Monday, September 24, 2012

You make your own value at AYCE Meloty

Meloty on Urbanspoon I've been one step behind my afternoon-tea loving friend Emily this summer-that-sometimes-feels-like-fall, and basing my dine-outs on where she'd been. She had steered me right with Pâtisserie Für Elise, so when she was pleased with her experience at Meloty, I decided to give it a go; I'd also had positive feed back from another member of the Food Bloggers Meetup. Maybe the food changed since they last went, but, our Saturday outing was... lacklustre to put it kindly. But every place has some good and bad to it.

First, here's how the AYCE at Meloty works:
  1. Two-hour seating, plus $2 penalty for each item left uneaten.
  2. You are presented with two menu booklets. In one, you can choose a beverage to accompany your AYCE afternoon tea. The other menu has items you can order and pay for separately.
    • It doesn't have to be pots of tea -- you can get iced drinks as well.
    • Unlimited refills except for beer (maximum 3 glasses).
  3. They bring you your beverage.
  4. They bring you trays of savories.
    • Basically, it's a bunch of very simple sandwiches, one piece of everything for each person.
    • The quality is like what you can make at home, just prettier.
    • Just use your fingers. You'll mangle it if you use the knife and fork.
  5. They then offer you another tray of savories. You are free to decline and move on to desserts.
  6. There are three offerings of desserts, served individually.
    • Just pick what you want. Don't feel obliged to take anything if nothing immediately appeals to you -- Wait for the next trays to come out.
    • Some of this stuff looks worse than what you can get at a supermarket deli section. No, I'm not kidding.
  7. After you've seen and been offered everything, they come over to take additional orders of specific items. You can backtrack to anything you want, including savories. They do come back to take additional orders, and will stop only when your table stops ordering entirely.
  • Good: Beautiful on the inside, and good spacing to the tables. Washrooms also pleasantly clean and very nicely appointed.
  • Good: Your all-you-can-eat $30 afternoon tea comes with unlimited refills on drinks except beer (yes, you can choose beer! -- maximum 3 glasses).
  • Good: Croissants not shy on butter. Flaky and buttery. You can ask for them without anything inside (came as beef croissant sandwiches).
  • Good: Mini crème brûlée with vanilla bean. Definitely get this.
  • Bad: Overall, most items were supermarket deli quality. Some of the desserts hadn't been stored well (like the fruity cheesecakes) and presentation was very lacking. It's hard to say anything kind here when you're comparing it to afternoon tea everywhere else. The problem is that afternoon tea is part food, part ambiance. They have good ambiance here, but the poor food quality drags everything down.
  • Very Bad: They had burnt the otherwise fairly delicious mushroom pies (little squares of puff pastry with chopped mushrooms inside. The top was browned, but the bottom and edges were blackened. And they still served it to us. Twice.
    • Some of us ended up scraping off the bottom, but because they weren't shy on the butter, you can peel off the bottom layer quite cleanly -- taking just the flaky layer off, leaving the rest.
It's hard to complain when you are paying for an AYCE. After all, you can make up the value by just having all the stuff you enjoyed. Even if it's just one or two things. Just be prepared to do it, and don't be shy about it.
That said, it's kind of sad and telling when you don't feel enthused about anything to order more at an AYCE. That was my experience there (and to be fair, maybe I'm pickier than most) and I didn't feel that the experience I had at Meloty was a $30 afternoon tea. In quantity I did get more than any afternoon tea place, but I think I had hoped the quality would be better.

For $30 (more like $40 after tax and tip), I recommend you instead put together an enormous amount of sandwiches and cakes from Breka. Large selection, no tip required.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Abstract Art desserts at Hawksworth

Hawksworth (Rosewood Hotel Georgia) on Urbanspoon Why is it that restaurants with a lot of buzz, like Black + Blue and Hawksworth (67% of 335 votes "like" Hawksworth on Urbanspoon, as of 2012-Sept-18) score so poorly on Urbanspoon? Is it the distinct absence of hottie female servers? (Black + Blue at least has mini-skirted hotties flitting about the lounge area, but the only ladies at Hawksworth were at the front desk and possibly in the kitchen).

Our party this past Sunday was 12 in total, but split into two tables of 6. If your party is over 8 persons, Hawksworth enforces a set menu policy where you choose from Dine Out Vancouver style prix fixe choose-from-three-items menus. At the time of my inquiry, two menus were available, at around $70 and $80 each (before wine pairing). They are actually trying to help you because it takes a while for the food to be prepped. Our table of six waited what seemed like a long time (helped by our table being a lively and chatty group who didn't really notice the time flying by) before our mains arrived (all at the same time, of course). The wait would have been interminable for a party of 12. And this was on an early Sunday 6:15pm reservation, when the restaurant was at half-full or less until closer to 8pm when it neared capacity.

When you first enter Hawksworth, you're in the bar/lounge. Then it's on to the first dining room, which is brightly lit and has a floral print on the walls. Then a much dimmer room with darker-toned furniture and Rodney Graham's colourful "psychomania" on the wall. The romantic dinner room, one supposes, although it didn't seem to be strictly segregated that way, and there was a large party in that room during our dinner.
From the get-go, service is attentive, and almost too-polite yet with an expectation of a positive reception/response that has a warmer friendliness to it which seems to contrast how everyone is either "madame" or "monsieur".

There was only one appetizer (but lots of cocktails), minimal sharing of the mains, and considerable fuss over the desserts. I can't really comment on the bite of chicken and sablefish that I got, but there were no real complaints from the people who ordered them. (It's hard to mess up fried chicken and sablefish, so one bite to verify the kitchen didn't flub it doesn't really help as a review.) I'm also not a drinker, so I had to pass on the cocktail sampling, but the "Hotel Georgia" had quite a bit of to-do at our table.
My designated dining buddy of the evening had been lured out to this event because she was on a no-carb mostly-meat diet at the moment. So we struck a deal ahead of time to do the only "for sharing" menu item, a 22oz dry aged rib eye.
The other table of 6 had gone in 15 minutes ahead of us and were well ahead, so we got to reconnoitre the desserts before ordering our own.
  • caramelized squid ($16) salsa verde, artichoke, guanciale, orange
    • I wanted a plate of this to share with the table, and was recommended two plates because of the portion size. They cut the squid into three pieces per plate, each piece being one bite's worth (and about $5!).
    • I think the squid was slightly overdone because it was a bit firmer and rubberier than the crunchy firmness that I was more used to.
    • Definitely eat the squid with the stuff on the plate. You only get woefully few chances, so do it right and get all the flavours from this dish in.
    • Tasty, but not outstanding, in my opinion. Maybe because I only got one bite and not enough of a sampling.
    • The bacon (guanciale) was very thinly sliced (maybe less than 1 millimetre), very browned, and very crispy like a cracker.
  • foie gras parfait ($20) green apple, walnut, brioche (pic)
    • I didn't get to try this, but it looked intriguing -- very smooth, like a slice of ice cream cake! It really looked like dessert or a slab of very creamy pate.
    • Even more intriguing was the foie gras flavoured cotton candy on the side. They have their own cotton candy maker in the kitchen an somehow liquefied foie gras to get the strong flavour into the cotton candy.
  • 22oz dry aged rib eye ($98) la ratte potato, spring bouquetière, crispy bone marrow, brown butter hollandaise (picpic)
    • In addition to your steak, you get fat roasted potato wedges, a miniature pot of veggies, and very interesting deep-fried pieces of bone marrow.
      • Bone marrow is very fatty, and the deep frying makes it light and airy. Fatty tasting, but it just disintegrates airily into your mouth. There's the flavour of course, but also the interesting sensation that's not to be missed.
    • The steak is cut for you into convenient one-bite or two-bite slices and arranged in a criss-cross manner. Don't expect it to be hot for long, if at all.
    • My partner ordered medium-rare, and it seemed nicely done that way. Definitely not juicy with blood, which makes me all the more suspicious of what I got at Black + Blue.
    • I'm definitely not a steak expert, and I know fat can be tasty (and fat marbled meat has always found favour with steak lovers and smoked meat fans), but I think there's something wrong about serving someone a 4 mm thick four-square-inch slab of just fat. Does the $98 include a coupon for an angioplasty?
    • Thank God for the brown butter hollandaise. It's not very buttery tasting but has a sharp/sour flavour that helps the meat and fat go down. Don't use too much or it's smother all the meat flavour.
    • The meat itself was very tender and you could basically just pull it apart, which was easier than cutting it.
The desserts all sounded awfully boring on paper, but most looked very interesting in an abstract-art sort of way (rather than an appetizing sort of way). The ate-ahead-of-us table were on to desserts while we were just mopping up mains, so we got to check out how things went. Mostly, it was disaster with the non-chocolate items. I think they spent more time playing with their desserts than eating it.
The "peach" item in particular, which featured a a strip of firm cream, was particularly odd as about half of us experienced an off-putting strange aftertaste of ... meat? Egg? It was definitely something. The rest, however, were mystified by what we were talking about.
Anyway, long story short: For art, go for the fruity items. For safety, choose anything with chocolate. The safest two would be the "chocolate fondant" and the "dark chocolate". If you like macarons, you can get an assortment of six, probably just pulled out from the Bel Cafe next door and lined up on a plate with no fancy presentation.
  • chocolate fondant ($10) orange, hazelnut (pic)
    • Hazelnutty flavour and the chocolate sits on a tough base of probably crushed nuts.
    • Tame presentation and a safely tasty combo of chocolate and hazelnut.
  • dark chocolate ($10) coffee, rum (pic)
    • This comes in a cup and is creamy-light with layers. When you eat it, dig deep and get all the layers in each scoop. That makes a difference.
  • 70% guanaja chocolate ($10) lime, avocado (pic)
    • This came with shavings of chocolate cake. The chocolate itself was a thick stripe almost a square inch in cross section. Nothing too special tasting here, so be sure to pair it with the cream in the middle of the plate, or the decorative avocado smears, or the small blobs of lime with tiny mint leaves.
    • Artsy to see. If you're just going for taste and not pictures, stick with the other two.
Overall, the food is artistically arranged and more interesting to look at and experience than it is tasty as a meal overall. It's definitely an interesting experience. But if you're voting strictly on tastiness -- which may be the wrong idea here -- then it might not score very highly.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Good value for good eats at Vancouver FanClub

Vancouver Fanclub on UrbanspoonFor an unspecified limited time, the very recently opened Vancouver FanClub is offering a 2-for-1 deal on its menu -- anything except drinks. And it's apparently grouped by category, so if your party orders 2 burgers and one pecan pie dessert, you pay for the pricier burger, get the other burger free, and pay for the comparatively cheap dessert -- instead of getting the cheap dessert free and paying for the two burgers.

After our meal, the manager explained that the 2-for-1 promotion, which is valid every day from Noon till 6pm, is a "loss leader" strategy aimed at selling their bourbons and other liquor. The idea is to draw people in with cheap (good) pub food, and hope they buy alcohol too.
At this point I got the distinct impression that he'd been disappointed by our showing because we hadn't ordered any drinks. My friend was going back to work in less than an hour, and I'm a non-drinker. Which also bring up the issue of a weekday 12-6 time slot for getting people to buy drinks -- isn't it a flawed strategy to be tempting people to drink during working hours? I mean, who wants to go back to the office drunk? (Oh wait -- uh, don't answer that).

Other than the workers still doing sometimes very noisy construction in the back of the restaurant, my friend and I were the only ones there for lunch at noon on Tuesday. The very quiet pace allowed us to ask the server about the decor, and the chef came out to get our opinion on our meal (and apparently had done so on opening night as well). If you're curious about the restaurant and food, now is definitely the time to go to snap pictures and interrogate the kitchen about their cuisine.

The description of the restaurant sounded to me more posh and interesting that it turned out to be (maybe it looks better at night). Interesting highlights include imported wooden doors from New Orleans used as panelling for the bar and above the doors. Otherwise, the "New Orleans" look is in the black ironwork and the light fixtures. The server described the aim as being more "New Orleans meets West Coast" than simply New Orleans.
This said, the menu itself doesn't really smell like New Orleans, not like Ouisi Bistro, for example.

There is actually very little seating and it's much more a pub and music venue than a restaurant. It's pretty much not a restaurant. They boast having the best sound system in BC, taken from BC Stadium, and hope to draw DJs who had until now given Vancouver a pass because we didn't have up-to-snuff hardware.
  • Slow Roasted Smoked Chicken Sandwich ($11) One of these in your mouth is worth a flock of birds in the bush. Smoked, roasted chicken, seared mushrooms, and smoked Provolone, topped with roasted peach and fig relish on a toasted bun.
    • Looks like pulled chicken, but it's not the salty wet stuff stewed in pan drippings like, say, the burger from La Brasserie food cart.
    • The chicken is a tad dry in some places, but if you don't pick out such bits, this is a moist burger made extra-interesting with the sweet relish. If you need extra kick, try the orange + chili sauce available at the table. Sweet and fruity, yet with a (not-too-hot) bite from the chili.
  • Quinoa Black Bean Burger ($12, vegan) Hey vegetarian, welcome to the Promised Land. Quinoa and black bean patty; topped with mango papaya salsa, avocado, arugula, and seared heirloom tomatoes; sandwiched between two seared Portobello mushroom caps. *gluten free.
    • This is so not a "burger". There's no "patty" to speak of, really. It's more like a quinoa salad badly tossed (the stuff in it is quite separate), put between two mushroom caps.
    • It's actually quite tasty, and you can jazz it up and experiment with the various condiments at the table. There's the usual chili sauce, but also a foursome of intriguing sauces (one sour, one spicy-hot, on spicy-but-not-hot, one fruity-and-hot) from South China Seas Trading Company.
    • If you're sharing, instead of cutting it down the middle, just give your dining buddy one of the mushroom caps and scoop over half the quinoa filling.
    • This really could use a spoon!
    • The chef described how careful they were in the preparation to not touch anything that had been used to prepare dishes containing meat, in order to strictly preserve the "vegetarian" aspect of it. This was also behind the decision to not make an actual patty, because that would have necessitated using the same kitchenware used for other (meat) patties. Therefore, although the menu doesn't actually say it at the moment, this item counts as vegan.
  • Fries and house-made potato chips (choose one of fries, chips, or salad free with sandwiches and burgers)
    • Both very nicely done. Fries fresh and crispy on the outside. Thinner cut and a good portion.
    • Fries we salted but only lightly. Came with tomato sauce which you might ask to hold (or just ask for the bottle) in case you don't want any and instead want to experiment with the various sauces at the table -- this latter I highly recommend.
    • Chips looked infused with oil but didn't come across as greasy. Generously tossed in reddish (BBQ flavoured) spice. This is the less-filling but more tasty option over the fries and recommended if you don't want a too heavy meal.
  • Bourbon Pecan Pie ($5) Fact: There can never be too much whiskey. Or pie. Rich filling and flaky crust, drizzled with caramel sauce.
    • Sadly, I never saw this. My friend had already gone overtime on her lunch hour and we made a hasty exit. Didn't even do the 2-for-1 deal on this. I got it to go and gave her the whole thing. She described the portion as being very big. Even a slightly undersized portion would have been good value at a mere $5 when other places are now charging $6-$12 for dessert.
From what little we tried today, the food here is between good and very good thanks to interestingness. Plus the regular price weighs in at reasonable to a bit on the cheap side compared to what you get and the portions you get, so even without the 2-for-1 promotion, if the prices hold, then Vancouver FanClub is a safe choice for good eats beginning at lunchtime. At their current prices, I highly recommend you check them out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chocolate may contain traces of hand?

Just got this bar of Venezuelan dark chocolate today as a gift. If you put the last line of ingredients into Google Translate, "mani" won't translate in spanish. But if you let Google auto-detect "mani" on its own, it coughs up "hands" from Italian.

Look more closely and it's not "mani" but "maní" with the accent, which Google still won't auto-detect. Choose Spanish as the source language and it translates just fine into English as "peanut". Whew! -- No bits of hand in my chocolate!

Apamate Chocolate Oscuro 2

Apamate Chocolate Oscuro 1

Monday, September 10, 2012

Overpriced tastiness at Globe @ YVR

Globe @ YVR on UrbanspoonGlobe @ YVR is a pricey place just to get to if you're driving. You're either paying parking at airport prices, or you're parking elsewhere (say, the casino at Bridgeport) to Skytrain in -- only to pay the $5 surcharge when you Skytrain back out (unless you have a pass or Faresaver).
Nevertheless it typically has a sell-out 2pm Afternoon Tea seating so popular that sometimes diners will book a late afternoon lunch to sneak in early when it's sold out.

Price-wise, it's a pricey place for what you get. But quality can be good. It was strangely difficult to lure the Food Bloggers and Fine Dining Meetup out to Richmond for lunch, so there were just three of us and we ordered our own meals (except my dessert, which I shared with my dining companions). I was tempted to try the raw food menu from their "Lifestyle Cuisine" menu, but went with the Signature Burger instead for my first time at Globe @ YVR.
  • A generous basket of three types of bread came to the table after we ordered, plus very soft butter (pic)
    • Two types of chewy buns. I tried just one, with had flavourful bits of fried shallots.
    • One "flatbread", which was large sheets of cracker-like something. Very thin and garnished on one side with rosemary and coarse salt.
  • Jetside Signature Burger ($20) - ½ pound pure beef patty, FVA signature seasoning spice, double-smoked bacon, aged white cheddar, crispy onions; choice of signature greens, french fries, or seasonal salad (pic)
    • This came to the table very freshly made. Still hot, with hot crispy fries. Probably because of the patty right at the bottom, the bottom piece of bun was starting to get soggy from condensation.
    • Very moist patty. Good flavour contribution from the bacon.
    • Stylish looking addition of crispy-looking deep-fried shredded curls of onion, but they turned out to be chewy possibly because they got steamed by the hot patty. The onion-ring style done by Loving Hut Express works better, but isn't as classy looking.
    • Fries were very crispy on the outside. Salted enough to not need any additional condiments, but as a result some people may find that too salty. If you're watching your sodium, inquire about this and maybe ask them to hold the salt or go easy on it.
    • It's a big burger, possibly close to twice the size of a McDonalds burger. Still not worth the full $20, though, but close, considering you get a generous portion of fries and a burger that's really tasty.
  • Molten S'mores Cake ($12) - housemade marshmellow, toasted graham cracker, chocolate ganache cake, dolce ice cream, sticky toffee sauce (pic)
    • This sounded like a lava cake, but it wasn't. I think I was more disappointed at not finding "lava" chocolate inside than anything else.
    • It's a two-part dessert, with a single thick graham "cracker" (more like a slightly soft biscuit) with a scoop of ice cream on top; and a chunk of chocolate cake with a large square of toasted marshmellow on top.
    • The graham cracker part was boring, sorry to say.
    • The chocolate cake was deeply chocolatey, very moist with a wet centre. Delicious with minimal contribution from the marshmellow. Quite sweet too.
    • Had a bit of fruit and chocolate cream on the side.
    • At $12 this is pricey. Maybe $6-$8, but that is probably because I'm discounting the graham cracker as being a tasty presence on the plate.
  • Elixir ($7) - FVA Honey, Ginger Puree, Lemon & Hot Water
    • This is from the Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu, under "Beverages".
    • It's basically lemon and a lot of ginger steeped in hot water. The server recommended it if "you are fighting off something". A cold or flu, maybe? It's strong stuff.
    • The honey came separately in those little glass jars, as some people don't like it sweet.
    • It's a bit weird but worked for me as a palate-cleansing "tea".
    • At $7, this felt super overpriced for what it was.
Overall quite pricey. But if you factor in the basket of bread to start, it sort-of works out (and adds up to a filling meal) if you have just one entree.

Service is courteous and very professional, as can be expected in a hotel that sits right in the airport and is therefore BC's host to people from all over the world.

If you like watching planes or just need to kill time at the airport, you can't go wrong here. How busy the place is depends on the flow of air traffic, but you can expect a quiet and private dining experience until closer to Afternoon Tea at 2pm.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Limited Time 2-for-1 at Vancouver FanClub

Don't you just hate it when they don't put down the date? I saw this promising-looking flyer for the recently opened Vancouver Fanclub -- Limited Time Offer: 2 for 1 plates daily 12-6pm! Call first to find out if it's still BOGO until 6pm, or just drop by to check out the intriguing-sounding decor:

Vancouver FanClub blends New Orleans French Quarter and contemporary West Coast design. This 6,500 square foot two-level establishment features reclaimed French colonial doors and antique chandeliers imported from Louisiana, a wrought iron balcony facade, outdoor patio, three service bars, four VIP booths, one performance stage, a DJ booth, satellite dance locations, and a Bourbon Lounge tasting room. From blues, funk, soul, rock, jazz, indie, world music, country to electronic music with a live component, Vancouver FanClub personifies the best of Vancouver’s eclectic performing arts community.

  2012-Sep Vancouver FanClub flyer

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sweet Pulled Pork at Red Wagon

The Red Wagon on Urbanspoon The same friend who dragged me to Save-On-Meats after seeing it on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives wanted to try The Red Wagon after seeing it that show too. I was leery initially as Save-On-Meats was a total dud for me, but how can you go wrong with a good pulled pork? In maple syrup no less?

We opted for a later lunch as The Red Wagon was said to be a busy place. My friend had tried a weekend brunch with her family, but with a lineup that went around the building, they had nixed the idea. Tuesday afternoon at 1pm turned out to be better. The place was buzzing and almost full, but the turnaround seemed quite quick and as we were just two, we were squeezed in right away. There are a lot of two-seater tables but also a larger round table that sat maybe six.

