Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #6, Rajio Japanese Public House

I just tried the new Rajio Japanese Public House at West 10th at Alma St. for the first time and loved it.  This doesn't surprise me too much, as this is the new sister restaurant to Suika on Broadway, which I also love.  Rajio (as in radio) has only been open about three months, but everything seems to be running smoothly.  Perhaps as smoothly as their "smooth pudding" which is this amazing creme caramel cold dessert that so lives up to its name.  I've visited twice in total but on the first visit, it was a very chilly night and their big bowl of oden is perfect.  Thank you Y's Mommy (as credited in the menu for the oden)!

Kushi katsu - it's hard to go wrong with fried things on sticks.  They are served with a Japanese tartar sauce, onion relish, lemon salt, and kushi katsu sauce (thin and salty).  I liked all of the ones I had, but there was definitely a stand out for me - the braised pork belly was both melty and crispy.  I also love the chewy texture of mochi, so the rice cake was delicious.  You can customize and choose your own, go with one of their combos.  My first set on the first visit was on the fresh sheet and was called the premium set.  On my second visit, I chose eggplant, oyster, gyoza, camembert and pancake (which was really chunks of okonomyaki, Japanese "pancake" with pieces of cabbage) and they were all tasty (though I recommend going with the premium set if you can).  On the topic of cabbage, you are given a complimentary bowl of salt cabbage with some sort of salty relish on it.  They say it is for digestion, and it is the perfect light, crunch complement for the fattier izakaya foods.  I've tried two cocktails so far, and they were both fantastic - the homemade ginger highball and the special pineapple sour.   The tuna from the fresh sheet wasn't that great to be honest, but these things vary so much from day to day, I wasn't too worried about it.

 Homemade Ginger Highball, Complimentary Salt Cabbage and Condiments for Kushi Katsu

 Kushi Katsu Premium Set

 Disney glass is to put used skewers, Japanese Tartar, Lemon Salt, Onion Relish, Kushi Katsu Sauce

 Secret Oden (yes, there's a little weiner, and mochi in a soybean wrap)

Local Tuna (Albacore) on the fresh sheet 

Seafood Rice Cake Pizza

 Mentaiko Kimchi Yaki Udon

Mango Pudding

 Smooth Pudding (SO smooth!)

The seafood rice cake pizza (like a giant rice cracker) was a special, and was pretty good.  The udon dish was very tasty, but I would say that the texture of the noodles at Suika is slightly better, but I still gobbled this dish up here.  Mango pudding was excellent with a layer of tender  mango on top and a relatively light and creamy pudding underneath.

Their decor was pretty cute (lit up children's character masks on one wall) and casual, but I hope they replace metal folding chairs which are a little too casual looking and not that comfortable. There are some banquettes though, which were quite comfortable.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #5, Nero Belgian Waffle Bar

Nero's Belgian Waffle Bar , on Robson at Bidwell St., makes waffles in both the Brussels and Liege styles.  Pictured above is a Liege waffle with banana and ample Nutella, with that denser, chewier  texture, uneven edges and bits of pearl sugar.  I will try the lighter, crispier Brussels waffle next time I go.  They have all sorts of interesting toppings including savoury ones, or you can just have your fresh waffle topless.  It's a cute little shop with several tables and charmingly authentic Belgian owners (a young couple who have just had their first baby).  They also make good espresso coffees, and seem to be open all the time - right now listing 11 pm closing times!  It's nice to be able to find an excellent dessert and coffee in a sit-down restaurant available after dinnertime downtown.  Too often, places close down early, or they just have mediocre desserts and rely on their ambience.  As of this posting, they are closed on Mondays.  Don't forget the savoury options though!  I've had brie, honey and walnuts on a waffle there too.  Their Facebook page seems to have more information right now than their website which is under construction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #4, Shuraku


Shuraku on Granville at Robson St., downtown is my fourth quick pick.  I went for lunch and chose the "gozen", a set meal for lunch and was presented with a beautiful and delicious array of food (about $17).  The photo above shows the meal, and miso soup, rice, and green tea ice cream for dessert were all included.  It was more than enough food.  I also had a sake flight (I think this was $12 for the three samples of sake), and loved especially the bottle pictured above that has a distinct taste of tea.  The owner of Shiraku seems to be a big fan of sake and brings in bottles that you can't get on your own.  The food is great.  My service that day was slow because they were running around trying to keep up with the big Boxing Day crowd, but they are friendly and attentive otherwise.  This place can seem pricey to someone who is used to cheaper sushi places, but the food quality and taste is high, so I think it is well worth it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #3: España

España at 1118 Denman St. at Pendrell St. is a great little Spanish Tapas restaurant with delicious food.  They do not take reservations and during my mid-week visit, there were people waiting for tables at the door later in the evening.  There were so many things I wanted to eat on the menu, but I settled on the crispy chickpeas, the chicken liver, anchovy, and sherry pate on country toast, Padron style peppers, and an endive, serrano ham,  egg, and manchego salad.  They have a nice list of wines by the glass, and I chose a glass of red.  I finished with coffee and a sherry trifle with pomegranate and strawberries.  All of these were delicious, and I heartily recommend them.  I fell in love with a little tapas joint in Barcelona, and I think Espana might be the closest thing to it that we have in town.  Service was excellent as well.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #2, Forage

Forage is the new restaurant at the Listel Hotel on Robson St. at Jervis St., replacing O'Douls.  The restaurant is in a completely different space and to me, the decor is a vast improvement to the old, dark O'Douls.  Really bright and cosy with flannel blanket-like wall covers.  Unfortunately though, the live jazz aspect is lost, I think.   The focus is on sustainability, and I've been a fan of Chef Whittaker's approach to food for a long time.  I've only had a chance to have brunch there so far, but hope to check out dinner soon.  My brunch (a great hash with winter veggies and turkey sausage, with eggs and toast (served with house made cherry and berry jam) was delicious and reasonably priced at $12.  Coffee was good too.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #1, Sal y Limon

I must admit I'm finding it hard to write full blog posts like I used to.  So in an effort to get things rolling again here, I'm going to post a series of quick picks.  Basically if you think your taste is similar to mine, just go.  These are places that I'm strongly recommending based on just one very recent visit where I experienced a problem free meal (food, drink, service, decor, etc.).  I'm keeping it simple so I'll just give you the name and location of these restaurants.  But only the best are going to be good enough to be quick picks.

Nancy's Quick Pick #1 is Sal y Limon, Kingsway at Fraser St., a great, authentic casual Mexican counter service restaurant.  Just go.