Monday, September 30, 2013

Vancouver: Coo Coo Coffee

one hot cup

Monday morning blues? Go get a good cup of coffee.

Simple to say, hard to find. That's why you have me. To buy, sip and share. I had a lot of caffeine this weekend. Not sure it was the healthiest thing to do, but I blame it on the blog.
Let's start with the sister recommended shop. Coo Coo Cafe. She raved so I caved. Because left to my own devices, I wouldn't have tried it because I don't like the name or the logo. But my opinions can always be swayed by a good cup of coffee.
And Coo Coo has a wonderful cup. It's a small space with a nice sidewalk terrace. I ordered a cappuccino and it was delightful. On the darker end, it has a rich intense burnt aromatic flavour, which made for delicious caramel-y crema.

It was one sexy cappuccino and a doll of a place.
My new favourite caffeine hideaway.  

P.S. They use spaghetti as stir sticks. That alone makes them awesome.

P.P.S. They use La Marzocco in fun-time yellow. Also awesome.

Coo Coo Coffee on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vancouver: Sea Monstr Sushi

the art of a skilled hand

Right now, Kaide is one of my favourite sushi spots in the downtown area. I just added Sea Monstr. My friends constantly ask me what I look for in GOOD sushi. Here in Vancouver there's GOOD sushi and then there's just sushi. I don't do just sushi. Scroll to the end for my Sushi 101. Read on otherwise.

Sea Monstr is a small resto in Gastown that shares a door with Sharks and Hammers. They also share an owner.

The sister has been wanting to try it but I went without her. Too bad, so sad.

Sea Monstr exudes a cool vibe, one that lacks effort and one you expect from the likes of Gastown. It's an unembellished small space with surprisingly bright lighting. All the better to see the food my dear. 

On the weekend I met an old friend for dinner and sake and surprise, really GOOD sushi. In spite of its youthful funky website, Sea Monstr serves my favourite type of sushi: classic, simple, and soulful. Just like Kaide. And although I liked the space better than Kaide, in the end, the latter still came out on top because its sunomono is easily better; Sea Monstr's was too edgy for my palate: dark, buckwheat-like noodles and too much cucumber and seaweed:

Ebi & Tako Sunomono + Gomae

Everything else we ate was true to form - classic and made with finesse. Here is round one of the sushi we ordered. We ordered an encore but I ate it before I could snap it.

salmon, negitoro, chopped scallop, spicy tuna and monstr roll

saba sashimi + nigiri

Sushi 101. 
Breaking down good sushi from sushi may sound frivolous but too many people don't understand why I don't like the Sushi on Bloors, the Juno Sushis or the Sushi Bellas of Canada, I will try to explain. First, in my bubble, there are two kinds of sushi: classic and new age. I prefer classic which doesn't mean I don't like new age, but let's focus on one and not the other. There's also premium sushi places, but let's leave those out of the equation too. If you're curious those would be Ajisai, Toshi, and Minami/Miku - and yes, those three/four are my faves. Otherwise...

good sushi is...
  1. NOT big. I repeat BIGGER is NOT better. Futomaki is a whole other discussion.
  2. made with proper sushi rice (the su of sushi? well, it's vinegar)
  3. well-rolled. It is an art. Respect tradition.
  4. odourless and fresh. If it smells fishy walk away because fresh always tastes clean.
  5. cheap. Rule of thumb: negitoro max $3.50, individual nigiri avg $2.00
That's it. That's all. I see people complain about "doll sized rolls". I refer these people to point 1. And now that I've broken down something that should never be broken down I can sleep in peace. So please stop telling me Samurai Sushi on Davie is good. I will throw up my hand, talk to it.

Sea Monstr Sushi on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vancouver: Nook Restaurant

only miss the sun
:West End:

The summer is over. Do we miss it already? Or will we miss it when it starts to snow? Does it even snow here in Vancity??? I can tell you I will miss the great winters of Toronto. The best days are the sunny snow days. Shades and scarf - my two favourite accessories. But we're not here to talk about my wardrobe. As always we're here to talk about my stomach and she's still smiling from last week's dinner with ma familia.

We went to Nook and loved it. From the name to the space right down to the last bite. We had the most delightful server. She was a petite brunette who exuded warmth and knew the menu.

This restaurant has really done what its name alludes. It's carved out its own tiny space at the corner of Denman and Robson. A really cozy unpretentious spot, with a fabulous wine menu, offering really good Italian food. Sidebar: It's the  kind of place that makes me want to start dating again. Want and do have yet to meet on this point.

The menu is small but every dish is destined for greatness. Our meal was delicious: simple flavours, plated neatly and with all the right seasonings and extras (ample freshly grated cheese).

Buffalo mozzarella with arugula ($12)
Creamy and nutty
Ricotta, spinach, roasted garlic and olives ($17)
Thin handcrafted pizza - chewy and crispy
Campanelle ($16)
Broccolini, pine nuts and Calabrian chiles
Sweet and salty with a little kick
Spaghetti Bolognese ($16) - MY FAVOURITE
A perfect plate of bolognese. Classic robust flavour.
We cleaned our plates and left happy and full. So if I'm so hard to please, how did Nook do it so easily?!?

Note: The portions aren't large but filling for a normal person. My appetite is just out of this world. And don't forget the daily specials.

Nook on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 9, 2013

Vancouver: Timothy's Frozen Yogurt


So does the frozen yogurt at Timothy's remind you of anything? Anyone? 

Well then you must not be born between 1970 and 1980 and you must not have stepped foot into Guilford Mall, Metrotown or Pacific Centre. All three were home to a Yogen Fruz at one point or another. Personally, it was a staple of my childhood and first stop in any mall.

Let me walk you through it: Yogen Fruz presses their frozen yogurt through a machine with whatever fruit you want with it. It's awesome. Timothy's presses their frozen yogurt through a machine with whatever fruit you want with it. It's awesome.

Do you see a difference? I don't see a difference, except for the fact that I ate Yogen Fruz with my blue eyeliner wearing entourage of mean girls as we scoured the mall looking for cute boys. Yes, much of my teenage angst flowed from misguided ideas about what was cool. It's true what they say, the older you get, the smarter you are.

Now many moons later, I find myself in the company of the ma and the sister. We three decided to pig out on Timothy's after spending a few hours treasuring hunting through the shops of Steveston.

Different medium, same old fashioned frozen yogurt goodness. The sister and I had strawberry and cherry respectively:

Cherry (top) and Strawberry (bottom)

Momma GG had gelato and loved it:

Espresso & Maple Walnut
I loved Yogen Fruz. But Timothy's came out on top with it's homemade waffle cone. They're so fresh they're still warm...oh yes. So good it makes me want to throwback everyday not just Thursday.

P.S. Chloe's ma recommended cherry. She was right - it's a wonderful medley of sour, sweet and tart. Just like me.

Timothy's Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Vancouver: Pajo's Fish & Chips

beware of bees

My family loves fish & chips. We always have. It follows then that Pajo's has been on my mind since my move here. 

I was totally down with the cuteness of sitting on the warf eating out of cone that fits into a hole in the table. It's not gimmicky, it's genius. What I don't care for is unwelcome lunch guests. And at this location, that is wasps. And while today was a gorgeous day to walk around the little waterside village known as Steveston, it brought out these pesky flying horrors. Pajo's eating area was so overwrought with wasps that I can't tell you I enjoyed my food. It doesn't make for a nice experience to have a half a dozen or so wasps in your face, near your food or on your drink. I'd say half of the patrons did a good job of ignoring them, the other half were either swatting them away or moving.  We fled. Although the sister and Momma GG were not as stressed out as me, none of us enjoyed our lunch.

Update: Apparently wasps is a thing. Like it's an actual thing here in Vancouver. Listen Vancity, if you didn't want me here either you could just say so. I don't need a "sign".

Let's say I put the wasps aside, which is really big of me because I'm still traumatized by them, Pajo's is good. It was perfectly coated fried fish. Both the halibut and cod were flaky, delicate and tender. The fries were good and the gravy was kick ass. Too bad the coleslaw wasn't seasoned properly. Momma GG preferred Cockney and voiced that opinion and well, doesn't momma know best?

I have to specifically mention the sauce because  the sister and I were really surprised at how terrible the tartar was. It was neither tangy nor chunky and looked and tasted more like mayo. 

Large halibut & chips
Now all in all, Pajo's was good but it takes a lot more than what they gave me for me to even consider it top 5, much less "the best". I would go again, but absolutely not to this location. I was so bothered by the wasps that I'm scared to ever go back.

We are a condiment loving family:
Me gravy and vinegar
The sister ketchup and tartar
Plus in my books, if you're serving awesome fish & chips, then I only ask that you have awesome homemade tartar . But I may be asking too much of what I've been told is arguably the city's best fish & chips. In that case, all I can do is argue that it's not. 

Pajo's Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vancouver: Haroo Korean Homestyle Cuisine

tried to stay down

There is no Koreatown in Vancouver, I get that. There is no Yonge + Finch in Vancouver, I get that too. But how is it that in a city where Koreans are the fourth largest majority, more often than not I'm not feeling what these restaurants are throwing down.

Might you argue that I don't know what I'm talking about? Well, you would be wrong. This is one point I do not equivocate. 

I think it's time you all know I'm Korean. Contrary to what I may or may not have implied, I am no other Asian race but Korean and 100 percent proud of it. Someone wave a flag and blow a horn.

I am the youngest of two highly traditional, old-school, immigrant Korean parents. At one point or another all the generalizations you're thinking about held true - my family owned a convenience store, my parents drove a mini van, my dad values education above money, my mom makes kimchi, and everyone is scared of my dad.

Course my parents also embraced Canada and the promise it brought. The sister and I learned everything we know now from them. My dad in particular. Everything was a lesson and it always came with a philosophy. He was the first to teach me the difference between honest food and everything else. He showed me that real food, from any culture, is easy to spot and always tastes better.

Had he come to Haroo with Momma GG and the sister, he would have left all crotchety. It's shallow Korean food. Which isn't to say it was bad, but I wouldn't go back. It started with promise:

Jook - My people's congee
Familiar and tasty.
The best thing about Haroo is their side dishes (banchon). The worst thing about Haroo is their side dishes - the menu says these can only be refilled once. Well, in my experience, Koreans never explicitly state that because Koreans would not take that sh*t. That was the first sign that this place is frequented by more non-Koreans. That is not indicative of good Korean food. Even my non-Korean friends know this. In fact, is it strange that my non-Korean friends refuse to eat at restaurants they know non-Koreans like? You think I'm tough, meet them. I dare you. 

Non-Koreans seem to think these side dishes are free appetizers and some take advantage of that.
The rest of the food was simply okay. Their seafood pajeon (a pancake) tasted more like teegim (which literally means fried and refers to a dish that is well, deep fried). I prefer traditional pajeon which is pan fried so that it's crispy on the outside but still has the texture of a pancake. Haroo's was different and while the flavours were good the vehicle was not my favourite:

soondubu jigae -Spicy soft tofu soup
I've had this soup thousands of times. This was somewhere below average.
It's a shame isn't it. Especially since my bubble is completely burst. I was super excited after reading all the reviews. Momma GG was underwhelmed, though she didn't say it. 

Let this post be a lesson. More for me than you. May I always remember to put Urbanspoon and Yelp reviews IN CONTEXT. Sometimes, it takes one to know one. In this case, I know my country's food. I grew up on it, I eat it on the regular, so there is a threshold. For restaurants serving traditional Korean eats it meets it or it don't. Haroo is Korean food for non-Koreans. That would be a don't.

Haroo Korean Homestyle Cuisine on Urbanspoon 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Vancouver: Acme Cafe

there's no other way to go

The best thing about not working on a Friday? Brunch. I still have so many places to try and have barely made any headway. Sigh. I love Brunch, there's really no other way to go. 

This past Friday the sister and I were out and about at 630 am. By the time we finished our errands we were hangry. Acme Cafe was the closest so we went. It's a cute, casual diner on Hastings. Service is friendly and the kitchen is open. They have a nice selection of baked goods, but the pies will be what catch and hold your attention - I guarantee. It seems I should have saved room for pie. The lemon meringue pie was calling to me, but my belly refused to make room because we had this:

The sister's eggs benny. It just didn't have the same texture or flavours. Made us miss Cafe Zen.

I think it didn't fly with us because we're classic. We may like modern and trendy, but when it comes to some things, we just like to kick it old school, especially when it comes to benedict. Classic mcmuffin is the way to our hearts. Acme's bread broke ours. 
I had the baked eggs with bacon. It was delicious, but I didn't care for their potatoes. A little too oily, and bland.

Acme's mac and cheese, however, simply delicious. Really good. We shared a side order when we should have had a full order...each. Creamy with a nice sharp bite with breadcrumbs for added texture. So very good. Sir, can I have some mo.

Simply irresistible.

Acme Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 2, 2013

Vancouver: Ki Isu Japanese Restaurant

meh: an interjection used as an expression of indifference

It wasn't terrible. Definitely not bad enough for me to hit that dislike button on Urbanspoon, which is oddly satisfying. Course if I was judging it on the takoyaki balls alone I'd be hitting that dislike button all night long. All. night. long.

Terrible takoyaki. Dislike.
The rest of what I put in my mouth was meh. 

The negitoro passes - cheap, fresh, and well rolled. 
The inside out rolls (chopped scallop and spicy tuna) on the other hand were sloppy and poorly rolled. The spicy dynamite roll looked more like futomaki but tasted better than it looked. 
The tempura was solid although their sauce is strangely sweet.
6 pieces for $8.50
I doubt I'd go again for sushi, after all a few blocks away is Kaide, say yay. But sometimes girl wants some tempura and Ki Isu's is fine.

As you can see it was a close call. Really, it could have gone either way but I'm in a good mood these days. I leave it up to you.

Ki-Isu Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon