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Category: Yaletown Page 1 of 10

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

O.E.B. Breakfast Company

My guest is a fan of this newer breakfast spot, so when looking for a place to meet up for a meal, she suggested “O.E.B.” Her first visit of the chain was in Calgary, 8 years ago, and it left a lasting impression. Apparently back then they severed their food in Chinese take out containers with chopsticks.

Be warned, if you decide to visit yourself, you will want to call in and/or go online to leave your name on their wait list. This place gets busy. A large space with so many bodies inside and out. I was surprised by the traffic given that this was a random Tuesday, mid afternoon. But the sun was out, the summer weather was upon us, and their waterside patio is a popular destination because of it.

Given the patio was full we sat inside and it was just as nice. A modern diner with many corners and crevices to create private dining areas, with enough space to also seat whole families. The restaurant is themed in eggs, much like their logo. Cracked shells inverted become lamp shades with jagged edges. A cluster of oval lights are gathered together to look like a bouquet of eggs. And the host booth stands in front of a sculpture that like looks like an egg sliced in half, with a fluorescent orange centre.

We grabbed a seat by their impressive looking bar. Despite the fun and whimsical setting, this is a counter you would post up in front of for a late night glass of veuve clicquot, as suggested by their bar display.

The menu is as overwhelming as the restaurant, there is so much to see and go through. Both spoke to the volume they were expecting and the following they already garnered. It was a full page in tiny print listing egg platters, bennies, breakfast poutines, their “blue plate specials”, three egg “scram-blotted”, “grown up sandwiches”, and sweeter breakfast options they categorized as “fully worth the calories”.

My guest got her favourite dish, one of their signature breakfast poutines. “Chasing Chickens” with poached eggs, duck fried herb potatoes, Saint cyrille curds, smoked pulled chicken, and a brown butter hollandaise. She doesn’t like a runny yolk, but ordered her’s medium in order to be able to break into it and stir in some additional creaminess to the poutine gravy. This is a decadent serving, I don’t know how she was able to finish it herself. It is also a little rich as the first meal of your day. Best as a snack or a side to share. The smokiness of the chicken was very prominent, lean white meat that tasted like smokey bacon without all the grease. The potato base was just as flavourful, more herb than the lard used to cook it to a crisp.

Looking for something more light I went for one of their farm fresh classics, choosing the side of fingerling potatoes over the same duck fat fried herb potatoes with wild arugula as my guest had in her poutine. As a side, the fingerling potatoes offered a nice break in taste and freshness with the green onion and more tomatoey ketchup dip.

The idea of an “Artisanal bagel Sammy” peaked my interest and the addition of white truffle mayo sealed the deal. Two free run eggs, white truffle mayo, hass avocado, micro watercress, and semi fried cherry tomatoes; sandwiched between two bagel slices made with the texture of a croissant and white bread combined. Served with a side of market fresh fruit, this was a full meal. But to add on more salt and protein, bacon or a series of hams are available for $3 more. Here, I opted for the hog & rabbit mortadella for $4 because I thought it would be interesting to try.

Little did I know, adding on the processed meat product didn’t have it coming as part of the bagel sandwich. Instead it came on the side as 4 slices, fried. And although I was appreciative of how much I got here, I wish I had the option of having only one slice for $1. This was too much for one person, in one sitting. The mortadella was zesty and salty, like a more seasoned spam, it overpowers anything you eat with it.

As for the bagel sandwich, the bread was so chewy that you couldn’t cut it with a regular butter knife and fork. Yet it was far too messy to eat with your hands; with all that luscious cream, in just the right amount of truffle flavour. The fresh ingredients over flowed and the chunks of avocado slid out. The latter would have been better as a mash. And if it weren’t for the bagel hole, the former would have stayed better in place. The remedy, a carving knife with a segregated age. Delicious as a whole.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great spot for breakfast with a view, offering a fulsome menu that can keep you trying new things for months to come. They are definitely bringing something different to Vancouver’s brunch scene. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OEB
1137 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2Y3
604-423-3447
eatoeb.com

Black Rice Izakaya, summer menu 2019

Summer is in full swing, it is hot, you are sweating, and “Black Rice” is here to help. They are offering up another creative menu for this summer season, a few heat reducing dishes, served with Rosé.

The Rosé was great with our meal, but we had some soju to get us there. “Kashidaru” is Japanese soju aged in a whiskey barrel, exclusive to “Black Rice”. It is from one of Japan’s oldest sake breweries and comes with an interesting story. Their President passed away and they discovered this batch in his personal barrel room. And without any records they had to do some sleuthing to discover its vintage. This soju was aged for minimum of 13-15 years old. And after “Black Rice’s” four cases are done, and the other 10 left are gone, there won’t be any more, ever. And for $11 for 2oz or $120 for a bottle, I can see that happening soon.

As promised the menu served up temperature appropriate dishes, like chilled soup and cold fish to cool you down. And I can attest that this it did just that. I came in to the restaurant from under the sweaty sun, and left cool inside and out.

The “Spicy cold sashimi soup” is a common dish in Korea, and a nice way to start our meal. Cold spicy broth, seabass sashimi with salad. The lovely white fish was a nice compliment to the zing of the hot spice. There were perfect together, without overpowering one another. It would have been nice to have a bowl of rice or a handful of noodles to enjoy the rest of the broth with though, after all the fish is gone.

“Miso ceviche” in a miso broth with truffle oil, onion, peppers, and seabass. Served with taro chips that make for good scoops. It didn’t taste much like miso, but I appreciated the twist with the use of yuzu citrus instead of lemon or lime. I also made out the strong flavour of shiso leaves, which I didn’t prefer. This was another refreshing summer offering, but you were left with so much ceviche, and not enough chips to eat them with; and especially not enough fish roe to top each bite with. Without the chip it was just soggy fish salad.

“Teishoku D” is their cold noodle box option. Plain soda noodles, 3 assorted tempura, 2 pieces inari sushi, a side of tempura crumb, agedashi tofu, assorted oshinko, and green salad. You dip the noodles into the sweet sauce and slurp as you like. With a variety of sides, this makes for a fulsome lunch box.

Their “Pad Thai Yaki Soba” was another creative fusion dish. You take the idea and flavours of a shrimp pad Thai, including the tamarind; but instead of flat rice noodles you use buckwheat soba noodles. And the result is an extra tasty dish that has a great heavy starch chew from the noodles, and an extra kick from the korean bbq sauce, gochujang. Delicious, but a little watery.

The “Ika feast” was one squid two ways. Squid tubes sous-vide in butter and finished on grill, and its tentacles battered and fried in tempura. We were given a choice between two presentations and we all agreed that although the grill was a nice visual, the one without it would be more practical when serving. The hay set on fire in the grill creates smoke and a distinct fragrance that could effect everything else you eat to follow it.

As for the squid, I preferred it grilled, especially with the creamy and tangy sauce you dip it into to. The fried version was more like Greek-style calamari, especially with the cooling tzaziki it was served with. The sauces were definitely the highlight and what gave everything its flavour.

The “Soy chicken karaage” was classic Korean style street food, double fried. Juicy dark meat karaage, battered, powdered, deep fried, and then glazed in their house soy sauce. It had a medium level of spice to it, with the ability to adjust it more or less to your taste. A great tapas option, best enjoyed with one of their many specialty beers.

And since we were already there, we had to try some of our and their customer favourites. Like the “Unagi” roll, which always makes for a great show. A prawn tempura and cucumber black rice roll topped with eel, and drizzled with a sweet brown sauce. It is torched table side for some extra caramelization.

Their “Lollipops” are a great way to enjoy sushi, gluten-free with no rice. Thinly slices of radish are wrapped around sockeye salmon, bell pepper, tamago, oshinko, cucumber, asparagus, avocado, and spinach. I liked the novelty of holding it by the stick, but would have liked to dunk it into something. Some sauce to flavour, before I took a bite that had it crumbling. As is it was bland, yet was too much like a salad roll to dip into soy and enjoy.

My favourite and the must have, anytime you are here is either of their “Aburi platters”. 6 piece aburi salmon hako, 8 piece black mentaiko roll, and 4 piece chef’s choice aburi nigiri. You are asked to allow them 20 mins to prepare it all, and I can tell you it is worth the wait.

Their “Aburi Hakozushi platter” was a complete set of their 4 signature aburi rolls. Aburi salmon, aburi saba, aburi negitoro, and aburi scallop. A great one for sharing. A collection of textures and flavours for any sushi lover who likes their raw fish a little cooked, and their sauces creamy and warm.

 

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.
“Black Rice” continues to be one of my go-to’s for creative Asian fusion. They are so very thoughtful in their food offerings. Trying new things and catering to the season and their explorative clientele. If they keep this up, I will most definitely be back time and time again. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BLACK RICE
782 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2R5
7781379-0416
blackrice.ca

Jasci & Marchesani wine tasting at Homer St. Cafe

Today I was at “Homer Street Cafe” for a intimate lunch, featuring Italian wine brand, “Jasci & Marchesani”. Our time would begin with a wine tasting and the meeting of our two hosts, who only just arrived a mere 2 hours prior, straight from Italy.

We were introduced to the second generation owner of “Jasci & Marchesani”, and their brand ambassador who spoke English with a thick Italian accent. The brand ambassador would do the translating as he walked us through the 5 bottles presented today. He commanded the room like a Quintin Tarantino character, with a thick collar on his neon shirt and a large belt buckle drawing your attention to the word “energie”. Together, the two men took us to trip to Italy with wine.

“Jasci & Marchesani” is produced off the East coast of Italy, on the same latitudinal line as Rome. What sets them apart is the fact that they are the first organic vineyard certified in Italy, in 1978. This and their strong focus on sustainability. This focus was first introduced when the original owner noticed a lack of birds chirping on his property, and a dip in crop production. The solution, going organic and giving back to the land in order to yield from it for years to come.

No animal products go into their wine making, where as some other wine makes filter their wines using egg whites or add a fish substance for colour. Whereas “Jasci & Marchesani” uses minerals for its colouring; a pricer solution but one that gives their wines a unique lustre and sheen.

The winery specializes in montepulciano grapes and therefore the wine. But many of their grapes originate from all over Italy, replanted in the South, with the sun’s position in mind. Their agricultural planning goes so far as to considering which direction their grapes are facing, knowing that this changes the taste and production of them. And no sugar is added to their wine for a focus on fresh and crisp vintages.

Sustainably doesn’t just stop at what’s in the bottle. Each and everyone of their glass bottles are made from recyclable bottles. And the caps, cork, and labels are made from sugarcane and corn to easily biodegrade. The bottle is also as light as they can make it, making them not only easier to carry, but when they are shipped, they produce a smaller carbon footprint. Although, their production is already very green, being powered by renewable energy for the last 2 years.

As for our tasting, each place setting had a labelled map with 5 wine glasses. They were filled as we went through each, from 2 whites, on to 1 rose, ending with 2 reds.

The “Trebbiano D’Abruzzo Doc 2017” was a sweeter white with notes of apricot, pineapple, and yellow pear. A great refreshing wine, perfect for patio sipping.

The “Pecorino 2016” was a favourite amongst our group. It had great body to it, allowing you to feel the texture and levels as you drink. It is refined, spending 6 months in steel and the following it with the bottle. This process gave the wine a lifespan of 5 years versus the typical 2 years for a white.

The “Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo Doc 2016” was a rose named after the cherries used to make it. A lot of effort was put into manipulating these grapes, which is even more so when dealing with an organic vineyard. The fruit was hand picked with the belief that, this loving step makes a difference. The result, a lovely light rose with a great balance between sweet and tart. It isn’t as bitter as some roses, and not as sweet as others, it teeters at a good place in between.

The “Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Doc 2016” is made with grapes from their Northern vineyards. Here, our host brought our attention to the ability to taste the difference between grapes, based on the techniques used to farm them. Traditional methods yield a smaller bounty, but at a better quality. Whereas new ways increase production, but less time and resources are put into their cultivation.

This particular wine has never seen wood. The grapes are crushed and bottled without any external factors flavouring it. And an interesting property of it is that the way it hits the inside of our mouth and cheek causes you to salivate. Almost like watering it down.

Our last glass was a deep red with plenty of bite, the “Nerube Montepulcino D’Abruzzo Riserva 2016.” It was on the bitter side, a more concentrated batch due to a smaller yield. Great as a sipping wine to enjoy as is.

After tasting our way through today’s offerings we were then given the ability to have a full glass of our favourites, revisiting them with a 3 course family style meal, courtesy of the “Homer St. Cafe” team. Majority of the offerings below were served in larger portions than they normally are, in order to better share between 5-6 people.

The collection of pickled vegetables served as a great way to get our appetite going. Cucumber, red peppers, leek, and carrot. I liked the olives the best, finding the green ones not overly pickled or too salty.

“Duck liver parfait” with a morello cherry preserve, served with thick slices of chewy and oiled chunks of crusty bread. This was a delicious meat product, and luscious to spread. Smoky and rich with notes of sweetness, thanks to the preserve.

A favourite amongst our table was the collection of dips eaten with crispy taro and plantain chips. Chick pea, scallions, and za’atar. Each dip had its own flavour, which easily mixed together for one homogeneous spread.

The “House salad” was a fresh serving of greens with roasted beets and radish.

They are known for heir rotisserie chicken and this serving of sweet and sticky chicken drums did not disappoint. Tender dark meat coated in a harissa honey glaze, best enjoyed with hands and fingers you lick clean after.

The platter of porchetta was an impressive serving, ordered up feasting style. Not on the menu, this was the feature roast for the day; served with asparagus, green beans, and peas in jus. One slice was plenty, full of meat and enough fat to make bites soft and chewy. But the highlight was definitely the crispy crackling. To help balance all this pork we enjoyed it with the sides below.

These pickled horseradish turnips are also not on the menu, just something creative whipped up for us. They were hard to pick up, and even harder to chew through. Jawbreaker-like bulbs that you crunch through for some freshness.

I preferred the heirloom carrot side with its cream sauce more. A more traditional accompaniment that goes well with any protein.

And the only vegetarian of the group had a specialty made pesto pasta dish with spinach and cheese made for her. It was delightful, but compared to everything else a little bland.

And for dessert we ended on a silky smooth chocolate mousse topped with fresh strawberry. The mousse was so full bodied that it reminded me of ice cream. Rich and decant, a delight for any chocolate lover.

In short, a great meal and a great way to learn more about “Jasci & Marchesani”; how their organic and sustainable wines are a great additional to any one’s wine rack. For more details visit the link below. https://www.jasciemarchesani.it/

 

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

On Yogurt, new February menu

Today I was at “On Yogurt” to try out their latest seasonal offerings. For the month of February they have five new specialty items launching.

To celebrate their 3rd year anniversary they are jumping on the brown sugar pearl trend. They have found a clever way to incorporate the sticky pearl’s popularity into their line of ice fried yogurts, shaken teas, and pressed waffles. These “dirty” treats are available from now to the end of February.

The “Bubble waffle dirty cup” is at its essence a dressed bubble waffle, but made into a parfait. Served in a plastic cup with a spoon, this rendition is easier to travel with and to eat. It is their original bubble waffle ripped apart and top with a yogurt cheese foam, black sugar pearls, and cocoa powder. “Dirty” is definitely the right work to describe this. Fun to eat and tasty with the classic salty and sweet pairing. Chewy with pearls, creamy with cheese foam, and crispy with baked waffle. I enjoyed the pearls like this more than at the bottom of any bubble tea.

However if I was to choose between the two, I would get the “Taiyaki dirty fish”. Same yogurt cheese foam, black sugar pearls, and cocoa powder; but in a crispy pressed Taiyaki shell instead. Half croissant and half bubble waffle, the flaky pastry is further filled with a black sugar spread. The crispiness of the taiyaki held up, even after it cooled, but the middle is the best part, with its phyllo dough core.

And starting on February 14, they have 3 Valentine’s Day themed drinks and a dessert that will also be available until February 28th.

The “Rose Ferrero Rocher” ice fried yogurt gelato with strawberry and edible gold flake was very photogenic. The ice cream is beautiful with the bits of brown chocolate and shredded pink rose petals. And everything is always made better with a sheet of gold topping it. The chocolate in the ice cream was great for texture and crunch. Whereas the flavour of the rose water was what you tasted. It was good, but not a flavour I couldn’t see myself finishing, due to its specific nature, therefore this would be best shared.

The “Fresh taro milk with white pearls and Ferraro rocher” was as interesting idea and it gave me a few firsts. I have never had a taro drink that used mashed, steamed taro before. And this was my first time trying agar pearls. Together with warm milk and cold ice cubes, the result was a murky cup that tasted a lot better that it looked.

Originally I wasn’t too keen on the white agar pearls above, but grew to like them more in the “Rose tea with cheese milk foam”. It has a texture similar to cartilage, but chewier. They offered something to grind through as you avoided the rose petals floating up. They petals are edible, but I wasn’t keen on their texture and how much they dominated when you got one between your tongue and teeth. Although as annoying as fishing out petals and spitting leaves was, I would still go back for more. Overall this was a super tasty drink, and I have never had anything like it in my life. I suggest trying each layer when you first get it, then mixing it all together: juice and cream for a completely new drink.

In short, I suggest heading down to “On Yogurt”, and trying out each of these for yourself. And from Feb 19-24, the first 5 dirty fish or dirty cup orders for the day, will be free. And after that, 10% off for everyone else.

 

ON YOGURT
95 Smithe Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1C2
778-788-8691
onyogurt.com

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