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Category: Coal Harbour Page 1 of 3

Nightingale revisted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giovane Cafe, revisited

My friend has yet to try one of “Giovane’s” popular sugar buns, so when looking for a meal downtown, we headed to “Fairmont Pacific Rim” to indulge.

I find myself frequenting “Giovane”, not necessarily for the food or drink, but instead for the shopping. This unique cafe caters to hotel guests, and as such is attached to a gift shop of sorts. Here, they don’t offer your name on a key chain, or any tees that read “I visited Vancouver and all I got was this lousy tee shirt”. Instead they have a collection of great gifts like hand poured candles, colourful stationary, gourmet candy, men’s leather goods, and onsies for babies. And they frequently rotate this assortment, making them a great place to get any gift, for any occasion.

But I digress, we are here for the food. The “carbonara” with pancetta, egg yolk, shallot, garlic, and Parmesan. The pasta noodles were incredibly fresh, perfectly prepared with a firm chew in mind. This was lightly dressed in a creamy sauce, and salty with bacon and cheese. Although it was one tone and the flavour did wear out.

The “pescatora” with shrimp, baby clam, white wine, tomato sauce, and basil; gave you fresh seafood flavours with tangy tomato. This too needed more depth of flavour, although the mix of shellfish did help to keep things interesting.

Overall, I am more excited over “Giovane’s” desserts then their food menu. Their sweet offerings are a lot more whimsical, creative combinations that change with the season. One such example is the “Pineapple ube” cake. It stood out from behind their glass showcase. And the best way to order dessert is with your eyes. I liked the contrasting colours of purple and orange. You could taste the pineapple and feel it’s fibres against the crispy layers. But I missed the ube completely.

And my guest loved the “matcha sugar bun”. A crispy coating of sugar over chewy bread, filled wall to wall with a fluffy cream. It wasn’t too sweet or too bitter with the matcha. Just a great treat to enjoy with coffee of tea.

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 pastas were good, but not memorable, there are a handful of Italian places I would get my carb fix from first. But for dessert, “Giovane” is superb. Cakes perfect to celebrate an occasion with and desserts idea for indulging in. Don’t deny your cravings.

GIOVANE CAFE
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 2G8
604-695-5501
giovanecafe.com

Najia Restaurant

Today we were in Coal Harbour looking for dinner. One of my guests was excited to see “Najia” nearby and insisted we visit. She is a fan of the Szechwan boiled fish dish and not many places offer it.

The harbour view was great, but this was an odd place for a Chinese restaurant. And because of its traditional architectural elements, it stood out more, adjacent to the modern marina side. Particularly their second floor annex with its pagoda-style curves and pointed roof. Inside, things got a lot more authentic. Stone lion statues, carved archways, and woven tapestries. Its intricacies made the experience all the more encompassing.

We had plenty of time to soak it all in at the threshold. Where we were left lingering, looking around as staff briskly waked past our group of three. No one stopped to acknowledge us. We eventually hailed one of the managers, she sat us at the table marked “15”. It was one of the tables that shared the lengthy booth, that ran down two walls of the dining area. It was a comfortable seat with embroidered silk pillows shaped like green and yellow clouds to prop yourself against.

There, we took our time looking through their menu, which was bound-like and read-like a novel. Each page a high resolution photo with the name of the dish and its price in small print. You ordered with your eyes, and the way it was presented there had you acknowledging the steeper price point. You were paying more for a more luxurious meal.

Our server asked if we wanted tea or water, without the warning that the former would cost you. And that each subsequent “refilled” pot would cost $2.50 more. A fact we only became aware of when we saw our bill and decided to drink the rest of what we had left in pot number 3. I am guessing that they use fresh leaves each time.

We ordered the dish we came in for and our server suggested an add on, directing us to their “Noble shrimp”, one of their house specialties. A great move considering we agreed to it at $29.88 for 9 large shrimp. We were amazed by the presentation. It was served on a plate elevated by a wooden platform, it matched the pattern of the dish ware, tea cup, and chopstick rest before our individual setting. A traditional Chinese pattern with a modern twist in a yellow-ish gold.

These were the largest shrimp I have had to date. Lightly fried, with a crispy shell you can chew down and swallow with ease. They were the only part that were seasoned. None of the sweet sticky sauce penetrated the actual prawn, so the initial bite was flavourful, and you got nothing on subsequent chews. The whole lychees and chilli peppers didn’t help, I didn’t think the lychee matched the flavour of the prawn. It wasn’t sweet but salty, then bitter at the end.

As for the boiled fish in chilli oil, my guest ordered our $29.88 serving with extra numbing peppercorn, which is her favourite part of the traditional dish. With it we each had a bowl of white rice at $3 a bowl. It helped to round things out as a more fulsome meal. Thankfully the fish actually wasn’t as spicy as it looked with all the dried, chopped up chillies. It was a refined heat that flavoured the oil and fish. But my favourite part was the crisp bed of bean sprouts at the bottom of the platter.

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.
Normally I don’t review a restaurant if I only try less than 3 dishes. However in this case I don’t think I will be returning for price alone, so thought to cover what little I have. This was little too indulgent of a cost for everyday dining. And the reality is when looking for Chinese food I won’t travel out of my way to Coal Harbour for it. Though I do acknowledge that this was very good for Chinese food downtown, with a very unique decor in a very special location. Although if this was in Richmond, it would be a different story. Don’t deny your cravings.

NAJIA
1018 Beach Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6E 1T7
778-379-3787
najia-restaurant.com

Showcase Restaurant, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Now that I know the food is this good, I will be back. They have the menu of a great waterfront restaurant, but sadly without the view or setting, shame. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

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

Fairmont Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge, Omakase

This one has been a long time coming. My friend is a big fan of sushi and when she saw the Omakase menu from Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Lobby Lounge, she immediately reached out for us to dine with her. Unfortunately it is only available for lunch during the weekdays, with limited quantities available. This meant we all had to book a day off to enjoy this fresh seafood feast. So we three gathered together on a Thursday between 11-4pm.

In my opinion, this is one of the nicest hotel lobby bars in the city. Past the comfortable lounge with live music and glass fireplace is a bright space. All white with clean tables and stools, in front of a small sushi bar. We were given a spacious table in front of the three sushi chefs, who would be crafting our assembly to come. It was set with a couple of books and a couple of artificial potted plants.

Once again this feast is by reservation only, there isn’t even a listed menu, it is what ever is on hand on the day, and at the whim of our chef. Previously there was a 4 person minimum requirement to your party, but they have since been more flexible on this rule. It is $50 per person, served all together family style, but with the ability to divide servings evenly.

To start with, I decided to indulge in a cocktail flight. A limited edition trio that pays tribute to the four vintage and couture Versace dresses and jumpsuit that they currently have on display in the lobby. At $45 you are paying $15 for 3 smaller drinks, made with premium ingredients. The cost also included the lovely flight sheet with each cocktail’s descriptions and sketches of the fashions they took inspiration from.

The “Bombshell” was a light and fizzy glass on the sweeter side, but with pops of punchy liquor. It was finished off brilliantly with a tart cherry at the bottom. The cocktail was as bold in flavour and full of complexity as the pop art details of the jumpsuit it drew from. This was a fashion silk print of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

Like the ruffled silhouette, the “High noon” too took its inspiration from the “Great American Cowboy”. Smokey, full bodied, and easy to sip with rich notes of sarsaparilla and all spice. It promises to keep you warm throughout the dark winter nights.

The “Pop art cosmo” takes inspiration from the 60’s, just like its dress pairing. Pop art graphics and bold colours. This twist on a cosmo includes cranberry and a hibiscus vodka. It is accented with mezcal and black raspberry liquor, giving you a deep and more alcohol forward beverage with tart pops.

As for our Omakase feast we started with their sablefish miso soup with pork belly, tofu, seaweed, and green onion. This was certainly the most luxurious miso soup I have ever enjoyed. With plenty of ingredients it ate more like a stew than soup. It was sweet and smokey, along with the regular salty and fishy flavour of miso. Although, I could have used a touch less oily grease per spoonful. Nonetheless I drank the bowl clean.

Next we each had two raw oysters in shell each. Typically they go for $5 per, and I can see why. These were some of the plumpest oysters I have ever had. Tasty and fresh. My guest said, “they were on steroids!” Served with tiny bottles of tabasco and the typical tomato and lemon vinaigrette, plus plenty of fresh horseradish to ladle on.

The following dishes were all presented on a long serving board, propped up on two wooden blocks. Everyone was given a taste of the following, grouped together before us. Four appetizers, four nigiri, and six various specialty sushi pieces. The following is the order in which we enjoyed them, doing so from lightest to heaviest.

The seaweed salad was a hearty mix with two clams in shell, two pieces of juicy shrimp, and a chunk of light sable fish.

The tuna tataki and spinach gomae was served room temperature. The pieces of tuna were tender and lightly seasoned, but I would have liked more sauce or some on the side to dip into. I passed on the mound of spinach, not enjoying the texture of wilted greens. Though my guests were more than happy to gobble up my share, so it must have been good.

The wild salmon was fragrant, a flavour only dampen by the amount of onion you could taste on it. A flavour that came from the gathering of onion sliced at the bottom of the cup, and not from actually eating any.

Next we enjoyed the nigiri that all came pre-seasoned with soy and wasabi. The Sardine nigiri was salty with no soy needed. It was a tangy and overwhelming on flavour.

By comparison the Shrimp nigiri was very light, fragrant with a hint of sweetness.

The Wild salmon was tasty, with more salmon flavour than the appetizer version above.

And the Tuna belly was luscious and certainly my favourite of the four.

Next we enjoyed some specialty rolls. Like their house roll: the “Lobby lounge roll”. An asparagus, avocado, cucumber, and shisho roll topped with salmon and hamachi. This was on overly herbaceous roll thanks to the herb.

I preferred the California roll made with real crab meat. The real shredded crab with creamy mayo made all the difference.

The Sesame albacore roll was made with plenty of sesame oil. It was fragrant and so nice that I wanted another taste.

Whereas the Wayu roll was disappointing. It was like a bite of meat and rice with vegetable. Whereas I would have liked the meat by itself, as an appetizer. It felt wasted to hide the grilled char of the meat behind rice and cucumber.

The Salmon motoyaki was my favourite of the six rolls. The gooey cheese sauce flavoured it well, adding a mouthwatering creaminess to the bite.

And the Lobster roll was good, but it tasted much like the California roll crab, but saltier. I wanted a more buttery flavour from this and from lobster in general.

And we saved the best for last. A serving of creamy uni made into a salad with ikura, shisho, and seaweed. My guest immediately declared, “This is what good uni tastes like”. It didn’t have a strong seafood taste, it was mild and melted in your mouth. Rich, buttery, and good.

And as a nice treat the restaurant surprised our birthday girl with a celebratory dessert platter to share. An assembly of chocolate, chocolate covered fruit, and macarons on a bed of cocoa nibs.

The Chocolate covered Strawberry with edible gold paint was delicious. I definitely recommend ordering yourself a plate for your next occasion.

The Yuzu macaron was citrus fresh, a little orange and a little lemon in a crisp shell with smooth cream.

The Cherry blossom chocolate was a beautiful dark chocolate enrobing a tart cherry centre.

 

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 omakase menu is definitely worth checking out during lunch time. But as a whole Lobby Lounge is one of my favourite places to grab a beautiful cocktail at, with live music in an opulent setting. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LOBBY LOUNGE
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C OB9
604-695-5557
lobbyloungerawbar.com

Giovane Café

Giovane Café + eatery + market at the Fairmont Pacific Rim

I have been wanting to visit “Giovane Cafe” for a while now, after seeing a plethora of photos tagged in their vicinity featuring a handful of their many photo genetic desserts.

They are located within the “Fairmont Pacific Rim” hotel, downtown Vancouver. They are a nice spot for light food and drinks, on the first floor of the luxury hotel. A space that includes its own gift shop, that stretches back towards their deli, a few steps away from the front desk and grand lobby.

You can either enter through here, or find your way in through the back. The cafe’s main entrance is marked by a row of patio tables; a giant, yellow, lowercase cursive “g”; with a matching yellow scooter parked in front of it. Going in through here leads you into the hotel first, where you take a sharp right to enter the cafe.

The counter greets you right as you swing right. An assortment of pastries under glass, and individual and whole cakes waiting for you. Looking for something more substantial?They also offer a collection of savoury sandwiches, pastas, and pizzas available for ordering here, but made back at the deli.

I arrived earlier than my guest and immediately when to the counter to reserve the desserts I wanted. Their garnered popularity has them running out of desserts quick, and I wasn’t going to let my ability to try one of their popular sugar buns pass me by. The clerk was kind enough to hold it for me and later charge me it and our meal altogether, when we were ready.

The open space of the cafe has the arena feeling less intimate. That and the use of bright lights and large share tables make the meal we had here feel less informal, less meaningful. This is the place of a quick bite, a causal encounter, or a working meeting. Not the kind of place you make your destination or go out of your way for. Not a spot of a full meal, but better the locale for you next causal and impromptu, in between meals, eating session.

Although it is elevated more than you regular cafe, with its chic feel and the prestige it held, being located within the hotel. We took our places on one of their narrow wooden tables, topped with a tea light for ambience, and a small glass container of fresh florals for colour and motif.

But average setting aside, their food is solid and their cakes and pastries are worth stopping by for. They are especially great as a dessert spot, although with their earlier hours, it would be an after lunch dessert.

We took advantage of cafe in “Giovane Cafe”, by ordering one of their large cups of “Banana coconut latte”. It was a nice creamy latte that I did enjoy, but it had no banana or coconut flavouring to it.

For our main we shared one of the adjacent deli’s “Mushroom pizza”. A fairly filling round topped with a very generous amount of roasted wild mushrooms, each nestle within a pool of truffled parmesan cream sauce, along with roccolo valtaleggio and fresh arugula. It was as you expected. Chewy dough, earthy mushroom and a flavour that got rich and heavy quick. It would have been best to balance it with another pizza or pasta with some tang to help balance it.

But now for why I dragged us here: the “Match sugar bun”. Sadly, it was nothing liked I expected. A doughy round dusted with so much extra sugar that it gave the bun’s exterior a nice grainy crust to enjoy chomping through. Although this texture is offset by the sheer amount of fluffy cream they were able to stuff into the thin layer of bread. This bun honestly had more filling than dough, a rarity and reason for complaint for many seeking a better ratio. I am not a fan of cream in general, so am the worst person the ask to review this heavy-on-the-cream bun. But at least the flavour of the matcha was stronger and therefore enjoyable. It also wasn’t too sweet, and therefore it paired well with the cafe’s coffees and teas.

I enjoyed the “Apple pecan crumble”, stylized like a glossy red apple a lot more. It had a nice comforting cinnamon-y flavour to it. And I appreciated the  nice scoop of tender apple chunks at its “core”. All this texture sitting over a crispy layer and the a spongey one. Visually, textural, and flavour-wise this dessert hit all the marks. A great treat that was definitely crafted to impress.

 

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.
As I stated earlier, they serve as great stop of desserts and snacks, with some light shopping. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GIOVANE CAFE
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 2G8
604-695-5501
giovanecafe.com
giovane café + eatery + market - Fairmont Pacific Rim Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aki Japanese Restaurant

I was downtown Vancouver with a handful of foodies, and we were in search of a nice sit down meal. A few of us rattled off a few places we have visited and liked in the area. And when we came to the possibility of “Aki”, we all agreed; after hearing this was one of the oldest restaurants in the city, and one of the first Japanese restaurants to open in Vancouver. However this isn’t their first location. They originally opened on Powell, between Chinatown and Gastown. And even with the move, they have kept the same menu that has given them so much success for the past fifty years.

The restaurant was spacious, more suitable as a lounge with vaulted ceilings and spacious booths. Warm in rich reds with their wooden walls and cushy upholstery. Definitely the type of setting you want to elongate your time within.

The one who recommended the place comes specifically for their uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon eggs). She declared it the finest in the city, with the restaurant owner confirming that they are always flown in fresh from Japan, unless it is in season in Vancouver. (This is in summer.)

So naturally three of us had to have some in the “Uni and ikura don”, which was done with no regrets. Sea urchin and salmon roe in a bowl of seasoned rice. They all agreed on its really clean flavour, stating it was not the least bit overly fishy. Then they made plans to return again.

Our host also suggested the “Nabeyaki udon” as another one of her other go-tos. Prawn tempura, chicken, fish cake, vegetable, and egg in noodle soup. It was filling with a good variety of ingredients to pick and choose from. And best of all the serving stayed hot in the clay both. A good thing, as broth is best warm, and every sip can be as comforting as it smells and looks.

Our host herself was keen on her self selected sushi platter. Two of each nigiri: uni, ikura, and scallop nigiri. She too found the quality of fish as fresh and tasty as the others did.

I, on the other hand was indecisive of what to get. There were so many unique things on the menu that caught my eye, but eventually I went for what my tummy wanted at the time, the “Katsu curry” with a deep fried pork cutlet. Although sadly, it didn’t satisfy. Where I was expecting a sweet Japanese style curry, this one was spicy and overly peppery. Good if I wanted those rich flavours. If only there was more rice, to enjoy it with and to help balance out the strong flavours. That and a lot more of the palette refreshing, tangy ginger. Although I did like the heartiness of the curry with the chunks of potatoes and slices of carrots mixed in.

For dessert I couldn’t pass up trying their “Kinako vanilla ice cream with maple syrup”. To it you have the option of adding in red bean and coffee jelly, like I did here. Each element was great on its only, and was only heightened by the creamy gelato used as base. This is a sundae that I would go back for and one that I would ask to take out next time around.

 

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.
Given the restaurant’s heritage and this successful first taste, I would definitely like to come back and try more of what they offer. Next time I would ask for and take the owner’s suggestion, as I did find the menu hard to sort through without photos or much more explanation. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

AKI
1368 West Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6E4S9
604-682-4032
akirestaurant.ca
Aki Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chateau K, private chef

Vancouver has such an expansive food scene, which includes dinners enjoyed in restaurants and meals had within the comfort of your own. In this case it was a little from column A and little more from column B. Tonight I was covering a private chef experience presented and enjoyed in the home of Chef Kevin, the man behind “Chateau K”.

In the glamorous comfort of his 18th floor, downtown Vancouver home, your fee and time includes his expansive city view, overlooking the majestic Coal Harbour.

Basically you have free reign of his home, wherein you can mix and mingle with your company. To see how we utilized our time between courses, check out my latest YouTube video on my channel: MaggiMei.

 

Each dinner he hosts requires a minimum of four attendees, with a maximum of six. It is $100 per person for a five course menu, and honestly, considering what you get and the flavour of the food, this is a steal. I have tried other private chef dinners that cost a lot more at a “discount”, and they gave me a lot less food with a lot less satisfaction. I liked everything our chef of the evening presented to me, and found each dish stunningly beautiful. Impressive considering it is just him prepping and preparing as you socialize and make yourself comfortable in his home. And this includes using his toilet paper, helping yourself to his sound system, and playing with his adorable dog: Panna Cotta Lavender Lin.

If you are looking for something specific, or wish to have your dinner themed, Chef K is able to accommodate it. He suggests looking through is Instagram account: @Chateau_K for inspiration. Although I strongly suggest leaving the ball in his court, and being surprised with what is presented in front of you. Similarly, you can book his service through a direct messages via Instagram.

And with the festive winter season fast approaching, those looking for a different way to gather your group of friends or family, he is now taking Christmas dinner bookings. This specialty occasion is $125 per person and the menu includes classic Christmas flavours like cranberry dressing, red wine braised beef, mulled wine poached pears, and egg nog foam.

Our meal tonight was less festive, but just as tasty. We started with his signature dish: a “Chilled green tea soba with Bella coola spring salmon, ikura, and baby arugula; in a creamy sesame-yuzu dressing”. The flower petals take it to the next level in aesthetic, that and the perfectly spun green noodles. The salmon is slow baked and barely cooked, he nailed the intended soft, half sashimi texture perfectly. It is a brilliantly balanced dish and my absolute favourite of the night. Chewy noodles, juicy fish, and fresh greens coming together in a tangy sauce. And best of all, he doesn’t skimp on the ikura, if it is on the plate, he wants you to taste it.

Next was some “Portobello and shiitake ravioli, dressed in a butter miso cream, and topped with crispy Brussels sprouts leaves, toasted pine nuts, and parmesan”. Incredibly rich and deliciously decadent, three handmade ravioli rounds are all you need. The pasta was tender and already I was associating the man behind the Chef’s smock with scratch made noodles. For Christmas these ravioli rounds will be dyed with red beet juice and green peas for a more festive appeal.

I continued to be excited by the next pasta dish, we definitely weren’t going to leave hungry. “Fresh hand cut tagliatelle with unagi, crispy caramelized shallots, and tobiko; dressed in tare beurre blanc. A mix of sweet and salty with el dente noodles and flamed kissed unagi (eel). This was a close second to the position of my favourite dish of the night.

The “San marzano and sacha braised beef short rib with wild mushroom, risotto and tomato gravy” featured short ribs from “H-Mart”, which our chef declared the best in the city. This is especially with the tomatoes he uses in the braising liquid, letting it braise for three hours with some soy sauce. Unfortunately, I found the beef a tad on the salty side, luckily the mound of risotto to pair with it helped. It was sticky and thick, creamy with a mushroom-soup quality to it. I liked the wasabi tobiko accent, as it created a literal pop of flavour. It gave us a a nice contrast to all the other similarly softened textures.

Our meal ended with a delightful “Chocolate mocha panna cotta, served with a lavender creme Chantilly, pomegranate, and pistachio crumble”. I am admittedly not a fan of chocolate, but scraped my plate clean of this perfectly jiggly dessert. It was light and airy with the best characteristics of eating jello and pudding all rolled into one. Everything else offered their textures and their taste to help give you contrast and change on the plate.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – n/a.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A delicious meal and a wonderful way to dress up a group gathering. Having seen the food and now getting to taste it, the plates live up to their photos. A great gift to give and a great way to treat a travelling friend: a view of Vancouver like no other. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CHATEAU K

Botanist

I have been meaning to visit the highly acclaimed “Botanist” for sometime now. And this long over due visit ended up coinciding with a birthday party, and a gathering of over 16. However, what should have been a joyous occasion was soured by a rocky start and some miscommunication at the beginning of the night.

The birthday girl confirmed her ability to bring balloons to dinner, she had planned to use them in the backdrop for photos and as a way to make the night more festive in her honour. But now walking in to the restaurant with them, one of the hosts rejected the idea. He cited the ambience and the need to not have the distraction for the other tables within their dining room. I understood the need and the policy, I just wished for the sake of my friend that they told her before she lugged her collection of helium all the way down. She even did her due diligence to ask how many balloons she could bring and had kept within their requirement. This miscommunication would then painted a negative brush on the rest of the night; where she and naturally her guests, were eager to point out anything else amiss going forward. Something that was magnified given the prestige of the place and the price points we were paying to dine here. And I guess the staff felt the energy of the table, as we were left waiting for utensils and repeating our requests for water and napkins. And at one point when we were trying to hail someone over for the bill, we saw the manger who we had spoken to earlier approach, but soon after walk away. Understandably majority of my co-diners were upset, specially when the set menu had us committing to $90 each for three courses, including the mandatory large group service charge of 18%. When approaching a high end restaurant your expectations are higher along with its prestige and it looks like they fell short for majority of our group. However I think we could have and should have been more considerate and polite when speaking with the staff. I work in the service industry and know how it is like to be slammed with a busy Saturday rush, while having to accommodate a large group. A little more compassion could have saved the night all around for everyone. None-the-less this didn’t sour my experience with them. I enjoyed my meal and the opportunity to diner here enough to plan a return trip a month later. So this post will be a combination of the two.

During my original visit, I wanted some speciality cocktails that I saw posted on their Instagram page, but were disappointed to learn that their “experimental cocktails” weren’t available in the dining area, but only at the bar. Shame, as we would have ordered three then and there and at $28 each, it is only to their benefit. So this is what I came back specifically for the second time around. A little steep, but given the ingredient list and the work that goes into each, I can see the value. Maybe not an everyday cocktail, but ones worth trying for an occasion.

To see the video version of their preparation as well as my review on them and other such extravagant cocktails, please visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

This is currently the selection, however I have been told this list will rotate a few times a year. Once again each is priced at $28 a glass. They are prepared behind a glass room within the bar/lounge. We visited at a slow enough time that the staff humoured me with a more up close and personal look into the mixology. I even got an explanation of what went into what for why. Our bartender in particular was friendly and patience, he really made our time there all the more fun and all the more worth the cost we paid at the end.

To start, he poured us a round of amuse bouche cocktails. Like a cocktail appetizer before our cocktail entree. Something to keep us busy as we waited for our more intricate order. And if all the drinks were as good as this one, we were in for a treat.

Between three girls we enjoyed the following. The “deep cove” cocktail is made Island Gin, Sea Buckthorn, Blue Algae, and Drift Wood; and is served in a specially designed drinking vessel. The glass is shaped around a piece of driftwood. Therefore only one fits together with the other, further exalting the drink. This was my favourite of the three for taste and volume. A fishbowl sized cocktail that you grasped with both hands; although realistically you were getting less alcohol as the crushed ice was quick to melt, watering down your drink. It was as tropical as it looked with that a salty quality that you’d expect from an ocean themed cocktail. It was painstakingly prepared with thinly sliced sheets of cucumber folded over and arranged within the ice, with long needled tweezers. It was used to help convey the look and motion of waves with the bubble glass. Like waves rushing against the shore and the beached log it sat on. It was finished off with a metal straw, that some how made the drinking of it even more luxurious.

I had a similar feeling with the glass straw in the “pretty bird”. This was another cocktail served in another unique blown glass vessel. We joked that the shaken liquid was poured into the bird’s butt and that is where you also end up drinking out from it. This was a more floral drink, delicate with Gin, Berries, Seeds, Bubbles, and Bird Nest.

The “candy cap magic” is for those who love a stiff drink. Mushroom Rye, Vermouth, Spiced Maple, Forest, and Moss. It had a very earthy presentation. A terrarium filled with moss, made the perfect patch for a heavy scotch glass to sit on. To it our bartender injects water through syringes, which reacts with the liquid nitrogen for a smokey show. The visual is smoke creeping out over the moss, like you could imagine from within a forest clearing, at the break of dawn. This was definitely the more visual of the three, furthered by having to open the door of the terrarium to get at your glass. As a drinking, this is the kind you enjoy in sips, with a nice back of throat burn as it goes down.

Overall sharing amongst ourselves was the way to go for this. I don’t suggest the above with food, but to enjoy them on their own, as after dinner drinks. Especially doing so on their patio if you get the chance. On this colder night we had it and the larger cushioned seat all to ourselves. Here we were able to chat amongst their luscious greenery, sit well supported by their velvet pillows, and wrap ourselves warm in one of their knotted throws. It made for a cozy and unique drinking experience and the perfect setting of a girl’s night out.

Although, if and when dining indoors, I suggest the pocketed alcoves on the way to the dining room. They have a tropical feel to them, with more out-reaching and creeping plant life, and the patterned upholstered chairs to match it.

However for a larger group the dining room is where you will be seated. At its centre are glass cases housing delicate floral arrangements. Easier to admire with their back light, given how dim the room is lit. So be warned, my following photos are on the darker side, to not only capture the tone of our visit, but to respect those around me by not using flash as we ate.

So now back to the night of my original visit. Then and there I was too heartbroken to try any other drink, and given how great my return visit went, I now know my hunch to wait and return was the right decision. But a few of the girls had their “lillemonade” cocktail instead. This is Lillet rose, lemon verbena, lemon, sparkling water, and lavender. It was described by the menu as being a refreshing and delicate aperitif tongue teaser, which is as good of a description as any.

Our meal began with some seeded bread. Perfectly kneaded dough moulded and cut up to resemble leaves. They were beautifully done and a great mark of the meal to come. This continued to be replenished throughout the night along with the whipped butter side. However I wished it was softer and fluffier bread, as my own personal preference.

From here we had threes choices for our starter, three of our desired entree, and two to choose between for dessert. Between our large group, I was able to take photos and try all eight dishes.

 

The “Charred octopus” was served with asparagus, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and chorizo. It looked like each ingredient was most gingerly placed at its predesigned angle. The octopus was definitely the star of the dish, each segment had a beautiful char with a smokey flavour that carried through to the vegetables. The thin slices of the latter was a wonderful compliment to the chewiness of the former. However, I would have liked the chorizo minced up into smaller chunks. I found its spice a little overwhelming, with too much punch for the octopus to compete with.

The “White gazpacho” came with a show. The serving lands just with the cucumber, marcona almonds, green grapes, and sidestripe prawn gathered together at the centre of the bowl. From here your server pours the actual soup over it all. It was thick and creamy, but reminded me of sour cream in drinking form.

In my opinion, the “Watercress salad” looked unimpressive. Green grapes, tarragon, goat cheese, and balsamic. I didn’t have any, but the two girls who did seemed to like it just fine.

The “Duck breast” was my entree of choice. It was served with spaghetti squash and rhubarb, coated in a natural jus. It tasted like BBQ duck done Chinese style. The rhubarb and star anise had mixed reviewed. I appreciated the rest of the julienned vegetables for their crisp bites to pair with the tender and juicy cuts of meat.

The “Mustard-crusted chicken” came with smoked potato, leeks, and a fennel mousseline. The chicken had a nice crispy skin, but I found it too salty. Having the meat with the side of fennel slaw was helpful, it broke up the flavour and gave the dish some lightless. Although I would have preferred them pickled like sauerkraut for the tangy quality I felt that was missing.

The “Olive oil poached halibut” was a head turner. Tomato, squid ink, and local greens. Like the soup before, the broth for this was poured table side, a nice tomato water. It was light and healthy tasting with the tomato giving punches of tang to the buttery fish. The squid ink crisp was a fun little barrier to break through to reach tender and flakey white fish. A little bland for my tastes, but those that ordered it said they would do so again.

For dessert the “Beetroot cake” was the more popular pick of our two choices. Hazelnut, vanilla, Gewürztraminer gel, and elderflower frozen foam. It was like a lighter red velvet sponge, with each flavour layering on for a more complex dessert.

I preferred the “Meyer lemon polenta cake” with apple, honey, Angelica brûlée, and lemon buttermilk ice cream. The honey gave it sweetness and the apple made it refreshing with only a hint of tart. This was a nice palette refresher to end on. Although given how flavourful some of our plates were above, a more richer dessert option would have been nice to round the meal off with.

 

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.
Two different visits, two different occasions, and I enjoyed myself at both. A restaurant I appreciate for its details and one I would gladly cone back to again on the right occasion. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BOTANIST
1038 Canada Place Way, Vancouver BC, V6C 0B9
604-695-5500
botanistrestaurant.com
Botanist Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

45 Degree Bubble Tea House

Bubble tea using real steeped and brewed coffees and teas make all the difference. And I think drink shops like “45 degrees” are realizing the extra effort makes all the difference, and that their customers are willing to pay for the quality of a fine tea over powdered anything. So when I was invited to this media event I was very optimistic, after all their slogan is, “Try it. Say no more.”

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 cafe is located downtown, adjacent to many offices and high rise homes, but not really on the path that has many pedestrians walking past it. Thus making them more of a destination. A place for an after work, non alcoholic drink; or as a hang out with friends looking to catch up.

The shop is inviting with its all glass front, and seating on the sidewalk. Inside, it appears they are still trying to sort out their theme and/or decor. Their furniture is a collective of mismatched coloured chairs to similar tables, and painting sitting on random shelves and resting against the ground and its wall. The latter pretty alone, but this too didn’t match from one canvas to the other.

The menu is a televised screen at the counter. It is a comprehensive list written in 8 point font. But without a description under each menu item, as one unfamiliar with Chinese style tea house menus, I wasn’t sure what I would be getting if I ordered the “jade dew” or a “green dragon”. Luckily their divide between each sub-sections of tea was easy enough to navigate. The original mousse and it’s low calorie counterpart were teas topped with a creamy foam top. With milk tea drinks, you had the ability to have served hot or cold. Black tea or green tea came with the same option of fruit flavouring. And for something a little more creamy, you can add on a scoop of ice cream to any fruit slush. Or for 50 cents a scoop, you had your choice of additional toppings like the popular brown tapioca pearls, along with other jellies and puddings. You can also adjust how much sugar and sweetness you desired for your drink. And for the morning crowd they also offered your favourite coffee shop darks and lattes with syrup flavourings.

Of note, we were given several regular sized drinks to share between eight individuals. So my assessments below are based off of collaborative commentary and trying only a couple of sips of each. So I can’t tell you if each beverage had longevity, and if it tasted as good the first sip all the way to the last drop. But what I can say is, as a whole you definitely tasted the difference good quality and properly steeped tea can bring to a cup. Although be warn, as such, it does take time to prepare your drink.

Their name comes from their specialty designed cups and lids and the need to tilt it at a 45 degree angle to optimize drinking from it. This lid has a protruding plastic piece, in which you push down like a trap door, in order to sip in. It is mostly used for their mousse beverages, like the “Rose osmanthus milk tea” that we tried. This has rose syrup, rose tea, osmanthus, and mousse cream. The mousse is what you start of with and finish with when drawing in a sip. It begins sweet, but leaves you with a saltier after note. I would have preferred the mousse paired with a darker, more bitter black tea; than with the lightness of this floral rose that was too perfume-y, and yet was still overpowered by the fragrant mousse cream. Overall, an interesting idea, but not my favourite drink. Maybe if we stirred the cream in and drank it blended in with the tea I would have liked it more.

Served in the same cup was their “Peach mojito”, although despite its name, actually contains no mint. This is club soda and fruit with a bubbly and refreshing taste. It is available, but as of yet not listed on the menu.

I much more preferred their milk tea drinks, which really celebrates their use of high end teas. Like the “Peach oolong milk tea” which was well received by the group. This is another one that has yet to make its appearance on their menu, but I can see doing very well.

I found the “Toffee black tea milk with espresso” strong with a bitter taste. It came with none of the expected sweetness of toffee, having me deem it more for the coffee lover.

I was intrigued by the “Sweet olive green tea”, as I have never heard of or thought to flavour tea with the briny flavour of olives. The drink is herbaceous, tangy, and bitter to start, but it grows on you. If I didn’t know it was made with olives, I wouldn’t have been able to guess.

And the “Black dragon milk tea with caramel jelly”, was everyone’s favourite. We found it tasted like caramel and toffee candy in a liquid form, and that the jelly at the bottom added a nice chew and made for a great note to end on.

For something with less kick, their “Green apple and pear with Four season oolong tea” hit the spot. Another new option to the menu and the best of the tea prominent blends we tried today.

By contrast the “Ultimate fruit punch with lime, strawberry, orange, and apple” flooded you with fruit flavours and floral notes. You got the tea base with its bitter afternotes, highlighted by the zestiness of all the citrus fruit.

They aren’t currently offering any snacks, as told by their glass display case being completely empty. But today we got a taste of what may come. They will be offering a waffle filled with custard, and it is so new that it doesn’t even have a name. We likened it to a corn dog in shape and the fact that it is skewered through with a stick, making it hard to eat around. The dough reminded me of Chinese style baked coconut sticky rice cake, which I like. I just wish they were more generous with the cream filling, as this would have helped to give the dessert some more chewy moisture. Or maybe offer the custard on the side as a dip as much as you like sort of deal.

 

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 like their tea and coffee blended drinks, but wouldn’t travel out here just for one. A great way to quench your thirst in the neighbourhood, but I think they would need some savoury snacks to partner with their sweet drinks, in order to make them more of a gathering point. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

45 Degrees
1467 W Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2S3
604-428-4515
45 Degree Bubble Tea House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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