Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Union

Had brunch at The Union today. I wasn't sure what to expect from something so close to Chinatown, but was pleasantly surprised.

The decor was a typical hipster minimalist concrete / wood mix. It was very bright, clean, and open - a good atmosphere for brunch. We got there right as they opened at 10am and were the first ones there. There was no line up and only three other tables when we left and hour and a half later.

I had the Bao Bun Bennies, as usual, I had to start with the Bennies. The presentation was nice and my friend thought my breakfast looked better than his. He did let me try his lemongrass pork sausage which reminded me of eating at a Vietnamese restaurant.

My bennies were solid. The egg poached to a perfect soft. The hollandaise sauce was a bit bland. It tasted like nothing but had a creamy texture to it. The Asian guacamole was quite interesting. All I tasted was the lime (or whatever made it sour). It was good though and helped balance the creaminess of the hollandaise sauce. The bacon was well cooked to a perfect crispness that made it very easy to cut.

I liked the fact that it was served on a Chinese bun as it wasn't as filling as an English muffin. Sometimes I find the dense English muffins too much, especially if there's also hash on the side. The has. Was coated in curry powder and was very flavourful. It also went really well with the great selection of hot sauces.

All in all I had a great experience. Now that I know the bennies are solid, I'm intrigued enough by the other menu selection to return. I'm surprised it wasn't busier, but I like not having to wait. I'd recommend it, but am afraid it'll be too popular and then I won't be able to return without waiting in line.

The Union Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


Finally got a chance to have a meal at Pourhouse, after years of recommendations from family and friends. We decided to go because they didn't do Dine Out (I try to avoid those restaurants now).

The place had a warm and vibrant vibe to it. It was hip and quite crowded for a Wednesday night. Service was prompt and professional. Our server was very friendly.

The special for the night was braised beef ravioli, but it sounded too heavy for me, so I decided to have two "plates" instead.

Ever since I saw that episode of Cutthroat Kitchen I've always wanted to try a scotch egg. I thought it was supposed to be just an egg wrapped in sausage meat but the taste was kind of metallic and "fishy". I have a feeling the egg was cooked a bit too much. The sauce it came with was really good though. It kind of reminded me of a tartar sauce and helped to balance out the strange taste of the egg.

I also decided to try the Rabbit Terrine because, how often do I get to eat rabbit? It tasted fine, a lot of seasoning and flavour. I had hoped that it would be more spreadable and creamy. The pickles and the mustard together with the rabbit gave it a good complex flavour.

As dessert I had the chocolate and almond cake. The cake itself was quite dense and a bit dry. The whipped cream was a great addition and added a bit of lightness to the bite. Altogether, it had a great nutty taste.

All in all, I had quite a good time. The server never hurried us when we were finished eating. We even got our water refilled quite a few times. I may go back, but I'd definitely recommend trying it out.

Pourhouse Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 8 January 2016

Devil's Elbow Ale & Smokehouse

We decided to check out Devil's Elbow because it was available on Open Table and close to the skytrain. It's located next to Chambar in the space Chambar used to occupy. I didn't like Chambar when it was there, it had the wrong atmosphere, but I thought the vibe was pretty good now that Devil's Elbow has taken over.

It had a rustic feel to it, I really liked the exposed brick and the canoe skeleton hanging from the ceiling.

We ordered the $40 Smoked BBQ Meat Platter with two sides.

On the top left is the beef brisket. It was tangy sweet and kind of dry. But after I drank a little more beer, it started to taste really good. It really isn't that dry because it is well sauced.

To the bottom is the pulled pork, which was sweet and savory at the same time. It was pretty tasty.

In the centre is the pork back ribs, which were also quite dry, but were a lot better after you dipped them in the tomato sauce.

The meats were all very smoky, just as advertised. I think they must have been cooking it all day because it was dry and it came out really quickly. By no means was it "bad" though. The sauces on all the meats were very good and they were well coated.

The potato salad was really good. The vegetables were cut evenly so you had a taste of everything in one bite. It was tangy and fresh and the potatoes were cooked just right. The celery added a bit of crunch.

The IPA Mac n' Cheese was the best part of dinner. It was rich and dense and made everything taste so much better from it's creaminess. The taste of cheese was strong.

The two of us only ate about half the amount.

We will likely return for the great atmosphere and decent food. We'd recommend it over Memphis Blues, which was always just okay.

Devil's Elbow Ale And Smoke House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 2 January 2016


My parents got a Bauhaus Travelzoo voucher so they asked us to come along (even though it's for 2).

Nice design - light, clean, industrial looking. I wonder if the "movie director owner" had any say in the design. He was quite the social butterfly, walking around saying hi to all the customers, introducing himself, asking if everything was okay, giving recommendations on what to try if it's your first time. He really built some rapport with the customers.

The server himself (at least ours) was very professional. He had recommended that we should order the tasting menu as well, given that the travelzoo voucher was for the tasting menu, but was completely fine that we ordered a la carte as well. Even when we swapped places and changed what we wanted he was very gracious with us.

To start they gave us sea salt and paprika  butter to go with our bread. The bread was warm and fluffy and the butter was very tasty.

Then we had a complimentary amuse Bouche which was a thin slice of venison with apple puree and jelly and "foie gras dust". By itself the venison tastes smoky and quite gamey. The Apple puree and jelly was a little too sweet and tart. That being said when you eat the combination of venison, puree, and jelly in one bite, it was really well balanced.

The first of the six dish tasting menu was the spiced salmon. The salmon was tender and moist. It had a subtle flavour and went really well with the sides of shaved black salsify, pickled and pureed rutabaga, quinoa, and capers. The pureed rutabaga was fantastic. It was very light and fluffy, yet it still had substance.

The second of the six dish tasting menu was the poached sole. By itself the sole was a bit fishy. Together with the bacon and bacon powder, it was perfect. The mustard foam was a little tart, but still tasted fine. When you eat it with the spinach, however, it really balanced the flavours and tasted so creamy it was unreal.

The third of the six dish tasting menu was the liver sausage ravioli, however, it arrived as a tortellini. I'm not sure how they made the consomme, but it tasted mildly of the liver as well and was very well seasoned. The tortellini itself also had a very strong liver taste - not the metallic kind, but the creamy kind that even B enjoyed. On the side there was an egg flan, which was very light and helped balance the saltiness of the consomme.

The fourth of the six dish tasting menu was the venison that was seared to perfection. It was very tender and had a nice subtle flavour that wasn't gamey at all. It was served on top of a parsley puree, an onion puree, and some jus. On the side is a caramelized onion and onion "sponge". This was something you had to eat together, because the combination of flavours were so well balanced - from the richness of the meat and pureed onion to the freshness of the parsley puree to the tartness of the jus. The sponge was interesting, it didn't add to the meal, but shows how creative the chef is.

The fifth of the six dish tasting menu was the braised venison shoulder served with pureed quince, brioche dumpling, crumbled blue cheese, and sauteed brussel sprouts. The venison was gamier than the other dishes, but when you add the sweetness of the sauce, the tartness of the quince, and the sharpness of the blue cheese, it was very well balanced. Blue cheese itself goes very well with quince, and then you add the meat, and the combination was quite enjoyable.

The tasting menu dessert was a (deconstructed) plum cake. The cookie base was gingery and sweet. The plum and ice cream was infused with gluehwein. The spices were pronounce and went very well with the sweetness from the sugars in the ice cream and cookie. The ice cream itself was light - I think it may have been gelato, but I cannot remember.

Since the coupon was only for two, we had to order more food for the extra two people. I ordered the roasted duck. It came on a bed of balsamic lentils and creamy leeks with a side of mashed potatoes. The duck was seared very well and the skin was so crispy I am at a loss how that was achieved. The meat itself wasn't gamey at all and was moist and tender. The balsamic lentils were very flavourful but not too tart and the combination of lentils and duck gives it great flavour and made it very well balanced. The creamy leeks were so creamy it felt like I was eating leek flavoured cheese sauce. I have no complaints about the mashed potatoes.

As my dessert I had the sorbet. I think it was raspberry flavour, but cannot confirm as I was not told what it was. It was heavier and sweeter than expected. It was good, and the flavour was balanced, but it seems less of a palette cleanser and more of a "real" dessert.

Overall, we had a great experience. The dishes were well executed, each one was presented beautifully and tasted wonderful. The complexity of each element on the dish really shows how skilled the chef is. We will likely return for a special occasion but not anything else as it was quite pricey and not within our normal budget. As B says, it's a place we will go back to quite often if we're rich. The food was worth the price tag, if you can afford it.

