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Easter Weekend Brunch with Water St. Cafe

As we move on to week 5 of quarantine, many popular restaurants are finding their footing in this uncertain times. They are starting to open and/or expand their limited take out menus. Doing what they can to stay afloat, and keeping what little staff they can employed.

Water St. Cafe is one such establishment. This Gastown restaurant is keeping things on the brighter side, offering a whimsical Easter brunch box for purchase. $50 feeds 2 across 3 dishes with both a meat and vegetarian option. Both with sausages, French toast, quiche, breakfast potatoes, fruit, croissant, and Easter candy. Online they encourage sharing with the loved ones you are social distancing with, or to be virtually had with others through Zoom meeting, FaceTime chat, or Skype.

The box set is only available for pick up this long weekend Friday April 10 to Monday April 13, and they are asking for all orders to be placed 24 hours in advance, through their website. You select your pick up time, and simply grab and go.

And for those who need the appropriate drink to have with brunch, Water St. Cafe is also offering a mimosa kit to add on. Choose between 3 options with size and quality of bubble differences, to mix with orange juice.

Each purchase is in support of this independently owned and family-run restaurant. (As taken from the press release) “Chef and Co-Owner, Alan Tse, and the team work with local suppliers to bring in the freshest of products to showcase the best that BC has to offer. They strive to achieve what every small restaurant ought to be: committed to quality, service and value that keeps our guests coming back time and time again. Lead by Host and Co-Owner Eli Brennan, they create a true guest connection every visit, and offer the best hospitality experience in Vancouver.”

The following is their “Meat Lovers Easter Brunch Box for 2!” Enjoyed as a picnic in the park. The only hitch it doesn’t come with cutlery and we forgot to check, so ended up eating with out hands.

But thankfully the “Mimosa Kit #3” came with actual glass flutes that were wrapped in a white cloth napkin that we could use when things got messy. Two bottles of Tropicana orange juice and a bottle of “Blue Mountain Brut Gold Label” to self pour and serve. The glassware was a nice added touch, it helped to elevate the setting and experience to where the food was.

 

The following is what is included in the brunch box to share. Packed individually, it is easy enough to take home and assemble, or in our case, nibble from one box to another.

Two local grilled Pork and Leek Sausages were a nice savoury start. Fragrantly spiced and juicy, it did get greasy sitting in the bottom of the box. It was only second to the four pieces of Ponzu glazed Pork Belly Bacon. The pork belly was caramelized with a nice sweet sauce, not too gristly, sumptuous when paired with a bite of potatoes.

The crispy potatoes came tossed with red and yellow peppers and purple cabbage. It was all dressed in lemon and fresh herbs. They offered a nice side and some freshness to the set. And breakfast isn’t the same without some solid potatoes. I just wish they were cut smaller for easier eating without cutlery or plates.

The asiago, parmesan, and free-run eggs quiche was cut into four slices. This was a fluffy omelette with plenty of eggy flavour, sitting on a flaky pastry crust. I really enjoyed this one.

And to help transition from savoury to sweet the fresh fruit salad was a nice break and palette refresher. A bunch of grapes sitting on cubes of honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

For a sweeter finish, the Water St. Cafe large Stuffed French Toast is best shared. A thick chunk of doughy and eggy bread filled with Guava infused mascarpone. I enjoyed it as is, but you can have it with the sides of lemon curd and berry compote they come with for some added sweetness.

And in case you were still hungry, you also get two in house-baked croissants. They were similar in flakiness to the quiche crust, with a wonderfully buttery taste.

And finally, to connect the “Meat Lovers Easter Brunch Box for 2!” They included some Easter grass with two boxes of chocolate eggs and bunnies from Lindt. Not hidden, but just as fun to eat.

In short this is such a great deal for only $50. You get so much. For those interested in ordering their own brunch, or maybe their turkey dinner to feed 1-20, visit the Water St Café’s link below.

https://www.exploretock.com/waterstcafe/

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

Water St. Café, take out

With the need to distance yourself socially, given the viral landscape we are currently living in, local restaurants are doing what they can to stay a float during these uncertain times. Many of them, such as “Water St. Cafe” are offering customers promotional pricing and deals. Like if you purchase a $50 “Water St. Cafe” gift card you get a second one at $15. It doesn’t need to be gifted. If you are planning on purchasing take out from them, you might as well buy a gift card to use as payment. The two together covers a full meal including appetizer, entree, and desert.

You can’t dine in, but you can still have the perfect romantic date night date by setting the mood for yourself, at home. And I can speak from experience, their food taste just as good out of biodegradable, cardboard take out boxes as it does from off of their dish ware served on their white clothed tables. Albeit, you don’t get their stunning view of the Gastown clock, but as a whole it can be whatever you make out of it.

Their full menu is available for take out or delivery via “Skip The Dishes” and “Uber Eats”. The following is what we ordered to celebrate the first day of spring. It is all about the little things right now, simple joys and any reason to be jovial. I suggest taking them all. Plus, indulging like this also supports local businesses like “Water St.” who have been serving Gastown for the last 32 years.

The “Water St. Salad” is a popular appetizer to share. A dressed bowl of Tuscan greens topped with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, half an avocado, pumpkin seeds, and cucumber; all coated in a honey lemon olive oil vinaigrette. A light start, better served as a side to accompany all the food before us.

The “West Coast crab cakes” are declared a “Water Street Cafe tradition” by the menu. A battered and deep fried round that includes Pacific rock crab and baby shrimp, served with preserve citrus, fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. Another light plate to wet the appetite with. A little bland as is, but ideal with the aioli that helps to brighten the serving up; along with a side of fennel for some crunch.

The “Short rib pappardelle” is one that never disappoints. It features 72 hour braised short rib raguet, confit garlic, fresh basil, and Asiago cheese. A comforting serving that fully satisfies with its sheets of thick el dente noodles, evenly coated in the sweeter tomato sauce and tender pulled meat. This is one I recommend.

The “Grilled wild bc salmon” was a great one to kick off spring with. Made with balsamic and honey pickled blueberries, and served with pan roasted potatoes. A flavourful main that I would have liked best if the salmon was left a little more raw, for a more silken texture. Something with a lot more moisture to offer in contrast to the soften potatoes, crisp veggies, and juicy berries.

The “Braised beef short rib” was a stunning plate. Two generous pieces of sous vide Prince Edward Island beef topped one over the other, on a bed of herb crushed potato, crispy onions, and a pool of hoisin jus. Another comfortable main that gave you the flair of fine dining with the familiarity of a causal, non pretentious plate. Tender meat and fresh vegetables, tried and true.

And for dessert we had the “Lemon tart” with housemade lemon crude, apricot glaze, and berry coulis. This, my guest raved about.

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.
For delicious, classic staples that are dressy yet comfortable and familiar, look to “Water St. Cafe” for a meal that doesn’t disappoint. And doing so now with their spend $50 get $15 back giftcard promo adds great value to your take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
http://www.waterstreetcafe.ca/menus/

Visa Infinite Dining Series: Wildebeest

Today I was invited to my very first “Visa Infinite Dinner” featuring the collaborative efforts of “Wildebeest”, Vancouver and “Le Vin Papillon” in Montreal. Both of which helmed respectively by chefs Ian McHale and Jesse Grasso, friends and colleagues in this Montreal inspired meal to come. (As taken from the press release) Chef Grasso is “the third sibling in the Joe Beef clan and currently No.13 on Canada’s Top 100 list”. He will bringing his celebration of vegetables and cheeses to “Wildebeest’s” table of butchery, charcuterie, and game. A five course feast with canapés to start, and perfectly selected wine pairings every step of the way. Said wine was chosen by “Wildebeest’s” wine director, Christina Hartigan”. She is an impressive wine expert and enthusiast, with the title of BC’s second best sommelier.

“Wildebeest’s” cozy restaurant made the perfect setting for this private event. The narrow space had guests surrounded by red brick walls, wood panel separators, leather booths, and bulbs suspended by pulleys. Its rustic, yet homey feel played off their scratch-made, nose to tail, Pacific Northwest cuisine, well. We were seated towards the back, under the plume of a multitude of dried bouquets. Each seat was set with a name card and a menu listing the courses to come.

The night began with all the guests mingling in a mixed setting. Christina was at the back pouring glasses of “Jean Bourdy Crémant de Jura”. This was an easy drinking, 100% Chardonnay made in champagne-style. She mentioned that this was the perfect bottle to pair with likes of the light snacks that were also being passed around at this time.

The “Pomme Anna with kamouraska smoked eel” were tasty potatoes bites fried in waygu fat, and then topped with the eel and a dollop of sweeter mayonnaise. It was sumptuously rich and fatty in all the right ways. Definitely a great one to have with beer, or better yet: the sparkling above.

Next to be passed out was the “Waygu tartare with Chilliwack Horseradish”. It was served in a porcelain spoon for easy eating. It had a peppery tang that ended fairly garlicky. I liked the flavour, but am not a fan of the texture of tartare in general. Whereas, I prefer my raw beef in sheets, rather than minced.

I really liked the “Chicken liver and foie gras parfait with preserved wild berries on brioche”. I could have eaten a half dozen of these. Deliciously luscious pâté, smeared on thick. The sweetness of the berry played off the meaty paste well, and the crunchy brioche added some needed texture to the bite.

And I think this is first time trying whelks. They are much like their land cousins, and even seasoned similarly, here. These sea snails were prepared in plenty of butter with fragrant herb and garlic to finish. The seasonings masked anything musky you might not have wanted. I did like the firm chew of the whelks, it was a texture more like squid than escargot, which I prefer.

The “little neck clam with mirepoix bolognese” was served in shell. A scoop with flavours that ate like a meal, but I didn’t get much clam coming through.

When time, we were all directed to our assigned seats to start our meal. But first, a quick introduction to the program before us and acknowledgment of our traveling guest chef. Then our sommelier Christiana guided us through her wine choices, featuring many natural wines to speak to “Le Vin Papillon”.

The sit down portion of our night began with the “Mai & Kenji Hodgson Les Aussigouins 2016 Chenin Blanc; from Anjou, France. This is wine with a Vancouver connection. It is made by a former Vancouver wine writer that moved to France to make wine. His vintage was a lovely, medium bodied white with no oakiness, a fresh sipper that would pair well with the saltiness of the ham and starchiness of celeriac to come.

“Little burgundy ham, Avonlea cheddar, and brown butter”. This was one of the best ham and cheese platters I have ever had to date; and that says a lot, as this was just one of each kind being offered. But perfection together, with the savoury sweetness of the brown butter sauce coming through. I couldn’t stop picking at it. The creamy texture from the mildly smoked ham was memorable, especially how it played off the sharp and chalky cheese.

“Slow roasted celeriac, pickled chantrelles, and smoked walnuts”. Much like the dish above, this too was a light start that focused on delicious textures. Each element came together for a well balanced bite. Smooth celeriac, meaty mushrooms, and crunchy walnuts; best with a smear of oil from the pool at the bottom of the plate.

Our next wine tasting was the “Hajszan Neumann Nussberg 2018 Grüner Veltliner” from Vienna, Austria. Our in house sommelier declared that this is a wine that doesn’t get enough attention, so she would bring light to it here. It pairs well with any green vegetable, like the leeks in our fish course below. Its dairy nods went well with the green sauce and its savoury notes.

The “Lois Lake Steelhead, with Salt Spring Island mussels, leek velouté, Chilliwack lemongrass, and shore greens” would be my favourite dish of the night. And this is surprising considering I don’t often gravitate towards fish, or would I choose it over a heavy red meat main or a decadent pasta. But this buttery fish that ate like sashimi had it all, and I would order it again in a heartbeat. The freshness of the puréed leeks, the zested lemon in the sauce brightening things up, and the perfectly pedestal-ed mussels creating both visual and textural interest.

Next for wine we had the only red of the night, ideal for the red meat to follow. “La Stoppa Macchiano 2011 Barbera, Bonarda. This was a limited release from Central Northern Italy, pulled out from a cellar. It is a blend of two grapes at 50/50, all picked from a single vineyard. Made using traditional wooden vats that are unfiltered and triple decanted. The result, a smokier red with fine tobacco notes.

The red’s tartness helped to balance out the saltiness from the “Pastrami Pithivier served with sauerkraut, foie gras, house mustard, and bordelaise”. This was basically the merging of two Classic Montreal foodstuffs. A tourtiere filled with shredded Montreal smoked meat. But sadly I am not a fan of smoke meat, even with the delicious mustard plates. But I did appreciate the artistry and butteriness of the flaky pie crust and the gravy that I picked up with it.

Next, was the “Quebec cheese course”, another simple serving that I was caught off guard by how much I liked. There was pageantry in the plating of the Jersey royal cheese, topped with real honey comb, and served along side butterfly shortbread cookies and Quebec lingonberry. The latter most was even cultivated by monks in Quebec. This was a clean presentation that ate that way too. You spread chunky cheese over not all that sweet cookie, and topped it off with tangy berries in syrup. It was as fun to eat as it was to craft.

To pair with it we enjoyed an unique Quebec cider that you can’t normally find in BC. This is a bottle of fermented, 100% russet. Apples and cheese are a natural pairing and together the sweetness of the cider mellows out cheese above. But with an oakiness to it from the fermentation process. Dry and effervescent, it helped wash everything down.

And to close out the night, dessert was a “Grand Fir: Black locust, Chantilly, and cannoli pastry”. The pastry had an amazing crunch to it, like a solid strip of corn flake with ground sugar. And the black locus gel was set with vinegar, making it not too sweet. But I am not a fan of the texture of whipped creams in general, so it was a little much for me here. Although, I did enjoy the fresh lemon zest I got from it.

As its paring and our last glass, we had the “LaStella Moscato d’Osoyoos 2018 Muscat”. It is from Osoyoos in BC, but done in an Italian style; making it not as sweet as other Moscatos. A light sparkle coupled with floral and peachy notes.

In conclusion I was floored by the quality and caliber of this dinner, nothing disappointed. It delivered as advertised and I would be clamouring to attend any such Visa Infinite dinners in the future. And if you ever get the chance I suggest you do too. Simply fantastic.

Get tickets to exclusive Visa Infinite Dining Series events featuring unique chef collaborations, multi-course meals and wine pairings all in a private setting at Canada’s top restaurants.
https://www.visainfinite.ca/infinite/en/home.html?category=foodWineLink

Wildebeest
120 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1G8
(604) 687-6880
wildebeest.ca

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

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