gracecheung604 | write on time: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lunch Opening for Cotto Enoteca

On the first day of Cotto Enoteca lunch service, we wandered by and decided to check them out. Chef Alex Tung worked at Tapenade Bistro out in Steveston a while ago, and I loved his food there. Now at the helm of this North Burnaby Italian eatery, we were excited to try this out!  
Upon being seated, we were served some crusty Italian bread with an amazing dip made with Cannellini Beans and Truffle Oil. I was really impressed with the creamy texture of the spread and the truffle aroma is unmistakable. Also on the table were two different oils, one was a parsley flavoured and the other was a chili one. No, it's not like the chili oil you'd find in Chinese restaurants, the flavour is very mild. The dip changes every so often so if you come and they don't have it, you have to go back and try it. Yes, it is that good!  
From the appetizer section, we tried the Polpetti - a meatball with crispy bread crumbs on top, and served with fried pizza dough. The marinara sauce on this was just tangy enough. We found the flavour a little mild, but once we got some chili flakes to sprinkle on top, it made a world of difference. 
For our next course, we tried the Pizza Carne, and boy, was it loaded with meats! Made with Two Rivers guanciale, Sloping Hill pancetta, sopressata, coppa, grana padano and san marzano tomatoes, this pie was very satisfying. The crust was amazing, a great blend of crunch and chewiness. Lots of toppings but not soggy as some Napoletana pizzas can be. And I appreciate the smaller sized slices they have here, instead leaving you to your own devices, like at Verace. Don't get me wrong, Verace's pies are good, just a little messier. 
For our final dish, we elected to get the Pappardelle Carbonara, with Two Rivers guanciale, parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino Romano and roasted garlic, all topped with a 63 degree egg. Look at the perfect egg sitting here on top. And for those of you who think this is just a poached egg, it's not. The egg is cooked shell on, in a 63 degree water bath in an immersion circulator. What you see here is their half order, or lunch size. Dinner portions are larger. 
It seems a shame to burst this baby, but when you mix it in with the pasta, it creates something clearly more than the sum of its parts. The textures of fresh pasta with the egg is fantastic, a must-try! 
Chef Alex was nice enough to treat us to dessert. Since we didn't plan on actually having a dessert, we didn't look at the menu too carefully. Instead, we asked the general manager to pick one for us. He chose wisely and ordered us the Salted Caramel Budino. This layered dessert is really well done, with a very smooth, just a cooked pudding should be. The caramel did have a distinct saltiness to it, and the fresh whipped cream and mint was just enough to make the dish rich, but not dense. Little snaps of rosemary biscotti, perfect for dipping!  oven Good things come out of this oven, see the wood logs on the side? The pizzas don't spend much time in here, but they turn out great - with a lightly charred crust with a bit of a chew to it.  
There is a good number of seats at the bar, perfect for catching some of the Olympics. The pizzas are great for sharing, and the pastas are amazing too. Also good to know is that you can order the pastas as half orders, so you don't have to overload on carbs, unless you want to! This restaurant is a welcome addition to Burnaby. 
Although there are quite a few Italian restaurants in the area, the vibe at Cotto is just a bit cooler and less stuffy. And the Napoletana pizzas are amazing, they are also part of the Ocean Wise program and dedicating to serving sustainable seafood. Also worth noting is the friendliness of the servers, with several people coming by to ask us how our meals were going throughout.
Take note:
  • Try any dish with the 63 degree egg 
  • 45 seats on the patio
  • Open for lunch and dinner
Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 26, 2012

NFA - BYOW without corkage.

A few weeks ago, I had to pleasure of being invited to my first Secret Supper. This sort of dining involves something that I don't excel at: planning ahead. You have to contact the chef in advance, he's only open two nights a week, and you have to gather a group of friends together, lest you want to dine with another group of diners. But, if someone else does the planning and the organizing, I am more than happy to do the eating (and drinking).
The menu
Once you find the NFA, climb some stairs and knock on the door hesitantly, you are ushered through the kitchen into the dining room. The menu is written on a chalkboard, and it looks like we're in for a long meal. You're welcome to arrive at 6.45 and have to leave by 10.45. It's a 6 course meal for $65, and it's BYOW.
Strawberry Gazpacho
Our first course was the Strawberry Gazpacho, with confit strawberries. I loved the presentation of this dish, at first glance, you would think that the red bits you see on top were strawberry slices (or at least I did), but when you go to take a spoonful, you're surprised to find that it's actually crispy prosciutto. The croutons were very crunchy and I found that the soup had a good mix of textures and flavours overall. However, I would say that the piece of fresh prosciutto in the middle was unnecessary and actually had a weird mouth feel, especially after sitting in the cold broth. 
Fish and Chips
Next on the menu was the Fish and Chips, and a cute play on words. We all expected Battered Fish and Fries, but we were only partly correct. It was a dual of Red Spring salmon tartare. One was done in an Asian style, and you could taste the flavours of miso, sesame, ginger and green onion. It's the one on the right. On the left, we have a Mediterranean style of fish, done with lemon, capers, pinenuts and olives. Two very distinct flavour profiles and both were quite nice. The fries were pretty good as well, with a nice bite to them. 
Lamb sirloin with Merguez sausage 3
Our next course was the Seared Lamb Sirloin with a White Gazpacho and some Merguez Sausage. The dish has a Moroccan feel to it, and is very pretty. The gazpacho is a blend of almond and bean water, and is very thin. The two different oils you see are the Chorizo Oil and the Chive Oil. Both are highly infused with very intense flavours. The merguez sausage is meaty and soft, and really complemented the Lamb. There was also some avocado underneath the lamb, lending an even creamier texture to the whole dish. The fried crisp on top is simply parsnip! 
Pink Grapefruit Sorbet with Lemon Custard
For our fourth course, we got the Grapefruit Sorbet with Lemon Curd as our palate cleanser. The lemon curd was quite rich, but the grapefruit sorbet was perfect. The curd still overpowered the sorbet, but you could see what the chef was trying to achieve. I'd say either half the curd or double the sorbet, and you'll have a winner on your hands.
Ahi Tuna with Thai Salad 3
nfa.reservations@gmail.comOur final savory course was next and it was a complicated one. Ahi tuna with Sweet Pork Thai Salad. The Ahi tuna was seared perfectly on all sides. The Thai Sweet Pork is actually very crispy, enhanced more so by the corn fritter tucked underneath. The mint and cilantro salad is very refreshing, and the dressing definitely has a kick to might not taste it right away, but it'll get you.
Sticky Toffee Pudding 2
The dessert was the Sticky Toffee Cake. There are hints of bourbon, coffee and even chantilly cream in this delicate cake. It looks heavy, rich and dense, but it is surprisingly light with a warm soft centre. I'm not saying it's low cal, but it's not as sweet as you would expect. Having said that, I still couldn't finish my generous portion.
Chocolate Cake with cream & cherries 2
As luck would have it, the Chef had one extra dessert from last night's dinner that he brought out to share with me. It was a Molten Chocolate Cake with fresh cream and macerated cherries. Served separately, the idea is to split the cake open and pour the cream inside and then top it off with the cherries. This was good, and the cherries made it seem even lighter than the Sticky Toffee Cake. This one I ate about two spoonfuls and then had to share. My meat tooth is stronger than my sweet tooth, I guess! So if your friends are looking for a fun, BOYW and private venue to celebrate a special occasion, email and get yourself hooked up!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lithia Water aka “HappyWater™”

Vancouver Company Launches Lithia Water aka “HappyWater™” at Canadian Comedy Competition Something’s in the Water at Canada’s Largest Independent Comedy Competition VANCOUVER, BC 

HappyWater,™ a new bottled lithia water, is launching at Canada’s largest independent comedy festival in Vancouver this week. Drawn from a rare lithia spring in B.C’s Rocky Mountains, HappyWater™ contains natural Lithia, which for centuries has been known to enhance an overall sense of well-being and stimulate the creation of new brain cells. 

 “We couldn’t think of a better place to launch HappyWater,™” said Kelsey McRae, co-captain of the HappyWater™ Smile Squad. “The People’s Champ of Comedy will literally have something in the water this year to enhance the experience for its guests.” 

Beginning July 9, 60 stand-up comedians from across the country will compete at Patrick Maliha’s People’s Champ of Comedy for a grand prize of $20,000. The competition takes place at various venues around Vancouver for a total of seven weeks. 

HappyWater™ will be served outside the venues and on site. Each drink purchased buys guests a ballot to vote for their favourite comedian. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with HappyWater™ for the fifth annual People’s Champ of Comedy Competition,” said Patrick Maliha, founder of the competition.

“As a stand up comedian, there’s a sense of relief in knowing an audience is a little more primed to hear your jokes.” HappyWater™ is naturally alkaline and provides healthy hydration and minerals for brain and body renewal. It will be sold exclusively at comedy competition locations across Vancouver.

The HappyWater™ Smile Squad will also be sampling the water via Happy Mobiles at locations across the city throughout the summer. To follow the Happy Mobile visit: or For more info on the festival visit:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tudor House dinner in Miami

Earlier this month, after our Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Liberty, we spent a few days in Miami, South Beach, to be exact. We stayed at the Dream Hotel, which is also home to the Tudor House, a restaurant presided over by Chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
Cocktails 3
We started off with a few cocktails and their Pretzel Bread balls. I loved the salt on these...Salty Balls, yum! West Coast Oysters 4 And since we were craving oysters, we decided to go with a dozen. And what do you know, they were from the West coast, guess they followed us to Miami! The sauces weren't too memorable but the oysters were quite fresh. I like these small ones much better than the giant ones. 
 French Onion Dip
We also tried their homemade French Onion Dip. This was the only negative for me, I found the dip way to sweet for an appetizer. However, I did enjoy the fresh potato chips. Maybe just get the chips and skip the dip?  Chicken Liver Pate 2 This Chicken Liver Pate was really, really rich. I found it almost too much, but the grilled bread was great as an accompaniment. Also helping cut the richness were the pickled purple and white cauliflower. Definitely too much for one person, and probably too much for two people, even as an appetizer! Oh, and the salt is a great touch, just sprinkle onto the bread, load it up with the pate, and off you go!  torchio  2 For our main, we got the torchio, which is a torch shaped pasta, and excellent for a robust sauce. The pasta is made in house, and the sauce was house-made pork sausage with fresh English peas! I"d never seen this type of pasta before, and it was super fun, sort of like a twisty penne. Whenever there is a pasta as a daily special, I feel it's best to go with that. Always fresh, and I've rarely been disappointed.  Crispy Brussels Sprouts  Prosciutto, Shaved Apple 2 Since we were sharing a main, we decided to try one of their sides to go with it. Since we didn't have any real veggies, we got their Cheesy Fried Brussel Sprouts, topped with Crispy Prosciutto. After our main arrived, we realized that we had totally over-ordered and tried to put a stop to this from coming out. But alas, it as ready and on its way. Our waiter was amazing though, and offered to take it off the bill. Seeing as this was our fault, we really appreciated the gesture. We are so glad that we tried this though, it's similar to the ones at Glowbal Group's Italian Kitchen, but much better, with the addition of the prosciutto and thin slivers of fresh apple. We couldn't eat much of it, afterall, we were really full, but the did manage to sneak some of the cheesiest morsels in! Pear Gellee / Chocolate Almonds / Raspberry Mouse Trio And no, we didn't have room for any dessert, but again, the stellar server decided to bring us a little something - just a taste or two of their desserts. On the left is a pear gelee, in the middle was a nice and tart raspberry mousse, and rounding out the dessert plate was a chocolate covered almond cluster. This was a perfect end for the amazing meal, and the service was outstanding. Highly recommend this place if you are visiting Miami's South Beach. 
Tudor House on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Dream Hotel

We completed an Eastern Caribbean cruise at the end of June. Before heading back to Vancouver, we stayed a few nights at the Dream Hotel in Miami. Here are some pictures of the really cool decor. The art deco vibe is strong here, and it's hard not to feel cool in a place like this. 
From the moment we walked in, we knew this place was way cooler than us.  
How cool is this door? It's the little touches that get you here. Who decorates the back of a door! Oh, and no boring "do not disturb" sign here. I forgot to grab a picture, but ABC has one and I'm snagging it.
Depending on whether or not you want to be bothered, either give them the thumbs up or the "no thanks". I should have taken the one we were given. Dream Hotel staff, if you are reading this, can you please send me one? K, thanks, bye! 

I have to say this is probably my first (and likely only) commode shot. I guess what impressed the most was the diamond origami on the TP. That and the textured walls. 
bed 2
A view of the bed - very cool blue light illuminates the room. And if you don't like the blue, check out the chandelier. The detail on the headboard is pretty sweet and the long pillow look like they would be great for fighting with, just saying. 
This is the light panel that lights up the room. One is for the blue light, then one for the chandelier. I think the sun and moon are supposed to be adjustments for whether it is light or dark outside. But the one to the left of the moon? Never figured it out. And yes, OFF is pretty self-explanatory. 
The  funky lighting panel extends to the bathroom, and godness if we knew what any of it meant. Just hit them all and hope for the best. One interesting thing about this hotel is that the toilet and the shower are not in the same room, rather, they face each other. 

Here is an image from the hotel's website to explain what I mean, shower on the left, and the toilet and sink on the right.
in the room
Well at least there's Goose...but what I really want is that jar of Gummy Bears. But wait, what is that bullet looking thing on the right, next to the MoJo?
Well it's none other than Filthy! It's a brand of olives, and these ones are stuffed with tiny pickles. Add some of the juice to the Goose from above, and you've got yourself a decent martini!
view from roof top 2
But alas, my favourite view was from the Roof Top Patio at the Hotel. Gorgeous serene views of the beach with the nice blue water in the back. See the cruise ship off in the distance...that was us a week ago! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

G Be Izakaya - Lunch time bites!

There is an izakaya that opened up a while ago but I haven't had a chance to try it yet. One day in May, we decided to give it a try for lunch. Their lunch menu is totally different from the dinner menu. Their dinner is purely hot pot, all you can eat. I'm glad that we came for lunch because if I was going for hot pot, I would still go to my standby, Landmark
We started off with a small sake and proceeded to review the menu.
Miso & Gomae 2
All their Combo comes with a Miso Soup and some Spinach Gomae. The gomae wasn't overly dressed, so you could taste the sesame, but not drenched in it. 
Spicy Gyu Don 4
One of the "most popular" lunch dish from Japan (as said so on their menu). This is the Gyu Don, which is beef with sliced onions cooked in a special sauce, served on a bed of rice. We asked for it with the Spicy Sauce, which was probably a good choice. Without the spice, I think this dish would be overly sweet. Once the onions are caramelized, I think it turned the dish to the sweeter side. The beef was very tender, almost too soft from over-marinating. 
Sashimi Combo
We also got the G-be Sashimi Combo, with some Albacore tuna, Atlantic salmon, shrimp, squid, snapper and surf clam. There is also a 6 piece of California Roll, made with multi-grain rice (thus the odd pinkish tinge on the rice). The sashimi is sliced very thinly, and not the overly thick slices at Sushi Garden. I'm not a fan of tamago, but there it is.
Chirashi Combo
We also tried the G-Be Chirashi Sushi Bowl - it's pretty much the same as the Sashimi Combo, minus the California Roll. It's also $2.50 cheaper, so I guess it's fair. The rice in the bowl is also multi-grain, a nice option to have. 
Everything 3
Here is an overview of our whole lunch...including the sake, it was $45, but we were stuffed. Had I known that the two combos would be so similar, I probably would not have ordered both. But their menu choices are a bit limited, so be sure to check out their site before visiting.
G-Be Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Trying the New Aki

A few months ago, we were saddened to hear that the building at Alberni and Thurlow would be torn down, and that the businesses in there would have to relocate. One of my favourites was Aki, and I'm delighted to say that they have found new digs! Opened for a month or two now, you can find them on 1368 West Pender. Gone are the red lanterns, here is what greets you as you approach their new space. 
Aki Front Door 2 
This post is a combination of a lunch and dinner experience there, but nevertheless, you'll get a good idea of what's in-store. First off, the Manager/Owner, Brian, is a gracious host and will try to accommodate your requests. Since we were dining with children, I had asked for quieter table, and we were seated in a table towards the back of the restaurant; just what I wanted. 
IMG-20120619-01650 We started off the meal with some Tako Sunomono, with a few slices of octopus. The dressing was nice and tart, and the noodles were just tender enough to the point of al dente. This was a great appetizer and the flavours really whets your appetite for more! 
Assorted Sashimi 2When given an option between sashimi and sushi, I will always pick sashimi. Here is their deluxe assorted sashimi. See how fresh the amaebi looks? I liked the salmon and tuna, I though the knife work was quite delicate. Oh, and the surf clam was amazing too. Definitely not enough wasabi for me though. I like my wasabi and soy sauce mixture to be the consistency of toothpaste, and yes, it does clear the sinus quite well! 
IMG-20120530-01421 I had to get my Ikura and this was no exception - plump and with very fresh nori, this was very good.
IMG-20120619-01651 We also tried some of their gyozas, always a kid's favourite. This was nothing special and the cooking seemed a little uneven with some pieces burnt and others barely browned. The good thing was that the inside was juicy and moist, even if I had to peel off some of the skin. 
Salmon Butter This is their Salmon Butter and is a complete meal by itself, coming with a side of rice, some miso soup as well as some pickled veggies. Inside the package with the fish, there are some mushrooms and broccoli too.
Salmon Butter 2 The name pretty much says it all, it's salmon cooked in butter. The steaming process makes for a delicious and moist fish. The aroma of the butter is unmistakeable. Though the dish was made with butter, I was surprised at how "light" and non-greasy this dish was. 
Chicken Karaage Another Japanese staple and kids favourite, it's the Chicken Karaage. Perfectly deep fried with a great crunch. I liked how they served it with some lemon, a little reminiscent of the Phnom Penh chicken wings with their lemon dipping sauce. It's not the same, but the flavour profile is similar. 
Nabeyaki Udon This is a classic, the Nabeyaki Udon, complete with chicken, an egg, some fish cake as well as veggies and a tempura prawn. The broth was piping hot, with great flavours from the dashi, soy and mirin. The noodles had a great mouth feel. Chewy but not hard. Burst the egg yolk into the soup for a thicker texture.    
The other Udon We also had to get another udon, so we went for the Tempura Udon. This came with a few prawns as well as some tempura veggies. The broth for this was milder, both in flavour and colour. If you remember, ask them to serve the tempura separately so it doesn't get soggy. 
Salmon Head Aki was very well-known for their robata dishes, so we had to get something from the grill. Here is the Salmon Kama, basically a grilled salmon head and neck.  This had a very good smoky flavour, and the skin had a nice crispiness. Pour the soy sauce onto the daikon radish to make it a little bit of a paste. Squirt the lemon all over and you're good to go. 
The rolls For rolls, we decided to go with a California Roll, their BC Roll with tobiko on the outside, and ended up with a Chopped Spicy Scallop roll. All of these were good, with a decent rice to filling ratio. Enough rice to fill you up, but not overly so that you can't taste the other ingredients. The BC roll was probably my favourite, with a crispy salmon skin filling.  
chicken teriyaki And for those of you who don't like fish, you'll be happy to know that their Chicken Teriyaki is bang on too. This is probably my stepdad's favourite Japanese dish, and I really liked how the bean sprouts weren't cook to the point of mush. It was actually nice served raw, with a great crunch.
If you are looking for a non-izakaya experience, Aki is a great bet. Dinner for 5 adults and 3 kids, with a 2 large Sapporo beers and a large hot sake came to $168 including tips and tax. Not cheap, but fair for the amount of food we got. 
Aki Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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