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Category: seafood Page 1 of 11

21 Days of 1/2 Priced Pasta at Water St. Café

With all that is happening concerning Covid, business closures, and the struggling hospitality industry; the world’s pandemic has been overpowering all the good that usually comes out of the season. The season of giving and the need to help those less fortunate isn’t front and centre, as it has been in the past. So in comes Water Street Cafe, Gastown’s long term staple, determined to do some good, and kick 2021 off on a positive note.

If you visit Water Street Cafe or their second floor dining room and music lounge: 2nd Floor Gastown; they are giving to those willing to give back. Visit between January 1st and the 21st, 2021 with a non-perishable food donation for the Vancouver Food Bank, and you get 50% off any of their pasta dishes. Or buy one get one free if you bring a friend and contribute 2 cans.

There are six pasta options to choose from, and this excludes their 4 gnocchis, unfortunately. However with some pastas around $10 after the discount, it is certainly worth visiting multiple times before the 21st. The following is our top 3 choices that we tried during this visit.

The Spaghetti Alle Vongole was a lightly dressed pasta tossed with a generous amount of manila clams; along side garlic, shallots, white wine, heirloom tomato, and fresh herbs. Be sure to mix up as the sauce does pool. The bare dressing allowed for much of the clam flavour to shine through. But I personally could have used more butteriness to it, and additional cherry tomatoes for their added freshness. At $13.50 half off, this is the time to try it, if you have been eyeing it.

The Pappardelle Bolognese was a classic with its beef, veal and pork sauce made with roma tomato and fresh herbs. When I think of pasta, I think sweet and tangy, so this one hit the mark for me. This was a clean dish that you can make out the quality of ingredients within. And at $9.88 after the promotion, you can’t loose, and might as well order another to go.

The Orecchiette Pesto was our server’s favourite and I can see why. This dish was well balanced with plenty of broccoli florets, alongside the broccoli-basil pesto, roasted garlic, pistachios, and asiago cheese. It wasn’t heavy or rich, but ate more like a pasta salad. It had great flavour and longevity for $10.25, after the donation deal. This one I would order again out of the three, after trying the other 3 available options, of course.

And if you are like me, you aren’t just going to come in to Water Street Cafe for pasta. With their stunning location and breezy, yet sophisticated dining room; you are probably going to want to make a night of it, and order drinks and appetizers to start. Here is what we had.

I ordered the Vancouver Martini made with Odd Society East Van vodka, dry vermouth, and olives. I definitely grew into martinis as my palette evolved and I discovered the art of holding spirits in specific parts of your tongue. Then chasing it with sharp flavours, like the olives, to leave the best lasting impression in your mouth. This cocktail is a winner in those regards.

My guest had the Earl Grey Old Fashion. A twist on the classic with Jim Beam bourbon, earl grey syrup, bitters, orange peel, and a cherry. It was a lovely spirit, but it kept me looking for the nuance of the black tea, and left me missing the smokiness of an Old Fashion completely.

We followed our cocktails with 9oz of the house red blend each. Red, to best pair with our pastas above. This was a red that grew on you, a medium body that ran well with the salty cheeses of our pasta specials above.

As for appetizers, before we even made our selection, the chef sent over a lovely amuse bouche, as a thoughtful gesture. A dollop of their Salmon Tartar over a cucumber slice, which so happened to be one of the starters we were considering. This was smoked and raw BC salmon, cucumber, dill, shallot, sesame, and avocado; in a ponzu reduction. The perfect fragrant bite to wet our appetites with, and allow us to try something else.

Like the Bison Carpaccio. This is the dish I like to order for those who have yet to visit Water Street Cafe. It is a sumptuous offering that really showcases the restaurant’s fine yet approachable style. It is Albertan Bison, pink peppercorn, shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, greens, and crispy capers. Despite the list of bold flavours, was a completely balanced dish with the cheesy cream sauce, hint of truffle, the tangy capers, and the peppery salad.

It is best paired with additional freshness from the Burrata Caprese. Heirloom and Roma tomatoes, basil, salsa verde, white balsamic glaze, sun dried tomato pesto, and himalayan pink salt. I love the delicate yet bold flavours of this starter, whereas my guest didn’t find it salty enough. I definitely suggest catering the perfect bite by layering all the above mentioned ingredients together for a harmonious mouthful.

In the heart of Gastown, with the best seat in the house, I definitely recommend a visit to Water Street Cafe if you haven’t been in, in while; or have never gotten a chance to. Where else can you better people watch and take in the hourly chimes and steam of Gastown’s favourite monument? Plus you have until January 21st, 2021 to do good and eat well for less. Half off pasta are worth travelling for.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
waterstreetcafe.ca

Ancora Downtown, First Table 1 year anniversary in Vancouver

Time as been flying by, it was only a year ago since “First Table” launched their early bird dining website in Vancouver, the premise dine early at select restaurants and save money. I don’t know about you, but this idea just makes sense. First of all, who else gets hungry right after work? Why snack when you can eat fully and enjoy plenty. Two, studies show it is better to stop eating before 7pm, to allow your body to fully use/process the fuel you earn from the food you eat. So eating earlier than later just makes sense. And if you are like me, you work early and start your day earlier, why wait to eat dinner with everyone else who sleeps in and works late?

So in celebration of the app’s one year anniversary, and with the desire to dine out at a nicer restaurant, I sought out my bubble buddy, and we had a classy dinner at Ancora’s downtown, water front location.

Despite the earlier sun sets and the blanketing darkness that renders their all window restaurant front moot, the interior opulent setting is view enough. Vaulted ceilings, sparkling tiled floors and a glitzy chandelier cascading over head. A lovely setting as you eat, separated by plexiglass from the adjacent table.

