Since the closing of Fortune Seafood Restaurant, there hasn’t been an option for Oakridge shoppers or nearby residents to find Chinese food (besides the food court). It would require a little trek. With the opening of Peninsula however, there was quite a bit of excitement and anticipation; for many, this would be their new gathering spot, where one could resume their old dim sum traditions. Peninsula serves the classic items like Har Gow and Siu Mai, but they separate themselves with nearby restaurants by incorporating more sophisticated ingredients, like foie gras in their buns for dim sum. As well, like the Richmond joint Top Gun G&C restaurant, they have a sushi chef where you have the ability to order sushi alongside your meal. Their intention of re-inventing one’s view of Chinese food was a miss for me though, as my first experience during their opening week fell short. Their baked pineapple and foie gras buns were boring and mediocre, and for the hefty price tag, it was a disappointment to say the least. My second visit, a few weeks after their opening, I had hopes they would surprise me. Unfortunately, I left uninterested in returning. Taro and Radish Cake ($5.80) – Perhaps the dipping dish is to fill space, but it did not do any work in terms of complimenting the dish or making it more visually appealing. Instead, since many customers don’t touch it, it appears that they just continue serving it on the next plate. The dish itself wasn’t bad, as the taro was nicely pan-fried and had a crunch (sort of like rice krispies) in contrast to the moist radish cake. Yet, it doesn’t stand out to the other restaurants serving the same dish.Steamed Chicken Bun ($6.30) – When I saw that they were serving it on a stone, I was excited, as it indicated that there must be a nice sear on the bottom. What I discovered was just a tiny char at the bottom, and a minute portion of filling. No juiciness in the meat or texture to the bun. Though the bottom had a generous portion of green and sweet onions to infuse its flavours to the buns, this was an unsuccessful attempt at a Shanghainese classic. House Special Shrim Dumplings ($6.80) – Six glossy-skinned dumplings, generously filled with sweet shrimp mixture with barely any fillers. Well executed. Pork Liver and Chive Rice R0ll ($6.80) – My mom wanted to order this, even though the sound of pork liver repulses me. Nonetheless, I gave it a go. Despite the interesting texture of the springy meat in contrast with the other aspects, I don’t see how the taste could stand out. The rice roll was bland even with its freshness, and the accompanying soya sauce couldn’t mask the under-seasoned filling. Avocado Mango Roll ($6.80) – As the name states, the roll was composed of mango and avocado. The ingredients were fresh and ripe, uncomplicated by fancy sauces. Even though the element of having sushi alongside typical small plates is fun and unique, I would just order this at an authentic Japanese restaurant. It would be the same quality but a better bang for the buck. Baked Egg Tarts ($5.80) – Nothing much to say except that these were standard with the right level of sweetness. I would have preferred the crust to have more of a bite to them, flakiness even.
Fresh pasta? Count me in! Ask for Luigi recently opened its doors in the same house that once was known to be Two Chefs and a Table and already, it has received restaurant critic, Mai Stainsby’s hand of approval. With its simple wood furnishing and large window panes, its door splays open to onlookers for crave for simple hand-crafted Italian fare. Note however, this means that expect a full house even when doors just open. The unfussy menu is composed of a small selection of appetizers, pastas and desserts, providing ample ability to perfect what they know and do best. It’s not the most convenient location, nestled on a corner street a little far from heart of Gastown, but it is worth the venture – famiglia-style dining at its finest. My friend’s Cappuccino Tagliatelle alla carbonara & poached egg ($16) – This was delicious, despite how unexciting the flavours were to me at first. I’ve had carbonara sauce since I was a child, granted, it came from a jar. Comprised of such standard flavours though, it didn’t spark interest in me as I ordered it as I didn’t think it would be much different.Tasting it however, was another story. Their take was creamy, yet not overly heavy or drenched in sauce, well-seasoned with a lingering pepper aftertaste, and scattered throughout were crisp bacon bits that provided a depth of richness to each tender bite of pasta. So good. Waffles with apples, hazelnuts & tiramisu crema ($14) - Another surprise was the waffles, which also won me over. I’m not one to order waffles at restaurants just because I have a waffle machine at home, but I would re-order these in a heartbeat. They are not your standard American waffles. No, these have a firm, crunchy exterior from the caramelized sugar and a dense buttery inside – think liege waffles at Cafe Medina. With the stewed apples, toasted hazelnuts, and whipped cream, each provided a new dimension and texture to marriage the beautiful waffle batter. I would say though, I was a bit disappointed that the whipped cream lacked the “tiramisu” aspect it mentioned, seemingly more like a simple whipped cream accompanying a cheesecake. Perhaps more mascarpone would have done wonders as there is never enough mascarpone in anything!
Rarely do I feel inclined to re-visit a restaurant, after all, there are new ones opening up almost every two weeks. When I stepped in to Farmer’s Apprentice however, without even tasting the food, I had concluded that I would be back. Not once, but for the long haul. It was an entrancing experience stepping in, with the adorning of vivid-colored, blossoming plants animating the space; this was a new level of comfort and intimacy to a dining experience. I felt like I had entered a fairytale, or my haven.
We were promptly seated by the window when we entered for their lunch service. Their daily menu is perched on the counter, along with some of their for sale products like jam or pickled vegetables. With it’s open kitchen, patrons can easily witness the chefs inventiveness flowing from their fingertips to the plates. Each plate resonates pride of simple, yet ethical food done in an experimental fashion. The portions are not hefty (think Burdock and Co.), but think of it as a different experience than perhaps your typical spots. It’s an opportunity to tantalize your taste buds, experience new flavours, and splurge on both well-executed and thought out dishes. I myself, am anticipating for my next visit already…
Vibrant and graphic , this trailer of La Bohème Crêperie pumps out buckwheat crepes to an eager line-up of customers. This time,they were set up at the Nat Bailey’s Winter Farmers Market. The eye-catching truck can be spotted from a distance, which is ideal if you are a fan of their creations. They offer both a savoury and sweet selection of crepes with reasonable prices. L’artiche with béchamel, cheese, artichoke hearts, tomato, black olives, parsley, herbs ($8.50) – I didn’t expect myself to like it as much as I did. The ample selection of ingredients incased in the crepe were ceremonious to the mouth, a perfect balance of sweet, salty, and creamy all engulfed in one bite.. It was head-rolling good. They add a generous pad of butter to the bottom of the crepe to not only crisp it up, but for a nice crunch and comforting aroma. It’s very filling because they are not stingy with their toppings, as I witnessed the heaping additions piled one on top of the another. This is a definite steal for the price. For me, the shocking discovery of this truck led me to a realization that I have had a hard time even convincing myself – I prefer this more than Le Marché St. George by a long shot.
When Christophe mentioned that he would be rotating the Mont Blanc into his new seasonal menu, I knew I had to make a visit – finding time was the difficult part. Luckily, I had an appointment near the area and took it as a sign for me to go. It was quiet when I arrived, about 4pm. Christophe and his production team were busy in the back preparing for Valentine’s day, perfecting each piece before packaging it or displaying it in the house. Filled in the glass case were meticulous and alluring treats, hypnotizing with their glossy sheen. After much contemplating, we ended up selecting Christophe’s Tiramisu, Trio de Chocolat, and the Mont Blanc – the sole reason for my for my journey.
Mont Blanc – Puréed sweetened chestnuts with vanilla chantilly and meringe on a sweet pastry base Trio de Chocolat – dark, milk, and white chocolate mousse Christophe’s Tiramisu – Mascarpone mousse with sponge soaked in espresso
I didn’t know what to expect with the Mont Blanc, but I didn’t get a memorable impression, despite it’s impressive presentation. The chestnut flavours were quite subtle, except for a lingering taste of maple syrup that I somehow got from it. The Trio de Chocolat had an airy, yet velvety texture, the smooth consistency balanced by the distinct flavour profiles of the three origins of chocolate. Christophe’s interpretation of the tiramisu was alright, but somehow, it didn’t satisfy me. Perhaps my gravitation for a heavier use of mascarpone left me feeling that his tiramisu just wasn’t as creamy as what I’ve tried.
Nonetheless, even though I didn’t leave hooked after sampling the desserts, Chez Christophe still remains as one of my favourite patisseries. There is more than buying a dessert at his prized shop, his array of goods transmit both passion for his craft as well as his attention to detail. He is a firm believer in sourcing quality ingredients, the first to import Swiss chocolate in Canada from what I have heard. The potential in him and his work makes me excited to see what is in store for him in the future… and my belly.
A Le Marché St. George in the West End? The latest hub for coffee addicts nearby, this neighborhood gem has been receiving quite the media attention lately, courtesy of Instagram. It’s a minimalistic space, pertaining a raw exquisiteness that is often exuded by most coffee shops as of late. Natural lighting and typical wood accents are what one can perceive stepping in. There is also a second floor located in the back, livened by vintage bicycles and quirky photos that compliment the neutral walls. It’s fit for those wishing to spend a little longer with their companions and to also escape the boisterous commotion in the front as a result of on the goers. Strangely, walking in, I wasn’t greeted with the smell of roasted coffee. As they do pride themselves as an espresso bar however, they must have some knowledge on what makes a good brew to achieve regulars already. The warm customer service and the rather wide selection of a menu will make this a local favorite in no time.
Daily Soup ($7) – Indian Chickpea Soup with Fennel, Spinach, Cilantro and Turmeric Oil. Accompanied by some toasted and buttered soft white bread. Coconut Black Rice Pudding ($7) – Home made black jasmine rice pudding with tropical fruit, and side of coconut milk.
With original intentions of trying Ask for Luigi, we settled for this quaint Italian restaurant near the UBC area when we realized it was closed on a Tuesday night. The compact and intimate place is nestled in a more discreet area on 4th, across from one of my favourite bakeries, Beyond Bread. Here, expect cordial service and hand-crafted, traditional, and unrefined dishes, like an authentic experience in Italy. The rotating menu that varies daily showcases the use of seasonal ingredients and the chef’s ability to manipulate them based on the availability. Thus, what we tried on our dinner visit might not be on the menu on your visit. Yet, don’t be disappointed, as some of their classics like the parmigiano soufflé is typically always on the menu. Let’s be honest though, the chefs must be doing something right with their long list of loyal clientele that make it difficult to find reservations unless booking a few week in advance.
The following is a 7-course tasting menu ($55) served alla-famiglia style. We were originally contemplating on choosing this option or the usual a la carte, but we were so glad we decided on the former. It’s a unique experience that allows one to tantalize their taste buds while being surprised with the chef’s specially designed menu for your table. Pancetta Cotta with sliced melonHouse breadHouse-made PenneMonkfish in saor, leeks, salsa rossa Parmigiano-regianno soufflé Veal, spinach, swiss chard, and ricotta stuffed pasta Pork chop with pork crackling Chocolate chestnut torte, pear caramel cake and vanilla ice cream