In December, I was in Vancouver twice. The first time, I was in town for 48 hours over a weekend. The second time was a joyous Christmas weekend, 96 hours. This isn’t all I ate as there were family dinners and repeat visits to some restaurants. But these are some of the highlights!
As we admired the beautiful bistro area behind the cafe of of Faubourg Paris in Kerrisdale, I was asked how I learned of the place. Well, I don’t recall. When NPY and I couldn’t go to L’Abattoir (new-ish French restaurant in Gastown) and I was in the mood for holiday high tea, it kind of came together. I do believe it was Urbanspoon afterall.
I got a little worried because in the bistro so far at 12:30 were ordering lunch while we were set on trying out their Pink Tea–three girls and NPY because NPY and I like our tea tradition, matching everything we eat. As we got deeper into the afternoon, more of the new tables were also ordering the tea set. I urged NPY to get something warm and so he ordered a lovely, rich cream of mushroom soup.
Here are my thoughts on the Pink Tea items, listed in the order that I ate them!
* passionfruit soufflé we were urged to eat this first or early as it would deflate, so we ate it first. The passionfruit was strong throughout and the texture was really light, porous. A really nice start.
* smoked salmon and wasabi cream I don’t like the idea of flattened bread and wanted to get into this item for which we had two each first. It was okay, not brilliant.
* chicken, apple, country ranch dressing I loved the look of the mini herb-dusted focaccia and enjoyed the bread as much as the creamy chicken salad in between the slices.
* cucumber, roast beef, coriander cream Another beautiful mini loaf but I don’t like roast beef (which almost tasted funny to me) or cucumbers. The coriander cream was barely palpable.
* cranberry scone Nice scone that was dry enough and fluffy enough with tart cranberry bits. I learned I don’t like orange marmalade.
* apple-cinnamon cake We ate this first of the desserts (aside from the soufflé) because it looks so boring and healthy! It was just a couple of bites, rich, moist apple-cinnamon-nutmeg cake or muffin.
* mini passionfruit opera This was a beautiful piece with such delicate layers and passionfruit top layer.
* lemon tart The tart shell was crisp rather than dense and buttery and the lemon custard was not so sweet yet delicious. My measure is whether or not it made my tooth ache! Lovely sugar crystals ringed around the tart provided a sweet crunch.
* chocolate mousse Just scrumptious, rich, dense chocolate mousse topped with light whipped cream.
* parfait A nice tart and refreshing end to our tea!
Continuing on the French theme, I wanted to try Thierry Patisserie. I heard of it first at Follow Me Foodie and when Lynn Chen visited Vancouver for VAFF, she tried to go but it was too busy. Sometimes I wonder how NPY gets away not knowing about the hottest new places in his own city but he surely won’t forget this one as he commented on how it’s a nice turn for the city with the arrival of places like Thierry and Faubourg, bringing culture, elegance, something truly nice. That means he likes it.
The menu is designed by the executive chef of CinCin so I could console myself that it was like eating there (because I don’t know when I will!). The Quiche Lorraine was packed with mushrooms and bacon but also still creamy. NPY who doesn’t usually like quiche liked it. I think it was the mushrooms and bacon taste!
Then came the difficult choice of what to have for dessert! There are so many choices and a slice of cake runs at least $6. They have a beautiful passionfruit cake but we were at Faubourg (above) just the day before and had two passionfruit desserts. I considered having an opera slice (just like the day before) but it looked the least popular based on there being many slices left. What would both NPY and I like? I heard that people were ordering a chestnut slice (Chinese people!) and I made up my mind to order it but it was sold out! So I settled on macarons–one cranberry and one lime. Why haven’t I seen a pistachio one in a while? The crazy thing about the macarons is that in addition to the sweet jelly layer between the biscuits, there was buttercream! Lime flavoured buttercream in the green one and regular buttercream with a fresh crushed cranberry in the red one. We were smacking our lips and it was a nice size to finish off our meal (which also included an apple turnover, not pictured, and some small madeleine samples).
Not having found a good ramen place in Toronto (I don’t think they exist), I was adamant about getting ramen in Vancouver. Kintaro (where I have never before been) or Ramen Santouka, the new darling restaurant. When we reached downtown on Friday night at 11 p.m. after I got in, all the ramen shops were closed. It frustrated me. So we tried again three days later on a rainy Boxing Day.
NPY looked worried as I kept putting Kintaro ahead of any of the other shops and Ed and Olive were really great sports. We queued at Kintaro for just about twenty minutes during which time NPY and I wandered around the corner to check out Ramen Santouka. It looked like Santouka wasn’t yet open as there were about 25 people standing outside. Oh, that was the queue for the restaurant. So NPY was resigned to Kintaro. Our orders were taken as we neared the front of the queue and when they could arrange for us to separate but neighbouring two-tops along the wall, we took the offer. It’s not like it was the kind of meal where you linger and have conversation. When we got our seats, the queue for Kintaro was much longer.
NPY seems to have developed an affection for vegetable ramen and orders it where we go. At Kintaro, he got to chose his broth and he went with a milder shio and in medium weight broth. To get the full experience, I ordered the miso ramen in rich broth with fatty (versus lean) barbecued pork slices. To be fair, I did not eat all of the really marbled meat alone, giving NPY half of the pork portion to fatty up his vegetable ramen dish! The rich miso ramen was crazy cloudy and the noodles were just perfect.
