Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tasty Persian feast at Zeitoon


Seeking a new food adventure this week, we set off to Zeitoon, a Persian restaurant recommended by a friend's co-worker.  Since we don't go to Middle-Eastern restaurants often, all of us wanted to try many dishes on the menu without killing ourselves.  Thankfully, the kitchen was able to accommodate us and preparing the dishes family-style that was easy to share.  Their dips and kabobs are definitely must-try.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One of the best Neopolitan pizzeria in Vancouver, Via Tevere

When I arrived at Via Tevere, I was greeted by a sea of people swarming aimlessly outside the property and we knew our wait would be long.  This did not break our resolve to try the pizzas here that night and we proceeded to join the queue and put our names down with the premise that our wait time would be around an hour.  It was around 7 pm and we were not about to sit around and torture ourselves.  So, off we went, adventuring what other establishments on Commercial Drive had to offer until our main course.

Two hours later, we already had a snack at Memphis Blues and a couple beers from Biercraft.  It was close to 9 pm when we headed back to Via Tevere, and although the line ups had gone down, our table was still not ready! It was not until almost half an hour later that we were actually seated.  Had we stayed around, we would've sat there and waited over 2 hours for dinner.  I would've starved and my temper would've flared.  It wouldn't be a pleasant scene for anybody.

We already had our drinks and appies, so once we sat down, we just went straight to business.  Authentic Neopolitan pizza was what we came for, so we ordered 5 kinds; prociutto e funghi, capricciosa, prociutto e rucola, vesuvio, and quatro formaggi.  The prices were more than reasonable, ranging from $16-19 per pizza with quality ingredients.  That's around the same price as many less-than-mediocre places serving frozen pizzas (but caling them "gourmet"), the kind I would never set foot back in again.   I haven't had a pizza this good since Chef Daniel Costa, now infamous for his Corso32 restaurant, at a humble Italian cafe, Cafe de Copa back in Edmonton in 2007.

I had a chance to try them all, and aside from the quatro formagi, the components on all the pizzas were all similar.  All tasty, nonetheless.  The features that make Via Tevere's pizzas more amazing than most Neopolitan pizza joints out there are:
1. the dough, which they import the double zero flour directly from Italy.  It's got a great texture with the right amount of air in the dough.  It also only takes 60 to 90 s on average to fire in the oven, which was also imported from Italy.
2. the tomato sauce.  It's freshly made and not processed out of a can from Costco.
3. Their fior di latte mozzarella that melt beautifully and creates this nice, chewy, gooey texture when you take that first bite.
4. the fact that they fill up their toppings.   I've had many great pizzas which had a sparse wasteland of toppings at the centre, and that's a real deal breaker for me.  Via Tevere is generous with their portions.  They don't cheap out and that, my friend, is integrity.


It's near impossible to choose a favourite pizza here, but the fresh arugula really gives the pizza a refreshing kick.  The quatro formaggi was also really something special that you wouldn't find at any other pizzeria.  It had all the famous Italian cheeses, all with different flavours; fior di latte, ricotta, smoked provolone, and parmigiano.  Cheese lovers won't be disappointed.  


 

Whether you have trouble deciding, or you want to try all their desserts, the nice folks have figured that out for you.  Tris di dolci is their dessert trio sampler that let you try all 3 desserts; flour-less almond and walnut chocolate cake, fritter topped with Nuttella, and tiramisu.  I'm a huge fan of tiramisu and this one was really light, creamy and not too sweet.  The fritter was melt-in-your-mouth amazing and it reminded me of churros when they're done right.  The torta caprese would be perfect if you're on gluten-free diet. 


It's been over a week since I dined at Via Tevere and I still dream about their pizzas everyday.  One of the best pizzeria in Vancouver, by far.  I will not wait another 2 hours, though.  Going when they first open, or around 9:30 pm after drinking and snacking would be best for quick seating.  
Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Manhattan's Finest: The Nomad




When I stepped into the Nomad restaurant at the Nomad Hotel with its nostalgic and upscale vibe, that was when I felt like I was a true grown up.  It was busy, with 40's + crowd, and everyone seemed like they'd been here before numerous times. Loud chatters filled the atrium as people sipped from their wine.  Dressed up parsnips seemed to be the  popular snack as they were flying out all night.  We were on a mission; to try their famous roasted chicken.   However, I ended up falling in love with other few dishes on the menu instead.

