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Category: Pacific Northwest Page 1 of 6

Tacofino Commissary on Hastings

Although I live in the area, I have yet to visit this location of “Tacofino”, until today. I like their Vancouver based offerings enough, and how each menu varies from location to location. But my first taste of “Tacofino” was in Tofino, and there is just something about them there that can’t be compared or duplicated. None-the-less, my partner was craving quick tacos and here we were.

Their small location was fully packed this Sunday evening. The roar of the patrons could be heard from the side walk, walking into their all white facade. There are a few individual tables if you are lucky, but majority of the seating is communal across three long ones. We hopped on the bar hoping for quicker service, only to realize how busy the lone bartender was; making margaritas non stop.

We ordered a beer to change things up, and to sip on as we waited. “Pacifico” imported from Mexico topped with a lime. The bartender thanked us for our patience, as we came during their busy bout.

The restaurant is dark, minimal light shines through the maze of orbs, strung up across the ceiling. A tangle of copper wire and ceramic pots, with artificial succulent and leafy plants. It certainly draws your attention upward.

Their menu is fulsome with burrito and taco options, as well as several appetizers and a few desserts for before and after. We would snack on their name sake.

Tuna with soy, sesame, salsa fresca, wakame, ginger, and wasabi mayo. There was a wait for the seaweed salad to thaw and our server asked if I cared or wanted it on the taco. I did, so waited, and thankfully so, as it pulled the flavours together. Tuna and seaweed with pickled ginger, and sweet mayo is a classic combination; this was exactly as I imagined it. And I was thrilled over how generous their slab of barely seared tuna was, you definitely get your value here.

Similarly, the grilled wagyu steak offered plenty of perfectly pink meat slathered with black garlic mayo cream; made fresh and fun with pickled vegetables and jalapeño. All together everything had plenty of chew and crunch, it reminded me of a banh mi with the carrot and daikon. Delicious.

The chicken taco was my partner’s favourite. It certainly had the most going on. Chicken that is nacho-crusted and topped with braised red cabbage, LP mayo, pickled apple, pepper greens, and turmeric popcorn. You can defiantly taste and feel the crunch of the nacho crust, the popcorn was a fun visual, and the cabbage offered up freshness. I just would have liked more apple for its sweetness, and to better balance out the pepperiness of the greens.

The pork starred in this taco, with its tasty caramelization. The fattiness and the sauciness of it was balanced by the cabbage, fried shallot, pineapple, and sriracha toppings. Every ingredient sang in unison, this was a well conceived taco.

Given how great everything was today I grabbed one of their signature “Diablo chocolate cookies” to go. And just feeling it in its paper bag I knew this was gonna be good. Soft and chewy, with three perfectly formed chocolates finishing it off. It gave you the perfect marriage of spicy and sweet with chilli and dark chocolate.

 

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.
Based on previous, inconsistent experiences I came in apprehensively, but left raving. I liked all the tacos we tried and will be looking forward to having the others on our next visit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO
2327 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1V6
604-253-8226
tacofino.com

Showcase Restaurant, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

Tonight I was at “Showcase”, here to try another “Vancouver Foodster Chicken Wing Challenge” contestant. I am 1 of 3 judges looking for the best wings in the city.

Admittedly I have been to “Showcase” a handful for times, but never to sit down and eat, so I was excited to get the full experience today.

We choose to sit in the lounge, adjacent to the bar for ambience sake. Although the menus between their bar and their dining area do differ, and if you want a certain item, you need to be seated accordingly. However, the chef and staff obliged, and an exception was made where we were able to taste from both menus at our table; seated by the all glass exterior. An exterior shared with the the “Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel”.

We took all our chef’s suggestions and were not disappointed. We also got to learn a little more about Chef Westley. He had his apprenticeship at “Showcase” many years ago, then left to work at the “Vancouver Club” for a year, following that he started his own catering company, and shortly after landing himself a desk job as the product developer for “Joey’s” the chain. However, not being able to cook as much as he wanted to, he found his way back to “Showcase” all these years laters, now as the “Chef de Cuisine”, helming the kitchen and launching their new dinner menu.

In fact the very wings I would be judging today were from Chef Westley, added on to the regular menu before he left, and kept on due to popular demand. Our server even made a point to mention to us that they were her favourite menu item, and she had pushed back when the kitchen announced that they were going to update them. So here they are, just as they were 4 years ago.

“Soy marinated chicken wing”. They are breaded and fried, then tossed with a soy ginger glaze and topped with spicy aioli. They are only available on their bar and happy hour menu, but the restaurant has been known to serve them wherever their fans want them. They were hearty and meaty wings, with plenty of crunch from the thick and lumpy coating. It had that lick your fingers quality to them. A tad on the salty side, making them the ideal pairing with beers at the bar.

From off of the dinner menu we enjoyed some seafood. “Grilled pacific humbolt squid” with romesco sauce, watercress, fennel, charred lemon vinaigrette, and pine nuts. This was a beautifully elevated dish befitting of a classy hotel lobby restaurant. The flavours in this were bold and tangy with dull spice, and the greens and fennel added freshness to the smokey char of the squid.

