locations/pubs/cinema/

Honolulu Coffee, Happy Hour

Other restaurants have Happy Hour, “Honolulu Coffee” has “Pa’u Hana”. Starting on Friday October 4th, the “Honolulu Coffee” on Nelson will host live music with drink and food specials, every Friday from 3-7pm. It may be fall and it maybe cold, but here they are on island time; and the tropical vibes certainly does help to warm you up.

To celebrate the occasion they hosted a luau and I was the first one to arrive for all the festivities. To set the mood, there was live music. Pop songs done on the ukulele.

And “Leis de buds” was on location with handcrafted real rose and real orchid leis. Guests were invited to dawn one around their necks, learning that the proper way to do so is with equal parts of the lei and its florals dangling in front and at the back. This is so that others will be able to enjoy its aesthetics from either side.

And when the pre-made ones were all handed out, the floral specialist began making more on the spot, as a demonstration. Utilizing a specially imported lei needle to thread blossoms together by way of string. The result, wearable art, and a keepsake to take home and dry.

The event spilled out the entrance of the cafe. And right at the entry way was a baby pig roasting on a spit. It definitely attracted the desired attention. Slow cooking since first thing in the morning, it was now ready for carving up and serving.

Its pulled pork meat would be the feature of their kalua pork burgers, along side pineapple and a tomato salsa. The pork was terrific, you can taste the difference cooking it over hot coals made. As for the burger as a whole I would have liked the pineapple grilled, the salsa less watery, and a sweeter mayonnaise to pull it all together.

Inside, a table was set up with help yourself small bites. A collection of their bar menu snacks and cafe favourites for everyone to sample.

In the Teri burger, I got the tangy mayo that I was looking for above. It paired well with the crispy shredded slaw and all the onion and cilantro, piled over a thin beef burger patty.

For something to crunch on and pair with their Hawaiian brewed beers by the can, I recommend their smoked “mixed bar nuts” with a sticky glaze.

I fully enjoyed the “Edamame coconut hummus”. A whipped spread served with pita. It gives you the sensation and texture of hummus, but with a whole new flavour profile to explore. Garlicky and coconut-y, I have had nothing else like it.

The “Lilikoi pineapple meatball” was a nice small plate to share. Served with tooth picks, they are easy to pop into your mouth. A bite-sized round of meat with plenty of cilantro, and hints of passion fruit.

The bacon cheddar scones are from their cafe side, a perk of having a bar within a cafe, you get to pick and choose from either menu that shares the same seating area.

The matcha brownie cubes were decadent, moist bites of chocolate.

But my favourite of all their cafe snacks is their guava bread. I ate cube after cube, recommending others to do the same. A moist cake with the flavour of the pink tropical fruit.

At the build your own açai bowl bar, guests helped themselves to scoops of frozen açai; and topped with as much or as little fresh fruit and dried ingredients as you wanted. Slices of strawberry and banana, whole blueberries, coconut flakes, and house made granola. Tart and refreshing, this made for a healthy dessert alternative.

At their bar they were serving cans of “Maui Brewing Co.” beers in Pineapple mana wheat or Coconut hiwa porter.

And for something sweeter and frostier, you can enjoy their “Hauoli Colada”, similar to a pina colada with tropical fruit juices blended with ice and rum. It was an easy drinking cocktail, made more enjoyable when served in one of their brightly coloured, novelty tiki mugs or pineapple-shaped cup.

We finished our meal off with a cup of their “Hawaiian latte”, exclusive to them and one of a kind with their specialty beans. It uses coconut milk and macadamia nut syrup to further their theme. And although you smelled more of it, than you do taste it, this was still a great indulgence.

They also have two new hot beverages for their fall offerings. The first is a “horchata latte” with cold brew coffee, soy milk, and cinnamon. The second, a “baked maple pumpkin latte” with real pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, espresso, and milk; topped with grated nutmeg. They didn’t quite taste like what I expected. Not concentrated in horchata or pumpkin flavour, but a different interpretation altogether. I would have liked the horchata sweeter, and the pumpkin latte spicier. The latter was interesting with the addition of maple syrup. Maple, being a strong flavour that battled with the pumpkin as lead in the drink.

For more coffee, guests were invited to sample “Honolulu Coffee’s” newest roast, the “Peaberry”. This is one of the world’s rarest coffees, a lighter bodied brew with subtle sweetness and hints of mixed berry. One that you can take home as beans in a bag. It was recommend that we drink it as is, without milk or sugar. It was a delightful brew, and I can see why it has earned its accolades.

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.
In short, “Honolulu Coffee” will continue to be a cafe I recommend. Not just a regular coffee house, but one that features tropical flavours and transports you to a place much warmer and much further away. And now with happy hour and their own beer garden, there is even more reason to visit them soon. Don’t deny your cravings.

HONOLULU COFFEE
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

 

$4 happy hour specials at Match Eatery

It was a rainy day, and we spent it at home, sleeping the weather away. And now after 9pm we rolled out of bed in search for some dinner. We decided to take advantage of the timing and head down to “Match Eatery”. Located at “Starlight Casino” in New Westminster, they have a pretty decent happy hour menu. The same food and drink specials you get during 3-6pm, are also available from 9pm to close. A tidbit I learned from another recent visit. In fact, a few photos in this post are from that visit, with better light.

The bar was busier this Saturday night, with all its televisions and surround sound systems dedicated to a live broadcast of boxing. There was a television screen no matter where you looked, and the booming announcer’s voice was hard to avoid. You couldn’t miss the literal blow by blow. The tense energy from the heated match helped to set a more lively vibe.

We were taken on a trek, past the lengthy island bar that lit the way, and given one of the many spacious booths that lined the open room. A comfy round all the way towards the back, by the largest television screen. I liked it and all the other available booths, the more comfortable seating made you want to linger in the space for longer. Feeling more relaxed and therefore eating and drinking more.

Please excuse the quality of my photos. I took them in the dark of the room, as I didn’t want to distract from the match, or the overall late night ambiance, with a bright light.

We basically ordered one of everything off the happy hour menu, minus the pretzel with warm cheese dip and mustard. All food items are $4, available for you to order one at a time. This, instead of 3 to a set like they have on the regular menu. Even as a slider this was a lot for $4. The “Meet me at the hop” is a 100% fresh Canadian beef car hop burger, with American cheese, house mayo, and iceberg lettuce; all between a brioche bun. Each slider is served with a handful of house made old bay kettle chips. The chips were perfection, served in large slices, just the way I like them. You bite through each lightly salted crisp, enjoying the texture just as much as you do it’s flavour. As for the burger it reminded me of a whopper with its sauce, minus the tomato and replacing it with a strong and melty American cheese instead. A solid four biter, no complains.

But between the two slider options, I would recommend the chicken. But at this price, just get one of each. This is the “Crank up your honky tonk” Southern fried chicken sandwich topped with their secret sauce, ice berg lettuce, and sweet pickles; between the same sweet brioche bun as above. This too is served with house made, old bay kettle chips. I would recommend ordering either just for the chips. The chicken burger tasted as impressive as it looked. Plenty of crispy batter on a substantial amount of chicken to crunch though. It was good quality white meat, tangy slaw, and creamy heat. Delicious, exactly what I expected from a fried chicken sandwich.

The menu reminded us that “Life’s short, eat more tacos” so we obliged by trying one of each available on the happy hour menu. The “Mole chicken” is a food truck style taco prepared with fresh slaw, pico de Gallo, chipotle cream, and mexi-fries. This was a familiar flavour with zesty heat and runny dressing. A little too spicy for my partner, but with enough slaw it does balance things out with its freshness.

Between the two tacos I preferred the “Crispy fish” one. This too was a food truck style taco with fresh slaw, but chilli cream and fruit salsa, over the crispy fried white fish, and side of crispy mexi-fries. The mexi fries were pretty bland, a dip in ketchup is how I preferred them. The fish had a nice crunch, it had just as much flavourful seasoning as the chicken above, but less liquid running down your mouth with every bite. I liked the surprise sweetness and tropical feel from the mango chunks. They also have helped to dull the heat of the chilli cream. Glad I liked it, as we got two. Our server accidentally brought us the wrong order, and seeing as he can’t take it back once it hits the table, he let us have it for free.

The menu was cleverly crafted. Each item came with a side of potato, other than fries. Therefore if you are craving some, like my partner was, the only way to get it is to spend another $4 for their “Dirty fries”. These are hand cut fries tossed in Cajun butter, topped with chip dip, Parmesan cheese, hot sauce, and crispy bacon. These was so much going on with this that you didn’t need ketchup. Each shoestring fry different, with the above dusted over it in various combinations. Great with beer given how salty it was with the parm.

To drink my partner had a 16oz craft draft for $5. He had a choice between IPA, pale ale, and amber ale. He went pale with “Steamworks”. I went with the 1/2 price wine. Any size any selection of wine went for 50% off. Pictured is the Shiraz Cabernet by “Saint and Sinner” from Canada. A nice rich red that paired well with all our salted and fried, heavier tapas.

Fearing it wouldn’t be enough food, my partner also ordered the “Italian sausage rigatoni” from off of the regular menu. Rigatoni in a house made tomato sauce with roasted Italian sausage and whole cherry tomatoes. Topped with a dollop of Boursin cheese and shaved Parmesan, and served with a triangle of garlic loaf. The pasta was a comforting portion. Like everything else this too was not bland. Plenty of zesty sausage, juicy tomatoes, tangy sauce, and herbaceous salted cheese to keep you curating your bites. My only critique would be, smaller pieces of the above. Sausage shreds and tomato halves to better enjoy with the pasta. You want the ingredients smaller than the large noodle tubes. And there was pretty much a 1:1 ratio between sliced up meat balls and the chewy pasta noodle.

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.
Everything was a lot better than a thought it would be, for a late night menu. Great staples, all at amazing prices. You get so much value, that I would absolutely recommend their happy hour, and come back for more myself. This serves as really great sobering up food, ideal with heavy drinking and a late night vibe. Don’t deny your cravings.

MATCH
350 Gifford St., New Westminster, BC, V3M 7A3
(604) 777-8008
matchpub.com

Nightingale revisted

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It certainly is a nice spot, but the food just doesn’t satisfy as other pastas and pizzas at other restaurants have/do. Don’t deny your cravings.

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

Peroni patio party at D6

Today I was invited to celebrate “Peroni” at one of their annual cross-Canada summer Terrazza parties. And what better a place to host such an event than at the now opened, newly furnished patio of “D6”.

The sunny day allowed guests to mingle across the entirety of the patio, and the covered portion with its heat lamps offered shade and warmth against the roof top wind. There was plenty of seating across couches by coffee tables, you could grab a high top over by the bar, or a regular four top against the greenery and it pink plastic flamingos, or maybe just huddle around the fire pit with a drink in hand.

But first to get the drink. The roof top bar with its chic white marble tiles was themed in Peroni with bottles of the beer in an ice bath, and more beers poured non stop from the tap. Although the most appropriate for the patio was their “L’Oriente” cocktail, a special pour for the day. Fresh mandarin juice, yuzu syrup, and Peroni Nastro Azzuro; topped with candied ginger. Delicious even for non beer drinkers. So good that my guest and I both finished two pints with ease.

But there were also other ways to enjoy your Peroni today. “Passionate Gelato Artigianale” was on site passing out scoops of their gelato kept cool on ice.

They had a Peroni Nastro Azzurro gelato flavoured with lime. This was a refreshing and creamy slush that served as a great way to turn my cocktail into a float. But for those who enjoy more traditional flavours there was a salted caramel and organic BC strawberry gelato to choose from.

All the while small bites circulated throughout the enclosed patio. I wish I bothered to ask which kitchen they were from and if they are available off of the regular “D6” menu.

The “Brie cigars” were a fun way to call melty and stringy Brie cheese wrapped in phyllo and fried. Best enjoyed with a deep dunk into a sweet and sour dip.

The goat cheese crostini offered up the lightest bite with fresh cherry tomato and a sweet drizzle of balsamic.

The vegetarian spring rolls included mashed potatoes with the shredded carrots and beans, it gave things a different texture and take.

The beef short rib croquettes were meaty bundles of shredded beef served with either a sweet chilli sauce or a blue cheese dip.

The mini sliders were a filling burger with a juicy beef patty.

But I preferred the mini chicken burgers for their generous crispy chicken feature and tangy sweet pickles.

And the coconut shrimp was a favourite. A sweet and crispy shell hiding juicy shrimp.

In short, this was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon and enjoy one of the nicest patios in the city.

D6
39 Smithe Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 0P4
parqvancouver.com/bars-lounges

Happy Hour at Atlas

Today I was invited down to “Atlas”, the steak and seafood restaurant located in Grand Villa casino, Burnaby’s best hot spot. I was here to try out their happy hour offerings.

Traffic had us arriving later than anticipated, but luckily we were still able to take advantage of their price reduced menu for 20 minutes upon seating. We would immediately order everything we wanted, before cut off.

We started with their cocktail special for $8, and today it was a Amaretto sour. None of the sour, and plenty of sweet from the foamy egg white topper.

We then followed it up with a 6oz glass of wine for $6. Either red or white, Merlot or Chardonnay. They also have 12oz Stella Artois drafts for $6.

For food, the following dishes were $4 a bite. It doesn’t look like much on the plate, but stacking on extra orders grew it to a fulsome appetizer.

The “seared scallop and tiger prawn” was a juicy large shrimp and a softened scallop, sitting atop of a thin slice of pineapple, smoked in their jasper oven. All wading in a pool of sweet coconut curry cream. Together this offered up a refreshing bite that made me crave a side of coconut rice with it.

The “warm prime rib bun” was seasoned in a red wine jus, and served with a truffle mayonnaise in a toasted brioche bun. The folds of beef were perfectly cooked with a pinky hue. It was saucy with the flavour of the truffle shining through. I highly recommend eating this as soon as you get it, as the bun does get soggy quick.

The “hand rolled meatballs marinara” came with two full sized balls and a piece of garlic toast twice as big. I suggest sharing as each ball was plenty. The classic flavour of tangy tomato in a sweet herbed base.

Ironically, my favourite dish off of their happy hour menu was the complimentary, house made kettle chips. Extra crispy, thick cut potato slices that kept you coming back for more crunch after crunch. It came with a garlic aioli sauce for dipping, not that it needed any help in the flavour department. I definitely finished the skillet-full myself.

They also offered $1 an oyster special, with their variety depended on the batch. Although a great deal, we passed for the time being. We had planned to stay around for dinner, and would splurge on their seafood tower before, therefore knew we would get our oyster fix then and there.

This is their “Atlas chilled seafood tower” for two, at $88. Two tiers that arrived at our table with a show of liquid nitrogen smoke. The top included jumbo shrimp with the classic tangy red cocktail sauce; and raw kushi oysters, the catch of the day.

The bottom layer had clams and mussels cracked open, long snow crab legs, and a full lobster tail cut in half for easy sharing. The latter two was also pre-cracked for an easier peel back. Although if you needed more help in this endeavour there were nut crackers available, and we each received a hot towel to wipe our hands with.

This was a fresh feast we enjoyed with a bottle of white wine. It was brought table side and kept chilled in a copper bucket.

During our stay we also got a sneak peak of one of their new services. A cocktail made table side, crafted from premium ingredients. There is something about watching your food or drink being prepared before your eyes that elevates it and your experience. The result, a smokey Old Fashion, topped with a cherry.

 

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.
“Atlas” is the dressiest place in Burnaby. An upscale restaurant offering the downtown feel and experience without the haste of the travel, the cost of the cab, and the trouble of finding parking. And now with happy hour specials, they give you another reason to visit. I suggest starting your dinner early with some happy hour bites as your appetizer. Then enjoying your visit with well crafted drinks that easily take you from after work to dinner. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ATLAS
4331 Dominion Street, Burnaby BC, V5G 1C7
604-453-0776
atlassteakandfish.com

The Keg, winter happy hour

Tonight I was at “The Keg” in Granville Island, out of convenience. We were killing some time before our evening show, and the rain wasn’t letting up. Dining here meant that our walk was merely across the street to our eventual destination.

Our visit coincided with their new happy hour menu and seasonal cocktail launch; two things we took advantage of. New to this list was their teriyaki bites and pork dumplings, replacing calamari, nachos, and sliders. This was information I found out from our server, after she noticed me taking notes. We discussed the above a bit, and how I found the previous three food items to be more happy hour friendly, as nice snacks to pair with beer.

We started with one of each of their happy hour plates, and to it added two regular appetizers, as we were eating to replace a meal. As a whole, the happy hour meal felt the same. Similar seasonings and flavours found its way from dish to dish, from steak to cauliflower.

I was originally excited for the $8 teriyaki steak bites. Steak for $8 is a steal, and pre-cut for easy eating is just helpful. Unfortunately, each cube was dry and ashy. A sandy chew from over cooked meat, a fact you can tell just by pricking it with a fork. The excessive seasonings did well to hide some of the above. But overall, it was disappointing. Disappointing that they couldn’t do steak right, especially considering it is and what they should be known for.

The pork and kimchi dumplings were nice enough, not authentic but plenty tasty. A savoury meat filling encasing a nice chewy dough wrapper. The pickled vegetable on the side offered some tangy crunch and interest. But as I mentioned earlier, the saucy flavour was similar here as it was above, and therefore wore thin.

The “crispy fried cauliflower” was a generous serving, but it too felt the same. It came with two sauces, but both were sweet and salty when in reality you wanted a creamy dip like a ranch, tartare, and/or sour cream. The florets cooled fast, and you were left with a mound of vegetable that could do with a more crispy and consistent batter and fry.

As I mentioned earlier, to top off our happy hour plates above, we ordered two seafood based appetizers to follow.

The calamari was disappointing. More crunchy breading than chewy pieces of squid, it was over salted and didn’t taste fresh. In fact I liked the just-as-chunky breaded vegetables that came with it, more. This ate like something you would order at a bar, not what I expect from a higher end, casual chain restaurant, like “The Keg”. The food did not live up to its reputation.

The crab cake was much better, it ended up being the best thing we had that night. The cake was well seasoned and perfectly fried for a crisp even crust. It went well with the creamy burrata and the crisp steamed vegetables on the side. By comparison, this was a clean classic plate with no complaints.

We also drank throughout our meal, then lingered after the food was packed up, with a few more rounds.

The $5 happy hour Caesar and the $6 happy hour white. The Caesar was pretty standard, overly salty and overwhelmingly spicy. The white wine my guest didn’t like. It didn’t matter that it was on special, she preferred to pay full price to switch to mini bottles of prosecco afterwards.

Next, we both ordered the Thursday $5 drink special: their margaritas. I couldn’t even finish this, it was easily the saltiest anything I have ever had. And worst is, this assessment doesn’t even include the drink’s usual salted rim. I made mention of its undrinkable nature to our server, who took note of a 2/3 full glass returned to her and the half glass my guest too gave back. She accepted it blindly, not asking more details on how this was too salty. Here, there was no consideration and no offer to replace it or at least remove the cost of it from our bill. Disappointing from “The Keg”.

Next my guest had her first of two glasses of sparkling wine and I began tasting their new winter cocktails. The “Heart of gold” was recommended to us by our server. It was easy to drink with the sweetness of honey, a good cocktail for when you have a sore throat. Wiser’s Deluxe Rye, honey, lemon, and sage. I also really liked the sent of the fresh picked leaf before you came close to sip.

I didn’t have the room for their popular “billy miner pie” for dessert, so ordered the spiked coffee version of it instead. A shot of bailey’s and one of khalua in hot coffee, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I didn’t enjoy it the same, although this was still tasty; even for a person, like myself, who isn’t too fond of coffee or chocolate.

The “Red moon Manhattan” smelled like cinnamon and orange peel, and drank like a winter sangria with boozy cherries. Mondavi bourbon barrel Cabernet, Lot No. 40 Rye, spices, and bitters.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sadly I am not a fan of “The Keg “as a whole, there is one location that I like, the only one location where I once enjoyed my food, and would go back to. As for the others, I find the quality doesn’t deliver on their brand, nor the steaks worthy of your money. I would rather order seafood or a burger at this steak house, if I was urged to return. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE KEG
1499 Anderson St Granville Island, Vancouver BC, V6H 3R5
604-685-4735
kegsteakhouse.com
The Keg Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Homer St. Cafe, happy hour

Today I was looking for a unique happy hour destination downtown. My choice was dependent on a fulsome menu, a good selection of drinks, and a restaurant that many have yet to visit. (I enjoy excising my earned blogging knowledge by turning others on to places that I myself have been to and like.) After reviewing many options I finically decided on “Homer St. Cafe”. I have been before, so knew the quality of food would hold up, but the cincture was that their happy hour snack menu featured pork belly and chicken wings!

There is plenty of parking right up front when not dining during peak times, so the location is convenient. With several adjoining rooms to the place, visits may feel different depending on where you sit and what you eat. Today we were gathered in their main dining area, adjacent to their lengthy kitchen space, set behind a white marble bar. The same white marble topped the individual table we were seated at. All together it felt like you were dining in a modern, cozy kitchen. Swinging your feet, waiting for a relative to prepare a plate lovingly before you.

Our group of seven started with a round of their $5-6 wines, bubbles, beer, and/or cocktails. A cheers captured in photo is necessary.

Between us we ordered all but 2 out of their 8 small plate appetizers, doubling up on the fried chicken so that everyone could have a piece. We passed on the chicken liver pate and the smoked fish croquettes, I guess the others weren’t as adventurous as I am, I would have ordered the pate for sure.

I didn’t plan for there to be a vegetarian in our group, but luckily there were meat free options for her to nibble on. Like the bowl of marinated olives with cubes of manchego cheese for $5. It was your standard bar offering, best paired with a red wine, taken in with small sips and stimulating conversation.

The chickpea dip was a favourite amongst the table and another veggie friendly offering. Made with chickpeas, scallions, and paprika, served with a forest of dried taro and plantain chips. I liked the presentation of the chips upright in the dip for easy gripping and scooping. Although there was far less chips then dip, and we definitely needed and ordered a second bowl of chips to finish off the chickpea dip with. This dish was both healthy and delicious, and at $5 you can have two here and take what ever is leftover home.

“Homer St. Cafe” is known for their in house churned rotisserie chicken, so even though we couldn’t get a taste of that at a special price during happy hour, we were at least able to get their fried chicken on the discounted menu. You got 4 pieces of chicken to a plate, along with their buttermilk garlic dip. The quickest hand to either of the two plates we ordered, earn the full drum, the others enjoyed a full wing with drumlet that was less juicy and a lot more crispy. But the flavour persisted between pieces, and this still serves as some great fried chicken. If you are downtown during happy hour and are craving fried chicken, I suggest getting some refined dark meat here for $10.

But the meat dish that was the crowd winner tonight was the “maple butter pork belly”. This is reason enough to visit them during happy hour. Take a succulent piece of tasty and slightly fatty pork belly, and caramelized it in maple syrup for a crispy coating and some sweetness. Delicious, enough said.

As a base and to add some starch to it all, we also had a serving of fries. Who can say no to a well crisped and perfectly salted serving of potato? These came with an aioli for a more sophisticated dip, but I still prefer ketchup.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I often forget that happy hour eating is not in place of a meal, but act as a warm up before it. Therefore I look for more food and full plates, as apposed to what is great for snacking on. But if you are like me, and looking for an happy hour menu to act as your early bird dinner, “Homer St. Cafe” serves as a great option. Especially as this menu also includes a charcuterie board and chicken sandwich on special for $12. And the listing advertises 2 desserts at $6 each: a plate of cookies or some chocolate pudding. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HOMER ST CAFE
898 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B5S3
604-428-4299
homerstreetcafebar.com
Homer St. Cafe & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Opus Lounge, happy hour

My friend and I stumbled upon this one, we were looking for dinner, but were lured in my how great their happy hour pricing was.

This is the “Opus Hotel’s” lobby bar, adjacent to the fine Italian restaurant, “La Pentola”. Visitors lounged about in a chic adjoining room with tiled columns framing a bar with golden shelves, marble counter tops, and a tribute to biggie and pac. The choice of art spoke to our musical preferences, and eluded to what the in house performer was bringing to us tonight. Live music is a happy hour treat here every Wednesday, as well as a good reason to stop by and drink on hump day.

And tonight it was because of this performer that we ended staying longer and having additional drinks then we had originally intended to. He stood awkwardly at the corner of the marble and glass fireplace, this was barely standing room, let alone a stage. He was plunged in and belting out jazzy upbeat versions of your favourite rap and pop Ballards. This was a new way to enjoy the top 40’s.

Seven days a week, from 3-7pm “Opus Bar” treats early birds with a $5 everything menu. A healthy selection of wine, beer, and small plates all for $5. At $5 each you don’t have to choose, but did as we did and ordered one of everything (sans the beer, as it was a wine kind of night). Truth be told, it wasn’t the tastiest small plates, but at $5 you aren’t going mention it.

I had a cocktail to start, only because I spotted and wanted my drink served in one of the their tiki cups. The lone bartender and server hosting the space, did a good job creating something on the fly, even going through the trouble of finding strawberry slices to finish it off with panache.

“Meatballs in a tomato sauce”. They were a little over cooked, and flat in flavour. But nothing a little salt and some herbs couldn’t rejuvenate. I would have liked some garlic bread on the side to use to scoop sauce and ground beef up with.

“Grilled prawn skewers” seasoned in lemon and a parsley aioli. They were juicy and large enough, but they just lacked flavour, even with a generous dip in the sauce. With these I just wanted them grilled more. They lacked a Smokey flavour, and could have done well with a coating in butter, and a seasoning in pepper.

You really get your money’s worth with the “warm olive” plate. This was the most olives I have ever had in one sitting. A collection of four different types that was almost too much to share.

“Ricotta, honey, and walnut” on toast. Out of the two toast options I preferred this one. It was a creamy spread with bites of crunch from the nuts. I liked the tease of honey, and found myself trying to find more drops of it on the toasted rectangle.

“Baccala, salted cod, and whipped potato”. I didn’t like the similar mouth feel of the mashed potatoes over the chewy bread, and found the salted fish far too distracting to take note of anything else. More pickled onions and/or some cornishons would help in this regard.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t make my way down for any of their food, or any of the above again. But their happy hour drink selection is quite expansive, compared to others only offering what’s on tap and/or what the house owns. And with live music on Wednesday, this makes for a very fun spot. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OPUS BAR
322 Davie Street, Vancouve BC, V6B 2G2
604-694-2107
vancouver.opushotel.com/en-us/eat-drink/opus-bar
Opus Bar - Opus Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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