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Water St. Café, take out

With the need to distance yourself socially, given the viral landscape we are currently living in, local restaurants are doing what they can to stay a float during these uncertain times. Many of them, such as “Water St. Cafe” are offering customers promotional pricing and deals. Like if you purchase a $50 “Water St. Cafe” gift card you get a second one at $15. It doesn’t need to be gifted. If you are planning on purchasing take out from them, you might as well buy a gift card to use as payment. The two together covers a full meal including appetizer, entree, and desert.

You can’t dine in, but you can still have the perfect romantic date night date by setting the mood for yourself, at home. And I can speak from experience, their food taste just as good out of biodegradable, cardboard take out boxes as it does from off of their dish ware served on their white clothed tables. Albeit, you don’t get their stunning view of the Gastown clock, but as a whole it can be whatever you make out of it.

Their full menu is available for take out or delivery via “Skip The Dishes” and “Uber Eats”. The following is what we ordered to celebrate the first day of spring. It is all about the little things right now, simple joys and any reason to be jovial. I suggest taking them all. Plus, indulging like this also supports local businesses like “Water St.” who have been serving Gastown for the last 32 years.

The “Water St. Salad” is a popular appetizer to share. A dressed bowl of Tuscan greens topped with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, half an avocado, pumpkin seeds, and cucumber; all coated in a honey lemon olive oil vinaigrette. A light start, better served as a side to accompany all the food before us.

The “West Coast crab cakes” are declared a “Water Street Cafe tradition” by the menu. A battered and deep fried round that includes Pacific rock crab and baby shrimp, served with preserve citrus, fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. Another light plate to wet the appetite with. A little bland as is, but ideal with the aioli that helps to brighten the serving up; along with a side of fennel for some crunch.

The “Short rib pappardelle” is one that never disappoints. It features 72 hour braised short rib raguet, confit garlic, fresh basil, and Asiago cheese. A comforting serving that fully satisfies with its sheets of thick el dente noodles, evenly coated in the sweeter tomato sauce and tender pulled meat. This is one I recommend.

The “Grilled wild bc salmon” was a great one to kick off spring with. Made with balsamic and honey pickled blueberries, and served with pan roasted potatoes. A flavourful main that I would have liked best if the salmon was left a little more raw, for a more silken texture. Something with a lot more moisture to offer in contrast to the soften potatoes, crisp veggies, and juicy berries.

The “Braised beef short rib” was a stunning plate. Two generous pieces of sous vide Prince Edward Island beef topped one over the other, on a bed of herb crushed potato, crispy onions, and a pool of hoisin jus. Another comfortable main that gave you the flair of fine dining with the familiarity of a causal, non pretentious plate. Tender meat and fresh vegetables, tried and true.

And for dessert we had the “Lemon tart” with housemade lemon crude, apricot glaze, and berry coulis. This, my guest raved about.

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.
For delicious, classic staples that are dressy yet comfortable and familiar, look to “Water St. Cafe” for a meal that doesn’t disappoint. And doing so now with their spend $50 get $15 back giftcard promo adds great value to your take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
http://www.waterstreetcafe.ca/menus/

Heritage Asian Eatery, take out

Despite the need to distance and isolate, Vancouver food lovers are finding ways to support local businesses, while still enjoying their favourites restaurants. And thankfully the weather is cooperating. Today we were at “Heritage Asian Eatery’s” second location on West Broadway, where you could order from their entire menu for take out. And in part of the “Breaking Bread” initiative created by “SMC marketing”, they and other participating restaurants are offering special menu item at door crasher prices to attract customers in. Today we would take advantage of this.

In order to flatten the curve and diminish the spread of COVID-19 restaurants are no longer able to host dine in customers. Majority of them have shuttered their doors completely, but others like “Heritage” have taken to take out to make ends meet. And on the perfect day with sun and a park near by, you can make do with a picnic in a park. Continuing to practice social distancing as you, of course.

It is so odd to see “Heritage’s” open space seating area with share style tables completely void of people. You walk right up to their counter and place your order, reading off the blown up menu on your right. Barbecue meat options, bowls of noodles and/or rice, and plenty of small sides to share in between.

The daily, limited specials are printed off by the counter. We would order both the spring roll and the sprouts. At $2.25 per roll the “bbq spring rolls” were still a little pricy, but absolutely worth it. They were incredibly crispy with a wrapper that flakes off. It just needed a good blotting from all the oil that literally dripped down your fingers as you held it. Not to mention the additional grease from the sweet and fatty diced bbq pork filling inside. But taste and texture wise this was just aces.

The “five-spice brussel sprouts” were a great way to add a little vegetable to our outdoor feast. Although the seasoning could have been more evenly spread out. I got pieces that were too salty and others that needed more zip. The texture was slightly crispy, with the individual leaves that have fallen off the round sprout being my favourite. This was a lot for $6, although at the same time I would have been just as happy with 1/4 less for $4. Too much between two, overwhelming for one.

My guest was excited to see “Dan Dan” noodles offered, so we had to indulge with a bowl. However he was disappointed to learn that this rendition did not include the peanut butter sauce he associated with this mince meat noodle. He found the meat to be chalky and salty, from the starch that they used to thicken it, causing it to congeal quick. I on the other hand loved it just fine for the thick saucy udon noodles that you slurp up greedily. I also liked the thicker, syrup-like sauce they were coated in. This too was on the saltier side, but paired with the sprouts it was the perfect balance of freshness for such a dense and rich dish.

But the rice bowl is the one we both raved about. We ordered the one topped with pork belly seasoned in five spice. The thick cuts of belly were a little more fattier than I’d like it to be. However, the bed of rice, raw side salad, smashed radish, runny egg, and crispy fried topping helped to cut into some of its gristle. Each bite is best taken with a little bit for everything. So good that I want to grab more take out from them to try the chicken, duck, and even vegetarian eggplant and shiitake versions as well.

For dessert I highly recommend their “Salted egg bun”. A white bun deep fried to golden brown perfection, and filled generously with a liquid salted egg yolk core. It is best to eat this while it is still warm and toasty, but be warned things can get messy if you are unprepared for what can spill out with the initial bite. This happened to be the case for my guest, who despite ruining his shirt, joyfully declared he would come back just for more of them.

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.
The food travels well, everything was satisfying as a whole, and the specials are worth exploring. I would highly recommend their modernized, Chinese comfort food for your take out needs. Don’t deny your cravings.

Heritage Asian Eatery
382 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1R2
(604) 559-6058
https://www.eatheritage.ca/

Kisso Sushi & Ramen, take out

With the announced mandatory closure of all restaurants for dine in services, take out is the only way to go. So when looking for a bite in Port Coquitlam we found ourselves at the newer restaurant, “Kisso”. Sadly, they were spending their grand opening avoiding people. However, with the nicer weather they still had guests coming in to try their sushi or ramen offerings. Grabbing a takeout menu from the door, and placing their order at the counter within, and waiting for it to be wrapped up to go.

Their list of offerings is pretty substantial. Several pages to flip through, and without photos it made the ordering process challenging for the indecisive. More complicated with descriptions of what topped the roll, what was outside of it, and what you could find inside.

We ended up choosing the “Tiger roll” for its name. “Sauce: Unami & honey ginger. In: 2 pieces prawn tempura, pineapple, and crab meat. Out: BBQ unagi, salmon, cooked ebi, green onions, and sesame.” Sadly it didn’t survive the travel. What ended up before us was a saucy pile of ingredients and rice that still tasted just as good. Enough salty and sweet flavouring to mask everything else, and has you still going back for another piece.

We also took advantage of their verbally advertised daily special of 2 rolls for $5.99. You can either have it two California rolls or two yam tempura rolls, or one of each. We did the later to be able to taste and compare their base rolls, with other sushi restaurants we have been to. The California roll was pretty standard creamy and sweet artificial crab meat, that could have used more avocado or maybe some cucumber for freshness. And the rice was a little hard.

There was a lot of yam in the tempura roll and nothing else. Here, it would have been nice to break all the starches apart with something fresh and crispy. Everything else was pretty much as you expected.

For something a tad more fancy we got the “softshell crab roll”. This was my favourite of the lot. This was not only visually interesting with the neon red fish roe accent, but stuffed full of tempura-ed crab, lettuce, and cucumber. A little dab of soy sauce and you are good to pop everything into your mouth.

Overall, there is something about not dining in that has you dropping your expectations. Food matters less and the setting more. And either way the latter will be casual, and the food you order more likely to match. This was definitely the case when it came to our sushi lunch today.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t go out of my way for sushi I can find anywhere else, but I wouldn’t be apposed to trying their take on ramen if I am ever back in the area. I am glad we supported another local business trying to transition through this challenging time for the food and hospitality industry. Don’t deny your cravings.

Kisso Sushi & Ramen
1475 Prairie Ave B109, Port Coquitlam, BC V3B 1T3
(604) 461-0442

Farina a Legna, brunch

With all that is going on with COVID-19 restaurants and the hospitality industry are doing their best in these times to stay a float. Remaining open and making money, without being able to pay their staff or serve a gathering of customers in their physical restaurants. Social distancing and staying at home is encouraged, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy good food from your favourite establishments. An initiative to serve local business by serving customers from the comfort of their own homes. Spearheaded by local marketing company SMC, meant to support local businesses through an initiative called “breaking bread now”.

What started off as a noble attempt to continue to reassure the community with the highest of cleaning and hygiene standards, has now transformed into take out menus. And “Farina” is offering their food to go from Wednesday to Sunday, between 4-9pm. Wherein you are able to place your order via phone at 604-980-3300.

Here is their full messaging on the situation, as taken from their website.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO OUR VALUED GUESTS:

Due to the uncertain conditions in our community, we are taking measures above the requirements mandated by the government and have made the decision to close the dining rooms of all of our restaurants. The health and safety of our staff, customers and people in our community is our top priority.

IN THE MEANTIME – We are doing our best to help those who can’t get groceries, or want to avoid the crowds, by offering takeout friendly menus. We will keep you informed over social media as things progress and more details are available.

Please know that we are listening intently to the advice from government and health authorities and are taking all extra precautions in sanitation and cleanliness to ensure everything and everyone is safe. As things change we will keep you informed.

We thank you all for your patronage – friends, guests and staff, and we look forward to having you dine with us in person again on the other side of this.

I have yet to try this abbreviated take out menu, but I can speak to the skill of their chef and the quality of food through the limited run they had of their new brunch. Naturally, the following won’t be available, but I am choosing to still cover the full experience, as hope of things to return.

A couple of weeks back we were the first ones in for the launch of their new brunch menu, at their North Vancouver location. This would be the last restaurant I dined at for a while.

This Italian cafe has a causal charm to it. Checkered floors, wooden tables and chairs, green booths and furniture, and colourful posters set a modern tone. The menu takes inspiration from their wood oven, which is the heart of their kitchen. All dishes were designed to be shared family-style, with a selection of antipasti, risotto, pasta, and pizza.

The following is what we had on that day that now feels so long, long ago.

They have a bar/pastry counter right up front, when you enter. It tempts and teases for those who find themselves waiting on one of the benches in the foyer, across from it. From behind a glass showcase you can pick and chose your sweet treat. All great on their own, but better paired with any of their speciality coffees.

We sampled from a platter that included a chocolate and nut brownie, a blueberry cake, a flaky croissant, and a jam tart. The chocolate brownie was dense, not too sweet, with a surprise crunch from the bits of nuts that you find hidden within. The blueberry was your typical coffee cake. A mild flavour with a dryer texture, ideal for nibbling on with a side of coffee that you can use to moisten the slice. I liked the butteriness of the tart, along with its maple accented filling and shortbread crust. It was extra cute with the pastry stars on top of thin jam layer. But out of the four, the croissant was my favourite. Its shell was crispy layers that flaked off to reveal a soft cakey centre. A centre that was spongy with a sweet orange and almond flavour, punctuated by the sweetness of cinnamon and sugar. I would come back just to take this out.

I am not a coffee drinker, but I appreciate the way they present theirs. Fluffy foam tops, dainty espressos with perfect milk drawn hearts, and even a dessert option that offers a shot of espresso with custard cream.

The latter was just as much a dessert as it was a pick me up. One that I recommend, even as a non-avid coffee drinker. This one isn’t on regular menu, you only get it with a special secret menu request. You fold whipped custard into thick coffee, and gobble it all up with a spoon. It has a similar sensation to tiramisu.

For something a lot more boozier, order one of their mimosas made with fresh squeezed orange juice, or the classic citrus diced aperol spritz. Both a served in glasses with an additional bottle on the side, for an at the table refill.

Even during brunch their wood fire pizza is fully utilized. One of their thin crust pizza becomes more breakfast friendly with the addition of a sunny side up egg at its centre. This is aptly named the “breakfast pizza” with white sauce, pancetta and a soft egg. The crust had a great stone baked crunch to it. It was delightful as is, and given more panache with the a sprinkle of either their own chilli or oregano infused olive oil.

For the vegetarians you can get it without the pork, and instead plenty of mushrooms for an earthy mouthful. Both are equally delicious and worth trying.

One of my favourite dishes was their “Italian Benny” featuring house made focaccia. It is topped with a pomodoro sauce, two perfectly poached eggs, and parmigiano reggiano. And served with a evenly dressed side salad of arugula and crispy polenta. The tang of the saucy tomato was best exemplified by the herbaceous, spongy bread. This was a great take on a classic that I found myself preferring to the English muffin Benny; it is all in the bread. And its side of polenta was no slough either, it was light and almost eggy with a delicious mix of Italian seasonings. For a bit of freshness look to bites of peppery greens in between. The gluten free polenta is a great substitution that didn’t have me missing the typical breakfast accompaniment of hash browns.

And what is Italian food without pasta? At “Farina” there are 2 options available for breakfast, both are worth exploring. Featuring perfectly done noodles that is not only fun to chew through, but overall highly satisfying as well. The “pesto genovese” was a vegan option that doesn’t leave you missing meat. Basil pesto, roasted garlic, pine nuts, and parmigiano reggiano. Fragrant and herbaceous with a most enjoyable, springy chew. Writing about it now makes me wish I had a bowl before me.

This was only second to the “carbonara” pasta with guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino Romano, and black pepper. A sumptuous serving of el dente noodles that are made decadently luscious with thick cream and runny yolk. Silken, creamy, and peppery; beautifully done. So good you keep wanting to wrap your mouth around it. Fun to slurp and toss between your tongue and teeth.

Another vegan and gluten free option is the “mushroom frittata” topped with pesto and parmigiano reggiano. Served with crispy polenta and fresh arugula. It is basically a mushroom omelette. It had a light egginess to it, with the great texture of squishy mushrooms to gnaw through. Good, but bland by comparison to everything else before and after.

For a little more of anything, there are sides you can add to perk up any serving. We sampled the thick cut, salty guanciale bacon and their red wine fennel sausage. Both salty as is, but added a nice heartiness to our meal over all.

Moving on to sweet breakfast offerings, everyone was enamoured by the “Nutella toast”. It featured their own house made chocolate and hazelnut chocolate spread, topped with roasted banana jam, vanilla whipped ricotta, fresh berries, and toasted hazelnut. This was a gourmet, grown up version of Nutella that wasn’t too sweet, it allowed all the other toppings to have their moment on the spongy, cake-like bread. The bread was also slightly salty, well highlighting the tart fruit, and airy creams. I am not a fan of sweet things, but did appreciate this.

It was recommend that we end with the pannettone as the sweetest of all the plates. Not enough as a solo serving, but great as a dessert you don’t want to share. “Zabaglione”, an airy and sweet pannettone with sweet custard to dip into and fresh fruit to enjoy with.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I was floored by the consistency and quality of everything we had at brunch. There was nothing major that I didn’t like or anything that I would want to change. When they reopen, I highly suggest making them one of our first brunch destinations, as you will not regret it. I can still remember the flavours of everything we had clearly, which made me want to try each menu during all their seatings, and now their take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

Holy Crab, brunch

Today, breakfast practitioner and enthusiastic food lover, Diana of @foodologyca and I were out for brunch. We stopped at the well known, Louisiana inspired seafood shack: “Holy Crab”. Here, to try their seafood focused brunch, the entire menu’s worth. Be warned, if you order as much as we did, it does take some time for all of it to come out. With so many different components per dish, (from a kitchen that typically offers simply steamed seafood or deep fried snacks), these were a bit more complex to push out.

“Holy Crab” might not have the most extensive brunch menu, but for what they do have, they stand out. Any brunch place can do eggs Benedicts, but where else can you get it topped with blackened catfish, a crab cake, or lobster as the main protein? Given all the options above and smoke salmon, we decided on the “lobster klaws”. Because when given a choice, lobster is always the way to go. But sadly the claw meat wasn’t as expected, I wanted buttery and juicy, but it came out dry. We should have taken our server’s suggestion and gotten the crab cakes instead, in hindsight I am certain that, that would have been the best option. Be warned, you want to dig into this one quickly as the slightly spiced, creamy hollandaise does congeal and the lobster meat does harden as they cool. But the biscuit base we choose over the regular English muffin one stood the test of time. And it proved to be a great variation on a classic breakfast staple, especially with perfectly poached, ooey and gooey yolk that dropped down its sides.

Available during brunch, but great any time of day is their seafood grilled cheese served with the soup of the day. You started with a grilled cheddar and mozzarella sandwich and to it can add shrimp or lobster, or keep it the classic cheese only. Made with whole wheat toast, it is full of seeds and finished with a deep grill. The toast choice made it crispier and heartier than most; ideal for all the large chunks of lobster we choose as our filling today. This is another one to eat quick, before the bread gets soggy and the cheese oiler than necessary. Though if that is the case, a dip in soup is an easy remedy.

Today’s soup was a seafood chowder. It was thick, yet bright with a slow back of your throat spice. I especially liked the chunks of potato and clam bobbing about, giving it a watery stew texture. But truth be told, this was better by itself or with a side of garlic toast, to better highlight the soup. And the grilled cheese best with a tomato bisque to give the sandwich some needed tang.

The “Breakfast poutine” took the Canadian favourite of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. And to the assembly added an egg to give it more of a breakfast feel. Followed by some shrimp and snow crab claws to make it “Holy Crab” specific, with their Cajun-spiced fries. The result, an easy to graze on skillet. Tasty, but I was left wanting more diversity in my seafood, not just shrimp. Maybe some squid rings and scallop, plus the crab claw meat shredded over top. A little more panache to elevate the serving to the impressive standing of the others dishes. This felt very normal, comparatively.

For a lighter offering the “toast board” gave you two open face slices of toast, served with their rice salad. The latter was a chilled mix of black bean, corn, and wild rice. I didn’t find that the salad added anything to the board, or was even all that complimentary given the toast options available like shrimp and egg or vegetarian with avocado and spouts. A regular leafy green and tomato side salad would have been nicer. Better served as a full break from all the flavour each toast was bringing.

As for the actual toast, the menu doesn’t include any sweet breakfast options, so we sought out the banana toast with sliced banana, peanut butter, chopped toasted walnut, and a caramel drizzle. However, they didn’t have bananas on this day, so we opted for two savoury choices instead.

The smoke salmon was a familiar classic made with cream cheese, capers, shallots, and fresh dill. A fresh bite that offered a break between the heavier, denser plates before and after.

I also liked the truffled scramble egg toast as a palette refresher. A black truffle tapenade spread over crispy broiled white bread, topped with fluffy scrambled egg; and seasoned with truffle oil, Cajun spices, and chives. There was no mistaking the truffle flavour in this.

I was most excited for the Southern fried chicken and pancakes”, out of preference. No seafood in this one, just a twist in the batter and the spices used. Southern fried chicken seasoned with their signature Cajun spices, served on top of three fluffy cornmeal buttermilk pancakes. I liked the thorough crunch that the breaded chicken had, but wanted more meat on bone and seasoning to have gone through. There was gravy, but it was better suited to the poutine (as they are both use the same gravy). I could also make out the taste of oil and the need of plenty of pepper to balance it. To take it in a sweeter direction, there was also some maple syrup served on the side. It was nice, but I didn’t add any of it as the pancakes were served pre-dressed in jam and syrup with the butter melting slowly over them. This I felt this added unnecessary decadence to the dish. Whereas I would have liked the pancakes undressed and therefore less soggy, to better match the the crispy crunch of the chicken. Instead, they were sticky sponges that served as a base. Although given how stunning this looks, I ain’t even mad. This dish was all about presentation; a leaning tower topped with thyme and it worked.

The next dish I didn’t like out of personal preference, but I had to give it a bite in order to say that I have had “Holy Crab’s” entire brunch menu. The “Egg Sardou” are poached eggs and more of the Cajun hollandaise over artichoke hearts and creamed spinach. So basically a keto take on eggs benny, plus an toast or two. This is available as a half serving and a full. The texture of wilted greens makes me gag, so I worked my way around it. Not for me, but I recognize it as a very creative alternative for those who are looking for something more lean.

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.
In conclusion a great spot for seafood lovers, and those looking for a differing kind of brunch. With no other options in the are they are your go-to. Don’t deny your cravings.

HOLY CRAB
1588 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2G5
604-661-8533
theholycrab.ca

1931 Gallery Bistro, happy hour

Today, we were killing some time at the art gallery, checking out their latest exhibit on its last legs. Cindy Sherman’s collection of self portraits in costume, over the decades of her career. An exhibition well timed for International Women’s Day.

Our leisurely stroll through the echo-y art gallery halls found us at the threshold of their redone restaurant. Once simply the “Gallery Bistro”, now renamed and rebranded as “1931 Gallery Bistro”. Spotted tiles, new furnishings, a different configuration, and a fresh coat of paint left the space feeling renewed. Though pretty facade aside, the food was as I remembered it to be.

We began with a couple of drinks, my girl friend especially liking the idea of being able to drink at the gallery. She was in disbelief that she didn’t know that she could have done so sooner. A light rose for her, and the “Triumphs of caesar for me. 1oz nutrl vodka, Clamato, Worcestershire, tobacco, and steak spice. It felted watered down and flat, something uninspired that you would get from a food court kiosk. I didn’t taste much more than tomato juice, hot sauce, and ground pepper. It was a basic as far as caesars go, especially as it didn’t have a garnish. I should have stuck with the $4.95 house red or white, from off of the happy hour menu.

The food was not that much different. Where as the previous concept had pre-made plates at the ready, displayed in refrigerated units for the customer to take and pay for, and then to be microwaved at the back. They were now more than just a salad and sandwiches cafe. Now they totted restaurant quality appetizers and small bites, baked up relatively quick in the kitchen.

I was intrigued by the small list of $3.95 to $7.95 happy hour small plates. Beans, tortilla, and bruschetta; their descriptions all sounded lovely enough, making ordering challenging.

The “Miso-sake cauliflower bites” was probably the best out of the three plates we shared. Cauliflower florets marinated in a white miso and sake glaze. It was salty, but had no depth from either miso or sake. It wasn’t bad, but I would have liked the vegetable crispier and the flavour not so monotone.

The “Potato croquettes” were best on its first bite. Pressed with duck fat and served with a dollop of truffle and garlic mayo each, it was a little much by the last block. Crispy cubes with a hot smashed potatoey centre. There was no missing the musky characteristic of the duck fat, or the saltiness of the truffle. But I needed something tangy, and was looking for some ketchup to help with that.

I was the most disappointed by the “Pineapple tuna poke”, it was bland and therefore the first poke I had that I didn’t like. Ocean wise ahi tuna, soy, sesame, pineapple salsa, edamame, and rye crisps. There was no seasoning or marinade on the fish, you barely got any pineapple despite the title. And the hearty cracker added nothing to the taste, leaving me wanting a lighter crisp for crunch. Disappointing and small for $8

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If you like the novel ideal of drinking at the gallery, I suggest coming down for a glass of wine. The view isn’t bad and the setting is relaxing. I just can’t recommend the food in good faith. Don’t deny your cravings.

1931 Gallery Bistro
Inside the Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H7
1931gallerybistro.com

Hawksworth, brunch

My girl friend and I decided to do brunch this Saturday. We wanted a nicer venue and meal, and were willing to pay for it; so decided on “Hawksworth” at Hotel Georgia. It wasn’t very busy, we walked in and were able to get a lovely table by the window. And here, with the natural light I was able make out the interior of the restaurant clearly, having only visited during the dark of the evening, previously. The white of the upholstered chairs and booths brightened up the space with some freshness, while the shards of crystal from the oblong chandelier glinted in the sun. Light, that found its way in past the drapes and on to my shoulders. All in all it was a very lovely scene.

And since the setting was so delightful, we decided to linger in it for longer with the “BC mimosa kit”. A full bottle of sparkling served with three different juices that you can use to mix your own table side mimosa. “Blue Mountain Brut” with either blueberry, peach, or cherry juice. The bottle was kept on ice by the kitchen, yet our glasses remained dutifully full, thanks to the eagle eye sommelier. I tasted lavender in the blueberry juice, rose along side the cherry, and a bit of citrus with the peach juice. I found this a nice way to change up the flavour from drink to drink.

For food I originally wanted the “crab and prawn toast”, only to learn that for $27 you simply get the listed ingredients on a small piece of bread. Not enough to fill me, let alone pair with all the sparkling wine we committed to.

So instead, I opted for the omelette filled with brie, apples and walnut, served along side their “Parmesan new potatoes”. The omelette had a beautiful texture, a smooth blanket of egg that was not too sweet, and reminded me a lot like angel food cake in its mild flavour. I like the flavour combination, I just didn’t get enough of it. I specially wanted more salty brie. The potatoes looked like they had a good bake, but they could have been more crispy around the edges, as a nicer contrast to their soft centres. As for taste, the were seasoned enough that I didn’t ask for ketchup to squeeze over it.

My guest got the “Eggs royale”. An eggs Benedict where a toasted English muffin is topped with smoked salmon, and Hollandaise; and also served with the same Parmesan new potatoes as above. The salmon was not as expected. You read smoked salmon and imagine thin sheets of sashimi-like fish. But what we got was flaky chunks, a little nicer than what you get out of a can.

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.
Nothing was bad per se, it just didn’t measure up to the level that I associate with “Hawksworth”. Minus the mimosas, I felt like I could get this almost anywhere. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAWKSWORTH
801 West Georgia St, Vancouver BC
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
604-673-7000
hawksworthrestaurant.com

Visa Infinite Dining Series: Wildebeest

Today I was invited to my very first “Visa Infinite Dinner” featuring the collaborative efforts of “Wildebeest”, Vancouver and “Le Vin Papillon” in Montreal. Both of which helmed respectively by chefs Ian McHale and Jesse Grasso, friends and colleagues in this Montreal inspired meal to come. (As taken from the press release) Chef Grasso is “the third sibling in the Joe Beef clan and currently No.13 on Canada’s Top 100 list”. He will bringing his celebration of vegetables and cheeses to “Wildebeest’s” table of butchery, charcuterie, and game. A five course feast with canapés to start, and perfectly selected wine pairings every step of the way. Said wine was chosen by “Wildebeest’s” wine director, Christina Hartigan”. She is an impressive wine expert and enthusiast, with the title of BC’s second best sommelier.

