Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Café Phin and Pho, on Denman

Oops, sometimes I get excited and start eating before I remember to take a photo.  Normally, I try to spare the public and the restaurant from pictures of my half decimated food.  In this case though, I really wanted to give a shout out to this great little Vietnamese place on Denman Street, at Nelson, called Café Phin and Pho. Their food is really fresh, the flavours are balanced and interesting, and the service is really friendly - they always make me feel welcome.  It is a little counter service place , and is fairly new.  Portions are big, too.  I find it a good sign that their reading material has food magazines.  I've been here several times.  I am so happy to have such a good pho place downtown.   I can even snag free parking out front sometimes if I have my car and am stopping by after 6 pm.  I've had the special beef pho, spring rolls, salad rolls, and the pork belly on vermicelli (served with papaya salad!), and it's all been good.  

Monday, June 09, 2014

Dinner and a Movie Downtown: Kamei Baru, next to ScotiaBank Theatre

Kamei Baru is a great place to grab a bite and drinks before or after a movie at the ScotiaBank Theatre on Burrard St. at .  It has a huge menu of Japanese pub food, with both classic and "fusion" dishes, loads of cocktails, and other drinks.  So many dishes sounded good, I had trouble deciding.  That's one sign of a great menu for me - I actually want to come back to try other things on it.  Even the classic agedashi tofu ($5.50) got a bit of a modern spin, with super thin beet and squash chips on top as a garnish (although I was missing a more aggressive green onion flavour, I appreciated the beauty of the topping, and the generous portion size, as well as the bed of grated daikon, which was not lacking, as it can sometimes be in some cheap sushi places).  The waitress also poured the dashi sauce table side, which I very much appreciated, as I'm always wanting to make sure that the fried batter does not get too soggy in my agedashi tofu.  Prices were quite reasonable in general but I can imagine it adding up quickly if drinking and eating a lot here, depending on what you are ordering.

Another thing that I like about this place is that it is authentically Japanese.  I had oyster motoyaki (delicious and very rich, served in an escargot dish, with a couple slices of baguette), negitoro roll (very nicely done), agedashi tofu, and their special "30 spice" wine curry with pork cutlet, served with rice and shredded cabbage.  I also had their lychee margarita, a blended drink and want to try their signature Earl Grey gin drinks next time.  I even got to sit outside on a nice warm night (they have two two-tops on the sidewalk) but this was a bit marred by being downwind of the occasional smoker outside of the theatre.  Their sandwich board listed Japan's dates for the World Cup and there were many TV screens for sports inside.  Service was pretty good, especially considering that they had to step outside to take care of me.  I hope this restaurant sticks around.  It's at a great convenient spot, and pretty close to Robson St. if you are looking for a place to recharge when shopping too.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Happy 15th, Bistro Pastis!

Bistro Pastis (West 4th Ave. between Arbutus and Yew St. 604-731-5020) is one of my favourite "nicer" restaurants in town.  They consider themselves more casual and cosy than fine dining (having gone from the fine dining version, Pastis to the present day, Bistro Pastis), but the service and food quality stands up to any in town, in my experience.  They are definitely not pretentious, as I have dropped in as a single diner looking for food while on 4th and had outstanding service.  Their meals in my past visits has been both comforting and interesting at the same time, and always delicious.  To celebrate their 15th anniversary and to thank their customers, they are offering 25% off food and house wines from May 15 - June 15.  This is such a great deal, I had to share it with you.  The original press release mentions the deal going to June 8th, but the restaurant sent out an email with June 15th as the end date, so if the discount is important to you, you may want to ask about it when you call for reservations.  Bon appetit!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Missing My Almond Croissant Ritual: La Baguette et L'Echalote Bakery on Granville Island

Getting an almond croissant from the stand alone bakery on Granville Island, then heading over to buy a coffee in the market (JJ Bean), and then heading back outside towards the water to find a sunny spot with a view to relax and observe the scene has been one of my favourite Granville Island rituals for well over a decade.  In fact, I've turned other friends onto this ritual who have now moved away to other cities, and they were so hooked, they continued to go to Granville Island to get their almond croissant and coffee whenever they are in town.  Almond croissants sold out early in the day.  I hadn't been to Granville Island in quite a while, so only just discovered that another bakery has replaced it.  I was visiting at the end of the day, and their almond croissants had also sold out, so I will try to report back later when I've given one a try.

Here is the story told by the owners of La Baguette et L'Echalote Bakery themselves, and although I'm sad that they had to leave Granville Island due to a fire, I was super pleased to find out that at least their products are still available, baked fresh daily and delivered to a number of locations including the Whole Foods a few blocks away from my place. Look for the complete list from the link above.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Foodie Resource:

Merry Christmas, Nancylanders!  Wishing you a new year filled to the brim with amazing food adventures.  Of course, one of my resolutions is to post more frequently!  In the meantime, I just stumbled upon a very handy site - the ChefDB.  I'm a big fan of film and IMDB, so it's great to learn of this resource where you can trace the careers and restaurants of chefs around the world:

I was just trying to confirm that Andrey Durbach was the chef responsible for a beloved restaurant in my memory - Parkside, and the exact dates popped up on chefdb along with all his other past and present restaurants.  I was thinking about this because I was reading about The Sardine Can and planning on trying this little tapas restaurant of his and his long time business partner.  It's in Gastown and sounds great to me - I mean, I felt like I should have been born Spanish when I visited Spain.  Feliz Navidad!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #9: Salt Tasting Room, Second Location in Kits

I loved Salt since it first opened, but I hadn't been visiting it lately, and part of it was just not being in that part of town as much.  The empire is spreading out, reaching out past Gastown into Kitsilano.  This is perfect for me, as I pass through Kits all the time, on my way home from work.  Salt is very simply a meat, cheese, and wine bar, but the beauty of this concept is the idea of these salty delicious things becoming more spectacular in their pairings with wine and vice versa.  They accompany everything with great sides, such as the cherry compote, mixed marinated olives and the house made Piccadilly relish (yum!).  The bread basket with a variety of crisps and bread is complimentary (or comes with the trios).  There is lots to choose from, or you can get their help with the decision making as well.  It's not going to be cheap, but there is so much flavour, the tasting nature of the experience is well worth it, and I'm always full anyway at the end.  The tasting plate that gives you a choice of three meats of cheeses (I picked out two meats and one cheese) along with your choice of three sides was $16.  I left the wine flight choices up to them to pair and surprise me and that was $15.  Everything was delicious alone.  My favourite pairing was the stone fruity Riesling with the soft cheese and cherry compote.  Also delicious was the meritage specifically with the Piccadilly relish (without the roast pork).

I delight in the heightened sensory nature and intellectuality of this sort of experience.  I just finished a short continuing studies course on food and wine pairing, so I was pleased to practice my careful tasting skills.  With the tastings you get at Salt, there is the opportunity for many different stages of tasting if you enjoy this sort of thing.  Think about all the potential combinations:

  • looking at the wine by itself 
  • smelling the wine by itself
  • tasting the wine by itself 
  • tasting the meats and cheeses by themselves
  • tasting the meats and cheeses with their respective side dish pairings
  • tasting the wine with its meat or cheese pair (are both or either better than tasting them alone?  Is the wine better with the food pairing?)
  • tasting the wine with the meat or cheese pair and the side and the bread
  • now which bread is the best with each combination?
  • tasting everything with all the other elements that it hasn't been paired with to see if the pairing is the best choice.
  • do your dining companions taste the same things you do?
  • and it goes on...until you run out of food and wine.
I ended up with a Tiramisu (cute in its mason jar, as shown), which was quite nice.  It looks like they will serve Stumptown coffee, but they didn't have it the night I went.  The room has almost a more casual airier feel compared to its counterpart in Blood Alley, and I think it's fitting in the Kits neighbourhood.  It should do quite well.  Staff are knowledgeable, helpful and not pretentious.  The only thing that I imagine would help them do better is if they made the portions of the meat and cheese slightly bigger, but I do think they are priced fairly.  

Nancy's Quick Pick #8: Acme Cafe

It looks like my quick picks are going to need to get even quicker for me to blog regularly.  So just trust me on this one, Acme Cafe on E. Hastings St. (near Army and Navy) has it going on.  The photo shows a delicious meatloaf sandwich on a pretzel bun, with a side of a delicious macaroni and cheese (for about a $2 add on cost).  I had this meal on two occasions and on the first finished it with pie, which was the real reason I sought this place out (on Pi day, March 14).

Do I really need to say more?  Actually, I do, because the first time I went there, I ordered three very personally risky items.  I have only had pretzel buns that I have found too hard and chewy to be really practical as a sandwich bun.  I have lately been having horrible luck with mac and cheese.   How can you screw up mac and cheese, you say?  That's what I thought!  No time for those horror stories.  Suffice it to say, Acme's mac and cheese is creamy, tastes like cheese, and is a good texture.  The third risky item was a coconut cream pie.  I love pie.  I love cream pies.  I am weird with coconut.  It's something about the stringy chewy bits ruining a smooth creamy filling, I think.  But it was really close to closing and there were only a few choices left.  Compared to earlier that day when they had 18 (I know! 18!) pies to choose from.  Anyhow, the coconut cream pie was delish, and all three things impressed me that much more given my wariness from bad prior experiences.

On my second visit I also had a B52 shake.  That meal was a great treat at the end of a busy week.  I do wish this place was right in my neighbourhood.  Maybe one day, since I've been dreaming lately of Gastown lofts with huge roof patios.

Staff are friendly, the place is cute and all retro diner-y, and prices are very reasonable.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #7 La Taqueria

I have been to Mexico a couple of times and loved the food, especially the street stalls and super casual open air joints that sell tasty little tacos.  To me, La Taqueria on Cambie St. at Broadway (with a second location at W. Hastings St. that I have not been to yet) sells real tacos and they are delicious.  I love the small corn tortillas, and have tasted most of their toppings, and they have all been tasty.   If you could only pick a couple, I would say the Al Pastor (pork marinated in achiote chili and pineapple) and De Lengua (braised beef tongue) are good bets if you enjoy meat.  However, you can get four meat tacos for $9.50, and it was "Taco Wednesday" when I went, so when I quoted the Georgia Straight newspaper ad, they gave me 6 for the price of 4.  I also had pollo con mole, pescado (fish), carnitas (pork confit with pickled onions), and braised beef cheeks.  There are lots of vegetarian options too and four vegetarian tacos are only $7.  They have Mexican sodas, beers and horchata too, so I like to get a tamarind soda there because I can.  They have some tasty salsas and pickles that you can help yourself to, so don't forget to pick up some of that.  It's counter service, but they'll bring your order to you when it's ready, and it's usually busy.   Note that they are closed Sundays but are open for lunch through dinner time (until 8:30 pm) the other days of the week.  And Taco Wednesday is coming up!


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