Thursday, August 22, 2019

Atlas Steak + Fish

ATLAS Steak + Fish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Yelp's making me work really hard this month, with yet another Yelp Elite Event. This time at ATLAS Steak + Fish at the Grand Villa Casino for a weekday lunch. Atlas is open for lunch now and they're introducing it to us obviously to get the word out.

Restaurants in hotels often have a rough go and you see renos and a new name in the same spot every few years. However Atlas has apparently already made a name for themselves, and some of our members attested to having had excellent company functions and catered events through them.

DISCLAIMER: We got free stuff. Not just a sample of their lunch but a gift pack of two steak knives and a 30%-off-lunch coupon. That said, if we come back to use the coupon (maximum party size of six) I'm sure they'll have made back their investment easily. And the steak knives look like the same ones diners use, so they are probably replacement stock they have on hand anyway.

Décor is not super-wow but for lunch it was bright, airy, and upscale. It doesn't quite have that magical something that elevates places like Black + Blue or Notch8 or Glowbal, but you won't be embarrassed bringing anyone there for fine dining.

Of course with the ambiance you can expect that the menu will come in at the higher end than your mom and pop restaurant for lunch, but hovering at around $20, the premium you pay for the ambiance is more than made up in the food, which I felt had good attention to the senses -- taste of course, but especially sight (presentation) and smell. Apparently they really like their Josper Oven and the results in their smoked mushrooms and chicken is clear and bold in flavour and aroma.

Steak & Blue Cheese Wedge Salad ($22) grilled beef tenderloin, chimichurri, iceberg, blue cheese buttermilk dressing, smoked tomato, pancetta
  • Don't forget the chimichurri. It was strangely missable as plate decor but you can definitely dab some of it to give extra kick, such as on the iceberg lettuce.
  • Meat very nicely done. Tender and flavourful.
  • Blue cheese found in sprinkled crumbles which you can carefully miss if you don't like it. I personally find too much of it or if mixed into an unavoidable dressing to be off-putting.
  • No thanks to my tablemates I totally missed trying the pancetta.
Tuna Nicoise Salad ($20) seared ahi tuna, confit potato, egg, green bean, mixed greens, potato hay
  • Didn't get to try the egg but it looked like just hard boiled egg.
  • Potato hay added fun crunchy texture and potato chip flavour.
  • Overall this seemed well-prepared but didn't strike me as anything particularly special. Good portion of meat here (plus the egg) gives it a good chance of being a filling meal.
Vegetarian Rice Bowl ($18) crispy tofu, sushi rice, josper smoked shiitake, pickled vegetables, edamame, kizami nori
  • There's a bowl of rice here so it looks deceptively small. That plus the tofu can actually make this a decently sized meal.
  • You could mix it but I recommend against that. If you do mix it, don't mash the crispy tofu into it.
  • I don't normally like too much tofu because of the inherent bitterness but they've done a good job of making it more than merely palatable. There's still some bitterness but it's very much subdued thanks to the seasoned batter exterior that is quite tasty. So as a meat/meatiness substitute here it does very nicely.
  • That smoked shiitake really has a bold, smoked flavour and aroma.
West Coast Cut Striploin - 7oz Certified Angus Beef ($21) frites, baby kale salad, chimichurri sauce
  • It's hard for me to evaluate steak. For me, steak is steak. This looked like a very nice medium-well-done. Nothing wrong here.
  • They use frites here and it's so thoroughly deep fried that it's crunchy all the way through, but not oily tasting fortunately.
  • I have to admit to being slightly suspicious of the choice of frites here instead of fries, especially in the range of colours. With frites you could throw old fries back in the fryer to heat them up and no one would be the wiser because they're completely crisped anyway. It'd just come out a bit darker for the extended bath.
Mushroom and Smoked Chicken Garganelli ($22) josper smoked chicken, shiitake mushroom cream sauce
  • The pasta portion was excellent with the smokiness and makes this a winner. Pasta all pre-tossed in the sauce and therefore you also didn't have excess sauce puddling at the bottom.
  • The chicken part... I'm not so sure. I got an end piece so I don't know how the middle portion looked or tasted like. The end piece I got had good smoky aroma and flavour but was of course dry. Not sure I'd go with large pieces of dry chicken here. Maybe if they had cut it into thinner and therefore more tender slices (to avoid calling attention to the dry toughness), it would have been better.
Baked Alaska
  • For dessert they had a tableside Baked Alaska, with a meringue shell that wafted a coconutty aroma once it was lit. Other than that, it was nothing to write home about.
Imperial Pear ($8 single, $11 double) light flavours of pear, sake, vodka, and a fizz with soda
  • I gave away mine because I don't drink alcohol, but the Yelp Community Manager insisted on getting me a virgin version to try.
  • Overall it was refreshing and made a nice palate cleanser. Also not that much ice. And curiously, my virgin Imperial Pear came in a larger tumbler than the alcoholic one.
Given the nature of the function (a Yelp Elite event), it's probably not fair to really comment on the service.

Unchai Thai Restaurant

Unchai Thai Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Squeezed into this tiny space for a get-together with friends. They did accept a reservation, but get really anxious if your party does arrive on time and they clearly have people waiting to dine-in. It's a really small space so every customer is precious.

TIP: Don't be late! And expect to be asked if it'll be okay if they take away seats if not enough of your party shows up on time.

Rather interesting that they've dropped baby corn as an ingredient.

Roti with curry sauces ($4.99)
  • It's a Thai restaurant offering a Malaysian/Singaporean staple. That's ominous to begin with but I'm a sucker for roti so of course I had to order it.
  • The roti looks like it got fried into a crunchy crisp here and cut too large (plus it's now too stiff) to properly fit into the little cup of coconut flavoured curry.
  • You're ordering roti in a Thai restaurant, so be prepared for something different. If you need your roti to be close to the Malaysian or Singaporean style, go somewhere else for it.
  • Also price per portion is atrocious. Watch those 99 cents and just round up to the nearest dollar.
Fried Chicken Wings ($8.99)
  • Price feels atrocious. It's more than a dollar a wing.
  • If you can somehow overlook the price though, the seasoning and crispiness make this a winner. Even when it's cooled down to room temperature later, there was good crunch to it.
  • Sweet-savory seasoning makes it tasty, plus it was still juicy inside. Try a bite before you dip it in the unnecessary sauce.
Pad Thai Tofu with shrimp ($11.99 +$3 for shrimp, crispy pork, or chicken) tofu, egg, chive, bean sprout, peanuts, salted radish
  • "Shrimp" turned out to be prawns, not baby prawns. Not champion-sized tiger prawns either, but respectable enough to be called prawns.
  • Taste is okay. Like a lot of other things we ordered at Unchai, it hovers around mediocre to good and is therefore disappointing because of the portion of carby stuff compared to other Thai restaurants that just stack on the filling-ness with rice and noodles.
Boat Noodles Soup ($13.99) Pork meat, pork balls, pork blood, coriander, green onion, bean sprout, celery.
  • Not overly sweet but it continues the everything's sweet theme.
  • Pork blood is dissolved in the soup rather than the boiled chunks.
  • Taste is okay. More of a novelty than a must-try.
Pad Si Ew (Chicken or Pork, $12.99) rice sheet noodles sitr-fried with gai lan, egg, white onion
Unchai Curry Chicken ($14.99) Red Thai curry based in Unchai style with gai lan, long bean, Thai eggplant, bell pepper, Thai basil
  • Not spicy at all and on the sweet side like pretty much everything we ordered. 
  • If you need your curry to be spicy-hot, better call ahead and ask first.
  • With the rice this is probably your best bet for bang-for-your-buck filling meal dinner, passable at $15 for the tastiness.

Keg Steakhouse + Bar (Granville Island)

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Dropped in after a post-dinner walk from Unchai to have a snack and dessert. We whiled away a half hour savouring a dessert before trying the calamari at the Happy Hour price.

As usual the server wasn't exactly thrilled especially as we didn't order any alcohol (none of us being drinkers). But the place wasn't exactly packed either.

Calamari ($14 or $10 during Happy Hour)
  • We were informed the $10 happy hour portion is the same as the $14 regular menu portion.
  • Not recommended even at $10. Seemed flat somehow. Lacked seasoning? And price for portion at $10.
  • If you do get it, try to pair each piece with the fried jalapeño slices to get some bite to each bite.
Billy Miner Pie ($7) mocha ice cream on a chocolate crust with hot fudge, caramel, and almonds
  • Simple idea that's tasty. Ice cream is soft and easy to spoon through but doesn't start melting into a puddle right away. Still, if you're going to try more than one dessert I wouldn't ask for them all to be brought out at once.
  • Seemed like a surprising portion for $7 so if you're dining solo or duo, plan ahead.
  • Our server said their cheesecake was made by the Keg but offsite and distributed to the outlets so this was probably the same. So you can expect supermarket quality for their desserts in general.
  • The portion is big enough that if you get bored midway you can experiment with the pepper and salt at your table. Go heavy on the pepper to get enough impact. For the salt to get that salted caramel taste, go easy as that salt grinder gives you rather large chips.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Riz Sushi

Riz Sushi Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Riz Sushi hosted a Yelp Elite event and I was lucky to be selected -- it's a small space and not a lot of room to jam a lot of people in.
So obviously I should start with a disclaimer: We got free stuff. A wide sampling of their current menu, as well as their crunchy fried chicken breast burger which should launch very soon.

If you've been to the place years past and hated it, Riz Sushi is definitely worth another visit. They've been under new management for the last three years or so. It wasn't an immediate turnaround with this new management, either. They quickly decided to focus on catering and chopped down their restaurant menu to Poke bowls.
But now they have a strong menu and are basically re-launching their restaurant -- and fighting an uphill battle against the baggage of low reviews that the restaurant is carrying from its earlier days.

Our food samples did NOT have a single sushi roll in sight! If you're looking for a sushi-ingredient-themed restaurant that's not just sushi sushi sushi again, give this place a go.
Not everything is 5-star, in my opinion -- for example, the "Curry Udon" could use more of the curry part -- but overall what I tried had more than a mere passing grade.
Their salads are light and the dressing is refreshing and not overpowering.
Their standout is the chicken karaage, easily one of the best I've had. And now they are launching a chicken burger with a spicy super-crunchy crispy chicken breast that's a real winner. Definitely look out for that on the menu.

Oh, and they "embellished" the original mural with "rappers".