Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Second Visit to Yuji's - Habit Forming!

Normally, I would just put notes on a second visit to a restaurant in the comments section of the first visit post (in this case, August 2nd, 2005), but this meal was so good, I think it warrants another quick post. Especially since Yuji's (W. 4th, at Maple) seems to be so far under the radar, from what I can tell. As far as I'm concerned, everyone should be talking about this place. I've decided this one is definitely going on my list of restaurants to give out-of-towners a real taste of Vancouver, and show them what our restaurant scene can put out. I love how we can get such creative, beautiful, and yummy food at this price level (the menu below totalled only about $42 before tip). Sushi is such a great perk of living in Vancouver and I still don't take for granted that we can get this incredibly fresh sushi here so affordably.

Just listen to the great stuff we had (and I wish I had pics since everything was incredibly pretty):

1. Tuna and salmon wasabi tempura - lightly battered tuna maki and salmon maki with a forthright dose of wasabi right in the roll. Served on wasabi mayo and a thick soy sauce based sauce. I love how the nori tastes when it's deep-fried. Magnificent plating here, with thin radish slices for garnish and beautiful, tasty sauces.

2. Mango roll - mango, tuna, salmon, lettuce, avocado, and mayo. I loved this roll, since each component was top quality. The mango was sweet, ripe and flavourful enough to be the focal point of the bite.

3. Negitoro roll - a classic, and one of my standard favourites. They executed it wonderfully. The fish quality in everything has impressed me both visits.

4. Uni on warm Camembert cheese, with shiso leaves, served on slices of steamed bread - our server let us know that they had very fresh uni that they received today. What a wild combination. Guess what! It worked! I've only very recently acquired my taste for sea urchin gonads, and I'm thinking maybe I never had a fresh one first time. Nothing to be scared of, folks. (daily specials sheet)

5. Chicken breast wrapped around fresh fig, served with tomato banana sauce - Stunning presentation, like a chicken planet. It's a sphere cut in half, exposing the beautiful fig "core," with a white chicken meat "mantle," and deep fried batter "crust." And who's ever heard of a banana tomato sauce before? Just a beautiful sauce which tasted wonderfully fresh and sweet, and worked so well.
(daily specials sheet)

6. Wild boar, steamed, served with baby greens and pickled red onion (I think) - you just know this is going to be good...and it was! Even the greens were really nice! (daily specials sheet)

Dining here is a little foodie adventure in itself, because of the fun menu, and the tasting and sharing nature of the plates. You can just taste little dish after little dish. There's still plenty of menu for me to work through. Lots of things I want to try. Service was so hospitable, and I particularly liked that our waiter was excited about the fresh uni. Yuji himself seemed to be quite interested in how the Camembert and uni special went over with us. The jazz playing softly in the background was great too. There is something so quietly comfortable about the room. It's the whole package, and it's nice to have a restaurant exceed my expections again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hawker's Delight, Main St.

Lamb Curry Posted by Picasa

Bee Hoon, Pork Satays, Tofu Goreng (clockswise from top)

The phrase hole-in-the-wall comes screaming out at you, and it's definitely not an undiscovered one either. Hawker's Delight (4127 Main St, just past King Edward) is packed with trendy Main Streeters looking for cheap, good food. They've found it, and they don't seem to be bothered by the less than pretty surroundings. Which is appropriate, because the Hawker in the name refers to hawker stalls that sell food in the street in Malaysia. There are all kinds of goodies to try, just like being in a hawker centre. Did I mention the word cheap? We had lamb curry for $5.25, and satays for 80 cents each (minimum of 5). We also had tofu goreng (boiled tofu covered in peanut sauce), and bee hoon which is a bowl of thin rice noodles in a coconut milk rich broth, with various veggies, pickles, and boiled egg in it. Both were under $5, I think. I liked the satays and the tofu goreng a lot and it was all good value. I won't order the bee hoon again - too rich, and I'm not a big fan of the mushy veggies, and I even felt a bit sick, but that might be because it was the last thing I ate, and I was stuffing myself at that point. To be honest, this meal didn't agree with my stomach, and I felt sick later that evening, but I'm willing to give this place another try. My dining companion, Martini Man, didn't get ill at all, and he ate everything that I ate, so please don't think of this place as a health hazard. Try it out for a quick and easy little taste of Malaysia, especially if you like hole-in-the-wall places. For myself, I like them sometimes, but I tend to really enjoy restaurants that have the whole package of food in pleasant surroundings. However, the atmosphere is authentic as far as I know, since it's supposed to be just like a hawker stand. This place would be great for take-out, or quick bite to eat when you're in the area alone and hungry.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Truffles Night Bistro (Cornwall Ave.)

Take the quintessential university student's apartment, turn it into a restaurant, and you've got Truffles Night Bistro on Cornwall (1943 Cornwall Ave., in that grouping of restaurants just off the Burrard St. bridge). This place brought me back to my university days instantly, and in fact, I think the last time I was there was when I was a UBC student, quite a few years back. Nothing has changed there, as far as I can tell. It's still a great, relaxed space to enjoy drinks and nibbles, or desserts, especially if you like the idea of reliving your student days.

Let me set the scene...I wandered into this place on a whim, on an early autumn night, to escape the cold. The weather was just turning chilly, signalling the end of summer, and reminding me of back to school times. I ordered a drink, and it wound up being the perfect student apartment drink, vessel and all - my sangria was actually served in one of those clear glass mugs with raised flowers that everyone seemed to have in their place when they were students, acquired either from mom, or from the last students who rented the house, or the local thrift store. Each table had a white tapered candle sitting in a mound of wax dribbles, exactly like my university boyfriend would light up in his apartment when he wanted to be romantic. Which, of course, was always - hey, we were young and in love and corny as hell. So corny in fact, I remember that he went to great lengths to find drippy candles in the first place to get that wax mound effect. Come to think of it, Truffles must have to do the same, as most taper candles are dripless these days. The place is adorned with art posters, musical instruments, an Einstein photo, vinyl record covers, and dusty bundles of dried flowers hanging upside-down. Did everyone dry flowers like this when they were this age? Or was it just me and my bunch of my female friends? Also, there were the requisite bohemian prints on schlumpy pillows and weathered tablecloths and a hodge podge of mis-matched furniture just like all my friends' places when I was a grad student. I remember having great fun acquiring furniture from anyone moving away, and finding treasures in flea markets and garage sales. Even a jumble of twinkling Christmas lights hangs outside Truffles. It all felt as if it was a carefully constructed movie set of a students' house. I mean, even the server was looking like your typical housemate for the evening - a swarthy arts grad student, with his hair pulled back in a tight, dark ponytail.

To add to this chance student nostalgia experience, on this particular evening, I happened to have with me a book I had recently purchased on the very topic I obsessed about in university (animal behavioural ecology and sexual selection), making it feel all the more like a time warp. I also had with me a Feynman book essentially about the joy of scientific discovery, written by the famous physicist. I couldn't have chosen two more perfect books to complete the scene.

I ordered the French platter ($12.99, $17.50 if sharing), one of their three platters that include various deli type tidbits to nibble away at. This included brie, blue cheese, pissaladiere (onion tart), pepper paté, olives, roasted red pepper, marinated artichokes, marinated eggplant, organic baby greens, two slices of garlic oregano focaccia, a very tasty dilled potato slad, and tomato pesto. Most of these items are common to the Italian Platter and the Turkish Platter, just nice yummy little things that a student might pull out of their fridge to feed their friends who have come over to gab and drink. The menu also has other student-ish dinners like lasagne and quesadillas, as well as desserts (like the namesake truffles), and lots of drinks.

This place, for me, is all about atmosphere. A familiar-feeling place to thrash about your crunchy, late-night philosophical arguments with friends, or spoon out your thick, gooey, young dreams to your lover, or soak up your delicious book in warm, comfortable solitude...a place to languish in youth, or in my case, sweet memories of youth. I wouldn't change a thing...and neither, apparently, would the owner.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Nu In Town

Every reviewer in town is nearly wetting themselves with excitement about Harry Kambolis' new Nu in False Creek. So the buzz, along with a funky website, a beautiful location, a whimsical menu, and affordable prices prompted me to investigate this place as a potential birthday restaurant for a nice dinner for a group of friends. Warning: rant ahead, proceed cautiously. Now, I honestly have been trying to ease up on the negativity here on my blog, but I do need to rant a bit. Here's the situation. I phoned Sept 13th to ask if I could tentatively book for 6 people for my birthday, and then phone back when more people RSVP'd and add onto that number. The woman taking my reservation was quite polite and let me know that they have a maximum of 8 people, and after that, I could discuss a set meal with ...(I'm not sure who she said). She said that they could push tables together to form a table of 12 at most, and people above that would be at separate tables. This was all okay with me, so I asked her if she could get someone to email me an example of a menu for a set meal in the next little while. She told me that she would get someone to email me within two days. I was calling at 5 pm or so, not a particularly busy time of day, but I figured they would still need some time to think about what they would want do for a set menu since it sounded like it hadn't been decided upon really, and I was fine with them just getting back to me later. She took both my phone number and email. A week passed, and no email, no phone. I tried calling them, to politely let them know the situation, and maybe attempt to talk to someone directly . Their line was busy (no voicemail that picks up when it's busy, just a busy tone), tried again a few times, gave up. I tried a couple of times a few days later, busy signal again. I've still heard nothing, and haven't been able to get in touch with them, and it's been 11 days. I even thought maybe they have an email address, and I could email them, and then they could just reply, but their slick website only has the dreaded busy tone phone number. I know that the general manager is active on eGullet (so they have computer access), and it's almost worthwhile for me to get my upgrade on my membership there so that I can bloody well get in touch with him. Bear in mind that if I were to come to this restaurant for my birthday with my group, we'd be introducing all these foodie people to their brand new restaurant, we'd be eating and drinking up a storm (in birthday celebratory mood), and (though they don't know this), they'd probably get even more buzz, because of my blogging. I know that they are hot, hot, hot, and must be busy, and are probably going to do just fine without my business, but I'm still surprised by all this. Even if they don't want my group to come, they should at least phone me back. Well I guess they won't have to worry about it, I've made other plans. The unfortunate thing is that I was genuinely quite excited about this new restaurant, but now it'll probably be a very long time before I'm tempted to try it after this experience. Anyhow, it's 11 days and ticking...anyone want to wager on when/if they'll get back to me?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Dim Sum - International Chinese Restaurant

Some time ago, I was asked if I had any dim sum recommendations in Vancouver, and I could only vaguely say that my parents had brought me to a good place on Hastings St. I just had them take me there again, and it's called International Chinese Restaurant (2163 E. Hastings St., at Templeton St., just east of the Dairy Queen). The room is filled with Chinese people, and packed even on a Monday morning. The food is rolled around on the carts, which I much prefer to ordering off a menu. And there was quite a variety of items, and lots to choose from at any one time. Food quality seems to be higher than another Hastings dim sum restaurant. Some highlights from brunch today include a variation of the lacy deep fried taro dumplings that are usually shaped like a football. These ones still had the lacy deep-fried outside, and the soft taro, but were little cylinders, topped off with a couple of scallop slices and filled with a blob of curry mixture in the centre too. Also, they have my favourite dim sum dessert item - that rich, yellow tapioca pudding, topped with a crust, and filled with a sweet lotus paste. I also enjoyed the shrimp-stuffed eggplant dish. The basic dishes are all there too. My parents tell me that the pricing is mid-range as dim sum places go. I think the three of us ate for $30. It's not fancy, but it's not a dive either, and the food is great.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Taste of the City Event Coming Up

I haven't been to this event the past two years, but will try to make it out to this year's CityTV's Taste of the City on Saturday, September 17th. See the link for a full list of the restaurants that will be offering bites (for $0.50 - $3.00). The event goes on from noon - 9 pm. Admission is free! Just purchase your food tickets, and wander. I thought I would note it ahead of time in case anyone who hasn't heard of the event can plan to go. I just found out today that I missed this year's Feast of Fields event in Langley. Oh well.

Birthday Restaurants

Okay, the search is on for a great restaurant for a festive group. Now, my crowd isn't dancing-on-the-tables type festive, but we probably shouldn't take a group of 8 - 25 to a hushed-voices-and-romantic-couples-gazing-at-each-other-all-googly-eyed type restaurant. We're relatively quiet though, and I'm looking for something relaxed, yet still feeling like a nice special night out (don't tell me to go to Denny's so I can get my meal for free). Here's the wrench to throw in to the works - my birthday falls on a Monday! I'm also looking for something not terribly pricey (or at least allows the option of not spending too much). I thought that Yuji's on 4th Ave. would be perfect, but they're closed on Mondays, and I'd still really like to have this dinner on my actual birthday. I mean, I still have to eat on that day. So please comment away with your suggestions. Another thought was Chambar, as I have yet to try it, and reports of the food have all been positive. Another thought was Parkside, as I would love to introduce this restaurant to people who don't already know it. Mistral is also a new one to try. I enjoyed L'Emotion in West Vancouver immensely the one time I went, so I expect good things from this new one on Broadway from Minna and Yves Bennoit.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Richmond Night Market

Only three weekends left! I went to the Richmond Night Market for the first time on Friday night, and then again on Monday night (open for Labour Day)and it was a blast sampling all the street food, and browsing all the craptastic merchandise. Since Bac'n Girl and I were sharing everything, we were able to sample SO much. I think we each spent about twenty bucks on food, with each item being $2 - 5. We started with a trio of skewers - bacon and potato, chicken, and pork. We had grilled squid balls on a skewer which were quite tasty, and they were very carefully dressed with Japanese condiments by the man at the stall. In fact, there were all kinds of fish and squid balls in various booths. We also had takoyaki, round balls of batter with a chunk of octopus in the middle, later (at the booth that make the big ones, with all sorts of bits like cabbage inside), dressed with similar condiments (that plum sauce, Japanese mayo, those dancing bonito flakes). Takoyaki is one of my favourite street foods ever, and this one was one of the highlights of the evening. I also had half a barbequed quail ($2!), my favourite poultry. We had six lumpia (like mini spring rolls) and an empanada from a booth. We had Malaysian roti canai, served with curry sauce to dip into, and that was fantastic. We had this really wonderful coconut and mango drink, with jelly, from the Fruit Stop stand. Next to this stand, there was real sugar cane being crushed to extract the juice. Dragon Beard Candy was another discovery. I had never seen or heard of this before, but it's like hand-pulled candy floss, wrapped around minced nut mixture, in small lumps. The coarse threads of sugar are kind of chewy. I also tried a great thai dessert of little coconut custards, fried crispy on one side and topped which came in a serving of ten little custards with a trio of toppings - either corn, taro or green onion on each. It was just lovely because of the crispiness on the outside combined with the warm, gooey, smooth, creamy custard. Some of them were too hot and some were too cold, but when I ate one at just the right temperature, it was wonderful.

On my other visit, Cheeseboy and I also tried periwinkle meat served in a curry-like sauce (tasty and has a great chewy/crunchy texture, reminiscent of pigs ear to me), pineapple fried rice served right in the pineapple half, curry fish balls, thai meatballs (so-so), barbecued tofu (served with a weird, yucky sauce from one booth that was sour), strawberry drink with jelly, "bubble" waffle (great as finger food, because the "bubbles" of the waffle can be pulled apart and eaten individually. They are not filled, incidentally), and chocolate dipped banana on a stick. Most things were served with or on skewers, and it was great fun walking and nibbling away, finding new things to try. I didn't get to try the cute little fish shaped dumplings filled with sweet red bean paste or savory fillings, so I might even go again. The night market is open from 7 pm - midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 7 pm - 11 pm on Sunday until September 25th. We used the $2 parking by the furniture stores, and walked a few minutes from the parking to the market. The market is behind the Home Depot across from Ikea.

Squid Balls Posted by Picasa

Takoyaki - Octopus Balls Being Grilled Posted by Picasa

Takoyaki - Octopus Balls Posted by Picasa

Thai Meatballs

Thai Coconut Custards with three toppings (Taro, Corn and Green Onion)

Sugar Cane Crushing Machine Posted by Picasa

Dragon Beard Candy Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Another Beach Picnic - Raincity Grill Takeout

Raincity Grill Take Out

Just a quick note about a very nice sandwich and salad from the Raincity Grill on Denman St. The summer is winding down, so it's nice to take advantage of the weather while we still can and eat outdoors. While looking for something to eat on the beach at English Bay, I noticed the Raincity Grill's takeout. My ham and cheese, with Caesar salad was $9.95 (or $10.95 with a Jones Soda or Limonata) and was freshly made in front of me while I waited at the takeout window. A nice treat. The other sandwich choices were wild smoked salmon and fromage frais with pickled shallots and arugula on country loaf and raclette cheese tortilla with smoked paprika and tomato braised beans, bell peppers, onions. The other salad choice is green salad with a pickled plum vinaigrette. Alternatively, I could have had a burger from Vera's next door.

Oyama Candy Ham and Gruyere Cheese Filled Baguette with Caesar Salad

The View - English Bay