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Category: Yaletown Page 1 of 10

Sciué Yaletown, #PizzaChallengeYVR 2021

Restaurants may be forced to shutter and dining-in is no longer an option; but luckily takeout is a go and pizza continues to be one of the easiest to do just that with. And this strange year, I am once again helping to judge Vancouver Foodster’s annual #PizzaChallengeYVR. Local restaurants are invited to pit their pizzas against one another, in hopes of finding the best in the city. And as it was for previous years, you are invited to try all the pizza competitors, then vote for your favourite as people’s choice winner. As a judge, I will be trying each myself and critiquing them on Taste (20 points), Originality and Uniqueness (10 points), and Presentation and Appearance (10 points).

And today, my first pizza stop in the challenge was Sciué. Their Yaletown location has erected a tent and is seating would-be cafe goers outdoors, under covered, kept warmed by heat lamps. And as soon as the weather gets sunnier, these plastic walls will come down, and their tables over cobblestone will become a hot spot.

With a handful of locations available, I am surprised that I am only just now visiting the chain. Everything is available for point and order within the cafe. Stacks of sandwiches, towers of dessert bars, and rectangular pizza available by the slice. We would start with their challenge pizza, and the reason why we came down in the first place, then explore the rest of the menu a la carte.

Their pizza is authentic Roman Style Pizza, similar to those found in the pizzerias of Rome. It is notably cooked straight on stone to enhance its flavour, and is served by the weight you choose. In hindsight, I wish we tried more than just one of their pizza offerings, as it was definitely my favourite out of everything that we had.

The La Ligure Nera is available by the slice, or as a whole pizza to go. Created by their Chef, as a tribute to his hometown of Liguria, in the Italian region. This striking pie combines traditional ingredients like pesto, roasted potatoes, and green beans with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil; then piles it atop a charcoal activated dough. Visually, this one is stunning, a pizza with a crust like no other. The hue allows the greens to pop all the more. Not to mention, when was the last time you saw green beans on pizza? As a fan of this vegetable, this was an extra treat to eat. As for taste, it felt more like a flatbread than pizza. Great seasoned and tender vegetables pair with a slightly dry breading. Though truth be told, we came later in the day and didn’t want to put the staff out by getting them to make a fresh pizza for us. Especially when there was plenty waiting behind glass, only needing a reheating. Worth noting is that the highlight was the perfect olive oil and herb seasoned potatoes, and they are featured on their everyday brunch menu (from 8am-3pm). Worth visiting for more alone.

Seeing as they make all their bread/dough in house, I wanted to try one of their paninis. However they were out of chicken on this day, and my first and second options were off the table. So instead we took their suggestion and went for the Focaccia Al Crudo. House made rosemary focaccia with proscuitto crudo, bocconcini, and mixed greens. It is toasted to order for melty cheese and crispy bread. Although, I wished that they added the greens in after the toasting so that they wouldn’t be wilted as they were here. This was my second favourite menu item of the night.

Ideally, I wanted to pair the above with one of their soups for dipping into. I was hoping for a rich and creamy, tangy tomato based one; and thought that was what I was getting with their minestrone soup of the day. However, it turns out that what I was imagining was the North American take on the classic soup. Whereas the traditional Italian version is sans tomato and is a more cabbage focused broth with plenty of hearty boiled vegetables resting at the bottom. Sadly no good for dipping, and not for me. Maybe more salt and seasoning would have helped in this regard?

Similar in critique was the Nonna Maria Lasagna. A beef lasagna with mozzarella, parmesan, bechamel, and Sciué’s rustic tomato sauce. It was cozy and comforting with its softened texture. Whereas I prefer a more flavourful bake with additional salt and seasoning; coupled with firmer noodles and crispier edges from burnt gooey cheese. This was good, but not quite what I was expecting. In hindsight I should have done some additional research, realizing this was not classic Italian style cuisine, but Roman instead?

And when visiting a more authentic Italian restaurant, you must not leave without trying their coffee. A couple of fulsome lattes with stunning art hit the spot.

In short, this is a fantastic option for a quick and tasty bite, with great service and a lovely set up in Yaletown. I will definitely have to return to try their brunch menu and pick up more of their fun Italian candy that taste like liquor, without the actual alcohol content.

Sciué Yaletown
126 Davie Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2V4
(604) 689-7263
sciue.ca

Nuba Yaletown, Dine Out Vancouver 2021

Local food blogger and cocktail enthusiast, @pickydiner and I found ourselves at the Davie location of Nuba. There, to try their $35 Dine Out Vancouver menu, available now until March 7th, 2021. Each course gives you a choice between a meat friendly or vegetarian option. Between us we were able to try both options, and the following are our picks.

Although before we start, I want to make note of how lovely their decor is. The smaller space with lush greenery and middle eastern nods pull you in to the experience of dining in. We were also seated at the nicest booth (in my opinion), a cozy nook by the door, with a mirrored mosaic to admire ourselves and our food, as we dined.

For appetizers I would recommend the Lahmajeen Manoushe over the mushroom, as it turned out to be the dish we both liked the most. In-house made flatbread topped with diced lamb confit, pomegranate molasses, tomato, green onion, and mint; like a pizza. Baked fresh to order, the dough was fluffy; a soft base for the tender lamb and flavourful toppings that gave it some freshness and tang. But what really sets this apart was the pomegranate molasses, it was a pleasant sweetness finished with cinnamon. I would go back just for another four slices of this. And if you do the same, just be sure to eat it quick, so it doesn’t get soggy.

The King Oyster mushroom mezze interestingly ate like smoked jerky, a little tough and a lot chewy. Pan seared king oyster mushrooms with a vegan truffle and harrisa compound butter, served with lemon and local micro greens. I would have liked this with more truffle and butter flavour, something rich to add moisture and a refined taste to an otherwise simple plate.

For entrees your choice is between bison or cauliflower. The Cauliflower Arnabiyeh is roasted cauliflower with ras el hanout, caramelized shallots, and a blood orange tahini sauce. Served over organic brown rice and salad. I wasn’t a fan of the texture of the grainy cauliflower paired with the drier barley rice. Both were soft and grainy. Along with the leafy greens, there wasn’t enough crunch, only a boring mouth-feel that I didn’t enjoy all that much. As for the taste, it had warming spices reminiscent of Indian cuisine. Therefore, I wanted more of the sauce to help balance that pungent heat out. Instead, the tahini was muted, I was left wanting something tangier like a sour cream. And the side salad here did nothing to add to the plate, it was better suited to the meat and potatoes below.

I much more preferred the Grilled Bison Flatiron. A Halal Canadian bison rubbed with baharat, fleur de sel and pomegranate molasses. And served with turmeric mashed potatoes and salad. The bison was a little tough, but the spice rub was nice, I just wanted more flavour in the sauce to make it pop. The meat did pair well with the garlicky potatoes, and the side salad for brightness and freshness.

For dessert your choices are between a cake and a cookie, and if possible, it is worth trying both. The Turkish Coffee cheesecake was more memorable. A baked mascarpone cheesecake spiked with Amaretto and Turkish coffee, on a crust of crushed almonds, topped with espresso whipped cream. I couldn’t make out the individual flavours, but as a whole it was a well conceived dessert. I did want more coffee notes, as a fan of their Turkish coffee. And maybe a more traditional crust to better accentuate the cheesecake flavour. I found the almond flavour distracting, but that is a more personal preference thing.

Chocolate ma’amoul are almond and coconut flour cookies stuffed with dates and Belgium chocolate. What doesn’t look like much is a tasty treat. Not too sweet, not dried out. These were baked fresh and would be great with tea or coffee.

In short, another Dine Out Vancouver menu that gives you a good look at the restaurant’s offerings across 3 courses. With vegan and vegetarian options, everyone has a choice.

Nuba Yaletown, Dine Out Vancouver 2021
508 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6B 3N9
(604) 661-4129
nuba.ca

21 Days of 1/2 Priced Pasta at Water St. Café

With all that is happening concerning Covid, business closures, and the struggling hospitality industry; the world’s pandemic has been overpowering all the good that usually comes out of the season. The season of giving and the need to help those less fortunate isn’t front and centre, as it has been in the past. So in comes Water Street Cafe, Gastown’s long term staple, determined to do some good, and kick 2021 off on a positive note.

If you visit Water Street Cafe or their second floor dining room and music lounge: 2nd Floor Gastown; they are giving to those willing to give back. Visit between January 1st and the 21st, 2021 with a non-perishable food donation for the Vancouver Food Bank, and you get 50% off any of their pasta dishes. Or buy one get one free if you bring a friend and contribute 2 cans.

There are six pasta options to choose from, and this excludes their 4 gnocchis, unfortunately. However with some pastas around $10 after the discount, it is certainly worth visiting multiple times before the 21st. The following is our top 3 choices that we tried during this visit.

The Spaghetti Alle Vongole was a lightly dressed pasta tossed with a generous amount of manila clams; along side garlic, shallots, white wine, heirloom tomato, and fresh herbs. Be sure to mix up as the sauce does pool. The bare dressing allowed for much of the clam flavour to shine through. But I personally could have used more butteriness to it, and additional cherry tomatoes for their added freshness. At $13.50 half off, this is the time to try it, if you have been eyeing it.

The Pappardelle Bolognese was a classic with its beef, veal and pork sauce made with roma tomato and fresh herbs. When I think of pasta, I think sweet and tangy, so this one hit the mark for me. This was a clean dish that you can make out the quality of ingredients within. And at $9.88 after the promotion, you can’t loose, and might as well order another to go.

The Orecchiette Pesto was our server’s favourite and I can see why. This dish was well balanced with plenty of broccoli florets, alongside the broccoli-basil pesto, roasted garlic, pistachios, and asiago cheese. It wasn’t heavy or rich, but ate more like a pasta salad. It had great flavour and longevity for $10.25, after the donation deal. This one I would order again out of the three, after trying the other 3 available options, of course.

And if you are like me, you aren’t just going to come in to Water Street Cafe for pasta. With their stunning location and breezy, yet sophisticated dining room; you are probably going to want to make a night of it, and order drinks and appetizers to start. Here is what we had.

I ordered the Vancouver Martini made with Odd Society East Van vodka, dry vermouth, and olives. I definitely grew into martinis as my palette evolved and I discovered the art of holding spirits in specific parts of your tongue. Then chasing it with sharp flavours, like the olives, to leave the best lasting impression in your mouth. This cocktail is a winner in those regards.

My guest had the Earl Grey Old Fashion. A twist on the classic with Jim Beam bourbon, earl grey syrup, bitters, orange peel, and a cherry. It was a lovely spirit, but it kept me looking for the nuance of the black tea, and left me missing the smokiness of an Old Fashion completely.

We followed our cocktails with 9oz of the house red blend each. Red, to best pair with our pastas above. This was a red that grew on you, a medium body that ran well with the salty cheeses of our pasta specials above.

As for appetizers, before we even made our selection, the chef sent over a lovely amuse bouche, as a thoughtful gesture. A dollop of their Salmon Tartar over a cucumber slice, which so happened to be one of the starters we were considering. This was smoked and raw BC salmon, cucumber, dill, shallot, sesame, and avocado; in a ponzu reduction. The perfect fragrant bite to wet our appetites with, and allow us to try something else.

Like the Bison Carpaccio. This is the dish I like to order for those who have yet to visit Water Street Cafe. It is a sumptuous offering that really showcases the restaurant’s fine yet approachable style. It is Albertan Bison, pink peppercorn, shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, greens, and crispy capers. Despite the list of bold flavours, was a completely balanced dish with the cheesy cream sauce, hint of truffle, the tangy capers, and the peppery salad.

It is best paired with additional freshness from the Burrata Caprese. Heirloom and Roma tomatoes, basil, salsa verde, white balsamic glaze, sun dried tomato pesto, and himalayan pink salt. I love the delicate yet bold flavours of this starter, whereas my guest didn’t find it salty enough. I definitely suggest catering the perfect bite by layering all the above mentioned ingredients together for a harmonious mouthful.

In the heart of Gastown, with the best seat in the house, I definitely recommend a visit to Water Street Cafe if you haven’t been in, in while; or have never gotten a chance to. Where else can you better people watch and take in the hourly chimes and steam of Gastown’s favourite monument? Plus you have until January 21st, 2021 to do good and eat well for less. Half off pasta are worth travelling for.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
waterstreetcafe.ca

Passione Gelato, holiday flavours

The holiday season is upon us, but it hardly feels like it with the lack of Christmas marketplaces and light exhibits to flock to. No mulled wine or spiked cider to sip as you stroll past booths to shop from. No groups of carollers or crowds gathered by extra festively lit homes. But fear not, if you are missing the flavours of winter, you can get plenty of them at Passione Gelato (by the still shuttered Parq casino).

Their delicious and creamy gelatos are worth travelling for normally, but especially with this season’s more adult focused ones. Nothing screams the holidays like the stiff drinks you need to get through them.

My visit allowed me to try all their eight new offerings, and from it grab a scoop to enjoy in its entirety.

The London Fog is a classic, a floral tea with milky notes made into a gelato just as lush.

The “white chocolate pistachio” isn’t too sweet. The chocolate comes off as more cream-like, to best pair with the more mild flavour of the pistachio. The nut offers a nice crunch to change up the texture in the mix.

Similarly, the “chocolate chestnut” offers the sweetness of chocolate, but not so much that it overpowers the semi-mashed chopped chestnut chunks within. They weren’t roasting by an open fire, but just as delicious cold here.

I am a fan of the Italian fruit cake pannetone, so was excited to try the cake turn gelato flavour here. Immediately I could taste how spot on this was. You don’t get chunks of the bread-like treat, but you do get chunks of the orange peel and raisin you would find in one normally.

The “matcha 4.0”, takes one of their most popular flavours and makes it four times more potent. The heavier bitterness of matcha comes off great in this dark green gelato. This is a terrific scoop for those who don’t like sweets and who adore matcha.

The “chocolate lavender” is a lighter milk chocolate, further softened with hints of florals. Great for little tongues.

The “orange grand marnier” gelato delivers on boozy cognac bourbon, and to it doubles down on the orange with liquor soaked candied orange peel. My guest made this her choice and ended up having to share it with her young daughter who liked it more than her cone.

But my favourite and the one I got as a full cup serving was the “cherry nikka”. The booziest gelato I have ever had, that still tastes good as ice cream; made with Japanese whiskey and whiskey soaked whole cherries. Great for those who don’t like sweet desserts like me and/or like strong spirits, like me.

In short Passione Gelato has some great new flavours in store, ones worth picking a pint up of. Just an extra treat to help put you in that Christmas “spirits”, acknowledging the pun here!

Passione Gelato
55 Smithe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0R3
(604) 423-4099
parqvancouver.com/food-drink/passione

House Special, take out with Perk Hero app

The hospitality and restaurant industry is much different than it was a mere month ago. Covid-19 and the necessity to stay indoors and distance yourself from others has transformed the way we work, play, and eat. And with no sign of it changing its trajectory any time soon, those in the food industry are looking for different ways to market their limited take out or delivery (through an app) business.

Today I was testing out what such platform. A new app that rewards you for taking out at your favourite restaurant, and paying through them. The premise, to earn rewards each time you do, and to redeem them for cash discounts on your next order.

“Perk Hero” markets themselves as a fun way to take out. You simply download and register the app. It is set up like a video game, with the ability to create your profile, customizing it with your own avatar. For every meal you purchase you collect both experience points and coins. The former allows you to level up, which leads to earning more coins to be put towards future meals. As a range, I earned 45 cents when I levelled up to level one. This landmark was achieved through setting up my profile and the initial first purchase, which they call “quests”, in following with the theme.

The app is fairly straight forward, although it did take me a couple of minutes to figure out how to use the credits I had towards my dinner. But paying is as easy as taking a photo (it literally is), and the app does the rest. The payment is taken on your credit card, which you register when you initially sign up.

My only feedback is that it is odd that you have to input your phone number each time you login, and access the app with the “secret code” they text you shortly after. And with them only recently launching, they have very little restaurants that you can choose from. And one barber shoppe, which predicts their growth and the direction in which they plan to take their platform. But the restaurants that they do have are notable stops: “Las Margaritas”, “Chickpea”, “Dunn”, and one of my favourite restaurants to recommend, “House Special”. So naturally the lattermost was the choice here.

We searched up “House Special’s” menu from off the restaurant’s website and ordered takeout by phone. Easy enough to do, but it would be nice to be able to do so through “Perk Hero”, making it a one stop app. Similarly, the phone number and address is listed for the restaurant, but clicking it doesn’t yield any results. Nonetheless we called ahead and made our choices for take out. And by the time we drove down to the restaurant our order was completed and packed up for us to take and go.

We ordered some of their staples, planning on enjoying it in the tailgate of the 2020 Hyundai Palisade. We chose based on what sounded good, and less on the ease of eating it in the back seat of a car. They are as follows.

Their spring rolls are vegan and gluten free. Crispy mung bean spring rolls served with nước chấm dipping sauce and a side of Vietnamese herbs. This delivered on expectations with a nice crunch. There was minimal grease, and they were well cut with the tangy and acidic fish sauce. Out of everything we had, this was the easiest to eat and share.

“Uncle Hing’s Chicken Wings” was a little more complicated to eat in the car, with you needing your bare hands to hold on to and eat clean their family recipe’s chicken wings and drumlets. The menu jokingly claims it “originates from the remote village of Houston, Texas”. Free range chicken wings prepared with spicy nước chấm. There was plenty of meat on bone. Flavourful, but I would have liked more sauce, something thick and sticky to coat each wing with.

We naturally ordered the “House Special Pho”, prepared with brisket, beef, beef balls, tripe, tendon, and rice noodles in their “famous” beef broth. Served with a baggie of sprouts and fresh herbs, like you would get in a bowl at your table. The serving was a beautifully light, yet full of beefy goodness; a good mix of textures from all the meat parts listed above. And should you need a bit more spice or zip, you can utilize either the container of chilli sauce or hoisin. The difficulty of tailgating here was the pouring of the soup over the noodles and sliced meats. Though I was happy to have so much extra broth to enjoy just as soup, when the noodles were long gone. Also worth noting is that there was an even ratio of noodle to all the meaty toppings over it.

Out of our two noodle orders, I much more preferred their “Bun Bo Hue” for its moderately spicy lemongrass pork and beef broth soup with pork belly, brisket, Vietnamese ham, thick vermicelli noodles, and Vietnamese coriander. I also preferred the thicker noodles use here, and the ability to slurp them down.

Reading salted egg yolk on the menu, I had to try the “Egg Yolk Pork Ribs & Rice”. Braised pork ribs & eggplant tossed in a salted duck egg yolk; served with rice and pickles. I could have used more egg yolk in the mix; and eggplant was better than the pork, which was on the dry side. Overall, both didn’t have enough flavour or sauce to eat with the bed of rice. But I did enjoy the side of pickles for balance and as a palette refresher.

And we also added two bottles of beers to the order, because it is now legal to take those to go to. We indulged in the Saigon Export, it pairing well with the food and all the fish sauce.

In conclusion, this was another great local restaurant to support during these uncertain times. One of my favourites to recommend for consistent service. So go out there and check them out, or revisit your favourites so that they will still be here when we all come out of this.

HOUSE SPECIAL
1269 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6K3
778-379-2939
housespecial.ca

Nine Dumplings

These rainbow coloured dumplings have been making their way around social media lately. They aren’t just coloured for the sake of trend or for the ‘gram, each one actually represents a different flavour. Something we would get better acquainted with, during our visit to the aptly named, “9 Dumplings”.

Located within Robson’s Public Market, this food court stall is bringing attention to the building and area. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have known that this indoor Chinese market place existed. It is much like the one in Richmond, but with less of everything, and no fresh produce or seafood for sale.

You can’t miss the stall with photos of their colourful dumplings splashed across the awning. You pay and order at the counter, and they bring you your meal once it’s done. Seating is within the self serve food court.

They have 9 different dumplings available, you pick and choose the ones you want by their filling. To help guide you, the menu’s number corresponds to its colour. The easiest way to figure out which one you like best is to order their “sampler”. 9 dumplings for $9.99, otherwise it is 6 pieces for $5.99. You can have them steamed, boiled, in soup, or covered in a spicy sauce. The former most is the one you see splashed all over social media.

So we ordered the sampler steamed and in soup. Served in a large bamboo steamer, and bobbing in a giant bowl of broth. You can also choose any of their soup noodles and add any dumplings to it. Their non-dumpling options are from their “Nine Dishes” menu, a restaurant they use to run on Kingsway. Learning this, I knew I would have to come back to try that; because today we had more than enough food. Our order of double dumplings came with a side and dessert, and was plenty of food for two.

Our order came with a side and some dessert. The spicy bean noodle salad had a fun slippery texture to slurp up. Spicy and refreshing it offered a tangy break from the heavily flavoured dumplings.

The red bean soup was a typical dessert to end on. A slightly sweet liquid with grainy beans at the bottom. I like the taste of it, just not the texture of the soup, (as is the case for all its renditions).

For the best presentation order the steamed dumplings. Each dumpling was very distinct without sauces to lean on. And it was all better, once dipped in to some vinegar for a balancing tang.

The yellow dumpling was lamb and zucchini filled. Like all the others, it was filled with juices; so be warned, they do squirt. I couldn’t tell the protein was lamb, but the zucchini was unmistakable. Out of personal preference, this was one of my favourite dumplings.

The dumpling that was one half black and the other half white was filled with a mix of squid and pork meat, along with chives. It had a unique flavour to it, something not familiar. Maybe it was from the chives, or maybe from some squid ink?

The all black dumpling was a mushy mix of scallop and fish. I didn’t like it for its texture or fishy taste; but here the vinegar dip helped.

The all white dumpling was familiar, much like the colour of its shell. Pork and chives, emphasis on the chives.

The red one was pork and green pepper. I never had the distinct flavour of peppers in a dumpling before, and don’t think I liked it much.

I would have thought the pork and kimchi dumpling would be the one dyed red instead, but it was all green. It was packed full of spicy flavour, making it the most memorable and the one I liked the most.

The dumpling that was half green and half white was the pork and cabbage. Another familiar combination that was tasty.

I also liked the purple vegetarian dumpling. It was well sauced with a good mix of vegetables in a salty barbecue-esque flavour.

The one I liked the least was the blue pork and cilantro dumpling, but that is more out of preference and my dislike of cilantro for its soapy flavour and wilted leaf texture.

I wasn’t a big fan of the soup version. It was like a boiled down version of the vinegar dip. Okay, but not quite what I had in mind when I ordered dumplings in soup. I imagined a more clear broth, similar to wonton soup with noodles. Whereas this wasn’t the kind of soup you drink, as is.

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 would like to explore more of this food court stall. I like what I have seen and tried so far, enough to come back. Perhaps some of their noodle in soup dishes, and a few to add some dumplings into. Don’t deny your cravings.

NINE DUMPLINGS
Robson Public Market
204-1610 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7
(778) 246-1199
ninedumplings.com

Banter Room

My girl friend and I heard about a Yaletown bar/lounge with a champagne vending machine and immediately made plans to visit it, (the next time we were in the area). The first of such vending machines in Vancouver is located at “Prohibition” within “Hotel Georgia”. Both it and the one at “Banter Room” function and cost exactly the same, but now we can say that we have had a bottle from both.

There is just something so novel about ordering what is considered a luxury item, from something that is so accessible and every day, like a vending machine. We joked that the small bottles of Möet offered were “juice boxes”. The machine is sponsored by Möet so only offers its bottles. And you don’t actually pay out of pocket. Instead, you order it like you would any drink from your sever. You get a token from them, which you then insert into the actual machine, and then make your selection. Although once again, it doesn’t matter which combination of letters and numbers you push, the exchange is exactly the same: a small 200ml bottle of Möet for $30.

But first getting there, the actual restaurant was hard to find. With surrounding businesses boarded up, we had to back track and ask for directions. Not to mention the exterior isn’t very prominent. The covered patio is darken for the season, and only their discrete logo in green marks the spot.

Inside, the lounge is just as dark. There is plenty of sprawling room with stools by the bar, single tables, and rounds for groups of four. Larger parties are accommodated by pushing together tables against the brick wall at the back, the one decorated with diamond shaped mirrors. Yellow glowing spot lights, back lit tile, flatscreen television screens, and tea lights offer a little brightness. But this is one of those places that you need to shine your phone light over your menu in order to read it.

Our server was bright and bubbly. She greeted us at the door with her light blue crop top and black bottoms. This must have been the dress code considering the only other front of house employee was dressed in a similar fashion, with the same colours and her midriff showing as well.

We were strategically seated by the vending machine. When it came time to order, we picked a few items off of their laminated, single sheet menu; and had our server either confirm our choices or direct us towards something better. She ixnay-ed the “Zucchini Noodle Pescatore”, announcing that she has most steer clear of it considering how easy it is to make at home. And instead suggested a salad, if we wanted something light. But I don’t order salads, given it too is something you can easily make at home. It is just assembly, and when I go out to eat I want to have something that I cannot and will not make on my own.

Instead, we would have the same shrimp in it, with the “crispy tiger prawns” appetizer instead. A thick sweet chilli glaze evenly coated the large, juicy shrimp. They were a little tough, but still delicious, especially when paired with the bed of cool and creamy coleslaw it sat on. This made for a great palette changer for our two more cheese focused dishes below.

The “Mac and cheese” served in a skillet caught our eye immediately, and we were reassured in a our choice, after we were given a generous nod of approval from our server. This isn’t your regular children’s version of Mac and cheese. Prepared with a three cheese blend of sharp and salty cheeses, this isn’t the mozzarella or cheddar that most are familiar with. It and the gummy gooey texture would be ideal with beers or heavy drinks, and then the leftovers would serve to help you sober up with later. Ideal drunk food.

In comparison, the “oven baked brie” was bland, even with its topping of caramelized apples, brown sugar, and walnuts. I wanted more cinnamon and toasted sugar flavour. And the walnuts to be also baked, but with a coating of honey for some sticky sweetness. This felt flat, and the hard and undressed whole wheat crostini did nothing to help. A sweet chilli sauce like with the prawn above would have been much better as a dressing for the melted miniature wheel of brie.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food was only average, so I don’t think I will be returning to try their whole roasted chicken for $85 or their tomahawk steak for $185. I can see myself sharing one of their “colossal cocktails” for $75. But I would need to bring 3 others along with me in order to be able to order the 12 oz bucket of booze with mix. This would be ideally done during spring or summer, when I can have on their patio. A bold patio which includes a great photo op in the form of a stationary circle swing, set to a tropical backdrop. Although we did get to enjoy it tonight in the cold darkness. Don’t deny your cravings.

BANTER ROOM
1039 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 5P9
(604) 565-1039
banterroom.com

Saving 50% off at Restaurants with “First Table”

There is a new way to save big on your next meal out! Winter is approaching and the most expensive season of the year is around the corner. Meaning the need to save is real and doing so, if and when you can, is on top of most people’s mind.

In comes “First Table” to help. They are a platform that offers diners 50% off the food portion of their bill, when they book a table through their website. The principle is much like saving on last minute hotel bookings, but with food and more leeway. How it works is “First Table” sets aside specific time slots and tables at local restaurants and watering holes. These available tables come with the ability to get half off meals. Unlike other apps that help to fill last minute seatings, you can actually reserve your spot as far as a week in advance. Therefore booking early guarantees you a table and the coveted discount. But be warned there is a $10 booking fee. This is to guarantee that you show up to your reservation, as well as help to offset this never-before-seen steep discount.

The restaurants participating have also been vetted by “First Table”, meaning they have taken the guess work out of choosing your next dinner destination. A few restaurants participating in this program include “Ancora Waterfront”, “Cibo”, “Fable Diner”, “La Mezcaleria”, “Papi’s Oyster Bar”, “Mamie Taylor’s”, “Nicli Pizzeria”, “La Terrazza”, “Cascade Room”; and where we were today: “The Greek by Anatoli” in Yaletown.

Tonight, a group of local food bloggers and myself, gathered for dinner at “The Greek”, to be the first to experience “First Table” in Vancouver, a night before. They officially make their North American launch tomorrow, November 14th, 2019.

I am already a fan of the authentic Greek Restaurant, so to be able to enjoy its romantic string lights and modern decor, with the ability to indulge was a treat. As I mentioned earlier, the discount is not the typical 10-25% off (which doesn’t do much when tax and gratuity alone is more that). Diners who use their services get a whopping 50% off all food items. A discount so steep and flashy, that I have never seen anything else like it. A discount so good that we found ourselves fully indulging, and ordering more than we planned to or thought we could finish. The following is what we feasted on.

To start, I got my appetite going with the “Anatoli Caesar”. There aren’t discounts given on this, but with a grilled prawn garnish and rosemary infused gin, this Cesar is worth trying. Made with tomato juice, greek spices, and a celery salt rim, it was salty and spicy and drank like a gazpacho.

The “Dip taster” allows you to try 3 dips for $10. Which means you get to try 3 appetizers, (which includes two pieces of grilled pita), for only $5, after using “First Table”.

The “Homous” is chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and parsley. A tasty rendition, but the citrus was a little strong.

The “Taramosalata” was described as a
“tangy caviar spread, but it didn’t look like it. I expected it fishier and more pasty. Instead, I found myself confusing it with the hummus below in colour and taste. Good, but I would have liked something different to compare and contrast alongside the other spreads.

I liked the “Tzatziki + Avocado” dip the most. Although I don’t think I got much avocado mixed in with the cucumber, onion, garlic, yogurt, and herbs. Tangy and refreshing, this served as a great bite in between some of our heavier morsels. Much like the salad below.

My favourite salad is a Greek salad, and this might very well be my favourite version of that. It eats more like a meal, than a side to rice and potatoes. Fresh tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions, feta from Greece, capers, and olives. It elevated what I knew of the salad, and gave it more character. I especially loved the texture of the thinly sliced cucumber, it offered a more enjoyable eating experience, than that of the large chunks I am use to. I can see myself recreating this at home, or at least the vegetable prep portion.

I typically don’t like spanakopitas because of their spinach filling, but will make the exception for these. Dare I say, this might be the best spinach stuffed, baked filo pastry I have ever had. The spinach leaves are minced into an enjoyable paste, made fresh with mint and feta, you don’t get any of the wilted leafy vegetable texture I dislike so much. I just wish it wasn’t so oily, but at least it stayed crispy well after we dung into it. I also found it tasty enough that we didn’t need the dip it was served with.

Their calamari is also really good. The popular seafood appetizer is served as thick slices of squid that are well breaded and genuinely enjoyable to chew through. Crispy and light with the balancing zestiness of tzatziki, this is one you went back for.

For those who have never visited “The Greek”, I highly recommend trying their “Octopothi”. It showcases the grill and char flavours that this restaurant is well known for. Grilled octopus and crispy potatoes seasoned in olive oil and a lemon caper dressing.

I was less enthused with the “Rabbit Kalamakia”. For presentation it won top marks, but as for the taste, it was missing something. Three popsicles of rabbit loin and lamb sausage, wrapped in bacon. With the creamy mayonnaise based sauce, the fresh tomatoes. and the strong salty flavour of bacon, it reminded me of a BLT. And had me wanting a starchy base to complete that mouth memory. This one is for sharing, bold and salty, it is a flavour that wear one you, after one skewer. Best with the rice pilaf in our platter below.

Great for sharing, their platters come served in a metal tray: your chosen meat with herbed rice, roasted lemon potatoes, and grilled seasonal vegetables. Our “Pidakia Platter” featured perfectly prepared, flame grilled lamb chops. Well flavoured, each had you pulling meat from bone with your hands and teeth. The perfect bite with a spoon full of jus soaked rice, and soften carrots, zucchini, tomato, eggplant, and okra.

What seemed like a lot of food was so good that we finished it all with no problem. Leaving enough room for desserts. And with “First Table”, these too are 50% off.

We shared two desserts, one vanilla based and one chocolate. I choose the “Ekmek” thinking it was a lighter offering, but found it rich in its own way. Vanilla custard with shredded kataifi crust, whip cream, and pistachio. What we got was not what I expected, reading the description. It was mostly whipped cream, I didn’t get the luscious custard I had envisioned. The shredded crunchy shards and the chopped nuts at least gave it some textural interest.

I found the “Chocolate Mousse” too bitter, however I am not a fan of chocolate to begin with. It is wonderfully presented as two towering scoops in a deep fried filo cup, drizzled with plenty of caramel sauce. The crispy shell offered some crunch, but both left me wanting some fruit like strawberries to cut into its richness.

In short, thanks to “First Table” we were able to feast at a great restaurant like “The Greek by Anatoli”. And not only did we order our favourite menu items, but we also selected a few new one we might not otherwise get to try, if we had to pay full price for it.

For more information on how you can sign up and take advantage of these savings visit the link below. On top of the 50% off, in celebration of its North American launch, “First Table” is offering new members a $5 credit, until November 30th, 2019. Use the promo code “FIRSTTABLECA” to start saving! And do it soon, because at prices like these, I am sure available seating will be booked up soon.

https://www.firsttable.com/ca

 

THE GREEK
1043 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P9
604-979-0700
thegreekbyanatoli.com

Bartholomew Bar

Hearing that a new charcuterie place has opened up in Yaletown, my girl friend and I flocked downtown to check it out. It is named after “Bartholomew the Apostle”, the patron saint of butchers. A fitting reference as they boast a collection of thinly sliced cured meats, as well as fine cheeses that you can use to curate a customized charcuterie board.

The narrow space creates a cozy setting. Modern with old school charms. Warming blue walls, leading to one of wine bottles on display. We came in time for happy hour between 4-6pm so took advantage of their menu. $5 beers, $7 6oz glass of house wine, and $9 feature cocktails.

We started off with two glasses of wine. My guest liked her white just fine, but I wasn’t a fan of the red blend I got.

So for my next drink, I switched to their feature cocktail of the day: the “Martinez”, featuring gin and vermouth; with more of the latter for a sweeter finish.

By this time happy hour was over, so I ordered my next drink off the regular menu. “Artemisia’s Garden”, described as an herbaceous daiquiri with Artemisia absinthium, rum, lime, cucumber, and cardamom. It was very refreshing, although it tasted more like pickle juice than the liquorice I was expecting.

As for food, between 4-6pm you can try a charcuterie set for $15, otherwise it is $7 for each item, regularly. And if you can’t choose, you can get all the meats and all cheeses for $200. This is properly named “the baller board”. My guest doesn’t eat meat, so being able to choose what is included in the meat portion of our charcuterie was helpful.

This was our board at $15, with all three of the non-pork meat options. The “Chicken liver pâté” was a fat capped chicken liver mousse with layers. Not rich, as I was expecting. “Bresaola”, air dried beef eye of round, thyme, juniper, and red wine. A very lean meat, dry and not oily. “Torchon of foie”, rolled foie gras in brandy and spice. For this luxury item, it will cost you $7 more, a point I missed when we were looking for pork-free. A miscommunication that led to the manager covering the costs of this luscious meaty paste. He admitted to assuming I knew it would be an extra charge.

For cheese our collection was predetermined from a list arranged by type of milk used. The options included sheep milk cheeses, cow, and goat. From the former, we had the “Lamb Chopper”, a nutty cheese with sweet caramel notes. The “Brilliant-Savarin” is a triple creamed brie that is light and buttery, made with cow’s milk. And the “Manchego” is another sheep’s milk cheese that is tangy, fruity, and nutty.

All delicious, but it would have been nice to be able to compare cheeses by the milk used, and get one of the goat’s milk variety as well. I would have also liked more crackers as well. We had plenty to spread and not enough surface to do it on. These crispy wafers were thin and nutty, filling but didn’t distract from the mildness and subtleties of the meat and cheeses. We ended up ordering more for an additional cost.

If you are looking for more options to snack on? They also have happy hour toasties for $6: meat, fish, or a vegetable mix. For something more fulsome, they have tartare, carpaccio, duck, and bone marrow menu. Salad, sausage, and the vegetables came highly recommended as well. And for dessert, they even have a chocolate charcuterie.

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.
They have plenty of food and drink options that I want to explore further. I will have to come back with a larger group to work my way through their more exotic menu items, like the sweetbreads. Don’t deny your cravings.

BARTHOLOMEW
1026 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2T4
(604) 423-4131
bartholomewbar.com

Dante NYC x Homer St. Café takeover

From November 1st to the 5th, “Dante”, the internationally acclaimed and historic New York City watering hole is taking over “Homer St. Café and Bar”, in downtown Vancouver. “Dante” has most recently been voted the “Best Bar in the World” for 2019. So it’s a treat to have a piece of the East Coast here for Vancouverites to experience. The take over is presented by “Campari”, so expect cocktails featuring this spirit.

As taken from the press release, “Caffe Dante first opened in 1915 to honour the simplicity of great food and drink… Dante NYC has since become one of the most renowned bars worldwide; winning the #1 ranking in the 2019 World’s Best 50 Bars Awards last week in London, U.K., and honoured as 2019 “World’s Best Bar“ by Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.”

To mark the occasion, “Homer St” restaurant has been decorated with decals on its exterior windows, and posters on the walls inside. However the two establishments already have several decorative similarities, including the subway tiles under foot, and the overall modern feel of their spaces.

Today, I was invited down to their weekend take over launch, where we were able to meet “Dante’s” Beverage Director and internationally acclaimed mixologist, Naren Young. All guests attending the 5 day celebration will also have the opportunity to mingle with him, as “one of the world’s leading authorities on all things cocktail”.

Tonight we were sipping on a selection from his award-winning aperitivo-style cocktail menu; whist savouring bites from “Dante’s” Italian-Australian menu, as presented by the skilled team at “Homer St.”

Diners can try 6 cocktails all featuring Campari, and each distinctively its own. Their “classic negroni” was made from Campari, London Dry Gin, and cinzano rosso.

The “Bergamot negroni” is Campari, London Dry Gin, cinzano dry, italicus, and Calabrian bergamot oil. I was fully impressed with their branded ice cubes. “Dante’s” name etched in to a giant single square.

The “Americano Americano” is Campari, cinzano rosso, roasted coffee beans, orange citrate, and san pellegrno chinotto. I don’t often drink coffee, but was a fan of this one. Espresso forward with almost a cola quality to it. Easy to drink and a great day time cocktail.

The “Golden Sbagliato” delivered on its name with actual gold glitter mixed into the cocktail, you can see it swirling around the glass with the Campari, cinzano rosso, and Prosecco.

The “Endless Summer” was delightfully refreshing. Campari, strawberry, rhubarb, watermelon, and sparkling rose. The watermelon flavour really comes through in this, and a bit of the radish too.

The tuna crudo was a refreshing and light spoonful.

The veal on crostini with tuna aioli and capers was a new flavour combination for me. Crunchy with the cracker and salty from fish, you don’t get much of the veal.

The mortadella slider had plenty of ham with homemade tomato jam, olives, and pistachios. Another interesting flavour combination. Crispy with the buttery burger bun, salty from the mild ham, sweet from the tomato, and briny from the olives.

And the beet and feta crostini was lovely and light.

This teaser was enough to entice a proper visit. This collaboration is running nightly from 6-10pm, until November 5th. So be sure to check things out soon. Reservations and walk-ins are welcomed.

HOMER ST. CAFE + BAR
898 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2W5
604-428-4299
homerstreetcafebar.com

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