Thursday, April 28, 2016

SPAGHeTEI interesting and varied

Spaghetei Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Finally got around to trying SPAGHeTEI, the Japanese take on spaghetti.
It's a small space that can get quite popular. Even so, seat spacing is really quite good, and you don't get a squashed-in feeling common to many places now.
Went on a Thursday night and there was just one frantic waitress on the floor.

English over the phone while making my reservation was also quite poor and my reservation ended up being scrambled from 8 persons to 8pm. Best to show up in person to make a reservation unless you're speaking Japanese.

Apparently you can't get a pot of tea here, but hot green tea is complimentary.
Of the spaghetti I tried, each has a very different character, so if you can, go in a small group and try various types. In the end I found the taste mediocre, but bonus points for interestingness and a lunchtime happy hour when you can get their most popular spaghetti at just under $10, plus other discounts.

Green Garlic Bread
  • You get one piece per person for free of this once you've placed your order.
  • The green part doesn't taste like anything at all.
  • Tastes like butter plus something sweet melted in there. Sugar maybe.
2016-Apr-24 SPAGHeTEI - complimentary garlic bread

Double Meat Sauce ($12) Our signature meat sauce with sliced beef topped with diced boiled egg.
  • Of the ones I tried, this sweet sauce made it closest to a "normal" spaghetti. A safe choice but also boring as a result.
2016-Apr-24 SPAGHeTEI - double meat sauce

The Small Barayaki (-$1; on the left) isn't significantly less than the Large Barayaki (+$1; picture on the right), so super-sizing an order didn't seem worth it to me. However, downsizing to get it at $1 less generally just loses you some pasta, which isn't a bad idea. Doesn't look like a lot of meat/toppings lost.

2016-Apr-24 SPAGHeTEI - barayaki - small (left), large (right)

Barayaki ($13) Pan fried beef and onions with barayaki sauce (teriyaki-like sauce).
  • Some flavour to the noodles but not enough so that it's somewhat bland. You could try the spicy chili powder or parmesan available at the table if you run out of beef to accompany each bite.
  • Quite sweet beef, tender and thinly sliced. The highlight of the dish and tasty.
2016-Apr-24 SPAGHeTEI - barayaki (large)

Mentaiko ($13) Mentaiko (cod roe), shrimp, and assorted muchrooms topped with dried seaweed.
  • The cod roe is extensively mixed into the noodles.
  • For me, this was more interesting than tasty. Wouldn't order it again now that I've tried it.
  • Texture has basically no sauce in the noodles.
2016-Apr-24 SPAGHeTEI - mentaiko (regular)

Crème brûlée ($4.80)
  • Sizable deep-dish portion for a low price, compared to crème brûlée you could get elsewhere.
  • Tasted like a decently done crème brûlée. Nothing wrong here and price is excellent for portion.
2016-Apr-24 SPAGHeTEI - creme brulee

Powder Snow Milk Syrup ($4.50)
  • How the frozen milk is shaved makes it like powdery snow.
  • Fun to eat and price is OK but toppings are quite boring.
2016-Apr-24 SPAGHeTEI - powder snow milk syrup

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tonight for Tomorrow charity dining event

Just got an e-mail from Mealshare today regarding their charity dining event on May 18th! Here's the blurb:
I hope all is amazing on your end. Have anything new or exciting to report?
I wanted to reach out and tell you about, Tonight For Tomorrow, Mealshare’s first ever fundraiser/our biggest event ever! It will be a decentralized fundraiser happening on May 18th across 12+ restaurants in Vancouver (and a bunch in Calgary). For every dollar spent on dinner that night, one dollar will be donated to Mealshare to help us grow. How amazing is that?!?! This event will have a massive impact on Mealshare and the youth we help, so I’d really LOVE your help spreading the word.
Many of Vancouver's most prominent city landmarks and buildings (ie BC Place, Science World, and many more) will be light up orange in support of our big event. It will be an evening of delicious food, prizes, and impact!
To help generate a buzz, we've created "The Most Delicious Petition Ever" where people can sign up and commit to dining out that night to help fight youth hunger. Here’s our pop-up site and the petition is near the top of the page.
Ideally, we'd love it if you'd share our link to the petition through your mailing list and/or your social media handles (I’ve attached a resource package, which will make this very easy). And, if you're in town on May 18th it would be awesome if maybe you and a group of people could go and eat at Fortune House as they are actually creating 3 different Mealshare set menus for the evening!
Here’s the FB event link, please feel free to invite friends and family. 
Thanks so much in advance for all your support!
The 12 participating restaurants in Greater Vancouver at this time are:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Yves Veggie Cuisine - Family Pack Veggie Burgers (vegan)

Bought a pack of Yves Veggie Cuisine Family Pack Veggie Burgers from Save-on-Foods on sale at $8 -- which works out to $1 per patty. Patties are acceptably moderate sized and don't shrink when heated up.

Aroma of pan-heated burger is strangely like dried shrimp, flavour was sort of wheaty and like cornmeal. Texture was very good as a burger substitute, however, and was like a tender patty.

Overall I would bury this under other tasty burger fillings as the patty itself isn't very tasty. If you want a tasty patty, go for something more exotic like mushroom or that is curried (like Relish, which has a really decent one). Alternatively, Yves Veggie Cuisine does have a line of gluten-free burgers of different flavours.

Note this particular product is not gluten-free. Probably last of the stock being sold in preparation for getting the new gluten-free flavours.

Yves Veggie Cuisine - Family Pack Veggie Burgers (vegan)

Yves Veggie Cuisine - Family Pack Veggie Burgers (vegan)

Yves Veggie Cuisine - Family Pack Veggie Burgers (vegan)

Yves Veggie Cuisine - Family Pack Veggie Burgers (vegan)

Yves Veggie Cuisine - Family Pack Veggie Burgers (vegan)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

PappaRoti not a regular roti

PappaRoti Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato I'm a sucker for rotis of all kinds, so I was sort of weirdly disappointed that PappaRoti had buns and not flatbreads. But still, I went in...

The space is an airy and bright cafe, including a big communal table. Quite busy with people camped out with laptops, probably taking advantage of the free WiFi (password "karaktea").
It's also quite big, and if you go deeper, there's shadier seating.

Service was mixed. The counter girl manning the till was surly and maybe slightly hard of hearing. The European-looking gentleman was more professional -- and I really liked the fact that he intercepted my order of the Chocoliva topping to give me a sample first, saying that his own experience hadn't been what he expected at all. It definitely was a different flavour, so I really appreciated his concern and consideration.

Karak Tea ($3.80 small, $4.95 large) Originating in South Asia, this specialty tea is brewed with aromatic Indian spices and herbs. Combined with condensed milk, cardamom and freshly ground ginger, this tea was made specifically for PappaRoti Cafes.
  • Had a promising ginger aroma, but turned out terribly disappointing -- like a weak chai with somewhat weak ginger flavor. Definitely no ginger burn.
  • As for a spoon and STIR! Found out too late that a good portion of the condensed milk had settled at the bottom.
Bun + 1 topping ($4.75)
Bun + 2 toppings ($6.00)
  • I went with the chocoliva topping, which I found only on the TV screen above the order counter. It's one of the rotating ads.
    • Curious flavour to try -- not super-chocolatey, and has a touch of olive oil flavour, but also not very powerful. So you get some chocolate flavour, but it's not too rich.
    • Overall I'd recommend just going for chocolate and using less instead of this weird chocolate + olive oil concoction. Maybe ask for a sample before you commit.
  • It doesn't look like they give you a lot of topping, but it's actually more than enough.
    • You could try just having one person get a topping and then sharing it.
    • Using any of the toppings kind of kills the natural flavour of the bun, which is already quite good. Perfectly good on its own with a coffee or something.
  • The bun itself is very nice. Comes toasty warm, and has a delicious sweet-but-not-too-sweet crust.
  • Inside it's so fluffy! Overall fun to eat except for the crumbs.
  • As a unique treat it's great the first time but the price point really deters going again except to bring a Papparoti virgin there. There are other cheaper or similarly-priced options. What PappaRoti has is uniqueness.
2016-Apr-21 PappaRoti - small and large karak tea

2016-Apr-21 PappaRoti - roti, ice cream, kaya

2016-Apr-21 PappaRoti - roti, chocoliva

2016-Apr-21 PappaRoti - inside a roti

2016-Apr-21 PappaRoti - plant with creepy root

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Simba's Grill

Simba's Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Simba's Grill is an East African restaurant. The "African" part has a lot of mystique to it since most African restaurants are basically Ethiopian. Unfortunately, there is a very strong Indian influence to East African cuisine, so it's really hard or impossible to separate comparing them.
Going in, try NOT to compare them -- you are not truly going for Indian food, so drop those expectations. If you really want Indian food, just go to an Indian restaurant.

Muhogo ($8) deep fried cassava root
  • Recommended by the server as the most distinctly African dish.
  • We were asked if we wanted "mild, medium, or spicy". The fries were just noticeably salty when I asked for medium. They did however bring two fairly-to-really spicy sauces, a mango chili and a pili pili sauce.
  • Overall pretty good. Not as dense as potato. Crispy and not oily.
2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill - Muhogo

A trio of sauces is brought to your table when you order: Yogurt, coconut, tamarind. We got a yellow-coloured mango chili sauce (barely any mango flavour for me) and a quite hot red-coloured pili pili sauce came with our cassava fries.
The yogurt is very useful for clearing your palate if it's burning from the hot sauces.

2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill - condiments

Naan ($1.50)
  • We asked for naan instead of rice to go with our curries. Looked suspiciously like store bought flatbread, grilled and cut into quarters.
2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill - two orders of naan

Machicha Masala ($15) spinach cooked in tomato curry; with chicken breast, prawns, or lamb
  • Despite the word "curry", there's no spicy heat here at all.
  • Server described it as "melt-in-your-mouth" lamb, so I chose the lamb option.
  • I found the chunks of lamb fairly big and though tender, not THAT tender.
  • Overall tasted sort of boring. I used some of the coconut sauce and pili pili sauce that came with the cassava to jazz it up a bit.
  • Price for portion is high compared to a curry in an Indian restaurant. Apparently comes with NO SIDE and rice is $4!
2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill - Machicha Masala (with lamb)

Paka ($15) chicken breast, tilapia fillet, or prawns; cooked in coconut curry
  • Very watery curry with no spicy heat. Because of the watery-ness, best with rice. Would have been nice to be warned.
  • Exactly 5 prawns with the prawn option.
  • Strong coconut flavour makes it fairly tasty, but price for portion is too weak when alternative coconutty curries are available. Apparently comes with NO SIDE and rice is $4!
2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill

Lamu Cheesecake ($7) original cheesecake served with mango, pistachio, and almonds
  • Tasted like cheesecake. Nothing special here.
  • Lots of mango puree (?) that flattened the flavour of the nuts.
  • Nothing special here, and at $7 makes it closer to Yaletown price for the portion you get. You do get a lot of mango puree, though.
2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill - Lamu Cheese Cake

Free after-dinner chocolate that is like an After Eight (chocolate plus mint).

2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill - after-dinner chocolate mint

The chef personally goes round to the tables to take your order. Seemed like a very stiff, almost sour, fellow with very short answers. Servers much friendlier and more personable.

TIP: Window seats are in range of free #TELUS wifi somewhere in the neighbourhood.

TIP: Look for the upside down table!

2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill

2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill

2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill

2016-Apr-19 - Simba's Grill

Monday, April 18, 2016

XLB two ways at Shanghai Dimsum House

Shanghai Dimsum House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato After renovations, Xu's Wonton House is now Shanghai Dimsum House. Menu looks the same. Went back with a friend today and this time I also tried the pan fried version.

1. Bayulan Steamed Mini Pork Buns ($4.95 for 5)
  • Tasty (and slightly fatty tasting?), flavourful broth inside.
7. Shanghai Style Pan Fried Pork Buns ($5.55 for 5)
  • The golden-brown bottom looks suspiciously deep-fried. In any case, quite crispy in parts and that it can therefore snap and cause the soup to spill out.
  • Basically you get a fried texture and flavour to #1 for just 60 cents more. The modest cost is really good enough that you should consider it, especially for take-out. Steamed buns don't travel very well in my opinion.
Depending on your appetite, one or two plates is enough for a meal, so you are looking at a mere $4.95 to $10.50 for lunch. Tasty, and great value!

Counter service was pretty crappy toward my non-asian friend. The server managed to avoid eye contact for a long time even though she was already right at the counter waiting to order--to the extent that I had the vibe she was hoping my friend would leave, maybe so she wouldn't have to deal with an English-speaking customer (?).

2016-Apr-18 Shanghai Dimsum House

2016-Apr-18 Shanghai Dimsum House - #1 and #7

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sad bread at Notch8

Notch8 Restaurant & Bar - The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato I really, really hate it when I have a great dish, talk it up with friends... but when I drag them there the restaurant lets me down with substandard production.

Notch8 Signature Bread ($7) stout, comte cheese, mustard seed
  • Somehow this didn't feel as fresh out of the oven as last time (was this sitting around for a while and heat lamped?) but still pretty tasty. Would definitely have been better hotter.
  • Can my bread at least stand up straight? Losing marks for presentation here.
  • Pull-apart chunks came free much better this time. Chunks are much more uniform.
2016-Apr-14 Notch8 - Notch8 bread

2016-Apr-14 Notch8 - pull-apart slice of Notch8 bread

Snacks (free)
  • Mid-way through our bread appy two generous free bowls of snacks were brought to our table.
2016-Apr-14 Notch8 - free snacks

They didn't bother to start us with water until we ordered drinks and an appy. I hope this is not a sad new trend among restaurants.
Neither my friend nor myself are drinkers so we went with mocktails.

Sparkling Blackberry Limeade ($8) fresh lime, blackberry syrup, soda
  • Tasted like limeade.
  • I would have liked to stir in the syrup, except all that ice (half my glass?!) made it hard. Duh.
  • $3.50 mocktail at Trattoria is still the champ.
Lacklustre service, poor presentation on the bread and too much ice in an $8 mocktail... Sadly I have to reduce my rating for Notch8. If I'm gonna be charged about $24 (after tax, before tip) for two drinks and an appy, it's got to be better than this.

2016-Apr-14 Notch8 - sparkling blackberry limeade mocktail

This was my friend's Pineapple Cucumber Fizz ($8) mocktail - fresh cucumber, pineapple, lemon soda. I did not ask to try it.

2016-Apr-14 Notch8 - pineapple cucumber fizz mocktail

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Siddhartha's Kitchen smoky texture eggplant

Siddhartha's Indian Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Back to Siddhartha's Indian Kitchen! It was a pretty spontaneous whim on the part of my friend. Luckily I had my previous blog post on Siddhartha's to remind me of what I had had before.

Vegetable Pakora ($6.50)
  • Nothing special tasting here. Price feels sort of high for what you get.
2016-Apr-10 - Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen - vegetable pakora

Smoked Eggplant Curry ($12.50)
  • Dish name says "smoked eggplant" but description says roasted eggplant with smoky TEXTURE. What is a "smoky texture"?
  • Pulpy. No thin curry here.
  • Salty.
  • Where's my smoky aroma, flavour, or "texture"?
2016-Apr-10 - Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen - Smoky Eggplant curry

"Naan instead" ($2)
  • Asked for garlic butter naan instead of roti, which normally comes with curry (roti + rice). Told her if it couldn't be done, just give us an order of garlic butter naan.
  • No buttery aroma or taste, and definitely no garlic. Hmm. My guess is they forgot to change it to garlic butter naan and just gave us regular boring naan.
2016-Apr-10 - Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen - naan

Mango Lemonade ($3)
  • Description said mango mousse with mint and lemonade.
  • Where's my mint and lemonade?
  • Tasted like mango syrup.
2016-Apr-10 - Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen - mango lemonade

Pearl Castle Cafe ginseng honey grapefruit tea

Pearl Castle Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Sheesh, I didn't even know Pearl Castle Cafe existed in the Old Orchard Shopping Centre!

Small space, nice and bright decor. Servers very alert tonight -- I can't even glance around to take in the room without catching their eye and having them immediately veer toward my position!

Ginseng Honey Grapefruit Tea ($5.95)
  • There's definitely ginseng inside the pot, but I can't really taste it.
  • Quite sweet, no grapefruit bitterness.
  • Overall tasted like a honey-citrus sort of drink. Disappointing for the lack of ginseng flavour so I can't really recommend ordering it.
2016-Apr-10 - Pearl Castle Cafe (Metrotown) - ginseng honey grapefruit tea

2016-Apr-10 - Pearl Castle Cafe (Metrotown) - wall that changes colours

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

BierCraft can make tofu tasty

BierCraft Tap and Tapas Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Came to BierCraft (Commercial Drive) for an official Yelp social with free appies plus one I tried to order but Yelp ended up paying for it anyway (thank you!). So, I didn't pay for anything, but I'm not obligated to BierCraft either.

Overall, prices are daunting for food and portions that are just OK... BUT! -- they do have some surprising things here and there that nets them bonus points.

You get bowls of popcorn dusted with... something (curry?) when you've placed your order.

Chicken Wings ($13) One pound of Fraser Valley natural raised wings: Mumbai sauce with mint mango raita or hot sauce with lime cilantro crema.

  • Picture below is NOT a typically sized order. We had shared appies, so I think they split a single order into multiple share plates across our long table.
  • Wings dry on the inside. Overfried, I guess. Probably a fluke.
  • Unless different plates got different things, I'm pretty sure we got the mumbai sauce on our wings since it wasn't spicy at all.
  • Each wing generously coated with sauce.
  • That mint mango dip is really good! Interesting and tasty.

Phillip's Dare Devil Orange Cream Soda ($5.50)
Tofu Stix ($7.50) Crispy fried tofu batons, sambal chili glazed, sweet and spicy ketchup

  • I hate tofu, especially the dull flavour and annoying slight bitter aftertaste. So obviously I had to try this, especially as it's labelled "crispy". Plus I don't see tofu so brazenly advertised often.
  • The sticks look soggy, but just under the generous glaze there's a cracker-hard coat that gives you deep fried crunchy fun. And this shell did NOT go soggy on us quickly.
  • Inside is just tofu. Meh. Which proves that tofu, like pasta, is really just there to convey other tasty things to your mouth.
  • The ketchup looked slightly more watery than, say, Heinz. And tasted like ketchup.
  • Amazing that they made tofu reasonably tasty for me.

2016-Apr-5 Biercraft - wings, mint & mango dip

2016-Apr-5 Biercraft - tofu stix

2016-Apr-5 Biercraft - tofu stix cross-section

2016-Apr-5 Biercraft - group table

2016-Apr-5 Biercraft - Orange Cream soda