gracecheung604 | write on time

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Vegan tasting at Be Love in Victoria

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For those of you who know me, I'm definitely a carnivore, with mad love for steaks, wings and BBQ duck. However, I'm always open to new ideas. I recently received an invitation to give Be Love in Victoria a try. It's the new restaurant opened by siblings, Joe and Heather Cunliffe of Cafe Bliss. 
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However, living in Vancouver, it seemed unlikely that I would be able to take advantage of this offer. As fate would have it, I was able to visit Victoria last week and had a chance to give this place a try! I really loved the high ceilings in the space. It's spacious but not intimidating at all, it was really cozy and had a nice cafe-style feel.
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Just because they are vegan, it doesn't mean that Be Love doesn't serve up a mean cocktail. On the right is the Red Cedar Swizzle. The gin is infused with red cedar, then mixed with lemon, honey, angostura bitters. The flavours were quite woodsy and the garnish really accentuated that.
On the left is their Black Star Liner. It's a warm cocktail with Kraken black spiced rum, quetzal cola syrup blended into steamed almond mylk (no real dairy here), then topped with nutmeg. IMG_5539 
Our first two courses are from the Soup and Salad section. Here is their Sesame Miso. It's a miso broth loaded up with seaweed, kale, sprouts, and various veggies. The nori in the chickpea miso sesame broth gave it a rich texture. The flavours are reminiscent of meaty Chinese sausage, as well as sesame oil. The miso and shitaake really stand out, and I loved the warmth of this dish.    
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Our next item is the Warm Quinoa Salad. It's loaded with lots of roasted beets, more kale, crunchy toasted hazelnuts,and lots of shredded carrot (which I'm mildly allergic to). The sauce had a cumin base with a sweet and nutty balsamic vinegar, sweetened slightly by some fig juices. Although I'm normally allergic to raw carrots, I didn't have any reaction with this locally grown variety. It is definitely hearty and fills you up without being heavy. As you can see, there is an amazing cracker served with this, loaded with seeds and nuts, this is crunchy goodness at its best.  
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We also tried their Masala Dosa. A fermented lentil crepe. The fermentation makes crepe a bit sour, which I wasn't a fan of. It's filled with a potato curry & served with tamarind-date chutney (more sour). The side is a cucumber-mint salad with a dairy-free cashew raita. The sourness of the crepe ruined this dish for me, but upon removing the cover, I really enjoyed the curry inside. 
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Another main we tried was the Numi Noodle Bowl because it seems most "traditional" with a vegan twist. The buckwheat soba noodles & kelp noodles are tossed in a adzuki bean miso garlic sauce. There is also stir fried sesame baked tempeh, as well as some shitaake. There are random greens as well as marinated burdock root. The tempeh was weird to me, I didn't like the texture at all. However, I loved the taste of the broth, with hints of hoisin. I found the texture of the dish inconsistent, some were al dente, yet other bits of noodles were very clumpy. Overall, it was good, but it could have been a bit more uniform.  
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For dessert, we got treated to their Karma Bar, a nanaimo bar like sweet with Salty caramel, pecans and chocolate! Oh my goodness, this was heavenly. Salty, sweet and just the right amount of gooeyness.

I can't say that I would convert to veganism because of Be Love, but I would join a vegan friend here. It's got what I like (bold flavours and textures) and it serves up food that vegans would love. 


Take Note:

  • Servers are great and very entrenched into the vegan lifestyle
  • Amazing desserts
  • Try their Cheezecake!
Looking for more Victoria ideas? Here you go!

Be Love on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Homecooking with Akakurobuta

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After the Akakurobuta tasting a few weeks ago, they sent us home with a few packs of Akakurobuta. Because I was heading out of town for a few days, I decided to freeze the package and play with them upon my return. IMG_5571 We were given two packages, the top one is the pork loin, the bottom one is the collar butt. The fat cap on the loin is pretty huge and the marbling in the collar butt is designed for amazing tenderness and juiciness. Of the four recipes we were also given, I decided on trying the Tonteki from Kingyo Izakaya, as created by Chef Kittaka. If you want to give this a try, here is the recipe from the Wingtat site.IMG_5575 First step is to cover the pork with grated onions and garlic. I used more garlic than the recipe called for, but used half an onion as recommended. It's the first time I've tried grating an onion, and it was surprisingly easy. I might do this for future recipes that calls for diced onions. I keep my onions in the fridge to reduce the tears, and it certainly came in handy here.  IMG_5581 For Step 4 of this recipe, you have to fry the pork loin in pork fat, so I decided to take this opportunity to take out some of the fat from the edges off the loin. At first glance, doesn't this look a bit like tuna sashimi?  IMG_5585 After the marinating process, brush off all the onions and garlic and coat the loins with flour. The little bits of lard in the upper edge has rendered the fat needed to fry these babies up.  IMG_5592 I fried them on each side for about 5 minutes, giving them a slight turn at the 2.5 minute mark.  IMG_5597 And here is the final product, in all it's glory. We did the sauce in a small pot on the side, instead of in the pan, because I thought my pan was too large. The sauce is really easy, with just five common ingredients (worcestershire , oyster sauce, soy, mirin and stock). You put all the onions and garlic from the marinade and simmer until tender.  IMG_5602 This is the final product with the sauce. It was really tender and moist. The sauce was a quite savory and complemented the pork very well. I would definitely make this again. We had it with some takeout roti, but it would be great with some rice.
Akakurobuta is a premium  Japanese style pork that is 100% Canadian, produced in Alberta. The pork is well-marbled and served a strict diet of barley. This creates a whiter fat compared to corn-fed pork. The hogs are raised in small family farms and are free run, resulting in a stress-free hogs. The pork has previously been exported solely to Japan, but now, it's available to Canadian consumers, exclusively at all T&T Supermarkets.
Various restaurants in Vancouver are also featuring their take on Akakurobuta, see my review of the tasting at Kingyo, Damso and Secret Location.

Akakuro-Buta | Premium Pork Tasting

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to a media tasting for Akakurobuta, a pork product that until now, has been raised solely for export to Japan, until now. Kurobuta from Koshima is a world-renown pork product,due to its tenderness, juiciness and marbling. It's aiming to be a twin to the Kurobuta, the berkshire black hog found in Japan. Akakurobuta, from Alberta farms, comes very close to the way the Kurobuta is raised, but enhanced by the Alberta's gorgeous grasslands, glacier water and unpolluted air. The hogs receive individual attention with their farmers, resulting in stress-free and happy hogs. They are fed on a diet of barley (resulting in a firm and white fat) versus other North American hogs that are corn fed (giving it a yellow and greasier fat). We were set to visit three restaurants where each chef was tasked to created new dishes with Akakurobuta. IMG_5440 Our first stop was at Kingo Izakaya, where Chef Chikayoshi Kittaka served up Tonteki. It's rare for me to get a personalized menu so I appreciated this!
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Before the pork landed on the table, we were treated to a Tomato Kimchi, which was amazing meaty. The flavours were very clean and the seaweed sauce was something I had never tried before. Given the darkness and thick texture, the seaweed flavour was actually quite light. 
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Another appetizer was the Tuna Tataki, which was served with a light Ponzu Jelly. This was just lightly seared and the Albacore had a really fresh taste. IMG_5446 Finally, the start of the show, the Tonteki, a Japanese Style Pork Steak. The pork was definitely the star here, simply marinated with garlic and onions. The sauce had hits of Worcestershire sauce, mirin, oyster sauce and a bit of soy. Then it was simply pan fried and sliced. 

IMG_5453 Our next stop took us to Damso where Chef Eric Lee. Before the Akakurobuta hit the table, we were served their Beef Taco, which was really tasty. Simply served with sliced onions and greens, this is a great starter.  IMG_5460 For our first course, Chef Lee served up the Kimchi Jim with Akakuro-buta Loin. The pork is pan seared and then baked in the oven. The kimchi base gives the pork some flavor but the pork is definitely the highlight. It's super tender with a nice ring of fat around it. I loved the pork skin too! 

IMG_5462 The second course was the Akakuro-buta Gamja-tang. The pork is brined for 12 hours and then cooked sous vide. The broth is made with a blend of chicken stock and pork stock, giving it a very meaty flavour, which was enhanced by the addition of Dwenjang (fermented soybean paste), Gochujang (chili pepper paste) and Gochugaru (chili pepper powder). A few potatoes and cabbage rounded out the broth, which was served tableside. I liked the thickness of the broth but found the fermented soybean paste a bit overpowering. I'd probably cut back on this if I were to replicate it at home. 

IMG_5470 Our final stop was Secret Location, where Chef Jefferson Alvarez who made us a Burnt Apple Crusted Akakuro-Buta Collar Butt. First of all, I have to say that the serving size was enormous, especially since we already had three other pork courses! But I also have to say, it was probably my favourite of the evening. The pork was brined/marinated and seared. Simple but super amazing. The sweetness from the burnt apple was enhanced but a bit of the brown sugar and cinnamon in the original brine. This had an amazing crust and the marbling of the collar butt really shone through. 

Akakuro-Buta is available exclusively at T&T Supermarkets. There are two cuts available, the loin and the collar butt. The loin has a thick fat cap and the collar butt has intense marbling. If you want to give these recipes a try at home, you can find them here. I tried to make the Tonteki with the loin that was given to me at the end of the media tasting. See my attempt here!
Kingyo Izakaya 金魚居酒屋 on Urbanspoon Damso Modern Korean Cuisine on Urbanspoon Secret Location on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Zipang Sushi on Main

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Back in October, I went to WE Day with Sherman and we decided to finish off the day with a bit of sushi. It's hard for two foodbloggers to go to a place neither of us has been, so thankfully, he was willing to do a "revisit" to a place that I hadn't visited before. This is what led us to Zipang Sushi. All photos are courtesy of Sherman. "Thanks!" Assorted Sashimi Given that this was midday (and they were about to close after lunch), and he had already had lunch, we wanted to order light (and quickly). We started with their Assorted Sashimi. The salmon was amazing, and I really enjoyed the tako. The slices were cleanly cut and care was taken with the presentation.  East Meets West and SSS We wanted to try their rolls too, so we gave two of them a try. On either side is their Triple S roll, made up of Salmon, Scallop and Shrimp. I enjoyed the rice to filling ratio on this and could taste the sweetness of the scallop and shrimp quite clearly. The other was the East Meets West, filled with unagi, avocado and topped with prosciutto. As with most fusion cuisine where they pair Western flavours or ingredients with Asian flavours, the result could be a hit or a miss. The prosciutto seemed a bit dry and out of place with the roll. However, this would be an excellent choice for those who are squeamish when it comes to raw fish. 
Salmon Kama
I love Salmon Kama and when I saw that they had it, we had to order it, and boy, I'm sure glad I did. The skin had a good crispy char to it, and the fleshy collar was juicy and flaky. They served it with some grated daikon. Add some soy sauce to it and make a paste to dip the salmon into. The sweetness of the fish and the saltiness of the soy is a great umami sensation.Assorted Tempura Although I wouldn't normally order Assorted Tempura, Sherman wanted to to give us another hot entrée to try. The prawns were really sweet and I loved the light coating. I normally have to peel apart some of the coating, but it was unnecessary here. The veggies were a bit heavy, more because of the thick portions they were cut into, rather than a heavy batter. Overall, this was a good place for a nice light lunch and I'd definitely come back if I was in the area again.

Take Note:


  • Closed on Mondays, and closes between 3-5pm.
  • Lots of options for non-raw fish lovers
  • Give the Okonomi a try, mini-pizzas. or the Takoyaki!


Zipang Sushi on Urbanspoon

Cravings at Cravings

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There's a big of a hidden gem in the Marpole area that my parents discovered but I've been slow to try. If you live in the area, you probably know Cravings, but it's quite tucked away and barely any signs directing you towards the restaurant. Two servers and the chef actually purchased the restaurant from the original owner in September 2012. 
IMG_4893For a healthy starter, we opted for the Caesar Salad. This was a fairly classical rendition of the item, with romaine tossed in a homemade dressing and croutons. I could have used more of the Grana Pandano Parmesan and more bacon never hurt anyone. But if this was an ample portion and tasty. I added more pepper to some punch but otherwise, this was fairly good.  
IMG_4901 Another Salad option was their Roasted Squash Salad which actually had two large pieces of roasted squash. The spinach was topped with some candied pecans and Feta. The dressing was really light with a bit of honey vinaigrette and some balsamic vinegar. 
IMG_4896 For our appetizer, we tried their Chicken Wings with a salt and pepper crust and a bit of Hot Sauce on the side. These were not breaded which I appreciated. They were quite meaty and had a crisp exterior. The hot sauce wasn't overly spicy but had a good heat into it. We opted out of the celery and ranch but you could add it for just an  extra $1. 
IMG_4899For a bit of a comfort food feel, we decided to get the Macaroni & Cheese. The addition of bacon and jalapeño gave the dish some novelty. It could have been cheesier, but I say that about everything. A bit of panko topped the dish prior to baking, giving it a good crunch. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this dish and I really enjoyed the garlicky bread that accompanied the dish. 
IMG_4903 We had a child with us and the go-to is  the Grilled Cheese from the Kids Menu. I liked the use of the multigrain bread, making an otherwise nutritionally weak food just a bit better. The fries were really good though. I didn't actually try the sandwich, but considering it's a fairly simple dish, I would expect that it was average. 
IMG_4905 For the adult entrees, we started with a Fig & Chicken Linguine. The fig was barely noticeable, but the chicken was nice and juicy, though there could have been a bit more. The arugula was slightly wilted, after being tossed in with the hot linguine. The white wine butter sauce was really light, barely noticeable, but the goat cheese and cherry tomatoes really stood out as a result. 
IMG_4907 Our third chicken dish of the night, a Chicken & Portobello Wrap. It was essentially the same as the pasta dish, but with the addition of the portobello mushrooms. The arugula was replaced with spinach, but the same goat cheese and balsamic dressing was the same. It was a light entree, which was what I wanted but it seemed a bit like cafeteria food to me. There was nothing there that elevated it. 
IMG_4910 As I mentioned, we had a child with us and the default dessert is always Ice Cream, Chocolate ice cream to be exact. I thought this was a bit expensive, $5.50? And if you wanted a soy ice cream, it was $6.50! 
IMG_4911 Normally, we don't order dessert for the "grownups" but we did this time, two of them in fact. The first was their Vegan Brownie, with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of warm caramel sauce. This was a much better deal at $6 than that simply scoop of ice cream above.  
IMG_4914 And for me, I splurged on the Lemon Meringue Pie. It was a good version of the classic, with a lemon custard (rather on the sweet side though) and a thick layer of soft meringue. I prefer my custard on the tart side, but the description on the menu did say that it was a sweet lemon curd. 

Take Note: 


  • Similar ingredients used throughout the menu
  • Service in the lounge (versus dining room) can be a bit of a miss
  • 3-course menu available for $26 as well as a full Gluten Free menu

Cravings Restaurant + Lounge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lunch at Hawksworth

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I decided to head to Hawksworth for lunch with my boss last month. We usually go to Kirin but I wanted a change of pace. I am not a huge scallop fan, but when I saw this on the menu, I couldn't resist.2014-01-10 12.45.14 The Pan Seared Scallop caught my eye, not because of the scallops, but because of the accompaniments. It arrives on a bed of rice noodles, in a Vietnamese broth with some crispy pork. So, it's like Pho? Yes, this was super reminiscent of pho. Complete with a bit of sprouts and jalapenos. The crispy pork is really interesting, I haven't had anything like this before. When dipped into the broth, it softens and has a nice chew to it. There's plenty of scallops (about 8 in total) and they were seared to a perfect doneness. 2014-01-10 12.45.53 You are also presented with some chilies and limes to fully evoke the sense of Pho. I used a bit of the lime but all of the chilies. This was really fun and elegant version of pho. Loved it!2014-01-10 12.45.04 My boss went for another option of a high-end version of a "low brow" food He got the Hot Dog. It was a bison sausage in a poppy seed pretzel bun, topped with greens and fried onions. On the side was some tempura cauliflower. He throughly enjoyed it, although eating it was a bit messy. Better to knife and fork this baby.
Take Note:
Prices are higher than normal, but you are dining at the Georgia.
Bar menu's Beef Burger is huge and you could probably share it with a friend.
Brunch is served 10:30-2 on Saturdays and Sundays
Hawksworth Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Pairing Asian Flavours with Wine

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A few weeks ago, just ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year, we descended upon Kaya Malay Bistro to learn how to pair Asian flavours with Wine. The winery we were sampling is Haywire Winery. 

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We are trying 5 wines, including the Haywire Gamay Noir Rose, followed by the Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, a Pinot Gris and their bubbly, the Bub.  
satays - Kaya & Haywire
Lovely Satays to start at the welcoming reception. This was also paired with the Bub, a refreshing bubbly that goes well with this chicken satay and its lemongrass flavours.  
Samosas - Kaya & Haywire 
Another starter was the Vegetarian Samosas, with a mild curry taste. We sipped more of the Bub and it seemed to heighten the cumin flavours.  
soft shelled crab - Kaya & Haywire 
For the Rose, we tried it first with the Soft Shell Crab. These were a bit greasy but were nice and meaty.
 lettuce wrap - Kaya & Haywire 
The second item that was paired with the Rose was the Lettuce Wrap with Duck. This was really good and was loaded with duck. There was also some spicy plum sauce to take away a bit of the gaminess.  
hot and sour soup - Kaya & Haywire 
The next wine was the Gewurztraminer, slightly sweet meant to pair with two spicy soups. Our first bowl was the Hot and Sour Soup, but unfortunately, the dish ended up more on the sweet side. When paired with the wine, it was just too much. 
seafood tom yum - Kaya & Haywire 
Our next soup was a Tom Yum (a Thai spicy soup) turned out a lot better. It was loaded with squid, prawns, mussels and some white fish as well. It had a good heat and the Gewurztraminer made a lot more sense. 
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For the Pinot Noir, we were served a Taiwanese Stir-fried Eggplant with some green beans. These were nicely spiced with a soft texture from the eggplant and crunchy beans.   grilled sablefish - Kaya & Haywire The second pairing with the Pinot Noir was a Korean-style Grilled Sablefish, along with some baby bok choy. This fish had a nice crispy skin but the fish seemed lost in a sauce that seemed quite heavy handed with the palm sugar. It was tasty but any fish could have been substituted for the sablefish. I would have expected a cleaner dish when using a delicate fish like sablefish.  kaya wok fried egg-noodles with shiitake & siuchoy - Kaya & Haywire We had a Pinot Gris with our carbs of the night. First up, Wok-fried Egg-Noodles with Shiitake and Siuchoy. The noodles had a good al dente bite to it, but overall, the flavours were a bit bland.   scallop & shrimp fried rice - kaya malay & haywire b Our other carb of the night was the Vietnamese Shrimp & Scallop Fried Rice. This was loaded with seafood, such as scallop & shrimp, but again...the flavours were very muted. We still had some hot sauce on the side, and that helped to perk up the rice.  berry & rice pudding/deep-fried banana & vanilla ice cream - Kaya Malay/Haywire For dessert, we had a Black Rice Pudding with Blueberries as well as a Deep Fried Banana with Vanilla Ice Cream. The banana was surprisingly good and the black rice pudding had a nice texture. We returned to the Rose for this parining, as well as some of the Bub! 
wines - Kaya & Haywire  
For 2014's Lunar New Year, a limited release (688 bottles) of the 2012 Haywire Pinot Noir was given a special label, showcasing the year of the Horse. Find these at BC Wine Shop.

Kaya Malay Bistro on Urbanspoon

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