Posts Tagged: Gastown

Aug 13

Gastown Eating adventures: Bambudda

Drinking rose-floral cava-y Fitzgerald cocktails and enjoying the late-evening sunshine. Officially the best new fun in Gastown

Drinking Fitzgerald cocktails and enjoying the sunshine. Officially the best new fun in Gastown

Fish are meant to symbolise good fortune or luck within certain Asian cultures and it was a serendipitous fish which led me to Gastown’s newest hot spot, Bambudda. I’d seen the most enchanting dessert picture on Twitter – two fish swimming in a perfect blue on a plate – the fish were white chocolate and lychee milk tea – too pretty but I wanted to eat it! The next day by pure luck I happened to meet someone who worked there, which decided it for me: fate had stepped in so I needed to go and check it out.

I’d mentioned to a few people I was going and everyone had two words for me “chicken skin”: turns out that they do a nifty fried chicken skin bar snack that was an absolute must-have. Guess what? Everyone was right on the money. But before we get to the crunch of the food – what’s the restaurant like? Well – on a warm Vancouver evening it was heaven to sit at the open-front bar. Their floor to ceiling windows pull right back and so we sat, red lanterns bobbing overhead, drinking pleasingly intoxicating cocktails while being charmed by barman Buck Friend.

Oh. My. God. Chicken skin of pure crunchy deliciousness

Oh. My. God. Chicken skin of pure crunchy deliciousness

Tardis-like, this place is far, far bigger on the inside than it seems on the outside. There’s a blue-toned private dining room that has ‘family party’ and ‘fun birthday dinner’ written all over it – then there’s the date-friendly dining space that spreads back through the building. Hand-etched wallpaper (which reminded us of Blanche from the Golden Girls’s palm-printed lair but in a really good way) and cute vintage accents make this new kid on the block feel like an always-been-there old favourite.

“But what’s the food like?” I hear you roar “Tell us about the skin!” Well – it’s pressed flat overnight, trimmed of any fat, baked in the oven and then quick-fried. And it’s so damn good that I went back two nights later dragging a friend with me. Give it a judicious squeeze of the black pepper-dipped lime and you have one of the best bar snacks I’ve ever tasted.

Mr Bambudda, Ray Loy and Buck Friend on bar duties

Mr Bambudda, Ray Loy and Buck Friend on bar duties with my new favourite Tsui Hang cocktail

I got to try a mini sampler of a few dishes from Chef Keev Mah’s menu: think nouveau Dim Sum  – the stars for me were the perfectly-cooked scallops, a sweetly-gooey spiced BBQ pork bun and Law Bak Go, a puréed buttered mash of a radish made into a hashbrown-like wedge and served with meltingly-tender brisket. It’s strange to feel so excited about a radish but this was magnificent – I tried this on the second visit and if anything it was even better. I tried the Crispy Pork Belly, Hong Kong BBQ style with a Maple Hoisin sauce, the texture of the pork belly was everything you’d wish for: it shattered in a satisfying bite, the meat a perfect soft juicy fall-apart counterpoint – but oh! too much salt… the one bum note in a perfect symphony.

And what of the dessert fish? A little sweet for me – but they swam prettily in their drinky waters of Blue Curaçao – frankly anyone who put something this delightful on a plate deserves an award. It’s rare to be so utterly enchanted.

Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang.

Also extra marks to the inspired Cold Tea-esque cocktail creation, Tsui Hang, served in a teapot, a Dark Horse rye made fragrant with salted plums, goji berries and iron budda tea – it had an infused Budweiser syrup in the mix – I adored this and to my knowledge it’s the first beer-infused syrup I’ve encountered in Vancouver.  Go drink and snack at the bar, flirt with the lovely staff and then stuff yourself silly: you can’t fight fate.

I was a guest of Bambudda the first time I visited – but as ever – my words are 100% my own 

BAMBUDDA 99 Powell Street, Gastown Vancouver


Twitter: @bambuddagastown


Mar 13

The story of Maggie, her doorway and Rainier Provisions

Pantry full of treats to take home

Pantry full of treats to take home

I heard something over lunch yesterday that made me tear-up over my roast beef sandwich. I was at Rainier Provisions, checking out Sean Heather’s latest Gastown foodie-magnet. Gastown is a tricky district to define. On the one hand it’s Vancouver’s oldest and most tourist-friendly; home to the ‘Gassy Jack’ statue, the singing Steam Clock, cobbled streets and twinkly fairy-lit trees. There are more hipster joints here than you can kick a hackysack at. It’s also home to the Downtown Eastside, where you’ll find more crushing poverty, drug addiction, homelessness and downright misery than any other area I’ve encountered in Vancouver. These two extremes live uneasily side by side. Occasionally, as with newcomer Pidgin, things break out and get weird.

I get it. Gentrification brings its problems between the haves and have-nots but I have to wonder – what would you rather? If it’s a choice between an empty building and no jobs, or a buzzing establishment that makes a conscious effort to give back to the local neighbourhood, well, it feels like a no-brainer to me.

Large room which can be hired for parties

Large room which can be hired for parties

Sean’s been in Gastown for almost two decades. He’s got a solid record of giving back and getting along with his neighbours. Rainier Provisions is next to the Rainier Hotel, a women’s single-room occupancy hotel, which just had a block of federal funding removed. Thanks to Sean, residents get fed, for free, once a week and a similar meals programme has been in place for years at another of his places, The Irish Heather. I got all mascara-smudged yesterday because I was told about Maggie, a lady who’d lived in the front door of the previously-disused building for three years. When Rainier Provisions was being constructed, instead of evicting Maggie from her doorstep home, it was decided instead to give her some security. So they frosted windows on three sides of one of the unused doorways, added a combination lock on the gate and now Maggie has a place to leave her things where she can come and go as she pleases. She says she feels safer now.

That’s what made me cry. So yes, while many talk up a storm about what gentrification may or may not mean for an area and those who are less well-off, I put all my support behind a company that pays more than lip-service to the idea that we all deserve a place in our community and a damn good meal too.

The food? It was perfect.

The food? It was perfect.

Oh – the food? Hey, it’s Sean Heather – a by-word for excellence – small producers, local suppliers trying to get along with their foodie dreams, so on the menu, great sandwiches, a daily roast (a huge plateful for as little as $8) and jaw-clangingly great ice cream from Vancouver’s finest, Earnest Ice Cream.

Love at first lick with their salt-caramel

Love at first lick with their salt-caramel

Pop in for a meal, or to stock up on deli items like East Vancouver’s Moccia Urbani, D-Original Sauage Company, Germany’s Drews Driessen, and England’s Neal’s Yard Dairy. Take an empty bottle to fill up on peppery olive oil and choose a treat from the towering pantry shelves. And say hi to Maggie if she’s home.

I ate here as a guest of Rainier Provisions. As ever – my views are 100% my own.

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