Next, we enjoyed “Seared Ocean Wise scallops”, I love a good scallop and found there aren’t enough of them on menus; so to be able to try them here, so well done, was a treat. Prepared with Ajo Blanco, caramelized cauliflower, and calabrian chilli. This was my favourite dish with the night, and I would order a bowl of the cauliflower as is.

To drink I tried one of their new cocktails, created by their new cocktail consultant from “Odd Society”. The “Hibiscus cosmo” with vodka, fresh lime, orange liqueur, and salted hibiscus syrup. This was a modern, less sweet take on the cosmo. It was very refreshing with citrus, but I kept looking for more floral notes from the hibiscus.

And for dessert I couldn’t stay no to trying their “Japanese cotton cheesecake”. I am not a fan of rich desserts, so a light and fluffy cake with the texture of angel food cake but more custard-like, was a nice way to end the meal. Dressed with pink grapefruit, yogurt cremeux, and white chocolate puffed rice. I liked the burst of freshness from the fruit, the extra decadence from the cream, and the crunch of the puffed rice.

 

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.
Now that I know the food is this good, I will be back. They have the menu of a great waterfront restaurant, but sadly without the view or setting, shame. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SHOWCASE
1122 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6E 4J6
604-639-4040
showcaserestaurant.com

H Tasting Lounge, new patio

The start of the recent heat wave perfectly coincided with the opening of “H Tasting Lounge’s” new patio. A classy way to eat and drink outdoors, with all the qualities and comforts of a luxury hotel. I have frequented the spot more as a drinking hole, so was exited to be able to get a taste of the cuisine today.

The patio was sleek with a dark wood laminate floor, made more stylish with the white heat lamps that looked like actual lamps with their shade and pedestal base. Adjacent, tiered umbrellas offered the grey and blue loungers and couches some reprieve from the sun and the heat. All with a view of the water in the distance and the cityscape reaching for the sky behind it.

Today, guests were invited to wander in and out of “H”. The tables were pushed aside and the restaurant turned in to a dance floor. Here, food and drink stations were set up for self serve, self indulgence. The kitchen was offering scaled up versions of food and drink off of their regular menu. Giving attendees a great way to sample the menu for future visits.

Inside the restaurant, were 3 tables worth of cheese and meats; pushed together to form one of the longest charcuterie boards I have ever seen.

The “European cheese plate” with a seasonal marmalade, pickled grapes, and seed crackers.

The “Local charcuterie” board including whole grain mustard, pickled grapes, and baguette slices.

And the “Quiche Lorraine” that was a new one for me. Two rounds of pancetta, goat cheese, and zucchini eaten like a spread.

As for drinks, there was plenty to taste and many more to inspire your next sip by the seaside. Drinks included a welcome glass of sparkling and Moët on ice.

At the bar, cocktails were shaken and stirred to order. Here I had the “Thinner walls”, ordering off a menu that included photos (a smart move, catering to the likes of me, those who love a visual cocktail. Naturally, I gravitated towards the green drink with a pea shoot for garnish. It was a wonderful visual and tasted like a spiked green juice with tequila, snow peas, suze, lemon, and soda. The first healthy drink that I got my buzz on to.

I liked the tea station where premixed tea based cocktails were poured and garnish to order. The “Late blossom smiles tea” is normally served in a tea pot, so to paid homage to this, they were served in Japanese style tea cups today. Vodka, st. germain, lillet blanc, nutcracker tea, honey, lime, and soda; completed with a bobbling flower. I liked how you could taste both the black tea and the spirits equally, they were well balanced.

Similarly in balance was the “Rye Chai”, chai tea meets rye, mezcal, apricot liqueur, falernum, and lemon. A beautiful cocktail that I fully enjoyed, it reminded me more a sweet southern tea with a kick.

On the patio, keeping cool over ice was a collection of sashimi and selfish. You could see it across the room thanks to the two giant “H” ice sculptures marking these ice baths. One was a collection of oysters, being shucked adjacent and slurped up fresh.

The second ice station had two bite servings of crudo and carpaccio.

“Kanpachi crudo” with blood orange, pickled butternut, shiso, and sumac kiwi. A refreshing snack that spoke to the quality of their seafood.

The “Halibut crudo” was seasoned in a yuzu vinaigrette with anjou pear, thyme, and micro kale. Sadly my serving was so very salted, that it made my lips pucker.

The “Tuna carpaccio” was my favourite of the three given some pizzaz with pickled watermelon, fresno chili, and mint.

And as we ate, servers toured the patio offering up for more appetizers on trays. Bites like the “Beef tartare” with egg yolk, shallot, caper, chive, and horseradish. A delicious morsel that you easily popped into your mouth.

The “Salmon tartare” with tarragon, cucumber, lemon, labneh, and hibiscus was a refreshing starter, served on an endive leaf.

The “Lump crab cake” was tasty, a crispy baked shell hiding a creamy, flaky crab filled centre; sauced up with their Old bay aioli.

