Archive for July, 2011

Gorilla Food

I think most veggie-lovers, vegan (or vegetarian) or not, probably give Gorilla Food a try at least once if they’re in Vancouver. A vegan friend of mine recommended it to me (rather, she was gushing about how truly awesome the food was there), and so I decided to give it a go. I dragged a hesitant Emme and an equally hesitant Pitah along with me for the ride… Pitah in particular would never turn into a vegetarian, vegan, or — least likely of all – an “all-raw” vegan — and Emme also quite likes her meat. I only managed to convince them to give Gorilla Food a shot, actually, by saying that we could just view the meal as an afternoon snack rather than lunch or dinner.

The actual “restaurant”, if you can call it such, is small and has that “hippie” sort of atmosphere that you seem to often find in vegetarian restaurants – sort of akin to the Naam but very different at the same time. One thing the two have in common is that the waiters – or, in the case of Gorilla Food, the counter attendants – are very chill and laid back. Nothing is rushed. The music is… relaxing, but… interesting? Because of its limited space, it did feel a bit cramped. Being partially underground also made it a bit dimmer and darker, and gave it a “cave”-type feeling. The place was almost empty when we came in, and people were picking up food to go rather than sitting around. Nevertheless, the three of us grabbed a table and then took turns ordering at the counter…

GO Veggie Burger

Emme asked for the GO Veggie Burger, preferring to stick as close to her meat-eating ways as possible, and was served up an impressive stack of veggies plus the burger “patties”, surrounded by lettuce and two crackers/bread slices. Although she was not particularly a fan of the veggie flax “bun” – it tasted earthy, she reported, but not bad per sé – she liked the guacamole and rather meaty veggie patties. The ginger tomato ketchup also added a nice taste and tang to the dish. It kind of amazed us how the patties held together so well, and the texture was pretty impressive as well. The only real downside, aside from the “bun” in Emme’s opinion, was that it wasn’t filling at all. At $8, that is pretty disappointing for a dish. Otherwise, everything was very fresh and the actual patties were pretty good!

Maui Waui Pizza

Pitah ordered a slice of Maui Waui pizza… and ended up getting two, since I suggested that one might not come even a bit close to filling him up. (Even if I were to eat regular pizza, I would reach for at least two pieces… and so found it hard to believe that one could fill up a typical meat-eating guy.) The crust of the pizza is made from sprouted sunflower seeds, buckwheat, carrot, and flax, according to the site. It’s topped with a sundried tomato herb sauce and massaged kale, as well as walnut “cheeze” and pineapple chunks. Amazingly, Pitah devoured both slices. If Gorilla Food is great at one thing, it’s at getting people to get their raw veggies. Usually, even I can’t eat kale raw, but Pitah said it was tender and not all that bitter. I guess massaging the kale really makes a difference. Other than the kale and very fresh pineapple chunks, the savory sauce was also pretty good. Actually, I think the sauce with the walnut “cheeze” was what made the pizza seem far more edible to Pitah. It actually did taste a bit cheesy” – it was just a bit nutty at the same time, of course. Somehow, the two slices filled him up… for a little while. He commented that he certainly felt “very healthy” afterwards, haha. At $7 a slice, however, I can hardly call this a good deal.

Nice Bowl

I specifically asked the counter attendant what would be filling, and at first debated between getting the Water Wisdom Seaweed Salad (love seaweed!) and the Nice Bowl, but ended up getting the Nice Bowl since I was curious about what the “ryce” was, and it seemed like it would have more substance. Now, maybe this is just because I’m a crazy vegetable-lover, but I… really liked this. Actually, I would go so far as to say I loved the dish – since I ran home and recreated it at a later time, heh. I usually can’t eat broccoli raw; it just tastes too iron-y, in my opinion, even if served with dip. The curry “sauce” in this made the entire thing delicious, and the “ryce” was also very tasty. I think it was comprised of processed raw cauliflower, and the entire dish was mixed with plenty of sesame seeds. I’m not sure which was the best part: the curry seasoned veggies, leaves and sprouts or the “ryce”. I can see why the raw kale did not bother Pitah, also, since it was wonderfully tender and gave the illusion that it was lightly steamed or cooked. As the menu described, it was served warm, which was a pleasant surprise since I think I expected it to come out cold anyway. Clearly, raw food does not always equal cold food.

Would I go back? You know, I probably would. The Nice Bowl actually did fill me up, and I had to take a portion of it home to finish later. However, would I bring a meat-loving omnivore here? Eh… probably not. As “interesting” as Pitah and Emme found their dishes, and as creative as the ‘chefs’ are, in the end they did not really leave with fully sated appetites. The food was pretty good, though, just not the best value – organic or otherwise. Also, I would probably just grab a dish ‘to-go’ next time like most of the other customers, since the little “hole-in-the-ground” feeling from the restaurant didn’t really appeal to me. Emme and Pitah commented that the music was kind of bizarre. The lack of waiters isn’t a bad thing at all here, though; with seemingly few “sit-down” customers, more people getting tale-out, and limited space, the current set-up makes much more sense and doesn’t detract from the ambiance. The counter attendants were friendly enough, though a little bit brusque.

Personally, I’m looking forward to going back and trying some of their other dishes… I have heard good things about their desserts and drinks, none of which I tried. According to Pitah, if not full you will at least leave here feeling very “healthy”.

Ambiance: 2

Food: 4

Service: 3

Value: 3 (Not the best bang for your buck in terms of leaving with a full, satisfied belly.)

Overall: 3

Gorilla Food on Urbanspoon

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Hachibei

After some technical issues that left my computer bereft of… well, everything, I hardly felt like blogging. Not that I really could, anyway, given that all of the restaurant photos were gone… Finally dug around and got them off of my camera and back onto the computer once more!

Anyway… About a month ago – before Emme headed overseas on an important trip – she requested that we try out this Japanese place that she had passed one day on W 16th. Even when going out with friends, I’m usually the one coming up with restaurants to try out, so her suggestion surprised me. And Japanese food?! I’m always the one asking to eat Japanese – so much and so often that I sometimes drive my dining companions insane. In this case, I was quite happy to oblige and accompany Emme on her final restaurant outing before her trip.

Edamame

Hachibei is a rather unassuming place – as it seems a lot of great sushi places are – and I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a restaurant I hadn’t heard of (or read about on Urbanspoon.com). It ended up being a very pleasant surprise, as it not only turned out to be “authentic” and staffed entirely (it seems) by Japanese people but also a place that other Japanese frequent (always a good sign!). Because we came early, we managed to get a table… but not fifteen minutes after being seated, the restaurant was absolutely packed. The space limitation is a downside, but even if you’re eating in cramped conditions and don’t mind your dining ambiance suffering a bit from the proximity of your neighbour, Hachibei is well worth a visit. Both the service and the food are excellent.

Mozuku Su

Emme ordered some edamame to start, and a warm, perfectly salted generous portion of the boiled soybeans came out. It was definitely a good way to start off to meal! As is my habit, I asked for a smattering of dishes — all of which came out before Emme’s, only because she ordered a full teishoku set. I shared the edamame with Emme until my mozuku su came out. It is a [relatively] easy dish to prepare, so there’s not much to comment on… but it was very good, and easier to swallow than other mozuku su dishes that I’ve had in the past, for some reason. I love the taste, but sometimes restaurants serve this up as far too “slimy”… This one was still slimy – it is seaweed – but less so? If that makes any sense. Loved the garnish of freshly grated ginger. It give a nice tang to the ‘marinade’.

Salmon Sashimi – Half order

As my main course, I ordered some salmon sashimi, which was indeed wild sockeye salmon and unbelievably delicious. The melt-in-your-mouth sensation that you get when eating super fresh fish was there 100%. The presentation of the dish was also, I thought, very nice. Not a lot of chefs will take the time or bother with adding garnishes like grated daikon or shiso leaves or parsley sprigs, but it can really add a “refined” and elegant feeling to a dish… especially when it’s a seemingly simple dish like sashimi.

