gracecheung604 | write on time: January 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Napoletana Pizza At Novo

Many Vancouver-area restaurants are using Twitter to offer promotions and one that really inspired me to try them was NovoPizzeria. We headed there because they were offering free meatballs for following them. It's a small gesture, I agree, but it's incentive. And if it doesn't cost the restaurant too much but can draw people in, I think it's a wise move. 
So here are the free Meatballs. There were two of us, so we got two. I guessing they give one per person. Makes me wonder what their normal portion would be if you ordered off the menu. But oh well, it's free, and it's good. I liked the marinara sauce and the light sprinkle of parmesan on top. Also part of the meatball were some currants and pine nuts. You can even see a whole one on the lower left. 

Knowing that we couldn't have two whole pizzas, we decided to try the Calamari with gremolata, pepperocino, lemon basil aioli. Tossed with diced red onions, the calamari was a perfect mix of tentacles and tubes. A generous squeeze of the lemon heightens the flavour nicely. 
We also got the Diavollo, which comes with Hot Capicollo, onions and chilli flakes, and some fresh basil. We didn't think this would satisfy the carnivore in us, so we added some Italian Sausage to the mix. Can you see the nice blistery crust? They serve certified Napoletana pizzas here, and they bake them in a 900 degree apple wood burning oven. They age the dough for at least 48 hours, which helps it give you this chewy yet crisp crust. They also use a special type of flour, called Caputo "00".  Not sure if it's the flour, the aging or the oven, but the mixture of all three results in an excellent pizza!
Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Smoking dinner at Smoking Dog Bistro

We checked out Dine Out Vancouver and hit up Smoking Dog Bistro. We actually checked it out on Chinese New Years, avoiding the usual rush at Chinese restaurants. Their 3-course menu was just $28 and had a very interesting bacon dessert.
One of the appetizers offered was the Sliced Flank Steak with Ratatouille. I was pleasantly surprised by the portion, because after all, this was just an appetizer. The steak was done medium rare, with loads of ratatouille. Ratatouille is a toss-up mixture of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers and flavoured with garlic and onions. It's healthy as it is yummy!
Another of the appetizers we tried was the Grilled Portobello with Mixed Greens, Cherve and Pine Nuts. The mixed greens were a blend of grilled red peppers, beets, arugula, and a shaving of carrots on top. The balsamic reduction was rich and plentiful, so I loved this dish. Not sure how the portobello was prepared, but it kept it's juices and made a nice serving tray for the greens.

If you love, lamb, the you should really try the Braised Lamb Shank. Although not a big fan of polenta, it's not really a large part of the dish, and you've got to have some greens, so the 5/6 haricots verts was just enough. The star of this dish was definitely the lamb. If you fear lamb because it's gamey, you should try this one. The meat was ultra tender and the knife they supply is merely perfunctory. The meat falls off the bone so easily, but it's not mushy. The meat is good and there is a lot of it! 
We also tried their Moules Frites, which I don't think was on their Dine Out menu. Using Salt Spring Island mussels, they were steamed with some garlic, lemon butter and a bit of white wine. It did come with Frites, but I missed taking a picture! The portion was generous, about 20+ for the order. The broth was yummy and I'm glad we saved some of the bread so we could soak up every last drop.
Another menu item that we ordered off the Dine Out menu was their Steak Frites. It's supposed to be a  Striploin but I think they substituted for a different cut. Not necessarily a cheaper cut, just a different one. Bordelaise sauce is supposed to be made with red wine, marrow and butter. This was a good sauce, I just wish there was more of it. My steak was cooked to a medium rare, as requested, and was definitely enough for an entree portion. I didn't like my cabbage and celeriac slaw served in a separate container. Somehow, that screams diner, not bistro. However, the dressing was good and I did finish the whole thing. And yes, pommes frites were good...crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside...not as crispy as you get to the bottom, but still good. 
This was the much anticipated Candied Bacon Chocolate Fudge Cake. We expected crisp bits of bacon sprinkled amongst rich dark chocolate fudge. Unfortunately, we were a touch disappointed (having anticipation can cause that) with the cake that arrived. The bacon was mixed into the cake and the fudge was the topping. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good as we had hoped.
As a fan of tart desserts, I was delighted to see the French Lemon Tart with Raspberry Coulis. The crust was surprisingly light, and the lemon curb was nice and dense, just the way I like it. The fresh whipped cream and mint were a nice touch, as was the coulis, but I was all about the lemon tart!
I noticed that many of the Dine Out dishes are not on the regular menu, and this baffles me. Why would you introduce people to your restaurant with dishes that they might fall in love with, only to never serve it again. Shockingly, the lamb shank isn't on their regular menu (at least it's not on their online menu). I just don't get it. 

Smoking Dog Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 16, 2012

Red Ginger - Kam's reincarnated

Kam's closed after being on Davie for years but the new incarnation is now on West Broadway, serving much of the same fare that was at the downtown location. Although I'd only read about the old location, I was excited to try this place. 
Let me first apologize for the overly yellow tones on all the food photos. The Torch has a horrendous flash, so despite what you see here, I didn't have curry everything! The first thing we got were the Spring Rolls - these are filled with vegetables and vermicelli and served with a slightly sweet plum sauce. Flaky skin, piping hot filling, it's exactly what a spring roll should be. Get some hot chilli sauce on the side for an additional punch of heat. 
Another go-to dish is their Lettuce Wrap which we got with beef, but you can also get it with chicken. Mixed in with a lot of diced veggies, this dish almost feels healthy.  The hoisin sauce is a good addition and serves to hold the diced filling together. Everyone has their own way of rolling a lettuce wrap, but one thing to remember...less is more. Don't overfill it and you'll be fine. 
Next up was the Green Beans with Spicy Chicken. Green beans are great, richly flavoured and just a bit spicy. But I didn't enjoy the shape of the chicken. It made serving the dish quite awkward...long green beans and chunks of chicken, I think I would have preferred chicken strips instead of chicken chunks. But alas, that's a purely presentation criticism...the tastes are all there. 
The last dish we got to round out dinner was the House Special Chilli Beef. Large beef slices tossed with even larger slices of peppers, onions and zucchini. Again, as with the Beans & Chicken, I didn't like the presentation even though I liked the flavours. I don't enjoy rough cut vegetables, and that was what ruined the dish for me. The peppery sauce was good, and great to mix with the rice we got on the side. 
Since we had so many saucy dishes...we needed something carbs to soak up all the sauces. We got an order of their Coconut Rice, and I fell in love with the presentation. instead of a rounded bowl as expected, the fragrant rice was served in a banana leaf envelope. Gorgeous and tasty. 
One dish we really didn't need was the Pad Thai. It's a gigantic portion of noodles, bean sprouts, shrimp with a topping of scrambled egg and peanuts. The sauce was actually really good, although I don't know if it's authentic. To serve this, toss everything together (yes, it can get messy) and get a bit of crunch from the peanuts and sprouts to go with the tender noodles and egg.

Red Ginger on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nine Dishes - Spicy!

I've heard a few things about this place, most noticeably, Mia Stainsby article for The Vancouver Sun. From other blogs, it looks as though service is inconsistent, but the food is good, well-priced with portions leaning on the big side. One quirk about this restaurant is that the rice is free...self-serve and free!
The first dish we ordered was the Shredded Tripe with Soy Sauce. Loaded with chillies, peanuts and preserved veggies, this was a great starter. It really stirs up your appetite. There are a lot of dried chillies and but they aren't really that's the seeds that truly packs a punch! 
Now I know that this dish looks insanely spicy, but amazingly, it's not really that not. It's their signature dish...Boiled fish slices with chilli oil. Again with a generous portion of chillies, the heat is enhanced with more peppercorns. Would you believe this is AFTER they came by with a ladle to scoop out some of the chilies and peppercorn. The fish is really tender, soft and juicy. And yes, huge portion. This fed four of us easily. 
One dish on many people's "Must Try" list was their Deep Fried Lotus Root with minced meat, This was reminiscent of Hapa Izakaya's Renkon Gyoza (my post). It's a dumpling of minced meat sandwiched between thin slices of lotus root, the whole package is then battered and deep-fried. The lotus root skin keeps the minced meat moist, but the meat filling was a little bland for my taste. 
They also have a lot of skewers, ranging from chicken, eggplant, squid and even lamb tripe. We got their Lamb Kababs and Bean Curd Skewers, I think they were all a dollar each. The lamb is really good, loaded with spices such as cumin and chilli powder. We really liked the bean curd too, very soft and tender on the inside with a light coating of barbecue sauce. This is one of the least spicy dishes on the menu. 
I've never tried Steam Buns on a skewer, but it's such a natural, since my favourite burgers are the ones that are made with slightly grilled buns. I found these buns overly spiced with cumin. If you brush off some of the spices, (the same way you'd "de-salt" an overly salted pretzel, then these are good to go. 
Needing a bit more seafood to round out the feast, we also tried their Spicy Saucy Shrimp, also available with Crayfish, but that was $20 per order and the shrimp were a bit cheaper. I really like shrimp with the shell on, and these were done very nicely. The flesh still had a bit of of a bite to it, but I found it just a tad too oily.
Because we were with a toddler, we had to get something not spicy, so we went for the Pork Wonton Soup. These were okay, but again, as with the lotus root dumplings, I found the meat a bit lacking in flavour. But then again, I had been dining on the fish in chilli oil, as well as the overly spiced grilled buns, so take my comments with a grain of salt...
And there you have it, our table at a glance. This was enough food for 4.5 people. One interesting thing I did notice...most pictures of the Lotus Root dumpling were in portions of 3. However, we got 4 with our order. Could the order taker really notice that and added another one just for us? Probably not, but I'd like to think so! Oh, and note that they are cash only.
Nine Dishes on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cheezy Goodness at Mac Shack

The Mac Shack on Urbanspoon
Who doesn't like Mac N Cheese? We've all been there, chowing down on the 99 cent box of KD during university. Fortunately, this is NOT that type of Mac N Cheese. For one thing, it's not made from a powder, and it's not the crazy orange that you get after being in the fake and bake just a tad too long.

We had a kid with us on this taste test, so his meal was the Mini Mac with a side of milk/juice/water. We picked milk...moo! And all this for only $6 and it comes with a freshly baked cookie too! Great deal for children! 

We decided to go for the Bacon Cheeseburger, easily my all-time favourite pizza choice. So instead of being in a pie, it's baked into some macaroni?! As you can see from the image above, their macaroni are curly AND grooved! All the better to hang onto the sauce! Loaded with ground beef, cheddar and bacon, this was really good. Lots of cheddar on top and a handful of bacon too. I didn't think there was enough cheese, but that's a personal preference, I guess. I do like how it comes piping hot from the oven though. 
We also got The Royale, or now renamed The Ultimate, which has tons of protein, with bacon, chicken, chorizo and shrimp mingling with peppers, broccoli and mushrooms in a gooey sauce of mozzarella and gruyere cheese. There's not much colour to the sauce, but there's definitely flavour. The chorizo slices and shrimp give a nice balance of salty and sweet, and the chicken and bacon are great for texture.

Friday, January 13, 2012

No 9 - one of my guilty pleasures

No.9 Restaurant 九記 on Urbanspoon
Is there one thing that you think you can eat for the rest of your life and you'd never get bored? Well, this post is that for me. I rarely venture into Richmond, but on a cool wintry day, I did! I went to Lansdowne Mall to revisit #9 Restaurant. I used to go lots before because they are open 24 hours a day. And after those random late night karaoke sessions, some Chinese comfort food was just what the doctor ordered.
I love BBQ Duck. I love rice noodles. I love rice noodles in soup. But I don't like my BBQ Duck in soup. So when I order my BBQ Duck Rice Noodles in Soup, I always ask for the BBQ Duck to be served on the side. So when my food comes, the rice noodles come in a bowl of hot broth, topped with seasonal veggies. Yes, they force you to eat veggies here. It's a healthy serving, but I polish it off everytime. 
On this afternoon, instead of just getting BBQ Duck, I got my noodles with a combo of BBQ Duck as well as Roast Pork. And just so you know...Roast Pork ≠ BBQ Pork! Roast Pork is a pork belly roasted with the skin ON until you get crackling. BBQ Pork, aka Cha Siu, is a pork tenderloin barbecued until it's juicy. 
Here is my complete lunch...noodles with a plate of two meats on the side. The skin on the duck is shiny, crispy and sinfully rich. The crackling on the roast pork is totally bad for you, but honestly, I believe in moderation. Don't eat this every week, and you'll enjoy it for what it is. Be sure to ask for the plum sauce to dunk the duck on, and some hoisin sauce to dip the roasted pork skin in. And once you try this, you'll realize why the meats and noodles have to be separated...who wants soggy crackling, right? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Combo Platter at Pink!

I've been to Pink Elephant Thai several time before, but this was the first time we went when we weren't in the mood for Pad Thai. So instead , we tried out their newly launched Alberni Platter, where you can mix and match appetizers: 3 for $22 or 4 for $28. We weren't hungry, but we were curious, so here are the 4 appies that we tried.
One of my favourites at Pink is their Floating Market. It's a plate of deep-fried spinach topped with Tiger Prawns. The sauce on the side is a spicy apple sauce, and it's good. I'd ask for extra spicy if you like heat. And it's got spinach in it, so Popeye would be proud. 
The next appy we ordered is their Peeg Gai Yaad Sai (Boneless stuffed chicken wings). I love how they debone the chicken wing, yet the veggie and glass noodles are stuffed inside, yet retain the shape of a chicken wing. These babies are deep fried and served with a sweet and sour sauce as well as a cucumber & onion mixture. Yes, you can double dip!
We also tried their Ostrich Satay, which I have had before. I found these just a bit dry, but the peanut sauce helped. Ostrich is quite lean, so that might have contributed to the dryness factor. To avoid, get the chicken satays instead.
For those of you that visited Charm in Yaletown, you'll be pleased to know that their yummy Fish Cakes are served here as well. These little patties of fish are juicy and have the bounciness that great fish cakes should have. They also have Shrimp Cakes too...that's next on my "to-eat" list! 

Pink Elephant Thai on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A foray to Fray on Fra(y)sier

Nestled amongst a bunch of Asian restaurants along Frasier is Fray. I headed down on a Sunday night to see what the fuss was all about. The menu was all over the place, I couldn't quite decide what to get, so it was a good thing that there were a group of us. Lots of Tongue-in-Cheek names (Sex Pistols, F-bombs, you get the picture) for their offerings, and that annoys me. Let's see if the food can overcome.

Here is the Portobello Fries...and yes, they call it that on their menu. I liked the architectural presentation, but I liked the taste even better. Lightly battered sliced of portobello...these were shocking good. Wonder how many other restaurants are going to imitate this!

We had a kid with us that night, and his meal came while we were eating the Portobello Fries. This is their Macaroni & Cheese for kids. I regret to say that I didn't try this, but as least it's not the neon orange KD that I was expecting.

Our next appy was their Rosemary Fries. I like the curl and crunch but the rosemary was lost on me. They charge $4.95 for these but reminded me of the ones that The Keg gives out for free with drinks at their Thurlow location. The rosemary sort of got lost on me. 

This is a shot of the TaunTaun Burger (yes, another punny name), and it was good. Pemberton beef with pulled pork, bacon cheese and all on a purple yam bun...served with some salad to make it all better. It was a good burger but gosh, I wish more people would toast their buns! 

My mom got the Spinach and Blue Cheese Salad...and um....yeah, that's exactly what we got here. The veggies were fresh, and I would have to say...plentiful...if you like that sort of thing.
We also got the Porchetta Sandwich with bacon and horseradish mayo, on top of a "rustica bun". To be honest, the bun was the same as the purple yam bun. That aside, it was a healthy serving of roast pork, and oh, yes, bacon! But the crackling was missed! 
This was my dinner, the Fat Bastard Pork Belly (yes, punny). Unfortunately, the bastard they harvested this belly from was anorexic. I wanted more...more pork, more skin, and more taste! What I was served was decent, the skin wasn't crispy enough, but my biggest complaint was the portion. There was more porchetta in the sandwich than what I got. Perhaps they were running out, I don't know...but the caramelized apples are supposed to be an accompaniment, but were it not for them (and I hate warm fruit in a savoury dish - no Hawaiian Pizza ever), I would have been hungry. As it was, I was loading up on Portobello Fries and coleslaw! 
I think this place deserves a revisit, but not for a few months. The servers are fairly new, ours certainly was. I believe she had to "check with the kitchen" three times during our order. I would rather go to a place where the staff have eaten everything and have informed opinions about everything on the menu.
Fray on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Munchies pre-concert at Rosie's

Rosie's on Robson has been around for a long time, and here's why: Just steps away from Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Rogers Arena and the newly re-opened BC Place Stadium, this place is great for pre/post- event dining! 
We were definitely in the mood for pub fare and nothing scream bar food like Potato Skins! How can you not like potatoes topped with gooey cheese and bacon bits!? I can't resist these, I don't indulge often, but when I do, this is a go-to dish for me. And really, what better way to add some sour cream into your diet, right? The ones at Rosie's are good...not too loaded as to be soggy, but cheesy enough to satisfy. I would have like them under the broiler just a tad longer, but that's all good. The thing that I found weird was that the green onions were obviously sprinkled on after. I question that, because I think heating them up brings out their flavour just a bit more, no? 
The other item we shared was their burger...complete with bacon, cheese and onion rings. They also give you the usual...lettuce, tomato and red onion. I'm not a fan on raw onions, white or red, but I realize how some people do, so I understand why they are there. 
Although I never eat the burger with the onion rings stacked inside, I do like having them as a side. One thing I would have liked though is a slightly toasted bun. I think this one might have gotten some heat on them, but just not enough.
Oh, and if you're having a pub night, fried are kind of mandatory, right? These ones needed salt but their done-ness was perfect. Crispy on the outside, and just cooked enough on the inside. No complaints here! 

Rosie's on Robson on Urbanspoon


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