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Posts tagged ‘panna cotta’

Restaurant Review: River Cafe

Location: 25 Prince’s Island
Website: http://www.river-cafe.com

I finally got the chance to try this place. For as long as I could remember, River Cafe has been on my list of places to try. I had perused its menu many times, but the price had always “scared” me away.

Usually when I make a reservation through OpenTable, one has already been selected for us and we are simply just seated. However, here, they asked if we preferred to sit inside or outside on the patio. While it wasn’t super sunny and warm, we still chose to sit outside. Since it was a cooler evening, there were blanket available as well as some heat lamps.

We made a reservation here for 5:00 p.m., meaning we had just made the cut off for the afternoon menu. The afternoon menu is significantly cheaper than their dinner menu and can be thought of almost as a happy hour menu, but not quite. Each of the dishes on this menu can stand on its own as a full entree.

We both got drinks. Carmen with her white wine (I’m really bad at wines, so I have no idea which one she got) and I tried the black currant spritz. The spritz wasn’t sweet at all, which was unexpected for me and it had a bit of a weird flavour. I had expected something more like ribena, which I quite enjoy mixed with club soda, which was essentially what this was, but it really wasn’t. I didn’t get much of the black currant flavour, there was just something else there that somewhat masked the taste.

Carmen and I decided on our own dishes, the Jungle Farms Spinach and Mushroom Tart and the Berkshire Chorizo & Giant Pacific Octopus Flatbread, respectively, as well as getting the Selection of Artisan Cheese to share. We asked for the cheese to be served as an appetizer. I would like to preface this with the fact that I grew up in an Asian (Chinese) household, so cheese wasn’t something that was commonplace in our house. If we had cheese, it was the store bought bricks of cheddar, mozzarella, or what have you. This household wasn’t exactly one for artisan cheeses. So, I’d have to say, my tastes in this area are not as cultured. The cheeses featured were the Grizzly Gouda from Red Deer (Alberta), the Caerphilly from Fort Macleod (Alberta), the Comox Brie from Vancouver Island (BC), the Aged Gouda from Picture Butte (Alberta), and the Tiger Blue from Penticton (BC). While I had heard of all these types of cheeses, I had never actually had any of them before. I mean, I’ve had blue cheeses, but nothing like the Tiger Blue. To be honest, I’m not one for blue cheese and this one was an especially strong one. That’s not to say I couldn’t learn to appreciate the flavour, but eating this cheese straight was a little much for me. It had a great texture and creaminess though. The brie was another cheese I was familiar with, but have always been too “scared” to try because I’ve always been worried that it’ll be too creamy and rich for me. However, I didn’t find that to be the case. This cheese paired perfectly with the peach preserve and was my favourite of the five cheeses. The remaining three cheeses were hard cheeses and again, not a fan. I think the only hard cheeses I actually like are Parmesan and Grana Padano and even with those, I can only eat them in small quantities. Say, grated over pasta? The Grizzly Gouda was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was beautiful rich yellow colour with a mild nutty flavour, not something I’m used to in my cheeses. It was good, but it would take some getting used to and I was unable to have more than one piece. The other gouda is said to have flavours of burnt caramel and I did get a little bit of that. It really fascinates me that these cheese can taste like this. The last of the cheeses, the Caerphilly, isn’t one I’ve ever heard of. I had no idea what to expect. This cheese technically isn’t a hard cheese, it’s a semi-firm cheese that has a mild, salty buttermilk flavour. I didn’t like or dislike this one. I just didn’t really have an opinion, really. The cheese was served with blackberries, a peach preserve and canola seed crackers. Honestly, I could’ve done with a ton more of that preserve; it was so delicious and those canola seed crackers were something else. They reminded me a little of the sesame crisps at Goro+Gun, but these were neutral flavoured, as to not overpower some of the more delicate cheeses. I loved the combination of the cracker, preserve and brie. I could eat that for a meal and not even be mad.

Amazingly enough, it took us nearly an hour to “finish” the cheese plate. The waiter actually asked us if we were ready for our “mains” and if we were in any rush to be out of there, which I found to be extremely considerate.

Then came the “mains.” I had actually had my eye on the spinach and mushroom tart and when I arrived started eying the burger. Ultimately, I decided on the chorizo and octopus flatbread and I feel like I chose wrong. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t horrible, but I feel like the tart was significantly better than my flatbread and that the burger, as messy as it was (and the fact that I was gonna just eat it with a fork and knife) might’ve been better options. The flatbread consisted of a base of chèvre topped with ash baked potato, chorizo, and octopus, “drizzled” with grainy mustard and garnished with microgreens and pickled onions. Separate, I like all of these things, except for maybe the chèvre because it’s a little bit of a gamier cheese. I think it varies for me with cheeses made from goat’s milk. Sometimes I love them, sometimes I can’t stand them. I had expected the potato to be more of a side, so it was a little odd to see it on the flatbread. I know I’m always saying I will eat carbs with carbs, but not like this! I felt like this flatbread was very under-seasoned, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just like my food with a little more of a punch or kick to it. The tart was actually fantastic and I really should’ve just gone for that. The tart was garnished with pickled and roasted radishes, microgreens, and drizzled with a goat cheese yogurt. The yogurt didn’t have that overwhelming gamey flavour, which was nice. My only complaint about the tart was that it was a little hard to cut.

I actually only ended up eating a quarter of my flatbread in order to have room for dessert. In this instance, I chose wrong…again. Originally, Carmen was going to go with the Blueberry and Camelina Custard Tart, but shortly after ordering it, was informed that it and all the desserts except for the ice cream contained soy. Ever since I had my first panna cotta, I’ve been obsessed, so of course I went for that. I should’ve gone with the blueberry tart or the strawberry shortcake. I was, however, not disappointed with the presentation of my Garden Sorrel Panna Cotta. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried sorrel before, but it is a very green, leafy taste. In small quantities, it’s fine, but i accidentally got a giant dollop and that was a bit much for me. It was kinda reminiscent of pennywort, but in this instance I would’ve preferred the pennywort. It was a fun experience breaking through the white chocolate pyramid encasing the panna cotta, but white chocolate isn’t exactly the nicest flavour, in my opinion. The honey “caviar” wasn’t what I expected and it didn’t taste like much since it was honey (it was just sweet). This dish as a whole provided a lot of different textures, which I liked, but no stand out flavours. Carmen ended up getting the lemon verbena ice cream and it appeared as though she really enjoyed it.

Also, Carmen informed me that everything on their menu is made from scratch in house. I think this is really great because it allows the chef to control every aspect of the dish, but also, it’s really great for people with allergies and sensitivities. In fact, the wait staff was equally knowledgable about the ingredients in their dishes, which I was very impressed with. Another thing that’s impressive is that all their ingredients are sourced locally and that’s something I can get on board with.

Plating-wise, I’d have to say these are some of the prettiest/most artistic plates I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, presentation isn’t everything. It has to be backed up with taste too and for me, it fell flat on some/most of the elements of my dishes tonight.

In terms of accessibility, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to get into, but it would certainly be difficult. I can’t remember with certainty whether the front entry way had stairs or not, but I do remember the thresholds were kinda high. There’s definitely stairs on the patio though.

After reading this I’m sure you must be thinking, oh my God, you are so picky. In a sense, maybe I am, but also consider, these are not the flavours I grew up with and they aren’t the flavours I naturally gravitate towards.

Would I come here again? Maybe to try their brunch or dinner, but because of its location and the fact that everything is handcrafted, it is a little on the expensive side, so I’d have to be careful. However, despite some of my hiccups with my meal this evening, I had a really enjoyable experience. I would rate this a 3/5.

Correction: In a previous version of this review, I mistakenly wrote ribena bourbon ice cream when it ought to have been lemon verbena.

River Cafe – Patio
River Cafe – Patio
River Cafe – Patio
Selection of Artisan Cheeses
Jungle Farms Spinach and Mushroom Tart
Berkshire Chorizo and Giant Octopus Flatbread
Garden Sorrel Panna Cotta
Ribena Bourbon Ice Cream

Restaurant Review: Bank and Baron

Location: 125 8 Avenue SW
Website: http://www.bankandbaronpub.com

Bank and Baron is unique in that it’s located in an old bank that has been converted into a restaurant. First off, I’m never gonna say no to going to an old building. I love historical old buildings. It’s not just the beauty of the architecture, but the story behind each brick, every nail, every board, the stories the wall would tell if it could speak.

For our after work adventure, we decided we’d go with just happy hour appies. We ordered the chicken gyoza, steak bites, crafted lager beer fondue, and American sliders from the happy hour menu and the Spinach Dip from the regular menu.

The steak bites were a recommendation from my sister. This was amazing! I could probably eat the entire appie by myself if I didn’t have any self control. This was the best dish of the evening. My sister recommended that I not order the chicken gyoza, but we did anyways and she was right. The peanuts were not exactly crushed, they were halved and stale which made it hard to eat. The meat texture was impossible to discern, there was no flavour, the only good thing about the gyoza was that part of the wrapper was crispy, just the way I like it, but only part of it. It was my first time having the fondue and I was unfortunately disappointed. The cheese was gritty and grainy and it just didn’t have a great taste. The flatbread accompanying the fondue, on the other hand, was amazing. It was like a lighter version of focaccia. The sliders were as sliders often are. There was nothing particularly special about them. I’m not saying I wouldn’t order them again, but only if nothing on the menu really appealed to me. The last dish was the Spinach dip. This dish is a staple at so many restaurant, so like the sliders, unless I was really craving it or there was nothing I liked on the menu, then I would order this again.

For dessert, Alex and I both ordered the Valharona Chocolate Panna Cotta.  While it may not look the most appealing, it was delicious!  The creamy texture of that rich and slightly bitter chocolate was the perfect way to end the night.  If I hadn’t been so stuffed with carbs, I probably would’ve ordered another one.

I would definitely come back to this place, if only to eat those steak bites and panna cotta again. Based on my experience, I would give this place a 3/5.

Bank and Baron Bar

Interior (by our table)

Ceiling

Basement Vault

Close up of vault

Washroom

Cheese Fondue

Steak Bites

Chicken Gyoza and American Sliders

Valharona Chocolate Panna Cotta

Restaurant Review: Bistro 101

Location: 1505 W 2nd Ave
Website: https://www.picachef.com/bistro-101-restaurant

This is our second time at Bistro 101. The first time was with our family and we had gone on a Friday night without a reservation. Friday nights are buffet, while Monday-Thursday have a set course dinner. Each month has a different menu,

Tonight was a great way to finish off our trip to Vancouver. Though wait times are bit longer for dishes to be served because Bistro 101 is a place for culinary arts students to practice, the price is a little cheaper, but they are by no means less delicious. With three choices on the menu and four of us, we were pretty much able to try everything on the menu. The only person who ordered a drink was my friend Julia and she got a Carbonated Rose Lemonade. We all placed our order and I was surprised when our server Shelton brought out a complementary amuse bouche. It was cream cheese wrapped in salmon topped with capers and lemon zest served on a fried wonton wrapper. Other than being on the salty side, it was actually really good! They also provide complementary bread with whipped butter. There was so much variety, but my favourite was the muffin looking one that reminded me of the biscuits at Red Lobster and the other looked like a small loaf with really chewy crust (if you haven’t noticed, I love food with a chewy texture, hence Korean crystal noodles and al dente pasta). Since there were four of us, we had to double up on one of the appetizers.  Two of us got the prawn bisque, one got the chickpea fritters and the other got the calamari. The calamari was well seasoned, I had no problems with anything on the plate being over salted. There were only four piece of calamari arranged around a mound of cooked greens. The presentation was a bit lacking, but what it lacked in appearance it made up for in taste.The greens were like salad greens but cooked and I thought that I wouldn’t like it but with the garlic based Asian sauce made a huge difference. They were so delicious! However, I did have a problem with the oiliness of the dish as a whole.  If there had being something tart, the dish may not have come off as being so heavy. The prawn bisque was creamy and the addition of the chili oil “really made the dish man” to quote my sister’s friend, Vi. Or more eloquently put, the chili oil added added a new level of depth to the dish. My sister, Valerie, however, wishes that the prawns were a little smaller as they were hard to cut through and made it difficult to eat and still look decent. The chickpea fritters were well crisped on the outside, but had a very smooth consistency within. The chickpea fritter was topped with some sort of aioli and lemon zest., served with grilled eggplant roses on a bed mixed greens. According to Julia, “the lemon zest was very fresh~~~~.” Personally, I would have liked to have seen the eggplant seasoned a little more aggressively. Of the three dishes, this had to be the most beautiful one. Overall, appetizers were small portions that did what they were made to do, stimulate our appetite for the meal to come while holding us for a bit longer until the mains came.

We were so immersed in the view and our conversation we didn’t even notice that it took longer than usual for our mains to come. I only knew that it had taken longer than usual because Shelton apologized for the delay. There were three options for mains, but we only chose two of the three. Vi and I ordered the Grilled Salmon, while Julia and Valerie ordered the Pork Tenderloin. Both entrees turned out a little different from what was described on the menu, which was good and bad in some ways. Instead of fresh pasta, the salmon came with potato patties. As the patties were fried, there was a lot of oil for this dish too. In someways the fresh pasta would have been so much better because that would have given the chef the choice to go with a light, citrus or fresh herb sauce. The addition of capers to the asparagus was the only only saving grace to this dish. The inherent tartness of the capers helped to counterbalance the potatoes. However, that was nullified by the fact that the asparagus and capers were drowned in a sauce that was in and of itself quite oily. The star of the dish, the salmon, was really the star. The meat was light and came apart easily, the seasoning was not so overpowering that it destroyed the tender salmon’s taste. The tenderloin was succulent and started out pink, but as the meal went on the pork continued to cook so that in the end it was completely cooked through. It was lightly seasoned, but still flavourful. The pork was served on a bed of white beans that were a little undercooked for Valerie’s liking and also lightly seasoned. Instead of swiss chard and rhubarb, the pork was served with one floret of broccolini and grilled bell peppers. The broccolini wasn’t bitter as is often the case and the bell peppers were unseasoned, but this allowed for its naturally sweet flavour to shine.

Last was dessert. Four people, four desserts. Valerie had the Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Poached Peaches in a Hibiscus Syrup, Vi had the Caramel Semifreddo, Julia had the Red Velvet Mousse Cake with Mint Chocolate Ice cream which was the dessert of the day, and I had the Neapolitan. The Panna Cotta was by far the most beautiful. Valerie’s favourite part of the dish was the candied nuts in the house made granola. I thought the caramelized sugar twill was pretty cool, it would have added more aesthetic appeal if it had been made into a longer, more graceful shape. The hibiscus syrup was light and not overly sweet and eaten as a whole was a truly amazing finish to an already amazing meal. Vi ate the Caramel Semifreddo so fast I didn’t even see what had happened. The next thing I knew she was asking the waiter if it’d be okay to order a second dessert. The semifreddo was served on top of a pistachio financiers and garnished with an apricot Earl Grey coulis. I didn’t get much feedback on this one, but based on what I know about each individual element, it would have been a pretty good dish. The Red Velvet cake, though it got a big reaction from everyone wasn’t really that special. What was special was how beautiful it looked. The colours on this plate were more vibrant than anything we ordered all night. I loved my Neapolitan so much so that I strayed from the original plan to share and try out everyone else’s desserts; I was not sharing this with anybody! The balance in this dish was perfect, better than anything else I had ordered all night (not a sweet person, usually I’d be the one raving about the savoury, but not tonight). The Neapolitan comprised of strawberry vanilla mousse cake, strawberry gelée, chocolate ice cream garnished with a strawberry, white chocolate chip on top of each slice of cake. A great twist on a classic.

Bistro 101 was one of the higher class restaurants we’d been to on this trip. It’s always been a great experience here and for the price you pay, this place is without compare. I would come here time and time again for the friendly service and amazing food. I will come back again the next time I’m in Vancouver. My rating for this place is 4.75/5.

Complementary Bread

Complementary Bread

Amuse Bouche: Salmon wrapped Cream Cheese topped with Capers and Lemon Zest

Amuse Bouche: Salmon wrapped Cream Cheese topped with Capers and Lemon Zest

Wok Fried Calamari with Asian Flavours

Wok Fried Calamari with Asian Flavours

Prawn Bisque

Prawn Bisque

Chickpea Fritters

Chickpea Fritters

Grilled Salmon

Grilled Salmon

Pork Tenderloin with White Beans

Pork Tenderloin with White Beans

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Poached Peaches and Hibiscus Syrup

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Poached Peaches and Hibiscus Syrup

Caramel Semifreddo

Caramel Semifreddo

Neapolitan

Neapolitan

Dessert of the Day: Red Velvet Mousse Cake with Chocolate Mint Ice Cream

Dessert of the Day: Red Velvet Mousse Cake with Chocolate Mint Ice Cream

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