Sunday, April 10, 2016

Neverland Tea Salon






I don't really need to say too much about this place.  It's fantastic.  Most importantly, the food and tea was top notch.  Both the savoury little sandwiches and the baked goods are ridiculously good at Neverland Tea Salon (on Broadway between Balaclava and Carnarvon).  You can see the menu for the high tea pictured.  All of the pastries and finger sandwiches are creative, flavourful, and unexpectedly pleasing, and include multiple textures and flavour components to go that extra mile - like the little bit of delightful crunch under the malted chocolate mousse cake.  I've been there a couple of times now, and they change the items up a bit, but it's all been delicious.  They even let you choose different teas when you finish a pot, and I had their Earl Grey, and their signature Take Me To Neverland chocolate and peppermint scented black tea blend.  I love the Neverland theme, and while this may attract clientele with children, everyone seemed well behaved when I visited.  The tea cups and flatware are great.

I think service can be somewhat improved, depending on which server you get.  Also, they seem to freak out a bit when you arrive an hour before closing which was plenty of time for me personally in that instance, but they basically close the kitchen then, so be prepared for them to sound a bit on edge if you come in just before that time.  I also had the servers ignore me for quite a few minutes after I walked in, so it would have really been disappointing had they not let me have afternoon tea.  This is where they could do with some improvement, by the way.  Some servers are really not that friendly and welcoming (luckily for the first visit, I had a remarkably competent young man with excellent customer service skills that left me with a very positive impression, which led me to wanting to come back).  They do stay open quite late for an afternoon tea place, which is quite nice - on weekends, they "close at 7 pm," but really, keep in mind that this means 6 pm.  They also have cocktails, which I haven't tried yet.

My favourite high tea place in the past has been The Secret Garden Tea Co. off W. 41st, with warm and friendly service everytime, a prettier and daintier room (less shabby chic) and delicious food and tea, and prettier pastries, but only 3 types of sandwiches.  Neverland is a strong contender.  You get more variety with five types of finger sandwiches, plus a mega scone.  You get more opportunity to have a variety of teas at Neverland too.  Pricing is the same for high tea.  And perhaps it's due to my foggy memory, but I feel like the flavours are more exciting at Neverland, but I do remember that everything was absolutely delicious at The Secret Garden as well.  Anyhow, try both.  They're both good.  And it's fun to go to different settings.

I've also enjoyed the afternoon tea at Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge at the Wedgewood Hotel, which is only available Saturday and Sunday between 2 - 4 pm.  But it did have less creative flavours, and was more expensive, but it came with amazing service and is set in a beautiful richly decorated room filled with cushy velvet covered chairs and dark wood.  I only went once, and was very impressed by our very kind, very dignified butler-like server.  But I have received much colder service for drinks in the early evening (perhaps because everyone else was in their lawyer suits from the courthouse, and I was dressed very casually) so I can't be sure that the service is consistent for afternoon tea.

For me, high tea makes me feel civilized, pampered, and indulgently girly, and is the perfect antidote to a grubby, "go-go-go" week of work.  It's like the meal version of a long meandering stroll versus what sometimes feels like sprinting through a muddy obstacle course.  Just a note though, that while high tea can be very girly (I have organized a big bridal shower high tea, for example), men have definitely enjoyed the experience with me too, so it doesn't have to be for just the girls.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Timber!

Great Meatloaf Burger Special




Timber is the more casual, straight forward, sporty, younger sister to Forage! and right next door.   It's a comfortable gastropub or bar and grill with great windows to watch some of the Robson pedestrian traffic (on the quieter west end of Robson) and high food standards that match the good quality at big sis' (Chef Chris Whittaker at the helm for this one too).   It's still easy to spend a lot of money on her though, as with similar bar and grill type places.  The menu choices feel a bit limited to me, but what I had was very good.  
Good Caesar
Bad (But Fun) Caesar
The Caesar salad, though small in size, was so tasty.  Best thing I had there.  I was wishing I had twice the amount for $12, but it had style - herring dressing, jowl bacon, fried garlic, bannock croutons, and nice big flakes of parmesan.  The meatloaf burger wrapped in bacon pictured above was really delicious ($16, served with house-made potato chips that I wasn't crazy about, but the server let me choose fries as the side dish, and I accidentally in the end received both which was nice of them).  I think it should be a regular menu item.  Even the pretzel style bun was soft and enjoyable.  The fries were fine.  and was served with what I'm guessing was a house made "ketchup" - it was tangy with a fresh tomato (rather than cooked tomato) flavour.  It was fun to have something different, but I would enjoy regular bottled ketchup just as much.  Interestingly, it went much better with their potato chips than their fries.  

