Thursday, December 17, 2015

Off the Tracks Espresso Bar and Bistro: HASHBROWNS!

Recently, on the strong recommendation from a co-worker, a few of us ventured to Granville Island for lunch on Granville Island at Off the Tracks, formerly known as Agro Cafe.

Off the Tracks Espresso Bar and Bistro is tucked away on Granville Island's cozy, car-free, nook Railspur Alley.
On the exterior, there is a nice little patio. On the inside, it is a big bright open space with a few small tables and counter seating and a large communal table in the middle. 
There is no table service, instead- the menu is written up on large chalkboards behind the counter. You make your order at the counter, pay, and your name will be called when your food is ready.

Approximately 10 minutes later after an engaging bit of banter about potential plot points in the upcoming Star Wars movie, our name was called and our food was ready at the counter, waiting for us to pick it up and bring it back to the table. 

I ordered from the All Day Breakfast Menu, the Granville Island Special ($9.99) 2 organic eggs, garlic Kale hash, Vegan Multigrain toast. CHOICE OF Flame grilled meat or Thyme Tomato

I opted for my eggs sunny side (pan cooked options only) and the thyme tomato.
This was a solid breakfast/brunch but for me the standout was the HASHBROWNS!
The garlic kale hash was amazing. Crispy, garlic fried bits of kale intermingled with perfect little cubes of fried potatoes. Definitely adding it to my roster of top breakfast potatoes in Vancouver (with Yolk’s and a few others).

I also appreciated that the hot sauce option available for smearing and dipping was Sambal Oelek (chili garlic) paste!

Off The Tracks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Brunch at The Union

I work out an office in the Chinatown area. I am lucky to be surrounded by delicious food destinations. One of my favourite places nearby for post- work drinks and dinner is The Union.

One of my colleagues was raving to me about how good The Union's brunch is. He even mentioned that he liked working some weekend shifts because it meant a tasty brunch....specifically he had one favourite dish, The Bangalore Hash.

This past weekend, my pal T and I did a Sunday morning coat drive donation drop off at Covenant House.

Side note: this is a great time of year to clean your closets and donate warm clothes that you no longer wear to those in need. See Covenant House link above for donation deets.

I was quick to suggest that we head to The Union for a post donation brunch.

We arrived around 11am. There is meter street parking out front and residential parking nearby. The restaurant environment is industrial-style with wood and concrete pillars, long picnic bench seating that feels cozy and communal and trendy metal light fixtures hanging from high ceilings. It was a sunny day and this space was full of pleasant sunlight streaming through large windows. This place feels relaxed and cool.

We asked our server for recommendations and she enthusiastically sang the praises of the aforementioned Bangalore Hash, saying it was hands down her favourite thing.

The menu is full of intriguing and delicious sounding options like Bao Bennies, Pandesal French Toast, Breakfast Banh Mi, Shanghai Scramble and even a Pho option.

Ultimately, with two strong recommendations,  I had to go with the Bangalore Hash $14 curry spiced potatoes, peas, spinach, tomatoes, chickpeas, squash, goat cheese, poached eggs, cauliflower purée ‘hollandaise’(with goat cheese on the side since I'm eating semi-vegan).
This dish was worth the hype. Pretty damn perfect breakfast if you ask me with every element executed awesomely. The base of the dish is fantastically flavoured crispy curry potato hash browns with chunks of butternut squash. The tomato, chickpea, cooked spinach had a nice flavour with a  bit of a chunky chana masala taste and feel. The eggs were perfectly poached with perfect, thick-yet-runny, silky, bright yellow yolks. The cauliflower puree was a lighter, more subtle flavour alternative to the traditional hollandaise, but with so much flavour happening underneath, it certainly didn't need the rich hollandaise.

I would have enjoyed the dish a bit more without the butternut squash. It didn't really contribute anything flavour wise, its texture threw off the balance of the dish for me and just made the dish heavier than it needed to be.

T ordered the Filipino Pankaplog $14 two eggs (choice of fried or scrambled), sinangag, pickled papaya, pandesal, curry spiced hashbrowns, choice of sausage or bacon. 

She really enjoyed her meal especially the pickled papaya salad and curry spiced hash browns and sinangag (garlic fried rice) which was quite rich and flavourful.

Unless you are a pretty "meat and potatoes" type of bruncher with an unadventurous palette, I would definitely recommend checking out brunch at The Union.

The Union Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bao Down

Some  work buddies and I saw an article about this place opening soon and knew we had a lunch date to plan. When I read about the concept, bao-steamed rice buns stuffed with tasty sounding fillings, my mouth started to water. 

The space is a 2-floor set up with counter seating on the main floor and a few small tables on the 2nd floor. Here you’ll pay for your meal before getting a number and finding a seat. It can get quite busy in this 25ish seating restaurant. 

Water service is self-serve and you have choices of cucumber or lemon/lime water. THIS IS DELICIOUS and AWESOME. I hope more places start offering this. It’s such a simple, yet special touch. And a big step up from the usual glass of lukewarm tap water that you have to ask for.  I also have to give a shout out to the staff, who were both very friendly and enthusiastic about the food. 

The menu consists of bao tacos, sandwiches, and a small variety of sides (a chowder, slaw, fries, poutine) and every item features Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese inspired flavours. Steamed Bao are $5/6, Sandwiches are $10-12, and sides are between $3-8.
I had 2 Bao, the Vevo ($5) Tamari braised shitake mushrooms, garlic pea shoots, sprouts, organic red kale, avocado, organic carrot & beet strings, ginger-peanut sauce and toasted sesame seeds and the Jaws ($5) Coconut crusted Ocean Wise Vietnamese catfish, kimchi tartar sauce, micro greens & cabbage in Thai vinaigrette.

The Vevo was their veggie option that truly packed a punch with fresh, plentiful fillings, harmonious flavour pairings and giant juicy mushrooms. In fact, my only suggestion would be to slice the mushrooms as the large pieces were a bit tricky to eat and smaller pieces might spread throughout the bao easier to ensure some mushroom with every bite. The ginger peanut sauce is a delicious and dominating force in this bao. Sooo good.

The Jaws was delicious too with a generous amount of coconut crusted catfish which was full of flavour and cooked to juicy perfection. Texture and flavour here are just great.

I also noshed on some of my buddy’s Kimchi Fries ($8). This is a generous serving, quite decadent and great to share. The Kimchi is a nice accent and the sour, spicy flavour pairs well with the fries and other heavy elements with the dish. The fries get very soggy on the bottom, but when its so tasty, it doesn’t really matter.

Bao Down is a cool space serving up food that is undeniably delicious. It’s definitely not a budget lunch since you are looking at likely two baos and a side to fill you up.

Bao Down on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cinco De Mayo at Tacomio

I had a lunch date set up with some lady friends from the last series I worked on.  The lunch date happened to be on May 5, Cinco de Mayo, so I suggested we go for tacos in the gastown/Chinatown ‘hood. We decided to go check out a relatively new taco joint, Tacomio.

Tacomio is a small fast-food style joint with warm, sunny decors and a unique, festive ambiance. Although the place is fast-food styled, everything is made fresh daily and almost everything on the menu is made from scratch. These are street style tacos. Smaller, a few bites, with various fillings in two layers of soft corn tortillas. You get to choose any 4 tacos for $10.

The interior of the restaurant itself is definitely noteworthy. Everything from the light fixture to the wooden counters make the place super warm and welcoming. There is even a cute hand-painted mural on the wall showing different exports of Mexico. Seating space is limited (small counter dining only) so I wouldn’t recommend this for another group meal date.

The staff is super friendly and I loved that they were celebrating Cinco de Mayo, offering complimentary strawberry tequila popsicles and hibiscus drinks. I liked their recycled cardboard taco vessels in which the tacos were served that kept everything upright and organized. I also enjoyed their salsa station and availability of pickled cauliflower and jalapenos.

Unfortunately, these tacos were a disappointment. I found the tortillas tasted bland and a bit stale. I also found that the tacos were quite bland and needed generous dollops of their salsas. I found the menu pretty limited for vegetarian, dairy free and wished that they had a fish or shrimp option on the menu.

Tacomio on Urbanspoon