Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Category: Kensington Page 1 of 2

Hanoi Old Quarter

Over the past years our family has started a new tradition. Instead of visiting a Chinese restaurant for Chinese New Year, we gather and dine at anything but. One year it was “White Spot”, last year Korean cuisine, and this year it was Vietnamese. I choose “Hanoi Old Quarter” wanting to try the newer restaurant myself; having dined at and liking their sister restaurant, the long standing “Mr. Red Cafe”.

“Hanoi” was similar to the original location with its tropical theme: a mix of live and plastic plants, over grown foliage, a thatched roof bar, and artifacts. The traditional music and warm lights added to the cozy feel of the place. As a smaller restaurant, it is highly recommended that you make reservations, they will need to push tables together to accommodate parties larger than 4. We were spread across three tables. Those sitting along the booth, against the wall, found ourselves balancing cheek between the cracks of the seats. Worse still was the fact that the benches were set at different heights.

When it came time to order, a few of our family members ordered their own dishes, but most of us shared everything, family style.

The “Green Papaya salad” was a nice start. Thin strands of fruit that ate like vegetables. It was refreshing and tangy with the familiar flavour of fish sauce. You also get a certain herbaceous-ness to it from the mint, and layered crispiness from the fried onions.

The “Prawn and pork spring rolls” were a little too oily for my liking. They had a flat flavour that was helped along with a thorough dunking into the fish sauce dip. In my opinion, fish sauce fixes everything.

Similar, but different was the “Crab meat spring roll”, though actually they were more like squares”. Similar in deep fry texture and grease, but different in format, thus making it much easier to identify between the two stuffed spring rolls. I didn’t get crab meat in this, there was too much oil masking its lighter flavour. But just as well, with a remedying dunk into the fish sauce, that is all I tasted anyways. If I didn’t know what it was in it, I would have thought this was another pork and shrimp roll.

The “Deep fried chicken wings” were heavy on the batter, but still bland for it. It needed every pinch of the salt that was piled neatly on the side. Another one I dipped excessively into fish sauce.

My brother ordered his usual, the “Lemon grass with rice”, a normally quite person he cleaned his plate without complaints. Sadly, he was not in the mood to share.

I don’t like ordering the same thing as anyone else, so had the similar, but different “Grilled pork chop with rice”. Similar to the chicken in its dome shaped rice side, hard and bland broccoli florets, the bed of lettuce that the protein sat on, and bowl of sauce that looked like soup. I learned of the latter the hard way, taking a gulp of salty fish sauce to quench my thirst. As for the pork chop itself, the meat was tender and tasty with just enough gristle, an even grill and easy to cut. I would definitely order this again for comfort eating.

The “Pork hock, deep fried tofu, and Vietnamese sausage” was an impressive looking set. A choose your own adventure platter. You curate the perfect bite between airy tofu puffs, an earthy sausage with a metallic quality to it, and a tasty smoke prawn paste to mask what you don’t like.

The “Grilled pork belly and patties” wasn’t what I expected. I bowl of chopped up meats, sitting in a pool of fish sauce. Although soggy they were at least tasty. This was best mixed into a noodle dish with the bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, and vermicelli on the side.

The “Duck stew and green bananas in clay pot” looked like a hearty stew, but wasn’t as rich as I wanted it. The duck was dry and chalky, the flavour a little medicinal, and the bananas included the peel. Interesting and different overall, but this one isn’t for me.

The “Beef stew in clay pot” was more my speed. It read “stew” and it delivered. It even came with a whole banh mi baguette to help sop up stringy meat and plentiful gravy.

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.
Not the mainstream Vietnamese flavours I have come to know and expect, but something completely different and worth trying nonetheless. New flavours and unique ingredients prepared with presentation and freshness in mind. Although saying that, if I was to return I would try their pho and/or order the lemon grass or grilled pork on rice again. Don’t deny your cravings.

Shiok Singaporean Cuisine

Today was my grandmother’s birthday, so I took her and my parents out for lunch to celebrate. I have been wanting to visit the new Singaporean restaurant “Shiok” after learning about it from @pickydiner. Their small list of offerings was my childhood. Names of dishes and lists of ingredients I remembered so long ago. So what better company to see if measured up to memory than with the ones that introduced me to the cuisine.

At this point “Shiok” has only been open for 6 weeks. They are still going through their soft launch period, where they are taking in suggestions and tweaking their recipes. Speaking with the owner, he explained that this is his wife’s hobby and passion project. Their goal is to figure out how to make their customers happy, while still keeping their food authentic to Singaporean flavours. Flavours that aren’t as salty or spicy as Chinese or Indian cuisine, but have similar dishes and similar execution. The restaurant’s name means “satisfying” in Hokkien, a Chinese dialect that my family is well versed in. And we certainly left with that sentiment in mind.

It was busy right when they opened, with a steady flow of traffic.They are a partial service restaurant. You order at the counter where you pay right away. Dishes are brought out to you, and you are kindly asked to bus your own table after you are done. Clearing the used trays, and plastic cups of help yourself water. And discarding food waste, garbage, and cans and bottles in the right receptacle.

You seat yourself at any of the barstools by the window, or around the corner in their dimly lit seating area. Like their exterior the interior is pretty simple, a wood bean ceiling; wooden tables, benches, and chairs; and a few photos of Singaporean scenery clustered together on their all white walls. The most ornate part of the restaurant is the tiling under foot. A pattern of two tonal grey flowers repeating.

Excited over everything on their shorter menu, I pretty much ordered it all and all their daily specials. In fact, it is actually easier to list what we didn’t have. Which was the tofu appetizer in a sweet and spicy rojak sauce, their hot chicken porridge only available from Wednesday to Saturday, and the chilli squid and prawn. We ordered so much for four people that we had plenty of leftovers, and we filled up 8 out of the 10 spots on their introductory stamp card. You get a stamp for every $10 spent here, and after you collect 10 you get one menu item for free. It is pretty easy to accumulate points considering the portions are on the smaller side and majority of the appetizers are $5, and the entrees, $10.

The “Chicken Wings” came out piping hot. Deep fried crispy in a prawn-spiced seasoning. Although I didn’t taste any of the mentioned seafood flavour on them. They just tasted like regular, salty, deep fried wings with a juicy centre. Good, but not something that I can’t get else where.

We all liked the “Roti Prata”. Flaky Indian flatbread served with a chicken curry gravy for dipping. The roti was light and chewy, not overly oily, its sweetness paired well with the tone of the curry.

It is best to eat the “Satay” sooner then later. The more they were allowed to cool, the tougher they got. Each order comes with four skewers, and four smaller chunks of meat per skewer; in your choice of either beef or chicken. Served with their paste-like peanut sauce. This wasn’t my favourite rendition of this. The beef and chicken were equally dried and things didn’t improve when dipped into the minced peanut mix. I would skip this one next time around.

We had to try their “Laksa”, as Singapore’s famous curry noodles with slices of fish cake, shrimp halves, tofu puffs, and hard boiled egg. You have your choice of either white or yellow noodles. I was given a choice of both mixed, which I opted for, however we needed up only receiving the yellow noodles. Whereas traditionally, vermicelli is the noodle of choice here. The laksa has some heat to it, but only enough to heighten the flavour, and not enough to burn your tongue or take away from the layered broth. Overall a good take, not one that necessarily stood out, but one to satisfy if you are craving laksa in the area.

Now the “Boneless Chicken Rice” is one worth blogging about. This is their traditional Singaporean take on Hainanese chicken rice and I have never had a more delicious version here in Vancouver. The chicken was extremely tender, even the white breast meat slices were succulent. And when paired with a dab in their sweet soy sauce, and coupled with their flavoured rice, this was perfection. My favourite dish of the day, and the one I would come back for.

It came with a side of chicken soup that was just as fragrant. Made with stock from the bones of the chicken we were enjoying boneless.

The “Mee Siam” isn’t one that I grew up on, but one I enjoyed being able to try today. A sweet, sour, and mildly spicy rice vermicelli topped with shrimp, tofu puffs, and egg; all served in a tamarind-base gravy. It had a unique flavour, unexpectedly tangy, and reminiscent of pad Thai thanks to its use of tamarind.

My father’s favourite dish was the “Nyonya Chicken Curry”, a fragrant Peranakan coconut chicken curry. He liked how sweet it was with the generous use of coconut milk. The chicken was so tender that the meat flaked off the bone, and the chunks of potato just melted under the pressure of your spoon. We confirmed that this was the same curry as what we had to dip our roti into above, although I found this one more savoury, and the other sweet.

My mother’s favourite dish was the “Beef Rendang”, slow-cooked spicy curried coconut beef served with rice. The pulled and mashed meat had a dull heat and specific tang to it. I found it a little too salty and sharp for my tastes, and that the pieces were inconsistent, from super soft to over cooked and hard. The latter only worsened when paired with the hard side of rice.

Not on their regular laminated menu were the following “specials”, a few offerings written in chalk by the counter. The “Mee rebus” is a boiled noodle dish. Yellow noodles in a thick potato-based gravy, sprinkled with tiny dried shrimp and chilli. It was saucy. You could takes the shrimp, but I didn’t like the flavour of the cooked lettuce coming through with it. (This is more a person thing.)

The “Seaweed chips” where a nice snack to start on. Seaweed and wonton shards fried for a nice crispy crunch. I would rather a bowl of these than potato chips any day.

And for dessert we had their pandan cassava cake for $3. I found the price point fair for the taster. I got the flavour of pandan from this soft and chewy slice and not much texture from the shards of coconut, which I don’t like. A nice gentle end to a more flavourful meal. Seeing as their desserts seem to rotate, I would love to try more of their pandan creations.

And to drink they had Singaporean style coffee and tea called “Kopi” and “Teh”. It is typically served with condense milk, but you can also order it black (kopi/teh-O) or with evaporated milk (kopi/teh-C). I had my teh with condense milk for a sweeter beverage and my grandma enjoyed her kopi-o with evaporated milk for a more healthier option. She found it authentic and not too bitter.

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.
It is worth nothing that I am definitely bias here, these were my childhood meals, and a walk through memory lane for my family. We enjoyed being able to taste and try so many nostalgic dishes together. My grandmother loved everything and both her and my parents told the owners they would be recommending them to their friends and families. And once again we all left with the sentiment, “Shiok”. We were satisfied. Don’t deny your cravings.

1716 Kingsway, Vancouver BC, V5N 2S4

Dark Manor Inn, updated

From the mind of the same man who brought Vancouver its favourite tiki bar, comes another themed drinking hole, opening just a little shy of Halloween: this is “Dark Manor Inn”.

On November 5th “Dark Manor Inn” opened its doors for the first time, and I was ready and waiting right on the day, right at 5pm. And I was not the only one eager, as a handful of patrons decided to join me in queue, wanting to be the first treated to this one of a kind experience in Vancouver. But be warned, looky-loos wanting to sneak a peak within, are out of luck. As is the case with their sister themed bar, the “Shameful Tiki”, the exterior here too is covered in opaque white to keep the mystery and their immersive experience within. A single red light draws you near, and catches your eye as you drive by. Based on the buzz and the traffic opening day, if you are interested in checking this place out, I suggest doing so sooner than later and making a reservation in advance.

The bar is inspired by the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, where guests are treated to antiques, old timey paraphernalia, and a host of creepy decorations. Coming in, you walk into a fog of smoke and are caught in the light of a flickering lantern. The staff greet you dressed in garments matching the period. Vests and petticoats with a Morticia and Gomez vibe. The music is what you would imagine people would listen to in the 20’s, sitting and smoking a pipe in their study, as their gramophone played. The music was a a series of jazzy beeps and boops, with an eerie sound track that mimicked creaks and foot steps, to set the mood.

There was so much to note, that many patrons (including myself), got up mid meal to walk through the restaurant and take it all in. Black and white framed photos of children looking grim, dust covered encyclopedias with worn out spines, carved busts with a scowl, rusted candlesticks, tarnished silverware, and a large collection of skulls. With dim lights, dried floral arrangements, swaying chandeliers, stain glass panes, intricately carved arm chairs, a faux fireplace, and a table shaped like a coffin; this is the sort of setting created to give you a chill down your spine, all year round. I cannot wait to see what they will do with the space come Halloween 2019, next year. I already anticipate it to be the hottest ticket of that season.

Although at the end of the day, this is as it was designed to be: a solid whisky bar set to a gothic theme. Their menu is prominently cocktails, and on it you can expect a well curated collection of whiskey, including their own house blends crafted into cocktails made using their own line of house bitters. And just as is the case with their sister restaurant, each cocktail is theatrical in its presentation and serve ware.

I wanted to try it all, but had to settle on looking around the room to see what everyone else was sipping on. The “Danse Macabre” was garnished with some “blood” dripping down the side of its glass, the “Graveyard smash” was topped to resemble a tombstone, and the “Reanimator” was served in a beaker. There one that came with a blue light and smoke, and another served in a chalice. Either one and either way, our server guaranteed we would not be disappointed by our choice. Here, they pride themselves on their drinks and how visual they are.

I stared off the “The tight lipped butler”, wanting a drink that featured their house made mixes. This was a house made rye blend with bitter amaro, burnt pumpkin seed, and a shot of dyed purple syrup that the menu described as “a shot of whatever it was that kept the butler going”. The latter comes in a vial that you pour into the glass yourself. At $12 this strong drink was well worth its price. You got a punch with this one. I appreciated the sword skewered with a cherry, it was intricately massed produced, and included their bar’s name.

I followed it up with the “Pills, potions, and quack nostrums” seeing one get delivered to our neighbouring table, and liking what I saw. This was a house malt whiskey blend with cinnamon, ginger ,and lime. It was much lighter than the cocktail above. It almost had a medicinal taste to it, with a hickory scent that flowed into your nostrils as you sipped. It was served in a dragon goblet and made spooky by the reddish glow of an LED plastic ice cube. This light cube was at the bottom of the drink, taking up a lot of room in the cup. Above it was a collection of crushed ice cubes and some foamy bubbles, Together, it all made the drink look like it was brewing.

As for the food menu, they tried their best of offer bar-like snacks, that would also match their theme. However, they didn’t consider the dish ware. Everything had an aged, worn-in feeling to it, and here were our appetizers and entrees being served on new stark white plates shaped like squares. Given the time period, they would have at least used circular dishes. At least everything else came together more cohesively.

Nothing stood out on their food menu, but nothing was bad either. And I am sure with the attended amount of drinking, it would taste all the better.

“Potato scallion bun” served with an olive oil butter spread. It was just really good bread, served warm and chewy. The onion shines through giving it some distinction. Although good and a nice start, I don’t think I would pay the $6 for it again. Instead, I would like to see one of them served as a side to some hearty beef stew, which would be appropriate to the period.

I did get that flavour profile for their beef pie. Their pies are savoury, available in either the beef we enjoyed, or a mushroom vegetarian option. It was like having a dry stew in a flaky buttery pie crust. My guest thought it was perfectly balance. I would have preferred it more saucy and for the side of roasted lemon and thyme potatoes and the marmalade glazed carrots to be mixed in with the beef, within the pie. Although it was still good having them on the side like this, to take in, in the same bite. The carrots were caramelized, still a little raw and a little sweet with a gingery finish.

Good thing we were such fans of the vegetables as it was also the side to our “roasted pork medallions”. Local pork loin roasted in a Dijon mustard rub with fresh rosemary and thyme. The pork was a little dry, but at least it was tasty and not bad enough that we couldn’t save it with some accompanying bites of carrot and potato.

The “devil’s eggs” made for a great snack, but like the bread above it was served in threes, making it hard to share, as most diners come in pairs or a group of four. I wouldn’t think to pipe whipped avocado into a hard boiled egg, but not only was the aesthetics good on this, but the pairing worked. For those looking for something a little meaty, there is a salmon filling option that you can order instead.



I also wanted to try their share bowls, because if they are anything like the ones from “The Shameful Tiki”, each would be both fun and tasty, with a little fire and a lot of flash. However these had either a four or six person minimum requirement. So I managed to wrangle a group to revisit with, however we would be disappointed to learn that they are not currently offering either of them, nor will they be doing so in the near foreseeable future. Apparently they are having trouble working it out logistically. So instead we got some drinks to share. Check out the video above for the bar tour and taste test!

“Arsenic & Ash”. House malt whiskey blend, red wine, Aperol, egg white, rose petals, and lemon ash. It was pretty in pink with a floral flavour to match. There was no missing the ash in this one.

“Reanimator”. Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, Amaro, and falerum. I liked the presentation of this, a glowing ice cube served in a beaker, with ever-frothing bubbles from a chunk of liquid nitrogen in a tea strainer. But sadly with all these extra decorative elements, you were left with very little drink to sip.

“Dead March to Mountain View”. Gin, green chartreuse, blue Curacao, lime, smoked pineapple, pandan, and egg whites. It is hard to tell from my photo, but there is suppose to be a city scape on the surface of this egg white cocktail. However, too much movement had it shifting. I loved the colour and liked the idea, cause I love pandan anything, however I didn’t get any of it here. I found the drink changed flavours the more I drank, but mostly I got a lip puckering citrus tone from this.

The “Don’t Go Into The Attic” was the most comforting in look and taste. Served in a tea cup, it was just as warming with butter washed-cognac, calvados, sherry, lemon, and spices. It reminded me of a hot toddy, perfect for drinking on colder winter nights with its cinnamon notes.

“The Zombie” is the strongest drink on their menu with a 2 glass maximum for any one drinker.
It contains 3 types of rum, falerum, lime, bitters, grapefruit, and secret spices. It packs a punch and had me flinching with each sip.

A new offering and way to remember your visit, is with their limited edition tiki mug. It is mocked after a tombstone, and for $80 you can take it home with you. They have 100 available for those willing to pay the price.


Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I love the “Dark Manor Inn”  for its novelty, which is the very reason to visit this one of a kind bar. But with all there is to see here, and all the moving elements creating additional stimuli, this isn’t the place to sit and relax at. You come wanting to drink and wanting to feed off the energy of a rowdy crowd. Great as a gimmick, but with an abbreviated menu and a distance to travel to get to them, I don’t see myself going too often. Great for a fun celebration, but you will be committing to a cab as they aren’t all that skytrain accessible. Don’t deny your cravings.


4298 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4G2

Duffin’s Donuts

We just finished a two hour movie that took us right to 12:15pm. And unfortunately due to the lateness of its conclusion, we were limited in our late night dinner options. Not wanting another fast food burger we took the drive to “Duffin’s Donuts”. Still fast food, but more than just doughnuts.

It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And with free wifi and decent prices, they have the makings of a great hot spot. A prime destination for those wanting some greasy eats after a night out at the clubs or drinking. Or for those like us, individuals who are hungry this late, and are looking for something different. Older couples dining and young adults on a late night, cheap date. They are especially popular with semi-drivers, noticeable with their visibility vests and large semis parked out front. “Duffins” caters to those that travel between dusk at dawn. Tonight it was a mix from regulars to those like us, passing through.

Although it does feel like a fast food restaurant when you walk in. Plastic booths seats attached to tables, in red and yellow. And tiled walls and floors, reflecting the florescent, humming lights above. You order at the counter, at one of the two registers going simultaneously.

My partner was lured in by the glass case of fried chicken and spring rolls, despite what little pieces were left baking under the heat lamp. A piece of fried white meat chicken went for $2.85, and the vegetable spring roll, $1.50.

The chicken was from chicken distributor, “Fritou”. They delivered their factory fried poultry to such restaurants and convenient stores. It was surprisingly good. The juiciness of the meat didn’t really seem to be affected by the elongated wait under the lamp. The skin was crispy and the portion was fairly light. The spring roll on the other hand was disappointing, it had a drab flavour even with a dip in packets of plum sauce.

I played it safe with a Vietnamese mixed ham sub. It was pre-made and served cold on tough bread, that scraped the roof of my mouth. A through toast would have helped it exponentially. But considering where we were and the $5 we paid for it, it wasn’t all that bad. Ideally the pickles in this would have been tangier and the meat more flavourful. They were missing the rich paste and sour vegetable that makes the traditional sandwich iconic.

Given the show case of doughnuts and the excited faces of the grown men that stood in front of it, deciding what to get; we took a box of six to go.

The “rainbow” had pink icing and colourful sprinkles on a cakey doughnut ring.
The “buttermilk” was filled with custard. And unfortunately the combination of the two together was a little dense for my liking. I should have gotten it in either the strawberry or lemon jelly for some freshness.
The “angel” was a powdered sugar dusted doughnut filled with chocolate flavoured whipped cream.
The “honey dip” was your classic spongy ring coated in a thin layer of hardened sugar. I liked this the best for its texture.
The “Boston cream” was topped with marbled icing sugar and filled with custard cream. Another tried and true classic.
And the “French cruller” had a topping of caramel to give it some additional sweetness. It is also available in a chocolate or vanilla icing as well.

Overall, I found the doughnuts too dense. Bogged down by the heavy sugar coating and the cakey batter. Where I prefer an airy doughnut like the cruller or the honey dip was close to giving me.


Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
“Duffin’s” is an institution. Not necessarily the destination for a planned meal or really outstanding food. But instead, a great last minute stop for a cheap bite on the go. Don’t deny your cravings.


1391 East 41st Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5W 3R9
Duffin's Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nammos Estiatorio

We were on Fraser looking for a suitable happy hour pitstop. Their sandwich board outside had us pausing with $3 high balls, $4 tap beers, and either house red or white at $5. And we quickly found ourselves walking into “Nammos Estiatorio” to take advantage.

The open space was divided by upholstered booths. A pretty simple setting with black framed photos, painted portraits, and Grecian artifacts. We grabbed a booth by the door and quickly ordered before the hour would no longer be so “happy”.

We enjoyed two glasses of wine along with two appetizers to share.

$10 for a regular serving of “kalamari”. But here the crispy battered and fried squid pieces were served with a beet dip instead of the typical tzatziki cream. We were skeptical of the pairing, but quick to try and then go back for second dips. It was chunky and easy to spread, offering the heavy fry a nice refreshing tang.

For $6 we also had the “zucchini chips”. Although it was a vegetable, we found ourselves now with a little too much deep fry and oil in our dishes, and nothing light to cleanse the palette with in between. The chips were crisp, a little plain as is, but well coupled with the tzatziki, that made its appearance here.


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.
Based on the quality of the little taste here, I would definitely like to come back to the restaurant to try a full meal. So for now, it all seems positive. Don’t deny your cravings.


3980 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4E4
Nammos Estiatorio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bells and Whistles

“Bells and Whistles” is a new bar in the Mount Pleasant area, most memorable for its light hearted feel. Cheery with white walls and bleach wood furniture, it sort of felt like a dressier cafeteria with the picnic tables in the centre of the room. The back wall reminded me of a giant scrabble board with the coloured letter tiles on wooden ledges. They spelled out the various beers on tap, where they were from, and what their alcohol percentage was. A strong presentation, right beside a number of growlers dangling, strung up on a dowel. This visual representation of “100 bottles of beer on the wall”.

Around the corner and following you to the washrooms were black and white pop culture caricatures. Notable hip hop artists, athletes in jerseys, and mascots. Donald Duck, 2pac, and Apu from the Simpsons; to easily name a few.

Like their decor, their menu was just as fun. Some interesting options and fun twist on classics. Ketchup flavoured corn nuts, a pimento cheese dip to have with pretzels, a salad with fried chicken and crispy fried noodles, and a breakfast sandwich available all day long. You know a menu is good when you have trouble deciding on what is the most interesting dish to get and what sounds like the best. And sadly there weren’t any happy hour specials to help in our deciding process this afternoon.

So we gravitated towards their “chilli cheese fries” for its absence as a popular bar offering, on other menus. They used “ball park chilli”, a finer gauge mixture of tomato and ground beef. It was sprinkled across the crispy fries like sand. It was tasty, but I would have liked it messier: more gravy and a gooey cheddar cheese pull. This would make a nice pairing with a pint.

However, I opted for a cocktail and my guest some wine, despite the visual emphasis on beer. My “Espresso martini” was served as a slush with paper umbrella, something a little too unique to miss. Made with strong coffee, absolut vodka, amaro, and honey; making it a great mid day pick me up with bite.

We got just as much punch from the “KFC – Korean fried cauliflower”. A thick batter coating firm florets in a sticky spicy and sweet sauce. Served topped with pickled cucumber, green onion, and cilantro for some freshness. It was a tasty flavour to accompany a refreshing drink, which is available for chicken wings as well.


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.
They make a fun destination for a casual meet up with a larger group of friends. Plenty to eat and lots to share. And they also offer skeet-ball and basketball shoot-off arcade games in the back, to keep you entertained. I would not be a-posed to a return visit, in order to try more handheld snacks and to drink much more. Don’t deny your cravings.


3296 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4B9
Bells and Whistles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gojo Ethiopian Cafe

We were taking a break from the BC Beer Awards, hosted at the Croatian Cultural centre, with some dinner. They had hot dogs and food trucks available for a quick bite, but we wanted something a tad more substantial with a sit down vibe. There wasn’t much available in the area, as we wanted to keep our travel time to a minimum. All these factors led us to “Gojo” for some traditional Ethiopian cuisine. I am admittedly not too familiar with Ethiopian food, so took a step back, allowing my guests to order, and tell me what is what. This review is written in that perspective.

The restaurant was a little slower on this Saturday night, allowing you take in the decor. It was quaint with a thatched roof bar at the back and African antiquities adding patterns and colour all around. Photos, prints, and textiles leading you through the restaurant.

As for the menu: when you order Ethiopian food you are choosing the meat and vegetable dishes you want to enjoy with injera. “Injera” is a sourdough-risen flatbread, which is more like sour and spongy pancake textural. It is the national dish of Ethiopia and every meal is based around it. A typical serving consists of a Wat, a stew that is also similar to curry or a more watery stew, poured over some injera.

In our case, this pancake is stretched out over a large plate, and any side is served over it like an edible dish. But first you eat any of the stew or veggies with the basket of rolled up injera on the side. You eat with your hands, using the injera like a scoop. It keeps your hands clean until you begin peeling from the round of it that is also used as a plate.

We had the following three dishes. “Lamb wat”, chunks of lamb seasoned in rosemary, garlic, and ginger; with sautéed bell peppers and a side of clarified butter cabbage. The lamb was a little tough, tough I liked its sauce and the tart peppers that gave it some freshness.

The “Beef wat” was the same as the above, but with heartier chunks of beef instead. It was spicy and salty, and more like a rich stew. I wish this had some vegetable mixed in too, in order to break flavours apart.

“Kitfo” was the steak tartar that centred our serving. It was freshly minced, extra lean beef seasoned with mitmita (spicy Ethiopian chilli powder) and herbed clarified butter. Served with spinach on the side. Although we were given a warning that the meat was raw, you couldn’t tell by tasting it. It was less seasoned than the two dishes before, so for more kick, it was suggested that we dip it into the chilli power for more spice.

To balance all the protein above, we had some vegetables in the form of the “GOJO vegetarian combination”. Miser wat, cabbage, green beans and carrot, and spinach. It gave the serving a different texture and some tang. It also gave us a great break in between all the heavier meats.

Overall my table mates agreed that this was most satisfying. And I will take their word for it, given their combined familiarity with the cuisine. One of which even unconsciously “mmmm-ed” after each bite he took. For me, I was left feeling very full from all the doughy injera that I ate. I enjoyed it and its bubbly texture the most.


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 wouldn’t be apposed to coming back, but this wouldn’t my first choice, given my unfamiliarity with the cuisine. And having had this full serving, I can conclude that the flavours aren’t something I would naturally gravitate towards in the future. I would however, recommend it to those who want to try something new or are already familiar with Ethiopian cuisine as a great destination for some. Don’t deny your cravings.


2838 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4C6
Gojo Little Africa Ethiopian Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant

According to our host, who brought us all together today. This was suppose to be the best place for dim sum in the city (Something she had read). I guess it is debatable, but seeing as she did the research and none of us wanted to, we accepted her assessment and found ourselves there on a Sunday at 10am.

We were given a table in the back corner, by the hallway leading to the washroom. It wasn’t a glamorous table, but we were happy just to be seated. Our reservation helped, but those who walked in without one, were left to wait by the door, crowding the tables close to the entrance in their wake.

The space was definitely maximized, tables inches away from one another. Each time someone adjusted themselves on their seat, it racked the chair behind them. It was a sea of collapse-able round tables with white cloths, and a glass lazy Susan for the large ones. The room was just as standard in Chinese dining aesthetics. A red panel wall in velvet, a golden dragon facing off against a golden Phoenix, a crystal chandelier bathed in a golden gold, and hand written specials on the walls.

For this meal, you order by way of check box. A coloured list of all their small plates in Chinese characters and English script. A few had their photos featured to help sway the decision making process. We filled our form and went back for seconds with dessert. Our plates came one at a time with a five minute wait time in between each. A sign of a busy service. Whereas I am use to one dish coming, and you get the next few as a group, all at once. But this way we found ourselves finishing the first few plates clean, getting the taste of food and not wanting to stop, but having to pause.

We were so hungry that in fact we grabbed a plate of “BBQ pork pastry” as it was walked by and was being offered through shouting. It was topped with a crispy topping, and sweet from it and the honey glaze pork filling. It was more like dessert, except it featured meat.

“Deep fried stuffed pork dumplings”. The shell was crunchy on one side and sticky and tacky on the other. It was a great covering to keep the savoury inside saucy and moist. A plate I only order for its great texture to chew on.

“Steam rice flour roll with prawns and yellow chives”. Sheets of noodle wrapping sweet prawn. With this it is cut with scissors and dressed with a sweet soy as it is served at your table. A nice light dish, and like the others full of carbs, but less deep fried. The green vegetable presented with it seemed more for show. They were overlooked and lacked flavour. It was fibrous and hard to chew through, lacking the crunch it seemed like it could have.

The “Steamed mini sticky rice wraps with dried scallops” is a favourite of mine for its sticky tender rice. Though this one in particular lacked filling and could have been more flavourful.

“Steamed shiu-mai dumplings” (pork dumplings) is a dim sum favourite. Though these are the largest I have ever seen. Each one was equivalent to three elsewhere. And it had a similar flavour, minus the use of mushroom, which we were not all that familiar with.

Similarly, was the “Steamed ha-gao” (shrimp dumplings). They too were fairly large. Though taste wise, they were pretty standard.

The “Steamed BBQ pork buns” had the exact same filling as the BBQ pork bun above. Except with these you were getting a plain white bun, and there was an emphasis on the savoury filling instead.

The “Deep fried prawn spring rolls” were boring. They had a one tone taste, hiding behind its crispy fried shell that was oily to the touch. It needed something to dip into, like a sweet chilli sauce to brighten it up.

We ordered a serving of the “Steamed spareribs with black bean sauce” the first round, but they missed our checkmark on it. So in order to get it, we had to reorder it and have our request go back through the queue. With an estimated 30 minute wait, as guessed by our server. We appreciated his honesty over our missing dish, but was surprised by the restaurant’s unwillingness to simply correct the issue by delivering us our plate out of queue, as soon as possible. None the less, it was worth the delay. These were the largest pieces of meat I have ever seen used for this dish. Some pieces were all meat and no bone. A few were on the tougher side, but most were tender and chewy with gristle. Not to mention, they had a flavour as well.

Typically dim sum dishes are served as they are made ready, so it was smart for us to punctuate our order and make our request for dessert at the end. Otherwise we would be mixing sweet with savoury; or worst, leaving them to the side, resulting in cold pastries.

The “Baked egg tart” is another popular dim sum pick. This batch was a tad too oily for my taste. The buttery pastry was battling against the gentle flavour of the egg custard.

The “Chilled mango pudding” was shaped in a heart mould, and coated lightly with evaporated milk. We found it a great palette refresher.

Similarly was the “Green tea and coconut gelatin”, mild flavours and a chilled temperature to cool and end your meal on.


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.
In my humble opinion, dim sum tastes pretty much the same where ever you go. It is like all the restaurants use the same recipe and aim to hit the same mark for consistency. Therefore when picking or judging places for their dim sum, it is usually more about what is cheaper and what is closer, for me. But here they inched out a little with their larger servings and their mostly good ratio of filling to wrapper, bun, or shell. A solid choice. Don’t deny your cravings.


4989 Victoria Drive, Vancouver BC, V5P 3T7
Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chomp Vegan Eatery


A meal with my only vegan friend means a taste of a plant based diet for me. And I was optimistic, because at “Chomp Vegan Eatery” they promise “vegan food that doesn’t suck”. Everything they offer is gluten free, vegan, organic, and nut free. So those with dietary restrictions rejoice with healthy classics, comfort foods, snacks, and fresh baked sweets prepared by Fairy Cakes, a local vegan bakery.

The cafe is best described as quaint. And with its air conditioning, it made a great stop for a late lunch. There was not much to take in, in terms of decor. An LED tree sat on the counter, fake ivy vines crept around the vents on the ceiling. The blue walls were set with blue painted panels and the framed community board celebrated animal posts.

Right as you enter, a refrigerated showcase greets you at the threshold. They not only sell baked goods and on the go hand held lunches. But they also offer the vegan community products to enhance their dietary lifestyle. Products like “tofutti”, which is advertised as being better than cream cheese; sodas and juices made with real fruit, and packaged chips, popcorn, and cookies for the snacking vegan. The bushel of kale leaves and the bowl of Roma tomatoes spoke to the freshness of the ingredients.


The menu is listed across a giant chalkboard behind the counter. Blue and purple paint spell out their offerings between “fairy cakes” and “chomp”. The latter included cheesecakes, coffee cake, and special order cakes. “Chomp” had a limited selection that included some wraps with their chomp slaw, kale and quinoa salads (naturally), a chilli, some sliders, one pizza, and a burrito/sushi made with nori and a sweet mango jalapeño dipping sauce.

I placed my request with the lone employee. She spent most of her time in the kitchen preparing the meals. You could hear the exhaust fan blow and appliances being switched on and off. Although she did take the time to pop out and check on the three tables seated, this afternoon.

I grabbed one of the white tables right by the entrance. There was limited seating, although I don’t think much was needed as their business seems to focus more on the convenience snacking. Quick eats with two bite cupcakes, cookies in paper bags, and heavy wraps already folded into a tin foil parcel.


I, being a happy omnivore went with their signature “Chomp Sliders”, I felt it closest to home. The sliders were made with white bean patties between sweet potato buns. Each layered with a fresh sliced roma tomato, raw spinach, alfalfa sprouts, avocado, and their creamy chomp sauce. All together it covered everything texturally with grainy patties, crisp greens, and juicy tomatoes. The “bun” was more like a cookie; soft, but with a chip like initial crunch. I could see myself enjoying them as is, maybe with more of the white creamy “chomp” sauce, for dipping into. Each slider certainly could have used more of it for an added tang, and more for taste. Some additional seasoning would have helped as well. My only wish was that each was more filling, although I didn’t feel like anything was missing. At $10.50 for three, I am thankful for the lower prices of burgers without meat. It tasted just as good as any slider, but at $5 less and packed with so much more. I also felt good about myself after finishing it.


My guest, a true vegan, was happier with something more simple. Something so common to an omnivore or vegetarian, but considered a luxury eat to her. She was excited for their “Chomp’s Creamy Caesar”, a traditional take on Caesar salad with their own housemate creamy Caesar dressing over crisp romaine, with vegan parmesan and lightly seasoned and oven-baked croutons. She loves the flavour of caesar dressing and this one was a good creamy coating over each individual leaf. When given the chance, my guest always asks for extra, but even then there was not enough for her liking here. You could see the vegan Parmesan sprinkled over the leaves, but couldn’t taste it. The croutons were chewy, where as you wanted crunchy to balance out the wilted greens.


Mid meal, I overheard the clerk rattle off the list of cupcake flavours. She was going down the list for another customer, who interested in them through the glass showcase. Having heard “watermelon”, I had to indulge. When was the last time you ever seen or had a watermelon flavoured cupcake? It was tell-a-tale with its mix of pink and green icing piped ever so gingerly l. And best of all it was vegan so my guest had some with me. It was true to name with a vivid watermelon flavouring. Sweet like summer, it paired well with the spongy vanilla base. I couldn’t tell that this contained no milk or egg, it had the cupcake consistency I was expecting. My guest found the frosting too sweet, where as I was able to scale back on it with my bite. The other cupcake flavours include peach, orange cream, Oreo, blueberry, Irish cream, lemon, maple, and blackberry.


Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
As an omnivore this wouldn’t be my first go-to for any meal. But as one who others come to for recommendations, I would suggest easily. “Chomp” will be a recommendation for those looking to eat healthy, or for vegans looking for something more than just salads. Don’t deny your cravings.


3586 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC
Chomp Vegan Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17•C Dessert Cafe


You know those photos you have been seeing online? The one of drinks served in glass light bulbs and balls of melon neatly stacked in their rinds? Well let me introduce to the place that serves them. And if you haven’t heard or seen such marvels, scroll down for a look.


“17•C” is a new dessert cafe in a new space on Kingsway. It is a small room with a counter, and several tables to accommodate larger groups and couples sharing with others. It had a clean look in freshly painted grey, with a few round mirrors speckling the walls. A wood plank and metal pipe shelf created a vignette of empty bulbs and plastic plants. And across from it, a cluster of frames added some colourful contrast. I recognized an abstract version of Darth Vader, Shakespeare, and possibly Dead Pool? The rest was just outlines and colours.


The menu is a blackboard stick-on written in colourful chalk. Their deserts are divided between fruit smoothies, yogurt cups, Asian style tapioca and glutinous rice; and “icy”, their shaved ice bowls with fruit. They also have chilled drinks advertised on an easel, by the register.

As mentioned, they are known for their use of light bulb shaped glasses. So realistic that they also come with that screw-on metal bit at the end of the bulb, and now top of the drinking glass. All that was missing with the filament and the light weight of an actual bulb. These vessels are so iconic of the cafe that they are also used as propping: vases on the counter and containers on shelves.


Here they were used for their colourful soda and green tea mixed. Both varieties are flavoured in either kiwi, passion fruit, pomegranate, and lemon. Some had pieces of chopped up fruit bobbling about, along with syrup and fruit pulp. And each a matching twisty straw to sip from. The soda was carbonated with fizz, and the green tea had the tell-a-tale slight bitterness of a strongly steeped brew.

Just as popular are their “icy” desserts. Majority of their customers appreciate the beauty of them in photo. There are a few varieties, but the best sellers are their melon icy(s). Each uses the whole fruit and craves half into round balls. These balls are then gingerly stacked in a pyramid. At $14.99 for an entire melon, each is meant to be shared. You pay for the fruit and the labour to create it.


Apparently the watermelon is their the fan favourite of the melons, and the entire icy menu for that matter. It often runs out well before the night’s end, I can see why. They are most visually appealing. Bright pink and bold green, sprinkled over with chopped almonds, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Just under the brick work of melon ball is a mound of fluffy shaved ice. It isn’t flavoured like the fruit, but instead sweetened with condense milk. An additional serving of condense milk is presented in a tiny spouted jug. This is meant to be drizzled over the entirety of the dessert, at your preference.


Similarly the “honeydew icy” was carved into a stack of nearly placed balls. But with this, grape flavoured bubble juice pearls dotted its pyramid, and it was topped with a honeydew flavoured popsicle. The popsicle melted into a pool of cream over the shaved ice, adding additional melon flavouring. Both watermelon and honey dew tasted exactly as you would expect: fruit and condense milk. This dessert was such an easy concept, and it worked. It brought me in and had me thanking them for helping me getting the needed servings of fruit today.

The other fruit icy(s) includes mango, strawberry and a mixed version they called the “fruit boat”. They also had non fruit versions like matcha green tea and Oreo.


The “Oreo icy” had the whole chocolate Oreo cookie and its cream filling blended into the ice. This was a unique combination, giving the dessert a familiar flavour, but a new unique texture. It was like what I imagined licking smooth beach sand to be? A chalkiness that melted on your tongue. Interesting, but not my first go to.

As mentioned, they also dabbled in yogurt and Asian pudding-like dessert. Both created in anticipation of the cooler months ahead, and the want of customers to order hot or warm desserts when it is cold outside. Both weren’t very sweet, or sweet at all. I suspect that this was the case because it is meant to compliment the other desserts in sweetness. Or maybe it was because we made the mistake of having the drinks and the icy first, and as a result these weren’t as sweet by comparison.


We tried the “strawberry yogurt” cup which was fit for a healthy breakfast option. It was a tart plain yogurt layered with strawberry puree, granola, and fresh strawberries. They also had a similar version in blueberry and mango.


The “mango tapioca” was another one good for the cooler season. Or their mango with glutinous rice or glutinous rice with coconut milk. The tapioca had a nice thick creamy texture, intertwined with the delight of the jelly-like pearls. It had the mango flavour, but I was craving the mango’s sweetness as well. This could have been helped with some condense or evaporated milk mixed in, or even if they used a sweeter ripe mango.

There was a language barrier between myself and guests, and the owner-partners. However I respected these young women. They immigrated to Vancouver with a vision and a mission, and they carried it out. They understood their intended demographic, they understood the food scene that they wanted to tap into, and they offered its clients exactly what they wanted. – A visual feast to feed their cameras. A demographic like me who appreciate the ability to capture an immortal and unique photo before devouring my meal. And they gave it to me and others in perfectly round balls self drizzled in condensed milk, and neon coloured drinks in glasses shaped like light bulbs.


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.
Truly a memorable dessert feast on sight alone. A great place to share a great, healthier dessert with a group of friends. And bonus they will trick you into eating more fruit than you usually do I one day, in a single setting. Don’t deny your cravings.


2229 Kingsway Street, Vancouver BC, V5N 5A1
17°C Dessert Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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