Posts Tagged: Yaletown

Feb 13

Food and drink adventures in Yaletown Part 2: Minami

Launching a successful sushi restaurant in a city with more sashimi and speciality rolls than you can shake a chopstick at takes something special. Down in Vancouver’s Yaletown, Minami has hit on a neat solution to keeping things fresh with ‘aburi sushi’ – a method of blowtorch-ing the topping. I went to see what it was all about.


Sit at the counter and watch the amazing action at Minami

As an Ocean Wise sustainable seafood restaurant, I was already eyeing up Minami favourably, but as I walked in on that cold Vancouver night, I was greeted with a chorus of “Irrashai Mase!” which means ‘welcome’ and I soon felt warmed up –  and no –  it wasn’t just from the kick-ass Katana cocktail.

It’s mesmerising to watch the chefs prepping at the sushi counter. I sat, goggle-eyed with admiration as they created plate after plate of toasty-topped nigiri, which thanks to a smart little gizmo which you pack with rice and tap, was all perfectly rectangular. While I watched the chefs work their magic, I started off with a single oyster, topped with a lemon sake foam. I usually like my Vancouver Island oysters naked (apart from the smallest squirt of lemon), but the foam was a deft touch – giving a small but intense flavour burst.

As chef prepped my flame-finished sushi, I tucked into sustainable salmon sashimi.

As chef prepped my flame-finished sushi, I tucked into sustainable salmon sashimi.

I’ll confess I had my doubts about the aburi: flame-finished sushi, really? But it turns out I had nothing to fear; it was gorgeous, the topping had a faint charcoal flavour which worked beautifully with the rice and fish.

Aburi sushi - flame-finished and mouth-wateringly delish.

Aburi sushi – flame-finished and mouth-wateringly delish.

I’d been recommended to try the sea urchin; sandy-orange and curled on top of a wedge of rice, it’s maybe not the prettiest sushi on the block and I’d never ordered it in a restaurant before. “When it comes to some seafoods you have to fight preconceptions – forget the looks; if it tastes good, eat it!” advised the manager Patrick as I hesitantly raised my chopsticks. I gingerly bit in and savoured its flavour; creamy and tasting of the ocean.  This was fresh from Vancouver Island too, where the icy clean waters make for excellent sea food. I wound up not eating the rice, so delicious was its pure clean flavour.

Sea urchin - feel the fear and eat it anyway!

Sea urchin – feel the fear and eat it anyway!

It’s one of the things that I’m loving most about my time in Canada – so far, every week I’ve managed to try something new to eat or drink that I’ve never tried before. I went for a look around Minami’s funky interior and peeked out to the patio. It was, of course, raining (it basically rains from October till April in Vancouver, I’ve been told!) but I imagined sitting in the summer sun, tossing back more of those delicious oysters and a whole plate of those tasty sea urchins. I can’t wait.

I ate as a guest of Minami but my views are 100% my own.

Dec 12

My first Vancouver hotel love revisited. I’m still crushing on The Opus

Seeing your first love again after a couple of years… well, that can be kind of complicated. You have all those expectations. Will your heart still flutter? Will they still excite you like they did? Make you feel special? Or will it be a terrible let down and leave you sad and depressed for days?

Oh, I should explain. I’m not talking about an ex-boyfriend. I’m talking about the very first hotel I stayed in when I came to Vancouver for the very first time two years ago, The Opus. I’d arrived by train from Toronto, a life-changing 4466KM, four day, three night journey that had me swooning over the sheer size of Canada and its amazing landscape. I got to the ViaRail station in the morning in a state of profound nature-worship and got a cab to Yaletown, where I checked into this gloriously sexy city hotel. At the time I wrote that it was, “…Absolutely everything a boutique hotel should be; sexy, smart, stylish and giddily decadent.” Would it still have the power to charm me? Yes, yes. YES!

Seriously snuggle-worthy

I was checking out one of the newly-renovated suites and oh, I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. My beloved moodily-lit disco-lift – all funky music and slow-changing lights - still put a smile on my face, I sashayed down the softly-soft carpet to my room and wondered whether I’d still get that giddy feeling once I got inside.

It’s enough to give a girl ideas…

I guess sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, because, if anything, the new designed rooms are saucier than ever. Oh, there’s still that knowingly party-friendly minibar, packed to the brim with re-tox and de-tox options and the gleaming Nespresso machine, but add to that an in-room iPad, a roaring fire at the touch of a button, sultry art work, all shiny lips and soft, squishy furniture that just begged for you to curl up and snuggle. The suites are pleasingly spacious; the lounge area perfect for a spot of room service as I enjoyed that hypnotic fireplace. The bedroom glamorous enough to ignite a fire of its own for any lucky couple who get to stay there. And if you’re a bit of an exhibitionist, well, the light-flooded windows of the bathroom face out over an office. Me, I kept the blinds low and enjoyed the Jacuzzi tub. But you, well… I bet you’d keep them open a bit, you saucy thing.

Sunny side up

In the morning, my four poster bed was so comfy I briefly considered chaining myself to it, to avoid leaving, but breakfast at La Pentola was calling, so reluctantly, I left its embrace and drifted downstairs. I’d eaten at the restaurant a few weeks beforehand, rustic Italian with a BC twist. There were a couple of dishes that I’d especially loved; a smoked veal tongue that was carpaccio-thin and a kale and ricotta-stuffed pasta that I could have happily eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Eggs were on the menu this morning though and a tasty sausage perfectly paired with an apple jam. I left with a dance in my step and a head full of new and wonderful memories. I’m still crushing hard on The Opus. The flame still burns for my first Vancouver hotel-love. Can we make this a regular anniversary date? I hope so…

I stayed as a guest of the Opus, however, my views are 100% my own.

Nov 12

Ladies who lunch: Part 1. Glowbal Grill

If you’re going for lunch with a girlfriend you’ve not seen for a while, then there are a few important things a restaurant must have for it to be a success; patient staff who A) don’t try to hurry you up and B) don’t mind if you get a little flirty after that second glass of wine of wine, a secluded nook so you can spill major dirt without being overheard, a variety of things on the menu that you can share as you always end up wanting exactly what she ordered – cos hey, you split that amazing prawn thing that one time – and cool music that is loud enough to cover any snorts of “OH MY GOD, you did WHAT?” but not so loud that you can’t hear full details of exactly what it was that she did…

Impossible to not love a chef who shares his recipe secrets AND brings dessert.

At Glowbal Grill, I think I may have found all that, situated bang in the heart of Yaletown. Perched at a table for two in a quiet corner opposite the bar, I got to watch the action in the open kitchen as well lean in and listen to everything my girlfriend was telling me.

Glowbal is known for its steaks and satay and so that’s exactly what we ordered, I could have happily eaten a whole bucket of the crunchy spicy-sweet deep-fried Buttermilk Chicken as just one is plainly nowhere near enough and the Albacore tuna tataki was one of the best I’d tried; lightly seared and delicate. Lucky then, that we’d got the same each, as I could easily see a fight breaking out over Who Would Have The Last One.

Honestly, how beautiful are these Heirloom tomatoes?

Any place that has Burrata on the menu is somewhere I’ll probably like as it’s one of my favourite decadent cheeses – made from mozzarella and cream and tasting of heaven. Glowbal’s Caprese salad came with a satisfying wedge of creamy Burrata along with tomatoes that were like a little burst of sunshine.

It’s actually a fight for me to not just get up and go there and order this RIGHT NOW.

Satay, salad, you’d think we’d be full, but oh – you’d be wrong. Proper girl lunches (at least ones that I have) should have as many courses as possible, as that gives you time to catch up and everyone knows that food eaten in great company doesn’t add an ounce of weight… So on to the famous steaks, served with the best sprouts I’d ever tasted, flaky with Parmesan, zingy with chili and (yup) deep fried. We couldn’t stop eating them and neither will you – here’s the recipe. Make them. People will love you for it. Are the steaks worth the hype? I’d say so. I loved the crisp salty puff of fat on the outside and the meat was everything you’d wish it to be; tender and juicy and from prime Canadian stock.

For dessert, we split a trio of Crème brûlées. And, er, some cheesecake. AND yeah – we may have sampled a beignet or two…  before regretfully rolling out, some hours after we’d arrived. I mentally ran through my Ideal Ladies Lunch check list and yes, Glowbal Grill gets a tick in every box. So – apologies to Nick, our server, for the flirtiness, thanks to the cool music – Prince covers – for the funkiness and hurrah for a menu that offers Things On Sticks for us to share. We’ll see you again soon.

We ate lunch as guests of the Glowbal Grill, but my views are 100% my own.

Nov 12

Food and drink adventures in Yaletown

I’m slowly getting to know the different neighbourhoods around my new city, Vancouver. Yaletown is at the lower tip of the downtown core bordered by the water of False Creek, and the streets of Robson and Homer. It used to be a heavily industrial part of town, but now the warehouses and loading docks have been transformed. It reminded me a little of London’s Docklands in spirit; it seemed to be all about shiny shops and designer-y stores. My first impression (truthfully) was that Yaletown seemed a little… fake. A tad shallow, perhaps?

As you can imagine, this disappeared fairly swiftly…

It’s lucky I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. Yet again, first impressions have proved deceiving. Turns out that Yaletown’s a sizzling hotbed of great little restaurants and bars. Independent business seem to thrive here and one way of showcasing that is in their celebration of food and drink, the Taste of Yaletown, an annual event where more than 20 restaurants offer three-course tasting menus for as little as $25.

I’d never seen this before: aburi flame-seared sushi from Minami

I went along to the launch and got to try little bite-sized offerings from a few of the restaurants participating. It’s a brilliant way to get people to get out of their restaurant-rut and experience new places. With so many participants though I have to ask the organisers to think about extending this to a month. How else could I do all 23 in just ten days!?

It tasted just as good as it looks.

As this is Vancouver, the innovative cocktail scene wasn’t going to be left out and a week later, Yaletown hosted a Shake Up cocktail contest with six of the local bars using a Bacardi rum as a base. I found many of them a little sweet for my taste, apart from the offering from Julia Diakow, from the New Oxford who’d made a gorgeous walnut-infused maple syrup creation, called 15th and Maple with Benedictine and apple cider.

The winner! Thanks so much to Ariane Colenbrander for this great image.

Julia wound up winning honours that night, so yaaay for me, picking a winner. Looks like all those hard hours I put in on a bar stool weren’t in vain…

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