I wasn't so much a fan of the Caesar cocktail though.  They have some fun Caesar's and I tried one with their (I think house made) pepperoni and a great, dramatic chicharron (best part).  Very smokey flavour and made with tequila (I love tequila) and honestly didn't like the drink that much but I'm not a really huge fan of Caesar's but enjoy them when I'm in the mood.  It was just too much - too smokey, too intense, too spicy (not in terms of heat) and just didn't feel balanced to me, but people who order Caesar's regularly might enjoy it.  But I had a really nice glass of zinfandel (Joel Gott) there which made up for it.  

They also have a whiskey flight and for $19, it was worth trying once, and I was in the mood for sipping scotch.  I enjoyed the Balvenie Doublewood the most, which had a powerful and pleasant nose.  Didn't like the harshness of the Canadian Lot 40 Single Copper Pot Still, but added a few drops of water to mellow it out a bit.  The Lavagulin was a good for contrast, with its intense smokey peaty characters, but not necessarily something that I would make a point of ordering on its own.  Their cocktails and wines are around the $8 or more range, so this was a good deal but in the end I only really liked the middle one.


I like this place - it's not too crowded, and has a relaxed feel, the servers are really friendly and know what they're doing (another benefit of being run by the same people as the more upscale restaurant next door).  And it's Canadiana themed which makes a lot of sense for the hotel and the tourist traffic in the area (but not a problem for a resident of the neighbourhood like me).  For example, I really like the seating upholstered in Canada Post bags - who knew those bags were so comfy to sit on?  Well, the interior designer of the space, I guess!   The mascots of the place are a taxidermied beaver and Canada goose.  There are TV screens everywhere for sports if you are looking for a place to watch the game, and they have Supper and Cask events.  It's not the regular neighbourhood hang out place I was hoping for (cost, menu choices) but I really enjoyed it the two times I visited.  It's a good addition to the area, and I think it will attract more walk-in customers than Forage! simply because of the windows and open look, even though Forage also has a similar casual aesthetic and style (but with more of an obvious theme of locally sourced sustainable products.  Timber benefits from those sources, but is just themed more on Canadiana).

Just a note that it's spelled Timber, not to be confused with Timbre on Commercial Drive, which I have not tried.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Little Almond Croissant Joy at Faubourg on Hornby



This almond croissant was delicious - light, flaky and with a beautiful, refined almond filling.  Somehow I never really paid attention to the Faubourg on Hornby St. (between Robson and Georgia) until recently even though it opened in August 2013.  I had visited the one on 4th ages ago, and loved it, but just never found myself in the area needing coffee and pastries very often.  I'm so glad to have "rediscovered" the downtown location now for many reasons.

1.  I love almond croissants and I still miss the old version of the stand alone bakery at Granville Island (La Baguette et l'echalote) where their almond croissant used to be the centre of Granville Island...for me, at least.  It was maybe not the actual geographical centre, but what everything else at Granville Island revolved around.  You had to get them before they ran out, often by early afternoon).

2.  The drip coffee that I bought with this croissant was fantastic!  So smooth, and very sweet and rich.

3.  I seem to find myself wanting a nice coffee and or snack in that area often.  Plus, I sometimes take classes at UBC Robson Square and it's great to be able to get a coffee to make sure I stay lively during class.

4.  I have been trying to avoid the Caffe Artigiano next door.  Not because of their coffee, which I quite like, but because the service that I've experienced there has been rude and weird on multiple occasions, which is saying a lot considering an interaction is typically only a few minutes long at the counter.  Most people need to work pretty hard to annoy a customer within the span of a few minutes.  May sound like I'm being picky, but I will point out that another local coffee chain, JJ Bean, in whatever they are doing in their hiring/training/management of their staff seem to be able to deliver a pretty consistently friendly (and generally efficient) style of service across several locations in just as busy times and neighbourhoods).  And they finally got on board with the free wifi thing after resisting the idea for a long time to try to nurture a different culture at their cafés.  But JJ Bean does a twice baked almond croissant (which is a way to take "stale" croissants and re-purpose them).  And I can't remember whether Artigianno has almond croissants, but if they do, they certainly wouldn't be as good the Faubourg's.

5.  Service at Faubourg (granted it was only one visit) was both very friendly and efficient.

6.  They have an enticing array of other baked goods, including bread, macarons, and beautiful fancy dessert pastries.  I just noticed on their website that they even do a little assorted box of pastries which I think could be a delightful treat if you're having some guests over for tea (small box has 8 pastries for $16).  They also have sandwiches, soups, salads, and quiche!

7.  The place looks really nice as a place to sit and have your treats there and chit chat.  I didn't in my case, but I will in the future.  I would even say it might be a nice choice for a coffee date, since it was not too loud/hectic, seems to have a good amount of seating, easy to get to and find, looks pretty and sophisticated (like you're making an effort and have taste if you suggest this one versus a Starbucks), and has great coffee/food.  And as suggested on their website, you can pretend it's a little escape to a Paris Café without leaving town.

8.  There's outdoor seating!

Hopefully they are consistent.  I will need to investigate further, hehe.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sure As Shuruku


I was taking a course at Robson Square and visited Shuruku on Granville Street just off Robson twice, a week apart for my hour long lunch breaks and they got me out of there quickly in time including walking time.  I had great service (some servers nicer than others but everyone very efficient), and I was well fed for the afternoon hours with a great lunch box set.  The one pictured above included pork back ribs which were not super tender, but very tasty and served on a layer of bean sprouts.  They were not glazed like the pictures of their dinner time signature pick ribs.  The next time, I chose the same type of box but with beef short ribs - a bit awkward to gnaw on for me, but tasty.  The tempera was really nice and light and it was a lot of food.  I like the green beans in the gomaae.  I've been to this restaurant several times for dinner and even to a sake tasting event too (they bring in stuff from Japan that you wouldn't be able to buy in the BC liquor stores) but it's nice to know that they can do a good week day lunch.  Not cheap (around $15.95), but good.




Friday, February 26, 2016

Buffet Confessions

Adorable breakfast pastry islands at Oru (at the Fairmont Pacific Rim)

As always, the siren song of "AYCE" is much more enticing than the reality of the meal.  As much as I know this, I still answer the call and enjoy myself at buffets.  I confess to going to the little buffet in the Grand Villa Casino in Burnaby.  As casino buffets go, this one is tiny both in square footage and in number of selections, but it is also a bit cheaper.  Dinner is $19, and if you get a loyalty card for 10% off, it's $17.10 plus tip (seniors have a bigger discount).  Things can be a bit hit and miss, but I think it's still a pretty good deal - I can enjoy a reasonable roast beef dinner with any combination of salad, soup, a couple of Chinese dishes, a few other meat and pasta dishes, bottomless pop (they have one of those 100 flavours machines), bottomless tea/coffee, and dessert.  I've been a few times now, and service has always been excellent, with very prompt dish clearing to keep things feeling clean and dignified.  Online criticisms include a limited dessert selection, so know that there are usually only a few choices there, but they do have a soft serve machine and fruit salad.  By the time I get to dessert, just a few options is plenty for me.  And in general, for me, there gets to be a point where having more options just means more things that I can't try because I don't have any room.  I prefer this little one to the larger, more expensive buffet at the River Rock Casino in Richmond.

I have another confession to make.  I am a hotel breakfast buffet fiend.  When I travel, I love staying at a hotel with a buffet where I can leisurely wake up with coffee and hot breakfast items.  I will even splurge ocassionally and visit them here in town for no particular reason.  While it's a bit of a monetary and caloric splurge, it makes for a nice lazy weekend treat.  Plus I usually skip lunch afterwards.  My favourites in downtown Vancouver are Currents at the Westin Bayshore (in Coal Harbour) and Oru at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.   I prefer the Westin Bayshore, with its relaxing atmosphere, ample newspapers, giant windows making the space light and airy, and great selection of items in their "super foods" buffet.  Everything that I've had there has been tasty.  It is $28 including coffee and juice, and they usually have little smoothies out in shot glasses too. You can order from your server made to order eggs/omelette/waffles/pancake whereas at Oru there's an omelette station where I've had to wait in a bit of a line on a busy holiday weekend (but I probably could have asked the server now that I'm thinking of it).  The food quality is very high at Oru, but it is more expensive.  Breakfast on weekdays is $36 and "brunch" on weekends is $38.  Both places have exceptional service.  I would rate both higher than the buffets at the Hotel Vancouver and Hyatt, but bear in mind that Oru is more expensive than both of these.  There's a new Cora opening on Robson Street, so it may be a while before I check out any other breakfast buffets.

I have always been too scared to go to Uncle Willy's near Metrotown, but I have been told that I should try it because of the fried chicken.  I know I won't be proud of that one either, but I might as well give it a go one of these days (and confess afterwards, of course).

Monday, July 27, 2015

You'd Never Guess How Good This Place Is...Teriyaki Bowl Japanese Restaurant


I could pass this place a hundred times without suspecting that it was anything more than the dozen or so mediocre and inauthentic Japanese places in the area, but this one is really authentic.    Teriyaki Bowl Japanese Restaurant is on Broadway St., between Alma and Dunbar St.

It's simple and comforting, like visiting a sweet aunt and uncle that want to feed you - that is, if your aunt and uncle were great Japanese cooks.

It's not much to look at inside, with just a few tables, and you order at the counter, but it's cheap and delicious. You can eat in, and they'll serve the food on pretty Japanese dishes.  Many people seem to take out.  I've been there twice, and both times did not take photos of the food unfortunately.  Everything looked beautiful though (unlike many of the mediocre places at the same price point who mangle their sushi rolls).  I had a chicken udon and inari sushi combo from the specials board (came with three inari nigiri), and it was really wonderful, and very reasonable (I think only $8.75, but can't remember exactly).  The chicken udon had lots of tender chicken pieces, slices of the pink swirl fish cake, a bit of broccoli and carrot, and a delightful clear and clean, yet flavourful broth.  I also had their negitoro roll which was very good.  I liked their pickled ginger too.  Their agedashi tofu is not deep fried like other places, but the sauce is richly flavoured and deeply satisfying (I was basically drinking some of the sauce afterwards with a spoon - that's how much I liked it) .  I've had their katsudon in the past and enjoyed it very much as well. On a chilly day, the chicken udon or the rice bowls are ideal warming comfort meals.  It's only open until 8 pm though.  Take-out containers are nice round cardboard ones, so kudos to them for not using styrofoam or plastic.  Not a fancy pick, but just unexpectedly well-executed food and authenticity in a neighbourhood (Kitsilano) that doesn't particularly foster these qualities.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Spicy 6 Indian Restaurant: Redefining Buffet Food Quality in the City

 The hot buffet cart (the cold cart not pictured here).  Please excuse the quality - I was too shy about taking photos to get a good shot.  Food looked great. 

I've only visited once for buffet lunch (and frankly don't know how I've missed this place for the last year and a bit it's been open on Robson St. in the former Thai House upstairs space, between Thurlowe and Bute in downtown Vancouver), but I'm ready to go out on a limb and give a hearty recommendation to this restaurant for the buffet at lunch or for any other time.  I'm happy to see that they also have delivery and their own online ordering system on their website.  My reasoning for this is that often the buffet is where things are more lacklustre in order to be able to offer unlimited quantities, but here, the buffet had tremendously flavourful dishes, a nice selection, and fresh tasting food.  The buffet was well presented and fully refreshed.

The naan, which is best made to order, was brought to the table hot and fresh, with great texture, and was just fantastic.  There was not any item that disappointed, and several were stand outs.  I particularly enjoyed the tasty spicing on their tandoori chicken (which is a specialty of theirs), and the meat was tender and not dry.  I was really impressed with the paneer saag (paneer cheese with pureed spinach) as it was bright in both colour and flavour and very different from the pukey green versions I've seen at other places that I avoid and  that I feel are a disservice to spinach.  I enjoyed the mixed vegetable dish which allowed the individual vegetables to still come through.  I also noticed the lovely texture of the gulab jamun and flavour of the syrup (dessert, fried dough balls in a warm syrup) and think it's exceptional.  I liked the potato dish too (but unfortunately can't remember the name of the dish, though everything was nicely labelled).  There was a nice selection of items and I enjoyed it all, including the lamb curry, aloo gobi, chickpea curry, butter chicken (yes, a little on the sweet side, but the chicken is not overcooked and dried out like other places, so quite nice), vegetable pakoras, a few salads, rice, raita, chutneys, rice pudding, and another fried vegetable patty.  I had a chai today, which was fine.   When I come back, I'd like to try their samosas which weren't in the buffet today.

It should be noted that the lunch buffet ($13.99) is now offered only Monday to Friday (and I think that this might have actually been added to the sandwich board while I was dining today, because I was thinking how great it was that they were offering buffet on the weekend) but like I said, I would expect this high quality of food to be there for their regular a la carte menu also.  The service was also excellent and friendly - very attentive, ice water glass refilled always, and very nice.  The room is comfortable and bright with tall ceilings and skylights.  I hope that the second floor location doesn't put people off too much.  I was enamoured with two wooden carved camels that were on a shelf.  It's a nice looking place but not fancy.  When I asked about the restaurant, the server mentioned that they have experience with opening 22 other restaurants.  I am hoping this place does well and stays around for a long time (which is difficult on this street).  It was fairly quiet today, but there were other tables.  Their Yelp reviews are great and their sandwich board on the sidewalk is eye-catching (I certainly would have given it a shot just passing by, as a place to replenish and recover from shopping).  I got a bit excited today and came away pretty stuffed even though I was trying to be very careful by eating small bites very slowly.  But I was in surveying mode, and wanted to try everything. For me, it would be worth coming back even just for the tandoori.  Save room for a little gulab jamun if you like that sort of thing.