Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Basil Pasta Bar cheap with good portions

Basil Pasta Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Basil Pasta Bar (on Davie) has a dingy, dilapidated feel to the small place. Window seat is still the best because people don't bother looking in, and hey, it's Yaletown -- chances of a really cute/hot girl walking by once every 2 minutes or so are pretty good.

Portion sizes are good so their ad copy is no lie. For under $10 (usually $8.95) you can have a filling lunch of pasta. However, taste is mediocre, probably because the sauce tasted thin. Lots of pasta, yes, but you miss the richness that comes from good sauce. After all, pasta really just moves the sauce from the plate to your mouth.

I got the "spicy" Penne Arrabiata (spicy tomato sauce with chorizo sausage, red peppers, and garlic; garnished with fresh parsley and goat cheese) and my friend tried the Spaghetti Carbonara.

Penne Arrabiata was barely spicy but there is a mild buzz in your mouth. Otherwise tasted okay - which is to say on par (maybe even inferior to) getting your own pasta sauce from the supermarket and pouring it into pasta you boiled at home. You'd probably be too lazy to get your own chorizo and goat cheese, though so Basil Pasta Bar would still be one step ahead of you.

2016-Sep-20 - Basil Pasta Bar (davie) - Penne Arrabiata

2016-Sep-20 - Basil Pasta Bar (davie) - Penne Arrabiata

2016-Sep-20 - Basil Pasta Bar (davie) - Spaghetti Carbonara

Friday, September 9, 2016

Meet in Gastown gift card

Meet in Gastown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato A much better taste experience at Meet in Gastown! Last time I was at Meet in Gastown I had a Portobello Burger that didn't look very good and I mentioned it in my blog and on Yelp. Surprisingly, someone was actually reading and Meet offered me a gift card.

When a restaurant offers you a gift card through Yelp, obviously they are trying to get you to revise their rating. I asked the Yelp Community Manager about that, and she said it was legit as long as there was full disclosure. So based on that, I accepted the card. I mean, how much could it possibly be? $5? The cost of the burger?

Anyway, I found a friend curious about Meet and we finally went, months later and hopefully incognito. I was tempted to try the burger again to see if my experience before was a one-off, but even if it were, one bad menu item shouldn't damn a restaurant.
All of the picks on this visit were by my dining partner. We tried four things:

Sweet-Chili Cauliflower ($9.75) house beer-battered with our tamarind chili-ginger glaze; finished with scallions & sesame seeds
  • As good as before. My friend found it too sour, but it uses tamarind as advertised, so going in some of that is to be expected.
2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown - cauliflower appy

Not-Cho' Average Cheese Nacho Fries ($10.75) crispy fries with house-made cheezy queso sauce,
pickled jalapeƱo peppers & authentic pico de gallo
  • Fries start out crispy but obviously due to the cheeze sauce they get soggy real quick. So eat faster.
  • Surprisingly big and deep bowl. At $10.75 this is a meal and for trendy-ish Gastown that's a good price for a meal.
  • Watch out for the jalapenos! They look pickled and sometimes the pickled ones are wimpy in spicy-heat. Not here. If the jalapenos were chopped up a bit more and more distributed I think that would definitely have helped jazz up each bite, but some people might want to avoid the heat from the jalapenos and their clear size and distribution on the sides make that easy to do.
  • If the fries had just the cheeze sauce they would be OK but monotonous, so I can see where they're going with the nacho toppings. However, don't expect the "nacho experience" where you can scoop up enough of the colourful veggie toppings with each bite. Just wasn't happening here, and it's hard to do because the fries are narrow. All in all I think I just couldn't quite get that going so mostly this dish turned out to be fries in cheeze sauce.
  • If you are an omnivore hoping for very-cheese-like taste, the cheeze sauce just isn't gonna cut it. But if you let go of that, the cheeze sauce is actually quite tasty. And because it's sauce you aren't racing against time before it cools and dries and clumps. Not too salty either, which regular cheese can do to a dish (like old cheddar?).
  • Overall, really good portion for price and interesting way to have your fries. Use a spoon to help you get at the toppings.
2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown - nacho fries

2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown - fries bowl depth

Mac 'n Cheese ($10.75, extra for optional toppings) pasta smothered in our vegan cashew cheez sauce, finished with scallions and a sprinkle of smoked salt (your choice of brown rice macaroni or wheat penne)
  • Portion looked surprisingly small, though maybe only because the fries came first and that was a mountain portion in the same type of bowl.
  • Really plain presentation and could possibly be monotonous but the star here is the cheese sauce. You'll either like it or not. I liked it enough to give this a pass. Taste is good, not too salty.
  • If you just want the sauce, go for something else that has the same sauce. We tried this dish at its most basic, but it's probably better if you throw in one of the add-ons.
2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown - mac 'n cheeze

2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown - bowl depth

Cronut ($7.75)
  • Ours had a coconutty sauce pumped in from beneath the cronut.
  • Nothing donut-like about this in taste or texture except maybe because they deep fried it at some point? Inside was still like a croissant.
  • I'm guessing it's deep fried at some point but if so the oiliness didn't stick out at all.
  • Absolutely crusted with sugar. No half-assed job here.
  • Be ready for the sugar. We shared the one cronut and I still had sugar fatigue from my half. I highly recommend ordering one to share and only get another if the other person suddenly doesn't want the plate moved any closer to you, or if you can't get enough of this, then get another. Sugar fatigue will ruin your experience of it.
  • If you are sharing, try to ask specifically for a real knife, like a steak knife. Otherwise they just hand you what looks like a safe butter knife and that's not going to do a good job. There's a somewhat chewy skin and inside just like a regular croissant, so a blunt knife will just mash it as well as cause the sugar coating to just flake off excessively and thereby be wasted.
2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown - cronut

2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown - cronut

2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown - cronut

Made a mess opening it up to see the inside, but the exterior was sort of chewy.
Casual friendly service during the pre-6pm dinner time. Patio was open for extended seating.

Below was the mystery-amount gift card I got. It came in a tiny brown envelope that was sealed and I didn't open that to keep the suspense.
Turned out to be a very generous $30. OMG. Almost paid for our meal for two (which had leftovers because of the portion size of the fries).

2016-Sep-8 Meet in Gastown

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Knorr Onion Soup

Found some Knorr Onion Soup on sale at Superstore and decided to try it. Based on the packaging I thought it was an onion dip mix, but it's actually primarily a soup, with alternative uses.

The flavour is a savoury onion flavour, and pretty good, EXCEPT it is salty salty salty.

Did I mention it is salty? Can I say it more than four times? Because it's crazy salty if you follow the recipes. I tried the "Juicy Burger" recipe and the "Onion Dip" recipe, and both came out really salty.
For the onion dip (sour creme + onion soup mix), the colour was also very, very, different from the picture on the package, which suggests a clean creamy white. It's actually more like brown (see pictures below).

Recommend you halve the quantities indicated in the recipes for Onion Dip and Juicy Burger, and cautiously add more if you are not satisfied with the saltiness or onion flavour.

Knorr Onion Soup - box (front) and onion dip

Knorr Onion Soup - box (back) and pouch

Knorr Onion Soup - Onion Dip