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Smoke and Bones

It was our anniversary and having stayed up late the night before (binge watching “Sharp Objects”, so calm down), we rolled out of bed late, wanting barbecue meats. My partner decided on “Smoke and Bones” so that I could visit a new restaurant and have material to write about. We dove all the way to it and got cold feet at the threshold. Judging the building by its exterior, we paused to do some more research, before parking. It had an all black facade with neon red and yellow lights directing you to the “BBQ” within.

Our apprehension was in that we feared we would be walking into an empty restaurant. A building that smelled like an old casino, serving up week old, dry barbecue at higher prices. This was enough of a concern that we had to reassess our options. Would we try something new or get our meat fix at a competitor we have visited in the past, and know we will get a fully satisfying meal there? We went for the former, having tried so many different barbecue places before, and wanting to add another to our list of references.

And I was happy to do: passing through the now empty courtyard, fenced in; and walking into the first barbecue restaurant with a wall dedicated to their ribbons, plaques, and trophies. The wall of awards built up our confidence in the place and had us expecting more.

The restaurant was dressed like a ranch themed sports bar. Spotted cow hide was strung up on the wall and upholstered on a bench by the door, an ox skull hung on display by the bar, and a full bison bust was mounted just right under the skylight. With brick columns, metal stools, wooden tables, and leather booths; the place had a modern yet rustic feel to it. I liked the detailing of having each table branded with “S&B” on one of its corners.

We arrived just as happy hour started at 3pm. So I took advantage by ordering one of their $4 beers on tap. This was their “Smoke and Bones lager”, an easy to drink brew with the fluidity of water.

For food they had a great listing with two sliders for $6, a $6 serving of mac and cheese, and a $6 chilli cheese dog. But we instead splurged on their full barbecue platter, in order to get a bit of everything and see if the restaurant bears repeating. This way we won’t walk away disappointed in one thing, and thinking everything else might be better.

Their “Barbeque platter” feeds 2-3 people of $62, and it left us with leftover for days. BBQ chicken, ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and farmer sausage; served on a large metal baking tray. Intermingled with coleslaw, potato salad, their “Smoke and Bones” beans, BBQ sauce, and corn bread as sides. It certainly is one of the more photogenic bbq platters we have had the pleasure to feast upon, but sadly, not one of the better.

The smell we got a whiff of outside, we got to taste on our tongues here; the taste and difference their smoker made. But bite after bite we could tell this wasn’t a fresh assembly. All the meats were reheated with the sausage still chilly at its core. We visited during a slower time, so could only imagine how all this would have been had we gotten it fresh-made on the day.

The following are some notes on each individual items.

My partner was most excited to see that the bread that was included in this set, also came with butter. Where as at other places bread doesn’t automatically proceed with butter and we have to ask for some and wait while they do it.

The cornbread next to it was a nice sweet bite. A simple mini muffin with that tell-a-tale corn bread mealiness.

I liked the home made pickles, they too were great for in between bites. A sharp salty tang to cleanse and lighten all the heavy barbecue to come. In fact, all the sides were helpful in this regard. Some just much better than the others.

Like the fries. They were great, a crispy thin coating encasing a stick of potato mash. It didn’t match all that well with their sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, ketchup felt like a more natural fit.

The coleslaw was nice enough, I just wished it shredded pieces were consistently chopped, so that you aren’t chewing through or avoiding shards of lettuce.

I was intrigued with their use of cooked and caramelized apple in their bake beans. It had me liking the texture of the beans more, whereas I usually don’t like how grainy they are. The apple also gave the side much sweetness, as well as passing along some of its tart nature. This is hence forth new favourite way to have baked beans.

The potato salad had so much promise. Despite its hue, and the mix of extra firm potatoes, crunchy celery, and fragrant red pepper, in what looks like a chipotle mayo dressing; this was disappointing and bland. It had zero zest to it. The potatoes were on the raw side and the peppers could have used a char. If you are going to visit and order this or their potato salad, I would suggest paying $4 more to sub in their hot potato salad instead.

As for the meat, the ribs were very dry. With it and the other smoked meats to come, you could tell it was reheated. Remixed with just a fresh brushing of sauces to help rejuvenate the exterior texture.

The brisket was either dry and lean or dry and fatty. The pieces and the way they were prepared was uneven. A dunk in the sauce did wonders in giving it some flavour.

The pulled pork was slightly more tender and on average better tasting, but only if you didn’t have to bite down on a hard and fully blackened charred bit.

The chicken was my favourite of all the meats, it could have been juicer, but in comparison it was the freshest of all the others, making it noticeably better.

The farmer’s sausage held up the best, but was slightly chilled at its centre. It was a nice enough, plenty pieces of chewy spiced pork link; sliced up for easy one bite sharing.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sadly, it wasn’t as great as we imagined it, or as their slew of accolades suggested. Even as leftovers remade into sandwiches and wraps, I wasn’t all that excited to revisit the taste. Once again, I truly believe this is only because the meat wasn’t fresh. I would love to try a batch made the morning of, knowing the difference it would make. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SMOKE AND BONES
999 Marine Drive, North Vancouver BC, V7P 1S4
604-770-1394
smokeandbones.ca

Nando’s, North Vancouver

There is a new “Nando’s” in North Vancouver, and I came up during their grand opening to celebrate the occasion. “Nando’s” is a known for their Portuguese flame grilled chicken, seasoned in their trademark Peri-Peri spices, a sauce and a flavour I would learn to recreate this evening.

 

For the recipe and the how to, plus a recap of all the below that we enjoyed, check out my latest vlog on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei!

 

Like all their other restaurants, this location had its own character. Warm tones, wooden fixtures, and colourful geometrics coming together to bring you a casual and modern setting. Comfortable, but still dressy; enough to enjoy a glass of wine at, and so we did.

New to their menu was the availability of sangria, described on their menu as a “fresh and fruity mix of red wine and berries”. They also have the regular wine, if you didn’t want the fruit.

They are a great way to start your meal, just like the sides of mixed salted nuts and olive oil seasoned olives.

The “Peri peri chippers” are also new to their menu. House made and fried crispy warm chips, dusted in their peri peri seasoning, served with a side of their “perinaise” to dip in to. “Perinaise” is what they call their blend of peri peri seasonings and mayonnaise for a creamy and spicy spread. So good and so popular that it is also available in a squeeze bottle for you to take home.

Their “peri peri crusted wings” (also new), are available for ordering as a trio, quintet, and in a group of ten. The seasoning creates a crust over each juicy piece of wing or drumlet, giving it a crunchy texture to sink your teeth into.

 

They also offer regularly seasoned wings, in plain, herb and lemon, mango and lime, medium, hot, and “xtra hot”. Like all their other chicken, the choice is yours, but if you need additional heat or more flavour they also have their bottles of peri peri on stand by for self pouring.

But the best way to try all the above is to order their “wing roulette”. 10 wings in varying peri peri heats, where half of the fun is seeing who gets the “xtra hot” one. A game we played and filmed in the video above.

“Grilled chicken livers” are also new to the “Nando’s” menu. Having grown up eating liver, I didn’t shy away from trying their rendition. We choose a medium spice and opted to have it with a side of their garlic bread.

The nuggets of organ meat were good on its own, plenty of flavour and not ashy. However, I much more preferred it with the bread as base and some of their hot peri peri sauce for additional flavour.

If you visit “Nando’s”, you have to get some of their rotisserie style chicken, as it is their most popular dish. We had our half chicken on its own, in mango lime. The fragrant sweetness of the mango was a nice break in the consistent taste of everything else.

And be sure to save room for dessert because the “Pasteis de natas” should not be missed. I would and do travel to my local “Nando’s”, just for one of their traditional Portuguese custard tarts. A sweet flakey crust, cushioning a creamy custard that just melts on your tongue. Delicious.

The “Nando’s kiss” is a new dessert, along with the bottomless frozen yogurt, and their chilli chocolate cookie. The “kiss” was named after the Hersey’s chocolate, a shell of chocolate, topped with whipped cream, housing a dark chocolate ice cream centre. Sadly, our dessert came out before we were ready for it, so we sent it back. And as it sat in their refrigeration unit, it melted, the result was a pool of chocolate in chocolate; chocolate soup as it were. Therefore I cannot give a true assessment of this.

In between courses we took part in their peri peri making work shop. A table was set up with prepped ingredients, all chopped up and minced. Their marketing rep takes you through the process, spooning ingredients and grinding them together with a mortar and pestle. As you worked to grind everything down to a paste, she educated you on their trademark spice.

Their peri peri peppers grows in Africa, it is the only chilli that grows towards the sun. The work required to pick it and make it into the sauce and spice we know and love, gives African workers the ability to earn a living, and take care of their families. “Nando’s” pride themselves on this fact, realizing that it not just about making a sauce, it is about the people behind it as well.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A solid destination for some good chicken. And with an extensive menu that includes salads, wraps, sandwiches, and meat on skewers; you could eat with them everyday and still find yourself trying something new. I will be picking up from them, the next time I have a potluck, a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NANDO’S
148 13th St E, North Vancouver, BC V7M 2H7
604-988-4915
nandos.ca
Nando's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Two Rivers Specialty Meats

“Two Rivers” is a butcher shop best known for supplying their exceptional meat products to many local lower mainland restaurants. Therefore, I was very excited to be trying their said meat from out of their actual shop, today. Not only do they offer beautiful cuts of beef, chicken, pork, etc; seasoned and bare for sale, but the same space also doubles as a full sit down restaurant. Here you seat your meat, surrounded by meat, with other meat lovers.

They have been up and running for over a year now, and I can’t believe it took me this long to get down to North Vancouver to give them a try. We were invited in to taste their fall/winter dishes made with ethical and sustainable meats. Animal products from local BC and Alberta farms that have been hand chosen to ensure that the framers that tend to this land care about their animals, are working with those who care about food. The result is quality meats from animals raised on spacious parcels of land, without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.

I was in awe walking up to their expansive complex. A strong wooden awning marked with their name in bold white. Inside, it was just as nice, enough to have me turning my head serval rotations at a time. Modern and sleek in more white. White tiled walls that also covered the counters of the deli and the kitchen bar in the dining area. Under foot was their logo in brown over a glossy white floor. We would order at the counter before finding any available seating, and marking our territory with coats and bags on stools.

After you pay are given a number to mark your order. It is is clipped to a heavy piece of bone, making this a very practical place setting that speaks to their brand and what they have available.

If the day had been nicer we would have found ourselves on the patio overlooking their industrial street. However, inside you get to take in the butchery surrounding your table as your wait and ate. In fact, with its glass windows and transparent facade you could see their skilled butchers preparing all the meat below. Fine cuts that would soon become our brunch, as well as everything showcased raw for taking home to cook yourself.

They have 5 well-lit showcases of the latter to peruse through. Although like the menu, making your decision will be tough. They had a showcase dedicated to each animal. For beef there was skirt steak, chuck pot roast, dry aged cross rib, tri tip, and even chunks perfect for stew; hit to name a few. For pork you had the chop, ribs, loin, and butt to choose from. There was a Frenched rack of lambs and a lamb belly roast.

There were even various house made sausages utilizing all sorts of meat and combinations. Bratwursts, turkey and sage, apple and pork, and venison and lamb sausages by the link. For those interested in trying them all, they offer a sausage sampler platter if you dine in.

There were also precooked sides like brussel sprouts, pork and beans, and a carrot and beet slaw to round out your take home meal with. And if you want that meal to be quick, bring home the premartinated chicken breasts and skewers in flavours like cordon bleu, chipotle lime, Jamaican jerk, and maui barbecue.

Or make things even easier for yourself by not cooking and just creating your own charcuterie board by picking and choosing what cured meats you want sliced up to go. This too is all made in house. Then all you need is to stop for some fine cheeses and better wine.

I can go on and on about what they offer, like their spice rubs and vacuum sealed packs of bacon, but I digress; back to my meal at hand and what I actually tried.

They have a regular menu and a feature sheet, and together this is one of the few menus I wanted everything on it. Nothing sounded bad, even their daily bone broth side felt like it was worth trying. I thought the sausage platter would be a great solution to parties and potlucks, and was tempted by their sides to share. Beef tartare, crispy bbq pork bites, and Korean style drumsticks.

They even have a section on their menu dedicated to less meaty items including ramen and salads. I was tempted by their “two rivers ramen bowl” with soft poached egg, bean sprouts, noodle, charred garlic chilli oil, spiced nori, green onion, and crispy pork. Although it felt like a waste not to take advantage of the meat they are known for, for my first visit.

I finally made my decision based on meaty classics that I could compare my meal to, and their most popular plates.

We ordered the “Butcher Selected steak” off the feature sheet. This was a 7oz flat iron steak, served with smoked chanterelle mushrooms (as they were in season and procured fresh on this day), fried tallow (a hard fatty substance made from rendered animal fat), and herbed butter. The steak was cooked beautifully and cutting into it was like a hot knife in butter. The butter added a change of taste, but it was the mushrooms that gave the dish its pop of flavour, with its tangy Cajun-like rub. At $22 it was definitely worth it, you got quality and taste.

The “65 day dry aged beef burger” was recommend to us by the cheery clerk behind the counter. This juicy burger is house ground, round, and aged before it hits the grill and is seared to order. It is prepared with an aged cheddar, charred tomato, zucchini pickles, iceberg lettuce, and a white barbecue sauce; all on a brioche bun. And of course I added on some bacon, and if you get it, you should too. Splurge on spending $2 more for two thick and chewy pieces. I suggest eating the burger quick. Its juices does pool, and the result is a bottom bun soggy and oily to the touch. I found myself finishing it off with fork and knife. Overall, a well balance burger with classic toppings and condiments. No complaints.

They also had a rotisserie we had to exploit, by ordering their free range half chicken with jalapeño aioli and bbq sauce. And we were so happy we did, as this was one of the juiciest chickens my partner has ever had. I don’t like the chicken breast because it is typically dry, but theirs had the white meat as moist as the dark. So tender that it practically fell off in strands when I went to poke my fork into it. I honestly can’t go back to grocery store rotisserie chicken after this, I would sooner drive out to “Two Rivers” if I get the craving. The chicken comes with two different sauces, not that you need it, as the chicken and it’s skin is well seasoned throughout. Although the sauces are worth trying. The creamy white sauce is garlicky with a bit of spice, perfect for any burger. And the sweet barbecue sauce makes for a great dip for any meat.

 

We had to end on their bone marrow and tallow chocolate chip cookie, because where else can you get a sweet and meat cookie? It only looks hard and dry. But the crispy and crumbly texture suits it perfectly. You don’t taste the marrow or tallow, as it is used in place of butter, but you do get a savoury feel from this treat, and the salt on it makes such a difference, highlighting the savoury notes and the sweetness of the chocolate.

As for drinks they offer a small selection of beers, wines, and soda. My partner got a bottle of their “Phillips craft soda made from craft cola, root beer, orange cream, and ginger ale”. It tasted like an orange creamsicle.

Their beer list is all local, so I got a pint of “Bridge brewing’s” bourbon blood orange. Crisp wheat ale, zesty and floral with a clean citrus flavour. A smooth beverage to pair with all our tasty meat forward dishes.

And to snack on in between or with drinks, you can help yourself to a seasoned bucket of popcorn.

 

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.
Hands down, my new favourite meat focused restaurant in the city. A must visit and a recommend of any carnivore or omnivore. They even have salads, if you need to tow your vegan friend along. Visit, it is worth it and when there, don’t deny your cravings.

 

TWO RIVERS
80 Donaghy Avenue, North Vancouver BC, V7P 2L5
604-990-5288
tworiversmeats.ca

Vancouver Foodster’s Tasting Plates: North Vancouver

Normally North Vancouver is a little far for me to travel to, seeing as I live in Burnaby. So it would have to be more than just one dinner to bring me out that way, or in this case Vancouver Foodster’s tasting plates!

“Tasting Plates”, is the most well known food tour in Vancouver. It gives diners an opportunity to try something new within a neighbourhood that they might not otherwise be familiar with. Each stop on the self guided tour is curated by the man running “Vancouver Foodster”. He vets each restaurant and works with them on preparing a tasting plate that best highlights their establishment. These are all restaurants he frequents and fully endorses, so he takes the guess work out of trying somewhere and something new, for you.

The locations are relatively close to one another, maybe a few blocks from one to the next, but seeing as I drove, I made commuting from one destination to the next easier on myself. And best of all I didn’t have to pay once for parking, there was enough spaces to pull into without having to loop around the area, this is enough of an incentive to visit North Vancouver.

Check in was at Londsdale Quay, where we were introduced to a new addition to the market place. “Butter Lane Bake Shop” was certainly the cutest store in the plaza. With its sleek white and baby pink motif with garland of matching balloons, it was easy to spot simply walking past.

Here we were treated to three miniatures from behind their glass showcase. An earl grey donut made with leaves steep with their very own “Louise & Louise” fine teas. Their famous scones with clotted cream and jam made with European churned butter, already spread on was my favourite. And the gluten free carrot cake topped with a cream cheese buttercream was a great one bite for those with or without a gluten intolerance. All three were a great representation of the baked goods they offer. It would be worth returning to try their macaroons, stuffed cookies, or maybe a whole cake for an occasion.

Butter Lane Bake Shop & Tea House
3022 Mountain Hwy, North Vancouver BC, V7J 2P1
604-990-5263

 

From here, we crossed the street to “Cafe by Tao” where I had some of the most exciting vegan food, I have ever had. Their little shop was in a great location, with a lovely patio. Inside, they offered more than just a hearty vegetable based meal. They also have grains, spices, cookies, and bars available for purchase, like a connivence store.

I had to buy some of their the vegan chocolate, only because they were shaped like little dinosaurs: a baby T-Rex, a little triceratops, and a head heavy brontosaurus. They had a close resemblance to regular chocolate in taste, but melted just with one touch.

As for the tasting plate it was a collection of little vegan bites: mango salsa quinoa bowl with falafel and sauerkraut, “Rawin’ Pizza”, “Rawsagna”, and lucuma parfait.

I would have liked more mango in the bowl as there were more grains than the vegetables and fruits giving them flavour. I liked the texture of the falafel enough, but felt the sauerkraut lacked tang. Overall it was bland, nothing a little creamy cashew sauce couldn’t fix, or some soy.

The “Rawin’ Pizza” was like eating a loose leaf salad over limp flat bread crust. It was missing the spices of a herby sauce to tie all the raw ingredients together.

I liked the “Rawsagna” for its texture. Served cold in layers of raw squash and minced nuts. It ate like lasagna texturally. A fresh rendition with the tomato flavour you’d expect and the crumbliness of a thick and coarse cheese sprinkled overtop. On a hot day like today, eating this cooled us down.

But what I enjoyed the most were the crispy kale chips used as garnish. I could have eaten a bowl of these and found them better than regular chips. In hindsight I should have asked for a bag to go.

The dessert was thoughtfully included. Creamy like clotted cream, chewy with a hint of honey, and some fruit for freshness. I just wished the granola had more crunch to it, or the coconut was toasted more for a finer crisp.

Truly, if “Tao” was closer to my work, I could see myself frequenting them more often for a healthy lunch.

Tao Organics Inc
260 12th Ave, Vancouver BC, V7M 1A3
604-971-5108
taoorganics.com

 

Next we stopped at “Coconama”, the Japanese chocolate company, operating here in North Vancouver. I have tried their chocolates before, but have never been to the kitchen space that makes them. Here, our visit began with some background on their company and what sets them apart.

We learned where their cocoa comes from, and got to try concentrations of it in their award winning chocolate bars that are prepared with in 80%, 90%, and 100% cocoa. The owner is one of the individuals that helped to develop the recipe for popular Japanese chocolate brands “Meji” and “Melty Kiss”. They specialize in Japanese style chocolate truffles, little cubes known for their creative flavours and melt in your mouth texture. The have flavours like milk tea, earl grey, black sesame, sake, various fruits and even some vegetables. We were able to try a few such flavours today.

But it was the salmon and sour cream one, specially crafted and first made available to this food crawl, that held my attention. It was sweet like chocolate but with the finish of their promised ingredients. It was magical and definitely worth trying. I liked it so much that I bought a container of it to take home.

Coconama Chocolate Co
264 E 1st St North Vancouver BC, V7L 1B3
604-770-1200
coconama.com

 

To continue with our alternating between savoury and sweet foods, our fourth stop was “Alberello Pizzeria”, a pizzeria who prides themselves on using all natural ingredients. Here we were seated on their patio laid with imitation turf and hung with flower planters.

Here, each person was given two smaller slices of pizza and a meatball bobbing in thick marinara. The “Verde Noce” is pesto sauce, walnut, roasted pepper, oyster mushroom sautéed in garlic oil, caramelized onion, mozzarella, fresh goat cheese, and basil. I really liked the combination of salty and sweet on this pizza, and all the textures brought together. Chewy mushrooms, starchy goat cheese, and gooey cheese and plenty of it.

But I much more preferred the “Salsiccia” their homemade classic tomato sauce pizza topped with fennel sausage, mozzarella, caramelized onion, and roasted red pepper. It was saltier, heartier, and best with a dunk in the tomato sauce below.

As is, the meat ball was soggy and one dimensional, but together with bites of pizza it elevated both. Every one of our bowls were wiped clean with pizza crust.

They were so busy on this Wednesday with dinners dining in and patrons taking out, that I was compelled to grab a pie to go in the classic marinara flavour.

Alberello Pizzeria
115 15th Street West, North Vancouver BC, V7M 1R7
604-770-4484
alberellopizzeria.com

 

We then rounded off our night at “Welcome Parlour”, the cutest little ice cream shoppe nestled in a lovely community. They certainly did well to welcome guests with doors opened wide and patio furniture waiting to be reclined on.

Inside, the parlour was a mix of old and new with a cash vintage register, black and white photography used as decor, reclaimed wood and metals crafted counters, and even shelves of classic candies for purchasing.

Here, “Welcome Parlour’s” “taste” was a cinnamon bun ice cream sandwich, done in collaboration with “Bad Dog Bread”. I am surprised that this is the first time that I have had such a combination. But sadly once cut in half, the buns didn’t hold their shape, it would have been nice to get two miniature buns and sandwich a dollop of ice cream between those two, instead. The dough was a little dry and the cinnamon flavour a little strong. B luckily the sweet cream was a nice milky ice cream to attempt to mute some of the cinnamon spice. I also wished that this was served with a glass of milk on the side, although the water fountain was helpful in this regard.

But instead, I got one of their new floats to quench my thirst with. I took the clerk’s recommendation and combined a cherry cola with a scoop of mango ice cream. They went well together, I only wished that I asked for two scoops instead of getting the standard one.

I would definitely come back for more of their ice creams on rotation, if only they were cities closer to me.

Welcome Parlour Ice Cream
277 E 8th Street, North Vancouver BC, V7L 1Y9
604-408-7481
welcomeparlour.com

 

And thus ended a great Vancouver Tasting Plate, where I was able to explore North Vancouver, learning more about an area I hardly get a chance to visit. Tonight I discovered some new restaurants to recommend, and some to visit the next time I am in the neighbourhood.

For those whose interest I have peaked, you can learn more about Vancouver Foodster’s Tasting plates and all the other fun food focused activities he runs by visiting his website: http://vancouverfoodster.com/

The next tasting plate will be on Commercial Drive on August 22. To purchase your tickets, visit the link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/tasting-plates-commercial-drive-tickets-46988352427

Louis Gervais Fine Foods & Catering Bistro

This evening I drove all the way to North Vancouver for a long table meal at “Louis Gervais'” cafe and catering workspace; and it was worth the effort.

Here I got to learn a little more about the Chef behind the business. How he originally hails from Montreal, and has accumulated over 40 years of experience. He moved to Vancouver when he was 20 to help open the “Wedgewood Hotel” as an executive sous chef. And rest of his resume was as impressive, working in several well known kitchens and winning a few culinary competitions here and there.

Currently he and his team operate a bistro, feeding the surrounded office spaces for breakfast and lunch. This space includes with it a view that faces out towards the water in the distance. It makes them a unique destination worth driving to.

Today’s tasting menu would be a true reflection of the French, Swiss and, Spanish influences in his cooking. With a focus on quality of ingredients, identified through the different organic suppliers that they employ.

We were seated around a long table, dressed in a white table cloth with matching napkins, along with all the accompanying glasses and cutlery needed for a fine five course dinner. But first, we were given the ability to mix and mingle like one does at the beginning of any classy dinner party.

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

The “Peanut crusted schezuan chicken strips” wrapped in a cucumber ribbon, with a gochujang glaze was definitely a feast for the eyes. However, the chicken meat itself was dry, having missed the cucumber or any of the aforementioned sauce. It would have been nice to have more of the glaze on the side to use as a dip to perk things up.

I really enjoyed the taste and the aesthetic of the “Beef carpaccio in a pecorino nest”. Although I took in more cheese than the carpaccio or the Dijon aioli and fresh capers it was topped with.

The “Scallop ceveche” served on endive leaves with lime caviar, would have been more ideal at the start. A light ramp up the the heavier flavours before it, in order to not have it so muted now. Although it did also work as a palette refresher for the rest of our sit down meal to come.

Everything was prepared family style for us to dole out ourselves, as their casserole dishes were past along.

The “Nova Scotia lobster grilled cheese on sourdough bread” was an exciting start. Add lobster to any comfort food and you have the best of both worlds. A rich and creamy seafood cream on crispy bread is pure perfection.

I also really liked the “Battered curried cauliflower”, served with a scallion mint yogurt dip. There was plenty of this to go around, allowing me to bite into crispy batter to my heart’s content. I can safely say the texture is consistent piece to piece. The curry, always an accent, well balanced by the cooling and refreshing cream yogurt dip.

The “Spanish cod escabeche” was a beautifully done dish. Mediterranean capsicum vera Pasilla pepper and olive ragout, served with truffled black linguini. It was clear that the buttery cod was the star of the plate. The sauce was just light enough to highlight it, with the linguini offering each bite some chew.

But the “Saffron brioche crusted lamb chops in vert jus bourbon broth” won my favour in presentation and taste. The lamb was perfectly prepared. Well crusted and chewy meat to rip off of bone. Highlighted by the contrast of the sweet squash that was easy to scoop soften spoonfuls of, from its oven baked rind. Just writing this now has my mouth watering.

And there was no better way to end the comforting decadence above that with this twist on bread pudding. Once again a familiar classic was taken up a notch, here with the use of croissant. “White chocolate croissant pudding”. The portion was baked in a casserole dish, then scooped out and drizzled over with warm caramel. It was on the sweeter side with a rich finish to keep you satisfied.

 

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.
There isn’t much I would recommend driving out to North Vancouver for, so after this meal Louis Gervais certainly crowns my list. The bistro closes at 4pm, where they are then able to host private dinners, such as the one we enjoyed, for smaller groups. They also cater occasions and weddings, driving as far out as Whistler to do so. So for Canadian comfort on a plate, look no further. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LOUIS GERVAIS
850 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver BC, V7P3T7
604-904-7720
louisgervaiscatering.com
Louis Gervais Fine Foods & Catering Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Green Leaf Brewing Co.

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A bar is such a nice additional to the Lonsdale Marketplace. “Green Leaf Brewing Co.” makes for a comfortable place to sit and drink at. And best of all, since they don’t serve much food, they allow you to bring whatever you like from the neighbouring food court, past their glass walls, in order to enjoy it in their spacious setting, with their refreshing beers.

So after a trip around the food court, we picked up a tray of fresh, fried fish and chips to enjoy with some of their craft beers. Beers are most refreshing when partnered with the oil and crisp of a good deep fry.

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The brewing company space is made up of glass walls, a series of storage shelves, and floor to ceiling steel vats. Several book shelves worth of printed growlers, tall boy cans, and 12oz brown bottles greet you at their threshold. This, along with other private label whiskeys makes up their bar. Here they specialize in their beers and outside whiskeys, and is the first place to do so, that I have ever heard of and have been to.

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You grab any empty seat surrounding their counter. Either a wooden high top, or one of their larger, polished wood, family style, share tables. Each setting has a drink menu diving beer on tap and beer aged in barrels, with whiskey paired with beer, or whisky alone as a shot. We focused on their in beers. For those on tap: it was 12oz for $5, $7.50 for a 20oz, and $6 for 3 ounces of each of the four 5-6.5% brews. The sours and aged in barrel beers only came in 7oz servings at $5 a glass, and it’s flight was $3 more than what they had on tap.

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Our way to avoid making a commitment on any one pint was to invest in a flight, giving us four tastes at a time. Each 3oz glass was poured from one of eight taps, built into the wall over a metal troth. This was done by a young man, who didn’t look like he was allowed to drink, let alone serve me mine.

As one who doesn’t really have a preference in beer, a flight provides me with the variety I need to keep me interested in finishing them all. Like a share platter of drinks. It was served on a wooden plank, marked by dots to indicate and differentiate one beer from the other.

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The flight featuring all their beers on tap had Weizenhower”, their Hefeweizen with orange peel and coriander; “Lloyd’s lager”, a classic style lager with Pilsner and American yeast; “Pie hole pale ale”, which is a a clean and fruity, hoppy pale ale; And the “Animal farm IPA” was w clean Belgium farmhouse IPA. Together they were an easy to drink assemble that was smooth and sweet compared to the four below.

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Their sours and barrel aged flight was especially tart, you got more sour than you would think the fruit used had to offer. “Dark aged saison”, aged in a red wine oak barrel for a year, 9%. The “raspberry sour” had a pound of raspberry for every litre of their sour ale that they used. The “cherry sour” was similar to the one above, but this sour blond ale was brewed with “heaps of cherries”. And the “modern gentleman IPA” was 100% Brett fermented IPA aged in Merlot barrels.

 

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 was nice setting for some family brewed beers. And they especially made a great after work stop, if your commute is past the quay. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GREEN LEAF
Lonsdale Quay Market
123 Carry Cates Court, North Vancouver BC, V7M 3E4
604-984-8409
greenleafbrew.com
Green Leaf Brewing Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Montgomery Fish & Chips

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We were at Lonsdale Quay for their farmer’s market. After a stroll along the water’s edge, and peaking at what each vendor had to offer, we wandered in to the market place for some warmth and ready made food.

We walked the food court until we decided on fish and chips at “Montgomery Fish & Chips”. The look of their booth matched the traditional and regal sounding family name that it began with. The booth’s boarder was decorated to look like a wooden castle with several planks creating a jagged roof top and a gate with cast iron hinges at the bottom. A dragon was perched above and broad swords flanked either ends.

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They offered only what their named mentioned various types of fish fried or in nugget form, and chips dressed in either salt or vinegar, or covered in gravy with cheese for a poutine.

We grabbed two pieces of battered and deep fried cod, with a side of thicker cut fries. And due to one of our two peeves pf fish being on the smaller side, they generously gave us a third smaller one to make up for it. They did the same to one of the other guests before us, making sure to point it out as the they came to claim their plastic tray at the counter.

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These were mighty fine fish and chips, hot and flaky fish hidden under a coating of crispy fried breading. No complaints, we just needed more than two small dollops of tartare sauce to eat it all with.

Of note, the nice feature about this food plaza is that it includes a brewery; and they allow you to bring in outside food to enjoy their beers with, and we did just that. Fish and chips with craft beer is a lovely combination. Read more about that on my next post.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Stand up, quick and easy fish and chips. A great option when in the area and looking for a comforting lunch. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MONTGOMERY FISH & CHIPS
Lonsdale Quay Market
123 Carry Cates Court, North Vancouver BC, V7M 3E4
604-929-8416
Montgomery's Fish & Chips Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

White Spot at Park Royal

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Park Royal has undergone so much construction in the last year. I hardly recognized it with its new areas: north, south, the village. It has transformed the area to Vancouver’s newest shopping Mecca, with exclusive stores like “Free People” and “Kate Spade”, and a number of new boutiques and restaurants. Today we visited the recently relocated “White Spot”. The sun was out and we were here for brunch. Passing by the gated patio we settled comfortably into a booth indoors.

The hostess left as we entered. She dismissed herself with a plea for us to wait. Minutes elapsed and staff members passed without notice. Eventually a server stopped to inquire about our status. With a grumble over the hostess’ absence and her need to seat us she lead us to her section. Of course.

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The decor is pretty generic. Floral patterned booths, wooden tables, tiled floors, large windows allowing light to filter in, and flat screen televisions built into the spacious bar. What you would expect from a restaurant that focuses on country style home cooking and early bird specials.

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We were in time for a late brunch so ordered off the breakfast menu, but with milkshakes. Chocolate and vanilla milkshakes, shaken and served with a refills in a metal cup.

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“The Spot’s Omelette”. Crispy bacon, back bacon, sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, green onions, and tomatoes with cheddar, mozzarella and jack cheese. Served with mashed hash and multigrain toast. The omelette was lack lustre. The vegetables folded in were overcooked and soggy, more ham was in need to add flavour that was missing. Sadly my guest deemed the toast to be the best part and he only ate one piece. He choose the smashed potatoes as his potato side. They were as expected, boiled nugget potatoes, smooshed with a fork and then deep fried.

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“Chorizo and goat cheese omelette”. Chorizo sausage, sautéed zucchini, bell peppers, arugula, BC goat cheese, and their special blend of cheeses. Other than being topped with Arrabbiata sauce, it looked similar to the omelette above on the outside. My guest deemed this passable, it too lacking in flavour. With a one note texture she found it boring to eat. And when she specifically asked for peanut butter with her toast, it was forgotten. This despite her emphasis for it over jam and checking with our party for any peanut allergies. Still still got a package of strawberry jam.

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“Steelhead Benedict Benny”. Two poached eggs and cured BC steelhead on an English muffin with hollandaise and fresh dill. Served with a side of black bean salsa. I don’t know why but I expected the salmon smoked, like that which I have only ever had. Instead it was cooked well and served crumbly, an unappealing puff of pink. With a soften texture similar to that of the soft poached egg and the thick hollandaise sauce, I too found this boring to eat. The zesty salsa was helpful in renewing interest, layer in a new exciting flavour at my discretion. Though I didn’t necessarily find it complimentary to the hollandaise and salmon. As my side I chose the cubes of potato hash over the potato mashed. They were good, but nothing special, and ketchup helped.

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The original order of “buttermilk pancakes” comes four pancakes piled high and served with blueberry or fresh strawberry topping with whipped cream. My guest opted for a half order, two pieces and no fruit. She deemed it normal as she generously coated each portion she cut off with grocery store maple syrup.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I always expect more from a chain restaurant. This from the belief that such an organization is regulated and therefore should be consistent on delivery and higher in their standards. Instead I find such places sloppy, they ride on their names and their established brands, and slack off when and where they can. The hiring process is less critical, staff are not as caring, and food not as good. This was disappointing and is further ammunition in my belief to stay away from chains. I would recommend this as a quick and average stop, for food you settle on and service that gives you space. Not my first choice, but hardly my last. Don’t deny your cravings.

WHITE SPOT
797 Main Street, West Vancouver BC, V7T0A5
604-922-8221
whitespot.ca
White Spot on Urbanspoon

Tomahawk Restaurant

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“Tomahawk” has been recommended to me on several occasions. Known more for their breakfast, I still decided to come in for dinner. Located farther for me in North Vancouver, I found it worth the introductory trip down. If not for the comfort food, for a decor like no other.

If you miss it, the restaurant’s entrance is flanked by a pair of matching totem poles, the only place like it. With a spacious parking lot to the side it is fairly easy to get to and convenient to stop at.

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At the lobby you are greeted with a scaled down gift shop. A corner store of candy, souvenirs, and native memorabilia for purchasing. I suspect this does fairly well as tourists often visit, and have been doing so since 1926. Proof is in their framed awards. Rows and rows, and years and years of accolades lined the foyer. Decades of achievements throughout time, and a testament to their longevity.

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Past the food and collectables is a running water feature. A pond sized pool surrounded by brick, settled in by yellow rubber ducks. A collection that seemed out of place against all the native artifacts. Pieces rusted with age, worn with use, and dusty with memories. And here were these bright and bold yellow ducks. Ducks in water, ducks on land, some with hair, others with hats, a few wore vests, and others with nothing but their smiles. It appeared gaudy in a room of history and art worthy of a museum showcase.

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Seating is a melding of 50’s diner linoleum counters, and wooden tables. And on this rainy Sunday night we had the pick of the place. We left the counter to those wanting to watch the oscars on the old school boxy television, and chose a seat in the dining room. Tables sat with room for four, and two tops lined the wood barricade in the centre. They separated us from the cafe’s bar. This was your typical small town cafe. You had your coffee machines, your fountain drinks dispensers, and a windowed fridge full of homemade pie sold by the slice. This is the type of scene you image walking into at a random truck stop in the states. Very quaint, very homey, I certainly felt its charm. To give things a little more panache, an oval vase and a small branch of real flowers sat at each table. They were so fancy, it almost seemed lost in this more casual setting.

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The room was a story of native art. Art that reached all the way to the top of the tipped roof and all around the building of wooden planks, brick detailing, and re-enforced cement blocks. The focal piece was the panoramic that covered the left wall in deep green, red, and white. On it four legged creatures and birds in flight, each vividly drawn and detailedly decorated. Above this work hung black masks and framed pieces done in a similar style.

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There were stain glass panes of a wolf, turtle, owl, and snake. Each with it’s own characteristics and each equally bold in bright colours. Miniature wood carved totems lined the space above the cafe’s bar. And portraits and images hung from the walls. A look into their culture, their chiefs, and the artifacts that well represented their traditions. Native spun wicker and other house hold items hung from the rafters in decoration. Pots, jugs, drums, and a series of iron tools I couldn’t identify. Lighting them and this little room came from traditional looking saloon lanterns crafted in iron.

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According to the informative menu, “Tomahawk” was started by Chick Chamberlain, the founder since it opened in 1926. This was one of many restaurants he and his brother opened, but would be the first drive in. Chick himself would come out to take your order, before going back to the kitchen to cook it. He then delivered the finished product right to your car. The tale leaves off with business being better in door despite the Great Depression hitting the late 20’s. I didn’t really need to know more but an option to ask servers was there.

Despite the “BBQ” in its subtitle, the only item on the menu that was done BBQ style was a chicken. They seem to specialize more in comfort cafe foods. Sandwiches, soups, salads, and burgers. With breakfast all day and light hearted dinner specials like meatloaf.

Food came fast with options for condiments and sauces like BBQ and HP sauce. Though we were charged 50 cents for the side of mayo for our fries. And similarly charged $1 for the hot water with lemon. This was a first. Guess a small place like this needed the extra service and extra touch to be paid for.

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“Clubhouse sandwich” with slices of oven roasted fresh turkey. Yukon style bacon, crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes and their “Tomahawk” special sauce. Served on thick toasted Klondike bread. With options between white and brown we chose the latter. The presentation was full-some. A pretty standard sandwich. The turkey was dry and the sandwich plain. The Yukon style bacon was less salty and less flavourful than its more popular North American cousin, though it and the mayo were still the highlights of the dish.

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“Skookum chief burger” with onions, lettuce, organic ground beef patty, Yukon style bacon, free run egg, aged cheddar cheese, wiener, tomato, and their “Tomahawk” special sauce. Spent the extra $2 to have my fries upgraded to battered onion rings. A not surprisingly this would be a two handed job. I liked the size didn’t know why I wouldn’t expect it this large given the long list of ingredients. This burger had everything they could have put into a burger, everything but the kitchen sink. The burger grew one toned and tasteless half way through, and like the sandwich before the whole assembly was more bland than you’d expect. Ketchup became the easy refresher. The patty was on the drier side, and I saw the sauce but couldn’t taste it. The Yukon bacon and the hot dog wieners were surprisingly not salty enough. I really liked the idea of shredding the lettuce this fine. And the pickles on the side gave it that zest and pop it was missing, a great tasted rejuvenator. This was good, but nothing I couldn’t make myself.

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The age of the place was really seen and smelled in the condition of the washroom. Tiled and grimey it has seen a lot over the years.

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Complimentary cardboard head wear to help you remember your visit. This and the same place mats that we used at dinner are available at the gift shop counter. Free for the taking.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The experience was pleasant with friendly soft spoken staff, and the food was descent as we ate through both entrees. Everything was good, but not so spectacular to have me clamouring for a return. I appreciated the simplicity and homey feeling of the place, the history in the building and the stories of the walls. Though other than its age and its nostalgia, the setting is not my style. I prefer modern and more blanks. The food although satisfying and picture worthy was pretty common and nothing I couldn’t make myself at home. There was nothing I never had, and there was nothing I would have craved for again. Beside the travel is far for me, so this would not be my immediate go to for burgers and sandwiches. Though I may be back to try their breakfasts, after all apparently it is better, and what they are known for. Don’t deny your cravings.

TOMAHAWK
1550 Philip Avenue, North Vancouver District BC, V7P 1N2
604-988-2612
tomahawkrestaurant.com
Tomahawk Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Gianni Italian Restaurant

Our long search for a last minute New Years Eve restaurant yielded in this gem. Fairly new, with only one vote on yelp, it’s popularity allowed us to be seated on the spot, without reservations on one of the busiest nights of the year.

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It felt like we were in a cozy secluded basement. The place was modern and fresh. Brighten with lighter colours as a bevy of lighting fixtures. High gloss white tiled floors allowed you to slide in place on your chair. A combination of stucco and edge stone walls lined the room as they refracted light. And a warming bronze and brick fire pit centred the room with its ember glow. The bar was this impressive stretch, half the length of the dining room. Mirrors at the back reflected the shelves of bottles before them. And despite the look of everything else, two small and older television screens were mounted just above the kitchen pass. They played sports on their 14 inch 1980’s glory. I felt as regal as the surroundings that engulfed me. A classic dining establishment with white table cloths and black high backed and well cushioned chairs.

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On this evening it was New Years Eve and it was clear in decor and devise you. Multicoloured balloons were clustered in corners and by columns. Giant silver balloons declared to you, “Happy New Year” as lined the entrance. Banners done in sparkles, metallics, and rainbow hung over head. And guests where offered complimentary happy new year headband with feathers or a top had rimmed with the same effect. The patrons were a mature crowd. Grandparents and retirees. Everyone dressed and ready to empress. Friends met and hug. Staff stopped to catch up. This was that friendly Italian neighbourhood feeling I have only seen on television. A room of experience and only us in our 30’s , outside the large group of extended families.

Our wait by the front hostess podium was a short one. As she went to seat another party before us, the bus boys and servers reassured us that we would be helped shortly. From this gesture, I knew we would be in for some great service. After all they nailed the highly important, often neglected greeting.

The menu was a simple to read list. A specific listing for New Year’s Eve. Just the title of the dish under a heading. I found plenty to want on this list of 22 items.

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The complimentary basket of bread and butter came at room temperature. The foccicia was made in house and was definitely done fresh. Their version was without the usual assortment of herbs the bread is known for. We were hooked in its chewy and gummy texture. Our server joked that it was a little too good. Though it was hardly enough to tie us over during our longer wait for dinner. The place was busy, it was New Years, I am sure the kitchen was trying its best. Though we grew hungry and impatient. Especially as tables began to pack up and go and their bodies stood up and congregated in path ways. We were surrounded my coats and body parts.

We didn’t realize it was a fine dining restaurant until the plates and their portions arrived. You can always tell by the smaller portions. The food looked so good that you immediately wanted more, but the plate came as so.

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When trying Italian, I believe you need to try their pasta for an accurate read on the place. The “squash cappelletti” came recommended from our server. I was pleased to get prawn in my dish; as it wasn’t mentioned on the menu, and I was lead in to thinking this was a vegetarian option. The pasta to prawn ratio was a delightfully even 5:4. The sauce was creamy and with just the right amount of tartness. The fresh cheese spooned over after gave things a perfect salted topping. I just wish I had more of everything in my bowl. But I made sure to sop up as much of the sauce as I could per bite. I couldn’t waste a drop this tasty. And I was surprised that once done, this did more than enough to fill me up with pasta noodle and hearty squash.

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The “Rack of lamb” came with a side mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. We requested medium rare, but it came looking rare. There wasn’t a lot of anything, but what came out was delicious. Tender meat, whipped fluffy potatoes and crisp vegetables. Good hearty flavours that came clean and un muddied. The great rub on the lamb gave each bite of the bone a nice crunch. My guest claimed that the meat tasted like beef and he enjoyed tearing off what he could from each chop bone. Things could have used a nice rice pilaf to round off the meal and get you that much more full. He definitely left hungry.

The servers are dressed in black and varied between young women in short skirts and middle aged men in striped ties. Our server was this young bubbly girl, she was friendly and funny with all her quick comments. She genuinely seemed happy and like she wanted to be here. She even took the time to walk her guests to the door, whist wishing them a jovial new year. After several communications with her, I announced to my guest how much I liked her.

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On two occasion we observed the head chef coming out of his kitchen to engage with the guests he had been cooking for. From them he heard only praise and laughter. What a nice touch. It is not often that when dining I see the chef, let alone see him trying to make a connection with his patrons.

Would I come back? – Yes. If the food and service is just as good on a non busy and non eventful night. I would like to see how things are during a regular week. Is the food just as good? Are the staff just on point? Does the chef still tour the dining room?
Would I recommend it? – Yes and No. What I had I enjoyed, though as it was New Year’s Eve, it may not be regularly on the menu, and may not be regularly that price, or made regularly in that exact recipe. I need to know their usual and not just their best effort. Don’t deny your cravings.

GIANNI
112 West 13th Street, North Vancouver BC, V7M2H7
604-960-1015
Gianni Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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