Tag Archives: dining

Nook Kitsilano

30 Aug

1525 Yew Street
Vancouver, BC
V6K 3E4

T: 604 734 3381
www.nookrestaurant.ca

So if I’ve not been in the kitchen this summer (see previous post), then what have I been eating? Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the recently opened Nook Kitsilano. Perhaps I have even been spending too much time there, who knows? All I can say is that it is dangerous for my wallet and my waistline that my favourite restaurant opened their second location only blocks from my place.

Nook’s original location is in the West End and has long been a favourite of mine. Some might wonder why this casual, small restaurant with a fairly simple menu is one of my favourites and I would respond with exactly that…it is casual, small (read: intimate), with an uncomplicated menu of Italian favourites. Oh, and the price-point is just right. So, long story short, they opened their location at Yew and Cornwall in mid-July and I’ve been there a lot. The new space is quite different from their cozy, intimate spot on Denman Street. The Kits restaurant is bigger and brighter and it definitely seats more people (not so much a “nook”), which is good because they have been busy every single time I’ve been there.

Besides some slight differences, the menu basically mirrors their West End menu and you will find the usual Nook offerings of excellent pasta, pizza, and antipasto. In addition to the menu, there are always daily pizza and pasta specials. Most menu items are well under $20 and I highly recommend ordering dishes to share amongst the table.

Nook

Daily pizza special: sopressata and egg.

P1070683

Daily Pasta Special

Nook KitsDaily Pizza Special: Bianco, zucchini, and pancetta

If you are wanting to try Nook Kitsilano but don’t want to forgo a sunny evening, you are in luck. You can take-away and with the beach only a block away, it is the perfect storm for a delicious picnic dinner at the beach. FYI, if you aren’t too full after dinner, try one of their cappuccinos – the foam is incredible.

So whilst I believe that the Denman location is slightly better than the Kits one (ambience, space, and service is better at West End), you still can’t really go wrong with the new Nook either. The food is still excellent and the price-point is the same – I’m just a sucker for the original.

Nook Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Photo Visit – The Acorn – August 2013

21 Aug

3995 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V5V 3P3

T: 604 566 9001
www.theacornrestaurant.ca

I am extremely grateful that summer in Vancouver this year has been epic! We broke the record for the driest July EVER and we have had vast amounts of sunshine. Needless to say, I’ve been out enjoying the great outdoors, as well as indulging in the bounties that the season brings (fresh berries, anyone?).

The Acorn is quite easily one of my favourite places in Vancouver for a meal. The menu is unique, seasonal, and vegetarian (no, I’m not vegetarian but it’s nice to get some well-prepared veggies into my diet every so often). I try to visit each season to sample what is new on the menu and, with an abundance of tasty and interesting vegetables, summer would have to be my favourite season. I popped in recently for dinner with my sister and was pleasantly surprised that we got a table almost immediately (at about 8pm on a Wednesday). You may remember from my other reviews that The Acorn doesn’t accept reservations, so plan accordingly.

The Acorn Summer Harvest (tempura zucchini blossoms, potatoes, corn, in a chanterelle butter sauce) – $19

P1070661Chanterelle Summer Salad (marinated chanterelles, green beens, Camembert, walnuts, roasted garlic vinaigrette) – $9 for half-serve

Dessert special: Sage roasted Okanagan apricots, spritzed with bourbon, with white chocolate frozen yogurt – $8 (?)

The summer harvest plate, which changes daily, was out-standing! I’m a complete sucker for zucchini blossoms so these, paired with the freshness of mixed local produce and a delightful chanterelle sauce, pushed me over the edge! It is dishes like this that make The Acorn a must-visit because although the ingredients are fairly simple, when mixed together and finished with a quality sauce, they become anything but simple.

The chanterelle summer salad was good, but I’d likely order the tomato salad next time over this salad, as I have very fond memories of the tomato salad from last summer. Finally, the dessert, which was bourbon-spritzed roasted Okanagan apricots, was a light and simple ending to the meal. It satisfied the craving for dessert without being heavy or sickly sweet.

I highly recommend a visit to The Acorn before they make the switch to their fall menu, particularly if you’ve not been before. The chefs are masters in showcasing the seasons best produce.

Photo Visit – Nook – January 2013

20 Jan

With a strict “no reservations” policy and a small dining room, you have to be quite strategic when attempting to score a seat at Nook, particularly on a Saturday night. My sister and I wanted to go for dinner last night (a Saturday night) at our favourite place in the West End, but first we tallied up the odds: 1/ The Canucks first game of the NHL season was on, and 2/ Dine Out Vancouver was underway and Nook isn’t a participant. With this in mind, the odds seemed stacked in our favour and, as we had hoped, we walked straight in to a seat at the bar.

My sister and I have eaten at Nook a lot and we normally order our favourites but last night we decided to order both the pizza and pasta daily specials, just to mix things up a bit.

Spaghetti with Nduja and Guanciale – $18

Pancetta, rapini, and egg pizza – $18

Normally, I would have suggested ordering the delectable burrata and proscuitto plate to start, but that would be gluttonous with just the two of us so we stuck with these two dishes and could barely finish them. The spaghetti had a nice hint of spice, thanks to the nduja, which is a spicy Italian sausage (never heard of nduja before – you learn something new every day!). The pizza was also very good but I am finding that I’m finding less enjoyment with eating anything that has a runny egg yolk (personal preference). With $8 glasses of prosecco, friendly staff, and affordable, hearty servings of carbs, I continue to strongly recommend a visit to Nook.

Nook on Urbanspoon

Gordon Ramsay Steak – Las Vegas

10 Jan

When we planned our trip to Las Vegas last month, a group of us were eager to dine at Gordon Ramsay Steak in the Paris hotel. We were desperate to go for one thing and one thing only – the signature dish of Roasted Beef Wellington. Even though we phoned in advance, we still had a few difficulties getting a table so if you are going to Vegas, plan ahead and make your reservation as soon as you can.

The restaurant was quite modern and “flashy” – very Vegas. Perhaps I’m just a little critical but I did find it a little cheesy when the hostess told us that we had just come from “Paris” (the hotel) to “London” (Gordon’s restaurant) via “the Chunnel” (a tunnel from the entrance). I had to chuckle at this, and again, when she directed our attention to a light art fixture in the middle of the dining room that was meant to emulate the movement that Gordon’s hands make when he makes the Beef Wellington. Hmmm…OK…Thankfully the food made up for this.

If you are unsure of what a Beef Wellington is, watch this video. If you want the spoiler, it is seared filet mignon, wrapped in parma ham, mushroom pate mix, and enveloped in puff pastry. The picture below doesn’t do the dish justice, but there is a reason why people rave about this dish. It was absolutely delicious. Yes, the steak is quite pink but the server told us it is always cooked quite rare/medium, otherwise the pastry burns. I was a bit miffed that we each paid $54 for the dish and then still had to pay extra for sides (just my frugal side speaking). The sides that we did order were quite good. My favourite was the mac & cheese, which was covered in cheesy goodness and finished with truffle, but you can choose from lighter dishes such as sautéed asparagus, or fire-roasted corn.

Roasted Beef Wellington – $54

Even though I was completed stuffed from the incredible bread basket and the Beef Wellington, I still ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Brown Butter Ice Cream. Holy crap. This dessert blew my mind and I highly recommend it if you can fit it in. Honestly, the Brown Butter Ice Cream stole the show and I could have just sat with a tub of that all night.

If you love meat and are looking to splurge (it is not cheap) whilst in Vegas, then book yourself a table at Gordon Ramsay Steak. It took me about two days to digest all of that heavy food but it was worth it.

Gordon Ramsay Steak on Urbanspoon

My “Best Mid-Priced” Restaurant List

2 Dec

This year’s Georgia Straight’s Golden Plate awards results got my ire up, although that is nothing new. Almost every year I’m left grumbling and ranting about the winners in at least a handful of the categories (and for the record, yes I vote). For those unfamiliar with the awards they are the result of an online survey by a free local newspaper called the “Georgia Straight”. Every year they ask readers to vote on the city’s best options in a range of categories, such as “Best Italian” or “Best Fine Dining Restaurant”. I take these results with a grain of salt as I don’t always think the “best” wins. I was particularly disappointed with this year’s results of the “Best Mid-Price Restaurant” category.

Foodies all over the city must have shed a tear when the three winners of this category were ALL chain restaurants. It’s nothing against chain restaurants but with such a large amount of incredible independent mid-range restaurants in our city, how are there no independents on this list?

I had a thought that perhaps there are readers that are uncertain of what other options there are for mid-price restaurants in Vancouver. That’s cool – I get it. Firstly, let me start by saying that I know it can be scary to try new restaurants. There are so many minefields to deal with; Will I like the menu? Is this place too posh/too hipster/too serious for me? What if I don’t understand what some of the ingredients are? What if I waste my money on a dish I don’t like? I know there is a lot to contend with when trying a new place which is why I want to help.

I’ve eaten at quite a few (some might say too many) restaurants in this city; some fancy, some less fancy, and so I’ve done a lot of the dirty, and expensive, work for you. And I’d like to share my favourite “best mid-priced restaurants” with you. I classify mid-priced restaurants as those with mains for between $15 to $25 (the same cost as a main at a Cactus Club).

Nook (West End)

Nook fills the West End void of affordable and unpretentious Italian food. Think generous portions of scrumptious pizza and pasta for under $15. A casual, but intimate restaurant. Great value for money. One my favourite restaurants in the city.

Nook’s Rigatoni Boscaiola

p1040264 Nook’s Burrata and Proscuitto Plate

Maenam (Kitsilano)

A popular Kitsilano-based restaurant that offers well-executed, modern Thai food. Maenam is friendly on the wallet, without sacrificing quality or ambiance. Menu items include traditional Thai dishes such as pad Thai, curries, hot and sour soups, as well as innovative cocktails.

Maenam’s Pad Thai

Jules Bistro (Gastown)

A quintessential French bistro in the heart of Gastown, serving up traditional French fare, such as duck confit, moules frites, and escargots. The bistro interior is painfully cute, with rustic brick walls, a black and white tiled floor, and dimly lit chandeliers. It is a definite date-spot that will win you big points.

Jules Bistro’s Duck Confit, Frisee Salad with Bacon and Roasted Pine nuts

La Quercia (Kitsilano/Point Grey)

A small, intimate neighbourhood restaurant located on the corner of Alma and West 4th, La Quercia offers exceptional Italian food and wine at reasonable prices. The 7 course alla famiglia (a chef’s menu that everyone at the table shares) for $45 is great value for money, however, dishes can be individually ordered at a cheaper cost. Book well ahead.

Lamb Ragu Gnocchi from La Quercia

Bao Bei (Chinatown)

A funky, Chinatown-based restaurant offering non-traditional Chinese fare in tapas style. Bao Bei appeals to those who aren’t necessarily looking for an authentic Chinese experience but more of a modern, up-market version of that experience. Really cool interior, interesting cocktails. The food is a modern, almost fusion, take on some old dishes. It is also tapas-style so they do encourage you to order a number of dishes and share them with your table.

Shao Bing from Bao Bei

The Acorn (Main Street)

A recent newcomer to the Vancouver food scene, The Acorn is a completely vegetarian restaurant that comes to us from Brian Skinner, a chef who has done a 6 month stint at world-famous noma. Food is seasonal and excellent, in taste and in presentation. The atmosphere is casual and inviting. Note that reservations aren’t accepted and this place is busy!

Beer Battered Halloumi, served on Zucchini Pancakes, Smashed Peas, and Yogurt from The Acorn

The Acorn’s Walnut & Portobello Pate, served with pickled shimeji mushrooms and juniper crisps.

Campagnolo (Main Street)

A casual, rustic restaurant that focuses on affordable seasonal cuisine from the Piedmont and Emigila-Romagna regions of Italy. Comfortably understated and simple, the menu is unpretentious and tries to remain loyal to its well-researched Northern Italian roots with a strong focus on pastas, pizzas, and characuterie plates. You may, however, need to ask your server for an explanation of some of the dishes as the menu can be slightly difficult to understand.

Pork ragu tagliatelle from Campagnolo

Kingyo (West End)

If Japanese is more your flavour but you are looking for something a little more special than a cheap sushi restaurant, then pop into Kingyo in the West End. There are sushi options, noodles and rice dishes, and plenty of seafood. The atmosphere is less “crazy, loud izakaya house” (Guu), more casual restaurant feel. Back in the day, the interior was quite impressive but the last time I was in, I couldn’t help feel it needed a bit of a re-vamp.

Rodney’s Oyster House (Yaletown)

I’m putting Rodney’s on the list, but with the caveat to be mindful of the price of dishes. The smaller plates, like the heavenly Scallop Galette are about $15 (from memory) but add on a round of oysters and a few drinks and the bill increases quite quickly. Rodney’s is a fun place to indulge in delicious, fresh seafood, such as fresh oysters, chowder, and steamed mussels.

Scallop Galette from Rodney’s

So there you have it, my list of favourite mid-priced restaurants. Between these, the high-end restaurants, and more affordable dining options, we really do have it covered here in Vancouver. Let’s get out there and support our independent restaurants!

Aura

23 Aug

Nita Lake Lodge
2131 Lake Placid Road
Whistler, BC
V0N 1B2

T: 604 966 5700
www.nitalakelodge.com

Brief Description: An upscale European restaurant with a particular focus on local produce, including produce from the lodge’s own garden. The lakefront location is stunning, as is the food. Prices are mid-range but the quality bar is high.

Whilst visiting Whistler for the Araxi Long Table Dinner, we decided to add a much-anticipated return visit to Aura restaurant to our itinerary. After a gorgeous drive up on the Sea to Sky, we pulled into Nita Lake Lodge at about 7pm and were sitting on the lakefront patio an hour later. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to indulge in the five course tasting menu for $65 each. Considering the quality of the food that we received, I felt that the tasting menu represented great value for money. Wines by the glass, on the other hand, were a little on the pricey side.

The view throughout our meal.

First Course: Oysters

Second Course: Beef tartare and mixed mushroom parcels.

Third Course: Roasted wild BC salmon, golden beets, fresh herbs and beet couscous, crème fraiche, pistachio and houseradish crumble.

Fourth Course: Prosciutto wrapped chicken leg filled with herb mousse and served with grilled corn, leeks, buttermilk mash and whiskey jus.

Fifth Course: Vanilla bean pannacotta, with blueberry sorbet, coconut, lemon and raspberry.

All of the dishes were wonderfully executed but there were two dishes that really stood out for me.  One was the prosciutto wrapped chicken leg, as it was succulent yet with a slight crunch thanks to the prosciutto. The other dish was the dessert. The reason for this was due to the balance of texture and the combination of flavours. Within each bite, you had the creaminess from the pannacotta, a tang of lemon and raspberry, and a slight crunch from the toasted coconut. I recall that our dessert from the last time we were at Aura, a de-constructed lemon meringue dish, was also outstanding.

The service had improved quite a bit since our last visit. Our server’s friendly, laid-back style helped to create a relaxing dining experience for us. The interior of the restaurant is decorated with the lodge ambiance in mind, so think lots of wood and stone. But, trust me, if you are outside you will only be looking at the view and not worried at all about the decor. It is a great spot for a quiet, romantic dinner as it is far away from the hustle and bustle of Whistler village.

My Gastown Favourites

26 Jun

In an effort to make good places easier to find for those who aren’t overly familiar with the dining scene in Vancouver, I am aiming to make a list of places that I recommend in each area of the city. My aim is to provide readers with a list of tried and true restaurants in different price brackets so that most of the guess-work is done. Here are my price definitions:

High End: Prices in this category are typically above $25 per main course. These are higher-end places so a bit of effort with dress is required, reservations are likely, and these restaurants can be relied on for a special occasion or to impress a date or family members. A little hoity-toity but not in a you-aren’t-good-enough-to-be-here kinda place.

Mid Range: Prices in this category are generally around the $15 to $20 mark for main courses. The atmosphere is welcoming and slightly more formal than the lower-end places so you could likely still get away with jeans, but not your Lululemons. Perfect for situations where you want a comfortable setting, like date-night, catch up with the girls, or just a good meal at a decent price.

Affordable: Prices in this category are around $10 to $15 for a main course. Not always a restaurant but can be as simple as a coffee shop, or a pop-up donut shop. The atmosphere is usually more laid-back so there really isn’t a dress standard. Perfect for weekends, affordable alternative to cooking,

Gastown is easily my favourite area of town to eat out in so gathering my list of favourite food destinations for this area wasn’t difficult. What will be difficult is keeping this list current. Gastown is constantly evolving and adding new bars, restaurants and coffee shops. It can be hard to keep up! You can be assured that Gastown has something for everyone, and every price range.

High End Choices in Gastown:

L’Abattoir: A chic, semi-formal restaurant that dishes up French-inspired West Coast cuisine. The food is well-executed, the space is elegant, and the crafted cocktails are exceptional. Bring the credit card!

Boneless quail and crispy chicken sausage roll - L’Abattoir

Loin of Rabbit - L’Abattoir

Pourhouse: This restaurant-meets-bar packs a punch with quality food and strong, well-mixed drinks served up with a generous portion of charming ambience. Some people go for the drinks, others for the food. Prices are considerably higher than they used to be which is why I have it in the high-end choice. It gets loud on the weekends so not a great choice for a special occasion or romantic dinner.

Mid Range Choices in Gastown:

Nicli Antica Pizzeria: This popular pizzeria brings Vancouverites authentic Neapolitan pizza in a modern, stylish space. Prices aren’t cheap for pizza ($12 to $20) but they are delicious. Great for date night or a girl’s night as it isn’t too formal, yet is slightly more upmarket than other places. It gets busy so plan ahead.

Pizza – Nicli Antica Pizzeria

Salt Tasting Room: If you like charcuterie plates and wine, then Salt is made for you! Salt allows diners to assemble their own charcuterie plate from a menu of artisanal cheeses, cured specialty meats, and condiments, such as honey or olives. The helpful staff will offer food and wine pairing suggestions based on your preferences. The space is stylish and rustic. Prices for the tasting plates are under $20, making Salt a perfect choice for an affordable informal gathering, or a few after-work drinks.

Affordable Choices in Gastown:

The Sardine Can: A small, intimate Gastown bar that offers affordable small plates of familiar Spanish tapas. Prices start at $5, with no dish currently priced over $10. Also sells Spanish beers and wines.

Selection of dishes from The Sardine Can

Nelson the Seagull:A charming no-frills café that offers simple, honest food and some of the best coffee in Vancouver. Prices are exceptionally fair. A casual, welcoming spot for breakfast, lunch, or just a coffee.

Breakfast - Nelson The Seagull

Dirty Apron Deli: Dirty Apron is a cute deli that offers gourmet sandwiches, hot meals, and baked goods. The deli also acts as a small market for high-end cooking ingredients, equipment, and produce. The long table allows for communal seating during the lunch rush, or you can get to-go. They also cater.

Beef and Ale Stew - Dirty Apron Deli

Meat & Bread:This extremely popular sandwich shop offers tender roasted-meat sandwiches for under $10. The warm porchetta sandwich is what people line-up for. Plan ahead for this one as there is usually a line.

Porchetta Sandwich – Meat & Bread

Cartems Donuterie: From its small, downtown eastside location, this pop-up donuterie has made a big splash onto the Vancouver food scene. Cartems creates freshly made old-fashioned donuts in a variety of interesting flavours, such as Earl Grey, Maple Bacon Bourbon, and Carrot Cake. All donuts are $3 each.

Donuts – Cartems

Cadeaux Bakery: The Gastown baking experts, Cadeaux offers freshly baked flaky pastries, cookies, scones, brownies, and cakes. The pretty bakery also has limited seating. Prices are affordable considering the quality of the goods. Their peanut butter and jelly cupcakes, croissants, and lime coconut macaroons are favourites of mine.

Revolver:Revolver is a trendy, coffee-obsessed Gastown café. The funky café has some seating in its stylishly rustic belly but due to popularity, I generally have to get coffee to go. Prices are around $4 for espresso drinks.

Latte - Revolver

Nuba: This casual Lebanese restaurant caters to those looking for healthy, yet tasty, options at affordable prices. Lebanese dishes such as falafel, grilled meats, and salads are available and are delicious.

Falafel Plate – Nuba

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