Russ and I spent two weeks in your beautiful city in November. We have been doing this for the last few years, so the food scene is not totally new to us. We were sadden by the closing of Aurora Cafe as it was one of our favorites and were planning to go back. Here are some of new restaurants we tried on this trip:
Pied-a-Terre: Nice french bistro, I was disappointed with the foie gras parfait as it was on the 100 things to eat before you die. I think it's a bit plain on flavor and light in texture, perhaps a sprinkle of sea salt could help. The entrees were better, Russ had the rib eye steak with Roquefort and mustard sauce, the meat and sauce were both great. I had the red snapper that was fresh and cooked perfectly with crispy skin on the outside and tender and moist inside. We will go back next year.
Copa?: Hong Kong style cafe on Cambie and King Edward, I was told it's run by the people who used to run Cafe Gloucester which we liked, so we decided to give it a try. What a mistake, my portugese chicken rice (my standard for HK style cafe) was tasteless, Russ had some steak and lobster special that was barely edible. The place was packed on Friday night.
49 Parallel Cafe: I had the legendary almond croissant, which I made an effort to wake up early for. The first time we went in the afternoon they were sold out. I liked the flaky texture but the flavor was a bit plain, I prefer my almond croissant with almond filling. The coffee was good though. BTW the almond croissant at Sweet Obsession was not good, it had an unpleasant liquor taste that was almost bitter, and it had no almond paste either.
Motomachi Shokudo: I had the bamboo charcoal ramen, I didn't like the burnt taste but I was glad I tried it. Russ had the house ramen that was better and the gyoza was good too.
La Bucca: This restaurant is walking distance from our house and I never realized it's there. Reservation is a must, we tried to go twice in the first week but couldn't get a table before 9pm. We finally made our reservation couple days ahead and went on monday night. The place was hopping, we left at 8:30pm and there were couple parties waiting. We had the scallop carpaccio appetizer that was served with bacon, radish and some kind of citrus. It was wonderful, both in terms of flavor and texture. The scallop was sweet, the bacon was tasty, the radish gave the little crunch to contrast the scallop and the citrus added just enough acidity to bring every bite together, overall a perfect combination. It was our favorite dish on this trip. For entrees, Russ had the osso buco with saffron risotto, the meat needed a little more cooking and a bit more salt, but the risotto was prefect. I had the special tagliatelle with pine mushroom, the tagliatelle was good, especially with the bone mallow from Russ' osso buco, but the pine mushroom didn't have as much flavor as I expected. We shared the tiramisu for dessert that was very good, not overly sweet and with nice texture.
SW restaurant: Not sure if it is the correct name, it's on 41st and Boulevard, right below Golden Ocean restaurant. This is the most surprising find on this trip, we ordered take out from them three times. It's a chinese restaurant serving Schezwan and Shanghai food. I liked the Dan Dan noodle the most, the noodle was a bit doughy but the sauce had the perfect tingly numbness with just a little bit of ground pork, and it did not have peanut paste which I dislike. We also had the Xiao Long Bao that was very juicy, the wrapper was a tad thick and chewy but overall very flavorful. They were running a special of $2.99 for 6, it's a great deal. The salt and pepper pork was very good as well. I hope to go back next year to try some of the special order dishes like eight treasure chicken. Please go and keep this place in business, this location had quite a few ownership changes as I recall and they weren't very busy the time we dined in.
Japadog: I love this hot dog stand, wish we had something like it in the bay area, maybe I will open one :) We had the Oroshi and Okonomi. We preferred the Oroshi with the daikon radish and scallions, the slight spiciness of the daikon worked really well with the mild flavor bratwurst. Russ didn't like the Okonomi, he thought the bonito flakes was too fishy, I was okay with the bonito but the berkshire pork wasn't very special and a bit too salty.
Moderne Burger: Meat was tasty but it should be for $10 burger. Will go back when I subject Russ to too much ethnic food and he needs his burger fix. The chocolate milkshake was very good though, I may go back just for the milkshake.
Social Le Magasin: Had the weekend brunch on Sun, Russ had a good egg benedict with bacon, the bacon was tasty and not overly salty. My lamb burger was just okay. We would not be driving all the way downtown for this but if we are in the area, we may stop to pickup some bacon from the butcher shop. They were advertising $11.99 prime rib dinner on Sunday.
Gastropod: I saved this last not because it's the best, rather I would like to forget. It was the most disappointing meal on this trip. We both had the 7 course tasting menu and Russ had the wine pairing. We asked if they could serve us different dishes for each course, they were very gracious to agree. Maybe that was the mistake we made but I didn't think so. I think they have problem sourcing their ingredients, especially the meat. At $80 per person, I would expect better quality meat but all the meat dishes (beef carpaccio, beef tenderloin, venison) were lack of flavor. Also I think the kitchen is too heavy handed with salt, and I am not one who is afraid of salt. Even the fish course was so salty that I could barely taste the fish. The only positive seemed to be with the vegetables, I had some very tasty baby cabbage. Maybe they had an off night, or maybe they were too busy entertaining the critic. There was a gentleman in the room dining alone armed with note pad and camera, he was taking pictures and making copious notes of each course, and he was giving a kitchen tour, I hope he had a better meal than us. We will not be going back.
A couple miscellaneous notes:
- Fuel is no longer serving fried chicken on Friday. They stopped in Sept, didn't ask if they would start again.
- Japadog will close for the entire month of January
Of course we had the usual favorites, Guu, Kingyo, Ajisai, Red Star, Wang's beef noodle, Phnom Penh ... and they were all as good as before.