Posts Tagged Kitsilano

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

Boathouse on Urbanspoon

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Blue Star Japanese Bistro

After reading Oishizo!’s positive review from just over a year ago, Emme and I gave Blue Star Japanese Bistro a try despite the fact that it isn’t, as denoted in the aforementioned review, Japanese owned or run. Perhaps the service and kitchen staff have changed since then, however, because I don’t really have anything good to say about our experience there this year. (Another negative review?! How shocking. Maybe I’ll become known as the harbinger of bad reviews.)

Edamame

We initially journeyed over to W 4th to eat at Maenam… for which we did not have reservations, and even at lunch it was extremely busy. Somehow, I guess I thought you’d only need reservations for dinner. Turns out it’s a popular lunch place, too! Though it’s not open for lunch on Sundays or Mondays, I believe. In any case, Blue Star Japanese Bistro is right across the street. Needless to say, we did not exactly start off on a good foot. When we walked in, the restaurant was deserted at lunch time on a Saturday. We stood awkwardly at the entrance for a couple of minutes while the two sole waitresses chatted at the very back of the restaurant near the register, and the sushi chefs off to the left of us, despite looking extremely bored, didn’t actually do anything to grab their attention. After calling out, “Are you open?” to them, one of them seated us in the booth closest to the door. (Is it supposed to be a ‘seat-yourself’ sort of place? Then this all would’ve made sense.)

Beef Teriyaki

Emme claimed she wasn’t that hungry, but ordered Beef Yakisoba alongside some Edamame. The edamame was… cold. And, as the photo may show, barely salted. (At least give us some extra salt on the table then, come on!) Have you ever had cold edamame? It’s not that appeasing. I’m starting to think part of its appeal comes from the fact that it’s meant to be nice and hot. This was not. Moving on…

As for the beef yakisoba, it was disappointing. Emme didn’t have much to say about it besides the fact that the sauce was far too salty, watery, and had almost no sweetness, the beef was from bad cuts of whatever steer it came from (all chunks of fat, pretty much. She hardly ate any of it… and I’m pretty sure, despite what she said, that she was hungry), and the dish was 80% bean sprouts and noodles. The noodles weren’t even soba. They were Chinese noodles; lo mein, actually. Essentially, what happened was this: Emme ordered beef yakisoba… and got stir-fried beef lo mein.And since when does Japanese cooking involve zucchini?!

Hokkigai Sashimi

I went out on a limb and ordered sashimi; more specifically, Hokkigai Sashimi. It may look okay in the picture, but it was poorly cut and not fresh. Or rather, you could say, it wasn’t “thawed properly”. It tasted off. None-too-ironically, my gut was off later that afternoon. I could tell it wasn’t fresh when it arrived — the idle sushi chefs hadn’t cut any sashimi or prepared any before my order came, so maybe it was cut in the morning and left in the fridge or something… maybe even overnight? — and voiced this to Emme, who warned me not to eat it if that were the case. Yet… I hate wasting money, and did anyway. And suffered the consequences. Lesson learned.

To balance out the sashimi, I asked for Hot Vegetable Soba for some carby and veggie goodness. It looked like there were lots of vegetables at first, but… there weren’t. Similar to how Emme’s beef teriyaki was mostly bean sprouts, my soba bowl was closer to 90% noodle. Don’t get me wrong; I love soba – but it was seriously too much, and not even soba to begin with. I get why Chinese people will run Japanese restaurants (Vancouverites seem more willing to eat Japanese than Chinese, perhaps because of the stigma against Chinese food that developed years ago once it was pointed out that Chinese restaurant food contained a lot of MSG and was behind a lot of the “Chinese restaurant syndrome” headaches), but it’s not really… I don’t know, fair? – That is, not fair that they serve Chinese food with a Japanese label. It’s misleading and, in my opinion, downright dishonest. At least it came out hot, although the noodles (lo mein again) quickly turned mushy. The broth had no flavour. The few veggies that were present were… fine. I’m using the word “fine” very loosely, though, since I did not think it was “fine” at all. Red pepper? Eggplant? Zucchini?! Corn?!? In soba?! Blasphemy! Maybe in ramen, yes, but not in a bowl of supposedly traditional hot soba!

Hot Vegetable Soba

The service stayed consistently bad throughout the meal. Cups of green tea and water glasses were only filled once – when food was delivered – and never again. The two waitresses chatted at the back the entire time. The sushi chefs apparently did not make anything fresh, since they just stood behind their counter and eventually started to talk to each other after some time. Maybe they finished all of the rolls ahead of time, in the morning? I don’t know. It was kind of strange.

As for ambiance… Well, it was decorated specifically to look like a Japanese restaurant. It’s actually not too bad. Pretty clean. The lighting from the front is a nice bonus. If my experience weren’t so tainted by the bad service and disappointing meal, I would probably be singing the ambiance and/or décor’s praises right at this point. They had Chinese music playing in the background – probably tracks that the waitresses wanted to listen to – and maybe that’s okay, if most people can’t tell the difference. Aside from the decent atmosphere and rare quietness (probably a bad indication in this case, though), the value seems pretty bad for what you get, as evidenced by the tiny salad, and beef teriyaki that was made from poor cuts of beef and mostly overcooked sprouts.

Ambiance: 3.5

Food: 2

Service: 1

Value: 2

Overall: 2
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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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Hi-Nippon

On another “excursion” for Japanese food for dinner – solely for the sake of satisfying my craving for sushi, again, of course – Emme and I tried out “Hi-Nippon”. We’d actually been there before, over a year ago, and while Emme said it hadn’t been particularly noteworthy on that occasion, I insisted we try it again. After all, some restaurants improve over time – whether it’s their food, service, or décor. (That said, however, some restaurants can also get worse over time in either or all three of those points… and just in general.) Unfortunately, Hi-Nippon didn’t really get better. It didn’t get worse either. But before I even proceed, I’ll just throw it out there that no, we probably won’t go back.

Oriental Salad

We were seated after standing awkwardly at the entrance for a minute or two, as the waitresses chatted in the back and only took notice of us when one accidentally glanced over. The booths are nicely separated, so you have your own little area to yourself while you dine, although you have to take off your shoes to get in one. I have to agree with Emme on the point that it doesn’t seem there is a good reason to do this… You end up having to have your feet on the same floor that you entered on anyway – and if you’re not wearing socks, it’s not the most comfortable nor pleasant experience. Nevertheless, I like the fact that you get your own booth with little “walls” around it, and the ambiance is pretty good in general as well. The only thing I might change is the way that they have random menu items plastered on the walls in equally random places. Perhaps one specials board that people can see would be more useful, rather than having the takoyaki special posted on one side of the restaurant (where some, but not all, customers can see it) and the okonomiyaki option posted on the other side. Some traditional artwork in place of those pieces of paper might be more eye-catching, though just taking those posters down would be nice enough. (Bare walls would be better than having messily written specials posted up.)

Miso Soup

The service after we were seated was pretty mediocre. Even though we were close to where the waitresses were hanging out for most of the time, it was difficult to catch their attention to make menu orders, ask for water or tea refills, etc. They weren’t keen on explaining any menu items that were asked about and were a bit impatient taking orders. In any case, Emme and I received all of the dishes we asked for, so I can’t complain about that, at least.

Plain Steamed White Rice

Emme ordered her typical dish, Beef Teriyaki Meal, which came with a cute little side salad called the Oriental Salad, some miso soup, and also a bowl of  rice. The short of it is that the salad was good, as the veggies were fresh and the dressing gave a nice tart flavour and slight hint of spice to it, and the miso soup was sub-par, with only some lonely green onion bits floating on top, one piece wakame seaweed, and no tofu whatsoever. The rice was just plain steamed rice – not sushi rice… which is fine, I suppose, as the menu didn’t give us any false pretense about it anyway.

Beef Teriyaki

The beef teriyaki dish itself was okay. At the very least, it was well cooked, if a little overdone and a bit too chewy. The sauce was not teriyaki sauce, but something much more pungent and not very sweet. In my opinion, the dish didn’t look very appetizing, and the sauce was too thick. In Emme’s opinion, it was too sour, and the bean sprouts had evidently been way overcooked; it would have been nice if they had maintained even a little bit of crunch, but in turn they were super soggy, along with the other scarce veggies (two little broccoli florets and a few slices of overcooked carrot, I believe). One thing that was nice was that the dish was actually steaming hot, so it was at least fresh, although there were numerous inedible pieces of fat mixed in with the beef. I thought the sesame seeds on top added a nice touch, since they gave a little bit of crunch to what was otherwise a rather soggy and “floppy” meal.

Sockeye Salmon Sashimi

I decided to take a chance and order some sashimi: Sockeye Salmon Sashimi.  Usually sashimi is a pretty way to gauge how good a Japanese restaurant is, I think? It is raw fish, so it boils down to the chef’s technique and the quality of the ingredients, really – two things that are pretty crucial in making delicious food. The presentation was very nice. But that is literally the only good thing I can say about it. It. Was. The. Worst. Sashimi. I. Had. Ever. Eaten. I have had a lot of sashimi, but this was so poorly done that it was just… ugh! I don’t want to use any stronger words of disgust in fear of being too offensive, but it was like eating slabs of flavourless, rubber tire. There was absolutely no taste. At all. This is the first time that I’ve so direly needed to use soy sauce to accompany my sashimi. I think I was doubly disappointed because sockeye salmon is one of my favourite types of fish – if not my number one favourite, next to scallops. Moving on…

Shiitake Mushroom Roll

I got a Shiitake Mushroom Roll on the side. I love mushrooms, and this isn’t a traditional roll (I think?) so I thought it’d be fun to try. To be to the point, it was bad. Poorly formed – amateur-ish, almost. Bland rice. Unusually soggy nori. Artificially coloured pickled ginger on the side. It was disappointment #2, for me.

Vegetable Soba in Soup

Obviously this meal would be too scarce in terms of veggies for a veggie-lover such as myself, so I also ordered Vegetable Soba in Soup. Another disappointment. At first glance, it may seem as though there were lots of veggies… Let me dispel that illusion and say that was not the case at all. There was a thin layer of veggies on the top — spread across the surface so as to conceal the unbelievable and unnecessarily large amount of noodles underneath. The vegetables were okay – fresh enough, and the bowl was not so hot as to overcook them immediately – but the broth had no flavour. Flavourless meals do not appeal to me. Especially when the vegetables need some sort of tasty accompaniment. I could only sadly reminisce about the fantastic-tasting broth at Ichiro.

Hi-Nippon may have seemed promising with its decent décor and extensive menu, but the food itself is miserable and the service is no better. On this particular occasion, the food was almost below average. It’s very standard, sub-par Japanese fare, in my and Emme’s opinions. I honestly don’t get why there is so much praise for this place. Maybe because the décor seems semi-authentic? Or because the menu seems quite extensive? Or perhaps even because it’s not that expensive? Whatever the case, it gets a thumbs down by me. Despite my initial excitement upon looking at the menu (“Ooh, I’ll have to come back to try all the more exotic-sounding dishes!“), I was quite sorely disappointed. There are far better Japanese restaurants in the vicinity for me to dine at, if I want quality – even if those other places have more limited menus.

Ambiance: 4

Food: 2

Service: 2

Value: 3 [Low prices for low quality.]

Overall: 2.5

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Hapa Izakaya (Kitsilano)

Always on the lookout for new Japanese places [with good food, of course], it was hard to ignore Hapa Izakaya with all the good things written about it online and recommendations from friends. It also has a great location, and seemed super promising, especially because the place was fully booked with reservations when we visited. Luckily, Emme and I are in the habit of dining relatively early and managed to get a table after giving our word that we’d be out within two hours.

Oshinko

A quick note, to those who care about this (like me): This place is authentic. The kitchen staff and the waitresses are all Japanese. If you take a peek at their website, as well, you’ll see that they’ve won all sorts of awards, one of the most recent being a Georgia Straight Golden Plate Award for “#1 Best Izakaya”. (Kind of redundant having “#1” right next to “best” but whatever. Moving on…)

The izakaya is really quite classy, in terms of its interior and even its exterior. The store’s sign is simple, but simplicity done in good taste. The lack of neon signs advertising “Take out” and missing menu pictures make it clear: Hapa Izakaya is good enough to draw customers in without all of that. It was pleasantly warm inside, and the lighting was dim enough to give off the impression that it is truly an izakaya – a Japanese style bar. Décor is, like the storefront, simple but elegant.

Teriyaki Meatballs

From when we walked in without a reservation to when we were served, the service was consistent and our waitress was attentive and helpful. We were served tea and water and only had trouble getting refills after our food had been served. This is the case in a lot of restaurants – so many, in fact, that I’m beginning to wonder if servers are told to all but abandon tables that have already been served… Anyway – the service was good up until we were served our meals. All waitresses were friendly and polite, and the one that mixed our Ishiyaki bowls was nice enough to stay for a couple of minutes and tell us about the restaurant when we asked. After that, though, we were essentially ignored.

As for the food… It was fantastic. I love Japanese pickles, so obviously I had to get the Oshinko to start. Pretty standard Japanese dish, and yes, it was tasty – although nowhere close to being the highlight of the evening.

While I started on my oshinko moriawase, Emme got some Teriyaki Meatballs to start. These were very good. Thoroughly and perfectly cooked and seasoned. They were very flavourful and lacked the sickly sweetness taste that some teriyaki sauces impart on food. The mushrooms added a nice aesthetically pleasing aspect to the dish, enhancing the presentation of something that isn’t really all that pretty… and, at the same time, they were tasty on their own, too. (Bonus~!)

Sashimi Salad

Being the big veg-eater that I am, I got a dish that combined two of my favourite things to eat: sashimi and salad: the Sashimi Salad. I have to say, I was amused by this salad for quite a while before actually chomping down. I love eating sashimi, but rarely do I get to see the “faces” of those sea critters that I consume… so I couldn’t help but sort of funny but sad to have my dinner looking at me [with dead eyes, mind you]. No, I’ll probably never be a vegetarian, because I love the taste of seafood so much, but anyway… The salad was delicious! The “soy herb dressing” was a fantastic accompaniment and added a wonderful flavour profile to the raw greens and seafood, which were both incredibly fresh. Seriously, do they have a tank of live prawns in the kitchen? These little guys were the freshest, sweetest, and most tender prawns I have ever had the joy of eating.

For our main courses, Emme and I both decided to get one Veggie Ishiyaki each. The waitress guaranteed that it would be delicious and filling — and she was right. A server mixes your rice with its toppings (root veggies and mixed mushrooms, in this case) – as you can see in the pictures – at your table in a very hot bowl. (Seriously, don’t touch the bowl.) Not only was this pretty entertaining and kind of impressive in a way, but it also ensured that the rice in the bowl crisps up a bit, giving an awesome texture to an already tasty dish. It may look kind of oily in the picture, but it really wasn’t. It wasn’t heavy enough to make you feel like you had a rock in your stomach, but was filling and a pleasure to eat. Both the rice and the veggies are plentiful – so the flavour combo is pretty spot on. Both Emme and I loved our ishiyaki bowls, although neither of us could actually finish them and ended up bringing a small amount of leftover rice home. The waitress didn’t seem surprised that we didn’t finish, at least. Definite thumbs up to this dish — generous portions, delicious, and reasonably priced.

Veggie Ishiyaki

Overall, we really enjoyed our experience, although the service did take a dive after we had been served and more customers started to flow in. This is quite customary in popular restaurants, though truly great service is consistently attentive from the time the customer comes in until they actually pay the bill and leave — in my opinion, at least. With the fabulous ambiance and fabulous food, I suppose I can hardly complain. Worth noting is the fact that, despite being a popular izakaya or bar with a large assortment of alcoholic beverages and drinks, it never really got too loud, which both Emme and I appreciated… although it can take a while to get used to the shouting that goes on between the waitresses and the kitchen staff, haha. It bothered Emme when we first entered, but you do eventually just become accustomed to it and tune it out – probably because you’ll be too busy enjoying a great meal. That said, it is obviously a very popular place, so make reservations ahead of time!

Ambiance: 4

Food: 4.5

Service: 3

Value: 4

Overall: 4

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East is East

With such a large number of people who “like it” on Urbanspoon.com, and also with a noteworthy number of good reviews, it seemed to me that East is East was a shoe-in (weird idiom, huh?) for a great dinner… and so Emme and I decided to pay a visit for dinner when night when we were cruising along W Broadway anyway. In any case, I’m always up for trying new restaurants, and Emme is always up for Indian food.

Silk Route Feast #1

We arrived relatively early in the evening, which was probably a good thing considering how busy it soon got after we sat down. The interior décor and overall atmosphere seriously made the two of us feel as though we had walked into a restaurant in the Middle East, with the large front window being the only thing that reminded us that was not the case. Wooden tables are nicely spaced out throughout the dining area, so you don’t feel cramped or as though the dining party next to you is encroaching on your personal space, and most tables have a comfy couch on one side. Wooden benches are the other seating option, though they don’t have backing so neither Emme nor I felt compelled to sit on them… Nevertheless, the décor is very traditional and unique, and transports you to an entirely different place… where there also happens to be wonderful food.

Mango Butternut Squash

We were actually given some chai tea samples to start off with, though I don’t know what type they were exactly. A lot of things on the menu seemed really delicious, and Emme and I were both fairly hungry, so we didn’t wait long to start ordering and both decided that we would go with “Silk Route Feast” platters. With the promise of complimentary refills of any dish on the platter, it seemed like a great deal, in any case.

Emme asked for three of the optional items from the list right off the bat (as I said, we were hungry!): Mango Butternut Squash, Afghan Eggplant, and Chicken Masala.

Coconut Rice and Afghan Rice

The Mango Butternut Squash was very sweet and creamy (the latter of which is pretty clear from the picture), and Emme said it was “interesting” and that the mango flavour was quite pronounced, although there was a subtle and delicious taste of coconut… but barely noticeable kick from the spices as well. It did have the consistency of baby food, however, and Emme commented that it wouldn’t be something she would eat alone – so it was a good thing that there was rice alongside it.

Next on the tray was the Afghan Eggplant, which certainly did not disappoint. I think it was Emme’s favourite dish of the night, actually… It came with some yogurt (raita, I think, actually), which gave the dish a nice complexity in terms of the blend of flavours. The eggplant was perfectly cooked: wonderfully tender and stringy. The sauce was a fantastic complement, as well, with a nice tang from the yogurt and mildly spiced. Needless to say, it was one of the dishes Emme ordered again once she had finished off these initial three.

Afghan Eggplant

The Chicken Masala was actually a dish that Emme did not order again… It’s not that it was bad, but it certainly wasn’t a clear favourite like the Afghan Eggplant. The sauce was really too mild, and Emme wasn’t a fan of the dark chicken meat. White meat probably would have worked better, especially if the sauce were made a little bit stronger and the flavour amped up a bit with some more spice.

Chicken Masala

As for the rice… The Afghan Rice that comes with the Silk Route Feast was wonderful. The raisins and carrot pieces gave some much-needed flavour to the rice, although it seemed as though the coconut in the Coconut Rice did not do the same for that half of the rice portion…

For myself, I also got a Silk Route Feast platter, however ordering was actually quite tricky. I’m mildly allergic to coconut, but the waitress didn’t falter and was more than happy to ask the kitchen which dishes I could have, even with that allergy. It seems that the kitchen is making an effort to use coconut milk rather than cow’s milk in almost all of their dishes, now, in order to better cater to the lactose-intolerant folk and vegans. In the end, though, everything worked out somehow – and I left without suffering from too serious an allergic reaction.

Silk Route Feast #2

Allergies dictated that I avoid the classic Coconut Rice, but it was personal preference that I steered clear of the Afghan Rice. I’m not a raisin fan, though I like carrots, but I was given the option to change that half of the rice dish entirely to Brown Lentil Rice, which was really good. It was very flavourful and I loved the herb-pieces scattered throughout and the mildly spiced lentils that were ever-present.

Neither Emme nor I received a leafy salad with our dishes, so I’m guessing the tabbouleh-like dish was intended to be the Salad… In any case, it did the job of being a “cooling” dish throughout the meal. Nothing was really too spicy, but it was still nice to have the refreshing tabbouleh-ish salad to cool off your mouth and cleanse your palate when switching between dishes. We both really liked it, and I actually ordered a second one along with some other things.

Basmati Rice and Brown Lentil Rice

One of the things that was safe for me to eat was this okra dish, which I’m calling Bindhi Masala because I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. It’s not listed on the menu, but the waitress said it was offered at their café upstairs and the chefs would be willing to prepare it, since it was one of the few non-coconut-based dishes. It was amazing. It was the dish with the most flavour and spice that I tasted that night, and better than I could have expected. I reordered it… twice. I probably would’ve ordered my fourth dish of it, but 1) I was filling up and 2) I was indeed feeling bad for requesting the chefs to prepare a dish they normally wouldn’t have to… and wasn’t sure how much trouble it was causing them to make it. Anyway, the spices and tomato flavour went beautifully with the okra, which were cooked perfectly and not slimy – the one characteristic that most people shun okra for.

Salad

I also tasted the spinach dish, Saag Paneer, only without paneer (not a fan)… so I think it’s Saag/Palak Sabji when there’s no paneer, though I’m not sure about the names as I’m improvising as I go along, here… It’s a good thing I like spinach, because the spinach flavour was very strong. Actually, it looked like the spinach you get when you defrost frozen spinach bags from the grocery store… and was a pretty bland dish overall. Its supposed to come with mushrooms, but those apparently got excluded along with the paneer for some reason, which was disappointing since I love mushrooms. I didn’t order it again, and probably wouldn’t in the future, were I given the chance.

Bindhi Masala

Along with my repeated orders of the okra dish, I also decided to take a chance [because there is some coconut in this dish – not a lot] and get the Chickpeas. For lack of better words, it was “meh”. Maybe I think that because I’ve had better chana masala elsewhere and even at home, but what was given to me was flavourless relative to the other times I’ve had the dish.

Palak Sabji

Aside from the okra dish, my other two favourites of the evening were the pickles that came on the platter (I actually ordered another small serving of them) and the Dhal. It was much thicker than the other takes on lentil soup I’ve had before, but seemed to me to have more flavour than most of the other dishes on my platter (excluding the okra dish). That said, however, it was still very mild. I will note that I liked it more than the take on chana masala that I ended up with also.

As for Roti on the side – there isn’t much to say. It was okay. Not really good, nor notably horrible. It was cold when I ate it, and Emme said hers was as well – and it was one of the first things she bit into. I don’t know if it cooled down super fast since it was on a cool metal tray, but it would’ve been nice if it were served warm. It didn’t taste very fresh, though the roti that arrived when Emme ordered some more were a bit better and didn’t seem as limp and stale.

Dhal

The food seemed very “hit-and-miss”, but the chai tea samples at the beginning were bursting with flavour and quite tasty – a little too strong for my personal preference, though. The service was also consistently fantastic. The water jug was left on a wooden table in the corner of the room, which was actually nice because you can refill your own glasses… although you’re probably not supposed to, heh. The waitress didn’t do a bad job of topping up our glasses, but once it was busier the service for tables that already had their food dipped a bit. However we did manage to get additional orders in pretty easily, and the waitress was very friendly, personable, and happy to provide a bit of conversation if you so desired it. Of course, I also appreciated how helpful she and the rest of the staff were in catering to a client with unusual allergies. (I’m allergic to a lot of tropical fruit. Mango, papaya, coconut, and even pineapple give me slight allergic reactions – though I’ll eat pineapple sometimes because I love the taste… just not the side-effects.)

Roti

With the awesome ambiance and décor, along with some pretty great service and the fact that your meal is fairly good value (especially if you get the Silk Route Feast and can get refills), would I go back to East is East? Although I adored the okra dish and Emme loved the Afghan Eggplant, I would still say no. Only because I’m allergic to practically the entire menu, and more so because the dishes seem so inconsistent in terms of whether they’re good or bad. The chai tea is very good – though I’m not sure which exactly, since they have quite a few varieties of chai – and so is the Afghan Eggplant dish. Most things seemed to be underwhelming in terms of spice, but otherwise the food is generally fairly tasty. (A lot of the drinks on the menu seemed really promising, too.) If anything, it’s worth going for the one-of-a-kind dining experience and unique atmosphere!

Ambiance: 5

Food: 3.5

Service: 4

Value: 4.5

Overall: 4

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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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Connie’s Cookhouse

I have to admit, no one in my family – including myself – goes out to eat Chinese often. Virtually never, actually. And I can’t recall the last time we did, before this one occasion where Emme and I decided to do the unthinkable and do just that: go out for Chinese food.

Tea

Connie’s Cookhouse is listed in the “Top 10 Best Restaurants in Kitsilano” so I thought it’d be a good place to start. Emme and I perused W 4th and eventually found it. When we entered we received curt service – as was expected, pretty much – as the waitress told us to sit anywhere that was open. There were only a handful of other people — two women speaking obnoxiously loudly and an elderly couple — which was probably a good thing seeing as the restaurant itself is pretty tiny. Décor is minimal – just enough stuff to give you the impression that yes, you are eating at a Chinese restaurant. The only thing that was strange was the fact that there was an open box of green beans sitting on one of the tables in the dining room, with a pair of scissors lying on top, all ready to have the ends chopped off. Well that’s fine and dandy, but… shouldn’t vegetable preparation be kept in the kitchen?

Lemon Chicken

Anyhow, Emme and I were served tea (it was yummy! No clue what it was, though) and kept waiting for quite some time as the one waitress bustled about – doing some kitchen work, it seems, while also juggling take out orders but essentially neglecting those of us in the dining room. She eventually got to our table, though, apologized for the wait quickly and took our orders just as quickly – and a little impatiently. (Emme wanted to make some substitutions to “Family Dinner Combination A” but the waitress wouldn’t allow it and got a little annoyed.) Emme ended up ordering the Lemon Chicken from the combo meal anyway, and we were eating about half an hour later.

Vegetable Fried Rice

To be honest, the Lemon Chicken was probably the worst dish of the bunch that we ordered. There was hardly any actual chicken in the dish… The thin slivers of chicken were coated in a ridiculously thick batter, so that the chicken flavour was almost entirely masked and it was basically just like eating batter… with a tasty lemon sauce. The sauce is obviously the crucial component, and the dish would be flavourless and pointless without it, but it would probably definitely be a good idea to incorporate more chicken and less batter into the dish, so it tastes more like “Lemon Chicken” and less like “Lemon Batter”.

Scallops with Seasonal Vegetables

Emme also had the Vegetable Fried Rice, which was significantly better than the Lemon Chicken and actually quite good. The vegetables were cooked through but still maintained a slight crunch, and the rice was flavourful and not too oily. The portion was also, as the picture shows, quite generous. Thumbs up to this dish.

As for myself, I picked the Scallops with Seasonal Vegetables with a bowl of some simple Steamed Rice to go on the side. Although Emme’s main dish was a disappointment, I was actually quite satisfied with mine. It wasn’t anything drop-dead astounding, but it was definitely really tasty. I don’t know what type of sauce was used (probably because I know virtually nothing about Chinese cuisine, save the fact that it used to include a lot of MSG) but I quite liked it. I almost demolished the entire plate, as both the scallops and vegetables were cooked quite well. I wouldn’t call the vegetables “seasonal” but I love vegetables so I really couldn’t care less… I loved that there were so many scallops. The portion size definitely matched the price, in my opinion.

Steamed Rice

As a “first venture” back to eating some Chinese food, the dining experience wasn’t bad, per sé, it just wasn’t good either. That would pretty much be how I would describe the restaurant, in a nutshell: Not good but not bad.

The service was obviously not that great, because there does only seem to be one waitress – and even then she is multitasking and working in the kitchen sometimes as well as trying to cater to the dine-in and take-out customers. Also, when she does interact with customers, she is  quite brusque — but Emme and I expected that and weren’t really thrown off much, and you can’t really blame her for being really “to-the-point” since she seems to have so much to do.

Ambiance could do with some improvement – maybe separating the kitchen from the dining room a little better (with more than a tiny curtain) would help. Also, it was cold in the restaurant (the drafts seemed to be coming in from the back – the kitchen) and most diners, along with Emme and myself, were eating with their coats on.

Because of my final verdict, I can’t bring myself to vote for “likes it” or “dislikes it” on Urbanspoon.com, heh. However, why Connie’s Cookhouse is on the Top 10 for Kits, I don’t know.

Ambiance: 2

Food: 3.5

Service: 2.5

Value: 4

Overall: 3

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Cafe Mumbai

Cafe Mumbai seemed to me to be just another small, nondescript restaurant on W Broadway that I would probably never have the opportunity to visit, since there are so many other fantastic restaurants out there that offer food that’s guaranteed to be good. However, Emme and I decided to stop in one evening when we were pretty much just desperate to eat something. Emme likes Indian, so we just picked out the first place that met that criterion – and that place just happened to be Cafe Mumbai.

It didn’t really seem like much from the outside (although that may be partially because its exterior is overshadowed by the more decorative storefront (i.e. huge bright pink awning) of the big cupcake shop next door to it) and, to be honest, it didn’t seem like much from the inside, either. But the atmosphere was relaxed enough to satisfy Emme and I, so we sat down and perused the menus for a short while.

Mango Lassi

The ambiance here definitely isn’t bad – it just isn’t anything special, either. The lights were a bit dimmer to create that “easygoing” sort of atmosphere, the Indian music playing in the background was at an appropriate level, and the dining room seemed pretty clean. About five or six tables were occupied when Emme and I entered, though a couple more small groups of people came and went during the time that we dined, so at least it seems like the place has some sort of following. Despite this, the noise level was pretty constant, which was nice (and rare). Also, although we were both a bit chilly at first, the restaurant warmed up a bit while we were there so we didn’t have to eat with our coats on (I can’t stand that!).

Garlic Naan

As for the service: It was good. There isn’t much more to say about it. The waiter was accommodating and happy to explain dishes to the best of his ability, and seemed to know the menu really well. He was pleasant and friendly, although a little hard to flag down for top-ups on water during the meal. Overall, though, the service was pretty good.

Emme kicked off the meal with a Mango Lassi. She said it was good — tasty — although her personal preference is for the drink to have a stronger rosy flavour (more rosewater).

Chicken Vindallo

She also ordered some Garlic Naan to go on the side of her meal. I took a bite after she tried it out — because her immediate comment (well, following the “Mmm!”) was that “This is really good naan.” I have to agree — the naan was great. The garlicky flavour was strong without being overpowering, the texture of the actual naan was wonderful, and it was just… really tasty.

Channa Masala

As her main dish, Emme ordered some Chicken Vindallo with the request that it be made very mild (I was surprised she chose it since the menu indicated that it’s normally supposed to be really hot). Both of us like a little kick in our dishes, but are sensitive to spice. Luckily, the waiter didn’t mind, and Emme said her curry had the perfect amount of kick and was still full of flavour. (I’m guessing almost all of the “fiery” spices had to be omitted…)

Steamed Rice

I love chickpeas (garbanzo beans) so I asked for a really mild Channa Masala. Well… I’m sure Emme’s dish was good, but I’m also sure that mine was better. She tasted it and actually noted that my dish actually had even more of a spicy kick than hers… but it was still fine to me. My lips were on fire while eating this, but not in an uncomfortable-burning way, haha. The sauce and chickpeas were just fantastic and full of flavour, and I loved the fresh coriander and ginger on top.

Side Salad

The whole dish came together really nicely, and I ate it along with some Steamed Rice and a Side Salad. I could’ve done without the added oily component in my rice, but the freshly chopped basil was a nice addition and it was still a great accompaniment to the Channa Masala. Also, because my main dish did have a bit more kick than I expected, the side salad was a great way to cool down between bites. The raita that came with it wasn’t that awesome or noteworthy — and neither was the Raita that Emme actually also ordered on the side of her main dish — but the veggies were plentiful and, like the coriander and ginger on the Channa Masala, very fresh.

At the end, we still had leftovers — which we were actually pleased about for once. The meal was fully satisfying and eaten in a relatively nice setting in peace. The prices weren’t too bad, and were actually pretty reasonable considering the amount of food you get for what you pay. My final verdict would be that, yes, I would come back again if I were craving Indian food… though I will definitely still try out other places to see if there is actually even better Indian food around. Nevertheless – thumbs up for Cafe Mumbai. (Though perhaps they may want to do something about their store front to make the place more appealing!)

Ambiance: 3.5

Food: 4

Service: 3.5

Value: 4

Overall: 4

Cafe Mumbai on Urbanspoon

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