Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cadeaux Bakery- A shimmering beacon of baked deliciousness

I recently popped in for breakfast at Cadeaux Bakery, a fairly new edition to the Gastown culinary scene. Cadeaux is located on the far east side of Gastown on Powell near Main Street and it's most recognizable neighbour (for the time being- that neighbourhood is a changing) is the landmark No. 5 Orange peeler bar. Cadeaux was opened by pastry chefs, Eleanor Chow and Slavita Johnson, formerly of the highly regarded Chambar.

This is a beautiful and inviting space with an open concept kitchen (so you can view all of the delicious goodies being created) and filled with intoxicatingly wonderful "bakery air" (if you are familiar with the book of awesome, you'll know what I mean...if not, go get the book). The space itself is beautiful, delightful and charming. It's bright, airy, and soothing with a white and grey colour scheme that feels a bit modern-french-boutique with 6 or 7 tables to sit and dine in.

They serve coffee and tea and make a large variety of baked goods- sweet and savoury croissant, cookies, tarts, individual cheesecakes, brioche, ice cream sandwiches, sticky buns, cupcakes, granola, cakes, biscotti, bread pudding, brownies, truffles...they also make custom and wedding cakes.

Now, for the hard part...gazing and drooling over their glass case filled with a variety of tempting, drool-worthy goodies.

Bacon Sticky Bun 3.75 – maple smoked Canadian bacon & maple syrup. This was amazing and extremely well-executed without going over the top. The rich, high-quality, smoky bacon was subtle, yet notice-able to the bun/pastry was light and fluffy and the light glaze sealed every element together seamlessly without over doing it. This was a classy gourmet version of the experiment I tried at home.

Vanilla Raspberry Swirl Cupcake with Peanut Butter Butter-cream & raspberry jam 2.95
This creative cupcake was stand-out amazing and my new favourite cupcake in Vancouver. Again, this is a concept that could've been over-the-top, but they went a more subtle route and it feels like a gourmet re-interpretation of a childhood snack.

The cake itself is light, fluffy, and not-too-sweet with little bursts of raspberry jam to add a flavour kick with every bite. The peanut butter buttercream icing is perfect, not too heavy, not too sweet, and they don't just goop it on, instead they use it sparingly in beautiful small peaks with a bit of raspberry jam in the centre.  Peanut butter and raspberry jam- they just go together.

The desserts and the service was fantastic. I highly recommend this high quality, creative bakery for their amazing creations and their inviting atmosphere.

Cadeaux Bakery on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 25, 2012

Coffee- Chocolate Profile and Pairing

I love coffee. And I love chocolate. And according to the Van Houtte coffee company and local chocolatier, Wendy Boys of Cocolico, the two go together and make a perfect pair (like wine and cheese).

Van Houtte Coffee has launched a new feature on their website for you to find the perfect coffee match for your tastebuds. Once you've got your "coffee profile", they say they can also find you your perfect chocolate match.

A Coffee Profile is the combination of a coffee's intensity and flavour characteristics. Intensity is determined by the beans' roast, and flavours are built upon the natural characteristics of the bean through factors such as the cultivation methods, orgin, and terroir (soil and weather). Why is knowing your coffee profile handy?? According to the folks at Van Houtte, becoming familiar with your palate and taste preferences helps you choose coffees and pairing best suited to you to create the best coffee and food savouring experiences.

So I took an online test to determine my coffee profile. The first question asked me to pick my favourite type of chocolate- I chose milk chocolate (which means I have appreciation for smoothness). 
The next question asked my to pick from three types of wine- I chose "a full-bodied cabernet" (which means I appreciate an intense, fuller bodied flavour). 
The third question asked me how I liked my steak cooked- I chose Medium rare (which gives an insight as to how intense I like my flavours). 
The next question asked what I prefer on my toast, jam or nut spread- I chose nut spread. 
The next question is what I would pair with cheese- crackers or grapes- I chose crackers. And the last question asked me to choose a dessert- either lemon meringue pie or chocolate mousse- I chose chocolate mousse. 
According to their test- my coffee profile is "Velvety and Woodsy." 
What does Velvety and Woodsy mean:
"These coffees feature both body and a soft, satin mouthfeel. They offer a savoury experience that puts together the comforting flavours of cocoa, spices, and lightly toasted bread. This harmonious amalgam pleases classic taste." 
Apparently, with my flavour profile, their Amazonia Fair Trade Organic- Medium Roast is the coffee for me.

