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Category: Strathcona Page 1 of 2

Bodega revisit 2

“Bodega” continues to be one of those places I visit when I am in a pinch, looking for a restaurant that not only serves up a good meal, but does so in a great setting. They just tick off all my boxes so, here is a revisit visit post, with us trying new dishes and some of their desserts this time.

Their romantic setting is given some colour with their Spanish theme broadcasted through posters that covered the walls, while their history was showcased in black and white portrait photography that filled the rest of the wall space.

We started with a dish of house marinated mixed olives to pair with our glasses of red wine. Briny nuggets served in a dish that gave us a place to put its pits.

“Tabla de ibericos”. Their assortment of the finest charcuterie from Spain was an impressive assembly, well worth the $28. Thin seasoned cuts of meat, sharp and firm cheeses, pickled olives and cornichons, sweet quince jelly, and fragrant roasted garlic by the clove. This platter had everything to nibble on. And for $4 extra we were able to add on an order of “Pan y aceite Olivia” to round it out. Organic bread served with a side of Spanish evoo. Who doesn’t love warm bread dipped into fragrant oil. We were just missing a hint of salt to take it to the next level.

The “Tortilla eapanola potato omelette with aioli and mixed olives was so good that we ordered two. Thin slices of potato stacked and served with creamy mayo. Potatoes are always delicious and with its texture here, they are simply amazing.

“Piquillos rellenos”. Piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, basil, dates, and marcona almonds; and they were amazing. Layers of flavour with fragrant pepper, salty and decadent cheese, sweet dates, and crushed nuts for crunch. And what a stunning presentation to boot!

The “Lengua estofada” is one that I have had before, and one that I deemed was worth trying today again. Beef tongue in a tomato, onion, and capers. Tender slices of meat in a tangy sauce, so good that my guests declared it the best beef tongue they have ever had.

With a vegetarian in the group we opted for the “Paella jardinera”. Saffron rice with pardon peppers, artichoke hearts, oyster mushrooms, asparagus, grilled fennel, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas. Be warned this does take 30 minutes to make, but the outcome is a fragrant, fulsome rice with a nice crunch to it. It provided a great base and a nice filler for all the dishes above.

We saved room to enjoy their “Pan de calatrava”. Bread pudding with figs, dates, and dulce de leche. This was a nice twist to the classic fluffy bread pudding, with a soggy centre and a nice liquor kick to finish on.

The “Churros” were made fresh and served with hot dipping chocolate and vanilla mascarpone. Each rod was crispy and the dip plentiful to coat it from tip to tip. Although as good as it was, I much prefer the classic cinnamon and sugar flavouring on my churros.

 

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.
Another great meal, so I see no reason to not continue visiting. A great place for authentic Spanish tapas, and a destination sure to impress you guests. A unique and original spot for a wonderful night out. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BODEGA
1014 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2W1
604-565-8815
bodegaonmain.ca

Bodega revisit

I continue to claim “Bodega” as my favourite tapas spot for authenticity of food and setting. So when looking for a place for dinner in the area, I found myself leading my guest in their direction. I love the rustic look of their Spanish posters and red gingham napkins, and how dressed up and romantic they feel with the lights down low for dinner. Although they keep things causal with their staff and their more laid back approach and dress code.

For the more detailed review of their interior and to get a feel of the restaurant’s vibe, click on the link to read my first visit recap. I also tried a few more dishes then and there then in this revisit.

Bodega on Main

 

We started with their house marinated mixed olives. They were perfectly briny, without being too salty. Each was firm around the pit and made for a meaningful bite, followed by a smoky finish. I appreciated the variety in colours and sizes, but naturally the larger green ones were the preferred pick.

This evening I was with a more adventurous diner, so we found ourselves ordering their more unique dishes. Like the “Lengua estofada” which is beef tongue, prepared with tomato, onions, and capers. I am a fearless eater, but there is just something about tongue meat (tongue flesh?) that I can’t stomach. I can’t get over the weird sensation of chewing on tongue with your tongue. Although the meat of it was fairly tender, and not at all tough or muscular as you’d expect, feeling your own. The sauce helped me finish my piece with its deep spice, and the stewed tomato offered up a different texture to help disguise. This is a great way to try tongue for the first time, but not one I would go back for more of. I had one piece out of four and that was enough.

 

Whereas I would come back just for the “Chipirones”. This is sautéed baby squad in a garlic and wine sauce. Each piece was super tender and full of flavour. Easy to chew with a great charred flavour. Honestly the best squid dish I have had to date. I just wish I didn’t have to share it.

Following it with the “Conejo riojana” was a bad idea. This was slow cooked rabbit in a tomato and wine sauce, and it was bland compared to the other dishes above. The texture and taste was like that of fried chicken, coated in a runny juice. I would have liked it without the sauce or at least a thicker tomato paste instead. Sadly the potato side was the more memorable note to this plate.

 

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.
Despite a two out of two for dishes enjoyed, my original assessment of them stands. They have a winning combination of clean and simple food in a dark and rich environment. A great place to sit and catch up at, or the one for a casual dinner date. My new favourite spot for tapas. Make sure you visit with the attention to pair your food with Spanish wine. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BODEGA
1014 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2W1
604-565-8815
bodegaonmain.ca

Earnest Ice Cream, Frances St.

The newest location of locals’ favourite: “Earnest” ice cream is on Frances street. It is within an industrial area, making them very much so a destination worth travelling out to. A great option for those who drive and are looking to avoid its other congested branches in their more populated areas. With pull up parking and plenty of sidewalk curb to sit on, they are a fine way to satisfy your “Earnest fix” in east Vancouver.

As the only commercial business front on the block, it stands out with its all glass exterior wall. Its trademark swirls and psychedelic ice cream cone decals marks the spot. There isn’t any seating inside, but if you are lucky, can be one of three to claim one of their white folding chairs out front.

As soon as you walk in, you are at the counter. Clearly the goal is to serve a quick revolving door of customers. Like it is with their other locations, the menu is a revolving list of small batch flavours, updated frequently with chalk on black board paper. And you can try as many samples of each as you like. They had a few of their fan favourites available as scoops and in pints, but I was more interested in their seasonal offerings. Like their “strawberry shortcake sundae”, their “sweet cream” flavoured ice cream, and the “fresh basil”. I sampled the latter and found it a refreshing palette cleanser. A great flavour to try as it hits its namesake ingredient to a tee, but not necessarily one I would commit to as scoop in a waffle cone.

Instead we were plenty happy with our fruit focused flavours below. My guest got the “sour cherry goat cheese”. The pairing of the two made for great compliments. Fresh fruit with a sharp and salty cheese. It reminded me of eating yogurt with the tartness and tang, and occasional sweetness, when happening on a whole fruit coated in syrup

I got the “sweet corn blueberry swirl”. I liked the fruit and the additional sweetness and distinct flavour the corn offered. Although, didn’t much prefer the texture of the whole kernels embedded within the folds of frozen cream and blueberry syrup. They were hard and chalky with a gritty texture.

 

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.
Another location to enjoy some of their ice cream at. Pretty standard, and as a staple, you know what you are getting. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

EARNEST
1485 Frances Street, Vancouver BC
604-428-2933
earnesticecream.com
Earnest Ice Cream Frances St. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dosanko

“Dosanko” is a new Japanese restaurant located within the ever evolving area of Strathcona. And following the wonderful new murals in the area will eventually lead you to their doorstep. Although you might need a second look as it’s exterior isn’t all that ornate. Simple all black plaint and a neatly printed sign, that speaks to their uncomplicated cooking style.

Inside, the restaurant has that Gastown vibe, wooden floors and wooden furniture paired with red brick walls and exposed beams. Rustic and purposefully aged. The place is kept dark with several strung up lights in large spheres and uncovered bulbs. They set the tone of a more romantic night. However, having a child themselves, the owners also considered date night; and have made it possible with a shelf-barrier dividing the restaurant into two, which contains a play area with a sofa and toys to keep any guardian comfortable and any child entertained.

But for this closed door event, we spent all our time in the main dining area overlooking their handsome bar stocked will with wine, beer on tap, and of course, plenty of sake.

I was delighted to have been invited to this media tasting, otherwise I don’t think I would have ventured this far for their homestyle Japanese; and that would have been a shame considering how great of a gem they are. 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.

They have been open since July 17th of 2017, which is actually the birthday of one half of this husband and wife restauranteur team. He takes care of the kitchen and she owns the front of the house, but both contribute to the menu, hence the fusion flavour pairings below. This restaurant has been in the works for a while. They spend two year creating and refining many of their dishes. Our chef’s goal was to open up his own restaurant before he turn 40, and with a couple of years to spare, he has achieved this. And given how great everything tasted, I can see longevity in their future. Most notable is the fact that 99% of all that they offer is made in house and from scratch. This includes all of their spice mixes, vinaigrettes, sauces, and even the specialty salt that they feature quite often.

Our menu was a curated selection, allowing us to get a taste of the breath of the kitchen’s ability, as well as some item they have already noted as their hallmarks.

The first two were seasonal items with fresh produce and bold flavours coming together for cooler plates. Helpful in combating against the warmer weather, and the fact that they don’t have air conditioning.

The “Stoney paradise Heirloom tomato salad” was one of our Chef’s favourite dishes. He couldn’t stop talking about these tomatoes from Kelowna and how they were the sweetest he has ever had. With them he paired pickled Walla walla onions, sourced from the same farm, shiso (a Japanese leafy herb), and homemade ricotta cheese. I love tomatoes, and these WERE some of the finest I have enjoyed. Firm and juicy, with just the right amount of sweet. By contrastive and bold extension the pickled tangy onion makes the dish pop with acidity. I would have only liked some more seasonings, and some more salt from the ricotta, to help pull everything together.

A group favourite was the “Koji cured ham with peaches”. “Koji” is a type of mold used in Chinese and other East Asian cuisines to ferment food. This includes soybeans for soy sauce and bean paste, and the saccharifying of rice, grains, and potatoes in the making of alcoholic beverages like sake. It gave the ham the same properties as prosciutto. Except that prosciutto is aged for 6-8 months, whereas with koji made into salt, you only need two months worth of curing to get this similar effect. The end result: some of the most velvety pieces of ham I have ever had. Tender slices with just the right amount of fat. It even tasted rich like prosciutto, except only mildly salty. Together with the peppery leaves and the sweet fruit, you have a classic pairing of salty and sweet.

Next is a typical Japanese salad used as an appie: “Kimpira burdock”. This healthy assembly of fibrous, julienned burdock root and carrot is a classic meal start. Although, I would have preferred it as a side, a clean way to cleanse the palette between dishes.

I am not usually a fan of tempura, but “Dosanko’s” offering was light, and the twist in using koji salt as a dip instead of the typical watery tempura sauce kept each piece airy. They use organic vegetables that kept their crisp texture through the deep frying process. Yellow squash, zucchini, rainbow beets, tomato, yellow beans, purple daikon, and multicoloured carrots. They even tempura-ed the cilantro garnish. The koji salt really gave it each piece its flavour, and like salt it draws out its natural flavour. I would recommend this dish just to try the koji like this.

The restaurant often purchases whole pigs, using every part of it, from cured ham in our appetizer above, to the rue in the curry below, and in this “Pork belly tonkatsu”. Originally this menu item allowed you to pick your pig part and the kitchen would make your request into a perfectly crispy, gold brown fritter. However many of their customers didn’t like how much fat that using a heritage pork created. So the solution was to only offer it made using pork belly. Here the pork is sous vide and marinated in more koji until tender. Then it dredged and given a bath in hot oil. The result is some delicious pork paired well, with some of the nicest sushi rice I have ever had; and the perfected sauces that pulled both together. The dish comes with a side of rice and three sauces/seasonings. You grind the sesame seeds up and add them to the tangy brown sauce. To it you can also add some mayo for a creaminess or use it as a change of taste as needed.

The “Hiyashi chuka” is their housemade cold ramen noodles. Its toppings vary based on what is seasonally offered and available on the day. The shredded chicken is a standard topping, prepared sous vide vide for maximum tenderness. Today we also had it served with their housemade kimchi, that wasn’t as spicy or as vinegary as other kimchi I have had. The pickled daikon gave the bowl a refreshing tang, the corn its sweetness, the shredded cabbage some crunch, and the cherry tomatoes some pop and juice. The noodles tasted like the sum of their ingredients, clean and delicious. I would love to see their take on hot ramen with broth, which I do prefer.

My favourite of the night, and the one our chef claimed was his, was the “Saba”. This is housemade miso marinaded white fish, prepared straight forwardly with mirin, sake, garlic, and ginger. It was light yet rich, savoury yet sweet. It had it all and they all sat comfortably with one another on your tongue. The only downside preventing me from ordering it again is the excessive number of tiny bones you have to pick out between bites of moisture fish. I am not a fan of working this hard to eat.

As mentioned above, their curry over rice used pork rue, made from the left over pulp from their pork belly tonkatsu. This gave the curry a lot more depth. But it wasn’t the sweet Japanese curry I was expecting, instead this smelled and was seasoned more like Tex-Mex ground beef. But the melted cheese did give me the creamier texture I was looking for. As a whole, it was delicious and I wish I had more just thinking about it now.

As a learning piece we were also given a sample taste of fermented rice. This is basically mouldy rice fermented with ground up koji. It looks like cauliflower florets and it tastes like Chinese herbs with a slight sweetness.

To wash that down we were served some of tastiest desserts I have had in a while. I adore their “matcha and white chocolate mille crepe” for its chewier texture, which i somehow cakey for a crepe. It is thick and dense, making your bites all the more decadent. More like sheets of lasagna noodle than light pancake. And like majority of their dish before this, it was the perfect amount of flavour, always feigning on the lighter side. It had a great matcha flavour, milky from the white chocolate, but not too sweet and bitter to start. I liked the peaches on their own, but didn’t really feel like they matched the rest of the plate.

And I couldn’t decide if I liked it or the “Cherry tart” better. This was a beautifully done pie with a buttery crumbly crust, luscious vanilla pastry cream; and perfectly tart, pitted spartan cherry halves. On top of the cherries being locally sourced, the honey used in this comes from their neighbours at “Humanity honey”. This honey in particular comes from many hives all around Vancouver. But the honey on the pie will rotate as new batches are purchased.

I am not a fan of chocolate in general, let alone the bitterness of dark chocolate in this “Chocolate passion torte”. But what I did like was its texture. It felt like sticky fudge under velvety cream. Dark on dark with the light mousse flavoured in passion fruit paired with fresh blueberries to brighten the slice up.

We then all shared a “Coffee and condense milk jelly parfait”, with the appropriate length of parfait spoon. I liked the jelly and would have preferred them as is with a little cream. Here the fluffy whipped cream gave the dessert a more interesting mouth feel, and like the jelly it wasn’t too sweet.

 

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.
Some standout comfort dining. I really liked the variety I got to try and how clean it all was. A great place for homestyle Japanese food with a western take. And with a good amount of rotation on the menu you can visit them often and always be trying something new. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DOSANKO
566 Powell Street Unit #100, Vancouver BC, V6A 1G9
604-251-2020
dosankorestaurant.ca
Dosanko Resaturant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Casa Gelato, weird ice cream flavours

With all the new small batch, artisan ice cream places popping up around town, you are only a stone’s throw away from some of the sweet cold stuff. So where do you go? Which one do you visit?

I find myself being drawn to many that use liquid nitrogen to make their creams icy, or utilize its chemical reaction to create smoke and interest in their parfaits. I search out ones with seasonal flavours, and those who put the effort into making their own specialty cones.

However, one ice cream shoppe I continue to find myself coming back to is the “one on Venables”. You may forget its name, but you don’t forget its baby pink exterior, and the fact that they are the only ones in the city to offer over 200 different flavours. Theirs is a room that essentially surrounds you with refrigeration units, filled with buckets of ice creams. Here, you have the ability to explore each showcase to the fullest. We did this by trying all their weird flavours without constraint. Over 20 samples were shared between three, from green onion to curry, durian and black currant. You can taste as many of each as you like, and that was exactly what we did today.

 

To check out the video of this, visit the link below.

Some of the more unique flavours include Vegemite, apple & cheddar, and roasted red pepper with feta. And truly most tasted as its descriptive name promised. Some by way of actual chunks of the promised vegetables or herb. I don’t think the point of these are to enjoy their savoury flavour for dessert, but to try it and say that you have. It certainly was reason enough for us to visit today. And this is why they remain a great destination for ice cream, and are the one to recommend to someone visiting from out of town.

 

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.
Don’t deny your cravings.

 

To read my original visit post, click below.

La Casa Gelato

 

LA CASA GELATO
1033 Venables St, Vancouver BC
604-251-3211
lacasagelato.com

Bodega for brunch

I have been to “Bodega” once before and knew I would find my way back. And today it would be to try their newer brunch menu for the first time. My visit coincided with my time as a Vancouver Foodster caesar completion judge. So there was plenty to eat and try.

But first the disclaimer. When it comes to meals enjoyed as media: 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.

To check out my first visit and my impressions of the place, visit the link below.

Bodega on Main

 

Their “Premium double caesar” was only available during their weekend brunch. The cocktail begins with Walter Caesar mix and to it they add your choice of either Sons of Vancouver chilli vodka, Altos blanco tequila, or Ford’s gin. The rim is a mix of maldon salt and chilli flakes. It is finished with a prawn, olive, pearl onion, and jamón kebob. It was a tasty cocktail, but what made it memorable wasn’t what was in it, but the ham that balanced over it. It also paired nicely with the flavours we ordered for breakfast below.

To watch its creation, along with the other caesar challenge entries. Clink on my recap video below, and see if you can recreate them for yourself, at home.

 

For food we got the “Breakfast paella” made with chorizo, chicken, prawns, roasted grape tomatoes, and piquillo pepper. It was topped with a couple of soft poached eggs, because nothing reads breakfast like the addition of eggs. I wanted more flavours and depth to the rice. It was heavy with salt and saturated soggy with its own sauce that pooled at the bottom. I wanted the paella crispier, with more stickier, tackier rice. I liked the chicken the most, but there was only one wing from drumlet to tip.

And because I like trying the unique and most unusual on any menu, their menu had me ordering their “Morcilla”. This was a breakfast platter of sausages with a twist. Blood sausages, fried potatoes with onions, poached eggs, and grated manchego cheese. These were the best representation of blood sausages that I have ever had. They weren’t iron laden or bitter; but instead rich, deep, and dark. Almost cinnamon-y. I just wished for a lighter side, something a lot more fresh to change the taste. Even more green onion and maybe some tomato or avocado over the starchy potatoes would have helped.

We were then offered dessert. We were tempted by the churros, but given the rarity of figs on most menus, we had to take advantage of them here now. “Bombon de higos:” brandy soaked figs with almonds, and mascarpone; dipped in chocolate. They weren’t too sweet despite the robe of chocolate that surrounded each one. They reminded me more of cheesecake with the marscapone, it was definitely the highlight for me. Great two bite morsels, where one was more then enough; so be sure to share this one.

 

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.
Another great meal at “Bodega”. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

Bodega on Main
1014 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-565-8815
bodegaonmain.ca
Bodega on Main Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pink Pearl presents 4 Decades of Dim Sum

Today I was invited to a Chinese Bites event meant to celebrate “Pink Pearl” restaurant’s 5th reopening anniversary. I was one of 50 other food bloggers and social media influencers invited to take a journey through the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and 2010’s, via dim sum.

As always, 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.

“Pink Pearl” is one of the longest lasting Chinese restaurants in Vancouver, they have proven their staying power over the years by surviving a fire that threatened to shut them down. They are best known as one of the only places in the city that still serves dim sum with traditional push carts. Something that requires plenty of space and planning on their part, as well as more work for little gains. To consider the necessary distance between tables, in order to pivot carts, means less seating is made available, and therefore the decrease of profits. Then there is the need for preparations proper planning to ensure you make enough food and the right kinds of food to be picked up from your cart, while it is still hot.

Before we began there were a few welcoming speeches, including mention of their fundraising initiative. The restaurant is looking to support the food bank by offering a multi course dinner, where the money for the tickets will go to fund the food bank’s need for non perishables. The theme behind this would be “Four decades of Chinese dinners”, at Pink Pearl. Tickets are sold by the table. $568 for a table of 10-12, and the price includes taxes and gratuity. This was a nice touch and something that echoed this morning’s “4 decades of dim sum” event.

All the dishes that would be coming to us today were laid out on an informative card. Although they weren’t in order of the card’s listing, or even by decade. Which I think would have been a nice idea, along with a little speech regarding the history of each dim sum item, to educate us diners. The following is the order in which all the food arrived.

But to watch the evolution of dim sum in order of decades and on video, visit the link below.

 

From the 2000’s we had the ever popular dim sum classic of “steamed shrimp dumplings”. A solid, rounded, chunk of sweet shrimp within a shell of chewy starch.

We then jumped further back in time with the 1990’s “lotus wrapped stuffed sticky rice”. This was a bundle of sticky rice for everyone to share, served and made fragrant in its leafy wrapper. The filling was the most I have had in such a dish. Full pieces of chicken on bone, chunks of Chinese sausage, and a golden yolk.

Taking another decade back, before going forward again we had the “1980’s Duck-web wrap”. This is actually my first time having duck feet, the webbing throws me off visually. But wrapped with toes covered like this made things a lot easier to swallow, figuratively and literally. Each foot is wrapped up in a tofu sheet with taro, ham, and mushroom. It was all flavoured in the same sweet and starchy light gravy. I could have done with out the vegetable and ham, as I ended up unwrapping everything and eating it all piece by piece anyways.

Back in the 2000’s we had their “steamed sticky rice roll”. This one was new to me. They combined two dim sum favourites into one. Chewy sticky rice with bits of Chinese sausage and ground pork, stuffed into soft white buns. It was a blending of two textures I like with its taste coming from the seasoning of the rice. The rice was not un-similar to the one served in the bundles of lotus leaves above.

The “1990’s mini steamed pork bun” was another one I am very familiar with. Sweet honey glazed barbecue pork in a perfectly spongy white bun dough. This had a good ratio of meat to bao.

The 1980’s had “shrimp toast”, as another dim sum classic that I have never had. It was a whole shrimp embedded into a triangle of toast. Interesting in presentation and delicious in theory, however I found it far too oily to consume more than a bite of. There was too much butter and oil, causing everything else to be lost and drowning in it.

2010’s had “hand-made steamed shrimp rice rolls”. They were served undressed, but the dish of soy it came with was a necessity for flavour and kick. The rolls tasted absolutely fresh and the table at the plates clean.

So far everyone was thrown off by all the dishes from the 1980’s, and the feeling was furthered by this interpretation of the popular pork dumpling: siu mai; named “liver and pork dumplings”. It wasn’t the most visually attractive, sitting in a pool of glistening grease, and without the yellow wonton wrapper that many use as a visual cue for the traditional dish. And then there was the cut of liver that topped it, not many folks like the iron-y taste and sandy texture of liver. But for me and a handful of others, it represents childhood and being forced to eat such organ meats by your parents, who insisted that it is good for you. Having been socialized to it, I actually like liver prepared liked this and found it delicious. Cooked tender and not so overpowering in taste as to hide the flavour of the pork ball it balanced on.

But the next 1980’s dish I wasn’t as such a fan of. This was yet another dim sum item that was new to me. We each received a “pan fried half moon dumpling” served with a scoop of soup. The former is a two bite, fried pastry with a chalky shell. You can’t make out, let alone taste the specks of filling within it. Overall it was fairly dry and didn’t have much taste as is, so we figured it was meant to be dipped. The tangy light broth helped to balance out its oily texture. And it gave the dumpling a herbal yet citrusy flavour, not that it necessary matched one to the other.

We then jump back up two decades with the 2010’s “wok fried lotus root and fresh mushrooms”. This dish was served family style with celery, carrot, black fungus, and goji berries (which I will talk more about down below). The lotus root was served frimer than what I am use two, it had a starchy finish to it and required some back of teeth chewing to gnaw through. It matched well with the other crisp vegetables in this sticky, mild gravy. A good side, but felt incomplete as is.

 

The 2010’s “hand-made steamed beef rice rolls” were not unlike the shrimp ones we had earlier. Except here the filling was ground up beef seasoned herbaceously with ginger, spring onion, and I believe cilantro. This too required the sweet light soy sauce to make it pop.

We then transition to dessert for our last two dishes, although it is common to get the dim sum sweet served before or along side the dim sum savoury. This is because desserts are often prepared ahead of time, and are typically ready for serving before any other dishes are wok fried or steamed to order.

The 1990’s had this “black and white sweet sesame roll”. Diana from Foodology described its look best by calling them “film canisters”. A layer of black and white glutinous rice flour fused together and rolled up. The flavour of the sesame in the dessert was mild. The seeds sprinkled above it offered more of sesame essence, although I would have preferred them toasted for a nice smokey flavour.

And lastly we finished at our current decade with this 2010’s “gojoy gojiberries gelle”. It was a nice, light berry finish made with the goji berries in mind. The berries added a nice textural chew and gave pops of juice to the otherwise dry jello.

Today’s event was also sponsored by two local goji berry farmers from “Gojoy”. “Gojoy” is one of the first to farm goji berries here in Canada. Starting every June to the end of summer, on their acreage, you have the ability to visit them for “you pick”. This is where you get to pick your own fruit from their actual orchid and get charged for how much you pick. They attended this event today to showcase their goji berry smoothie mix before the event, along with bags of frozen berries you can take home and thaw out to use as needed. They also spoke to the application of goji berries in cooking as seen in the savoury lotus dish above and now this jello-like dessert. The berries are easy to tie in to Chinese cuisine, as it is already noted in Chinese culture for its medicinal properties. They are now scientifically proven to be beneficial for the eyes, liver, and kidney.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I haven’t been back to “Pink Pearl” in years, until today. This was one of my parent’s favourite places for Chinese seafood dinners and dim sum, growing up. But I think we actually stopped coming in, after they burnt down and took half a year to rebuild. So to see them get back on their feet and continue to try and do new things, to bring in a larger, more diverse crowd is inspiring. This was a great event, offering a very unique way to showcase the familiarity of dim sum. Hopefully they do this and more of it, more often; offering a variation of today’s event to the paying public. It will not only bring in fans of Chinese cuisine, but even those unfamiliar and willing to learn through ingesting. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PINK PEARL
1132 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1S2
604-253-4316
pinkpearlrestaurant.ca
Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Upstairs At Campagnolo

How a $50 burger the size of my fist was worth every penny that I spent on it.

 

Both Diana of “Foodology” and myself read the same article by Ken Tsui for “Scout Magazine”. In it he speaks of the best burger in town being Robert Belcham’s famous Dirty Burger from Campagnolo. That was enough of an endorsement for us to visit, and for me to film our experience with the one of the “best cheap eats in all of Vancouver”, as ranked by the readers of “Scout”.

To skip the reading, watch the video of our encounter with the “Gang bang burger” here.

This attic bar is part of Campagnolo, literally named “Upstairs at Campagnolo” and physically up a flight of stairs to the right of its entrance. The room is dark with mystery and interesting with artifacts. Most iconic is the red and yellow neon dragon lighting your way as you ascend up the stairs.

The room centres around the bar, which we chose to be seated at, due to its preferred lighting. Behind it, the room’s bartender and sever stood at the ready. Here, you go to him o order and pay, an understanding their patrons had, along with the fact that the “dirty burger” was the one to get. Without the possibility of reservations, others like us came early, right at 6pm when they opened their doors, to ensure our desired meal. They often run out of their burgers early. They service and serve until late, but the burgers sell out well before, typically by 8:30pm. And this evening, with 10 people being served, and each ordering a dirty burger, some with multiple patties (like mine), they were already half way through their stock tonight, and it was only 7pm, an hour into service.

Their food menu didn’t list any of the ingredients for any of their limited menu. So the list below is taken off of Ken Tsui’s well written article.

Foodology ordered the the classic “ Dirty Burger”. “The Dirty Burger” is a 4oz, 40-day dry-aged beef patty topped with fresh tomato, lettuce, house-made pickles, a slice of American cheese, and their signature secret sauce. All inside a Scotch bap bun baked downstairs. I can see why it is so popular. It is all in the well seasoned and well pressed burger patty, the butter lettuce and equally buttery bun helped as well.

From here there are customizable options for your burger. An ingredient or two added on for more, and a more elaborate burger. According to some, in order to get these customizable options, you need to know their codes names. But in reality, although fun, it is unnecessary.

Our third, Mr Foodology had the “In the Sun”. The same “dirty burger”, but with the addition of a perfectly yolky sunny side up egg. I grew up with a South East Asian diet, so often find sandwiches lacking when they don’t feature a fried egg. Here, it not only gave the burger flavour, but that distinct runny gooey-ness I love as well.

Asking for a “Foghorn, Leghorn” got you a layer of fried chicken skin within your burger. An addition so delicious sounding, that we decided to get an appetizer plate of just chicken skins to share. It is served with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce that really helps it to pop, along with the fresh chopped chives. The sheet of skin was like a chicken chip in texture, and delicious taste. It was great served warm, yet still stood up after a day in the fridge. I would go back just for more of this.

“The Protester” added a 80g of rich, pan-seared foie gras to the dirty burger base. But being the greedy person that I am, I went ahead and got the whole bang, with the “Gangbang”. This was all the add ons and double the patty count. Two of their perfected beef patties, a sunny side egg, crispy chicken skin, pimento cheese, and 80g of foie gras.

In reality my burger was delivered to Mr. Foodology. I guess the assumption was a girl wouldn’t order such a decadent and calorie ridden burger, for a price tag of $50. I was such a woman. And not only did I want it, I finished it, and had no regrets with my meal. It isn’t an every day expenditure, but I truly enjoyed it, and still think back to it fondly. Though I think the dirty burger with one party, pimento cheese, and egg with a side of chicken skin would be the ideal order for me.

The burger was stacked tall and hard to take an initial bite into. More of it landed on my plate, joining the quickly growing pool of oil and grease that was collecting. It didn’t deter me as I even ended up licking the plate with oily mouth and sticky hands. The cheese was noticeable for its salty flavour, the foie gras missed, and the chicken skin an improvement for its crunch giving texture.

And a tidbit from the “Foodologys” is that this is only place that they know of that serves Mexican coke. Apparently their Coca Cola is sweetened with plain cane sugar, meaning you don’t get that high fructose corn syrup taste as you do with regular coke. Nothing I have noticed before, but am now aware of is an issue. I would like to return to try this as well.

 

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 have already expressed intentions of bringing my partner here. They offer a really good burger worth having an early bird dinner for. One for the purists who love an clean build, and options for the adventurous who want a little more meat between the buns. A little small in my books, but it does satisfy with a thicker patty. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CAMP UPSTAIRS
1020 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-484-6018
campagnolorestaurant.ca
Upstairs At Campagnolo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beta5 turns 5

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Beta5 turns 5 Birthday

 

“Beta 5” is one of those places that I constantly keep an eye on. They have mastered the art of “keep them coming back for more”. They do this with a strong rotation of seasonal offerings, desserts created to celebrate occasions, and different weekend-only specials. There is always a reason to keep them in mind.

And today’s reason was their birthday celebration. 2016 is their 5th year open and operating, and they promised to celebrate with festivities and giveaways for us, their loyal customers. They had prepared a birthday themed sundae, cream puff, and chocolates to commemorate to occasion.

They are located in an industrial area, and for those who have never been, the trip may get tricky. Their shop is one of many that rent out a garage unit. Here “Beta 5” has its shop up front, and their kitchen in the back. Behind the cash desk you get a look at their back of house assembly and operations through a window.

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Recently they have refurbished the table that once held all their pre packages chocolates for sale. Instead of being a display table, it now offers customers a place to perch up against, and enjoy their treat on. On either ends of it sits a bouquet of seasonal flowers, and a stack of tissues held in place by a jar holstering some plastic cutlery. Located by the open garage door, with natural light streaming in, the table also makes the ideal spot to indulge in some food photography. However, on his busy day, they found it best to once again use this table as a display unit, to help to not encourage loitering and congestion in an already tight space.

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We made sure to be there first thing when they opened at 10am, as the first 25 customers were rewarded for their time and patience with loot bags. We wanted to be one of those and were successful in our mission. However, arriving at 8:30am we weren’t the first. By the time we got out of our car at 9am there were already 7 people standing in front of us. And by the time 10am hit there were over 40 individuals in line. My guest and I have never waited for anything free before, but this seemed worth our effort. Worth it, even with us not knowing what would be waiting for us within these bags.

Our prize contained a six piece box of their birthday bons bons and one of their dark chocolate polygon bars.

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The birthday chocolates were speckled in rainbow, filled with luscious hazelnut chocolate ganache, and had the surprise crisp and pop of pop rock candy.

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I am not a fan of dark chocolate, but the quality was evident in their 66% polygon bar. It was only slightly bitter, and not as sweet for those who like a more mild dessert.
The unique surface of the bar speaks to the mountainous landscape they see as they look out the window while at work.

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Similar in design were their two limited edition polygon bars released for this occasion. A chocolate with pretzel and peanut brittle and a dark chocolate with freeze dried raspberry, pop rocks, and caramelized coconut. We each got one of the latter and tried our luck. They have a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” like contest going on, where if you find one of their special gold ticket bars, you win a prize. Ten of these bars sold this weekend would be flaked with gold leaf. Prizes for them range from a four piece box of cream puffs to a signature chocolate gift box. We sadly didn’t win. But were able to put our names in a draw, that we also didn’t win.

The actual bar was dotted in pink and white. Despite its candy coloured look, it actually turned out more bitter than the dark chocolate bar above. It was tart from both the freeze dried raspberries and the dark chocolate itself, but at the same time lovely with the lightness of pop rocks. Though I still would have preferred the bar to be sweeter, with more raspberry flavouring.

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We were also able to claimone of their limited edition birthday cake flavoured “party puffs” before they were sold out of them. Vanilla custard, whipped vanilla ganache, confetti cupcake, and a chocolate balloon. It was like any of their signature cream puffs. Completely fresh, made in house, and assembled in the back by a legion of chefs. Outside the puff was light and moist. Inside the creamy centre was a luscious cakey vanilla. It tasted like a cupcake, but without the strength of an overly sweet frosting, or the texture of a light and fluffy sponge. The balloon was the touch of whimsy, that most of their puffs are known for.

We would not stay for the 12pm hand out of free mini cream puffs, having already paid for the full version and not regretting it. However we would return for their birthday sundae, only being served from 1-5pm.

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The “birthday bash sundae” is one scoop chocolate straciatella ice cream, one scoop fior de latte ice cream, chocolate cake crumble, chocolate sauce, an edible Tahitian vanilla birthday cake candle, and vanilla Chantilly cream. It was a solid sundae with complimentary flavours. Mild vanilla ice cream meets a double chocolate ice cream with shards of chocolate and a bourbon-like kick. The cookie crumble on the side offered a nice crunch. The “candle” was soft and chewy in the centre like a cake pop, but in stick format. From it you definitely enjoyed the essence of vanilla. With this there were so many tastes and textures to explore. Each spoonful different, with seven different elements to sort though, and that is the whole point of a sundae.

And seeing as we were already here, we decided to explore more of the regular offerings for the season. They currently have their summer selection of cream puffs and eclairs for sale at $5 and $6 each.

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I was entranced by the piña colada, an all black cream puff. The juxtapose of white coconut severed black as ash. It was a wonderfully unique colour for a dessert. You couldn’t help but to stain your lips with it, as you greedily bit in. Within the puff was a nice yellow cream that gave you more of the coconut essence.

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The “Neapolitan eclair” was cute with its mini ice cream cone balancing on top. It was strawberry, vanilla and chocolate cremeux, with Neapolitan mousse and a caramelized white chocolate crunch. It tasted like Pocky strawberry with creamy vanilla, delicious.

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The “Ants on a log eclair” was just as cute and so original. It was milk chocolate and peanut whipped ganache, celery whipped ganache, and a white chocolate celery stick. The peanut butter flavour was fairly pronounced in this.

I loved it all, but just wished that they had boxes that better supported and transported these treats. A quick turn in my car had my treats tipping over, thus making them less impressive when the diner finally bit in.

In week’s past, I was also able to head down and take advantage for their last ice cream social weekend. To mark the last day, they featured a Harry Potter theme sundae with the music from the Harry Potter movie soundtrack playing overhead.

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This is the “Butterbeer sundae”. It is made with a scoop of chocolate stout ice cream and one of butterscotch ripple. It is topped with a chocolate wand casting a cotton candy spell, chocolate feathers of an owl, a chocolate wizard’s hat, and chocolate cake pieces with vanilla Chantilly cream. It was delicious, but it was truly the extra chocolate embellishments that set it apart.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
If they continue to keep things fresh and relevant, and continue to churn stunning and delicious desserts, they will continue to see me returning season after season. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BETA 5
413 Industrial Avenue, Vancouver BC
604-669-3336
shop.beta5chocolates.com
BETA5 Chocolates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BETA5 Chocolates

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A couple of weeks left before Beta 5 switched their menu to summer 2016, and I had yet to try one of their more photo worthy cream puffs, of their Spring 2016, in Bloom collection.

With so many seasonal items to try we made our choices count. One of each of the three new cream puffs. And one of their ice cream sundaes, only available during the hotter weather.

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You had a choice of their in house made ice cream as is, as part of sundae, or in between two slices for an ice cream sandwich. This would be my first time having one of their ice cream treats, only trying the bakery as whole, for the first time last winter. My interest in them only grew when I visited Toronto, and the owner of a local bakery mentioned his appreciation of “Beta 5”. This was after I mentioned that I was from Vancouver.

Every Saturday they hold their weekly event called the “ice cream social”. Attending this was the only way you could indulge in their seasonal ice cream. We were here on a Friday, but were more than content with selecting something from their regular ice cream menu. The flavours were a 66% dark chocolate, raspberry ripple, raspberry sorbet, and a cherry straciatella.

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We got the latter as a sundae. I excepted each sundae to be topped differently based on the ice cream that was its base. Instead you choose your flavour and wished it matched their chocolate on chocolate toppings. Each sundae includes chocolate sauce, cocoa nib chantilly, milk and dark chocolate aerated rocks, milk and dark chocolate almonds, and chunks of fresh brownie. Although considering that the cherry straciatella included shards of chocolate, along with whole cherries; this may have been overboard on the chocolate. The most complimentary of the toppings was the peanuts, that flowed with our cherries. The aerated rock was the most interesting. It’s bubbly texture looked like coral and tasted like Aero chocolate bars. And the brownie pieces were perfect little bites of gooey and chewy. In hind sight we should gave taken the clerk’s suggestion of ordering a double scoop to share. At the end there was more topping than ice cream to enjoy it with. The ice cream was okay and I am glad to have tried it, but this wouldn’t be my first stop for ice cream again. I will stick to their chocolates or puffs.

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Each cream puff was work of art. Skillfully piped and delicately assembled, so that no two flavour are alike. Each was a spongy puff hiding a luscious cream filling and topped with flavoured whipped.

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The “almond lavender” cream puff was a stunner. It embodies spring and new life with a nest, flowers, and a robin’s egg. Filled with almond mousse and honey lavender. Topped with a whipped ganache, kataifi nest, and almond butter chocolate egg. “Kataifi” is a special type of pastry that resembles angel hair pasta. It made the perfect texture for a light nest. The filling was delicate and pretty, neither lavender or almond, but a different flavour created by bringing the two together. The egg on top was similar to one of those candy coated chocolate eggs you guy at the grocery store during Easter, but better. You could taste the quality that went into making it.

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The “milk chocolate praline” was not as overpowering as it looked. With a line up that included a milk chocolate and hazelnut praline mousse, chocolate financier, and a milk chocolate and hazelnut whipped ganache; it surprisingly wasn’t too sweet. A “financier” is light and moist cake, similar to sponge. The mousse was rich with a hint of bitterness from the chocolate.

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The “strawberry and rhubarb” cream puff was strawberry mousse, rhubarb compote, vanilla whipped ganache, and a miniature strawberry-rhubarb pie crust. Each looked like a mini pie with its sugar topped an oven baked pastry topper. They even gave the cap a crust and a cut out with a bit of red showing through to add to the accuracy. With the inclusion of fruit, this was the most fresh of all three and the sweetest. That is why having it a day after took away from its intended flavour.

I wish we had more room and more funds to explore the rest of the spring menu. Not only the mint ice cream sandwich, but the chocolates, eclairs, and the candies too.

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The Spring 2016 Chocolate Collection had new and award-winning flavours that promised to remind you of spring. “With fresh flavours and colours to bring on the happiness of the season in bloom”. I mostly appreciated the paint job of the rainbow coloured chocolate domes done with paintbrush strokes. Shame they weren’t going to be around for pride. Though “Beta 5” does a great job of being that seasonal stop. They typically offer limited edition treats to celebrate such occasions.

The flavours included a “strawberry and olive oil” in white chocolate. The “Sparkling Praline” was filled with hazelnut and almond, then enrobed in chocolate with pop rocks. The “dark chocolate and mint” was a familiar flavour, best when sharp. The “Carrot Cake”‘was a roasted carrot caramel paired with spiced walnut. “Almond and Lavender came with local honey and fresh lavender. And the “Rhubarb Oatmeal” was a tart rhubarb jelly paired with a toasted oatmeal. If you liked the flavours in the cream puffs, you could easily take them to go as these one bite pieces of chocolate.

The eclair had the same base and filling of the cream puffs, but in a different presentation. Their version is more like lady fingers, with their slender widths. Available in strawberry and olive oil, dark chocolate and mint, and lemon poppyseed. A little bit more embellishment at $1 more than the larger sized cream puffs.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This is definitely one to visit when stopping in or living in Vancouver. If not to bring home some tasty souvenirs, but to marvel at their showmanship season after season. And given how they were able to build up their brand and the excitement that follows the launch of each new collection, I will most definitely be back. I tend to wait until the buzz subsides before visiting myself, but always make sure I get to see and try each of their buzz worthy flavours myself. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BETA 5
413 Industrial Avenue, Vancouver BC
604-669-3336
shop.beta5chocolates.com
BETA5 Chocolates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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