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Category: Downtown Vancouver Page 1 of 22

Honolulu Coffee, Happy Hour

Other restaurants have Happy Hour, “Honolulu Coffee” has “Pa’u Hana”. Starting on Friday October 4th, the “Honolulu Coffee” on Nelson will host live music with drink and food specials, every Friday from 3-7pm. It may be fall and it maybe cold, but here they are on island time; and the tropical vibes certainly does help to warm you up.

To celebrate the occasion they hosted a luau and I was the first one to arrive for all the festivities. To set the mood, there was live music. Pop songs done on the ukulele.

And “Leis de buds” was on location with handcrafted real rose and real orchid leis. Guests were invited to dawn one around their necks, learning that the proper way to do so is with equal parts of the lei and its florals dangling in front and at the back. This is so that others will be able to enjoy its aesthetics from either side.

And when the pre-made ones were all handed out, the floral specialist began making more on the spot, as a demonstration. Utilizing a specially imported lei needle to thread blossoms together by way of string. The result, wearable art, and a keepsake to take home and dry.

The event spilled out the entrance of the cafe. And right at the entry way was a baby pig roasting on a spit. It definitely attracted the desired attention. Slow cooking since first thing in the morning, it was now ready for carving up and serving.

Its pulled pork meat would be the feature of their kalua pork burgers, along side pineapple and a tomato salsa. The pork was terrific, you can taste the difference cooking it over hot coals made. As for the burger as a whole I would have liked the pineapple grilled, the salsa less watery, and a sweeter mayonnaise to pull it all together.

Inside, a table was set up with help yourself small bites. A collection of their bar menu snacks and cafe favourites for everyone to sample.

In the Teri burger, I got the tangy mayo that I was looking for above. It paired well with the crispy shredded slaw and all the onion and cilantro, piled over a thin beef burger patty.

For something to crunch on and pair with their Hawaiian brewed beers by the can, I recommend their smoked “mixed bar nuts” with a sticky glaze.

I fully enjoyed the “Edamame coconut hummus”. A whipped spread served with pita. It gives you the sensation and texture of hummus, but with a whole new flavour profile to explore. Garlicky and coconut-y, I have had nothing else like it.

The “Lilikoi pineapple meatball” was a nice small plate to share. Served with tooth picks, they are easy to pop into your mouth. A bite-sized round of meat with plenty of cilantro, and hints of passion fruit.

The bacon cheddar scones are from their cafe side, a perk of having a bar within a cafe, you get to pick and choose from either menu that shares the same seating area.

The matcha brownie cubes were decadent, moist bites of chocolate.

But my favourite of all their cafe snacks is their guava bread. I ate cube after cube, recommending others to do the same. A moist cake with the flavour of the pink tropical fruit.

At the build your own açai bowl bar, guests helped themselves to scoops of frozen açai; and topped with as much or as little fresh fruit and dried ingredients as you wanted. Slices of strawberry and banana, whole blueberries, coconut flakes, and house made granola. Tart and refreshing, this made for a healthy dessert alternative.

At their bar they were serving cans of “Maui Brewing Co.” beers in Pineapple mana wheat or Coconut hiwa porter.

And for something sweeter and frostier, you can enjoy their “Hauoli Colada”, similar to a pina colada with tropical fruit juices blended with ice and rum. It was an easy drinking cocktail, made more enjoyable when served in one of their brightly coloured, novelty tiki mugs or pineapple-shaped cup.

We finished our meal off with a cup of their “Hawaiian latte”, exclusive to them and one of a kind with their specialty beans. It uses coconut milk and macadamia nut syrup to further their theme. And although you smelled more of it, than you do taste it, this was still a great indulgence.

They also have two new hot beverages for their fall offerings. The first is a “horchata latte” with cold brew coffee, soy milk, and cinnamon. The second, a “baked maple pumpkin latte” with real pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, espresso, and milk; topped with grated nutmeg. They didn’t quite taste like what I expected. Not concentrated in horchata or pumpkin flavour, but a different interpretation altogether. I would have liked the horchata sweeter, and the pumpkin latte spicier. The latter was interesting with the addition of maple syrup. Maple, being a strong flavour that battled with the pumpkin as lead in the drink.

