I am desperately hoping that the artist created this hand-made sushi plate decides to go into mass production, so I can find and afford one. The metaphor is just delicious. For now, she’s apparently overwhelmed with orders for the handmade version, and it’s easy to see why.
One of the great advantages to living in Vancouver’s Chinatown is that it’s almost as cheap to eat out, if you know where you’re going, than to cook for yourself, and if you cook like I do this is a DISTINCT advantage. None the less, there are so many restaurants in the neighborhood that nobody can get to all of them, and if you do happen to blunder into a bad one, you feel quite moronic for having wasted the opportunity to go somewhere you already know is good.
So when Richard Wolack announced that his latest Tasting Plates tour was headed to my neighborhood, I signed up right away. This is a cooperative event with one ticket price, entitling the attendees to a small serving of some set item at each participating restaurant or food shop. A piece of the ticket price goes to support a local charity. For this Tasting Plates round, the charity was Project Limelight, which provides Downtown Eastside youth with support for artistic endeavours and community.
We started with salted caramels, eggnog rounds, and hot chocolate you made yourself by dipping a hunk of solid white, milk, or dark chocolate on a stick into hot milk. Crazy fattening, but rich and a lot more fun than that ordinary stuff. Definitely first-class skating party material. That was all done by Beta 5, an ultra-modern dessert shop in the industrial flats between Terminal and Great Northern Way.
When that’s your first course, the second is naturally pizza. Ours came from Pazzarella pizza truck, which has the city’s only truck-mounted wood-fired pizza oven. I don’t think they were quite ready to be so slammed so quickly, as the line was long and everyone, EVERYONE wanted to try the maple bacon pizza. It smelled good, but they were out of it when I got up to the front, so I had a more mundane, but still tasty, mushroom pizza.
Then it was a trundle northward to Electric Owl, which as anyone who’s gone past it knows is a very hopping night spot, though it is yet very new. The food there was seemingly endless, and all of it was very, very good. Like, foodie quality, which is surprising, because from the crowd I’d always assumed the kitchen would not be a priority. Sliders, pulled pork with coleslaw, skewers of all kinds of tasty things, delicious egg rolls, and pudding in Chinese porcelain spoons. One may have indulged a bit too much, because we practically waddled en route to the rest of the stops.
In Chinatown proper we went first to Harvest, a very hipster/new urban gourmet deli where we had a paper cup double handful-sized of handmade ramen noodles with pork, preserved vegetables, and half an egg. Honestly, it was as much as I eat for dinner some nights all by itself, and the quality of the noodles was simply the best I’ve ever had. Noodles with flavour: what a concept!
In need of respite, we rolled our overstuffed selves to Treasure Green Tea, where staff was pouring their Seasons tea, a blend of black and green teas with a medium body, smoky aroma, and, surprisingly for a tea with that much flavour, no tannic bite whatsoever. It was good enough that I went back later and bought a half-pound for myself. The only thing that can compensate for my lack of fire place in the long, rainy winters is a big pot of steaming, smoky tea. Well, Viggo could try. I dare him.
From there, and feeling mightily stuffed, I huffed and puffed my way up the hill to Oyster Express, where I explained that to me, a perfect payday dinner is savory, salty, fresh oysters and gin Martinis and nothing else. At that point, I bailed on the tour for the sake of my figure (yes, I know, about two years too late). Cheers!
Here’s video coverage from the intrepid Alyssa Dawson for CityLights tv. She actually toughed it out and hit all the venues, believe it or not. I should call her trainer.
Men, if you think hair loss, knee pain, backache, a pot belly and manboobs will be the most fearful consequences of old age, add one more specter to the list: a fatty liver.
Mr. Henry has one. (The wags might say Mr. Henry is one.) The discovery of this ticklish condition, however, has led to a new diet breakthrough.
Mr. Henry’s surefire weight loss method. Lose ten pounds in ten weeks!
How? You ask how?
First, develop an undiagnosable digestive disorder preventing you from eating more than appetizer portions at one sitting. Coffee, cheese, or anything fatty gives you nausea and stomach cramp, so they’re off the menu until further notice. Because your liver has grown fatty, your gastroenterologist will advise you to limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day. (You can sneak another, but don’t tell Dr. Romeu.)
Second, when the child goes off to camp for three weeks, prepare nothing at home more ambitious than salad with something grilled tossed on top (and maybe a little green tea). If you go out to eat, order only the appetizer. (Refusing to be buffaloed by wait staff, Mrs. Henry has been doing this years.)
Third, make sure your air conditioner breaks on Saturday evening. New York City repairmen don’t retrieve messages until Monday, no matter how plaintive, and don’t begin to act until Tuesday or Wednesday. Furthermore, make the AC chiller unit shatter its drive shaft. (Replacement shafts are never in stock.) If you do this during the worst heat wave of the summer, you’re bound to lose nearly a pound per day. Mr. Henry offers his personal guarantee. When it’s this hot, the most anyone can hope to consume is popcorn and white wine.
Fourth, eat a diet inspired by French cures for la crise de foie, even though such a term is not accepted by medical science, even in France. Eat artichokes, salad, bitter greens, lemon, papaya, mint and ginger. (Ginger helps the stomach empty its contents into the duodenum. You had to ask.) Then eat more artichokes.
Here is a southeast Asian style salad dressing that transforms romaine lettuce, carrots, Thai basil, tomato and grilled chicken into princely fare:
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon peanut butter (or sunflower butter)
juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
three dashes of Tabasco
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (olive oil is not the best, but it’s OK)
Bubble tea is one of those culinary miracles like unicorn foam that you’d swear required the technology of NASA to create and couldn’t be made at home, but astonishingly this is false (provided you can find tapioca pearls, and if you’re the kind of person who drinks bubble tea without pearls I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW YOU). It is permissible to make it with booze, and if I can prevail upon a chef pal we shall have a recipe forthcoming. There’s a recipe for matcha bubble tea here.
And we’ve also locally-sourced a quiz which tells you which kind of bubble tea you are. I prefer mango, myself, but if almond I must be, so be it.
You Are Almond Bubble Tea
You are an ideas person, and you are always thinking of new ways to change the world.
Your taste is somewhat unconventional, although you don’t like anything too far out.You have a reputation for being quirky, and at times, you make sure to fuel it.
You’re definitely adverse to following the crowd. You want to do things your way!
If you are, as yet, unaware of what bubble tea is, it’s basically a fruit-flavoured, ultra-fine milkshake with tapioca pearls added after blending (jujube-like bubbles you need a pinkie-thick straw to slurp up) and it’s a cup full of fun. How many Dr Who references can you get out of a quotidian beverage, after all?
Serve in a tall, clear novelty glass so people can see, and play with, the pearls. Here are some suggestions, also good for any tall, iced drink, particularly those like the tequila sunrise (no hate!) that have interesting colour/ingredient gradients. You can also use these for plain old highballs, but you will risk accusations of frivolity. Then again, vodka soda drinkers deserve all the scorn they get if you axe me.
Fun and retro. The colour WILL get in the way of certain fruit bubble teas, but for others it’ll be an enhancement.
My favorite. Just crazy enough.
Fun optical games to be played here with this many faceted surfaces.
Very old-school. Maximum irony points for serving bubble tea, or boozy bubble tea, therein.
Clean, clear, lets the beauty of the drink shine through.
Thermal double-walled glass is maybe better for drinks made with crushed ice, but still shows off a good-looking beverage without letting it get tepid.
More retro, tiki fun.
We luv us some texture in a good quality glass, and this has all that plus a pleasingly hedonistic shape.
Because who wants to go through the day totally straight? I ask yez.
Shrimp and avocados are two perfect foods, FACT, and one of my favorite parties this year was the Spot Prawn fest at my friend Ben‘s. But the secret with Spot Prawns fresh from the ocean is that they are best eaten raw and straight. I think 50% made it to the cooking pot, the rest having been consumed amaebi sashimi-style, and if you’re sure of the provenance and freshness of the shrimp, there is no better way to eat them. I mean, if you really must tempurize something, use a yam for god’s sake and leave these sweet babies aloooooone!
Finally, after an interminable wait, summer has arrived on the wet coast. You can keep your highballs, your hard lemonade, your Sauv Blanc, your sangriae: Victoria’s Phillips Ginger Beer is what I’m drinking when the thermometer rises and the asphalt sticks to your sandals like a clingy ex.
The original ginger beer from the old Pirates of the Caribbean days wasn’t a proper beer at all, and contained none of your common-or-garden yeast, but instead an interesting combo of microorganisms as explained in the Guardian’s do-it-yourself guide. Allow yourself to be entertained for the moment by visions of legions of British social work professors-emeritus, mid-level NGO operatives, and overeducated eco-fashion bloggers earnestly attempting to do it, indeed, themselves. In $200 Hunter wellies.
God, I love British people (they’re the people, after all, who gave us Traidcraft.)
This offering from Phillips is indeed proper beer, as are all beers from Phillips. It’s also got a bite that would stand off a pit bull, thanks to the ginger infusion. It’s fiery like a good Jamaican ginger beer, and the heat lingers afterwards, as if you’d bitten into a fresh ginger root. The beer itself is a nice ruddy ale, balanced, not too sweet, and with enough body to stand up to the ginger’s volatile nature, so you don’t feel like you’ve been drinking ginger water, but ginger beer.
It’s terrific on its own, but it really comes into its own paired with spicy foods, particularly if they’re really rich as well. Phillips says, “It’s killer with sushi” but I enjoyed mine with some mussels steamed in coconut chili sauce from the Union Bar, and they were perfect for one another. The mussels, which were enormous and full of flavour, swam in a savory broth of coconut and chili: no watery bullion need apply.
My friend April Smith of AHA Media had the snazzy-looking and non-alcoholic Lapu-Lapu: cucumber juice, coconut water, galangal, calmansi pandan syrup, garnished with tender young coconut and lemon grass. Also delicious and refreshing, if lacking in heat. April and I are so different, we are pretty much guaranteed to order from different ends of the menu spectrum every time. Not a bad way to dine out, if you ask me.
As Vancouver Chinatown bars go, the Keefer Bar is absolutely #1, and not just because it’s the only one: manager Danielle Tatarin is Bartender of the Year in Vancouver Magazine. If you know anything about the Vangroover booze scene, you’ll know that takes serious talent and originality.
How much originality? We’ll let Dani explain it:
Our menu is influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicinal ingredients that we incorporate into classic style cocktails. Some of the most prominent herbs that we use are Yun Zhi mushroom and astragalus root. This year I have been studying more on TCM and getting a deeper understanding of it. I am working with some really interesting combination of ingredients for tinctures that are meant to help detoxify the kidneys and liver.
Last night I just started a tincture that combines sea dragon, sea horse, cordyceps, lemon and bitter orange. It should be ready in a couple months and I am excited to see how it tastes. For me I have really embraced natural remedies, and as a sufferer of seasonal allergies I hope this year to not have to take antihistamines because I have been working with TCM ingredients to boost my immune system over the last year.
You might think that sounds a little…medicinal. And you’d be right, but you’d be wrong if you think that means it isn’t tasty. When I visited with my friend, intrepid photographer Cathy Browne, there were plenty of flips and creamy drinks on the menu, including several which played on an opium theme.
You can see the poppyseeds on this beauty, which was called something like The Flaming Opium Pearl of the Black Dragon or something similarly subdued, and which tasted, like most of Dani’s drinks, subtle, complex, and not very sweet.
The decor is medical, by which I mean they have backlit panels of body scans and apothecary jars everywhere, in use. Fitting for a place where you can give your liver a workout and a healing tincture at the same time. It’s only about ten feet wide, and on Thursdays there is a burlesque show on their tiny (TINY) stage up front, but it is a beautiful, esoteric little gem. The unique drinks mean you can’t always be sure you’ll love what you order, so do talk to the bartender about what you’re thinking of ordering; it’s not always easy to tell what’s sweet, light, savory, or rich from the menu.
Can’t talk about the food: I don’t come here for the food. But you can see the current keefer_menu here (PDF!). The service has never been anything less than excellent, and I don’t know what you look like but I’ll just tell you right now, they are all out of our league.
Pictured below, and starting off our slideshow of fabulousness from Cathy Browne, is the Lavender Sidecar, an aromatic, very light Spring version of the old favorite. Lemons in this case, not oranges (which I prefer with brandy by the fire around Christmas time).
Sometimes I do, too, but I can’t make it like Jiro can. Living National Treasure Jiro Ono is the world’s greatest sushi chef, and also the subject of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the next movie that I absolutely must view! Just watch this trailer to see for yourself just why. WAIT: get yourself a snack first, or you just may leave gnaw marks on your monitor.
In the basement of a Tokyo office building, 85 year old sushi master Jiro Ono works tirelessly in his world renowned restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro. As his son Yoshikazu faces the pressures of stepping into his father’s shoes and taking over the legendary restaurant, Jiro – san relentlessly pursues his lifelong quest to create the perfect piece of sushi.
It’s available from Amazon, too,for those who can never get enough visual stimulation.
Thanks to Brett Blair on Twitter for the tip!