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Le Marché St. George

My guest invited me to one of her favourite cafes. Off the beaten path, she deemed this a well kept secret, and a hidden gem. But with this post, I hope to bring it to the attention of many more. Not only do they boast a one of a kind setting, but they serve delicious crepes and unique hot beverages as well.

Located on a street corner in a residential area, parking is abundant and easy. But this two floor building has seen brighter days. With chipped paint, worn shingles, and rusted metal to add to its antique aesthetic, also farm-like rustic feel. Out back there was a rabbit hutch and live chicken roaming, behind wooden fencing. By the entrance, a trolly of pumpkins, garlic, and gourds for sale.

Inside, were many more curiosities to poke and peruse through. Knick knacks like “brains” in jars, dried florals, worn wooden toys, and small vintage kitchen appliances. There was also a collection of edible dried goods, canned preserves, and parchment wrapped sweets to shop. Maple syrup, artisan tea, all natural beauty products, and hand poured soap.

You order from the counter at the back, making your choice from the hand written food menu on parchment and the drink menu on chalkboard. You pay immediately and collect your beverage from the counter when it’s completed. For food, you get a table number and your plate is brought out to you when ready.

We grabbed a table outside and enjoyed the day and our meal under the cover of the awning and the shade of the sidewalk trees. The following is what we shared between three, appreciating the porcelain plates and the silver dish ware that cane with it.

The “Noisette” is a hazelnut flavoured espresso. It came with a foam top and a milk poured heart. And the “Espresso” was a stronger sipper that I found bitter and harsh.

I much preferred my “Creme brûlée fog”, which is like a London Fog with milk and black tea, but with the addition of caramel syrup for a sweeter drink. I didn’t get the cream or the burnt sugar indicative of creme brûlée, but I liked it just the same.

For food, our options were limited, as we visited after noon and they were all sold out of their croque-monsieur and chicken pot pie. So I went sweet with one of their “Roasted pear and brie crepe. I was reassured of my choice when the clerk behind the register said it was her favourite. Truth be told, I prefer my crepes plain, so found this one a little too sweet with the honey spread over the folded thin dough. On top was a slice of caramelized pear, covered in melted brie. A great combination, and all that I was missing was something crunchy, like crushed nuts coated in honey.

I should have gotten the turkey, fig jam, Brie, and basil savoury crepe instead. It had similar flavour opposites as the crepe above, but with the addition of salt from the turkey. I also preferred the flavour of the grainy fig spread with seeds, over the soften pear, as a pairing with the sharp brie. It was served with a lightly oil side salad, for a more fulsome meal.

The Tuscan lentil stew was the special of the day, it too came with a salad and some toast for dipping. This was a hearty serving of gritty lentils, bold in warming spices.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A really unique space to take in and enjoy alone, or to share a meal with a friend. Great aesthetics paired with a satisfying food. Don’t deny your cravings.

LE MARCHE
4393 St George St, Vancouver, BC V5V 4A3
(604) 565-5107
marchestgeorge.com

No. 1 Dumpling

Today, a small group of us were looking for something tasty and satisfying in the West Broadway area. We made “No. 1 Dumpling” our destination, given the posturing of its name, and the visual appeal of the photos of dishes offered, posted across the exterior windows.

This was a smaller restaurant with lower ceilings. Inside, a couple more photos decorated the walls, and a mural spelled out the restaurant’s dumpling-rich history in Chinese. We grabbed a booth in the corner, pushing enough tables together to sit us all.

The laminated menu was easy to navigate with plenty of full colour photos to help with the decision making process. The following is what we ordered as a collective, sharing it all family style.

The “Spicy sour potato” ate like a cold papaya salad, similar in texture and tang. It served as a good briny starter to get our appetites going.

The “Cucumber salad” was ordered for some balance. A slightly spicy, and fully refreshing break between all the carbs and meat below.

The “Green onion pancake” was a table favourite. Light and crispy dough fragrant with green onion. Good, but a little greasy on the lips.

The “Beef pancake” utilized the same dough, but filled it with tender bits of beef instead.

The “Xiao long bao” were as expected. Chewy pork meat with soup broth, in a firm but fragile shell. Tasty enough, but I wanted more soup to spill out when I took a bite.

I didn’t like how “green” the steamed pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings were. The flavour of the cabbage was overpowering, in my opinion.

I preferred the pan fried pork and leak dumplings, instead. A nice flavour with this crispy, chewy shell.

The “tofu with green onion” is exactly as you’d expect. The tofu was soft, flavoured in a sweeter soy sauce.

The “Spicy noodles” delivered with lip tingling heat from chilli oil, fully coating the eggy noodles. The shreds of cucumber and the whole sunny side up egg offered balance and freshness in an otherwise one-tone bowl.

As for the service, the lone employee was an older gentleman. He was attentive, checking in after and asking if liked what we had. He made us feel welcome. Which was helpful, considering the restaurant was fairly empty when we arrived and there was no music playing in the background to set the mood.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A cost effective and standup destination for dumplings and simple Chinese plates. Don’t deny your cravings.

NO. 1 DUMPLING
1888 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6J 1Y9
(604) 731-5577
no1dumpling.com

Honolulu Coffee, Happy Hour

Other restaurants have Happy Hour, “Honolulu Coffee” has “Pa’u Hana”. Starting on Friday October 4th, the “Honolulu Coffee” on Nelson will host live music with drink and food specials, every Friday from 3-7pm. It may be fall and it maybe cold, but here they are on island time; and the tropical vibes certainly does help to warm you up.

To celebrate the occasion they hosted a luau and I was the first one to arrive for all the festivities. To set the mood, there was live music. Pop songs done on the ukulele.

And “Leis de buds” was on location with handcrafted real rose and real orchid leis. Guests were invited to dawn one around their necks, learning that the proper way to do so is with equal parts of the lei and its florals dangling in front and at the back. This is so that others will be able to enjoy its aesthetics from either side.

And when the pre-made ones were all handed out, the floral specialist began making more on the spot, as a demonstration. Utilizing a specially imported lei needle to thread blossoms together by way of string. The result, wearable art, and a keepsake to take home and dry.

The event spilled out the entrance of the cafe. And right at the entry way was a baby pig roasting on a spit. It definitely attracted the desired attention. Slow cooking since first thing in the morning, it was now ready for carving up and serving.

Its pulled pork meat would be the feature of their kalua pork burgers, along side pineapple and a tomato salsa. The pork was terrific, you can taste the difference cooking it over hot coals made. As for the burger as a whole I would have liked the pineapple grilled, the salsa less watery, and a sweeter mayonnaise to pull it all together.

Inside, a table was set up with help yourself small bites. A collection of their bar menu snacks and cafe favourites for everyone to sample.

In the Teri burger, I got the tangy mayo that I was looking for above. It paired well with the crispy shredded slaw and all the onion and cilantro, piled over a thin beef burger patty.

For something to crunch on and pair with their Hawaiian brewed beers by the can, I recommend their smoked “mixed bar nuts” with a sticky glaze.

I fully enjoyed the “Edamame coconut hummus”. A whipped spread served with pita. It gives you the sensation and texture of hummus, but with a whole new flavour profile to explore. Garlicky and coconut-y, I have had nothing else like it.

The “Lilikoi pineapple meatball” was a nice small plate to share. Served with tooth picks, they are easy to pop into your mouth. A bite-sized round of meat with plenty of cilantro, and hints of passion fruit.

The bacon cheddar scones are from their cafe side, a perk of having a bar within a cafe, you get to pick and choose from either menu that shares the same seating area.

The matcha brownie cubes were decadent, moist bites of chocolate.

But my favourite of all their cafe snacks is their guava bread. I ate cube after cube, recommending others to do the same. A moist cake with the flavour of the pink tropical fruit.

At the build your own açai bowl bar, guests helped themselves to scoops of frozen açai; and topped with as much or as little fresh fruit and dried ingredients as you wanted. Slices of strawberry and banana, whole blueberries, coconut flakes, and house made granola. Tart and refreshing, this made for a healthy dessert alternative.

At their bar they were serving cans of “Maui Brewing Co.” beers in Pineapple mana wheat or Coconut hiwa porter.

And for something sweeter and frostier, you can enjoy their “Hauoli Colada”, similar to a pina colada with tropical fruit juices blended with ice and rum. It was an easy drinking cocktail, made more enjoyable when served in one of their brightly coloured, novelty tiki mugs or pineapple-shaped cup.

We finished our meal off with a cup of their “Hawaiian latte”, exclusive to them and one of a kind with their specialty beans. It uses coconut milk and macadamia nut syrup to further their theme. And although you smelled more of it, than you do taste it, this was still a great indulgence.

They also have two new hot beverages for their fall offerings. The first is a “horchata latte” with cold brew coffee, soy milk, and cinnamon. The second, a “baked maple pumpkin latte” with real pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, espresso, and milk; topped with grated nutmeg. They didn’t quite taste like what I expected. Not concentrated in horchata or pumpkin flavour, but a different interpretation altogether. I would have liked the horchata sweeter, and the pumpkin latte spicier. The latter was interesting with the addition of maple syrup. Maple, being a strong flavour that battled with the pumpkin as lead in the drink.

For more coffee, guests were invited to sample “Honolulu Coffee’s” newest roast, the “Peaberry”. This is one of the world’s rarest coffees, a lighter bodied brew with subtle sweetness and hints of mixed berry. One that you can take home as beans in a bag. It was recommend that we drink it as is, without milk or sugar. It was a delightful brew, and I can see why it has earned its accolades.

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.
In short, “Honolulu Coffee” will continue to be a cafe I recommend. Not just a regular coffee house, but one that features tropical flavours and transports you to a place much warmer and much further away. And now with happy hour and their own beer garden, there is even more reason to visit them soon. Don’t deny your cravings.

HONOLULU COFFEE
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

 

Anar Persian Cuisine

Today I was in Steveston in the afternoon. A walk around this city within the city, had me realizing how many different food options are available here. Not just the Instagram famous ones, or the ones that make it into television shows. But a wide array of cuisines, including the only Greek restaurant left in all of Richmond, “Kisamos”.

Although today we would be trying one of the newest restaurants to call Steveston home. A restaurant so new that they are still waiting on a permit to be able to showcase their entire food menu, which includes kabobs. They are the only ones in the area offering authentic Persian cuisine. But are already a familiar face in Richmond, once residing within “President’s Plaza”. Their new location only has them open between 12-5pm, so be sure to come for an earlier dinner or regular lunch. (Although, I am told that majority of the businesses in Steveston does close at 5pm).

Located in what use to be Steveston’s old court house, this refurbished building has been a part of history since 1925. Inside, the restaurant is pretty modern. Dark furniture over a black and white checkered floor. A few scenic photos on the wall, a shelf of books, and a laser cut room separator with matching art pieces. All in all it didn’t really have a theme, just more a collection of items to fill up the space; including the novelty salt and pepper shakers on each table. We were the first group of people to come in for lunch, a little after 12pm on a Wednesday. A few more came behind us.

The menu had dishes listed in their traditional names, with descriptions of what you can expect from them in English, underneath. Once again, this was only half of their intended menu, the full one will be available at the beginning of November. Without much experience or photos to reference, we relied on the lone employee who looked after the front of house. She listed all of their popular items, and we went with all her suggestions.

We started with their “Ab anar lemonade” with chia seeds. It wasn’t what we anticipated from a lemonade. It was sweeter than expected and rose water focused. It served as a great palate cleaner with our meal to come. Refreshing after all the other heavier flavours. I especially liked the texture the chia seeds offered: a fun chew.

We followed it with bread and two dips. Hummus made from chickpeas, garlic, fresh lemon juice, tahnini (sesame seed), and paprika. A solid rendition, great with the basket of warm dimpled bread sprinkled with sesame seeds.

The airy and foamy bread also made the perfect base for the “Kask o bademjoon”, grilled eggplant and whey, seasoned with turmeric and mixed mints; topped with caramelized onion. The fried onions were so fragrant, they added a nice crunch to the creamy yet chunky paste.

For our entree we shared the “Baqhali polow”. Braised lamb shank with dill, and fava bean steamed saffron basmati rice. The lamb and all the meat they use is certified halal, so tender it easily sloughed off the bone. Full of flavour, but a little too salty for me, luckily the rice was the perfect base. The beans added a different texture from the firm and long basmati kernels. And the side salad offered a crispy and tangy break. All in all a wonderfully done dish I would recommend.

With all that garlic in the 3 dishes above, the saffron rose water pistachio ice cream was the perfect way to clean our mouths and end our meal. This was a lighter treat with the floral essence of rose dominating. It reminded me of Turkish delight. The chunks of pistachio sprinkled over top and embedded within the ice cream offered some great crunch.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great offering to the Steveston community. Something different and something delicious. Don’t deny your cravings.

ANAR
12051 Third Ave, Richmond, BC V7E 3T1
(778) 834-1707
anargrill.com

Wang’s Shanghai Cuisine

My guest has been wanting to take me here for a while now. This is her favourite Chinese restaurant in the city. Delicious and authentic Shanghai cuisine at a fair price. Although she warned me that the service wouldn’t be great and that one regular server in particular comes across as rude (I identified her immediately). And I can tell you right off the bat, if the service doesn’t match the caliber of the food, it takes away from the taste of it.

Located in the “London Drugs” plaza on Kingsway, parking is easy to find, but hard to get into with tight stalls, narrow lanes, and inexperienced drivers. The restaurant is to the left of “London Drugs”, if you are facing it.

We came just in time to grab the last empty table, although the wait is short for the next one to free up. The food comes out quick and this isn’t the most enjoyable setting to linger in, so turn around is consistent. Closely placed tables so your meal doesn’t feel private, staff that stare you down as you eat, and the overall abrupt and rushed energy you feel from the staff as they hustle and bustle around you, with no time for pleasantries.

The menu is pretty straightforward for those familiar with the cuisine, but vague for any one visiting them for the first time. “Tofu puff with vermicelli soup” doesn’t tell me much about the flavour of the broth I am committing to a bowl of. Similarly, either does “Fried bean paste noodles” and “meat stew noodles in soup”. Lucky for us, my guest was well versed in their menu and ordered a few of her favourite go to’s. It was all heavy in carbs, and therefore all delicious.

Ironically we didn’t order any of their popular soup dumplings, especially considering there was a chef making them to order in a plexiglass box. A giant bowl of ground pork, lumps of dough, rolled out and stuff with machine-like precision.

“Wonton noodle soup” is not on the menu, but they make it for her each time by adding their boiled wontons to soup, then adding in noodles. Although when the dish came to our table, it was missing the noodles. And after a debate with the server, who blamed us for the miss in our order, we got a whole new bowl of broth with noodles. More noodles than we would have gotten otherwise. This was a delicious neutral clear broth, deep with flavour, but a little oily. I would be happy just drinking it, the noodles only added starch, and I wasn’t a fan of all the wilted greens in the dumplings.

I much more preferred the thicker, chewier texture of the “Shanghai style pan fried thick noodles”. I just wished there was more to the dish beside crunchy cabbage and shrivelled up pieces of pork. More depth, a greater feeling of eating a full dish and not just soy sauce noodles. But flavour wise, it was not overwhelming, and if I set myself to it, I would be able to finish it all in one sitting.

Next we had even more carbs in the “Pan fried pork bun”. I bit down, not realizing it was a soup filled bun. The juices squirted out, and I found myself slurping them up hastily. They made the centre of the bun soft and moist, a nice contrast to the crispy exterior. And the meaty centre acted as a sponge that soaked up all the flavour.

The “Beef roll” is worth repeating. This version used a lighter dough to wrap beef, cucumber, and plenty of sauce. Too much salty brown sauce for my tastes, lit bled out of either side and made the dough soggy. But the flavour was good and you can get past the above. .

To circle back to what I mentioned earlier, the service portion was lacking. Our server took our order without uttering a single word, and then reached around to grab the menu from us with no regard of personal space. Then we had to argue for the noodles with no apology, but instead, the accusation of us saying the wrong thing. This was followed by not being able to get the attention of someone for the bill. And having to go to the counter to pay; and given containers there, so that we could pack our own leftovers. We expected to have to pack up what we didn’t finish, ourselves. But it would have been nice for them to bring the styrofoam boxes and plastic bags to the table, instead of simply handing it to my paying guest, just cause she was up there.

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.
Tasty food, I would go back to satisfy a craving, but I wouldn’t make them a destination. I also wouldn’t want to recommend them, less someone also gets bad service. Good Shanghai for me, and still the “Best Shanghai” in the city for my guest. Don’t deny your cravings.

WANG’S SHANGHAI CUISINE
110-3328 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5R 5L1
(604) 428-6818

Havana Vancouver

We had just completed an improv class in their theatre, so went to the restaurant after to celebrate. “Havana’s” facelift has been completed for a while now, however this was my first time experiencing it.

The first half of the restaurant is as I remembered it: dark with scrawled on brick. The gallery that I once visited is now a secondary dining area. A pink wall between two pastel green ones, surrounding a mustard yellow bench. Wicker baskets are refurbished into lamp shades. And hanging greenery and a lone cati help to create a more tropical island feel. Not to mention the oil painting portrait of a man smoking a large cigar.

Our celebration began with pitchers of their “Classic mojito” and “Red Sangria”. The former was a refreshing citrus cooler, the latter a punch with both apple and orange juice.

The rest, were appetizers and small plates that we shared family style. The “Cheesy poblano + corn dip” was my favourite. A skillet of cotija cheese and pickled Fresno chillies melted, and made gooey for a stretchy cheese pull. A dunk into dip that you can either make with fried tostones, fresh tortilla chips, and/or Cuban fry bread. Out of the three I preferred the crunch of the chips for this lumpy yet smooth, sweet, yet salty dip.

The “Avocado tostones” were twice fried plantain, cotija cheese, and pico de gallo. The base had the texture of thick mashed potato, made further lumpy by the mound of chunky avocado and juicy tomato. Texture-wise, I was missing some crunch. Flavour wise I was missing some seasoning. Although this may be an inadvertent comparison between this and the dish before.

“Tostones” twice fried plantain chips served with a tasty avocado and lime dip. I enjoyed the thickness of the chips and how they are cut length wise for a more fulsome feeling. Great texture to crunch through, the perfect starchy base for the tangy sauce.

The “midnight snack croquette” is one I would order again. Mojo pork (a Cuban sauce made with garlic and olive oil or pork lard), Swiss cheese, pickles, cohiba aioli, pickled onions, and crackling. This is everything in one ball. Crunchy breading, gooey cheese, crispy bites, and chewy bits. Nothing to dislike.

They were kind enough to prepare a gluten free dish for one of our guests, by way of roasted cauliflower. The same kind and flavour that was featured in the “vegetarian flatbread” below.

House cashew cheese, charred corn, squash, roasted cauliflower, cohiba sauce, and mojo vinaigrette. A tasty collection of vegetable over toasted bread that could use a little dressing, something to give it a vinegary tang.

I preferred the “creole prawn flatbread” with grilled prawns, pickled onions, provolone cheese, avocado mousse, and shoestring potatoes. It was a great collection of ingredients that came together and brightened up one another.

Worth mentioning is their bathroom decor. A fun patterned and papered wall worthy of a selfie.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great spot for chill vibes and great shareable snacks. Photogenic for those who want to up their selfie game. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAVANA
1212 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X4
(604) 253-9119
havanavancouver.com

Hydra Cafe & Bar

The reviews have been only so-so for this place, but the decor alone is worth visiting for. They are the newer dining option attached to the “Exchange Hotel”, in downtown Vancouver. This space was design specifically for their Mediterranean restaurant.

You are in awe walking in and climbing their spiralling staircase, up to the main dining area. They do have a secondary bar/lounge space downstairs, but the second floor with vaulted ceiling is the place to be.

I had arrived early and my girl friend was running late, so I was more than happy to spend the additional time waiting for her, by their bar. A handsome arch framed their tiered assortment, well stocked and well presented before a back splash of half circles, layered like scales. This spoke well to their aquatic theme. A chandelier of plastic fish floated over a table, large paintings of wild waves in varying degrees of blue drew your eyes to the wall, and a television screen broadcasting picturesque scenes of the Mediterranean furthered the mood. Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and not a cloud in the sky. The music, upbeat and lively, like at a tropical resort night club. All this made them a great place for a drink, or to begin a bar crawl at.

On the way to the single stalled washrooms, be sure to take in their raw bar. Back lit mirrors hang over a trough of ice. In it whole fish peak through, speaking to the freshness of their seafood assortment. We were sure to sample from this with their “chill platter”, but more on that below.

By the hotel entrance to the restaurant is a living wall, greens crawling around the name of the restaurant in white LED. Under it a Möet branded tub and life persevere, that I had to take advantage of as a photo op.

Back at the bar, I order my first cocktail of the night. The name spoke well to the drink: “holiday”. Made with summer fruits and bright flavours, this play on the margarita featured fresh watermelon purée, cazadores reposado, martini bitters, ginger, and fresh lime. It was finished with a coconut sugar, and a maldon rim.

My next cocktail was at our reserved table, the “Fig” was a strong drink, that delivered on its name. A smokey sipper with fig at its core, and an extra bite as garnish. Dewar’s white label scotch, fig syrup, angostura bitters, citrus oil, and fig garnish.

The cocktail after that was “Tart”. And unlike the “Fig”, this was a name that did not perfectly describe what you were getting in a drink. Like its colour, it tasted like lavender and flowers. Bombay sapphire, cassis, kefir, fresh lemon and lime, honey, egg whites, and black toasted sesame.

We then decided to try a Greek wine, for drinks 4 and 5. We reasoned out that it would be more economical to get a bottle to share, as opposed to ordering it by the glass. This was “Monograph” from Peloponnese, Greece; it is an Assyrtiko. This was what was suggested when we asked for something similar to pinot gris.

And although it is ill advised, we ordered a “Chill Platter” to accompany all our drinks. Normally you’d want some carbs or something more solid to balance yourself with. But my girl friend and I have an on going thing where we aim to try all the seafood towers in the city. This one comes with prawns, oysters, ceviche sashimi, pickled octopus, tartare, and accoutrements for $105. For those who need even more, you can add on a pound of crab for $45.

The prawns were large and juicy, but plain. They needed a dip, and we found it in the sauces for the oysters, on the top tier.

These were Kushi and Royal miyagi oysters. And normally I can barley tell the difference between types of oysters. But the Royal miyagi oysters were deliciously sweet, the sweetest I have ever had. I chased it with a very clean and crisp tasting kushi oyster.

The ceviche sashimi was very dill forward, it over powered the herbed paprika, salmon and celery for crunch. This is the type of seasoning I would expect in a potato salad.

I liked the tanginess of the pickled octopus, I just wish it wasn’t served cold. Its already chewy texture would be butterier if warmer.

The tartare was bland by comparison, especially when eating it with the cucumber. The caper gave it some salt, but it felt lost amongst the others.

The crab was very water logged, shredded and soaking in olive oil with tomato and parsley. It was also too acidic and vinegary for me to enjoy the natural sweetness of the crab.

The broad beans were a nice little palette cleanser. Served chill with feta for a sandy texture. It was best enjoyed with the hard pita points, made harder with its time in the ice.

Overall, there was quite a bit of food on these two tiers. Plenty to keep you causally nibbling for an hour plus. And when anything got too dull, the sauces and minuet served with the oysters, as mentioned earlier, was enough to do the trick.

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.
Given how much we spent on a seafood tower, I felt it should have lived up to the cost. And for that I wouldn’t necessarily clamour to visit again, but can safely recommend them for an amazing hotel bar to see and be seen at. Don’t deny your cravings.

HYDRA
475 Howe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2B3
(604) 416-0880
hydracafe.com

Verre

In this post, I am back with my food blogger friends, and we have chosen, yet another restaurant we all haven’t tried, and all wanted to, for our latest meet up. Dinner with the prospect of pooling our opinions together, and conversing over something we all have in common.

We had trouble making reservations online, only to discover an empty dining room before us when we arrived. On this nice day and with their water side view, the patio was fully seated. But we got enough natural light and waves in the distance, from our corner table surrounded by glass.

The restaurant is modern, black and white with splashes of greenery. Checkered floors, black chairs and white tables. All set before a handsome half round bar, facing well stocked liquor shelves. Awe inspiring and a great place to drink.

We arrived in time for happy hour, so indulged in a few of their smaller plates for less. It was $5 for the “Triple cooked fries” now, or you can also have them as a side to mussels or steak during dinner. The fries were steamed, blanched, and the fried. Tasty with the garlic aioli, but also hard to mess up.

The $10 “Seared Humbolt squid with puttanesca would be what I recommend. Two pieces for $3 less than on the normal menu. The texture of the spongy squid was the highlight. I wanted more of it, than the sauce of garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, and olive oil. The olives overwhelmed the dish, I would have left them out all together.

With the $10 happy hour “Roasted cauliflower” you save $2. Firm cauliflower florets well seasoned and flavoured with lemon, almonds, and salsa verda. And overpowering with dill. Overall fine, but we all have had cauliflower we liked better elsewhere.

You save $4 on their “Short rib croquette” between 4-6pm. Breaded and fried ovals with Romesco sauce, parsley, and pickled shallots. Although I didn’t taste any of the above. Instead, this dish was incredibly bland. You got some flavour from the sauce the croquette sat in, but even that needed more seasonings. It was just tangy, where I wanted to taste the flavour of the meat itself.

For drinks they had a $4 “Aperol spritz”, with Segura Viudas, orange slices, and soda. A classic.

I tried their “Celeri fizz” out of curiosity. I am always interested in discovering another savoury cocktail to add to my list, this was not it. Sipsmith gin, pressed celery juice, berentzen apple liquer, and lemon. It was bland and drank more like celery water than a cocktail. I was not impressed, and our waiter was kind enough to take it off the bill for me.

Instead, I switched to Thursday’s drink promotion. 1/2 off select bottles of wine, $75 and under. The “La Stella Pinot Grigio 2017 BC” was “like a Chardonnay but not too oaky”, according to David of @pickydiner fame; whom I shared the bottle with.

Areta of @foodgressing popularity enjoyed her mocktail. “Les Mocktails” with earl grey tea, lemon, egg white, and demerara syrups. It gave her the sensation of drinking a cocktail with the coupe and foam top.

Now past 6pm, we ordered the following off their regular menu. The “Steelhead crudo with dill creme fraiche” was my favourite dish of the night. It is pretty start forward, but deliciously done. The texture of the fish was silken and perfectly buttery. Soaked in olive oil and salt it was simple and refined.

The hand chopped “Beef tartare” was citrusy and salty, flavoured with truffle, Parmesan, and parsley. It was served with potato chips, but I would have liked a more dense base with the heavier tartare.

The side order of “Brussel sprouts with pork belly and Parmesan” was okay. It had a good garlicky flavour, but I wanted it crispier. And it would have been more enjoyable if the sprouts were smaller; or simply cut in half, for easier eating.

The “Grilled pork saddle” was pretty good too. Fatty and charred, with sprout leaf slaw, and mustard seed jus. Sharing it 6 ways was enough of a taste, it would have gotten old fast as a single serving.

The “Whole deboned trout” came butterflied, whereas I read it as head to tail, served on a plate. It was browned in butter, served with green beans and almonds. A solid dish with tender fish, and crispy beans, all deliciously flavoured with butter.

The “House made fettuccine” is a safe order. Dry pasta noodles flavoured with preserved lemon, tarragon, and leeks. Served with plenty of calms. All together a fresh and lemony dish that left you feeling light.

The “Short rib polenta” was a much better interpretation than what was in the croquette. Tender meat that fell off the bone. Deep and dark with a spiced wine jus. A specific flavour that I was not a fan of. I did however like its drippings mixed in with the silken polenta paste.

The “Veal chop” in browned butter, with arugula, cherry tomato, and lemon was also bland. It was a meaty offering, great texture with a bit of fat; it just needed some sauce.

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.
Everything was just okay, so we didn’t look into dessert. It was a lovely dinner with good friends, in a beautifully done restaurant with a gorgeous view. However there was nothing different or outstanding about their food menu to bring us directly back again for dinner. Instead I work suggest this as a watering hole. A first stop on a bar crawl. Don’t deny your cravings.

VERRE
550 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 3H1
(604) 428-4843
verreyvr.com

Honolulu Coffee, beer garden

I don’t naturally gravitate towards coffee so it is nice to have a different reason to visit “Honolulu Coffee”. They have just opened a beer garden within their cafe, and I was here to get the full Hawaiian experience from them. Although fun fact, Vancouver is the only “Honolulu Coffee” franchise to host their own beer garden. There isn’t even one in Hawaii.

I cannot believe it took me this long to step into their space. It is so much fun. Their Hawaiian theme is evident in every part of their business. You feel transported as you step through the threshold with the change in light and the faint scent of coconut and macadamia nuts in the background. Bleach wood, rattan furniture, patterned cushions, and walls papered with palm trees to further the setting.

To take a little piece of this and them home, they even have a gift shop of sorts. Shelves with their branded coffee mug and tumblers, bold coloured tees and canvas tote bags, bags of their own coffee beans, and tins of their tea.

Like with any cafe they offer speciality coffees and hosts a showcase of baked goods and pastries. From dessert cakes to brownies. We would get a taste of both before the night’s end.

Their cafe feels separate from their beer garden, despite the latter only covering a little corner of their elongated space. But in my opinion, this is the best corner. All centred around a colourful mural of sand and water framed by palm trees, advertising their “Brewed with Aloha” beers. With a custom painted surf board to anchor it all. With this, all the right props, and all their tropically inspired beers, you are somewhere warm and tropical.

Their limited menu is listed on the back of their bar. Local beers on tap and Hawaiian beers by the can, and the perfect inspired snacks to enjoy them with.

We started with two cans of the Island brewed “Maui Brewing Co.” beers. Their cans feature Maori traditional prints on the outside and tropical fruit flavours on the inside. Both gave you the promised fruit essence with a nice easy drinking beer. Pineapple mana wheat and Coconut hiwa porter.

With it we enjoyed a serving of their mixed bar nuts, its smokey flavour complimentary to the beers.

My guest and I were fully impressed by the “Edamame coconut hummus”, and the creativity in the idea. It gave you the sensation and texture of hummus, but with a whole new flavour. It was churned smooth, and ideal with the pillowy soft pita bread it was served with. Garlicky and coconuty both at the same time, here is nothing else like it. Worth trying.

The “Lilikoi pineapple meatball” was a nice one to easily pop into your mouth, as a bar snack. A solid ball of meat with plenty of cilantro, coupled with hints of passion fruit; but tasted more like pineapple.

It was later explained that it is typical for Hawaiian cuisine to feature plenty of onion and cilantro. Like there was in our “Teri burger sliders”, along with a creamy mayo and crispy shredded slaw. All on a thin burger patty and plain bun. You eat it more for its condiments than the sweet buttery bun, gaining very little taste from the patty. It is also more sweet than salty, and I expected some teriyaki flavour in this (because of its name), and didn’t get it.

We finished our meal off with a cup of their “Hawaiian latte”, exclusive to them and one of a kind with their specialty beans. It uses coconut milk and macadamia nut syrup. Although you smell more of it, than you do taste it, this was still a great indulgence.

And I couldn’t pass up a slice of their guava bread. It is like banana bread, but sweeter and pink from the colour of the fruit. It was cut thick and offered you a beautiful chew. I would go out of my way for more. Another must try.

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.
Seriously, glad I could check this one out. And now I am happy to be able to recommend it. Next time that I want a drink or a snack I will actively look for a “Honolulu cafe”. Great polite service, stand out food, and a one of a kind setting to enjoy both in. Don’t deny your cravings.

HONOLULU COFFEE
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

Privé Kitchen + Bar

Once “Privé night club” in downtown Vancouver, now rebranded as an entertainment metropolis on West Broadway. This highly anticipate kaorake bar, restaurant, and entertainment centre is opening this Sunday, September 1st; and I was one of a handful that got to experience this megaplex, a few days before.

The space is massive, previously home to “Red Robins” it now hosts 10 karaoke rooms, a 2,000 square foot patio, a common area with a giant tv screen; and plenty of tables and chairs that can be removed to covert the space into a dance floor. For those who don’t dance they have giant Jenga for you to stack, a high tech beer pong table that includes its own app, a regular ping pong table, and an exercise bike.

But the latter wasn’t just any ordinary exercise bike, this bike blended as you pedalled. The result, a few calories burned and a new frozen slush in hand. It lives in the lounge, and is available to prospective riders. Though with the need for personel to help mix the drink before you bike, I suspect it is only available for riding on busier nights.

A similar case would probably be for the beer pong table. To play you need to download the app, struggle to get their password and connect to wifi, take a photo of a barcode, input your settings, then find balls and clean liquid cups to play with. But when they have reps in to show you what’s what, and how to play the game, it is a lot of fun. A more theatrical version of the popular drinking game, with flashing lights and the tallying of points.

Currently “Privé” is only licensed as a restaurant, and are working on acquiring their liqueur license. But once they do, they can bring in a DJ booth and arcade games to round out their late night offerings. Although their bar is already well stocked with premium liqueurs, sparkling wine, and Hennessy on display.

However, for this launch party, we were able to try a few would-be cocktails. Including a spiked ice tea and a lightly spiced caesar.

There was also a welcome citrus punch and a clear gin and cucumber cocktail, along with a couple of fruit infused mocktails.

With the drinks, there were plenty of foods to graze on; including fruit platters, meat and cheese boards, and a spread of veggies and dip. Basically their entire food menu was put out on display for trying. The following is what I got to, before it was picked over, potluck style. And unfortunately I didn’t try everything, so can’t review it for you here.

It was hard to share a burger over 20 ways, keeping everyone else invited in mind. I tried the fried chicken one with crunchy breaded chicken breast and creamy, crisp slaw. There was also a bacon cheese burger and two other beef options.

I didn’t like the idea of raw oysters at a night club or bar. But it was promised to be of quality, and it did fit into their luxury experience.

Similarly, there was raw beef carpaccio. This apparently I had no problem trying.

I didn’t mind their seafood cooked in soup or fried over fries. Fish and chips. The clam chowder was easy to sample with a scoop of soup on to your plate, and used as a sauce to dip your bread into.

They also had salads like one with golden beets and another with quinoa.

But the most popular, and the best dishes were all the familiar pub classics. The nachos with guacamole and salsa over chips and/or tater tots, were super tasty.

And I liked their fully loaded chilli cheese fries with hot cheetos.

If you get the chance to enjoy any of the above, I suggest doing so on their patio. A luxurious setting with wicker and cushion. Couches to sprawl on, and city views to look out at.

But of course the main event, and the reason to visit is their karaoke rooms. 9 rooms, each marked with its own song lyric.

Pop one liners like, “hit me baby one more time”, “I don’t wanna miss a thing”, “as long as you love me”, and “it was all a dream”.

Memorable rap versus like “She said she don’t believe in God, but her shoes Christian”, “money on my mind, all I $ee i$ dollar $ign$”, and “more money more problems”.

These are what made the rooms and “Privé karaoke bar” memorable. The fun of choosing your room based on its lyric and your mood, not to mention all the photographic possibilities.

The largest room is able to host a party of 20, under the neon lights: “feed me, feel me, fuck me, Vancouver special”. It and all the larger rooms have their own in suite washroom.

Like our “I love bad bitches, that’s my fucking problem” room. We found the quote empowering, making it our own, and paying homage to it by singing rap songs by powerful women.

Each room is equipped with 2 microphones. They are easy to turn on with a button on its handle, and a rubber grip to keep it from slipping. You make your song selection on the touch screen by the television. It functioned like a giant iPad. It was easy to use; easy to search songs by genre, title, or artist. There plenty of new releases with actual music videos to scroll through. And even more international singles from around the world to discover.

My girl friend and I aren’t big singers, let along karaoke enthusiast, so we were both surprised by how much fun we had. With the function that allows you to sing along with the actual singer, our cracking voices were masked. We found ourselves excited to finish our song choice and look for another.

We sang for 2 hours straight. With the toilet a few feet away and a phone to call the staff with, you needn’t leave the comfort of these spacious and stylish room. Eating and drinking are highly encouraged here. They have buckets for bottles and a specialty tray for shots. If you need anything, you pick up the phone and it’s yours.

Although, I do still suggest visiting the regular washrooms. The men’s and women’s had their own neon lights. More photographic and memorable quotes to capture.

And if you come before the sun sets, make sure you linger long enough to see the sky grow dark, and their space light up.

In short, I love the space and had a blast. I will be coming back with friends, and can safely recommend “Privé” as a great place to party at. You get the night club aesthetic and energy, retooled for a more causal evening. Although, they definitely kept the staff and their dress code, like that of a club.

PRIVE
1001 West Broadway Vancouver, British Columbia V6H 4E4
privevancouver.com

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