Posts Tagged casual

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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Boathouse (Kitsilano)

Another great location, another Boathouse. This time on Kits Beach!

Emme, Pitah, and I went here on a beautiful day, so we got to take full advantage of the wondrous view from the Boathouse balcony. I think most Vancouverites would agree that Vancouver is the most livable city… for about two (or three) months of the year, when it’s not raining. Those few months are sometimes enough to make you forget about all the miserable rain and gray weather we get for the rest of the year!

An amazing location, however, cannot conceal the fact that the food at the Boathouse is still… not amazing. If you’re not blinded by the blue skies and sunshine and awesome setting, you’ll realise that most of the money you’re putting towards your meal is actually just you paying for the view. With that premise, let the review officially commence.

The service here is friendly, for the most part, although after our rather cheerful hostess seated us, we were served for the rest of the noon hour by a cranky waitress. You would think the outstanding weather would be enough to put anyone in a sunny mood, or at least remind waiters and waitresses to not bring their bad attitudes to work. We had a tough time getting water refills the rest of the time, and our meals took so long to prepare that we actually did have to ask at one point if we could expect our food any time soon. A large party of six that was sitting a little ways from us, but seated twenty minutes after we had ordered, got their food before we did. Not a good way to start off the meal!

Northwest Seafood Pasta with a side of Caesar salad

Northwest Seafood Pasta: ★☆☆☆

Pitah ordered the Northwest Seafood Pasta with the Caesar salad option for a side dish. The description of “wild fish, shrimp & clams, spinach, roasted tomatoes, garlic cream” may make you think that there should have been a bit more there… Indeed. Aside from the Parmesan that was shredded on top, this was mostly bland pasta and shrimp, with a barely detectable hint of garlic. There was nothing aside from the shrimp and the one clam you see in the photo, maybe three tomatoes, and a couple of strings of cooked spinach. The Caesar salad was tastier than the main pasta dish.

Grilled Chicken Breast Club: ☆☆

Grilled Chicken Breast Club

Emme has an allergy to some types of seafood, so she opted to go for a safer option and chose the Grilled Chicken Breast Club. This was better – much better – than the pasta, but still nothing particularly outstanding. The cheese on the sandwich was a nice touch, although it could have used more than the single, wimpy slice of smoked bacon. (What little bacon there was, though, was very, very good.) The chicken was a little tough and could have used some additional seasoning. The roasted red pepper, however, was a nice touch. The side salad was a nice blend of textures – savoury Parmesan, crunchy pine nuts, and crispy lettuce. Huh, reading this review, you’d think that if there is one thing that the Boathouse does do well, it’s their side salads.

Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth

Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth: ☆☆☆

I love seafood, so it almost goes without saying that I ordered a seafood-based dish. My choice was the Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth,which I think was a special of the day or something since I haven’t seen it on their menu since the last time I ate it. Oh boy. This was disappointing. The menu described it as having a “hearty, rich, tomato-based broth”. “Tomato-based” – I’ll give them that, but “hearty” and “rich”? Not so much. There was very little flavour to the broth, and it was very thin and watery. It could have, I suppose, been a little bit better if there had been more herbs simmered alongside, or if it had been topped with fresh herbs, but nothing would have fixed its consistency unless you altered the entire recipe and added more cream or even more tomato. I couldn’t taste any saffron, though maybe it was diluted in the watery mixture. The lemon helped a little… but not much. The vegetables were cooked well, but I don’t think they were cooked in the broth, since they didn’t taste like anything but the vegetables they were. If I have anything here to praise, it’s the presentation and the fish. The fish was cooked well, although it is a white fish and could have used some extra seasoning and flavouring to make it a little more exciting.

So with less-than-impressive food and service, what are the redeeming features of the Boathouse? Definitely location, and the ambiance if you sit on the deck. Unfortunately, I don’t find the view worth the prices you end up having to pay for the mediocre-to-substandard food, so I probably won’t be coming back.

Ambiance: 5

Food: 2

Service: 2

Value: 3

Overall: 2.5

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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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Milestones Grill and Bar (West Vancouver)

Aside from White Spot, I’m usually not one to visit those sort of “chain” restaurants, such as Earl’s, Moxie’s, the Cactus Club, and so on and so forth. But being stuck for lunch one day at Park Royal – and not wanting to visit White Spot, for once – Emme and I visited the Milestones over there instead. I used to go there when I was little, and always order the French toast without the raisins… only to have it delivered to me, every single time, with the raisins. I am not a dried fruit person. Given that repeated bad experience, I think I must have resolved to never visit Milestones again at some point in my early years. Nevertheless, every restaurant deserves a second chance… especially when it’s been years since the last visit.

Lunch Duo – 1/2 Chicken Spinach Asiago Ciabatta with a side salad

The restaurant was completely dead when we walked in at about half past noon on a Saturday, which was rather odd. Thanks to that, though, we managed to get a great table by the window – perfect for the sunny day it was. The booths here are huge and comfy, so that’s definitely a plus! The nice thing about most Milestones is that they all have quite a nice ambiance inside, and have a classy but hip feel to each restaurant. The music was pretty low-key and pleasant. To top it off, our waitress was quite friendly, although service throughout the meal suffered; Emme and I repeatedly found ourselves asking for our small glasses to be refilled with water. (I’m always tempted to just steal the whole water pitcher, so that we don’t have to keep bothering the servers.) A lot of the waiters and waitresses were a bit fixated on watching the flat-screen TVs, which would explain the inattentive service.

Ambiance and service aside – how was the food? Did my dish suffer the same fate as before with regards to raisins?! Fortunately, no. This time around, I went for the Lunch Duo (I would have gotten the trio, but was not interested in the soup). The sandwich portion I requested was the chicken spinach asiago ciabatta – which has everything the name indicates – and a fairly standard salad on the side. It was… decent. That’s my other beef with restaurants like Earl’s and Milestones: the food is decent, not mindblowing, and kind of expensive for what you get. Anyway, it was a good sandwich. The ciabatta was fluffy on the inside,  had a nice crisp exterior, and at least tasted freshly baked. If I could change anything, it would have been to try to keep the temperature of the dish consistent. As it was then, the chicken was cold, the cheese was cold, and the spinach was hot. They were also super skimpy with the cheese. I think it would’ve really helped to have the contents either all hot or all cold – otherwise the sandwich seems kind of… confused. My personal preference would’ve been to have to whole thing hot, so that the cheese could melt and the unseasoned chicken’s bland taste could’ve been masked a little better to let the cheese flavour shine through more. The salad was your average, run-of-the-mill side salad, so not much to comment on there. It tasted relatively fresh.

Watermelon and Roasted Beet Salad

Emme apparently wasn’t that hungry and just got a bit salad. More specifically, the watermelon, feta, and roasted beet salad. If anything, this was probably the highlight of our visit, surprisingly. There was a lovely lemony vinaigrette drizzled on top with a hint of chardonnay, and a couple of candied pecans sprinkled over it. The feta was, I think, goat feta and was amazing. Should have asked who their supplier was, because the cheese was the highlight for me. There were fried tortilla strips, too, but personally I think the dish could have done without them. They just seemed kind of misplaced, and left a weird, greasy aftertaste in the mouth. The roasted beets were also delicious and subtly sweet, and the watermelon was crisp and fresh. Thumbs up for the salads at Milestones, at the very least, if the quality and flavour of this one are representative of the rest.

All in all, it was not a bad experience, per sé; it just wasn’t a particularly memorable one. I’d personally rather spend my money somewhere else, but Milestones is a fairly good option for dining if you’re in West Vancouver. The food is nothing remarkable, but it is tasty, filling, and the prices aren’t necessarily unreasonable. I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit Milestones, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid it, either.

Ambiance: 4

Food: 3.5

Service: 3

Value: 3

Overall: 3.5

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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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Nuba (W Hastings)

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

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

Side Pita (comes with Beef Tenderloin)

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

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

Beef Tenderloin with Hummus

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

Fattoush Salad

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

Sea Scallops

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

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

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

Ambiance: 5

Food: 4.5

Service: 4.5

Value: 3 (expensive but worth it!)

Overall: 4.5

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Annapurna

Before I go any further, I will say this: Annapurna at 1926 W 4th is actually closed, but will supposedly open at a new location sometime soon. This review is just based on my visit to the Annapurna that was on W 4th, shortly before it closed. Whether it will reflect the quality of the soon-to-open Annapurna, I cannot say.

M, N, and I had actually agreed to meet at Maenam one week for dinner, which is located on the same block as Annapurna was, but ended up changing our minds when we found that we would have to be out before 7:30pm if we wanted to dine there, at Maenam. We hadn’t set up a reservation! None of us realised that it was so popular, but we will keep it in mind should we decide to try it out again. In any case, we relocated to Annapurna, which was fairly empty relative to Maenam, but still had quite a few people dining. The restaurant itself wasn’t particularly clean, but looking back, I’m wondering if this is in part because they knew they were closing soon, and cleaning before messing up the place for a makeover may have seemed pointless. I don’t really know, but I still sort of think they should have maintained a clean storefront until the very end. In any case, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and it was quite quiet, with only some Indian music playing not-too-loudly in the background. I was starving so I ordered as soon as M and N were also ready.

The waitress who took our orders was very friendly, but wasn’t very attentive. Although I know dairy is better (e.g. milk or yogurt) for cooling off your mouth when you eat spicy stuff, I still wished our water glasses were topped up more frequently while we were eating… I actually had to just stop eating altogether at one point because I didn’t have any water to counter the spice. Unfortunately, friendly service does not necessarily equal good service, but it wasn’t too bad, in general. The waitress was also quite helpful when it came to the menu, and was very knowledgeable about all the dishes. Points for knowing the menu well and for willingness to cater to customers’ preferences, and preferred spice levels!

Veggie Chicken Caesar Salad

Neither M nor N like really spicy stuff, so they both specified that their dishes be only mildly spicy, and the waitress was more than happy to pass this on to the chef, as their dishes did indeed not come out too spicy. M surprised me by ordering the Veggie Chicken Caesar Salad. Usually I am the only one ordering salads! In any case, she said it was really good, and the “veggie chicken” really did taste like chicken. The dressing also tasted like your typical Caesar dressing, although it was vegan, so there must be some secret to the subtle anchovy taste that it still had… The picture was taken after she had already dug in – just ’cause it looked that appealing when it arrived.

Veggie Butter Chicken

Of course, a salad is truly too light to appease any normal person with an empty stomach (well… I would think so, at least), so M of course also ordered something else: the Veggie Butter Chicken. Also reportedly also delicious, I thought the presentation could’ve been a bit better. The bowl was so big that the portion looked puny, and it looks like it was plated in a hurry. If you go through the trouble to prepare something great, it can’t hurt to spend just a few extra seconds making sure your plating is also great, right? Anyways, once again the veggie chicken tasted akin to real chicken – although this is probably less of a surprise since the dish had plenty of sauce to give flavour to the veggie pieces. The spice was juuust enough to give a nice kick without overwhelming your taste buds.

Veggie Black Pepper Prawns

N ordered some Veggie Black Pepper Prawns, which to me didn’t really look like prawns at first… but they do when you actually start picking them up with your fork and whatnot. I was curious as to whether or not they tasted the same as the veggie chicken that M had, but I refrained from trying since this dish does contain coconut (to which I’m allergic). It came with veggies and rice on the side. The veggies got some of the black pepper gravy, which was really flavourful and not too spicy despite its appearance: there did seem to be a lot of black pepper sprinkled on top and infused in the gravy, but it was well distributed over everything on the plate so that it spiced up everything just enough to satisfy N’s spice level preference.

Cucumber Salad

I was super predictable and got a Cucumber Salad to go alongside my meal. The veggies were refreshingly fresh – especially the cucumbers – for which I was grateful since I was using the salad to cool my mouth down while eating my main dish…

Lentil Dal

I ordered a simple Lentil Dal, which came with Basmati Rice, like N’s dish, and Naan as well. M’s dish actually didn’t come with naan, although it was supposed to… The naan came with mine, but I had plenty of rice so I didn’t mind forfeiting the naan anyway. I had a bite, and it was soft, fluffy, and actually deliciously buttery – and M enjoyed it immensely as well. Nevertheless, I had a whole plate of basmati rice to eat and stuck mostly with that instead of the naan…

Basmati Rice

The dal was… okay. I asked for it to be spicier instead of mild, and it was spicier than M and N’s dishes, but wasn’t as flavourful as it could have been. Somehow, the flavours didn’t blend together very well, and I can only guess that it’s because it didn’t simmer long enough for all the flavours to fully come out and marry together nicely. Again, the presentation could have been a bit nicer, but I suppose it’s difficult to carry a dish out without its contents splashing the sides a bit, so I shouldn’t be too picky. There wasn’t a lot of it, unfortunately, which was a bit disappointing.

Aachar

Partway through my meal, the Aachar I ordered – and had forgotten about! – arrived. That was when I truly got my spice craving satisfied. The pickles had tons of flavour and lots of spice. I have no idea what half of the pickled stuff was, but it was an awesome dish. I would order it again – and I’m looking forward to trying it at different Indian restaurants.

Altogether it was an enjoyable meal. I’m curious to see where the new Annapurna will open up – if the owner still decides to open a new one somewhere. In its place on W 4th, there is now a new Indian place – Indian Fusion – that I’ve yet to check out. My impression of this previous Annapurna was that the meal was pretty decent, and fairly suitable even for non-vegetarian eaters (standard omnivores!). The service was mediocre, as was the actual ambiance… Definitely “casual” dining. It wasn’t bad value, either; it would most certainly be better value if M, N, and I had shared dishes, of course, as I think you’re supposed to when eating Indian food… but we were content with picking and finishing off what we ordered individually. Overall: not bad… not bad at all. Just not astoundingly amazing, either.

Ambiance: 2.5

Food: 3.5

Service: 2.5

Value: 4

Overall: 3.5

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Aphrodite’s Organic Café and Pie Shop

Let’s face it: Whether or not you choose to acknowledge it, the organic movement has been growing and becoming increasingly popular over the years, so much so that organic markets have popped up and dozens upon dozens of studies have been released detailing how much better organic food is for you, or how much better it tastes, etc. In many ways, it’s easy to see how it’s much better for you — its being “pesticide/herbicide/insecticide-free” definitely helping with that aspect. As for tasting better, however… That is a claim that is still very much “in the air” and up for debate. Even if it’s one day proven that organic food doesn’t taste any better than food made with conventionally grown ingredients, one thing is very clear to me: The food at Aphrodite’s tastes amazing.

Caffè Latte

Emme and I first heard about Aphrodite’s a little over a month ago, and already we’ve been there three times… Our first impression of it was definitely that it was another sort of trendy “hippie” place that served healthy food, a bit like the Naam [only cleaner and with obviously much better service]. However, I wouldn’t look at it as such anymore. Now, I just can’t help but think of it as a great place to eat — lunch or dinner. Décor is actually pretty tasteful and trendy, with some artwork that’s clearly “local” and some that’s from decades past. The paper maché figurines hanging from the ceiling give the restaurant more of a “homey” feel (and in no way come across as tacky), as does the tiled floor and fact that the kitchen is rather open and only hidden behind a big blackboard with specials and pies written on it.

Cinnamon Roll

On our first visit, Emme had actually just had a late breakfast and wasn’t too hungry for lunch, and so instead sipped on a Caffè Latte and ordered a cinnamon roll to nibble on. The latte was good, of course — though there is only so much you can say about it. It was hearty, warm, and satisfying, as all properly done caffè lattes should be. The Cinnamon Roll was fantastic. I think you can tell that just by looking at the picture, almost! It was ginormous, and amazing value for what you dish out to get it. The nuts in the swirls gave it a nice crunch, and the exterior had a nice crispness while the interior was soft, gooey with delicious layers of cinnamon and sugar, and just full of deliciousness. They may have the word “pie” in their name, but clearly they’ve got other baked goods down pat, too.

Harvest Vegetarian Chili

I was starving, and actually having a hard time choosing from their large selection of delicious-sounding dishes, but settled on the Harvest Vegetarian Chili, partially because I’ve had a huge craving for spicy foods lately and partially just because I’ve always loved chili anyway. The chili came out steaming hot and fresh, with equally fresh salad and bread. The salad greens were crunchy, crisp, and delicious. The grated carrot, beets, and sprouts reminded me a bit of the Naam, but somehow just seemed much classier here. In any case, the salad provided a great way to escape the spice of the chili and cool down between bites. Oh, but the chili… It was a dream come true. Hearty, delicious, spicy but not overly so, and full of nutritious goodness in the forms of beans and veggies… It was just amazing. I love this chili. I would get it if I went back. And again. And again. Even though there are so many other items on the menu that definitely hold great promise.

Home Baked Multigrain Bread

As if the fabulous chili wasn’t already enough to talk about, I could probably also go on for quite a while about the fabulous bread, too. It is fluffy but hearty at the same time, and the best bread I have eaten in a while. Don’t skip the butter, in this case. If you need to feel better about spreading it, just know that it’s organic, from grass-fed cows, local, etc. etc. And… butter makes everything better. Even bread that is fantastic on its own.

Caramelized Leek and Lentil Soup

Emme still didn’t have much of an appetite on our next visit, and just got the Caramelized Leek and Lentil Soup with a side of the amazing, freshly-baked bread. This soup is delicious as well though. [I apologize for overusing that word, but I’m finding repetition especially necessary in this post.] It is light, but definitely does not skimp at all on the flavour and is still very filling because of the lentils. Do not let its plain appearance fool you: a wonderful blend of complex flavours is what you’ll get when you order this seemingly bland dish. How do I know this when I didn’t order it, myself? Because I did actually get it, too. Obviously the bread did not disappoint the second time around, as well.

Chai Latte

Recently, Emme has shifted from drinking coffee to drinking chai tea more, and ordered the Chai Latte to go with her bread and soup. It was also great, according to Emme… though she hasn’t tasted enough chai lattes at different places to rank it relative to anything. The least that can be said is that yes, like everything else at Aphrodite’s, the lattes are good too. [East is East probably still has the best chai tea, though! That is one thing Emme said, although this one was very good.]

Potato-Crusted Wild Coho Salmon on a vermouth beurre blanc

On our most recent visit, Emme ordered something off of their “Fresh Sheet” for dinner: the Potato-Crusted Wild Coho Salmon. (I, with my supposedly unquenchable thirst hunger for spicy things, was boring and got the awesome chili again.) It may not look like a very pretty dish, but both Emme and I can vouch for it: It was, like everything else on the menu seems to be, amazing. The salmon was cooked perfectly, the crust was indeed nice and crunchy and was a very refreshing take on your typical bread-crumby or panko crust. The beurre blanc sauce was what really made it special, though. It was amazing. Oh, and yes, of course all of the “seasonal organic vegetables” were cooked perfectly as well, maintaining some crispness and all of their flavour. The salad that came as a part of the meal was also fantastic, with fresh veggies and a “to-die-for” house dressing. The meal came with a slice of pie, so Emme decided on a slice of Apple Blackberry Pie. Neither of us have actually tasted it yet – we were stuffed after our dinners! – so I can’t comment on the quality of the pies at Aphrodite’s, but… Well, everything else is amazing, and I’ve read and heard lots of great things about the pies here, so I imagine it will be outstanding! Actually, I’ve also gotten a [ginormous] Raspberry Millet Muffin from Aphrodite’s as well, and that was delicious. It was huge, but I went through it pretty quickly. The millet give it a nice crunch! And as far as I can tell, all of their baked treats taste great without being too sweet, and are also great in terms of value and bang for your buck.

Our dining experiences here have all been pleasant, even when you exclude the quality of the food. The service is super friendly, and even though the waiters are all very laid-back in their work, they are extremely attentive and routinely check up on you to make sure that your water glass is full, that you have everything you need, and that your meal is nothing short of amazing. We’ve only once had a little trouble getting the bill, but that was an extremely busy evening where the place was starting to get an overflow of customers lining up. Otherwise, service is personable, upbeat, quick, and pleasant. Food is out relatively quickly and is consistently delicious.

The ambiance isn’t bad, either. The country-style décor that exudes a homey feeling, and the place has two dining rooms which allows diners to spread out a bit. Even if you eat here when it’s full, you will most likely find that you don’t feel cramped, or that you can’t hear the people at your table talking to you. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and makes for a peaceful and enjoyable meal. Also, the bill shouldn’t knock you out of the water too much. Some dishes may seem a little expensive, but at least know that you are certainly getting what you pay for when you come to Aphrodite’s. A higher price here is merely indicative of higher quality, and quality is what you will get.

Whether you’re a fanatic about only buying organic and/or local food or not, I would definitely recommend you pay Aphrodite’s a visit. You won’t regret it.

Ambiance: 4

Food:5

Service: 4.5

Value: 4

Overall: 4.5
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Hitoe Sushi

Hitoe Sushi… Oh, how you are close to my heart. ❤

Hitoe Sushi is perhaps my favourite place in Vancouver to get delicious Japanese food and a truly authentic Japanese dining experience. That probably sounds absolutely ridiculous to those who are skeptical of the place because of its unassuming appearance, or to those who may have (for some reason unfathomable to me) had a bad experience there, but… je m’explique: Although Hitoe Sushi appeared at first — even to me and Emme — to be a run-down and sad little sushi place, we were beyond pleasantly surprised after dining there for the first time last summer. Hitoe Sushi does not look like much, and it’s not exactly in the best location, being in a much quieter section of W 4th than other more popular restaurants. From the outside, it looks like it might just be another cheap sushi joint. But in reality, it is so, so much more.

Miso Soup (blurry – sorry!)

To begin with, yes, décor is pretty low-key, but… the interior is still quite cozy and welcoming. It also seems quite authentic, and traditional Japanese art adorns the wall and counters in some places (along with a little tapestry with all the frequently consumed fish on it, with their kanji and its furigana!). It is not a high-class restaurant with white table cloths and exquisite dishware, but with such great food and fantastic service, you really end up not caring about all that anyway. I guess the one phrase to keep in mind when considering Hitoe Sushi is “don’t judge a book by its cover” — or a restaurant by its storefront, in this case. The ambiance is quite soothing, as the lights in the evening are bright enough to illuminate the room (and the menu when you look at it, of course) but dim enough to create a mellow atmosphere. Obviously the noise level will depend on whether or not a family or big party of people is in there, but it is generally nice and quiet. I have seen many other Japanese people — individuals, couples, and families — dining here, which is always a good sign.

Service is outstanding. This may be because it is such a small restaurant, but you will rarely have difficulty getting refills on your tea or water and the waitresses and waiters are all very, very friendly and accommodating. There are only a couple of main servers that work there, so another great aspect of Hitoe Sushi is that you will probably be remembered if you return. The restaurant can admittedly get pretty busy around dinnertime, with what seems like a flood of takeout orders coming in over the phone and by those who come in person, but even then the servers will not ignore nor abandon you as servers in other restaurants may (that actually happened to me and Emme in Shiro!). The itamae will also be happy to recommend items if you ask, and will sometimes even take your orders directly! The staff are all personable, cheerful, and provide truly wonderful service. Oh and yes, they are indeed Japanese! So service is “authentic”, as is the food.

Edamame

Putting décor, ambiance, and service aside… Hitoe Sushi will not disappoint you when it comes to the food, also. I have gone many times, but this review is just based of my two most recent experiences (so yes, I can still guarantee food quality!). Emme and I visited not too long ago, as this is Emme’s Japanese restaurant of preference in Vancouver (like me! Though unfortunately she is now almost unwilling to try any other places). It was a Friday night, and I’m actually not sure what the story is on this, but I believe that Edamame is complimentary on Fridays (and even Thursdays?), as a decent-sized serving of warm and lightly salted Edamame was presented to us after our orders were taken. In other restaurants, we have been unsatisfied with the Edamame since it seems common that tiny portion sizes of the dish are served for a steep price… Thankfully, Hitoe Sushi is not so stingy.

I always order a smattering of little dishes, but the Seaweed Salad is always a favourite. I don’t know what to comment on since the fact of the matter is that it is simply delicious. The red bell peppers may seem like an unusual addition, but they really enhance the presentation (as do the kaiware, or radish sprouts) and add a pleasantly sweet crunch to the salad. The lettuce and veggies are always crisp and fresh, and the seaweed is packed with flavour, as is the dressing. Even if you are not a big salad eater, I would still recommend this!

Seaweed Salad

Kappa Maki

I enjoy ordering veggie-based rolls most of the time, too, so excuse me for being so repetitive… but both the Kappa Maki (cucumber roll) and Oshinko Maki (pickled radish/takuan roll) are consistently delicious. They are almost perfectly formed, the sushi rice nicely complements the filling (and it is real sushi rice), and the rolls have never fallen apart on me – whether I ate the rolls first or after eating other things. Again, presentation may not seem traditional, but the banana leaves are a nice touch and interesting twist and make for a more extravagant appearance. The ginger is the real stuff – no fluorescent pink, chemical-tasting ginger here. To date, I have not once been presented a poorly made sushi roll at Hitoe Sushi.

Oshinko Maki

 

Ebi Sunomono

Emme really loves sunomono, and got a serving of Ebi Sunomono. Again, lovely presentation — which, in my honest opinion, is actually really important when it comes to Japanese food. A lot of Japanese dishes rely on simple, very flavourful ingredients and thus one has to work a bit harder to produce something that is visually appealing as well. Well, the chefs at Hitoe Sushi certainly have that covered! As for the taste? Yes, the shrimp was fresh, soft, sweet, and just flat out delicious. The dressing was perfect, and neither too vinegary nor too sweet. There was also a nice balance between the noodles and all of the other ingredients; this is related to Hitoe Sushi not being stingy about portions, I believe! Other Japanese restaurants have presented me, in the past, with sunomono where the noodles are practically the only thing in the dish. So no, at least in my and Emme’s opinion, whichever sunomono you order at Hitoe Sushi, you will not be disappointed.

2 salmon nigiri, ebi nigiri, and hokkigai nigiri

As is probably clear by now, I am indeed a sushi lover. This one particular time I decided to go with two pieces of salmon nigiri along with two other favourites, but all of the nigiri I have had at Hitoe Sushi has been marvelous. I have never come across a chewy piece of salmon, or a piece of ika that was too tough to swallow. It seems to me that all nigiri here is consistently delicious. Again, the rice is genuine sushi rice, and it is the perfect size to match the piece of sashimi that goes along with it. The salmon have always been fresh to the point of maintaining that “melt-in-your-mouth” sensation and tasting like little pieces of heaven (well, in my opinion!). The ebi is, of course, always nicely done and the hokkigai is always pleasantly fresh and never too chewy, also! I have tried tako, hotate, ika, and a variety of other nigiri here and they are always delicious, so go wild when it comes to nigiri. I haven’t experimented much in tasting their vegetarian nigiri, and the only one I tried to eat once was a kaiware nigiri, which I ordered out of ignorance… I couldn’t eat it because I didn’t realize that kaiware (radish sprouts) have such a powerful bitter taste! (Like watercress… blegh. But that is a personal preference and not a reflection of the restaurant at all!)

Sockeye Salmon Sashimi

Hotate Sashimi

I realize that this post is becoming too long with me constantly touting the awesomeness of Hitoe Sushi, so I’ll [try to] be more to the point.

I have had the Sockeye Salmon Sashimi at Hitoe Sushi before, and, like the salmon on the tops of the nigiri sushi, it was absolutely outstanding. The salmon tasted so fresh and retained that “melt-in-your-mouth” deliciousness, and the deep red hue was gorgeous, as was the texture. Scallops are also one of my absolute favourite (shell)fish, and the scallops (the Hotate Sashimi) at Hitoe Sushi are, actually, the best scallops I have tasted in Vancouver, cooked or uncooked. They are thawed to perfection, a nice size, of very high quality, and have that special sweetness that you look for in super fresh seafood. The presentation of the dish is gorgeous and the taste is absolutely spot on.

Chicken Teriyaki-don

Emme’s not a fan of raw fish and instead really likes ordering the Chicken Teriyaki-don, which she says is particularly good. Again, the sauce is well-balanced and is not sickly sugary or too sweet or anything like that. The chicken is tender and tasty and the entire dish looks beautiful. The dish is also somehow always served pleasantly hot, so diners who are turned off by the idea of a “cold” dinner don’t have to worry — at least not here. Another dish Emme has enjoyed on a different occasion is the Gyuu-don special of some sort, which comes with a side of miso soup. Again, this is “Emme-approved” and is very flavourful and satisfying. The caramelized onions marry beautifully with the beef, and the serving of rice is generous and actually also very good. (It is real sushi rice and quite tasty in its own right!)

Gyuu-don

I’ve gone on long enough about how great this restaurant is in this post… I would definitely recommend this place to others, and have actually done so to a couple of Japanese-food-fans that told me it was their new favourite place for sushi after trying it. It certainly doesn’t look like much, and don’t expect to be wowed by a stunning interior design or fabulous interior, but both service and food are excellent and result in a great dining experience… It would be good to keep in mind though that Hitoe Sushi really does specialize in sushi of many different varieties; it does offer some bigger dishes (there are a few donburi types offered, and you can get udon too), but sometimes I worry about bringing friends who don’t like sushi here to eat, since their options are limited. This isn’t a weakness of the restaurant or anything, of course — Hitoe Sushi does not sell itself as a full-fledged Japanese restaurant and its name obviously indicates that sushi is what you should expect when you visit.

In any case: Great restaurant. Excellent food. Excellent service. It is that excellence that keeps me (and even Emme) coming back again and again.

Ambiance: 3 [The bathroom could be a bit cleaner!]

Food: 5

Service: 5

Value: 4

Overall: 4

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