gracecheung604 | write on time: 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Homer Street Cafe

Prior to the Lionel Richie concert earlier in May, we decided to pop into Homer St. Cafe for dinner. I had been previously, but only for brunch and was eager to try their dinner offering. 
20140529_191011 We decided to start with something slightly healthy, their Feature Salad. Fresh greens, croutons, and just a bit of quinoa. Not enough to be filling but definitely a great accompaniment to our next plate. 20140529_191020 We decided to go for the whole hog, or rather, the whole chicken...Rotisserie Whole Chicken. Half costs $26 and full is $32, so for me, this was no-brainer. Twice the meat for $6 more...c'mon. The skin isn't as crispy as I would like, but the meat is tender and juicy, even the white meat, which I am always hesitant to indulge in. I did like the thigh and wings just a bit better. The secret to happiness is finding an eating partner that likes the parts you don't! I do wish the skin was crispier though.  
20140529_191034 Four sides, we got the Pee Wee Potatoes, lovingly slathered in chicken drippings and a bit of sea salt...We also got some slaw, but they were more to satisfy appearances than to actually enjoy. 

Take Note:

  • Brunch was better than dinner
  • Close proximity to Rogers Arena, great for pre-game dining
  • Make reservations or just sit by the kitchen

Homer St. Café & Bar on Urbanspoon

La Cigale Bistro - French Eats in Kits

A few months ago, we tried out the new incarnation of Bistrot Bistro, now named Le Cigale, located in Kitsilano. I hadn't been to the old restaurant, but have been on a bit of a French cuisine kick lately, so I decided it was time to give it a try. 
IMG_5630 Instead of the usual bread and butter, dinner kicked off with little pastry puffs, sprinkled with sesame. These was delightful, flakey and just a hint of saltiness.
Loads of cheesy goodness, melting lovingly over the vessel, the French Onion Soup does not disappoint. It was all I could do to refrain from slurping it up at the danger of burning my mouth. I always get a teaspoon with my soups, I find this helps to slow me down, just a bit. It's also a great utensil to scrape off all the luscious cheese. The broth was dark, sweet and loaded with caramelized onions. It's definitely a rich dish, but if you are a fan of French Onion Soup, this is one of the better ones in Vancouver. 
IMG_5648 This is their Lamb Shank, love meats that are served on the bone. And this was literally falling off the bone. The veggies accompanying the lamb were super tender as well. The flavours are mildly Moroccan but my favourite part was gnawing on the bone. I eat with my hands, and not ashamed. 
IMG_5642 This is another "on the bone" dish...the Duck Confit, but it's one of their specials and not part of their regular menu. Call ahead if you want to ensure it's there the night you go. the skin is crispy, not crazy crispy, but has enough of a crunch. I really enjoyed the casual chop on the potato too, it's French food without being fussy. 

Take Note:

  • Weekend Brunch available - and yes, French Onion Soup is on the menu
  • Dinner seems to be better than lunch for food and service
  • $32 3-Course Prix Fixe menu available Sun-Thurs.

La Cigale French Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mahony & Sons - Stamps Landing

Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited to a media preview for the newest location of Mahony & Sons. Their first location was at UBC and the second location was at Coal Harbour with a great view. It's popular with those working in the heart of downtown. Now, they have opened a new location by Granville Island, taking over the old Monk McQueens location at Stamps Landing.
IMG_6287 This is the only Mahony location that offers an Oyster Bar. The new waterfront location was probably the inspiration for this. Although most people think a crisp white wine with some oysters, the brothers say that a pint of Guinness is a good accompaniment too! 
IMG_6280 Order up a platter and treat yourself after a long day at the office! 
downstairsbar The Downstairs Bar is welcoming and features lots of whiskey choices and lots of beer on tap as well. This is the largest of the three Mahony & Sons, at about 10,000 square feet! 
IMG_6292 This is a shot of the Upstairs Bar, again with a large variety of beers and spirits. Both floors seat 150 inside and another 300 on the patio. 
IMG_6290 Ah, yes, the Patio. The views are nothing short of stunning. There are semi-private patios, a double-sided fireplace, banquettes and hightops, pretty much everything you need to enjoy a fantastic sunset. 
Throughout the restaurant, there are hints of the ancestry of the Mahony family. For example, this is a homage to the brother's great, great, great grandfather Barney, who bought and operated The Good Woman Pub in Australia in the 1870s. 
IMG_6298 Also upstairs is a Semi-Private Patio. The 12-seater table would be great for small birthday parties, intimate family dinners and so much more.
Executive Chef Paul Ngyuen presented us with four amazing courses, each showcasing the wide variety of flavours on the menu. In addition to traditional Irish fare, you can also find items that truly reflect the cultural diversity of Vancouver.
Up first was the Scallop and Beet Salad. It's very lightly dressed, which I loved, and tossed with some Arugula and Goat Cheese. The key to the success of this dish is the Scallop...and it was perfectly seared. The beats were sweet and there were lots of them. Goat cheese is a classic pairing and this dish was a success overall. 
IMG_6305 The highlight of the night for me was their Pacific Coast Chowder. The chowder was pleasantly light with hints of lemon, with lots of seafood. The garlic buttered crouton was perfect for dipping. What really made the dish for me was the fresh seafood, which included Salt Spring Island mussels, chunks of salmon and cod, as well as some prawns, very West Coast!
IMG_6312 For a heartier entree, we tried out the Lamb Dip. The sandwich was loaded with shaved lamb, and the fennel jam was very noticeable. The dip is natural au jus with hints of lemon. The pretzel bun is a nice touch too, giving the sandwich a pleasant twist.
IMG_6315 And for something completely unexpected item, we were served a Thai Penang Curry. The chicken was moist and tender, and the curry flavours were mild and complemented the jasmine rice perfectly. I'm not an avid curry fan, but the presence of lemongrass, lime and chilies made this a winner for me. 

Take Note:

  • The patio(s) are breathtaking.
  • Valet is only $7.
  • The Mahony Platter is great if you're with a group.

Mahony & Sons on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Japanese Eats in Arbutus Ridge - Zest

Now I realize I'm a little late to the Zest fanclub, but I have to consider myself a card-carrying member now! We checked this neighbourhood favourite last month, during spon prawn season. 
20140523_200611 This picture needs no introduction as these Spot Prawns are well known to all of Vancouver during the month of May. Super sweet and with a firm texture,  these prawns are a favourite of mine. Just a bit of wasabi to bring out the sweetness is all you need. 
Prawn Heads Another treat of the spot prawn is the Deep Fried Spot Prawn Heads. They are crispy little nuggets of golden prawn heads. They are crunchy and pretty tasty. You can eat almost the entire thing, almost like old school prawn chips. 
Sashimi salad We also tried the Sashimi Salad, which is a load of greens and seaweed, accompanied by salmon, tuna, surf clam in a light ginger soy dressing. This was a great blend of textures and flavours, with the salmon being the standout for me. 
Sable FishWe also decided to get a "hot" dish, and settled on Wild Sable Fish. The fish is perfectly cooked and flakey, while the seared skin has a hint of smokiness and a touch of crisp. The kale and beets are all there to highlight the sweetness of the fish. It was my second favourite of the night and I highly recommend this. 
Roll Perhaps the most disappointing dish of the night was the Zest Roll. The contents are albacore, sockeye, salmon skin (a la BC roll), along with some cucumber & one of my favourites, tobiko! What ruined the roll for me was the soft (almost chewy) seaweed, and the lack of flavour overall. The salmon skin was soft too, and just added to the general sogginess of the whole thing. The fish was fresh enough, just the execution of the roll was a bit lacking.
They are also affiliated with Shu Raku in downtown Vancouver, which I have yet to try as well!