Would we go back again? It’s definitely good enough but a little hard to justify the line-up when there are many other stellar ramen shops in the immediate vicinity.
NPY and I laugh about that time back in ’07 or something when we went to hot pot with Andy and Lil Sis right before Lil Sis and I got onto a red eye flight to Halifax where I really wanted to sleep. But wearing constrictive jeans and feeling so full as if I was continuing to expand was very uncomfortable and I moaned about that flight ever since. These days, I fly wearing more comfortable garb and tentatively have hot pot. During the first December Vancouver trip, we had hot pot with our friends in Burnaby at Top Gun. This time, it was NPY’s mother’s birthday and we went to Fatty Cow, a great hot pot addition to Vancouver proper.
There isn’t a great deal to say about their hot pot except it was good, we’d be back. The restaurant is renovated and nice and modern in the dark wood and chrome kind of way. We were a party of eight and they connected two four-tops with a stainless steel connector which I think they often use to accommodate parties more than four. That mean each four-top had their own hot pot pot and they wrote different table numbers on the order sheets but they brought all the food to the other table and we didn’t ever see our vegetables. It was frustrating. We ordered the double soup with clear tofu and nappa cabbage in one half and spicy broth on the other. The spicy was super spicy and we cooked most of our food in the clear broth. Some items I thought were just fine in the spicy broth, like basa fillets, tofu, and vegetables. At the other table, they were not boring at all with tom yum in one half and satay in the other!
Now that I’m not in Vancouver for a while, where do I want to go when I go back? Actually, I wanted to try Lin’s on West Broadway which is supposed to have some of the best XLB in town and I also wanted to try their chicken “fen pi” salad. But we were disgruntled and tired after moving all afternoon and Peaceful was a welcome choice. We walked several blocks in my old ‘hood but did not stroll because we wanted to be in and out in an hour… and it started to drizzle a little.
If I had my way, our order would be two of my favourite dishes: potato roll and Shandong noodles. But I didn’t feel like interfering and NPY ordered the tomato and egg noodle that his mother once chided him about (it’s easy for her to make it at home) and in order to make it somewhat novel, I ordered the chicken clear noodle salad.
“Oh,” NPY said, “my mom makes that.” With moist pieces of chicken and perfectly chewy sheets of noodles? With a well-balanced sesame paste, tender spinach, and a sprinkle of chili oil? “Well, no, not the noodles… or the sauce.” I happily chewed on the noodles. Craving satisfied.
Ack, I should have written my review of this meal earlier, like immediately after the early December trip. Of all the short trips and weekends I was in town, both Kitty and Cari were free and I first suggested Joey’s on Broadway. But it’s loud and generic and I’ve been there countless times. At the last minute, I change the venue to Suika, just a block away and we didn’t look back.
We all agreed upon the deluxe “suika” box which was a lot of fun to pick at. I didn’t like any of the nine dishes overly so it was good it was not too much per portion. Asian kakiage was like the Korean and Japanese omelettes, a little chewy, with pieces of seafood and a lot of cilantro laced in. Fortunately the cilantro did not infuse too much flavour. I felt like this dish desperately needed the dipping sauce because it was quite plain.
When looking over the menu, we decided on the mackerel salad of the salads but I bungled it up and pointed to the mackerel pressed sushi just below it, aburi “shimi-saba” sushi. I was really apologetic because Cari doesn’t really eat sushi but cured mackerel was as good as cooked for her and it turned out to be one of my favourite dishes of the evening. The mackerel was brilliantly marinated and cured and it was a truly flavourful sushi. In the Tokyo oxtail ramen, I wasn’t a big fan of the noodles (just okay) but the broth and meat were delicious!
Cari advocated ordering Chinese poutine and I wasn’t going to argue! Busy talking, we didn’t really get to it until the cheese had hardened again. Spicy ground pork is a nice topping and they had the good taste to use good shoestring fries. Chicken karaage sounded like a good idea but I really have to be wary when they are talked up so much. I wouldn’t normally order it except at all-you-can-eat Japanese and at those places, “chicken karaage” is a chicken wing. And when it is a piece of chicken and battered, it’s supposed to be better? I don’t see the thrill of it.
Egg pudding, asparagus chawan-mushi, is a lovely idea but when I have it, I wonder why I don’t just make it myself (granted, mine is a little grayer and less appetizing loking). It was a smooth, light dish. Finally, we got the matcha brulee to share. People have been blogging and raving and was I going to be disappointed?? No! The frozen matcha custard was like ice cream and I loved the caramelized sugar. With a dollop of whipped cream and red bean sauce, it had all the right essences of Asian dessert tastes and oh-so elegant.
Everyone’s talking about this Red Wagon place for brunch that has the pulled pork pancakes so that’s where I arranged for us to have brunch with Franked. They arrived before we did and put their name down. Silly host said it would just be an hour and offered them a mug of hot coffee. We waited for an hour outside on a chilly December morning. At least it wasn’t raining.
I had to order the pulled pork pancakes with sweet barbecued pulled pork layered between thick pancakes. Jack Daniels maple syrup was drizzled over the pancakes and I ran out of the sweet, strong nectar with over a whole pancake left. They would charge me for more JD syrup so I got much less fabulous plain maple syrup. I found the pancakes a little too thick and not fluffy enough. NPY ordered the much more balanced smoked salmon scramble which was made with house smoked salmon.