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.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

El Camino's on Main St. (at 16th Ave.)

A good Tres Leches cake in Vancouver is hard to find.  This one was delicious and the whole restaurant charmed me when I went to their Oscars viewing party.  They have all sorts of Latin American dishes, lots of tequila, and great servers.  Check out their website.

Monday, November 21, 2016

This Nightingale Needs a Little Nursing...

It's difficult not to have high expectations when you know that David Hawksworth is the owner of this fairly new restaurant.  I had hoped that the mixed reviews were just the result of the operation needing a little "working-out-the-kinks" time.  I figured there could also have been some unreasonable expectations involved.  I figured the negative reviews would act as alarm calls, and the restaurant would scurry about to fix the offending issues.

Well, I think it needs more love.  Here are my impressions of my dinner there.  In short, I wouldn't mind dining there again should an occasion call for it, but I'm not going to be rushing over again for now.  Mostly very tasty food with a couple of misses, mediocre service for this price point, and a pretty room but not terribly cosy on the bottom floor just doesn't add up to justifying the cost for me.

I dined with two other people, and we managed to make a good dent into the menu, sharing all items.

The roasted maitake mushroom with pecorino, brown butter, hazelnut ($12) was one of my favourites.  Fairly simple, but delicious.  Very nutty with the hazelnuts and the browned butter.  I also liked the fact that there were so many vegetable dishes on the menu.  

This cocktail was the Haddonfield ($15...didn't really pay attention to this at the time), and was very pleasant, balanced, and worth having again.  Bourbon, Calvados, PX sherry, green chartreuse, Angostura bitters.

The meatballs ($16 - there were three of them) were a miss.  Specifically, braised meatballs, San Marzano, parmesan, pine nut, basil, chili.  One of us, a meatball aficionado of Italian descent, found it too dry, as if they had been sitting out for too long.  I agreed and I was also disappointed in the weak flavour.  However, the pine nuts included were a good addition.  The sauce was fine otherwise, but not too memorable. 

The grilled Pacific rockfish, fresh ginger, scallion, black pepper ($14) was very tasty, but I couldn't help but think that I could go to a Chinese restaurant and get almost an entire delicious fish with similar flavours for the price of this slice.  I did know going in that this meal was going to be pricey, and this is in the "small" section of the menu, so it wasn't really a surprise, but it was just so similar to a Chinese fish dish, it naturally ignited my Chinese thriftiness.

This Pacific octopus with blistered caper, parsley, fermented child, vinegar ($19) was one of my favourites.  It was meaty, tasty and interesting (mostly because it isn't found like this commonly in restaurant here).

This grilled merguez sausage ($17) was spicy and flavourful, and the baba ghanouj was great with it.  I didn't get a shishito pepper (I think there were two on the plate).  Also, to be honest, I don't remember the mint and only remember the cilantro.  If I could go back in time, I'd keep this dish, but skip the meatballs.

The brussel sprouts, dried plum, chili, chardonnay vinegar was also delicious, and I will try to remember to add sliced prunes the next time I roast brussel sprouts.  I had never had that combination before, and the sweet dried fruit went so well with the brusssel sprouts.

This pizza ($17) was also very nice.  Cooked new potatoes on pizza is great. It also had roasted mushrooms, garlic confit and fontina.  The crust had great texture, with the centre being very thin yet structurally stable, and a nice level of chewiness.

Here we come to dessert, and I've included a photo of the menu because it is not on the website.  Each dessert has a pairing, and so my hopes were high that they were well thought out, and with a chef owner of this calibre, I assumed that going to the effort of putting pairings on their dessert menu indicated that each pair would be remarkable with each other.  I chose the salted caramel pot de crème, whipped crème fraîche, butterscotch, vanilla breton ($12), which was paired with NV Taylor Fledge 20 year old tawny port, douro, prt ($17).  Suffice it to say that when I tried them together, I did not understand why they were paired, and nothing remarkable happened apart or taken together.  The dessert was recommended by my server and it was good, but served too cold for my taste.  I wouldn't bother having the port again, at least not for $17 a glass.  I should have had a cup of coffee but one of my dinner companions did order a coffee and received one that was too cold.

So the best thing about this place was the food.  Some improvements can still be made there - for example, I would suggest re-evaluating those dessert pairings, and look at what's happening with the meatballs. I'm going to assume the pricing will stay the same, and I guess there are plenty of people around that will pay but I would love to see that just slightly lower, even if it was just a bit shaved off the drinks or larger portions for some of the dishes.  The room was quite busy on a Monday night.

The decor is going to attract a lot of customers and you can tell that a lot was invested in this.  It has a very classy updated retro style. But the real work needed here is in the service.  I've only to Hawksworth once, and there were absolutely no issues with service and it was delightful, so one would think that it might be possible to nearly duplicate that at another location even if it is not the same level of fine dining.  Anyway, I get better service at IHOP at a fifth of the price (shout out to the amazing male server at the Broadway location).  The service at Nightengale wasn't terrible.  It was almost fine.  Let's say a near miss.  Certainly nobody kicked a piece of pizza at my foot like the night Alexandra Gill visited (reading that review made me laugh).  They seemed pretty friendly, but this felt more like a mask covering some general indifference.  So to start, unfortunately a couple of people had cancelled on me and I originally had six people which meant that there was (I presume) a six-top saved for me upstairs in the nice part of the restaurant.  I try to be considerate, so I left a message updating the restaurant that we were only going to be a party of four.  They weren't able to pick up and didn't get a chance to check the voicemail, so they weren't aware of this when I arrived (it's not that often that I call a restaurant during service and can't get through, but they were busy so that's not ideal, but not that big a problem).  So then we wind up getting seated at a table for four right in front of the door.  When I expressed my interest in an upstairs table, I was told it was all full.  I had arrived in front of my guests, so I made sure he understood my preference by politely reiterating by mentioning that I'd appreciate a table upstairs if one opens up before my guests arrived.  He mumbled something about if you want an upstairs table, you need to reserve it ahead of time.  Which of course, I had, but I didn't bother with trying to get into an argument with him since we did only have four people. I did get the feeling that it wasn't quite as full up there as he made it seem.  At least we didn't get a high top table, which I had specifically asked to avoid when I made my original reservation.  The person I spoke to and who seated us wasn't going to be our server for the night, so there was that indifference, with what felt like a fake politeness laid on top.

Then later in the evening, we had trouble flagging our server down a couple of times.  She was fairly friendly though.  We didn't have time to get the cold coffee replaced and it was apparent then that it was difficult to get her attention.  I don't think it was comped when it was mentioned either.  The slight indifference could be sensed again, but she did definitely offer to replace it.  There was a lack of warmth in both people I dealt with that evening.  The food in general did come out quickly though.

I did enjoy the meal with my dining companions, and there were definitely some highlights, and the menu itself is exciting and varied.  I would love to see this place improve.  I am not sure how much motivation they will have to do this, as it is already a very popular spot.  I think the food is interesting enough to make the visit worthwhile if you've got the money to burn.  But if you don't, maybe save up a tiny bit more and head to Hawksworth instead if you want a more polished experience.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Döner Kebab on 4th is Falafelly Good!

I love the falafel wrap here.  I love it so much that it's one of the few places where I'll gladly eat a vegetarian meal without even being tempted by meat.  They scoop the mix right into the deep fryer after you order, so the falafel balls are hot and crispy.  Then they put ample toppings into the pocket.  However, they do have some seriously good meat dishes too.  Go to a fancier place, like places a few doors down, and how much would you pay for a succulent braised lamb shank dish?  Here, you get a beautiful falling off the bone lamb shank on top of rice, and it's going to be cheap and flavourful.  They also have a simiar braised chicken leg dish that is very good.  I have also tried some of their salads and the homous, and it was all good, so you may prefer a platter rather than a wrap. The people there are nice, and the man that I think is the owner really seems to care about the food.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

House Special Chow Mein

New Town Bakery makes my favourite house special chow mein ($16) in Vancouver.  Everything that you'd normally want is on there including squid, chicken, barbecue pork, bok choy, prawns, onions, plus extra goodies like fish balls (halved), liver, pigs ear, and Chinese mushrooms (in other words, they don't cheap out with button mushrooms).  Everything is perfectly cooked and extremely tender.  The prawns are plump, too.  They ask if you prefer the noodles soft or crispy, so you will get lots of nice crispy edges if you are like me, and like the noodles pan-fried.  I always pick up some Chinese buns/pastries while I'm there and some of them are half price at the end of the day.  Also, servers are friendly to everyone and will speak English with you without judgement.  There are plenty of other choices on the menu, and they are open for breakfast too (with Chinese style and Hong Kong Western style breakfast menus).  But I think it's hard to find a good house special chow mein right in Vancouver, and they do a great job with this dish.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fatty Papa!

I've been wanting to try this newish okonimiyaki place on Robson with a great name.  I'm enjoying my original style okonomiyaki ($8.50, chicken, bacon, and seafood versions are also available) plus an add-on of soba noodles.  I combo'd up with a fresh watermelon milk slush for $3.50 more.  The slush was delicious but watermelon is seasonal so it might not be available much longer this season.  The okonomiyaki was good.  It was not Hiroshima style so the soba was not crisped up on the grill and incorporated in it, but was still a great addition sitting on top.  The restaurant also has other homey dishes like omurice (fluffy rice filled omelette), curries, noodles in soup, and gyoza.  Casual bright room with simple and clean decor, so it may not look it, but it does have full service.  Hope it's here to stay.  

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


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.