Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Chickpea Restaurant



Still thinking vegan and there were intriguing-sounding things on the menu, so I decided to try the Chickpea sit-down restaurant (not the food cart). Interesting choice of locations as it's right next door to also-vegetarian Meet on Main.

Busy starting around 6pm till maybe 8.30pm, so best bet is to squeeze in early or resign yourself to a later-night snack. Table turnaround doesn't look that bad, though, but you might be waiting outside the door as the waiting area isn't that big.

Style of food is similar to that popularized by places such as Nuba and Jamjar, so nothing too weird and meat-eating friends out for Lebanese probably won't care. A good gathering place as it's vegan with gluten-free option -- this is pretty lowest-common-denominator food nowadays.

ChickTea ($3.50) mint, ginger, organic sugar, and lemon
  • Pass on this if you are are used to stronger-tasting pouch teas. If you do get it, let it steep for a long time or it will taste like hot water.
  • Tasted like hot water with a hint of mint. Hopefully you will have better luck if you let it steep longer.
  • Teacup cute but had what I hope was just tea residue in it. If the dishwasher didn't catch it the server should have as the second line of defense. Fail.
2017-Aug-30 - Chickpea - tea (?) residue in the teacup they brought me

2017-Aug-30 - Chickpea - Chicktea

Cauliflower of Life, hummus plate option ($16), gluten-free option
  • The hummus plate portion is "organic hummus, medley of fresh vegetables in olive-oil-lemon dressing, with pita bread, and a pickle on the side".
  • TIP: If you are converting your order to gluten free, check what you will get instead of pita. The sidebar says, "Make any dish gluten-free with Chickpea fries instead of a pita", but when I asked for my hummus plate to be gluten-free, I got a small salad instead of pita, and not fries. My "pickle on the side" was at the very bottom of this salad, and red from the piece of beet hiding there as well.
  • Cauliflower advertised as "melt-in-your-mouth roasted cauliflower". But no, it wasn't. Fail. Tasted like bland steamed cauliflower with hints of lemon from the "lemon-garlic sauce and classic tahini". The hummus on the plate was tastier than this main. Pass on this and order something else.
  • For $16 you do get a good chunk of hummus and even without any pita it can be a pretty filling portion. If you don't think you can finish, eat strategically to take most of the hummus home.
2017-Aug-30 - Chickpea - Cauliflower of Life (hummus plate)

Sabich
  • This was my friend's order and I believe she got the Platter ($16).
  • I was initially intrigued by this with it's promise of "flawlessly fried, crunchy eggplant", but our server waffled on whether it was crispy. Turned out the thinly sliced eggplant coated in something was nowhere close to crispy. No part of the limp slice I tried was crispy. Maybe it might have been crispy briefly out of the fryer, but when it hit the table, it just wasn't. Fail.
  • The slice of eggplant I got to try tasted nothing special.
2017-Aug-30 - Chickpea - Sabich platter

2017-Aug-30 - Chickpea - piece of supposedly crispy eggplant from Sabich

Chickpea Fries
  • TIP: If your order includes chickpea fries, make sure they come hot, not lukewarm. You risk them being oily but they taste better hot.
  • Thin crunchy shell holding a creamy interior. Tastes like something bland with enough salt added to make the whole thing tasty, but not enough to be too salty.
  • Strangely, didn't even taste like chickpea. But it's fun and tasty in the way deep-fried and salted things are tasty.
  • We got a separate small order of please-be-hot chickpea fries, and it looks like those come inconsistently tossed with a sweet chili sauce which went well with them.
2017-Aug-30 - Chickpea - chickpea fries

2017-Aug-30 - Chickpea - chickpea fries creamy interior

Overall, the core food (hummus, salad, falafel) is nothing special. You would have to have a really refined palate for that kind of food to really discern whether their hummus is better than that of any other decent restaurant.
The actual "special" component about the dishes (at least those we tried) were over-hyped on the menu and that lost marks from me. $16 for a plate of hummus is too much. Additional points lost for the teacup.

Overall for taste and price I'd recommend JamJar's tasting plate instead. Might have to work out something with them if you need to go gluten-free though.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tour de Feast Avocado Toast

Tour de Feast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato You may have seen this week's Georgia Straight article on Avocado Toast and be inspired to get Avocado Toast if you happen to be at Tour de Feast.

STOP.

Yelp reviews do seem to point out the toast (and for fair reason since the dish is quite tasty) BUT it's NOT the same thing the Georgia Straight is talking about.
At Tour de Feast, it's more like a toast composition with some avocado on the side. You also get a bigger place that a slice of toast with green mush on top.

Worth getting? Yeah, *maybe* even at the $14.50 price point. But if you are hoping for avocado styled onto toast like the picture in the Georgia Straight article... Nope.

Avocado Toast ($14.50) choice of bacon strips or sausage, and crisps or salad
  • The avocado tucked in the side looks like an afterthought to make this "Avocado Toast".
  • Looks plain and overpriced, so you will probably surprised that this is actually really quite tasty -- probably in all the easily overlooked parts like a bit of heat in the sauce over the tomatoes, and the herbs on the potatoes.
  • Wasn't paying enough attention to realize no one at our table got crisps to compare. Duh. But the token salad served on its own, ahead of the dish itself, looked woefully small. But obviously the salad isn't supposed to be the main part of your dish, so I think serving it this way is a really unfortunate choice that can have people thinking the wrong way.
  • Does NOT count as a sandwich even though it's in the same column on the menu, so it does not qualify to be upsized into their sandwich-and-soup combo.
2017-Aug-20 Tour de Feast - avocado toast

2017-Aug-20 Tour de Feast - avocado toast

2017-Aug-20 Tour de Feast - salad option from avocado toast

Tea Cakes and Ice Cream ($10) everything made in-house
  • Interesting crumbly ice cream. Happily it didn't melt so quickly in the heat, probably thanks to the chilled tile serving plate.
  • Three small cakes but taste and texture of each cake was actually very nice.
2017-Aug-20 Tour de Feast - tea cake trio

Food presentation is rather good but attention to detail could make the overall experience better: Like wiping the sauce smudges off the edge of my salad plate; and not printing the daily special menu on paper with something crossed out on the other side of the sheet. And no thanks to other customers their brunch menu looks really ratty now. When they redo it, hopefully they catch the typos that linger.

Overall feels a little pricey but not by much. Probably taking advantage of their current popularity -- but what restaurant doesn't do that? At least not over-the-top.
Easy to walk-in for Sunday brunch. Looked pretty quiet at 10 AM but steadily busy starting around 10:30 AM.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Nightingale

Nightingale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato So this happened at Nightingale tonight: Our server tells us their pizza are "big" because they are 12-inch. At 12", that is at the larger end of Neapolitan-style pizza, sure. But by any other yardstick, a thin 12" pizza for $17 is not "big".
Maybe she was trying to set our expectations, or maybe it was just a reminder of price inflation / paying for name / paying for ambiance / whatever you want to call it.

It's family-style / tapas-style, which is pretty much synonymous for wanting you to order several items per person to share, meaning your bill is going to be about 2-4 times what the average menu price looks like. For Nightingale, it's gonna look like $45 before tax and tip.
Four is a good number. Any more and each dish needs to be more or less doubled up for everyone to have a good bite.

Cranberry Ginger ($6 non-alcoholic)
  • Not a bad substitution on the somewhat commonly seen ginger lemonade.
  • Good bite but not so much as to linger in the back of the throat.
  • Mostly drink, not that much ice, unlike some places that can stack your drink at half ice.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - cranberry ginger

Baked sweet potato, jalapeño, crispy prosciutto, crème fraîche, scallion ($12)
  • It's just bacon bits on a sweet potato. Really.
  • Recommend you pass on this as there are more interesting things to order. But if you do get it and want any chance of this not tasting just like a creamy sweet potato, make sure you HEAP those bacon bits on. We had to cut and share our pieces so I didn't get that experience and I can't guarantee you it won't still taste like sweet potato, but you'll be less disappointed at paying $12.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - sweet potato

2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - sweet potato

Oven roasted cauliflower, sunflower seed, green harissa ($12)
  • Good and interesting flavour, and nice colours especially with the use of purple cauliflower.
  • Not so roasted that you taste too much charring which can really ruin something like this in a hurry.
  • Interesting green paste that looks like pesto but tastes like curry. Has some spicy-heat buzz but not so much and nothing that lingers in the mouth.
  • Winner. Get this and don't share.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - cauliflower

Grilled duck hearts & gizzards, kumquat, shiso, pink peppercorn, dark soy ($14)
  • Good charring on the duck bits if you like that flavour. However, if you only like that, then order something else for $14. I'm sure you can get that BBQ taste experience elsewhere more cheaply.
  • If you use the sauce and garnishes where the complexity of the dish comes in, watch out. Kumquat bits were overpoweringly bitter enough to ruin it for me.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - duck hearts and gizzards

