Thursday, September 30, 2010

Twisted Fork Bistro

With a warm and inviting ambience, Twisted Fork Bistro, classic french bistro, is great quiet spot to for a get-together on weeknights. All the servers I encountered with were all very knowledgeable and made great suggestions with wine or beer pairing, and ingredients in the dishes.  I've returned several times usually on Tuesdays for their one pound mussels special for $8 and never been disappointed with the food or service.  I'm trying to break the cycle of ordering the same things that I've tried and love and venture out to try other dishes on the menu as I'm sure there are more great dishes waiting to be tasted. 
Venison carpaccio
It was my first time ordering the carpaccio and I was curious to see how it will be presented as each restaurant prepares it differently.  It was very well presented in a descent sized portion.  The venison was well seasoned and juicy.  It was topped off with arugula, sauteed mushrooms, and some kind of fried cheese.  Those are all my favourite ingredients.  I definitely will order this again.
Grilled sourdough with pesto, chipotle roast tomatoes, goat cheese, and basil oil
When a friend had ordered the grilled sourdough for the first time, I was skeptical. What? Of all the things on the menu, you're going to try grilled bread? However, when the dish arrived, it was a fair sized portion and when we tasted it, I shut my mouth.  Even though the dish seems to be very simple, there is no messing around when it comes to taste. The pesto, basil oil, roast tomatoes, and the goat cheese all complement each other very well on crispy sourdough.  It ends up being on my list of things to order every time I come back.

One pound mussels with frites in cream sauce
The mussels are a bit smaller than the ones at Salade de Fruits, nonetheless they are still quite filling and great for sharing.  The cream sauce is quite rich and I happily indulged in dipping yam and potatoes fries in it. The regular price is $15 and for $8 on the special, it is a great value.

Lemonello parfait with raspberry coulis
For the dessert, we ordered the lemonello parfait which wasn't on the menu.  The frozen square blocks are topped with berries and raspberry coulis. It is a bit richer than ice cream or gelato but the tanginess from the lemon and coulis balanced it out quite well.

Here is the list of their weekly specials:

"Blue Fence" Special ~ 3 courses for $25 Mon- Thurs  6pm-7pm
Marvelous Mondays ~ $10 off bottles of wine
Mussel Tuesdays ~ $8/pound with frites and housemade bread
"Sunday Night Supper" ~   three course comfort food dinner "just like your Mom used to make" (includes  gl of wine/beer)  $25

Twisted Fork Bistro on Urbanspoon

Easy Tuna Tataki Recipe

1st version 

2nd version
I used huge tuna sashimi cuts from Banzai or Samurai because they are super thick.  It was my first time making this based on interpretation from a lot of places I've been to.  In the end, it turned out tasting just as good as the ones at the restaurant as my sister kept on eating and refused to let me finish with the presentation.  The ponzu sauce has a sweet and tangy refreshing taste which complement the tuna, with added crunchy texture from sliced and fried onions. I would slice the onion thinner next time, even though the ponzu sauce gets rid of its raw taste and smell completely. Also add more colour to the presentation with chopped green onions. Anyways, here's the direction:

Sashimi grade Tuna strips
1/4 an onion

Ponzu sauce dressing:
1/2 lemon
2 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar

1. Sear strips of sashimi grade tuna with olive oil or sesame oil at medium heat just so that all the sides are cooked.
2. On a cutting board, slice tuna strips to no more than 1 cm thick.
3. Thinly slice the onion.
4. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together
5. Plate the tuna topped with sliced onions, drizzle the dressing all over and garnish. 

chopped up green onions
Wakame seaweed or nori
fried onions (optional) - adds extra flavour and  crunch (I've seen it done at Guu gastown and absolutely love it).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

La Brasserie = good for lunch, Greedy Pig = yummy truffled beef sandwich

La Brasserie
La Brasserie is a Franco-German restaurant located on Davie street.  We got to the restaurant around noon on a weekday and there was a constant flow of people coming in and out.  There were only one server and one chef working, and although I had to fight for her attention at times, they were able to bring out all the food in a timely manner.  I regret not pairing the meal with their wide range of beer selection, but definitely will put it on the list next time.  
Pate de Campagne $6
Suckling pig sandwich and fries $13
I absolutely enjoyed the sheer size of the suckling pig sandwich.  The skin was crispy and the overall flavour reminds me of the chinese roast pig.  I would enjoy it more with a lot of hot sauce.
The fried onions and sauerkraut added extra aroma, crisp, and flavour.  The fries were thick cut, yet extremely crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The tangy side salad helped balance out the heaviness of the burger and fries altogether.  
Lamb cheeks $14
My sister has initially ordered the pork cheeks but we were told they were serving the lamb cheeks instead, which was perfectly fine with us. As suspected, the savoury lamb was perfectly cooked and served with fresh spring vegetables and carrot puree.  The meat was tender and easily flaked apart. 
Leftovers wrapped in swan foils
We just could not finish either dishes for the life of us!! They made great snacks later on in the day, though.

La Brasserie on Urbanspoon
The Greedy Pig

For a quick bite during lunch, the Greedy Pig is known for their artisan sandwiches.  The decor of the restaurant is more casual and warehouse-like that I imagined.  Nonetheless, the service was friendly.  I am still baffled as to why I didn't order the Croque Monsieur.  Instead, I ordered the chicken Cobb sandwich, which was satisfactory.  Value wise, I think La Brasserie has more to offer.  I would come back again, though, for the truffled roast beef sandwich, which my friend ordered.  I managed to trade him half of mine and was able to experience the delightful sandwich.  The beef slices were cooked to medium rare, the sliced thin.  The texture was very tender and juicy.  The sandwich had a balanced flavour with the beef, caramelized onions, melted cheese between crispy baguette.  The white truffle oil added that extra kick.  I love anything drizzled with truffle oil, so this one was a winner for me.

Truffled roast beef sandwich $12

Chicken Cobb sandwich $11

Greedy Pig on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 24, 2010

Groupon Food Escapade: Shakin' Not Stirred

I can't stress enough how much I love finding good deals on good food.  The groupon deal at Shakin' Not Stirred located in Yaletown on Homer street, Vancouver coupled with happy hour appy specials resulted on us stuffing our faces with tapas for .  The 3 of us had a groupon of $15 worth of $40 value.  So we rolled in to SNS around 5 pm where the lengthy selections of tapas are available at half price.  Yes, we have gotten ourselves a deal on top of another deal.  The day just got better and better. As you can see, the tapas are fair sized portions. Here is what we ordered:

Spicy calamari - $11 (HH-$5.50) Marinated in Sambal, lemon grass and ginger, lightly breaded and fried. Served with an Asian soy miran dip.

Soft Taco Trio - $13 (HH-$6.50) prawn tacos in flour tortillas topped with cabbage, lettuce, salsa, cilantro and aioli.

Duck springrolls - $11 (HH-$5.50) Slow-roasted seasoned duck with cabbage, carrots and scallions fried golden brown. Served with a Hoisen aioli.  The filling was just a tad dry for my opinion. They could've served with more dipping sauce.

BBQ Pulled pork - $12 (HH-$6) Slowly braised with a tangy barbeque sauce atop toasted baguettes. Served with chipotle coleslaw.

Sweet Chilli Chicken - $11 (HH-$5.50) Lightly breaded tender chicken breast tossed in sweet Thai chili sauce with cucumber, chopped scallions and fresh cilantro.

Thursday's special: Burger with a side of fries and domestic beer - $10

Total value for 5 plates tapas plus the daily special was $39 (I guess we had a dollar extra there..booo). plus $11 of tips and tax.

Other specials include:

Brunch: Friday - Sunday: 10:30AM - 3PM Steak & Eggs $11

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday $10

Sunday: $20 Prime Rib Dinner

Sadly, a bird whispered to us that due to a change in management, the specials are being eliminated beginning of October.  So, next week is the last chance for the specials listed above. We are unsure of the fate of half priced tapas during happy hours.  While the quality of the food may be salvaged, one thing is for sure,  we will never find a deal this good for tapas anywhere again.

That is know of any better deals for tapas?

**Update Oct. 2010 - SnS is now obsolete :(

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Curry Puff diary (v.2.0)

Curry puffs are deep fried pastries filled with curried meat filling, similar to empanadas and samosas. For me, each attempt to make curry puffs is like a journey.  My last attempt making them solo actually took me 2 days to accomplish; one afternoon making the filling, the next full day making dough and finishing everything off.  Once again, this time it took painstaking 9 hours to complete with 2 people, my sister and I.  Mind you, we took really long breaks in between making the filling and dough and running to stores to grab more supplies.  This time, we were fortunate to have an expert in curry puff making to guide us through the beginning process of making dough.   While I cannot possibly share accurate proportions of ingredients, I can share the experience of making these curry puffs with you all and noting a few mishaps to avoid.

What NOT to do:
*1. A rolling pin cannot be substitute by anything else, including a wine bottle.  My hands became raw and sore by the end of flattening endless line of dried dough.
2. Do not air out dough for 15 mins. We followed the cookbook, however, the weather in Canada is much drier than Southeast Asia.  Therefore, the dough became almost completely dehydrated.  Cover dough with moist linen cloth instead.
3. Make curried meat filling saltier and sweeter than normal because they will lose flavours after being combined with fried dough.
4. Slowly combine drops of cold water to the dough instead of pouring in x amount at once.  I always fail to learn that by now.
It is 7.30 pm.  Curry puff chef watches in horror as I blindly pour too much water on to the dough.  "It's ruined!" she exclaims.

Wrapping outside dough to inside dough... They're actually not supposed to be this small.

After wrapping 2 doughs together.  It's kinda like making xiao long pao.

Kneading the dough with Taj wine bottle.  It would've been easier if we bought a rolling pin.

Dough flattened and rolled, once on the right and twice on the left.

Taj getting dirty.  We were waiting impatiently to empty the bottle after.

Curry filling we started with at around 2 pm.  It is made with minced pork, carrots, sweet potatoes and seasoned with bay leaves, curry powder, palm sugar, garlic and soy sauce.  It was a huge pot of filling.

After second time kneading and rolling we cut the dough into slices.  

Kneading again.  This time Taj was too big to use.  I resorted to a small stone pestle.  This is the part I wanted to kill myself.

What the final kneaded dough should look and shouldn't look like.  Thin, flat with embedded layers to make the pastry flaky when frying.  But they should be a bit bigger, and not as dry.

This is when we made the mistake of cutting all the dough at once and not covering them up.  

As a result, they start to look like word bubbles with layers sticking to the board.  Each time dough I kneaded was drier than the next.  I end up spending all my energy to the point I want to quit (after seeing what appeared to be endless line of dry dough).

Here's a nice one after we put in the filling.

Finally! The hard part is over.  It is now 10.30 pm.

It's frying time! We made sure they are golden brown to maximize the crispiness. 

Condiment to pair with the curry puffs called Ajaad (sp?).  It's made with cucumbers, carrots, shallots, vinegar, sugar, and sweet chilli sauce.  A very tangy, refreshing taste to cut through the curry puffs.

The most anticipated part, tasting! Don't they look wonderful?  It's 11 pm.

Inside the curry puff.  The crust turned out very flaky, crispy, and had enough flavours.  We could season the filling more next time to the point that they are glazed and juicy.

Taj was thrown into the freezer and re-visited.  Pairing the curry puffs with this spiced white wine with a hint of cinnamon was the best reward to happen tonight. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hidden Gem: Salade de Fruits Cafe

Located at the French cultural center, Salade de Fruits is known for its eclectic decor, vibrant ambience, and casual service by francophones.  Best of all, the restaurant is known for its simple yet tasty selections of french comfort food.  During lunch time, the place is packed and buzzing with returning patrons. Their moules et frites (mussels with fries), at $12.99 for regular and $15.99 for large, are the best price offered for the sheer size of the portion you get.  I got the regular size mussels to share with Quiche Garnie.  Two of us were absolutely stuffed.  The mussels were big.  They were well cooked and well-seasoned.
Jumbo size mussles in their glory $12.99 for lunch
Accompanying fries with garlic aioli 
The mussels here don't shrink

The spinach quiche was definitely made fresh.  It had a soft pudding-like texture with a crispy crust.  The side of mixed greens and cranberry dressing also was also very refreshing.  Again, a very generous portion and quality for $6.99.
Quiche Garnie  $6.99 for lunch

Visit their website for detailed menu and hours of operation.

Salade de Fruits Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Authentic Pad Thai recipe (no ketchup!)

There are many different ways to make pad thai but one wrong way of making it is putting ketchup in it to give the orange colour.  The orange hue of actual pad thai comes from crab or prawn fat which gives it a creamy seafood taste and aroma.  The listed measurements of ingredients in recipe are an estimate.  You can change it accordingly according to your taste.  If you go have pad thai at any street vendor in Thailand, there will be a set of condiments made up of a jar of sugar, a jar of chili flakes, a jar of vinegar with chili peppers, and fish sauce.  This is because Thai people love to have their pad thai modified and enhanced to suit their individual tastes.  I like my pad thai full of crab fat with sweet and spicy flavour. This one goes out for you Mayna Merh!

a pack of rice noodles 
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 shallot finely chopped
2 tbsp. dried shrimp
 uncooked, de-shelled prawns (as many as you want)
150 g or half a block of hard tofu cubed
1 egg
30 ml canola oil 
1/4 cup tamarind syrup (made with tamarind water diluted and mixed into palm sugar til syrup is formed)
2 tbsp crab or prawn fat (comes in a jar, can be found at T&T and other asian supermarkets)
1/4 cup tbsp. light soy sauce
1/4 cup palm or brown sugar
50 g bean sprouts 
cilantro and wedges of lime to garnish
ground peanuts and chili powder to season

1. Soak rice noodles in hot water until soften but not completely cooked.
2. In a large wok, fry garlic and shallots at high heat.  
3 Add dried shrimp, shrimp and tofu respectively. 
4. Add egg to the mixture and stir fry all ingredients together.
5. Add rice noodles and toss everything together.
6. Stir in tamarind syrup, sugar, soy sauce, crab/prawn fat.  At this point, you can add bean sprouts or leave them for later to garnish raw.  
7. Once the sauce sets equally into the noodle mixture, plate the noodles and season with ground peanuts, chili powder, and garnish with cilantro and a lime wedge.  

Serving 2-3

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cheap drinks in Vancouver: Guu gastown, Wild Garlic Bistro, Gallery Cafe

Sake Mondays at Guu Gastown  <-- loves it!
For $ 5.80 per large bottle, we keep them coming all night.  Great food, great staff, casual atmosphere, there's never a dull moment there no matter what day of the week.
I love these guys
Guu With Otokomae on Urbanspoon

$4.50 for 2 Oz. Martini on Fridays at Wild Garlic Bistro <--- Not so much....

I used to rejoice at $ 6 - $7 for 2 oz. martini and thought it was a deal sent from heaven before I came across a sign outside of Wild Garlic Bistro on Denman listing all their weekly drink specials. I've never seen anything lower than $4.50 for 2 oz. martinis in the past 5 years (except $1 dollar shots at clubs back in the days).  Pints of beer and caesars on tuesdays are $3.50 each. For sure, I'll be looking forward to martini fridays.

 Finally, a couple of friends and I went to Wild Garlic Bistro on a busy Friday night and it was absolutely chaotic.  The decor looked like a western restaurant in Hong Kong from the early 90's.  Nonetheless, it was filled with patrons.  We were seated at a table for 3 by the window initially.  Six drinks later, we were expecting another company.  When we asked the waitress if we could move to a bigger table that just became available, she had to grab the manager.  The manager explained that there is a policy in which the order must exceed $20 per person in order to sit at the table before 9.30 pm, or you have to tell them in the beginning that you will be ordering food.  She proceeded to explain that the tables are reserved for diners during busy hours and if we are ordering drinks we would have to sit at the bar which was full at the time.

Ten minutes later, we were still having a conversation about where else she would put us when the rest of the restaurant and bar were completely full.  After the ordeal, we finally get to sit at the table where we proceeded to order more martinis to rinse out the bitter taste of what just happened.  Yes, it was a good deal for martinis.  They had a 2 page list with a lot of selections.  However, the owner and staff were not very organized with the seating and handling rush hour.  In the end, our bill came up to more than the next table who were "ordering food".  I would really have to crave cheap martinis before I go back there again on a Friday.

Wild Garlic on Urbanspoon

$5 Champagne at Gallery Cafe weekday <-- Good for sunny patio days

Located inside the Vancouver Art Gallery, the patio at the gallery cafe in the summertime is a beautiful spot to relax and during a nice sunny day.  The happy hour menu is quite the bang for buck with bucket of 3 bottles of imported beer for $14 and yummy appies starting at $6. The live music performance was exceptional.  I forgot the name of the artist but I really loved his rendition of Fresh Prince of Bel Air in an acoustic, Jack Johnson-esque version.

Aside from happy hour specials, champagne at $5 per glass, and Mission Hill wine selections are offered starting at $5.25 per glass on a regular basis.

Gallery Café on Urbanspoon