First off, we could not get enough of their artisan flatbread.  It was baked crisp and topped with sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, and white beans.  It was hard to not fill up while waiting for the courses to arrive.

As you can see, I had no idea the marinated fluke would be a stunning art on a plate.  And yes, it tasted as amazing as it looked. The basil oil brought out natural sweet flavors of the heirloom tomato while the subtle acidity complement the fluke, making it the star. This was my favourite dish of the evening.  

Out of all the things on the menu, there's always a soft spot for poached egg, no matter what time of the day.  And this time was no different and it had to be included.  A perfectly poached egg peaked through a cloud of foam and brown butter with asparagus and crispy quinoa. When it comes to food porn, there's nothing that's more visually tantalizing than cracking a perfectly poached egg and watching the yolk slowly oozes out. Only this time, the yolk dripped down to a cloud of foam clouds. Although the sauce was a bit too high in sodium, it was an awesome comfort food no less.

Looking at this dish, comparing with other items we just had, we were not as wowed by the seemingly humble appearance.  However, the king crab tagliatelle with Meyer lemon and black pepper proved to be the underdog.  Frankly, it was a well executed dish.  The tagliatelle pasta, made in-house, had the perfect texture. It was lightly seasoned with lemony flavor, but it was enough to make an impression. Topped with succulent king crab meat, we gobbled it up the entire plate within minutes. 

When the suckling pig confit with pears cabbage and mustard showed up at the table, we already knew what we expected out of it; ultra crispy skin, a fatty layer with moist and tender meat.  

The star of the show, and what many come to the Nomad for, was the $79 whole roasted chicken with foie gras black truffle and brioche. It was the most pricey and fancy roasted chicken we have paid for.  It was presented to us fresh out of the oven before being carved up and prepared 2 ways (like a Peking duck).  It looked gorgeous with golden brown glistening skin with arrangement of fresh herbs.  But aside from that, the only other thing I seemed to notice was how small the whole roasted chicken looked compared to the size of that gentleman's hands holding it!

The different meat of the chicken was prepared two ways. Accompanied by white bean truffle puree, the breast, served skin on, was very tender but the truffle essence was very faint.   

Meanwhile, the dark meat had a more rustic take, served in a skillet with green beans and mustard seeds with a touch of acidity from vinegar. The crispy skin bits were a real treat.  Overall, the chicken was good, but in my opinion for $40-50, not $79.

Our food journey at the Nomad ended with 2 modern desserts.


I loved the artful presentation and play on 2 contrasting textures for "milk and honey".  You get the crunchy harder bits from short bread brittle with the sweet, yet mellow honey ice cream.

When it comes to taste, I thought this plum dessert was more unique than the rest.  There was a lot of flavours and textures going on in this dish; from sweet to tart to salty from the corn sabayon, spongy to rich to creamy, even temperature ranged from warm to cold.  While it was yummy altogether, I had a great time dissecting each component with each bite and trying to figure everything out.  It was unique, distinct, and special. A dish you wouldn't find at just about anywhere.

I would love to come back to the Nomad again for their creative takes on snacks, appetizers and desserts.

The NoMad on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 4, 2013

Manhattan's finest, Bouley by David Bouley


 

If you are looking for an exquisite dining experience in Manhattan, bring yourself and your loved ones to Bouley, a French contemporary restaurant in Tribecca and try their 5-course tasting lunch menu. I may advise that you either clear out your schedule for the afternoon or give yourself about 2.5 to 3 hours for the complete course.  Trust me, when you are seated in this luxurious oasis in Manhattan, you would not want to rush through your meal. 

My first visit was in mid September and the experience was exceptional from the moment you walked through the entrance corridor and greeted with the intoxicating scent of fresh apples. The waiting room was elegant with a sophisticated Old World vibe.  The boutique dining room with a lavender theme makes diners feel welcomed and relaxed. The service, as well, was impeccable. 

The amuse bouche of the day was a simple tomato gazpacho topped with yogurt and lobster, and a side of cracker with creme fraiche and black truffle.  It was gone quickly, but at Bouley, they do not leave their guests to starve. Before we could have time to peak through the back, looking for our first course, a man pushing a cart of daily-made artisan breads reeled the wheels to our table. The selections were endless. We tried as many selection as we'd like. 

Then, arrived the first course; fresh oysters paired with kiwi and New England Big Eye tuna.  I've never thought oysters and kiwi would work together and initially found it bizarre. It was no accidental experiment, though. The combination was a dynamite. The tartness and sweetness of the kiwi balanced out with the fresh-from-the-sea flavor of the oysters. 

My sister's Big Eye tuna was even more of a knock out dish. An extremely sophisticated dish, slices of fresh tuna were placed on top of a delicate and aromatic apple foam and topped with caviar. If the oyster and kiwi was a smart pair, this was Einstein.  My palate went into a frenzy trying to figure out what these new flavor combination  meant. This would be one of the dishes we would fly back to NYC for. 


Another dish that captivated my soul was the second course: the porcini flan. If I had to share this dish with anyone, it would be the ultimate test of my love and devotion for that very person. Inspired by traditional Japanese steamed egg pudding dish, chawamushi, this was a French spin on the Asian classic. The egg pudding was soft and delicate, disintegrating immediately as you take the first bite. The broth infused with porcini and black truffle was earthy, savory and fragrant. The meaty pieces of dungeness crab in the broth also elevated everything.  A very refined dish and one of my favorites. 


For the main course, I ordered the duck breast in the sweet, caramelized, and savory sherry date jus with clementine confit and polenta. My sister ordered the organic chicken baked "en cocotte", which was extremely moist and tender. It was served with emerald hued kale and roasted garlic. 
 


Moving to the fourth course, what I call an intermission, I had the white peach soup topped with sorbet, while my sister refreshed her taste buds with strawberries rhubarb and gelato. 

By the time the final dessert course arrived, we felt like we were entering food comatose state.  My sister ended her course with hot caramelized Anjou pear with Breton biscuit lemon verbena and delicious hot toffee sauce. The dessert also came with a side of Tahitian vanilla and lemongrass ice cream.  I indulged in the decadent chocolate soufflĂ© accompanied by a white coffee cloud, white chocolate ice cream and a fluffy chocolate mousse.  We were one step closer to going to food heaven. 


Just as we thought we were finished, we were offered with more delectables...

If you are looking for a fulfilling gastronomic experience that will entice your every senses, make a reservation at Bouley. 

Bouley on Urbanspoon
Bouley Restaurant on Foodio54

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rajio Japanese Public House

It's been months since my last review posts due to busy schedule but now I am back to share with you my recent dining experience at Rajio, an establishment brought to you by the same folks that brought Suika and Kingyo. I apologize in advance if my writing skill, sentence structure, and/or grammar have either deteriorated or collapsed entirely over the course of this post.

What brought us to Rajio, a humble izakaya reminiscent of a street joint out of Tokyo, was a dining pass, Rockin' Rajio, we snagged from VanEats. For $18, we were presented with 4 delicious courses. They include Kushikatsu set which, for a deep fry lover, it was totally up my ally. There were 6 skewers; 2 scallops, 2 lotus roots, and 2 chicken(I'm pretty sure). What made this set extra awesome was the vast array of sauces they brought along. Yes!! Somebody recognizes that sauces are essential. My favorite was probably the teriyaki yuzu sauce I bathed the skewers with. It had a refreshing oomph.  This set was great for sharing, it would've been too filling for 1 person to finish on their own.  


Up next was the mini carpaccio with chef's selection of 3 kinds of sashimi. I thought the portion was larger than to be called a mini and that's definitely not a complaint. The sashimi had generous amount of refreshing and citrusy dressing  as well and crisp textures of various components.  The daily selection of cold tapas was scallops and daikon in a savoury, oden-like broth. 

The dynamic balsamic sweet & sour ribs were tender and coated with enough sauce. The pass was hands down worth the $18 and we were impressed enough that we're going to buy another one.  I'm telling you, if you're not a heavy eater, the dining pass is great for sharing between 2 people.

We were curious what else Rajio has to offer so we ordered a couple items from the regular menu. Aburi toro was a must try for us and I was happy we ordered it. The toro had the right amount of char. We didn't need to taint it with soy sauce as they already prepared it with a thicker, sweeter glaze with a hint of shiso in the middle. All I have to say is "later, Minami"
But wait, there's more. 

How could we pass off a bowl of negitoro and ikura when it looked like that and only cost $8.80?  Beautiful to look at, and a fresh, meaty mouthful. 


The other dishes were yaki udon Von gole and diablo chicken. Sadly, I didn't get to take pictures of the last 2 (impatience and anxiety don't mix).  The yaki udon was buttery with the right amount of seasoning. It was my first time trying it with udon noodles instead of spaghetti and they pulled it off. 
Diablo chicken was more than just karaage.  It came with a dipping sauce that was supposedly hotter than hell itself. Well, I'm Thai so it was more of a walk in the park on a breezy day. Adding the hot sauce with tartare sauce though, I tell ya, order a glass of beer and you'll have yourself a good night. The chicken was pretty juicy, but there were some parts that had too much batter or fat. 
I'm definitely coming back to Rajio with another dining pass, thanks again to VanEats.  There are also other dishes worth coming back for and more on the menu to be explored.  Prompt service, great execution on the food, reasonable price, great portions.  $8 sake?! Need I go on??! It's hard not to return!


Rajio Japanese Public House on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 14, 2013

Gudrun Tasting Room

While waiting for our table at Ichiro one Friday night, our party decided to roam around finding a place to sit down for a round of drinks.  As we came across Gudrun Tasting Room, the storefront seemed so intriguingly inviting that we just had to pop in.  The modest, but trendy spot looks like another promising one which you may often find if you were in Gastown.  So, to find a place like this in Steveston was really something else.


Here, you will not only find comfort food, but dishes that were designed to pair well with wine.  Cheese and charcuterie plates, cheese fondue, soups and sandwiches and the main staples here.  Although, if you love variety, you will find that some items on the fresh sheet are changed daily.  This is to keep up with the limited storage space and maintain ingredient freshness.

So rather than order a drink or 2 and some appies, our party ended up ordering a full-blown meal, trying almost everything on the menu.

I've visited Gudrun once more a week after my visit and both times I must say that the quality of the food is consistent.   The salads are always tasty and refreshing, even to those who prefer meat over veggies.  On my second visit, we ordered the cheese fondue which consisted of 3 types of cheese (I believe 2 of them were Gruyere and Emmental).  We were delighted dipping cubed baguette and whole  wheat bread into the smooth, bubbling, cheesy sauce.
Crab cake with refreshing corn salsa; simply delicious.
Meat sandwich with new potato salad
Toulouse sausages with smashed potatoes, roasted tomato and caramelized onion

Sure, chestnut mushroom, swiss chard tagliatelle with duck confit and parmesan reggiano sounded simple, but that was probably one of the best pasta I've had, next to the spot prawn carbonara at Mosaic restaurant. The sauce was cheesy and creamy, yet not over-whelming.  The duck confit was tender, not dry, and was perfect with the dish.

My absolute favourite dish here will always be the sticky toffee pudding, which is always featured on their fresh sheet.  The rich caramel sauce, the light fluffy whip cream over the moist sponge cake is seriously to die for.

It was really nice to discover that Richmond has a gem like this and I definitely look forward to visit Gudrun Tasting Room again.
Gudrun Tasting Room on Urbanspoon