restaurant

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!

Village Bistro now serves brunch!

Formerly known as Lips Resto, Village Bistro on Davie has rebranded for a refreshed new look and feel to the restaurant and menu.

Their new menu features familiar Canadian comfort food, offering well-priced entrees, carefully curated cocktails, and both BC & international wines. Chef/owner Curtis Demyon has made a commitment to serving dishes with fresh, local, and housemade ingredients. With dinner service already up and running since their rebranding last fall, Village Bistro has recently launched their brunch menu again.

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Inside Village Bistro,  the open space welcomes you in, with the warm geometric pendant lighting and warm dark wood tables making for a visually charming space.

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For brunch, I chose the “Smoked Turkey Benedict”, with tomato, spinach, and hollandaise on an English muffin. The eggs were poached beautifully, with a side of crispy hashed potatoes, and fruit. I also liked that the eggs benedict weren’t drowned in the hollandaise, which really helps bring out the flavour of the smoked turkey with the egg and veggies. Yum!

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My partner opted for the “Fried Chicken & Biscuits”, with scallion, coriander, chili gravy, fries, and slaw, with a side of eggs. The chicken was super crispy, with that very satisfying crunch when you take a bite into it. The fries were fresh, crispy and nicely salted, the kind that makes you want eat one after another. The chili gravy has a serious kick to it – if you’re not a big fan of spicy sauce, I would recommend opting to have it served on the side.

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Overall, a great experience – we left very full and satisfied, both in our bellies and wallets. Village Bistro’s brunch menu is definitely at a very reasonable pricepoint, while offering hearty entrees with fresh, local ingredients.

For location and hours, check out their website here: Village Bistro.

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

 

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: Elements Urban Tapas Parlour, Whistler

I visited Whistler last month on a day trip, and had been looking for dinner options for a special occasion. Bearfoot Bistro was too pricey, and I didn’t really feel like just pizza or poutine. Elements was the perfect fit – unique and delicious dinner, at an affordable price for a step up from casual dining. I had been here once before – for brunch – and it left nothing but good impressions.

Elements Urban Tapas Lounge is tucked away in Whistler Village North, and has a small, but intimate dining room. There were only two other tables when we walked in, so the restaurant was pleasantly quiet.

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Soup of the day – I don’t remember the exact name.. but it was delicious. And that’s all you need to know. Also, the perfect amount to share between two people!

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Lettuce cups, with crunchy baby iceberg lettuce, julienne vegetables, seasoned rice noodles, soy roasted cashews, bean sprouts, Nuoc-cham dipping sauce and ahi tuna (sashimi & tobiko).

This was fun to eat! It was actually quite amusing eating lettuce cups that got progressively smaller and could fit fewer and fewer things in it. I really appreciated the light and refreshing taste of these, even with the Nuoc-cham dipping sauce.

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Roast duck breast, with maple roasted root vegetables, and beet relish. 

The duck breast just melts in your mouth – so succulent. I love squash, so I definitely loved seeing and tasting them in this dish. The beet relish was a little questionable – I didn’t quite like that it was cold and just sat on top.. it presented a rather stark and almost unwelcome contrast to the warmness of the duck & squash.

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Orange & ginger braised bison short ribs, with fresh daikon and pineapple salsa. 

I could definitely taste the ginger in this, though not in a bad way! It gave just enough of a kick to the short ribs, though the orange I didn’t taste so much. The meat just falls off the bone of this one.

All in all, such a great night. Food was delicious, service was great… I would definitely come back again for another meal! Maybe lunch next time 🙂

Review: Indochino Kitchen

A few days, I visited Indochino Kitchen on East Broadway with a few friends for a celebration dinner.

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Hainanese Chicken, Indochino

My friend ordered a Hainanese Chicken, served with rice with fish vinaigrette and ginger, scallion, sesame sauces on the side. It was good, but in my opinion, not as tasty as the Hainanese Chicken from Hawker’s Delight.

Singaporean LaksaThis Singaporean Laksa was spicy! Rice vermicelli noodles in a spicy seafood coconut curry broth with prawns, tofu puffs, fish balls, fish slices, a hardboiled egg, and bean sprouts. I’m not quite sure how the server expected my friend to eat this dish, as she forgot to bring utensils to our table…

Beef Luc LacFinally, my dish arrived, Beef Luc Lac… but without the egg I ordered. At this point, it was a little irritating dealing with the forgetfulness of our server, as she was hard to flag down as well.

The Beef Luc Lac was again, tasty, but the tomato fried rice was a little harder than I liked. There was a good amount of food as well, I wasn’t able to finish the whole dish. All in all, I think I prefer the Beef Luc Lac from Phnom Penh to this one.

Lychee MojitoDrinks up! This Lychee Mojito was the best part of the meal – sweet and minty, this drink was perfectly refreshing for the summer evening.

Decent meal at Indochino, but I won’t be in any particular rush to return there soon.

Minami Restaurant – Pet Peeves

I celebrated my friend’s birthday a few weeks ago, by taking her out to dinner to Minami Restaurant, in Yaletown.

Before this trip, I liked to think of Minami as Miku’s little sister. As were were seated and looking through the menu, our server mentioned that the Minami menu was 80% similar to the Miku menu.

The food was fantastic, our server was great.. but Minami hit two of my biggest restaurant pet peeves that left a sour note in my memory.

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1) Why is it so loud? 

The restaurant was quite full when we arrived at 7:30pm. Aside from smaller tables of 2-4 people lining the sides, there was a big party sitting at a long table running down the middle of the room. The “room” we were sitting in probably seated about 50-60, but it was deafening loud in there. It was like there was no design for any kind of noise reduction.

I found I had to raise my voice quite a bit and lean in towards my friend so she could hear me. This was very uncomfortable, and impacts our ability to have a flowing conversation over dinner. Imagine going out on a date, and then having to shout at your date over dinner – very attractive (sarcasm intended).

Pet Peeve: I hate loud restaurants.

2) Why is it so dark?

It was very very very dark in the restaurant, only lit up by very dim lighting, and individual candles on each table. It’s like walking into Hollister and feeling like I need to bring a flashlight to see what’s inside the store. It’s the kind of dark that if you don’t tilt your menu the right way, you can’t catch the dim light of the candle, and therefore you won’t be able to read the menu probably. Has it not been considered… if I can’t even see my food properly, how am I to enjoy the exquisite artwork that the chef put together on my plate?

I understand this is done for ambiance and mood-lighting – but there’s a difference between making it “romantic” by dimming a few lights, and making it Dark Table-esque, where I have to discreetly examine my food to figure out what I’m putting in my mouth.

Pet Peeve: I hate dark restaurants.

 

I know I enjoyed the duck entree and the aburi oshi salmon I ordered – but honestly, these two pet peeves are enough to prevent me from returning to Minami to enjoy a second meal.