Thursday, July 30, 2015

Knorr Sidekicks Chicken Fried Rice

2015-Jul-30 Knorr Sidekicks Chicken Fried Rice (front) When I cooked this packet of Knorr Sidekicks Chicken Fried Rice with the stovetop instructions of 1-3/4 cups water and simmered while COVERED, it came out looking like rice stew -- way more soup/stock than pictured. I recommend using less water if you want your rice more fluffy than wet.

Taste was predominantly like Knorr chicken stock -- slightly sweet, mostly salty, but not super-salty. Check your sodium content. Eat less of this a SIDE DISH, not your main rice dish.

That said, if allowed to sit, the rice and noodles will eventually absorb the rest of the water (without transforming into a mushy mound). At that point, maybe because you are getting less soup directly, it tastes less salty, and you can eat it standalone as a main.

The recommended 1 tablespoon of butter didn't do much for it, and you might be able to skip that. Definitely try the cooked rice first before stirring in butter. It may also be to keep everything from lumping together, though.

Final cooked portion is really good, and depending on your appetite can be anywhere from 2 meals to 4 light meals/accompaniments. This makes the current promotion at Superstore (just $1 per pack) a great deal.
2015-Jul-30 Knorr Sidekicks Chicken Fried Rice (rear)

Alligga Flaxseed Cooking Oil

The latest sample sent to me by SocialNature is Alligga Flaxseed Cooking Oil. Right now, you can get Alligga Flaxseed Cooking Oil at $3 off the store price with a coupon from SocialNature.

The information on the bottle and website basically touts it as a "do-it-all" healthy wonder-oil:
  • Sautéing (pan frying), stir frying, roasting, baking, topping, salad dressing, add/mix with food (condiment?), supplement.
  • It is Organic, non-GMO, Kosher, 100% Natural, and 100% Canadian.
  • The Alligga website also talks about the health benefits of Flaxeed Oil.
The taste was very surprising. Caveat: I have never tried flaxseed oil, and do not normally pursue buying special cooking oil for "health benefits".
When I tried it straight, or with a bit of bread as a dip, there was a BITTER aftertaste on the tongue. This, I assume, is the "great nutty flavour" they mention (more like "walnutty", I guess).

I also let my mom pan-fry a chicken thigh (with skin removed). She is old school and doesn't watch her oil use, so she just poured a couple of tablespoons of oil into her cast-iron frying pan. Chicken came out okay, but the bitterness was evident unless we more carefully drained the oil away.

I'll try it in baking another time, but for the moment, I would recommend you cautiously buy this if you are keen on preserving the flavour of your food.

If you are buying it for the health benefits, and if you don't consume a lot of oil straight (e.g., as a straight bread dip or flavour additive), then it should be fine. Otherwise, watch for the bitterness and address that somehow (use less, drain it away, add something to it?).

UPDATE (2015-Aug-2):
  • My mom tried it with baking (a loaf of bread) and it turned out okay with no bitterness.
  • She also tried pan frying chicken several times, and insists that the chicken comes out more tender. If you have a similar experience, I'd love to hear it as this "feature" wasn't mentioned on the Alligga website.
UPDATE (2015-Oct-1):
  • My mom says this stuff is growing on her. Initially she was put off by the slight bitter aftertaste, but now she says that everyone should have some bitterness in their diet -- it's some sort of traditional Chinese nutritional wisdom. She cites how she eats bitter gourd as well, so having some bitter from Alligga works for her and she's seriously thinking of buying it, except it's not carried in Superstore. Here are a couple of articles on bitter foods in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

2015-Jul-30 Alligga Flaxseed Cooking Oil
2015-Jul-30 Alligga Flaxseed Cooking Oil nutrition info

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The cat does NOT love you at Mimibuloveme

Click to add a blog post for Mimibuloveme on Zomato So the fat cute-ish cat with no neck that is their logo actually does NOT love you. According to our kawaii and sweet server (who was the only person running the show in the somewhat dilapidated shop out in the middle of nowhere yet close to Oakridge Mall), "bu" means "not". Mimi NOT love me. To rub it in, their free-wifi password is Mimi[not]loveyoutoo.

Are you feeling the love yet?

Also, their web presence is useless. Menu pictures on Mimibuloveme's Facebook site are outdated and it looks like no one has been there since August-2014. Their actual web page is also uselessly "under construction".

Customer service is A+. Server is attentive. I had no sooner sat in my seat when a glass of water slid onto the table right in front of me. Totally un-rushed service (although at the same time, it was 6pm and the place was dead dead dead).

The concept is like Chicco Coffee and Dessert Bar on Robson, except the parfaits are a bit cheaper and they are designed and presented much better.
  • You get a long metal spoon. Great for digging deep into your tall glass.
  • Ingredients are also somewhat better. All parfaits come with honey cake and puffed wheat for a mix of soft scoops and crunchy fun.
  • The best improvement over Chicco is the scoop of ice cream at the bottom: You can start slowly from the top and not ration so much ice cream because once the ice cream on the top is gone, you still have ice cream on the bottom to help you finish up the rest of what's in your cup.
  • They take credit cards.
This combination of factors made Mimibuloveme a much more enjoyable experience than Chicco.
I tried the Hedgehog ($7.50) and it was rather good, with a decent amount of ice cream, allowing you to get some ice cream with every scoop of what is in the rest of the parfait, including dark chocolate cake, honey cake, and crunchy bits (honey puffed wheat?).

If you prefer you can get your parfait on a waffle instead.

Big Smoke Burger Faster than the speed of McDonalds

Click to add a blog post for Big Smoke Burger on Zomato OK, not really faster than McDonalds, but fast. It's a tiny cafeteria with communal seats. The small kitchen back there is sardined with maybe over 10 people who are probably mostly grilling, because my burger came FAST.
They were slammed, but fast service kept things moving with McDonalds-worthy speed. They only *sometimes* asked for a customer's name so some orders got kind of confused, but it's early days and they're working out the kinks. Impressively swift operation with thankfully adequate kitchen staffing to keep the burgers coming (and hence, keeping the customer queue moving).

(Signature) Big Smoke Burger ($8.99?) horseradish mayo, caramelized onions, smoked cheddar, tomato, lettuce
  • Really, really, decent grilled-to "medium" rarity burger. Moist enough. No pink, but you are warned that the patties may come out with some pink. Good regulation thickness at approximately 1 cm thick.
  • Rest of the burger is a waste of time. Too boring: Not enough horseradish bite, not enough caramelized onions.
  • McDonalds style burger construction. This *may* be due to their being so busy at the time we walked in.
  • Price is OK due to the patty, but overall I would recommend you instead try another of their more interesting signatures.
Hand-Cut Fries ($3.89 to $5.69 as part of a combo)
  • A bit soft on the outside. Fresh but did not seem crispy enough to make them really good fries.
  • Portion for $3.49 is about the same as what you can get a The Cannibal Café for $1.95, so if you are going to get fries at all, do one of their combo deals and get a drink with it.
They are still newish so cut them a bit of slack if they are awkward in conversation or struggling to remember protocol and lines.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Slowest burgers ever at the Cannibal Cafe

Click to add a blog post for The Cannibal Cafe on Zomato The Cannibal Café is diner style long-and-narrow place with a single very long 12-seater communal table in the back.

