review

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!

Go Further with Ford Canada: Introducing the Ford Escape 2017

About a month ago, I was invited by Ford Canada to Harambe’s Ethiopian Restaurant on Commercial Drive, to hear about Robin Esrock’s bucket list experiences from his book “The Great Canadian Bucket List”. From hearing about his adventures, we were all inspired to take on our own bucket list item, in a brand new Ford Escape 2017.

I picked up the new Ford Escape 2017 with the Titanium trim last weekend, and planned out my adventures.

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The SUV is quite roomy in the back, with space for 5 people and luggage in the trunk. I wanted to explore how comfortable it would be… hence we set off for Aldergrove to Metro Vancouver’s only remaining drive-in theatre: Twilight Drive in Theatre.

Once we folded the rear leather seats down and piled in our pillows and blankets, we definitely had plenty of room to stretch our legs to watch Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Say hi to our cuddly movie companion, Sam!

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As someone who never tires of exploring beautiful Vancouver and the GVRD, I believe one destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list is the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.

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The Capilano Suspension Bridge was originally built in 1889, stretching 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River. And there’s so much more! From Treetops Adventure, Kids’ Rainforest, Totem Park, and the adrenaline-pumping Cliffwalk, there is much to see and do at this top destination experience in BC.

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A few of my favourite features of the brand new Ford Escape 2017:

  • Auto lights, including Bi-Xenon HID headlands with LED signature lighting – this was a big help while driving to Aldergrove in the night-time, so I could focus on the road & navigation system.
  • Panoramic Vista Roof – so perfect for stargazing at night!

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  • Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Warning with Brake Support – this is a fantastic safety feature for drivers, especially for longer drives and road-trips.
  • SYNC 3 system, a handsfree in-vehicle communications system that allows for phone calls, music controls, and other functions via voice commands. Yay for keeping both hands on the wheel!
    If you are an iPhone user, they also have Apple CarPlay so you can still chat with Siri in your Ford.

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I’m a big fan of the aggressive look of the grill and headlights at the front of the vehicle, without appearing too bulky. It has more than enough power in its 2.0L Twin-Scroll EcoBoost engine with Intelligent 4WD, and a turbocharged induction system. The electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) makes it a breeze to drive on the road despite hard acceleration, sharp corners, or uneven road surfaces.

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Starting at a $21,599 pricetag, the Ford Escape 2017 is a great compact crossover option for those looking for go further with Ford, with space, power on demand, and comfort, all in one.

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

 

Review: Peninsula Seafood Restaurant – All Talk, No Action

I had the opportunity to visit Peninsula Seafood Restaurant (半島公館) this past weekend, a newly opened Chinese restaurant at Oakridge Centre. The restaurant itself was new, modern, and beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the big screen TV that played the Canucks game.

However, I was quite disappointed with the service. When K & I arrived, the other 2 guests of our party had already arrived. However, there was a missing chair at our table, despite making a reservation… it took 3 different servers and almost 10 minutes of standing around before someone finally moved a chair over. After ordering, we checked the slip – the person who had taken our order, one of the managers on the floor, had forgot to include a dish.

After our appetizer (fruit cup), a server brought over warm towels for our hands. Helpful, but he only gave us three, and forgot to give us the fourth. What the heck?

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Crab Vermicelli – This was the first dish to come after a 20 minute wait after ordering. I honestly was a little underwhelmed by this dish – the vermicelli was dry and hard to chew, and the pieces of crab were few and far between. Image

The Classic Squab – Juicy, chewy… pretty normal, just like any other Chinese restaurant in the city.

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Shanghai Yellowfish – I’ve never tried this kind of fish before so this was my first time. It was quite tasty and chewy – a little salty but a lemon squeeze on top really enhanced the flavour. This was probably the best dish of the night.

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15 minutes after we had finished our last dish, this order (I don’t know what it’s called) still had not come. We asked the manager – he assured us that “Yes I included the order, I’ll check for you!”. And off he went to check on the computer, only to disappear and not come back to update it us on its status. We flagged down another server to check on the order. She told us that she would check on it as well… and also disappeared to her other duties.

With no more dishes on our table, it understandably looked like we were finished our meal: a female manager came over to our table and immediately began clearing our tables and utensils.

We informed her that we were still waiting for one more dish, so she brought over new dishes and chopsticks and told us that it was probably almost done. After another 10 minutes, it FINALLY arrived..

I was very disappointed by this visit to Peninsula Seafood Restaurant. There were probably 15 tables in the restaurant and 6-7 servers plus an additional 2-3 managers on the floor. Yet nobody came to check if we needed anything, like a refill of tea/water. For a restaurant of this calibre, service should not have been this horrendous.

Review: The Foundation

A year ago, I didn’t know what quinoa or hummus was. A year later, all thanks to K, I’ve opened my eyes (and tummy) and grown to appreciate raw, healthy foods.

Note: I know my photos aren’t the greatest… still a learning process for me!

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A Katered Affair – Share platter with mingling yams dip, molten tofu, insurgent hummus, and serial salad. My favourite was the yam dip – couldn’t get enough of it!Image

Foundation Burger – Tofu, veggie, flax & oats, with mixed greens.

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Sesame Society – Veggie & tofu with maple tahini sauce, served on quinoa and spinach. Love the sesame sauce in this!

 

I visited this place once before, and didn’t like it. I’m glad I gave this place a second chance.. because everything was delicious!

Review: The Host (film)

Caution: Spoilers ahead!

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I read the book The Host two or three years ago, after my friend recommended it. The book was written by Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series,  though I hate to associate it with all the negativity around that series.

The beginning of The Host was really slow. I remember reading it and wanting to just give up a third of my way in because I felt like nothing too exciting was happening.  Halfway through, things picked up very quickly and soon, I was sucked in. I could not put the book down and from what I can recall, I later finished it all in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down.

Needless to say, when I heard the movie was being released, I was very excited… but also nervous and scared that they would ruin it like they did to the Twilight series.  The book was so much more than just a couple in love, separated, and having to find their way back to each other… it was about accepting, forgiving and understanding beyond what we know and see with our naked eyes.  I hoped it won’t become a silly teen sensation with fangirls buying blue contacts lenses to mimic the Souls and swooning over the boys Ian and Jared.

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The movie was released on March 29, 2013 and I got to see the movie the same weekend. Beware of some spoilers ahead! 

Things I liked:
– The movie stayed true to the book. I am immensely relieved that they had not altered too many aspects of the book. Although the movie itself will likely be known as a sappy, cheesy movie, I am happy the movie was portrayed as the original story and not overdone just to attract viewers!
– The cave. I absolutely loved how it was designed and shown in the movie… it was very similar as how I had imagined it in the book. Even the bathroom! I can’t believe they were actually able to reconstruct the flowing river through the cave. The mirror roof was actually CGI but it definitely did not take away from the feel of the cave itself.
– Jeb Stryder. He was exactly as I had imagined him to be, wise yet a little crazy at the same time. William Hurt did a great job in playing the role.
– My favourite scene of the movie was when Melanie enters the hospital to see the dead bodies of the humans and souls on the tables, and screamed in pure shock and horror. In that moment, Saoirse Ronan does an amazing job in showing the true pain that Wanderer felt in losing her family members.

Things I didn’t like:
– The actors and actresses who played the characters Melanie, Ian, and Jared. Saoirse Ronan just didn’t seem strong enough to play Melanie, nor gentle enough to play Wanderer. I didn’t really feel Melanie fit together with either of the boys… neither couple seemed like a good match.
– The Souls were not portrayed in the right way. In the book, they are depicted as kind souls who are completely incapable of negative feelings, such as anger, guilt, suspicion, etc., yet the movie did not show this to the audience. Without this knowledge, it’s hard to completely understand the Souls and their importance to the story.
– The movie didn’t have too much depth and way too many cheesy lines. If I hadn’t read the book prior to the movie, it would seem like a shallow, silly love story but in truth, there’s so much more that meets the eye.
– This one is purely my own opinion… but I just didn’t think the Seeker was annoying enough! Sure, there were many scenes of her stubbornly trying to hunt them down but her annoyance wasn’t directed to Melanie herself.

All in all, it wasn’t too great of a movie, but I still think the book was amazing. If anything, if you are planning to watch the movie in the future, read the book first! You will enjoy and appreciate aspects of the movie much more =)