And once you know what kind of coffee you prefer —  then master chocolatier and Van Houtte ambassador can suggest the perfect dessert to go with that coffee. For a velvety and woodsy, Wendy recommends a classic chocolate eclair (which Boys says is making a comeback) filled with vanilla pastry cream or a Cocolico Salted Toffee and Hazelnut Bar (drool...I'm a sucker for any kind of salted toffee or salted caramel). 

Much like wine tasting (except you'll stay sober and instead get a sweet caffeine and sugar high) this is a fun way to explore your palette and taste preferences. You can take their coffee profile test here.

Here is a recipe for Wendy's chocolate eclairs:

SERVINGS: makes 36 – 3 inch éclairs
Choux Paste:
¾ cup water
¾ cup milk
½ cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1¼ cup flour
6 eggs
Heat the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and dump in the flour all at once. Stir the mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan. Transfer into mixer bowl and add the eggs one at a time, scraping down often. Pipe the batter into
rows onto parchment lined sheets.
Bake at 375°F for 12-16 minutes, rotating the pan at 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and test one éclair for doneness. Break one open and if it looks hollow and dry, remove from oven.
Transfer pastries to a cooling rack to bring to room temperature.
Caramel Cream – Makes about 2½ cups
1¼ cups milk
½ vanilla bean
3 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 sheets gelatin, bloomed in ice cold water
1 cup whipping cream
In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Stir the flour and cornstarch into the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.
Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin. Pour into a plastic wrap-lined sheet tray and immediately cover the surface with another sheet of plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days.
Whip the cream to medium peaks. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cooled pastry cream. Fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Chocolate Glaze
1 cup 65% dark chocolate
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup glucose or corn syrup
Bring the cream and glucose to a boil. Pour over the chocolate in a small bowl.Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir until shiny and smooth. Set aside until needed.
To serve:
Poke two small holes into the bottom of each éclair with the tip of a knife. Fill the éclairs with a generous amount of pastry cream through the small holes. Dip the tops of the filled éclairs into the chocolate glaze. Place on a tray to allow the glaze to set.
Sprinkle with a light dusting of cocoa powder.
The éclairs can be enjoyed immediately or refrigerated in a sealed container overnight. They make a great dessert for a dinner party or a delicious afternoon treat.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fat Dragon BBQ

Our great pal Linda was in town for a whirlwind visit from Montreal which made a wonderful reason for our large group of lady friends in the Vancouver TV biz to get together for dinner and drinks. Linda is a true food enthusiast and she's been having some epic meals in Montreal and wanted to try somewhere new in Vancouver. I'd been hearing quite a bit about Fat Dragon BBQ (they've been open for about a month) and after getting the thumbs up from the group, we made plans to head there on a Thursday night. I had called ahead to make a reservation, but the extremely nice guy on the phone explained that they weren't taking resos yet because they were so new, but made a note to potentially expect a party of 8 @ 7pm on Thursday.

This new east side restaurant is the newest venture for Vancouver top chef and restauranteur Robert Belcham, the man behind Fuel, Refuel, Campagnolo (one of my favourites), and Campagnolo Roma.
The concept is east meets south, Chinese-themed BBQ and are trying to work the nose-to-tail cooking trend into the menu. They are located right near Oppenheimer park in the Downtown Eastside and the location is pretty remote- there isn't much else around this new resto. When we arrived, and throughout our meal, the restaurant wasn't very busy.

When you walk inside, you go through a pink fabric tunnel that creates instant ambience and "transports" you into their stripped down, open space that is supposed to give the feel of a 1920's opium den. The lighting is dim, it features exposed brick and wooden beams and there is dragon inspired ceiling art that looks like scales. This place just looks cool.

They've got an extensive, delicious-sounding cocktail menu with signature creations which many of the ladies sampled. My absolute favourite was the (left) Dragon's Breath ($10) spicebox bourbon, ginger beer, and edible bitter. It was so refreshing and had a nice spicy sweet bite.

The menu is designed for social sharing and everything sounded pretty delicious and bold. The menu is split into "bao" and "raw" sections, and the entrees helpfully includes a dish size slider down the side of it so you have an idea on the size of the dish.

We started off with a round of Bao Buns for 2.50 each- Smoked Beef Deckle with cabbage and caramelized peanuts, Marinated and Smoked Tofu with bean sprout kimchi and holy basil, Crunchy Squid with scallion, coriander, special smoked chili salt, Smoked Kabocha Squash with QPD mayo and radish sprouts

I tried the squid, tofu, smoked kabocha squash, and smoked tofu with bean sprout kimchi. My favourite was the squid, it was crunchy and freshly fried, not oily, and well seasoned. The buns themselves are light, soft, and pillowy and the chopped scallions and coriander added a fresh cooling element. They should actually create a squid based dish as a larger plate option. So good!

Our first salad came out first, the Gado-Gado Salad ($9) bean sprouts, smoked egg, peanut, black sugar. This was nice and light with a fairly mild flavour- maybe too mild, I wish it had a richer, more intense peanut flavour. I did like the rich smoky egg pieces a lot.

The other salad we tried was the Green Papaya and Napa Cabbage Salad ($8) lime, green chilies, crispy shallots. Make sure you mix this dish up to get the dressing/juices all mixed in to even up the flavour- we didn't and some bites gave a big POW of flavour and others were really mild. The crispy fried shallots were a delicious touch of crispy awesomeness.

Smoked Sizzling Cauliflower ($16) cashew gravy, vadouvan. This was similar to delicious roasted cauliflower dishes that I've enjoyed at other local eateries (Nuba, Edible Bistro). Crispy, smoky, full of flavour with a blend of masala-like spices with shallots and garlic. The cashew gravy was soooo good- creamy, nutty, and with a tahini-like texture and served slightly warm. A really awesome veggie dish with smoky richness.

Prime Beef Back Ribs ($19) Soy-brown sugar glaze, crispy sauce. This plate comes out looking like something that Fred Flinstone would eat, but these ribs are pretty good- rich, succulent, smoky, and not too sweet, with a crispy exterior and topped with crispy onion topping. But I wouldn't rush to order this dish again.

Steamed GaiLan with fried oyster sauce ($5). This was well cooked to retain a bit of a crunch. It was topped generously with a nice and fresh with thick, well-flavoured sauce and a couple of small deep-fried oysters (nice unexpected touch!).

Long Beans, sambal, smoked almonds ($5). Another veg option to balance out all of the meat, this was pretty standard but the smoky almond slivers were a nice added touch.

Smoked Pig's Snout Fried Rice ($15) seasonal vegetables, crispy garlic, scallions. The "snout" is subtle and chopped into tiny pieces. This was pretty standard but it is served with a jiggly egg yolk that sits on the rice and the server recommends that you mix it into the hot rice to make a rich sauce. All in all, an okay dish but nothing exceptional.

Even though this place is all about BBQ, make sure you order dessert here. Especially, the Soft Serve Ice Cream Cone ($2.50) in a cup or cone with their flavour of the day- which happened to be nutmeg. Wow, I haven't had soft serve ice cream in a long time but this was unreal! Incredibly refreshing, light, and fluffy with flavour that doesn't taste in any way artificial. The nutmeg tasted like a light eggnog flavour. YUM!

We also split a Fat Dragon Milk Chocolate Bar ($6) with crispy rice, toasted coconut and ceylon cinnamon. Just so you know, these are packaged and presented in their package on a plate, they aren't made in house, but a collaboration/creation with local chocolatier extraordinaire, Wendy Boys. This was tasty and you could taste the quality in their ingredients but I'm not quite sure it's worth the price and I might switch up the presentation and get rid of the packaging.

The Coconut Rice Pudding ($6) mango, lime, caramelized white chocolate. The portion size was large and great for sharing with a thick creamy texture and chunks of fresh mango. I didn't taste any lime or caramelized white chocolate- so this was good, but underwhelming compared to the awesome-ness of the homemade soft serve.

Service was great throughout the evening- our server was really knowledgable with the menu and was quick and enthusiastic about making recommendations and answer questions. They keep bottles of water at the table, but she made sure to check in constantly refilled our glasses. They also have some extremely tasty house-made hot sauce. All in all, this was a pretty cool place to grab drinks and eats with a group, OR just come for the ice cream!!!

Fat Dragon on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting Fresh, Local, Wild

My pal Linda, who now lives in Montreal, was in town for a visit last week. We are both food enthusiasts and we planned to do a lunch and dinner together while she was in town. I suggested that we hit up a food truck for our lunch adventure since Montreal since there are no food trucks there (except the Grumman 78 taco truck) and she was pumped. As we drove into the downtown core, I reviewed and went over the many options, and at first she was leaning towards TacoFino so we heading in the direction of Burrard and Dunsmuir and parked. We walked over and the huge crowd and line-up started to sway her away. I had heard that Fresh, Local, Wild was open again for the spring/summer season and not far away and described the type of food they served, and she was sold. So we walked a little further down Burrard to W Hastings and saw the trailer parked on a shaded corner with a small line.

