My new domain is at VictoriasFoodSecrets.com

December 11, 2009 1 comment

If you’ve wandered over to my blog here, please note that I’ve changed to a new domain name a few days ago. You can now find my blog and all of my upcoming adventures at http://victoriasfoodsecrets.com

Hope to see you all there and happy eating!

Advertisements
Categories: Vancouver Restaurants

The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on Granville Island

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday we thought we’d get out of the usual downtown bubble and take the Aquabus to Granville Island to have a late lunch at Sandbar.  I used to work in the Pacific Culinary Arts School office building about five years ago, and used to frequent this place for dinner quite a bit – by now it’s probably been about two years since I’ve been back for a visit.

We went and sat on the covered patio at one of the tables right next to a fireplace.  They have great heated lamps as well, so even though it was below freezing out (or at least felt like it), we all managed to stay warm and I was just wearing my sweater during the whole meal. In case that isn’t enough, there are also warm blankets over most of the chairs.

We all felt like trying a bunch of different things, so we decided on a few tapas and an entree – but all to share. The classic dish to get here that’s a popular favourite is the  Wok Squid (or calamari).  This is fried with chilies, garlic, cilantro, ginger, and I’ve had it quite a few times in the past.  I would definitely recommend this as a starter or one of the items that you get if you head over to Sandbar.

We also got the Pork & Vegetable Potstickers   These had a tasty filling, and I also enjoyed the sweet chili-garlic & soy dipping sauce, but around the edges of them, the dough was a bit thick and too hard and crunchy – it kind of hurt the inside of my mouth a bit.  It also made it feel like the dough was a bit stale or something.

The BBQ Ribs forno baked, mongolian style, were not too bad, but I’m not a huge ribs fan. Another person at the table really loved them, but I’m just not huge on BBQ sauce.  The meat did fall off the bone and was quite tender though.

We also had the Asian Lettuce Wraps, which comes with chicken, iceberg lettuce, and hoisin sauce, along with some shredded carrots and beets and some other greens. I actually preferred the lettuce wraps from Azia that I tried a couple of weeks ago.  The mixture was less flavourful here, unless you added a lot of hoisin to the wrap.

The one main dish we ordered was the Cedar Plank West Coast Salmon.  This is baked right on the cedar plank, with brown sugar, soy & lemon, and comes over a bed of rice with a roasted tomato and asparagus. Again, I found the salmon a bit overcooked and not overly flavourful. The rice was a bit soggy as well, but the tomato tasted alright. I wouldn’t order this again, and it’s one of their signature dishes.

Overall, I was disappointed in our meal.  Although the patio, view and service was wonderful, I feel like the food itself has gone downhill quite a bit since I last ate at Sandbar.   I still liked the Wok Squid, but everything else was just mediocre and I left feeling a little bit unfulfilled about it all.  The location is great and they likely still do really well with the tourist crowd, but I can’t say there is anything else really special  about the food anymore. 

I hope their fresh sheet of daily fish and sushi is still worth the visit! Please chime in if you’ve had a recent good experience.

 

The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant
1535 Johnston Street
Granville Island,
Vancouver, B.C.
604.669.9030

View Map

The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

La Terrazza Italian Restaurant in Yaletown

December 5, 2009 1 comment

The night before last night I had an amazing dinner at La Terrazza in Yaletown. It was a launch party for one of the really challenging projects I’ve been working on all year that has finally come to closure recently. Our group was booked into one of the restaurants two gorgeous private rooms, and we were given a set menu to choose from along with a large selection of the chef’s popular hot and cold appetizers for a tasting to start.

I started my meal off with a Ketel One Dirty Martini (the olive juice is what makes it dirty, in case anyone is wondering), and it was delicous.  I’m not sure what they did to this drink to make it so good, but it’s probably due to the quality of the olive juice in it.  Following that, we ordered several bottles of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon wine for all of the tables, called Pretty Sally. This was $85, which is a lower price point on their extensive wine menu (that went up well over $1,000 for some bottles), but the general consensus was that it was quite good (I’m not much of a wine connoisseur, but I know what I do and do not like).

The Chef’s Tasting included the following: portabello mushrooms in phyllo pastry, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, prawns with lemon, bruschetta, risotto with a split pea reduction, pickled eggplant, and mixed olives. These were all really amazing, but I especially thought the prawns were delicious.  I could’ve been full after just this course alone, as they brought three of these plates to our table of 7 people, but we were only getting started!  (You’ll have to excuse the off-centre pictures, I think I was already a little tipsy by the time the tasting made it to the table.) The bread with the olive oil they served it with was to die for – to DIE for.  I asked what was in the oil, and our server said it was a pink peppercorn salt.  The guy sitting next to me loved it so much that he was regretting it for the entire next day as he had some terrible heart burn after mopping up a couple plates of it with his bread.

The second course for the meal was the Strozzapreti Bolognese, which was a ‘Strozzapreti noodle with a tomato meat ragu topped with grated parmigiano reggiano.’  I’m not much of a pasta person at all, but the pasta tasted really fresh and was cooked just right – a great firm texture.  The meat sauce was also very tasty, and I had to force myself to only finish half of this course because I knew there was still a lot more food coming.

For our third course, we had a salad with organic mixed greens, the Insalata Mista, with a light red wine and Dijon vinaigrette dressing.  There was also a small scoop of avocado on the side.  This salad was fine, but I’m not really big on salads, especially when you can do something so much more interesting with your veggies.

For the main course, there was a selection from five different items.  There was a Duck option, the Peto D’anatra, along with a free range chicken option that I can’t quite recall, but I didn’t actually see anyone order that in our group.

I enjoyed the Sablefish, or Merluzzo, which had a delicious crispy panko crust, and truffle oil over top of green beans with a mushroom rice cake. When  I took my first bite, it took me a moment to figure out what flavour I was tasting that was so amazing, and that is what turned out to be truffles.  If you enjoy seafood, and regardless if this is one of your favourite types of white fish or not, I would very highly recommend that you order this dish, and savour every single last bite.

The fourth option was a AAA beef tenderloin from Alberta with scallop potatoes and infused with a red wine reduction, or Manzo.  I was able to sneak a taste of the meat, and it was so flavourful and tender.  All I kept hearing from the rest of the table was a steady hum of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ – its safe to say that everyone was very content with this choice as well (although I did prefer the fish myself).

The vegetarian option they provided is shown below – the Eggplant Lasagna. I didn’t have a taste of this one, but the person next to me seemed quite content.

And now on to dessert (as if we hadn’t already had enough).

I ordered the White Chocolate Marscapone Cheesecake in Phyllo, or La Creazione. There was a strawberry sauce on the side with sour cherries and a sprig of mint to top it all off. At this point I was so full I didn’t think I could have a bite more, but this cheesecake was light and just so delicious that, yes, I ate the entire thing. And could’ve had more.

The signature dessert from Chef Gennaro Iorio for the evening was a classic Italian Tiramisù. I’m usually not a fan of this, as I find that the taste of the alcohol within is usually a bit too strong for me; however, I took one bite of this and wished I had ordered it (when I later tasted the cheesecake, I wished I had one of each) – this was the best Tiramisù I have tasted, by far.

This set dinner option was required in order to book a private room with such a large group, and with all of these options to choose from it came to $65.88 per person. As mentioned throughout, that included the Chef’s Tasting sampler, a pasta, a salad, one main, and a dessert.  Needless to say, we were all thoroughly satisfied by the end of this wonderful meal, and also way too full to get any actual sleep that night.  Well worth the sleepless night!

La Terrazza is definitely a great place to take a date for a special occasion or to celebrate an event. Excellent wine list, great service, and amazing fine-dining food.


La Terrazza
1088 Cambie St
Vancouver, B.C.
604.899.4449

View Map

La Terrazza on Urbanspoon

Sha Lin Noodle House on West Broadway

December 4, 2009 Leave a comment

When my company’s office used to be located near Cambie and Broadway a few years ago, we would wander down the street about once a week to Sha Lin Noodle House.  This place has been an old favourite of mine for quite awhile now, with it’s fresh, in-house hand-made noodles.

After reminiscing about it last week, a few of us decided to head over the bridge from downtown yesterday during lunch to have some of the dishes we used to often eat, and also to introduce another couple co-workers who hadn’t been at the old office with us at the time.

We all decided to share and order multiple dishes (well, maybe a couple of us forced it on the others), and I was so happy to be eating some familiar goodness again.

Of course, you have to try the noodles if you are going to a place known for them, my favourite of which are the Cuttings Noodles with Beef and Black Pepper.

After our meal, everyone came to the overwhelming consensus that this was the best dish we ordered, and I smiled with satisfaction for showing them the ropes (note the sarcasm in my tone). These noodles have a great firm texture, and there is an abundance of black pepper, some white onions, red and green peppers, and beef (you can also choose pork or chicken or veggies only).

Something I hadn’t tried before were the Green Beans with Garlic, which lived up to its name and definitely had a lot of garlic!  The green beans were cooked slightly more than I usually prefer, but otherwise, it was pretty good.  Thanks to this dish, we were all pulling out our gum after the meal, so as not to turn off everyone in our afternoon meetings.

Another menu item that I’ve gotten on several occasions is the Beef with Green Onions.  The meat is really tasty and the dish is basically exactly what it’s named. How can you go wrong with that much beef (well, I can think of many ways, but you know what I mean)?

One of my longest standing favourites has got to be the Fried Eggplant and Tomato. I can’t recall it ever having red and green peppers as well before, but it did this time, and I think it tasted even better than when I’ve eaten it before. The eggplant is slightly crispy on the outside and not too soggy on the inside, and the sauce has a lot of delicious ginger in it. Ginger has always been one of my favourite spices to throw into a stirfry.

One new item that I hadn’t tried before that one of my fellow diners suggested was the Sticky Rice Cakes with Pork and Cabbage. The first thing she wanted me to mention in my post was that the veggie in this was not in fact cabbage, but pickled mustard greens, so the description was a bit misleading. This wasn’t too bad either – I’m not sure I would choose to order it again over everything else I’ve already had and loved at Sha Lin, but it was interesting to taste a sticky rice cake nonetheless.

I’ll have to make sure I don’t wait another year before going back again and having a meal at Sha Lin – it’s great for takeout too.  The service is straightforward and you can get in and out quickly, even though it’s always busy.  It is a bit greasy, as Chinese food tends to be, but if you’re looking for quick, no-nonsense noodles and other good food, you’ll find it here.

Sha Lin Noodle House (no website)
548 West Broadway,
Vancouver, B.C.
604.873.1816

View Map

Sha Lin Noodle House on Urbanspoon

List of Top Ten “To Do’s” in Vancouver

December 2, 2009 3 comments

So this is basically taken from my compiled list of things ‘To Do’ from my foursquare account, but since I don’t have a lot of followers there just yet and this seems to be perfectly suited to my blog, I thought I’d revamp it slightly.  Here we go, in no particular order…

1.  Sala Thai Burrard (Thai Restaurant): Go to Sala Thai and have the Spicy Drunken Noodle (pad kee mao) with a Thai iced tea to drink. (To see more details, read my review on Salathai).

2.  Juno’s Kitchen (no website): Go to Juno and try their fresh selection of sashimi and make sure to drink their Japanese roasted rice green tea. They also have the best tamago I’ve had (even for those that don’t usually like it).

3.  Tapastree Restaurant: Go to Tapastree and make sure to order the Sablefish marinated in a miso vinaigrette and the Ahi Tuna, seared with ponzu and hot Chinese mustard. Have the crème brûlée for dessert. (See my full Tapastree blog post.)
 
4.  Cafe Medina: Go to Medina and enjoy a lavendar latte with the fricasse for brunch.
 
5.  Octopus Garden: Go to Octopus Garden in Kits. Get the shiki omakase. Make sure to get the foie gras nigiri as the final piece of your meal.
 
6.  Dragon Ball Tea House (no website): Go to Dragon Ball and get a green tea ice cream bubble tea with pearls. If you’re not into green tea, try any fresh fruit combo instead, with milk, half slush and pearls (my fave is strawberry and mango).
 
7.  Blue Water Cafe: Go to Blue Water and have the Seafood Tower. Order a bottle of Nota Bene from Blackhills Winery if they have it available (not necessarily to go with the tower, but just because I love it so much).
 
8.  Vancouver Vietnamese Restaurant (no website): Go to the Vancouver Vietnamese Restaurant at Main and King Edward (4136 Main Street) and order the Roll Dip and the Wonton Soup with egg noodles.
 
9.  Earls Restaurant: Go to Earl’s (anyone will do I’m sure) and have a Sundae with caramel topping for dessert.  The ice cream is Mario’s vanilla bean gelato.  Try a Lemon Meringue cocktail on the side (well, maybe not at the same time – they’re both quite sweet).
 
10.   Lumière.  Go to Lumière on West Broadway and order anything that Executive Chef Dale Mackay cooks for you.  And I mean anything.
 
And there you have it – I’ll update/add to this list when I can think of other top things to try!

A Need to Try Salathai (on Burrard)

December 1, 2009 4 comments

As a half-Thai person, I am reeeally picky about my Thai food. As a half-Thai person with an excellent cook for a mother, it’s even worse.  I have yet to find someplace that comes close to the real deal in Thailand, but since I don’t live there, I really have to take what I can get (but please do share if you have any other wisdom here for me).

The best I have found in Vancouver to date is at Salathai Thai Restaurant on Burrard, especially when it comes to their lunch specials menu. (I have other favourites as well that I will share for other particular dishes, but this is the one I have been frequenting the most lately).

Now here are a few of my favourite things from the lunch menu (I think I hear the Sound of Music soundtrack in the background):

Spicy Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao) – This is my longest standing favourite.  This is a newer dish (meaning it’s not an old traditional menu item for Thai food), and ‘kee mao’ basically means that you’re drunk so you just throw whatever is leftover into a pan and cook it all up. This has basil, red peppers and jalapenos, white and green onions, and your choice between chicken, beef or pork. Mmmmmm…I can’t seem to find anywhere else that makes this dish come even close to how good it is at Salathai.

Spicy Drunken Noodle (Pad Kee Mao)

Kwia-Thew Num Ped (what I call Duck Soup) – When it’s a cold, rainy day outside and I need something to warm me up, I often turn to this soup. There is a lot of duck meat, and it’s not overly fatty like a lot of duck can be, along with thin rice noodles, and bean sprouts.  The broth itself is already great as is, and the only thing I usually add when I eat it is a few chillies to spice it up a bit more.

Kwia-Thew Num Ped (Duck Soup)

Yen-Tao-Fo – This is another soup that I really enjoy.  It has more of a tomato based broth, but includes thin rice noodles, spinach, and a mixture of tofu, seafood and pork. For this one, ask for the ‘condiments’ and add a little bit of dried chillies, fish sauce with chillies (prig nam pla), and the vinegar and jalapeno sauce.  Please make sure to do this when you order the yen-tao-fo – it really makes a difference to the overall taste, and very much makes up a part of the flavour experience.

Condiments for Yen-Ta-Fo

Salathai Rice Special – This is a stir-fried rice dish that includes a pan fried egg on top, and has the delicious flavour of Thai basil, green and white onion, and red and green peppers. This one can also be served with the meat of your choice. It also comes with a small appetizer sized soup (although I’m not a huge fan of this, as the veggies in it don’t really give you the right Tom Yum soup taste).

Khow Tang Na Tang – Here is an appy that you can’t find on the online menu for Salathai, but is on their current lunch menu.  Basically, it’s rice ‘chips’ that are crispy and served as almost crackers on which you put a pork and shrimp dip.  It’s very flavourful and delicious and even though I usually am too full to eat both, I’ll order this first before my lunch. I definitely recommend giving this one a try.

Khow Tang Na Tang

And other key dishes I have enjoyed and would recommend:

Tod Man Pla – These are essentially fish cakes that are deep-fried and come with a cucumber salad. A great appy choice.

Larb – This is basically some sort of ground meat – beef, pork or chicken at Salathai – and this comes in a delicious sauce that includes lime, fish sauce, and mint, along with some ground up roasted rice and onions (or you could always make my version of larb at home, which is still my favourite).

Plus, there are a wide variety of curries, noodle dishes – you name it. When thinking back to all of the meals that I’ve had at this place, I can’t recall anything that I didn’t end up liking so far. Here are a couple of others I’ve had recently:

Lard Na

Pad See-Iw

One thing to keep in mind though if you’re going there for lunch – if you aren’t getting a noodle dish or the Salathai rice special, the rest of the dishes (mainly those served over jasmine rice, like the curries), are not all that large.  However, you will definitely enjoy the food and come back again. The other great part – most of the staff there are all Thai, and have the charm of the people from the Land of Smiles.

I’ll continue to update and add pics to this post as I gather more – I frequent this place at least once a week, so it shoudn’t take too long. Just make sure you try the Thai Iced Tea while you’re there. You won’t regret it.

Thai Iced Tea

Salathai Thai Restaurant
102-888 Burrard St.
Vancouver, B.C.
604.683.7999

View Map

Salathai on Urbanspoon

Kam’s Place – Singaporean Restaurant on Davie

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Today I tried out a restaurant at lunchtime that I’ve never been before.  I’ve heard from a few that this place is quite a bit better at dinner, so we’ll have to take this into consideration with my review (and I’ll have to try it out for dinner another time).

There was a very inexpensive lunch menu available, which included dishes ranging from as low as $5.25 up to $6.50 and that comes with rice, soup, and a “salad” (basically head lettuce leaves with a sweet vinaigrette).

The items that we ordered today included a few things: the Long Bean Spicy Chicken (and the same dish but with Pork), the Black Bean Sauce with Pork and Veggies, and the Spicy Tofu. Each one came with a sort of hot and sour spicy soup (not sure what it’s officially called), which contained tomatoes and bean sprouts.

First to come to the table was our appetizer-sized Hot and Sour Soups.  None of us actually finished these, as they weren’t really all that good.  They were spicy, and almost too sour in flavour in my opinion. I just couldn’t be bothered to finish it up when I wasn’t sure what was yet to come.

Next was the Spicy Tofu. This I didn’t try. But here is a lovely picture for you all to see.

The next items to show up were the Long Bean Spicy Chicken and Pork. I enjoyed the fact that there wasn’t too much sauce in the dish, although the beans were a bit overcooked for my liking.  I still like them to have a bit more crunch to them than they did, and then they don’t look so shrivelled – makes it a bit more appealing as well. The chicken and pork was cooked well though.

So it’s pretty funny, but I got my food last after everyone else had already eaten half of theirs.  I think they forgot about me and I had to ask if my food was still coming. This actually happened after a co-worker started eating what seemed to be my original dish that I ordered (the Long Bean Spicy Pork).  I think it was a bit of a miscommunication with our server.  So, once the Black Bean Sauce with Pork came along, we burst into laughter as we realized we had our meals switched up. Regardless, I’d already tasted the others, so I went along and ate what came. The problem with dishes that have Sauce in their name, is that they usually have too much sauce on them! I liked the zucchini in the dish, but had to pick out pieces of red and green pepper and kind of wipe them off a bit so that it wasn’t too much.  I found that the ‘salad’ actually tasted okay because it was lighter and more fresh in taste to counteract the overpowering black bean flavour. Sorry about the awful glare in the pic – the sun came up suddenly (wow, sun in November!) and I couldn’t get the lighting to work right (and was already starving by then after all the waiting).

I’m hoping that this place is actually much better for dinner, although I have to say I am a bit skeptical now. I was disappointed by both the service (slow, and food mix-up) and the lunch itself. Although I know the meals were very budget-friendly and often you get what you pay for, so really, it’s difficult to not try this again for dinner at least once more.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if my experience was unusual, and if it is in fact worth going back!

Kam’s Place (sorry, couldn’t find a website)
1043 Davie St
Vancouver, B.C.
604.669.3389

View Map

Kam's Place on Urbanspoon