gracecheung604 | write on time: May 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lift for Lunch

Early May, on a particularly sunny day, we decided to venture to Lift at Coal Harbour. The lunch started off  with a drink at the bar, and we were then told that our patio table was ready. The bartender took our drinks on a tray and we met him at the stairs to head up to the patio. 

The hostess (I think that's what her purpose was) said that we couldn't go up yet. So we stood at the bottom of the stairs ( by the kitchen) for about 5 minutes. Then, we were told that we could head up. Weird thing is? No one came down the whole time we were waiting! Why couldn't we head upstairs to wait instead of being told to wait by the kitchen? Anyways, we sat down and perused the menu.

IMG_3154 Bread arrived promptly, some Baguette Slices and Crisps, I liked the blend of sesame and poppy seeds. It would have been nice if they told us what the difference between the two spreads were, but I'm guessing butter and margarine? I didn't bother to ask because I don't use either anyways.  IMG_3163
I actually wanted to have their Grilled Octopus but the waitress said they were out. Weird, it was 1:30 and the item was on their dinner menu. Oh well, I decided to get two sides to compensate. The first is the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Salad. This is made with heirloom tomatoes and fairly generous serving of burrata (more on the other side). There are a few croutons and what looks like black pepper is actually black olive salt. Good thing we had some bread because I needed it to eat the salad. IMG_3164 The next item on the menu to round out my lunch was the Salmon Tuna Roll.This is your basic Tuna Roll embellished with some avocado (not listed on the menu so I had to poke it out) and topped with some raw salmon and black tobiko. The presentation is quite pretty and the fish were quite fresh. The only thing could have made it better was the mention of the avocado, I would have asked for it to be made without it, had I know. The fish is sweet and you don't even really need the wasabi and soy but it's a nice to have. IMG_3156 For those of you craving something a bit heavier, give their Classic Fish and Chips a try. They use halibut here, which I appreciate but the batter was a touch thick. Parts of the batter had a good crunch, but some bits were a bit doughy. The fries were good, and I do prefer it thin cut. 

Take Note:

  • Service is hit and miss, thankfully the food is good.
  • Amazing views on a sunny day.
  • Free valet at lunch.

Lift Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Amazing Spot Prawn Tasting Menu at Mosaic

Last night, I had one of the most memorable Spot Prawn dinner of the season. Chef Thomas Heinrich of Mosaic at the Hyatt created a 5-course Chef's Tasting Menu that is nothing short of spectacular. For $45, you get spot prawns in a variety of presentations. We got two extra courses, so this was truly a decadent meal. 
Biscuits Once seated, we were served warm Savoury Biscuits with a small pat of butter, but to be honest, these are so pillowy that you really don't need to add anything to them. Slightly garlicky and laced with smoked sea salts, these are a great way to start our meal. 
Carpaccio 3 **Note** This is not part of the 5-course tasting.** We started off with the Beef Carpaccio. Thinly sliced rounds of Spring Creek Beef from Alberta, with garlic scapes, some horseradish cream and fried capers. Competing with beef for MVP is the 64 degree egg. It is slow cooked via immersion for hours and gives the yolk a creamy warm centre. Break the egg and voila, you've got your sauce! 
Spot Prawn Terrine 3 The first course of the tasting is a Spot Prawn Terrine. There are about 12 prawns in this terrine, and the slice isn't skimpy either. You really appreciate the flavours of the prawn, and you get a bit more of the sea from the balls of ikura on top. There are also few fiddled head ferns (hidden beneath the terrine), and the two sauces you see are a fermented black garlic emulsion, as well as a tart and tangy meyer lemon gel. A refreshing way to start the spot prawn love! 
Spot Prawn Salad 2 Our next course was the Spot Prawn and Arugula Salad. The bitterness of the arugula really heightens the sweetness of the spot prawns. The citrus gel on the side serves as the dressing, making it as light or as saucey as you prefer. There are also some slightly spiced and seasoned almonds for additional crunch. Buried within the tower of arugula were three perfectly cooked spot prawns.
Smoked Salmon 2 **Note** This is not part of the 5-course tasting.** Our next dish of Skuna Bay Smoked Salmon arrived with a bit of pomp and circumstance, complete with a glass cloche. Once they remove the cloche, the smoke trapped within is released and the aromas hit you before you even taste a single bite. The maple bourbon gelee is tangy, and almost overwhelms the salmon, but when paired with an Avocado Terrine, the balance of flavours is impeccable. I also loved the edible flowers. 
Spot Prawn Carbonara Whoa! We've hit the halfway point now...this is the Spot Prawn Carbonara. This was the richest dish of the night. Handmade linguini in a carbonara sauce with loads of spot prawns and Geldermen Farms Pork Belly, topped with a 64 degree egg. Again, when split, the yolk makes the dish even richer and creamier, and the colours were very vibrant. The noodles were thick and al dente, giving the dish a nice hearty feel. The fresh peas actually pop in your mouth and when combined with the spot prawns and pork belly, everything contributes to make this a perfect dish. And because this is a tasting menu, you don't get a huge plate of delicious pasta, but just enough to make you appreciate it. 
Spot Prawn & Beef Duo 5 For our final course of the night, this is the Spot Prawns & Spring Creek Beef. The beef is cooked to a perfect medium rare, and plated alongside three spot prawn. There are fava beans strewn throughout the plate but a great garnish is the Pomme Maxim, a much more elegant scalloped potato. The thin slices of potato are dredged in potato starch and then arranged into a circle, before being pan fried. This was as pretty as it was tasty. 
Spot Prawn & Lamb Duo 2 For my mom, Chef Heinrich was nice enough to make her a Spot Prawns & Lamb entree, as she is not a fan of beef. Again, there are three spot prawns paired with three large medallions of lamb, cooked perfectly medium. The lamb was moist and super tender, and my mom loved that the lamb was lean and boneless. 
Cardamom Ice Cream 2 For dessert, my mom was thrilled with the Cardamom Ice Cream with on a Tangerine Consomme.  The dried tangerine crisp was pretty cute too. The cardamom flavour in the ice cream was fairly mild, so if you're not a fan of the spice, don't let that deter you. My mom isn't a fan either but ended up polishing up my leftovers, probably because the tangerine really balances out the dessert. 
The 5-course tasting menu is only available until May 29 (due to the short Spot Prawn season), but don't fear, Chef Heinrich is already working on his next tasting menu after that. 
The food is amazing, but what sets this tasting apart is the artfully executed plating of each dish. And no, it's not too pretty to eat because although your eyes may appreciate the presentation, you have to treat your mouth to the exquisite flavours!
To see other Spot Prawn dinners, click here
Mosaic Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spot Prawn Season in Vancouver

Thank goodness for Spot Prawn season! Here is a recap of a few of the places I've visited in the past few weeks. There have been four visits so far, but the season is not over yet!

The first of the season! Getting some Grilled Spot Prawns at Black and Blue.
2013-05-10 17.21.46
These are simply grilled Spot Prawns, Head On. The juiciness is incredible, and the quick grilling make the shells very easy to remove. The heads are juicy too, so give it a quick suck to get all the goodness out.

Black + Blue on Urbanspoon

This is the lunch special at Hawksworth. I was dining with a friend from out of town, from a place where spot prawns are either impossible to source or ridiculously expensive. Once the server informed us that they had this special available, it was a no brainer. We were both going to have this.
2013-05-14 12.50.30 
The Spot Prawn with Polenta. There are about 7 prawns (headless, oh what a shame) as well as some grilled broccoli, guanaciale, and some slow roasted heirloom tomatoes. I have never been a huge fan of polenta, but the sweetness of the corn and lobster gave the creamy polenta an amazing flavour. Combined with the bouncy prawns, this dish was stellar. 

Hawksworth on Urbanspoon

For the next Spot Prawn tasting, I headed to Coast (also of the Glowbal Group). Not only did they have Spot Prawns, the also had Razor Clam. These are almost like miniature conch. Steamed with shallots, garlic, fennel and some onions, this was simple and really showcased the clam. The flesh is juicy, meaty and really quite satisfying. It was my first taste of a razor clam, and I think I will start seeking it out more.

2013-05-10 17.17.40
But the star of the show was again the Grilled Spot Prawns, Head On. These were quite similar to the ones at Black and Blue, but were accompanied by a light tomato based sauced. The sauce, along with the cherry tomatoes gave the dish a bit of additional warmth and complexity that I appreciated.

2013-05-16 19.19.56

Coast Restaurant on Urbanspoon

My fourth Spot Prawns of the season, we again headed up to Black and Blue, The Roof. We got a dozen, again Grilled Spot Prawn, Head On. This was less grilled and more trimmed than my first taste, but delicious nonetheless. The salad that accompanied it was pleasant, with a light dressing that neither added nor took away from the dish. It seemed perfunctory, and I think something more innovative would have been better. Perhaps a light ceviche of some sort, maybe a bit of grilled bread with some creamy spread?  2013-05-19 19.29.26

Black + Blue on Urbanspoon

I am also going to try Chef Heinrich's (of Mosaic at Hyatt Vancouver) Chef's Tasting Menu, focused on Spot Prawns this weekend. That 5-course dinner will definitely need its own post! Here it is

Spot Prawns at Home!

Most of my posts are about restaurants, here is one where there is a homemade version of Steamed Spot Prawns. These were bought at T&T, and works out to 40 for $46. If you don't mind doing the work yourself (or convincing someone to do it for you - thank you @bennettchin) this is the best deal ever! 
2013-05-24 19.03.29
The process is simple, boil water with a steamer basket. Throw the prawns in, and steam for four minutes. What come out is pure heaven. 20 Spot Prawns cooked to perfection. Choose your dipping sauce, be is a simply Soy Sauce with some chillies, or a bit of Red Vinegar, or a much more elaborate version of Soy, Sesame, Satay and Chillies with thinly diced Green Onion. Whatever you choose, these prawns will stand up to it.  
2013-05-24 19.03.54
Despite what you might think, man (and woman) cannot live on Spot Prawns alone. So what is a good accompaniment? How about some Roasted Pork and BBQ Duck. Um, YES! The salty meats are a great foil to the sweetness of the spot prawns.   
2013-05-25 14.20.42 As I said earlier, there were 40 of these, so we steamed up the rest and here is enough for another full serving. I probably won't reheat this, because I don't want to overcook them. I might take the heads off and oven-bake them but for the bodies, I will likely eat at room temperature. This is when that elaborate sauce would be called for. If you like spot prawns like I do, head to T&T before these babies are gone!

Monday, May 20, 2013

PDX Food Truck Frenzy - Day 1

Last summer, we decided to maximize our holidays and went on a 5-day road trip from Vancouver to Portland with a few days in Seattle in between. Having heard the amazing food truck scene in Portland, I was doing tons of research before heading down. We figured out that there were hubs of food trucks and we decided to hit the two largest ones in the two days we were there. 
On the first day, we went to:
First up, the Dump Truck.

Dump Truck 2 
Although "The Dump Truck" is not the most appetizing name, it made me think of bodily functions and junk removal, we had heard a lot about this and decided to give it a shot anyways. 
Dump Truck 4 We opted for the Super Sampler, which is a assortment of 8 dumplings for $7. The three kinds we got included their famous Bacon Cheeseburger. That's the darkest on on the right. We also got a more traditional Asian-style dumpling, the Mr. Ma's Special, a pork, green onion with ginger dumpling. These are really juicy and almost XLB-like. The last one was a vegetarian one, Down To Earth, made with portabello, cabbage and some rice noodles. The juiciness is again present here, and the hot sauces they have available give it that extra hint of punch. I would say that the Bacon Cheeseburger was a letdown, probably due to our high expectations. I was surprised that I didn't enjoy the bacon stuffed item, but it was a bit dry and bland.
The Dump Truck (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon
Off to Nong's Khao Man Gai

Khao Man Gai 
The trucks in PDX are not as mobile looking as the ones here in Vancouver, in fact, they seem like actual shops or store fronts, albeit very small ones. 
Khao Man Gai 2 The packaging of this Chicken and Rice (Khao Man Gai) is amazing, and very environmentally friendly.
Khao Man Gai 3 The chicken is poached, and there is a blend of white and dark meat. The rice is cooked in chicken stock and tons of Thai herbs. The dipping sauce to the left has a soy sauce base, with a blend of ginger, garlic, chilies and some vinegar or lime for a pucker. To enhance the freshness of the whole thing, they garnish with cucumbers and cilantro. For $7, you cannot beat this deal! 

Nong's Khao Man Gai (Food Cart, downtown) on Urbanspoon

Then, a taste of Maui with Island Grill Hawaiian Barbecue
Ever since we had Spam Musubi in Maui, we have been searching for more. Who would have thunk we would find it in Portland!? The food truck is named Island Grill Hawaiian Barbecue but all we saw were Musubi. 
Musubi 2 These Spam Musubis are made fresh to order so be prepared to wait. But oh my goodness, they are the best thing to happen to rice since a fried egg! The rice is slightly warm to the touch, it's soft and moist and very reminiscent of sushi. They top it with a slice of marinated Spam, and the sauce is sweet, similar to a teriyaki sauce, but not too much to avoid "over-wetting" it. 
Musubi 4 We were going to get just one to try, but the owner looked like he was closing up, and to make it more worthwhile for him to make them, we ordered a trio of them. The Spam had a nice crust and the crispy seaweed covering made this dish exceptional. What more could you ask for, they're just $2 each! 
Island Grill Hawaiian Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Then, a taste Poland with EuroDish
So moving away from the Asian dishes, we decided to visit Euro Dish, also known as the "Traditional Polish Food Cart". This was the only place where we got more than one item. I really wanted to try their cabbage roll, but the schnitzel looked amazing on the menu.
Euro Cafe Cabbage Roll This Golabki - Cabbage Roll is gigantic! Inside this baby are pork and beef, tons of rice as well as spices such as thyme and marjoram. Once rolled up, these are slow cooked in a tomato sauce until fork tender. This looks like it should be really juicy, but unfortunately, the cabbage roll was actually quite dry. The flavours were good, but the texture was a bit lacking. 
The second item we got from Euro Dish was the Schnitzel Sandwich. The pork cutlet was fried to order and the topping of slow cooked onions and peppers were amazing. Don't get me wrong, this is a messy sandwich and the ciabatta bun did it's best to hold all the filling, but be prepared to have juices running down your arm. The best part of the sandwich was the crunchy pork cutlet, which retained its crispiness despite the plethora of toppings. 
Euro Dish (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon
xxx xxx

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dim Sum at Kirin on Alberni

With the demise of Imperial down in the old Marine Building on Burrard, there is a severe lack of good quality dim sum in the downtown core. Because I used to work at Royal Centre and now in Bentall Three, all I remember for dim sum option is Victoria. It's not that Victoria is bad, but one can tire of good food too, especially if it's the the only game in town. So when the chair of the board of the company I work for wanted to go for lunch and stated that he was bored of Victoria, I racked my brain and decided on Kirin. At first, I was thinking the Kirin on Cambie, but was soon reminded that there was on on Alberni! So off we went.
shrimp dumplings 
Of course, we had start with the Har Gow (Prawn Dumpling), and it was really good. Freshly steamed and stuffed with plump and juicy shrimp. The skin was nice and translucent as well, so this was definitely a hit. The only thing would have been a nicer presentation, rather than being haphazardly thrown into the steaming basket. Even the folks at Prince in East Van did it better. 
bean curd roll 
The next item was the Fried Bean Curd Roll. I know these look a bit oily, but they are deep-fried after all. Inside the crispy bean curd skin are a blend of prawns, pork and scallions. These were really good and the filling to wrapper ratio was better than most I've had. 
fried buns 2 
This item is a bit confusing, it's their Fried Steamed Buns, the buns are actually steamed first and then Pan Fried. These pork filled buns are first steamed to doneness, and then pan fried to produce a crispy bottom. And as a result of the steaming process, the inside of the bun is super moist and even slightly soupy, like an XLB. The crunchy bottom gives the buns a unique combination of textures.
sticky rice 2
Our final item is a staple for my boss, the Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf. These stay nice and hot so sample the other items first. Besides, this carb-heavy dish might fill you up too much and force you to pass on the other items on the table, never a good thing.
sticky rice
And in case you wanted to see what the inside of these little bundles look like, wonder no more! It's filled with pork, some slices of Chinese sausage and shitaake mushrooms as well. The best part is a salted duck egg yolk, and it's the thing I save for last to savour. If you find the flavours just a bit bland, use the XO sauce for some spice and heat. That's the sauce that is provided when you first sit down.

The other thing that really impressed me with this location is the "coat wrap". You know when you sit down to a restaurant and you hang your jacket on the back of your chair? And you have a nagging feeling that the server might drip something on said jacket when they are serving your food? Well, fear no more, they have chair covers that completely cover your jacket on the back of the chair. It's brilliant and really appreciated! 

Take Note: 

  • Dim Sum options are rare in Downtown Vancouver, so be sure to make a reservation. 
  • They have an amazing dessert, Black Sesame-filled Sticky Rice Balls. Try them. 
  • Service is better than you would expect from a dim sum place.
Kirin Mandarin Restaurant ιΊ’ιΊŸε·θœι€¨ on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shanghai Morning

Late last month, we decided to throw caution to the wind and headed into Richmond for Shanghainese. I dread going into Richmond because of the potential car crashes and long lineups for everything, but it was early on a Saturday and we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. We decided to head to Shanghai Morning, just off of Alexandra Road (aka Eat Street, no, not the TV show). Shanghai Morning Beef Roll 3 Let's start with the most disappointing dish and work our way to the best. This was their Beef Roll, and as evident in the picture, despite the roll being quite large, the amount of beef is rather lacking. The hoisin sauce had a stronger presence than the beef. Also, I like the outside layer to be a bit more fried, with a least more than a touch of flakiness to them. These were a bit too soft for any textural contrast and the lack of filling made them a bit boring. Shanghai Morning XLBs Our next favourite dish was the Xiao Long Baos (XLBs). The soupiness was amazing, but unfortunately, the skin on these were a bit tough and took away from the awesome soupiness. Not the worst I've had, but I'd still have to say that the ones from Dinesty. Oh, and their beef rolls are a touch better too.
Shanghai Morning Hot & Sour Soup Noodles 3 
Normally, I order the Pork Chop Noodle (see post from Peaceful Cafe) as my carb dish, but we decided on the Hot and Sour Soup Noodle here instead. This was a real winner, the soup was nice and sour with a nice splash of chilli oil for heat. It was filled with all the fixings, shrimp, bamboo shoots, wood ear and tofu. The noodles soaked up the broth nicely and  gave the dish a rich velvety texture. I could have used more heat, but I think it's enough for most people. 
Shanghai Morning Chive Purses 
And up next, the Leeks Cake, filled to the brim with leeks and pan fried to a nice golden colour. If you love leeks, this is the dish for you. The filling was fresh and plentiful. The skin has a bit of a chew to it, and albeit it being a bit oily, it wasn't overly so.  Shanghai Morning Sticky Rice 3 But my hands down favourite dish for lunch is their Sticky Rice Roll. These come piping hot from the kitchen and are chock full of Pork Floss, Preserved Vegetables and a Chinese Donut (salty). The softness of the floss, the slight crunch from the veggies and the bold crunch from the donut enveloped within a coating of warm sticky rice all make for a perfect bite. If you are getting a bit full, go for the middle where there is a better filling-to-rice ratio, more bang for your buck.
Shanghai Morning Sticky Rice
Here is a better view of all the filling inside the roll. Trust me, this was my favourite from the lunch! Shanghai Morning Lunch So, what was the best part of this lunch? All in, we were out less than $30! Two people, five dishes and plenty of leftovers!

Take Note:

  • Servers don't speak much English but they do have an English menu.
  • Come early to avoid the lineup, they are pretty small and fill up quickly.
  • They have a wide variety of dessert, including my favourite, Rice Balls with Crushed Peanuts!

Shanghai Morning Restaurant ε°ε—εœ‹δΈŠζ΅·ε°εƒ on Urbanspoon


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