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Posts tagged ‘Pasta’

Restaurant Review: The Old Spaghetti Factory

Location: 53 Water St
Website: http://www.oldspaghettifactory.ca

Located in Vancouver’s historic Gastown, this place has been one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been to. Ever since my parents introduced this to me. Maybe this is why I started falling in love with pasta in the first place. No, I’m kidding, but that’d be an interesting story: the origins of how I came to love pasta. As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned to eat real pasta, pasta that is al dente and this place no longer meets that requirement. Don’t get me wrong, the food here is still delicious, but if it had been al dente, it would have made it so much more amazing. 

Late lunches have now become a thing for us. I’ve always believed in having a late or early lunch and never one on time especially when eating out because crowds usually gather at the appointed lunch and dinner times and I like to avoid the rush. Lunch here is a great deal because they always start you off with a loaf of sourdough bread with whipped garlic and plain butters. Then you have a choice of soup or salad as a starter, followed by a main of your choice, finishing with a hot tea or coffee and Spumoni ice cream. One person ordered a house salad with the low fat sesame dressing, the other three had soups; two had French Onion and one had the Clam Chowder. While the dressing is low fat, that does not mean that the salad should be doused in dressing. In other words, the salad was way overdressed in that there was a puddle at the end. The Clam Chowder and French Onion are upgrades on the soup option (the original “free” choice would be Minestrone). The broth of the French Onion had a full bodied flavour and it wasn’t overseasoned. The cheese was stringy and chewy and that was the only thing that made it hard to eat. The Clam Chowder was so creamy and rich, but not so much so that it made it hard to finish. In fact, I was left hungering for more. Only one person took advantage of the tea or coffee deal our meal the others ordered soft drinks and just had water. 

The main courses we ordered were Chicken Alfredo with Mushroom and Mascarpone Cheese Ravioli, Red Thai Curry Linguine with Chicken, Spaghetti with Clam Sauce, and Hot Roast Beef Sandwich with Fries. The Ravioli, despite being in a cream sauce was not too rich. When they first brought me my Linguine, they brought me the wrong one, prawn instead of chicken, but our waitress quickly noticed and took it a way before I had a chance to react. When she offered parmesan I said yes without thinking because I absolutely love fresh parmesan. After she left I stared at my dish for a minute before realizing that maybe putting cheese into an “Asian” dish wasn’t the best idea. The first few bites of the Linguine were delicious, but after a while, especially near the bottom where the oil had pooled, it got harder and harder to eat. In terms of aesthetics, the prawns looked so much better in the dish than the chicken. The chicken was tender enough to cut with a fork, but looked rather torn up. The Spaghetti was pretty ordinary. The clams sauce had basil in it and I find that basil is great for reducing that fishy taste often associated with seafood. My friend described it as being fairly light for a cream based sauce. Going to an Italian restaurant and ordering roast beef is probably not advised, but my sister has never been a fan of pasta so she decided to give it a try. Bad idea. The gravy, other than being overly abundant, was extremely salty. Fries are just fries and if someone messed those up…well, then they just suck.

Dessert was ice cream. It was tri-coloured so we were trying to figure out all the flavours. The obvious two were vanilla and chocolate, but the third one, a green on was a little harder. We narrowed it down to some sort of melon, but didn’t get farther than that. The vanilla was a lighter flavour than I was used to, but maybe because I’ve been having vanilla bean ice cream a lot more lately or maybe it was just overpowered by the other flavours.

Overall, my experience here has been really good. I was very impressed by the service and our waitress was really attentive to our needs. It’s definitely a family friendly restaurant and the quaintness of the place is a plus. I would come back again, but next time I’ll stick to the Italian fare and try out that Manicotti as I had originally intended. I would rate this place 4/5.

 

The Old Spaghetti Factory Exterior

  

Sourdough Bread with Whipped Garlic and Plain Butter

  

House Salad with Low Fat Sesame Dressing

  

Clam Chowder

  

French Onion Soup

  

Spaghetti in a Clam Sauce

  

Hot Roast Beef Sandwich with Fries

  

Chicken Alfredo with Mushroom and Mascarpone Cheese Ravioli

  

Red Thai Curry Linguine with Chicken

 
  

Restaurant Review: Wendel’s Bookstore & Cafe

Location: 103-9233 Glover Rd (Fort Langley)
Website: http://wendelsonline.com/wordpress/

After an exhausting pre-dinner walk and exclusion from a pub (as one of our party didn’t have any IDs that are considered sufficient as BC laws differ greatly from Alberta ones) we headed to this cafe. Sure I love books, coffee, and pastries, but I wasn’t enthusiastic about going to a cafe for dinner. I was about to be proven wrong on so many levels.

Two of my party ordered daily special items. One had the Chicken Avocado Quesadilla and the other had the Driediger Farms Berry and Goat Cheese salad. The other orders were a West Coast Prawn Fettuccine, a Jack & Avocado Quesadilla, and a Pad Thai. Drinks ordered were an Iced Caramel Macchiato, a Mocha Frappe, a Yogurt Yerry smoothie, and a Wild Berry Frappe. The Fettuccine was heavenly! It was prawns in a white wine, garlic and cream sauce over fettuccine noodles topped with parmesan and served with two pieces of garlic focaccia. The focaccia was a lot lighter than I was used to and the sauce was so creamy! But as I neared the end, it got tougher and tougher to finish because of its richness. It probably would have been nice to share it with someone who got a salad. The feature salad was quite large and the citrus vinaigrette was exactly what my friend needed after that heavy lamb lunch. The fresh berries, creamy goat cheese, and candied pecans added a layer of depth to the salad, making it more filling than you’d expect from a salad. The quesadillas didn’t really interest me and I didn’t try them, but the two who ordered them said that it was pretty good (and that’s all I could get out of them). The quesadillas came with a salad and choice of dressing. The Pad Thai was also really refreshing. I’ve never had a Pad Thai and I suppose a cafe isn’t the place to try it, but this place actually did a really good job on it. The noodles they used were about the size of my fettuccine, but were made of potato starch instead giving it a nice chewy consistency.  There was a lot of variety of protein in this dish: egg, prawns, and chicken, which was really nice. The lime definitely helped to whet my appetite and I assume that it would make it go down a lot easier than the creamy fettuccine I had. However, the only complaint my sister had about this dish was after a while it got really sweet after a while.

The two desserts that were ordered were a berry cheesecake and a peanu st butter and chocolate bar. The cheesecake looked really good and it would be the kind I’d go for since for me, cheesecake is so rich it needs the tartness to counterbalance it. The crust/base of the peanut butter chocolate bar was described as being quite dry. I’d love to come back just to have a dessert and coffee while looking around at the books sometime in the winter.

As this place is technically a cafe, it functions much like Vendome. You order at the counter, take a number and they will bring it to your table. The staff are friendly yet remained professional. I would certainly love to come back here after a long day out on the river or just to relax and have a coffee with friends. I would definitely recommend coming here if you have the pleasure of visiting Fort Langley. I’e always wanted to live in a small town and this place has become yet another reason why I should. This has been one of the best places we’ve been to so far on this trip and I would give it a 4.5/5, giving Vendome a good run for its money (might even be better than Vendome since it has a much wider selection of food).

Avocado and Jack Quesadilla

 

Driediger Farms Berry and Goat Cheese Salad

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar

 

Berry Cheesecake

 

Chicken Avocado Quesadilla

 

West Coast Prawn Fettuccine

 

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Restaurant Review: La Viena

Location: 802 16 Ave NW

First impressions are everything and this place is no exception. I was first recommended this restaurant when it was still in Kensington, but I never got the chance to go until now. A friend of mine worked their briefly and praised it quite highly, my dad went and said that I would like it, so I was really expecting a lot from this place. I’m sorry to say that all my expectations were disappointed.

La Viena’s new location is on 16th Ave, where the North Hill Steakhouse used to be. The interior is a bit old and dingy, but it also gives off a homey kind of vibe. We had to wait for a good ten minutes before anyone noticed that we had come in. In fact, a small line had formed behind us by the time someone came to the front to seat us. We were seated and promptly given water and some bread and butter. Normally our family doesn’t take long to decide what we want to eat, average about five minutes or so; today was no exception. We decided on our mains and an appetizer, but the waiter was nowhere in sight. We thought that when he returned with our drinks we could order right away, we were wrong. He dropped off our drinks and my dad made to order, but the guy just walked away. For the next ten to fifteen minutes we spent our time trying to flag down the waiter, which was so annoying because he just kept pretending not to see us. At one point he was just standing there doing nothing and I was like seriously? We quickly ordered and waited for our food to come. While we waited, we munched on some of the bread and flavourless whipped butter. I mean, it was nice that there was complementary bread and butter, but when it’s just like oil on bread, it’s not even worth eating. The bread wasn’t even warm, which was a tad disappointing to me. The next disappointment didn’t wait long to manifest. The waiter came with our mains, apologizing that our appetizer had somehow been given to another table. He didn’t sound like he even cared as he asked if we still wanted it. I  did, so we asked for him to bring it. The only plus to it was that it did essentially come out in thirty seconds as he promised, but it was not good. The calamari was weird, I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but I’ll give it go. It was easy to bite through but there were like some strands that were really elasticky and snapped against my lip which kinda hurt. The tomato dipping sauce was far too runny to be considered a dipping sauce. If you expect me to dip something into it, it has to be able to stick to whatever it is that’s being dipped into it. We ended up having to “scoop” the tomato sauce on with the calamari and awkwardly balance it without it falling off and splattering on the table. The only good thing about the calamari was the crunch, but even so, the batter didn’t hold together well and it crumbled if too much force was applied.

For my main, I ordered the Penne Hawaii at the behest of my friend who used to work here, my mom had the Filetto Di Salmone Granchio and my dad had the Vitello alla Gambertti Pepper (I think). My first thought when my dish was presented to me was, “that’s not penne.” It was closer to either rigatoni. However, presentation is only half of it, the other half is the taste. I always try my dishes before I add anything to it and, despite the description on the menu stating that the sausage was hot, it was not, prompting me to have to add a sprinkling of cayenne to add that much needed kick to the dish. It was a unique take on Italian with the addition of pineapples to the dish and surprisingly it worked. Overall, it was a pretty good dish. There was a good balance of heat, sweet, and savory. And I was happy to say that there was a fair amount of meat, so I didn’t have to go searching for it. The pineapples, thankfully didn’t taste overcooked, but it was still hot as hell. But if it’s Italian, my pasta better be al dente, it wasn’t. My mom said her dish was okay, the capers were a bit salty and the promised crab meat nowhere to be found (she found it later dispersed in the white wine sauce). When the waiter dropped off the calamari, he offered my dad pepper…only my dad. My mom was annoyed since she would have really liked some pepper on her fish which tasted fishy (like it’s going bad or has been frozen and thawed out, just not fresh) and the pepper would have helped to diminish the taste. On another note, so would a lemon, but that wasn’t provided either. My dad’s veal and shrimps in a demi-glaze brandy and cream sauce looked kinda like gravy. It was brown and thick and looked generally unappealing. Luckily it tasted better than it looked. However, my dad said (not sure if he was complaining or just saying, can never tell with him) that the veal was not breaded. I personally didn’t have a problem with it being not breaded because the breading would have made the veal so much heavier and with a cream sauce that’s the last thing you’d want.

To round off the meal we finished with a tiramisu. Tiramisu, when made well can be amazing. This I can tell you was not. There was no coffee or wine flavour; it was cream with lady fingers and chocolate syrup. Not good.

Honestly this place was disappointment after disappointment. From the speed of service, to the temperature of food, to the fact that they gave our appetizer to someone else! There’s no other way to describe my disappointment than that I was so disappointed. So much hype for nothing. Based on everything that’s happened, I’d have to rate this place a 2.5/5.

Succulents

Succulents

Bread and Butter

Bread and Butter

Calamari

Calamari

Penne Hawaii

Penne Hawaii

Vitello Alla Gambertti Pepper

Vitello Alla Gambertti Pepper

Filetto Di Salmone Granchio

Filetto Di Salmone Granchio

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Restaurant Review: Chianti

Location: 300-20 Crowfoot Crescent NW
Website: http://www.chianticafe.ca/

To find  a restaurant review written on a place I go to with my parents is rare because I hardly ever take pictures, so keep that in mind if you read any of my future reviews and they are pictureless.

Chianti is one of my favourite Italian restaurants, the other being Green Olive. I love that their pasta is actually al dente not mush. But pasta texture isn’t everything, the flavour must be taken into consideration as well.

As usual, we started with an appetizer, calamari, which I’ve come to be quite the expert on. The batter on the calamari was quite crunchy and well seasoned, but after a few rings began to feel heavy due to the greasiness. I liked that they offered two types of sauces for dipping: tzatziki and marinara. It seems that several restaurants are now offering two dips with their calamari. Last week I was just at Milestones trying out their new menu and when we ordered the calamari they had a tartar and a marinara. Unfortunately, I hold an ambivalent stance in terms of the calamari at Milestones (though I’ve done my review on this restaurant, I must add this) because sometimes Milestones makes the mistake of not seasoning the batter for the calamari thinking that the dips would provide enough flavour or perhaps they’re concerned that in seasoning the calamari, it will be too salty. Whatever their reasoning is, I don’t know, but it leaves the calamari bland and rather difficult to eat. At Chianti’s I liked that the tzatziki sauce was a little on the thick side as there is nothing more annoying than wearing a garlic sauce on your clothes all night. One thing I would have preferred for the marinara is a bit of heat. A bit of heat or acidity would have helped to cut through the grease. It’s true that they gave us a wedge of lemon, but there was hardly enough lemon juice to taste a thing.

Italian isn’t something I get to go out for much as my sister dislikes it as much as I dislike sushi. It is tolerable, but not something she would choose to eat of her own free will. Whenever we go out, my mom always goes for something seafood-y, usually salmon. She ordered the Salmon Alla Peppi, which was  a piece of salmon, baked and topped with fresh strawberries, glazed with a honey and soy reduction and served with vegetables and potatoes. From what I glean from my mom, the dish had too much soy sauce in there and was way too salty, she said that Green Olive had the right balance was was much better in terms of taste. My dad ordered the combinazione della casa, which is something that he almost always gets either at Chianti’s or at Green Olive. I’ve had it at both and it’s pretty decent, especially when you want a variety of food. The combinazione della casa comes with baked cannelloni, spinach fettuccine alfredo, and veal parmigiana. It’s the best dish when you want to have both a cream sauce and tomato sauce (but not a rose sauce). My dad complained that his dish wasn’t really hot and pasta and veal should never be eaten warm or cold, especially since the cheese didn’t look like it had melted or at least if it did, it resolidified. I ordered the Caribbean Fettuccine, not for the fact there are mango chunks in it because I dislike cooked or warm mango, but for the curry cream sauce which is seriously the best! And I also love that they have fresh parmesan, not the powdered stuff.

The price was reasonable and affordable as Italian restaurants in this city always seems to overprice things (or at least the ones I’ve been to). I would definitely come back with friends for a good Italian night out. I would rate this place 4.5/5. Hopefully next time I go, I can take a few pictures.

UPDATE: I returned here today and got some pictures (YAY!) Unfortunately the restaurant is kind of dark, plus there was quite a lot of overcast so even with flash these pictures were dark and though I did my best to increase contrast and brighten the images, they still aren’t of the best quality. These two are what I usually order as I absolutely love their curry cream sauce and the combinazione della casa always gives me the choice of cream and tomato sauce on the same plate. One thing I forgot to mention last time is that I love their fresh parmesan so much that I never tell them to stop and they just look at me like “ok, that’s enough,” but really if I had it my own way, I’d eat the entire block of parmesan

Caribbean

Caribbean

Combo Casa

Combinazione della Casa

Restaurant Review: Boston Pizza

Location: 232 – 6455 Macleod Trail SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0K8
Website:https://bostonpizza.com/en

Boston Pizza has been one of the staple restaurants I find myself returning to again and again. Like Milestones, the food and service has been consistently good. Unlike Milestones, it has more of family friendly atmosphere. Milestones would be a restaurant I’d recommend for a girl’s night out or dinner with friends, while Boston Pizza could be for the same purpose, I find it better as a place to go with family or very close friends. Having said that, i’m about to contradict myself by saying that the Chinook location is a little different. Perhaps due to its location in a mall, its lighting is a little darker providing a less family friendly environment and making it seem a little more “grown up.”

Over the past few years I’ve had almost everything off their menu with the exception of soups. When I used to go in junior high, one of my biggest complaints was the sodium content in the food. That hasn’t changed and is till one of my biggest complaints. I find the sodium problem to be more prominent in their sandwiches and burgers, but some of their pastas on occasion are also too salty.

Today I went with my sister and surprised myself and the waitress with how much I could really eat. We ordered two appetizers: calamari and a spinach and artichoke dip and two entrees: a Jalapeno and Crispy Onion Prime Rib Burger and a Double Bacon BBQ Burger. Past dishes we have ordered are (or at least what I think we have ordered): BP’s Pizza Spring Rolls, the Boston Brute, the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, Jambalaya Fettuccine, Seafood Fettuccine, Pesto Chicken Penne, Bacon Wrapped Steak Skewers, and Chicken Parmesan.

Unlike most calamari dishes, the one was served with breaded and fried banana peppers and a chili lime mayo. It was nice for once not to have it served with tzatziki sauce. The banana peppers provided a bit of heat, which I always love. However, the chili lime mayo was pretty flavourless. I couldn’t taste any chili or lime in it. Though the breading on the fried banana peppers was light and delicious, the same could not be said about the actual calamari. The breading was constantly falling off and the calamari was so tough that I couldn’t get my fork through it and kept losing it in the dip. Thank goodness for the two wedges of lemon that were included. Without those I think the oiliness of the calamari would have been too much for me. The second appetizer, a spinach and artichoke dip was different from most dips I’ve had. First, it was served with pizza bread rather than pita, but they both had about the same consistency. This dip was topped with BP’s own bruschetta mix. As my sister pointed out, it wasn’t really a bruschetta, more of canned or stewed tomatoes that had been seasoned and added as a garnish on top of the dip. Regardless of that, I like it on top, especially with the pizza mozzarella because seriously, pizza mozzarella is the best cheese out there when it comes to melting because it is so stringy!

I’ve been craving a burger for a week and oftentimes when i go out to a restaurant, my go to protein has always been chicken. Today I refused to do that and ordered the jalapeno and crispy onion prime rib burger. The patty was thick and juicy and the pickle, red onions and pickled jalapenos cut through the richness of the burger. However, the “crispy onions” were not crispy at all. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if there were onions there. It felt and tasted like a mushed up patty of breading on top of the patty. As a side I had their caesar salad. I was first off disappointed by the portion size. It was probably the size of my fist…which isn’t very big. And secondly, the salad was so over dressed that I could feel myself gaining at least five pounds just eating it. The salad wasn’t about the salad; it was about the dressing. Of the Double Bacon BBQ Burger, I had one bite. I’m not a huge fan of bacon, so I don’t think I would have ever been able to finish the burger. It wasn’t bad at all. What I could discern from one bite was that it was very balanced. The smoked flavour of the bacon and BBQ sauce didn’t over power the burger. The yam fries that the Bacon BBQ Burger was served with was like many other restaurants, though a bit lanky and limp looking.

Normally, I wouldn’t order pasta from Boston Pizza except for on Pasta Tuesdays. My dad usually brings home a box, so I’ve tried a lot of pastas without ever having gone on Tuesdays. My favourite are the pennes because they are easier to eat than the fettuccines. I’m not saying that the pennes are any better than the fettuccines, but when you’re getting sauce all over your face, it’s going to affect how you perceive the “taste” of the dish. Convenience for me is number one. I would never order long noodle style pastas if I ever had to eat out with my boss or date because there will be sauce every where and if I have a tomato sauce…well dinner might just turn out looking like a crime scene. The most cost effect pasta I can think of (maybe because my dad has said it like three dozen times) is the seafood fettuccine because of the amount of seafood that is put into the pasta. The jambalaya is a close second. I enjoy this one much more because I love spicy and putting in slices of spicy Italian sausage in there is the best thing ever! The only concern with this one is the amount of oil that is left in a puddle at the bottom of the dish once you’re done.

Normally I like pulled pork sandwiches, the one at Montana’s is a great example of a delicious pulled pork sandwiches (wait…I haven’t done a review for Montana’s…that’s coming or will be coming eventually). However, what BP does to them, I do not like. Balsamic vinegar reductions are usually delicious because they bring out the inherent sweetness of the vinegar itself…BP decides it doesn’t want to do that. So I got nicely smoked pulled pork doused in “raw” vinegar. That is the grossest taste I have ever had the misfortune of putting in my mouth. It isn’t as sour as white vinegar, but it just doesn’t sit will with the pulled pork.

The only other times I had an appetizer was when I went with my cousin for lunch and with my mom and sister for dinner. Whe I went with my cousin, we had the bacon wrapped steak. The bacon was cooked so crispily that I had a hard time trying to bite through it and get it in the same mouthful as the steak. Not only that, it was next to impossible to get the steak off the skewer and I swore that I almost sent one flying across the restaurant and I had no idea that I had that kind of strength in me. The second appetizer, the pizza spring rolls, I ordered in hopes of fulfilling my craving for Beer Revolution’s pizza spring rolls. I was sorely disappointed. BP’s pizza spring rolls are no comparison to Beer Revolution’s. Beer Revolution uses the spring roll wraps that we are used to seeing on Vietnamese Spring Rolls making them crisp, light and delicious. BP used the old style Chinese egg roll wraps making them heavy and incredibly oily. I will not be eating those ever again.

My experience with the service has mostly been good. However, this is the only restaurant in which I’ve ever had anything spilled on me. The only unfortunate incidents I have had the misfortune of experiencing is getting a drink spilled on me or watching the waitress spill the drink on someone else at my table and finding a large piece of plastic wrap on my chicken parmesan. The first one is understandable because the serving tray is honest not the best thing to be carrying drinks on, especially once you start removing drinks because the balance has been thrown off and if you don’t work fast, well…you get a nice cold alcoholic slush shrewn across your lap or a glass of ice cold water sitting on your lap. The waitress was nice enough to take the drink off our bill for her mistake and offered to move us to another, less wet table. I didn’t think it was too big of a deal and definitely felt that we didn’t have to be moved to another table. And the incident with the plastic wrap? Well I didn’t care so much about finding plastic wrap in my food. I never have been one to get fussy over finding things in my food…well ok, if I found a bug in it, I would freak out, so thank goodness I’ve never had to deal with that. Besides if I did that would be a clear indicator of the condition of the kitchen: not clean enough to been health and safety standards.

Despite a couple mishaps, Boston Pizza is a place I would return to time and time again especially with my family. It is a place I can go to kick back and relax with those who are closest to me. The prices aren’t ridiculous and is one of the more affordable restaurants. However, if compared to Milestones, I would prefer Milestones over Boston Pizza solely because of the atmosphere. In part, I don’t think the family friendly environment will be one that will be applicable to me any time soon, not unless I find a boyfriend in the next few weeks, get engaged and married in the next few months and have a child in the next year. Because of some of the above mentioned issues I’ve had with the restaurant, I would rate this place a 4/5.

app

Background: Spinach and Artichoke Dip Foreground: Calamari

lunch

Background: Double Bacon BBQ Burger with Yam Fries Foreground: Jalapeno and Crispy Onion Prime Rib Burger and Caesar Salad

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