Mon Ami Gabi – Las Vegas

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Over the long weekend, I headed to Las Vegas for a girls’ trip. On the first night, we decided to try Mon Ami Gabi, which is located in the Paris Hotel. Right next to the Eiffel Tower.

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The restaurant is famous for their patio, since you can people watch, but I had made reservations online, which was only for indoor seating. That was fine with us, since the patio seating would mean long waits. We were seated right away since we had reservations, so be sure to do so if you don’t mind indoor seating.

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The restaurant is dimly lit with a bar on one side. Mon Ami Gabi specializes in classic French cuisine. Our server was very friendly and made me laugh with his enthusiasm and thick French accent.

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Complimentary Bread and Carrot Salad

Dinner came with complimentary bread and a carrot salad. Bread was soft and fluffy, but the carrot salad was just average. Nothing too special.

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Sangria

We decided to start the night off with a pitcher of Sangria to share. A mix of red and white wine with fruits, this was tasty and great for sharing. You get at least two glasses each for three people.

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Chilled Seafood Platter

For appetizers, we decided to get the Chilled Seafood Platter to share. The great thing is that it’s one set price, and you can share it with everyone. Much better than what happens in Vancouver, where you need to order a minimum of two orders and the platter is made specifically for the number of people. Anyways, the platter came with a whole Maine lobster, jumbo shrimps with cocktail sauce, market oysters with mignonette and lemon, and salmon tartare with baguette chips. My favourite were probably the oysters and salmon tartare. The tartar was mixed with avocado and went great with the chips. The platter also came with some seaweed salad, which I enjoyed, but nothing too special. Overall, the seafood were decent, but I wouldn’t say they were extremely fresh compared to what you get in Vancouver.

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Caramelized Sea Scallops

For entrees, SP got the Caramelized Sea Scallops. The scallops were cooked perfectly and were very fresh. However, we found them slightly too salty. It also came with a side of butternut squash puree and brussels sprouts, which SP loved.

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Mussels Mariniere

For myself and SK, we both got the Mussels Mariniere. You can get half an order, but we got the full order for double the price. It ended up being a huge plate! The mussels were rather small, but they were still decent. It came with a white wine sauce with herbs. We both found the sauce slightly salty again. It seemed like everything in the States is just on the salty side.

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Signature Hand-cut Fries

The full order of mussels also came with a side of Signature Hand-cut Fries. These were extremely thin-cut and very crispy. I loved dipping it into the white wine sauce. But again, way over salted.

Overall, Mon Ami Gabi had some pretty good dishes, but we found everything too salty. Service and ambiance was also pretty good. Prices are actually pretty reasonable for Las Vegas, but it can add up with all the drinks and appetizers.

Pros:
– Good French dishes
– Great ambiance and service

Cons:
– Dishes are on the salty side
– Seafood may not be the freshest compared to what we have in Vancouver

Price Range: $40-50

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

Food: 4
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Parking: N/A
Overall: 4

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Trafalgar’s Bistro

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Trafalgar’s Bistro. Located on West 16th, just West of Granville, this rustic, inviting restaurant sits next to the popular Sweet Obsessions.

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The restaurant is small, with an interior that is both intimate and warm. On a Friday night, it was surprisingly quite empty. We also found that we were probably the youngest diners all night.

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On top of their regular menu, they have a fresh sheet that changes daily depending on the seasonality and what’s available locally.

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Complimentary Bread

Dinner starts with complimentary bread and butter. The bread was crispy on the outside and soft inside. It ended up being great for dipping in my entree’s broth.

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Parsley Crusted Haida Gwaii Halibut

S got the Parsley Crusted Haida Gwaii Halibut, which came with roasted lobster mushrooms and spinach puree. S commented that the dish was visually unique, to which I concurred. Furthermore, the fish offered a supreme moistness complemented by the crispiness of the parsley crust.

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Salt Spring Moules with Bistro Fries

For myself, I got the Salt Spring Moules. This mussel dish is on their appetizer dish, but you can upgrade it to an entree portion size. The mussels were tender and fresh and the cream broth was flavoured with leeks, shallots, white wine and garlic. I also upgraded the fries to Bistro Fries, which are double fried and tossed with truffle oil, Parmesan and fresh herbs. It also came with a house made garlic aioli for dipping, but I didn’t find the need for it as the fries were already very flavourful and well seasoned.
In conclusion, Trafalgar’s Bistro was a pleasant dining experience.
Side note: street parking is amply available.

Pros:
– Fresh sheet changes daily based on what’s in season locally
– Quality eats and presented nicely

Cons:
– Portions are on the smaller side
– Service was there, but didn’t feel friendly

Price Range: $25-35

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

Food: 4
Service: 3
Ambiance: 4
Parking: 4
Overall: 4

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Provence Marinaside

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For S’s birthday, I took her to Provence Marinaside in Yaletown. It’s located right by the water, but unfortunately we were seated near the back of the restaurant away from the view. The interior isn’t too modern nor fancy, but it gives you a comfy French countryside feel. Lunch started off with complementary bread. There were two types. One was your typical baguette which was more tough, while the second was something similar to a focaccia bread.

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Fresh Oyster

We started off with some Fresh Oysters. The server said there were two types. One was the Kusshi, but I didn’t catch on to what she said the second one was. It was served with a pear vinegar mignonette and fresh lemon. Very fresh, but I didn’t really like the sauce it came with. I liked the sauces at Rodney’s a lot more. They also don’t have any deals for oysters, so it comes to $2.50 per oyster, which is quite pricey.

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Panisse & Vegetables

S got the Panisse & Vegetables, which came to be a very interesting dish. Panisse is a dish from Provence and is pictured above as those rectangular fries. These were made with chick peas and seasoned with basil. They had a crispy exterior, but a very soft interior. Sort of like crispy potatoes. The dish also came with zucchini spaghetti, which S loved. A great alternative to your pasta full of carbs. Wilted leafy greens, fennel, red pepper and tomato coulis finished off the dish.

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Linguini Vongole

For myself, I got the Linguine Vongole, which is one of my all time favourite Italian pasta dishes. This featured clams, tomatoes, garlic, white wine, espelette pepper, parsley, and olive oil. They didn’t cheap out on the amount of clams in the dish and they were all sweet and fresh. The pasta was cooked to al dente and I loved the sauce. It was perfect for dipping your bread.

Overall, we were quite satisfied with the food. I also thought the prices were quite reasonable for their lunch menu considering that it’s located in Yaletown and is supposed to be a fine dining restaurant. Dinner however is supposed to be much pricier. Ambiance felt a little casual for a fine dining restaurant and service was just mediocre as well. As for parking, there is metered parking and parkades very close to the restaurant or the skytrain.

Pros:
– Food is above average
– Lunch menu prices are quite reasonable

Cons:
– Ambiance indoors is just average
– Dinner menu prices are not of as good value

Price Range: $20-25

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

Food: 4
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3
Parking: 3
Overall: 3.5

Provence Marinaside Restaurant on Urbanspoon

L’Opera Patisserie

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L’Opera is located on Minoru Blvd next to the shops near Hilton Hotel. It’s an odd location for such a fancy looking patisserie. But good for me, since I don’t need to travel all the way downtown for some good pastries! There’s also free parking behind the Sheraton/Hilton parking lot. Anyways, I’ve purchased a pastry for a friend here, but I haven’t actually tried them myself. C gave me a box of L’Operamacarons for my birthday, so I am finally able to write about them! It comes in a beautiful box with a ribbon. The owners are Asian, but had training in Paris, so the shop and decor are all very Parisian.

When you open the box, you have a little note which tells you how long and how to store your macarons. They use natural and organic ingredients, so they can spoil if not kept properly.

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Green Tea, Caramel, Coffee, Chocolate, Pistachio, Rose

The macarons were actually quite small in size. Dainty and light. I found them smaller than the ones at Thiery. What I liked about them was that the colours were all very faint and light. It’s a sign that they probably didn’t use food colouring to achieve the colours. Creamy fillings and the shell itself is up to standards. I also like how they aren’t too sweet. My favourite was the coffee. It had such a strong aroma of coffee and I think there were some crushed coffee beans in it too.

Overall, very satisfied with the macarons at L’Opera. They come at around $2 a piece, so quite standard. It’s also super close to home, so I’ll definitely be visiting more often. They also have afternoon tea, which I hear is pretty good. Will definitely give that a try next!

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Crepe Montagne

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Chorizo Crepe

A while back, I joined K up at Whistler for a night and that also meant trying some of Whistler’s restaurants. Araxi is known to be one of their top, but it’s also extremely pricey. The restaurant was also completely packed, so we decided to try out Crepe Montagne. They offer French crepes, but are also famous for their fondues and Swiss Raclette. This restaurant is rated very well, but it’s also extremely small. It fits roughly 30 people in total, and is constantly packed. We waited around 20 minutes and were given a very tight seat. You really can’t move around! Other than that, the food is pretty good. We went for the Chorizo Crepe, which was filled with the spicy sausauge, cheese, green onions and topped with a bechamel sauce. It also came with mixed greens along with a Dijon vinaigrette. The crepe was actually one of the best I’ve had. the crepe itself was slightly crispy, and the fillings were very flavourful and cheesy. However, their crepes are quite expensive, priced around $22 each.

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Old Fashioned Cheese Fondue

Since they’re famous for fondues, of course we had to give it a try. They have both cheese and meat fondues. We chose the Old Fashioned Cheese Fondue. All their fondues are made with Emmenthal and Gruyere cheese from Switzerland, and seasoned with garlic and white wine. For the Old Fashioned, it is also mixed with Dijon mustard and herbs. They give you a large bowl of French baguette cubes, and we definitely were not able to finish all that bread between the two of us. The fondue would be great to share with more, or just to share with two people on it’s own.

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The fondue was definitely very cheesy. The server would constantly come around to stir our pot so the cheese didn’t clump together. A quick stir, and your cheese would melt nicely again. Unfortunately, we found that our fondue had an odd taste that we didn’t personally really like. It might’ve been the white wine or the dijon, but it threw us off a bit. Also, the bread quality isn’t too good, as it’s very rough. I guess since it’s soaked in the cheese, it doesn’t feel as rough anymore, but I was slightly disappointed with the quality since we’re paying $23 for the fondue.

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And here was our meal! A very small table filled with lots of food. Our server was also particularly amazing. She was friendly and funny and K and I definitely agreed she made our night very enjoyable. We still found the prices to be on the high side though, even though we were quite satisfied with the food. I guess it’s because you’re in Whistler, and they’re able to price it higher due to the tourists.

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Paris in December and Versailles

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Paris in December felt different again, even though I had just visited this city 3 months ago. I mean I recognized all the buildings, but the atmosphere just felt different! All the lights were up for the Christmas season and everyone was bundled up for the cold weather.

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They had even set up the Roue de Paris at Place de la Concorde. The Roue de Paris. The Roue de Paris is a transportable Ferris wheel and it was first set up in 2000 and has been transported to many other cities around the world. I guess it was back for 2013 during the winter, since it was just behind the Luxor Obelisk.

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If you want some fancy shopping, other than Champs Elysees, head over to Boulevard Haussmann. You’ll be able to catch the Paris Opera House, as well as the two famous department stores – Printemps and Galeries Lafayettes. When I visited Paris in September, the windows displays were already beautiful with top fashion and accessories, but December was a whole different story! Just look at this Prada window display at Printemps! Prada had basically transformed all of Printemps windows into a magical wonderland! These little bears with Prada handbags were moving! Galeries Lafayettes also captured all the tourists with their stunning displays, but I think Printemps definitely stole the show!

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At night, seeing the Eiffel Tower is a must. I suggest going day and night to get the most of this beautiful view, although the metro trip is a bit out of the way. What’s better is that at night, at every hour, the tower sparkles! You can see this blue beam of light shooting from afar, but when you get close to it, it actually sparkles on the tower! On the spot ever hour and it lasts for around 5 minutes. Quite a beautiful view to see!

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Obviously I also showed them around to the typical tourist spots, but I’ve already mentioned them in previous posts from my September visit. This time, we had a bit more time, and we decided to take a trip to Versailles. Versailles is a city in the region of Île-de-France and is accessible from Paris by just taking the RER C for around an hour. The city is famous for the Palace of Versailles, which housed the French Kings until the French Revolution, so is significant for absolute power. The area is huge, with a gigantic palace, garden, the Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate.

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I highly recommend visiting Versailles, even if you’re not a history museum type of person. It’s a palace which will give you a wow factor and I think it tops the most luxurious palaces I’ve seen personally. I’ve actually been here back when I was in high school, but now that I’m older, everything makes so much more sense. You definitely get a different view, and if you’re under 18, it’s absolutely free! Also, if you’re under 26, and a resident of the EU, you can also get in for free! I was on exchange and had a Spanish Visa, so I got in for free! If not, adult admission is 18 euros for the passport, which gives you entry to every single building. Definitely not that bad since you could spend at least half your day here.

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At night, we found a bistro near the Royal Wagram Hotel , where we stayed. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name, but it seemed to be a local bistro. We had the famous Parisian Steak et Frites. It came with mustard, which is quite common for the French. We had asked for well-done, so I found the meat to be a little too tough for my liking. I would’ve personally chosen to have it medium-rare.

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We also had the Smoked Salmon Fettuccine. This wasn’t too bad, although I wish there was more sauce to it. I found it a little dry, so I had to add a lot of cheese to it.

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And last but not least, we had to get some French Escargots. These were cooked with pesto and pretty good! You even get special tongs to get these snails out!

After dinner, we went back to our hotel to begin packing. An early flight the next morning lay ahead of us. To a sunny destination!

Chez Leon (Les Halles) – Paris

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I was back in Paris again! This was sort of a last minute decision since my mom and aunt decided to come visit me and travel Europe. Tickets were extremely cheap with Ryanair, and I believe I got them for under 20 euros one way. They were flying in directly to Paris, so I would meet them at our hotel. It was sort of weird traveling alone, but luckily I had become more familiar with Paris after the previous visit. After showing them around Paris in the day, we settled at Chez Leon for dinner. C had told me that the one in Paris was really good and having previously tried it in Brussels, I was excited to go again! I did some Googling and realized that they had 5 different chains in Paris! We started walking towards the Les Halles/ Chatelat location, but soon realized it’s actually pretty far from where the shops are at Champs Elysees. We ended up taking a metro to Les Halles, and it was right outside the station. The restaurant was very quiet and empty on a weekend night. Service was also really lacking. There were basically no other diners, yet they took forever to come take our order.

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Shrimp Spring Roll Salad

They had a set menu going on for an appetizer and an entree for a discounted price. For the appetizer, we chose the Shrimp Spring Roll Salad. It ended up being two pieces of shrimp being battered and deep fried. The shrimp were pretty big and it actually tasted pretty good despite it looking very simple. It came with a simple green salad.

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Fresh Salmon Filet, pan fried

For the entree, we got the Fresh Salmon Filet. It was pan fried and came with rice and green beans. Everything was lightly seasoned with salt, which we liked so it wasn’t too overwhelming. The salmon was cooked perfectly with the top lightly crispy and the fish flaking inside.

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Seafood Mussels in a Plancha

And of course we got some mussels! My mom isn’t huge on creamy sauces, so we ended up choosing something different from the usual. We got the Seafood Mussels in a Plancha, which was basically a pan filled with seafood and sauteed with olive oil, tomato garlic and mixed herbs. Other than mussels, other seafood included wild king prawns and calamari rings. Although the mussels were small, they were again very fresh. The sautee style was a bit different yet quite flavourful, but I still preferred the ones steamed in white wine or a broth. Our mussels also came with fries and bread, so it was more than enough for the three of us.

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And that was our meal at Chez Leon! However, I heard that the chain at the Les Halles location is not as good as the rest. I’m not sure since I haven’t been to to the other ones, but I would agree that service was lacking. It wasn’t rude or anything, but weren’t really looked after. Next time, I will be visiting the other locations! Never a disappointment for moules et frites at Chez Leon!

Laduree – Printemps Paris

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The famous Laduree of Paris! You’ve probably seen these macarons in their little pastel green boxes. I’ve been dreading to try these because people say they are the absolute best! We had saw the Laduree store in Milan, but we knew we were going to Paris, so of course get it from it’s home city! There are several Ladurees in Paris, with the one on Champs Elysees being quite famous. That one has a sit down cafe and is always packed with tourists. We found a Laduree pop up shop inside Printemps, which is another department store situated right next to Lafayette. Other than the pop up store on the first floor, they also have a sit down cafe on the upper floor. They offered breakfast there and had a specific time for customers who wanted to just dine on desserts.

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Anyways, by the end of our shopping trip, we were kind of broke again… But i insisted we had to try these little macarons! I believe they are around 1.7 euros for each, which is decent if you think about the price of macarons in Vancouver.

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We ended up only getting two, since we didn’t want to carry them home. If you get less than 6, then they put them into a little bag.

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I got the Rose and Orange Blossom flavour. Okay, seriously, they are so delicious! When you bite into them, the outer layer is so airy! And the other thing is that I find macarons in Vancouver to be too sweet, but these ones have just a subtle sweetness. The orange blossom is a must try! I haven’t seen this flavour elsewhere before. It’s got a hint of orange flavour and is so fresh! Absolutely love it. These little guys are a bit smaller than the macarons back in Vancouver, but I understand why people go crazy over them now!