All posts by dennis

I eat, drink, photograph, tweet, write, yoyo, design & run. Let's have fun!

Rock the Bells: Bells & Whistles on Fraser (Bonus: Zwanze Day 2017)

The folks behind Wildebeest, Bufala, and Lucky Taco have added another thoughtful expansion to their mini-empire in the form of the anti-sports bar sports bar Bells & Whistles located on Fraser just south of Kingsway. The food is typical sports bar/pub grub/comfort food like burgers, wings, nachos, onion rings, etc, but done with atypical care and better ingredients, served in an atypically bright and family-friendly environment, with a very atypical craft beer menu with absolutely NO macro beer in sight.

Admittedly, the pricing for the food and beer is a bit high (especially for the neighbourhood), but in the week and a half they’ve been open, it’s been absolutely packed. I guess that shows that people have been wanting something like this for a long time and are willing to pay for it. For myself, I really appreciate their approach — casual accessibility, eyes on quality, no “Bells & Whistles” despite the name — but if things were maybe a couple bucks cheaper across the board, I’d come back more often, and with less hesitation.

Continue reading Rock the Bells: Bells & Whistles on Fraser (Bonus: Zwanze Day 2017)

Smooth ‘n Chewy Lanzhou Beef Noodles at Chi Men on Denman

Chi Men on Denman opened up in late July 2017 in the former Chelicious space, and has been quietly ladling out some really good soup noodles to a barely appreciative West End audience. It hasn’t been busy in there, but they deserve to be. With 3 Quarters Full Taiwanese Cafe (located in Denman Place Mall) still around after a full year in business, looks like the West End might just have the right clientelle to keep these kinds of Asian restaurants in business. Maybe. Winter is coming.

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Japanese Homestyle Food at Aotoya (Blue Door) on Victoria Drive

Aotoya (aka Blue Door) is a slightly dingy, Japanese homestyle hole-in-the-wall on Victoria Drive, located beside longtime institution Supreme Pizza (get a pepperoni, mushroom, and Italian sausage pizza and one of their crack-laden pastas). If you can deal with Aotoya’s sometimes slow service and slow kitchen, you’ll be rewarded with good-to-great Yōshoku-style food that’s got uniqueness and charm. For fans of places like Hi Genki.

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Eating the Entire Menu at The Mackenzie Room (aka I Want It All)

I’ve had the (inaccurate) impression that The Mackenzie Room in DTES/Japantown was like our version of The Black Hoof in Toronto. Aside from the chalkboard menu, there’s not that much that’s similar. Black Hoof does more offcuts while Mackenzie Room has more veggie-forward dishes. But both places do have a fun, loud, lively atmosphere. I went there with three other food-obsessed people and ordered the entire menu. Here’s how it went down.

(Not a huge amount of detail in this post cuz I’m writing this a week after it happened and didn’t take notes during dinner.)

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First Look: Japanese Food Returns to Japantown at Dosanko

Perhaps timed with the annual Powell Street Festival, Akiyo Tani (Campagnolo, Tojo’s) and Nathan Lowey (Refuel, Campagnolo, Campagnolo Roma) opened up Dosanko, a yōshoku-style restaurant in the (hardly Japanese nowadays) Japantown area. This space used to be Growndswell Cafe, which I had only been to for pop-up events (a “multi-sensory” film screening of Spirited Away produced by HERE THERE with food by Annabelle Choi timed to coincide with different scenes in the movie, and a Nashville “Hot Chicken Throwdown” featuring Merchants Workshop, Handtaste Ferments, and Local Omnivore. For the record, Merchants got my vote.) Dosanko have kept the existing bar, and refrained from jamming in as many tables as they could. The room feels airy and spacious. The scene outside on the street though is still typical Japantown/DTES, which adds a bit of frisson (or guilt) to your dining experience.

I tried a mere two dishes from the menu but was pleased with the solid cooking and thoughtful sourcing of ingredients. Whether you’re gonna be ok with paying the 10–25% premium over other yoshoku-type restaurants is all on you.

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Kris Barnholden X Bows X Arrows = Dinner with an Accomplished, Casual Feel

I like this trend of coffee shops stocking craft beer (e.g. Matchstick in Chinatown) and doing dinner service (e.g. pop-ups at The Birds & The Beets). Bows X Arrows on Fraser & 26th is now doing both. It wasn’t until they brought on ex-Latab chef Kris Barnholden (Latab review here) that their dinner service piqued my interest. Add in collabs with Juno Kim and Doug Stephen (Merchant’s Workshop), and I got very excited indeed. So did dinner end in a happy ending?

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First Look: Fresh, Handmade Tortillas at Maizal on Main St.

There’s a new Mexican taco place on Main St. called Maizal (Facebook, Instagram). It’s surprising that within the span of a couple months, TWO places have opened up in Vancouver that make their own tortillas in-house: Chancho (where Nuba used to be on Seymour) and Maizal. I did a quick little visit to Maizal with Moyenchow and here’s my early thoughts.

(As far as I know, there’s no relation between this Maizal and the Maizal in Toronto.)

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There Must Be More To It Than That: Happy Hour at Fayuca in Yaletown

Let’s get this out of the way first: Fayuca is a term used in Northern Mexico to describe petty contraband goods smuggled over the border like clothes, liquor, and food.” – Scout Magazine. So the name of the restaurant is a sly nod to how they approach their food, bringing influences from all along the Pacific coast. But, as they say, don’t call them Mexican.

Long story short: I don’t think their happy hour menu really shows what they can do. I wasn’t thrilled. These are Chefs with a captial C, and this restaurant did a lot of collaborations and events with the YVR Food Fest, so I thought they would be capable of much more.

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Happy Hour Quickie: L’Abattoir Conquers Happy Hour

L’Abattoir’s happy hour has actually been in effect since July 2014 but flew under my radar. Definitely one of the BEST dining values around, matched with assured execution, balanced and flavourful dishes, and experienced professional service. Recommended!

Note: we were busy talking the entire time, so my descriptions below don’t get into as much detail as I usually do. Doing proper reviews actually takes a lot of focus and attention!

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