Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vancouver: PiDGin


Yes, DTES. Hence all this

Let's put gentrification aside as I don't think the owners of PiDGiN are trying to displace anyone. Let's also forget the name for the moment - is it cheeky? witty? or just lame?

There was great promise. It had far to fall. And fall it did.

I love the pa/mi-ssion they set out on.  It comes across in their words. Sadly, it didn't come across on their plates. 

Why do I bother? Because I hope they come across my blog. I'm no Jeffery Steingarten or Andrew Knowlton (yes I still crush), but I am their target demographic. 30-something professional with a penchant for fashion, a lust for great eats and a disposable income for the trendy, hip and fabulous. But I, their target market, was disappointed.

I LOVED the interior - my favourite type of decor: clean, white, modern, with unique accents, an open kitchen concept - just a great vibe...

Their food was just okay. But placed in a fine dining context and all that that entails, they were sub-standard. And one dish - rice cakes, pork belly, tomato sauce, furikake - was just plain offensive. The rice cake and tomato sauce combination was a bad idea. I haven't been that unimpressed in a long, long time. Not every play on a traditional dish will translate well - you can fuse things however which way you want but you could be asking for disaster. That dish was a perfect example of fusion gone bad.

These three were good:

cured steelhead, asian pear, ginger, sesame $14 - fresh and tasty
fried chicken wings $12 - fried+chicken=YUM
scallops, fried polenta, brussel sprouts, XO, caper raisin $17 - great polenta

These three were okay:
potatoes, spicy cod roe, seaweed butter $10 - odd, didn't work for me
mushrooms, sugar snap peas, egg, soy yuzu brown butter $12 - meh
foie gras, rice bowl, chestnuts, daikon, unagi glaze $20 - unagi glaze makes everything better

There were complaints of underseasoning, blandness, and just plain, unappetizing.  There were a few praises sprinkled throughout, but it definitely wasn't the majority. Those fell by the wayside when service went from hero to zero. The waiter dropped off the planet after all our dishes came out. We struggled to place a dessert order, and we struggled to get our bill.  It wasn't just me, we all felt it - it was clear he decided to "drop us".

The dessert finally came and I had only one question - what were they thinking?  It was good, but what was with the celery - it added nothing but confusion:

Odd note to end an odd meal.  
Please know, I am sad about this experience...I wanted to tell a different story, I really did.

PiDGiN on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Vancouver: Chicco Cafe

spoonful of sugar

Over the years, during my visits to Vancouver, I would always go to Gyoza King. It's a FAVOURITE.  Which is why it's surprising I haven't gone since I moved here in October.  I sum it up to: when you face deadlines, you feel more pressured to make sure you go to a - but when you face an infinite amount of time, you figure you'll try x, y, z, since a will always be there. Gyoza King, btw, a plus.

Chiccos is next to Gyoza King. So it stands then that I have passed by it many, many times. I've always wanted to go in...and last weekend I finally did.  

It's cramped but cute and furnished with worn, wood tables. I think it's intentionally less antique, and more old comfort.

Their parfaits are abominably priced, but they have half-price take-out specials. I had the black sesame:

Layered (g)o(o)ddness
It's pieces of cheesecake/cake, cornflakes, mochi (sweet rice cake), whipped cream, a scoop of black sesame ice cream, red bean, as well as a macaron, a butterfly cookie dusted in green tea, and a shortbread cookie.

It seems like a lot, but what I liked about it was that it was light, easy to eat, and actually quite good. I liked every bit of everything - separate and together - save and except the whipped cream. I do not like whipped cream.  I usually pass off any and all whipped cream to Minnie's plate.  Minnie would like Chicco.  Mental note, take Minnie if she EVER visits me...pause.

Their baked delights aren't as sweet as what most of us North Americans are used to. Much like Korean desserts, the sugar factor is subtle, the cakes are lighter and fluffier, and they have an affinity for red bean and black sesame. So do I, so do I.

Note: Chicco only takes cash. In my pre-blogging search, I just realized Chicco and Gyoza King are owned by the same people. That makes sense. If you like one sibling, chances are you'll like the other.  Course, same can't necessarily be said about ma soeur et moi.

Chicco on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Vancouver: Banana Leaf


Since moving here, I've been to the one on Broadway, Robson and Davie.  That's a lot of Banana Leaf to go around.

I hear Tropika is better.  It's on my list - the list I'm eating my way through. Bite, by bite...

Papaya salad of the Appetizer Sampler For 2  ($18)

Appetizer Sample

Malaysian Curry Laksa $13
I prefer this over the Singapore one because of the egg noodles.
Just wish it was spicier.
Nasi Goreng $13
The predominant flavour is I wasn't a huge fan.
I've had better nasi goreng and mee goreng elsewhere.
Banana Leaf is good value for good food, and best of all, it's consistent.

My absolute favourite thing on their long menu is roti canai:

I want to eat this ALL the time.
Buttery, flaky roti - soft with crisp tops and liquid curry goodness with a bit of heat.

Banana Leaf on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vancouver: Basil Pasta Bar

pasta 150Y

Everytime I walk by this place, it's busy - especially at lunch. I've tried it a few times because it's an easy answer to the annoying question: what's for dinner? I would like to leave that to my sister, but she's more rabbit and I'm more grizzly bear.  Monday was the perfect example. We left the gym starving. She wanted salad, I wanted carbs and meat.  She went home, I went to Basil.

