Posts Tagged burgers

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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Seasons in the Park

Seasons in the Park is by far and above one of the most scenic places to dine in Vancouver. It’s one restaurant in the Sequoia Company of Restaurants, which all seem to be beautifully situated, regardless of where they are in Vancouver. Seasons in the Park happens to be smack-dab in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Park, and must be one of the restaurants with the best view in the spring- and summer-time. I’ve actually been here for my birthday twice – this year and two years ago! It’s not a tradition, but a fun choice when the weather is great and the flowers are in bloom.

Needless to say, the ambiance makes this restaurant a winner – but the food itself is great, too! Top that off with friendly and attentive service, and you have a restaurant worthy of being called “amazing”. The dishes aren’t incredibly “innovative” or mind-boggling, so I wouldn’t start mentioning Michelin stars or anything, but they are still delicious and dining here is still enjoyable.

BC Salmon Burger:

BC Salmon Burger

In-freaking-credible. The salmon was perfectly cooked and melty; no dry fish or rubbery texture here whatsoever. The onions and lettuce in the bun were crisp, and the bun itself was outstanding. It was buttered and grilled, I believe, and was warm and fluffy when I bit into it. The buttery-ness went really well with the buttery salmon. The rémoulade had a nice cooling effect to offset the “warmth”, with a pleasantly mild tang. The salad was nice and crisp, as was the pickle. Highly recommend the salmon burger. This was probably one of the best salmon burgers I’ve had in Vancouver (though I haven’t had too many so perhaps my saying that doesn’t mean too much).

Queen Elizabeth Burger:

QE Burger

Another outstanding burger. I guess it’s hard to go wrong with buttered burger buns!

The meat was tender but deliciously juicy. The bacon – a class addition, of course – took it over the top with its subtle crunch and smoky flavour. The cheese was white cheddar, which was awesome but… just a pinch too scant. If I could have re-ordered this burger for Pita, I would have asked for extra cheese. It had a great, strong flavour that cheeses aged over a course of years typically have, but dominated this one side of the burger… Needs more cheese to balance it out!

Pickle and vegetable toppings were great, as was the coleslaw, which was acidic with sweet undertones – the way it should be – and not overly creamy. (I don’t like coleslaw in general, so the latter point is really important in my opinion… It’s not coleslaw if the texture is more creamy than it is cabbage-y.) The fries were thinly cut, warm, and crisp. They weren’t overly-greasy, and tasted fresh. Fries done right!

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake:

Yes, I realise it’s hard to go wrong with dessert but… I love this cake. And not just because it says “Happy Birthday!” to me.

I would not change ANYTHING. I love the multiple layers of a lighter tasty chocolate mousse and a darker chocolate mousse. Both layers are fluffy, and the ganache topping is just sweet enough to take the bitter edge off of the chocolate. This is definitely a dessert I would say should be shared – maybe between three people. But it was my birthday, so I ate most of it, alongside Pita.

Just looking at it is making me salivate. IT IS AMAZING. Texture-wise and flavour-wise (and scent-wise, too, if you’re in-the-know about how important smell is to taste). I guess if I had to complain, I would say that the “Happy Birthday” sign was too sweet… It doesn’t usually come with the cake (of course), so I didn’t factor it into my ranking. The presentation of this cake is also beautiful. The cape gooseberry on top was a nice touch and added a great burst of fruit flavour.

This was my favourite part of the meal, clearly.

Butter

The bread basket at the beginning of the meal was good, too. The buns were fluffy, fresh, and warm and… the butter says “butter” on it! Cool. Just in case you can’t recognise butter when you see it, I guess? Hah. The buns were good but the butter was nothing special. Serving herbed butter would probably be appropriate here, especially because of the “fancy” atmosphere in Seasons in the Park.

The wait staff here, in the couple of times that I have been, has always been very friendly. Maybe we’re just lucky to get great waiters and waitresses serving us here. I definitely appreciate great service when I see it! Our server on this occasion was knowledgeable about the menu and the restaurant’s background (happened to be a topic of conversation for a moment), and was very conversational. Our water glasses were pretty much full throughout the meal, also.

Two thumbs up! Though slightly costly, Seasons in the Park offers great service, delicious food, and a charming atmosphere and view.

Ambiance: 5

Food: 4.5

Service: 4.5

Value: 4

Overall: 4.5

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White Spot (Kitsilano)

This is one White Spot branch that I used to visit a lot… and, ironically, never blogged about. Today, that changes.

(And it changes without me typing a longer introduction, because I’m in the mood to actually write concisely.)

Spot Clam Chowder:

Spot Clam Chowder

Nothing outstanding here. Nice, robust clam flavour. Served at the perfect temperature, with an accompaniment of everyone’s favourite brand of saltine crackers to complement the soup. There were plenty of herbs, which was great, and an interesting peppery twist.

Rustica Flatbread:

Rustica Flatbread

Really, really liked this! The roasted veggies were delicious, and paired beautifully with the Bleubrie cheese. I loved the subtly spicy kick from the Arrabiatta sauce. It was just spicy enough to satisfy my love for hot dishes, but mild enough so that Emme and Pita could enjoy this, as well. The flatbread dough tasted amazing – pillowy, warm, and just all things delicious. My only  complaint would be: not enough cheese! But then again, I am a cheese fiend and more cheese (especially Bleubrie cheese) may have been too overwhelming for some people. In that regard, this dish is a wonderful blend of flavours and should appeal to everyone – even people who aren’t fond of really hot food or vegetables or smelly cheeses!

Chargrilled Chicken Burger:

Chargrilled Chicken Burger

I know this has a “healthy” label slapped on it (on the menu), but most of the time, this burger comes out with perfectly cooked, juicy chicken (with those highly sought-after grill marks!) in the middle and fresh-tasting greens and veggies. The relish is my favourite part of this burger, though. I always ask for extra. Even though the bun is whole grain and looks like it might be tough or unappetizing, it is usually just as fluffy and delicious as the regular burger buns at White Spot. I think I have only ever had one bad version of this dish here, but the majority of the time it is just as good as any other chicken burger – only made better with the awesome relish that accompanies it.

Chicken Caesar Wrap

Chicken Caesar Wrap:

Sometimes I think Pita is an even bigger creature of habit than I. He stands to argue that the Chicken Caesar Wrap is pretty much the best thing on the menu… and he likes it, also, because it makes him feel “healthy”. I hate Caesar dressing so I’m totally biased when I say I don’t think much of this wrap, but I do like how generous the chefs are with the Parmesan. There is a distinct undertone of anchovies, so you know that the dressing must be authentic in some sense. The tomato wrap is pretty standard and tastes like any other “normal” wheat wrap, in my opinion, but it makes for a nice presentation of the dish. The greens are always crisp and fresh, and the chicken tasty and well-cooked. Pita has mentioned in the past, though, that they could really put some more chicken in the wrap… It seems like it’s 80% salad sometimes. For what you’re paying, a little extra animal protein should be no issue! The coleslaw on the side was nice and creamy, with a sour tang that is offset by a touch of sweetness. Good coleslaw, if you’re into that stuff (I’m not, but I can tell when a coleslaw is nicely balanced between shredded veg and the creamy dressing).

The Legendary Platter

The Legendary Platter:

It’s common knowledge that White Spot does burgers well. The Legendary Platter at this White Spot is usually a winner, although there have been instances where they were flat out horrible. (Two experiences with incredibly bad burgers at this location, but, again, most of the time they are pretty darned good.) The patty is almost always juicy, there is usually plenty of Triple O’s sauce to go around, and a pickle on top, of course. It’s worthwhile to add cheddar – it’s a delicious addition and pairs well with the rest of the burger components. Ask for lettuce, tomatoes, and red onions if you want them – otherwise, it seems, they don’t add them! We have gone here once before where an order for “The Legendary Platter” scored us a bun, a patty, and some sauce… and nothing else. This instance is not from that time, but the other friend of mine who had received that pathetic burger was extremely disappointed and vowed to never return. (Seriously.) So… it’s a toss up! I would say the burger platters (i.e. the real burgers) are really good about 75% of the time. The sweet potato fries are incredible as a side dish. Get them.

A word about the service here. Like the food, it is completely hit-and-miss. Emme and I have been here for a couple of instances where the service was HORRIBLE. We had a server that made huge errors in our orders, was extremely rude, and just overall very inhospitable  and unfriendly. On other occasions, we have had a wonderful Chinese waitress (a slightly older, more experienced (?) lady) who is prompt, not exactly friendly, but quick to serve and please and really good at reading customers. Sometimes waiters seem to take it personally if you ask for something extra on the side, but this particular waitress was really good about fetching extra fries, tomatoes, relish, sauce, etc. We’ve also had waiters that are incredibly polite, fast, and really good about refilling water and such. I think most of the time the service is pretty good, with a few terrible exceptions, but it seems to be better if you choose to sit on the right side (when you walk in – the bar area) of the restaurant. That might just be my imagination… or it might just be because all the best waiters and waitresses are always assigned to that area of the restaurant!

As for ambiance – it’s like any other White Spot. It has a warm, family feel and this particular location is really nice and bright, thanks to the plethora of windows. The booths are comfy and usually clean (which is impressive, considering the sheer number of young families that frequent this location). No complaints here, really. White Spot is a good last resort if you don’t know where to go for dinner. It gets pretty busy on weekends, although you can usually get a table on the weekdays. For a chain restaurant, I will say that White Spot is one of the best. The food won’t blow you away, but it’s fairly consistent (so you always know what you’re getting!) and tasty. At the very least, their burgers are outstanding!

Ambiance: 3.5

Food: 3.5

Service: 3.5 [Hit-and-miss, but usually pretty good… like the food!]

Value: 3

Overall: 3.5

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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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Olive & Anchor

Quite some time ago, Emme and I brought someone I shall just call Techie up to Horseshoe Bay… purely for the sake of doing something different, and to get out of Vancouver. (Does anyone else ever feel like they just need to get away from the city?) It wasn’t a particularly great day, but the weather was fair enough and it was a good time to escape from the ho-hum routines associated with being stuck on the West Side. We were stuck for where to go for lunch, not particularly wanting to visit the Boathouse (the overall quality in all of the Boathouses seems to be taking a nosedive over these past couple of years – and I’m saying that based on more than the one visit I wrote about before) and settled on Olive & Anchor since the menu seemed promising, offering something each of us would be interested in eating.

Pulled BBQ Chicken Burger with Gumbo

It was empty when we stepped in and were seated. As I said, it wasn’t that nice of a day and on top of that it was a weekday so only a few people were milling about the village. I think only two or three other tables became occupied over the hour or so that we were there for. Anywho, the ambiance is quite nice and the restaurant is nice and bright, thanks to all of the large windows that allow you to look out over the bay and water in the distance. (The restaurant is farther away from the water than the Boathouse, which of course is pretty much sitting on the water, but the setting is still pleasant.) Fewer diners makes for less noise, which I’m sure everyone can appreciate, though I get the feeling that this place comes more alive at night and on Fridays, as it is equipped with a bar and the interior gives off a classic “pub” sort of feel to it. Since there were so few people, you’d think the service was amazing (what with three people waiting on a relatively empty restaurant) but… it really wasn’t. The servers talked to each other the entire time, making it hard to get their attention sometimes and making it take waaaayyy longer than it should have to actually order in the first place. The waitress we had was a bit catty and impatient, but at least our food came pretty quickly after we ordered. (Well, again, that should have been a given anyway seeing as we were probably their first customers of the day!)

Special of the Day: Mexican Beef Wrap (with a side salad)

Techie surprised me by going for the Pulled BBQ Chicken Burger… He usually goes for beef! The menu describes it as having nacho cheese melted on top, butter lettuce, tomato, sautéed mushroom, crispy onion straws, avocado salsa, chipotle aioli. Anyway the flavours were good! The sauce wasn’t too sweet – more “smokey” and BBQ-appropriate, in my opinion – and the chicken was tender as opposed to chewy (which would be characteristic of being overcooked, of course). The chipotle aioli added a nice extra kick and dimension to the burger, although the avocado salsa was scant and thus unnoticeable. The “crispy onion straws” were nice and crispy, as the name suggests, at the beginning… but became soggy pretty quickly, which was weird. I thought they could have been more generous with the cheese, honestly… Other than that, Techie enjoyed the Gumbo he chose as the accompaniment to his burger (it was the special of the day), although said it didn’t taste strongly of anything but tomato. Emme thought the cilantro on top looked rather… aged. I would have to agree. But other than that, it wasn’t too bad at all.

Emme went with the special of the day, which was a Mexican-themed Beef Wrap with plenty of hot, gooey cheddar cheese and chopped green onions and red peppers and supposedly salsa and guacamole. The beef was really great and the star of the wrap; it was beef chuck, kind of like what I got at Meat & Bread a while back and cooked just as well. If there was guacamole in the wrap, though, it was hidden really well – or maybe the cheese just… outcompeted it in terms of being tasted at all. Although the presentation was great to begin with, the wrap did fall apart a bit as Emme ate… which is fine, as long as you’re not wearing white or on a date or something. She had one of their standard salads on the side, with the only comment about it being that the carrot shreds were a nice touch, as were the scatterededamame. Everything tasted fresh.

Chicken Tikka Masala

As for myself, I ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala, which you might think is stupid since we weren’t at an Indian restaurant (and perhaps that’s why I got edamame thrown on top of my dish, haha). BUT! And that is a big ‘but’… this was truly a great dish. The masala [sauce] was really flavourful and sang of fresh spices and was just altogether awesome. I wouldn’t say it was 100% authentic tasting, for sure, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious. The chicken was cooked perfectly, like it was for Techie’s burger. My only complaints were that I wished it were just a bit spicier (but this will obviously depend on how spicy each person likes their food!) and that there were more cilantro. (I asked our waitress to bring more cilantro after she served us our lunches, actually.) The shredded carrot on top was kind of weird, but… evidently the chef likes to put carrot shreds on top of lots of stuff, since I saw other dishes coming out of the kitchen (for other diners) that also were topped with shredded carrot. The brown rice on the side was pretty bland and actually wasn’t basmati rice, which would have been more appropriate in my opinion, and could have benefited from being cooked in some spices like turmeric (for flavour + presentation) and ground cumin or something.

Cucumber Raita, Pear Chutney, and Pappadom

Some other stuff came with my dish, too: Cucumber Raita, Pear Chutney, and Pappadom. Nothing to write home about, really. The pear chutney was my favourite of the two “dips”, and wasn’t overly sweetened, which really allowed the pear flavour to shine through. I thought they could have done something to make the raita stand out a bit more – maybe add an acidic ingredient and freshly chopped cilantro – but as it was, it was mostly just plain yogurt with a tiny bit of cucumber mixed in. Maybe I would have been more appreciative of it had my dish been spicier, hah. It was my first time having pappadom and this one was super crispy, but tasteless unless used to scoop up some of the curry (umm are you ‘allowed’ to use it for that?) or chutney. Guess that’s what it’s there for: scooping stuff.

Overall it was a good dining experience. I would go back. My biggest complaint of all – aside from the rather poor service – would definitely be the prices. Yes, the food here is good and maybe even great, but the food isn’t so outstanding that the prices are justified. Then again, I suppose you are also paying a bit for the setting when you go to any of the places that have some sort of view of the water… Even if people go for the food or the ambiance, though, the service could really use some work.

Ambiance: 4

Food: 4

Service: 2

Value: 3.5

Overall: 4

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Galley Patio & Grill at Jericho Beach

Wild BC Salmon Burger

If there’s one thing to be said about this place, it’s that it – like many of the Boathouse restaurants – has a nice view and is in a nice location. It’s quite pleasant to sit on the patio on a warm night and look out on the water. Yup – the “ambiance” is the highlight of this “restaurant”. You order at a bar, though, so service is pretty much nonexistent. For the most part the counter attendants are pretty good at taking orders and listening; the girl who took our orders only made one mistake.

Prime Rib Cheddar/Bacon Burger

As for the food… It’s not that it’s bad; contrarily, my Wild BC Salmon Burger was pretty good and grilled to perfection. It maintained that “melt-in-your-mouth” quality and the bun was nice and fluffy. My only complaint would be that the veggies were pretty lacking and not the best quality, but since they’re not the primary feature of a burger anyway it was no big deal.

On this particular night, I went with Emme, Pitah, and another couple – I’ll call them Red and Garni. (Seriously, I do have a reason for all the nicknames I pick… They are not random, I swear!) Emme went with the Prime Rib Cheddar/Bacon Burger, which was also very good. Again, lame veg… but the bacon wasn’t bad and I can say the same for the cheddar. I wonder if even the bacon and cheese are local? Anyway, the flavours were good, and obviously the buns were all the same – all tasty.

Red and Garni both got the Prime Rib Cheddar Burgers… which are the same as Emme’s, sans the bacon. The bacon makes the burger! But the prime rib patties themselves are tender and juicy. The sweet potato fries were good for what they were; they’re not better than other fries I’ve had, but they, like the burgers, were well done. Good, but nothing that would blow you away.

Prime Rib Cheddar Burger

Pitah went with the BBQ Free Run Chicken Burger. The sauce was sickeningly sweet – just how Pitah likes it. (I’m not a fan.) The chicken, like the salmon, was cooked just enough to be tender but not tough – which you sometimes find with chicken or salmon burgers, maybe because they cook so quickly.

BBQ Chicken Burger

In any case, after all those “yep yep it’s good” comments, why do I still give the place a thumbs down? Because it’s a freaking rip off for totally mediocre good. Sure, it’s all good – nothing was horrible enough to scare us away from the food. The prices here are ridiculous for what you get, though. Maybe White Spot, for example, charges similar prices… but in that case you’re getting full sit-down service and usually a nice indoor ambiance. The location here is great, but I’ll never come back here just for the food. Like I said before – there was nothing mind-blowing here. You could certainly get just as good a burger at Vera’s or a Triple O’s. I have a feeling that this place is taking advantage of the fact that they pretty much have a captive market in this area. A lot of people probably don’t want to jump in their cars and drive somewhere for some grub after being out on the water… so they just settle with whatever’s offered at the club. Too bad “whatever’s offered” is pretty poor value.

Final verdict? Good food. Nothing outstanding. Unnecessarily pricey.

Ambiance: 4.5

Food: 3.5

Service: N/A

Value: 2

Overall: 3

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Sophie’s Cosmic Café

Sophie’s Cosmic Café seems to be (well, it seems to me) one of those places in Vancouver that everyone is told to visit at least once. I don’t know how long it’s been around, but with all its funky décor that speaks of decades and generations past, you’d think it’s at least held its ground on W 4th St. for quite some time. Actually, I’d visited it well over a year ago for brunch with Emme, and after that just pushed it to the back of my mind, labeled as just a place for breakfast or brunch. While Sophie’s definitely does breakfast dishes well (though I’m saying that based on the brunch I had there in the summer of ’09), it has quite an extensive dinner menu as well. And this time ’round, it was for dinner that I visited Sophie’s with my two good friends – M and N, I’ll say, until they ask for ‘code names’, heh.

I’d been waiting in Sophie’s for about ten minutes, wondering when M and N were going to show up, when… M and I realised we were both in the restaurant, just at different tables — we hadn’t seen each other. Hah! Good thing we texted each other… or I wonder how long we would have both been sitting alone, “waiting”? Anyway, N arrived last and after a bit of catching up and initial greetings, M and I were starving and cut the chatter so we could order. Burgers are supposedly one of the specialties of Sophie’s (and by looking at the place and considering the fact that it’s supposed to be like a “diner”, you would suspect that the burgers, fries, and milkshakes have to be good – just because of the “diner” image) so all three of us ordered different ones.

7 oz Cosmic Workout Burger

M is the most adventurous of the three of us, and ordered a bacon burger with mushrooms (called the 7 oz Cosmic Workout Burger, I believe), topped with smoked cheddar (by recommendation of the outstanding waitress we had!) and with fries and a salad on the side. (I can’t remember the cost, but all of the burgers at Sophie’s seemed to be in the range of $11 – $14.) The bacon was crispy but not too greasy, the smoked cheddar was indeed very good, and the mushrooms flavourful. I have to say, to pull off a burger with bacon without overdoing it on the grease is pretty impressive, and M really enjoyed her burger.

Fries on the side

M also quite liked the fries, which were somehow just right. Not too thick nor too thin, and also not horribly oily or greasy in any way. They were the perfect crispness – not soggy nor too crunchy – and fluffy and tasty. There was no need to add salt, and M happily finished them off (and let me steal her salad, which was, I imagine, much less appealing than a batch of delicious-looking fries).

N got the BC Wild Salmon Burger ($12.95), which I actually wanted to eat, to be perfectly honest, but… for the sake of trying to include variety in blogging, I passed on it in favour of something else. Anyway! Looks like it was a fantastic choice, since the lovely salmon fillet that came with the burger was grilled to perfection and glistened with freshness and smelled heavenly. (I love fish, so please excuse me if you find it absurd for a fish to smell “heavenly”.)

BC Wild Salmon Burger

And I can honestly say that I will definitely order the salmon burger the next time I visit Sophie’s. Not only did it look great, but N happily nodded when I grated her for answers about the dish – “Is it good? Is it good?!” Yes, it’s delicious. Truly grilled to perfect, so that the salmon melts in your mouth when you bite into it – no stiffness or chewiness in this salmon. Also, the aioli sauce is very flavourful and really complements the salmon nicely. The lemon is a nice touch, and although it may seem cliché, I really do think that adding a bit of dill would only do the burger more justice and make it even more wonderful. To be quite to-the-point, it was good.

N asked for salad on the side to balance out the meal and keep it relatively light, and the veggies were of course fresh and tasty as well. She passed the cucumber and tomato onto me, and I had my own salad, so I can vouch that all salads are of consistent quality. The cucumber was crunchy and crisp, and the tomatoes juicy and ripe. The mixed greens were fresh, as was the carrot. Really, though, it is what it is – a side salad and nothing more. The vinaigrette was a little more on the oily side, though, and could’ve done with been more vinegary.

I asked for the Chicken Breast Burger ($12.95), and also got a salad to go on the side. You have a couple of options for how you want your chicken breast to be cooked — grilled plain, or Cajun-styled. According to the waitress, the Cajun-style chicken breast is really spicy, so I passed on it and just got my chicken breast grilled – plain and simple.

Chicken Breast Burger

The chicken was delicious. Like the salmon, it was grilled to perfection. It had lovely grill marks on it and was full of flavour without being overly greasy. I topped it with a little Dijon mustard and the entire burger was fantastic. I did notice, however, that all of our burgers were lacking pickles that night… I love pickles, and I had been to Sophie’s once before this and had a burger, and hey, that burger came with a pickle. Where were the pickles?! Very sad. [Note: The BC Wild Salmon Burger pictures were from an earlier trip to Sophie’s. The night I went out with my friends M and N, none of us had pickles with our burgers.]

Aside from the lack of pickles, the only other complaint I have is about the burger buns. Yes, they are very tasty, but they’re also very flimsy and not very fluffy. Even after you assemble your burger, it’s quite hard to hold it together since the bun is kind of floppy. I’m not sure I would demand bigger burger buns, but perhaps ones that are slightly firmer while still being fluffy and soft… if that’s possible. (White Spot has good burger buns! Not to compare the two, but…)

House Salad on the side

Anyway, my complaints are small and my satisfaction great. M and N were also, I believe, quite happy with their meals and also comfortably full afterwards. The prices may seem a bit steep, but the portions are generous and the food quality is pretty much guaranteed to be consistent. It is good food. Maybe not gourmet fare, and the dishes don’t contain any real “complex” flavour combinations, but everything was tasty and the meals were filling and a pleasure to eat.

The service at Sophie’s was great – and it has been like that on the few occasions that I have been there. The waitresses are all very personable and friendly, yet quick and efficient workers. For such a busy restaurant, they do a good job of keeping things moving and keeping customers satisfied. It may be a bit difficult to flag them down when they’re really busy, but something like that can’t be held against them, I believe. Only once have I actually had to wait ten minutes to get a refill on water, and even then it was on a very busy evening. Otherwise, great service.

The ambiance is what makes Sophie’s special, since the dining room is heavily decorated with all sorts of paraphernalia from the past, and it seems that every time you visit, you can find something new or spot something that didn’t quite catch your eye before. The fun décor and cozy atmosphere make for an enjoyable dining experience, in my honest opinion — whether you’re there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Sophie’s Cosmic Café is a great place to visit whether you’re with friends or family, as there seems to be something on the menu for everyone and good food is abundant. Even vegetarian items have a place on the menu, although I would definitely encourage everyone to give the burgers a try – chicken, salmon, beef, or otherwise. They all seem great to me! We didn’t buy dessert (just a little too pricey for our tastes – and we were already stuffed!) so I can’t comment, but there were quite a few people sipping milkshakes – if that says anything at all to you!

Ambiance: 4.5

Food: 4

Service: 4

Overall: 4

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White Spot (UBC)

It’s hard to go wrong when you go to White Spot. Being a successful B.C. restaurant known for its good food (good burgers in particular) and casual atmosphere, White Spot usually is pretty consistent in terms of food quality and service. I’ve known and loved the place since I was a little kid that got easily excited over the Pirate Paks and the chocolate coin they came with (and the stickers… and the pirate ship’s sail was pretty cool too, haha). I still like the restaurant, but I’d like to think that my taste has matured at least a little bit since those days, since I can now enjoy dishes other than just the mac ‘n’ cheese or grilled cheese sandwich.

I hadn’t heard many good things about the White Spot at UBC, and though I lived on campus for an entire year, I hadn’t visited it at all during that time due to continuous rumours of horrendous and/or slow service. However, seeing as I have money left on my UBC card that I can spend at various food outlets on campus, Emme and I decided to check this White Spot out for ourselves on a Saturday evening.

When we entered, there was someone placing a takeout order at the front, and it took a moment for one of the waiters to notice us. We were seated promptly, though, and water came quickly. Because it was Saturday and fairly early, the restaurant was almost completely empty save for about four small parties scattered throughout the relatively large restaurant (a few couples, and a small group of students). We’ve been to White Spot countless times before, obviously, so we just quickly scanned the menu and ordered.

The Legendary Burger Platter (with a Caesar Salad)

Emme knows White Spot does good burgers, and her favourite is The Legendary ($8.99). In an attempt to stay somewhat healthy, she subbed out the fries and coleslaw for a Caesar salad (+$0.99). This was a pretty good burger — but both Emme and I are of the opinion that the White Spots on the West Side aren’t as good as some of the ones downtown or the ones on the North Shore, for some reason.

Creamy Chicken Curry

When we came into the restaurant, we both smelled curry — a delicious smell — so I went with my cravings and ordered the Creamy Chicken Curry (can’t recall how much it cost!). I can’t take too much spice, though, so I asked if they could separate the curry sauce from the pilaf so I could spoon the curry over the dish myself, in an attempt to moderate the spiciness level…

Black Pearl Pilaf

It was actually really delicious. I’ve never had this dish at a White Spot before but I’m glad I tried it out. Also, the curry is hardly spicy; it has a really nice kick to it and is probably what I’d call a “mild” spicy. In any case, the chicken was cooked nicely (poached?) and plentiful. The veggies hadn’t lost their crunch and held their own, and altogether the sauce pulled the dish together, creating a tasty combination of flavours. Authentic Indian? Probably not. But tasty? Very. I would order it again.

House Salad side

… Yes, I am one of those seemingly few people that genuinely loves vegetables (no shame!). I ordered the House Salad on the side for extra veggies, but ended up using it just as a way to cool my mouth down between bites of the curry. (It was only mildly spicy, but was certainly spicy enough to slightly set my spice-sensitive mouth on fire, heh.) Not much to say about it. The veggies were very fresh, of course, and the tomatoes in particular were very juicy… The vinaigrette didn’t look “freshly made” (and may even be just from a store-bought bottle? No way to know) but was still tasty. Kind of hard to mess up a salad – they’re usually good with fresh vegetables and a nice dressing.

Anyway, Emme and I received pretty consistent service throughout the entire meal, and it was only after we were finished that we were effectively “abandoned”. We ordered tea when the waiter took our “empty” plates away, and after that came… we didn’t really receive any further service. This annoys me sometimes, but neither of us were particularly bothered since we were content with our tea and personal pots of hot water. The ambiance was quite nice – this is a nice White Spot, especially the dining room that’s surrounded by glass. The restaurant was warm and cozy the entire time as well, so kudos to the restaurant for at least having a nice atmosphere!

Both of our dishes were out within about 20 minutes, and only after our food arrived did the restaurant start to get a little busier. Clearly the key to an enjoyable visit to the White Spot at UBC is just to go on the weekend… This shouldn’t really be the case, obviously. Any restaurant should be able to perform very well if they’re not busy. The real test is whether a restaurant can perform well during its busiest times, which – according to other reviews – this White Spot apparently cannot.

It was still an enjoyable meal. At least food quality seems to be consistent among the White Spots on the West Side.

Ambiance: 4.5

Food: 4

Service: 3.5

Overall: 4

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