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CAPSTONE TEA & FONDUE – 160 – 9020 Capstan Way, Richmond, BC V6X1R4 – (778)297-5007

10 May

A dash of exhaustion.  A smidgen of self-defeat.  A pinch of anxiety.  A spoonful of confusion.  That was me approximately three weeks ago.  Burnt out.

I have a higher tendency than the average person to experience burn-out mainly because I have a slew of health issues that tend to pop up from time to time.  It’s exhausting trying to deal with those issues while juggling a full workload.  In this case, the particular health issue was asthma season.  It happens roughly between March-May of every year, then September-October, coinciding with seasonal change.  It was particularly bad this year for some reason; it was literally becoming almost impossible for me to breathe at many points in time.  Sadly, in these cases, it’s often my extra-curricular activities that have to get cut.  In this case, it was dashtodine.

Anyways, I think the worst is over.  Fondue, anyone?

Me and the foodie crew roll up in our car and begin to walk towards Capstone’s, an allegedly excellent place to pig out on Cheese or Chocolate Fondue.  Once we enter the place, we immediately notice the class and simple panache of the place.  Mirrors line the walls of the place.  Perfect for an exceedingly vain person to admire his or herself.  I stroll over to the mirrors and admire the view.  God I’m beautiful.  Well, in my mind at least.

“I love how tea is often given weird exotic menu descriptions that make you believe that you’re gaining some sort of unique super-power, depending upon which flavour you happen to choose.”

We pick a table and our amicable waiter drops by and offers us suggestions as to what to get.  Choosing between devouring a Chocolate waterfall and a Cheese waterfall is a tough call.

Chocolate it is.

Tea is also served before the Fondue makes its first appearance.  I love how tea is often given weird exotic menu descriptions that make you believe that you’re gaining some sort of unique super-power, depending upon which flavour you happen to choose.  I choose my super-power.  Green tea.

Maybe I’ll turn into a Ninja Turtle.  Or perhaps my skin will become exfoliated, and I’ll have increased powers of concentration and have the first peaceful night’s sleep I’ve had in years.

I’d still rather be a Ninja Turtle.

The Tea is served unsweetened, which brings out its natural and supposedly therapeutic properties.  It’s good for the first few sips but then becomes tiresome.  It would be nice to have the option of sweetening it. 

The condiments are brought out.  Matcha Cookies (well that’s what they look like), Banana Bread, Lemon Loaf, Apple Slices, Strawberries, Bananas, Pineapples and Grapes make their foray into our table.  Chocolate swimming pools are then presented to us individually, each cupped in a delicate vase with a candle underneath to maintain the warmth.  Elegant.  Classy.  This is definitely something I like.

Each condiment complements the Chocolate surprisingly well.  The fruits are all Chocolate-compatible, the Cookies plain enough to still carry the Mocha overtones, and Pastries take on a new life of their own once dipped in the Cocoa ponds.

All in all, a great way to get back into the fray of Foodie adventures.

Capstone Tea & Fondue (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

DIVAS COFFEE – #916-5300 No.3 Rd, Richmond, BC, Canada (604) 270-3482

19 Apr

PRICE: $3-10

My recent foray into Café Crepe has sparked a drastic but totally predictable addiction.  I am now addicted to Crepes.  Everywhere I go, I ask myself a simple question: does this place have Crepes?  If the answer is no, my God it becomes hard if not impossible to go inside.

So, of course, while strolling down Lansdowne Mall, you can imagine the amount of joy I’m experiencing when I unexpectedly see the pearly gates of heaven in a most unexpected place.  Diva’s Coffee is a place that I have passed several times on occasion, but this time, for some unforeseen reason, it stands out to me.

I soon realize that this is result of the glowing neon ‘CREPES’ sign that’s in place.  I guess addiction makes you more aware of things.

So I quickly go in, and order myself a Nutella Crepe.  I check out their drink menu.  Today is the rare day when I am in the mood to drink something that is not Coffee.  Hmm.  I’ve never tasted an Avocado Bubble Tea Shake before.  Pearls too?  Yes please!

“Forget Marijuana, Crack Cocaine and Heroin, Crepe addiction is no laughing matter.”

One of my new favourite things to do is check out food as it’s being made.  My hostesses are very good sports, and provide a dazzling display of their Crepe and Bubble Tea making ability.  It’s fantastic.

Once they’ve finished the show, I’m off to the table and ready to enjoy my new found culinary master-pieces.

The Nutella Crepe is laced with Powdered Sugar and Whipped Cream.  The Crepe itself is pleasantly warm, with a slightly toasty texture to boot.  The Nutella mixes beautifully and provides that familiar sweet, Chocolate and Nut induced bliss-coma.  The Whipped Cream adds a fantastic fluffy sweetness.  Delightful.

The Avocado Shake is a unique and pleasant surprise.  Avocados complement the Soy Milk and Tapioca Pearls.  A very light taste that proves to be quite refreshing.  Not too sweet, not too light, it would be perfect for a summer day.  As for me, I’m starting summer early, so all the better that I can enjoy it now.

I finish pigging out on my entrees and wave good-bye.

The cravings have subsided, but I’m already experiencing withdrawal.

My hands are shaking, and I’m breaking a sweat.

I suppose I’m doomed to serve as an example to youth that Crepes are the true ‘gateway drug’.

Forget Marijuana, Crack Cocaine and Heroin, Crepe addiction is no laughing matter.

Divas Coffee on Urbanspoon

CAFFE ARTIGIANO – 574 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada

17 Apr

PRICE: $3-10

Granville Street in Vancouver is a blast to visit in the Spring.  The sun is starting to come out.  The good buskers are starting to play music; festive, more upbeat music, as opposed the droning tired tunes that plague the city during the winter season.  Right now it’s one of the very few days we’ve had this year where I feel a craving for something rather cool.

However, me and my foodie compatriot believe that the occasion calls for something far greater than a simple slushie.  Forgive us for being such snobs, but we didn’t come all the way out to Downtown Vancouver to pop into a 7-Eleven.  So off we go searching for any fine establishment that has something cool to refresh our tongues, mouths, and minds.

Strolling through Granville Street, we start doing ‘drive-by perusings’.  That is, we pop into restaurants, cafes, and convenience stores, quickly peruse their menus, and pop right back out.  All done repeatedly with the speed and gutsiness of a drive-by-shooting.  Well, as gutsy as being a foodie can be.

After having executed this little program several times, we come across Caffé Artigiano.  Bright red adorns the porch and entrance.  We creep in, and begin what hopes to be our final drive-by perusal.

Success!  They have something that sounds cold yet doesn’t sound like a waste of our time.  I order the Dark Chocolate Freeze.  My foodie partner orders a Spanish Latte.  I am shocked by the absurdity of her choice.  A hot drink during hot weather?  What a fool.  The fact that she also picks the ‘Chocolate Seduction Cookie’ off the menu does not make up for this shortcoming.  I cannot allow myself to be seduced by such foolishness.

Nevertheless, we parade to the inside of the room, and wait for our orders to finish being made.  Chandeliers adorn the ceilings.  Brownish red tinges all the walls.  Stone tiles under our feet and under our hands; both floors and tables have the cobblestone European vibe going for them.  Funny, the air conditioner is turned rather high.

“The fact that she also picks the ‘Chocolate Seduction Cookie’ off the menu does not make up for this shortcoming.  I cannot allow myself to be seduced by such foolishness.”

Our drinks are soon called out, and our Cookie soon warmed.  The Dark Chocolate Freeze has a rather mild taste.  The Chocolate mixes almost evenly with the taste of what seems like some sort of Coffee Roast.  It’s too light to be a full shot of Espresso.  A mild but refreshingly cool drink.

God the air conditioning is strong.

The Spanish Latte is a beautiful creation.  Condensed Milk and Espresso mingle together to form a leaf of foam.  Semi-sweet, mixed with perhaps two shots (I think, judging by the strength) of Espresso, the warm and creamy Beverage provides a balanced and smooth way to experience a Caffeine rush.

God the air conditioning is strong.

The Chocolate Seduction Cookie is okay.  It fails to seduce me.

God the air conditioning is strong.

I look over at my friend, happily sipping away at the warm delicate drink that I had previously ridiculed and decried repeatedly in my head.

I look over at myself, and find that I’m shivering from head to toe.

What kind of fool orders a hot drink on a hot day?

Apparently one that takes indoor air conditioning into account.

She’s still a fool, though.

Caffè Artigiano (Granville) on Urbanspoon

CAFE CREPE – 796 Granville St. Vancouver, BC, Canada (604) 806-0834 ‎

13 Apr

PRICE: $4-10

Many of you already know that taking photos is now my new phobia, thanks to an unfortunate circumstance that can be described here.  However, I’ve done my best to learn from being kicked out of a restaurant and now try to politely ask as before I point and shoot (with a camera, nothing else, I swear!).  Often times my question is greeted with a raised eyebrow, followed by awkward hesitation, followed by the usual “uh…let me get my manager” spiel.  It’s pretty tiring to deal with

Fortunately, there are occasions when I meet people who are just dying to get themselves on camera.  There are a few good sports out there when it comes to taking photos, and I was lucky enough to encounter them during my visit to Café Crepe.

So let’s fast forward.  I’m at the entrance to the outlet and I approach the cook on duty regarding a possible photo-op.

“There are a few good sports out there when it comes to taking photos, and I was lucky enough to encounter them during my visit to Café Crepe.”

Mind you, as I’m talking, I’m still being given the ‘deer in the headlights’ look, but eventually a certain kind of playfulness is awakened when the manager comes forward to give the okay.

After the modelling session finishes, I’m pleased to sit down on a patio (for the second time this year the weather was cooperative on my day off work) and enjoy some chow with a friend.

Two Crepes arrive on the hand-out plane.  I grab both, one in each hand.  A Prosciutto and Brie Cheese Crepe and a Smoked Meat Crepe adorned with Dijon Mustard and Swiss Cheese.  A Soy Mocha to drink and a scoop of Ice Cream to finish.

After I’ve brought them back to the patio, me and my foodie compatriot begin to munch, catch up with each other and enjoy the weather.

The Crepes are savoury and satisfying.  Prosciutto and Brie Cheese complement each other quite well, with a strong salty punch from the Prosciutto giving way to the smoother, more balanced, savoury sensation of the Cheese.  Smoked Meat provides a wistful taste of Montreal while the Dijon Mustard and Swiss Cheese deliver the Vinegary and subtle Cheese aftertaste.

The Soy Mocha is pretty meh.  The Chocolate isn’t very defined in taste.  It feels more like drinking a Latte.

The Ice Cream is generic Vanilla, but still satisfying.

After having finished a good snack, I look at the staff who are now busy handling the late-noon rush.

They’re still smiling for the camera.

Cafe Crepe (Granville & Robson) on Urbanspoon

PHO 99 VIETNAMESE NOODLE HOUSE – 8611 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC, Canada (604) 278-6363

10 Apr

PRICE: $5-15

Here we go.  We go through a small alley way and find ourselves in a dark parking lot.  It feels isolated.  Almost shady.  We park our pick-up truck.  Yes, we are probably the only Asians in the Lower Mainland that use a pick-up truck.  Feeling like a team of yellow hillbillies, we walk towards our destination.  It’s a dirty, dank looking building.  There’s a sign that tells us to enter through the back door.  I feel like I’m about to take part in a drug deal.

We open the door, and I’m expecting to find of dudes dressed in baggy clothes and wearing distastefully large amounts of bling.

We crack the door open a bit further.

I’m pleased to find that instead of baggy-clothed criminals, I’m greeted by a variety of lily-pads sitting atop a small water fountain.  Coconut trees line the walls.  White tiles populate the floors, and small tables are dispersed throughout the room.  They have a simple economic look, with black chairs standing by them.

“I’m pleased to find that instead of baggy-clothed criminals, I’m greeted by a variety of lily-pads sitting atop a small water fountain.”

We sit down, pop up the menus, and begin to order.  Afterwards, we sit back and wait.  The evening entertainment consists of us trying to figure out what our hosts are gossiping about in Vietnamese.  Boyfriends?  Friends?  Us?  Eh, this game is too much work.  Instead, I start dubbing in sentences over their mouths in my imagination.  Like the badly translated version of a Chinese movie dubbed in English.

“God, who is that handsome looking guy?  He’s like the best parts of Robert Downey Jr, Brad Pitt, and Bruce Lee rolled into an economic, five foot four package!”

“Well I’ll be damned, you’re looking at Steven!  He’s only been here for about two minutes, but by God, he’s the best thing that’s entered my life.”

I much prefer it when I’m in control of the gossip that’s coming out of their mouths.

“Your order, sir.”

I snap back to reality.

“Uhm…thanks!”

Beef Ball Pho Noodle Soup.  Served with Bean Sprouts, Mint Leaves, and miscellaneous Veggies, it’s great for a cold night after work.  Nothing extraordinary about it, but it gets the job done.  The texture is the familiar broth-like Vietnamese soup, with the Pho Noodles and Beef Balls providing the main substance of the course. 

The next course is Grilled Pork, Vermicelli, and Spring Rolls.  The Pork has the barbecued savoury-sweet taste, and is pleasant to indulge in.  Vermicelli provides the carbs and a little bit of filler and the Spring Rolls have a little bit of Shrimp, Ground Pork, and Veggies to provide a complementary bite.  Veggies decorate the sides of the bowl.

We finish up our meals and sit back.  Now it’s our turn to gossip.

What might we be gossiping about you might ask?  Beats me.  Lip dub it in your head.

 

Pho 99 Vietnamese Noodle House (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

JJ BEAN COFFEE ROASTERS – Yaletown, 402 Davie St, Vancouver, BC, Canada (604) 684-9253

8 Apr

PRICE: $4-8

The rain finally lifts for a split second.

The second extends into minutes.

The minutes into hours,

That bleed into the rest of the afternoon and pour into the evening.

Time to stop and watch the world go by.

Walking down the street in Yaletown, Downtown Vancouver, the storm clouds have finally lifted and moved on.  Grumbling from a hard day’s work, they seem to be making their way to bug some other section of the Lower Mainland…maybe New Westminster?  Well, whatever the case, it’s great to finally have the sun get some breathing room.

The city is drenched in the fluorescent glow of liquid sunshine.  Clear water, now glowing white from the dull reflection of the sun on the clouds has settled onto sidewalks, porches, roads, and restaurants.  Like the city is awash in light.

I smile.  Time for one of those moments.

Time to watch the world go by.

“In a moment like this, the world passes by in a glorious instant.”

With a copy of today’s Globe and Mail in hand, I make my way to JJ Bean Coffee Roasters.  I’ve always wanted to check out one of their chains, and now I finally have the excuse that I’ve needed.

I go inside and place my order for a Mocha.  The service is friendly, and the barista introduces me to the resident Coffee Plant.  Sitting in a little flower pot, the draft coming in from an open window seems to animate the vegetable, making it wave at me with a certain nonchalance. 

A smile and a wave.  My Mocha is done, and I’m off to where I need to be at this moment.

Outside, sitting on a balcony, watching the world go by.

Delicate hints of dark chocolate mix in with the creamy-liquid foam the drink.  The taste is ever-present, but subdued.  The familiar warmth of the Coffee mug is reassuring.

In a moment like this, the world passes by in a glorious instant.

 

 

JJ Bean (Davie St) on Urbanspoon

ICHIRO JAPANESE RESTAURANT – 12011 2nd Ave, Steveston, Richmond, BC, Canada, (604) 277-1150

5 Apr

PRICE: $10-15 per entree

It’s that time of year again.  The changing of seasons.  Another asthma season for me.  Stuck on the couch, at home in an exhaustion-induced coma, I really don’t want to move at all right now.  Each breath feels like a push-up, and I’ve been doing these push-ups non-stop for almost two weeks now.  Exhaustion is my middle name.  At this point in time, I hate social events, but there is one type of social event that I will drag myself to regardless of how I’m feeling.  Birthdays.

