Friday, 31 October 2014

Cork & Fin

Went to Cork & Fin because I was craving oysters.

We had three dozen oysters and a duck terrine, which just came out yesterday.

The oysters were fresh and creamy. Horseradish was freshly grated and quite potent! I ate 18 and only 1 had shells in it. Same with B. So the odds were pretty good.

They do charge by the half dozen, so the 2-for-1 deal wasn't as good as we thought - like charging the by the dozen, which is a better deal than by the half dozen. Oh well.

The server said they came out with a bunch of new dishes and the duck terrine stood out the most. It was quite delicious. It was creamy, well seasoned, well flavoured, and served with delicious compotes and jams. The buttery toast was a delicious touch. You could taste the butter on the toast melt in your mouth.

Happy hour is a great time to go (5-6pm), because it's not so busy and cheaper! Will recommend and maybe return on a Sunday when they apparently have "buck a shuck" for real!

Cork & Fin on Urbanspoon

Monday, 27 October 2014

Earnest Ice Cream

After dinner, we decided to go to Earnest Ice Cream for some dessert. Luckily, as we approach winter, there are no more line ups - still busy though.

We tried the London Fog and the Whiskey Hazelnut. The London Fog tasted a bit licorice-y and not enough bergamot. The Earl Grey gelato at Bella Gelateria is way better.

The Whiskey Hazelnut was good. I liked the little bit of saltiness that cuts into the sweetness of the ice cream. Not sure if I tasted whiskey though. When I first tasted it, I thought I ordered the salted caramel - until we compared it to my friend's Whiskey Hazelnut and realized it looks the same.

I left wondering why this place is so busy and what the hype is all about. The ice cream is average at best. Perhaps we are spoiled by the French cooking classes we've been taking, but ice cream is really easy to make and the ones here have too much sugar in them. Maybe I'm just a gelato person and not an ice cream person.

Speaking of gelato, we were walking along Arbutus one early morning. Since Plaisir Sucre Bakery was closed and there wasn't any other dessert place, we walked into Napoletana Pizza, Coffee & Gelato. I know what you're thinking, gelato at a pizza place? It was a very pleasant surprise. We had the pistachio gelato and the flavour was so strong, it was amazing.

Anyway, I will not recommend Earnest, nor will I return. It's not worth the hype.

Earnest Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

The Wallflower Modern Diner

First off, the reason I "Like" The Wallflower on Urbanspoon is because I'm absolutely in love with the Hummus Melt. If they didn't have that, I would definitely "Dislike" it.

It was a cold evening, so I decided I needed a single malt to warm me up (the menu didn't list that they had tea). The server brought the whiskey menu after we asked if they had any. I ordered a shot of the Balvenie and it was actually brought to me in a shot glass. Fine.

We ordered the Poutine to share, B ordered the Blackened Salmon Burger, and I ordered the Hummus Melt (of course). One of our other friends decided that my love for the Hummus Melt was enough to sell her the melt, so she ordered one too.

My friend also happened to be buddhist (vegetarian, which is why we went to the Wallflower), so she can't eat garlic or onions (I had no idea - but apparently, they "excite the senses" - click here to read more about it on Wikipedia). So when the server asked what side she would like, she naturally had to ask if the salad dressing for the salad had any onions or garlic in it. Apparently, all their dressings have onion powder in it. But instead of saying, let me check with the kitchen, she just flat out said she could bring the salad out without any dressing. That's poor service. I mean, how hard is it to make a salad dressing? One part oil and three parts vinegar: DONE! She had to go with the baked fries. But I digress.

The poutine was okay. Tasted fine, but I thought there wasn't enough gravy.

B's salmon burger was a little on the dry side, and the salad looked old.

I chose the daily soup: Cream of Portobello. The flavour was strong and I loved that the mushrooms weren't completely blended to a pulp so that there was still some texture to it. B thinks we make a better mushroom soup though, and who am I to disagree. Click here for the mushroom soup recipe we normally make.

Everyone ended up finishing their food and enjoying it. But I've heard there are plenty more other vegetarian restaurants in the city now. Surprisingly enough, the Foundation, which we were originally planning to go but decided not to because they didn't take reservations, was empty.

  The Wallflower on Urbanspoon

Ten Sushi

I usually try to stay away from conveyor belt sushi because I think it's a cheap gimmick to disguise gross sushi. I'm glad B convinced me otherwise and we visited Ten Sushi for dinner the second night. We even sat at the bar.

What's different about this place is that the sushi chefs are actually Japanese, not Chinese - which is all too common here in Vancouver. We ordered the Salmon and Tuna sashimi from the chef as they were not available from the conveyor belt. At first we were a little disappointed because they were such small slices. We were blown away by the texture as soon as we tasted the sashimi. They were thawed to the perfect temperature (for those who think sashimi must be unfrozen to be fresh, please do some research before complaining). B was most impressed by the tuna, which happened to be bluefin (I know, shame on me for enjoying this endangered animal). The tuna was also served with freshly made wasabi, which was so strong and so delicious, B was sad there was only a small glob of it.

We grabbed some squid. Chewy, but not too chewy.

Then we tried two different types of mackeral. This is the Marinated Mackeral from Norway.

This is the Hourse Mackeral from Japan. This one was sooooo much better. The one from Norway was a little bit fishier than I like.

We also grabbed a plate of Fried Calamari, served with tartar sauce, delicious.

And a plate of takoyaki, which was so good. The octopus was chopped instead of mashed / diced, so there's still a bit of chewy / texture to it.

What I love about this place is that, despite the "tackiness" of conveyor belt food, the sushi chefs take the time to prepare each plate beautifully. The way each slice of fish covers this tiny ball of rice (note, tiny ball and not fistful blob) and curves onto the plate is so artistic.

Sure, the bill came out to triple what we normally spend at Bella, but I would definitely recommend and return.

Ten Sushi on Urbanspoon

Coa Mexican Eatery & Tequileria

Had lunch with B's relatives at Coa Mexican Eatery & Tequileria. This was a pleasant surprise because we keep passing by it when we visit, but haven't tried.

We had the tacos, one of each type of meat. When the food arrived, we were a little disappointed at first. Normally, when we order tacos here, we get two tortillas per meat serving, this one only came with one. However, because it came with so much rice and beans, we settled for just cutting the tacos in half.

Food was well flavoured and well cooked. Came out quick. Service was professional.

Definitely recommend and will return if we ever return to the area.

COA Mexican Eatery and Tequileria on Urbanspoon

Portage Bay Cafe & Catering

We had breakfast at Portage Bay (South Lake Union) the next day. We made reservations, but when we arrived and I said "I made reservations," the host didn't really listen to me and just said "For 2? Come this way." My guess is they don't care much for reservations.

Service was terrible from the start - probably because they're so busy and understaffed. It took 10-15 minutes for our server to come over and greet us after we sat down. The bussers didn't even bring over water. We were ready to order when our server finally came over. We had two coffees and an omelet (because we were still full from dinner at Assaggio). The coffee and water came at the same time.

They were nice enough to split the Goat Cheese Omelette on two plates for us. At this point, I was a lot happier and had decided to forgive the server for not greeting us promptly. I may have jumped the gun. The potatoes that came with the omelette were soft, but the skins were tough - they may have over baked them or not coat them with enough oil. It didn't make sense why the skins were so tough while the potatoes were so soft (too soft). The omelette presentation was a little sloppy. I think I would have preferred if the goat cheese was incorporated into the omelette and oozing out instead of this glob on top.

During the course of the meal, our server came over to ask how everything was. Stupidly, we said everything was good. As our French cooking teacher taught us, we should be more French and less Canadian and tell people when the food is not up to par.

But that was the extent of the service. We had no coffee or water refills for the remainder of our visit. Finally, we asked for the bill and because we were in a hurry, I put my credit card on the table. The server just grabbed it and said he'd be right back. He didn't come right back. I had time to use the washroom, put my coats on stand at my table to wait before he realized he'd forgotten my bill (and left my credit card unattended). Needless to say, I was not impressed.

Will not recommend nor return. I wonder if we're just spoiled by the great selection of restaurants in Vancouver that nothing impresses us when we go on vacation.

On a side note, they have a great selection of hot sauces.

Portage Bay Cafe on Urbanspoon

Assaggio Ristorante

We made reservations to visit Assaggio for B's birthday. Our reservation was for a Thursday night at 7pm. When we arrived at 6:56pm, the hostess said our table will be ready in 4 minutes. After about 10 minutes, the hostess said that the people at our table had paid their bill and they're just waiting for them to leave. It wouldn't have bothered me as much if the hostess had just said that when we first arrived instead of saying our table would be ready in 4 minutes. To give them credit, the restaurant was PACKED - even the bar area.

After we sat down, our server IMMEDIATELY came over to ask what we would like to drink. Since we just sat down, we really couldn't decide as we have not even had time to look at the menu. He left and returned to the table behind us (seated at the same time) and took their drink orders but never came back to us until we had nibbled on some of the bread. The bread was served with a jar of oil on the side - which everyone would have access to and could possibly contaminate.

So after a while, our server finally returned to take our order. We ordered both drinks and food at the same time. As our appetizer, we had the GAMBERONI grilled prawns coated with goat cheese, mint and oregano sauce. As you can see, we don't have a picture because it was so small and we were so hungry, we ate it all before I remembered to take a picture. The plate was composed of a spoonful of salad, and five tiny prawns which looked more like shrimp because they were so tiny.

I ordered the OSSO BUCO braised organic veal shank with seasonal aromatic vegetables, served over arborio rice. The veal was soft and well seasoned, and the rice was rich and creamy. There really wasn't much to complain about except the portion size. I would gladly have paid a-third of the price for the dish for something half the size. But I guess we're in America, so portions are bigger.

B had the Pasta Sampler because he couldn't decide which pasta to have. He ordered the CINGHIALE pappardelle with wild boar ragu, VONGOLE linguine with manila clams, garlic, lemon and white wine, and VODKA penne with imported pancetta, peppercorns, green onions and vodka tomato cream sauce. B says the pasta was very well cooked to a perfect al dente. The CINGHIALE was his favourite. He also could not finish the dish.

As dessert, we ordered the CHOCOLATE CHIP CANNOLI and the TARTUFO. We shouldn't have. Both tasted like they came straight from the freezer. The Tartufo had a strong taste of freezer burn, and the cannoli was so hard we couldn't even poke through it with our forks.

Our server was kind enough to take one of the desserts off the bill, but it really didn't make up for his poor service the entire night. He appeared to be in a bad mood from the onset and just didn't give us the professional service you might expect from a restaurant with these prices and caliber of food. For example, when we ordered the half carafe of wine, he brought the carafe over and poured the wine out. But when I ordered a glass of wine, he just brought over the glass that was partially sprayed with lemon juice from the bar. I expected him to bring over a smaller carafe for the glass like they do at other restaurants - even the Keg does that! The owner was running around greeting people, serving, and clearing dishes - which made me believe he expects more from his staff.

All in all, the main dishes are great. They are well cooked and come out quickly. Everything else could do with a little work. Will not return but would recommend their pasta.

Assaggio Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Tipper

Returned to the Tipper with a friend today. I'm not sure if they just opened or not because they didn't seem "ready". On the one hand they had dirty tables they had to clear, on the other hand, they weren't ready to serve (i.e. one of the servers was busy cleaning up the bar).

Anyway, we were seated after a minute or so. Our server never came to ask if we wanted anything to drink. After what felt like forever, our server finally came over and noticed we were missing the extra breakfast menu.

I ordered the Samble Benny because I didn't know what a samble was. It's basically scrambled eggs with salsa-like veggies. Served on focacia and drizzled with hollandaise. The dish tasted fine; nothing special. If I return, I will most likely order a normal benny.

My friend ordered the cheddar mushroom omelet. It was nice and cheesy. The omelet was a nice surprise because of the lack of oil. Oftentimes, restaurants screw up a normal omelet by deep frying it in oil. This was perfectly fried. I also get turned off by the vegetable sweat if chefs don't pre-fry the vegetables. There were no such sweat in this omelet. Overall, a well cooked omelet.

Of course, the potatoes were great as usual.

One thing to note this time: There were coffee spoons at every table! I finally have something to stir my coffee with. I wonder if the owner / manager read our blog and decided it was a good idea, because it certainly made my coffee experience much better.
The Tipper on Urbanspoon

Friday, 19 September 2014

Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen (皇燕)

The first place we saw when we turned the corner, so we visited Hoang Yen.

Typical Vietnamese setup; though I like the special touch of individually packaged chopsticks. You never know who's dirty hand has grazed the chopsticks if it's not, right?

As usual, a dish of bean sprouts and fresh herbs were delivered right after we ordered. As usual, I don't touch it: had a bad experience at Pho Hoang (Main & 18th) where a server took a dish from another table and served it to a new table.

I ordered the #7 House Special, and added a side of a salad roll.

The noodle soup itself is okay. The broth is not as flavourful as Pho Tan, but it has decent flavour. The meat wasn't raw enough when served, but not overcooked either. A little heavy on the tripe and not enough brisket, but filling none the less.

I expected the salad roll to come before the soup, or at least with the soup. It came a while after the soup, but at least I know it's freshly made. The rice paper was nice a moist. The only thing I wished for was more meat spread out, instead of a clump of pork and 1 shrimp. The peanut sauce was also lacking. I've made more flavourful peanut sauces than this. It was like watered down peanut butter. A little Sriracha can make a big difference.

B ordered the #16 Hot & Sour soup. It was not "hot" and he had to add more spice. The seafood was well cooked mostly (except for the squid) and actually pretty good after the addition of a spoonful of chili. There's lots of seafood in this bowl.

Service was friendly. Place was clean. There was a TV playing, but it was at a comfortable volume where it provided some sound but was not blasting. Decent prices.

We may come back after we try out all the other Vietnamese restaurants in the area.

Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen on Urbanspoon

Friday, 12 September 2014


Dropped by at Cuchillo after going to Belgrad Kitchen and finding out we have to wait 1 hour because other people called ahead to be placed on the wait list even though they don't take reservations. How does that work?

Anyway, we sat down at Cuchillo twenty minutes later and got a call from Belgrad. No thanks. You can't run a establishment well enough, your food won't taste as good to me.

Anyway, we all started with some Taquerias. B and I ordered the Pulled Duck y Crackling. It was really well flavoured; a good balance of salty and sweet. The crackling was a nice touch.

My friends ordered the Baja Styled Battered Rockfish and the Mole Lamb Albondigas. According to my friends they were both good.

As our main course, we had the Char Grilled Flat Iron Steak. The steak was cooked perfectly; it was so tender. The chorizo buttermilk Kennebec mash and the lettuce really helped balance the flavours.

My friends both ordered the pork belly confit. It was sooooo flavourful. The fat was so thick and soft, your fork just goes right through it.

A great experience. A little pricier that other places, like La Mezcaleria, but still a good place to go. Will recommend and return.

Cuchillo on Urbanspoon