Sunday, November 24, 2019

Cactus Club (Station Square) weekend brunch

Cactus Club Cafe, Station Square Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato My friend was all excited by the under-$10 weekend brunch and dragged me here. She was immediately disappointed by the rather small menu, but did manage to find something that she ended up liking (Avocado Benny).
I, however, apparently picked the one thing you shouldn't get here.

Fried Egg Sandwich ($13.75, or $9.75 during weekend brunch if you order before Noon; cheddar cheese costs extra) smoked bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, mayo, red relish, brioche bun, smashed potatoes
  • Looks like a pretty tall burger till you look inside and realize it's fluffed up by lettuce.
  • Worse, the mass of lettuce and other slippery ingredients can make this a mess to eat, squishing out juices everywhere. I recommend you try to flatten down the lettuce by flattening down the sandwich.
  • Basically a rip off even at $9.75 for what you actually get. Think about it: An egg is something you add to a burger for +$1, at Red Robin for example. Order something else.
Fever Tree Ginger Beer ($4)
  • Pretty tall bottle of really decent ginger beer. Not too much bite, not too sweet.
Staff were polite and prompt with service. Combined with the rather nice ambiance, this was the only thing saving this brunch from a failing score.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Chancho Tortilleria

Chancho Tortilleria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Casual walk-in to Chancho Tortilleria tonight to catch up with a friend. If it looks like it's got a line-up, don't be daunted -- go in and see if there's actually a wait for seating or if it's just the lineup to place your order at the counter.

This is diner-style: Place your order, find a table. There are napkins at the table but if you're sharing with friends you probably want to look for a plate and fork as well.

Guacamole ($9)
  • Appys are always more expensive than mains, so you can't expect that much for price for portion.
  • This was okay-tasting. At $9 I'd pass if I went again.
Vegetarian Tortillas ($18 for half pound) - Mixed Potatoes and Vegetables. All orders include condiments: Pickled red cabbage, whole pinto beans, salsas, freshly made Chancho tortillas, and limes.
  • The best part here is price for portion, especially if you are in a group of 3-4 people and order one pound. 1/4 pound is recommended as being enough for one person.
  • We got a 1/2 pound of the mixed, and the potatoes really help to make it a filling meal. So for a casual yet filling meal downtown Chancho is a pretty good option weighing in at around $9-$10 for the veggie option (around +$1 for the meat option).
  • You get enough tortillas that you don't have to ask for more. This is really convenient.
  • DISCLAIMER: I'm not vegetarian. But I was with a friend who in a pescatarian phase so I went with the veggie option. Taste-wise, it was just okay and the condiments didn't elevate it at all.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Atlas Steak + Fish

ATLAS Steak + Fish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Yelp's making me work really hard this month, with yet another Yelp Elite Event. This time at ATLAS Steak + Fish at the Grand Villa Casino for a weekday lunch. Atlas is open for lunch now and they're introducing it to us obviously to get the word out.

Restaurants in hotels often have a rough go and you see renos and a new name in the same spot every few years. However Atlas has apparently already made a name for themselves, and some of our members attested to having had excellent company functions and catered events through them.

DISCLAIMER: We got free stuff. Not just a sample of their lunch but a gift pack of two steak knives and a 30%-off-lunch coupon. That said, if we come back to use the coupon (maximum party size of six) I'm sure they'll have made back their investment easily. And the steak knives look like the same ones diners use, so they are probably replacement stock they have on hand anyway.

D├ęcor is not super-wow but for lunch it was bright, airy, and upscale. It doesn't quite have that magical something that elevates places like Black + Blue or Notch8 or Glowbal, but you won't be embarrassed bringing anyone there for fine dining.

Of course with the ambiance you can expect that the menu will come in at the higher end than your mom and pop restaurant for lunch, but hovering at around $20, the premium you pay for the ambiance is more than made up in the food, which I felt had good attention to the senses -- taste of course, but especially sight (presentation) and smell. Apparently they really like their Josper Oven and the results in their smoked mushrooms and chicken is clear and bold in flavour and aroma.

Steak & Blue Cheese Wedge Salad ($22) grilled beef tenderloin, chimichurri, iceberg, blue cheese buttermilk dressing, smoked tomato, pancetta
  • Don't forget the chimichurri. It was strangely missable as plate decor but you can definitely dab some of it to give extra kick, such as on the iceberg lettuce.
  • Meat very nicely done. Tender and flavourful.
  • Blue cheese found in sprinkled crumbles which you can carefully miss if you don't like it. I personally find too much of it or if mixed into an unavoidable dressing to be off-putting.
  • No thanks to my tablemates I totally missed trying the pancetta.
Tuna Nicoise Salad ($20) seared ahi tuna, confit potato, egg, green bean, mixed greens, potato hay
  • Didn't get to try the egg but it looked like just hard boiled egg.
  • Potato hay added fun crunchy texture and potato chip flavour.
  • Overall this seemed well-prepared but didn't strike me as anything particularly special. Good portion of meat here (plus the egg) gives it a good chance of being a filling meal.
Vegetarian Rice Bowl ($18) crispy tofu, sushi rice, josper smoked shiitake, pickled vegetables, edamame, kizami nori
  • There's a bowl of rice here so it looks deceptively small. That plus the tofu can actually make this a decently sized meal.
  • You could mix it but I recommend against that. If you do mix it, don't mash the crispy tofu into it.
  • I don't normally like too much tofu because of the inherent bitterness but they've done a good job of making it more than merely palatable. There's still some bitterness but it's very much subdued thanks to the seasoned batter exterior that is quite tasty. So as a meat/meatiness substitute here it does very nicely.
  • That smoked shiitake really has a bold, smoked flavour and aroma.
West Coast Cut Striploin - 7oz Certified Angus Beef ($21) frites, baby kale salad, chimichurri sauce
  • It's hard for me to evaluate steak. For me, steak is steak. This looked like a very nice medium-well-done. Nothing wrong here.
  • They use frites here and it's so thoroughly deep fried that it's crunchy all the way through, but not oily tasting fortunately.
  • I have to admit to being slightly suspicious of the choice of frites here instead of fries, especially in the range of colours. With frites you could throw old fries back in the fryer to heat them up and no one would be the wiser because they're completely crisped anyway. It'd just come out a bit darker for the extended bath.
Mushroom and Smoked Chicken Garganelli ($22) josper smoked chicken, shiitake mushroom cream sauce
  • The pasta portion was excellent with the smokiness and makes this a winner. Pasta all pre-tossed in the sauce and therefore you also didn't have excess sauce puddling at the bottom.
  • The chicken part... I'm not so sure. I got an end piece so I don't know how the middle portion looked or tasted like. The end piece I got had good smoky aroma and flavour but was of course dry. Not sure I'd go with large pieces of dry chicken here. Maybe if they had cut it into thinner and therefore more tender slices (to avoid calling attention to the dry toughness), it would have been better.
Baked Alaska
  • For dessert they had a tableside Baked Alaska, with a meringue shell that wafted a coconutty aroma once it was lit. Other than that, it was nothing to write home about.
Imperial Pear ($8 single, $11 double) light flavours of pear, sake, vodka, and a fizz with soda
  • I gave away mine because I don't drink alcohol, but the Yelp Community Manager insisted on getting me a virgin version to try.
  • Overall it was refreshing and made a nice palate cleanser. Also not that much ice. And curiously, my virgin Imperial Pear came in a larger tumbler than the alcoholic one.
Given the nature of the function (a Yelp Elite event), it's probably not fair to really comment on the service.