Spaghetei recently opened near Robson and Denman, taking over a space previously occupied by Benkei Ramen. SB, Dolph, Justin and I decided to try out this new restaurant and its somewhat unfamiliar specialty, Japanese-style pasta. When we visited, the restaurant was still in its soft opening phase. This meant that our food was discounted by 30%, but that they were also only accepting cash as payment.
We started off with some complimentary Pesto-Garlic Bread, with one piece being brought out for each person at the table. At first, we we were somewhat disconcerted by the vibrant green colour of the bread, but it simply tasted like regular garlic bread. It was well-toasted, crisp, and warm. This was accompanied by some kind of Soup or broth that looked like water with a few lettuce shreds floating around. We couldn’t really identify what this was, except that it tasted vaguely salty. Well, I’m not going to complain about free food, so whatever.
SB decided on the Meat Sauce ($11) pasta, which was spaghetti with minced beef and vegetables topped with a Japanese Bolognese sauce, sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese. He thought that this dish lacked a clear Japanese element. The tomato flavour was quite mild, while the meat sauce itself was a little bit thin. I found the dish to be a bit bland overall, and would have appreciated some pepper, which wasn’t provided at the tables. The noodles were also done a bit past al dente, although SB found that this didn’t hinder his enjoyment of his meal.
I opted for the Mentaiko ($13), spaghetti tossed in spicy cod roe with button mushrooms and dried seaweed. I’ve always been partial to the mentaiko udon at Sushi Garden, so I thought this would be right up my alley. Sadly, though, I preferred the version at Sushi Garden, which has enoki mushrooms and tastes a lot cheesier. I found the portion size to be a bit small for $13 (although we only paid 70% of this price because of their promotion). Overall, this dish was quite average. It was a tad spicy, but overall quite mild, which I suppose is characteristic of most Japanese food. The four of us thought that it tasted the most Japanese out of the four dishes we ordered–possibly due to the cod roe and the seaweed. The mushrooms included in the dishes had a strange spiciness to them that reminded me of wasabi for some reason. While I enjoyed my lunch, I didn’t think that it was worth $13.
Justin had the Neapolitan ($12), which to my disappointment wasn’t spaghetti with chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream, but instead spaghetti in a mild ketchup sauce and served with chicken, bacon, sausages, and vegetables. Described on the menu as a “Japanese all-time classic”, it was again quite mild. There was nothing wrong with the dish itself, with all the meats being cooked correctly, but it failed to draw us in. The noodles themselves were again quite chewy and had good bite.
Lastly, Dolph, our resident noodle aficionado, had the Butter and Soy Sauce ($13), which included shrimp, mushrooms, and spinach. She commented that the sauce tasted exactly like what she expected–simply butter and soy sauce mixed together. Like the rest of us, she failed to see anything extraordinary about the dish, commenting that it tasted like something that could easily be made at home. I suppose that the homey quality of the food could also be seen as a positive aspect of the restaurant, though.
I think that overall, the four of us enjoyed our lunch at Spaghetei, although that might be due to the excellent company we had in each other rather than the food. We were curious about the restaurant itself, since the concept of Japanese pasta isn’t a widespread one in Vancouver, despite the prevalence of other types of Japanese food available to us. The food was decent, but bordered on bland, and in general I felt that my mom could whip up many of the dishes on the menu. I also wasn’t sure about the Japanese influence on the dishes that we sampled. Still, the service is attentive, and there is a certain charming quality to the homeyness of the dishes that we sampled, so I would recommend that you give Spaghetei a try.
1741 Robson Street
Siobhan was leaving for Iceland in the new year (yes, this visit was a while ago), and so the task fell on me to choose a restaurant for our last dinner date of the term! I had scoped out Adesso Bistro as a possible location for my birthday dinner (we went with Catch-122 instead), but the restaurant and menu still stood out to me, even a few months after I visited their website. So, despite the rain and cold, we made our way to Haro Street (Haro! Love the name) for an early night out.
I tried to make reservations for a later time, but since the restaurant was flooded with Christmas party reservations made eons ahead of time, we had to settle for dinner at the really early hour of 5:30. We were the first table at the restaurant, so we did get quite a bit of attention throughout our night there.
After some fresh-baked focaccia bread accompanied by the expected olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip came up, we looked over the menu to see what was being offered. At the time, they had a winter prix fixe menu which also doubled as their features sheet– each item had its own price, and could be ordered a la carte or as part of the three course meal ($32, plus $15 for wine pairing). We ended up getting an appetizer off their specials, and a pasta each.
I didn’t record the name of the appetizer, but let’s say that it’s called the Poached Pear and Proscuitto Salad ($8). This was a more deconstructed form than what I had imagined, with three little bundles of red lettuce enveloping bocconcini cheese, warm poached pear, and topped with slices of buttery proscuitto. This was all presented beautifully on a long plate, accented by a brush of balsamic vinegar dressing that we could sweep the lettuce over. I don’t know if you’re meant to eat this all together (like a lettuce wrap/taco), but I ended up taking mine apart, and just forked up a little bit of each ingredient. The pears were quite sweet, which balanced out the lightly salted bocconcini, and the proscuitto was just perfect– the amount that was served wasn’t bad either, considering each bundle had 2 slices each.
Siobhan is lactose intolerant, and she wasn’t quite sure what to get, so we asked the server to give us a recommendation. He was very knowledgable about all the ingredients in each of the dishes, and as well, gave us options for things that could be added or omitted. In the end, Siobhan decided on the Trofie ($17), a Ligurian specialty pasta (I’m not sure what this shape of pasta would be classified as) that came in a thick and chunky tomato sauce. This pasta dish also came with slices of smoked chicken and pieces of eggplant. She really liked her meal, saying the pasta was al dente and that the ingredients were prepared well– the eggplant wasn’t overcooked, and the chicken was juicy and flavourful.
As for myself, I have a habit of looking up menus online before going to a restaurant so that I won’t take quite as long to decide on a meal (unless the features list sounds especially delicious and distracting), so I already decided on the Risotto Funghi ($16). I do apologize for the gucky picture of the risotto– I had recently received a new Canon t3i as a Christmas present, and I was still getting the hang of lighting and shutter speed and all that jazz, so some pictures definitely aren’t the best. Despite the brownish-grey appearance (due to the porcini puree) of the dish that would normally seem unappetizing, this dish was really stellar– probably some of the best risotto I’ve had in a while. Each grain was uniformly prepared, with no bites being too hard or too mushy, and this was bursting with the woodsy flavour of the various roasted mushrooms. The grana padano provided a lightly salty garnish, and the arugula helped to break up the texture a bit. This was a huge portion, and I ended up taking some home for lunch the next day (and it was just as good then).
We were both too full for dessert (actually, that’s a lie, we went to Thierry afterwards, but that was following a long walk up Robson), so we decided to end our night at Adesso Bistro. We had a very nice time at the restaurant, even as it started to fill up as our night went on. The food we ordered was carefully and expertly prepared, so that nothing was amiss; as well, the several servers who came by to welcome us were well-versed in the menu and preparation of the meal, something you don’t always see at restaurants nowadays. I wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant, nestled in a residential neighbourhood off Denman, for its romantic and intimate feel, as well as for their stellar service and food.
1906 Haro St
Jimoco is a pasta place on Austin Ave. in Coquitlam, across from this Safeway that seriously needs a renovation. (They don’t have any self-checkout or customer service counter…what??) It’s a pretty small restaurant (maybe narrow is a better word), with booth seating as well as tables. The one thing I find odd about Jimoco is that the chef is Korean, much of the clintele is Korean, and yet the owner only hires Caucasian servers…I’m not sure if he did this to avoid the stereotype that Asian servers are rude. To be honest, I find the service here rather brusque and unprofessional…maybe it’s simply because this restaurant is ALWAYS busy. My most recent visit was on a random Thursday afternoon, around 2pm, and we had to wait for a table.
The real attraction of Jimoco is the prices. They have this “Grand Opening Special” (they’ve been open for a couple of years now, I think) where you can get two pastas for the price of one! Their pastas are priced around $15 or so, so technically a meal for two will cost around $20 including tax and tip! Not a bad deal at all. Well, on to the food…
Like a lot of pasta places, the meal starts off with complimentary bread. I’d rather get more than two slices of bread, but at these prices I guess you can’t complain. The bread is not baked in-house, but bought (as you can tell from the photo). It’s basically just two slices of bread toasted with garlic butter. It was toasted nicely, but really nothing special. I went with my dad this time and he wanted to save his slice of bread to eat with his pasta, but by then the bread was stone cold….
On this trip, my dad had the Linguini Soul. The picture’s a little blurry, I got too excited about the food…anyways. This is linguini in a rather spicy tomato sauce, with seafood (mussels, clams, squid, shrimp, baby scallops, etc.), served in a hot bowl. I believe this is one of the most popular dishes here. Well, for one thing, my parents have this every single time we come, and I’ve seen many other customers order it as well. It caters to the Korean customers–my parents often compare it to the Jambong at Korean-Chinese restaurants. This dish is definitely worth your money, considering how much seafood is included. The noodles were cooked al dente.
I had the Penne Alla Bombay. As the name suggests, this is penne served in a curry sauce, with bite-size pieces of chicken and diced tomatoes. I’ve had this a couple of times and always enjoy it. For one thing, the chicken is moist and flavourful, and not too dry. The pasta itself was cooked al dente, again. The serving size might look small, but I actually was unable to finish it myself (my dad ate the rest). I don’t think this is one of their most popular dishes, but it’s my personal favourite! I would have liked some fresh ground pepper though…
On a separate, earlier trip, my brother had the Risotto al Frutti di Mare. (We also had calamari on that visit–you can see it in the background, but I didn’t bother taking a photo of it. Pretty much an average and forgettable calamari). In any case, this is also one of the most popular dishes here, consisting of risotto cooked in a choice of tomato, cream, or saffron sauce (shown here in the cream) with mussels and other seafood. I believe the ingredients are the same as the Linguini Soul, not exactly sure…this also arrives in the hot bowl. It’s quite rich and creamy, and can get to be a bit too much once you’re about halfway through. Personally I love cream sauce so I don’t really mind, though, I guess it all depends on personal preferences! But once again, I really feel like fresh ground pepper would help, no idea why we weren’t offered any…
So to summarize. Jimoco is a bit out of your way unless you live in the area like I do, and the service leaves much to be desired. Still, the prices are too good to pass up–a decent and filling meal for two people for a round $20. Definitely worth a visit!
Jimoco Cafe & Pasta
1046A Austin Ave