Vancouver Food Diary: Sushi Van, Fairview























I wasn’t expecting much from this place: it’s really humble looking; the chefs and staff are Korean; and it’s so cheap, I was wondering: is the food going to be good? But it’s a favourite of my mom’s and I ended up going there with her and my brother on my trip to Vancouver. Some great dishes, like this black cod above.

We ordered a good selection of dishes. And really, I was impressed. For example, the fish collar is an unusual dish, was cheap, was tasty and tender. Mom kept saying how most people wouldn’t know to order this and how good it is. Secret’s out!























The various innovative sushi rolls are worth a try. This one seemed to have some real bits of lobster!























The only dishes I wasn’t impressed with was a tamago nigiri (egg omelet on sushi rice) and mom’s order of a crab roll sushi (with real crab, a dollar or two more). They were the same quality as cheap Japanese take-out or sushi trains… but hey, they hardly cost anything at all.























In the meantime, I forgot my phone and stole Mom’s to take these. Horrible quality and weird shapes. Sorry. And as mentioned, you don’t go here for the decor, or even the ambience. But if you’re up for cheap and surprisingly tasty Japanese food, I would recommend it.

Sushi Van Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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Vancouver Food Diary: Frenchies, Mount Pleasant

When I was a kid, poutine was not really known much outside Quebec and certainly not outside Canada. But it’s a welcome and interesting contribution to global cuisine now, eh? The last time I was in Vancouver, my nephew wanted poutine so we tried a place on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver and I had one of monster-poutines that had some other flavour: was it chicken, or pizza, or? In any case, I thought it was disgusting. But, realising that I was perhaps not giving it a “fair go” (as they say here in Australia), I followed friends’ recommendations to end up at Frenchies… and even brought my mom and brother.

And… this was an awesome poutine that reminded me of why it’s great. Some parts of the perfectly deep-fried fries are crisp, and the parts covered with just enough gravy are going soggy, so it’s interactive: you want to eat it before it all goes soggy, but it’s an awesome combo of textures. And the cheese, of course, is perfect. You don’t find the same curds easily in other places (and certainly not here in Australia). We thought this poutine was delicious.

I’ve not understood the affection for smoked meat, and certainly not the price of smoked meat sandwiches in New York. Also, it’s often a bit salty, I find, and too much. So, I was happily surprised with this sandwich, a modest amount of meat, thinly sliced, you can taste the smoke, and matching nicely with the bread with a nice layer of mustard.

So happy with this: Tourtiére is a French-Canadian meat pie. I think it’s pork with potatoes (sometimes with veal and beef too) and a very crisp pastry. It’s got lots of lovely spices in it, is very homestyle and humble, and I think it is SO tasty. And I’m not sure I’ve ever found it outside of Quebec.

So hurrah. The joy of eating in different places for me is often getting something particular to the place or something you can’t get elsewhere, and with this humble meal, we did. If I have one quibble it’s that the bowl of gravy above was a bit too salty and there was too much of it. Oh, and we forgot to order sugar pie for dessert. But overall (and with friendly service and a fun, unique atmosphere): Vive la Frenchies!

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

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Movie Review: Logan (2017)

I missed Logan when it was in the cinema and my hubby decided that he had no interest in seeing it. So, I caught it on a recent flight. But I’ve seen all the other X-men films so why not this one? It’s a problem though. On the tiny screens in airplanes, I find that a movie’s faults can really become evident. Fight scenes aren’t particularly engaging, beautiful cinematography is lost. Holes in storylines can gape.

X-men was my favourite comic book in my early teenager years. It was a clear metaphor for being gay, the idea that your powers manifest in adolescence and the world shuns you for it. And it was a delicious escape and fantasy world.

I had a fondness for Wolverine because he was Canadian, as simple as that. They made his character slightly grouchy, and slightly loveable, and when they cast Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in the first X-men films, I was enthralled. He was appropriately grouchy and attractive, and had an animal sex appeal. When was that first X-men film? Twenty years ago? Apparently, this is the ninth film that Jackman has done Wolverine.

I’d heard that this latest installment was OK (in fact, the reviews are rave) and the trailer looked pretty good. So, I was disappointed with a plodding two hours with a bare plot where everyone dies. I used to say that when everyone dies it’s like Macbeth but these days I say it’s like the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones. Anyways, everyone dies.

I was hoping that because they had a child actor that things wouldn’t be cutesy, but this was the opposite. It’s hard to feel sympathetic to Laura, the young character, Wolverine’s mini-me who growls and screams her way through the script. She has a certain intensity about her which is impressive but to what end?

Jackman growls his way through the whole film, broken, upset and grouchy and I wasn’t really caught by the story. People are chased. People are killed. There are bad guys. It was admirable that Patrick Stewart and Jackman give their all to their characters but have to work with dialogue like “I suck at this. Bad shit happens to people I care about. Understand me?”

I also couldn’t follow the logic of the language. Laura was born in Mexico. She refuses to speak until late in the film, upon which she switches back and forth between Spanish and English, yet expects people to understand both. Then comes out with some sophisticated sarcasm. “Nice man,” she tells Wolverine, who weirdly, seems unable to moderate his growl, the tone and way in which he speaks whether he’s speaking with Professor X, Caliban, a store clerk or a 12 year old. Sure, he’s meant to be an honest beast, but he’s intelligent, and it feels kind of stupid to talk to everyone in the same way. “What are you going to do now?” asks Laura. “Find the nearest bar,” he replies as if he was joking with one of his friends, except Wolverine doesn’t have friends.

Meanwhile, Professor X with his formidable intelligence is likely to speak many languages, but here he speaks bad Spanish with a terrible accent with Laura. Wolverine pretends not to understand the language at all. It’s a weird linguistic world; how much of what language do people speak or understand? It didn’t feel logical to me.

I was reminded of the magic of the X-men films right near the end where they imagined the mutant powers of some of Laura’s young peers, But too little, too late, after so much non-magical blood and gore. Disappointing.

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Vancouver Food Diary: Bauhaus, Gastown

I’ve had many tasting menus (and matching wines), often reflecting the location of the restaurant: Copenhagen, Sydney, Buenos Aires… but I’ve never had a German-inspired contemporary menu.

And to highlight Riesling wine was a good bonus. They offer a 4 course option, a 6 course option, and for a limited time only, this special tasting menu (and you can order a la carte).

The salmon on a sort of gazpacho was delicious.

Their version of a wiener schnitzel with potato salad tasted simply like a very good version of the dish, in a modern serving.

The sable fish was a highlight, on top of a bed of couscous. Interesting flavours and garnishes.

The riesling was sweeter than the dry Australian varieties that I’m used to, but matched with savoury dishes worked in unexpected ways (though our favourite was the driest, matched with the sablefish).

And what a pretty lemon dessert!

A very nice experience with the most excellent of company. Living in Australia, I forget the attentive style of North American service, water glasses filled every few minutes, and the waiter checking in after each course. Friendly and efficient and the descriptions of the wine were particularly good.

Thanks T & K! What a privilege to hang out with you over a special meal in my old hometown.

Bauhaus Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Travelling Food Diary: Stage Wine Bar, Victoria, BC

I have to write Victoria, BC since if I say Victoria in Australia, people think of the state of Victoria. I don’t think most Australians know what the BC stands for but writing Victoria, Canada looks a bit weird.

In any case, this is likely to be the only food blog from Victoria, as I’m just passing through on my way to a school reunion, so what luck to have my one nice dinner at the charming Stage Wine Bar. A nice selection of reasonably priced, mostly BC wines (though I started with a swig of Tio Pepe, a favourite dry Spanish sherry before moving onto a BC Chardonnay).

Pre-theatre, we just ordered four dishes, and it was enough. A fresh green salad, a charcuterie plate of pork belly with some pickled vegetables, the very delicious daily special of BC mussels (so tiny compared to the huge ones I’m used to from Australia and New Zealand, but very very tasty) and the highlight: sablefish, a favourite which I just can’t find in Australia.

The dishes all had a nice combo of taste and texture; not simple dishes but not overly fussy, and beautifully presented. Nice service too. About $90 for the two of us, a glass of wine each (and a sherry) and enough dishes to feel nicely filled.

Stage Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Bistro Rex, Potts Point

This place has got a major buzz about it, whenever I’ve walked by. Sometimes I get this suspicious feeling with shiny, new, popular places like this.

Is it hype? Will it deliver? We popped in for a pre-theatre dinner, and I was happy to discover that yup, this place delivers.

It’s traditional French food with a twist, and we couldn’t fault any of the dishes. Delicious chicken liver paté. A double-cooked cheese soufflé.

The celeriac salad was really interesting and refreshing. A long-cooked lamb shoulder was delicious, with some al dente lentils on the side. Cauliflower gratin, also delicious. The dishes are a nice size to split between two, even the ones indicated as main dishes.

I also had a tasty cocktail, and the service was friendly and efficient. There’s some clever design of the place too, so that the sound is absorbed by the ceiling.

With the hard surfaces, it could otherwise be too noisy. So, serving up French bistro realness with a shiny contemporary Sydney edge: fabuleux.

Bistro Rex Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: El Loco at the Excelsior, Surry Hills

Way back when, in the mists of time, when El Loco opened up at the Excelsior, it was cause for a serious buzz. Merivale was making its mark, and could be counted on to do something interesting. It was before the current wave of Mexican places were open, so seemed like one of the few places serving up interesting tacos with soft tortillas. The drinks were good. They did an amazing hot dog with finely grated cheese. I think it might have opened originally as a pop-up, to see how well it would do, and then just settled into place. Well done, fellows. El Loco seems to have morphed from hot, new bar restaurant to dependable, neighbourhood bar grub.

It’s still around, years later. I had a lunch with some journalism students from Macleay College, talking about blogging, and we had tacos, nachos, and some corn chips and dips. They knew the place already, so I assume it’s popular with the students.

The nachos and corn chips and dips were nothing spectacular but the taco was as good as I remembered it, and I’m sure would have been even better with a Mexican beer or a Margarita.

It was too long between visits. I should be coming back here again sooner… and see if those hot dogs are still as good as they once were.

El loco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: The Sparrow’s Mill, CBD

With the additional name, ICG (Incredible Chicken Good), the Sparrow’s Mill is an inviting little place on Liverpool Street bustling with people and colourful. I popped in for a Monday lunch after buying lightbulbs at the only hardware store in the CBD. They do have various lunch specials but none of them had their speciality chicken… so I opted for a half an order of chicken (suitable for one, the menu indicates) which comes with some pickles.

That’s the problem with most Asian restaurants: it’s way more fun to come with more people so you can try different dishes. But oh well. I went for their Incredible Gangjung chicken (there are almost a dozen to choose from). I’m not sure I could make out the cinnamon that was mentioned, but it had a complex sticky sweetness to it, yet also a lot of crunch. The bits of green chili weren’t too hot.

I think I prefer the other Korean Fried Chicken with the dry, crispy batter but this was good… And it was a little too much for one person for lunch, but sometimes, you gotta be brave.

The Sparrow's Mill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Maya Vegetarian, Surry Hills

  If Homer Simpson was South Indian, instead of doughuts and saying ‘D’oh!’, would he have craved dosa and said ‘D’oh… sa’. These are the type of questions that keep me up at night.

A really good dosa is a thing of wonder though: crisp and hot and thin enough that you should be able to eat it but making it look so big you think you can’t.

My lunch date was nice enough to come to Cleveland Street as I thought it would rain and I didn’t want to cycle to Kammadhenu in Newtown, which we know has pretty good dosas.

But these were delicious. I got mine with masala cheese, and it came flat and triangular. My friend’s dosa was wrapped in a cylinder in the traditional way. Perfectly delicious.

We ordered the daily special to go with it, and eggplant curry which was divine. No space for desserts, though Maya Vegetarian doubles as their empire’s sweet outlet.

Oh, delicious mango lassi. Really. And I take that back about the dosa’s size being an illusion. This was huge. And almost too much to eat for lunch.

Cheap, easy, quick and very, very delicious: recommended.

Maya Vegetarian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Fonzarelli’s, Surry Hills

Happy Days. Who knew that Australians watched it too? As a Canadian kid, it was as foreign as… well, Australia, to see a depiction of 50s Americana. I was never a huge fan: I found Ralph and Potsie annoying, didn’t understand why the Fonz was cool or funny, and god: Joanie and Chachki, let’s not get started. Of course, I saw myself as Richie, square and earnest but mostly I watched it because I watched anything that was on TV that was vaguely appropriate, after school and in the early hours of the evening.

So, it was with more curiosity than excitement to find that there was a Happy Days-themed restaurant in my neighbourhood, Fonzarelli’s. Friends had planned on trying the local Japanese resto, which turns out to be a Sushi train, of sorts, so we went here instead. It’s odd. It used to be high-end dining: the Foveaux. So, now, it’s trying, valiantly, to update the idea of an American diner, in a cavernous two-levelled mostly brick converted warehouse space.

The food, themed with the names of Happy Days characters, is modern diner Americana. It was pretty tasty, though I thought the portions small and expensive. We had a watermelon salad which was nice, some school prawns, some spicy meatballs, popcorn chicken, potato chunks… the ribs were actually pretty great. We couldn’t quite figure out the vibe. The young, cashed-up residents of Surry Hills: are they old enough to have seen Happy Days? And then, even not, is it a fun place to have weekend drinks, or is it weirdly daggy? For their sake, I hope it’s got some cachet… as I worry that it might not be the right idea, feel and vibe to survive the tough Surry Hills market and rental prices.

Fonzarelli's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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