Romer's Burger Bar

We were in the neighbourhood to catch a movie at the nearby Fifth Avenue, so we decided to pay a visit to Romer's Burger Bar, a relatively new burger joint in Kits. Being in the neighbourhood, we could have easily gone for a more healthy option, but we wanted a really good burger.

The decor is dark, with deep red booths, high tables with bar stools, and lots of mirrors. Cozy nightclub vibe, if you prefer.

Romer's burgers are purportedly gourmet, with natural, free-range local meats. One advantage to the set up of the menu is that the burgers are sold alone, without any sides. This gives the customer the option of choosing their various sides, which range from fries, to onion rings, to veggies and salads.

The bad news is that for a single burger here (priced from $9 - $20), you're more or less paying for the price of a full meal at any other burger joint.  The sides range from $3 - $8, so a whole plate does add up. But if the burger is good, it's worth it, right?

I ordered the 'Wicked Deadly Cheeseburger' ($11) which was topped with five types of cheese, onion, greens, and a Russian tarragon dressing. This was good, except that the only cheese you could taste was the goat cheese. Perhaps this was a proportion problem or the nature of the goat cheese itself, but I couldn't tell you what other cheeses were in that burger. The burger was an okay goat cheese burger, though I wasn't terribly blown away. Yes, the bun was nicely toasted and had a sumptuous softness, but the meat was a little dry, overdone, and really under seasoned.

Being a man, Shane felt it appropriate to order the 'Man's Man Burger' ($11), with bacon, cheddar, onion strings and tomato. This was also okay - the onions added a nice crunchy texture, but the problem again was the overdone meat and the lack of seasoning in the meat. There were no meat juices dripping on to the plate, you know?

Of course we had to try the poutine ($8). This was a terrible disappointment. The fries were crisp enough, but the problem was with two of the three components: gravy and curds. The gravy was quite minimal and bland, more of a drizzle than the more appropriate puddle. The cheese curds were also minimal and lacked that pleasant toothy squeak. The whole dish was weirdly un-hot (not a real word, but appropriate for this occasion).

For dessert, we tried the apple pie ($6), which arrived with a side of mascarpone cream. The pie was another disappointment, a bland, cold disappointment; the crust was thin and more chewy than flaky, and the apple filling was just standard. By far, the best part of the dish was the generous dollop of mascarpone.

By the end of our meal, we sad to have spent so much money on a burger joint. It could have been so good. But we just wanted to turn back time at that point.

Romer's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Crow & Gate Pub (outside Nanaimo)

Although we have family in Nanaimo, Shane and I rarely eat out in the area. However, we did hear about this English style pub called the Crow & Gate pub that was nearby, so we decided to pay a visit when we were out their with my mom.  The restaurant itself is outside of the Nanaimo area, and is actually located in Cedar. It's definitely located in the middle of nowhere, and the entrance is not very noticeable. The pub itself is impressive; it's almost like you were driving into a Tudor estate, with immaculately green lawns, and distinctive white and dark-beamed buildings.

Surprisingly for a mid-afternoon, the place was packed. The interiors were what you may expect in an old English pub: lots of beams, dark wood, benches, and a real crackling fireplace. Very cozy.

The menu itself was small and written on a chalkboard. Like a lot of pubs, you seat yourself and order at the bar. The food then will be brought to your table. The menu items were reasonable, though not cheap; soups were under $8 and mains were from $10 - $14. I was disappointed to see non-traditional English stuff on their menu, but I suppose this reflects what the people demand.

My mom ordered the Boston clam chowder, which arrived in a large, flat bowl with a couple of slices of bread and butter. This soup was really good - creamy, rich, and with a really nice clam flavour.

Shane ordered the quiche of the day, which arrived with a side of green salad, potato salad, and some bread. The quiche was pretty good - creamy and cheesy, with a tender though somewhat limp crust, it certainly wasn't the best quiche either of us had ever had.

I ordered the bratwurst pub plate, which had two sausages, the same side salad and potato salad, roll, and inexplicably, a long strip of cheese. I wasn't bowled over by the sausages, to be honest. It was a tad salty and plain tasting. I am not a fan of sweet salad dressings, so did not like their house dressing at all. The potato salad was also heavy on the mayo and a tad sweet as well.

I was also bothered a little by the fact that everyone had the exact same plate (side salad, potato salad, roll), despite the difference in the orders. This probably eases the work of the kitchen, but it would be nice if they put in a little more effort.

That being said, we would definitely come back, just because of the setting and environment of the pub. The place has a wonderful feel. Plus, they do sell the most wonderful beer and ciders on tap.

Crow & Gate Pub on Urbanspoon

Rebar Modern Food (Victoria)

On a recent visit to Victoria we visited Rebar Modern Food, one of the most famous vegetarian eateries on the West Coast (heck, they even have a cookbook!). I have heard many raves about the place from people I know. Despite the fact that I'm a die-hard omnivore, I do appreciate vegetarian cooking.

The restaurant is located right downtown Victoria, in the Bastion Square area. It's a little hidden because the restaurant is somewhat below ground. Inside, the surroundings are quite lovely and warm with bright walls, colourful tablecloths, and various knick knacks (plastic godzilla, anyone?). We were greeted warmly at the door and we were free to choose any table we liked.

For breakfast, I chose the 'Migas' ($13), which was eggs scrambled with peppers, cilantro and topped with tortilla strips and a salsa verde. The scramble came with pan-fried red potatoes, toast, and homemade jam and ketchup. This was just okay - it needed a bit more seasoning, and could have used quite a bit more kick to the salsa and scramble itself. The potatoes didn't have the best texture and could have used a dash of salt. However, the bread, jam and spicy ketchup were fantastic.

To be honest, I was much more impressed by what Shane ordered. He got the wild mushroom omelette with spinach and chevre ($12), which came with the same potatoes, toast, jam, and ketchup. This was delicious; the mushrooms had a perfect earthly flavour, and was complemented by the tart creaminess of the goat cheese.

For the first time at Rebar, it was a pretty enjoyable experience. The atmosphere is great, and while the food is a little pricey, the quality ingredients definitely make up for it. We will have to come back for a deeper look at the menu.

Rebar Modern Food on Urbanspoon

Meat & Bread

Sigh. There are a million blog reviews of Meat & Bread on Urbanspoon, so why even bother writing about the place?

Well...because it's really damn good! Meat & Bread is one of those new restaurants with a really simple concept: really good sandwiches, and quality ingredients. Their location at Hastings and Cambie is utterly perfect for me - literally a five minute walk from work, which is a good and bad thing. So this review is cobbled together from three separate visits, and these occasions made me like the place even more.

First of all, how cool is the menu? Small menu, with limited choices, which is a really good thing (they do have two staples: the porchetta sandwich and the grilled cheese). The whole restaurant has a modern / retro feel that makes one feel a little nostalgic.

Look at those wooden floors! There is very limited seating here; aside from a few tables near the front of the restaurant, the place features a big, stainless steel communal table (hi, neighbour!).

Along the side are water jugs, glasses and napkins, along with an impressive wall of condiments for sale: mustard, sambal, and salt. The whole thing is beautifully composed.

This the beauty shot. That is the porchetta - free-range pork rolled with herbs and topped with golden crackling, surrounded by piles of ciabatta buns.

Here is the porchetta sandwich ($8), pork with salsa verde and bits of crackling. The first bite was heavenly, and heaven just went on and on, with tender, well-seasoned, juicy pork and the surprise crunch of fatty skin. Can I confess that I would like to munch on a bag of those cracklings?

The salsa verde didn't do much for me, however, and it made the bun a little soggy at times.  The sandwich  is served with a dollop of delicious mustard, and a surprisingly tasty sambal sauce. To be honest, the sandwich reminded me exactly of the one I had at a Tuscan market in Italy, which I remember as one of the best meals I've ever had.

On another visit, I tried the meatball sandwich ($7), which didn't consist of whole meatballs, but more of crushed variety. While the meat wasn't spectacularly flavourful, the sauce had a nice spiciness and the sandwich had a nice layer of Romano (?) cheese. It was a comforting dish.

A friend of mine had the grilled cheese ($7), consisting of Gruyere (I think the cheese changes) and onions. She liked it a lot. She also had a side of tomato soup, which she also liked. However, I must say that the sides, at $4 for a small bowl, is not the best deal.

The restaurant also boasts quite an unusual dessert: maple bacon ice cream sandwich. It's served between two thin waffle wafers. It was quite good, though not mind-blowing. The bacon goes surprisingly well with ice cream and lends a chewy texture amidst the creaminess.

Meat & Bread is a great addition to the neighbourhood. The focus of the menu is impressive, and so is the whole look and feel of the place. I must, however, refrain from visiting too often. Porchetta is not a friend to my health!

Meat & Bread on Urbanspoon

An Update, A Fork

from Song Dong's 'Waste Not' at the VAG

Sometimes, silence is good. Silence means thinking, or being busy, or just feeling like doing nothing much. 

I've been thinking about this blog a lot, how sometimes it just feels weird writing non-food related stuff on here. I mean, who cares about that other stuff, right? Plus there just seems to be an out-of-nowhere quality when a post about craft or art pops up. So upon long reflection, there will be changes to this blog - mainly a separation of sorts. I've decided that Oh My Calico would be just about food (cooking, restaurant reviews and such), and a new blog, called The Forgotten Thing, will be about other stuff.

If you are curious, come over for a visit.

Bo Laksa King's Bubbles and Bits

Since last year or so, we have heard lots about Bo Laksa King, ever since Chowtimes reviewed their first location on Joyce Street. Chowtimes raved about the food and many bloggers followed with great praise and many reviews. A visit to Bo Laska had been on my list for quite a while, especially since we learned that the chef and owner is from Burma, which is where my family is originally from.

We were in the neighbourhood of their second (and now only) location on Hastings Street, and decided to finally pop in. I must say, the exterior did nothing for the place, with the broken 'Open' neon sign and many pictures of bubble tea. In fact, without knowledge of Bo Laksa, I would hardly know that real food was actually served there.

The interior is simple and utilitarian, with black plastic tables and chairs and dark teal walls. When we arrived for an early lunch, we were the only customers there and this felt a little awkward.

We were pleased to see a number of Burmese dishes on the menu, but we decided to go the non-Burmese route, to save comparisons with my mother's cooking. We ordered the chicken satay, which arrived in a rather impressive arrangement, with 3 skewers arranged tee-pee style on the plate with sides of rice and peanut sauce. The chicken itself was pretty good, with a nice grilled taste. However, the peanut sauce was a little on the sweet side, without the balance of spicy and savory. As an appetizer, we were very impressed by the size of the dish.

Here is their famous laksa ($7.50). This came in a huge bowl filled with tofu puffs, shrimp, fishball, chicken, beansprouts, and a whole boiled egg. You had a choice of yellow egg noodles or the rice vermicelli, and I got the vermicelli. The noodles were well cooked, not too soft, and the soup had a nice coconut creaminess. However, I felt that it was lacking a little in spice; the soup was very mild. I also though that the soup could have used a bit more salt, because it tasted a little bland.

Shane ordered the Mee Goreng, a Malaysian fried noodle dish. I heard that the owner's wife was Malaysian, so we had great expectations of this. Unfortunately, this was the weirdest Mee Goreng I'd ever tasted. The noodles had a sauce all over it, and it was extremely sweet. I'm not sure what happened, but it was really bad.

So our first experience with Bo Laksa was a rather mixed one; I must confess that I left the restaurant a little let down. Perhaps my expectations were too high? Nevertheless, we are willing to return, if only to try the Burmese dishes, which will be the ultimate test.

(Bo Laksa King's) Bubbles and Bits on Urbanspoon