Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie

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Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie has been around for many years now and has won many awards. I’ve hear many good things about the restaurant, but for some reason, I was hesitant to try it because I knew it wasn’t authentic Chinese food. Bao Bei is situated in the heart of Chinatown and is known for their modern Chinese dishes and cocktails. I had my hesitations going in, but honestly came out loving the food.

 

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The restaurant is good for small groups of 2 to 3. They do not take reservations, so be prepared to wait or come right at opening. We arrived at 6:30pm on a weekday thinking the wait wouldn’t be long, but we still waited around 45 mins to one hour. Luckily, the Keefer Bar is nearby so we could go enjoy some drinks. They take down your name and number and will call you when the table is ready. The interior is modern but has the traditional Chinese vibes.

 

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Dominion Cider

I ended up going with the Dominion Cider from Summerland, BC and this was refreshing and light. I will definitely come back to try some of their cocktails though!

 

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Beef Tartare
The menu consists of sharing style plates, so I’d suggest having 2-3 dishes per person. We started off with the Beef Tartare which was absolutely delicious! The tartare featured Cache Creek petite tender, preserved mustard root, crispy shallot, ginger, a quail egg, watercress, burnt scallion oil, and taro chips to scoop the tartare.

 

 

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Steamed Prawn, Scallop, Rockfish and Chive Dumplings
They have a variety of homemade dumplings on their menu, but I suggested to try something a bit more unique. The Steamed Prawn, Scallop, Rockfish and Chive Dumplings caught my eyes as we usually won’t find scallop or rockfish in our traditional dumplings. The filling was delicious and elevated to a more fine dining experience but I felt the wrappers were a little too thick. Unfortunately, these didn’t wow me.

 

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King Pea Tips
Time to get some veggies in so of course we all suggested to get the King Pea Tips. Pea tips are usually a favourite among the table and these did not disappoint. Simply flavoured with garlic and shoxing cooking wine, these were fresh and had a nice crsip. Portion was actually decent for $9 too given a lot of their other dishes were on the smaller end.

 

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Seasonal Vegetables – Squash and Fried Lotus

We chose another veggie dish and this was one of their Seasonal Vegetables. The Squash and Fried Lotus was flavoured with a curried black bean and salted duck egg yolk sauce. Lotus root is commonly used in Chinese dishes, but I have never had lotus root that looked like this! I believe these are called lotus rootlets and they are like baby lotus roots! Narrow cylinders compared to the usually ones we see, but just as crunchy. They paired nicely with the squash and asian flavoured sauces. Highly recommend ordering this!

 

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Sablefish in Lotus Leaf Wrapped Sticky Rice

Moving on to some larger dishes, we had the Sablefish in Lotus Leaf Wrapped Sticky Rice. To be honest, when I saw the dish arrive, all I could think of was how small this lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice was for thirty something dollars! But once I started digging in, I fell in love with this dish! The sablefish was so buttery and moist and the Japanese oyster mushrooms added a nice texture. This is definitely a next level lotus leaf sticky rice with the sablefish and well worth the high price!

 

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Crispy Pork Belly
Last but not least, we had the Crispy Pork Belly which features radish, cucumbers, pickled ginger, mint, and crispy potatoes. This is topped with a  Vietnamese cilantro root dressing. The pork belly had a nice portion of fat to meat and was very moist.
Overall, I was extremely happy with my meal at Bao Bei and would highly recommend it. Just keep an open mind that you are not coming here for traditional Chinese food, but the food actually tastes good and the fusion works! Despite the high prices, the quality is great here and I’d suggest coming here with a few friends so you can try a variety of dishes.

Pros:
– Well executed modern Chinese dishes
– Good selection of cocktails and drinks

Cons:
– Be prepared to wait even on the weekdays
– Seating is a bit cramped

Price Range: $40-60 per person

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

Food: 4.5 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Paid street parking or paid parking lots Overall: 4

 

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen

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Earlier in the year, I visited Portland for a weekend trip. Food is a huge part of Portland, so of course we had to check out some of the local eateries. While I was looking for happy hour restaurants, I came across Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen which is located in the downtown area. I hear that they have really good deals for happy hour so you can expect long line ups. Unfortunately, the timing for happy hour didn’t work out for us, so I suggested we visit for lunch the next day.

 

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Luckily at lunch, the line up wasn’t too early. Probably because we arrived shortly after it opened at 11am, as there was a line forming when we were leaving. The decor in the restaurant is super hip and modern with a bar in the middle. You first order and pay up front, and they will tell you which table to sit at. You need to pick up your own cutlery and water up front as well. Then once you are seated, the food is brought to you.

 

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Stormbreaker Total ReKolsch

We decided to enjoy our food with some beers and chose the Stormbreak Total ReKolsch which is a Kölsch style beer brewed in Portland. The beer was not too strong and we quite enjoyed it.

 

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Chicken Wings

Of course, S wanted Chicken Wings, so we ended up ordering two orders as one order only had around 5 wings. These deep fried wings were caramelized in fish sauce and garlic so extremely flavourful. However, we found the wings to be extremely tiny! Despite having the wing tip attached still, we have not seen such tiny wings before! The sticky sauce was not overly salty, but for USD$7, the plate was a bit small. Maybe it would not be so bad if they were at the happy hour price.

 

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Pork Crispy Rolls  

Next up, we ordered the Pork Crispy Rolls which were filled with pork, taro, jicama, carrots, & noodles. An order comes with 4 rolls for USD$5 but because they are so thin, I thought they were quite pricey. However, the spring rolls were actually really tasty. They were quite different from the usual spring rolls I get in Vancouver where they are golden yellow and chubbier. These had a bit of a chewy texture and tasted great with the sweet and sour chili sauce.

 

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Luc Lac

 

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Overall, we were extremely pleased with the food at Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen.  The food was nothing close to being traditional, but it didn’t matter because their dishes worked. The restaurant has such a fun vibe and is perfect for having drinks and snacks. I did find that the prices were slightly on the steeper side compared to what we can get in Vancouver, but I guess this is considered cheap food in Portland given the higher prices. Would love to come back and give their $8 pho a try as well as I saw many locals were having this.

Pros:
– Great tasting dishes
– Fun vibe for drinks and food

Cons:
– Not your traditional Vietnamese food if that’s what you’re looking for

Price Range: $15-25 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: Paid street parking Overall: 4

 

Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hapa Izakaya – Dine Out Vancouver 2018

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The last Dine Out Vancouver restaurant we tried was Hapa Izakaya at the Coal Harbour location. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of Hapa because I thought the dishes were just average for the price. However, a recent visit for happy hour changed my mind and N wanted to try the restaurant anyways, so I thought I would give it another try. Plus, the selling point for me was the 3 course savory dishes which was a nice change from the typical appie, main, and dessert. This menu was great for sharing and actually filled me up!

 

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Beef Tartare

To start, we had two of the Beef Tartare. The AAA beef was mixed with maple soy, yuzu ginger and crispy capers. Nori sheets were provided to wrap the beef in. This was one of my favourite dishes. The beef tasted fresh and I like the light soy sauce which accompanied it. Portions were also pretty big and perfect for sharing.

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Albacore Tomato Gelee

The second appetizer was the Albacore Tomato Gelee which was essentially sliced albacore tuna sashimi topped with a house made shiso pesto and tomato jelly. Tuna was fresh and the sauces were pretty unique.

 

 

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Confit Duck Leg

Moving onto the second course, the Confit Dug Leg was marinated with apple ginger and sake. This was paired with grilled zucchini and green beans. The duck was pretty tender but didn’t think this was anything too special.

 

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Panko Sockeye Salmon

Another dish was the Panko Sockeye Salmon which was butter sauteed and served with a karashi mustard hollaindaise sauce. I liked the panko crust, but found the salmon to be slightly on the dry side.

 

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Ankake Agedashi Tofu

I always love a good agedashi tofu and the Ankake Agedashi Tofu was served with bok choy, carrots and green onion. The skin was crispy but I think the sauce should have sat on the side as the bottom of the tofu became quite soggy.

 

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Beef Stew

The third course was the Beef Stew which we thought was pretty random at a Japanese restaurant. However, the flavours were actually rpetty good. This was tomato and onion based beef stew topped with mozzarella, cheddar and monterey cheese. The dish was served with garlic toast so you could spread the stew on top. Tasted sort of like spaghetti sauce but I actually really liked it.

 

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Salmon Sushi Cake

One of the items I was excited about was the Salmon Sushi Cake. But I think we all agreed it wasn’t what we expected. Chopped sockeye salmon was mixed with cream cheese, shiso, miso and karashi mustard and served on top of a bed of sushi rice. I think we didn’t like it was because it was so heavy with cream cheese. A Japanese mayo would have been enough. It was too heavy and covered the flavours of the salmon.

 

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Shiitake Jya-Jyamen Ramen

Last but not least was the Shiitake Jya-Jyamen Ramen. The ramen noodles were served in a soy milk, spicy miso broth and topped with mushroom rice ball. The broth was very thick and heavy. Definitely more of a sauce than broth but it was good to coat the noodles. Personally, I thought this was just average.

Overall, there were some hits and misses but the portions are great for sharing and for only $30. I enjoyed the appetizer dishes more and felt we could skip the entrees next time.

Pros:
– Fun ambiance for drinks and sharing dishes

Cons:
– Dishes were a hit or miss

Price Range: $30 per person (Dine Out Menu)

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

Food: 3 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Street parking or paid parkade Overall: 3

 

Hapa Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Trump Champagne Lounge – Dine Out Vancouver 2018

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Posting quite a few months later for this year’s Dine Out Vancouver 2018, but I might as well in case it comes handy for next year’s festival. My first dine out this year was at the Trump Champagne Lounge and I went with S and M for a girls night out. We thought the dishes on the menu sounded decent and the price tag of $30 per person wasn’t too bad for a 3 course meal. We all didn’t know that the lounge served actual food as we always thought it was just afternoon tea, snacks, and drinks. The interior of the lounge was pretty as expected, but it was also a bit odd as the lounge is not really enclosed in another area. Once you open the door to the hotel, you’ve basically stepped foot into the lounge. Can be a bit odd as you see many hotel guests with luggage trying to find the check in area. Also, because it is a lounge, the tables and couches are extremely low. My back was hurting by the end of the night. Definitely a place more for drinks and light snacks, rather than a 3 course meal which requires full use of utensils.

 

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Grilled Octopus

Anyways, onto the food. We tried both appetizers and the Grilled Octopus was my favourite. The tentacles were served with crushed fingerling potatoes, black olives, toasted pistachio, and a balsamic dressing. The octopus was not chewy at all. It was cooked perfectly to tender and had a nice char.

 

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Albacore Aburi Style

The second appetizer was the Albacore Aburi Style. The lightly seared albacore tuna was served with homemade pickled vegetables and a burrata cheese sauce. This was quite average. If you like pickled veggies, then you might enjoy this as they were definitely very sour and acidic.

 

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Slow Cooked Lamb Shank

For entrees, we got both of the non-vegetarian options. The first was the Slow Cooked Lamb Shank. The lamb shank was served with the bone in and paired with a butternut squash puree and seasonal vegetables. The lamb was moist and the meat fell off the bone. However, this was quite a heavy dish. We found it hard to finish alone as both the sauce and puree were very thick.

 

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Roasted Lingcod

The second entree was the Roasted Lingcod which sat on top of a white bean fricassee, topped with green onion and smoked pancetta. The lingcod was moist and the top was seared to a nice crisp. However, I found the dish to be quite boring and bland. I really needed to eat the fish with the white beans to get some flavour out of it. It was definitely missing something to bring out the flavours.

 

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Chocolate Banana and Passion Fruit Pudding

By now, we were actually quite full as the portions were actually very reasonable given this being a more fancy restaurant. For dessert, S got the Chocolate Banana and Passion Fruit Pudding topped with some chocolate shavings. This tasted sort of like banana pudding. Not bad but nothing too special.

 

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Apple Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream

M and I chose the Apple Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream. For some reason, only one came out and the second came out almost 30 minutes later. I ended up just digging into M’s dessert and was too full to really eat my own in the end. Not sure what happened with the timing there. Anyways, the Apple Crumble was not too sweet, and I always like a good pairing of cold and warm for dessert, so this was great.

Overall, would I come back here for dinner? Probably not as nothing really stood out to me. Plus, the seating is way too uncomfortable for a full on meal. However, I wouldn’t mind coming back for some drinks or light snacks as the ambiance is quite nice. I think their regular menu is not cheap though so dine out is a good option if you’d like to give their food a try. Because this was probably not the most attractive spot given it’s in the Trump tower for obvious reasons, the restaurant was also not fully booked during dine out. Our friend was almost an hour late from work, and the servers didn’t mind us just sitting around and we probably ended up sitting there for almost 3 hours with no issues. Definitely would’ve been kicked out at another restaurant during dine out season!

Pros:
– Ambiance is nice for drinks and snacks

Cons:
– Seating is really uncomfortable with low tables
– Nothing stood out for food

Price Range: $30 per person (Dine Out Menu)

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

Food: 3 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 4 Parking: Street/Parkade Overall: 3

 

Trump Champagne Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Steelhead Diner

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For our first night in Seattle, we decided to go to Steelhead Diner which is located on downhill near Pike Street Market. The restaurant has a large selection of beer and cocktails so great for those looking for a drink.

 

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We started off with complimentary bread and butter. The bread was sourdough while the butter sat in a plate of pesto oil. The butter was so good with the pesto!

 

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Pike “Kilt Lifter” Fish & Chips

S of course got the Pike “Kilt Lifter” Fish & Chips which featured two pieces of Scotch ale battered Alaskan ling cod served with tartar sauce and lemon. S can usually eat quite salty food, but even he found the fish to be extremely salty. It was to the point that he didn’t finish his fish and I don’t think I’ve seen that before! Even the fries were on the saltier side.

 

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Flash Fried Pacific Oyster Po ‘Boy

For myself, I had the Flash Fried Pacific Oyster Po ‘Boy which was a huge portion! The fried oysters along with a aioli type sauce was great, but I did also find it slightly on the saltier side. Not sure if we are just used to less sodium in our foods, or if they just went nuts with the salt here.

Overall, we were slightly disappointed with our food. It had really good ratings, but our food was just too salty for our liking. Something I disliked was that an automatic tip of 20% is added to our bill. I don’t mind tipping more if I get really good service, but 20% is a bit steep given the venue and I don’t think our service was anything beyond expectations. Location-wise, good spot for tourists, but other than that, nothing memorable.

Pros:
– Good location for tourists

Cons:
– Our food was way too salty for our liking
– Automatic 20% tip

Price Range: $25-30 per person

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

Food: 2 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 2.5 Overall: 2.5

 

Steelhead Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blu Burgers & Brew

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During the holidays, S and I made a short trip to Seattle for fun. Our first stop was to check out the Boeing Factory in Mukilteo near Everett. Since we arrived in the area during lunch time, we decided to go for lunch first. I did some Googling and there aren’t too many restaurants nearby. However, Blue Burgers & Brew had good ratings, so off we went.

 

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The restaurant is quite casual and you order and pay up front. You can then choose a seat and they will bring you your food. Of course, their menu consists mainly of burgers but there are some select sides you can choose from as well. They also have a selection of beers. Surprisingly, there were quite a lot of families with children here during lunch. I guess they are quite family friendly as well.

 

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Chicken Tenders

Given S does not fancy burgers, of course he went for the Chicken Tenders served with fries. For $6.50, this was decent with 3 strips and a decent amount of fries. S said the tenders could have been warmer in the center and that they were rather average. But then again, they are known for their burgers.

 

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Shroom ‘N Onion

For myself, I had the Shroom ‘N Onion which featured crimini mushrooms, onions, swiss cheese, romaine lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and a house sauce. The burger stacked tall and they didn’t skimp on the ingredients. My mushrooms were overflowing and that house sauce was bomb. The patty was also very moist and juicy. My only complaint is that for around $9USD, I’d expect it to come with fries which was an added cost. Definitely not cheap given the self-serve type of set up, but the quality of the burger is great.

Overall, a good stop if you are heading to the Boeing Factory or if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t make a trip out here just for this.

Pros:
– Great execution of burgers

Cons:
– Slightly pricey given self-serve

Price Range: $10-20 per person

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

Food: 3 Service: N/A Ambiance: 2.5 Parking: 3.5 Overall: 3

 

Black Rice Izakaya

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

Back in December, Black Rice Izakaya launched some new items on their winter menu and we were invited for a tasting.

 

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The interior is full of wooden details giving it a warm izakaya feel.

 

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Gin No Kurenai “Pink Lady”

We started off with some sake called Pink Lady which has a rose colour and is light, sweet and fruity. My first time trying sake with a rose colour and it didn’t disappoint!

 

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Goma Tuna

To start, we had the Goma Tuna which was served with a side of sea urchin. The tuna was lightly seasoned with sesame and seaweed.

 

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Hamaguri Dobin Mushi

One of my favourite appetizers was the Hamaguri Dobin Mushi. This clam soup had a clean but flavourful taste and was perfect as a palette cleanser. Highly recommend giving this a try especially in this cold weather!

 

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Kimchi Scallop Motoyaki

The Kimchi Scallop Motoyaki was visually attractive! The scallop shells were filled with of course scallop, kimchi, chopped bell pepper, butter and cheese. The kimchi was not overly spicy but was packed with flavour.

 

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Teriyaki Wagyu Steak

Another delicious dish was the Teriyaki Wagyu Steak. The Wagyu beef is glazed with a teriyaki sauce and sits on top of Monterrey jack and mozzarella cheese which has been mixed with mashed potatoes. The beef was cooked to a medium rare with a beautiful pink center. Super tender! My only wish was that the cheesy mixture was more stringy.

 

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Kimchi Nabe

Perfect for the cold weather is the Kimchi Nabe, a kimchi stew with vegetables, sliced pork and tofu balls. This Korean Japanese fusion works and would be great with a side of rice!

 

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Napolitan Spaghetti

One of the more interesting dishes was the Napolitan Spaghetti. The dish features soba noodles, tomato sauce, ketchup, bacon, sausage, onions and egg underneath. The spaghetti reminds me of the HK style cafe pastas with the sauce being on the sweeter side. But for some reason, it works and tastes really homey!

 

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To finish, we had some sushi which is part of their regular menu and is not usually presented like this. This is just a quick version of the Aburi Scallop Hako and the Black Mentaiko Roll. Still, they tasted great and the Black Mentaiko Roll caught me by surprise with the chewy black rice.

Overall, some great new winter additions to the menu this season. The food is definitely fusion and strongly Korean influenced, but it works! A great spot to share a few dishes with friends and have some drinks!

 

Black Rice Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cactus Club Cafe (Richmond)

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

In the beginning of November, the newly relocated Cactus Club Cafe at the Richmond Centre location opened its door to the public. We were invited to a media preview to check out the space and enjoy some food and drinks. They have blocked off some parking at the mall so there is valet parking available here. However, there’s plenty of parking at Richmond Centre, so feel free to park anywhere!

 

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We were welcomed by the founder of Cactus, Richard Jaffrey, who spoke about how the original Richmond location began 25 years ago.

 

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The new location is truly a revamp from the old location. The interior is just as amazing as the other locations like the Coal Harbour location. On one side is the formal dining room, while this side pictured above is the bar area. There are high top table and small booth seats available here with a large bar counter right in the middle. Really love the lighting in this area.

 

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On the other end is the heated patio. I love this area as it feels like you’re outside near the beach even though it is fully enclosed. However, during the summer, the roof can roll away and the glass walls can slide open. Super cool!

 

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Whiskey Ginger Smash

Just in time for winter, they have launched two new cocktails. The first is the Whiskey Ginger Smash. This cocktail features a blend of whiskey, lemon, ginger and rosemary.

 

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Late Harvest Daiquiri

The second cocktail is the Late Harvest Daiquiri. This cocktail is made with a base of rum and lime and topped with blackberries and a Saskatoon berry and blackcurrant coulis. Sort of like a Bellini but a berry based one. So refreshing and the flavours are more catered for the winter time.

We didn’t get a chance to try any full dishes other than some appetizers, so I can’t comment too much about the food. However, Cactus is not for consistency, so I’m sure the food at this location is just as good as their other locations. What a great addition to Richmond Centre and I can’t wait to return to try the full menu.

 

Cactus Club Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato