Archive for category Fairview
I went to La Taqueria ages ago, but revisited it this past week and was reminded I still hadn’t written about it. It is one of those places, like Meat & Bread, that deserves to be written about right away after vising it; I’m just a slow blogger! Nevertheless, my first visit was so memorable that I could never forget how awesome it was, anyway.
The Chemist and I went here for a quick lunch, and I didn’t expect that it would be so small. It’s really not a sit-down restaurant, although there are tables and a counter to sit at. Most people would grab their order and go; still, all the tables were full when we went in, and so we sat at the counter.
I wasn’t too savvy at ordering here, and they are very fast-paced. So I ended up with two pescado tacos. No complaints here though, really; I really enjoyed the fish. It was moist and topped with a tasty pico de gallo and some sort of lime-spiked sour cream that both made the flavour “pop”. Of course I topped it with one of the salsas provided (and pickled onions, because I love pickled things) but, even without them, thought it was something I would order again – even though I normally hate sour cream. My only other complaint would be that I wished I’d actually thought through my order before asking, so I could have been a good food blogger and ordered four different types of tacos.
De Lengua: ★★★★★
Definitely, definitely my favourite. I am someone who likes eating offal (so animal livers, kidneys, hearts, etc. – they are all extremely nutrient dense!), but even if I had not known this was beef tongue, I would have loved it. It was tender and delicious all by its lonesome. The condiments, as usual, take it over the top. The raw onions gave it a nice bite, and the salsa verde added a kick and acidity that went well with the soft beef tongue.
Get this! If not for the name, I doubt anyone could tell that this was beef tongue. One of the shopkeepers came over and asked us what our favourite taco was, and this was the one I told him. The Chemist also thought so, so I know I’m not just crazy.
De Cachete: ★★★★★
The beef cheeks are a very close second favourite to the beef tongue, for me. Again, you wouldn’t know these are beef cheeks unless someone actually told you (or unless you know Spanish). I think it’s the condiments that made the tongue my favourite, since the de cachete actually had more flavour carrying through the beef alone than did the de lengua. Maybe because it was fattier? It was amazing, though you could taste the oil on your lips sometimes (which was not so amazing). I thought it could benefit from some chili powder or cumin or maybe some salt, since the cilantro and onion on top didn’t add too much extra flavour or dimension. I added a generous amount of salsa, which made it (in my opinion) worthy of five stars.
Al Pastor: ★★★☆☆
The Chemist ordered this! I normally don’t eat pork for a variety of reasons. At first glance, this looked really spicy. I mean, look at it; it’s red and everything! It was marinated with some spices, unlike some of the beef tacos, but tasted more like pungent tomato sauce. The onion was overshadowed by the pork, which – aside from tomatoes – tasted like bacon. This is totally understandable, of course; it is still pork. Still, the smokiness was quite strong and seemed to outdo any sweetness that might have come from the small amount of chopped pineapple or any bite from the raw onion. It was really good, nevertheless; The Chemist did end up adding salsa halfway through eating it.
Isn’t that fun to say? Machacha. This was a special of the day, and looked really similar to the taco with beef cheeks, only a little darker in colour. It was good, if a little bit drier than the other two beef tacos. This is the one taco that the Chemist added a lot of salsa to – one of the hotter salsas, too. It was supposedly slow-roasted, but didn’t really taste like it. It was a bit tougher, and tasted leaner than the de cachete. I would still, by far, opt for this over my least favourite flavour (the Rajas Con Crema Taco, which is like an assault of sour cream, blegh). It still lost out to the pescado, though, and was the one I would deem “most in need of salsa”.
Overall, I loved eating here! As I have mentioned, I have revisited it since my initial visit. I really like the atmosphere – not only “authentic”, what with all the Spanish being spoken behind the counter, but so friendly! – and the food is almost always great. The restaurant is bright, colourful, and really adds to the “cheerful” ambiance… even on rainy days (of which there are plenty). I also love that I am able to take my gluten-free friends here – the wait staff and manager have told me that their tacos are 100% corn-based. (The only things on the menu that contain wheat are the quesadillas… which I actually haven’t seen anyone order yet. Their tacos are just too good!) I am also a huge fan – as mentioned in other posts – of restaurants that go to the trouble of sourcing out local and free-range meats. Many restaurants that place on emphasis on quality, locally-sourced ingredients seem to follow through with that theme and produce quality, great-tasting dishes… and La Taqueria is definitely one of them.
Service: N/A (but the counter attendants are definitely friendly, for the most part!)
If you’re particularly picky about the type and quality of the seafood you’re eating, Shizen Ya would be a top choice for Japanese cuisine. Or, at the very least, Shizen Ya is the restaurant that most blatantly markets their offerings as “organic” and/or “OceanWise certified”. Unsurprisingly, the quality of cooking and food prep here is just as high as the quality of the raw ingredients. Although this specific Shizen Ya ‘branch’ is small, it is still a great restaurant contender when deciding where to go for Japanese food if you’re in the area. The manager has done a really good job of creating an atmosphere that reflects the restaurant’s name (shizen (自然) meaning nature or natural), in the sense that the ambiance is very mellow and the décor conveys a kind of “wholesome” feeling. The service here is also usually very friendly and accommodating, and your water glass and/or tea cup will both always be full. (This is probably due to the convenient size of the restaurant, but even disregarding the latter part of the statement, the waitresses (and store manager) all seem to be very nice. This should be a necessity at restaurants, in my opinion; it is called “service” for a reason.)
