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Banana Leaf, Dine Out Menu 2019

Tired of over priced and overly busy Chinese restaurants for Chinese New Year, my mother sought Malaysian cuisine for this year’s celebratory dinner. So we found ourselves at the long standing chain, “Banana Leaf”; and just in time to take advantage of their $35 Dine Out menu, on its last day.

It has been a while since my last visit. I am a fan of Malaysian cuisine, but don’t find their rendition of it the most authentic. So was surprised to see how they have updated their space walking in. The once green and yellow exterior was now hiding a chic new dining area. White walls, sea foam booths, and a collection of dark wood artifacts around the room. The decorative greenery gave the space some life. I didn’t visit the washroom, but was able to spot the eye catching, green banana leaf print that papered it from my seat. It was quite the pun. As a whole, the space was updated and the brand breathed anew because of it.

As for our meal, their Dine Out menu wasn’t the typical pick and choose 3 course menu like at all the other restaurants participating, (that I have encountered). This was a set meal with no substitutions, and a minimum required spend of 2 servings. Although both the appetizer and entree course came with 3 different dishes, served together. Which gives the diner a total of 9 courses for $35.

We came as a family of 7, each ordering the $35 menu, and for the most part we shared two full servings of each course, family style. I did the math, and ordering this special menu versus the regular plates off the regular menu, is a better deal. Majority of what is offered on this menu is also available on their regular menu; thus making it a good way to dip your toe into Malaysian cuisine, or to try a new restaurant at a fair price.

We started with our own individual serving of “Indonesian gado salad”. Cooked bean sprouts, tofu, cucumber, potato, green bean, and egg; coated in a sweeter satay peanut sauce. It was tasty, but I could have used more texture in my salad. I found it too juicy with all the bean sprouts. I wanted some chew from dried tofu or some crunch from crushed peanuts. It was a good start, but it felt incomplete.

The rest was served shared style in their full serving plates, like the “Nyonya Calamari” served our 7 across two full plates. Crispy fried calamari with a sweet chilli sauce dip. It was your standard breaded and deep fried squid offered in modern chains and at Greek restaurants. Out side of the sweet and tangy dipping sauce I didn’t see how this was “Nyonya” style, the term coming from a group of nomadic Malaysian tribes.

The “Gulai clams” is not on their regular menu. Steamed clams sitting in a pool of their sweet, yellow, coconut curry. It was good, juicy clams in a slightly spicy broth. I enjoyed the roti we ordered below best when dipped into this, using it to wipe the bowl clean.

I completely disliked the “Curry spiced oysters”, to the point that I couldn’t swallow and had to spit it out. I am not a fan of the fishy flavour of cooked oysters. I can eat them raw, but find them rancid tasting when cooked and fried in oil that exemplifies this. Breaded and deep fried oysters, seasoned in curry spices, served with a green leaf salad on the side. Everyone else found them just fine.

I liked the “Lemongrass grilled giant prawns”. Giant grilled tiger prawns seasoned with lemongrass, garlic, palm sugar, fish sauce, and scallions. Minus the hassle of peeling the shell, I would gladly eat a plate of this again.

I liked the presentation of the “Sambal sockeye” grilled in banana leaf. You unfolded the green leaf to discover a cut up sockeye fillet, seasoned in sambal chilli sauce, lemon grass, dried paste, curry spices, and okra. It had a good flavour to them, but I am not a big fan of cooked salmon. Though did enjoy it with a serving of the rice below.

The “Turmeric rice” was fragrant, great on its own and better as a base. I want to learn how to make this for myself.

The “10 veggie and 10 spices” was also a nice accompaniment to the rice. A collection of diced vegetables in a creamy curry-like sauce. I was able to make out chunks of squash, peas, green beans, carrots, red and yellow peppers, taro, tomato, and okra. So tasty that I didn’t miss meat in this, but got my fix below anyhow.

“Thai sweet chilli chicken”, simple and delicious, juicy dark meat nuggets. The red and yellow peppers played off its sweet sauce.

For dessert our $35 set came with “Kuih dadar”, pandan crepes with grated coconut. But luckily I asked if we could get a split order, wanting half of our desserts to be the “Pandan coconut panna cotta” from off their $25 menu. The “Kuih dadar” was not as expected. I liked their neon green colour and how soft and chewy the crepe was, but the filling was off putting. It looked like minced meat or as my partner put it, “the bottom of a container of bacon bits”. It tasted as gritty as it looked, coating the mouth like sand, with a burnt after taste.

By comparison the “Pandan coconut panna cotta” was much better. It looked pretty with its layers of white and green jello-pudding, topped with a mango compote, gula melaka syrup, and a single tart cranberry. It tasted like mango and coconut pudding mostly. Whereas I didn’t get enough pandan flavouring. I also didn’t need the sweet syrup, it almost took away from the lighter fruit flavours.

Having seen our dislike of their crepe, our server was kind enough to offer us more servings of the panna cotta, so that everyone could have one glass jar in full. We fully appreciated the gesture and service.

As additional sides to share we also got three servings of the “Roti canai”, a favourite of those familiar with the chain. It was served split between two plates, so my photos shows a one and a half serving. Flaky layered bread prepared with evaporated milk, egg, flour, and butter; served with a sweet and lumpy peanut dip. It was like a layered pancake, tasty on its own, but dipping it into sauces is what makes it.

“Baba’s chicken wing”, Peranakan’s marinated chicken wings, lightly breaded, deep fried in curry spices. It was a clean and dry wing. Didn’t get any of the listed curry spices, it was more a simple pepper and salt seasoning.

The “Vegetable spring rolls” were filled with jicama roots, carrot, cabbage, celery, green bean, turmeric, white pepper, sesame oil, sweet chilli sauce, and pickled red cabbage. It had a curry flavour to it, which was over powered by the sweet dipping sauce that it came with. Not my favourite flavour from a spring roll, but it at least had a nice crispy texture.

 

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.
Approachable Malaysia food made easier with a set menu that gives you a little bit of everything and takes the guess work out of the equation for you. Having Malaysian food in Malaysia I cannot say this measures up, I was missing punchier ingredients and more pronounced seasoning. Good, but didn’t hit the spot the same. Recommend for those new to the cuisine and for those who prefer milder flavours. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BANANA LEAF
820 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Z 1J8
604-731-6333
bananaleaf-vancouver.com
Banana Leaf Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Guy Fieri at Peaceful Restaurant

“Food Network” celebrity, Guy Fieri was in Vancouver shooting for his latest television series. In it he revisits his favourite stops along his travels, while looking for the best “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”. And I just so happened to be at the original “Peaceful Restaurant”, when he popped in. No words needed to be spoken, you could tell something was happening in the restaurant tonight. The camera crew, the large spot lights, and the cherry red convertible rolling up with a “FLVRTWN” license plate. Not to mention all the well dressed staff on shift today and the owner and his entire family present and ready to serve customers and prepare food. And it is not surprising that tonight I have had some of the best service, and the best meal from them to date.

For those unfamiliar with “Peaceful” they are the well known and beloved Sichuan restaurant that is delicious and approachable. A friendly spot that anyone unfamiliar with Chinese food, or is too intimidated to visit a restaurant with its name only written in Chinese characters; can come to and order exactly what they want and how they want it. Cut and paste Chinese food with an easy to read menu and plenty of photos. The restaurant takes into consideration their customers taste. More spice, less chilli, or additional salt. It is no wonder this winning recipe has earned them international recognition and additional locations all across the Lower Mainland.

The cafe on Broadway by Cambie is their first location, the original one that Guy first visited and helped launch all those years ago. With his endorsement he was able to help propel this family run business into the multi chain organization that they are today. And it was nice to be within the restaurant when the two parties (Guy and Charlie the chef and owner) reminisced about it all.

The filming was done in the kitchen, where Chef Charlie offered up newer dishes and sought Guy’s opinion on them. There was tasting and talking before the shaking of hands. The Guy was gone, just as quick as he came. But not before posing for a few photos and tagging the wall, just like he did 6 years ago.

When it came time for me to have my meal, we took our time and stayed much longer. The staff were friendly, and very hospitable. I heard servers ask about preferences when talking orders , and returning a couple more times to check on dinner and if they can be of further assistance.

I wanted what Guy got to try so ordered the two below. “Sichuan thousand chilli chicken”. Crispy chicken stir fried with dried peppers, peppercorns, garlic, ginger, green onion, green beans, and crispy potatoes (which is a new twist they are taking on this dish). It looks a lot more spicy and intimating than it really was. If you avoid the red chillies, you avoided the heat. Therefore the dish took work to eat, can’t just scoop and plop a spoonful into your mouth. Being caught off guard by a peppercorn or two, isn’t all that fun. But the menu gave you fair warning. They called this dish “tongue tingling” and that it was. I did like the rest of the ingredients. The ratio of batter to chicken was great, enough for crunch, without hiding the actual flavour of chicken. The beans were firm and the flavour complimentary to the nuggets of meats and the slivers of garlic. As my guest put it, this was a well balance meal with meat, vegetable, and starch; you just needed dairy.

“Xian steamed cold noodle” was the other dish we tried cause Guy did. I love a good thick and chewy noodle, so was excited to try some of “Peaceful’s” house made version today. When ordering it, our hostess spoke to how the dough for this is prepared. It is washed before it is cut into strips. And is then boiled and a thorough dressing with a garlic vinaigrette that includes sesame oil and tahini. The result, a chilled tart and tangy dish, with a warming chilli spice. Our hostess was also quick to boast that their freshly made chilli oil is what makes all the difference in this, and she was right. Great as a summer plate or a appetizer to kickstart your appetite.

And what put them on the map during Guy’s last visit, and the dish he helped familiarized: the “Peaceful beef roll”. Slices of beef and strips of chives roll together with a sweet and tangy sauce in a chewy green onion pancake. Altogether a great combination. It is worth nothing that everything in this, and everything else on the menu is made in house, except the rice cakes.

My favourite dish of the night was the “Peaceful house stir fried noodles”. Seared noodles, fish, shrimp, squid, pork, and vegetables; all coated in a chilli garlic sauce. It has a really great flavour that fully coats each slurp-able noodle strand. I liked the texture of the squishy squid with it, but found the BBQ pork a little much, whereas the fish was hard to notice all together.

And when it is handmade in house and on the menu, you have to get the classic “Xiao long bao”. These steamed pork and chive filled dumplings were deliciously moist, one bite morsels filled with warm soup. They were so soft that they almost melt under your tongue.

It turns out the owner’s daughter was working front of house tonight, and she was actually the one tending to us. Upon learning this fact, I took the opportunity to chat her up some. We discussed the universality of their Sichuan cuisine. And the fact that they are the Chinese food chain that is welcoming for everyone. She seemed proud, as her dad and brother dawned their chef’s uniforms, and her mother sat in the dining area taking it all in. What a cool experience and a great day to play the fly on the wall.

 

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.
Same assessment as the last time I visited. A solid choice for quick and easy Chinese, made all the more special tonight. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PEACEFUL RESTAURANT
532 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-879-9878
peacefulrestaurant.com

Downlow Chicken Shack

There isn’t much that my partner and I agree on food wise. Whereas I am an adventurous diner, he is more cautious when it comes to what goes into his mouth. Although when it comes to fried chicken, it is something we can both enjoy. Therefore we have been meaning to check out this new deep fried chicken place for a while now.

When “Down Low” originally opened they kept irregular hours, testing the waters of the Vancouver food scene. They stayed open until they sold out of their chicken, meaning we would park and walk to the front only to be turned away. Almost half a year later, here we were entertaining a late lunch. It took a Friday afternoon between lunch and dinner to get a bite with them. And they were still as popular and as busy as ever, and based on the chicken we enjoyed, I can see why. By 3:30pm there were plenty of bodies dining in and even more taking out. With two working the floors, three behind the counter and two more fronting the deep fryer. Each employee dawned a black tee with their logo bold on the back.

This was a chicken giving you the side eye, a cheeky stare, knowing full well what he was offering you how he would have you hooked. The same chicken graced the restaurant’s front window with a yellow beak and red crown. If you are enamoured by his grin you can take him and it home on some of the restaurant’s merchandise in the form of tee shirts and ball caps.

They are available at the back, the same place where you ordered and pay. You engage with the clerk seated at the very end of the restaurant. Today, she was nursing a sprained foot and resting it high on milk crates. She did a great job, giving you all the options and ensuring you got exactly what you wanted. Then shouting it out to those working behind the open kitchen. Like her, everyone else I spoke to was friendly, cordial, and as chill as the setting. All set to a nice mix of hip hop: loud and full of base thumping beats.

You pay and then pick your seat, where your food is quickly brought out to you. Benches outside on their patio, or high tops inside, against all the open windows.

We ordered the half chicken as I like dark meat and my partner likes white. This cost us $17 instead of $19 together. I didn’t take note of the heat level on the menu up front, so ordered the chicken “mild” only to realize this gave things “just a dusting of heat”, whereas I wanted the classic: dredged and fried without chilli. And sadly it was this, the seasoning, on the thick breading that had me liking it less. I am positive that if I had the “classic” I would have liked it much more. At least the meat at the centre was juicy and the breading crunchy, despite my mini photo shoot and allowing it to cool before we took our first bites. My partner however, really enjoyed the chicken here, and more so in his burger below. He declared that when it comes to flavour and size nothing else comes close to this in the city.

My partner loves a good chicken sandwich, so wanted to try their chicken “on a bun”, as well This is their “Hot chicken sandwich” made with white meat chicken breast, their DL sauce, sweet n sour slaw, and house pickles. Given the use of a whole slab of chicken breast, it was  a little hard to get a full bite around, but I preferred it and its ratio of breading to meat than the serving above. It was also nice to see and have more meat than bread, whereas many such burgers has it the other way around. The slaw offered a nice balancing and creamy crunch, and the pickles a refreshing tang to lighten up the meal. I appreciated the clump above and more of them on the side here.

My partner ordered some fries as a side. He didn’t find them all that great, likening the crinkle cut potato sticks to the frozen McCain version. Although at “Down Low” they managed to give them new vitality with a dusting of the “mild” spices and a generous squeeze from their bottle of house mayo. As tasty as the sweet and tangy mayo was, it was just as heavy as everything else, so much so that I was craving some ketchup for freshness.

I like a good corn bread so was excited to try their version listed as being made with “honey and butter”. However it was a dry brick of cheese and jalapeño. Another spicy element to this meal, whereas I could have really used some sweetness from this, as a break from all the bold flavours. And sadly the texture was crumbly, the dough dry from elongated exposure under a heat lamp. There, each square proceeded to cook, wrapped in wax paper oozing with grease that saturated the sheet. Needless to say, we each took a bite and didn’t bother to finish it.

In hind sight, instead of the fries or the cornbread, we should have gotten the creamy and cooling macaroni salad or the crunchy and juicy coleslaw. Either would have acted as a nice cleanser in between bites, helping to balance everything and increase my longevity for the meal before me. Without either, I found myself drinking cups and cups of water from their self serve water station. Overall I did find things on the saltier side.

After we ate our fill, I wanted to get a new box and amalgamate all that we couldn’t finish into it. However an extra box would have been $1 more. So instead, we got a brown paper bag to take our current greasy boxes home in. Despite my disappointment, I did appreciated how one of the managers took the time to explain the reasoning for the cost, with his apologies. He explained that these compostable boxes are the restaurant’s most expensive cost. And they are currently looking for a more reasonable distributor and cost, so that he doesn’t have to seem like he is “cheap”, when customers (like my self) ask for another box; one that he can give to them freely.

 

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.
Fried chicken is one of those dishes that almost everyone likes, and great fried chicken is on everyone’s list. Therefore this, with its original flavour, one that I have never tasted before, is worth sharing with others. I would skip the sides, but definitely declare that the chicken as is and in between a bun is definitely worth trying. And best late at night after some drinking, whereas it was hard having it for our breakfast this morning. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DL CHICKEN SHACK
905 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 3W8
604-283-1385
dlchickenshack.ca

Ugly Dumpling

On this night we learned that there aren’t many restaurants in Vancouver or Burnaby, out side of downtown, that are open past 10pm on a Friday night. And after a few closed doors and a few minutes of being too late after closing time, we finally stumbled on “Ugly Dumpling”. Both my guests have read about this new dumpling shop so were keen on trying it for themselves. I was just glad that I didn’t have to drive downtown, and simply liked how fun the name was.

It is a corner shop, residing at the old home of “Merchant’s oyster shop”. And walking in there is no missing where you were. A black outlined drawing by the door spells it out clear. “The Ugly Dumpling”. There is a bowl of ramen surrounded by sketches of garlic, a bean sprouts, star anise, ginger root, and a single dumpling. But ironically they didn’t actually offer ramen on either of their menus.

The restaurant has a bistro vibe, with the bar housing bottles of wine and sake, as well as preservatives in mason jars. Similar jars kept crayons in packs at the hostess booth. They were given out to tables in conjunction with their menus. Their paper menus doubled as a colouring book featuring their dumpling mascot in every scene. It was depicted enjoying fine wine and better spirits. I made sure to colour it and his adventures in full Crayola vision.

Coming one hour to the closing of their kitchen had us missing out on their dumplings of the day, and apparently these were the only ones available throughout the day: a pork and dried shittake. Immediately this caught me as strange, seeing as their name promised “dumplings”, and to only make available just the one variety on any given day seemed odd. Odd enough for me to propose this very concern to our server. My disbelief had me questioning her answer twice, that indeed there were no other dumplings in the house for me to partake in. I was disappointed and forced to order something else begrudging. I did this only to be later told by another server that they actually have a vegetarian dumpling available. So naturally, despite already finishing our meal, we had to tack on a serving of their vegetable dumplings as “dessert”.

These steamed vegetable dumplings were stuffed with bamboo shoots, ginger, cabbage, mushroom, noodle and egg. I liked the originality and the variety of filling, but I didn’t like the grainier texture with the ingredients all minced together. As for the flavour it was “pungent with the bamboo” according to my guest. I found it pretty standard with a good dip into the sauce on the side.

 

For my main I wasn’t really hungry, but given that majority of their offerings were side plates like pickles and salads in the double digit price range, I opted to just order something more substantial to get my most out of my money.

The “Manila clams in kimchi soup” were more clam in a spicy sauce than actual soup. Whereas reading its name, I wanted more soup to slurp on than clams to pick through. Even so, what little broth I was able to scoop with my spoon was a little too salty to enjoy as is. Under the mound of shells was a garden of stewed vegetables: Brussel sprouts, carrot, onion, leek, green onion, and tofu. Overall it was good, but really not what I expected for $17.

Similarly, what my guests both ordered was good, but it didn’t feel like it measured up to the $17 price tag. This was the “staff meal”, like the dumplings, a daily special that rotates from day to day. This is actually what the staff working enjoy for their meal break, prepared in bulk, with enough servings for customers to have a taste. In actuality, this was the only full entree sized serving, with everything else, a snack sized side to be shared.

“Chicken rice with coconut milk, cabbage, roast chicken, and cilantro”. Made homestyle and comforting. The coconut milk rice really sets it apart with its creamy sweetness, highlighting the savoury and salty, tender chicken you enjoyed in conjunction. The buttery lettuce rounded out the dish with some freshness, giving bites a nice crisp to end on.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sadly, I was disappointed by this first impression. There wasn’t much to choose from off their regular menu, and the daily specials gave you very little variety as well. Ironically, I coloured more dumplings than I ate, and enjoyed the activity of it a lot more. The portions were small for the price, whereas I just was expecting more given the buzz, having been covered in so many popular online publications. But seeing as the restaurant is still fairly new, I would like to see how they grow and evolve themselves before making any big declarations. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

UGLY DUMPLING
1590 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 3Y2
604-258-0005
uglydumpling.ca

The Rise, revisit

My original visit to “The Rise” wasn’t very favourable. (I will include the link at the bottom, for those curious and wanting to compare.) Luckily I didn’t let a quick open and a first assessment steer me clear of this modern asian fusion restaurant. Out of convenience I have found myself at their threshold for a handful of meal. I work in the area and find lunch with them is quick and tasty. They have taken feedback, grown, and improved since their grand opening introduction and I can finally say that it is time I do a revisit post, and paint a more accurate picture of what it’s like to dine with them, almost a year later.

In truth, my visit today was in a different capacity. Today I was here as a judge, one of three, ranking this year’s Vancouver Foodster’s Sangria challengers. But I won’t be covering my thoughts of their drink here, instead I invite you to try them all for yourself and help judge in the people’s choice category. And be sure to check back here to read my full recap of the challenge, including my thoughts on each and how I voted.

Whenever I visit “The Rise”, should the weather permit, I like to dine on their patio out back. There really isn’t much of a view, as their wood barricade with artificial greens mask the scene of the alley below. But this cloistered off deck gives you an oasis in the city. A quiet spice to linger at, with heat lamps and warm blankets should the temperature turn.

The following is what I had on this day, plus a recap of a handful of meals I have had over the summer season.

I have been meaning to try their “Wheel of nosh”, for a while now. This was a creative way to serve a sampling of either appetizers and/or desserts. And today I not only would get to try one, but both their savoury and sweet sets. When the name says “wheel”, it literally means wheel as these small bites are served in little glass bowl sitting in a wire rounded Ferris wheel in either rose gold or silver. Each wheel has 8 bites, a set of four for two people. So best to share this one with a friend. There are no changes to this one, they don’t offer the wheel for one with 4 savoury bites and 4 sweet. I asked. The collect varies from day to day, each, a selection of Chef Dan’s d’oeuvres.

Today I lucked out as I was able to try and fall for these savoury macarons. I have never heard of, or would think to do savoury macarons in cumin and carrot or tomato and basil. Both had the perfect crisp bite meets luscious cream centre that is a tell-a-tale mark of a great macaron. Your eyes can’t believe what you are tasting: you get the quality of a fine macaron with the flavours of a fresh salad and/or seasoned pasta.

The carrot and cumin tasted like soup seasoned in Indian spices. I would have liked this served warm to mimic that hot soup feel, it would have also added another layer to the dish; and/or change the texture and/or experience of it. The tomato and basil ate like a salad with dressing or red sauce pasta. I would have liked a garlic bread macaron to go with it.

I really liked the “Truffle honey chicken drumlets”, this one taste would have me going back to order a plate full of these crunchy bar snacks. Often I am complaining that I don’t get truffle when it’s mentioned in the name of a dish, but here there was no missing it. It was fragrant, but also well balanced by the sweetness of the honey.

The “Shrimp with house made XO sauce” was nice. Large and juicy shrimps seasoned for a tangy meets garlicky flavour.

This was a clever way of presented a spicy tuna tartar with guacamole and freeze dried corn kernels. The waffle cone was sweet, it mimicked the sweetness of the corn. Although I wanted more of a vinegar and cream flavour from my tuna tartar, almost like a poke with a rice cup. The aforementioned cream would have also given the bite some moisture.

As a new seasonal main, my guest was very excited to see “Beer belly”. She does not eat pork, so knows not the love between a foodie and her pork belly. So to be able to try a close proximity of that sensation was something that she relished this night. House smoked sterling beef belly, braised cabbage purée, crispy coleslaw, pickled cucumbers, and house ipa mustard. This was a vey well balanced dish. Despite all the fattiness of the cut, the neighbouring veg and mix of textures helped to break the fat and grease down for a less overwhelming bite. Fresh leafy greens, tangy pickled cucumbers, and the clever idea of deep frying shredded coleslaw and using it for some crunch. All framed by the fragrant mustard that made for the perfect binder, bringing it all together.

Given the heaviness of our first course, we decided to take it lighter with the seafood in the “Gone fishing”. Grilled scallops and tiger prawns over a zucchini and carrot rice pasta, dressed in yuzukosho cream. The cream was made from fermented yuzu, giving it a more full bodied flavour and a new experience for me. The prawns and scallops were cooked perfect, the latter easily melted against the pressure of your teeth. And the noodle and vegetable mix made the ideal base. It gave the dish some heartiness, while still keeping things light, allowing the fresh seafood to shine.

As mentioned earlier, for dessert we had a sampling served on another Ferris wheel. If you had to choose between the two “Wheel of nosh” versions, I recommend the savoury appetizer one. By comparison dessert wasn’t as creative. Good, but not anything you couldn’t get from else where. Where was the whimsy that we got from all the other dishes?

The warm green tea cheese with tart freeze dried raspberries was the best out of the four different desserts on the wheel. It was tasty with a nice crunch, a flaky buttery crust, and creamy centre. This two biter was enough that I would consider getting the full sized version of this dessert in the future.

The raspberry macaron was very standard, it was at least very fresh and I could tell the raspberry flavour was coming from the pureeing of the actual fruit. Here I would have liked this to be made into a raspberry pie macaron, or have a scoop of ice cream dolloped on top; something to elevate your normal macaron.

Similar was the marble mini cheesecakes. It was good, there was enough crust to enjoy the cream with, but how were they making this their own?

I liked the vanilla and blackcurrant cream puff. At least the addition of black beret made this the restaurant’s own. It was served chilled, whereas I would have liked to have the puff dough warmed, thus making the vanilla cream a little more runny, like a “lava” puff. The addition of the chocolate at bottom gave the overall bite a nice flavour and crisp.

Overall, these wheels were a nice way to present share platters and small bites. However after the novelty of trying it once, you need not revisit it for whimsy, but instead as a full sized dish, if the taste won you over. Given its purpose, I wanted more variety in the sampling, instead of two of each, give me 8 different bites, although it is economically harder to do so.

Now, here are some of the dishes I have had a few months back.


The “schmaltz stir-fried rice pilaf” with chicken confit, sous vide free run egg,
chicken crackling, and the salad du jour.

“Shroom 2.0”, a vegan full and gluten free side, that was filling enough to eat as a meal. A gluten-free spaghetti served with a mushroom medley, smoked tofu, silken tofu cream, and cashew parmesan.

 

 

 

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.
I got my wish, through their ever evolving menu, they have reinvented their dishes and have come into their own. They are the most/only unique offering in the neighbourhood, and shine because of it. You will continue to see me frequenting the space: enjoying the puns in their names and the novelty of their interactive cocktails, and for their delicious ramen renditions. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RISE
3135 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3K1
604-559-8280
theriseeatery.com

For the original visit and review, click the link below.

The Rise Eatry

Go Fish

I had a friend visiting from Malaysia, who has lived in Vancouver for a good amount of time, so when I asked him where he wanted to go for lunch, he choose the ideal venue to enjoy the fullness of a hot and sunny day in Vancouver.

I myself have never heard of the place, so found it a treat to discover such a unique locale from him. It was a little blue container transformed into a kitchen. You ordered from this shack, and ate your meal on their wood-built patio, should the weather permit. Come to think of it, I wonder if they are even open when it rains?

Either way we were able to take it all in on this perfect day. We grabbed a corner seat on the patio, looking out towards the dock; with Granville Island and downtown Vancouver’s cityscape across the sparkling blue waters. Here, we sat and chatted until our orders were at the pass, and our names were being called to fetch them.

Everything is listed on a cardboard menu, but we took advantage of their fresh sheet. We indulged in their popular fish and chips, available in either halibut or cod. We got a piece of each served over French fries with a side of tartar and coleslaw. It was crispy layer of batter coating juicy white fish.

Sadly they were out of the oyster po’ boy we were eyeing, so we got their “tacones” instead. I didn’t read it correctly when ordering, so didn’t expect these little burritos wrapped in tortillas. We got one of the salmon and one of the tuna. Both were cooked a little more than we’d like, and both could have used more filling, along with a tangy sauce to tie it all together.

Out of all that we had, I liked the “green curry soup” the best. It drank like tomato soup with curry notes, and was even enjoyable even on this hot day. After all, ingesting hot fluids to combat hot temperatures is a known practice.

 

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.
A great spot for seafood right at the pier, and a great place to take anyone visiting the city. Not only are they treated to some prime seafood, that our West Coast is known for, but they also able to enjoy it with a view. Blue waters meet blue sky, over looking the docks of Granville Island. And if you are as lucky as we were, your visit might coincide with the time where fishermen dock their boats and serve up their catch of the day by the pound, for purchase. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GO FISH
1505 W 1st Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J 1E8
604-730-5040
Go Fish Ocean Emporium Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chatime, Fairview

“Chatime” is a glowbal teahouse brand, originating from Taiwan. They are well known for their shaken, churned, and blended bubble tea and tea related drinks. And in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, this franchise has made a boom. Like with “Starbucks”, you can pretty much find one location in every major area. And like the coffee mongrel, these shops have devoted fans flocking to them as soon as they open at 11am daily, staying till when they close around 11pm.

They are popular because all of the teas that they use are brewed fresh in store, and of a fine quality. That and the ability to customize any of their drinks just the way you like. With each beverage you can select how much sugar or cream goes into your cup. You can even nitpick on the quantity of ice that is used to chill it.

I had recently downloaded their rewards-based app, which gifted me a complimentary drink. So today, I was eager to redeem those points. I trekked down to the nearest “Chatime” location, by my workplace. Their trademark purple marked the spot.

I checked online and approached the cafe, reading that they were open at 11am. I had scheduled my break around this time to ensure the shortest wait, when they first opened for the day. I was planning on ordering six beverages and didn’t want to hold anyone up. All this, to find out that their doors were still locked. This is despite the sign in the window reading “open: 11am”. And the fact that I called the night before to confirm their start time. A poster outside invited customers to order over the phone. I heeded its suggestion and called in twice, and both times it went straight to voice mail.

By 11:10am there were two of us waiting outside, by 11:15am six individuals, and by 11:20am eight people across five different groups/pairings/solos. I guess purple needed their shaken drink fix first thing before lunch.

So there we were, we stood silently waiting for the man with the turned baseball cap to acknowledge us. He continued to work feverishly to prep his day, as he met our furrowed brows. He eventually did let us in, explaining that their company policy was to not open up for business until there were two employees staffed to handle the workload. It looked like his colleague was late. His explanation made me sympathetic, we have all been there. From here everyone was willing to wait. They understood that he was on his own, and would need to take and process each drink order before making it.

I always find bubble tea menus overwhelming and “Chatime’s” was no difference. Their store front and counter side bombarded you with options and choices. How is one to choose? And is trying something new or different worth the gamble if you didn’t like the first sip.

Given that they have an upcoming promotion in November, I decided to order from their mousse/tea-latte series to take advantage of it. They had six different types of sweet drinks to pair with their savoury mousse topping. I was going to make my six, one of each flavour. But they only had enough of the premade mousse for three cups, so I had to narrow my choice down to three. I simply went for their most popular three: black tea, matcha, and chocolate. The mousse and its hint of salt highlighted the sweetened flavours of the above. It is best when you stir the mousse thoroughly in, this way you get an even blend and sip.

And between November 10-12, 2017, every “Chatime” BC mousse drink purchase benefits the “Movember Foundation”. Where the first 100 customers to post a mousse moustache selfie during this time, gets another one for free. A good way to treat a friend, or try a flavour you otherwise might not have, if you had to pay for it.

For those unfamiliar, “Movember” is the month that brings attention to men’s health issues like prostate and testicular cancer. For more details and how you can participate, aside from growing a moustache, check out the Movember website: https://ca.movember.com/.

For my other three drinks I went for the very trendy blue drinks made butterfly pea flower tea. Its advertisement attracted my attention walking in. The photo showed a series of bold and opaque sky blue drinks. But what I got was a translucent dark purple liquid, hinging on black. I was disappointed by its appearance, but at least the flavour held up. Butterfly pea flower really doesn’t have a taste, whatever you mix with it, is the flavour you get.

I went for the one with grapefruit, another with mango, and the last with green tea mixed in. The differences in liquids were clear given the blocks of colour visible through the plastic cup.

 

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.
I find the experience in any “Chatime location” is consistent from one shoppe to the next. They are your staple for bubble tea and other tea and milk based drinks, juices, or slushes. And now there is an even better reason to visit and purchase a mousse latte from
Them between November 10-12, 2017. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CHATIME
1545 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
778-379-7711
Chatime Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vancouver Island Brewing @ Rogue

Celebrating 30-year anniversary of the Vancouver Island Brewing’s Hermannator.

 

Tonight I was invited to help celebrate the 30-year anniversary of Vancouver Island Brewing’s signature beer: The Hermannator. It is so named, after its creator Hermann Hoerterer. A beer once made only for his friends and family seasonally. This award-winning lager takes over three months to produce as it must sit at sub-zero temperatures for long periods of time. The result is a rich malt body with notes of chocolate, coffee, and brandied plums. Which is believed to make it the perfect beer to enjoy over the holiday season. Tonight we would be able to try their 2017 edition along with two other Hermannator variations, popular Victoria Island brews, and even two up and coming beers that have yet to hit the market.

Due to the travel required to the actual “Victoria Island Brewery” from Vancouver, tonight’s celebration would be held at “Rogue Wet Bar” on Broadway instead. A fine destination, already well known for its fun, party-like atmosphere; making it the perfect location to celebrating within.

The decor has been greatly simplified since my last and original visit. To be able to compare the two, click on the link to see how it once looked.

Rogue on Broadway

 

Since then the bar has been transformed. Gone are its cowhide upholstered chairs, its striped booths, and mosaic votive; and in its place the modern bar aesthetic. Now wooden separators divide the open space between lounge and dining area. Each table is set with a “Steamworks” themed glass, converted into a candle holder. Thus giving them room an amber glow with them, which is best highlighted by the red “Rogue” sign that crowned it all. Our group grabbed a serious of high tops, climbing up on bar stools.

The occasion was marked with its own specialty beer list: a “Vancouver Island” only list. As it’s name suggest, Vancouver Island Brewing produces and serves it finer craft beers from the heart of downtown Victoria BC. Established in 1984, the craft brewery is now under new ownership and management. A couple of brewery experts, who originally started their careers at “Parallel 49”; but then moved to Victoria with the dream of building upon this long standing brand. Bringing in new ideas and new life with some rebranding. Some of these ideas are presented within the list of beers below.

Herman has since retired, but in his place, another German brew master with over 30 years of experience has taken up his mantel, Ralph. With this change comes an improvement on the ingredients used in their classic recipes.

The future holds six different rare releases in the new year. Each will be named after a location based on the island, as per their tradition. I am most excited about their limited edition cocktail series. Making beers that taste like their inspired cocktail. This summer they made a gimlet, with the flavour of gin and juniper, recommending the addition of an actual shot of gin for more authenticity. Today we would try a beer that tasted like a “Manhattan”. And there is talks of a “Moscow mule” to come. Anything they hope to release, they test batch, getting customer feedback before launching.

But for now, the menu in hand. There were ten different beer and between two of us, Kenny of @hangryhippos and I, we were able to try eight. We made our selection carefully.

Naturally we had the first three Hermannators. The “Hermannator ice block” was this season’s release. A full bodied and easy to drink beer, that is slightly sweet like molasses. This I liked until I had last year’s release.

The second “Hermanntor” was from 2016 and cellared since last year. The result was the same easy taste as the 2017 batch, but with a more mellow flavour. Once again, I thought I liked this the best, until I had their barrel aged “Hermannator”.

This “Hermannator” was aged in a red wine barrel, and you could tell. You got that deep red wine flavour in each sip, this is the one I want for a lighter dinner of red meat.

The “Burton ale” is a collab with Gladstone brewing in Courtney. This was a strong and hoppy amber ale. A classic flavour that is easy to sip and swish.

On our second flight we had a mix of classics and the ones that have yet to see public consumption. The “Orange cherry rye ale” fell into the latter category. This was the cocktail series beer that was based on a manhattan, I never tasted a beer like this. It truly reminded me of a shaken spirit. It was aromatic and herbaceous with deep woody notes.

“Pipers Pale ale” was named after a solider. The brewery has been making this English pale ale for over 29 years. It was smooth and extremely easy to drink.

The “Dominion dark lager” is their oldest brew, over 31 years since its conception. This is a dry German style lager. Despite its darker hue, it is still easy to drink.

The “Juicy IPA” is another one that they are testing, before releasing it to the public. A very traditional tasting IPA with a clean aftertaste.

To accompany our drinks we shared a few small plates off of the “Rogue” menu. And seeing it was happy hour, we took advantage of their discounted prices that run from 3-6pm daily.

Their “Homemade potato chips” were my favourite. The perfect crunchy and starchy slices dusted in cajun spice and served with a curry ketchup. Naturally this easy snack went fast.

The “Dip trio” was a serving of warm fluffy pita slices paired with sun-dried tomato, charred lemon garlic hummus, and edamame cashew dips. The warmth of the bread made the dips feel even more cold and more frozen than it actually was. They were crumbly and hard to scoop from, whereas I wanted thick and tacky spreads. Their flavours were mild and watered down, whereas I wanted more punchy notes.

The “S&P dry ribs” were disappointing. The meat was overlooked, making it hard to pry flesh from bone. And despite them being tossed in coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper, I still found the two pieces that I had bland. These could have benefited tremendously with a honey garlic drizzle.

Similarly the “Margherita pizza” too lacked flavour. This common assembly of fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, flor di latte, mozzarella, and Parmesan could have used more of all of it. More thick tomato sauce, more fresh herbs, and a lot more salt easily taken from more parm.

By comparison the “Roasted Gorgonzola and pear” pizza was amazing. It had all the flavours I wanted from the above, except a whole lot more exciting. You could taste the roasted pears, gorgonzola, roasted garlic, pickled red onion, rosemary oil, fresh arugula, and drizzle of honey that made up the pizza. It was a perfect balance of salty and sweet, with tang and spice.

 

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.
Overall a great night when great beer and cheap eats are brought together.
Don’t deny your cravings.

 

VICTORIA BREWING
#VIBREWING #vancouverislandbrewing #hermannator
2330 Government Street, Victoria BC, V8T 5G5
250-361-0007
vibrewing.com

 

ROGUE
602 W. Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-568-9400
roguewetbar.com

La Taqueria

My partner and I often find ourselves driving past this little Mexican restaurant, each time we tell ourselves we ought to go. And tonight was finally the time. Although, we almost didn’t make it through the door. Google said that they were opened until 10pm, but the sign on the door read 8:30pm, and here we were walking through at 9:30pm. We came, ate, and left before 10pm, with many tables still lingering in discussion over empty trays.

The restaurant had a lively atmosphere, fostered by the up-tempo Spanish music playing overhead. It matched the eye catching shades of aqua that coloured the walls and table tops, and the densely floral wallpaper that plastered the washroom’s doors.

There is plenty of seating across the narrow front of the restaurant, with everything facing out towards the busy street of Cambie. This scene was what lured us in, in the first place. At one end is a shelf utilized as aesthetic storage. On it sacs of flour and six pack caddies of soda sit. In this corner is their more intimate seating, chairs sandwiching small tables, separated from the share style counters and long high top tables we sat on for a quick bite. Between the two is a counter offering various squeeze bottles of salsas and hot sauces, and open bowls shaped like pigs with a mix of pickled vegetable and jalapeños, for you to help yourself to.

The entire menu is spread across the back of the counter, from where you order. On it is a listing of tacos available in 4inch corn tortillas and 6inch flour tortilla rounds. They also have quesadillas and burritos using 10″ tortillas. Many of which overlapped in ingredients, the same meat and/or vegetable filling was available in any of the four vessels listed above.

We shared three of the 4″ inch meat filled corn tortillas at $3 each. The veggie tacos went for $2.50 each, with an impressive number of them to choose from. If you went vegetarian, you had four different types of filling to choose from, and not just the “veggie one”. These including a mushroom and kale, a zucchini one, refried beans with Mexican cheese, and one with roasted poblano peppers and cream corn.

However, we prefer a mix of meat protein and vegetables so had the following. The “Carnitas with pork confit” was tender and tasty with fatty bites. I could have used more of the pickled ginger as balance though. The “Tinga de pollo” was a little bland, despite it being soften chicken with zesty chorizo in a chipotle sauce. The “Asada” was the one to skip. The grilled flank beef was dry. It had a chalky finish that left a residue on the sides of your mouth. It was flat and one dimensional without an accompaniment, like a thick sauce or some mixed vegetable. This is where the above mentioned, help-yourself bar of salsas and sauces was helpful. In fact all three tacos benefited from their add-on flavour.

I just wish they offered larger napkins, instead of just what was available in the caddies located on each tables: smaller, one ply squares. You need more and more thicker napkins when handing something that leaves you with majority of it on your hands and over your plate.

We both prefer the “Al Pastor burrito” that we also had. This was pork marinaded in achiote and pineapple with charro beans, pineapple pico de gallo, and chipotle mayo. There was lots of flavour in this and I was immediately impressed with my first bite. There was a nice grill to the tortilla, with the crunch you wanted from shredded lettuce, and just a bit of heat from the seasoning. A fulsome handheld with plenty of rice to make things more heartier. It also managed to stay together until our last bite.

And the perfect accompaniment to the strong flavours and occasional heat from Mexican food is, “Horchata”. Their’s is constantly churning in one of those gas station slush machines. It was good, but a bit more cinnamon-y in flavour than I expected or wanted for a drink to accompany a savoury meal.

 

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.
Mexican tacos done for a North American palette, with more spices and a lot more salt. Fresh, tasty, and healthy; a great after drinking snack option or a nice stop in for a quick lunch. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA TAQUERIA
2549 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC
604-568-4406
lataqueria.com
La Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Old Ginger

My mother and I were looking for a quick lunch destination. And a quick walk along Broadway and Cambie yielded “Old Ginger” as that destination. Neither of us have visited the restaurant before, but it looked like your typical long standing, quick and easy, Chinese, fast food restaurant; and a safe enough bet to fill our bellies with for less.

This was Sichuan style Chinese food as told across multiple of food photos plastered across their exterior and interior front window. They were only a fraction of the items and pages to go through on their menu. It lead with the chef’s specials, cold appetizers, house soup, tofu & vegetables, chicken & duck, lamb & beef, fried rice & noodles, crispy noodles, and dim sum.

But what caught my eye coming in and again when I took a seat, was their offering of shaved noodles in soup. I love the starchiness of chewy noodles, and in particular prefer it thick with the jagged edges of a coarse cut for texture. Although here, it is not done by hand by one of their chef’s. Instead they have a robot doing this, and apparently it is the only trained too. He was propped up in a little room facing the dining area, kept away behind grease fogged glass. I have heard about such machines, but didn’t know we had one in Vancouver to call our own. Needless to say, I immediately made this a must order, specifically eyeing the “Beef shaved noodle with sour spicy soup”. However this was not to be. I was disappointed to learn that the robot was not in service, and that I would not be able to order any shaved noodle dish. Apparently no one but it was trained in this skill. Although I could have any broth reserved for the shaved noodle menu with thin noodles instead. It was not the same, I would pass. And just as well, walking close to the robot’s room I could see that he was just a bust and it wouldn’t have been a full robot doing the noodle cutting anyways. Just a knife attached to a mechanical bar over a curved dish.

So instead I had some “Szechuan tan tan noodles with spicy sauce”, and was even more disappointed. My mother had inquired about the spiciness of the dish and when our server offered to have it dialled down, she accepted. But what we got was an overall watered down dish. Like they added a cup of water to the bowl in order to make it less spicy. And sadly no number of table top soy sauce packets saved it. I even added the excess sauce from the similarly flavoured wontons below, but that did nothing for the dish as well. On top of the lack of flavour, the noodles were over cooked and soggy. Whereas I expected a strong pop of peanut or chilli, this was just tangy with vinegar. My mother isn’t the type to send anything back or express her dissatisfaction with a dish, so we simply got it packed up to go. Where, I took it home and used in as extra sauce and noodles with a packet of instant noodles, and that made it tasty.

As mentioned, the “Wonton in spicy peanut sauce” had a similar flavour to the above. It was what I would have liked the whole of the noodle soup to taste like. As the only real dish with any flavour, I liked it the best for all the wrong reasons. It was just ok, the texture being mushy inside and out.

On the other hand, my mother liked their “Baked sesame pancake with beef”, but like me only because the others weren’t so great. Looking at it, I wasn’t impressed. The meat was sliced real thin and with just a couple of strips of it between the thicker pancake wrap, it looked like you weren’t getting much. And then there is the bland colouring of the sesame seed pancake, I would have liked it to have gotten some time on a pan to give it a nice golden brown colour and maybe draw out some additional flavour from the seeds when toasted. Without it the overall product was boring looking. I also would have liked some pickled vegetable with the bread and meat, or at least some brown sauce to dip the lot into for some depth.

The “Shanghai style juicy pork bun” took the longest to come and was just as disappointing. They looked promising, but none of the dumplings delivered their promise of juice. There was no soup, just soggy meat in a starchy shell. The vinegar gave it the flavour I wanted, but at this point I was taking another just to not waste food.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Needless to say, this was a disappointing visit and one that needs not revisiting, even with a working robot. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OLD GINGER
514 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Z 1E9
604-559-6798
Old Ginger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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