Today we would begin our dinner with a bottle of champagne and a platter of caviar. A special pairing every Wednesday for $200, for two. There is no better way to set up date night right than this sumptuous bounty, guaranteed to impress. Chilled bubbles and all the fixings you need to enjoy your salted fish egg delicacy. A round of dough, egg whites, egg yolks, minced onion, chives, and a creamy spead; topped as you like it.

Next, came their complimentary array of focaccia and breads, served with a spiced hummus. I found this a lovely way to showcase the array of flavours to come.

For our meal we tried a few dishes from Ancora’s winter menu. Starting with a trio of smoked prawns over golden potato, crispy quinoa, guacamole, and a panca emulsion. The flavour of the smoke came through on the prawns. A char that was accentuated by the creaminess of the pillow of mashed potato. As a whole this dish spoke well to the Japanese-Peruvian concept of the kitchen.

Next we had a beef tartare made with tenderloin, topping a slice of sourdough, finished with sunny side up egg and cured egg yolk shreds. The colours of the raw beef and the boldness of the egg yolk was appealing. But be warned, things do get messy if you bite into the runny yolk. It’s oozing centre lends itself to the moistened tartar, adding additional to the contrast of the crispy toasted bread.

The steelhead trout with braised daikon, broccolini, shimeji, and Nikkei grains spoke to the current fishing season. This pink fleshed trout was deliciously refined with the gentle vegetables and the simple and clean pour over dashi. The umami-ness of the broth warmed me to my core. I found this perfect for the chill of fall, going back for spoon after spoon of the savoury, clear liquid. I ate this more like soup than entree, drinking the bowl clean.

But the most memorable dish of the night had to be the scallops with, ajo blanco, huacatay sorbet, black pudding, and drunk apples. If scallops were made into a dessert, this would be it. The sweetness of the marinated apple came through in the foam mixed with pisco and simple syrup. The addition of apple chunks elevated the flavour, and the chew of the heavy blood pudding offered a contrast that made bolder everything else on the plate.

I would highly recommend saving room for dessert as their guava creme burlee is one of a kind, and worth indulging in. The flavour of the exotic fruit was not hidden behind custard or cream. I liked the visual appeal of the chocolate, Christmas themed garnish; however found its slightly bitter flavour overpowering. Instead, I preferred the grapefruit and its citrus to add some freshness and pop to the dessert.

Admittedly I came into dinner apprehensively. I have had dinner previous to this and it fell short on expectations, based on my perception of the name and the setting I took in. So, tonight I am happy to report that with a new chef at the helm, Ancora downtown feels like a new space, and one that is living up to its opulent persona.

Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio – False Creek
1600 Howe St #2, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2L9
(604) 681-1164
ancoradining.com

Water St. Café, take out

With the need to distance yourself socially, given the viral landscape we are currently living in, local restaurants are doing what they can to stay a float during these uncertain times. Many of them, such as “Water St. Cafe” are offering customers promotional pricing and deals. Like if you purchase a $50 “Water St. Cafe” gift card you get a second one at $15. It doesn’t need to be gifted. If you are planning on purchasing take out from them, you might as well buy a gift card to use as payment. The two together covers a full meal including appetizer, entree, and desert.

You can’t dine in, but you can still have the perfect romantic date night date by setting the mood for yourself, at home. And I can speak from experience, their food taste just as good out of biodegradable, cardboard take out boxes as it does from off of their dish ware served on their white clothed tables. Albeit, you don’t get their stunning view of the Gastown clock, but as a whole it can be whatever you make out of it.

Their full menu is available for take out or delivery via “Skip The Dishes” and “Uber Eats”. The following is what we ordered to celebrate the first day of spring. It is all about the little things right now, simple joys and any reason to be jovial. I suggest taking them all. Plus, indulging like this also supports local businesses like “Water St.” who have been serving Gastown for the last 32 years.

The “Water St. Salad” is a popular appetizer to share. A dressed bowl of Tuscan greens topped with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, half an avocado, pumpkin seeds, and cucumber; all coated in a honey lemon olive oil vinaigrette. A light start, better served as a side to accompany all the food before us.

The “West Coast crab cakes” are declared a “Water Street Cafe tradition” by the menu. A battered and deep fried round that includes Pacific rock crab and baby shrimp, served with preserve citrus, fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. Another light plate to wet the appetite with. A little bland as is, but ideal with the aioli that helps to brighten the serving up; along with a side of fennel for some crunch.

The “Short rib pappardelle” is one that never disappoints. It features 72 hour braised short rib raguet, confit garlic, fresh basil, and Asiago cheese. A comforting serving that fully satisfies with its sheets of thick el dente noodles, evenly coated in the sweeter tomato sauce and tender pulled meat. This is one I recommend.

The “Grilled wild bc salmon” was a great one to kick off spring with. Made with balsamic and honey pickled blueberries, and served with pan roasted potatoes. A flavourful main that I would have liked best if the salmon was left a little more raw, for a more silken texture. Something with a lot more moisture to offer in contrast to the soften potatoes, crisp veggies, and juicy berries.

The “Braised beef short rib” was a stunning plate. Two generous pieces of sous vide Prince Edward Island beef topped one over the other, on a bed of herb crushed potato, crispy onions, and a pool of hoisin jus. Another comfortable main that gave you the flair of fine dining with the familiarity of a causal, non pretentious plate. Tender meat and fresh vegetables, tried and true.

And for dessert we had the “Lemon tart” with housemade lemon crude, apricot glaze, and berry coulis. This, my guest raved about.

