Fast Food · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Steamworks & The Cambie

L and I were suppose to meet up with N for dinner. Around 3:00 p.m., we walked over to Gastown to kill time. Since this post is going old school, let’s listen to “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. L informed me that no one likes this song and it is hated by many.

We walked by The Lamplighter. I’ve only been here once before, when I brought L home to meet my family in 2010. He met my SFU buddy J. L, Moody and Cuz were so rowdy, they began purposely breaking glasses. I left early with Beep Beep, and after that night, J never hung out with me again. I asked L what he and his friends did to J. He said nothing and J seemed like he was having a good time.

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Since it was raining, we ducked into Steamworks.  There’s always fruit flies hanging around and the food isn’t good enough for me to eat, but there’s always seats and the location is convenient.

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I had one beer – Sanctuary – a collaboration between Blasted Church + Steamworks ($10, 500 ml, 7.5%). Blasted Church makes some decent BC white wines. The Gewürztraminer saison was light and peppery with citrus notes. It was so strong I felt intoxicated.

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I asked L if he wanted to walk the area I surveyed for my research project in 2008. He politely but firmly declined, and suggested instead we go for a drink in a nicer area. I mentioned the nearby watering hole, The Cambie, was closing for good this November.

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I’ve only hung out here a couple of times, at the request of work or school friends. The Cambie attracts a diverse, laid-back crowd. I was happy to see the conditions of the washrooms have improved. I recalled a poutine ($10) that I enjoyed 10 years ago and I wanted to try it again.

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The poutine was tasty, but there were fewer cheese curds than I remembered. The gravy was dark and salty. The fries were crispy and mealy. I’d order this again, but The Cambie won’t be open when I return.

At 6:00 p.m., N responded to my text, saying she would be ready around 7:00 p.m. However, that lone beer I drank from Steamworks made me dizzy, and not in a good way. My face was still red and I felt queasy. I told N that I would get something to eat to see if my condition would improve.

L and I popped into Kita no Donburi. I liked that all the dishes had the calories listed on the menu. I noticed most customers were eating tonkatsu curry (1,500 calories). The restaurant was busy, most likely due to the location and cheap prices.

L ordered Tendon ($9.95, 786 calories). His dish came with organic veggies, salad, two prawns, a purple yam, sweet potato, tofu crumbles, and kaki-age (mixed vegetables). He wasn’t impressed. He complained the tempura sauce was too small, and in Japan, tendon is served the sauce already poured over the tempura. I thought his dish was tastier than mine.

I ordered Chirashi ($12.50, 722 calories) even though I would have preferred the tendon. Dr. Quinn, my family doctor, has been after me to eat more fish. My bowl came with salmon, tuna, wild salmon, ebi, hokkigai, tamago, saba, ikura, spring mix lettuce and avocado. None of the ingredients tasted fresh or flavourful. Everyone thinks the food in Vancouver is so great. It can be amazing, but there’s a lot of mediocre restaurants here too. This was one of them.

I still wasn’t feeling well, so I cancelled plans with N. L and I took the train back to Richmond and I called my mother to pick us up. L asked me if I thought it was weird that my parents still drive me around. “I can rent a car when we visit so your parents don’t have to do that. We are adults.” This is the third time L has brought this subject up to me. I didn’t respond until we were in my mother’s car because I wanted Boss Lady to give him a definitive answer. She did, and that was the end of that.

Kita No Donburi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Restaurants · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Lupo

For our first night in Vancouver, L and I went our separate ways. He went on a bicycle and brewery tour with Moody and Cuz, while I took Beep Beep and N out for dinner. I’ve asked L before to set up N with his single friends, but he said she’ll eat them alive. When I told N, she agreed with L. Unlike me, she doesn’t like nice guys. In honour of N, let’s listen to “Bad Guy by Billie Eilish.

N recommended we dine at Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca, an Italian restaurant in Yaletown. Beep Beep and N suggested that I pick all the dishes and wine. I chose a bottle of Burrowing Owl ($96, Cabernet Sauvignon 2016). I found the wine full-bodied, intense but still fresh enough to sip on a warm summer night.

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We shared the Bufala Mozzarella ($20), Parmigiana Custard ($20), Ricotta Gnocchi ($28), Taglierini ($28), and an order of Focaccia Bread ($7.00). A server accidentally brought over a plate of Octopus Mosaic ($20). When he realized his mistake, he told us to enjoy the octopus appetizer on the house.

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We all thought the burrata was excellent. The cheese was creamy and smooth. The tomatoes were ripe and sweet. The organic greens were crisp and the basil noticeably fragrant. This dish rivaled the caprese salad at Cotto Italian in Calgary.

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I wasn’t as crazy about the Parmigiana Custard. The texture was smooth and rich, and I enjoyed the cheesy custard-like texture, but it didn’t stand out like the other dishes.

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We all loved the focaccia bread – it was ultra light with a crusty, airy exterior. The toppings of cheese, olive oil, cooked tomatoes and mushrooms made it almost pizza-like. The texture and flavour of Lupo’s bread is far superior to my homemade focaccia. I would order this again.

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If you are into tomatoes, you must order the ricotta gnocchi. The gnocchi was soft, warm and gooey. Beep Beep said she could taste the fresh tomatoes in the sauce. I liked the addition of the eggplant. This was Beep Beep’s favourite dish. N was tipsy at this point and didn’t comment on the food, except to say it was good.

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My favourite dish was the linguini with wild mushrooms. I enjoyed the sensation of crunching into the delicate earthy mushrooms. I found the chili and garlic oil downright decadent. I would order this again.

N informed me that Lupo is one of her go-to restaurants because of the excellent food, professional service, and the fact it’s a hidden gem in Vancouver. I enjoyed the food and company immensely. Hitting the Sauce gives Lupo two fat thumbs up.

Lupo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bakery · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Beaucoup Bakery

I don’t know how my friends in Vancouver stay so slim. Whenever I go back, there are so many great places to eat. Sushi, Indian, Chinese and a whole whack of sweet places like Bon Ton, Chocolate Arts, Ganache, and my new favourite, Beaucoup Bakery.

This tiny bakery is busy. Despite the steady line-up, staff were friendly and welcoming. There are a handful of tables and chairs for you to sit and enjoy an espresso drink and of course, eat one of their famous croissants.

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My buddy Jaime insisted I try a croissant. I opted for a petite pain au chocolat. The chocolate was dark and intense. The actual pastry was incredibly flaky. I’ve never had a croissant in which there seem to be endless layers.

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Jaime ordered a regular croissant, which looked massive. However, when you bite into the pastry, you see that it’s mostly air. When I’m back in Vancouver in October and I plan to bring my husband to this gem.

Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Indian · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Rangoli

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I met my friend Jaime at Rangoli for lunch. I’ve eaten at Rangoli a few times before and I found the food consistently delicious. I particularly enjoy the vegetarian dishes, which I think are tastier than the meat options.

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Jaime ordered a chai tea and I ordered a Jongleur beer from Strange Fellows Brewery ($7). I liked the spice and orange notes, which paired well with the curries we ordered.

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Jaime and I shared two dishes: Portobello Mushroom and Red Pepper Curry on Paneer ($17) and the Grilled Eggplant with Basmati risotto ($18).

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The paneer on the eggplant was subtle. I really liked the char taste of the grilled eggplant. The creamy coconut curry sauce was delicious. The toasted pumpkin seeds gave the dish a little crunch.

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Of the two dishes, the Portobello Curry was my favourite. The beet salad had a nice tartness to it and I loved the crunchy texture. The red peppers were sweet. The sauce creamy and spicy and went so well with the silky, meaty mushrooms.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about our lunch was the service. Our server was curt to us from the beginning of the meal right up to the end. Though we were there for less than an hour, he made it clear that he wanted to turn the table, despite the fact I had beer left in my glass. I’m a fast eater and drinker too. Normally I wouldn’t make a big deal about this but isn’t this Vij’s restaurant? He is the king of hospitality. I would expect this service from a cash only, no frills Chinese restaurant, not a restaurant from Vij. In any case, the food is delicious. Hitting the Sauce gives the food at Rangoli two fat thumbs up.

Rangoli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Dim Sum

Vancouver – Red Star

I like Red Star. My parents hosted my wedding reception at the Richmond location. I heard that their dim sum is pretty good too. I suggested to Beep Beep that we enjoy our last lunch together at Red Star’s Marpole location.

Red Star offers free parking, though there are limited stalls. When we arrived, I noticed several parties were ordering crab and lobster to supplement their dim sum feast. It took a while for the dishes to come out, but everything that arrived was hot and fresh.

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Beep Beep asked me to order radish cake.  The image below is what showed up at our table. I mistakenly ordered radish shrimp cake instead of radish cake with pork. She wanted the latter, which comes in stacked white pan-fried squares, soft on the inside and the perfect comfort food. I didn’t care for shrimp cake that I ordered,  as it had a gummy texture and was too oily.

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The how gow wasn’t bad. The shrimp ball was large, sweet and crunchy. However, I found the wrapper too soft and moist. The how gow wrapper broke too easily when I picked it up with my chopsticks.

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The pan-fried soy sauce rice rolls with chives and sprouts is one of my all-time favourite dim sum dishes. Red Start does a good job. The chives were a flavourful  addition.

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Beep Beep wanted to order the rice roll doughnuts. I don’t care for this dish because I always find the deep-fried doughnut greasy. We received a little dish with two dark sauces you can use to dip the doughnuts into.

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The deep-fried bean curd with pea tips and shrimp was the best dish. I found the filling vibrant from the generous amount of pea tips. Red Star doesn’t cheap out in the amount of shrimp either. I would happily order this dish again. I noticed most tables ordered the stuffed bean curds.

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The sui mai was tasty. The juicy pork, Chinese mushroom and shrimp mixture made for pleasant chomping. Again, I found the wrapper over-steamed.

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Overall, I enjoyed dim sum at Red Star. Some of the dishes are superior to what I get in Calgary but the how gow and sui mai could use a little more finesse. The total bill for seven dishes was around $60.00.

Red Star Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Bars/Lounges · Fusion · Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Chambar – Brunch

If I could take restaurant back to Calgary, it would be Chambar. Brunch here is divine. The food was delicious and different from the usual breakfast joints I frequent in Cowtown. This ain’t no greasy spoon.

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I could talk about the excellent service we received at the bar, the delightful cocktails, or the bright, open space. However, what really wowed me were the flavours of the dishes.

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My friend Naomi always orders the same thing at Chambar – the vegetarian version of the Paella ($15.00). After seeing and smelling her dish, I wish I ordered it too. A pilaf of curried orzo is heaped with zucchini, red peppers and corn, then topped with arugula, cilantro, avocado, a tomato salad and a fried egg. I liked the bright colours and the strong use of spices in this dish.

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My Tajine ($16.00) was bursting with different flavour and fresh herbs. The spice from themerguez sausage and heat from the saffron tomato stew warmed me right up. Also in my dish were fried chickpeas and two poached eggs.

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If you want something other than eggs benny or pancakes for brunch, head over to Chambar. I would rank Chambar as one of my favourite places for lunch in Vancouver. The prices are very reasonable and the food is delicious.

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Chambar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour · Seafood · Special Occasion · Vancouver/Richmond

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

I met up with my friend Tanya and her husband, Doug, at Joe Fortes for happy hour. Just an FYI – the bar area easily fits groups of two, but getting a table for anything more than that proved difficult. I arrived at 4:00pm and I waited until 4:45pm for a table. We ended up sitting at the bar.

The wait was worth it. Though the bar seating was cramped, the bartenders were attentive and friendly. Our $5.00 glasses of house white wine and waters were constantly topped up. The house wine tasted better than the $13.00 dollar glasses I get at my local pub.

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I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for my dinner at Cioppino’s so I just ordered six Dollar Oysters ($6.00). The oysters were cold and fresh and tasted like a west coast variety. Again, these were as good as the full price oysters I pay for in Calgary.

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Doug ordered the Mini Atlantic Lobster & Shrimp Rolls shrimp ($10.95). I took a little bite of the lobster and shrimp mixture. There was a generous amount of seafood in a tangy remoulade sauce. The bread was cute, shaped like a baby loaf. I would order this dish.

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Tanya ordered the Jumbo Tiger Prawn Cocktail, which came with fresh horseradish and cocktail sauce ($11.95). She didn’t say much about the shrimp and kept picking at Doug’s rolls, since he wouldn’t eat the bread.

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If I wasn’t saving my appetite, I would have ordered the Fried Oysters ($8.95), Crispy Calamari ($9.95) and Oyster Rockefeller ($13.95). I don’t know about you, but when I drink on an empty stomach, I tend to get social. I chatted up our neighbours who did order those dishes. They allowed me to snap a picture of their food and told me everything tasted amazing. I didn’t take a picture of the fried oysters, because they already half devoured the dish and the plate was not picture taking worthy.

With the poor exchange and Alberta’s current economy, it looks like most of my vacations will be in Vancouver, visiting my friends and family. It just so happens I’ll be back in March to celebrate The Yen’s bday, so I’ll be returning to Joe Fortes.

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Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Vancouver/Richmond

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill

I’m really surprised that some Vancouverites on Yelp and Zomato complain about the prices at Ciopinno’s. Yes, it is spendy but hello people, look around you. The room is gorgeous and intimate. The glassware sparkles in the candle-lit room. The staff are professional and have service down to an art. If you want a bowl of inexpensive but delicious pasta, then line-up for over an hour at Ask for Luigi and sit in a cramped table in a packed noisy room. If you want to have a leisurely experience with expertly prepared food and service, well, save up and splurge here.

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I took my older sister – Me Shell- here for dinner. We haven’t dined out together since 2009 and I wanted to impress her. So I chose one of the nicest looking restaurant with the best reputation in the city. Plus, I saw the chef, Pino, on Anthony Bourdain’s show and therefore, the restaurant could do no wrong.

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While I was waiting for my sister to arrive, Pino came out to say hello. I shouted “You’re Pino!” I’m sure he knew that indeed, he was Pino and what I was saying wasn’t new to him. He smiled and nodded. When I get excited, I tend to state the obvious and talk too loudly.

Me Shell arrived late and announced she wasn’t drinking. That was fine with me. I already met with my girlfriend at Joe Fortes, so I was drinking for two. I ordered glass of white wine – SB Vieu Pin ($13.00) while she drank a virgin mojito ($7.00). We shared the following dishes: Carpaccio ($18.00); Mozzarella di Bufala ($25.00); Pappardelle ($25.00), Veal Ossobuco (38.00), Classic Sicilian Cannoli ($12.00) and an American ($3.25). Our server split the portions for us at our table.

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Me Shell’s favourite dish is Carpaccio. She orders it at every restaurant. The AAA  Canadian beef  was sliced finely, beautifully fanned out and covered in fresh arugula, Parmigiano, and Harry’s bar mustard dressing.

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The Mozzarella di Bufala special came with pickled vegetables. The cheese had an amazing texture and almost melted in your mouth.

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The Pappardelle was one of my favourite dishes. I’m a sucker for pasta. You could smell the beef in this dish the moment it hit the table. The noodles were light with a nice bite to it. The four hour-braised veal cheeks were rich, tangled with porcini mushrooms. Our server paired this dish with a glass of red, Crognolo ($18), which I really enjoyed drinking.

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The Veal Ossobuco came with saffron risotto. I enjoyed eating the marrow. The risotto was cooked perfectly. The portion was large enough for both of us. I was very full after sharing the four courses.

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For dessert, we shared the Classic Sicilian cannoli filled with light ricotta cream and mascarpone sorbet. Simple but delicious. The sorbet was my favourite part, rich, sweet and creamy.

If you haven’t tried Cioppino’s and you appreciate classic Italian food, do come here. I’ll be back and recommend this restaurant to all my friends and family in Vancouver and Calgary. Next on my wish list is Hawksworth.

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Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato