PiDGiN Restaurant – Everything you’ve heard is right, and wrong.

PiDGiN, it's more than a video clip on the 6 o'clock news.
PiDGiN, it’s more than a video clip on the 6 o’clock news.

It’s safe to say that most of you have heard of PiDGiN. If you haven’t I’ll assume you are a Quaker who eschews television and the internet. PiDGiN has been the target of anti-gentrification protests since it opened. The thing that I’ve never understood is why PiDGiN was targeted over other places nearby. There are lots of restaurants and bars serving food and drinks that are most likely unattainable to some locals but they’ve been largely left alone. I’m not here to figure it out but I can weigh in on PiDGiN and its menu.

Nikka Yoichi 10 year single malt.
Nikka Yoichi 10 year single malt.

First things first, what’s on the drink menu? I can tell you this, they have an impressive selection of Japanese Whisky and that makes me happy. The cocktail list is long, varied and interesting, and they have wine on tap. My beer nerd pals can choose from a few P49 bottles as well.

Potatoes with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter
Potatoes with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter

The food menu is an east meets west affair with a preference for Japanese style dishes melded seamlessly with classic western techniques. The first dish to arrive was a riff on udon using long shredded potatoes cooked al dente with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter. mix it all together and you have a textural masterpiece. The slightly firm texture of the potato is an unexpected treat. The seaweed butter and spicy cod roe provided a not overly salty backbone with a hint of the ocean.

Shishito peppers with parmesan and pine nuts
Shishito peppers with parmesan and pine nuts

Next to arrive was a bowl of roasted shishito peppers with grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts. 90 percent of these peppers are harmless but one in every 10 has a pretty awesome hit of mouth burning amazingness. Now stay with me hear as I try to describe the flavour. You know the way a movie theatre smells? The scent of popcorn and sweet candy? That’s what this tastes like. I’m being serious. It’s good.

Parisienne gnocchi with radishes, radish green pistou, and buttermilk ricotta
Parisienne gnocchi with radishes, radish green pistou, and buttermilk ricotta

This dish, gnocchi, takes a hard left turn from the east/west love affair, but not in a way that upsets the flow of the menu. The gnocchi are fairly large, fresh, warm, and tender. This a a relatively simple dish constructed in a way that elevates every ingredient. The peppery radish and mild ricotta are a great companion to the gnocchi.

Vitello Tonnato - Veal and Albacore tuna with fried egg emulsion and togarashi
Vitello Tonnato – Veal and Albacore tuna with fried egg emulsion and togarashi

Next up was “Vitello Tonnato”, Veal carpaccio, albacore tuna, fried egg emulsion and togarashi (chilli pepper). Veal is a no go for a lot of folks and I get that. I am not one of those folks, judge me accordingly. The raw albacore and veal were a silky combo with the egg adding richness and flavour. A very nice dish all around. The veal seems slightly unnecessary though. Using a high quality beef that isn’t veal would open this dish up to a wider audience and the dish wouldn’t suffer at all. That’s my 2 cents.

Pan roasted halibut, cauliflower puree, pine nut raisin agrodulce
Pan roasted halibut, cauliflower purée, pine nut raisin agrodulce

Finally I had the Pan roasted halibut with cauliflower purée and pine nut raisin agrodulce. Halibut is a conundrum. It was, until fairly recently, an inexpensive fish but marketing and trends have pushed it to another level. Halibut IS a great fish and this preparation is outstanding. The sear is spot on and the slight sweet/sour character from the agrodulce is a nice touch. Cauliflower purée is the new mashed potato and I’m a big fan.

PiDGiN is the real deal. The protests have seemingly stopped and the place was packed and buzzing with happy customers when I was there. Kudos to owner Brandon Grossuti and his staff for persevering, most business owners would’ve given up long ago. I’ll definitely be back.

Twitter – @pidginvancouver

Instagram – pidginyvr

Web – pidginvancouver.com

Facebook – pidginvancouver

Scott.

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SkyCity Restaurant at the Space Needle – WFLBC in Seattle

First things first, park your preconceptions about this restaurant and everything you may have heard about it. Granted most “Revolving Restaurant” tourist traps are all flash and no substance. I could forgive your preconceptions about SkyCIty. I had those very same thoughts when I found out that I’d be spending my Saturday night in Seattle 500 feet above the ground with a bunch of people I didn’t know. It turns out SkyCity is very, VERY good and my dinner companions were fantastic company.

Saturday night at the Space Needle
Saturday night at the Space Needle

The ride up takes just over a minute and the views from SkyCity are amazing. One revolution takes 47 minutes which means you’ll see the whole view at least one time and when your finished your meal you can access the observation deck which is 20 feet above and offers windowless views of Seattle and its surroundings. Try and plan your visit around sunset so you see daytime views as well as night.

Sunset from SkyCity
Sunset from SkyCity

Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield has created a menu featuring world class ingredients that is influenced heavily by Seattle and the Pacific Ocean. Is SkyCity expensive? Yup, very. You do get the amazing view along with access to the observation deck but it’s a pricey meal for sure. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.

Hokkaido Scallops with cippolini agrodolce, celery root purée, white sturgeon caviar
Hokkaido Scallops with cippolini agrodolce, celery root purée, white sturgeon caviar

The Hokkaido Scallops ($49) are big, perfectly seared and seasoned and the little dab of caviar on top is perfect. Did I mention it was perfect? For $49 the plate could’ve been wiped down a little better but I’m grasping a straws to find something negative about this plate. The celery root purée and the cippolini agrodolce (basically sweet and sour onions) matched up well with the scallops and the roasted veg was top shelf.

Pacific Halibut with oregon shrimp and pork dumpling, porchetta, parsley root, english pea broth, flageolet beans
Pacific Halibut with Oregon shrimp and pork dumpling, porchetta, parsley root, English pea broth, flageolet beans

The Pacific Halibut ($47) (flown in from Alaska that day) was super fresh, seared and seasoned just right and was moist and… Ok the superlatives are getting to be a bit much. This is a solid dish with some interesting twists, like the shrimp and pork dumplings that had an Asian character. Again, $47 is a lot but you’re paying for an experience and it just happens to come with great food.

After dinner we wandered upstairs to check out the open air views, have a look.

The Seattle skyline at sunset
The Seattle skyline at sunset
Elliot Bay at night
Elliot Bay at night
Downtown Seattle, the was a Mariners game going on hence the SUPER bright lights to the right
Downtown Seattle, the was a Mariners game going on hence the SUPER bright lights to the right

So is SkyCity worth the money? Yes, yes it is. There’s a $35 minimum per guest but that’s pretty easy to get to given the menu prices. The bill for me and a guest was just under $140 before tip and that included drinks of the adult variety. The wine list is nicely varied and they even have a few tasty local beers in bottles.

Web – spaceneedle.com

Twitter – @space_needle

Facebook – spaceneedle

 

 

Things I’ve eaten lately

I have the urge to write this fine spring evening. I haven’t been anywhere in awhile that deserves a full post but I have eaten some great stuff in some random places. I went digging through my Instagram pictures and picked out some winners.

Sesame crusted Ahi Tune from eighteen27 in Fort Langley
Sesame crusted Ahi Tune from eighteen27 in Fort Langley
Bigger Better Bacon Cheddar Burger from Earls on Smithe street.
Bigger Better Bacon Cheddar Burger from Earls on Smithe street.
Short rib breakfast bowl from Central City Brewpub in Surrey.
Short rib breakfast bowl from Central City Brewpub in Surrey.
Lamb Bacon BLT with Sriracha Mayo. Lamb bacon courtesy of John from the Hog Shack in Steveston.
Home made Lamb Bacon BLT with Sriracha Mayo. Lamb bacon courtesy of John from the Hog Shack in Steveston.
Prepping for the "black box" portion on the first BBQ competition of the year with John from the Hog Shack. Good times!
Prepping for the “black box” portion on the first BBQ competition of the year with John from the Hog Shack. Good times!
Fantastic ramen from Full Ramen in Surrey.
Fantastic ramen from Full Ramen in Surrey.
Shrimp Po Boy made by Rusty of Rusty's BBQ in a trailer at 10:30pm behind a barn in Chilliwack. It was delicious!
Shrimp Po Boy made by Rusty of Rusty’s BBQ in a trailer at 10:30pm behind a barn in Chilliwack. It was delicious!
Rusty enjoying one of his Po Boys.
Rusty enjoying one of his Po Boys.

 

Word to your mother.

Scott.

Brewhouse at Whistler – Family friendly and great beer? It’s true

You guys know that I’m a regular at Big Ridge Brewing Company in Surrey. They have amazing beer, great food and have been very supportive of my charitable efforts over the past year or so. Their sister restaurant in Whistler, the Brewhouse, is everything that I love about Big Ridge surrounded by one of my all time favourite places, Whistler Village.

Located just a few steps from the Olympic Plaza the Brewhouse offers craft beer brewed on site, a kids menu with lots to chose from, a pretty imaginative cocktail list, great food and very friendly staff (possibly too friendly…lol, that’s a story for another day). I’ve been to the Brewhouse many many times but this is the first time I’ve written anything about it. I went 3 times over the last week, once with my daughter, once by myself and once with my daughter and a hot date. The third visit was awkward, not for me though, for…reasons.

5 Rings IPA
5 Rings IPA

I had their award winning 5 Rings IPA, voted best IPA in BC in 2012 and it is definitely worthy of the hype. Well hopped with a solid malt backbone, this beer captures the true essence of a west coast style IPA.

One can not survive on water, hops and barley alone so I decided to order the Ale braised Angus beef cottage pie. Now to me cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are the same thing. Ya ya there’s a “definition” of what each one is traditionally made with but I really don’t care, they’re both ok with me. This particular cottage pie had Angus beef braised in house brewed Grizzly Brown Ale, button mushrooms, carrots and onions topped with mashed potatoes. It’s then baked in a cast iron pan and served with greens.

Cottage Pie
Cottage Pie

Overall this pie was outstanding. Rich, flavourful, well seasoned and piping hot. I would absolutely order this dish again except for one small issue. $19.99 is an awful lot to pay for humble peasant food. Sure you can dress it up with “Angus Beef” but at the end of the day cottage pie is simple fair based on food that the poor used to have to eat out of necessity. I understand that most things in Whistler are a little pricier than things in the Lower Mainland but come one, this should be $13-14.99 tops.

Will it stop me from going back? Not a chance. Like I said, most things in Whistler are more expensive than they are here, if something’s good then I’ll probably order it again. The beer is outstanding and the staff, like I said, are VERY friendly 😉

Twitter – @BREWHOUSEatWHIS

Facebook – The Brewhouse Whistler

Interwebz – themarkjamesgroup.com/brewhouse

Scott.

 

Benton Brothers Fine Cheese turns 5!

Logo

On December 6th Benton Brothers Fine Cheese will celebrate its 5-year anniversary. Founded in 2007 by brothers, Andrew and Jonah Benton, these young engineers-turned-cheesemongers, have grown their business from a tiny retail outlet in Kerrisdale, to three stores including a Cambie Village shop and a market stall in the prestigious Granville Island Public Market.

The 5-year Anniversary celebrations will kick-off with a storewide sale on December 6th, featuring 15% off their five all-time best-selling cheeses, followed by a celebratory special event at the Cambie Street location. The event, held at 3432 Cambie Street between 5:00pm and 8:00pm on December 6th, will feature gift ideas and pre-order sales, a specialty cheese tasting, complimentary wine, a gift draw, and 10% off everything in the store.

“This anniversary is a moment for us to reflect on how quickly the last five years have gone by, and what an amazing welcome we have had into the Vancouver food scene. Also, it’s a chance to really thank our incredibly supportive customers.  Since the day we opened, our customer’s adventurous palates have made it possible for us to source and carry the interesting and beautiful cheeses we love,” says Jonah Benton. “We are so thankful to have opened shops in the amazing neighbourhoods we have, and that we are able to continue to bring our passion and love for what we do to Vancouver.” Andrew and Jonah strive to promote local, and artisan cheese makers from around the world, not only because they believe in what they do, but also because they believe quality, small-production cheese taste better and are better for you.

With a focus on raw-milk, natural cheeses the brothers have curated a selection of cheeses that have quickly established them as a favourite destination for cheese lovers, chefs and gourmands in Vancouver.  “The past five years have been a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, but it has been worth every moment.  If you told me 10 years ago when I left engineering and went to cooking school that I would be doing this, I wouldn’t have believed you,” reflects Andrew, “but these have been some of the most rewarding years of my life. I love cheese, and I love that we have an opportunity to bring people together to eat and share around their table.  I look forward to the next five years.” All three locations are family owned and operated, with the help of an incredible and knowledgeable team of cheesemongers, cooks, and wine and beer lovers.

Locations
Cambie Village | 3432 Cambie St., Vancouver BC V5Z 2W8 | 604-873-9439
Granville Island Market | 225-1689 Johnson St., Vancouver BC V6H 3R9 | 604-609-0001
Kerrisdale | 2104 West Blvd., Vancouver BC V6M 1Z1 | 604-261-5813

Glowbal Grill and Satay Bar – New menu and old friends

A new menu is always a good reason to visit an old favorite and Glowbal Grill in Yaletown is very much a personal favorite. It’s not just the food and drinks that keep me coming back, it’s the outstanding service staff that runs a fairly tight space with military like efficiency. Every time a server or a manager came by the table to clear plates or glasses and stopped to chat for a few seconds there was someone else there to relieve them of their arm full of dishes, unmatched teamwork and a credit to General Manager Brandon Copico and Assistant GM Kyle Johnstone and the rest of the management team.

Now the food. Josh Wolfe, owner of the uber awesome Fresh Local Wild food truck and former Executive Chef of Glowbal Group’s Coast has returned to team Glowbal as their new Assistant Corporate Chef. After chatting with GM Brandon for a while Josh came over and introduced himself, took some time to go over some menu changes and asked my wife and I if we had any allergies or dislikes and then offered to feed us, um yes please!

We started with a small caprese salad with fresh local tomatoes, basil and incredible burrata, it was so soft and gooey, I could eat an inhuman amount of this cheese. The second was a beet salad with baby arugula, sherry vinagrette and big gorgeous chunks of pecorino cheese that were the perfect match to the earthy sweetness of the beets. The beets were prepared an a few different ways that included roasted beets and raw paper thin beets. the third salad was a Tomato and Cucumber salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes, celery leaves, citrus vinagrette and a piece of salty and wonderful crisp prosciutto. Celery leaves are really quite good, stop throwing them away!

Next up Chef Wolfe brought us some Wild Mushroom Risotto made with BC Morel and Chanterelle mushrooms. This dish is not new but is great, fresh local wild (see what I did there??) mushrooms have great texture, almost meat like, and add a nice density to the rich creaminess of the risotto. Also there didn’t seem to be any cream added to this dish which was a complaint I had on my last  visit.

Next up was a Bone In Canadian Prime Ribeye with a selection of 4 sauces, Bearnaise, Chimichuri , Horseradish and steak sauce. These sauces replace the selection of salts that used to be offered with steaks. The ribeye was cooked to a magical place somewhere between rare and medium rare and had the full falvour you can only get from well marbled beef cooked on the bone. The sauces were a nice addition, my personal favorite being the house made chimichuri. The side we received was a variation of an old favorite of mine, The Lobster Baked Potato. Gone is the gigantic baked potato typical of most steak houses which has been replaced by smaller roasted potatoes served in a cast iron skillet and topped with hollandaise sauce and generous chunks of lobster meat. This was a pretty ballsy move messing with something so good but the new dish is as good if not better than the old one.

Dessert was a trio of creme brule, vanilla, white chocolate and hazelnut. I’m not really a dessert guy but I’m a total sucker for creme brule and all three flavors were wonderful and prepared perfectly under Chef Wolfe’s watchful eye. Then magic happened, and it was called chocolate bread pudding. What?? This dish is pure food sex. It was topped with house made seafoam (honeycomb toffee). If you like chocolate or desserts in general you need to try this, it’s amazing!!

Huge thanks to Chef Josh Wolfe, GM Brandon Copico and AGM Kyle Johnstone for being fantastic hosts and all around awesome guys. Click on their names to find them on Twitter and give them a follow!

Scott.

Slingers Mobile

When ever I am able to I will always choose street food over fast food for lunch. My most recent street food lunch was at Slingers Mobile located on Burrard street in the heart of Vancouver’s Business district. They offer comfort food in it’s purest form. Case in point the Veal Parmesan Sandwich and hand cut fries I sampled.

The Veal (please don’t send me nasty comments about Veal, if you don’t want to eat it that’s your choice) was a full breaded cutlet that was cut in two making it a double. There was cheese, marinara sauce, peppers, onions and mushrooms all served on a fresh bun. This is a very messy sandwich so if you’re a suit and tie person be warned. Over all it was a tasty sandwich but the breading on the Veal was a little soggy. It’s also a very filling, rich sandwich, the fries I ordered were too much to finish after eating the sandwich.

The fries were a letdown, soggy and lacking any seasoning. Fries from a food truck have yet to impress me. Slingers does get bonus points for having “The Dude” displayed on their truck. Any friend of The Dude is a friend of mine. As is the case with every other food truck I have visited in this city the staff were great and the truck itself looks amazing.

On to the next food truck!!

Scott.

Abigail’s Party

Have you ever gone somewhere, walked in the door and said to yourself “If I owned a restaurant it would be just like this.”? Abigail’s Party oozes cool, it’s small and intimate and has great atmosphere and the food holds up against its visual appeal. Located at 1685 Yew street in Kits, right across the street from the (in)famous Kingshead Pub this little section of Yew street is as cool a block as you will find anywhere in Vancouver.

Being Jersey Shore fans Lyndsey and I had to try the Deep Fried Pickles served with paprika aioli which were as good as Snooki promised they would be. We also tried the Tuna Tartare which was cured in grapefruit and served with avocado and cucumber with sesame wonton crisps. Very light and fresh, I could have eaten a lot more of this dish. Apologies for the picture quality in this post, it’s time for an iPhone, sorry Blackberry, we had a good run.

For our mains we shared the Aged Cheddar Mac and Cheese which was so good I’ve had dreams about it. The aged cheddar was very sharp and kicked what is normally a sad letdown at restaurants in to a winner. Lyndsey had the Herb Crusted Halibut with asparagus, clams and fingerling potatoes in a curry cream sauce. The fish was great judging from the small bite I had. The herb crust was made up of almond, basil, italian parsley, chervil and tarragon.

I had the Steak Frites, a staple of French Cuisine in North America. It consisted of a medium rare flat iron steak from Pemberton Meadows served sliced over triple fried Kennebec fries with an arugula salad. Everything about this dish was great, the steak, the fries, the peppery arugula salad, everything.

I’ve been told that I can be too positive in my reviews, I will say this once, I give praise where praise is due and I’m not in the business of going to eat at restaurants where I have heard others had poor service or bad food. I will always tell you straight up if I enjoyed my experience or if there were areas that needed improvement. Abigail’s Party is the real deal, go there and find out for yourself. Follow them on twitter too, they’re good times.

Scott.

Wine Down With Delta!

Wine, food and charity in a hotel/casino? Yep, life is rough… As I walked in to Wine Down With Delta at the Delta Burnaby Hotel the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound Of Music was playing in my head. This was my first event invite as “Media” so I wanted to keep a low profile, ha ha ya right! Low profile and Scott are not compatible.

Wine Down was in support of Habitat For Humanity which is an amazing charity that builds houses for low income families. It featured the 3 Greater Vancouver Delta hotels  and their respective restaurants and many BC wineries. Check out the pictures below and prepare to drool all over your keyboard. For the record my personal favorites were the chicken croquettes with black truffle puree from the Delta Burnaby, the lamb meatballs with chorizo from the Delta Vancouver Suites and the chilled Manhattan Gazpacho from the Delta Vancouver Airport.

La Casita

Mexican food!! I’ve said it before, I am not an expert when it comes authentic Mexican food having grown up in a culture that considers Taco Bell “Mexican” food. I hear there are a few places in Vancouver that offer up true Mexican food and one of those places is La Casita in Gastown.

Raul Pacheco, aka Hummingbird604 has said he likes La Casita and he’s from Mexico so that says a lot. My wife and daughter met me downtown recently and we ended up at La Casita mostly due to convenience. We grabbed a table by the window so Hayley could watch the world go by but we still ended up be the people in the restaurant with the randomly screaming baby…joy.

I ordered the Chorizo Chimichanga which may or may not be authentic Mexican but it was damn good. A deep fried tortilla filled with cheese, beans and chopped Chorizo sausage and covered with salsa and sour cream. The presentation was 100% better than any “Mexican” restaurant I’ve been to, it looked like someone cared how the plate looked instead of being a pile of rice, a similar pile of beans and a tortilla on a plate. The sausage was mild and tasty and cooked just right with a nice crunch from the tortilla. The beans were good, not great and the rice was the same, not outstanding but very good. The vegetables were really quite good though, usually an after thought in a dish like this they were fresh and seasoned with a savory salt and spice mix that took them above and beyond what you would expect from a side of veggies.

Unfortunately we forgot to unhook Hayley’s toys (rattle, ball, rings etc. ) from the highchair when we left. Oh well, I’m sure a less fortunate little one can benefit from them as they are easily replaceable for us.

Mexico, I like the way you cook.

Scott.