gracecheung604 | write on time: October 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chez Meme - a hidden gem in Burnaby

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Chez Meme Baguette Bistro on Urbanspoon
Chez Meme is a really well-hidden gem. I know people who live/work in the area that don't even know about it. The awning isn't splashy, just a beige covering with Baguette Bistro in red. It's easy to miss. It's located between Gilmore and MacDonald Ave. There, no way you'll miss it now. 
All sandwiches come with either their Soup of the Day (usually a vegetable-only soup) or a Green Salad. On the day we went, the soup being offered was the carrot or squash soup, neither of which are my favourite. However, they also offer you the option of upgrading to a French Onion Soup. I love FOS so the upgrade was a no-brainer. The soup was nicely done, with a rich broth and tons of caramelized onions! I also liked the gruyere mozzarella topping but felt that it could have sat under the broiler for just a touch longer. 
We paired the French Onion soup with their Bourguignon, a boneless beef short rib, caramelized onions and horseradish sub. First off, these baguettes are huge. I could barely finish my half of this one, in fact, I didn't. I think I only tackled a quarter of it, wanting to save room for my Jarret sandwich (more on that later). The Short Rib was meltingly soft with the fat slow-cooked into the meat. It was super tender. And the bread, just crusty enough on the outside, and moist enough on the inside so that the juices from the short rib actually gets absorbed by the bread. 
For our other sandwich side, we went with the Basic Salad with a homemade creamy balsamic dressing. Nothing spectacular about the salad, but at least it was fresh, leafy and quite plentiful. Good complement to the sandwich. 
The other  sandwich we ordered was the Jarret, made with slow cooked lamb shank, roasted garlic jam and grainy mustard. This was meatier than that short rib one, but I don't know why? The lamb shank held together  better than the very tender short rib, so the meaty mouth feel advantage went to the lamb. Honestly though, both sandwiches were amazing and I'll definitely be back to try brunch (omelettes!) soon. Service is excellent too. We had one half sandwich leftover, and got it packed to go. Unfortunately, we were five blocks away when we realized we had left it there. We called an they remembered us, and said they stowed it in the fridge for us. How nice! Usually, most places just toss anything that is left behind. I guess they knew we would be back for it, that's how good it was! Beware, they are only open for breakfast and lunch, so don't be heading that way for dinner. And weekends? Well, call ahead because they are only open every other Saturday, and not at all on Sundays. So given this very limited opening range, it was hard for me to give this place a try. In fact, it wasn't until I had to work from home after my car accident that I even got a chance to be in the area when it was open! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cheers Ebisu!

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Ebisu on Robson on Urbanspoon
The good folks at VANEATS.ca again invited me to do a sneak peek of their November deal. The first one was of Suika, and this one is a Japanese restaurant again. Good thing I love Japanese food! Launching on November 1, the #CheersEbisu package is available for $25 and includes 6 tasty tapas and a pitcher of Sapporo. I'm not a beer fan, but for those of you who are, this is an awesome deal. Most places charge at least $15 for a pitcher of Sapporo, so you're getting 6 appies for $10! What a deal!

The first two items we were served were the Cajun Tuna Tacos and the Tiger Mayo. I liked the presentation of this...cute pair of each, don't you think? 
We started with the Cajun Tuna Tacos, fresh tuna seared and tossed with some salad, topped with a mayo based sauce and a little bit of caviar. This was really tasty, with a crunchy shell and chunks of cold refreshing tuna that wasn’t too oily.
The Tiger Prawn Mayo had a thicker breading than I’m used to but the prawn itself was cooked just right, with a nice bite to it. ANd yes, I like that they used a larger prawn - just one was enough!
The next item we tried was the Chicken Karaage. Again, the batter is a bit thick, but wow, the inside more than made up for it. The chicken was super juicy, tender and piping hot. Squirt some of the lemon juice on it to really bring out the flavour of the batter and to lighten the dish up a bit. So good!
They also had Kansai Steak Sliders, which were not your average burger. For one thing, it's not a patty, instead it is beef sliced and marinated in the yakiniku sauce.
There's also avocado, onions and mushrooms too. The bun-to-meat ratio was fairly good and I liked that it was topped with a jalapeño slice for extra kick!
The one thing we didn't have any pre-conceived idea about was the Chikuwa Cheese. Described as "deep fried fish cake stuffed with melted mozzarella cheese", we had no idea what to expect. Basically, it's a mozzarella stick with fish paste wrapped around it, and then deep fried. This was good, but a touch oily. Again, squirt with lemon juice to bring out the fresher flavours.
The meal was rounded out with our only carb of the evening, Yam Fries. I'm not a huge fan of these, but my friend was, so we were all set. Can you see how thick and wide these yam wedges are, she was happy! Can you spot the odd item in the basket? It's lighter colours and slightly thinner. Do you know what it is? 
It's their cheese stick, essentially a mozzarella cheese stick with a sliver of green onion, tucked into a  spring roll / wonton wrapper and then deep-fried. Oh my gosh, these were super yummy...we actually ordered more. 
There was more than enough food for the two of us, we actually had to pack some of the chicken karaage and yam fries to go. The focus of this meal is definitely one of sharing, and would be great on a hockey night...a sort of Japanese / Western pub food. They do have lots of TVs so this would be a great place to catch the game. If you've wanted  to try Ebisu but haven't had a chance to, this #CheersEbisu deal for $25 is worth a shot, especially if you like beer! To learn more, take a look at this 30-second video. The packages go on sale on November 1, and only 150 are available. Go to VANEATS.ca to buy!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Omakase at Kimura

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I've heard great things about the Omakase at Kimura, apparently, it's the only thing you should order here. So once I got my twitter foodie pal, @vanessa_chu, to agree to come with me, we were on our way! Located in East Vancouver (22nd and Rupert), it's not where you would expect to find amazing Omakase, but we did!
When you order the Omakase from Kimura, you get a few choices in terms of price,  but I think we settled on the $40, so not the cheapest one at $30, and not the pricier $50 option. I've heard that you get lobster with the pricier option. 
With the appetizer plate, you get quite a few interesting items. At the very top (2 o'clock position), there is a cube of monkfish liver, with a berry puree. This is homemade and just has the slightest hint of fish flavour. On the skewer are sea snails, breaded with sesame. These were really fresh, with a nice crunchy texture. We also got a whole smelt, which is essentially masago, all grown up. It was slightly sweet, with a chewy meaty texture. 
So...turning the plate around a bit, you now see the oysters at the 2 o'clock mark. There's nothing I love more than raw oysters (well BBQ duck and Hot Pot are tied for #1 spot), but these were doused lightly with a ponzu-like sauce. We also have a small nugget of lotus root, as well sa kobach, a Japanese squash. And don't forget the little bit of gomae too! And in the center of it all...the oyster shooter. It's simply a freshly shucked oyster, drowned in sake, topped with a fresh quail egg & special chef sauce served in a shooter glass. I don't know if you're supposed to stir it, but I didn't. Just take the whole thing and shoot it!
The next course was the Sashimi course. There's Hirame, Red Tuna and Tako. 
I've never had Hirame before, it's actually halibut. It's cooked/marinated with some acid, and was really refreshing. The texture was a little tougher than I expected but the flavours were really mild.
Red Tuna... very red, very fresh, and despite other reviews I've read about the chef being "rough" with his cuts, I don't see that here. I think these were sliced very cleanly, and the thickness was pretty uniform throughout. 
This one wasn't my favourite...there is  Tako and Miso. I normally love tako (octopus), but this miso glaze they put on it was just too heavy. The sashimi part was good, but jut not ladened with the miso.
One item they had that wasn't part of the Omakase was their ChawanMushi. So I decided to order one just to try. It's a steamed egg custard, loaded with chicken, shrimp, and shitake mushrooms. When it's done right, it's really smooth and almost like a soup, but slightly solid. It's done right here. 
Our next course was the Grilled Quail. This was really good...I love quail, and it really is best simply grilled. There's something about the little bones that just make me feel like a giant. Yes, I imagine that this is an actual chicken and I'm a giant from Brobdingnag.
The next dish that came was a Grilled Salmon. It was by far the largest portion of food that we got per course, but unfortunately, it was also the least satisfying. The salmon was dry, cooked too long or waited too long to be served. Either way, this was the first dish that I wasn't impressed with.
We were also served a Miso Soup, with a little clam inside. It was a really light broth but the miso was very pronounced. I have to say the addition of the little clam was a nice touch. And the soup was served piping hot, just the way I like it. I don't know if the clam was actually cooked in the miso broth, but there was a slight flavour of the clam in the soup itself. 
Our last course (before dessert) was a Nigiri and Crispy Rice dish. Salmon, Tuna and Toro. Here I can see the rough cuts that people have repeatedly referred to. Again, the salmon was sloppily done, as were the other pieces too. But if you're not into presentation, then the freshness of the fish is still there and you'll be happy.
This next dish, crispy rice with some spicy tuna on top. The rice is sort of like a pancake...they call it Crispy Risotto, but not really. It's almost like the rice at the bottom of the pot when you overcook the rice, and then deep-fried. I found it quite oily, and to be honest, a little stale. Instead of being crunchy, it was kind of chewy...and for the first dish of the night, the fish to rice ratio was off. It wasn't spicy either, even with the jalapeno sliver on top.
And we ended this meal with a simply Green Tea Ice Cream. It was good, but I was just a little sad that there wasn't a single embellishment on the dessert...even half a maraschino cherry would have been appreciated.
I would come back again to try this, especially with someone who hasn't been here before. Two things to be aware of...this meal takes quite a while from beginning to end, and know that though the fish might be cut roughly, it is good, fresh and tasty.

Kimura on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Trying out Kiyo in Richmond - on company time / dime, no less

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Kiyo Sushi on Urbanspoon
During this past summer, I had to attend a trade show in Richmond. We decided to stop for a quick bite before heading back to the office...so we hit up Kiyo, tucked away in a small street mall. And the first thing that took me by surprise was how busy it was! We ended up sitting at the bar because the restaurant was fully packed! 
I got their Bento Box for lunch, complete with prawn and vegetable tempura, maki rolls, gyoza and  four pieces of nigiri. I don't remember the price, but it was probably $15.
The nigiri is a little sloppy, three of the four pieces were good, but the salmon has a little tail from careless slicing. Having said that, the portions were generous and not loaded with rice.
The California Roll is as expected, loaded with pollock-based crab meat, avo and cucumber. I'm not a fan of California Rolls in general, but it was decent. The Spicy Salmon was actually spicy, which isn't always the case. The little Tuna maki seemed like an afterthought, but you can't really go wrong there, right? 
The two pieces of gyoza were quite oily, but at least they did have a nice crispy skin. Filled with pork, and paired with a soy dipping sauce, it was a good "hot" option in the bento.
The other cooked item on the menu was the Tempura. Two prawns, a zucchini and potato, breaded and deep-fried. I was actually surprised by the lightness of the batter. I expected heavy batter and was pleasantly surprised.
My dining companion ordered the Chicken Teriyaki and her experience differed from mine. The chicken arrived with nice grill marks, but when she cut into it, the meatier part was raw. I mean, it was actually red and bleeding. We showed the server and she quickly apologized and brought it back to the kitchen, where they "recooked" the same piece of chicken and brought it back. I'm disturbed by this. My friend cut into this piece of chicken, and it concerns me that they re-cooked it on a grill where other people's food were being cooked.
Had this not have happened, I would have come back here again for a quick and easy lunch when I'm in the area, but not anymore. I've heard that it was better before, when it was run by Japanese people, and I think I'd agree. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Food Truck - Nu Greek Street

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Nu Greek Street (Granville) on Urbanspoon
Taking a stroll down on Granville and smell something yummy? It's probably the aroma of the grilled lamb or chicken (or vegetables) from this food truck. I tried their Lamb Souvlaki Pita and after a short wait, the hot little bundle was in my hands.
Two of my pet peeves about Food Trucks is the messiness of the whole thing, and the other is  that trucks parked nowhere near a decent seating area. Well, these problems do not exist here. These little hot pockets are packaged tightly, so no risk of dripping sauces onto your nice work clothes. What struck me first about the pica was the hotness of it. We trekked to Nu on a cool day, so it was nice to hold this to warm up, akin to holding a mug of hot chocolate on a wintry day. 
The pita is filled with grilled lamb, a healthy squirt of satziki and some roughly chopped tomatoes and onions. The lamb chunks were tender, well marinated and quite flavourful,  though I do wish there was more of it! The pita is more naan-like in texture, super doughy, soft and fluffy. The wrapping keeps the pita together while you eat your way to the bottom, so no mess, no fuss. 
They have a few other options in addition to their pitas, you can get just the skewers or just the pita, and then add a side of satziki or hummus. Oh, and yes, they do have a Greek salad too, must try that next time! 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Food Truck - Cartel Taco

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Cartel Taco on Urbanspoon
Over the summer, I went on a bit of a Food Truck Tour and tried quite a few trucks. One day, I was meeting a twitter friend, and we decided to take on another food truck This time, we chose Cartel Taco.  Why? Because my friend is on a gluten-free diet, and that is what their hand-made corn tortillas are, gluten-free! Located outside of Culinaria, the smell of barbecue coming from this truck makes them easy to find.
They only have two things on the menu, beef or pork tacos. With a deal of 4 tacos for $10, the decision was pretty easy. One of each for each of us! 
The beef was served with their green salsa and the pork was served with the red version. I know the red looks like it would be spicier, but it's not...the green one packed more of a punch. 
The kimchi was applied a bit erratically, but it didn't matter, the taste was fairly mild, and not as crunchy as I normally like kimchi to be. 
I like how they double up on the tortillas, and for $5, it will fill you up. Meat to Tortilla Ratio was fair so I'll probably come back. However, I wish there were more areas to sit and eat this. It's kind of hard to eat these daintily while standing up, or god forbid, while walking. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Food Truck - Bada Bing Bomb

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Bada Bing Food Truck on Urbanspoon
In our search for a Food Cart lunch one Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves at Robson and Bute, where the Bada Bing Truck was just opening up for the day. They are supposedly known for their Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches, as well as poutine, I think. 

According to the menu, the sandwiches are made to order and can come with Beef or Chicken. We weren't overly hungry, and were looking forward to a big dinner later, so we decided to share one sandwich. These are pretty much made to order, so once you place the order, you've got quite a wait ahead of you, and we were like second in line. Once we got the sandwich, we asked them to cut it in half...the filling, along with your choice of protein, is supposed to be a mix of melted Monterrey Jack cheese, mushrooms, with grilled onion and peppers.  
Well, I had to admit all those things were probably present in the bun, but I think they forgot to season it. The sandwich was bland, the bun to filling ratio was way off, and it wasn't even messy to eat! If they are going to cook the meat to order, they should take the time to toast the bun too. And I think they should marinate their meat and fixings a bit more, instead of giving you an assortment of hot sauces so you can "do-it-yourself". I can think of many other trucks I would spend my $7 at instead of this one. 

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