I liked the “Morel mushroom tartine” made with ricotta, black garlic mustard, watermelon radish, and micro kale. Earthy and saucy, one of the more filling, roving appetizers.

And I fully enjoyed the mini West Coast lobster rolls with much gusto. Sweet shellfish, creamy mayo, and a hint of dill for freshness.

For dessert they had “Uno Gelato & Sorbet” doling out their ice cream on site. A cute cart attached to a bicycle, where you could get scoops of either salted caramel, mango, or their vegan “Midnight chocolate” in small cups. I had the former and found it too sweet for my taste.

 

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. In truth I have actually have never had a full meal here, my visits typically start and end at the bar, so this was a nice teaser of them and their new patio. And one lavish enough to have me wanting to return for the full experience. I would love to revisit on a separate occasion, to more accurately account for what’s it like to dine-in and drink out on their patio. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

The Westin Bayshore
1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
604-682-3377
htastinglounge.com

Alta Bistro

Declared the best restaurant in Whistler, at the Van Magazine awards, I found myself at the threshold of “Alta”, as part of a tourism of Whistler organized trip. Truthfully, majority of our group has never heard of this place and I frequent Whistler enough to know all of its drinking holes, or so I thought. Either way, I would get a chance to experience the buzz tonight.

“Alta” hosts an intimate setting, kept romantic in dim lighting. You walk into a lengthy bar that opens up into a more spacious dining area. There, we sat around a long wooden table, under a set of paintings showcasing Whistler’s snow capped mountains.

But what caught my attention was the shelf of jarred perseveres. Mason jars of lemons, beets, carrot, and peas, etc.

We started off with some drinks. I was tempted by all the wine stacked on racks and the wall of bottles separating the bar from the dining room. And more so after learning about their special machine that serves wine, fresh every time. Poured from the bottle, with every glass as good as the first. This specialized machine ensures no air gets in the bottle, resulting in the freshness of it for up to 3 weeks. Many of the others went the wine route, ordering half pours to be able to try more. What a great idea in place of a flight.

I however, wanted to try their cocktails. Like their food, many of their drinks too feature ingredients locally sourced and foraged in their backyard.

I was intrigued by the “Garden party” with its use of spring pea pods, along with Sheringham aquavit, yuzu puree, homegrown mint, and fresh lemon. I got the citrus, but none of the pea. Overall, this was refreshing drink, similar to that of a mojito.

The “Rhubarbarita” was tequila forward and only rhubarb in colouring. Olmeca Altos reposado, Cointreau, spring rhubarb, and fresh lime; served on the rocks with a smear of sweet lime sea salt. I wish I got more of the vegetable that would have been highlighted by the sea salt.

The “Rainforest daiquiri” is a mix of Havana Club 3 years anejo, lillet blanc, Douglas fir and green tea liqueur, fresh lime and a hint of green chartreuse. It was refreshing and you got the piney notes from the Douglas fir sprig.

The “equinox” was today’s special and a pretty cocktail. Bombay gin, flower and luxardo cordial.

As for food, I took advantage of their $29 three course meal. Here, you choose two appetizers and an entree from a list of choices. First course was between soup or oysters, so I went for the latter. Two fresh oysters with horseradish, lemon, apple, and ortega granite. They were of the East Coast PEI variety, but on the smaller side.

 

For my second course, I went for the most unique sounding of four options. This was the “Venison tartare and chicken liver parfait” with a rye and chocolate cracker, egg yolk, thyme, parsley, picked shallot, and malted black barely. This was a very inventive dish, plenty of flavours paired together that I have never had prior. I didn’t get any of the chocolate on the crackers, but plenty from the crust that surrounded the meat. This was a nutty spread that I wish was more salty and meaty, like a pate. A little too rich to finish, but interesting to try.

And for my third course I went for the “Pork shoulder cassoulet” with slow cooked white bean, a soft poached egg, rich pork jus, bacon, frisse salad, and crackling. A stew full of textures and warming flavours. The pork meat was tender, the bacon crunchy, the beans gritty, the greens crispy, and the runny egg bound it all together with its creaminess. I liked the idea and the flavour of the pork rinds, just not how thick and hard they were. It was hard to bite down to size, and therefore hard to enjoy together with the rest of the cassoulet.

Our table also shared a side of “Seasonal veggies”, maple roasted carrots and freshly picked sea asparagus. Some light and refreshing bites to balance out the richness and the gravy soaked flavours above.

As for desserts, the chocolate mousse cake caught my eye, with its candied lichen (Moss) edible decoration. The candied lichen didn’t really taste like much, but it was such a unique way to showcase something else hand picked from Whistler’s back yard.

 

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.
A different way to experience all that Whistler has to offer through its edible nature. This favourite spot of local, is soon to be a popular destination, so be sure to stop by during your next drive up. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ALTA
104-4319 Main Street, Whistler BC, V0N 1B4
604-932-2582
altabistro.com

Dockside: new chef, new menu

Warmer weather in Vancouver marks patio season, and a great one to soak up the sun at is Granville Island’s “Dockside Restaurant”. I have visited a handful of times, but today’s trip down was also in celebration of their new head Chef: Zach Steele. I would get to meet him in person, and learn a lot more about him through his food. Steele is born and raised in Vancouver, and comes with a very special connection to the property. For over 29 year his mother has had her Christmas staff parties at “Dockside”, and for majority of them, Zach was present. So when an opportunity came to helm the long standing kitchen, the nostalgic draw was enough to have him sighing a contract. Not to mention, he himself feels that “Dockside” boasts the best patio in the city.

I would agree with his sentiment as I made myself across several of their available seats. On the lounger, under the cabana with a view of yachts in tow. Under the covered dining area with a wood table at proper dining height. And finally setting on a cluster of comfy seats with small side tables, and the possibility for conversation and mingling with friends.

As for food, every thing and every process has been overhauled, which is largest change to ever come out of the restaurant. The new chef has redone the entire menu program, including how everything is prepared, prepped, and stored. Even their distributors are all new. Everything it absolutely fresh and Ocean Wise, nothing is kept under chill in the fridge. Even sauces are prepared from scratch now. And speaking from experience of before and after, you can taste the difference. Their food has always been okay, you go in fearing a miss, but being surprised by a hit now and again. However, everything we had tonight was good and a lot I would order again on subsequent visits.

We started with an elevated twist on the corn dog, but here, these battered and fried meat on sticks featured duck. They are served with 3 dips for your tasting pleasure: a sweet and grainy mustard, one with beer and maple, and a spicy dip with horse radish. The corn dog itself was rich in curry spices from the batter and stuffed full with a nugget of duck meat. This was a grown up taste, only available on their happy hour menu.

The “Wagyu beef carpaccio” was amazingly succulent, for a tissue-thin piece of meat. Dressed with Dijonnaise, crispy capers, arugula, and Parmesan; this was a collection of toppings that worked well together, while still allowing you to taste the quality of the Alberta wagyu.

The “Seared Scallops” were beautifully plated. The squid ink aioli they sat in not only offered a contrast to the golden brown scallops and the collection of fresh greens and pickled fennel tops with bacon; but it gave the dish a wonderfully deep umami sensation.

As a vegan option for one of the guests was served a wonderfully sophisticated heirloom carrot dish with baba ganoush and fennel. I have never seen such dressed up plates from “Dockside”, so already you can see the elevation the new head chef was bringing. I actually didn’t get a taste of this, but will admit I wanted too from its look alone.

But I was also more than happy to get my vegetable intake from the roasted cauliflower dish. Cauliflower florets, cauliflower purée, and pickled golden raisins, in a lemon caper vinaigrette. It was a familiar and comforting dish available at many such restaurants, but done with small variations to make it their own. Firm cauliflower dipped into a saucy version of itself. I didn’t notice the raisin all to much though, but it is still the one I would order again.

The “Steak-crese” also had me eating my vegetables. Flat iron steak, tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto mayo, arugula, avocado, and dried currants; all in a sherry vinaigrette. The steak was perfection, and the star of the dish. And the collection of vegetables under it ate more like a well conceived assembly than a quick salad. Everything was fresh and fragrant, coming up to the level of the medium rare steak dressed in a tasty pesto. And it is worth nothing that this pesto is different from that of the pasta below. I appreciate it when dishes vary from one another. Chances are you will order a few to share with your table mates, and it is unfortunate when your choices are similar to one another, and you find flavour profiles repeating themselves.

I fully enjoyed the “Orecchiette pesto”. Prepared with a broccoli-basil pesto with pistachios, broccoli florets, and Asiago cheese. I was surprised by how much flavour they got into this with cream and broccoli. The pasta was cooked perfectly and each round coated fully. For those who want to go gluten free with this, you can substitute the orecchiette with zucchini noodles instead.

For a completely different dish I really enjoyed the broth of the “Cioppino”. Mussels, clams, salmon, halibut, and prawns bobbing about in a saffron and fennel tomato broth. A classic in San Francisco, this is “Dockside’s” take on a West Coast version. Tangy, vinegary, and sharp; whilst allowing you to take in the bevy of seafood and their various tastes. And the best part, it comes with a thick piece of bread to allow you fo dip in and soak up all that soupy goodness.

The fennel and lemon stuffed whole trout was another great looking plate. Though it does come with dining instructions as this fish naturally has more bones. If you gingerly scrape the meat you can avoid said share spines. This was a light, local, and in season fish paired with a celeriac purée, lemon, and kale.

And for dessert we enjoyed the Gluten-free coconut cheese cake over a Florentine base with seeds and nuts, and a passion fruit syrup topping. This was creamy and tropical over a buttery, crumbly crust. A very nice note to end, something rich, yet refreshing.

 

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.
“Dockside Restaurant” just gave me a better reason to return than their patio. Not just a place with a view on Granville Island, but now a destination to travel to for the food. I will be keeping an eye on all to come out of this kitchen, and will be back often if it is of the same caliber as what I fully enjoyed above. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DOCKSIDE
1253 Johnston Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3R9
604-685-7070
docksidevancouver.com

75 West Coast Grill, Halibut Festival

Tonight I was invited down to “75 West Coast Grill”, the restaurant attached to the “Marriott” in Richmond. It was once “American Grille”, but has since reestablished themselves as a modern restaurant featuring Pacific Northwest cuisine. They are dedicated to using fresh and local ingredients, and tonight I was here to taste this change first hand.

Parking is within the hotel, you check in at the restaurant to validate. Located right at the lobby, it is a stone’s throw from the concierge’s desk. Past the bar, you follow the curve of the hall, all the way to the dining area. We grabbed a table by the window to enjoy the hub of the busy street as our scenery.

Given that my visit coincided with their “Halibut Festival”, it was only proper that I ordered a plate of the white fish in season. That and both the hostess and our server raved about it. They spoke to how people have been flocking in to the restaurant for it, and how all the staff have been enjoying it daily. The price isn’t listed, you get to choose how the fish is prepared, which starchy side it comes with, and what sauce covers it all. The combination you choose dictates the price you pay. You can either have your fish pan seared, flame grilled, or blackened. For sides, each plate includes a healthy serving of seasonal vegetables, so to it you can pick between roasted fingerling potatoes, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, or jasmine rice. And for sauce a citrus beurre blanc; a mango salsa with pineapple, red pepper and cilantro; or a Thai curry sauce. Seeing as our server was so keen on this special, I took her advice on how to have it: pan seared with roasted fingerling potatoes, in the citrus beurre blanc. She did not steer me wrong. I am typically not a fan of cooked fish, but with halibut like this I could see myself enjoying it more regularly. This was a well balanced and fulsome serving. The vegetables were perfectly cooked to a firm crisp, similar to the texture and taste of the potatoes. But what made this plate was the sauce. I could drink a cup of it.

By comparison, I wasn’t so hot on their “10 oz AAA Rib Eye”. I acknowledge that rib eye steak is typically a fattier cut, but this thin piece had more gristle than meat. It at least had a good char to it. But sadly we were left with more roasted wild mushrooms , baby tomatoes, and roasted garlic mash side; all sitting in a red wine jus. I also found the sauce a little basic, I wanted more depth from it; like what I got from the beurre blanc.

On the other had, I got all the flavour I was looking for in the “Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese”. The shared serving is pictured above, and I would recommend getting it as a side. It is best enjoyed in between bites, given its one tone flavour profile. Served in a skillet these chewy and gooey spirals were heavily coated in an aged cheddar, mozzarella, and gruyere cheese mix. All topped with a roasted jalapeño fondue and a herb panko crust. This would be great anytime, but especially as a hangover cure, a late night snack, and as leftovers; like how I enjoyed mine. It was creamy, buttery, and fishy with the lobster. Although I didn’t find that the lobster added anything to the pasta. There was plenty of it, but several chunks I happened on were on the drier side.

The “Seafood Crab Cakes” were also nice, crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, with a good amount of shredded seafood in each round. It was best with the romesco aioli, but the radish and pea shoot salad that topped it, absorbed most of it.

It is also worth noting that if you get seated in one of their booths, it is outfitted with an outlet and the ability to charge any device, with USB ports.

 

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.
A nice reimagining of the “Marriott” Richmond’s restaurant/bar. Classic food in a friendly setting. A solid option for the travel and the cautious diner; wanting a taste of BC, outside of Asian food in Richmond. Don’t deny your cravings.

75 WEST COAST GRILL
7571 Westminster Hwy, Richmond BC, V6X 1A3
604-232-2804
75west.ca

Dachi

Tonight I met up with a handful of local Vancouver food bloggers, for our semi regular met up. (Areta of “Foodgressing”, Sherman of “Sherman’s Food Adventures”, David of “Picky Diner”, Hanson of “Nosh & Nibbles”, and Kristina of the former “Drunken Noms” fame.)
Just a group of friends coming together to share their common interest. No special treatment, no media access, just six friends having dinner with their own portable lights and high end camera gear.

We made reservations at “Dachi”, the old home of the now shuttered “Campanolo Roma”. And our larger party request came with a warning. There is only room for about 40 patrons total in the smaller space, so we were told our meal and what we would have, would be somewhat dictated by the pace of the kitchen. Just as well, seeing as they don’t have an omakase menu. A list of the chef’s special of the day, like we normally gravitate towards, seeing as no one usually wants to order for the entire group. So we all agreed to allow the kitchen to help give us a taste of their entire menu through servings, on their time.

We were given the only large table, right by the front window, right in front of the bar. The bar that was painted in a medium blue and topped with a marble counter. If you grabbed a seat on one of their matching blue stools, you sat facing three shelves worth of bottles lit in a golden yellow hue. It was well highlighted and well used tonight.

The rest space was kept clean: black tile under foot, wood panels covering the ceiling and two rows of bulbs hanging from them. There wasn’t much in terms of decor, except from my vantage point. Looking up and facing the door I was able to take in the shelf that lined the ceiling. Living plants in urns, a collection of hard covers, and a couple of character figurines.

As for the actual food, be warned, their menu does change quite often. So if you see something below it may no longer be available for you when you actually visit. So call ahead to confirm.

Both of the owners were working the front today. They were great at explaining said menu, giving us the opportunity to ask questions. Like where the name “Dachi” came from. It is the shorten version of “friend” in Japanese. More informal like “buddy” or “pal”. It represented the two owner’s friendship and their partnership in this endeavour.

We began with a few cocktails from off of their specialty drink list. Like their food menu, this too was promised to change and be updated frequently. This month’s offering was themed, each a twist on a city’s classic.

“The people’s word” was a strong drink made from mezcal, green chartreuse, lime, and spiced cherry cordial.

The “Industry standard” was more like a punch by comparison. Made with Sloe gin, dry vermouth, Fernet branch, grapefruit, and lemon sherbert.

The “Home away” was last unique, considering it included their own “house liqueur #1”, along with Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters.

Our table shared two servings of the following appetizers, it gave everyone the ability to have more than just a nibble. And thankfully, seeing as we all enjoyed having a whole “Three year aged cheddar and buttermilk biscuit”. Each slattered with as much of the mutsu apple butter spread as you liked. Although the butter offered very little flavour, it only had a mild salty apple sauce taste, and only if you were looking for it. It was mostly hidden behind the incredibly cheesy and chewy biscuit with airy pockets.

Our table was fond of the burrata and how they paired it with toasted seeds, radicchio, and Anjou pear with PX vinegar. I on the other hand preferred the classic olive oil and balsamic combo. In general I differed from the group, opting for more familiar flavours than the new ones being presented here. I have never had bread like this, with this sort of dressing and combination, but found you needed it all together for balanced bites. The seed butter was pretty prominent, whereas I was looking for more sweetness to pair with the fresh pear, like honey and walnut.

The “Yarrow meadows duck confit croquettes” were nice, each crispy nugget was packed full of pulled duck meat. I would have preferred a sweet and sour plum sauce for dipping, but the smoked golden raisin purée and pickled celery was an interesting take for a sweet and tangy flavour combination. I would suggest eating the pickled celery as a last bite given how strong the pickling was, it was best served as a good palette cleanse.

The “Mushroom and toasted seed perogies” were one of my favourite dishes of the night. But even then, one is plenty, given how much chopped up woodsy mushroom they pack into this nutty pocket. And if you still don’t feel like you have enough mushroom here, they offer a slice of king oyster mushroom on top, along with a celeriac purée to smear into. But what I loved most about this dish was the texture of the doughy and thickness of the shell.

Similarly, I liked the “Gnudi folded with ricotta” for its texture. Each of these little drops came with a great chewy centre. Each well seasoned in a kombu braised leek purée, with toasted buckwheat and sweet onion. This was a great dish, but it left me wanting something fresh, and not just the onion. Maybe some sun choke, carrots, or peas. I also found the crunch of the barley a little much when paired with the soft and and doughy gnudi.

The “Vancouver island Manila clams” were also very lovely. Served in a fragrant roasted onion broth with emulsified egg yolk scattered over top. The broth was so good that when all the clams were gone, I found myself scooping spoons of the plain brown liquids into my gaping mouth. My table mates found its flavour comparable to pho broth. The dish also came with crispy pork belly and crackling, although I didn’t find the dish needed this extra decadence. I ended up eating each element on their own anyways, as I found the pork over powering the calm.

The following entrees were slip between the six of us. At this point we were edging on full, with 4 entrees and 2 desserts still left on our journey to try their entire menu.

The “Country fried steelhead trout” came with salted beets and a horseradish gribiche. The latter served as a grown up tartar sauce. The only element that didn’t flow were the beets, they were well prepared, but didn’t give me country, much like the breading that could have been more chunky and crispy for that same country feel.

I found the “Roasted winter squash stew” comforting. Made with cashew butter, toasted ricotta, and px vinegar this was a rich serving that ate more like a whipped purée. It was thick enough to spread over toast, and I found myself wanting some pita with it.

The “Braised pork cheek” were amazingly tender, a fresh plate with the sun choke, parsnip purée, roasted hazelnut, and oloroso sherry. Shame I was too full to enjoy this in its entirety. If I wasn’t, I would have wanted some more starch with this.

Similarly, the “Twenty four hour roasted beef chuck flat” was tender, but also missing something to make it a full entree. Prepared with heirloom carrot, red miso, Swiss chard.

For dessert I wished there was something lighter, a breezier end to complete our fulsome feast on. Instead we had two very filling and two very decadent desserts to work through.

The “Poached Granny Smith apple” was the lighter of the two; prepared with cider sabayon, spice cake, and ginger mascarpone. The cake was spongy, it came with a creeping spice. I wanted more freshness for it, outside of the tart apple that could have used a longer bake time.

The “69% cocoa chocolate ganache” was a richer dessert. Made with meringue, hazelnut streusel, and a pear vanilla purée. The streusel was a little too crunchy, and I continually sought out more freshness form the fruit. I also wish it was more sweet to compensate for the slight burnt flavour I tasted.

To wash it all down we were treated with a celebratory shot of “Limoncello”. This was a liqueur made locally with Yuzu, chilli, and pepper. It was punchy at 30%. It was just a shame that majority of us drove and weren’t able to full enjoy the shot this late in our meal.

And don’t forget to visit one of their two private washroom stalls. It is papered with fabulous pink flamingos and tropical leaves.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I give them credit for an inventive menu. I found their ingredient combinations and flavour pairings fun, though not something I would seek out again or gravitate to in general. Truthfully I enjoy the familiar, but all my table mates were quick to disagree with me. I liked the space and their location near my neighbourhood, as they would make a great bar to meet a friend at for drinks. I would skip dinner; however, if you believe the stats: 5 out of 6 food bloggers give “Dachi” the green light. Not to mention their next menu will be updating in two weeks, giving diners a more spring inspired offering. Therefore what I had tonight will be completely different, giving me a completely different impression of them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DACHI
2297 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1V3
604-569-0456
dachivancouver.com

The Vancouver Fish Company, Dine Out 2019 menu

This was the last stop on our Granville Island “Dine Out Vancouver” tour. Tonight, we were getting a sneak peak at this year’s celebration with some great seafood themed set meals. “Dine Out” invites those seeking some cheer post-Christmas, out for a nice night, at very reasonable prices. Set menus at either $15, $25, $35, or $45. It is a great way to try something new, at somewhere new. Somewhere you might otherwise not get a chance to, or think of going to, if not for their door crasher prices.

Full disclosure we only got bite sized tastes of the following, so I will do my best to review each based on what I had, and hopefully steer you in the right direction. What to choose between appetizers, entrees, and desserts for best value and taste. But first, I just have to make note of how wonderful their display looked. A layered tower featuring all the available dishes on their $45 “Dine Out” menu, nestled against white table cloth and a collection of wines and the fresh ingredients that go into making them.

“Organic Beet Salad”. Klipper’s Farm organic beets, toasted pistachios, baby arugula, an avocado rosemary vinaigrette, and shaved parmesan. I didn’t get to try this, but I imagine it a simple and clean start.

“VFC Seafood Chowder” with fresh seafood, clams, bacon, and thyme cream. We shot the soup like a shot, and really didn’t get the enjoyable sensation of licking a spoon clean of its creamy texture. But what we got was a mouthful of chewy pieces to bite down on.

I would order the “VFC Maple Walnut Prawns” as my appetizer, with its unique twist. These are lightly fried tempura prawns, dressed in Yuzu mayo, walnuts, toasted sesame, and Togarashi. The topping gave the savoury shrimp a sweet and salty vibe, with the flavour of the walnut, being the one that you paused on.

For entree choices the “Poached Atlantic Lobster” seems like a no brainer. You get the whole Nova Scotia lobster, claws and tail, with everything else in between. Served with a side of Klipper’s Farm organic vegetables, garlic roasted potatoes, and a dish of melted butter. Once again, we didn’t actually get to taste this, so can’t tell you the actual value through the quality of the crustacean, but the perceived one is at least high.

And as great as a whole lobster sounds, the “Seafood Hot Pot” is a sight to behold and an entree worth considering as well. Dungeness crab, pink scallops, prawns, mussels, clams, baby Yukon Gold potatoes, corn, saffron fennel nage, and even garlic toast! With so much variety on the plate, you would be getting your money’s worth from this bowl as well. As for flavour, the broth was like a hot gazpacho, a tomato soup seasoned heavily in herbs. Hiding plenty of shells to pry open and pick clean.

The surf and turf also looked tasty, so I guess you really can’t go wrong with any of their entrees. A 6oz Alberta Striploin paired with a skewer of scallop and prawns; served with confit garlic whipped potatoes, roasted acorn squash, Klipper’s Farm organic vegetable medley, celeriac puree, and red wine jus. Sadly I didn’t get a taste of this one earlier. Hopefully the steak won’t be over cooked.

For dessert they are offering a “New York Cheesecake” prepared traditionally with a strawberry compote and chantilly cream. Also didn’t get to try this one, so won’t be able to assess it for you.

I did however get a taste of the “Apple Tarte Tatin”. A delicious morsel of flaky pastry hiding caramelized Granny Smith apples and cinnamon, served with a scoop of vanilla gelato, melting on top. A perfect pairing of tart apple and sweet spices make up this classic dessert.

In short, a great menu for the ability to choose your entrees from 3 great ones.

 

VANCOUVER FISH COMPANY
1517 Anderson Street, Granville Island, Vancouver BC, V6H 3R5
604-559-3474
vanfish.com

Sandbar Dine Out 2019 menu

Vancouver’s favourite reason to get out and eat out is back for another year. Just in time to help get you out of that post partem Christmas slump. “Dine Out Vancouver” is the festival that invites diners to visit their favourite spot or try new ones offering set meals at either $15, $25, $35, or $45. Three course and a choice to be made for each.

Tonight we were gathered to try what a few seafood restaurants in Granville Island had to offer, and “Sandbar” was stop number 2. Full disclosure we only got bite sized tastes of the following, so I will do my best to review each based on what I had, and hopefully steer you in the right direction. What to choose between appetizers, entrees, and desserts for best value and taste.

“Sandbar” is the Granville Island seafood destination run by the “Sequoia company”. “Sequoia” is known for their uniquely located restaurants that offer a distinctive dining experience based their locale. The “Teahouse” in Stanley Park, “Seasons in the Park” with mountain views from the highest point in the city, and “Cardero’s” in Coal harbour on the water, surrounded by the dock and its boats.

To start, you have your choice of three appetizers. The “Beet & Arugula Salad” was your standard small salad. A fresh collection of greens with goat cheese and a fig balsamic vinaigrette.

The “Sablefish Croquette miso aioli” was a firm round with with a grainy potato-like filling. It had a lingering lemony flavour that I found prominent.

The housemade “Clam Chowder” is the one I recommend. It is a delicious mix of cream with chunks of clams and potato. A warming drink that engulfs you.

For entrees you also get three options to choose between. The vegetarian choice is the “Sapa Rau Bowl” with coconut jasmine rice, lemongrass yogurt, pickled papaya, mushrooms, yams, fresh vegetables, and cashews; all in a Singapore sauce.

I liked the presentation of the “Cioppino prawns” with the criss cross of whole crab legs. Cioppino prawns, mussels, clams, cod, and snow crab. It was a hard choice between this assembly and the steak below.

“7oz Prime New York Striploin” alderwood grilled, with market vegetables and roasted potatoes. A classic, with a good variety of fresh and crisp vegetables.

For dessert your options included a vegan friendly, non dairy sorbet. We didn’t get a taste of this one.

If you like your desserts rich the “Chocolate Truffle Cake” is the one to get. It was a little too dense for me (not being a fan of chocolate), but I did like its smooth velvety texture and the crunch of the crust.

But the dessert I would get is the “Buttermilk Pannacotta berry compote”. This was a great gentle way to end your meal, and cleanse your palette with the strong citrus in the crumb. Half jello, half pudding, pannacotta gives you the best of both.

The following are some bonus dishes. Two ways to upgrade your meal, by upgrading your main. For these you pay $45 for your three courses, instead of $35 for the above.

The “Crab Crusted BC Lingcod” was buttery light. Baked in an oven with market vegetables, and served with coconut jasmine rice; all dressed in beurre blanc. A very sophisticated plate, delicious in its simplicity.

The “Sesame Crusted Albacore Tuna” would be my choice. I enjoyed the fresh sliced, seared rare fish; served with soy mustard, wasabi, and cucumber salsa.

In summary, the “Dine Out” menu at “Sandbar” is a seafood lover’s dream with your choice of what you want from the sea.

 

SANDBAR
1535 Johnston St, Creekhouse #102, Granville Island, Vancouver BC
604-669-9030
vancouverdine.com

Shaughnessy Restaurant at Van Dusen

Today we were here at “Shaughnessy Restaurant”, enjoying a late brunch and killing some time before the Van Dusen light show at 4pm. The former is conveniently located in the latter, and right by the entrance to the show. Thankfully with large windows, this well lit space was comfortable to linger at. The restaurant is lovely, set to the backdrop of the garden, although it is much more eye catching during a lush summer than this barren winter. Similarly, the interior didn’t give you much to look at either. Decorated with winter festive paraphernalia, centred around their main lighting fixture: a mass of bulbs that branches off and leads to others.

I had the “Chorizo skillet”, a chunky hash served in the still hot skillet that it was prepared in. Two eggs, onions, red peppers, arugula, potato, and yams, all drizzled in a spicy hollandaise. It was as dense and as heavy as it looked. Salty and hearty with the spicy hollandaise, the zesty sausage, the punchy peppers, and the wilted arugula’s pepperiness. All together I found it all too overwhelming, to the point that I ate to not waste, and not to enjoy. The potato base wasn’t enough to help buffer and balance the flavours, although the eggs did help to brighten the dish. Sadly I disliked the tough chorizo the most and left them all on the side.

My guest had the “Hot crab and shrimp croissant”, upgrading her meal with a side of clam chowder instead of salad. It didn’t look like much on the plate like this, but each individual element held up on its own.

The soup came highly recommended by our server. It was a thick and creamy serving, chunky with seafood and vegetables.

By comparison the croissant, although buttery and flaky with cheese, was light for a sandwich. The fresh seafood filling was fragrant with the use of dill, and the crunch of celery, made for a nice textural chew to gnaw through.

 

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.
The manager took the time to check in with every table, and our server was very personable. We felt welcomed and took advantage by enjoying a few extra glasses of sparkling wine therein. Although, as it is out of the way for me, I cannot imagine myself traveling back just for a meal. I would do again what I did today, if looking to attend an event at Van Dusen, I may make a reservation for brunch before or dinner after, just to round out a fun night. Don’t deny your cravings.

SHAUGHNESSY
VanDusen Botanical Gardens
5251 Oak Street, Vancouver BC, V6M 4H1
604-261-0011
shaughnessyrestaurant.com
Shaughnessy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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