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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Category: West Vancouver

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

Forage: $30 Dine Out 2018 menu

This is my third dine out adventure and I am still insisting that my guest chooses a place for us to go. Tonight, her choice was “Forage”, having never been before. I haven’t been in over four years so thought it was about time I revisited. Although, sadly I found my original assessment held true. Their food was inventive and trying it during their Dine Out $30 menu is a great deal, however it still left me thinking what I could have after to satisfy me more.

Although, this is probably just me, as the restaurant was packed with diners seated at every table, and flushed around their island bar. Each one enjoying their time and raving about the food, over their beer and wine flights.

To read up on my original visit, click the link below.

Forage

 

“Forage” servers start your meal by asking if you have visited them before. This is so they can explain to you that everything on their menu is local and sustainable, just as their restaurant’s name implies. Our server then followed this forward with the suggestion that we place our order fast to get our food fast. This was foreshadowing the pace of our meal. We ended up doing as she suggested and the food came faster than expected. We were in and out within 45 minutes from ordering to paying.

Our first dishes came less than five minutes later, as if they were made in mass, and were sitting on the counter waiting for us to order them. It was a clever strategy to start with cold appetizers, especially considering how busy the restaurant was with 6:30pm seatings.

Between two of my us, we tried all their non vegetarian options and the only two desserts offered. We passed on the vegan “Beetroot Salad” appetizer, with roasted Brussels sprouts, brusselkraut, and bull kelp granola. And the vegan “German Butter Potatoes” entree with emulsified butter, oyster mushrooms, smoked hazelnuts, picked herbs, and shaved Alpindon.

The “”Vietnamese Style” Bison Shank Salad” featured semi raw slices of beef, flavoured in spices that reminded you of the beef in pho. Served with thin ribbons of shaved squash, braised daikon with a tangy flavour, crispy shallots, cilantro, mint, and fermented chilies. A mild start that encouraged you to explore your plate, mixing nibbles for different textures and tastes. I personally would have liked more prominent flavours or a sauce to smear over things.

I much preferred the easy to chew through “Grilled Humboldt Squid”. The tender slices came with a spicy radish kimchi, and crunchy puffed wild rice. It was flavoured heavily by the sweet soy dressing that pooled at the bottom. Their choice of seasonings reminded me of a Chinese style vegetable dish, salty with the kimchi and sweet with the soy. But too much so when both drenched the squid and radish at the bottom of the bowl.

For entrees I had the “Harissa Grilled Duck Leg” with a white bean puree, sweet and sour carrots, and jus. It was a beautiful plate, stunning in its detail and how each slice of purple carrot was placed on the duck leg and purée like polka dots. Although I found the duck a little dry, especially at the edges of the meat. Between it and the vegetables, nothing popped. It all tasted mild, whereas you wanted a char or some zesty gravy. And I wanted a crunchy texture and a heartier side. A serving of seasoned rice or some herbed carrots, potatoes, and/or Brussels sprouts would have done wonders, for variation and continued interest in the plate. The duck skin was the best part, with the most flavour; but there was not enough of it. Sadly I finished my plate, just so that I wouldn’t waste it, not necessarily because I was excited about its flavours hitting my tongue.

Here, I much preferred the “Crispy Halibut Cheeks”. They were the best tasting fried fish I have had. Like an elevated fish and chips, which left me craving for the starch of fries and the tang of tartar sauce. Instead the smoked yogurt did its best, but I wanted more kick from it. I could have done without the cauliflower “cous cous” as it’s grainy texture left me wishing for whipped potatoes or a risotto for a gumminess instead. Something moist and chewy, a texture to contrast the airy crunch of the not greasy serving. The poached radish and pickled mustard seed did help to brighten up the plate. But the former was a little bitter.

I can at least say how I was impressed by the portion size of both entrees. Given the amount of duck and fish cheek you got, this was a great value, as one dish for a $30 menu. Whereas you would expect to pay $30 just for one of the plates above.

For dessert I liked the “Elderflower Cheese puff” better between the two option. But mostly because I don’t like chocolate and the “Chocolate Cherry Bar” had plenty of it.

When I first saw the cheese puff I thought I was given a melted dessert. Something probable, given how hard the kitchen was working to stay on top orders. So maybe they too made these desserts in mass? However, when I brought it to our server’s attention, she reassure me that the dessert came to me, as it was intended. That the vanilla ice cream that stuffed the puff only looked melted, because of the cordial and gin spiked blueberries that pooled around it. I liked the salted cheesiness of the cream hiding within the sponge-like shell of the puff. I would have preferred it dry, but my guest did like the spongy texture the soggy puff had. With the blueberry adding freshness to your bites.

The “Chocolate Cherry Bar” was a little too chocolate centric for my choice. Although the hazelnut crumble, white chocolate cherry cream, and chocolate sauce helped to balance it out. It only left me wanting something refreshing. More cherry cream or actual cherries. Or maybe whipped cream with fruit to brighten the very dark and slightly bitterness of the dense chocolate bar. It had the whipped airiness of mousse, with the density of pudding, all rolled into one. My guest said it reminded her of chocolate fondant, expecting to eventually bite down a cake base or sponge that never came about.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Based on today’s meal, I wouldn’t mind returning, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Beautiful plates, unique flavours, just not what I personally gravitate towards. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FORAGE
1300 Robson St, Vancouver BC
604-661-1400
foragevancouver.com

Feast

I was invited to participate in the Vancouver Foodster caesar challenge as one of its three judges. My job: to visit the eight participating restaurants and pick my favourite Caesar between them all. And that is what brought me here today. Truth be told, I don’t visit West Vancouver too often as the commute is lengthy, and even worst during rush hour. So with a later dinner in mind, we hopped onto the highway this Sunday, and found our way here without much difficulty.

I wished the Dundarave area was more accessible to me, there are lots of lovely looking spots that I’d love to explore, including this one. It had that industrial Gastown feel, but here in West Vancouver.

But first the disclaimer. When it comes to meals enjoyed as media: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant had an elevated rustic feel, worn, while being elegant just enough. Although newer, the room felt like it had history. Especially with the heritage black and white photos hanging on the walls. Their old timey feel matched well with the rusted iron mirror and the lose hanging bulbs these used for functional decor. Vintage, incandescent bulbs hanging from wire wrapped around metal pipes. And heavily rusted, factory lamp shades casting shadows above the large high top, family-style, share table.

The restaurant’s name found its way subtly into the decor. On the back wall as a craving in the worn, wooden planks. And as individual knobs on the garage door on the opposite end, that opens up on to their patio during the hotter summer months.

The menu was an easy to read listing of appetizers, entrees, and sides. But I suggest simply asking the staff what is good. We had the ability to chat up a few, and each was more than happy to let us know what is their favourite dish. Seems like many of them are fans of the food, which is a good thing. And based on our interactions, you could clearly tell how much each person enjoyed working here.

Our server recommended a handful of items and we took her suggestion each time. She described everything with much enthusiasm, and a glint in her eye. So vivid that I actually salivated over the thought of what she was describing to us. She sold us on the quality of ingredients and how they are all sourced locally.

She recommended the tempura battered “Avocado and beet fries” with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds. And it just so happens that my guest has yet to try deep fried avocados, so now was as good as a time as any. Sadly, it did not compare to my own first taste of avocado fries. The crunch we didn’t get from the “fries” we found in patches from the pumpkin seeds. The avocado was the most enjoyable “fries”, whereas the beets in golden and regular red beets were very salty. Too salty to be enjoyed or finish. Which was a shame given how good they looked, and the potential on how they could have been. The flash fried avocado was forced to carry the dish with its creamy and warm core. I could have also used more of the honey based orange reduction, with its mild citrus notes.

The “Feast fried chicken” came highly recommend by our server, as their most popular dessert, based on their Instagram feed, this holds true. She described this as being “Nothing healthy. Everything delicious”. Crispy fried chicken, in what they called “proper gravy”, a garlic pomme purée, and honey drizzle. The chicken wasn’t super crispy but still good, in a different kind of way. A sophisticated kind of grown up crispness, the kind you enjoy with fork and knife. Where you could still taste the chicken skin past it’s jacket of breading, as well as taste the quality of the chicken meat being used. But it was the potatoes that stole the show. They were the most buttery mashed potatoes I have ever had. Almost like they were sauced with the gravy. Savoury with the contrasting sweetness from honey, we were just missing some crispy waffles.

We also got the “Black truffle Mac and cheese” to continue the ordering of comfort foods. It was so rich with the use of apple wood cheddar, and smoked in house Gruyere. It was a little too salty for me, while being mild in cheesiness. I wanted more pop, the truffles added nothing to the dish, you got more butter flavour than anything else. I also could have used some softer noodles, to match the velvet nature of the cheese. And more crispy panko over top to change the texture and add some crunch. Of note, it is served at room temperature and therefore cools quickly, but is best enjoyed warm and extra gooey.

For dessert we had the “Espresso chocolate pot de creme”. Peanut powder and feuillantine. I am not a fan of chocolate, trying it did nothing for me; therefore I asked my guest to review it for me. She liked the bittersweet nature of the dark chocolate, bringing together the clean profile of it with the smooth espresso. It was very rich and just as creamy, without being too heavy. You must love chocolate for this one. I prefer the peanut butter taste, so wanted more of its powder overtop, and on the sides.

I prefer a more refreshing dessert, like the “Elderflower Lemon curd” with a honey graham crumble. It was the perfect eggy curd, light like a cloud, flavoured with refreshing citrus. The buttery flavour of the crumbly graham cracker was my favourite part. It was like a deconstructed lemon meringue pie.

And last, but not least their caesar contribution. This is the “Smokey Feast Caesar”. What sets their caesar apart is their in-house made spice rub for the rim, and the dash of barbecue sauce used to flavour the drink. Both help to give it its namesake “smokey” quality. Smokey barbecue sauce, vodka, lemon juice, white olive brine, cracked pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco. It is garnished with an in-house dried and salted zucchini chip, beef jerky from “Sebastian & Co”, and their famous green Castelvetrano smoked olive. The toppings were just as much part of the caesar as the mix itself, therefore I wish I had enough of each for more than 4 nibbles paired with 4 stingy sips. They are what elevated it from the classic recipe. The jerky was a little fatty for a nice mouth chew. The smoked applewood olive had the essence of whiskey. The zucchini was dehydrated and sliced paper thin, although a little too salty. And the heat of the rub matched that of the BBQ sauce in the drink.

To watch a video of the caesar being made and learn how to make one yourself, click on the link to my video; where I recap all the Caesars participating in this competition.

 
 

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.
Realistically the travel time is a little far for me, so I can’t see me returning for any old reason. The food is good, much of it comforting, with the restaurant just as cozy. This will be one I would direct people to if/when in the area. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

Feast Dining
2423 Marine Drive
604-922-1155
feastdining.ca
Feast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ritual

We were visiting “Ritual” as part of the @vanfoodster “brunch crawl”. I was the plus one to local “Picky Diner“, David. This was our fourth stop, trying yet another restaurant we otherwise may not have considered, thanks to the self directed tour this crawl provided. The result was a new place I would like to come back to explore more of.

It was a nice modern restaurant divided into two rooms. The black board by the door offered a place to stay relevant through neon coloured chalk. Wooden floors, concrete walls, and wonderful sketches of a wolf and an eagle drawing attention. The restaurant had some interesting compartments to get comfy in. Counters by the window, long share style tables by the wall, and a chair by the bar. This was comfort eating in a comfortable setting.

What they were offering for the crawl was the “yam of your dreams”. It is a seasoned and roasted section of yam, topped with pulled pork and a pineapple salsa. A well down dish, lessened by the paper party plate it was served on. It was a tender, starchy yam partnered with chewy strands of pork. As a whole, it was already fairly sweet thanks to the yam, but furthered sweetened with the addition of fruit. Although it ended on a bite of sharpness from the punchy salsa. An all around great plate and one that would encourage me to visit again, when I had more time and was looking for more food.

With their food offering they partnered up with “Commodity Juicery” to bring us 6oz of their “Upbeet smoothie” to try. A smoothie true to it name, made with pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, beet, banana, coconut, ginger, dates, and cold pressed apple juice. It was beet forward, refreshing with the pressed apple juice, and warming with the faint after burn of ginger.

 

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.
This tasting was enough to have me like what I saw and want to go back for more. I definitely need to try more before making a decision on the place. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RITUAL
774 Denman Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2L5
604-428-7722
ritualvancouver.com
Ritual Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bene Sushi Restaurant

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We were in the area for an activity, so thought to catch a late lunch in the neighbourhood as well. Deciding that we had a taste for sushi, and after exploring a few blocks, we were satisfied with our choice. There surprisingly weren’t many places open in Ambleside on a Sunday.

From its exterior it looked pretty chic. Wood panels framing with an all glass front. Looking in, it seemed just as glitzy. Definitely one of the nicest Japanese fusion restaurants I have been to.

There was a lobby with a table and bench to sit and wait at. Stacks of magazines scattered around a sculpture of a swimming fish. Just behind it, a bar unseated, and instead used to store menus and kettles of tea.

We were given a table just past the hall, in their mixed dining area. Where there were booths of red against the wall, cubicles of brown in the centre, and private rooms for larger parties surrounding them both.

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On the left wall, in decoration were sakura blossoms on canvas, leaves painted with taupe, and betwixt them spiny balls of metal in various sizes. Although it was the lights that really caught your eye. A twisting mass of wire and bulbs, their beads casting shadows against the ceiling. Three larger orbs hung over the sushi bar to the right. Behind the bar, chefs in professional button-up coats and paper hats stood in work. They looked just as authentic as their Japanese speaking servers and the black menus with silver labels.

Overhead they played soothing jazz music to match the upscale decor. The restaurant certainly catered to the diverse clientele and area in their setting and cuisine. Like how the hockey game was playing and they served their green tea in coffee mugs. Their details even transitioned into the the utensils. Marble stained reusable chopsticks outfitted into branded paper holders.

When it came time to order, we passed all the traditional Japanese appetizers, noodles, and sushi rolls; and skipped right to their specialities. Two pages listing their “exotic rolls” with photos. It allows us to order for a visual feast. We literally made our choice based on look and didn’t even bother to read most of their ingredients in each item. If we had, maybe we would have tried some of the more unique rolls that included ingredients like pineapple, AAA steak meat, potato flake, lobster, and even a sushi roll wrapped in cucumber instead of rice and seaweed.

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Although we did go for the interesting “Black pearl roll”, based on its ingredients. This was a sushi roll made with black rice and apple. They start with a California roll base and to it topped each piece with marinaded spicy tuna and tobiko; then drizzled it with unagi and mayo sauce. They then separate each piece with slivers of apple and cucumber. We have never had a roll made with black rice before. I imagined it hard and dry, but instead it was just as tender and chewy as regular sushi rice. Making me wonder if this was an healthier rice option? There was lots going on in this roll, so much dressing and seasoning that we didn’t need to pair it with soy sauce. Though the same could be said with all the rolls below. It was hard to isolate each individual ingredient. The rice was chewy, the tuna was creamy, the sauce was tangy, and the apple and cucumber was just the right freshness need to pull it all together. Overall, this was a good blend of really sweet and mildly spicy in an original preparation and presentation.

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Their “flame torched” rolls promised that each would come with fire, and was reason enough for us to order it. The “White snow roll” started as a California roll with mayo coated imitation crab and avocado. Then it is topped with baked red snapper and drizzled in their house mayo and unagi sauce. The roll was protected from the flames within a boat made out of tin foil. Around it, a border of sugar was set ablaze and continued to burn for quite some time. It eventually set itself out, and we were able to eat the pieces of sushi still warm. The snapper was so tender that it melted in your mouth. It was also what set it apart from being just an average California roll.

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The “Cherry blossom roll” spoke its name in its design and outline in unagi sauce. A roll with sockeye salmon, asparagus, avocado, pepper, and crab; rolled and arranged like petals of a flower. It’s centre, a generous helping of masago. With a dollop of thousand island-like sauce on each “petal”, it tasted like a salad roll. Other than its visual aspect, it wasn’t too exciting; our least favourite of the afternoon.

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We ordered the “Softshell crab roll” to give my guest his first try of a enjoying a crab, shell and all. He was worried about the texture, but happy that could couldn’t taste the difference between meat and shell and the latter added a nice crunch to each bite. The crab was balancing steady on the top. Inside, each roll was filled with cucumber, yam tempura, and avocado. And like all the other dishes this one too came with unagi sauce and didn’t need the addition of any soy sauce. Although it was the taste of the sweet crab that came out the most.

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We had the “Boom bites” in chicken instead of tofu. These were deep fried chicken kaarage chunks in a mixed sweet and spicy sauce. It actually came well before our sushi did. Each piece was evenly battered and seasoned, nice crunch with a thick sticky coating of sauce. With this much flavour it would have been nice to have a base with it: rice or the option to have it in sushi. I ended up eating it with leaves of the undressed salad that the dish came with, to temper the flavour.

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Even the miso was dressed up.

 

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.
It is a little out of the way to get dressed up sushi. Although if in the neighbourhood, I would not hesitant to stop by and be wowed by more of their decorative plates. Like coming back again to try their deep fried sushi and torched Aburi. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BENE
1574 Marine Drive, West Vancouver BC, V7V 1H8
604-913-1112
benesushi.com
Bene Sushi Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.

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The Park Royal mall has undergone some major renovations, and with it came a new food court with new stalls. After a quick walk around, the one offering freshly baked flatbreads to order caught my eye. These were personal size pizza rounds perfect for lunch.

The “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company” currently has several store fronts where they are serving up their fresh artisan flatbread-pizzas daily. This was their newest location.

They don’t do the typical pepperoni, Hawaiian, or deluxe pizzas. Instead they used organic and premium toppings to craft their flatbreads. Organic ingredients like organic beef pepperoni, organic tomato sauce, and free range chicken. And premium ingredients like Genoa salami, asiago cheese, and Schinken speck ham. Each flat bread is soy free, corn free, peanut free, and free of preservatives. You can also make it gluten free for a little under $3 more. Each flatbread is made to order with organic flours, all natural meats, Canadian cheeses, and plenty of locally sourced vegetables. Spend a little more to make your meal a combo with a soup or side salad.

It was a little hard to choose from with ten different flatbread options and the ability to have them as sandwiches and salads. There was a “lemon rosemary chicken” flatbread with roasted red pepper and pesto. And the “ham and mango” sounded like a fun twist. But I went with what I felt had the most interesting ingredients assembled together over toasted dough.

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After my order was taken and I paid, I was given a buzzer to indicate when it would be done. The ones that look like a sliding cell phone, given out when waiting to be seated at a restaurant. It made sense as you would have to wait for you flatbread to be made. The pre-made and chilled dough had to be floured and rolled out. Topped accordingly from their bins of pre-chopped ingredients. Then baked in their oven for 299 seconds. According to their sign, this is under five minutes.

It sounds pretty quick, but would prove to be a long time if you are dining with someone and they had to wait for you. The flatbread was faster food, but if someone, like my partner went to a stand offering a combo of sides and rice that was already cooked and just being kept warm in trays, they/he would have to wait for you/me. And where they/he would finish their food and you/I would only be just beginning.

After the flatbread’s removal from heat, using the traditional long handled paddle, it is cut into slices. I had it “for here” on a paper plate, but was able to get a mini pizza box to take what I didn’t finish to go.

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The “Sundried tomato and goat cheese flatbread” came with organic tomato sauce, Canadian mozzarella, sundried tomato, crimini mushrooms, goat cheese, artichoke, and mixed herbs. You can’t get this line up at most pizza places, I was immediately impressed. You get what you pay for this one. Gourmet ingredients come at a price and it was worth the under $10 I had to pay for it. It was fully loaded and delicious. Plenty of flavour with enough sauce on a crispy thin crust.

 

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 was not disappointed, this was a cut above most food court stalls. Great food, decent prices, and at the speed and convenience you’d expect at a food court. I was eating well where my partner was less than pleased with his over sauced, dry, and disappointing paper plate. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLATBREAD CO.
2002 Park Royal South, West Vancouver BC
604-281-0878
rockymountainflatbread.ca
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Temper Chocolate & Pastry

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On the day of my birth my partner brought me to a bakery to choose my own cake. He did his research and even found one I have never been too. Located in the Dungrave area, in West Vancouver, an area I don’t visit often. The cafe’s name was catchy, though I immediately thought it referred to anger, as apposed to the treatment of chocolate.

The patio was outfitted with chic black umbrellas, it offered a nice spot to sit and chat at. Though given the heat, we felt the air conditioning available inside would be more enjoyable with a dessert that could potentially melt.

Inside the shoppe felt sterile. White tiles, marble counters, and varnished wood. It was so all so organized: everything in its place, everything had a space. The lone busser did her job well in keeping the place so tidy. As soon as a table was cleared it was cleaned.

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By the entrance was a showcase advertising the gifting solution their homemade chocolates proposed. Simple branded boxes to gather all your hand picked chocolate into. They even dabbled in chocolate art as noted by the full chocolate bear figurine. It had a circular head, a round snout, and eyes and nose made out of discs. I would personally find it too cute to eat.

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The next showcase offered their chocolate to go, in a more casual way. Clear boxes of their chocolate rocks, chocolate bark, chocolate bars, chocolate bricks, chocolate sticks, chocolate peels, and chocolate toffee. Various sizes and various flavours to curb any chocolatey craving. They even sold their own hot chocolate mixes and chocolate spreads, very giftable.

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Sadly I am not a big chocolate buff so didn’t really order anything from their individual chocolate showcase. Though I did note how well lined each row was and how exciting some of the flavours were. Their “creamsicle” square was coloured orange, it was advertised as having won some chocolate award. Similarly the passion fruit, raspberry, and fresh mint seemed to have their tops wrapped in paper, representing their flavour’s colour. A bright pinky-red for raspberry; a yellow, orange, and red blend for passion fruit; and a bold green for mint. Other chocolates were topped with their featured ingredient. The “Stumptown coffee” was sprinkled with coffee grounds, “lavender and honey” was topped with faded purple leaves, and the “barley infused caramel over praline” featured a lone barley kernel. The round dome shaped cocktail inspired chocolates had me contemplating. A spray painted green “margarita”, a shiny red “pimms cup”, a frosty looking “blueberry cocktail”; and an empty row of “mango martini”. By 1pm they already had many things sold out.

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Their viennoiserie selection included savoury options with the sweet, separated between shelves. “viennoiserie” are baked goods made from a yeast-leavened dough similar to bread, but with added ingredients like eggs, butter, milk, cream and sugar; to give them a richer, sweeter character. There was a bacon onion croissant and cheesy individual loaves, a sweet cheese croissants and cranberry and orange scones.

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My partner got the last “pain au chocolate” croissant, warmed up. Pointing to it behind the glass he knew it would be good. The pastry was so crisp and flaky, he dug in splitting it in half. He immediately declared this to be one of the top chocolate croissants he has ever had. (And over the years I have brought him many) Although, he did wish there was more chocolatey filling.

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I had the “spiced apple turnover” with puff pastry and almond cream. It was like the fancy version of a common apple strudel, topped with large sugar crystals. Like the croissant before, the flaky pastry was the best part. Buttery and crisp, we ended up eating around the soften apple chunks just to enjoy the puff pastry as is.

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The individual desserts were a work of art. Glossy rounds in a variety of typical dessert flavours. Chocolate and salted caramel, vanilla and caramel, mango and caramel, and Black Forest; to name a few.

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Though out of all the cakes, the lime and coconut one caught my eye first and most. It was this stand out pastel neon green colour, sitting with all the regular brown and white cakes. It was rimmed in shredded coconut, and topped with two dollops of merguine and a chocolate spiral. Digging in, I expected the cake to be soft and spongy, instead it was hard and crumbly like a shortbread cookie. At its centre was more toasted coconut, chocolate and a yellow custard. It was as delicious as it was beautiful, but fairly sweet.

Of note, in his clean white coat, I believe it was the pastry chef who came out of the kitchen to serve us.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Given the area in relation to where I live, it would only be a when I am in the area and craving desserts or a snack, I would come here option. I liken it most similarly to the setting and quality of “Chez Christophe Chocolaterie patisserie”, in Burnaby. A sophisticated bakery for those looking to indulge fully. Serving beautiful chocolates and decadent cakes that make the perfect gifts, for those you love most and those you want to impress most. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TEMPER
2409 Marine Drive, West Vancouver BC, V7V 1L2
604-281-1152
temperpastry.com
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Cactus Club Cafe

IMG_1163Out of all the causal dining chains, “Cactus Club” seems to be doing the best. With the most locations in the province, and a few on some prime real estate. Their two newest locations are busy by the water. One at English Bay and the other with a view of the Olympic cauldron in Coal Harbour. Which proves its location, location, location. I have been to several and at each have seen some unique pieces. I have seen giant iron pigs, stone griffins, a fat Mona Lisa, and a vase as tall as a basketball player.

Below is a listing of the dishes I have tried over my numerous visits. Each beautifully plated and delicious. I have never sent a plate back or had something I couldn’t finish. All together I have pretty much tried 1/3 of their menu.

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“The Bellini”. Peach schnapps, champagne, Bacardi white rum, and sangria. 



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Non alcoholic “Ginger fizz” with mint and blackberry & “Strawberry Splash”.

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“Signature Caesar”. Smirnoff vodka, mixed with their signature blend of spices and clamato juice. Finished with a skewer of pickle onion, fresh bocconcini cheese, vermouth soaked olive, and Peruvian pepper. The accompaniments to a Caesar is usually its best part, and the ones at “Cactus” are my favourite. I have been known to order two for one cocktail. Make sure you classify that you want their signature Caesar to get the skewer. Otherwise you may be disappointed with a single pickled green bean for a regular Caesar.

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“Signature sangria”. Fresh strawberries and raspberry, Zinfandel, apricot brandy, sprite, and a splash of Bellini slush.

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“Korean lettuce wrap”. This was a seasonal main, with pickles vegetables and kimchi. I was very disappointed to see that some assembly was required on my part.

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“Mini burgers”. Made with certified angus steak patties, cheddar, alder smoke bacon, lettuce, and red pepper relish.

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“Calamari”. Deep fried with red pepper, jalapeño, fresh dill, served with chipotle aioli and tzatziki for dipping.

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“Rob’s goat cheese flat bread”. Caramelized onions, grape tomatoes, basil pesto, wild arugula, and a balsamic glaze.

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“Spicy chicken”. Sweet chilli glaze, scallions, and crispy wonton pieces. My usual appetizer order, it makes a great pairing with beer. The sweetness comes from honey and outshines any real spiciness; perfect for someone like myself, who can’t handle too much heat in their food. The wontons gives each bite a crispy texture with the chewy and saucy piece of chicken.

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“Pesto chicken quesadilla”. Roasted chicken, blended cheeses, basil pesto, sun dried cranberries, with a honey lime dip.

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“Short rib sandwich”. Caramelized onions, Emmental Swiss cheese, and grainy Dijon aioli served with a side of fries.

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“Grilled tuna club”. Ocean wise albacore tuna, tarragon tartar, bacon, cilantro, pickled ginger, arugula, ciabatta. Usually served with sea salted fries, but here I opted for soup instead. This is the first burger I have had where the protein wasn’t the star and it wasn’t the most prominent flavour. I would have preferred the tuna to be less seared and more raw; but it was still fresh, light, and really accented the pickled ginger and acidic spread well. This was certainly original. 

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“Roasted butternut squash soup”. Seared scallop, apple curry foam, and basil oil. One of those rich and creamy soups that ate like a meal. Even as a side order the bowl looked amazing; with the drizzle of oil, the chunks of croutons, and the golden sear of the lone scallop floating in the mix. The scallop was the highlight, tender and tasty it was the cherry on top. 

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“Celeriac soup”. Aged white cheddar, black pepper croutons, and extra virgin olive oil, served with a grissini bread stick. This is a half serving of the soup for take out. The croutons and cheese come on the side, to be added right before you eat. The white cheddar melts in to the mix, and the croutons soak up the soup. If you eat them quick enough you get both their crunchy and solid textures. This is my go to soup from hunger to hangovers. 

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“Prawn spaghettini”. Slow roasted tomato sauce, chillies, fresh herbs, and garlic crostini.

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“Teriyaki chicken rice bowl”. Sautéed vegetables, spicy yogurt, braised red cabbage. I enjoyed the texture from the julienned vegetables along with the chewiness of the rice. This is my favourite entree to order. The yogurt makes each spoonful creamy, and different from any other teriyaki bowls I have tried.

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“Jack Daniels ribs”. Slow roasted ribs in their Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce. Sided by mashed potatoes and asparagus. Didn’t taste any Jack Daniels, they did a good job reducing this down to a sweet syrup.

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“Charbroiled 7oz. Certified angus steak”. Blackened in a peppercorn and mushroom semi glaze, with a side of asparagus and mashed potatoes.

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“Soy Dijon salmon”. Whole grain barley, snap peas, grape tomatoes, and marinated shiitake mushrooms.

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“Butternut squash and prawn ravioli”. Truffle beurre blanc, pine nuts, crispy sage, and white wine sautéed prawns.

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“Rob’s Hunter chicken”. Button, portobello, shiitake and crimini mushrooms in a veal demo glaze, with fingerling potatoes and green beans. Any entree you want shared they offer to split and plate separately for your dining ease.

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“Chocolate peanut butter crunch bar.” Caramel sauce, crunchy chocolate pearls, and a scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream. If you combine the appearance of a chocolate bar with the layers of an opera cake this is what you get.

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“Apple galette”. Flaky puff pastry, caramelized apples, topped with Tahitian ice cream, and drizzled generously with a thick caramel sauce. Apple pie in a Danish instead of a pie crust.

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“White chocolate cheesecake”. Chocolate cookie crust, syrupy raspberry compote, and hand whipped cream.

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“Chocolate lava cake”. A molten dark chocolate cake with a scoop of tahitian vanilla ice cream.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Out of all the other other casual chain restaurants out there I deem “Cactus Club” the best. I always find myself returning for a quick bite, or heading here as a destination to watch a hockey game. With the most locations, in some of the best areas; you are sure to find one with the proximity and scenery that matches your needs. Not to mention their amazing patios with loungers surrounding their feature fire pit. They incorporate unique pieces into each restaurant. They all look different, but feel the same. They really have their branding down pat. I never had a dish here that I didn’t like, and with seasonal menus there is lots to try. When looking for an easy choice and a quick bet, don’t deny your cravings on this one.

CACTUS CLUB
cactusclubcafe.com

1530 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 1W6
604-733-0434
Cactus Club Cafe on Urbanspoon

4653 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5H 4L3
604-431-8448
Cactus Club Cafe on Urbanspoon

Carmelo’s, classic Italian restaurant

Clean and Simple Italian~


Tried “Carmelo’s” on a recommendation from a friend, who also happens to work there. She is originally from a small town in Quebec and says that “Carmelo’s” is the best Italian food she has ever had. They promise a rewarding dining experience with Italian and West Coast flavours; Brought to you by friendly staff, in a relaxing environment. All at a price that won’t break your budget; And just what I like. As good as food is I don’t want to spend a lot on it, considering I don’t get to keep it any longer than my digestive system allows. 


“Carmelo’s” is a cozy restaurant with a decor as classic and as simple as its dishes. Tables are dressed in white linens with metal utensils placed neatly on top. Large paintings occupy empty spaces on the wall, and nothing really distracts from the food or the company you are with.
This is a favorite spot of many locals and the famous from the West Coast. Customers come in a range of ages and ethnicities and are blue collars to entrepreneurs. Tonight we dined beside a young family and their 2.3 kids and an elderly couple who ate with hands held across the table.

The menu is not fussy and it focuses on simple dishes made from fresh ingredients. Why over complicate a plate, when they can have it taste just as satisfying with a less is more approach? “Carmelo’s” offers all things Italian: made to order, stone fire pizzas; mouthwatering pastas; and entrees from the catch of the day local seafood, to racks of lamb, and tender cuts of veal.

We got our appetites going with complimentary bread. Two types of warm chewy bread and crunchy breadsticks, accompanied by garlic spread and olive oil for dipping. And sipped on some sparkling wine as we waited for our entrees. The fine dining vibe required some bubbly. 

I ordered “Veal Stuffed Cannelloni”, not being able to make anything like this from scratch. The entire dish was as soft as butter. It was evident as I cut into it with the side of my fork, and it melted on the tip tongue. The sauce was a light tomato and the pasta one of the freshest I have ever had. It was good, but just more plain then I am use to. But that is exactly what “Carmelo’s” is all about, less ingredients used for an uncomplicated taste. 

Like the cannelloni, the “Fettuccine Alfredo” was very simple. It is made with only Parmesan, cream, butter and garlic. We regretting having this without chicken, as the presentation was a little flat with just noodles and sauce. The grated parmesan on top added salt and a different texture. This was the best Alfredo sauce I have had in a long time. I just wished there was more to the dish, some broccoli or asparagus for taste. Some chives or fresh ground pepper for colour. Or some meat to make it worth more of my $14. All the above suggestions would have also made the presentation more impressive too. But once again that is not the point. “Carmelo’s” focuses on simple and clean. Something that is almost a lost art, with all the over the top creations we are seeing; like bacon on doughnuts and shredded seaweed on hotdogs. Where else can we get away from the extreme and get back to basic, healthy, in proportion eating.

Would I go back – Yes, the food was delicious. Everything in every dish was guaranteed fresh and organic; the best you could put into your body – Guilt free pasta in a portion perfect for a sitting. Yes you can get more for less at “Anton’s”, but it is covered in oil and so much food and flavoring that it could make you sick.
Would I recommend it? – Yes, if it is good enough of some of the richest locals on the West Coast, it is good enough for anyone who can afford the $14-$16 price tag.
Don’t deny your cravings on this one.

CARMELO’S RISTORANTE ITALIANO
1448 Marine Drive, Vancouver BC, V7T 1B7
Tel: 604-922-4719
carmelos.ca





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East is East, Middle Eastern cuisine

When West Meets East ~

“East is East” is a one of the few restaurants in Vancouver, serving Middle Eastern cuisine. They are well known for their vegetarian and vegan offerings. Walking into their Main Street location is like walking into another realm; it is modelled after quaint eateries along the ancient Silk Road. The décor really sets this place apart and brings you into a cavern of wonder. Your senses are delighted by the rich smells of spice lingering in the air, your eyes behold the luxurious carpets underfoot, and you hear the exotic sounds harvested from live instruments. It is really a full experience in dining. All the furniture is unique and hand crafted from full pieces of wood. Cracks and ragged edges have been left to give a piece its character, the finished product it is polished to a shine. The same type of wood makes up everything else: the walls, tables, chairs, benches, desks, and even the load bearing columns. This gives the restaurant its warmth, and is further accented by their low hanging lamps and their flickering tea lights. Everything feels so organic with the addition of fresh petals and delicate flowers at each place setting. All this is centred around their open stage; Here, different artists and musicians performing daily.

This was both our first visit at “East and East” and we wanted the full experience. We choose to particpate in the “Silk Route Feast”, which is their signature tasting menu. You choose from a set of preselected dishes. Each comes with as many helpings of dhal soup, organic salad, boulani, roti, garlic pickles, Afghan and basmati rice, that you can stomach. To start, each person is only able to select two dishes, in sampling sizes; but are able to try them all and as much of each without limitation. The purpose of this is to get you acquainted to the food and to help you really enjoy all the different spices used. Your meal starts with a sample of chai tea, spiced to the point it burns the back of your throat. And it ends with a fruit smoothie with more spices, but these help to cools the tongue and neutralize the pallet.





“Quinoa Tabouli Salad” & “Persian Salad”. These were not to my liking, as is uses a lot of cilantro, which I am not a fan of. But the Persian salad would have been great as a spicy salsa for tacos.


“Sambal Squash Soup”, think squash puree, but with chunks. It could have used some more salt and a creamier texture.
“Mystic Soup”, made with lemon grass, green curry, ginger, and mushrooms in coconut milk. It was really beautiful, but was far too salty and sour to be enjoyed.

“Minced Beef Kebab”, beef pan kebab with mushroom, green peppers, tomatoes, and herbs.
“Chicken Masala”, Chicken in creamy masala and herbs. A very similar texture and resemblance to butter chicken; but without all the butter it is not as rich or delicious.
One the side is the basmati and Afghan rice. The later was my favourite, and had the addition of raisins for a sweet pop of flavour.


“Afghan Eggplant”, baked eggplant sautéed with herbs, tomato, onion, and garlic.
“Eastern Ratatouille”, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant, grilled garlic sautéed in herbs and spices.
And another side of basmati and Afghan rice because it was bottomless.

“Peas & Cheese”, peas, paneer cheese and potato mixed with spices. So Simple and yet so good.
“Beet Salad”, simply house made pickled beets.
“Dhal Soup”, three different kinds of lentils, cauliflower, spinach, herbs and spices.
“Seasonal Fish Curry”, tasted like yoru run of the mill curry, with fish as your protein.
“Wild Salmon”, baked miso salmon in coconut milk, lime leaves, and red and green Thai curry.
“Alu Gobi”, cauliflower and potato in a tangy tomato coconut sauce.


“Spinach Panner”, whipped spinach and paneer cheese with mushrooms.
“Baby Okra”, if you like the gummy texture of okra, you would appreciate this dish. I sure did.
“Lamb Pan Kebab”, lamb roasted in ginger, onion, tomato, garlic, and five spice curry.
“Mango Butternut Squash”, butternut squash and mango cooked with coconut milk, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and curry leaves.

Would I go back? – No. In totality this was a one of a kind experience, and out of my eating norm. I did not grow up with these flavours, nor have heard of some of these spices until tonight. On the same token, this is something that I am glad to have tried. It is always a treat to try something new. If you are a vegetarian this is the place for you. “East is East” offers many dishes that don’t all taste like cardboard. Everything is distinctive and rich in culture.
Would I recommend it? – Yes! “East is East”, or its sister restaurants, “Silk N’ Spice”, and “Chai Gallery” are all worthy of trying. They offer healthy dishes, rich in vegetables; and exciting with flavour. And you get to enjoy them in such a dynamic environment.
Don’t deny your craving on this one, and take a trip down the Silk Road.


EAST MEETS EAST
4413 Main St, Vancouver BC, V6K 2H5
604-879-2020
eastiseast.ca

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