Tag Archives: dine out vancouver

Dine Out Vancouver WEEK 2: Cin Cin’s

We had a reservation at CinCin’s  on Saturday evening for 5:30PM. We made the reservation two weeks in advance and it was the only time they could fit us in. It is the kind of restaurant that fills up fast, especially for dine out when the price of an appetizer, a main, and a dessert is the same price as one of their regular entrees!

20 minutes before we had to leave to go to the restaurant, we looked up the dine out menu online, and it really didn’t look that appetizing to either my girlfriend or I. In fact, we thought it looked pretty gross (compared to all the other amazing ones we’d been looking at)! We considered just cancelling the resso, but I would have felt really bad because they called to confirm the day before and I said yes. And honestly, I really wanted to see what all the hype was about. Why would people want to go spend 500 dollars on a dinner for two anyway?!

DINE OUT DINNER MENU

Cin Cin’s Ristorante + Bar

Neighborhood: Robson StreetCuisine ‘
Type: ItalianDinner
Menu Price: $38
Gluten-Free Menu Option: Yes

APPETIZER

* Yellow split pea soup simmered with smoked ham hockor
* Salad of Albacore tuna and la ratte potatoes / red and green chicory, curly endive, olive oil and lemonor
* Salad of salt baked heirloom beets with goat cheese, buckwheat, navel orange and watercress

ENTREE

* Pork loin cooked on the rotisserie – soft polenta, sweet and sour braised red cabbage – apple mustard
*Arctic Char in crazy water – chickpeas, chili, spinach and piquillo peppers, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbsor
*Fresh rigatoni pasta with spicy chorizo sausage sauce, rosemary, chili and Parmesan

DESSERT

*Tiramisu with ladies fingers soaked in espresso and kahlua, mascarpone mousseor
*Milk chocolate mousse with dark chocolate crumble, blood orange sorbet and caramel sauceor
*Vanilla panna cotta with toasted coconut, lemon curd and almond cake

Beverages, tax and gratuity are extra.

Upon  arrival we were greeted promptly and asked if we would like our jackets put into coat check.

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We were then tucked away in a cozy corner table near the kitchen.

Our main server was lovely, a little plain Jane, but still letting some personality shine through. There were so many front end staff. They seemed to be everywhere, almost out numbering the guests.And the front staff were almost all dudes! From what I saw about 8:1 totally male-dominated! However, I was happy to see three women and three men in the kitchen cheffing it up!

We were given a plate of bread with two varieties served with green olive tapenade.

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CinCin’s Complimentary Bread…

I gobbled that up pretty quickly, and to my surprise a waiter came promptly and replaced it with ANOTHER full plate. Oh no, I thought, this could be dangerous, all you can eat bread?! I could eat A LOT of bread, but I held back, I needed room to try everything.

The portions were actually perfect, not too tiny, but always leaving you wanting a little bit more.

I’m not a big fan of soup, personally, I think I was given teeth for a reason, so I’d rather chew my food…(I’ll eat soup when I’m old). Beets, I don’t really like, so the first option was a no brainer- go for the tuna.

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Tuna Bruschetta

I was delighted to find out the dine out menu had been altered a little from the one that I had found online. Instead of a tuna salad it was tuna bruschetta, and the bread was wood fire smoked, with beans and deliciously seasoned Albacore tuna.  The smokeynss of the bread made for an exquisite dish. My girlfriend and I both agreed we would have been satisfied with a couple more plates of the tuna and nothing else. But, the mains proved to be equally flavourful and thoughtfully constructed.

Cincin’s wine list is GIGANTIC!! Although, most of the wines are ridiculously over priced: many of the bottles you can find at the BC liquor store for $10-20 have been marked up to $40 or $50 or more. But, they do have A LOT of options, pages and pages, almost like a little wine encyclopedia. The wines range from $30-$800 per bottle and they come from all over the world in all grape varieties. I found all of the options a little overwhelming, so we decided to stick to cocktails. The Westender, and a Singapore Sling. Both nicely presented, cool, tangy and refreshing.

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Singapore Sling
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The West Ender

However, I got so excited about the tuna appetizer that I kicked the bottom of the table and sloshed the dark blueberry West Ender all over the white table cloth, I’m just that classy 😛 the waiter gave me quite the look.

The restaurant itself is quite elegant, although in my taste, it definitely lacks colour, whoever made up that ‘fancy’ should be all white and black and boring shades of brown and grey should’ve had their eyes checked. Seriously! I think a fine dining restaurant with bright purple and yellow table cloths would be much more enticing. However, I did enjoy watching the chefs at work in CinCin’s big open kitchen. Like artists perfecting each dish painting their creations with personality and beauty.

I do appreciate good-looking food: well-presented, fun to look at, contrasting shapes, colours, and textures. But I tend to order the most bland looking dishes: a.k.a. Pasta! It just tastes so darn good.

Here’s the dish my girlfriend ordered:

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Pork Tenderloin

This is what I call art on a plate! How pretty does it look?! This was a perfectly balanced dish. The Polenta was soft and creamy, the pork juicy and bursting with flavour and the cabbage subtle, sweet, and acidic.

Here’s the dish I ordered:

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Chorizo Pasta

This one, definitely does not look as appetizing, but it tasted heavenly. The sauce was creamy and spicy, and the rigatoni perfectly al dante: chewy and tender with freshly grated parmesan on top. The chorizo meat sauce was bold with flavour and heat that crept from the lips to the tongue to the throat to simmer softly.

The dessert option was also an easy choice for us both. Because… Lady fingers, really? There so soggy! And who likes Pana Cotta, that stuff jiggles like cellulite, and it never tastes quite right! Chocolate mousse, on the other hand, is always a winner!

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CinCin’s Chocolate Mousse

And the caramel sauce and tangy blood orange sorbet balanced the dish wonderfully.

So…Would I do it all again?

Definitely.

Could I afford it?

Definitely Not.

The regular menu is like MONEY MONEY MONEY, give me all your money, and I’ll give you a few bites…

Dine Out was my chance to see what the hype was all about, and I get it. The food is really delicious and artistic. The restaurant is beautiful, and the staff are all well-trained and quite charming. But, do I think you’re missing out if you don’t go… No. You can find italian cuisine that tastes just as good for a lot less. Sure you pay for the atmosphere and the choices and the service, but I’d rather go somewhere a little funkier with a little more FLAVOUR for the eyeballs! If you know what I mean?!

Can someone please just create a fine -dining glittery rainbow restaurant already? Because that would be awesome, and also soooo GAY, in the best way!

Xx

HJL

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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!)

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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.

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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!

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The Reef’s Mac n’ Cheese Sticks!
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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.

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A GIANT plate of curry!
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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”

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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

What I want when I DINE OUT anywhere

When I go out to dine at a restaurant there are five things that I want:

#1 A Good Vibe – no matter how fancy, white table-cloth whatever, I don’t want to eat somewhere yuppy, uptight, or bland to look around in- so give me some colour, some art, some music, and some entertainment! Entice all my senses.

#2 Yummy Drinks – show me some variety, I don’t just want beer, wine and cider (sure maybe that’s what I’ll decided to drink that night) but I want the options to be there, a list of intriguing liquor concoctions that’ll pop my cork- fizzle my whistle, and it’d be nice if the cocktail list came with virgin options too, pregnant women and non-drinkers should still get shaken, blended, dressed up drinks with awesome little swords and cherries, and tiny umbrellas too…

#3 EPIC FOOD – duh!

(And satisfactory portion sizes- not huge so I eat myself silly, but not less than a bite per appetizer. The first nibble just gets you started: you need at least three full bites for every tastebud in your mouth to fully awaken and engage…and then a few more to be satisfied) Make me squirm in my seat, make me moan, if I don’t get at least one mouthgasm tonight, it wasn’t worth it, and I probably won’t come back. AND there must be a dessert selection, with at least one thing chocolatey.

#4 Good *Personal* Service- I appreciate ‘good service’, but I appreciate personality, originality, humour, “weirdness” even more. Seriously, all the generic serving phrases and waitress cliches should be left in the dish pit with the dirty dishes- you just served that sentence to the people before me, whip up a clean one, I don’t want no sloppy seconds. But, I know as a server myself, half the time you’re trained on the boring script… but who’s going to pay for boring? (okay so maybe some lamos but not moi!) I will tip you for your creativity, trust me. I like the unscripted, the improvised, sure some of it can be a little rehearsed but when you’re describing that dessert and your passion and humour shine through, you’ll have won my heart!

#5 Awesome company – but for this one, you can’t really blame the establishment… >.<

The next couple of weeks I am dedicating my  weekly blogging to dine out Vancouver, I will be trying a bunch of new restaurants in the next two weeks and am going to report back on how awesome (or not) they are!

Om Nom Nom,

HJL

Best Meal of the Year- Hapa Izakaya

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.

Multiple-mouthgasms.

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!

I am ready with my stretchy pants!! 😉

With love from a fellow foodie,

Heidi J. Loos