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!


Popbar: A taste of New York at Metropolis at Metrotown

Say hello to delicious handcrafted gelato on a stick! Popbar, founded in New York, just opened their first location in BC at Metropolis at Metrotown. This follows their first location in Canada at West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, as well as a soon-to-be third store at HighStreet Shopping Centre, Abbotsford.

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Popbar was founded by Reuben BenJehuda from Italy and Daniel Yaghoubi from Germany, who collaborated their love for authentic, all-natural, gluten-free, low in sugar & fat frozen treats. Today, they offer over 40 rotational flavours of popbars – popGelato, popSorbetto, and YogurtPops, and a customizable experience where you choose where your popbar is dipped and topped!

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Each popbar can be dipped in your choice of premium chocolate dippings, including dark, milk, and white chocolate. With toppings, you can add pistachios, almonds, coconut, chocolate sprinkles, caramel and/or crushed waffle cone. Feel free to let your “Popaholic” know if you’d like to do a full dip, half dip, or even drizzles of the chocolate, or if you’d like half pistachio, half almond toppings. Have fun and be creative with your popbar!

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If you’d like to enjoy the Popbar experience, their beautiful new store with larger than life popbar displays is at Metropolis at Metrotown, near Superstore on Ground Level. For website and hours, click here.


Now open in Burnaby: Dinesty Dumpling House

With three locations in Richmond and one in Vancouver, Dinesty Dumpling House has opened its 5th location in Burnaby, on Kingsway across from Metropolis at Metrotown.

Dinesty’s feature dish is their legendary “Xiao Long Bao”, or steamed pork soup dumpling. Their soup dumplings are skillfully handmade and feature natural broth, delicate and juicy pork filling, and an ultra-thin hand-kneaded wrapper.

This new location is a beautiful 3,800 square feet space, with its traditional architectural concept of a “flat-screen open kitchen” and a modulated mirrored ceiling.

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The first dish to arrive was the “Cashew Nut Chicken”, a stirfry of golden brown juicy chicken bites with celery and fragrant cashew nuts.

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Next was the “Deep Fried Tofu Pudding in Garlic Sauce”. The combination of the crispy crunchy exterior with the soft tender tofu inside, dipped in the garlic sauce was delicious. If you like the agedashi tofu at Japanese restaurants, you’d like this!

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This noodle soup may look super spicy, but don’t let its looks deceive you. The “Noodles with Sesame & Crushed Peanuts in Spicy Sauce” is a rich bowl of soft noodles with a distinct nutty flavour. The noodles were a little mushier than I prefer, but the sauce was bang-on slurp-worthy.

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And of course, their signature “Xiao Long Bao”, or steamed pork soup dumplings. There’s a very particular method to eat these, to help prevent you from burning your tongue or mouth. First, with the soup dumpling in your spoon or bowl, gently break open the thin casing to let the fragrant soup escape. Then after a few moments to let the soup cool, you can pop the whole thing in your mouth and enjoy the heavenly juicy pork filling combined with the thin yet chew casing. Delightful!

You can also opt for different dumpling fillers, such as chicken, shrimp, crab, fish, or a combination of these flavours.

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We also orded a pan-fried version of the Xiao Long Bao – “Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Buns”. It’s a little different, as the skin is not as thin and more thick and chewy, but it still has the juicy pork filling, with an bonus crispy bottom.

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This “Stir Fried Rice Cake with Salted Vegetables & Pork” is so addictive. The soft rice cake is chewy and glutinous, flavoured by the tidbits of veggies and pork. I was glad to see that it wasn’t too salty or oily (as it can often be).

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All in all, a great meal at Dinesty Dumpling House. It’s great to see another fantastic lunch/dinner option in the Burnaby/Kingsway area, and I will definitely be coming back for more dumplings. If you haven’t had Xiao Long Bao’s (XLB) yet, you gotta try it!

Dinesty Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Tasting Plates – Kitsilano West

Following Vancouver Foodster’s adventure in Downtown South, September’s Tasting Plates explores Kitsilano West. The restaurants featured are Essentia Cafe, Bon Macaron, The Juicery Co, Tera V Burger, and Darby’s Public House and Liquor Store.

My first stop after picking up my Tasting Plates card, was Darby’s Public House, a local and independent establishment that has been part of the Kitsilano community for over 30 years. I had the pleasure of tasting a Mini Broadway Burger, Smoked Chicken Drumette and Quinoa Salad. The mini size of the burger was perfect for Tasting Plates, but I could see myself ordering the full size one when I return.

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Next was The Juicery Co, a family-run organic cold pressed juice and nut mylk shop. Owner and co-founder Christina was super friendly and more than happy to share her story and knowledge of juicing with us. Thanks Christina!

I sampled the Local Rose Juice, The Original, and Dads Juice, all with a combination of 4-7 different fruits and vegetables. Christina warned us that it may be overwhelming for those who don’t eat fruits and veggies regularly, but I thought the three juices were absolutely delicious. The Mini Acai Bowl would be great in the morning as breakfast – frozen Acai blended with raw cococa, maca, homemade nut mylk, frozen banana, topped with gluten free granola and fresh banana. Terrible photo below (sorry), but so tasty!

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Essentia Cafe is a bright, quaint spot offering European-style cafe. Their tasting cups included a Freddo Cappuccino, which is an iced version of cappuccino with a thick layer of cold whipped milk, and a Con pana, a popular Italian single-shot espresso served hot with whipped cream.

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As for tasting plates, I was treated to a wonderful pumpkin cheesecake, and a mango shortcake. I am always a sucker for anything mango, but this pumpkin cheesecake came a close second! I would definitely recommend trying it out if you have the chance to visit Essentia Cafe.

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Tera V Burger prides itself on being more than just a restaurant, but a movement to be beneficial to the planet, and mankind. Their menu is all vegetarian, but satisfies your cravings with burgers like the No Bull Burger, and the BBQ Tempeh Burger. Their potato fries are baked, but fried, for a healthy yet delicious indulgence. Not pictured (because I finished it too quickly… oops) is the Super Food Smoothie, with kale, spinach, carrots, banana, strawberry, blueberry, and touch of honey.

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A visit to Bon Macaron is a sweet visit indeed, especially as the last place of Tasting Plates. Co-owner David Boetti handpicked three flavours of macarons for me – (from left to right) Lemon Poppyseed, Oreo, and White Chocolate & Wasabi. The last one, White Chocolate & Wasabi, actually tastes like wasabi. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself!

Their macarons are beautifully crafted, with an inventive and constantly changing and expanding array of flavours. Some of the most creative ones I saw were White Truffle Sea Salt, Bacon, and Bubble Gum.

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And that wraps up Tasting Plates in Kitsilano! As always, thank you to Richard of Vancouver Foodster for inviting us on this tantalizing adventure for our tastebuds.

The next Vancouver Foodster event is Food Talks, Volume 13 on October 27, at Sage Restaurant at UBC. Get your tickets here: Eventbrite Food Talks Volume 13.

Glowbal Grand Opening at TELUS Garden

After the closure of the original Glowbal Grill Steaks & Satay, Glowbal has now been reborn at the new TELUS Garden building in downtown Vancouver. As Glowbal Restaurant Group’s namesake, the new 17,000 square foot flagship restaurant is without a doubt, bigger, bolder, and better than ever.

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The restaurant has a beautiful and vibrant open space with a dynamic open kitchen featuring Canada’s first custom built Robata grill. The decor emanates a warm atmosphere, especially with the giant reflective golden orb above.

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Private dining rooms inside each offer a distinct personality, and seats anywhere from 12 to 60 people. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for a fantastic view of Vancouver’s streets while wining and dining away.

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Outside, the patio is truly something else – 150 seats with unique human-sized bird cages for group seating. The space, framed by a dramatic wood-and-glass awning, provides a perfect place for people watching while enjoying Glowbal’s Famous Truffled Spaghetti & Signature Meatballs, or Miso Marinated Sablefish.

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If you’re interested in enjoying their adventurous and delicious North American cuisine, from executive chef Pedro Gonzalez, Glowbal is now open for lunch and dinner daily. For myself personally, I’m looking forward to tasting their weekend brunch, to be launched in September. Glowbal, I’m coming back for more!

Review: Milestones Grill and Bar (Cambie)

When I was in high school, Milestones was where all the cool people hosted their birthday parties. At the time, I only knew of the location on No. 3 Road in Richmond.

This year, Milestones celebrates their 25th year, a story of great food that begin right here in Vancouver on Denman Street. Now, they boast over 40 locations all across Canada. What an accomplishment!

As a starter, we picked a Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Tortilla Chips. This was a HUGE portion, even shared between two. At some point I had to tell my hand to stop reaching for the chips or I wouldn’t have any stomach to eat my entrée!

Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Tortilla Chips

Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Tortilla Chips

My choice of entrée was the Cajun Seafood Fettucini, minus the spicy Cajun part. Although it didn’t look like a big portion, pasta is always filling (all them carbs.. yum). I definitely appreciated the healthy serving of seafood (some places skimp out), and I’m not sure if it was the spinach & artichoke dip, but I had to pack some of this home to enjoy another day.

Cajun Seafood Fettucini

Cajun Seafood Fettucini

The mojito is always my go-to drink, and I’m happy to report this Raspberry Mojito was perfectly minty and refreshing. Next time, I’m going to try their Watermelon Mojito!

Raspberry Mojito

Raspberry Mojito

K’s choice of entree was the Portobello Mushroom Chicken, with basil, roasted garlic cream sauce, vermicelli noodles, and seasonal vegetables. Colourful dishes always make me happy.

Portobello Mushroom Chicken

Portobello Mushroom Chicken

His choice of drink was the Milestones Original Bellini, complete with a little giraffe perched on top. I love this little detail – it adds just a bit of whimsy to put a smile on your face as you sip away.

Original Bellini

Original Bellini

As much as I enjoy Vancouver’s unique dining spots and hole-in-the-walls, Milestones will always be a great option for a night out.

Tasting Plates: Cambie Village

Tasting Plates is a self-guided roving tour that allows you to explore select restaurants and establishments of a certain area. This allows you to try small, but tasty offerings from multiple places, so you can discover which ones you like and want to come back to visit! On Wednesday, the feature area for June’s Tasting Plates was Cambie Village. Thanks to Richard of Vancouver Foodster, I had the opportunity to check it out!

The first time I did was pick up my Map Card and menu from registration at U & I Thai. Since it was super packed inside U & I Thai, and I could visit the restaurants in any order I chose, I figured I’d walk across the street to try Pronto’s tasting plates first!

Pronto is an authentic Italian place offering traditional dishes, such as handmade pastas, pizza, and slow-roasted porchetta. If you haven’t been before,the porchetta is always a fantastic choice.

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To start off my night, I had this watermelon and strawberry margarita – so lovely! It was hot out too, so this was the perfect drink to cool off. Next time I’m at Pronto, I’ll be trying out their housemade sangria!

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From left to right:

Gorgonzola crostini with walnut pesto: I quite enjoyed this. The gorgonzola wasn’t too strong or overpowering, and the aromatic walnut flavour was really nice.

Old-world Roman meatball with pomodoro & parmesan: Oh yes, now this is what I call a meatball. Fresh marinara sauce and a tender, juicy inside… plus the parmesan was just the cheese on the meatball. If you know what I mean.

Baked polenta with wild mushroom ragu: The polenta was a great carrier for the mushroom ragu, because it was a mushroom party in my mouth. I didn’t even know Pronto had this on their menu.. meaning another potential meal choice next time I’m here!

Our next stop was Las Tortas, a hole-in-the-wall-esque place with limited seating inside. Their paper bag ordering style allows you to choose whatever you want, with add-ons such as house made potato chips, Mexican salad, daily soup, drinks, or desserts.

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Once we were inside, we were greeted very warmly and handed two cups of Horchata, a sweet cinnamon vanilla, milk, and rice drink. I appreciated the balance of cinnamon in vanilla in this one, but found this one is a little sweeter than some other Horchata’s that I’ve had before. I’m not complaining though 🙂 DSC07316 edit

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What happens when you cross a tamal with a taco? You get a Tamataco! With slow roasted pulled pork Tamal, chipotle slaw, topped with pico de gallo and served on a corn tortilla. It doesn’t look that attractive, I’ll admit, but it’s a tasty one!

At this point, it looked like the line at U & I Thai had died down a bit, so I figured I’d hop back over to try their tasting plates. Seriously, all the restaurants within walkable distance? So awesome.

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Green curry with chicken and rice noodles (ka nom jeen gang keaw wan): This was hot! As someone who can’t really handle heat, I still couldn’t resist dipping the rice noodles in for that punch of flavour. Thank goodness for the rice noodles to help cool it down.

U & I Thai Fish Taco with Thai sauce: The crisply battered White Basa fish was fat and juicy, especially with the peanuts, carrots and cabbage. The taco shell, however, seemed a bit tough – I would have preferred a softer taco shell to contrast the crispiness of the fish.

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And it was time for a touch of dessert! We popped over to Rain or Shine, their new location on Cambie. I have been to their location on West 4th a few times before, but not this one yet, as they just opened in April of this year. Their homemade ice cream uses local, natural, and fresh ingredients – I love that because of this, their seasonal flavours are always changing!

Blueberry Balsamic (top): I really really enjoyed this one, with the berry compote, and the waffle cone pieces on top added the right amount of crunch. It felt like a summer celebration on your tastebuds.

Coconut chocolate chunk with vegan chocolate sauce: Now, normally I don’t opt for non-dairy or vegan options, so this was new for me. Nonetheless, it was surprisingly delicious with vegan chocolate sauce as well. I could see this being a go-to flavour for people who are vegan or who enjoy vegan food.

Our next Tasting Plates was a little further down Cambie, closer to Cambie and Broadway behind the Home Depot, at EdgeCeptional Catering & The Edge Cafe.

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There was a bit of a wait at this one despite the cafe being relatively quiet. When our tasting plates arrived, I found out why: they ran out of their seafood chowder! I’m a big fan of chowders so this was sad to hear.. but I guess it means I’ll have to find an excuse to come back.

Signature #FabulousButterChicken: First of all, I love that all their dishes have their own hashtag. This #FabulousButterChicken was fabulous indeed, with a slow cooked, creamy butter sauce, steamed basmati rice, fresh cilantro, and naan bread.

Artisan #PestoChickenSandwich: I had a cute little bite for mine, which was perfect for my already-full stomach. This sandwich has juicy vine-ripened tomato, swiss cheese, rich basil pesto on French baguette. I would love to try a full one for lunch one day.

House Made #KillerChocolateChipCookie: I took this one home at the end of the night, and tried it afterwards. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, so the Edge was right… you really can’t eat just one. It was perfectly chewy with right amount of chocolate.

Last but not least, our final stop was at Solly’s Bagels!

DSC07402 editSolly’s Bagelry is a Jewish bakery and deli with a variety of fresh baked Jewish goods, with 3 stores in Vancouver: Main & 24th, Broadway & Macdonald, and this one at Yukon & 7th. When you walk in, it has such a homey feeling, like you are sitting at your kitchen table at home with your family.

DSC07409 editMy my, just take a look at this platter! I didn’t know where to begin, there were so many!

There were 4 Sweet bites: Cheese Danish, Apple Honey Roguleh, Solly’s Cinnamon bun, and Solly’s Chocolate Babka, as well as 5 Savoury bites: Mini Potato Knish, Feta Cheese Boureka, Lavash, Mini Sesame Bagel, and West Coast Wild Sockeye Lox ‘Shmear’. 

One of my personal favourites was the Mini Potato Knish – this one was freshly baked and was still piping hot. The potato was warm and soft – a little bit like eating chocolate chip cookies that have just come out of the oven. The Mini Sesame Bagel had more than enough Sesame seeds, which I definitely appreciated. The Chocolate Babka was another favourite – soft, chewy, with just the right amount of chocolate flavour.

Fantastic night with Tasting Plates

Fantastic night with Tasting Plates

By this point at the end of the night, I was stuffed. I definitely appreciated having smaller or mini sized portions, because I was able to taste and sample so many different flavours. For anyone who’s looking to try out Tasting Plates, I would definitely recommend bringing along a Ziploc bag or Tupperware to take home any leftovers. Unless you have a bottomless stomach, you probably will have some to take home!

The next Tasting Plates will feature Olympic Village on July 8. Early bird tickets are available now until June 23 for just $29 on their Eventbrite – get ’em here!