Tuesday, June 26, 2012


A good pal of mine, TMc, had to miss my birthday celebration at the track, but wanted to take me out for a nice dinner to make sure that we celebrated properly. I was only too happy to oblige!!! Love birthday dinners. She sent me a few options in the South Granville area and I chose the new kid on the block, Siena, located in the old Cru location on 12th, just east of Granville. Former Cru restauranteur, Mark Taylor, has transformed the space in a warm, casual, sunny, spacious- yet intimate room- with large windows, serving up Spanish and Italian. There is a modern rustic neighbourhood feel.

The menu features Italian and Mediterranean selections and the style is simple. They offer a daily and formal menu and a chalkboard on the back wall is full of daily specials. They offer pasta, bruschetta, cheese and salumi boards, proteins, and appetizers. Prices are fairly reasonable with some dishes pushing the $20 mark.

I LOVED the peek-a-boo window to the kitchen carved out of the specials chalkboard. I'm a self-admitted creepy kitchen perv and love watching food prep, so I only wish it was a bigger window. We shared two appetizers and one main.

Sauteed Kale with fried garlic, chili, lemon, olive oil ($5). Kale is just so hot right now. I fell in love with this leafy green, the first time I baked it crispy with olive oil and seasonings to make kale chips. Now it's a celebrated "superfood" and trendy. This was nice and flavourful but a wee bit soggy. T Mc found it a bit too spicy.

Polenta Fries with basil almond aioli ($5). Our server's eyes widened when we ordered these. "These are crowd pleasers," she said. I love the polenta fries sooo much at Cascade, and I wasn't sure how these would stand up, but I loved these too. On the outside, they were dusted with cornmeal and fried golden brown. The creamy polenta inside was soft and hot, smooth and rich. The sauce was like a pesto- aioli dip hybrid and a nice companion to the "Po Fries."

The Daily Special Risotto- Salmon, Shrimp, Spinach, Lemon, Basil Oil ($18). I am not a risotto specialist. I don't cook it at home and I rarely order it at restaurants. I did enjoy this dish. The seafood was fresh and flavourful and I could really taste every element of the dish from the fresh, wilty spinach, the pop of citrus and the herbacious basil flavour. All of the flavours worked well and it was a nice, creamy, slightly al dente texture.

Service was fantastic and friendly, from our warm welcome at the door, attentive short wait at the bar for our table, and a delightful server who was able to accurately describe Manchego cheese to TMc (I tried but had a hard time articulating). Every dish we saw come out looked beautiful. All in all, a really nice dining experience.

Siena on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Awesome and Bizarre: Lunch Meeting at Tenhachi

Lunch meetings usually mean business. But on this occasion, I was dining/meeting with a science gal who likes beer and food just as much as I do. Knowing about my blog and food enthusiasm, she encouraged me to pick a spot somewhere between our offices and I threw out a few different options for her to pick. Thankfully, she picked Tenhachi, a quirky Japanese resto tucked away in an out of place Shaugnessy Bed and Breakfast tower/motel on West 12th. I'd been wanting to try this place out for AGES, based on its seeming weirdness, and some interesting online reviews I'd read.

The restaurant is non-descript, in a high-rise apartment meets B and B tower. There is a folding billboard sign on the sidewalk advertising its location. Enter through the building's front door and walk boldly through the lobby into Tenhachi. At 12noon, I was the sole customer in the restaurant, waiting for my dining companion. I found myself wondering- Where am I and what year is this? The decor is retro meets bizarre, with brick walls, mirrored pillars, port-hole windows, a fish tank window and a backyard patio/grotto with fountains.

I ordered a one of their Teishuku lunch combos. For $11.95, I had Grilled Mackerel, with a kobachi side dish, a tsukemono pickled veg dish, pickles, a bowl of steamed rice and a bowl of miso soup. I was so impressed with my meal. The presentation was beautiful and colourful and so different from my typical work week lunch (a pita pocket sandwich). The portions were perfect and I loved the variation of flavours. It felt like a reasonably healthy, well-balanced meal. I loved the crispy skin on my fish which was light and o-so-slightly oiled with a lightly seasoned flavour. Watch out for bones! The pickled veggie salad was fresh and bright, the kobachi side dish was a soy tofu veggie dish that was good but not stand out. I loved the little tray on the right- one half was a pickled/smoked salmon (not sure?) and japanese pickles that looked like black licorice. The miso soup is stand out awesome....it has a fuller body than your typical miso soup and is a heartier.

My dining partner order a Teishuku lunch combo with Grilled Salmon for $11.95 and LOVED it. She totally fell for this place and had already started planning future visits since it is extremely close to her office.
They charge for green tea- but it is stand out delicious and one of the best pots of green tea I've had in the city.
Tenhachi is a bit of a hidden gem with delicious food and a quirky, homey feel. From the bizarre location, quirky-retro decor, and daily specials on flash cards, this place is tacky but o so yummy. This place is unique and delicious, a great place to get Japanese food that isn't just standard sushi fare.
PS. I recently stumbled across their Facebook page which is full of food photos and daily/monthly specials. 
Tenhachi Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 8, 2012

A taste bud trip to Tamarind Hill

It had been a while since my last dinner meet up with my "Butter FC" teammates, so we made plans to have a Monday night dinner. Then we asked some other friends to join (including an old friend and new teammate). They asked me to pick the place, somewhere they'd never been or never heard of to try something totally new, ideally in North Vancouver. My brain scrolled through North Van dining options and I had a meal flashback......and remembered the gorgeous work lunch I had when filming in North Van one day at Tamarind Hill a few years ago. Any restaurant that creates a drool-worthy meal memory is worth a re-visit and I was confident that my dining posse would love Malaysian eats.

Tamarind Hill has two locations: one in New Westminster and the other on Lonsdale Ave in North Van. The restaurant is cozy (I would guess it seats 25-30) with warm dark colours, rich wood furniture and beautiful beaded lamps, and beaded curtains. It is dimly lit and feels very inviting and warm. 

The menu is quite extensive and most of the girls found it hard to decide because everything sounded so good, and because for the other ladies, this was a brand new type of cuisine. 

To start, we shared the Vegetarian Spring Roll ($6) Marinated vegetable rolls deep fried to golden perfection, served with spicy house sauce. This was pretty standard and a good starter to share. They spicy house dipping sauce was amazing! Tangy, ever-so-slightly sweet with a spicy kick that was subtle and not overwhelming. I could've licked the bowl. 

Bree ordered the Hokkien Mee ($10.25) Stir fried egg noodle, rice vermicelli with black tiger tiger prawns, egg, bean sprouts, chicken and cuttlefish. This former picky eater went for this Malaysian spin on noodle stir- fry. She polished off this plate and said she absolutely loved it- noting that everything was well cooked and the flavours were wonderful. 

Jayme and Gabby decided to split two dishes. The Sirloin Beef with Asparagus ($13.95) Stir fried with ginger, garlic and shallots with a touch of Sambal. This was a good looking plate full of rich and bright colours. They both loved this dish but let me have a bite. The beef was tender, the sauce was rich (and kind of thicker in consistency), but not heavy and extremely aromatic and full of flavour. The fresh asparagus and tomato slices were beautifully blanched so they were cooked but still bright and crunchy. 

They also really enjoyed their shared order of Nasi Goreng ($10.25) Malaysian style fried rice with beef, shrimp, egg, tomato, onion, and green bean. 

I didn't have any struggle on what to order, I knew I had to get me some Laksa. Jess decided to get a bowl of Laksa too. Tamarind Hill offers three different types of Laksa; Malaysian ($9.95 spicy curry broth), Singaporean ($9.95 spicy coconut milk broth) and Assam Seafood ($10.95 spicy tamarind flavour with fresh mussles, clams and cuttlefish.) All three styles include rice vermicelli in a hearty flavoured soup with dried shrimp, tiger prawns, chicken, fresh beans sprouts, egg and fish cakes. 

Our Laksas arrived and our eyes widened at the huge bowls of delicious-ness, smelling and looking fantastic. Jess ordered the Singaporean Laksa, which the server said was the most popular. It was more yellow in colour, creamy, with a rich flavour with a slightly indian curry influence, and bright springs of cilantro. 

I ordered the Malaysian Laksa which was slightly spicier, less creamy, and a bit more earthy tasting. They were both delicious and really filling- this soup is JAM PACKED with tasty fillings.

One complaint! I ordered a club soda and after finishing my first glass, the server asked if I wanted a refill. I did, and she took my glass to fill it. A little bell "ding-ed" in my head, and I asked "are re-fills free?" She said that they were not and I cancelled my re-fill. But I was really not pleased with that move. What if I never asked? I would've easily added another $10 to my bill ($2.50 for a single glass of club soda!) Not cool and frankly, a little shady. But overall, everyone enjoyed their meals and everyone agreed that the prices were reasonable with good portion sizes. 

Tamarind Hill (North Vancouver) on Urbanspoon