Bauhaus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 1 January 2016

Mad Chef Cafe

We were invited to have lunch at Mad Chef's today. Apparently it's a place where if you're not a local you don't know about it but it was also featured in "You Gotta Eat Here". Our friend plays squash with the chef and told us he was classically trained.

The place has an industrial feel to it, but very clean and comfortable to be in. The server was very nice and friendly.

B and I shared the Dr. Dynamite burger - the habanero appealed to B. The patty was normal sized, thank goodness, and very moist. I could definitely taste the habanero. The sauce was well balanced between sweet and tart.

Overall a good meal. Our companions tried other burgers and Mac & Cheese and also said they were very delicious. Will return and recommend.

Mad Chef Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Michael's Off Main

Our friends took us out to Michael's today because we wanted breakfast more than lunch. She said their bennies are really good.

The place was quite charming and busy on a Thursday morning. I was pleasantly surprised and had higher hopes given the crowd.

Brian had three slices of French Toast, which came with pan fries. He says it was adequate. I thought it was okay on its own and delicious upon soaking up all the maple syrup. The choice of bread was kind of disappointing- the crust was too thick, chewy, and hard to cut. Perhaps it was also because of the choice that made the crust soggy, and not crisp like it is supposed to.

I ordered a half portion of the classic Eggs Benedict. The fact that they had the half portion available was great. The sauce was a little bland though, didn't seem to be tart enough. My egg was also not funny enough. I had asked for my egg to be soft poached and my server asked if I wanted the egg white runny, to which I said no and so she said, "Medium then". I'm pretty sure you can have soft poached eggs with just set whites. It was a fine Bennie though, and I finished it. I even ate most of the pan fried despite them being not crispy enough.

Overall a decent place given that this is a small town on the island. If we were in Courtenay again and wanted to go out for breakfast, the food was solid enough to return to.

Michael's Off Main Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Bistro Pastis

We'd always wanted to try Bistro Pastis every time we walked by it back when we lived in Kitsilano, but never got the chance until now. We got a Travelzoo dinner for 2 coupon as a Christmas gift so what better time to try it than during the holidays?

The restaurant was decorated for the season and it was so great. It felt warm and welcoming. It was well lit and clean. I felt comfortable in the restaurant.

Everyone was also very professional and treated us well despite the "coupon" that we possessed - you know how you hear about diners with Groupon who get snubbed? We felt that we were treated the same way as every other diner in the restaurant.

As our shared appetizer, we had les vis de veau (crispy sweetbread, sauteed wild mushrooms, butternut squash, port wine sauce). I've always wanted to try sweetbread but every time I see it on the menu, it's often overshadowed by the choice of foie gras.

It wasn't what I expected at all. I expected something resembling more like internal organs, but it actually reminded me of crispy boneless chicken thighs instead. We wished the exterior were a little more crispy, but it tasted just like chicken, which was pretty good. the mushrooms and squash were cooked perfectly to the point where they were soft, but not mushy. I wish the squash were cut into even cubes, because that would be what I expect from a fancy French restaurant, but at least they were cooked evenly despite the uneven size.

The sauce itself was a little too tart for me - though still sweet. If we dipped the bread that came with dinner into the sauce, the tartness goes away. Speaking of bread. Though served warm, which I love, the butter was ice cold, which made it difficult to spread on the bread. It should have been taken out at least an hour before dinner service and left to sit at room temperature.

As my main course, I had le foie de veau et la moutarde (provimi calf liver, potato puree, onion ring, mustard jus). I was given the option to have the liver cooked medium or medium rare. As I've never had this option in my life before, I decided to go with the medium option to be safe. I think if I could choose again, I would go for the medium rare - just to make it more tender.

The taste of the liver itself was fine. I love the taste of liver so I loved this dish. It was cooked very well and did not have that metallic taste liver often has when not cooked well (i.e. at a dim sum restaurant rolled in rice noodles). It was well seasoned and had a great texture. B didn't like it so much as he doesn't like the taste of liver itself.

The vegetables that came with it was cooked perfectly. A little tender yet still crispy. I wished the potatoes were roughly mashed instead of pureed, but at least it wasn't mushy and still had a bit of texture - which I believe most people prefer, just not me personally.

I don't like onion rings, but B does so I let him eat all of it. He likes to order them whenever given the chance, so he's had quite a few. The onion rings were well coated with a delicious batter and fried expertly to a golden brown. It was still crispy when served.

B had le steak et les frites (grilled angus new york steak, pommes frites with herbed foie gras butter). The steak was cooked to a perfect rare - which is, forgive me for the pun, rare. Every time we order rare it comes out medium rare. There was a big piece of fat at the end which was a little off-putting. B cut off a bite for me with just the fat and it made me sick. It was also the most difficult portion of the steak to slice. We think most "professional" chefs would trim the fat a bit so that only a thin slice of fat was left on the steak to give it a bit of flavour. It was certainly not necessary to leave it on, as B ended up simply discarding the piece of fat because it was disgusting to eat.

The fries were really good. They were fried perfectly crisp, salted well, and still tender and moist inside. They were also served with a home made mayonnaise that was interestingly tangy instead of the usual bland mayonnaise you get in a jar.

The foie gras butter was a little disappointing as it tasted very little like foie gras. There was a bit of herb but mainly tasted of butter. We like butter, but in our opinion, it was too much butter. We were also disappointed it didn't come with a bit of roasted vegetables.

For dessert we had the trio of sorbet. Today's flavour's were (from left): mango, pineapple, and blood orange. After such a rich meal, we wanted to have something light, and this definitely hit the mark. All three were refreshing, not too sweet, and tasted exactly as they should. We also appreciated the texture from the crumble of almond and granola (maybe? That's what it tasted to us). It could have used a dash of calvados, but I guess that would make the crumble turn to paste. Either way, it was a delicious dessert to round off a really good meal.

Overall we had a great time. Unfortunately for Bistro Pastis is that we only have room in our lives for one fancy French restaurant and Le Crocodile has taken that spot. It's the little things that count. When we walk into Le Crocodile, they offer to take our coats right away. At Bistro Pastis, I see they have coat hooks for each table, but they did not offer to take our coats. At Le Crocodile, we don't even get a chance to check out the menu before they tell us the specials. At Bistro Pastis, we had already decided what to get and didn't even get to hear the specials. Not that the service at Bistro Pastis was poor, in fact I really liked our server and tipped him above the designated 15% that was a part of the Travelzoo coupon, but everything at Le Crocodile was just a bit more refined. We most likely will not return, though we would recommend to those who are looking for a good French meal at a more reasonable price than Le Crocodile.

Bistro Pastis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Craft Beer Market

Went to Craft Beer Market for brunch today by recommendation of my brunch date. It was pretty quiet which is great for me since I don't like waiting. We grabbed a table near the window with a view of the water.

My friend said she had the bennies and they were good, so I decided to go for the Avocado and Cheddar Bennie.

The bennies were served on a biscuit instead of English muffins. In theory, that sounds good- but when I think of biscuits, I look forward the the crispy exterior and the soft interior that melts butter as soon as you spread some on it. The hollandaise sauce made the biscuit rather soggy and the biscuit wasn't hot enough. So it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

The hollandaise sauce was different but I liked it. It was kind of more tart than normal, and less rich. The hash browns were well seasoned, but a little soft. I was craving some texture after the soft biscuit and soft egg. It just needed some crunch overall.

Overall solid brunch. Good service while it's quiet - can't say what it'd be like if I went back when it's busy. I'd probably go back on another quiet day and didn't feel like cooking.
CRAFT Beer Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 21 December 2015

Bistro Verde

Had a girl's night out at Bistro Verde since people keep talking about "the restaurant at Nordstrom's" like it was a big deal.

The decor is nice, welcoming and there's a nice view of downtown. There's a lot of new / green servers or people in general because:

1) my reservation was for 3 people and they didn't bother to confirm before taking away all but 2 settings; and

2) they didn't know who had already helped us and given us our water order - complimentary sparkling or still water, fancy that

We had some complimentary bread to start with some olive oil. Unfortunately the bread was hard, chewy, and cold. I really wished they were warm.

I had the Ginger Crusted Ahi Tuna Salad - napa  cabbage, blistered green beans, red pepper, seasoned wontons, candied ginger, soy glaze, spicy thai basil vinaigrette. One of my companions also ordered the same dish. I ordered it with dressing on the side and when they brought it out, they weren't sure which was which.

Taste-wise, it was solid. I especially liked the crispy wontons that gave it more texture - not that it needed more as the salad was crispy and fresh. The soy glaze was very sweet and the tuna was cooked very well. I have nothing negative to say about the dish at all. The vinaigrette itself was also very tasty, and you could really taste the thai basil.

We also shared a bottle of the featured white wine, which I have forgotten the name to but was very fresh.

We didn't get dessert because nothing popped out at us in the menu. They have the standard chocolate cake, a bread pudding, and creme brulee, as well as gelato. I think putting the amount of calories next to the items really changed my perception and appetite. I didn't feel like eating a bread pudding (my favourite) because it had more calories than a burger. If I'm going to stuff my face with 1500 calories, I'd prefer going for the meat.

Overall, it wasn't a bad experience despite the hype. I don't think I would return because it wasn't amazing either. It's a bar - kind of like Earls or Cactus Club and wasn't very special. It was solid and worth a visit if you're downtown and looking for a place to eat when everywhere else is full.

Bistro Verde at Nordstrom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar

Had a joint dinner celebration at Blue Water Cafe tonight. I've been here once from a few years back for Dine Out. It was a decent enough experience, but never felt the need to brave the traffic to come back. Plus, my friend had the risotto last time and threw up after we left the restaurant.

To start, I had the six oyster selection of the day: Chef's Creek, Fanny Bay, Komo Gway, Kuushi, Read Island, and Caraquet. The Caraquet was from the East Coast, the rest from BC.

Clockwise starting from the horseradish. The Caraquet was supposed to be sweet and plump with a clean mild finish, but it tasted very fishy though still a little sweet. The Fanny Bay was supposed to be firm, sweet, with a slightly metallic taste; and it was mostly salty but fresh. The Kusshi was plump and fruity as usual - I should have saved it for last because it is so dependable. The Komo Gway was firm and sweet. The Read Island was really delicious, it was plump and fat and only mildly salty. Lastly the Sawmill was quite disappointing. It was mild, but it was so tiny I barely tasted anything. Overall they were all fresh and I wouldn't mind having more of the Read Island.

As my main course I had the Pumpernickel Crusted Sturgeon in cauliflower puree, golden chioggia beets, and garnet beet agro dolce (sauce). The sturgeon itself was moist but a little chewy, I couldn't figure out if I wanted them to cook it to the point where it's flaky and dry or like ahi tuna where it was chunky and moist. I wanted the pumpernickel crust to be a little more "crustier" - with more texture and crunch. But it was very mushy. The golden choiggia beets seemed overcooked a bit, I wanted more crunch. They were tasty though, if not a little sweet. The pearl onions that went with it was cooked perfectly. I loved the combination of the rich and salty cauliflower puree balanced with the sweet beet sauce.

One of my friends brought a cake for the occassion, so I ordered some coffee. It was so tiny, but packed with flavour. I couldn't believe it was decaffeinated!

I was a little annoyed that I didn't get to try their pumpkin cheese cake, because: pumpkin, yum! I guess Dairy Queen ice cream cake isn't a bad way to end the night. The kitchen even took the time to put caramel swirls on the plate - free. of. charge. I was thinking they were going to be like Minami and charge us $10 per plate plating fee, but they didn't, which was very good service, considering those swirls.

Plus, they gave us free dessert at the end too!

I had really wanted to hate this place because of the price and the location, but I have to be fair. It's not that bad. At first, I was annoyed because they brought out our main dishes as soon as they brought out my oysters. Why couldn't they wait until I finished my oysters first? Then they brought a lid to cover my plate so it won't get cold, which was very thoughtful. But some guy came over and asked me if I was done when I obviously had 3 oysters left to eat - just because I was taking notes on the flavour of the oysters on my phone. Maybe next time I should bring my notebook instead so it's not so rude. But really, guy, look at my plate. No, I'm not "done".

Our server was really good though. At first I thought she was giving us attitude because not all of us ordered drinks, but then she was much nicer and more professional by the time our food came.

The oysters were great, the sturgeon so-so, service was on par. Probably won't go back if I don't have to though. I can't say I recommend it either because I can get good oysters at The BlackBird and better cooked fish at Sandbar. And both places have quite decent service and prices. I wasn't wowed, but I wasn't angry at this place either.

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato