Salmon House on the Hill (September 24th, 2012)

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Hey guys, A here to get the ball rolling on this post. Nestled deep in the North Shore mountains is a bit of a gem..not hidden, but a gem nevertheless. As you probably suspected by now, we love our seafood, and this place rivals Blue Water Cafe in terms of the care they take into preparing their food. Of course, it’s different as BWC emphasizes their raw bar a lot more, as Salmon House on the Hill trumpets their alderwood grill (which I have to say permeates almost every single dish on the menu).

However, it’s not just the menu. Oh no. It’s the wine list, which is an extensive one at that. S and I have only been wine lovers for a little while now, but they know their vitis vinifera here. A wine list that requires its own dedicated book that is significantly thicker than the menu, and also one that must be requested via email, as it is not available on the website. But fear not, if you’re a relative wine novice like us, as the staff are VERY helpful and will explain whatever you need to be explained. But by now I’m sure I’m rambling and you want to see what we ate! So here they are:

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Complimentary bread, three ways; with butter, and white bean purée infused with lemon zest and drizzled with olive oil

The three kinds of bread were: regular white, sundried tomato, and cheese bread. I really appreciated the white bean purée as it was imaginative, and didn’t overpower the bread. It was refreshing with a hint of lemon, and balanced all three kinds of bread well. Other than that, pretty solid for some munchies while we wait. – B

The white bean purée was a clever play on humous; for those who dislike garlic yet want the texture of humous, this would be an ideal spread for you. The lemon zest worked well with it. As for the bread, it was the typical run of the mill type stuff; probably because both A and I were hungry by then, we each wolfed down several pieces. It also came with salted whipped butter, which always works with nice warm bread. Note: ratings may be artificially inflated for this bread as we were hungry, but I really enjoyed the white bean purée – B+

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Alder-grilled Tostadas and Dungeness Crab with cilantro, mango salsa and roasted garlic aioli ($13.50)

Normally I wouldn’t associate tacos with “fine dining”…and in all honesty, the ingredients were rather ordinary in this dish, but it was the way they were harmonized which made this special. The creamy sweetness of the mango, with the chimmichurri character of the aioli playfully interacting with the herbal notes from the cilantro. Not listed in the menu was some alfafa which gave some bitterness which rounded out the flavours. It wasn’t in-your-face Mexican, but a great West Coast twist. – A

OMG. SO GOOD. This was my favourite part of the entire night. For those of you who know about my crab nightmare last night, A ordered this as an appie for us to share sort of coyly; I personally had no say in what we ordered hahah. In any case, I was thoroughly impressed with this dish. There was a large chunk of crab (both shredded and right from the claw) tossed in creamy avocado and mango salsa with chimmichurri sauce on the side. SO GOOD ASLDFJASLDFKJ. I was going to give this dish an A+ before I found a few pieces of shell in my tostada. Flavourwise, A+ , but for a restaurant this calibre, it would be nice if they took more time removing the shells; so my rating goes down to an – A

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Smoked Salmon Wrapped Haida Gwaii Halibut with artichoke and lobster butter sauce ($34) – A-

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Paired with: Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2010, Coastal California – A

Well, well. The only oaked Chardonnay on the list which is served by the glass just so happens to go well with the two mains on the Salmon House menu I have tried (halibut and the sablefish). Buttery, oaky, and reminiscent of popcorn and…well, butter! As for the fish, apart from lobster butter sauce, there was a bit of lobster meat included on the side, and I have to say that halibut, which is normally a very meaty fish, balanced well with the smooth creamy buttery sauce. I have to say that I prefer the sablefish (I’m a sucker for buttery textures), and this particular wine was a match made in heaven for it. However, the halibut is no slouch. It was a solidly cooked fillet, and the accompanying vegetables rounded out this course quite well.

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Seared Coriander Crusted Ahi Tuna with potato, berry salsa and orange vinaigrette ($32)

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Paired with: Silk Scarf Riesling-Muscat blend (S’s wine)

As you know, I simply adore seared Ahi Tuna, so when I saw this on the menu, it was a winner already. When it came, I was surprised at how thinly cut it was. It was a large portion of fish; however, it was extremely thin. It came with mixed autumn vegetables like squash, bell peppers, beans, and zukini as well as roasted potato. Though impressive that such a thin piece of fish was not cooked all the way through, it was still much less rare than I prefer it. The crusted coriander didn’t taste very unique and it just felt like I was eating a tuna version of a black pepper steak. All in all, I was not very impressed with the cooking of this fish; however, the berry salsa on top was delicious. I just wished there was more of it to counteract the saltiness of the fish. The potatoes were roasted to perfection and helped balance out the fish once again. The accompaniments were much better than the main attraction, and for that reason, I will give this dish a B-

The Silk Scarf Riesling, upon first swirl and sniff, brought a whirlwind of flavour to my gustatory system. With hints of apple, peach, and apricot, I was really looking forward to this wine. To my dismay, the taste of it resembled that of any table wine and was not anything special. It wasn’t a horrible wine, it just wasn’t all that great – B-

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Warm lava dark chocolate cake with banana ice cream ($9.50) – A

Again, a caveat with me, being a person who doesn’t get to enjoy dessert at many restaurants (peanut allergy, curse you!), is that I don’t have a lot of sweet stuff to compare this to… but damn, this was good. Molten white chocolate inside, raspberry drizzle to balance out the taste, banana ice cream to neutralize the overwhelming chocolate (which was incredible), and a bit of colour from… I don’t know what those are, but they were aesthetically pleasing, regardless.

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Espresso Gelato Sandwich ($9.50)

Presentation, presentation, presentation! If anything, Salmon House had the best presentation of any restaurant I have ever been to. My espresso gelato sandwich comprised of espresso gelato sandwiched between two chocolate cookies with a beautifully crafted dark chocolate flower on top. On the other side (unfortunately hidden from the picture) was a layer of thin white chocolate draping over the cookies and the gelato. To the side are bunches of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and gooseberries. The flavour of the gelato was strong and impactful. Alternating the chocolate cookie with the gelato and the sourness of the berries, it brought the perfect blend of tart and sweet to my palate. It was a delicious dessert; the flavours aren’t that extraordinarily unique, however, they were impactful and worked well. Pretty hard to mess up this dessert. – A-

This was quite a memorable meal, and while it wasn’t a tasting menu and a whirlwind of flavours, it was a collection of good plates and a wine list that will suit every taste and preference. We will definitely be back again, and who knows, it may pop up in a future post! 😉 With that, here are a couple more shots of the interior!

All in all, though I was disappointed by my entree, everything else was delicious and the presentation will definitely have me coming back for more. The view from the restaurant is also spectacular. If you decide to give Salmon House a try, you will not be disappointed and TRY THE TOSTADAS! Well, its back to calculus for me…THANK YOU MOMMY AND DADDY MAH! 🙂

– Love, S

Oh yeah guys, don’t forget to click the Urbanspoon link on the bottom of this post to see what our fellow food bloggers have to say about this amazing place! You help us get our blog out and we help you find great places for that special occassion. Quite symbiotic, nah?

– Cheers, A

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Here are some of the dishes my folks had. Of course they were delicious, they wouldn’t share ;).

From left to right (first row, then second): Fresh shrimp (3 for $9); Alderwood-cooked sablefish ($32); Seafood trio ($31); Crème Brulée ($9.50)

I could get used to this view…

Salmon House on the Hill on Urbanspoon

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Ebisu on Robson (March 3, 2012) & Kin Resto Bar (Febuary 16, 2012) ; VANEATS with mommy!

Sup guys. S here. So I decided to sort through my plethora of food pictures on scattered amongst various facebook albums and folders on my hard drive and pretty much came to one conclusion: I have a LOT of food pictures. I decided to start my solo posting career with a dining package courtesty of VANEATS.ca entitled ‘Ebisu Flair’ and another entitled ‘Kindle with Kin’. The ‘Ebisu Flair’ package was priced at $18 while the ‘Kindle with Kin’ package was priced at $25; both extremely reasonable prices for the food that was presented. Now, my partner in crime here, A, would not approve of these ventures as he strongly disapproves of any ‘fusion’ cuisine. No matter, I love good food, and I happen to enjoy fusion. Let’s start with Ebisu.

[Note: all descriptions of the food are provided by http://www.VANEATS.ca.

Also, ratings are relative to the price and category of food]

This particular dining occasion was with my mother before the first game that Coho returned to Vancity after being traded. Cue the “OMG KASSIAN SUXXXXXXXXXXXORZZZZ”. ANYWAYS. Before I turn this blog into one about hockey, back to the food. Oh and say hi to my mommy =D She’s adorable 🙂 Onto the food!

Aigamo Duck Salad: roasted duck and sauteed button mushrooms served on a garden of fresh spring greens and peppers in a citrus infused ginger dressing. A-

I’m not the hugest fan of duck, but the duck was nicely tender while not being too fatty, making it enjoyable against the lightness of the citrus-ginger dressing. This duck proved not to be so heavy as to overwhelm the delicate green. Favourite aspects of this dish were the citrus-ginger dressing and the sauteed button mushrooms.

[Left]Tiger Mayo: deep fried Black Tiger prawns complete with the chef’s sweet chilli mayonnaise dip B+
[Right]Salmon Carpaccio:
Atlantic salmon marinated in soy based olive oil topped with citrus white wine mayo & flavoured garlic chips A

For those of you that know me, I dislike and generally avoid deep-fried items like the plague due to gastrointestinal problems, so my review on this tempura battered tiger prawn may have been a bit skewed. Despite the deep-fried exterior (which I tried to tear off, I was impressed by the size of the tiger prawn. At many other Japanese restaurants, there is definitely more batter than prawn. Also unlike many Japanese restaurants, the tradition tempura dipping sauce (which I absolutely adore) was not present. Instead, a layer of sweet chilli mayo lay under the prawns. This concoction was what I based my rating on.It was the perfect blend of sweet, tangy, and savoury. Props to the chef on that one!