7pm reservation for a large party, so naturally we can't expect plating the entire table to be easy. *Some* food hit the table early and so maybe 1/3rd of the table finished their burgers first. At around 8:25 pm I got my burger in the second wave of orders -- OVER 1 HOUR LATER. Can't remember when the final orders reached the remainder of our party, but it was quite a while.
Our server explained that the kitchen grill could only handle so many patties at the same time. You can decide how legitimate an excuse this is.
If you decide the wait is intolerable, you can run over to Red Burrito nearby and eat something become coming back to waiting for your meal. (No, I'm serious. Someone in our party had success with this).

Gluten-free people can get their burger with no bun. So if you got a "Classic Jr." burger, that's just a patty, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and sauces on the side. Yeah, it looks weird. And it also looks really sad for basically $7 with no side.

Milkshake Mondays are probably the best way to get your money's worth as the burgers are pricier than Romer's Burger Bar by a couple of dollars, but with slightly less interesting ingredients. A Milkshake is normally $5.49. You get that free on Mondays if you buy your burger with a side, that can be as cheap as $1.95 for the basic Hand-Cut Fries (which had a whiff of something that may have been lard?). Oddly, you couldn't order a pricier full-blown appetizer in lieu of a Burger Side to fulfil the Milkshake Monday combo.
If you can handle their multi-patty "The Beast" burger, that is also probably a good way to get your money's worth.

Yam Fries ($3.95)
  • Very strange by being salty! Yes, these naturally sweet fries were salted, and not just a little.
Chocolate Milkshake ($5.49)
  • OK. Felt overpriced considering what you can get for less at Red Robin or McDonalds.
Burger of the Month - Chicken Coleslaw Revivial ($14.95) BBQ chicken patty, Lexington red slaw, bacon, smoked cheddar, apple bourbon jam
  • Price was NOT written on the chalkboard. Weighs in at $1 more than their priciest Specialty Burgers.
  • Mainly what I tasted here was the apple bourbon jam. Everything else was blah and their flavour sort of covered up. Overall tastier and more interesting than a non-gourmet burger, but not by much. This particular burger on par with something like Red Robin.
  • Standard issue bun with the glossy brown top was really, really decent and nicely toasted.
  • The special ingredient makes it a sort-of gourmet burger, but it loses points on price, especially considering their location.
Full house till 9pm or so, when things started quieting down. Very noisy (even without music playing) all the way through. Two big TVs in the back.
Kitchen overwhelmed, staff run ragged. I actually saw at least one party walk out as they never (?) got serviced after a long time (?).
Skimped on my tip as the only real way to tell management the situation was silly--They understaff and have more seats than the kitchen can handle. In retrospect, it really wasn't the server's fault, but how else do you vote with your dollars?

Funny lil' aquarium toys are available. There are buttons to jet water within the aquarium, causing little bits to gush toward other moving parts. For ages 3+. Ask for one!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chicken from Hell at Malay Curry House

Click to add a blog post for Malay Curry House on Zomato Slightly tricky hours: Closed between 3pm and 5pm. Minimal staff at lunch so table clearing might be a bit slow.
Seating is generously spacious. CASH ONLY.

Malaysian Roti ($3.50) with Satay Sauce or Curry Sauce
  • Satay sauce is not very peanut-ty.
  • Curry sauce is tasty! Slightly sweet and slightly spicy-hot at the same time. Also quite thick so easy to spoon onto your roti -- IF you had a spoon.
  • TIP: Ask for a small spoon when you order.
  • Strange: We had two orders of roti go in at the same time but one order came very late. Hmm...
  • The roti portion is quite large for $3.50. Looked like two 5"x5" squares, which is slightly more than what you get at Tangent Cafe for $5. Roti was slightly inferior (less flaky) to Tangent Café but taste was okay and the overall order was much cheaper for comparable portions.
Hainanese Chicken From Hell ($8.95 for quarter chicken)
  • With a name like that, obviously I had to order it.
  • On the take-out menu this is "Super Spicy Boneless Hainanese Chicken".
  • Decent amount of chicken, sitting on some bean sprouts.
  • Drowning in sauce. There was so much sauce in that shallow dish that it was literally overflowing onto the plastic canteen tray below (good thing for that tray!). TIP: Make it into a meal-to-share by ordering rice. Otherwise you will end up wasting a lot of this tasty sauce.
  • Chilli flakes had been liberally sprinkled over the whole thing.
  • You can have this basically as hot as you dare by heaping on more sauce and chilli flakes, or scraping it off. Chilli or not, there is an underlying sweetness to the sauce.
  • Tender chicken. Oh so tender chicken.
  • Portion for their "quarter chicken" looked comparable to a half order of Hainanese Chicken from Banana Leaf, at half the cost.
  • Also came with a bowl of presumably Hainanese Chicken broth, which was only so-so in chicken-y flavour.
Unassuming place with tasty food and very good portion for price. Top marks. Also check out their ASIANTV award plaque on the front counter.

Icy Bar a great place to hang out

Click to add a blog post for Icy Bar on Zomato
Smallish place that gets really busy at night around 6pm till closing. But if you go too early (around Saturday at noon, for example) they may be out of various items (like their supposedly famous mango pancake) from being wiped out during the late night service the day before.

Mixed Icy
  • You get about 1 cup of each topping you ask for. For 50 cents, you can apparently double the portion of one topping.
  • Your huge plate is basically a lot of ice, which is boring unless you squeeze a lot of condensed milk on it. You can have as much condensed milk as you can squeeze out of the squirt bottle (with three nozzles!).
  • Price is not bad for the amount of non-ice you get. But as desserts go... it's cold jellies and fruit.
  • Great for sharing. This is key.
Potted Plant
  • Layers of cream and whatever filling you asked or (e.g., durian).
  • One smallish cup filled to the brim and topped with some brown dust (chocolate, I hope). Supposed to have a little mint plant on top (hence "potted plant") but I got strawberry instead.
  • Cute-ish presentation but overpriced for what you get.
  • Could be colder! If your friend has ordered an icy, steal some of their shaved ice and use their condensed milk squirt bottle.
There is utterly nothing special here about the Mixed Icy. But as far as places to hang out go, this is great:
  • Dessert portion compared to a restaurant is huge. So four people can easily while away time picking at it, as compared to maybe a single slice of cake downtown that would disappear quickly, plus you would want a drink to go with it (here, your "iced water" is right in the dessert!).
  • Great non-alcoholic alternative that is also cheaper than everyone getting their own bubble tea.
Food is boring. But as a CHEAP hangout place for 4-6 persons, it's great. Don't bother coming here alone.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Something for everyone at Tangent Café

Click to add a blog post for Tangent Cafe on Zomato Tangent Café offers quite a variety of food from Malaysia or "the West" -- enough to safely say there is something safe and familiar for everyone. "Safe" is a good word to describe the food as there is nothing extreme here -- probably nothing actually spicy-hot, so order curries and such with no fear.
Some vegetarian options but it is not immediately clear which are vegan.

Roti Canai ($5) flaky pan-fried Malaysian flatbread with a side of either lentil curry or chicken curry for dipping
  • Very salty chicken curry (with no chicken chunks -- which is normal), but this was probably a fluke as someone who had been to Tangent Café before said her curry that time wasn't quite so salty.
  • Lentil curry was very thick, almost like a paste. Easier to scoop this up onto your roti with a fork.
  • Two discs of really decent roti canai that came fresh. Very flaky and still chewy-fun.
  • Portion is a bit light compared to other places that serve this, such as Banana Leaf. For a really decent one with very good portions at a good price, get the 2-piece roti prata at Amay's House.
Beef Rendang ($14) beef slow-cooked in a spicy curry & finished with coconut milk
  • Pale-looking curry with basically no spicy heat. Tasty-spicy, but not hot spicy, which means it is not as rich as it could be if you've had it done with no-holds barred spicy-hot authenticity.
  • OK portion with a bowl of rice and a portion of sambal green beans, making it a decently sized meal.
Amaretto-Banana Flambé Roti ($6) with vanilla ice-cream
  • Totally NOT what we thought it would be, especially given the name. Maybe it was flamed in the kitchen (big MAYBE), but there was definitely no fire at the table.
  • Banana (and presumably the amaretto as well) was wrapped in roti like a fat spring roll which looked like it was nicely deep fried into a moderate brown colour.
  • Pretty tasty.
  • Price for portion is slightly low, combined with expectations set too high for a table show involving fire.
  • Came with a few grapes and some strawberry.
On Thursdays and Sundays there is live entertainment. We went on a Thursday and it was packed even before the live jazz at 8.30pm, though patio seats were probably more available. You can hear the music well enough from the outside, plus you have the benefit of being more able to hear what the rest of your dinner party is trying to tell you.

Larger parties (6+?) should make a reservation. Apparently for smaller parties, no reservations are taken.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Che-Licious an interesting Bubble Tea alternative

Click to add a blog post for Che-licious on Zomato Chè-Licious offers an interesting alternative to Bubble Tea, generally involving more asian fruit ingredients; and is less artificially sweet. The multi-ingredient suggested combinations typically use coconut milk or coconut juice, which are good for you. On the napkin holders at the tables, the benefits of some of the ingredients such as BASIL SEEDS (which look like frog eggs!) and lychee are listed. Available ingredients include: Agar Jelly, Aloe Vera, Basil Seed, Coconut Milk, Coconut Water, Durian, Grass Jelly, Jackfruit, Longan, Lychee, Lychee Jelly, Mango Jelly, Mung Beans, Palm Seed, Pandan Jelly, Pom Pearls, Red Beans, Tapioca Pearls.

Price is higher than bubble tea (typically just over $6)  but considering the numerous and exotic ingredients, it's not bad. You can also build your own to get a cheaper drink with less ingredients. And when compared to non-alcoholic drinks at a restaurant weighing in at possibly $6-$7, this is way more interesting and delicious. Bahn Mi (vietnamese sub) and snacks and "icy bun" (bread with ice cream and a topping) is also available.

The décor is quite interesting, with a tropical-ish feel and curious apple lamps with 3 spotlights. Also worth a look at is the sink in the washroom, which looks like a leaf and has an interesting tap handle.

Banana Leaf Robson looks better in ad copy

Click to add a blog post for Banana Leaf on Zomato After my last experience at Banana Leaf (on Broadway) I was pretty sure I didn't want to go back to any Banana Leaf. But it was my friend's birthday and her pick, so... back to Banana Leaf. This time on Robson.

TIP: DO NOT BRING CAKE. Not only is Banana Leaf unable to help your birthday celebration with anything birthday-like, but you will be charged a "cakeage" fee ($5 per person??) if you bring and serve cake.

Large restaurant with an upstairs for larger groups and ground floor outdoors eating. If yours is the only party left upstairs AND you have already paid, expect it to be abandoned while they focus on their walk-ins downstairs.
Even if you haven't or aren't the only party there, bussing was also only OK. Empty dishes removed but maybe just one refill of water.

Unless you have an extremely sensitive palate, ignore the chilli symbol next to the menu items. It is nonsense. Even the Rendang Beef Curry wasn't spicy-hot.

Prices are pretty high. If you are not ordering a noodle or rice dish, you can still make an order into a filling meal by getting a bowl of rice ($2+). Consider getting one of the tasting menus, which has added value simply for letting you try more stuff.

Peppercorn BC Oysters ($10)
  • I passed on ordering this when the waitress told me this would be THREE oysters. That's over $3 per oyster!
Eggplant Fries ($7) julienned Chinese eggplant fries drizzled with Thai Chili sauce
  • Eggplant lightly coated in batter and deep fried.
  • Did NOT come nicely stacked as in the picture.
  • Maybe the same amount of fries you get in an order of McDonalds fries.
Rendang Beef Curry ($16) boneless, lean beef stewed in spicy coconut gravy
  • Meat not tender, but not really too tough either.
  • Where's the spiciness?
  • Underlying flavour of beef rendang is correct, but still missing the richness from stronger spices, and therefore disappointing.
Sambal Tiger Prawns ($17) shell-off tiger prawns cooked in a classic Malay spicy robust sauce made with chilli, garlic, lemongrass, and dried shrimp paste (belachan)
  • Where's the spiciness?
  • Sauce really tasty. Try not to waste this -- maybe mix in some rice to get all of it.
  • Maybe six prawns in total. Decent size but not jumbo by any means.
Hainan Chicken ($18 for half chicken) poached chicken served cold with cucumber, sesame oil, peanuts, and soy sauce. Served with sides of ginger sauce and chili-garlic sauce.
  • I have never seen Hainanese chicken swimming in some BLACK soup.
  • Missing the iconic chicken broth, therefore a complete waste of time.
  • Portion is like maybe a chicken breast for the "half chicken" portion. Pretty small for $18 especially when it basically comes with no sides.
  • Hainan Rice (cooked with ginger garlic with chicken broth) is on the "Recommended Sides" list at $2.50. Was NOT mentioned by server when ordering the Hainan Chicken.
Pineapple Fried Rice ($16) fried rice mixed with seafood, chicken, egg, onion, beans, tomatoes, raisin, corn, and pumpkin seeds
  • Rather smallish portion.
  • One-fifth (1/5) of a pineapple was on the plate, instead of the half pineapple in the menu picture. BUT since the pineapple would have been hollowed out for the rice anyway, it is not necessarily the case that they skimped on pineapple.
  • No way there was 1/2 or even 1/5th of a pineapple in the portion of rice, which was maybe 4 bowls worth (?).
  • Very strangely deep green pancakes rolled up into small spring rolls, containing a very sweet sugar-and-coconut mix, and sitting in some sort of white sauce.
  • Tasty. Pandan and coconut and sugar flavours all come through.
  • Very sweet, maybe excessively so.
  • TIP: Isolate just the pancake and taste that. It is strangely tasteless. Yes, tasteless. Not even any pandan or egg or pancake flavour. (Why?)
Jamu-Kunyit ($6) turmeric, tamarind, and ginger drink
  • If this tastes like medicine, it is because it is a sort of traditional herbal medicine.
  • Bitter but saved by some sweetness and sourness (but not too much).
  • Probably an acquired taste, so either know what it is or just be adventurous.
TIP: Bill apparently always reads "Gratuity not included", when it IS INCLUDED if you have a party of 6+ persons.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Zeitoon a pricier Cazba

Click to add a blog post for Zeitoon Restaurant and Grill House on Zomato Portions at Zeitoon are comparable to Cazba with prices of mains is higher by up to a few dollars (partially mitigated by their weekday specials). Also, you can apparently have "no rice" and shave $1 off the price of your main. A great option if you don't want the carbs.
Still, price is okay for a filling meal as long as you realize a lot of that will be from the carbs (which is the same with Cazba).

It's a smaller place with good table spacing and easily movable tables, and some outside seating. Since it is not right on busy Denman, curbside seating actually works. No real ambiance to speak of, almost like a diner or cafeteria.
You can make reservations! If this is important to you, it may be worth the extra dollars per head on mains rather than hope for large-group seating at Cazba.

Contrary to a lot of online reviews I've read, our first visit to Zeitoon didn't see any lousy service. We got an attentive server very patient with people new to the cuisine. She also dropped off three large pitchers of cold water on our group tables so water was never an issue. Yeah, it's not the same as having water topped up by a busser, but neither was there any wait.

Dolma ($5.95) green vine leaves stuffed with rice, parsley, mint soaked in sunflower oil. Served with garlic shallot dip.
  • Creamy-tender rice filling. Pretty tasty with the dip, which doesn't adhere very well to the vine leaves, so either scoop it on or dip deeply.
Fesenjan ($12.95) stew made with pomegranate, walnuts, and chicken served with basmati rice
  • Had it with chicken this time. Looked like large cubes (about a cubic inch) of chicken breast meat. A bit dry, but that's common with breast meat.
  • Not as sweet as at Cazba (where it is $11.99). You can therefore eat the stew without anything to temper the sweetness (i.e., you don't need rice, salad, bread, or any such sides to accompany your meal).
  • Substituting rice for their flatbread cost $2, but they also took $1 off the bill for "no rice".
Lamb Shack ($13.95) slowly cooked in house sauce, served with baghali polo (basmati rice, dill weed, lima beans)
  • Fall-off-the-bone tender meat. Otherwise, lamb is lamb.
  • Comes with a small bowl of what was probably the stew/sauce that it was cooked in.
TIP: If you are seated near the back wall, watch out! The wooden shelving protrusions on the wall do not have rounded corners, and are fairly low. Yours truly whacked his noggin' on one. :-(

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Kurumba Restaurant: Cuisines of Asia

Click to add a blog post for Kurumba Restaurant Cuisines of Asia on Zomato Kurumba Restaurant is a pretty simple place. Medium restaurant, basically clean. Spacious between tables. Polite and helpful staff. Only two persons on when I went there on a Thursday night, and therefore sometimes service was a bit slow when they were cleaning up tables. Otherwise fine, and kitchen was pretty fast considering we were a party of 7.

Although this is in Port Moody, it was surprisingly not that hard to get to from a skytrain station -- the 97 B-Line from Lougheed Mall practically drops you outside.

Kurumba's menu has a great concept: Many of the not-too-expensive (like whole crab) popular dishes of various asian / south-east asian countries can be found in it. You have Chinese, Malaysian, Sri Lankan, Thai (What? Not India? Especially given the name Kurumba). Obviously not everything gets on the menu, but a really good selection of many recognizable items.

We tried a bunch of stuff, but here are just the things that I remember most clearly (remember that I do all this stuff undercover! -- generally no note-taking and no pics either).
Also, to be honest, I think we caught them on an off-day in the kitchen. Some stuff was... weird. But I'll get to that.

Sri Lankan Faluda Milkshake ($4.50)
  • Whatever you are thinking this is, it's not what you think.
  • Ice cream plus "red jelly" plus a bit of ice.
  • Jelly is soft enough to be sucked up with the standard issue straw. No extra-wide bubble tea straw required.
  • It's OK, especially at just $4.50.
  • Basically calamari tossed in a spicy mix involving butter and whole chillies.
  • TIP: Do not eat the chillies. Well, you can if you want but watch out, they are quite bitter and very spicy-hot!
  • Very salty.
  • Did I mention this was very salty?
Thai Crispy Spring Rolls ($5 for 2 rolls) shrimp & pork rolls served with sweet Thai chilli sauce
  • Oops. Forgot the sauce.
  • Whole shrimps inside, which was probably the best part of this otherwise lacklustre item. Plus you can to dissect the roll to see the shrimps.
  • Looked a bit oily. Also looked dark, which suggested they were slightly over-fried.
Roti Canai ($6.50) hand-made pan-grilled flat bread served with a curry dip
  • Decidedly NOT oily to the touch, which is a plus.
  • Surprisingly thick and not-very-crispy. Almost like a thin pancake. This was very odd. If you are looking for a great roti canai / roti prata, try Amay's House or Laksa King (used to be Bo Laksa King's Bubbles and Bits).
  • Curry was quite tasty, though.
  • Single very large piece.
  • Two would be probably good enough for a meal.
Eggplant in Chilli Garlic Sauce ($13.95)
  • Quite sweet, masking some of the underlying saltiness, with the result that this was both extremely sweet and salty at the same time.
  • Otherwise quite tasty, though most of that is the sauce.
  • According to one member of our party, this dish has considerably shrunk in portion (?).
Malaysian Beef Rendang ($12.95 small, $16.95 large) traditional Malay curry slow-simmered with lemongrass, shallots, lime leaves, galangal and spices
  • Underlying "correct" flavour of beef rendang, but strangely pale grey. This MAY have been because we asked for everything to have spiciness toned down.
Overall... Food was passable to OK. Best item for me of everything we tried (and we also tried several other dishes) was the calamari, and that was very salty!

TIP: Order only ONE main for each of TWO persons, and add an order of rice. If your main is already noodles or rice, then throw in an appetizer like roti canai. This way, you can have a light to medium meal for BOTH persons with probably no leftovers and no waddling out of there over-full.
Food is, as mentioned, just OK, but price should then be under $20 for two persons. You might even get away with it just being $10-$15 per person, which is a pretty cheap dinner anywhere you go nowadays.

TIP: Don't fiddle around with the spiciness. This is generally a bad idea in any restaurant that doesn't let you choose it.

Hippie Snacks - Coconut Bacon Chips

Thanks to SocialNature, I got to try a free packet of Hippie Snacks -- their "Coconut Bacon" flavour. There's actually no bacon here as it is vegan-friendly (and organic).

Even the vegan-friendly part is not absolutely strict, as there is a warning: "This product may contain sesame, milk, soy and tree nuts." (And this particular product does in fact contain soy in their tamari soy sauce.) But unless you are fanatically vegan, this industry standard-issue cover-our-ass used-by-all-companies catch-all disclaimer will probably not bug you.

Also comes with a moisture-absorbing pack of silica gel.

The good: It's tasty. Which is basically the main reason to buy any snack. I wouldn't say it's very bacony, but the "natural smoke flavour" certainly helps.

Neutral: It's a bit salty from special "Himalayan crystal salt", but that's little different from most savoury snacks. Bag has a resealable strip, but there's not a lot of chip to begin with (56 grams) so you may use it up in one sitting unless you are being careful about your sodium intake.
If you put enough in your mouth at one time, you may get a mild peppery burn at the back of your mouth, but no actual spicy heat.

The bad: It's hard to eat because the chips range from small to tiny. If you are hoping to reduce mess on your hands, it's hard to avoid by pinching with just your forefinger and thumb (which you generally can do with bigger chips).
That said, the online product information does suggest it good for sprinkling over salad or dessert, and likely that is a very convenient use. Failing that, get yourself a spoon. The bag itself isn't particularly conducive to pouring out any remainder straight into your mouth.

2015-Jul-16 Hippie Snacks (inside)
2015-Jul-16 Hippie Snacks - coconut chips (front)
2015-Jul-16 Hippie Snacks - coconut chips (back)

More overpriced Ice Cream - Earnest Ice Cream

Click to add a blog post for Earnest Ice Cream on Zomato With a lineup out the door, it's gotta be good right?

Maybe after my recent experiences at Soft Peaks and Marble Slab Creamery, Earnest Ice Cream just starts to taste and look like another overpriced place -- if you are not prepared.
It is still overpriced compared to what you can get in a supermarket, so I will really need to stop getting dragged to these places.

The good: They have vegan options. Usually a sorbet. The Coconut Lime was really decent. Just not at $5 for a scoop.

The bad: Ice cream tastes like ice cream. Guess what: "Tahitian Vanilla" tastes like... vanilla ice cream. Who'd have thought?

The TIP: Get it in a bowl. Here's why:
  • They still give you the cone. Probably they scoop it into a cone and then invert it into your bowl. For some reason they don't always mention this. It was offered me (at no extra charge) but my friend didn't get the same offer (why?).
  • You get a spoon. Great for sharing. Steal another spoon from the bowl of tasting spoons so you can share with your friend.
  • If you get two scoops, it's easier to share if they are in a bowl, rather than licking from the same cone (ick!). Why would you want two scoops? Well...
  • One scoop is $5. Two is $7. Go with a friend and each scoop is only $3.50. Yeah, going to Earnest Ice Cream is really lousy if you are single. A very clear example of how the food world discriminates against singles.

Fast turnover at Sal y Limon

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Sal y Limón has a basically clean space but once it gets busy (around 6pm, maybe peaking at around 7pm or so) clearing tables becomes slower. This is in part due to the mess people tend to make eating the finger foods. Tons of used napkins all over the place.
Clean-up is actually not so bad to do yourself, so if you need to secure several seats together, you can clear the tables yourself (there are tubs for dishes near the self-serve cutlery station) and wipe down the top with napkins.
Otherwise, if you prefer to wait, table turnaround time is usually pretty fast. Don't be daunted by the lineup. Their nearby competition (Los Cuervos Taqueria Y Cantina) is just as busy and supposedly just as good, so pick a line and stick with it instead of jumping around.
Table spacing is actually pretty decent with space to move and movable tables.

TIPS: Examine the menu and nominate someone to place your group order. This keeps the lineup from inflating. The others in your party can steadily accumulate tables and seats so you can all sit together.
You pay at the counter, but don't forget a modest tip because there is table service.
After you make your order, if you are dining in, you are given a number. Your food is NOT guaranteed to come in the same order as the lineup -- people who ordered after you may get their order first. Probably due to whatever optimization of similar orders the kitchen needs to do.

Washrooms look strangely cleaner and classier than the location, thanks to the tiling on the wall. Check them out!

Everyone in our little dining group got tacos and burritos, so naturally I had to get something different: Tortas.
The menu is very modular at Sal y Limón: Choose your food type, choose your fillings, and choose your condiment (optional). They have a lot of options, which is very nice.

Food types: torta (fat burger using an oblong toasted bun; a lot of veggies), huaraches (fillings on big, flat, fried dough), quesadilla (fillings in a folded tortilla, sort of like a crêpe but typically a bit fatter), burrito (fat roll with fillings plus a lot of rice and veggies), taco (two small tortillas maybe 5" wide, with fillings).

If you just want to eat fillings, without being too full from carbs and veggies, then tacos are the way to go. Also a great way to try many types of fillings. (Note the online menu is not complete and lacks a couple of fillings not on the in-store paper menu).
The other options give you a very filling portion for your price, but a lot of it will be rice, veggies, maybe beans.
TIP: If you are going to get a drink, go for the combo which gets you a drink (normally around $2) and a small side. The coleslaw is quite nice, with a creamy sweetness to it that was somewhat coconutty.

I recommend you use condiments only if you want to add some heat to your food (and some items are already spicy-hot, like their spicy pork. If you add too much, you will overwhelm the flavour of the fillings, so less is more here.

Super Marinara (sp?) Torta ($10.50)
  • Not on their online or paper menus yet, but watch for it posted in the store.
  • The torta was maybe 1/5 filling, 2/5 bun, 2/5 veggies including the occasional pepper that can surprise you with a sudden but not-too-hot spicy bite.
  • Portion is like getting two big burgers.
  • Filling is breaded and fried fish and prawns (?). Hard to tell what is what, but it doesn't matter because it's definitely inferior to their non-breaded meat fillings (and about $1-$2 more than other tortas). Give this a pass.
  • Tough to eat without stuff falling out all over the place.
Churros ($3?)
  • They ran out of tres leches cake and subbed two sticks of churros instead.
  • About 12 inches long, 3/4 inch thick, deep fried, generously drizzled with chocolate (that typically just falls to the bottom of the tray, so use a knife to scrape it up), and with something creamy inside.
  • Pretty decent, but you should eat it right away when it's still hot. Sadly, it comes with whatever else you ordered, so by the time you save it for dessert, it gets cold and not-that-good.
Price for portion is good, but as with many things, as portion goes up, carbs and veggies make up the bulk of it. Still, this is cheap eats and decent.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wishes + Luck

Click to add a blog post for Wishes & Luck on Zomato Been curious about Wishes+Luck since my friend J of rated it highly earlier this year.

Place is small. Seating is tight. There is bar-style seating just parallel to the entry ramp, and no shortage of hooks for purses and jackets. Small bit of patio seating. Tables for two are sort of tight on space. No cloth napkins, so don't make a mess. One paper napkin is standard issue per seat, pre-issued on the table. Depending on what you order, you may want more right away.

Sadly, they have an equally good and popular neighbour in Jamjar, so if you can't get into one, you can't count on the other as a backup plan. Fortunately Commercial Drive has no shortage of eateries.

Dropped in for a late-ish lunch. They are apparently busy during the 11am-12.30pm lunch rush, then starting around 6pm again for the dinner rush through till closing for the late-night crowd. Strangely not that busy Fridays and Saturdays (all this according to my server and memory) when they quiet down around 9-ish pm.

Afternoon server was a friendly, smiling totally sexy guy with a honey voice. Ladies -- the man's working and not interested in giving you his number, okay?

Tuna XO ($13) wild-caught albacore, shishito peppers, grains, XO sauce
  • As usual I asked for what was interesting and weird. This was the first suggestion. Didn't sound really wow but I went for it. Turned out really decent!
  • Works out to a light meal. Looks like a salad, but slightly more filling with quinoa all over the place.
  • Little dark-golden-coloured lumps here and there which are strangely not that flavourful are probably evidence of XO Sauce in the dish.
  • TIP: There is something that looks like softened butter at the very bottom of your bowl, covered by everything. Dig for it and mix it into the quinoa. Adds a touch of sourness to everything. Don't leave it for last. Caveat: They *may* have just forgotten to mix it into the quinoa on my order. Fluke?
  • Soft slices of tuna like you might get in a sushi restaurant.
  • Roasted shishito peppers barely have any heat to it, and has some slightly bitterness. Not exactly yucky to eat, but pointless. Eat it with something, like the quinoa maybe.
    • Apparently only 1 in 10 peppers have heat to them, so I guess it's sort of a lucky (?) draw.
    • TIP: Could totally have used either a small plate or another napkin because I didn't feel like eating the long-ish stems on the chillies. But I had nowhere to put them except right on the tabletop.
Sadly I went alone on this trip so I didn't get to try too many items. Will obviously have to go back for some of the items recommended  by J.

Happy belated birthday to me from Starbucks

Click to add a blog post for Starbucks on Zomato As you probably know, Starbucks gives out birthday drinks to cardholders. My birthday was almost a week ago, and I completely forgot to redeem it. But the person at the counter was still willing to honour the offer!--And in no way did he hesitate or make me feel bad about it. He said the offer was recorded on my card, so it would just be a matter of checking to make sure the offer was unused and applying it if still valid.

Voilà! Free drink, almost a week late.

Thank you Starbucks.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stupidly boring ice cream possible at Marble Slab Creamery

Click to add a blog post for Marble Slab Creamery on Zomato Marble Slab Creamery sent me a birthday buy-one-get-one offer, so for the first time ever, I went to a Marble Slab Creamery.
Sadly, my friend was broke so I ended up getting my free cone and buying hers. But anyway...

I deliberately chose NOT to research Marble Slab Creamery before going. All I knew was I would be getting a cone and I could get another for free. Yay.
As usual, I tried to find something weird. There was, sadly, nothing weird. The girl at the counter lamely suggested mango, but I forgive her for that because the weirdest thing was maybe "birthday cake" and it tasted like vanilla.

So I went with lactose-free chocolate. Which is chocolate ice cream where they mix something into it to neutralize the lactose for lactose-intolerant people.
No, it is not dairy free. Vegans, back away slowly.

Next, she asked if I wanted "Medium" or "Large". I totally fell for this sales trick because I forgot they have small. Anyway, "Medium" is somewhere between a tennis ball and a baseball. Also, they weigh it.
Yeah. They weigh it.
It is also over $6.
Now I think back to Soft Peaks in Gastown and it actually looks cheap.

Then they smush it apart on a presumably marble slab, ready to receive toppings.
I wasn't sure whether toppings were free so I started by asking her what would go great with it. She recommended Oreos, and maybe pineapple. I went with Oreos, and "a bit of pineapple".
Later I got the bill and it didn't look like I got charged for toppings.
Then I got home and looked up the website and found out I could have gotten a totally fabulously interesting chocolate ice cream weirded out with whatever toppings might have been odd. Or colourful and full of chemicals. Or something -- something other than just chocolate with bits of oreos and the occasional bite of not-very-fresh-tasting pineapple.

Thank you Marble Slab Creamery for wasting my $6 and change on a boring ice cream cone.

Honestly, couldn't their franchisee actually educate customers by promoting what is unique about Marble Slab Creamery -- i.e., unlimited toppings?

Thank you also for making it a BOGO birthday offer, so it didn't sting so badly. Next time, though, I'll just go to McDonalds for their McFlurry.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Chambar Medieval Feast

Got too much money? Hate pigs? Love bacon? You may be interested in Chambar's National Belgian Day Medieval Feast ($94.40 tickets here).

  1. Spicy pig ear salad
  2. Head cheese terrine, pickled cabbage
  3. Rum and lemongrass caramelized pork neck
  4. Black pudding sausage, crackling, camembert
  5. Tamarind-glazed baby back ribs
  6. Lomo, burrata, sun gold tomatoes
  7. Pulled pork Vietnamese sub
  8. Pork hock consomme, sweet peas
  9. Friseee salad, smoked bacon-wrapped prunes
  10. Pig feet spring rolls
  11. BBQ porchetta, roasted corn chimmy churry
  12. Bacon ice cream sandwiches

2015-Jul-21 Chambar National Belgian Day Medieval Feast

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bacchus Midweek Seasonal Chef's Menus

This July and August, Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge at the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa is offering a prix fixe "Midweek Seasonal Chef's Menu".
Menu changes weekly.
Sundays to Thursdays only.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Birthday Genisys Burger at Red Robin (West End)

Click to add a blog post for Red Robin on Zomato If you sign up for Red Robin's eClub, you get a two-week window to enjoy a free Gourmet Burger. The fine print says "Participating Locations Only", and fortunately the Robson Street location participates. As soon as you walk in, there's a banner that says so.

What is not included are customized burgers, non-burgers (e.g., their sandwiches), and their Angus Beef "Red Robin's Finest" burgers.

Their current Terminator Genisys promotion, at about $1 more than their usual Gourmet Burgers, DOES qualify.

As Red Robin touts itself as the "Burger Authority" (as indicated in their colourful, child-proofed-by-lamination menus), I should really not cut them any slack on burger engineering and execution... so I won't.

Genisys Burger ($12.99) jalapeño-cornmeal bun, fresh avocado, roasted jalapeños, bacon, pepper-jack cheese, 100% beef burger patty, comes with unlimited fries (other unlimited substitutions available)
  • Patty check: Dry patty, slightly burnt. FAIL. They overcooked my patty. As the "burger authority" there should be stricter quality control on the essentials of a burger. Like the patty.
  • There was a tiny chip of bone in my patty. I'm going to call it a fluke this time.
  • The bun did in fact have bits of jalapeño. But no heat whatsoever.
  • The avocado slice was approximately in the middle of the burger. If you bit the wrong part, you got no avocado.
  • The roasted jalapeños were in two whole slices. Long enough to stick out of the burger, but not enough to cover the whole cross section. So if you don't eat this burger along the path of the roasted jalapeño, you might get no bites of it.
  • Definitely try a bite with the roasted jalapeño because there is only mild, slow-building heat but a certain amount of bitterness, which is off-putting with nothing to complement that flavour. Bitter is tricky to make tasty. You may want to take the roasted jalapeños right off, to be honest.
  • Overall, a rather boring burger and it definitely didn't make me think "Terminator" at all. Maybe a crunchy burger wrapped in silver foil might have done the trick.
Mint Brownie ($4.99, +$1 to make it "Monster" by adding a refill tin) Mint milkshake with brownie bits
  • More like bubble-gum style peppermint flavour. A bit weak and only average as mint milkshakes go.
  • Brownie portion in small cubes (slightly less than 1 cubic centimeter) of what looked more like cake, to be honest, but could very well have been brownie.
  • Came with a regular straw, which can't suck up the brownie chunks. Should have come with a bubble tea straw, or a deep spoon.
  • Overall, not worth it compared to Bottomless Beverages, which are in turn only worth it if you are staying a long time (e.g., a large party, so you are staying a long time) and likely to be able to drink more than one glass.
As my trip before to Red Robin, food is OK, but where the burger chain really shines is in portions for price -- unlimited sugar and other carbs are available if you want it, at no extra charge.
One extra order of their bottomless fries seemed to take forever to come, but when it did, it was piping hot and therefore, I am assuming, fresh.

Also, it appears they are willing to cut burgers in half. I saw this served but haven't tried asking for it myself. This could make it a really cheap night out combined with a birthday burger offer.

Why Opentable is actually a viable business

Despite even mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall restaurants having a website and e-mail address (and probably a Facebook account), probably the number one reason why OpenTable actually works as a business model is NOT by dangling the carrot of free dining cheques in front of users. That just encourages them with positive reinforcement to actually show up for their reservations.

Without having done any actual surveys, I suspect the number one reason OpenTable works is because a lot of restaurants are absolutely lousy with online reservations.
You can e-mail them using their online form or provided e-mail, and any number of these can happen:
  • You never get a response.
    • WTF?
  • You are lucky to get a response days later.
    • WTF?
  • You get a voicemail asking you to call them.
    • WTF? I E-MAILED you because I wanted to handle this ONLINE. Why do you bother having an e-mail address?
If you call the restaurant, especially a busy restaurant, you may have to deal with:
  • An answering machine and phone tag.
  • It's so noisy over there they can't hear you anyway.
  • A conversation that could have taken a fraction of the time had you done it online.
With OpenTable, you will probably still have to deal with the above if you have special information to convey (e.g., you're all a bunch of kosher vegans; your party is a soccer team of 10+ people). But at the very least, for even reasonably large groups of 6-8, you can know for sure whether you have a confirmed reservation or not.

TIP: If the restaurant you are looking for is not on OpenTable, they might be on the similar service BookEnda.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Very filling meals at Cazba

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It's busy and with good reason: Price for portion is really good. In some ways, Cazba is like Chinese take-out noodles. You get some toppings on a ton of noodles. Except here, it's rice. For $12 or so you can be stuffed.

Not much of a patio in terms of view, but you can sit outside in an enclosed space if you like, with reasonable privacy from pedestrians.

Inside it's somewhat dim and OK. Nothing too special except for some interesting statuary and lamps, but they really didn't pretty up the space so much. Plus, there's so much server and diner traffic there's not that much they can do.

Fesenjoon ($11.99 +$1 for half garden salad / half rice) Stew made with Pomegranate , Walnuts and Chicken Served with Basmati Rice; vegetarian option (no chicken) possible at no extra charge
  • I went for the vegetarian option here.
  • Very sweet stew! Quite delicious though so sweet you do really want to temper it by mixing it into your rice. Even so, I really only needed less than half the stew provided as there was so much rice.
  • The menu indicates it costs $1 for a substitution. The server offered to change half or all the rice to salad, but did not mention price; I decided to go with it, and sure enough, it cost $1. Technically not a secret charge, but it would have been nice if she mentioned it.
    • Even though it costs $1, rice is heavier than salad, so I would seriously consider it, as even just the half portion of rice remaining made for a very filling meal.
  • Some people who tried some of my stew mentioned the walnut, but it didn't come through for me.
Tahdeeg ($6.99 Large) Crispy Rice served with your choice of Ghormeh Sabzi Stew or Gheymeh Stew; half-and-half of the stew is possible at no extra charge
  • Sounded interesting, but in the end... not so much. Neither stew really made a difference for me.
  • Crispy rice part looks like the slightly burnt stuff at the bottom of your rice booker.
  • Large portion can be a light to medium meal all on its own.
Doogh ($1.75 glass) Yogurt and water with mint, salt, and pepper. Bottled version may be carbonated.
  • Reminded me of the ayran I had at Anatolia Express but not as salty/sour.
  • Strangely, it grows on you though it might initially be horrible.
  • There's mint? Pepper?
Persian Tea ($?)
  • Apparently they do not have barley sugar, which the Persians in our group insisted was necessary for proper Persian Tea.
They don't take reservations, but if you have a large group you can arrive early and ask for them to accommodate you. What they will probably do is start blocking off sections where they will seat people last, so your party can sit together. If they run out of other seating, they'll have to take unused tables and seats from "your section" if all your guests haven't arrived.

We had a large party and a thankfully patient server. With over 20 people, some water requests got lost, but I think otherwise things went fairly smoothly. Large-group auto gratuity was only the standard 15% instead of the more common 18%.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Canada Day at Kitanoya Guu Garden

Click to add a blog post for Guu Garden on Zomato It can be a frustrating experience to go to a restaurant that's basically slammed and find they are short-staffed. Like the last time I went to Jamjar. Can it be that management genuinely did not expect it to be so busy?

Just home from Guu Garden this evening. Got there shortly after 7.30 pm and there was a slowly increasing lineup. Even after 9pm, new patrons were trickling in.
The staff were non-stop scurrying around. Our poor sweetheart server Seiko (?) was nevertheless unfailingly polite and patient. Not once did she look impatient or fail to give us service with a smile. I felt bad that all I could offer her was a few kind words slipped in whenever she came by, and a decent tip at the end.
There's a note on the faux wood menus that reads, "It is not rude to yell out 'sumimasen!' [excuse me] calling your server at Izakaya", but we didn't try it.

Also, despite the restaurant being so busy, none of our dishes looked like rush jobs or that any corners had been cut. This is the sort of service I really like about the better Japanese restaurants -- it's perfect or they don't give it to you.

So, kudos to the servers and boo to management that let them get yelled at by impatient patrons. To give management the benefit of the doubt, I am going to assume that they just couldn't hire enough people for Canada Day.
With so many patrons, service was understandably slow. We eventually flagged down a server to take our order, which trickled in tapas style. Fortunately most of us were in a here-have-a-bite-of-this sharing mood. The "fine print" on the menu (at least the online one) does say, "Food will be served when cooked, in traditional izakaya style".

Anyway, the restaurant has a lovely "rooftop" feel. We were seated outside, which turned out fine as the day was cooling already.

TIP: You can order bowls of rice ($1.50?).
So, while the portions can vary from smallish to moderate, you can "supersize" it into a filling meal by simply ordering a bowl of rice.
That said, a lot of the menu is under $10 and you could put together an okay meal with a couple of orders.

Bang Bang G ($6.80) chicken breast, onion, cucumber, and jellyfish salad with sesame dressing
  • With a name like that, of course I ordered it. I was told that it was a Korean dish. That was the explanation that came back when I asked the male server who brought the cash machine around to us.
  • Medium-light sized salad, which is good for the price, especially considering the mix of ingredients. Portion for price is good.
  • This was actually fresh and quite tasty. I think the jelly fish could have been even better if colder, like when served as a cold appetizer in a Chinese restaurant.
Lemon-marinated tuna with Honey Dew ($10.50)
  • Decent portion for price. Everything on the plate looked fresh.
  • This was one of the daily specials, so you might not see it again. Interesting for also using slices of honeydew for the contrast of sour lemon dressing with sweet melon, and to also give it a refreshing taste.
Gin Kama ($7 small, $12 large) grilled ginger-soy marinated black cod cheek
  • Slightly fishy tasting. Otherwise, fantastic.
  • Sweet sauce seared right on.
  • Fish cheek -- the most tender meat.
Gyu Karubi ($9 small, $16 large) grilled beef short ribs with house garlic sweet soy sauce, green onion, and garlic chips on top
  • If you consider only the grilling of the short ribs, I think Kibo Sushi gives you a slightly superior taste through their grilling. But they difference isn't enough to top the superior overall value for your money you get here at Guu Garden.
  • Is this tasty? Yes it is. A very safe choice if you don't know what to order.
Ton Toro ($8 small, $14 large) sea salt grilled pork cheek with yuzu ponzu
  • If you don't already know, each slice is mostly fat with a token amount of meat.
  • Fairly tasty all on its own. Probably even better with the sauce which I forgot to try when my friend let me sample her dish.
Fresh Orange Juice ($3)
  • Had a lot of pulp in it -- definitely came from a real orange crushed on site. Did not look like Tropicana.
  • Glass seemed to have a lot of ice in it, but at $3, it is already cheaper than just about every restaurant that is giving you what is probably Tropicana or Oasis.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Redeeming features to BG Urban Cafe (Metrotown)

Click to add a blog post for BG Urban Cafe on Zomato Some places have an awful location but are great (e.g., BETA5 and Audrey's Moment). Some places have a great location but are awful.

OK, BG Urban Cafe at Metrotown isn't exactly awful. But it's not ace. It does, however, have good things going for it.

  • It's big. You can fit a lot of people in there (which you can't say for just about every other chain cafe that comes to mind, right?), or easily find seating. Plus it's long so there's a long patio-ish sidewalk seating.
  • It's got parking. Tons of mall parking just around the corner.
  • Price is OK now that we have been thoroughly conditioned by Starbucks.
  • Free wifi. And since there aren't tons of people, you'll probably get a great connection.
  • Their "large" Dixie Cup drink size is wider than Starbucks but not by much. So it looks small because it looks short, but probably you are getting a Grande sized portion.
  • Inconsistent. I ordered their current promo, a cold red tea rooibos with five times the antioxidants of green tea. (Yay!)
    • Lemon: Lots of ice. But lemony. OK.
    • Mango: Chilled, but hardly any ice (so I guess I got more tea!). But where's my mango? Not OK. And even without ice, it tasted watered down. Hmm...
Not so okay:
  • It looks like staff went AWOL. I've been there twice and each time it looks like there's just one person. In this huge store. Working in the back. Once I had to lean over the counter to catch a glimpse of her and wave frantically (no, I did not want to holler  and draw too much attention).
If you are a foodie and are looking for a dining experience... what are you even doing in a chain cafe? If you are looking for a quiet place to relax, study, or work; moderately priced drinks and snacks while you are passing the hours; easy parking; free wifi... Give this place a try.

Some things surprisingly good at Notch8

Click to add a blog post for Notch8 Restaurant & Bar - The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on Zomato
Beautiful space with OK lighting until maybe 10 PM when they dim it down to romantic lounge lighting. The dimness and restaurant colours has the strange effect of giving the otherwise brightly lit renovated hotel a "black hole" right in the middle.
When you are inside, however, there's definitely an elevated dining ambiance. Seating is not tight so it is still possible to have a sense of privacy. Chairs are comfortable. Staff are seasoned.

NOTCH8 Signature Bread ($7) stout, comte cheese, mustard seed
  • How can bread possibly be worth $7? I ordered this as a joke to get the answer to that (just like I ordered Soffee Café's ham and cheese french toast at $11.75 to see what it's like).
  • Surprisingly good, BUT you have to eat it right away. If it gets cool or cold, it hardens very quickly and then it's just horrible.
    • That also means you can't really save it to mop up any tasty jus from your dinner.
  • You basically get a small loaf, so it's worth about a light dinner all on its own.
  • Strangely fun to tear apart -- it is lumps of bread pasted together with some mustard seed in the seams, and while very warm it is easy to tear discrete chunks off.
  • I would have liked this to hit the table even warmer than it was, but I can see issues with people burning their fingers and yelping about it (pun intended).
Asparagus Salad ($16) sugar peas, burrata, red endive
  • Hiding underneath the greens is the burrata cheese, so make sure you get some if you are sharing.
  • A decent portion. If you are a light eater, you might get away with this as a very light meal with room for dessert. I recommend this as a shared-by-three-persons appetizer.
  • Sharp and refreshing vinaigrette. Maybe a bit too sharp for me, but there's a nice refreshing quality.
  • Aroma is also awesome and you can get whiffs from it from a foot away.
  • Surprisingly good, maybe one of the best orders at our table.
Rotisserie Chicken ($33) heirloom carrots, fingerlings, bourbon molasses mustard
  • Half a chicken.
  • Really tender meat. Not super-juicy, but tender.
  • Really thin skin. You get the tasty roasted skin without the fatty layer.
Fire Roasted Daily Rotisserie Feature ($35) charred shallot mash, beans, roasting juices
  • On Tuesday, this is sirloin.
  • Four (?) slices of sirloin, about a quarter-inch thick. Maybe adds up to 12 oz?
  • Sorry -- this was hideously boring compared to ordering just about any other main. For your money you get slices of meat, mashed potato, and beans. I thought I was at the Hotel Vancouver, not The Keg.
  • Otherwise nothing wrong. If you are dining alone maybe it'll be fine but if you look at what everyone else is having, your plate may feel embarrassing.
  • If you want to go low-carb, ask for your mashed potatoes to be swapped, maybe with a very small salad (and check how much that is).
Grand Marnier Souffle ($15) crème anglaise; allow 20 minutes for preparation
  • At the time of writing this blog post, the Notch8 Dessert menu link returned an error, but you can still see the dessert menu by going to the Bar-Lounge menu.
  • Portion looks atrociously small for $15 -- approximately 3/4 cup in a tiny copper pot.
  • I think everyone at our table really loved this except me. I am probably being some sort of barbarian to say I thought it was just sort of eggy tasting and that dominated my experience.
Open Liquor ($7) non-alcoholic cocktail
  • I was looking through the mocktail list and asked which one was the weirdest. Our server said she was also a bartender and offered to custom-create something weird for me. I told her to keep it a mystery and just bring it out with extra straws for everyone to try.
  • Strangely there was a 10% "PLT - Alcohol" on the $7 cost even though it was non-alcoholic.
  • She put together a "Green Goddess", made with basil, cucumber, lime, some kind of herb (not cilantro, apparently), and a mysterious syrup from pre-Prohibition Days.
  • Nice palate-cleansing refreshing taste. Worked like a lemonade but with more character.
We were five so I wasn't surprised the kitchen felt a bit slow. Our server was confident, friendly, and engaging.
Prior to arriving I let the restaurant know a few days ahead that we had a birthday in our party. I thought they might just acknowledge her with a happy birthday and maybe a birthday song and pay special attention to her. But they also gave her a little ganache cake (about 3"x3"x2"!) and two chocolate macarons! Magically, that did not appear on my bill. This was definitely way more than I expected.