This trailer has a great look- chalkboard menu, tasteful Pacific Northwest decor, and the best part: a small attached patio with wind-blocking curtains that seats approx 6. Fresh Local Wild offers innovative variations on seafood-based culinary traditions and the menu changes depending on what is fresh and available. They cook with fresh and organic ingredients like locally caught fish and vegetables free of pesticides. Head chef, Josh Wolfe and his truck team are super friendly, extremely knowledgable about their product, and helpful with menu suggestions.

We both looked at their daily menu and picked two sandwich options, hoping to share, but worried that it would be wayyyy to messy. We explained out situation to Wolfe and he said it would be no problem to cut the sandwiches and pack up the two different sandwiches for seperately for sharing. Did I mention that their utensils and take-out boxes are made from recycled material. Our food was ready in about 5 minutes just as the patio cleared and seating became available. JACKPOT!

BC Fish Shawarma ($10) Halibut, Salmon, Cod, Hummus, Tabouleh, Spicy. This was fan-freakin'-tastic! The freshness of the fish and the bright veggies and herbs really wow-ed me. I think the salmon was the dominant fish in this shawarma (in fact I didn't really see any cod or halibut) and it was well-season with eastern-meditteranean flavour and a slight crust on the outside of the fish, but juicy, flaky, and tender inside. The fresh chopped veggies and bright herbs and creamy hummus with a light, garlic kick all made for a tasty, fresh symphony of flavours. This was nice and light and tasty really healthy in its whole wheat pita pocket.

We also split a Chicken Fried Oyster Sandwich ($10) Buttermilk Fried Oysters, Trailer Made Tartar, Romaine, Sesame Seed Bun. This was also a tasty sandwich....from the fluffy sesame seed bun, to the plentiful home made creamy tartar sauce, the fresh shredded crunchy romaine lettuce, to the star of the sandwich: the oysters. They are battered and fried until super crunchy, like a fried chicken batter and its a nice contrast to the soft, plump, juicy oyster meat inside. Apparantly, Wolfe soaks the oysters in a buttermilk batter overnight. I wish I got a bit more oyster in my sandwich- the pieces I had were phenomenal, but unfortunately, my sandwich was a bit dominated by tartar sauce and shredded lettuce so the oysters were buried and hidden (visually and in taste).

This really is an awesome food truck with a chef and staff that seem to be great guys that take a lot of pride in what they do, and have a lot of knowledge about what they are serving and where it came from. The food is great- well prepared, great flavours, extremely fresh tasting and made with care. I also appreciate their efforts to be eco-friendly and that little patio is awesome and a perfect way to enjoy food truck grub on a not-quite-warm day.

Fresh Local Wild (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Edible Canada Bistro At the Market

Edible Canada Bistro at the Market is located on Granville Island, across from the Granville Island Market. This restaurant opened late last year, so it's still a relatively new kid on the block. They celebrate everything sustainable, ethical, and local. They also have a retail store and offer private wine tastings, culinary tours, and cooking classes.

They've got a small takeout window, a large patio (with heat lamps), and upscale, yet casual indoor dining. They grow leafy greens and herbs around their patio which they use for their salads and garnishes. How awesome is that?! The space is beautiful and bright, classy and upscale without being pretentious. But the very coolest part about this place is that two of my best friends are getting married at the bistro this summer!!!!!!

The menu is divided into small plates (around $10) and large plates (around $20). The menu is seasonal (so it changes) and all focused on fresh, local ingredients. The special of the night was spot prawns and sounded tasty. They also were able to put together a vegan option since I had mentioned one of our party was a vegan. They also have a really extensive beer, wine, and cocktail menu.

I ordered the Market Inspired Seafood Soup with east coast lobster, coconut broth, mussels, clams, seasonal sustainable fish ($12). I really enjoyed it, especially since it was comforting and warm on a chilly not-quite-summer patio evening. The coconut curry broth was rich, red, and velvety and extremely aromatic. The fairly large bowl was generously filled with a nice variety of well-cooked seafood. Great flavour throughout.

