Thursday, August 01, 2019

My Secret Taco Place - Molli Café on Burrard, at Davie

Four tacos is a good-sized meal for me

I stop at this unassuming coffee shop after work sometimes, and I love the wonderful tacos, tortas, and horchata.  I've even had a Mexican concha bun, though I haven't seen it every time.  I've also had the lamb soup that is only sold on Saturdays and it was very nice, but there are other soups throughout the week too.  Don't forget the nice sauces in the squeeze bottles, including spicy ones for your tacos and tortas.  But the owner hasn't let me forget as she has grabbed those and brought them over with the food.  I had the beef tongue torta, and it was delicious with nice crusty bread and a generous amount of avocado too.  My favourite taco is the pork one, and my personal least favourite is the chorizo one, but I'll eat all of them happily, and could easily eat all five types in one sitting.  They are done just how I like them with double corn tortilla and lots of cilantro and onion (depending on the taco), lime on the side, and tasty fillings.

Concha and horchata

Beef tongue torta

Taco close-up


This Saturday lamb soup was take-out, shown in my own bowl

The offerings are an odd mix of Mexican and Persian because this place was first started up by a couple of originally from Mexico, and then sold to the Persian owner.  The original owners had, according to articles, actually had both worked at some of the world's best restaurants, both in Spain:  the famous El Bulli (now closed) and El Cellar de Can Roca, the latter being my absolute favourite restaurant in the world.  Unfortunately, I have never met those owners, but their dishes live on with the new owner, who exudes this wonderful warm hospitality.  It's as if you were visiting her home and she's happy to host you.  I think she cooks everything herself but they are open every day from 8am - 9pm.  I love that they are open in the evening though, but I wonder if she's always there, and can keep these hours up.  It's just off the busy Davie St. so it's not as noticeable as other places, including another taco place...I really hope that Molli Café gets enough business.

Of the non-Mexican items, I have only tried the Baklava.  These tacos might be my pick for the best in the whole city (squaring off with La Taqueria on Cambie St.), and it tickles me that it's in a place where you might pass by day after day (like I did, sadly) without even realizing that they serve Mexican food.  I wish I had found it sooner and experienced the place as it was first opened up, but I am glad to have found it now.  The vibe is super relaxing in there, with a couple of little tables on the street even, in the warm weather.  It's absolutely a great place to just have coffee and a pastry too, and relax alone, or chat with a friend.

Basically, it's a foodie dream - high quality, delicious, authentic food in a comfortable hideaway with amazing service.  The unexpectedness really makes it feel like a buried treasure foodie find.  It's so satisfying in many ways.  Tacos are not just for Tuesdays. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Super Hiro for Multi-course Tasting Menus in Vancouver

The same person that will blow a wad of cash on several small plates at a hipster restaurant will turn around and say that a tasting menu of the same number of dishes at a Japanese restaurant and same or even less cost is just too expensive.  This $65 omakase was good value for me. 

The food here is exquisite in flavour and composition, and I found it to be almost a therapeutic exercise in appreciating the purposeful design of each of the dishes.  The service was really amazing as well, and I loved chatting with the two women and the chef who came out often on this quiet stormy night.

I believe in your super powers, Hiro. Please continue your good work.

See below for my photos. Unfortunately, it's a bit fuzzy in my memory and I can't remember which fish was in each dish, but it was all wonderful in taste and texture. I'll go again soon.  

Potato Salad (which is very popular in Japan and in Korea)

Sashimi Course

Fish Close-up

The omakase included so many types of fish that I had never had.

Brie is melted on this fish dish.

The restaurant was empty on this stormy night with extreme winds.

These pieces of fried fish were served with a delicious broth, and the servers said that it could be poured in, or dipped in on the side or whatever I wanted. I tried both, and then I drank the rest of it. It was served in a beautiful mug with a handle after all, and I wouldn't have wanted it to go to waste.

The nigiri sushi was amazing and was topped delicately with other flavours as you can see. 
One of these was compliments of the chef.

Even the pickled ginger on the side was a bit different with some herb mixed in with it. 

Green tea mousse or something like that. Vanilla ice cream, berry sauce. 

Fast Food and Biscuits

New honey-butter biscuits

Just in case you have the impression that I only enjoy high-end food, here is some fast food that brought me perhaps a disproportionate amount of joy recently.  New to my area, here are the honey-butter biscuits from Church's Chicken.  There are other fast food companies, like KFC, that have biscuits in other areas, but don't include biscuits in their menu here in Vancouver because it's not really a thing here like it is in the south. Having lived in Georgia, I appreciate a good biscuit, and I'm I'm sure other Vancouverites would too. A new biscuit-centred restaurant named Chewie's Biscuits has recently opened in Kitsilano, but I haven't had a chance to try it, with their limited hours that conflict with my work schedule.  Plus the biscuit I'm looking for would be light and fluffy.  We have scones here which are sort of a dried out, harder, sweeter biscuit that people have at breakfast or with tea (though if they are done well, they don't have to be as dry and puck-like as they normally are).  

To be honest, the biscuits pictured above were not that light and fluffy compared to the style of biscuit in the south, and actually they were considerably shorter than those in Church's advertising photos, so it might have been an execution issue, but it was soft and airy inside, and the top is crunchy with that honey butter-glaze all over, and I honestly enjoyed it.  They kind of look like my latest attempt at making my own biscuits where they didn't puff like I wanted them to, but they were still tasty.  Maybe it's my scone heritage that allows me to embrace these (metaphorically, the honey-butter glaze would stick to everything otherwise).

Also, the chicken skin was so perfectly crispy this time.  I remembered to ask for all dark meat as the Main St. location seems to err on the side of overfrying in my past visits.  

My cat sniffing the biscuits for me.  She walked away afterwards.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Notch8 for an Elegant Sunday Brunch Buffet, Hotel Vancouver, Downtown

Let's buffet like it's 1999!  Diets weren't meant to last forever.  I had a very good holiday meal here.  My kind of New Year's fireworks?  Blowtorch flames on motoyaki sauce.

Chef Will Lew flaming the motoyaki sauce atop the customized egg and toast.

I found this Sunday brunch while I was looking for a buffet to lavishly celebrate the New Year with a feast and it fit the bill for me, even though it is a day early and in the afternoon.  I normally don't get to do Sunday brunch because of my work, so I was particularly excited for this and I took joy in studying the menu thoroughly ahead of time and even looked at some videos online in anticipation.

Customized egg on toast

I admit that I was already a fan of the restaurant and the Chef's creative ecosystem/nature themes, having dined there a couple of times before. I've also been eyeing the menus for the fantastically themed afternoon teas and hope to try one eventually. I loved meeting Chef at the egg and toast station.  There are many options to choose from, but I asked for the sous vide egg with smashed avocado and crab meat, and asked for anything else he thought would be good with that.  Pictured above, it also has some herbed cream cheese, salmon slices, and shrimp on there, topped with motoyaki sauce and torched.  One of my favourite things about dining out is experiencing ingredients that I have never had before or becoming more familiar with their distinct taste.  In this dish, the garnishes of micro shiso and arctic char roe did that for me. So now I know that I like cute baby red shiso which is milder than the grown-up green type. Fun! It's so nice when people are as friendly as the chef was and happy to answer questions.  I was also curious about the sous vide egg texture so I liked the opportunity to try it.  This one had a very runny yolk, so the technique is a bit lost on me since my personal preference is a thicker yolk anyway.  But I could see how effectively it can completely cook the white without cooking the yolk at all.  And I love this version of a buffet egg station because I'm much more of a poached egg person than an omelette person, so the sous vide eggs work well for this. And the end result is therefore more eggciting than an omelette which has become a standard at buffets. 

For me, the atmosphere put together in the room can really make a big difference in a dining experience.  This place is so cozy with low ceilings, a nice fireplace, and stylish furniture.  In general, this results in a much more "civilized" easy-going vibe than a typical noisy buffet and I appreciated it.  

Service was pretty good. I thought that the hostess was great. Servers do try to clear dishes right away and replace cutlery.  I'm kind of a stickler for a clean table (at this price point especially), so if I could pick one thing to improve for this experience, I would say that the dirty dishes could have been tidied and replaced better (started pretty good, but especially at the end when my dining companions had to leave and I was staying for a bit, some of their dirty dishes were there for a while and not sure why he would leave them when he would have been the one to deal with their bills.  Also, once I had cutlery taken away while I was gone but when I got back, I had to wait for the server to get close enough for me to ask for a new set). 

I also think that the server could have offered the Caesar and therefore explained the Caesar situation (he did offer coffee/tea though) because I wound up asking the bartender for a glass at the Caesar station and he had to tell me to go back and ask the server and it seemed a bit of a run around (and not particularly friendly), until I realized that the server also puts the vodka in the glass and that this is how they keep track of each guest getting just one. The bartender could have taken the extra second to explain that in a friendly way right away, instead of just "ask your server for the glass", which made it seem at first like he wasn't willing to give me a glass that was right there. He explained a bit more when I looked awkwardly confused, but a smile would go a long way, and I'm sure I'm not the first person to be confused by this, and he needs to remember that it isn't the customer's fault that when they are confused, especially considering how much I studied for this meal, lol. When my guests arrived, the server did remember to ask them and I had it all figured out by then. I think I got all the service misfires for our table. However, we did have a nice carafe of coffee for the table which meant that there was usually some coffee available without having to rely on the server to refill, water was refilled, and he was definitely polite and friendly, so it was fine. When I arrived, and was shown to our table, there was another four top right next to it that had better lighting and I politely asked about it, but they said that was for four people, and my group had three, which I accepted, but honestly, I don't think it should have mattered to them that much since both of the tables were meant to hold up to four with reasonable flow and I was clearly showing a preference for that table when the party that was going to fill might not even have a preference. I had reserved a table for four weeks in advance (but someone cancelled).  

Hotels are all about service, so these small things do stick out more because of that standard. It wasn't the type of service where everything is thought of for you, or they keep checking on you, and you don't have to flag someone down to ask for anything.  But it wasn't bad enough for me to not want to come back plus you never know if you'll get a different experience with different people anyway.  

Caesar Station (one shot is included in the buffet price)

Coffee or tea is included, and juices and nice smoothies are out on the table too.  The $59 cost includes a Caesar, which you can make yourself at the Caesar station once the server gives you your vodka shot in a rimmed glass.  I think they could have done with some skewers for the multitude of garnishes as some were shorter than the glass, but I guess at least it saves some waste by not having them there. There wasn't a Notch8 mixer (if you wind up studying the menu too, lol), just Clamato and Walters.

My first plate. Gotta hit that prime rib.

The carving station is usually a priority for me at a buffet, and here it did not disappoint!  Make a bee line to it like I did.  I was actually planning to start taking more photos first, but I couldn't help myself and had to pick up some meat first.  They cook their prime rib overnight, and it was beautiful. So tender and all of it nice and red.  I ate every bit.  There was also Yorkshire pudding, jus, horseradish, and the wonderful addition of chimichurri sauce. 

I believe that if you were to come for dinner, just a main dish of prime rib without any drinks or appies would cost $49, so while $59 might seem high for a brunch buffet, I feel that it was well worthwhile because you are getting dinner quality food, but are just eating it in the afternoon.  Just as a local buffet pricing comparison, right now even the mediocre River Rock is charging $50 (without alcoholic drink) for their buffet because of the Christmas season.  The other carving item changes, but today it was my other favourite, turkey!  I had some of the dark and the white and was surprised at how nice it was - it was moist and tender, and not dry. You will not get that at the River Rock, lol.  Gravy and cranberry sauce accompanied.  There was a mixed veg dish that had different colours of cauliflower plus kale, brussel sprouts, with chili flakes, parmesan, lemon that would go nicely with this, but not pictured on this plate.  I also tried the various smoked salmons, salmon candy, cold prawns, cheeses, porchetta hash, and some other things.  I liked how the salmon offerings were served on halved logs, but I was so distracted that I forgot to take photos. 

It's nice that there are pre-made back bacon eggs bennies as an option, but don't forget, you can get a customized egg and toast.

Not pictured, but the chicken and pork sausages were tasty and I think I can be a bit picky about sausages as I have definitely met a sausage or two that I didn't like.  There were crepes, waffles and the usual breakfast suspects but I didn't have the room to try them.

Some of the breakfast pastries

I tried the mini almond croissant and really enjoyed it. I skipped all the other breads, cereals, two types of yoghurts because I didn't have room, but it all looked nice. Wish I could have tasted more of the mini muffins and pastries.

One of the people I dined with reported that the salads were very good.  I liked the fresh fruit and smoothies here.

Several beautiful desserts with pretty garnishing were available. In my buffet imagination, I thought that I was going to try a bit of all the desserts but I hit the wall after I started the first few. I chose the mini crème brûlée as someone came by with a tray of fresh ones, and it was nice.  I also had a tiny tiny pumpkin pie topped with a layer of apple jelly glaze, and pumpkin seeds, and I liked that the plate was decorated with long chocolate sticks like a sweet game of pick up sticks. I also had a slice of this nice fluffy holiday white Bûche de Noël (there was also a brown one). I prefer to spread my food out on the plate and just go up more often but I still wound up overdoing it like a buffet newbie. Walked it off for a bit, and just won't need to eat for the rest of the day.

My final plate...for the day.

Thanks, Notch8, for this feast!  Keep rocking the buffet at full throttle!  Btw, I love the train theme elements in the restaurant name and I think in the design of the cute little curtained booths in the dining room. I won't have a Sunday off for a while, but they do a breakfast buffet all of the other days too that might be worth checking out but it probably won't have that prime rib... Chugga chugga, choo choo!

Friday, January 19, 2018

6 Degrees Eatery - A Coal Harbour Café

This is all you would want in a neighbourhood café.  It's a great little friendly, relaxing, and comfortable place.  Food and drink are good.  I've had cappuccinos, Earl Grey tea, wine, almond croissant, truffle mac and cheese with ham, and ale stew, and all were high quality.  Great service, good value for the area, especially with happy hour specials and a view of the harbour, comfortable decor, and pretty dishware and cutlery.

I've often wanted a café where you can not only stay a while having coffee, but also have the option to have some savoury food.  I feel comfortable doing either here.  And they even have beer, wine, and spirits!  It's been a while since I've been there, but they did full table service.  I actually enjoyed that, because they really didn't rush me out on any visit even though they were tending the tables.  They also have a little convenience shop going on in the corner, presumably so that people in the nearby hotel (and maybe even the condos) can grab necessities like milk or other items, and take them to their room.  

For warmer weather, they have a little patio area, and even encourage dogs by having a banana shaped dog bed out there.  You can watch people strolling along the seawall while enjoying your coffee or a glass of wine.  In the window, i imagine the pedestrian traffic is too slow for them to stay open at night, but I hope they are able to open at night again when the weather warms up.  

Longer night hours, along with a couple of larger substantial main dishes (though their food tends to be more tapas style), and a few special house cocktails, would make this place perfect.  

Monday, January 01, 2018

"Secret" Cuchillo

I admit it, I was intrigued by Cuchillo because it had no other sign than its beautiful purple neon skull.  No menu posted in the window, or hours, or a name.  But there's always Google maps.  I stumbled across this place on Powell St amidst so many other hipster-filled restaurants and cafés (in the Crosstown and Chinatown area), and I'd been having bad luck with them, finding them overpriced and, well, too "hipster-y" (y'know, trying to be cool, but just ending up impractical in an arrogant yet clichéd way...).  I am a big fan of Latin food, and I'm so glad I gave Cuchillo a try.  While I still spent quite a bit there, I found prices really reasonable and large portions helped make it feel like good value.  The food was delicious.  The cocktail was refreshing, and even though it had typically sweet flavours (lychee, lemonade), it was well balanced, and not cloying.  Service was warm and attentive.  Another server besides my main server checked in with me also during the night.  The vibe was good - somewhat relaxed, even with large groups of people having a good time.  My only quibble, that I can put up with, is that they have almost exclusively high top tables and stools, and as a shorter person, I always prefer low chairs.  But I'd definitely go back.  

 The Secret Garden

Blistered shisito chilies with coriander hummus, salsa mocha, patacone, $9

 Cornbread Azul, guajillo chili butter, $9

 Lamb (meatball) taco topped with popcorn and cheese, $12 for 2 tacos

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dae Bak Bon Ga on Robson St. (Upstairs) for AYCE Korean BBQ

Clockwise from lower left: thick soybean paste sauce (not spicy), sesame oil/pepper/salt dipping sauce, kimchi, vegetable pancake pieces, sweetened potato, spicy pork steak, marinated pork steak, mini bibimbap, long tray of 2 servings each of spicy pork belly and green tea pork belly, japchae.

Soju and orange juice cocktail

This place is actually not bad if you are very hungry and you go for the Happy Hour AYCE BBQ special for $18 between 3-5pm. And if you're not too picky about service. It only includes three types of meat - pork belly, pork, and pork steak. You have a 1.5 hour limit instead of their normal two hour AYCE time limit.

Or if you want more variety (including some torched sushi), or come outside of happy hour times, it would be about $26 for just pork belly and pork, or about $30 including beef and chicken for AYCE. I read some reviews before coming back here, and I remember not really liking the place a long time ago, so I was a bit worried, but I figured it was worth trying with the special. I enjoyed the side dishes. I love japchae, and it had a nice texture. I liked the mini bibimbap (veg on rice), sweetened potatoes, and the fried dumplings. I wasn't into the curry sauce on the rice noodles as much, but that's a new additional side that isn't even on their website yet (spicy cold noodles and fried rice are also new additions).

My main server was gruff and unfriendly-ish, and I couldn't get him to smile back at me no matter how nice and polite and smiling I was. But two other waiters were totally friendly and smiling and didn't act like serving customers was an inconvenience. This main server explained the rules of ordering a bit like I was a criminal waiting to cause trouble, but he did try to explain everything. I had to ask for tea every time my cup was empty (I had 3 cups of tea in addition to the cocktail that I ordered) even when he came to clear dishes right next to where I had put my empty cup, so he wasn't trying to check tea. He did bring things when I asked, but put the tea cup really far away from me when he brought it. He didn't even give me the AYCE menus - I knew to ask for Happy Hour.

Auto gratuity for any group size? Yes, they add on 15%. As reflected in online reviews, this could be really annoying just on principle, especially when your server did not deserve that much (15% is usually for "good" service, and 20% or more for "excellent", and today it was "adequate" service with some issues). It's definitely not the norm in Vancouver (where it is usually used for groups around 6 or more). But functionally, the tip only wound up being a few dollars today, so it didn't bother me, and also because I knew to expect it before going in because I read reviews beforehand. Plus at the end of the meal, when the friendly server (the new one, probably starting the dinner shift) gave me the card machine, he even pointed out to me that the tip was already added so that I didn't need to add on more, which I thought was very good of him.

Expect server customer service skills to vary widely, but there were other servers around to help besides my main server anyway. I know that in Japanese izakaya places, it's part of the culture to ask for things that you need, rather than expecting servers to anticipate your needs and check on you throughout. So if you don't mind catching the attention of servers and asking for what you need explicitly, you will probably be just fine with this place. If you come for dinner time, you could possibly get only the nice server and never encounter the gruff one who was just trying to get the bare minimum done. But at least he wasn't goofing off, and he was working busily and cleared off dirty dishes fairly well, so it wasn't hard to find him, but he was just not really that attentive or pleasant. For example, he ordered me to go pay at the front counter when he saw that I was getting ready to finish, but later, the new server who looked like he was starting his shift came by and checked on me and asked me if I needed anything. He also saw that I was ready for the bill and brought it to me on a little tray (as restaurants do) and then the mobile card machine.

The service will not stop me from coming to this restaurant, and I enjoyed the food and the process of grilling. You get a nice long set of tongs and big scissors to cut your meat. I like the sesame seed with salt and pepper for a dipping sauce, but I was indifferent to the thicker light brown one that I think had a base of bean paste.

Here's my big tip for ordering: make a very small order of meat in the first round to see it first, especially if you are wanting to try all the various marinades available eventually. I ordered too much in the first round, and wound up trying only 4 variations. The server did try to explain the whole "8 pieces" meat limit per order/round thing to me, and assured me that even if I filled up the paper and ordered 4 rounds, that he could just bring me another sheet (one yelp reviewer thought that they would have to stop at 4). He also used the word "pieces." Anyway, I wound up only being able to fit in 1 round. Even though I thought I understood what he was saying, in actuality a "piece" wound up not being a single chunk of meat (even though the ordering sheet said "1 piece" next to each meat item) but an entire order which had at least double the amount I was expecting. So my first round of 8, I wrote down 2 green tea pork belly, 2 spicy pork belly, 2 marinated pork steak and 2 spicy pork steak. The steaks were huge slabs of meat (I thought steak was a descriptor for the type of meat, and it was going to be cut into small pieces, but they were about the size of my palm), and I think I got 3 of each, instead of 2 small bite-size pieces each that I was expecting. I think that there was about 4 pieces of pork belly for each order, giving me 16 thick slices of pork belly in addition to maybe 6 big steaks! And I thought I only ordered eight little bites of meat. You can see all the meat in the photo. I really should have put down 1 for each, and not worried about going up to 8 orders (I was influenced by a review that complained that the limit of eight per round slowed things down, so I thought it was just a little meat each round, but 8 portions was a LOT of meat, and you can order another round right away anyway, so this shouldn't be an issue, and the limit probably helps reduce people accidentally wasting food. I know for a lot of people (especially coming in larger groups) would enjoy the fact that there is so much meat per portion, but I would prefer being able to have more precision and be able to order smaller amounts. .

For the seasonings, while I liked the green tea sprinkled on top of the plain pork belly, the marinated versions (called "marinade and spicy sauce) versions were much more tender, so I would stick with them and not plain pork belly or green tea. The server that brought the meat was going to put the meat down on the grill for me (which is nice service), but I asked to do it myself. I disliked in the past when a server wouldn't let me do that, and insisted on putting all the meat on the grill (I think to save having to clean multiple grills) but this wound up being the main reason I didn't visit for years. I like to cook a little as I go so that it doesn't get cold and not have to watch all the meat (not good at multi-tasking, so it takes away from me trying to enjoy the food) and then we have to rush to pull all the meat off in a fury. This time, when I asked, the server was quite happy to let me take care of it, and I put down one of each type first. Also, I got a clean grill change midway without asking. Not something I really needed, but I appreciated the service.

I recommend this for an AYCE in the area (and there are few left), if you looking for that and to grill your own food specifically. This restaurant also serves set lunch meals, and you can order separate dishes too for lunch or dinner, but I'm not sure how well this restaurant measures up to the other Korean restaurants in the area. With AYCE, you may have lower quality and less interesting flavours in food than a regular restaurant meal, but I personally enjoy having so much variety to choose from, and that you can make up a meal with many little tiny tastes. It feels very free to me to be paying a set price, and choosing whatever combination I like as I go along. I was really in the mood for something like this, and I also considered nearby Shabusen on Burrard (upstairs) which has lots of sushi, Japanese dishes, and several meat choices for the grill, but fewer Korean sides. Shabusen lunch is comparable to this Happy Hour price, with a lunch AYCE at $17.50 every day, but they close at 2:30 pm, and last call for food is 2:15 pm. Or you can have dinner at 5 pm onwards, at $27.95 with even more variety to choose from (including lamb, mussels and shrimp for no extra charge).  But no japchae or sweetened potatoes...or Karaoke, if you're into that. At one point, I thought I heard a child or animal repeatedly wailing in distress far off in the distance (very faintly, not a problem) and realized that it might just be a woman doing karaoke, but cannot confirm that.

I feel like doing this type of meal improves with a tiny bit of experience to develop skills (grilling and ordering), so I will probably give it another go at some point.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Fez Café Bistro on Robson

I found delicious North African food in a cosy environment with great hospitality right on Robson St. (at Jervis Street) downtown.  I don't know much about Algerian food, but I loved basically all the dishes that I tried here in two recent visits.  When you walk in, everything about Fez Café Bistro is cozy and comforting - the room has big cushioned benches along the side, North African patterns everywhere, tajines and other decorations, and wonderful multi-coloured lights hanging from the ceiling.  You are also greeted with warmth and a little taste of mint tea right away.  It's been chilly and wet outside for both of my visits, and this was a perfect retreat from the weather.

I don't usually go for vegetarian food, but they had a vegan four-course meal (the appetizer course also included several different items - stuffed grape leaves, salad, three dips) that was really delicious, satifying and to me, a great value at about $30.  I'd gladly take vegetarian friends here.

This was a very nice, vegetable soup.

There is a choice of veggie couscous or veggie tagine in this set meal, and I had the couscous.  I was really taken by how buttery and delicious the vegetables were, even though there wouldn't have been any butter in the dish since it's vegan.  You can have a similar set meal with a choice of a number of meat dishes too (listed in the menu for two people or more), or just order à la carte.

This extra sauce is to add to your couscous dish as you go along.  The toppings are already served on top of your couscous so it is nice to be able to add extra sauce to your liking if you don't like your couscous too soggy.  When you order a tajine instead of couscous, you get a side dish of rice separately and the tajine (clay conical vessel, but also the name for the stew) holds your sauce.  I didn't get a good picture, but they bring the tajine with the conical lid to your table, and then take away the top.  

I was even given a choice of dessert at the end, and more tea with the table d'hôte meal.

On my second recent visit, I tried the bouraka beef and it was delicious and quite substantial.

This chicken tajine was ordered by someone else.  I had a taste, but much preferred my choice, shown below, the couscous royale for more flavour and variety.

The couscous is topped with plenty of veggies and chickpeas, a skewer each of beef, chicken, and two merguez sausages ($24).  I think there may have been another skewer of lamb as well, but I can't remember exactly. At any rate, it was a lot of food (I had some for lunch the next day) and all very tasty.  They give you a gravy boat of more tasty vegetable broth/sauce to add as you go along also.

Our large group got these wonderful tiny baklawa (I think) treats compliments of the house. Dates stuffed with marzipan, and beautiful little date and nut cakes with filo pastry layers on the bottom.

This Fez chocolate date cake was really nice, and was my favourite dessert aside from the baklava. 

I have noticed that it's been somewhat quiet on my visits, especially compared to the ramen shop next door which is super busy all the time.  I do enjoy that type of atmosphere because I find quiet restaurants relaxing, but I really hope that they do well enough to survive.  I think a lot of people around this area downtown aren't as familiar with the food of North African countries, but this place makes it really accessible and it's delightful to try something different.  This particular neighbourhood  of downtown is overrun with bustling ramen shops, so I welcome this unique gem.