Showing posts with label bistro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bistro. Show all posts

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.

Appetizers

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.  
 

Mains 

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.

Desserts

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lily Mae's

One Saturday night, after we decided half an hour would be too long of a wait for dinner at an establishment in Gastown, we stumbled upon a lovely little spot just seconds down the block.  Lily Mae's was just as buzzling that night.  We had never seen or heard of this French-inpsired bistro before but decided to take a peak to satisfy our curiosity.  I would describe the ambience as warm, cozy, eclectic, and charming. Careful attention are placed in accenting decors with baby blue and white colour schemes.   Space is pretty limited, but I still find the setting quite lovely.  

We were first greeted by Armand, one of the partners of the restaurant.  He was very accommodating to us despite the bistro running at full capacity.  Our server, Natalie, was also very pleasant and, to be honest, we haven't received as attentive service as we did that night in a while.  


The menu has a list of comfort favourites such as the French onion soup, poutine, beef bourguignon,  while the prices are reasonable.  As Lily Mae's is still pretty new to Gastown food scene (it opened last October), some of the items on the menu are being tweaked.  Their winter 3-course menu for $25 is a steal and it includes an appetizer, a main, and a dessert.  You can't go wrong with that.

Starters

We chose crab cake and French onion soup as starters and neither one was a disappointment.  The crab cake was served on a bed of arugula and "ebi sauce", a punchy aioli.   What I loved about it was that aside from the crab cake being almost the size of a burger patty, it was actually packed with 90% crab meat.  It had golden crispy on the edges and was excellent with the sauce.  French onion soup was not covered with melted cheese as I had hoped, but it was tasty and comforting, nonetheless.  The crostini was baked with generous amount of cheese.  The broth was savoury, and had a lot of depth.  It was actually the star of the show rather than being blanketed by the bread and the cheese that accompanied it.   


Mains

Traditional mussels in tomato or white wine cream sauce replaced sizzling mussels on the menu and also an option on the 3-course menu.  The mussels were fresh and still a good plump size.  They didn't have that strong, distinct (almost rotting) aftertaste that some mussels have when they have been frozen or sitting around too long. I also hate to see them shrink from being overcooked down to particles.  The white wine cream sauce hit the spot and I drank it up like soup. Of course, I also used up the sourdough to soak up all the flavourful broth and they later expanded in my stomach.

Eggplant parmigiana was a great and hearty dish.  There were right amounts of cheese and tomato sauce.  It was like eating a home-cooked, low-carbs and meatless lasagna.  Armand told us it was his own recipe and they will be adding the dish to the regular menu.  
 
All the dishes were excellent but the rustic meatball risotto particularly  gave us an extra "wow" factor.  For some reason, the turkey and beef meatballs transferred me back to my adolescent memories.  The risotto was cooked just right, the porcini mushroom gravy was rich, earthy, and comforting; creamy but not overwhelming. 

Desserts

For desserts, there were 2 options; triple chocolate Guiness cake or apple bacon cake.  Of course, without having to think twice, I pounced on the apple bacon cake.  Some may find me twisted but I have a thing for sweet and savoury, not sure why.  I leaned to the couple next to our table who just finished their desserts, "Pss.. which one was better?"  And without hesitation, the husband claimed, hands down, the apple bacon cake was really memorable.  They were both rocking back and forth, completely satisfied out of their minds.  I couldn't hardly wait for mine to arrive.   

When it did arrive, I dove in, making sure I have a good bacon:cake:ice cream: caramel sauce ratio.  

O.M.G.

........

The apple cake was fluffy, buttery,  sweet with caramelized apple chunks, and moist from soaking in the caramel sauce.  The warm texture of the cake with ice cold, creaminess of ice cream, and a salty, crunchy bits of bacon and pecans just put everything together like a work of art.  I could not stop eating it.  So, to say it was good would be an understatement.


The triple chocolate Guiness cake with fruit coulis was also decadent and delicious.  It was rich and compact, but very subtle in sweetness at the same time.  

This dining experience was quite rare to occur where we enjoyed every aspect from the ambience, to service, and quality of the meal.  That night, Lily Mae's was impeccable.  Armand was also one of the driving forces behind creating this positive dining atmosphere.  He was very warm and personable.  I never realized how crucial it is for business owner, particularly in food and service industries, to create positive connection and interaction with their his guests, and thus, creating a good rapport.  Despite being incredibly busy, I don't think one customer felt neglected or unhappy because they waited for the food for too long.  

If Lily Mae's goal is to leave their customers feeling satisfied, then darn it, they were successful on that busy Saturday night.  I'm not just speaking for our table either.  I spoke with a couple next table, and they, too, just stumbled upon this gem and couldn't have left any happier.  Lots of hugs, lots of laughter.  Bravo.  Lily Mae's is definitely making her mark.

Lily Mae's Comfort Café on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 30, 2012

3 hour dinner at Le Parisien French Bistro

It's been a while since my last visit to a French bistro.  P picked Le Parisien on Denman as a place of choice for the night.  I had to say that when we walked through that door, we didn't think we'd spend almost the rest of the night there and walked out with mixed feelings about this place.

While I was running late for dinner and had to be picked up, B had already ordered for us.  I'm pretty sure it was around half an hour for the time it took for B to sit down, ordered, and food arrived before I showed up.  Three appetizers arrived and they rested before the starving B as she waited for our arrival.  Between that time, she was constantly hounded by hostess/server/manager, we weren't sure what she was, whether the party was still coming.  It would've been fine if she got the message we were still coming just running late the first time, but we didn't think it would take her a couple more times until we arrived that she understood the rest of the party was coming.

I got there around 8 o'clock, the restaurant was at its full capacity, although there was nobody else waiting for tables.  The atmosphere was what you'd expect from a bistro; more laid back and very lively.  The appetizers had not gotten cold by that time.  We dug in like hungry wolves.

First dish, I'm a cheese lover and, quite frankly, their French onion fondue just blew me away.  Imagine broth-less French onion soup with 5 x more cheese than regular.  Dipping a baguette into the gooey melted gruyere with caramelized onions and a note of sherry.  Pure indulgence and happiness.  The best part? the slightly burnt, but crispy edges.  That was probably the best dish we had.

 
The second appetizer was a classic beef tartare with waffle fries and salad.  I like this combination a lot but no one else seemed to be too impressed with the beef tartare.  I think it had a lot of flavours and went well with waffle fries.
Next up was the escargot en cocotte, another dish I really liked here second to the French onion fondue.  Escargot and cremini mushrooms were baked in an aromatic cognac infused cream and topped with bread crumbs.  Served along side were caramelized roasted garlic and crostini.

While we were munching on the appies, suddenly it daunt on us that a bottle of wine would be a splendid idea.  Here's the thing, the bistro didn't have a server for particular section so we just had to grab whoever was available.  P ordered it with the hostess/manager lady right away and our wine was never seen or heard back about again.  As we started lurking around to ask about our wine, a server, a true Frenchman and reminded me of the Paul in the movie Unfaithful, approached us and said he would check up on our wine.  Another server came to our table, asked who we ordered the wine to, apologized for the missing wine, refilled our water. P pointed to the wine she wanted and ordered with her and was brushed off as she walked away from our table after finished pouring the water.  Meanwhile, the rest of us had a WTF expression on our faces as we watched P ordering to herself.   At some point, someone took her order for the third time.  Paul came back with a different bottle than we ordered, saying they were out and this one was just as good.

Our French wine came, a 2010 M. Chapoutier Cotes Rousillon Bila-Haut.  It was smooth as silk.  At some point I even wondered if there was alcohol in here.  I felt it after the bottle, though.  It was a good thing we had wine to keep us company because little did we know that despite ordering the entrees the same time as the appies, it would take another hour before more food came out.

I went to the washroom and scoped out what was going on.  The restaurant died down by a lot at this time.  I peaked through the kitchen if there was only one chef working on overdrive.  No, there were 5. Finally, we asked Paul, the only person who didn't make our table feel invisible, to check up on our entrees.  Paul brought out entrees as soon as he went to check.

 Someone ordered duck confit, which normally I would be excited for.  However, there was way too many cannellini beans in this dish for my liking. The duck was baked into the dish and the meat was really tender.
The second entree, an 'onglet' or hanger steak frites with peppercorn sauce.  The steak looked really small to me compared to the frites.  I liked the steak, though.  It was juicy and tender and the peppercorn sauce was wonderful.  
A side dish of gratin dauphinois or scallop potatoes was really good.  Again, the cheese was amazing and it was like eating potato fondue.  

I'm not quite sure what to take of the service.  I felt like we were ignored when we needed them, and constantly interrupted, and, at times, pushy.  Don't get me wrong, they were definitely not rude and were quite professional. I guess it was just wrong timing that made it super awkward and almost annoying.  The only person who was attentive enough to us was Paul, and I'm not saying that just because he looks like a movie star either.
Our expression throughout the night
 We ordered desserts; a citrus parfait and crepe suzette for only $7 each.  The citrus parfait had a creamy, zesty calamansi custard on the bottom.  It was layered with blueberry preserve and fluffy meringue and topped with an almond cookie.  
Crepe suzette was just plain outstanding.  The texture of the crepe was good, the orange Grand Marnier sauce was even better.  

Overall, if you're looking for rustic French comfort food, Le Parisien is right on the map amongst others like Bistrot Bistro.  Price is also very reasonable, by the way.   From my particular experience, I'll probably only go back if I have another 2.5 hours to dine on a weeknight though.  

Le Parisien on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bon Rouge revisited


I first visited Bon Rouge just over 2 years ago for a Sunday brunch and really fell in love with the warm and intimate setting.  Most especially, the cozy patio at the front entrance decorated with cute pots of little flowers hanging all over.  This year we came back for another visit and looking for the comfort food this French bistro has to offer.
The French onion soup was the first thing on the list.  Of course, it was just as good as we remembered; hearty with a rich and flavorful broth that wasn't too salty.  Oh, and you can't go wrong with a layer of gooey melted gruyere.
Cheese and charcuterie plate with pate de maison. Artisan cheeses richelieu and creamy Brie de mode was wonderful with the sweet and slightly tart quince jam. The house pate was a gelatin texture with pistachio and went great with pickled peppers.  The server even gave us extra crostinis for the plate.  It was overall a good deal for $9.
Next up was the prawn crepe which was quite the comfort food.  It was basically a deconstructed crepe with 5 individual succulent prawns with fennel and leek in Pernod cream.  I wouldn't have been satisfied with just those but a side of salad with crumbled goat cheese really brought everything together.
While I was focused feasting on everything else, I kept hearing a buzz about the albacore tuna nicoise salad on the other side of the table.  It was definitely the crowd's favorite as there was barely any left by the time it got to me.  Perfectly seared strips of tuna on top of greens, haricot vert (aka green beans), roast potatoes, spinach, tomatoes.  There was a small poached egg buried just off the the side.  While I love soft poached eggs, this salad was probably better without.  The combination of olive tapenade and pesto was scrumptious.

I normally wouldn't order bouillabaisse, nonetheless, I was impressed by Bon Rouge's version.  The  broth had a lot of depth and rich in natural sweetness of shrimp. Add lemongrass, lime, and kaffir leaf, we have a Tom yum.

Bistro "croque madame" was a good breakfast/brunch dish.  Nothing like a protein-filled sunny side up with  ham on toast.  I really wish there was way more cheese and the sandwich was otherwise pretty dry.  Luckily, it came with tomato soup.
For dessert, we picked two; apple tart and strawberry cheesecake with lemon curd.  The shortcake was fluffy and spongey with zesty lemon flavour, soft whipped cream and fresh strawberries between layers.  It was a fair size for sharing.  Between the two, the apple tart was the winner. There was south apple filling and the crust was sweet, thin and crunchy.  Too bad half the ice cream already melted by the time it got to the table.
 

Bon Rouge Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cute Pig's guide to best food and wine of Okanagan

Like Napa Valley, Loire Valley, and Tuscany, the Okanagan Valley is no less and one of the most beautiful places Canada has to offer. Frankly, I can't think of a better place to be around here during summer time.  Dry climate, picturesque scenery, and abundant in vineyards and orchards.  The fresh fruits from the Okanagan are some of the sweetest and best tasting you'll ever find.  I recently made my second trip this past May Long weekend and hope to come back for some fresh peaches and cherries.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wine Republic

 
Located at the heart of Thonglor, Wine Republic is one of the go-to wine bar and bistro in Bangkok.  For most people getting to WR (or anywhere in Thonglor actually), the best way to go is buy taxi.  There's very little parking space in this area and when there is, it can be quite expensive.  Valet parking is available for 100 bath, and you get a coupon for a barbecue skewer (yayyy).  

Lamb skewer yum!
Like most bars and lounges at Thonglor, the ambience is appealing to BKK socialites age 20 + and foreigners.  The vibe is mature, yet hip and casual.  I love the atmosphere at WR as it is spacious with 2 levels and a large patio, which often gets filled up fast on the weekends. Around 8 pm there would be a dj spinning live music ranging from old school hip hop, top 40, and techno.  

Since this is a wine bar and restaurant, we had to ask the server, "where's the wine list?"  She replied that they don't offer a wine list, you can go inside to the front entrance of the restaurant which is a bar, as well as a wine store.  There, stood a helpful gentleman who would help you select the wine bottle that would suit your taste.  I guess the point is for the customers to have a unique experience of walking through the selection, shopping, and be advised of the flavours rather than just looking in the menu.  I find it neat, yet tedious at the same time.  With over 170 selections of wine to choose from, I nominated Mz. J, the wine connoisseur to help us pick out a winning bottle for the night.


Happy hour  happens Sunday to Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.  Everything on the classic cocktail menu is buy 1 get 1 free.  The price range is around 220 - 280 bath.  I tried the lychee martini and lychee mojito.  Definitely fell in love with the lychee mojito which came in a generous size!

The menu consists of tapas and pub fare with selections of pizzas and pastas as well.  I find their food to be tastier than other wine bars and the prices are reasonable.


The caesar salad is a moderate portion with large chunks of bacon pieces.  The dressing is house-made and delightfully rich and creamy.  They don't hold back on the grated parmesan either.  You would think you are being healthy eating a salad, but definitely not this particular one.

 
I love their pizza! Family-size anchovy fire-oven pizza is obviously an acquired taste.  Most people will either hate or love it.  The pizza itself is delicious, crispy crust with tons of cheese, and they are generous with the ingredients, in this case, anchovy bits on the topping.  Can't choose which one to order?  You can actually order each kind of pizza as half and half in one order.


Their spicy squid-ink spaghetti for 280 bath is to die for.  It is served in a clay pot backed with pizza dough.  Of course, it's not the most appetizing colour to eat and the thought of having black sauce on your lips is not an appealing image.  But the taste is totally worth it.  It's bold and spicy with tons of flavours and seafood such as clams, squid, and shrimp.  Mz. J who is particular with her food, had it for the first time here and said she dreams of this dish and will always come back for more.

My new favourite go-to spot!

Food: 4/5
Ambience: 4/5
Price: $$$
Service: 3.5/5
Value: 4.5/5