[Vancouver] Rodney’s Oyster House – Summer Studies

21 06 2011

One of the reasons why most people favour NUS and NTU over SMU is because undergrad degrees over at SMU requires an additional year to complete (4 years for most students) compared to 3 years for a similar degree from NUS and NTU. Personally, I don’t see the additional year of study as a detriment at all. Most of us will likely have to work for the 50 years after graduation anyway so what’s the rush right? I say enjoy uni life while it lasts.

For NTU accounting students at least, they have just 2 summers before their entry into the workforce. That gives them probably just 1 or 2 internship opportunities, and less time if any, to go overseas for exchange programs or summer study. The issue of time really isn’t a problem faced by SMU students and so, I find myself in Vancouver, participating in the summer study program by the University of British Columbia. 

The food culture in Canada reflects the demographics of Canadians well, which is more of a mosaic of different cultures comprised of Caucasian, Chinese and Southeast Asian immigrants, rather than an integrated and fused society like America. Canadians are proud to retain their traditional roots and say that they are Chinese Canadian, Korean Canadian, Indian Canadian etc (you won’t hear Americans saying they are Indian American) and there is no attempt to tweak or fuse the different cuisines to suit the Caucasian palate. Unlike in London where Indian food is disappointingly mild, no such handicap is provided for the authentic Indian curries and Thai dishes here.

Given the deep entrenchment of a fragmented food culture, I find it hard to think of any dishes that are distinctly Canadian, except for Maple Syrup, Poutine (French Fries with Gravy and Cheese Curds). Seafood is fresh in Vancouver as it is located near the coast (My hostel is just a 10 minutes walk from the nude beach 😀 not much action though apart from just a few old man who like airing themselves). The pancake culture here isn’t as strong as I initially expected though.

pic source: norecipes.com

One of my more enjoyable meals in Vancouver so far was at Rodney’s Oyster House. As its name suggests, it’s a popular seafood restaurant located on Hamilton Street.

The interior is homely and very suitable for casual dining. The staff are really cool people, and are constantly moving around the restaurant to check up on guests and doing and saying retarded stuff that is really quite entertaining.


Oysters here are abundant, fresh and priced reasonably as compared to Singapore.

Raw Oysters

Last week, I took a day trip down to Pike Market in Seattle which is America’s oldest market. Apart from vegetables, clothing and artwork, fresh seafood was also being hawkered there. I managed to snag 3 jumbo oysters for just US$5 and it took me 3 mouthfuls just to eat 1!

Jumbo Oyster from Pike Market, Seattle

Back to Rodney’s, I preferred the cooked oysters to the raw ones. The Oyster Rockerfellah was delightfully baked with spinach and cheese among other spices.

Oyster Rockerfellah (C$12.95)

The Pasta with Scallops was slightly disappointing as the scallops were slightly overdone.

Pasta with Scallops (C$18.50)

My friends had a mad frenzy over the Garlic Shrimps. The shrimps were fresh and crunchy but what got to them was the briny umami-laden sauce. CY left his dining etiquette at the door and decided to just cup the plate in 2 hands and slurp down the sauce as you would do for soup in a soup bowl.

Garlic Shrimp (C$15.95)

As I mentioned in my previous post, Scallops are my kryptonite. It leaves my legs weak, wobbly and powerless in its presence. Fortunately for me, my order of the Scallop Galette fared much better than the Pasta with Scallops. Enveloped in potato rosti, the savoury crisp outer shell provided a nice contrast to the sweet plump scallops. 

Scallop Galette (C$15.95)

The chowder was rather forgettable.

Manhattan Clam Chowder (C$7.50)


For Desserts, it was difficult picking a favourite because both were really awesome. I enjoyed the Vanilla Cheesecake which was light and smooth, with vanilla infused cream on the end.

Vanilla Cheesecake (C$7.50)

The Belgian Chocolate Mousse is somewhat heavier and rich, a must try for chocolate lovers.

Belgian Chocolate Mousse (C$7.50)

Given the popularity of the restaurant, do make reservations in advance to avoid disappointment.

Bon Appetit!

Rodney’s Oyster House

Yaletown, 1228 Hamilton St

British Columbia, Vancouver





[Cornwall, England] The View – For the Love of Scallops

14 06 2011

I love the waking to the sounds of seagulls and the distant baa-ing of sheep. Throw in the breathtaking coastal view and that’s more or less what I would call living the life. Located on the high cliffs of Whitsands Bay, The View provides just such the setting.

Though it’s slightly off the beaten track, distance and uhloo-ness has proven not to be an obstacle for The View, which has garnered quite a number of accolades over the past few years and sees a full house even on weekday dinners.

Highly recommended by the staff, 3 of us all had the Seared Scallops, Asparagus & Chorizo Cassoulet (8.50GBP) for starters. I’m a huge fan of scallops and I’m pleased to say that these were the best scallops I have ever had! Plump and sweet, the seasoning and searing were both executed perfectly. I was seriously contemplating having seconds at that time but decided against it in the end, and now I’m kind of regreting it 😦

Anyway, I have a question regarding scallops. You know the raw ones we see at buffet lines? There always seems to be the red/orange colour “stomach” attached to the white scallop, which is also attached to the cooked scallops as seen below. What portion of the scallop is that? Is it the roe or intestines or something? And why is it that its almost always removed when scallops are sold in markets? Anyone care to enlighten me?

I felt that the mains were much of a disappointment after the stellar appetizer. Of the 2 mains we tried, I preferred the Roast Turbot, Razor Clams, & Butter Samphire (19.50GBP), which was fresh but came across as slightly bland. The waiter was hyping up the Samphire and about how it’s a seasonal seaweed but it didn’t taste that awesome.


On the other hand, my Grilled Monkfish, Pickled Beetroot with Goat’s Cream Cheese (18.50GBP) was rather muscular and chewy. The pickled beetroot added an unpleasant aftertaste to the fish. Ironically, the side of grilled sweet potatoes that accompanied this dish was what shone for this dish.


The View’s signature dessert is the Hot Chocolate Mousse with Pistachio Ice Cream (6.50GBP). I think of it much like an oversized and slightly undercooked chocolate fondant, where the crisp outer layer is thinner than usual with an almost completely molten core. The Pistachio Ice Cream took a little getting used to but pulled through towards the end.

If possible, perhaps you might be better off asking for 3 scallop appetizers, no mains and 1 dessert as your meal. I’m sure you will have a blast!

Bon Appetit!

THE VIEW 

TRENINNOW CLIFF ROAD, MILLBROOK, CORNWALL, PL101JY

TEL: 01752822345





[Cornwall, England] The Seafood Restaurant – The Difference between UK, England & Britain

10 06 2011

When my friends asked me where I had traveled to for summer, I was in a bit of a predicament. I had spent a week in London and had taken a road trip 500km down south to the coastal region of Cornwall. As most people haven’t really heard of Cornwall, I’d normally just tell them I had travelled to UK but then I thought to myself, “What’s the difference between UK, England, Britain and Great Britain?”. Doesn’t it all mean the same thing?

Well apparently, it doesn’t…as I found out today.

England is a country, UK and Britain are a union of countries (eg European Union) and that’s why we don’t see UK or Britain as participants in the World Cup or Olympics. UK is a union of the 4 countries comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland whereas Britain aka Great Britain is a union of 3 countries comprising England, Scotland and Wales. Hope this clarifies a common misconception.

Anyway, one wouldn’t normally think of England as a place for surfing, wine tasting or doing a farm stay but all these activities can be accomplished in Cornwall. The seawater here is really clean, and just like in Porto, I found abalone growing rampant along the seashore (it’s the numerous white shells clinging to the rock in the picture).

Arriving at The Seafood Restaurant after a 500km drive from London, we were absolutely famished and we couldn’t wait to get our taste buds aroused by Rick Stein’s flagship restaurant.

The setting of the place is classy yet cosy. Food here doesn’t come cheap and a 3-course ala carte dinner would probably set you back 60-70GBP, excluding drinks. Yet despite such high barriers to entry, you’d be lucky to get a seat without making prior reservations, which goes to show the appeal and high standards that have been set through the 30 odd years that The Seafood Restaurant has been in operation.

This had to be our longest dinner ever, stretching almost 4 hours from 9pm to almost 12.30am, but I’d say it was worth the wait. CW had the 6-Course tasting menu while N and myself settled for ala carte. The staff tried to sync our starters and mains but I guess that meant N and myself had to wait slightly longer for our courses to be served together with CW’s. Didn’t try much of the tasting menu but I did take some pics.

Complimentary Bread, Olives and atas butter

Complimentary Salmon Cakes

A Salad of Octopus with Noodles, Shitake & Enoki Mushrooms, Ginger and Truffle Oil

Seared Hand-dived Scallop and Iberico Ham with Pimenton & Pardina Lentils

Grilled Padstow Lobster

Fillet of Sea Bass a la Plancha with Roasted Fennel Seeds and Sauce Vierge

Baked Cheesecake with Apricot Jelly & Fruit Salsa

Missing pictures from the tasting menu includes the “Crab, Ginger and Coriander Broth with Mussels” and “Petit Fours” because they weren’t very photogenic. At 67GBP, the tasting menu is rather pricey but CW seemed pleased with her meal and the Sea Bass was the best of its kind I have ever tasted.

The sommelier suggested a suitable light tasting white wine called Albarino Lager De Cervera to go with our seafood. Would definitely consider it again if I ever see it on a menu.

My starter of the Turbot fish and Scallops was served with a rich creamy sauce. Very appetizing and the scallop was nicely seared.

 

 

Ragout of Turbot & Scallops Vouvray and Basil

Nothing too exciting about the Halibut, especially after tasting the best Sea Bass in my life earlier.

Escalopes of Halibut with Dill, Carrots and Celery

Served with a side of crispy Naan, I was quite surprised how fatty the Monkfish tasted, and even more surprised that it went well with the Vindaloo. Would highly recommend this to people who can handle spice.

Monkfish Vindaloo

Another surprising development was the Dessert. I never expected such light tasting pastry. Normally, the caramelized pears or peaches tend to cause the pastry to turn soggy but it wasn’t the case for this Peach Tart Tatin, it was absolutely crisp with perfectly caramelized peaches. Truly perfect.

Peach Tart Tatin

Passing all 3 criteria of food, ambience and service standards, The Seafood Restaurant is indeed a place worth stopping by if you ever find yourself in Cornwall.

Bon Appetit!

THE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

RIVERSIDE, PADSTOW PL28 8BY, ENGLAND

TEL: 01841 532700

 





[Portugal] Cafeina – That’s What I Call A Wine List

5 06 2011

I’m not exactly sure how the name Porto came about but I think there are 2 highly likely possibilities. Firstly, being a coastal town, it might have gotten its name due to its function as a port. In the past, the Portuguese (like the Dutch and Spanish) have also been engaged in lots of sea trade and establishing Portuguese colonies in countries like the Philippines. And in Singapore, we see the descendents of these seafarers with surnames such as De Cruz, De Souza and Pereira.

On the other hand, Porto could have been named as such due to its heavy reliance on the wine and port industry in sustaining its economy. Ok so this leads us to the question of what’s the difference between Port and Wine? For 1, true Port wine is exclusively produced in the region of Douro, Portugal and is a sweet fortified wine, with higher alcohol content than the standard red wine. While we might sometimes spot Madeira (another fortified wine) on the wine list, it is NOT exactly the same as Port as it is only produced on the island of Madeira, Portugal.

source: gofigueira.com

Well, I found out there’s much to learn about Port appreciation and its seemingly never-ending list of classifications (red, white, tawny, vintage, ruby, and just when you thought you knew them all, they suddenly mess you up with a “single-vintage tawny” etc). Hopefully I can cover it another day, maybe in a easy to read tabular form or the like but for now, I guess it’s suffice to know that Port is simply a sweet dessert wine.

Instead of planning a food itinerary beforehand as I did for London and Spain, I decided to be lazy and just go with the flow for this one, relying on hotel reception’s recommendations instead. This is what brought me and my family to Cafeina.  A quick check with tripadvisor and goporto.com confirmed that it was a place worth visiting and so off we went.

Like the Spanish, the Portuguese have their meals pretty late too, with dinners starting typically between 8pm – 9pm. So we were one of the first customers for the night.

Cafeina is a fine-dining establishment with an extensive wine menu which can be assessed using an application on the Ipad provided and it’s really the longest wine list I have ever seen, my estimate is probably at least 400 wines, probably more.

The seafood in Porto is really fresh. I was at the beach near Cafeina and it was low tide. And there were these 3 China ladies picking shellfish at the seashore. And I jest you not, abalone is in ample abundance here and it seems that Caucasians don’t eat it. What a waste! So these 3 ladies managed to fill up 1 large bag with abalones (probably around 7kg worth), 3 or 4 other bags of other clams and shellfish and seaweed within a couple of hours. Along the water’s edge, I could even spot shrimps with my naked eyes that’s how clean the water is. So it goes without saying that the scallops served here would definitely be fresh too!

Scallop & Shrimp Carpaccio

I didn’t get to try the Seafood Bisque in Puff Pastry because my dad dug into it already and was having a sore throat and didn’t want passing his germs to me. Looks good though 😦

I had the Foie Gras Terrine wrapped with Smoked Duck atop some Caramelized Apples. Nothing too impressive about this dish which I felt was too salty with the superfluous duck.

My dad felt his main was a little too tough. I thought it was so so.

Smoked Duck with Potato Rosti

My brother felt his pasta tasted much like Mee Kia. We did enjoy his Tiger Prawns though which were large, fresh and crunchy.

Tiger Prawn Cappelini

My favourite main of the night was the Squid Ink Pasta with Squid and Prawns. Tossed in a light tomato base, the spaghetti was slightly overcooked and soft for my liking but the fresh squids and prawns saved the day.

A run of the mill Pear Tartine.

Highly raved about by the hotel receptionist, we couldn’t leave without trying the Buttery Chocolate Cake. Likely to please those with a major sweet tooth but personally it was much too cloying for me.

Cafeina exhibits some class but fails to deliver the ko blow that would make me want to take a 12 hour flight just for a revisit.

Bon Appetit!

Cafeina

Rua do Padrão 100, 4150 Oporto, Portugal

Tel: 226 108 059








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