Wah Wing Szechuan Restaurant

Despite having been settled in Vancouver for the last seven years or so, my family had never been to dimsum before. I mean, I’d gone for dimsum before, but always with friends, never with my family. I’m not sure why, but it was probably due to the fact that we almost always go out for dinner, rather than lunch, and sometimes ordering at a Chinese restaurant can be daunting when you don’t speak Chinese. In any case, though, we finally decided to satisfy our cravings for dimsum by trekking out to Wah Wing one Sunday afternoon.

DSC_0007

If you’re like me and aren’t too familiar with the world of dimsum, it can be difficult trying to decide what to order, especially since the English menu descriptions are usually less than helpful. Still, I know enough to order the Siu Mai ($4.25). The shrimp on top were a nice touch, being aesthetically pleasing and letting us know how much care was put into the food. The siu mai themselves were moist and meaty with a nice bounce, while the shrimp on top provided a nice textural snap.

DSC_0008

I guess I’m still a kid at heart because one of my favourite items to get is always the Lo Mai Gai ($4.25), or the sticky rice wrap. It’s just so fun to unravel that lotus leaf and discover the sticky rice within. Anyways, the rice here was moist, but not too wet, and quite filling. It was also filled with meat and other savoury treats, like mushrooms, which added a slight note of earthiness.

DSC_0010

Next up, we had the Steamed Beef Balls ($3.95), which were nicely cut up for us as to be more sharable. Beef generally isn’t my meat of choice, but here it was nicely tenderized, smooth, and tender. There was a subtle textural crunch from the water chestnuts. These balls also had a distinct aroma from the greens, and although I’m not sure what they were, I really enjoyed it.

DSC_0005

We had another kid-friendly item in the BBQ Pork Buns ($3.95). The pork filling was predictably sweet, but also slightly savoury at the same time. I thought that the morsels of pork were also quite substantial, with less filler and fatty pieces than other dimsum I’ve had. For me, though, the highlight of these is always the bun itself, and here it didn’t disappoint, being pillowy soft.

DSC_0009

I also ordered the Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($3.95). Here, it was not too greasy, again both combining the natural sweetness and savouriness of the ingredients. However, I found it a bit dense for my liking, and a little too dry, as I kept having to reach over for my tea. Still, I enjoyed it, as it was one of the more filling items at the table, compared to the dumplings or the beef balls.

DSC_0006

Last up, we also ordered the Fried Green Beans Special ($7.95), which is a lunch special that includes a bowl of rice and a soup of choice. The beans themselves were very fresh and quite crisp. The taste of the beans themselves was allowed to shine, as the dish itself was neither too salty or spicy. Unlike other versions I’ve sampled, these also included some diced onions, which also provided an enjoyable textural crunch.

DSC_0003

As part of the lunch special, we also received a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. I can’t pretend to be an expert on this, but I thought this was one of the best versions I’ve personally had. There was a good balance of flavours present, and the mushrooms added a subtle silkiness and earthiness. But then again, I enjoy mushrooms in just about anything. In any case, I especially thought that the fried green beans special was a good deal, considering that the meal includes both rice and soup.

Thankfully, though, my family enjoyed our first Vancouver dimsum experience, and so we decided to return for a dinner service. The restaurant was quite crowded, but the service was excellent, as it had been during dimsum. Our tea was promptly replaced without us having to hail down a waiter, and the servers, knowing that we weren’t Chinese, were thoughtful enough to identify each dish for us.

DSC_0006

Once I saw it on the menu, I eagerly suggested that we order the Half BBQ Duck ($12.95), since I love duck in any form. To be honest, it was a bit pricey, but I think it was worth it, as the duck was moist and tender, and not at all tough, which can often be a problem with duck. The skin was crispy and flavourful without being too greasy, and there was plenty of meat on the plate as well.

DSC_0005

My parents always like to order the Mongolian Beef ($12.95). This version was fine, but ultimately nothing memorable. This version was seriously lacking in the vegetable department. Some kind of broccoli would have definitely helped matters. It was fine, but nothing we would order again.

DSC_0001

Moving on, we also had the Tofu with Minced Beef ($12.95). This pretty much had everything we were looking for. The tofu itself was silky soft, and went perfectly with the steamed rice we ordered. It was a little salty and a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The beef had soaked up the sauce and was admittedly quite salty, but I find that that’s the way it is at every restaurant. The portion size was also perfect for the price we paid.

DSC_0004

Lastly, we had an item we always order for my mom’s benefit, the Pan-Fried Soy Sauce Rice Noodles ($10.95). The noodles were a tad too soft for my liking, as they could have been chewier. The onions, meanwhile, were undercooked, being too raw. Still, there was a nice assortment of ingredients on the plate, including large, tender slices of beef, so I suppose that makes up for it.

After two visits to Wah Wing, we were well-satisfied, and we would definitely return. I can’t say that I or my family are experts on dimsum, but both of our experiences here left us impressed with the food, the service, and the prices.

Wah Wing Szechuan Restaurant
2748 Lougheed Highway
Port Coquitlam, BC

Wah Wing Szechuan Restaurant 華榮川菜館 on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

Vancouver Food Cart Fest 2013

If you’re at all familiar with the food scene in Vancouver, you’re probably aware that this post is long overdue, since the food cart festival is a summer event. (And obviously for good reason, what with all the rain we get). I actually visited the festival in September with Sam and Pickles, when all of us had returned from our summer travels, so this post is actually only four months in the making. What with school and work and life in general, it can be a bit difficult to keep on top of things…that’s my excuse, anyways.

Despite the burgeoning food cart scene in Vancouver, I often find it difficult to seek out the specific ones that catch my interest. Many of them are open for a limited time during the day, or only at a specific location that is out of the way of my usual commute. Well, thank goodness for the food cart festival, then, which conveniently gathers Vancouver’s most popular food carts in one area so that folks like me can get to pig out to our hearts’ content. In 2013, the festival was hosted in a lot right by False Creek, which made it easily accessible by SkyTrain for us car-less folk.

DSC_0003

The three of us split up to consider our options, and Sam ended up with a Sourdough Pepperjack Cheese Sandwich ($8) from Mom’s Grilled Cheese. She had tomatoes and double smoked bacon added to her sandwich for $0.50 and $1.50, respectively. She quite enjoyed her sandwich, as the bread was fried up nicely on the griddle, making it crispy but not too greasy. Meanwhile, the sandwich itself was quite hot, so the cheese had that perfected melted consistency that we all look for in a grilled cheese sandwich. The sandwich is also served with chips, which were stuffed at the bottom of the paper cone, making the chips themselves soggy. Sam noted that she’d had the sandwich and chips served on a plate before, which was much better, as the chips didn’t get soggy. Still, the tomatoes and bacon nicely enhanced her sandwich, making it an enjoyable meal. Sam also indulged in a Ginger Mint Lemonade ($2.75), also from Mom’s, which tasted mostly of ginger with only a slight tint of lemon. It also had a slight enjoyable fizziness, and was an enjoyable drink for the very hot day that we were enduring.

DSC_0010

Meanwhile, Pickles and I wandered over to Yolk’s Breakfast. I’d wanted to try Yolk’s for a while, but simply never had the chance to. I’ve now had their food twice, once here and once at the actual restaurant now open on Hastings Street, but there was a time when I used to drool over some other fortunate soul’s Instagrammed chicken and waffles or soft-poached egg sandwich.

DSC_0005

The wait was long and arduous, but we finally received our orders and, luckily enough, found a shaded table to sit down and munch. Pickles had the Chicken and Waffles, which didn’t look super pretty but definitely did the job. The chicken was crispy, juicy, and flavourful, and came in large pieces. I’m a big fan of fried chicken (and pretty much every other deep-fried food), and I often find that I get more batter than actual chicken, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. The waffle itself was nice and buttery, but a little too soft for her liking, although it might have been softened by the hot weather and the fact that it took us a while to find a table to sit at. But then again, Pickles was fresh from her trip to Belgium at this point, so perhaps her waffle standards were a bit too high.

DSC_0008

Meanwhile, I had an item that I’d longed for for quite a while, a Poached Free-Range Egg Sandwich ($7.50). They have a beautiful flowchart where you can customize your sandwich, and I had mine with hand-carved honey ham, fresh spinach, dijon, hollandaise, one poached egg, all on an English muffin. There were quite a few flavours going on here: the saltiness from the ham, the tartness from the hollandaise, and a nice, comforting savouriness from the egg yolk. The English muffin was soft to begin with, and only got softer once I broke the egg yolk. This resulted in a super messy sandwich to eat, although it wasn’t a huge problem once I decided to fork-and-knife it. Breakfast sandwiches are my favourite type of sandwich, and this one was certainly yummy, but I’m not really sure if this particular combination was worth the hype that often accompanies any talk about Yolk’s.

DSC_0009

It’s just not breakfast without potatoes, and at Yolk’s these come in the form of a Truffle-Lemon Hash Brown Skewer ($3.50). At first bite, my hash browns were quite tart, with a very strong lemon flavour, but after that, the flavour seemed to mellow out, which was good. I think I waited too long to eat mine, as they got quite soggy, but other than that, these potatoes did an excellent job.

After finishing our food, the three of us took a nice walk along False Creek and enjoyed the sunshine. This was back in September, mind you, when Vancouver was enjoying sunny weather rather than the dreary, foggy dampness that we’re enduring now. Summer is always a season I look forward to, but the food cart festival definitely adds to an already perfect time of year.

Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck
800 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC

Mom's Grilled Cheese Truck on Urbanspoon

Yolk’s Breakfast
Vancouver, BC

Yolk's Breakfast on Urbanspoon


Tip Thai Restaurant

Living out in the burbs definitely has its benefits, but sometimes it can be difficult to find new and exciting places to eat. (Going all the way out to the West End for ramen is always a pain). Generally my eating adventures have me journeying westward from my home base of Coquitlam, but sometimes my family likes to travel east into PoCo for some eats. Since we’re all big fans of Thai food, we decided to try out Tip Thai one night to see if it’d measure up to the Thai restaurants in Vancouver.

DSC_0015

We started off with the Tom Yum Kung ($6.95) as usual. The soup consisted of halved tomatoes, prawns, and button mushrooms. It tasted like every other version I’ve had of this soup, sour and refreshing but also quite spicy. The broth tasted strongly of lemongrass, while the prawns were pleasantly fat and juicy. We used the soup to clear our palates when consuming the other dishes. I liked that they didn’t hold back on the spices, which made it taste that much more authentic and delicious.

DSC_0013

And of course we had to have the Green Curry ($9.95), which is a personal favourite of mine. We were able to choose the level of spiciness for this dish, and we opted for medium. As expected, the curry tasted strongly of coconut milk, and was both sweet and savoury. It was full of large pieces of soft eggplant, and small pieces of moist chicken. The curry itself had a strong, spicy aftertaste, making it great to eat alongside the rice.

DSC_0009

Instead of ordering a plain rice on the side, we had the Tip Thai Fried Rice ($9.95), Jasmine rice stir-fried with onions, tomatoes, and broccoli. This was a normal fried rice, really, with nothing blatantly Thai about it. But then again, it was a good dish to have at the table, especially if you’re not crazy about spicy foods. The rice itself was slightly salty, but other than that, it was tasty, if slightly unmemorable.

DSC_0012

We had another Thai classic in the Pad Thai ($9.95), served with egg, bean sprouts, onion, pressed tofu, and topped with crushed peanuts.  I was well-satisfied with the version here, which had none of that ketchup stickiness but instead the tanginess and sweetness from tamarind sauce. The noodles themselves were chewy and toothsome, exactly the way they should be.

DSC_0014We had more noodles in the form of Pad Se-Ew ($9.95), thicker rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce, egg, carrots, cabbages, and broccoli. Like the pad thai, the noodles here were pleasantly chewy, while the beef was moist, tender, and easy to chew. The dish had an overall savoury, slightly salty taste, which was to be expected, I suppose. While I enjoyed these noodles, for me, nothing can ever beat a good pad thai.

DSC_0016

And lastly, we had the Pad Pak Ruam-mit ($9.95), which was, for me, the least familiar dish out of the ones we sampled. Despite the unfamiliar name, the dish was rather simple, with vegetables and chicken stir-fried in garlic sauce. It wasn’t a bad dish to be sure, but nothing incredibly memorable, and to be honest, there was no real discernible taste other than the saltiness. If I were to visit again, I probably wouldn’t order this dish a second time.

Overall, the food we had at Tip Thai was decent, but nothing special, and quite typical of a restaurant its size. I suppose we should also factor in the location. Let’s face it: I wouldn’t expect mind-bogglingly amazing Thai food from a small restaurant in PoCo. In any case, though, the service was prompt, and the food arrived at our table at the speed of light, despite the presence of other patrons in the restaurant. So if you happen to be in PoCo and in need of a quick lunch or dinner, Tip Thai would be a decent spot. I mean, of course there’s better places for Thai food, but probably not anywhere close by.

Tip Thai Restaurant
2606 Shaughnessy Street
Port Coquitlam, BC
Tip Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Bandidas Taqueria

After a long and wonderful summer filled with European travels, I returned to Vancouver. Hopefully I don’t sound too much like I belong on a yellow brick road, but there’s really no place like home. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to travel, to gaze down on Paris from Montmartre, to sample some Guinness in Dublin, to watch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, and to study in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Landing at YVR was quickly followed by guzzling down an Ice Capp, snuggling my cat, and unpacking the souvenirs I’d acquired for family and friends. Returning to Vancouver means returning to Vancouver eats, and I had no problem with that, as there are still plenty of restaurants both old and new that I have yet to try.

On a bright, cool October day, Pickles and I decided to meet up for a late lunch on Commercial Drive. Despite hopping on and off the 99 from and to UBC many days out of the week, I have to admit that my exploration of the area has been minimal. I just don’t feel the urge to explore when I’m hauling around my laptop, books, and am generally just exhausted from the effort of trekking down to campus. In any case, Pickles and I decided that we’d start trying out some restaurants on the drive, and our first choice was Bandidas Taqueria.

DSC_0036Bandidas, like many restaurants on the drive, just has that requisite hipster vibe, complete with mason jars used as cups. The restaurant itself was quiet when we arrived, but then again, it was around 3 P.M. All the better for us to have a nice conversation without having to compete with background noise.

We both started off with a Horchata ($3), which is available with either almond, soy, or regular milk. I thought it was a nice touch to have all three available, and I opted for almond milk. The horchata was generously sprinkled with cinnamon, which added a flavourful hit of spice. The drink itself was creamy but not without that quintessential nuttiness. It was an excellent way to start off our meal.

DSC_0037

One of my fondest childhood memories is going to camp in elementary school and consuming an inordinate amount of cornbread and chili. Whenever I see chili on a menu, I tend to order it, and that’s what happened here. This Chili ($7) was a vegetarian stew, topped with melted cheese and avocado. The avocado added a nice savouriness to this meatless chili, and it went well with the thick, hearty stew. The cheese also made it taste rich and luxurious. Despite lacking meat, the chili was full of ingredients, including chickpeas, corn, and some small pieces of celery. I personally would have preferred it to be a bit spicier, but other than that, I was immensely satisfied. It was also a great value for the price that I paid, as I ended up having the leftovers for dinner as well.

DSC_0039

Pickles, meanwhile, had three tacos, which totalled to around $8. She thought that overall, the tacos were a good value, as they were packed with filling, but that also made them difficult to eat. The Leona Gayle (chipotle tofu, pinto beans, cheese, roasted red salsa, romaine lettuce, and sour cream) in particular was too wet, and she had to resort to fork and knife to get at it. She also tried the Connie’s, which consisted of ground walnuts, apple salsa, cheese, and roasted red pepper sauce, and the Wolf & Goat, which had fresh guacamole, purple cabbage, pinto beans, fresh red salsa, cheese, and sour cream. She thought that the former would have benefitted from toasted, crunchier walnuts, while the latter was the best of the three she’d tried. The addition of guacamole was a nice touch, and the cabbage added some much-needed texture.

The two of us really enjoyed our late lunch at Bandidas. I wish that yummy Mexican food were more accessible in Vancouver, but this was more than acceptable, especially for the prices that we paid. If I were on the Drive again, I would gladly return here, especially for that yummy horchata, and to try more dishes on their extensive menu.

Bandidas Taqueria
2781 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC

Bandidas Taqueria on Urbanspoon


Nuba

I don’t consider myself to be too picky of an eater (although my mother may disagree), and in general, I’m quite open to trying new and different foods. For one thing, I get quite excited whenever an “exotic meat” (a.k.a. anything outside of the usual realm of pork/beef/chicken/lamb/duck/seafood) is available on a restaurant’s menu. Well, this food adventure didn’t feature any exotic meats, unless you consider lamb to be exotic, but it was still exciting in that it was my first time trying Lebanese food.

Nuba is a popular chain in Vancouver, with four locations located throughout the city. Gawa and I decided to lunch at the location on Main and 3rd one Saturday afternoon. It’s kind of an odd location, and, true to the spirit of the city, surrounded by apartment buildings in various stages of construction. Still, it ended up being a good choice for lunch, especially for Gawa, as it has an extensive selection of vegetarian items.

DSC_0001The waitstaff were especially helpful and enthusiastic to help us make our choices, and good thing too. Despite my unfamiliarity with Lebanese cuisine, everything on the menu sounded delicious. In any case, we started off our meal with a Mango and Orange Juice for Gawa, which was the juice of the day in addition to the usual flavours available. Gawa generously allowed me a sip, and, to be honest, it tasted mostly like orange juice, with the mango flavour being not as apparent. It was still refreshing and enjoyable, but I would have liked it more if the mango flavour had been more pronounced. But then again, I’m not much of a juice person. As far as juices go, it was tart, refreshing, slightly sweet, and ultimately satisfying. And honestly, what more can you ask from juice?

DSC_0005

As for our mains, we both ordered off the “Plates” section of the menu, where the entrees are accompanied by hummus, salad, pickled cabbage, pita bread, tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds), hot sauce, and a choice of either roasted potatoes or organic brown rice. Gawa chose to have her Eggplant Stew with the potatoes, while I had the rice. Although she enjoyed the meal as a whole, she had more than a few critiques of the food. She found that the salad wasn’t well-dressed, and the dressing itself wasn’t anything special, while the hummus could have been more flavourful. Still, she enjoyed the olive oil that had been drizzled onto the hummus, which appeared to be of a good quality. As for the other sides, she especially liked the pickled cabbage, which, being extremely sour, served as a refreshing palate cleanser. As for the stew itself, she thought that it could have used some other types of chunkier vegetables, to add variety of texture as well as dimension of flavour, as it ended up being a bit too mushy and one-dimensional. Despite these complaints, she thought that the experience was a positive one, and would definitely consider returning.

DSC_0003

I decided on the Lamb Kafta ($12), a grilled grain-fed halal lamb patty, served with the same sides (although with the rice instead of the potatoes). I enjoyed the lamb, although I thought it was served with way too much tzatziki. The dollop of tzatziki was pretty much the same size as the lamb patty itself, which was just overwhelming. Anyways, the tzatziki itself was fine, being chunky, sour, and tangy. It was a nice complement to the slightly gamey, salty flavour of the lamb. The rice tasted exactly like how I expected it to taste, with the texture being more apparent than the flavour of the rice itself. As for the sides, my opinions echoed Gawa’s, although I especially enjoyed the hot sauce, which was the type with a subtle spicy kick rather than an obvious heat.

DSC_0006Both of our meals were accompanied by some Pita. Gawa thought that the pita should have been thicker, but I personally had no opinion about it one way or the other. To be honest, I was quite hungry so I inhaled the food without too much thought. And although it seems like we had a lot of complaints about the food here, we genuinely enjoyed our meal, although that may be in part due to our hungry hungry hippo-ness on this particular day. More than the food, we enjoyed the atmosphere here. The dining area was clean and modern, and the service was friendly and accommodating without being overbearing. And, of course, the menu is a refreshing change of pace from the overwhelming dominance of Japanese food in Vancouver (although, as you know, I enjoy Japanese food as much as the next person). I would definitely return to Nuba to try some of their other dishes, especially Najib’s Special, which is apparently the dish to get here. I guess we’ll save that for next time.

Nuba
146 East 3rd Avenue
Vancouver, BC

Nuba on Urbanspoon


Toshi Sushi

Probably the cuisine I longed for most during my two-month European adventure was Japanese food. Authentic or inauthentic, we are blessed in Vancouver to be able to enjoy sushi, ramen, and other Japanese foods to our hearts’ content. Sometime soon after I returned to Vancouver, SB and I decided to try out Toshi Sushi, one of the most popular sushi restaurants in Vancouver, at least according to Urbanspoon.

Despite its popularity, I’d never been to Toshi before. Located on East 16th and Main, the tiny restaurant was bustling with activity. At least they have a system in place. Basically you just walk in and record your name on a list posted near the front door, and the servers seat people via this list. We had to wait half an hour for our seats after recording our names, but the weather was nice enough that we just took a walk around the neighbourhood.

We were finally seated at the bar. I personally love sitting at the bar because it allows me to observe the chefs at work. The sushi chefs here were clearly skilled, but also immaculate in terms of hygiene and cleanliness, which I think is a must-have for a restaurant where raw fish is a major ingredient.

DSC_0025

We started off with four pieces of Maguro Sashimi ($5.75). We actually watched as the chef in front of us cut the slices, so the anticipation was that much greater. The sashimi was buttery soft and served in slices that were thick enough but not overly so. The thickness of the slices allowed us to really savour each piece as it melted in our mouths. The fish was also noticeably fresh and incredibly smooth, and an excellent way to start our meal.

DSC_0026

Next up, we also had four rolls. The two rolls on the left, the Spicy Tuna Roll and the Spicy Chopped Scallop Roll made up the Spicy Combo ($7.75). We also added on the two rolls on the right, which were the Negitoro Maki ($3.50) and the Family Maki ($4.25). In general, I enjoyed these rolls, as they were clearly made with care. The rice had just the right hits of sugar and vinegar. The spicy tuna and the negitoro were quite similar in terms of the texture of the tuna used, which was pleasantly creamy. The naturally mushy texture of the tuna was nicely complemented by the use of cucumber and green onion, as well as the addition of spicy sauce in the spicy tuna roll. I was particularly happy with the negitoro roll here because of the sheer amount of tuna used, since most sushi restaurants in Vancouver serve the negitoro roll in a smaller portion. Anyways, the spicy sauce, which I believe was some kind of variation on Japanese mayonnaise, was the type with a subtle sting rather than overt heat, if that makes any sense, making it not too spicy. The same sauce was used for the spicy chopped scallop roll, so the two rolls naturally tasted quite similar. The family roll was basically a salmon maki with ikura on top, and mainly relied on the briney flavour and the texturally pleasing pop from the roe more than anything else. It was simple but delicious, just the way that sushi should be.

DSC_0027

We had even more tuna in the form of a Tekka Don ($10.50). The rice, which didn’t taste too strongly of either sugar or vinegar, was topped with very fresh tuna sashimi. In fact, the rice almost tasted like simple, regular steamed white rice, with just a bit of vinegar seasoning. There isn’t much to say about this, except that the tuna was fresh and had just the right amount of fat, while the cucumber slices included were a nice touch.

DSC_0030

We were still hungry, so we added on two more items. The first was the Chicken Wing Karaage ($4.95). I swear, at least five other tables ordered this while we were eating, and every time it left the kitchen, I could smell the delicious, deep-fried goodness from a mile away. The couple seated beside us also added this to their order once they saw us devouring it, so there you go. It was definitely worth the anticipation, being very crispy, hot, and freshly fried. The bones were separated so that the wings were comparatively easy to eat, and the chicken meat itself was juicy and tender. They were also lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, almost reminding me of the Taiwanese salty peppery chicken nuggets that I love so much.

DSC_0029

And lastly, we had the Ika Tobi Kyu Roll ($3.75). I generally shy away from ordering squid at most restaurants, unless it’s calamari, as squid tends to be tough and difficult to chew. However, here, the squid was quite tender, with only a slight chewiness. The tobiko added that nice pop, and the cucumbers were fresh and crunchy. Still, I thought this was the weakest of the rolls we sampled, as there was simply too much rice. The rice was also a bit too warm, which distracted from the taste of the other ingredients.

Overall, though, we had a lovely time at Toshi Sushi. Other than the wait, our experience was flawless, from the delicious food to the friendly service. I mean, I hate waiting for food as much as anyone, but as the saying goes, all good things come to those who wait, right? The next time that I’m shopping at all those adorable boutiques on Main Street, Toshi will be high on my list of possible dinner locations.

Toshi Sushi
181 East 16th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

Toshi Sushi on Urbanspoon


Keg Steakhouse and Bar

Ah, Vancouver. How I missed your naturally sweet tap water, your cooling seaside breeze, and your obsession with recycling! How on earth did I survive without a Tim Hortons Ice Capp for two whole months? In any case, returning to Vancouver after two months in Europe was bliss for me, and resulted in gorging myself on my mother’s Korean home cooking, sushi, and other (mostly Asian) cuisines. Still, you can’t eat Asian food all the time. During my first week back in Vancouver, SB and I visited the downtown location of The Keg. Laugh at us if you will for visiting a chain restaurant, but I’ve yet to have a bad experience with The Keg!

Still, I’d never been to the downtown location before, although I’ve walked by it countless times. Directly across the street from Joe Fortes, The Keg offers a more frugal (although more limited) option for steak and seafood. Despite offering the same menu as other locations, the downtown location does feel and look swankier. We were seated promptly by our hostess and proceeded to order off the same old familiar menu.

DSC_0004

As always, we received our complimentary Bread first. It arrived promptly after we put in our order, which was nice. I hate just sitting around waiting for the bread to come. Anyways, it was sourdough, which I don’t prefer, but ah well. Served with whipped butter, it was quite warm and chewy, as bread should be. However, it felt a bit tough and hard on my throat–although that may have just been me being extra sensitive, as I had a bad cough the whole week.

DSC_0009

We wanted to share an appetizer, and the Mushrooms Neptune ($9.95) sounded like the most intriguing option available. They were simply wine simmered mushrooms caps topped with crab meat and cheese, served with some sourdough. We were disappointed by this, as the mushrooms caps were very small and therefore an afterthought in the dish. Instead of the mushrooms being stuffed with the other ingredients, it felt like the mushrooms were simply another ingredient in the dish, if that makes any sense. The taste of cheese was so strong that nothing else was really apparent, although the bread once again was warm and chewy. We didn’t think that this dish was anything special, and we probably wouldn’t order it again.

DSC_0010

Despite what you might think, I’m not much of a big eater, so I decided on the Grilled Top Sirloin (8 oz) ($22.95) with a twice baked potato. This was more than enough for me–I finished roughly half of it. As for the veggies, they were nothing special–I thought the asparagus should have been cooked longer, as it was too hard for me. I asked for the steak medium rare, and it arrived perfectly cooked, and it was both chewy and tender. I did find it a bit bland, though, and thought it could have benefitted from more freshly ground pepper. The potato contained bacon bits, which is always a plus, and the smooth, mashed potato-like texture was nicely broken up by intermittent chunky bacon bits.

DSC_0011

Now, I only finished about half of my steak, but SB managed to finish the rest of it for me, as well as his Prime Rib (16 oz) ($30.95), which arrived with horseradish, red wine herb au jus, onion strings, and the same twice baked potato. I’ve always had a soft spot for prime rib, and this one was quite tender and arrived medium rare, just the way we’d asked for it. The meat itself had a bit too much fat, but it wasn’t too much of a hassle to remove it. The onion strings were rather soggy–perhaps we waited too long to eat them? Anyways, the potato was again the same creamy, bacon-y goodness. I’m not a huge fan of bacon (blasphemous, I know), but there’s something about those salty tiny bacon bits inside a baked potato that is just so sinfully delicious.

I’ve always enjoyed The Keg for their solid eats. It’s a good option for special occasion family dinners (graduations, birthdays, and whatnot). I’ve always visited the Burnaby location with my family and had stellar, friendly service there, so I was surprised at the strange, awkward service we received here. Our waitress was friendly, but there were a couple of things I found odd about her behaviour. We were seated by a sort of low wall, and she would lean over this to talk to us Home Improvement-style, which I found patronizing. There was plenty of room on the other side of our table for her to stand without disturbing the other table of diners. I suppose that she was probably trained to behave this way, though, and I had the feeling she was relatively new at her job. It didn’t make my dining experience unenjoyable, but it was troubling, to say the least.

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed by my experience at The Keg. In comparison to the stellar experiences I’ve had at the Burnaby location, my experience here was less than stellar, although I found the food satisfying and well worth the money. As with any location, though, the menu is less than imaginative, but it does what it’s designed for. Sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned steak, and for that, I’d highly recommend The Keg–maybe just not this location.

Keg Steakhouse and Bar
742 Thurlow Street
Vancouver, BC

Keg Steakhouse & Bar on Urbanspoon