[Vancouver] Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar – The Food Orgasm

11 07 2011

Summer School came and went in the blink in an eye and despite spending the most carefree days of my life here in Vancouver, I had been left high and dry in my pursuit for yumyums due to the packed schedule and inertia to travel too far off campus. And as a result of gastronomic imbalances, I found myself a victim of my cyclical PMS (Peter Mood Swings) towards the end of the month.

It starts at Phase 1: The Guilt Trip. That occurs after a flurry of heavy consumer spending, be it on food or shopping. One feels utterly guilty and decides to hold off the splurging temporarily, eating economic rice and at home, forefeiting restaurant meals.

In Phase 2: The Mount of Annoyance, one feels increasingly annoyed because of the absence of nice meals. Economic rice starts to get really monotonous.

This annoyance comes to a climax in Phase 3: Deprivation and Frustration. Some time has passed since the period of excessive spending and one is ready to go out for a posh meal. However, one finds it hard to do so given one’s (or one’s meal buddies) hectic schedules, leading to deprivation. Alternatively, some hyped up meals turned out disappointing, leading to frustration.

In Phase 4: The Food Orgasm, a meal finally hits the spot, but the hefty price tag brings you back to Phase 1: The Guilt Trip.

I haven’t really been having really great food during this Vancouver trip, so dinner here at Blue Water Cafe was definitely Phase 4 for me.

The PMS (Peter Mood Swings) Cycle

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar specializes in seafood, which is prepared in a “east meets west” fusion nature. The ambience is classy, though no compulsory dress-code is enforced.

To diversify their risks as first time diners here, R and Nana opted for the BC Tasting for 2, comprising tasting portions of 4 appetizers (Dungeness Crab Salad, Scallop Ceviche, Tuna Tatare, and Smoked Salmon Terrine) for 2 pax.

BC Tasting for 2 (C$37)

Cooked within White Asparagus Panna Cotta and topped off with Green Apple Foam, I found little symphony between the mild individual flavours.

Dungeness Crab Salad

Ceviches’ are what I consider to be Central America’s answer to Japanese sashimi. My 2nd favourite amongst the 4 BC Tasting appetizers.

Qualicum Bay Scallop Ceviche

Very similar to the Ahi Tuna I had at the now defunct Raw Kitchen Bar (which has now reopened under the new name “Kilo”), though I find the Albacore Tuna to be much fattier and hence tastier.

Albacore Tuna Tartare

The Smoked Salmon Terrine was served with “Golden Caviar marinated in Sake, Green Onion Creme Fraiche, Pumpernickle & Toasted Filberts”. I was amazed at how “chim” the description was when I read it myself. Pumpernickle is a type of rye bread, and filberts are a type of hazelnut. While this scores average on the taste-o-meter, it does look pretty, no?

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Terrine

Baked with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers and Thyme Lemon Butter, I took pleasure in every bite, wishing if only the scallops could be larger.

Gulf Island Swimming Scallops (C$15.50)

Since its a seafood restaurant, it isn’t surprising that the Kurobuta Pork Cheeks wasn’t up to standard. Cooked in a “Milanese style with Cauliflower Couscous, Golden Raisins, Hazelnuts and Brown Caper Butter”, most of us felt that that the pork cheeks were insufficiently marinated and hence bland. We were slightly appeased as the portion turned out fairly large for an appetizer portion though.

Kurobuta Pork Cheeks (C$16.50)

Noticing that every table had a bowl of sliced lemons, it became clear that one of Blue Water Cafe’s strengths lies in their Oyster Menu, which offers almost 20 different breeds of oysters, originating from British Columbia in Canada, Washington and the East Coast of the US.

Based on the waiter’s recommendations, we tried the Effingham Oysters which the white larger ones and the Kumamoto Oysters which are the dark small ones. R and Nana preferred the Effingham ones which started off with a strong saline taste, before giving way to a subtle sweet aftertaste. I preferred the Kumamoto ones because I’m a fan of distinctly sweet rather than salty oysters and these ones.

Effingham Oysters (C$2.75/piece) and Kumamoto Oysters (C$3.75/piece)

Served with Morel Mushrooms, Artichokes, Pearl Onions and a Madeira (a type of fortified sweet wine) reduction, I found the risotto to be excellent, with the sweet wine complementing the cheesiness well.

Pearl Barley Risotto with Okanagan Goat Cheese (C$24.50)

Given that the lobster was uber fresh and really sweet, this was probably the best lobster dish I have ever tried. A light dip into the cream base and taking a bite out of that crunchy pincer is simply orgasmic.

Poached Live Lobster (C$60)

I’m not really into Halibut because I find the meat too firm and chewy that reminds me of the fish served in airline meals. Still, the crisp pan fried exterior provided some consolation.

Day's Special: Halibut

My first time eating Arctic Char. I found the flesh rather lean and flaky, which is possibly best enjoyed with a light seasoning to appreciate its natural delicate taste. Although it has been touted as an alternative to Salmon, I still prefer the latter which possesses a richer taste and is fattier too.

Arctic Char (C$29.50)

During the past 2 months of traveling, I learnt that there are quite a few species of cod around the world. In Singapore, the “cod” that is usually served is actually Chilean Seabass. In Europe like London, Spain and Portugal, the “cod” used is usually Salt Cod aka Baccala (in Italian) or Bacalhau (in Portuguese). As for Black Cod, it is also known as Sablefish and it was what I had for my main. Glazed with Miso and Sake, this is the best Miso Cod I have eaten, where the flavourful miso had been infused well into the cod without being used over excessively.

West Coast Sablefish (C$36.50)

Although the mains were filling, going at how well the meal had progressed so far, we decided to order a side of Truffle Fries before moving on to dessert. Nothing much to comment about though, apart from the fact that truffle fries seem to taste the same everywhere and loses its novelty quickly. I started feeling kinda “gelat” after about 20 fries. So, this is best for sharing.

Truffle Parmesan Fries (C$9.50)

Finally, time for desserts!

While the desserts weren’t bad by a long short, it didn’t give me the same “oomph” factor that I got while eating the sablefish or lobster mains.

Mandarin Cheesecake (C$12.50) & Warm Dark Chocolate (C$11)

Warm Dark Chocolate (C$12.50), Lemon Tart (C$11.50) & Raspberry Creme Brulee (C$11.50)

Complimentary cakes given to us after we finished our desserts 😀

Truly impressive world-class fare!

But after blowing C$100 on this well deserved meal, it’s time to move back to Phase 1: The Guilt Trip again.

Bon Appetit!

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar

1095 Hamilton St., Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 5T4, Canada

Tel: 604 688 8078

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[Vancouver] Caminetto di Umberto – Tuscan Cuisine in Whistler

1 07 2011

I was really quite excited about the weekend trip to Whistler, which had been consistently voted best ski resort in North America and for some polls, the world. My previous visit here was more than 10 years ago, during which bad weather meant that the mountain was closed and I had to contend with simply gazing longingly upwards towards the mountain range. There’s so much to do here as a visiting tourist. For the right price, you could participate in an extensive range of activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ziplining, dirt biking, whitewater rafting, and explore the mountain on an ATV.

The entire village is dotted with F&B outlets and shopping boutiques. Not to mistake the two sister restaurants located just opposite each other, Il Caminetto di Umberto (which we dined at) is the fancier of the 2, serving authentic Tuscan cuisine while Trattoria di Umberto features rustic Tuscan cuisine amidst a more casual setting. Tuscany is a region in central Italy so Tuscan cuisine is pretty much synonymous for Italian.

With just shreds of salty duck meat, the Duck Confit Salad was slightly disappointing with the absence of the crispy duck skin.

Duck Leg Confit with Green Beans, Walnuts & Maple Vinaigrette (C$18.95)

The waiter suggested the Veal Piccata, saying it was one of their signatures here. It was pretty good though it’s a bit expensive for just a veal cutlet spaghetti.

Veal Piccata alla Parmigiana (C$30.95)

Though I love cheese, this mild version fared just as well, exceeding my expectations throughly. Scallops were fresh and seared evenly, and the risotto somehow had a hint of kelp, adding to its coastal flavour.

Green Asparagus Risotto & Sear Scallops (C$26.95)

What was special about this osso buco was the fatty bone marrow lodged within the bone, in which a small thin fork was provided for us to dig out this treasure. Most of the time, the marrow dries up and hardens from overcooking, but not so for the osso buco here. The saffron risotto took a while to get used to but grew on me as the meal progressed. Anyway, did you know Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world (by weight)? It’s even more expensive than Truffles!

Slow Oven-braised Osso Buco alla Milanese with Saffron Risotto (C$38.95)

Ricotta Cheese Cannelloni alla Florentina (C$19.95)

Linguine Pesto with Basil and Toasted Pine Nuts (C$19.95)

The chocolate cake wasn’t as good as it looked. The layer of sponge was too thick while the chocolate wasn’t rich enough to blow me away.

Dark Valrhona Chocolate Ganache Cake with Creme Anglaise (C$11.95)

I think the secret to Caminetto di Umberto isn’t its flare to whip up orgasmic dishes with excessive flavouring but rather, to use simple natural flavours that requires slow and quiet contemplation to appreciate.

Bon Appetit!

 

Caminetto di Umberto

4242 Village Stroll, Whistler, British Columbia

Tel: 604 932 4442





[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








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