Monday, October 26, 2009

Teahouse Restaurant

Stanley Park's own culinary gem...

Location: Vancouver (Downtown)

Food:

My first dining experience here was pleasant, but not over-the-top mindblowing.  It was about a year ago when it was still known as Sequoia Grill.  I recall that the service was good, appies were great, but our main entrees were a bit of a disappointment (overcooked steak, medicore fish).  In addition, there was a big of a mix-up with our bill.  All in all, we felt it was a good, but not great experience.


On this day, I had come for a birthday celebration and upon arriving, I was told that they had just (very) recently changed chefs and menus.  I didn't quite know what to expect (as it could go either way), but was still fairly excited, nonetheless.  We started off with the Beef Carpaccio, Veal Cheek Tortellini, as well as the Salt Spring Island Mussels.  All were very good.  The carpaccio was typical melt-in-your-mouth goodness and the quail eggs added quite the nice touch.  The tortellini was good - although there were only 3 pieces.  The mussels were great - big, plump and juicy.  I must also mention that their bread was also very good and went very well when dipped in the mussel broth.  'Twas a great start.

For my entree, I enjoyed a nice, cooked-to-perfection, succulent piece of  Rib Eye steak.  The wild mushrooms and fingerling potatoes accomodated the steak very well, and overall, it was very pleasurable.  I had also sampled the Short Rib Pappardelle, Qualicum Bay Scallops (with Mushroom Risotto), and the Cassoulet.  All were quite tasty, as well.

Cocktails were nicely executed as well.

Service:

Good

Value:

Good - Portions of entrees were very generous

Ambience:

Fabolous - nice setting if you're looking for somewhere pleasant, calm with nice scenery

Overall: 7.5/10

Yay: Ideal for romantic dinner dates, I believe weddings are often held here as well

Nay: This is a possiblity that you could get lost here in Stanley Park and hence, miss the restaurant (well, we did! lol...)

** Interesting Note: Not only did Teahouse recently undergo a name change (from Sequoia Grill to now, "Teahouse"), they also now have a new chef in addition to a new menu!




Posted by: J

Mazuya Sushi

Maaad for Mazuya...

Location: Vancouver (Kitsilano)

Food:

This is one of our regular hole-in-the-wall sushi joints that offer, you guessed it, special rolls :)

We first started off with a Sashimi Salad.  This was perhaps the biggest let-down of the night as it came with only a handful of greens (you would expect at least 3 handfuls!) and a few pieces of sashimi.  At $7.95, we felt this wasn't worth it at all, and immediately made a mental note not to order it again.  We also had an order of Spicy Tuna and Spicy Sashimi to start.  Saucy, fresh and soothing to the palate, there were no complaints there.


The specialty rolls that we opted on this day were the: Mazuya Roll (unagi, avocado, cucumber, seaweed salad), Temptation Roll (mango, avocado, yam tempura, coconut shaving), Burrard Roll (prawn tempura, avocado, cucumber and spicy tuna) and Mango Roll (real crab meat, avocado, mango).  All were outstanding as usual, and filled with ample, fresh and tasty ingredients.



Service:

Friendly, although this seems to be a mom & pop operated joint.  Our food arrived in a timely manner, but, then again we were the only ones there at the time.  If you're expecting to come with a larger group, be prepared to wait a big longer for your food.

Value: 

At about $8-$10 (on average) for each special roll, I can't say it's too much of a steal, but it is on par with the price of other special rolls, that you would find elsewhere.

Ambience:

It's a little hole-in-the-wall, so don't expect much.  They do, however, offer cute, colourful pieces of paper as a means for customers to express their thoughts and opinions - you can list your favourite item, offer suggestions and even draw a cute picture of yourself! You can then clip them onto the string that's mounted to the mall.

Overall: 8/10

Yay: A wonderful little sushi joint that offers creative, innovative sushi rolls.  It doesn't seem to be too busy (during the times that we've gone), making it a great go-to spot if you're definitely wanting alone time and away from a noisy ambience.

Nay: You won't find "authentic" fare here and as stated above, it is probably not ideal for large groups.




Posted by: J

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dulcinea Chocolate Cafe

Not just any ol' chocolate cafe...

Location: Vancouver (Downtown)

Food:







We first started with a nice, hot cup of Chocolate Chai. Prior to coming upon that decision, we had sampled their signature hot chocolate - the 1528 - and wasn't too fond of it. It was rich, and thick, but not too sweet (in fact, I think it could've been a lot sweeter.) It literally tasted like drinking a piece of melted milk chocolate bar (minus the sweetness factor.) I don't know how sweet the Spanish like their chocolate but we choose to stray away from the overly thick hot chocolate and thus, ended up with the Chocolate Chai. It was a good choice - nice and relatively lighter. Topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, it paired well with the sweets.




After minutes of indecisiveness, we finally decided on the Crema Cantalan, as well as the Churritos Con Chocolate.

The Creme Cantalan (Spanish creme brulee) was solid, although a lil' too eggy for my liking. The Churritos Con Chocolate came with 4 pieces of decently-sized churros, with a cup of chocolate fondue (which was essentially the 1528 that I had sampled earlier). The churros were excellent - fresh and tasty, although I wish the chocolate fondue was just a tad sweeter! I don't usually have a crazy sweet tooth, but mind you, even my dining companion thought it lacked the sweetness factor - big time.


Service:

Friendly, although it took (at least) a good 15 mins. for the creme brulee to arrive (which was already made to order, no idea why it took so long) and another 5 more mins. for the churros...(although this was more understandable since they were made fresh to order.)

Value:

It was about $15 for the three items - which isn't too bad. Not worthy of any praise or complaints, given the quality of their products and the location of the place.


Ambience:

The pleasant-sounding, soft, Spanish tunes in the background suits the ambience of the cafe well. They also offer free Wi-fi service.

Overall: 7.5/10

Yay: A great deviant from the usual dessert locales people often frequent, e.g, True Confections, Death by Chocolate, Cheesecake Etc. Dulcinea also offers an extensive array of varied desserts - chocolate cheesecake brulee, apple and cinnamon bread pudding, sugar cookies...even a cheesecake wrapped in fried tortilla!

Nay: I don't know if it's in the culture, but I think they have to make their chocolate just a tad sweeter. I know, it sounds silly, but the chocolate here just lacks the sweetness factor that you would minimally expect!



** Interesting note: Dulcinea is pronounced as "Dool-See-Nay-Ah" meaning something-along-the-lines of "sweetness" in Spanish


Posted by: J

Akari Japanese Restaurant

Location: Coquitlam

Food:

We started off with a Spinach Gomae. It held its own, however, it did not have the same great peanut-y texture as many other Japanese restaurants such as Kiku (Burnaby). Next came the Spicy Tuna Sashimi. This was great – although not “to die for” (as I’ve read from other reviews.) However it was easily the best dish of the night - loaded with a tasty dressing and sprinkled with sesame seeds – this was definitely a knight in shining armour since it saved this restaurant’s review (you will see why as you continue reading). It is also important to note that most sashimi dishes from other restaurants do not include a salad, whereas this restaurant did. In fact, it came atop a nice spinach salad. (You can’t go wrong with extra greens!)
Next in line was the Marinated Beef Salad. Now let me tell you, there was definitely no hurry for this dish to budge the line. The beef was the best part of this dish as it was nicely marinated and tender. The salad was mediocre. What kind of restaurant uses iceberg lettuce for a salad? There is absolutely no elegance in using iceberg lettuce. The dressing for this salad had a slight zing to it and almost tantalized my taste buds… almost! The Salmon Sashimi was fresh, which is always a plus!
Then came the rolls. These rolls were the biggest rolls I’ve ever seen in my life. They were HUGE! I guess this Korean-run, Japanese restaurant had watched too many Godzilla movies and decided to make their rolls specific for Godzilla himself. (Please see J’s p.o.v below for our thoughts on Godzilla type-sized rolls!) If you like gigantic rolls, then this is your place. If you are like me and prefer bite-size rolls then this is not a place for you. The first roll we had was the Green Field Roll. This was basically a California roll with cream cheese, topped with kiwi and showered with yogurt sauce. Sounds appealing but there was so much cream cheese that I had to remove some. The Pizza Roll was the best since it was bite-sized, very tasty, and baked like a pizza! It came dressed in mozzarella cheese with little cubelets of red pepper. This was the best roll and along with the spicy tuna sashimi, it may have saved this restaurant from a verbal massacre. The Butterfly Roll we had was just too big. Overall, the flavours were there , but they were just too big for my liking. Had the rolls been smaller, I’m sure the rolls would’ve been dynamite!

Service:
Nice and efficient!

Value:
$10 - $20 price range. The rolls are relatively cheap considering their ginormous size (but that’s only if you prefer huge rolls.)

Ambience:
Awesome! Authentic-like even though it is Korean-run. I love the Japanese atmosphere. From the private rooms to the fountain with the bridge (see picture), it was a nice ambience indeed. Plus, it was clean!

Overall: 7.5/10
All in all, this is a very solid Japanese restaurant. Due to my low tolerance level for gigantic sushi rolls, 7.5/10 would’ve been way too high of a rating if it weren’t for my 2 knights in shining armour ie., the Spicy Tuna Sashimi & Pizza Roll. Thank you to my knights :)


Posted by: Scoe


*J's perspective: I agree with the 7.5 rating Scoe gave to Akari. Akari was pretty much overall, a solid restaurant taking all things into consideration - food, service, ambience, etc...EXCEPT for certain rolls that were just too darn big (and unappetizing!) We are avid "special rolls" (atypical sushi rolls) hunters and have tried lots of different special rolls at various Jap. restaurants. We love the fusion between ingredients-that-you-would-never-think-of inserted into a maki roll (e.g cream cheese, kiwi, mango, papaya) or even different types of sauces drizzled on (black sesame sauce, chili mayo), but there are certain ones that just go overboard with the size and amount of ingredients they put in! (e.g the Butterfly Roll here at Akari.)

51 Things to Taste Before You Die ...

"Poor, darling fellow - he died of food. He was killed by the dinner table." - Diana Reeland

With Vancouver Magazine's recent publication of their (2nd annual) 101 Things to Taste (Before Your Die) issue, as well as West Ender's Favourite Things to Eat & Drink in BC issue, I felt that it was only necessary that I, too, compose a "things-you-ABSOLUTELY-must-taste-before-you die" list.
There are about 10 things on my list that you must, must, MUST try (e.g Phnom Penh's butter beef, Chambar's Mussels Congolaise) and the rest that are just one degree less of being a "must, must try!"


*** Have a read/skim for yourself...and let us know how many you've tried. I'd be amazed if anybody has tried 30+ out of the 51 mentioned...:)


(in no particular order)




1. Tomoya’s Flying Dragon Roll
2. Chambar’s Mussels Congolaise - (see photo to right)
        (for Scoe, it's the Mussels Vin Blanc)
3. Cru’s Cellar Door Caesar
4. Panago’s Steak Mushroom Melt
5. Medina CafĂ©’s Fricasse
6. Sanafir’s Naan with Humous
7. Fuel’s Fraser Valley Free Run Lamb
8. Japadog’s Teriymayo
9. Thomas Haas’ Double Baked Almond Croissant
10. Cupcakes’ Kookoo Cupcake
11. Market’s Soy-Glazed Shortribs
12. Mahek’s Butter Chicken
13. Guu on Thurlow’s Kimchi Fried Rice
14. Makoto’s Paradise Roll (see photo to right)
15. Le Crocodile’s Roasted Fraser Valley Duck served with Pan-Seared Foie Gras
16. Go Fish’s (Halibut) Fish & Chips
17. Fraiche’s Dungeness Crab Cake
18. Kingo's Miso Black Cod
19. Grounds for Coffee's Cinnamon Bun (with extra cream cheese icing!)
20. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Caramel Apples (the almond-crazy-coated one!)
21. Kiku’s “Winter Rolls” – rolls with baked chop scallop
22. Phnom Penh’s Deep Fried Chicken Wings
23. Phnom Penh’s Beef Filet On Rice With Egg
24. Phnom Penh’s Butter Beef
25. Sushi Town’s Alaska Roll
26. Sushi Town’s Spicy Tuna Sashimi
27. Kadoya’s Spicy Tuna Sashimi
28. Little Nest's Carrot Cake
29. Tenku’s Bukudanyaki Chili Mayo Takoyaki
30. Greedy Pig’s Pulled Pork Sandwich
31. Habit’s Sweet Carrot & Brie Perogies
32. Secret Garden’s High Tea (esp. their scones w/ devonshire cream & jelly) - (see photo to right)
33. Vij’s Lamb Popsicles
34. Purdy's Ice Cream Bar (white chocolate as coating, almonds as topping)
35. Crystal Mall’s Szechuan Beef Noodle Soup
36. Tomoya’s Volcano Salad
37. Cactus Club’s Bandura Salad
38. Cactus Club’s (specifically, Rob Feenie’s) Butternut Squash Ravioli
39. Chada Thai’s Red Curry
40. Juicy Lucy’s Tuna Melt (open-faced, topped with with sliced tomatoes and melted cheddar cheese)
41. Greedy Pig’s Arugula & Bison Salad
42. Bacchus’s Lobster Rolls
43. Joey Tomatoes’ Ahi Tuna Tacos
44. Joey Tomatoes’ Baked Apple Pie with maple walnut ice cream
45. Crave’s Organic Beef Burger (with blue cheese!)
46. Crave’s Popcorn Shrimp
47. Fraiche’s Scallop Carpaccio
48. Le Crocodile’s Roasted Rack of Lamb (see pic to right)
49. Pearl Castle’s Condensed Milk Thick Toast (with Almonds)
50. Dragonball’s Honey Green Tea Slush (with extra honey) 1/2 half pearls, 1/2 coconut jelly
51. Fuel’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken

** My apologies if I've suddenly got you salivating, unknowingly, on your keyboard...hahaha...but damn, looking back .... this list truly reinforces the fact (yes, a fact!) that Vancouver, without a doubt, offers some of the finest cuisine in the world (...and am I ever thankful for that!)



Posted by: J

Pumpkin Fever

on the hunt for all sorts of pumpkin goodness...

I don’t know when this sudden infatuation came about...but I suddenly had the urge to go on a “pumpkin hunt” for all things pumpkin – pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin gelato, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin scones, and of course pumpkin pie. I didn’t quite get around to sampling everything but needless to say, the list of things I’ve tried were sufficient to relieve my fever…(ha, ha – lol!)


Pumpkin Gelato from Pane e Formaggio

Rich in pumpkin flavour…with little specks of what-seems-to-be eensy weensy pieces of graham cracker throughout the gelato….mmm


Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks

A seasonal fall favourite…full of richy, spicey pumpkin flavour capped off with dusts of cinnamon and swirls of whipped cream...I would’ve eeeeasily downed a venti!


Pumpkin Cupcake aka “The Great Pumpkin” from Cupcakes

Although I usually ADORE cupcakes from cupcakes (because of their generous amount of frosting/icing/cream and their moistness level), this one was a bit of a downer. It tasted more like a muffin, largely because it just wasn’t as moist as other Cupcakes’ originals…though, the pumpkin buttercream was good

Pumpkin Cream Puff from Beard Papa's

Just like any ol' (delicious) Beard Papa cream puff, this was filled with pumpkin-flavoured cream. The pumpkin factor was sure there - although, a lil' too much for me? Kinda tasted like squash...but a good deviant from the original vanilla flavour one.

Pumpkin Pie Blizzard from Dairy Queen


This was a bit of a disappointment as I thought that it could've contained a lot more pumpkin flavour, in addition to having chunks of pumpkin pie batter instead of pumpkin cookie (after all, it IS called the "pumpkin pie blizzard!"








Friday, October 9, 2009

Provence Mediterranean Grill

"fratalian" (french & italian, keke) cuisine done right...

Location: Vancouver (Point Grey)

Food:
We started off with a wonderful Antipasto Di Mare which consisted of "scallops, prawns, clams, and mussels steamed in white wine, garlic, lemon, herbs and tomatoes". 'Twas excellent The fabolous brothy concoction was perfect and perfectly suitable for my palate - with just the right amount of garlic flavour and esp. when you dip and smother bread into it...oh my. Now, if you didn't know, I'm a saucy kinda girl (haha). (Well, we're both very saucy people - literally - we LOVE sauce). All in all, a lovely start indeed.

My main entree was the Wild Mushroom Ravioli (in the very same praise-worthy brothy sauce noted above) and it did not disappoint...at all. It arrived hot and the portion size was very generous (I couldn't help but compare the portion size to what you would get at, say, Cactus Club, or Joeys). This dish had at least a good 12-14 pieces of ravioli (vs. the 6-8 range of ravioli you would get at CC or Joeys), without skimping on the quality. Couldn't quite complain about the wonderful shavings of asiago, either ;)
My dining companion had the Eggplant and Boccocini Lasagna and as expected, quality of the flavours were very consistent with the other entree and appy, as well. Although the portion was not as generous as the ravioli, the flavour and wonderful tomato sauce made up for it.

Service:
Nice, prompt and genuine service.

Value:
At $18 for the ravioli entree and $15 for the lasagna, I wouldn't complain!

Ambience:
Nice and cozy. Great little "gem" of a place if you're in the neighbourhood.

Overall: 8/10

Yay: Great place for french and italian flare if you're wanting a nice, quiet bistro-like setting.

Nay: Perhaps it's not exactly the best place to hold parties for large groups?
** Interesting note: I thought this location was better than the (Provence) Marinaside one. Quality of food is a tad better, perhaps given the size of the restaurant, and thus, more focus is placed on the execution in the quality of the food?

Posted by: J

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mahek Restaurant & Lounge

ain't no place bettah for butter chicken...


Location: Surrey

Food:

Started off with 3 appies: Vegetable Samosa w/ Mango Chutney, Onion Bhaji (rings) as well as the Garlic Chicken Wings - all 3 of which were fantastic.

Vegetable Samosas - 2 per order; stuffed with potatoes and tasty esp. with the accompaniment of the mango chutney
Onion Bhaji (rings) - nicely battered, good portion size
Garlic Chicken Wings - lovely; marinated and drowned in nice, thick, curry - it was a pleasant surprise

The appies fared well in our books, but the real highlights of the night were the entrees. We ordered the Butter Chicken and the Shaki (lamb ) Korma. Both of which were sublime - excellent flavours, ample portions and they both came out piping hot! :) The latter deserved an extra 2 brownie points in our books as dishes are typically served hot, but never piping hot. Yes, it makes that much of a difference! We had also ordered rice and naan bread separately.
The butter chicken was, undoubtedly, one of the best I’ve ever tried, and the lamb korma (under the recommendation of a friend) did not disappoint. ** Note: Shahi Korma: Lamb cooked in a milky, creamy gravy of spices.

Mango Lassi - Great, haven’t had a disappointing mango lassi...yet.
Fuzzy Navel (cocktail) - Good but nothing special. Didn’t skimp out on the alcohol or anything (a lot of places tend to do that)

Service:
Good. Average service. Nothing to rave about although the owner did come by a few times to check up on things. He was friendly and approachable.

Value:
3 drinks, 3 appies and 2 entrees = $65 sans tax and tips. Definitely worthy of your money given the fine quality of the food. Portion sizes were ample and relatively generous (compared to other indian food establishments) as well.

Ambience:
One of the first indian restaurants that also served as a “lounge”. It definitely had that loungey-feeling: dim lighting, loud -but reasonably volumed- music, as well as several spacious booths, although I would say about 50% of their patrons were families.

Overall: 8.5/10

Yay: Definitely a go-to/must-try if you're itchin' for some REALLY go indian food...esp. butter chicken....*drool...

Nay: For us Vancouverities, Mahek is relatively far - a good 20-25 min. far - but definitely worth the trip :)

** Interesting note: Mahek was listed in the Vancouver Eating & Drinking Guide as one of the few restaurants in Surrey worthy of a visit.




Posted by: J

*Scoe's Perspective:
Mahek was a phenomenal experience! The food was delivered promptly and to my liking - it was flaming hot (and i LOVE flaming HOT foods!) like a Flaming Moe from the Simpsons. Firstly, the flavours in every dish were very exquisite and mouth watering. It was like a bhangra in my mouth. In additon, the Indian music and environment fired off a nice ambience. From the pats on the back to the jokes, the service was very upbeat and friendly. They even recognized me from my first visit! Furthermore, it was not too expensive. I still had a nickel to floss my teeth with. I had gone to Mahek twice in one week and in both instances, I was VERY VERY satisfied, if not, over-satisfied. Overall, I give this restaurant a 10/10, as I believe it is the best Indian Restaurant in the Lower Mainland!







Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tamarind Hill Malaysian Cuisine

Location: New Westminster

Food:

First up were tender little morsels of Chicken & Lamb Satays, accompanied with a very lovely (and nutty) peanut sauce. The sauce was excellent, the satays were very good (because if the sauce is good, it just makes everything 10x better). Next up was the Green Papaya Mango Salad. It was pretty solid (almost on par with the one from Sawasdee but with mangos, therefore, you get more of a zing!) The third appy was the Malaysian Calamari. Now at first when i tried it without that Malaysian calamari sauce, i thought it was nothing special, then I later dipped a piece into it (the sauce) and oh my god, was it ever phenomenal! So phenomenal that it was hands down, my favourite dish of the night! (That's how much of an impact great sauce can make!) Our last appy was an order of Roti Canai which was very good too. It was very filling and the doughy texture tasted really good in my mouth. J also loved the Roti very much.

We decided to order one entree to share, as well, (as there were just too many appies we refused to not order, lol) so we ended up picking the Malaysian Style Chicken Curry. It had a Malaysian-style taste to it (not as much coconut milk compared to how the Thai make it) but with a little more spice. It was a solid dish esp. with crunchy beans and potatoes! Although it wasn't that spicey, it was very flavourful.
Drinks included the Dead Frog Beer, which was brewed in Langley. It was very smooth, good & cheap! We had each also ordered the Malaysian Tropical Paradise, a drink which barely had any alcohol in it, well... at least I couldn't taste it :)

*I also wanted Jumbo Scallops in Curry Sauce but they were sold out :(

Service:
Excellent - fast and nice

Value:
$8 - $15 range per dish, ended up paying ~$60 for the above

Ambience:
Crowded, very "happening", dim lights, very nice atmosphere, with Malaysian music playing in the background. Make sure you call ahead to make reservations as the space between tables are quite cramped (my biggest pet peeve) where you're practically touching people you don't know and you can hear their conversations so clearly (you don't want that). We know this is because they originally thought we did not make reservations (and almost gave us those crowded seats)but luckily they found our reservation and placed us in the more spacious corner seats.

Overall: 8/10

The crowdedness/non-spacious environment & not having jumbo scallops lowers the rating for me a bit, but still gets a solid 8/10



Posted by: Scoe