T Room Bakery – Vancouver, BC


T Room Bakery and Kitchenware
4445 10th Avenue West
Vancouver, BC
(604) 677 2579

T Room Bakery and Kitchenware on Urbanspoon

Short and sweet.  Seems that whenever I review a dessert place, it ends up this way.  I suppose its fitting, given that just a little piece of cake, cookie, pie, etc. ends up being more than I really need to be consuming.  Yes, yours truly is becoming more and more conscious of his weight…

A hybrid between a dessert café, pâtisserie, and a kitchen supply shop, the T Room makes the best use of its quaint space to provide an experience that can cater to all sorts of people interested in many aspects of baking.  With a keen sense of always adapting to the times and season, in addition to the baked goods and sweets, menu items such as soups, salads and sandwiches are available.  For this commentary, I will only be talking about the takeaway bakery component of this business.

On my most recent visit, I picked up a whole cake for a friendly gathering.  Pictured above is a Strawberry Cheesecake.  For those who’ve read some other dessert reviews from Vancouver, such as here and here will know that I enjoy my cheesecakes.  This version at T Room was unlike the others in that it had a much softer consistency.  Not quite as loose as say jelly, but slicing into it you could immediately notice how delicate it was and it was difficult to cut it into nice and neat slices.

This didn’t bother me as frankly when cheesecakes are as solid as a brick, they tend to be very rich and its not long before I tire of eating even half of a decent sized slice.  The nutty rim added an additional textural crunch while the smooth top layer with the unmistakeable scent of strawberry, but not so overpowering that it commanded the full attention of the taste profile, was well done.  Not incredibly sugary sweet, it was very easy to eat a single slice, and then some.  Others who had a piece commented on this as well, so I was not alone.  The only downside is that this is doing nothing to aid in my attempt to control my calorie intake.

I’ll do my best to do a follow up piece on the dine-in café section, and share my thoughts on the soup/sandwich offerings, as some did catch my eye on my last scan of the menu board…

T Room Bakery and Kitchenware on Urbanspoon

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Original Cupcakes – Vancouver, BC


Original Cupcakes
2887 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 974 1300

Original Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

In my mind, cupcakes and childhood birthday parties are synonymous.  Fast forward a few years and I was introduced to “gourmet” cupcakes at a wedding.  Rather than having a traditional wedding cake, the bride and groom had a tower of cupcakes.  Fast forward a few more years, I was walking down West Broadway one Saturday afternoon and I came across a cute little shop selling what else…  Cupcakes of course!  The décor of Original Cupcakes is something you’d expect to find in a little girls dollhouse.  I was impressed with the look of the pink hued store, complete with cupcake shaped light fixtures.  From the bustle in the open bakery in the back and the sweet smell in the air, I thought it’d be a shame to leave without some cupcake bounty.

I’m not the type that indulges in baked sweets very often, but for some reason cupcakes are an exception.  Wanting to try more than a single sweet something, I decided on a half dozen mini cupcakes.  This being my first time in the store I thought these were perfect!  The cake portion was moist and had just the right amount of sweetness.  The frosting also wasn’t overly sweet and each had their distinct flavor profiles.  If I were to pick my favorite of the bunch, it would have to be the “mint condition”.  To get a feel for their cupcake lineup, they’ve got them all listed on their website.

Funny how things happen and later that week I was at a local grocery store and overheard a conversation about the Cupcake store on W Broadway.  The cashier informed the customer ahead of me that Original Cupcakes also makes great cakes.  Making a mental note, a cake will definitely be on my list for a future gathering and I’ll more than likely end up indulging in a couple of cupcakes, maybe even a big one next time.

As a final note, I’ve just learned that every month they have a “cause cupcake” where a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each cupcake goes to the cause of the month.  You should check out the story behind January’s “bizzy lizzy” on their blog.

Original Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Café Gelato – Las Vegas, NV


Café Gelato (Ice Cream & Sweets)
@ Bellagio Las Vegas
3600 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
1 888 987 6667

Café Gelato (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

You’d think that in December in Las Vegas, one would probably avoid cold sweets, especially when we actually had snow in the city – a rare occurrence for Sin City. But after a lot of walking around in heated buildings, something cool was highly sought after. Café Gelato with its large glass display case showing an assortment of tantalizing gelato flavors, appeared like an oasis in the massive Bellagio hotel.

I have to admit, ice cream and gelato are probably my most favorite dessert. As bad as it is for you, I have a hard time controlling my cravings when it comes to this stuff. I even have a bad memory of attempting (and finishing) the legendary “4×4” at Baskin Robbins back in the day – which included four scoops and four toppings in one single serving. So I surprised myself by just asking for a single scoop ($4.75) of the refreshingly cool mango flavor.

For me, the balance of just how soft gelato is makes a big difference to me. Too soft and it reminds me of a slightly runny milkshake, too hard and its just ice cream. Thankfully Café Gelato had it down pat. Still solid enough that it wasn’t like soft serve ice cream, and a strong intense natural flavor that reminded me of the ripe mango fruits that I have eaten in places like southern India and Thailand this past year. Despite its appearance, the single serving cup was more than enough due to the richness and density of the gelato. Either that or I am slowing down in my ice treats consumption as I get older – there is no way I could even face that 4×4 today.

The Raspberry Brownie ($6.00) was pleasantly not overwhelmingly sweet as if often the case. Again, as with gelato, I am a bit fussy when it comes to how “thick” brownies are. Here, it was pretty good in terms of that contrast between the sticky moist goodness of the inside and the crumbly exterior. For those who don’t like their brownie way too sugary, this is a good option.

Being that it is Vegas and in one of the more expensive casino hotels, the price point was a big high. The small latte I had also went for a generous $5.50, making me think I should have gotten my caffeine fix at the better looking café across the hallway at Palio. But for those fortunate to have some winnings at the tables, I suppose it really doesn’t matter what you pay in this town.

Café Gelato (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

True Confections – Vancouver, BC


True Confections @ Broadway
#6 – 3701 W. Broadway (at Alma intersection)
Vancouver, BC
(604) 222 8489

As everyone knows, the food service industry is a tough business. Restaurants pop up suddenly, have their time in the sun, and many burn out before being able to establish a strong customer base. Fickle trends, demanding diners, general economics and others, all factor into the success or failure of any food establishment. Much like the productive lifetime of a professional athlete, restaurants are lucky to get a few good years before having to re-invent themselves, increase their appeal, and stay on the rails towards positive business growth. By marking their twentieth year of operations since creating their first desserts-only-desserts-restaurant in downtown Vancouver, True Confections continues to build their following and has clearly ridden out the tough early years, and has been one of the lucky, long lasting food enterprises in the city. It is all the more amazing, considering their concept, of limiting their offerings to the dessert menu.

It is this kind of boldness that I admire. Niche markets are always a dilemma. While they offer a chance to specialize and fill a need that is narrow in scope, this limitation also can be the death of any business due to the fact that mass market appeal is needed to secure the volume that is often required to make production worthwhile. From my own point of view, desserts have traditionally been an afterthought for many of my meals. I did not grow up in a household where desserts were an element of our family meals, nor did I tend to order dessert when dining outside. It was really not until I was into my first real job following graduation where business dinners were a staple of my work, that I learned how some people view dessert as a crucial element in wrapping up a dining experience.

It was through these dinner parties, working meals, etc. that I became a fan of cheesecake. True Confections does these well, referring to their dense cheesecake creations as being Montreal-style. Whatever that may be, I am a fan. For me, its this richness that makes or breaks a cheesecake. It is a delicate balance, between being still soft enough to enable a fork to cut through with relative ease, while still being solid enough to stand on its own as a single slice without collapsing under the weight of whatever toppings may be applied. The fruit edition is my personal favorite here.

The Broadway location (the second in the three store chain) is a simply designed space, with a prominent showcase presenting the cakes that can be chosen by the slice, and a smaller one near the entrance that is for whole cakes for take-away. Eating-in tends to be either a relaxing or hurried experience depending on the time of day that you go, with evenings (especially on Fri/Sat) being very busy and a popular location for after dinner dates. Parking is a bit tight given that the building shares space with a few other businesses. With several restaurants in the neighborhood, I believe that many customers decide to drop by for a different atmosphere and continue their dinners, with a helping of one of True Confection’s many sweet temptations including cakes, pies, tartes and trifles. Give it a try, your sweet tooth will thank you.

True Confections (Broadway) on Urbanspoon

Dairy Queen (Stadium Location) – Calgary, AB


Dairy Queen – Stadium Location
2126 Crowchild Trail NW
Calgary, AB T2M 3Y7
(403) 282-4947

Let me break from tradition and recognize the fact that this post is a little weak. But with Shokutsu in town, and us hitting every restaurant and bar we can humanly get to while keeping our jobs, neither of us are in peak writing condition. But I still feel this is a valuable public service announcement.

Once a month, a group of friends and I get together to try a new restaurant. Each month, a different member picks a new place to try. Hole in the wall places, fine dining places, everything in between – no type of restaurant is excluded. Often, when we are finished, we have a craving for something sweet. Strangely enough, typically, it’s Gelato, or more often than not, a Blizzard. There’s something good, tasty, and nostalgic about softserve and candy blended together.

When you start to hit most of the Dairy Queens around Calgary, you quickly come to one realization: not all Blizzards are created equal. Many places skimp on toppings. Some places have a more limited menu. And more often than not, most Blizzards are runny, gloopy, and melting.

If you remember the old Dairy Queen commercials, the true test of the Blizzard is to turn it upside down – proving that it was mixed properly, and is thick enough for their “Gold Standard”.

The best Dairy Queen in town (for a Blizzard) used to be on Kensington Rd, at the location that is ironically enough Amato Gelato. Once that Dairy Queen shutdown, the title was inherited by the Stadium Location of the Dairy Queen. They make a great thick Blizzard with a decent amount of toppings. After many disappointing Blizzards, whenever the mood hits, this is the location we go to. Consider yourself warned – the next time you’re in the mood for a Blizzard, make the trek here from wherever you are. If not, you might just be wearing that Blizzard on your shoes.

Amato Gelato – Calgary, AB


Amato Gelato
2104 Kensington Road NW
Calgary, AB T2N 3R7
(403) 270-9733
Hours: variable, based on season. Open late.

“Something sweet signals to the body the end of the meal”. Whether this is hearsay or scientific research, in Western culture, this seems to apply more often than not. After a meal out, and not ready to call it a night yet, friends and I often find ourselves craving Dairy Queen (don’t ask!). However, DQ generally closes fairly early, so instead, we usually decide to head over to Amato Gelato.

Open late, Amato Gelato is a chain out of Vancouver that serves over 72 flavours of gelato, sorbet, and sorbetto at a time. They offer coffee/espresso (my memory fails me, but I believe they carry Illy), and sandwiches (which sit in a cooler for an undisclosed amount of time), but the reason for going is Gelato. Fresh made sits in a long feature cooler – take home gelato (Mario’s) is available in a side cooler with the most annoying alarm ever.

The fresh made Amato Gelato variety is actually quite good, especially for Calgary. A selection of classic, fruity, creamy, rich flavours, some with odd blends, there is generally something for everyone. Including some less than appealing flavours (durian!?). While they are quite expensive, they do let you sample their flavours until you find one you really like. Something i particularly appreciate when im craving new flavours, or just generally feeling indecisive. And the girls working the counter are eternally patient in providing samples, and offering suggestions. Just make sure you pay for your order before trying samples – they can’t get you your order until you have a receipt. That long lineup staring daggers at your back may not appreciate it either.

While Amato Gelato is pricey for what you get, they do have several things working for them. Good selection. Lots of seating. Open late. Great parking. This may not be the best deal in town, but when you need something lighter than a maldon sea salt chocolate torte, and it’s late, more often than not, Amato Gelato is the way to go.

Amato Gelato on Urbanspoon

Prima Taste Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


True Singapore Cuisine. It is what Prima Taste boasts about serving, and this text appears on their menu, their business card, and heck even the final bill. The restaurant side of the Prima Taste business empire started up apparently in 2000 and has now spread outside of Singapore to outlets in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China, the US, and right here in downtown Vancouver. I had been hoping to visit this place for a while after hearing good things, but until this day never quite finding the right time or opportunity. With my most recent visit to Singapore being this past May, it had been a while since I have had a sampling of some Singaporean fare, so I was excited as I stepped inside. After my eyes adjusted from coming in from the bright sun, I was surprised to find a modern looking and clean interior, thinking it would be more of a cafeteria-like setting and perhaps a lot more run down – too many trips to hawker stalls overseas must have formed these pre-conceived ideas in my mind.

With a non-hungry companion in tow, I settled down and scanned the menu knowing that I would not have the benefit of another hungry diner to allow me to try more items. It was clear that well-known dishes such as satay, roti prata, beef rendang, laksa, and nasi goreng appeared on the menu, along with many seafood dishes, and even some platters that centered around one specific meat protein. Rather than risk something that would disappoint, I decided to go with a tried-and-true Singaporean offering in the Hainanese Chicken Rice, and a single small plate appetizer that I could nibble on while I waited, some Breaded Prawn Balls.

For $5.95, these deep fried formations had an interesting appearance, almost like circular shaped miniature Rubik’s Cubes, and were the size of a large gumball. They were a nice golden color and had a crispy exterior but a dense minced shrimp core that really perked up when a bit of the chili-mayo dip was added (I’m finding that this spicy and creamy mixture of flavors as a condiment is making waves across many of the ethnic restaurants in town these days). The portion size was probably just right for a single appetizer serving, though not enough if shared.

The Hainanese Chicken Rice ($9.50) was cleanly poached, and came with a small bowl of fragrant chicken flavored rice, and the important trio of dipping sauces (dark soy, ginger, and chili). For me, it is this first thick sauce with its rich sweet properties that really did it for me on this day, although the others were fine too in creating interesting taste combinations since we all know chicken meat is generally very bland. Back to the chicken itself, I received a completely boneless section, with a thin layer of skin that was not overly gelatinous, with lean meat that was silky smooth, moist and not stringy. Certainly, there are differing opinions on how the chicken should be prepared, finished off, with some preferring a more fatty composition, a thicker layer of skin, and I believe some even make the case on the boned or de-boned debate. Again, there is no clear cut answer to this, and personal taste will come into play, but I did enjoy the offering here at Prima Taste and would definitely go back for this as its probably the closest interpretation in Vancouver that I’ve seen to those I’ve eaten in Southeast Asia.

Service was decent; we were greeted immediately at the door and led to a table by one of the young boys working the bar area. Tea came out soon enough and ordering was fine as we were given enough time to read the menu before being pressed about what we wanted to eat. Its the in-meal service that was somewhat lacking, as it was difficult getting the attention of anyone for refills, extra napkins, having plates cleared as well as receiving the final bill. It seemed that rather than one dedicated server per table, they platoon staff across the floor so each request that I made was in fact, carried out by another server. If that is deliberate, or a way to compensate for the seemingly overwhelmed service team, I am not sure. It just lacked some of the personal attention I thought, given the greater-than-cafeteria setting, I assumed they would want to follow through with a higher degree of performance.

True Singapore Cuisine? Perhaps, but diluted a bit in terms of the wide range that you can get on the peninsula, but that can’t be helped as the menu does have to take into account many factors. Such as the availability (or lack of) many necessary ingredients, the need to condense things to a manageable level, while simultaneously trying to represent the country’s cooking in a single establishment. As such, I would have to rate Prima Taste as succeeding, though additional visits are required to confirm this by tasting other dishes, that I could only visually interpret by scanning nearby tables.

As a treat on the way home, we popped up to the food court of the H-Mart (Korean Grocery Store) located on the same side of the street as Prima Taste, and shared a patbingsu dessert. A refreshing combination of shaved ice and sweet azuki, topped with matcha ice cream, diced watermelon, mangoes, and kiwis; perfect for this hot summer day.

Prima Taste Restaurant
570 Robson Street (corner of Robson and Seymour)
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-685-7881
Hours: Mon-Thu, 11:30am to 2:30pm & 5pm to 10pm; Fri, 11:30am to 10pm; Sat, 12pm to 10pm; Sun, 12pm to 9pm

Prima Taste on Urbanspoon