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

Japanese · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Sushi

Minami – Yaletown

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For Beep Beep’s birthday, I picked Minami.  She invited her friends Doris, Emma, Tien, Vanessa and my friend Naomi. Naomi, Beep Beep and I arrived early at 6:55 p.m for our seven o’clock reservation. Doris arrived at 7:35 p.m. Emma came at about 7:40 p.m. because she went to the wrong restaurant. Vanessa was only 25 minutes late. Tien pushed convention and arrived at 9:10 p.m. For this post, let’s listen to Carole King It’s too late.

Naomi ordered Miyazaki #2 cocktail ($15). I ordered Beep Beep a bottle of sparkling nigiri – Yauemon Shu Awa ($56/500 ml). I wasn’t feeling well so I refrained from drinking alcohol. I did take a sip of the sparkling nigiri – it tasted like all the other ones I’ve tried. Slightly sweet, cloudy with a pleasant dry finish. I thought the sake was well priced compared to Calgary. The liquor stores in Vancouver also charge less for sake than the liquor stores in Calgary. I’m guessing this has do to with taxation and the liquor markup in Alberta.

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Beep Beep and I shared the Salmon Oshi ($17), Ebi Oshi ($17), and Saba Oshi ($17). Beep Beep liked the salmon version the best. The flavour of the BC wild sockeye salmon and miku sauce was enhanced by Minami’s flame-seared technique. We both took the jalapeño off because you never know when you get a really hot one. I liked how the salmon oshi had two layers of salmon, unlike the ebi and saba oshi.

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Initially, I thought I wouldn’t like the ebi oshi because the flavour profile would be more delicate than the salmon. I was pleasantly surprised that the ume sauce was deliciously smokey. The pressed shrimp had a nice bite, the lime zest added a refreshing zing to it.

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The house cured mackerel was our least favourite. The fish was fishy and the texture was a bit mushy. I also thought the miso sauce didn’t do much to jazz it up. The sushi rice was the perfect balance of sugar and vinegar, so that I couldn’t taste one over the other. The rice was served at below room temperature.

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Beep Beep and I shared the the Premium Trio Aburi Oshi Sushi ($25). My favourite bite was the hokkaido hotate and botan ebi, topped with mentaiko aioli and amaranth. The raw shrimp was cool and creamy. The scallop was sweet.

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I liked the combination in the albacore tuna and otoro oshi. The garnish of tobiko oroshi ponzu and yuzu zest made this bite pop. The quality of the Japanese wagyu and hickory smoked bacon was excellent. The garnish of wasabi negi relish on the meat reminded me of the combination of horseradish and prime rib.

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The deep-fried shrimp head was cold and flavourless. I think it would have been better if the shrimp was fresh out of the fryer, squirted with  lemon, with a little more salt.

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Next time I visit I want to try the shittake mushroom nigiri ($2) and eggplant ($2). Naomi thought the nigiri was plain and needed soy or tempura sauce, as neither were provided. You can order vegetarian nigiri either tempura style or regular style.

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Naomi ordered the Nutigreen Farms Crumbled Tofu Salad ($14). It’s a delicious and flavourful salad, filling too. Chock-full of goodies like avocado, crispy tempeh, organic baby greens, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, and shaved apple. It’s the type of salad that taste so good you know it’s high in calories.

I like Minami. The food is quite good and the prices are reasonable for the quality. I do prefer Miku over Minami for service, view and overall ambience. Hitting the Sauce gives Minami one fat thumb up.

Minami Restaurant 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

Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Rodney’s Oyster House – Yaletown v. Gastown Location

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My sister and her family was back in town, so L and I decided to visit. The first thing we did when we landed in Vancouver was to head to Rodney’s Oyster House for the “low-tide” specials, $1.50 oysters. My family can wait till after happy hour for us to visit. I had oysters to devour.

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We sat by the door, which emitted an occasional cool breeze. I ordered a Caesar ($10.25) while L ordered an IPA ($7.00). The caesar was pint size, filled with crushed ice, freshly grated horseradish, pepper and decorated with a large chilled shrimp. There is only one place that makes a better caesar than Rodney’s, and that’s the Lazy S in Calgary.

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I also ordered a glass of Burrowing Owl pinot gris ($10.50) which was poured to the brim. I giddily bent over to slurp the first sip of wine, as lifting it up to my mouth would mean spillage of this precious liquid.

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We started off with a dozen of the oysters on special. Each was shucked perfectly – there wasn’t any shell fragments. The oysters were sweet and creamy, so good that I only needed a squeeze of lemon. L made good use of the half dozen condiments on our table.

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I wanted to try the fried oysters, which was on special for only $12.99. We received six large oysters. The thin crispy coating of batter was dark and a tad burnt tasting, but the oysters themselves were perfectly cooked, soft and silky.

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The next day we headed to Rodney’s second location in Gastown. We sat upstairs in the loft section. While the ambience is newer and nicer than the Yaletown location, I prefer the original spot. The service and oyster shucking was superior at the Yaletown location.

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This time around, I ordered a glass of prosecco ($11) while L ordered an IPA for only $5.00. We ordered two dozen oysters. While the oysters tasted the same as the previous day, each one was filled with shell fragments. We saw other customers order the garlic prawns, clams, mussels and scallops. Of the bunch, the garlic prawns and scallops looked appetizing.

The service at the Gastown location was fine but it doesn’t compare to the charm that exudes from the servers at the Yaletown location. When we return in August, we plan to visit Rodney’s in Yaletown for oysters, garlic prawns and scallops.

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