For more coffee, guests were invited to sample “Honolulu Coffee’s” newest roast, the “Peaberry”. This is one of the world’s rarest coffees, a lighter bodied brew with subtle sweetness and hints of mixed berry. One that you can take home as beans in a bag. It was recommend that we drink it as is, without milk or sugar. It was a delightful brew, and I can see why it has earned its accolades.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In short, “Honolulu Coffee” will continue to be a cafe I recommend. Not just a regular coffee house, but one that features tropical flavours and transports you to a place much warmer and much further away. And now with happy hour and their own beer garden, there is even more reason to visit them soon. Don’t deny your cravings.

HONOLULU COFFEE
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

 

Hydra Cafe & Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Given how much we spent on a seafood tower, I felt it should have lived up to the cost. And for that I wouldn’t necessarily clamour to visit again, but can safely recommend them for an amazing hotel bar to see and be seen at. Don’t deny your cravings.

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

Honolulu Coffee, beer garden

I don’t naturally gravitate towards coffee so it is nice to have a different reason to visit “Honolulu Coffee”. They have just opened a beer garden within their cafe, and I was here to get the full Hawaiian experience from them. Although fun fact, Vancouver is the only “Honolulu Coffee” franchise to host their own beer garden. There isn’t even one in Hawaii.

I cannot believe it took me this long to step into their space. It is so much fun. Their Hawaiian theme is evident in every part of their business. You feel transported as you step through the threshold with the change in light and the faint scent of coconut and macadamia nuts in the background. Bleach wood, rattan furniture, patterned cushions, and walls papered with palm trees to further the setting.

To take a little piece of this and them home, they even have a gift shop of sorts. Shelves with their branded coffee mug and tumblers, bold coloured tees and canvas tote bags, bags of their own coffee beans, and tins of their tea.

Like with any cafe they offer speciality coffees and hosts a showcase of baked goods and pastries. From dessert cakes to brownies. We would get a taste of both before the night’s end.

Their cafe feels separate from their beer garden, despite the latter only covering a little corner of their elongated space. But in my opinion, this is the best corner. All centred around a colourful mural of sand and water framed by palm trees, advertising their “Brewed with Aloha” beers. With a custom painted surf board to anchor it all. With this, all the right props, and all their tropically inspired beers, you are somewhere warm and tropical.

Their limited menu is listed on the back of their bar. Local beers on tap and Hawaiian beers by the can, and the perfect inspired snacks to enjoy them with.

We started with two cans of the Island brewed “Maui Brewing Co.” beers. Their cans feature Maori traditional prints on the outside and tropical fruit flavours on the inside. Both gave you the promised fruit essence with a nice easy drinking beer. Pineapple mana wheat and Coconut hiwa porter.

With it we enjoyed a serving of their mixed bar nuts, its smokey flavour complimentary to the beers.

My guest and I were fully impressed by the “Edamame coconut hummus”, and the creativity in the idea. It gave you the sensation and texture of hummus, but with a whole new flavour. It was churned smooth, and ideal with the pillowy soft pita bread it was served with. Garlicky and coconuty both at the same time, here is nothing else like it. Worth trying.

The “Lilikoi pineapple meatball” was a nice one to easily pop into your mouth, as a bar snack. A solid ball of meat with plenty of cilantro, coupled with hints of passion fruit; but tasted more like pineapple.

It was later explained that it is typical for Hawaiian cuisine to feature plenty of onion and cilantro. Like there was in our “Teri burger sliders”, along with a creamy mayo and crispy shredded slaw. All on a thin burger patty and plain bun. You eat it more for its condiments than the sweet buttery bun, gaining very little taste from the patty. It is also more sweet than salty, and I expected some teriyaki flavour in this (because of its name), and didn’t get it.

We finished our meal off with a cup of their “Hawaiian latte”, exclusive to them and one of a kind with their specialty beans. It uses coconut milk and macadamia nut syrup. Although you smell more of it, than you do taste it, this was still a great indulgence.

And I couldn’t pass up a slice of their guava bread. It is like banana bread, but sweeter and pink from the colour of the fruit. It was cut thick and offered you a beautiful chew. I would go out of my way for more. Another must try.

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.
Seriously, glad I could check this one out. And now I am happy to be able to recommend it. Next time that I want a drink or a snack I will actively look for a “Honolulu cafe”. Great polite service, stand out food, and a one of a kind setting to enjoy both in. Don’t deny your cravings.

HONOLULU COFFEE
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

Liu Yi Shou Hot Pot Restaurant

Despite the seasons, Chinese-style hot pot tends to be a consistently popular destination for those wanting a little more involvement in their meal. You cook up your own dinner, customizing it from which broth base you use to what ingredients you put in. And at “Liu Yi Shou” they offer a few more options to make your experience even more interactive and personalized.

For the tutorial on how to maximize your hot pot experience, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

First “Liu Yi Shou” has happy hour, plenty of wine and beer on special. I suggest sharing a pitcher with your friends. With all the spicy and flavourful ingredients, beer makes for a great in between sipper. They also have plenty of can sodas and fruit pops available, and even coconut water you drink right out of the fruit. So start with this as you explore their very extensive menu.

And while you work out your order, or wait for it to come and boil, you can start nibbling on their “Cheese fondue”. This is a new menu item, and one that you don’t often see at a hot pot restaurant. Not just melted cheese, but their fondue is mozzarella flavoured with tomato. It is served with a board of hot dogs, celery, and chicken wings for dipping into. I really liked the flavour of the cheese dip, it had a comforting, gooey tomato soup feel to it. But despite the lit tea light under the individual fondue bowl, it does cool quick. Although it doesn’t congeal, so you can come back to what you don’t finish in between your hot pot, as a flavour changer.

You can also order their popular marinade appetizer dish. This is an assorted platter of quail eggs, bean curd, pig’s ear, and pork hoc marinated in a soy sauce blend. It is enjoyed cold or at room temperature. This you eat more for its textures of squishy, spongy, chewy, and rubbery.

Today I was dining with hot pot experts and they made sure to order the most unique of all the option, plenty of which are exclusive to “Liu Yi Shou”, starting with their tri-soup pot. You can enjoy 3 different flavours of broth, altogether in one pot. Ideal for those who get tired of a one flavour boil; or for those who can’t take their food spicy, dining with those who only like it spicy.

We had the chicken with coconut soup base, the wild mushroom soup base with Chinese herbs, and the spicy and numbing hot pot. The latter was extra special, it came with a block of tallow shaped like their cow mascot. “Tallow” is saturated beef fat, it is higher in calories than butter, but healthier and better tasting! The hotter it got, the quicker he melted, and soon he was face first in a pool of chilli and peppercorns. Not only does this make the soup more indulgent, it also help to cut into some of that hot, hot heat. And if you order the chicken and coconut soup base, you get a plate of raw chicken complimentary, to cook within it.

In an effort to save table space, our platter of finely sliced lamb and beef is served on a wooden ring, that fits perfectly around our hot pot. From here it is easy to pick up a slice and dunk it into any broth. Both cook up relatively quick, and after 5 dunks you are ready to eat it.

But as waited for all the soup broths to boil, we made our way to the back of the restaurant, to their help yourself sauce bar. At some hot pot places I find I get bored of the taste, that everything is boiled up the same, and has only the one flavour throughout. Here, you can customize your own sauces and curate the flavour, so that anything you don’t like is on you. Mix and match from sauces and oils like spiced vinegar, oyster sauce, sesame oil, satay sauce, mushroom paste, and bean curd paste, etc. Toss in some minced and chopped dry ingredients like sugar, green onion, toasted soy bean, mashed garlic, preserved turnip and peanuts; for texture and chew.

And while we were busy mixing and creating to our heart’s content all our ordered ingredients began arriving one platter after another. The beautifully plated, raw food comes out quick here.

A wooden box of leafy greens and various mushrooms.

Fish paste moulded into two hearts. This you scoop and drop into the broth for it to boil up and harden into a solid ball.

A platter of shrimp, cuttlefish, pork and beef, pre-formed balls.

An interesting one were these tubes of bean curd that you dip into the pot for 3 seconds. They act like sponges, soaking in the broth and offering a distinct ribbed chew.

For the adventurous you can order a platter of intestines and organ meats, for a more traditional hot pot experience. Pig’s blood, beef tripe, ox aorta, and goose intestine. I would also consider this, one that you order more for its textures, each with its own unique chew or gelatin-like consistency. The aorta had the same chew as squid rings, the tripe was so tender and easy to bite into, the intestine required more jaw work; and the savoury pigs blood had the texture of pudding and jello combined.

But the highlight and feature of our meal was definitely “meat Barbie”. A Barbie doll repurposed. She was dressed in strips of angus beef that you peel of her torso or cabbage base and add into your soup. At her feet is a garden of raw seafood. Shrimp in shell, fish puff, mussels, fish, and sticks of imitation crab. A visual treat, as well as a tasty one.

And for those who actually still have room for more, “Liu Yi Shou” does have dessert, offering something sweet to end on. Like their red rice cakes that you dip into condense milk or a sweet syrup. I did try one, but after all the food above, I felt ending on anything rice related or starchy a little much.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I like their creativity and the broad offering of their menu. They aren’t just a place for hot pot, but serve as a stop for happy hour as well. Cold drinks and small snacks or dessert. They offer regulars and occasional customers reasons to return with plenty of variety to try and taste. And as the first hot pot place to have franchises all over the world, there are many locations for you to get your fix at. Don’t deny your cravings.

LIUYISHOU HOTPOT
1542 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C2
778-379-3977

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

Railtown Cafe, Tailgate BBQ series

This summer “Railtown Cafe” is bringing back their tailgate barbecue series. Their original location is hosting all day cookouts, one Sunday a month. June 23, July 14, August 18, and September 22 from 11am to 8pm. It is a ticketed event, so best to purchase them before hand to secure your plate. Although walks ins are accepted. With two down, there are only two more chances to try all their barbecue and sides. The meat platter is $27, and the vegetarian option $17. All tickets purchased online includes a complimentary drink voucher, where you save up to $6 for a cup.

Your bbq journey starts inside their cafe. Payment or ticket redemption gets you a paper plate. You take it down the counter to have it loaded with sides.

First comes their Jalapeño Corn Bread. Spicy meets sweet in this crumbly slice.

Next you have a choice of two sides between their “Carolina Coleslaw”, “Creamy Potato Salad”, “Classic Caesar Salad”, or “Farmers’ Market Field Greens”. I had the first two, my friend the Caesar and the potato salad. Each of the salads offered some freshness, and some greenery to help balance out all the density of the meat. I especially liked their potato salad. Thick chunks of potato coated in mayonnaise and flavoured with plenty of dill.

You head outside to where everything is prepared on their custom-built, 12-foot barbecue barrel grill. There, all your mains are kept warm, pre-made for easy dispensing. We enjoyed the meat lover’s option, a fulsome assembly of the below, guaranteed to have you leaving full.

The Tailgate Barbecue menu includes their 35-hour Texas-style Beef Brisket, Applewood-smoked Pork Shoulder, Beer-brined Maple Hill Farms Chicken, D’Original Sausage Haus Brats, and Corn on the Cob. You got a piece of each, though I am sure if you wanted to trade one for the other or make an edit they would obliged.

Everything was super tender, I especially enjoyed the dark meat piece of chicken. The brisket I got was a little fattier than I would have liked. The pulled pork shoulder was a little dry, but easily remedied with a generous scoop of their sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. That sauce was even good on their half cob of corn.

And naturally, with all this salted meat you’d want an ice cold beverage. And you are in luck, “Strange Fellows Brewing” and “Good Company Lager” is partnering with “Railtown” this year and their beers are on top. If you want something a little more sweet, cocktails like their “Lynchburg Lemonade” and/or their “Railtown Ruby Sangria” are available. I opted for the former for a full summer feel. But regular lemonade is also available. And for those coming with the entire family, there is plenty of other non-alcoholic beverages like flavoured iced-teas and other soft drinks available as well.

Once fully loaded, you gather up your heavy plate and chilled plastic cup and pick where you park. A pop up seating area is set up right out front, taking a tiny slice of the street. Folding tables clothed in white and red gingham offered a picnic vibe. But for those who rather stay out of the sun, there is plenty of indoor seating in the restaurant itself. Similarly, if you are looking to round out your meal with a hot beverage or dessert. They offer plenty of coffee options, and fresh made savoury and sweet pastries behind glass.

For more information on the next bbq tailgate and how you can get your own tickets, check out the link below.

Railtown Tailgate Barbecues are BACK!

RAILTOWN CAFE
397 Railway Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1A4
604-428-0800
railtowncafe.ca

M8 Restaurant

I found myself here with a handful of my fellow food bloggers, if it hadn’t been for the invite, I don’t think I would know to visit this newly opened restaurant. Lucky, many of them cover what’s new and happening in the food world, so I get to stay on the pulse when in their company.

Located by the water, in a less trafficked area, you wouldn’t find “M8” unless you knew where it look. As a result the restaurants that have held this space before, have come and gone in rotation. “M8” will have a challenge before them in keeping their tables full, outside of summer. During the warmer months (like it was the case today) the patio was seated with those looking for a cool glass by the marina waters. But those in the dining area were here to try their Asian fusion share plates.

The restaurant’s decor was certainly a draw in. A white marble bar with a green leafy awning serves house made cocktails and recreates the classics. Solid wooden tables offer seating for larger groups. And booths around the corner gave diners more intimacy. They were upholstered in a teal crushed velvet, set before a mirrored backslash that mimicked a city’s skyline with peaks and dips.

Our group sat under the most interesting art piece. Under the painting of a noble from ancient China, seated in a throne with overflowing robes. A radish covering his face and a celery stalk gripped in his hand like a sceptre.

Given the mixed reviews we read going into this, we played it safe, ordering a handful of dishes to see if we liked it before adding on a few more, when we decided we wanted to more fully assess their offerings. But first trying to order. The menu was aesthetically faded. Parts missing print for an intentional aged look. However we still managed to order off of it, selecting dishes that were more unique and distinct to them. A bridging of Asian flavours with French techniques.

Our group was the most excited for the “Crispy chicken skin”, that also ended up being our favourite of the night. But it set up the evening so strong, that everything after it was almost disappointed by comparison. That to come wasn’t as strong in their fusion flare. This was deep fried chicken skin seasoned in chilli oil, salty egg yolk, mustard seeds, and a balsamic glaze. The chicken skin was done right, crunchy with a snap that was like a thick cut chip. Each piece delicious and decadent with the yolk, but the whole order would be a lot for one person. And at $9 a plate this would be worth revisiting. I will be listing the rest of the prices as well, given the value in their appetizers, especially compared to the entrees. More on that later.

The Shimeiji mushroom tempura was a new way to enjoy the airy and crispy batter of tempura. A great presentation and a fun way to share. The mushrooms peeled off into sections and you were able to share it as such. Enjoyed with a burnt lemon aioli for dipping, a warm kale salad, and wakame. For $8 this is another one I would recommend.

We weren’t unanimously agreed on the “Crispy pork belly” with taro root, and pork jus. But at $7 a plate for two decent sized chunks we really couldn’t complain. The meat was slightly dry, furthered by the dry taro paste. Whereas with pork belly you want the gummy fat and a thick and sticky jus to coat it.

The “Beef cheeks” went for $11, ad one of the premium priced appetizers, comparatively. Served with aged blacked vinegar, Sichuan peanut, and lotus root. It had a very dark and and deep rich tone to it, followed by the tingling numbness from the Sichuan pepper corn.

The “Lamb belly” was the other $11 appetizer. Smoked lamb belly, mint salsa verde, and fennel carrot. This one was brighter, and rich in spice and zest. The meat was also better prepared.

“Beef and broccoli” is a Chinese classic, and “M8” elevated it with their take. 8oz ribeye steak, sautéed broccoli, fingerling potato, and beef jus. This was actually our second take on the plate. Where we asked for medium rare, the server took down “medium well”. The result, dry, overcooked steak. When corrected, the kitchen happily made us a better serving with pink centres. But you would think they would question the server and us as diners on our request for over cooked steak? Either way our second go was tender, but no better off given how salty it was. It was also flat in flavour with one note throughout. The broccoli was better prepared, but it too had too much soy. And at $38 a plate, you expect this closer to perfect.

The “Tagliatelle bolognese” was an interesting read off the menu. Asian fusion giving us something Italian in origin. Beef and pork ragu, shiitake mushroom, with a trio soy sauce. It ate like a great pasta dish, with the familiar salty and sweet pairing found in Chinese cuisine. The sweetness of the mushroom also offered a twist to the classic tomato based bolognese. But as a whole, I found the serving needed more seasoning.

I liked one half of the “Crispy duck” offering. Aged duck breast, confit duck leg, soybean, and preserved mustard greens. The duck breast was lean and juicy, not perfect but not bad compared to the dry confit, made ashy with the side of gritty beans. The Sichuan pepper made a sneak peak here too, but its mild numbing effect didn’t add anything to the mix.

The “Tiger prawn bucatini” was bland. I didn’t taste any of the pesto, and the corn only added marginal sweetness. The prawns were the best part with the most flavour, but there weren’t enough of them to go around when sharing.

We considered dessert, but after hearing it was either a slice of green tea ice cream cake or regular creme brûlée, we deemed both not exciting enough and passed. It would have been nice to have had their fusion approach to the dessert menu as well. Although their website does claims they are not fusion. I feel they should embrace it, to help market their food and make it more approachable.

Worth noting is their individual washrooms. A different tropical theme for both plastered in paper. Cheetahs on the prowl and banana leafs in full fan formation.

 

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? – Yes.
I wouldn’t necessarily make the effort to come back, given the overall average meal. But for a different patio idea, and a creative appetizer menu with good value, they are worth checking out. Fine dining details and dressing puts a twist on Taiwanese street food. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

M8
1010 Beach Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6E 1T7
604-620-9586
m8yvr.com

Chambar, terrace open

As of June 1st Chinatown’s best patio is open for the summer season. And to help celebrate, they are launching a new happy hour menu to mark the occasion.

Located right by the Stadium skytrain station, “Chambar” is easy to get to for an early brunch or an after hour cocktail. And patio is open morning to late, serving everything within, outside on their sun soaked patio. An oasis of brick, leafy greens and vibrant florals. Seating on the terrace is first come, first served. With no reservations allowed. So come early and enjoy it fully.

My recap today won’t be of the actual experience, but of the festivities leading up to the launch.

Nothing spells summer like a cool cocktail on a hot day, and we would enjoy 4. Three of which are barrel-aged and highlighted on their updated happy hour menu (which they call an “interlude”).

First it was the “Le Soleil Punch” with Remy Martin VSOP cognac, Mount Gay Eclipse rum, Cointreau, House limoncello, Aperol, and an iced tea blend. This was an easy sipper perfect for patio drinking.

“Lind’s Lemonade” had a beautiful hue to it thanks to the hibiscus flower used. Matusalem platino, house made limoncello, hibiscus, fresh lemon, and Talisman pale ale. A slightly floral, spiked lemonade without sting of alcohol, a dangerous drink if you take in to many.

The “Zenzero Spritz” made for a good digestive thanks to the ginger. It was light tonic with a low calorie feel. Bianco vermouth, ginger, sparkling wine, and soda.

The “Botinst G&T” was a refreshing classic. Bontist gin, house tonic, grapefruit, and rosemary.

They also had bottles of rose and white wine on ice, and red at the ready.

And “Strange Fellows” brewing had their beer cart set up to pour their ales, lagers, and IPAs.

As this was a mix and mingler, we didn’t get the ability to taste full plates, only teasers of what they offer from their brunch, lunch, and dinner menu. Enough to wet my appetite and have me curious over what the full servings would be. But sadly I didn’t get enough of a taste to really review them for you here, but they are as follows

Duck confit & eggplant wrapped in phyllo dough. A little dry and heavily if not fully drizzled and smeared with the cream and orange blossom syrup.

Veal stuffed calamari. The taro chips served as great little spoons to scoop up squid and cream. A descant one biter that maybe too much as a full serving.

I loved the colours of English pea dumpling with spicy carrot hummus. Plenty of pea purée stuffed into chewy wrapper. The hummus offered spice, but I would have preferred a sour cream to dip into as well.

Chicken sausage and chorizo manchego sausage. Served in zesty slices with dollops of cream and pesto, the full sausage is typically featured on their brunch menu and in their paella.

Poached prawns on sourdough bread with jalapeño and fish roe. Piled high, there was a lot to unpack in this. I liked each individual element, but not necessarily all together in one bite. This was especially the case for the pickle ginger, which would have been better served as a finale palette cleanser.

The grilled asparagus with olive oil and shredded cheese was exactly as expected.

I loved the visual of this colourful presentation. A pick-a-bite platter with beet mousse over flatbread, fried halloumi cheese, pea falafel, and flatbread with carrot hummus. A little dry and plain, I would have liked a sweet and tangy sauce to dip into for some character.

The one bite of beef striploin was perfectly tender. Prepared with cioppino onion and A truffle aioli I found myself eating a couple of these. I wouldn’t mind trying the full serving of this one.

The seared tuna and Japanese yam with a beurre blanc was another classic bite well executed, that I wanted more of.

 

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.
All in all this was enough of a taste to have me planning a trip back to enjoy full plates, more cocktails, and their patio. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CHAMBAR
568 Beatty Street, Gastown Vancouver BC
604-879-7119
chambar.com

Prost Haus

 

Downtown Vancouver has a new new Bavarian beer and food hall. And in this post I was invited down for the grand opening, to check out all the fun. Located on the covered roof top of “Dublin Calling”, they have found themselves a permanent home; where as “Roof Top”, the reincarnation before, was only temporary. “Prost Haus” has their own entry way on Granville Street, and tonight you couldn’t miss them and their blue and white checkered motif. Past the podium, you walk up the stairs; towards their faux window, overlooking an Austrian castle. From here, you enter via their lounge area. High tops and wooden booths given some mystique with the tinge from red bulbs.

There are many more seats in the dining hall. Lengthy share style benches under the skylight; or more intimate seating by individual tables, towards the secondary bar at the back. Each table clothed in blue and white gingham. With matching blue and white pennants and flags hanging over head.

The German theme is furthered by a collections of beer steins on display behind lock and key, the largest gathering of mustard variations I have ever seen, and all the employees in their brown lederhosen uniforms. I am not sure if the dress code was solely for today’s grand opening festivities; but I hope not, as it really added to the fulsome theme and got me in a more celebratory mood.

Even the bathroom doors were marked with cartoon characters in German traditional ware.

There was plenty to drink tonight with a curated selection of beers on tap. We drank our fill and snacked on roving appetizers.

German pretzel balls with a beer cheese dip. Hard dough balls, only slightly moisten by the thick cream dip you poured over it. Clever presentation, but a messy one.

German pretzel balls with grainy mustard. Same pretzels as above, but with a zesty condiment.

Pork belly and red cabbage over crostini. By favourite bite of the night, wish I got more of it as a plate.

Spicy sausage and grainy mustard over sauerkraut. A great accompaniment to our collection of beer, but a slice is not enough.

Chicken schnitzel. A little dry, even with the cream drizzle. Could have used a little more seasoning as well.

There were also several help yourself fondue stations with vats of warm beer cheese and cubes of bread that you dip into with skewers. Would have liked more options to dip with and fo the cheese sauce to be punchier with sharper cheeses.

But it was lively polka music and their 10 person ski shot that really helped to jump start the party. The latter is a lengthy wooden stick the width of the room. It hangs on the wall when not in use, and requires two individuals to gingerly remove it from display. It is set up with 10 shot glasses and 10 guests wanting to partake in a shot front it. With glasses filled and on a count of 3, it is bottoms up as all 10 participants are forced to drink as one. Unison drinking as the stick moves from table to mouths.

 

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.
All the snacks were tasty enough, and even more so after the amount of beer that proceeded it. But as a whole there wasn’t enough of each for me to be able to paint you an accurate picture of their cuisine. But in terms of libation and ambiance, this was definitely the place to be. It is great to have a new themed bar downtown, one that is bright and happy, with that summer time vibe. With plenty of space, beer, and the salty snacks to pair with it; all you need is the right company. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PROST HAUS
900 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1L2
prosthaus.com

Firecrust: BBQ Fest, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today I found myself at “Firecrust” on Davie, just in time for dinner and the crowds that came in for an easy meal solution.

Right when you enter you are greeted by their build your own pizza bar. It runs down the length of the restaurant and ends at their specialty pizza oven. Here, you can customize any pie or salad for $11.95. Craft your own pizza by choosing your sauce, cheese, protein, and veggies. Or salad from the greens to the cheese, protein, veggies, and dressing. A choice made between 30 premium ingredient.

The possibilities were endless, but I was swayed by their “BBQ Fest” advert. I love a good themed menu, and even more so if it is only available during a limited time. This checked off all the boxes, so I found myself trying 3 out of the 4 pizza offerings on this menu.

And one of them happened to be the entry for this year’s Vancouver Foodster’s #pizzachallengeyvr. This is the “Bacon Mac & Cheese” pizza and it is exactly as it sounds. Macaroni and cheese with crispy bacon, topped with more shredded cheddar before it is baked. Served with a side of coleslaw. It was doubly comforting, two fan favourites served together as an easy handheld. But be warned the toppings are heavy, so easily fall off. Best eaten with knife and fork. I would have liked the the noodles a tad more firm and the cheese more stringy like pizza cheese. However, the bacon was perfection. Its crispy texture was great with the gooey and starchy mass of noodles. Overall a anytime snack, but best when craving carbs or the munchies.

The coleslaw had a nice flavour to it, something tangy and crunchy to change the flavour with. Though I liked it better with the pulled pork pizza, a combination we discovered when enjoying the pizza with the mound of slaw that topped it.

Though slaw on pizza does have it getting warm and melty quick. But it gave an otherwise one note: sweet and tangy BBQ-full pizza some freshness. This pie featured “Firecrust’s” own hickory BBQ sauce as its sauce base, then more of it found its way over plenty of pulled pork, caramelized onions, and shredded cheddar. It is all baked together and served with a side of mac and cheese, so you don’t miss out. I liked the sweet sauce on the pulled pork, but felt like I needed more to complete it. I ended up picking out all the onion, out of preference; there was a lot, almost 1:1 between it and the pork meat.

The mac and cheese was exactly like the one used on the pizza above. A little too mushy.

The apple pie pizza was a creative spin and very much so the way you want to end a BBQ dinner. Baked apples, cinnamon, and crushed graham crackers over a regular pizza crust. Its description read it being topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but we got whipped cream and caramel drizzle instead. Not that it really matters I guess, either would have melted quick under the warmth of the fresh to bake pizza. But the ice cream would have completed the apple pie feel more, and especially if they topped it with yellow cheddar chunks. That would really take this pie on a pizza idea full circle. Whereas like this, I found it lacking. I liked the idea, but wanted more of it. More graham cracker than just the chunks moulded with butter. Graham as the crust, or at least a sweet dough base to build this pie up on.

And to lighten up our decadent meal we also ordered a salad to share. Some freshness to balance out all the grease. The “South west salad” with kale, roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, corn, black beans, corn chips, shredded mozzarella, and a chipotle lime dressing. This was mostly a large serving of greens, you tossed up, but just couldn’t seem to mix everything evenly. The heavier ingredients fell to the bottom and there was far too much leafy greens to sift though to find them. I would have liked less and maybe a different green. A lighter lettuce or spring mix, the former would have also flowed better with the taco flavour too.

 

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? – No.
An easy stop for some delicious, fast, and possibly healthy food, (so should you choose). Build your own pizza or take their menu’s advice. And for something fun, enjoy their “BBQ Fest” options, available now until April 28th, 2019. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FIRECRUST
808 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2S2
778-379-9646
firecrustpizzeria.com

 

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

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