Showing posts with label tapas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tapas. Show all posts

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

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Refinery

the Refinery is a cozy little spot located in the heart of downtown on Granville street.  On the weekend, this tapas restaurant transforms into a busy bar where you would miss having a personal space.  We got there early enough before the rush and were able to score a fair size seating.  The atmosphere was casual and energetic, a good place to go socialize after work.  There are 2 menus; one for flatbreads, salads, bruschette and charcuterie and the second for tapas.  We focused on ordering smaller and bigger tapas. 
I have a thing for pork belly and runny eggs, so 'bacon n' eggs' for $12 was a given.  Three slices of braised pork belly served over caramelized onions and apple compote, topped with fried quail eggs was a great starter.  The pork belly was slightly sweet, tender with fatty pieces that melts in your mouth.  Of course, I cracked the creamy yolk and let it coat all over the pork and paired with some apple compote.  
The steak tartar for $13 was very well seasoned and a good portion.  Usually, steak tartar is a hit or miss for me.  I've had experiences where it would taste like it just came from the slaughter house, or it would taste like an exquisitely refined dish.  I was pleased that the steak tartar at the Refinery is the latter.  You get the tanginess and extra texture from capers and pickled shallots. It was topped with quail's egg yolk and drizzled with a generous amount of balsamic reduction.  The crostinis were thin and crispy and great for spreading on the steak.  
Arancini, or fried risotto balls, for $9 for 4 comes with a different flavour each day.  Tonight's flavour was wild mushrooms topped with tomato sauce.  This one didn't blow us away.  The tomato sauce tasted pretty generic and the batter was quite thick.  The risotto was not soggy so it was a plus, but other than that, there wasn't much more uniqueness to it.  If you're really hungry, this would be a good filler. 
Roasted duck breast with grape and walnut salad for $14 was a great value.  The dish was good, but it could've been great.  Instead, I spent my time figuring out what was missing from this dish.   The seared duck breast, medium rare and tender, was lacking crispiness on the skin.  The dressing to go with it was a bit too light and sweet.  Maybe it should have more savoury factor, but I think that was the whole concept of the dish, something more refreshing and light.  Nonetheless, the duck portion for the price is a steal!3

Okay, the last dish that arrived blew us away, mainly by its sheer size.  The roasted lamb chops from the bigger tapas proved to be as big as they claimed.  For $14, we got 3 very large and meaty lamb chops served over pesto and topped with pine nuts.  At this rate, 2 hungry guys and 1 bear were politely offering each other more food and passing it.  In the end, I am sad to report that we were so full that we could not finish the lamb.  Although the chops were more cooked than how I usually like my red meat (more rare-medium), but it still had a nice charred and fatty-melt-in-your-mouth flavour.  The pesto composition was great with the lamb.  I would definitely come back for this dish again.

There is one dish missing from this collage and, unfortunately, it was the best of the night. The baja scallops were seared to perfection.  They were large, plump, with golden crisp exterior and served over sweet carrot puree and wine syrup.  An 'ingenious' combination.

I would definitely come back to the Refinery.  Their tapas can pretty much make a completely meal or something light to nibble over drinks.  The lamb and scallops won my heart and the ratio of portion to price keeps me coming back for more. 

**Update: 07/03/13  

I paid a visit back to the Refinery on a Wednesday night and was mainly surprised by how much the food had changed from my first visit.  The seared scallops were room temperature and rather soggy this time.  The size also reduced by about half.  The steak tartare was similar to what we had last time, but with less balsamic reduction.  The biggest disappointment of the night was the lamb chops which had shrunk about 3 times and completely under-seasoned.  Unfortunately, this visit was a complete opposite experience of my first.  There were only 3 tables at that time, including ours so I'm not quite certain what to make of the quality control, if there was any.  Certainly, the consistency was not there.

The Refinery: Market.Style.Eatery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dining with royal round 2; Secret Location

Secret Location's concept combines everything trendy from food, luxury, fashion, art, and contemporary design. Located right beside the ever-buzzling Chill Winston in Gastown, this not-so-secret spot is actually really hard to miss as its white open space with fluorescent lighting would turn heads for any passerby.  Not an average lounge in the city, it is worth stopping by if you want to indulge in the ambience of the glitz and glam.  Of course, when dining with His Majesty, one wouldn't expect for anything less. 


Secret Location's got great selections of specialty cocktails.  I ordered one which has the name associated with a kimono.  The cucumber taste was quite prominent, but I found it light and refreshing. Sir A&W ordered a very mean looking 'Arsenic', an indigo-coloured concoction served in a tall glass like the ones the evil queens drink from in fairy tales.  It was as mean and stiff as it looked, and worth every penny.

Plowman's Platter was a great plate to share with a group.  It arrived with a basket of  I'm not sure if I remember this correctly (the Kimono got to me), but I think it was 'duck tongue' terrine, which I really liked. It was smoky, sweet and salty like Chinese char siu pork.  The aged cheddar was sharp and wonderful, while the homemade mustard was delightful pairing with the other charcuterie.  The one lone pickled Romanesco broccoli was peculiar and fascinating to look at as it was my first contact with it.    
 The Qualicum beach scallops with parsnip and  bone marrow ravioli, chanterelle mushrooms, and carrot butterwas an art on a plate.  It actually looked prettier than it tasted.  The ravioli dough was on the extreme end of al dente.  Though His Majesty loved it that way, I found it too chewy and hard for my liking.   
This dish looked like it came straight from the garden; Italian burrata, Okanagan peach and nasturtium salad.  The grilled peaches were so sweet and juicy, it made me miss Okanagan and the summer very much.  The salad itself was crisp, the burrata was soft, yet incomparable to the ones served at Cru and Siena.  
Daily selection of canapes that night came with chicken consomm√©, quail, a dollop creme fraiche, and a cocktail shrimp.  That's the best description I could give.  The quail was very tender, but the other three bites were not so memorable.  
We loved the truffled organic deep fried egg and grilled asparagus, and fontina fondutta.  The black truffle was really faint, but the deep fried egg had a very crispy exterior and soft, runny yolk, which when mixed with the silky cheese sauce, was just delicious.
I stole a bite off Lady Chang's crispy skin Polderside duck, another art on a plate.  Cooked medium rare, it was very similar to the duck I had the previous night at L'Abbatoir, but with less sauce.  Again, when they say 'crispy' skin, I really wish they took it to heart and made it really crispy! 
My pick for main entree, grilled AAA striploin with peppercorn sauce and potato zucchini galette.  Though the striploin was much too chewy for my liking, despite being medium rare, I absolutely loved the zucchini galette.  Thin, crispy layers of golden brown potato pastry with even thinner alternating layers of sliced zucchini.  There were interesting components on there; the fava beans, and the pecorino stuffed squash blossom which strangely tasted very much like a dessert. 
Artichoke and black truffle gnocchi with English peas and Reggiano parmesan sounded excellent.  In reality, it was really dry.  The texture of the gnocchi was what's expected, and slightly on the chewy side.  It tasted great the first few bites, but, even with the truffle, it wasn't enough to keep us interested.  
Lady Chang finished her meal off with Petits Fours of the Moment, the passion fruit tart on the lower left corner won her over.  

At Secret Location, you can indulge on the aesthetics; elegantly presented food, and chic atmosphere.  
Secret Location on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer night lounging at Reflections

Located on the 4th floor of Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Reflections is a great haven to escape from hectic urban life and wind down.  MaynaMerh gave me the DL of this place when she went on a lady's night escapade and pre-ordered a group menu, consisting of almost everything on the menu for $50 pp of West coast style tapas.  I was in an adventurous mood and searching for a new place I've never been to.  Somewhere with a mellow atmosphere, and after looking through Mayna's pictures, I thought Reflections would be a great spot to celebrate my ____th birthday with my closest friends and family.  

So one Wednesday night, we were decked up to the nines.  As soon as I stepped on to the rooftop lounge, I immediately fell in love with the space.  Unfortunately, I couldn't translate the setting into photos, only through descriptive words.  Umm let me see.. The open air lounge had a New York City feel being surrounded by metro high rises , the outdoor lounge sets a mood with a tranquil pond and a waterfall to one side.  Seatings are extremely spacious and comfortable and we could sit there all night.  There's a fire pit and blankets to warm you up if the evening gets too cold.  The place was lively with upbeat music.  It was trendy, yet sophisticated and laid back.  

We shared a bottle of Prosecco Veneto, and by we, I mean mostly me.  There aren't too many selections for grubs and so we ordered almost everything on the menu.   

Merh raved about their beautiful watermelon salad.  It was presented beautifully and drizzled with basil puree and feta cheese.  But there was more to the salad than the eyes can see.  The watermelon cubes were saturated with something that made them more juicy and flavourful.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but it was really refreshing.  
Marinated chicken breast with arugula was rustic in ensemble. The chicken breast was tender, and the chorizo sausages added the smokiness, and spices to the dish.  I probably wouldn't order this again since there wasn't much vow factor in it except that the dish can fill you up more than the other ones.  Plus, there was way too many white beans in there for me to appreciate.  
Grilled albacore tuna, sundried tomatoes and tapenade.  The crusted tuna was nicely seared and, I've never paired it with tapenade before and they went quite well together.  
Spanich Manchego cheese with freshly sliced country style ham, quince paste, fig, toasted hazelnuts.  The grilled sourdough was crispy but they definitely did not give enough for the platter. This was a great plate to share and the sharp Manchego cheese was great to pair with the bubbly we were drinking.  
The scallop ceviche was one of my favourite dishes here.  Served over tomato aioli, and drizzled with lime vinaigrette, there was enough acidity and kick in flavours and the scallops were really fresh.  
Marinated flat iron steak with chimichurri sauce--while I loved the chimichurri sauce and the side of roasted vegetables with pine nuts, I wish the marinated steak had more to it.  Even with the sauce, it still fell short of flavours. 
Another dish I had high hopes for was the crispy polenta.  The polenta came out in cubes reminding me of fried tofu. They were topped with black olives, some tomatoes, and served over red pepper Romesco sauce.  The crisp exterior had a hard, grainy, corn-meal like texture, followed by the smooth mashy interior.  Again, there wasn't much flavour and I had to smear it with a lot of sauce.
Sweet trio with macarons, spicy brownie, lemon meringue tart and chef's special macarons in 5 flavours.  The macarons were really soft and fresh.  The crumbled easily and had a soft chew to them.  Definitely some of the best ones I've had in the city.
My birthday cake was the decadent chocolate raspberry turron.  The cake was a rich dark chocolate layered with tart raspberry and hazelnut. 

There's only a few weeks left of summer in Vancouver and it's best to take advantage.  I could spend hours coiled up on their comfy oversized couch with some cocktails and just chat the night away.   Reflections is on the top of my list for lounging in style relishing in short-lived summer nights. 

Reflections (Rosewood Hotel Georgia) on Urbanspoon