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Category: Chinatown Page 1 of 4

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

Mamie Taylor’s, 2018 fall menu

I have been a long time fan of “Mamie Taylor’s” with their absinthe flights and deep fried ice cream stuffed into apples of the past, to their nose to tail feasts and their seasonal offering of turtle and gator that I once enjoyed. Over the years they have given me much reason to visit them time and time again. Fun and fantastical treats and eats you won’t find anywhere other than on their southern menu.

It is this and their unique stylized space that has me recommending them as a fun spot. The resto-bar has a den-like feel to it. Crafted with red brick, brown wood, and black leather; all surrounded by a collection of taxidermy animals stuffed and mounted. Birds, beasts, feathers, and horns. There was a full bear skinned rug hanging on the wall, and talks of procuring a full length python in the future.

Tonight, we were gathered for a dinner meant to celebrate their new general manager and head chef, and the new direction they would be taking the bar. I was able to chat up the GM, discussing his impressive resume with stints spent at “Hawksworths”, “L’Abattoir”, “Keefer Bar”, and “The Diamond”. And not only did he bring this experience with him to “Mamie Taylor’s”, but his passion for spirits and mixology as well.

The newly minted head chef, also comes with his own impressive resume. No only is he a celebrated chef, but he is also a certified WSET Level 3 sommelier, having worked at Vancouver’s “Calabash Bistro” and “Memphis Blues BBQ House”. He also spent a summer touring the Southern United States BBQ circuit, where he perfected his grilling technique. Then opening the award-winning JAROblue restaurant in Calgary. Together they will be pooling their experience together to take “Mamie Taylor’s” to the next level of its evolutionary journey.

As a well established bar, they are already know for their huge cocktail selection and now they hope to bring more attention to their neighbourhood bar with a new bar menu and some winter specials. In fact our night started with a welcome cocktail and was followed up by a selection of their other alcoholic offerings.

Our welcome cocktail was described as being “Not your grandma’s lemonade”. A citrus spritz made with charred lemon, tequila, gin, lemon juice, and soda water. A great drink for warmer days and cooler nights spent on your back porch.

“Between two fernets” was gin, house vermouth, fernet branca, lemon, and honey. It was so easy to drink, it tasted like juice.

“Jessie’s girl” was a cucumber forward cocktail, it was what you’d imagine combining fresh pressed green juice and spirits would taste like together. Gin, lillet blanc, fino sherry, lemon and orange bitters, topped with a salted cucumber and egg white foam. It was a beautifully refreshing and elegant to drink. There are talks of creating a different foam flavour to help transition it into fall.

The “Negroni on tap” spoke to the popularity and confidence that they had in the drink, keeping enough of it to pour quickly and frequently. Gin, Campari, and vermouth, finished with a house soaked amaretto cherry. This was a  strong and punchy drink, ideal for those who like a bold start.

Every drink that came, and every plate that was placed didn’t match the one next to it in either size, style or design. Their mismatched collection gave the table personality and the diners a conversation topic. I appreciated the lack of uniformity, and how it helped to foster the casual air of our meal to come.

With drinks in hand, we were invited to be seated in the second half of the bar. This area served as a great party space, with the ability to draw a velvet curtain close, to help create some privacy. The meal below was served as a tasting, with smaller versions and sized down portions. So be warned, should you yourself visit at a later date, what you get might not get what is pictured below.

Our long table meal began with some appetizers to share, delicious bar favourites that I would come back for. “Roasted brussel” sprouts seasoned with chilli, blue cheese, and sherry vinaigrette. It was a great sprouts dish, crispy and firm, packed full of flavour. Though personally, I would have liked more of the blue cheese to shine through.

“Crispy cauliflower” with persevered lemon, fried capers, and herbs; in a apple reduction. It was crispy, slightly sweet, and simply delicious.

The “ham grenades” were humourously described as being “glorified tater tots”, by our chef. It utilized smoked ham hock with cheese and was served topped with their house-made garlic mayo. They were fun to pop whole in to your mouth. The crispy coating paired well with the smooth cream atop. It makes for a great bar snack to nibble on as you drank down a pint.

Given their southern background, “Shrimp and grits” found a prominent place on their menu. “Grits” are coarsely ground corn kernels boiled with water or milk. Here it was creamy and lumpy like oatmeal, but cheesy and comforting like macaroni and chese. The crispy shards of baked cheese and the juicy shrimp created textural contrast. The latter also offered a freshness to the dish; I just wanted more shrimp, and for each to have a deeper char.

The “Cobb salad” was one of the best salads I have ever had. If you have ever read my other works, you know I dislike leafy greens and therefore stay away from salads. However this bowl with its smaller leaf to topping and dressing ratio had me going back for more. Dare I say this might be my favourite salad in the city. It is not a traditional Cobb salad, instead of using the more commonly seen chicken breast and bacon bits; the kitchen opted for chicken crackling and pork belly with its soft boiled egg, and avocado dressing. Each highlighted ingredient was amazingly prepared and altogether, absolutely amazing.

We had the two bite slider version, where normally this is served as a two handed burger with just as much fries. All beef patty topped the a roasted red pepper relish, Swiss cheese. iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles; all between a house made bun. So simple, but so delicious. This interpretation of a classic spoke to the direction the kitchen was taking: comforting plates prepared with good, local ingredients, that are as fresh as they can get them. Everything they are offering you can technically make yourself, but here, they are doing it for you so you don’t have to. And instead can sit and enjoy it, exactly as you expect it.

The fried chicken was just as good. Where else can you find chicken and waffles that isn’t on an exclusive brunch menu? Here, you can have your crispy fried white meat chicken, with a spongy roast cauliflower waffle, and dressed with a sweet Szechuan honey dressing any time of day. You can taste the quality in the chicken, the breading held up, even after the dish cooled. It remained crunchy until the end, and was best paired with their creamy slaw with its cooling crunch. Using cauliflower in the dough of the waffle was an interesting angle, although flour is still the main ingredient, therefore it is still doughy and fluffy, and far from being gluten free. It had some curry notes in with its cinnamon-y flavour, both giving it a new spicy and exotic twist.

We ended with a teaser of their “Mississippi mud pie”. Perfect for those who love their chocolate rich and dense. The base was a crunchy cookie, the middle a luscious mousse spread, and the cream that topped it the binder that brought them together. The cherry on the top was both figurative and literal. It was soaked in amaretto and ended things with a bang.

However if you are looking for more fine liquors to end your meal on, they also offer a collection of spirit-full digestives. Lighter sips that help you to wind down and digest what you just had. This one did so with the aid of their ginger syrup. Ginger, being a proven digestive aid.

 

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.
During previous visits I recall the menu being hit or miss, myself debating whether or not to keep it safe and get what I know will satisfy, or ordering the dish that sounded the most interesting, but risking that I won’t like its combination. However everything I tried above was delicious. It gave me the comfort and satisfaction I sough out, but with new and rewarding interpretations. Thus giving me another reason to visit and recommend them, more than just for their limited release dishes, their fine selection of cocktails, and their setting surrounded by conversation starters. They have definitely done well to keep their intimate, social bar the buzz of the neighbourhood with homestyle dishes, a friendly atmosphere, and good conversation. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

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

Treasure Green Tea Company

Today I was in Chinatown, visiting one of its staple tea shops for the Vancouver Foodster ice tea challenge. I was one of 3 judges tasked to visit all competitors and score their offering by tastes, originality, and presentation. “Treasure Green Tea Company” has been open and operating since 1981. They are a family run shop that has been pass down from one generation to the next, with the one location move and a name change in between. All to become what we have here today.

Just walking in you know they mean business when it comes to tea. There is a bamboo platter with leaves drying by the door. The shop itself is wall to wall shelves housing dried leaves in tins and porcelain paraphernalia to serve them in.

The brand and make of all the teas that they carry is specifically sourced by them, through independent farmers. There is no middle men, thus ensuring the quality of all the fine teas that they carry. This is a list that spans several pages. Each category it’s own laminated page listing over 35 varieties to choose from. And they have gone so far as to make notes of the tea’s flavour and body under each name, to help narrow down your choice. Bold and fruity, aromatic and smooth, rich with cocoa notes, or subtle and sweet? All possible combinations and then some, between black, dark (including puer), oolong, yellow, green, and white teas.

If all these options still has your head spinning, I suggesting speaking with the charismatic shop owner, she knows her way around a pot and is not shy about showcasing this knowledge. Through a series of questions she will find the perfect brew for your drinking needs. Even what you like to eat is considered, all to help narrow down options and identify your palette. Eg: I like strong tea, but what is strong to you may not necessarily be strong to me. Something to aid in digestion, a blend to help clear your complexion, or maybe a tea high in caffeine to replace your regular cup of coffee?

During my visit she took the time to tour me through some of her favourite blends. The “Treasure greens emerald silver” green tea was one of their best sellers and exclusive to them.

The “Gu shu yunnan” is a black tea with larger leaves procured from ancient trees. The result, larger dried leaves, hand picked and handled with care to ensure the uniform golden tips stayed in tack for a most aromatic beverage.

For any tea enthusiasts, they have so many unique blends worth trying, therefore the best way to filter through them all is signing up for their $20 tea tasting. This is an experience that is catered to what your are looking for. Your experience with Chinese tea is considered, as well as what your tastes are, and what is in season. All this is done in house behind their tea bar, with a tour of the origins of the teas you will be drinking, done utilizing a map. For a more adult theme they also host private functions where they will shake up tea martins featuring their authentic premium teas.

Today, their ice tea challenge contender was one of their premium ice teas shaken with ice and mixed to mimic your favourite cocktails, without the alcohol. If you wanted, you had the option of adding to it bubble tea pearls. Here they sourced artisan pearls, tapioca of higher quality, to best pair with their fine tea blends.

The “Champagne jasmine” was up for voting, it was a more literal ice tea contender. It featured jasmine tea, grapefruit, and honey. Everything is mixed in a martini shaker, giving the beverage a foamy top and an airy essence, similar to the fizz of champagne. I won’t be going into any more detail of the drink here, as the competition is still running. Instead, I will invite you to visit my blog after August 5th to see how I judged this and all the other ice tea creations.

But I did get to try all the other premium ice tea cocktails, so will be reviewing them below. These are all mixed in martini shaker over ice, then poured into tiny porcelain cups for tasting. You are able to sample each one, then purchase the flavour you want to commit to a full serving of, in a plastic cup.

The “Organic white mojito” featured organic white tea, lemon, mint, and honey. It tasted very much so like a mojito, with the mint being so forward. It was then brightened with the citrus tang of the lemon. A great drink to help you cool down with.

The “Organic oolong with orange” was the strongest iced tea made with organic oolong tea, orange peel, and honey. The dark roast of the oolong was slightly bitter, a bold brew, giving you that kick a black cup of coffee would; meaning that this would make a great alternative to a cup of joe.

The “Green dragon” was their newest premium iced tea. It highlighted their signature green tea and flavoured it with longan fruit and goji berry, then sweetened with honey. This was the most refreshing drink out of the three with the logan being the flavour that stood out the most.

 

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.
This is a great place to learn a lot more about Chinese herbal teas and all the health benefits they have. And in house they have come up with some pretty creative ways to get customers into their shop, offering more than just dried leaves. Here you get an experience and a lesson on culture through a cooling cup. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TREASURE GREEN TEA
227 East Georgia Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1Z6
604-687-4181
treasuregreen.com
Treasure Green Tea Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown Cocktail Crawl, Vancouver Gourmet Club

With more and more restaurants and bars opening up in Vancouver, choosing the right destination for your next party or get-together becomes that much harder. Online photos and written testimonies are only so reliable, so why not explore the city yourself through one of the many guided tours: providing for those who love food and drink, but need to be directed towards what is worth going to.

Introducing the city’s first cocktail themed food tour, hosted by the “Vancouver Gourmet Club”. VGC takes all the guess work out of your drinking equation. You pay a fee and show up with your walking shoes on. Each tour is arranged by area, covering three specifically chosen restaurants, that feature an impressive bar and an extensive drink menu. You are then given a choice of what to drink, between three curated cocktails at each destination, with appetizers to compliment. My advice is to go in a group of three, allowing you to taste everything.

For the “Chinatown Cocktail Tour”, our meeting place was the entrance to Sun Yet Sen Garden, the central point to all our stops and registration check-in. Given the amount of people in attendance, and to better accommodate the restaurants, we were divided into three different groups. I would be given the responsibility to lead one of said three, ensuring we kept track of time and were able to enjoy everything at each. By the time everyone checked-in it was 6pm, meaning we had around 40 minutes to spend at each place and 10 to casually saunter in between.

Our first stop was “Sai Woo”, one of Chinatown’s most historic sites, and no better place to start. For more about the restaurant, visit the link below. They are a great restaurant to drink at, given their accessibility to the skytrain; and the ample space to lounge at between their dining area, bar stools, and basement lounge. “Sai Woo” is one of those places, you don’t mind lingering at, with plenty of unique decor elements for conversation starting.

 

Sai Woo

 

Here, the available cocktails to choose from was the “Chinatown Mule”, the “3 Day Bender”, and the “Carioca”.

I expected the play on the Moscow mule to be served in a copper mug, or at least a Chinatown take on the iconic glassware, something to set it apart. At least it tasted great in its coupe. This ended up being my favourite sip of the place with its stronger, deeper flavour. Jack Daniels, ginger beer, bitters, and fresh lime.

The “3 Day Bender” had Old Grand-Dad Bourbon, Aperol, Averna Amaro, and fresh lemon. It had a saltiness to it, with a fermented flavour, reminding me of sour plum.

The “Carioca” was the easiest to drink with Cachaca 51, guava juice, orange juice, fresh lime, and sloe gin. Definitely for those who like a sweet and fruity cocktail.

Our choice of appetizer was between buns or spring rolls. Having a big enough group we were able to try both.

For the “Mantou buns” you could further choose between a filling of duck confit or shiitake mushroom. We went for the former and it was plenty tasty, there just wasn’t enough of it for the springy, soft, white bun sandwiching it.

The “Vietnamese pork spring rolls” gets my vote. Perfectly crispy and so tasty that you didn’t need the sauce on the side for dipping. The pickled vegetables on the other hand made for a great palette cleanser and gave some tang to the two bite roll.

And if that isn’t enough food for you, tour goers were able to order more at a 15% discount. Additional drinks ran at the full price though.

Our next stop was “Black Lounge”. This was a swanky spot that I would have never discovered if not for this tour. And now I already have plans to come back for a girl’s night. They are even closer to the skytrain, just across the street. The name reflects their decor. An all black scene with black walls, black chairs, and a black bar; highlighted with gold detailing. A few metallic gold chairs were available for self seating, a handful of table legs were spray-painted golden, golden boarders framed blown up portraits, and golden knick knacks lined the ledge behind the couch seating. I wouldn’t imagine such a chic spot in this area, and here it was, giving me plenty of reasons to return.

Their cocktail options this night really had them standing out. Three glasses named after their colour, and we were posted at the bar to take it all in.

The “Black Cocktail” had hornitos tequila, cherry brandy, Disaronno Amaretto, Cranberry, Charcoal, and candied ginger. The drink wasn’t as heavy as its colouring, sweeter with the syrupy Disaronno in the mix. I enjoyed it so much more because of its hue and the unusualness of such a creative cocktail.

Their “White Cocktail” was vodka, creme de cacao, frangelico, cream, and a sprinkling of gold flakes. It looked and tasted like cereal milk. A creamy, sweet drink that should constitute as a dessert. I certainly saved myself some as my last sip, this was the taste I wanted to have linger in my mouth.

The “Gold Cocktail” was a little disappointing given my adoration of the shade. It too was topped with gold flakes, but there wasnt enough of it to be deemed the “gold cocktail”. Maybe a golden rim of it, or maybe that is just me being extra? As for flavour it was more forward and warming with Jameson, lemon ginger honey, and gold flakes.

As for food they offered some deep fried bar classics: “Deep fried cauliflower” or “coconut shrimp”. Both perfectly crispy and ideally dunked into their spicy mayo sauce. And if you wanted more food here, those on the tour got it at 10% off.

Our last stop is another staple for good drinks in a unique space, when visiting Chinatown. Keefer is popularly known for its patio with fire pit, and the authentic medicinal theme within. To read more about the “Keefer Bar”, check out the link below.

 

The Keefer Bar

 

We wanted to sit on said patio, however they place hold it for a larger crowds. We at least got to enjoy it and the sun for a duration of our stay.

For drinks the three were the “Rosemary Gimlet”, “Pineapple Daiquiri”, and “Jack Soul”.

The “Rosemary Gimlet” was the easiest to drink. Light and airy with gin and a house made rosemary lime cordial. Great with herbaceous food or alone as a refreshing drink.

The “Pineapple Daiquiri” used grilled pineapple infused rum, fresh squeezed lime juice and their maple yum zhi mushroom syrup for a fairly zestiest drink.

Here I got the metal cup that I wanted to earlier: a silver mule, for the “Jack Soul”. Jack Daniels and Jack Daniels Fire, fresh squeeze lemon juice, house ginger syrup, bitters topped with soda. A nice refreshing and citrus forward beverage.

And for our appetizer, we didn’t get a choice here. Everyone had the “Tuna tataki, not that you’d choose anything but. A fresh piece of fish over a crunchy taro chip, topped with slices of radish, orange, and green onions. As our last destination, we were able to stay and linger getting deals on food if we decided to.

From here your tour concludes. I found this low key bar hop a great way to try something new or two. I definitely recommend bringing a friend to share with and to chat with, as you wait for drinks to be mixed and food to be prepared. And although this tour has concluded, you can check out the “Vancouver Gourmet Club’s” website for notifications on the next on. But for now, Don’t deny your cravings!

 

VANCOUVER GOURMET CLUB
https://www.vangourmetclub.com/

Sai Woo

Dinner and a history lesson at Sai Woo.

Today I was invited to Sai Woo for a chance to taste their spring menu. It has been a while since my last visit and today I was curious to see if my original assessment and thoughts could be turned around. And with a new chef and their new management team this was definitely the case.

Disclaimer: When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

I was pleased to see that the boarding and the necessary tunnelling to get to the restaurant’s once blocked off entrance was now clear. A welcoming walkway led your eyes and your feet to their threshold. A red “brick” road protected by a dragon. But it is their LED rooster that attracts attention and marks their location, with his red and yellow wings spanned. We would later learn that this was an exact duplicate of the original sign that once graced the original “Sai Woo”, the restaurant and the name that this second generation establishment was modelled after.

This has got to be my most informative and interesting dinner to date. We got to sit down with the owner Sally, and boy howdy did she know her Chinatown history. With it and her storytelling, @eatwithmao and I engaged. She has been a restaurateur for over 18 years, beginning her tenure in Yaletown. She got in early predicting that the area would boom, it did. Now this was her next premonition, and once again she got in early as one of the first new restaurants in the evolving Chinatown landscape. Her goal was to bring back the neon dinner and dancing era that made it so “glamourous”.

The building was originally in bad shape when she purchased it in January of 2013. Previously it was the old “New Town Bakery” and restaurant, which has since moved one store down. A lot of work went into making this new restaurant “old” again. It began with peeling back layers and revealing the original wood, cement, and high ceilings with skylight. All that existed when it was “Sai Woo Chop Suey” from 1925 to 1959. In fact the same wood that you would have walked on in 1925, from threshold to the isle between tables, has been uncovered and revitalized.

They continued to build on the history by adding found items to their decor. Sally managed to salvage art pieces from the historic centre above then. Wooden cinema seats, traditional drums used in parades, calligraphy framed into art, stone guardian lions, etc. Most notable was the “Wooden Phoenix” carving that once hung in the “Marco Polo” night club. It was originally commissioned to advertise the club’s “china dolls” drink service. Who knew it would eventually get back to the neighbourhood it once came from.

My favourite were the props from Bruce Lee movies. The prayer papers hanging above the staircase that took you down to their basement, and from the ceiling of the communal washroom space. The carved wooden moon gate also came from a Bruce Lee movie. It is currently being used to frame a projection of the very Bruce Lee movie it was originally a prop in.

All these restored artifacts gave the place so much more history, and they made the spot all the more special. I just wished there was a way for the restaurant to showcase this better. I was lucky to be able to chat up the restaurant’s owner for the background information; but for all those who didn’t get the chance to, they are missing out on so much interesting knowledge and history. Knowing all the above makes me love “Sai Woo” more. It makes me want to talk about it. It makes me want to recommend it to those visiting from out of town. To be able to take friend down here myself and to teach them these tidbits.

Although, aside from these artifacts, the restaurant is less outwardly Chinese inspired. This speaks to their menu of Asian staples made more approachable to the Canadian appetite. It looks and feels like a wine bar, which was perfect given we were here during happy hour.

The “Coco Harvey Lowe” is a freshly tapped young coconut shaken with dark rum. After the drink has been drunk, borrow the “Coco Jack” from the bar, to be able to get every last morsel of that young coconut meat within. It is a sickle shaped hand tool that you use to peel the flesh within the coconut, much like peeling fruit, but backwards.

The end result of their “Smoking Gun” cocktail looked and tasted much like an old fashion. Except here literal smoke was added to it, for a smoke flavour and aroma. El dorado 12 year old rum, bitters, brown sugar, oak, and tea smoke. The drink is assembled before you. The mixed cocktail is poured into their skull shaped glass, bottled up with smoke. A few tips back and forth to infuse the essence of the smoke, before the finished product is poured out over a giant square ice cube,

As for the food menu, it is helmed by Chef Isaac, who has made “Sai Woo” his residency for over five years. His creativity has cause the menu to evolve, so for those who have have’t visited recently, doing so will give you a whole other experience. He takes inspiration from all over Asia; picking flavours and techniques from Korea, China, Vietnam, and Taiwan; but putting his own defining spin to things. His take on Asian fusion is as bold in flavour as it is in its presentation.

 

We started with a “Smoke beef tartar” made with fermented garlic, fukkake, and bonito flakes. The tartar is slightly torched and spicy with a wasabi mayo dressing. The hiccama topping it is pickled with a Vietnamese fish sauce for a vinegary tang. And the crispy cracker topping it offered a neutral base and some crunch. All together this covered all the textures and tastes that I was looking for. You break everything up, then bring it back together for the prefect bit. It was one of the more creative dishes that we had this night, but sadly it is not on the menu regularly.

By contrast the “Beat Terrine” made a great palette cleanser; something more mild and refreshing to have in between plates, in order to refresh. Shame, we only got one such dish to fulfill such a role; especially given how punchy everything else was below. Szechuan spiced beet terrine, goats cheese espuma, honey beet purée, and shaved vegetables.

The “Taiwanese Pancake” was an item that was still on the drawing board, another one we got to taste that isn’t on the menu. Instead of using the traditional green onion pancake that is typical of this wrap, here they fold their Chinese five spice pork and mozzarella with a house made roti. I wanted to taste the cheese, to have more of it to help balance out the stronger spices seasoning the pork. I also wanted a cream based sauce to bring it all together, instead what was here was the same watery and tangy sauce that flavoured the tartar above. The extra liquid made the roti soggy, if you didn’t inhale it. Here, a thicker bread product or a 2:1 ratio of it and the filling would have help to dull the overwhelming flavour of the wrap, furthered by the overly fragrant herbs. This was my least favourite dish of the night.

By comparison, was their “Korean garlic chicken” served with a gastrique, pickled vegetable, and scallions. There is good reason why this is their best selling dish. This crunchy white meat chicken nuggets would have been ideal with the roti above. I find such strong flavours need a carb heavy base to sit atop of, or else invest in more cocktails to balance out the saltiness.

The “Saiwoo lettuce wrap” was a great carb alternative, and a better balanced dish. There was plenty of vegetable and sauces laid out to craft your perfect bite. Fermented soy bean paste, shallots, pickled vegetable, house made kimchi and leaf lettuce brought together to support the feature protein of the week. Today it was a spicy korean pork so good, that I could have eaten a plate of it as is.

The “Vietnamese noodle bowl” is one that I could enjoy any day, at any time. Sous vide chicken, pickled vegetable, fresh lettuce and house made spring rolls over a bed of vermicelli. I found this a great up scale version on the classic bowl, with the perfectly crispy spring rolls being my favourite part.

For dessert we had their “Lemon pavlova”. What looked like luscious cream was starchy and hard, with a chalky finish that sticks to your teeth. The flavour is nice enough, but we left it wondering if this was the intention: chewing through it like gum and having to pick your teeth clean after. Instead, ate the strawberry compote, matcha crumble, and mango purée as it. All three would have gone wonderfully with a nice oil based sponge cake instead.

 

The “Grand mariner semi fredo marquee” is for chocolate lovers. A decadent brick of mouse given some brightness with strawberry gel and meringue.

After the meal above, I wanted to end in something much lighter. An angel food cake, jello, something to cleanse the palette, and not eat like another meal. There is a reason why after Chinese food majority of the desserts available at a Chinese restaurant is simple and not sweet. Red bean soup or orange slices. The desserts are good if you came in just for them, but to finish on them was a little much.

Overall, each dish held up on its own, but all together like this, we found it a little overwhelming. Many of the flavours of what we had ran parallel to one another. So much so that you tired of the taste of Korean spices and Vietnamese fish sauce. If we had balanced out our order with one of their fried rice dishes and/or another vegatable platter, it would have been different and ideal. But as a customer wanting to order a few dishes and trying them for the first time how would you know? Especially if the servers are not trained to guide you on this culinary journey. If they haven’t tried much of the menu themselves or have the know-how to suggest and recommend, your experience with “Sai Woo” could very well be tarnished.

Therefore I recommend the menu being arranged like a grid of four. Where you choose an item from each “box” to craft the perfect pairing between dishes. Something from the “spicy” box, one from the “tangy”, one from the “refreshing” category, and one from a group that would/could serve as a “base” for each of the above. And even what dessert to order if you are feel like a “sweet” or “refreshing” tastes to end your meal. A fool-proof way to complete your meal.

Another thing I would change is the lighting. It is a shame that the restaurant is kept so dark. I understand it is to foster the night life vibe, but they have a great lounge space down stairs where you could cultivate this at instead. A red room with curtained ceiling, seat cushions and benches that allow you to literally lounge. There is even a sliding door equipped with an eye slot that allows you to assess who it is you were letting in, before granting them entry. This was the ideal setting for many of their customer who came in after dinner else, looking for a space to sip cocktails and keep the night going. Although after speaking to restaurant management, I do think they see this opportunity themselves. They disclosed the possibility of introducing a lounge menu with $8 drinks and plates.

And instead I would make the main dining area more like a restaurant, giving each table better overhead lighting to full appreciate the beauty of the dishes above. We were lucky to have come in early and to snag the only table by the window; but the deeper into the restaurant you go, the darker things get, and it is no wonder that much of their clientele this friday night only came to drink. “Sai Woo” feels more like a social bar once the sun goes down.

 

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.
This is my favourite type of restaurant to write about. An establishment with plenty of character, run by people with so much enthusiasm and heart. There was nothing easy about what they were doing, nothing about their decor or menu spoke to an “easy win”, they were taking dining to another level and willing to take the risks necessarily to set themselves apart. With a little more finesse and continuos improvements, like they have been doing, I can clearly picture their upward trajectory. After all there is no other restaurant in Chinatown with this much history, that alone is worth coming in to see. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SAI WOO
158 East Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1T3
604-568-1117
saiwoo.ca
Sai Woo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Ramen Butcher, revisit

It’s been a while since my first and my last visit to “The Ramen Butcher”. The only thing holding me back is the travel time and the wait you expect, as they don’t take reservations. So after this latest visit, it all came back to me as to why I liked them so much. Simply put: they have good ramen.

To check out my origin review and read a little more on their decor that really hasn’t changed, click the link below.

The Ramen Butcher

 

The menu is pretty much the same, because why mess with a good thing? You still pick your ramen based on colour, although don’t take it literally like it did, unless you want to be disappointed.

Two of my dining companions went for their “Black garlic ramen” with roasted garlic oil. A popular choice full of flavour. With it you can choose your meat between lean or fat. And if you can’t get half half, which is a piece of each. Although one slice is just as tender as the other, and the “fat” slice just has a bit more gristle at its end.

Another guest got the “Red spicy ramen”, another fan favourite with a little or a lot of heat, depending on your presence. You get to choose your own adventure between three levels of spiciness, here, he went two. This too comes with garlic paste for that extra punch of flavour.

I had the “Orange Miso” only because it sounded unique. Miso marinated ground pork that actually isn’t orange in colour. But the paste that flavours it sort of is. It had a rich taste that went nicely with the chewy thin noodles. These are some of my favourite ramen noodles. I liked the thinner strands and the chewier consistency.

Although these bowls may look like a smaller portion size, the reality is you can make it double at no additional cost. If you slurp up all your noodles and are left with some excess broth, you can refill them. The first noodle refill is free, and I believe “The Ramen Butcher” is the only restaurant to offer this. A little side bowl of extra noodles to elongate your meal and your time with. This goes for any ramen dish, except for their signature “tsukemen”. If you want additional noodles for it, it is then $1.75, which is still a good deal. “Tsukemen” is the ramen served chilled and separate from its broth. Ideal for hot summer days, when you still want the taste of ramen. So by dipping noodle into sauce and then shovelling it into your mouth, you are decreasing how hot the noodle get and how much broth they soak up. Therefore you always end up with more soup than noodles.

I like it when I get to revisit and review only to find that what I said originally still holds true. There is no wonder why they are still standing and still seeing the traffic they do today, even with the same menu. Although they also have rotating specials. Like this Street Fighter mock up, featuring two different chasu dons “battling”. The suggestion is that you try both and vote for your favourite to win. It was such an eye catching advert, that it certainly had me reassessing whether I could finish a bowl of noodles with a side of rice.

 

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.
Even after 4 years, this is/was still good ramen. Worth travelling to and worth waiting in line for. Luckily the latter flows fast as the ramen is made to order and served quick. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN BUTCHER
223 E Georgia St, Vancouver BC, V6A 1Z6
604-806-4646
theramenbutcher.com

Rhinofish Noodle Bar

There is a new Taiwanese noodle bar in Chinatown. Located on the corner of Main and Keefer, the restaurant is as trendy as the company they keep. The space use to once belong to a tea shop, and after that it was the home to a political party. However, it is now the renovated home of Chinatown’s newest modern Taiwanese restaurant. A would-be great addition to the area, with its steady growing presence of noodle shops in the neighbourhood. But this would be the first one specializing in beef noodle. Although I did question the time of year that they chose for their launch, as typically when the sun is out you are looking to cool down, instead of warming up with a bowl of hot soup.

None-the-less, the buzz on the place has been great and it was worth visiting during this media event. Plus with a name like “Rhinofish”, how could you not give them notice?

But first: when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The young owner opened this restaurant as homage to his childhood, and his love for a good bowl of beef noodle soup; with the added bonus that there aren’t many such options in the downtown core. When asked, he revealed that there isn’t an elaborate back story for the name “Rhinofish”. He just took two animals that he liked and wanted his first business venture to embody, then combined them together. The fearlessness of a rhino with the easy going nature of a fish. Their logo was a reflection of this. A goldfish with a horn between its protruding eyes.

Just as iconic were the two murals that graced the restaurant’s walls. I would come in just to look at them in closer detail. A collection of animals enjoying themselves, as told by the joyous glint in their bubbly eyes. One, an octopus and eel sharing a cocktail and a bowl of noodles as monkeys ride the wave they created. And the other, a flurry of animals swimming to shore. I felt bad for the crab that looked like he was already part soup.

The decor is a mix of old and new with exposed brick walls and tri-pronged halogen lights. The rust coloured tiles underfoot matched the leather upholstery and the un-brushed wooden legs of the stools and chairs. Here, I want to point out how uncomfortable a few of the stools were. We thought we were being clever by perching on the ones by the windows, for natural lighting. However, these had a non slip seats, which meant it was hard to move around, and therefore get comfortable on.

The long table seating and settings for pairs lined down the right side of the room were the way to go. Especially as they faced the open kitchen and gave you a look at their stainless steel operation. Polished appliances and shiny pots spoke to how new they still were. At the time of this visit, they had yet to open. Their window was still labeled with the words “opening soon” and “now hiring”. This truly was a media sneak peak.

They didn’t serve alcohol today, as they continued working towards their liquor license. Their intended opening was actually in January of 2017, but due to unforeseen circumstances they were forced to make July the month of grand opening. With the intention that one day soon they will be able to provide guests with imported Taiwanese fruity beers and local craft brews on tap.

But today we were offered hot tea and soft drinks. I tried their name sake virgin cocktail, which was an apple cider with tomato juice and salted plum. I likened it to a lighter caesar, with springier notes from the sparkling apple coming up to sweeten the sip. It then finished with the sour plum, which you could suck on after the drink was done.

Each table was pre-set with cold appetizers and sauces: tangy pickles, salted vegetable, and chilli for dipping and palette cleansing between dishes and bites.

“Mu er” is wood ear mushroom, it is rubbery like seaweed. I like chewing on it for its texture, like cartilage. Flavoured with a sesame soy dressing and plum salt.

“Xiao Huang gua” is pickled Japanese cucumber, seasoned with garlic and chilli. This was the best chase between bites of deep fry. A salty and tangy, a refreshing palette cleanser.

“Yan su ji” is crispy fried chicken nuggets. They offered two different versions of it in share-sized portions. The first was regular white chicken nuggets served with their nanjing sauce. This is your typical and popular Taiwanese fried chicken offering. Nothing outstanding or different in this interpretation. Each nugget salty enough that you didn’t really need the sauce, but if you did taste it, you would get cilantro and salt.

And second, the same nuggets, but now dressed in grated Parmesan and truffle. Neither was enough to change the taste or make me take notice. Both versions had their chicken with a good crispy coating, hiding tender and juicy meat. You can tell the quality, but the style is nothing new. I found myself chomping down on a glob of dough, otherwise all was good.

“Gua Bao” is their Taiwanese steamed bun made into burgers, stuffed with pork belly, Parmesan, pickled vegetable, and cilantro. I found the filling to bun ratio unbalanced for my serving. I had one bite of pork belly to split between four more of plain white dough. Later, asking around it seems like everyone found their pork belly piece inconsistent. Not only was mine small but mostly fat. A creamy slaw or some pickles vegetables would have helped to fill out the burger and give it some tang. Here some pickle above came to the rescue, which could have been furthered by a salty brown sauce.

“Hua Diao Ji Mian”. Huadiao rice wine chicken broth, sous vide chicken breast, and a tea-infused egg. This one is for those who like a lighter noodle in soup. Barely there flavours to match the clear broth. This gave way to the flavour of the chewy noodles, which I liked a lot. Sip after sip the broth grows to be a little on the medicinal side. The chicken was surprisingly good despite its lacklustre colour. Although I would have liked it better over rice with a garlic chilli sauce. The cherry tomato halves I am still unsure about, their pops of sweetness and their tell-a-tale tang distracted. Overall the dish wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t anything I have ever had and I don’t know how else to discribe it. I would have preferred this as a whole other dish: the chicken barbecued or even in nuggets form as above. It’s one tone texture had me bored and in search of some crunch.

The “Niu Rou Mian” is their signature dish. This is Taiwanese beef noodle with braised beef in soup, along side fresh baby bok choy, chunks of carrot and potato, and Asian sauerkraut. This was at least a lot more aromatic than the dish before. But once again, what I liked most about this was the noodles, which they don’t actually make in house. And here too the broth was also slightly medicinal tasting, the dish was best without sipping from it, unless you liked an overwhelming flavour. The red wine that is used really gives it a deep, dark, and earthy flavour; with a spicy note to finish on. This is a unique interpretation, but definitely not what I think of when I think beef noodle soup. It is more like a beef stew, especially with the tender root vegetables; shame the chunk of beef I got didn’t follow suit.

Dessert was a redeeming note to end on, I would come in just for this dessert. The simple and clean paring of their house made oolong tea and pineapple ice cream. The later was sharp and tart, a refreshing sorbetto that made a nice contrast to the creamy tea infused ice cream. And the wafer cookie that sat erect in it, was the perfect little crunch to nibble on.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I typically don’t like to visit a restaurant right when they first open. I like to give them some time to work things out, and this post reads why. During this visit I found that they were still trying to figure themselves out. They were trying to be different in their interpretations of traditional dishes, but preaching casual and simple cooking techniques and flavours. I would like to return to see how far they come in a couple of months. I want to see what makes them different and what can I only get from them. There is potential here, but work to be done. Work through listening to their audience and catering their cuisine to suit the appetites of the community that would support them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RHINOFISH
550 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2T9
604-428-3389
Rhinofish Noodle Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pacific Poke

Today I was invited to a “Vancity Tastes” event, bringing attention to yet another poke restaurant in Vancouver. Although “Pacific Poke” is one of the newest at a mere 6 months old, and they have something all the others do not: lineage.

When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

Their head chef and sous chef have 30 years between them, in the fine dining restaurant industry. They themselves understand that poke places are now a dime a dozen, but they believe that what they are doing is approaching it with a slightly different perspective. They are adapting their fine dining techniques and using it to source out the best ingredients, to elevate something as simple as raw vegetable and fish over rice. They set their standards high and put detail into their bowls. The prices vary between $13-14, with the option to customize your own.

The restaurant is set up as a quick eat and go. Tables and white painted chairs on the right, with bar style seating looking out the windows up front. You begin your journey at their service counter on the left. With many more customers taking out than dining in.

They serve from cafeteria style metal containers organized like a conveyor belt operation, assembled before you behind their glass protected counter. Like similar fast food concepts you follow the employee along, watching them add ingredients onto your order; but here they use a healthy sized ice cream scoop to add dollops over your chosen base.

With options like brown rice, quinoa, and leafy greens they definitely have health in mind, and are in trend with many of the health conscious folk in Vancouver. I am not one of those, as I believe poke is best enjoyed with good old fashioned white sushi rice and plenty of mayo and sauces; both well offered in “Pacific Poke’s” bowls. As for the other ingredients, they fillet their fish in house and prepare everything from scratch: every seasoning and every squeeze bottle of sauce.

For those wanting to choose their own poke adventure, you work your way across the counter choosing its size, base, proteins, sauces, and toppings. You pay more to get more in any category.

You begin by choosing your size, a regular is $12 and the large is $14. The regular includes two proteins and three toppings, and the large gives you three proteins and four toppings. But for those who like things done their way, you can take the classics poke route with a choice between organic brown rice or traditional sushi rice. Or you can go the healthier route with a quinoa salad base or a kale salad base.

The list of proteins includes salmon, spicy salmon, spicy tuna, ahi tuna, a creamy crab and shrimp mix, and negitoro. They will also be adding in seasonal selections now and again.

For sauces they have just as much choice, and you can mix a few together. Sesame miso, a citrus dressing, pacific ponzu, a classic sesame shoyu, wasabi dressing, a spicy sauce, and a super spicy sauce.

And lastly the topping list is double. Cucumber and jicama, tomato kimchi, pickled red onion, sprouts, spicy seaweed, beets and basil, jalapeño salads, organic seaweed salad, fresh wasabi peas, avocado nori, and tobiko. Here is where they stand out from their competition some more. Not just shredded and julienned raw vegetables, but a specialty mix of seasoned vegetables and spices for house made salads, salsas, and slaws.

Despite all of the above, given the combined pedigree of their chefs, I wouldn’t bother attempting to make my own bowl. Again, they have over 30 years fine dining experience, so clearly know what they are doing when it comes to combing flavour profiles. I can attest to this, as I liked all their three chef inspired, fish-ful poke bowls. They also have a vegetarian one, but we didn’t bother trying it, considering traditional poke centres around good fresh fish.

Each bowl came well thought out. All three had a great ratio of fish to vegetable, and both over rice. An assembly of various textures and plenty of balancing favours. The fish was at the perfect, slightly chilled temperature. And there was plenty of cream to fully coat it all. It was hard, but I did single out a favourite between the three that we tried. (All of the chef’s specials, minus the vegetarian option.)

“The Main” was my favourite. Salmon, spicy tuna, crab and shrimp, jicama, cucumber, avocado nori, sesame miso sauce, lime and yuzu juice, green onion, and fresh herbs. A little spicy at some bites, warming with ginger in others, and tangy with pickled vegetables throughout. The seaweed was the highlight, best when partnered with a chunk of fish.

“The Keefer” had a half chewy rice and a half leafy vegetable base. This definitely made things feel lighter and more healthier. Ahi and albacore tuna negitoro, avocado nori, fresh wasabi peas, mixed herbs, classic sesame shoyu, wasabi dressing, and lime juice. It was more tangy from the citrus juice, with the wasabi peas adding a unique flavour to the mix.

And for those who like more spice in their poke, “The Cali” is for you. Although I did find the spicy sauce a tad overwhelming as it hid all the other ingredients behind its sharp and tangy flavour. Spicy salmon, crab and shrimp, avocado nori, pickled red onion, sprouts, and the spicy sauce.

And for those who wanted their poke even more portable, they also offer their blend of vegetable mixes and seasoned proteins as a sandwich, grilled and pressed between two panini buns. A half order went for $5.80 and the full $9.80.

The “salmon” one included crab and shrimp, pickled red onion, avocado nori, spicy sauce, and tomato kimchi. It tasted like what was in their bowls, except, substitute rice for bread.

The “tuna” was pretty much the same, except for a change in protein and a sub for the spicy sauce with the more complementary wasabi dressing to tuna and sprouts instead of the kimchi.

And to match all these bold colours and flavours, they offer three in house made drinks. Each complimentary to the bowls before us. A refreshing yuzu lemon tea, a pleasant strawberry green tea, and the coco pandan that was so rich that it drank more like a dessert than a beverage with your meal.

 

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.
They are certainly better than a handful of the pokes I have had in Vancouver, but without trying all of them, I cannot rank them the best. However this does currently does land in my top two. The experience of their chefs and their dedication to gourmet and healthy bowls certainly shows. Don’t deny your cravings

 

PACIFIC POKE
625 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2V4
604-559-5304
Pacific Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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