Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer Steveston Dinner

Summer is winding down. Single tear. And with many many weekends out of town, I hadn't really had any time to do many quintessential "Summer in Vancouver" activities and meals. With a free Friday, the sous-chef and I decided to meet up with Leah, Adam, and lil' Lucy in Steveston to sit in the sun and eat fish and chips.

There are some options for fish and chips in Steveston, but probably the most visible and popular is the Pajo's chain. There are 2 locations in Steveston, one at the fisherman's wharf and one at Garry Point Park. We picked the location on the wharf for the ambience, seaside feel, and balance of sun and shade. Unlike Granville Island, there were no aggressive seagulls trying to pounce on your meal.

It wasn't too busy when we arrived around 6:30-ish and there was a short line to the window where our orders were taken. It was another short wait (no more than 15 minutes) until our food was ready. You could peek in the window and see 4-5 teenagers huddled over the deep fryers- everything is fried to order.

Leah ordered the Small (1 1/2 pieces) Halibut Fish and Chips for $10.99 (on the left) and Adam ordered the Large (2 1/2 pieces) Cod Fish and Chips for $12.99 (on the right). I love the presentation and details here. They were served in paper rolled into a cone. There are tables and trays with holes at each corner so you can places the cones in, and eat without spilling. Lemon is available in a plastic container on the side of the window and they give you a container of tartar sauce when you grab your order. Other condiments are available to the right by the pop machine. Vinegar, Malt Vinegar, Frank's Hot Sauce, Lemon pepper seasoning, Ketchup, Worchestershire sauce. One big downer- Coleslaw does not come with your order automatically. I'm no fish and chips expert but I thought this was standard and to be expected.

I ordered a Small Fish and Chips with Cod ($9.99) and a side of mushy peas ($1.29). Why mushy peas? Since coleslaw didn't automatically come with the meal, I wanted a vegetable to balance out all of the grease of the fish and chips, and thought I would try something a bit different. The fish was quite tasty. Not too much batter and the fish meat was very soft, flaky, and fresh tasting. The batter was light and crispy for the most part, with a few spots were it was a bit mushy. I had a bite of Leah's Halibut to compare and couldn't really taste too much difference. Texture wise it was thicker and more dense, but I didn't really get any of the usual rich, buttery flavour that comes with Halibut. The fries were disappointing. I found them undercooked, mushy, overly oily, and bland. That being said, Leah and Adam thought they were just fine so maybe they are just inconsistent with their fryers and I got a different batch.

The mushy peas were....lame. It was literally a scoop from a can with zero flavour. I added some Frank's Red Hot Sauce but even that didn't help. Skip this side.

The sous chef went for one of their only healthy options, a Salmon Fish Taco ($9.49). This was one lame looking and overpriced fish taco ESPECIALLY if you were to compare it to Tacofino. It was literally a decent size portion of salmon, wrapped in a supermarket large tortilla with some shredded cabbage slaw. This was definitely overpriced and extremely underwhelming.

I did enjoy my "summer time" meal. It was greasy, crunchy, indulgent, and I loved eating on the water in the sun with people I love. I don't think this is THE BEST fish and chips. I think they are famous because they've been around for a long time and have a recognizable name in the community. Go for the atmosphere and reasonable expectations and you'll have a nice meal.

Pajo's Fish & Chips (The Steveston Wharf) on Urbanspoon

I also have to note that we capped off our meals with a delicious new dessert treat- a SCREAMER! Have you ever wondered what would happen when ice cream and slurpee are mixed together? I hadn't until the small Screamer's Soft Serve Booth near the wharf caught my eye. They sell servings f slurpee layered with soft serve vanilla ice cream. Adam ordered an Orange Crush (which tasted like a creamsicle), Leah ordered a root beer, and I ordered a Lime Crush Mini Screamer ($2.00). I loved my Screamed, the slightly sour lime was great balance to the thick, creamy soft serve and the flavours came together beautifully as it started to melt. The mini is the perfect treat size.

Screamers Soft Serve and Treats on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ladies Night at Bao Bei

Bao Bei has been on my "need to eat here" list since it entered the Vancouver food scene in the Spring of 2010 with plenty of buzz and rave reviews. It's become a popular local favourite and won many local restaurant awards with owner Tannis Ling and Chef Joel Wantanabe at the helm putting a modern west coast twist on traditional Asian foods.

Bao Bei is definitely not your typical Vancouver Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. It's a mix of stylish, sophisticated, eclectic, vintage...yet modern. They've put a lot of thought into decor, using interesting pieces of art used as accents and an eclectic mix of furniture styles. The vibe is young, hip, and slightly luxurious. They use soft glowing lights, delicately washed-out signage, and touches of lucky gives an awesome "Old Chinatown" feel. Our tables, near the entrance, was an antique door. Really cool touch! The restaurant seats about 50, and mainly has small tables for 4.

Banana Colada, the menu claims its "The Best Frozen Sissy Drink you'll ever have"- it's pretty damn good!
It was a gathering with some of my lifestyle TV ladies, and I was delighted when Asian Superdirector picked Bao Bei as our location. There were 4 of us for dinner and we ordered a LOT of dishes to share and some drinks. They've got an extensive cocktail list ($9- 12) with inventive offerings like Banana Colada and Ghizou Donkey (Lemongrass Shosu, almond syrup, fresh lime, and ginger beer) and bottled beers ($7-12).

We ordered three of their vegetable dishes which were all tasty, but fairly standard Chinese fare.

Marinated Eggplant ($4) Soy, garlic, and ginger.

King Pea Tips ($7) Garlic and Shaxing.

Water Spinach ($7.50) Salted Soy beans, soy sauce and chilli.

Omelet ($5) Salted Turnip and Butter. This looked super underwhelming when it came out but was quite tasty. ASD was really impressed with this dish, especially how perfectly fluffy and buttery the eggs were cooked while retaining a nice crunch with the bits of salty turnip.

Octopus Salad ($14) Braised and wok charred octopus and scallions, crispy potatoes, kim chi cucumber, confit of garlic, watercress and preserved plum vinaigrette. This was absolutely beautiful and delicious. This salad was a mix of octopus pieces mixed with chunks of crispy potatoes. The octopus was cooked beautifully...I've never had octopus cooked so tender, buttery and without chew. The plum vinaigrette was bright and full of zing that worked well with the sharp garlic and peppery watercress.

Beef Tartare ($14) Pemberton beef tenderloin, preserved mustard root, crispy shallot, ginger root, quail egg, watercress, burnt scallion oil and taro chips. This is delicious and beautiful. I think I actually clapped when it came out. All of the components worked so well together especially the mustard root, ginger, and shallot. The flavours were strong and balanced. The saltiness of the taro chips and the acidity of the dressing on the watercress combined with the rich, creamy beef and egg.

Shao Bing ($12) Crisp sesame flatbread with cumin lamb sirloin, pickled red onion, green pepper, cilantro, and salted chilies. This is another amazing "must-order" dish. This is a fancy Chinese sandwich served on their house-made flatbread, filled with luscious, tender, smoky, braised lamb and the other veggie/ herb fillings.

The bread is crusted with sesame seeds so it's thin, crispy, and nutty. The pickled red onions added some acidity and light crunch to contrast the heavy meat. The cilantro brightens up the whole sandwich. SOOOO Good!

The Shao Bing, Beef Tartare, and Octopus Salad are stand out delicious and every dish we ordered was good. Service was friendly, pleasant, and quick throughout the meal. Overall, the great decor and vibe combined with the delicious dishes and Bao Bei is definitely a cool place to go for a meal with friends. I definitely feel like you pay $$$$ for the cool factor. This place is too expensive, especially considering the small portion sizes. I would recommend coming here for drinks and their popular dishes, but not for a full-on dinner to fill your belly, unless you have uber deep pockets.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie 寶貝小館 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Modern Asian at Flying Tiger

My great eating pal Jobin and I were wayyyy overdue for a dinner meet-up. He knows I'm frugal and like a deal, so he mentioned he had an Entertainment book filled with restaurant coupons. We made plans to meet up at his place, review the many many many coupon/restaurant options in the book, pick a place and go for it. This book was jam was pretty hard to decided. Eventually, out of hunger, laziness, and desire to sit in the sunshine on a patio, we decided on the nearby Flying Tiger, just a few blocks away from his Kits beach apartment.

When we arrived at 6:30pm it was dead but over the course of our meal, other diners started to trickle in and give it a busier feel. There is a small patio with a few tables out front facing out to West Broadway. Inside, there is a narrow dining room with limited seating painted in a warm colour, with dark furniture, dimmed lighting and a dark wooden floor which gives the spaces a cozy, intimate feel.
Flying Tiger's menu is labelled as "Modern Asian Street Food." Essentially, they've taken traditional Asian dishes and given them a modern makeover and presented them in a tapas, sharing plate style. There are options from Thailand, the Phillipines, Vietnam, India and Korea. It's not a huge menu- there are about twelve regular dishes and when we were there, they were offering two daily specials.

