gracecheung604 | write on time

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

TGIF at Miku

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On a sunny day in October, we decided to head downtown for lunch at Miku. It's been a while since I've been there and was definitely overdue for another visit. We had originally requested a table outside but the weather had taken a turn for the worse and they accommodated us with a table inside. 
drinks
Nothing starts a lunch better than a few cocktails. I'm a huge fan of old-fashioneds or negronis, so this Golden Hour Manhattan ($21) made with 
saffron infused toki Japanese whisky, bénédictine, odd society bittersweet vermouth and grapefruit bitters was a perfect option. 
The boy opted for the Cucumber Gimlet ($17) made with beefeater gin, fresh cucumber juice and lime. It was a nice elevation to the usual Gin & Soda and something I can try to make at home. Both drinks were strong and packed a punch. 

We decided to share the Lunch Shokai ($41) which starts off with their miso soup. The miso broth is topped with a touch of enoki mushrooms and wakame. Warm start to lunch!

appetizer
The lunch special also comes with two starters. One was the beef shank and the other option was a fish fritter. Since we were avoiding beef, they graciously offered to swap that out with their sablefish appetizer instead. 
appetizer1
This Fish Fritter with their homemade tartar sauce reminded both of us of a Filet'o'Fish. This is not a complaint, as we are both fans of the McD's favourite. The fish was tender and juicy with an airy batter. The sauce was creamy and tart and actually made a great dressing for the greens. 
appetizer2
This Sablefish was amazing. Just a hint of crunch on the skin and super buttery texture. It was mildly flavoured with a touch of smokiness. 

Now onto the star of the show...their assorted traditional and Aburi oshi, rolls, and nigiri, 10 pieces in all. Salmon, ebi, tuna, toro and more. Everything was good and we actually managed to share most of the nigiri. My chopstick cutting skills are pretty impressive. Every bite was tasty and I didn't even miss the wasabi.

dessert
Now I'm not usually a dessert person but you can add this petit Green Tea Opera (+$7) bite to complete your lunch set. Although I was going to pass on this, when I saw plate after plate of this arrive]ing at nearby tables, I knew we had to get it. As per their website, this is is green tea génoise, matcha butter cream, dark chocolate ganache, azuki bean cream, hazelnut wafer and matcha ice cream. As the description would indicate...this was creamy. It was a great way to end a wonderful lunch.
On a side note, our waitress was amazing...she had lots of stories about the A-listers that swing through Miku on the regular.  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Happy Hour at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

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Oh how I long for patio weather...back in August, when we were gently lifting the quarantine, we ventured out to Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar. Grateful for the good weather, we managed to easily socially distance on the patio. 
I've always been a fan of Spicy Margaritas ($8) (first discovered at Tacofino) but they didn't have this on the menu. Fortunately, the bartender improvised with fresno chilies since they didn't have jalepeno peppers. This was good and makes me want to make my own chili-infused tequila. Doesn't seem hard, right? We can totally do this!
Well, it IS an oyster bar...so we must have Oysters ($2/ea). These were creamy and sweet. I do like my oysters on the small side, one-bite wonders. How do you eat your oysters? I drain any residual juice from the shell, then give it a squirt of lemon juice and just a bit of the mignonette and a touch of horseradish. I used to add Tobasco sauce all the time but lately, I find that it overwhelms the delicate flavours of the oyster so have been leaving it out. 
These Chicken Wings ($12) were one of the first things I've ever had here and I just had to get them again. The umami comes from the nuoc cham or fish sauce caramel. And no, it's not fishy. It's nice and crunchy with some heat coming from a bit of sambal chili paste.  The sweetness of the coating is mitigated by the pickled veg. Get two orders because it's hard to split three wings amongst two people...
Although not always on the menu, this Lobster Mac and Cheese is worth trying if available as a daily special. I love the gratin topping, it gives the dish a nice crunchy texture which contrasts the creaminess of the mac and cheese. 
There's plenty of lobster here and it's a dish best shared because it can get a bit heavy if you try to eat the whole thing yourself. The flavours were a bit mild and the dish could have probably used a touch more cheese. Nonetheless, it's a good appetizer and a bit more satisfying than just oysters and wings. 

They have $2 oysters during happy hour and 20% off bottles of wine as well. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Homemade Aglio e Olio with Prawns

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Once in while, you might see some recipes here when I actually cook at home. I don't create recipes, I simply adapt ones that I find on other blogs, websites and from my cookbook collection.  

Aglio e Olio with Prawns - By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen  

Serves: 2  
Ingredients 
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil  
3 cloves garlic, minced  
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes  
1 pound large prawns (16-20 ct/lb), peeled and deveined  
6-8 ounces pasta  
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley  
2 tablespoon shredded parmesan

Directions 
  1. Make pasta, drain and reserved a cup of pasta water. (I'm going to assume you know how to do this, don't prove me wrong.) 
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over low heat; cook garlic, salt and hot pepper flakes, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until garlic is light golden but do not let it get brown. 
  3. Increase heat to medium-high. Add prawns to skillet; stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly pink and opaque. Sprinkle in parsley and toss.
  4. Add drained pasta to skillet, along with a cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss until water is almost absorbed and dish onto bowls.
  5. Sprinkle with parmesan shreds and serve. 
The very top photo is my second attempt. This one here is my first attempt and the prawns didn't get as good a colour as I wanted but the taste was there. Since I made a small portion to test, I made another batch a few days later for the top photo. The second time, I let the prawns fry a bit longer before I added the pasta the second time. And I didn't have parsley either time so just subbed with green onions for colour and freshness. 

What I like about this dish is that you can use any pasta you want, long or short. The sauce is light, not creamy or tomato-y with just a touch of heat. And of course, if you want to substitute the prawns with another protein (chicken would be great) or remove it altogether, you can do that too!

Let me know if you give it a try and your thoughts! 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Anchovies and so much more at Autostrada

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When COVID-19 restrictions started lifting in late August, Autostrada was one of the first places I ventured out to try. They have two locations; Main and West Pender, both are taking reservations to observe social distancing guidelines. It was my first time at the Main St. location and I wanted to try everything!
Anchovy Toast
We started off with a few antipasti. The first one to arrive was the Anchovy on Focaccia ($12) with a few slices of pickled veg and a scattering of fresh herbs. I have always felt that anchovies are underrated as a food, but they really elevated this dish here. Meaty, salty and plentiful, the anchovies sit atop a bed of warm and crunchy focaccia, making for very satisfying starter.
Burrata_Prosiutto
If prosciutto is on the menu, chances are I will order it and this time was no different. This appetizer arrived with Cuor di Burrata ($32). Super creamy and buttery in texture, the cheese is served with just a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. There are some fresh herbs and nuts (I think they were hazelnuts?) but burrata stole the show.
Be sure to get some extra Focaccia ($7) to truly enjoy this. 
Trust me, you'll need this for the next dish!
Polpette
Our final appetizer was the Polpette al Sugo ($15) made from a blend of ground beef and pork with a pomodoro sauce and some pecorino shavings. The meatballs are juicy and savory, with a nice tanginess from the sauce and a hint of saltiness from the cheese. That focaccia comes in handy here too!  
Tagliatelle
Now, I can't go to an Italian restaurant without sampling some of their pastas and they have quite a large variety here. I went for the Tagliatelle Bolognese ($23), for some traditional comfort food. The sauce tasted like it was cooked for days and had a creaminess I don't usually find in bolognese sauce. The pasta was cooked perfectly and had a nice al dente texture. The parm shavings completed the dish. Sometimes, I ask for a bit of chili flakes but I didn't see the need for it here.  
Cappelletti
The second pasta we shared was their Ripiena ($24) which was their daily stuffed pasta. I'm not usually a fan of stuffed pastas (like ravioli or tortellini) but when the server described it, we couldn't resist it. The special was cappelletti stuffed with halibut in a spot prawn broth. It was fresh, light, seasonal and fantastic. I find that in most restaurants, if the chef makes an effort to create daily specials, it's usually worth a try. 
PizzelleLimone
And yes, we actually got dessert too! As with prosciutto, if there is a lemon/lime dessert on the menu, we're getting it. This Pizzelle Limone ($7) is so pretty and delicious that it needs three photos to do it justice. The snowflake pattern is so pretty and the dusting of icing sugar made it look heavenly. Psst, I found some of these cookies at London Drugs or you can buy a pizzelle maker at Bed, Bath and Beyond for ~$60. 
PizzelleLimone
Sandwiched between the three cookies are swirls of lemon crema. Light and flavourful, this was a good way to end this meal. But wait, there's more! 


