Monday, May 26, 2014

Checkmate Caesar at Score on Davie

Score on Davie on Urbanspoon The famous picture has pretty much gone around the world, but depending on which picture you saw, your Checkmate Caesar may not be exactly as shown. The incarnation as of last Friday night was as pictured below:
  • roasted chicken
  • Score burger (certified Angus Beef, monterey jack, bacon, organic greens, tomato, horseradish aioli and grainy dijon aioli on a brioche bun)
  • sriracha glazed pulled pork slider (braised pork marinated in our pineapple sriracha glaze, avocado, slaw and jack cheese)
  • onion rings
  • chicken wings (covered in Frank's Hot Sauce)
  • a pulled pork mac&cheese hotdog
  • a brownie
The components probably add up to about $60, so value for your money is okay. There's food enough for two persons, three if you're all looking for just a light meal. Your drink is "included", so to speak, so dinner comes to about $20 to $30 per person before tax.

It's certainly fun to look and order, but overall I'd warn against it for various reasons, unless you want to finish it yourself, which is not out of the question, although there's a lot of caesar to quaff down.
  • Only one slider, one hot dog, and one burger. It's pretty pointless to cut them into three. Cutting them in half is best, or just divvy it up amongst yourselves. For example, if you cut the slider into threes, you'll hardly get a proper taste.
  • The burger is really the only decent thing there. Everything else is pretty mediocre. You can probably find a tastier dinner and dessert for $20-$30.
  • That hot dog was sad. Don't count on any major contribution from the mac and cheese. It's a good filling for sticking onto a satay stick anchored to a roast chicken balanced on a big glass, but as hot dogs go, it's disappointing.
  • Onion rings are onion rings. Hot wings are hot wings, except Frank's Hot Sauce isn't really spicy, so don't be too worried about it.
  • The caesar is also clearly a major component here. Ours came with a spicy pickled bean that was put in supposedly to add more heat to the drink. Whatever the case, the whole mixture turned off the two alcohol drinkers in our party and we ended up basically leaving it on the table. That's gotta be like $20 wasted right there.
    • Could be hit or miss, so bring some extra bodies who can handle at least mild or medium spicy.
My recommendation is to go in a team of 4+ and order it together along with other stuff to round out your meals. That way, it's easier to get someone to like something and finish it all up.

If you do go, look at the bottom of the menu for "a round of post-shift beers for the kitchen staff". Not sure what that gets you other than good karma. We tacked it on at the end when we paid, but you might want to order that up front. Report on your findings!

$60 Checkmate Caesar at Score on Davie




Friday, May 23, 2014

Mac and Cheese Taster WANTED

As you may know, I subscribe to the free all you need is cheese magazine. In addition to the spread of beautifully illustrated recipes and a bunch of coupons, they also showcased this contest to win a trip to the Canadian National Exhibition 2014:

Be the 4th Judge at this year's Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off. We challenged chefs to compete against each other by creating their own unique mouth-watering Canadian mac & cheese recipes, and we need a fourth judge to help choose the winner. You could win a fabulous getaway to sit at the Judges' Table with 3 Celebrity Foodies. Apply online for a chance to win! AllYouNeedIsCheese.ca/Tasterwanted
No purchase necessary. From May 26, 2014, to July 5, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. (ET). Open to adults residing in Canada (except Quebec and Territories). The prize consists of a getaway package for two to the Canadian National Exhibition 2014. Winner must be available from August 26, 2014, to August 28, 2014. See contest rules at www.allyouneedischeese.ca/tasterwanted.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chinois Prawns at West Oak

West Oak Restaurant on Urbanspoon What used to be Chinois became West Oak. Their pricey menu of Chinese food has now changed to someting fresh, local, and honestly not-very-exciting sounding. Except the "Chinois Prawns". I still remember those prawns being so darned good two years ago during the Taste of Yaletown that I wanted to go back and see if they were still good here -- and at $10 less.

Chinois Prawns ($14 for 5 prawns) housemade spicy aioli, candied walnuts
  • Yeah, I know -- that's $2.80 per prawn. But it's tasty. Get this. Besides, when this place was Chinois, these prawns would have cost you $24 instead of $14.
  • Don't be put off by the "spicy" aioli. There's just a bit of a kick from it, and not even any bite to it.
  • Be sure to get that spicy aioli AND bits of candied walnuts onto your prawn before you put it in your mouth. The candied walnuts have a tendency to fall off forgotten.
West Oak Tomohawk Platter for 4 ($185) 48 oz on the bone ribeye chop, Alberta rack of lamb, sauteed prawns, fresh vegetables, roasted fingerling potatoes, peppercorn sauce
  • Takes about 45 minutes to prep because it's 48 oz. Happily it comes sliced for you, plus the one one that you can wave around the table for fun.
  • Comes on a single huge platter. Recommended for 4 but it works for a party of six (like ours, who were thankfully easy-going about ordering this in lieu of choosing something of their own) AND you can fit in appys and desserts to share.
  • Medium rare, but the edges might be more well-done than that.
  • Depending on which piece you grab, the rack of lamb will either have a little meat or barely anything to be worth the effort. Don't count on it to add mass and protein to the plate. This plate is basically steak and potatoes. Not a lot of potato, either.
  • Steak is steak. There's actually nothing too special here taste-wise.
  • If you dissect the price, it's actually not terribly better than just getting a 12 oz striploin at $37 that comes with its own sides anyway. Add sauteed prawns to that (+$8) and the price is about the same.
Desserts: Brownie ($7), Chocolate Pudding ($8), Fresh Cookies ($6 for 6), Pecan Pie ($7), Sundae ($7).
  • The desserts were basically nothing special. Well prepared, but nothing wow. Price for portion is also OK.
  • Cookies come in two types: Dark chocolate chip and milk chocolate chip. A bit flat. Baked to order, apparently, so eat them quickly.
  • Our server very helpfully and on her initiative arranged for the sundae to be split into six small cups.
Table service was ace, though that may have been because I remembered our lovely server Jessica from two years ago when the place was Chinois, and she remembered me and our party as well. She even recalled where we sat and the incident of the accidentally lukewarm dish served to one of our party. For something that happened two years ago, and being in a profession where you see thousands of people coming and going, I thought she had a pretty amazing memory that she remembered anyone at all.
Anyway, if you do go, Jessica is the friendly, helpful blonde and trust me, you want her to be your server. Ask her about the Jimmy Kimmel party and how someone "offered" her a bite from a Tomohawk Platter.

The best part of West Oak (depending on whether you like people watching) is who works there and who goes there. Waitresses are all hawt and in black dresses that have a strategically located slit right at the cleavage. On the Saturday night, there were a lot of hot patrons too. Somehow West Oak has branded themselves as where the beautiful people come to hang out. Was it only because of the long weekend? Go see for yourself.

Keep an eye out for the one male server who looks like Russell Brand.

Hit and Miss at Graze

Graze on Urbanspoon

After a good experience during Dine Out Vancouver, I had it in my mind to go back to Graze for their regular menu and just this past Friday I dragged a back-to-vegetarianism friend there. She invited a gluten free friend and an unsuspecting I-love-KFC meat eater.

Between the four of us, we tried quite a few items, and my experience of it was that there's a lot of hit and miss. At your table, some people will love some things and not really care for others. Portion sizes for mains can also differ wildly.
The menu online is also mostly correct but not necessarily updated.

Marinated asparagus, sunchoke chips, and grilled brussels sprouts
  • This was a daily special 3-item starter. They did something to each of the items to make it tasty. The others really loved this but I thought it was kind of blah. The asparagus tasted like picked whatever; and the brussels sprouts just tasted bitter (which brussels sprouts already are on their own) and slightly burnt but my back-to-veggies friend was happily reminded of smoky bacon and loved it.
Crepes ($17, gluten free) Basil and chickpea crepes filled with marinated and grilled seasonal vegetables and organic tempeh,on bed of wild rice pilaf, tomato sage coulis.
  • This was my friend's order and I just got to try a sampling of the crepe.
  • The chickpea crepes were quite dry and on the firm side for their use of chickpeas, presumably to keep the whole thing gluten free. If you're gluten free, then, well, beggars can't be choosers. If you're not, you might want to think twice about this item.
  • Overall I really didn't like this. It just wasn't that tasty.
  • A rather large portion for price.
Vegetable Strata ($17, gluten free) Butternut squash, potato and bell peppers layered with tangy tomato sauce, cashew creme and house-made herbed polenta.
  • I didn't get to try the one-bowl portion of this item. It looked so small that the person who got it (the hapless meat eater in our party) was shocked -- "where's the rest of it"?
Some sorta cashew cheese torte
  • I don't like taking notes at dinner because it just looks so suspicious. But I ought to have this time because this item didn't show on the online menu.
  • Small torte about five or six inches in diameter and less than an inch thick.
  • Not "wow" good, but still really good and tasty. Compared with everything else at the table, I definitely thought I got the best item. Could've used a second torte for sharing, though.
  • Small portion. Like, very small bordering on embarrassingly small, but not as bad as Save-On-Meats.
Scoops ($6, gluten free) 2 scoops of ice cream from our talented neighbours at Earnest Ice Cream.
  • Must be good because there was a huge lineup outside!
  • Odd looking ice cream that seemed crumbly like cottage cheese. Tasted okay. Not sure what the big deal is. Might have to go next door and get a proper sample all to myself.
Torte ($7, gluten free) Flourless yet decadent chocolate torte with raspberry-rose cream and cashew brittle.
  • Nothing too special here, but I guess it doesn't have to be considering it's a big chunk of rich dark chocolate. Certainly rich enough that a single order is good for sharing.
  • Maybe pair it with the ice cream if straight chocolate is too rich for you.
Overall, I think especially if you are an omnivore, Graze offers interesting dishes but there's definitely a bit of chance here as to whether you will like it or not.
Reservations recommended as it was quite busy by around 7pm.