Dine Out Vancouver – Miku

Miku 1st and 2nd courses | Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2014

It seems like ever since I started my new job I haven’t had much motivation to blog.  Which is funny because I have the means and the leisure to eat at many more places.  Still, it’s a new year and new resolutions include writing more.

I feel I should write a disclaimer about my prejudice against Dine Out.  While Dine Out is marketed as an opportunity to try new high-end dining places for a reasonable, I think the reality is very different.  My past experiences are very hit or miss.  Not only is it extremely difficult to get a reservation, the food also tends to suffer.  Last year especially, there were many complaints that the prices were not worth the food offerings.  As a result, I tend to only try one new restaurant a year during Dine Out because it’s simply not worth the hassle.

This year, I opted to visit Miku with my mom and sister for a girls’ lunch.  Miku had a 3 course lunch menu for $28, which was one of the pricier restaurants.  However, Miku has a reputation for high end sushi in a city with many cheap sushi eats, and we had wanted to try it for some time.

The restaurant has a gorgeous view of the ocean.  I loved the stylized Japanese koi stream painted on the wall.  Overall, the decor was very West Coast with a Japanese twist.  They also have an open kitchen.  I think the open kitchen combined with aburi smell results in a faint fishy smell throughout the restaurant.

It was fairly busy when we arrived but we were seated immediately.  My sister and I both opted for the Dine Out menu while my mom had the vegetarian sushi combo.  We split a serving of kale goma-ae.  The vegetarian sushi pieces were all impressive.  The avocado roll had at least 5 layers of thinly sliced avocado on top from what we could see.  Also, the kale goma-ae was tender and well-seasoned – the sauce had a hint of black sesame instead of just the typical white sesame paste.

From the Dine Out website menu:

Appetizer : (from left to right in the photo)

Soy Braised Beef Shank: yukon potato puree, wasabi veal jus

Ebi Fritter: sweet chili aioli, soy balsamic reduction

Aburi Albacore Tuna: lightly flame seared, masatake sauce

Fresh Market Salad: chef’s daily selection

Main:
Selection of Aburi, Nigiri, and Oshi Sushi prepared using our famous aburi-style technique

Dessert:

Selection of the day

The appetizers followed the theme of the decor – West Coast food with a Japanese twist.  It’s definitely fusion rather than simple traditional washoku.  The soy glazed braised beef was very well cooked, tender and falling apart.  The potatoes were perfectly smooth and creamy.  However, it was also very heavy for a combo appetizer box.  I had difficulty finishing it and left it for last.  I enjoyed the ebi fritter a lot.  It was crispy and the shrimp inside was large but perfectly cooked.  The bed of salad tasted suspiciously like caesar salad to me which came as a bit of a surprise.  I also enjoyed the seared tuna.  My dislike of most tuna stems from its mushy texture (especially compared to salmon), but I found this tuna still had a little bit of chewiness.  Finally, the salad.  I liked the ponzu dressing on the salad and probably could have eaten more of the salad by itself.

Miku is known for their aburi style sushi.  I looked this up later and it’s a style of nigiri sushi that’s been seared or grilled.  If I remember correctly, the selection that day included tuna, ebi, hamachi and 2 pieces of salmon.  The only flavors I did not enjoy were the shrimp and pesto.  To me, there’s something strange about pairing shrimp and pesto with sushi rice and wasabi.  On their own, they taste fine, but my taste buds rebel against all of them together.  However, the worst thing was that I found a bone in my very poorly trimmed hamachi.  I am not the first either – a Google search will turn up other instances.  It was resolved to our satisfaction but only after complaining several times, emails, etc.  I guess the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

It was kind of downhill from there.  The dessert was not memorable.  Our selections were a passionfruit sorbet with fresh berries, and a balsamic ice cream.  We got one of each but were nonplussed.  The passionfruit sorbet was quite tart and exacerbated by tart out-of-season blackberries.  The balsamic ice cream had a stronger flavor of yogurt with only a slight hint of balsamic.  Essentially I’m complaining about one being too tart and the other not tart enough.

Overall, Miku has relatively attentive service (although poor complaint handling) and good fusion appetizers.  If you like aburi sushi, it’s a pretty good place to go. However, it’s definitely on the expensive side, and there are a few other high end Japanese sushi restaurants I’d like to try out before settling back on Miku.  The food has not fully convinced me to return.

Miku Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Stay Cafe

Chinatown, in addition to Kensington market has been getting a facelift as a number of new and gentrified restaurants, eateries and shops began appearing.

Since my friend and I had ate dinner just before, we decided to pop in for their dessert. The most striking thing I found in the review was the Marshmellow toast so we definitely made sure to order that first.

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Marshmellow toast. Copyright Shiaoshiao Chen

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Marshmellow Toast. Copyright Shiaoshiao Chen

The Marshmellow toast is straightforward: toasted Marshmellow on top of a brioche type thick bread that has also been lightly toasted, and then served with a light chocolate drizzle. I mean, when you look at it, it’s not hard to wonder why they didn’t add Nutella, or peanut butter, or why not caramel drizzle instead of chocolate. When I took I bite, instantly knew why.

I’m not a huge sweetooth like my friend and co-writer Jocelyn, but the Marshmellow ever so seductively melting in my mouth, and then the bread, as intimidating as it looked, just provided the right texture contrast. The chocolate drizzle offered a hint to compliment it all. It took the two of us to share this, and rightfully so. I can probably only think of very few individuals who would indulge in the entire thing. But it is Good. Not to sweet, flavourful, playful (c’mon, look at all that fluff!) and not to heavy either, this is most definitely something unique.

In addition, we also ordered the sticky rice balls in sago, with mango pieces.

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homemade sticky rice balls in sago with Mango pieces. Copyright Shiaoshiao Chen

On it’s own it was nice: sago is small tapioca balls that typically is served in a milk or coconut milk base, in this case milk, then there was mango (probably best to order this in the summer as the mango was sour), sticky rice balls (infused with jasmine tea!) and surprisingly there was also grapefruit (very random). I felt that it was underwhelming in comparison, and that it could be improved if they added coconut milk instead, and grapefruit entirely irrelevant to the dessert. It would be interesting to hear the chefs thoughts on this.

Before leaving though, something has to be said about the interior. My friend made a good point: interior can really make or break the experience. In this case it totally made it. Major props that they have a curated playlist of smooth jazz that have really playful notes and groove, not to mention acoustic covers of well known songs, in contrast to mainstream radio. Photos cannot justify how wide the space actually is and with it’s bare brick and the white cement walls, Industrial lights that have a slightly more orange tone to add warmth, dark wooden floor and tables altogether makes it a space that is comforting in every sense of the word. Oh, did I mention it has wifi? Not that it mattered to us, and you know what, this space definitely has a homely down to earth atmosphere that you wouldn’t feel the need to pull out the cellphone: it welcomes good conversation, and there is most definitely good food here to be enjoyed. The waitress was also wearing sweatpants and a tee. If that doesn’t scream comfort, I don’t know what does.

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You can probably tell that this place has left an impression on me. It has, and I will be back for sure.

Stay Cafe on Urbanspoon

Re: BOCA

I’m back in Vancouver, and today I had to run a couple of errands. Because I wasn’t familiar with the Broadway/Granville area, I decided to try out the most bright looking joint on the street – Boca.

Boca esteems itself on making Latin American inspired sandwiches. Despite their small space, their decor and pop of bright turquoise (a la Tiffany and Co shade), certainly made up for it. As you can see from their menu, their selections are well thought out and careful, making sure they have something for nearly everyone. Definitely not student budget friendly though, mind you, as their daily sandwiches run for $9 and appetizers average $3-5.

Boca storefront

Boca storefront

There was a regular customer who was ordering while I was taking my time to weigh my options. As soon as she heard me mention that I was tempted to go for the “Pork sandwich” she chipped in that this sandwich was a sandwich that she kept on coming back to the restaurant for  - must be good. The server said that all their sandwiches were made fresh daily in the morning. I later found out that they have only been open for two months, and there were quite a few people coming in. Good sign? most definitely.

The sandwiches are grilled panini style, and then they are all wrapped “to go”. The server gave me extra napkins.

Salvadoran Pork sandwich with Marinated grilled pork, Jack Cheese, Parsley

Salvadoran Pork sandwich with Marinated grilled pork, Jack Cheese, Parsley, Dill pickle

 

The Sandwich was very messy to eat as there was juices that kept on dripping out, and well, when you’re eating in, prepare to be eating by the window where every passerby can see your unflattering and impossible-to-be eloquent way of eating the sandwich. The pork was tender but firm, however I felt that it was overshadowed by the jack cheese. Otherwise, the cheese, dill pickle and parsley offered differing and enjoyable crunchiness and gooeyness. Had the pork stood out a bit more, definitely a 10/10. 

Boca is charming, the staff are very friendly, and the sandwiches are not quite to die for, but definitely good for those frequent cloudy days in Vancouver. Putting itself right in front of the 99 B-line bus stop at Granville and Broadway makes it a prime location (which probably explains its pricing) is gutsy, but from what I’ve seen that noon, Boca will be serving yummy sandwiches for quite some time.

Boca on Urbanspoon

Re: Burdock and Co

(this post was from this summer.)

I go back to Vancouver after about half a year or so, and every time I go back, I always make plans to meet with an old friend – none other than J. Lee herself, the co-author.

Catching up over social media versus the one on one meeting is just not the same and it was great sitting down and catching up over dinner.

I’ve never really been to the Cambie and Main area along broadway, so we thought to head over to Burdock and Co., as J eagerly suggested that she has been meaning to go there for the longest time. Once you’ve been away from your home city for awhile and only come back sparingly, you tend to feel like a tourist, so I let her lead the way.

Burdock and co

Stepping into Burdock and Co, we were met with unfinished wood and white painted walls. The kitchen was at the back and because the space was greater in length than in width, it felt kind of crammed. Though, it was clear that the real colour was going to come form the food, as the restaurant was laid out to be not distracting but a comfort. If you go to their site, you can expect a similar feel in their location.

Service was timely and so we were sat and given apt time to decide on what to get. We skimmed the menu the night before, and J had been eyeing the Harvest Pork Belly Ramen, Candied Bacon, Nori, Fried Egg ($12), and so she made sure she got that.

Harvest Pork Belly Ramen, Candied Bacon, Nori, Fried Egg

Harvest Pork Belly Ramen, Candied Bacon, Nori, Fried Egg

Upon presentation, J and I were surprised that the egg was served sunny side up as the menu did specify “fried egg”, which implied that the egg would be thoroughly cooked. While the Candied bacon, Nori (dried seaweed, commonly found in all ramen bowls) and lettuce had very little to offer to the ramen, the Harvest Pork belly was quite memorable. While Ramen shops usually prepare it where the pork belly is tightly rolled up and then after cooked, is cut into medium – thin slices, this Pork belly was in a regular, rectangle cut. When the pork belly is rolled up, it retains flavour while cooking, but this one did not lack. Unfortunately there was only a small piece (in comparison to the rest of the ramen bowl), but it had a kind of crackled skin and the texture was a “melt in your mouth” goodness. The Ramen broth was nothing extremely special, but just “spicy”. Overall, it was a sort of confusing attempt at a remake of a Japanese classic that if it were to showcase it’s harvest pork belly, along with perhaps a more bodied soup and just some green onion instead, would have come out stronger.

I chose the Slow Roasted Bison Ribs, Spicy Tomato Glaze, Charred Green Onion ($18).

Slow Roasted Bison Ribs, Spicy Tomato Glaze, Charred Green Onion

Slow Roasted Bison Ribs, Spicy Tomato Glaze, Charred Green Onion

I wasn’t sure how Bison tasted like, so tasting this was like tasting a milder beef – it was tender and easy to get off the bone. The “Spicy” tomato glaze was spicy, but I think that even if it wasn’t, it would not take away from the flavour of the glaze – which was sweet and tart, but not overwhelming like the Bbq sauce that is normally lathered on ribs. The Tahini sauce is mild – but nothing much to be expected from it because its really just plain yogurt. What I found was the best addition to the dish was the charred green onion. It offered a smokiness and garlicky flavour that was very welcomed to an otherwise -even though well executed dish- was nothing too special (except that they used Bison, and not beef), and added a nice colour to the plate.

For dessert, we ordered the FarmHouse La Pyramide Cheese, Hives 4 Humanity Urban Honey ($12)

FarmHouse La Pyramide Cheese, Hives 4 Humanity Urban Honey

FarmHouse La Pyramide Cheese, Hives 4 Humanity Urban Honey

The bread (which I think was a French Baguette) was crisp and slightly burnt, which presentation wise was not the most appealing, but it went well with the sweetness of the Honey and the mild cheese. The Cheese was similar to brie in texture and mildness but tastes like a goat cheese, but not as strong. The wooden board was unexpected but nice, and this offered a subtle finish to the meal.

Burdock and Co., while impressive in its decor and overall settings and service, was kind of amiss in its food. Since our trip, they have expanded their menu with more appealing items. Is it worth the mini-splurge? If they make a few tweaks here and there, perhaps. But then again, to each their own, right?

Note: even though we order only three dishes, it was plentiful for J and I (average height asian females)

Burdock & Co. on Urbanspoon

PICA Bistro 101

It’s been quite a while since I blogged because my house is getting turned upside down due to cleaning and decluttering. But on a spur of the moment, my family and I decided to go out and celebrate (reason will be revealed later!) Because it was on a whim, we had some trouble getting reservations at Fable. I am determined to go to Fable someday, but needs better planning.

Instead, we headed over to Bistro 101, the restaurant run out of the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island.  All of the chefs and servers are students at PICA, and you can watch them preparing all the food on a widescreen TV.  Their menu changes seasonally but is quite reasonably priced – $30 for a 3 course prix fixe menu.

The food came out relatively quickly with only a few minor glitches.  Service was not perfect, but keeping in mind that it was our server’s first day, he made a good effort.  But how was the food?

Amuse-bouche

Curry lentils with tomato salsa and pea shoot garnish
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

This came with the bread.  I’m assuming it changes regularly.  The salsa was fresh and a nice burst of flavor, but something about cold curry lentils doesn’t sit right with me.  It also didn’t really fit in with the rest of the meal.

I don’t have a photo of their bread basket before it got devoured but it was very impressive.  Unlike most modern restaurants, it had a wide range of different breads including brioche, baguette, sesame seed rolls, and cheese puffs.  We all really liked the cheese puffs.

Appetizers

Scallops with sweet potato (?) puree and side salad
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

The appetizer of the day was seared scallops.  DONE.  I liked the scallops a lot, but they were a tiny bit salty with the addition of the pesto on top.  But, they were perfectly seared; crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The puree I don’t honestly remember what it was, apart from it was vaguely sweet and tasted heavily of nutmeg.  I think that was the one thing that didn’t belong on the plate.  Salad is salad – nothing terrible but nothing to write home about either.

We also ordered a fish taco and a salad.  The fish taco was a surprise to all.  Instead of the usual battered deep fried fish, we got smoked trout instead.  My sister said it was okay but a bit dry for her taste.  Perhaps some salsa would have helped?

Mains

Sablefish in lobster sauce, pea risotto, grilled vegetables
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

This was the special of the day. I ordered this because 1) it’s sablefish and 2) it’s sablefish in LOBSTER SAUCE.

The lobster sauce was really rich and actually went well with the fish. I liked the risotto too; the peas added a freshness to it.  The fish skin was nice and crispy, even under that sauce.  And needless to say, the fish was perfectly cooked and tender.

However, I think the downfall of this dish is TOO MUCH. Too much richness overall.  The texture of risotto was just a little too sticky for my liking.  Sablefish + sauce + risotto made for a very heavy meal.  The grilled vegetables were disappointing, because they tasted like gasoline.  Something did not go right with the grilling.  Ditto with the fish skin.  I probably should have sent back the dish but I was pretty hungry.

My sister had the halibut, which was a much lighter preparation. I think I would have liked that dish better.

BC Brome Lake Duck, Berry Gastrique, Gratin Dauphinoise
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

Dad got this, because he wanted to see how it would compare to the duck that my brother in law makes.  It’s very different from a whole roasted duck.  I was glad to see that the duck fat was properly rendered, but slightly disappointed that the duck skin was not crispy.  However, the duck breast was prepared well and had good flavor.  The gratin dauphinoise impressed us all, partly because of the perfect layering.  It held together well too even after cutting.

Vegetarian option
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

Mom’s a vegetarian but we noticed there wasn’t a vegetarian option on the menu.  We asked them if they could make something vegetarian for Mom and they assured us that they could.

What happened when they first started bringing out mains was they brought 2 sablefish dishes out, until we reminded them that Mom’s dish was supposed to be vegetarian.  They had already placed my sablefish in front of me so I guess they couldn’t very well take it back.  A couple of minutes later, they served this.

I gotta admit I’m more than a little disappointed.  It looks suspiciously like they heated up the lentils from the amuse bouche, dumped it on a bed of rice, steamed an entire stick of broccolini (or rapini, I can’t tell) and stuck it on a plate.  The broccolini/rapini was really difficult to eat.  Plus, it’s summertime and there are more than enough vegetables in the kitchen that they could have at least come up with a stir fry.

Very not impressed.

Mom liked the curry though so it wasn’t a complete disaster.

Desserts

Dessert is usually the make-or-break part of a meal for me, as I have a huge sweet tooth. Luckily, it was definitely the saving grace of the night. We ended up getting one of each dessert so we could share.

Gluten Free Chocolate Sampler (Fudge, Brownie, Maple Pecan Ice Cream)
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

My sister claimed this one since she was in the mood for chocolate. I really liked the flourless cake – it was dense and very rich, almost more like a mousse than a cake. The fudge was a pleasant surprise too because it melted in the mouth like a truffle. No stray sugar granules there! Dad ended up stealing all of the ice cream.

Summer Fruit Mousse with Fresh Fruit and Coulis
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

Dad picked this one. The mousse was almost more like a pudding than an airy mousse. I really liked the coconut though and the fruit inside. Dad also said the coulis was intense and very delicious.

Tiramisu with Bailey’s Sabayon
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

This was mine. Tiramisu and Bailey’s, how could you go wrong? The Bailey’s Sabayon was delicious and I could probably have eaten a whole bowl of the stuff myself. It was perfectly smooth and not too sweet or eggy. Now if only I had the patience to make sabayon at home…

The tiramisu was pretty tasty too. I like mine to have a little more alcohol and a little more espresso in it, but it was still well balanced and not too sweet or too bitter. I’m not sure if they used ladyfingers or sponge cake, but it was soft and moist without being mushy.

The macaron was unflavored with a bitter dark chocolate ganache inside, which cut through the sweetness of the macaron shells.

Dessert of the day: Warm Pear Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

Mom took this but gave me the ice cream. The salted caramel ice cream was one of the better ones I’ve had, with a good balance in saltiness and sweetness. The pastry crust on that pear tart was also amazing. Perfectly cooked, crispy and slightly crumbly. I remember the crust more than the filling actually! The pear filling was delicious as well.

Major kudos to the pastry chefs for blowing us away with dessert. Overall the desserts were well balanced and perfectly executed. I might be back in the daytime to visit Bakery 101 specifically for their cakes!

Overall rating? 7/10
Cost: $30 per person

Bistro 101 on Urbanspoon

Liege Waffles (2nd Attempt)

Cool faster waffles!
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

I ate my way through all of my first batch of liege waffles and decided it was time to make another batch.  I mentioned in my first post about waffles that I came across two essentially polar opposite recipes.  The first one (and derivative versions) was much more common and much simpler.  I actually came across the second one from a comment posted on the first recipe.  It’s daunting because it has an overnight rest and very precise rising times.  I made a few adjustments, partly related to my laziness in measuring at times.  I know I know, that’s a terrible thing for bakers to do.

There was still some pearl sugar left over from when I was experimenting with making it from granulated sugar.  I would let larger crystals form next time.  The smaller crystals melt VERY fast, so you end up with a crunchy sugar glaze outside when the waffle is cool-warm, but the waffle becomes impossible to hold after reheating and often burns if you put it in a regular toaster.

The sugar glaze is so shiny <3
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

But what’s the verdict?

I find the batter for this recipe to be firmer than the first one.  This makes it easier to put onto the waffle iron because you can just pick up a piece of dough with your hands.  The texture of the cooked waffle is also very different.  This recipe yields a chewier, denser, almost bread-like waffle, but it had a more complex flavor (probably because of vanilla, honey and brown sugar).  The other recipe was much fluffier and softer and retained the fluffy texture even after reheating.  However, this recipe is also really quite an annoying effort to yield 6 waffles.  If you have the time, great.  If not, well, I’m okay with eating the waffles from the first recipe too.  It really comes down to personal preference.  I like fluffy waffles, and my dad likes chewy ones.

