Showing posts with label Vancouver. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vancouver. Show all posts

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Japanese food crawl in Burnaby: Sushi Oyama and Kamamarui

The biggest daily dilemma each day is perhaps figuring out what you want to eat for dinner, especially when you're in the area you're somewhat foreign in. That's right for me, it's Burnaby.

Thus, I turned to my trusty apps Urbanspoon and Yelp, exploring photos of dishes that catch my eye. I stumbled upon delicious looking ramen at Kamamarui and intriguing images of sushi pizza from Sushi Oyama. Both places seemed equally tantalizing and when you roll with me, when both options are desirable, why choose ? My fellow diner and I decided to go to both. 

Our first stop was at Sushi Oyama, a giant restaurant that looked like it was converted from a gigantic historic mansion.  Line up was starting to form around 6:30 pm but luckily we didn't have to wait long. The staff moved quite quickly and were well organized. However, if you're looking for authentic Japanese cuisine , this place isn't it. However, they have a large variety with pages of special house rolls. The price is about mid range and very competitive when compared to other similar sushi restaurants. I'd say they're probably Sushi Garden's biggest competitor, if they're still in the same league.

The place was huge and it gets filled up very quickly. We ordered lightly as it was our first stop: negitoro roll, kaki fry (fried oysters), toro nigiri, Las Vegas roll, and of course sushi pizza. 
Kaki fry was quick to arrive. The oysters were baby size but there were about 6-7 on a bed of greens (I ate way too fast to properly count). The sauce that accompanied the dish was a sweet concoction of honey mustard. 

Negitoro roll was pretty comparable to any other negitoro roll, but you pay slightly less for it. I was super impressed with the $1.55 toro nigiri because I haven't seen anywhere else that serves them for lower than $1.75. Of course, they're incomparable to places like Hachi when it comes to sashimi grade. I'm a huge fan of toro though, and I'd have to say that right there was value. 

I saw as many Las Vegas roll photos popping up so being a queen of deep frys, I had to figure this out. They're basically maki roll filled with salmon and imitation crab meat topped with generous amount of sauces and bonito flakes. The roll was deep fried with golden crispy crust.  I've tried deep fried rolls before and they were always either too hard or the rice was too crusty. Sushi Oyama did a pretty good job preserving the sushi rice without making them go soggy with oil or overcooked to the point of no return. 

Finally, what we came here for. The glorious sushi pizza, also a concept I've tried at Mikado in Edmonton. Topped with spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber, tobiko and generous amount of sauces, you really get a nice full and flavorful bite. The "crust" was again made with deep fried rice cut into pizza slices. The exterior was really crispy.  There was quite a bit of rice so of course both Las Vegas roll and sushi pizza will fill you up before you realize it. 

My, my. The two of us polished off all the starters and we were stuffed by all the rice. Nonetheless our gluttony carried us down to block to our next destination. 


The menu was simple and to the point.  It seems they want to focus on their unique specialties rather than trying to cater to everything. Being rather stuffed, I was quoted distraught that their fried chicken only came in full-order and no half sizes. So I ordered prawn tempura instead. They were served with a thick, sweet sauce. The kind they serve with tendon in Japan. And this is the dish I am most excited writing about. I have yet to find a place in Vancouver that serves the most divine bowl of tendon. So if any readers out there could make recommendation and guide me to the right direction, I'll be forever in your debt. 

Now, the tempura. Just looking at the textured batter, I already knew it was going to be a delight. I was right. It was light, EXTREMELY crispy, and the prawn inside was crunchy not rubbery. Combined with that sweet and savory sauce, order a bowl of rice, maybe a size of poached egg. Boom. Close to my tendon fantasy. 

The poached egg we ordered was served with a soy-yuzu sauce and came with a small cute scoopy spoon. Two of us shared a bowl of chasiu miso ramen. While Ramen Santouka still reigns of Vancouver ramen champion in my heart, Kamamarui still delivered a solid ramen with their own signature. The barbecue pork slices were tender with a hint of smokiness. The broth was flavorful, comforting during a cold rainy night. There were condiments at the table with 2 kinds of chili sauces. I love my food with a spicy kick, but I didn't feel the need to add any this time. 

We later suffered the consequences of overeating but we still enjoyed our food adventures nonetheless. If you can still enjoy a dish despite being really full, that's gotta say something about the food, right ? 
Sushi Oyama on Urbanspoon Kamamarui Ramen & Don on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 6, 2014

Yolk's Restaurant and Commissionary

I decided to return from a long blogging slumber with the coverage of an east-side neighbourhood diner that is probably the most raved about in city at the moment; Yolk's!

My previous trip to New York City has seriously left me longing for a seriously good wholesome brunch, which is comparably scarce in Vancouver in my opinion.  I've been gawking at photos of oozing runny poached eggs from Yolk's for quite sometime on Urbanspoon.  Work schedule, however, only left me to write it up as a wish list up until last Sunday.

Located on Clarke and East Hastings, a lazy individual such as myself could only describe it as 'a road trip', or a mini 'journey' coming up from Richmond.  Since Yolk's doesn't take reservation, I already predicted that the wait would be long and eternal.  We should either go extremely early, or just before closing.  Nonetheless, we showed up at the door right around 11:30 am and met with the rest of the population crowding outside.

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

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spanish tapas: Sardine Can and Espana

The Sardine Can

Every single time we stopped by the Sardine Can, it was always running at maximum capacity with hungry diners pacing around the front door, praying there would be an open seat soon (doesn't matter where).  The night I hit up this Gastown gem with my friend S was no different. Luckily, we didn't wait around too long and got 2 cozy spots at the bar.  Created by the same folks behind Pied a Terre and La Buca, the name "Sardine Can" was quite fitting, as we did feel a little bit crammed in the modest, yet crowded space. 

 I was quite intrigued with how simple and minimal their kitchen was.  And much more intrigued by how fast the chef was able to fly out those orders, keeping consistency with excellent quality control.   As we both were not too familiar with Spanish tapas, S and I weren't quite sure what we should order and so we only order 3 dishes like 2 old shy introverts who didn't go outside that often.  Now that I looked back, we should have ordered at least 2 more dishes; smoked ham wrapped prune stuffed with Mahon cheese , and slow cooked pork cheeks.  What were we thinking?
The smoked sardine on toast was probably what they are known for.  For only $5, I thought the portion was reasonable and the taste made this a steal and a half.  When you think 'sardine', some of you (me included) might think of small oily canned fish served whole.  However, the smoked sardine was a smooth spread, dressed with lemon juice, perhaps capers.  It was not fishy at all.  Instead, it was salty, tangy, refreshing on crisp toasted baguette.   A wonderful dish that left me wanting more.
We also ordered steamed clams with chorizo sausage and mushrooms in sherry cream sauce.  I enjoyed the clams.  They were meaty and not all shrivelled up. The tomato sauce had just the right acidity and the chorizo sausage had just the right spice and smokiness.  I ended up filling my belly scraping up sauce with sourdough bread.  Lastly, the mushrooms were cooked well enough that the texture was tender, but still firm and not soggy.   The sherry cream sauce was fantastic, but I wish they had baked it with cheese.  Just eating a big bowl of mushrooms got mundane after a while.  

Despite being constantly insanely busy, service was prompt and our food never took too long to arrive.  However, I did not feel like the ambience was somewhere I could sit down, be comfortable and enjoy my meal for very long.  Everything there felt so hectic and so we decided to venture out elsewhere. S and I did regret not staying to try the chocolate terrine on toast.  

Sardine Can on Urbanspoon


The second Spanish tapa restaurant the girls and I hit up recently was Espana on Denman.  The atmosphere at Espana was warm and inviting.  It was dimly lit and the bar area showcased their wine collection.  Walk into Espana after 7 pm and you will find yourself in the same predicament as at the Sardine Can.  And they don't take reservation here either.

B and I tried out red wine concoctions; mixed with lemonade, and one with cola ($6 each).  The first tasted like sangria, the latter just tasted like coke.  It was worth a try.
P described her wine to be smooth, light, easy to drink and doesn't overpower the food.
Iberian ham croquettes arrived with a wedge of lemon.  After tasting it, the rest of them certainly did not require any sauces.  The croquettes were exactly how they were meant to be; crispy batter, smooth, creamy and well seasoned inside.  We got a taste of the ham in small bits, not huge chunks.
The second dish that arrived was "OMG" good.  It blew us away.  The 2 pieces of 'toasts' arrived looking like slices of cake.  The thick bread was a spongy with crispy edge, topped with a thick layer of pate of chicken liver infused with anchovy and sherry.  The flavour was pretty much a party in my mouth.  As a bonus, the acidity of the balsamic vinegar cut through the pate making the party with a twist that could go on all night.  It was sooooooo good.
If there's one dish we never go without ordering, it's crispy pork belly.  Check out the marbled layer.  The skin was thick and, most importantly, crispy.  The meat was tender and came apart easily, the fat just made the world go round. Despite being served with my nemesis, white bean, they managed to get me to eat it too.   Props go to the supporting romesco sauce topping on the crispy pork and pesto mixed in the white bean.  
The octopus salad was on the special that night.  When it arrived, we had to double check with our server, "I think we ordered octopus salad".  "This is it,"she replied, "the octopus is there....there and there."  It was so dark, everything looked the same, and so we couldn't tell what was what on the plate.  It was a warm salad, a bit too salty in my opinion, although I really liked the chorizo on this dish.  It was slightly crispy with full-flavour.  The octopus was surprisingly tender, chewy but not rubbery.  The arugula tossed in lemon juice and olive oil livened everything up.  The fingerling potatoes were crispy and made good fillers. 
The house-made morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) with fried egg and mushrooms was a special dish.  It would easily be an excellent brunch dish also.  It's got all the proteins and iron one would need to face a hard day.  The sausage was savoury with a crumbly texture, and swimming in a light gravy-like sauce.  
We actually debated for a long time whether or not to order the paella.  Although we were already full, I knew in my heart if I didn't order it, I'd spend the rest of my life wondering "what if?".  There's certainly no room for that! Actually, what pushed me was the key ingredient, squid ink.  It always tastes so good in pasta, and even bread, but I had never tried with paella before.  For $32, the paella arrived in a large pan, black as night.  The flavour of the rice was amazing, full of flavour, zesty from lemon juice and probably hundreds of capers mixed in with the rice.  Despite the octopus being done well, tender and not rubbery, we all wished there was more seafood or more topping on the rice.  The ratio just didn't seem to match.  

We were full to the brim, yet this time, we all called for desserts. And, we were glad we did.  The catalan cream custard arrived in a ramekin.  Once we dug in, it pretty much revealed itself to be a creme brulee.  The burnt sugar was so thick and crispy and I love the taste of burnt sugar so much.  The custard cream was light, fluffy and creamy.  It was worth the weight gain.  
Again, speaking of weight gain, I don't care if I end up doubling in size from eating this dessert everyday.  Initially, we thought the trifle was 'too big'.  After digging in, pfft...there was no such thing.  The cake was saturated with sherry and layered with tangy blood oranges, pomegranate, and fluffy whipped cream.  I learned a lesson tonight. I shall always drench cakes with sherry before I eat it.  It was too good.  Or, maybe I just love the taste of alcohol too much.
Espana Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dine Out at The Oakwood Canadian Bistro

Our first dine out this year led us to the Oakwood in Kitsilano.  I've always been intrigued by their rustic, yet contemporary spin on Canadian comfort food using local ingredients. So, I was happy we made this place one of our destinations.


Pork ravioli was the most visually appealing dish.  Wasabi butter was a beautiful emerald green while pork rinds and radish sprout gave a decorative arrangement to the plate.  The texture of the ravioli was quite thick, reminding me of asian dumplings.  The pork was shredded, much similar to pulled pork texture.  The wasabi butter, I found, didn't quite help amplify the flavour and I wish they used a sauce that was thicker and richer to help enhance the flavours of the ravioli.  
Confit albacore tuna, white bean puree was served in a jar and on a wooden block for an extra rustic feel.  Altogether, the combination made a very smooth spread on the crisp garlic crostinis.  The taste was slightly acidic, but refreshing enough that you don't get sick of eating it after a few bites.
Smoked cheddar cauliflower soup was a great comforting dish on a cold night.  It was creamy with a slight sharpness. The tang from tomato foam just lightly diffused a little bit of acidity into the soup and brightened things up.   Happily floating thyme croutons added crisp texture.  


Fish seldom blow me away, but their maple smoked sablefish was really a winner.  It was fried to crisp on the edges, while the meat remained flakey and buttery texture with a sweet hint of maple.  Cod brandade croquettes were pretty dense and I wish they had a lighter sauce than the puree to dunk it in.   I've never had these cute looking patty pans before.  They had a neat flavour and texture, like hot peppers without the heat.  
The second main to arrive was wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil and baked provolone gratine  served in a skillet.  Okay, it was really cheesy, and since I love cheese so much, there was no such thing as too much cheese.  Or....was there?  It was really filling and I found myself sitting on the sideline digesting after eating more than half of it.  There was a faint hint of truffle oil, and the risotto was really "saucy".  
B ordered sous vide lamp shank to go with her red wine. The meat was fall-of-the-bone tender and juicy from soaking up the tomato nage.  The garlic mash did a great job soaking up all the flavourful broth also.


There were 2 types of Canadian favourite desserts to choose from; 'Nanaimo bar' custard and apple crumble.  Both were served in jars.  I think jars are great as containers and presentation, but switching things up wouldn't hurt anybody.

Warm apple crumble was  home-style, like how we used to make in Home Economics class.  The vanilla bavarian sitting on top was rich and creamy.  The crumble was crispy and buttery, while the caramelized apples had both tartness and sweetness with a hint of cinnamon.  
Initially, I found the Nanaimo bar custard to be a bit too sweet.  But my palette may have adapted because I couldn't get enough of the vanilla custard after.  It was really filling, though.  The ganache had large coconut chunks which gives you more texture to chew from aside from being just smooth and creamy.  

Overall, their $28 3-course menu is a great deal with fair size portion for everything.  For $10 $15 more you can also upgrade to a ribeye steak.  If you are looking to try out the Oakwood for dine out, it is worth a try.  I would recommend the tuna as appetizer, lamb shank as main, and apple crumble for dessert.  

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro on Urbanspoon