Tag Archives: good times

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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Brunch Quickie: 6 Course Brunch Pop-up by Juno Kim at Field & Social

Man, I was really missing Juno Kim’s pop-up events. He used to do a Monday night dinner series at 33 Acres (which I wrote about here and here) but he stopped doing them in early 2016, so it’s been more than a year since I last had any of his food! So, between his stints catering food styling for iZombie, he’s started a monthly brunch pop-up at Field & Social downtown, so now’s your chance to once again eat his food. Tickets for this brunch series have been selling out pretty fast, so follow Juno on Instagram to learn about upcoming events.

I went to the second monthly brunch with Wicca and hungrySLIF. The word “brunch” doesn’t quite describe the food though. Eggs appear only once. (Actually there’s egg in two dishes.) There’s no bacon (not the typical kind, anyways), no hollandaise, no waffles, no stereotypical brunch elements. It’s really just a 6-course share plates meal with none of the overwrought greasy excesses of your typical brunch. When was the last time you got an amuse-bouche with your brunch?

Transparency Report: As I’ve said before, I always pay my own way. However, we were comped the beer and two cocktails. (Very much appreciated!) Tickets were $49 each, which includes tax and tip but excludes drinks and Eventbrite fee. We all paid full-price.

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#EatTheWall: Hungry 4 Change Syrian Refugee Fundraiser at UBC

This is the second in my series of #eatthewall posts, dealing with cuisines from countries that the current American president hates.

AMS Refugee Relief at UBC and Afya Club at UBC put on a fundraising gala this past Saturday, April 1, 2017, to raise funds to help 4 Syrian refugees come to Canada. You can read more background information on the Facebook event page and crowdfunding page. The event was catered by Tayybeh, a group based in Vancouver, whose members are recent Syrian immigrants. They do catering and EXTREMELY popular pop-ups. This is my quick personal recap of the event, which was held at the AMS Student Nest at UBC.

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