Tag Archives: vancouver

Torafuku & AnnaLenna

Happy September! During our hiatus, I went back to Vancouver and tried two new hot spots in the city.

Torafuku
After seeing all the drool-worthy photos on Instagram, my foodie friend and I ventured to the new Asian fusion restaurant, Torafuku (Japanese for “Lucky Tiger”) on Main Street near Vancouver’s Chinatown. It’s been one of the latest hot spots to go to and we had been waiting for weeks to try their food. Their packed establishment, while new, may be attributed to the fandom of Le Tigre, the popular food truck company run by Torafuku’s co-owner.IMG_2685Since they don’t take reservations, which is becoming more common¬†in downtown hotspots, we arrived at the restaurant closer to 6:30 pm and took our chances. Luckily, we were greeted immediately upon entering and escorted to the last table for two in the back corner. Seating is rather limited with larger, sharing-type tables, a few tables for two and four. I would suggest going there even before 6:30 pm to secure a spot for you and your dining guests.

Once you enter the restaurant, you’ll notice the simple, yet tidy decor speaks to the more relaxed dining environment. The open-kitchen attached to the bar made the environment lively, where patrons could easily interact with the chefs busy at work. I also noticed a popular Vancouver food blogger was also seated close by ūüôā

The service was very attentive and one of the better ones that I’ve received in Vancouver. Our waitress came to check on us at least three times during our meal. She gave us some good recommendations, even though we sort of had an idea about which dishes we would order already from previous patrons. Most importantly, we didn’t feel rushed at all, despite there being a line-up on our way out.

My favourite dishes among the four that we ordered were the Kickass Rice 2.0 and the Rye So Messy Рpartly because of their awesome names but they were two solid dishes. The portions of both dishes were adequate as sharing plates for two.IMG_2686My friend and I were very excited to try the popular Kickass Rice 2.0 dish and to say the least, it did not disappoint! Each bite of the pork belly aburi had a burst of spicy, savoury, and sour flavours, but was not too overpowering.

I’m a huge fan of Southern-style Fried Chicken…it really is my ULTIMATE comfort food! Unfortunately¬†the fried chicken skin served here wasn’t crispy enough, which would have made the dish a 9 out of 10. The sesame seeds and ramen crumbs however gave it some crunch¬†and was a nice twist on the classic fried chicken dish.IMG_2690I love the name of this dish too, “This is not Tortellini”, which consists of¬†pork dumplings with shiso, ginger, garlic and scallion. I would have to say this tasted like the typical potsticker, but I really enjoyed the sweetened beet puree and steamed vegetables.IMG_2692The last dish we ordered was the calamari salad. The calamari was deep-fried well – chewy on the inside and a little bit crispy on the outside. Topped with a sweet chilli dressing, the calamari was also balanced well with¬†onions, tomatoes, and fresh arugula. Though I enjoyed the calamari texture, I thought it was underseasoned and the sweetness of the lychee did not match well with the savoury¬†and tangy flavours of the calamari and squid. Perhaps this one was my least favourite dish; I would have liked it more if the lychees were replaced with another fruit that was mildly sweet, such as sliced apples.IMG_2699On average, the prices were roughly $10-12 per dish. For the portion size of these sharing plates, those with bigger appetites may leave craving for more. We actually headed to Rain or Shine Ice Cream afterwards! Though it wasn’t exactly bang for your buck, the friendly service and creatively executed dishes might entice you to come back. I’m excited to see what they will be adding to their menu in the near future!

AnnaLennaIMG_2712My family and I went to the upscale AnnaLenna Restaurant in Kitsilano for a special occasion. We were very¬†excited to try this restaurant since it’s been voted #1 in Vancouver!¬†The decor was a little bit mismatched yet quirky, with pieces of lego and vintage gameboys on the shelf as you enter the doorway. The black booths where we were seated provided a more classic and contemporary feel and were very comfortable. I loved the natural lighting from the open patio and the nice summer breeze.IMG_2708Serving primarily Canadian West Coast cuisine, AnnaLenna offers a very limited selection¬†of 15 dishes on their menu. The waitress explained to us that all of the menu items were intended to be¬†sharing-type dishes, recommending 2 dishes per person; however, we thought 8 dishes in total would be a little much for the four of us.¬†¬†One of my favourite dishes was the heirloom tomato salad. I’m not a big fan of cheese, however, the soft burrata cheese complemented the texture of the tomato and the crispiness of the house cured bacon. This is the perfect summer dish that I will be definitely ordering again in the future!¬†IMG_2720There were not many vegetable options, so we ordered the¬†kale salad. After discussing with my guests, we felt that the ginger tahini dressing was a bit too creamy and the salad was overseasoned with salt, making it a heartier appetizer. I really enjoyed the fried cauliflower because it provided a sweet caramelized flavour to balance off the saltiness. I appreciated the different elements that were involved in creating this dish, for example, the potato chips topping the salad were a nice surprise providing desirable crunch and texture.IMG_2721Since I’m allergic to a lot of different types of shellfish, fish is one of the staples I can eat safely without getting a bad reaction. One of my favourite types of seafood is salmon, which the¬†wild trout that we ordered tasted very similar to. The crust on the trout was perfectly seared (not one bit burnt) for that extra crunch. We also ordered another seafood dish which was the scallops.¬†The puffed rice cereal was an interesting accompaniment on the dish and provided some nice texture overall. However, the seared scallops, though cooked well, missed its mark with its seasoning and was underwhelming in flavour.¬†While both dishes¬†were beautifully presented, our expectations were not met with the smaller portion sizes and value of the dishes.IMG_2724 IMG_2727Two other¬†honourable mentions belong to the tamari-marinated grilled pork belly and the wagyu beef short ribs – the highlights of the night! Pork belly is usually a fattier and heavier Chinese dish but the pairing of oat porridge and cooked beets made the dish less decadent and rich. The caramelized flavours of the pork belly provided a sweet flavour that matched well with the umami flavours of the meat. Similarly, the wagyu short rib was another stand-out dish which¬†was extremely tender and cooked perfectly medium rare. The peppercorn jus also didn’t overwhelm the natural flavour¬†of the beef and its melt-in-your-mouth texture will leave you wanting more!IMG_2730IMG_2736Unfortunately, we passed on the dessert of either grapefruit semifreddo or chocolate custard because we already bought a cake to eat at home. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this special dining experience at AnnaLenna, especially the choice of dishes offered. Despite having a more limited menu, most of the dishes were¬†high-quality and¬†signature dishes. I really look forward to trying their brunch menu and desserts one day.

-Matchachoco

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Our Year in Review (2014)

2014 went by so fast! We can’t believe it has been almost two years since we started UCL.¬†Here’s a review of our eventful year:

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We went to Canoe for Winterlicious.

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We learned about Nigerian cuisine for a school project.

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We went on a Vancouver food trip. This was Ricelessasian’s first time visiting ¬†Vancouver.

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Baked¬†a giant cupcake for a special girl’s birthday party! ¬†

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Ricelessasian made a lot of colourful cupcakes.

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Although Matchachoco stayed in Vancouver, we met again in Los Angeles a few months later. We went on a food trip…again (lol).

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We made our own birthday cakes!

Ricelessasian’s birthday cake:

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Matchachoco’s birthday cake:¬†

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Virtual¬†Thanksgiving Potluck with EatPrayBake ūüôā

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We had a couple of pasta posts throughout the year ūüėõ

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Ricelessasian made an edible Christmas tree.

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Looking forward to more food experiments in 2015! ūüôā

Happy New Year!

– Underground Culinary Lab Team

Vancouver Eats

In between our baking adventures for Sam’s birthday order, we decided to do a lot of sightseeing in Vancouver. Actually make that eating our way through the city for 7 days. There were so many more caf√©s and afternoon tea places that Matchachoco wanted to bring me, but I guess that will just have to wait for the next visit ūüėČ

Matchachoco: yes, we forgot beta5chocolates, Earnest Ice Cream, Secret Tea Garden, and the list goes on….

collage IMG_4735Outpost Mini Donuts
110 – 12240 Second Avenue, Richmond, BC

Somewhere along the streets of Steveston is this lovely vintage looking store which sell mini donuts. We came in a bit early as the store was still closed, so we waited outside as we smelled the fragrance of fresh donuts being prepared. We got half a dozen of mini donuts containing lemon, blueberry, vanilla bean, and Canadian maple flavours. While we were disappointed with the vanilla bean mini donut, we savoured the lemon and blueberry mini donuts. We loved the concept of fresh mini donuts with a variety of flavours, as well as the interiors and display outside the store.

IMG_4660Timothy’s Frozen Yogurt
3800 Bayview Street, Richmond, BC V7E 6K7
http://www.yelp.ca/biz/timothys-frozen-yogurt-richmond

This was one of the best and freshest frozen yogurt desserts I’ve ever tried! Pictured here is a fresh blueberry frozen yogurt served with a waffle cone made fresh in store.¬† Sharing is not recommended ūüėȬ†¬†I would definitely try their other flavours when I come back.

IMG_4744Steveston Pizza Co.
3400 Moncton St, Richmond, BC 

This pizza is kind of a funny story. As Matchachoco and I continued to roam around Steveston, we passed by Steveston Pizza Co. which we’ve heard has one of the best pizzas in Richmond. We came to the store intrigued about their menu (they have a $120 and $450 pizza!) and came just in time as we witnessed a¬†family¬†devour the extravagantly priced¬†$120 seafood pizza in the store. The pizza looked¬†appetizing and it was topped with a variety of fresh seafood such as Icelandic scampi and lobster ratatouille (we wish we had a photo of it). We also had a brief chat with the friendly owner and we were pleasantly surprised (somewhat shocked)¬†that he offered to make us a generously-sized margarita pizza on the house.The pizza was piping hot and had a thin crust with lots of bocconcini¬†cheese! You could definitely taste the freshness of all the ingredients. While it wasn’t the most expensive item on the menu (lol),¬†it was truly one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

I later found out that¬†Steveston’s¬†$450 pizza has beaten Gordon Ramsay’s $148 pizza for the Guinness World Record title¬†for the most expensive pizza in the world.

collage2The Stock Market (Granville Island)
1689 Johnston Street, Vancouver, BC V6H3R9
http://www.thestockmarket.ca/

One of the best parts of my trip was going to Granville Island as I was mesmerized with the countless of food¬†shops/stalls that they have. We had soup from The Stock Market (a huge props¬†to the owners¬†for creating such a witty name!). We got the Smoked Salmon Chowder and the Chicken Barley Soup. We found the Smoked Salmon Chowder to be too salty, but we enjoyed the Chicken Barley Soup as it was¬†hearty and¬†had a nice balance of earthy¬†flavour (although we could be biased because we love barley!). Both soups came with fresh focaccia bread. I liked the bread and thought¬†it paired well with both of the soups, but Matchachoco wished the bread could’ve been warmed.

IMG_4312collage4IMG_4320Black & Blue Steakhouse
1032 Alberni St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2V6
http://www.glowbalgroup.com/blackblue/

This was a super heavy dinner! Pictured here are some of the dishes that we tried in addition to the meat selection display  (from top to bottom, left to right): Medium Rare Sirloin Steak, meat display, Stuffed Mushrooms, Blue Cheese Bread, Beef Carpaccio, and Surf & Turf. I never thought I would like raw beef, but that beef Carpaccio hit the spot. I also enjoyed the roasted brussels sprouts (not in photo) which had hint of sourness and was probably the lightest menu item we got (although Matchachoco thought it was too sour for her taste because of the balsamic vinegar). This place definitely has meat and seafood done right, but we found some of the dishes too rich and heavy.

IMG_4344IMG_4357IMG_4382IMG_4347Thierry
1059 Alberni St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1A1
http://www.thierrychocolates.com/

Just across Black & Blue steak house is this crowded patisserie called Thierry.¬†The place seems to be jam packed every time we passed by it. We came here quite late and they only had two flavours of macarons left: coffee and lime coconut¬†(shown in the photo). I thought that their macarons were quite different from previous macarons I’ve had before as their macarons were relatively richer in taste and texture.¬†The macaron shells were dense and had no air pockets whatsover¬†(translation: it’s a sign of a good macaron and it’s¬†not a rip off lol). Matchachoco and I weren’t a huge fans of the coffee macaron, but I enjoyed the lime coconut macaron. I gave some chocolates to my brother and he commented¬†how shiny the chocolates were. I think most of the chocolates we got were dark chocolate based, and coming from a¬†dark chocolate lover,¬†Thierry gets a thumbs up.¬† We didn’t have any of the cakes and other pastries, but I was fascinated with their display. One of the cakes that particularly got my attention was the passion fruit cake (as shown in photo), which had mini macaron shells on the sides. I was really amused with how small they were able to pipe the macaron shells.

10346637_10152375598987969_6004380931402416712_nWhite Spot
1616 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC
http://www.whitespot.ca/

After a long bike ride at Stanley Park, we were starving, so we headed to White Spot. We decided on White Spot because it was a certain professor’s favourite burger¬†place in Vancouver (haha). We had the Monty Mushroom Bigger Burger each and shared the salad and sweet potato fries¬†which came as side dishes with the burgers. I was quite impressed with Spot’s salad¬†(fresh arugula with honey sherry dressing, cranberries, toasted almonds and¬†sunflower seeds)¬†that came on the side. I thought it was just going to be a regular salad! Although we both enjoyed our meals, we couldn’t finish all of it even if we were starving. It was a heavy meal ūüėõ

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collageIMG_4037Miku Restaurant
#70 – 200 Granville St, Vancouver, BC
http://www.mikurestaurant.com/

Our photos just¬†don’t give justice to how good our dinner at¬†Miku was! Matchachoco and I were struggling to take photos of the food as it was quite dark in the restaurant. Regardless, the view of the Waterfront from Miku was spectacular at night. Matchachoco and I love this place and of course the food! My favourite dishes were the Nutrigreens Farm Tofu Salad, Soba Pepperoncino, and the Salmon Oshi Sushi. The Nutrigreen Farms Tofu Salad definitely goes¬†on my list of favourite salads ever ūüėõ The texture of the scrambled tofu and the crispy tempeh just¬†goes well¬†with the tangy¬†salad with Japanese flavours.¬†We also loved the freshness of the seafood in the Soba Pepperoncino and the Salmon Oshi Sushi.¬†The sauce they used for the Salmon Oshi Sushi as well as the jalapeno topping really compliment the sushi combination.

imageimageNew Town Bakery
6360 No 3 Rd, Richmond, BC V6Y 2B3
http://www.newtownbakery.ca/

We were recommended to try the Chicken Deluxe (Bola Bola) steamed buns at New Town Bakery. The bun was¬†pretty huge,¬†so¬†Matchachoco and I shared the bun for brunch as we were travelling (there was just not enough time to go to all the amazing places in Vancouver lol). The bun had a juicy meat filling, but it wasn’t very rich, which I really liked.

IMG_5595IMG_5593La Patisserie
6360 Number 3 Rd, Richmond, BC V6Y 2B3
http://www.yelp.ca/biz/la-patisserie-richmond

I got pretty excited when we went to La Patisserie. I noticed that they had a variety of cake flavours which I don’t usually find in Chinese Bakeries in Toronto (e.g. blueberry, lychee, and something that had wasabi in it). While I didn’t get to try their breads and other pastries, Matchachoco and I got to try a variety of their cake flavours. Pictured here are: blueberry, green tea, mango, chocolate, taro, strawberry, and black sesame. The cakes were very light and not too sweet, which is typical in Chinese bakery cakes. Although we were impressed with the flavour choices they had, we weren’t¬†as impressed with how the flavours were incorporated into most of the cakes that we got.¬†For example, the strawberry one¬†tastes¬†a bit¬†‘artificial’.¬†However, we really enjoyed the taro and fresh mango cakes (which everyone raves about). The taro cake tastes similar to an ube cake with cream, while mango cake reminded me of one of my favourite mango cakes when I was a kid.

imageTasty Kitchen
8300 Capstan Way, Suite 1226, Richmond, BC V6X 4B5
http://www.yelp.ca/biz/tasty-kitchen-richmond

This is a relatively new restaurant that I learned about from Matchachoco’s dad.¬†Since we already tried other different cuisines on this trip, we decided to go to this traditional¬†Cantonese restaurant. We had Pepper Beef which was served with some vegetables. I thought it was one of the best dishes of the night.¬†¬†The beef chunks were so tender and the onions and mushrooms accompanied the earthy flavours of the eggplant very well. We also tried the lobster which is a must-try in Vancouver. It was cooked Asian-style with soya sauce and thin egg noodles. I also enjoyed the¬†steamed¬†Cantonese White Cut Chicken¬†with green onion & garlic dipping sauce. Hopefully this restaurant is still around when I visit Vancouver again since I heard this location has changed restaurants many times!

-Ricelessasian