2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - duck hearts and gizzards

Pacific halibut ceviche, avocado, radish, lime, shiso, crispy quinoa ($18)
  • Looks pretty, and crispy quinoa is fun.
  • Pieces of halibut so small (each piece is around the size of two kernals of corn) and hidden under everything it's honestly hard to tell how much fish you're getting and how much pretty garnishing. (Can you even spot any fish in my picture?)
  • Taste is okay though hard to assemble with the fish. Felt more like eating a fancy salad.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - halibut ceviche

Black truffle, zucchini, fontina, fior di latte, ricotta salata ($24)
  • Dunno what those black flakes are but honestly it looked like something charred instead of truffle. In any case the truffle flavour and aroma were faint -- which is not good for a black truffle pizza. For $24, pass.
  • Of course you don't want to overdo the truffle flavour and overpower the richness, but at the same time a truffle pizza shouldn't predominantly taste like pizza crust with melted butter spread on it.
  • Yes, I know there are other ingredients on the pizza. But every bite still tasted like pizza crust with melted butter.
  • I've seen pictures where it's terribly blackened at the edges but ours turned out quite okay. I even checked the bottom and no it wasn't burnt.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - truffle pizza

2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - truffle pizza

Grilled octopus, mustard greens, chickpea, lemon aioli ($19)
  • I got to try just one piece of octopus and overall the dressing on this was pretty decent.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - octopus

2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - octopus

2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - octopus

Cavatelli, braised lamb, roasted tomato, green garlic, caper, pecorino ($16 small, $24 large)
  • We got the $24 large plate to share. Yeah, the pictures are for the LARGE plate of pasta, so if you're hoping for a cheap carb to help make your meal a filling one for your party, think again.
  • Pasta had good firmness. In any case, pasta just brings sauce to your mouth so don't worry too much about the shape.
  • Of the sample I got, the tastiness of the sauce was hovering around slightly better than average since most tomato-based sauces are too salty. This one wasn't.
  • Recommend passing on this one to get something more interesting. At a place (and price) like Nightingale, I recommend against anything that ultimately tastes too much like something pedestrian. Go for the interesting compositions.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - cavatelli

2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - cavatelli

Seared albacore tuna, green bean, crispy chickpea, green olive, romesco sauce ($24)
  • Nice COLD dish that works IF you are careful about using too much of the sauce as it can be salty enough to kill this dish.
  • Crunchy chickpeas were a fun touch.
  • Pricey but worth trying.
2017-Aug-14 - Nightingale - tuna

2017-Aug-14 - Nightingale - tuna

Spaghetti, manila clam, jalapeno, scallionm, white wine ($14 small, $22 large)
  • My photos show the LARGE order. We were six and by the time it got to the last two persons in our party of six, there was barely any pasta left for a tablespoon. I'm not supposed to have shellfish so I passed on it anyway. Just be aware of the portion for the price. Even for four persons, you won't get much of a good taste with the large order.
2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - spaghetti with manila clams

2017-Aug-14 Nightingale - spaghetti with manila clams

Service tried to be attentive but I think overall they were still understaffed on a busy Monday. If there is a long pause between dishes it seems they do try to get in there and get you fresh sharing plates -- which honestly is very nice because of all the sauces all over the place.
After our orders maybe things got busy because it was hard to find our server to order dessert. In the end we had stayed so long that some of our party had to go and we had to pass on dessert. In any case, we were nearing two hours and with others waiting either for their reservation or to get a table as a walk-in, I personally felt conscious of just sitting at an empty table with nothing in front of us.

Music is loud upstairs so watch out if you want to chat with your dining party. Seemed to get louder after 7pm.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Queso Fundido at La Mezcaleria

La Mezcaleria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato I've had Queso Fundido at a couple of places (Glowbal and The Mexican) and so far Glowbal's done it the best. Why? The main reason is it's hot and stays sizzling hot for a long time. This keeps your cheese goopy and tasty, and helps you get some seared cheese on the sides of the stone bowl.

Tried it tonight at La Mezcaleria and it was disappointing for so many reasons. Price was probably the worst -- at $26 you might be able to make it a meal for one, but you're also more likely to get much better and tastier for your money. And at $26 (for the one with ground Mexican chorizo, the only meat-optioned one) it cost twice as much as at Glowbal or The Mexican, for a comparable portion of cheese in a big but thick-walled shallow bowl.

It came to the table sizzling but strangely with very little seared cheese on the sides of the volcanic stone bowl. Our server pointed out the seared cheese being a delicacy and I was also definitely looking forward to it. But it was actually really hard to find any, and I think the sheer oiliness of the cheese they used actually prevented the cheese from forming a crust.

The cheese cooled down very, very, quickly. Shortly into it we even asked for the bowl to be reheated to try to get the cheese searing but when it came back it just wasn't any better.

Served with three dips -- a watery green avocado, a smoky chili, and a really hot pineapple habenero. I actually recommend the pineapple one. The cheese and taco shell provided to eat the cheese with will absorb some of the heat, leaving you with the refreshing pineapple to offset any heaviness from the cheese or oil.

Total waste of time and money. I would recommend you check Glowbal first if you really want Queso Fundido and maybe get it during their happy hour, but it looks like it's gone from their online menu.

All their Queso Fundido are gluten-free.
TIP: If you are having trouble scooping up a manageable portion of cheese with a spoon, try rolling it up with a fork like spaghetti.

Service was friendly and conscientious if a little bit uncoordinated -- you might get different servers checking in on you but hey, at least they are all paying attention and making sure you are being served.

2017-Aug-8 La Mezcaleria - Queso Fundido

2017-Aug-8 La Mezcaleria - Queso Fundido

2017-Aug-8 La Mezcaleria - Queso Fundido

2017-Aug-8 La Mezcaleria - Queso Fundido

2017-Aug-8 La Mezcaleria - Queso Fundido

2017-Aug-8 La Mezcaleria - Queso Fundido sauces

2017-Aug-8 La Mezcaleria

Keefer Bar Happy Hour

The Keefer Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Got dragged to the Keefer Bar for their happy hour (Sunday to Friday). Not a bad deal (2-for-1 food) except you have to buy a drink with it and I'm not a drinker. So she had the drink, I had a non-alcoholic beverage, we shared the two food plates -- and somehow we ended up splitting the bill in half which meant I walked out feeling having overpaid. Which was actually not the case.

Food is okay with some nice points and there's a decent selection of gluten-free choices. Nothing that really stands out but decent in taste and portion at full price -- meaning it's really good value during 2-for-1 happy hour, which is at a very convenient 5pm-7pm -- dinner right after work.
It's all small plates and it doesn't look like you can put together a dinner, but you actually CAN and at a good price during happy hour! So just patiently order and order again. Two of the larger plates can possibly add up to a fairly filling meal and you're topping it at $10 for two plates during happy hour.

Tacos ($10 for two tacos; choose from 3 flavours)
  • We opted for the Lapsang Smoked Pork Taco. Looks like pulled pork but it's NOT! It's smoked! So don't expect gratuitous savory-sweet BBQ sauce.
  • Sample it first of course but I definitely recommend both the lime and a bit of the sweet onion relish.
2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Lapsang Smoked Pork Taco

2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Lapsang Smoked Pork Taco

2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Lapsang Smoked Pork Taco

2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Lapsang Smoked Pork Taco

2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Peking Duck Sliders

Peking Duck Sliders ($10 for two)
  • Doesn't look like much so open it up and hopefully you'll find what I did -- a generously thick slab of duck.
  • Works out to slightly more than a burger.
  • Cucumber cilantro pineapple relish inside mostly tasted like pineapple, and not so much of it to cover up your duck. Pretty good combo with the duck.
  • Tender, moist duck. But where's my tasty Peking Duck skin? Isn't that the point of Peking duck?
2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Peking Duck Sliders

I tried to sit up my duck slab to show you how thick it is. You do have to also take in account the slice not being fully the same circumference of the bun though.

2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Peking Duck Sliders

Fantasy Island #2 ($14) Absolut Elyx, Happy wine, pomegranate, strawberry rhubarb tea, lemon egg white
  • My friend's drink order. She was happy enough with it to consider getting something else but in the end we opted for more food.
2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Fantasy Island #2

Fantasy Island blend, soda ($6)
  • Supposedly similar to the cocktail but minus the alcohol.
  • Waste of time. A fruity pop (like Fanta, maybe) would have been cheaper and tasted better.
2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Fantasy Island (non-alcoholic)

2017-Aug-8 Keefer Bar - Fantasy Island (non-alcoholic)