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Category: Gastown Page 1 of 8

Water St. Café

Admittedly I have frequented “Water St. Cafe” a handful of times, but on each visit it was for an event and during such an occasion the experience is much different. A full house with standing room only, and nibbles to graze on, as you sip on glasses of bubbles and wine. So tonight my guest and I were excited to join them for a simple dinner for two, in Gastown.

The restaurant is better known for their fine dining vibe, a modern upscale spot with dim lights, flickering candles, and white table cloths. The best seat in the house is definitely the corner table on the first floor. It over looks the cross section of Cambie and Water Street, with a clear view of the iconic steam clock. Not to mention all the folks taking photos of it, as it bongs and releases plumes of smoke into the night sky.

We were given a table upstairs, to be able to take in the live music they were promoting on this Monday night. That, and the restaurant was fairly business on what others deem a “slow night”. The server led us through a maze of large parties, past their marble counter bar, ascending up the carpeted staircase that spiral. On the second floor there are individual rooms for group events, as well as some pocketed seating that gave you seclusion for your party.

We were seated at a table for two with a view overlooking Gastown’s streets, right in front of the lit “stage”. A curtain of LED string lights set the stage literally. We arrived just as our local and live entertainment were setting up for their set. Across the evening they would perform melodic covers and their own music played across a guitar, base, and drums. I found the live music element a wonderful surprise, and was delighted to be able to take this in. It definitely elevated our evening and experience. That, and the food to come.

We enjoyed wine with our five dishes below, including the amuse bouche that came first. Instead of it being something the chef whipped up with left over ingredients, our amuse bouche was actually available for ordering off the regular menu, but in a more compact size for sampling. Instead of the “Smoked BC salmon plate, this was a bite each of smoked BC salmon served over a crostini with dill cream cheese spread. This was a great treat, a crowd pleaser elevated with the inclusion of red onions, crispy capers, and a sweet balsamic vinegar drizzle. All together a classic flavour that doesn’t disappoint. The balsamic lent sweetness to the assembly, the capers a sharp tanginess, and the radish some crunch.

Next we had the “Bison carpaccio” for our appetizer. Pink pepper corn crusted canadian bison, sliced thin as tracing paper, topped with shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, and crispy capers. This was a dish that had you choosing your own perfect bite. The truffle elevated it, and the freshness of the raw onion and the pepperiness in the greens came together, offering layered depth. Everything was wonderfully paired. Except I wanted a base with it, something to make this a heartier bite. Although at the same time, I didn’t want to dilute such an interesting flavour combination with a starch. In short, I wanted a meatier bite to the wafer thin bison I was enjoying so much.

For our vegetable course we had “Lamb lollipops and kale”. The perfectly prepared lamb made this salad a lot more approachable. Rosemary marinated, grilled lamb chops with charred radicchio, baby kale, and salsa verde. The lamb was good on its own, but the leaves it sat on offered freshness and a nice citrusy seasoning for the savoury meat. Alone, the kale salad had points of bitterness, and hints of mint.

The “West coast crab cakes” were declared a “Café tradition!”, so we had to give it a try. A blend of pacific rock crab, baby shrimp, and preserved citrus with fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. It was fragrant with the diced peppers, a notable taste paired with the sweet crab meat. As for the sauce you smear your crispy crab puck in to, it was mild enough that it doesn’t over power, but rather accented the lot with notes of marmalade on the tongue and in the nose.

And for our entree we had the “16oz Ribeye steak and frites.” A grilled 16oz bone in AAA canadian ribeye, prepared medium rare. Smothered in a three peppercorn mushroom sauce and served with cajun seasoned frites on the side. We well received this classic. The perfect amount of fat to lean beef, with a pink centre. Easy to slice through with a peppery sauce that perks it and the fries up. Fully satisfied with this one. No complaints.

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.
In conclusion this was an amazing night. Everything was on point from the one or a kind view, to the cozy interior decorated with Christmas flourishes, to the live music surprising and delighting. And most importantly the food that was amazing, a classic menu prepared well and as expected on what typically isn’t a peak night. “Water St.” did not disappoint! Don’t deny your cravings.

WATER ST. Cafe
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
waterstreetcafe.ca

A Taste of Africa Dinner, hosted by Nederburg Wines

This newer Moroccan restaurant has seen much acclaim with their traditional cuisine, served in their authentically dressed setting. But today we were getting a different experience, “A taste of Africa” to pair with a series of “Nederburg Wines” from South Africa. 5 courses from cold and hot appetizers to dessert, each paired with a wine and a lesson in what we were drinking. Wine connoisseurs and wine lovers alike gathered together. I fall into the latter category, as I drink everything and don’t really discriminate or have a preference; although I am always down to learn more about what it is I am drinking, and tonight I would get just that.

“Moltaqa” is translated to mean “a place where people meet, gather and talk” which was certainly the sentiment of the evening. We were gathered around one of their long tables, a shared space where each setting included multiple glasses.

But our feasting and drinking started as soon as we entered the door, when we were given our first taste of “Nederburg”; and a choice between the “Wine Masters Sauvignon Blanc” or the “Wine Masters Cabernet Sauvignon”. I started out with the red, knowing the white would later be paired with our first course. 

This was an easy drinking wine, one that followed well with our two vegan appetizers:  endives and chickpeas and black olives. The former was a refreshing start, full of punchy flavours. And the black olives had the texture of prunes and in part their taste. Really tangy, with an all encompassing salt that hits the back of your throat. Definitely one you want to chase with red.

Before every course and before each sip of wine, we were given a prelude: what it is we were having and what it offers. First, was “Nederburg Wine Masters Sauvignon Blanc”, one of South Africa’s most awarded wines. Produced from their Wine Master’s ranch, where they own 40% of their own grapes, and have contracts with other vineyards to procure the other 60% of specific grapes that they need. Each bottle of “Nederburg” is crafted knowing exactly what grapes are required. For example, grapes grown in cooler climates tend to have more of a peppery note. And wines with grapes grown in a warmer climate tend to have more tropical ones, like that of melons and goose berry. As for how it tasted, the Sauvignon Blanc had a lovely fullness, followed by a lingering after taste. This was described to us as a “True South African Sauvignon Blanc”.

The crisp tartness of the wine went well with the crisp apple and the tart dressing that our salad start had. “Apple Arugula Salad” with Granny Smith apples and a pomegranate dressing.

Our second course proceeded with the “Heritage Heroes “Motorcycle Marvel” Rhone-Style Blend”. This bottle was named after the gentleman who looked after the vineyards, riding around on a motorcycle, keeping order. This is considered one of “Nederburg’s” super premium tier wines, it has layers of bite and a lot more spice than my first easy drinking red at the door. It is sweetened with red berry fruit, which balances out its oaky finish. This was done intentionally to ensure the woody-ness doesn’t dominate and the flavour of the grapes are able to shine.

Here, this deeper red paralleled the zestiness of our second course, the “Chicken Merguez Shakshouka”. A hand-made, hormone-free chicken sausages, cooked in a casserole without the use of oil or butter. Delicious by itself, but would be better as the feature in a rice or grain based dish.

Our third course began with the “Heritage Heroes “The Anchorman” Chenin Blanc”. An intentionally crisp and clean white, with grapes taken from different areas, made using 4 different fermentation techniques. It is named after the man who established “Nederburg” wines in 1979. This was a fuller white with some creaminess to it. Notes of apricot, peach, and white pear; a great palette refresher in between the bites of sweet meets savoury of our third course.

“Traditional Moroccan Vegetable Pastilla”, an in house made, hand rolled, flaky pastry, filled with shredded and julienne roasted vegetables.  What was most memorable was that it was served, topped in a generous dusting of cinnamon and icing sugar, which had my mind and mouth at odds. The eyes expected one sensation and the tongue got another. And then it happened again when I bit into some sliced green olives, hidden within the filling. The olive’s pronounced flavour added another element into this confusing mix. In the end I found myself forgoing the filling altogether and being satisfied with the buttery, flaky sheets as is. I would have also loved them wrapped around figs, dates and/or nuts for more of a dessert feel.

The fourth course was everyone’s favourite. It came with a fire show and a giant pot for sharing. “Mechoui Lamb Flambé”, a whole leg of lamb braised for five hours, seasoned and flambe’d table side with cognac and grand marnier. It  was accompanied by figs and sesame seeds on a bed of couscous, confit yams and roasted vegetables. It tasted as good as it looked. Tender lamb, tasty veg, and grains to leave you feeling full.

With it we enjoyed the “Heritage Heroes “The Brew Master” Bordeaux Blend”. A dark, juicy fruit wine made to age for 10-15 years. This was a done as a tribute to the one who has pave the way for “Nederburg”.

Unfortunately I was unable to stay for the fifth course, a dessert of “Chocolate Ganache Cake with Preserved Figs”; paired with an “Amarula Pick Me Up Cocktail, High Moroccan Mint Tea, and Turkish Coffee. Shame, as figs were what I was craving above, and I am a fan of their mint tea.

In between courses, we were also treated to a show of belly dancing. A common occurrence at “Moltaqa”, a performance of beauty and grace that brings their guests deeper into the cuisine and setting. Our entertainer dawned on butterfly wings, balanced a scimitar on her head and abdomen, and invited her audience to dance with her.

In summary, this was a lovely evening, surrounding a decadent fest; offering us a unique way to discover exotic wines, that we can get, close to home. The first two wines: the Nederburg Winemasters Cabernet Sauvignon and the Nederburg Winemasters Sauvignon Blanc are both are available at any BC Liquor Stores for $13.29 a bottle! And if you purchase the red within this month of June, it on sale for $2 off at $11.29. And in August the white (Sauvignon Blanc) will then be $2 off.

As for the other wines that we got to try throughout the evening, they will be harder to find. They are “SPEC” products, which means they aren’t available in BC Liquor Stores and have to be ordered by the case. So if you are lucky, your local privately own liquor store or restaurant may have it available. For more on Nederburg wines visit the link below. https://nederburg.com/

 

MOLTAQA
51 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1G4
604-696-4055
moltaqarestaurant.com

Ask for Luigi, revisit

Looking for a dinner spot in Railway Town, my guest and I found ourself at “Ask for Luigi” for some pasta. And it was just as I remembered it, so long ago. My first experience with the intimate Italian restaurant wasn’t all that great, we ended sending all our food back, so I was curious to see how much they have improved since then. But it is worth noting that the service now was just as stellar as it was then.

For a better comparison, check out the original visit post here, almost 5 years ago. http://vieamaggi.com/ask-for-luigi/

This is a smaller restaurant, with tightly placed tables and the constant roar of conversation. The kitchen was towards the back, visible from dining area. Having everything in this one open room gave you the feeling of dining at home. Not to mention the building is basically a refurbished house. Though the hanging sign advertising “pasta” tells you otherwise.

The menu was a one pager, it still had a few of the same dishes that I remembered from way back when. And they still mentioned that, “Substitutions (are) politely declined”.

We started with a glass of white wine each. I know it is the custom, but I much prefer my wine served in a goblet with a stem. In this tumbler there is no letting the wine breathe, you can’t swizzle the liquid or smell it before it hits your lips. Here it is filled right to the brim (not that it is a bad thing), so my first two sips had me lapping it up from right off the table.

As for food, the menu suggests sharing and I agree, the pastas we had were great, but after a few bites you grew tired of the taste, and wanted to nibble at something else, to help change the taste.

My guest had the “Pappardelle and duck ragu”. We both liked the chew from a thick and flat noodle. The dish was seasoned with a tang, and plenty of shredded duck meat.

I liked peas so ordered the “Ricotta ravioli” with peas, mint, and lemon. It was a light and refreshing dish, and the pops from the peas did not disappoint.

 

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.
This visit did give me a better impression of them. However I ask some friends sitting at a nearby table how their meal was, and they noted their disappointment in the squid ink pasta. Like I did so many years back, they found it far too salty and generally unappealing. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ASK FOR LUIGI
305 Alexander Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1C4
604-428-2544
askforluigi.com

Di Beppe Restaurant

Wanting pizza and to try somewhere new we found ourselves at “Di Beppe” this Saturday night. They don’t take reservations so we are pleasantly surprised to be told that the wait would be minimal, when we walked in, a little after 7pm.

You enter the restaurant via the cafe side. The two halves are split by a wall with a glass window and curtained door way.

You also wait in the cafe portion, leaving your name with their host. You are offered the ability to purchase a drink, while you linger in their waiting area of sorts. A couple of benches by the window and two free standing high top tables to lean against.

It was especially humid inside on this cold day. I would say the extra heat was from the visible bakery towards the back, but it was clear no one was currently working in the all glass space. But the proof of their work was still visible in the glass case at the counter. Buttered cookies in jars, cakes by the slices, and bars on wax paper for easy ordering and easier indulging.

When time, we were led into the darkness of the dining area. Orange glow from lamps, brick walls plastered with Italian posters, and concrete under foot. A warm and intimate space with the entire bar seated, each high top set, and all the closely sat table filled.

We were asked if it was our first time here, and since it was, were given a run down of their menu. Their wines are all listed with the price based on how much you want, 5oz, half a litre, or by the bottle. We ordered a 5oz glass of sparkling and rose and both came in the traditional Italian style tumblers for such an occasion.

We ordered a pizza and were given the option of having it “In pala”, as a round on a smaller board, perfect for two; or “Al metro” a 2 and a half feet long pizza served on a longer board. More pizza for $9 more. We went for the former to also have room to try one of their pastas. We wanted margherita and had our choice of the cheese that goes with it. Either fior di latte or di bufala for $4 more. I went for the creamier white cheese for more, with no regrets. You could tell the cheese was fresh, you got more of its flavour and it was well worth the extra charge. The pizza as a whole was bready. The crust itself was thick and crispy, we asked for butter given how wide it was and the amount of it that came unsauced. This way we ate it like bread. The sauce was sweeter and very tomato forward. It was globbed on thick and caused the crust under it to sag. And the fresh and baked basil not only added colour but some seasoning to the mix.

It was served on a metal rack with our second dish under it. This was space saving, but uneven, causing alarm when the board began to slide. A double decker way to share two dishes on a small table for two. Though it was challenging to to twirl and scoop pasta from under the wooden board.

For our pasta we wanted a white sauce to give us contrast from the red sauce on our margherita pizza. For each pasta option you have your choice of noodles between spaghetti or rigatoni. I let my partner have his preference, but I would have preferred the chewier pasta tubes instead.

This is the “carbonara” spaghetti with guanciale, pecorino (a buttery anchovy blend), egg yolk, and black pepper. With the first bite my picky partner declared it the best he had had in a long while. And luckily he couldn’t taste the salty fish, given his distain for all things seafood related. The pasta wasn’t saucy per say, but rich with fully coated strands. You could taste the lusciousness of the egg, and the heavy tingling pepper flavour that followed. And the crispy pieces of salty pork added extra spice and salt.

To end it all, our bill came with a “Crustoli” for us each. This is cannoli batter deep fried and dusted heavily with powdered icing sugar. Amazingly light literally and figuratively, lifting it up to our faces caught us off guard. The sugary powder stuck stuck to the roof of your mouth, but it was pasty without it. This proved to be a nice and unexpected way to end our meal. A much appreciated bonus.

 

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.
Given how much my particular partner loved everything and considering how he finished his meal declaring, “Everything is good”, we will definitely be back. I too enjoyed my time here and would want to come back when craving either pizza or pasta. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DI BEPPE
8 West Corddova Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1C9
604-559-1122
dibeppe.com

Tacofino Burrito Bar, revisit

Tacofino, revisit

I wasn’t planning on reviewing my latest visit to Tacofino’s take out burrito bar. But after a very tasty meal and noticeable improvements from my first so-so visit, to now, I thought I owed it to them to re-evaluate.

My partner wanted tacos and decided we would make a trip to find some. Based on our parking spot, the quickest and easiest to stop at was “Tacofino’s” take out shop.

For the full run down on decor and setting, check out my original visit and how the food has changed in the 2 and a half years between my first and second post.

Tacofino Burrito Bar

 

I did the ordering knowing that their chicken burrito is the one to get, not that the menu gave you all that much to choose from in the first place.

Fried chicken, rice, guacamole, and shredded lettuce. Here there was a lot more chicken than what I recalled, and it was a lot more crispier than memory serves. It paired well with the chewy thin grains of rice, the crisp lettuce, and just right amount of heat from the chilli mayo sauce the drizzled on thick. Memorable enough that I could see my self craving for another taste in the future.

Whereas I remembered the taco being pretty bland and like the burrito, in need of a couple of squeezes from the help yourself bottles of salsa counter side. Everything today held up on its own without the need for any additional dips.

The chicken taco, had the same crispy breaded chicken as the burrito, but with pickled vegetable slices, a creamy white sauce, and a cilantro salsa. Tasty chicken without any heat.

I was most impressed by the chorizo taco. It covered all flavour and texture profiles for me. The grittiness of the salty meat, the crispiness of the fried kale chips, the chalkiness of the sharp Parmesan cheese, and the tang of the pickled onions. Good, but not economical, and at $6 each you pay a lot more for the bells and whistles. I personally found it worth it, as I don’t find majority of the tacos I encounter tasty enough. Whereas my partner argued that the tacos he always has at other places have been around $2-3 each.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Some tasty quick snack worth taking a detour to, and a Vancouver staple. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO BURRITO BAR
15 West Cordova Street
604-899-7907
tacofino.com/gastown-take-out-menu

Nicli Antica Pizzeria

My partner saw a photo of their pizzas online, and that they have recently opened a new location in North Vancouver, so decided he wanted to give the original brick and mortar a try, himself. He liked the way the crust looked and how easily it folded, it reminded him of a slice he had in New York many years ago. The one he had then and there, is currently the best tasting pizza he has had to date. And that was more than enough of a reason to visit.

The neon “pizzeria” sign outside marks your destination. A stone block facade that continues into a modern bistro with an aged brick wall, is after it. Clean and sleek with white tile, a crisp white coat of paint, structural archways, and tilted mirrors on the ceiling. Depending on where you sit, you can watch yourself eating in the reflection of the mirror. Or check out your date’s back side, as you also look into their eyes, at the front. I sat looking in the other direction, at the aged brick wall, and found the red backdrop behind by date a more calming view.

When it came time to order, The menu included salads and platters of cured meat, but we both wanted our own different pizza, so decided to just go for that and skip the appetizers. But not the wine to start.

My partner ordered his usual “Margherita pizza” with pomodoro, grana padano, fior di latte, and fresh basil. It was served whole, along with a pair of shears for cutting out your desired slice. He ended up cutting his portion into bite sized chunks that was easily picked up and placed into his mouth with a fork.

Upon the first snip my partner knew he would enjoy the crust. It with its light doughy-ness made it on to his list, as one of the best. The cheese also stacked up, it too was similar to some of the freshest he has had on pizza. Where this pizza fell short was in its marinara sauce. It didn’t have a bad taste, it was just that it had no taste. The pizza was bland, and considering it was already a simple “Margherita”, the sauce is/should be the focal ingredient, but it fell short and lacked seasonings.

I just so happened that I turned the one page menu and found their “secret pizza” listed on the back. A single menu item that was alluring in its elusiveness. Naturally I had to get it, even though it read as being spicy, and I am not a fan of tongue-tingling heat.

The “sneaky devil” with pomodoro, grana padano, mozzarella di bufala, basil, roasted green chillies, local soppressata, arugula, and chilli oil. It tasted like everything was thrown together on the rising crust. There were just many flavours combating one another. You had pops of heat from the pepperoni, the distinct taste of the grilled pepper, and the freshness of basil vying for the spotlight. I had the opposite complaint, this one was too salty, too tasty, a little too much. Although at the same time exciting because each bite is so different depending on what toppings make it into your mouth. My pizza was also a little over done. Parts of the crust side down was moderately burnt, the result an acrid flavour that came through unpleasantly.

And in tune with the theme, our bill was served on a little magnetic pizza paddle.

 

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.
I liked the novelty and the feeling of cutting into our pizzas. The crisp sound of the scissor’s two sharp blades coming down on a firm, yet smooth motion to cut the dough. As a whole, for the ambience and the quality of the cuisine, “Nicli” certainly bares revisiting, and with so many varieties in their pizza toppings, I am sure we can find a combination that we actually like. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NICLI
62 E Cordova Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1K3
604-669-6985
niclipizzeria.com
Nicli Antica Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cacao 70 Dip Shop

I have been to one of their other locations before, and having been so unimpressed then, I haven’t been back to any of the handful that have popped up since.

But today their sandwich board was affective in luring is in to their “Dip shop”. They advertised their limited edition churro doughnuts dipped in their signature melted chocolate dips and we wanted a taste. Normally their sweet dips are served over waffles and/or soft serve ice cream cones, and the doughnuts offered a fun twist for the season. For those interested, they are available from December 10th to the 24th, 2018.

This was a cute stop, a fun spot for some quick sweet treats. The setting is nice, modern meets fairytale home with black and white tiled floors, marble counter tops, their menu listed on ornately carved boards; and wonderfully whimsical wallpaper: Lush green banana leaves set to a baby pink background. It would double nicely as a high tea salon.

I liked the idea of dipping desserts into flavoured vats of sauces, but just wished that they made everything in house. After seeing our doughnuts get a spin in the microwave, I asked if the ice cream or their waffles were at least made in house, as they are offered all year round. The answer was no, that the work of baking the products and churning the creams are outsourced, shame. But at least the dips were made by “Cocoa 70”. A factory prepares plenty, enough for all their locations, and they get parcel-ed out as needed.

Each of our doughnuts were dipped in a vat of the above mentioned chocolate. There were specific flavours and pairings pre-set, but I guess you can choose any that you like and ask for any topping that you want. Chocolate dips like milk, dark, white, maple, matcha, coffee, peanutbutter, praline, black sesame, chai, and earl grey. And to help you choose between them all, they give out samples. Clean wooden stir sticks get a quick dunk in and you get to lick them clean. I was most interested in trying the chai and the earl grey, and they delivered well on their flavour promise.

I had the matcha churro doughnut that came topped with shaved coconut slivers and dried cranberries. I ordered it because it reminded me of little Christmas wreaths. I waited, but the creamy dip never harden, and thus made eating this handheld treat a task in having to clean up after myself. The fruit gave pops of flavour and added some crunch and chew to the light and cakey doughnut ring. Although if it is going to be an authentic churro it needed a lot more sugar in its crust. It would have also been nice if the ring was fully reheated, the centre was still cold.

My guest got a dark chocolate dip churro doughnut, drizzled over with streaks of white chocolate. Although it tasted more like Nutella spread. I also agree with her suggestion of having it be double dipped for a thicker coating of chocolate. Good, but not great. I tried it and don’t need another.

 

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.
A fun place with a fun idea, but I just wanted more from them. Made to order waffles, soft serve made with their dips in mind. Seasonal flavours like candy cane and gingerbread. And maybe another way to enjoy their concept. Like giving you the option to dip things yourself, with more selections for dipping. Like a chocolate fondue, but with a split pot for more dipping flavours to play around with. There is just so much more potential that they are not tapping in to. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CACAO 70 DIP SHOP
433 Abbott Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1R3
604-428-5799
cacao70.com/en/our-locations/gastown

Crab Park Chowdery

I have seen photos of their soups and sandwiches circulating on their branded wood boards and within their printed tin cups. Therefore, I was delighted to be invited down to “Crab Park Chowdery” to try a few items off of their menu myself. Because, truth be told, I could not see myself taking the trip down to Gaston just to visit them otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all that I had and would definitely visit them again, it is just that they are less of a destination and more a trip out of convenience. Their little shop is frequented by casual dinners grabbing a cup and a barstool. That little shop in the neighbourhood that serves as and ideal lunch spot, or that place to grab a snack at after work. And with reasonable prices that marries up to their delicious food. If already downtown I would walk from the west end to Gastown for a seat, and better yet I would frequent the spot if there was a location by my work place.

You scan through their menu, a scroll of parchment suspended high on their red brick wall. A collection of 4 different sandwiches and 5 different soups are spelled out before you. You pay then pick an empty place to sit. The restaurant has a few high tops and more stools in front of benches and at the bar. There isn’t much in terms decoration. A few nautical elements help set the tone for this seafood restaurant. A painting of a blue gradient wave, another of a lighthouse on a rock, and a miniature ship’s wheel as an ornament.

As I mentioned earlier, everything is served on their heat scorched and branded wooden boards. They include two circles where your meal and its side are placed over each, with the “Crab Park” logo centring both. Then there are two little prongs, perfect for keeping your spoon in place should you decide to order soup.

Today we had their most popular soup, the “New England clam chowder” with bacon in their bread bowl, which costs extra. But who doesn’t love being able to eat the vessel in which their food is served in? The soup was chunky with plenty of clam, bacon, celery, and green onion to chew through. I liked its creamy finish, but found it all a little too salty with the naturally briny nature of the seafood. It was best taken with bits of bread bobbed in like a dip. I didn’t really feel that the bacon added to anything, especially given how salty everything already was. Instead I could have used it as a garnish below, and taken the tomatoes from it, here for a better, lighter balanced soup.

If you want a little less bread with your soup you can order your serving in either a 10 or 18oz tin cup. Here they come with just half a loaf of bread, the same fresh and chewy sourdough loaf that served as our bowl above. This is the “loaded baked potato soup”, a tasty vegetarian option or something that doesn’t have seafood, if you don’t like seafood but decide to visit a restaurant with “crab” in its name anyways.

The soup is everything you want in a drinkable baked potato. Thick and creamy like a mashed potato with that sour cream tang, the leek base and fresh chive topping gave it some freshness. The only thing that felt out of place were the chopped up tomato chunks. Here, I would have preferred some bacon overtop to round out the baked potato imagery, although that removes one of the only vegetarian options from off their smaller menu.

Soups are best with sandwiches so we got a couple to share. Each sandwich is served on the same broad as the soups, but paired with a cup of super crunchy, lightly dusted bbq chips instead. The chips were a great change of texture and tastes in between bites.

The “Lobster salad sandwich” is made with lobster, shrimp, and celery in a creamy sauce, but it is the buttery hot dog bun that it is served on that makes it. Deliciously good, no complaints.

Their grilled cheese comes with the possibility of add ons to make it your own: tomato, crabmeat, and/or bacon. We got the crab and really couldn’t tell that any of it was in between our slices of crispy toasted bread and strands of ooey gooey cheese. The dill was the most noticeable flavour, it and the add-on of tomato are ideal for their help in breaking up the richer flavours. As a whole the grilled cheese was greasy, and got worse so the more it was allowed to rest. Although I was very impressed that its crispy texture held up, well after my intense photo shoot. The easy remedy for the above is a dip into one of their tomato based soups, because grilled cheese and tangy tomato is a classic flavour combo.

At each table setting there is a caddy of squeeze bottles for your to sauce up your meal with. 6 different flavours, with some bottles nearly empty. Although we found our meal above so rich that we didn’t even reach out for one.

 

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.
Once again a great option for lunch, and even better as a warm and comforting snack in between meals on these cold days. Worth checking out during your next shopping excursion downtown. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CRAB PARK CHOWDERY
221 Abbott Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2K8
604-565-2722
chowdery.com
Crab Park Chowdery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Moltaqa Restaurant

Today I was visiting “Moltaqa”, as one of the judges for the Vancouver Foodster sangria challenge. My role, to visit each of the six participating restaurants, to try their sangria creation; then judge it based on taste, originality and presentation. I won’t be revealing my thoughts on the drink here, as the competition is only starting, but be sure to return back to my blog for the results and to see how I voted after October 7th.

I have been to the cafe that this space once was, so appreciated the transformation it has undergone. It was all encompassing and transformative with the richness of colour and pattern. A black and white hexagon printed bar and matching column back splash, crushed velvet seats and upholstery in a raspberry with florals and geometrics. Satin gold and ruby pillows, and lanterns that seemed to drip from the ceiling where they hung. There was a smattering of decorative urns and pots, and embroiled straw hats and fez caps with tassels for photo ops. There was even a full standing hookah in the corner to appreciate, but not to use.

The decor helped to speak to the authenticity of Vancouver’s only full fledged Moroccan restaurant. And thus I could see why it was so popular today. It opened at 11:30am and we made sure to reserve a table right away. And luckily so, because soon after the restaurant quickly filled.

We were seated right up front with the view of the sidewalk before us, and us a living advert for how great the food to come was. However, my guest was a little squeamish when it came time to actually eat, she felt uncomfortable dining in excess, where just across the street and within our view were shanty homes and the stares of the hungry. But I digress… because our secluded booth, gave us the privacy we needed for intimate conversation and the ability to take all the great photographs below.

We were able to taste their menu extensively, starting with a traditional caffeinated beverage. I am not typically a fan of coffee, but how can you miss out on trying a cup of authentic Turkish coffee. So here I was enjoying how deep and aromatic this black pool was. It wasn’t bitter nor was it overwhelming, simply an enjoyable sip that warmed me to my core. I especially loved the presentation with copper kettle, silver tray, and knitted potholder.

Although, as good as it was, I still prefer tea, and their traditional cup of Moroccan tea should not be missed; although I wish they had the proper glassware to pour it in to. Mint and sugar steeping with gunpowder green tea. I would come back just for another cup.

“Zaalouk” is a traditional Moroccan dip made with roasted eggplant, tomato, and red pepper. It offered chunky bites that were hearty with the freshly baked rounds of bread, still steaming when you ripped into it. We would get plenty of their Moroccan flat bread with our other dishes to come. Good thing, as all the sauces were so good that you’d want to wipe the dish clean with the bread provided.

The “Lamb sausage merguez” offered more spice in its gravy and plenty of zest in the sausage itself. But had we known that the two local made, fresh served, halal lamb sausage would also make an appearance in the shakshouka (below), we would have went for the vegetarian shakshouka instead. Although I guess we should have read the title of the dish to figure it out. No regrets though, sharing everything two ways, meant that one sausages was not enough, this way we each had two!

“Lamb merguez shakshouka and eggs”. Here the egg sets it apart and made it reminiscent of a breakfast skillet. Similar in flavour and juices that they sat in (compared to the above), but different and thicker, thanks to the over easy yolks you stir in. I preferred this version better.

The dish that is not to be missed, and certainly the centre piece to any meal is one of their tagines. “Tagine” is a dish named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked in. It is a round casserole dish covered with a cap that resembles a volcano, it includes a stout at the top that allows steam to escape. It is like pressure cooking and steaming in a very unique apparatus. It is served to you sealed shut, the lid is removed at your for table for its big reveal. Smoke climbs and dissipates, and what you get is a collection of succulent meat and tender vegetables.

We ordered the “Lamb shank tagine” wth apricots, ras el hanout, spices, and potatoes, carrots and squash. This was our favourite dish and the only one that we finished, completely. The meat fell of the bone, it was so flavourful. The squash, carrot, and potatoes made great sides adding a different texture to the mix. And the apricots jelly took it to a whole different level for me. It was sweet and stood out, but not enough to distract, in fact I felt it helped to tie all the spices together.

We then ordered the “Cinnamon chicken pastilla”. I thought it would serve as dessert, especially when I saw it topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and finished off with a mint leaf. It tasted festive with the cinnamon and sugar, but with the texture of baklava, given the dryness of the chicken paired with a light and flaky pastry crust. When I made mention of the above and that this was my first experience trying Moroccan cuisine, our server said we had to come back to try their vegetable version. That this one would be a lot tastier, and that it was his favourite dish off the menu.

 

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.
Overall a great meal. I tried so many new flavours and I enjoyed them all, as my first full experience with Moroccan seasoning. My guest already declared that she would come back with her family. During our meal she spoke to the authenticity of everything having traveled and and dined in Morocco herself. She was a great resource when writing this post, as she describe what she had there compared to what she enjoyed here. I too would like to come back, especially on one of the nights where they have belly dancers preforming. What great fun that would be. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MOLTAQA
51 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1G4
604-696-4055
moltaqarestaurant.com

Silk Lounge

Today I was invited to “Silk”, a new lounge that is like nothing you have ever seen. Four and half years in the making, and all that time was well spent, considering the reaction of those in attendance tonight. A collection of hand picked elements came together to transport you into an exotic fairytale. Fresh blooms perfuming the air, buddha head statues adding mystic, crystalized embellishments for a bit of glam, and bevy of colourful textiles and purple highlights to bring it all together. Even the rivets keeping the booth seats together were purposefully patterned, together they spelled out “S-I-L-K” all around the room. This was the level of detail that we were able to appreciate. But don’t just take my word for it. Here the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is absolutely true.

I definitely spent more time photographing the scene and myself within, as apposed to eating or drinking. And no doubt you would do the same if you visit. In fact, I want to come back during the day to literally capture the decor in a whole new light.

Here there is no “bad” seat. The dining areas is sectioned off-ed with string curtains and differing design elements to create visual interest. This ensures everyone is able to be engulfed in this wonderland of colours and patterns.

Even the washrooms were heavily decorated. The hall leading to it was lined with candles, fresh flowers bobbing in pools of water, and lights softened by coloured fabric. Within each individual washroom was a rainbow chandelier crafted from gems in every colour, the result: a multi-coloured rain casting over you as you did your business, in one of the cleanest restaurant washrooms that I have every visited. An important fact considering that they are a lounge with an expansive bar.

We grabbed one of the floor-level tables, towards the back of the restaurant. Removing our shoes, we would sit cross legged on flattened, embroidered cushions for the remainder of the night. From here we were served a collection of their appetizers, a handful of their entrees to share, ending on desserts.

“Silk” offers French style cooking prepared with spices and seasonings familiar in Indian cuisine. They pride themselves on preparing everything from scratch, in house. Like all the cheeses for their savouries and all the chocolate in their desserts. This is done from farm to table, with all their ingredients organically and locally sourced within BC, if/when the season permits. A point of pride and something necessary for creating good food when you are Gary (the owner), and have grown up working on farms for over 20 years. Utilizing this knowledge, Gary wanted to share the traditional Indian recipes he grew up with. Delicious portions prepared with hand ground spices. He found that there was nothing like this being offered in Vancouver, so took it upon himself to fill the gap; offering modern twists to his mother’s recipes.

Chatting more with him, I was able to tell that he is a very genuine and humble restauranteur, which are the very characteristics he has passed along to each member of his team working tonight. This is also seen in his decision to open a lounge with a more private setting. The goal was to host smaller seatings, in order to cater to each customer more intimately. To be able to look after them and to engage them fully.

And in order to do so and ensure everything is at its absolute freshest, evenings and early mornings are spent preparing for the dinner service. A commitment that they intend to keep, and have to, given that there is no refrigerator in their kitchen. The menu reflects this commitment to quality, with the cost of premium ingredients reflected in the pricing. Appetizers that eat more like tapas plates with 4-5 bites, range from $12-20; and entrees that have you wishing for a more run from $20-35.

They have been open since February of 2018, and on this day in April we were here to help celebrate their grand opening, starting with some drinks.

“The silhouette” was their welcome drink. A shaken cocktail made with chambord black raspberry liquor, Cointreau, vodka, fresh orange juice, and agave syrup; then topped with ginger ale and fresh orange juice, and served over fresh ice. This was so easy to drink: sweet and refreshing like a juice.

“Sangria”. A blend of brandy, snapps, wine, and fresh diced fruit. Available in red and white.

“In house Old Fashion.”. The “Silk” version is made with black barred tequila aged for 12 months, and distilled in the style of bourbon or scotch. This gives the cocktail cinnamon-y undertones, balanced by the inclusion of agave syrup. It is finished off with a flame zest-ed orange peel.

“Mojito”. A shaken drink mixed with white Caribbean rum, lime juice, and fresh organic mint.

“Kumbh kaali mirch”. These organic, locally sourced mushroom caps are vegan and gluten free. They are seasoned with fresh ginger, garlic, and hand milled black peppers. Each round was juicy with spicy notes, but more of a dull heat that rises slowly.

The “Steak bites” were the table’s favourite. Served with a brandy demi-glace and a few slices of their organic grain baguette. The beef was tender, easy to chew through with its pinky centre. The bread was made in house, spongy and soft, it just needed some in house made butter to complete it.

The “Basil chicken tikka” is the one I liked the least. I found the free range chicken thigh marinated in a ginger, garlic, and basil rub; dry and flat. Where the other items didn’t need the sauce that it came with, here my piece of chicken took a generous dip.

I was much more impressed by the “Prawns diablo”. Lemon butter and wine marinaded prawns served with some organic chilli and more organic grain baguette. Not everyone tried the bread, not realizing it was made in house, therefore I wished the servers had highlighted this. As for the prawns, they had a little heat in them, if you needed more you could get a mouthful from the innocent looking chillies to its side.

The “Stuffed jalapeños and rancttera sauce” is another vegan friendly dish that is gluten free. Here, organic jalapeños are stuffed with cashews, walnuts, spinach, and grilled guajillo peppers, then topped off with a house made rancttera sauce. They weren’t as spicy as the prawns above. A slightly firm pepper, grilled crisp with a cheesy taste. This was a nut made cheese without the crumbly texture of crushed nuts. It is best eaten after a drag through the tangy sauce smear on the plate.

“Paneer tikka”. Handmade paneer (Indian cheese) slow cooked in a traditional clay tandoor oven. This too is vegan and gluten free. In the dark of the lounge it looked like grilled pineapple so I was surprised when it tasted like cottage cheese with the texture of ricotta. Good, but I felt like it need more, the dip helped but I wanted something richer to give this more muted dish some kick.

Overall the appetizers were easy to share, but I would have liked a base like rice or naan to go with them; something to make them more complete. Given their presentation I wouldn’t necessarily order them with drinks in this lounge setting. With their bold flavours they ate like a meal, and not like tapas.

We would see to my craving of rice and naan during our round of entrees. Little did we know, they actually offer three types of roti, each a different taste and texture based on the type of grain used to make it by hand. Had we known, we would have tried all three. If you are expecting doughy and fluffy naan, this isn’t. It tasted healthy with that tell-a-tale dry and firm whole grain characteristic.

The vegetarian and gluten free “Spinach paneer” utilized the same in house made cheese that we had above, but in this dish my original concerns of plain cheese is addressed. This is a traditional Indian cheese dish cooked with spinach. The creamy spinach paste engulfed the soften cubes, offering a texture more like a stew. Great with the side of rice. This was done more like traditional Indian style cuisine than a fusion with French cooking.

I find “Butter chicken” is always a good tell of Indian cuisine, as every Indian restaurant offers their own rendition of it. Here, this traditional Indian curry is made with organic cream, fresh tomato purée, and organic butter. This was the leanest butter chicken I have ever had, like all of their dishes thus far, nothing was overly rich. Great, considering this is a lounge and the thinking is that you will spend most of your time drinking. With these dishes, you were full without feel bloated

The “Rack of lamb” is the showstopper. A pistachio crusted rack of local grass fed lamb, in a pomegranate jus, served with a seasonal organic vegetable ratatouille and potato purée. The lamb was done right, tender with pink and bits of gristle. The pistachio crust offered a nice crunch, and the jus was the gravy you wanted to coat your creamy mashed potatoes in. The vegetable ratatouille rounded the serving off with some freshness. My only complaint is that I had to share.

For dessert the cheesecake is the one to get. This too is made from in house made cheese, available in three fruit flavours. Each slice is made with organic milks and housemade fruit jellies, served with fresh fruit and a brandy goat cheese caramel. Depending on the fruit it adds a different texture to the cake. Each came with some of their unique caramel sauce. The caramel wasn’t overly sweet, but more milky like a watered down dulce de leche (in a good way). You are able to mix in the caramel to add some sweetness to cake.

The kiwi flavoured had an extra texture with the kiwi seeds baked in. Think a poppy seed muffin, but as a denser cake. It is nothing like you have ever tasted, let alone cheesecake. Original, different, good.

The mango was the most refreshing flavour, its puree helped to make this the fluffiest cake, in texture.

But I like the texture of the strawberry one the most, it was most firm and most like a new york style cheese cake. As for the taste, it was like melted strawberry pocky with this yogurt-like sauce.

 

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 liked that they offered a full menu of food, but given their location and the setting, I am more likely to recommend them as an after dinner spot. A great place to stop by after dinner or after work, to pick at some French style Indian tapas. Or better yet, stop by for a cocktail and one of their cakes to end your night on a high note. My only apprehension would be their location, a walk away from easy transit, in a neighbourhood most rather not walk through at night. Although still worthy of checking out thanks to a team of great staff and an Instagram worthy space that you won’t soon forget. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SILK
132 Powell Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1G1
778-379-6900
silkdinnerlounge.com
Silk Dinner Lounge and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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