I haven't watched TV in over 15 years (give or take -- I lost count) so I had to be filled in -- the two items made famous by being on TV were the Pulled Pork Pancakes and the Crisp Pork Belly Sandwich. We ordered them and I also got a cup of Smokey Tomato Soup.

  • Smokey Tomato Soup ($5 bowl, $3.50 cup)
    • Tomato soup with some presumably smoked meat bits to give it a light smokey flavour and aroma. Not too special, and seemed steep for about a mug's worth at $3.50.
  • Crisp Pork Belly Sandwich ($12) pickled veg, jalepeno, cilantro, mayo, baguette, chips
    • It's about six inches of baguette, cut into two halves. Good amount of pork belly inside in large chunks almost a square inch in cross-section.
    • The pork belly was tender but there didn't seem to be anything crispy about it.
    • The only thing I tasted here were the pickled vegetables. They weren't super salty or sour, but the taste blanketed everything else, including the pork belly. No heat from any jalapeno (did they forget to toss that in?).
    • I recommend stripping the vegetables out and having it on the side as a sort of makeshift coleslaw. That way you'll at least taste the pork belly. Or pull out some pork belly to have separately.
    • "Chips" were what appeared to be made-in-house thinly sliced deep fried potato chips. Not too oily or salty. Many seemed a bit over-fried and on the dark side.
    • Overall, at $12, I felt this was overpriced. At around $8-10 it might have competed favourably with, say, Re-Up or La Brasserie; but still slightly overpriced for the portion you get.
  • Pulled Pork Pancakes ($12.50) Jack Daniels maple syrup, 3 buttermilk pancakes layered with pulled pork
    • Pancakes were about 6" diameter and a half-inch thick. Moist, possibly because they were soaked in syrup. Comes with two pats of butter on top.
    • Whatever made the pancakes wet was probably not the same as the watery Jack Daniels maple syrup on the plate as that had a clear, strong, Jack Daniels flavour. You really had to dip your pancake in it to get the whiskey flavour -- if you even wanted it. Maybe because I'm not a drinker, but I found it off-putting.
    • The pulled pork was sweet with a slight bit of heat. Could have used more kick from spiciness, but still very good. The amount of pork you got was maybe the same or slightly more than what you might get in a pulled pork sandwich.
    • Overall, this was quite tasty and my half portion went down easily with spoonfuls of the tomato soup in between.
    • At $12.50, I thought this was pushing it in terms of value. What comes to your plate looks like a huge stack because of the three thick pancakes, but there's not that much pulled pork here. It's almost more of a novelty with sweet pancakes, sweet pulled pork, and sweet maple syrup all rolled into a sort of combo meal-dessert. Tasty, though, so you probably won't mind.
The Red Wagon is a bit of a weird place in terms of value. The menu offers "sides/adds" with toast, bacon, or sausage all $3 each. $3 for bacon? $3 for toast? Really?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Beautiful on the inside at Pâtisserie Für Elise

Patisserie Für Elise on Urbanspoon Of the afternoon tea places I've been to, Pâtisserie Für Elise easily tops the list as having the most beautiful and interesting room. It's a colourful "Queen Anne style" Victorian heritage building, one of an out-of-place seeming clump near the Vancouver Public Library downtown.
If you think it needs a sign outside (and they have had one prepared for quite a while now) or could stand a colour-makeover so it doesn't look so Disney-ish, then you'll likely go crazy with the restrictions placed on Heritage buildings in Vancouver. They aren't even allowed to wash the exterior of the building without a permit, and it can't be power-washed because the water jets might damage the exterior. To have been allowed to make over the interior to support the everything-made-in-house bakery standard was probably nothing short of miraculous in the first place.

The dress in the window always made me think this place was a sort of old-fashioned tailor, but it turns out that is the uniform of the staff (with minor variations). Where the bright, white, almost vintage doll-house look finally falters in "art direction" is in the multi-cultural staff and the mixed selection of colourful, flowery, teacups from the owner's collection. Nevertheless the calm, polite, and very pleasant staff make visiting this confectionery a very pleasant experience. There's a wonderful ambiance here that makes you feel like it's a treat just to be there, and it's definitely a safe place to bring out-of-towners or anyone you'd like to impress. More than any other place, Pâtisserie Für Elise has a room that captures the romance of afternoon tea.

The patisserie itself is downstairs, and has a disappointingly small selection. Everything is apparently made in-house by the very shy owner, and looks beautiful. We were there for their afternoon tea, but the opera cake ($5.50) looked wonderful and I ordered just the one rectangular slice to share at the end. It definitely did not disappoint.

Our afternoon tea was $30 and included: (sweets plate, savories plate)
  • One pot of tea
    • Came with a small hourglass that measured out the 3 minute steeping time.
    • Had a clip in the spout that was supposed to help with the pouring, but for some of us (myself included) it didn't. Anyway, to be on the safe side, you may want to touch the neck of the pot to your cup in case the tea dribbles down the neck.
    • There was also a bird-shaped plate with a bird-shaped metal strainer. The metal strainer balances on the side of your cup and you very SLOWLY pour the tea into it so that it can catch any loose leaves. Pour SLOWLY because the tea can't get through the strainer quickly enough. Definitely not for the impatient! The plate holds the strainer when you take it off your cup and it's wet.
  • Chef's choice starter
    • We got a crème brûlée style cream without the caramelized top; instead, it was topped with a wedge of mandarin orange.
  • Prosciutto, brie and fresh basil sandwich
    • A single leaf of basil tucked in prosciutto sandwiched in a small, buttery, croissant.
    • Not shy with the butter here for taste and aroma. Slightly oily, but still fluffy.
  • Cucumber dill finger sandwich
    • A curious take on this with the slices of cucumber topping the sandwhich instead of being inside.
    • Sharp, fresh flavour on the very creamy spread.
    • A bit messy to eat if you don't manually insert the cucumber into the sandwich as the cream inside has a tendency to squish out, made worse with the cucumber on the outside rather than just the soft bread. Also big enough that it's a two-biter. Overall a bit awkward and I would have preferred it to have been pre-cut into two one-bite portions.
  • Wild mushrooms quiche
    • A very thin crust here in a long leaf / canoe shape.
    • Of the entire selection probably the mildest flavoured, but definitely mushroomy.
  • Scone with sweet crumble top
    • About the size of a ping pong ball and it cut quite cleanly in half. Buttery but not overly so. Nice aroma to it.
    • Served with a sweet confiture (fruit preserve) that was bursting with flavour. Also an almost white and light/creamy butter with a fainter butter taste than the yellowed butter you normally get in the supermarket. More similar to what you might get if you made your own butter.
  • Petit Für Elise Daisy Tartlet
    • Pastry shell featuring a ball of fruity (strawberry) cream concealing fruit inside.
    • The pastry shell didn't compete with the taste of the soft ball of fruity cream.
  • Macaron
    • Chewy! I haven't had enough macarons to really evaluate this.
    • The filling wasn't very consistently applied and that somewhat ruined the look of it in comparison with the attention to appearance the other items had.
  • Pâte de fruit
    • Tiny cube of this, about a centimeter to a side. Inconsistent sizing. Three pieces, each a different flavour.
    • Nice, strong, clear fruity flavour.
  • Some sort of white, firm, creamy dessert with a bit of fruit inside. Can't remember what it was, exactly.
  • Mini Sachertorte
    • Chocolatey with a bit of fruit tucked inside and sitting on a thin biscuit. A miniature version of the famous dessert.
    • Richest of the selection and it was recommended we save it for last.
  • EXTRA - I also got our party of six a slice of their opera cake.
    • It's a narrow but long slice that sits on a thin, gold-coloured cardboard for easy maneuvering. The portion works out to be slightly larger than most cake portions, which are broader but much shorter.
    • Eight layers of cake topped with a very dark, rich, ninth layer of chocolate on top. Decorated with a bit of gold leaf for that extra touch of class.
    • Delicious! Often opera cake comes through as "just another chocolate cake", but this had a special something to it that made it so much better.
    • My main criticism of this would have to be the cardboard it was sitting on. That pasted itself to the very bottom, very think layer of crunchy chocolate and you just couldn't get the chocolate off until after the cake was devoured and you got to scrape at it, if you really wanted to. I think that layer of crunch might actually have added to the experience of the cake with the crunchy texture. But sadly, I'll never know.
    • Definitely try this if you're there. For $5.50 you get a very rich-tasting sharing portion of cake.
Overall I would have liked to have a pair of tongs to get at the items, especially the sweets on top, where there were a lot of creams and you really needed to be careful and not squeeze too hard. Plus getting at them meant maneuvering your fat fingers amongst the other items. Wash your hands before having your afternoon tea!

For what you get for $30 it's a bit on the pricey side, but made up with excellent craft to the afternoon tea items and the unique ambiance.
They seem quite cautious about reservations and sadly a bit slow in getting back to you over e-mail or by phone. They have very few tables for afternoon tea upstairs, so don't leave things for the very last moment and confirm reservations early..

Ask for extra sauce at Wings Tap and Grill

Wings Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon One pound of wings here is $8.18 (slightly less if you order more) and works out to be about 11 wings, or about 74 cents per wing. If this is too painful for you old timers who remember 25-cent wing nights in the '90s, you can try their Sunday night 47 cent wings.
This said, I don't want to make it sound like Wings is a pricey place for wings. It's just a sigh over inflation.

Wings has several locations, and the Burnaby one near Highgate is a sports bar style pub with patio and easy parking. I went on a late-ish Friday night and it was pretty busy. There's generous booth seating as well as round tables that can be booked for larger groups. If you're not into sports, you can go for one of the bigger against-the-wall cushioned booths that has two rows of seating between you and the TVs mounted above the bar.

There are many flavours of wings here, and with varying degrees of spiciness. Flavours like Greek, Chicago, Tokyo, Thai and others means you can assemble a wings-from-around-the-world experience if you wanted to. And besides, one pound of wings where between half and a third of the volume is bone (hey, that's just the truth) means you probably need three to four pounds of the stuff to be full if you're eating just wings (and two pounds plus tax plus tip comes out to about $20)..

I went with Bula Fiji (chopped chilies and garlic), and Canadian Maple (maple syrup with a hint of bourbon). One dip for free with your order, but this seemed a bit silly to me because the wings are already supposed to be flavoured, so I gave that option a pass.
For drinks, I opted for an orange juice. $3.65! Argh!

  • Bula Fiji wings
    • Deep fried wings + cold condiment = lukewarm wings. That's just reality and nothing the server can do about it. Don't expect piping hot wings here.
    • This came lightly tossed in the "rub" -- a wet mix of chopped up chilies and raw garlic. With so much red and whole chili seeds you'd expect this to be spicy, but I had whole teaspoons of just the rub and it barely registered. And it's on the upper third of the Wings "heat-o-meter"!
    • Garlicky, but not overwhelmingly so. A safe choice if you like garlic but don't want to stun anyone with your breath afterwards.
    • The main problem with this order is that the chopped up chilies and garlic fall off the wings. And without it, you get just deep fried chicken (done without any flavoured batter, so the result is tasteless chicken). Watch for this and maybe ask for a spoon as well to get at the condiments.
    • Curiously, the order came with a pile of the chili-and-garlic rub in a clump. I had my suspicions at the time about a lazy kitchen, but I wasn't sure and kept it to myself. In any case, even after those ran out, I still had a half order of wings, only now without anything to go with them. The waitress came to check on me, and I was basically embarrassed to explain that there wasn't any more flavour to my wings. She offered to bring more of the Bula Fiji rub plus utensils to get at it instead of having to use my fingers or trying to scoop it out with a wing.
    • Anyway, this turned out to be quite disappointing, but it might be because my spiciness-resistant palate that can handle hot curries found this really bland.
  • Canadian Maple wings
    • This was my second order and attempt number 2 to get something interesting out of the menu. I didn't want to do something safe like honey garlic, and the idea of a hint of bourbon here was intriguing.
    • The wings came really hot this time. Definitely hot enough to still be crispy on the outside. Problem was, of the 8 wings I had (out of 11), only 3 had just a HINT of maple syrup taste to it. Either the kitchen flubbed this or their standardized portions on condiments were really cheap-ass. Either way, it was profoundly disappointing.
    • The server came to check and maybe because I was really disappointed over the last few outings and had built-up frustration, I gently explained that I gave it a really good go (sampling 8 out of 11 wings) but the wings were basically flavourless. She offered to get me more of the rub they used on it (DOH! -- Why did I think of that before?). It turned out the dry rub was a fine, sweet powder that the wings are tossed it. I guess maybe they didn't use enough of it. And it's sort of hard to tell how much you've used because it dissolves very quickly on contact with the wings. Anyway, I put a goodly amount on each of the remaining wings, and that kind of salvaged the order.
Overall the flavours are interesting, but definitely don't be shy about asking for extra rub or sauce or whatever on your wings to make sure you get enough on each wing. It didn't cost any extra.

I was very surprised when the bill came because the server had spoken with the manager about my disappointment and she managed to get one pound of wings taken off the bill. I was startled and asked her if the difference would be coming out of her pay. She insisted that it wouldn't, and that the restaurant had a small fund set aside for situations like this. I put down a 30% tip for my very attentive and considerate server.