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Category: Downtown Vancouver Page 1 of 23

Kings Kitchen 京東, Peking duck special

I was surprised to learn that there is an authentic Hong Kong style restaurant downtown Vancouver; on the Granville Entertainment strip, of all places. Given the location, lack of parking, and immediate demographic, this is unexpected and definitely one of a kind in this area.

Naturally, the one to discover this gem is the knowledgeable Chinese cuisine enthusiast, @pickydiner. So I was excited to not only check this place out for the very first time, but to indulge in their new promotion: a Peking Duck feast, with him.

Starting on March 17th and running until March 28th, you and 3 in your bubble can indulge in a 6 course meal for $99. In doing so you are gifted a $50 gift voucher to put towards your next meal with them. Reason to come back and try the rest of their delicious menu. Be warned the special does require 24 hour notice, as it takes time to prepare a whole duck so thoroughly.

This is Cantonese style Peking duck, inspired by Peking’s traditional Peking duck. Where as the latter puts on a show, slicing it in front of you, and presenting the most uniform pieces of duck skin, this is the more speedy version. Quick and causal, Cantonese style Peking duck comes with all the classic accoutrements: the thin pancake, sweet bean sauce, and spring onion. You assemble each wrap yourself and eat it with gusto. This is a sumptuous dish that somehow always leaves me wanting more.

The actual duck meat is chopped up small, and mixed with crispy noodles and diced vegetables; to be used as a filling for a crispy and fresh lettuce wrap, with the same sweet bean sauce as above. Tie is one that leaves you wanting more. No other flavours and dishes like this.

The duck’s bones are used to make a duck soup with lettuce and tofu. This is a truly satisfying soup that warms you inside out. For those unfamiliar, the pile of bones on the side of the murky broth soup can be unappealing, but for those who grew up eating such bone broth soups, having the meat on the side allows you to easily gnaw on them with a dash of soy sauce.

Still hungry? They have you covered with the rest of the feast. Classic Chinese dishes done wonderfully with quality ingredients and bold flavours.

If you are just coming in for one dish, let it be the sweet and sour pork. Each juicy nugget of crispy pork is heavily coated in a sticky neon red sauce, along with coloured peppers, onions, and pineapple for freshness. Great as is, but better with rice to help soak up all that gooey sauce.

When at a Chinese restaurant, why go for plain white rice when you can have it fried with shrimp, bbq pork, and veggies. Yet another classic done well, that did not disappoint. This dish also rounds out the meal, to ensure you leave utterly full.

Looking for something lighter, the fish and green peas dish offers a break. Crispy vegetables and fish that easily melts under the thick clear gravy.

Overall, this is a great feast and easy to order for those who are familiar or unfamiliar with Chinese cuisine. Where else can you find something so authentic downtown Vancouver? Not to mention the terrific promotion to get your through the door.

Kings Kitchen 京東
1149 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1M1
(778) 379-0538
kingskitchen.ca

Le Crocodile, Dine Out Vancouver 2021

2021 is a one of a kind time, where we are settling in to a second year of a world wide pandemic. As a result, we are seeing a lot of records broken and many more firsts. Like Dine Out Vancouver boasting the largest number of restaurants participating in event’s history. And seeing one of Vancouver’s longest standing, fine French dining restaurants participating. This is the first time that we are seeing Le Crocodile take part in Dine Out Vancouver. It is definitely a sign of the times. I am not going to question it, but instead take advantage of the situation by making reservations, taking the earliest day and the only time that I can, and trying their $54 three course menu.

$54 is the priciest of all the set menus offered during the event, but once again, this is one of the fanciest restaurants the city has got. Not to mention you get a several bonus plates with each course, and the service and ambience to feel like you can afford it.

Between us two my guest and I was able to try their entire Dine Out menu. Which in truth was like a bistro meal eaten on the corner of the street, instead of over white table cloths and folded napkins.

We ordered the wine that was recommended with the Dine Out menu, taking advantage of Le Crocodile’s in house sommelier through conversation and her recommendations.

To start we were presented with a delicate, two bite pear and goat cheese tart. There was lots of cheesy flavour in this, which reminded me more of a creamy brie. Although I felt the filling would be better suited on a hard and plain crostini, as I found things too rich with the buttery crust.

For appetizers it’s either soup or salad, so the choice is between a light or heavier start. I gravitated towards the soup, but prefer the flavours of the bright salad instead. Golden Beets and Arugula Salad, Bufala Cheese, Dijon and Honey Vinaigrette. It ate as expected.

Wild Mushroom Soup Scented with Truffle Oil and served with a Parmesan Twist. You smell the truffle, but don’t taste it. Instead, the soup was heavy handed on the pepper, but some what balanced by the saltiness of the cheese stick. Oddly the flavour of the white pepper used reminded my guest of horse stomach soup (a traditional Chinese intestine soup) and that threw us off of it as well.

Here, the complimentary basket of bread was helpful. We didn’t use it as a start with the slices of butter, but instead as a spoon to sop up soup with and to taste sauces using; as is the French purpose of the bread basket.

Our entree came with a side plate of julienned shoe string fries to share. They were light and crispy with a nice salty flavour. I found myself picking at it one strand at a time.

The Petrale Sole Quenelle, Lobster Beurre Blanc, and Vegetable Ragout was a pretty plate. These were football shaped fish paste dumpling. Their texture is like mashed potato, with a flavour that reminded me of a refined hot pot fish cake. Truth be told, I liked the firm vegetable in the ragout more, and especially the detailing in the flaky fish shaped pastry. But overall I didn’t find that the dish came with enough flavour, where I was left wanting more lobstery goodness.

The Duck Confit, Cointreau Réduction, Ricotta Cheese and Glazed Orange served in Vol au Vent was the heartier of the two mains. This was a warming dish, the duck was brightened and lighten by the citrus. It paired fabulously with the orange segments of the pastry side.

Before dessert we were given a palette cleanser in the form of a lychee vodka sorbet. With the sweetness of the tropical fruit it wasn’t like other tart and sharp sorbets. Although I don’t think it was actually made with vodka, but merely sitting in a pool of vodka. Overall it reminded me of the liquor: soho and would have been a great ingredient in a cocktail.

There is only one option for dessert, so we both got the Warm Chocolate Tart served with Caramel Ice Cream. I liked how it wasn’t too sweet and you could taste the quality of the chocolate, and the flavours of it and the caramel concisely.

And to further end on a sweet note, the billfold comes with a crocodile shaped chocolate in dark chocolate.

Overall, it was nice to have revisited this restaurant that I haven’t been to in a while. However, I don’t know if the Dine Out menu is necessarily worth trying, given that I wasn’t excited about the soup or salad, and didn’t get a choice in dessert. I would recommend ordering a la crate instead; and getting what you want at a somewhat similar price.

Le Crocodile
909 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 4T4
604-669-4298
lecrocodilerestaurant.com

CinCin, $30 prix fixe menu

Got my hair done, and when it is short and your stylist curls it, so it is the only time it will look this good, you need to go out to showcase it. And coincidentally @pickydiner had the same idea and mind set. Individually we got primped and together we met up at CinCin for their $30 three course menu. (He starting before me.) Coincidentally running every including today (Wednesday), Thursday, and Saturday, on from now until February 4th. So you only have one week left to take advantage of this deal before they switch into their Dine Out 2021 menu.

Once a restaurant I deemed only for special occasions, now offering everyday dining prices, which was ideal for an impromptu meal as such.

We sat at the bar, because that is the best place to post up when you want to drink, and have the bar managers adjacent to suggest and craft the perfect cocktail for you. Plus great lighting.

The meal began with a complimentary serving of focaccia and potato bread, served with an olive tapenade swimming in quality olive oil. Delicately brined, delicious olives that would make an appearance in my meal again, and just as good then.

The amuse bouche was a shot’s worth of butternut squash soup. Four sips of rich cream, done in all the right ways. A great treat to set the tone of service and caliber to continue.

The following are the cocktails we enjoyed. Keep in mind, we did order them and had them spaced out throughout our multiple course meal.

The Luna Ross’s was a warming cocktail with red wine qualities. Made with Jim Beam bourbon, and Campari, Elisir Gambrinus, lemon, and orange.

The Yamabushi caught my eye as a spicy margarita with Japanese influences. Yuzu, cazadores blanco tequila, grand marnier, and a sprinkle of togarashi over top. It was a refreshing citrus cooler, but didn’t have the savoury umami flavour of the togarashi, as I had hoped.

And taking advantage of our seating, we then begin requesting cocktails not on the menu. Drinks from the vast repertoire of our skilled bartenders. This one was once on CinCin’s bar menu, but has since been retired. They couldn’t recall the name, but did regale us with a story. This was a mix bag: sweet from the egg whites, noteworthy for the liquorice notes, finished off with floral tendencies. It basically tasted as pretty as it looks with lemon juice, gin, egg whites, pineapple, and Liquore Strega. The latter is an Italian spirit with a fun story. The tale goes that a man finds a witch caught in a trap in a forest , he sets her free, and this spirit’s recipe is her gift to him.

We followed that up with a similar cocktail in look. This was the “In Bloom”, the most popular cocktail in the now shuttered West Restaurant. A gin sour with elderflower and cardamom. The pronounced ginger flavour in this made it a great digestive.

And then came the night cap with the popular combination of espresso and Kaluha. A towering glass poured to have a gradient of whites to grey, then brown. Though be sure to drink it quick as the colours do end up merging.

As for food, here is what I ordered, and I want to note how quickly it came out. My first course was the squid, chosen over the Caesar salad, meatballs, and beef carpaccio. A grilled humboldt flying squid with arugula, chili, lemon, and olive oil. This was a beautiful piece of seafood, grill fire forward, but not much flavour otherwise. I would have liked a dipping sauce, some tang to help highlight, even the olive mix over the steak would have been nice here.

When faced between the choices of salmon, veal osso bucco, saffron risotto, or handmade rigatoni pasta; I went for the wood grilled sirloin of beef. It came highly recommend by @pickydiner who only just finished his portion mere minutes before I had arrived. It was a beautiful thick cut, the perfect portion size to satiate you, but also leaving you wanting more. It was prepared the ideal medium rare, a clean slice with a little sawing motion necessary. Similarly it was tender with substantial chewing needed, furthered along by the jelly-like fat that coated it and a smear in the buttery smooth polenta.

For dessert @pickydiner waited for me so we could try both the tiramisu and their doughnuts together. The zeppole is an Italian doughnut with a chocolate caramel sauce for dipping. The dough practically melts in your mouth with how airy and light it is. The dip, a liquid coating that drips, so dig in aplenty.

Truth be told, I am not a fan of tiramisu for its texture or unanimous lack of crunch and chew. But the flavour from the espresso and rum-soaked ladyfingers with coffee mascarpone cream was delicious. I wanted it as a cocktail. Or for this type of texture I rather have panda cotta.

Lastly, our meal ended with another little surprise: a one bit of their made in house guava jelly and lemon madeleine. The cakey madeleine refreshed with citrus and was the texture I wanted from a cake. But the guava was the highlight. A perfect chewy and fragrant drop, that I wish I had a whole bag of, to take home with me.

In short, I highly recommend this prix fixe menu. It is only available for the next week: Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Just before they switch into their Dine Out Vancouver 2021 menu. But if this is any indication of what they will be offering from their choose your own, three course meal they are certainly worth checking out then as well.

CinCin Ristorante + Bar
1154 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1B2
(604) 688-7338
cincin.net

Honolulu Coffee, hot chocolate offerings

It’s that time of year again, Vancouver’s winter chill paired with the romance season, brings the Hot Chocolate Festival back for a repeat year. And this simple dessert or hot beverage not only warms, but is just the thing to pick the city up as we pass Covid-19’s one year anniversary of existence. The ability to be able to take a cup out quick makes this the perfect minimal contact treat. This year the festival runs from January 16th to February 14th, highlight 39 cafes/restaurants and 89 different limited edition hot chocolates to try.

This year I was especially lured in by Honolulu Coffee’s tropical offerings. The Mauna Loa is a showstopper with its volcano brownie side, whoever came up with this is a marketing genius; I wanted it for visuals alone. This is a 70% dark hot chocolate with a hint of cayenne pepper and maple chilli bacon seasoning. The hot chocolate’s spicy flavour spoke to the volcanic heat and theme. You must like a rich dark chocolate to fully appreciate this one. Whereas the brownie with its dual colour frosting magma, and hovering cloud was much more mild by comparison. It served as a good accompaniment for texture and chew, allowing the hot chocolate to take centre stage.

I actually wanted to try the Mauna L’ai more for its flavour combination. However it was sold out when I stopped by the first time. Luckily, upon my second visit I was much more successful. This pink number combines guava and coconut with the 70% dark chocolate for a more tropical, light vibe. The takeout cup is finished off with coconut whipped cream and a guava flavoured macaron. Sweeter and more dessert like, this less chocolate hot chocolate is more my vibe. I liked the guava macaron idea, but wished they made it more picturesque like the volcano side above. Maybe a pink shell with pearl shaped macaron? Either way I got my guava flavour in both it and the drink. However I much more prefer my hot chocolate paired with their regularly available guava bread (think banana bread, but made with guava purée instead of mashed bananas) .

And taking their chocolate offerings to the next level, Honolulu Coffee is also offering hot chocolate bombs! These limited edition features come just in time for Valentine’s Day. The box sets are available at either of their two Vancouver locations from February 8th to the 14th.

Each box includes two jumbo sized hot Chocolate bombs. One is a 70% Ghirardelli dark chocolate bomb, and the other a Ghirardelli white chocolate bomb packed with mini marshmallows and sprinkles. And to make gifting easy, each set comes with a special Valentine’s Day card with instructions on how to maximize your interactive hot chocolate extravaganza.

Half show, half drink this is an experience in deserting. And I just love food that puts on a show before you get to eat it. A great treat or a gift for a loved one this Valentines.

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

Ancora Downtown, First Table 1 year anniversary in Vancouver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Street Auntie, set menus

Reading the press release, I was really excited for the eventual opening of this new Asian fusion restaurant. However given their creative branding and concept, I was surprised to learn that they were situated downtown, along the Granville Entertainment district. Instead, I envision them in a more eclectic neighbour, one more befitting of their flare. Though at the same time, they are ones worth travelling to.

The name catches your attention and their pin up model mascot (inspired by the owner herself: tattoos, sex appeal and all) kept your attention. I was sold by this and the traditional Asian flourishes throughout the restaurant. For example, the decorative pantry right as you entered, the menu that included Chinese paper patterns, and the bamboo utensil holders at each place setting. We grabbed a seat by the plexi-separated bar to see all the action of the kitchen and bar unfold.

Street Auntie currently does not have their liquor license, but are making due with an interesting and well developed drink menu, nonetheless. A listing that they cleverly refer to as “The Sobering Menu”, which can just as easily have a shot or two added into each concoction, to give it a little “spirit” (when they have the proper documentation to do so).

The following is all 3 of their available drinks, which can be ordered as a pairing with the set menu below. The drink add-on runs for $19 per person.

The “Teatonic” features Yunnan sparkling tea. It is a refreshing beverage with a hint of tanginess that reminded me of tamarind. Here, the cooling flavour of the tea definitely helped with the spiciness of our first course below.

The “Golden triangle aromas” included lemongrass, ginger, mint, and lime. It was a great drink to help cleanse the palate in between bites; while offering some freshness for the deep fried foods it was paired with, also learn more below.

In a similar sense, but with more creaminess was the “Jasmine Babe”. It is essentially a floral milk tea. Its familiarity and comfort mellowed out some of the more potent dishes. This would be the one I would take togo in a plastic cup, I was just missing some pearls.

As for food, Street Auntie is open Wednesdays through Mondays for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Their unique concept allows diners to enjoy as many dishes as they want from the weekly rotating menu, during a pre-booked one-hour time slot. This run for $38 per person for lunch or $58 for dinner, respectively. Basically you have to get the only set available. They currently have a collection of 4 different menus on their website. Each with 8 different items, available during specific weeks, with some overlap from set to set. The following is the “Ocean Auntie” menu, which we enjoyed, and is currently available from November 25th until December 2nd.

The “Yunnan Ghost Chicken” was a starter salad made with mango, pickled young papaya, sawtooth herb, lemongrass, chilli, and golden triangle lime. The chicken that resembled Hainanese chicken, really stood out in this. The sneaking heat of the vinaigrette was mellowed out by the crisp julienned vegetables and fruit. A crisp texture furthered along by the crunchy deep fried tofu shreds. I found the salad’s chilled tang helped to jump start the appetite. I liked this as the first course, and finished my portion clean. Whereas others found it too large for such a refined tasting.

The second course with its upscale take on dim sum was one of the most memorable for me. Street Auntie took familiar favourites and gave it a boujee twist. Like the morel mushroom finish on a juicy siu-mai pork dumpling. Or the unseen addition of avocado to the classic shrimp dumpling, har-gau. And most decadent of all was the stuffing of sea urchin into what looked like a gyoza skin. The latter offering a most out standing flavour. I would recommend Street Auntie for this trio “basket” alone, thankfully all the menus to come includes it.

I am a fan of salted egg yolk fish skin, I buy the imported packages from Asian grocery stores, so it was a treat to get it fried fresh with a heavy duck egg-yolk coating at Street Auntie. This is another dish I would recommend, however it is only available on the “Ocean Auntie” set.

Similar in bold flavour and crunch was the spicy, garlic fried, soft shell crab. There was plenty of peppery garlic flavour on the crispy crab, and as excess “sprinkles” , that I later shovelled into my mouth.

And what is a Chinese meal that does not end in a starch like rice or noodles? With the “Ocean Auntie” set, that starch is the “Street Auntie fried rice” severed with their house made “XOXO” sauce. They doubled up on the “XO” in the name because all the ingredients are doubled. This help yourself serving of sauce on the side is what flavours the otherwise bland rice. Therefore, it would have actually been nice to have the rice served and eaten in conjunction with the crab above, more like a side than a main dish (as it was served).

As tasty as all the dishes were above, dessert was my favourite course for its presentation alone! Served on a tray with some cleansing tea or energizing coffee, diners get a one bite of “mango and pomelo sago explosion”. Like its name suggests, things can get messy if you are not careful. Eat this in one bite and be surprised by the amount of tasty, sweet, and citrusy flavour that floods your mouth when literally “burst the bubble”.

I really liked the “Beijing Hulu” that looked like sticky lollipops, but are actually a hard sugar coating juicy grapes. I could have eaten a handful like candy.

However, the showstopper of the night was the giant fortune cookie cake you share with your dining companion. And the best part, it comes with an actual fortune you can eat. Printed on rice paper, it doesn’t add a taste or texture to the dessert, but is definitely plus 100 in pageantry. I would order it for visual alone. Eating wise, this was a soft sponge cake filled with a slightly bitter jasmine tea and strawberry gel filling. A mild cake that would perfectly accompany the tea above, severed in delicate and traditionally printed porcelain.

And for good measure, we even got regular fortune cookies, but dipped in frosting and decked with sprinkles for that extra panache.

Not on any of the menus, but made upon special request was their tongue and cheek “East Van Special” a mint chocolate and fudgey chocolate cannabis leaf served over a chocolate cookie crumble, with edible rice paper “plated” printed with the east van cross pattern. I thought this was such a fun idea and great homage to the city.

At this point they are still working out the logistics and menu, so I want to reassure you that my feedback was passed on and taken with a grain of salt. I cannot wait to go back to try a completely different menu and maybe by then, some tasty alcoholic drink pairings to go with it all!

Street Auntie Aperitivo House
1039 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L4
streetauntie.com

1931 Gallery Bistro, happy hour

Today, we were killing some time at the art gallery, checking out their latest exhibit on its last legs. Cindy Sherman’s collection of self portraits in costume, over the decades of her career. An exhibition well timed for International Women’s Day.

Our leisurely stroll through the echo-y art gallery halls found us at the threshold of their redone restaurant. Once simply the “Gallery Bistro”, now renamed and rebranded as “1931 Gallery Bistro”. Spotted tiles, new furnishings, a different configuration, and a fresh coat of paint left the space feeling renewed. Though pretty facade aside, the food was as I remembered it to be.

We began with a couple of drinks, my girl friend especially liking the idea of being able to drink at the gallery. She was in disbelief that she didn’t know that she could have done so sooner. A light rose for her, and the “Triumphs of caesar for me. 1oz nutrl vodka, Clamato, Worcestershire, tobacco, and steak spice. It felted watered down and flat, something uninspired that you would get from a food court kiosk. I didn’t taste much more than tomato juice, hot sauce, and ground pepper. It was a basic as far as caesars go, especially as it didn’t have a garnish. I should have stuck with the $4.95 house red or white, from off of the happy hour menu.

The food was not that much different. Where as the previous concept had pre-made plates at the ready, displayed in refrigerated units for the customer to take and pay for, and then to be microwaved at the back. They were now more than just a salad and sandwiches cafe. Now they totted restaurant quality appetizers and small bites, baked up relatively quick in the kitchen.

I was intrigued by the small list of $3.95 to $7.95 happy hour small plates. Beans, tortilla, and bruschetta; their descriptions all sounded lovely enough, making ordering challenging.

The “Miso-sake cauliflower bites” was probably the best out of the three plates we shared. Cauliflower florets marinated in a white miso and sake glaze. It was salty, but had no depth from either miso or sake. It wasn’t bad, but I would have liked the vegetable crispier and the flavour not so monotone.

The “Potato croquettes” were best on its first bite. Pressed with duck fat and served with a dollop of truffle and garlic mayo each, it was a little much by the last block. Crispy cubes with a hot smashed potatoey centre. There was no missing the musky characteristic of the duck fat, or the saltiness of the truffle. But I needed something tangy, and was looking for some ketchup to help with that.

I was the most disappointed by the “Pineapple tuna poke”, it was bland and therefore the first poke I had that I didn’t like. Ocean wise ahi tuna, soy, sesame, pineapple salsa, edamame, and rye crisps. There was no seasoning or marinade on the fish, you barely got any pineapple despite the title. And the hearty cracker added nothing to the taste, leaving me wanting a lighter crisp for crunch. Disappointing and small for $8

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.
If you like the novel ideal of drinking at the gallery, I suggest coming down for a glass of wine. The view isn’t bad and the setting is relaxing. I just can’t recommend the food in good faith. Don’t deny your cravings.

1931 Gallery Bistro
Inside the Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H7
1931gallerybistro.com

Hawksworth, brunch

My girl friend and I decided to do brunch this Saturday. We wanted a nicer venue and meal, and were willing to pay for it; so decided on “Hawksworth” at Hotel Georgia. It wasn’t very busy, we walked in and were able to get a lovely table by the window. And here, with the natural light I was able make out the interior of the restaurant clearly, having only visited during the dark of the evening, previously. The white of the upholstered chairs and booths brightened up the space with some freshness, while the shards of crystal from the oblong chandelier glinted in the sun. Light, that found its way in past the drapes and on to my shoulders. All in all it was a very lovely scene.

And since the setting was so delightful, we decided to linger in it for longer with the “BC mimosa kit”. A full bottle of sparkling served with three different juices that you can use to mix your own table side mimosa. “Blue Mountain Brut” with either blueberry, peach, or cherry juice. The bottle was kept on ice by the kitchen, yet our glasses remained dutifully full, thanks to the eagle eye sommelier. I tasted lavender in the blueberry juice, rose along side the cherry, and a bit of citrus with the peach juice. I found this a nice way to change up the flavour from drink to drink.

For food I originally wanted the “crab and prawn toast”, only to learn that for $27 you simply get the listed ingredients on a small piece of bread. Not enough to fill me, let alone pair with all the sparkling wine we committed to.

So instead, I opted for the omelette filled with brie, apples and walnut, served along side their “Parmesan new potatoes”. The omelette had a beautiful texture, a smooth blanket of egg that was not too sweet, and reminded me a lot like angel food cake in its mild flavour. I like the flavour combination, I just didn’t get enough of it. I specially wanted more salty brie. The potatoes looked like they had a good bake, but they could have been more crispy around the edges, as a nicer contrast to their soft centres. As for taste, the were seasoned enough that I didn’t ask for ketchup to squeeze over it.

My guest got the “Eggs royale”. An eggs Benedict where a toasted English muffin is topped with smoked salmon, and Hollandaise; and also served with the same Parmesan new potatoes as above. The salmon was not as expected. You read smoked salmon and imagine thin sheets of sashimi-like fish. But what we got was flaky chunks, a little nicer than what you get out of a can.

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.
Nothing was bad per se, it just didn’t measure up to the level that I associate with “Hawksworth”. Minus the mimosas, I felt like I could get this almost anywhere. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAWKSWORTH
801 West Georgia St, Vancouver BC
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
604-673-7000
hawksworthrestaurant.com

Le Doux Ciel, Chinese New Year High Tea

I have seen photos of this newer cafe floating around, but what got me through the door finally was their limited edition, Chinese New Year themed high tea set. It is only available for a month starting January 15th and running to February 15th, 2020

In order to indulge you must make a reservation and that comes with a commitment. The cost is $59 per person. You leave your credit card information and are billed “50% or more” if you cancel with less than 24 hours notice. Therefore, we made sure we got there early to avoid complications. Parking is easy enough, if you seek a spot in the underground lot of the “Praq Casino” adjacent. This is within walking distance of “Le Doux Ciel”.

The cafe is a wonderfully curated space. A touch of elegance with soft pastels, velvet upholstery, marble counters, honeycomb tiles, and flourishes of gold. On the ceiling dangled oversized balloons in whites, teal, and gold. They bounced around adding whimsy, and adding to the celebratory mood. It all definitely got us more excited for what’s more to come.

Your journey begins with a choice of tea, two pages to skim through, all served in a bird themed set. Individual tea pots that resembled bird houses, tea cups that had a tiny bird perched on its handle, and a saucer shaped like a gilded cage.

We would take our server’s suggestion and order their two most popular teas. The “milky blue”, isn’t actually blue in colour (we checked before ordering it). It had a naturally milky essence to it, without the need to add any actual milk product. And enough sweetness from candied chestnuts to enjoy without any honey or sugar. Its creaminess matched the indulgence of the set well.

The second most popular brew was the “blanc and rose” white tea. You got plenty of gentle rose notes in this cup. More light and floral than the blue tea above.

The actual full food set comes out fast. Many of the elements are pre-made and simply assembled on these speciality, miniature shelves. They typically house small figurines and leave quite the oriental impression. But there were so many pieces to this set that they had to spread it across two fixtures. The second one was a platform, and like the shelf, it was topped with waxy paper to protect the wood from oils and sugars from the snack-sized feast before us. We worked our way through everything, looking to the menu as a guide of the order in which to do so. It was in doing this that we realized that we were missing one of the listed items: the traditional new year cake. But alas the chef had already retired for the day so we were unable to try it. However, the clerk offered us our choice of any of the treats in the showcase, but more on that below.

Once again, in the order that we nibbled and savoured: We started with the “Vegetable spread mix”. It looked half thought out. A slice of cucumber topped with sautéed vegetables. A mix of red peppers, eggplant, and mushroom. It ate like a vegan chip and salsa, but needed more. It was missing seasoning and a pinch of salt. And perhaps a final topping to complete the concept. My suggestion would be a sprinkling of fried onion. It tasted healthy and was light, giving you a similar feeling that you would get from a cucumber finger sandwich, in other high tea sets.

I really liked the “Smoked bacon on steam buns”. A nice thick cut of bacon with a maple syrup finish, its sweetness went well with the sweet onion paste smeared within the doughy bun. All that was missing was more vegetables, something pickled like you’d get in banh mi, for a nice tang.

By comparison, the “Sesame brioche buns with roasted pork belly” was similar in sweetness and tangy sauce. But here, the thick and crunchy skin was hard to bite through, and just as dry as the bun. Overall great flavours, I just wanted the dish to be better curated, and once again with more veggies to balance out the heavy juices.

The “Exotic mushroom veggie spring roll” came served with a sweet chilli sauce on the side for dipping. It was crunchy with plenty of mushroom filling. I don’t know about the “exotic” part though. It was pretty standard all in all.

Next, we transitioned from savoury to sweet with the “Bird’s nest soup with red dates”. It had a jelly-like texture that drank like slurping down minced jello. It was refreshing and only mildly sweet, with the flavour of the dates coming through.

The “Fermented rice cake” was interesting. Three desserts in one, including the decorative white chocolate piece crowning it. There were a few more scattered across the set, similarly decorated it Chinese characters and/or symbols to really round out the theme. At the centre was a tiny glutenous rice ball with sesame seed paste at its centre. I have never had one so mild, it contrasted well the tangy fermented jelly surrounding it. But overall this had a medicinal quality to it.

The “puff pastry” is one that I am familiar with. Shaped like a lotus flower, with a flaky shell, surrounding dense date paste. Given how dry and ashy it is, it is best paired with tea or coffee and nibbled on.

I was most excited by the sugar coated hawthorn fruits. Visually, it was juicy looking strawberries coated in syrup and wrapped in edible, translucent paper (like what you get with white rabbit candy.) I would later learn that this called “bing tanghulu”, a popular Beijing snack. It tasted like “haw flakes” and was fun to eat off the stick. This was all kinds of sweet, across different textures.

Once again, the menu also listed a “special Chinese traditional cake”, but it was missing on our tower, and by the time we realized this, the chef was already gone for the day. Therefore to round out our meal, our server (the lone employee left to hold down the cafe), offered us the following.

A couple of their Chinese New Year themed macarons like red bean and osmanthus. The former actually tasted like red bean, whereas the latter was just sweet. I was waiting, but I never got the floral notes I expected from the blossom. It simply tasted artificial, and a little like mango?

And in keeping of our asian theme, we choose the “Black sesame cake”. One of their single serve, individual sized desserts, pre-made and waiting behind glass. It was mostly mousse with a thin layer of sponge. I found the texture sandy, whereas if I was going to have this much mousse I wanted it rich and creamy. At the centre was a mildly tart blueberry gel core. It helped to brighten up the dessert, but as a whole, this one isn’t for me.

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.
Honest this it is one of the better high tea sets I have had. Everything is made in house, and I definitely tasted the value across each course. Complex and creative, this is one to try! Don’t deny your cravings.

LE DOUX CIEL
65 Smithe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0R3
(236) 520-2888
ledouxciel.ca

Gyoza Bar, Dine Out Brunch 2020

This morning we were at “Gyoza Bar”, here to try their Dine Out Vancouver brunch menu. $15 got you a 4 piece set with plenty of value to take advantage of, before February 3rd, 2020.

It opens at 12pm on a Saturday and the crowds flooded in soon after. A large space with plenty of seating. A lounge feel with a bar backed by bricks, that transitions into an open stainless steel kitchen. We grabbed a small narrow table by the door, with plenty of light and enough space for our two square set trays below.

Since it was the weekend we started with a couple of their new drinks. The “Blue Hawaiian” is the classic tropical cocktail with blue curaçao, pineapple, lime, and vodka. Fairly sweet, leaving you with a back of your throat soreness. I much preferred the “Chu-Hai” with pink grapefruit, lemon, orange bitters, soda, and gin. The citrus flavour was pronounced, and the drink refreshing as a whole with the spritzy soda. But with both you don’t get enough alcohol to actually taste it.

The $15 Dine Out brunch menu is this spicy tuna rice bowl teishoku set.

It comes with their daily miso soup. And today it included cut up woodear mushroom and seaweed.

The salad is a mix of greens, red onion, pickled cabbage, and cherry tomatoes, all coated in a sesame and citrus vinaigrette. Then finished off with a mashed tofu paste. I didn’t know what I was looking at, I never had tofu like this before. It added some heartiness and texture to the side, making it a more fulsome start.

Our server recommend that we enjoy the soft boiled, lightly soy sauced egg mixed into the rice dish below.

The main is like a poké with a spicy tuna mash and avocado purée over sweet citrus rice. It is topped with red onion and sliced cucumber which offer the only variation in crunch. The flavours were there, but the textures lacking. It was all the same soften gumminess, so that you grew bored of chewing. You got the flavour of the spicy tuna loud and clear, but wanted it more solid. Tuna sashimi, or perhaps some deep fried onion sprinkled over top for crunch?

And because it was my first time and called the “Gyoza Bar”, we made sure to try an order of their “pork teppan gyoza”. I liked the grilled skin of these pork and chive dumplings, but wanted more pizzazz and flavour from the filling. Though I guess that is what the side of spicy miso and umami soy is for.

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.
Based on this limited experience, I would like to come back for a more filling meal. To be able to try more dishes in order to get a better feel of their regular service. But at this point, all I can say is that this set is a deal. Don’t deny your cravings.

GYOZA BAR
622 W Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1V8
(604) 336-5563
gyozabar.ca

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