Pacific Poké

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Disclosure: All food and beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

Pacific Poké opened up at the end of last year on Main Street in Chinatown. Thanks to VancityTastes, I was able to give their menu a try. The interior is clean and minimal with cute cacti plants on the tables. The location seats around 20 people inside but many opt to take out their poké bowls.

 

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The menu is similar to many other poké shops. You can either build your own or choose the chef prepared creations. To build your own, a regular bowl costs $12 (two proteins and three toppings) whereas a large goes for $14 (three proteins and four toppings). The options for your base include organic brown rice, traditional sushi rice, quinoa salad base or a kale salad base. Proteins include salmon, ahi tuna, negitoro, albacore tuna, crab and shrimp, and also seasonal selections such as hamachi.

 

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You’ll notice that the number of toppings to choose from is more limited than many of the other poké shops. However, at Pacific Poké, they pride themselves in using high quality ingredients and setting high standards in execution. This includes how the fish is cut perfectly into the same size and the details that go into putting the bowls together. The head chef and sous chef both have many years of experience in fine dining and it definitely shows in the food they present.

 

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The Main

We got to try the chef pre-arranged bowls which I always go for on my first try at poké shops. Getting these bowls, I know I won’t mess up with overloading on random toppings. There are four pre-arranged options, with one being vegetarian. We tried the other three bowls, including The Main, which features salmon, spicy tuna, crab and shrimp jicama, cucumber, avocado, nori, sesame miso sauce, lime and yuzu juice, green onion, and fresh herbs. This bowl was fresh with the lime and yuzu juice really pulling through and hints of spicy flavour from the tuna. I’d say this is a safe bowl for first-timers.

 

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The Keefer

My favourite however was The Keefer which featured ahi and albacore tuna negitoro, avocado, nori, fresh wasabi peas, mixed herbs, classic sesame shoyu, and lime juice. Although this bowl tasted very healthy with the greens, it was extremely flavourful and light. I especially liked the wasabi peas which I don’t normally find at other poké shops. I actually took a bowl of this home and my dad ended up eating it and absolutely loved it. He commented that the fish was very fresh and the sushi rice was cooked perfectly.

 

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The Cali

If you like spicy, then The Cali would probably be your choice. This bowl features spicy salmon, crab and shrimp, pickled red onion, avocado nori, green onion, sprouts, and spicy mayo. I really liked the pickled red onions in this bowl which balanced well with the spicy sashimi.

 

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Poké Panini

Other than the typical bowls, they also have Poké Paninis. Pictured above is the Tuna Panini which is filled with crab and tobioko mix, pickled red onion, avocado, nori, wasabi and miso mayo, green onion and sprouts. On the right is the Salmon Panini which is filled with crab and shrimp, pickled red onion, avocado, nori, spicy sauce, and tomato kimchi.

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To wash it all down, they also have three homemade drinks, including the Strawberry Green Tea, Yuzu Lemon Tea, and Coco Panda (which is a coconut pandan drink). Overall, I highly recommend Pacific Poké due to the chef’s care in ingredients and detail. You can really taste how fresh the food is here and the toppings are meant to go well in all variations. The chefs also curated a menu that is more health conscious, and I definitely felt that way after my bowl. Although more pricey than Pokeritto, the pricing is similar to many of the other poké shops, and I would pay a little more for the quality.

 

Pacific Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Ajishou

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Ajishou opened up earlier this year at the new Garden City mall. The interior is surprisingly very nice inside with a very modern look and a long sushi bar on one side. I heard that their lunch menu is quite affordable, so decided to give it a try. You can order a la carte, but they also have a lot of combos that range from $10 – $15. The dinner menu is much more expensive.

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Many of their lunch combos, like the one I got comes with miso soup. This was quite average and wasn’t anything special.

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Rainbow Chirashi Combo

I chose the Rainbow Chirashi Combo which comes with a Japanese salad, tempura, a chirashi-don, and some orange slices. The set was $12.50 and I thought it looked like a lot of food, but I was actually still hungry after. The chirashi-don is super small. And when I say small, I mean the amount of rice given was so little, that it left me hungry. You would think that they would give you more rice since it’s cheap, but I thought the ratio of sashimi to rice was really odd. There was salmon, tuna, hamachi, hokigai, ebi, avocado and tamago. The fact that they gave cooked shrimp instead of shrimp sashimi was slightly disappointing. The quality of the sashimi itself was average. It was fresh and not bad, but nothing to get excited about. Salad was typical with the usual Japanese dressing. As for the tempura, they actually give you two prawns, a squash, and yam. Batter was too thick, so reminded me of all you can eat tempura.

