Oui s’il vous plaît! – Cafe Le Papillon

Oh 2013, where did you go? They always say that time passes by faster when you are having fun. I had a great 2013. The year of the “Yes!” has brought on many new adventures and revived some old connections.

It’s been awhile and all it took to get me to finally sort out all my notes from my trip last summer was a giant wind and rain storm here on the westcoast. A little inspiration from MFK Fisher and David Sedaris certainly helped too … more on that in another post.
One of the first “Yes” moments of the year was a semi-solo trip to Europe. I know – you don’t really need to twist my arm for that one. I have been eager and excited for this foodventure and it was finally happening. I must say that I was slightly nervous at first, simply because it’s been awhile since I’ve last traveled.

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After my renewed love of bread, cheeses, and fabulous wine, I knew I MUST return to Paris. The last time I was there, I was young and everything was just “go go go!” Whoever thought that you can do Paris in 3 days is an absolute fool. I have to admit though – I never thought that I would develop this yearning to visit and re-visit and most likely grow to love this city. The people, the pace, and the gastronomical adventures have stolen my tummy. I vowed to take this trip in as slowly as I can – to literally stop and smell the polluted air mixed in with the wonderous waves of fresh baked bread and strongly brewed espresso.

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One of the things on my “must-do” list was to wander the streets, find a café and just sit. Sit and write and watch and absorb. Café Le Papillon is nestled in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Rue Mouffetard is a sweet honest open market in one of Paris’ oldest and most vibrant areas. This market is packed with vendors selling fresh fruits, cheeses, meats, and breads and is loaded with cafes and restaurants. Café Le Papillon does not have all the bells and whistles as most of the other places in the hood and can easily be missed due to the nonchalantness of the owners. No one passing flyers, no one ringing bells, no one offering promotions – just simple honest food.

I actually came to Rue Mouffetard specifically for this place due to an episode of Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations – Paris. A place recommended by Tony and Joel – how can I NOT go???

IMG_2388The restaurant seems like it is run by a husband and wife team and only fits about 20 people inside while the “patio” tables are squeezed about 5 inches apart from each other. It was a gorgeous weekday afternoon in Paris and there was no way that I was going to sit indoors so I sat and made myself some new friends (they just didn’t know it).

The menu is updated daily on an old chalk board which the owner brings out for you. With her not speaking much English and me not speaking much French, we worked out a system of Frenglish mixed in with gestures and pointing.

My steak tartar came with a healthy amount of potatoes and salad. The potatoes were so creamy and well seasoned. Surprisingly, the potatoes did not taste too rich or heavy as I am sure they had used copious amounts of butter and cream to make this so melt in your mouth!

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Though not chopped and mixed table-side – the steak tartare was well prepared and well seasoned. It came with a variety of tasty treats and pickled goodness. I’m not usually a fan of things in the “onion family” but the finely minced shallots mixed in with the giant capers and fresh steak made me almost clear the plate. Also adored the sundried tomato and fresh and generous slabs of parm – but that’s a given for me.

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This typical bistro dish was quite large compared to what I’ve seen in Vancouver – thank goodness the wife (?) highly advised me to just stick with one dish…I also wanted a cheese plate. All the items were fresh and purchased from the neighboring vendors. Loved the moment when I watched the owner head down the road and pick up some more cheeses for his night time service.

I absolutely adored how quaint this place is. Although the owners seem nonchalant about things, they are pretty attentive. Seeing that my eating was slowing down, the wife (?) came out to see if everything was to my liking. When a mom and son panhandler came and sat down on my tiny patio table refusing to leave, the husband (?) came out and shoed them away knowing that I was struggling with the language. I really wanted to give them a big hug and tell them that I was only slowing down due to my morning filled with croissants, pain au chocolat, and pain au raisin and that I had big plans to stuff my face with the rotisserie chicken from down the road and wash it all down with Laduree marcarons and creamy Dalloyau opera cake… but all I could do was manage a smile and a quiet “merci beaucoup”.

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In no way am I saying that this was the fanciest of meals I have ever eaten, but it was one of the most “real” dining experiences that I have had. Rick Steeves noted that this was a “down-and-dirty local diner” and that was exactly what I craved. I traveled in search of an honest local foodventure and found it within the basket of crusty bread and cute owners here on this tiny “patio” on the corner of an old Parisian street.

Cafe Le Papillon

129. Rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris, France (Panthéon)
T: 01 43 31 66 50
Last visit: June 2013

Wanderlust Part 2 – Taipei on a Stick

Oddly enough, I have been motivated not by some insanely droolworthy dish but rather, I have been inspired with a re-encounter with some amazing people who love what they do and are damn good at doing it. I admit that I tend to lose sight of what matters and what drives me. More often than not, I get easily distracted and am pulled in to the regular 9-5 life of the average Vancouverite. Just working to live and end up living to work. It’s not always about limo rides up to Whistler and open bars at the 4 Seasons for this event planner. I forgot that there should be more to it than sitting in front of a computer all day and making phone calls to babysit clients. I will just have to blame my recent lack of passion to the lack of stamps in my passport which acts as my little reminder to breathe.

Taking a step back in time to wanderlust on the tasty streets of Taipei with Sandina – of course, with the new EVA Airline Hello Kitty Terminal, it will be quite some time before I visit Sandina again…

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First stop, some famous place Sandina brought me to that was actually famous! Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodle 阿宗麵線 has been around since 1975 and is still kicking about with numerous street stalls and actual restaurants. Sandina brought me to the original street stall and I did doubt her for a minute but this stuff was really good! The mein-xian is a silky smooth and super thin noodle which is stewed in this huge pot of creamy broth. Sandy told me that it is stewed with large intestines, bonito, bamboo shoots, and a variety of other ingredients – I wonder if she got this all off the website? I of course had no idea that intestines were in there, all I knew was that this stuff was great to cure my oncoming cold. It was perfect for that cold Taipei night and extra tasty when you add a little bit of vinegar and Ay Chung’s special chili sauce to your bowl.

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Next up: Meat-on-a-stick. No matter where you are in Taipei, no matter what night market you are at or what street you are standing on, you will no doubt encounter carts with meat on a stick. Deep fried, bbQ, cooked in tea/soy sauce, you name it, they have it. And hey, if you’re feeling a bit home sick, they even have corndogs for you!

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Personally, my favorite is the deep fried chicken on a stick, also known as “crispy salty peppery fried chicken nuggets” in our local bbT places. In Taiwan though, you can also get the jumbo deep fried thigh in a bag as well!

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Also loved the bbQ quail eggs on a stick! These are lightly dusted with some of that secret 5 spice salty peppery goodness and since the shelled eggs are kept warm on a charcoal grill, there is a nice smoky flavor.

Can’t forget the deep fried tempura. Also comes in bite sized deep fried pieces and dusted with the salty peppery seasoning. Tempura in the Taiwan sense is fishcake. These are a processed seafood item probably a blend of real fish with flour and steamed (same as that used in oden). The name “Tempura” for fishcakes in Taiwan came about because of the sweet and slightly spicy sauce that usually comes with it – literally translates to sweet not spicy – 甜不辣 tián bù là. I learned this from Brother Yu many moons ago when Japanese and Taiwanese food was first making its way in to Vancouver. Of course you can’t fully trust a man who tags his little sister in random food photos just to make her hungry.. so don’t quote me on this. In any case, as time went on, we non-cultured folk have learned that “tempura” meant something completely different. I still call it tempura though..

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Water-pan-fried-buns was also a favorite of mine (hmm it seems like I had a lot of favorites during this trip…). The buns are freshly made and are packed with juices from the fatty ground meat. Similar to how you make potstickers, these buns sit on a greased up flaming hot pan and water is then used to submerge the little packets of delightfulness halfway. This not only speeds up the cooking process but also keeps the suckers moist and juicy. Totally loved the sesame sprinkles too!
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“It’s gotta be famous since it has a digital queue system!” – Sandina This “famous” stall is Hui Ji in the Shi Da market, it’s been awhile so I hope it’s still there!

IMG_0728My number one must-have in Taipei are the egg pancakes (蛋餅 dan bing). These are essentially a roti/crepe/green onion pancake thing with a fried egg on top. There are all sorts of different toppings you can get with your dan bing, I loved the cheese ones because they used kraft singles and it becomes super gooey! You can also get these with slices of ham, seaweed, kimchi, or even just have it on its own. I remember the best dan bing was from a stall just a few blocks off of Xi Men Ding where the pancake was flaky and soft but also had a nice crunchy exterior. The vendor added some mystery sauce (no not that type .. ) probably a mixture of oyster and spicy goodness, it went so well with the dan bing that I ate two before meeting Sandina for dinner.

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Oh stinky tofu, how I can get over the smell of dirty socks and wet garbage is beyond me, but this stuff is killer. Wiki tells me that the tofu is semi fermented in a smelly brine to produce that god awful odor then, traditionally, it is deep fried. In Hong Kong you will only find these in a few random stalls in Kowloon, deep fried and smeared with sweet and spicy sauces placed in a brown paper bag with a stick. In Taiwan, there are plentiful vendors pumping these babies out. Rather than the sweet and spicy sauces though, the Taiwanese use pickled veggies and hot chili oil to balance off the greasy plate of stinky goodness. This is a great plate to go with some icy beers but is definitely a sit down meal (on fold out stools and mahjong tables shared amongst 6 other randoms). Because it is a hot commodity, you are almost always guaranteed freshly fried crispy tofu – remember not to burn your tongue. Get over the dirty sock smell, close your eyes and shove it in, you should trust the girl who gags at the idea of a simple construction site portable potty. This stuff is worth it.

IMG_0657Lastly, to wash down the deep fried heart attack snacks, cleanse your palate with a Taiwan Specialty Ice Dish. Super fluffy silky smooth shaved ice, fresh mango cubes, and condensed milk, you really can’t go wrong. You can however, make it super awesome by splurging and adding some ice cream to it. This is also a sit down snack but can be found on nearly every other street corner with a million different combinations of fresh fruit, jellies, and syrups. We had this every night after a long day of shopping.

Like soil settling in to the earth, life tends to solidify if you don’t do a bit of shuffling every once in a while. In our world where anything is possible, can living an ordinary life still be extrordinary? There are times when you need that spurt of fire to keep your focus, and times where simplicity is the key to keep you grounded. It’s not always about those Michelin stars, foie gras, and truffles. Sometimes you just gotta bring it back to the simple meat-on-a-stick.

Places to hit up for street side snacks:
- Xi Men Ding (where all the cools kids are)
- Shihlin Night Market (so popular that it has become somewhat of a tourist trap)
- Shi Da Night Market (located in the college/university area so there are tons of good eats at good prices)
- Huaxi Night Market (a little sketch if you ask me but you’ll find the rare snake soup and other rare delicacies.)
- For more markets


Full of Tradition – Henry’s Outdoor BBQ Chicken

I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately. As a stereotypical Chinese man, my grampie loved to gamble. Oh, he was not an addict, it was just a way for him to past the time and socialize with his acquaintances. Like most Chinese men, his family was his everything so of course he would share one of his favorite past-times with us.

The Pacific National Exhibition always opens its gates in Vancouver during the last 2 weeks of August catching all the kids (and their pocket money) before school starts. Ever since we were children, my cousins, my brother, and I would always make our way to the PNE with our grampie as he made his way to the racetrack – the outing became a family event. This adventure marks the end of our summer and the start of the new school year. When we were younger, we would head to the park bright and early to catch all the rides and avoid all the lines. After nearly cracking our heads from the Wild Mouse and trying to hold our stomachs down from the Tilt-a-Whirl, we would meet my grampie, gramie, and our parents at the Hastings Race Track, then all head over to Henry’s Outdoor BBQ Chicken for dinner.

Henry has been BBQing at the PNE for over 37 years and is consistently one of the busiest joints in the park. Despite it being hidden off the beaten track and being overly priced (I think it’s almost $10 for half a scrawny chicken!) we just can’t keep ourselves away from this place.

The chicken is slow roasted over an open coal pit and the bbQ masters continuously spray seasonings on to the chicken to maximize the flavors. The constant smokiness coming from this building is usually what helps guide us through the hoards of people milling around the other food stands.

Despite the chicken being slow cooked and looking kinda weak, it is super juicy and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.

As we grew older and wiser (knowing that it was not normal for a gym mat to be tied at the corners of the Wild Mouse coaster frame), we did less gaming and more eating.  Some say that fairs are not the best place for dinner because the food is overly priced and it is “oh so unsanitary!” I, on the other hand, could care less that it may not be 5 star cuisines because I absolutely love the variety. Only once a year, can I have Dole ice cream and a poutine as an appetizer, Henry’s BBQ chicken and chilli fries as the main course,  Wiggle chips as dessert, and Wild Bill’s perogies as an after dinner snack.

Now, don’t think we are all about eating. Dole Cones and mini donuts in hand, we would always make time to watch the ever so cute Super Dog Show and head over to the Marketplace for miscellaneous household items (any one need a Sweepa?).

As our bellies roll out of the park, our hands clutching a bag of those mini donuts, and  ears hearing the ever familiar never changing “win a house, win a car!” sales person, I think to myself how nice it is that we have continued on with this tradition even though he is no longer here.


Vee’s Food Tour

The first thing that came to my mind when my boss told me to take the Friday off was “omg, I wonder which truck I should hit first?”

It’s been so long since I last visited a food truck that I really didn’t know where to start. I have been out of the scene for way too long and frankly, I also felt a bit uncomfortable with the whole unspoken unfair bureaucracy of the food truck world in Vancouver. Regardless, I couldn’t deny myself of a sunny summer day out and about in Vancouver’s downtown.

Amy, J, and I headed out without a plan really. We parked and followed the app. The first truck that we saw coming in to downtown was the bright and colourful Guanaco Food Truck. Serving up fresh El Salvadorian cuisine made from local ingredients. We figured that since we were trying to visit a couple of spots we should just have a small appetizer to kick off the tour. I have never tried El Salvadorian food before so everything was new and exciting to me.

Pasteles – $6.00

The Pasteles is a maize pocket stuffed with meat, vegetables, and cheese. The stuffing was very flavorful and the gooey cheese added a nice balance to the meat and vegetables. The outer shell was quite thick and was very crispy and the pickled slaw that came with it was a nice balance to cut through all the gooey goodness. I felt that it could have used a bit more filling though. I’ve heard good things about their pupusas so I will try my best to take another bite of Guanaco before the sun sets on Vancouver for the rest of the year.

Next up was the highly anticipated Vij’s Railway Express. After winning numerous awards and having been recognized as one of the top Indian Restaurateurs in Vancouver, Vikram Vij and his partner Meeru Dhalwala has stepped in to the next level of the Vancouver food scene by opening up Vij’s Railway Express.

Lucknow Lamb Kabab -$10.50 / Cassava Fries w/ Tamarind Chutney – $5.50 / Ginger Lemon Drink -$3.50 / Blueberry Lassi – $4.25

I have heard mixed reviews about this truck but that did not deter me from trying out their lamb kabob.  The meat was moist and nicely flavored and the lamb wasn’t all too gamey. They grilled the lamb well not overcooking it and still giving it a nice smoky grilled flavor. The spicy cucumber salad that came with the kabob was refreshing and added a nice kick to the overall plate. I really liked the Cassava Fries, they were light, crispy and seasoned well. The tamarind and date chutney that came with the fries was sweet and went well with the starchy sweet root vegetable but I actually liked the fries on its own. We actually didn’t know what Cassava was until we googled it and found out it was a root vegetable used to make tapioca! No wonder I found it so tasty!

We also got some beverages in bags to cool us down from the summer heat – I love drinks in bags! The Blueberry Lassi was thick and creamy but didn’t taste all that much blueberry-y. I found the Ginger Lemon Drink to be more refreshing even though I am not really a fan of ginger. I do NOT recommend having the Blueberry Lassi before the Ginger Lemon Drink because the mixture just becomes weird. I know sometimes Vikram is there to keep watch of his people but he wasn’t here today. Maybe I hyped this up too much for myself but I was a tad disappointed in this truck. It wasn’t anything too special and I was pretty thrown off when the guy behind the window told me that we were being given the left overs from the lunch rush. I know that they do preps for everything but please just keep me under the illusion that you made the dish fresh for me.

After Vij’s, we wandered over to the Art Gallery for our final stop. Not knowing where to hit up next, we figured we would roam until something caught our eye. Just as we turned the corner, a bright pink snout and a waft of bacon goodness hit us full on. Were we achin for bacon? Oh yes please!

Serving up one of my favorite food groups, this Pig on the Street had drawn us in with their colourful sunken mini-van and fun and creative take on street food. Owners Mark and Krissy came to bring us an English staple with a twist. These two are definitely proud of their food and they aren’t shy in sharing with you their suppliers. The flat bread sandwiches (more of a wrap to me) are made fresh to order. Each morning the flatbread is made and the two roll out in their converted mini-van to bring to you happiness in a wrap.

Pig LT -$10.00

We tried the Bacon LT here and found the double smoked bacon to be crispy and is a nice healthy cut giving a good balance with the fat to meat ratio (I hate skimpy bacon cuts because it’s usually all fat). There is a creamy avocado spread which literally melts in your mouth with each bite. The greens and tomato is fresh and was definitely needed to cut through the bacon, cheese, and avocado goodness. It was quite a large sandwich/wrap and we had to wait for 5 or 6 minutes for it but it certainly was worth it. Total drool worthy.

Bacon, Bourbon & Caramel Brownie Bite -$2.00

We also tried their Bacon, Bourbon & Caramel Brownie Bite. I don’t even know where to start with this one. It was chocolately, bourbony, and totally bacony. It was super heavy and I could only do about 2 bites but those were 2 very heavenly bites. They give these to you in little tiny plastic containers and doesn’t really look all too appetizing at first, but don’t even think about passing on this. There was a perfect balance to the gooey sweet chocolate, salted bacon caramel, and slightly bitter bourbon. You can really taste each component in this sinful concoction. Word of caution, share this with a friend. I really wanted to try their lemonade but they were sold out each time I pass by.

I came here with Beverly and Charlotte and some mini Asians a few weeks later (as I am obviously very behind on my postings) and all Mini Asian 1.0 can say was “I want bacon”.

We tried their other sandwiches and they were all just as tasty as the Bacon LT. Charlotte had the Porker and when they say “stuffing” they really mean “meatloaf” – she was in bacon coma for the rest of the day.

The Porker – $10.00

Southern Piggie – $10.00

It must be great to wake up each morning and be greeted by the smell of fresh bacon.  I know we can’t get enough of it.


Into the Orient – Jasmine Fountain Brunch

I would normally never think to write about buffets. I mean, I like to share my experience at a particular establishment which includes both food and service. I just couldn’t hold back for this one though.

Jasmine is located on the casino floor of the Bellagio Hotel serving the typical “chinese cuisine” fusion of Cantonese, Szechwan, and Hunan flavors while offering front row seats to the Bellagio Fountain Show.

We have walked past this place a number of times but never really paid too much attention to it. While Charlotte and I usually walk by and make fun of the $20.00 plate of fried rice served at this restaurant during regular hours, Beverly was the only one to notice that they served Porchetta and Peking Duck table side during Brunch!

We stepped in and it was simply stereotypical “asian” flare. We were surrounded by fake china, butterflies, and red upholstery.

We were brought to our table and I happily noticed that they provided both chopsticks AND silverware. How thoughtful of them!

Each table is brought 3 tiers of breakfast goodies which included mini pastries, fruit skewers, and basic condiments for your pastries. It looks adorable but the pastries were a tad on the dry side.

Jasmine usually opens only for dinner and is not actually a buffet restaurant so the set-up is not your typical food-in-trough kind of deal. Long tables lined the centre of the restaurant with beautiful platters and trays of mini sized individually portioned cold and hot items while side tables were set up against the walls for the hot cooking and carving stations.

This is one fancy buffet I was thinking. The food looked tasty and we were all excited to dive in! Actually, we were excited even before we entered the restaurant – who doesn’t want porchetta with their bowl of vermicelli? Or in Charlotte’s case, a plate of terrine and pate.

Charlotte’s “Field of Dreams”

I tried my best to take clear pictures, but it was kind of hard to do this at a buffet where people were waiting to get their food… so I do apologize for all the blurriness.

Lemon Tree?

Kobe Beef with Hearts of Palm and Black Pepper and Miso

Duck Terrine and Foie Gras on Brioche and Rhubarb Compote

Grapefruit-Mint Panna Cotta with Sriracha Caviar

Traditional, Lobster-Potato Cake Eggs Benedict

I should have known better than to try Eggs Benedict at a buffet. The Lobster Potato Cake was mushy and heavy. There was no lobster in it and tasted very floury.

American Caviar, Buckwheat Mini Waffles, Chive Crème Fraîche

Lobster Profiterole with Citrus Cream

Porchetta

I was really disappointed in the porchetta here. It was dry, hard, and not flavorful. They didn’t even have any crispy pork skin to go along with it! Ugh.

Ahi Tuna Medallions with Togarashi and Yuzu Gelée on Lotus Chip

The Ahi Tuna itself was quite nice and the Yuzu Gelee was pretty refreshing but the Lotus Chip was so stale that it ruined the bite. They should have just served this on the cute little metal spoons.

Unfortunately, looks were deceiving. Not sure if things are normally this way or if it was because we got the last brunch seating but the food was stale and dry. I know this is a buffet but our hopes were high and we’ve always loved the Bellagio Buffet – we simply expected the same quality. The service we had was pretty good for a buffet and the servers were quite friendly and helpful. We didn’t catch sight of any duck stations but figured they ran out since we had the last seating.

from the Asian Noodle Station

The highlight of the meal was the hot noodle station. The broth was very flavorful and if you speak Cantonese to the chefs, you get the secret stash of fish cakes to go with your noodles and the “in” to get the peking duck (apparently you have to specially request it from a server).

They had a dessert room but unfortunately, it was another thing that I missed out on as they were busy clearing away all the food by the time I made it there. Charlotte did say that their ice cream filled mochi balls were not that tasty – I don’t know if she was just saying that to humor me though…

There was a great variety in dishes and it was not your typical buffet spread so we were stuffed since we wanted to try everything. I wouldn’t say that the food was terrible but it sure did not taste fresh and I most definitely would not pay another $58.00+ to try it out again… Well, lesson learned, I will go to Noodles across the casino the next time I am craving asian while in Vegas.


Always Guud Times – Guu Richmond

I will be the first to admit it, I have been absolutely lazy lately. In all fairness though, I haven’t really been out much lately and don’t really have much to say. A couple of weeks ago, I made a venture out to meet with my old young friend J. Yes, remember J? The one that went food truck stalking with me? Well he too was in hibernation mode and has recently resurfaced back in to my eating world.. kind of.

I had to fix my phone so I dragged him out to my home away from home – Richmond. As I forgot to pick up a phone case from the cell phone guy, I insisted that we hit up Aberdeen Mall. Too bad all the stores were closed by the time we got there. Since we were in the mall and we were both indecisive and starving, we settled on the hidden Guu.

Guu in Richmond has been kicking around for a few years but is quite young compared to my favorites on Thurlow and Robson. I remember when it first opened I was oh so excited to have a Guu in Richmond. I almost always have fun times at Guu; I love the ambience and the servers/chefs are always so upbeat and friendly.

When we stepped in, we were seated promptly at the bar and the chef gave us a complementary appetizer of pickled veggies.  Beer of course was ordered and we started our gab fest. Time ticked and soon our pitcher was empty – yet we have not even seen our server. We tried a number of times to wave her down but were either seen as invisible or given a quick “I’ll be right back” in passing. It was a random Thursday night in Aberdeen Mall, WTH was going on here? We have been sitting here watching the chefs clean their pots and pans for at least 30 minutes. It did get busy as a large party entered about 20 minutes after we sat down – but seriously, if you knew you had a party booked wouldn’t you think to put more staff on for the night? Yes, you may think “oh give them a break” or “you have obviously never worked in a restaurant before” well no I have not worked in a restaurant before but service is service, you either get it or you don’t. We did not.

Though it took awhile to actually order our food, the dishes arrived very promptly. We ordered a variety of items and the night is now slightly blurry due to the endless flow of Asahi. My glass was never empty, but I am sure J will refute with an “it was never empty because you didn’t drink it”. Blah blah blah I tell him. Comments on the food will be quite limited.. next to none.

Hotate Wasabi – $6.80

Baked Scallop and Potato w/ Cod Roe – $6.80

The Baked Scallop and Potato dish reminded me of cheesy mashed potatoes. It was rich and creamy but I didn’t notice the scallop or the roe…

Beef Tataki – $5.20

I remember the very first time I visited Guu in Richmond and had a terrible experience with the Beef Tataki. Things have not changed, I still find the beef to be sliced too thick causing it to be quite tough. But that’s just my preference cause I have blunt teeth.

Assorted Sashimi – 3 Kinds $15.00 / 5 Kinds $25.00

Ton Toro – $6.20

Ooooh delicious Ton Toro. It was so melty and perfectly seasoned and was a great snack with the Asahi. It was came super hot though so be careful and don’t burn your tongue like I did.

Uni – 2 at $7.60

Grilled Mackerel, Salmon Roe, and Green Bean on Rice w/ Dashi Broth – $9.80

I liked this dish because it was very interactive! Lots of flavors and textures even though J forgot to toss in the condiments on the side.

Takoyaki – $4.00

We kept on seeing these come out of the kitchen and had to add to our order. Did you know? I <3 Takoyaki!

8PM Special Ochazuke – $5.80

Another last minute addition and turned out to be my favorite of the night! You just can’t go wrong with rice, broth, and fish.

Our server never came back to check on us until it was the end of the night when the restaurant was finally empty and we were given our bill. Our last minute orders were randomly placed by whoever was dropping off our food. It was a good thing the kitchen was well staffed as I would have been very grumpy if my tummy had to suffer in addition to my patience.  It was very obviously understaffed because at one point the cashier was bringing out dishes from the kitchen. The food overall was quite typical, it wasn’t outstanding and it wasn’t anything that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Unfortunately this is not going to be a Guu that I would automatically recommend as it doesn’t posses the same Guud service and ambience levels as the other Guu’s. Thankfully I was in guud company – food really does taste better (guuder?) with friends sometimes.


A Little Taste of Wanderlust – Kani Doraku

Gloomy Sundays usually ignite my wanderlusting problem. I was looking back in my high school graduation album a few weeks ago and saw that Michi had scribbled on a page noting that we should travel to asia. It only took us 10 years to actually get our butts on to the plane and embark on this adventure. Osaka has become one of my favorite places in the world. The people, the culture, the food – it is simply irresistible to this Hungry Asian. I get so jealous each time I talk to Jase because he randomly trains down to Osaka for his holidays.

In speaking to a few people before I left for my very first trip to Japan, I knew I had to visit Dotonburi (this is now my favorite street). The street runs alongside a long canal, once an entertainment and arts area, it is now filled with restaurants and street vendors.

We discovered Kani Doraku not by the giant 6.5M moving crab but rather by the sweet and smoky smells of the grilled crab legs outside of the restaurant. Set up outside the restaurant was a simple charcoal bbQ grill and sushi stand. Being hungry in a new city and not knowing the language, we can only follow our nose.

I actually really like the sweet taste of crab but it is not something I eat often because as you know, I am too lazy to use my hands. I made an exception here for Kani Doraku. The grilled legs smelled so tasty and the cool Japanese vendor guys totally sold us on it.

The last time we were in Japan, we actually ended up spending Thanksgiving in Osaka. We had no turkey but thought we should at least have a meal inside a nice restaurant so instead of buying take out on the street, we ventured inside.

We really didn’t know what to order so we got some crab combo thing so that we get a taste of everything. Everything was fresh and the focus was all about the crab. Michi really enjoyed the crab roe but my favorite would have to be simple crab leg sashimi. The sweet taste was not masked by anything and had the ocean freshness that I love about seafood.

I didn’t know this then but apparently Kani Doraku is rated as one of the top restaurants in Osaka. The giant crab is so popular that it travels to other cities for promotion and has several branches throughout Japan. I think next time I will try out the crab kaiseki because it just looks too tasty. I also like the cool hats they give you.

Kani Doraku
1-6-18 Dotonbori, Osaka
Tel: 06-6211-8975

 

Last Visit: October 2010


Macaronathon Part 9 – Laduree and Hello Kitty

I can’t believe that Laduree has been infiltrated by this Japanese Icon. For those of you know me know that I am completely Anti-Hello Kitty. Why does she need to be on everything and included in everything? Isn’t it enough that she is the Japan Tourism Ambassador? Does she really need to be on famed French confections too?? Besides, what is a Japan Tourism Ambassador doing in France? Ok that is enough of my rant… on to the macaron.

This Strawberry Candy macaron is a part of Laduree’s “Incroyables” collection. The pink shells are sprinkled with some crystallized sugar (wait.. I think sugar is already crystallized..) and in between the shells holds what they call a “guimauve” (aka: marshmallow). The macaron as a whole did taste of those long forgotten strawberry marshmallow poofs you can find in the corner store $0.05 candy aisle but unfortunately I was never really a fan of those. I think Hol’s would actually really like this because she absolutely adores those marshmallow candies.
The macaron was very light and airy and the guimauve offered a little bit of chewiness due to the elastic quality of the candy. It was a very girly girl type of macaron and offered a neat texture and flavor. I didn’t find much almondyness to this macaron but I guess that’s ok since it’s supposed to taste like strawberry candies anyways. The guimauve was smooth and creamy but it was a different type of creamy from their usual buttercream fillings. This one was gummier.

Upon inspection, this macaron appears to be a lot more delicate than the rest of the bunch. The shells, though smooth, was starting to crack at the feet and quite crumbly upon the bite and the guimauve was not very evenly spread. I wonder if this is due to the guimauve’s stretchy nature?

Laduree did a great job in bringing people back to their childhood because this macaron tastes exactly like those strawberry marshmallow poofs. Really, it was quite an interesting macaron – so I guess this is what Hello Kitty tastes like.

My favorites still are the Vanilla, Cassis, and Salted Butter Caramel

Ladurée on Urbanspoon


Macaronathon Part 8- Bouchon Bakery, New York City

Brother Yu has returned once more with boxes of goodies for Vee. This he tells me will be the 2nd to last batch of the beautiful little buttons for my indulgences :(

This time he has brought back a cute little Bouchon box. I must say that I have almost given up on Bouchon because they have disappointed me a number of times already but Brother Yu has brought my spirits up and Bouchon is back on my radar.

The Bouchon Bakery buttons were noticibly larger than the cute little Laduree buttons. This time I had a ruler so I measured exactly how big they were….

The shells were clean and smooth with no cracks or bubbles but the macaron itself was quite hefty. There is a thick butter cream sandwiched between the two cookies  and had a very smooth finish when you bite in to it. The macarons were nice and chewy and actually quite light when you bite in to it.

The two flavors that Brother Yu picked up were the Pistachio and the Coffee. This Pistachio had a much better flavor than the ones we tried in the Vegas Bouchon Bakery and it was more obvious in flavor that it was a pistachio macaron but it was still not very pistachio-y. I had given Mommy Yu a Laduree Pistachio and a Bouchon Pistachio to try and she definitely prefers the flavor and nuttiness that Laduree’s had to offer.

The Coffee macaron was almost like eating a Sees coffee candy. The creamy texture and the rich coffee flavor went really well together. The macaron was moist and chewy and I loved the coffee buttercream.  It was a very tasty macaron and I am hoping that the Vegas Bouchon Bakery will be able to give me this tasty treat when I go back to visit next month.

The flavors in these two macarons were much much better than the ones we had in Vegas. The macarons itself were fresh and moist and still offered a nice crispy exterior and soft chewy interior. The thick buttercream had the perfect amount of sweetness and the cookies offered a very nice floral almondy scent. Both Bouchon Bakery’s gave me the “not mass produced” taste but flavorwise I prefer the Bouchon Bakery in New York. Perhaps I should try the individual macarons at the Vegas bakery rather than buying the box set like I did during Christmas..

Oh, I also got myself a Raspberry Almond Croissant! Yippee!

Bouchon Bakery on UrbanspoonBouchon Bakery on Urbanspoon


Too Rich for Vee’s Arteries – Stripsteak, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino

To be completely honest, I was not really inspired lately to share my following experience. In all fairness though, I am sure that Mr. Michael Mina had not intended his diners to visit Guy Savoy before visiting his dining room.

We actually had no real intention of going to Stripsteak at all this trip but due to a certain engagement plan taking place, Beverly and I had to think fast and make some last minute reservations.

Chef Michael Mina’s flagship meat house is located on the far side of the strip in the heart of The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. As you might have guessed, we rarely travel past the Bellagio (except to visit L’Atelier). I’ve actually heard from several different sources that the duck fat fried fries are a MUST try from Stripsteak so Beverly and I decided to give it a go.

The ambiance is quite casual and is definitely a family friendly environment. The space is quite open with large wooden tables and trendy music playing in the background – this was completely opposite from the previous night’s quiet regal affair that we had. I liked that they had large glass windows looking in to the kitchen though- it’s always fun to watch the chefs at work. They also had large windows for their meat locker too!

We aren’t really “steak people” so we decided to go with a few appetizers and share 2 entrees between the three of us. Unlike other restaurants, the bread basket was actually their famous duck fat fried fries. The fries came with 3 types of dipping sauces but they were already pre-seasoned. Apparently, Chef Mina is all about the “trio” of things so the three sauces were paired with three differently seasoned fries. They were just fine on their own I felt but it was nice to have the option of the different sauces. The fries were light and crispy and offered a good amount of potatoey goodness on the inside. Were they the best fries I have ever had? Maybe. Would I go back just for these fries? Probably not.

Foie Gras Sliders – order of 2 for $22.00 – extra slider for $11.00

The Foie Gras Sliders seemed to be one of the highly recommended items from various reviewers so we simply had to order them. The foie gras was quite creamy but I found that slider bun was a little too much and didn’t complement the foie gras that well. Too much bun I think. The chutney was nice and offered a good balance to the rich foie but I wasn’t wowed by it. The sliders also came with a dipping sauce which I thought was unnecessary since the foie and the chutney were quite flavorful already. Portionwise there was a very generous piece of foie but I found this to be a very heavy item for an appetizer.

Truffle Mac N Cheese – $12.00

As mentioned before, I’ve been on this whole truffle binge so the Truffle Mac N Cheese was a must for me. Many diners seemed to be absolutely gaga for this and I didn’t see what can go wrong with cheese and truffles. There was a very generous amount of creamy cheesiness in this dish and a nice heavy hand in the use of truffle oil making the entire dish quite salty. It was great for a few bites but a little too heavy overall – we didn’t even finish this side dish.

Spinach Souffle – $12.00

We felt that we needed some greens to balance out the heavy meal so we ordered their Spinach Soufflé.  Looks really are quite deceiving. Though this may appear to be something hidden in the back of your fridge for the past 6 months, it tastes of rich creaminess. Served piping hot with even hotter parmesan cream sauce, our thoughts of “eating healthier” went right out the door. This is one of those dishes where you need to eat it right away because the longer it sat, the less appealing it looked and tasted. It was an interesting dish and surprisingly tasty, but couldn’t really eat the entire portion of this. Maybe it was a tad too heavy… Hmmm.. starting to see a trend here…

Brussels Sprouts w/ Bacon – $14.00

In addition to the Spinach Soufflé for our greens, we also got some Brussels sprouts. I’m not really a fan of Brussels sprouts unless it’s laced with bacon. Another Paula Deen style dish: Very buttery.

For our entrees, we went with the highly recommended Wagyu Ribcap and the Veal Chop. Both steaks had a nice caramelization and a good smokiness to it. The word on the web is that Chef Mina likes to use a variety of poaching techniques that involve lots of clarified butter on his meats which brings out that extra tasty beefiness. The Wagyu Ribcap was so soft and buttery it really did melt in your mouth. Both steaks were well seasoned and really quite tasty on its own without the need of additional sauces. The sear on both pieces were nice and not overly done which helped keep in all the juices of the steaks. The beef here was of good quality and we did not find any veinyness in either pieces – weird as that may sound, I found that it’s quite gross to be chewing a piece of meat and then finding a vein in it.

Veal Chop – $58.00

8 oz American Wagyu Rib Cap – $67.00

This restaurant could have been very good but it was slightly underwhelming for us. The food was ok at best and other than everything being quite heavy we really didn’t find it to be quite so memorable. Although I do have to put this out there, I don’t think that we gave it a fair chance because of our dining experience from the previous night. Our server here at Stripsteak was quite friendly and helpful and even offered useful suggestions when we told her that we wanted to split the appetizers/side dishes and entrees. She did seem to have trouble counting though because she only gave us two parting gifts even though we were a party of three. I think this restaurant would be great for a casual dinner for those of you who would enjoy a little heartiness in their meals. For us non-steak eaters it was ok… I left with an uncomfortably heavy heart and felt that I needed a jog and eat some fresh tomatoes to clear out my arteries the next day. Unless I am staying at the Mandalay Bay and all the other restaurants were booked up, I don’t think I would be making that trek back.

On the plus side, I did enjoy their parting gift of chocolate caramel popcorn!

 

Last Visit: April 2012

Stripsteak (Mandalay Bay) on Urbanspoon


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