Sunday, November 24, 2019

Cactus Club (Station Square) weekend brunch

Cactus Club Cafe, Station Square Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato My friend was all excited by the under-$10 weekend brunch and dragged me here. She was immediately disappointed by the rather small menu, but did manage to find something that she ended up liking (Avocado Benny).
I, however, apparently picked the one thing you shouldn't get here.

Fried Egg Sandwich ($13.75, or $9.75 during weekend brunch if you order before Noon; cheddar cheese costs extra) smoked bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, mayo, red relish, brioche bun, smashed potatoes
  • Looks like a pretty tall burger till you look inside and realize it's fluffed up by lettuce.
  • Worse, the mass of lettuce and other slippery ingredients can make this a mess to eat, squishing out juices everywhere. I recommend you try to flatten down the lettuce by flattening down the sandwich.
  • Basically a rip off even at $9.75 for what you actually get. Think about it: An egg is something you add to a burger for +$1, at Red Robin for example. Order something else.
Fever Tree Ginger Beer ($4)
  • Pretty tall bottle of really decent ginger beer. Not too much bite, not too sweet.
Staff were polite and prompt with service. Combined with the rather nice ambiance, this was the only thing saving this brunch from a failing score.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Chancho Tortilleria

Chancho Tortilleria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Casual walk-in to Chancho Tortilleria tonight to catch up with a friend. If it looks like it's got a line-up, don't be daunted -- go in and see if there's actually a wait for seating or if it's just the lineup to place your order at the counter.

This is diner-style: Place your order, find a table. There are napkins at the table but if you're sharing with friends you probably want to look for a plate and fork as well.

Guacamole ($9)
  • Appys are always more expensive than mains, so you can't expect that much for price for portion.
  • This was okay-tasting. At $9 I'd pass if I went again.
Vegetarian Tortillas ($18 for half pound) - Mixed Potatoes and Vegetables. All orders include condiments: Pickled red cabbage, whole pinto beans, salsas, freshly made Chancho tortillas, and limes.
  • The best part here is price for portion, especially if you are in a group of 3-4 people and order one pound. 1/4 pound is recommended as being enough for one person.
  • We got a 1/2 pound of the mixed, and the potatoes really help to make it a filling meal. So for a casual yet filling meal downtown Chancho is a pretty good option weighing in at around $9-$10 for the veggie option (around +$1 for the meat option).
  • You get enough tortillas that you don't have to ask for more. This is really convenient.
  • DISCLAIMER: I'm not vegetarian. But I was with a friend who in a pescatarian phase so I went with the veggie option. Taste-wise, it was just okay and the condiments didn't elevate it at all.

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".

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Cobblestone Farms Fully Cooked Pork Back Ribs in Honey & Garlic Barbecue Sauce

It's been long enough since we last tried Cobblestone Farms that my mom completely forgot we tried it before and bought a box of Fully Cooked Pork Back Ribs in Honey & Garlic Barbecue Sauce on sale. This time I decided to be more careful about documenting everything.



First off, if you compare the front and the back, you'll see that the six minute time is only if you microwave and that's after 15 to 20 minutes of defrosting, minimum. I'm not sure I'd recommend re-heating this cooked product in the microwave though. In any case, read the instructions and set aside extra time.

Packaging says 680 grams but you of course don't get exactly 680 grams of meat and bones. Our package came in overweight while frozen at around 800 grams but there was around 2/3 cups of barbecue sauce weighing 250 grams, so it was 550 grams.
That's not bad, and definitely an excess of sauce for whatever cooking style you are using and your personal preference in how much sauce you want on your meat.

Meat was fall-off-the-bone and tender. It starts out fully cooked, and I think whatever process they used took out too much of the juice and flavour because without the sauce the meat is really on the rather bland side.
So you definitely want to use the sauce, which is predominantly sweet. I didn't really detect the garlic, and overall it felt maybe it could use a bit more salt for flavour.

Overall, the key here is convenience. Think of this not as a barbecue item but as a frozen dinner. It's fully cooked, so you don't have to worry about actually cooking it, just heating it through. Hard to go wrong with that.
If you add a bit of rice, noodles, or fries or the like, there's maybe two or three meals in this one package.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Boss Restaurant (Metrotown)

The Boss Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato CASH ONLY. CASH ONLY.

Pretty mediocre food, but it's not bad per se. Comes out hot. Value sort of debatable but portions are good -- you'll walk out full even if most of it was noodle.

Value is a lot better if you are not dining solo. If you are, I recommend a larger sharing order for take-out and just portion it into two or three meals at home.



Shrimp and BBQ Pork Fried Rice Noodle with Curry Sauce ($13.95, comes with a hot drink)
  • Not really spicy at all. Separately offered hot sauce is not recommended as it's a different type of spicy heat from the curry.
  • Overall nothing wrong here. This is a largish portion for one person, so if you are two persons you're better off ordering a single larger portion to share from the regular noodle menu. The closest is probably V4 under Fried Vermicelli.
The Boss Signature Fried Noodle ($17.75)
  • Mix of veggies, ham, shrimp, chicken, mushroom. Kind of an elusive amount of each.
  • No doubt about it this is a pretty massive plate good for two persons. Which does work out to less than $10 per person, so it's a filling portion.
  • Most of it is noodle but the net amount of non-noodle is definitely portioned for more than one person.
We went for weekend lunch and it was busy! But they have a good take-a-number system and turnaround for small tables for two is not bad.
Service was brisk and businesslike.

CASH ONLY!

Friday, July 12, 2019

GM Restaurant

GM Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Named after the initials of their two sons born around the time the restaurant opened, GM restaurant is a rather busy Indian restaurant with friendly staff. Sharing-for-two-persons portions give this place rather good value. Taste isn't magically "wow" but it's good, comes out fresh and hot and in reasonable time despite the busy dinner hour.

Curry orders do NOT automatically come with rice or naan! They do slip in a warning about the size of your order if they suspect you're close to over-ordering for your party size, and I thought that was nice. Nothing heavy handed, just an assurance of the portion size being more than enough.



Paneer Pakoras ($11) a unique cheese coated with Indian spices, then fried and served with tamarind sauce as well as raita
  • Classed as an appetizer but it could easily be a light to medium meal on its own because of the solid chunks of cheese.
  • Rather bland taste, but you would expect that if you already know about paneer.
  • Overall it tastes sort of like tofu, but without the bitterness, and with a different texture. 
Sweet Crispy Cauliflower ($11) a unique pakora consisting of cauliflower fritters mixed with spices, fried, then toasted and coated with honey. Served with tamarind sauce and raita.
  • Not as crispy as I hoped, but the honey glazing is a rather good combination with the deep fried exterior. 
Lamb Rogan Josh ($14 +$1 surcharge for lamb; normally your choice of chicken or beef)
  • Nothing wrong here. Tasty sauce, decent amount of large cubes of lamb.
  • If you like lamb, you might want to check in before ordering the lamb. I didn't find it to have a strong gamey flavour. Some people look for that, others seek to avoid it. So if it matters to you one way or another, check in first. 
Vegetable Kashmiri ($12.50) seasonal mixed vegetables and fruit cooked with nuts and raisins in a lightly spiced curry sauce
  • Pretty interesting and chunky curry. Hard to tell from a photo but it included carrots, potato, and pineapple.
  • Definitely not skimpy on the sauce but this isn't one of those curries where the chunks are swimming in soup, if that's the type of curry you're hoping for.
  • The nuts and fruit make for an interesting flavour. Try to have some with every bite. 
Homemade Mulligatawny Soup ($8)
  • Deliciously spiced soup made hearty with a good chunk of potato.
  • Price a bit steep for the portion -- but it's tasty. 
Made in house Cheesecake
  • I really thought they blew it with the presentation here, sadly.
  • The cheesecake itself is really decent. And you can taste a difference between the factory stuff you find in supermarkets, especially in the texture of the cheesecake and the flavour of the crust.
  • I asked for whatever they had that was interesting and weird and to just bring out a surprise, but I guess they ran out of those two categories and gave us strawberry.
  • Way too much sauce on this one which, sadly, left an unappetizing muck on the plat as you eat it. Token sauce for colour would have been fine, though some of it might have been unavoidable from the sugary-sweet strawberry slices they used. Not sure if that part was house-cooked or out of a can. 
Naan
  • Looked fresh and tender. Really nicely done.
  • Not the fake supermarket stuff heated up, nor did it look like stuff that had been sitting around a bit too long from earlier in the day. Clearly superior to a lot of Indian restaurants that don't care too much about this staple. 
  • My good friend treated me for my birthday and sneakily paid the bill so I didn't get to see the full details, such as the portions of naan we ordered. I suspect the picture shows two orders. 
Plain Rice ($5)
  • Portion good enough for two.
  • Paired with a curry, you're looking at around $20-ish dollars, but you've got a decently sized meal for two persons. 
Overall, good food plus good value plus good service. I guess it's top marks.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Kokomo

Hey Kokomo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Before I talk about what I had at Kokomo, I should make it clear that although it's basically a vegan place, I am NOT vegan. Not even really vegetarian. I do lean toward that when I make my restaurant selections, but I feel there's a completely different approach when it comes to talking about food when you have a wider choice. For vegans, there can be a beggars-can't-be-choosers bias.
It's a smallish place with a curvy communal table. Overall ambiance strives to be bright and spacious despite the floor space being actually rather small.
Like a diner your order at the counter. They are also available for delivery via DoorDash.



All-Day Breaky Macro ($13) tofu scramble, roasted squash, spicy tempeh crumble, corn, watermelon radish, greens, brown rice, cilantro crema, hemp hearts, sesame seeds, cilantro, green onion.
  • Basically it's a big salad on rice with "fake egg" made up of tofu.
  • Remember there's rice! It's hidden on the bottom and makes up maybe 1/4 of your bowl. If you eat up all the salad you'll end up with just boring rice and nothing to go with it.
  • That tofu is bitter. But if you know tofu you already know this. I'm not good with bitter and I forgot, so for that reason I wouldn't order this again. I basically went with this choice because the lady at the counter said it was her favourite.
  • Composition is interesting, colours are good -- very instagram-worthy, if pretty food is important to you. Taste is pretty good for the variety and textures. But...
  • SALTY! Something in it make it quite salty for the most part and very salty in some parts. My friend ordered the Coastal Macro and it was also salty. Might be how they make bowls here but you definitely want to ask about it.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Tenen Eastern European Cuisine

Tenen Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato It's been a long time since I went to Tenen and surprisingly the pricing hasn't changed much. They have shown up frequently on Groupon, however, and with their clever pricing, the $20-towards-lunch adds up to either a cheap yet huge-portioned lunch for one person, or approximately a half-priced lunch for two persons.
They do have nearly-$20 main dishes so going solo with the groupon is fine (and it's one groupon per table) but most items are $16.95.

Overall the food is comfort homestyle food. Actually on the mediocre side except the portion per plate is probably good enough for up to two persons depending on what you get and your appetite. Tenen does feed you well and isn't skimpy on portions. Even though they have the usual fillers of bread and potatoes, they aren't stingy with the meat.



Gourmet Burger ($16.95) 10 oz. patty with bacon and cheese mixed in

  • Looks like the bread used is a pita sliced in half and pan fried in drippings from the burger.
  • The seared-on-the-outside patty itself is really heavy and filling, but it's also really kind of rubbery-firm from maybe having ground the meat too finely. It has the feel of an overdone burger patty.
  • The burger has some cheese, bacon, and chili mixed in for a slight bit of bite to the flavour.
  • The plate has fries, coleslaw, and a scoop of rich chili-flavoured spreading cheese which you can certainly slather inside the burger.
  • The patty is big enough for this burger to count as two regular burgers that might each cost you $10-$12 elsewhere. It's a very plain burger (bread and patty) but the plate is not skimpy on portions even if you discount the complimentary thick pita that comes to the table.
Cabbage Rolls (16.95) seasoned ground beef and pork with rice, stuffed in sauerkraut leaves, served with mashed potato
  • Looks like a small portion at just two rolls, but the amount of rice in the filling is token, so you're getting basically two burgers worth of meat here. If you're still not feeling full enough you can work in the pita bread that comes to the table.
  • Overall tasted fine, nothing superlative here. The slight sourness of the sauerkraut really helps with how filling this plate is.
OK food with bonus points for generous portions -- something that is steadily harder to find nowadays, especially with newer restaurants.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Chef Rong Noodle House - Chili Oil Rice Noodle

Chef Rong Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Caught up with a friend on Sunday and we snooped around the Crystal Mall food court for some cheap eats. Always in search of strange foods, I ended up trying "Chili Oil Rice Noodle" from Chef Rong Noodle House. And it's basically what's written -- rice noodles swimming in chili oil.

It's rated three-chili spicy-hot on the menu board, but it really didn't have good heat or buzz. Also could really have used a spoon for the peanuts.

Overall, it was somewhat boring but for just $6, you got a big, filling, bowl of soup and that's cheaper than a lot of other offerings at the food court.

They also have those pancake burgers filled with crunch, similar to what you can get overpriced at Me Crepe but simpler. I didn't spot that on the menu but might try it next time just to compare.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Breakfast Table

Breakfast Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato I was initially going for a Dine Out Vancouver 2019 brunch on Sunday, but my friend and I instead detoured to Breakfast Table. A smallish but apparently popular place, it still had a line-up at almost 2 PM, but it was quite short and the wait time was maybe around 15 minutes. You can leave your name and number with them and get notified by a text message when your table is ready -- Handy!




Apple Cinnamon Roti - $6 feature of the day
  • Roti wrapping cinnamon-dusted apples.
  • While the roti is nicely done as roti go, it is not special or flavoured so this is actually a very boring dish and not especially tasty. What you see is what you get and adding maple syrup still won't elevate it into anything special.
  • Nothing really wrong or bad here except that there are more interesting things to order at the Breakfast Table. Recommend you pass.
NEXT JEN gluten free vanilla bean waffle - $9.75; organic ground millet, brown rice, coconut milk, house made coconut yogurt whip, maple syrup
  • As far as gluten-free waffle taste and texture go, this is a winner. It is so close to "normal" dough that you probably wouldn't know you were going gluten-free.
  • That coconut yogurt whip has an interesting yogurt tang to it that makes it more interesting than your usual sweet glob atop a waffle. If you want sweetness you can then control it with the maple syrup freely available at the table -- but if you use too much you'll mask any coconut subtlety in this dish. Maple syrup a bit on the watery side but still very sweet so taste it first before drowning your plate.
  • Overall a bit plain and uninteresting especially for $9.75 unless you can't get a reasonable gluten free waffle elsewhere. Pass and get something more interesting.
Chicken Karaage Hash - $15.25; two eggs, sesame seed, nori, Sweet Ass Chili Sauce
  • Usually when I see "hash" I think diced potato golden-browned into hash but here we get largish chunks of mixed roots in what adds up to a rather filling bowl that's fair value at $15.25.
  • Chicken is really good. Enough crisp to it plus the use of seaweed adds an interestingness to it.
  • If you are a lighter eater, you might want to partner up with a friend and together share this with an appetizer so you won't over-order. Taking a doggy bag home with you is allowed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Yelp Elite Event - Blaze Pizza (Downtown Vancouver)

Blaze Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato I got lucky and scored an invitation to try Blaze Pizza at their downtown Granville street location at a Yelp Elite Event. It was a warm no-pressure invitation to try their pizza and process and have a good look around.



Blaze Pizza operates sort of like a Subway sandwich shop: You tell them what you want and you follow them down the counter as they assemble it. They pop it into the open and a few minutes later it's ready for an optional finishing touch (like a drizzle of balsamic glaze) and you pick up your order.
In between there's a lot of customization available, like more or less or extra toppings and slight touches like a sprinkle of sea salt before it goes into the oven.

They try to make it easy with fixed pricing, and it's all the no-cost little extras like the finishing touches that gives the pizza a touch of class and personalization. Whether that's worth money to you depends on how you see pizza. If you think of it as super-cheap stuff-your-face at a couple dollars per mega-slice, then Blaze isn't going to be for you. Try Romano's just a couple storefronts down.

When they are super busy, like the Yelp Event was, if you DON'T want an extra be sure to state it carefully and watch them closely. It's too late once they've added it. For example, after they built my pizza they asked if I wanted a bit of sea salt or some spice on it. I guess everyone before me just asked for both so even though I asked only for sea salt they put both on it. It's a side effect of their assembly line process so if it's a big deal to you, stick close to them.

There are a lot of differences between Blaze Pizza and "regular" pizza.
  • The dough is thin in the Neapolitan pizza style (but obviously this is not traditional Neapolitan).
  • There is remarkable consistency with the dough as they use a press to basically cookie-cutter each one out into a set but not-yet-cooked shape.
  • Although it is "fast fired" in the style of a Neapolitan pizza, their oven does not seem to produce the same bubbling -- and extensive burning -- that the process can do to a pizza. Not uncommonly a wood fired oven can see literally blackened charring on the bottom of a pizza but the process here seems to have avoided that. Slight blackened charring at the edges of the pizza is sliced off before it is given to the customer.
  • They spread the toppings almost to the edge. Combined with a thin crust there's very little filling bread to go around. Which depending on your personal preference can be a positive. Personally I've seen AYCE pizza deals where people literally just eat the toppings off and leave the bread part behind like a mound of empty pizza shells. This sort of blatant cheating for AYCE is probably the reason they aren't that easy to find at a cheap price anymore.
  • Aside: Curiously, the dough is very, very, white.
They aim to get you in and out in 30 minutes and have an app (with loyalty program) to help move things along similar to the Starbucks app where you order en route and just walk in and pick up. From the time I placed my order to the time I picked up my pizza, it took about 14 minutes (yes, I secretly timed them).

Gluten free crust is available and not only does the dough look different but they distinguish it with a red coloured tray. Other than that I did not see any effort to isolate it and avoid contamination -- so if you are very sensitive to gluten you'll want to be very careful here and state it up front to see if they can accommodate you.
The gluten-free crust is extremely thin, apparently even thinner than their regular dough. As you can see from the pictures of the pizza I ordered there's barely anything there at all when you look at it from the side. So...
  • If you are worried about the taste and texture of the dough -- don't be. You're unlikely to taste and experience anything other than the ingredients.
  • If you can tolerate a little bit of regular dough, you might want to pass on the extra $2 for the crust.
They have other small bites like their "dough knots" (pizza dough with pesto) and cookies. Pass. Really. Stick to the pizza.

For the half pizza I ordered -- the Red Vine signature -- it was OK. These thin-crust Neapolitan style pizzas always look skimpy on ingredients and you don't get the same homogenous distribution with minced up ingredients so, for example, not every bite will have tomato. If that's not the style of pizza for you, if you want more filling bites or your buck, then go for a North American style pizza and not something from the old country.
Maybe especially because it's thin-crust and overall a very thin pizza, you really want to eat it right away as it gets cold really fast.