Saturday, June 25, 2011

Under Construction

Tilted Grill
1800 4th St. SW
I met up with Megan last week for lunch. She just got a job in NYC and is gonna be rolling with the big boys soon. We headed to Tilted Grill in Mission for some street food in a restaurant setting. Taking over the location vacated by BLVD, Tilted Grill opened just recently (in the last month or so) and is actually still under construction. An exciting new front patio is still to come.
We ordered the gogi sliders to start. Tender pieces of beef were marinated and grilled in bulgogi sauce (Korean Barbecue sauce - AKA the best sauce ever), stuffed in a squishy mini burger bun with shredded lettuce and carrots. Our waitress kept asking for our feedback on the sliders as they were still looking to fine tune it to perfection. I thought it had a nice amount of spiciness. But I'm a bit of a wimp. So maybe I'm not the best judge for it. Very flavourful and probably my favorite dish of the day. An order came with three burgers and there was only two of us. I would have fought Megan for the last one but since I'm such a gentleman, we decided to split it in half like civilized people. Seeing me struggle with cutting the slider (Read: completely butchering it), Megan gave me a hand by pawing over the entire burger. Sick! I think it was her plan along! But girl cooties (just kidding) isn't gonna stop me from devouring this tasty slider. It is interesting to note that despite having names that sound like appetizers, they are actually quite large (the sliders anyway) in size and I probably could have just eaten it as my main.

For my main, I had the calamari tacos with a corn chowder soup as my side. Three flour tortilla were stuffed with grilled calamari, shredded lettuce, salsa and topped an insanely large amount of ground pepper. My mouth felt like it was on fire and I couldn't taste anything but the pepper. The texture of the calamari was really chewy. Wasn't a super huge fan. This was definitely a step down from the gogi sliders. As mentioned in some of the other blogs posts, this dish was quite white and lacks colour. Maybe they should move the salsa on top to add some colour. That and perhaps it would be less of a soggy mess as it is now.

The soup on the other hand was quite good. Very hearty and flavourful. I actually forgot to take a picture of it before digging in until Megan reminded me. Hence the sloppy presentation. It's a little spicy but nothing over the top.

Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. The interior is quite nice but a majority of the points is based on the potential of the large patio outside.
Food: 7 out of 10. Still a work in progress. Has potential though. The gogi sliders were really good so definitely go with that if you can't decide what you want.
Presentation: 6 out of 10. The calamari taco definitely needs some work. It's like a polar bear blinking in the blizzard.
Price: 7 out of 10. Decently priced.
Service: 8 out of 10. Great service. Our waitress was very knowledgeable of the dishes and always asking for feedback on how to improve it. A tad on the slow side.
Overall: 7 out of 10. Decent overall. I'd go back.

Tilted Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Big Eight-Five

South West Seafood
8012 Granville Street, Vancouver, British Columbia
It was my Grandma's 85th birthday a couple of weeks ago and all family headed to Vancouver for a huge party! We ordered the classic fancy set dinner which features a large variety of communal dishes. First up was the cold platter which features jellyfish in sesame oil, soy and chili sauce; marinated baby octopus; thinly sliced pieces of beef shank and smoked pig feet and a bean curd wrap. The cold platter is probably one of my favorite Asian dishes of all time. I thoroughly enjoy stuffing my face with the various tasty appetizer things. So good. Unfortunately, I always over stuff myself and never have enough room for the remaining dishes.

The next to arrive was the deep fried crab claw. Battered shrimp paste is wrapped around a crab claw and deep fried to a golden crispy state.

A flavourful consommé with shredded chicken, bean sprouts and some fin of a large marine creature arrived once the previous plates were cleared. It was pretty flavourful despite some members of the family requesting extra ground pepper.

A bunch of boring dishes arrived followed by a whole abalone. The slow braised mollusk was served with two large stalks of broccoli and a mushroom. It was a feeble attempt at fancy dish presentation. The abalone was a bit too chewy. Perhaps a bit overdone? Or is it undercooked? I’m not sure. I’ve had better.

Next up was the roasted squab (young domestic pigeon). The unfledged bird was roasted until the skin is super crispy. It is then chopped at the waist and served straight up with no sauces. If given a choice, take the bottom half. The meat is generally more tender. That and there's not a whole lot of meat on the little wing.

The next photo I took was the fook kin fried rice. It's the one with the sauce (Do not confuse it with the yuan yang fried rice which is the one with the cream and tomato sauce in the shape of a yin-yang, which I'm sure was invented by white people). It's basically a regular fried rice smothered in a delicious thick broth with various meat, seafood, chopped up veggies.

To finish off the meal, we had some tasty longevity buns. Made to look like peaches, it is stuffed with a sweet, sweet lotus paste. So soft, so squishy, sooooooo good. Om nom nom nom. My mom said they were a little dry. So there you have it.

Atmosphere: 5 out of 10. It was clean. Nothing special about it.
Food: 7 out of 10. Fancy ingredients. Average execution.
Presentation: 6 out of 10. Effort was made to make it look nice. Especially the pieces that you couldn't eat.
Price: N/A. I have no idea how much it cost. Probably two arms and a leg.
Service: 7 out of 10. Good service. Plates were cleared in a timely manner.
Overall: 6 out of 10. Decent overall. My grandma had a good time and that's all that matters.

South West Seafood on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 17, 2011

Not a dumpling...

Din Tai Fung
Shop 3-9, GF, 68 Yee Woo Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Specializing in xiao long bao (small steamed buns), Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) is a restaurant chain that originated from Taiwan with stores located in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United States. It's like the McDonalds of Chinese food.  Both locations in Hong Kong (Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay) was awarded one Michelin Star in the Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide 2011. On a side note, what is up with the Michelin guy judging food? He sells tires. Though, it seems like he packing some extra junk in the trunk... But I shouldn't judge.
Anyway, Din Tai Fung features an open kitchen so that you can watch in awe as the chefs pump out little xiao long bao like an automated assembly line. There was a nice lineup going when we arrived for dinner. We browsed through the menu and selected our items on the order form as we waited for our table. The menu features photographs beside each item to aid those who can't read Chinese. Or English. Or just want to look at pretty pictures. It is interesting to note the pictures are a very close depiction of the final product. What you see is what you get. If you were secretly hoping you would get more stuff, I wouldn't hold your breath.
When we were finally seated, we put in our order. The food began to arrive shortly after. As usual, I had my camera in one hand and chopsticks in the other, stuffing my face while taking poorly composed photos at the same time. Multitasking is clearly not my forte. Also note that I had this meal over a month ago. Some of the details are a little fuzzy (Read: Really fuzzy) so I will breeze through them and throw down a blurb or two if I remember anything about it. Alright, dish one - Shanghai styled smoked fish (上海燻魚). I have no clue what type of fish. All I know is the meat was firm and it was very flavourful.

Dish two was the chilled bitter melon (冰鎮涼瓜).

Next up is the kalimeris and tofu salad (香干馬蘭頭). The ingredients were finely chopped, mixed together and served cold. Like revenge. But tastier. And everyone wins.

Wok fried green bean with minced pork and dried shrimp (干煸四季豆).

The renowned xiao long bao (特色小籠包) (top) arrived next in it's signature bamboo basket. Which was quickly followed by an order of crab meat xiao long bao (蟹粉小籠包) (bottom). Note the slightly orangey-er tone. The buns (not dumplings, despite the resemblance) are stuffed with pork (and crab meat) and aspic. Once steamed, the gelatinous aspic melts to create the tongue scorching, mouth burning soup inside the bun. Super tasty. If you were to only order one thing at Din Tai Fung, order the xiao long bao.

Next up, the vegetable and pork dumplings (菜肉蒸餃) (top?) and the vegetable and mushroom dumplings (香菇素餃) (possibly bottom). You might be thinking "Whoa David, these dumplings look exactly like the buns, what makes them different?" Well, let me tell you - The main difference is how it is prepared. Xiao long baos and buns are closed by pinching the dough at the crown so that a ring of folds is formed. Jiaozi or dumplings are form via folding the dough in half and pinching it close along the edge. There is a direct correlation between the number of ripples on the bun or dumpling and the price of the dish. The more ripples it has, the higher the complexity, the more they charge. Facts of life.

I'm pretty sure this next dish is the zha jiang noodles (炸醬拌麵).

This is followed by a fried pork chop noodle soup (油炸排骨湯麵). The pork chop is served separately to preserve the crispiness of the meat. 

The next dish to arrive was the vegetable and pork won ton noodle soup (菜肉餛飩湯麵).

We finished off the savory dishes with a plate of fried rice with shrimp and shredded pork (蝦仁肉絲蛋炒飯).

We ordered a variety of desserts. The first to arrive was the almond tofu pudding (杏仁豆腐) (definitely top). Followed quickly by a fruit (cantaloupe) tapioca soup (鮮果西米露) (bottom) and a taro tapioca soup (荔芋西米露) (not shown). The taro tapioca was the highlight of the three. The aroma of taro filled the air as it was brought into the room. I was a little slow on the photo and it was half gone by the time it came around to me.

Atmosphere: 7 out of 10. I love the open kitchen concept. Unfortunately, we were seated in the VIP room upstairs.
Food: 7 out of 10. Above average. Some items were better than others.
Presentation: 7 out of 10. An impressive showing of skill in the xiao long baos and dumplings.
Price: N/A. I have no idea what the bill came to so I will not comment.
Service: 6.5 out of 10. Average service.
Overall: 7 out of 10. Good but not sure if I would wait in line for several hours for a table as noted in other blogs. I only waited 30 minutes for the rest of my party to show up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chocoholics Rejoice

Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe
91 George St, Sydney
For our last meal in Sydney, we headed to Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe in The Rock for breakfast. Guylian is universally recognized as the people that make the seashell chocolates. A solid 75% of the dishes featured on their menu uses chocolate in some shape or form. And really, why would you order anything else? It's like ordering chicken when you go to Red Lobster. Not gonna happen. 

I started off my day with this cup of amazingness - the Guylian Chocolate Special. A house coffee with chocolate and a mountain of whip cream and more chocolate sprinkled on top. Super rich cocoa flavour. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

I also ordered the Belgian waffles with seasonal fruit and, of course, a Guylian chocolate dip. The waffle was crispy and topped with a scoop of Guylian praline ice cream. The chocolate came in a separate cup which I immediately poured over my tasty waffles and fruit. So chocolatey. Mmmmmmm... Before all the dieticians start pouring the Hatorade, at least I had a serving of fruit and veggies right?

I just ate chocolate for breakfast and I don’t care! Leave a comment if you’re a chocoholic.
Atmosphere: 7 out of 10. Elegant and clean shop. Display case features tasty looking chocolates.
Food: 8 out of 10. Did I tell you I had chocolate for breakfast?
Presentation: 6 out of 10. Definitely not slapped together. 
Price: 6 out of 10. Wasn’t cheap.
Service: 6 out of 10. Mediocre service.
Overall: 7 out of 10. My name is David and I’m a chocoholic

Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

La Renaissance Cafe Patisserie
47 Argyle St, Sydney
Cute little cafe in The Rocks, La Renaissance Cafe Patisserie was a busy little place when we arrived in the morning several hours before our lunch at Quay

Browsing through the various tasty looking pastries in the display case, I was having some major difficulties selecting what I wanted... I want it all! I finally settled on a mixed fruit tart. It looks so pretty and cute. It tasted as good as it looks too. The tart base was light and crumbly; the glazed fruit were arranged in a tasteful manner.

I then finished it off with a caffe macchiato. Not to be confused with a latte macchiato, a caffe macchiato is a shot of expresso with a little bit of milk rather than a big-o-cup of milk with a shot of expresso. It was some strong stuff!

Atmosphere: 7 out of 10. We sat out in the patio by the street. The historic buildings surrounding us provided a beautiful backdrop as we enjoyed our tasty pastries.
Food: 7 out of 10. You can't go wrong with tasty pastries.
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Looking good ; )
Price: 7 out 10. Average prices.
Service: N/A.
Overall: 7 out of 10. A great start to an amazing day! 

La Renaissance Cafe Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Location, Location, Location.

CQ Cafe
1 Macquarie Place, Sydney

Located between our hotel and the train station, CQ Cafe was perhaps the only place we ate at more than once. You know what they say - location, location, location. But serving tasty breakfast eats certainly helped. I had the french toast on my first visit. It was decent. Topped with fresh strawberries and syrup, it was a heavenly combination. Mmmmm... 

Finished it off with a chai latte.

I had the omelet or something on my second visit. But I forgot to take a picture. : (

Atmosphere: 6 out of 10. It's nicer to sit outside if the weather permits.
Food: 6 out of 10. Average food.
Presentation: 6 out of 10. Not too shabby presentation.
Price: 6 out of 10. Doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Just an arm.
Service: 5 out of 10. Mediocre service.
Overall: 6 out of 10. It was close. 

CQ Cafe on Urbanspoon

Something Fishy

Sydney Fish Market
Bank Street, Pyrmont, Sydney
One of the largest seafood markets in the world, Sydney Fish Market features wholesale auctions, several seafood retailers, a wine shop, fruit and vegetable market, a cafe and a couple of restaurant, even a bakery all under one roof. A one stop shop for seafood lovers. We arrived early Saturday morning to check out all the tasty fresh seafood SFM has to offer.

Arriving with an empty stomach, we stopped by the first eatery we saw - The Fish Market Cafe. We ordered the mountainous seafood platter. Piled high to the sky, this platter featured baked oysters, scallops, baby octopus, calamari, battered fish and fries. A lot of fries. Perhaps too much fries. Everything was deep fried or super greasy. I can't say I was super impressed with it. It seemed like a waste of super fresh seafood.

Learning from our mistakes, we strolled through the entire market before stopping for lunch. All the seafood retailers offered similar things. Fresh oysters sold in dozens, sashimi bar, fresh seafood not for raw consumption and a small kitchen with more deep fried products. We finally settled on Nicholas Seafood. Serving a selection of dishes that were not deep fried, Nicholas Seafood even offer the option of cooking the food how you want it. We weren't feeling too creative so we opted for the steamed lobster and prawns with a half dozen of fresh oyster combo instead. All the shops offered fresh oysters but the thought of pounding back a dozen oysters in one sitting didn't seem like a brilliant idea to me at the time. Even though they were fairly small, extra oysters in my stomach = less room in my stomach for other tasty food. I must say though that they were super amazing! Shucked and cleaned on site, the oysters are flavoured with salty seawater and lemon juice, the meat was sweet and creamy and went down smooth. Mmm. Mmm good. I almost wanted to buy a tray and devour them on the spot. The lobster and prawns were pretty amazing as well. The meat was sweet and cooked just right.
In addition to the platter, we each got an abalone. 'cause that's how Asians roll. We can't turn down abalone. Cooked with ginger and scallions, the abalone was a bit over cooked. A little disappointed but decent overall.

We headed to De Costi Seafood next to pick up some sashimi. They appeared to have the freshest and offered the most variety of sashimi that day. We ordered approximately 100g of salmon, tuna, yellowtail and snapper. Upon ordering, the fillet is cut into super tiny slices. Perhaps too small of a slice. I grabbed at least three pieces at a time. It was so good. Mmmmm...

The only issue we had was trying to find a table. Since it was a beautiful weekend, the place was packed. All the picnic tables were filled. I guess the lesson here is eat early, or eat late but don't eat at noon. Sydney Fish Market, if you love seafood, check it out! You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Awesome Ish

Cafe Ish
82 Campbell St, Sydney
For our second last night in Sydney, we went to Cafe Ish for some dinner. Located in Surrey Hills, Cafe Ish is a Japanese Tapas Ish place serving up Japanese inspired cuisines (not sushi). I crept the urbanspoon earlier and found many favorable reviews. They also served kangaroo and crocodiles meat and I was like "Sweet! let's go there!"

We arrived super early like we always do and walked around the block a million time. To work up an appetite. Obviously. Under the recommendation of our server, we started with 4 tapas. The first to arrive was the crocodile skewers. Battered and deep fried, the crocodile meat tasted like chicken ish. The panko crusted skewer is then served with a Japanese curry and a bunch of watercress leaves.

The next item to arrive was the kangaroo sausage. Topped with feta cheese, it did not taste like chicken. The meat was a little tougher than typical farm animals.

Tuna salad arrived shortly after. Arugula, avocado were mixed together with seared tuna in a tasty dressing. So good.

The last of our initial tapas to arrive was the soft shell crab omelette. This dish is literally featured on every single blog post about Cafe Ish on urbanspoon. And rightfully so! Crispy soft shell crab was wrapped up in a fluffy egg omelet with avocado, shallot and garlic. The dish is finished with a sweet chili ginger soy sauce and watercress leaves. So insanely good. The favour was tangy, a little spicy and generally amazing overall. The texture of the eggs and the soft shell crab contrasted each other. So good. Love it.

We decided to order two more tapas after our initial round. The cucumbers "salad" (because my mother was complaining we were not getting our daily serving of vegetables) and wagyu beef skewers. The cucumber salad was probably one of the weaker dishes of the night so I'm just gonna move on. The wagyu beef was much better. The small cubes of tender wagyu beef were perfectly cooked and super juicy.

Because I'm an eating machine, I ordered an extra round of lamb cutlets.
More panko crusted meat. Mmmmm...

Points as follows:
Atmosphere: 7.5 out of 10. Cute little place. A nice collection of sake bottles on the window.
Food: 9 out of 10. Amazing! Get the soft shell crab omelet. Unless you're allergic to seafood. Or eggs. There's a reason why it's featured on every blog post.
Presentation: 7 out of 10. Above average presentation.
Price: 6 out of 10. Average prices. Prices range from a few dollars to high teens per dish. Of course, all the dishes you want are the pricey ones. Don't underestimate tapa places. Things add up quite quickly.
Service: 7.5 out of 10. Our server was very knowledgable of the dishes, offering her recommendations as needed. Water was constantly topped up and dishes cleared despite having a full house.
Overall: 7.5 out of 10. Very good overall. I highly recommend it for groups as you can try many things. This place was definitely awesome. Not awesome ish. 

Cafe Ish on Urbanspoon

Check out this photo of the Kardashian sisters, I mean the Three Sisters, I took earlier in the day!