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La Brasserie

6 Jan

1091 Davie Street
Vancouver, BC
V6E 1M5

T: 604 568 6499
www.labrasserievancouver.com

Brief Description: A teeny, tiny Davie Street hot-spot that serves hearty plates of Franco-German cuisine. Be prepared to wait for a table but take comfort knowing that it will be worth it.

Happy New Year everyone! Sorry for the long pause between posts. With so much time off of work during the break I was able to visit a few of my wish-list restaurants and one of them was the highly acclaimed La Brasserie. I have previously grumbled about the lack of enticing restaurants on Davie Street and so I am very happy to hear that the standard is slowly rising.

La Brasserie does not take reservations and so whenever I have walked past before the line-up was always snaked out the door. It was no different when I visited. My sister and I offered to sit at the bar and the wait was only about 20 minutes, which really isn’t too bad. The restaurant is small (it only seats 35) so expect that you will be crammed in the doorway like sardines and when you do make it to a table, you will be elbow-to-elbow with other diners. With that said my experience there last week proved that it is worth all of the inconvenience. Service was quick (despite the wait to get a table) and attentive. During the wait for a table, the host kept checking back in with us giving us regular updates about the wait times and we were asked if we’d like to order some drinks whilst we waited. We both chose a beer from the extensive and impressive beer menu and sipped on them until our seats became available. The décor is fairly standard: warm colours, a simple layout and a dimly lit room gave off a feeling of comfort. There is an ever-so-popular open-concept kitchen so that you can peer into the fishbowl to watch the chefs hard at work.

The menu contained all sorts of alluring, belly-filling dishes from Germany and France. German food always conjures up images in my head of hearty pork dishes, delicious sauces and sides of dumplings and sauerkraut. The chefs must have been inside my head as that was one of the first dishes on the menu – Suckling Pig with sauerkraut and schupfnudel. I knew immediately what I would be getting! The rest of the menu is pretty meaty…spicy house-made bratwurst, braised lamb cheeks, steak onglet and frites, rotisserie style chicken and a burger option. Mussels with frites and an Arctic char dish were the only seafood representatives on the menu and there is a vegetarian pot pie for those who didn’t come for the meat (crazy people!). Appies are well represented with an equal number of hot and cold options. This is where the French influence became more visible – steak tartare, onion tart, onion soup, poutine and a duck confit can all be found on the appetizer menu.

For our meals, I ordered the house-speciality of Suckling Pig and it left me with no reason to question why it is the speciality. Crunchy, salty crackling surrounded the juicy pork that had been stuffed with a mustard and bread filling. Honestly, pork is not really my favourite meat but this was done really well and I was surprised at how tender the pork remained. The sauerkraut tasted as though it had been flavoured with bacon (a definite thumbs up in my books) and the schupfnudel (basically two big, doughy dumplings) were a real highlight. They were perfectly seasoned and tasted as though they had been lightly fried – delicious!

Unfortunately, the Suckling Pig was no match for the Lamb Cheeks which were served with a rosemary jus, celery root puree and a medley of caramelized vegetables. This dish was a “WOW” dish. My sister ordered it and I sat their ogling it until she had finished. Thankfully, she is kind and let me nibble at it. The lamb melted in the mouth and was paired extremely well with the rosemary jus. Even the vegetables were incredible. Never have I had a brussel sprout that tasted that good! We were extremely impressed with the meals and they both came in at around the $20 mark each.

Dessert wasn’t as exciting as the main course but that would have been quite hard to surpass. I ordered the chocolate flour-less tart, which was very rich and dense and I could taste the quality of the chocolate with every bite. There were small pieces of hard toffee (or something similar) sprinkled throughout and that added a bit of interest with each bite. Unfortunately it was way too rich for me to finish on my own and so I had to take the rest home with me.

My sister chose the crème brulée, which although was good, it was not a stand-out.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I was really impressed with La Brasserie. Finally Davie Street has another good restaurant to boast about. I will definitely make a return trip to La Brasserie with B in tow as I know that the food is definitely “man food” i.e. hearty, filling and meaty.

La Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Uva Wine Bar (By Night)

12 Nov

900 Seymour Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 3L9

T: 604 632 9560
www.uvawinebar.ca

Brief Description: An espresso bar by day, a wine bar by night. Located next to Moda Hotel on Seymour Street, Uva is one of Vancouver’s more stylish coffee bars.

With so many new bars opening up recently my follow-up visit to Uva has been a long time coming. I first visited Uva for a coffee back in spring and had been meaning to follow up with a visit to the wine bar ever since. It was a very wet and miserable evening when I eventually got around to returning. Grumpy and dripping wet from a sudden downpour, I had a strong hankering for a nice glass of red when I met my friend at the dimly-lit Uva Wine Bar.

Inside Uva Wine Bar

It was early on a Thursday night and whilst the bar wasn’t overly busy, a steady crowd passed through during the couple of hours that we were there. We got comfy in large, white throne-like chairs and perused the wine menu. We did find that it was slightly overwhelming as there were a lot of wines on offer. There were many that were by the bottle but there were also a number of red and whites by the glass. Most of the wines were Italian and whilst I certainly don’t have a problem with Italian wines, we did end up having to rely on the server to explain the flavours to us (e.g. I like Cabernet Sauvignon so what would be the most similar taste to that?). Thankfully, our server was extremely helpful and spent time explaining and recommending glasses of wine to us. Per glass, the wines were a tad expensive. I think most averaged around the $10 to $12 mark. The price of food was also a tad on the high side so I opted for the cheapest thing on the menu, risotto balls, which were more reasonable at only $5 for 3. I had been craving a cheese plate or even a plate of olives but these were all just a little bit too expensive to be justified as a snack with a few wines.

That said though, the risotto balls were absolutely delicious. They were crunchy on the outside and still moist and loaded with flavour on the inside. If the rest of the food is this tasty then perhaps the prices are worth it.

Final Thoughts: Uva manages to easily transition from a stylish Italian café in the day to a modern and elegant wine bar in the evening. My friend and I enjoyed our evening there, although we probably would have lingered longer had the prices been slightly cheaper. If you are a wine aficionado then you should make a visit to Uva pronto!

Uva Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Guu on Thurlow

5 Aug

838 Thurlow Street
Vancouver, BC
V6E 1W2

T: 604 685 8817
www.guu-izakaya.com

Brief Description: The Thurlow location of a chain of cheap and cheerful izakaya. Prices are extremely affordable – you could take pocket change and still leave with a tummy full of delicious, authentic food.

Guu is guuuu'd

After I wrote my review of Hapa Izakaya, in which I had mentioned Guu numerous times, I just couldn’t get it out of my head! I had to go for a visit. Thankfully, B is always up for my food suggestions and so after a movie at Scotiabank Theatre the other night, we made our way to Guu on Thurlow.

There are 3 Guu’s located down-town; Guu with Garlic, Guu on Robson and Guu on Thurlow. There is also a location in Richmond. All of the locations have different menus and the food selection does vary quite a lot between locations. I really enjoy visiting the Guu on Thurlow as the vibe is electric and full of life. Usually hectic, loud and full of ESL students getting a taste of home, Guu offers homestyle Japanese food in a simply decorated, no-frills restaurant. The kitchen is open, which allows you to watch the charismatic chefs prepare the food with speed and ease. A friend of mine who lived in Japan said that the food is some of the more traditional Japanese izakaya food that she has had in Vancouver. As someone who hasn’t been to Japan, I feel like this is a small taste of how fun/crazy it could be.

At Guu, the craziness starts the minute you walk through the door. The servers and chefs will look up from whatever they are doing and enthusiastically scream greetings at you. When this happens I feel as though a celebrity has walked in behind me as everyone is shouting and staring at you! They also shout goodbyes at you when you leave. It is fun and I can’t help but giggle when they do this. With this fun/strange welcome out of the way, service is generally extremely fast and polite but they do try to turn the tables over fast as there is usually a heaving line-up to get in.

The thing that always surprises me about Guu is the prices. It is just so cheap! B and I over-order every time we go there. The last time we went we couldn’t finish everything that we ordered and it still only came to $35 in total. As I said – cheap! We shared a large bottle of Sapporo ($7.80), Kimchi Fried Rice ($7.50), Grilled Beef Short Rib ($5.20), Grilled Asparagus Rolled Bacon Skewers ($4), Salmon Sashimi ($5.50) and Edamame ($3).

Salmon

The delicate Salmon Sashimi in a garlic soy sauce was absolutely wonderful and it was a mere $5.50.

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My personal favourite dish, and I believe is only available at the Guu on Thurlow, is the Grilled Asparagus Rolled Bacon Skewers ($4). The smoky asparagus covered in the salty bacon is simply amazing. I always order this dish and I’m never disappointed. A simple but mouth-watering treat.

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I don’t particularly like the Grilled Beef Short Rib as the meat is just too fatty for my liking. The flavours are nice; a slight sweetness and a smokiness from the grill but this is basically a dish that we order for B.

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The Kimchi Fried Rice is simple but full of flavour and has big yummy bits of bacon dispersed throughout. A hearty must-have.

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Final Thoughts: For a fun night out, with good food and good prices, you can’t go wrong with Guu. It is a great place to experiment with new dishes and an interesting culture.

Guu on Urbanspoon

Le Crocodile

29 Jun

#100 – 909 Burrard Street (on Smithe Street)
Vancouver, BC
V6Z 2N2

T: 604 669 4298
www.lecrocodilerestaurant.com

Brief Description: Le Crocodile is a fine dining restaurant located in the heart of Vancouver. It offers superior French food in a traditional, yet unpretentious, atmosphere. Yes, you guessed it; this kind of dining comes at high cost.

Being a foodie is an expensive passion. A recent inspection of my bank statements shows that the vast majority of my salary is spent on food or eating out. Oops! For the most of part, I visit modestly priced restaurants but occasionally, B and I like to get dressed up and splurge on a more formal dinner. It was B’s birthday recently and I told him that he could choose any restaurant that he wanted, as long as it was on my “To Eat At” list for 2009 – hee hee! He quickly decided on somewhere that we had wanted to try for some time: Le Crocodile. I could feel my wallet shrivel at the decision.

A 22 year veteran of the Vancouver food scene, Le Crocodile is discreetly hidden off Smithe Street, close to the IGA on Burrard Street. Decorated in a traditional, sophisticated style, the restaurant itself is unassuming and away from the main foot traffic. Because of this I had expected it to be fairly quiet, even more so as we were there on a Tuesday night, but how wrong I was! It was packed, mostly with graduating students celebrating end of year with their proud well-to-do parents. Thankfully, we had reserved a table and so we were seated immediately. The woman that greeted us at the door was incredibly friendly and very sweet. Unfortunately, once we were seated we were basically ignored by our server for about half an hour. He did come over to introduce himself, to get us drinks and to tell us the specials but we didn’t even get to see a menu for about half an hour – apparently, they were all with other diners. Hmmmmm. This was not the kind of evening I had expected at one of the finer establishments in town.

By the time the server had arrived with the menus we had completely forgotten the specials, so he had to recite them to us again. Prior to our visit, I had been reading the menu on-line over and over again and so I had already made my choices but as there were so many tempting items on the specials list, I had to re-think my whole order. We both started our meal with appetizers. B decided on the Garlic Sautéed Frog’s Legs as he (nor I) had ever tried them and I chose one of the specials, White Asparagus with Dungeness Crab Meat.

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Before our appetizers came out we were presented with a complimentary onion and salmon tart to begin our meal. With its delicious flavour and flaky pastry, it was a promising start to the meal.

Frog's Legs

The Frog’s Legs was a really interesting dish. The first thing I thought was “Wow! They really look like chicken wings!” Ha ha! The meat was actually very pleasant tasting, without a strong “meaty” flavour but with a lovely hint of garlic. The flavour was further enhanced by the chive butter sauce that the Frog’s Legs were served in.

White asparagus and dungeness crab

My order of White Asparagus with Dungeness Crab Meat was quite good, although, not exceptional. The crab meat was delicately laid across the juicy thick asparagus. What I didn’t realize was how much it cost – $22. The server hadn’t mentioned the price of the specials (and yes, I should have asked). If I had known it was that much then there is no way that I would have ordered it. There were other tempting appetizers on the regular menu that cost a lot less than that, that I would have enjoyed as much.

Caribou with lobster tail

Moving on to entrees and we both ordered the same thing from the specials menu; Caribou Steak with Lobster Tail. It was spectacularly presented – the Lobster Tail was perched high on a bed of tender Caribou slices. I thoroughly enjoyed the juicy Lobster meat and the Caribou was tender and perfectly suited the accompanying red wine sauce. However, the serving size of the steak was very generous and towards the end, chewing all that meat became a little too much for me. There is truth in the saying “less is more”. The Caribou was delicious; it just didn’t live up to our Caribou experience at Rim Rock Cafe in Whistler.

Next, on to my favourite part of any meal…dessert! Considering that we were at a French restaurant, naturally, I had to order the Crème Brulee.

Creme Brulee

Unfortunately, it was very average. I found it a little too heavy on the Grand Mariner for my liking and the sugar on the top wasn’t scorched enough.

Crepe Suzette

Surprisingly, B decided to indulge in dessert and he ordered the Crêpe Suzette. His dessert was served with a small candle on the side and three staff members surrounded him and quietly sang “Happy Birthday”. Yes, they had made note when I made the booking and I was very impressed that they had remembered. It was a nice added touch and, thankfully, they kept it classy so it didn’t draw a lot of attention.

Final Thoughts: I had high hopes for Le Crocodile. It was one of the restaurants that I had highly anticipated a visit to and, sadly, I walk away slightly underwhelmed. Firstly, I was disappointed that a restaurant that offers fine dining couldn’t even offer debit service. As I don’t have a Canadian credit card, I had to leave the restaurant and duck into the IGA to use their ATM machine. Not exactly the effortless end to the meal that I was expecting.

I am on the fence regarding the service as I don’t want to jump to conclusions (perhaps it was just a bad night for them). When we had the server’s attention, I was impressed with the service. But I got the feeling that it was “out of sight, out of mind” as it seemed that he was forgetting us quite a lot. On the other hand, I was impressed with the small touches; the acknowledgment of B’s birthday, the small tart to start the meal and the cute little chocolate crocodiles that were delivered alongside the bill.

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In regards to the food, I wouldn’t say that I was disappointed with the meal per se, I just felt like it wasn’t as special as I’d hoped it would be. All of the food was fine but I think when you are spending over $200 of your hard-earned money on a dining experience, then you want to be completely overwhelmed by the meal and we weren’t. That is not to say that I wouldn’t return. There were a lot of enticing dishes on the menu that I would love to try. Perhaps we will return but maybe just for an entree, not for a full three course meal.

Le Crocodile on Urbanspoon

Hapa Izakaya – Robson Street

23 Jun

1479 Robson St
Vancouver, BC
V6G 1C1

T: 604 689 4272
www.hapaizakaya.com

Brief Description: A sophisticated and glamourous izakaya offering innovative Japanese tapas at modest prices.

Having never travelled to Japan and being completely clueless about Japanese culture, my first izakaya experience was actually here in Vancouver. I didn’t even know that these kind of establishments existed until after I arrived. For those unfamiliar with izakaya they are primarily a Japanese drinking establishment but to provide some much-needed nourishment to their tipsy patrons, they also serve Japanese tapas. As the food portions are small and the prices are reasonably cheap, izakayas offer a fairly inexpensive, yet varied, dining experience.

With two locations, one on Robson Street and one on Yew Street in Kitsilano, Hapa Izakya (or known simply as Hapa) is one of the more upscale, sophisticated izakayas in Vancouver. The owners have obviously put a lot of effort in to making sure that everything is looking good. This includes the staff, the food and the restaurant decor. The Robson Street location is dimly lit with simple modern decor. Everything is sleek and dark and with its sexy atmosphere it makes for a great place to take a date.

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As you walk through the door, you are greeted with an enthusiastic “Irasshaimase!” (“Welcome!”) and although there is a energetic vibe, it is definitely not as hectic as the Guu izakayas (another izakaya chain in Vancouver). The staff are more mellow and on the times that I’ve been, so are the clientele. It appears to be a slightly more grown-up version of izakaya. That can either appeal to regular izakaya go-ers or be seen as pretentious. Personally, I welcome it.

On the few visits that I’ve had to Hapa on Robson, the service has been flawless. The staff have been attentive, fast and very welcoming. On the night that we were there recently, there were so many staff working that I think it would be almost impossible to be ignored.

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My favourite thing about Hapa is the presentation of the food – everything just looks so damn good! Unique food presentation seems to be something that the restaurant prides itself in and so it is not unusual to see one of the waitresses using a blow-torch to crisp the skin of a mackerel at a fellow diner’s table. All of the dishes that we ordered were served on different styles of plates; some glass, some ceramic, and all added a little something different to the presentation of the food. We went a little crazy when we were there and ordered too many dishes but with all of them under $10 each, we weren’t too concerned.

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We started off with the Goma-ae (green beans, tuna sashimi, and feta cheese in a goma-ae (sesame) dressing). I personally didn’t like this dish as much as B did – the appeal of sesame-flavoured cold beans was kinda lost on me.

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I was more impressed with the delicate Tuna Carpaccio (fresh, thinly sliced ahi tuna served with a slightly spicy yuzu dressing). The thin slices of fresh tuna were delectable with the dressing. I could have quite happily eaten a whole plate of this on my own.

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Beautifully presented in what looked like a little ceramic boat, the Sushi Croquette (deep fried sushi ball with BBQ eel, cheese cucumber) were fabulous. I was much too eager to scoff them and, as a result, I burnt my mouth on them but it was worth it; they were one of my favourite dishes of the meal.

Bintaro Tuna

The Bintoro Tataki (seared albacore tuna sashimi with citrus vinaigrette sauce) was delightful. The generous bite-sized pieces of fresh tuna were as light as the accompanying tangy sauce.

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Considering that they are in season, I could not say no to the Spot Prawns. The three large prawns were simply served cold, with a light garlic and lime dressing. That was really all that they needed as the prawn meat is so sweet that anything more would have been unnecessary.

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The Tortilla Wrap 2 Ways (soy braised pork shoulder, prawns & fried bean curd with habanero mayo & 3 kinds of Japanese salsa) was the dish that we were the least taken with but, obviously, tortilla’s aren’t a dish that the Japanese are renowned for and so that was probably an ordering error on our behalf. Although I loved the presentation of the dish, there just wasn’t a lot of flavour going on amongst the doughy wrappings of the tortilla bread.

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And finally, dessert. Disappointingly, the chocolate cheesecake was also not a highlight for me. It was a little too dense and a tad dull.

Looking back over the dishes that I had, I enjoyed the seafood dishes the most. Thankfully, nothing that we ordered was terrible but some dishes were considerably better than others.

Final Thoughts: I have a great time at all the izakayas, regardless of the decor or the price, but what I like about Hapa Izakaya is that it feels more mature than some of the other more casual izakayas in town. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love the fun and chaotic vibe of the Guu’s but if you want a quieter, more intimate izakaya experience then you can’t go wrong with Hapa Izakaya.

Hapa Izakaya (Robson) on Urbanspoon

UVA Wine Bar (By Day)

11 Jun

900 Seymour Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 3L9

T: 604 632 9560
www.uvawinebar.ca

Brief Description: An espresso bar by day, a wine bar by night. Located next to Moda Hotel on Seymour Street, Uva is one of Vancouver’s more stylish coffee bars.

Strong black coffee is one of my true loves. That true love, however, is hard to find in a city that is full of Starbucks *rolls eyes*. I was given a strong recommendation for the coffee at Uva and it was only recently that I had the chance to make my first visit.

On week days Uva is a stylish espresso bar but when the clock hits 5pm it moonlights as a sophisticated wine bar. With its chic decor, Uva has really stayed true to its European roots. It is elegantly decorated with funky white chairs, colourful but simple wall coverings and an intricately tiled floor. As I walked in I noticed that behind a sleek black bar and surrounded by wall of liqueur bottles, the barista stood proudly at his espresso machine – very European! I ordered at the bar and then took a seat by one of the windows to do some people watching. The coffee, one of the better ones that I’ve had in Vancouver, was delivered quickly by the barista. I ordered a simple Americano which was rich, dark and full of flavour – just how I like my coffee.

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Although I only ordered coffee, food is available. Their breakfast menu is simple and consists mostly of pastries, biscotti and frittata. The lunch menu offers uncomplicated choices of pasta, panini, salad and soup, and in the evenings, as the wine bar, the menu takes on more of a focus on charcuterie plates and wines.

Final Thoughts: One of the better coffee bars in Vancouver. The atmosphere was great, the service was excellent and most importantly, the coffee was a refreshing change from the tasteless, weak coffee served in so many places around town. The only down-side is the hours – it isn’t open during the day on weekends.

Uva Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Sciué

6 Apr

110 – 800 Pender Street (at Howe)
Vancouver, BC
V6C 2VP

T: 604 602 7263
www.sciue.ca

Brief Description: Where the beautiful people eat and work…Sciué offers simple Italian fast food at affordable “I-can-eat-here-more-than-once-a-week” prices.

Scuie Exterior

Even though it has now been a number of years,  I can still vividly recall a pizza bar in Florence that created the most fantastic pizza my 21 year old taste-buds had ever dined upon! The base of the pizza (similar to a rustic bread) was vastly different to the greasy, spongy pizza bases that I was used to. And the ingredients…wow! The ingredients were so fresh that I could actually taste each individual vegetable, from the sweet tomatoes to the sun-kissed peppers to the aromatic basil crushed over the top. Not only was I completely mesmerized by the quality of the pizza but I was fascinated by how they served it. The large, long loaves of pizza (not the usual round shape) were displayed behind a glass counter. The server would put his knife over your selected loaf and you indicated to him how much you would wanted by directing his knife (“more” or “less”) and then he would slice it to where you wanted it and weighed it. Since then, I have rarely seen this way of making or serving pizza so you can imagine my delight when I found that Sciué does exactly this!

I was struggling for another way to describe Sciué than insultingly referring to it as “fast food”, when I discovered the meaning of the word “sciué”. Apparently, it is Italian slang for “good and fast” and I thought – perfect! – that is a very accurate description! The “good and fast” food that is on offer is what the owners describe as Roman Street Food, which is basically freshly made pane romano’s (simply put, pizza on more of a bread crust than a dough), Italian sandwiches and more hearty dishes, such as pasta or meat and vegetables variants. To further convince your taste-buds that they have made a quick trip to Italy on their lunch-break, you can also indulge in coffee, gelati and traditional Italian pastries.

The setting is a modern, funky cafe, complete with Italian soccer playing on a TV in the corner. Getting a table during the busy lunch hour can be quite a challenge so there are a few tables outside to try to ease this problem.

The Pane Romano’s seem to be the favourite of the busy lunch crowd as there is usually a line-up of uncertain people trying to decide which of the incredible toppings they want to treat themselves to. So, although it is fast, it isn’t that fast. Some of my favourites are:

  • The one topped with black olives, chilli flakes and Italian sausage;

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  • The one topped with mozzarella, rosemary potatoes, red peppers, Italian sausage and olive oil;

Pizza

  • The Caprese, topped with tomato sauce, misculin salad, sliced bocconcini, sliced tomatoes, olive oil.

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I’ve not managed to pull myself away from the Pane Romano cabinet so I’ve yet to try their sandwiches but they do look delicious and their selection is unique. Where else in Vancouver can you devour a Veneto (roasted pork loin, provolone, sauteed mushrooms, spinach) or a Milano (pastrami, crem de brie, carmalized onion, tomato, misculin)? And I must say that I am using the term “sandwich” very loosely – they really don’t look like traditional sandwiches as they proudly sit behind the counter, the rustic bread enveloping fresh and colourful ingredients. I have, however, tried some of the Italian pastries and unfortunately they do not come close to comparing to the ones that I’ve had in Italy. They just weren’t fresh enough.

Final Thoughts: A great place to grab a slice or two of quality pizza for only a few bucks. The selection of toppings will have you “umm”-ing and “ahhh-ing” over which one to choose. You can expect fresh ingredients and pizza that tastes like a somewhat healthier option than those from other pizza places. Try and nab yourself a seat in the cafe and watch the busy lunch chaos unfold before you.

Sciue on Urbanspoon

Beard Papa’s

11 Mar

Unit 104-1184 Denman St
Vancouver, BC
V6G 2M9

T: 604 681 3163
www.beardpapascanada.com

Brief Description: With locations at English Bay and Aberdeen Mall, the Japanese craze of Beard Papa’s fresh cream puffs has well and truly hit Vancouver.

Beard Papa's Cream Puffs

If you are the kind of person who doesn’t get too excited for the overly sweet Tim Bit’s or “Cupcakes” cupcakes, perhaps Beard Papa’s cream puffs are more up your alley when that sweet-tooth rears its head. Originating in Japan, Beard Papa’s has become a gastronomical success story with well over 300 stores now located around the world. The fact that 230 of those stores can be found in Japan is evidence of just how much the Japanese have loyaly embraced Beard Papa’s. Admittedly, I even found myself getting wrapped up in the excitment when they opened the store on Denman last year… So, just what is the big deal with these fist-sized treats?

BEFORE: Ahhh...pretty!

DURING: Mmmmmm, vanilla goodness!

To be honest, I’m not as taken with them as their loyal Japanese fans, but as someone who has a sweet-tooth I can certainly see some draw. Made fresh daily, it apparently takes over 2 hours, from start to finish, to get them to their puffy state of glory. The process begins with a half choux pastry-half pie crust shell, which is soft on the inside but golden, with a slight crunch, on the outside. The finishing touches are put on only once you’ve made your purchased. They take a shell and, right before your eyes, fill it with your desired whipped-cream custard mixture and a dusting of icing sugar. The whipped-cream custard mixture comes in an assortment of different flavours; vanilla bean (my personal favourite), dark chocolate, green tea and strawberry. Basically, it is like an individual profiterole without the chocolate coating. Unless of course, you’d like that and then you’d need to order the chocolate eclair puff…

Beard Papa's Chocolate Eclair Puff

One thing they have going against them is that they are very difficult to eat without making a complete pig of yourself – the cream custard filling manages to escape every time and you find yourself having to lick big globs of it off the back of your hand. And then you find that that it also managed to get in your hair and smeared on your face…or maybe that’s just me! 🙂

Final Thoughts: The fascination is still slightly lost on me, but they are a nice change from all the usual suspects of icecream/cookies/cupcakes on Denman.

Beard Papa's on Urbanspoon

Chocoholic Buffet at Fleuri in Sutton Place Hotel

23 Feb

845 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC
V6Z 2K6

T: 604 642 2900
www.vancouver.suttonplace.com

Brief Description: Yes, you read correctly – a Chocolate Buffet! Set in the elegant Fleuri at Sutton Place, this is truly an indulgence.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a sweet tooth. I have never been able to (or really wanted to) grow out of my constant desire for sweet things – I just love them! So, when I heard that there is an actual all-you-can-eat Chocolate Buffet and it is located mere blocks away from my apartment, it was as though all of my childhood dreams had come true! The way it works is that there are two seatings; one at 6.00pm and one at 8.30pm and it only runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The cost is $28 per head ($14 for children) and I was determined to eat my $28 worth!

I was able to easily entice 3 other chocolate lovers (all female, of course!) to come with me and we excitedly trotted to Sutton Place, ready to indulge. We were all brimming with excitement – I’m glad that I wasn’t alone in my state of childhood exhilaration. It really is true that most women go weak in the knees for chocolate.

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As you walk into the room, your nose is met with the smell of chocolate. Your saliva glands start working over time. You crane your neck to take a glance over to the table in the middle of the room, and you gasp…“There it is!”… a chocolate smorgasbord is laid out in front of you for the taking. Of course you go through the niceties of politely taking your seat and allowing others to go first (“I’ll mind the bags”), when really; all you want to do is jump on to that table! Laid out before you is an assortment of chocolate delicacies; cakes, slices, puddings, pastries, a chocolate fondue fountain with pieces of fresh fruit (ummm, what are they doing in here!?). And to complete the experience, a chef is standing by to make you fresh crepes with a variety of different toppings, sauces and ice-creams or sorbets.

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I honestly felt like a child-hood dream had come true. Overall, I was quite impressed with the quality of the food. Most of the time, I am let down by the quality at buffets (although, strangely, I still find myself drawn back to them 🙂 ) but this was actually good.

There was a great selection of treats for all tastes; rocky road slice, chocolate croissant pudding, chocolate-stuffed profiteroles, white chocolate cake, mousse, marbled cheesecake, chocolate-coated shortbread cookies, chocolate and pecan pie…the list goes on. I did devour quite a lot of chocolate so towards the end I was a little chocolate-d out but that is when I switched my focus to the crepes. I had two of them and coated them with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Mmmmm! It gave me the savoury taste that I needed to bring me down from my chocolate high.

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Final Thoughts: This was a really fun experience. Obviously, it’s not something that you’d do all the time but I’d definitely recommend it if you can gather a bunch of girlfriends for a special occasion or maybe finish the night with a movie across the street.

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