The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 170,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 3 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!
888 Nelson Street
With shrinking domestic markets and consumption, combined with growing awareness and demands overseas, we’re seeing more new entrants in various industries reach our borders. Rumors of Japan’s massive clothing retailer Uniqlo apparently coming soon to Vancouver is one. American’s Target and Nordstrom are also prime examples. And the focus of this piece, the 600+ strong (in Japan) yakiniku chain Gyu-Kaku has steadily made its way with outposts in Asia and the US. Canada was chosen as their beachhead into Canada, specifically downtown Vancouver.
Having been to several of their locations in Japan over the years on lazy meal nights when I was craving meat, news of Gyu-Kaku’s arrival in Vancouver personally didn’t excite me a great deal. Its like a Vancouverite getting excited about a Cactus Club visit I suppose. When its around you and very ubiquitous, the allure is simply not as high. So my eventual visit was even a random, impromptu one just last week. I came away from the dinner pleased overall and with no major complaints and with a clear understanding it can’t be 100% replicated overseas. From the very full room on a rainy, mid-week evening, its clear they have established a solid clientele already. Kudos!
WordPress, the host of our online presence, has provided us with an annual summary of key activity here on foodosophy that we thought would be interesting to share with our readership.
To begin, overall it was a lighter year for us in terms of fresh posts, with just 74 new individual entries published during the year. Interestingly, the most popular post was from two years ago, on the unusual McLobster report provided by contributor o-toro. Other top viewed posts were those on MRKT (Market) Restaurant – Edmonton, AB, Omakase at Kimura – Vancouver, BC, Longview Steakhouse – Longview, AB, and Foodosophy of Pink Burgers in Vancouver, BC.
4501 North Road
Not too long ago, Don’sta existed in this very same location, offering some of the very same kind of dishes. I’d noticed that it soon changed its sign not too long after that visit that I reported on. Initially I thought it was just a simple re-branding, but upon checking it out, I saw it was much more than that. The proprietors seemed to have changed, along with a total re-work of the interior and a greater focused menu. Simple put, it appeared more “professional”. I’ve not gone to their other location downtown, but Dae Ji now has outlet number two.
With Korean-style fried pork cutlets taking center stage alone (no sign of the pasta that existed in the previous incarnation) on the menu now, there were a few twists like the option to have a mixed plate if you will of a cutlet and a hamburger patty. A few variations exist in terms of the pork cutlet, as well such as a cheese, spicy cheese, even a kimchi infused one! The set menus offer more bang for the buck too, as you get a side of rice, a simple cabbage salad and a miso soup.
Calgary Hot Plate Restaurant
714-5075 Falconridge Blvd NE
“Kebab and naan,” he says, “that’s all I ever get”.
Just that alone got me to agree to having a quick dinner at this little place in the heart of Calgary’s East Indian community. Coming in from the bristling December winter cold, the aromas alone were a much needed welcome. Order at the counter, scan the specials board along with the regular menu sheet. Simple process and setup. Sit down and wait…
Out comes the warm square bowl of Chicken Qorma – with some good sized chunks of breast meat braised slowly in a combination of spices to create a velvety yogurt curry. A definitive spicy kick to this mixture, instantaneously you feel the heat rip across your tongue along with the intoxicating flavors. The accompanying huge plate-sized rounds of freshly made naan at first seem like a little much, but soon you’re ripping them apart and wondering if you might run out.
Maggiano’s Little Italy
3200 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
This gambling and entertainment mecca probably has the best and worst of what America has to offer from a culinary perspective. From absurdly priced, high end celebrity chef fronted establishments to the ultra cheap diners and fast food stands, there is no shortage of food in Las Vegas. It all depends on what you are wiling to pay, the level of your palate, and perhaps even the level of success (or lack of) you’ve had in the casinos.
Strangely enough, I’ve dined at Maggiano’s in an entirely different city – Orlando, FL, just last year. By chance, I came across it again on a hurried trip to the Fashion Mall to pick up something before jumping in a taxi to head to the airport and leave town. I had some mates in tow who were also in a rushed state to do some last minute shopping for the folks back home, and so we dipped in for a late lunch. As I wasn’t feeling overly hungry and did not want to feel bloated while sitting in an airplane for the next few hours, I chose just from the appetizers list.
Tealips Bubble Tea & Coffee
7139 Arcola Way
Offering a wide ranging menu of bubble teas, coffee, loose leaf tea, smoothies, shaved ice, waffles, and sandwiches, this hidden, out-of-the-way cafe in the Middlegate neighborhood of Burnaby has steadily built a strong following. Or so it seems on my visits there as its always got a steady number of customers inside. I suppose it benefits greatly from the steady stream of traffic to the nearby businesses, as well as the multiple condo towers that look down upon the building in which it is housed…
Tealips does have a slightly different premise compared to other bubble tea houses around town. For instance, the thing that struck me upon entering the doors was the more relaxed vibe and seating arrangement that sprawled out before my eyes. A lot more inviting as a result and the kind of place that makes you want to stick around. The crowd seemed to be dominated by younger couples or soloists who were clearly students cramming behind a heavy textbook or busy scanning the screen of their personal computer.
832 Cardero Street
It has been a few years now since I last visited this popular Korean lounge off one of the side streets of Robson. Hidden away from the main strip, its not always been on my radar so I was pleased to find Chungdam Ahn was still around after all this time. With a few boisterous friends in tow in search of some unique food and drink combinations, we headed to this part of Cardero Street and tucked inside to a pretty full room. With some lively music and a vibe that only excited, young twenty-somethings can bring to a place, it had all the markings of a good night to be had…
Fortunately, we were able to squeeze into the bigger corner table of the place, almost as if it was waiting for us all this time. Scanning around with my eyes, it was clear we weren’t the only group out for a hard night of eating and drinking, although there were some tables occupied just by couples on an evening out. A pair of female servers were buzzing from table to table, collecting orders and bringing out food from the kitchen area.
Cafe de l’Orangerie
8636 Granville Street
Sometimes location plays a crucial role in even picking a restaurant to go to. To expand upon this point, the establishment’s parking options, is a critical factor for me at times when deciding on one place versus another. Cafe de L’Orangerie falls into the difficult category as it is not in an ideal spot (accessible by only one direction of busy Granville Street) and the limited number of stalls in front that are shared by other businesses does not help matters. Despite all this, the good buzz that I’d heard about the French trained, Japanese owner/chef and the approachable menu they have here, led me to deal with the inconveniences of getting here and here’s my report of that visit…
Upon entering the doors, the scene that falls into your line of sight is one of a very simple soup-and-sandwich kind of place, along with a display case of desserts and pastries. I could see how it was straddling several lines, and perhaps serving a different clientele in the day as opposed to the dinner hours. It felt more “western” than anything else, but when you are seated and presented with the evening menu, you are quickly aware that there are some Japanese-influenced twists. And it was these that I was keen on trying.
The Publican Restaurant
845 W Fulton Market
American’s “Second City” (or more precisely O’Hare Airport) has always been just a transit hub for me over the years and a place I’ve never gotten a solid chance to freely explore. Even on my most recent stop, my venture out to the downtown core was limited to but a single evening. And amid a heavy wind storm and pouring rain my mood was pretty low, that was until I got to The Publican. Reservations recommended, otherwise you might have to wait a while at one of the standing tall tables with a drink before one becomes available.
Stepping inside from the torrential downpour was like entering a warm, inviting oasis complete with a happy, buzzing crowd that felt almost like its own little private party. The carefully designed layout of this beer-centric restaurant felt part Canadian farmhouse (with the rustic livestock holding pen-lookalikes near one wall that served as private booths, and part German beer hall with its really rigid lines, long communal tables, high ceilings, open concept and use of wood materials throughout.
805 Boyd Street
New Westminster, BC
As might be the case with many people raised in North America, one of my first forays as a child with Indian cuisine was through one of my school friends who came from a family with heritage from that part of the world. I remember to this day on his eight birthday, being invited over to his home and being exposed to an array of brightly colored and incredibly spicy food that I’d never seen nor tasted before in my young life. I think the few of us who were invited over all experienced the same shock at it all, that is until his mother remedied that by bringing out something from the kitchen that was milder tasting and had an ingredient that all kids love – chicken.
And so butter chicken will be and probably will remain a lasting dish when it comes to Indian food. And despite its rather stereotypical image as a “safe” choice among the amazing variety you get in dining out in Indian restaurants, I see it chosen all too often. And I’m guilt at times. But more so when its at a lower end establishment, cause I know they can’t seriously mess this up. Case in point, this little place I came across in Queensborough, called Naanbites. Based on the name alone, I thought it might be some kind of place just making some creative/fusion bite sized snacks featuring naan bread. Alas, I was wrong.
Qoola Frozen Yogurt & Fruit
4151 Hazelbridge Way Map
Qoola’s profile first came to my attention last year when there seemed to be a lot of buzz around their opening in the Metropolis at Metrotown shopping mall. With their emphasis on fat/gluten free frozen yogurt, fresh cut fruit, organic grain waffles/crepes, the whole concept reads like a feel good, very West Coast-inspired offering. Throw in their initiative in using bio-degradable and recyclable products, the whole operation has “BC tree huger” written all over it. Now with shops in this popular Richmond mall, as well as in Victoria, BC, the Qoola wave is slowing spreading across the province.
The signature menu item is the fresh frozen yogurt which is available in three flavors (original, chocolate and green tea) and supplanted by other monthly flavors. For edible snacks, there is also something called the Q-Waffle, which is a whole grain waffle topped with various toppings and a mound of the frozen yogurt. I watched as a few other customers ordered this and was amused at the confusion the self serve yogurt stations caused, especially with the older clientele that I witnessed.
Ajisai Sushi Bar
2081 W 42nd Ave
Consistency of quality is an aspect of restaurants that I hold in high regard. When it comes to serving raw food, this perhaps becomes even more relevant and all the more important. Case in point, my somewhat regular routine of having sushi perhaps a few times a month. I suppose I have a couple of standbys that I patronize most often now in the greater Vancouver area.
However among them, Ajisai in the Kerrisdale neighborhood remains tops when it comes to plating things in a very predictable manner – by that I mean the quality of the ingredients, the quality of the knife work, and maybe most importantly, the quality of the rice – all come through as exactly the same as the previous times I’ve eaten here.
Shang Noodle House
350 Gifford Street
New Westminster, BC
I suppose its kind of fitting as I’m about to head off on another trip – this time to the gambling capital of America – that I visited Shang Noodle House which is connected to a casino. Having the image of folks who are serious gamblers as not really caring much about taking a long break to eat between their money chasing activities, nor perhaps about the quality of food they consume while gambling, I don’t have high hopes for restaurants that are located right next to gambling establishments.
Seemingly dedicated to serving noodles in a bright, contemporary setting, it was refreshing to enter the doors and see this rather clean, well-lit seating area. Anchored in the middle of the floor was a prep station (and sushi conveyer belt?), although with the high counter I couldn’t really see what was being done over the wooden bar. Fitting with what you find in many a bar near casinos, was a set of flat panel displays showing various sports, hanging on above for a good viewing angle.
JB Malaysian Cuisine
My previous visit to this very same location on the corner of Kingsway and Royal Oak Avenue just east of Metrotown in Burnaby was not an overly memorable or gastronomically exciting one. I think its even had more previous incarnations as a restaurant, which brings me to the conclusion that it has some kind of curse on it, preventing this location from really grabbing hold as an ideal spot for dining out. The geographical setting with limited street side parking might be another mitigating factor causing the negative results. Such turnover in a spot must raise red flags for any prospective leaser, but I guess everyone wants their kick at the can…
At the beginning of this year, JB Malaysian Cuisine set up shop replacing the defunct Miki Japanese Ramen. So much for that loyalty stamp card I received from them, during my one and only meal there. Oddly enough though, there didn’t seem to be a lot of change done to the interior… the furniture and even the bookshelf with the dated Japanese comic books still sat near the front door entrance from when Miki existed. A loud playing of some Chinese music over the portable stereobox filled the otherwise lonely feeling air of this place. Not very welcoming, almost felt like I was intruding in a private establishment.