Dineout reviews: Vancouver this summer

In a lovely turn of events, my firm gave all staff a holiday the Friday before the Natal/Civic/BC holiday (Monday) and I was heading to Vancouver anyhow to attend a wedding that long weekend. I was able to spend 10 days in Vancouver/BC and only use four vacation days! And at this point, I don’t particularly wish to go anywhere else… I was really missing good food!

Between taking off the second weekend for a trip-in-a-trip to Osoyoos and obligations to see family (which I tried to make food-related), it felt like a whirlwind. Honestly, though, that’s just how I like it.

Lucky’s Doughnuts

I had been hearing a lot about Lucky’s Doughnuts in the Main Street edition of 49th Parallel Roasters. Their homepage does not reflect that the shop has opened but Twitter images will show you otherwise. NPY and I went during an extended coffee break of his, a quick drive from his office.

I don’t even know what the shop took over at Main and 13th but it’s a cool earthy and open space that feels like an elegant cabin. The doughnut prices were were also elegant starting at $2 each. NPY has his particular tastes and didn’t think any donut looked particularly delicious after the factory-perfect ones of Tim Hortons so I selected two from the three or four I would have wanted. It came down to a French Cruller (because I love Honey Crullers from Tim Hortons) and the Mango Square because it’s mango in a doughnut. How fusion and Vancouver is that?!

At first, I only got us a knife but NPY was in his work threads and I concede that utensils would slow me down from eating the doughnuts up quickly. The French Cruller was dense compared to the fluffy and moist Tim’s Honey Cruller, but good. I enjoyed the mango square. The mango filling was more pudding than custard and I spread the extra filling that would ooze out onto pieces of French Cruller. NPY did not enjoy the pudding consistency and did not feel like like mango has a place in doughnuts. That’s why we make fun of his old-fashioned taste for apple fritters and long johns!

I also dearly wanted to try the Lemon Bismark and, had it been available that day, apple bacon fritter.

 

Lucky's Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

QQ Sushi

NPY left his Q Go Ramen cards (to redeem free ramen) at home so we made a last minute decision to have sushi also very close to his work. QQ is one of our more recent finds and we like the good, reasonable price for sushi. Thus we ordered seven pieces. The salmon was excellent and the chopped scallop was good except for the overly salty nori seaweed. I left my toro to second last but it did not taste very fresh and it wasn’t decadently marbled and fatty.

Although it is not particularly NPY’s style, we ordered a specialty roll. We ordered the Canuck Roll which is the reason we started going to QQ but we got a very green roll instead that was obviously not a Canuck Roll when we could see on the wall pictures of the specialty rolls. She had brought us, it turns out, a Vancouver Roll, the second time in a few visits that we got the wrong roll. I do like the Vancouver Roll with an abundance of avocado and other fillings like cucumber, masago and BBQ salmon rounding out the roll.

 

Q Q Sushi on Urbanspoon

Richmond Night Market

I had been hankering from afar an easily accessible and periodic night market. I went to the one in Toronto and it was an experience but nothing to write home about. This year, the Richmond Night Market made its return (I don’t know how long it was gone) and at a new location near the River Rock Casino. The drive to the parking lot seemed twisting and turning but it was a short walk to the entrance and parking as free. The admission fee was $1 at the start of summer but $1.50 in August. These little surcharges count!

For a while, I thought I wasn’t going to try too much remarkable or different. We got barbecued squid from a stand that sold nothing but one flavour of barbecued squid and I’m starting to come around to them because it is a good smoky, cumin flavour and good value. We also split combo plate of fried noodles (dry) and fatty and carelessly executed (but still tasty) siu mai dumplings. The longest wait was for takoyaki because it just take a long time for those octopus balls to cook and it was still overly gooey. Still, the wait was just 10 minutes compared to 30 or more minutes in Toronto.

NPY and I wandered off and I knew that to try something different, I had to initiate it. I also wanted roti but that was difficult to share with NPY and his sister and mother who also came. And the idea of tofu fries, I could not shake–what would they be like? The stand also sold a Japanese-style fried mashed potato with all the fixin’s which sounded delicious but too much commitment for two items from the shop. The tofu fries were coated in a peppery and salty batter and it was the dehydrated and chewy tofu sticks. They were served with a creamy cheese sauce and we thought they were really unique and tasty. Another winner was the mango topped shaved ice with a scoop of ice cream. I really didn’t want to share!

I didn’t make it to the Summer Night Market which is sad as there are always new stands I want to try. I didn’t know I wouldn’t get a chance to go to the night market because with NPY’s family around, I was shy to shop and I still want a Minique charm bracelet. (Pandora style! Night market special of $15 cf regular price of $18!) Oh well.

 

Ensemble Tap

We stumbled out of the Scotiabank Theatre after watching Batman: The Dark Knight Rises in a bit of daze and amazement. It was so good and left you wanting more but that is the end of the trilogy. And we wanted more such that we sat through all the credits for an easter egg that did not exits. Nuts.

The restaurant next door used to be a pan-Asian fusion place called Axia or something and we had a crappy meal. But now a sign hangs above the door with a lower-case “e” and I recognize it from walking by ensemble, Top Chef Canada Dale MacKay’s restaurant earlier in the afternoon. I did not know that ensemblee tap was a second, casual restaurant and I was easily on board to try an ensemble restaurant.

NPY and I split a beer flight in that I selected a fruity raspberry beer and he drank the other three normal beers. We both ordered what his sister recommended as she had been to ensemble Tap several times.

I don’t like pulled pork (and feel like the only person in the world to feel like so) on account of not enjoying most barbecue sauce so I cannot comment on NPY’s Award-Winning Pulled Pork Sandwich which might have a connection to Dale MacKay’s appearance on Top Chef Canada. I ordered the Crispy Chicken Burger that sounded amazing on paper. The herb foccacia was very good and thick and I certainly loved any hint of the avocado “mousse” and paprika mayo. But I found the chicken burger and the bacon were overly crisp and I feel like an old person complain about that. It all could have been more tender, in my opinion.

 

Ensemble Tap on Urbanspoon

Congee Noodle King

No pictures much to my greatest regret. It was really great of NPY’s parents to take the whole lot of us out for dinner. We were eight in a “quadruple date” with NPY’s parents, his sister+boyfriend and his brother+girlfriend. We ordered six dishes for a set price which then came with two cold appetizers and soup. The six dishes included dried honey garlic ribs, garlic chili fried shrimp, eggplant hot pot with shrimp paste, kung pao chicken with cashews and two tofu dishes: mapo tofu and Buddha’s feast. We always get the Buddha’s feast at Congee Noodle King as it has a good assortment of vegetables topping always perfectly fried egg tofu. The mapo tofu was a real treat and kind of in my honour. I was relieved that I was not the only one who enjoyed the mapo tofu. As NPY put it, gold went to the mapo tofu, silver to the eggplant hot pot and bronze to the Buddha’s feast!

Congee Noodle King 粥麵軒 on Urbanspoon

Q Go Ramen

For Tuesday, I tucked the Q Go Ramen stamp cards in my purse and we redeemed twenty stamps for two free ramen. Sorta. I ordered a new item on their menu, the organic ramen in tomato pork broth. It was price two dollars more than the regular offering so we paid that difference. The ramen tasted the same as it ever does to me but the tomato broth was ultra delicious with a solid pork base but savoury tomato and spiced flavour.

I wonder if some changes have come upon Q Go as they did not ask me if I wanted fatty or lean cha siu and there was no complimentary dish of edamame served for while we waited.

Q Go Ramen on Urbanspoon

Fortune City Seafood Restaurant

I came to know No. 1, the restaurant on the upper level of the “T&T plaza” at Renfrew and 1st Avenue because NPY’s family would often end up there for dim sum on the weekends. But when it changed to Fortune City, they did not like it as much and so were surprised I would have dinner there with my family. It turns out my Uncle Three knows the management and they do good dinner.

I’m abashed but we had a big feast and I think it was partly due to my presence in town. The food was fit for a wedding, NPY remarked, so I did not take pictures of every course because we’ve seen it all! A cold cut platter with dark “ham” and light “ham”, jellyfish and honey garlic ribs. Shark fin soup that Big Uncle teased I should drink up as it is banned in GTA. Toasted almond crusted shrimp balls (pictured) with springy shrimp mixture. The assorted seafood and vegetables dish I did not touch because the seafood was boring and the vegetables consisted of celery and snow peas. The roasted duck (pictured) was excellent. Lean and moist and perfectly flavoured. The cold boiled chicken with skin that is “dandelion-coloured” (I read that description recently). Fried lobster and crab. Steamed sea bass that the server claimed rivaled that you’d find at an expensive banquet, and it was good and I usually hate the fish. We thought perhaps it was a new-fangled carb-free dinner when the last two heaping plates came out. A fried rice with asparagus and salted fish and e-fu noodles which was not quite as good as I usually have it.

This is NPY’s second big dinner with my family and he’s concluded, to my satisfaction, that my family eats well!

 

Fortune City Seafood Restaurant 百福海鮮酒家 (東一街商場內) on Urbanspoon

Tacofino Blue

I also hanker from afar for food trucks. On Wednesday, I met up with my Toronto transplant cousin for lunch and I felt so wishy-washy for not having decided what I wanted to eat. I was down to a smoked salmon sandwich from Kaboom Box (from which I previously had a po’ boy sandwich), naan-wrapped butter chicken with basmati rice (I wasn’t 100% sure I knew which food truck that was. Soho Road?). Or fish tacos. And by lunch hour and the time we met, my appetite was pointed towards fish tacos on account it would be fairly light. I also decided against a salmon sandwich because I wasn’t sure I would like the smoked flavour. It’s so unfortunate that I have just  one shot at it when I’m just a visitor to the city! :(

We walked around on an overcast day until we found one of the Tacofino trucks and ordered one each of the regular battered ling cod tacos and the special tuna ta-taco. I didn’t want to be fussy so I did not request they hold the cilantro and so my photos are so pretty with cilantro sprinkled across. We started with the tuna ta-taco which had a strip of seared tuna as the meat. I really liked the tuna tataki and how the simple toppings and a squirt of hot sauce made a meal. The ling cod taco was also good but not warm enough. We sat on the planters outside the RBC on Burrard and what a mess it made to eat the tacos with all the juices and sauce running out the other end of the tacos!

Tacofino Blue on Urbanspoon

Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe

I ran an errand between food stops and we wrapped up with a civilized stop at Thierry and enjoyed our desserts and coffee and tea on their patio on Alberni, swapping notes about our new lives in new cities. My cousin, who is a chef, said that he hasn’t had anything he didn’t like from Thierry and that is not hard to believe. I wanted to get pink (lychee) and purple (blackberry or current) macaron but that would be rather ridiculous so my non-fruit macaron was salted caramel. The eclair had chocolate cream and everything was divine.

 

Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe on Urbanspoon

L’Abbattoir

Continuing our tradition, NPY and I had our very belated (by nearly two months) anniversary dinner at L’Abbattoir in Gastown at the site formerly housing a slaughterhouse. We got a really cool seat on the upper level dining room that overlooked the bar and front door.

It started off good with a colourful bread basket with a piece of brioche, a cheese stick, and lavash each. I love the attention to detail and it erases from my memory a recent poor experience with bread in a restaurant.

I ordered the sweetbreads as an appetizer and kept mum as NPY was a little bewildered that it was not sweet. I could have looked it up at the time and told him exactly but that ruins the mood. It tasted like really chewy liver to me and the top layer seemed like a glorified liver & onions dish. The gribiche layer is fancy for cold egg salad that was really herbed and I loved it presence in the dish.

For NPY, I chose the saffron crusted halibut as it is a lighter dish and it was served with pasta. His fish was cooked perfectly such that even I may have eaten it despite my weariness with halibut.

No surprise, I ordered duck although we had perfectly roasted duck the night before. You just can’t shake me when I’ve made up my mind and I did so weeks before. Duck leg rissole was served inside a wonton wrapper rolled into a spring roll and I did not like it. The duck breast was perfectly cooked and I even loved the sauteed sides on account of its fusion sauce. The broccoli was smoky and I was sad to have to share with NPY!

I restrained myself to defer to NPY on dessert but only one was quite different from the rest. We ordered the strawberry rhubarb float in which fizzy lemonade was poured over strawberry sorbet and there were bits of rhubarb and small bead tapioca. It was pretty but very simple. I don’t do rootbeer or coke so these are the kind of floats I could make at home!

 

 

L'Abattoir on Urbanspoon

Happy Date Bakery & Restaurant

I saw Kam Do from the Brighouse Canada Line station but it is only a bakery and not the restaurant so my aunt with whom I met up during her lunch break took me to Happy Date a few plazas away from Richmond Centre. It’s a bit of a hole in a wall but cheap lunch. I chose from the mini meals with spaghetti and then eliminated the creamy ones to come down to the shredded beef black pepper spaghetti. It was really average but who can complain about $7.25 lunch that includes a cold drink?

 

Happy Date Bakery & Restaurant 喜相逢 on Urbanspoon

Kam Do Bakery

I really dragged my feet back to the Canada Line station, inexplicably exhausted, which gave me time to realize I should bring some baked goods from famed Kam Do back for NPY’s family. The items are super-sized and hygienically pre-packaged although it makes for an awful picture. I got pineapple bun, pineapple bun with what turned out to be coconut (yum!), massive cocktail bun, a milk bun, their famed wintermelon pastry, and an apple turnover. Six pieces for just over $6 thanks to a grand opening discount!

Kam Do Bakery 金都餅店 on Urbanspoon

Miku Restaurant

Confession: I was intrigued about L’Abbattoir and Miku and then swayed by tweets from Andrea “Tammertron” Tam who seemed to heavily frequent these two establishments back when they were newer. And then Follow Me Foodie’s multiple visits and photos further helped. I’m glad we could go as a group of five and we got to try six dishes but I feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Miku is a bright space with lots of light, and indoor and outdoor seating. The staff chant welcome sayings in Japanese as you arrive and depart and the service was top notch except when we were wrapped and the server disappeared and we weren’t offered a dessert menu or the bill for a long while.

Since I picked the restaurant, I ended up in the driver’s seat for organizing the table’s order but I was also glad for being able to suggest and order the dishes I did come for. We ordered the rainbow salad that was topped with six pieces of sashimi and avocado. We ordered sablefish that was buttery and the miso broth was a little tart. We got two rolls which were good fillers and wonderfully made with fine attention to detail. As the server explained to us, each sushi and roll is crafted with a particular sauce so no wasabi-in-soy-sauce is necessary. I ordered the premium aburi sushi which usually comes with seven pieces but that was an awkward number to split and we got two kinds, five pieces of each. The kitchen determined that we would have hamachi (tuna) and toro where the latter looked normal innocent but packed such wonderful smoky taste from the searing process. I feel like I missed out on potentially seven different fish and want to go back for that.

The star among the dishes was the pressed salmon sushi which was almost a normal price per piece. Pressing the sushi somehow lends a different flavour and I think it was an aburi (seared) sushi and there were two kinds of salmon and the rice was as perfect as sushi rice gets.

 

 

Miku Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Diamond Steak & Seafood House (Osoyoos, BC)

What a funny and memorable little trip to Osoyoos, five years after the first one with the same group. As we drove through town, memories came back to me and I pointed out where we ate since we hadn’t decided our entire game plan. Once we saw our two-bedroom suite at the resort, most of the meal plans were scrapped and we prepared three of the five meals ourselves.

As we drove to Diamond Steak & Seafood, I was awfully worried that it would be disappointingly “rustic” inside as their webpage suggests but there were attempts at elegance inside and there were more people than the parking in front suggested. On Friday, they had their prime rib special which mean it was offered as opposed to not being available on the weekdays. I ordered a smaller-portion fettuccine Alfredo and thank goodness for that. It was an adequate portion and the sauce was completely lacking in punch or pungency. It was a really lazy and sloppy Alfredo.

The prime rib was good, really good. The seasoning made it delicious. The guys kind of deemed the vegetables afterthoughts but I liked eating them after my Alfredo dish since they had been roasted with a generous amount of dill. NPY ordered rice instead of a baked potato and I dug in immediately because it looked like it could be good if mushy. It was indeed mushy and also quite awful, creamy and mildly cheesy.

 

Diamond Steak and Seafood House on Urbanspoon

Sun Yee Restaurant

After 48 hours, we hankered for Asian and our first option (Nanaimo Sushi) having an unpredictably long and I had a flight to catch, we ended up Sun Yee which is nothing new to me. Aside from the carnivore in our group, the rest of us picked dishes to share: fried rice with shredded duck and preserved vegetable, fried rice noodle with beef and shrimp paste, fried flat noodle Singapore style, baked pork chop in tomato sauce on rice and baked seafood in cheesy cream sauce on rice. In order of how I listed is how NPY and I enjoyed the dishes. We enjoyed most the first two, incidentally what we ordered. Singapore noodles bore me, even when they have flat rice noodles. The pork chop rice was not great and the creamy sauce was really unspectacular. We’ve had better from the cafe, perhaps we had stuck to the traditional Chinese dishes.

 

 

Sun Yee Cafe 新怡餐廳 on Urbanspoon

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