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Category: Main Street Page 2 of 5

La Taqueria Main

Today I was on Main Street, celebrating the grand opening of the newest location to join the “La Taqueria” family. They are located ideally on the corner of Main and Broadway, by a prominent bus stop, for that extra walk-in traffic. Because as we know, there is nothing better than tacos on the go. Through their other five locations, they have already proven themselves as a prominent purveyor of the good stuff. Established in 2009 they have been bringing the “taste and feel of street tacos” from the streets of Mexico to the Lower Mainland.

But before we go any further, the disclaimer. When it comes to a media event, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant’s plain exterior is misleading as it does usher you into a pretty special space, which intentionally had a new yet lived in feel to it. Blue and white geometric tiles imported from Mexico, reclaimed wood furniture, distressed antiques, and a collection of brass pigs. It was modern and dressy, yet cool and casual, all without effort.

The opening of this location is extra special, as it is the first, and currently only location that has a cocktail program, the others simply offer bottled drinks, Here, they are equipped with a bar and are working with mixologists from around town to create a relevant, rotating drink menu. Tonight we would get to try three such cocktails.

The “Classic margarita” featuring your choice of either mezcal or tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and agave nectar. Finished off with a finessed salted rim that had the salt grains cascading down the side of the glass.

The “Paloma” was pretty in a pale pink. Once again your choice of mezcal or tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit juice. Finished off with an lemon slice.

My favourite was the “Mezcal negroni” that was finished off with flames, and as a result had a wonderfully robust, smokey flavour to it. Not to mention the nifty work that went into cutting orange rinds into the shape of lightening bolts. Mezcal, cinzano rosso, campari, and pineapple bitters.

Their food menu is hand painted and hung on the wall, as it is for all their other locations. A mirrored listing of what is available and what goes in to it, for you to look at before committing.

We would begin with all that is new to any of their restaurants. First, the nacho platter: corn chips, a trio of Guadalajara-sourced cheeses, refried beans, onions, jalapeño pickles, sweet corn, sour cream, pico de Gallo, and a chipotle sauce. A great snack for sharing and pairing with the new cocktails. The mound of double baked nachos is comprised of three tiers and is dressed accordingly so that each chip has some topping. The chips were thick and crunchy, they held their texture even as the serving cooled. No complaints, besides not wanting to share. Guess that is reason enough to return, to be able to get a platter all to myself.

But if you prefer just some chip and the ability to regulate your dip, you can also get a platter of corn chips and salsa, or one with chips and pico de Gallo.

And now “La Taqueria”, has everyone’s favourite, churros! These cinnamon and sugar sticks are homemade and baked fresh to order. Make sure you eat these as soon as you get them, that way they are still crispy on the outside and the dulce de leche is still gooey for the dipping.

They of course, also offer the full extent of their taco, burrito, and quesadillas line at this location. Tonight we would try all of their fish and meat tacos, which are prepared using traditional recipes; utilizing local, organic and sustainable ingredients.

The great thing about tacos here is that anything you find bland, you can easily rectify by taking a stroll to their sauce and pickle bar, where with a scoop, dollop, or squeeze you can easily add flair to your handheld. Therefore I will only be speaking to the main ingredient in each taco as you are encourage to customize and pile high to your preference.

Their seafood tacos are my favourite and a big hit with the crowd. They come in slightly larger rounds than the meat tacos below. 6″ hand made flour tortillas.

“Atun”. Seared albacore tuna with wasabi mayo, chilli ponzu, cabbage, and pico de gallo. The fish and its asian seasonings reminded me of tuna tataki, with gentle and fresh flavours. To be honest I would have loved it as a salad with some greens, or the fish dressed as is to better highlight its quality.

My favourite was the “Baja” taco. Tempura beer battered seasonal fish, cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo. A dressier fried fish with a crispy outside and a flaky inside. Overall, punchy flavours, bold spices, and a creamy sauce to balance them all.

I loved how the “cabo” tacos looked visually. Tempura beer battered prawns with cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo. Althouugh really didn’t taste all that different from the fish taco above, given their overlapping use of ingredients. And if I was to choose between the two, it would be the fish.

The meat taco are a great deal at $3 each, and with some manipulating you can enjoy or share them as two mini tacos with still plenty of filling. They are served in 4” soft corn tortillas.

“Asada”. We found the grilled ‘AAA’ flank beef to be a little dry. Keeping in mine the sheer volume of patrons that was celebrating with “La Taqueria” today, and the food necessary to feed them being pushed out in large batches. The “De Cachette”, braised beef cheeks was a lot more juicy and flavourful. But the “De Lengua, braised beef tongue, the moistest of them all. But my favourite of the quartet was the “Pollo Con Mole”. I enjoyed the slight sweetness of the free range chicken coated in a chocolate mole sauce that contain nuts.

For meat tacos, “Carnitas” is my go to. Pork confit with pickled red onions, except I like it with a lot more pickles, which is easily achieved with a trip to their self serve condiment bar. The “Pescado” I found a little plain without additional dressing. The white seasonal fish didn’t taste like it was salted. Maybe with more chipotle mayo and salsa fresca, and less shredded cabbage this would have been more memorable. Whereas I liked the “Al Pastor” with its juicy pineapples offering sweetness and tang. It stood out amongst all the others. And lastly, I wanted some pickles on the “Tinga De Pollo” for acidity. As the chicken with chorizo in a chipotle tomato sauce was a little one tone.

 

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.
If you haven’t visited the before, you need to come in for their seafood tacos, they are some of the best in the city. And now with cocktails, churros, and nachos, you have even more reason to make this your next dinner with a date or a mate. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA TAQUERIA
2521 Main Street, Vancouver BC
lataqueria.com
La Taqueria Main Street Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boiling Point

The name is familiar, but up to this point I have yet to visit this well known hot pot chain. Typically when I enjoy hot pot, or when I crave it I am all about that bang for my buck. So I direct my attention to the all you can eat chains, but today I left the newest location of “Boiling Point” feeling just as full.

I was invited to this media event, to celebrate their grand opening on Main Street, their first location in Vancouver. Their other three are in Richmond, Surrey, and Burnaby. They have quickly become a fan favourite thanks to their individual sized pots, kept hot. The heat is thanks to the flame underneath, kept safe within their special platform. It stays lit and the soup stays boiling well into your meal. You can ask for more soup and a new fire, to extend the experience if you choose. And eating off a platform at an elevated height for optimum hand to mouth movement is enjoyable in itself.

When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant is very modern. Red brick walls, a series of pipes leading to round light bulbs, and wooden tables and booths. It felt like a cafe you would find in Yaletown. But the steamed up and fogged up windows made them distinctly “Boiling Pot”.

The menu is very easy to navigate. A colourful fold-out listing all their flavoured soups and each and every ingredient that goes into it. A great way to be transparent with their customers and for those with allergies or preferences to be well informed.

To start, we tried each of their four available appetizers. They were ingredients you could find within their pots, highlighted on a plate.

“Spicy fermented tofu”. This is a traditional Taiwanese dish, and a must try according to their descriptive menu. They are proud to acknowledge that each triangle is produced from a certified factory in Taiwan. Their tofu is hand brewed from naturally fermented vegetables and contains no preservatives. It is quite a delicacy, if you can get past the smell of bad breath, and if you like spicy food. A firm texture, coupled with a unique taste, that grows on you. I found myself enjoying it more the second time around.

The “spicy cumin lamb” was the same thin slices of lamb in any hot pot, but here flavoured with cumin. But there was hardly enough spice to call it “spicy”. Which would have been nice with the drizzle of creamy white sauce shown in the menu, that was also missing. When I inquired about it, I was told that is not how they prepare it. Instead, it was tasty and tender, but not what was pictured or what I expected.

The “spicy beef” was like the tender and tasty lamb above, but instead seasoned with their signature Mala sauce. Another not spicy, but super tasty and curly ribbon of meat. Flavour-wise, similar to lamb above.

Also similar in texture was their “garlic pork belly”. Freshly sliced pork belly, topped with garlic, chilli, and soy sauce. More salty and sweet then garlicky.

As for their hot pots, they have 10 different soup bases available. You start by selecting your hot soup, next choosing your spice level for it, and then picking a complimentary add on. The latter is basically a bowl of rice or vermicelli to have with your savoury meal and soup. A bowl of carbs to make it extra filling, with a vessel to eat out of. I found eating straight out of a bubbling pot, sweaty work; not to mention the added low visibility if you are wearing glasses.

During lunch you also get a drink included with your meal. Either an iced green tea or an iced black tea. And for lunch your bill is $1 less. Lunch and dinner portions sizes are the same. There is no actual difference between the two, so you are basically paying a premium for when you decide to dine.

All their soups and sauces are made in their “Central kitchen”, located in Richmond. They are delivered to their four restaurants daily. Another fact they pride themselves on. Which is also why they don’t franchise. The brand wishes to continue controlling every aspect of their food, to ensure quality and brand uniformity. And the plan works. I can attest to how great the soup bases are, I never once reached out for any of the four homemade sauces that sat on each table. Clear jars filled with oils, pastes, and liquids available but not necessary. Everything came already well seasoned and flavourful, to the point where any more would be off-putting.

I myself did not order all these different flavours blow, but I was pretty insistent that those sitting with me couldn’t order the same thing, so that I could try them all. It work, they did and I did.

The “House special” was my favourite for its intensity and complexity of flavours. No two mouthfuls tasted the same between the broth with most depth, and all the ingredients bobbing about, within it. Napa cabbage, fermented tofu, sliced pork, enoki mushroom, kamaboko, meat ball in pork, clam, quail egg, pork blood, pork intestine, nira, tomato, preserved vegetables, and cilantro. Naturally the stinky tofu was fairly pronounced, but only in taste and not in smell. It and the quail’s egg really made this something you have never had before.

The “Korean bean paste” hot pot was spicy, my dining mate who ordered it asked for medium in heat, but it came out tasting a lot more like hot. A bright red pool with bean sprouts, nira, pork belly, kimchi, green zucchini, fish tofu, kamaboko, tempura, rice cake, enoki mushroom, fish fillet, wok noodles, lobster fish ball, crown daisy, seaweed, and Korean paste. It tasted like a Korean barbecue sauce but in soup form, with plenty of familiar Korean ingredients and textures.

I had their newest hot pot: the sweet “milk cream curry”. I had it mild so the curry combined with the cream was more sweet than spicy or savoury. The pot is delivered as a pool of yellow with half of it submerged in a thick blob of sea salt cream. The foam slowly melts into the curry broth the more it boils, or you can simply help it along by stirring things up. This pot had the least amount of ingredients, I found myself digging past all the Napa cabbage in search of a protein or a starch. Sliced pork, vermicelli, enoki mushroom, imitation crab stick, fish ball, dried tofu skin, corn, tempura, mountain yam, and Chinese string bean. There was also not enough vermicelli in the mix (my favourite part) thankfully I was smart enough to order more of it as my complimentary side.

The “Taiwanese spicy” delivered. This soup was served in a larger pot, as a larger serving than the others. Here you couldn’t choose your level of spice, it was heavy on the spice and that was it. I tried some and it had me coughing and tearing up after I inhaled it in too quick. Definitely not for those who like their food mild or even medium. Cabbage, instant noodle, tempura, clam, sliced angus beef, enoki mushroom, cuttlefish rings, fish balls, pork intestine, pork blood, maitake mushroom, fried tofu skin, iced tofu, green onion, and cilantro. It was hard to fully appreciate all these wonderful ingredients past the overwhelming amount of spice. But at least you could make them out based on their textures.

The “Japanese miso” was my second favourite pot, especially with the udon and raw egg that crowning the serving. It was a mild miso soup to fully highlight all the other ingredients. Cabbage, sliced pork, enoki mushroom, clam, soft tofu, fish ball, fish fillet, crab, egg, king oyster mushroom, fried tofu skin, and green onion.

They also had a Thai version that I was interested in. I suspect that this would be reminiscent of Tom Yum. And there was also a tomato based broth for the vegetarians. And for those looking for something more simple you can choose your protein in a more traditional soup base. Lamb, beef, or seafood.

To accompany your hot pot they have a hefty list of drinks. Juices, teas, hot drinks, and soda. I went with a milk tea to help refresh my palette and cool my tongue. I found the “Hokkaido milk tea” just amazing. I would could back just go take this to go. Luckily it comes in a to-go cup, in case you can’t finish and find yourself having to.

For the same reason, their new dessert was a popular way to end your time with them. The “milky soft herbal jelly”. Is also made within their central kitchen. It is prepared in the traditional way, using the Mesona Chinese herb. Then packaged to-go in a portable plastic cup and lid, with label; looking like it could be sold commercially in a grocery store. It included a compartment to keep the pods of milk separate, just waiting for you to peal back their cover and pour them out. The dessert as a whole was very refreshing. It was the perfect slurp of neutral to wash away all the potent seasonings and spices used in your entree. A jelly without a taste, that its tastelessness soon defines it.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I really enjoyed my time with them and tasting all the hot pots they offered. One of my biggest complaints against hot pot is that many broths offered are so flat, so you soon find yourself leaning heavily on sauces to flavour your meal. Here I didn’t touch any of it. And even though it’s not all you can eat, $15 gets you plenty. Majority of us couldn’t finish our shares. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BOILING POINT
4148 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P7
604-620-2198
bpgroupusa.com
Boiling Point Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Buckets Ice Cream

I was hanging out with my friend today, and as per tradition, our time together ended with some ice cream. Today we stopped at this newer liquid nitrogen ice cream shoppe, by her house.

She had mentioned that during her original visit with them they hosted a line up of pretty unique flavours, corn being one of them. So I was eager to step foot inside and try some of these for myself, today. However we were greeted by the sandwich board outside, advertising their list of pretty normal flavours. Creamy ice cream in cookies and cream, salted caramel, and coconut coffee for the vegans.

Inside, the shoppe was a counter on the right with the seating area across from it. A couple of stools, some tables to prop up against, and a play corner with picture books and a magnet board to keeps kids entertained. We had one with us today and she was plenty engaged by it, enough to not pry ice cream and cookie from our hands.

I checked out their “bucket list” on the board behind the counter. There were five flavours to choose from, each would be made to order using liquid nitrogen. I wanted to try a few before ultimately settling on the one I wanted to commit to a full scoop of, however the clerk refused my ask. Given the need to make their ice cream to order with liquid nitrogen, it made sense. Although if they were going to pursue some more unique flavours, it might help to have a batch frozen in the freezer, just for sampling.

Given their name and the fact that their logo has scoops piled high. I had imagined their ice cream being served in an actual bucket. The reality was it was just a name, and there were no buckets. Their ice cream was either offered in an edible waffle bowl, or available as a scoop within a disposable cardboard bowl. Or a plastic one if you are eating in. However we would go the handheld route and order our ice cream in between two baked cookies instead. They seemed a safe bet and if the ice cream wasn’t good, at least you are left with a nice cookie to chew on.

They actually only use liquid nitrogen in their fresh made scoops and pints. They have decide to not use it for their ice cream sandwiches, because the freezing process changes the consistency of the ice cream. If they were to use liquid nitrogen in this sandwich, their ice cream would lose some of its signature creaminess. So instead, churned ice cream is used for their sandwiches and I couldn’t tell the difference (not that I got to try a taste of their nitrogen made ice creams.)

We shared two sandwiches between us. I was more partial to the “PB & J”. This was a peanut butter cookie with strawberries and cream ice cream. The perfect interpretation of the popular pairing in ice cream sandwich form. The cookie was soft and the ice cream light. I could have another right now.

My friend liked the “Le norm” one better. This was an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie paired with coconut vanilla ice cream. A vegan option that you couldn’t tell lacked cream or milk. The bites were heartier with the texture of the cookie, and well paired with the lightness of the coconut milk made ice cream.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall, great ice cream sandwiches. However, I don’t know if I would travel all the way back for more. But I would stop by if in the mood and the area. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BUCKETS ICE CREAM
3330 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3M7
604-559-5776
bucketsicecream.com
Buckets Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Starbucks Reserve

Given that there is a Starbucks on every corner and sometimes even two on the same block, it felt weird to be driving all the way to this one in particular. Although not all of them are the new speciality reserve location. And the one on Main Street would be the very first in Vancouver. I have been meaning to stop by for a visit sooner, (although putting it off, as I am not an avid coffee drinker). However I do like spirits and this would also be the first location in the lower mainland to serve alcohol as well, on top of their still new, overly dressed coffee.

The wine and beers available are not a Starbucks blend. However I can see them moving in that direction eventually. A coffee infused wine, beer brewed with coffee beans? I knew it would be pricy, but went any way for the experience, and to say that I have indulged in the novelty. And with me I brought a guest who knew her way around a “Starbucks” and could tell me what was what. Especially as we planned to drink some of their fancy coffees first. The alcohol service starts after 2pm on weekdays and after 12pm on weekends. Trying to avoid the rush we walked in at 1pm. Although given the popularity of our destination and the fact that it still had that “new car smell”, we found ourselves in one of the nicest “Starbucks”, that was just as busy as any, during “frappy hour” (when it was still going on).

 

To watch the vlog version of our visit, click the link below.

 

The double sided front door, mounted with heavy wood really set the tone of the place. Wood benches and stumps, tropical murals of palm fronds and colourful fauna on canvas, and plenty of glass windows for people watching. It was the causal comfort of a “Starbucks”, but more dressed up, more grown up. The room split off into either directions with couches, benches, and tables for patrons to lounge across. And like at any location you had students studying, meetings commencing, and good friends catching up. Only here, with a lot more photography in between.

There were many things exclusive to this location, so to take advantage of where we were, we decided to try most of them. For our coffee beverages we would order four different blends prepared with four different methods, to get the full experience. Then follow it with three different types of wine and a cider.

Their regular menu is spelled out across a chalkboard to the right of the cash desk. The slow creeping line gives you ample time to look over it. However the expectation is for you to know what you want, or know enough to ask questions to lead yourself to that direction. Ordering was intimating as we knew neither of the above, and behind two cash registers stood five men who did. Luckily they were dedicated to servicing your “Starbucks” needs, each and every one of them friendly. The extra bodies meant they had the ability to connect with their customers fully. We were given an explanation and history lesson on each of the brews currently on rotation. They knew their coffee as they described what they helped us to order in great flavour profile detail. The total set us back just over $30 for four different coffees, prepared four different ways.

The first was the traditional style latte, espresso meets steamed milk. However, this came with a twist, the steamed milk was a house made hazelnut-praline combined with their small-lot espresso. It is more commonly served over iced, but we requested it hot and got it special with some heart-shaped latte art. It tasted like Ferraro Rocher with plenty of rich hazelnut and smooth chocolate flavour, but without the graininess of crunching on actual nuts. Something this tasty came at a cost, and that was 780 calories of “worth it”. It was my favourite out of all our ordered the drinks. And although only available for a limited time (according to their seasonal menu list), I can see me asking for some sort of variation on it during subsequent visits. It was creamy and not too sweet, best taken in warm, through pursed lips.

Our second cup of coffee was the “Malawi Sable Farms”, a coffee with “delicate citrus aromas, cranberry notes and a creamy chocolate finish”. It was prepared using the “Clover” brew. A highly precise machine utilizing a full immersion brewing method that was paired with vacuum extraction. It was created to bring out the flavours and extract as much rich, black coffee out of the freshly ground up beans as possible. To begin, your chosen grounds are poured out into a inset dish, built into the “clover”. Water is added to this and stirred. The machine moves the dish deeper into its belly, then rises it again. This happens a couple of times. What comes out of the hole is a well packed disc of only slightly damp coffee grounds. And out from the other side drips a bitter coffee, compared to the creamy milk-based latte above. My guest told me she liked it and it’s good. I believed her.

The next coffee brewing process is the “siphon”, and it is the most visually stunning. So much so that they created a brew bar where you can post up on bar stools and watch the process unfold. Although there typically a crowd of people and a filled seats to get past. Although if you let the baristas know, they will wait for you to claim a vantage point before brewing your ordered cup. So we did just that. As soon as the group of spectators who were enjoying a demo and a sample finished, we were quick to claim a perch and set up for our own visual treat.

This process too paired full immersion and vacuum filtration to create the perfect cup, in a process that looked like the lighting of a bulb. A flame and its light warmed up a glass coffee pot of water. The reaction causes the water from the pot to rise into the glass vessel outfitted above it. And as soon as it is brought to a boil, the requested coffee grounds are added to the top glass and stirred in by whisk in hand. The blended liquid then drips back down to the original glass pot at the bottom. The finished product is the brewed coffee, which gets poured into a metal pot to be dispense between two mugs as you wish. It is presented to you on a tray, along with cards highlighting the bag of beans you are enjoying. In this case it was the “Peru San Ignacio” blend with “juicy acidity, a lemon-lime citrus and cocoa accents”.

And lastly we watched our final cup of coffee being brewed by the “Chemex”. It was very much like making coffee with a traditional pot, in a mechanical maker, with a coffee filter. Although all of it was much more dressed up, in line with the elegance of this “Reserve Starbucks”. The glass was decorated with a wooden neck and tied off with a leather ribbon.

It promised to yield a reliably balanced, clean cup, using precise pours and a scale to brew the perfect pot. Water from a hot stainless steel kettle is poured bit by bit, over the coffee grounds sitting at the bottom of the paper filter. You allow the brew to breathe in between each round of water. This drip is also served in a metal pot, on a tray, with two mugs. Its place card marked it as the “Rwanda Abakundakawa” blend, which is “bright and citrusy with Mandarin, lemon, and caramel notes”.

Despite our desire to try as much as possible, the experience is actually best when choosing the same bean to brew between the three methods. Each gives the coffee its own finish and therefore trying it between the methods gives you a good account of each.

 

They also serve their coffee with ice cream. The “classic affogato” had two shots of their small-lot espresso poured over vanilla ice cream. And their “cold-brew float” used single-origin cold brew on tap with even more ice cream. We already had more than enough coffee for two, not to mention we were also given sample from the demo earlier, so had to pass. However, either would be enough to have me coming back.

We would drink what we could of each, moving on to a hotter brew as soon as it cooled enough for us to drink without a burn. By the time we were done watching each come to fruition and gathering our trays, the interior seating area was full. Luckily with the beautiful day and a patio that ran the length of the coffee shop, we were able to snag ourselves a table and some bench seats outside.

And now well after 2pm we would switch from day to night: coffee to wine. The latter, a service that just started on June 1, 2017, a day before we visited on June 2nd. The menu listed out options by brand and price. As I predicted they were inflated, with no luck for happy hour pricing. We ordered, spending $50 total, only to realize what we paid for was $12 for a 6oz glass, x3. A white wine, red, sparking, and a pint of cider. No specialty year or unique brews, not even a branded glass to mark the occasion. And without proper bartenders, the pouring of our four alcoholic beverages took longer than it did brewing our “chemex” coffee above. I guess the service is still fairly new, as the clerk had to question what glasses she was to use. We watched her struggle to open the bottles from the mini fridge, then have difficulty discerning where to pour it to within the glass. What she got right was asking for ID. They require two pieces when you pay, then both again when you claim you order at the counter.

Served on a tray for easy travel, we too enjoyed these outside on their patio. It is there we notice the mention of “Starbucks” with their name on the bottle of the ridel marked glass. And on the side, the words “take a moment or three” etched. It was a nice little note to enjoy, as we made attempts to make the most out of expensively priced, average wine.

 

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.
As I am no coffee drinker, let alone connoisseur, I cannot imagine myself making the trip back on a whim. However, for those who are, I can safety recommend them as a great option for any coffee enthusiast. Visit at least once to say that you have. Although, I will be advising the skipping of the wine and saving that craving and money for any of their neighbouring restaurants, where you will get more for what you have to pay to enjoy a drink in a “Starbucks”. After the first try, this novelty does wear off quick. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

STARBUCKS RESERVE
2980 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3G3
604-873-5176
starbucks.ca
Starbucks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Cascade Room

This wasn’t our first choice for some after dinner snacks and drinks. We, like a handful of others, found our way here when our first choice, next door, required a wait. Rewind to about a year ago, and I was oddly in a similar situation for my first visit, but then I was in for a dessert to sober up with. So this evening I would be able to give a better assessment of the place with a couple of plates.

The bar was kept dark, and therefore was most memorable for its row of lamp shades decorated with Victorian silhouettes. Each lamp marked a booth with its own lengthy mirror running down the height of its background. Between it and the bar there were three rows of tables and plenty of perching for walks-in. We grabbed a couple of high tops in the corner, and got immediate and attentive service from the bartender working it.

A cold girls night out meant hot water with lemon to warm our hands with, followed up cups of red to warm our bodies with.

Snacking with a vegetarian, our options were limited. We went for the “Roasted beet hummus” seasoned with lemon and olive oil. I liked the unique dip presentation, the use of a mini skillet to house the bright pink hummus. Though upon first blush it did make the serving look like raw beef in a pan. The flavour of the humus was mild, and thoughtfully paired with fresh celery sticks and warm pita that didn’t cover any of the beet’s flavour.

For a second dish we ordered the “Fried green beans” dressed in a brown butter vinaigrette, and tossed with a grainy mustard and Parmesan cheese mix. It smelled cheesy, but I didn’t get the salty flavour of the Parmesan. I would have also liked the taste of the brown butter to come through, but instead the beans had a more nutty flavour, with a crumbly texture to match. It was good but I would have preferred the beans with more of a crisp to them, and prepared a number of different ways.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A decent stop for drinks and snacks, but it looks like I will have to find a reason to return again, to give a much fuller review. Then again they are known as a cocktail bar, so I didn’t fully utilize my stay with them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CASCADE ROOM
2616 Main Street, Vancouver BC , V5T 3E6
604-709-8650
thecascade.ca
Cascade Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Slickity Jim’s Chat & Chew

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Trust me when I say that it is hard to find a breakfast place in the city that takes reservations, let alone one for 13 people. A fact I find odd considering this would be 13 guaranteed paid for plates, on an otherwise gamble of a service. Especially on a Wednesday morning at 10am. Calling every breakfast place I could think of eventually yielded “Slickity Jim’s”. They checked off all my boxes for a workplace breakfast that was something different, and more importantly not a chain like an “IHOP” or “Denny’s”. I wanted to treat my colleagues to somewhere nice, somewhere they might not get to go otherwise. This may not have been my first choice, but one just as great in their unique theme and one of a kind take on breakfast. Plus the price was right $9-$12 a plate.

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The restaurant is also mentioned on the television show, “You Gotta Eat Here”. A program dedicated to sourcing out some of the best places to dine all across Canada. So given all the options available, to be chosen makes quite the statement. Name aside, walking in you can see why. The decor was something different, like the attic of an antiques collector. There was plenty to keep the eyes roving. Mismatched brass and crystal lighting fixtures, pattern papered walls and empty embellished frames, spinning ceiling fans, and a shelf lining the entire side of the room. The latter was home to a collection of knick knacks collecting dust. A mannequin head, antique model ships, a murky lantern, paper umbrellas, and porcelain animals. A setting that would make a great “eye spy” photo.

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We were taken into their back room, and given its space all to ourselves. It over looked their backyard patio with black and white striped walls with green cushion booths. A collection of bird and portrait paintings hung in decoration. It was nice to have the freedom of space and the ability to be a little louder in a more private setting. However, if it is just you and a couple of bodies, I definitely recommend the first half of the restaurant for the full effect.

Before our trip, I visited their website in excitement. However making my breakfast choice off of it wasn’t the best idea. Our server would break it to me that their website needed to be updated. The pulled pork option I wanted wasn’t available. Along with the ice cream needed for their float, that I was considering; and the mint listed in the ice tea I wanted as back up. With all the rejection I cut my losses and just stuck with water to drink. The others got coffee, and a couple grapefruit mimosas for a more festive weekday brunch.

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On the menu, item names were as colourful as everything else in the restaurant. Although they weren’t very helpful in conveying what it is you would actually be getting. You really have to read the details to be able to make an informed decision. With over 40 different items they covered all that you would want and expect from breakfast with eggs and toast, omelettes, eggs benedicts, and then some.

They had 12 types of eggs Benedict 8 with meat, and a healthy option of 4 for the vegetarians. It was a 75 cent difference between the two, and they even gave you the option of making each gluten free at a cost. Each benny comes with a luscious hollandaise sauce over two poached eggs, served on an toasted English muffin with a side of roasted potatoes. I was leaning towards this one with names and ingredients like: “A figment of my imagination” made with Turkish figs and Brie, “I see food” with crab cake and avocado, and “good fud” with pulled pork and gruyere.

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Two of our diners went with the “Motor benny”. An egg Benedict with chorizo sausage, bacon, Black Forest ham, and cheddar. One added on a fresh avocado half. It was a meaty plate.

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There was just as much variety in their omelette choices. And the “Cheesy fun guy” was the winning plate for another of our diners. This was a multiple egg round, stuffed with sautéed wild mushrooms and sharp cheddar. The omelette delivered on the promise its name gave: it was salted cheese in fluffy egg.

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For breakfast plates one guest had the “Huevos rancheros”. It is two sunny side up eggs, chilli, and melted cheddar on a grilled flour tortilla; topped with salsa and sour cream. The regular version used a mild vegetarian chill. But in this one, he substituted vegetables for the chorizo chilli, at $2.50 more. The chorizo was flavourful and so spicy that it had him sweating. The sour cream helped to balance things out, but you still sought out more freshness. Some avocado or tomato would have helped.

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Two of our diners went with the “Hana keaka breaky parade”. With it you choose any style of eggs to accompany grilled Maui beef short ribs, roasted potatoes, toast, and a pineapple slice. Like all the other dishes with toast, you had your choice of multi grain, rye, or sourdough bread. The rib meat was tender and chewy, and the addition of a pineapple slice that accented its flavour was a nice touch.

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The vegan of the group was immensely impressed by her ability to choose from more than one or two items of the menu. Here she had the ability to make many of their vegetarian dishes vegan with just the removal of eggs. She ended up going with the “best tofu scramble” she has ever had. It was so good that the only change she would make was to have more of it. The platter was aptly named, “We don’t need no eggs and bacon”, where they humorously describe the plate as being “boneless”. The tofu scrambled is marinated with sesame oil, garlic, cilantro, ginger, and cracked chillies; then toss with sesame seeds. It also comes with a side of potatoes and your choice of toast.

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Another one of us got the “Eggs bennedeti” bowl. Poached eggs over roasted potato, grilled prosciutto, and spinach. It is finished off, baked in the oven with asiago cheese and roast garlic tomato sauce. Then topped with parsley oil. The name must be confusing, as the menu had to point out that this was not a benny. Here the unexpected spice was a nice surprise to unearth through the layers of meat and veggie.

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Always looking for something outside the box, I went with the “Chez Fe” skillet. Sunny side up eggs served with braised short ribs and roasted potatoes, finished with chimichurri salsa and toasted herb focaccia. Visually, the skillet did it for me. Although, unfortunately because of the choice of cooking pan over serving plate, the short rib juices sat pooled at the bottom, and therefore everything ended up being coated in its one tone flavour. The toast points grew soggy, and the potatoes became mash. But the beef persisted, as the star of the dish. Each piece was cut with a good ratio of meat to fat. Overall, my first bite was the best, but I grew bored of its flat flavour quick. The tangy mint of the chimichurri sauce and the freshness of the bottled ketchup only did so much. Sectioned out sides and a roasted tomato would have helped.

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We also shared a “Seasonal fruit plate” to help brighten up each heavier plate. Though I was not excited by the mound of green, yellow, and orange fruit cut up and piled high. It was described fantastically online, and I forgot that their menu in-house no longer correlated to their online promise.

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And for dessert we shared their cheesecake topped with bluberries in syrup.

 

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.
The breakfast was good, but not one I need to make my way back for. However, the others disagreed, and a few vowed to make this their new brunch place. I would like to come back to see how they take on lunch. And when I do, I hope to enjoy it in their uniquely dressed main room. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SLICKITY JIM’S
3475 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E5
604-873-6760
slickityjims.com
Slickity Jim's Chat n' Chew Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shameful Tiki Room

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This one has been a long time coming. A Hawaiian themed bar with large and flamboyant drinks, drinks that have been recommend to me by more than one friend. But I first had to find the perfect group to go with. Friends that would be keen to drink and accepting of spending $22-50 for share style cocktails.

I strongly recommend making reservations. Walk-ins are welcomed, but unlikely. When we arrived to ours, we heard the host tell a group of five that she could put their names on a wait list, that if a table doesn’t show up for their reservation, they will be third party to be called to fill it, third after two others. Similarly, be sure of the number in your party, as last minute additions are slim to none. This is definitely one of those places with a longer turn around. With the unique ambience and song and dance for each cocktail ordered, I can see the appeal to linger and try it all.

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From the exterior you can’t tell what hides on the other side of their covered window front. You would miss it driving by. But its purpose to engulf you in their tiki experience is a good one. Kept dark and bathed in the dim of coloured light, it is hard to notice all the detail put into the decor. With bamboo and straw thatch trimming the ceiling, wicker wallpapering the walls, wooden carvings hung in decoration, and Hawaiian patterns framed as art; you are transported. I liked the coloured lights tied off with rope and the lamps decorated with scallop shells, although they did little to illuminate.

We were given a booth towards the back by the kitchen, and were just happy to have a seat to call our own. But the open space by the door, surrounding the bar is definitely the place to be. This is where you get immersed most in the pageantry. Where the music is the loudest and you get to share in the excitement of all the specialty drinks coming up to the counter, to bask in the happiness of the faces receiving them.

The setting was so dark that we had to keep one phone on flashlight mode during our whole stay. We used it to help shed more light than the one candle at our table could give. Not only do I want some decent lighting for my photos and we needed it to be able to read the menu, I am also one of those people who has to be able to see my food and its colour as I eat it. Luckily our actions didn’t detract from any of our neighbour’s experiences of drinking in the dark.

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The menu was a decorative listing that included drawings of each cocktails. So artful that you could even buy it as a commemorative souvenir of your time here. Along with carved tiki mugs to use here and then take home, or any of their specialty drink bowls below, and custom tee shirts.

They had four different share bowls. One for two and three for four or more. Each comes with smoke, fire, and a song. Each its own performance to signify it being ordered. Everyone in the bar really gets in to it. It had us ordering a second after our first, cause we enjoyed the 10 second show just as much as the drink. For ease of drinking we are each given our own extra long straws. This allows you to sip from the comfort of our seat, without lurching forward. Although it would have been even more helpful if they were bendy straws. And extendable so that when you got to the bottom of the bowl the straws would hold their place instead of dropping off and flicking everyone in the face.

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We started with the $50 “Voodoo bowl”, a mix of various juices, rum, and spices. Majority of their cocktails feature rum and a list of ingredients that they won’t list, for proprietary reasons I am guessing. The “Voodoo” is delivered with thunder and flickering lights. And when it lands on the table a handful of cinnamon is tossed over the lit flames to create a mini explosion.

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This specialty bowl has a peak at its centre, a “volcano” of sorts designed to hold a shot, or in this case a alcohol fuelled blue flame. The exterior of the yellow-green bowl is decorated with palm trees and hula girls. Within it, hollowed out limes and brown sugar cubes are used as edible floating tea lights. The bonus is when the flame burns out, the crumbly sugar absorbed with tequila is a nice sweet treat to lick off your fingers. As for the flavour of the drink, it was heavy on the rum with the sweetness of pineapple and the smokiness of cinnamon. You definitely felt it a few gulps in.

To view the spectacle of flame and fire that was the precursor to this drink, click the link.

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We found our second drink similar in taste and strength as above. We downgraded to a two person share bowl, when one in our group of four bowed out. The $22 “Mystery bowl” was served in a giant ceramic oyster shell.

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It arrived with a shorter sound track and the server announcing “mystery bowl” in a “spooky” voice. And this too has lime-sugar candles and just as much rum, but the drink was more crushed ice than spiked punch.

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If you are looking for the most lights and the best song and dance, “The blood of the kafu” is the way to go. It comes with flashing red lights, dance music, a flame at the centre and red glowing ice cubes floating in the mix. We didn’t partake, but enjoyed the sight of it left unfinished on the table next to ours.

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And what to eat when you are already sharing a drink? – a share platter. I appreciated that this too came with a hollowed out lime, filled with a brown sugar cube, doused in tequila, and set on fire. The “Captain’s Mix” fed four for $35. It offered each person a tasting of six different things, each available as a full sized appetizer or entree. At this point, drinking all that we have and trying a bit of everything in the dark, everything tasted good enough.

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The “Hawaiian ribs” were tender enough to easily pull meat from bone. I was expecting a tangier flavour, but wasn’t completely disappointed by the mild nature of their interpretation.

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I got more of the flavour I was looking for with the mahi mahi sliders. Tender breaded fish meets chewy ciabatta. If there was more than two bites of it per person, more tangy coleslaw in and out of the bun would have been helpful. As an entree you also have the choice of sliders filled with sirarcha mayo pork or Tahitian tuna and avocado.

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The steamed “Potstickers” were decent. Filled with vegetable and served topped with black sesame seeds and their housemade ponzu sauce for dipping. They were steamed so tender that the filling tore right through the dough.

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I was most looking forward to the coconut mango rice with naan bread, having wanted a full serving of it, but being satisfied with its paired down portion here. The sauce was like a sweet dressing that needed a base to make it a meaningful bite. I preferred it with grilled pita, and would have liked more with some chicken over the rice.

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Separate and away from the physical platter, we also got a bowl of coloured tortilla chips and salsa. It was tasty enough to have us follow this platter with a full order of nachos for $16. A half serving ran at $10.

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It could have, and was more, dependant on the add on’s. We skipped adding pulled pork and chicken for $4, and instead paid $3 for a side of guacamole. Although, the guacamole hardly seemed worth $3, when made to share a vessel along side cramped sour cream and salsa. The nachos themselves were a bit more tropical with the use of pineapples alongside jalapeño, black beans, corn, and peppers. It was a healthy mound of toasted chips and melted cheese. We were happy to discover that they were layered, with additional toppings at its centre.

 

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.
This is such a fun place to eat and drink at. I definitely advise leaving the car at home to enjoy this one to its fullest. Okay food, but enough drinks make good great. And best of all if you bring a group of rowdy friends, not only are you in great company, complimentary to the overall vibe of the place, but it also makes what you get for what you pay, good value. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SHAMEFUL TIKI
4362 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P9
604-999-5684
shamefultikiroom.com
The Shameful Tiki Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Portland Craft

 

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Originally I was suppose to be in Portland for a two day trip, but because of the current poor exchange rate we decided it best to cancel and stay in Canada. So today, this was as close as I was going to get to Portland.

It’s hard to find a place that can accommodate 13 people, all in one table. That was my requirement. I didn’t want our party split up between two tables deciding who would be part of table A and who would have to be table B. “Portland Craft” was able to meet those needs on one of their long cafeteria style share tables.

There was a second floor for additional seating. But we were kept on the first in the centre of the room. One of the several lengthy tables that stretched the expanse of the first floor. Set high with waxed wood, partnered with dark, low back high chairs.

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My seat gave me a perfect view of their multi tap bar, something you would expect given the “craft” in their name and the “Portland” in their title. A row of taps under an in depth list detailing what each was. We had to take advantage of this selection and asked if they did flights. It wasn’t listed but they were happy to comply, allowing us to choose four brews from 1 to 16 on their chalkboard list. The beers were good in these little glasses, but it wasn’t an actual flight without a paddle for the glasses to sit on.

With our group of 13 we were able to put a dent in their menu. Majority of it was small plates, best shared between a group. It was all decent for a bar menu, I was just disappointed in the portion sizes for the prices asked.

A few of us thought about getting their “put a bird on it entree” which was essentially chicken and waffles. Though declined once we found out that it wouldn’t be served with a waffle, but instead fries. It just wouldn’t be the same. They also didn’t have the “old bay spiced popcorn”, which didn’t seem very hard to prepare. Or the “butter lettuce salad”. As a result one of my guests settled for her fourth choice, the unsatisfying salad below.

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The “Beet salad” was beautiful with colour. Roasted red and golden beets, heirloom carrots, whipped chevre, Belgian endive, mache, and a hazelnut crumb. But this was more a side salad than a full plate.

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“Duo of dips” with smoked paprika and roasted garlic aioli. I would have liked more bread and larger pieces of vegetable to fully enjoy the smear of dips.

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Pizza came in either meat or vegetarian, this is the latter. We expected more in terms of presentation. The shape and its uneven and partially burnt curst, had it looking very amateurish. For taste it was just so, nothing memorable.

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The “Organic chicken wings” came with your choice of flavouring. Our table choose the root beer glaze over bbq, hot, or salt and pepper. It was certainly creative, but nothing need trying again. I prefer my wings savoury. It was sweet and sticky like root beer, and you almost got the fizz in the textured breading of the wing.

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The “gravlax” was essentially a smoke salmon charcuterie plate. Vodka cured salmon, sunchoke chips, pickled fennel, shaved asparagus, and a grainy IPA Dijon. Each element was good on its own, disappointing all together. It was a sparse showing and lacked cohesion in a bread or cracker.

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The “Tuna sliders” came with albacore tuna grilled rare, edamame puree, and kohlrabi slaw. Finished with a pea shoot salad in mizuna and sesame. The bun was buttery and moist compared to the dry and chalky tuna. The pea shoots would have been nicer in the slider. And I could have used some tartar or cream to finish it all off.

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The “Pork belly” entree was braised pork belly, fried brussels sprouts, maple sherry glaze, and crispy leeks. It was an impressive looking dish. Though fatty pork meats soggy Brussel sprouts, is an acquired texture.

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“Braised beef” with cheddar and jalapeno grits, grilled asparagus, and jus.

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A side of “sherry and chilli fried Brussels sprouts”. This was amazing, one taste and you wanted a whole bowl for yourself.

We planned for this evening to be a surprise party and they were more than willing to accommodate us. They took the birthday cake, hid it, took it out when we requested, and supplied us with a knife and plates to dole out slices. Our server was accommodating to the point where she enlisted my help in placing and lighting the candles on the cake. She even suggested that I be the one to bring it out, as a posed to her “taking the spotlight”. Then she followed her over-the-top-service by leaning over another table to snap us the perfect group shot. All the while she would make jokes and explain herself for my understanding. She really made all the difference.

 

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 wasn’t overly impressed with the food, but would definitely come and again and recommend them as a great place to catch up with friends over a pint of two. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PORTLAND CRAFT
3835 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-569-2494
portlandcraft.com
Portland Craft Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Golden Harvest Seafood Restaurant

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I was looking for an easy to drive and transit to dim sum place, so googled “dim sum on Main Street”. This is one of the first yields with the most “yelp” stars by its name. That was reason enough to make this our Sunday destination. After all, I figured it would be all the same food wise, as I often find most Chinese restaurants to be.

When making the reservation I was greeted over the phone in Chinese, but the host was able to switch to English as soon as I engaged her that way. She was very pleasant and patient. I must have gotten her and them during a slower time, for her to not rush this part of the process along. But little did I know, this would be their standard of service. A refreshing improvement from other Chinese restaurants that only care about speed as apposed to customer experience.

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Located in a little plaza of sorts it was easy to miss, but convenient with the four stall parking lot and many more curb side. LThe entrance was set with an archway. A wooden bridge of shelf space and boxed compartments, embellished with Chinese characters and patterns. Within each compartment lived traditional Chinese figurines in gold and jade and decorative vases in red. It was very authentic, and a nice threshold to walk through.

Similarly, the bar and the walls were decorated by Chinese charms with tassels and prosperous sayings scripted on red paper with gold trim. The traditional well wish of double happiness was also represented as a wall feature.

Each table was sat with chairs cloaked in gold covers, held together at the back by Chinese frogs. “Frogs” here is used to describe an ornamental braiding for fastening, it consists of a button and a loop through which it passes. It was an easy way to match all the tables to chairs, and to hide any of the latter’s blemishes and scuffs from scrutinizing eyes. A fact we were made aware of when we visited the washroom and saw spare chairs at rest within. They were all broken with their frames held together by duct or electrical tape. It didn’t feel all that hygienic having them in the actual stalls, facing the bowl. But at least the golden yellow covers added a layer of sanitation, if these chairs were to be used in the dining room.

This was a sad discovery, as I liked the restaurant thus far and have already applauded them for their decor. For the most part things seemed well organized and well kept at front of house. It was not until I visited the ladies room and walked back from it did my opinion on the matter change. First, the washrooms that doubled as junk storage; and second the seafood tanks darkened with mould, hidden behind a makeshift wall. Luckily my meal was at its end and my appetite had been long satisfied.

The service at least made up for someone of this. The smaller space allowed for more attentive care from the five staff members that patrolled the room. One manager in particular was friendly. He was prompt in taking care of our needs and even took the time to reassure us that we would get more room at our table, once the group behind us left. We didn’t understand him all the time with the language barrier, but that didn’t stop him from engaging us.

This would be our group of six’s first time having dim sum together. It was exciting to have this large of a group with this many appetites. Also, this is my only group of friends that all eat meat and seafood, and do so without any dietary restrictions. I would get to review a good amount of the menu today.

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Both the dim sum and lunch menu was a check list on carbon paper. The former was priced by size of dish, the later was specific prices for each entree portion. We checked off what we wanted. Our rules were you get what you want and eat all you can, cause our group of five would be splitting the bill exactly five ways. When submitted, the top sheet of our menu went to the kitchen, the bottom stayed at our table to be checked off as they were delivered.

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As is custom, many of the items were cut down to shareable portions, using household scissors. Although each time the option was available, it was offered as a question, “cut?” Not just trusted upon us. Similarly our tea pot and cold water pitcher were offered to be refilled, instead of a swift grab and a silent delivery. Also, any request for hot sauce or additional chopsticks were met in a very timely manner. At this rate I could see how they earned their “yelp” rating.

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In the order of which they came. “Deep fried garlic prawn spring rolls”. These rolls came piping hot in the middle. Their crispy wrapper hid a meatball-like jumble of prawn parts. It’s name promised garlic, but the filling was bland, even with vinegar sauce brought over for dipping.

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“Steamed rice flour rolls with beef”. I typically get the shrimp or BBQ pork version, that’s why it’s great dining in a large group and letting others order. I got to try what I normally don’t get. It was nice to have a different flavour tucked beneath the gummy rice flour sheets. We were asked if we wanted the sauce poured right over the lot, having the option presented to us was nice; but the sauce is what makes the dish, so the obvious answer is, “yes”.

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Similarly, the thick garlic sauce was required to finish off the “Pan fried stuffed eggplant with shrimp purée”. These were large slices of eggplant stuffed with an over flowing mound of shrimp meatloaf. This too was snipped in two for easy sharing and eating. The eggplant was well cooked, it’s flesh was tender without being fibrous.

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We all agreed to the “ha gao” and “shiu mai”, getting two orders of each. Both tasted exactly as we expected these classics to. “Steamed crystal prawn dumplings”. A chewy flour based wrapper with the same packed tight meatball-like shrimp within.

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“Steamed shiu mai dumplings with fish roe”. They came steaming hot through and through, with chewy and flavourful pork meat.

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“Steamed barbecue pork buns”. I like steamed buns, but not the mini dim sum versions. I find the texture of these white buns gritty and just too filling for dim sum. Overall I prefer these as a snack or course on its own.

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“Stewed beef tendon and beef tripes”. This is definitely one for those who grew up with its acquired taste. Ironically, not everyone can stomach eating stomach. The texture is what most can’t get past. But what you expect would be an aggressive chew is actually an easy to break down series of rubbery bites.

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“Shanghai dumplings”. Those trying this for the first time were scared to have their mouths and tongue burnt by hot soup. As a result there was a wait to eat these. You can’t just take a nibble, but have to take the whole thing in one bite. A pierce in its chewy skin unleashes a flood of soup and pork meat into your mouth.

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“Pan fried radish cake in xo sauce”. Savoury bites of cake with crisp edges, finished with a side of crisp bean sprouts.

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“Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf”. Well bundled, but unimpressive under the two layers of leaves it was steamed in. I appreciated the inclusion of an egg yolk, but found the meat and filling bland even with it. It helped eating tripe with it and using the rice dish as more of a base.

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“Mini octopus in curry sauce”. A night market classic brought to dim sum in a coating of neon yellow, sweet curry sauce.

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“Rice flour wrap with Chinese donut”. Like the other rice roll above, but more crispy with the fried doughnut middle; and sweeter with the peanut and hoisin sauce mix that accompanied it.

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For dessert we stuck with the classics. “Baked fresh milk with egg custard tarts”. Best warm, the pastry was flakey and the custard was like a cross between jello and pudding. Each tasted authentic; not watered down, but made made using real butter and custard from scratch.

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“Mango pudding”. Before confirming my order I asked if it would be served with milk, because mango pudding is only good with some evaporated milk. This is to give the more jello than pudding, some much needed moisture. The server I spoke to couldn’t confirm, but we ordered them none the less, and were happy with the result.

 

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.
I enjoyed the smaller, more intimate setting and the fact that there are no guests waiting and no pushing or shoving needed, even on a Sunday for brunch. We wouldn’t have needed our reservation. The food was also good, though at the same time I felt it was pretty standard when compared to other Chinese dim sum places. However it was ending our visit with a trip to the washroom that would have me not returning. I was once told by a chef friend that you can judge a restaurant by its bathroom. If they don’t put any time or effort into their washrooms, a room you do see; imagine what their kitchen looks like, as a place hidden from general view. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GOLDEN HARVEST
4818 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3R8
604-321-4448
Golden Harvest Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Helen’s Grill & Restaurant

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This is the definition of a greasy spoon: a quiet diner with a causal setting and friendly staff.

 

Located on the corner of Main and King Ed, “Helen’s Grill” is easy to spot, and the only one of its kind in the area. On their building sign they advertised their all day breakfast, char-broiled steak; and Greek classics like souvlaki, pita, and pasta. Other than that, the exterior wasn’t much to look at, with its dingy rocks and graffiti sprayed stains.

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Walking in, it felt like you entered the late 80’s. With black and red checkered floors, vintage Art Deco lamp covers in amber, rounded leather booths, and a cafe counter to dine off of. Each booth even had its own mini jukebox that controlled what music that restaurant listened to. A scrolling list of classic rock and pop from the era of teased hair and neon. Though I wasn’t sure if it actually worked, or if the fixture was more for show. Though I can’t imagine may folks willing to pay the quarter to list to “la bamba” by Ritchie Valens, in order to find out. For the record I did know this song. Instead you can listen to the soft rock playing from the boom box in the kitchen, the rips of orders taken off a notepad, the clacking of freshly washed dishes being stacked, and the friendly batter between patrons and employees.

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Coming in just for breakfast, we were content with looking no further than the first page of the menu. It greeted us with a “good morning”. Just reading its description, they were right in calling this the “Giant breakfast”. The platter comes with your choice of six sausage segment, six strips of bacon, or two pieces of ham. We asked and got half and half sausage and bacon. (I have never taken to eating ham just as a cut like that, for breakfast like this.) The order also comes with three eggs made your way, hash browned potatoes, and two pieces of toast. Truthfully I could have, and should have had one of these all on my own. Sharing only had us half full and wanting more.

The service is often the best part of places like these. Our particular server was a little older, and as such she spoke with mom-like care. I asked for jam with my breakfast and she reassured me with an “of course”, followed by an almost instinctive suggestion of some peanut butter. She finished with an approving chuckle when my face lit up and she knew she had been right. Truly this moment had all the makings of what you craved for as a child. A warming home cooked breakfast served in a loving environment.

 

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.
Good, however I cannot see myself returning for anything more than this. There are other places I would go to first for steak, and better places for authentic Greek. But for a classic breakfast service as you expected it, they are the bee’s knees. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HELEN’S GRILL
4102 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P6
604-874-4413
helensgrill.ca
Helen's Grill & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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