Hidden in the middle was a generous serving of blueberry filling. This was a nice surprise! All in all, I'd say this was a great meal and I'll definitely be back to try our more pastas. 
They have a risotto with braised short rib that I need to try and also the garganelli with lamb ragu. Oh, and they have tiramisu too! And if you are dining alone, be sure to grab a seat at their cozy bar. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Pizza and Gelato at Gusto

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Earlier this month, I met a friend in Olympic Village for a quick snack in the afternoon. I haven't explored much of the area in recent months, but am forcing myself to head down there more frequently. When my friend suggested Gusto - A Taste of Italy when I said that I was craving gelato, I was eager to give this a try.

I hadn't eaten lunch yet so decided to try out one of their pizzas, before moving on to dessert. They pride themselves on serving up Authentic Italian Scrocchiarella. It's almost the opposite of a thin crust artisanal-type pizza. The crispy Roman-style pizza has a great crust with a decent amount of chew. Scrocchiarella is as specific type of flour and crust is reminiscent of focaccia. 

I wanted something light, so opted for the Prosciutto e Rucola ($10.99). They serve it warmed up and the rectangular-shaped is one classic trait of Roman-style pizza. It was really good, the crust was doughy and chewy, perfect for me as I love pizza crust. I will eat yours if you let me! And the toppings (prosciutto, arugula, signature sauce and parmigiana) were plentiful and very fresh. I thought it was good value for the price. I only ate half and took the rest to-go. I had to save room for the real reason I was there, gelato!

Now, time for some Gelato Artigianale! Their chefs are from Italy and the machines are flown in from Italy as well. I chose to enjoy mine in a cone. There are so many flavours to choose from and you're allowed to try three before making your choice. The Pistachio one was highly recommended, but I am not really a fan of the nut. There was also a Caramelized Fig one with figs flown in from Sicily. 

Finally, I decided on the Cioccolato Fondente ($5.95), described as Dark and Dangerous on the website. It's a blend of black cocoa, 85% chocolate and 72% chocolate. I was in heaven and did not want the treat to end.

There are quite a few things I'll probably come back and try. They have a wide variety of Antipasti, such as Bruschetta, Salads as well as a Cheese Board. In addition to gelato, they also have other treats for your sweet tooth, such as biscotti, cannoli, flakey croissants (plain or filled with butter cream or Nutella). There are tarts, mousse cakes and so much more. They have a selection of both cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages. 

Oh, and they have Happy Hour 3-6pm Monday - Friday.

Brunch at Jam Cafe

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Partially due to time constraints, this blog was essentially abandoned in 2015. Now with COVID-19, I find myself occasionally eating out with lots of time to write again. 
Welcome back! Finally, I have the time to write and you have the time to read. 
The (re)new(ed) blog will not be just all restaurant reviews, though there will be some. I have been cooking at home during this crazy time and a recipe or two might come through as well.  So grab a coffee or drink (coffee, beer or cocktail) and have a read. 

I've been to Jam Cafe on Beatty a few times but never gave their Kits location a try. Last week, taking advantage of the nice weather, we decided to have a late lunch there and then take a walk along Kits beach. Bonus: all day parking on Kits beach is only $7.10 during October 1 - March 31. (City of Vancouver Link
My friend had The Old Town Breakfast ($15) with your basic two eggs your way, choice of sourdough or multigrain toast, choice of bacon, sausage, ham or avocado (if you must). But seriously, it's all about the hash browns here. Medium poached eggs with some chives, bacon and multigrain toast was the selection of the day. Oh, and of course, strawberry jam, you're at Jam Cafe afterall...
I decided to go with the Blackstone Benny ($17 for mine, $14 for a half-size), with the sugar cured bacon. I found the bacon to be very tasty and it was quite plentiful as well. I usually get the hollandaise on the side, but forgot to mention it this time. The addition of the roasted tomatoes added an unexpected juiciness to the English muffin. The eggs had a bit of parmesan shavings as well as the hollandaise. And of course, the delicious hash browns. 
This was way too much food for me and I asked for the take out box as soon as the plate arrived. Pro tip: the box is a bit shallow so make sure you move the egg off the English muffin so it won't get squished. 

I've heard that there are long waits on the weekend and I don't think the food is worth the wait. However, we went at 2:15pm (they close at 3pm) and were seated quickly, even with the social distancing guidelines.


Jam Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, August 07, 2020

Smoked Salmon - 6 ways...

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So in the hopes of eating healthy and to avoid the dreaded Quarantine Fifteen, I went to Costco to buy all things healthy. I came back stocked with loads of veggies and one treat, smoked salmon. Well, I came home with a lot more than that (magazines, pretzels, granola bars, etc.). I used to get out of Costco under $50 but this time, it was $200+. It's true what they say, do not shop on an empty stomach...
So I had 500g of smoked salmon and I was determined to come up with a few ways to have it over the next few days. 

On Day One, I did a very simple breakfast of smoked salmon with quail eggs and a sprinkle of capers. I had some mini-croissants which suited the whole miniature theme. I don't normally eat a lot for breakfast anyways, and this two little bites made me feel like a giant, a Brobdingnagian from Gulliver's Travels. I suppose one could mistake this for a full sized croissant and chicken egg at a glance, right? 

Okay, no more mini-croissants for Day Two so I paired with some Wisecrackers (from Costco) for a light lunch. They are pretty mild, flavoured with olive oil and sea salt. The crunch was really good against the soft salmon and egg. I added some La Vache Qui Rit because I didn't have any cream cheese at home, so that was a handy substitute.

On Day Three, I decided to have the smoked salmon as just a snack. Using the same crackers as yesterday, I added some cucumber and cherry tomatoes but it was a pretty bland. Maybe I should have used more dill and maybe a squirt of lemon juice too. Oh well, next time. 

So by Day Four, I was a little sick of crackers and opted for a healthy pasta salad instead. I used a chickpea, brown rice and quinoa-based fusilli but it was disappointingly crumbly. Maybe I overcooked it? I tossed it with a lemon vinaigrette found it really refreshing. I would do this again but with another type of pasta or maybe quinoa? 

Day Five was my favourite so far. Maybe because I was comparing it to Day Four...but I did finally get cream cheese and more dill. The colours were so bright and fresh, the pop of the quail egg yolk made it even better. Yes, this was definitely my favourite. It was a perfect bite, a bit of crunch from the cracker and the cucumber, and the smooth cream cheese and the buttery salmon. Yum! 

And now we're at Day Six, and the last of the smoked salmon here. There's not quite enough for a meal, so I added two poached shrimp to round it out a bit. Originally, the plan was to make a hot pasta dish, something creamy and decadent with rotini or linguine, but the heatwave we have going on right now here in Vancouver made me catatonic at the thought of turning on the stove. So Thai Noodle Salad it was! It's a huge pile of veggies, romaine, yellow and red peppers, cucumber as well as bean sprouts over a bed of vermicelli. For a bit pf protein, I topped it with loosely shredded smoked salmon and a few prawns. The dressing is made up of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, a bit of sugar and some bird's eye chilies and cilantro. Refreshing, spicy and more filling than you'd expect! I mixed the dressing with the vermicelli first so it has a chance to soak it up first, then top with the salad and drizzle more dressing.

So now that my Smoked Salmon theme is done, I am going to have to find another ingredient to do five or six ways. Maybe canned tuna? Chickpeas? Quinoa? Or maybe I'll move on to baking...but only small batches because it's too hot out, and oh,  my big oven is broken...

Friday, June 28, 2019

Crispy Chicken Chow Mein

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So it's been a few months, er, years, since I've blogged and the industry sure has changed! I remember the days when people used to read blogs for in-depth reviews of various new restaurants but now, it's all about Instagram, isn't it?

I miss the days when people would read a blog post to get the sense of the restaurant, cuisine, service and overall value. However, it's just all about the IG boomerang post. It's hard to put all of that into one image, no?

But despite all that, I'm going to take another crack at blogging again. But instead of restaurant reviews and publicity events, I'm going with a different focus. I am cooking a lot more at home and trying new recipes, instead of the tried and true foods that I usually make. 

The goal is to learn more about nutrition, FODMAPs, and organic ingredients, as well as to remake some restaurant favourites. Here the first of a remake! I found this recipe from RecipeTinEats for Crispy Chicken Chow Mein

It seemed daunting at first, as the boy had quite high expectations for this, hoping against hope that I could replicate what we have at Cindy's Palace for our weekend dim sum brunches. 

And you know what? It was easy peasy! I followed the recipe to the letter and could not have been happier with the result!



See above for the crispy noodles, and no, there's no deep frying going on here. Just oil, noodles and a few tablespoons of water. The key is to let the heat do the work. Once you've toasted one side, pour that onto a plate and flip it back into the wok or frying pan for another few minutes before putting it into the oven to keep warm.

Now, before you do all that noodle frying, you should make all the sauce and marinade the chicken about 30 minutes before because once you start, you can't stop to look for that sesame oil in the deep recesses of your pantry.

The chicken marinade is easy and you can probably do that the night before. Once the noodles are done, wipe the wok down and add the marinated chicken. Then add the veggies (carrots, bok choy stems <--low fodmap! and some shallots or green onions).

Then add the sauce which has corn starch in it to thicken it. Remember to stir it before adding into the wok/frying pan. It might look wet and way too liquidly at first but Give It Time. The corn starch will do its thing and make this the glossiest and creamy sauce. Once everything has incorporated, add the bok choy leaves and bean sprouts and just gently toss until everything is coated.

All that's left to do now is to take the crispy noodles out of the oven and pour this magnificent sauce over it. But take it easy, don't drown it or you'll lose the crispiness that you tried so hard to achieve.

I serve mine with some of the sauce on the side as well as a small dish of chili oil. If you've been looking for a way to make chow mein at home, I sincerely hope that you give this a try.    

Monday, October 09, 2017

Wine Society Dinner at Villa Eyrie

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Last month, I was fortunate enough to head up to Villa Eyrie at Malahat for their Wine Society dinner dubbed The Perfect Pairing. It's about two hours from Vancouver, with a 1.5-hour ferry ride from Tsawwassen, and a 30-minute drive from Victoria. 
Upon our arrival at the dinner, we were given bread, served with olive oil and butter. After a long trip from the city, this was devoured gratefully. 
Our first course of the 5-Course menu was a light starter of Albacore Tuna Crudo, served with sliced strawberries, fennel and cucumber ribbons with a light cucumber vinaigrette. The tuna was slightly chilled and very fresh, almost creamy. I loved the simple and elegant presentation. The pairing was a Stag's Hollow 'Syrah/Grenache' Rose, 2016, a 70/30 syrah/grenache blend. 
Our second appetizer was a Grilled Corn Agnolotti. The pasta was made with acorn flour and imparted a nutty and earthy feel to the dish. The brie filling was rich and velvety, and the sprinkling of corn and chives rounded out the dish nicely. (*Note to self, look for acorn flour on my next shopping trip). This was paired with the Tinhorn Creek 'Old Field' Chardonnay, 2014 and had grapefruit and green apple flavours. 
The Pan Seared Duck Breast was served with some colourful beets and braised chanterelle. There is also a sprinkling of mushroom and cabbage powders to offset the sweetness of the cherry jus. I would have liked the skin to be crispier and the fat rendered out more, but the breast itself was juicy and very flavourful. To accompany this dish, a Misconduct 'Suspect Series' Pinot Noir, 2014 was served. Each bottle is marked with GPS coordinates to show you which vineyard the grapes came from!  
The Pemberton Farms Short Rib was processed three different ways. First, it goes through an overnight marinade, then into the smoker, and then finally braised. The glaze is a reduction of Juniper peppercorns, and the meat was just falling off the bone, and fork tender. The other part of the duo was the Grilled Strip Loin, perfectly done to a medium rare. The peppercorn glaze served to flavour this well. The pretty Hasselback potatoes was lightly brushed butter but I thought they were just a touch underdone. However, that was just my opinion, everyone else said theirs were just fine. The last red wine of the night was the Nichol 'Old Vines' Syrah, 2014 from Naramata Bench and had cherry and peppery flavours.
Dessert was a homage to Roasted Peaches and included a peach mousse as well as some lightly roasted peaches. There was also a peach sorbet atop a strawberry coulis and a praline as well. Excellent blend of textures without being cloyingly sweet, exactly how I prefer my desserts! And the dessert was paired with Quail's Gate 'Botrytis Affected' Optima, 2015 and would be delightful with blue cheese and pâté.

If you have a free weekend and enjoy a short vacation in a secluded luxury resort with amazing food, Villa Eyrie is a great option. In addition to a heated saltwater pool, it is also home to the Tuscan Spa, complete with massage treatment rooms, lounges for manicures and pedicures, as well as amazing views of the Saanich Inlet.  

Click here for details about Villa Eyrie.
Click here for details about the Wine Society Dinner.
*Note: All food photos are by me and all photos of wines are courtesy of Villa Eyrie Resort. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tacofino Revisited

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I fell in love with Spicy Margaritas when I first went to Tacofino a few years ago and have been craving it in these hot summer days. So naturally, I had to give in to my desires. They have Margarita Mondays, so instead of $10, it's only $8. And how do they make it spicy? They use a habanero tequila! And that salted rim is everything!   
Tacofino is well-known for their fresh Tortilla Chips and Salsa Fresca, so that's what we got to start. Margaritas and Chips. That's happiness right there. The margaritas were spicy enough and those warm tortilla chips will likely come back to haunt me in my dreams tonight. The Guacamole is $3 extra, but SO WORTH IT! The creaminess of the guac added with the homemade salsa sitting atop those fresh tortilla chips are a perfect trifecta. 
We ordered a trio of Tacos, this is the Albacore Tuna: It's a few slices of fresh tuna tossed in soy and sesame oil. Then add the salsa fresca from the chips and some fresh seaweed (aka wakame) and some wasabi mayo. My least favourite part of this is the ginger but that is totally a personal preference. (I don't eat it on a sashimi platter either).
A special that's only available on their dinner menu is their Grilled Wagyu Steak Taco. The beef is laced with some black garlic mayo and some pickled vegetables. The jalapenos are placed to the side along with the lime. If you are feeling brave, add the jalapenos and squeeze some lime juice on top. Trust me, spice and citrus work with meat. 
Their other fish taco is simply called the Fish Taco. Made with slightly breaded and crispy Pacific Cod, this taco is topped with some shredded cabbage and a light chipotle mayo. And again, we see the salsa fresca. I swear, they put that on everything! It's a bit messy but well worth the effort! 
I didn't save room for dessert but they have a lime curd vaso that I would like to get to know next time I'm there. 

Tacofino Commissary Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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