Saturday, August 19, 2017

What is That Smell?

Sometimes the lack of planning leads to good things...sometimes. Thankfully, this was one of those times. On a balmy Saturday afternoon, we just wanted some Japanese nosh coupled with air conditioning and came across Shuraku on Granville Street in downtown Van City. Now anyone who knows Granville, knows that it is pee-central, so naturally that pee wafts into restaurants who have their doors open. It was a balmy day, like I said, so obvi Shuraku's patio doors were wide open to some pungent pee aromas. Not really what you want to have with your meal, but no one inside seemed to be bothered by it. O-kay (eyebrow raise). I was too hungry, so the goal was to eat quickly and get the hell out.

Like lightning speed, we ordered the lunch box and the stone curry.

The lunch box was more food than expected! From the top left - california rolls; shrimp, asparagus, eggplant and zucchini tempura, seaweed salad and beef short ribs. The rolls were aight; the tempura, however, were excellent, coated with an airy (albeit non-oily) batter. The seaweed salad was fresh and light which complemented the hearty grilled beef. Quite a bit of food for one person, but perfect for one very hungry person.

The stone curry, which was a house-made Japanese curry, engulfed the rice beneath it with some righteous chicken karaage proudly sitting atop. This is something I definitely see myself coming back to on a cold, rainy day. Note to everyone: let this sit for a bit to cool down and cut up the chicken so it lets some of the steam out or do what I did and dive in and burn your whole mouth. Verdict: so worth it! I didn't think chicken kaarage could get any better, but enveloped by that curry, oh my, pure bliss.

And about that pee smell...what pee smell? I guess we just became nose blind. Well, what do you know!

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Compared to Toronto, Italian cuisine in Vancouver is expensive. I don't know why, but it is. But you can't live on sushi and ramen forever, so when that craving hits, you gotta give in. Coincidentally, our hunger pangs surfaced the same time as the Celebration of Lights (BC's firework festival/competition), so we thought we make a night out of it. After some research, we came cross Novo Pizzeria & Wine Bar, a wood-fired pizza joint in Kitsilano that was not too far from the firework festivities. Perfect.

Ordering was relatively easy - 2 glasses of wine, the burrata special to start, chorizo pizza and mushroom pasta. The burrata arrived pretty quickly and was, well, weird.

It was goopy, not the solid mass that I'm used to. But then we realized it was a stracciatella, which is supposed to resemble shredded burrata. I'm sorry, but this is soup. Albeit, with delicious figs and the best deli meat in the world aka prosciutto, but still soup. It was belatedly accompanied by some toasted house-made bread, though useful as a vehicle to scoop the cheese, it didn't really complement the flavour. Strange, just strange.

The chorizo pizza was adorned with mozzarella, basil, smoked provolone, ricotta di bufala and some thyme honey, and was definitely quite appealing to the eye. The crust was spot on, but the pizza, in general, was too sweet. If the meat was on the spicier side, it would have been a home run. The balance was just off.

The pasta was a truffled funghi fettucine drizzled with garlic, thyme oil, chilli flakes, lemon, parsley and a dollop of pecorino romani. Flavourful right? Wrong. Absolutely zero flavour. First off, truffled fettucine should have a hint of truffle flavour; as Al said, maybe it was once in a room with truffles. The mushrooms were bland and supposedly a mix, but I'm pretty sure they were all the same. The pasta itself was beautifully al dente, but, at the end, such a waste.

Why did we bother with dessert after such a lack-lustre meal? Because I can't resist sweet stuff okay! And, I'm so glad we did. This tiramisu was all sorts of goals.

Sturdy so we could see all the layers, moist (sorry, Sandra, I know you hate this word), gorgeous coffee flavour and good-quality cocoa. High five, Novo! This was by far, the best thing they served.

With our bellies full, but not exactly thrilled with the food, we made our way to the fireworks. Btw: the competitors were Japan, UK and Canada. Spoiler alert: Japan won. On second thought, maybe we should have gone for sushi and ramen anyway!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

True North

This past weekend, we Canadians celebrated the 150th anniversary of confederation, and while most of us celebrated the event by jetting off to the capital, taking in the parade and, in Toronto, viewing the rubber ducky (ugh), I celebrated by...well... eating. Surprised? Neither am I.

After hearing that the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver was offering a Canada 150 afternoon tea, my plans were pretty much set. So, first off, I wish I took a photo of the room - it was not at all what I was expecting, but exactly what I wanted. When I think of tea, I think flowers, birds (okay not birds), gardens, etc., but this room was dark with lots of wood, almost like a cigar room filled with Canadiana items. Love!

We were presented with the menu and off our server went to brew our teas - the 1907 Centennial blend, which was a keemun, assam and Sri Lankan black tea mix with a dash of early grey. Quite a beautiful citrus forward tea that held its own with or without milk.

