Posts Tagged: Restaurant

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


Jan 13

Hawksworth: just a year old and already a Canadian classic

If you ask any foodie in Vancouver for their top five restaurant picks, it’s likely that Hawksworth will be on every list. One of Vancouver’s most ritzy restaurants, Hawksworth is in the deliciously decadent Rosewood Hotel Georgia. I first ate there just over a year ago, a few months after it had first opened,  that meal was inspirational. Deft touches of molecular gastronomy, everything beautifully-considered and oh! deep, rich flavours and exciting food combinations. Chef David Hawksworth and his team deservedly scooped a brace of ‘Best New‘, ‘Most Exciting‘, ‘Most Fabulous Opening‘ awards after that first year. But a year on, what next? 

Easily the most glamorous room in town

Easily the most glamorous room in town

After a glittering opening, expectations are high but all those ‘Best New...’ awards can’t be won when you’re no longer the new kid on the block. I went back recently for dinner; less showy than that first meal, I feel like Hawksworth has taken a mature direction. The new kid grew up fast. My sense is that instead of concentrating on culinary fireworks, which dazzle then fade away, what’s happening over at Hawksworth looks set to become a Canadian classic. What do I mean? Well, their angus beef tenderloin was hands-down the most delicious I’d tasted. No molecular gastronomy flashes, no glitz, just meltingly-soft with a purity of flavour that left me wishing I could eat it every single Sunday as a roast for the rest of my life.

Simple, beautiful, perfect

Simple, beautiful, perfect

There’s an authority to the food at Hawksworth, nothing feels try-hard. The desert menu seems to be the place that Chef is allowing his more mischievous side to come out – chocolate, lime and avocado appear together along with a vanilla custard ‘buddha’s hand’ with pink grapefruit and sesame.

It’s kind of refreshing, in a city that seems to pop its collective cork over every new opening, to walk past Hawksworth and see a busy room on almost any night in the week. The smart set haven’t moved on. Hawksworth was one of the most exciting places to eat in Vancouver when it opened, and for my money, it absolutely still is. So cheers, here’s to a new Canadian classic.

I ate as a guest of Hawksworth, however, my views are 100% my own.

Dec 12

Adventures in Vancouver dining: Wildebeest

If there’s one restaurant that people are talking about a lot these days, it’s Wildebeest; a Gastown-borders, nose-to-tail eating joint with a bold agenda for ‘unabashed adventurous cuisine.’ I’m no fan of buzz as a rule. Buzz is for the bees and is usually as insubstantial as a soap bubble, but after a second trip to see the ‘Beest-y Boys’ in action, I think I’ll be adding my shouts of praise to the throng.

Let’s start off with the basics: I love an atmospheric room to eat in – especially one with an open kitchen where I can watch the crew perform their gastro-ballet and synchronised plating. Wildebeest has all kinds of extra details that catch the eye too — quotes from writers on the wall, vintage light fixtures and a rather lovely solid wood door that’s been repurposed as a bottle rack by the bar.

Downstairs in the wine bar…

I was torn the first time I ate here; half the dishes I loved — just adored to the point of wondering if I could get away with some sneaky plate-licking — but a few left me cold. A porridge-y side served with pork bewildered me; each on their own were fine, but together? And then there was a take on chicharon which seriously misfired; I was left with gummy fried pork adhered to my mouth. Yes. My life is *that* glamorous. But the custard-y, foamy Chawanmushi, with Dungeness Crab I could have happily eaten in a bucket, it was incredible and the shortribs, hands down the best I’ve ever tasted.

Seriously hard for me not to just… lick the screen. Best. Shortribs. EVER.
Credit – Peter Bagi

I went back at the weekend and I’m so glad I did. The incredibly-adhesive chicharon is gone. As is the pork-y porridge. This can only be a good thing. In their place, wonderful stuff… I tried an octopus dish with light, peppery olive oil hollandaise (is this a ‘thing’ in this town? First at Fable, now here?) and my new favourite thing, a Fiore Farm chicken duo, with a positively whipped-it-was-so-creamy polenta and the most delicious flavour-dense jus. Adored it.

This is the first time I’ve seen ‘dining’ cocktails too. I tried a Fitty Fitty, a blend of Nasturtium-infused gin, vermouth and salt that made me wince when I tried it at the bar – but with food – it became the perfect foil. Loved that.

Spread on that toast – oh! Heaven.
Credit – Peter Bagi

It’s a menu made for excitingly high-stakes dining. No scaredy-cat, fussy eaters here – the bone marrow is gelatinously meaty and just made to luge sherry with, chicken hearts and duck liver dance alongside sweetbreads and schnitzel. It’s the kind of dinner that you want to take a date to —  just to see how down and daring they get with the food. Bold eaters are terribly attractive, everyone knows that, right?  So, buzz aside, the hype, for once, is real. I will be back. And you should absolutely go there too.

I ate here as a guest of Tourism Vancouver/Wildebeest. My views are 100% my own.

Find out more at Tourism Vancouver 

Oct 12

Vancouver Fairmont Pacific Rim: a little bit of a love letter…

I know this reads like a cheerleader-y whoop of a write-up, but you know what? Sometimes things are just good… and this is one of ‘em. I’m already pretty much on record as a fan of the Fairmont group in general and their Willow Stream Spas in particular. It’s true, I don’t really like chains as a rule, but I’ll make an exception for these guys because I kind of love the feeling that each of the Fairmonts I’ve visited has; the Monte Carlo Fairmont made me gurgle with glee as it had a mustard menu to go along with their buttery-soft steaks, as well as a rooftop pool that you can see France, Italy and, of course, Monaco from, as you lazily swim laps under the sun. The Savoy in London is part of the group and if you know of a more elegant luxury hotel in the world to enjoy a White Lady cocktail (which was invented in the bar there) then tell me – because I simply don’t believe it exists.

But to the Pacific Rim  in Vancouver; perched on the water’s edge, it’s a huge modern property, with a stunning open lobby with a piano bar and cocktail lounge which makes for a buzzy atmosphere as you walk in. Cheery reception staff make check-in a joy. I said something about wondering whether the rain would stop later and as I walked into my room, the phone rang; it was the gal on the desk, calling with the weather for later that day.  Do you see why I love them?

Alas, I didn’t get one of the bath-with-a-view rooms which overlook the harbour, with the pretty floatplanes taking off like duckies into the air, but as my room had a huge soaker-style tub and a bed that I never wanted to leave, turns out I had nothing to pout about after all.

Next time, this bath shall be mine

Of course, the only thing likely to drag me out of bed in a Fairmont is the chance of a trip to the spa… I love the spacious feeling that the Willow Streams have; the soft touches from the fruit and muffins in the relaxation rooms to the soft blankets available to wrap yourself up in after a soothing treatment so you can just zone out. This Willow Stream also boasts Vancouver’s most fabulous hot tub; right on the roof, towering over the city, where you can watch the sunset turn the buildings the most glorious gold.

No time to soak it up today, it was all about discovering the rejuvenating effects of marine algae with a signature ‘Power of the Sea’ massage. I was wrapped in a soothing mineral-rich cream and while that soaked into my skin, my therapist gave me a brilliant acupressure facial and eye-rollingly good scalp massage. All too soon I showered off the wrap and was then treated to a body massage with more Thalgo product. Now, I’d usually say after a good spa body treatment you could expect softer skin for maximum a couple of days. This really impressed me; a week later, my skin still felt petal-soft. I’m interested to see what effect a Thalgo full facial might have as, wow, serious results!

Snuggle up under a blanket and bliss out

Later I got to check out a tasting menu at Oro, the elegantly funky fine dining restaurant on the second floor. It’s all about the taste of the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest cuisine here, focussing on what’s local, seasonal and just plain good. We started with a sparkling Blue Mountain rosé from the Okanagan Valley, a whoosh of strawberries and citrus which was so good, it made me decide there and then to get to the Okanagan fast! We were treated to a variety of small plates from the Oru menu, my two favourites were the  Qualicum Island scallops with a brilliant faux-lardon made from smoked salmon, and the Fraser Valley pork belly which came with a new ingredient for me: lotus root purée – a wonderful taste that I want to try again. Show-stopper of the night though, was an Alaskan salt cod which was served with a ‘tea’, brewed table-side in old-fashioned gas-fired contraption, made of fragrant tomatoes and herbs. Poured over the delicate fish it was wonderful; dense with layers of herby, zingy, pure tomato flavour. I’d never tried anything even close to this before. LOVE.

Seriously. I want to eat this all day long.

I wish I could find some negatives to even out this rave of a review, but there’s nothing. The cocktails are great, the staff are friendly and hey – even the bathrooms are nice! What can I say? Go there. Eat there. Spa there. Stay there…

I stayed as a guest of The Fairmont Pacific Rim, however, my views are 100% my own – I just really love this brand!

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