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Category: Mount Pleasant Page 1 of 10

Mr. Japanese Curry

Ever since I had my first taste of curry in Japan, I have been obsessed. The mix of sweet and creamy with a little heat, is unlike any other of its kind. So when I learned of a new little spot in Vancouver offering Japanese curry, I wanted to not only try their offerings, but support this new restaurant venture as well. A restaurant trying to make a name for themselves in this unprecedented time. Opening just before the onset of Covid-19, in a shop that use to host donairs.

The name informs you of exactly what you will be getting. And if there is any doubt, you can smell what’s cooking a block away, or take a gander at the collection of detailed plastic curry on display, in the front window. During my visit their food was only available for take out. A soft opening and test run, accepting orders online, and opting for the delivery of them.

Mr. Japanese Curry is dedicated to providing authentic homemade curry in either beef, chicken, or vegan sauces. Each option also includes a bevy of toppings to choose from, to best customize each plate to your tastes. Every serving comes with their Super Premium Short Grain Koshihikari white rice and a sprinkle of fried onions. Having tried one in each category and being able to see and taste the difference between all three, I highly recommend doing the same. Trying all the different curry sauces to get the full experience, and finding the one you like the best is half the fun. Each is a recipe unique to the restaurant, learned from food technicians in Japan.

Ordering is easy off the overhead menu, with its coloured photos. And if and when dining in reopens, you are able to serve yourself at their cutlery and drink station.

The following is what we had, in the order they came up, starting with their vegan curry. They are proud to offer a tasty plant based curry, in collaboration with the popular and very local “Vegan Pudding Co.”. This was a rich and creamy curry despite the lack of milk products being used. Served wonderfully with fried mashed Japanese pumpkin patties. It was delicious, you couldn’t tell that this was made without cream or butter, nor did it have the overwhelming flavour of coconut milk. The sauce is so tasty that you need only to enjoy it with their perfectly prepared rice. And the fried onion sprinkle offers a nice little crunch in between. In actuality, you don’t want to fill up on rice, but it just goes so well with everything, that you don’t waste a single grain.

We continued to work our way up to heavier with a more flavourful curries with the “Tonkatsu Curry” next. This is their chicken based curry served with a breaded and deep fried pork cutlet, sliced up for easier consumption. This was a curry that was just as light as the vegan option above, but with very different savoury notes. In terms of flavour, this was my favourite of the three, the pork cutlet being the highlight. Each piece was tender and a little fatty for a juicer bite.

The heartiest of our three plates was their signature “Mr. Curry” platter. A beef curry that they referred to as “Stamina Curry”, served a piece of fried shrimp, thinly sliced pork belly in a homemade garlic sauce, a hard boiled egg, and melted cheese. There was plenty going on here to keep you interested. You could mix and match ingredients, curating the perfect bite. The crispy shrimp, the tender meat, the fragrant onions, and the creamy cheese sauce that pulled it all together. It has a stew-like quality to it: comforting and filling.

Overall, a great option for Japanese curry in a neighbourhood, offering something different in the area. Order all three because each is different and worth trying. Great as family food; or late night, drunk eating. This is a flavour I will crave again, and a hidden gem with nothing else like it in Vancouver.

Mr. Japanese Curry
446 W 8th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1N9
(604) 879-4400
mrjapanesecurry.com

Smith’s Bagelry

I have had Turkish bagels once before: during my last visit to Toronto. I was drawn in by their larger shape and their heavily sesame seed encrusted exterior. So when I passed by “Smith’s Bagelry” on a whim, I had to go in. I knew what to expect, having seen their goods featured on a few foodie’s feeds.

You walk into the now empty shop (with the inability to stay and linger), and simply order based on sight. A collection of golden brown baked goods from a showcase kept safe behind plexiglass. Savoury and sweet buns spread across various platforms and plates, well signed with prices and a brief description.

Naturally I had to try their signature sesame bagel. A large loop with an insane amount of sesame seeds that leave you wondering how they stuck them all on there. And best of all, majority of them stayed on as I ate, whereas other bagel brands would loose their seeds to the floor. You can enjoy your twisted bagels with your choice of filling at home, or having them craft it into a sandwich for you here. A feta, tomato, and cucumber option, one with Montreal smoke meat, one with hummus, and even a vegan option with Daiya cheese. I went for the classic choice: the “Aspendos”. Smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, and red onion. All as fragrant and as fresh as the handmade bagel that they sat within.

Next, I went for one of their stuffed bagels. The same dough and sesame coating as the bagel above, but shaped like a stuffed football with your chosen filling. The options were olive and mozzarella, sausage and mozzarella, and Turkish sausage and mozzarella. I went for the familiarity of the former most. This was best when toasted for a crispy exterior and chewy centre. Although for the promise of being “stuffed”, it lacked filling in either of its pointed ends.

I had a better time with the blueberry stuffed soft bagel. A nice cakey dough with a dollop of blueberry at its centre. Just wish there was once agin more filling to enjoy with the dough edge to edge.

Overall a great treat. If you get the chance, it is one that I suggest you try. I definitely prefer their texture to that of any grocery store bagel brand.

Smith’s Bagelry
191 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1P4
(604) 423-3434

iDen & Quan Ju De Beijing Duck House

There is a buzz surrounding this newly opened, Beijing style, fine dining establishment, with a history that dates back to 1864. This is “Quan Je Du’s” first Canadian location, now opened on Cambie and 12th. During the time of my visit they have only been running for 3 months, and normally I don’t like visiting/reviewing a restaurant until after they have had some miles on them. Time to allow them the ability to hone their operations and service model. As such today’s experience wasn’t bad per se, it just could have been a lot smoother with more preparation and practice. Things felt disorganized and it was obvious they were still working processes out, like their drink and cocktail program that didn’t exist on paper. Thankfully our server’s skills and customer centricity made up for most of the unanswered questions and slight misses from the brand as a whole.

“Quan Je Du” is also better known as Canada’s first and (currently) only 5D experience restaurant. An option not available yet, but when it will be, it is for those who book their VIP room: i-Den. According to the staff this comes with a $1,500 pre-charge to your credit card. Here, guests will be able to choose their environment and with the use of technology, they “will be completely immersed in their chosen narrative, such as the hustle and bustle of Shanghai or the underwater world of a coral reef. There will be a soundscape, either music or ambient, visual projections on the walls and tables, interactive ingredients, with the food and taste rounding out the five dimensions.” (Taken from their website). By the sounds of it, I would liken the 5D experience to Vancouver’s other multi-dimensional experience: “FlyOver Canada” where all your senses are stimulated in an adventure.

As for decor, the restaurant exudes luxury. With an all glass facade you can easily take in the opulence of the lounge and dining area from the sidewalk. However their most iconic room is the foyer, only visible if you enter the threshold, where the host greets you at their podium. The podium stands in front of a lengthy glass pane fire place, surrounded by a series of blue shelves lit in LED. The latter are square cubbies that soothe with their alignment and symmetry. A few of them are used to house ornamental texts, many more the restaurant’s collection of stemware.

Just past this the restaurant opens up. The layout creates good spacing between tables with several booths sectioned off like office cubicles; but with gold embroidered throw pillows for panache. They matched the gold and blue theme that found itself on to the carpet and the lighting tone. I was in awe of the feature walls that were comprised of wood carvings, a traditional Chinese style painting of a solider on horse back, and the ones that mimicked the drawers of apothecary curios. For the latter, the drawers don’t actually open, they just simply added a level of authenticity. It all fit together seamlessly, very luxe. All, outside of the table’s centre piece: a gold dipped plastic rose, set under a cloche (beauty and the beast style). I felt it cheapened each table setting unnecessary.

And it is not surprising that the washroom is as elaborate. A bronze and gold gilded facility, set behind heavy doors with sealed individual stalls.

As for food, they are well known for their Chinese roasted style duck, so we had to indulge in the “Quan Ju De Signature Beijing Duck”. Be warned this dish does take 45 minutes to an hour to prepare, so be sure to order it even before you flip through the menu. This is a specialty item that you have to order before hand to confirm the quantity needed for the night. And at their China location they hand out a certificates indicating the number of your duck, a count made in consideration of all the ducks they sell globally. However, there is no such option here in Canada.

The whole duck is carved up table side by a professional chef in all white, with matching chef’s hat. He does this on the spot, hovering over a golden cart. You pay $96 for the service, show, and fowl. The perfectly sliced pieces are laid out like scales, served with a warm thin crepe, scallion, cucumber, and a sweet bean sauce. As for the rest of the duck, they pack the entire carcass for your to take home later.

The speciality dish was delicious. The duck skin is served with white sugar that you dip it into as per the suggestion of the chef. This delicacy is a little too fatty and sweet for my tastes, but an interesting combo nonetheless.

The slices of duck were cut so consistently, it was a testament to the silent chef carving it. With them, you craft your duck wraps yourself: dressing, stuffing, and rolling as you like. There was plenty of everything for 3 people to share, with the thin crepe wrap keeping warm by candlelight. But be warned the double decker steamer does have the bottom container getting over steamed and dry with an extended time over the flame. You take one wrap and fill it with slices of duck dipped into their house made black bean oyster and hoisin sauce. To it you add thin slices of cucumber and scallion, before folding the sides of the wrap together and the bottom up to create an edible pocket. And if you don’t know how it’s done, there is an option to watch your server demo it first.

The rest of our dishes were ordered in consideration of the cuisine type and what they might specialize in.

Since we were having duck, we figured why not truly have the whole duck with the “Quan Ju De Duck platter” which includes marinated tongue, gizzard, and liver. It came to the table smoking on a slate slab for extra flare.

The liver was a mild start, those familiar with the flavour will be a fan of this.

The tongue came bone-in so be careful, I didn’t even know there was a bone any tongue. It ate like cartilage and really isn’t bad if you like chicken feet.

As for the gizzard it needed to breathe more, in order to alleviate some of its muskiness. It didn’t really have a meaty texture to it, but one more like cellulose instead. It was best described by one of my guests as “foie gras eraser”.

We asked our server for her suggestion on what was the most visually appealing, this was her number one recommendation, and I can see why. “Smoked five spiced venison” with prawn stuffed morel mushroom, bell peppers, and scallions. The small dish is served smoked with hickory in a giant fish bowl with rocks and moss. The smoke is released table side, making for a great visual treat. As the smoke wafts around its scent becomes a part of the meal. Served with hard charcoal crisps, you eat it much like chips and salsa. Except, this was a tad overwhelming with the distinct flavour of five spice. I would have preferred it with rice instead, for familiarity sake.

I really like the “Tofu blossom soup”, but didn’t think I would based on the bland sounding name. It is a serving of thick and almost gelatinous broth, made with chunks of tofu, spinach, and Chinese prosciutto. The bits are sliver thin and they bob around in levels within your soup. It is simple and beautifully warming.

And to round out or meal with some starch we had the “Beijing style stir fried sliced pancake with shredded cabbage and garlic”. It is basically chewy dough cut up and wok fried like noodles. The dish had a vinegary tone to it: tangy, with the flavour of dried daikon coming through, and a needed crispiness with the shredded cabbage.

And your meal ends with a wet wipe that was thick like a facecloth. A nice little touch worth mentioning.

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? – Yes.
I would definitely like to return to try more of the menu and their 5D experience before making a full assessment. But for tonight, it wasn’t as expensive as I thought and the extravagance of the dishes is what I like. I would have to save up for the $588 chef’s tasting menu though. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

QUAN JE DU
2808 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2V5
(236) 477-7777

Sprezzatura Restaurant, #LasagnaChallengeYVR

Vancouver Foodster is back this month with another one of his food challenges. These challenges pit participating restaurants against one another, for best dish in a chosen category. This month it was lasagna, and as a lover of pasta and carbs in general, my skills and palette were called upon to be one of the three judges. The goal, visit all participating restaurants, try their entries, and declare a winner based on an accumulation of points between presentation, originality, and taste.

And for those not judging, you can get into the competition by visiting all participating restaurants yourself, trying each, and voting for your favourite online. The winner will be crowned the “people’s choice best lasagna”.

So today I was doing my duties, here at “Sprezzatura”, glad that I got a chance to visit for the first time. I don’t think I would have ever thought to come down otherwise, and would definitely be missing out as a result. Despite the size of the space, it is off the beaten path. Therefore you don’t often drive past it, opting to take the larger streets at either ends, instead.

It is a beautiful space in its industrial simplicity. There is plenty of breathing room between the vaulted ceilings and seating arrangement. Exposed ceilings overhead, concrete floors with checkered patterns underfoot, and glossy black and white tiles around. There was a collection of seating across the space. Like the more lounge-y area that also doubled as a cafe bar with high tops and a pantry-esque vibe.

In front of the open kitchen you can grab a seat with a view. Sit down on one of their marble table tops, paired with a metal and wooden chair that you would find at an outdoor cafe. Here, you can see their whole kitchen operation. Everything is made from scratch, in house, and cooked up within either of their two ovens. The first an individual cooker, the second a wood stone pizza oven. Therefore nothing on the menu is deep fried, grilled, or sautéed. And this lack of cooking options available doesn’t hinder them, but instead it gives them a very unique angle; furthering their brand of a local, unpretentious bistro.

We ended up grabbing a seat by the window with fun decals of pizza, cocktails, wine and cutlery. A nice nod to the food and whimsy that the space holds. It was in the corner, by yet another unique seating area. A nook with wooden benches and matching tables, soften with throw pillows. On the wall hung a collection of sketches and photos depicting historic sporting moments and wins. Here, I was able to chat with the general manager Gino, who described the setting as a “London gastro pub with an Italian summer menu”. He then walked us through the menu highlighting popular items and must tries from their 7 month old bistro. Which was helpful considering the menu doesn’t include photos or a way to underline the highlights.

Our visit coincided with their daily happy hour between 3-6pm, so we were sure to take advantage by ordering a couple of their specials. Like the meatballs at 50% off. They were also stressed as a must try by Gino. They were steamed with tomatoes, parmigiano, and basil. Bobbing in a cast iron pan with classic marinara sauce, the flavours were all familiar. A tasty bite, but I couldn’t help but long for the crispy edges that a cast iron would normally give.

During happy hour all pizzas are $5 off so we had to try one of those. They prepare traditional Neapolitan-style pizza that is commonly soft in middle with a nice chew all around. We were originally eyeing the roasted pork belly or sausage pizza. However Gino warned that it does get heavy with the meat, literally and figuratively, and what you actually want from a Neapolitan pizza is something that is light, not soft and soggy. So we ended up going for the mushroom pizza with Fior di latte, cremini, porcini, parmigiano, and truffle oil.

I watched the pizza come fresh out of the oven and get topped with cheese, and cut into slices with ease. It is served to you on a rack for space saving measures, or if you order multiple pies. The dough was beautifully blistered, light and chewy as promised with plenty of fragrant mushroom, but we didn’t get much truffle flavour come though. Either way deliciously done and just as tasty the day after as leftovers. Although during my return visit I would gravitate towards a more meatier pizza for more kick.

We thought about getting our pork belly fix as a roast, but we urged to get the roast chicken instead. That this boneless half chicken with only its wings attached, it is a favourite amongst the regulars and staff alike. It is cryovac-ed and marinated for 25 hours, before it is baked skin side down on a pan. The result, a unique display of balance of juicy chicken with extra crispy skin. It was good with the roasted herbed wedge potatoes on the side, as they added additional salt and zest to the dish. Tasty, but not as memorable as it was hyped up to be. Instead, it left me curious over how much more flavourful the pork belly or even their beer braised wagyu would be.

Walking in and smelling it in the air, I had to get an order of their vegetable side special of the day: the garlic and Parmesan Brussels sprouts. A side serving was the freshness we needed to balance everything out. But it wasn’t as crispy as I wanted them from the baking, and it only got wilted once it cooled down. So eat this first and fast. Ideal with the roasted chicken above. However, if you are looking for crispier vegetables, apparently the dressed twice arugula salad, with honey as the second coating is the one to get.

And now for their lasagna, and the reason why I was here in the first place. Given their cooking method, this Italian bistro is only able to offer two types of pasta dishes. A Mac and cheese casserole, or this, their “Porcini lasagna” with Fior di latte, cream, and rapini mushrooms. This isn’t your typical lasagna, it isn’t the type you think of when you consider layers of noodles in a pan with meat and cheese. I could deem this more of a gourmet rendition, built up for an adult palette. Not your typical tomato base, so you don’t get that tang. Instead it is a rich and earthy bite with decadent salty cheese. A lot on its own, you definitely want a side with it, to be able to change the taste in between bites. Very different. Not one you would crave, but one you would want to try.

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.
A great spot to host larger parties, I will definitely be suggesting this one to my family the next time they want to get together. Everything was familiar, yet different with slight twists and variations, to make the dining more interesting. I left full, but feeling healthier because everything was baked. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SPREZZATURA
265 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5T 3J5
(604) 876-6333
sprezzatura.ca

Chicha, Dine Out 2020

Not only does Dine out Vancouver serve as a great, less expensive way to enjoy a meal out; it also functions as a fantastic platform to introduce or re-introduce you to a restaurant you thought you once knew. A new experience with new flavours and new menu items, showcasing how creative the culinary team can be. (And keeping in mind that the savings you receive from a discounted meal has to come from somewhere.)

Tonight, I was outright surprised and impressed by how much I enjoyed the $35 Dine Out menu, from modern Peruvian restaurant: “Chicha”. Where other restaurants are offering 3 courses, they have 4. And as others only give you a choice between 2-3 dishes, you get 2 out of 8 possible entrees; half of which are vegetarian friendly. And tonight I was able to try them all, so that I can now steer you in the right direction.

Located on West Broadway the restaurant is fairly easy to get to, with a paid parking lot and meter parking wherever you can find it. Their smaller space is warm and cozy, kept dim for ambience and that date night energy. The menu is easy to read with vegetable only dishes colour coded, and divided from all the meat and fish.

For the first course it is either soup or salad. I wouldn’t typically have the salad, but the “Quinoa Ensalada” is definitely the one to get. A memorable gathering of quinoa, red onion, mango, avocado, huacatay (Peruvian mint and lime vinaigrette), and a rocoto chili aoli. There was so much fresh fruit flavour in this that it kept you going back for scoop after scoop. The sauce was citrusy and sweet, and the texture a great toss up to chew through. It was deliciously done, and if I had flavours like this every day, not only would I be healthier for it, but happier as well.

By comparison the “Aji Amarillo Seafood Chowder” was good, it just wasn’t as good. Locally caught, fresh assorted seafood like wild shrimp and sockeye salmon; along side red nugget potato, corn, and a peruvian aji amarillo chili. It was a fish based cream chowder, that was salmon forward and tangy. All I was just missing from this was some crusty bread or chewy sourdough to dip into the soup.

For your second course you get to choose 2 out of the 8 available options, and thankfully you get two choices because it is all worth trying, and it is hard to choose just 2. Of the 8, 4 of which are gluten free, 2 vegetarian friendly, and 1 full on vegan.

The “Chalaco Ceviche” was a mix of Pacific Ling Cod, Wild Sockeye Salmon, Prawns, fresh oranges, green leche de tigre marinade, and crispy calamari. A fresh and punchy seafood salad, served chilled and full of lime flavour. Tasty enough, but not as filling as I had wanted from an entree.

The “Mariscos Fettuccini” is surprisingly my pick, I don’t normally think pasta when I look to Peruvian cuisine, but this one I would order again. Pan seared Pacific Ling Cod, prawns, wilted greens, and seared cherry tomatoes over buttery noodles. All evenly coated in a mesquite seafood corn sauce. Simple and delicious.

The “Verduras Causa” was like a beet humus, that you scooped up with crispy Rocoto Chili dusted yam chips. A whipped potato with lima bean puree, pickled beets, and Peruvian black mint. It was refreshing with a vegetable centric salad quality to it. Once again a great dish, but better as a starter. Although with your choice of any 2, you can get it as an appetizer.

But the one to not miss, and my favourite of the lot is their “Cauliflower”. So good that you won’t want to share. Maple and Rocoto Chili glazed cauliflower, yam puree, and salsa criolla. Each cauliflower florets was moist and sweet, a firm texture to contrast the yam purée (with its own sweetness). And for a nice change of taste, the side salad offers some appreciated tang and freshness.

The “Adobe” was another one I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. I don’t often gravitate towards a vegetable focused stew, but this is one I recommend for those that do. Braised smoked pancha chili eggplant, chickpea stew, crumbled feta, annatto oil, quinoa and honey bread crostini. Hearty, but not heavy, more like mild chilli. The rounds of firm chickpea was best eaten with the hard toast. I liked the hard crisp and the toast’s dried fruit, plus the sweetness it added to the stew.

“Papas Rellenas”, are like Shepard’s pie pockets. Deep fried crispy on the outside and stuffed with mashed potato, beef, onions, parsley, and black olives on the inside. Served with a side salad of greens and a rocoto chili aioli for sauce. This was a fun twist on a classic, and you get two of them. The Peruvian twist was the zesty aioli, but I wanted something more familiar in a meat gravy, instead.

The “Pollo Skewers” reminded me of souvlaki with its herbal seasoning, thorough grill, and its sour cream-like tang similar to tzaziki. You also got plenty of pickling from the bed of vegetables, not unlike the julienne strands or cucumber, carrot, and turnip that you can find in a traditional banh mi sandwiches. Chimmichurri chicken thighs, crumbled feta, lime cream, and crushed cancha corn. Bold and flavourful, with a lovely char on the meat. Great as is, but would better with some rice pilaf as a base.

The “Costillos de Cerdo” was a generous serving of ribs and potato salad, that flashed me back to summer. Aji panca chili and orange barbecue sauce glazed baby back ribs with a red nugget , green bean, and smoked bacon potato salad. The ribs were plenty saucy, having you licking your fingers clean once you easily rip meat from bone. It was the flavour I needed to breathe some punch into the salad. The potatoes were grainy, whereas the beans helped to offer some needed crunch. Overall, another one I would recommend.

For dessert you only get to to choose 1 out of the possible 3 options. Although if you can swing it, get the first two, as you will not regret it.

My favourite of the two would be the “Alfajores Peruvian Cookies”. Shortbread cookies made into a sandwich with a dulce leche filling. The shortbread crumbles in your mouth, filling it with the enjoyable sensation of powdered sugar. And the filling is the perfect amount of sweetness, a milky caramel that didn’t overshadow the butteriness of the cookies. So good that I wanted a box of them, to not share. The sauces and fruit on the side were great for presentation, but they did not add anything to the dish in terms of flavour, if only just lemon zest.

The “Picarones” were Peruvian donuts fried to order. Made with sweet potato and pumpkin, but it didn’t show. This was a cakey doughnut with the texture of a regular French crueler. Best with a heavy dip into the orange spiced honey and pisco raspberry sauce it sat atop of. Tart jam with the beads of the seeds to gum through, and a hint of cinnamon and sugar to end a bite on.

The last option was an assorted fresh fruit platter, but I feel that you can do that for yourself. Instead, I suggest ordering that which you can’t make at home.

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.
As a whole the menu did a real great job with the vegetables, I would come back and order all the vegetarian dishes, and not be mad. Each dish had its very own flavour profile, you never got too much of one, if you share between you and a friend. A great menu, and one worth visiting during this year’s Dine Out. Don’t deny your cravings.

CHICHA
136 E Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5T 1A1
(604) 620-3963
chicharestaurant.com

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

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