I also ordered their Crispy Cauliflower with Spinnakers malt vinegar, capers, parsley ($8).
This was a another knock out dish. Raw, plain, or standard boiled Cauliflower has no appeal to me but it seems to come alive when roasted and fried with other flavourful ingredients like lemon, salty fried capers and dried cranberries. I'm not sure if this cauliflower is pan-fried but the result is not crispy or greasy but so flavourful!!! This was similar to "Najib's Special" a crispy cauliflower dish from Nuba- a dish that I absolutely love. This cauliflower wasn't as browned and crispy as the Nuba version. It was dynamic and absolutely loaded with delicious explosive lemony, salty flavours. The vinegar balanced out any oil from the frying so the dish wasn't heavy, the parsley also added some light freshness, the fried crispy capers packed a salty punch and there was a sprinkle of dried cranberries to add just a touch of sweetness.

Other dishes at the table were:

Pemberton Winter Beet Salad with  fresh arugula, crumbled goat cheese (ordered without for the vegan sous-chef), citrus vinagrette ($12) This was a very beautiful salad! 

Ricotta Roasted Squash Gnocchi with market vegetables, wild mushrooms, carrot, squash ($19). The two ladies who ordered this really enjoyed it calling it light and pillowy, with a perfect chew and slightly crispy exteriors. One ordered that she felt like it was a bit low on sauce but still enjoyed the bold flavours and freshness.

Peace Country Braised Lamb Pasta with pappardelle, brown butter, wild mushrooms ($19). The diner who ordered this loved it, calling it the perfect portion size with wonderfully cooked noodles, plenty of rich buttery wild mushrooms, and chunks of tender pieces of falling-apart lamb.

Staff were very friendly, attentive, and the the overall service felt personalized. When the food came out, initially I thought the other diners "large plate" portions all looked quite small but everyone left feeling satisfied and no one was still hungry enough to order dessert (although listening to the options did make me drool a bit). Edible is a nice space, with a great location, good customer service, and wonderful food with a focus on local, fresh, season ingredients. It's a nice addition to Granville Island and I can't wait for my friends to get married there!!!!!!!!!

Edible Canada at the Market on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 7, 2012

Baked Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

My good buddy Dave isn't a big dessert lover. Last year, for his birthday I took on a challenge to make him a cake that he would love so I made meat cupcakes with mashed potato icing. They were memorable but not a total success...I think they would've been rockstar tasty if they were hot but unfortunately they were eaten hours later and cold. Cold mashed potatoes= not the best.

This year, I wanted to try again to combine sweet and meat and with some online inspiration I decided to combine bacon and cinnamon buns! Just going to say, these turned out wayyyy more delicious than meatcakes.

The ingredients were pretty basic and I cut corners a bit by not making my own dough. This cinnamon roll dough actually came in little bun clumps so I had to roll them out into thin strips. Get the oven heated at 400.

Then I fried up a few strips of bacon on my George Foreman grill. Try to take the bacon off the grill or pan before it gets crispy. Fry up an extra piece of bacon and grill that one crispy and chop it up into small bits.

Next step is to take a strip of bacon, place it on the dough strip, roll it up and then secure with a tooth-pick.

When you've finished rolling your batch, place in a round metal cake pan and bake for 12-15 minutes. Let the buns cool for a few minutes, put on a small dollop of the icing that comes with the dough, and then top with chopped crispy bacon.

My apartment was filled with an intoxicating sugary, cinnamony, bacony aroma. The taste was both sweet and salty and the texture combination with the soft, freshly baked dough and crisp, crunchy bacon was a nice contrast. These had cooled down before we ate them but honestly, they would've been mind-blowingly good to eat fresh from the oven. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Tasty Shout Out for The Wallflower's Portobello Burger!!

I went to The Wallflower Modern Diner for another family dinner. It's menu seems to work for our family since they've got a great vegetarian and vegan menu and great comfort food basics that seem to please mom and pop. I also really like that your food is served on mis-matched plates with fun patterns (like butterflies) that look like they are from a garage sale.

On my Dad's birthday dinner, I ordered their Vegan Portobello Burger ($11) Portobello, Balsamic, lettuce, tomato, onion, eggplant spread, and vegan mozza with half fries, half salad.
This burger is a delicious flavour experience and I MMMMM'd my way through the whole burger. I think what made it so stand-out delicious for me was the combination of the meaty, juicy, portobello cap with the ooey, gooey, garlicky eggplant spread. Definitely need to start working with that dynamic flavour duo even more. One minor complaint would be that the soft bun they use in this burger doesn't stand a chance in holding up against this burger and it got extremely mushy. This burger requires a knife and fork and/or napkin. MMMMMM!

Wallflower Modern Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Quest for the Pen. Gorging at Anton's Pasta Bar

When one of my best friend's told me that she'd like to go for either Italian or Japanese, immediately I researched list of links for restaurant options (some favourites and some new places I've been wanting to try.) To my chagrin, she replied that she wanted to hit up Anton's Pasta Bar on Hastings in Burnaby. I've only been to Anton's once before and my memories weren't that fond. Back when I was still in college, my friend Mel and I went to Anton's, which is known for it's massive portions, with the goal of cleaning our plates and claiming a coveted pen with the phrase "I ate the whole thing." My memories of that night are both vivid and blurry. I remember our initial enthusiasm and waiting with anticipation for our food to arrive. Our food arrived and we dug in. I remember I had ordered a dish with many hearty elements with made the meal extra filling and I seem to remember Mel's dish having a filling, creamy sauce. We started to fill up quickly and about half way into our massive plates, we started to slow down, the food got cold, I stopped enjoying my meal or really tasting the food. It became a slow, epic battle to try and finish our meals. It seemed to take us hours and we watched enthusiastic diners enter and sit at nearby tables saying "I'm going to finish this pasta" and with pain in our bellies and our eyes we looked over exclaiming "Don't Do It." We both finished our meals that night and received pens and were both terribly sick and felt awful for the rest of the night and following day. I haven't been back.

It was my friend Bree's birthday and she picked Anton's for a birthday dinner venue so it was time to return. It was a rainy, miserable Thursday evening and we waited in the legendary long line-up to dine on massive portions of pasta. I think we ended up waiting about 30-45 minutes for a table for 4.

This casual Burnaby Italian restaurant has been open for around 30 years. The atmosphere is bustling and quite lively (it's always busy for dinner, customers coming in and out, servers expertly dodging one another while carrying massive plates of pasta) and the kitchen is open so you can watch the chefs cook.

Bree, the birthday girl ordered Linguine Con Polpette (15.50) Meatballs topped with a tomato meat sauce. This was a pretty straight-forward dish and she seemed to enjoy it (although she only made a dent in her meal and when she picked Anton's, she said she was going for a pen...) The sauce was thick and rich with meat mixed in and two large meatballs that hidden in the mountain of pasta and sauce.

Mel was torn trying to pick her pasta. This menu is massive! She went for Spinach Tortellini Napoletana (16.50) spinach tortellini stuffed with ricotta cheese in a fresh basil tomato sauce. She liked her dish but didn't love it. She let me try a piece and I found the flavours really subdued and the pasta a bit over-cooked. Not bad, but not great either.

TMc ordered the Conchiglie Alla Franco (15.50) shell pasta with chicken, sundried tomatoes, peas, in a chicken broth garlic sauce. She liked it, but noted that the ratio of pasta to everything else was wayyyyy off. The additional ingredients were very sparse and got lost in the massive plate of pasta.

Jayme ordered the very similar Conchiglie Zio Carmelo (15.50) shell pasta with sausage, chicken, pine nuts, spinach in a white wine sauce. She enjoyed her dish and looking at the plate, she seemed to get way more balanced plate.

When ordering my pasta, I wanted to make sure I got something with really flavourful elements because I've had plenty of experience with places that crank out massive servings for value prices and usually my complaint is that the food is bland. I went with the Linguine Alla Sicilaina (15.50) anchovies, red peppers, capers, and olives in a spicy tomato sauce..... I set my expectations low and ended up being really impressed. The noodles were fresh and slightly chewy and I loved the saltiness and briny quality of the sauce which was also had a nice, subtle spice. Their was a great sauce, ingredients, noodle ratio resulting in a well-balanced dish.

Service was fantastic at Anton's. Our server was friendly and knowledgable and ready to answer any questions we had. She was quick and efficient and amazingly on top of water refills (especially for one member of the group who was extremely thirsty.

Anton's definitely serves huge portions for a decent price but unless you are a starving student on a budget, I can't say it's really worth the hype. Based on most of the plates at our table, the quality of the food and flavours isn't awesome but isn't bad either. My meal was actually quite tasty and not attempting to eat the whole thing in one sitting actually let me enjoy it and the leftovers made a perfect dinner the following night. I've almost wiped my gross, gorging memories from my first visit from my mind...

Anton's Pasta Bar on Urbanspoon