Miso Soup

I followed up the sashimi with a tomato salad, miso soup, and kappa maki. I’m happy to report that the soup had – gasp!more than just broth and a sprinkling of green onions. Really, it kind of peeves me when some Japanese restaurants charge you a dollar (sometimes two) for a bowl of miso paste and hot water. This miso soup had at least a couple of bits of seaweed, and some fat, chunky cubes of tofu. Not the best, but better than the standard miso soup you’d usually get!

As for the salad… Well, it obeyed the basic requirements of a salad! Very fresh vegetables, a vinaigrette that bursts with flavour, and nicely presented as a bonus. The tomatoes were actually the best I’d tasted in a while. They weren’t your standard field tomatoes, and I suspect that they may have used heirloom tomatoes…However, I have gone back and had the salad again, and on the second occasion the tomatoes were just your typical ones. Perhaps they actually take advantage of seasonal vegetables when they can?! I’ve no idea, but I’ve rambled on for long enough about a salad…

Tomato Salad

Oshinko Maki

Oshinko maki is a pretty plain roll, so again, there’s not a lot to say. Crunchy, sweet pickles… and house-pickled ginger! Love fresh ginger, when it isn’t dyed with all sorts of [highly unnecessary] food colouring. I couldn’t tell if this was takuan that the restaurant had pickled or if it was store-bought, but it was still good. The rolls held together well, and the sushi rice was actually flavourful enough that I could enjoy the rolls without soy sauce.

Emme decided to be adventurous and not get any of her usual dishes (beef or chicken teriyaki) and ordered up one of the specials of the day: Spanish mackerel teishoku.  Yes, it’s definitely fair to say that one should really get a teishoku at Hachibei, rather than sushi (as I did). The teishoku sets are a great deal for what you get, and the quality of food is just as fantastic as any of the single items on their menu. The pickles that came with Emme’s meal, we could tell, were made in-house. The normal pickles – i.e. pickled cucumber – wasn’t salty and vinegary enough for Emme’s tastes, so she forfeited them to me. The agedashi tofu, which was one of the sides, was pretty good: a lightly breaded exterior, and sitting in a tasty dashi broth and sprinkling of bonito. Not the best, however; it wasn’t as crispy on the outside as it could have been, but we guessed that it was maybe because it was the first side dish done.

Spanish Mackerel Teishoku

The spinach goma-ae that was sitting next to the tamagoyaki was wonderful. The sesame paste gave a great, robust taste to the boiled spinach. Emme usually hates spinach, and was surprised that the goma-ae ended up being her favourite side dish on the tray. There’s also something to be said for the tamagoyaki: it was firm and held together, but maintained its silky softness and was pleasantly sweet.

The main dish in the teishoku – the grilled Spanish mackerel – was very good, but a little too oily, Emme said. We understand that mackerel is pretty oily in general, but it was unfortunately bordering more on “greasy”. Still, it was perfectly cooked and wonderfully tender – no hint of toughness and definitely no unpleasant dryness.

Clockwise from upper left: Spinach Goma-ae, more pickles, and Tamagoyaki

All in all, it was a great dining experience! True, we did not enjoy having our neighbours sitting so close on both sides of our table, and it made me feel even more awkward about whipping out my camera and taking shots of our meal. My only complaint is definitely related to just that: because of the severely limited space in the restaurant, and in part because of its apparent popularity, the ambiance really suffers. On the other hand, the food is generally very good, the teishoku sets are a great deal and give you plenty of bang for your buck, and the service is fantastic. (In part, I’m sure the service is so good because the waitresses are working in such a small space and can quickly maneuver around tables to take orders or refill cups of water and/or green tea.)

Thanks to its good food and authenticity as a true Japanese restaurant, Hachibei has indeed made its way onto Emme’s and my [short] list of “go-to” Japanese restaurants.

Ambiance: 1.5 (This would definitely be higher on a day when the restaurant isn’t ridiculously busy.)

Food: 4

Service: 4.5

Value: 4 (The teishoku sets are a good deal! Looks like the rice and noodle bowls would be, too.)

Overall: 4

Hachibei on Urbanspoon

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