AVERY HIGH TEA – RICHMOND

When I went for lunch at Strike, I walked by this high tea place and its fancy décor caught my eyes right away. After lunch, my mom and I came to look at the menu and decided to come try the week after as they are doing a special promotion right now. We came here at 4:00 p.m. on a week day and there were already a few tables occupied.

Ambiance – 9.5/10. I think what makes it worthwhile to visit this high tea place at least once is its décor. They have an automated white grand piano in the middle of the restaurant which plays music continuously. I love their colourful tea set displays along the walls of the restaurant. All their furniture and fixtures feel very elegant and European. You really do get the full high tea experience dining here!

Food – 9/10. There were four of us that day so we ordered 2 sets to share. The food was served promptly after we ordered our tea. Tea is not included in the set and costs on average around $7-10 per pot. They have a large selection of teas to choose from but it sucks they only refill the tea with water so it does get diluted over time. We ordered the Rose Fairy and Peach Melba to share. The Peach Melba had a stronger scent but it had a slight bitter after taste so I do recommend having that one with sugar.

In addition to the items on the high tea stand, they also served on the side a potato shrimp salad, cream puff, squash soup and macaroons. These items were pretty delicious as well but my favourite was the cream puff as it was very rich and creamy. The shell of the puff was pink but I could not really taste any strawberry flavor.

On the first tier of the high tea stand, they had 2 blue earl grey cupcakes and french vanilla cream brulee. The cupcakes had an edible unicorn placed in the center which was very cute. I liked the cream brulee as it was not too sweet.

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On the second tier, they had the mango cheese cake, blueberry tarts and fruit cake. Out of the 3, my favourite was the mango cheesecake as the mango was very sweet.

On the bottom tier, they had the smoked salmon cones, club sandwich, beef wellington pie, chicken salad wrap and chiffon cake. Everything on this tier was decent but I liked the smoked salmon cones the most as it looked very pretty like a rose. The cream in the chiffon cake was very smooth.

For $49, you really do get the value for what you pay for. The proportions were very large even for two people. We had to pack almost half of it home. They give you these cute take-away boxes to pack up all your goodies. I really like their pastries as they are very creamy and smooth. Although it is a good deal, the sizes felt a tad too big by high tea standards. It doesn’t feel very lady-like when you are trying to shove one of these giant pieces of cake into your mouth!  Also, in a set, they do not have two of everything so you have to split it with your friend and sometimes it can be messy as crumbs get everywhere.

Service – 7.5/10. It took a while to get the server’s attention to help us get orders as they were doing their own thing at the bar.  Some of the servers’ English were not very fluent so you may have better luck communicating with them in Mandarin/Cantonese. Also, I deducted a point because their instructions on the menu are a little confusing. It was $49 for a set but a set can feed 2 people. It took them forever to get that message across.

Good to Know! – They are doing a special promotion until the end of August 2017. If you order more than one set, it is $49 rather than $78 per set. Reservation is required as they need to prepare the sets in advance.

Overall – I would say it is worth trying once but unfortunately it did not make it into my top 3 favourite high tea places.

DEER LAKE, MYST & RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET

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There are so many fun activities to do in town in the summer! After I signed up for the promotional e-mails for Deer Lake, they would occasionally send you discounts on their boat rentals. This time, they sent me a 50% off coupon so I decided to go kayaking with my girl friend who has never gone before!

We got there around 5 p.m. on a sunny Sunday afternoon and the lake was packed! We had to wait in line to get our kayak, sign the waiver and pick up our paddle sticks. We did the 1 hour, 2-person kayak for $10 which is really a good deal! The weather was just perfect that day with a light breeze on the water. There were many people there who were doing the peddle-boats and the canoes. Deer Lake is a great venue for family with young children and novices like me because there are no currents and no boats like the open waters. Also, the rental company provides all the equipment for a reasonable price and you can choose the duration that you want. I would say an hour is pretty good given the size of the lake.

After an hour of kayaking, we were hungry and decided to grab dinner nearby in Burnaby. We tried out this restaurant call Myst on Kingsway. We got there around 7 p.m. and there was already a line up. However, the line did move pretty quick so we got seats after 10 minutes wait. The restaurant can seat a large number of people but their parking lot is very small. There are street parking available. They have a large screen TV which was airing a baseball game when we went.  I thought this was quite unusual in a Taiwanese restaurant.

Myst serves Taiwanese, Cantonese and Northern China cuisine. They have a large selection of items to choose from which ranges from noodles, bubble tea, desserts to light snacks. They have lots of unique drinks and desserts that I’ve not seen at other restaurants before.

My friend ordered a taro smoothie ($5.50) and I ordered an Okinawa pudding milk tea ($5.50). I could not taste the “Okinawa” difference though! However, the size and taste of the drinks were decent.

For food, I ordered the Golden Shrimp Paste Roll ($7.95) and the Taiwanese Style Fried Rice Vermicelli ($11.50) while my friend ordered the Myst Half Beef Half Tendon Noodle Soup ($11.50). The food and drinks were served very quickly and the taste was decent. I liked how the dishes were not too oily. The service at the restaurant was also very good and prompt. Seeing that there was a long line up waiting outside, we got our bill and headed back to Richmond.

After we picked up my mom, we headed over to the Richmond Night Market by River Rock Casino. The traffic in this area is still so bad even though the night market has been already opened for two months! It took us 40 minutes to park our car and make our way to the entrance. After we got to the entrance, we still had to stand 20 minutes in line to pay for admission. They sell zoom passes for $25 (online as well) which allows you to cut in front of the line and is good for 7 admissions. Since there were only 3 of us and we do not plan to come back, we decided to wait in line and wait…Admission is $3.75 per person and free for children under 10 years and seniors over 60 years old.

The night market has a similar layout as the one last year which includes a food court, retail stalls, amusement rides and games. They also have a performing stage and some Canada 150 photo backdrops. It was already 9:45 p.m. by the time we got in but the night market was still pretty full. We walked around the retail stalls where you can find socks, phone accessories, stationaries and cosmetic products. My mom bought an inverted umbrella for $20 and I bought a nice glass home decorative piece for $20. We always end the night market by making a round through the food court. Since it was almost closing time, they were selling the food at discounted prices. We ended up getting some siu mai, tofu pudding and grilled squid. Yes, night market food is extremely overpriced but some of the items they sell here are hard to find elsewhere and are pretty delicious. There were long line ups for the light bulb drinks, Mango Yummy and the Churros served in a flamingo floatie. Personally, I would not bother with the lines because you could get those at the stores.

My mom said this is the last year for the night market after 17 years so I guess it is worth checking it out if you have not gone before. They are open from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays.  On Sundays and holidays, they close at 11 p.m. I would recommend taking the skytrain and walking there from Bridgeport station to save yourself some grief with the traffic jam!

 

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS LEAGUE – GRANVILLE ISLAND

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I was browsing on Social Shopper to find some fun activities to try in town and I came upon tickets for the Vancouver Theatre Sports League. I have never been before but I have heard good reviews from my friends who have gone before so I decided to go check it out.

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The offer has 3 options and we went for the $18 option which includes two tickets to a Wednesday or Thursday 7:30 p.m. show. There is also a $1.50 convenience fee for each ticket when you purchase online which totally sucks when the ticket themselves only cost $9! That’s a 17% fee! After cringing on the fees, I selected our seats and since we booked early, we were able to get a table seat right in front of the stage.

Free parking can be difficult to find in Granville Island and this is even true on a week night when the weather is nice out. We were lucky to find one and saved ourselves $10 which is what I had to pay last time in the paid lots for 3 hours.

My friend and I grabbed a quick dinner in the Food Court in the Market where there is a decent selection of cuisines such as Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican, etc. Although it is not cheap, it is definitely a less expensive option compared to the fine dining restaurants in Granville Island. My only complaint about the Food Court is the flocks of pigeons and seagulls which roam around freely under the tables scrounging for food. I am super afraid of birds so this dining experience was definitely a petrifying one for me!

After dinner, we walked around the other side of the Market where they sell fruits, local artisan crafts, bread and meats. The produce was cheaper than what you will find in the supermarkets and also looked much fresher. The Market shuts at 7:00 p.m. every night.

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We still had some time to kill before the show so we took a scroll around Granville Island. This was my first time actually walking around the outskirts of the Island and I discovered that the Emily Carr University campus is actually pretty big. From its exterior, it is difficult to tell that it is a university of art as I find that it looks more like a commercial factory.

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Around 7:00 p.m., we headed over to the Improv Centre and picked up our tickets. The theatre was not ready yet so we hung out in the bar area and chilled for a bit. The Centre has a pretty decent bar area facing the water with a good selection of drinks. You can also order a drink and enjoy it during the show. Inside the theatre, there is approximately 10 tables which are located in front of the stage and there are stadium seating located in the back. For our show, it was about 70% full.

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After we were seated, the show started promptly at 7:30 p.m. The show ran for 1.5 hours with a 15 minute intermission break. The show we were watching that night was called TheatreSports in which two teams compete to get the most points by acting out scenes based on suggestions provided by the audience. They also have other shows such as Ok Tinder – Swipe Right Comedy which pokes fun at the Vancouver dating scene and Oh Canada which plays on Canadian stereotypes. These shows also seem very interesting so I think I might be back to check them out!

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I had a really great time watching Theatresports as I was entertained and laughing the entire time! The players were very witty, professional and vivacious. When the players are really into the game, it really draws the audience right in. Also, I really enjoyed the player-audience interaction that happens throughout the night. The level of participation from the audience really impacts the quality of the show!

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It was also really nice how they offer 50% off tickets to the audience for their 9:15 p.m. show and they also gave out free tickets for liking them on their Facebook page. If you’re also interested in improv shows, you should check out their website at https://tickets.vtsl.com

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KINOME JAPANESE KITCHEN – KITSALANO

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For our girl’s night out, we came here for dinner at 6:45 p.m. on a beautiful Sunday evening. My friend has been here a few years ago and recommended us to try. The restaurant was almost full when we got here for our reservation.

Ambiance –  4/10. My only complaint about this restaurant is the venue. For a $100 dinner, I was expecting a nicer décor and ambiance, at least something along the lines of Miku…The restaurant is small and sits only about 30 people. There is an open kitchen with a bar table. Also, there is minimal decoration with wooden chairs and tables. In my opinion, the place felt a little tired and in need of some touch-up!

Food – 9/10. They have three options for the omakase which is the chef tasting menu and consists of 5-6 courses of appetizers, sashimi, a grilled dish, a steamed dish, a deep fried dish, soba noodles and a dessert.  The items for the $65, $80 and $100 courses are similar but the quality would be a little different. We went for the $80 option.

For appetizer, we had three dishes – tofu with crab meat and ponzu, gomae and pickled eggplants with green onions. These were very light and helped to clean the palette.

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Next up was the sashimi – spot prawn, halibut taro, blue-fin tuna, hotate (scallops), Atlantic salmon and a deep fried spot prawn head.  All the seafood were very fresh but my favourite was the halibut taro as it has a higher omega oil content but did not taste too fishy.

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The third dish was the chawanmushi (steamed egg custard).  It was served very hot! Inside were mushrooms, chicken and green onion. I liked how it was very creamy and smooth. You could also get a taste of the chicken broth in every bite.

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The grilled dish was a cod fillet with green onions served in dashi (Japanese broth). I felt the cod fish was a tad overcooked but the dashi was very rich and sweet.

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One of my favourites that evening was the deep friend kale and shrimp karaage which came with a side of tempura dipping sauce. The kale was so crispy and paired very well with the shrimp. There was a good proportion of the kale and the shrimp in every bite.

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The zaru soba (cold soba noodles) is made in house and came with a spot prawn tempura. It is a very refreshing dish to eat during the summer when it is hot out. The dipping sauce was also just right and not too salty.

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For desserts, you can pick one amongst their four choices. I ordered the buckwheat crepe with strawberry, rhubarb and cream. My friends ordered the organic cream custard pudding and the matcha ice cream with mocha and red bean paste. All of them were made in house and tasted just right in terms of sweetness.

Each dish was small but at the end of the dinner, the proportion was just right; you did not feel stuffed and you did not leave feeling ill-content either.

Service – 9.5/10. The servers were very attentive and came promptly to refill our waters or check to see if we needed another bottle of beer. Food was also served at a steady pace and our empty dishes were cleared swiftly too. It was surprising that our servers spoke fluent English and had little Japanese accent because that is usually not the case in other authentic Japanese restaurants.

Good to Know! – They only accept cash or debit card! I was lucky to be carrying extra cash in my wallet that day! There is paid street parking located outside the restaurant but there is free parking on the side streets near the residential areas. The omakase takes about three hours so make sure you allocate enough time to enjoy your dinner!

Overall – It was a fun evening spent with girlfriends with delicious food and beer!  If you have not been to an omakase before, I recommend coming here to experience it at least once.

SHOESTRING CAFÉ – RICHMOND, BC

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I have read some good reviews on this café and have always wanted to try. Therefore, to celebrate Father’s Day this year, I decided to treat my dad to dinner here on a Thursday night.

Ambiance – 8/10. The restaurant is located in a small plaza in the industry area on no. 6 road and only seats around 30 people. The tables and chairs are both in dark oak colour which made the café looked a little dimmer than I prefer. However, I love their brick feature wall as it has a very rustic Italian feel!

Food – 8.5/10. They offer a la carte or you can do 3 courses for $39. You can pick from any one of their appetizers, entrees and desserts on their menu or from their features of the day which is written on the blackboard. I think the 3 course is a way better deal as their appetizers already cost around $12-$14 per person.

Amongst the 3 of us, we got the calamari, tri-cooked prawns, seafood and corner chowder and also the Dungeness crab & avocado salad for appetizers. All their seafood was very fresh but my favourite was the Dungeness crab & avocado salad as the entire salad was loaded with fresh crab meat with no shells! For $14, this salad is a steal based on the crab meat they give you!

My second favourite was the calamari as they had cooked it with an Asian twist, adding lime juice, ginger and garlic. I have never tried calamari cooked this way and it tasted much better than the typical deep fried calamari you get elsewhere!  Also, almost all their appetizers came with a side of garlic bread which was toasty and quite filling.

As for the entrees, we got the New York Steak, rib eye steak and the pan seared Alaskan black cod with sweet soya sauce. My favourite out of the three was the black cod as I was pleasantly surprised at how well the cod paired with the soya sauce. At other restaurants, you would probably only get a small piece of cod but at this café, they had three large pieces. The cod was also very fresh, fell right off the skin with a fork and just melted in your mouth. There was no fishy taste at all which can be quite common with fish with heavy oil content like the black cod. The quality of their steaks was also very good and was grilled just right. However, I felt that it was a little overcooked. The steaks were loaded with side dishes – green beans, asparagus, mashed potato and pumpkin puree. We were already so full from the appetizers that we had to pack up almost half of our entrees!

Lastly, for desserts, we got one of each of their desserts – orange vanilla flan, New York cheesecake and chocolate soufflé. My favourite was the chocolate soufflé as it was served hot with oozing hot chocolate sauce in the center! It was slightly bitter but paired nicely with the vanilla ice cream that came with it. The flan was too firm for my liking and the cheesecake did not have much taste. I did enjoy the crust of the cheesecake though.

Service – 9/10. The café is managed by only two staff so when the restaurant was full, the staff was quite busy taking orders and serving food. Food did take a while to be served as I believe there is only one person manning the kitchen and everything is cooked fresh. Our three course dinner took about 2 hours. When we found a piece of metal wiring in my soup, the staff offered us a complimentary salad which costs $14! I liked how she was proactive in settling the issue and made no fuss about it. She also constantly came by to see how we were doing.

Good to Know! – As seating is limited and they tend to be very busy even on a week night, make sure you make a reservation ahead of time! Their featured menu items change every day so there are always new dishes to try!

Overall – The quality exceeded my expectation for a small café! I recommend giving this restaurant a try on a week night as they offer fresh, quality ingredients and large proportions for a reasonable price!

Dazzling Cafe – Richmond

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Since I really liked the Dazzling Cafe I went to in Hong Kong, I was very excited to try their “new-ish” location in Richmond. I came here at 8 p.m. on a week night and the restaurant was fortunately not too busy.

Ambiance – 9/10. Absolutely love the decor in this restaurant! I think it is even fancier than the one I went to in Hong Kong. It has a classy, elegant yet retro feel. I don’t really know what is the significance of the bunny ears on the chairs but I think the theme overall is quite cute.

Food – 7/10. Amongst the three of us, we ordered the chicken spaghetti with pesto sauce ($13.50), pan-fried salmon rice casserole with pesto ($12.50), smoked duck with pesto pizza ($9.50) and Valrona chocolate waffle ($8.50) to share. The proportions are pretty small so I think the restaurant is more suited for a light dinner.  Our bill came up to $46.20 before tax.

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Between the three savoury dishes, my favourite was the chicken spaghetti. I don’t know how they make chicken skin so crispy! The meat was also very juicy and paired very well with the pesto sauce.

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My second favourite was the pizza. I have never had duck meat on a pizza before so I thought the idea was quite innovative. However, I felt that the duck was a little too dry so you had to eat the entire piece of meat in one bite rather than getting some of the meat with each bite of your pizza.

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Although it is called a rice casserole, I felt the texture of this dish was closer to couscous. It was a little too low in density for my liking. Also, the salmon did not have much flavour and was overpowered by the Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

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I was very disappointed by the dessert as I had ordered the same thing in Hong Kong before and this was nowhere close! When I had it in Hong Kong, the dessert was served warm and the mochi filling was so chewy and thick! Personally, I think it is such a rip off for an additional $2 CAD when you can barely even tell they added mochi in there! The chocolate drizzle was also so light that you can hardly taste the chocolate with each bite of the waffle.

Service – 6/10. Like the one in Hong Kong, all their servers primarily spoke Mandarin. They all wore cute maid uniforms which fits in very well with the theme. I felt their service was a little slow and we had to ask a few times to get refill for water. Not to mention, they did not even provide us with napkins until we asked. The food was served relatively quickly but it was only served warm and not hot.

Good to Know! – Savoury dishes are only served until 8 p.m. so if you plan to come here for dinner, come before then! Also, at their entrance, it says operating hours are until 9 p.m. but we still saw people coming in when we left at 9 p.m.. Not sure if they have different operating hours for summer?

Overall – Come here for a light dinner and drinks with a girlfriend but skip the waffles!

 

Fairmont Vancouver Airport

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It’s been a while since I have been here for high tea and I was very excited to be back this time for my friend’s bridal shower. The food here is decent but what I love the most about high tea here is that you get to enjoy it with the beautiful backdrop of airplanes taking off and landing.

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Ambiance – 9.5/10. The hotel is located a floor above the US terminal. Their lobby is quite bland but I like the crystal chandeliers dangling above the walkway getting there. Make sure you get a seat by the window so you can get a great view of the airplanes. It is such a relaxing environment for you to enjoy high tea as the noise level is minimal, natural lighting is plentiful and there is no limited seating time.

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Food – 8/10. Each high tea set comes with your choice of tea and a predetermined set of sweets and savoury. This time I tried their Maple Maple tea which is a creamier black tea and I absolutely loved it! Every time I go for high tea I can never finish all the food so this time I made sure I went with an empty stomach. Not sure if it was because I was extra hungry that day or if the chef did a stellar job, but the food tasted particularly delicious!

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We were first served a side dish which I believe was a deep fried risotto ball with meshed caulifower. This came with some shaved Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. The risotto balls were juicy and not too dry. Two per person was a decent serving.

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Personally, I like to start with the sandwiches (savoury items). The English cucumber sandwich is a staple item but they added caviar which was a nice twist. Egg salad, another staple item, also turned out to be a nice surprised as they wrapped it in a french crepe and served it with a beet cured egg. This made the sandwich very moist and soft. I also really enjoyed the curried chicken salad as the naan bread was loaded with shredded chicken. However, my favourite was definitely the smoked salmon as it has all my favourite ingredients – smoked salmon, black truffle and asparagus!

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Next I will go for the bottom tier (desserts) as I usually do not end up eating the first tier (scones) because I am too full… My favourite was the dark chocolate tart as the chocolate was very rich and had a shimmery glaze (I love all things shiny!). I found the lemon verrine and blood orange olive oil cake a little too sour for my liking. On the other hand, the matcha marshmallow was too sweet.

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Since I was very hungry this time, I actually finished both my scones. I find their scones to be a little too hard and my tongue felt very rough after eating it. However, I usually get that after-taste whenever I eat scones though. Out of the sweet butter and pear cardamom scones, I enjoyed the sweet butter one more as I like the sugar coating on the top. I don’t eat jam so I loaded mine with lots of butter cream!

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Service – 9.5/10. Our server that day was very patient and helpful. She took the time to explain to us the different types of tea and came by often to see if we needed anything. She also helped us take pictures and was smart enough to take it from the side away from the sun so we didn’t turn up dark in the pictures!

Good to Know! – Make sure you get the Groupon which costs $69. This includes high tea for 2 persons as well as 3 hour free parking! Parking alone would have cost us $24! The hostess will give you a card when you enter the restaurant.  All you have to do is take the card to the express station, tap it and take the token to leave!

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Overall – If you haven’t been here for high tea yet, get the Groupon and try!