We were disappointed because we ordered the Local Sablefish with Yuzu Soy and Watercress salad and sadly they let us know they had run out of a few of the key salad ingredients. It would have been nice to know before we had spent time deciding and selecting that salad.

Instead we ordered the Pulled Duck Confit Crepes ($19). Duck confit, Phillipine lime, jicama, chayote, Thai Basil, cilantro, vietnamese mint, thai basil, cilantro, sesame oil crepes. Wow- this dish was so flavourful. I loved the richness of the shredded duck meat balanced with the fresh, bright herbs and vegetables. It was a fantastic balance of heavy and light flavours and juicy, soft texture with crisp and crunch- especially the shredded Jimaca and Chayote. Jimaca is a sweet root veg with a texture and taste similar to water chesnuts. Chayote tastes the a mix of a crisp pear and a squash. We split this dish and both enjoyed it although I thought $19 was wayyyy to steep for a fairly small tapas plate.

We also shared their daily special The Flying Tiger Beef and Lettuce Wrap ($14). Aged beef, lemongrass, sambal, garlic, lemon, orange juice, aparagus asian slaw, served with leaves of butter lettuce. I thought the beef was cooked nicely and the dominant flavours were hoisin and lemongrass, Based on the menu description, I did think there would be a bit more dimension and bright citrus flavours. The slaw was pretty bland and and a weird overly sloppy yogurt feel.

We were able to use a two for one OR $14 off coupon from the Entertainment book.  I don't feel like this is a place to go if you've got a big appetite or are super hungry. Portions aren't very big and I feel like it was priced a bit high. The Pulled Duck Crepes were stand out, but overall, service was pleasant, the food was good, the restaurant had a nice feel.

Flying Tiger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Paul's Place Omlettery

I work in the South Granville area and my mom and sister came to meet me, check out my office digs, and go for lunch. As always, I had a plethora of options for them to choose from and narrowed it down to 5 places. They had free parking and didn't want to move, and my mom doesn't have to most "exotic" or "foreign" tastes so we ended up heading to Paul's Place Omlettery. I'd been once before, but probably 3 years ago. I remember going for weekend brunch, waiting a long time to be seated (it was busy), and the food being good, but nothing stood out.

Paul's Place Omelettery is open 7am-3pm serving up breakfast and lunch. It's cozy and inviting inside with a modern feel and high, lofty ceilings. We were seated right away by a friendly host.
The menu is pretty large with a huge breakfast selection with combo meals, french toast, pancakes, Specialty plates, omelettes, benedict eggs, and hash options- and lunch choices with salads, burgers and many, many sandwich varieties.

I ordered their B.E.L.T.C.H sandwich: Bacon, Egg, Lettuce, Tomato, and Cheddar on Toasted Multigrain for $7.50. Like many of their meal choices, this sandwich doesn't come with a side (read closely), but sides are offered for an additional $1.95. I asked, and our server was nice enough to agree to add on a side of half fries/half salad. I enjoyed this sandwich but it could've been better. They didn't ask me how I wanted my egg... but I should've asked! I always love a runny yolk but I didn't think to ask...the egg came cooked through so I didn't get the ooey, gooey, creamy yolkiness that I was craving.

Overall, it was a decent sandwich with a nice mix of salty and fresh flavours and crunchy textures.
There were two different hot sauces and they were an awesome addition to the sandwich, especially what seemed to be their house made hot sauce that resembled a pureed salsa. It's tangy with a nice kick. The fries were fantastic- crispy, yet soft inside and well seasoned.
Minor case of food envy....I was torn between the BELTCH and veggie hash. I saw my neighbour's hash arrived and felt a twinge of looked so good.

My mom ordered the Denver Omelette: Ham, Mushrooms, Tomato, Onions, Red Pepper, Cheddar, Edam, Cream Cheese for $9.75. She enjoyed it but didn't have any specific comments to make.

Middle sister was sucked in by their "Make your own Grilled Cheese" option: Cheddar and Edam on grilled buttered rye bread with Fruit Garnish for $4.50. She pimped it out and added jalapeno, tomato (0.95 each) and avocado (1.50). She thought the result was just okay and was a bit disappointed. She was hoping that the jalapenos would be pickled or cooked (they were raw, de-seeded and added to spice or flavour) and felt like they were stingy with the avocado.

Overall, service was pretty good although we did all feel like we were waiting for our food a bit long, and we did have to ask for water re-fills. The food seems a bit price-y, but its comparable to everywhere else in the area.

Paul's Place is a nice place with good food but overall, none of us found it fantastic or over-the-top awesome. Their menu is sure to have something to please just about everyone, although it probably won't knock any socks off.

Paul's Place Omelettery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest Blog: Getting Perog-ied

Friday Night Supper
Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral
154 East 10th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

My fantastic friends Mel and Kaitlyn invited me to join them for a Perogy feast at the Ukrainian Church on 10th last Friday. I was on the road at the time, heading out of town for the long weekend, but I've always wanted to check out one of these dinners so I asked Mel to take some photos and give me her thoughts on the food and experience. She is an awesome guest blogger! 

On the first Friday of every month, the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral hosts a "Friday Night Supper." I've heard good things about the experience- tasty homemade grub, cheap prices, sometimes big crowds and line-ups, and fun characters. It was great to have Mel go and tell me if was worth all of the hype.

Exterior of the building

This is the menu order form- check off what you want
Mel ordered the Vegetarian Meal: 6 Pyroghy, 3 Cabbage Rolls, Sauerkraut/Salad, Coffee/Tea $12

The cabbage rolls were bland but the portions were huge. We didn't finish.
The handmade perogies were the best part. They don't make them the day of. The make them either two weeks before or two days before and then freeze them depending on how busy they think it will be.

I also got dessert. Pretty unimpressive, looked like it was from Costco.

Overall our experience at the Ukrainian church kinda sucked. Kaitlin said it was a little disappointing, although tasty it was bland. When you enter you get to choose where you sit at these round tables. It was a little tough for us to decide, it was like picking your new friends. The table we sat at was with an awkward couple that weren't very talkative and were sadly just as disappointed with the food as we were. Overall I give the experience a 6/10.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sal y Limon Mexican, new addition to "The Triangle"

Sal y Limon is the newest addition to "The Triangle" at where Fraser and Kingsway meet. In the same tiny triangle block you can get Vietnamese Banh Mi at Ba Le,  French bistro grub at Le Faux Bourgeois, Yoga and Healthy cuisine at Che Baba Cantina, Jamaican/Japanese fusion at Lion's Den Cafe and hipster coffee at Matchstick.
The space is bright and vibrant with art on the walls and a TV playing sports. It's cozy with a few counter seats and booths to seat about 20. You seat yourself and order/pick up from the front counter. The menu is quite extensive and featuring Mexican favourites: Tacos, Burritos, Tortas (sandwiches), Sopes (round corn dough fried and topped), Quesadillas, Huaraches (oblong larger sopes topped with meat), and a few sides. This has the feel of a family run Mexican joint. Prices are pretty reasonable and on par with other popular Vancouver taco spots like La Taqueria and Dona Cata.

The sous chef and I ordered and waited 5-10 minutes for our food. While waiting, I was given a glass to help myself to the Horchata ($2.00) from a cooler on the counter. I haven't had a bad Horchata and this was no exception. Creamy, milky, with almond and cinammon flavours and not too sweet.

I asked the women at the counter for her two recommended tacos and went with her picks: The Al Pastor and Pollo Pibil ($2.25 each or $2.75 with cheese). The tacos are small and served on double layers of corn tortillas.
The Al Pastor (pork marinated with pineapple) was roasted and sliced off a shwarma spit with a pineapple ring. Really nice flavour, smoky and rich with slight sweetness and acidity for balance. Pollo Pibil (slow roasted chicken breast) was my favourite of the two. Slow cooked, pulled texture, juicy, with a hint of smoky flavour. I was also pretty impressed by their plentiful taco toppings...they definitely don't skimp on the onion and cilantro. Thumbs up!

The food and experience was kicked up a notch with their amazing salsa station with around 10 salsa varieties and fresh cut lime wedges. My favourites were the avocado salsa (a perfect compliment to the Pollo Pibil), the peanut salsa, and the chipotle salsa (the spiciest of the bunch in my opinion.

The sous chef had a hankering for a burrito so he was pretty disappointed when the counter staff told him they ran out of large tortillas. Instead he settled for 3 Vegetariano tacos without cheese(zuchinni and vegetables). He liked them, enjoyed the flavour, liked the avocado salsa a lot, but thought it was just "okay."

All in all, a great new addition to the neighbourhood and a nice place to grab a cheap, tasty, easy meal with a real Mexican feel and tasty flavours.

Sal Y Limon on Urbanspoon