Triple Attack Brown Rice Bowl: ★★★★★ (for taste/quality, not satiety factor)
As aforementioned, the food here is also top-notch, based on a couple of visits. My personal favourite is probably the Triple Attack Brown Rice Bowl, which has slices of tuna and wild sockeye salmon sashimi alongside some boiled spinach and pickled ginger sitting atop a dome of brown rice. The fish is all very fresh tasting and thawed to perfection. As with most high-quality salmon sashimi, the pieces just melt into your mouth, and at Shizen Ya they are neither too cold nor warm. Like I said: thawed to perfection. I have had the Kheema Curry Combo for lunch once, too, and it was also very good, very flavourful, and really good value for what you pay. While I do love the “Triple Attack”, it probably won’t fill you up if you’re really hungry, where any of the combo meals would for a much better price. As a final side comment: the presentation is wonderful. I love the sprinkling of shredded nori on top not only for flavour but also for how it enhances the aesthetic appeal.
Beef Teriyaki Combo: ★★★★☆
When I came here with Techie and Emme, Techie opted for the Beef Teriyaki Combo. This may actually be the best combo meal on the menu. The sauce is just thick enough to make a good coating for the beef, and the cuts of beef are all of good quality – no blobs of fat or stringy bits. The accompanying salad is, well, a typical salad. It has a nice dressing, though; it tastes more of miso and less like the average “house-made dressing” that you find at other restaurants (that all seem to taste the same). I was personally pleased that the Spinach Goma-ae that comes with the combo was made with actual sesame paste, and not peanut butter (even moreso because Techie is deathly allergic to peanuts). There is a really nice balance between “nuttiness” (I know sesame is a seed… It just has a nutty-ish flavour when it’s all ground up) and subtle sweetness. Actually, I could say something similar about the teriyaki sauce, which avoided the sickly sweet taste that so many other restaurant teriyaki sauces have. All in all, a great meal at a pretty great price. (I kept it at 4/5 for two reasons: 1) I am totally biased and am not really a fan of teriyaki, and 2) it still is nothing “amazing”, although it is certainly better than the average beef teriyaki in Vancouver.)
Chicken Breast [Teriyaki] Combo: ★★★☆☆
This comes with the same accoutrements that the beef teriyaki combo does, so the same comments apply to the side dishes and the sauce. I don’t know why, but the chicken breast was a fair bit tougher than what Emme was used to, although still very good. It may just have been an oddity in the batch of chicken breasts, because I have ordered this myself and it was much better, relative to the one Emme ordered on this occasion. In any case, even with the sauce, it’s pretty standard. Shizen Ya seems to do everything well, so I will say that they did a good job here, too. A word about the brown rice, since I haven’t mentioned it until now: whether or not you like it is obviously highly individual. Personally, I love the taste and chewiness of brown rice, although when eating Japanese I will admit that I would prefer the more traditional white rice. The flavour of brown rice kind of competes with other flavours on the plate, although that wasn’t really a problem here. In any case, it gets a thumbs up from me, only because I have a personal affinity for the stuff.
Again, I must comment that the presentation was well-done – even for the teriyaki dishes. I thought it was kind of weird how there seems to be a lack of consistency in how they present the combos (sometimes like the way the beef teriyaki was served, with the rice and goma-ae on the same plate, and sometimes like the chicken breast teriyaki here, with the rice and goma-ae served separately), but it all tastes good in the end so I don’t think it matters.
Chicken Breast Gyoza: ★★★★☆
I thought these were done pretty well. They weren’t too oily, but still had plenty with flavour, even without the sauce (unpictured! And please excuse the horrible picture). The outside was the best part, in my opinion; while still soft, the cooked parts had a nice touch of crispness that I really appreciated in contrast to all the soft fillings. Speaking of the fillings: this chicken was seasoned well – nice ‘n’ tasty – and even the vegetables were cooked in a tasty manner.
Prawn Sunomono: ★★★★☆
This was yummy. Loved the freshness of the shrimp, and the really refreshing taste of the marinade. It had a less offensive taste than some of the other sunomono dishes I’ve had in the past. Again, a nice balance with the sweetness, which was offset nicely by the slight tang of the rice vinegar and subtle saltiness. The carrots were an interesting addition, and Emme (who always orders this!) really appreciated how the toppings were a bit more plentiful than the vermicelli. (Does anyone else find that, a lot of times, the sunomono served in many places is like 50% noodle, 45% horribly sweet “vinegar” dressing, and 5% actual topping?)
Salmon and Avocado Roll: ★★★★★
Well, the salmon and the avocado were both incredibly delicious. This was actually a new combination in a sushi roll for me (how lame am I? I vow to be a bit more adventurous with rolls, going forward…) and it worked really well. You can also tell they were formed by someone who actually knows how to make sushi by how well they stuck together. They were presented prettily, and they stayed pretty until I ate them. Nothing much else to say. The brown rice did not really detract from the flavour. Very yummy – and would order again as an appetizer or addendum to something else.
