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During the Khatsulano music festival, I spotted the Community Pizzeria truck and decided to give it a try (so hard to resist good pizza).

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As expected of a food truck, the menu is narrow. They serve a neapolitan style pizza.  Perhaps worth noting that they don’t claim to be certified “Vera Neapolitana”.   If they were certified, their advertising would certainly say so.

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We ordered the meatball pizza.

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This is a hand stretched pizza, topped with tomato sauce, crushed meat balls, sliced red onions, basil leaves, fresh mozzarella, and grated grana padano, baked in a wood fired oven, and finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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There’s some nice char and leoparding on the crust, and it’s firm enough to eat with my hands as I walk around (which is probably a good thing since it is a mobile food truck and thus no seating provided), but this is where the “not certified” comes in, since a “certified” neapolitan pizza is too soft in the center to eat by hand… pretty much need a knife and fork.  The toppings are fairly substantive, with lots of good flavor from the meatballs, saltiness from the grana padano, creaminess from the fresh mozzarella, with a little bit of fruitiness from the extra virgin olive oil.

But I also found the crust to be a bit thick and bready around the outside ring.

This is a pretty good pizza at a pretty reasonable price, about as good as can be found in a mobile food truck (especially since Pazzarella decided to shut down it’s operation in March).  But it’s just a notch below some of the sit down restaurants offering neapolitan style pizza.

Community Pizzaria on Urbanspoon

On a Friday evening, as part of a birthday celebration, we decided to visit the Poor Italian Ristorante in Vancouver on East 1st Avenue and Rupert. This is a moderately priced Italian restaurant in a largely residential neighborhood.

We had reservations, and were seated immediately upon arrival.

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The complimentary bread with creamery butter arrived first.  This is nice bread, very crusty.  Not sure if it’s made-in-house or not, but I kinda wish the foccaccia was served warm.

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It was a fairly busy evening.  Not a full house, but pretty close to it.

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I started with the Minestrone alla Genovese

 

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This is a vegetable soup in a thick tomato based broth, with carrots, onions, celery, white cannelli beans, ribbons of fresh pasta, served with a dollop of pesto and a slice of crusty bread.  This was a pretty good soup.  Well seasoned, good flavor.

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Next came my pasta, this is their lasagne.  This is layers of pasta with a veal ragu and a creamy bechamel sauce, topped with mozzarella, grated parmigianno  cheese, and fired in the oven until hot and melty.  This is a really nice lasagne and a very generous portion (I took about a third of it home).  The ragu is meaty and chunky, the tomato sauce is lightly acidic and nicely seasoned, the mozzarella was soft and melted and the salty parmigianno rounded it out nicely.  The pasta was soft (beyond al dente, but that’s just fine for a lasange) and fork tender.

I ended the meal with a little dessert.

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or rather, a lot of dessert.  This is the Torta Bianco e Nero.  It’s a marble cake with a white chocolate and dark chocolate mousse, topped with a tart raspberry coulis and a few fresh berries.  The first thing that strikes me is the size of the portion.  It’s a big serving of cake.  Enough for sharing between two or three people.  The cake is slightly dense, but probably for good reason, because of the large portion of white chocolate and dark chocolate mousse that layered in between (otherwise it would be squash under its own weight).  The cake is slightly sweet, and the mousses’ were rich and smooth.  The tart raspberry coulis offered some contrast to the sweet richness of the cake.

The room is quite large (if slightly dim) and rather rustic.

Our server was quite genial and pleasant, and was always there to assist with a cherry attitude and smile.

The Poor Italian is a neighborhood restaurant, with decent food, generous portions, at a reasonable price.
Poor Italian Ristorante on Urbanspoon

 

Being a Friday night and not in the mood to cook for myself, I went to check out a new pizza place in Kerrisdale.

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Bufala Pizzeria occupies the space that was previously home to the Mac Shack on Arbutus Street and west 38th Avenue.

Upon arrival we were seated immediately at one of the communal long tables down the center of the restaurant.

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The menu is focused on pizza, with a handful of simple Italian inspired appetizers like gnocchi, bruschetta, etc.

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We started with the grissini.

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This three bread sticks wrapped in prosciutto, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. The bread stick are crunchy, and the prosciutto is tender and nicely cured.  The olive oil was fruity and slightly peppery.

This was followed by the meatball appetizer.

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This is three meatballs, covered in fresh crushed tomatoes and ricotta, and dressed with fresh basil leaves, served in a small cast iron skillet.  It comes with three crostini that have been baked and brushed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.  These are absolutely winner meat balls.  They’re tender, nicely seasoned and full of flavor. I picked up some garlic and parmegganio flavors.  The tomato sauce was rich and lightly acidic, and topped with creamy ricotta cheese.  The crostini was lightly crunchy with a light garlic hit and the added fruitiness of the olive oil.  I could imagine coming in and having two or three orders of this for dinner, oh this was good.

This was followed by the Basil and Ricotta pizza.

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This is a (approximately) 12″ pizza of hand stretched dough, baked in a fiery gas oven, then topped with ricotta, pesto sauce, pine nuts, and fresh basil leaves, drizzled with more extra virgin olive oil.  This is a terrific pizza.  It’s a thin crust with a light char underneath,  but crisp all the way from the edges, right to the center, with airy and chewy texture under the crackly crust.  There’s a bold blend of flavors and textures here, from the herbaceous basil and garlicky pesto, to the smooth creamy ricotta cheese, to the crunch of the toasted pine nuts.

The room is bright, and slightly cramped (at least it feels that way at the long table).  The room feels very open.

The service was very pleasant and friendly, and made the little efforts to accommodate. This was their first official opening night, and despite that, the food and service seemed to be firing on all cylinders.

I’ll be back again.

Edit: I understand that Bufala Pizzeria is under the same ownership as the “Wildebeest” restaurant in Gastown.  This may explain the polish of the food and service.

Bufala on Urbanspoon

The gang at work chose to do a group lunch at Gyu Kaku on west Broadway. Gyu Kaku is an international chain of japanese barbeque restaurants spanning the United States, east Asia, south-east Asia and Canada.   Vancouver is host to both canadian locations, this one on west Broadway, and one downtown at Nelson and Hornby.

IMG_20140613_121808 This is occupying the space previously held by “Rugby Beach Club Grill”. We were seated shortly after our arrival. IMG_20140613_121429 Similar to a korean barbeque restaurant (in concept), the dining room features one or more propane fired grills in the center of each table.  The kitchen prepared sliced & marinated meats and seafood.  The server brings said uncooked meat to the table where the patrons cook their own food on the provided grill. It’s an enjoyable/social way of dining, but it can take quite a bit of time if everyone is doing it, because the grill has a finite surface area on which to cook. IMG_20140613_121423 because of our time constraints, most of us chose menu options that were cooked in the kitchen. I opted for a sukiyaki bibimbap set, and an additional order of deep-fried gyoza. IMG_20140613_122344 The sukiyaki bibimbap set includes this bowl of miso soup.  This is a fairly typical bowl of miso soup, which is a fish based savory broth with miso paste, cubes of medium firm tofu and a few sheets of seaweed. IMG_20140613_122638 the set also includes this salad.  This is a small salad of crisp lettuce greens, shredded cabbage, sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and finely diced red peppers, lightly dressed with a honey miso salad dressing. IMG_20140613_123050 Next came my gyoza.  These are dumplings filled with minced seasoned chicken and vegetables, deep-fried to a light crunch, and served with a ponzu dipping sauce.  These were just okay.  I found it a little crunchier than I would have liked, and the filling didn’t have a lot of flavor. Most of the flavor came by way of the ponzu dipping sauce. IMG_20140613_123606   Finally my “main” arrived.  This is their sukiyaki bibimbap rice bowl.  Immediately upon arrival, the server started furiously mixing the contents of the hot stone bowl.  This is a fusion of two different dishes.  Sukiyaki is a japanese soup/stew, slow cooked in a hot stone bowl.  Bibimbap is a korean rice dish, served in a hot stone bowl.  This is sliced beef, cooked with onions, soy, mirin and sugar, then served over a generous mound of japanese short grained rice, accented with scallions and sesame oil.  A korean bibimap typically has meat, vegetables and a raw egg over the top. Its cooked by the ambient heat from the rest of the food and the hot bowl, but there was no raw egg noticeable here.   The hot bowl sears the rice on the bottom and sides of the bowl, giving it a slightly crispy quality.  I enjoyed, this was pretty good. The room was large, bright and airy, and it was clean and comfortable. Our server was very friendly and enthusiastic and helpful. I’ll probably come back and try the grilled food. Gyu-Kaku on Urbanspoon

After a long week, having no fresh food at home, and not in the mood to shop & cook, I decided to head out for dinner.  After an aborted attempt at another restaurant (long line up) I wend to Double DD Pizza in Kitsilano.

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This is a family run Greek Restaurant in Kitsilano.  Now even though it’s a greek restaurant, the menu goes well beyond greek fare to satisfy the role of a neighborhood restaurant (including steaks, burgers, pizza, etc).  They seem to have filled that role nicely.  It seemed half the patrons that came and went knew each other, and many were on a first name basis with the restaurant staff.

We were seated immediately at a table near the open bay doors, so it was very airy, and quite bright.

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We ordered calamari, the lasagna special, and a small pizza.  The salad came first.

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This is a chopped salad with red and green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, purple onions, and peppers.  We asked for a balsamic vinegar dressing.  The salad was pretty good, although I don’t think the tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers were prepared to order.  They tasted like they’d been prepared (perhaps) half and hour or more in advance.  But the lettuce greens and onions were fresh, the dressing was tangy and light.

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The calamari was quite good.  This is tender squid dipped in seasoned batter and deep fried to a light crunch, and served with a thick tzatziki dipping sauce, garnished with purple onions and a lemon wedge.  The calamari was fresh, tender on the inside, lightly crunchy on the outside.  The seasoning was a little sparse (I needed to add a dash of salt), but otherwise, this was pretty good.  The tzatziki was thick, with a light garlic and dill flavor and just a little cucumber.

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next came the lasagna. This is sheets of cooked pasta noodles, layered with a thick zesty tomato sauce in between, topped with mozzarella cheese and baked until the cheese melts. The noodles were properly cooked (appears to be made from dry pasta) and the tomato sauce appears to be made from canned sauce (rather than fresh tomatoes), and was accented with cinnamon. I thought this lasagna was just okay.  I don’t mind that it’s made dry pasta, but it was quite wet (the ratio of pasta to sauce, definitely favoured the sauce).  In greek pastitsio, cinnamon and/or nutmeg in the tomato sauce is pretty common, so this appears to be the greek interpretation of lasagna.

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Finally, the pizza arrived.  This was a small pizza with onions, peppers, pepperoni and ground beef, topped with melted mozzarella cheese.  The crust is neither thin (like a neapolitan) nor thick (like a pan pizza), but somewhere in between.  It’s a crisp crust, able to support the weight of the toppings.  The saucing and toppings are fairly generous, as is the cheese.  It’s a pretty good pizza, albeit one that is decidedly “north american” influence. This pizza (and the aforementioned lasagna) seems like a throwback to another era.  This is the kind of pizza and pasta I expected to get in the 1980s and early 90s.  Not that this is a bad thing, sometimes nostalgia is good.

The prices for the food are quite reasonable, and the portions are fairly generous, and well prepared.  I think it’s probably worth a return visit to try some of the greek entrees.

The service was very good, our server was very friendly and helpful, and made the extra effort, and did it with a smile.

Double DD Pizza on Urbanspoon

The gang at work decided to do a group lunch at Shaolin Noodle House on West Broadway.  I remember visiting this restaurant once many years ago, when it was located a block east. I only had a vague memory of the food (and it wasn’t particularly positive) which is probably why I never came back. At that time, the idea that chinese noodles were made by hand in-store was novel in Vancouver, but not so much today (there are at least half a dozen or more such restaurants around town these days).

We had reservations, and arrived just before noon, and were seated promptly.

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After perusing the menu, I settled on the Zhajiang Pork with Cucumber on Cutting Noodles

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So this is minced pork, stir fried with garlic, scallions, and a mixture of savory and sweet bean pastes (yellow bean paste, broad bean paste, hoisin sauce, soy), served with matchstick sliced raw cucumber, over cut noodles.  The cut noodles are made from wheat flour (sometimes mixed with rice flour), water, salt, kneaded into a log, then either sliced off in strips with a knife or shaved off in thin irregular strips, which are blanched in boiling water.  Since my noodles were highly irregular shapes, I’m guessing mine were shaved off.  And I’m pretty sure mine was made from a dough that included rice flour.

The noodles were decidedly ‘al dente’.  They were slightly chewy, particularly the thicker pieces.   I don’t have a problem with a little chewiness, but given that the noodles were shaved off in irregular strips, this lead to an inconsistent texture throughout the dish.  Some noodles were thin and soft, others were thick and chewy.  I don’t think if I like this (“rustic”) quality.  The stir fried pork was savory and rich, offset with the cool crunchiness of the slice cucumbers.   This was not a bad dish, but I might choose different noodles next time.

And my manager was kind enough to order a steamer rack of xiaolongbao for everyone to share.

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These are seasoned finely minced pork in aspic, sealed in a wheat flour wrapper, and steamed.  The aspic turns to liquid in the process, providing a rich soupy broth when you bite into the steamed buns.  I found the filling and the soup inside to be quite nice, with good flavor, and a decent volume of liquid.  But I found the wrappers a little on the thick side.

The room if large and bright, and fairly clean, but somewhat cluttered with signage (an all too common characteristic of chinese restaurants).

The service is more or less what I expect from most chinese restaurants (abrupt and efficient, but not especially genial nor helpful).

Overall, I think Shaolin Noodle house has reasonably good food, at a reasonable value (not a lot of chinese cuisine in the Fairview neighborhood, thus not likely to see a lot of competitive pricing).  But that said, compared to a lot of the restaurants in the area (across all cuisine types) it’s a comparatively decent value.

Shaolin Noodle House on Urbanspoon

While stopping in East Vancouver, we stumbled across a new vietnamese restaurant on East Hastings called Mr. Red Cafe and decided to grab lunch here.

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They’d opened for business in just the last month or two, they still had their grand opening floral bouquets by the door.

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It’s a fairly compact space (probably seats 25-30) but very clean with some vibrant red and black accents around the room.  We were seated immediately by the window, and I think we got one of the last available tables (there was a line up at the door shortly after we sat down).

I ordered the banh mi bo kho (beef stew and bread)

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This is the vietnamese style beef stew, using cubes of tough cuts of meat (in this case, I think it’s chuck), browned and simmered slowly with lemongrass, cinnamon, ginger, anise, carrots, onions, annatto seeds and fish sauce), garnished with fresh cilantro, served with a crusty french style baguette.  This was a very good stew. It’s rich, lots of flavor, properly seasoned.  The baguette is crusty on the outside, but soft and pillowy on the inside.

My lunch companion ordered the pho tai bo vien (rare beef and meatball noodle soup)

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So this was a classic pho, consisting of rice vermicelli noodles, served in beef broth, with thin slices of rare round steak, and veitnamese meat balls, garnished with scallions and cilantro.  It should come with fresh bean sprouts and lime, but we didn’t get any.  The broth (which is the key to good pho) is very good.  There’s a mellow beef flavor with just a light accent of the spices and seasonings, and the roasted aromatics.    The rare beef slices and meat balls were pretty good, but otherwise not noteworthy.

The service was a bit off.  The server was a bit overwhelmed and kept forgetting to bring things.  We didn’t get the bean sprouts or the lime wedge for the pho.  And our table was missing some of the standard condiments (we had the chili sauce, but no tuong den (hoisin sauce).  We asked but never received any.

Mr. Red Cafe has some pretty good food, but they’re going through some growing pains.  Patience my be key here.

Mr. Red Cafe on Urbanspoon

I was in the mood for some slow cooked barbeque.  My first thought was Memphis Blues, but having been there many times, it was time for something new.  Second choice was Hogshack in Steveston, but it was close on this particular day, so I decided to check out the Smokehouse Sandwich Co.  It’s located in a nondescript corner strip map on Westminster Highway and Tiffany Blvd in Richmond.

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It occupies a space that was previously a pub, and it still looks and feels like it.

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The menu is compact, and features a variety of made-to-order sandwiches featuring smoked/slow cooked meats like brisket, pulled pork, smoked salmon, etc.

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I ordered the Samson Sandwich

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with a side of crisps

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The Samson is smoked brisket, mopped with a coffee and strawberry glaze, sliced thin, and layered on a lightly toasted bun, with lettuce, crisp red peppers, mayo.  This is a really good sandwich.  The brisket is melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the coffee and strawberry glaze comes through.  The toasted bun and the crisp veggies add some needed crispness.

The chips are sliced very thin and fried in olive oil to a light crisp, but they weren’t salted (or if they were, extremely lightly).  Fortunately they provide an array of different flavored salts at a condiment station.

This appears to be a family operation, and the proprietors are quite genial and happy.  They made every effort to accommodate.

As mentioned previously, the space still bears the mark of the preceding tenant (that being a bar or pub) and it looks like it.   It’s only missing a pool table and a dart board.  That said, it’s clean, functional, but a little dark (a splash of colour would probably help).

I’d be happy to come back for another sandwich (it’s a pretty reasonable price), or if they expanded the menu to offer more substantive meals (eg. a dinner service).  Which raises a question…. the restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch, but closes in the late afternoon, before dinner.  Given the current menu, it seems odd to be open for breakfast, but not for dinner.

Smokehouse Sandwich Co. on Urbanspoon

I was downtown to have lunch with a friend, and we decided to visit the Baoguette Vietnamese Bistro on Denman street, occupying the space previously held by Beard Papa.

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We started with an order of the mango salad

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(apologies for the out-of-focus image, it was the best one I had, darned fussy cell-phone camera).  This is a thin matchstick slivers of ripe (but still firm) mango, pickled daikon radish, red peppers and fresh basil leaves, tossed in a lime juice and fish-sauce dressing, topped with crunchy roasted peanuts and cooked split prawns.  This is light refreshing salad with sweetness from the mangos, tartness from the limes, saltiness from the fish sauce, and crunch from the peanuts.  It’s a nicely balanced dish.

The salad was followed with a house special banh mi
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This is a beautiful crusty french baguette, split and filled with slivers of cucumber, pickled diakon radish and carrots, fresh cilantro, a smear of live pate, and vietnamese cold cuts, with a little tangy mayo and some sandwich dressing (made from lime juice, fish sauce, soy and sesame oil).  This was very good banh mi. The bread is crusty and crisp around the outside, but soft on the inside.  The pickled vegetables and fresh cilantro provide from fresh crispness, and the sauce provides some tang and savoriness.

I also ordered the grilled beef and spring roll vermicelli
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This is generous bowl of cold vermicelli noodles, topped with more of the cucumber, pickled diakon, and carrots, with a crispy fried pork spring roll, and good helping of marinade grilled beef.  It comes with a small cup of nuoc cham (made from vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic and chilis). The beef is marinated in lemon grass, sweetened fish sauce before grilling.  I found the beef nicely seasoned and tasty, but slightly over cooked.  But the spring roll was very crispy, and properly seasoned.  This is a very refreshing dish.

The room bright and airy but a little awkward in shape. Most of the seating is on the same level as the street, but the kitchen is partially submerged.  It’s not a biggy though.

By the standards I have for most asian restaurants, the server was quite pleasant and genial, and made some extra efforts to please.

I may have to come back to try the pho at a later date.

Baoguette Vietnamese Bistro on Urbanspoon

There’s this little sandwich shop / patisserie on West Broadway, between Oak and Spruce Street, that I pass by each day on the way to work. And each time I pass it, the aroma of freshly baked goods draws me in.  There’s a fairly expansive menu for a small place, consisting of sandwiches & paninis, salads, muffins, cookies, mini cakes, bread pudding, and some house made heat & serve dishes (casseroles, shepherds pie, lasagna, etc).

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This blog entry represents several take out visits over several days.

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During a lunch visit, I ordered a soup and sandwich to go.  This consisted of turkey sandwich on multigrain bread.

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This was made to order, and it is a pretty good.   It’s a substantive sandwich, with lots of sliced turkey, sliced cheddar, iceberg lettuce, ripe tomato slices, a dollop of mayo and dijon mustard,  between slices of soft multigrain bread.

This came with a large cup of split pea and ham soup

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This is a house made ham soup, filled with onions, celery, carrots and split peas, simmered slowly for several hours until the peas break down.  I’ve never been a big fan of pea soup, this was my first time revisiting it in many many years.  Maybe I had previously consumed poor examples, because was pretty good.  Nice ham and pea flavor, good seasoning.

On a separate visit, I tried the apple pecan scone

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This is a rich buttery scone, studded with chunks of apple and pecans, with a light sweetness and a hint of cinnamon.  The scone appear to be made with (at least part) whole wheat flour, which adds a little more texture and a little more nuttiness.   It was soft, and delicate and buttery on the inside, and lightly crunchy on the edges.  I really liked this scone.

On yet another visit, I opted for the chocolate loaf

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This is a rich dark chocolate cake, baked in a mini loaf pan, filled with chocolate chips, and dusted with confectioners sugar.  This was a good cake.  It was moist and soft on the inside, lightly crunchy around the edges and top, with lots of chocolately flavor.

coissant with chocolate banana and almond paste

This is a croissant, split and filled with almond paste and banana slices, baked, and then drizzled with chocolate sauce and dusted with confectioners sugar.  This is a fabulous pastry.  It’s got some crunch from the double baked croissant.  The almond and banana filling is soft and sweet, but crisp on edge, and the chocolate sauce is rich and decadent.

The room is functional and clean.

The servers are seemingly always happy and pleasant.  The service can be a little slow during peak hours, but I have to cut them some slack since it’s a small operation and they are making most things to order.

Chiffon Patisserie on Urbanspoon

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