On our last day in Paris, Dolph, Pickles, and I still had about half the day to explore, since our train out of Gare du Nord wasn’t until 6pm or so. We decided to spend the day roaming around Montmartre, which was just a few Metro stations away from our apartment. Our first stop was the Basilica de Sacré Coeur, a majestic white cathedral sitting on top of the hill of Montmartre, from which you can look down onto the city. We somehow missed the tram from the Metro station up to the basilica and walked up a series of very steep steps, but the view was worth it. I also liked seeing the inside of the cathedral and comparing its simpler, somewhat sweeter appearance to the imposing nature of the Notre Dame, which we’d visited on our first full day in the city. It seemed bittersweet but also significant to start and end our Paris stay with trips to cathedrals, with more frivolous sightseeing sandwiched in between.
After admiring this stunning view of the city, we walked down the hill, which was considerably easier than our upwards hike. Our next destination was Moulin Rouge, which is also located in Montmartre, which has historically been known as the bohemian district of Paris. As such, it is filled with sex shops and other, well, interesting businesses to this day. I liked the contrast it provided with the classier tourist stops I’d visited during my stay in Paris: Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, and whatnot.
Moulin Rouge itself wasn’t particularly exciting, to be honest. We just stood outside the building and snapped photos like the other tourists who’d managed to find the same spot. At least I finally learned that “moulin” means “mill”. I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, so I guess that’s why Moulin Rouge didn’t resonate with me as much. I was more excited about our lunch spot, which, funnily enough, was also featured in a movie…
Our lunch spot was just up the hill from Moulin Rouge, and named Café des Deux Moulins because of its location near two moulins, the other being Moulin de la Galette, which was the subject of a famous painting by Renoir currently housed at the Orsay. Anyway, this cafe is also somewhat of a tourist hotspot in its own right, as it was featured in the movie Amélie as the protagonist’s workplace. Amélie is just one of those quirky, strange, feel-good movies that I love, and it was such a fun experience to see where the movie had been filmed. Of course, they happened to have the movie poster hanging near our table, autographed by the director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Hanging by the entrance was an autographed photo of Audrey Tautou, the actress who portrayed Amélie in the movie. To be honest, this was like any other cafe we visited while in France, and the food wasn’t spectacularly good or bad, but clearly if you’re a fan of the movie, it’s definitely worth paying a visit! The place is very tourist friendly, and has both English and French menus available.
The three of us all opted for the same breakfast, which included a hot beverage, glass of orange juice, toasted baguette, a croissant/pain au chocolat, and an omelette/three fried eggs for €12. I chose the Café au Lait for my hot drink, and it was simple but nice. There was a substantial layer of foam covering slightly bitter coffee. It was comforting to have both a hot drink and OJ to look forward to. The juice was very fresh and pulpy.
We’d been hoping for pains au chocolat, which we’d fallen in love with during our short stay in Paris. Since they were out, we settled for these Croissants, which to their credit were buttery, flaky, light, and airy. The croissants were quite yummy, but then again, I love croissants as long as they’re freshly baked, which these were. The baguettes were quite chewy but hard, as expected, and served with packets of strawberry jam.
The last part of my breakfast was the Omelette, which was served alongside a slice of tomato. I liked the addition of the tomato, which was refreshing. The omelette itself was thin and eggy, without any other ingredients, and to be honest, I found it very bland. A pinch of salt would have helped. I suppose this is a North American mindset, but in hindsight, I would have loved some ketchup, which I’m sure would have been available if I’d asked.
Our breakfast/lunch at Café des Deux Moulins wasn’t spectacular, but we still enjoyed our time here, especially because of the Amelie aspect. All things considering, though, the food here is still tasty, and a nice place to stop by if you’re spending a day in Montmartre. This is my last post about Paris, funnily enough (I really didn’t eat out very much). Onwards to Dublin!
Café des Deux Moulins
15 Rue Lepic
75018 Paris, France
Since we had a relatively short stay in Paris, our days were scheduled to be jam-packed with sightseeing. And of course, we had to visit the Eiffel Tower. To be honest, I found the experience a bit underwhelming, especially when you’re being herded into an elevator with a billion other tourists. Although you can get a great view of Paris from the top of the tower, photos don’t really come out well since you’re taking photos through a glass or through a chain link fence. On the plus side, though, it only cost me €13 to get to the top, which is quite inexpensive for such a world-famous landmark. Afterwards, we stopped at Champs de Mars, a small park right across from the tower, ideal for picture-taking. Here’s a photo of me in my gawking tourist persona.
Done with our picture-taking, we headed to Champs-Élysées to do some shopping, which our days in Paris had been noticeably short on. We didn’t end up doing much shopping, but of course we stopped at Ladurée, one of the most famous macaron makers in the world.
Although the three of us purchased a box of six macarons to share, we didn’t end up eating them until we got home, and by then two of the six had been crushed/melted by the heat, and not fit for picture-taking. Not to fear, though, we also stopped by the Covent Garden location once we got to London, so there will definitely be some macarons on the blog in the near future.
We ended up having a late lunch/snack at Paul. I’d never heard of Paul before this, but considering that there’s a location right by our lodgings in London, it seems to be a world-wide chain. Owned by the same people as Ladurée, Paul also specializes in baked goods, than the former. We sat out on the patio, where pigeons pecked about freely and landed on our chairs and tables. The eating area was admittedly not very clean (being covered with garbage and pigeons), but there were only two or three employees who were often busy inside the store and couldn’t quite abandon their stations to tidy up the outside patio. I found this to be a constant theme while I was in Paris: many stores seemed to be understaffed, resulting in long lineups and frustrated employees.
To be honest, I don’t remember the name of this pastry. It was some sort of Apricot Danish (€1), and I ordered it because I love apricots and it was so cheap . It tasted pretty much like what I expected–layers of flaky, buttery pastry with apricot in the centre. There was some other sort of fruit pieces spread out throughout, but it didn’t taste exactly like apricot, and I’m not sure what they were. It wasn’t too sweet, which I appreciated after days of indulging in pains au chocolat.
I also had the Mini Brioche with Chocolate (€1), again because it was cheap. It was decent, but I honestly don’t remember much about it. I felt that the goods at the small local bakeries by our apartment, which we visited in the mornings, were vastly superior to what I tried at Paul. I mean, this mini brioche was good for what it was, but it was nothing memorable. It definitely wasn’t as rich and tender as I expect brioche to be.
Pickles had a Petit Pain de Menthe. I was curious about it because I adore anything with mint in it, but I was wary because this looked like it could be stale. We were both surprised that it wasn’t at all stale, and actually tasted quite substantially of mint. It was a decent size for a snack, which is how I felt of what we tried at Paul, although they also carry sandwiches and more meal-sized options.
Overall, we weren’t blown away by our experience at Paul, but it’s not like we expected very much from it, either. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that I saw a couple locations of Paul when I was in Seoul last summer, so I suppose it’s a larger chain than I thought. That being said, I don’t think it’s a huge loss that we don’t have Paul in Canada–I would take an Iced Capp and a box of Timbits over Paul any day.
75008 Paris, France
Hello and welcome to the first of my travel posts! I’m currently sitting in my room in London, but this post will be about the first destination of my Europe trip: Paris. These posts will probably be a bit longer than my usual restaurant reviews, and include more descriptions of entire days of sightseeing rather than just meals.
To start off, Dolph, Pickles, and I stayed in an apartment in the 18th arrondissement, which includes the famous district of Montmartre. Due to the convenience of the Metro system, we were able to navigate our way through Paris without too much difficulty, visiting the most coveted tourist attractions. Paris reminded me most of my birthplace, Seoul: the convenient transportation system, the river running through the centre of the city, and the many small shops and stores crowding the streets. It was a nice change of pace from Vancouver, which I consider more of a “Little Big City” than anything else.
Our first full day in Paris was spent exploring the Musée d’Orsay. Paris is home to what seems like a billion museums, with the Orsay housing a large collection of Impressionist paintings. I don’t have much of an artistic eye, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Van Gogh, especially Starry Night and Café Terrace at Night. I’d seen the former on a 2011 trip to New York and I was excited to see Starry Night Over the Rhone at the Orsay. Equally stunning as the artwork is the view of Paris from the top floor–it’s a welcome break if you’re like me and experience “art overload” after an hour or two at a museum.
Following the Orsay, we made our way over to the Notre Dame, pictured above. I won’t make an attempt to describe all the astoundingly detailed architectural elements or just the simple grandeur of this Gothic cathedral. After exploring the inside of the cathedral, the three of us found our way to the grandstand viewing area in front of it, where we proceeded to relax for a good chunk of time. Although the grandstand was annoying when we were trying to take photos of ourselves with the building, it was a perfect place to relax after a long day of walking and sightseeing.
And of course, a long day of walking and sightseeing should be followed by a hearty meal. It didn’t end up being such a hearty meal, because we’d had a late lunch after wandering inside the Orsay, and we’d also had some ice cream while sitting by the Seine. We decided to have a light dinner at a restaurant (and presumably tourist trap) called Le Parvis Notre Dame, where we got to sit on the patio and enjoy the slight breeze.
I wasn’t too hungry, so I decided on the Lemon Crepe (€5.80), which I for some reason imagined as something fancier than two crepes with lemon slices on top of them. I ended up just discarding those lemon slices, since the crepes were already saturated with lemon juice and therefore quite sour. The crepes themselves were a bit too rubbery for me, but honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from the restaurant considering its location and the prices. The crepes were by no means a filling meal, but it was satisfactory considering that I’d had a late lunch and an ice cream cone prior to dinner.
Pickles, meanwhile, had the Nutella Crepe (€5.80), which once again, was simpler than expected: just two of the same crepes with a blob of Nutella in between them. The Nutella wasn’t at all incorporated with the crepes, which we thought was odd. Like me, she thought that the crepes were overdone, since we both prefer crepes to be softer on the inside, and slightly crispy on the outer edges.
In addition to crepes, another food that comes to mind when you think of France is…Cheese (€4.80). Dolph had the camembert served alongside some toasted bread and a simple lettuce salad dressed with a mustard dressing. Her meal was definitely a good value, considering that she wasn’t very hungry. The cheese had an outer layer of skin combined with a gooey, rich inner layer, which nicely accompanied the chewy pieces of bread. The lettuce was decently fresh and added a nice element of vegetables to a meal that seemed somewhat carb-heavy (and how can you avoid carbs while in France?)
Our meal at Le Parvis wasn’t spectacular, but it was a nice end to our day of sightseeing. We got to sit on the patio and people-watch, and our waiter was friendly and accommodating. I liked the fact that he didn’t assume that we were from China or Japan (a common assumption while we were travelling in Europe). We didn’t eat out much in Paris, but I’ll definitely remember the friendliness of the service at Le Parvis despite the average food.
Le Parvis Notre Dame
3 Rue Arcole
75004 Paris, France
Dine Out Vancouver is an annual food festival in Vancouver that gives diners the opportunity to experience the unique restaurants that Vancouver has to offer. The restaurants offer a special three-course, prix fixe menu for either $18, $28, or $38. While I enjoy the sudden peak of interest that Dine Out brings to our local restaurants, I find that many of my dining experiences during the festival over the years have been lacklustre. I decided to visit Catch 122, which had a $28 menu, with SB. I had previously visited Catch 122 for Samantha and Susannah’s birthday dinner a few months earlier, where the food had generally been tasty. Catch 122’s menu looked interesting (it contained both duck, which I love, and rabbit, which I’d never tried before), so I figured that if I didn’t enjoy it, I would have at least tried something new.
We started with the complimentary Bread, which our server brought to us without much ceremony or introduction. It was chewy and soft, but I would have liked it a bit warmer. About the service: it seemed harried and disorganized. Many of the servers seemed quite awkward and unsure of what they were doing. As for the couple sitting beside us, their server brought out their dessert before they were even done eating their entrees. On my first visit, the server had been obviously awkward and somewhat confused, so I’d take this as a sign that their service seriously needs some work.
I started with the Duck Confit Ravioli, with house-made duck confit, ricotta, and sage butter. On my previous visit to Catch 122, I had been unimpressed with my entree, the carbonara, as the pasta had been extremely rubbery and difficult to eat. I found that the ravioli had the same problem, being a tad too gummy. I enjoyed the confit itself, which was both flavourful and rich, tasting strongly of both the duck and the ricotta. As a whole, though, the dish was too oily for my tastes, although I liked that the flavour of the duck was not diminished in the final product.
SB’s starter was the Prawn Bisque, served with a single seared scallop. The soup itself was both too oily and watered down, and had very little in the way of flavour. We both really enjoyed the scallop though, as it was plump and juicy, and had formed a nice crust from the searing. The scallop was quite flavourful, which was a nice change from the rather bland broth. SB remarked that although he enjoyed the scallop, he would have liked some lobster as well to provide some texture to the dish.
As for my main, I decided on the Rabbit Three Ways: braised leg, pan seared rack, prosciutto wrapped tenderloin stuffed with mushroom and sage, and lemongrass rabbit jus. This was my first time eating rabbit so here are my thoughts. At first bite, the meat had an interesting texture, somewhere between chicken and pork, but it actually wasn’t too strange and reminded me of chicken more than anything. The braised leg was full of meat, but was dry and unflavourful. It reminded me of rotisserie chicken in that although the skin was crispy and savoury, the inside was quite dry. The rack, although a bit difficult to eat, had fatty, flavourful meat in small portions. The tenderloin was simply delicious and easily the best part of the meal. As for the accompanying butternut squash puree, I thought it was a great complement to the rabbit–I just wished there was more of it. I would have preferred some other form of accompaniment, maybe some carrot or asparagus, as there was not enough variation of textures and I ended up eating the carrot that came with SB’s meal.
SB ordered the Beef Side Ribs, which were smoked and braised in a house-made barbecue sauce, and served with broccolini, carrot, and bone marrow mashed potatoes. He enjoyed the ribs, which were overcooked on the outside but tender on the inside. He didn’t notice much that was unique about the potatoes, but I thought they were more flavourful than regular mashed potatoes. Overall, it was a solid dinner, but we were both confused as to why it was served in a bowl, which made eating the ribs a bit uncomfortable.
For dessert, I chose the Belgian Triple Chocolate Terrine, which was served with raspberry red wine coulis. It was a tasty dessert, but ultimately unmemorable. The coulis tasted quite typical. SB and I were intrigued by the gooseberry they chose to serve alongside both the desserts we ordered. We weren’t exactly sure what it was, and it tasted a bit strange, with so many seeds inside, and it seemed a bit haphazardly tossed onto the plate. Suffice it to say that SB, at least, was unimpressed by the aesthetics.
Lastly, SB had the Sticky Toffee Pudding, which was served with hazelnut Baileys cream, whipped cream, and again, a gooseberry. We were again unsure why this was served in a bowl. The pudding itself was decent and a little bland, and also a bit too chewy for my taste. The Baileys cream made the dish, however, being sweet but subtly so. SB and I are both not big on sweets, but we really liked the cream here. Out of the two desserts we sampled, I would say we enjoyed this one more.
So that concludes our dinner at Catch 122. Were we impressed by the experience? Not particularly. Based on the dishes I sampled on my previous visit, I did not feel that the Dine Out menu that Catch 122 chose to serve highlighted their potential. However, this is true of many restaurants during Dine Out, and not at all exclusive to Catch 122. Although we had a less-than-stellar experience, I would urge diners to try Catch 122 once Dine Out ends and see what their regular menu has to offer.
Catch 122 Cafe Bistro
122 West Hastings Street
Looking for a place to go for my birthday was a difficult task: I wanted to go somewhere exciting, but not so exciting that I wouldn’t be guaranteed a good meal. I also didn’t want to break the bank, and I didn’t want to go too far. I’m picky, I know. After hearing rave reviews about Les Faux Bourgeois from my friend Andy (yes, French food excites me), I decided to give it a try.
Not that the decision was a particularly hard one. I knew from Urbanspoon that I’d most likely have a good time there– everyone seemed pretty impressed with the food, and I knew from calling there that the place is always, always packed. So I didn’t really have high hopes when I called a month in advance asking for a table for 4 at prime dinner time. Lucky for me, they had one table left during the time slot! One of my friends commented that this was my birthday gift from whatever Roman deity it is that looks over dinner reservations (those crazy Ancient Romans had gods for just about everything).
We were seated at the back of the bistro side, close to the kitchen, and away from any form of natural light (but it was cloudy that day anyways). Choosing our dinner was an easy choice, lended both by their small menu and our hungry stomachs. We started off the night with some bread and butter, which unfortunately didn’t come fresh from the oven. The bread was still soft and crusty, and the butter tasted especially yummy. Nothing too special there.
Our first appy was the Soupe a L’Oignon Gratinee, which Samson and I shared. From the top down, this came with an ooey-gooey layer of mozzarella and gruyere cheeses atop some bread (I suspect it was simply 2 pieces of the complimentary bread and not croutons). Next was the soup, heaps of caramelized onions, and the mother of it all– bacon slices. I liked this soup as everything was just right– the cheese was appropriately cheesy, and the soup wasn’t extremely salty, so I felt that I could have finished the whole thing by myself if I really wanted to (I usually can’t). I could taste the beef stock and aroma of the onions, which were sliced thin and caramelized to the perfect point.
The next appetizer we shared as a table was the Escargots de Bourgogne. Yum, snails– that’s kind of adventurous, right? These came smothered with garlic and butter, and sat atop four pieces of crostini that quickly soaked up all the garlicky buttery flavours, but were still crunchy when we bit into it. The escargot were tender and not rubbery at all, but they did lack a little in terms of flavour (if you didn’t have any garlic on top of it, the flavour was barely there). Unfortunately I didn’t notice that pork rillette was on the specials board until our appies came, or else I definitely would have ordered that– who doesn’t love spreadable, braised-in-its-own-fat and shredded pork?!
Our entrees came in short order, with my dad’s Le Steak Frites being the first on the table. The pre-cut steak was a perfect medium-rare, and looked incredibly juicy. It tasted that too, and as well it was quite tender. The only thing lacking for this was in the flavour department, as it was quite bland, but the red-wine shallot jus it came with (there’s also the choices of herb butter or green peppercorn cream sauces) saved the dish with its subtle hints of wine. I personally like my steaks a little more flavourful and with a slight crust along the edge, but to each their own, I suppose. This came with a heaping pile of fresh-cut frites (fries) that were crispy, albeit a little on the thick side.
My mom decided to be adventurous and ordered Le Cote de Porc— not that pork is especially different, but because she’s never had pork chop at a non-Asian restaurant before. My mom is more of a steak person, but she went with this for the blog’s sake (aww) and was pleased that she did. The chop was cooked perfectly with a crisp crust on the outside, while the meat itself was juicy. The roasted garlic potato salad came topped with crispy onions, and was served warm, which was a welcome change. The onions were light and didn’t taste too oily. My mom’s dish also came with a side of apple gastrique, a salad consisting of apples, pecans and watercress. Nothing really to say about this other than that it was fresh.
Samson’s Longue D’Agneau came with a side of caramelized cauliflower and garbonzos (chick peas), and this all in turn was served with a minted pea creme fraiche. The lamb was, like the steak, cooked a perfect medium rare, and didn’t exhibit too much in the way of gaminess. We both liked the minty creme fraiche as it really complimented the lamb, as did the jus that came along with the dish. The dish seemed to be on the smaller side, with only four pieces of lamb, but was actually adequately filling for Samson (besides, he could always have some of my fries…).
Lastly, I had the Moules Mariniere, cooked in white wine, garlic and parsley and served with the same frites that came with my dad’s steak. These mussels were fairly large and plump, and tasted only slightly of the sea (which is good). Only 1 mussel out of the entire dish was unopened. The broth wasn’t too salty and tasted very strongly of garlic, which I enjoyed immensely– instead of dipping my fries in the mayo they provided, I dipped it into my soup (which made them a bit soggy, but GARLIC!). Definitely a solid offering, but nothing too exemplary.
We went all out for dessert tonight, and ordered not one, but two! Honestly, they all sounded great and I would have ordered them all but I was really full (and they’re $7 each). The four of us shared the Nut-Crusted Chocolate Silk Cake, a decadent dessert that came nicely dressed with raspberry coulis and yogurt. The cake itself was rather rich, and I’m glad we shared because I wouldn’t have been able to eat it all myself. The coulis and yogurt did help balance it out, though. For our second dessert, we had the Classic Creme Brulee, which featured a light, not-too-sweet custard beneath a thick layer of sugar. I loved the contrast between the hard, caramelized sugar and the creamy custard, as the sugar hit from the top balanced out with the slightly blander bottom. I think this is my newfound favourite dessert… mostly because you can’t get this at just any restaurant or cafe.
Overall, despite the slight hiccup with the steak, I felt that dinner was very enjoyable. The prices were quite reasonable for French food (our total bill came to just under $30 a person, which is significantly less than what you’d spend at a fine-dining French restaurant), but of course the price was reflected in the atmosphere, as there certainly were no uniform-clad waiters waiting at your beck-and-call and the small restaurant itself was quite crowded. I can definitely see why this establishment is as popular as it is– there wasn’t a single empty table throughout our entire meal– and I can see myself making the trip here again. Remember to make reservations well in advance of your dinner, though!
Les Faux Bourgeois
663 East 15th Avenue
Thanks for checking in again! Without further ado, here are the remaining sandwiches and desserts from yesterday’s post, Mother’s Day @ The Urban Tea Merchant (Part 1).
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the menu featured Wagyu Beef, albeit in a smaller portion that a meatlover like me would like. The Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with Horseradish Foam, which sat atop an olive oil crostini, exhibited nice marbling, and was very delicious. I liked that the carpaccio was more on the raw side, being only lightly seared along the edges. The extra seasoning of black pepper along the edges of the beef gave the beef a little bit of a crust which I could have done without, but it didn’t detract from the dish. I thought that there was a little too much horseradish foam on top of the crostini, so I ended up scraping it off, but the little I left on (after this picture was taken) still complemented the beef.
My favourite in terms of presentation was the Boursin Cheese Mousse with Crisp Endive and Candied Walnut— just look at how cute it is! I actually popped the whole thing in my mouth, just because I couldn’t figure out a better way to eat it (I didn’t want to be left with all the endive in the back, and spreading the cheese around seemed a little too peanut-butter-and-celery kiddish to me). I liked the mingling textures of it– the crispiness of the endive, coupled with the crunch of the walnuts and the creaminess of the cheese mousse was something I had never experienced before. I was a little skeptical at first, because the words cheese and mousse don’t really conjure up appetizing thoughts, but I found that the cheese was actually quite light, which allowed the walnuts and veggies to shine too. Even my mom, who despises cheesy things (except for the cheese on pizza and on cheeseburgers), enjoyed eating this.
The second-last sandwich I had was the Cucumber Tea Sandwich with Watercress Foam. I don’t really understand all this foam business– I guess it makes the sandwiches more fancy– but to me it just looks like a weird light paste, and most times I can barely taste the foamy ingredient. I’m sure someone who is more of a food connoisseur would be giving me the death glare right now because I’m not appreciating the work that goes into making it, the delicate flavour, the blah blah blah… anyways, I digress. In short, I couldn’t taste the watercressy-ness of the foam. The sandwich on the whole was pretty much the mild and refreshing finish I expected (I think cucumber and watercress sandwiches are staples of afternoon tea). It wasn’t anything spectacular (cue foam-lovers’ gasp!), but by no means was it poorly executed. I just wasn’t very excited about it.
This, though– THIS I was excited about. I have had the pleasure of munching on this Lapsang Souchong Tea-Infused Chicken Tea Sandwich on all 3 visits, and needless to say, I really really love it. I love that it’s served in an adorable little waffle cone; I love that you can taste the smokiness of the Lapsang Souchong, a tea that’s showcased in the storefront; I love that the chicken and celery and lettuce and cone go so darn well with each other. This last savoury item is pretty unique in my books, but of course, I haven’t been to many other afternoon tea places, so maybe I’m just woefully ignorant. Anyways. I’ll stop gushing. My mom and I both thought that the chicken cone was well prepared– the chicken salad filling was just moist enough so that even though we ate it last, the cone was still crisp. In addition to this, the filling was nicely seasoned; like I said in my above rave, you could really taste the smokiness of the tea leaves. Overall I thought it was a great end to the savoury portion of our meal.
By the time we reached the dessert platter, we were already feeling really full, which surprised my mom because she didn’t think that she’d be satisfied with those few sandwiches. Since we were one of two groups at the restaurant at that time (I guess nobody has tea at 7:30!), we could take our time and digest a little before tackling the desserts. This platter, like the savoury one, had double the portion so that we could save on space. On it were Assorted Fruits, consisting of a few slices each of dragonfruit, starfruit, oranges and pineapple, plus a gooseberry. The fruits all tasted very fresh and sweet– I was very pleasantly surprised that the pineapple wasn’t super sour, and that the dragonfruit and starfruit were both very flavourful (these two fruits normally taste pretty bland). The Chevron Strawberry (chocolate dipped strawberry) was prepared correctly so that the fruit was still juicy and and not mushy underneath the chocolate layer. Also included on the plate were Chocolate-Dipped Green Tea Madeleines. Compared to the other tea-infused items on the menu, this was one of the best executed in that you could actually taste the green tea baked into this light and spongey pastry.
The last thing my mom and I ate were the two Macarons— the pink one was Bain de Roses Tea-Infused, and the yellow one was Lemon Rooibos Infused. Both these macarons were well balanced in flavour; I could taste the almond flavouring used in the shell in addition to the tea. My personal favourite was the lemon Rooibos, which was a nice blend of sweet and sour. The Bain de Rose macaron was a little too flowery for my taste, reminding me somewhat of my Crabtree & Evelyn lotion…
We packed away the Truffles and Petit Fours, simply because we were too full to continue (And also because any more sweets would make our teeth fall out. Probably). We have actually yet to eat them, since we’ve been going out for meals all weekend with various family members. I remembered not liking the petit fours that much though, because they were extremely sweet– so sweet that my jaw started hurting. You could taste the almond flavouring, but I was far too distracted by the sweetness to taste anything else (apparently these are tea-infused too). Perhaps I’m just not a petit fours kind of person.
In general, we had a fantastic time at The Urban Tea Merchant. The staff were very friendly and informative, and when I asked them about the champagne they immediately apologized and corrected their mistake (even though it was a fairly minor one by my standards). The manager also checked up on us a few times, even though he had his own Mother’s Day dinner to attend (his was the other group in the restaurant). Overall, I found service to be top-notch, and it’s certainly one of the reasons why I have returned. Price-wise, it can be a little expensive for some (the Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea Special is $48, but they do have some cheaper sets that are priced at $25 per person), but the quality of food and service (plus the champagne) justified the cost for me. I don’t think I’d drop by for a random visit because it would put too big a dent in my wallet if I went too often, but it’s certainly a great place to go for a special event.
Anyways. I hope you’re all having a splendid day (it’s beautiful in Vancouver) and that you’re spending quality time with your mothers! Again, Happy Mother’s Day!
The Urban Tea Merchant
1070 West Georgia Street
With exams and summer school and everything in between, I have to say that blogging wasn’t really on my mind for the past week or so– so I have to apologize for the delay in posting! Thank you for still reading on and visiting even though our (mostly my) posts have slowed down a bit.
Anyways. This first post after my impromptu hiatus is going to be a long one, so I’m actually going to split it into 2 posts– one today, and one tomorrow. In any case, brace yourselves for a plethora of pictures of open-faced tea sandwiches!
I usually have a hard time deciding on where to go with my mom for Mother’s Day, but luckily this year I had no trouble at all. Having been to The Urban Tea Merchant twice the previous year (for a birthday and a bachelorette), I knew that I would get both scrumptious food and outstanding service, and so I made an online reservation a week beforehand to ensure we’d get a great evening.
We arrived at the Georgia location a little early for our 5:30pm reservation, and so we had the opportunity to browse through the storefront’s display of different teas. The staff were incredibly friendly from the get-go, informing us about the kinds of leaves they stock, and letting us know that they were preparing our table for us. Their advice definitely made choosing a tea for our meal a lot easier!
Since we were celebrating Mother’s Day, it made sense to order their $48 Mother’s Day Signature Tea Service, which includes a $6 tea of your choice, champagne, sorbet, plus the usual variety of savoury and sweet sandwiches and desserts. My mom and I started off with a pot each of Grand Wedding and Alfonso teas, both of which are black tea-exotic fruit combinations. Both these teas smelled strongly of fruit (mine had mango in it), but tasted rather light– generally, we like our teas a little stronger, but it wasn’t that big of a problem. We were also presented with two flutes of Pink Flamingo, a non-alcoholic tea cocktail. I was puzzled when we drank it as it didn’t taste like there was alcohol in it at all–turns out they didn’t think I was legal (even though I am– I guess it’s nice that I look younger than I really am, that could come in handy a few years down the road…) so they didn’t serve us the actual champagne cocktail. When I enquired with the manager, who had come by to check up on us, he promptly apologized and said he’d bring us the champagne right away. We didn’t really care if we got the champagne or not, since my mom and I aren’t really big on drinking, but it was really nice of him to give it to us even though we had already polished off the Pink Flamingo. So, here’s a photo of the Tea-Infused Champagne and White Wine Cocktail. I don’t know my alcohols very well, so all I can really say about this is that it was very refreshing and it tasted like what I expected (bubbly, grape-y, with a slight hint of green tea).
Next up our server brought us a palate-cleansing Peach Mint Sorbet, which was just right– not too sweet, and not too sour. You could really taste the peach flavour in it, and the mint leaf added a refreshing element to the pre-meal dessert (as my mom called it). Soon after we finished the sorbet, our server brought out the tea tower. I don’t have a picture of the whole thing because the middle tier of fresh-baked scones came a little while after the tower, and by then we had already eaten a few of the sandwiches. But you can imagine it, right? (:
They only brought over one tower so that our table wouldn’t be too crowded, so what you see in the picture to the left are the 7 savoury options, multiplied by 2. I had the Baby Shrimp and Granny Smith Apple spoon (bottom left corner) first– this was a really delicate starter, where you could taste the freshness of the diced shrimp amidst the mousse. The crispness of the green apples and the alfalfa sprouts gave this some extra texture. My mom and I thought this spoon was a little on the bland side, and definitely had to be eaten first so that the taste of the other, stronger-flavoured sandwiches wouldn’t overpower it.
We didn’t really eat in any particular fashion (ie. we didn’t follow the order of the sandwiches listed on the menu, and instead just ate whatever we felt like grabbing), so I had the Smoked Salmon & Wasabi Aioli with In-House Ponzu Jelly open-faced sandwich next… maybe I was subconsciously choosing to eat all the seafood first. This sandwich had a lot more flavour than the baby shrimp spoon before it, courtesy of the smoked salmon and ponzu jelly strip. However, the sandwich wasn’t overwhelmed with saltiness; rather, I felt that the ponzu (which was only lightly lemony) complimented the seasoned fish. I couldn’t really taste the wasabi aioli spread, though– I actually didn’t even know there WAS wasabi aioli until I looked at the menu again.
By the time I finished the smoked salmon sandwich, our server had brought out the fresh-baked scones– so of course I had to leave everything and eat that first (You could say that fresh-baked bread and pastries are my mom’s and my Kryptonite)! The left Cheese, Onion and Chive Scone was satisfyingly buttery and flakey, and my mom and I liked that these were indeed made fresh for our meal. All the flavours went really well together– I have had scones of this kind that were extremely (grossly) cheesy or oniony– but this one was a mild mixture of all the ingredients, and I almost didn’t want to put the cream on it because it tasted so good by itself. Almost. It IS devonshire cream… Anyway. The Petit Savoury Tart was basically a small square quiche– the crust was buttery and flakey, and the filling was cheesy. I think this might have been a tad overcooked though, as it was getting a little hard by the time we ate it. The smaller scone on the right is the Chocolate Chip Scone, which was a fruit scone the last two times I went for afternoon tea. No matter though– I’m not that big a fan of dried fruit, and I love chocolate chips– so no harm, no foul. This scone was a bit denser than the savoury one, and actually tasted a lot blander. I think it would have benefitted from more chocolate chips, as they were distributed quite sparsely throughout the scone.
Next I had one of my favourite things of the night– the Nilgiri Tea-Infused Egg Salad Sandwich, where the eggs were served devilled-style. I could tell that the restaurant put a lot of care into making each and every part of the tea set, and that was certainly exhibited in this sandwich. This was an overall delicate sandwich, where the egg yolk mixture was only lightly seasoned (my mom liked that it wasn’t ridiculously mayonnaise-y). It did get kinda messy though, as the bread wasn’t really able to hold up the heavier egg, but all that meant was that we had to cut it up into smaller pieces. My only qualm with this sandwich was that the eggs didn’t taste very tea-infused; as an Asian, I’ve had plenty of tea-infused eggs in my lifetime, and I have to say that this one was on the blander end of the spectrum. It’s not like we didn’t enjoy eating it, though.
So I’m going to save the rest of this post (the remaining sandwiches and desserts, plus my closing comments on service, price and overall experience) for tomorrow. Hopefully you’ll read this tonight and– if you’re stumped on what to do with your mom tomorrow–be inspired to do something fun with her! Thanks again for reading, and to all the mothers out there, Happy (Early) Mother’s Day!
The Urban Tea Merchant
1070 West Georgia Street