Tofu and Vegetable Miso Soup: ★★☆☆☆
Don’t bother with this! It may be “organic”, but this is the only thing I’d whine about. It tasted fine (like any other miso soup, really) but there were hardly any “vegetables” to speak of, and something like four really tiny cubes of tofu. The $2.50 that you could spend on this dish would be much better invested in the salmon and avocado roll (which is $2.95 – barely any more, but much better bang for you buck, I think).
Green Tea Crème Brûlée: ★★★★★
Do get the crème brûlée if you want to finish off your meal with something sweet. It has a nice, subtle taste of green tea – just enough to differentiate it from the average crème brûlée – but enough sweetness to prevent the bitterness of the tea from dominating. The top has a nice, crisp finish and the texture is wonderfully creamy below the surface. I really liked the faint green colour, too, to remind you that there is green tea somewhere in the dessert. (It has green tea, therefore it is healthy. Heh heh…)
If you’re in the neighborhood and have a hankering for Japanese food, pass up Minato Sushi (about a block and a half away) in favour of Shizen Ya! You and your tastebuds won’t regret it, and I don’t think the prices are really that different. (Even if they were – Shizen Ya would still be much better value.) It may be small, but it really delivers when it comes to good service, quality food, and a peaceful ambiance.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.)
Value: 4 (The teishoku sets are a good deal! Looks like the rice and noodle bowls would be, too.)
When M, N, and I go out for dinner, we have a tendency to go to Japanese restaurants or little hole-in-the-wall sushi places. Perhaps each of the three of us has our own role to play in that constant decision, but I’m pretty sure that it is mostly due to the fact that I take any opportunity to eat Japanese that I can… M and N are both more compliant than Emme is, when it comes to eating Japanese. The reason for that is obvious: I drag Emme out to eat Japanese food with me at least twice a month – sometimes more, if I can – and M and N don’t go out to eat it as often. That being said, however, M and N do get tired of my tendency to always suggest Japanese for dinner, and so one evening we set up a dinner at a Thai restaurant: Wimaan Thai. I any case, I wanted to retry going out for Thai food, since my last experience (at SalaThai) wasn’t exactly a positive one.
I think M and N probably drew different conclusions about Wimaan Thai, since they’re not as nitpicky and selective as I am when it comes to restaurants and food quality, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with Wimaan Thai, either. M started off with some spring roll creation, called Paw Pia Wimaan, which were stuffed with vegetables and vermicelli. M thought they were great, although the sauce was really the selling point. The rolls were nice and crispy, but a little bit greasier than necessary.
As is my undying habit, I got a salad – the Wimaan Salad. It is what it is. The vegetables were nice and crisp and fresh. I think the sauce was what really was supposed to make or break the dish… Unfortunately I wasn’t all that fond of it, and ended up putting some of the chili sauce (that came with my main dish) – or sambal oelek, I think it’s called? – on the salad to kick up the flavour.
Speaking of my dish… I got Tom-Yum-Goong, which I’ve been wanting to try for a while, since I am an avid lover of seafood and have only recently come to like spicy things. I was sorely disappointed with what I got, unfortunately. There was nary a prawn in sight in my far-too-oily bowl of tasteless grease. Loads of mushrooms, a skimpy amount of cilantro, and two prawns were what I found… in addition to a boatload of oil. It was neither hot nor sour, which is what I heard tom yum goong should taste like – since it is often just called “Hot & Sour Soup” at restaurants. You can bet I added some of that chili paste stuff (in the little pot behind the soup bowl, in the photo) to attempt to make it more appealing. No such luck.
M, on the other hand, went with a chicken curry, which was probably a safer choice (well, for individuals not allergic to coconut, at least). Her Gaen Kiaw Waan looked and smelled far more appetizing than my dish, although I could detect the distinct scent of coconut. M said it was good, and had plenty of flavour despite the fact that she had asked for it to only be mildly spiced. Also, as is her personal preference, there were far more chicken pieces than vegetables, although the chicken was tough and chewy. (Still… She got all those chicken pieces and I got TWO prawns! Come on! I was definitely a bit sore about that…)
N ordered off of the menu of specials: Gaeng Phed Gai and chose spinach out of an option between spinach and some other vegetable that I can’t recall, but one that N and M both agreed that they dislike. (Chances are that I like it, haha.) In all honesty, N’s dish looked the tastiest, and in my opinion she looked the most pleased upon eating it. I refrained from trying both of their curry-like dishes since they both had coconut (and, of course, I’m allergic). She would’ve rather had a bit more chicken, as the bowl was stuffed with plenty of [overcooked] spinach, but the sauce was very good. Not too heavy, nor oily at all. The coconut flavour was most pronounced in this curry, and complemented the curry flavour beautifully. For some reason, her chicken was not overcooked and tough like Marie’s — although there was less of it — but the veggies in her dish were soggy, sad-looking, and limp.
If I were to give my best guess, it would be that Wimaan Thai has really great curries – and perhaps some other types of dishes that we didn’t try, like the famous Thai dish, pad thai – but not-so-great other dishes. It’s completely hit-and-miss. I like consistency in the quality of food at a restaurant, so I probably won’t be revisiting Wimaan Thai to taste-test their other dishes.
Aside from the food, the service wasn’t particularly good. The restaurant was completely empty when we went, and there were two waitresses… but they mostly hung out at the back of the restaurant, chatting to each other and ignoring us. After we had our orders taken, we didn’t get top-ups for our water glasses until the food was delivered. Then after that, never again — which was tough for me to accept, since I was trying to give my food more flavour with chili and simultaneously trying to cool off my mouth with cold water. (Yes yes, I’ve heard that’s supposedly not how you’re supposed to cool off your mouth, and that you’re supposed to do it with milk or some dairy sort of food of some sort…) Our waitress spoke very poor English as well, and was very hesitant to answer questions or alter dishes according to our preferences. Communicating their spice levels of preference was a bit frustrating for M and N, I think… just because the waitress didn’t seem to approve of the fact that both M and N were asking that typically spicy dishes be made milder. She wasn’t exactly friendly or cheerful, either… and the other waitress didn’t even want to come anywhere near our table, even if we were asking for service when we couldn’t catch the attention of her colleague.
The ambiance was nothing special. It was a bit depressing, if anything. The restaurant was unexpectedly large, but was dank, dark, and a bit musty. Décor is minimal, and some of the few decorations are a bit tacky. It just felt like there had been, at best, a half-hearted and lazy attempt to make you feel as though you were in a Thai restaurant, what with a couple of random Thai decorations on the wall. That was about it, though. There was no ambient music, and the lighting was poor. Like I said: dark and kind of depressing.
Perhaps with a bit more colour and some upgrades, the idea of eating at Wimaan Thai would be a bit more appealing. As it stands, though, it’s not a place where I want to dine again, given its hit-and-miss dishes, unimpressive service, and general lack of a “nice” ambiance.
Tucked amongst a smattering of other stores and restaurants in a strip mall supposedly called “Broadway Centre”, I had walked past Salmon n’ Bannock many times. I had seen it, sure, but had never really seen it, if that makes any sense. Over the summer, it still had its big banner and a sign out front, but both had been missing since the fall and the place became more unassuming and less noticeable than before without those pieces of “advertisement”. However, I had popped in for a quick lunch one day over the summer and was blown away by the quality of the food. So when an opportunity presented itself one day, when Emme and I were stuck about what to do for dinner, I suggested Salmon n’ Bannock. Even months after my first meal there, the restaurant still exceeded my expectations.
I wasn’t sure how popular the place was, so I fretted the entire time that Emme and I were heading over that we might not get a table. After all, the food was so good the first time I ate there that it seemed unthinkable that the place wouldn’t be popular. Yet, when we stepped inside one weekend evening, the place was totally empty – aside from the waitress and chefs, of course. No matter – it’s nice to have a restaurant to yourself sometimes! The waitress was extremely friendly and seated us promptly, handing us menus and filling up our glasses of water right away. The ambiance was – and still is, based on another recent dining experience there – fantastic. The whole place exudes a feeling of warmth and comfort while maintaining a nice, classy feel – without seeming pompous or anything. The art on the walls is actually quite fascinating, and adds a really nice burst of colour to the place. The kitchen is open to the front, and delicious smells were wafting out even when we walked in. It was slightly chilly when we first stepped inside, but heated up right away and was soon pleasantly warm. The lighting and music were pleasing to the eye and ear, respectively… The interior and décor are both done in very good taste.
Aside from the wonderful setting, the service was also top-notch. Even after other customers came in a little later, the waitress perfectly managed all of the different tables, constantly keeping glasses full but always somehow finding time to chat pleasantly with customers who were asking about the menu (or the restaurant, if they were first-timers!). Even Emme and I found our inquiries about dishes met with polite responses and personal recommendations, when we asked for some. Any alterations we asked for were also met with complete willingness to change things around a tiny bit to suit our needs. Yes, clearly we were both really impressed by the service! Upon another more recent visit to Salmon n’ Bannock, we found that the waitress had moved out of Vancouver, but in her place is another outstanding server; The new waiter is just as friendly and helpful when it comes to suggesting items off the menu or offering background info about the restaurant – or interesting conversation, if you’re feeling talkative.
As for the food… It was as I remembered it: O-u-t-s-t-a-n-d-i-n-g. I think I can confidently say that anything you order off of their menu is bound to be fantastic.
On our first visit together, Emme picked the Salmon n’ Bannock Burger, which the waitress did say was really good, and a side of Sweet Potato Wedges to accompany it. Needless to say, it was as the waitress said — only more than “really good”. The salmon was cooked to perfection and not even close or anywhere near overcooked or anything. It was bursting with flavour, and the bannock was just as good. The aïoli on the burger nicely complemented the salmon, and the entire dish just sang of quality. The sweet potato wedges were great, too; they were crisp on the outside but had a soft, delicious interior. Yes, they did make me wish I had forgone my habit of always ordering salad in favour of getting these with my dish instead. [And, trust me, that means a lot coming from someone as bizarre as myself who loves greens.]
Speaking of my dish, though… I’m sorry – if I said Emme’s was good, then mine was better… though I’m perhaps a tiny bit biased in saying that since I’m the one that ordered it. My main course was the Smoked Salmon Club Sandwich with Organic Mix Greens on the side, but it is of course the sandwich that was the highlight of my evening. Now, I have had a lot of smoked salmon in the past (because I am a huge fan of it – but not of how much it costs…), but I can honestly say that this was the best smoked salmon I have ever had. It was freshly smoked and just perfect in every way possible. It was the tastiest and most flavourful salmon I’ve ever had the joy of eating, and it did indeed melt deliciously in my mouth. The bannock was also great, but humble enough in terms of flavour to let the salmon be the real showstopper. As for the side salad: The greens were fresh, the dressing a perfect match for them, and the walnuts added a pleasant and much needed crunch-factor to the salad. Yes, the dressing is to die for… but if you’re not on a diet (or a big salad lover, like I am), do yourself a favour and try out the sweet potato wedges.
As aforementioned, Emme and I visited Salmon n’ Bannock again more recently, when the wonderful waitress had just been replaced with an equally wonderful waiter, and had a second dining experience that was just as stellar as the first. I believe I’ve made it quite clear by now that this restaurant is definitely a hit with Emme and me, so I’ll just quickly review our dishes on the second visit:
I chose the Seafood Chowder, which may look like quite a humble dish upon first glance, but was truly full of flavour from the interesting blend of fish that go into the chowder. It has a great tomato base that could easily stand as a lone dish, as it was tasty enough to nicely stand up to the deliciousness of the fish. It came with some Bannock on the side, which was as I remembered it: fresh, soft on the inside, with a lovely crisp exterior and a wonderful buttery flavour.
Emme ordered a more expensive dish: the Bison Tenderloin, which came with a super tasty purée of carrots and parsnips, seasonal veggies, and wild mushrooms. The bison was perfect and juicy and just… awesome, if I may say so. Even without the sauce, which was also really great and not too overpowering or anywhere near underwhelming, it would’ve been fantastic. The mushrooms were a nice final touch and added great texture to the dish. Even the veggies on the side were sautéed to perfection and the purée, which one might look at and think “Ew, baby food?!” was actually really delicious. I kind of wanted to steal it off of Emme’s plate, actually…
After our first visit, our super friendly and attentive waitress brought us Berry Bannock Bread Pudding — on the house! I’m not a bread pudding fan, so honestly I can’t comment on it, but Emme just about died and went to heaven after taking a bite. So take that as a sign that, yes, Salmon n’ Bannock even knows how to do amazing desserts.
The bill even came in a pretty little box with some Pacific Northwest Indian art on it. I have to say, it was a nice touch to present even the bill in a classy manner, and to go as far as to give two nicely wrapped candies alongside. It definitely brought the whole experience to a close in the best way possible.
Will I be going back? Um, yes. I think that goes without saying.
When I compare the ratings that others have given restaurants to the ones I think they deserve, I can’t help but wonder if I’m really too critical or if my expectations when dining out are too high… That said, however, I will say now that this review is based on a visit to Fish on Rice (the one on W Broadway) during the spring of 2010 – a little under a year ago – and I don’t know if it’s gotten better since then as I have not once revisited it.
If it makes any sense to say this: Fish on Rice looked promising from the street. It had a big sign coloured a lovely eye-catching red, with the name of the restaurant printed in equally big but easy-to-read letters out front. After climbing up the stairs to get to the restaurant, we were seated after a brief wait for the waitress to clear the table, which we ended up switching from in favour of a different table that wasn’t so awkwardly close to another large seating group. I’m assuming they were just trying to seat us together so that we would be easier to serve, but it annoyed me regardless – and Emme and Pitah (my other code-named companion, who’s actually Emme’s hubby) as well. We actually stayed at the initial table they sat us at for about ten minutes, but couldn’t hear ourselves talk, or even think, over the noise of the party of people sitting in the same “alcove” as us. Anyway, we annoyed the waitress by moving… and she clearly let us know by slamming down our water glasses and tea cups when “helping” us switch tables. Not a very graceful way to handle the situation, even if your customers are being picky about their table.
The décor, if I recall correctly, is nothing special. Nothing in particular stood out to me, aside from the fact that decorations seemed scarce and the bare minimum seemed to have been done to make the restaurant look like a typical Japanese restaurant. It is, for sure, staffed by Chinese though. Thus, after this realisation, we did expect to be receiving curt service… but it was quite a bit worse than that. The waitress continued to openly “flaunt” her annoyance and was rude when taking orders and when responding to questions about the menu and requests for more water. In fact, I think I can safely say that the service here was the worst I have ever seen in any restaurant in Vancouver as a whole; for Emme, Pitah, and I, it is actually the one thing about Fish on Rice that we remember particularly well. Aside from the rude service and minimal décor, the restaurant was extremely cold and we had to eat with our coats on. I don’t know if the heater was broken or something, but it made for a most uncomfortable dining experience. The music, at the very least, was decent.
We passed up AYCE and ordered à la carte, just because none of us were feeling ravenous enough to consume mounds of food – which the AYCE option offered (well, hopefully that’s what the AYCE offers here and anywhere in general). Emme and Pitah both got lunch boxes, as yes we were there in the middle of the day, but I don’t have shots of either (mostly because I didn’t have a blog at the time, but also because Pitah finds my food photography habit strange). Emme had Lunch box C, which came with a California roll that was sloppily put together and totally unappealing. Emme, who’s usually reluctant about eating sushi anyway, was definitely not convinced that this was a time to give up her hesitance to eat sushi for this California roll — and I don’t blame her. She commented at the time that the batter on the tempura was okay, and that part of the dish was nicely done… but the teriyaki chicken – the “main component” of the lunch box – didn’t taste like teriyaki chicken at all. Emme was suspicious of the fact that they may very well have cooked it in some sort of Chinese version of teriyaki sauce, if that makes any sense. In any case, however, she said it tasted off. Pitah’s lunch box, Lunch box F, came with tuna and salmon sashimi and tekka maki — all of which he happily forfeited to me, though he tried some of the tuna himself. Raw stuff doesn’t really fly by those two, so Pitah was pretty glad to get rid of his salmon sashimi (their loss – more for me! Bwahaha). Pitah’s easily satisfied, so he didn’t really comment on any aspect of his lunch box.
As for myself, I ordered up some miso soup to start. I must say, I never thought it was possible to do miso soup poorly, but apparently it is. Start by serving it lukewarm and almost completely cooled, as though it’s been sitting on a counter somewhere for quite a while, and then don’t add anything to it — no wakame seaweed, no tofu, and certainly no green onions. And there you would have it: sub-par miso soup! The only thing qualifying it as miso soup is indeed the inclusion of miso paste, but even then the flavour was weak. Had the dish been hot, I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but since it was cooler it was much easier to tell that the broth was not as flavourful as it should have been.
As another appetizer, I got some edamame for Emme and I to share. This was fine — salted nicely and warm — but admittedly a very easy dish to do. For what they charged us for it ($3.95), though, they could have easily doubled the portions. It seems it’s a common trend amongst many Japanese restaurants in Vancouver to serve small portions of edamame, unfortunately.
Adding a bit more green to the meal, I got horensou ohitashi, or spinach with a soy-based dressing. A lot of people prefer horensou goma-ae, or spinach with a seasme paste topping, but I life ohitashi better for it’s lightness and saltiness. Also, I actually don’t have any complaints about this dish. There was lots of spinach and bonito, and neither too much nor too little sauce. It was really quite tasty, and although the presentation was quite a failure (I have been to many restaurants that have done much better jobs making either their ohitashi or goma-ae dishes look far nicer than this), I still liked it.
My “main course” was my Sockeye Salmon Sashimi. Despite Emme’s disappointment with her lunch box, I was actually really happy with my sashimi. The redness of the salmon was rich and deep, and it actually had a lovely sheen that sang of freshness – though in reality I know it’s just been thawed… Clearly, though, the chef did a good job of thawing it perfectly! It maintained a melt-in-your-mouth quality and was delicious. Strangely, though, I was not given any ginger, which was quite disappointing (just like the miso soup was disappointing…). An additional strange point to note is that Pitah’s lunch box sashimi was not nearly as bursting with flavour and as fresh-tasting as mine. I don’t know what the reason is, but consistency of quality should be something that restaurants aim for. Fish on Rice clearly missed the target – if it was aiming at all to begin with.
With food that can be good, but is really just “solid” or “decent” at best and apparently inconsistent, and with horrid service and a lacklustre interior, will I be returning to Fish on Rice to check to see if it has gotten better? Despite being in an area that I visit frequently, my answer is a resounding “absolutely not“. Of course, it’s definitely worth considering that I didn’t have AYCE, and maybe it is good here – but I can’t comment. All I can say for sure is that by fault of the terrible service alone, I would avoid coming back.
Food: 2.5 [lacks consistency in terms of quality and flavour]
Taste of Vietnam is a small, nondescript little Vietnamese place just past Oak St. at W Broadway. Despite its sign outside, advertising some of the different dishes you can order within with some pictures of tasty looking choices, I walked by it many times before actually deciding to try it one day.
Décor is simple, if not virtually nonexistent. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I suppose. The restaurant is plain and doesn’t hold up any front of being a fancy restaurant or anything in the least. The exterior is an eye-catching red with a contrasting blue sign denoting the name of the place. While it was nice to have dim lighting in the evening for a more soothing atmosphere, I found it could have been just a little bit brighter. In any case, don’t expect a particularly wonderful ambiance or anything, should you decide to pop in one day. Noise level really depends on who’s in there, of course, but the restaurant is very small so it can get noisy very quickly.
I first visited it with M and N, early one Friday night. I was seated promptly, as the restaurant was completely empty at the time, and served a warm, welcoming cup of Jasmine tea. I checked out the menu while waiting for M and N to arrive and tried to determine the difference between the supposedly different types of noodles listed: Mi or hủ tiếu vs. bún vs. the infamous phở. It was my first time trying Vietnamese food, but unfortunately the waitress didn’t seem able to answer any of my questions… She couldn’t speak English very well, though she was very smiley and genuine in her attempts to help me.
After M and N arrived, we ordered our dishes, even though I still had no clue what the difference between all the noodles was (though I get it now, after looking it up). N actually got Lemon Grass Chicken & Shredded Pork with Steamed Rice ($7.95) but I didn’t catch a picture of it. She said it was good, but a little bit greasy. M went with Stir Fried Beef with Vegetables ($12.95). She was quite satisfied with it – it was filling and tasty enough, and the sauce wasn’t too overpowering. Both M and N were in agreement that the peanut sauce on the side was really good, though.
On that particular occasion, I went with Veggie Noodle[s] in Soup ($6.95 for the small). This isn’t phở, so I can’t pretend that I was having phở for the first time or anything… The menu said this is “hủ tiếu“. Anyway… I was really, really disappointed with this dish. The broth was so oily, and I was pretty unhappy to have extremely greasy fried tofu pieces in the bowl. (It wasn’t in the description… I just wanted veggies, hey!) The veggies must have been simmering a long, long time because they had absolutely no crunch and were practically falling apart even as I tried to pick them up. Yes, the bowl did come with a side plate of mung beans and lovely fresh herbs… And unfortunately, I think that’s just about the only part of this dish that I liked. The broth had almost no flavour, and even N agreed that the soup was far too oily. (N has had Vietnamese a couple of times before, so I’m pretty sure she knows at least a bit about the cuisine and what stuff should look like!) In any case, I would not order this again.
I’m definitely a salad lover, so I also ordered the Prawn Salad ($6.75 for a small). Um… Again with all these fried thingies on top?! There was just a lot of oil sitting around the salad, but hardly any flavour, so I highly doubt it was a proper salad dressing. The shrimp was tasty enough, but the mango didn’t taste very fresh and the carrot had no crunch whatsoever (and it wasn’t steamed).
I tried Taste of Vietnam once more at a later time, deciding to give it a go with Emme. I was hoping for a better experience, since I was the one who suggested we go there for dinner – it was close by and convenient, I thought. The time I visited with Emme, the service was actually much worse. One of the waitresses was extremely rude and really seemed like she couldn’t care less whether or not the customers were content, although the waiter that was working alongside her was much more polite and much friendlier. The waitress got frustrated when I asked something about a particular dish (I wasn’t bothering about the noodles again, don’t worry!) and stormed off without taking my order after responding with “I don’t know, I don’t care!”. So, that wasn’t a good start to the visit…
The waiter came to help us later, but seemed to get really confused with a substitution request that Emme made. She wanted the Lemon Grass Chicken with Steamed Rice — only she wanted fried rice instead of steamed rice. There was a little bit of confusion, but the waiter understood eventually. (So let’s call her dish Lemon Grass Chicken with Fried Rice, and we were charged $10.95 for it.)
Emme’s comments on the dish were that the chicken was indeed nicely cooked through, but there was absolutely no “lemon grass” flavour or aroma, making for a rather tasteless grilled chicken. The fried rice was okay, if not a little bit too buttery. Again, the dipping sauce (called Nước chấm, apparently?) was very nice – and a necessity in this case since there was no other way to give some flavour to the chicken besides dipping it in the sauce a bit.
We both ordered one Shrimp Salad Roll ($2.75) each. This was very good. It was truly really tasty after being dipped into that delicious peanut sauce. The rolls kept together well, the shrimp was tasty, and all of the vegetables in the roll, at least, were fresh, crispy, and pleasantly crunchy.
On top of the Prawn Salad again (which came swimming in oil and fried onion crisps, despite my having requested that the “dressing” come on the side and that they omit the fried onions…), I ordered some more veg on the side with some rice.
You’d think that a side order of steamed vegetables would be impossible to do poorly. Well, unfortunately it is possible. These soggy and overcooked veggies were reminiscent of the ones I’d been served in the soup the first time I visited Taste of Vietnam. They were steamed to the point of falling apart when you tried to eat them.
So, with rather mediocre food (though I can’t comment on the phở, mind you!), service that can either be friendly or quite the opposite, and an ambiance that isn’t particularly spectacular, I can hardly recommend the restaurant… I know there are better places for authentic Vietnamese cuisine around Vancouver somewhere, though.
By recommendation of a restaurant manager (at a different restaurant, of course!) who is also familiar with Japanese food and culture, as I myself am, I suggested to Emme that we give Shiro on Cambie St. a try one night instead of visiting our typical, favourite Japanese place. As we’ve both enjoyed authentic Japanese cuisine before – in Japan, on the streets, in restaurants, and even in a ryokan – we both have quite high standards and visited Shiro with great expectations because of the recommendation we’d heard. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but we managed to snag the last parking spot in the small parking lot outside the restaurant, early one evening, and ventured on inside. Despite being so early, there were already quite a few tables that were occupied. Although we could have sat at a table, we opted for the sushi bar instead, since I in particular am always hugely entertained by watching the itamae at work. We were given green tea, short glasses of water, and menus, and for a while that was about all the service we received. The restaurant was very busy, apparently, and the waitresses had their hands full delivering food, catering to other customers, and trying to fulfill take-out orders over the phone. Eventually we flagged down a waitress in the tiny restaurant (which is indeed quite cramped!) and placed our orders.
Emme, not much of a sushi fan (or of raw fish, i.e. sashimi), went with Chicken Teriyaki that came with a bowl of plain white rice and miso soup. The chicken was cooked well and flavourful — the sauce was not overpowering and not too sticky nor too sweet. Rather, it acted as a suitable complement to the dish and didn’t destroy the chicken flavour. The veggies were not overcooked and were good accompaniments to the dish, and tasty like the leading component of the dish (the chicken).
Emme’s meal also came with an Ebi Sunomono, which was quite small but also quite tasty. It was unexpected that the shrimp were shredded as they were, and there definitely could have been more cucumber, but the sunomono still fulfilled its job as being a refreshing dish and somewhat of a palate cleanser… A nicer presentation with a bit more besides just the noodles would’ve been a bonus, though, and not hard to do.
Along with the sunomono, the chicken teriyaki also came with an order of Assorted Tempura. The tempura was fine; the batter was quite thick, but this was not necessarily a bad thing. The exterior of the tempura pieces was pleasantly crispy and the interiors soft and cooked through.
Emme also asked for a serving of one her absolute favourite Japanese dishes (which also happens to be one of the simpler ones!): Edamame. Edamame is what it is… It’s hard to go wrong with it, really. However, for what you pay to get it at Shiro, we definitely were in agreement that you should get a bit more. The dish was tiny, and it’s hard to imagine that this is usually meant to be shared amongst a group of people – or even amongst two or three. The edamame wasn’t really salted very well, although it was served warm and still very good.
I ordered many little small dishes to satisfy my appetite, as I usually do when I dine at a Japanese restaurant. I tested out some of their nigiri sushi and ordered four pieces, one each of Hokkigai, Hotate, Salmon, and Ika. The ika nigiri piece was just a little bit tougher and more rubbery than I usually expect, and I did in fact have a bit of a challenge eating it, but it still tasted okay. The hokkigai was delicious, and perhaps the best raw surf clam I’ve had in Vancouver to date. The hotate and salmon were both absolutely delicious; the hotate was perfectly sweet and the salmon was so fresh that it did indeed practically melt in my mouth as outstanding salmon sashimi is wont to do. (As a side note, I will also say that the ginger was particularly good at Shiro as well!)
To go with all my raw fish, I got a Kappa Maki (cucumber roll) for some nice crunch. The cucumber was indeed very fresh and crunchy – and also plentiful. I have actually been to places before where the roll seemed to mostly be rice… Thankfully, this time around that was not the case. I also really liked how all of my sushi was directly handed to me by the sushi chefs, who were working at an amazing speed the entire time and pounding out piece upon piece or roll upon roll of fantastic looking sushi.
I had miso soup and a sunomono on the side as Emme did, although I only asked for a plain Wakame Sunomono, which was just about the same as Emme’s. Presentation is fine, but a slightly bigger portion would make it more worth purchasing!
As I have mentioned before, I love veggies and so got another dish to go with my meal: Horensou Ohitashi. While I thought the presentation was very nice, the dish itself was far, far too dry. Usually there is a nice amount of “special dressing” on the dish (with a soy sauce base, I believe), but this time there was absolutely none. In fact, the spinach was completely overrun by all the katsuobushi, which I usually adore. Without the dressing, however, this dish just did not work as it should have, and it is usually quite easy to produce a wonderful-tasting ohitashi… Thus, I can’t help it that I was quite disappointed that it didn’t taste as flavourful as it could have.
In any case, the pieces of nigiri were all outstanding, as was the cucumber roll and Emme’s chicken teriyaki. The edamame could use an upgrade in terms of serving size (and salt!), as could the sunomono, and the ohitashi really needs more sauce and less katsuobushi. Overall, it was still a tasty and satisfying meal.
Shiro, as I’ve said before, is a very small restaurant, and as a consequence it suffers from feeling just a little too cramped when it is busy. This is probably in part due to its popularity – but for that it cannot really be blamed, since the food is very good. The ambiance is really just “okay” and not particularly pleasant nor unpleasant. But it’s clean – although cramped – and that is one of the more important aspects of it.
On a busy night, service may not seem very good since the waitresses have to handle take-out orders via the phone as well as entertain present customers, organise those customers who are waiting, clean tables, take actual orders, deliver food, and keep tea and water topped up… Unfortunately, Emme and I visited on a hectic evening, even though we went early, so the service we received was limited, although the waitresses were pretty friendly and clearly tried to be accommodating. The reality is, however, that we did wait quite a while before our orders were taken. Luckily, during the meal, we received constant refills for our water and tea, for which we were both thankful.
One specific aspect of Shiro that tipped me in favour of the restaurant was its authenticity. The sushi chefs are Japanese, décor is pretty much all Japanese, and the waitresses are all Japanese. The experience is consequently enhanced and all the more real, and the quality of the food is definitely of a very high standard. Also… you know a Japanese restaurant is good when a couple of the patrons are Japanese themselves, and are obviously regulars! Emme and I can be quite picky about the Japanese restaurants we go to, and authenticity in terms of food and service is one thing we almost always look for.
I must note that although Shiro has a very extensive menu – or so I thought – Emme, who doesn’t speak Japanese as I do and has more of a typical “Western palate” (if that makes any sense), said that her choices on the menu felt limited… I didn’t find that to be the case, but perhaps others may feel that way if they’re not sushi fans – I can’t really say for sure. Anyway, it was still a good dining experience; the ambiance may have been lacking, but the food was great and the service was friendly (although not the best — and hiring additional servers would probably not help much since there is not really enough space for lots of them to be moving around the dining area simultaneously!).