Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Yelp Elite Event - Blaze Pizza (Downtown Vancouver)

Blaze Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato I got lucky and scored an invitation to try Blaze Pizza at their downtown Granville street location at a Yelp Elite Event. It was a warm no-pressure invitation to try their pizza and process and have a good look around.

Blaze Pizza operates sort of like a Subway sandwich shop: You tell them what you want and you follow them down the counter as they assemble it. They pop it into the open and a few minutes later it's ready for an optional finishing touch (like a drizzle of balsamic glaze) and you pick up your order.
In between there's a lot of customization available, like more or less or extra toppings and slight touches like a sprinkle of sea salt before it goes into the oven.

They try to make it easy with fixed pricing, and it's all the no-cost little extras like the finishing touches that gives the pizza a touch of class and personalization. Whether that's worth money to you depends on how you see pizza. If you think of it as super-cheap stuff-your-face at a couple dollars per mega-slice, then Blaze isn't going to be for you. Try Romano's just a couple storefronts down.

When they are super busy, like the Yelp Event was, if you DON'T want an extra be sure to state it carefully and watch them closely. It's too late once they've added it. For example, after they built my pizza they asked if I wanted a bit of sea salt or some spice on it. I guess everyone before me just asked for both so even though I asked only for sea salt they put both on it. It's a side effect of their assembly line process so if it's a big deal to you, stick close to them.

There are a lot of differences between Blaze Pizza and "regular" pizza.
  • The dough is thin in the Neapolitan pizza style (but obviously this is not traditional Neapolitan).
  • There is remarkable consistency with the dough as they use a press to basically cookie-cutter each one out into a set but not-yet-cooked shape.
  • Although it is "fast fired" in the style of a Neapolitan pizza, their oven does not seem to produce the same bubbling -- and extensive burning -- that the process can do to a pizza. Not uncommonly a wood fired oven can see literally blackened charring on the bottom of a pizza but the process here seems to have avoided that. Slight blackened charring at the edges of the pizza is sliced off before it is given to the customer.
  • They spread the toppings almost to the edge. Combined with a thin crust there's very little filling bread to go around. Which depending on your personal preference can be a positive. Personally I've seen AYCE pizza deals where people literally just eat the toppings off and leave the bread part behind like a mound of empty pizza shells. This sort of blatant cheating for AYCE is probably the reason they aren't that easy to find at a cheap price anymore.
  • Aside: Curiously, the dough is very, very, white.
They aim to get you in and out in 30 minutes and have an app (with loyalty program) to help move things along similar to the Starbucks app where you order en route and just walk in and pick up. From the time I placed my order to the time I picked up my pizza, it took about 14 minutes (yes, I secretly timed them).

Gluten free crust is available and not only does the dough look different but they distinguish it with a red coloured tray. Other than that I did not see any effort to isolate it and avoid contamination -- so if you are very sensitive to gluten you'll want to be very careful here and state it up front to see if they can accommodate you.
The gluten-free crust is extremely thin, apparently even thinner than their regular dough. As you can see from the pictures of the pizza I ordered there's barely anything there at all when you look at it from the side. So...
  • If you are worried about the taste and texture of the dough -- don't be. You're unlikely to taste and experience anything other than the ingredients.
  • If you can tolerate a little bit of regular dough, you might want to pass on the extra $2 for the crust.
They have other small bites like their "dough knots" (pizza dough with pesto) and cookies. Pass. Really. Stick to the pizza.

For the half pizza I ordered -- the Red Vine signature -- it was OK. These thin-crust Neapolitan style pizzas always look skimpy on ingredients and you don't get the same homogenous distribution with minced up ingredients so, for example, not every bite will have tomato. If that's not the style of pizza for you, if you want more filling bites or your buck, then go for a North American style pizza and not something from the old country.
Maybe especially because it's thin-crust and overall a very thin pizza, you really want to eat it right away as it gets cold really fast.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Jinya Ramen Bar (Metrotown)

Jinya Ramen Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Met up with a friend on a rainy afternoon here. We dropped in shortly before Noon and it was maybe 1/3rd busy. Shortly after, the place was packed -- all tables and bar seating pretty much occupied.

As there were vegan options, I went vegan to try it out. DISCLAIMER: I am NOT vegan. Vegans, vegetarians, and other limited-diet people sort of have a beggars-can't-be-choosers position so they may rate the vegan fare here higher. I'm omnivorous so I'm probably more critical here.
My friend's spicy meatball ramen had a much tastier (and spicier) broth, so overall you will probably have a tastier time here than if you go vegetarian. After all, flavourful broth is one of the main things about ramen.

TIP: Be careful ordering drinks and extras as there's a lot of soup here. The bowl is sharply tapered so there *may* be a bit less soup than other ramen places, but probably not by much.

Price seems pretty steep but is only a couple dollars more than say, Fat Mao Noodles. Tea is $2. But you probably don't want to order a drink anyway since you want to save room to drink up your noodle broth.

Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen ($16.80) vegetable broth, tofu, onion, spinach, crispy onion, garlic chips, garlic oil, chili oil, sesame seeds; served with thick noodles
  • When I saw "creamy" I thought the broth would be thicker and richer, but... no.
  • Maybe because it's a veggie broth, the whole thing was on the bland side and thankfully there were condiments at the table to rescue this dish.
  • The menu lists all sorts of flavourful ingredients but somehow it still manages to be on the blander side overall.
  • For a vegetarian dish it;s pretty pricey compared to their meatier offerings.
  • Pass on this and go vegetarian elsewhere.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Festal Cafe

Festal Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Casual get-together with a friend at The Festal Cafe today, during a weird limbo dead time between lunch and dinner so there were just a couple of patrons in the otherwise spacious diner of communal benches.

The food was actually surprisingly good, and not much to complain about for the price, especially considering it's downtown location.

Spicy Chicken & Waffles ($14.55) local free-range chicken breast, wild boar bacon, real maple syrup, no grain waffle bread, coleslaw, side of cassava chips
  • I would really have liked to know it was going to be a cold sandwich.
  • Not skimpy with the slab of chicken, and for all white meat chicken breast, it was actually fairly moist and tender.
  • Overall I thought this was really not that great in composition. If you deconstruct it you do find a nice slab of chicken sitting in coleslaw.
  • Those cassava chips are winners. Really good crunch to them without any oil.
Butternut Lasagna ($14.95) local grass-fed beef, butternut squash, spinach, cashew cheese, creamy coconut tomato sauce and fresh Italian herbs and spices
  • Medium slab for your money but tastes good and pretty filling. Really, really, decent offering for the price.
  • Felt more like some kind of meat loaf rather than layered lasagne But never mind that, it's tasty.
TIP: Service stations have stacks of paleo "cheat sheets" that give you a quick primer on what's allowed for the paleo diet.