As for salmon carpaccio. Shereen loves carpaccio done right. This was done right. Again, with my affinity towards tart things, the citrus flavour once again struck the right chord in my taste buds. Though I prefer it to be sockeye salmon, for $18 bucks total, what can I expect? It was great for what it was.

Crunch & Munch Roll: prawn tempura, cucumber, tobiko wrapped with unagi & avocado. Served with unagi & wasabi cream sauce –B+

I didn’t have high expectations for this roll through reading the description. Of the items included in the rolls, I dislike the deepfried aspect of tempura, I hate tobiko, and I cannot stand the fishiness of unagi. However, to my surprise, all the aspects of this roll somehow just worked together in a symphony of flavour. The wasabi cream was inventive and provided a nice kick to the roll.

Mars Attack: featuring smooth nougat and creamy caramel coated in milk chocolate then deep fried served with 2 scoops of polar vanilla ice cream on flakes – D

If you know me, I adore dessert. This just didn’t cut it for me. Already, you know that I dislike deep-fried things. In addition, the icecream was simply so pedestrian. Trying a bite of the deepfried mars bar, it just didn’t work. Everything was just soggy and goey and very sloppy. Desserts that I enjoy are much more refined and I like a tart aspect to dessert. Needlesstosay, I downed the icecream anyways. Ice cream is ice cream, even if it isn’t spectacular.

On a whole, both my mother and I thoroughly enjoyed this package and would go again 🙂

NEXT: KINDLE WITH KIN

Upon entering the restaurant, I had my doubts. I had never heard of this restaurant, and it was oddly empty at  dinner time. Due to their evident lack of business, my mother and I were seated wherever we chose. The manager himself came out several times to check on how we were doing and answered several questions I had about each dish. Despite initial skepticism, this experience proved to be much better than anticipated, and for $25, we were both stuffed and could not finish the package.

Prawn & Thai Basil Rice Paper Roll: with cucumber, vermicelli, lettuce, crispy shallots & crispy noodle center – B+

As a fusion restaurant, these were not your typical salad rolls. The cucumber and the crispy noodle centre made for an interesting crunchy texture that worked will with the crisp lettuce and the fresh rice rolls. This was a case in which I believe that fusion between Vietnases and Thai cuisine unexpectedly worked. It was a new fresh take on a salad roll.

[LEFT] Beef La Lot: rolls grilled minced beef, star anise, black pepper, roasted peanuts & jicama – A-
[RIGHT]Beef Short Ribs: marinated and barbequed in 17-spices – A-

It was the first time I tried anything like beef la lot. The taste was foreign to me and with nothing to compare it to, it did appeal to my taste buds and tasted great. As for the beef short ribs, the combination of the 17 spices, though seemingly overwhelming, worked extremely well together to pack a flavourful punch on relatively lean short ribs (unlike shortribs you’d normally get at AYCE restaurants..absolutely repulsive, that lack of meat there is to eat). Great taste, good amount of meat. Good dish

Seafood Salad: with shrimp, scallop, asparagus, mango, grape tomato, rau ram sauce – A

If you can see my mother sitting in the background, you will be able to appreciate the enormity of the portion size of this salad (granted, my mother isn’t the world’s largest woman); nevertheless, it was an impressive-sized dish for the price of the package. It was a warm seafood salad with a tropical spin on it. There was a generous amount of seafood in the salad and was the highlight of the package for me. The dressing was unique and citrus-y and I was craving for more. Though an avid hater of all things asparagus, somehow, this salad made it bearable for me to eat. Would definitely eat this again.

Chicken Chay Curry: mild spicy yellow curry broth, coconut milk, vegetables & tofu – B

Rich and creamy, this curry included copious amounts of sauce and a generous amount of meat. By this point, both my mother and I were getting pretty full and the richness of this dish didn’t help. Delicious, but would have been more enjoyable had I not had so much to eat prior to this. Different type of curry than I am used to but tasted good. Solid solid dish.

Lemongrass Ginger Creme Brulee: lemongrass, coconut, ginger, pineapple chutney – B+

At this point, you must be thinking, there’s more food! Yes there was! As someone who doesn’t normally like creme brulee, this dessert was far beyond my expectations. It was completely different than your normal creme brulees and was the perfect combination of spicy, sweet, and tart. The caramelized layer was solid but very thin allowing for easy cracking to reveal warm custard underneath. The pineapple chutney on top was the highlight of this dish for me. Both sweet and tart, it provided the perfect compliment to the creaminess of the brule underneath.

All in all my mother and I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and for $25, we were stuffed and could not finish. Great value for a great meal. Vaneats dining packages are a great way to sample different dishes from different restaurants without spending a fortune. Hope you guys enjoyed my first solo post.

– Love, S

Ebisu on Robson on UrbanspoonKin Resto Bar 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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