It's custom pasta at great value ($7.95) and tastes good.  This is not the first time I've come across their formula - let's rewind to 1998. I was a naive and eager undergrad at U of T and spending most of my days at the library.  The cafeteria back then was 100x better than it is now.  During my undergrad, they had a pasta bar. And my friends and I ate there a lot. Some more than others, but chances are, we ate there at least once every two weeks.

Basil is exactly that: Click for menu.

Pick your pasta, veggies, meats, sauce, cheese and garnish. Then they sautee, fry, and mix it all together and voila, instant pasta.

Not fancy. Not authentic. Just so simple and so good.

It ain't rocket science. But it works.
Basil Pasta Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 11, 2013

Vancouver: Nuba Café

arbiter of health

I've heard Nuba come out of everyone's mouth here in Vancouver at one point or another.

It's Lebanese and apart from the fact the cuisine is generally healthier, Nuba takes it to another level:

Fresh, organic and local (when possible)
Many vegan options
Halal, non-medicated and hormone-free meats

The hummus was really good, although I preferred the baba ghanooj :

Le Petit Feast$16
The chicken was very flavourful:  

Chicken Tawook with Hummus$12.50
The end result? Great, fresh tasting food but don't come here hungry - well at least if you're me.  

Friday night the sister and I ventured out with insatiable appetites. We left happy with our dishes, but were far from satisfied. It's also on the pricier end - I'm used to plentiful and value sized portions when it comes to Middle Eastern...I've been told to let go of that now that I'm in Vancouver. I've been told to let go of a lot of things.  I suppose it's time I spring clean my appetite encyclopedia to make room for a Vancouver state of mind. That said, I enjoyed Nuba, but could I live off it? No. There is no amount of spring cleaning that would have me say yes.  I probably couldn't eat it more than once a month either.  There are more cons than pros for me.

Nuba on Urbanspoon

Vancouver: Sparkle Nail Salon

Report on Sparkle Nail Salon


Location: W Broadway + Alder
Interior: No frills chop-shop with television
Ideally For: A place to take yourself and/or your girls

Service: Manicure + Pedicure
Price: $45
Duration: 1 hour
Details: File, cuticle care, buff, exfoliation for feet and paraffin for hands, lotion massage, and polish application.
Massage: Great. A little more than a minute with great pressure and nice smelling lotion.
Comments: It's better than the average chop-shop but some girls are better than others. I recommend Chau - she did my feet. The girl who did my hands wasn't very good. The paraffin is an added bonus - although they double-dip - meaning everyone dips into the same bath. It has hygiene implications so it's really up to you. Best value by far.

Products: CND, OPI, Essie, Color Club

Longevity: Good

Final Grade: B

Click HERE for Grading System.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Vancouver: Stepho's Souvlaki Greek Taverna

o-mega no

I have been so busy of late that I haven’t missed Toronto as much…the city that is.  I still miss the people.  I especially miss my favourite duo.  There have been many a Friday I wish I could call out The Scotsman and Cracker. I’ve been trying to convince them to visit, but The Scotsman is busy with this:
Click to meet Milo.
How much do you love that dog? How much do you love the logo? How much do you love the video icon?

If cutest dog in the world was about how objectively cute a dog is, Milo wins. If cutest dog in the world was about who had the best branding, Milo winsFrom winners, we go to…losers?  That’s harsh, and untrue... 

Stepho’s isn’t a loser, it’s just so far from the winner this city has held it out to be.  With all the hype and accolades, it is no better than the Greek food you get from the mall food court. Mind you, I like that.

The food is good. The line-up is not. In fact, it has NOTHING to do with the quality of the food and EVERYTHING to do with the masses.

Stepho’s was made for mass consumption --– by students, high school students, university students, community college students, and anyone else who likes a deal and lives on a budget.

Oh, I love deals, but there aren’t many worth standing in line for.  Stepho’s is a clear example of that.

More often than not there is a long line at Stepho’s.  You can go early to avoid it, or you can skip it all together. Yesterday Momma GG came downtown for dinner. We intentionally went early – 5:30 to be exact – to avoid the line. 

The restaurant is loud, dark and pretty much full to capacity. The food is good – big portions and cheap. Service is basic and casual, as is the interior with its stereotypical blue-and-white checkered table coverings. Our server fixed our wobbly table as soon as he noticed it.  That is the above and beyond I admire.  He then brought me the wrong margarita, and seemed irritated when I told him so.  That is the attitude of a family-run joint I ignore. The two cancel each other so whether there were any issues with service is now moot.

The sister had a chicken pita platter.  She pita's everything:

Her fries were over-salted.  So much so, I didn’t have any. So sad.
Surprised the sister didn’t mow my leftover pita down:

round and plump - okay, nothing special
Momma GG and I each had a large souvlaki plate; Momma had chicken and shrimp, I had pork and shrimp:

 Yum for only about 12 dollars
The tzatziki was at best, average. I prefer mine a little thicker, and with a lot more bite.

I enjoy Stepho’s take-out and will continue to. I won't, however, be dining in. Mostly because the line irks me (so does the generally poor service) – it’s mere existence makes me want to stand up to the masses. If you disagree, I invite you to change your mind and join me on the side of people who know and love great Greek food.  Okay, now I miss the city again – let’s add Montreal in there because both know great Greek, and neither make you line up for it.

Stepho's Souvlaki Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon