Monday, May 31, 2010

Les Faux Bourgeois - great French food with moderate pricing

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Les Faux Bourgeois

663 E 15th Ave, Vancouver

Les Faux Bourgeois on Urbanspoon

Food: 4
Service: 4
Price: Fair (actually close to cheap end)

Les Faux Fourgeois has been on my wishlist for at least 6 month now. I actually attempted once before, but made the reservation too late (2 days prior). They were booked solid until 10pm. So this time I made sure to call 5 days ahead of time, and even then, they told me 7pm reservation is not available, so I settled on a 7:30pm reservation.
R started his meal with the Escargots De Bourgogne ($8), essentially escargots in garlic butter. The escargot was okay, but I loved their garlic butter infused baguette, as there were tons of garlic in the butter.I went for the Coquilles St. Jacques ($11). This is baked scallop in mornay gratinee. Although the scallop were good, but it wasn't the tender enough (compare with Market). The grantinee was very creamy, but it had slight yogurt taste(sourness) to it.
For my main I went with the one of the "special of the day". This is grilled pork striploin with mustard demi cream ($18). The first bite was kinda disappointing, as I thought the pork was too hard/chewy. However when I cut into the 2nd piece, which had some fatty parts, it was delicious. Majority of the pork striploin was really tender, but I think the real highlight was the sauce (yum). Their garlic potato salad was really good as well. There was this very flavor taste that I couldn't distinguish. Finally more than half way through, I finally realized it was chive. All I got to say is I really did enjoy this dish.
R had the Le Cabillaud ($18), which is Ling Cod with mushrooms, savoy cabbage, cod croquettes and manila clam pan jus. R thought the cod was very well done, the meat was juicy and tender. I on the other hand thought it was a bit dry around the edges, but the middle was really good. The cod croquettes were crunchy and soft/hot in the inside. The clam jus was really good, very rich and flavorful.
Although I was really full at this point, but I just can't miss out on dessert, and I am so glad I didn't. The above is the best creme brulee (only $6) I have ever tried. The caramel sugar on top was nice and smooth (someplace have gritty burnt sugar, instead of a nice hard caramelized top).The custard underneath was soft and creamy without being overly sweet. Although the custard is solid, but it almost seems like a liquid. There was also a very rich vanilla taste, and I think they use real vanilla bean in this dessert because I notice some some small black specks.
R's lemon tart ($6) was also really good. The filling was smooth and rich with the right balance of sourness and sweetness. The shell it was sitting in was excellent, it was almost like a shortbread cookie crust.

The service here was good, and it seems all the servers were French, as many had a French accent. Although the meal was very good, I have to comment on a smell that was around our table. I can't put my finger on it, maybe it was some kind of cleaning detergent they used, but it was not a pleasant smell.

Overall the food here are definitely very delicious, and price is right. In fact I think it's actually pretty cheap for the quality you receive. All I have to say is definitely make your reservation early in the week if you plan to go on the weekend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shanghai Village - Authentic Jiangsu Cuisine

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Shanghai Village

3250 Cambie Street, Vancouver

Shanghai Village on Urbanspoon

Food: 4
Service: 3
Price: for this set meal it was $35.50/person including tax

The first dinner of the 8GTCC, organized by Chowtimes and team, was at Alvin Garden for a taste of the Xiang Cuisine. That was a great meal with A LOT of dishes to try. What I didn't expect is that the this one was even bigger than the last, with a grand total of 64 people in attendance. This time, Dylan from the 8GTCC team took on task of researching for Jiangsu cuisine. After much hard work, Dylan has picked a total of 19 dishes that can best represent the area, without further ado, here they are...
The first thing we were served was soup cooked in clay pot. These soups are usually placed in huge clay cooking oven for hours. We had a choice between ranch chicken with tea tree mushroom or pork rib with lotus roots. I tried both soup, they were both very flavorful. I preferred the pork rib soup because I am amazed at how rich and sweet this soup is without being oily.Next up is the appetizer combo plate filled with five spice smoked fish, Qinhuai green bean jelly, frozen tofu with mushroom and marble preserved egg. The egg was very unique as it's a combination of salted duck egg and century egg in one shell. The smoked fish was very good, it had a slightly sweet soy flavor.
The next appetizer was the Nanjin salty duck. This was a excellent. The duck was juicy, moist, and loaded with flavor. It wasn't overly salty either, you can totally eat this without rice. Some of us were comparing this with the smoked duck we had at Alvin Garden, for me this wins because it retain more "duck" flavor (if that make sense) than the smoked duck dish.
The next dish was also another favorite: soy sauce braised spot prawn. These are some juicy and huge prawns cooked with a simple technique, but taste great. The shells were crispy but cooked, thus R ate everything, tails and head included.
The next dish is the deep fried lobster and crab with rice cake. The meat was fresh, and the taste was good. The rice cake on the bottom was good, but nothing special.When this dish came out, all the camera came out along with it. There must have been at least 20 people taking pictures of this dish: Beggar's Chicken. The story behind this is that a beggar invented this cooking technique during a depression in China, because he had no tools, he just wrapped the chicken in mud and baked it. To his surprise, it turned out very juicy and flavorful. Because mud is probably hard to acquire and not cost effective, thus they used a flour dough to wrap it. This chicken was indeed very moist and flavorful, because it's stuffed with shrimp, goji berry, date, and some other ingredients. I gotta say, if this is a beggar's chicken, then he is one rich beggar..LOL
Suantang Fish Noodle has won the Chinese Restaurant Awards Gold Medal for "Most Innovative Dish". The reason is behind this is the noodle, it's made with ground fish. The best way to described this dish would be fish ball in noodle shape with thin hot and sour soup.This is called Fantail shrimp. It's just stir fried shrimp with cashew arranged into a fan shape. The presentation was certainly nice, but the taste was average.When this dish came, we were all perplexed, why the randomly placed blob of egg white. Until one person said it looked like a dragon floating among the cloud. I am glad we had at least one imaginative person at our table, or else the art would be lost :P. Anyways this boneless sweet and sour cod was the most disappointing dish for me, because the sauce didn't taste special, it was just your typical sweet and sour sauce.
The Jinling Spareribs were great, the meat was super tender, it pulled of the bone easily. R loved this one along with everyone else. Although I did like it, but to me the sauce was just a tad too sweet.
Pea shoot with prawns looked great, but tasted rather bland. The prawns were fresh, but a bit overcooked. I preferred the pea shoot over the prawns. The Lion Head meatball had a rich and flavorful sauce, but the meat was a bit over cooked in my opinion. I wish the meat could be a little more tender
Next up is what every good Shanghai restaurant should have: Xiao Long Bao (soupy dumpling). Their XLB was excellent and filled with tons of soup. The skin was also the thinnest I have seen so far, it ripped easily, so you really got to be careful when picking it up.By the time the Yangzhou fried rice came, I was already totally stuffed. So I only had a minuscule bite of this. The fried rice was all right, nothing really to shout about, then again I was really full, so it could have affected my judgment.
After all that food, we finally arrived at the dessert. This would be their marble sticky rice ball filled with sesame sugar stuffing. The taste was typical, but the appearance was not. This was made to resemble the quartz stone (up right hand corner). It look really pretty and impressive, because it actually does look like the stone. I am guessing the sticky rice dough probably took a lot of work to make.

Another great meal in the 8GTCC series, I enjoyed the majority of the food. However it was way too much food, so the dishes that came later were probably judged harsher than the previous ones. The service was mostly good, they filled our tea pots often. Also one things I really like about this restaurant was that it cared about presentation, because all the plates/cups/bowls bare their name. The restaurant had nice decoration and was really clean, but they did just opened (less than half a year). Overall, I would definitely recommend Shanghai Village for anyone wanting to try Jiangsu cuisine

Monday, May 24, 2010

O'Doul's - Great ambience, average food

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O'Doul's Restaurant and Bar

1300 Robson St, Vancouver

O'Doul's on Urbanspoon

Food: 2.5
Service: 4

Price: Expensive (on regular price), this was the dine out $38 menu


Since Dine Out Vancouver was really short this year (it only included 1 weekend), I only had time to pencil in 2 restaurants. The 2nd restaurant chosen was O'Doul's and I was actually excited to try it out for 2 reasons. Every time I walk by, it looked like it has great ambiance and the lamb 'popsicle' I had at Taste of the City 2007 was phenomenal.
They first brought us the complimentary bread/butter. Also they gave each of us a small piece of salmon pate to try. The bread had olives in it, which I did not like, but the salmon pate was good.

I chose the duck with garlic chive dumpling for the appetizer. This was a major disappointment for me. The dumpling skin was rather thick and cooked unevenly. I couldn't really tell the stuffing was actually duck. The soup was suppose to be shitake mushroom based, but really it just tasted like water down soy sauce. Overall, I wish I ordered a different appetizer.
The Grilled Albacore Tuna was better. Although the tuna was good, but the curry chickpea salad it was resting on was average. Nothing really stood out, it's a salad I could have easily whipped up at home.
The last appetizer was the yam, sunchoke and spinach pankoras. It didn't sound all that appetizing to me, but actually it turned out to be the best one out of the 3. They were heavily spiced but it all worked in harmony with one another. Also it was deep fried to the right consistency.
For the main I went for a medium grilled striploin steak on bearnaise sauce. My medium was rather bloody, and comparing with the medium rare it was about the same. The steak and fries was just good, but not special. Ironically the best thing on the plate was the oven dried roma tomato, it was very good.
I had a bit of the salmon, but really couldn't remember much about it. R mentioned that although it was not too dry, but it wasn't juicy enough either. In the end he thought it was okay. For the dessert, we had a choice between the Riesling and Honey poached pear or Chipotle-spiked Chocolate and Agassiz Hazelnut Brownie. I had the pear, it was soft and juicy, but at the same time it tasted like canned pear. The citrus crème anglaise was good. The chocolate brownie was very dense and sweet but with a distinctive bitterness. I think they probably used dark chocolate for it. Btw, we had a birthday girl present for that night, so the restaurant was kind enough to include a candle for her dessert.

The restaurant was very nice, it has these floor to ceiling glass windows which were great for people watching and provided very nice natural lighting. The service was great, as expected. Also they had live music after 9pm, which was very relaxing.

Overall, I will have to say that for my dining experience, the ambiance wins over the food. Maybe because this menus was specifically created for Dine Out (many items were not on their regular menu), thus the food is below par. Either way, I don't think I am eager to go back, but at the same time it's not on my 'never to go back list' either. As I always say, you dining experience may differ. :P

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chambar - nice ambience, great food

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Chambar

562 Beatty St, Vancouver

Chambar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Food: 4
Service: 4
Price: Fair

Dine Out Vancouver has been an annual event since 2002, and I personally have been attending since 2004. Through this event, I have found some great restaurants and of course some disappointing ones as well. Once again, we had to choose a restaurant to try for this year, since both of R and I were impressed with Cafe Medina, we thought we give their sister restaurant: Chambar, a try.

Chambar has a extensive wine/beer list, and some are very interesting. R started with a beer called Fruli ($6). It's a wheat beer with fresh strawberry nose. Usually I hate beer, but for once I loved it. The truth is that this tasted like 90% strawberry juice and only about 10% beer (4.3% alcohol). It was almost like a strawberry champagne, but better.
I had a non-alcoholic drink, made with mainly passion fruit juice mixed with elderberry flower (~$7). Although it looked pretty, but the taste was pretty much club soda with passion fruit juice. There was this little tiny ball like thing in my drink, after digging it out, it looked like a tiny flower bud. I am guessing 1 elderberry flower is all this drink need. (I really couldn't detect any other flavor other than passion fruit).
R's appetizer consisted of black trumpet, cardamom and truffle soup with a side of roasted king oyster mushroom and curried goat cheese. The soup was rather thick with a distinct truffle flavor. The foam on top contributes nothing, as it deflated really fast. The roasted mushroom was juicy and delicious, but I was not a fan of the curried goat cheese.
I started with the tuna carpaccio. It's a charred yellowfin tuna with celery, daikon & citrus brunoix, pomegranate molasses, red shiso. The tuna was super thin and soft, but all the vegetables were crunch, so it created a contrast between the two texture. The citrus dressing was good, as it certainly opened up my appetite.

For my main, I went with the roasted halibut with a curried saffron risotto with a eggplant yogurt caviar sauce. I loved the halibut, it was moist and soft. The saffron risotto was rich and flavorful. However I was not a fan of the eggplant yogurt caviar. It was just sourish yogurt without much of any other flavors.
R went with the white wine butter cooked mussel with braised leek, celery and black pepper. First, this was a huge portion. R was very full after this. The mussels were delicious and soft. Each one was well infused with tons of flavor. The soup on the bottom was light enough to drink it all by itself. It would be perfect for dipping bread too, but we were too full, and just drank it as it. The mussels also comes with a order of fries, they were good, but not special.
For my dessert, I had the vanilla passion fruit parfait with lemon honey tuile. The passion fruit 'log' was like gelato with a very strong passion fruit flavor. The lemon honey tuile on the side was great as well, but I did not like the coconut shaving on top.
R went with the dark chocolate pecan torte with bourbon cream and caramel sauce. They used dark chocolate for this torte, which R liked. The torte was very dense and rich in flavor, but I prefer lighter tasting dessert, so it's a good thing I didn't order this. What I did loved about this dessert was the bourbon cream, it was thick and rich with a nice bourbon flavor.

This was a $38 3 course set meal. Sometime I think Dine Out is no longer worth it at $38, because I could probably added less than $10 for the same experience without the limited selection. Also, some restaurants serves food that are not on their regular menu, which seems to me like they are downgrading their quality. So it was definitely a plus when I noticed all the selection at Chambar is on their regular menu. In the end, both R and I are impressed and will definitely come back for more.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Zakkushi - surprisingly good

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Zakkushi

823 Denman St, Vancouver

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill (Denman) on Urbanspoon

Food: 4
Service: 4
Price: Although it seems cheap, but could add up fast easily

I have never been to Zakkushi, but the 2 times that I tried their grill skewers, I was not impressed. The first time I tried their Yakitori was at last year's 'Taste of the City'. It was rather bland and nothing special. The 2nd time I tried it was at Kushi Box, although I did like one of the skewer, but it wasn't enticing enough for me to actually make the effort to try the restaurant.

This was the chosen restaurant for A's birthday, so I went along with it. The restaurant is medium size, with some very well designed benches. They are like crates with a lid on top, which you can lift up and store your jacket or purse. And now on to the food...

First dish was the Ebi mayo ($6.70). The prawns were succulent and the coating was not too thick. The spicy mayo was good. I would definitely recommend trying this.The Harumaik (chopped tuna roll in rice warp $7.80) was refreshing. Since the sauce is the Ponzu sauce (sourish), it was a good way to start the meal, as Chinese poeple believe that sour food will open up ones appetite.
Our first skewer were the Aspara Maki (slice pork wrapped asparagus) for $1.90/ea. The slice pork were grilled perfectly, it was juicy and the asparagus provided a nice crunch to the bite.Our 2nd skewer was even better than the first: Uzura Maki (quail egg wrapped with pork $1.90). Although this is exactly what I ordered at Kushi Box, but the quality is better here. The inside of the egg is actually heated, and the bacon is more juicy. However I did get take out at Kushi Box, so maybe the time lag between grilling it and I actually eating it had affect the quality.
We got an full order of assorted Oden ($12). I think it include 1pc of all the available varieties. This was actually quite good. I especially liked the soft daikon, and sticky rice in deep fried tofu. R loved the egg, no surprise there.The yakitori don (chicken teriyaki on rice) is very similar to the rice bowls at Kushi box, in fact it's pretty much the same thing. Because the bowl have a bigger surface area than the take out box, so they definitely had a more toppings than the Kushi box meal I had. The chicken was tender and juicy, and I think this is worth the price tag of $6.90.
This is by far my favorite skewer: P-Toro (BBQ pork). The pork was a nice cut, it has a even layer of lean and fat portion. The pork was lightly seasoned with some salt and pepper. Even with such simple seasoning, it was the pureness of the dish + the skill of grilling chef made this very delicious. For $1.70/ea, I highly recommend.The Zakkushi-Meshi ($6.80) was rather disappointing for me. The tuna was mushy, and the rice was rather dry. The seasoning was light, so the rice was a bit bland.Can you tell what that is? It's a chicken wing that has been split open (Tebasaki $1.70). Although the presentation was certainly interesting, the taste was average, but the meat was juicy though. R loved this one.The yaki udon ($6.80) was disappointing. Although the udon itself was chewy and soft, but as a whole, it lacked in flavor. I would rather spend the money on more grilled skewer, as they are much more impressive.Lastly, as I mentioned it was A's birthday, so instead of cake, we had their deep fried banana ($2.80, the above is 3 portions). They were really nice by turning off the lights before bringing out the dessert. I wonder if they informed the other customers first? Although it was definitely a nice gesture, but I would think people from other tables maybe put off by this gesture, as they had to dine in the dark for about 2-3 minutes. Anyways I digress, the banana gyoza was interesting, although it was pretty good, I find the skin a little over fried.

Overall, I was quite happy with the food. Majority of the skewers were very good (we had more than the above). Sometime, I think expectation plays a big roll, because I went in with low expectation, I actually left with a rather high opinion of the restaurant. Nevertheless, it was a good meal (in my opinion), so I would recommend.