Saturday, June 26, 2010

[FOODIE: cheap eats] The Brave Bull's House of Steaks

Definitely a no frills, no fanfare place for the residents (who live around the area) AND foodies. Everyone else can just take their steak snob attitude elsewhere.

1294 Hastings Street East
Vancouver, BC V6A 1S6
Telephone: 604.253.4278
Hours: Lunch - Mon-Sun (5pm-onwards) 


Food: 6/10
Service: 10/10
Ambiance: 5/10
Pricing: $

Pros: Unpretentious restaurant with at home service.
Cons: It's still 1995 in here.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Brave Bull's House of Steaks on Urbanspoon

This is a two-person operation run by a husband and wife. The wife does the front-end operation from greeting and seating guests, taking orders, and bringing the bill. While the husband is at the kitchen firing up the grill with his full chef uniform. If there's one thing they like doing everyday, it's definitely keeping this joint open and running.

There are photocopies of an article written about the restaurant hung all over the place which you're bound to read wherever you sit. It highlights the cheap price for a decent steak. The article was written back in 1995. Looking around the place and checking out the menu, will make you believe you're stuck in time. The decor hasn't changed. More importantly, the prices haven't changed as well.

Fifteen freakin' years since the article was written and this restaurant doesn't have inflation in it's vocabulary. Someone please (please!) make them our finance minister.

Don't come here expecting swift service. These guys are way past their retirement age and will walk a turtle's space if they have to get things done right. They could have collected their retirement benefits years ago, but decided to do what they do best in feeding the locals with cheap steak.

I was excited to see Rib Steak on the menu, but wasn't available. I settled for a T-Bone and they happily left a good portion of fat on the steak just to feed my yearning for marbled goodness. How does it taste? Don't go looking for corn-fed or Cows massaged everyday. All I can say is it's decent for the price. You get a good portion of meat and it comes with a soup or salad, veggies and baked potato with sour cream and faux bacon bits. Classic blast to the past indeed.

Not up for steak? They serve Chinese food, too. I bet you the 1995 article didn't see that coming. I tried that as well.

When we got our bill, she took the time to explain what we were charged despite having only two items on it - a steak meal and a Chinese combo meal. And when she gave our change back, she painstakenly took the time to count our loose change as well. Then she realised she short-changed us. She left and scrambled behind the cash register. We were going to leave all the loose change anyway. It can't be that bad. She came back with 10 more cents. 10 cents! How honest is that.

I'd come back just to keep this place alive. How can you not have a soft spot for these hard-working proprietors. To come back wouldn't be about the food or the price anymore, it would be just to keep the place alive.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

[FOODIE: dine out vancouver 2010] WEST

What better way to make use of the Dine Out Vancouver event than to patronize restaurants that offer a level of pricing that's unheard of from their a la carte selection or even their "regular" prix fixe menu.

One such restaurant that participated this year is WEST. Not surprisingly, this restaurant was fully booked the moment they started accepting Dine Out Vancouver reservations.

2881 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3J4
Telephone: 604.738.8938
Hours: Lunch - Mon-Sat (11.30am-2.30pm); Dinner - Mon-Sun (5pm-11pm) 


Food: 8/10
Service: 10/10
Ambiance: 9/10
Pricing: $$$$ (expect to spend a minimum of $100 per head)

Pros: Unpretentious and attentive service that you've come to expect from a restaurant of this calibre; Perfectly cooked ingredients; Good ambiance.
Cons: You can feel the age of the restaurant especially with the out-dated bathroom.

Overall Rating: 9/10

West Restaurant on Urbanspoon

West Restaurant does not advertise their Dine Out Vancouver menu anywhere. You're going to have to take a gamble finding out that day which among their regular selection has been included. If you've come to love the taste and quality of West but knowing you'll be paying a lower price, then it's a no-brainer at this point.

Classic restaurants like these will provide bread service at your table. This will be hard to eliminate especially for old-school patrons. For one it does give an impression of an upscale restaurant. But there are pros and cons to this because it's not really free. It was simply factored into the cost of the menu items. Which equate to unnecessary padding.

In this case, we have a serving of french baguettes, olive oil and butter.

The soup they were offering was Sweet Onion soup with olive oil and fried shallots.

 Another starter of choice is the Smoked Salmon sushi in Tempura batter.

For the main course, we had the Hecate Straight Ling Cod which came with caramelized onion puree and mild Madras curry sauce.

Another main course was the braised lamb shank with red wine au jous. It was definitely tender and made me want the bone marrow portion.

How can you resist not ordering some Truffle french fries even if it's not part of their DOV menu. This is one of the few restaurants that know how to perfectly cook their fries - double fried. It came infused with truffle oil to start with.

And then arrived with a side of Truffle mayo and in-house made catsup. Yes, in-house. Yes, delicious. How can you come back to having Heinz catsup after tasting something this fresh?

 Ah...dessert. Chocolate mouse on a bed of creme anglaise and Chocolate Pot de Creme.

Or how about some Coconut Genoise (sponge cake) and a drizzle of caramel for some fancy plating.

West was an overall good experience. It was an even better experience with the DOV pricing.


Don't forget that Dine Out Vancouver 2010 is still in effect and there are a lot of restaurants that have available reservations especially since people usually make multiple reservations and choose the best date that works for them or simply come back.

The event this year runs from April 26 -  May 06. Depending on the restaurant, the prix fixe menu can go for $18, $28 or $38. As always, tax, gratuity and liquor is not included. More details can be found on the official site: Tourism Vancouver. From there you will be able to see the participating restaurants and the menu offering.

The site even offers an interactive "Dine Out Map" that you can click to view different cuisine categories after which restaurants will be mapped out on Google and you can decide from there if it's worth your while.

Although you can pay any which way you want that the restaurant accepts, Visa is sponsoring the event. Pay with your Visa and the restaurant will provide a ballot for you to fill out for a chance to win a $3,900.00 gift certificate to dine at participating restaurants. The "Visa Dine Out for a Year" contest details can be found on the same site.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

[EVENT: insider peek] Cafe Nuba @ 146 East 3rd Ave

Nuba has opened it's third branch in Vancouver over at Mount Pleasant just off Main Street. As of this moment, they are open for lunch but will expand to dinner service by April 29. Perhaps just in time when they obtain their liquor license.

In the meatime, they have generously lent a hand in providing Yelp Vancouver for it's April Yelp Elite Event by providing a sneak peak, a venue and good food and drinks. (Note: I did mention that they were in the process of obtaining a liquor license for their restaurant, but Yelp has obtained a temporary liquor license for this specific event which was prominently displayed.)

The theme of Nuba's third installation, as explained on their website, is Third World roadside cafes of the 1970's. With the muted colours and groovy interior, they will transport their patrons back in time.

The bar with it's funky wallpaper has their menu written on a chalkboard.

I feel like I'm in a movie set. They really put attention to detail in relieving the past.

Yelp members who recently earned their Elite status got a chance to take home the retro Yelp metal lunch boxes complete with a thermos inside. Fun times.

The specialty drink for the night was the "One Love" which was a concoction of organic ingredients including strawberries, raspberries, agave and Schramm's vodka. They also had beer on tap - Blue Buck - provided by local craft producer Phillips Beer.

Once the Yelpers started pouring in, the party started and the food seemed never ending.

In the meantime, we took a tour inside their massive kitchen. And like any respectable restaurant that cares and follows food safety, we all had to don aprons and hair nets before even stepping in the area. Once inside, time to wash our hands.

First stop was the grilling section where skewers for the night were being prepared.

In the other section, we were presented with large chunks of dough which volunteers were made to knead.

You had to use the whole weight of your body in order to tackle with these ones and have them flattened.

Once flat, these were inserted into a dough slicer.

The shape of the dough at this stage looked like a really thick Chicago-style pizza crust.

The slicer would cut the dough into more manageable pieces like these.

These pieces would then be rolled into a ball so it can be further flattened.

The flattening will be done by another machine after which the flattened pieces would then be baked.

Until it emerges into yummy pita bread - all fresh and all baked in-house.

How can you not resist grabbing one when it's right in front of you resting at the cooling rack.

Back to the front of the restaurant, the Yelp Elite members definitely came out in full force to show their love for Nuba.

Here were the grilled meats and shrimp drizzled with Tahini sauce.

Here is their appie version for the baba ghanooj - roasted eggplant puree on slices of pita bread.

We had slices of their "Veggie" pita - avocado, carrots, taboulleh and labneh (far side). While cucumber slices topped with tzatziki is another refreshing delight.

For dessert, they presented us with pita topped with fig jam, mint and feta cheese.

Oh, and they did serve their famous crispy cauliflower aka Najib's Special - cauliflower tossed in lemon and sea salt and topped with tahini. This dish went out so fast I didn't bother snapping a photo at this point.

Thanks to the Nuba team who prepared hard for this event and definitely gave more than 100% to make it memorable.

Nuba (3rd) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I've always enjoyed the service tendered by the Glowbal Restaurant Group restaurants. Coast Restaurant is no exception.

1054 Alberni St
Vancouver, BC V6E 1A3
Telephone: 604.685.5010
Hours: M-Th (11.30am-1am); Fri (11.30am-2am); Sat (4.30pm-2am); Sun (4.30pm-1am)

Food: 8/10
Service: 10/10
Ambiance: 9/10
Pricing: $$$$ (expect to fork out at least $50 per head)

Pros: Great quality of service that I've come to expect from the Glowbal Restaurant Group; Decent pricing; Good  ambiance
Cons: Taste and cooking quality varies

Overall Rating: 9/10

Coast on Urbanspoon

Ever since Coast Restaurant relocated from Yaletown to the business district, it's been getting much attention and the influx of patrons (locals and celebrities) isn't losing steam anytime soon.

I always make it a point to go early and even off-hours when I go to a place. That way the restaurant staff can focus their attention on the few patrons and you get to leave as soon as the crowd has built up and the noise level elevated. This is especially true if a restaurant is getting much attention. I'm not there to people-watch. I'm there to enjoy the food.

Going early for dinner, we were able to get a nice location. In this case, we were the first patrons to be brought upstairs and have a nice table at the second floor overlooking the ground level where we get to see the unique circular bar incorporating the fresh seafood.

Once we placed our orders, more utensils are brought in to match the dish.

While waiting for our food to arrive, I was able to get a sneak at the open part of the kitchen where I was beginning to salivate what they were preparing which tempted me to want to order even more.

With no one else dining on the second floor, it also gave me the opportunity look around and appreciate the dark ambient lighting without annoying other patrons who may mistake that I'm staring at them or looking at what they're eating.

If you've been dining at other Glowbal Restaurants, you know you can amass a collection of free teasers and samplers before your real appie arrives. They gave us a taste of their flat bread. By the way, Coast Restaurant does not offer a serving of bread which you would normally associate in dining places like these. I don't mind because I prefer to have each dish represent it's most basic mark-up cost rather than pad it even more to shoulder the cost of a bread basket and butter. Which means if you want bread, you may as well order their flat bread which ranges from $14 - $17 depending if you feel like having prawns, salmon or lobster on it. If you think a whole order is too much for the amount especially with the amount of dishes you've already ordered, then that's where the tear-apart coupon comes in.

Bear with me with this soup photo. It isn't photogenic, but it does look and taste better than what you're seeing right now. I have limited lighting on hand. I'm sure we've all had New England (cream base) $8.00 and Manhattan (tomato base) $8.00 chowder versions. So if you want soup, I would suggest trying their "Coast signature item" instead which is the Smoked Local Fish chowder $9.00 and incorporates cold smoked fish ingredients as well as honey mussels and bacon. It's a good twist to a classic New England chowder favourite.

I'm a calamari lover. I'll order it at any restaurant when I see it on their menu especially when I dine at an Italian or Chinese restaurant. If you serve calamari and you announce it as your specialty then be prepared to ensure it tastes better and unique. Another "Coast signature item" is their Buttermilk Battered Calamari ($13.00) which comes with a smoked garlic aioli dip.

I was so excited for this dish that I was only set up for disappointment. The delicate buttermilk batter did nothing for me and was just falling apart. I needed something hefty to stand up to the calamari. While the "smoked" aioli really just tasted like mayonnaise. I didn't taste the garlic nor any smoky flavour. The most disappointing aspect was the rubbery calamari itself which happens when it's over-cooked. Someone in the kitchen doesn't know how to cook calamari. It has to be cooked for a very short time over high heat. Maybe since I was one of the early dinner patrons, the oil wasn't hot enough that rather than flash deep frying the calamari, they left it longer to make up for the low heat. I don't know. It's still no excuse for calamari of this quality and for a restaurant which announces the dish to be one of it's specialty.

Good thing one of the restaurant manager checked up on our table and I told him about the rubbery calamari. I told him it was still edible but disappointing in quality because it was supposed to be a signature item. Another restaurant manager was called in to which I explained I'm not making a big deal of it and told him the same thing that it was edible, but for a signature item it shouldn't have been rubbery, but that they didn't have to do anything or remove it from our bill since I will munch on it. He insisted to please us and removed the calamari from our bill. This is why I appreciate dining at any of the GRG restaurants. They have people that take care of the overall dining aspect.

They call it "steamers" on their menu, but I refer to it as Moule Frites since that's exactly how they serve it. We chose The Classic Mussels ($17.00) with a simple broth of Chardonnay, garlic,  leeks and Italian parsley. I wanted to enjoy the taste of the mussels itself. This one did not disappoint. In fact it was everything I expected it to be.

Did you think I would forget to mention the "frites" portion? Never. I always have my french fries cooked well done for that excellent crispy texture to contrast against the soft, tender and juicy mussels. Do you see how well done my fries look? Yum!

I think they should offer an optional side of garlic baguettes so I can soak up the mussel broth like other restaurants are offering. Just saying.

Yes, it's too dark as the ambient light was changing. Can you guess? Sushi! In this case Eel & BBQ Salmon Roll $12.00. Another Coast signature dish and one that incorporated avocado and Sake BBQ sauce. Everything was soft and fresh down to the rice. I like how it was served on a slab of marble. Down to the presentation, it was indeed a classic fusion dish.

You think I'd skip dessert? No, sir. Here's their Warm Apple Turnover $8.00 with spiced apple cider and dolce de leche. Definitely a winner.

I enjoyed how it was presented on a small cast iron dish which kept it warm.

Oh, you thought I was done with dessert? How can you resist wanting to try out a Molten Banana Coconut Cake $8.00 that needed a ten-minute bake time? You get caramelized bananas and a side of coconut crème anglaise.

Make no mistake. This is a soufflé. To best enjoy, I break apart the soft centre and pour the warm sauce so the cake is sweet and moist. Together, this was pure dessert bliss.

I will be back.