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Category: Chinatown Page 1 of 5

Chinatown BBQ, take out

When craving Chinese style barbecue meats there are two main options across the Lower Mainland. Two, that pull out ahead as the ones to visit. And if Richmond is too far of a drive out, Chinatown is the one to head towards.

From the exterior you wouldn’t think this is a restaurant, if not for reading the name and noting all the signs out front. You walk in and are greeted by an additional all glass facade. A stunning evergreen frame with gold lettering and red characters, illuminated by multiple glowing yellow lights. It all stands out against the black and white checkered floor, the green booths with red chairs, and the floral table tops stacked up for non-use. The walls speak to the restaurant’s history and authenticity, displaying a multitude of black and white portraits and Chinese paint brush paintings of waterways and landscape. I wish I knew about the decor sooner, as it would have gotten me down here earlier. But alas, all I could do now was appreciate what I may get to experience one day. Instead I shifted my attention to the glistening pieces of meat that hung in their internal window.

The set up is much like all the other Chinese BBQ places in the vicinity, but a lot more well maintained. It is a shame that this isn’t the view from the store front. I’d imagine they would get a lot more attention if that were the case. A showcase like this I would lure you in and close, as you watch meat juices and savoury oils drip and pool in a tray underneath.

You order off of their red and white menu, kept in place under the glass top of a table. A collection of dishes featuring their prized barbecue, served along side rice or now noodles.

Decor aside, the meat was less impressive. Maybe it was because by the time I got to it, it needed to be reheated. Or maybe because the pieces I got were not the best cuts. But overall I found myself thinking it dry and fatty. The duck was bland, which had me reaching for plum sauce. But there wasn’t any included, which meant I had to settle for Thai sweet chilli. And let me tell you, it isn’t the same. Similarly, the pork belly fell short of my expectations. There was more fat than meat. The skin lost its crunch, and the flavour of what little meat I got was more salty than smokey, as one would expect. However, having said that I did finish it all sucking meat from bone; because let’s face it, even the worse Chinese bbq is better than no Chinese bbq. And this is my no measure the worse. Good in a pinch, a easy meal on rice.

Chinatown BBQ
130 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3
(604) 428-2626
hinatownbbq.com

Dosanko, take out

As we move on to week 5 of quarantine and the need to shutter many non essential businesses, many popular restaurants are trying to find some routine in these forever evolving, uncertain times. Dosanko is one such establishment, who have remained open for take out the entire duration thus far. They have been offering limited menus, keeping what little staff they can employe. Slowly adding more to what’s available, which now includes seasonal offerings.

With cherry blossom season in full swing, Donsanko has brought back their Sakura onigri. A pink rice ball with the look and taste of cherry petals, a popular food trend and flavour in Japan during spring. Its photogenic and rare nature was enough to have me making the drive down. And since I was here, I decided to make lunch out of it. The following is from their lunch menu, in lunch-size portions.

The onigris are a great snack option. Hand moulded and kept solid, bundled in wax paper. Each labelled, each with perfectly prepared sushi rice and a strip of seaweed hiding the centre of your choosing.

The cherry blossom did not disappoint, it was as glamourous as I had hoped, and tasted better than I thought it would. It was bright with the freshness of the shisho leaves. There was a little tang, coupled with floral notes from the blossoms. But the real treat was the surprise filling that I discovered upon the first bite in. As much sweet crab meat as they could stuff, while maintaining the iconic triangular rice ball shape. I highly recommend this one.

I also grabbed a couple of their regular onigris, but sadly they didn’t measure up to the above. They were good, but with unseasoned rice and just the protein to carry them through, it fell flat.

The “Spicy Tuna” is lightly seared albacore tuna with their house made spicy mayo and nori bundled up. The fish is very mild, I wanted some more spice in this or some sauce for it. Plus some additional seasoning in the rice and some additional texture to maw through would have been nice. But overall, they do make a nice snack. The rice is served at the perfect temperate, so its best to eat it quick, before it gets too warm and sticky.

The “Zangi” is Chicken Karaage, aka fried chicken with a sesame sauce. Like the fish above, it left like it was lacking something. Additional seasonings and some kick to have the filling stand out against the moist rice. This was quick to fall apart, its flavour better suited in the sandwich below.

The “Tonkatsu & Curry Plate” gave me the bold flavours I was looking for. House made Japanese curry that wasn’t the sweet kind I was expecting. It was savoury and rich, with a slight spice; best balanced by the tangy pickled vegetables served on the side. Each element was perfectly prepared. The pork was tender with crispy breading, it had the right amount of fat for a nice juicy bite. I appreciated the extra ground meat in the sauce, enough for all the steamed rice. You could taste it over the curry that didn’t overpower.

But my favourite out of my order was the “Cheese Crusted Oyako Sandwich” with fried chicken, egg salad, greens and parmigiano reggiano cheese. All the deliciousness above, packed in tight between two buttery sweet slices of toast. Everything in perfect balance of one another. Crispy chicken, tangy sweet mayonnaise, and a luscious egg salad. I could do without the lettuce that became wilted by the time I got to it.

In short everything was so good that I want to go back again soon. Back to support them, and back to try more off of their comfort menu.

Dosanko Restaurant
566 Powell St Unit #100, Vancouver, BC V6A 1G9
(604) 251-2020

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mello doughnuts

I am under the employment of an essential service. This means while majority of the folks are staying home safe, myself and my coworkers are continuing our day to day to ensure that the world is still running during this precarious time. We aren’t health care workers, but the service we provide ensures that they and everyone else has the resources they need to do what they have to.

So as a blend between my own want to try and my desire to treat them, I travelled down to Chinatown for some Mello doughnuts. I have seen a lot about them online, so figured now was a great time to grab a dozen to share.

Like everywhere else that is still open, seating has been removed to better illustrate that they are not open for dine in, but take out only. Two clerks in masks man the empty store front. One at the counter doling out the doughnuts, the other in the kitchen bringing out a fresh batch.

The counter is still stocked as this is the sort of item you order with your eyes. Their full assortment on display, a few with name cards for easy identification. Plus a few other treats like cookies and cakes to round out their offerings.

I ordered a dozen to fit perfectly in their largest box. One of each and doubles of their two signature stuffed doughnuts for 75 cent to a $1 more. These were the strawberry short cake with fresh cream and the tiramisu with plenty of coca powder. Naturally I didn’t try all of the doughnuts, but I made sure to get a taste of both of these. I liked their doughnuts because they weren’t overly sweet. The three that I had were well done. I prefer them over anything I can get from any fast food chains.

The tiramisu lacked the coffee flavour you’d expect. It reminded me more of a mild chocolate, with a chalky finish due to the powdery topping.

The strawberry was stuffed full with luscious cream and fresh fruit. And the coarse sugar topping added a nice sort of crunch to the fluffy doughy round.

The rest of the doughnuts weren’t stuffed. It got its flavour from the frosting and toppings. Flavours like lemon curd, cookies and cream, vanilla, and a dark chocolate. I tried the green tea. It was the last one left when I stopped by, and I can see why. A wonderfully bright doughnut with plenty of green tea flavour, gently sweetened. This was my favourite of the three for its flavour.

In short, Mello is a great way to grab yourself and others a treat. For the lovers of doughnuts when store bought and fast food ones don’t do. Be warned, they are a cashless store, so debit and credit only.

mello
223 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2T9
(604) 423-3556

Juke Fried Chicken, take out

One of the main things I like about dining out is the drinking that often comes along with it. The ability to enjoy hand crafted cocktails at the bar, shaken and stirred by the city’s best bartenders. But with week 2 of quarantine going strong, and the mandatory closure of non-essential businesses in full effect; all restaurants are no longer allowing you the opportunity to dine in. So with only take out or delivery options available, sitting and sipping is out of the question. Therefore I was ecstatic to learn that “Juke” and their award wining bartender, are offering cocktail mixes to go. Almost everything you need to recreate one of their delicious drinks from the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is add ice and the specified liquor.

So today when looking for take out, I made “Juke” my choice, grabbing each of their available cocktail mixes and two entrees, for one me.

Ordering is quick and easy on their website. With photos and quick descriptions it is simple enough to scroll trough and make your selection with a tap. You register an account and payment is taken off your credit card. The following is what I picked up and took home for dinner.

Their signature chicken contains dairy and eggs, but gives you the option to customize it to avoid your specific allergen. Wheat allergy, shellfish, gluten, peanut, nut, fish, soy, seeds, or celiac; they have you covered. As for the chicken itself, enjoy it regular, spicy, as the feature in a burger, or across several combos. I would have it double fold, across two of their entrees.

“Chix & Waffles”. Seeing chicken and waffles I had to indulge. Here, the sweet Belgium waffles do contain gluten, but you can choose a gluten free version. Packed with two pieces of chicken: drum and thigh over two waffles, topped with jalapeños. All you have to do is drizzle the sweet and creamy sauce (kept on the side), over it. This isn’t your typically salty and sweet rendition, but something unique on to its own; much like their brand of chicken as a whole.

The “Juke Box Combo” is a quarter rack of pork ribs, 2 pieces of their original chicken, and your choice of side. For the latter, list of options makes choosing hard. Basically any of their sides are up for grabs. Small fries or dirty fries, asian peanut slaw, cornbread, corn chicken fritters, gravy, Brussel sprouts, or even their “big boy cookie” (a cornmeal cookie with white chocolate and salted caramel, for dessert). Wanting something from the vegetable category, to balance out all the starches and grease, I went for their deep friend Brussel sprouts. They were sauced up well, with the ones at the bottom soaking up most of it, getting soggy and salty in the process. It wasn’t the fresh vegetable I wanted, but another indulgence instead. As for the protein, the chicken was exactly like the serving above, juicy with a crispy skin. The ribs were a meaty looking slab with plenty of gristle and marinade, the rest of the meat was just a little on the dry side.

I like a good pickle so had to try “Juke’s fried pickle”, a collection of pickled vegetable, breaded and deep fried with a coating of cool ranch dust. I didn’t get the ranch seasoning so much, so would have liked a container of it in the side to self dip or shake over. Although, I didn’t miss it. Aside from their time in the fryer, the tangy pickles offered a nice break in everything else above.

As for the cocktails, each is served in a mason jar, that accounts for a portion of the cost. It is labelled with the ingredient list and directions on how to complete the cocktail. And a reminder that social distancing is important, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a drink.

The “Passion fruit gimlet” was a bold yellow with syrup and lime juice. To it you add 2oz of vodka, gin, or tequila and ice. You can either drink it in the mason jar it comes in, or transfer it to a different vessel for a more normalized experience.

The “Blue skies margarita” starts off with a nonalcoholic blue curaçao and lime juice, and to it you add 2oz of tequila and ice, before shaking and serving.

“Purple rain” has you adding 2oz of whiskey to the mix of pineapple juice, orgeat, and lime.

Overall this was definitely a more sumptuous meal. It left me wanting milk and a salad for balance and freshness. An order that was enough to feed me for 3 meals to come. Perfect for picnic and outdoor eating under the sun. Shame, we are discouraged from going out and the weather has not been great.

In short, support your favourite local small business to ensure you can enjoy them again in the future.

Torafuku, lunch service

For those who didn’t know, “Torafuku” is the sister restaurant to the popular Asian fusion food truck, “Le Tigre”. However the truck has since broken down, and the owners have decided not to repair it until the new year. A decision made with the want to focus on the quality of food coming out of “Torafuku’s” kitchen, instead. So for those missing their “crack salad”, and servings of rice described as “awesomeness in a bowl”; you can now get both and more, at “Torafuku” for lunch.

I was invited down to their restaurant to reminisce over the more popular food truck offerings. Plus, try a handful of new sides and appetizers. So continue reading to see what you can expect from their lunch service, which is available throughout the week. It is a menu that includes seasonal items and rotating dishes, with the likes of fresh made dumplings in the new year.

For those who have never been, the restaurant is conveniently accessible by way of Main Street skytrain. Easy to spot with its painted brown exterior, and glass front. Inside, it feels sterile and cold with plenty of concrete and an ample aisle way. A wide birth between a row of low back, leather and suede booths; and lengthy share style tables opposite it.

Lunch is available Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30am to 2:30pm. It boasts a fulsome list that includes the ability to make any entree a combo, with your choice of side and soft drink for $4.50 more. Or you go for gold, and grab a beer or wine with your afternoon delight.

They have an impressive cocktail program, so I choose to explore that a little better with “Dr. Sun’s Pencilin”. Ciroc Vodka, Johnny Walker 12 years Black Scotch Whisky, Chinese baijiu, lime, honey ginger, wintermelon tea, cinnamon, and Bittered Sling Clingstone Peach bitters. I couldn’t make out any one ingredient; instead, this was a bevy of ingredients coming together for a smokey, cinnamon-y concoction that paired well with all our rich and savoury mains to come.

The highlight of their Taiwanese themed lunch menu is definitely their take on “Beef noodle soup”, a classic so good that it sells out every day. And the reason that they don’t simply make more is that the chefs don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity, so they keep the amount of perfect bowls limited. After all it does take 72 hours to make the broth alone, and honestly you can tell the difference. Not overly seasoned, not lacking on any flavour, just delicious. Thus, making it my new favourite place for beef noodle soup. I highly recommend coming down for one of these comforting bowls.

Good as is, but for those who want a little more decadence to their beef noodle, they have a jar of beef fat to mix into your soup like a condiment. It is not readily available, but for those who make a special request for it. They also make their own sauerkraut and have extra on hand by special request, as well.

And for those who are familiar with “Le Tigre”, their rice bowls are as they describe it, “awesomeness in a bowl”. They were what I always gravitated towards when I visited the truck. Each bowl features their accurately named “kick-ass rice”, cooked in sake, butter and dashi; with pickled cabbage and mixed herbs, and topped with a perfectly poached egg. When you mix the latter in with its runny yolk, it is pure gooey deliciousness. Enjoy it as is, or have it even more sumptuous by adding fried chicken or pork belly to it. And for the vegetarians, you can add on a helping of their “crack salad” over the rice. (more on that below).

Between the two meat options I prefer the fried chicken, for its crispy crunchy texture. Made creamy and spicy with a chilli mayo, just like with the “kakuni style pork belly” had. The pork belly is tender and chewy, but a little too rich for my tastes. With either one the rice is so flavourful that you don’t need any of the meat that tops it. Case in point is me taking what was left in both rice bowls home and having it for dinner. happily on the same day.

And despite not liking salad, and never wanting to order any at a restaurant, I would make the exception for their “crack salad”. Once again the name hits the nail on the head. So good that you can’t stop at one bite. And when paired with the rice, it offers the carbs a nice break in freshness. And with crispy leaves and a cheesy Parmesan forward flavour lightened with lemon, this makes a great way for you to get your daily dose of greens in. Kale, purple cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts galore.

Similarly, I highly recommend making any of the aforementioned a combo for the above mentioned price. The following are all of their available sides. You can also get them 3 for $10 or all 5 for $16. Each tasty, each unique on to itself.

The tomato side offered a whole new flavour combination. Sweet cherry tomato and zesty raw red onion is amplified with the generous drizzle of their yuzu and plum marinade. It is then accented with the one of a kind herbal flavour of shiso. It had a dessert-like quality to it with its creaminess and sugary finish. A great option to balance out greasier dishes.

The king mushroom tempura was so meaty, that I took a bite not knowing what it was, and thinking it was battered cubes of beef. It reminded me of the deep fried popcorn chicken bites; the kind that you get from bubble tea house. Five spice forward and salty, not necessarily a bad thing.

The chilled, miso braised lotus root was the table’s favourite. The expected starchiness of lotus root, uniquely paired with a miso seasoned cheese spread and fresh green onion. You used the chunky root as a “chip” to scoop up ample amounts of the cheese hidden at the bottom. Another one where I have never had anything like it, and one you have to try for yourself.

The chilled eggplant was marinaded Szechwan style with peanut oil. Mushy eggplant in a tangy sauce with a crunch from the puffed rice it was topped with.

The cucumber side was very familiar with its pickled tang. Crunchy and briny cucumber served with gelatinous agar agar, and woodear mushroom for some chew; all drenched in “Kuan Mama’s” vinaigrette.

Not typical, but as an extra special treat, we got to try some Taiwanese style pineapple cake made by neighbouring bakery “Buttermere”, who rents out “Torafuku’s” kitchen from time to time. The small cube was a tease. Plenty of buttery and crumbly crust, hiding a centre of sweet and fibrous pineapple. Good, but it would have been better larger, for a more even pineapple to crust ratio.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In short, I highly recommend visiting “Torafuku” for lunch. Good food, fast, at affordable prices. Just writing about it now I want more of everything. Don’t deny your cravings.

TORAFUKU
958 Main Street, Vancouver BC
778-903-2006
torafuku.ca

Harvest Community Foods

We were looking for food in the area, and after weighing our options along Union street, we came back to “Harvest Community Foods”. One, it had the most diners within for lunch, and two they had a nice table right outdoors to take in this sunnier winter’s day. And then there is the noodles, I am always down for noodles and there is nothing like a warm bowl on a cold day. But sadly, the latter was not as expected.

The restaurant is more like corner store with shelves of preserves, grains, and organic cleaners. And at the counter, healthy snack bars and fresh fruit to grab and go.

The menu was ink on bleach wood. You squinted at it from across the room, shielding your eyes from the streams of sunlight hindering your vision. The daily specials are a little easier to read, dry erase marker on a white board, at the till. Each, with the option to add in some house made kimchi or change your regular noodles out for the zucchini variety.

We decided to keep it safe, and asked the clerk what she recommend. She was fairly unfriendly, and seemed annoyed with our indecisiveness. This attitude would stay pretty consistent with all subsequent interactions; to the point of us bussing our own table before we sat down, then again after we had finished eating; handing in our dish ware to her, as she stool behind the counter.

As for the food itself, it came out fast. I had their vegetarian “ramen” with a squash and miso broth, nori, scallion, radish, and sesame. I liked the flavour and the consistency of the broth thanks to the purée squash, although when I read “ramen” I expected a better noodle, something of the buckwheat variety. But what was before me was neon yellow and from a pack of instant. Here, quality noodles would have made a difference, and added some much needed flavour to this serving. The daikon and greens gave you little to maw on. I would have liked more toppings to help change the tone, more to customize each bite with. For example, some tofu, mushroom, or egg would have done wonders. Instead, I felt like this was lacking.

My guest got the vegan “rice noodle”. These were saucy noodles coated in an almond, hazelnut, and charred chilli mix, all sitting over braising greens. It was dry and sticky, an unusual texture, having to chew through the coating of nuts. Although it was very light and with the greens it acted more like a spicy salad.

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.
They are a solid opinion for those who are vegan or vegetarian, just not for me. If I want noodles I will go for something in a fatty pork broth. Don’t deny your cravings.

HARVEST
243 Union St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2Z7
(604) 682-8851
harvestunion.ca

New Town Bakery & Restaurant

“New Town” is a Vancouver staple, a hub for locals and tourists in Chinatown. Better known for their steamed buns and pastries, and now one of the restaurants disguised as another in Ali Wong’s, “Always be my Maybe” Netflix movie. I, myself frequent “New Town” for their steamed buns. If in the area, I go out of my way to grab a couple. Having tried many in and round the city, theirs is the best in my opinion, but more on that below.

The shop and restaurant are easy to spot with a giant plastic bamboo steamer filled with steamed white buns on the awning, and the regular line and gathering of people at the threshold. For those looking to grab and go, you pull a number and wait for your it to be broadcasted above the check-out counter.

Options and prices are listed across three flat screens, but it is much easier to simply point and choose. On top of steamed buns they have plenty of golden brown baked buns, plastic wrapped cakes, and dim sum dessert favourites. The baked buns come in a variety of toppings and sweet and savoury fillings. I also like their honey sweet barbecue pork and chicken buns. But if I had to choose, I will always go for their “Dai Bao”. And I did just that once we were seated in the dining area, towards the back.

Themed in orange, you can tell the restaurant recently had a face lift. Orange backsplashes, orange upholstered seats and booths, and orange branded button up shirts for all the staff. The restaurant’s real age was reveal by a visit to the washroom. The cracked tiles and overall unkept condition of this single stall was off putting. An inevitability given its location and its regular clientele. But I digress, because I still think they are worth visiting.

In the dining area you can order anything from the front of house to enjoy here or take to go. “Dai Bao” is a large white bun filled with a little bit of everything: chicken, bbq pork, ground pork, ham, and a salted egg yolk. I have been enjoying this for so long that I remember it being only $2.50, but now with inflation, it was $3.70 today. And despite the increase, I still think it is worth the price. With all the dough and plenty of filling, it eats like a meal. I want one now just writing about it, and can’t help but compare all other steam buns to this one on its pedestal.

With it I got a bowl of “Hot and sour soup”. Just reading it on the menu I wanted its familiar taste in mouth; one that I like and haven’t had in a while. Unfortunately this wasn’t my favourite rendition of the popular soup. There was too much going on, lots of ingredients to chew through, and not enough syrupy soup base to enjoy it with. Shrimp, wood ear mushroom, tofu, peas, mushroom, carrot, bamboo, beef, and chicken. The peas were a new addition to me, and despite really liking peas, I didn’t here. The soup was thick and hearty and ate more like congee.

My guest had the “fried egg and ham with ramen in soup”, knowing full well that she was essentially ordering instant noodle. Chicken flavour soup broth with a fried egg, thick slice of ham, and plenty of lettuce. It was a nostalgic bowl of noodle soup that she fully enjoyed. But making instant noodle regularly for myself, I cannot justify paying $8.25 for this bowl. Plus I don’t like the flavour of the lettuce rubbing off into the broth.

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.
A historic Vancouver staple, the best steamed buns in the city, and a great go-to for home style Chinese food at a fair price. With 8 full pages of familiar dishes and specials, there is plenty to keep you gong back for more. Don’t deny your cravings.

NEW TOWN
148 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3
(604) 689-7835
newtownbakery.ca

Buttermere Patisserie Cafe

Popular online bakery, “Butter Mere” now has its own store front. After three years of providing Vancouverites with tasty and trendy cakes for all their special occasions, they have finally found the ideal location. A relaxed cafe setting to serve their confectioneries, conveniently close to their actual bakery.

Notable for their one line lion logo, a male lion standing on its hind legs holding a cake. They have taken over the old home of a now shuttered smoothie shop. And luckily for them, their predecessor’s modern decor with bleach wood accents, geometric printed counter, and fresh greenery transitions well to a bakery’s cafe space. There are several small tables seated in front of a wooden bench that ran down the length of the case, but grabbed one of the two nooks at either sides of the front door, for more private seating.

Their existing fan base has seen that their first week opened gets plenty of foot traffic. With many more walking in to experience their highly photogenic offerings in person. On top of full sized cakes for serving at parties, they have a showcase of individual sized desserts and cream rolls for point and ordering. The latter was sponge and cream in flavours like matcha red bean, hojicha, and chocolate strawberry, etc.

I started with their fun “ruby is the new black” hot chocolate. This is the hot version, but it is also available, just as pink, cold over ice. For those who have tried it, it tastes like chocolate milk made with the limited edition pink ruby Kit Kat chocolate bar, melted down. As deliciously creamy as you think it is. Though sadly only available in whole milk, with no dairy free or vegan alternatives; lest it change and clashes with the taste of the unique chocolate.

We did ask, and more vegan friendly offerings are in the works, with milk alternatives. Upon this visit they have only been open for under a week, and are still working things out logistically.

I paired the pink “yogurt raspberry cloud” with my matching pink drink. This was a uniquely textured cake, made using a mould created by an architect. It ate as fluffy as it looked, light and airy. Yogurt mousse surrounding a raspberry and cherry compote, over a crispy raspberry wafer. A dessert with plenty of textures and flavours to keep things interesting bite after bite.

But the highlight, and the one to order, if you can only get one, is their “Salted egg yolk puff”, it comes in a set of four, as you see here. A crispy, almost cakey shell hiding a sweet custard-like cream flavoured like the distinct salted egg yolk. A wonderful rendition of the trendy food item.

And for those looking for something more rich, they have their tiramisu in a glass. It was a great presentation, but hard to eat. You had to dig around and up to get the right mix of fluffy sponge, whipped cream, quality cocoa powder, and hint of Kahula.

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 great place for a celebratory cake, and a now a great cafe to have something sweet at. And seeing as they are the only dessert spot and/or destination for tea in the area, expect them to be busy! Don’t deny your cravings.

BUTTERMERE
636 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2W1
778-956-7789
buttermere.ca

Wara Thai Eatery, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

Today I was at “Wara Thai Eatery”, to check out yet another Vancouver Foodster Chicken Wing Challenger. The competition that pits local restaurants against one another in order to declare their wings the best in the city. This year we had 5 restaurants, and I was one of the judges given the responsibility of finding the winner based on presentation, taste, and originality.

And “Wara Thai” was clever to use this platform as an introduction to their new restaurant, which at this time has only been open for 3 months. Although the husband and wife team are not new to the food serving game. They currently still operate “Wow Thai” located in “Tinseltown” aka “International Village”. There, they offer up their authentic Thai cuisine to diners on the go and the lunch time office crowds. And they aren’t your typical food court stall, with them ingredients and craftsmanship matter. Made to order curries and fresh Thai favourites. Their consistent cuisine has earn them a fan base. And these loyal customers have encouraged them to open this restaurant so that they can enjoy “Wow Thai’s” food, in a more private setting. So here they are, after 4 months of renovations in a space that was still “under construction”.

The exterior wasn’t eye catching, as was it pretty unspectacular inside. Nothing noteworthy other than the “work in progress” murals. Thick black lines began sketching out clouds, water, and characters with bold expressions. Although it was a shame that it wasn’t completed, to be able to give a great first impression to new customers and first time diners. Other than it, the generic art on their all white walls, and grey upholstered booths; their decor really didn’t speak much to the colourful and vibrant offerings. Nor did their menu in black, white, and red. Though, I did like their piggy logo.

When we asked about the unfinished art work the owners did explain that they are currently focusing on their food and service, and as a new establishment, more is yet to come as they grow their brand. They are even planning a trip back to Thailand to collect some artifacts and add more of a visual authenticity to the place.

We started with some Thai ice tea. As the only Thai restaurant in the blossoming area, I wanted to taste the classics and see how they stacked up as the go-to for authentic Thai cuisine in the neighbourhood. With this, they were off to a good start. Perfect in orangey colour and flavour, a refreshing caffeinated beverage I would back just for. I wonder if they have to-go cups?

Next we had the “Larb wings”, the chicken wing challenge contender. This was not on their main menu, but I hope finds its way there, as they literally cause you to lick your fingers clean. These were deep fried chicken wings seasoned with their special “larb sauce”, a mix of lime juice and Thai herbs, giving each crispy wing a nice glaze. The flavour was original, offering tangy notes, a hint of sweetness, and some kick to a familiar classic. It was well balanced and served at the perfect temperature. You find yourself going back for more, almost forgetting the tasting and wanting to experience it new all over again.

Similarly, they had a neat twist on papaya salad. Their version was made crunchy with a quick deep fry. This too wasn’t on the menu yet. Shredded green papaya, green beans, and tomato slices battered and deep fried. Served with its dressing as a dipping sauce on the side, you choose how much tangy fish sauce you wanted with your crunchy salad. And this way things stayed crispy until you wanted to eat it. This was the same papaya salad flavour you enjoy, but with a whole new texture to work through. Even if you aren’t a fan of papaya salad, you will be a fan of this one. Proof that deep frying makes things tastier.

I wasn’t a fan of the “Chicken satay”. The Thai peanut sauce and Thai cucumber and red onion relish were good, but I found the chicken itself hard and dry. The menu listed these chicken tenders were marinated in fresh Thai spices and coconut milk, but I couldn’t taste either. It had a flat flavour and could have use some char or a similar glaze to the wings above. It should already be tasty and the satay sauce used to elevate that taste.

“Pad Thai” is a go-to for adventurous and cautious diners alike, so I wanted to see “Wara Thai’s” take everyone’s favourite Thai noodle dish. Stir-fried rice noodles in tamarind sauce with egg, red onion, chives, bean sprouts, shredded carrot, and basil. We had our choice of protein from pork, chicken, or tofu; and went with the latter as we had three other chicken dishes, and I never had pork with my pad Thai before. Premium protein options are also available for more. Beef for $1, shrimp for $2, and extra of any of the above for $2. My guest though the pad Thai had a bitter taste to it. I noted it as a tangy, tongue puckering note that each bite ended on. Neither good or bad, just there. Overall a decent serving of pad Thai piled high.

You don’t often see “Khao soi” on menus, so I had to try “Wara Thai’s” version. A mix of boiled egg noodles and deep fried crispy egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallot, lime and chicken drumstick in a curry-like coconut soup. It had some medium level heat to it, but was balanced by the coconut cream in the broth. I would definitely recommend this one for those who love chewy noodles and a sweeter, creamier soup. I would be just as happy with only the noodles in soup, but this way everything else that came with it, was a bonus.

And for dessert we couldn’t walk away without trying their “Sweet coconut sticky rice with ripe mango”. Originally I was eyeing their jackfruit version, where they stuff the jackfruit with the sweet coconut sticky rice. However, we were told that the fruit is from a can, and the one to order was the mango; seeing as it was in season and the chef really prides herself on acquiring the sweetest mangos for her dessert.

In fact, the chef chooses majority of the ingredients herself. She wants to take the time to ensure that she is getting the best produce. She shops from different markets, knowing where to go for the best. And all this definitely came through in this dessert. This was honestly one of the best mangos I have ever had. It was so sweet and flavourful that I wanted to eat it separate from the coconut milk drizzle and sticky rice; even though those two were tasty as well.

 

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.
The aforementioned focus on food and service really showed. On several occasions the chef personally came out to deliver her dishes to each table. She presented plates and took the time to converse and solicit feedback about the meal. She was really creating rapport and building up her clientele. After all what makes a meal at your favourite restaurant is more than just what’s on your plate. At “Wara Thai” it is the people behind the scenes recreating family recipes with heart and integrity of product. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WARA THAI
509 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2V1
604-685-5623
warathai.ca

 

For more on the challenge and how you can play judge and vote for your favourite chicken wing dish, visit the link below.
http://vancouverfoodster.com/chicken-wings-challenge/

Mamie Taylor, brunch

Today I was back at one of my favourite establishments to recommend, the Southern restaurant with a taxidermy theme in Chinatown: “Mamie Taylor”. A fun spot for some great food, and even better drinks. And today I brought a group of my friends down to show them a new option for their brunch time cravings.

They were in awe of the restaurant’s decor with its throwback to Chinatown’s yester-years in the form of historic signs and antiques with a story. They loved posing with the animal bust dressed up in hats, glasses, and necklaces. But best of all they enjoyed the food.

We started our meal with their brunch time cocktails. Their “Bloody mamie” was a caesar and made with Clamato juice despite its name. (Bloody Mary’s are more common in the states, they use tomato juice without the clam juice.) The cocktail comes with your choice of gin or tequila mixed with their house spice mix. It was tasty with its salty rim, making it a great savoury start to the meal ahead.

For those who like a bit of a boost with their breakfast they also have a “Spiked coffee” made with your choice of rumchata or baileys. The creamy shot comes separately for you to pour into the coffee to your tastes. I am not a fan of coffee, but will always get behind a mug of something this delicious and warming. Even one of my guests, who doesn’t like to drink enjoyed this, drinking it down to its last drop.

For something more refreshing, I suggest the “Pegu royal”. Gin, Cointreau, fresh lime, bitters, and bubbles. It was citrusy like a punch, with acid that hits the back of your throat. Once again, sipping this was easy, like you weren’t drinking alcohol.

And for those who like the classics, there is their “Mamie mimosa” with fresh orange juice and bubbles.

For food we started with their “Chicken and waffle sandwich”. We had our choice of bourbon honey or spicy buffalo for the seasoning and went for the former. We wanted a little sweetness to play off the salty bacon we requested as an add on. Together they flowed well with the tangy and refreshing apple kale slaw. My only critique here was that the waffle was a little dry. They are made before the morning rush, so it would be nice to have them pressed to order instead; at least be accompanied with some more syrup or a pot of gravy on the side for moisture.

The “Homemade chorizo biscuit” wasn’t want we expected. When we read it on the menu we thought it was a buttermilk biscuit made with bits of chorizo sausage embedded within. Instead this was a buttermilk biscuit sandwich with a chorizo patty, topped with dill ranch slaw and spicy mayo. The patty was dry, and it tasted like a veggie patty with a similar texture. It needed a sauce: some gravy, barbecue, or better yet the hollandaise from the Benny below. I wasn’t impressed by this, and passed on the feedback to the owner. In the photo we asked for extra chorizo, not realizing we would get two patties stacked.

By comparison the “Fried green tomato Benny” was a winner. A crispy battered tomato slice, chunked avocado, soft boiled egg, and hollandaise; all over a buttery biscuit. This had all the flavours and textures I am looking for in a delicious Benny. Smooth gooey yolk, chewy biscuit, and creamy sauce. The only thing I could have used was some spice in the tomato’s batter, just for some kick.

The “Mamie’s pork belly” is the kind of sandwich you want for a greasy morning after. Thick pieces of caramelized pork topped with a sweet onion jam, gruyere and cheddar cheese, between two slices of toasted sourdough; then finished off with a perfect sunny side up egg. Sweet and salty goodness like a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich but with thicker and meatier pork pieces that make all the difference.

One of my guests is lactose intolerant, so was happy to find a brunch option that excluded butter, milk, and cream; that was tasty and she could enjoy. This was the “Smoked brisket hash” with pico de gaillo, salsa verde, poached egg, and jalapeño. She opted for no cheddar cheese and instead substituted it for some avocado slices. The generous amounts of tender and chewy brisket meat made all the difference here and the crispy breakfast potatoes.

More breakfast potatoes were included as a side for each of our plates above. And on each, they were toasted and crispy. One of my guests declared his distain for cubes of potatoes pan fried like this, only to find himself rummaging through all the plates looking for the crispy, slightly burnt pieces and loving it.

But not as much as the “White cheddar grits”. At $5, this side stole the show. It was super cheesy and simply delicious. We also passed on the feedback that this should be made the star of a breakfast platter. A meaty side to help feature it. Either way, I would suggest getting this as an add on to try.

This isn’t on the brunch menu, but could be, and should be something that you try is their deep fried apple dessert. This is one of my favourite desserts to recommend, so had to treat my friends to a bite. An apple cored and filled with vanilla ice cream, coated and deep fried in cornflakes, then topped with raisins and apple chunks sautéed in cinnamon and sugar. It is as good as I described it.

We also got to try one of the newest drink flights to hit their ever growing menu. They offer whiskey, bourbon, and even absinthe flights. And now an Old Fashion flight made with their own mix, left to sit in a cast for three months. One taster was mixed with rum, another tequila mezcal, and the last bourbon. It also included some water, should you need to dilute the beverage. Simply delicious, for those who like a stiff sip.

 

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.
A great place to have drinks with friends, and now a great stop for brunch. Get out of downtown and discover a unique spot in Chinatown for something unexpected. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MAMIE TAYLOR’S
251 East Georgia Street, Vancouver BC
604-620-8818
mamietaylors.ca

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