Category Archives: Reviews

First Look: Veggie Mexican at Lucha Verde on Davie St.

Last year was all poke — this year’s trend seems to be Mexican! With the opening of Fayuca, El Santo winning Vanmag Gold Award for Best Latin (disappointing review here), expansion of Tacofino into Yaletown, La Mezcaleria into Gastown, etc, Mexican cuisine is getting hot. But what I’m after is just plain good eats. Surprisingly, the most impactful (there’s a Sherman word for ya!) “Mexican” experience I’ve had that consistently impresses me is the tacos at Four Winds Brewing in Delta. They use tacos as a canvas, and bring in smartly constructed flavours. I’m not even going to touch the notion of authenticity. There’s a huge range of regional Mexican cuisine that we are just frickin’ ignorant about in Vancouver. I’m just concentrating on whether the shit tastes good or not. So does Lucha Verde taste good?

NOTE: Lucha Verde wasn’t even a week old when we visited. I think you’re all intelligent enough to take what I say below in perspective. They were still training new servers but we still got good, attentive service. The owner was wearing a TMNT t-shirt!

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Sushi Gem: Tetsu Sushi Bar on Denman

Big props to foodbysamson for discovering this place. Tetsu Sushi Bar (Facebook, Instagram) is my idea of a cute, perfect-in-its-own-way, neighbourhood sushi place you’d find in Japan — small (only 14 seats), run by Japanese people or people trained in Japan (itamae and server are from Osaka), serves a curated selection of fish from Japan (and presumably the best local fish too), offers some unique dishes not found elsewhere, and is too good to keep a secret. While not as practised and precise as a place like Sushi Bar Maumi (review here), it’s filling a gap — high quality neighbourhood sushi — and hits some pretty high notes.

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Happy Hour Quickie: Cacao Snack Bar Upstairs

In a previous post, I’ve said that happy hours are a great way of getting people in the door during a slack period, sell some drinks, show them what you can do, and hopefully entice them to spring for a full dinner experience later on. Therefore, I don’t think restaurants should be pussyfooting around when it comes to this critical window of opportunity to win customers.

I’ve been working up the nerve to go to Cacao since Chef Jefferson Alvarez opened it in late summer 2016, but luckily they just opened up their snack bar on their second floor, which gave me and a couple longtime Chowhounders a chance to get a taste of what Cacao has to offer.

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It’s not you, it’s me. Ok yeah, it’s you: El Santo in New West

You might’ve heard that El Santo in New West tied for Gold with La Mezcaleria for Best Latin in this year’s Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. We came in with a certain level of expectation, perhaps a more modern, tweaked, elevated take on Mexican cuisine. But we came away confused, disappointed, and frankly stunned with the generally bland, one-note, and at times off-balance flavours.

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Second Look: Sen Pad Thai at Granville Island

I don’t often do “revisit” posts unless something goes REALLY haywire with a place. Day-to-day stuff I post on Instagram and the bigger, more important, or newsworthy stuff I post here. My second visit to Sen Pad Thai resulted in more thoughts about this place — too much to cram into an Instagram post — so I put it up here. Enjoy.

(First review is here.)

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Lunch Quickie: Parallel 49 Brewing Company’s Street Kitchen

I wasn’t gonna do a blog post about Parallel 49 Brewing Company‘s new Street Kitchen, but another website posted their article on it today (the one with the effusive hyperbole), so hey, fair game, right?

Long story short: ambitious menu, perhaps a bit too complicated for the crowd, great service, servings too small, prices too high.

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Ramen meets Casual Fine Dining: The New JINYA Ramen Bar on Robson

The new JINYA at TELUS* Garden is like the old JINYA, except given a slick, glitzy, hi-tech makeover. (Review of the old JINYA here, for comparison. Old JINYA location now occupied by the new second location of Marutama Ramen.) This new location shows what’s possible when you have big ramen chain money behind it. The results are positive, and the crowds immense. For now.

* Fun fact: The TELUS style guide requires all instances of the word “Telus” to be spelled in ALLCAPS. So it’s “TELUS”, not “Telus”. This is also like how I’ve seen “JINYA” written in their menu and on their website. Just a note for all your writers and journalists out there… HAH!

WARNING: I use the word “whores” (in a gender-neutral way) in this post. If you’re easily offended, click here to go to Disney.com now.

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Lunch Quickie: Face-Melting Szechuan Cuisine at Szechuan Cuisine in Burnaby

I’m exaggerating about how spicy the food was. If you avoid eating the actual chilies, the food is about medium spicy. If you DO choose to eat the chilies…well…that’s all on you. For me, the more painful part was my allergy to capsaicin (the compound in chilies that make them spicy). Whenever I eat even traces of capsaicin, I start sweating like this:

Because of this affliction, I’ve avoided a lot of the Hunan and Sichuan/Szechuan restaurants around town. But recent visits to Nine Dishes and Joojak has reignited (literally) my interest in this spicy cuisine. I really do enjoy the flavours and the experience — I just need to bring a headband and a towel next time.

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First Look: Iekei Style Ramen at Yaguchiya Ramen in Burnaby

The slow proliferation of Japanese-run ramen places has reached the Metrotown area in Burnaby. Yaguchiya Ramen is currently in soft-opening phase but the shoyu ramen I tried already tasted like it hit the mark right out of the gate. It’s a tiny place that seats ~16 people but I can already tell they’re gonna be busy once word gets out. Glad to see real Japanese ramen this far out of downtown.

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First Look: Sen Pad Thai in Net Loft at Granville Island

The newest Angus An venture, Sen Pad Thai, opened up a couple weeks ago (early May 2017) in the Net Loft building across from the Granville Island Public Market. (It’s the same building that houses Paper-Ya.) The whole Angus An group of restaurants has had a busy season. Only two weeks previous, Freebird Chicken Shack reopened in a larger space at River Market (New West) with a revamped menu. I’ve written about this group of restaurants before:

Longtail Kitchen:

I’ve also been to Maenam a couple times (before I started this blog), so I think I have a bit of a tough love kind of relationship with the whole group. I hold them to high standards (if you flaunt Michelin-star experience, then I must watch for attention to detail, technique, consistency, and above all, taste — actually, those are my criteria all the time). If those high standards aren’t met, it kills me inside as a fan and as a customer.

So does Sen Pad Thai fall into the homerun category (Longtail Kitchen), underappreciated but mildly inconsistent category (Freebird), or the not-good-enough-out-of-the-gate-wouldn’t-go-back category (Fat Mao)? Read on…

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