Friday, December 31, 2010

Urban Tea Merchant

oOoh those macarons...I just can't get enough...

On this lovely, chilly yet beautiful sunny afternoon, my three dining companions and I decided to embark on a little ...high-tea-kinda-outing.  I mean, who doesn't love a nice, aromatic cup of tea paired with miniature gastronomic delights?  I have frequented the usual high tea suspects and have had incredible experiences (namely, Secret Garden), an 'ok' experience (Adonia) and a not-so-ok experience (Provence Marinaside).  Needless to say, I was excited to try Urban Tea Merchant especially since they were having their Holiday Afternoon Tea Special :)

My Cinderella coach look-a-like teapot :)
Earl Grey Blanc tea


To start off, we each chose a (different) kind of tea off their extensive tea list.  I didn't feel too daring today and thus, opted for the Earl Grey blanc tea.  Though not a regular tea drinker, I thought that my tea was a little on the flavourless, watery side (or maybe that's how it is supposed to be given that it is named a 'blanc' or 'white' tea).  My d.c's enjoyed their tea though with a few semi-minor complaints (tea wasn't hot, no cream available)

bottom tier: assorted tea sandwiches

As for the edible eats...overall, they were quite delicious, especially the savoury and delicately-prepared desserts.  On the bottom tier of the tower of goodness laid assorted sandwiches consisting of egg salad, cucumber and cream cheese a roast turkey breast sandwich with cranberry mayonnaise.  They were all prepared on white bread and though not extraordinarily tasty, they were good.

On the middle tier sat lovely, freshly-baked, warm and perfect-tasting savoury scones accompanied with tea-infused devonshire cream and jelly.  I really enjoyed these scones for it tasted really fresh and perfectly-baked (crunchy on top).  Coupled with devonshire cream and jelly, these were my favourites of the day.

delicious savoury scones with tea-infused
devonshire cream and jelly
Last but not least, the top tier (my most favourite) was comprised of macarons flown in from Paris, sweet confections from Thomas Haas, tea-infused shortbread cookies and chocolate-dipped strawberries.  They were all to-die-for - I seriously loved everything on this plate, especially the immaculate-tasting, chewy yet crunchy and perfectly-sweet Parisian macarons (best I've ever had).

confections of perfection


The teas took quite a long time to arrive although the service itself was very pleasant, genuine, prim and proper :) The tea server individually served and poured us the tea...pouring in a very unique, swirling motion and was able to pleasantly answer any questions that we had.


$19 (regular $25) for Holiday Afternoon Tea Special - pretty good!


This tea room - though quite small (40-50 seater) - was comfy, warm and welcoming with see-through windows facing Alberni Street

Overall: 8/10

Yay: Come here for an extensive tea list and tea pairing delicacies - if Parisian macarons don't tempt you, I don't know what will...

Nay:  Be sure to make reservations as wait times can be long, service can take even longer...

The Urban Tea Merchant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 23, 2010


thee perfect spot to wine and dine...


a taste of heaven:
 Pan Seared Foie Gras with a decadent, fruit jelly

Christmas dinner #2's locale was a solid pick from the very start.  As Vancouver Magazine's 2009 'restaurant of the year', and after seeing and hearing about the divine eats that popular local chef, Pino Posteraro delivers, I feel like I've oughed to try this place eons ago!

Beef Carpaccio
We started off with a wonderful Pan Seared Foie Gras appetizer (on special) as well as the Beef Carpaccio.  I must applaud myself for these two picks as they were both phenomenally appetizing.  I simply could not have passed up the foie gras, as it was pan seared (and only the best way of preparing foie gras).  It was perfectly seared, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, light, buttery tasting and simply delectable. (I wasn't able to take a picture of the Foie Gras appetizer as a whole because the server had separated a portion for us individually).  Paired with a piece of nicely, toasted, buttery-soaked french bread and topped with some kind of decadent jelly - what I would give to just have a taste of this again! Definitely one of the highlights of the night.  The Beef Carpaccio was to-die-for.  Thinly sliced, beautifully-presented with a nice, light mustard dressing and topped with parmigiano-reggiano and arugula.  I couldn't ask for a better start.

with 4-hour braised veal cheeks and porcini mushrooms
 For my main, I had the Pappardelle with the 4-hour braised veal cheeks and porcini mushrooms.  The flavour was bang-on, and the veal cheeks were super tender and flavourful.  The one complaint I had was that the pasta was a little undercooked (not al dente) and tasted quite hard, I must say! The other entrees I sampled were the Garganelli "alla Norcina" with boar sausage and preserved Winter truffles (best entree of the night), the Veal Medallions (yum) and the Potato Gnocchi "alla Napoletana" in tomato sauce and mozarella di bufala (mmm...)

Garganelli "alla Norcina"
(topped with a copious amount of Parmigiano-Regiano goodness)
  To end our lovely meal, we decided on the Warm "soft heart" Chocolate Cake with vanilla custard and ice cream, as well as Pino's version of the Mascarpone made with tiramisu, coffee macaroon and a really dark, rich chocolate sorbet.  The desserts were nicely-presented, very light and satisfying.

A lovely end to a lovely meal

Fine service - Pino also wanders throughout the dining room ensuring patrons are enjoying themselves - seems like a nice man!


Definitely a place for celebrations and what not - although I thought the pricing of the pasta was fair


Nice, elegant looking dining room with red-bricked walls, oiled paintings and an open kitchen, noise level was a big louder than what I expected, which I preferred :)

Overall: 8.3/10

Yay: Fine, wonderfully-executed Italian (and Mediterranean) cuisine, come here for the delicious pasta, their wine encyclopedia (!) and the romantic ambience

Nay: Yaletown - parking, $$$

***Interesting fact: Cioppino's has attracted some big celebrity names, like Jennifer Aniston, Bill Clinton...

Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

Posted by: J

Sunday, December 19, 2010

La Regalade

La Re...diculously great!!!


'Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la, la...LA! With the holiday season come holiday dinners, holiday cheer, and of course, lovely holiday eats (not to mention holiday weight gain)!  First dining destination of the holiday season? Le Regalade, an authentic, cozy little French bistro situated in the semi-boones of West Vancouver (though, it's not as far as it seems! :))

We were served a basket of French bread to start.  As for an appetizer, I started off by sharing the Foie Gras Duo with Black Pepper and Fig.  Yum!  It was served alongside a huge piece of toasted, wheat French bread (?) and a bit of greens.  The foie gras was soft, creamy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  I enjoyed the Foie Gras with the Fig more (vs. the one with black pepper) for its soft, creamy and sweet combination, paired wit a nice, toasty piece of crostini.  A delightful start, indeed!

1/2 Roasted Duck with Sauteed Apples

For my main,  I originally was quite ecstatic (and quite anticipating) to try the Veal Liver (that was listed on their online menu), but only came to a disappointment when I noticed that it wasn't listed on the actual menu.  Instead, the server had recommended the 1/2 Roasted Duck with Sauteed Apples.  Being quite a lover of the French's preparation of how they like to cook their duck, I opted for that instead.

Our mains arrived in huuuge cast iron pots/skillets, piping hot, and bursting with scents of aromatic deliciousness.  My entree was nicely presented in a wide skillet, surrounded by diced apples, and topped with tiny pieces of chopped onions.  It was perfectly roasted, the skin was crispy and I really enjoyed the (unsually) sweet flavours the apples brought to the dish.  The apples were plentiful, sitting in a bed of sweet, tangy apple jus.

Beef Shortribs in Peppercorn Cream Sauce
As for the other mains, my fellow d.c's decided on the (braised) Beef Shortribs in Peppercorn Cream Sauce (soooo good, best of the night, imo).  The sauce was so creamy, so rich and so flavouful.  The shortribs were as tender as you can get, while accompanied by carrots, onions and other delicious veggies.  I also sampled the Beef Cheeks - rich, tender morsels of deliciousness.  The scalloped potatoes and the mac'n'cheese was good (though, not great), but served as good carb fillers to the entrees! (I believe all entrees came with a side) 

Complimentary assorted Macarons
Though we chose not to have dessert (remember the 1/2 roasted duck!?), we were given complimentary Macarons to end our  savoury meal.  There were 3 flavours: Strawberry, Caramel, and Chocolate.  They were to-die-for, especially the Caramel one - sticky, chewy, sweet and light-tasting all in one circular, edible wheel! Mmmm...


Our server wasn't necessarily rude, nor did he exhibit a poor attitude in any respect...BUT he was quite unaware, unknowledgeable, unattentive, uninformative (and ultimately, unhelpful).  By "quite", I meant that he had no knowledge of what types of wine paired well with certain foods (didn't even know what kind of wine the restaurant had), gave a d.c Sprite (when she clearly asked for lemonade), and totally misinformed another dining companion when she asked what "coquillettes" was in English.  He said it was scalloped potatoes, but clearly it arrived to be mac'n'cheese!


Very reasonable and fair - huuuuge entree portion sizes!


Totally bussstlin' in the bistro! We arrived to a mad fullhouse, a semi-loud atmosphere with servers running to and fro, an open prep area/kitchen right when you walk in.  Seating wasn't very comfy (as we had a table situated right in the corner, near the cash machine and bar)

Overall: 8.3/10

Yay:  Come here for some nice, scrumptious, hearty authentic French cooking! Generous portions.

Nay:  Not the ideal scene for a nice, romantic, candle-light, dim, sobre night out.

***Interesting fact:  Their only other location is a recently opened location in Manila, Philipines! Lucky Manilians!

Posted by: J

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cafe Nuba

Aruba aNUBA....oOooh I wanna eat ya!
(think: Beach Boys, lol!)

For the past year (?) or so, Nuba has been quite the talk of the town - boasting authentic Lebanese cuisine in Vancouver (a first?) and quite recently, it has opened up its 4th (!) location at the Waldorf Hotel.  For one, I can't think of anywhere else in Vancouver specializing in Lebanese cuisine and second, not only is their food scrumptious, but they use local, fresh and organic ingredients in their cooking - a win-win situation, n'est ce pas?


Najib's special - Crispy Cauliflower

Najib's Special - crispy cauliflower with lemon & sea salt, served with tahini
                         - great starter, Nuba's speciality (claim to fame?), this must be deep-fried or something to achieve that crispy texture and taste but it sure doesn't taste like it's been (deep-fried!)

Le Petit Feast
Le Petit Feast - hummous, taboulleh, baba ganooj, and homemade pickle
                        - YUM!! Great start, beautifully-presented, everything was so fresh-tasting, hummous and baba ganooj were perfect, not too thick  - just the right smoothness consistency, loaded with lots of lemon juice and garlic flavour, pita bread was good too (though it was packaged from an exterior source)

Chicken Tawook (grilled Mount Lehman chicken breast marinated in paprika, thyme, lemon and garlic confit)
                        - a little dry (although I know how hard it is to make a nice, juicy, moist chicken!)

Beef Sirloin kebab - beef was cooked 'medium' (your choice) and it was tender, wonderfully-seasoned, juicy and succulent!

Lamb kibbeh

Lamb kibbeh - grilled grain-fed halal lamb patty with aromatic spices
                       - mmm though it was a bit gamey, it was a very well-seasoned sort-of lamb meatball! It was served atop a generous amount of nice, creamy tzatziki sauce..yum!


Very friendly and super casual - I liked :)


Fair and reasonable


Semi-funky yet cool interior - geometric wallpapers and retro-looking decor, casual atmosphere

Overall: 8/10

Yay:  If you're feelin' for some nice Middle Eastern, local, fresh and organic fare - think no further than Nuba! 4 great locations to serve you (all in Vancouver, so far)

Nay:  Minimal seating - not ideal for large groups

Posted by: J

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Acme Cafe

An ace for Acme!


Acme Cafe has been on my list of "restaurants to try" for gosh-knows-how-long, and would've continued to stand as a pending restaurant-to-try had it not been for a d.c of mine who recently raved about it.  Without a hesitation, I immediately up-ed Acme on my priority list and was finally able to pay it a visit today :)

Grilled Turkey Panini, Broccoli Slaw, Potato Chips
I arrived to Acme with high hopes of gorgin' on deliciously-crafted panini sandwiches, savoury 'comfort foods', as well as flaky, fresh house-made pies.  Of course, a foodmatik visit to Acme (or any restaurant, for that matter) would not have been complete (or even initiated) without any background information on what to order, what the specialties are, etc.  After much indecisiveness (and quite some spontaneity must I add), I went for their Turkey Sandwich, which was comprised of brie (yum), a cranberry-Grand Marnier sauce (delish), grainy dijon mayo and arugula (fabulous) sandwiched between 2 slices of fresh and nicely-grilled Ciabatta bread.  It was deliciously-timely (hello, 11 days til Christmas!) and tasty.  It was also served with the right amount of plain rippled potato chips (one of my favourites), a very appetizing, unique and nicely-dressed broccoli almond slaw and a pickle.  The chips also tasted like they were made in-house, with a quasi-oilier exterior.

Veggie Sandwich...mmm goat cheese

My d.c immediately gravitated towards the Veggie Sandwich which was comprised of goat cheese, portobello mushroom, peppers, zucchini, sun-dried tomato basil mayo on a grilled Ciabatta panini.  It too, was delicious - with the goat cheese reigning as the stand-out ingredient.  We also ordered a side of Mac and Cheese (my new fave 'comfort food') and boy, did it not disappoint.  There was just the right amount of cream, cheese and perfection, topped with tiny sprinkles of breadcrumbs and a thin layer of cheddar cheese,  I immediately felt like I was in a comfort food utopia.

Happiness in a bowl (Mac and Cheese)

Casual and cool (although the server forgot to ring in my Mac and Cheese order 


Fair and reasonable - $4.25 for the side of Mac and Cheese, sandwiches range from $8-12


Nice, modern-looking diner with very wide and comfortable seating, open-kitchen/prep area

Overall: 8/10

Yay:  Drop in for a nice lunch, brunch or even dinner! Great selection of paninis, classic diner foods, milkshakes, pies....and even peanut butter sandwich cookies!

Nay: Located in an area where Gastown meets Sketch Town, Parking

Acme Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chungdam Ahn

The Korean equivalent of Hapa...

Spicy Rice Cakes...mmm


Started off with the Creamy Garlic Prawns which were quite tasty and more plentiful then expected.  There were about 8-10 plump, nicely-battered, crispy prawns drizzled with a mild mayo-type-based cream and sprinkled with pieces of crispy, roasted garlic.  I like how it wasn't overly dressed like the typical ebi mayo dishes you would normally expect.  This was a nice starter to our meal :)

Bulgogi Beef
 Being immense lovers of carbs (and with my dining companion being a lover of all-things-glutinous especially), we opted for the Spicy Rice Cakes.  It arrived in a huge plate, piping hot, with an assortment of varied ingredients such as mussels, fish cakes and prawns.  It was essentially a pool of seafood, onions, scallions and chewy cylindrical rice cakes swimming in a generous amount of a semi-sweet, semi-thick, spicy, kimchi-based (?) sauce.  It was delicious and overly-filling - so much that we had to pack a third of it home.  We also ordered the Bulgogi beef which was very tasty.  The beef (though more shredded than usual - perhaps a good thing?) was deliciously-seasoned and well-marinated.  It also came alongside a shredded cabbage salad, which was appetizing.




A little pricier than average if you paid regular price.  Luckily, I had bought a couple of online coupons (2 x $20 value vouchers which I paid $10 each) :)


We arrived on a rainy, slow Thursday night to a restaurant that was near a quarter full.  Usually, I have heard that this restaurant is hip hop happening with the ambience and noise level similar to what you would expect at Hapa izakaya.  (One sure sign of this is the multiple notices/reminders that were posted throughout the restaurant to remind customers of the constant noise complaints they've been getting from the nearby residents!)

Overall: 7.4/10

Yay:  Come here for a fun night out with your friends accompanied with drinks (Soju, anyone?) and lovely Korean-fusion fare :)

Nay:  Prices are a little steeper than average, no banchan offered here (complimentary Korean side dishes), parking

Posted by: J