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.
For delicious, classic staples that are dressy yet comfortable and familiar, look to “Water St. Cafe” for a meal that doesn’t disappoint. And doing so now with their spend $50 get $15 back giftcard promo adds great value to your take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
http://www.waterstreetcafe.ca/menus/

Holy Crab, brunch

Today, breakfast practitioner and enthusiastic food lover, Diana of @foodologyca and I were out for brunch. We stopped at the well known, Louisiana inspired seafood shack: “Holy Crab”. Here, to try their seafood focused brunch, the entire menu’s worth. Be warned, if you order as much as we did, it does take some time for all of it to come out. With so many different components per dish, (from a kitchen that typically offers simply steamed seafood or deep fried snacks), these were a bit more complex to push out.

“Holy Crab” might not have the most extensive brunch menu, but for what they do have, they stand out. Any brunch place can do eggs Benedicts, but where else can you get it topped with blackened catfish, a crab cake, or lobster as the main protein? Given all the options above and smoke salmon, we decided on the “lobster klaws”. Because when given a choice, lobster is always the way to go. But sadly the claw meat wasn’t as expected, I wanted buttery and juicy, but it came out dry. We should have taken our server’s suggestion and gotten the crab cakes instead, in hindsight I am certain that, that would have been the best option. Be warned, you want to dig into this one quickly as the slightly spiced, creamy hollandaise does congeal and the lobster meat does harden as they cool. But the biscuit base we choose over the regular English muffin one stood the test of time. And it proved to be a great variation on a classic breakfast staple, especially with perfectly poached, ooey and gooey yolk that dropped down its sides.

Available during brunch, but great any time of day is their seafood grilled cheese served with the soup of the day. You started with a grilled cheddar and mozzarella sandwich and to it can add shrimp or lobster, or keep it the classic cheese only. Made with whole wheat toast, it is full of seeds and finished with a deep grill. The toast choice made it crispier and heartier than most; ideal for all the large chunks of lobster we choose as our filling today. This is another one to eat quick, before the bread gets soggy and the cheese oiler than necessary. Though if that is the case, a dip in soup is an easy remedy.

Today’s soup was a seafood chowder. It was thick, yet bright with a slow back of your throat spice. I especially liked the chunks of potato and clam bobbing about, giving it a watery stew texture. But truth be told, this was better by itself or with a side of garlic toast, to better highlight the soup. And the grilled cheese best with a tomato bisque to give the sandwich some needed tang.

The “Breakfast poutine” took the Canadian favourite of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. And to the assembly added an egg to give it more of a breakfast feel. Followed by some shrimp and snow crab claws to make it “Holy Crab” specific, with their Cajun-spiced fries. The result, an easy to graze on skillet. Tasty, but I was left wanting more diversity in my seafood, not just shrimp. Maybe some squid rings and scallop, plus the crab claw meat shredded over top. A little more panache to elevate the serving to the impressive standing of the others dishes. This felt very normal, comparatively.

For a lighter offering the “toast board” gave you two open face slices of toast, served with their rice salad. The latter was a chilled mix of black bean, corn, and wild rice. I didn’t find that the salad added anything to the board, or was even all that complimentary given the toast options available like shrimp and egg or vegetarian with avocado and spouts. A regular leafy green and tomato side salad would have been nicer. Better served as a full break from all the flavour each toast was bringing.

As for the actual toast, the menu doesn’t include any sweet breakfast options, so we sought out the banana toast with sliced banana, peanut butter, chopped toasted walnut, and a caramel drizzle. However, they didn’t have bananas on this day, so we opted for two savoury choices instead.

The smoke salmon was a familiar classic made with cream cheese, capers, shallots, and fresh dill. A fresh bite that offered a break between the heavier, denser plates before and after.

I also liked the truffled scramble egg toast as a palette refresher. A black truffle tapenade spread over crispy broiled white bread, topped with fluffy scrambled egg; and seasoned with truffle oil, Cajun spices, and chives. There was no mistaking the truffle flavour in this.

I was most excited for the Southern fried chicken and pancakes”, out of preference. No seafood in this one, just a twist in the batter and the spices used. Southern fried chicken seasoned with their signature Cajun spices, served on top of three fluffy cornmeal buttermilk pancakes. I liked the thorough crunch that the breaded chicken had, but wanted more meat on bone and seasoning to have gone through. There was gravy, but it was better suited to the poutine (as they are both use the same gravy). I could also make out the taste of oil and the need of plenty of pepper to balance it. To take it in a sweeter direction, there was also some maple syrup served on the side. It was nice, but I didn’t add any of it as the pancakes were served pre-dressed in jam and syrup with the butter melting slowly over them. This I felt this added unnecessary decadence to the dish. Whereas I would have liked the pancakes undressed and therefore less soggy, to better match the the crispy crunch of the chicken. Instead, they were sticky sponges that served as a base. Although given how stunning this looks, I ain’t even mad. This dish was all about presentation; a leaning tower topped with thyme and it worked.

The next dish I didn’t like out of personal preference, but I had to give it a bite in order to say that I have had “Holy Crab’s” entire brunch menu. The “Egg Sardou” are poached eggs and more of the Cajun hollandaise over artichoke hearts and creamed spinach. So basically a keto take on eggs benny, plus an toast or two. This is available as a half serving and a full. The texture of wilted greens makes me gag, so I worked my way around it. Not for me, but I recognize it as a very creative alternative for those who are looking for something more lean.

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 conclusion a great spot for seafood lovers, and those looking for a differing kind of brunch. With no other options in the are they are your go-to. Don’t deny your cravings.

HOLY CRAB
1588 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2G5
604-661-8533
theholycrab.ca

Pokey Okey, Burnaby

Rejoice fans of “Pokey Okey”, you no longer need to travel all the way to Richmond to get your fresh fish and vegetable fix over rice in a bowl. Their second location is now open in Burnaby, just past Metrotown. A small shop with limited seating, no tables, and plenty of containers to take your poke to go.

Due to this being their soft launch they were only offering 3 types of poke today. Each is colour coded based on a feature ingredient, making it pretty easy to differentiate between the three. Therefore, I won’t be able to cover the entirety of their menu in this post, not until they are officially open the last weekend of February, leading into March.

You order at the counter and can watch your bowl being assembled before your eyes. Rice and/or greens first, salad and pickled vegetable next, followed by seasoned seafood, and crunchy toppings. All with multiple sauces drizzled over, at various layers.

The “yellow bowl” was bright and sunny with chunks of ripe mango, a pineapple salsa, sweet corn kernels, a sweet omelette, and a puffed tempura topping; along side non yellow items like spicy salmon, scallop salad, seaweed salad, pickled onions, and seaweed flakes over salad greens and your choice of brown or white rice.

The “red bowl” got its name from the chunks of spicy salmon, ahi tuna, kimchi, bacon bits; and an eye catching, perfectly round scoop of flying fish roe. The non red items included seaweed salad, purple cabbage, pickled carrot and radish, with seaweed flakes over more leafy greens and white or brown rice.

The “green bowl” had plenty of soy beans, wasabi peas and seaweed salad; along side ahi tuna, salmon, purple cabbage, pickled onions, seaweed flakes, wasabi mayo, and capelin roe. The tiny fish eggs were a showstopper for me, they had me favouring the two bowls they crowned.

And this weekend you can get anyone of the above for free! Just head down to “Pokey Okey” Burnaby for your free bowl February 29th and March 1st. And while you are there, be sure to tag their pink wall with some chalk art!

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked what I had today as their most popular bowls, but would definitely like to come back to try the full extent of their actual menu before making any judgements. Especially as this was my first time visiting their brand. (Haven’t been to the Richmond location yet.) Don’t deny your cravings.

POKEY OKEY
4919 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 2E5
(604) 423-9339
pokeyokey.com

Sanbo Chinese Restaurant

For our latest food blogger meet up, our group decided to take advantage of the timing, and themed our dinner around Chinese New Year, (which actually lasts for 15 days). We made “San Bo” our destination, given that a few of us have been before and have vouched for the food.

The restaurant is located in an outdoor plaza, with plenty of parking available. The restaurant is easy to spot with its bright awning marked with a spiny king crab. Normally the restaurant is bustling, but given the medical state of emergency that is plaguing the world currently, there was nothing but a quite whisper at this Chinese restaurant in Richmond. Many of the tables remained empty during our 2 hour dinner.

Our group of 7 gathered around a large table centred by a lazy Susan. We ordered based on things returning guests have had and liked, and to it added on a few interesting sounding dishes. The English menu is fairly easy to read, but with very little photos and names/descriptions like “preserved ham”, you aren’t quite sure what you will be getting.

Our feast began with a lotus root and pork bone soup that we would serve ourselves. A murky broth that was warming to the bone. Deliciously satisfying with bits of meat to maw on as you sip. So good that I helped myself to another serving immediately after finishing the first.

The “Whole Soy chicken” comes highly recommend, and you have to order it ahead of time, given the need to marinade the chicken for an extended period of time before. The end result: the chicken’s skin was flavourful with sweet soy, but the actual chicken meat a little dry for my tastes. It was good, but comparatively, this wasn’t my favourite of everything we had. There was just so much good food to follow.

Like their “Famous curry beef tendon” this is one you order for its texture. Jiggly pieces of tendon, firm meat, and potatoes boiled for so long that they almost melt; all coated in a sweet curry with a slight spiciness. This was of my favourites that I would order again.

The “Crab and sticky cake special sauce” came with some theatrics. The crab was fished out of the tank live, and presented to our table before preparation. You are paying for it by pound, so this way you get to assess the size and freshness of your meal to come. In this case it was 2.8lbs. I like the taste of the crab in the peppery sauce, but the amount of work you have to put in to cracking its shell and peeling meat from it, takes away from its deliciousness. Especially as this dish does tend to cool down fast. Either way, I was plenty happy simply chewing on the rice cakes that surrounded it. I did try the guts\brains of the crab for the very first time. It was so bitter and acrid that I immediately spit it out. I have seen guests fight for it, but this one was not for me.

I also really enjoyed the “Spicy shrimp with vermicelli hot pot”. It came sizzling, remaining warm well into the meal. We didn’t order any rice, so this served as the carbs/base you wanted to eat, with some of the more protein forward dishes. Although it was plenty tasty as is, especially with the large butterflied shrimp that topped it.

The dish that stole the show for the table was the “House special salted egg with deep fried fish skin”. At $28 you get this much, made fresh to order. It is well worth it when compare it to the pre-packaged bags of salted egg yolk fish skins that are trendy now. But bring friends because it is a lot, and I personally couldn’t see myself eating more than 4-5 pieces at most, in a sitting. It is best enjoyed right when it hits the table, warm. Although is just as crispy and crunchy towards the end of the meal as well.

The “Fish lips and duck feet” we ordered based on its name, and the novelty of saying something so bizarre aloud. Chewy textures saucy in a thick gelatinous stew. Another one you order for texture and its unique mouth-feel.

Feeling like we needed some greens to balance out the deep fried items and all the meat and seafood, we order d the “Garlic pea tips”. This action is very typical at most multi-course Chinese feasts. I am not a fan of the texture of wilted greens, so passed on this one. Besides, reading its name I expected crisp peas in pods.

The “Sweet and sour pork” was a classic, not something I haven’t had before, but much better prepared than I have had it previously, at food courts stalls. Sticky and sweet chunks of breaded meat that hit the spot with a balance of refreshing pineapple and sharp peppers.

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.
We were skeptical about being able to finish it all, but impressed ourselves. The food was that good, and we left plenty satisfied because of it. Overall, an amazing meal, I can see why half of our party wanted to return today. I have no qualms over a revisit in the near future, and simply ordering everything we had tonight. Don’t deny your cravings.

SANBO
4600 No 3 Rd Unit 121, Richmond, BC V6X 2C2
(604) 278-2616

Water St. Café

Admittedly I have frequented “Water St. Cafe” a handful of times, but on each visit it was for an event and during such an occasion the experience is much different. A full house with standing room only, and nibbles to graze on, as you sip on glasses of bubbles and wine. So tonight my guest and I were excited to join them for a simple dinner for two, in Gastown.

The restaurant is better known for their fine dining vibe, a modern upscale spot with dim lights, flickering candles, and white table cloths. The best seat in the house is definitely the corner table on the first floor. It over looks the cross section of Cambie and Water Street, with a clear view of the iconic steam clock. Not to mention all the folks taking photos of it, as it bongs and releases plumes of smoke into the night sky.

We were given a table upstairs, to be able to take in the live music they were promoting on this Monday night. That, and the restaurant was fairly business on what others deem a “slow night”. The server led us through a maze of large parties, past their marble counter bar, ascending up the carpeted staircase that spiral. On the second floor there are individual rooms for group events, as well as some pocketed seating that gave you seclusion for your party.

We were seated at a table for two with a view overlooking Gastown’s streets, right in front of the lit “stage”. A curtain of LED string lights set the stage literally. We arrived just as our local and live entertainment were setting up for their set. Across the evening they would perform melodic covers and their own music played across a guitar, base, and drums. I found the live music element a wonderful surprise, and was delighted to be able to take this in. It definitely elevated our evening and experience. That, and the food to come.

We enjoyed wine with our five dishes below, including the amuse bouche that came first. Instead of it being something the chef whipped up with left over ingredients, our amuse bouche was actually available for ordering off the regular menu, but in a more compact size for sampling. Instead of the “Smoked BC salmon plate, this was a bite each of smoked BC salmon served over a crostini with dill cream cheese spread. This was a great treat, a crowd pleaser elevated with the inclusion of red onions, crispy capers, and a sweet balsamic vinegar drizzle. All together a classic flavour that doesn’t disappoint. The balsamic lent sweetness to the assembly, the capers a sharp tanginess, and the radish some crunch.

Next we had the “Bison carpaccio” for our appetizer. Pink pepper corn crusted canadian bison, sliced thin as tracing paper, topped with shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, and crispy capers. This was a dish that had you choosing your own perfect bite. The truffle elevated it, and the freshness of the raw onion and the pepperiness in the greens came together, offering layered depth. Everything was wonderfully paired. Except I wanted a base with it, something to make this a heartier bite. Although at the same time, I didn’t want to dilute such an interesting flavour combination with a starch. In short, I wanted a meatier bite to the wafer thin bison I was enjoying so much.

For our vegetable course we had “Lamb lollipops and kale”. The perfectly prepared lamb made this salad a lot more approachable. Rosemary marinated, grilled lamb chops with charred radicchio, baby kale, and salsa verde. The lamb was good on its own, but the leaves it sat on offered freshness and a nice citrusy seasoning for the savoury meat. Alone, the kale salad had points of bitterness, and hints of mint.

The “West coast crab cakes” were declared a “Café tradition!”, so we had to give it a try. A blend of pacific rock crab, baby shrimp, and preserved citrus with fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. It was fragrant with the diced peppers, a notable taste paired with the sweet crab meat. As for the sauce you smear your crispy crab puck in to, it was mild enough that it doesn’t over power, but rather accented the lot with notes of marmalade on the tongue and in the nose.

And for our entree we had the “16oz Ribeye steak and frites.” A grilled 16oz bone in AAA canadian ribeye, prepared medium rare. Smothered in a three peppercorn mushroom sauce and served with cajun seasoned frites on the side. We well received this classic. The perfect amount of fat to lean beef, with a pink centre. Easy to slice through with a peppery sauce that perks it and the fries up. Fully satisfied with this one. No complaints.

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 conclusion this was an amazing night. Everything was on point from the one or a kind view, to the cozy interior decorated with Christmas flourishes, to the live music surprising and delighting. And most importantly the food that was amazing, a classic menu prepared well and as expected on what typically isn’t a peak night. “Water St.” did not disappoint! Don’t deny your cravings.

WATER ST. Cafe
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
waterstreetcafe.ca

H Tasting Lounge, Winter High Tea

There are a handful of cafes and tea salons offering a Christmas themed high tea this season. But “H Tasting Lounge” is setting itself apart with their Ferris wheel display, the ability to have mulled wine with your finger sandwiches, and to enjoy live music with it all.

Their festive tea is only available on weekends, from November 30th to December 29th, from 11:30am to 4:30pm. The cost is $55 per person. After reading the press release, I ventured down to be the first person to try it, on what should have been its release date. However, due to complications with the menu, it was delayed for the following week. So I ended up dining with them the first day, tasting from their new winter menu instead; and then returning a week later to try the official winter tea service. This post will be an accumulation of the two visits.

I am a huge fan of “H Tasting Lounge’s” modern space. It speaks to luxury with velvet furniture in soft pastels, metallic throw pillows, and gold panel detailing with a 20’s flair. The latter, a remnant of the aviation themed bar they originally launched as. We grabbed my favourite seat, within the open space. One of the two c-shaped booths in the corner, by the patio entrance. A crushed blue velvet backdrop in your very own booth. It hugs you and your guests, whilst offering just the right amount of intimacy for two.

High tea starts with a box of loose leaf teas to sort and sniff through. You un-lid each vial and make your choice based on smell, much like a sensory menu.

Given that I was the very first person, during the very first service of this, they were still working out the kinks. Meaning we weren’t given the option for either of their two seasonal teas; which we would have ordered. The “Tealeaves Nutcracker Black Tea Blend” and/or the “Tealeaves Organic Herbal Sugar Plum Fairy”. So in the this case, I went for their “organic vanilla rooibos” instead.

Teas is served in a modern white and gold gilded tea pot that matches with your cup and saucer. It comes with milk and sugar, should you need it.

Although, I am more partial to their alcoholic drink options, and highly recommend either their “Mulled Wine” or “Miracle on Bayshore Dr.” cocktail. The latter a mix of rye, brandy, gingerbread syrup, milk, whole egg, and marshmallows. But today I went with the mulled wine, because where else can you get mulled wine (not at an outdoor market)? Here it is made with red wine, holiday spices, brandy, and peach schnapps. The wine is steeped with sugar plum tea leaves, and infused with clove cinnamon and star anise. After one sip, I concluded that I much rather a glass of mulled wine indoors, with each sip furthering my warmth.

Looking for another hot beverage to get tipsy on? They also have a lovely “Rye chai”, served warm in a tea pot. Made with rye, mezcal, apricot, falernum, lemon, and chai. It was a strong sipper, but I didn’t get much of the chai flavour I anticipated. Good hot or cold with the natural burn of the alcohol fuelling things.

For something just as festive, but packed with ice, their “Cranberry cobbler” offers dessert in a glass. Gin, cranberry, all spice dram, and lemon. This was refreshing and effervescent, with the cranberry offering its unique blend of sweetness and tartness.

As for the actual food portion of the tea service, it is a combination of savoury and sweet bites swinging back and forth on their precarious Ferris wheel. Take it from first hand experience, it is best to remove all the elements from the tower before you start eating. Emptying one glass plate throws off the balance of the entire apparatus, and spinning it has plates catching on to one another. Worst case scenario, everything falls and you have mashed cake on the table.

The follow is what we had, in the order in which we ate it. From lightest to heaviest, savoury to sweet, starting with the soup. Served in a shot glass, the “Squash Soup” with an herb and cheese crisp was a sumptuous start. A thick and creamy soup, so rich that it could function as a sauce, especially when dipping the crispy flaky cheese twist into it. I wanted a larger bowl of this, to enjoy alongside the sandwich I liked below.

This was a savoury bite reminiscent of the season: “Confit Turkey Sandwich” with apple butter and cranberries. It reminded me of a classic turkey dinner all in one easy to eat handheld. Juicy, pulled, white turkey meat, sage and thyme seasonings, and pops of sweet cranberry. The only thing that was missing was a cup of gravy to smother it all in, thanksgiving turkey style.

My favourite feature of the set was the “Tourtière”. A savoury ground meat pie with a golden brown buttery crust, topped with a crispy fragrant sage leaf. This was just beautifully done. I have had my fair share of this Québécois classic, and to date this is my favourite.

Not winter specific, but familiar to any high tea tower is the “Smoked Salmon & Cucumber sandwich”. The “H Tasting” version is served on rye bread. This is a classic that tasted exactly as you expect it to.

Similarly, there were scones included, scones being another staple to any good tea tower. Each was a perfectly crafted raisin scone: crispy, flaky, and crumbly all in one. It was just as shame that they didn’t make them with the cranberries and thyme that was used to decorate the plate. This would have spoken better to the holiday theme. Though it didn’t stop me from taking a bite of the scone and popping thyme and cranberry into my mouth after it. The scones also come with a jar of orange fruit spread and clotted cream, though the former wasn’t necessary given how much dried fruit there is already on the plate and within the scones themselves.

The menu described this as the “Festive Cotton Candy Bonsai Tree”. I understand the “tree” part, with the mental object being the “trunk” that the round of green and pink cotton candy sat on. However, I was still missing the “festive” portion of it. It could have been flavoured like peppermint, or given a sprinkle of powdered sugar for snow. It didn’t speak to Christmas, but instead spring. Nonetheless it was fun to eat, we enjoyed pulling tuffs from this impressively spun cloud of sugar.

Next we moved on to the dessert portion of our high tea service. Here, we learned that all the restaurant’s pastries are outsourced by “Faubourg Bakery”. They were okay, but I wasn’t expecting this from a hotel property of this caliber. And maybe if it was all made in house, I might have liked them more.

The “Yule Log” was the visual show stopper, it immediately spoke to the holiday with almond jaconde, praline, and ganache. It had a nice chocolatey hazelnut flavour, but a little too sweet for my taste. My guest on the other hand was not only enamoured by this visual, but liked its taste as well.

I couldn’t taste the gingerbread mousse or cranberry compote from the “Festive Profiterole”. The shell was a little soggy and the spices lacking. This wasn’t as memorable as I had hoped.

I preferred the mild flavour of the “Frangipane Cake” with spiced pear and almond. A dense cake that is a little on the dry side. Though the pear in its syrupy coating helped to moisten the two bite treat, flavouring it with hints of cinnamon and apple.

I also didn’t get any gingerbread in the “Gingerbread Cake”. The sponge was chewy with a burnt caramel flavour, and the black currant mousse tasted more like raspberry with its tartness and colour. Sadly, it was bolder in hue than taste.

Overall, I preferred the savoury options to the sweet. None of the desserts, outside of the Yule log, felt or look all that seasonal. Much like the restaurant’s decor, there wasn’t much in terms of Christmas flare. A tree or two outside the restaurant and the ability to cozy up with one of their fur blankets if you get cold. I wanted peppermint, more gingerbread, and/or eggnog. More embellishments and more red and green as the holiday is known for. The Ferris wheel wasn’t even decorated in tinsel. It could have been hung with metallic balls. And the cotton candy bonzai, could have easily been reinvented into a cotton candy Christmas pine with coloured sprinkles and a candied star topper. I am still glad I got to try it, and can’t hold the pastries against them, considering it wasn’t prepared by “H Tasting” go begin with.

But if you are looking for something more heartier, they do have their new winter food menu out as well. The following is what we tried from it.

Their new persimmon dish is the fruit sliced thin like carpaccio and topped with kohlrabi and a sesame praline, then drizzled in a mint and orange blossom vinaigrette. I was surprised by how satisfying this was, and how much it ate like a fulsome dish. Everything came together for a complimentary collection of flavours and textures, with the candied granola being the standout. Tangy and sweet, crunchy and refreshing, and altogether one worth trying, during your next visit.

Something just as light and refreshing, yet satisfying is the new “Burrata” dish. Fresh Burrata from California, topped with Northern Divine caviar; sitting on top of a creamy pea purée, with a fresh pea shoot salad. You eat the cheese like a spread, smeared on top of crispy crostini. The greens add some pepperiness, the purée some sweetness, and the caviar a certain level of elevation that I expect from the setting. Wonderfully simple, yet indulgent.

We also ordered their seafood platter. It is available in three sizes. Small, medium, large; each incrementally giving you more food, although not more variety. So I advise ordering the small version, like we did; and supplementing it with appetizers like we had above. The result, a beautifully fresh collection of kusshi oysters, poached prawns; and halibut carpaccio with a house made carrot kimchi. All served with fresno oil, mignonette, and a cocktail sauce flavoured with gin for dipping. I wouldn’t recommend pairing the kimchi with the gentle white fish, the former was overpowering, and you want to taste the natural flavour of the halibut. In fact, I am not m sure why one is put over the other. I did like the substitution of carrots for cabbage in this spicy fermented mix. This change gave a dish I tend to avoid, a new texture profile I actually like. (I am not a fan of the texture of wilted greens).

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 honestly wish that the property was closer to a skytrain station, so I could and would frequent it more often. And with continuous updates to their menu like so, they are giving me multiple reasons to take the commute. Highly recommended for a good time. Don’t deny your cravings.

H TASTING LOUNGE
1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
604-682-3377
htastinglounge.com

Westcoast Poké, FEAST: Asian Dining Festival

Today I was back at Richmond, in town for another “Feast: Asian Dining Festival” destination. This is the annual event that gets diners down to Richmond, with the goal of seeking out over 30 participating restaurants. Running from now until November 18th, “Feast” offers you a chance to try somewhere new, at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

For my journey to the island city, I was loaned the use of the 2020 “Subaru Ascent”. And although Richmond is convenient to get to via the Canada skytrain, nothing beats a comfortable ride in a well build vehicle. And it got us safely to “West Coast Poke”.

There are a handful of poke places vying for your attention, but this one focuses on ingredients from the west coast and themes their bowls as such. And with the “Feast” menu you are able to try two of them, with 2 of their house made drinks, and a side of your choice, all for $25. And truly this is such a great deal. More than enough food for leftovers, and a drink that compliments all of the above.

You are able to choose between 1 of their 5 classic bowls and have it assembled to your specifications. You choose your base from brown rice, white rice, or greens. And how spicy you want things, then what crunchy toppings you’d like to finish it off with.

I choose the “Tidal” poke after noticing the “fresh-in” tag beside its name, but regret not getting any tuna or salmon because of it. Prawn, togarashi, scallion, pickled red onion, cucumber, pineapple, avocado, jalapeño, gochu garlic aioli sauce, and a citrus ponzu sauce. I enjoyed all the flavours, but would have liked them with fish instead.

My guest had the “Smoke” Poke, a spicy bowl with a warning of a chilli pepper logo by its name. This one featured albacore tuna, a burnt miso chilli oil, Thai chilli, scallion, jalapeño, cucumber, radish, ginger, spicy crab salad, pineapple, and a miso ginger glaze. Minus the heat, I preferred the flavour and the fish of this more.

But what really stole the show for me was the side salad. You had your choice between a fruit and seaweed salad, but when you see the name “crack salad”, that is clearly the one you get. It did not disappoint, this crab based salad had me going back for more. And I thought of mixing it to my shrimp bowl to give it more depth. The “crack salad” is made with crab, mango, avocado, cucumber, fried onions, a miso ginger soy, a maple soy sauce, and chopped nori.

For drinks we got one of each of their options, a nice mild peach tea and a sharp and refreshing lemonade. Made in house ahead of time, and poured into individual plastic cups for each dispensing.

Worth noting is how friendly the staff on shift were, we closed the shop down and told them we would rush as to not keep them later than necessary. However, they reassured us that it was quite alright, as they would still be here cleaning up anyways. They even offered us additional slices of avocado and portions of miso soup, as to not have to waste any of it at the end of the night.

The “charred nori miso” was brilliant. You got a nice umami flavour from the mushrooms they used. It warmed you up, which is a nice contrast to the served cold chilled seafood rice bowls before it.

We enjoyed everything so much so, that we decided to order two more bowls to go, to be able to try more of their menu. My guest ordered the “Pacific” bowl, as she was toying with either this or the smoke bowl earlier. This is their most popular bowl and a lot less spicy with albacore tuna, cilantro, cucumber, pickled red onion, crab salad, pineapple, mango, and a green mango curry sauce. It was fairly light and citrus forward, whereas I prefer punchier flavours like the feature bowl below.

I was intrigued by their “Hola Hola” poke bowl, it read like and tasted like nachos. Hot chilli cheese over a taco salad. Made with albacore tuna, pickled red onion, radish, black beans, blackened corn, avocado, a smokey sriracha aioli, and a tortilla chip crunch. Definitely a heavier bowl, and one for those who like the flavours of tex mex.

Glad to have been turn on to this poke franchise by “Feast: Asian Dining Festival”. For more of the other participating restaurants, check out their website below. https://asianfeast.ca/

WESTCOAST POKE
11666 Steveston Hwy #3030, Richmond, BC V7A 1N6
(778) 297-1138
westcoastpoke.com

#asianfeast #subaru #subaruBC #richmondbc
@feast_asian, @docksteadersubaru, @subarucanada, @wolfesubaru @wolfesubaruonboundary @richmondsubaru_bc, @jpsubarunorthshore, @jpsubarucoquitlam, @jpsubarusouth

Hydra Cafe & Bar

The reviews have been only so-so for this place, but the decor alone is worth visiting for. They are the newer dining option attached to the “Exchange Hotel”, in downtown Vancouver. This space was design specifically for their Mediterranean restaurant.

You are in awe walking in and climbing their spiralling staircase, up to the main dining area. They do have a secondary bar/lounge space downstairs, but the second floor with vaulted ceiling is the place to be.

I had arrived early and my girl friend was running late, so I was more than happy to spend the additional time waiting for her, by their bar. A handsome arch framed their tiered assortment, well stocked and well presented before a back splash of half circles, layered like scales. This spoke well to their aquatic theme. A chandelier of plastic fish floated over a table, large paintings of wild waves in varying degrees of blue drew your eyes to the wall, and a television screen broadcasting picturesque scenes of the Mediterranean furthered the mood. Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and not a cloud in the sky. The music, upbeat and lively, like at a tropical resort night club. All this made them a great place for a drink, or to begin a bar crawl at.

On the way to the single stalled washrooms, be sure to take in their raw bar. Back lit mirrors hang over a trough of ice. In it whole fish peak through, speaking to the freshness of their seafood assortment. We were sure to sample from this with their “chill platter”, but more on that below.

By the hotel entrance to the restaurant is a living wall, greens crawling around the name of the restaurant in white LED. Under it a Möet branded tub and life persevere, that I had to take advantage of as a photo op.

Back at the bar, I order my first cocktail of the night. The name spoke well to the drink: “holiday”. Made with summer fruits and bright flavours, this play on the margarita featured fresh watermelon purée, cazadores reposado, martini bitters, ginger, and fresh lime. It was finished with a coconut sugar, and a maldon rim.

My next cocktail was at our reserved table, the “Fig” was a strong drink, that delivered on its name. A smokey sipper with fig at its core, and an extra bite as garnish. Dewar’s white label scotch, fig syrup, angostura bitters, citrus oil, and fig garnish.

The cocktail after that was “Tart”. And unlike the “Fig”, this was a name that did not perfectly describe what you were getting in a drink. Like its colour, it tasted like lavender and flowers. Bombay sapphire, cassis, kefir, fresh lemon and lime, honey, egg whites, and black toasted sesame.

We then decided to try a Greek wine, for drinks 4 and 5. We reasoned out that it would be more economical to get a bottle to share, as opposed to ordering it by the glass. This was “Monograph” from Peloponnese, Greece; it is an Assyrtiko. This was what was suggested when we asked for something similar to pinot gris.

And although it is ill advised, we ordered a “Chill Platter” to accompany all our drinks. Normally you’d want some carbs or something more solid to balance yourself with. But my girl friend and I have an on going thing where we aim to try all the seafood towers in the city. This one comes with prawns, oysters, ceviche sashimi, pickled octopus, tartare, and accoutrements for $105. For those who need even more, you can add on a pound of crab for $45.

The prawns were large and juicy, but plain. They needed a dip, and we found it in the sauces for the oysters, on the top tier.

These were Kushi and Royal miyagi oysters. And normally I can barley tell the difference between types of oysters. But the Royal miyagi oysters were deliciously sweet, the sweetest I have ever had. I chased it with a very clean and crisp tasting kushi oyster.

The ceviche sashimi was very dill forward, it over powered the herbed paprika, salmon and celery for crunch. This is the type of seasoning I would expect in a potato salad.

I liked the tanginess of the pickled octopus, I just wish it wasn’t served cold. Its already chewy texture would be butterier if warmer.

The tartare was bland by comparison, especially when eating it with the cucumber. The caper gave it some salt, but it felt lost amongst the others.

The crab was very water logged, shredded and soaking in olive oil with tomato and parsley. It was also too acidic and vinegary for me to enjoy the natural sweetness of the crab.

The broad beans were a nice little palette cleanser. Served chill with feta for a sandy texture. It was best enjoyed with the hard pita points, made harder with its time in the ice.

Overall, there was quite a bit of food on these two tiers. Plenty to keep you causally nibbling for an hour plus. And when anything got too dull, the sauces and minuet served with the oysters, as mentioned earlier, was enough to do the trick.

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.
Given how much we spent on a seafood tower, I felt it should have lived up to the cost. And for that I wouldn’t necessarily clamour to visit again, but can safely recommend them for an amazing hotel bar to see and be seen at. Don’t deny your cravings.

HYDRA
475 Howe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2B3
(604) 416-0880
hydracafe.com

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