Midam Rice Cake House

After our meal at Bool Chul Pan, Ana and Kay wanted to take us to a Korean dessert place that they had recently discovered. It's located in the same plaza on North Road, but on the lower level, tucked in an obscure corner. To be honest, we wouldn't really know that this place was there if we weren't led to it. Incidentally, you can find some reviews from other bloggers here and here.

As we entered the restaurant, I was surprised at how spacious and large the restaurant was; the place was bright with florescent light and had high ceilings and a number of dark wooden tables and chairs. Off to the side, there is a glass enclosed display of miniatures and various rice cakes that people could order before hand for a special occasion.

As we sat, we were given an extensive dessert menu. Even though we just had a large meal, we still decided on a dessert each. They all ranged from $6-9 dollars, and are HUGE.

Kay got a persimmon slush, and this tasted exactly like the fruit. It was light and refreshing.

I had the green tea ice cream and rice cake. This came with a side of sweet beans and a drizzling of strawberry sauce. I enjoyed this--the ice cream went well with the rice cake. However, I would say that because the rice cake was this huge slab at the bottom, the dessert was a little heavy and hard to get into.

Shane ordered the coffee and red bean slush. This arrived in a huge pile in a really big bowl. Quite impressive. First there is the huge pile of shaved ice and coffee, then the sweet red bean, then the ice cream. Around this mountain were small pieces of plain rice cake. I'd never seen anything like it. Taste-wise, this was interesting. The rice cake pieces were soft and chewy, the coffee-soaked ice crunchy, bitter and cold, the red bean sweet and yielding, and the ice cream cold, sweet and creamy. It was an unusual and exciting experience.

Ana had a similar dessert, the red bean slush. It was pretty similar to the one above, except that her rice cakes were coated with a peanut powder, which gave the rice cake a subtly sweet, nutty flavour. Of all the desserts, I liked this one the best.

We were also given complementary little rice cakes with a sweet filling. We all thought that was a nice touch.

I can honestly say that this was one of the most unusual desserts I've ever tried. It was fun and really eye-opening. We would definitely come back for more of the chewy, tender, rice cakes!

Midam Rice Cake House on Urbanspoon

Bool Chul Pan Korean Hot Grill

On our morning walks, we often pass by the complex on North Road, which houses a big Korean supermarket and a generous handful of Korean restaurants. The supermarket has always been our destination for seasoned nori, delicious kimbap, and Korean/Japanese goods. A few months ago, we noticed this new Korean restaurant with a large yellow sign, but we always passed it by (out of respect for the dear departed Thai Son location, maybe).

A couple of months ago, I ran across this first review from Chow Times and another rave review from 604 Foodtography, and I have been curious ever since.

Two weeks ago we went with a couple of friends, Ana and Kay. It's always a little daunting to go to a new place, but thankfully, our friends are Korean and knew what they were doing, so we left everything up to them.

We arrived at around 6pm on a weekday, so there weren’t too many customers yet. The restaurant itself is large and dimly lit, simply decorated, and filled with solid wooden tables and chairs.

Incidentally, our friends had been to the restaurant before and weren't impressed. One of the reasons was the really poor banchan. There was the usual stewed potato, blanched and seasoned sprouts, kimchi, pickled turnips and pickled veggies. The dishes were not too tasty, I'll admit.

We decided to share the combination dinner ($39.99) which came with tofu soup, seafood pancake, and a panfried item. There was a choice of which kind of item we wanted, and we decided on the squid and pork belly.

First arrived the tofu soup. It was pretty good--the broth had a nice spicy saltiness and the tofu was soft and delicate. We all liked this, except for Kay who detected that the tofu might have been slightly off. The rest of us were oblivious to this, however.

The seafood pancake, though quite large, was a big disappointment. The pancake was flat, soggy, and barely cooked in the middle. The taste was very bland, and wasn't even helped by the accompanying sauce.

Next came the main item, which arrived on a burner in a huge rectangular metal pan, which was loaded with cabbage, onion, squid, pork, and spicy chili sauce. The server started frying up the food in front of us, which was really interesting. However, after about a minute of this, she left us to our own devices. We asked our friends about this type of restaurant and they said it was pretty common in Korea, except that it's more of a dish that you have when you're out drinking.

This was good, though none of us loved it. Basically, it's not really a dish that you can screw up. The pork didn't have much taste, and the cabbage included the core. Hmmm. The great thing was there was a lot of food. It really boggles the eye to see this huge amount of food at your table, you know?

We knew there was supposed to be fried rice after we ate most of the stuff, but we had to wait a real long time. This was weird because we were about the only people eating at the restaurant at the time. Anyway, we called them, and the rice was fried in the same metal pan, and it soaked up most of the left over sauce. The rice just tasted okay.

We had another long wait for our bill. At the end of the meal, we all were very full, but none of us had that happy feeling that accompanies a really good meal. But at least the company was good!

Bool Chul Pan Korean Hot Grill on Urbanspoon

A Message from Pique

Merry Christmas...

...and Happy Holidays!

Little Brown Bear

This is a new bear that I finished crocheting yesterday, just in time for gift giving. He's a little smaller than Mr. Blue Bear, but he's made of really nice 100% Peruvian wool and a small batch of Noro Silk Garden.

He is a gift for Shane's grandmother, to add to her stuffed menagerie.

This is what he looked like before he was sewed together.

Christmas Knitting!

The pre-Christmas time hasn't been too stressful for me, partly because I started knitting my presents over the summer! It seemed a little absurd to be knitting in August, but it sure has paid off. It's brilliant--we haven't fought crowds at shopping malls or stressed about what to get everybody.

This is a little peak at the scarves I knitted as presents. I hope people like them!

Belgian Fries

Some people think of poutine and they're disgusted...fries, gravy AND cheese curds? Some people think of poutine and probably picture a bowlful of fat or the culinary representation of a heart attack. Not me! I love poutine. It is probably one of the most comforting and satisfying foods for me. Now, if I could eat really good poutine everyday without any consequences, I would! Of course, it's really hard to find a good poutine place, especially in Vancouver.

So, a few hours after Harambe, we weren't exactly hungry, but I wanted to try Belgian Fries, since were were on the Drive, and Belgian Fries is believed by a lot of people to have the best poutine in the city. We had been before, when they just were in a little hole in the wall on the same street. They have really expanded, now occupying a really large space with lots of seating and a flat screen TV showing the Food Network. The new digs are impressive, and the goldenrod walls give the interior a sunshine-y feeling. The place was really busy, as was expected.

We shared a classic large poutine ($6.99) and Shane had a beer. Now, they have many variations on the poutine on their menu (like Monteal Smoked Beef Poutine, and Chicken Steak Poutine), but I really prefer the classic. It arrived in a large bowl, the fries, gravy and curds piled up like a mountain. Steam was rising from it. It looked spectacular.

Of course there are the three components one must evaluate: fries, curds and gravy. The fries here at Belgian fries are quite good, though not the best I've had. However, they were golden, and crunchy--more than adequate.

The curds were really good. They were melty, but still had that necessary 'squeak' when you bit into them. It's also crucial that the curds were interspersed throughout the fries, and not just put on top. They did this right, because you didn't have the problem of getting to the bottom of the bowl and just finding fries and gravy. This way, you have each of the three component in every bite, and there was a range of melted-ness to the curds, which gave the textural variety. These were probably the best curds I've had in Vancouver.

However, where the poutine fails is the mushroom gravy (which makes this dish vegetarian). It had a really nice colour and consistency, but it was bland, and tasted artificial. This was not good, as gravy is really crucial. But this gravy definitely let the dish down. This was what I remembered too, from the last time we were there.

The poutine at Belgian Fries is not bad, but it's not the greatest either. It was a satisfying meal, and very affordable. But it could have been really, really good. Nevertheless, this place has its fans, and that's great. But me, I'm still looking for a really, really great poutine....

Belgian Fries on Urbanspoon


During our visit to Commercial Drive, we decided to have lunch at Harambe Cafe, an Ethiopian restaurant right on Commerical Drive (at 6th). This was our first visit to the restaurant, though we had eaten Ethiopian once before, years ago.

You really can't miss the restaurant, with its bumblebee colours; inside, the interior was just as colourful, with orange walls, blue table cloth, and lots of thriving green plants. It doesn't feel like a fine dining restaurant or a hipster hang, but the restaurant is humble and is itself, you know? The place felt very vibrant, warm and alive.

For drinks, Shane, out of form, ordered the Ethiopian coffee. Now for those not familiar with Ethiopian coffee, it's dark and strong like expresso, and doesn't come with cream, for those of you who like their coffee light. It was good, not bitter at all.

I had their spiced tea, which arrived with cinammon scented water and a tea bag. This was lovely: light tasting, spicy, and beautifully fragrant.

We shared the vegetarian platter ($19.99). The food came on a round, massive metal platter. Most conveniently, there were two mounds of each type of food. As is the Ethopian tradition, the little curries and food arrived atop a layer of injera bread. We were also given a side of rolled up injera bread, which was springy, spongey, and had a soft texture. It tasted a little like sourdough, with a nice tang. Of course, there were no utensils, because we were supposed to eat with our hands. For some people, this might seem weird, but it's really quite fun. In Thailand, we eat with our hands a lot, though we use spoon and fork most of the time.

It's a little hard to describe every component of the dish, because I didn't take note which was which, but everything was delicious. There were 4 types of lentil stews, Gomen (a spinach dish), a steamed (?) cabbage dish, and a kind of assorted vegetable stew. In the middle was a refreshing salad. The dishes ranged in spiciness, with the one of the red lentil dishes having the most spice, and the yellow lentil dish being mild and really flavourful. The spinach dish was complex and had great flavour. It was such a fun experience tearing off a piece of injera, and picking up a bit of stew and popping that into your mouth. This was a lot of food. We managed to eat most of it, including some of the injera foundation, but we could not finish it all.

We were really full. This was a great experience. Sharing of the platter and eating with our hands make the dining experience a much more communal one, which is what eating together should be, right? The moment you step into this restaurant, you feel transported to a different land. The music, warm colours, and the friendly service make Harambe a beautiful respite from the greyness of Vancouver.

Harambe on Urbanspoon

Commercial Drive

Since the forecast was for clear skies, yesterday we took the skytrain to Commerical Drive. This area is a really vibrant area of Vancouver, with lots of Italian markets, cafes, and stores.

This is the mural that sort of marks the entry into the neighborhood. This particular mural is relatively recent, and I like its subdued, old-fashioned quality; it sort of reminds me a little of some of Edward Hopper's paintings of lonely, uninhabited towns.

One of the reasons we ventured into the Drive that day was to pay a visit to Fratelli, the Italian bakery. This time of year they make the best fruitcakes. I hated fruitcake when I was a kid, and am really not so fond of them now, but the version from Fratelli's is a divine creation. Each piece is moist, not cloyingly sweet, and chock-a-block full of quality dried fruit and nuts. So delicious. They are a little expensive--each small block 2 inches to 5 inches square is about $5. But damn, are they worth it.

Right next door to Fratelli's is La Grotta Del Formaggio, which has great sandwiches and lots of Italian products. We picked up some olives and Italian prosciutto. Also below is a stick of crusty bread from Fratelli's. That was last night's dinner.

I do like little boxes tied up with string.

Inside are 2 cannoli, which actually look more like cream horns to me. Inside is custard cream. This was really nice: crispy, flaky, and with a not-too-sweet filling.

Sushi California

Sushi California is one of our neighborhood joints, a place to go when you're hungry and looking for generous portions at a decent price. It sits in the same complex as Lu Lu Cafe, on the corner of North Road and Lougheed. As usual, the restaurant was very busy, but our service was efficient and brisk.

We ordered a few items, hot and cold. The first was the tako yaki ($3.75), which are five grilled balls of dough with octopus pieces in it. The dish arrived topped with fluttering flakes of bonito and drizzles of japanese mayo and katsu sauce. This was delicious; the tako yaki were soft and had a near custardy feel, and the octopus was pleasantly chewy and gave a nice, contrasting texture. We enjoyed this a lot.

Next was the assorted tempura ($7.95). The pieces were crunchy and piping hot, but it was pretty standard, like anything you would get at any Japanese restaurant.

We also had few pieces of salmon, unagi, and tako nigiri sushi. The salmon pieces were fresh, and so large that it overlapped over the rice; this was tender and pretty good. The unagi also were tasty, though not as melt in your mouth as those from Fuji Sushi's. The tako was tender enough, but lacked that sweet from-the-sea flavour that you would ideally get.

The last thing we shared was the spicy combo ($7.95), which came with spicy tuna maki, kappa maki, and marinated pieces of tuna and cucumber in a sweet chili sauce. The spicy tuna was great, with large tuna pieces and a generous addition of hot sauce. The marinated tuna was quite spicy, but was a little to sweet for my liking. Nevertheless, it went well with the cucumber maki, which cleansed and cooled the taste buds.

Sushi California is really about the portions and the generous slices of fish. The quality isn't the best, and the food is not made with tremendous care, but the restaurant is affordable and always popular with the locals.

Sushi California on Urbanspoon

Shutter Island

Ok, I confess: the first time I'd heard of this work was by seeing the trailer of Shutter Island in the movie theatre. It looked creepy and pretty awesome. The setting, an island prison, kind of reminded me of Alcatraz (the highlight of our SF trip last winter), and the period was a little Mad Men-ish.

So I was a more than a little surprised when Shane brought home this book Shutter Island from the library! It's a book? Huh? So the book came first, and the author, Dennis Lehane, is pretty damn famous, having written other books that became movie adaptations, such as Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone.

You know how some books you sip like fine wine, savouring the taste and the swishes in your mouth? Well this one is decidedly a piping hot pizza loaded with cheese that you just devour in a few minutes. It's a page turner, grips you and compels you to read it to the end. I finished this book in about 2 days, and it even made me miss my skytrain stop (by three stops!) while I was reading it.

It's set in the late 50's, and is about a Marshall who is sent to the prison island to investigate a missing female prisoner. But the prison is also a pyschiatric hospital, filled with people who have done the worst crimes, and who are extremely dangerous and unbalanced. It becomes clear that the place is not exactly what it seems....

It's a story full of twists, and the book takes really unexpected turns. A recommended thriller, especially if you're in the mood for something lighter that will pass the time in a snap.

Lu Lu Cafe

If you live in the Lower Mainland, you’ll have noticed that November was a particularly wet month...as in days and days of darkness and rain. So far December has been grand—cold days with a brightness people haven’t experienced in weeks. Saturday was beautiful and sunny. We started off with some yoga at home, and went for a walk along the river, where we glimpsed a blue heron hunching on a branch above the water.

For lunch we opted for one of those places we’ve walked past but never visited, Lu Lu Cafe. It’s on the corner of Lougheed and North road, at a little mini complex that also houses one of our regular eats, Sushi California. I suppose the reason we’d never been to Lu Lu is that everytime we’d walk past there, then walked past Sushi California, we’d always see so many more people at the Japanese place than at Lu Lu’s, and that would tip our feet in the direction of the Sushi place.

We decided to go there that Saturday afternoon, around 4pm. Being quite a weird eating time, the restaurant was entirely empty and we ended up being the only customers at the restaurant. The interior is comfortably basic, with warm pumpkin coloured walls and orange light fixtures. Needless to say, we were served right away.

We weren't particularly hungry, so we opted for a couple of lighter dishes. One was the spicy green bean (around 8 bucks); we'd actually ordered the kind with pork, but the vegetarian one was served to us instead. Despite the wrong order, the beans were tasty, with tiny pieces of garlic coating the bean, which were cooked but still crunchy. It wasn't at all spicy, however.

We also shared the fried rice with diced chicken and salted fish (around 8 bucks), a choice which was inspired by a blog I read, Chowtimes (regular readers of this blog will know what I'm talking about). Shane isn't a big fan of salted fish, but he still found the fried rice to be pretty good. The rice wasn't too greasy, and every grain of rice was nice and distict. There were big pieces of chicken, and tiny bits of salted fish, which I particularly enjoyed. The salted fish reminded me so much of my childhood, because every once in a while my dad would bake one of those things and stink up the whole house! Something that salty is so good with rice.

So that's it, a little nibble of the menu. This was our first time at Lu Lu, but we will surely return. The food is decent, portions generous, and the prices are really good.

Lu Lu Cafe on Urbanspoon

Cactus Club Cafe - Lougheed

We wanted a quick meal before catching a movie at the nearbly theatre, so we opted for the Cactus Club, since Shane had never been, and I'd only been once before years and years ago. What I remember from my visit last time wasn't the food, but their roomy and high tech bathrooms (rotating plastic toilet seat covers, step flusher, and roomy stalls = awesome). Anyway, I'm not so fond of chain restaurants where their hiring policy seems to include dress size and cuteness, you know?

Check out the exterior. It's kind of Gothic, and rather kitchy. The interior is kind of similar, with art and chandeliers mixed with wide screen TVs--very anachronistic. Cheesy post-modern?

The restaurant was crowded when we arrived, and we had to wait for about 10 minutes for a table. We were seated at a huge booth that could've fit about eight people, even though we were just two. That was pretty neat. One thing though--the place is loud. Music, people talking--it's like eating at a night club or something.

For food, we opted to share a couple of the 'Rob Feenie' dishes. The first one was the short rib sandwich ($15.25), and I substituted their yam fries. The short rib sandwhich came with caramelized onions, and also came with chipotle aioli and beef jus. Ok, to be honest, when this arrived, I was a little disappointed at the size. The sandwich seemed really small. In terms of taste, the short rib was pretty darn tasty--the meat was tender and braised really well. The caramelized onion was a great addition. The only thing I didn't like about this was the type of bread used--it seemed way to thin and puny to hold up to such a big taste (especially to be eaten dipped in the jus). The yam fries were okay; for some reason it didn't taste 'yam-y' enough.

We also shared "The Burger" ($14.50), which came with cheddar, bacon, mushroom, and red pepper relish. The burger was good, though it was quite messy. Nothing really stood out to elevate it to next level of burgers, but it was an enjoyable meal. I can definitely say that relish made the burger stand out a little from the crowd, but it felt a little too much--perhaps there were too many components? Having tasted Rob Feenie's original burger at his "Feenie's" next to Lumiere a while back, this burger is not in the same range in quality. Perhaps it's not fair to compare, since they are/were not the same type of restaurant, but he has his name on it, right? So I would say "the Burger" is a good burger...for a chain restaurant.

I don't think I'd come here again, even though the food was tasty enough. For some reason, I'm not sure I enjoyed the whole Cactus Club experience. A lot of people do, so good for them. Sail on....

Cactus Club Cafe on Urbanspoon