May’06 Reviews

Steeps. The Eatery. Bread Garden. Spring Rolls. Il Mercato. Talay Thai. Montana’s. Pacific Place. Cactus Club Cafe. Banana Leaf.

This was one of those mind-blowing, gut-busting months of eating in four different cities – Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary – I love these months!

Steeps Tea Vancouver, May 3’06
Tea tree was awesome and it’s like Christmas, sniffing all the tea offerings. When you’ve decided, they recommend you pick your own tea cup – where you have a choice from fancy blue willow with elaborate scenery and story going on to very plain non-designs. In a french press, instructed to plunge it after three minutes. So civilized.
895 Broadway West (@ Laurel), Vancouver, B.C.

The Eatery, May 9’06
I was way too eager to return to The Eatery and in no small part because last time I left without a picture of the food. The second time around, I was with fellow bloggers amongst whom photographing food was barely a blip on the radar. Here you are – Rainbow Roll, (Tuna Crunch?), Tataki Attack, Tuna Mango, etc.
I couldn’t resist not ordering Mango Tuna again, with mango, tuna, and avocado (4.25). And after careful deliberation, I also ordered Tataki Attack, with “crab, scallop, avocado and mayo wrapped with seared albacore tuna” (6.75, but it was on special for something less, 5.75?).
As far as I can remember (writing this up 22 days later), Ryan and Travis got Tuna Crunch with tuna, tempura bits, and mayo (3.95), a Rainbow Roll with tuna, salmon, and ebi over crab and cucumber (6.25), and two others I have since forgotten….
I loved the Mango Tuna, as usual, and I recall not being enamoured by Tataki – there was a sauce that I found sweet. I also tried the guys’ rolls but can’t remember them….
It’s still super-fun to go and have a boggling time picking out your dinner selection which has so far been good to excellent.

3431 Broadway West (between Waterloo and Collingwood), Vancouver, B.C.

Bread Garden, May 10’06
Great assortment of ready-to-serve foods. We got a shepard’s pie (5.99) and added a side salad of tomatoes and (bocconini) in vinaigrette for 2.50. Because of the great packing that can be achieved with tomatoes and (bocconini), it was great value. =P Love the clean, modern, casual atmospheres of Bread Garden and wished more of them were open into the dinner hour.
4575 Central Boulevard, Burnaby, B.C.

Spring Rolls Restaurant, May 13’06
Spring Rolls in The Atrium on Bay is an open and modern space that I had hardly expected of a restaurant (1) downtown (2) serving Asian food. While the menu offered Chinese, Japanese, and Thai food, we went straight for the Thai page and ordered a Seafood medley pad thai and a Seafood medley red curry, each 10.95.
. Both dishes were generously laden with seafood – and solidly well-prepared.
40 Dundas West (in Atrium on Bay), Toronto, On.

Il Mercato Ristorante, May 16’06
We totally saved our appetites for going to Il Mercato, the best semi-upscale Italian dining in the city. I’ve never been to the Bedford location and have no interest – part of the reason why the one on Spring Garden is so great is its location (even after it moved across and down the street to larger digs).
We ravenously dug into focaccia and bread served with balsamic vinegar/olive oil. Mmmmm….
For our entrees, I ordered ravioli “filled with roasted chicken, wild mushrooms and cambozola, finished with a mushroom and sherry cream sauce” (13.95) while the Sister ordered a pizza “topped with roasted chicken, sundried tomatoes, artichokes and friulano cheese” (11.95).
I’ve ordered the ravioli before and ordered it again in part because of the ability to eat it with a knife and fork. It was delightfully rich inside as was also the sauce. Even if there may only have been 7 or 8 pieces, it hit the spot and was filling. The pizza was quite good save the vegetables were under-/not roasted. We adored the crust.
In order to pick your dessert you meander over to the display where the rotating selection is present. The Sister order something called something like “Coffee Toffee Crunch” while I ordered a
chocolate tart that came with a side of gelato. That was the seal on the deal. The innards of my tart were like liquified Skor filling – rampantly and sinfully sweet. Ouch. And yum.

5560 Spring Garden Road, Halifax, N.S.

Talay Thai Restaurant, May 18’06
Not being totally in the loop with Halifax restaurants – I try, thanks to The Coast’s RSS feed – I hesitate to say that Talay Thai is new and occupies the old Clay Cafe space.
In side, the decor is Thai with a thatched hut over two tables on the side, and many elephants and sparse gilted decor. We proceed to place orders for Pad thai (11.00), Masaman Beef curry entree and Green Curry Combo (10.95 and 7.95).
The pad thai arrived first and the two overwhelming flavours were how tangy (sour) it was and how spicy it was. Other than that, it wasn’t overly bad. I ordered the masaman beef because there was no duck curry and red curry was too pedestrian. Whatever passes for masaman curry was entirely too sweet it was a bit unpleasant. Even the green curry despite my impartiality for it, might have been better choice….
They got themselves into a small problem of being understaffed at lunch time and as a result the service was much delayed.

1261 Barrington Street, Halifax, N.S.

Montana’s Cook House & Bar, May 21’06
Montana’s is that restaurant in the BLIP (Bayers Lake Industrial Park) that is really hard to get into. Ironic, isn’t it, that it’s not the swanky, trendy place, but just a down-home place that serves ribs, from what I knew.
It wasn’t altogether difficult to get in for lunch on a Sunday and we settled into the lodge-like surroundings. In one of the rare occasions I eat out with my parents, they would comment that it’s really loud in there. Noise pollution arose from hundreds of patrons speaking voluably, not from music.
We didn’t know our eyes were bigger than our stomachs when we ordere Back ribs with baked potato and “Yankee Roast stew” (large size for 24.95), Beef Fajitas (15.99), and 1/4 Rotisserie Chicken with chicken chili and spinach salad (8.99).
We marveled how the servers can left the ribs orders since when it arrived we realized it was enormous (a lot of bone). We had ordered the ribs with a beer-sauce and it was quite delicious. The fajitas were also a satisfying portion even if the beef was a bit overly chewy. The biggest disappointment (besides the very shoddy sides – namely the spinach salad and Mexican rice that came with the chicken), was the rotisserie chicken. It was not very juicy and the hoped-for saving grace of the gravy was not so – it was oddly sweet.
Next time, exercise caution when ordering – the portions are unbelievably large.

194B Chain Lake Drive, Halifax, N.S.

Pacific Place, May 22’06
Calgary is breaking out of cow-poke shell and you can tell by the presence of not one but several Chinese malls in the city. Pacific Place is one such place and when you Google for it, a preview snippet implore that you go visit “exotic Pacific Place.”
Pacific Place is one of the “old-style” of Chinese malls, more Market Village (Toronto) and Parker Place (Richmond) than Pacific Mall (Toronto) and Aberdeen Centre (Richmond) – and there is nothing wrong with that!
We at at a Vietnamese diner in the mall that was overrun with patrons on a holiday lunch hour. It was standard far, $5.75 for a regular-size bowl of beef with rice noodles or chicken with rice noodles.
All was quite great until the ant(s) crawled from the window sill onto our table….

999 36 Street NE, Calgary, AB

Cactus Club Cafe, May 27’06
Cactus Club Cafe is undoubtably one of my favourite chain restaurant in Vancouver and generally I’m pretty leary of them (Red Robin, White Spot, and Milestones are prime examples). But the one on Broadway and Ash – I will re-iterate – is so cool.
And there’s an item still on their features menu called the Hawaii Tuna Poke that I practically got to monopolize this time around. =D But getting to eat most of it, I realized the faint use of cilantro. It didn’t entirely spoil it anyhow.

575 Broadway Street West (@ Ash), Vancouver, B.C.

Banana Leaf Malaysian Restaurant Ltd., May 29’06
Who can turn down a free lunch? Not I!!
Lunch companions were a little wary of going to Banana Leaf because of its reputation for being really busy but we were ushered in with no delay on a Monday at 1:15 p.m.
Without the restrictions of personal finances, we ordered for once a meal to share amongst us consisting of satay chicken skewers (6 @ 1.25 each), roti canai (2 @ 3.00), sambal green beans (10.00), seafood and chicken fried rice in a pineapple (13.00), sambal tiger prawns (15.00?), and “an abundance of seafood” with singapore chili sauce (20.00). I suggested curry vegetables but that was too normal and we had exclusively chicken and seafood dishes because one in our company did not eat mammals.
So the rundown goes like this –
* Skewers were a little charred but the peanut satay sauce was great.
* Roti was just wonderful but I’ve had better sauce (Tropika….)
* Fried rice, well, was fried – I was so looking forward to it
* Tiger prawns were good but sambal reminds me of Malay-style sweet & sour
* The abundance of seafood was… not… and the sauce was tomato-based and not going to make you sweat
* The beans arrived last and by then we were getting full – I did not relish the garlic and crushed bit coating the beans….
It sounds like I wasn’t very impressed but I usually am with Banana Leaf! Give me rendang beef! Give me laksa! Apparently I’m not a fan of sambal in great portions.

820 Broadway Street West (@ Willow), Vancouver, B.C.

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