Without further ado, we were presented with the maple panna cotta. Wonderfully maple with a light, airy consistency, this was absolutely delightful and whetted our appetite. However, a panna cotta it was not; more of a pudding. Potato patato, it was yum.

It was swiftly followed by the scones, a wild berry (Saskatchewan) and Oka (Quebec) selection, served in a mini canoe! Were these the best scones I've ever had, no, but a canoe! Yes, I'm easily amused. I definitely gravitated more toward the cheese scones rather than the berry versions because a) they were fluffier, b) the accompanied compote was a bit runny and c) cheese is life.

The savory tower came next. It was freaking massive! I've had afternoon tea before where one plate is scones, the other is savory and the last is sweet but this was a WHOLE tower of savory. Thank goodness I wore a dress for this feast.

Let's take a closer look, shall we?

Up top, the hors d'oeuvres, namely the maple foie gras tourtiere (Quebec), corn dogs and the bison carpaccio (both representing Alberta). The mini tarts were packed with duck confit and just oozed warmth and happiness. The corndogs were a surprise to me because I'm just not a fan of this fairground treat, but these can shut me up any day. These flavour bombs were filled with wagyu beef and grits with tomato relish and pickled mustard seeds perched on top. I think all corn dogs should forever be substituted with wagyu beef. Damn, that was good. Last but not least, the carpaccio balancing on some buttered bannock and bathed with a berry compote. Bison and berries are a match made in heaven, so this was a home run.

Part 2 aka the sandwiches.

Yup, you got it, Montreal smoked meat sandwich on rye bread and mustard. Not Schwartz's Deli good, but a decent try. Honestly, look at it. I'm drooling right now. Right above it, an ode to my hometown of Toronto, the peameal bacon sandwich with Ontario cheddar and light serving of mayo. The only let down on this one was the dry bun. If you are going to serve a dry bun, amp up the mayo please or, better yet, don't serve a dry-ass bun. You think that's the end of the sandwich section? Ha!

Lobster roll! Can't do Canadiana without one. Hailing from the east coast, a good lobster sandwich doesn't need much - some butter, chive and a healthy serving of lobster. Oh wait, a non-dry bun! They got it right on this one. Switching to the west coast (and the last of the sandwiches) was the piece de resistance. Are you ready for this?

Breathe in and breathe out. Behold, this beauty. Straight up on a toonie-sized bread sat a slab of smoked salmon followed by some dungeness crab, blanketed with a plump prawn and finished with some caviar. No biggie, said absolutely no one who ate this. This is the stuff of dreams. The freshness, the flavours, the casual bursts of the caviar with every chew. I can't guys, I can't. Standing ovation for this one! Thankfully, there was a bit of a pause between this course and the next so I could collect myself.

Alright, sweet time! I went directly for the donuts (cinnamon sugar, salted caramel and bacon chocolate); these reminded me of Tiny Tom donuts like the ones at the CNE and rightly so as they were supposed to represent Toronto. Right next to them were the mini beaver tails (Ottawa) served with a dollop of Nutella and caramelized apples. Probably one of my favourites from the bunch since I heart Nutella. Bottom right of the photo are the Nanaimo bars (British Columbia). So, here's my confession, I've never had one! I hear there are different versions depending on where you go; these were chocolate and coconut with vanilla cream like a Bounty bar. First impression, I like! However, it was way too dense for this meal and I actually wished they made this half the size. On the left side of the photo are the almond cake tarts with wild berries (Alberta), which were a bit of a reprieve from the deep-fried, dense desserts so far. I haven't been happier to see fruit! I loved these - a light cake with a balanced almond flavour. Finally, I always save the best for last, the butter tarts with caramelized pecans (Quebec). As you may or may not know, butter tarts make me cry. Explaining why will take forever, so let's just say, if I cry, it's a good tart. I cried.

What a way to start Canada day! Very stuffed, we made our way to the festivities. Yes, we sat for most of it. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017


What the hell is that, you ask? Chakhna is the hindi word for snacks, akin to tapas for the Spanish and Izakaya to the Japanese. We dropped by Denman street for the car-free day festival and after a few hours, we both looked at each other and said, let's have some Chakhna. After a quick yelp search, we arrived at Kingyo.

Without a reservation, we had the choice of sitting at the bar or a communal table. We chose the communal table that was divided from the other side with giant bamboo plants; how cute! I appreciate the fact that they have separate seating for walk ins other than the bloody bar; it's nice once in a while not to have your feet dangling while enjoying a meal! The menu wasn't too extensive (#bless), so we settled on some tuna tataki and the hot stone beef tongue. Side note: Order the plum wine here; it's magnificent. I like it on the rocks but you can have it straight up as well. Anyhoo, on to the tataki.

Buttery and fresh with a tangy dressing, this is what dreams are made of. Absolute perfection. They didn't skimp on the tuna either - the portion size was on point with the price. Give me a bowl of this everyday and I will be your slave forever. The hot stone dish was next, which was quite popular since almost everyone at the restaurant was having some version of it.

The idea is that you cook your selected meat on the hot stone and enjoy it with its accompanied condiment. The beef tongue took merely seconds to quick since the stone was quite hot but it does cool down so I would suggest cooking all the meat first and then taking your time eating it. The tongue was distinctively chewy (as tongues are) but the sauce definitely elevated the dish. I wish I knew what was in the sauce but it had a yuzu-red pepper flavour to it if that helps.

With our bellies satisfied for the time being, we hit Guu Kobachi for some takoyaki. If you've been to the other Guu locations, this one is smaller with a less extensive menu and not as rambunctious as the others.

Takoyaki, deep fried octopus balls, is one of my favourite Japanese dishes. Tonkatsu sauce with mayo drizzled over deep fried fresh seafood. What is not to love? The katsuobushi flakes (which is basically flaked dried fish) give this dish that distinctive tangy taste, which I live for. Tooooo good.

All finished with a sip of plum wine (yes, I got it at Guu as well), our chakhna experience was a hit!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Appy Hour

What's not to love about happy hour? Cheap food, cheap drinks = a good time! When we googled the best happy hour bars and restaurants in Vancouver, the same name kept popping up over and over again. Chewies. Alright then, Chewies it is.

As was expected, this place was rammed but we snagged two bar seats and waited for our server to come over...and waited...and waited. There were a bunch of them standing off to the side chatting with each other and looking all buff but none made eye contact with us. Yes, we are Torontonians but we don't bite....unless you keep us away from our freakin' food!!!!! We finally had to flag one down and put in our order. Thankfully, the food was way faster than the service. Blessings.

With buck a shuck on the menu, we couldn't pass on it, so we got a dozen oysters that were accompanied by about 4-5 different sauces. Fresh, local and plump, can't go wrong with that. Our second app was the crocodile and corn hush puppies. The croc had a lovely crunch on it, and the jalapeno jelly and the pickled salad were a perfect marriage of tangy and spicy. The hush puppies were the star of this dish for me. Hush puppies always remind me of doorstops that you could eat, flavourless doorstops, but these were little balls of heaven; they had everything - a banging moist filling, a crunchy exterior and a little bit of a kick. Thumbs up all around.

Since the apps were a hit, we decided to stick around for dinner to continue the festivities happening in my mouth.

Presenting the Gumbo Yaya - fried chicken, andouille sausage, smoked chicken and white rice. Woweeee, is what I wanted to say but this didn't even deserve a wow. Don't get me wrong, everything was cooked well, but the flavours didn't really go together. It all smelled and tasted smokey and bland. So, I basically paid for smokey soup.

On to the jambalaya, a southern classic. This rendition included smoked chicken, andouille sausage, prawns, ham and, of course, rice. Ugh, ugh, ugh is what first comes to mind. Too tomato(ey), lack of any discernible flavour and hastily put together, this is where jambalaya comes to die.

As if we weren't tortured enough, we ordered dessert. Two of them to be exact. Hey, you never know, this could be where they knock it out of the park!

The beignets were massive, like unnecessarily so AND we got three of them! They were awkward to eat and, because they were so oversized, I didn't care to eat more than half of one. I mean, how much fried dough can one person have? On top of that, the coffee anglais dip was watery and came in this tiny cup that we couldn't dunk the beignets into because they were so freaking big!!!! Is anyone else enraged by this? Did anyone even test this out?!

The pecan pie was also a disaster. It pretty much fell apart as soon as you took a fork to it since it was jam-packed with nuts. I appreciate that they didn't skimp on the pecans but baking is a science; a proper bake is all about the exact ratios to hit that sweet spot of flavour and the perfect consistency. Someone clearly fell asleep in pastry school. And if all that wasn't enough, the pastry was not buttery at all and which reminded me of the frozen variety. I have nothing against frozen pastry, I use them all the time (what up Tenderflake!) but this tasted like pastry that may have gotten freezer burn, was defrosted and then frozen again and then defrosted to make this special pie. Ick!

Next time I look up places for happy hour, I think I'll stick to happy hour. Lesson learned...the hard way.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tuc Into This

As soon as we walked into the Gastown establishment, memories of Ossington in Toronto flash by. I'm not sure whether it was the industrial/rustic decor or the hipster vibe, but I knew I wanted to be here.

I'm going to do a little detour here. Bear with me. 

We got an early reservation because we were meeting friends at 8 pm for dessert, so after a hot day of frolicking in the city, we thought we'd jet home, shower and change into something decent before our dinner reso. Honestly, why did we bother? We are quickly learning that most people in Vancouver do not make an effort when it comes to their attire, dinner is no exception. I get the whole west-coast chill vibe, but it's dinner, on a Saturday night, I'm not asking you to put on a shirt and tie, just put on something that a) you won't wear to the gym, b) is not a hoodie and c) is not beach friendly. Just make an effort! I can't be the only person classing up a joint! Help me, Vancouverites! Okay, after that PSA, back to dinner.

Elk Carpaccio is the first dish that turns up and, boy, is it pretty! 

The carpaccio was sliced so thin that it was almost transparent. Slow clap chef! The garlic aioli was a natural accompaniment and I loved the pepperiness that came off the greens. I'm not sure what the greens were but my best guess would be arugula. The crispy potato, however, was a bit odd. I understand that they give some texture to the dish, but pairing something fried with something so delicate was strange. And also very awkward to eat - should I use my hands? A fork? I'll try a fork - and now I poked my face. Maybe I'll use my hands or maybe, maybe, instead of these potato weapons, consider using some nuts instead?

For my entree, they were out of my first choice: the pork curado, which I kinda chose because it was part of the MealShare program and I thought I get my good deed done for the day. Well, not today I suppose. I tried guys, I really did. Also, it's 6 pm and they ran out? Hmmm.

Second choice: beef al forno. This was not at all what I expected. I imagined a hunk of beef on top of cheese curds. In all fairness, the waitress explained quite well what the dish was, as did the menu, but my brain just stopped at braised beef (as it usually does). The description on the menu was: braised 1846 beef shoulder, cheese curds, black bean salsa verde, chili parmesan crisp.

This cast-iron pan deliciousness was brought in front of me. OMG, this is EXACTLY what I wanted today and didn't even know it! You get me Tuc, you really get me. First bite of this tender, succulent beef wrapped in cheese curds made me just want to change into my pjs and eat this in bed while watching a Hugh Grant chick flick. It was so comforting, warm and decadent. I really didn't want to share this with Al, but I needed him to feel all the feels I was feeling, and guess what?, he felt it (minus the Hugh Grant chick flick)! Can't win 'em all.

He got the steak and onions, which just sounded like something a lumberjack would eat.

A fancy lumberjack of course. Again, the beef was on point - medium rare and juicy - perched on onion rings and a horseradish and parsnip puree. Individually, great but together, not so much. The onion rings just overpowered the subtle creamy puree. Maybe some braised pearl onions would have done the trick rather than something deep fried. I think with some minor tweaks, this would have been a winner as well.

Nevertheless, I think Tuc is worth a visit - lovely service and a warm atmosphere. Just leave those Lululemon leggings at home. This Torontonian thanks you.

Friday, May 26, 2017

More Than Just a Pretty Space

So this modern bakery and I have always had bad timing. First, a friend told me about this bakery and I thought I knew where it was, but I ended up at another bakery. Second time around, we got there just in time for the doors to close on us for the day. You would think the third time would be a charm? Well...kinda.

We ended up at Small Victory bakery after our first day out for Vancouver Design Week(end). It was rammed! I kid you not; if I ordered something and left without paying, I'm pretty sure no one would have noticed. But, of course, I paid guys!!! And you should too!!

We were quite lucky to commandeer some bar stools as we waited for our cappuccinos and dessert. First off, design wise, it is a stunning space. Marble countertops juxtapositioned with wooden beams, it was modern yet inviting. Oh and check out their geometric serving boards. Cool, eh? And they fit into one another like honeycombs. Fun!

Ordering was pretty uneventful: I saw the coconut cake and it was mine, along with the cruffin (which I had heard so much about). Let's start by saying a lot of people don't do coconut cake well - either too much icing, too dense, not enough coconut flavour or a weird coconut oil flavour (bleh!). Thank goodness, these guys know where it's at! Lovely moist cake with a thick layer of coconut cream and toasted coconut flakes on top. I pretty much ate this all by myself because it wasn't too sweet and was a perfect accompaniment to the cappuccino. Speaking of which, I'm a tea girl, but I drink enough cappuccinos (Thanks Al!) to know a good one from something you chuck down the drain.

The cruffin, unfortunately, was a let down. Part croissant, part muffin, I thought it would be closer to a Kouign-amman but it was a croissant shaped like a muffin. Pfffft. Filled with vanilla creme and berries, it sure was pretty but pretty doesn't cut it for me. Speaking of cutting, I tried to; it wasn't flaky, more spongy. I don't get the fascination.

Note to all, this bakery doesn't have wifi. I say, put your phones down, grab the coconut cake with a cappuccino, settle down with a book or just have a convo with your bestie (sans phones of course) - that's a small victory to me!