food

VanFoodster Brunch Crawl – Commercial Drive

As part of VanFoodster’s collaboration with Tourism Vancouver, Richard presents his neighbourhood Brunch Crawl series for Dine Out Vancouver. This past weekend, we were invited to experience some of the finest restaurants on Commercial Drive.

Our check-in location was Federico’s Supper Club, a long time restaurant on the Drive, offering up authentic Italian cuisine complete with live dancing and entertainment almost nightly.

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Federico’s offered a selection of small bites for their Brunch Crawl menu, along with an optional wine pairing. Admittedly, drinking 4 glasses of wine at 10:00am in the morning is a bit early for me.. but what the heck, it’s the weekend!

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From left to right:

  • Crostino con Uova di Quaglia e Proscuitto (quail egg & prosciutto crostino)
    Wine pairing: Prosecco Mionetto
  • Arancini con Percorino saffron risotto ball, Pecorino Romano
    Wine pairing: Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris VQA
  • Crostino al Pesto di Noci, Gorgonzola e Pera (walnut pesto crostino with gorgonzola and pear)
    Wine pairing: Tormaresca Aglianico Trentangeli
  • Crostino di Polenta, Speck e Gruyere (grilled polenta with speck and gruyere)
    Wine pairing: Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon VQA

Just across the street was Fratelli’s Bakery – if this place isn’t pastry heaven, I don’t know what is.

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Fratelli has actually been on Commercial Drive for 20 years, baking Vancouver’s best Italian pastries. Say hello to glass display cases packed with scrumptious bars and squares and pies and tarts of every flavour imaginable.

They also have a second location in Sapperton, New Westminster.

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We were treated a cute package of four items:

  • Espresso almond biscotti dipped in chocolate
  • Mini chocolate salted caramel cupcake
  • Silician cannoli
  • Nutella macaron

The Nutella macaron was my favourite, though the Silician cannoli is a popular favourite as well.

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Next, we visited The Drive Coffee Bar, a European style coffee bar with beautiful wood finishing, artwork lining its walls, and a delicious selection of pastries.

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Here, we opted for a Lavender London Fog (on the left) and a Salted Caramel Cappuccino (on the right). This was a welcome treat in the midst of the cold rainy/snowy weather we’ve been experiencing in Vancouver.

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Vegan cafe Eternal Abundance is a bit of a hidden gem on Commercial Drive, and is both a full-service store and a community gathering space. It operates almost as a one-stop shop, where you could grab a healthy, organic lunch, pick up all your groceries, and perhaps a few delicious vegan treats along the way.

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From Eternal Abundance, we sampled some flax crackers with sunflower cheeze, a kale caesar salad, and a vegan pad thai.

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Our last stop was a tucked away, nondescript nook called Cabrito Tapas, serving Spanish tapas on Commercial Drive. I love the unique painting and artwork on the walls, with intimate seating. For those of you looking to make special Valentine’s Day plans, this would be a lovely option!

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Here, we opted for a Mushroom Benny, with a poached egg, marinated mushrooms, roasted potatoes, and hollandaise sauce, served with bread and salad.

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And with Dine Out Vancouver all wrapped up with their festival, the Commercial Drive Brunch Crawl is a lovely finale to Vancouver Foodster’s Brunch Crawl series.

For his next event, stay tuned for Pizza Palooza, to taste all the best pizzas in Vancouver. Get your tickets here: Vancouver Foodster!

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Maruyama: Omakase with Chef

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Thanks to Raymond of ChineseBites, we were invited to a private omakase nigiri tasting at the new, cozy Maruyama Japanese Restaurant, opened June just earlier this year.

Previously the raw bar chef at Blue Water Cafe, Chef Yoshiya Maruyama has ventured into opening his own restaurant in East Vancouver on Rupert St, replacing the old Kimura.

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“Omakase” is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it up to you”; an omakase tasting means the dishes are selected by the chef himself. This way, the chef can choose from the freshest seasonal ingredients available to create a unique and special meal for each customer, that showcases Japan’s delicate cuisine.

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The first course of the evening, our appetizer was Hamno with ume sauce, pike eel served cold, with tamago on the side.

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On this beautiful nigiri platter was :Aji (horse mackerel), Tako (octopus), Red Tuna (bigeye), and Renkodai (yellow sea bream).

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On this plate: Madai (Red Seabream), Engawa (flounder), Alaskan sockeye, and Hamachi (yellowtail).

Favourites from these two nigiri platters? Everything. It’s impossible to just pick one or two. Each bite was so luscious and exquisite, prepared delicately as an art form.

Maruyama’s fish and seafood come from over 7,000km away directly from Tokyo (Tsukiji Fish Market), and Osaka in Japan. Their seafood is shipped to Vancouver daily, so you can definitely taste the freshness in each bite of nigiri.

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On the left, Bluefin Tuna Otoro. Otoro is the most expensive cut of tuna, and high in fat. It’s important to mention that this bluefin tuna from Maruyama is farmed, not wild, especially since bluefin tuna are currently listed as endangered.

On the right, Salmon Toro (Norwegian Steelhead). Both the tuna and salmon tuna simply melt into your tastebuds. I couldn’t get enough of these!

Maruyama’s supplier of seafood is actually the same one as Miku and Minami downtown, which already speaks volumes as to their quality.

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Housemade cold udon: This udon is meant to be mixed with the cold soup (top right corner), and customized with different toppings as you please. Love the udon – as it’s handmade, each bite is chewy with just the right amount of bounce.

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On the left, Ankimo (monkfish liver). The liver is first rubbed with salt, and then rinsed with sake, but still maintains its distinctive taste. On the right, Hotate (Japanese scallop). The scallop was soft, succulent, with a rich, sweet taste that lingers on your tongue.

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Soft shell crab tempura – One of my favourite Japanese dishes, Maruyama did not disappoint. A wonderful crispy crunch on the outside, and buttery soft crab inside.

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On the left, Ikura (salmon roe) with cucumber. On the right, Takowasa (raw octopus with wasabi). Beware the wasabi in this one, it’s a real kicker, especially when you’re not expecting it!

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All in all, an exquisite omakase nigiri tasting of Japan’s finest seafood. If you visit Maruyama, I would highly recommend reserving seats at the bar to be able to watch up close and hear about the chef’s sushi masterpieces.

Thank you, Chef Yoshiyama, for a truly wonderful evening!