Waffles are denser…
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

But the waffle adventures are not over.  I plan to make a third hybrid batch that is hopefully fluffy but also complex with less time.  Hopefully honey and extra cinnamon will make things interesting.

But here it is.  Attempt #2.

(Complex) Liege Waffles

Adapted, with very much appreciation from here

1.5 tsp quick rise yeast

1/4 cup milk scalded then cooled to lukewarm by adding 13 mL room temperature water.

2 cups bread flour

1 large egg, room temperature, beaten

1 heaping tbsp golden sugar

pinch of salt

8.5 Tbsp (a little over 1/2 cup) butter, softened.

1.5 Tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup Belgian sugar

Beat the egg and mix with the milk and water.  Add the yeast* and stir to mix.

*I use Fleischmann’s quick rise yeast which works just as well if you add it in with dry ingredients.  But I didn’t want to risk it with this recipe so just added it into liquids first.

 

Add in 2/3 cup – 1 cup of the flour and mix well. Scrape the batter down from the sides of the bowl.  Sprinkle the rest of the flour evenly over the batter but do NOT mix it in.  Cover and leave for about 1.5 hours.  The batter will have risen up and you should be able to see it through the flour covering.

Mix in any remaining flour.

Add the sugar, salt, honey and vanilla, mixing until well incorporated.

Add in the butter gradually, about 2 tbsp at a time.  The mixture will start off liquidy but quickly get thick and sticky, about the consistency of creamed butter and sugar.  Keep mixing until the dough comes together into a ball, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  The original recipe states to mix for 4 minutes then rest for 1 minute, then mix for another 2.  I mixed mine for 2 minutes at a time after each butter incorporation, scraping the sides of the bowl while it rested.  Then I just kept mixing it at about a 2-4 speed on my KitchenAid with paddle attachment until the dough balled up. 

Cover the dough with a light dusting of flour then loosely wrap plastic wrap over the bowl.  Let rise for 4 hours.  Yes. 4.  Go watch TV.  Take a nap.

Refrigerate the dough for half an hour and deflate dough by pressing it with a rubber spatula.  The dough should be quite firm from the refrigeration.  Don’t squash the dough completely.

Press the dough into a long rectangle and fold the two sides in so you get a roughly square shaped piece of dough.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in your fridge with something heavy on top of it.  I used a plate of leftover chicken.  Chill overnight.

Mix the dough with pearl sugar until evenly incorporated.  Here, the original says to do it all at once, but the dough is quite hard.  Instead, I just divided the dough first and mixed in pearl sugar into each piece.

Shape the dough into oval balls and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise for 1.5 hours.  Exactly 1.5 hours.  I overslept unfortunately and might have let it rise for more like 2 hours.

I have a Waring Pro as mentioned previously.  I tried setting it to 4 and cooking for 2 minutes and it was just barely done, but still had that slightly chewy not-quite-cooked texture.  I think the optimal cooking time is between 2.5 – 3 minutes, but not more than 3 because the sugar melts and starts to burn.  I noticed that the waffles get browner as you cook them because the sugar from the last waffle sticks to the iron and caramelizes more before it transfers to the next waffle.

Also, the all important fact, ESPECIALLY if you’re using homemade pearl sugar.  Let it cool!  I know it’s hard.  You just want to eat them right away because it smells amazing.  Do not do it.  Hot sugar burning the roof of your mouth is very unpleasant.  Go clean your waffle iron instead because it will look like this:

I REALLY wish my tongue were heatproof so I could just lick off the sugar.
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

Food Cart Fest! (And sushi)

I’ll admit I’ve been a little bit bummed out about eating out since I came back from my Japan and Taiwan travels.  Yes, I will eventually finish that series.  Eventually.  Anyway, food here is just so expensive!  And when it comes down to it, the Chinese/Japanese food here just can’t compare.  But, at the same time, it’s hard to find wood-fired oven baked pizza and pulled pork sandwiches in Asia.  So I guess it balances out in the end.

I’d heard about the food truck festival from a couple of my friends but we never set a date to go check it out.  It started out on Granville but ended up moving into a vacant lot near Olympic Village, just west of the False Creek Community Center.  There is a parkade on 1st Ave near Columbia, so driving is an option.  Alternatively, you could take the 84 bus from VCC-Clark Skytrain and get off at Columbia, take the Canada Line to Olympic Village, or take the Expo Line to Main Street and walk over.  It’s actually slightly easier to access from the False Creek walking trail than from 1st, just because you end up having to go in a bit of a circle.

The food cart scene is really taking off in Vancouver and it’s nice that they put all the carts together for one day a week so people can visit and browse, instead of having to run all around downtown tracking down different food carts.  I still miss La Brasserie’s food truck from a few years back, but the explosion in variety of food does not disappoint.  Most carts price their items between $5 – $15, generally averaging around $8-$9 per item.  It’s definitely more interesting to go with a few people because then you can each order one thing and try each others’ food (if everyone is willing to share that is!)

PazzaRella

Items ordered: Prosciutto pizza

Cost: $9

Overall rating: 8.5/10

PazzaRella truck line up
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

PazzaRella Menu

PazzaRella’s claim to fame is the fact that they have a wood-fired oven in their truck.  It’s also why their pizzas are so delicious.

We decided to try their prosciutto pizza, which had prosciutto and arugula garnished with olive oil.  I’m not a big fan of arugula because of the bitterness but it ended up working well with the prosciutto.  The saltiness of the prosciutto pops in your mouth and all the other flavors are complementary.  I also found the crust interesting as it was thin but still very soft, almost more like a flatbread.  Be warned though, they’re very generous with olive oil so grabbing lots of napkins is a good idea.  The other downside is that it’s a bit hard to bite off part of the proscuitto without the rest also following.

I’m sure I’ll be back to try their margherita pizza at some point as well.
PazzaRella Auto Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Jj’s Trucketeria

Items ordered: Filipino BBQ Pork Bun

Cost: $5

Overall Rating: 9/10

Filipino BBQ Pork Bun
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

I’m basing this rating on the one piece of pork I stole from that sandwich.  It was too messy to split and I just wanted to taste some of the pork.  At $5, the portion size is definitely a steal.  It’s different from Chinese BBQ pork in that it’s not as sweet, but the meat was still very tender and flavorful.  Amazing pork, amazing sauce.  They travel to a lot of events including the Chinatown night market so you have no excuse not to eat there.  Get this if you see them.

Jj's Trucketeria on Urbanspoon

The Reef Runner

Items ordered: Jerk chicken poutine, Ginger beer

Cost: $9

Rating: 8.5/10

The Reef Runner
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

I keep wanting to try Caribbean food because I’ve heard that jerk chicken is delicious. But still I was a bit hesitant to eat at a food truck until my friend told me that he had eaten at the restaurant before and the jerk sauce was fantastic.  Okay, sold.

I ordered the jerk chicken poutine to satisfy my cravings for all things deep fried.  At $7, the portion size is really small, especially compared to places like Smoke’s Poutinerie.  There were only 3 pieces of chicken in it and the fries barely came up to 1/3 of the box.  I probably wouldn’t order this again.

Jerk Chicken Poutine
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

But the sauce!  The sauce was fantastic and I couldn’t stop eating it.  It was gravy but managed to hit all the taste buds: sweet, salty, spicy and umami all at the same time.  I’m not counting bitter here because I don’t think bitter would improve the sauce flavor.

And, I was drinking their ginger beer at the same time, which made my mouth burn more but was somehow worth it.

The Reef Runner on Urbanspoon
Holy Perogy

Items ordered: The Hungry Human

Cost: $12

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Holy Perogy
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

Holy Perogy is one of those food trucks I always see driving around but never actually see parked and serving food.  One of my friends ordered the Hungry Human for us to share.  It came with 6 giant perogies, sausages, sour cream, green onion and beef jerky.  Yum.  Originally I thought they were bacon bits but beef jerky is even better.

Hungry Human
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

I liked eating the perogies but they’re very filling very fast as they’re big and very full inside.  As soon as you try to separate one with a fork, potato and cheese filling explodes everywhere.   I also found them a little bit bland.  It was fine as there were plenty of salty things to make up for it but I would have liked to taste the perogies more rather than eat them as a vehicle for all the other toppings.

Holy Perogy on Urbanspoon
Chou Chou Crepes

Items ordered: Mlle Juliette (apple compote, maple syrup and ricotta crepe)

Cost: $7

Overall rating: N/A

Chou Chou Crepes
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

I was pretty full so I didn’t order anything from here, but the smell of sugar and butter had been drawing a crowd for quite some time.  My friend ordered the Mlle Juliette crepe and quite enjoyed it though it was messy to eat at the end.  I had a small piece of the edges and it tasted pretty authentic – thin and crispy on the edges and slightly thicker and soft toward the center of the crepe.  The woman is also amazing, taking orders and handling 3 hot crepes at the same time.  If I see her again I’ll definitely try one of her crepes.  Ever since La Bretagne shut down I’ve been eating Japanese style crepes instead, which aren’t quite the same.

Chou Chou Crepes on Urbanspoon
Trucks to visit in the future:

Le Tigre – Their lineup was gigantic.  My theory of critical mass turned out correct again; people wouldn’t stop lining up for Le Tigre probably because the line was so long to begin with thus it must be good.  I’ll try to visit them during the week instead.  They have a $5 pulled pork steamed bun that might overcome my aversion to fusion food.

Feastro – Feastro has been around for awhile but for some reason I always end up saying I’ll eat their next time.  Their fish tacos look delicious though.

Mom’s Grilled Cheese – Again, another gigantic line up.  I’ve heard lots of good things and I’ll probably end up eating there at least once sometime in the future.  I wonder how it compares to Tazer?  I had a delicious Gouda, apple and bacon grilled cheese there…but then again you can’t go wrong with butter, bacon and cheese.

BONUS:

Sushi S

Items ordered: Alaskan Roll combo

Cost: $10.50 after taxes

Overall Rating: 8/10

I’ve been a little wary of eating sushi since I’ve been back since I’ve been afraid I’ll be disappointed.  I’ve discovered the joy of eating fresh tuna and now the frozen brownish mushy stuff that we get in BC usually disappoints.  (Ahi tuna is a whole other story.) Salmon is good though!

Still, I’ve been craving it so I ended up going down to the sushi restaurant near my house.  Businesses in the little plaza generally have  a hard time.  In the last 5-10 years, there’s been at least 3 Chinese restaurants, 1 donair, 1 pizza, 2 convenience stores, and 1 Japanese restaurant cycling through 4 different storefronts.  It’s not surprising though, considering most of the customers are high school students nearby, which means there’s very little business on the weekend or in the summers.  That and students just want cheap food and lots of it.

The reviews for Sushi S were pretty good.  The staff are really nice and willing to do substitutions.  That’s why there are 3 pieces of salmon nigiri in there instead of 2 – I asked them to substitute the tuna for salmon instead.  However, there’s no discount for doing takeout; the old Japanese restaurant Hibiki used to do that.  It’s also not a Japanese-owned restaurant if you’re picky about that.

Alaska Roll Combo
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

Looks tasty! But let’s break it down by ingredients.

Rice: 10/10.  Perfectly cooked, still al dente sushi rice.  I think I could just eat the rice by itself.  Rice used in nigiri is about 1/2 the size of that in other restaurants though you can ask them to put more rice.  The Alaskan roll needed more rice though as I could see large patches of nori through it.  Bemused by the fact that I’m complaining about not enough rice.

Salmon: 8/10.  Don’t get me wrong, the fish is fresh.  But…not trimmed properly.  You can see leftover skin on the ends.  The third piece is especially bad.  I probably should have opened it in the restaurant to check, but I didn’t notice until I got home.  It tastes ok just doesn’t look good. The salmon on the Alaskan roll was good, nothing to complain about.

Ebi: 9/10.  The ebi was actually properly seasoned instead of tasting bland.

Alaska Roll
Copyright Jocelyn Lee | 2013

The Alaska roll was packed with ingredients.  It’s essentially a California roll (avocado and cucumber!) topped with salmon.  They definitely didn’t skimp on the crab or the avocado as both were spilling out the ends from the rolls being too full.  The sauce was a bit strange though.  I still haven’t figured out what was in it except maybe sesame and roe.  I think it could have done without the sauce as it looks a little unappetizing.

I’ll definitely be back though.  Cheap sushi, reasonably good fish and walking distance.  What more can I ask for?

Sushi S Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon