I had the pleasure of interviewing extraordinary singer/songwriter SKYE WALLACE this week for Vancouver Weekly. She chatted about her new album: L I V I N G || P A R T S which is set to be released THIS SATURDAY (April 12th) at her official Vancouver release party!
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.
<< 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!)
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.
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!
For the mains we chose the carribean curry blend with chicken and potato and also the Jerk chicken.
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,
< it looked like this
But it tasted like this >
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”
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!
I know what you are thinking, it’s only mid January, so “best meal of the year” thus far doesn’t mean that much. But, honestly this meal was the best meal I’ve had in MONTHS, exceptional, food fit for Gods, the entire dining experience was beyond heavenly. In fact, there are no words to properly describe just how freaking good the food really was, only GO THERE, TRY THIS, AND THIS, AND THAT (I’ll elaborate on the specific dishes don’t you worry). Three days later I’m still daydreaming of the bold flavours, the decadence, the silky, smooth, creamy with a little crunch here and BING*** of flavour there. Explosions in the mouth, fireworks of the tastebuds.
On Sunday night my girlfriend treated me to dinner at Hapa Izakaya, which is truly one of the best restaurants in Vancouver.
It all started out with a couple of fish tacos and a “Harajuku Girl”
For $7.99 -the appetizer “Halibat Taco” only comes with one taco, but we knew this before we ordered it. We had one the last time we dined at Hapa and fell madly in love with it, so this time, we knew going in that it’s much too delicious to share without a fight. YOUR BITE WAS BIGGER THAN MINE! Seriously, it’s worth every penny just to get two.
My memory cannot even obtain its greatness.
Biting into juicy flakes of white tempura Halibat with bacon and tiny strips of fried potato, leafy greens, and home-made roast jalepeno tartar sauce is like losing yourself, and finding yourself in a palace made of spice. It’s that nice! It’s light, and moist, and crisp. It’s like swimming naked in the ocean under the moonlight or dancing with your lover on a rooftop at sunset: so delightful, so magical, soo… something everyone should try at least once!
The ‘Harijuku Girl’ is one of their many fabulous cocktails. The combination of Absolute vodka, butter ripple, Sourpuss, raspberry, Calpis and soda makes for a sweet, light pink, bubbly delight, the grown up version of cream soda = pure genius!
Next, we tried the ‘Ebi Mayo’ for $8.99: Crisp Tempura Prawn tossed in a rich and spicy mayo-based sauce sprinkled with green onion and/or possibly chives. These were by far the juiciest, tastiest prawns I’ve ever had, the sauce: the fountain at the palace of spice, just right for quenching desire. And it comes with 6 prawns, perfect for sharing… 🙂
Our main course: Chipotle Beef Curry Ishi-Yuki $9.99 Rice, slow-braised AAA beef, chipotle curry, and egg served in a hot stone bowl. This one really blew my mind. The description enticed my curiosity, but I had no idea what to expect with such diverse ingredients. The result: truly magnificent, layers upon layers of flavour and spice, not too hot, not nose-dripping spice, just tongue tingling, moan-inducing, full-bodied flavour. Rich, well-seasoned, and scrumptious, every bite…
We didn’t really have room for desert per say but the wonderfully sweet and sincere waitress sold us on the chocolate parfait, describing all it’s chocolately components: chocolate mousse with squares of chocolate cake, and a scoop of decedent chocolate ice-cream with a sliver of chocolate torte topped with whipped cream and a Maraschino cherry, sprinkled with cornflakes~~~ AHH! omg I just died, and woke up in heaven, and I’m not even religious!
If I didn’t eat anything before this, it still would have been the best meal of the year, and I would have ordered another one. If you are a chocoholic, you have to try this. If you like chocolate even just a little bit, occasionally, YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS. And, if you don’t like chocolate at all but know someone that does you should take them to Hapa Izakaya just so that they can try THIS and they will love you forever. And while they are eating it, you should try just one bite (if they let you) and you will no longer be able to say that you aren’t a desert person or you don’t like chocolate because after this desert you’ll feel differently, you’ll be a changed person.
For just $5.99 you can have the best desert of your life, it is, indeed, the epitome of the phrase ‘sex in my mouth’.
Hell, this meal I had three days ago, was the best meal I have had in years, maybe even in my life (and that is saying A LOT, because my favourite food is actually italian and Hapa Izakaya is ‘modern Japanese cuisine’ but the combination of everything, the appys and drinks and spice, the desert and the service was like ‘shit son’) THEY NAILED IT!
It will take A LOT to top this meal, but since DINE OUT VANCOUVER is happening in less than a week. Bring it on!