Dine Out Vancouver WEEK 1

Looking for somewhere affordable to take your honey on a date? Or somewhere funky and delicious for a birthday dinner? The three restaurants I went to for dine out this week really rocked my tastebuds, and I recommend all of them.

Cardero’s, Banana Leaf, and the Reef on Main Street.

I tried Cardero’s restaurant for the first time for lunch last Monday. It really captured my heart. (Note, the way heart is not solely through my mouth, and/or my stomach). In my post last week I described all the things that make for my ideal dine out situation. I am not the pickiest person, but the vibe and the style of the restaurant and the service really matter to me. Not only is Cardero’s situated in a beautiful location right off of the seawall with a view of the ocean and mountains and all the boats in the harbour, the whole restaurant kind of feels like a giant ship inside! It is all dark wood with  little model ships, and funky art everywhere, and ship paraphernalia. It is fun to look around in! The servers, both men and women, have uniforms with ties (and, have I mentioned, I love it when women wear ties?!) and their ties have teeny weensy forks and knives on them! Okay, so I secretly want one for myself, but anyway… The service was fabulous, and the food fresh, and flavourful. The pasta dish I tried tasted like the fettucini had been hand rolled that morning and was not at all overpowered by the delicate truffle cream, mushrooms, spinach and parmesan.

IMG_9312 << okay so it may have looked a little more elegant before I started eating it, but it smelled so good, I couldn’t wait until AFTER taking a picture!

My salad with pear and goat cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts was delightful, but you can’t really go wrong with that combination, can you?!?

My dining partner had squid for her appetizer which had a nice zing to it, very well-spiced. Then, braised short ribs with goat cheese polenta and steamed vegetables. I couldn’t stop stealing bites off her plate, simply scrumptious!

I’ll admit, I was disappointed that their dine out menu only came with one dessert option (their regular menu has a wide selection) but it was satisfactory. It’s not my first choice, but who doesn’t like a good slice of carrot cake with creamy icing? (or two!)

IMG_9314
Cardero’s Carrot Cake!

Next, we hit up Banana Leaf for a midweek Malaysian lunch, a restaurant that has been one of our Vancouver favourites for years. We decided to opt out of the dine out menu and go with the regular lunch taster menu instead. It still comes with an appetizer, main, and dessert, but is $18 per person instead of the dine out lunch price at $28. (the Dine out menu had a few more options, but was quite similar). Unfortunately, the food wasn’t up to its usual standards, normally we are blown away by the eloquent presentation and all the bold spices and never have any complaints! But this time, the Rendang beef, which I usually adore, was much  tougher than usual, and the papaya salad was so acidic it was like trying to eat pure vinegar, so we chose not to eat at all! The seafood curry, coconut rice, and stir fried green beans were all delicious, but still didn’t wow us like the Banana Leaf usually does, perhaps the quality at this location (Robson) is not as great as the others, or maybe it was just due to the high volume of customers during the first week of Dine Out. The desert of deep fried banana with vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce was a little taste of heaven, and was the perfect size plate for two.

IMG_9368
Reef’s Cocktails

On Saturday night we went for dinner at the The Reef On Main which is truly the best Caribbean food in town!

But, be prepared for SPICE! Love it, crave it, seek it at the Reef! I have been to both of the Reef’s Vancouver locations multiple times and have had much better results at the Reef on Main. The food quality and service has been exponentially better at the Reef on Main street than on Commercial Drive, I have no idea why! Although the Main street location is a little smaller, it has BIG personality. The walls are bright orange and the art be poppin’ just like the DJ. It is a fun place for a dinner date or a party. The cocktails are a plenty, and they come with colourful little swords and umbrellas! SCORE!

From their dine out menu we tried both of the appetizer options: plantain chips with spicy mayo, and the macaroni and cheese sticks with spicy ketchup. Both were amazing!

IMG_9369
The Reef’s Mac n’ Cheese Sticks!
IMG_9370
The Reef’s Plantain Chips! Om nom nom!

For the mains we chose the carribean curry blend with chicken and potato and also the Jerk chicken.

IMG_9371
A GIANT plate of curry!
IMG_9372
mmm Jerk chicken, munch munch!

Both were HELLA spicy, but the tangy coleslaw helped cut the spice quite nicely as did the drinks (Kahlua and milk anyone?!).

We tried both of the dine out dessert options as well, but the one that appealed to us on paper the “Fried banana with mango ice cream & rum caramel” was actually kind of gross,

IMG_9382 < it looked like this

But it tasted like this > IMG_9381

The Banana Leaf’s fried banana was SO MUCH BETTER but it should be right since banana is in it’s title and all?! 😛 Well, the reef’s deep fried banana was alright but the mango ice-cream with it was weird (AND I LOVE MANGO) it just didn’t taste right. We ended up not even eating it, and I’ll eat just about anything sweet, so that says a lot… but the other option was one of the best coconut deserts I’ve EVER had. “The Pineapple coconut tart with caramelized sugar”

IMG_9384
The Reef’s EPIC Pineapple Coconut Tart

It may not look that amazing, or sound that amazing. But it is like a coconut creme brûlée with a pie crust- genius! Sweet, creamy, and wondrous. Mouthgasm worthy for sure.

So there you have it, all of my dine out adventures last week! I have to say, I really like the idea of dine out, but I had to cancel two of our reservations for this week because that much eating out is just TOO MUCH for me. Like, I was so full after the meal at the Reef I couldn’t move and had to opt of dancing to go lay on the couch and nurse my food coma. I have been working out extra hard at the gym every day just to make up for it, but still the three course dine out lunches and dinners are a little much. I prefer splitting one appetizer and one dessert between two, because this whole one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert per person is kind of outrageous, definitely the quickest way to increase my waist line, and unfortunately that is not really my goal. 😛

This week I will only be trying one more restaurant for Dine out Vancouver 2014, and that is because I’ve always wanted to try it but cannot usually afford it’s ridiculously STEEP prices: on Saturday night we will be trying Cin Cin’s on Robson. I shall report back!

Cheerio,

Heidi J. Loos

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