Archive for category Downtown

Cardero’s Restaurant

Cardero’s is another restaurant owned by the Sequoia Company of Restaurants (alongside Seasons in the Park, The Teahouse in Stanley Park, and The Sandbar on Granville Island). Like its other restaurants, it’s in a fabulous location and has an amazing setting. That, of course, is factored into the prices, which are [admittedly] quite steep for what you get. The menu is also almost identical to its other restaurants.

BC Salmon Burger

BC Salmon Burger

BC Salmon Burger: 

Another salmon burger?! Like I said, the menu is pretty much identical to the other restaurants. This is fine, I guess, as long as you don’t get your hopes up that – because it’s a different location and under a different name – the menu is going to be a new one. It is a fine menu, though; a fairly large selection and all high quality. This was another great salmon burger, with the tartar sauce nicely offsetting the warmth from the salmon (which, by the way, was indeed cooked perfectly).

Coal Harbour Burger

Coal Harbour Burger

Coal Harbour Burger: 

So, the Coal Harbour Burger and the Queen Elizabeth Burger are the same thing. I haven’t been to The Sandbar or The Teahouse (at least, not with the intention of blogging about them), but I imagine there are equivalents there for this standard burger, also. In any case, I actually thought this was a notch better than the QE Burger; there was plenty of cheese to balance out the beef. Cooked well and just delicious.

The buns at Sequoia restaurants are always incredibly. So fluffy, warm, and… I swear they butter them! They are model hamburger buns.

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza: 

I love pizza. Actually, who doesn’t love pizza? This was a very cheesy pizza, and there was just enough basil that you could taste it but not enough that it was overpowering. I think it could have done with a bit more of both cheese and sauce; the crust seemed like it would be able to hold more of both. I did love the crust though; it was not overly bread-like and, rather, was like a traditional Italian pizza’s crust. Thin, crispy edges, but softer towards the middle. I believe they’re baked in a traditional wood oven.

Gluten-free Montreal Style Smoked Meat Sandwich

Gluten-free Montreal Style Smoked Meat Sandwich

Montreal Style Smoked Meat Sandwich: 

Okay, so, the rating here is for the gluten-free version of this. The waitress was incredibly accommodating in finding Emme something she could eat. They have gluten-free pizza crusts, so what they did here was use the gluten-free pizza dough to make a sandwich that was on the menu. The dough was actually not why I downgraded this; the smoked meat was good (just nothing special and didn’t taste too much like Montreal smoked meat), the mustard was incredibly, but there was hardly any cheese or caramelised onions. The sandwich would’ve tasted more balanced with more of both! Otherwise, it was impressive.

Complementary bread basket

Complementary bread basket

Complementary bread basket and Cappuccino: 

Fluffy, warm, fresh-tasting. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to complain about! The butter was nice and easy to spread because we went on one of these warmer Vancouver days.

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

The cappuccino was good, too. I think Emme should have gotten one of the more “exciting” ‘Special Coffees’ that Cardero’s offers. They have a list of pretty interesting combinations of coffee and alcohol… Give one a shot if you’re a coffee lover!

I really like the Sequoia line of restaurants. They’re always in great locations and the food is always good. The company also seems to make sure that their wait-room staff are the top-of-the-line; the waiters and waitresses that have waited on us in the past have always been personable and very accommodating.

Cardero’s has a beautiful patio. Even if it’s a slightly chilly day, you can sit out if it’s sunny since they’ll give you fleece blankets to cover your lap. (In my opinion, this is a really great touch!)

I didn’t have any of the desserts this time, but they are all outstanding. (I have had all except the cheese plate. (I love cheese but prefer something sweet for dessert!))

Ambiance: 5

Food: 4.5

Service: 4.5

Value: 4

Overall: 4.5
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White Spot (Stanley Park)

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.

Tomato Bisque

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.

Chicken Caesar Wrap

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.

The Legendary Burger

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…

Seafood Fusilli

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.

Side Spot Salad

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.

Ambiance: 4

Food: 3.5

Service: 2.5

Value: 3

Overall: 3

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Meat and Bread

The chefs hard at work.

As of now, writing this, there are 71 blogger reviews (173 total reviews) for the original Meat & Bread location on Cambie, in Gastown… the majority of which are positive, or just flat-out glowing reviews. Well, here’s another to add to that pile, and another satisfied diner voting “Like it!” on Urbanspoon.com.

I think Mijune over at the Follow Me Foodie blog was spot on with her take on the place and its food: “Was it worth the wait? Yes. Did it live up to expectations? Yes. But was it the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life? Not exactly.” But hey, I’ve had some pretty good sandwiches! I am, an amazing chef after all. (Kidding! Well, sort of kidding. Heh.)

When a friend suggested heading here for lunch one day to catch up, it only seemed right to agree and go see what all the fuss was about. Yes, there is certainly a lot of hype around Meat and Bread and its supposedly amazing sandwiches. And I have to say, they are amazing. Seriously. So amazing, apparently, that this is one of the few restaurants (if I can call it that) that I’ve blogged about on the day of visiting (instead of days or weeks later…). Before I say anything else:please go here if you’re visiting Vancouver. Or if you’re anywhere near Gastown and have a grumbling gut. Or if you’re not either of those things. Just go here.

The porchetta.

Perhaps it is overhyped – but it’s hard to argue (at least, in my opinion) that the food isn’t good quality. My friend – I am calling him the Chemist – and I did wait in line (ehh for 20 minutes or so?) because we went directly in the middle of ‘lunch hour’, but the sandwiches were worth it. Everyone says the porchetta is to die for, and the Chemist stood by that and ordered it for himself. I’m going to assume it was as good as all the other times he’s been here before, since there were no complaints from him! Chopped up roasted pork with crispy pork skin and salsa verde – straightforward but delicious is the formula here, it seems.

I’ve never been a pork person; my mother never cooked it for my family as I grew up, probably because my father thought it “unhealthy”. Well, to that I say: puh-leeze, pork is perfectly healthy. Especially the stuff they serve at Meat and Bread – this is local, non-medicated pork. Good stuff, people. The rest of the meats and cheeses are supposedly also either local or organic or both, with pastured beef and free-range chicken – if those are on the menu for the day. Just my luck, actually, that beef was on the menu on this particular day. I went with the Fraser Valley beef chuck roll, cumin spice, salsa criolla, chimchurri, and arugula. How’s that name for a mouthful? The sandwiches are a mouthful, too, obviously… a tasty mouthful… Well, needless to say, it was awesome. I think I know where Guy Fieri’s coming from when, in his episode that featured this place, he said “I can’t even remember my name” after taking the first bite of his sandwich. The beef chuck was moist and tender, not stringy; the high quality of the stuff is obvious, and it was cooked to perfection to achieve that whole “melt-in-your-mouth” texture. It was a great sandwich – and probably the only way I’d ever eat arugula. (I hate arugula by itself. I couldn’t taste it here. WIN-WIN.) Looking back, I think my only complaint would be that I couldn’t taste any cumin spice?! The chimchurri was pretty powerful, though unbelievably tasty. Whatever the salsa was, it wasn’t noticeable. But if I haven’t already made my point clear: the sandwich was still delicious.

Special of the day: Fraser Valley Beef Chuck Roll, Cumin Spice, Salsa Criolla, Chimichurri, and Arugula.

There is something to be said for the ciabatta, too! The ciabatta are crispy (and taste buttery… although they don’t butter them!)  and don’t detract from the sandwich contents. There’s just enough bread to hold all that flavourful meat and accompanying sauce together – which is definitely what you want, considering that these are pricey sandwiches at $7 or $8 a pop, depending on what you get! Although I think the sandwiches are probably all great and I love the whole “simple” concept (which, don’t get me wrong, Meat and Bread pulls off extremely well, what with placing focus on menu item quality as opposed to quantity), I think the only thing on their menu I would change would be to offer something else instead of a grilled cheese sandwich as one of the four options. Oh, and I’d pull the salad from the menu. Yes, so says the reformed salad-lover who has taken a year to realise that ordering salads at restaurants is a waste of money (pretty much). (I did not come to Meat and Bread for a salad…) But I digress…

Again, as Mijune rightfully concluded: Meat and Bread may not have “the best sandwiches EVER”, it definitely dominates the whole “gourmet sandwich” niche and really delivers in terms of taste. Personally, I love the emphasis on quality meats and think that the seemingly high price-tag is totally worth it for what you get. Would I return or recommend this place to others? Count on it.

Meat and Bread, I’ll be back.

Ambiance: 4

Food: 4.5

Service: N/A

Value: 4.5

Overall: 4.5

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Nuba (W Hastings)

Of all the places I have been but not blogged about, I was disappointed and kind of ashamed when I realised I had never written about Nuba – the restaurant one on Hastings. I’m sure the cafés (one on East 3rd Ave., one on Seymour St. in Yaletown, and one in the Waldorf Hotel on Commercial) are just as amazing, but for the largest menu and an amazing first experience, I would highly recommend the main restaurant!

Emme and I set out one midweek afternoon specifically in search of Nuba, despite Emme’s great reluctance to venture anywhere near Gastown and Hastings, and actually walked by the entrance a couple of times because we were searching before the clock hit 5 o’clock. Of course, after 5p.m. it’s impossible to miss it when you walk by it. We were lucky to arrive so early, seeing as it seemed that every table was reserved for later that evening, and the waitress could only guarantee us an immediate seat if we left before 7:30p.m. A two-and-a-half hour window for eating dinner is quite generous, so we easily promised to be gone before then.

Side Pita (comes with Beef Tenderloin)

Nuba has a very cozy feel, which may be in part due to the fact that is partially underground. While achieving a warm and welcoming interior, it still has very tastefully done décor. It is definitely, in my and Emme’s opinions, one of those restaurants that makes you feel like you could just kick back and lounge around, enjoying good food and conversation. (None of that for us that evening, though, of course – what with the ‘time restraint’… and the fact that we were seated at a table instead of a couch!) It is definitely great that they offer different seating selections, though; you can choose to sit and casually enjoy your dinner on couches or take the traditional table route… or, of course, sit at the bar if all the tables are taken or you’re there for drinks rather than awesome food.

And so, speaking of awesome food… Emme and I enjoyed all of the dishes we ordered. That said, however, we didn’t order that many things. One thing I can say about this: our number one mistake that evening was going to Nuba not feeling particularly hungry. We had both had big lunches, and weren’t too hungry only a couple hours later. Although, considering the prices, this might be a good thing. Considering how fantastic the food was that night, this was a bad thing.

Beef Tenderloin with Hummus

Emme ordered a hot appetizer or mezze that was a special of the day: a Beef Tenderloin steak that came with hummus and pita on the side. I’m not sure – and not sure Emme is either – about what exactly was on top, but the crunchy topping was a wonderful accompaniment to the most tender cut of steak Emme has supposedly ever had. The swirled sauce was unexpectedly sweet, but somehow perfectly matched the ‘gamey’ taste of the meat. Her only complaint was that the portion was so small for the price, but it was an appetizer… and Nuba is definitely not a cheap place to eat for dinner. The hummus that was on the side was intended for dipping with the warm, toasty pita pieces that came with the meal, was what we both attacked when the plates initially came. We are hummus lovers.It lived up to our expectations, which are typically quite high for hummus. It is such a simple dip to make, but Nuba definitely did it justice.

Fattoush Salad

I didn’t help Emme with her hummus for long (she didn’t need me to, either; it was so good that she easily polished it off by herself), since my salad arrived. I love salad, but the one thing I would berate myself for this time would be: why would you get a salad at such a great restaurant?! That is my regret. There are so many other appealing and wondrous-sounding dishes at Nuba that take more preparation and are a better display of how great the restaurant is. Yes, the salad was fantastic and the toasty pita topping was lovely, the veggies were crunchy and fresh, and the garlic-lemon-herb dressing was perhaps the best salad dressing I’ve ever tasted… but there are better ways to spend your money here! It was a Fattoush Salad, by the way, and still thoroughly enjoyed even though I regretted getting it instead of something more complex that couldn’t be imitated in a personal, home kitchen.

Sea Scallops

I also ordered something off the ‘hot mezze’ menu: Sea Scallops. The names of dishes on the menu are definitely straightforward and simple, but… don’t be fooled. I actually like menus that are upfront about what the dish is, as opposed to throwing in a bunch of adjectives and other flowery descriptive but unnecessary phrases. Despite the simplicity of the menu, the dishes are wonderfully complex and hit a range of taste points on your tongue all at once… like the beef tenderloin, for example – sweet, savoury, salty. The texture of the food is also amazing. So it goes without saying that these scallops were also better than I could have hoped for. I still love the simplest preparation, of course (hotate sashimi, or raw cuts of scallops!), but this was… superb. I’m running out of words like ‘amazing’, ‘great’, etc. for this post… Anyway. This dish was an awesome mixture of subtly sweet flavors from the scallops, a hint of spice from the paprika and coriander crust, and a lovely combo of nutty and savory flavors from the walnut and sesame oil dressing. The scallops were perfectly cooked. I. Loved. It. Were it not so pricy, I would order it again and again… (But like I said before –  there are so many other promising dishes on the menu, so I would only get this again as a special treat!)

We were obviously not regular patrons to the restaurant, but that of course did not affect the service we received – which was fantastic, just like the food. There is not much more to say beyond that; our waitress was super polite, patient, knew the menu well, and enjoyed explaining the restaurant’s background to us when we asked about its origins (and why it chose its location). Even if you didn’t make a reservation, you till receive top-of-the-line treatment and a memorable dining experience.

The only downside is the prices, but for what you get, Emme and I both think that a trip to Nuba is completely worth it. Definitely a must-try if you’re in the area… and a must-try even if you’re not!

Ambiance: 5

Food: 4.5

Service: 4.5

Value: 3 (expensive but worth it!)

Overall: 4.5

Nuba (Hastings) on Urbanspoon

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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

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