Monday, July 21, 2014

The Revel Room

Revel Room on Urbanspoon

Mealshare quite recently added a bunch of restaurants to their charity line-up, and I'm just starting on working my way through the new list -- beginning with the Revel Room.

The menu has New Orleans influences, which is more or less the best you can hope for in Vancouver unless you go to one of the few dedicated places like Ouisi Bistro. The mix of New Orleans, New Mexico, and less adventurous-sounding things like burgers. Vegans look like they may be out of luck, though.

Sinister Chili Fried Shrimp with Honey Lime Dip ($10)
  • Strangely bland, so our experience may have been a fluke kitchen error.
  • For some reason the five "shrimps" (which were fat enough to be proud prawns) had nice crunch and firmness but not a lot of prawny flavour.
  • Honey Lime Dip was also rather tame.
  • Otherwise a decently done tempura. Be sure to use some of the sriracha (?) chili sauce drizzled on the plate.
Duck, Pear & Brie Quesadilla with Red Onion Compote ($11)
  • A bit weak on the duck flavour, but otherwise as advertised. I found the combination too subtle for my preference.
  • Nice syrupy sweet compote that was pretty candy-tasty, but can easily overwhelm all the other tastes.
Revel's Famous Bayou Gumbo of Shrimp, Chicken, Sausage, & Herb Rice ($9)
  • Slightly bitter but otherwise a tasty stew.
  • "Shrimp" were more like thick prawns. Prawny flavour was evident here, so I wasn't sure what happened on those Sinister Chili Shrimp earlier.
  • This was a pretty big and deep bowl of filling comfort-food like stew. Best value out of the three appetizers I ordered and I didn't need to order anything else for dinner. Could probably make for a light dinner all on its own.
Lonsdale ($5) almond syrup, ginger beer, fresh lime, apple
  • This is one of the few non-alcoholic cocktails available on the menu. The ginger beer gives it some bite at the back of the throat, but not too much and it doesn't last very long. Overall, it's a syrup-ed ginger beer, and it is neither a very sweet drink or a very strong gingery one, but something in between. Good if you like ginger beer (not that easy to find in the first place) but don't like them too strong.
Service seemed distracted. The room wasn't very busy but it was strangely hard to catch someone's eye and flag them down for service. Servers were, however, friendly and patient and unobtrusive.

If you have nothing to do (e.g., an awkward silence during the conversation), you can read the blurbs about various curious artifacts in the room and try to spot them -- like a whole shelf of Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Liquid Gold at Living Cafe

Living Cafe on Urbanspoon

I was early for my Hog Shack reservation on Saturday and dropped into Living Cafe for a cool place to wait. It was such a hot day so I decided to go with a nice cold drink. I asked for the weirdest one they had and they suggested their Liquid Gold Organic Smoothie ($9): fresh almond milk, frozen bananas, dates, turmeric, maple syrup, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, vanilla.

First off, it wasn't as cold as I had hoped. Maybe I should have asked them to throw in some ice as well.
Second -- and this is just my own pet peeve -- it came in a mason jar. I wish restaurants would just stop it with the mason jars. It's like they ran out of proper cups and glasses and mugs and dusted off something from the cellar that was meant for canning fruit.

The use of turmeric reminded me of Golden Milk, to which I was introduced at Ethical Kitchen. I couldn't stomach it there, so I hesitated when they told me there was turmeric in Liquid Gold. But what the hey, let's give it a try. Sadly, it was kind of yuck for me.
The main flavours that came through for me were turmeric and banana. The former made it a turn-off for me, but you will have to decide for yourself. What made this drink okay in the end was the lack of a lingering after-taste. I was worried I would have to suffer a bitterness in my mouth for the duration of my drink and after, but the flavour cleared itself very shortly after each sip from the fat straw.

At $9, I can only recommend this drink if you have a buddy who would be willing to take over, or if you can handle turmeric in your smoothie.

Delicious BBQ at Hog Shack Cook House

Hog Shack Cook House on UrbanspoonThere are different BBQ styles in the US, so even if two BBQ houses look like they are serving the "same" thing, they may not be. Not exactly, anyway. For starters, Hog Shack should definitely not be compared to the not-slathered-in-bbq-sauce Carolina style served at Peckinpah. Their "Kansas-city style" is much closer to Memphis Blues, but I'm going to be cautious about making direct comparisons.

It looks pretty big on the outside, but Hog Shack is not that big on the inside. Reservations are recommended as they sometimes close earlier on slow days.

Online menus don't necessarily match the actual menus for the price of items, so if a couple dollars more upsets you, call first I guess, or swing by and have a look at the menu. Trying to make reservations online (e.g., through Facebook) can result in complications, so talking to a live person is preferred. I tried reservations online and even though I had two communications with them, my reservation did not appear in their reservations book on the night we had dinner. This turned out trickier than I thought because it was also a World Cup game night and they were packed around 7pm-ish.

We managed to pull together six gung-ho persons so we got Allan's Mammoth Platter. It supposedly feeds "4+". You could probably get away with clearing the platter plus the six sides if your four persons were hungry teens or hockey players. We were six and we just managed to clear it with barely enough room for two slices of pecan pie to share -- despite initial impressions of the plate not being very meaty, especially as ribs have a sizeable bone component to them. On the website it says $99 but it was $105 on the paper menu.

Baby back ribs, St. Louis Side Ribs, Dino Ribs
  • I only found two types of ribs -- a wide rack and a couple of shorter two-bone pieces -- so I'm not sure what happened there. Maybe the rest of the party was quicker on the draw and some of them disappeared.
  • Not much meat here (ribs are ribs, I guess) and compared to the rest of the meat, the toughest meat was here as well. Not chewy tough, but nothing impressive either. Some sawing was required with the provided steak knives, and the meat didn't come easily off the bone.
Chicken Quarters
  • We got two leg-and-thigh pieces. Pretty tender and flavourful dark meat. Otherwise nothing to write home about.
Smoked Brisket
  • Falling-apart tender slices. Probably the best item in the platter, followed by the pulled pork and sausages.
Pulled Pork
  • Rather wet/very moist. Not like the dryer needs-more-sauce stuff you might have encountered in food cart sandwiches.
Smoked sausages
  • A few half-in-thick sections, just over an inch in diameter. Maybe 8 pieces. Not sure this added up to a whole sausage. Tasty in a safe slightly salty way. Nothing bold in flavour here, and I think that made it disappointing for me.
6 sides (out of 8 possibilities): Coleslaw, Yam Fries, Baked Beans, Spanish Rice Pilaf,  Sauteed Vegetables, Potato Wedges, Hand-Cut Fries, Corn Bread.
  • We skipped the sauteed vegetables and hand-cut fries.
  • Baked Beans were strongly on the sweet side (maple syrup?). Not too sweet, but sweet enough that I would recommend you have it with the corn bread.
  • Rice Pilaf was surprisingly good. Could have used a spoon and a separate bowl so we didn't have to hunt around for it.
  • Sides very very varied in quantity. The weak amount of potato wedges were made up with a generous portion of yam fries.
Overall what I liked most about the meats at Hog Shack Cook House was that I never once reached for a condiment -- especially not extra barbecue sauce. In some places, your platters come with extra sauce on the side. But not here.
What I found weak about the platter was the individual quantities of items. It seemed weighted toward ribs, and there wasn't that much pulled pork or brisket to go around that you could really get a proper second helping when shared with 4-6 persons. Somehow it was very filling, however.

For dessert, we opted for the pecan pie ($7). Served with whipped cream and a drizzle of bitter chocolate sauce. I thought this was a smallish Yaletown-sized slice (a wedge maybe 5" long, 1.5" tall at the outer edge) for the price, but it was at least tasty in a solid pecan pie sort of way. Gooey and sweet, but again not so sweet that it burned the back of your throat. If you do find it too sweet, temper it with some whipped cream or contrast it with some of the chocolate sauce.

Other than having forgotten to record my reservation (and only fortunately finding room for us) -- which I trust was a fluke occurance, service was okay and water regularly topped up.

Our very filling dinner came out to $25 per person (including tax and tip).