Monday, February 18, 2008

Relaxed Fine Dining...No, I don't mean Earl's!

Hitting an atypical balance between full service, casual comfort, and serving food that is worth eating (even when you're watching your calorie count), Senova (1864 West 57th Avenue, just east of West Boulevard, about five blocks west of Granville, 604-266-8643) has become one of my favourite Vancouver restaurants. People from the neighbourhood come dressed in jeans (and some are dressed up), and sit nestled in the warm wood-covered surroundings, and get the sort of service you would find in any other stuffier fine dining establishment. And all the fine dining details are there - like a great bread basket served with butter. It's really nice bread, served generously. They even give you a delicious little plate of marinated olives too. It's very Vancouver to me - dressed down, with it's open kitchen and homey feel, but with fantastic flavours and perfect service. Service and decor are warm and inviting like a big spoonful of honey in a hot cup of tea.

They serve food from the Iberian peninsula - Spanish and Portugese. I've been there a few times, and I would have nearly everything again. Pillowy soft salt cod fritters ($9) with a thin crisp outside shell are served with a thin fiesty piri piri. I've had these twice, and the first time they were really dreamy. For those who can't handle the heat, don't worry, there are plenty of dishes for you. Sunday was prime rib day (though this may change), and it's a straight ahead dish with some nice veggies. I've had the caldo verde with chorizo ($8), a tasty potato and kale soup, and an excellent grilled squid dish smothered in capers and other yummy bits. If you see the squid dish, I highly recommend it. They also fillet their sardines, and those are great too, served with a tapenade and sweet peppers ($9). I had their pork and clams, and it was so tasty. Some of the pork cubes seemed dry and some were really succulent. They all looked pretty uniform in size, so I'm not too sure how this happens unless different cuts of pork get tossed in. But the whole combination was just so tasty, it's a minor quibble. It's a surprisingly generous portion for an appetizer, and I'm starting to give myself a craving just remembering the dish. I enjoyed their version of the classic tomato salad as well - goat cheese instead of bocconcini, with tomato, greens, and a balsamic vinagrette. I've had more appetizers than mains (in the spirit of tapas), but Bac'n girl enjoyed her duck breast and duck confit main. And I've enjoyed their prime rib. Main courses run about $25-32, I think, but you can choose from any of their dishes for a $35 three-course meal or $45 for a four-course meal (with a small upgrade for certain dishes). They'll do wine pairings too, but I always find myself driving to this restaurant. For dessert, I have had a fantastic warm chocolate bread pudding that they make with their cornbread, and Bac'n girl and I have had a dessert trio as well, which was fun to try, but I remember truly enjoying just one of the three. I think the favourite was a cheesecake, and the meringue was fine, and then there was a brulée. I would go for the bread pudding over any crème brulée dessert, as I'm a bit of a stickler for a super thin sugar crust. I happen to be a fan of bread pudding in general though, but theirs was memorable. The trio changes though, so it's worth asking about.

There are still dishes on the menu that I want to try. And apparently there's paella day and roasted suckling pig day too. They're also open for lunch most days of the week. I honestly think it's one of the most underrated restaurants around the city, but they seem to have always have a steady stream of people in there, probably from the surrounding neighbourhood, as their name (good neighbour, in Portugese) suggests. It would be a great stop on the way home with an out-of-town guest who has just flown in at YVR. I also think it's worth the trip if you just want to go for a nice dinner somewhere. At least there's free parking.

I first went to this restaurant after I came home from my first and only trip to Europe, which was mostly spent falling in love with Spanish food. I really think that we should have more Spanish restaurants in town, especially with the abundance of seafood available here. Senova is a good start though.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Junk Food Wars!

I have an idea for the ultimate potluck party: ultimate junk food inventions! Everyone should bring some ultimate junk food creation, with prizes for Creativity, and Best Taste. Maybe some random prize categories should be added, such as Most Complex, Best Food on a Stick, and Best Use of a Pork Product. I was inspired by a couple of posts I found on the internet. First, I saw a picture of the tornado potato, a whole potato, spiral cut, stuck on a stick, and deep fried...and dusted with cheesy powder, of course. This is apparently a fairly recent addition to the Korean street food scene, which is rife with all manner of junk food on a stick. I think it's brilliance on a stick; that's what I think! Then at the end of the article, it mentioned deep-fried Coca Cola! Apparently it was served at the Texas State Fair, and involves coke batter, deep-fried, topped with coke syrup drizzle, whipped cream, and a cherry. This is exactly the type of thing we need our best minds to be working on! What sort of junk food creativity has caught your eye recently?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Giving Me the Chicken Eye

Okay, this is just for any of you long time Nancylanders: The chicken's eye was closed. I'm sure you all needed to know that. No chicken eye this Chinese New Year's, yay! It's looking like a good year already, I guess! And it's my year too! That's right. Rat, and proud of it. Too bad I don't believe in astrology, because I quite like being both a rat and a scorpio.