“Wildebeest’s” cozy restaurant made the perfect setting for this private event. The narrow space had guests surrounded by red brick walls, wood panel separators, leather booths, and bulbs suspended by pulleys. Its rustic, yet homey feel played off their scratch-made, nose to tail, Pacific Northwest cuisine, well. We were seated towards the back, under the plume of a multitude of dried bouquets. Each seat was set with a name card and a menu listing the courses to come.

The night began with all the guests mingling in a mixed setting. Christina was at the back pouring glasses of “Jean Bourdy Crémant de Jura”. This was an easy drinking, 100% Chardonnay made in champagne-style. She mentioned that this was the perfect bottle to pair with likes of the light snacks that were also being passed around at this time.

The “Pomme Anna with kamouraska smoked eel” were tasty potatoes bites fried in waygu fat, and then topped with the eel and a dollop of sweeter mayonnaise. It was sumptuously rich and fatty in all the right ways. Definitely a great one to have with beer, or better yet: the sparkling above.

Next to be passed out was the “Waygu tartare with Chilliwack Horseradish”. It was served in a porcelain spoon for easy eating. It had a peppery tang that ended fairly garlicky. I liked the flavour, but am not a fan of the texture of tartare in general. Whereas, I prefer my raw beef in sheets, rather than minced.

I really liked the “Chicken liver and foie gras parfait with preserved wild berries on brioche”. I could have eaten a half dozen of these. Deliciously luscious pâté, smeared on thick. The sweetness of the berry played off the meaty paste well, and the crunchy brioche added some needed texture to the bite.

And I think this is first time trying whelks. They are much like their land cousins, and even seasoned similarly, here. These sea snails were prepared in plenty of butter with fragrant herb and garlic to finish. The seasonings masked anything musky you might not have wanted. I did like the firm chew of the whelks, it was a texture more like squid than escargot, which I prefer.

The “little neck clam with mirepoix bolognese” was served in shell. A scoop with flavours that ate like a meal, but I didn’t get much clam coming through.

When time, we were all directed to our assigned seats to start our meal. But first, a quick introduction to the program before us and acknowledgment of our traveling guest chef. Then our sommelier Christiana guided us through her wine choices, featuring many natural wines to speak to “Le Vin Papillon”.

The sit down portion of our night began with the “Mai & Kenji Hodgson Les Aussigouins 2016 Chenin Blanc; from Anjou, France. This is wine with a Vancouver connection. It is made by a former Vancouver wine writer that moved to France to make wine. His vintage was a lovely, medium bodied white with no oakiness, a fresh sipper that would pair well with the saltiness of the ham and starchiness of celeriac to come.

“Little burgundy ham, Avonlea cheddar, and brown butter”. This was one of the best ham and cheese platters I have ever had to date; and that says a lot, as this was just one of each kind being offered. But perfection together, with the savoury sweetness of the brown butter sauce coming through. I couldn’t stop picking at it. The creamy texture from the mildly smoked ham was memorable, especially how it played off the sharp and chalky cheese.

“Slow roasted celeriac, pickled chantrelles, and smoked walnuts”. Much like the dish above, this too was a light start that focused on delicious textures. Each element came together for a well balanced bite. Smooth celeriac, meaty mushrooms, and crunchy walnuts; best with a smear of oil from the pool at the bottom of the plate.

Our next wine tasting was the “Hajszan Neumann Nussberg 2018 Grüner Veltliner” from Vienna, Austria. Our in house sommelier declared that this is a wine that doesn’t get enough attention, so she would bring light to it here. It pairs well with any green vegetable, like the leeks in our fish course below. Its dairy nods went well with the green sauce and its savoury notes.

The “Lois Lake Steelhead, with Salt Spring Island mussels, leek velouté, Chilliwack lemongrass, and shore greens” would be my favourite dish of the night. And this is surprising considering I don’t often gravitate towards fish, or would I choose it over a heavy red meat main or a decadent pasta. But this buttery fish that ate like sashimi had it all, and I would order it again in a heartbeat. The freshness of the puréed leeks, the zested lemon in the sauce brightening things up, and the perfectly pedestal-ed mussels creating both visual and textural interest.

Next for wine we had the only red of the night, ideal for the red meat to follow. “La Stoppa Macchiano 2011 Barbera, Bonarda. This was a limited release from Central Northern Italy, pulled out from a cellar. It is a blend of two grapes at 50/50, all picked from a single vineyard. Made using traditional wooden vats that are unfiltered and triple decanted. The result, a smokier red with fine tobacco notes.

The red’s tartness helped to balance out the saltiness from the “Pastrami Pithivier served with sauerkraut, foie gras, house mustard, and bordelaise”. This was basically the merging of two Classic Montreal foodstuffs. A tourtiere filled with shredded Montreal smoked meat. But sadly I am not a fan of smoke meat, even with the delicious mustard plates. But I did appreciate the artistry and butteriness of the flaky pie crust and the gravy that I picked up with it.

Next, was the “Quebec cheese course”, another simple serving that I was caught off guard by how much I liked. There was pageantry in the plating of the Jersey royal cheese, topped with real honey comb, and served along side butterfly shortbread cookies and Quebec lingonberry. The latter most was even cultivated by monks in Quebec. This was a clean presentation that ate that way too. You spread chunky cheese over not all that sweet cookie, and topped it off with tangy berries in syrup. It was as fun to eat as it was to craft.

To pair with it we enjoyed an unique Quebec cider that you can’t normally find in BC. This is a bottle of fermented, 100% russet. Apples and cheese are a natural pairing and together the sweetness of the cider mellows out cheese above. But with an oakiness to it from the fermentation process. Dry and effervescent, it helped wash everything down.

And to close out the night, dessert was a “Grand Fir: Black locust, Chantilly, and cannoli pastry”. The pastry had an amazing crunch to it, like a solid strip of corn flake with ground sugar. And the black locus gel was set with vinegar, making it not too sweet. But I am not a fan of the texture of whipped creams in general, so it was a little much for me here. Although, I did enjoy the fresh lemon zest I got from it.

As its paring and our last glass, we had the “LaStella Moscato d’Osoyoos 2018 Muscat”. It is from Osoyoos in BC, but done in an Italian style; making it not as sweet as other Moscatos. A light sparkle coupled with floral and peachy notes.

In conclusion I was floored by the quality and caliber of this dinner, nothing disappointed. It delivered as advertised and I would be clamouring to attend any such Visa Infinite dinners in the future. And if you ever get the chance I suggest you do too. Simply fantastic.

Get tickets to exclusive Visa Infinite Dining Series events featuring unique chef collaborations, multi-course meals and wine pairings all in a private setting at Canada’s top restaurants.
https://www.visainfinite.ca/infinite/en/home.html?category=foodWineLink

Wildebeest
120 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1G8
(604) 687-6880
wildebeest.ca

Pokey Okey, Burnaby

Rejoice fans of “Pokey Okey”, you no longer need to travel all the way to Richmond to get your fresh fish and vegetable fix over rice in a bowl. Their second location is now open in Burnaby, just past Metrotown. A small shop with limited seating, no tables, and plenty of containers to take your poke to go.

Due to this being their soft launch they were only offering 3 types of poke today. Each is colour coded based on a feature ingredient, making it pretty easy to differentiate between the three. Therefore, I won’t be able to cover the entirety of their menu in this post, not until they are officially open the last weekend of February, leading into March.

You order at the counter and can watch your bowl being assembled before your eyes. Rice and/or greens first, salad and pickled vegetable next, followed by seasoned seafood, and crunchy toppings. All with multiple sauces drizzled over, at various layers.

The “yellow bowl” was bright and sunny with chunks of ripe mango, a pineapple salsa, sweet corn kernels, a sweet omelette, and a puffed tempura topping; along side non yellow items like spicy salmon, scallop salad, seaweed salad, pickled onions, and seaweed flakes over salad greens and your choice of brown or white rice.

The “red bowl” got its name from the chunks of spicy salmon, ahi tuna, kimchi, bacon bits; and an eye catching, perfectly round scoop of flying fish roe. The non red items included seaweed salad, purple cabbage, pickled carrot and radish, with seaweed flakes over more leafy greens and white or brown rice.

The “green bowl” had plenty of soy beans, wasabi peas and seaweed salad; along side ahi tuna, salmon, purple cabbage, pickled onions, seaweed flakes, wasabi mayo, and capelin roe. The tiny fish eggs were a showstopper for me, they had me favouring the two bowls they crowned.

And this weekend you can get anyone of the above for free! Just head down to “Pokey Okey” Burnaby for your free bowl February 29th and March 1st. And while you are there, be sure to tag their pink wall with some chalk art!

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked what I had today as their most popular bowls, but would definitely like to come back to try the full extent of their actual menu before making any judgements. Especially as this was my first time visiting their brand. (Haven’t been to the Richmond location yet.) Don’t deny your cravings.

POKEY OKEY
4919 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 2E5
(604) 423-9339
pokeyokey.com

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

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