I haven’t purchased a package from VANEATS.ca since my meal at Ebisu a year ago. I remember that meal as being fulfilling, but admittedly lacklustre. Still, I purchased the package available for Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen, a small, relatively new Indian restaurant on the Drive. I love Indian food and hadn’t had it in a while, and the reviews of the package seemed quite positive overall. So on a rainy Monday, SB and I headed down the Drive to redeem our meal for two.
The restaurant itself was clean, but a bit empty during our visit. I suppose that’s to be expected for a small restaurant on a Monday night, though. We took our seats by the window and informed the server of our VanEats package, and added on another curry for good measure. The package itself cost $18.
The first dish of our meal to arrive was the Aloo Tiki, two crispy potato cakes served with a blend of Delhi, tamarind, and mango sauces topped with pomegranate and cilantro. The first dish of any meal is important in setting the tone for the entire meal, especially if it’s your first visit to the restaurant. Sadly, this dish was a flop. On the bright side, these little cakes were crispy on the outside, which was a nice textural contrast from the dense inside. However, parts of the inside were seriously cold, like it had just come out of the freezer. It was just unacceptable and inedible. There was really no excuse for this, especially considering that there were only two tables occupied at this point in our meal (and the other table hadn’t even ordered yet). The sauces were both sweet and savoury, and reminded me of tonkatsu sauce. It would have been a good dish otherwise, but the inside being frozen and cold was just a horrible first experience. We were seriously unimpressed by this, which set the tone for the rest of the meal.
Next up, we had the Cucumber Salad, which was a small portion of fresh cucumber, onion, tomato, and bell peppers. The veggies seemed fresh, which is all I really ask for in a salad. It was a refreshing way to clear our palates when sampling our various curries.
The curries included in the VanEats package were the Chicken Korma on the left and the Butter Chicken on the right. Of these two, we preferred the korma, which tasted strongly of coconut. It was creamy and sweet, but also had a spicy aftertaste that we enjoyed. However, the meat was quite dry, which could have been fixed if it had been served in smaller pieces. Meanwhile, the butter chicken was different from what we’ve had at other Indian restaurants. It was quite thick and creamy, and for some reason reminded us of Campbell’s mushroom soup. It had less of a strong tomato flavour, and the chicken again was quite dry. The creamy texture of it was so overwhelming that we couldn’t really notice much else about the dish. The accompanying rice was undercooked and quite hard in some places, although it was of a decent portion size.
Lastly, we also added the Chennai Lamb Curry ($13.99), figuring that we wouldn’t get full from the VanEats package alone. I personally love lamb, but I wasn’t a huge fan of this. The curry itself was very oily (as you can see from the photo), and incredibly salty. The more you ate of it, the more you noticed the saltiness. It was fine when eaten with the rice, but it was still a tad too salty for my tastes. The lamb, like the chicken in the other curries, was quite dry, and served in large pieces. To their credit, it didn’t taste overly gamy, as tends to happen with lamb. There were no other real discernible ingredients in the curry other than the lamb–no potatoes or anything, which made it a bit uninteresting to eat as well.
In any case, I would categorize our dinner at Siddhartha’s as unmemorable. Although the rest of the meal was average, the frozen inside of the aloo tiki left us sorely unimpressed and a tad disturbed. Still, judging by the number of positive reviews they’ve garnered online, it appears that our experience doesn’t reflect on their usual food preparation practices. Still, as much as I love Indian food, I probably wouldn’t return to Siddhartha’s again.
Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen
2066 Commercial Drive
I hadn’t planned on visiting Belgian Fries with my mom. It just sort of happened. It was my birthday, and we’d just finished shopping–first at the Vancouver Flea Market, and then at the Commercial Drive location of Barefoot Contessa. We were both hungry and I didn’t really know of anywhere else we could go. Plus, I’d heard good things about Belgian Fries and their artery-clogging food and hadn’t blogged about it yet, so why not?
Despite Belgian Fries’s reputation for their deliciously unhealthy poutines, my mom and I were not tempted. (I was having an uncharacteristically health-conscious summer). My mom also isn’t particularly into deep-fried or greasy foods (except onion rings), so she opted for the House Salad. This was a pretty typical offering, with the tomatoes, corn, cucumber slices, and lettuce all being satisfyingly fresh. It was prepared with a vinegar-based dressing which was a bit too sour for my liking. However, it was a typical salad, and neither memorably bad nor good. I suppose it was a good salad for a place known for deep-fried foods as their specialty.
Speaking of deep fried foods…true to character, my mom also ordered the Onion Rings. These came out nice, hot, and crispy, although my mom personally found them a little too salty. The batter was also not too thick, and they actually exhibited some onion flavour. The batter was pretty one-dimensional, however–I’m used to the A&W onion rings, which are all flaky and delicious. (Although I know they’re just full of calories and fat, but isn’t that the point of onion rings?) The portion size was fine for the price we paid, but I wish they weren’t served in this paper cone. As I watched the oil seep through the paper, it made the onion rings themselves less appetizing for me. Ah, whatever. This is a pretty casual place so I guess I shouldn’t be too picky.
As for me, I ordered the Chicken Burger, accompanied by their house fries and a choice of dip (I chose honey mustard). The burger, like the onion rings and salad, was ordinary. The highlight was that the chicken breast was not too dry, and actually was on the juicy side. However, the burger itself was quite bland, even though the lettuce and tomato seemed quite fresh. After a while, I just got too sick of it and stopped trying to finish it. Now, the fries. I’d read lots of great reviews of Belgian Fries, focusing mainly on their poutines, so I was expecting a lot from these fries. I was very disappointed. The fries I got tasted very old and hard, and exhibited very little potato flavour. Personally, I like two types of fries: either the skinny, very crispy kind, or the fat ones that are full of potato flavour. These fries were too large for my liking, too old, and too hard–I really had to make an effort to chew. I suppose that if these same fries are used in a poutine, the gravy and such would help soften them up, but here they were really not to my liking. I tried having them with the honey mustard dip, with the hope that that would alleviate the situation, but the dip itself was neither too sweet nor tangy enough for me. Maybe that’s because I’m so used to the McDonald’s honey mustard dip, but it was just devoid of flavour. I was not a happy camper with this meal and would not order it again.
To summarize, neither of us was incredibly impressed by our experience at Belgian Fries, but then again, what were we expecting from a burger, salad, and onion rings? I was disappointed by the fries though–I couldn’t understand how anybody found those fries appetizing. On the whole, it was acceptable food, but not amazing.
1885 Commercial Drive
With nothing to do until 12 on a sunny Saturday morning, grabbing some good eats was a no-brainer! Three friends and I decided to go to The Red Wagon to try out that oft-talked-about restaurant. Unfortunately for Bruce, life intervened, and he wasn’t able to come with us; but no matter—nothing will stop me from eating food!
So I took the 135 down to The Red Wagon, a small diner in East Van that was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (I had actually heard about it from my friends Earl and Helena). Upon getting off the bus I could see how popular the restaurant was—it opened a mere half hour before I got there, and there was already a line out the door! I ended up having to wait for about 20 minutes for a table… good thing it was sunny out!
The incredibly friendly hostess sat us down, and we were immediately greeted by another waiter, who took our drinks requests. HT ordered a cup of Coffee, and we were taken aback by how small the cup was, since we didn’t know that refills were free til later in the meal. Taste-wise, the cup was pretty much what he expected it to be—nothing spectacular, but still pleasant to drink. The waiter came by with refills 3 more time during the meal, so HT did end up getting his fill.
I had the Orange Juice, and was also surprised to see that it came in such a tiny glass. I paced my drinking so that I wouldn’t be lacking a drink towards the end of my meal, so I don’t actually know if refills for that was free as well. Again, the juice was on the generic side—it was tart but sweet, and had lots of pulp, so I did enjoy my glass (even if it was rather dinky).
For eats, HT ordered the Pulled Pork Pancakes, which were featured on DDD. This was a 3-pancake tower with pulled pork sandwiched between the layers. The buttermilk pancakes were probably the best ones I’ve ever eaten—thick but still fluffy, these pancakes put IHOP to shame. I’m not really a pancake person, but these really made me rethink my stance in the pancake-waffle debate. Yum. The pulled pork between the pancake-y goodness had great texture and flavour; they were pull-apart tender, with a very light hint of spiciness amidst the sweet and barbeque flavours. This was all topped with a generous pat of butter and a ton of house-made, Jack Daniels syrup. However, we remarked that the dish would have been better if the syrup was on the side, since the bottom pancake soaked up most of the syrup. This was a unique and delicious offering (I’ve never had anything like it before), so I’m sad to say I got sick of the dish pretty quickly. I only had half of HT’s stack, but I found myself unable to finish all of it—I think the salty and sweet flavours got to be too overwhelming. I would definitely order this again, but would share it with a few more people (or I could get someone else to order it and take a bit from their plate… hmm…).
I chose the Spinach and Mushroom Benny, which was served with a large portion of homefries on the side. The English muffin base tasted homemade and buttery, and wasn’t too greasy tasting. The spinach and mushroom mix over top of it was cooked perfectly—flavourful, but again, not too salty or greasy—and the eggs were poached perfectly (for me), with the yolks only slightly runny. My favourite part was the hollandaise that was overtop all this: in terms of presentation, it was a pleasant light yellow colour (which let the runny yolks stand out), and there was enough of it so that every bite was flavoured by it. Taste-wise, it was creamy but light and only slightly lemony, and it’s definitely one of the better hollandaise sauces I’ve tasted. The homefries (translation: potato chunks) tossed with green onion were soft, mildly flavoured, and not too greasy, so it didn’t take away from the actually Benny. I liked that the potatoes were cooked like this, as it’s a nice change from regular old hashbrowns. My only complaint for this dish is that there wasn’t quite enough filling in the Benny… a few more pieces of spinach and mushroom would have really hit the spot.
Of course, you can’t go to The Red Wagon without also trying their housemade Pork Belly Confit. After seeing their feature on DDD I wasn’t too sure that my arteries could take all that fat… but oh well. I’ll just work out more, haha. Anyways. Because Bruce wasn’t there, we couldn’t order a third main (the two we ordered were almost too much for the both of us already!), so we just decided on a side order of Pork Confit instead. The piece we had had a healthy chunk of fat (ironic sounding, huh?) attached to it that gave it a ton of flavour and moisture. The meaty bits of the slice weren’t too salty, and though they were on the dry side, eating it together with the fat solved the problem. I’ll admit it was a little weird just having a slab of fatty meat on the side, but it went along great with my eggs benny. Whether it was worth the extra $4, though, I’m not too sure. If I get this again (I do like my fatty meats…), I think I would get it as part of a main to justify costs.
I really like the funky atmosphere of the restaurant. I’ll probably get flack for calling it a little “hipster”—not that it’s like, underground or anything, what with all the media exposure—but that’s honestly the feel I got from the place (maybe I just have a skewed idea of what “hipster” really is?). The staff were very chill, but they made every effort to make our experience great. I did get the sense that they were rushing us a little bit, but that was completely understandable considering the long lineup outside. Nevertheless, I think that The Red Wagon is a great place to meet up with friends; you do have to be prepared to wait quite some time for a table to free up, but the homey feel of the restaurant, plus the food and the service, really make up for it.
The Red Wagon
2296 East Hastings Street