gracecheung604 | write on time: October 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Coast with a Co-Worker

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Haven't had lunch with a work buddy in ages, due to busy-ness of the season, vacations and other time off. Fortunately, we decided to catch up over lunch at Coast. Their lunch box specials are a great value, and they usually have you out of there in an hour.
The place was pretty busy when we arrived at noon - good thing we had reservations! They sat us down, and we were quickly presented with an amuse bouche. It was a little bit of smoked salmon atop a crostini along with some herbs and fried capers. A pretty good start to the meal!
They have two lunch boxes, a His and Hers. The His comes with the New England clam chowder (white), fish and chips, along with wedge salad. The Hers consists of the Manhattan clam chowder (red), tuna sashimi salad, shrimp wrap. Both of us decided on the Hers. However, I changed mine to the New England clam chowder instead. They are very accommodating at Coast, and are willing to make substitutions if possible. So the one you see above is mine.
Sally opted to have Her lunchbox the say it was meant to be, complete with the Manhattan chowder.
The tuna sashimi salad is 3 slices of really fresh sashimi on a bed of shaved carrots, daikon and other veggies. They are sliced up to be noodle-like, and makes the salad seem more a cold noodle dish versus just a salad, sort of like a zarusoba.
The other part of the box is the Shrimp Wrap, lovely cocktail shrimp mixed with a bit of tarragon and celery hearts, and then layers on top of a grilled naan bread and watercress.
All three items, soup, salad and wrap are yours for $13 at lunch. Really, it's almost a steal. I finished the salad and soup and took the wrap home for dinner. So essentially, I ate all day for $13. Coast Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Congee Noodle King - but no congee

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When you've been away from home for a while, and the excellent Chinese food that is available here, you really miss it. Such was the case for me a few months ago. I craved my BBQ duck rice noodle and perfect shrimp wontons.
First off, we started with some Gailan, Chinese broccoli, as it is know in some circles. Simply boiled but properly trimmed, these are probably easier to eat with your fingers instead of with chopsticks. The little dish of oyster sauce on the side is perfect for dipping. Imagine this as a very healthy of version of fries and ketchup. Okay, it's a stretch, but use your imagination!
Ah...my favourite...BBQ Duck, thickly sliced, served atop a pile of Chinese spaghetti in soup. Underneath the duck is a generous portion of gailan as well. The noodles, called "lai fun" are slippery little buggers and take forever to eat. However, one good thing about them is that they don't absorb the broth as quickly as regular rice noodles. For someone who eats slow, this is imperative. I can recall many a time where my rice noodles were clumped at the bottom of a bowl, having soaked up all the soup. These noodles will not suffer the same fate. I can eat as slowly as I wish!
My friend ordered the dry noodles with shrimp wontons. It's a huge pile of wonton noodles, topped with six prawn-filled wontons, served with a side of gailan as well. Had I know that we would have so much veggies, I probably wouldn't have ordered the veggie dish, but then again, they are good for your, so it all works out in the end.
The dish is completed by a little bowl of soup, since the noodles are served dry. Some people take a chopstick-full of noodles, dunk it into the soup, and then slurp it up. The other method is to put about four mouthfuls of the noodles into the soup at a time, and then eat it as if it was a small bowl of "soup noodle". To each his own. The sauce you see near the top is a concoction of green onion and ginger in oil...it just make everything taste better. Commonly served with Plain White Chicken, ask for this on the side and try dipping the wonton in, you'll be hooked.

Congee Noodle King on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Almost Brand New

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Wow, I don't think I've ever been the first to post at a restaurant that I didn't "add to urbanspoon"! Kai Sushi Bar did their soft-opening by good old word of mouth. Luckily, a friend of mine knows someone who knew someone, and there we go! The restaurant is the opposite of an izakaya...brightly lit, no screaming waitresses when you enter and no loud background music. Instead, we were seated quickly, and then handed menus. Coiled menus with lots of items. Since there were only two of us, we had to restrict ourselves to five dishes...and even that was a lot.  
We started off with the Seafood Butteryaki...I suspected what it was, but imagine our delight when she explained that it was simply food cooked in butter, well a butter sauce, but still. The buttery flavour was super intense, but the sweetness of the prawns and scallop were not lost.
There was a small sliver of lemon on the bottom...just a bit of a tang. The burnt parts were nice and crisp, giving everything a nice charred flavour.
As with any restaurant, I go for the Ikura. This place did that quite well too. Although there wasn't tons of ikura per piece, they also didn't try to stuff you with a large blob of rice. I actually found this to be a perfect mouthful.
It's impossible to bite ikura sushi in half without losing half of the ikura, and some places give you so much rice that you think you'll gag/choke if you attempt to put the whole thing into your mouth. Well, this solves the dilemma. A lady can put the whole thing in her mouth and not look like a chipmunk storing nuts for winter.
The next thing we tried is called the San Francisco Roll. The contents are not that surprising...made up of dungeness crab, cocktail shrimp (I like that they tell you it's cocktail so you're not expecting ebi) and cucumber. What make the roll distinctive were the tamago crepe they use to roll it in, instead of nori, and they forego the more common tobiko with gold tobiko. All in all, the dish was very difference than your usual rolls.
The tamago crepe didn't make the roll sweet, but it made it less salty...and it allowed the sweetness of the crab and shirmp to really shine. It wasn't laden with wasabi, rather it was a mixed with a light Kewpie mayo dressing and some finely diced green onions.
Our next roll was a walk on the Western side, their Bacon & Scallop Roll. A very common hors d'oeuvre is bacon-wrapped scallops, lightly grilled. Well, here at Kai, they took the concept to heart and made it into a roll. Imagine crispy bacon lining the roll, with scallops rolled into it all, and then wrapped with nori.
As you can see, their rolls aren't hockey puck sized servings, but rather delicate. Five pieces where the filling is balanced well with the rice is way better than eight pieces full of rice. At the top of the screen is the tip of the roll, and the gigantic piece of bacon sticking out at one end.
See the big pieces of scallop and the red slices of meaty bacon? Again, just a bit of shredded cucumber and lettuce to complete the roll.
Our last dish was the Garlic Short Ribs. It was a fairly large serving, and I liked they way the sliced it up for you. You probably still need to use your hands to work with the bone. I know my chopstick skills might have not been appreciated by my neighbours, as the bone goes flying into their miso soup.
The meat was flavourful, but I felt that it was lacking something. A lemon wedge does accompany the dish, but I would definitely prefer a dipping sauce of some kind...either citrus or soy based.
I would recommend giving this restaurant a try in a few weeks. They are still having some growing pains. For example, we were given menus, ordered and received our first dish before we received the tea that we asked for. Oh, they don't have their liquor license yet...some growing pains, but promising. Kai Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Edible BC at Granville Island

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I know I say I love my job, but I really do! Tonight, 24 lucky employees got a chance to try out Edible British Columbia via their Private Granville Island Market Dinner. It's a delectable five-course dinner, complete with wine pairings.
As you can see from the menu, the focus is squarely on local ingredients and wines. And this dinner isn't just a "sit, eat and drink" affair. Rather, Chef Eric Pateman is going to cook every course while we eat!
We arrived and were served a lovely Lychee Vodka Sparkling Beverage. The Schramm vodka is not only made at the Pemberton Distillery, it is made OF Pemberton potatoes! I've had lychee martinis before, but the added bubbles made a big difference. The sweetness of the lychee blended nicely with the flavour of the kaffir lime leaves.
Our first course was an amuse bouche ...slices of gently seared Salt and Pepper Crusted Ahi Tuna, served with a green curry lime sauce, and topped with thai basil, chili, green onion and cilrantro. The green curry sauce was a little smokey, and had traces of sesame and coconut milk...very well suited to the Asian garnishes of the dish.
All those varying shades of green sure make that tuna stand out.
Next up were the Qualicum Bay Scallops. The key to making good scallops is to make sure they are dry. Otherwise, you end up just poaching them in their own juices as they release, and you won't get the seared look and flavour you really want. The scallops that the Chef is cooking for us have been drying on paper towels for 8 hours.
Using grape seed oil, the Chef placed the scallops into the pan, careful not to overcrowd them. The trick is...don't flip them! Just let them sear on one side, and you're good to go. One of the reasons that Chef uses grape seed oil versus olive oil is that it has a higher smoke point, another is that it is milder in flavour.
He also made two sides to compliment this dish. The first is an heirloom tomato salad.
The lovely yellow puree you see here is fresh creamed corn. For our party of 24 people, he used four cobs of corn. One trick is to cut up the actual cobs and toss it into the soup pot too...just remove it before serving!
And here you have it...Pan Seared Scallop on a bed of Creamed Corn with an Heirloom Tomato Salad. Because the Chef didn't play around with the scallop too much and just let them cook on their own, the meat was really moist! And the creamed corn was so sweet, just lovely.
To accompany this dish, we were treated to a See Ya Later Ranch Brut. More bubbly!
So that everyone can see what is going on, there is a mirror above to show you exactly what the Chef is doing at all times.
Our next did was a Wild BC Mushroom bisque, made with various mushrooms, including the Matsutake (or pine), button, and shitake. The matsutake ones are actually grown in Tofino. About two pounds of mushrooms were needed to make a pot big enough for all of us. Toss in a bit of dry sherry, and be sure to make sure it is dry. Oh, and yes, a little bit of truffle oil never hurt anyone...
To go along with our main entree, the Chef prepared a risotto, with a fish stock base. Got 18 minutes? Well, then according to the Chef, you've got enough time to make risotto, just be sure to keep the stock on while you prepare your rice. In the pot, pour in a generous portion of grape seed oil, and some duck fat (yes, Granville Island sells this), add some onions and garlic and let cook for a few seconds. Then toss in your rice and let everything toast and marry together. Add some stock and as the rice cooks and absorb the stock, keep adding stock to it. After 18 minutes of this, you're done!
Plump fresh pieces of halibut, getting their heat on. Boy, this is going to be good!
And here is the final product. A nicely crusted piece of BC Halibut, topped with a teaspoon of fresh pesto, sitting on top of a bed of risotto and sliced brussel sprouts, all surrounded by a dousing of lobster oil...oh, put a fork in me, because I'm done!
Oh, and before I forget, the wine we had with this was our only red of the night, a Stoneboat Vineyards Pinot Noir...see, you can pair red wine with fish!
Due to camera issues, I didn't get to take a picture of the delicious Spiced Pumpkin Cream we had, topped with Thomas Haas Ganache. If I get a photo from one of my co-workers, I'll snag it for this post. The wine we had with the dessert was actually port...a Gray Monk Odyssey III...what a perfect ending.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

100 Days...6 times in 33 days

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I heard about 100 days and was dying to go. Reviews of the six times I've been there so far (in 33 days). Click on each round for in-depth review.

Round 1 Dungeness Crab and Artichoke Dip and Lamb Wellington
Round 2 - Lobster and Crab Macaroni and Cheese and Boar Grilled Cheese
Round 3 - Opus Benny and Proscuitto and Egg Gnocci
Round 4 - Sauteed Prawns and Fries
Round 5 - Steak and Eggs and Lobster and Crab Cake Eggs Benny
Round 6 - Kick Ass Burger and Turkey Hash
Stay tuned...I will be back! The have Paella and Short Rib added to the menu now...
100 Days on Urbanspoon

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