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Category: Mount Pleasant Page 1 of 10

Billy Button, revisit

Looking for desserts in the area, we found ourselves at “Billy Button” for some of their most photogenic treats. Our group of 5 foodies came in, just in time for last call. We decided to make it worth the while of the cafe, by ordering one of each of their remaining desserts. Whatever was available 45 minutes to closing.

We almost missed our destination, but having been once before I knew to look for a nondescript entrance, beside the tanning salon. From exterior to interior, the restaurant is themed in black. Black walls, black matte menus, and dim lights barely illuminating the darkness. It gave the restaurant a very calm energy, and a romantic feel for an after dinner destination. And by contrast, all the colourful plates they served really stood out.

You are seated up front and a sever takes your order, this is despite the showcase of goodies at the back. It features specials of the day, that aren’t on the regular menu. So it is best to take a gander before committing to your choices. And as I mentioned, we got one of each of these.

I was the most enamoured with the “Orange”. An accurately decorated, white chocolate shell hides a filling of whipped white chocolate ganache, and a core of marmalade gel. It was so realistic looking with all its dents and dimples, and is even finished off with a real leaf, that crowns it. Like all their other desserts, this one wasn’t very sweet. It reminded me of an orange creamcicle, but much more mild in fruit flavour and sugar content. Great with tea, and for those who don’t like most desserts.

By comparison the “strawberry” disappointed in its presentation. This too played homage to its namesake fruit. Made with a similar white chocolate shell and ganache, but filled with a house made sorbet jam at its centre, instead. The strawberry lacked details and without its trademark black seeds, it looked more like a glossy beet. They tried to add some authenticity to it by using an actual strawberry stem, but it was disproportionately small, and only made the cake look cartoonish. Given its vibrancy, I expected it sweeter and with more character. Instead, it was bland for a dessert. And the jam centre nice, a familiar flavour, commonly found as spread with scones and cream, at high tea.

The “Blueberry tart” would be my favourite of the three, from the showcase. This tasted more like a proper dessert in its richness and sugar. Blueberry jam and pasty cream, all on a bed of almond sponge cake. Fresh and vibrant with the ripe fruit, I just wanted the crust a little more buttery and a lot more firm. Both to better contrast the silken cream and glazed fruit.

From off the regular menu we had the following. The “Matcha green tea tart” was matcha on matcha, with a side of matcha. And surprisingly none of it was overwhelming, only all together was it slightly bitter. An airy matcha soufflé sitting atop of a butter-based crust. Served with a side matcha ice cream, a tuff of matcha sponge cake, and a shard of meringue. The cake was warming and rich, similar to a lava cake in the way it oozed, when you cut into it. Ideal for matcha lovers who complain that they don’t get enough matcha flavour.

The “Salted caramel brioche” was the most dessert-like with its salted caramel sauce, brown sugar crumble, vanilla chanillty cream, and dark chocolate. It was fluffy and satisfying. The burnt caramel flavour was amazing, although it did overpower the brioche. But aside from its presentation, this would be a premade muffin or loaf, that you would expect to find at the counter of your local coffee shoppe.

The following three desserts, I have had before, during my first visit. And it was exactly as I remembered it. Stunningly beautiful, and subtle in flavour. Great for those who don’t like too much sweetness, but lacking for those that do.

The name, “The garden” spoke to the freshness of cucumber featured, and the farm to table quality it gave the plate. Cucumber, yogurt mousse, yuzu cremeux, raspberry powder, and house made crostini. The cucumber had a savoury nuance to it. It reminded me of a finger sandwich, but tzaziki to my table mates. It would have been nice to have the fruit flavours more produced, to better balance out the above.

The “Osmanthus udon” is fragile strands of “udon” noodles. It is shaped from osmanthus panna cotta, and topped in a berry sauce, and crumble. It has a fun texture, but is easy to break. I wanted more flavour from the “noodles”, but it just didn’t absorb enough of the berry soup it pooled in. It would have also been nice to have more crunch in the mix.

“The autumn” is a red wine poached pear on an chocolate cake, sitting in a red wine sauce, with shards of sugar and sticks of chocolate. You finish off the dessert with a little jug of cream that you pour over it. The chocolate doesn’t over power the fruit, and everything melds together well in one bite. It is heavier than it looks with it being wine forward. This would be my least favourite overall, but for taste it would be “the garden” and the “udon”.

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.
Upon my second taste, I conclude that I like their desserts far more for their visuals, then to actually eat any of it. I don’t have a sweet tooth but found that it wasn’t even sweet enough for me. It felt like appetizers, warm up plates building up to the decadent finish that never came. Best shared with bites from each, not something I would like from start to finish, all to myself. Don’t deny your cravings.

BILLY BUTTON
44 E Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1V9
604-423-3344
billybuttondessertbar.com

Mangia Cucina & Bar

Our regular food blogger meet-up brought us to “Mangia”, which came highly recommended by David of @pickydiner fame. He had recently met the owner at an event, and found himself impressed with his pedigree from Sicily. So we assembled for what we hoped would be an authentic Italian meal.

I have actually been to this refurbished house turned restaurant once before. But only briefly, as part of a Vancouver Foodster tasting tour. I was impressed enough to want to come back, and today was as good of a day as any. Especially with 4 other food enthusiasts in tow.

You walk up the front steps and enter through the door on the porch. Inside, the restaurant is warm literally and figuratively. The bar faces the entrance, and the dining area follows it, wrapping around the corner. Brick walls painted white, framed family photos, and as many narrow tables as the single floor allowed.

Our boisterous group (mostly because of me) were seated intimately at the very back. Where, our night began with a welcome glass of bubbles, which myself and David followed with two more cocktails.

 

The “Sicilian mocha” was a lovely spiked coffee, which would have also served as a nice aperitif. Vodka, averna, espresso, and chocolate. Light on the coffee, for those who like the flavour, but not its bitterness or caffeine.

The “Gin botanico” in contrast was a delicate cocktail with lemon and floral notes. A mix of pomegranate tea infused gin, tonic, and spices.

As for food, we ran through the menu as a group, ordering an item from each of the categories. Antipasti, L’Insalata, La Pasta, Il Risotto, and La Pizza.

Today’s starter special was a burrata salad made with arugula, prosciutto, Parmesan crusted croutons, and a whole round of burrata cheese; all drizzled in vinaigrette of aged balsamic reduction. This was a fresh start, simple and clean with the salty meat, creamy cheese, and crunchy croutons. It was exactly as expected.

The “Carpaccio di polpo” was declared as a “must try” on the menu. This was thinly sliced, slow cooked octopus, with salad leaves and an lemon oil vinaigrette. It ate more like a salad with the oiled up greens, fresh tomatoes, and briny olives. The highlight was the baby octopus, deep fried as a whole. I would have liked more of it with the salad, instead of the carpaccio. Nothing was wrong with it, it was just not memorable, nor did I get much octopus flavour from it.

Seeing it arrived at the table next to ours, we too wanted and ordered the “Arancina bomba”. A giant, twice cooked saffron risotto ball filled with mozzarella and topped with a pistachio pesto. This was quite the presentation. Easy to cut into and divide between 5. But the centre was mushy from the melted cheese, whereas you wanted a more firm risotto to parallel with its crispy shell. Texture aside, it served as a decent base, I just wanted something meatier and heartier to enjoy with it.

It is advised that you eat the “Spaghetti carbonara” right away; less it congeals and you lose the firmness of the noodle and the creaminess of its sauce. Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and locally cured guanciale in egg. Tasty, but I just wanted more of the pork meat for taste and salt.

The “Frutti di mare” delivered a bounty of seafood. Arborio rice with clams, mussels, prawns, and squid; cooked in white wine and a fish stock reduction. It is very fishy thanks to the stock, where as I would have liked it more garlicky. A milder risotto flavour, to be able to make out the individual mollusks.

The “Diavola” was a tomato sauce base pizza, topped with mozzarella, spicy Italian salami, and black olives. It was a decent pie, but not outstanding. The dough was moist, whereas I expected more crispiness from a thin crust, along with some blistering. It was also a little too salty for my taste, thanks to the cured meat and briny olives. I could have drizzled on some olive oil to help neutralize, but found it already plenty oily with pools of it on the pizza’s surface.

For dessert, we shared one of each of the options, minus the scoop of gelato available. Their “Tiramisu” was a single serving round, made more fun with a shot of amaretto on the side. You could drink it as is, but the intention is to pour it over the cake. The cake soaked it up like a sponge, and what was left over you could lap up like sauce. The 2oz gave the dessert a kick, but increased the dessert’s naturally soggy texture. The rest was traditionally done with mascarpone cheese, espresso, ladyfingers, and cocoa.

I am not a fan of soggy textures, so preferred the “Sicilian cannolo al pistachio” for its crunch instead. A house made pastry shell filled with sweet ricotta mousse, then topped with pistachio cream and a pistachio crumble. It tasted fresh made, and wasn’t too sweet. This would have been great with tea.

We were all in awe cutting into the “Torta di limoncello”, not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t the “Fluffy cake” the menu described, but more a firm sponge filled with limoncello cream, and covered with white chocolate and almonds. The lemon was beautifully fragranced. Tart and refreshing, this made for a great palette refresher to end our meal on.

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.
Off the beaten path, the setting and the serving of this cozy restaurant makes it a great spot for authentic Sicilian. I definitely recommend this one as a unique date spot worth checking out. Don’t deny your cravings.

MANGIA
2211 Manitoba St, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1K1
(604) 620-5445
mangiacucina.com

Rumpus Room, brunch

Today I was enjoying the warmth and coziness of Main Street’s “Rumpus Room” 2.0. The space is themed with a retro flare. 70’s inspired with psychedelic orange tone on tone wall paper, floral patterned curtains, and vintage dish ware. The “living room” scene looks cozy with a worn, chartreuse, corduroy couch and a collection of garage sale finds surrounding it. Adjacent is a well stocked board game shelf. Diners were able to linger long after their meal, engaging in a match of “Hungry hungry hippos”, or testing their dexterity with a “Jenga” tower.

The menu is a colourful, laminated sheet. Fun to look over and easy to order from. We started with a few of their fun share-friendly appetizers, before committing to one of their brunch mains each.

The “Free range chicken bites” are buttermilk marinated free range chicken, battered and fried. Available with your choice of sauce. But I highly recommend getting a sampler of each for $3 more. The chicken is crispy, more breading and skin that meat, but the reason why you order it is for the sauces anyways. A choose your own adventure between Honey mustard, Bbq, Raspberry aioli, Curry aioli, Chilli lime, and Ranch. You don’t get much sweetness or fruit with the raspberry aioli, the honey mustard was more sweet that a spicy mustard, the chilli sauce drank like a tomato juice, the barbecue sauce came with a relish-like pickle tang, and the dill was creamy with a different tang. My favourite was the curry aioli, it was the most pronounced and easiest to identify in a blind taste test.

The “Lil Cornies” are Nathan’s famous 100% beef mini corn dogs fried in corn batter. These were juicy and crispy wieners, classically served with a squeeze bottle of ketchup and mustard for easy dressing.

Similar batter was used on the “deep fried pickles”, but flavoured differently with dill salt and its own dill based creamy pickle dip. Great for pickle enthusiasts who love its sour tang, now coupled with a crispy doughy texture to chew though. They also served as a great side to our brunch mains below.

One of us got the “Rumpus Room’s” take on “Toad in the Hole”. Two slices of sourdough, grilled to a golden brown, with fried egg centres. There is also an option to make it into a grilled cheese. It is exactly as it sounds, served with your choice of sides between hash browns, fries, chilli, or side salads.

The “chicken and waffles Benny” combines two brunch time favourites into one. Two poached eggs, and a house made maple chicken sausage patty, over two mini waffles. All topped with gravy, hollandaise, sriracha, and deep fried chicken skin. It had a bevy if texture and flavours, making it great as a greasy morning, after a night of drinking breakfast platter. The chicken sausage patty was a unique twist, it offered sweetness to the Benny with plenty of maple. The crispy skin gave you the crunch you wanted from any chicken and waffle combo. And the gravy and hollandaise coexisted well, bringing a peppery quality and a creamy finish to the dish.

As a lover of peanut butter, with a preference for savoury over sweet, I had to get the “Fat Elvis” breakfast sandwich. When I read its name I wanted it, when I read its ingredients, and I wanted it more. This was Elvis’ favourite late night snack, which had him adding on the pounds (hence the name). Peanut butter, bacon, banana, and frosted flake cereal; all between toasted sourdough. Best enjoyed when the cereal flakes are still crispy, a nice contrast to the mashed banana. But it is the gooey peanut butter sauce is what ties it all together. A fun indulgence, but not one that I would crave as much as Elvis did. I would also kick it up a notch with the inclusion of yellow American cheese and bacon, for a salty and sweet pairing.

With it, i had the vegetable chilli as my side. The two did no go well together, but I wanted to try the chilli. It was fairly runny, and drank more like a soup than the stew I expected. I did like the flavour the cream brought to the well seasoned side.

But the side I liked best was the vegan slaw with kale, cabbage, and pumpkin seeds. It was crispy, refreshing, and only slightly bitter. A great bite to have in between everything else that was a lot heavier.

Similarly, I really enjoyed their “soda fountain cocktail” program for its palate refreshing qualities. Instead of having a regular breakfast orange juice, this one was Galliano & Jones orange cream soda with vodka, two scoops of ice cream, and a vodka soaked gummy bear for added booziness. Having it is like drinking your dessert.

They also have more traditional brunch cocktails like mimosas as well. Orange juice and sparkling wine is a good time.

And save room for dessert, because they have mini doughnuts taken to the next level with frosting, sprinkles and gummies. I appreciated the effort it took to dress each one differently.

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.
A fun setting with great staff and energy. Serving up unique comfort creations and good times. I highly recommend them for a more memorable brunch experience. Don’t deny your cravings.

RUMPUS ROOM
2301, Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E7
604-708-0881
rumpusroom.ca

Saku Broadway

Today we were at “Saku”, my girl friend has been wanting to check out their Japanese pork cutlets for a while now, as they are the only place in Vancouver that specializes in them. The Robson location also serves ramen, but today we were at their newest shop on Broadway.

Luckily she came early enough to beat the dinner time crowd, and the need to write your name on a wait list. The restaurant is pretty simple, high stools along a curved bar, more by the window out front. Tables against a booth and a couple of round surfaces for larger parties. All in all pretty minimalistic. We got one of the two tops available. Each table is set with a tray of condiments. Before we ate, our server asked if we have dined with them before. Given that the answer was “no”, she walked us through each one of the sauces. The sesame dressing is for the salad, the seeds for any thing you like, the tonkatsu sauce is in addition to what you are given with your entree, and lemon salt to use as a tangy seasoning.

Their menu is a beautiful representation of their food. The first page greets you with the sourcing of their ingredients. Pork bred to Japanese specs, raised here in Canada. The finest cuts with the perfect amount of marbling and fat. Their panko is Japanese style bread crumb, baked fresh every morning. It is prepared by a local bakery, from a specialized recipe, that ensures the panko doesn’t absorb too much oil. (I can certainly vouch for this to be true). And their tonkatsu sauce is made using fresh fruits and vegetables with the addition of premium white sesame to enhance it.

The rest of the menu is categorized by type of protein: pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetables, each getting a coating of panko. They also had a specials list. I was interested in the potato croquettes on it, but by 6:30pm they had already run out for the day.

Instead I had the “Ebi hotate curry”. Deep fried and breaded jumbo size prawns and scallops, served with their signature curry. I was amazed by how large the pieces of seafood were. With two of each, there were more of them than rice or curry. Here, I am not complaining, just noting the rarity of such a thing. This was plenty of food, including 4 sides. Well worth the $19 cost, given how tasty it all was. Certainly one of the crispiest panko breaded items I have ever enjoyed, and all without the grease. You were still able to taste the natural flavours of the seafood. The curry was scrumptious, rich and savoury ending in some sweetness. Served in a gravy boat for you to dip into or pour over your rice, as you like.

As for the sides, the miso soup was given a unique twist with the inclusion of boiled onions to chew through. It offered a French onion soup quality to it, and the onions ate like strands of cooked melon.

I was surprised by how much I liked the salad. It is a bottomless serving. Servers roamed between the tables, offering up an additional tong-fulls of shredded lettuce from their giant metal bowls. But it was the sesame sauce that made me go back for more. It had a great flavour, furthered by a couple of shakes from the sesame grinder.

And lastly, the small dish of rainbow pickles offered a change in taste through a variety of tastes and varying tartness. Altogether a great meal, I just wish they had tea to pair with it instead of soda or juice (which they too ran out of by 6:30pm). Or some dessert to end on.

My guest got their “Cheese katsu”. It is deep fried, breaded mozzarella wrapped with thinly sliced pork loin. You get more cheese than any of the pork flavour. Like my entree above, she too got pickles, rice, miso, and salad. But to it added a side of seasonal vegetables.

Three pieces of deep fried and breaded seasonable vegetable for $3.50, which turned out to be 2 slices of yam and one of pumpkin. Much like tempura but extra crispy-crunchy.

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.
If frying things can taste healthy, this is it. And if you are craving authentic Japanese style tonkatsu, it is here. Don’t deny your cravings.

SAKU BROADWAY
548 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1E9
(778) 379-5872
sakuvancouver.com

Buns + Boba

I have often passed by this cafe for my daily commute, and today I finally had the time and stomach space to check it out.

With the cafe’s spacious seating area and natural lighting, they make for a great place to meet up with a friend or to sneak a quiet moment for yourself. You order at the counter, situated at in the centre of the room, across from it, a collection of kitchen goods for purchase. Swedish dish cloths, salt bowls, and patterned spatulas.

Up front are shared tables and individual surfaces, at the very back is a living room setting with couches and a book shelf. Plenty of comfy corners meant to entice guests to linger.

Given the name of the place I made sure to try one of their buns with boba. Boba in their house “B&B milk tea”. The bubble tea was pretty standard, made with powder, it had plenty of caffeine for a decent pick me up. With it, I was able to grab the last of their pearls for the day. Half an order, which I offset with half an order of coconut jelly in this “large” cup.

Now the bun were something special. The taste of the dough and the flavours offered weren’t new, but how the dough was shaped was. The braiding allowed you to peal off bites in strips, with crispy pieces and spongy sections interwoven like art. Visible behind glass, you can order each bun based on it colour. Red for the tomato sauce and herb bun, yellow for the cheese and scallions bun, white on the coconut and honey drizzled bun, dark brown for cardamom, and light brown for cinnamon and sugar.

I ordered the last matcha based on its popularity, and was not disappointed. And because of it, I would like to try a few of their other buns, or maybe one of their made to order sandwiches and/or savoury toasts.

 

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 a destination, but a great place to stop for a snack if you are walking past. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BUNS + BOBA
327 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1W5
604-879-2770
bunsandboba.com

Key Party Speakeasy

Today I was invited to “Key Party” to check out some of their creative cocktails and snacks. A hidden speakeasy brought to you by one of “Western Living’s top 19 “Foodies of the year”.

They are best known as the bar with a hidden facade. What looks like the exterior of an accounting firm with the proper name and hours of operation posted, is a front for this hidden speakeasy. You pass through the 80’s furnished space that includes a two hole punch, filing cabinets, turn dial phone, fax machine, and even a “hang in there” kitty poster. Everything is bolted down, but that didn’t stop me from playing with the props. Past the second door is the actual bar. Bathed in darkness it had a spooky vibe with burgundy velvet curtains and black leather booths. Eerie, black and white, optical illusion portraits draw your eyes, especially against their red red wall.

But the centre piece and conversation starter was definitely the hand painted mural behind the bar. Women laying in leisure in the clearing of a forest. Both nude, one emerging from a pond, another embracing a tiger with its tail wrapped around a bottle of whiskey. It really set the tone of opulence, along with the instrumental music playing. A soundtrack that included a classic twist to Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice”. With 20 seats available, this setting serves as a great place for intimate conversation, or smaller parties. And even better as the before or after to your dinner at the neighbouring “Rumpus Room”, which they share a washroom with.

I especially enjoyed their creative use of cupcakes, with a single candle atop, serving as additional lighting on the bar.

During my visit I would spend most of my time at the bar, taking in their mixology. Their trifold menu showcases several signature cocktails and two seasonal offerings listed with tongue and cheek names. A list of sexy puns like “Tai me up” and “safe word spritz”.

The one drink that didn’t have the sexual undertone was their “Apricot sour” with fresh in house made apricot preserve, chai spiced rye, apricot brandy, egg white, lemon, orange bitters, and cinnamon. At 2oz this was a strong drink, a sour that is actually sour, with an egg white foam that finished it sweet.

For those who like a stiffer drink the “Dirtier martini” is a winner. Gin or absolut vodka mixed with olive brine, and finished with a skewer of two blue cheese stuffed olives. The saltiness of the olives smoothed out the sharpness of the drink after it.

The “Bruised peach punch” was a favourite amongst our group, a refreshing beverage with real organic peach purée. Lot 40 whiskey, peach purée, mint, cardamom bitters, and soda.

The “Coconut grasshopper” was like a dessert. A beautiful seafoam green with coconut cream, creme de menthe, and cacao. And it’s vegan friendly too.

I was really interested in the “Mez-zpacho”. It was like a savoury spiced soup, served chilled and spiked. Altos tequila, mezcal, carrot, tomato, lime, and housemade verdita. It was best enjoyed with a lick of the crushed vegetable bouillon cube rim.

And one of the their featured seasonal cocktails was the “S&M”. Absolute vodka, Odd Society bittersweet vermouth, lime juice, strawberry, and jalapeño. Spicy and sweet for a tongue tingling sensation.

But hands down, my favourite way to enjoy drinking here is by taking down one of their Jell-O shots. The “Kir Royal Jell-O shot” is a combination of Champagne, Absolut vodka, and cassis; topped with foamy whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles. This was definitely a mouthful, fun to eat, and it tasted great.

With all this drinking, you might want to snack on something to balance it all out. Like their “Stuffed stalks”, celery stalks stuffed with cheese whiz and topped with dill, red pepper, and crispy beets. It was a nostalgic snack, but elevated for a grown up palette.

The “Chilli cheese dip” was a comforting appetizer. Crispy coloured corn chips used to scoop up the warm chilli cheese sauce. It is everything you like about stadium nachos, but actually tasty.

But the feature item on their food menu has to be the “Have s’more”. House made Grand Marnier graham crackers, marshmallow, and Nutella that you combine to make your own customized s’more sandwich. You can roast your own marshmallow with the table side campfire, because half the fun is the assembling it all.

 

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.
This is a fun place to have a drink at. Great cocktails in a unique setting, worth bringing a friend to. And best of all you can avoid the downtown traffic with accessible transit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KEY PARTY
2303 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3C9
604-708-0881
keyparty.ca

Vij’s on Cambie

In this post I was finally checking out “Vij’s” new space, since they have relocated to Cambie from their original home on South Granville. Their cozy space was now expanded across 3 floors. A visual upgrade, the glamour starts with the exterior’s rose gold and brick facade.

A full lounge greets you at the entrance. A causal scene with an eye catching ceiling. Dots of red and splashes of blue. A similar stain glass impression surrounds the room with triangular panels. Past them, a glimpse into their kitchen.

A climb up a stone staircase leads you past two private dining areas and their covered patio. The latter offers more of a bar vibe, with a communal wrap around table to share with other patrons.

As a family celebrating an occasion, we choose to have our own table in the dining area. We aimed for the corner table by the window in order to be able to better see our meal and each other. But the room was intentionally set dark for mood. Set in a golden glow with lamps that seem to drop down from the ceiling. I appreciated all the seating variety here, but preferred the intimacy that the old location offered.

Our server approached with a run down of the restaurant, and her suggestion for us to order a few dishes and share them amongst our party of four. All appetizers are accompanied by a serving of garlic naan, and all entrees come with more naan and basmati rice.

As we went through the menu a dish of complimentary snacks came to the table to wet our appetites. The potato and lentil pakoras were a table favourite. Like little nuggets of mashed potatoes hidden under a doughy shell. I liked the flavour, but wasn’t a fan of its sandy texture. Although I found the ground up lentils less sandy than the mung beans below. It is worth mentioning that I don’t like legumes and lentils for that very reason, so am biased here.

I liked the hints of sweetness in the date chutney and the crunch of the whole wheat crisp. I could have done without the grainy mung bean salad. It tasted as healthy as it looked.

We decided to pass on appetizers and share 3 mains. My brother ordered his own, not wanting anything else. So without a taste, I won’t be able to review the “Organic braised beef in cinnamon and clove curry”. Although something can be said for how quickly he consumed it. Although it is at a smaller serving size, much like all their other dishes. And at $27-32 a plate, it did feel like you weren’t getting value. Everything tasted good enough, but not necessarily $30 a plate good.

“Chicken sautéed in turmeric and ginger in za’atar spiced lentil curry.” This was another small serving entree at $30. Four and a half smaller chunks of chicken, equivalent the amount of meat on a chicken leg. It ate more like a stew in need of rice and or the topping to a casserole. Tender chicken with more grainy lentils. A dish with a slow burn that we didn’t mind. After expressing our concern over the potential spiciness of the dish, our server offered raita, a yogurt based drink that helps cools things off if it gets too hot.

From some vegetables we ordered the “Assorted mushroom, squash and chickpeas in kalanji- fennel and sour cream cream”. It was spicer that the chicken above, with the tanginess of the sour cream coming through. There were very little mushroom to this, in fact I only tasted and identified enoki. The rest was cauliflower, green breads, and the occasional chickpea. This would have been better served as a side to some protein, instead of the main at $28.

We originally ordered the “lamb and spinach in cumin and lemon-tahini curry”, but edited it when our server not so subtly asked if we wanted that instead of the lamb lollipops. We took the hint and I commented on how sly that was. Good thing to as this was pretty much the only dish I liked and would order again. There was still spinach, cumin, and lemon-tahini curry; but instead of regular stewed lamb we upgraded to their lollipops. Both were tasty separately, but together, there wasn’t enough lamb to enjoy with all the curry. Luckily, here the rice and naan came in handy to further the dish. But for $32 for the curry and extra for the lamb upgrade, you are once again paying for not enough. Not enough charred lollipops, at barely 2 meager bites per bone.

As for the accompanying carbs. My mother wasn’t a fan of the naan, wanting something lighter, more like roti. Whereas I didn’t mind the fluffy, pizza dough nature of it. Both it and the rice offered a great vessel to sop up and soak up all the sauces with. They also helped to fill you up.

 

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 am sure you are paying for the use of quality ingredients, as well the brand that Vij has built, as well as for the costs of this wonderful restaurant and its friendly staff, but at $30 plus an entree, I can venture else where for more. Or find Indian cuisine I prefer more at different Indian restaurants, without the celebrity attached. I wouldn’t mind coming back, but I don’t want to have to pay for it. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

VIJ’S
3106 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V5Z 2W2
604-736-6664
vijs.ca/vijs-restaurant

AJ’s Brooklyn Pizza Joint, #pizzachallengeyvr

This year I had the honour of being one of three judges to taste and critique pizzas, in order to find the best of the all; on behalf of Vancouver Foodster.

Nine unique pizzas, starting with “AJ’s Brooklyn Pizza Joint”. This is a true blue New York pizza place, with the owner hailing from Brooklyn. He has since planted roots in Vancouver, and has carved out this bit of his hometown on East Broadway. In these walls plastered with black and white historic photos, and hung with home team tees with matching caps; you can order slices to go, and full pies that you can customize.

We grabbed one of their cherry red booths at the front and plopped down to a couple of beers. Mine, one of their house lagers from “Parallel 49”, and my guest a “Main Street” sour IPA. They were the perfect sip to follow all our salty and greasy pizzas. Salty and greasy in only the best of ways.

Today we would be trying their “Detroit style pizza”. A first for me, and possibly a first for the city. There is no other place that I can think of that offers pizza as thick and doughy as this. It looks like a deep, deep dish; a cross between this Sicilian style crust, and Chicago with the baked and slightly burnt cheese that coats it. It comes in two flavours, split between 8 rectangular pieces topped with their house made ground tomato sauce, (a sauce that is applied after the pizza is cooked), fine sea salt, dried oregano, mozzarella cheese, white cheddar cheese, granted Pecorino Romano cheese, and garlic oil.

One was zesty, with enough pepperoni cups to cover the entire surface; the other, a take on a margherita pizza with roasted rainbow tomatoes and fresh basil. I preferred the latter for its mild flavour and the ability to make out their tasty sauce. I am not a fan of pepperoni to begin with, so to have so much here overwhelmed me. This pizza launched with the start of the friendly competition, and will be available regularly going forward. Just ask for the “Detroit Red Top” when ordering.

Not that you need any more flavour for the above, but the bottle of “Mike’s Hot Honey,” infused with chillies, at each table is well worth trying. It is sweet and spicy, paring well if our pizza above and the meat balls below. Not to mention, they would be just as good with many more food and drinks outside of this pizzeria. This Brooklyn product is available for sale here by the bottle.

We also made sure to try their meatballs. There were new to the menu and available as is or on various pizzas, along with other toppings. Seeing as we had plenty of pizza to go through, we simply had the meatballs as a trio. These were the smoothest meatballs I have ever had. They were meaty, yet fluffy and airy like cake. Such a unique texture paired with their delicious sauce. The fresh marinara is what sets their balls apart. To them we added fresh arugula and baked mozzarella for $1 and $2 more.

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link and then try all the competitors and vote for your favourite!

http://vancouverfoodster.com/pizza-challenge/

 

AJ’s BROOKLYN PIZZA JOINT
325 East Broadway​​​​​​​​​​, Vancouver BC, V5T 1W5​
604-428-5805
ajsbrooklynpizzajoint.com

Cocktail and pizza making class at Rocky Mountain Flatbread

Getting crafty, cocktail and pizza making parties where you learn to create your own seasonal cocktails and the perfect pizza pie!

“Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.” continues to give you reasons to return. More than just healthy meal solutions, they also host children’s pizza making parties. And for all those parents and caretakers that attend, but can’t fully participate, it is now your turn to be able to make your own pizza. And to celebrate this child-free activity, the night also comes with cocktails that you too can make yourself. What a great way to try something new and maybe learn something new in the process. Not to mention you get to enjoy the cocktails as you make your pizza, and then have it right out of the oven for dinner.

For $50 per person (plus taxes and gratuity) each party includes the following:

  • Party Nibbles – Locally Marinated Olives + Cheesy Flatbread & Dip.
  • Cocktail Making – Your cocktail host will guide you through how to craft 2 seasonal cocktails.
  • Pizza Making – Your pizza making host will guide you through rolling out your dough, spreading our house made organic tomato sauce, shrinking scrumptious Canadian cheeses & adding your favourite gourmet toppings.
  • To Finish – Platters of warm double chocolate brownies served with house made vanilla ice cream.

As the first run of this newly conceived event our rendition varied a little from the outline above.

Our party gathered at the Main Street location, spread across a long table. Here, we enjoyed a couple of appetizers to get our appetite going, and to give the stragglers time to arrive.

When fully assembled our gathering of 8 was split into two groups and our night began with the cocktail making portion. We tried our hand at two of their signature sips, getting a step by step lesson from one their restaurant’s bartenders. Most of us, like myself, unfamiliar with proper tools and technique, got the benefit of a crash course.

I liked the “Earl grey gin” cocktail the most with the use of their own house made tea mixture. It was like a ice tea, but spiked. Refreshing and easy to drink, and great with most plates.

The “Triple berry mojito” was muddled mint, black berries purée and rum. Another refreshing cocktail that paired well with all the fresh ingredients of our pizzas to come.

And as we double fisted our tasty cocktails creations we began the pizza making portion of our night. Everyone got their own round of dough to flatten and roll out over flour with a rolling pin. Majority of us formed traditional 10 inch flat circles; whereas I got a little creative, shaping my flat bread pizza into a heart.

From here our pizza making coach came around with sauce and topping options. We were advised to not go over four toppings or else we wouldn’t be able to taste the crust past the layers. Here, I would have loved to have all the ingredient options before me, to pick and choose what I wanted as a pleased. This, instead of having my options come around and what I wanted rationed out by the handful.

First, comes the sauce, our choice was between pesto or tomato. We were given the option to do both, and majority of us took the opportunity to do half-half.

Next came the first layer of cheese, a handful each to spread evenly over our pizza in the making.

Next came the cooked meat toppings like chicken, ham, bacon, pepperoni, and sausage; to name a few.

After, fruit and vegetable options like mushrooms, onion (sautéed and raw), grilled tomatoes, red peppers, mango, olive/, spinach and kale; to name a few.

Then a second round of cheeses of the soft variety.

A few of us did go over the four ingredient maximum, but every flat bread pizza turned out just as delicious as the next. Especially as each diner made theirs to their preference and if they didn’t like the combinations, they only had themselves to blame.

Then off into their specialty oven they go. This part is with help from the “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.” staff.

And as we waited for our dinner to bake up, we made a mocktail featuring ginger beer, which also served as a great aperitif.

Each pizza was then plated, sliced, and placed before the diner. As a finishing touch you had the opportunity to topped your oven baked pizza with some dry cheeses like goat and Parmesan, and leafy greens like arugula and basil.

Then we ate and continued to drink, enjoying the meal before us and the experience behind us. But our pizza and cocktail making class did not end until dessert was served. Their popular double chocolate brownie with house made vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to cap off the night.

What a fun new way to enjoy an interactive dinner. Where else can eat the spoils of your learned knowledge? Adult pizza parties with cocktail component only at “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.”.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLATBREAD CO.
4186 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P7
604-566-9779
rockymountainflatbread.ca

Sing Sing Beer Bar

Looking for an easy dinner on Main Street we found ourselves drawn in by the bright lights letting us know we could “drink beer here”. Their front window is as direct: the restaurant’s name on a neon beer bottle label, hovering over a sea of crushed up beer cans. And their sandwich board chimes in letting you know that you can also enjoy pho and pizza within.

The restaurant is brand new, crisp with new floor boards and tables that match in light birch, spacious with vaulted ceilings showcasing exposed wood beams. The room is set up like a beer hall with cafeteria tables, bar tops, and televised sporting matches. Although with the noise level you really can’t enjoy the latter. This is one of those places where you need to read lips to understand, and yell to talk. Plus you have to be in the bar area to get a decent view of any screen. Beer cans line the top of the actual bar. While you wait for a table, you can order here from all the options listed on papers, held in place with magnets, on back lit panels.

Seating is first come first serve, although there is a hostess by the door to greet you. She suggested grabbing a beer by the bar first and standing with it until a table cleared. Once you see a party start to leave and you dash over to claim their seat for yourself. I don’t like this style of self seating, because you end up hovering and rushing the party out before they are ready. Then you sit before the table has been cleaned.

Our meal began with us pushing left over food particles to the side with a folded menu. And there it sat until eventually, a waitress came by and pushed the rest of it on to the floor with a dirty rag. However, most of it landed on the bench next to my guest and the clothing she had over it. There aren’t any hooks for bags or jackets and it is either sit on it, have it over you, or beside you.

We were able to grab the corner of one of the large share tables and were given enough breathing room to sit and enjoy our meal without being shoulder to shoulder with the patrons next to us.

To start I ordered their signature cocktail, which is basically a spiked Vietnamese coffee. The “Sing sing ca phe” is available hot or chilled, I went with the former given the weather this evening. Bows and arrows coffee, suntory toki Japanese whiskey, sweetened condensed milk, fee brothers black walnut bitters, and cocoa nib syrup. It was as strong as I expected, but I would have liked it with more condense milk and for some of that listed chocolate flavouring to come through.

For food we tried both their pho and their pizza. The “Pho ga sing sing” smells like pho, but isn’t like any rice noodle dish with hot broth that I have ever had, and given the ingredient list it is probably the same for you too. Roast chicken, basil, sprouts, and quail eggs. The flavour went together, yet contradicted. The broth was light, yet heavy with an almost sour and tangy taste. It finished clean, yet was rich. It was a little too salty, but also packed full of varying flavours. But all together it was almost flat on its own, it need something else in between bites, another element, maybe more chicken slices and/or quail eggs to change the flavour and keep your interest. Even the traditional squeeze bottle of brown sauce would have helped. Overall this was was different and I enjoyed it, but it doesn’t need repeating. However, I would like quail eggs in any of my noodle soups in the future.

For pizza we went with the “Carne piccante” with brisket, bacon, and pepperoni. It is as cheesy as it smelled. Plenty of Parmesan to pair with the loaded sesame seed crust. The crust was a nice nod to their Vietnamese theme, paired with the meaty brisket chunks seasoned fully in familiar Vietnamese flavours. I know don’t if I like the price given how little pizza we got, but it at least tasted elevated. Meaty with a crunchy crust. Although at the end of the day, pizza for me is best chewy and doughy with more for less.

As for the service, we saw a rotation of servers walk by us, but we didn’t get the full service that you would from a restaurant that you didn’t have to seat yourself. Our server didn’t bring us water, nor did she offer any, and it was too hard to track someone down to ask for some in the end. Especially with a loud dining area, packed tight tables with narrow pathways in between each, and the set up of communal cutlery and menus that live on the table as permanent fixtures.

 

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.
This place is different. Vietnamese restaurant, Beer hall, and pizza parlour all rolled into one. Giving diners who love all three the ability to have all three at once. They also serve as a safe space for those unfamiliar with Vietnamese flavours and pho; giving them the ability to taste and try, with plenty of beer to wash anything they don’t like down. A cool place to visit with a large group, but not advised for date night or a catch up session if you are planning to talk to one another. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SING SING
2718 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E8
604-336-9556
singsingbeerbar.com

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