It’s somewhere around 6:30-7:00pm and it’s getting pretty close to the dinner date, which is starting at 8:00.  I’m staring at myself in the mirror, bleary eyed, tired, and hating everything that moves or breathes.  Especially anything that breathes without an asthmatic condition.  I’m resentful of that.  Just a little, though.  I’m using positive reinforcement, Jedi mind-tricks, and relative thinking to try and pump myself up to go.  I eye myself in the mirror.

“At least you don’t have to go to the ER anymore.”

This pep-talk sucks.  I think of something else to motivate myself to go.

“JUST FRICKIN’ GO!  IT’S A BIRTHDAY!!!”

Alright.

I try to put on something that looks nice.  T-shirt and jeans?  My fashion sense was never my strong suit, especially when I’m feeling like this.  Ehhh, whatever, T-shirt and jeans it is.

I drag myself to the bus-stop.  Get in.  Ride. Get out.  I walk around aimlessly in Steveston, trying to find this place.

Steveston is the little fishing village at the end of Richmond, a Municipality close to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  It’s widely known for its charming little small shops, a wharf, and an abundance of Japanese-Canadian culture.  An incredible Japanese restaurant, Ichiro, has opened up here, and my birthday host has chosen this place as the gathering point.

I finally find the place and meet up with the birthday crew.  We exchange greetings, and my mood starts to lighten.  We stand outside the restaurant for a little while and survey the place.  Simple arrangements decorate a pseudo-rock garden.  Christmas lights.  Little gold-fish dance in a stone bowl just outside the door.  A pleasing arrangement.

We enter and find ourselves standing atop a lacquered hardwood floor and wooden tables.  The kitchen is open, and leans to our left.  The lights are bright.  Windows surround us.  A nice place.

As we sit, the birthday banter starts to pick up.  We explore the menus and place our orders.  The wait time goes by quickly, and the entrees start to make their appearances on the runway.

The Sashimi plate leads the parade.  With an assortment of Tuna, Salmon, and Yellow Tail, the presentation looks pleasing and begs to be gobbled up.  A good appetizer.  Each bite from each of the respective ingredients is firm and fresh.  Also, just as important, is the fact that none of the cuts give off that disgusting aged fishy smell.  Good.

An innovative take on the traditional Agedashi Tofu dish arrives.  Branded the ‘Steveston Agedashi Tofu’, it pairs the familiar Golden Tempura-Cooked Tofu with Salmon, Shrimp, and Tempura Sauce.  A refreshing and interesting way of serving what is generally an excessively common and bland dish.

The Beef Udon provides a subtle but satisfying mix of Beef Soup Broth, Veggies and Udon Noodles.  Completely devoid of MSG, I don’t have to drink any water to get the dreaded starchy Monosodium Glutamate off my tongue.

A plate of Tuna wrapped in Cucumber and Rice, and drenched in crimson makes the next appearance.  Spicy Tuna Rolls provide a hot, mouth-puckering bite.  A little zing to our otherwise less intense dishes.

Crispy Rolls arrive.  Tuna and Avocado are wrapped together and are topped off with what appears to be Dried Noodle Bits.  A very unique dish that I have never seen before.  The Tuna and Avocado have a refreshing bite, and the Dried Noodles provide a crunchy finish.

“The dragon’s head is no match for my mouth.  I be-head the sucker, pop it in, and start chewing.”

Our server brings the next plate.  Slices of Barbecued Eel rest atop of Rolls made of Imitation Crab, Asparagus, and Avocado.  The pieces are all lined up in a rather peculiar way.  A head…a body…a tail…a dragon!  I guess the menu wasn’t lying when they called it the Dragon Roll!

I’m a little wary of this monster at first, jabbing it here and there with my chop-sticks.  Don’t wanna over-extend myself.  I’m trying to slay a dragon.  Finally I find its point of weakness.  The dragon’s head is no match for my mouth.  I be-head the sucker, pop it in, and start chewing.

The Eel has a sweet but slightly savoury flavour.  Chewy and slightly singed, it provides an excellent complement to what tastes like a modified California Roll.

After concentrating on giving the food the attention it deserves, I catch up with friends, and enjoy the birthday atmosphere.

I take a breath.

It still feels like I’m working the bench-press each time I inhale, but now I have a spotter.

Ichiro Japanese on Urbanspoon

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