Take Note: 

  • It's situated in a strip mall along with a Starbucks but the prices defy this humble settling. 
  • Courses are served one at a time, so you can enjoy each dish as it comes. 
  • Get a seat at the sushi bar and chat with the chefs!

Zest on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 02, 2014

Thai Eats in Burnaby: Chad Thai

I always love a good bowl of Pho but my mom is a die-hard Pad Thai fan, so on a day when I was meeting her for lunch, I suggested Chad Thai (so she could have her fix and so we could stay rather close to home as well). Though Thai cuisine is not really known for noodle soups, I have been exposed to versions of them at Pink Elephant Thai near my work.IMG_5725 As with most Thai lunch specials, our meal came with a daily appy (deep fried wonton and a simple broth). The soup was as bland as it looked. You can't really go wrong with deep fried foods, and it's the same here, crunchy exterior with a bit of meat in the middle. Sometimes, I feel restaurants would do themselves a favour and not serve anything "free" if they are going to be so lackluster. Afterall, this was the first thing I tried from their establishment, and I was completely unimpressed. Why start someone's lunch off that way? IMG_5729 Fortunately, the next few dishes managed to redeem them in my eyes. This Tom Yum Noodle Soup (the reason for my visit) was delicious with just enough spice (though I did ask for extra spice). A huge bowl of hot and spicy soup loaded with vegetables (mushrooms, onions, green onions), and then topped with some chicken and flavoured with Thai spices such as coriander, lemongrass, red onions, kaffir limes leaves and galangal. The rice noodles had a great chew to it and there was a lot of it! My only wish, if the broth was just a bit hotter (temperature wise, not heat). IMG_5732 Both my parents wanted Pad Thai and they proclaimed it to be excellent. I gave it a try and it was okay. The noodles again had a good texture and the bean sprouts and lime provided crunch and brightness (respectively) but I felt that the sauce was a bit bland, and almost a touch too sweet. It's good, certainly not great.  IMG_5734 To round out our lunch, we also got an order of their Chicken Wings, and this was much better than I expected. Not Phnom Penh good, mind you, but the wings were crispy and crunchy with a nice light breading. The meat inside was still very moist (so definitely not refried or day-old). The coating was well flavoured as well. The sauce was average, your usual sweet and sour sauce, and I didn't even bother using them. In fact, I asked for some extra lime to squirt onto the wings and the flavour brightened up nicely.
I wouldn't say it's a destination restaurant but if you are in the neighbourhood and craving Thai, then it's worth a shot.  

Take note: 

  • They are packed at lunch on weekdays. 
  • Portion sizes have supposedly been reducing. 
  • Tom Yum Noodles best thing on the menu.

Chad Thai on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Brunch in North Vancouver - Thai House

Now that my office is in Chinatown, weekday lunches have become a bit boring, a constant stream of Dim Sum, BBQ Duck and Banh Mi. So I definitely have to make up for this on the weekends. One type of cuisine that I was definitely missing was Thai. It's funny how there's a total lack of Thai in Chinatown. Japanese is hard to come by too, but more on that in another post. IMG_5669 The North Vancouver location of Thai House is actually the closest one to me, so I decided to give it a shot last month. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the updated decor as well as how busy it was for a Sunday brunch! Oh, and for some reason, I didn't expect them to have a bar, although their sister restaurants Pink Elephant Thai and Urban Thai boasts great weekend traffic due to their fun and friendly bar service. It was a bit early for drinks, so we just went right for the food. 
IMG_5681 This is a dish I actually first tried at Pink Elephant as part of their appy platter. It's called the Goong Noon Hae, a Tiger Prawn wrapped with noodles and then deep-fried. It's a bit messy to eat, but totally worth it. The crunch is unreal. IMG_5686 One of my favourite Thai dishes is the Spicy Som Tum Malagor. It's only available seasonally so be sure to try it if it's available. The raw papaya are julienned and mixed with a spicy concoction of lime juice, fish sauce and lots of Thai spices and chilies. For a salad, this packs a huge punch of heat. If heat isn't your thing, they can prepare it mild as well, as can most of the dishes on their menu. Just be sure to let the server know! IMG_5690 Another fun appetizer idea (and great for groups) is their Lettuce Wrap. It has a bit of heat, but not as much as the salad above. The one we ordered is the minced beef version but chicken and duck are also available options. The beef is stirfried with lots of veggies and fresh basil as well as some deep fried vermicelli. The lettuce does a great job of holding everything together and gives it an extra crunch as well.  IMG_5695 This is the dish that everyone knows, the Pad Thai. The actual portions are larger than this, this is just my portion from the main serving dish. The flavours are quite mild and should appeal to those who don't crave a lot of heat. Crushed peanuts (lots!) are a traditional garnish, so if you're allergic, be sure to tell your server. They are great at asking you as well; something I am glad to be seeing more of in ethnic restaurants. IMG_5698 We also got a few of their stir fries. The first one is the Pad Bai Grapua, which is a saute with Thai chilies, pepper and basil, for our protein, we chose chicken. It can also be made vegetarian with tofu instead. IMG_5700 In addition to the Pad Thai, my other favourite carby Thai dish is the Pad See-Iw, made with broccoli and egg. The rice noodles here are a bit thicker than Pad Thai noodles, and are stir-fried with pork (So we had one of each protein (Beef lettuce wrap, Chicken Stir Fry and now, the pork). The veggies had a nice crunch to them still but the best part was the slightly chewy rice noodles. Often, I've had stir fried rice noodles that were clumpy and overcooked, but fortunately, these still had a bit of bite to them. Definitely a winner in my book. 

Take Note:

  • It can get busy for brunch on the weekends in North Van, call for reservations!
  • Their Kitsilano has AYCE brunch on weekends.
  • Free delivery after 5:30!

Thai House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spring Tasting Menu at The Blackbird

Last week, I was invited to taste the new Spring menu at The Blackbird, created by Chef Alvin Pillay, Research & Development of the Donnelly Group as well as new cocktails made by Trevor Kallies, the group's Bar & Beverage Director. downstairs The Blackbird is an interesting space, with barber shop, scotch tasting bar, pub and an oyster bar. Located on two floors in the Financial District, it's open daily at 11am, perfect for people to grab a quick lunch. Above is the hustle and bustle at the lower level restaurant. cocktail We started off with a cocktail called the Vitner's Brunch. The wine is a Charles & Charles Cabernet Sauvignon, and into the mix are Victoria Oaken gin, Luxardo Cherry Morlaco Sangue, Scrappy's Cardamom bitters and a touch of lemon zest. It's a rather light cocktail, perfect for a starter beverage. oysters 6 Following a few sips, we were treated to an Oyster Tasting Trio. They are (from left to right), a Reed Island Oyster with bacon and sherry vinegar mignonette, a Royal Miyagi Oyster with wasabi horseradish cocktail sauce, and a Sawmill Bay Oyster with cucumber and kombu. I loved the bacon mignonette, it gave the oyster a rich and meaty texture. The cucumber & kombu topping was also well-paired with the Sawmill Bay. albacore tuna salad 1 Next followed two salads, the first of which was the Tempura Albacore Tuna salad. The tuna is first wrapped in nor before being battered and fried. The inside was still a nice rare with a slightly crispy exterior. There wasn't a lot of greens but the cucumber and cilantro was very flavourful. I'm not a huge fan of avocado, but if you are, you're in luck, there was plenty of it here amongst the greens! duck confit salad 1 Our second salad was my favourite (except for the dessert, I'll get to that later), a Duck Confit salad. I love the crispy skin of duck confit and this did not disappoint! And the portion was great for a salad. Rounding out the plate were lots of Fraser Valley beets and arugula, and lightly flavoured by an aged balsamic dressing.
lemon 2 b 
The dessert was a knockout. I love lemon so I was ecstatic that they went with a tart offering instead of chocolate. It's a Frozen Lemon Bar (with a layer of curd and mousse!). A nice crumble surrounded this, and it was topped with just a few dollops of Italian meringue. Surrounding the star were some rhubarb chunks as well as a bright green pistachio smear. All the flavours blended well and perfectly complemented a nice light lunch. 

Our final taste of the afternoon was another cocktail, called One to Grow On. As explained by Trevor, it's a throwback to the PSAs which aired during Saturday morning cartoons that he grew up on. This cocktail is served with an old-time striped paper straw and is made with a Golden Grahams infused Absolut Elyx vodka, a nod to the cereals kids usually eat while watching morning cartoons. The cocktail also contains egg white and egg yolk. There is also a bit of Pale Ale and Averna Amaro, which has a rich caramel taste. All served in a mini milk bottle, to complete the imagery of a time in history. 

The food was delicious, the servings portions are perfect for lunch and the price points are definitely comparable with the other restaurants in the area. If you are looking for a casual lunch in a fun atmosphere, be sure to give The Blackbird a try. And if you're just looking to get your drink on after work, be sure to check out the scotch tasting bar upstairs!

They are hosting a Spot Prawn Boil on May 18th, give them a call for all the details!

  **disclaimer - my lunch was complimentary but my opinions are my own. 

Take Note:

  • The Duck Confit Salad is amazing!
  • Skip the wine and give their cocktails a try.
  • $1.50 Oysters 4-6pm daily! 

The Blackbird Public House & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

First try at Pidgin

I had first tasted Chef Makoto Ono's food back in 2006 in Toronto at the Gold Medal Plates competition where he actually beat out Chef Mark McEwan in his hometown. I heard that he moved to China next and was surprised to see him resurface in Vancouver. I was eager to give his menu a try. 2013-12-28 19.26.53 They have a simple drinks and dinner menu and a clean chopstick & napkin combo. Side plates (rather, bowls) are provided since most of their dishes are meant for sharing. 
2013-12-28 19.45.15 
My drink on the right is the de capo negroni. It's a pretty potent blend of gin, vermouth, campari, and a large ice ball made with cold press coffee. Interesting, that's for sure. 2013-12-28 20.04.45 For a starter, we tried their simple Korean Gochujang Fried Chicken Wings. People raved about this so I really wanted to give them a try. True, they were good, a great crunch, not greasy at all, and juicy and tender on the inside. I recall reading that the wings are actually brined overnight, so that could be the reason why they seem juicier than your average "hot wings". I appreciated the fact that they were not drenched in sauce too. The veggie garnish didn't really do anything for me though.
2013-12-28 19.57.51 For our second starter, we gave the Shrimp Toast a try. Served with a slaw of daikon on homemade brioche, this was a tasty bite, but note that it's nothing like the Shrimp Toast you normally get a dimsum restaurants...  
2013-12-28 20.30.06 
This is the Ling Cod, gently smoked and pan-roasted. It was done to a medium and the sweet smokey fish flaked off easily. The lentils were a good side this, the two textures matched well together. The clams added a playful touch to the dish. The sauce is a bacon dashi veloute, essentially a broth-based roux, but using bacon is playful. 
2013-12-28 20.30.15 
I had reviewed the menu prior to coming and was delighted to see that they had Squab on the menu. I've since noticed that it's no longer on the menu though; too bad because I thought it was a clever nod to the name of the restaurant. Served with pickled veggies and some fresh herbs, I found the dish a little sparse. However, the flavour of the squab was really good and had almost a rustic feel to it.  
2013-12-28 20.38.27 
After finishing the cocktails, I decided to get a half litre of wine to finish off the meal with. I was smitten with the cut up pop bottle presentation. I was tempted to through it into my purse, next time...I'll have to bring a larger purse! 

Take Note:

  • Some appies are better deals than the mains (ie. wings versus squab)
  • Prix fixe menu pricing has risen from $40 to $55/person
  • Shishito peppers are highly recommended as a starter

Pidgin on Urbanspoon


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