Get Your Toast On – My Top 7

I have a soft spot for old-fashioned bread. The technique, the patience, and the use of quality flour – all the minuscule details required to fabricate a hearty country loaf, just waiting to be sliced thick like the good ol’ days. I’m in awe of its rustic beauty, the firm, crumbly crust matched with the pillowy soft dough… it makes my heart sing. With the toast trend becoming ever so popular, finding a good base for your toppings to nestle on is essential. I’ve listed below some of my favorite places where you can get a good loaf of bread to play with, in whatever way you choose. Though jam and butter may be the dullest of all options nowadays, on breads like these however, it’s pretty damn tasty. (Also to note, the places I’ve mentioned all have toast bars, so it’s the perfect breakfast spot!)

1. Matchstick Coffee Roasters

Address: 639 E 15th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5T 2R6

Phone: (604)-558-0639

2. Batard Boulangerie & Cafe Moderne

Address: 3958 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5V 4E4

Phone: (604)-506-3958

3. Beyond Bread Bakery

Address: 3686 West 4th Avenue

Phone: (604)-733-3931

4. Small Victory Bakery

Address: 1088 Homer St, Vancouver, BC V6B

Phone: (604)-899-8892

5. Doughgirls Comfort Kitchen & Bakeshop

Address: 3322 Shrum Ln, Shrum Lane, Vancouver, BC V6S 0B1

Phone: (604)-333-5474

6. Nelson The Seagull

Address: 315 Carrall St, Vancouver, BC V6A 0A7

Phone: (604)-681-5776

7. Fife Bakery*

Address: 188 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5T 3J2

*(They current are only available at Hawker’s Market but be on the look-out for their expansion as their bread is phenomenal!)

My Top 10 Dim Sum Dishes

I often get asked where I like going for dim sum. Truth be told, I don’t have a “favourite” because I’m the type of person that enjoys switching back and forth between a few. I get bored otherwise. All restaurants have a select few signature dishes I always look forward to having, ones they do exceptionally well. I’ve rounded up my top ten dim sum dishes that I always catch myself ordering, hoping they will inspire your choices the next time you find yourself in the location!

In no particular order…

1. Baked B.B.Q. Pork Pies at Dynasty Seafood Restaurant 

2. Pan-fried Turnip Pastries at Top Shanghai Cuisine

3. Salty Egg-Yolk Battered Pumpkin Sticks at Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant  

4. Almond Milk Tea at Neptune Seafood Restaurant   

5. Egg White Tarts at Chef Tony’s Seafood Restaurant

6. B.B.Q. Pork Pastries at Kirin Seafood Restaurant

7. Egg Tarts at Kirin Seafood Restaurant

8. Pan Fried Radish Cakes at Neptune Seafood Restaurant 

9. Pan-fried Oysters at Golden Paramount Seafood Restaurant

10. Mixed Mushroom Dumplings at Empire Seafood Restaurant

Tojo’s Restaurant

Along with Vij’s and Cioppino’s, Tojo’s is one of Vancouver’s top institutions. With reputable and classically-trained chef, Hidekazu Tojo in charge, it’s hard to go wrong. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to make a visit, but I’m glad I was able to experience dining here. The service is so amicable and knowledgable and the food carefully prepared. Each dish is made to order in their open kitchen situated in the centre of the spacious room. The ingredients were incredibly fresh and sourced of the highest quality… There’s nothing artificial about anything on the menu – the ingredients speak for themselves. Though I wasn’t overly swooning over the food, I admire their philosophy and their continuous drive to source sustainability while still preserving the authenticity of the dish. If you do make a visit, my favourite dish was the sablefish. It was mildly flavoured, but had the most buttery and velvety texture… Oh, I would come back just for that.

Gyu Sushi (beef sashimi)

Organic tenderloin thinly sliced and served with chill and ponzu sauce

Canadian Sablefish

Baked sablefish with Tojo’s secret marinade

Spider Roll

Deep-fried soft shell crab, asparagus and avocado rolled in a cucumber crepe

Unankyu and Magmum P.I. Temaki

Barbecued fresh water eel and cucumber and Crab, sweet shrimp, avocado, geoduck and fish roe

Tojo Roll

West coast dungeness crab, avocado, spinach and egg rolled inside-out with sesame seeds on top

Tojo's on Urbanspoon

An Underrated Gem

Nicli Next Door has been open for quite some time now, but it is slowly coming into the radar among the food scene. A reason might be due to Josh Gale’s constant feed of artfully plated dishes that just have a way of tugging on your heart strings. One can find new weekly features from the kitchen, usually featuring a house-made pasta or a protein of some sort. Either way, it is going to be good. The menu offers a selection of carefully-crafted dishes and the appetizers are just drool-worthy… I’m ashamed that I haven’t made a visit earlier.

Roast brussels sprouts and heirloom carrots, mostarda glaze, bagna cauda

Usually vegetables are not something that you pay much attention to at restaurants, unless it’s The Acorn perhaps. I was blown away with this. The mostarda glaze was tart and pronounced, but it went so well with the roasted and vividly-colored veggies. Definitely not boring and definitely worth trying.

Polenta fries, Parmigiano-Reggiano gravy

Nothing can compare to Chicha’s cassava root fries in my opinion, but these are certainly up there. Crisp with a whipped-liked centre. Drizzled with gravy… enough said.

You really can do no wrong with pappardelle. Fresh, tooth-some pasta with mouth-tender meat is certainly always a safe bet.

Arancini al formaggio, San Marzano tomato

These are such pretty little morsels, wouldn’t you agree? The exterior was firm so it was the perfect contrast to the gooey inner layer that encased the mild mozzarella. Personally, I prefer Ask for Luigi’s fried bocconcini…

Potato gnocchi, leek and fennel cream, chestnuts, black trumpet mushrooms

The dish that literally had me on my toes. I saw this photo and I just knew I had to make my way down, somehow and sometime. The components varied in terms of richness, but the flavors were something I haven’t experienced before. I loved the firm, chewy mushrooms (due to their rough and scaly nature) while biting into the cloud-like gnocchi. Their gnocchi is different, in fact, I feel like they do a higher potato to flour ratio than most restaurants.

Nicli's Next Door on Urbanspoon

Taking Over Kitsilano’s Daily Kitchen

It is easily missed, their sign quite faint. Yet, if you manage to spot it, you won’t be disappointed as the furnishing of the interior is so alluring – borderline romantic. It’s long and narrow, reminiscent to me of The Nomad on Main. You have a full view of the kitchen in the corner bustling away, with the clinking of cocktails at the bar nestled on the right. Their menu is very similar to The Oakwood, Canadian-inspired, but that isn’t hard to believe as the executive chef, Michael Robbins did hail from there. With meat dishes, vegetarian options, a selection of seafood appetizers, it seems like they are going to attract quite a crowd. Opening night, dishes were a little bit scattered in terms of timing, but that is expected. Service and food however, amplified the experience and I’m eager for their brunch service to kick off. Knowing that it will only get better from day one, this is a promising spot.

roasted cauliflower salad, sprouted lentils, cashews, pea shoots, buttermilk dressing, lemon marmalade, chili threads

First few bites I was in love. Their roasted cauliflower is slightly battered in taste and honestly, it could go well with anything. The sprouted lentils got a little overpowering, but that could be because I am not a fan of raw sprouts. Nonetheless, I’m a fan.

lamb roulade, house made ricotta, olive brined spinach, gnocchi lamb jus

I couldn’t help thinking of L’abattoir when I saw this plate… Nonetheless, seared to a medium rare on a bed of luxuriously smooth ricotta and tart jus to complement. Finished with some scattered gnocchi, which seems to be a trend in lamb dishes nowadays.

spinach and asiago ravioli, sweet tomato compote, pangrattato, baby arugula

I thoroughly enjoyed biting into each pasta pocket, especially with the crumbled fried bread. It reminded me of fried garlic bits most Chinese restaurants enjoy putting on top of seafood dishes. Mmm…

chocolate creme brulee, honeycomb, salted caramel ice cream, lemon and bitter chocolate powder

Last but not least, the dessert our server, Chelsea recommended. I have to say, the presentation was a bit of a bust. A side view might make it look more promising but when we were presented it, it wasn’t that appealing – not by a long shot. Yet, we were drooling on our first bite. Wow. The flavours from the honeycomb, combined with the fudgy chocolate and cold ice cream was ceremonious almost. Too bad it got way too sweet afterwards. It definitely has potential.

Anna Lena on Urbanspoon

Let’s Get (Social) Talking

It’s something we use daily, accessible everywhere, and how we connect conveniently. Yet, sometimes – particularly for our generation – people have a hard time separating the two worlds: online versus real life. We often need a good remember that what we see online is not necessarily the whole truth, how our feelings of jealousy or need to compete are all powered from beliefs based from perspective.

I love instagram, how one is able to create an online photo diary of whatever they may please. I love twitter, the ability to know what’s happening, in under 150 characters. And let’s not forget about the ancient Facebook, where social media basically started for many of us. All these things, they all have their strong suits. They’re powerful tools. Still, I don’t feel that they should dictate the way we perceive the world, as it is merely just a source.

We base most of ourselves online nowadays, to share happy moments in our day that people might not be able to see. Let’s not forget the main bit though, they’re only fractions of our day. Social media should be used to create the best version of ourselves, for self-growth or unleashing one’s inner creativity – to drive and provoke one’s curiosity. What we see online is typically a façade. It’s basically second nature to do it, but it’s important to keep that in mind when we are surfing the web. It’s easy to get lost and be pulled in by what we see. We are succumbed to compare ourselves because we feel alone and incompetent in contrast. That’s not how we should view it though – let technology get the better of us. Instead, take it as inspiration… motivation! What we really see is something that pertains to our interest, energy that can be used to better ourselves. Be your own form of approval, rather than let someone else define that.

Once in a while, step back and try to take a breather from using technology. See how much it affects you. Do you feel better without it? Why do you use it? It’ll give you a better perspective on how much control media has on you.

An Afternoon In Kerrisdale

I haven’t had sushi in a while – no craving for it, that’s all. Well, actually until I saw my beloved friend’s instagram, @foodeinsti… She’s currently in New York eating about, but while she was in Vancouver, she reminded me of how much I miss the taste of unagi with her sushi posts. If you know me well, the two things I enjoy about japanese cuisine are unagi and yam tempura. It’s all I need. Since I’ve never been to Ajisai (despite the fact that I went to high school so close to it), I decided to make a stop for lunch. Plus, it was en route to class so I had no excuse not to.

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Unagi, Anagi, and Tamago Nigiri

That gloss on the unagi. Unreal. Meaty and minimal skin, just how I like it. I keep forgetting what anagi tastes like and after having them side by side, I’m definitely sticking with unagi from now on. The texture reminds me of halibut… The tamago was really soft, almost pillowy, and definitely home-made; a light sweetness but very refreshing. Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Lobster California Roll

They definitely did not skimp on the lobster meat, or the Kewpie mayo for this matter. I really enjoyed this, especially with the contrast from the roe eggs.

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Seared Saba and Salmon Aburi Roll

I have to admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of their aburi-styled rolls. The mackerel roll had ginger and green onions incorporated into the rice, reminding me of the typical dipping sauce for hainanese chicken. The flavour combination was overpowering, rather than a compliment to the creamy flavour of the mackerel. The salmon was also a miss for me. I felt the rice portion was too much for the thin layer of salmon because rather than being a mouthful, it was quite hard to eat without it falling apart.

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After a simple, but delicious lunch, I couldn’t help myself but go over to Gem Chocolates for some hot chocolate. Yet, I came out with gelato. I guess it wasn’t cold enough for me? Behold, the best pistachio gelato I have ever put into my mouth. It tasted like a caramelized white chocolate base, but the pistachio flavour is incredibly prominent. There are even pieces of nuts in the batter.

Ajisai Sushi Bar 味彩 on Urbanspoon

Gem Chocolates on Urbanspoon