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

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The Teahouse in Stanley Park

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Lamb Lollipops

Another late post, but we decided to celebrate Valentines Day later this year to avoid the expensive set menus and restrictive dining hours. S decided to take me to the Teahouse in Stanley Park which was a nice surprise as I had never been and the restaurant had stunning views of the city. Definitely a very romantic restaurant with the interior having a rustic feel to it.

To start, we shared the Lamb Lollipops which were topped with tomatoes and a salsa verde. The lamb was cooked to a beautiful medium rare and had a nice char.

 

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Mussels

For my main, I chose to have the Mussels which was in a tomato based broth, topped with artichokes, garlic, chorizo, corn, and a white wine sauce. I found the mussels were slightly on the tinier side but I didn’t have any closed mussels. There were slightly too many artichokes for my liking, but the tomato broth itself was good. We had complimentary bread to start and the waitress made sure I had enough to soak up the broth so brought over even more bread.

 

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BC Halibut

S got the BC Halibut which was oven roasted, and served with blistered tomatoes, roasted fingerling potatoes, broccolini, and salsa verde. The fish had a nice crispy on the outside while remaining moist inside.

 

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To end the night, the waitress provided us with complimentary chocolate dipped strawberries which was a nice surprise! She had asked what the occasion was for our dinner while clearing our table, so it was very kind of her to throw in a little something.

Overall, I highly recommend coming here for a special occasion. The ambiance is beautiful and although the views are slightly harder to see at night, it still makes a wonderful spot for a romantic night out. Portions of food were actually pretty good considering the price and venue. I was happily full by the end of the night. Would love to come back during lunch to enjoy the daytime views!

Pros:
– Romantic setting with scenic views of the city
– Friendly and professional service

Cons:
– Not transit friendly. You’ll definitely need to drive or catch a cab here.

Price Range: $35-50 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 5 Ambiance: 5 Parking: Free parking right outside the restaurant Overall: 4

 

The Teahouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Smart n Save Cafe

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Smart N Save Cafe has been around for quite a few years now, but I didn’t learn about this until recently because the cafe is situated in such a random location in Richmond. It’s on River Road on the second floor of a office complex and does not have too much signage you would notice while driving. The cafe is actually connected to the Smart N Save grocery store in Lansdowne Mall. If you’re craving Hong Kong style cafe food and snacks, then this is the spot for you.

 

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Imitation Shark’s Fin Soup

I love Imitation Shark’s Fin Soup and I always get this at the night market, so it was no surprise that I had to try it here. The consistency was thick and gooey with a good amount of chicken and vegetables. Pretty good and red vinegar was provided to add a splash of acidity.

 

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Fresh Beef & Eggs Sandwich

I heard that the Fresh Beef & Eggs Sandwich were a huge hit here, and it definitely did not disappoint. Such a simple dish, but the beef was extremely tender and the eggs were fluffy. I liked how they also toasted the white bread a bit. And yes, white bread definitely brings back childhood memories. And no crusts please!

 

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Deep Fried Prawn Paste Toast

Another dish they are famous for is the Deep Fried Prawn Paste Toast. This is such a classic HK style dish which we can’t usually find here. The prawn paste was bouncy and the toast itself was covered with panko bread crumbs and deep fried to golden brown. The mayo paired the dish very well.

 

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Mixed Sauce Plain Rice Roll with Spicy Curry Fish Ball

Another street food favourite is the Mixed Sauce Plain Rice Roll with Spicy Curry Fish Ball. The rice roll was surprisingly thin and smooth and the sweet sauce was delicious paired with the plain rice rolls. To add, the curry fish balls were a delicious complement. Loved the spicy sauce! Highly recommend getting this.

 

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Fish Paste Siu Mai

Last but not least, we had the Fish Paste Siu Mai which comes with 12 pieces and a side of soy sauce. I actually prefer eating the fish paste style siu mai rather than the ones you get at dim sum. Yes, these are the cheaper version, but they are so bouncy!

 

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Overall, I highly recommend checking this hidden gem if you’re craving HK style snacks. You won’t find much service here but it’s pretty cool since they have a QR system in place. Once you sit down, they give you a QR code for your table. Just scan it, and you’ll be taken to their website where you can order your dishes. When you click on a dish, it automatically transfers to the kitchen and you’ll hear a little ring. Then they will bring you your food when it’s ready. Water and utensils are self serve. The interior is actually better than I expected being bright and clean.