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Ajishou Special Sushi Combo A

S got the Ajishou Special Sushi Combo A for $10.75. The set comes with dynamite roll, California roll, and cucumber roll. As you can see, the sushi is not very well constructed. The dynamite roll was cut too thinly so all the filling fell out. Even the California started to fall apart. Everything was just a mess and these are super simple rolls!

Overall, S and I were quite disappointed with Ajishou. The prices would be reasonable if they could execute with their quality and construction of the sushi. However, given there are so many other sushi restaurants in Vancouver to choose from, I don’t think I would be returning.

Pros:
– Ambiance is nice

Cons:
– Rolls fall apart easily
– Expensive for average quality, especially a la carte

Price Range: $10-20

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 2.5 Service: 2.5 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 3 Overall: 2.5

Ajishou Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Assembli

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Disclosure: All food and beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are based on my own personal experience.

Last week, we were invited to check out the newly opened Assembli on Cambie between West 7th and 8th near Broadway station. The focus on two main items: pizzas and salads. What differentiates them is the fact that their pizzas and salads are one set price and you can add as many ingredients as you want. This means the customer doesn’t end up with an expensive meal at checkout, and also makes it easier for the staff as they don’t need to constantly keep track of what “additional” items you got. 11 inch pizzas are $12.99 and salads come in regular size for $10.99 and large for $12.99.

 

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The interior has high ceilings and a beautiful painting of Vancouver. There are enough seats for you to dine in, but because of how quick the assembly line is, you can also grab and go. They offer online ordering for pick up, but have also teamed up with some other delivery companies, like Foodora to deliver straight yo your place. While we were there, I couldn’t help but notice the constant in and out of the Foodora deliveries.

 

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If you choose to come in to make your pizza or salad, then you can see all the ingredients you can add through the glass shield.

 

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Although you can customize your pizzas and salads, for those of you who cannot make decisions when there are an overwhelming amount of options, you can choose preset options. We were able to try some of these preset options at the tasting.

 

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O-Mega Brainiac

We started off trying some of their salads which were beautiful in colour. The O-Mega Brainiac came with mixed greens, quinoa, cucumber, cabbage, blueberries, beets, avocado salsa, walnuts, seed mix, and the goddess dressing. Normally, this salad comes with the glory dressing which is more of a tahini dressing. This was bright and great for the summer with the blueberries and avocado salsa.

 

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Sexy Hippie

One of my favourites was the Sexy Hippie which has brown rice, quinoa, roasted root veggies, celery, beets, parsley, walnuts, apple, and a honey dijon dressing. I think the honey dijon dressing was what got me as it was slightly acidic but sweet at the same time, making it very appetizing.

 

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Wild Cowboy

The Wild Cowboy reminded me of a deconstructed taco or burrito with all the fillings you would normally find in Mexican food. This had mixed greens, romaine, black beans, mixed bell peppers, roasted corn salsa, brown rice, cheddar, pico de gallo, and a southwest dressing. Ours also came with shredded chicken. Another favourite for me and I don’t even normally order salads!

 

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All Greek to Me

Onto the pizzas, these are just the right thickness. The crust is not as thin as flatbread, but not thick like the ones you get at Pizza Hut. Just the perfect thickness! The All Greek to Me pizza normally comes with genoa salami, goat feta, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, olives, olive oil tossed kale, artichoke, tomato sauce, and balsamic drizzle. Ours came without the salami but was already flavourful enough. This was my least favourite pizza as I’m not a fan of feta or olives. That’s exactly why the customization ability is perfect here!

 

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Smoke & Fire

Smoke and Fire features pepperoni, smoked cheddar, mozzarella, banana peppers, red onion, and a spicy tomato sauce. This is for those who love a bit of a kick. I actually really enjoyed this but would probably need a beer with it!

 

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Backyard BBQ

A colourful pizza was the Backyard BBQ which features herb-roasted chicken, mozzarella, cheddar cheese, red onion, bell peppers, cilantro, bbq sauce, yogurt drizzle, and an adobo sauce drizzle. The pizza is sweet from the onions and bbq sauce and would be great with the kids.

 

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Smooth Crimini Kale

Lastly, the Smooth Crimini Kale was my favourite. I love meat, but sometimes I actually crave vegetarian pizzas. This pizza has sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella, olive oil tossed kale, artichoke, red onion, and white sauce. All my favourite ingredients and you also feel super healthy eating it.

 

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Fiasco Gelato

Other than pizzas and salads, they also have a select few desserts, smoothies and gelato! Assembli carries the Fiasco brand gelato in their single serve cups. With so many flavours to choose from like Salted Caramel, Bourbon Vanilla, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, and even dairy free sorbettos like Mango Pineapple, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Raspberry Lime, there is a flavour for everyone!

 

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Overall, Assembli offers fresh ingredients and the ability to customize at a flat price. Definitely a great spot to grab and go or sit down for a quick eat. I love how you can also make your meal really healthy or not so healthy depending on what you add to your pizza or salad. Plus, they have happy hour with drinks for $5 and salads and pizzas for $10!

Assembli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taishoken

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Taishoken has been around for many years now, but for some reason or another, I never visited the restaurant. Possibly because its in Chinatown and I don’t go to that area that often. We arrived after work and were surprised to see a line up but luckily the wait was only around 15 minutes.

 

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They have around 6 options for ramen, but they are well known for their tsukemen, or dipping ramen.

 

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Pork Gyoza

You can add $3.50 to get a side with your ramen, so we got the Pork Gyoza. With a very nice char and crispy edges, these reminded me of the ones we had in Japan.

 

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Tonkotsu

S got the Tonkotsu which comes with 2 slices of pork chashu, bamboo shoots, seaweed, green onion and a soft boiled egg. The broth is a mix of pork and chicken. The broth is much thicker than what we are normally used to, so I thought it was bit oily although it was very flavourful.

 

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Tsukemen

For myself, I had to get what they are famous for, which is the Tsukemen. You can choose between, original, spicy or garlic miso. You also have the option to choose cold or warm noodles. I went for the original broth with cold noodles. The noodles come separately from the broth, so that you can dip the noodles into the broth each time you eat. The rich shoyu pork and chicken broth is topped with 2 slices of chashu, green onion, seaweed, bamboo shoots and a soft boiled egg.  The noodles are much firmer and thicker, but they are meant to be this way so that the thick broth sticks to the noodles. I really enjoyed the broth, but the problem I had was that the broth got cold very quickly. However, I saw some other guests ask for a hot stone to put under the bowl, so perhaps that could solve the problem. You can choose between lean or fatty pork as well, and of course I got the latter. I liked how the pork is a bit charred so it gives a smoky flavour. The fatty pork melts in your mouth, so I would definitely get that again. The egg was a bit of a disappointment though as it was not runny.

Overall, I can see why people line up for Taishoken. I would recommend getting the Tsukemen, but I think the Tonkotsu was nothing too special compared to the other ramen shops in Vancouver. Prices are pretty reasonable and service was typical to other ramen shops.

Pros:
– Good for tsukemen
– Cha-shu is nicely charred and melts in your mouth

Cons:
– Seating is a bit cramped and not very comfortable
– Broths can be a bit greasy

Price Range: $10-15

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: 3 Ambiance: 2 Parking: 2 Overall: 3

Taishoken Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maruyama

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Maruyama opened last year in East Vancouver by Chef Yoshiyo Maruyama who previously worked at Blue Water Cafe as the raw bar chef.

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The restaurant was is small but the simple black and wooden decor makes the space look very elegant. There are only 4 seats at the sushi bar if you want to watch the chef in action. It would be best to make reservations ahead of time to secure a spot.

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Maruyama is famous for their omakase tasting menu which features one of the more affordable prices in Vancouver. You can also order a-la-carte and their fish is supposed to be shipped from Japan daily.

 

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They also have homemade udon, tempura and various appetizers. The restaurant is fully licensed for liquor so they have some good options of sake, beer, and wine.

 

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Goma-ae

We decided to go with the $40 tasting menu as you get to try a bit of everything. This five course menu is pretty good value, as it includes 5 pieces of nigiri. This starts off with a Spinach Goma-ae Salad, with peanut sauce and freshly roasted black sesame. One of my favourite appetizers at Japanese restaurants.

 

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5-Piece Nigiri

Next up was the 5-Piece Nigiri set which was what we really came for. The omakase set will change daily depending on what type of fish is fresh. That night, our omakase included: Bin Toro (albacore tuna belly), Warasa (wild yellowtail), Houbou (red gurnard), Hirame (flounder), and Isaki (threeline grunt). I had not heard of many of these fish, but they all tasted fresh and there were none that I disliked. My favourite was the toro as it was very fatty and the flounder which had a buttery texture and melted in my mouth. Interesting that the chef features mostly white fish in his omakase though as it would have been nice to have a mix. When you place your order, you will be asked whether you want wasabi or not in your sushi.

 

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Cold Udon

Next up were their homemade udons. You can choose between hot or cold. Half of our table got the cold and the other half hot. The Cold Udon comes with a separate sesame base sauce with you can then pour onto the noodles. The noodles come with green onion, cucumber, seaweed, egg, and assorted mushrooms. I really liked their handmade noodles as they had a nice chew. They sort of remind me of the ones at Kinome.

 

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Hot Udon

The Hot Udon comes with assorted mushrooms, wakame, tempura bits and a dashi broth. Both the cold and hot udon are special in their own way and I would highly suggest to try both.

 

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Jumbo Prawn Tempura

A perfect pair with your udon is the Jumbo Prawn Tempura which comes with a small zucchini tempura as well. The prawn was large and bouncy but I did think that the batter could be a little thinner.

 

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Matcha Ice Cream

To end your meal, the tasting menu finishes with a Matcha Ice Cream with a side of sweet red bean paste.

 

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Overall, we thought that the Maruyama $40 omakase menu was a pretty good deal given we were all full and got the chance to try a variety of their dishes. However, if you are looking to only eat nigiri sushi, then you can try their nigiri-only omakase which goes for $35, $60, or $75 depending on the number of pieces you get and how premium the fish is. They also have some pretty good lunch deals, so I will definitely be back again.

Pros:
– $40 omakase tasting menu is pretty good value
– Handmade noodles were solid

Cons:
– If you order a-la-carte, the prices can be pretty steep

Price Range: $40 (omakase tasting menu)

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 4 Ambiance: 4 Parking: 3.5 Overall: 4

Maruyama Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ritual

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Finally catching up on some posts! A few months back, S, N and I checked out Ritual on Denman. Ritual offers farm to table cuisine and offers both brunch and dinner. I believe they also have happy hour everyday and late night happy hour on Friday and Saturday.

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We checked out Ritual for brunch on the weekend, and the ambiance is very cozy with pillows along the bench and fairy lights. Definitely a nice spot to get comfortable and have long chats. It wasn’t too busy the time we visited, so we were able to sit around for quite a while.

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Lavender Latte

During brunch, there are a variety of coffee and teas along with cocktails.

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Tea Latte

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Curried Beef Brisket Hash

N got the Curried Beef Brisket Hash, which I don’t believe is on the menu anymore. A hearty dish with crimini mushrooms, roast garlic, cilantro, yogurt, pickled onions and rosemary yukons, this was full of flavour.

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Overall, I quite enjoyed my brunch at Ritual. Flavours were on point and I enjoyed the cozy environment. Ritual was well known when they first opened due to their no tipping policy and the fact that their staff were being paid higher wages in return. However, weeks later, management realized this was not working and has reverted back to the traditional ways. Unfortunate, but regardless, the food is great and I will be returning.

Pros:
– Solid brunch items
– Cozy ambiance

Cons:
– Seating itself can be a little cramped

Price Range: $15-20

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3.5 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 2.5 Overall: 3.5

Ritual Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fable Kitchen x Bordertown Winery Long Table Dinner

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Thanks to a contest hosted by Peter from Vancouver Livin and Fable Kitchen, K and I won two tickets to the long table dinner at Fable Kitchen which featured a five course menu paired with Bordertown wines. The menu was created by Chef Max Straczek.

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Bordertown Winery was present at the dinner to explain the different notes of each wine and essentially provide a wine tasting experience!

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Bordertown is one of the newer wineries and is located in Osoyoos, BC. It started in 2015 and BC Liquor stores now carry their wines. Bottles range from around $18-40.

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Pan Seared Scallop and Cucumber

The first dish was the Pan Seared Scallops with compressed cucumber, cucumber relish and watercress. The scallops were perfectly cooked and almost melted in my mouth! I loved the pickled flavours of the cucumber relish and this paired great with the seafood. Refreshing and light. This was paired with the 2015 Muscat which was light and fruity. Muscat white wines are always one of my favourites.

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Slow Cooked Egg and Flash Steamed Asparagus

Next up was the Slow Cooked Egg and Flash Steamed Asparagus on top of gnocchi and topped with hazelnut bread crumb. The egg was cooked perfectly with the yolk spilling out. This was paired with a 2014 Chardonnay which has a buttery richness to it.

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Rabbit Turnover

For our main, we had the Rabbit Turnover with smashed peas and chervil. The portion looked small but I was seriously so full after this but I couldn’t stop eating because it was so delicious! The pastry was so flaky and the rabbit filling inside was full of flavour. This is the perfect introduction to rabbit for first timers. This was paired with the first red wine of the evening, a 2014 Cabernet Franc, which was perfect with this savoury dish.

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Duck Cooked Three Ways

Next up was the Duck Cooked Three Ways. The three ways were smoked, confit, and mousse and this was paired with cornbread, carrots, and pickled mustard. This dish was delicious, but I was beyond full at this point. My smoked duck was a little too rare for my liking. It was still very bright pink in the centre, and therefore more chewy than tender. My sister’s was cooked nicely with a light pink all around. The confit was really interesting as it was more like a croquette. Deep fried in a cornmeal type batter, this was tasty with the pickled mustard on the side. However, one of my favourites was the duck mousse. This was like a pâté and delicious when spread on the cornbread. This dish was quite heavy though, especially with the cornbread. Perhaps smaller portions of each would be perfect or if this was the only main we had. This was paired with the 2014 Merlot, a perfect pairing for meaty dishes.

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Apple Terrine

For dessert, we had the Apple Terrine which was absolutely delicious! Essentially a streusel with custard on the side, topped with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce. Sort of like a deconstructed apple pie, but so flakey and addicting. A must try! Paired with the 2014 Gewurtztraminer, one of my favourite dessert wines, this was a great way to end the night!

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Overall, we had an amazing time at the Fable Kitchen x Bordertown Winery long table dinner. What more can you ask for with good food, good wine, and good company! Thank you to Peter from Vancouver Livin and Fable Kitchen for the contest!

Fable Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant – 4 Decades of Dim Sum

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NOTE: All food and beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are based on my own personal experience.

Last month, I was invited to Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant co-hosted by ChineseBites, Stephanie Yuen, and Gojoy Berries to celebrate 4 decades of dim sum. Pink Pearl has been opened for 40 years since the 1980s and is one of Vancouver’s oldest Chinese restaurants.

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 Steamed Shrimp Dumplings

First up were some Steamed Shrimp Dumplings which are a staple at dim sum. The shrimp was juicy and wrapping was thin.

 

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Liver and Pork Dumplings

The Liver and Pork Dumplings date back to the 1980s and I’m definitely not a fan of this version. I much prefer the modern version with the tobiko fish roe on top. Liver is quite chalky and I only really eat it when it’s in congee.

 

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Duck Web Wrap

The Duck Web Wrap is also from the 1980s and I quite enjoyed this version. Wrapped inside the bean curd is also taro, ham, and mushrooms. However, all the ingredients easily fell out, so execution-wise, it doesn’t really work out. However, flavours were great together!

 

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Mini Steamed Pork Bun

Another staple at dim sum are Steamed Pork Buns. Great dish to fill you up.

 

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Shrimp Toast

Another 1980s dish is the Shrimp Toast, which I’ve never seen at dim sum. I actually quite enjoyed this as the shrimp paste is put on toast and then deep fried. A little greasy, but I think this should be back on the modern day menus!

 

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Steamed Sticky Rice Roll

Steamed Sticky Rice Rolls are literally carbs on carbs. These buns are filled with sticky rice so can get quite filling.

 

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Handmade Steamed Beef Rice Rolls

Rice rolls are now filled with a variety of ingredients, but beef and shrimp rice rolls are always a staple.

 

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Handmade Steamed Shrimp Rice Rolls

 

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Lotus Wrapped Sticky Rice

Most restaurants serve their Lotus Wrapped Sticky Rice in smaller portions (usually two or three fit in a container), but these are one gigantic portion, so you share it amongst your table.

 

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Pan Fried Half Moon Dumplings

Another dish from the 1980s is the Pan Fried Half Moon Dumplings. It comes with a dipping sauce with chives, but I found the batter of the dumplings to be a bit too thick. Not a fan of this, but it seems like I’m not a fan of most of the dishes from the 1980s!

 

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Wok Fried Lotus Root and Vegetables

Featuring Gojoy gojiberries, this dish has an abundance of vegetables and the lotus roots really give it a great crunch. The gojiberries themselves are very fresh so they are not your typical wrinkly dried gojiberries.

 

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Gojoy Gojiberries Gelle

For dessert, the first dessert also featured the Gojoy gojiberries. The jelly is light and not too sweet.

 

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Black and White Sesame Roll

Laslty, the Black and White Sesame Roll are subtly sweet and a good way to end a usually greasy dim sum morning.

 

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Overall, it was a great experience to try dim sum dishes from over 4 decades, many of which I was unfamiliar with and haven’t seen on modern day menus.

 

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From May 1 – August 31, 2017, Pink Pearl is holding a fundraiser with a dinner menu for 10 – 12 people for $568 including tax and gratuities. Net proceeds will go to the Vancouver Food Bank and Vancouver Sower Society. More details on Pink Pearl’s website.

 

Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato