Monday, December 23, 2013

Cinnamon Sticks for Free

I bought 5 kg of cinnamon sticks because the price was the same as 500 grams.   This means I have a lot of spare cinnamon sticks and I am happy to give them away

If you want some, please drop me a line.  I live right by Tillicum School

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What to do when a neighbourhood restaurant is not doing well?

I am in a quandary, I would prefer not to post a nasty review of a restaurant on this blog but do I do when a restaurant seems to just have given up?   I only have one restaurant within 500 meters of my home, at 750 meters there are five more.  It means if I want to eat out quickly I only have one place, it is unfortunate it is no longer a serious choice for eating.

The place I speak of is a restaurant I used to go to very regularly when it was well done and had good food but it has not been very good for sometime.   The fact it has become mediocre means I now only rarely go there. I went there last night with my son and I was underwhelmed.

There was a time when it was really hard to get a seat at this restaurant between 6 pm and 7:30 pm.   You could not park because every space was filled.  This is no longer the case.   On a Saturday night at 6 pm the restaurant was more than half empty.

The price has risen much faster than the rate of inflation over the last nine years, more than a 50% increase since I have lived here.  If the quality had remained as it was at its best this would not be that much of an issue, but the quality is sub par.   The food is bland and greasier than I would normally expect.   I could make better at home and have only come here to avoid cooking.

The big thing I noticed this time is how grimy the place has become.   The tables have small plastic displays for a liquor product.   I grabbed one to read more closely and it was greasy.  Not just a bit dirty but really greasy.   There were two on our table and both of them were unhygienic.  I looked around the restaurant and saw this was the norm.  How do you even manage to get these plastic displays this dirty?  Why would you not make sure they are not clean???

It made me look more closely at the restaurant and I noticed that cleanliness over all was lacking.   I could see caked up dirt in the corners of the floor.  The carpet was not very clean - it is also threadbare in a way that says there is no interest in trying to be the best that it can be.

I looked at the VIHA report for the restaurant and see that it has had some issues over the last year, only one very serious, but that one concerns me.  It is easy for most places to have a couple of minor violations but to see an ongoing trend worries me

So I have low quality food, a sense that cleanliness is not #1 and a general sense of tiredness and not trying very hard.   I would like to eat locally, bit I am not going to pay over the odds for food that is not well done in a place that looks less than ideally clean.

So, should I go talk to them and tell my concerns?    Part of my thinks I should but another part has not time for the possible confrontation that might arise.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wild Thyme Coffee House on Saturna Island

Wild Thyme Coffee House - I am impressed with this 1963 Leyland double decker bus converted into a coffee house on Saturna Island.   The idea of a converted bus as a restaurant is so 1970s Gulf Islands and should worry you that it could look sort of run down hippie, but they have done an amazing job, the bus looks beautiful.

The space has been open for a year now.   We missed lunch but the cappuccino I had was very well done as was Ben's London Fog.   I was pleased to see they use beans from Yoka's in Victoria, formerly of Kitsilano.   I have been drinking Yoka coffee for several decades now.

Upstairs on the bus has seating for eating though the one end is more a funky casual coffee house lounge type area with a selection of books and board games.   If I lived on the island this would quickly be my #1 hang out.  My son Ben who will be going to school on Saturna at SEEC in the second semester of this year sees it as an equivalent to Spiral Cafe in Vic West.

The video does a good job of giving you the flavour of the place.

Wild Thyme Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Latest Cake Masterpiece from Sheila

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Stephen wanted a DnD cake for his birthday and this is what Sheila made on the weekend.

I have got to learn hot to take better food pictures.   These cakes are so much better in reality than what these pictures show.  

The cake is all edible.   The bulk of it is a basic white.   The dragon and the bushes have rice krispie squares as their core and both of them are covered with modelling chocolate.   The cake is iced in various coloured buttercream icings.  The dice, treasure chests and trees/logs are all made of modelling chocolate.

detail of a treasure chest

The backside of the cave

The dice - Mas claimed they were his

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sheila's Rainbow Cake

Sheila made this fun rainbow cake for Ben's 16th birthday.  On the outside she covered in Nerds and Pop Rocks

Monday, August 5, 2013

Our new love for Growlers

We are really enjoying buying our beer in growlers from our local breweries or brew pubs,   One them is enough for dinner and the evening at home for two of us as it contains 1.9 litres of beer or 5.4 bottles of beer.

Here is a video of getting our growler and the new half size growlerette filled at Vancouver Island Brewery

A schedule of when you get your growler filler

BreweryCost of GrowlerStandard Beer Growler FillupOpen for growler fills
Driftwood$5$11 ($12/Fat Tug)Tues & Weds: 1-4:30, Thurs & Fri: 2-5:30
Hoyne$5$10Wed-Fri: 2-6; Sat 11-6
Phillips$5$10Mon 9-5; Tues-Thurs 10-6; Fri 10-7; Sat 10-6
Moon Under Water$5$10.50-$16Wed-Sun 11:30-10:30ish
Spinnakers$5$10-12Every day 9am-10pm
Vancouver Island Brewery$5$10Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
Canoe Brewpub$8$12 ($13 Seasonal)Every day 11:30am-11pm

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New video about our urban chickens

The latest set of six chickens are doing great and producing about 40 eggs a week.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Victoria Food Truck Up at Centennial Square

Line up for Dog Nation
OK, I feel like a shit but I have been looking forward to this event for weeks and Sheila and I went today and I was disappointed and to say so feels like I am being disloyal to a great addition to this city - the food trucks.

The event was organized by VicFest and Tectoria as the Victoria Street Food Festival and is a great way to highlight all these new food trucks in town.

So why am I disappointed?   First off many of the trucks listed as coming a week ago were not there.  The following were listed as coming:

The ones that showed:
Discovery Coffee with Yonni's Doughnuts
The Reef
Puerto Vallarta Amigos
Pig BBQ Joint
L'Authentique poutine and burger
Victoria Greek Community
Hoyne Brewing

Here are the ones that did not show - and nothing was said why they were not there (update apparently they are next week)
Sugar Rush Mini Donuts
SnoMoose Ice Cream
Deadbeetz Food Truck
Stir It Up
Puerto Vallarata Amigos - one of favorites
Big Dog Burgers aka Burger Bus
Grilled To The Mac
Diablos Vegan Tacos
Wild west Salmon Grill
Melt Truck
Tacofino Victoria
Lighthouse Brewing Company

I really wanted to try Deadbeetx Food Truck, Tacofino, Grilled to the Mac and Diablos

There were a couple not on the list that were there
Baron Burgers
Jackson Ice Cream
Dog Nation
Bonterra Pizza

Next, the event was said to start at 2 pm and go to 8 pm, but at some point in the last few days it was changed to 11 am as the start.  I ma not sure why the 11 am start at the last minute but it meant that there was a huge rush at lunch that more or less overwhelmed the trucks that were there.   We got there at about 1:45 and several trucks were sold out of some of their food.  As an example, Puerto Vallarta Amigos were out of many of their fillings.  By the time we left there were some that were sold out period.

Burger Bus all the way over from Vancouver
I am half tempted to go down there this evening and see how it is all doing and see if they are still able to see food. (update - seems some of them closed for the afternoon to restock)

Finally, the prices for some of the stuff seemed at a gouging level, $2 for a can of coke is a bit much.

As for the food, Sheila and I shared our lunch. So we could try two different things.   When we first got there the lines for several of the stalls were very long. I would have gone to the Burger Bus, all the way over from Vancouver but the line up was very, very long.   Their food stand has to be seen in person to admire the brilliance of how they use the old VW bus.

Dog Nation had a very long line up for their 16 or so different hot dogs you could order.  I would have joined the line if I was interested in a hot dog but that was not what I really wanted today.   I honestly was in the mood for street tacos and I had expected to see several taco trucks there but they were among the no shows.  I am fan of PV Amigos but they are the food truck I have eaten at the most in town.

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We had a Baron burger from Baron Burgers of Sidney.  The price of $8 was a bit steep for a basic concession stand hamburger.  It was a good one but nothing out of the ordinary.  They also seemed to have been overwhelmed by the volume of business because even though they had a short line up it did not move fast.   They were also already our of something but I could not quite see what it was under the tape.  I expect in Sidney they do a nice steady business and do not see the sort of mass influx they did today.   I wish I had bit the bullet and joined the long line up for either L'Authentique poutine and burger or the Burger Bus.

We also had a jerk chicken wrap from The Reef.  The chicken was cooked well but the jerk seasoning was more of a "hint of" jerk, it really had almost no heat at all.   We also got an order of Johnny cakes from them - I think they may have had trouble keeping up with the demand because ours were a bit doughy and not properly sugared.  I hate to be too critical because the food I have had at the reef has been good.

We finished with a doughnut from Yonni's doughnuts, a part of Discovery Coffee.   We had the creme brule doughnut and it was a well done.   I think the idea of bruleeing sugar onto a doughnut is inspired.

I was surprised to see that wannawafel was not all that busy.  Normally when I see them around town they have a long line up for stuff.  All I can think is that their food is not really a summer sort of dish.

Bonterra Pizza from Shawnigan Lake looked closed when we were there, I did not walk up and ask what was going on, but there was no line up and no sense of cooking going on.  I do not know if they were setting up for later or had run out.   Sheila said she thought she saw someone with one of their pizzas.  My problem is I am now spoiled for street pizza by the stuff Prima Strada makes.

The Reef on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 8, 2013

Angry Birds Star Wars Birthday Cake

We had hoped to get better pictures, but demands of the birthday cut pic taking short
Max turned five and is currently obsessed with Star Wars, Lego, Angry Birds and any combination of those three.   We decided to do a Star Wars themed birthday and made him an Angry Birds Star Wars cake.   I thought this cake was achievable from watching Cake Boss.  

Watching the process they go through to make the cakes in the show has given the process we would need to follow to make a special cake.  

Luke bird - the hot sun was causing the modelling chocolate to sweat

The main base cake is a chocolate cake using the recipe from Rebar.  This was then covered in buttercream icing and then a layer of fondant on top of that.   We ended buying the buttercream at Creating Occasions because we wanted to see what professional buttercream was like in texture and taste

The larger cubes on top are pound cake and the smaller ones are rice krispie squares, both covered in buttercream and then fondant.

fur detail comes from using a needle tool
Modelling chocolate allows this cape on the Obi Wan bird to sit above him

The figures are made of rice krispie square balls covered in modelling chocolate.  Modelling chocolate is easy to make and holds shapes well.    I made most of it from white chocolate which was then coloured.   The final texture of the modelling texture was ok but not great, it was a bit grainy.   I want to buy some and see what it should be like.  Most of the figures were made by Ben though Sheila finished the Chewbacca bird and made the whole Luke bird.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Victoria's Newest Farmer's Market at the Hudson

The Downtown Farmer's Market has moved its permanent home at the Hudson.  The market is organized by the Victoria Downtown Public Market and had been at Market Square over the winter.  It is going to be held at the Hudson every Wednesday from 11 am to 3 pm.

We visited it this week just around noon.   It was mildly busy but not busy enough to really make it worth being at.   People wanted farmers's markets but for a host of reasons the ones in the Victoria area are less than successful in my opinion.

In my work life I have worked with growers who sold at markets in the lower mainland.  I personally did an experiment to see what it takes to make a buck selling at a farmer's market by taking a stall there and selling a friend's produce.   I have a good idea of what a good busy market looks like and what the sort of scale of sales I would should be able to achieve.

Here is what I do not see at Victoria markets:

  • Crowds of people - a busy market has line ups at peak times at every produce vendor, not just at the ones selling food to eat
  • Large volumes of produce - I know what I took to Whistler every week and I have not seen anyone is this region come to a market with the volume I sold.   I was a very small vendor in Whistler.   The area behind my table and under it was loaded with produce at the start of the day.  I see very limited amounts in local markets here.
  • Buyers - people go to the markets as attractions and not as their place to shop.   People that show up just wander up and down the market but are loaded down with goods they have purchased.   During the peak time of 10 am to 2 pm at the Whistler market I would do about 200 to 250 transactions, close to one a minute.
  • Reasonable prices - in Whistler there was a premium people were willing to pay for good local produce, but not as wildly expensive as what produce costs in Victoria markets.   A head of lettuce should be $1.50 or so, not $3.00 as seems to be the Victoria market prices.

I would like to shop at a local farmer's market, but I need to know I can buy what I need when I go there and the prices would be reasonable.  At the moment this is simply not the case with this market.

 Here is a news report on the opening.

El Guapo at the Farmer's Market at the Hudson

We stopped by the new Farmer's Market at the Hudson yesterday and got our lunch there at El Guapo Chorizo Grill.   This food cart is only out at this farmers's market and only have a limited supply each week - 86 in total this week.

El Guapo only does grilled chorizo sandwiches - I like that, they focus on one thing and they do it well.   The sandwich is simple but the quality of the ingredients count.  I am not sure what their source for the sausage is but they do say it is happily raised island pork.  They also sell one pound of frozen sausages for $12.

The sandwich itself costs $7 and is just a bun grilled on the flattop, some grilled roasted red pepper, a chorizo sausage and finally a bit salad.   Simple but very good because of the great flavour of the sausage.   The bread captures all the juices and fat from the sausage which is the only dressing or condiment on the bread.

I highly recommend checking them out though come early enough to get some.  They are only there on Wednesdays for the market.   They sold out by 2:35 pm this week.  

The name El Guapo means "the handsome one".

Here is my short video of them making our sandwiches.

El Guapo Chorizo Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

First Veneto and now Catalano

Veneto is a region north eastern Italy and the name for a bar/restaurant in Victoria in the Rialto.   Veneto calls it self a tapa lounge.  Tapas says Spain to me and I have idea of what I expect from a good tapas place.  Veneto does good food but it is not what I consider tapas.  I would call their food a tasting menu

Now in Magnolia we have Catalano, which calls it self a restaurant and cicchetti bar.  Catalano is a way to refer to things from Catalonia specifically in Italian.  Cicchetti is Venetian bar finger food.

So we have one named for a part of Italian claiming to do Spanish style bar food and another that is name for part of Spain that is doing Italian style bar food.  

My first attempt at making Arancini

website for photo
I had four cups of left over rice and needed something to make with it and after a short search on the internet I decided on arancini.   Arancini is a rice ball filled with something like mozzarella cheese, rolled on bread crumbs and then shallow or deep fried.

website for photo
The problem with my choice is that I had some idea what arancini is but I have not only never made it, I have never actually eaten one.  I had no idea what the finished product should be like for flavour, texture or dryness.

The recipe I used came from the Food Network USA, a Giada De Laurentiis recipe.  It is pretty basic, the cooked rice is mixed with beaten eggs, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.  You then make a ball of the rice-egg-cheese mixture and stick a small piece of mozzarella in the middle.  This ball is then rolled in bread crumbs and finally fired in oil for about four minutes.  I had a few issues with the recipe beyond not knowing what the consistency of the mix should be like or what the final ball should taste like.

1) I had long grain basmati rice, not arborio rice - I suspect as different as one could get with rice.
2) I had panko bread crumbs, not Italian bread crumbs.

website for photo
Using the basmati and panko made me think the mixture was a bit dry, I added an extra egg and it seemed to have a good consistency to form the balls.  I used a disher to make balls about the size of a small prune plum.   Getting in the mozzarella was easy enough and I could see how if I made slightly larger ones I could add a more liquid filling such as a thick bolognese

I suspect my use of the basmati also changed the texture of the finished rice ball but since I have never eaten an arancini I have no way to know how it was different.

The first set of arancini I put into the frying pan almost fell apart because I tried to roll them too soon,   The egg and cheese in the ball need sometime to cook to make the ball solid enough to roll around.  The panko bread crumbs are not nearly as fine as what I think Italian bread crumbs are like, they also do not have Italian seasonings.   It meant my arancini had a much rougher exterior than the ones pictured above.

In the end I had something that did look like an arancini.   The basmati and extra egg will obviously made for a different texture, the interior was almost eggy,   The whole thing was drier than I would have liked, but not at all horrible and they held up well being eaten with the marinara sauce I made.   I did make one error that I could have avoided, I under seasoned them.

I will try doing them again though I will try with a short grain rice.   I may make my own Italian bread crumbs though I think panko works well enough and I just need to add some Italian herbs to the mix.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My attempt to make Fırın Sütlaç (Turkish rice pudding)

I had Fırın Sütlaç for the first time a couple of months ago at Efes on Yates Street and it was amazing.  I have had English rice puddings and have hated them, the Turks know what they are doing and it is amazing.   The good people at Efes also do not charge enough for the dish, their price for it is insanely low, only $2.45.  If I were closer to downtown I would be buying it to take home on regular basis but since I am not, I thought I would try to make it at home.

At heart the dish is just rice, milk, sugar and vanilla - pretty damn basic and should be easy to be replicated.   I assume it came in existence as a way to deal with leftover cooked rice.

My first attempt was not really a success.   In part I think it is the recipe I used.   The details may have been all been there but since I have never made it had no idea what each step should work out.   As one example, it did not say cook the rice as one normally would, but called for the rice to covered by a 1/2 inch of water and then cooked.

I really have no idea what is expected to happen to the rice along the way so I ended with a lot of rice that had not fully disintegrated and in the end had settled to the bottom of the ramekins.   My pudding was also thicker than it should have been.   This recipe also had an egg wash, sort of, for the top of the pudding.   Most recipes do not have this but I think it is crucial to get the crust on top.  My only modification of the ingredients was that I used 1% milk and added a pinch of salt.

A different recipe I looked at but did not use called for a very different way to make.   There was no corn starch and the sugar was stirred in at the very end.

I have looked for some more recipes:

So in considering all of these recipes, here is what I would do:

  • Cook short grain rice in a bit more water than needed and cook it until it is overcooked.  1/2 cup of rice in 1 1/3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • I would then add 3 cups of milk to the rice and cook it over low heat till the rice disintegrates.   I would add the seeds from one vanilla pod to the mixture at this time.
  • I would then whisk 2 tablespoons of corn starch into 1 cup of milk, when done with that I would add it to the milk rice mixture on the heat.   I would cook this until it was the consistency of heavy cream, it should coat the back of spoon and leave a clear spot when you run your finger through the mixture.
  • I would now pour this into ramekins.
  • I would let this cool and set up a bit.  When it has I would make an egg yolk/milk egg wash.   I would put about a teaspoon of this on top of each ramekin.
  • Now I would put it all under the broiler but do so with the ramekins sitting in a water bath.  Once it was the top was browned it would come out and be allowed to cool in the fridge.
I might add nutmeg or cinnamon to the dish

Here is a video of how to make the dish

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 25th The Gluten-Free Affair at O Bistro

I have really been impressed with the food at O Bistro, on June 25th they are hosting The Gluten-Free Affair, which is sold out....  I need to get on top of these events.   I am very interested to know what gluten free can be like.

Time: From: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM 
Location: O Bistro 
Address: 500 Oswego Street Victoria, BC V8V 5C1 
Admission: Free 

It's no surprise that the O Bistro is amongst some of the Celiac Scene's favourite gluten-free eateries.

Chef Muzzin prides himself on his healthy menu options, whilst refusing to compromise the decadence and luxury of higher-end dining. Our cooks and servers participate in a rigorous gluten-free training program once hired; and, we have safeguards in place to eliminate cross contamination.

To celebrate our gluten free status, we're hosting a complimentary Gluten-Free Affair on our O Bistro Patio! Enjoy complimentary gluten-free canapes, Organic Gluten Free Mongozo Beer, and tips from the Celiac Scene.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A&W - not great food, but some interesting changes

When we are out at Costco and have to grab lunch we often choose to go to the A&W on Millstream as a quick default.   Over the years I have been underwhelmed with them but ultimately they are a fast food place I have very low expectations.   When we went there the other day I was pleasantly surprised.  

What has changed are their fries and burgers as well as some of their presentation.   The fries are thick cut and served in little miniature versions of the baskets the fries are made in.   I also like the use of the mini cookie sheet as a serving tray.

The burgers felt like they were better made - the lettuce and tomatoes seemed better than in the past, but maybe it is all down to the presentation in the new paper bags.  In the old foil and paper bags one of my complaints about their burgers is that they were very often soggy.

Will we go here again?  Yes, because it is fast and reasonable for what it is.  I like they fact they have tried to be a bit better than the average.   A&W is half a step better than McDonald's or Dairy Queen because they have tried a bit harder with the presentation.

A&W (Millstream) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Amazing Coffee at Parsonage Cafe

My friend Aaron and I went for a coffee during the election.  Aaron suggested Parsonage Cafe which is one I tend to forget about but I know Aaron is a total foodie guy and knows his coffee.  He also knows Ben Cram who runs the place.

I was dead tired and just told Ben to make me something interesting and he suggested coffee made with the Aeropress.  Watch the video on how they brewed my cup of coffee.

I was impressed with the cup of coffee that I got out of this method.   They weigh the coffee and water that goes into the press, it is this attention to detail that ensures a great coffee every time.

It really highlighted the fruity notes of the coffee.  Ben took some time to talk with us about coffee, the Parsonage is attached to the Fernwood Coffee Company.   I learned more from him in a matter of minutes than I had learned in the previous decade.   I like coffees with a fruity element to them.  Ben explained that this comes from how the coffee is initially dried, if it is dried with the cherry still attached and this is done in the open air leads to a much fruitier coffee. When you look at their coffee listings you can see they tell you how the beans were processed.

They have some other interesting brewing methods, but I will leave that for another time.

I also had the bagel with cream cheese and lox and it was very good and had a stellar presentation.  I can recommend this cafe for the food as well as the coffee.

 Here is Aaron's interview with Ben from a year ago

  Parsonage Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chiba Sushi

In the last week I have gone to Chiba Sushi and the service has been above and beyond my expectations.

The first time was with a friend from out of town, we had finished helping with an early evening event and needed to eat something and I suggested sushi.  Victoria is not Vancouver with a sushi place on every block, but it is also not Winnipeg with a serious shortage of them.  We have a selection of reasonable ones in the city and I thought this would be a nice change for him.

On our way back to my house from UVic we passed by Fujiya and Yoshi Sushi and both of them were already closed.   I knew that Chiba Sushi was still on our way home but after two failed attempts I had little hope and I had no desire to drive all the way downtown for sushi.  

We walked up to the door and saw the closed sign but as we were about to turn around and walk away one of the waitresses opened the door and said that if we were interested in take out they would be happy to serve us.

I knew it was the end of the day and odds are the best of what could be on the menu might no longer be available.  We were both also done after a very long day.    With both of those things in mind, I said to the waitress "Give us $40 worth of rolls, let the chefs decide."   I have done this in Vancouver before and generally been pleased with the results, others do this as well in the lower mainland.   Sounds like few people do this in Victoria because they were both surprised and excited.   Where we were seated waiting for the order meant I could sort of see into the kitchen and when the order was relayed I could see one of the chefs stop, look up, and then walk to the curtain and see who was ordering like this.

Anyway we got our order, I did not even ask what anything was so I can not tell you specifically what we had.   We had a couple of their standard rolls and three special rolls, looking at the prices, I think they cut us a deal.   We should have ordered more because my oldest son, who has been a sushi fanatic since age six, had not left the house for his night shift yet and devoured anything we let get his hands on.

Sheila and I went back on Friday night for some take away,   I was done after a long work day so I once again just asked for them to decide, though I did say we wanted to two yam tempura rolls and nothing with shrimp.   They remembered me for the previous order and clearly it had made a serious impression on them because seemed very happy to have me order in the same way again.  They were a bit slow in getting it done and without me commenting on it they gave us a coupon for the next time we come in.

This time I remembered to check what is was we had - the three rolls they chose were the Canada Roll, Rock & Roll and the Sushi Pizza.  

The Canada Roll and the Rock & Roll were both good versions of fancy rolls.  Well executed, clearly good knife skills and enough special mayonnaise on top to make them great but not drown them as some do.

The one that was very different was the Sushi Pizza.   I had head of this idea before and always steered away from it.   It was not bad but I found it hard to eat.   I am not sure I will order this again but I can see how the concept might work better.

The base of the Sushi Pizza is a formed disk of rice that has been fried in tempura to give it a crust on the bottom.  This base could be an interesting way to serve the toppings but I think the toppings need to fairly sparse.   I think it would work better as an alternate way to deliver sashimi than dressing up like one of the special rolls.

One of the reasons I have not tended to go to Chiba Sushi is because the location is one that does not appeal to me.  I know that the form of a building on the outside is no measure of how good or bad a restaurant is, it still does seem to have an impact on my decision.

We will be be going back here a lot more often and I suspect we will be ordered delivery from them as well.

Chiba Sushi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Banana Leaf on Broadway

Recently we were in Vancouver for a weekend which meant we had a chance to try a number of restaurants.  One of the things that bugs me about Victoria is the lack of much diversity in our restaurants.   There are numerous cuisines I like that we either do not have on the lower island or the one example is not a very good one.  One cuisine I learned to love when I lived in London in the early '90s was Malaysian food and in Vancouver I had my first chance to try it again in 20 years by going to the Banana Leaf on Broadway.

What I really mean by Malaysian cuisine is the food eaten by the Malays and not the ethnic Chinese or other minorities in the country.  Many people will wonder how Malay cuisine differs from Thai or other south Asian countries, it is significantly different because Malay's are overwhelming Muslim Islamic dietary laws apply.  That said, the food is influenced by China, India, Thailand and elsewhere.   Malay food is worth trying if you have not had it before and in Vancouver anyone of the five locations of the Banana Leaf is a good place to start.

In London there was an upscale Malaysian restaurant in Soho close to my office.   Many any evening after work from Elan Computing ended up at Rasa Sayang and over two years I had a chance to try most of the menu items they offered. It is there that I learned to love Nasi Goreng and Satay.      

I ordered chicken satay with gado gado rice at the Banana Leaf and it was all that I hoped it to be.   The satay I had had the proper peanut sauce which was deep, rich, and nicely spicy.   In the west we really do not use the peanut often enough in savory foods.

Sheila and I shared an order of roti canai.   I know the Malay roti is supposed to be the same as the Indian, but when I have had it it has always been thinner and lighter.   Something subtly different has to be going on but I have no idea what it is.

I saw the Nasi Lemak on the menu but I could not order it as well though it should not be too hard to make at home because Nasi Lemak is rice cooked in coconut milk.

Sheila will have to be in Vancouver every six months as a course examiner and the hotel we will stay at is right beside the Banana Leaf which means we will be back.

  Banana Leaf on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Smitty's in Sidney - it feels like they are not interested in trying

Well I made a mistake the other day in Sidney and ate at the local Smitty's.   I had driven someone to the ferry and stopped in Sidney to buy a couple of things I needed.   By the end of that I needed to eat something for lunch and I really just wanted a quick burger.  I wanted to avoid eating at Macdonald's and decided on the Smitty's because it was on the way to the highway.

I had no idea that Smitty's was so expensive.    Their prices are comparable or higher than what I would spend at White Spot.   I should have walked out when I saw the prices but I was hungry and in a rush.

All I had for lunch was the burger with yam fries and gravy and I was on the hook for $17.89.    This meal was the complete opposite of what I had at the Boleskine Bistro.

The starting point was the burger at $12.99.  For this I would expect a decent quality burger which is not what I got.   The burger was much too salty and I like my salt.    It was verging on the inedible.  The bacon was burned, I could see that before I even took a bite.  Clearly no one in the kitchen was tasting the food as it was being prepared or cared if they put out improperly prepared food.

The yam fries were cold and I expect frozen ones they brought and deep fried.  If you can not be bothered to do your own fries from scratch, do not offer them on the menu.  In one hour a kitchen staff member can make all the fries needed for a day in place the size Smitty's, that is a labour cost of only $12-$14 to make dramatically better fries than the frozen crap way too many places offer.

The gravy was steaming hot but much too thick.  There was an odd graininess to it, I am can only assume they did not make it in their kitchen but used a powder.  I fail to understand why any restaurant would bother making gravy from powder when it is so easy and cost effective to make it fresh everyday.   As to what sort of gravy it was meant to be, that was not clear to me at all, the menu did not say what sort of gravy it was supposed to be.

Smitty's is trying not to be a fast food place but is making the food as if they were one but charging prices that are unreasonable.   I know they are a chain, but that is not excuse for bad food.  White Spot is a chain and can consistently do a good burger.

I have no plans to ever go back to this Smitty's and I suspect I will avoid all the restaurants in the chain.

Smitty's on Urbanspoon