Pros:
– Great spot if you’re craving HK snacks
– Items are way cheaper and better than the night market

Cons:
– Don’t expect much service, but QR code system works

Price Range: $10 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 2 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Free parking in the complex Overall: 3.5

 

Smart n Save Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Parklane Chinese Restaurant

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Chiu Chow Fried Oyster Omelette

Parklane Chinese Restaurant is located on the same floor as London Drugs in Richmond on Westminster and No. 3. They offer Chiu Chow style cuisine and also dim sum during the daytime. We visited during dinner time and the restaurant was quite packed. To start, we actually had the Pepper Pork Stomach Soup which I have never tried before. I am not a fan of intestines, so the stomach threw me off a bit, but the soup itself was very peppery. Not bad, but I thought it was a bit too spicy after a while. For appetizers, we started off with the Chiu Chow Fried Oyster Omelette which I really enjoyed. The sides were super crispy and there was a decent amount of oyster. Highly recommend getting this.

 

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Chiu Chow Style Deep Fried Prawn Balls

Next up were the Chiu Chow Style Deep Fried Prawn Balls. These were served with some crispy seaweed in the center. The prawns were bouncy and had tons of filling.

 

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Dried Oyster with Vegetables

Of course we needed some vegetables, so the Dried Oyster with Vegetables were a good choice. It came with a medium consistency broth and paired well with the Chinese vegetables.

 

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BBQ Ribs with Plum Sauce

A favourite at the table was the BBQ Ribs with Plum Sauce. The sauce had a nice sweet and sour flavoured with some acidity. The ribs had a nice crunch from frying and a decent amount of meat on the bones.

 

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Pan Fried Fish

I can’t quite remember the type of fish this was, but it was pan fried with green onions and soy sauce. My only issue with this dish was the fish had quite a lot of bones still in it. I’m not good with picking out the bones, so not really a dish for me.

 

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Sticky Rice

Of course we need some carbs, so the Sticky Rice was perfect to wrap up the meal. The preserved pork sausage with Chinese mushrooms, egg, and green onions made the dish very flavourful.

 

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Steamed Duo Crystal Dumplings

Of course a Chiu Chow style dinner has to end with the Steamed Duo Crystal Dumplings. Be sure to order these in advance as it takes a long time to make. For some reason, we had ordered two orders at the beginning of dinner, but when we told them to bring out the desserts, they told us only one was left. Not sure why they sold our other order… Anyways, the crystal skin was nice and chewy and the red bean and lotus paste filling was not overly sweet.

Overall, Parklane is a great spot if you’re looking for Chiu Chow food. Service was decent and the prices were reasonable. Will be back for more!

Pros:
– Great Chiu Chow eats

Cons:
– Would stick to the Chiu Chow style dishes. Some of the other dishes are just average

Price Range: $20 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: Free parking in London Drugs lot Overall: 4

 

Parklane Chinese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Choco Coo Cafe (Richmond)

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I’ve been wanting to try Choco Coo Cafe for some time now, but because their first store was all the way in Coquitlam, it was quite out of the way for me. But now that they opened their second store in Richmond, I was super excited to check it out!

 

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The menu has a variety of coffee and teas available. And of course, a selection of cakes. When we opened during their soft opening, there was an extra 25% off but the number of cakes were quite limited. I think they do have more cakes now that they have settled in.

 

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They put one of each of their cakes on display and you order and pay up front. They will bring you your order to your seat once ready. You can also order to go. The interior is actually quite asthetically pleasing with brown and white wooden decor and white marble cups and saucers. There are a large number of seats so a great spot to chat or get some work done.

 

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London Fog Cake

The first cake I tried was the London Fog Cake which was my favourite. The cake was a light sponge cake with layers of london fog cream and toasted almonds on top. The cream was strong in tea flavour and not overly sweet.

 

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Matcha Mousse

The Matcha Mousse had a chocolate crust on the bottom and layers of mousse. It was more of a Japanese style mousse with a bit of tart flavour to it. I personally didn’t enjoy this as much as others had raved about. The portion was also quite small compared to the rest of the cakes, even though it was priced the same.

 

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Green Tea Latte

What really drew me to Choco Coo Cafe was the latte art! I mean, how cute is this bear? If the cafe is not too busy, you can request to have latte art done and I think they are able to do quite a lot of art. The Green Tea Latte itself was rich in tea flavour and smooth drink. I don’t drink coffee often, but I personally enjoyed this.

 

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Overall, I’m glad to have this new addition to Richmond as we don’t have too many hipster cake and coffee spots in town. The cakes range from $4- $6 so in line with some other Western cake shops like Diplomat. There is also plenty of free parking below the condo for guests which is always a plus.

On a second visit, we arrived at the cafe at 9pm when the cafe was supposed to close at 10pm. We were told that we could only order take out because last call was at 9:30pm. We found this extremely odd because we arrived at 9pm. Why could we not order and sit in then? We weren’t going to stay past 10pm anyways and their cakes were already pre-made… Quite odd and a bit annoying when their hours are supposed to be until 10pm.

Pros:
– Latte art is beautiful and cakes are decent
– Decor is aesthetically pleasing

Cons:
– Odd service/ hours during closing

Price Range: $5 – $15 per person

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

Food: 3.5 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: Plenty of free parking below Overall: 3.5

 

Choco Coo Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards 2018

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Disclosure: All food and beverages were complimentary, as part of a media invitation. However, all opinions are my own.

Last week, I was invited to the 2018 Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Awards. I attended the reception at Sheraton Hotel just before the awards ceremony so I could get a taste of some of the nominee’s dishes and sample some local wine. The reception event is now open to the public with a ticket purchase which is new this year. If you’re looking to try Vancouver’s best food and wine, then this is the event for you!

 

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The results are out now so a quick recap of some of the top awards are as follows:

Restaurant of the Year and Best New Restaurant both wen to St. Lawrence!

Alex Chan from Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar won Chef of the Year.

 

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Of course, Best New Design went to the Botanist. I mean who could resist the beautiful garden inspired decor?

 

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Best Brunch went to Burdock and Co. which is now on my to-dine list!

Masayoshi won Best Japanese and Mr. Red Cafe won Best Vietnamese.

 

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Marutama won Best Ramen and Dynasty Seafood won Best Chinese.

 

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At the reception, we also got to sample wine from various wineries from all over BC. There were also Spanish Iberian ham which I love!

 

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To finish off, we attended the after party hosted by Joey (who won second for best chain). The Sour Plum was pretty and delicious to drink! What a great way to end the night and celebrate the achievements of all the chefs and restaurateurs in BC!

 

 

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

Forage – Dine Out Vancouver 2018

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Another good deal for Vancouver Dine Out Festival is Forage as their 3 course menu is only $30. The restaurant was packed and they were pretty strict on the seating’s time limit but service was still pretty good.

 

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Vietnamese Style Bison Shank Salad

To start, we tried all three appetizers which did not require additional cost. The Vietnamese Style Bison Shank Salad was served with shaved squash, braised daikon, crispy shallots, cilantro, mint and fermented chilies. The bison shank reminded me of beef jerky and the seasoning was on point.

 

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Grilled Humboldt Squid

My favourite appetizer was the Grilled Humboldt Squid which was served with radish kimchi, puffed wild rice, sweet soy, and parsley. The squid was cooked to tender and the radish kimchi actually paired very well with the seafood. I also liked the crispy puffed rice which gave some different textures to the dish.

 

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Beetroot Salad

IC tried the Beetroot Salad since she was the only one who wanted to try the vegetable dish. It was actually very colourful and the different coloured beets were served with roasted bruseels sprouts, brusselkraut, and bull kelp granola. I didn’t get a chance to try it but she said it was pretty good for an all vegetable dish.

 

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Crispy Halibut Cheeks

For mains, I had the Crispy Halibut Cheeks which were served with cauliflower “cous cous”, smoked yogurt, poached radish, and pickled mustard seed. They were like fish fritters but the cheeks had a more “chewy” type of texture so I really enjoyed it. I always love to eat the cheeks of the fish because of the texture. Really enjoyed the flavours even though the dish was lighter.

 

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Harissa Grilled Duck Leg

The boys got the Harissa Grilled Duck Leg served with white bean puree, braised greens, sweet and sour carrots and jus. The portion was slightly on the smaller side, but all the flavours accompanied the duck well.

 

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Elderflower Cheese Puff

For dessert, I had the Elderflower Cheese Puff which I’ve had at my last visit. The puff is served with gin spiked blueberries and vanilla ice cream. The top is crunchy pastry like texture similar to Beta 5’s and you can taste a bit of saltiness from the cheese and floral flavours from the elderflower. Paired with the sweet blueberries and ice cream, this is a must try dessert at Forage!

 

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Chocolate Cherry Bar

Our table also tried the Chocolate Cherry Bar which was served with hazelnut crumble, white chocolate cherry cream, and chocolate sauce. I thought this dessert was too dense as it’s more of a ganache and quite a heavy way to end the meal. Not my personal favourite.

Overall, a good option for Dine Out Vancouver but also a great spot even on a regular night. If you’re looking for west coast Canadian food with a seafood and meat selection, this is a great option. Be sure to try the seafood chowder on a regular night!

Pros:
– Great flavours and concepts
– Well executed dishes even during Dine Out

Cons:
– Portions are slightly on the smaller side for 3 courses (could probably still grab a snack after)

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

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

Food: 4 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: Street parking only Overall: 4

 

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