Friday, October 29, 2010

Sweetheart Cafe Burger and Sushi - New Westminster

It's really easy to prejudge this place place because of the name, but don't be fooled, this place actually has one of the best tasting burgers I've ever had.  It's a mom-and-pop-type run place, run by a Korean family I believe, and they know their beef.

I was in New Westminster for a car show a while ago, and I was looking around for a place to grab a bite to eat.  I don't know about other stuff on their menu, but their burger is A one.  Koreans are famous for their BBQ, especially when it comes to beef products.  And I could tell that the beef pattie received some of this treatment because the taste was out of this world compared to burgers at other places.  Maybe my expectations were low to begin with, maybe I was just really hungry, but at the time, I decided to myself that this was the best burger I had ever had.  One of these days, I'll have to revisit the place, just to make sure my memory isn't making stuff up.

Sweetheart Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happa - Kitsilano

Happa Izakaya - oh, memories.  Years ago, when Justin first opened Happa on Robson, my pals and I would report there like good patrons should, every weekend and drop about $500.  I swear, that between the 5 of us, we financed the opening of subsequent Happa locations, and put Justin's children through university.
It was my pal Jeremy's birthday, and our iaido class, including sensei, celebrated his 20th (?) at Happa Izakaya in Kitsilano.
Their famous saba, seared on the spot with a portable torch.
Jeremy and Inoue Sensei.....Jeremy has a thing against prawns.
Justin, owner of Happa, is a brilliant business man and he opened Happa when izakayas were still a rarety in Vancouver.  Now they're all over the place, but at the time, there were maybe three or four?  Happa had a line up every night, the service was great, the management (Justin) even better.  He was always at the front line, greeting customers, and making everyone feel at home.  He wasn't at the Kitsilano location the night we went, but he has been known to be at various locations.  Regardless, the place was well run, the food was great as well as the service.  Definitely check this place out.

Hapa Izakaya (Kitsilano) on Urbanspoon

Octopus Garden

One of the places my Iaido sensei - Inoue Hironori likes to go is Octopus Garden.  Actually, let's go back in time a few years.  Before he was my Iaido sensei, he was just "Hiro", one of the founding members of the Vancouver Japanese Sword Appreciation Club.  I met him over 10 years ago when I first joined the club, and Octopus Garden was a regular place to go after our monthly meetings.  I would not join them because at the time, I was a starving college student and didn't even drive at the time.  After enrolling in his iaido class about four years ago, we'd go to Octopus Garden for special occassions such as birthdays and farewells.  It got a bit expensive for most people and after a while our visits sort of dropped off.
The VJSAC fell apart sometime last year, and my last visit to Octopus Garden was after one of those events. 
Me and Ritchard T., from class, tagging along with the grown-ups.

Daniel (left), a sword polisher from Japan (centre), and Inoue Sensei (right).
Complimentary tako salad.
Edamame, the usual compliment to beer and sake.
Agedashi tufu, another common dish in most local Japanese restaurants.
Some sort of fusion something or other.

Some good old, regular assorted nigiri sushi.

A deep fried roll...starting to be a trend here in Vancouver.

Dragon/catapillar roll....

The food is pretty damn good at Octopus Garden.  It's authentic in the way that the ownership, the prep and staff are all Japanese, but the food itself has a foot in the door for fusion.  For example, the first time I EVER had foie gras was at Octopus Garden...Foie Gras Nigiri Sushi.  I fell in love with foie gras that night, and added it to my list of must have's for my last meal on earth, ethics be damned.  The service is pretty friendly as well, and the food arrives quickly (when it's not busy). 

One thing I'd like to add is that I saw my favourite sake here - Koshi no Kanbai....the only problem was it was selling at $300 for the 1.8 litre bottle....for the price of 4 bottles, I could fly back to Japan and bring back 4 of my own.  Sadly, Ocotpus Garden is overall a little bit too pricy for me at the moment and I can't afford to go there as often as I'd like. 

Octopus' Garden on Urbanspoon

Curry 2 U - Granville Island

Fast food Indian food on Granville Island is a bit fancier than other food-court type Indian places.  You have the option of getting your lunch in multi-level tin containers you'd see in India...not that I've ever been there, but I have seen it on certain travel shows.  It's a cool novelty, and something you don't often see here. 
I ordered my usual favourite - Butter some tandori chicken.  The butter chicken was good, the tandori chicken was like eating fire.  I'm not really into spicy, but I guess it's supposed to be that way.

When I go to GI though, my personal preferences for food court food is either fish and chips or Mexican.

Curry 2 U on Urbanspoon

The Sushi Bar

Cheap Japanese food, not particularly authentic, but cheap enough to make me say who cares.  And cheap beer too....well, it was cheap at the time.  $2.50 beers, I think it may have gone up to $3.00 or something, still not too expensive.
Me and a couple of fellas from my Iaido class - Jeremy S. on the left and Richard T. in the beer, did I mention that?
As usual, I used my usual test with the chirashi don.  My verdict?  Well, it wasn't outstanding, and there was a lot of rice, as you can sort of tell from the picture.  There wasn't quite enough sushi vinegar, so the rice was a bit on the dry side, and the variety of seafood was pretty much standard fare.  Tuna, salmon, surf clam, saba, tai, tako, and a few slivers of amaebi.  Did I mention cheap?  You get what you pay for.

The rolls were pretty good, again, nothing you'd ever see in Japan, but they tasted good so who cares.  The roll with the avacado wrapped on the outside seems to be a pretty standard thing now.  Some places call it a catapillar roll, or dragon roll, or whatever.  The deep fried thing (bottom) was interesting.

On this particular night, we stopped in before a fireworks show (Celebration of Light) during the summer time, but on a night when we have class, the place closes a bit too early and we always miss last call.  Our regular place is still Blue Star Sushi (formerly Kishu Star). 

The Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thai House Richmond

I've only been to Thai House in Richmond once, and it was alright, but didn't really inspire me to return.  The food was good, but not outstanding, the service was decent, but again, nothing memorable.
Coconut milk, once a novelty in the 70's and 80's, but really nothing special anymore.
The skewers were good, but portions were a bit on the light side.
Not much imagination here.
This was actually really good, coconut and beef something or other.  It was rich and creamy and went really well with rice.  Heart-stopping, but good.
The pinapple fried rice was good, but could have used a bit more oil in the prep.....yes, it was a bit on the dry side, which is pretty unusual for Thai fried rice. 

Thai House isn't bad, despite my not so outstanding review.  It's close to home, so it's convenient, and it's not super expensive.  I guess maybe I don't often have a craving for Thai cuisine, but when I want something Thai-esque, I've had good experiences with Banana Leaf or Tropika.

Thai House (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

De Dutch - Richmond

De Dutch - basically Denny's with a supposed European twist. It's got more of a home-cooked feeling than a diner or cafe, but still good none the less. My one pet-peeve with De Dutch is the wait times....sometimes they are outrageous. 
The location in Richmond is smallish, hench the abusurdly long wait times to get seated, but it's been there forever, and for good reason - the food is good here, and the service is pretty good too.  My only other experience with De Dutch was once in Kelowna, which left me still hungry and craving a Denny's Grand Slam, but for some reason, I felt full after eating at De Dutch in Richmond.  Larger size eggs?  Thicker toast?  Who knows, but I was satisfied after I left and that all that matters.  Would I go back?  Well, probably not unless I drove by and happened to see no line-up.

De Dutch Pannekoek House (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Drake - Canmore, AB

If you're in Canmore Alberta, and you've gone to the Grizzly Paw Pub to get a bite to eat and then maybe a little legless, then you might want to go to The Drake Inn & Pub afterwards to get wrecked.  After last call at the Griz, one of the few places still open is The Drake.

Haha, as you can tell, the clientele is pretty colorful, and it's pretty much party-time the minute you walk in.  The fella on the left there has a real Captain Jack Sparrow look....minus the pink pants.

The staff are just as lively as the customers.....we had shots this nite....lots of shots and I was pretty much messed up not long after arriving here.

The wings were absolutely ginormous.  They were juicy on the outside, nice bread coating and seasoned perfectly, and if I wasn't so full from dinner, I might have had more.  Suffice to say, the two wings I managed to eat came up shortly after.

When we arrived, there was a stage and a live band playing.  I'm not sure if they have this every night, but then again, it was a Wednesday night and the party was just getting started.

Most folks were from out of town, either just visiting or here on Working Holiday Visas, so you'll get a chance to meet people from all over the world.  I was only in Canmore for one night, but my impression was that there was definitely a party element of this town and we bumped into them at the Drake that night.

Like I said, if you're in town and you want to party late into the night, the Drake might be one of those places you want to hit.

The Drake Inn & Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Grizzly Paw - Canmore, AB

I was in Canmore, Alberta last week for work and found myself at The Grizzly Paw Pub with a couple of co-workers before the big event.  My day had started at 0600 with very little sleep the night before, and very little food for breakfast.  By the time we rolled into Canmore at about 1400 or so in the afternoon, I was starving and probably would have eaten my travel companions.....haha, just kidding W-T and MC.  My co worker had been to Canmore before so she recommended this place.  It was so good we came back again that night after the ceremony.

It was a pretty sunny day, and everybody wanted to sit outside in the patio. 

One of the most beautiful Caesar's I had ever seen.  It had olives, and a stalk of pickled asparagus.  The salt and pepper ring was made up of chili powder and some kind of fancy sea reddish sea salt, the drink itself was pretty potent, quite spicy.  I didn't order this, but I sampled one later that night and let me tell you, it was firey.

Tuna Salad Wrap - $11.95

The Grilled Vegetable Panini - $12.95

And of course, I ordered something with meat.  The Canadian Classic Burger which comes with Candian back bacon and cheddar cheese.  I got my burger with a patty of Bison.  I tell you, this burger was glorious.  The meat patty was tender, moist, not very gamey surprisingly....just incredibly tasty.  The back bacon was like eating the a really thick and tender slab of ham.  Perfection in a burger.  The bun was a bit dry, but then again, not all burgers are made with a brioche buns.  The meal came with the option of fries, salad, or both.  Greedy as I am, I got both, and it was perfect because I had something greasy and deep fried, and something relatively healthy. Actually, the fries weren't all that greasy, nice and crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside.  The salad was pretty good too.

At night, the Grizzly Paw turns into a pretty cool place to hang out and get legless.  The staff are very friendly, and in particular our server was fantastic.  The drinks kept coming, and that's all that mattered.  My pal here having some sort of sampler.  Apparently the rasberry beer was good.  That's our server in the picture.

I'd defintely go back to the Grizzly Paw.  I couldn't stop thinking about that bison burger I had.  I just hope I get to visit Canmore again!

The Grizzly Paw on Urbanspoon

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