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Category: West End Page 1 of 7

Liu Yi Shou Hot Pot Restaurant

Despite the seasons, Chinese-style hot pot tends to be a consistently popular destination for those wanting a little more involvement in their meal. You cook up your own dinner, customizing it from which broth base you use to what ingredients you put in. And at “Liu Yi Shou” they offer a few more options to make your experience even more interactive and personalized.

For the tutorial on how to maximize your hot pot experience, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

First “Liu Yi Shou” has happy hour, plenty of wine and beer on special. I suggest sharing a pitcher with your friends. With all the spicy and flavourful ingredients, beer makes for a great in between sipper. They also have plenty of can sodas and fruit pops available, and even coconut water you drink right out of the fruit. So start with this as you explore their very extensive menu.

And while you work out your order, or wait for it to come and boil, you can start nibbling on their “Cheese fondue”. This is a new menu item, and one that you don’t often see at a hot pot restaurant. Not just melted cheese, but their fondue is mozzarella flavoured with tomato. It is served with a board of hot dogs, celery, and chicken wings for dipping into. I really liked the flavour of the cheese dip, it had a comforting, gooey tomato soup feel to it. But despite the lit tea light under the individual fondue bowl, it does cool quick. Although it doesn’t congeal, so you can come back to what you don’t finish in between your hot pot, as a flavour changer.

You can also order their popular marinade appetizer dish. This is an assorted platter of quail eggs, bean curd, pig’s ear, and pork hoc marinated in a soy sauce blend. It is enjoyed cold or at room temperature. This you eat more for its textures of squishy, spongy, chewy, and rubbery.

Today I was dining with hot pot experts and they made sure to order the most unique of all the option, plenty of which are exclusive to “Liu Yi Shou”, starting with their tri-soup pot. You can enjoy 3 different flavours of broth, altogether in one pot. Ideal for those who get tired of a one flavour boil; or for those who can’t take their food spicy, dining with those who only like it spicy.

We had the chicken with coconut soup base, the wild mushroom soup base with Chinese herbs, and the spicy and numbing hot pot. The latter was extra special, it came with a block of tallow shaped like their cow mascot. “Tallow” is saturated beef fat, it is higher in calories than butter, but healthier and better tasting! The hotter it got, the quicker he melted, and soon he was face first in a pool of chilli and peppercorns. Not only does this make the soup more indulgent, it also help to cut into some of that hot, hot heat. And if you order the chicken and coconut soup base, you get a plate of raw chicken complimentary, to cook within it.

In an effort to save table space, our platter of finely sliced lamb and beef is served on a wooden ring, that fits perfectly around our hot pot. From here it is easy to pick up a slice and dunk it into any broth. Both cook up relatively quick, and after 5 dunks you are ready to eat it.

But as waited for all the soup broths to boil, we made our way to the back of the restaurant, to their help yourself sauce bar. At some hot pot places I find I get bored of the taste, that everything is boiled up the same, and has only the one flavour throughout. Here, you can customize your own sauces and curate the flavour, so that anything you don’t like is on you. Mix and match from sauces and oils like spiced vinegar, oyster sauce, sesame oil, satay sauce, mushroom paste, and bean curd paste, etc. Toss in some minced and chopped dry ingredients like sugar, green onion, toasted soy bean, mashed garlic, preserved turnip and peanuts; for texture and chew.

And while we were busy mixing and creating to our heart’s content all our ordered ingredients began arriving one platter after another. The beautifully plated, raw food comes out quick here.

A wooden box of leafy greens and various mushrooms.

Fish paste moulded into two hearts. This you scoop and drop into the broth for it to boil up and harden into a solid ball.

A platter of shrimp, cuttlefish, pork and beef, pre-formed balls.

An interesting one were these tubes of bean curd that you dip into the pot for 3 seconds. They act like sponges, soaking in the broth and offering a distinct ribbed chew.

For the adventurous you can order a platter of intestines and organ meats, for a more traditional hot pot experience. Pig’s blood, beef tripe, ox aorta, and goose intestine. I would also consider this, one that you order more for its textures, each with its own unique chew or gelatin-like consistency. The aorta had the same chew as squid rings, the tripe was so tender and easy to bite into, the intestine required more jaw work; and the savoury pigs blood had the texture of pudding and jello combined.

But the highlight and feature of our meal was definitely “meat Barbie”. A Barbie doll repurposed. She was dressed in strips of angus beef that you peel of her torso or cabbage base and add into your soup. At her feet is a garden of raw seafood. Shrimp in shell, fish puff, mussels, fish, and sticks of imitation crab. A visual treat, as well as a tasty one.

And for those who actually still have room for more, “Liu Yi Shou” does have dessert, offering something sweet to end on. Like their red rice cakes that you dip into condense milk or a sweet syrup. I did try one, but after all the food above, I felt ending on anything rice related or starchy a little much.

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 like their creativity and the broad offering of their menu. They aren’t just a place for hot pot, but serve as a stop for happy hour as well. Cold drinks and small snacks or dessert. They offer regulars and occasional customers reasons to return with plenty of variety to try and taste. And as the first hot pot place to have franchises all over the world, there are many locations for you to get your fix at. Don’t deny your cravings.

LIUYISHOU HOTPOT
1542 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C2
778-379-3977

Mumbai Local, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

Today I was getting to know a little more about “Mumbai Local” through the Vancouver Foodster “Chicken Wing Challenge”. This year I am one of 3 judges, and my duties brought me down to try their wing creation. They are 1 of 5 restaurant/ competing for the title of “best wings”. A competition based on originality, taste, and presentation. It is worth noting that they are the only restaurant who created a new dish specifically for the competition.

But first, finding them. “Mumbai Local” was hard to spot. We walked passed their all black facade a couple of times. Without a colourful awning or a stand out sandwich board you wouldn’t bother looking at their direction. But inside, it is a different story. Extending the length of the space is a beautifully done, eye catching mural in black, white, and yellow; depicting every day life in Mumbai. A woman with a bucket of fish on her head, a man loaded with multiple Indian kaftan lunch boxes on either shoulder. I would love to see a similar portrait splashed across their exterior. One, to attract attention; and two for a great selfie moment, to encourage fans to stop by for a photo, if not to eat. That being said, the mural is a nice surprise for those who do make it in.

To start I ordered their “Monsoon” cocktail with Olmeca tequila, Cointreau, guava, grapefruit juice, and chilli salt. I made sure ask if I would actually be able to taste the guava juice, and I was not disappointed here. The guava was pronounced, topped with a lingering spice from the chilli. This was a nice cocktail to compliment our meal ahead, unlike the drink below.

My guest ordered the “Turmeric milk”, a steamed milk yellow with turmeric and saffron, served in an adorable little jug. It was a nice way to end the meal, not accompany it.

We took the Chef’s suggestion and started with their “Chaat Sampler”, local street food popular on the streets of Mumbai. Four different one biters with a combination of salty, sweet, sour, or bitter paired with either a crunchy, crispy, or spongy texture. A beautifully put together platter and an adventure in dining.

The “Bhel puri” was served in the dish. Puffed rice, fried dal, crackers, onion, and a tamarind and chilli chutney. It was like bbq flavoured Rice Krispies cereal, and whipped potato, but made soggy with the sweet sauce. This was my least favourite of the four, given it felt like you were eating a spoonful of crumbs.

The “Shev puri” had flat crackers, potato, onion, and the dams tamarind and date chutney. Stacked like a mini tostada, it was easy to eat with one bite. And it is advised that you enjoy this one as soon as you get it to avoid sogginess.

The “Pani puri” is a hollow cracker filled with chickpea purée, enjoyed with a small jug of sweet tamarind water and a spicy mint and chilli water. With a steady hand you fill each globe with as much of each water as you like. This gives it a fun interactive element, a sensation similar to eating a soup dumpling. Refreshing as you bite down and the liquid flushes into your mouth.

The “Dahi puri” was a more filled and filling hollow cracker. This time stuffed with yogurt, chickpea, and their tamarind and date chutney. This one had all the flavours and all the textures of the top three rolled into one, literally. Best defined as an orb filled with cream, and spiced with a heat that lingers

Next we enjoyed their limited edition, Vancouver Foodster Challenge wings, inspired by chicken kabob. “Hariyali Chicken Wings” marinated in mint, cilantro, and yogurt; cooked over charcoal, and served with a cabbage slaw and mint chutney. A striking plate with the opposite, yet complimentary colours of forest green and burgundy. It looked like it came out a Dr. Seuss book, and would go well with green eggs and ham. The meat was velvety and the mint acted like a pesto with it herbaceous-ness. Plenty of mint flavour, citrusy masala notes, and the crispness of a char from the charcoal.

The “Vada pav” was carb overload for me. Fried potato patty in a toasted bun, this was too much starch. It did taste good, but it sat heavy and was dense. It needed a sweet and tangy note to brighten it up. In the end are them separately, patty out of bun. The potato patty was tasty enough to stand on its, own and the dough of the buttery bun absorbed plenty of sauce to give it its own character.

I really enjoyed their “Kombadi vade curry” and would come back for more. Chicken breast, caramelized onion and coconut; served with steam rice and vade, a traditional bread.

“Vade” is a dough made from lentil flour, seasoned in cinnamon and corridander. Rolled and stamped with banana leafs, then fried. It was chewy like a hard tortilla, not great on its own, but made for a nice base to dip into the curry with.

As another alternative bread, we also added a chapati to our order. this was a whole wheat roti, grainy and hard.

As of the actual curry, it was thick and creamy, and drank like a bisque. It reminded me of a spicy lentil soup and smelled like carrots. Delicious, but it was the chicken that stole the show. Brined for 24 hours, and sous vide for 1 hour, shocked in a pan and seared for a crispy skin. This was perfectly prepared and super tender chicken.

And for dessert we fully enjoyed the “Shrikhand”, a kitchen favourite. Although simple looking, it does take a day of preparation. They make their own yogurt in house and it needs to hang. The pineapple is compressed with cinnamon simple syrup. The cardamon and saffron are imported from directly from India. And it is finished with dehydrated beet power and a pistachio crumble. This was a light dessert that was fully satisfying. I liked being able to to mix and match all the elements and curate my bite. The cream portion had a similar consistency to ice cream, but much lighter. The tang of the acidic pineapple was nicely paired with the rich nuttiness of the cinnamon. I would like to have this one again too.

We chatted quickly with two tourists who raved about their meal as well. They searched for dinner options in the neighbourhood and found “Mumbai Local’s menu enticing. I agreed, but I might not have if the chef didn’t go through the menu with us, and explain the thought behind each dish we order. It would be nice if all their staff could sell their menu as well as this, and to help personalize each diner’s meal. Their menu is chic, but hard to order off of. A photographic one would be nice, and make it more approachable. However, it would take away from their boutique vibe and trendy look.

 

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.
As Vancouver’s only restaurant featuring Mumbai cuisine, they are the authority and go to. Everything is made in house, like their masala, proudly from a family recipe. All their meat is local from “Three Rivers meat” and their seafood Oceanwise. Recipes recreated from family members, friends, and experiences. For example, the chef just came back for a trip to India, and with him he brought back kebabs, their new menu feature. Overall they were a great modern take on traditional Indian street food. Authentic flavours and modern styled plating, made for a unique dining experience. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MUMBAI LOCAL
1148 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N1
604-423-3281
mumbailocal.ca

Guu Davie, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

Today I was at “Guu’s” newest location on Davie street. A great space with plenty of seating, but one that is hard to find. It has been 4 months since they have opened and I am only realizing now that the former “Speakeasy” bar that held the space is a thing of the past.

The glass covered walk way does little to draw you in. The sandwich boards advertising their izakaya and their $1 oyster deal is lost. You miss both, unless you rotate your head 90 degrees. And when you find the entrance, you question if it is the right one. Walking in feels like a journey, as you travel half the length of the restaurant just to be able to hear the hostess at the very end.

Past this corridor the restaurant does open up with seats by their sushi or liquor bar. And a second floor with additional tables by the patio. They currently have artificial turf on their patio, but this space remains empty.

My guest and I choose seats on one of their Japanese style tables. The ones that simulate eating on the floor, and requires you to remove your footwear. In bare feet or socks you walk over, and climb on to your cushioned seat. And for the sake of convenience, if you need to move around or use the washroom, they have communal sandals you can slip on easily for the duration of your stay.

I like they style of their menus, with Japanese kanji in bold and the English descriptions and pricing printed neatly under it. We started off with some drinks. I was immediately drawn to their “Wasabi Caesar” for $8.80. I don’t normally list the price of dishes, but am doing so here, as I really found their small plates to be at reasonable prices, allowing you to try more.

This was a Smirnoff caesar mixed with soy sauce and wasabi; and garnished with sun dried octopus, kelp, and a boiled egg. From looks alone you have never had a caesar like this before. They really sold me with the toppings. The egg was perfectly soft boiled, the seaweed nice and chewy. But the octopus tentacles were hard as a rock and impossible to chew off. Thought my guest was content with nibbling at its suction cups. As for the drink itself, it had a great, warming heat thanks to the wasabi, but other than that, the caesar lacked spice and seasoning, and there was no spice rim to help.

By comparison, the drink to get is the virgin “Hanayori Dango” for $7.80. This was basically a dessert for sipping. Matcha ice cream, warabi mochi, black sugar sauce, milk, fresh strawberry, and whipped cream was listed on the menu. Although I did not see any black sugar sauce or whipped cream. I could only and barely taste strawberry in the soda used, so it wasn’t fresh. And there was definitely no chewy mocchi. None-the-less, this served as a great summer refresher.

Seeing as we were between 3-6pm and in time for Happy Hour, we took advantage of our timing by ordering the “ebi mayo with chilli mayo” at a discount. 3 pieces for $5. I liked the size of the prawn, but other than that this was pretty standard. A fluffy, deep fried batter coating, hiding a mushy prawn, sitting in a flat, and slightly spicy mayonnaise. We took one each and didn’t even bother with the third.

We much more preferred the “Dessert style oden”. “Oden” is a traditional Japanese dish made by simmering various ingredients together in a single pot. Together, they slowly simmer becoming soft and flavourful. Their Warabi mochi version went for $4.80. It lacked a flavour enhanced broth, but it did nail the soft texture part, with the deep fried battered oden tofu. It was topped with vanilla ice cream, black sugar sauce, and roasted soy bean power. The folded tofu had an interesting texture, similar to a thin mocchi: chewy with a doughy-like quality.

The “Shlokara” we ordered out of curiosity, and even though we hated it, at $4.80 a dish, no real tears were loss. This was an acquired taste, one that lingers and that we couldn’t get rid of. This was raw squid cut into string-like noodles, which is the marinated in salt and squid guts. It was incredibly salty, with a gamey quality to it. A lip puckering sensation with a raw egg yolk-like texture. It didn’t have a great mouth feel, and its flavour comes back up to haunt you. Thankfully they offer mouth wash in their washrooms to help in this regard. More on their washroom later.

When we brought up how much we hated the raw squid to the server, she was quick to mention that not many people like it. Here, it would have been great to get this tidbit prior to ordering it.

And lastly we had their “Gyoza wings”. Deep fried chicken wings stuffed with gyoza ground pork. 3 pieces at $7.80. They were completing in this year’s Vancouver Foodster’s “Chicken Wing Challenge”. Ans I was one of the judges, here to try their contribution, and to eventually crown 1 out of the 5 contestants winner; based on originality, taste, and presentation.
It was an interesting take on stuffed wings, but it was more gyoza meat than chicken. You only got bits of chicken skin with the wing tip. Like they grafted a half eaten wing together with a gyoza, but left out the best part: the wrapper. It tasted good, but was a little salty. Though the pickled vegetable and the crunchy chip were most helpful in balancing out the dish.

I like izakaya washrooms for their fully stocked counters. Here they had wet wipes, cotton swabs, tooth picks, and mouthwash to keep you well groomed and your breath minty fresh. And best of all they have Japanese toilets in each of their stalls. The ones that have heated seats and a bidet function. I enjoyed the former, but passed on the latter. I don’t like something being so intimate to me in public washroom.

 

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.
At the end of the day I am always glad to have tried something new, and in this blog I will always order the weird stuff, so you don’t have to. But at “Guu”, I can do both without a hefty price tag. Our meal may have been hit and miss, but that’s half the fun of trying something new. So round up your most adventurous friends, and why not try raw squid guts for yourself? “Guu” has already proven themselves successful with a hand full of busy locations, and now you have a new one to consider when you are craving their traditional style izakaya. Don’t deny your cravings

 

GUU
1239 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N4
604-687-8890
guu-izakaya.com

H Tasting Lounge, new patio

The start of the recent heat wave perfectly coincided with the opening of “H Tasting Lounge’s” new patio. A classy way to eat and drink outdoors, with all the qualities and comforts of a luxury hotel. I have frequented the spot more as a drinking hole, so was exited to be able to get a taste of the cuisine today.

The patio was sleek with a dark wood laminate floor, made more stylish with the white heat lamps that looked like actual lamps with their shade and pedestal base. Adjacent, tiered umbrellas offered the grey and blue loungers and couches some reprieve from the sun and the heat. All with a view of the water in the distance and the cityscape reaching for the sky behind it.

Today, guests were invited to wander in and out of “H”. The tables were pushed aside and the restaurant turned in to a dance floor. Here, food and drink stations were set up for self serve, self indulgence. The kitchen was offering scaled up versions of food and drink off of their regular menu. Giving attendees a great way to sample the menu for future visits.

Inside the restaurant, were 3 tables worth of cheese and meats; pushed together to form one of the longest charcuterie boards I have ever seen.

The “European cheese plate” with a seasonal marmalade, pickled grapes, and seed crackers.

The “Local charcuterie” board including whole grain mustard, pickled grapes, and baguette slices.

And the “Quiche Lorraine” that was a new one for me. Two rounds of pancetta, goat cheese, and zucchini eaten like a spread.

As for drinks, there was plenty to taste and many more to inspire your next sip by the seaside. Drinks included a welcome glass of sparkling and Moët on ice.

At the bar, cocktails were shaken and stirred to order. Here I had the “Thinner walls”, ordering off a menu that included photos (a smart move, catering to the likes of me, those who love a visual cocktail. Naturally, I gravitated towards the green drink with a pea shoot for garnish. It was a wonderful visual and tasted like a spiked green juice with tequila, snow peas, suze, lemon, and soda. The first healthy drink that I got my buzz on to.

I liked the tea station where premixed tea based cocktails were poured and garnish to order. The “Late blossom smiles tea” is normally served in a tea pot, so to paid homage to this, they were served in Japanese style tea cups today. Vodka, st. germain, lillet blanc, nutcracker tea, honey, lime, and soda; completed with a bobbling flower. I liked how you could taste both the black tea and the spirits equally, they were well balanced.

Similarly in balance was the “Rye Chai”, chai tea meets rye, mezcal, apricot liqueur, falernum, and lemon. A beautiful cocktail that I fully enjoyed, it reminded me more a sweet southern tea with a kick.

On the patio, keeping cool over ice was a collection of sashimi and selfish. You could see it across the room thanks to the two giant “H” ice sculptures marking these ice baths. One was a collection of oysters, being shucked adjacent and slurped up fresh.

The second ice station had two bite servings of crudo and carpaccio.

“Kanpachi crudo” with blood orange, pickled butternut, shiso, and sumac kiwi. A refreshing snack that spoke to the quality of their seafood.

The “Halibut crudo” was seasoned in a yuzu vinaigrette with anjou pear, thyme, and micro kale. Sadly my serving was so very salted, that it made my lips pucker.

The “Tuna carpaccio” was my favourite of the three given some pizzaz with pickled watermelon, fresno chili, and mint.

And as we ate, servers toured the patio offering up for more appetizers on trays. Bites like the “Beef tartare” with egg yolk, shallot, caper, chive, and horseradish. A delicious morsel that you easily popped into your mouth.

The “Salmon tartare” with tarragon, cucumber, lemon, labneh, and hibiscus was a refreshing starter, served on an endive leaf.

The “Lump crab cake” was tasty, a crispy baked shell hiding a creamy, flaky crab filled centre; sauced up with their Old bay aioli.

I liked the “Morel mushroom tartine” made with ricotta, black garlic mustard, watermelon radish, and micro kale. Earthy and saucy, one of the more filling, roving appetizers.

And I fully enjoyed the mini West Coast lobster rolls with much gusto. Sweet shellfish, creamy mayo, and a hint of dill for freshness.

For dessert they had “Uno Gelato & Sorbet” doling out their ice cream on site. A cute cart attached to a bicycle, where you could get scoops of either salted caramel, mango, or their vegan “Midnight chocolate” in small cups. I had the former and found it too sweet for my taste.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes. In truth I have actually have never had a full meal here, my visits typically start and end at the bar, so this was a nice teaser of them and their new patio. And one lavish enough to have me wanting to return for the full experience. I would love to revisit on a separate occasion, to more accurately account for what’s it like to dine-in and drink out on their patio. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

The Westin Bayshore
1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
604-682-3377
htastinglounge.com

Robba Da Matti, West End

Yaletown’s home spun Italian restaurant now has a second location, and tonight we traveled down to the West End, to check it out. Like the original spot, this spin off too has that hidden gem feel. Its discrete locale creates the intimacy you want in a quieter dinner. It isn’t on a Main Street, nor are there loud signs highlighting it. In fact, you wouldn’t know it was here, unless you were staying at the hotel adjacent. But unlike their Yaletown location, this one has plenty of room and a nicer patio to take advantage of.

Given the beautiful weather we took a seat on their out door terrace. Wood table tops and black whicker chairs, set to the confines of a gated in and covered lot. Our table was at the outermost perimeter, against a well trimmed hedge; under the shadow of a tree that would shed leaves and tendrils, reminding us of its presence. This was the perfect setting for our girls night out, minus those playing in the basket ball court with their boisterous commentary.

Since there were two of us, we ordered their “Date Night” option, basically its two of everything, plus a bottle of wine for $122. Two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. There are slight restrictions, but you are definitely saving, considering a bottle wine is around $40 to start with.

Our meal began with a complimentary dish of olives. Eaten with tooth picks and their pits spat out into a pinch bowl.

Our chosen wine came shortly after. You are basically choosing either red or white. We went with the Tolloy Pinot Grigio, kept cool in an ice bucket, at our table. With it, our server was quick to keep our glasses full. When we sat down she greeted us promptly, welcoming us in full. She was gentle and poised with a wonderfully sing song voice.

For appetizers we shared the carpaccio and fritters. “Beef tenderloin carpaccio”. Thinly sliced AAA Alberta beef tenderloin, drizzled with grainy mustard and white alba truffle oil. Topped with mixed greens and slices of Parmesan cheese. And accented with fresh ground pepper at the table. Delicate and delicious with the mustard as a nice zing. But I felt it need more substance, so we paired it with the “Mozzarella di bufala fritta” below.

Breaded and deep fried mozzarella di bufala bocconcini. Crispy and chewy, where I wanted crispy and gooey. The cheese was quick to firm and the nuggets concaved into themselves. Here, I expected to bite into balls of cheese. Still tasty, they reminded me of gussied up pub fare. It is served with a pesto sauce, but dipping into it really didn’t add anything to the overall dish.

For entrees I had pasta and my guest risotto.
The “Pesto and burrata” pasta, is exactly as it is named. The pesto is a blend of pistachio, pine nut, basil, and arugula. It had a bold, yet nuanced flavour that kept you going back for more. That and the pasta was amazing: the texture perfection. The burrata was best stirred in, to give the dish some creaminess.

The “Risotto alla Pescatora” (seafood risotto) did not disappoint. It was a bounty of tiger prawns, calamari, mussels, clams, and scallop. More seafood that rice to enjoy them with. The flavours were full with a warming dull spice. It was hearty and comforting, yet refined. This is one I would order next time.

For dessert I had the “Lavender creme brûlée”, it was a lumpy cream with a botanical flavour. I didn’t like the medicinal nature of the lavender all that much, but did fully enjoy the toasted sugar crust that topped it.

Similarly I didn’t enjoy the panna cotta either. You have your choice of topping between chocolate and raspberry syrup, and I think we made the wrong choice with chocolate. The featured dessert was light with the faint taste of cream, by comparison the chocolate (and the amount of it) overwhelmed. Its flavour was so pronounced that you couldn’t appreciate the simplicity and lightness of the panna cotta.

We enjoyed our time and their space so much that we ended up stayed longer, and sharing a second bottle of wine. This was a add on to the “Date Night”, and one I recommend if all things are going well on your date night.

 

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.
I am already a fan of the beautiful plates and fresh pastas that “Robba Da Matti” is known for, but with this new space it elevates your dining experience with them. Plenty of seating, with room in between tables, you aren’t crammed in, like at their Yaletown spot. Come in during a blue sky day and enjoy the full extent of their patio. Truly a wonderful space to have a delicious meal. They deliver on their slogan: “fresh pasta, fine wine & a good time. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ROBBA DA MATTI
1906 Haro Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1H7
604-423-3553
robbadamatti.com

Le Crocodile, revisited

My girl friend has never been to this popular French restaurant, located in downtown Vancouver before; so when looking for a spot to celebrate at, we made this our destination.

This classic has been the go to for many date nights. Where fine dining is done classy with white table cloths and napkins; servers in button ups and vests, with towels over their forearms; and an in house sommelier ready to assist you with your wine ordering, table side.

But before we continue, for my first visit account and a more romantic scenario; including more details on the decor and ambience, check out the link below.
http://vieamaggi.com/le-crocodile/

We started by getting a bottle of Pinot Gris to share. It was kept on ice in a near by pedestal ice bucket. It was just in reach to keep our glasses topped off regularly. We ordered the most affordable bottle: a Gentil white blend. Alsace, FR. $50 for the bottle.

Our meal began with a complimentary amuse bouche. A braised endive with goat cheese and pear tart. It had the texture of soup on a buttery crust. It was cheesy, almost gelatine-like, and reminded me somewhat of a can of mushroom soup before you add in the water. Getting something for free is always a nice start to your meal. You feel special and walk away thinking you got more than what you paid for. And this feeling “Le Crocodile” cultivated for us continued on. with a complimentary basket of bread below and two desserts to close out the meal at the end.

White and rye slices of baguette with squares of firm butter.

For entrees I enjoyed the “Duo of foie-gras tasting”, wanting something completely French to take advantage of the locale.

The foie-gras terrine was meaty, thick and rich. I found the toast it was served with too hard, so helped myself to all the softened bread above. The ice wine gelee on the side was a nice balance, a dry texture and something bubbly to chew through with the heavier spread.

By comparison the foie-gras burlee was creamy and light. It had the airiness of its namesake dessert, furthered by its trademark burnt sugar, torched top. A very creative spin. But two together was too rich. This was an appetizer best shared.

My guest had the “One and one half pound Atlantic lobster” steamed and shelled, sauté with market vegetables in a saffron butter sauce. This was as decadent as it sounded, the cream sauce was all consuming and luscious, full of that tell-a-tale sweet lobster flavour. A little too rich on its own, best with some rice or the shoe string potatoes they fried, as a side.

We didn’t finish either of our meals, both were too decadent as is, and even more so shared together. In the future I would consider and recommend their set dinner instead. Allowing the expert restaurant staff to curate your perfect meal: appetizer, entree, and dessert; with all the other small bites in between.

And in between courses our table was tasteful cleaned by our server. A concave metal tool was used to scraped crumbs of our dishes prior, before new dish ware and cutlery was set.

Even though we passed on ordering dessert, we still got something sweet to end our meal on. A complimentary scoop of “Cantaloupe sorbet with Porto”. It was refreshing and light with the full flavour of the fruit shining through. Tangy to start and sweeter to finish, making it a great palette refresher.

And as per their tradition, every meal here ends with their “Le Crocodile” chocolates in milk and dark. One for each person at the table.

 

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.
Not for every day dining, but a great indulgence when you are looking to celebrate. Rich food with prices that match the richness of the experience. They are a Vancouver institution for a reason. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LE CROCODILE
909 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 4T4
604-669-4298
lecrocodilerestaurant.com

Bayside Lounge, new cocktail menu

Today I was invited to “Bayside Lounge” to check out a few of their new house cocktails. They are one of the restaurants where if you are a member of the “Vancouver Gourmet Club” your membership earns you 15% off your entire meal, upon any and every visit. And yes, this includes drinks as well.

To learn how you can get discounts on your favourite places to eat with the “Vancouver Gourmet Club” visit the link below and sign up.
https://www.vangourmetclub.com/

They are best known for their view at the corner of Denman and Davie. A second floor scenery that gives you the blue of English Bay in the distance. If you can get past the smell of aged fabric, the space is actually quite delightful. Once you enter it divides between the bar and the lounge. However the former is where you want to be, with a view that curves and a bar that parallels it.

In all honestly, my original visit wasn’t all that glowing, but this was a great redemption meal to rectify that. Starting with the following cocktails that had only launched two weeks prior to when we visited.

I tried a “Hidden dragon” on my first visit, but it wasn’t anything like this 2.0 version. The current rendition is made with Absolut citron vodka, chambord, muddled dragon fruit, lemon lime juice, grapefruit bitters, and a rose lemonade float. The rosy pink hue and the black speckling from the dragon fruit sets this glass apart. It is not a fruity as it looks, it has a sweetness that couples well with the sharp punch of the liquor.

The “Rubics cube” is an interesting one and one I would recommend and order again upon a future visit. Ungava premium Canadian gin, lemon liqueur, muddle celery, lemon lime juice, rhubarb bitters, and a splash of cassis. It was savoury like a Caesar, and it too drank like a meal. It had some spice to it, like what you would use to season meat. The taste of the celery salt is what shone through most for me, with the burn of alcohol to finish off the sip.

The last was “Le caci”, named after the two bartender’s who created it. Beefeater London dry gin, dubon-net, pimms no. 1, burnt chartreuse, orgeat syrup, lemon juice, blackberries, and ginger beer float. It was easy to drink with the ginger beer, and a lot lighter despite its dark and murky colouring.

As for food, we made a point to order items you wouldn’t normally think to, and was pleasantly surprised by both. Normally when you are apprehensive about your meal you order something “safe” like pasta or a burger, so I wanted to test some of the more dressier dishes. I was very impressed by their “Open face steak sandwich” for only $16. This was a great price for a great quality steak, perfectly prepared in medium rare. I enjoyed the crumbs of blue cheese topping it and the crunch from the fried onions. And they paired well with the sweet red pepper, and sautéed mushrooms.

And the “Duck confit salad” was just as good. We got a large piece, plenty of meat to ration amongst all of the salad. Saltier duck, tart greens, and a tangy vinaigrette to coat them all. It was tasty enough to have me eating my leaves, with the pickled ginger and burnt tomato elevating each spoon full.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The menu was updated this January and if everything was just as vibrant and delicious as what we had, I will need to return to try more. And the best part, you wouldn’t expect this quality for the price and the place (with paper St. Patrick’s Day decorations and staff dressed in flannel). So now for food and cocktails I can recommend this long established spot with a view. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BAYSIDE LOUNGE
Best Western Sands Hotel
1755 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1W5
604-682-1831
baysidelounge.ca

Koika Davie

Tonight I was invited down to the original location of “Koika” to check out their latest ramen concepts. Understanding that the Vancouver ramen scene is pretty saturated and that they need to stay competitive, “Koika” continues to lead the way in ramen with a twist. They have done so in the past with the city’s first big bowl ramen challenge, their super spicy ramen challenge, and the beef rib ramen.

But today we would trying their new curry ramen and a ramen with a basil pesto broth, as well as visit a handful of their most popular bowls.

The “Curry ramen” comes with your choice of either a chicken or pork based broth. Then to it they add shredded pork, onion, carrot, mushroom, and cabbage. You can also choose your level of heat, though mild still had a hint of spice to me. Whereas I was more expecting a sweeter curry, much like Japanese curry. The soup was thick like curry, and the collection of pulled and thinly sliced ingredients offered some interesting texture to munch on.

The “Basil ramen” had a striking green chicken broth base. The basil and spinach paste giving this bowl its neon hue was made in house. It comes with cha shu, parsley, and for $2 more a scoop of Parmesan cheese. Considering it is like Japanese noodle with an Italian pasta sauce, you might as well go the whole nine yards and get it with the salty powered cheese. This was an interesting interpretation and tasty too. But I still prefer the classic ramen pairings below.

Especially the “Triple black garlic ramen” with cha shu, spinach, seasoned egg, bamboo shoot, roasted seaweed, green onion, garlic chips, and their triple black garlic oil. It is served thin noodles, and is also available in a veggie broth with tofu instead of pork. This was packed full of flavour and punch, ideal for those who love a garlicky mouth.

The “Mayu miso ramen” also comes with some triple black garlic oil, along with cha shu, and green onion. The difference is that there are bean sprouts and corn in the mix as well. It is served with regular noodles, and is sweet with the corn, and smokey from the garlic oil.

And if you like it hot you can also get it spicy with a bold red coloured broth.

The “Sapporo miso ramen” was different in its feature of fried ground pork, along with the usual bean sprouts, green onion, and corn. This broth is creamier than the mayu, and a whole lot meatier and saltier with the ground beef. This too is available in a spicier version, which we didn’t try.

“Kimchi ramen” is another fun fusion twist. Shredded pork, kimchi, mushroom, onions cabbage, green onion, and chicken broth. You could smell the sour tang and spicy heat from the broth. A heated bowl with plenty of vegetables to chew through.

The “Chicken tamago ramen” was a lighter ramen option. Thin noodles, garlic chips, bamboo shoots, and green onion, all in a chicken broth with two seasoned eggs on the side. For those who love the flavour of chicken this one is the one to get. And tonight it really stood out amongst all the heavier pork broths that we enjoyed.

And my favourite of the night was the “Kyoka tsukemen”. This is ramen where the noodles and broth come separate, and you dip one into the other. Great for those who want ramen on a hot day or for those who are weary of a soggy noodle. Dipping noodles with shredded pork, green onion, roasted seaweed, bamboo shoot, and a half seasoned egg. Here, the broth is more concentrated, you get more flavour even with a quick dunk. I especially liked how much meat there was and how bold its seasoning was.

We also broke our meal up with some appetizers. Like the “Puri puri ebi”. Four deep fried panko breaded jumbo shrimp, dressed with tar tar sauce, sesame seeds, and parsley. Each prawn was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The sauce was what made you go back for another stick.

The “Takoyaki ball” helped to change the taste with its thick sweet and salty sauce. Deep fried flour ball with a chunk of octopus hiding within. Sticky dough that melted under pressure and a chewy centre that surprised you.

 

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.
If they keep their unique ramen options coming, they will keep seeing me through their doors. Currently they have 16 bowls and counting, and each one is as different and as unique as those who come in to enjoy them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KOIKA
1231 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N4
604-336-2779
ramenkoika.com

Old XiAn’s food 老西安

A group of foodies and myself were hungry, looking for a later dinner downtown, one of us suggested the very Instagram popular “biang biang” noodles. These are essentially rice noodles served in the full sheets that they are prepared as, instead of being cut into strips for easier consumption. Naturally, majority of us choose this option over the other thinner and rounder noodles, as this one is more exclusive to them.

The cafe is one of those spots that you need to know about, to know to go. The name and the exterior doesn’t speak to what’s within. And the all glass exterior showing very little seats being sat doesn’t speak to the food. It isn’t necessary one of those places to travel to for an occasion, but instead a great place for some quick and comforting Chinese food.

There isn’t much in terms of decor, labelled tables and a single server standing at the ready by the counter/register. She was a little intense to start. She spoke abruptly and spat out questions for how we wanted the food directly. “How hot do you want it?” was repeated several times when my guest didn’t know how to explain that he wanted it spicy… eventually she did warm up to us, offering up her brand of jokes and even helping us stage some of our noodle pulls.

The following are the bowls we had. One of my guests got his favourite the “Xian cold noodles”, and agreed to a medium amount of spiciness, (this was after the above back and forth with our server). It was a slippery bowl that he easily and quickly slurped up. And even though his bowl came first and there was a wait to take photos, because it was served cold he had it as it was intended.

My other guest with gestational diabetes had to skip the carbs, so ordered “Stewed lamb soup with vegetable”. It was a fulsome brew with an herbaceous after note.

Two others ordered the “Spicy oil noodle with soy sauce pork, tomato, and fried eggs”. This was dry noodles served sauced up and well seasoned. Rich and meaty, with a good layer of grit around the “sheets”. Both agreed that it need more spice though, and they remedied it with a side of spicy chilli oil to share and dip into.

I went with what I knew and ordered the “Braised beef noodle in soup”, they also had a broth-less version, but I wanted something warm for this colder night. The chunks of beef were sparse and a little dry. I wished for a richer soup, so that the noodles cold absorb their flavour more. Good, but I wanted a richer broth to match the luxury noodle feel. But in the end I kept going back for more and finished my serving clean because of how much I enjoyed biting down and chewing through the texture of the noodle sheets.

One of my guests also got their “Stewed pork burger”. Soggy pulled pork served in a white dough bun. He asked for cilantro so that he could have some greens and their freshness in his handheld, but was warned that he would be charged extra for the herbs. I found this odd, but he agreed to it willingly. As for taste it was a little soggy, given our wait to eat.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I can definitely see myself craving this again, and thanks to two other locations, I need not travel all that far to quell them. They are definitely taking noodles to a whole new level here. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OLD XIAN FOODS
1517 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C3
236-455-7080

Pacific Poke Robson

The poke food trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down in 2019, with one of Vancouver’s most popular chains opening two new locations in the last 2 months. And today I was invited down to the Robson Street location to check out their new presence on the corner of Robson and Denman. Many other restaurants have held this space with varying degrees of success.

A piece of prime real estate with a challenging interior space. The small footprint is best served as a fast food stop. Its awkward seating area, on the narrow upper floor is best served as a pop in. You eat in to fill and go back out on your way soon after. Ideal as a snack mid shopping excursion, or as a quick serving in between meals after work.

When it comes to ordering, you can customize your bowl to how you like it with your choice of base, seafood and vegetable, then toppings. For base you can go the traditional route with white sushi rice, or a healthier brown rice and quinoa, or perhaps go carb free with a mixed kale salad or plain tofu instead.

For proteins they have bay scallops, negitoro, sockeye salmon, spicy salmon, a crab and shrimp blend, ahi tuna, or spicy tuna to choose from.

For toppings they have ginger jicama, masago, avocado nori, spicy seaweed, freshly mashed wasabi peas, organic seaweed salad, red beets and basil, boy choy gomae, pickled red onion, and cucumber kimchi.

For sauces you have a choice of citrus mayo, spicy mayo, sesame mayo, wasabi mayo, red curry mayo, and a ludicrously hot hot sauce.

And to finish off your bowl you can add some crunch to your serving with crushed nuts, crushed noodles, or toasted sesame seeds. Or even all three.

But truthfully with all these options I tend to get overwhelmed. How and where do you start? They offer so many more choices and unique topping choices than at other poke places. Therefore, I much rather stick with one of their already curated and proven successful chef inspired bowls, as I did today.

We had their “main” bowl with sockeye salmon, spicy ahi, crab, shrimp, ginger jicama, avocado nori, organic seaweed salad, citrus mayo, sesame miso dressing, shoyu, yuzu and lime juice, all topped with herbs and sprouts. And all their seafood is Ocean Wise, giving you comfort in its quality. This bowl would be the one I would go for if I wasn’t blogging and just wanted something tasty. It has majority of their available proteins in generous amounts, lots of harmonious flavour and I love seaweed salad. My guest liked the creaminess to this, but wished that the avocado was left cut into pieces, instead of being whipped into a guacamole spread; this is where things became too dense. She enjoyed the freshness of the salmon the most, and appreciated how much she got of it. There was a good ratio between protein, topping, and her chosen brown rice.

For our second bowl, I liked the idea of them offering a seasonal poke so wanted to try that. This is an option that rotates with new and fresh ingredients often, a reason to have faithful customers return for something new to sink their teeth into. This season it was the “Bangkok Bowl” with coconut marinated ahi tuna and bay scallops with bok choy gomae and kimchi cucumbers, dressed in a red curry aioli. This would be my first time having scallops in a poke bowl. I liked how it and each element was seasoned with its own flavour, and together they created something new. Although, I do suggest picking through each ingredient, and crafting your desired spoonful. This way it keeps each mouthful different and all your bites interesting. Whereas, mixing it all together leaves you with a one toned bowl, that you grow bored of eating mid way. This serving was salty and spicy at the forefront, with so much punchy flavours to oppose one another. Luckily they have the perfect drinks to pair with your bowls, thus giving you a break in between bites.

I love anything with pandan so had to try their “Coconut panda” drink. Although I didn’t taste any of it, it was more the coconut milk and young coconut juice that flavoured this creamy beverage.

The “Yuzu lemonade” however was more true in its name. A strong citrus flavour with the familiar sour tang of lemonade. Once again, both a great palette cleanser to help cut into the bold flavours of their poke.

 

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 option for poke, and with so many locations you can pick your closest, be it this new one on Robson. Fresh food with prices on par with what you expect to pay. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PACIFIC POKE
1795 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C9
604-336-9500
hepacificpoke.com

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