Wednesday, July 24, 2013

25% off at Karmavore in July 2013

Karmavore on Urbanspoon
This July, Karmavore patrons have been taking advantage of a huge 25% off their bill, valid all through July, for dine-in. If you haven't been back there in a while, they have wiped out their retail and supermarket, and are now just a cafe, with a shelf on the side for a few leftovers. They have also paired up with vegan-friendly Chau Veggie Express!
Here's how the ad copy reads. Notice the extra goodie they threw in (in bold):
Exclusive Karmacard Holder Offer!
[ Deal Ends July 31]
Karmavore would like to THANK YOU all for your continued support over the years, with an exclusive offer to our most valuable supporters!
Simply pop in anytime now through end of July, and mention the following coupon code, and you will receive 25% OFF your table bill, no spending limit, and no menu item exceptions! 
You may also use this promotion as many times as you like for the entire month of July!
Additionally, you can share this special offer with your friends and family! Someone at the table must simply present a Karmacard or provide a valid Karma Points phone number in order for it to qualify in our system.
They also have a pastry chef (only just back from vacation) so if over the last week or so their counter looked pretty lame of pastries and cakes and goodies, that should all have magically transformed by now into an evil witch gingerbread house to woo any juicy Hansels and Gretels. Or something like that. I'll have to head back myself to check it out.

On Tuesday I dragged a friend over to check out their offerings.

CHAU VeggiExpress Noodle Soup (Various) [Curry] ($9.75)
  • This was super-simple -- just noodle and broccoli -- but with a really decent curry. I could easily imagine my mom having made that tasty curry. Not spicy, though, but we didn't think to ask for more heat.
  • It was a reasonably large bowl as well, thick with noodles. They are sort of skimy on utensils -- at the utensil station there are metal forks and plastic knives. Ask for a soup spoon unless you want to just drink the soup straight out of the bowl. Which is not out of the question since by the time you are through with the noodles it would probably have cooled down enough.
Karmavore Smoothie (Strawberry; $7)
  • Vegan means no dairy, which means no milk or ice cream. So from the get go this smoothie is already handicapped. It came out as definitely less thick and rich as a "regular smoothie". It's barely passable IF you are comparing it to a "real" smoothie. This is one of those times where you'll miss the original non-vegan version.
  • For $7, it's a large potion, enough for two coffee mugs (and they can split it for you if you are sharing). Comes with whipped cream on top.
Porcini Gravy Burger and Side ($11)
  • This was the special of the day. It is a single $11 item on the daily special board, but showed up on the bill as two items, since the side could be baked fries or kale salad.
  • The burger was rather sad, unfortunately. It's a dry whole wheat bun, one porcini (mushroom) patty, gravy, one thick slice of tomato, and alfalfa sprouts. Composition wise, it's pretty bland. Taste-wise, it's also pretty bland. The gravy is also pretty bland but there's a good amount plus extra in a small cup.
  • I did isolate the somewhat thin looking patty, and on it's own, it's not bad. overall, I think the burger could have been composed more interestingly somehow. Certainly the patty didn't get a good chance to demonstrate its decent flavour.
  • The kale salad was rather salty tasting, but otherwise okay. Maybe because of the very generous amount of dressing, it wasn't bitter as kale generally is.
  • Something you could do is take the top bun half off and eat it open faced. For the rest of the bun, maybe dip it in any leftover gravy or throw the kale salad onto it to help temper the saltiness by eating it with the bun. You could put everything together as well, but the salad would definitely have smothered all flavour from the patty and gravy.
Green Matcha Rice Crispy Square ($3.50)
  • My friend bought this to share after. When we initially tried to cut it, it seemed hard as a rock, but it turned out to just be dense and chewy. Also not super-sticky like Rice Crispy Squares often are. The green matcha flavour wasn't overpowering, and there was just a drizzle of chocolate on one side to make the flavour interesting without dominating it into a chocolate-coated dessert. Overall not "wow" tasty but fair enough for the price point.
  • The square was maybe half an inch thick and three inches on each size.
The new cafe style of Karmavore looks like a cafeteria but you do get table service just like at a restaurant. If you paid at the counter, you can just leave a tip on the table. Otherwise, the card payment machine does force you to go through the percentage-or-cash tip (which can be a bit wierd if you bought something frozen for takeout).
They are only 50 seats, and at least on the day we were there, traffic starts to get steady after 5pm.

Also interesting at Karmavore is the raccoon-eyed lady at the counter with blonde-and-black hair. She had black squarish patches on her eyes that looked like tattoos but were actually her bold everyday choice of makeup. Worth a look all on its own, plus she's rather cute.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Appy Hour at The Flying Pig (Yaletown)

The Flying Pig on UrbanspoonAppy Hour at The Flying Pig is during that dead-for-restaurants pre-dinner time from 3pm to 5pm. However, if you polled all your friends, you might find a surprising number can show up for it. Maybe they work downtown and can zip down for a bite or leave work a bit earlier. Or maybe they are free from the 9-to-5 pigeon hole and are happy to get cheap eats downtown.

The menu has a good assortment, and for the most part, what you get for $5 or $6 is a good deal. Quantity varies A LOT based on what we got last Friday at The Flying Pig's Yaletown location. Overall, the food hovers around "good" to just under "great". It's simple appy fare and already at a discounted price, so let's not be too picky, 'eh?

Shrimp and Cod Fritters ($5) pickle and dill tartar sauce (picture)
  • Tried a bit of this and I have to say I couldn't pick out any shrimp flavour. Looked like there was a lot of potato, though.
  • The four fritters is sort of OK portion for $5 and considering you are in a Yaletown location, unless you think you're just getting potato in there, in which case it starts to look like $1.25 for each oversized tater tot.
Shortrib Croquettes ($5) sriracha parm basil dip
  • Not bad tastiness but only four rather small croquettes for $5.
Seared Chili-rubbed Skirt Steak ($5) matchstick potatoes
Steamed Clams ($6) beer and bacon broth (picture)
  • Steamed clams is steamed clams. It's a fair portion for $6.
  • Comes with matchstick potatoes.
  • Very clear bacon flavour with that broth. Remember to ask for a spoon. Probably don't want to order 
House Salmon Cakes ($5) rocket and watercress
  • This looked like the best deal of the lot. Three standard sized fish cakes, each slightly smaller than a deck of cards.
  • Couldn't find much filler here. Just lots of small salmon flakes. No large, dry wooden chunks. Good moistness here.

Irony at the EPIC Fest 2013

This past weekend, if you went to the EPIC Fest booth *inside* the festival grounds -- you know, where they were selling EPIC T-shirts -- you could have picked up a coupon book for $10 (Greenster, if I remember correctly), filled with discount coupons.

Amongst these coupons was a 2-for-1 for entry into the EPIC Fest.

But wait! You would already have been *inside* the EPIC fest.

Which is too bad, because the adult entry is $21. Two adult entries is $42. Plus coupon book for $10 makes it $52. BUT if you bought the book first, you could immediately use the 2-for-1 coupon and save $21, reducing your net two-person entry cost to $31.

Net savings $11 and you get a coupon book for even more savings. They could have moved so many books that weekend.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Patak's Tikka Masala Curry Sauce

Patak's Tikka Masala Curry Sauce (can) It's curry in a can! At first I was pretty leery of it, but once I tried it... WOW!

First of all, it's really easy. Just add a half can of milk They also have a super-easy recipe on the back, involving fried onions and chicken (or veggies, seafood, or other types of meat). You basically just let it all simmer with the curry sauce until it's cooked and hot. The cooking required is ludicrously easy.

What results is a surprising amount of curry that can make 2-4 meals depending on how much naan, bread, rice, or other staple you eat it with. It's also surprisingly tasty.
The curry is rich and flavourful as a curry should be. It's also quite thick -- thicker than a lot of curries I've had at Indian restaurants.

The main problem with it is that it isn't spicy-hot. It's rated at "medium" spicy, but for me there was no real heat at all. You'll have to add your own chili, preferably during "cooking" (i.e., when you heat it up) so that it all blends in better.

Stick with the Smoked Meat at Dunn's Famous

Dunn's Famous on UrbanspoonAfter much wrangling over where to go for good poutine, our dining group settled on Dunn's Famous. Some had already been to La Belle Patate and they reported with horror that the gravy was vegan. I've never been there, but if it is, it might be worth checking out for vegan fare. Hmm...

Anyway, I'd been to Dunn's Famous before and the tenderness of the smoked meat is good (the whole concept of smoked meat is another matter). This time I wanted to try something different, plus dessert.

Latkes ($6.99) Traditional potato latkes fried up golden brown. Served with sour cream. (picture)
  • Four latkes for $7. Each maybe added up to the volume of a pack of cigarettes, so that's almost $2 per potato pancake.
  • Very salty. You really need the sour cream to temper it, but the salt is still there of course.
  • Enough onion to make its flavour known, so if that's what you like, then you'll like this.
  • Overall I feel this is too pricey for the quantity you get.
Butter Chicken Poutine ($8.99) On special, not on regular menu.
  • It's poutine but instead of gravy, you get "butter chicken" poured over it.
  • Generous with the sauce, so all the fries quickly went soggy.
  • The sauce tastes nothing like Butter Chicken. Strong tang from the tomato, so if that helps you eat all those fries, you might actually like this. But if you're looking for some sort of Indian fusion, try elsewhere.
Carrot Cake ($6.99) Layers of spiced carrot-laden cake with pineapple,walnuts & coconut covered with cream cheese icing & topped with coconut, slivered almonds & a drizzle of white chocolate. (picture)
  • This was really decent. Very moist, almost pudding-like. Not the usual crumbly mess you often get with supermarket carrot cake.
  • Didn't really detect pineapple, so I'll have to take it on faith that it's inside.
  • Hugely disappointed at the portion for the price, which is basically $7. For that price, I expected the slice to have been twice as big. Instead, the wide end of the slice wasn't much more than an inch. This is why I really wanted to avoid downtown dining this year -- You're paying for location and ambiance.
For "large groups" (we were 7 persons) there was an automatic 15% gratuity.