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An Italian Affair

April 13, 2013

Italian cuisine is one of my favourite types of cuisine after Chinese (duh!), Japanese, and Korean, and it is my most favourite European cuisine. It won my heart over with its ingredient simplicity, but most importantly, it’s my numero uno choice when it comes to comfort food (think pasta, lasagne, pizzas, Italian sausages and Parmigiano-Reggiano).

AND, the ever straight-forward pronunciation of the dishes (Italian: 10 to the power of infinity, French: 0).

There’s a plethora of good Italian restaurants scattered throughout Vancouver, particularly Downtown Vancouver, so getting your fix of high-quality spaghetti or specialty pizzas is really easy and often satisfying.

It was the last day of school in my 4th year of university; after being cooped up in my dorm for almost a month to slay reports and presentations that were due in the last week of school, I had every reason to execute a “prison break” and enjoy a few days of freedom before isolating myself from the world again in preparation of the looming finals. Couldn’t get tickets for the AMS Block Party (UBC’s year-end party for students), so I decided to dine out with my lovely Jenica and Lucinda.

We were debating on whether to go to Las Margaritas or Trattoria since we were kinda craving for Mexican, but at the same time we were feeling Italian. I’ve been to LM before and none of us have tried the latter, so decision was fairly easy. Trattoria is part of the Glowbal Group that owns a number of middle-to-high-end restaurants in Vancouver (Italian Kitchen, COAST, Black + Blue etc.). I’ve been to Black + Blue twice and despite the bill that might give you a mini heart attack, I really liked the meals that I had there and the service was top-notch. The restaurant’s decor sets itself apart from the other steakhouses in terms of classy-ness.

Trattoria is the more casual and laid-back version of the Italian Kitchen (will try it out soon), but the interior is also gorgeous. I’ve been wanting to go there every time I bus passed it along West 4th, and the reviews are mostly positive for the food and service. The restaurant is situated near Burrard St.; there are a lot of restaurants around West 4th and Burrard St. With “trattoria” in bold font backed by tanned wooden planks as its signage and its chic black store front, it’s hard to miss the restaurant when you’re passing it by on foot or in a vehicle.

I made the dinner at 6 without any reservation. Upon arrival I was greeted by the noise of a crowded restaurant where in fact, only half of the restaurant is full. The waiters were busy serving the tables and there was no one at the reception. A minus point from me here. A waiter greeted me and ushered me to a table after waiting at the door for about 5 minutes. I think having a client to wait before being seated for a maximum of 2 minutes is  my acceptable limit, otherwise I would scorn at them, but since I was in a good mood I let it pass for now.

Interior

Interior.

My friends arrived shortly after I was seated. A waitress handed us the menu and briefed us about the specials that they had for the day. I found that in a lot of the restaurants, the waiter/waitress speaks really fast as if they are pressed for time or something when going over the menu and the features. This waitress was no exception. I had to reiterate her words just to make sure that I’ve heard her correctly, and the noise level in the restaurant didn’t help. Slow down, man!

The interior of Trattoria is modern and hip, without overshadowing its classy-ness. It has a cozy ambience with the dim lighting and softly played ambient music, but it gets pretty loud when people start to pour in.

Menu.

Menu.

I’ve checked out the menu on the website before the dinner, so I kinda knew what I was gonna get. The selection of the dishes was OK, but I wished that they have 2-3 more for each section, but not too many that may make your decision harder.

Plate mat.

Placemat.

Trattoria has this FIY kind of placemats on each table. Pretty well-thought for diners to kill time while waiting for their food to come.

Cool

Other tables.

When it gets darker outside, the inside of the restaurant looks red from the red mirrors and decorations.

Selection of wine.

Selection of wine.

At the back of my cushioned seat was a display of the wine that they have for the customers. I must say, the place is kinda cramped. I think they are trying to squeeze in as many tables as they can to maximize the capacity. Having 2 people walking in parallel along the narrow walkway was already pushing it.

We didn’t feel like having wine, so we ordered cocktails instead.

Our cocktails.

Our cocktails.

Sorry folks, I can’t recall what were the exact names of our cocktails! Mine had like gin, lemon and rosemary syrup in it, and I think Lucinda ordered the featured drink, which was peach with mint in some alcohol lol. Mine tasted just like lemonade. I didn’t taste the rosemary or whatsoever in the drink, and I got sick of it before making it halfway through cuz it was so sweet! Lucinda’s drink was OK, nothing special about it, but definitely better than mine.

Occupied.

Occupied.

It took about 20 minutes for them to serve us food. Having the customers to wait for more than 20 minutes for food is one of my pet peeves when dining in a restaurant. I don’t really care whether there is not enough chefs or waiters or there are a lot of customers in the restaurant. Call me unreasonable but I preferred my food to be served in front of me within 15-20 minutes. Unless we are dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, or a full-out fine dining restaurant where the food prep + cooking + dish presentation are intricately crafted that showcase the chef’s admirable skills and efforts. But the final product has to make up for all the waiting, or else I wouldn’t return nor recommend people to go there. I don’t consider Trattoria as a fine dining restaurant though. Let us let the food do all the talking.

Carpaccio pizza.

Carpaccio pizza.

We were supposed to get the Beef Carpaccio as the appie initially but Jenica found this on the menu, so we went for this instead. I was hoping that this would be something that is interesting taste-wise, but it was a letdown. It was literally raw meat and pizza bread. The pizza was bland, and the saltiness of the coarsely-cut asiago cheese didn’t really help. They’ve used a VERY sparing amount of pesto on the bread, and the pesto was only concentrated at the centre. The pizza bread was good and the beef tenderloin was nicely-cut, but that wasn’t enough to save this dish. They should have include some kind of chef’s special sauce to sass up the dish though. Maybe I should try their other pizzas next time.

Osso Bucco Milanese.

Osso Bucco Milanese.

Risotto is my favourite dish after pasta. Heck, I think I love risotto more than pasta now haha. The ring thingy piqued my interest, and I learned it later that “osso bucco” means “bone with a hole” which refers to the marrow hole of the cross-cut veal shank. The braised veal meat, risotto and the thick broth were just M-A-G-I-C-A-L. The veal meat was very tender and juicy, and the saffron risotto was cooked to perfection! The broth was very flavourful. I used it to dip my pizza bread lol. I loved the soft marrow from the ring. At first I thought that the portion was quite small by my book, but I was pretty full after shoving the very last spoonful into my mouth. This dish was superb!

Risotto with bacon-wrapped chicken.

Risotto with bacon-wrapped chicken and prosciutto.

Lucinda ordered the special that they had on that day. LOVED the prosciutto risotto and the sprouting broccoli, but not so much of the chicken cuz I think it was a tad dry.

Chicken Saltimbocca.

Chicken Saltimbocca.

Jenica ordered the Chicken Saltimbocca. It was basically chicken with prosciutto and sage leaves in Marsala sauce. It was delicious, but not very memorable. The chicken was well-cooked and flavourful. Jenica was complaining about the dish being too salty, but for me the dish saltiness was just right. My dish was still the best hahaha.

Done with all the savoury stuff, now onto the Dolce!

Trio di Sorbetti.

Trio di Sorbetti.

The trios are strawberry, raspberry + blueberry and lime served in a martini glass. To my surprise, they were really generous in the scoops. I could say that Trattoria made one of the best sorbets in Vancouver. I dislike sorbets that have a gritty texture indicating the presence of rough icicles due to improper preparation temperature and the mixing was not thorough enough. These sorbets were soft and melted in your mouth immediately upon their contact with the warmth of your tongue. My favourite was the raspberry + blueberry one; the lime sorbet was a little too sweet for my liking even though it had a nice tang.

Affogato e Biscotti.

Affogato e Biscotti.

Jenica is a biscotti freak, so her choice of dessert is a no-brainer lol. Maybe I’m not a big fan of biscotti, so to me the chocolate biscotti was OK, but definitely better than the ones you get from Costco. I didn’t get to try the affogato though cuz Jenica devoured the whole thing very quickly. She said it was good.

Zeppole al Cioccolato.

Zeppole al Cioccolato.

Oh. My. God. THISSSSS!!!! This was heaven! Ze dark chocolate-stuffed Italian doughnuts topped with confectioner’s sugar. No, calling them “doughnuts” is an insult because they were MILES better than your average Timmy Hoe’s doughnuts or any other doughnuts you get from your local bakery. They were oh-so-soft and fluffy! The melty dark chocolate centre kicked it up a notch for these babies. I didn’t really care much about the vanilla anglaise served with these cuz the balls themselves were already sending me to heaven. Maybe the pouring custard would shine more when served with something like soft cranberry and nuts sourdough bread instead. I highly recommend you guys to finish off your meal with this dessert!

Overall, Trattoria is a good restaurant for a Friday Night or a casual dinner with your friends or colleagues. It has a few hits and misses, but I would love to return to give other dishes a try, and maybe their lunch too since the lunch menu is different from the dinner menu. The pricing was not too bad, and I give the service a 3.5 out of 5. So if you have been itching to try this place out, I say go ahead and try it! The Osso Bucco Milanese and the Zeppole al Cioccolato were magnificent, so make sure you order them!

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Vancouver 2013

February 20, 2013

First off,

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!

Credit: as tagged.

Credit: as tagged.

When was the last time I actually post something on this blog again? I blame my laziness other commitments (school in particular) to be the sole factor of my unannounced hiatus. 😛

Be warned: this post is super wordy.

Onto today’s topic. It’s Chinese New Year woohoooo! Back home, this translates to:

(a) gorgeous bright red and golden CNY decorations with Chinese lanterns, ang pau  (red packets), festive ornaments, fake cherry blossoms, evergreen CNY bamboo plants, mandarin oranges, scrolls of Chinese poem couplets, Chinese ingots etc. We Chinese will deck out anything that symbolizes prosperity and good luck, especially those in red and gold, and use them to decorate our den on CNY;

(b) family reunion dinner with family and friends on CNY Eve. This is the time of the year when you’ll be introduced to some random distant relatives that you didn’t know that they even exist and you secretly hope for your closer relatives who actually know them to keep them busy so that you won’t have to sit with them in the air of utmost awkwardness;

(c) praying at the Chinese temple. Paying a visit to the temple on the 1st day of CNY is an annual tradition for Chinese who are Buddhist. The temple is the most crowded when the clock strikes 12, marking the 1st day of CNY as the people surge into the temple to plant their first joss sticks of the new lunar year into the temple’s censer. They believe that by doing so they will have a good year ahead and good luck will befall them throughout the whole year. My family usually goes to the temple around mid day on the 1st day when the crowd isn’t as horrible. It’s inevitable to get teary-eyed in the temple because the mildly suffocating smoke from the burning incense pervades the whole temple. Not a pleasant experience indeed, but it’s only once a year;

(d) colourful firework displays that you can watched just OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOUSE. On CNY Eve, the 1st and 2nd days of CNY, those kiasu super rich are generous enough to provide free entertainment to their neighbours (more like the whole city, in Sarawak at least) by going on a firework spree. Because the fireworks are everywhere, it saves you from being squashed by the crowd while trying to get the best view! Dare I say the quality is pretty top-notch (only 1-2 levels behind the world-class acts), and the display usually lasts for 20-30 minutes (per house). I know, it’s awesome;

(e) crashing your friends’ or relatives’ place (read: house visits). You will get invitations to open houses. You’ll be doing countless house visits to your friends’ place and they’ll warmly welcome you with various CNY delicacies and sugary drinks that your Mom restrains you from consuming in normal days. House visiting for 15 days straight might leave you groggy and listless, but once you started counting all the ang pau‘s you received from your friends’ parents and relatives, you’ll find this worth it;

(f) lion dances. Inviting the lions to your house is of course, not free, but CNY will not be the same if the lions are nowhere to be seen at this time of the year. There are dragon dances too, but they are not as popular as lion dances and the performance mostly takes place  in Chinese temples. Did you know that Malaysia has the best lion dancers in the world? Watch here. While I enjoy watching lion dances, I have great distaste for “counterfeit” lion dances (i.e. those performed by non-Chinese) that have surfaced on the streets recently and a lot of them shamelessly ask for “donation” ang pau‘s after performing half-heartedly in front of your store/building. Some of them will even give you the “look” if you didn’t give them the amount they hoped for. Oh well;

(g) late night mahjong and CNY TV specials. While my family do not play mahjong at all, I know a lot of my friends have this as their annual ritual on CNY. CNY is a public holiday in Malaysia, so nobody is working on the first few days of CNY. My family usually cozies up at home and we would watch CNY specials on TV while munching on the titbits after we came back from praying at the Chinese temple. I have my cousins and their family flown in and stayed with us during CNY each year, so you can imagine how noisy our house will be as it’ll be filled with non-stop verbal diarrhoea and occasional symphony of hysterical laughter till wee hours. You’ve gotta admit, gossiping is kinda fun haha;

(h) and last but not least, ALL THE MUTHAF*CKING FOOD!!! CNY only comes once every year, so how can you not let yourself loose in the food galore? All those festive biscuits (kuih momo, pineapple tarts, sambal love letters, kuih bangkit, chocolate-covered cornflakes etc.) and cakes (kek batik, kek proton saga, kek sarang semut, kek lapis, steamed chocolate cheesecake, butter cake etc.) are at your disposal. Not to mention those keropok (shrimp and fish crackers), nian gao (年糕), CNY candies (preserved sour plums, sugared lotus seeds, dried persimmons etc.) , kuachi (sunflower seeds), laap mei (腊味), bakkwa (肉干), faat gou (发糕) and the list goes on and on. On top of the regular Chinese dishes that you can get from a typical Chinese restaurant, in Malaysia (and Singapore) we have this dish called “yee sang” (“鱼生” or “捞生”) that is only served during CNY. The dish is served first and that kicks start the dinner. Family and friends around the table will use their chopsticks to toss the yee sang, shouting auspicious phrases out loud with great enthusiasm as they mix all the ingredients together. It is hard not to gain weight during CNY with the constant bombardment of these noms. All you do is eat, eat and EAT some more and do nothing for the whole day.

It’s been 4 years since the last time I celebrated CNY back home. Even though Vancouver has a fairly large Chinese community, the CNY vibe here isn’t as strong. I’m so jealous of my friends who can go back home to welcome CNY with their families! Jelly jelly jelly!!! Sigh I only have myself to blame since I’m the one who chose to come to Canada lol.

Fortunately some of my relatives are here, which made my CNY in Canada not too bad. We had our reunion dinner at No. 1 Shanghai Cuisine (滬上), one of my favourite Shanghainese restaurants in Richmond. We had our reunion dinner there last year, my aunt and uncle thought that the food was really good so they decided to eat there again on CNY Eve.

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my trusty camera to the dinner to snap the glorious feast we had *why oh why???* I used my 8-megapixel camera on my Galaxy SII instead, and the quality of the pics was a pleasant surprise. All pictures taken with my cellphone are unedited.

Shanghainese Xiao Lung Bao (上海小笼包).

Shanghainese Xiao Lung Bao (上海小笼包).

My aunt has a coupon for the xiao lung bao, so we got these for free. These were not too bad, but I’ve had better.

Sweet and sour deep-fried rock cod (松鼠石斑).

Sweet and sour deep-fried rock cod (松鼠石斑).

Loved this! The colouring might look a lil’ appalling, not to mention the sauce that looks like it has the consistency of the molasses, but the dish was great. The rock cod was fresh and crispy. The sweet and sour sauce complimented the deep-fried fillets very well. Highly recommended.

Glutinous rice siew mai ()糯米烧麦.

Glutinous rice siew mai (糯米烧麦).

We had these last year and we were impressed by them. Hence we insisted to order these again. Again, they didn’t disappoint. Chewy, with a burst of flavour that lingers in your mouth, and despite the glistening appearance, they are not greasy. They can be quite filling as they are made of sticky rice after all.

Spicy chicken cubes (辣子鸡).

Spicy chicken cubes (辣子鸡).

This is quite similar to Kung Pao Chicken, only spicier and there’s more emphasis on the saltiness. Nothing spectacular about this dish though. The chicken cubes were deep-fried, but they had a somewhat hard texture.

Shanghainese stir-fry glutinous rice cakes (上海炒年糕).

Shanghainese stir-fry glutinous rice cakes (上海炒年糕).

We ordered this last year. I was yearning for it. I got so ecstatic when it was served lol. It was THAT good! It tastes like char kuay tiao, but instead of the flatten noodles, this has the shaved glutinous rice. Loved the sauce. A must-try!

Deep-fried tofu wedges with XO sauce (十八豆腐).

Deep-fried tofu wedges with XO sauce (十八豆腐).

The English translation of this dish literally means “eighteen tofu”. At first we thought there were 18 different ingredients that made up the dish, but it turned out there were actually 18 pieces of tofu wedges in the dish haha. From the menu it says there’s XO sauce in this dish, but I couldn’t taste it AT ALL. The dish was indeed very oily, and the tofu wedges were not hot enough as if they were left on the counter for some time. The oil from the tofu wedges just “splashed” everywhere inside my mouth when I was masticating them. They didn’t absorb enough flavour, even eating the wedges with the deep-fried shallots and dried shrimps didn’t help with the flavour. The dish was a disappointment.

Braised vegetables and mushrooms with abalone sauce (鲍汁烩三菇).

Braised vegetables and mushrooms with abalone sauce (鲍汁烩三菇).

This dish came at the right time while we were trying to get rid off the greasiness in our mouth left by the tofu. Braised bok choy, mushrooms and cloud ear fungus yay! The dish was a little oily (you’re in a Chinese restaurant, after all) but the saltiness was just right. No ‘wow’ factor here, just your typical Chinese braised veges with mushrooms.

Shanghainese sweet pastries (甜蟹壳黄).

Shanghainese sweet pastries (甜蟹壳黄).

Glutinous rice balls in sweet rice wine (酒酿丸子).

Glutinous rice balls in sweet rice wine (酒酿丸子).

To end our dinner with a sweet note, we ordered some Shanghainese sweet pastries and glutinous rice balls in sweet rice wine. The pastries taste akin to the Cantonese wife cakes (老婆饼), only that these pastries are flakier and they have white sesame seeds. The filling enrobed in the multilayered pastries is just chewy white sugar and something else instead of the winter melon and almond paste used in wife cakes. The taste seemed to bring me back to the old days where things were less complicated and more innocent. I could only describe the taste in 2 words: pure and traditional.

The glutinous rice balls in sweet rice wine were really delicious. I loved the soft bean curd sheets floating in the rice wine. The mellow taste of the rice wine really cleansed our palate. The glutinous rice balls were squishy and delicate. The only complaint that I had for this was that the rice wine was a tad too sweet for my liking, otherwise everything was good.

Because it was CNY Eve, the wait time between the dishes was taking longer than usual which was expected. Thank goodness we booked a table a day ahead or else we would have to wait for an hour before being seated. No. 1 Shanghai Cuisine surely maintained their standard and didn’t let us down with the consistency of their food quality. I shall return.

And that ends my CNY reunion dinner!

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So what did I do on the 1st day of CNY?

Visit the temple of course!

I went to the International Buddhist Society temple (观音寺) that is situated in Richmond, BC. Boy, a looong trip it was! The last time I was there was during CNY 2010 and I got a ride from my uncle. Didn’t seem to take so long to get there when you’re not on public transit. How I wish I have a car……

Anyhooo, the temple was so crowded. Probably because it was the 1st day of CNY and everyone was hoping to plant their first joss sticks of the new lunar year and have their prayers heard. Not to mention the 1st day of CNY fell on a Sunday this year.

Upon entering the temple.

Upon entering the temple.

One of the side doors.

One of the side doors.

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The garden.

The garden.

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Love the sepia effect in this pic!

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Very very cute!

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Inside the temple.

Inside the temple.

Pictures aren’t allowed in the main building (where the giant statues of Buddha lie).

There was a tent selling pinwheels adorned with auspicious phrases inside the temple. It is believed that if one spins the pinwheel, his or her luck will be “turned around”, for e.g. one’s obstacle will be turned into an opportunity. I’ve heard that if your current luck is not bad, it is better not to touch this stuff as it may bring you bad luck instead. Are you guys superstitious?

Windmill

Chinese pinwheels.

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Colour saturation.

Colour saturation.

Maybe I should use my f2.8 pancake lens to shoot these. I want the background to be blurred out more.

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Zen Kitchen is a little cafeteria in the temple that serves vegetarian food from Wednesday to Sunday at lunch time.

Zen Kitchen

Zen Kitchen (香斋厨).

We had our lunch there at 11am. The place was small and busy. I wonder if they are THAT busy on other days.

Full house.

Full house.

The dining environment is similar to a typical low to mid range Chinese restaurant in Canada. Those people in orange vests were the temple volunteers.

Vegan lunch box.

Vegetarian lunch box.

The meal came in lunch boxes like above with a steamed red bean paste bun, CDN 15 for each set. Not cheap compared to the economical meals you get from the Asian food court (CDN 6-8 with rice/noodles and 2 meat/vege dishes of your choice), but it was surprisingly delicious and not very salty and oily. I like the way they prepare the meal in lunch boxes which makes it convenient for people to bring their unfinished meal home. I normally don’t eat that much per meal, but since I went there with an empty stomach, I gobbled up the whole lunch box in no time. The lunch lasted me for the rest of the day lol. Maybe I should come here and have lunch sometimes.

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The temple was pretty hazy because of the smoke from the incense. I wonder if the temple’s operation complies with the environmental regulations in BC……

Pile of burnt out joss sticks.

Pile of burnt out joss sticks.

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Amped up the contrast + sepia mode.

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The temple was so packed, making it hard to take pictures as the coast was never clear.

New year prayers.

New Year prayers.

One of the pictures that I’m most proud of.

Blessings.

Blessings.

Main entrance to the temple.

Main entrance to the temple.

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People mountain, people sea…… (人山人海) *lame joke*.

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There was a tent selling different kinds of joss sticks near the main entrance to the temple.

Outside the temple.

Outside the temple.

Some sunlight near the afternoon after a morning of gloominess. No rain all day whoopie!

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The cars just kept coming.

A kirin.

Qilin.

There are 2 Qilin (麒麟) statues guarding the main entrance.

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CNY goodies!

CNY goodies!

Red packets received from my aunt and uncle. My aunt made some faat gou, coconut milk and regular nian gao for us. The bun with pink food colouring is the bun from Zen Kitchen.

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I went to Congee Noodle House at Broadway and Main to have a CNY dinner with a few of my friends. I’ve always wanted to try that place out as I’ve heard many good things about the restaurant. Congee Noodle House is famous for their congee and noodles (duh, aptly named). I was still pretty full from the big lunch I had at Zen Kitchen. But when the food came, my appetite was immediately restored.

Fish congee.

Fish congee.

THIS. Is how congee should taste like. Rice cooked to a mushy texture, giving the congee the consistency similar to a thick soup. Saltiness was just right. Soft fish pieces with some crunchy peanuts and bits of yao zha guai. Vibrant green chopped scallion to top. Oh I’m in heaven! Easily the best congee I’ve ever had in Vancouver. Perfect comfort food for the cold weather.

Zha leung (

Zha leung (Chinese donuts wrapped in rice noodle).

These were OK. The yau zha guai were not crispy enough. Not the best zha leung (炸两) in town.

Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

Buddha Jumps Over The Wall (佛跳墙).

Hehehe I love the English name for 佛跳墙. A hearty dish with lots of vegetables, cloud ear fungus and Japanese egg tofu. Tastes rich but not too salty. My taste buds gave this a pass.

Stir-fry noodles with peppered beef.

Stir-fry noodles with beef in black bean sauce (豉椒牛肉炒面).

This dish was too salty and oily for my liking. I didn’t like the mushy-turned-powdery kind of texture that the noodles had. Average at best.

Aubergine claypot.

Aubergine in claypot.

I don’t know what is this called. It has aubergines, julienned carrots, bell peppers and shredded pork in it with some sort of sweet sauce. I’m more accustomed to the salty and spicy version of this (the dish is called “Sichuan fried eggplant” or 鱼香茄子), so I was taken aback by the sweetness of this dish. And omigah the oil. The oil from the fried aubergines spattered in my mouth. I needed to down giant gulps of tea to wash it down. Four words: I didn’t like it. Bleh.

Fish balls.

Fish balls, tofu blocks and faat choy in soup.

Again I don’t know what this is called. I liked this dish quite a lot. The fish balls have a texture between chewy and elastic, and they taste good. The soup has an umami taste with a hint of sweetness. That black stuff that looks like a clump of hair is called “faat choy” (发菜). I only knew that it’s actually a type of cyanobacteria when I googled it today. I’ve always thought that it was a kind of algae like seaweed. O.O

An international affair lol.

An international affair lol.

Quite a diverse group, eh?

I was mega full. Can anyone say gluttony? OMG I’ve been eating non-stop nowadays. Getting fat lo fat lo!!!

Until next time!

1, 2, 3, 4…Five Sails

May 14, 2012

Before transforming into a hermit in the Term 2 final exam period, Jenica and yours truly decided to treat our soon-to-be-UBC-alumnus, Aldhyan to a full-fledged fine dining experience at the Pan Pacific’s Five Sails Restaurant near Coal Harbour.

What was the special occasion you asked? We were supposed to celebrate Aldhyan’s B’day earlier but all of us had our hands full, so this was a belated B’day celebration. We were late for a few days, but no big deal haha!

This was my first time dining at Five Sails. I was informed that the dress code for the restaurant is business/smart casual, so I wore a grey long-sleeved shirt and a lace skirt with my dark blue tights (LOVE the opaque tights from American Apparel! Versatile colours and keep my legs warm throughout the cold season in Vanc). Topped it all with my favourite BCBG fringed blazer and a trench coat on the outside.

And lastly, the heels. Those dreadful Aldo’s 4″ pumps. I thought I would be comfortable enough to be walking in these heels when commuting from campus to the restaurant after adding the gel insoles and heel pads AND thinking that 4″ is not a big deal, as compared to a pair of 5″ . Oh you don’t know how wrong I was. The back of my heels were already killing me after the 10-minute walk from my dorm to the bus loop as my skin was rubbing against the shoe lining. Was literally limping all my way to the restaurant after getting off the SkyTrain at Waterfront Station to the restaurant wtf. LESSON LEARNED: Always commute in comfy sneakers first and then changed into heels before walking into the restaurant.

Anyway, enough of the ranting. Five Sails is located at the R level of the Pan Pacific Hotel. Upon my entrance, I was warmly welcomed by the owner of Five Sails, Gerry Sayers and a few of the staff, and was promptly escorted to the table where my friends were sitting at. We had 2 servers for our table: a Filipino woman in her 30s (probably 40s) and a Caucasian guy. We were given menus and Gerry explained the menus and wines that they were currently serving in April. We went for the Chef’s Tasting Menu (a 6-course menu including an amuse-bouche, CAD90 per person excluding tips and tax) and uncorked a bottle of BC white wine with a name I can’t really remember lol (I think it was Pinot gris). Aldhyan firmly resisted to drink anything alcoholic after all the shenanigans that happened during the UBC LFS Grad Dinner on the 30th of March. Don’t ask.

And hopefully you guys can see what’s on the menu……

The Chef’s Tasting Menu (Picture courtesy of Jenica).

I did a little bit of research on Five Sails. A lot of the reviews that I’ve encountered are for Dine Out Vancouver and they get mixed receptions. But by viva voce, Five Sails is one of the top-tiered fine dining restaurants to go for in Vancouver. So I have my own expectations.

Like any other high end restaurants, first we’ve got the bread and butter.

A basket of assorted bread slices, with butter.

I am not entirely sure what exactly were the kinds of bread served and whether or not the bread was made in house (it wasn’t listed on the menu and the servers didn’t explicitly mention anything about it), so judging by the taste, I’m guessing half of the loaf was five grains while the rest was some kind of bread with dried figs and nuts. The loaf was still warm when served, perfect to eat it with a slab of soft butter. I prefer the ones with the figs and nuts as it had a sweet taste. We swept the basket empty in no time as we were super hungry haha!

As I attempted to sweep away some of the crumbs on my table, our waiter quickly appeared with a metal crumber and cleaned our table for us. He jokingly said that if we swept the crumbs ourselves, we are actually taking away his job lol. This waiter is by-far the best waiter that I’ve encountered in my fine dining experience. He’s really friendly, soft-spoken and very attentive, not to mention his witty nature that keeps the diners entertained.

Not long after, our amuse-bouche arrived.

Amuse-bouche.

Amuse-bouche, is a French term for “mouth amuser”. It is a one-bite hors d’oeuvre that usually comes right before the main course. Our amuse-bouche was hamachi sashimi with citrus butter sauce paired with some sort of creamy soup (sorry I can’t remember @.@). A great starter. The sweet and fragrant citrus butter sauce really bought out the hamachi‘s taste. The soup was creamy and buttery, but texture wasn’t very thick and it had a velvety mouthfeel, which was surprising. It tasted even better when I dipped my bread into it! A random thought: Is dipping bread into the hors d’oeuvre soup considered as a fine dining etiquette faux pas?

I was impressed by the amuse-bouche, and that had amped up my expectation for the rest of the meal.

Caramelized scallop.

Oh goodie, scallooopppppp!!! Scallop is like, the only edible marine bivalve mollusc that I like. I can eat clams, cockles, oysters and such, but I’ll avoid eating them at all costs cos I loathe their texture. The scallop here was cooked to perfection! It wasn’t rubbery and I had no problem cutting it into smaller pieces. The cauliflower mouselline complemented the scallop perfectly. I’m not usually a fan of salted pickled capers, but they did work their magic in the dish.

Funny story: Whenever I see a pan-seared scallop, I think of Chef Ramsay and his “It’s RAAAWWWWW!!!” shriek along with his unstoppable diarrhoea of verbal obscenities when he discovered one of his contestants didn’t cook the scallops properly on Hell’s Kitchen lol.

A glimpse of the restaurant, and, of course our Jenicaaaaa.

The signature smile.

Yo Birthday Boy, look at the camera!

That’s better.

Bread and butter are of free flow. We nibbled on the bread while waiting for the next course to come.

Slow cooked Arctic char.

At first I thought it was salmon as it looked like salmon. I just realized that it was a piece of Arctic char after the waiter said the name of the dish. Well both salmon and Arctic char are cousins as they belonged to the Salmonidae family. It tastes similar to salmon, only a little more delicate. The Arctic char was very lightly salted and well-cooked, as presented by the gorgeous light coral colour in the picture. I loved the crispy skin on the Arctic char. I loved the creamy citrus sauce that accompanied the fish steak. The compressed spinach wasn’t salty at all, which was not a bad thing. The roasted slivered almonds added just the right amount of crunch and nuttiness to the spinach. Wasn’t exceptionally superb but this was definitely a good dish.

Roasted free range Fraser Valley quail.

OK I misread the menu and thought we were having quail eggs for this dish but in fact, the dish consisted of quail meat. The quail meat was wrapped in a thin slice of pancetta and I’m pretty sure that there was some foie gras in the middle because I could taste it. The texture of the quail is somewhat similar to that of duck, but the taste is akin to chicken meat, but with more moisture. The pancetta served as the “skin” of the quail meat; the natural jus brought out the distinct flavour of the roasted quail. The red kuri squash purée had a lovely sweet taste and nutty flavour; I daintily picked up the purée bit by bit and spread it onto my pre-cut bite-sized quail, sunk my fork into the meat, dragged it across the area that contained the natural jus, picked everything up and finally, shoved it into my mouth, leisurely. The cress salad did a great job in cleansing my palate after I’d devoured everything, with a little help from a sip of the white wine of course. 😀

Roasted loin of Fallow Deer.

Ah, this dish. Where should I begin? Here’s the thing, my appetite was suppressed quite a bit when our jocular waiter carefully laid the plate in front of me. I’m not very fond of eating partially cooked meat that still has a conspicuous shade of red oozing out. I find it…revolting…… No offense to you peeps who find joy in consuming meat that is saignant or à point. I should have requested for a medium earlier.

Blooooodyyyyy.

The roasted Fallow Deer meat was glazed with honey and dates, and served with Sauce Poivrade (sauce of white wine, clear stock, espagnole and crushed peppercorn). You can see that the colour goes from dark pink to amaranth to a glistening light pinkish-crimson red at the centre. The meat was tender and succulent, but I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was chewing meat that was not quite done together with its bloody juice. *Shudders*. I think that the taste of the glaze was too mild, that is the taste of dates and honey was merely there. I still prefer my deer meat to be fired up in a wok with black pepper and onions, Chinois style lol. The mirepoix was sautéed with butter, and underneath it was a spread of mashed potato. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the mash! Creamy but yet very fluffy and delicate! I wished the chef could prepare more of it, or better yet, have it as a standalone side on the menu.

Beside the deer meat was a stalk of sautéed asparagus wrapped with Comté cheese and homemade pasta, à la gratin. And at the far corner, there were slices of cooked shiitake mushroom. Nothing particularly special about these. Personally I found the presentation of this dish a tad bit messy. The asparagus and mushroom slices seemed so out of place. I would say, this was my least favourite course of the meal.

OK now we were heading towards our last course, which was dessert. I was still pretty hungry and I asked if the rests also felt the same and without surprise, they nodded without any hesitations. I asked the waitress for the menu and she was stunned when we told her that we were considering getting an à la carte main course. She curiously asked if we were still that hungry and all of us said “YES!”. Our male server later joined in the conversation and he too was shocked to learn that we were to order a main. The owner, Gerry was alerted and she sounded alarmed as she exclaimed,”My goodness, this is truly our first time to see that our clients who went for the Chef’s Tasting Menu are still hungry towards the end of the meal! This had never happened before. You guys have amazing appetite!” It was humorous to see that she was actually sincerely concerned lol.

Gerry left our table while we were still deciding on what to get. She then returned shortly and something very unexpected happened. She told us that the Head Chef, which is also the restaurant’s owner and Gerry’s husband, Ernst Dorfler, decided to let us have another course that was completely COMPLIMENTARY!!! OH EM GEEEE!!! We were pleasantly surprised and utterly delighted! Totally didn’t expect this to happen. We made a brief deliberation on which main course (only restricted to the ones in the Chef’s Tasting Menu, but heck, we were not complaining, it was FREE!) and decided to have the Arctic char since we all liked it and thought it was more “worth it” (I know, we are kiasu people hahaha). Everything seemed too good to be true and we double-checked with Gerry. She chuckled, and reassured us that this dish cost nothing, stating that it’s their duty to ensure that every customer should leave the restaurant with a happy stomach along with tremendous satisfaction. My gosh, I’m soooo tipping them handsomely hahaha!

While waiting for our C.O.M.P.L.I.M.E.N.T.A.R.Y (can’t help it heehee) dish, I played around with my camera for a bit.

It’s time to clean your windows! 😛

Glimpse of North Vanc at night.

Should have used Manual mode to shoot. Oh well.

Not long after, our food arrived. Gerry came to our table again and told us that the Chef had decided to add a scallop alongside the Arctic char, and again, it was entirely free! At that very moment, I really really wanted to give Gerry a big hug and kiss her on the cheek! Best service evaaaaa!!! I felt loved!

FREE! FREE! FREE!!!

The size of the Arctic char and the scallop did not diminish at all! It’s like, we got a total of 8 individual dishes for 90 bucks!

We were ready for desserts after the dish. Along with our last course, our waiter also brought a good-looking (LOL!) chocolate cake (I think it was their Chocolate Opera Slice) with a lit candle and a chocolate piece with ‘Happy Birthday’ on it, and put it in front of Aldhyan. Oh, so that was why our waiter asked us what special occasion were we celebrating for before our amuse-bouche was served! Sneaky!

“A chocolate cake? For moi?”

Say chilli!

Didn’t try Aldhyan’s cake cos he wanted it all for himself hhhmmmfff! Kidding. I bet it was good. In fact, I think all of their desserts should be downright delectable, in terms of taste and appearance. The ladies who came later in the evening, sitting at the table beside us came here just for desserts!

Luxe lemon mille-feuilles.

Two words: Mama likes! The phyllo pastry layers were soooo delicate! The chilled lemon cream was by far, the best that I’ve ever had; the balance between the sweetness and the sourness was spot on. Nope, no diabetes-inducing sweetness nor sharp acidic taste that’s enough for any homo sapien to present a sour face involuntarily here. The orange “caviar” was really interesting; the beads were like cooked sago with faint orange flavour. The thing beside the lemon phyllo is chocolate wonton. Ummpphhhh. CHOCOLATE WONTON! And it was bittersweet dark chocolate some more! Could this day get any better???

We were literally sinking to our chairs and rubbing our belly after the whirlwind of food galore. Along with our bill, our waiter also handed out this:

Minis!

Bittersweet dark chocolate pieces and mini raspberry (or was it strawberry?) cream biscuits, made in-house. Again the sweetness was just right. Love the chocolate!

I asked the waiter if the restaurant sells these chocolates, he said that they’re not for sale as they’re exclusively for Five Sails customers only. “Too bad,” I exclaimed,”they’re magnificent chocolates!” And guess what? While we were footing our bill, the waiter brought in another plate of the minis! As if we hadn’t had enough surprises in one evening! OMIGAH I’M OFFICIALLY IN LOVE WITH THIS PLACE!!! Lol.

The bill, taken days later.

Bottom line: 5 things that describe Five Sails Restaurant in a nutshell: Great food, wonderful ambiance, awesome location (terrific view of the Vancouver Harbour and North Vancouver, both day and night), highly attentive staff, and most of all, customer service that is très magnifique! We were treated like royalties (with imaginary crowns and tiaras on top)! I can’t wait to return to this restaurant again. For those who have yet to set foot in this restaurant, go do it naaaaoooowwwww! You definitely won’t regret it!

P.S. Shout out to the Caucasian waiter who served us: You. Are. AWWWZUUM!

*      *      *

I dunno if any of you girls out there, but my feet tend to be really picky towards the heels that I wear. It’s like I can’t never find a perfect heels that are 4″ and above. Even though I’m wearing the right size (US 4.5-5 or UK size 3), the fit seems to be off when I’m walking in them, i.e. the pumps will always slip from my feet. I thought I only had problem with Aldo pumps or the other brands in the same price range, so I decided to try on pumps from the higher end brands in Holt Renfrew to see if there’s a difference. Same thing happened. Is it because I’m lack of the proper techniques and practice when walking in heels? Or could it be due to the shape of my feet (I doubt it)? Or all pumps are generally like this and for the sake of vanity we girls just have to deal with it? I always wonder how can the catwalk models pull off skyscraper heels so effortlessly. Sigh, so frustrating.

Something worth “chirping” about

January 16, 2012

It all started with a comment on my friend’s Facebook wall:

Aldhyan (A): Hey, you guys wanna try some special pizza? Had it twice. I’m super free tomorrow.

Jenica (J): Sure! I don’t have anything on tomorrow. Where is the place?

Me: I’m free too, where is the place?

A: Vij’s Rangoli.

Me: Oooohhh! That’s a pretty renown Indian restaurant in Vancouver!

J: How do you know about the restaurant?

Me: It’s always on those food mags and newspapers food column.

Me: BTW Aldhyan, pizza in an Indian place???

A: Yup they’ve got a very interesting pizza. Must go and try it!

Me: Are you talking about their naan pizza? I’m looking at their menu now.

J: I don’t see it on the menu.

A: It IS on the menu. Must read carefully.

Me: *Gasp* The 1 w/ crickets???

J: Oh! I found it. *scream in horror*

A: Yup, that’s their special pizza. I ate it twice. Sooo good. You guys die die must try.

J: Lol die die must try.

Me: Ok I trust you.

J: Just close your eyes and eat it. Everything will taste good.

Me: Must bring camera to record that glorious moment. Oh ya, how did u know abt the cricket pizza btw?

A: Heard it from my prof last term, and don’t worry, no antennae or legs.

Me: Lol I’m not afraid at all. BRING IT ON! I can chow down those creepy crawlies any time.

J: Wait and see tomorrow. Who back out, who pay the bill.

A+me: Deal!

So off we went to Vij’s Rangoli.

Vij’s. I’ve encountered this name from numerous newspapers, Vancouver food blogs and also restaurant review websites since I set foot in Vancouver about 2 years ago. From what I’ve read, many complain that the price does not equate well to the portion served, despite having an overall pleasant journey on the taste buds. I’ve been wanting to try it out, but most of my friends are simply not interested.

So, today is the day.

Arrived around 1pm in front of the restaurant. Vij’s Rangoli is like a “spin-off” of Vij’s; compared to its elegant fine dining brother next door, Vij’s Rangoli has a more lively and casual atmosphere. I didn’t expect the restaurant to be so tiny; the inside of the restaurant can only accommodate up to ~25 people at most, excluding the few tables in the patio (who the hell wanna sit outdoor when the weather is so effin’ cold???). The interior of the restaurant also struck me as awkward; the restaurant doubles as a mini-market where customers can get the cough*overpriced*cough prepackaged food or condiments that are made in-house with no preservatives added (as they claimed). First you see the cashier on your immediate left corner when you enter, and then a few glass-windowed commercial refrigerators arranged side by side along the left wall; a few wooden racks filled with spices for sale in front of the refrigerators when you look straight; and lastly the rest of the space is the dining area. Because it was rush hour when I arrived, I had to wait for seats. There wasn’t any waiting chairs for the customers so I stood near the cashier. The place is so small that I had to make way for the people coming in and out of the restaurant and also dodge away from busy waiters that were on their way to serve food to the customers. My friends arrived a few minutes later and we waited for about 10 minutes until we got seated.

We were seated at a table that’s obviously only just right for 2 people. We were very sure that the table would not fit all of our dishes, not to mention our plates and glasses. We were all set to get the cricket pizza, and we took a moment to look for another 2 dishes since Aldhyan told us that the portion is pretty small and there were 3 growling stomachs waiting to be fed. One of the waiters took down our order and he was like,”Ah so you guys are having the cricket naan pizza? Excellent choice! I can tell you that you won’t regret eating it.” With this comment, our biological electrons instantaneously leaped from the ground state to the excite state.

Packed with hungry diners.

Before we got our food, I tried to ask one of the waitresses whether we could switch to a bigger table. The Asian waitress, rose her tone and replied that “the restaurant is very full and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to move you to another table. You will have to deal with it” in an arrogant and impatient manner with a face that says “I don’t give a F***. You customers are not always right”, and then walked away swiftly, which made the 3 of us raised our eyebrows. WHAT. THE. HELL. What kind of attitude is that??? Did I step onto your tail or something?  I’ve asked you nicely and I even gave you a sweet smile!

The only space that we had.

But moments later, the waiter who took our order told us that there’s a larger table and moved us there. So much better. His attitude was a total 180-degree of the Asian waitress that’s so full of herself. Whatever. We were not going to let some four-feet-nine banana spoil our day.

Jenica, the shark lol.

Oh I’m so totally gonna get bricked when she sees the caption haha!

Fine dining?

Apparently B&W photography adds a mysterious vibe to the simplest things in life. Shall delve more deeply into B&W!

Fun lighting!

I was so happy that our seats were facing a giant window. Needed the lighting for shooting scrumptious food.

As we were chatting and laughing hysterically at nothing, our food arrived.

Behold, the legendary Naan “Pizza” with Roasted Crickets and Paneer!

Chirp chirp.

From afar, the pizza looks like any other pizza out there. From a passer-by’s point of view, the “black stuff” looks like black beans and the like.

Looks very appetizing, doesn’t it? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

A closer shot.

Does it creep you out now? *hears scream in horror* lol

Say aaahhhhhh~~~

Aldhyan’s 3rd time chowing down the chirping critters. This guy loves his crickets!

Satisfied.

Jenica was nervous about the crickets before the pizza arrived. But look at her now!

I was really excited when the pizza was served. I thought I was gonna be hesitant when taking my first bite, but to my surprise, I shoved the pizza into my mouth right after I picked it up. Probably too hungry to care haha!

Going......

Going......

Gone!

The taste. Hmmm, where should I begin? Biting off a small piece was fairly easy, which means that the naan is not too hard or overly chewy. The paneer (i.e. Indian fresh cheese) is similar to cottage cheese, except that it’s not salty; the soft texture does not stick to your teeth during mastication. The naan is coated with a layer of yellowish-brown lentil and tomato curry, which gives some spiciness to the pizza, but I secretly wished that it could be more spicy. And as for the crickets…they were damn delicious! They’re roasted with some spices (I’m pretty sure that one of them is cumin) to a near-charred state. They provided the extra crunch to the pizza that’s moistened with the sauce, almost similar to adding rice crispies onto your pizza.

I ate the crickets by themselves and I was really surprised by their unique taste. No it was not repulsive. No the texture did not throw me off. The first thing that came to my mind was, the taste was somewhat familiar to me, as if I’ve had it somewhere. Then I immediately thought of the dried shrimps (虾米) in Malaysia that we use to make sambal udang. The Chinese also use these dried shrimps to make the XO sauce. The crickets have some sort of umami flavour, but not as distinct as that in the dried shrimps. They also have a hint of grassy taste and they are lightly salted. I think I’ve discovered my new-found favourite.

All of the tables in the dining area is arranged in a close proximity from one to the other. While we were busy assaulting the cricket pizza, we could see the diners who sat beside us were peeping at the pizza with a slightly scrunched face from the corner of our eyes. It was so obvious that they were disgusted lol. When all 3 of us acknowledge that the diners were looking at us and our pizza, we purposely became so vocal in praising the taste of the pizza and evaluated the sensory aspects of the crickets in an over-the-top fashion, just to cause annoyance from the diners. Not surprisingly, bugs are not everyone’s favourite, especially when it’s one of the ingredients in your food. 😛

And not to forget about the other dishes that we had:

Tamarind and yogurt marinated grilled natural chicken.

We ordered this as we thought it sets itself apart from the others in the menu. But I was quite disappointed with this dish when I tried it. The sprouts salad was too salty for my liking, I couldn’t even take a second bite of it. The naan was quite hard to be bitten off and it was pretty chewy, compared to the naan used in the pizza. Maybe it was because the naan pizza were in the oven longer? I like the curry that came with it though; it was not too runny, had a chock full of spices in it and it was somewhat sour. I don’t know why but it reminded me of tom yum, even though I knew that their tastes are worlds apart. I like to banjir or “flood” my basmati rice and the naan with the curry, just like how we do it with the roti canai in Malaysia lol. It’s a Malaysian thing.

As for the chicken, there wasn’t anything special about it. The chicken tastes like tandoori chicken, and it was too dry (the burnt bits are the telltale sign). Isn’t the yogurt supposed to moistened the chicken for a bit? And also, isn’t the tamarind supposed to give a sweet and sour taste to the chicken? I didn’t taste that in the chicken. Sure the chicken was flavoured with a dash of spices, but sadly it still came to me as bland. A letdown indeed. :/

Goat and jackfruit in creamy curry.

We ordered this cos we saw the word “jackfruit” in the menu. Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that is wildly cultivated in South East Asia and India. It has a fleshy and starchy texture and it can be eaten raw when ripen. Like the King of Fruit, it also exudes a distinct smell that’s easily distinguishable when one holds it closely to his nose. I have a fond memory of jackfruit as my house has a lot of jackfruit trees nearby. It’s nice to bump into it again, especially in Vancouver where tropical fruits are so exclusive. My cousin had jackfruits when she was in Hawaii and she fell in love with it ever since. She knew that there are lots of jackfruit trees around my house in Malaysia and she constantly asks me to bombard her with jackfruits when she visits Malaysia haha!

Ah, this is more like it! Let’s start with the coconut and cabbage salad. Again, the salad is too salty. What’s with the immense love for salt when it comes to salad??? It makes me ponder. Also, I’m pretty sure that they scrapped the coconut flesh out from an older coconut as the flesh was harder and crunchier. The flesh of a young coconut is softer. Oh I miss the coconuts that I had in Bangkok! TT

As the name has suggested, the curry is indeed creamy. It’s thick, rich and has a consistency that can almost pass as a condiment. It has all the spices you need for curry, and the spiciness is just about right. It tastes really good when you banjir your naan/rice with it. The taste of this curry is really different from the taste of the curry in the tamarind chicken dish. The goat meat was cooked to perfection and it absorbed the flavour of the curry really well. It was tender and easily sheared with your teeth.

Using jackfruit as an ingredient in the Malaysiann cuisine is not as common as that in Indonesia, so the idea of including it in the curry was very interesting. It puzzled me when I found that the jackfruit used in the curry was not sweet at all. My Indonesian friends explained that only the young fruit is used for cooking as it has a texture simulates chicken meat and there’s no sweetness associated to it. Oooo now I get it! The jackfruit did have a meaty texture. Intriguing. I wonder how it will taste like if a sweet ripen jackfruit is used instead; will it taste better with the subtle sweetness? Or will it give a weird taste in the case where the sweetness is totally altered into some other taste when the jackfruit is cooked? I wonder……

Tiny tiny bubbles.

We were still not that full after devouring everything. The desserts on the menu didn’t interest us, so we foot the bill and headed to downtown for cheesecakes.

The bill.

* * *

We took the bus to downtown and walked to Trees Organic. Of all the cheesecakes that I’ve had in Vancouver, theirs is by far, THE BEST.

We arrived there around 3.15pm. The café was very full and the line at the cashier was ridiculous. But luckily, we got some seats right after we’ve ordered.

Oh yeeaaahhhh.

Far back from left: Mocha cheesecake and The Sin cheesecake. Front: Apple Crumble cheesecake (mine). Drink: apple cider.

I love how the staff in the café would decorate the plate that contains the cheesecake slice.

Apple Crumble cheesecake.

I’ve been here countless times and I’ve tried almost all of their cheesecakes. The Apple Crumble one is their featured cheesecake of the month and it was selling like hot cakes, so I just had to try it. Well, appearance wise, the real thing was far from what is being advertised on their posters. It wasn’t packed with the apple chunks like they’ve described, but nevertheless, you can still taste the softened apple chunks that are cooked with a dash of cinnamon amidst the rich and sinful combo of the buttery crumble, the creamy cheesecake filling and the sub-crunchy digestive biscuit base. Eating it with the cream and the caramel sauce is just lovely. It’s heavenly. In fact, all of their cheesecakes are divine. I love this place so much that whenever I made new friends through dining and gatherings, I would always drag them along to this place for desserts. And since then all of them are now hooked with this place thanks to me. Maybe the owner of Trees Organic should consider giving me some commission since I am constantly introducing new customers to them haha!

By far, my all-time favourite is their chocolate orange cheesecake that I had last year. It is not always on the menu and you can only get it in certain time. Every time I went to Trees Organic, I prayed hard that they’ll have the chocolate orange cheesecake in their glass fridge, but my prayer is yet to be answered lol. Oh please please please have that in your fridge! *puppydogface*

Until next time folks!

East Is East!

December 24, 2011

Ah, time to have a short break  after one hell of a term! AND, Xmas is just around the corner! Woohoo!

As my friend Manjeet has said,”‘Tis the season to pig out and let it loose!” I have to agree with her on that. Since school has started I haven’t been eating out that often because I was literally drowning in the sea of reports, projects, presentations, quizzes, assignments and exams. I’ve been so damn guai (i.e. being a good kid) for nearly 3 months; I cooked most of the time, and my friends got so annoyed at me because I was always complaining about carrying 2 full bags of groceries from the Safeway at MacDonald Street (I prefer to go there as it has more choices than the one at Sasamat Street) to my dorm. It’s an 8-minute walk from my dorm to the bus loop plus a 15-minute bus trip ONE WAY. I was always half-dead when I reached my doorstep after the grocery trip lol.

Anyway, I was craving for Indian food for a while now and Manjeet came out with this brilliant idea of going to an South Asian restaurant called East Is East. I said her idea was “brilliant” because it came at the right time, but most importantly, that place serves seriously good South Asian food. She always mentioned this place to me but I’d yet to try that place out. I immediately jumped for it when she and Renata asked me to go there today.

It was freezing out there because of the chilly wind even though it wasn’t snowing. We got off the 99 B-Line at Alma Street and walked for a few blocks, and scurried our way into the restaurant as we could no longer stand the cold. East Is East shares the same shop unit with Silk ‘N Spice; judging from their website, I can safely assume that both restaurants have the same owner.

Layout of the restaurant, and a glimpse of our lovely Renata 😀

It was only 4-ish in the evening by the time we got there but darkness was already looming in. The restaurant was very dimly-lit, but I kinda like the romantic and sultry ambiance that the place emanates. The interior is synonymous with those South Asian dens. On one side the wall is clad in Persian carpets with motifs, while you can see monotone floral wallpaper on the opposite wall. The space is furnished with dark wooden tables with the height that reaches your knees along with cushioned benches.

We were given with a menu pretty quickly as soon as we sat down on our benches. I wanted everything on their menu because I was starving at that point. Famished even! It’s a good thing that I’ve done a little bit of research on the menu before going there (how typical of me!), so I made my decision in a jiffy. A waitress served us glasses of water and took our order. We also got shots of their darjeeling masala chai for free! Sweet!

Darjeeling masala chai in a cute expresso cup.

I was surprised by the level of sweetness in their chai. I was expecting it to be very very sweet like those in Starbucks. Oh wait, maybe I shouldn’t have done the comparison since the chai in Starbucks is not even legit.  Ahem. With the sweetness aside, I was quite disappointed with the watered-down spice in the chai because I prefer it with a hefty amount of spice. It also had some bitterness/astringency associated with the sweetness, which was new to me. Manjeet explained that might be because of the darjeeling they used.

We didn’t have to wait very long for our food. There were merely any customers during that time. Certainly the best time to go to a restaurant if you want quick service and full attention from the waiters/waitresses.

Silk Route Feast (with mango butternut squash and chicken masala).

I went for their signature tasting menu called the “Silk Route Feast”. I got to choose any 2 of the dishes under the Feast section that comes with dhal soup, salad, boulani, roti, garlic pickle, Afghan and basmati rice. I chose mango butternut squash and chicken masala, and I  tell you, I didn’t have any regret at all ‘cos the dishes were SO GOOD! The mango butternut squash is a vegan dish cooked with coconut milk, curry leaves, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, while the masala chicken dish is…well, masala chicken haha. I love the play of spice in my tongue while devouring the dishes. The sweet mango and the tender butternut squash blended so well with the spices. The chicken was cut to the right size (delicate bite-size) and it absorbed the masala well. Everything went perfectly with the Afghan and basmati rice.

The boulani (Afghan leek pancake) is, shall I say, the “distant cousin” of the Chinese scallion pancake (葱油饼). The texture is quite similar to the Chinese counterpart, only that it’s slightly soggy. I ate it with herb yogurt after dunking it into the dhal, pretty satisfied with it. The roti on the other hand, is splendid! It’s by far the best roti I’ve ever tasted since coming to Vancouver. It’s firm, somewhat flaky and gives you the smooth “sandy” mouthfeel which I love. I also ate it with dhal and herb yogurt. Heavenly, I tell you.

The only letdown of the Feast was the salad. It’s your typical garden salad with chunks of beets and chicory and other greens which I don’t remember drizzled in balsamic vinegar. The salad was blah and I had to eat it with some spicy mango chutney and tamarind chutney to sort of “revive” the taste, otherwise I wouldn’t touch it anymore after the 1st tasting. Also, maybe I’m used to the thick dhal that we have in Malaysia, I find the dhal here is too runny for my liking. The runny-ness makes it to be classified as a “soup”. Oh in addition, it doesn’t have a “full” burst of spice when you shove it into your mouth. Meh.

I was pretty full by the time I licked off the last bit of my mango butternut squash from my spoon lol. BUT, there’s always room for desserts!

Nutty Gypsy.

I wanted their “Eastern Shakes” because all of these shakes have combination that is unconventional. Daring even! I went for the Nutty Gypsy ‘cos I had never tried nuts and chocolate blended into a shake before. I mean, I’ve had nutty chocolate bars but they aren’t my favourite. :/ But since both of them are in a shake, it couldn’t be as bad right?

Upon taking my first sip, I immediately fell in love with it. Oooohh it was ridiculously DELICIOUS! It has frozen yogurt and organic milk, nicely blended with mixed nuts and chocolate (I believe it’s chocolate syrup ‘cos the drink is quite sweet), fused with a dash of cinnamon and cardamom. The concoction is seriously an elixir from heaven. The mixed nuts include bits of pistachio, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. Frothy, thick and crunchy. Yummehhh. Maybe I should try blending this at home since I kinda know what are the ingredients that they used. We’ll see.

Think that’s it? Think again.

BAM!!!

Kir.

I seriously pigged my heart out. Both Renata and Manjeet stared at me in disbelief when I was running through the “Eastern Desserts” section on the back of the menu lol. Whaaattt??? I was curious about the desserts that they have!

Anyway, I ordered the kir (or kheer) after some “careful consideration” lol. I was undecided between the kir and Easter Ecstasy. I was initially inclined towards Eastern Ecstasy as it has the kir and the gulab jaman, meaning that I could get the best of both worlds. But Manjeet warned me about the sweetness of the gulab jaman is no joke and she knew where my sweetness tolerance is at. So at the end of the day I went for the kir, which is rice pudding with some pistachio and rosewater. And my decision turned out to be the correct choice.

I was expecting the rice pudding to be uber sweet (a preconception formed after living in Vancouver for a while) but I was wrong. It has the right amount of sweetness, and the rice pudding is very creamy, unlike the Jell-O rice pudding which has a firm, gelatinous texture. Yet, your tongue can still feel the soften rice grains in the pudding, along with the crunchy pistachio bits. The mild fragrance from the rosewater lingers in your palate after you’ve swallowed the pudding; it makes me feel felicitous with sheer euphoria.

The 3 of us were walking like fat penguins after the feast haha! I think I went overboard with the amount of food, but I was thoroughly satisfied.

Thanks Manjeet and Renata for bringing me there!

Flashback: 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver (Part 2)

July 6, 2011

Yay! Finally, it’s Part 2!

Jom jalan-jalan! (continued)

So we had a blast in the year 2010 Chinese New Year. Both of my cousins and their families came all the way from Seattle to celebrate CNY with us. Boy, it sure was noisy at my aunt’s house lol! They went back on the 3rd day of CNY, so my uncle, aunt and I went to walk around Granville Island since there were some Olympics events going on there.

After having dim sum for brunch, we went straight ahead for Granville Island.

Hot ride.

Saw this in my cousin’s apartment car park. Cadillac, I think?

Granville Island Public Market.

All the high-rise condos across the inlet.

Granville Bridge.

The House of Switzerland was set up for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. This Swiss guest centre featured a variety of Swiss chocolates and cheese for public sample. The centre was also used as a fan-meeting place for die-hard sport fans to meet their favourite Swiss athletes.

The House of Switzerland.

We saw a long lineup in one of the door in the House of Switzerland. My aunt heard from a woman in the line saying that the Swiss are giving off free pins to the people who line up. So, without any hesitation (and with a kiasu mentality instilled in most Chinese people), my aunt and uncle quickly dragged me along to queue up without asking what the line was really for. We were in the line for about 20 minutes until I couldn’t stand waiting and asked the guy in front of me what’s the deal for the queue. He told me that the Swiss were giving out free beer and THAT was what they were queuing for.  WTH. All the waiting for nothing, but at least I got a cute Swiss pin while queuing.

We left the queue and ended up taking pictures around the guest centre.

Happy couple lol.

It was very crowded in Granville Island. Well, it was pretty sunny, after all. We walked around the market to “see see look look”. That includes salivating over the food in the glass display lol.

Crowded patio.

I wonder if the patio will collapse if it is that crowded everyday.

Sight-seeing bus with a Samsung-sponsored Olympics ad.

We went to downtown to walk around. I took my aunt and uncle up to the 2nd floor of the Future Shop and  Winners building to check out the awesome view of the crowded intersection that I discovered.

Still that crowded.

The couple was like “Holy moley!!!” when they looked out the windows.

Zoomed in.

They stood out so much.

Welcome world!

We then left the building and walked towards Robson Square.

Looks like an overflowing vomit haha.

At Robson Square.

And then we saw this:

What ON EARTH is that???

A yeti!

Finally we went to the Hyatt Regency Hotel to check out the Korea House. On the newspapers, it boasted an array of  “fascinating” high-tech showcases that would definitely “wow the crowd”. We had high expectations and we couldn’t wait to go inside to take a look.

But, the real thing was really just a small event room with slide shows on the walls and some booths with TV showing the Korean culture virtually. Very blah. The only thing that was interesting was the multi-touch table. It was like giant iPad where you could drag windows around and type on it.

The giant iPad predecessor?

The booth lady helped us to take a picture using a Samsung camera that was attached to the giant tablet with a USB cord. We could use the tablet to send the picture to whoever we want. I have to admit, it was pretty cool.

* * * * * *

A few days later, I went to Richmond to check out the Richmond O Zone with a friend.

It was all dark and gloomy that day, with light drizzle of rain trickling down our faces. But there was still a queue at the entrance of the Richmond O Zone.

The Richmond O Zone.

After we went in, to our left were the stalls selling Olympics stuff. We saw a very long lineup not far away from the entrance.

Never-ending line.

Guess what they were lining up for?

The Heineken House.

I was thinking to explore the Heineken House, the virtual tour in the promo vid looks really good and tempting. But after seeing the impatient faces in the line, I gave up on the idea. It became one of the  hottest party pit during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics at night, with DJs and artists flown in from Holland. There were also a Food Plaza and an Olympic Club inside the Heineken House. I think that the Dutch were giving out free Heineken beer to the public on that day, or else the lineup couldn’t have been that ridiculous. I mean, who doesn’t love free beer? AND, it was freakin’ Heineken, one of the top beer brands in the world.

There were a handful of booths and tents in the Richmond O Zone. We went around to take a look.

The Coca-Cola booth.

The Coca-Cola booth had a 3D display of can recycling and that was it. What? No free Coke??? *sad face*

BCLC 2010 Winter Games Dome.

There were a lot of people in the BCLC tent, especially kids. We peeked inside and quickly became disinterested after finding out that most of the stuff in the tent were simulations of the different winter sports. Kids loved it though. In case you are wondering, BCLC stands for British Columbia Lottery Corporation.

The O Zone main stage.

There wasn’t any band playing at the stage when we were there. Bad timing.

Outdoor skating track.

The outdoor skating track was half the size of a 400m running track. The outdoor temperature was cold enough to prevent the ice from melting away (we were freezing!). Not many people skated on that day as it was raining.

Icy.

Without warning, the drizzle suddenly became a heavy downpour. My friend and I didn’t bring our umbrellas and quickly took shelter in one of the unused booths. We waited for a while for the rain to stop, but no, it became heavier. We had no choice but to buy each of us an umbrella from an Olympics gift shop nearby. It was freakin’ CAD25 man! Super expensive for a small umbrella!

One of the attractions in the Richmond O Zone was the ICE GATE. I didn’t really know what it was and was eager to see it; it was quite a walk from where we were since everything was so spread-out in the Richmond O Zone.

Saw this near the ICE GATE:

Rolls freakin' Royce.

What is this? It’s pretty obvious.

An aircraft engine!

I didn’t know that the luxury car brand produces engines for aviation purposes! So cool!

Massive.

Saw this tree bark covered with writings in ink in one of the tents near the Rolls Royce engine:

Permitted vandalism?

There was a 60-foot Inniskillin Wines tasting bar for wine lovers. Although alcohol was also featured, it wasn’t as crowded as the Heineken House though. Perhaps the Inniskillin is for people with class AND monehhhh? *doing the money gesture*

Inniskillin ice sculpture.

The ICE GATE, which was the work of Canadian artist Gord Halloran, was presented by Inniskillin Wines. I was expecting something VERY big since the thing was called the “ICE GATE”. When I saw the real thing, I had a huge “Oh, cheeeehhhhh” moment. You Malaysians will definitely know what I mean.

The ICE GATE.

It was……not that big. It was no more than a few pieces of ice, painted in different colours, kept in a giant clear-walled refrigerator. On the Inniskillin website, it says that “the painted ice will evolve over time as it melts and refreezes”. I didn’t see the so-called “evolution”. Maybe I had to glue my eyes to the art piece the whole time so that I wouldn’t miss the moment where it decreased by 1 cubic centimetre that would give a barely noticeable change to the original?

Is it evolving?

Hmmm, the ICE GATE was quite pretty, but not breathtaking enough. I think it might look more impressive at night where the colours would be more vivid with the help of the lighting. I was being critical. Blame the shitty weather.

Sigh. Why does Vancouver have to rain so much???

Part 3 coming up soon!

 

*Insert Your Own Title*

June 3, 2011

Hey there! How’s everyone doing lately?

Eeewww, what’s up with this disgusting sudden burst of cheeriness and perkiness? LOL.

Just got back from my UK+Paris+Amsterdam trip a few days ago. Man, my system crashed so hard after the 2-week whirlwind of fun. I felt so freakin’ energetic during the whole trip and wanted to see as many things as possible as if I was afraid that I would miss some of the must-sees. Oh all the walking……

Anyway, I’m in the midst of packing (Malaysia here I come!) and sorting out all the pics that I’ve taken in my trip (effin’ 1500++ of them!), so I won’t be able to post anything related to that (yes, I’m still working on my Olympic post don’t worry!).

I feel like posting about the one of the magazine photoshoots that I like, so here you go! Oh and regarding the title, I’m too lazy to think of any, so yeah. Hehe.

This is the photoshoot for Vogue Girl (Korea) September 2010 issue with Kim Soo Hyun. He starred in a 2011 Korean drama called “Dream High” (click here for Kim Soo Hyun’s bio). Just discovered him last year while wasting my otherwise-productive time on Allkpop (damn you, Allkpop!). The website was delivering the news of this photoshoot at that time.

Kim Soo Hyun.

Man, this guy is totally my type! Tall, statuesque, chiseled profile, with a healthy-looking complexion and alluring eyes with a touch of mischief.

Spacing out...

The pose is somewhat awkward, but I’ll let him pass this one haha.

"I'm in a hurry but I'll still give you this smoldering stare!"

Death-inducing puppy dog stare.

I have a weakness for puppy dog stare. No wonder I like Song Seung Hyun and Won Bin, while Choikang Changmin is my bias in TVXQ.

Look at his arms! *Slurp*

"I'm killing you softly with my gaze."

Yes I’m pushing the daisies now looking at his gaze. The black leather jacket boldly spells “H-U-N-K-A-L-I-C-I-O-U-S B-A-D B-O-Y”!

Smokin'!

Love the unruly hair. Love the shirt too. I’m totally lost in his stare right now…

And now, brace yourselves for the ultimate all-kill……

Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh *pulling out my hair*

He’s playing innocent while killing you with his six-pack. Guilty as not charged.

Seriously I will do anything that you can think of to that hunk. Why are you so sexy??? 왜 (Why)??? And why is there no guys like him exist in Vancouver??? 왜???

I feel like transforming into a werewolf when the full moon comes. Watch out, Kim Soo Hyun. Oowwwwwwoooooooooo……

Pervy much? No, it’s just human nature. I bet guys will go gay for a hunk like this. Just sayin’.

Until next time!

Picture credits: As tagged.