Category Archives: Cheap Eats

Chili Pepper House (September 21st, 2012)

A source of excellent spicy food indeed. Well, when S and I made this foodblog, we wanted a good variety of eats, not just the “schwwwanky places”, but also dives that don’t seem incredible from the outside, but they are when you dig deeper. Chili Pepper House (they don’t have their own site so I linked it to Urbanspoon) on 3003 Kingsway (at Rupert) has been around for quite a while, and the owner is somehow related to the owners of Green Lettuce, which has a similar menu and style of cooking. From what I understand, the owner of Chili Pepper House was educated in Sweden, lived in India, and has Hakka heritage, so you can expect a diverse array of flavours when you walk in the door. Apart from the fact that they serve pakoras alongside hot and sour soup, or papadums right beside Hakka noodles (a delicious stirfry that comes up not greasy, but akin to a nice yakisoba), they make good food that can rival any better-known “traditional” Chinese restaurant; alas, the kind of cuisine they serve up here which can be found in some parts of Southwest China is underrepresented here in Vancouver, and it’s great that there’s an option out there where people can go to for a new taste.

Hot and sour soup with bamboo shoots, chicken, scallions and coriander ($3.95 sml, $6.75 med, $8.75 lrg) – A-

One of my favourite Chinese soups, it appeals to my taste for spicy foods and also the need for some sourness to put some zing into a meal. The small size can easily feed three people, and it packs a punch.

Black pepper beef with onions ($9.25) – B+

Can’t go wrong with this dish. The beef was adequately tenderized (chemically or mechanically is anyone’s guess…it didn’t taste like it was chemical!), and the onions lent a bit of sweetness to round out the flavour. Hint: this dish is GREAT if you pack some up for home and put it into stir frys or soupy noodles. Yum!

Singapore-style Vermicelli with chicken and shrimp ($8.95) – A

It’s got noodles. It’s got tumeric. It’s got a nice balance of chicken, shrimp and veggies. I think it’s all set. You don’t seem to notice the food dipping in volume because the portion is just so huge, but I bet you wouldn’t even mind…

Haaji Fish ($12.25) – A

I think this would be the representative of the unique Chinese-Indian flavour of this place. It clearly had a curry and tumeric tinge to it, and it was sprinkled very liberally with chili flakes. Lightly deepfried until golden, it balances the fishy flavour of the cod with a flavour that isn’t quite Indian, but also isn’t quite Szechuanese/Yunnanese… it’s in a league of its own.

If you’re wanting a good hidden place to try next time you’re looking for a change-up in flavours, head on down here. The dishes I’ve shown here are the tip of the iceberg, as the selection won’t leave anyone disappointed. Again, this would be a “dive” so don’t expect Michelin star quality presentation or ambience for a first date, but do expect solid results. This place never fails to deliver on that.

– Cheers, A

Chili Pepper House 嘉應閣 (Vancouver) on Urbanspoon

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Ciao Bella (September 17, 2012)

Hi guys, A here. Ciao Bella, located at 703 Denman Street near Stanley Park, I admit, had the vibe of a tourist trap, where familiar Italian dishes would be served up to loud out of towner grownups with their out of towner kids. I was to be proved wrong, and in a big way. A year or so ago, my family (for reasons I honestly cannot remember) decided to give it a try. Ever since, it’s been a regular haunt for me and the fam and we’ve never been disappointed. Monday and Tuesday they have a great half-off pasta deal (one of the best in Vancouver in terms of value for money) that’s excellent for a quick bite in the city before or after a go along the seawall. Apologies for the not-so-good quality of photos, I used my Blackberry for the pictures as dinner plans were somewhat last-minute and I wanted to share this great find!

Complimentary bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar – B-

Honestly the bread is not the reason I go here, but it was a nice touch to offer olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping as opposed to your regular butter. Pretty standard stuff. Nothing spectacular, nothing awful.

Salmone al Limone, accompanied with potato, carrot, string beans and garnish ($19.95) – B

This was my dad’s, but he kindly had me try a little. The salmon was done respectably so, and nothing was too adventurous. For what it is, it’s okay, but I wouldn’t be running back for it.

Linguini Calamari, with optional ground pepper and/or chili flakes ($8.50 when on Monday and Tuesday special) – A

I have to say, I am not a fan of North American-style pasta, with the sauce just poured clumsily on top of boiled pasta, and apart from super fancy Italian places which will set you back a fair penny, or establishments that place a bigger focus on quantity rather than quality, I haven’t encountered an Italian restaurant that does pasta the way I remember it from Italy. Traditional full Italian meals have pasta as the primi piatti, or first dish. That’s right folks, the Italians have pasta as a starter. Therefore, the North American way of serving it “Big Gulp” size doesn’t really pay homage to the original intent of pasta itself.

History lessons aside, the calamari was well cooked (aka no “gritty” bits) and was clearly cooked alongside the sauce and pasta. The flavours were so well-interwoven, and the accompanying fresh-ground pepper and chili flakes (I absolutely cannot live without some heat in my food) transformed it into sort of a linguini arrabbiata alle calamari… now that’s a mouthful I can stomach. For what it is, it’s a great deal and a satisfying plate.

Overall Ciao Bella offers a solid dining experience. I’ve also tried other items from their menu like the beef carpaccio ($12.95) and the tiramisu ($6.95), and both were done exquisitely. If you’re in the mood for something fancier and where the service is a bit more attentive, then look elsewhere, but for what it is, which is reasonably priced and authentic Italian cuisine, then come on down to what looked like a run of the mill tourist trap, but turned out to be much more.

– A
Ciao Bella Italian Restaurant & Piano Bar on Urbanspoon

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