Archive for July, 2012
Another great location, another Boathouse. This time on Kits Beach!
Emme, Pitah, and I went here on a beautiful day, so we got to take full advantage of the wondrous view from the Boathouse balcony. I think most Vancouverites would agree that Vancouver is the most livable city… for about two (or three) months of the year, when it’s not raining. Those few months are sometimes enough to make you forget about all the miserable rain and gray weather we get for the rest of the year!
An amazing location, however, cannot conceal the fact that the food at the Boathouse is still… not amazing. If you’re not blinded by the blue skies and sunshine and awesome setting, you’ll realise that most of the money you’re putting towards your meal is actually just you paying for the view. With that premise, let the review officially commence.
The service here is friendly, for the most part, although after our rather cheerful hostess seated us, we were served for the rest of the noon hour by a cranky waitress. You would think the outstanding weather would be enough to put anyone in a sunny mood, or at least remind waiters and waitresses to not bring their bad attitudes to work. We had a tough time getting water refills the rest of the time, and our meals took so long to prepare that we actually did have to ask at one point if we could expect our food any time soon. A large party of six that was sitting a little ways from us, but seated twenty minutes after we had ordered, got their food before we did. Not a good way to start off the meal!
Northwest Seafood Pasta: ★★☆☆☆
Pitah ordered the Northwest Seafood Pasta with the Caesar salad option for a side dish. The description of “wild fish, shrimp & clams, spinach, roasted tomatoes, garlic cream” may make you think that there should have been a bit more there… Indeed. Aside from the Parmesan that was shredded on top, this was mostly bland pasta and shrimp, with a barely detectable hint of garlic. There was nothing aside from the shrimp and the one clam you see in the photo, maybe three tomatoes, and a couple of strings of cooked spinach. The Caesar salad was tastier than the main pasta dish.
Grilled Chicken Breast Club: ★★★☆☆
Emme has an allergy to some types of seafood, so she opted to go for a safer option and chose the Grilled Chicken Breast Club. This was better – much better – than the pasta, but still nothing particularly outstanding. The cheese on the sandwich was a nice touch, although it could have used more than the single, wimpy slice of smoked bacon. (What little bacon there was, though, was very, very good.) The chicken was a little tough and could have used some additional seasoning. The roasted red pepper, however, was a nice touch. The side salad was a nice blend of textures – savoury Parmesan, crunchy pine nuts, and crispy lettuce. Huh, reading this review, you’d think that if there is one thing that the Boathouse does do well, it’s their side salads.
Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth: ★☆☆☆☆
I love seafood, so it almost goes without saying that I ordered a seafood-based dish. My choice was the Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth,which I think was a special of the day or something since I haven’t seen it on their menu since the last time I ate it. Oh boy. This was disappointing. The menu described it as having a “hearty, rich, tomato-based broth”. “Tomato-based” – I’ll give them that, but “hearty” and “rich”? Not so much. There was very little flavour to the broth, and it was very thin and watery. It could have, I suppose, been a little bit better if there had been more herbs simmered alongside, or if it had been topped with fresh herbs, but nothing would have fixed its consistency unless you altered the entire recipe and added more cream or even more tomato. I couldn’t taste any saffron, though maybe it was diluted in the watery mixture. The lemon helped a little… but not much. The vegetables were cooked well, but I don’t think they were cooked in the broth, since they didn’t taste like anything but the vegetables they were. If I have anything here to praise, it’s the presentation and the fish. The fish was cooked well, although it is a white fish and could have used some extra seasoning and flavouring to make it a little more exciting.
So with less-than-impressive food and service, what are the redeeming features of the Boathouse? Definitely location, and the ambiance if you sit on the deck. Unfortunately, I don’t find the view worth the prices you end up having to pay for the mediocre-to-substandard food, so I probably won’t be coming back.
White Spot! Yet again. When you’re stuck for dinner and don’t know where to go, and aren’t feeling adventurous enough to try something new, White Spot is not a bad fallback. The quality here is relatively consistent across all White Spot restaurants – and if not the quality, then at the very least the menu is the same regardless of which branch you choose to visit. That said, this is a shorter review since I have reviewed White Spot before – and there’s nothing groundbreaking about their food to write about.
On this particular occasion, I visited one of the White Spots downtown after a walk on the seawall in Stanley Park. The service here seems to lean on the “above average” side when it comes to this chain, and it’s also kind of nice that the restaurant is split into a section for adults and one for kids. You are not necessarily in for an evening of noise, even if you’re visiting on a summer night while school is out. Where you’re seated does seem to have an effect on the amount of service you get, though. We were seated by the wall in the dining area that is usually reserved for kids only – but this was an unusually quiet evening so there were only a few young families dining out. Our waitress pretty much neglected us after taking our orders, and again after delivering the food. She forgot to fill up our water glasses repeatedly, but this was the first time that had happened to Emme at this particular White Spot – and we’ve been here a couple of times. At some point in the evening, all of the lights in half of this dining section went out, as well… Extremely strange. The servers acted as if nothing had happened, but they all came back on after five minutes. Weird. Other than that, the ambiance is what you would expect: laid-back, cozy, and casual. The lighting might be a bit too dim, though, as both Emme and Pitah commented that the menus were a bit hard to read in the low light.
As for food… Well, like I said: quality is pretty consistent across all White Spots and you’re not going to find any mind-blowingly (not a word) delicious food at any chain restaurants. Pitah ordered a Chicken Caesar Wrap with the soup of the day, a Tomato Bisque, on the side. It was pretty much just standard tomato soup with crackers, i.e. not a true bisque, I don’t think. Nevertheless, it wasn’t bad. Not too salty, but not very rich and a bit watery. The chicken Caesar wrap wasn’t bad, also; the Caesar dressing has a nice tang and balance between cheesiness from the Parmesan and sourness from the lemon. The chicken wasn’t overcooked and there was plenty of it, alongside the lettuce. A good, solid chicken wrap. Personally, I think they could do with adding a few more ingredients – like tomatoes or cucumber or something to give it a bit more crunch. As it was, it was kind of goopy… which is not bad, I just think the texture could be better. The fries were fresh and warm, although the coleslaw was a bit mushy and lacking sourness.
Emme got her usual favourite: The Legendary Burger. Contrary to Pitah’s wrap, the variety of ingredients here was a little better. Look! A tomato! AND a pickle! … Enough sarcasm. This was actually one of the better “Legendary” burgers that Emme has had since coming to Vancouver. There was plenty of “Triple O sauce” to go around and a nice balance between the patty and other ingredients. The patty itself was juicy and tasty, and the fries were fresh and warm. The only complaint I could offer up on Emme’s behalf would be that there really could have been more fries. The plate actually looked a bit sparse with a small pile of fries and the burger when it arrived (the angle from which I took the photo might not reflect that very well). As always, though, the bun was nice and fluffy. I think White Spot has some of the best burger buns in the city – regardless of where it buys them or what brand they are. I think I’m just glad that they’re never squashed…
We last visited here quite a while ago, and at that time they were still offering the Seafood Fusilli pasta dish on their menu. I’ve no idea why they pulled it to replace it with a lame plain veggie dish (viva seafood!!), but I was a bit sad when it disappeared anyway. It could sometimes turn out pretty well. And even if the sauce didn’t turn out all that well, the seafood was usually cooked fairly well and the highlight of the dish. In any case, speaking of the sauce and seafood, this was an instance where the sauce was a disappointment. I think that is actually quite evident in the picture. There hardly was any sauce. Actually, maybe I’m not that sad that this dish isn’t offered anymore, after all… This was the last time I ordered the dish, because it was this dish in particular that disinclined me to order it in the future. There was so little flavour that I was pretty much turned off from ordering it ever again. I don’t know if I’m being too bold in saying this, but really – it’s the sauce that makes a pasta dish, especially when you are not using fresh pasta. At the very least, the noodles were al dente and the seafood was, as aforementioned, not overcooked and quite tender. It’s just that there was no subtly spicy kick from the fennel seeds (because there were no fennel seeds, as the menu would have you believe) and no tomato-ey flavour. I didn’t eat all the pasta; there just wasn’t enough sauce to make it taste good. It was probably about time that the dish was retired, anyhow, whenever they dropped it from their menu.
Oh, hey, Emme also had a side Spot Salad. Not much to say here. Good, tangy dressing with a good balance between the vinegar and oil. The added herbs are a nice addition. I personally hate dried fruit so I would never order this with dried cranberries, but Emme always enjoys the added texture – the chewiness of the dried cranberries with the crunch from the vegetables and seeds. For the price, I would say it’s not worth it, though. The size they give you always depends entirely on the chefs that evening, and paying something like $5 for a tiny salad prepared by a stingy chef is a waste of your moolah.
So, as always, dishes at a chain restaurant are hit-and-miss. Emme and Pitah were fortunate enough to have fairly good meals while I ended up with a mostly-sauce-less pasta dish. Most of the food is pretty tasty, although nothing special. A good last resort, I would say, if you don’t feel like cooking and just want to sate your hunger.
Aside from White Spot, I’m usually not one to visit those sort of “chain” restaurants, such as Earl’s, Moxie’s, the Cactus Club, and so on and so forth. But being stuck for lunch one day at Park Royal – and not wanting to visit White Spot, for once – Emme and I visited the Milestones over there instead. I used to go there when I was little, and always order the French toast without the raisins… only to have it delivered to me, every single time, with the raisins. I am not a dried fruit person. Given that repeated bad experience, I think I must have resolved to never visit Milestones again at some point in my early years. Nevertheless, every restaurant deserves a second chance… especially when it’s been years since the last visit.
The restaurant was completely dead when we walked in at about half past noon on a Saturday, which was rather odd. Thanks to that, though, we managed to get a great table by the window – perfect for the sunny day it was. The booths here are huge and comfy, so that’s definitely a plus! The nice thing about most Milestones is that they all have quite a nice ambiance inside, and have a classy but hip feel to each restaurant. The music was pretty low-key and pleasant. To top it off, our waitress was quite friendly, although service throughout the meal suffered; Emme and I repeatedly found ourselves asking for our small glasses to be refilled with water. (I’m always tempted to just steal the whole water pitcher, so that we don’t have to keep bothering the servers.) A lot of the waiters and waitresses were a bit fixated on watching the flat-screen TVs, which would explain the inattentive service.
Ambiance and service aside – how was the food? Did my dish suffer the same fate as before with regards to raisins?! Fortunately, no. This time around, I went for the Lunch Duo (I would have gotten the trio, but was not interested in the soup). The sandwich portion I requested was the chicken spinach asiago ciabatta – which has everything the name indicates – and a fairly standard salad on the side. It was… decent. That’s my other beef with restaurants like Earl’s and Milestones: the food is decent, not mindblowing, and kind of expensive for what you get. Anyway, it was a good sandwich. The ciabatta was fluffy on the inside, had a nice crisp exterior, and at least tasted freshly baked. If I could change anything, it would have been to try to keep the temperature of the dish consistent. As it was then, the chicken was cold, the cheese was cold, and the spinach was hot. They were also super skimpy with the cheese. I think it would’ve really helped to have the contents either all hot or all cold – otherwise the sandwich seems kind of… confused. My personal preference would’ve been to have to whole thing hot, so that the cheese could melt and the unseasoned chicken’s bland taste could’ve been masked a little better to let the cheese flavour shine through more. The salad was your average, run-of-the-mill side salad, so not much to comment on there. It tasted relatively fresh.
Emme apparently wasn’t that hungry and just got a bit salad. More specifically, the watermelon, feta, and roasted beet salad. If anything, this was probably the highlight of our visit, surprisingly. There was a lovely lemony vinaigrette drizzled on top with a hint of chardonnay, and a couple of candied pecans sprinkled over it. The feta was, I think, goat feta and was amazing. Should have asked who their supplier was, because the cheese was the highlight for me. There were fried tortilla strips, too, but personally I think the dish could have done without them. They just seemed kind of misplaced, and left a weird, greasy aftertaste in the mouth. The roasted beets were also delicious and subtly sweet, and the watermelon was crisp and fresh. Thumbs up for the salads at Milestones, at the very least, if the quality and flavour of this one are representative of the rest.
All in all, it was not a bad experience, per sé; it just wasn’t a particularly memorable one. I’d personally rather spend my money somewhere else, but Milestones is a fairly good option for dining if you’re in West Vancouver. The food is nothing remarkable, but it is tasty, filling, and the prices aren’t necessarily unreasonable. I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit Milestones, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid it, either.