Max’s Restaurant: My Filipino Food Fix

After friends of mine heard that I’d gone for Filipino food without them, another meal was arranged – this time at Max’s Restaurant.

Located at 3456 Kingsway, Max’s Restaurant is part of a chain that originated in the Philippines, and was bright, clean, and spacious. Many staff were on hand, apparently a necessity seeing as how there were line ups by 5:30pm, soon after we arrived. My dining companions, all Filipino, were excited to eat and show me some dishes I’d never tried before.

To start: Lumpiang Shanghai (Egg Roll)

Yes, I was tweeting when I should have been eating.  The outside of these egg rolls were nice and crispy, even though the inside was filled with very moist meat and vegetables. I liked the fact that the vessel was a bowl made of deep fried goodness and the chili sauce on the side, although standard, was perfect.

Next: Chopsuey. For what could be seen as a simple dish, this was actually one of my favorites!

I’m a meatatarian so this was perfect for me – shrimp, chicken, and pork were served alongside vegetables in Max’s savory sauce. Cooked perfectly and Chinese influenced, I loved this plate.

Next: Spicy Laing Tilapia

Taro leaves are cooked in coconut milk and then served over fried tilapia. The sauce was really good, and the fish was fried perfectly. I would have loved a more crunchy element to this, but it was good as it was.

Next: 1/2 Fried Chicken,  a specialty.

Although good, I found myself reaching for salt on this one. The skin was nice and crispy seeing as how they don’t batter the chicken before frying it, I just didn’t find much flavor in it.

Crispy Pata was next:

This one was eaten pretty quickly! The fat of this knuckle created such deep flavor in the meat, and the vinegar was a perfect dip.

We also had Filipino Bistek (Beef Steak.)

You could really taste the lemon in the thinly sliced meat and in the gravy, it was delicious and similar in taste to a stir fry.

The girls wanted some dessert and ordered Halo Halo and Leche Flan, desserts I have tried before.

An impressive Halo Halo, containing fruit, beans, shaved ice, milk, and sugar. Atop that is purple yam (Ube) ice cream – a strange flavor for a Western palate but delicious nonetheless.

The Leche Flan was straightforward and delicious. You cannot go wrong with custard and caramel syrup!

The service at Max’s was attentive and thoughtful, and I got the impression that  if I had wandered in alone, the servers would have walked me through what each dish was if I didn’t know.

Reservations can only be made for 10+ people (and they are, often!)

Happy Eating,

kait

Max's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Lunch, Perfected: YEW Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel

I’d made reservations at YEW Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel as a treat and a fine end to a Girl’s Day last week. If you plan on going around lunch time, I would recommend reserving a table as I did, because the restaurant was teeming with people by 12:30!

Complimentary warm biscuits were brought to our table with butter that was topped with sea salt, a touch I really appreciated since the rosemary in the biscuits reacted very well with it.

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I have an odd obsession with seafood chowders and this day was no exception. The cod chowder intrigued me, as the menu mentioned that it contains local seasonal fruit – how could I not order it?

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The cod was beautifully moist, the creamy soup wonderfully smooth, and to my delight there were blueberries alongside corn and potatoes in the soup. The fennel and blueberries were a wonderful pair. Each touch of my spoon seemed to draw out more of a purple color to the chowder. The only drawback with this dish would be that the soup was not very hot. A beautiful touch were the dried apple slices, which brought together with the chowder made this feel like an Ode to Autumn.

Next, we shared the Crab Tacos. I cannot express enough how refreshing these were – the crab seemed almost fluffy, the crushed avocado was amazing, and the crispy won tons were firm enough to hold it all together.

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 The Boss’ mom ordered the Lobster Pasta for her main – she was so happy with it. She could not get over how much lobster was on her plate, and said that she’s never had lemon creme fraiche incorporated into a pasta dish. I tried some, and she was right. It lent a refreshing component to what could have been a heavy tasting fettuccine dish. Still, she took half of it home since she wanted to save room for dessert.

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 Lobster struck me as a good choice too, so I ordered the YEW Cobster – a whole chilled lobster, served with goat cheese, avocado, a honey lime dressing, a six minute egg, prosciutto, and butter lettuce. I loved my salad, simple as that. The presentation was stunning, the lobster was so fresh, and I loved the goat cheese inclusion. My one and only drawback with this salad was that the menu mentioned a 6 minute egg – when I make these, the yolk is still runny and I was looking forward to that ooze. My dining companion wanted this salad but also thought the yolk would be runny and she does not like soft yolks, so she did not order it and was jealous when my salad arrived. Nonetheless, the egg in my salad was delicious and I am only mentioning it in the interest of honesty.

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The Boss’ mom is a dessert fiend. Oh, I tried to protest. No, Mama, I can’t. I don’t have room. Please, you go ahead and order something, I’ll just have a bite. Yeah, right! She twisted my rubber arm and we ordered Cherries & Chocolate for Two. Amazing. Again, presentation was superb and the cherry ice cream was silky enough to have been a sorbet. The cherry compote was just sweet and tart enough to pair well with the chocolate cheesecake. I am more of a savory girl than a sweet girl, yet even I could not stop eating this.

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I must devote some space in this post to the impeccable service we received. Our shopping bags were checked at the hostess desk, so as not to crowd our table. Our hostess Rachel made sure to let our server know that we had been shopping all morning, at which point he suggested cocktails (yes.) Even servers that were not in our section were smiling, cheery, and polite. How refreshing, when my dining experiences of late have left me feeling there was something to be desired.

 I will be back. Not only does Ned Bell provide wonderful food, the staff at YEW Restaurant make sure that all of their guests have a great experience. To have every staff member equally committed to this endeavor could be their greatest  success.
happy eating,
kait

YEW Restaurant + Bar (Four Seasons Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Ouisi Bistro

I’ve written here before about being scared of too much spice, but I was with 3 people who craved that flavor and so decided that it was about time for a new adventure.

Located on South Granville near 15th Street in Vancouver, Ouisi Bistro has long been recommended to me for great Cajun and Creole cuisine. Reservations were recommended by their website, so I called in on Friday night and requested a table. When we arrived at 6:00pm the restaurant was relatively empty, but within half an hour the place had nearly filled up!

Paintings of jazz musicians hung on the walls fit in perfectly with the rustic feel of the bistro, and our server was very attentive from the moment we sat down. A basket of complimentary warm, delicious corn bread was brought to our table as soon as we got settled. To start, The Boss ordered Gator Bites, I ordered  the Seafood Chowder, and our two companions each ordered Caesar Salad.

ImageI’ve had Alligator before, but it wasn’t great. The Gator Bites at Ouisi’s are moist without being chewy, and oh-so-full of flavor. The Cajun Tartar Sauce they were served with provided a nice cool element against the hot and spicy meat.

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My Seafood Chowder was full of large chunks of fish and a very delicate tomato broth, probably the least spicy thing we ate that night. It was delicious and a great beginning to our meal.\

For entrees, we ordered the Jambalaya, The Big Easy, The Granville Plate, and The Caribbean Hot Plate.

The Jambalaya was rich and filled with prawns, smoked ham, and chorizo & andouille sausage. It was amazing. My fear with spice is that it will do the usual “make my tongue and lips numb and I’ll cry and sweat” – it didn’t happen at all during this meal.

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Don’t get me wrong, though – I did have to take water breaks, especially after trying the Caribbean Hot Plate. The only menu item labelled “Hotter Than Hell” (in red, mind you) and boasting Habanero peppers with coconut chicken, I was not expecting the intensity that came on after a couple of swallows. The cilantro lime pesto was a nice break from the spice, but boy, you cannot match that flavor. All I can say, is thank goodness for the green rice and beans.

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The Big Easy consists of beef tenderloin tips in a creole sauce with potatoes. The Boss’ sister mentioned that there was a lot of fat on the meat – something that may or may not bother your average diner. I tried some of the meat and it was very tender aka delightful.

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My dinner of choice was The Granville Plate, something that I thought would be more on the milder side, but ended up being pretty spicy from the pepper crusted chicken – two breasts were served topped with roasted garlic, brie, and spinach, with beans and green rice. It was delicious, but although the brie was rich it could have used a sauce. I could be biased, though, I’m a sauce girl. The chicken was very juicy so I had no complaints!

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All in all, with the ambiance being as amazing as it was and the food being an adventure, this was a great dining experience. I’ll be back, Ouisi Bistro, very soon.

Happy Eating,

kait

Ouisi Bistro on Urbanspoon

Il Giardino: An Escape to Tuscany

I have been fortunate enough to experience Vancouver’s fine dining scene several times, and of course loved every moment, so when I got an invitation to dine at Umberto Menghi’s Il Giardino I was elated.

Situated at the end of Hornby Street at Pacific, Il Giardino transports you into another world the moment you walk through the door. The beautiful spacious patio was surrounded with vines and flowers – a real Tuscan feel.

I had two dining companions, both passionate food lovers. We instructed our server to stagger the food we ordered – she was wonderful, anticipating our every need, and was happy that we planned to stay awhile.

There is something so special about dining with people who love and appreciate food, who know the art of conversation well and are happy to gather together. The only moments of silence we experienced throughout the meal were when we were gobsmacked by flavor, staring at each other in wonder.

To start: A fresh salad with Buffalo mozzarella, greens, tomatoes, and vinaigrette. Also, lightly seared scallops with an amazing sauce, so good that we ended up dipping forkfuls of the mozzarella into it – gosh, so good. I would have loved a touch of acidity on the scallop, but it was amazing nonetheless.

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We discovered that it was possible to request half orders of the pasta, which I liked. I ordered the Tortellini alla Panna, which was incredible. The pasta was delicate and a perfect home for the veal stuffed inside, and the cream sauce it was tossed in was decadently rich without being too heavy.

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The kitchen is happy to serve food in ways that aren’t outlined on the menu, a fact that pleased us immensely. The Terminator took advantage of this, ordering a non-menu combination of three pastas as his entree. He combined the Chorizo Penne with the Spaghetti Carbonara and the Tortellini alla panna. I managed to snag a piece of chorizo before he finished, but I call him The Terminator for a reason! He was nearly finished by the time I looked up from my plate.

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My Fair Lady ordered the gnocchi, it was served in a Gorgonzola cheese sauce, topped with walnuts and a balsamic glaze. She happily shared. Almost buttery in texture, the gnocchi was perfect.

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I ordered the herb crusted rack of lamb, medium rare. It had to be one of the most tender lamb dishes I’ve ever had, falling apart with the mere prodding of a fork. Happy Kait.

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Duckhorn Merlot was flowing throughout the entire meal, which only added to the warm ambiance we experienced. A neighboring table was celebrating a birthday, and one of the staff at the restaurant sang Happy Birthday to her in a beautiful opera serenade, prompting loud applause from the entire restaurant. Handed dessert menus, we looked at one another and knew we had to do it. We had to.

My Fair Lady ordered Gelato, which tasted so silky and light, a real treat.

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 I ordered the Tiramisu – it was the best I have ever had, and trust me: I’ve had mountains of it. Don’t ask me how they do it, I don’t know, I don’t care. No, Kait, don’t think about the evening gown you’re wearing next weekend, just eat the damn dessert.
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We spent four hours at Il Giardino. In terms of culinary enjoyment and atmosphere, this was a five star experience. Go. GO. You’ll have no regrets. You might catch me there, guilty smile, fork in hand.
Happy Eating,
kait

Il Giardino on Urbanspoon

Save On Meats: Epic Lunch

I was, until today, a Save On Meats virgin. I’ve seen the Diners, Drive Ins and Dives showcase, I’ve heard rave reviews, it just seemed slightly inaccessible. (It’s not true, I’m just encased in a work bubble in the Downtown Core.) Today I went on a solo adventure to see for myself what the buzz was about. I fell in love with the sign immediately:

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I walked in and was happy to see that both the booths & bar were teeming with people. I thought knew what I wanted as soon as I sat down: Turkey Pot Pie. I made the mistake of scanning further, though, and saw that I could get one piece of fried chicken for $3, and I’m not a fool, of course I ordered it. And a Caesar. What? I was taught that if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right.

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Yes, that is pepperoni garnishing my Caesar. No, it did not last more than 3.7 seconds. Delicious.

I love the atmosphere in Save On Meats. Old school signs, bar stools rooted to the ground so well that they would withstand a tornado, friendly staff, and a great vibe.

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The wall you see in the above picture is what separates the diner from the butcher shop (I stopped there for some house made sausages and eggs from 60 Mile Farm before I left.)

My food arrived and I was so happy. The pot pie imploded with a slight fork-poke (technical term,) the greens were fresh with a light dressing, and the chicken was perfectly tender on the inside with a great crispy coat. The pot pie was the real star, though. So much turkey, so much creaminess.

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I am going back. Not only because the food was wonderful and the vibe was good but because the service is amazing. I even got a “That’s the way to do it” approval nod from a server who noticed my drink. Thank you, Save On Meats, I will see you very soon.

Happy Eating,

kait

Save On Meats on Urbanspoon